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C. H. Spurgeon :: Psalm 119 Verses 137-144

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Psalm 119 Verses 137-144


This passage deals with the perfect righteousness of Jehovah and his word, and expresses the struggles of a holy soul in reference to that righteousness. The initial letter with which every verse commences in the Hebrew is "P," and the keyword to us is PURITY.

Verse 137.—"Righteous art thou, O LORD" The Psalmist has not often used the name of Jehovah in this vast composition. The whole psalm shows him to have been a deeply religious man, thoroughly familiar with the things of God; and such persons never use the holy name of God carelessly, nor do they even use it at all frequently in comparison with the thoughtless and the ungodly. Familiarity begets reverence in this case. Here he uses the sacred name in worship. He praises God by ascribing to him perfect righteousness. God is always right, and he is always actively right, that is, righteous. This quality is bound up in our very idea of God. We cannot imagine an unrighteous God. "And upright are thy judgments." Here he extols God's word, or recorded judgments, as being right, even as their Author is righteous. That which comes from the Righteous God is itself righteous. Jehovah both saith and doth that which is right, and that alone. This is a great stay to the soul in time of trouble. When we are most sorely afflicted, and cannot see the reason for the dispensation, we may fall back upon this most sure and certain fact, that God is righteous, and his dealings with us are righteous too. It should be our glory to sing this brave confession when all things around us appear to suggest the contrary. This is the richest adoration—this which rises from the lips of faith when carnal reason mutters about undue severity, and the like.


S. Jerome, whom most of the medievalists follow, explains Tsaddi as meaning justice or righteousness, which, however, is עֶדִק tsedek But he is so far right that there is a play in this strophe on the sound of the initial letter, as in the case of Gemol; for the very first word, righteous, is עדִּיק tsaddik, and the whole scope of the strophe is the strong grasp which even the young and inexperienced soul can have of righteousness amidst the troubles of the world.

Neale and Littledale.

All these verses begin with Tzaddi, the eighteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; Psa 119:137, 142, 144, with some form of the word which we render righteous, or righteousness; each of the remainder with a wholly different word.

William S. Plumer.

Verse 137.—"Righteous art thou, O LORD," etc. Here David, sore troubled with grief for the wickedness of his enemies, yea, tempted greatly to impatience and distrust, by looking to their prosperous estate, notwithstanding their so gross impiety, doth now show unto us a three fold ground of comfort, which in this dangerous temptation upheld him. The first is, a consideration of that which God is in himself; namely, just and righteous: the second, a consideration of the equity of his word; the third, a view of his constant truth, declared in his working and doing according to his word. When we find ourselves tempted to distrust by looking to the prosperity of the wicked, let us look up to God, and consider his nature, his word, his works, and we shall find comfort.

"Righteous art thou." This is the first ground of comfort—a meditation of the righteousness of God's nature; he alters not with times, he changes not with persons, he is, alway and unto all, one and the same righteous and holy God. Righteousness is essential to him, it is himself; and he can no more defraud the godly of their promised comforts, not let the wicked go unpunished in their sins, than he can deny himself to be God, which is impossible.

William Cowper.

Verse 137.—"Righteous art thou, O LORD," etc. Essentially, originally, and of himself; naturally, immutably and universally, in all his ways and works of nature and grace; in his thoughts, purposes, counsels, and decrees; in all the dispensations of his providence; in redemption, in the justification of a sinner, in the pardon of sin, and in the gift of eternal life through Christ. "And upright are thy judgments." They are according to the rules of justice and equity. He refers to the precepts of the word, the doctrines of the gospel, as well as the judgments of God inflicted on wicked men, and all the providential dealings of God with his people, and also the final judgment.

John Gill.

Verse 137.—"Righteous art thou, O LORD," etc. Here is much to keep the children of God in awe. The Lord is a righteous God: though they have found mercy and taken sanctuary in his grace, the Lord is impartial in his justice. God that did not spare the angels when they sinned, nor his Son when he was a sinner by imputation, will not spare you, though you are the dearly beloved of his soul: Pro 11:31. The sinful courses of God's children occasion bitterness enough; they never venture upon sin, but with great loss. If Paul give way to a little pride, God will humble him. If any give way to sin, their pilgrimage will be made uncomfortable. Eli falls into negligence and indulgence, then is the ark of God taken, his two sons are slain in battle, his daughter-in-law dies, he himself breaks his neck. Oh! the wonderful tragedies that sin works in the houses of the children of God! David, when he intermeddled with forbidden fruit, was driven from his palace, his concubines defiled, his own son slain; a great many calamities did light upon him. Therefore the children of God have cause to fear; for the Lord is a just God, and they will find it so. Here upon earth he hath reserved liberty to visit their iniquity with rods, and their transgression with scourges. I must press you to imitate God's righteousness: "If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him:" 1Jo 2:29. You have a righteous God; and this part of his character you should copy out.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 137.—David's great care, when he was under the afflicting hand of God, was to clear the Lord of injustice. Oh! Lord, saith he, there is not the least show, spot, stain, blemish, or mixture of injustice, in all the afflictions thou hast brought upon me. I desire to take shame to myself, and to set to my seal, that the Lord is righteous, and that there is no injustice, no cruelty, nor no extremity in all that the Lord hath brought upon me. He sweetly and readily subscribes unto the righteousness of God in those sharp and smart afflictions that God exercised him with. "Righteous art thou, O LORD, and upright are thy judgments." God's judgments are always just; he never afflicts but in faithfulness. His will is the rule of justice; and therefore a gracious soul dares not cavil nor question his proceedings.

