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C. H. Spurgeon :: Psalm 119 Verses 97-104

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Psalm 119 Verses 97-104


EXPOSITION VERSE 97

Verse 97.—"O how love I thy law!" It is a note of exclamation. He loves so much that he must express his love, and in making the attempt he perceives that it is inexpressible—and therefore cries, "O how I love!" We not only reverence but love the law, we obey it out of love, and even when it chides us for disobedience we love it none the less. The law is God's law, and therefore it is our love. We love it for its holiness, and pine to be holy; we love it for its wisdom, and study to be wise; we love it for its perfection, and long to be perfect. Those who know the power of the gospel perceive an infinite loveliness in the law as they see it fulfilled and embodied in Christ Jesus.

"It is my meditation all the day." This was both the effect of his love and the cause of it. He meditated in God's word because he loved it, and then loved it the more because he meditated in it. He could not have enough of it, so ardently did he love it: all the day was not too long for his converse with it. His morning prayer, his noonday thought, his evensong were all out of Holy Writ; yea, in his worldly business he still kept his mind saturated with the law of the Lord. It is said of some men that the more you know them the less you admire them; but the reverse is true of God's word. Familiarity with the word of God breeds affection, and affection seeks yet greater familiarity. When "thy law," and "my meditation" are together all the day, the day grows holy, devout, and happy, and the heart lives with God. David turned away from all else; for in the preceding verse he tells us that he had seen an end of all perfection; but he turned in unto the law and tarried there the whole day of his life on earth, growing henceforth wiser and holier.

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 97.—"O how love I thy law!" He speaketh not of his knowing, reading, hearing, speaking, or outward practising of the law, but of love to the law; this is more than all the former; all the former may be without this, but this cannot be without the former. We may know, read, hear, speak, yea, preach the law, and all God's word, as also outwardly perform outward works prescribed and commanded by the law, and yet not love it; but where this love is there cannot but be all the former. Love is the principal affection of all other; like a queen commanding and overruling all the rest; all the rest depend upon it; yea, sometimes also the judgment itself. As the love is set, whether rightly or wrongly, towards good or evil, so are all the affections swayed; yea, judgment itself sometimes blinded by love, erreth, as the love itself erreth, and so words and all actions are accordingly. Doth not daily experience daily teach the truth hereof? Moreover, besides this observation of this word, in respect of other, and in a kind of opposition unto other; let us observe two other things therein; 1. The first person; 2. The present tense. He saith not, O how is thy word to be loved, namely, by others; but O, how do I myself love thy law or thy word! Neither doth he say, O, how have I loved thy law in times past, or how will I love it hereafter, how unfeignedly do I purpose to love it, when I shall be advanced unto and settled in my kingdom; or, how would I love it if I were so advanced unto and settled, or were I in this or that estate, or had this or that which I yet have not, or that others have; the prophet, I say, speaketh not in such a manner; but he speaketh, as in the first person, so also in the present tense, saying, O how do I (now, such as I am) love they law! Both these things are very worthy of our observation, and they be the greater in respect of the person of the prophet; for albeit the name of the writer of this psalm be not expressed in the title thereof (as in many other psalms), yet the stream of most interpreters carrieth it to David. The matter also and style of the psalm, compared with the matter and style of other psalms which are David's, do both savour of David, and argue it was written by David…Whether David were now in full and quiet possession of his kingdom, (though not without many adversaries), or whether he was only known to be the heir-apparent, appointed to succeed Saul (as most do think), or whether he were for a time in flight from the cruel and rebellious insurrection of his unnatural son Absalom, yet is it a great matter that here he speaketh of his great love towards the law of God. If he were in full and quiet possession of his kingdom, then had he many other things that he might have loved, and wherewith the hearts of such princes are commonly taken up, yea, also stolen away from those things that are much more worthy of love. What need I speak of the daily experience, whereby the truth hereof is manifest in far more mean persons that princes are? If David were in exile or flight, a man would think that his wife and children, and other friends, as also his country, would have so occupied and fully possessed his heat, that there should have been a little place for other things therein; but that rather he should have said, Oh, how love I those things! Oh, how is my heart troubled with thought of them, and care for them in my great love towards them! Moreover, that neither any troubles on the one side, wherewith David was continually exercised; nor his honours, riches, or pleasures, either in possession or in hope on the other side, did extinguish, or cool, or abate his love, is it not a thing of great note?

The next word to be observed is that word "how:" "Oh how love I thy law!" This noteth the manner of measure of his love. It is a word of admiration, or a note of comparison; so is it taken in divers other places…it noteth a kind of excess or excellency, even such as cannot be well expressed. The prophet seemeth to speak with a kind of sighing, as being so ravished with love towards the law of God, that he was even sick of love, as the church saith (Sng 2:5; 5:8), she was sick of love towards Christ: so seemeth the prophet to be sick of love towards the word of God. This word "how," also imports a comparison, and notes a greater love in David towards the word than towards riches or any other thing; in which respect he saith afterward in this very Psalm (Psa 119:127), that he loveth the Lord's commandments "above gold, yea, above fine gold;" yea, as whosoever so loveth not Christ, that in respect of Christ, and for Christ's sake, he forsaketh father, and mother, and brethren, and sisters, wife and children, and his own life also (much more riches and other things not to be compared to life) is not worthy of him: so he that doth not love the word above all other things; yea, he that hateth not all other things below here, ill respect of the word, is not worthy of the word. Christ himself loved the word of God more than he loved any riches; for did he not for the performance of the word submit himself to such want, that the foxes had holes, and the birds had nests, but he had not whereon to lay his head? and that, although he were the heir of all things, yet he was ministered unto by certain women? He loved the word of God more than he loved his mother, brethren, and sisters…Yea, Christ loved the word of God more than he loved his own life; for did he not lay down his life to fulfil the word of God?…If Christ Jesus himself loved the word more than all other things, yea, more than his life, which was more than the life of all angels, was there not great reason why David should love it in like manner? Had not David as much need of it as Christ?…

"It is my meditation." The noun "meditation" seemeth to be more than if he had said only that he meditated. For he seemeth to mean that though he did often think upon other matters, yet he made nothing his "meditation" but that which he here speaketh of, and that this was his only, or his chief and principal meditation and set study.

