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C. H. Spurgeon :: Psalm 119 Verses 169-176

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Psalm 119 Verses 169-176


The Psalmist is approaching the end of the psalm, and his petitions gather force and fervency; he seems to break into the inner circle of divine fellowship, and to come even to the feet of the great God whose help he is imploring this nearness creates the most lowly view of himself, and leads him to close the psalm upon his face in deepest self humiliation, begging to be sought out like a lost sheep.

Verse 169.—"Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD." He is tremblingly afraid lest he should not be heard. He is conscious that his prayer is nothing better than the cry of a poor child, or the groan of a wounded beast. He dreads lest it should be shut out from the ear of the Most High, but he very boldly prays that it may come before God, that it may be in his sight, under his notice, and looked upon with his acceptance; yea, he goes further, and entreats, "Let my cry come near before thee, O Lord." He wants the Lord's attention to his prayer to be very close and considerate. He uses a figure of speech and personifies his prayer. We may picture his prayer as Esther, venturing into the royal presence, entreating an audience, and begging to find favour in the sight of the blessed and only Potentate. It is a very sweet thing to a suppliant when he knows of a surety that his prayer has obtained audience, when it has trodden the sea of glass before the throne, and has come even to the footstool of the glorious seat around which heaven and earth adore. It is to Jehovah that this prayer is expressed with trembling earnestness—our translators, filled with holy reverence, translate the word, "O LORD." We crave audience of none else, for we have confidence in none beside. "Give we understanding according to thy word." This is the prayer about which the Psalmist is so exceedingly anxious. With all his gettings he would get understanding, and whatever he misses he is resolved not to miss this priceless boon. He desires spiritual light and understanding as it is promised in God's word, as it proceeds from God's word, and as it produces obedience to God's word. He pleads as though he had no understanding whatever of his own, and asks to have one given to him. "Give me understanding." In truth, he had an understanding according to the judgment of men, but what he sought was an understanding according to God's word, which is quite another thing. To understand spiritual things is the gift of God. To have a judgment enlightened by heavenly light and conformed to divine truth is a privilege which only grace can give. Many a man who is accounted wise after the manner of this world is a fool according to the word of the Lord. May we be among those happy children who shall all be taught of the Lord.


This commences a new division of the psalm, indicated by the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letter Tau, corresponding to our t or th.

Albert Barnes.

Verse 169.—"Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD" That is, as some will have it, Let this whole preceding Psalm, and all the petitions (whereof we have here a repetition) therein contained, be highly accepted in heaven.

John Trapp.

Verse 169.—"Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD" We are now come to the last section of this psalm, wherein we see David more fervent in prayer than he was in the first, as ye shall easily observe by comparing them both together. The godly, the longer they speak to God, are the more fervent and earnest to speak to him; so that unless necessity compel them, they desire never to intermit conference with him.

Many prayers hath he made to God in this psalm: now in the end he prays for his prayers, that the Lord would let them come before him. Some men send out prayers, but God turns them into sin, and puts them away back from him: therefore David seeks favour to his prayers.

William Cowper.

Verse 169.—"Give me understanding." This was the prayer of Solomon (1Ki 3:9), and we are told that it pleased the Lord, and as a reward he added temporal prosperity, which the young king had not asked. Yet Solomon meant less by his prayer than his father David did; for we see in him little trace of the deep devotion for which his father was so remarkable. The Psalmist here prays a deep prayer which can only be answered by the Holy Ghost himself enlightening the soul. The understanding is a most important member of our spiritual frame. Conscience is the understanding exercised upon moral questions, and if that be not right, where shall we be? Our understanding of the word of God comes by teaching, but also through experience: we understand hardly anything till we experience it. Such an enlightening experience is the gift of God, and to him we must look for it in prayer.

C. H. S.

Verse 169.—"Give we understanding." The especial work of the Holy Spirit in the illumination of our minds unto the understanding of the Scripture is called "understanding." The Psalmist prays "Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law" (Psa 119:34). So the apostle speaks to Timothy: "Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things:" 2Ti 2:7. Besides his own consideration of what was proposed unto him, which includes the due and diligent use of all outward means, it was moreover necessary that God should give him understanding by an inward effectual work of his Spirit, that he might comprehend the things wherein he was instructed. And the desire hereof, as of that without which there can be no saving knowledge of the word, for advantage by it, the Psalmist expresses emphatically, with great fervency of spirit in Psa 119:144: "The righteousness of thy testimony is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live." Without this he knew that he could have no benefit by the everlasting righteousness of the testimonies of God. All understanding, indeed, however it be abused by the most, is the work and effect of the Holy Ghost for "the inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding:" Job 32:8. So is this spiritual understanding in an especial manner the gift of God. In this "understanding" both the ability of our mind and the due exercise of it is included. This one consideration, that the saints of God have with so much earnestness prayed that God would give them understanding as to his mind and will as revealed in the word, with his reiterated promises that he would so do, is of more weight with me than all the disputes of men to the contrary. No farther argument is necessary to prove that men do not understand the mind of God in the Scripture in a due manner, than their supposal and confidence that so they can do without the communication of a spiritual understanding unto them by the Holy Spirit. This self-confidence is directly contrary unto the plain, express testimonies of the word.

John Owen.

