Psalm 119:121-128

121. e I have done judgment and righteousness: give me not up to my oppressors. 122. e Become surety for thy servant for good, that the proud may not oppress me. 123. e My eyes have failed for thy salvation, and for thy righteous word.1 124. e Deal with thy servant according to thy goodness, and teach me thy statutes. 125. e I am thy servant, give me understanding, that I may learn thy testimonies. 126. e It is time for thee, O Jehovah! to be doing for they have destroyed thy law. 127. e And therefore I have loved thy statutes above gold,2 yea even above the most fine gold3 128. e Therefore I have esteemed all thy commandments to be altogether right, and have hated every way of lying.


121. I have done judgment and righteousness. The Prophet implores the help of God against the wicked who troubled him, and he does so in such a manner as at the same time to testify that the harassing treatment he received from them was on his part altogether undeserved. If we would have God to come down to succor us, it becomes us to see to it that we meet him with the testimony of a good conscience. As He everywhere promises his aid to the afflicted who are unrighteously oppressed, it is no superfluous protestation which the Prophet makes, that he had not provoked his enemies, but had restrained himself from all injury and wrong-doing, and had not even attempted to requite evil for evil. In asserting that he had at all times done judgment, he means that whatever rite wicked practiced, he steadfastly persevered in following after integrity, and never turned aside from what was just and right in any of his public or private transactions.

122. Become surety for thy servant for good. This prayer is almost similar to that of the preceding verse; for I prefer translating the Hebrew verb bwre, arob, by Become surety for, to rendering, as others do, Delight thy servant in good, or Make thy servant to delight in good. According to this second version, the words are a prayer that God would rejoice his servant with his benefits. There is a third translation, by which they become a prayer that God would inspire his heart with the love and desire of rectitude; for true perfection consists in our taking pleasure in justice and uprightness. But as from the last clause of the verse it is obvious that David here desires succor against his enemies, the verb Become surety is the more appropriate rendering4 Lord, as if he had said, since the proud cruelly rush upon me to destroy me, interpose. thyself between us, as if thou weft my surety. The letter l, lamed, which signifies for, is not indeed prefixed to the noun, but this is no valid objection to our translation, as that letter is often understood. It is a form of expression full of comfort, to represent God as performing the office of a surety in order to effect our deliverance. He is said metaphorically to become surety for us, just as if, on finding us indebted in a large sum of money, he discharged us of the obligation, by paying down the money to our creditor. The prayer is to this effect, That God would not suffer the wicked to exercise, their cruelty against us at their pleasure, but that he would interpose as a defender to save us. By these words the Prophet intimates, that he was in extreme danger, and that he had nothing else left him in which to hope but the help of God.

123. My eyes have failed for thy salvation.5 In the first; place he testifies, that he had been afflicted with severe troubles, and that not for a short time only, but for a period so protracted as might have exhausted his patience and occasioned despondency. But so far was this from being the effect they produced, that he declares that in all these long and wearisome conflicts his heart had never sunk into despair. We have before explained failing for salvation as denoting that although there was no prospect of an end to his calamities, and although despair presented itself on every side, yet he strove against temptation even to the fainting of his soul. Should we understand the past tense of the verb as put for the present, in which sense it seems to be employed, the Prophet in that case intimates, that his eyes fail him not because they become fatigued, but Because through earnest looking they contract as it were a dimness, and that yet he does not cease to wait continually for the salvation of God. In short, the failing of his eyes indicates perseverance combined with severe and arduous effort, and it is opposed to the momentary ardor of those who immediately faint, if God does not grant their requests. This expression also denotes a painful earnestness, which almost consumes all the senses. As to the term salvation, he does not limit it to one kind of help, but comprehends under it the continual course of God's grace, until he put his believing people in the possession of complete salvation. He expresses the manner in which he waited for salvation, which was by depending upon God's word in which two things are to be attended to, first, that we can only be said to wait for salvation from God, when, confiding in his promises, we actually betake ourselves to him for protection; and secondly, that we then only yield to God the praise of salvation, when we continue to keep our hope firmly fixed on his word. This is the way in which He is to be sought; and although he may conceal from our view the working of his hand, we ought to repose in his bare promises. This is the reason why David calls God's word righteous. He would hereby confirm his faith in the truth of the divine promises for God in promising liberally does not cherish in his people delusive expectations.