The object of David's meditation is not only to be understood of the bare letter of the word, as if he did always meditate of some text or other of the word before written; but also of the matters contained in the word; as of the justice, power, wisdom, mercy and goodness of God; of the frailty, corruption, and wickedness that is in man naturally, of the sins that God forbiddeth, and of the virtues that God commandeth in the word, and other the like. For he that meditates of these things, though he meditate not of any one text of the word, yet he may be truly said to meditate of the word.

"All the day." We are not to imagine that the prophet did nothing else but meditate on the word; but this, first of all; that no day passed over his head wherein he did not meditate on the word; yea, that he took every occasion of meditating on the word. He was never weary of meditating. Though he had many other things wherein to employ himself, yet he forgot not the meditation of the word. His mind was not by any other employment alienated from the meditation of the word, but the more thereby provoked thereunto. As a man that hath laboured never so much one day in his calling, is not to be wearied thereby, but that he laboureth afresh the next day, and so day after day: so was it with the prophet touching this act of meditation. Secondly, when he saith he meditated on the word continually, or all the day, he meaneth that he did nothing at any time of the day without meditation on the word for doing thereof. Therefore we may safely say that continual meditation of the word is more necessary than continual praying, as being necessary before the doing of everything, and in the very doing of everything; yea, even before the said duty of prayer, and in the very act thereof, this work of meditation of the word is always necessary; as without which, we know not either for what to pray, or in what sort and manner to pray: it is God's word only that can and must teach us both what to pray for and also how to pray.

Thomas Stoughton, in "Two Profitable Treatises," 1616.

Verse 97.—"O how love I thy law!" Who without love attempts anything in the law of God, does it coldly, and quickly gives it up. For the mind cannot give itself earnestly and perseveringly to things which are not loved. Only he who loves the law makes it his meditation all the day.

Wolfgang Musculus.

Verse 97.—"O how love I thy law!" Were I to enjoy Hezekiah's grant, and to have fifteen years added to my life, I would be much more frequent in my applications to the throne of grace. Were I to renew my studies, I would take my leave of those accomplished trifles—the historians, the orators, the poets of antiquity—and devote my attention to the Scriptures of truth. I would sit with much greater assiduity at my Divine Master's feet, and desire to know nothing but "Jesus Christ, and him crucified." This wisdom, whose fruits are peace in life, consolation in death, and everlasting salvation after death—this I would trace—this I would seek—this I would explore through the spacious and delightful fields of the Old and New Testament.

James Hervey, 1714-1758.

Verse 97.—This most precious jewel is to be preferred above all treasure. If thou be hungry, it is meat to satisfy thee; if thou be thirsty, it is drink to refresh thee; if thou be sick, it is a present remedy; if thou be weak, it is a staff to lean unto; if thine enemy assault thee, it is a sword to fight withal; if thou be in darkness, it is a lantern to guide thy feet; if thou be doubtful of the way, it is a bright shining star to direct thee; if thou be in displeasure with God, it is the message of reconciliation; if thou study to save thy soul, receive the word engrafted, for that is able to do it: it is the word of life. Whose loveth salvation will love this word, love to read it, love to hear it; and such as will neither read nor hear it, Christ saith plainly, they are not of God. For the spouse gladly heareth the voice of the bridegroom; and "my sheep hear my voice," saith the Prince of pastors (John 10:27).

Edwin Sundys, 1519-1587.

Verse 97.—"O how love I thy law!" As faith worketh by love unto God, so it worketh by love unto his word. Love me, love my word: love a king, love his laws. So it did on David; so it should do on us: "O how love I thy law!" saith David. "O how love I thy law!" should every one of us say; not only because it is a good law, but chiefly because it is God's law.

Richard Capel, 1586-1656.

Verse 97.—"O how love I thy law!" He calls God himself to be judge of his love to the word; witnessing thereby that it was no counterfeit love, but complete and sincere love which he bore unto it. The like protestation was used by S. Peter: "Thou knowest, O Lord, that I rove thee!"

William Cowper.

Verse 97.—"Thy law." In every one of these eight verses the Bible is spoken of as the Lord's, as, indeed, all through the Psalm. Who is the author of Scripture? God. What is the matter of Scripture? God; it was not fit that any should write of God, but God himself. What is the end of Scripture? God. Why was the Scripture written, but that we might everlastingly enjoy the blessed God As Caesar wrote his own commentaries; so God, when there was none above him of whom he could write, he wrote of himself; by histories, laws, prophecies, and promises, and many other doctrines, hath he set himself forth to be the Creator, Preserver, Deliverer, and Glorifier of mankind; and all this is done in a perfect manner.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 97.—"It is my meditation." Holy Scripture is not a book for the slothful: it is not a book which can be interpreted without, and apart from, and by the deniers of, that Holy Spirit by whom it came. Rather is it a field, upon the surface of which, if sometimes we gather manna easily and without labour, and given, as it were, freely to our hands, yet of which also, many portions are to be cultivated with pains and toil ere they will yield food for the use of man. This bread of life also is to be eaten in the wholesome sweat of our brow.

Richard Chenevix Trench, (1807-1886).

HINTS TO PREACHERS

Verses 97-104.—The profitableness of holy meditation.

Its theme— "thy law," (Psa 119:97),

Its effect— "wisdom" (Psa 119:98-100),

Practically shown in daily life (Psa 119:101-102),

Its sweetness (Psa 119:103), and

Hallowing influence (Psa 119:104).

Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, by Pastor C. A. Davis.

Verse 97.

1. Unusual Exclamation.

2. Unusual Application.

W. D.

Verse 97.—Indescribable love and insatiable thought. The action and reaction of affection and meditation.

Verse 97.

1. The object of love: "thy law."

2. The degree of that love: "oh, how love I," etc.

3. The evidence of that love: "it is my meditation," etc.

G. R.

Verse 97.—Love to the law.