Thomas Brooks.

Verse 137.—The hundred and thirty-seventh verse, like the twenty-fifth, is associated with the sorrows of an Imperial penitent (Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. 46). When the deposed and captive Emperor Maurice was led out for execution by the usurper Phocas, his five sons were previously murdered one by one in his presence; and at each fatal blow he patiently exclaimed, "Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments."

Neale and Littledale.


Verses 137-144.

The righteousness of God and his word. (Psa 119:137-138).

Indignation at the forgetfulness of the enemies (Psa 119:139).

The purity of the word (Psa 119:140-141).

This righteousness of God and his testimonies is everlasting (Psa 119:142-144).

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

Verses 137-138.—Solemn contemplation.

1. The contemplation of the deep and awful display of the divine character is good for the soul.

2. It will lead to a conviction of the righteousness of God's character and administration.

3. It will result in loyal submission.

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

Verse 137.—A consideration of divine righteousness. Convinces us of sin, reconciles us to trying providence, excites a desire to imitate, arouses to reverent adoration.

Verse 137.—God is righteous.

1. In his commands.

2. In his threatenings.

3. In his chastisement.

4. In his judgments.

5. In his promises.

G. R.


Verse 138.—"Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful." All that which God hath testified in his word is right and truthful. It is righteous, and may be relied upon for the present; it is faithful, and may be trusted in for the future. About every portion of the inspired testimonies there is a divine authority, they are issued and published by God's command, and they bear the impress of the royal style which carries omnipotence about it. Not only the precepts but the promises also are commanded of the Lord, and so are all the teachings of Scripture. It is not left to our choice whether we will accept them or no; they are issued by royal command, and are not to be questioned. Their characteristic is that they are like the Lord who has proclaimed them, they are the essence of justice and the soul of truth. God's word is righteous and cannot be impeached; it is faithful and cannot be questioned; it is true from the beginning, and it will be true unto the end.

Dwell upon that sweet word—"very faithful." What a mercy that we have a God to deal with who is scrupulously faithful, true to all the items and details of his promises, punctual to time, steadfast during all time. Well may we risk all upon a word which is "ever faithful, ever sure."


Verse 138.—"Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful." The force of this expression is much feebler than that of the original, which literally may be rendered, "Thou hast commanded righteousness thy testimonies, and truth exceedingly." So the Septuagint hath it. Righteousness and truth were his testimonies; the testimonies were one with his righteousness and truth. The English translation gives the quality of the testimonies; the Hebrew gives that which is commanded; as if we might say, Thou hast enjoined righteousness to be thy testimonies, and truth exceedingly.

John Stephen.

Verse 138.—"Thy testimonies." The word of God is called his testimony, both because it testifies his will, which he will have us to do; as also because it testifies unto men truly what shall become of them, whether good or evil. Men by nature are curious to know their end, rather than careful to mend their life; and for this cause seek answers where they never get good: but if they would know, let them go to the word and testimony; they need not to seek any other oracle. If the word of God testify good things unto them, they have cause to rejoice; if otherwise it witnesseth evil unto them, let them haste to prevent it, or else it will assuredly overtake them.

William Cowper.

Verse 138.—"Righteous and very faithful." Literally, "faithfulness exceedingly." Harsh and severe as they may seem, they are all thoroughly for man's highest good.

William Kay.


Verse 138.—"Very faithful." Based on a faithful covenant; confirmed by faithful promises; carried out by a faithful Redeemer; enjoyed hitherto; relied on for the future. "Though we believe not, yet he abideth faithful."


Verse 139.—In the last two verses David spoke concerning his God and his law; here he speaks of himself, and says, "My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words:" this was no doubt occasioned by his having so clear a sense of the admirable character of God's word. His zeal was like a fire burning within his soul. The sight of man's forgetfulness of God acted as a fierce blast to excite the fire to a more vehement flame, and it blazed until it was ready to consume him. David could not bear that men should forget God's words. He was ready to forget himself, aye, to, consume himself, because these men forgot God. The ungodly were David's enemies: his enemies, because they hated him for his godliness; his enemies, because he abhorred them for their ungodliness. These men had gone so far in iniquity that they not only violated and neglected the commands of God, but they appeared actually to have forgotten them. This put David into a great heat; he burned with indignation. How dare they trample on sacred things! How could they utterly ignore the commands of God himself! He was astonished, and filled with holy anger.


