129. ph Thy testimonies are marvelous; therefore my soul hath kept them.130. ph The entrance of thy words is light, which giveth understanding to the little ones.131. ph I opened my mouth and panted, because I loved thy commandments.132. ph Look upon me, and be merciful to me, according to thy judgment towards them that love thy name.133. ph Direct my steps according to thy word, and let no iniquity have dominion in me.134. ph Deliver me from the oppression of men; and I will keep thy precepts.135. ph Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes.136. ph Rivers of waters run from my eyes, because they have not kept thy law.
129. Thy testimonies are marvelous. I have given this translation to avoid an ambiguous form of expression. The Prophet does not simply mean, that the doctrine of the law is wonderful, but that it contains high and hidden mysteries. Accordingly he declares, that the sublime and admirable wisdom which he found comprehended in the divine law led him to regard it with reverence. This is to be carefully marked, for the law of God is proudly despised by the great majority of mankind, when they do not duly taste its doctrine, nor acknowledge that God speaks from his throne in heaven, that, the pride of the flesh being abased, he may raise us upward by the apprehension of faith. We also gather from this passage, that it is impossible for any man to keep the law of God from the heart, unless he contemplate it with feelings of reverence: for reverence is the beginning of pure and right subjection. Accordingly, I have said that many despise God's Word, because they think it inferior to the acuteness of their own understandings. Yea, many are led to break forth more audaciously into this heaven-daring contempt, from the vanity of showing their own ingenuity. But, although worldly men may flatter themselves in that proud disdain of the divine law, yet the commendation which the Prophet pronounces upon it still holds true, that it comprehends mysteries which far transcend all the conceptions of the human mind.
130. The entrance of thy word is light. The amount is, that the light of the truth revealed in God's word, is so distinct that the very first sight of it illuminates the mind. The word phtch pethach, properly signifies an opening, but metaphorically it is taken for a gate. Accordingly the old translator has rendered it beginning, which is not improper, provided it is understood of the rudiments or first elements of the divine law. It is as if the Prophet had -- |Not only do those who have attained an accurate acquaintance with the whole law, and who have made the study of it the business of their lives, discern there a clear light, but also those who have studied it even very imperfectly, and who have only, so to speak, entered the porch.| Now we must reason from the less to the greater. If tyroes and novices begin to be enlightened at their first entrance, what will be the case when a man is admitted to a full and perfect knowledge?
In the second clause the Prophet unfolds his meaning more fully. By little ones he denotes such as neither excel in ingenuity nor are endued with wisdom, but rather are unskilled in letters, and unrefined by education. Of such he affirms that, as soon as they have learned the first principles of the law of God, they will be endued with understanding. It ought to have a most powerful influence in exciting in us an earnest desire to become acquainted with the law of God, when we are told that even those who, in the estimation of the world, are fools, and contemptible simpletons, provided they apply their minds to this subject, acquire from it wisdom sufficient to lead them to eternal salvation. Although it is not given to all men to attain to the highest degree in this wisdom, yet it is common to all the godly to profit so far as to know the certain and unerring rule by which to regulate their life. Thus no man who surrenders himself to the teaching of God, will loose his labor in his school, for from his first entrance he will reap inestimable fruit. Meanwhile we are warned, that all who follow their own understanding, wander in darkness. By affirming that the little ones are enlightened, David intimates, that it is only when men, divested of all self confidence, submit themselves with humble and docile minds to God, that they are in a proper state for becoming proficient scholars in the study of the divine law. Let the Papists mock, as they are accustomed to do, because we would have the Scriptures to be read by all men without exception; yet it is no falsehood which God utters by the mouth of David, when he affirms that the light of his truth is exhibited to fools. God will not, therefore, disappoint the desire of such as acknowledge their own ignorance, and submit themselves humbly to his teaching.
131. I opened my mouth and panted. By these words the Psalmist would have us to understand that he was inflamed with such love to and longing for the divine law, that he was unceasingly sighing after it. In comparing himself to such as are hungry, or to such as burn with parching thirst, he has used a very appropriate metaphor. As such persons indicate the vehemence of their desire by opening the mouth, and by distressful panting, as if they would suck up the whole air, even so the Prophet affirms that he himself was oppressed with continual uneasiness. The opening of the mouth, then, and the drawing of breath, are set in opposition to a cold assent to the word of God. Here the Holy Spirit teaches with what earnestness of soul the knowledge of divine truth is to be sought. Whence it follows, that such as make little or no proficiency in God's law, are punished by their own indolence or carelessness. When David affirms that he panted continually, he points out not only his ardor but also his constancy.