124. Deal with thy servant according to thy goodness. The two clauses of this verse must be read correctly; for he does not first separately desire God to deal well with him, and next desire him to be his master and teacher. He rather beseeches him in the exercise of that goodness and mercy, which he is wont to display towards all his people, to instruct him in his law. The object of the Prophet's request then is, that God would teach him in his statutes. But he begins with the divine mercy, employing it as an argument to prevail with God to grant him what he desires. This prayer then must be resolved thus: Lord, deal gently with me, and manifest thy goodness towards me by instructing me in thy commandments. Our whole happiness undoubtedly consists in our having that true wisdom which is to be derived from the word of God; and our only hope of obtaining this wisdom lies in God's being pleased to display his mercy and goodness towards us. The Prophet, therefore, magnifies the greatness and excellence of the benefit of being instructed in the divine law, when he requests that it may be bestowed upon him as a free gift.

125. I am thy servant, give me understanding. Here the prayer of the preceding verse is repeated. The repetition shows how ardently he wished the blessing prayed for, and how earnest and importunate he was in pleading with God for it. By the words he expresses still more plainly in what way it is that God teaches his own people -- that he does so by illuminating with sound knowledge their understandings, which otherwise would be blind. It would profit us little to have the divine law sounding in our ears, or to have it exhibited in writing before our eyes, and to have it expounded by the voice of man, did not God correct our slowness of apprehension, and render us docile by the secret influence of his Spirit. We are not to suppose that David advances any meritorious claims before God when he boasts of being his servant. Men, indeed, commonly imagine that when we are previously well prepared, God then adds new grace, which they term subsequent grace. But the Prophet, so far from boasting of his own worth, rather declares how deep the obligations were under which he lay to God. It is not in the power of any man to make himself a servant of the Most High, nor can any man bring anything of his own as a price with which to purchase so great an honor. Of this the Prophet was well aware. He knew that there is not one of the whole human family who is worthy of being enrolled among that order; and therefore he does nothing more than adduce the grace he had obtained, as an argument that God according to his usual way would perfect what he had begun. In a similar manner he speaks in Psalm 116:6,

"I am thy servant and the son of thine handmaid:"

in which place it is abundantly manifest that he does not boast of his services, but only declares that he is one of the members of the Church.

126. It is time for thee, O Jehovah! to be doing. It being the object of the Prophet to imprecate upon the impious and wicked the vengeance which they have deserved, he says, that the fit time for executing it had now arrived, inasmuch as they had carried to a great extent their wanton forwardness against God. The general verb doing is more emphatic than if one more specific had been used. The language is as if he had said, that God would seem to delay too long, if he did not now execute the office of a judge. It is the peculiar work of God to restrain the wicked, and even to punish them severely when he finds that their repentance is utterly hopeless. If it is alleged, that this prayer is inconsistent with the law of charity, it may be replied, that David here speaks of reprobates, whose amendment is become desperate. His heart, there is no doubt, was governed by the spirit of wisdom. Besides, it is to be remembered, that he does not complain of his own private wrongs. It is a pure and honest zeal which moves him to desire the destruction of the wicked despisers of God; for he adduces no other reason for the prayer, than that the wicked destroyed God's law. By this he gives evidence, that nothing was dearer to him than the service of God, and that nothing was held by him in higher recommendation than the observance of the law. I have already repeatedly warned you, in other places, that our zeal is forward and disordered whenever its moving principle is a sense of our own personal injuries. It is, therefore, to be carefully noticed, that the Prophet's grief proceeded from no other cause than that he could not endure to see the divine law violated. In short, this is a prayer that God would restore to order the confused and ruinous state of things in the world. It remains for us to learn from David's example, whenever the earth is fraught and defiled with wickedness to such a degree that the fear of him has become almost extinct, to call upon him to show himself the maintainer of his own glory. This doctrine is of use in sustaining our hope and patience whenever God suspends the execution of his judgments longer than we would incline. Previous to his addressing himself to God, the Prophet adopts it as a principle, that, although God may seem for a time to false no notice of what his creatures do, yet he never forgets his office, but delays the execution of his judgments for wise reasons, that at length he may execute them when the seasonable time arrives.

127. And therefore I have loved thy statutes above gold. This verse, I have no doubt, is connected with the preceding; for otherwise the illative particle therefore would be without meaning. Viewing it in this connection, I understand the Psalmist as intimating, that the reason why he esteemed God's law as more valuable than gold and precious stones, was because he had fixed in his mind a thorough persuasion of the truth, that although God may connive for a time at wickedness, the making havoc of all uprightness and equity will not always remain unpunished. Yea, the more he saw the wicked outrageously breaking forth into wickedness, the more was he incited by a holy indignation burning in his heart, to love the law. This is a passage deserving of special attention, for the baneful influence of evil example is well known, every man thinking that he may lawfully do whatever is commonly practiced around him. Whence it comes to pass, that evil company carries us away like a tempest. The more diligently then ought we to meditate on this doctrine, That when the wicked claim to themselves an unbridled liberty, it behoves us to contemplate with the eyes of faith the judgments of God, in order to our being thereby quickened to the observance of the divine law. If attention to this doctrine has been needful from the beginning, at the present day it is necessary to exert ourselves, that we may not be involved in violating the law of God with the wicked conspiracy which almost the whole world have formed to violate it. The more outrageously the wicked vaunt themselves, let our veneration for and our love of the divine law proportionally increase.

