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137. O Jehovah! thou art righteous. The Prophet yields to God the praise of righteousness, and also acknowledges that it is to be found in his law. Some understand judgments as referring to those infliction’s by which God chastises the sins of men; but this does not seem so fitly to agree with the scope of the passage. Besides, as the adjective rçy, yashar, translated right, is put in the singular number with the word judgments, the sentence should be explained thus that there is not any one of the judgments of God which is not right. Should we be inclined to take rçy as a substantive, the sense will be almost the same. All men indeed grant that God is righteous; but the Prophet has expressed more than the common sort of men, yea than the whole world, perceive in reference to this subject; for in designating God righteous, he means, that as soon as we depart from Him, we will not find a particle of righteousness anywhere else. When he adds that the evidence and testimony of this righteousness are to be seen in the law, he teaches us that God is robbed of his praise, if we do not subscribe to all his commandments. To the same purpose is the following verse, which declares that God has taught in his law full and perfect righteousness and truth. The adverb, dam, meod, which signifies greatly, is with more propriety connected with the nouns than with the verb commanded; inasmuch as it was God’s design to exhibit in the law a perfect rule of righteousness. The doctrine of the law is honored with these encomiums, that all of us may learn to derive wisdom from it, and that no man may devise for himself any other standard of rectitude or righteousness than that which is exhibited in the law; a very necessary lesson, since every man would willingly frame for himself a new pattern or standard of righteousness.

139. My zeal hath consumed me. fe17 The Psalmist speaks of his persecutors, by whom it is certain he had been subjected to much trouble. But although they were virulent and cruel towards him, he avows that it was not so much his own private wrongs which offended him as the violation of God’s law; yea rather, that he was so consumed with grief on that account as not to be affected at all with his own individual troubles. This is an example from which much profit may be derived. We are too tender and delicate in bearing wrongs; and hence it is that if we are but touched with a finger, we are instantly inflamed with anger, whilst at the same time we are but coldly affected at the most grievous offenses committed against God. But if we are animated with the zeal that inspired the Prophet it will carry us away to another kind of sorrow, which will take entire possession of our souls.

140. Thy word is exceedingly refined. In this verse he intimates that the cause of his zeal was the love which he bore to heavenly doctrine. For to be displeased with or severely to condemn the contempt of divine truth, unless we are bound to it by the cords of love, is pure hypocrisy. And he affirms that his love to God’s word was not a rash, or a blind and inconsiderate affection, but that he loved it, because like gold or silver which has been refined, it was pure and free from all dregs and dross. This is the idea contained in the metaphorical term hpwrx, tseruphah, translated refined; fe18 and though it seems to be commonplace, yet, vindicating God’s word from all perverse and malicious judgments, it expresses graphically the true obedience of faith. How few are there who are not guilty, either by their distrust, or waywardness, or pride, or voluptuousness, of casting upon God’s word some spot or stain! The flesh then being so rebellious, it is no small commendation of revealed truth, when it is compared to gold well refined, so that it shines pure from all defilement. Farther, it serves not a little to show the truth of this testimony, that the Prophet confirms it by his own experience. The more effectually to repress the foolish rashness with which we are chargeable whenever we imagine that there is any fault in God’s word, he declares that in commending it he gives utterance to the unfeigned feeling of his heart, having experienced a blissful pleasure in that purity of which he speaks.

141. I am, insignificant and despised. The meaning is, that although he was tried with poverty and many other calamities, he steadily persevered in the exercise of true godliness, and in the observance of the law. On that account, as he states, he was despised by wicked men. Every man gives praise to God just in proportion as he is gorged with his benefits; and very few will be found applying their minds to the service of God, unless they have all their wishes gratified. Hence it comes to pass that hypocrites, as long as they are pampered to the full, accumulate riches and increase in power, are very lavish in praising God. But let them be treated in some degree roughly, and immediately the blessed name of God is heard of no more. Since then men are ordinarily mercenary in serving God, let us learn from the Prophet’s example that true godliness is disinterested, so that when under its influence we cease not to praise God, although he may afflict us with adversity and make us despised in the eyes of the world. These upbraiding words of Christ in <430626>John 6:26, ought, no doubt, to be carefully attended to,

“Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” (<430626>John 6:26)

The persons then who serve God ingenuously and sincerely, are such as continue steadfast. in his fear, although their condition in this world may be mean and despised; in short, they are such as seek not their reward on earth, but through heat and cold, poverty and danger, slanders and mockeries, persevere with unwearied steps in the course of their warfare.

142. Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness. Here the law of God is honored 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 disquisition’s 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 labor; but now when distressed and tormented, he affirms that he finds in the law of God the most soothing delight, which mitigates all grief’s, and not only tempers their bitterness, but also seasons them with a certain sweetness. And assuredly when this taste does not exist to afford us delight, nothing is more natural than for us to be swallowed up of sorrow. Nor ought we to omit noticing the form of expression which the Prophet employs, by which he teaches, that although lie was besieged and shut up on all sides, he found a remedy sufficiently powerful in improving the consolation offered him by the word of God. As this could not be true of the bare commandments, which so far from remedying our distresses, rather fill us with anxiety, there is no doubt that under the word commandments there is comprehended by the figure synecdoche, the whole doctrine of the law, in which God not only requires what is right, but in which also calling his elect ones to the hope of eternal salvation, he opens the gate of perfect happiness. Yea, under the term law are comprehended both free adoption, and also the promises which flow from it.

