George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 5

Psalm 119

1. Special characteristics

The acrostic pattern (see Psalms Studies, Intro., Part 4):

Each block of eight verses begins with a fresh letter of the Hebrew alphabet; hence the total verses are 176 (8 times 22). Many modern versions omit the Hebrew letters, either as unimportant or as beyond the powers of the ordinary reader.
Virtually every verse includes one of the key words by which God’s Word is described:

25 times:
1, 18, 29, 34, 44, 51, 53, 55, 61, 70, 72, 77, 85, 92, 97, 109, 113, 126, 136, 142, 150, 153, 163, 165, 174.
Testimonies (or testimony)
23 times:
2, 14, 22, 24, 31, 36, 46, 59, 79, 88, 95, 99, 111, 119, 125, 129, 138, 144, 146, 152, 157, 167, 168.
21 times:
4, 15, 27, 40, 45, 56, 63, 69, 78, 87, 93, 94, 100, 104, 110, 128, 134, 141, 159, 168, 173.
22 times:
5, 8, 12, 16, 23, 26, 33, 48, 54, 64, 68, 71, 80, 83, 112, 117, 118, 124, 135, 145, 155, 171.
22 times:
6, 10, 19, 21, 32, 35, 47, 48, 60, 66, 73, 86, 96, 98, 115, 127, 131, 143, 151, 166, 172, 176.
Judgments, or ordinances
23 times:
7, 13, 20, 30, 39, 43, 52, 62, 75, 84, 91, 102, 106, 108, 120, 121, 132*, 137, 149, 156, 160, 164, 175.
25 times:
9, 16, 17, 25, 28, 42, 42 again (see AV mg.), 43, 49, 57, 65, 74, 81, 89, 101, 105, 107, 114, 122*, 130, 139, 147, 160, 161, 169.
Promise (or word)
19 times:
11, 38, 41, 50, 58, 67, 76, 82, 103, 116, 123, 133, 140, 148, 154, 158, 162, 170, 172.

The three verses lacking any of these terms do have “ways” (v. 3), “way” (v. 37), and “faithfulness” (v. 90) — all of which might be considered as (lesser used) synonyms of God’s Law or Word.

* Verses 122 and 132 appear to be exceptions to the rule that each verse has some reference to the Word of God. But textual emendations may supply one of the eight primary terms even in these verses (see notes there).

The eight major terms are distributed throughout the 22 stanzas (using all eight in He, Vau, Cheth, Yod, Caph, Pe — never using less than six), employing a different order in each stanza. It may be that — although the pattern is not followed perfectly — the availability of these eight terms determined the decision to devote eight verses to each letter of the alphabet. The alphabetic acrostic form, especially one as elaborate as this, may appear arbitrary and artificial to a modern reader (as if the author merely selected a traditional form from the poet’s workshop and then labored to fill it with pious sentences), but a sympathetic and reflective reading of this devotional will compel a more favorable judgment. The author had a theme that filled his soul, a theme as big as life, that ranged the length and breadth and height and depth of a per-son’s walk with God. Nothing less than the use of the full power of language would suffice, and of that the alphabet was a most apt symbol.

Psalm 19:7-14 is, so to speak, the embryo from which has come the fully-developed 119. (All eight special terms listed above occur also in Psalm 19:7-9.)

2. Authorship

Three important considerations identify the writer as Hezekiah:

Psalm 119 is sandwiched between 118, which is almost certainly a Hezekiah psalm, and the 15 Songs of Degrees (120-134), which do certainly belong to his period (see notes there).
“Thy servant” appears 14 times — compare “the servant of the Lord” in Isaiah.
All the personal details mentioned or implied in the psalm fit Hezekiah more readily than any other. This is detailed in the next paragraph.

3. Hezekiah

a. His reformation:

“I have chosen the way of truth.”
“I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments” (in the first month of the first year of his reign!: cp. 2 Chron. 29:3).
“I hate every false way” (cp. 2 Kings 18:4: “He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made”).

b. His grievous sickness (Isaiah 38):

“... That I may live, and keep thy word.”
“My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me” (i.e., keep me alive).
“Let... thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.” Both phrases refer to God’s promise of recovery (cp. also v. 77: “that I may live”).
“I am become like a bottle in the smoke” — his leprosy!
“How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?”
“Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.”
“Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me.” Reference here is to both the Assyrian invasion and the intense pain of his sickness.
“Quicken me”, i.e., ‘Save me from death’ (cp. vv. 156,159).
“Consider mine affliction, and deliver me.”
“Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee.”

c. His recovery:

“And I will walk at liberty [i.e., no longer shut up as a leper: cp. Psa. 118:5]: for I seek thy precepts.”
“Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of pilgrimage” (cp. Isa. 38:20).

d. The Assyrian invasion and siege of Jerusalem:

“Remove from me reproach and contempt.” Reference to Rabshakeh’s propaganda (Isa. 36).
“Princes also did sit and speak against me.” Sennacherib, Rabshakeh, and their Arab allies.
“So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me” (2 Kings 18:36).
“The wicked have waited for me to destroy me.”
“Leave me not to mine oppressors.”
“I am small and despised; yet do not I forget thy precepts.”
“Princes have persecuted me without a cause.”

e. Ultimate triumph:

“I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed” (cp. 2 Chron. 32:23).
“At midnight [Isa. 37:36!] I will arise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.”
“Thou puttest away all the wicked on the earth like dross.”

It is not unreasonable to surmise that the young Hezekiah was encouraged (by his mother and/or Isaiah) to obey the precept of Deuteronomy 17:18-20, to write out his own copy of the Law — and that it was this which changed him from following the example of his evil father into a constant rejoicing in the law and praise of God. Hence Psalm 119.

4. God at work

An important element in the teaching of this psalm is its repeated insistence that, even when a man has a Bible and also the inclination to give himself to the study of it, without help from God he will not get far in the understanding of it:

“O let me not wander from thy commandments.”
“O Lord: teach my thy statutes.”
“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”
“I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.”
“Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law.”
“Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.”
“Teach me thy statutes” (v. 135).
“Teach me good judgment and knowledge; for I have believed thy commandments.”
“Give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.”
“Give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.”
“Order my steps in thy word.”
“Give me understanding, and I shall live.”
“My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes.”

For a similar emphasis, see Psalms 141:3,4 and 51:10.

5. Messiah

It may be taken as fairly certain that Jesus, born King of the Jews, also wrote out his own copy of the Law and also of the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures (G. Booker, “Commandments for Royalty”, The Logos, Nov. 1978, Vol. 45, No. 2, pp. 36-38). With what zest would he write out these 176 commentaries on the Word of God and their expression of his own delight in the ways of his God! It makes a splendid exercise to read the psalm slowly, in short sections, all the while trying to see the words through the eyes of young Jesus in Nazareth.