Verse 139.—"My zeal hath consumed me." "Zeal" is a high degree of love; and when the object of that love is ill treated, it vents itself in a mixture of grief and indignation, which are sufficient to wear and "consume" the heart. This will be the case where men rightly conceive of that dishonour which is continually done to God by creatures whom he hath made and redeemed. But never could the verse be uttered, with such fulness of truth and propriety, by any one, as by the Son of God, who had such a sense of his Father's glory, and of man's sin, as no person else ever had. And, accordingly, when his zeal had exerted itself in purging the temple, St. John tells us, "his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal thine house hath eaten me up." The place where it is so written Psa 69:9, and the passage is exactly parallel to this before us.


Verse 139.—"My zeal hath consumed me," etc. Zeal is the heat or tension of the affections; it is a holy warmth, whereby our love and an are drawn out to the utmost for God, and his glory. Now, our love to and his ways, and our hatred of wickedness, should be increased, because ungodly men. Cloudy and dark colours in a table, make those that are and lively to appear more beautiful; others' sin should make God and godliness more amiable in thine eyes. Thy heart should take fire by striking on such cold flints. David by a holy antiperistasis, did kindle from of coldness: "My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten words." Cold blasts make a fire to flame the higher, and burn the hotter.

George Swinnock.

Verse 139.—"My zeal hath consumed me." The fire of zeal, like the fire which consumed Solomon's sacrifice, cometh down from heaven; and zealots are not those salamanders that always live in the fire of hatred contention; but seraphs, burning with the spiritual fire of divine love. And there true zeal inflames the desires and affections of the soul. If it be true zeal, then tract of time, multitude of discouragements, falseness of deserting the cause, strength of oppositions, will not tire out a man's spirit. Zeal makes men resolute, difficulties are but whetstones to their fortitude, it steels men's spirits with an undaunted resolution. This was the zeal burned in the disciples (Luke 24), that consumed David here, and dried up the very marrow of Christ: John 2:17.

Abraham Wright.

Verse 139.—"My zeal hath consumed me." There are divers kinds of zeal; there is a zeal of the world, there is a zeal of the flesh, there is a zeal of false religion, there is a zeal of heresy, and there is a zeal of the true word of God. First, we see the zeal of the world maketh men to labour day night to get a transitory thing. The zeal of the flesh torments men's minds early and late for a momentary pleasure. The zeal of heresy maketh men travel and compass sea and land, for the maintaining and increasing of their opinion. Thus we see every man is eaten up with some kind of zeal. The drunkard is consumed with drunkenness, the whoremonger is spent with his whoredom, the heretic is eaten with heresies. Oh, how ought this to make us ashamed, who are so little eaten, spent, and consumed with the zeal of word! And so much the rather, because godly zeal leaveth in us advantage and a recompence, which the worldly and carnally zealous men have not. For when they have spent all the strength of their bodies, and powers of their mind, they have no gain or comfort left, but torment of conscience; and when they are outwardly spent, they are inwardly never the better: whereas the godly being concerned for a good thing, and eaten up with the zeal of God's glory, have this notable privilege and profit, that howsoever their outward man perisheth and decayeth, yet their inward man is still refreshed and nourished to everlasting life. Oh, what a benefit it is to be eaten up with the love and zeal of a good thing!

Richard Greenham.

Verse 139.—"Have forgotten thy words." A proper phrase to set forth in the bosom of the visible church who do not wholly deny and reject word and rule of Scripture, but yet live on as though they had forgotten it: they do not observe it; as if God had never spoken any such thing, or given them any such rule. They that reject and condemn such things as the word enforceth, surely do not remember to do them.

Thomas Manton.


Verse 139.—Zeal.

1. Consuming self.

2. Inflamed by that which would naturally quench it.

3. Fed upon God's words.

Verse 139.—Zeal.

1. Flourishing in an unpromising atmosphere.

2. Attaining an astonishing growth.

3. Accomplishing a blessed work—the consumption of self.

C. A. D.

Verse 139.

1. The object of his zeal: "Thy words."

2. The occasion of his zeal: "Mine enemies," etc.

3. The fervour of his zeal: "My zeal hath consumed me."

G. R.


Verse 140.—"Thy word is very pure." It is truth distilled, holiness in its quintessence. In the word of God there is no admixture of error or sin. It is pure in its sense, pure in its language, pure in its spirit, pure in its influence, and all this to the very highest degree—"very pure." "Therefore thy servant loveth it," which is a proof that he himself was pure in heart, for only those who are pure love God's word because of its purity. His heart was knit to the word because of its glorious holiness and truth. He admired it, delighted in it, sought to practise it, and longed to come under its purifying power.


Verse 140.—"Thy word is very pure." In the original, "tried, purified, like gold in the furnace," absolutely perfect, without the dross vanity and fallibility, which runs through human writings. The more we try the promises, the surer we shall find them. Pure gold is so fixed, Boerhaave, informs us of an ounce of it set in the eye of a glass furnace for two months, without losing a single grain.

George Horne.