Verse 169.—"Give me understanding." Why should the man of God here pray for understanding? Had he not often prayed for it before? Was he a novice in knowledge, being a prophet? Doth not our Saviour Christ reprehend repetitions and babbling in prayer? True it is our Saviour Christ doth reprehend that babbling which is without faith and knowledge and a feeling of our wants; but he speaketh not against those serious repetitions which proceed from a plentiful knowledge, abundant faith, and lively feeling of our necessities. Again, although it cannot be denied but lie was a man of God, and had received great grace, yet God giveth knowledge to his dearest saints in this life but in part, and the most which we see and know is but little. Besides, when we have knowledge, and knowledge must be brought into practice, we shall find such difficulties, such waywardness, such forgetfulness, such wants, that although we have had with the prophet a very good direction in the general things of the word, which are universal and few, yet we shall find many distractions in our practices, which must be particular and many; and we shall either fail in memory by forgetfulness, or in judgment by blindness, or in affection by dulness. So easily may we slip when we think we may hold our journey on. Wherefore the man of God, through that examination which he took of his heart and affections, seeing those manifold straits and difficulties, prayeth in the verse following, not for the renewing of men in general in their troubles, but for the considering of his own particular condition.

Richard Greenham.

Verse 169.—"According to the word." David here seeks understanding not carnally, for the wisdom of the flesh is death: but he seeks understanding according to God's word. Without this the wisdom of man is foolishness; and the more subtil he seems to be in his ways, the more deeply he involves himself in the snare of the devil. "They have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?" Jer 8:9. But seeing he was an excellent prophet, and protested before that he had more understanding than the ancients, yea, than his teachers; how is it that he still prays for understanding? In answer to this we are to know, that there is a great difference between the gifts of nature and grace. Nature ofttimes gives to man very excellent gifts, as rare memory, knowledge, quick wit, strength, external beauty; but therewithal it teacheth not man to consider that in which he is wanting; whereof it comes to pass, that he waxeth proud of that which he hath. This is a common thing to men in the state of nature, that of small gifts they conceive a great pride: but grace, as it gives to man more excellent gifts than nature can afford, so it teacheth him to look unto that which he wants, that he be not puffed up by considering that which he hath, but carried in all humility of heart to pray for that which he wants.

Abraham Wright.


Verses 169-176.—The concluding cry. Bespeaking audience for his the Psalmist asks for understanding and deliverance (Psa 119:169-170); raises to praise God (Psa 119:171), and to speak of God (Psa 119:172), and cries for help (Psa 119:73), salvation (Psa 119:174), life (Psa 119:175), and (Psa 119:176).

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

Verses 169-170.

1. The singular dignity of prayer. We are on earth, but our prayers pass the seraphim and "come near before God."

2. The powerful right of prayer—to urge with God his own word: "according to thy word."

3. The triumphant possibilities of prayer. Blessing us in mind and estate. For time and eternity. "Give me understanding." "Deliver me."

4. The amazing license accorded to prayer. To double and reiterate its requests (as here).

W. B. H.

Verse 169.

1. Admission to the royal court.

2. Instruction from the royal throne.

3. Reliance on the royal word.


Verse 170.—"Let my supplication come before thee." It is the same entreaty with a slight change of words. He humbly calls his cry a supplication, a sort of beggar's petition; and again he asks for audience and for answer. There might be hindrances in the way to an audience, and he begs for their removal—let it come. Other believers are heard—let my prayer come before thee. "Deliver me according to thy word." Rid me of mine adversaries, clear me of my slanderers, preserve me from my tempters, and bring me up out of all my afflictions, even as thy word has led me to expect thou wilt do. It is for this that he seeks understanding. His enemies would succeed through his folly, if they succeeded at all; but if he exercised a sound discretion they would be baffled, and he would escape from them. The Lord in answer to prayer frequently delivers his children by making them wise as serpents as well as harmless as doves.


Verse 170.—"Let my supplication come before thee," etc. The sincere worshipper cannot be contented with anything short of actual [active interaction] with God. The round of duty cannot please where the spirit of grace and supplication has not been vouchsafed. A filial disposition will pour itself forth in earnest longings after communion with God. Nor will the hope of gracious audience be founded on any other plea save that of the sure word of Jehovah's promise. It is in accordance with that word, and not in opposition to it, that the child of God expects to be heard. All his deliverance he feels to be from the Lord, and all that he looks for from heaven he anticipates in answer to prayer. O for more of that faith which makes its appeal to the divine veracity, and which looks with steadfast eye to the promise of a covenant keeping God.

John Morison.

Verse 170.—"Let my supplication come before thee." Observe the order of the words here and in the preceding verse. First we had, "Let my cry come near;" then "Give me understanding," and that "according to thy word," and now we have "Let my prayer enter in (LXX., Syr., Arb., Vulg.,) before thee." Just so, if you wish for an interview with a man of very high rank, first you come near his house, then you ask for information and instruction as to his intentions, then you ask permission to enter, lest you should be driven away and refused admittance. Knock therefore at the door of the heavenly palace: knock, not with your bodily hand, but with the right hand of prayer. For the voice can knock as well as the hand, as it is written, "It is the voice of my Beloved that knocketh:" Sng 5:2. And when you have knocked, see how you go in, lest after entering you should not get the sight of the King. For there are many who make their way into palaces, and do not at once get an audience of an earthly sovereign, but have to watch constantly to obtain an interview at last. Nor have they the choice of the opportunity, they come when they are sent for, and then present their petition, if they wish to be favourably received.