144. The righteousness of thy testimonies endureth forever. The Psalmist repeats what lie had already before stated, that there is a great dissimilarity between the righteousness of God’s testimonies and man’s inventions; the splendor of the last quickly vanishing away, whereas the other continues steadfast for ever. He repeats this twice; for although the world is forced to attribute the praise of righteousness to the law of God, yet the majority of mankind are carried away after their own speculations, so that there is nothing more difficult than to hold us fast in our obedience to God. David’s drift is to show that everlasting righteousness is not comprehended elsewhere than in God’s law, and that it is in vain to seek for it anywhere else; and there is accordingly here laid down a clearer definition of righteousness, which is, that righteousness consists in our keeping ourselves within the bounds of the law. As to the last clause of the verse, 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. Farther, 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 cares, 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, as I have elsewhere said, 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.

Psalm 119:145-152

145. q I have cried with my whole heart; answer me, O Jehovah! and I will keep thy statutes. 146. q I have called upon thee; save me, and I will keep thy testimonies. 147. q I have prevented the twilight, fe19 and have cried: I have looked up to thy word. 148. q My eyes have prevented the night-watches, to meditate upon thy word. 149. q Hear my yoke, O Jehovah! According to thy mercy, quicken me according to thy judgment. 150. q The pursuers of malice have drawn near; they have departed from thy law. 151. q Thou, O Jehovah! art near; and all thy commandments are truth. 152. q I have known from thy testimonies from the beginning that thou hast established them for ever.

145. I have cried with my whole heart. This verse may be so read and connected as that in the end of it the Psalmist may show what he desired in crying; fe20 and thus the meaning would be, that as he was inflamed with an intense desire to keep the law, he continually made supplication to God on that subject. But the subsequent verse compels us to take a different view, for the same thing is, no doubt, there again repeated. The Prophet then requests that God would hear him; and in token of his gratitude he promises to keep God’s commandments. He simply uses the indefinite term cry; and thus he does not express what the prayers were which he offered up to God, but only shows, that while the children of this world are distracted by a multiplicity of objects, he directed all the affections of his heart exclusively to God, because he depended solely on him. As the world is compelled to acknowledge that God is the author of all good things, many formal prayers proceed from that principle. It was the consideration of this which led David to affirm that he prayed with his whole heart. When he shall have obtained his requests, he proposes to himself the glory of God as his end, resolving to devote himself with so much the more ardent affection to the work of serving him. Although God declares that he is served aright by the sacrifice of praise, yet David, to distinguish himself from hypocrites who profane the name of God by their cold and feigned praises, with good reason declares that he will give thanks by his life and works.

In the following verse he makes no new statement; but he speaks more expressly. In the first place, he says that he cried to God; and next he adds, that he commended his welfare to Him by prayer; thereby intimating that whether he was in safety, or whether imminent danger threatened him with death, he uniformly reposed upon God, being fully persuaded that the only way in which he could continue safe was by having him for the guardian and protector of his welfare.

147. I have prevented the twilight. The Hebrew noun ãçn, nesheph, is in this place improperly translated by crepusculum, twilight; for it rather signifies the dawn of morning. But as the Latin’s derive the word crepusculum, from creperus, which signifies doubtful or uncertain, so that it may signify the doubtful and intermediate time between light and darkness, I have not been particularly nice in the selection of the term only let my readers understand that the evening twilight commencing with sunset is not here denoted, but the imperfect light which precedes the rising of the sun. David then expresses the most eager haste when he says, that he prevented the dawn of the morning by his prayers. The verb cry always conveys the idea of earnestness; referring, as it does, not so much to the loudness of the voice as to the vehemency and ardor of the mind. In mentioning his haste, his object is the better to set forth his perseverance; for he tells us, that although he betook himself to prayer with such promptitude, yet he did not immediately become weary of that exercise, like the unbelieving, who, if God does not suddenly grant them their requests, murmur and complain against him. Thus, in conjoining patience of hope with earnestness of desire, he shows what is the true manner of praying; even as Paul, in <500406>Philippians 4:6, when he exhorts us to

“let our requests be made known unto God with thanksgiving,” (<500406>Philippians 4:6)

admonishes us, while engaged in the exercise of prayer, to bridle our turbulent affections, because one of the ends of prayer is to nourish our hope. Nor is the mention made of the word in the close of the verse superfluous; for it is only by having the Word of God continually before our eyes, that we can bridle the wanton impetuosity of our corrupt nature.