Verse 140.—"Thy word is very pure; therefore," etc. The word of God is not only "pure," free from all base admixture, but it is a purifier; it cleanses from sin and guilt every heart with which into comes into contact. "Now ye are clean," said Jesus Christ to his disciples, "by the word which I have spoken unto you:" John 15:3. It is this its pure quality combined with its tendency to purify every nature that yields to its holy influence, that endears it to every child of God. Here it is that he finds those views of the divine character, those promises, those precepts, those representations of the deformity of sin, of the beauty of holiness, which lead him, above all things, to seek conformity to the divine image. A child of God in his best moments does not wish the word of God brought down to a level with his own imperfect character, but desires rather that his character may be gradually raised to a conformity to that blessed word. Because it is altogether pure, and because it tends to convey to those who make it their constant study a measure of its own purity, the child of God loves it, and delights to meditate in it day and night.

John Morison.

Verse 140.—"Thy word is very pure." Before I knew the word of God in spirit and in truth, for its great antiquity, its interesting narratives, its impartial biography, its pure morality, its sublime poetry, in a word, for its beautiful and wonderful variety, I preferred it to all other books; but since I have entered into its spirit, like the Psalmist, I love it above all things for its purity; and desire, whatever else I read, it may tend to increase my knowledge of the Bible, and strengthen my affection for its divine and holy truths.

Sir William Jones, 1746-1794.

Verse 140.—"Thy word." Let us refresh our minds and our memories with some of the Scripture adjuncts connected with "the word," and realize, in some degree at least, the manifold relations which it bears both to God and our souls. It is called "the word of Christ," because much of it was given by him, and it all bears testimony to him…It is called "the word of his grace," because the glorious theme on which it loves to expatiate is grace, and especially grace as it is seen in Christ's dying love for sinful men. It is called λόγος τοῦ σταυροῦ "the word of the cross" (1Co 1:18), because in the crucifixion of the divine Redeemer we see eternal mercy in its brightest lustre. It is called "the word of the gospel," because it brings glad tidings of great joy to all nations. It is called "the word of the kingdom," because it holds out to all believers the hope of an everlasting kingdom of righteousness and peace. It is called "the word of salvation," because the purpose for which it was given is the salvation of sinners. It is called "the word of truth," because, as Chillingworth says, it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without mixture of error for its contents. And we will only add, it is called "the word of life," because it reveals to a sinful, perishing world the doctrines of life and immortality.

W. Graham, in "A Commentary on the First Epistle of John," 1857.

Verse 140.—"Therefore thy servant loveth it." Love in God is the fountain of all his benefits extended to us; and love in man is the fountain of all our service and obedience to God. He loved us first to do us good; and hereof it comes that we have grace to love him next to do him service. Love is such a duty that the want thereof cannot be excused in any; for the poorest both may and should love God: yet without it all the rest thou canst do in his service is nothing; nay, not if thou shouldest give thy goods to the poor, and offer thy body to be burned. Small sacrifices, flowing from faith and love, are welcome to him, where greater without these are but abomination to him. Proofs of both we have in the widow's mite and Cain's rich oblation; whereof the one was rejected, the other received. Happy are we though we cannot say, "We have done as God commands," if out of a good heart we can say,—"We love to do what he commands."

William Cowper.

Verse 140.—"Therefore thy servant loveth it." Of all our grounds and reasons of love to the word of God, the most noble and excellent is to love the word for its purity. This showeth indeed that we are made partakers of the Divine nature: 2Pe 1:4. For I pray you mark, when we hate evil as evil, and love good as good, we have the same love and hatred that God hath. When once we come to love things because they are pure, it is a sign that we have the same love that God hath.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 140.—"Thy servant loveth it." Otherwise, indeed, the Psalmist would not have been the Lord's servant at all. But he glories in the title because he delights in the pure service.

John Stephen.

Verses 140-141.—God's own utterance is indeed without spot, and therefore not to be carped at; it is pure, fire proved, noblest metal, therefore he loves it, and does not, though young and lightly esteemed, care for the remonstrances of his proud opponents, who are older and more learned than himself.

Franz Delitzsch.


Verse 140.

1. An awakened sinner adoring the holy law.

2. A saint loving it because the pure love the pure.

3. A saint among sinners loving the law all the more for its contrast.

Verse 140.

1. The crystal stream.

(a) Flows from under the throne.

(b) Mirrors heaven.

(c) Undefiled through the ages.

(d) Nourishes holiness as it flows.

2. The enraptured pilgrim.

(a) Keeping by its brink.

(b) Delighted with its lucid depths.

3. Pleased with its mirrored revelations—self, heaven, God.

4. Cleansed and refreshed by its waters.

W. B. H.

Verse 140.

1. The purity of God's Word.

(a) It proceeds from a perfectly pure source: "Thy word."

(b) It reveals a purity otherwise unknown.

(c) It treats impure subjects with absolute purity.

(d) It inculcates the most perfect purity.

(e) It produces such purity in those who are subject to its power.—

2. The love which its purity inspires in gracious souls.

(a) They love it because, while it reveals their natural impurity, it shows them how to escape from it.

(b) They love it because it conforms them to its own purity.

(c) They love it because to a pure heart the purity of the word is one of its chief commendations.—

3. The evidences of this love to the pure word.

(a) Desire to possess it in its purity.

(b) Subjection to its spirit and teachings.

(c) Zeal for its honour and diffusion.