1. An ardent confession of love.

2. An unanswerable evidence of love.

C. A. D.

Verse 97. (first clause).—Vehemency of love for God's word.

1. Its recognisable marks.

(a) Profound reverence for the authority of the word.

(b) Admiration for its holiness.

(c) Jealousy. For its honour; God's servant feels acute pain when men show it any slight.

(d) Respect for its wholeness; he would not divorce precepts from promises, nor ignore a single statement in it.

(e) Indefatigability in its study.

(f) Eager desire to obey it.

(g) Forwardness in praising it.

(h) Activity in spreading it abroad.

2. Its reasonableness.

(a) The word well deserves it.

(b) It is a proof of true intelligence.

(c) It is not less than a regard for our own interest demands.

3. Its requisiteness to the true worship of God. Men sneeringly call such an affection bibliolatry, as though it were the worship of a book. In truth, it is an essential element in the due worship of God. For—

(a) Without it there cannot be the faith which honours God.

(b) It is involved in that love to God which constitutes the very essence of worship.

(c) It is itself an act of homage, that a worshipper dare not withhold.

J. F.

Verses 97-100.—Spiritual wisdom.

1. God's word the source of surpassing wisdom—excelling that of "mine enemies," "my teachers," "the ancients."

2. The three methods of acquiring this wisdom—love, meditation, practice.

3. The one Giver of this wisdom: "Thou:" Psa 119:98.

C. A. D.

EXPOSITION VERSE 98

Verse 98.—"Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies." The commands were his book, but God was his teacher. The letter can make us knowing, but only the divine Spirit can make us wise. Wisdom is knowledge put to practical use. Wisdom comes to us through obedience: "If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine." We learn not only from promise, and doctrine, and sacred history, but also from precept and command; in fact, from the commandments we gather the most practical wisdom and that which enables us best to cope with our adversaries. A holy life is the highest wisdom and the surest defence. Our enemies are renowned for subtlety, from the first father of them, the old serpent, down to the last cockatrice that has been hatched from the egg; and it would be vain for us to try to be a match with them in the craft and mystery of cunning, "for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light" (Luk 16:18). We must go to another school and learn of a different instructor, and then by uprightness we shall baffle fraud, by simple truth we shall vanquish deep laid scheming, and by open candour we shall defeat slander. A thoroughly straightforward man, devoid of all policy, is a terrible puzzle to diplomatists; they suspect him of a subtle duplicity through which they cannot see, while he, indifferent to their suspicions, holds on the even tenor of his way, and baffles all their arts. Yes, "honesty is the best policy." He who is taught of God has a practical wisdom such as malice cannot supply to the crafty; while harmless as a dove he also exhibits more than a serpent's wisdom.

"For they are ever with me." He was always studying or obeying the commandments; they were his choice and constant companions. If we wish to become proficient we must be indefatigable. If we keep the wise law ever near us we shall become wise, and when our adversaries assail us we shall be prepared for them with that ready wit which lies in having the word of God at our fingers' ends. As a soldier in battle must never lay aside his shield, so must we never have the word of God out of our minds; it must be ever with us.

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 98.—"Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies." Now he praiseth the word for the singular profit and fruit which he reaped by it; to wit, that he learned wisdom by it. And this he amplifies, by comparing himself with three sorts of men; his enemies, his teachers, and the ancients. And this he doth, not of vain glory (for bragging is far from him who is governed by the Spirit of grace); but to commend the word of the Lord, and to allure others to love it, by declaring to them what manifold good he found in it.

"Wiser than mine enemies." But how can this be, seeing that our Saviour saith that the men of this world are wiser in their own generation than the children of God? The answer is, our Saviour doth not call worldlings wise men simply; but wiser in their own generation; that is, wise in things pertaining to this life. Or as Jeremy calls them, "wise to do evil;" and when they have so done, wise to conceal and cloak it. All which in very deed is but folly; and therefore David, who by the light of God's word saw that it was so, could not be moved to follow their course. Well; there is a great controversy between the godly and the wicked: either of them in their judgment accounts the other to be fools; but it is the light of God's word which must decide it.

William Cowper.

Verse 98.—"Wiser than mine enemies." They are wiser than their enemies as to security against their attempts, and that enmity and opposition that they carry on against them; they are far more safe by walking under the convert of God's protection than their enemies can possibly be, who have all manner of worldly advantages. A godly wise man is careful to keep in with God: he is more prepared and furnished, can have a higher hope, more expectation of success, than others have; or, if not, he is well enough provided for, though all things fall out never so cross to his desires. As to success, who hath made wiser provision, think you, he that hath made God his friend, or he that is borne up with worldly props and dependencies? they that are guided by the Spirit of God, or they that are guided by Satan? those that make it their business to walk with God step by step, or those that not only forsake him, but provoke him to his face? those that break with men, and keep in with God, or those that break with God? Surely, a child of God hath more security by piety than his enemies can have by secular policy, whereby they think to overreach and ruin him. The safety of a child of God lieth in two things: 1. God is his friend. 2. As long as God hath work for him to do, he will maintain him, and bear him out in it.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 98.—"They are ever with me." The meaning of the last clause is not merely "it is ever with me, but it is for ever to me," i.e., mine, my inalienable, indefeasible possession.

Joseph Addison Alexander.

Verse 98.—"They are ever with me." God gives knowledge to whom he pleaseth; but those that meditate most, thrive most. This may imply also that the word should be a ready help. Such as derive their wisdom from without cannot have their counsellors always with them to give advice. But, when a man hath gotten the word in his heart, he finds a ready help: he hath a seasonable word to direct him in all difficulties, in all straits, and in all temptations, to teach him what to do against the burden of the present exigence; to teach him what to do and what to hope for.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 98.—"They are ever with me." A good man, wherever he goes, carries his Bible along with him, if not in his hands, yet in his head and in his heart.

Matthew Henry.

Verses 98-100.—Three sorts of men he mentions, "enemies," "teachers," "ancients;" the enemies excel in policy, teachers in doctrine, and ancients in counsel; and yet by the word was David made wiser than all these. Malice sharpens the wit of enemies, and teacheth them the arts of opposition; teachers are furnished with learning because of their office; and ancients grow wise by experience; yet David, by the study of the word, excelled all these.