132. Look upon me, and be merciful to me. In this verse he beseeches God to have a regard to him: as he is accustomed always to look to those who are his people. The Hebrew word mspht mishpat, translated judgment, signifies in this passage, as in many others, a common rule, or ordinary usage. He next adds the purpose for which he desires that God would look upon him, namely, that he may be relieved from his miseries. This, then, is the prayer of an afflicted man, who, when apparently destitute of all help, and unable to come to any other conclusion than that he is neglected and forsaken of God, yet reflects with himself, that, for God to forsake him, was foreign to his nature and to his usual manner of procedure. It is as if he had said -- Although I can perceive no token of thy favor, yea, although my condition is so wretched and desperate, that, judging according to sense and reason, I deem that thou hast turned the back: upon me; yet, as from the beginning of the world to the present day, thou hast testified, by numberless proofs, that thou art merciful to thy servants, I beseech time that, acting according to this rule, thou wouldst now exercise the like loving-kindness towards me. It is to be particularly noticed, lest those whom God does not immediately answer may become discouraged, that the Prophet had been long oppressed by miseries, without any prospect of relief. Yet it is at the same time to be observed, that the Prophets sole ground of confidence in asking this from God is his free goodness. Whence we gather that, although he was a man of eminent sanctity, yet the undeserved grace of God was his only refuge. With respect to the word judgment, let us learn from the Prophet's example to acquaint ourselves with the nature of God, from the various experiences we have had of it that we may have certain evidence that he is merciful to us. And, in truth, were not his grace known to us from the daily experience we have of it, which of us would dare to approach him? But if our eyes are not blind, we must perceive the very clear testimonies by which he fortifies our faith, so that we need not doubt that all the godly are the objects of his regard; only we must endeavor to be among the number of those who love his name. By this title is meant genuine believers; for those who only slavishly fear God are not worthy of being reckoned among his servants. He requires a voluntary obedience from us, so that nothing may be more delightful to us than to follow whithersoever he calls us. It is, however, at the same time to be observed, that this love proceeds from faith; yea, the Prophet here commends the grand effect of faith, by separating the godly, who lean upon the grace of God, from worldly men, who, having given their hearts to the enticements of the world, never lift up their minds towards heaven.
133. Direct my steps according to thy word. By these words he shows, as he has often done before in other places, that the only rule of living well is for men to regulate themselves wholly by the law of God. We have already repeatedly seen in this Psalm, that so long as men allow there-selves to wander after their own inventions, God rejects whatever they do, however laborious the efforts they may put forth. But as the Prophet declares that men's lives are then only framed aright when they yield themselves wholly to the obeying of God, so, on the other hand, he confesses that to do this is not within their own will or power. God's law, it is evident, will not make us better by merely prescribing to us what is right. Hence the outward preaching of it is compared to a dead letter. David, then, well instructed in the law, prays for an obedient heart being given him, that he may walk in the way set before him. Here two points are particularly deserving of our notice -- first, that God deals bountifully with men, when he invites them to himself by his word and doctrine; and, secondly, that still all this is lifeless and unprofitable, until he govern by his Spirit those whom he has already taught by his word. As the Psalmist desires not simply to have his steps directed, but to have them directed to God's word, we may learn that he did not hunt after secret revelations, and set the word at nought, as many fanatics do, but connected the external doctrine with the inward grace of the Holy Spirit; and herein consists the completeness of the faithful, in that God engraves on their hearts what he shows by his word to be right. Nothing, therefore, is more foolish than the fancy of those who say, that in enjoining upon men what he would have them to do, God estimates the strength which they have to perform it. In vain does divine truth sound in our ears, if the Spirit of God does not effectually pierce into our hearts. The Prophet confesses that it is to no purpose for him to read or hear the law of God, unless his life is regulated by the secret influence of the Holy Spirit, that he may thus be enabled to walk in that righteousness which the law enjoins. In the second clause he reminds us how necessary it is for us to be continually presenting this prayer at the throne of grace, acknowledging that he is the bond-slave of sin until God stretch forth his hand to deliver him. direct me, says he, that iniquity may not have dominion in me. So long, then, as we are left to ourselves, Satan exercises', over us his despotic sway uncontrolled, so that we have not power to rid ourselves of iniquity. The freedom of the godly consists solely in this -- that they are governed by the Spirit of God, and thus preserved from succumbing to iniquity, although harassed with hard and painful conflicts.