Ambrose, in "Neale and Littledale."


Verses 170-174.

The pleader: Psa 119:170.

The singer: Psa 119:171.

The preacher: Psa 119:172.

The worker: Psa 119:173.

The waiter: Psa 119:174.

Verse 170.

1. Access sought.

2. Answer entreated.

3. Argument employed.


Verse 171.—"My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught we thy statutes." He will not always be pleading for himself, he will rise above all selfishness, and render thanks for the benefit received. He promises to praise God when he has obtained practical instruction in the life of godliness: this is something to praise for, no blessing is more precious. The best possible praise is that which proceeds from men who honour God, not only with their lips, but in their lives. We learn the music of heaven in the school of holy living. He whose life honours the Lord is sure to be a man of praise. David would not only be grateful in silence, but he would express that gratitude in appropriate terms: his lips would utter what his life had practised. Eminent disciples are wont to speak well of the master who instructed them, and this holy man, when taught the statutes of the Lord, promises to give all the glory to him to whom it is due.


Verse 171.—"My lips shall utter praise." You have stood at the fountain head of a stream of water, and admired while it bubbled up, and ran down in a clear little rivulet, till at length it swelled the mighty river. Such is the allusion here. The heart taught of God, cannot contain itself, but breaks out in praise and singing. This would be the effect of divine illumination, and this would be felt to be a privilege, yea, and a high duty. Have you not found so, believers, specially on common occasions? Be assured, such utterances are the sign of a renewed heart; yea, of a heart filled with all gratitude of right feeling.

John Stephen.

Verse 171.—My lips shall utter praise," etc.

O make me, Lord, thy statutes learn!
    Keep in thy ways my feet,
Then shall my lips divinely burn;
    Then shall my songs be sweet.

Each sin I cast away shall make
    My soul more strong to soar;
Each deed of holiness shall wake
    A strain divine the more.

My voice shall more delight thine ear
    The more I wait on time;
The service bring my song more near
    The angelic harmony.

T. H. Gill, in "Breathings of the Better Life," 1881.


Verse 171.—Taught; taught to praise; praising; praising for being taught.

Verse 171.—Learning to sing by learning to obey.

Verse 171.—The Happy Scholar.

1. He rejoices in the lesson he has learnt.

2. In the Teacher who has taught him.

3. Looks forward to the end of his lesson as the time for the full singing of his song.

C. A. D.

Verse 171.—Lessons in Praise.—

1. It is saints' work.

2. It is sacred work, not to be hurriedly rushed into.

3. It needs Spirit instructed singers.

W. B. H.


Verse 172.—"My tongue shall speak of thy word." When he had done singing he began preaching. God's tender mercies are such that they may be either said or sung. When the tongue speaks of God's word it has a most fruitful subject; such speaking will be as a tree of life, whose leaves shall be for the healing of the people. Men will gather together to listen to such talk, and they will treasure it up in their hearts. The worst of us is that for the most part we are full of our own words, and speak but little of God's word. Oh, that we could come to the same resolve as this godly man, and say henceforth, "My tongue shall speak of thy word." Then should we break through our sinful silence; we should no more be cowardly and half hearted, but should be true witnesses for Jesus. It is not only of God's works that we are to speak, but of his word. We may extol its truth, its wisdom, its preciousness, its grace, its power; and then we may tell of all it has revealed, all it has promised, all it has commanded, all it has effected. The subject gives us plenty of sea room; we may speak on for ever: the tale is for ever telling, yet untold. "For all thy commandments are righteousness." David appears to have been mainly enamoured of the preceptive part of the word of God, and concerning the precept his chief delight lay in its purity and excellence. When a man can speak this from his heart, his heart is indeed a temple of the Holy Ghost. He had said aforetime (Psa 119:138), "Thy testimonies are righteous," but here he declares that they are righteousness itself. The law of God is not only the standard of right, but it is the essence of righteousness. This the Psalmist affirms of each and every one of the precepts without exception. He felt like Paul—"The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (Rom 7:12). When a man has so high an opinion of God's commandments it is little wonder that his lips should be ready to extol the ever glorious One.


Verse 172.—"My tongue shall speak of thy word." One duty of thankfulness promised by David is, to speak of God's words for the edification of others. Every Christian man, as he is a priest to offer sacrifice unto God, so is he a prophet to teach his brethren; for unto us all stands that commandment, "Edify one another in their most holy faith." But, alas, ye shall see many Christians now, who at their tables, and in their companies, can speak freely upon any subject; only for spiritual matters, which concern the soul, there they are dumb, and cannot say with David, "My tongue shall speak of thy word."

William Cowper.


Verse 172.

1. The orator: "My tongue shall speak."

2. His chosen theme: "of thy word."

3. His inward impulse: "for all thy commandments are righteousness."

Verse 172.—Savoury Speech.