Thomas Manton.

HINTS TO PREACHERS

Verse 98.—Constant communion with truth the student's road to proficiency.

Verse 98.—The truly wise man.

1. The source of his wisdom. The word of "the only wise God," here described as

(a) Thy commandments.

(b) Thy testimonies.

(c) Thy precepts.

2. The increase of his wisdom. It arises from

(a) The abiding indwelling of the word: "ever with me," Psa 119:98.

(b) Meditation upon the word, Psa 119:99.

(c) Obedience to the word, Psa 119:100.

3. The measure of his wisdom.

(a) Wiser than his enemies, whose wisdom was "not from above, but earthly, sensual, devilish."

(b) Wiser than his teachers, whose wisdom was "of this world."

(c) Wiser than the ancients, whose wisdom was that of unsanctified age and experience.

W. H. J. Page, of Chelsea, 1882.

EXPOSITION VERSE 99

Verse 99.—"I have more understanding than all my teachers." That which the Lord had taught him had been useful in the camp, and now he finds it equally valuable in the schools. Our teachers are not always to be trusted; in fact, we may not follow any of them implicitly, for God holds us to account for our personal judgments. It behooves us then to follow closely the chart of the Word of God, that we may be able to save the vessel when even the pilot errs. If our teachers should be in all things sound and safe, they will be right glad for us to excel them, and they will ever be ready to own that the teaching of the Lord is better than any teaching which they can give us. Disciples of Christ who sit at his feet are often better skilled in divine things than doctors of divinity.

"For thy testimonies are my meditation." This is the best mode of acquiring understanding. We may hear the wisest teachers and remain fools, but if we meditate upon the sacred word we must become wise. There is more wisdom in the testimonies of the Lord than in all the teachings of men if they were all gathered into one vast library. The one book outweighs all the rest.

David does not hesitate to speak the truth in this place concerning himself, for he is quite innocent of self consciousness. In speaking of his understanding he means to extol the law and the Lord, and not himself. There is not a grain of boasting in these bold expressions, but only a sincere childlike desire to set forth the excellence of the Lord's word. He who knows the truths taught in the Bible will be guilty of no egotism if he believes himself to be possessed of more important truth than all the agnostic professors buried and unburied.

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 99.—"I have more understanding than all my teachers." Even where the preacher is godly, partaker of that grace himself, whereof he is an ambassador to others, it falls out oftentimes that greater measure of light and grace is communicated by his ministry to another than is given to himself; as Augustine first illuminated and converted by Ambrose did far excel, both in knowledge and spiritual grace, him that taught him. And herein God wonderfully shows his glory, that, whosoever be the instrument, he is the dispenser of light and glory, giving more by the instrument than it hath in itself. And this is so far from being to a godly teacher a matter of grief, that it is rather a matter of glory.

William Cowper.

Verse 99.—"I have more understanding than all my teachers." It is no reflection upon my teachers, but rather an honour to them, for me to improve so as to excel them, and no longer to need them. By meditation we preach to ourselves, and so we come to understand more than our teachers, for we come to understand our hearts, which they cannot.

Matthew Henry.

HINTS TO PREACHERS

Verse 99.—The surest way to excellence.

1. A good subject: "thy testimonies."

2. A good method: "are my meditations."

EXPOSITION VERSE 100

Verse 100.—"I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts." The men of old age, and the men of old time, were outdone by the holier and more youthful learner. He had been taught to observe in heart and life the precepts of the Lord, and this was more than the most venerable sinner had ever learned, more than the philosopher of antiquity had so much as aspired to know. He had the word with him, and so outstripped his foes; lie meditated on it, and so outran his friends; he practised it, and so outshone his elders. The instruction derived from Holy Scripture is useful in many directions, superior from many points of view, unrivalled everywhere and in every way. As our soul may make her boast in the Lord, so may we boast in his word. "There is none like it: give it me," said David as to Goliath's sword, and we may say the same as to the word of the Lord. If men prize antiquity they have it here. The ancients are had in high repute, but what did they all know compared with that which we perceive in the divine precepts? "The old is better" says one: but the oldest of all is the best of all, and what is that but the word of the Ancient of days?

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 100.—"I understand…because l keep." Would we know the Lord? Let us keep his commandments. "By thy precepts," saith David, that is, by the observance of thy precepts, "I get understanding." "If any man do my will" (saith our blessed Saviour, John 7:17), "he shall know my doctrine." Βούλει θεόλογος γενὲσθαι? τὰς εντολάς φυλασσε, saith Nazienzen: Wouldst thou be a divine? do the commandments; for action is (as it were) the basis of contemplation. It is St. Gregory's observation concerning the two disciples who, whilst Christ talked with them, knew him not; but in performing an act of hospitality towards him, to wit, breaking bread with him, they knew him, that they were enlightened, not by hearing him, but by doing divine precepts, Quisquis ergo vult audita intelligere; festinet ea quae jam audire potuit, opere implere; Whosoever therefore will understand, let him first make haste to do what he heareth.

Nathanael Hardy, 1618-1670.

Verse 100.—"I understand more than the ancients." The ordinary answer of ignorant people is, "What! must we be wiser than our forefathers?" And yet those same people would be richer than their forefathers were. The maximum quod sic of a Christian is this,—he must grow in grace, till his head reach up to heaven, till grace is perfected in glory.

Christopher Love, 1618-1651.

Verse 100.—"More than the ancients." Understanding gotten by the precepts of the word is better than understanding gotten by long experience. It is better in four regards. First, It is more exact. Our experience reacheth but to a few things; but the word of God reacheth to all cases that concern true happiness. The word is the result of God's wisdom, who is the Ancient of days; therefore exceeds the wisdom of the ancients, or experience of any men, or all men. Secondly, as it is more exact, so a more sure way of learning wisdom, whereas experience is more uncertain. Many have much experience, yet have not a heart to see and to gather wisdom from what they feel: Deu 29:2-4. Thirdly, it is a safer and cheaper way of learning, to learn by rule, than to come home by weeping cross, and to learn wisdom by our own smart. Experience is too expensive a way; and, if we had nothing else to guide us, into how many thousand miseries should we run! Fourthly, it is shorter. The way by age and experience is a long way; and so, for a long time, all a man's younger age must needs be miserable and foolish. Now, here you may come betimes to be wise by studying the word of God. It concerns a man, not only to be wise at length, but to be wise betimes. The foolish virgins were wise too late: but never were any wise too soon.

