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Psalm 119:161-176




161  Princes have persecuted me without a cause:”  Such persons

ought to have known better; they should have had sympathy with one of

their own rank. A man expects a fair trial at the hand of his peers: it is

ignoble to be prejudiced. Moreover, if honor be banished from all other

breasts it should remain in the bosom of kings, and honor forbids the

persecution of the innocent. Princes are appointed to protect the innocent

and avenge the oppressed, and it is a shame when they themselves become

the assailants of the righteous. It was a sad case when the man of God

found himself attacked by the judges of the earth, for eminent position

added weight and venom to their enmity. It was well that the sufferer could

truthfully assert that this persecution was without cause. He had not

broken their laws, he had not injured them, he had not even desired to see

them injured, he had not been an advocate of rebellion or anarchy, he had

neither openly nor secretly opposed their power, and therefore, while this

made their oppression the more inexcusable, it took away a part of its

sting, and helped the brave hearted servant of God to bear up -

but my heart standeth in awe of thy word.”  He might have been overcome

by awe of the princes had it not been that a greater fear drove out the less,

and he was swayed by awe of God's word. How little do crowns and

scepters become in the judgment of that man who perceives a more

majestic royalty in the commands of his God. We are not likely to be

disheartened by persecution, or driven by it into sin, if the word of God

continually has supreme power over our minds.


162  I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.” His awe

did not prevent his joy; his fear of God was not of the kind which perfect

love casts out, but of the sort which it nourishes. He trembled at the word

of the Lord, and yet rejoiced at it. He compares his joy to that of one who

has been long in battle, and has at last won the victory and is dividing the

spoil. This usually falls to the lot of princes, and though David was not one

with them in their persecutions, yet he had his victories, and his spoil was

equal to their greatest gains. The profits made in searching the Scriptures

were greater than the trophies of war. We too have to fight for divine

truth; every doctrine costs us a battle, but when we gain a full

understanding of it by personal struggles it becomes doubly precious to us.

In these days godly men have a full share of battling for the word of God;

may we have for our spoil a firmer hold upon the priceless word. Perhaps,

however, the Psalmist may have rejoiced as one who comes upon hidden

treasure for which he had not fought, in which case we find the analogy in

the man of God who, while reading the Bible, makes grand and blessed

discoveries of the grace of God laid up for him, — discoveries which

surprise him, for he looked not to find such a prize. Whether we come by

the truth as finders or as warriors fighting for it, the heavenly treasure

should be equally dear to us. With what quiet joy does the ploughman steal

home with his golden find! How victors shout as they share the plunder!

How glad should that man be who has discovered his portion in the

promises of holy writ, and is able to enjoy it for himself, knowing by the

witness of the Holy Spirit that it is all his own.


163  I hate and abhor lying:” - A double expression for an inexpressible

loathing. Falsehood in doctrine, in life, or in speech, falsehood in any form

or shape, had become utterly detestable to the Psalmist. This was a

remarkable state for an Oriental, for generally lying is the delight of

Easterns, and the only wrong they see in it is a want of skill in its exercise

so that the liar is found out. David himself had made much progress when

he had come to this. He does not, however, alone refer to falsehood in

conversation; he evidently intends perversity in faith and teaching. He set

down all opposition to the God of truth as lying, and then he turned his

whole soul against it in the most intense form of indignation. Godly men

should detest false doctrine even as they abhor a lie – “but thy law do I love.”

-  because it is all truth. His love was as ardent as his hate. True men love truth,

and hate lying. It is well for us to know which way our hates and loves run, and

we may do essential service to others by declaring what are their objects. Both

love and hate are contagious, and when they are sanctified the wider their

influence the better.


164  Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous

judgments.”  He labored perfectly to praise his perfect God, and therefore

fulfilled the perfect number of songs. Seven may also intend frequency.

Frequently he lifted up his heart in thanksgiving to God for His divine

teachings in the word, and for His divine actions m providence. With his

voice he extolled the righteousness of the Judge of all the earth. As often

as ever he thought of God's ways a song leaped to his lips. At the sight of

the oppressive princes, and at the hearing of the abounding falsehood

around him, he felt all the more bound to adore and magnify God, who in

all things is truth and righteousness. When others rob us of our praise it

should be a caution to us not to fall into the same conduct towards our

God, who is so much more worthy of honor. If we praise God when we

are persecuted our music will be all the sweeter to Him because of our

constancy in suffering. If we keep clear of all lying, our song will be the

more acceptable because it comes out of pure lips. If we never flatter men

we shall be the better condition for honoring the Lord. Do we praise God

seven times a day? Do we praise Him once in seven days?