1. A resolution all believers should make.

2. The qualification all believers should seek (Psa 45:1; Mat 12:34-35)

3. The edification believers would thus secure.

C. A. D.


Verse 173.—"Let thine hand help me." Give me practical succour. Do not entrust me to my friends or thy friends, but put thine own hand to the work. Thy hand has both skill and power, readiness and force: display all these qualities on my behalf. I am willing to do the utmost that I am able to do; but what I need is thine help, and this is so urgently required that if I have it not I shall sink. Do not refuse thy succour. Great as thy hand is, let it light on me, even me. The prayer reminds me of Peter walking on the sea and beginning to sink; he, too, cried, "Lord, help me," and the hand of his Master was stretched out for his rescue. "For I have chosen, thy precepts." A good argument. A man may fitly ask help from God's hand when he has dedicated his own hand entirely to the obedience of the faith. "I have chosen thy precepts." His election was made, his mind was made up. In preference to all earthly rules and ways, in preference even to his own will, he had chosen to be obedient to the divine commands. Will not God help such a man in holy work and sacred service? Assuredly he will. If grace has given us the heart with which to will, it will also give us the hand with which to perform. Wherever, under the constraints of a divine call, we are engaged in any high and lofty enterprise, and feel it to be too much for our strength, we may always invoke the right hand of God in words like these.


Verse 173.—"Let thine hand help me." David having before made promises of thankfulness, seeks now help from God, that he may perform them. Our sufficiency is not of ourselves, but of God; to will and to do are both from him. In temporal things men ofttimes take great pains with small profit; first, because they seek not to make their conscience good; next, because they seek not help from God: therefore they speed no better than Peter, who fished all night and got nothing till he cast his net in the name of the Lord. But in spiritual things we may far less look to prosper, if we call not for God's assistance: the means will not profit us unless God's blessing accompany them. There is preaching, but for the most part without profit; there is prayer, but it prevails not; there is hearing of the word, but without edifying; and all because in spiritual exercises instant prayer is not made unto God, that his hand may be with us to help us.

Abraham Wright.

Verse 173.—"I have chosen thy precepts." Hath God given you a heart to make choice of his ways? O bless God! There was a time when you went on in giving pleasing to the flesh, and you saw then no better thing than such a kind of life, and the Lord hath been pleased to discover better things to you, so as to make you renounce your former ways, and to make choice of another way, in which your souls have found other manner of comforts, and satisfactions, and contentments than ever you did before. Bless God as David did: "Blessed be the Lord who hath given me counsel"…Seeing God hath thus inclined your heart to himself, be for ever established in your choice: seeing God hath shown to you his ways, as Pilate said in another case, "That I have written I have written:" so say you, "That I have chosen I have chosen."

Jeremiah Burroughs, in "Moses His Choice"

Verses 173-174.—"I have chosen. My delight." Cheerfulness accompanies election of a thing. Lumpishness is a sign we never chose it, but were forced to it. Such cheerfulness in service procures cheerfulness in mercies: Isa 64:5, "Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness." He puts to his hand to help such an one. Christ loves not melancholy and phlegmatic service; such a temper in acts of obedience is a disgrace to God and to religion: to God, it betrays us to have jealous thoughts of God, as though he were a hard master; to religion, it makes others think duties are drudgeries, and not privileges.

Stephen Charnock.


Verse 173.

1. "To will is present with me."

2. "How to perform that which I would, I find not."

3. "Help, Lord."

Verse 173.

1. Help needed to keep the divine precepts.

2. Help sought: "Let thy hand," etc. We should choose nothing and do nothing in which we cannot ask help from God.

G. R.

Verse 173.

1. God's Hand.

(a) Its warm hold (John 5:29).

(b) Its wealth of contents (Psa 104:28).

(c) Its heavy blow (Psa 39:10).

(d) Its weight (1Sa 5:11).

(e) Its saving reach (Isa 54:1).

(f) Its sweet shadow (Isa 49:2), etc.

2. The saint plucks him by the sleeve: "Let thy hand help me."

(a) His humble representation.

(b) His down drawing of the hand of God.

W. B. H.

Verse 173.—"Let Thy hand help me."

1. Thy reconciling hand: "stretched out."

2. Thy comforting hand; like that which touched Daniel and John.

3. Thy supplying hand. "Thou openest thy hand," etc.

4. Thy protecting hand: "all his saints are in thy hand:" Deu 33:3. "Great Shepherd of the sheep."

5. Thy supporting hand: "I will uphold thee."

6. Thy governing hand: "all my times are in thy hand."

7. Thy chastening hand: "Thy hand was heavy upon me."

8. Thy prospering hand: "the hand of the Lord was with," etc.

W. J.


Verse 174.—"I have lounged for thy salvation, O LORD" He speaks like old Jacob on his deathbed; indeed, all saints, both in prayer and in death, appear as one, in word, and deed, and mind. He knew God's salvation, and yet he longed for it; that is to say, he had experienced a share of it, and he was therefore led to expect something yet higher and more complete. There is a salvation yet to come, when we shall be clean delivered from the body of this death, set free from all the turmoil and trouble of this mortal life, raised above the temptations and assaults of Satan, and brought near unto our God, to be like him and with him for ever and ever. "I have longed for thy salvation, O Jehovah; and thy law is my delight. The first clause tells us what the saint longs for, and this informs us what is his present satisfaction. God's law, contained in the ten commandments, gives joy to believers. God's law, that is, the entire Bible, is a well spring of consolation and enjoyment to all who receive it. Though we have not yet reached the fulness of our salvation, yet we find in God's word so much concerning a present salvation that we are even now delighted.