134. Deliver me from the oppression of men. When recounting what had befallen himself, the Prophet shows, by his own example, that all the godly are exposed to rapine and oppression, and that, like sheep in the mouths of wolves, they will be inevitably destroyed unless God defend them. As very few are governed by the Spirit of God, it is no wonder if all love of equity is banished from the world, and if all men are found everywhere rushing into all kinds of wickedness, some impelled by cruelty, and others devoted to fraud and deceit. When, therefore, the Prophet saw that he was overwhelmed on all sides with injuries, he betook himself to God as his deliverer. By the word deliver he intimates, that unless he is preserved in a wonderful manner, it is all over with him. In the second clause, he engages that he will not prove ungrateful for his deliverance: And I will keep thy precepts Nothing more effectually strengthens us, in an earnest desire and endeavor to follow after integrity and righteousness, than when we find by experience, that God's defense is of more value to us than all the unlawful helps to which worldly men unusually have recourse. We are taught from this passage, that when engaged in contest with the wicked, we ought not to suffer our minds to be actuated by malice, but that, however violently and unjustly they may assault us, we should rest; contented with the deliverance which God bestows, and with that alone; and again, that every instance in which we experience the grace of God in delivering us, should be a spur to incite us to follow after uprightness. He delivers us for no other end, but that the fruits of our deliverance may be manifested in our life; and we are too perverse if that experience is not sufficient to convince us, that all who persevere in the unfeigned fear of God, will always abide in safety by his aid, although the whole world may be against them.
135. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant. There is here the repetition of a prayer which we have several times met with before in this Psalm. The Prophet intimates, that he regarded nothing as of more importance than rightly to understand the divine law. When he beseeches God to make his face to shine upon his servant, he, in the first place, seeks to win the fatherly favor of God -- for nothing is to be hoped for from Him unless we have an interest in his favor -- but he at the same time, shows the greatness of the blessing. There is no testimony of the love of God, as if he had said, which I am more desirous to obtain than to be enabled to make progress in his law. Whence we gather, as I have lately observed, that he preferred divine truth to all the possessions of the world. Would to God that this affection were vigorous in our hearts! But that which the Prophet extols so highly, is neglected by the great proportion of mankind. If individuals are to be found stimulated by this desire, we see them presently falling back to the Measurements of the world, so that there are very few, indeed, who renouncing all other desires, seek earnestly with David to become acquainted with the doctrine of the law. Besides, as God vouchsafes this privilege only to those whom he has embraced with his fatherly love, it is proper for us to begin with this prayer, That he would make his face to shine upon us. This form of expression, however, conveys something more -- it implies, that it is only when God illumines the minds of his believing people with the true knowledge of the law, that he delights them with the beams of his favor. It often happens that, even in regard to them, God's countenance is overcast with clouds in this respect, namely, when he deprives them of tasting the sweetness of his word.
136. Rivers of waters run from my eyes. Here David affirms that he was inflamed with no ordinary zeal for the glory of God, inasmuch as he dissolved wholly into tears on account of the contempt put upon the divine law. He speaks hyperbolically; but still he truly and plainly expresses the disposition of mind with which he was endued; and it corresponds with what he says in altogether place, |The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.| (Psalm 69:9.) Wherever the Spirit of God reigns, he excites this ardent zeal, which burns the hearts of the godly when they see the commandment of the Most High God accounted as a thing of nought. It is not enough that each of us endeavor to please God; we must also desire that his law may be held in estimation by all men. In this way holy Lot, as the Apostle Peter testifies, vexed his soul when he beheld Sodom a sink of all kinds of wickedness. (2 Peter 2:8.) If, in former times, the ungodliness of the world extorted from the children of God such bitter grief, so great is the corruption into which we at this day are fallen, that those who can look upon the present state of things unconcerned and without tears, are thrice, yea four times, insensible. How great in our day is the frenzy of the world in despising God and neglecting his doctrine? A few, no doubt, are to be found who with the mouth profess their willingness to receive it, but scarcely one in ten proves the sincerity of his profession by his life. Meanwhile countless multitudes are hurried away to the impostures of Satan and to the Pope; others are as thoughtless and indifferent about their salvation as the lower animals; and many Epicureans openly mock at all religion. If there is, then, the smallest portion of piety remaining in us, full rivers of tears, and not merely small drops, will flow from our eyes. But if we would give evidence of pure and uncorrupted zeal, let our grief begin at ourselves -- at our seeing that we are yet far from having attained to a perfect observance of the law; yea, that the depraved lusts of our carnal nature are often rising up against the righteousness of God.