W. H. J. P.


Verse 141.—"I am small and despised: yet do I not forget thy precepts." That fault of forgetfulness which he condemned in others (Psa 119:139) could not be charged upon himself. His enemies made no account of him, regarded him as a man without power or ability, and therefore looked down upon him. He appears to accept the situation and humbly take the lowest room, but he carries God's word with him. How many a man has been driven to do some ill action in order to reply to the contempt of his enemies: to make himself conspicuous he has either spoken or acted in a manner which he could not justify. The beauty of the Psalmist's piety was that it was calm and well balanced, and as he was not carried away by flattery, so was he not overcome by shame. If small, he the more jealously attended to the smaller duties; and if despised, he was the more in earnest to keep the despised commandments of God.


Verse 141.—"I am small and despised," or, I have been. Some versions render it young; as if it had respect to the time of his anointing by Samuel, when he was overlooked and despised in his father's family (1Sa 16:11; 17:28); but the word here used is not expressive of age, but of state, condition, and circumstances; and the meaning is, that he was little in his own esteem, and in the esteem of men, and was despised; and that on account of religion, in which he was a type of Christ (Psa 22:6; Isa 53:3), and which is the common lot of good men, who are treated by the world as the filth of it, and the offscouring of all things.

John Gill.

Verse 141.—"I am small." They that love God may be reduced to a mean, low, and afflicted condition; the Lord seeth it meet for divers reasons:

1. That they may know their happiness is not in this world, and so the more long for heaven, and delight in heavenly things.

2. It is necessary to cut off the provisions of the flesh and the fuel of their lusts. A rank soil breeds weeds; and when we sail with a full stream we are apt to be carried away with it.

3. That they may be more sensible of his displeasure against their sins and scandalous carriage by which they have dishonoured him, and provoked the pure eyes of his glory.

4. That they may learn to live upon the promises, and learn to exercise suffering graces; especially dependence upon God, who can support us without a temporal, visible interest.

5. That God may convince the enemies that there is a people that do sincerely serve him, and not for carnal, selfish ends: Job 1.

6. That his glory may be more seen in their deliverance; and therefore, before God doth appear for his children, he bringeth them very low.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 141.—"Small." This applies to David in his early days of trouble and persecution. It is difficult to find any other individual to whom it is so suitable.

James G. Murphy.

Verse 141.—A notable example to the shame of them, that perhaps will serve and praise God in their prosperity, and when they are increased; but let affliction or want come, and then they have little heart to do it.

Abraham Wright.

Verse 141.—"Yet do not I forget thy precepts." God observeth what we do in our trouble: "If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god: shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart:" Psa 44:20-21. If we slacken our service to God, or fall off to any degree of apostasy, the Judge of hearts knoweth all: God knoweth whether we would have depraved and corrupt doctrine, worship, or ordinances; or whether we will faithfully adhere to him, to his word, and worship, and ordinances, whatever it cost us.

In our poor and despicable condition we see more cause to love the word than we did before; because we experience supports and comforts which we have thereby: "Knowing that tribulation worketh patience," etc. (Rom 5:3); "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ:" 2Co 1:5. God hath special consolations for his afflicted and despised people, and makes their consolation by Christ to run parallel with, and keep pace with, their sufferings for Christ.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 141.—"Yet do not I forget thy precepts." We see by experience that our affection leaves anything from the time it goes out of our remembrance. We cease to love when we cease to remember; but earnest love ever renews remembrance of that which is beloved. The first step of defection is to forget what God hath commanded, and what we are obliged in duty to do to him; and upon this easily follows the offending of God by our transgression. Such beasts as did not chew their cud, under the law were accounted unclean, and not meet to be sacrificed unto God: that was but a figure, signifying unto us that a man who hath received good things from God, and doth not think upon them, cannot feel the sweetness of them, and so cannot be thankful to God.

William Cowper.


Verses 141-144.—A mournful song arid a joyful refrain.

Stanza 1: "I am small and despised." Refrain. The everlasting righteousness of God.

Stanza 2: "Trouble and anguish have seized me." Refrain: The everlasting righteousness of God.

C. A. D.

Verse 141.—Here is—

1. David pious, and yet poor. He was a man after God's own heart, and yet "small and despised" in his own account and in account of many others.

2. David poor and yet pious; "small and despised" for his strict and serious godliness; yet his conscience can witness for him, that he "did not forget God's precepts."

M. Henry.

Verse 141.

1. The source of man's littleness is in himself.

2. The source of his greatness is in the Divine word. Hence the greatest philosopher is a small man compared with the most uneducated whose delight is in the law of God, and who meditates, etc.

G. R.

Verse 141.

1. A little scholar.

2. A quick learner.

3. A firm reminder.

Verse 141.—Unknown, yet well known.