Condensed from Thomas Manton.

Verse 100.—If this way [the Word of God] were thus perfect in David's time, what is it by the addition of so many parcels of Scripture since? If it then gave wisdom to the simple (Psa 14:7); if it made David, being brought up but as a shepherd, wiser than his enemies, than his ancients, than his teachers; as an angel of God in discerning right from wrong (1Sa 14:17); able to guide the people by the skilfulness of his hands (Psa 78:72); what kind of wisdom is there, which we may not now gather from thence? What depth of natural philosophy have we in Genesis and Job! What flowers of rhetoric in the prophets! What force of logic in Saint Paul's epistles! what art of poetry in the psalms! What excellent moral precepts, not only for private life, but for the regulation of families and commonwealth in the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes! To which may be added in a second rank as very useful, though apocryphal, the Book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus. What reasonable and just laws have we in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, which moved the great Ptolemy to hire the Septuagints to translate them into Greek: what unmatchable antiquity, variety, and wonderful events, and certainty of story, in the books of Moses, Joshua, the Judges, Samuel, the Kings, and Chronicles, together with Ruth and Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah, and, since Christ, in the sacred Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. And, lastly, what profound mysteries have we in the prophecies of Ezekiel and Daniel, and the Revelation of Saint John. But in this it infinitely exceeds the wisdom of all human writings, that it is alone "able to make a man wise unto salvation" (2Ti 3:15). Upon these considerations, Charles the Fifth of France, surnamed The Wise, not only caused the Bible to be translated into French, but was himself very studious in the Holy Scriptures. And Alphonsus, King of Arragon, is said to have read over the whole Bible fourteen several times, with Lyra's notes upon it; though he were otherwise excellently well learned, yet was the law of God his delight, "more desired of him than gold, yea, than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb."

George Hakewell, 1579-1649.

HINTS TO PREACHERS

Verse 100.—Antiquity no security for truth as contrasted with revelation: old age no proof of wisdom as contrasted with holy living: open confession no evidence of boasting as contrasted with sullen pride.

Verse 100.—Obedience the high road to understanding.

W. B. H.

Verse 100.—Obedience the key of knowledge. John 7:17.

EXPOSITION VERSE 101

Verse 101.—"I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word." There is no treasuring up the holy word unless there is a casting out of all unholiness: if we keep the good word we must let go the evil. David had zealously watched his steps and put a check upon his conduct,—he had refrained his feet. No one evil way could entice him, for he knew that if he went astray but in one road he had practically left the way of righteousness, therefore he avoided every false way. The bypaths were smooth and flowery, but he knew right well that they were evil, and so he turned his feet away, and held on along the strait and thorny pathway which leads to God. It is a pleasure to look back upon self conquests,— "I have refrained," and a greater delight still to know that we did this out of no mere desire to stand well with our fellows, but with the one motive of keeping the law of the Lord. Sin avoided that obedience may be perfected is the essence of this verse; or it may be that the Psalmist would teach us that there is no real reverence for the book where there is not carefulness to avoid every transgression of its precepts. How can we keep God's word if we do not keep our own works from becoming vile?

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 101.—"I have refrained my feet," etc. 1. We have David's practice: "I have refrained my feet from every evil way." 2. His end or motive: "That I might keep thy word;" that he might be exact and punctual with God in a course of obedience.

First, In his practice. You may note the seriousness of it: I have refrained my feet. By the feet are meant the affections: "Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God," Ecc 5:1. Our affections which are the rigorous bent of the soul, do engage us to practice; therefore fitly resembled by the feet, by which we walk to any place that we do desire: so that, "I have refrained my feet," the meaning is, I keep a close and strict band over my affections, that they might not lead me to sin. Then you may note the extent of it; he doth not only say, I refrained from evil, but universally, "from every evil way." But how could David say this in truth of heart, if conscious of his offence in the matter of Uriah? Answer: This was the usual frame and temper of his soul, and the course of his life; and such kind of assertions concerning the saints are to be interpreted, voce et canatu, licet non semper eventu. This was his errand and drift, his purpose and endeavour, his usual course, though he had his failings.

Secondly, What was his end and motive in this? "That I might keep thy word;" that I might be exact and punctual with God in a course of obedience, and adhere to his word universally, impartially.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 101.—"I have refrained my feet," etc. Where there is real holiness, there is a holy hatred, detestation, and indignation against all ungodliness and wickedness, and that upon holy accounts: "I have refrained my feet from every evil way." But why? "That I may keep thy word." "Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way;" Psa 119:104. The good that he got by divine precepts stirred up his hatred against every false way: Psa 119:128, "Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way." His high esteem of every precept raised up in him a holy indignation against every evil way. A holy man knows that all sin strikes at the holiness of God, the glory of God, the nature of God, the being of God, and the law of God; and therefore his heart rises against all; he looks upon every sin as the Scribes and Pharisees that accused Christ; and as that Judas that betrayed Christ; and as that Pilate that condemned Christ; and as those soldiers that scourged Christ; and as those spears that pierced Christ; and therefore his heart cries out for justice upon all.

Thomas Brooks.

Verse 101.—"Refrained…that I might keep." By doing what is right we come both to know right and to be better able to do it.

— "Plain Commentary."

Verse 101.—"I have refrained my feet," etc. The word "refrained" warns us that we are naturally borne by our feet into the path of every kind of sin, and are hurried along it by the rush of human passions, so that even the wise and understanding need to check, recall, and retrace their steps, in order that they may keep God's word, and not become castaways. And further note that the Hebrew verb here translated "refrained" is even stronger in meaning, and denotes "I fettered, or imprisoned, my feet," whereby we may learn that no light resistance is enough to prevent them from leading us astray.