Verse 174.—"I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD," etc. The thing which we learn hence out of David's joining these two together, I long for salvation, and thy law is my delight, is this, that it is not enough for a man to say, he longs and desires to be saved, unless he makes a conscience to use the appointed means to bring him thereunto. It had been but hypocrisy in David to say he longed for salvation, if his conscience had not been able to witness with him that the law was his delight. It is mere mockery for a man to say he longeth for bread, and prayeth to God every day to give him his daily bread, if he yet walk in no calling, or else seek to get it by fraud and rapine, not staying himself at all upon God's providence. Who will imagine that a man wishes for health, who either despiseth or neglects the means of his recovery? God hath in his own wisdom appointed a lawful means for every lawful thing; this means, being obediently used, the comfortable obtaining of the end may be confidently looked for; the means being not observed, to think to attain to the end is mere presumption. God will deliver Noah from the flood, but Noah must be "moved with reverence," and "prepare the ark" (Heb 11:7), or else he could not have escaped. He would save Lot from Sodom, but yet Lot must [hurry] him out quickly, and not look behind him till he have entered Zoar: Gen 19:17. He was pleased to cure Hezekiah of the plague, but yet Hezekiah must take "a lump of figs, and lay it upon his boil:" Isa 38:21. He vouchsafed to preserve Paul and company at sea, yet the sailors must "abide in the ship," else ye cannot be saved, saith Paul: Act 27:31.

Samuel Hieron, 1572-1617.

Verse 174.—"I have longed for thy salvation." It is God's salvation proper that he must desire—"thy salvation"—for nothing else could satisfy his pure mind—perfect peace with God, perfect purity and perfect hope. Now, if you ask what was God's way of delivering, and what was his way of salvation, the answer is, it was set forth in his word, and was what the Psalmist calls his "law." God's salvation and his law were discerned to be one. "I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is ray delight."

John Stephen.

Verse 174.—"I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD" "Salvation," by the "hand," or arm of Jehovah, (which is often in Scripture a title of Messiah,) hath been the object of the hopes, the desires, and "longing" expectations of the faithful, from Adam to this hour, and will continue so to be until he, who hath already visited us in great humility, shall come again in glorious majesty to complete our redemption and take us to himself.

George Horne.

Verse 174.—"I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD" For a present salvation from the guilt and power of sin, and for future salvation, in the full and everlasting enjoyment of God in heaven. David had the happiness to be a partaker, both of pardoning mercy and of sanctifying grace; yet still he longed for more of this salvation, that is, for a more assured faith of pardoning mercy, and larger measures of sanctifying grace. A gracious soul is insatiable; the more it hath received, the more it desires to receive. Enjoyment, instead of surfeiting, sharpens the appetite. Nay, so sweet is the relishing of spiritual things, that every renewed taste of them quenches the thirst for other things. "Thy law is my delight." Here David chooses the term "law" for denoting the whole revelation of God's will, to remind us of the inseparable connexion between privilege and duty, faith and obedience, holiness and comfort; and to teach us that we ought to be thankful to God for the direction he hath given us in the road to heaven, no less than for the promises by which we are assured of the possession of it.

Robert Walker, 1716-1783.

Verse 174.—"Thy law is my delight." Religion will decay or flourish, as it is our duty or our delight. The mind is incapable of continued exertion for duty; but it readily falls in with "delight." Thus our duties become our privileges, while Christ is their source and life. Every step of progress is progress in happiness. This verse of which experience is the best interpreter is the believer's language in his lively, as well as in his fainting state. For the more he knows and enjoys of the divine presence, the more he longs to know and enjoy it.

Charles Bridges.

Verse 174.—"Delight," in the plural, "delights," as in Psa 119:24, 77, 92, 143. God's word is an abundant source of pleasure to his people.

William S. Plumer.


Verse 174.

1. Jacob's longings.

2. Moses' choice.

Verse 174.—God's servant drinking at salvation's well, but unsated.

1. Longing yielding to delight.

(a) At God's salvation.

(b) At the rich Scripture inventory.

2. Delight bringing forth further longing.

(a) For deeper discoveries in the word.

(b) Richer experiences in the life.

(c) Heaven's consummation.

W. B. H.

Verse 174.

1. Sighings for heaven. Holiness, happiness, God.

2. Sips by the way. The word of God, the will of God, service of God, the God in all.

W. B. H.

Verse 174.—"I have longed for thy salvation." Thy holy salvation. Thy full salvation. Thy free salvation. Thy present salvation. Thy permanent salvation.

W. J.

Verse 174.—"I have longed," etc. This longing arises,

1. From a painful consciousness of the need of salvation.

2. From a perception of the glories of God's salvation.

3. From the promises which give assurance of the possibility of obtaining this salvation.

4. From the gracious promptings of the Holy Ghost.

W. H. J. P.


Verse 175.—"Let my soul live." Fill it full of life, preserve it from wandering into the ways of death, give it to enjoy the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, let it live to the fulness of life, to the utmost possibilities of its new created being. "And it shall praise thee." It shall praise thee for life, for new life, for eternal life, for thou art the Lord and Giver of life. The more it shall live, the more it shall praise, and when it shall live in perfection it shall praise thee in perfection. Spiritual life is prayer and praise. "And let thy judgments help me." While I read the record of what thou hast done, in terror or in love, let me be quickened and developed. While I see thy hand actually at work upon me, and upon others, chastening sin, and smiling upon righteousness, let me be helped both to live aright and to praise thee. Let all thy deeds in providence instruct me, and aid me in the struggle to overcome sin and to practise holiness. This is the second time he has asked for help in this portion; he was always in need of it, and so are we.


