Exposition of Psalm 119:41-48

by Charles Spurgeon

41. Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even thy salvation, according
to thy word.

42. So shall I have wherewith to answer hint that reproacheth me: for I
trust in thy word.

43. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have
hoped in thy judgments.

44. So shall I keep thy law continually far ever and ever.

45. And I will walk at liberty for I seek thy precepts.

46. I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.

47. And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.

48. My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved
and I will meditate in thy statutes.

In these verses holy fear is apparent and prominent. The man of God
trembles lest in any way or degree the Lord should remove his favor from
him. The eight verses are one continued pleading for the abiding of grace in
his soul, and it is supported by such holy arguments as would only suggest
themselves to a spirit: burning with love to God.

41 “Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even thy salvation,
according to thy word.”

“Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord.” He desired mercy as well
as teaching, for he was guilty as well as ignorant. He needed much mercy
and varied mercy, hence the request is in the plural. He needed mercies
from God rather than from man and so he asks for “thy mercies.” The
way of grace appeared to be blocked, and therefore he begs that the
mercies may have their way cleared by God, and may “come” to him. He
who said, “Let there be light,” can also say, “Let there be mercy.” It
may be that under a sense of unworthiness the writer feared lest mercy
should be given to others, and not to himself; he therefore cries, “Let them
come unto me;” “Bless me, even me also, O my Father.” The words are
tantamount to our well-known verse —

“Lord, I hear of showers of blessing
Thou art scattering, full and free;
Showers, the thirsty land refreshing;
Let some droppings fall on me,
Even me.”

Lord, thine enemies come to me to reproach me, let thy mercies come to
me to defend me; trials and troubles abound, and labors and sufferings not
a few approach me; Lord, let thy mercies in great number enter by the
same gate, and at the same hour; for art thou not “the God of my

“Even thy salvation.” This is the sum and crown of all mercies —
deliverance from all evil, both now and for ever. Here is the first mention
of salvation in the psalm, and it is joined with mercy: “By grace are ye
saved.” Salvation is styled “thy salvation,” thus ascribing it wholly to the
Lord: “He that is our God is the God of salvation.” What a mass of
mercies are heaped together in the one salvation of our Lord Jesus! It
includes the mercy which spares us till our conversion, and leads to that
conversion. We have calling mercy, regenerating mercy, converting mercy,
justifying mercy, pardoning mercy. Nor can we exclude from complete
salvation any of those many mercies which conduct the believer safely to
glory. Salvation is an aggregate of mercies, incalculable in number,
priceless in value, incessant in application, eternal in endurance. To the
God of our mercies be glory, world without end.

“According to thy word.” The way of salvation is described in the word;
salvation itself is promised in the word; and its inward manifestation is
wrought by the word; so that in all respects the salvation which is in Christ
Jesus is in accordance with God’s word. David loved the Scriptures, but he
longed experimentally to know the salvation contained in them: he was not
satisfied to read the word, he longed to experience its inner sense. He
valued the field of Scripture for the sake of the treasure which he had
discovered in it. He was not contented with having chapter and verse, he
wanted mercies and salvation.

Note that in the first verse of the section which bears the letter HE (33) the
Psalmist prayed to keep God’s word, and here in VAU he begs the Lord to
keep his word. In the first case he longed to come to the God of mercies,
and here he would have the Lord’s mercies come; to him: there he sought
grace to persevere in faith, and here he seeks the end of his faith, even the
salvation of his soul.

42. “So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I
trust in thy word.”

“So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me.” This is
an unanswerable answer. When God, by granting us salvation, gives to our
prayers an answer of peace, we are ready at once to answer the objections
of the infidel, the quibbles of the skeptical, and the sneers of the
contemptuous. It is most desirable that revilers should be answered, and
hence we may expect the Lord to save his people, in order that a weapon
may be put into their hands with which to rout his adversaries. When those
who reproach us are also reproaching God, we may ask him to help us to
silence them by sure proofs of his mercy and faithfulness.

“For I trust in thy word.” His faith was seen by his being trustful while
under trial, and he pleads it as a reason why he should be helped to beat
back reproaches by a happy experience. Faith is our argument when we
seek mercies and salvation; faith in the Lord who has spoken to us in his
word. “I trust in thy word” is a declaration more worth the making than
any other; for he who can truly make it has received power to become a
child of God, and so to be the heir of unnumbered mercies. God hath more
respect to a man’s trust than to all else that is in him; for the Lord hath
chosen faith to be the hand into which he will place his mercies and his
salvation. If any reproach us for trusting in God, we. reply to them with
arguments the most conclusive when we show that God has kept his
promises, heard our prayers, and supplied our needs. Even the most
skeptical are forced to bow before the logic of facts.