1. The estimate formed of the believer by the world.

2. The estimate formed of the believer by himself.

3. The profession made by the believer to God.

4. On a review, a revised estimate of the believer: 1Co 1:27; Jas 4:5.

C. A. D.


Verse 142.—"Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness." Having in a previous verse ascribed righteousness to God, he now goes on to declare that that righteousness is unchanging and endures from age to age. This is the joy and glory of the saints, that what God is he always will be, and his mode of procedure towards the sons of men is immutable: having kept his promise, and dealt out justice among his people, he will do so world without end. Both the righteousnesses and the unrighteousnesses of men come to an end, but the righteousness of God is without end. "And thy law is the truth." As God is love, so his law is the truth, the very essence of truth, truth applied to ethics, truth in action, truth upon the judgment seat. We hear great disputes about, "What is truth?" The holy Scriptures are the only answer to that question. Note, that they are not only true, but the truth itself. We may not say of them that they contain the truth, but that they are the truth: "thy law is the truth." There is nothing false about the law or preceptory part of Scripture. Those who are obedient thereto shall find that they are walking in a way consistent with fact, while those who act contrary thereto are walking in a vain show.


Verse 142.—"Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness." Here the law of God is honoured by the additional encomium, that it is everlasting righteousness and truth; as if it had been said, that all other rules of life, with whatever attractions they may appear to be recommended, are but a shadow, which quickly vanishes away. The Psalmist, no doubt, indirectly contrasts the doctrine of the law with all the human precepts which were ever delivered, that he may bring all the faithful in subjection to it, since it is the school of perfect wisdom. There may be more of plausibility in the refined and subtle disquisitions of men; but there is in them nothing firm or solid at bottom, as there is in God's law. This firmness of the divine law he proves in the following verse from one instance—the continual comfort he found in it when grievously harassed with temptations. And the true test of the profit we have reaped from it is, when we oppose to all the distresses of whatever kind which may straiten us, the consolation derived from the word of God, that thereby all sadness may be effaced from our minds. David here expresses something more than he did in the preceding verse; for there he only said that he reverently served God, although from his rough and hard treatment he might seem to lose his labour; but now when distressed and tormented, he affirms that he finds in the law of God the most soothing delight, which mitigates all griefs, and not only tempers their bitterness, but also seasons them with a certain sweetness. Assuredly when this taste does not exist to afford us delight, nothing is more natural than for us to be swallowed up of sorrow.

John Calvin.

Verse 142.—"Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness." Not only righteous at the first giving out, but righteous in all ages and times; and should we slight this rule that will hold for ever? In the world, new lords, new laws; men vary and change their designs and purposes; privileges granted today may be repealed tomorrow; but this word will hold true for ever. Our justification by Christ is irrevocable; that part of righteousness is everlasting. Be sure you are justified now upon terms of the gospel, and you shall be justified for ever: your forgiveness is an everlasting forgiveness, and your peace is an everlasting peace: "I will remember their sin no more:" Jer 31:34. So the other righteousness of sanctification, it is for ever; approve yourselves to God now, and you will approve yourselves at the day of judgment.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 142.—"Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness," etc. The original is better expressed thus, "Thy righteousness is righteousness everlastingly, and thy law is truth." So the Septuagint. The English translation expresses the perpetuity of the righteousness, the original expresses also the character of it…God's righteousness is essentially and eternally righteousness. The expressions are absolute; there is only this righteousness, and only this truth.

John Stephen.

Verse 142.—"Thy law is the truth."

1. It is the chief truth. There is some truth in the laws of men and the writings of men, even of heathens; but they are but sorry fragments and scraps of truth, that have escaped since the fall.

2. It is the only truth; that is, the only revelation of the mind of God that you can build upon. It is the rule of truth.

3. It is the pure truth. In it there is nothing but the truth, without the mixture of falsehood; every part is true as truth itself. It is true in the promises, threatenings, doctrines, histories, precepts, prohibitions.

4. It is the whole truth. It containeth all things necessary for the salvation of those that yield up themselves to be instructed by it.

Thomas Manton.


Verse 142.—Righteousness, immutability, and truth combined in the revelation of God.


Verse 143.—"Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me." This affliction may have arisen from his circumstances, or from the cruelty of his enemies, or from his own internal conflicts, but certain it is that he was the subject of much distress, a distress which apprehended him, and carried him away a captive to its power. His griefs, like fierce dogs, had taken hold upon him; he felt their teeth. He had double trouble: trouble without and anguish within, as the apostle Paul put it, "without were rightings and within were fears." "Yet thy commandments are my delights." Thus he became a riddle; troubled, and yet delighted; in anguish, and yet in pleasure. The child of God can understand this enigma, for well he knows that while he is cast down on account of what he sees within himself he is all the more lifted up by what he sees in the word. He is delighted with the commandments, although he is troubled because he cannot perfectly obey them. He finds abundant light in the commandments, and by the influence of that light he discovers and mourns over his own darkness. Only the man who is acquainted with the struggles of the spiritual life will understand the expression before us. Let the reader herein find a balance in which to weigh himself. Does he find even when he is begirt with sorrow that it is a delightful thing to do the will of the Lord? Does he find more joy in being sanctified than sorrow in being chastised? Then the spot of God's children is upon him.


Verse 143.—"Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights." This is strange, that in the midst of anguish David had delight: but indeed the sweetness of God's word is best perceived under the bitterness of the cross. The joy of Christ and the joy of the world cannot consist together. A heart delighted with worldly joy cannot feel the consolations of the Spirit; the one of these destroys the other: but in sanctified trouble, the comforts of God's word are felt and perceived in a most sensible manner. Many a time hath David protested this delight of his in the word of God; and truly it is a great argument of godliness, when men come not only to reverence it, but to love it, and delight in it. Let this be considered by those unhappy men who hear it of custom, and count it but a weariness.