128. Therefore I have esteemed all thy commandments to be altogether right.6 This verse, like the preceding, is connected with the 26th, and the connection may be brought out by observing, that the Prophet, waiting patiently for God's judgments, and also earnestly calling for their infliction, had subscribed to the law of God in every particular, and embraced it without a single exception -- and moreover, that he hated every false way. Literally, it is all the commandments of all; but the words of all are to be referred to things and not to persons, as if he had said, that he approved of all the laws which God had ordained, whatever they enjoined.7 A similar form of expression occurs in Ezekiel 44:30, "all oblations of all things" -- that is to say, whatever kind of oblations men offer. The Prophet has not laid down this sentiment in such express terms without good reason; for there is nothing to which we are naturally more inclined than to despise or reject whatever in God's law is not agreeable to us. Every man, according as he is tainted with this or that particular vice, would desire their the commandment which forbids it were razed out of the law. But we cannot lawfully make any addition to it, or take away anything from it; and since God has joined his commandments together by a sacred and inviolable bond, to separate any one of them from the rest is altogether unwarrantable. We perceive then how the Prophet, inspired with a holy jealousy for the law, contended against the wicked rebellion of those who despised it. And assuredly, when we see that the ungodly mock God with such effrontery, at one time rising up audaciously against him, trod at another perverting every part of the law, it becomes us to be the more inflamed with zeal, and to be the more courageous in maintaining the truth of God. The extreme impiety of our age especially demands of all the faithful that they should exercise themselves in this holy zeal. Profane men strive to outdo one another in scornfully aspersing the doctrine of salvation, and endeavor to bring God's sacred Word into contempt by their derisive jeers. Others pour forth their blasphemies without intermission. We cannot, therefore, avoid being chargeable with the crime of treacherous indifference, if our hearts are not warmed with zeal, and unless we burn with a holy jealousy. The Prophet not merely says, that he approved of God's law wholly and without exception, but he adds, that he hated every way of lying, or every false way. And, undoubtedly, no one subscribes in good earnest to the law of God, but he who rejects all the slanders by which the wicked taint or obscure the purity of sound doctrine. By way of lying, the Prophet doubtless means whatever is opposed to the purity of the law, intimating that he detested all corruption's which are contrary to the Word of God.

1 Literally, "for the word of thy righteousness." Calvin understands it of the divine promises. Phillips translates "for the word of thy justice," "that is," says he, "for the sentence of justice. on my oppressors, as the first part of the verse teaches; for the passing this sentence will be equivalent to the granting the salvation which the Psalmist so ardently desired."

2 "Above gold. bhzm, mizahab, more than resplendent gold; gold without any stain or rust." -- Dr. Adam Clarke

3 "Ou, marguerites." -- Fr. marg. "Or, pearls." "zpmw, umipaz, above solid gold; gold separated from the dross, perfectly refined." -- Dr. Adam Clarke.

4 bre This verb signifies to be pleasant, acceptable. So Bucer has translated the first part of the verse, oblecta servum tuum bono; and indeed the Chaldee has given the same sense to the verb, for it is rendered by Myob, make merry. But the other meaning which it has, viz. to become surety, is evidently more suitable; for the expression Be surety for thy servant for good, corresponds very well with the previous and subsequent petitions, which are for deliverance from the hands of the enemy." -- Phillips.

5 "In times of great sorrow, when the heart is oppressed with care, and when danger threatens on every side, the human eye expresses with amazing accuracy the distressing and anguished emotions of the soul. The posture here described is that of an individual who perceives himself surrounded with enemies of the most formidable character, who feels his own weakness and insufficiency to enter into conflict with them, but who is eagerly looking for the arrival of a devoted and powerful friend, who has promised to succor him in the hour of his calamity." -- Dr. Morison.

6 Durell translates this verse -- "For, as much as I esteem all thy precepts, etc., therefore I hate," etc.

7 "All the precepts of everything, i.e., all precepts concerning all things. I embrace thy revealed Word, without any exceptions. The Psalmist states, that he had most diligently applied his mind to the consideration of all God's commandments, the circumstances and occasions on which they were given, and he observed that they abounded in justice and holiness. Since, therefore, they are all equally just and holy, whatsoever is contrary to them he regarded as unjust, impure, false and detestable. Hammond remarks, that 'the reduplication of the universal particle lk is emphatic all, even all;' and so the plain rendering is most current, all thy commandments, even all, have I approved." -- Phillips.


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