In this second verse of this octave the Psalmist makes a confession of faith,
and a declaration of his belief and experience. Note that he does the same
in the corresponding verses of the sections which follow. See 50, “Thy
word hath quickened me”; 58, “I intreated thy favor ”; 66, “I have
believed thy commandments”; 74, “I have hoped in thy word.” A wise
preacher might find in these a valuable series of experimental discourses.

43. “And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have
hoped in thy judgments.”

“And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth.” Do not prevent
my pleading for thee by leaving me without deliverance; for how could I
continue to proclaim thy word if I found it fail me? such would seem to be
the run of the meaning. The word of truth cannot be a joy to our mouths
unless we have an experience of it in our lives, and it may be wise for us to
be silent if we cannot support our testimonies by the verdict of our
consciousness. This prayer may also refer to other modes by which we may
be disabled from speaking in the name of the Lord: as, for instance, by our
falling into open sin, by our becoming depressed and despairing, by our
laboring under sickness or mental aberration, by our finding no door of
utterance, or meeting with no willing audience. He who has once preached
the gospel from his heart is filled with horror at the idea of being put out of
the ministry; he will crave to be allowed a little share in the holy testimony,
and will reckon his dumb Sabbaths to be days of banishment and

“For I have hoped in thy judgments.” He had expected God to appear
and vindicate his cause, that so he might speak with confidence concerning
his faithfulness. God is the author of our hopes, and we may most fittingly
entreat him to fulfil them. The judgments of his providence are the
outcome of his word; what he says in the Scriptures he actually performs in
his government; we may therefore look for him to show himself strong on
the behalf of his own threatenings and promises, and we shall not look in

God’s ministers are sometimes silenced through the sins of their people,
and it becomes them to plead against such a judgment; better far that they
should suffer sickness or poverty than that the candle of the gospel should
be put out among them, and that thus they should be left to perish without
remedy. The Lord save us, who are his ministers, from being made the
instruments of inflicting such a penalty. Let us exhibit a cheerful
hopefulness in God, that we may plead it in prayer with him when he
threatens to close our lips.

In the close of this verse there is a declaration of what the Psalmist had
done in reference to the word of the Lord, and in this the thirds of the
octaves are often alike. See 35, “therein do I delight”; 43, “I have hoped
in thy judgments”; 51, “yet have I not declined from thy law”; 59, “I
turned my feet unto thy testimonies”; and verses 67, 83, 99, etc. These
verses would furnish an admirable series of meditations.

44. “So shall I keep thy law continually far ever and ever.” Nothing
more effectually binds a man to the way of the Lord than an experience of
the truth of his word, embodied in the form of mercies and deliverances.
Not only does the Lord’s faithfulness open our mouths against his
adversaries, but it also knits our hearts to his fear, and makes our union
with him more and more intense. Great mercies lead us to feel an
inexpressible gratitude which, failing to utter itself in time, promises to
engross eternity with praises. To a heart on flame with thankfulness, the
“always, unto eternity and perpetuity” of the text will not seem to be
redundant; yea, the hyperbole of Addison in his famous verse will only
appear to be solid sense: —

“Through all eternity to thee
A joyful song I’ll raise;
But oh! eternity’s too short
To utter all thy praise.”

God’s grace alone can enable us to keep his commandments without break
and without end; eternal love must grant us eternal life, and out of this
eternal life will come everlasting obedience. There is no other way to
ensure our perseverance in holiness but by the word of truth abiding in us,
as David prayed it might abide with him.

The verse begins with “So,” as did verse 42. When God grants his
salvation, we are so favored that we silence our worst enemy and glorify
our best friend. Mercy answereth all things. If God doth but give us
salvation we can conquer hell and commune with heaven, answering
reproaches, and keeping the law, and that to the end, world without end.
We may not overlook another sense which suggests itself here. David
prayed that the word of truth might not be taken out of his mouth, and so
would he keep God’s law: that is to say, by public testimony as well as by
personal life he would fulfil the divine will, and confirm the bonds which
bound him to his Lord for ever. Undoubtedly the grace which enables us to
bear witness with the mouth is a great help to ourselves as well as to
others: we feel that the vows of the Lord are upon us, and that we cannot
run back. Our ministry is useful to ourselves first, or it would not, in the
next place, be useful to others. We must so preach and teach the word of
God, that we thereby fulfil our life-work, and fulfil the law of love,
constantly and consistently. It is a horrible thing when a man’s preaching
only increases his sin because he preaches otherwise than Scripture