Agellius and Genebrardus, in "Neale and Littledale."

HINTS TO PREACHERS

Verse 101.—Self restraint needful to piety.

EXPOSITION VERSE 102

Verse 102.—"I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me." They are well taught whom God teaches. What we learn from the Lord we never forget. God's instruction has a practical effect—we follow his way when he teaches us; and it has an abiding effect,—we do not depart from holiness. Read this verse in connection with the preceding and you get the believer's "I have," and his "I have not:" he is good both positively and negatively. What he did, namely, "refrained his feet," preserved him from doing that which otherwise he might have done, namely, "departed from thy judgments." He who is careful not to go an inch aside will not leave the road. He who never touches the intoxicating cup will never be drunk. He who never utters an idle word will never be profane. If we begin to depart a little we can never tell where we shall end. The Lord brings us to persevere in holiness by abstinence from the beginning of sin; but whatever be the method he is the worker of our perseverance, and to him be all the glory.

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 102.—By "misphallim," "judgments," is meant God's law; for thereby he will judge the world. And the word "departed not" intimateth both his exactness and constancy: his exactness, that he did not go a hair's breadth from his direction; "Ye shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left" (Deu 5:32); and his constancy is implied in it, for then we are said to depart from God and his law, when we fall off from him in judgment and practice. Jer 32:40.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 102.—"Thou hast taught me." God teacheth two ways:—

1. By common illumination.

2. By special operation.

1. By common illumination, barely enlightening the mind to know or understand what he propounds by his messengers: so God showed it to the heathen: Rom 1:20. But then,

2. By way of special operation, effectually inclining the will to embrace and prosecute duties so known: "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts:" Jer 31:33. This way of teaching is always effectual and persuasive. Now, in this sense they are taught of God, so that they do not only get an ear to hear, but a heart to understand, learn, and practise.

This teaching is the ground of constancy, because,

(1) They that are thus taught of God see things more clearly than others do; God is the most excellent teacher.

(2) They know things more surely, and with certainty of demonstration, whereas others have but dubious conjectures, and loose and wavering opinions about the things of God.

(3) This teaching is so efficacious and powerful, as that the effect followeth: "Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth" (Psa 86:11).

(4) God reneweth this teaching, and is always at hand to guide us, and give counsel to us, which is the cause of our standing.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 102.—"For thou hast taught me." Lest it should seem that David ascribed the praise of godliness to himself, or that it came from any goodness in him that he did refrain his feet from every evil way, he gives here all the glory to God, protesting, that because God did teach him, therefore he declined not. Wherefrom we learn, that if at any time we stand, or if when we have fallen we rise and repent, it is ever to be imputed to God that teacheth us; for there is no evil so abominable, but it would soon become plausible to us, if God should leave us to ourselves. David was taught by his ordinary teachers, and he did reverence them; but that he profited by them he ascribes unto God. Paul may plant, and Apollos water; God must give the increase.

William Cowper.

HINTS TO PREACHERS

Verse 102.—Divine teaching necessary to secure perseverance, and effectual to that end.

Verse 102.—Consider,

1. The path appointed for men to walk in: "Thy judgments."

(a) Right path.

(b) Clean path.

(c) Pleasant path.

(d) Safe path.

(e) The end—eternal glory.

2. The persistent pursuit of it: "I have not departed."

(a) Persecution would drive from it.

(b) Pleasures would allure from it.

(c) The flesh would weary in it.

(d) But the true believer determines to hold on his way to the end.

(e) And carefully watches his steps lest they depart.

3. The preserving power that holds the traveller to it: "For thou hast taught me."

(a) The traveller walks with God, and receives instruction by the special illumination of the Holy Spirit.

(b) The choice property of this teaching is, not only that it makes wise, but that it captivates the soul, strengthens it, and holds it to a holy obedience.

J. F.

EXPOSITION VERSE 103

Verse 103.—"How sweet are thy words into my taste." He had not only heard the words of God, but fed upon them: they affected his palate as well as his ear. God's words are many and varied, and the whole of them make up what we call "the word:" David loved them each one, individually, and the whole of them as a whole; he tasted an indescribable sweetness in them. He expresses the fact of their sweetness, but as he cannot express the degree of their sweetness he cries, "How sweet!" Being God's words they were divinely sweet to God's servant; he who put the sweetness into them had prepared the taste of his servant to discern and enjoy it. David makes no distinction between promises and precepts, doctrines and threatenings; they are all included in God's words, and all are precious in his esteem. Oh for a deep love to all that the Lord has revealed, whatever form it may take.

"Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth." When he did not only eat but also speak the word, by instructing others, he felt an increased delight in it. The sweetest of all temporal things fall short of the infinite deliciousness of the eternal word: honey itself is outstripped in sweetness by the word of the Lord. When the Psalmist fed on it he found it sweet; but when he bore witness of it it became sweeter still. How wise it will be on our part to keep the word on our palate by meditation and on our tongue by confession. It must be sweet to our taste when we think of it, or it will not be sweet to our mouth when we talk of it.

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 103.—"How sweet are thy words unto my taste!" Even the words of a fellow creature of earth, how inexpressibly sweet sometimes, how beyond all calculation precious! All gold and silver would be despised in comparison with them. They come freighted with love, and the heart is enriched with them as though the breath of God had come into it. But does not this rainbow of earthly joy die gradually out? Do not the enrapturing words sooner or later become exsiccated in the memory, and may they not meet with contemptuous treatment as reminders of an earthly illusion? Indeed they do; indeed they may.

Nevertheless the heart may find its happiness, its true and undying happiness, in words. At this moment there is nothing in the whole world so much to be desired as certain words. Words of love. Words expressive of infinite love. Treasures, pleasures, honours of earth, what are they? My unsatisfied soul cries out, Give me words. Words whereby I may know the love that God has towards me. Words declaring the unchangeable attachment of the Saviour. Words purifying my heart. Emboldening me in prayer. Exhibiting to me the blissful future. Words that shall give life to my dead powers, and change me from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.