Verse 175.—"Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee," etc. This verse containeth three things;

First, David's petition for life: "Let my soul live." "My soul;" that is, myself: the soul is put for the whole man. The contrary: "Let me die with the Philistines," said Samson (Jdg 16:30); Hebrew, margin, "Let my soul die." His life was sought after by the cruelty of his enemies; and he desireth God to keep him alive.

Secondly, His argument from the aim of his life; "And it shall praise thee." The glorifying of God was his aim. The fruit of all God's benefits to profit us, and praise God. David professes that all the days of his life he would live in the sense and acknowledgment of such a benefit.

Thirdly, The ground of his hope and confidence in the last clause: "And let thy judgments help me." Our hopes of help are grounded on God's judgments, whereby is meant his word. There are judgments decreed, judgments executed; doctrinal judgments, and providential judgments, That place intimates the distinction: "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil:" Ecc 8:11. There is sententia lata et dilata. Here God's judgments are put for the sentence pronounced; and chiefly for one part of them, the promises of grace. As also, "I have hoped in thy judgments:" Psa 119:43. Promises are the objects of hope.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 175.—"Let my soul live." What is the life that the Psalmist is now praying for, but the salvation for which he had just expressed his longing? The taste that he has received makes him hunger for a higher and more continued enjoyment—not for selfish gratification, but that he might employ himself in the praise of his God. Indeed, as we have drawn towards the close of this Psalm, we cannot but have observed that character of praise to pervade his experience, which has been generally remarked in the concluding Psalms of this sacred book. Much do we lose of spiritual strength for want of occupying ourselves more in the exercise of praise.

Charles Bridges.

Verse 175.—"Live and praise." The saint improves his earthly things for an heavenly end. Where layest thou up thy treasure? Dost thou bestow it on thy voluptuous appetite, thy hawks and thy hounds; or dost thou lock it up in the bosom of Christ's poor members? What use makest thou of thy honour and greatness? To strengthen the hands of the godly or the wicked? And so of all thy other temporal enjoyments. A gracious heart improves them for God; when a saint prays for these things, he hath an eye to some heavenly end. If David prays for life, it is not that he may live, but "live and praise God." When he was driven from his regal throne by the rebellious arms of Absalom see what his desire and hope were, 2Sa 15:25: "The king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation." Mark, not shew me my crown, my palace, but the ark, the house of God.

William Guruall.

Verse 175.—"Live and praise." Liveliness of soul is the Spirit's gift, and it will show itself in abounding praises.

Henry Law.

Verse 175.—"Let thy judgments help me." In the second clause it would be harsh to understand the word "judgments" of the commandments, to which it does not properly belong to give help. It seems, then, that the prophet, perceiving himself liable to numberless calamities—even as the faithful, by reason of the unbridled license of the wicked, dwell in this world as sheep among wolves,—calls upon God to protect him in the way of restraining, by his secret providence, the wicked from doing him harm. It is a very profitable doctrine, when things in the world are in a state of great confusion, and when our safety is in danger amid so many and varied storms, to lift up our eyes to the judgments of God, and to seek a remedy in them.

John Calvin.

Verses 175-176.

Though like a sheep estranged I stray,
Yet have I not renounced thy way.
Thine hand extend; thine own reclaim;
Grant me to live, and praise thy name.

Richard Mant.


Verse 175.

1. The highest life.

2. The highest occupation.

3. Both dependent on the highest aid.

Verse 175.—Praise.

1. The noblest employment of life—to praise God.

2. The noblest presentation of praise—the holy life.

3. The noblest application of divine judgments—to inspire praise.


Verse 176.—This is the finale, the conclusion of the whole matter: "I have gone astray like a lost sheep"—often, wilfully, wantonly, and even hopelessly, but for thine interposing grace. In times gone by, before I was afflicted, and before thou hadst fully taught me thy statutes, I went astray. "I went astray" from the practical precepts, from the instructive doctrines, and from the heavenly experiences which thou hadst set before me. I lost my road, and I lost myself. Even now I am apt to wander, and, in fact, have roamed already; therefore, Lord, restore me. "Seek thy servant." He was not like a dog, that somehow or other can find its way back; but he was like a lost sheep, which goes further and further away from home; yet still he was a sheep, and the Lord's sheep, his property, and precious in his sight, and therefore he hoped to be sought in order to be restored. However far he might have wandered he was still not only a sheep, but God's "servant," and therefore he desired to be in his Master's house again, and once more honoured with commissions for his Lord. Had he been only a lost sheep he would not have prayed to be sought; but being also a "servant" he had the power to pray. He cries, "See thy servant," and he hopes to be not only sought, but forgiven, accepted, and taken into work again by his gracious Master.