Abraham Wright.

Verse 143.—"Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me," or "found me," etc. We need not take pains, as many do, "to find trouble and anguish;" for they will, one day, "find us." In that day the revelations of God must be to us instead of all worldly "delights" and pleasures, which will then have forsaken us; and how forlorn and desolate will be our state if we should have no other delights, no other pleasures, to succeed them, and to accompany us into eternity. Let our study be then in the Scriptures, if we expect our comfort in them in time to come.

George Horne.

Verse 143.—"Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me." You may conceive a bold figure here, as if Trouble and Anguish were being sent out against the helpless sons of men. These, like enemies, were going round. Instead of seizing upon the wicked, they had found the righteous man. So it was by the ordering of God. I suppose many of us have remarked, that the believer is never long at ease. He is in the world; he is in the flesh; there is indwelling sin; there are enemies around; there is the great enemy; besides all this, the Lord, for wise purposes, hides his face. Then the believer is in trouble and anguish.

John Stephen.

Verse 143.—"Have taken hold on me." Hebrew, found me. Like dogs tracking out a wild beast hiding or fleeing.

A. R. Fausset.

Verse 143.—"Thy commandments are my delights." Delight in moral things (saith Aquinas) is the rule by which we may judge of men's goodness or badness. Delectatio est quies voluntatis in bono. Men are good and bad as the objects of their delight are: they are good who delight in good things, and they are evil who delight in evil things.

Thomas Manton.


Verse 143.—Mingled emotions.

Verse 143.

1. The dark cloud. Trouble, etc.

2. His silver lining. Yet, etc.

Verse 143.

1. The Saint cast into prison.

(a) The jailers: "Trouble and anguish."

(b) Their proceeding: "take hold" and make him fast.

2. Songs in the night.

(a) Blessed theme: "thy commandments."

(b) Ecstatic melodies: "delights."

3. Let the prisoners hear them.

(a) Pain held, sin held, despair held.

(b) It is matter and melody to open prisons.

W. B. H.

Verse 143.—Consider,

1. The excellency of the word, in that it gives delight when trouble and anguish oppress.

2. The great kindness of God in so framing his word that it can give delight at such a time, and under such circumstances.

3. The disposition of the believer to resort to the word for delight, when others give themselves over to vain grief and despondency.

4. The blessed position of the believer, in that he need never be without joy.

J. F.


Verse 144.—"The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting." First he had said that God's testimonies were righteous, then that they were everlasting, and now that their righteousness is everlasting. Thus he gives us a larger and more detailed account of the word of God the longer he is engaged in writing upon it. The more we say in praise of holy writ, the more we may say and the more we can say. God's testimonies to man cannot be assailed, they are righteous from beginning to end; and though ungodly men have opposed the divine justice, especially in the plan of salvation, they have always failed to establish any charge against the Most High. Long as the earth shall stand, long as there shall be a single intelligent creature in the universe, it will be confessed that God's plans of mercy are in all respects marvellous proofs of his love of justice: even that he may be gracious. Jehovah will not be unjust. "Give me understanding, and I shall live." This is a prayer which he is constantly praying, that God will give him understanding. Here he evidently considers that such a gift is essential to his living. To live without understanding is not to live the life of a man, but to be dead while we live. Only as we know and apprehend the things of God can we be said to enter into life. The more the Lord teaches us to admire the eternal rightness of his word, and the more he quickens us to the love of such rightness, the happier and the better we shall be. As we love life, and seek many days that we may see good, it behooves us to seek immortality in the everlasting word which liveth and abideth for ever, and to seek good in that renewal of our entire nature which begins with the enlightenment of the understanding and passes on to the regeneration of the entire man. Here is our need of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, and the guide of all the quickened ones, who shall lead us into all truth. O for the visitations of his grace at this good hour!


Verse 144.—"The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting." Thy moral law was not made for one people, or for one particular time; it is as imperishable as thy nature, and of endless obligation. It is that law by which all the children of Adam shall be judged. "Give me understanding." To know and practise it. "And I shall live." Shall glorify thee, and live eternally; not for the merit of having done it, but because thou didst fulfil the work of the law in my heart, having saved me from condemnation by it.

Adam Clarke.

Verse 144.—"Give me understanding, and I shall live." I read it in connection with the preceding clause; for although David desires to have his mind enlightened by God, yet he does not conceive of any other way by which he was to obtain an enlightened understanding than by his profiting aright in the study of the law. Further, he here teaches that men cannot, properly speaking, be said to live when they are destitute of the light of heavenly wisdom; and as the end for which men are created is not that, like swine or asses, they may stuff their bellies, but that they may exercise themselves in the knowledge and service of God, when they turn away from such employment their life is worse than a thousand deaths. David therefore protests that for him to live was not merely to be fed with meat and drink, and to enjoy earthly comforts, but to aspire after a better life, which he could not do save under the guidance of faith. This is a very necessary warning; for although it is universally acknowledged that man is born with this distinction, that he excels the lower animals in intelligence, yet the great bulk of mankind, as if with deliberate purpose, stifle whatever light God pours into their understandings. I indeed admit that all men desire to be sharp witted; but how few aspire to heaven, and consider that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Since, then, meditation upon the celestial life is buried by earthly care, men do nothing else than plunge into the grave, so that while living to the world, they die to God. Under the term life, however, the prophet denotes the utmost he could wish. Lord, as if he had said, although I am already dead, yet if thou art pleased to illumine my mind with the knowledge of heavenly truth, this grace alone will be sufficient to revive me.