As we summarize Psalm 119, it becomes evident that what was true of Hezekiah the writer was true also of his “son” Jesus: Jesus was sorely tried, but in his trials he recognized his Father’s loving discipline for his good (vv. 50,67,71,75,107,153). He had to suffer contempt (vv. 22,39,42) and even ill-treatment (vv. 121,134) because of his adherence to the law. He was despised and persecuted by the authorities (vv. 23,161); he was mocked, lied against, and opposed by men of position and power, whom he designates as “the proud” or “the wicked” (vv. 51,61,68,78,84,85,86, 95,122,150,157). He was in danger of his life (vv. 87,109). His persecutors were for the most part not heathen, but faithless Israelites, since he describes them as forsaking God’s law (v. 53), wandering from His commandments (v. 21), and forgetting His words (v. 139). They were selfish, self-satisfied men of the world, incapable of appreciating true faithfulness (v. 70). Their indifference to the law aroused his burning indignation (v. 53), as well as his profound sorrow (v. 136). He was con-fronted by laxity and apostasy (vv. 113,126,158), and by evil example calculated to draw him from his faith into the way of evil (vv. 29,37,115). But, understanding his Father’s estimation of such men and such a course (vv. 118,119) and their ultimate destiny (v. 155), he resisted the temptation. Surrounded by difficulties of many kinds, he sought refuge in prayer, seeking for a fuller understanding of the divine purpose, for strength to keep the law, and for relief from the distressing circumstances that threatened to destroy him.

It has been suggested that Psalm 119 forms the basis of the Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane, and each of the 22 sections may be summarized with this in mind:

The blessedness of those who do God’s will (1-8).
The means provided to that end (9-16).
The rewards for so doing (17-24).
The difficulties that must be overcome (25-32).
The need to seek God’s help (33-40).
The sustaining effect of the joy of salvation (41-48).
The sustaining comfort of the Truth associated with the Name (49-56).
The power of prayer and meditation (57-64).
The inevitability, but also the benefit, of suffering (65-72).
The need for faith in God’s goodness (73-80).
The certainty of ultimate deliverance (81-88).
The certainty that the Kingdom will come (89-96).
The confidence that stems from true wisdom (97-104).
The guidance that God will provide (105-112).
The safety that He will grant those who exalt Him (113-120).
The benefits of servitude to Him (121-128).
The blessings of the Name (129-136).
The zeal for action generated thereby (137-144).
The anxious longing that God might be manifested (145-152).
The favor He will reveal towards His own (153-160).
The praise that is due unto Him (161-168).
The certainty of ultimate salvation (169-176).

It has been pointed out that each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet is actually a Hebrew word signifying something other than a letter of the alphabet, and that each has a reference to some aspect of the work of Christ. Here is an attempt to follow out this thought:

Christ as burden-carrier; burnt offering
Lev. 1:5; Isa. 53; 1 Pet. 2:24.
Christ as the corner stone
Psa. 118:22; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:7.
Beast of burden;
Gen. 37:25;

Christ as our helper
Matt. 11:28-30.
The entrance to life
John 10:7-11; 14:6.
The entrance of light
John 1:4,5,7,9; 8:12; 2 Cor. 4:6.
Christ our support
Isa. 22:23; Eccl. 12:11; Zech. 10:4.
The weapon of the Spirit
Isa. 49:2; Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17; Rev. 1:16; 19:5.
Fence, corral
Christ our protection
John 10:1-16.
He who was made “sin” for us
John 3:14; 2 Cor. 5:21.
Christ our guide
John 10:27-29.
Palm (of the hand)
Christ our safety
Isa. 49:16; John 17:6-12.
The voice of conscience
Matt. 4:1-11; Acts 9:5.
The water of life
John 4:1-14; 7:38,39.
Christ the fisher of men
Matt. 4:19; Luke 5:10; John 21:6-11.
Christ our staff, or king
Psa. 45:6,7; Heb. 1:8.
Our spiritual vision
Zech. 1:8; Rev. 4:6.
The “wisdom” of God
Luke 2:40; John 7:46.
Christ as the Just One (Righteousness)
Isa. 53:11; Acts 7:52.
The “mind of Christ”
Phil. 2:5-12; 1 Cor. 2:16.
Christ the “head” of the Body
Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:19.
Christ the “bread of life”
Matt. 4:4; John 4:32-34; 6:35,48.
Sign or cross
The perfect sacrifice to reconcile man to God
Rev. 14:1; Col. 1:20; 2:14.

Also, Jesus is the Word of God, and the Word of God is Jesus (Heb. 4:12; John 1:1,4; 1 John 1:1,2; Rev. 19:11,13). So this psalm sets out not only the attitude of Jesus to the Holy Scriptures, but also the believer’s attitude to Jesus, the Word made flesh. Full developments of these ideas would fill a volume.

6. Verse by verse


These verses are in third person: The Lord, he, his. Verses 4-176 are always in second person: Thou, thy. Why should this be?
Blessed are the undefiled (tamin = perfect, upright) in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord (Psa. 1:1). Except for Christ, there are no such people as the absolutely “undefiled” morally (1 John 1:8,10)! Therefore this must speak of sins forgiven (1 John 1:9, 2:1).

“Walk” is the Hebrew halachah, whence is derived the religious regime followed by a good Jew. So even in the New Testament, “walk” becomes a shorthand for “way of life” (1 Cor. 7:17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Rom. 6:4).
Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek (s.w. 2 Chron. 30:19) him with the whole heart. Here and always, “heart” = mind. The emphasis is not on the emotions but on the mind, will, intention, purpose. Seeking God now and then, or in half-hearted fashion, brings little or no blessing. Compare Psa. 27:8; Jer. 24:7; 29:13.
They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. Here is more idealism. Or is the phrase to be read as meaning: ‘They practice no iniquity’, as in 1 John 3:9; 5:18? Compare also Rom. 6:14.
Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. Note, here as elsewhere, that God’s Law is sought, not merely for the purpose of knowing it, but especially for the purpose of keeping it.
O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Here is (a) an open admission of the innate waywardness of human nature; and (b) an emotional longing to be a changed person — which can only come through divine direction (Phil. 4:13).
Then shall I not be ashamed, as anyone with alert conscience is bound to be (Gen. 3:7).