148. My eyes have prevented the night watchers. fe21 The Psalmist here intimates, that he was more sedulously intent on meditating upon the law of God than watchmen of the night were to keep watch. Others are of opinion, that the verb jwç, suach, is put for to discourse. If this opinion is admitted, the sense will be, that the Prophet, not from ostentation, but for the welfare of his brethren, was so desirous of communicating instruction, that he gave himself no rest. The word meditate is, however, more appropriate in this place; for the night is an unseasonable time for discoursing upon the law of God; but at that season, when alone, he silently recalled to his memory what he had previously learned, so that he passed no part of the night without meditating upon the law.

149. Hear my voice, O Jehovah! according to thy mercy. In the first place he declares, that the goodness of God was the only ground of his hope of being heard by him. Whatever blessings the saints may plead for in prayer, their opening argument must be the free and unmerited grace of God. Nor is the term judgments fe22 in the second clause to be taken in a different sense. As God has revealed his goodness in his word, his word is the source from which we must derive our assurance of his goodness. The Prophet, then, sensible that he had need of the divine mercy, betook himself directly to the word, in which God, sweetly alluring men to himself, promises that his grace will be ready and open for all. That each, therefore, may be confidently persuaded that God will be merciful to him in particular, let him learn from the example of the Prophet to entreat God to show himself such as he has promised to be. Some expound the word judgments by manner or custom; fe23 because, God’s usual way is to deal graciously with all his people. I would not altogether reject this exposition; but I think it is harsh and foreign to the scope of the text, while the meaning which I have adduced comes out very naturally. Moreover, he desires to be quickened, to testify that even in the, midst of life he is dead, except in so far as he is sustained by the power of God. And assuredly, all who are duly acquainted with their own infirmity, esteeming their life as nothing, will crave to be quickened every moment. It is also to be added, that God often so exercised his servant, that with good reason he might send up his prayers, as it were, out of the sepulcher, to be restored from death to life.

150. The pursuers of malice have drawn near. As the Hebrew word ypdwr rodphee, translated the pursuers of, is put in the construct. state, that is to say, as it is so related to the word hmz, zimmah, rendered wickedness, that in Latin the latter would be put in the genitive ease, I expound the clause as denoting that they draw near to do mischief. I wonder what could move interpreters to translate — The pursuers have approached, or drawn near to wickedness; which the idiom of the language will not admit, to say nothing of the fact that hmz, zimmah, signifies. rather perversity or malice, than wickedness. David therefore says, that those who are vehemently bent on malice are pursuing him close behind, and that they rush upon him with such violence in order to do him mischief, as plainly to indicate that they are far off from God’s law, since they east far from them all regard to uprightness and equity. It was a most wretched condition for him to be in, to behold his enemies, who had shaken off all fear of God and reverence for his law, ready with uplifted hand to smite him to death, had not God been near to defend him, as he adds in the subsequent verse —

151. Thou, O Jehovah! art near. He encourages himself from the consolatory consideration, that God, when he sees his own people sore pressed, comes forward. seasonably to afford them succor; even as Paul on this subject says,

“Be not over-careful, the Lord is at hand, let your moderation be known to all men. (<500405>Philippians 4:5)

The concluding sentence of the verse is to this effect, That God never forsakes nor disappoints his people in their necessity, because he is true to his promises; and in them he assures us, that the welfare of his people will always be the object of his care. That therefore we may be fully persuaded that the hand of God is always ready to repulse the assaults of our enemies, let us retain a settled belief of the truth, that he does not in vain promise in his word to be the guardian of our welfare.

152. I have known from thy testimonies fe24 from the beginning. Others here translate, I have known long ago of thy testimonies. fe25 This translation I would not directly reject; but I am more inclined to retain the sense which I have given, namely, That the Prophet not only knew the everlasting steadfastness which characterizes the testimonies of God; but that he had also derived this knowledge from the testimonies themselves. When the Hebrews would express the meaning conveyed by the Latin preposition de, they frequently use the particle ˆm, or the letter b, beth. He therefore says, that he had learned from God’s testimonies, or had been taught by them, that they are established for ever. fe26 This indeed is the chief point of faith, That the word of God is not only distinguished for fidelity and steadfastness for a time, but that it continues unchangeable for ever. Were it otherwise, it could not include within it the hope of eternal salvation. That the assurance of this immutabiliy of God’s word may be rooted in our minds, the inward revelation of the Holy Spirit is indeed necessary; for until God seal within us the certainty of his word, our belief of its certainty will be continually wavering. Yet the Prophet, not without cause, affirms, that he learned this truth from the word; for when God shines into us by his Spirit, he at the same time causes that sacred truth which endures for ever to shine forth in the mirror of his word.

Psalm 119:153-160

153. r Behold my affliction, and rescue me: for I have not forgotten thy law. 154. r Debate my cause, and redeem me: quicken thy according to thy word. 155. r Safety is far from the wicked; because they have not sought thy statutes. 156. r O Jehovah! Thy tender mercies are many: quicken me according to thy judgments. 157. r My persecutors and oppressors are many: fe27 I have not swerved from thy testimonies. 158. r I saw the perfidious, and chid them; because they have not kept thy word. 159. r Behold O Jehovah! how have loved thy commandments: quicken me according to thy loving kindness. 160. r The beginning [literally, the head fe28] of thy word is truth; and all the judgment of thy righteousness is everlasting.
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