John Calvin.

Verse 144.—"Give me understanding, and I shall live." The saving knowledge of God's testimonies is the only way to live. There is a threefold life.

1. Life natural.

2. Life spiritual, and,

3. Life eternal.

In all these considerations may the point be made good.

First. Life is taken for the life of nature, or the life of the body, or life temporal, called "this life" in Scripture: 1Co 15:19; 1Ti 4:8. Life is better preserved in a way of obedience than by evil doing; that provoketh God to cast us off, and exposes us to dangers. It is not in the power of the world to make us live or die a day sooner or longer than God pleaseth. If God will make us happy, they cannot make us miserable: therefore, "Give me understanding, and I shall live;" that is, lead a comfortable and happy life for the present. Prevent sin, and you prevent danger. Obedience is the best way to preserve life temporal: as great a paradox as it seems to the world, it is a Scripture truth, "Keep my commandments, and live" (Pro 4:4); and, "Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life" (Pro 4:13); and, "Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour" (Pro 3:16); and, "She is a tree of life" (Pro 3:18). The knowledge and practice of the word is the only means to live comfortably and happily here, as well as for ever hereafter.

Secondly. Life spiritual; that is twofold, the life of justification, and the life of sanctification.

1. The life of justification: "The free gift came upon all men unto justification of life:" Rom 5:18. He is dead, not only on whom the hangman hath done his work, but also he on whom the judge hath passed sentence, and the law pronounces him dead. In this sense we were all dead, and justification is called justification to life; there is no living in this sense without knowledge: "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many:" Isa 53:11. We live by faith, and faith cometh by hearing, and hearing doeth no good unless the Lord giveth understanding; as meats nourish not unless received and digested.

2. The life of sanctification: "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins:" Eph 2:1. And men live not properly till they live the life of grace; they live a false, counterfeit life, not a blessed, happy, certain, and true life. Now, this life is begun and carried on by saying knowledge: "The new man which is renewed in knowledge:" Col 3:10. Again, men are said to be "alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them:" Eph 4:18. They that are ignorant are dead in sin: life spiritual cometh by knowledge. Hence begins the change of the inward man, and thenceforth we live. "Give me understanding," ut vere in te vivare, that the true life began in me may grow and increase daily, but never be quenched by sin.

Thirdly. Life everlasting, or our blessed estate in heaven. So it is said of the saints departed, they all live unto God: Luk 20:38. And this is called the water of life, the tree of life, the crown of life; properly this is life. What is the present life in comparison of everlasting life? The present life, it is mors vitalis, a living death; or mortalis vita, a dying life, a kind of death; it is always in fluxu, like a stream: it runneth from us as fast as it cometh to us: "He fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not:" John 14:2. We die as fast as we live: it differeth but as the point from the line where it terminateth. It is not one and the same, no permanent thing; it is like the shadow of a star in a flowing stream. Its contentments are base and low, called "the life of thine hand:" Isa 57:10. It is patched up of several creatures, fain to ransack the storehouses of nature to support a ruinous fabric. And compare it with the life of grace here, it doth not exempt us from sin, nor miseries. Our capacities are narrow. We are full of fears, and doubts, and dangers; but in the life of glory we shall neither sin nor sorrow any more. This is meant here: "The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live;" it is chiefly meant of the life of glory. This is the fruit of saving knowledge, when we so know God and Christ as to come to God by him.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 144.—"I shall live." I shall be kept from those sins which deserve and bring death.

Matthew Pool.


Verse 144.—Everlasting righteousness revealed in the word, and producing everlasting life in believers.

Verse 144.

1. Eternal truths.

2. Eternal life dependent upon them.

3. A cry from amid these everlasting hills.

W. B. H.

Verse 144. (last clause).—

1. Consider the prayer in its simplicity.

(a) It is suitable for the awakened sinner.

(b) For the Christian struggling against temptation.

(c) For the suffering believer.

(d) For the worker

(e) For aspiring minds in the church of God.

(f) For expiring saints.

2. The prayer more fully opened up.

(a) Here is want confessed.

(b) The prayer is evidently put upon the footing of free grace: "Give."

3. Lay bare the argument in the prayer.

1. The word of God, when practically and experimentally understood, is a pledge of life.

2. The word of God is the incorruptible "seed" which liveth and abideth for ever.

3. It is the food of life.

4. It is the very flower and crown and glory of true life.

5. It is righteous.

6. It is everlasting.

—See "Spurgeon's Sermons," No. 1572; "Alive."

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