When I have respect unto all thy commandments. Literally, ‘when I look upon, or into’ them — as with a mirror (cp. James 1:23).
I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments (vv. 106,160,164). The words plainly imply that the way to achieve uprightness of heart is through close attention to God’s righteous judgments. Contrast the futility of the “good resolution” method ever to achieve significant change for the better.
I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly. That is, ‘I will keep Your statutes, but it will only be possible if You do not forsake me!’


Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word (Psa. 19:12; 34:11; 2 Cor. 7:1). “Thereto” refers to his way of life. One’s way of life and God’s Word should be put side by side, and examined together. How easy it is to do otherwise: to examine the Bible for a bit, quite theoretically, and then to put it entirely out of one’s mind while pondering the problems of how one should live in “the real world”! There is no young man who can afford to neglect this self-examination along with God’s Word. See Eph. 5:26. Consider Hezekiah at the young age of 25 (2 Chron. 29:1,3). And consider the examples of young men like Joseph (Gen. 39:9) and Daniel (1:8-20; 3:12-18).
With my whole heart (Psa. 86:11) have I sought thee (Phil. 3:13; Psa. 27:4; Isa. 26:8,9). Manifestly this was true of Jesus. Yet even he needed to use the prayer: O let me not wander from thy commandments. The mistrust of self is the result of a wholehearted seeking of God. Only a fool thinks for a moment that he can trust God and trust himself also.
Thy word (imrah = promise) have I hid in my heart. This is the secret (v. 9). Does the word “hid” (‘treasured’ or ‘laid up’) imply memorization? (And hence v. 13.) So this “hiding” is not for concealment so much as for security (Matt. 25:25; Psa. 40:10; Luke 8:15). Yet today there is no less popular religious devotion than memorization, which is scarcely practiced even in Sunday Schools! Consider the implications of Col. 3:16: How can God’s Word dwell richly in us at all times unless we have memorized it? Or, second-best but decidedly better than nothing, unless we have memorized the hymns drawn from Scripture itself?

Is there here also the intimation of a deep personal appreciation of the gospel which is for the most part incommunicable to others? One cannot describe this joy to those far removed from it; all one may say is, “Come and see!”
Blessed art thou, O Lord. Contrast the sense of “blessed” in v. 1.

Teach me thy statutes. Note the repeated emphasis on “teach me” (vv. 26,33,64,68,108,124,135).
With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth, according to the great Shema of Deut. 6:4-7:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (cp. Gen. 18:19; Psa. 37:30; Prov. 10:21; 15:4).
I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. This is Matt. 13:44:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”
I will meditate in thy precepts (Psa. 1:2; Josh. 1:8). But this Old Testament word has frequent associations with talking. What better way of meditating on God’s Word than talking about it?

And have respect unto thy ways. The word describes the track of a caravan in the desert (cp. “path”: v. 35).
I will delight myself in thy statutes. “Delight” in the Law of God comes in this psalm more than in all the rest of the Bible (vv. 35, 47,70,77). Paul quotes this in Rom. 7:22:

“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.”

I will not forget thy word. Again, an ideal, not a truism or a resolution.


Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word. But how? See Psa. 116:7,8: “Count your blessings” supplies perhaps the strongest motive power for keeping God’s Word.
Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. A jewel of a verse. Read it along with Prov. 25:2 (“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter”). There is no dedicated student of Holy Scripture who has not known the truth of this verse. This expresses the exquisite joy of a sudden insight into a Bible passage deemed to be already familiar and well comprehended. (Here, for “open”, the LXX has the word apokalypse, “uncover, unveil” — used as a verb.) How many, many times must this Scripture have been exemplified in the life of the young man Jesus! And consider also the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, and Lydia, and the Ethiopian eunuch. “Did not our heart burn within us?” (Luke 24:32)

“Wondrous things” = “marvels” in the LXX. The word nearly al-ways refers to miracles. So does this exclude it from the “ordinary” matters described in the previous paragraph? Of course not! Surely one of the greatest miracles is the ongoing enlightenment, by God’s Holy Word, of the naturally dark mind of the flesh.
I am a stranger (sojourner: cp. Psa. 39:12) in the earth (i.e., in the Land). Like Abraham (Gen. 17:8; 23:4; Heb. 11:9,13; 13:4), and therefore in dire need of help. Therefore thy commandments are my best main support.
My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times. How often does one encounter this degree of intense longing? Only in the young when desperately and passionately in love. For the same idea, compare v. 40; 42:1,2; 63:1; 84:2.
Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments. Better, “Thou hast rebuked the proud; cursed are they... ” Is the reference to Deut. 27:26 (“Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them”), or to the destruction of Sennacherib’s army (Isa. 37:36)? Not only a warning to the wicked but also a great encouragement to God’s faithful remnant.
Remove (or ‘roll away’) from me reproach and contempt: for I have kept thy testimonies. Compare Josh. 5:9, which is a parable:

“And the Lord said unto Joshua, ‘This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you.’ Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal [rolling] unto this day.”

But — a paradox — we must bear the reproach which the world laid upon Christ (Heb. 13:12,13; cp. Matt. 16:24; 24:9) if we are to have removed from us the reproach of sin!
Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes. There is a lovely contrast here between one kind of talk and another (see v. 15: “meditate”). This verse is to be pondered alongside a picture of Jesus standing before Caiaphas and the learned men of the Sanhedrin.
Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors. “Counsellors” (Hebrew ‘the men of my counsel’) has reference to the prophets of the Lord and their inspired wisdom.


My soul cleaveth unto the dust (Psa. 22:15; 44:25): quicken (cp. vv. 37, 40, 50, 88, 93, 107, 144, 149, 154, 156) thou me according to thy word. The best cure for personal misery is close application to the Word of God. With this verse (in the LXX) compare Acts 22:7:

“And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”

The unusual Greek word for “dust” or “ground” used by Paul (edaphos) may recall Psa. 119:25. Thus even as he fell to the dust at the vision of the Lord’s glory, his prayer was “Quicken me according to thy word”!
Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works. Is the idea-link this?: ‘Understanding thy precepts, I shall want the more to keep them. This will bring in its train a reward of wonderful experiences which I shall never cease to glory in.’
My soul melteth for heaviness (i.e., sorrow: RSV): strengthen thou me according unto thy word. Another assurance about the power of God’s Word to cope with miseries of the soul. Consider vv. 25 and 28 with reference to Gethsemane (Matt. 26:37,38; Mark 14:33,34; Luke 22:44).
Remove from me the way of lying, in the sense of apostasy (cp. v. 30). Not so much falsehood to men as unfaithfulness to God.
I have chosen the way of truth. Not the false way which was destruction (v. 29; Matt. 7:13,14), but the way of godly truth (John 14:6; Gen. 3:24) which, though narrow and wearying, is — both during its transit and at the end — rewarding.