George Bowen, in "Daily Meditations," 1873.

Verse 103.—How sweet are thy words unto my taste!" etc. There is given to the regenerated a new, supernatural sense, a certain divine, spiritual taste. This is in its whole nature diverse from any of the other five senses, and something is perceived by a true saint in the exercise of this new sense of mind, in spiritual and divine things, as entirely different from anything that is perceived in them by natural men, as the sweet taste of honey is diverse from the ideas men get of honey by looking on it or feeling of it. Now the beauty of holiness is that which is perceived by this spiritual sense, so diverse from all that natural men perceive in them; or, this kind of beauty is the quality that is the immediate object of this spiritual sense; this is the sweetness that is the proper object of this spiritual taste. The Scripture often represents the beauty and sweetness of holiness as the grand object of a spiritual taste and a spiritual appetite. This was the sweet food of the holy soul of Jesus Christ, John 4:32, 34. "I have meat to eat that ye know not of…My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." I know of no part of the Holy Scriptures where the nature and evidence of true and sincere godliness are so fully and largely insisted on and delineated, as in the 119th Psalm. The Psalmist declares his design in the first verses of the psalm, keeps his eye on it all along, and pursues it to the end. The excellency of holiness is represented as the immediate object of a spiritual taste and delight. God's law, that grand expression and emanation of the holiness of God's nature, and prescription of holiness to the creature, is all along represented as the great object of the love, the complacence, and rejoicing of the gracious nature, which prizes God's commandments above gold, yea, the finest gold, and to which they are sweeter than honey, and the honeycomb; and that upon account of their holiness. The same psalmist declares that this is the sweetness that a spiritual taste relishes in God's law: Psa 19:7-10.

Jonathan Edwards, 1703-1758.

Verse 103.—"How sweet are thy words unto my taste!" Why does he not rather say, How pleasant are thy words to my ears? than that they are sweet to his taste and his mouth? I answer: It is most meet that when God speaks by the mouth of his ministers we should be hearers, and the words of God should be the most joyous of all to our ears. But it is also the practice of the godly to converse about the words of God, and their words are so sweet to their own taste that they are more pleased and delighted than by any honey from the comb. And this is most necessary when either there is a scarcity of teachers, as with David in the wilderness or dwelling among the Philistines; or when those who hold the office of teaching, adulterate and vitiate the pure word of God.

Wolfgang Musculus.

Verse 103.—That which is here called "word," I take rather for "judgments," partly because in the proper tongue the word is left out, and partly because he had used this word "judgments" in the verse immediately going before. But some will say, How can the judgments of God be "sweet," which are so troublesome, fearful, and grievous? I answer, that the godly have no greater joy than when they feel either the mercies of God accomplished towards them that fear him, or his judgments showered upon the reprobates.

Richard Greenham.

Verse 103.—"Unto my taste." "To my mouth." That is, I take as great pleasure in talking, conferring, and persuading, thy judgments, as my mouth, or the mouth of any that loveth honey, is delighted therewith.

Richard Greenham.

Verse 103.—"Sweeter." As there are always among violets some that are very much sweeter than others, so among texts there are some that are more precious to us than others.

Henry Ward Beecher, 1879.

Verse 103.—An affectionate wife often says, "My husband! your words are sweeter to me than honey; yes, they are sweeter than the sugar cane." "Alas! my husband is gone," says the widow: "how sweet were his words! Honey dropped from his mouth: his words were ambrosia."

Joseph Roberts.

HINTS TO PREACHERS

Verse 103.—Experience in religion the source of enjoyment in it; or,

1. Tasting the word: its sweetness.

2. Declaring the word with the mouth: its greater sweetness.

Verse 103.

1. The word is positively sweet: "sweet to my taste."

2. Comparatively sweet: "sweeter than honey."

3. Superlatively sweet: "how sweet," etc.

G. R.

Verse 103.—The comparison, setting forth the precious property of sweetness in the word: "Sweeter than honey." "Better than honey," would not do as well. It is:

1. The purest sweetness; even precepts and rebukes.

2. Uncloying sweetness.

3. Always a beneficial sweetness.

4. A specially grateful sweetness—in affliction, in the hour of death.

J. F.

Verse 103.—Spiritual delicacy.

1. The taste needed to relish it.

2. The life that alone is nourished by it.

3. The rare enjoyment derived from it.

G. A. D.

Verse 103.

1. It is sweet.

2. Let us enjoy it.

3. The best effects will follow. George Herbert says:—

O Book! infinite sweetness! let my heart
Suck every letter, and a honey gain,
Precious for any grief in any part;
To clear the breast, to mollify all pain.

Verse 103.—If we would taste the honey of God, we must have the palate of faith.

A. R. Fausset.

EXPOSITION VERSE 104

Verse 104.—"Through thy precepts I get understanding." God's direction is our instruction. Obedience to the divine will begets wisdom of mind and action. As God's way is always best, those who follow it are sure to be justified by the result. If the Lawgiver were foolish his law would be the same, and obedience to such a law would involve us in a thousand mistakes; but as the reverse is the case, we may count ourselves happy to have such a wise, prudent, and beneficial law to be the rule of our lives. We are wise if we obey and we grow wise by obeying!

"Therefore I hate every false way." Because he had understanding, and because of the divine precepts, he detested sin and falsehood. Every sin is a falsehood; we commit sin because we believe a lie, and in the end the flattering evil turns a liar to us and we find ourselves betrayed. True hearts are not indifferent about falsehood, they grow warm in indignation: as they love the truth, so they hate the lie. Saints have a universal horror of all that is untrue, they tolerate no falsehood or folly, they set their faces against all error of doctrine or wickedness of life. He who is a lover of one sin is in league with the whole army of sins; we must have neither truce nor parley with even one of these Amalekites, for the Lord hath war with them from generation to generation, and so must we. It is well to be a good hater. And what is that? A hater of no living being, but a hater of "every false way." The way of self will, of self righteousness, of worldliness, of pride, of unbelief, of hypocrisy,—these are all false ways, and therefore not only to be shunned, but to be abhorred.