Notice this confession; many times in the psalm David has defended his own innocence against foul mouthed accusers, but when he comes into the presence of the Lord his God he is ready enough to confess his transgressions. He here sums up, not only his past, but even his present life, under the image of a sheep which has broken from its pasture, forsaken the flock, left the shepherd, and brought itself into the wild wilderness, where it has become as a lost thing. The sheep bleats, and David prays, "Seek thy servant." His argument is a forcible one,—"for l do not forget thy commandments." I know the right, I approve and admire the right, what is more, I love the light, and long for it. I cannot be satisfied to continue in sin, I must be restored to the ways of righteousness. I have a home sickness after my God, I pine after the ways of peace; I do not and I cannot forget thy commandments, nor cease to know that I am always happiest and safest when I scrupulously obey them, and find all my joy in doing so. Now, if the grace of God enables us to maintain in our hearts the loving memory of God's commandments it will surely yet restore us to practical holiness. That man cannot be utterly lost whose heart is still with God. If he be gone astray in many respects, yet still, if he be true in his soul's inmost desires, he will be found again, and fully restored. Yet let the reader remember the first verse of the psalm while he reads the last: the major blessedness lies not in being restored from wandering, but in being upheld in a blameless way even to the end. Be it ours to keep the crown of the causeway, never leaving the King's highway for By-path Meadow, or any other flowery path of sin. May the Lord uphold us even to the end. Yet even then we shall not be able to boast with the Pharisee, but shall still pray with the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner;" and with the Psalmist, "Seek thy servant."


Verse 176.—"I have gone astray like a lost sheep." Though a sheep go astray, yet it is soon called back by the voice of the shepherd: "My sheep hear my voice." Thus David when he went against Nabal was called back by the Lord's voice in a woman; and when he had slain Uriah he was brought again by Nathan. And therefore if we will be sheep, then though we sometimes go astray, yet we must be easily reclaimed.

Richard Greenhorn.

Verse 176.—"I have gone astray like a lost sheep," driven out by storm, or dark day, or by the hunting of the dogs chased out from the rest of the flock.

David Dickson.

Verse 176.—"I have gone astray like a lost sheep," etc. And this is all the conclusion—"a lost sheep!" This long psalm of ascriptions, praises, avowals, resolves, high hopes, ends in this, that he is a perishing sheep. But, stay, there is hope—"Seek thy servant." "I have gone astray like a lost sheep." The original is of the most extensive range, comprehending all time past, and also the habitual tendencies of the man. The believer feels that he had gone astray when the grace of God found him; that he had gone astray many times, had not the grace of God prevented it. He feels that he went astray on such and such unhappy occasions. He also feels that he hath gone astray in all that he hath done; and indeed that he is astray now. But the word expresses the habitual tendency likewise—I go astray like a lost sheep, and this rendering is in keeping with the prayer, "Seek thy servant." The third member is also properly rendered in keeping with it: "I go astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments." All this is descriptive of the remaining corruption that is in the believer. He is not unmindful of the Lord; he has the root of the matter in him, the seed of divine life; yet he does go astray; whence the necessity of the prayer: "Seek thy servant." Isaiah's description of men, although conveyed in the same terms, is evidently more sweeping, as the context words show: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isa 53:6). This would seem to apply to the race of man. Rather is the experience of the Psalmist similar to that described by the apostle Paul: "I find a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God, after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Rom 7:23). And the Psalmist had the same remedy at the early period, as had the apostle in the later times; for God's salvation is one. The Psalmist's remedy was, "Seek thy servant;" the apostle's: "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 7:24).

John Stephen.

Verse 176.—"I have gone astray." The original word signifies either the turning of the foot, or the turning of the heart, or both, out of the way. "I have gone astray like a lost sheep;" that is, I have been deceived, and so have gone out of the way of thy holy commandments. Satan is an ill guide, and our hearts are no better: he that follows either, quickly loseth himself; and until God seeketh us (as David prays in the next words), we cannot find our way when we are once out of it.

Joseph Caryl.

Verse 176.—"I have gone astray." Gotthold one day saw a farmer carefully counting his sheep as they came from the field. Happening at the time to be in an anxious and sorrowful mood, he gave vent to his feelings and said: Why art thou cast down, my soul? and why disquieted with vexing thoughts? Surely thou must be dear to the Most High as his lambs are to this farmer. Art thou not better than many sheep? Is not Jesus Christ thy shepherd? Has not he risked his blood and life for thee? Hast thou no interest in his words: "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand?" John 10:28. This man is numbering his flock; and thinkest thou that God does not also count and care for his believing children and elect, especially as his beloved Son has averred, that the very hairs of our head are all numbered? Mat 10:30. During the day, I may perhaps have gone out of the way, and heedlessly followed my own devices; still, at the approach of evening, when the faithful Shepherd counts his lambs, he will mark my absence, and graciously seek and bring me back. Lord Jesus, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments."

Christian Striver (1629-1693), in Gotthold's Emblems.

Verse 176.—"I have gone astray," etc. Who is called "the man after God's own heart"? David, the Hebrew king, had fallen into sins enough—blackest crimes—there was no want of sin. And, therefore, unbelievers sneer, and ask, "Is this your man after God's own heart?" The sneer, it seems to me, is but a shallow one. What are faults, what are the outward details of a life, if the inner secret of it, the remorse, temptations, the often baffled, never ended struggle of it, be forgotten?…David's life and history, as written for us in those psalms of his, I consider to be the truest emblem ever given us of a man's moral progress and warfare here below. All earnest souls will ever discover in it the faithful struggle of an earnest human soul towards what is good and best. Struggle often baffled—sore baffled—driven as into entire wreck; yet a struggle never ended, ever with tears, repentance, true unconquerable purpose begun anew.