Thy judgments have I laid before me. Note the italics; cp. Psa. 16:8:

“I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”
I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O Lord, put me not to shame. The idea behind “stuck” is that of a marriage (s.w. “cleave” in v. 25; Gen. 2:24; 1 Kings 11:2). Loyalty to God’s law may bring derision from the ungodly (Jesus had to face this), but any present shame will finally evaporate in true satisfaction and glory.
I will run the way of thy commandments. “Run” uses the idiom of a prophet taking the Word of God to the people (1 Kings 18:46; 2 Chron. 16:9; Psa. 147:15; Jer. 23:21; Dan. 12:4; Amos 8:12; Hab. 2:2; Ezek. 1:14,18,20; Zech. 4:10; Gal. 2:2; 2 Thes. 3:1).

When thou shalt enlarge my heart. “Heart” means “mind”, as always in both Old Testament and New Testament. The enlargement of the heart is God’s work of imparting to believers affection and love for His ways and His people:

“O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged... Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged” (2 Cor. 6:11,13).

Other versions read: “Set my heart at liberty” — a beautiful thought (cp. also v. 45): A heart released from bondage to sin and selfishness, so that it may “run” to carry a message of grace to those who are lost!


Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes: and I shall keep it unto the end. Compare v. 112; Rev. 2:26; Matt. 24:13.
Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. But if there is delight in God’s commandments, why should the psalmist need to be made to go in them? Here is acknowledgment of the truth of Rom. 7:21-23:

“I find then 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.”

Even in the best of circumstances, and with the greatest faith, man is a creature that vacillates between two opinions, and he needs all the divine help he can get to stay in the right way. Verses 36 and 37 have the same kind of emphasis.
Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness: v. 72; Ezek. 33:31; Luke 12:15; 1 Tim. 6:10; Heb. 13:5. Our Lord’s parables (Luke 12:16-21; 16:14,19), his teaching (Matt. 6:25-31), his terms of discipleship (Matt. 16:24; 19:27-29; Luke 14:33), and his own example of poverty and renunciation of this world’s comfort (Matt. 8:20) all are directed against this destructive principle of covetousness.
Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity, that is, a lying vision, a mirage perhaps — or an idol (which is, after all, nothing!). The word implies all that is trivial, hollow, or worthless. Paul links covetousness (cp. v. 36 here ) together with idolatry in Col. 3:5. Anyone or anything to which a man attributes great worth (worth-ship, or worship!) becomes a “god”, or an idol.

And quicken thou me in thy way seems to be used in the sense of a new birth.
Stablish thy word unto thy servant. Does this mean: ‘Remove from me all doubts that Holy Scripture is truly Thy Word?’ Or, ‘Fulfill Thy Promises made to me’ (2 Sam. 7:25)? “Thy word” is imrah: more exactly, ‘thy promise’ (2 Sam. 7:25 again).

Who is devoted to thy fear: Psa. 111:10; Job 28:28; Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Eccl. 12:13.
Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good. “Reproach” normally means the sneers of others against the righteous. Against such reproach God’s just judgment will provide vindication. The word for “fear” is an unusual one (s.w. Deut. 9:19; 28:60) — meaning very strong dread.
Compare v. 37.


Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even thy salvation, according to thy word. “Mercies” is one of the Old Testament words for God’s Promises. It is therefore equivalent to God’s “salvation”, according to His word (imrah = promise) in 2 Samuel 7.
So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word. This follows on perfectly. ‘So shall I have a word (dabar) to answer him who reproves me; for I trust in Your word (dabar).’ The taunts of Rabshakeh promised the utter overthrow of Judea and Jerusalem, but this noble psalmist put his trust in the promises of God (2 Chron. 32:6-8; 2 Kings 18:36).
And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments. “Truth” is another key word for the Promises of God, on which Hezekiah depended utterly. ‘Lord, please do not disappoint me!’
So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. An allusion to God’s abiding covenant with the house of David? And “for ever and ever” expresses also a firm conviction of everlasting life in that Davidic kingdom.

“Continually” suggests the idea of a daily sacrifice (as in vv. 109, 117).
And I will walk at liberty (cp. idea, v. 32). This is true in a twofold sense of Hezekiah: (a) he was no longer under the constraints dictated by his leprosy (cp. 2 Chron. 26:21), and (b) he was no longer “straitly shut up” in Jerusalem by the Assyrian siege.

Also see 2 Cor. 3:17: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (cp. James 1:25).
I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings (Psa. 138:1,4; Matt. 10:18,19). This is identifiable with 2 Chron. 32:23: the Gentile kings giving glory to the God of Israel and to Hezekiah his representative because of the miraculous overthrow of the hated Assyrian.

As with v. 32, so here: “liberty” in walking (v. 45) will naturally produce confidence in speaking (v. 46)! Note the amazing difference displayed by the apostles, and by Peter especially, before (Matt. 26:56,69,75) and after the resurrection of his Lord (Acts 2; 3; 4; 5) — which set them free.
My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments. An act of praise — praising God for giving His commandments to men. Or, possibly, there is an ellipsis here for ‘I will lift up my hands (praying for power to keep) thy commandments.’ Or, again, ‘I will lift up my hands (unto the place where Thou keepest) thy commandments’ — i.e., to the Most Holy, with its tables of the covenant.

Other instances of uplifted hands in prayer: Exod. 9:29,33; 2 Chron. 6:12; Ezra 9:5; Job 11:13; Psa. 28:2; 44:20; 68:31; 88:9; 134:2; 141:2; 143:6; Isa. 1:15. Also, instances of praying toward the Most Holy place: Dan. 6:10; 1 Kings 8:44,48; 2 Chron. 6:34; Psa. 5:7; 138:2; Jonah 2:4.


Remember the word (i.e., the promise: 2 Sam. 7) unto thy servant (i.e., David).

Upon which thou hast caused me to hope. “Hope” often carries the specialized meaning of the hope of having children (Ruth 1:12,13; Jer. 31:17; Rom. 4:18; 1 Pet. 1:3). This was Hezekiah’s great wish, that the Messianic line might be continued through him.
This is my comfort in my affliction: for (or, that... ) thy word hath quickened me. The “affliction” is surely referring to Hezekiah’s great illness.
The proud have had me greatly in derision. The primary reference is to the proud derision of Rabshakeh and his royal master (2 Chron. 32:10-20; cp. Psa. 42:3).

Yet have I not declined from thy law. ‘Yet did I not turn aside... ’
I remembered thy judgments of old, O Lord. Isaiah’s prophecy especially teems with allusions to God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt (see Psa. 114, Par. 1).