This final verse of the strophe marks a great advance in character, and shows that the man of God is growing stronger, bolder, and happier than aforetime. He has been taught of the Lord, so that he discerns between the precious and the vile, and while he loves the truth fervently he hates falsehood intensely. May all of us reach this state of discrimination and determination, so that we may greatly glorify God.

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 104.—"Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way." In this sentence the prophet seems to invert the order set down in Psa 119:101. He had said, "I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word," where the avoiding of evil is made the means of profiting by the word; here his profiting by the word is made the cause of avoiding evil. In the one verse you have an account of his beginning with God; in the other, of his progress.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 104.—"I hate every false way." David saith, "I hate every false way;" I hate not only the way when I have been misled into it, but I hate to go in it; and he professes at the Psa 119:163, "I hate and abhor lying, but thy law do I love." To abstain from and forbear lying is a sign of a gracious heart, much more to hate and abhor it. A godly man not only doth that which is good, but he delights to do it, his soul cleaves to it; he is in his clement when he is doing it, nothing comes more suitably to him than the business of his duty, he loveth to do it, yea, he loveth it when he cannot do it: Rom 7:22. Paul complained much that his corruptions clogged, hindered and shackled him; he was in lime twigs as to the doing of good, yet (saith he) "I delight in the law of God after the inward man;" that is, the inward man delightfully moves after the law of God, when I am basely moved by my corrupt heart, and stirred by temptation against it. Now, as a godly man not only chooseth to do the holy will of God, but delights and rejoiceth to do it, and hath sweet content in doing it; so likewise a godly man not only refuseth to do the will of the flesh, or to follow the course of the world, but hates to do it, and is never so discontented with himself as when through carelessness and neglect of his watch he hath been overtaken and hath fallen. A carnal man may forbear the doing of evil, and do what is materially good, but he never abhors what is evil, nor delights in what is good. Though he abstain from acting those things which God forbids, yet he doth not say, with Job, "God forbid, I should act them." …To delight in good is better than the doing of it, and to abhor evil is better than abstaining from it. And if we compare the nature of sin with the new nature of a godly man, we may see clear grounds why his abstinence from sin is joined with an abhorrence of it.

Joseph Caryl.

Verse 104.—"Through thy; precepts I get understanding." Spiritual understanding is connected with the taste of spiritual sweetness. (Compare Pro 2:10-11.) "The sweetness of the lips"—as the wise man observes— "increaseth learning. The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips." Pro 16:21, 23. Thus having learned "the principles of the doctrine of Christ," we are encouraged to "go on to perfection"—"growing in grace and in the knowledge of Christ." For the connexion between "grace and knowledge" is clearly manifested.

Charles Bridges.

Verse 104.—"I hate every false way." Universality in this is a sure sign of sincerity. Herod spits out some sins, when he rolls others as sweet morsels in his mouth. A hypocrite ever leaves the devil some nest egg to sit upon, though he take many away. Some men will not buy some commodities, because they cannot have them at their own price, but they lay out the same money on others; so hypocrites forbear some sins, yea, are displeased at them; because they cannot have them without disgrace or disease, or some other disadvantage; but they lay out the same love upon other sins which will suit better with their designs. Some affirm that what the sea loseth in one place it gains in another; so what ground the corruption of the unconverted loseth one way, it gains another. There is in him some one lust especially which is his favourite; some king sin, like Agag, which must be spared when others are destroyed. "In this the Lord be merciful to thy servant," saith Naaman. But now the regenerate laboureth to cleanse himself from all pollutions, both of flesh and spirit. 2Co 7:1.

George Swinnock.

Verse 104.—"I hate." The Scriptures place religion very much in the affection of love; love to God, and the Lord Jesus Christ; love to the people of God, and to mankind. The texts in which this is manifest, both in the Old Testament and the New, are innumerable. The contrary affection of hatred also, as having sin for its object, is spoken of in Scripture as no inconsiderable part of true religion. It is spoken of as that by which true religion may be known and distinguished. Pro 8:13. "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." Accordingly, the saints are called upon to give evidence of their sincerity by this, Psa 97:10. "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil." And the Psalmist often mentions it as an evidence of his sincerity: Psa 101:2-3, "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside." So Psa 119:128, and the present place. Again, Psa 139:21: "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee?"

Jonathan Edwards.

Verse 104.—"I hate." Hatred is a stabbing, murdering affection, it purposes sin with a hot heart to death, as an avenger of blood, that is to say, of the blood of the soul which sin would spill, and of the blood of Christ which sin hath shed. Hate sin perfectly and perpetually and then you will not spare it but kill it presently. Till sin be hated it cannot be mortified; you will not cry against it, as the Jews did against Christ, Crucify it! Crucify it! but shew indulgence to it as David did to Absalom and say, Deal gently with the young man,—with this or that lust, for my sake. Mercy to sin is cruelty to the soul.

Edward Reyner, 1600-1670.

Verse 104.—"False way." It is not said, "evil way," but "false way:" or, as it is in the original, every path of lying and falsehood. Falsehood is either in point of opinion or practice. If you take it in the first sense, for falsehood in opinion, or error in judgment, or false doctrine, or false worship, this sentence holds good. Those that get understanding by the word are established against error, and not only established against error, or against the embracing or possession of it, but they hate it.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 104.—"False way." All sin is a lie. By it we attempt to cheat God. By it we actually cheat our souls: Pro 14:12. There is no delusion like the folly of believing that a course of sin will conduce to our happiness.

William S. Plumer.

HINTS TO PREACHERS

Verse 104.—The influence of the precepts.

1. Upon the understanding.

2. Upon the affections.

3. Upon the life.

Verse 104.

1. The intellectual effect of the Scriptures: "I get understanding."

2. Their moral effect: "I hate," etc.

G. R.

Verse 104.—The understanding derived from God's precepts begets holy hatred.

1. To the false ways of conventional morality.

2. To the false ways of a formal religiousness.

3. To the false ways of an erring theology.

4. To the false ways of hypocritical practice.

5. To the false ways of sinful suggestions.

6. To the false ways of one's own deceitful heart.

J. F.




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