165  Great peace have they which love thy law:” -  What a charming

verse is this! It dwells not with those who perfectly keep the law, for where

should such men be found? but with those who love it, whose hearts and

hands are made to square with its precepts and demands. These men are

ever striving, with all their hearts, to walk in obedience to the law, and

though they are often persecuted they have peace, yea, great peace; for

they have learned the secret of the reconciling blood, they have felt the

power of the comforting Spirit, and they stand before the Father as men

accepted. The Lord has given them to feel His peace, which passed all

understanding. They have many troubles, and are likely to be persecuted by

the proud, but their usual condition is that of deep calm— a peace too

great for this little world to break“and nothing shall offend them.” –

or, "shall really injure them." "All things work together for good to them

that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose"

(Romans 8:28).  It must needs be that offences come, but these lovers of the

law are peacemakers, and so they neither give nor take offence. That peace

which is founded upon conformity to God's will is a living and lasting one, worth

writing of with enthusiasm, as the Psalmist here does.


166  Lord, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments.”

Here we have salvation by grace, and the fruits thereof. All David's hope was fixed

upon God, he looked to HIM ALONE FOR SALVATION  and then he

endeavored most earnestly to fulfill the commands of His law.  Those who place

least reliance upon good works are very frequently those who have The most of

them; that same divine teaching which delivers us from confidence in our

own doings leads us to abound in every good work to the glory of God.

In times of trouble there are two things to be done, the first is to hope in God,

and the second is to do that which is right. The first without the second would

be mere presumption: the second without the first mere formalism. It is well if in

looking back we can claim to have acted in the way which is commanded of the

Lord. If we have acted rightly towards God we are sure that He will act kindly

with us.


167  My soul hath kept thy testimonies;” -  My outward life has kept thy

precepts, and my inward life— my soul, has kept thy testimonies. God has

borne testimony to many sacred truths, and these we hold fast as for life

itself. The gracious man stores up the truth of God within his heart as a

treasure exceedingly dear and precious— he keeps it. His secret soul, his

inmost self, becomes the guardian of these divine teachings which are his

sole authority in soul matters – “and I love them exceedingly.”  This was why

he kept them, and having kept them this was the result of the keeping. He did not

merely store up revealed truth by way of duty, but because of a deep, unutterable

affection for it. He felt that he could sooner die than give up any part of the

revelation of God. The more we store our minds with heavenly truth, the

more deeply shall we be in love with it: the more we see the exceeding

riches of the Bible the more will our love exceed measure, and exceed



168  I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies;” - Both the practical

and the doctrinal parts of God's word he had stored up, and preserved, and

followed. It is a blessed thing to see the two forms of the divine word,

equally known, equally valued, equally confessed: there should be no

picking and choosing as to the mind of God. We know those who

endeavor to be careful as to the precepts, but who seem to think that the

doctrines of the gospel are mere matters of opinion, which they may shape

for themselves. This is not a perfect condition of things. We have known

others again who are very rigid as to the doctrines, and painfully lax with

reference to the precepts. This also is far from right. When the two are

"kept" with equal earnestness then have we the perfect man - “for all my

ways are before thee.”  Probably he means to say that this was

the motive of his endeavoring to be right both in head and heart, because

he knew that God saw him, and under the sense of the divine presence he

was afraid to err. Or else he is thus appealing to God to bear witness to the

truth of what he has said. In either case it is no small consolation to feel

that our heavenly Father knows all about us, and that if princes speak

against us, and worldlings fill their mouths with cruel lies, yet He can

vindicate us, for there is nothing secret or hidden from Him.

We are struck with the contrast between this verse, which is the last of its

octave, and v.176, which is similarly placed in the next octave.

This is a protest of innocence, "I have kept thy precepts," and that a

confession of sin, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep." Both were sincere,

both accurate. Experience makes many a paradox plain, and this is one.

Before God we may be clear of open fault and yet at the same time mourn

over a thousand heart wanderings which need His restoring hand.


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.


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 favor 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 (Proverbs 4:7), 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.  (Isaiah 54:13)


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.  (Matthew 10:16)


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 honor 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 honors 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

practiced. 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.


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 enamored 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 (v.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" (Romans 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.


173 “Let thine hand help me;” Give me practical succor. 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 succor. 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.  (Matthew 14:28-29) - “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.


174  I have longed 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 fullness of our salvation, yet we find in God's word so much

concerning a present salvation that we are even now delighted.


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 fullness of life, (“in thy presence is fullness of joy” -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 practice holiness. This is the second

time he has asked for help in this portion; he was always in need of it, and so are



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 honored 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, "Seek

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





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