And have comforted myself:

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).
Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law. One of the main problems of Hezekiah’s reign was the faithless policy of the irreligious princes, who ran the country whilst their king was sick.
Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. That is, in this transient earthly “tabernacle” of my flesh (2 Cor. 5:1,4). In the most profound sense, those who worship God while themselves in mortal bodies are singing the Lord’s song “in a strange land” (Psa. 137:4). But one day they will receive glorious immortal bodies, and then — praise God! — they will sing “a new song” which “no man (whilst in the flesh) could (ever truly) learn” (Rev. 14:3)!
I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law. In the night, problems always appear at their worst. Then is the time to remember the memorial Name of the Lord and the wonderful certainties it enshrines.
This (which probably refers to all of vv. 49-55) I had, because I kept thy precepts.


Thou art my portion, O Lord (Psa. 16:5,6; 73:26). If there were not considerable evidence to the contrary, this phrase would suggest that the author is a priest (Num. 18:20; Deut. 10:8,9; 18:1). But of course Hezekiah, like David and Solomon, did make priestly intercession for his people (2 Chron. 30:18).

I have said means ‘I have determined that I would keep thy words.’ God’s “words” (imrah = promises) are the greatest portion or inheritance, because they embody all possible “portions”!
I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word. The great prayer of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38.
I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. Hezekiah’s early decision to live a godly life. The Hebrew for “thought” implies frequent and repeated meditation.
I made haste, and delayed not. A redundancy, but an effective one. For the same idea, cp. Gen. 19:16,17;22; Luke 19:5,6; Gal. 1:15,16; 2 Cor. 6:2. Generally speaking, if something is really worth doing, it is worth doing without delay!
The bands of the wicked have robbed me: but I have not forgotten thy law. “Bands” or cords refer to the constricting and confining siege of Jerusalem by the marauding Assyrians. But even war and siege could not rob Hezekiah of his knowledge of God’s Law and faith in Him.
At midnight (cp. v. 55), when a great Passover deliverance took place (Isa. 37:36). A righteous judgment, truly!

Also at midnight Paul and Silas sang hymns of praise in the Philippian jail (Acts 16:24,25).
I am a companion of all them that fear thee. Allusion to the faithful remnant which centered round the king and the prophet (e.g., Isa. 8:11-20). For the idea, see Psa. 1:1 and Mal. 3:16,17.
The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes: Psa. 24:1; 33:5; 104:24; Isa. 6:3; Hab. 2:14; 3:3. “The statutes of one who fills the world with goodness must be good” (William Kay).


Thou hast dealt well with thy servant. Compare v. 17. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psa. 103:2).
For I have believed thy commandments. Unless a man believes, the Bible is useless to him (John 7:17; 1 Thes. 2:13). But when he really believes he becomes consumed with an eagerness for divine knowledge, and he begins to partake of the special power of Holy Scripture that brings salvation (Rom. 1:16,17).
Before I was afflicted I went astray (cp. Deut. 32:15; Jer. 22:21): but now have I kept thy word. Waywardness in early days? Perhaps an allusion to Hezekiah’s regency, when he was still somewhat under the corrupting influence of a decadent father? Then was it the writing of a copy of the Law (Deut. 17:18-20) which brought about a dramatic change at the very beginning of Hezekiah’s reign? It is not easy to see a Messianic reference here.
Thou art good, and doest good (Exod. 34:6,7): teach me thy statutes. It is characteristic of this psalm that, the higher the conception of the Divine Nature, the more earnest becomes the prayer for knowledge of His will in relation to conduct.
The proud have forged a lie against me. “They besmear me with lies” (RSV); compare the modern equivalent of political “mud-slinging”. Either false Assyrian propaganda (Isa. 36:14-18), or an undermining of the king’s authority and a perversion of his policies by the princes (men like Shebna) who took over the direction of affairs during the king’s sickness.
Their heart is as fat as grease. A figure of the evil of material prosperity (Psa. 17:10; 73:7; Isa. 6:10). The great prototype is Eglon (Judg. 3).
It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes (cp. v. 67). “There are many keen joys that are discovered in the midst of affliction that are never dreamed of in the stupefying atmosphere of prosperity and ease. This is of God, who hath given even to affliction its compensating sweetness. In affliction the shell of thoughtless shallowness is broken through and heart speaks to heart in intimate and comforting communion. All the little meaningless things fade into their true insignificance, and the real and true things stand out in large and clear perspective” (G.V. Growcott).
The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands (of pieces or shekels) of gold and silver: Psa. 19:10; Prov. 3:13-15; 8:10,11,19; Matt. 13:45.


Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments (Matt. 7:7; James 1:5). See Psalm 139; Gen. 1:26. This verse pleads: ‘Lord, finish the job. Give me understanding of Your ways also.’ We are all, even at secondhand, subjects of the original creation; we hope to be subjects of the “New Creation” — so that God’s original intention for man and the earth may be completed and realized in us.
They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word. Hezekiah, restored from sickness (“when they see me”), became immediately the renewed and reinvigorated focus of hope for the faithful remnant in the nation.
I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me (vv. 67,71). To come to such a recognition of truth is a considerable spiritual achievement. Here in a nutshell is the problem of evil — solved! “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). So, “despise not thou the chastening of the Lord” (Heb. 12:5; Prov. 3:11,12).
Thy merciful kindness could be either (a) God’s Promises, or (b) God’s affliction. Each can be a great comfort.
Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight. See references, v. 16.
Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts. Verse 161; Psa. 35:19; 69:4; 109:3.
Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies. The last phrase should read: “And they shall know thy testimonies” — a happy outcome for the faithful remnant who accept the lead and example of the godly psalmist.
Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed. The Hebrew word for “sound” (tamin: s.w. v. 1) means ‘upright, wholesome’ or even ‘perfect’. A man whose heart is “upright” may possibly be despised, but he will not be ashamed (contrast v. 78)!


My soul fainteth (‘comes to an end’, ‘perishes’) for thy salvation (Gen. 49:18; 2 Sam. 23:5): but I hope in thy word. Low-spirited perhaps, but with Bible in hand hope is never abandoned: Psa. 73:26; 84:2,5.
Mine eyes fail (s.w. fainteth in v. 81) for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me? ‘Mine eyes fail for (i.e., I am straining my eyes to see) the fulfillment of Thy promises (imrah).’ ‘How long, O Lord?’ (cp. Isa. 38:14).
For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes. This refers to a dried, cracked wineskin, blackened with the smoke of affliction and suffering (Lam. 4:8). A beautiful allegory: While the skin (the outward man) ages and grows less useful and more brittle and unsightly, the wine inside (the inner man!) matures and develops perfection of character. Compare Christ’s parable, along similar lines, in Matt. 9:17.
Note the persecution theme.
How many are the days of thy servant? Meaning: ‘My days are all too short.’ “Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been” (Gen. 47:9; cp. Psa. 89:46-48).

When wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me? The brevity of human life — any human life, but perhaps especially Hezekiah’s — is used as a plea for early help. ‘Are my days so many as to allow delay? May I live long enough to see Your justice done!’ (cp. Psa. 89:49-51; and esp. Isa. 38:10-14).
The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law. See notes, Psa. 7:15 and 9:15.
They had almost consumed me upon earth. ‘They had almost made an end of me in the earth’ — the “pit” of v. 85!
Quicken me after thy lovingkindness. Not just ‘spare my life’, but ‘give me life’ — better, longer, and more satisfying.


For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven. The unalterable law of the heavens presents a picture of His unfailing promises (cp. Psa. 89:2,29,36; Jer. 31:35,37).
Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth. Eccl. 1:4; Psa. 37:29; 104:5; Prov. 10:30; 11:31; Matt. 5:5; Rom. 4:13; and many more!
They continue this day according to thine ordinance: for all are thy servants. Link this verse with 89 and 90. “From the ministering of the archangel to the labour of the insect, from the poising of the planets to the gravitation of a grain of dust, the power and glory of all creatures and of all matter consists in their obedience, not in their freedom” (Ruskin).
Unless thy law had been my delight, I should then have perished in mine affliction. Affliction is a killer. Delight in God’s Law is the only effective antidote. Compare Paul’s “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (1 Cor. 15:17,18).
I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me. Does a man ever forget the one who saved his life?
I am thine, save me; for I have sought thy precepts. The implications behind this simple verse are considerable: Those who truly belong to Christ (1 Cor. 3:23; Eph. 2:10) — who have been purchased with his blood (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:19,20) — can expect that he will not lightly forfeit his “investment”. If they have truly sought for him, so they know he will seek for them when they are in danger, and save them — time and time again (Isa. 43:1; 44:21,22; John 6:38,39; 17:12).
The wicked have waited for me to destroy me: but I will consider thy testimonies. “Waited” has a strong religious inflection, implying: The destruction of the upright is what the wicked are dedicated to.
I have seen an end of all perfection. That is, of all human “perfection”, as saith Rom. 3:19: “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God”.

“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done” (Eccl. 2:10,11).

But thy commandment is exceeding broad. “We can only have the highest happiness by having wide thoughts and much feeling for the rest of the world” (Eliot).


O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day. The first part of this verse — yes! But the second part — no! Some devout souls have been known to refuse to sing the paraphrase of these words. But such an attitude fails to recognize the idealism which this verse (and so much else in Psalm 119) expresses.

We love the Law because it is God’s Law, and it lives because He lives! God’s Law leads us to Him, reveals Him to us, draws us to Him, binds us to Him, and teaches us how to dwell in peace within the circle of His love and holiness.
Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they [i.e., thy commandments, not my enemies!] are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts. The assertions here would be outrageously egotistical if they were not plain truth. And the reasons are given: “More than my teachers... more than the ancients (aged: RSV; cp. Job 32:7)” should be true for all dedicated students of the Word today. There is no excuse for a bright young apprentice to the Scripture not knowing by the time he is twenty or twenty-five the best that his teachers of earlier generations have bequeathed to him.

How outstandingly true these verses were concerning Jesus:

“And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47).

“And the Jews marvelled, saying, ‘How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?’ ” (John 7:15).

“The officers answered, ‘Never man spake like this man’ ” (v. 46).
I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word. So there is a place in the life of the dedicated believer for negative rules — not “Thou shalt not”, but “I will not” — in order to make room for fuller spiritual development. The best rules are not the ones forced upon us, but the ones which we make (wisely and prudently, guided by the Bible, of course) for ourselves!

There is no uncertainty intended by “that I might”; it is a declaration of firm intention. This there must be. Without a firm intention, nothing good was ever accomplished. “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Rom. 12:9).
For thou hast taught me. By direct inspiration or through the words of the Bible? Or both?
How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Honey is a symbol of wisdom. Rev. 10:9-11 makes direct reference to this; compare also Exod. 16:31; Deut. 32:13; 1 Sam. 14:27,28; Psa. 19:10; 81:16; Prov. 24:13; Ezek. 3:3; Luke 24:42. Attraction to the true (v. 103) and revulsion against the false (v. 104) are, for all men, acquired tastes!
Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. A different kind of negative from v. 101. This “therefore” is very strong in its implications. There is a proper place for hating (cp. v. 113; Psa. 101:3; 139:21,22; Rev. 2:6).


Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Prov. 6:23; 2 Pet. 1:19). “A lamp” by night (so there is progress even in the “night”!), and “a light” by day (cp. the pillar of cloud and fire in Exod. 13:21,22). This word for “light” often means ‘dawn’, or ‘morning light’. Compare Christ’s parables (Matt. 5:15,16; Mark 4:21-25; Luke 8:16; 11:33).
I have sworn, and I will perform it — so help me God! These redundant words recognize the weakness of human nature and the strong spirit of dedication that is needed if any positive ambitions are to be carried out. God’s help is always available to earnest seekers, but personal resolution is needed too. It may not be expressed in Scriptural terms, but the thought certainly is Scriptural: ‘God helps those who (try to?) help themselves!’
I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word. And surely the One who is Himself afflicted in all our afflictions (Isa. 63:9) will hear and answer such a prayer.
My mouth makes its offering of praise to God; and eyes and ears are open to receive from God His gift of instruction. The freewill offerings of my mouth are praises of God, and other forms of prayer (Hos. 14:2; Heb. 13:15,16).
My soul is continually in my hand. My hand”? This rendering requires some first-class “explaining” to make any sense of at all. It may be possible, but is the effort really necessary? The LXX, however, reads: “in thy hand”, and with this there is no problem — only wonderful truth.
The wicked have laid a snare for me (cp. v. 85). Deliberately leading me astray? This certainly happened to many believers in the first century Church.
Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever. Implying, ‘And thus I need no other inheritance — lands, property, silver or gold.’ If God and His testimonies are our “heritage”, then all other things are essentially ours too (1 Cor. 3:21-23; 2 Cor. 6:10)! And so also in the teaching of Christ (Matt. 19:29; Mark 10:29,30).
I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end. The last phrase is very emphatic. It proclaims a life-long loyalty to truth and godliness. Compare v. 33.