Thomas Carlyle, (1795-1881), in "Heroes and Hero Worship"

Verse 176.—"For I do not forget thy commandments." In all my wandering; with my consciousness of error; with my sense of guilt; I still do feel that I love thy law, thy service, thy commandments. They are the joy of my heart, and I desire to be recalled from all my wanderings, that I may find perfect happiness in thee and in thy service evermore. Such is the earnest wish of every regenerated heart. For as such a one may have wandered from God, yet he is conscious of true attachment to him and his service; he desires and earnestly prays that he may be "sought out," brought back, and kept from wandering any more.

Albert Barnes.

Verse 176.—"For I do not forget thy commandments." The godly never so fall but there remains in them some grace, which reserves a hope of medicine to cure them: so David here. Albeit he transgressed some of God's commandments, yet he fell not into any full oblivion of them.

William Cowper.

Verse 176.—I do not think that there could possibly be a more appropriate conclusion of such a Psalm as this, so full of the varied experience and the ever changing frames and feelings even of a child of God, in the sunshine and the cloud, in the calm and in the storm, than this ever clinging sense of his propensity to wander, and the expression of his utter inability to find his way back without the Lord's guiding hand to restore him; and at the same time with it all, his fixed and abiding determination never to forget the Lord's commandments. What an insight into our poor wayward hearts does this verse give us—not merely liable to wander, but ever wandering, ever losing our way, ever stumbling on the dark mountains, even while cleaving to God's commandments! But at the same time what a prayer does it put into our mouths, "Seek thy servant,"—"I am thine, save me." Yes, blessed be God! there is One mighty to save. "Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (1Pe 1:5).

Barton Bouchier.

As far as I have been able, as far as I have been aided by the Lord, I have treated throughout, and expounded, this great Psalm. A task which more able and learned expositors have performed, or will perform better; nevertheless, my services were not to be withheld from it on that account, when my brethren earnestly required it of me.



Verse 176.

1. My confession: "I have gone astray."

2. My profession: "thy servant."

3. My petition: "seek thy servant."

4. My plea: "for I do not forget," etc.

Verse 176.

1. The confession: "I have gone astray."

2. The petition: "Seek thy servant."

3. The plea: "For I do not," etc.

G. R.

Verse 176.—The last verse as such. The closing minor cadence.

1. The highest flights of human devotion must end in confession of sin: "I have gone astray."

2. The sincerest professions of human fidelity must give place to the acknowledgment of helplessness: "seek thy servant."

3. The loftiest human declarations of love to God's law must come down to the mournful acknowledgment that we have only not forgotten it.

C. A. D.


Two and Twentie Sermons of Maister Iohn Caluin. In which Sermons is most religiously handled, the hundredth and nineteenth Psalme of Dauid, by eight verses apart according to the Hebrew Alphabet. Translated out of French into Englishe by Thomas Stocker. Imprinted at London for John Harison and Thomas Man. 1580. [4to]

"An Exposition on the 119 Psalme." In "The Workes of…M. RICHARD GREENHAM" pp. 379-608, folio, 1612.

A Holy Alphabet for Sion's Scholars; Full of Spiritval Instrvctions, and Heavenly Consolations, to direct and encourage them in their Progresse towards the New Jerusaleum: Deliuered, by way of Commentary vpon the whole 119 Psalme. By WILLIAM COWPER, Minister of God's Word, and B. of Galloway…[4to.] London… 1613. Also in Bishop Cowper's Works pp. 359, 474, folio, 1629.

"Summary and Holy Observations collected out of the route first Octonaries or parts of the hundred and nineteenth Psalme."

The above will be found in "A Commentarie upon the first and second chapters of Saint Paul to the Colossians…together with divers places of Scripture briefly explained. By Mr. Paul Bayne, B. D. London: 1635." [4to]

One Hundred and Ninety Sermons on the Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm. By the Rev. THOMAS MANTON, D.D., Folio. London, 1725. Also 3 vols., 8vo., 1842; 3 vols. (with Life), 1845; and in vols. 7,8, and 9 of Nichol's (now Nisbet's) edition of Manton's Works.

An Hundred, Seventy and Six, SACRED OBSERVATIONS. Upon the Several VERSES of (The Sweetest of PSALMES) the Hundred and Nineteenth PSALM, Stated, Opened, and Applied (as a brief Exposition thereon) to the People of WEST COWES, in the Isle of WIGHT, being the Exercise of my Publick Ministry, in their New Chappel, lately Consecrated by the Right Reverend Father in God, George Lord Bishop of WINTON.

The preceding forms the latter part of a very small 8 vo. entitled "MOSES REVIVED," on "The Unlawfulness of Eating Blood;" by John Moore, 1669. The exposition is simply worthless, and we notice it merely to save collectors of Psalm literature trouble and expense.

Exposition of Psalm 119 as illustrative of the Character and Exercises of Christian Experience. By the Rev. CHARLES BRIDGES, M.A. [12mo] 1827, and many subsequent editions.

Lord's Day Literature: or, Illustrations of the Book of Psalms, from the Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm consecutively. By R. B. SANDERSON, Esq., B.A. [12mo] 1842.

The Utterance of the 119. Psalm; expounded in a Series of Lectures. By the Rev. JOHN STEPHEN, A.M. Free John Knox's, Aberdeen… 1861. [2mo]

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