I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love. “Vain” is in italics, but the idea is right. All thoughts which the mind naturally inclines to are trivial, unwholesome, and even debasing. The RSV personalizes the verse, thus: “double-minded men” (cp. James 1:8). The word is akin to that used by Elijah of the foolish people who halted, or hobbled, or hopped back and forth between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21). Moffatt put it this way: “the men who are half and half”. How the psalmist hates such men! How Christ does also (Rev. 3:15,16)! But how they (i.e., the psalmist and Christ) love God’s law!
Thou art my hiding place and my shield. Expressive figures of speech. “My hiding place” from foes (Isa. 25:4; 32:2; Psa. 31:20; Col. 3:3) and “my shield” from storms or danger of battle (Gen. 15:1; Psa. 3:3; 5:12; Eph. 6:16).

I hope in thy word. Not only does he take refuge in Yahweh Him-self, but also he trusts in His word. There is no incongruity here. It is precisely because God Himself is unchangeable, and always faithful, that His word is equally to be trusted. The two loyalties — to God personally and to what He has written — are never in conflict; they should always run parallel. The man who seems to love either one while paying no real regard to the other (and either of the two possibilities does happen!) is a sad contradiction.
Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God. Cited in Rev. 14:12: “Here are they that keep the commandments of God.”
Let me not be ashamed of my hope. Is this referred to in Rom. 5:5:

“And hope maketh not ashamed”?
Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe. “My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me” (Psa. 63:8). “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” (Song 8:5).
Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes: for their deceit is falsehood. But is not all deceit falsehood? Perhaps this is especially false in the sense of denying or flouting God’s Law. (For God’s enemies being trodden underfoot, see Josh. 10:24; Psa. 8:6; 110:1.)
Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross: therefore I love thy testimonies. “Dross” is the worthless residue from the refining of metal (Jer. 6:28-30; Ezek. 22:18-20). But contrast Psa. 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

Therefore I love thy testimonies. Here is the pure metal (Psa. 12:6; 19:8; Prov. 30:5).
My flesh trembleth for fear of thee. “Flesh” can be read here both literally (the meaning of which is easy) and figuratively (with reference to the baser side of human nature). “Trembleth” is an extraordinarily powerful word: other versions have “bristles” (hair standing on end!), “shudders”, and “creeps”.

And I am afraid of thy judgments. Not a fear of God’s retribution against the wicked or of the great Day of Judgment, but rather a trembling before the sheer idealism and purity of God’s Law.


I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors. A sharp contrast between Hezekiah’s conscientious rule of his people, and the brutal oppression threatened by the Assyrian invasion.
Be surety for thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me. One of the two verses (see also v. 132, and Par. 1) which appear to lack any reference to God’s Law or Word. But it requires only a very slight change in the Hebrew text (an error which is paralleled in quite a few places), in order to read “Be surety for thy servant (abad) for good” as “Undertake [for me; s.w. Isa. 38:14] by thy word (dabar) for good”.

“To be surety... for good” means to guarantee the safety of another (see Gen. 43:9; 44:32; Job 17:3).
Mine eyes fail (cp. v. 82) for thy salvation, and for the word of thy righteousness. Here is a picture of a man deprived of godly instruction and without a sense of safety. Hezekiah’s sickness and the Assyrian threat came together: Isa. 38:5,6.
Deal with thy servant according unto thy mercy, and teach me thy statutes. The more we learn of God’s statutes, the more deeply we realize our need for His mercy.
I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies. And being a servant, I cannot demand — but I can beg for Your help.
It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law. This must have been appropriate to quote throughout all the decadent ages of mankind, but how much more so today! Another form of the reiterated plea: ‘How long, O Lord?’ How important it is that prayers for the coming of God’s Kingdom should be motivated by an eagerness to see His authority and righteousness openly asserted. How often is the motive different from this: e.g., a change to an era of personal comfort or exaltation — ‘My kingdom come’!
Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold (v. 72). The link with v. 126 is inescapable: “Therefore”, i.e., because men despise or flout God’s Law. See also the “Therefore” in v. 128.
Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way (vv. 29,104). Here “all things” appears to be a dittograph (an inadvertent repetition by the copyist). The LXX reads: “I esteem all precepts to be right”, an evident contrast between the psalmist here and “they” of v. 126.


Thy testimonies are wonderful. This is the s.w. as in Deut. 30:11 (“hidden”). God’s testimonies are deeper by far than any man can fathom — though we are expected continually to make the effort (Prov. 25:2).
The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. “Entrance” is pethach, the opening of a door. “Simple” does not mean half-witted, but rather innocent or single-minded (cp. Rom. 16:19). As a beam of light from an opened door illuminates a dark chamber, so God’s Word, once admitted to a natural mind, enlightens every corner (see Luke 24:32; Acts 17:3).
I opened (not s.w. v. 130) my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6).
Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name. “As thou usest to do unto” should be “As in thy judgment (mishpat) unto”. Thus some allusion to the Law or Word of God is preserved in every verse (see Par. 1).
Order my steps in (or, by) thy word. The AV reading here means that even when a man has a Bible in his hand he needs God’s help if he is to gain real insight into the message (see Par. 4). The alternative “by” is less emphatic. But either way, if iniquity is not to have dominion, God’s word must be the means of release from that bondage. Any appeal to or expectation of “God’s Spirit” to guide man in some vague, ethereal way — without recourse to the written word — will never yield the desired results. Undoubtedly God’s Holy Spirit does work even today in the lives of believers, but it simply does not work in any way in the lives of those who disregard God’s Spirit-Word.
Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts. Contrast v. 133. Here devotion to God’s precepts is the grateful response to deliverance from evil men.
Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes. This is the Day of Atonement blessing (Num. 6:23-27). Here is God’s gift of forgiveness leading on naturally to an eagerness to show a worthy response to His grace: ‘So will I keep thy precepts’.
Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law (cp. Lam. 3:48). Here “they” may mean (a) ‘mine eyes’, or (b) other people (cp. v. 158). The former expresses deep penitence for personal inadequacy. The latter laments the flouting of God’s Law by worldly men, in like manner as Ezek. 9:4: “the men that sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof”.

The tears of Jesus: Psa. 6:6; 39:12; 42:3; 56:8; 69:10; 116:8; John 11:35,36; Heb. 5:7; Luke 19:41; 22:41-44.


Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments. Quoted in Rev. 16:7 and 19:2.
Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful. “Faithful” often implies “dependable”, as related to God’s promises. There are readily traceable, for example, in God’s testimonies, the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:6,11,12).
My zeal hath consumed me (Psa. 69:9; John 2:17), because mine enemies have forgotten thy words. These men have known God’s instruction and have chosen to ignore it. The writer’s indignation blazes especially against such, who — having known the Truth of God — turn away from it.
Thy word is very pure (tried, or refined: Psa. 12:6; 19:7,8; Prov. 30:5): therefore thy servant loveth it. Though he may be faulty in performance, the psalmist is a connoisseur in his high appreciation of Scripture’s fine moral tone (cp. Matt. 13:45,46).
I am small and despised. Hezekiah at a low. He is in similar low spirits in Isaiah 38; yet the outcome there is wonderful.
Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth. Even when God’s ways are mysterious and difficult, there must be this conviction that there is never a flaw in His working. Contrast the glib modern complaint: ‘If there is a God, why does he allow such calamities to happen?’ See vv. 143,144: ‘Even though I partake of trouble and anguish, help me, O Lord, to understand Your righteousness and Your will! And if I cannot really understand, then give me faith to accept Your will nevertheless.’


I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord: I will keep thy statutes. How can a man keep God’s statutes except there be this almost desperate eagerness (v. 146)?
I prevented the dawning of the morning (“I rise before dawn”: NIV, RSV), and cried: I hoped in thy word. Bible study and prayer even before the sun rises.
Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word. Bible reading again before night comes on, so that in the night there is something good to meditate on and talk about. (See note on the “night watches”, Psalms Studies, Psa. 63, Par. 5, v. 6.)
Hear my voice according unto thy lovingkindness. That is, in harmony with Thy promises. Thus there is confidence that God will quicken me according to thy judgment.
They draw nigh that follow after mischief: they are far from thy law. Who are these? Benighted Assyrians beginning the siege? Or faithless counsellors?
Thou art near, O Lord; and all thy commandments are truth. This verse answers v. 150 thus: ‘God is more near than they, and the truth of His promises will soon be evident.’ So the threat of v. 150 is not ignored nor even minimized; but it is put in perspective by the greater fact.
Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever. “I have known of old”, from a pondering of the Bible record of God’s ways in times past.


Consider mine affliction, which (v. 154) appears to consist of sharp antagonism on the part of hostile men.
Plead my cause with the Assyrians! So God did!

Deliver me is “Redeem me”; the Hebrew word implies that the Lord is a near-kinsman. This word ga’al naturally points our minds to the man who, whilst a “near-kinsman” of God Himself, is also —how marvelous! — our “near-kinsman” too!
Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes. Apparently implying that if a man is to find salvation he must seek God’s statutes.
Great are thy tender mercies, O Lord (v. 77): Psa. 25:6; 40:11; 51:1; 69:16; 79:8; 103:4; 145:9; Luke 1:78; James 5:11.
Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psa. 34:19).
I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word. Hezekiah, incapacitated, is aware of his princes using the palace for their godless cabinet meetings, and is grieved at their policies (e.g., Isa. 30:1-3; 31:1-3), but helpless.
Quicken me, O Lord, according to thy lovingkindness. A plea for restoration to life according to God’s Promise: Psa. 6:4,5 (“for thy mercies’ sake”); Isa. 38:18. The same reason is given in both places: I love thy precepts.
Thy word is true from the beginning. Genesis 1.

And every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever, like the heavens and earth of Genesis 1.


Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word. Compare v. 78; Psa. 35:19; 69:4; 109:3. The last phrase implies: ‘I am in awe of God, not of them, my enemies.’ (One significant misprint of one early edition of the English Bible gave this verse as: “Printers have persecuted me without a cause”!)
I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil. Anticipating Matt. 12:29 or 13:44 or 13:52 — or all?
I hate and abhor lying. Hezekiah the honest and faithful encountered much treacherous dealing (see Isa. 30:1-7; 31:1-3; 33:1).
Seven times a day (cp. Dan. 6:10; 1 Tim. 5:5; Luke 2:37) do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments. Then why eight verses in each section? Is this true every day? Or does he more probably refer to some special day, like the Feast of Pentecost, set aside for thy special purpose?
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them (John 14:27; 16:33). For “offend them”, read ‘cause them to stumble’ (cp. “the stone of stumbling”: Isa. 8:14,15; Psa. 118:22, notes). If a man’s faith is true, it supports him through all circumstances of strain or distress. Yet how often it happens that when times are rough, the first casualty is the steady observance of religious duties: perhaps mid-week classes are let go, and then some Sundays slide by without the Lord being remembered in the appointed manner. This is not a collapse of faith, but a revealing of non-faith:

“He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him” (1 John 2:10).

Instead: “Though He (or they) slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15). All the circumstances of life are for a man’s good (Rom. 8:28). But this outlook is possible only to “them that love thy law”. If a situation of strain develops into an occasion of stumbling, it is because God’s Law has not been given its true place in life.
My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly. Here is (a) the cause of (b)? Or is (b) the cause of (a)? Surely both! If we keep, then we love. And if we love, then we keep. And each action, the loving and the keeping, enhances the other in a continuous cyclical effect. The more we love, the more we keep! And the more we keep, the more we love!
I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies: for all my ways are before thee. This conjunction “for” could read “when”. It is when a man has this consciousness of living all his life in the presence of God, that the keeping of precepts and testimonies becomes possible, and even relatively easy.


A heartfelt cry for “More light!”: Let my cry come near before thee, O Lord: give me understanding according to thy word.
Let my supplication come before thee: deliver me according to thy word. God has promised to deliver. Then why the need for intense supplication? Importunity is not to be curtailed, no matter what (Luke 18:2-8). We must always think of God as under no obligation to hear us, or to act on our behalf. Whether He does, and how, is entirely within His good pleasure.
My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes. “Utter” is a word describing water gushing forth from a spring; it links with the word for “prophet”. Here is intense thanksgiving for a sudden enlightenment. In such rare experiences the delight of discovery (or rather, of revelation) moves instinctively into praise.
My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness. Joy in God’s Word should just as instinctively express itself in good conversation about that Word — to those who do not know it, and to those who do!
I have longed for thy salvation, O Lord; and thy law is my delight. God’s law is not the true end (as the rabbis have made it). The true end is salvation.
Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee: and let thy judgments help me. A sick Hezekiah looks beyond the expected recovery to the dedicated life in the fifteen years ahead.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. What a remarkable end to this unique psalm! This admission of serious failure comes after scores and scores of protestations of keeping God’s commandments! And so the possibility of abject failure is always there, even for the most solid and experienced of saints. But so also is the possibility (nay, the certainty!) of restoration and renewal for those who, even in their sins, do not forget God.

“Like a lost sheep”: Members of God’s flock know when they are lost. There is no total forgetting of God and His Truth. The Good Shepherd is looking for them, even as they are looking for him. He will carry them on his shoulders, and bring them back into his fold with rejoicing.
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