45. “And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.” Saints find no
bondage in sanctity. The Spirit of holiness is a free spirit; he sets men at
liberty and enables them to resist every effort to bring them under
subjection. The way of holiness is not a track for slaves, but the King’s
highway for freemen, who are joyfully journeying from the Egypt of
bondage to the Canaan of rest. God’s mercies and his salvation, by
teaching us to love the precepts of the word, set us at a happy rest; and the
more we seek after the perfection of our obedience, the more shall we
enjoy complete emancipation from every form of spiritual slavery. David at
one time of his life was in great bondage through having; followed a
crooked policy. He deceived Achish so persistently that he was driven to
acts of ferocity to conceal it, and he must have felt very unhappy in his
unnatural position as an ally of Philistines, and captain of the body-guard of
their king. He must have feared lest through his falling into the crooked
ways of falsehood the truth would no longer be on his tongue, and he
therefore prayed God in some way to work his deliverance, and set him at
liberty from such slavery. By terrible things in righteousness did the Lord
answer him at Ziklag: the snare was broken, and he escaped.

The verse is united to that which goes before; for it begins with the word
“And,” which acts as a hook to attach it to the preceding verses. It
mentions another of the benefits expected from the coming of mercies from
God. The man of God had mentioned the silencing of his enemies (42),
power to proceed in testimony (43), and perseverance in holiness; now he
dwells upon liberty, which next to life is dearest to all brave men. He says,
“I shall walk,” indicating his daily progress through life; “at liberty,” as
one who is out of prison, unimpeded by adversaries, unencumbered by
burdens, unshackled, allowed a wide range, and roaming without fear.
Such liberty would be dangerous if a man were seeking himself or his own
lusts; but when the one object sought after is the will of God, there can be
no need to restrain the searcher. We need not circumscribe the man who
can say, “I seek thy precepts.” Observe, in the preceding verse he said he
would keep the law; but here he speaks of seeking it. Does he not mean
that he will obey what he knows, and endeavor to know more? Is not this
the way to the highest form of liberty — to be always laboring to know the
mind of God, and to be conformed to it? Those who keep the law are sure
to seek it, and bestir themselves to keep it more and more.

46. “I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be
ashamed.” This is part of his liberty; he is free from fear of the greatest,
proudest, and most tyrannical of men. David was called to stand before
kings when he was an exile; and afterwards, when he was himself a
monarch, he knew the tendency of men to sacrifice their religion to pomp
and statecraft; but it was his resolve to do nothing of the kind. He would
sanctify politics, and make cabinets know that the Lord alone is governor
among the nations. As a king he would speak to kings concerning the King
of kings. He says, “I will speak:” prudence might have suggested that his
life and conduct would be enough, and that it would be better not to touch
upon religion in the presence of royal personages who worshipped other
gods, and claimed to be right in so doing. He had already most fittingly
preceded this resolve by the declaration, “I will walk;” but he does not
make his personal conduct, an excuse for sinful silence, for he adds, “I will
speak.” David claimed religious liberty, and took care to use it, for he
spoke out what he believed, even when he was in the highest company. In
what he said he took care to keep to God’s own word, for he says, “I will
speak of thy testimonies.” No theme is like this, and there is no way of
handling that theme like keeping close to the book, and using its thought
and language. The great hindrance to our speaking upon holy topics in all
companies is shame, but the Psalmist will “not be ashamed”; there is
nothing to be ashamed of, and there is no excuse for being ashamed, and
yet many are as quiet as the dead for fear some creature like themselves
should be offended. When God gives grace, cowardice soon vanishes. He
who speaks for God in God’s power, will not be ashamed When beginning
to speak, nor while speaking, nor after speaking; for his theme is one which
is fit for kings, needful to kings, and beneficial to kings. If kings object, we
may well be ashamed of them, but never of our Master who sent us or of
his message, or of his design in sending it.

47. “And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have
loved.” Next to liberty and courage comes delight. When we have done
our duty, we find a great reward in it. If David had not spoken for his
Master before kings, he would have been afraid to think of the law which
he had neglected; but after speaking up for his Lord he felt a sweet serenity
of heart when musing upon the word. Obey the command, and you will
love it; carry the yoke, and it will be easy, and rest will come by it. After
speaking of the law, the Psalmist was not wearied of his theme, but: he
retired to meditate upon it he discoursed, and then he delighted; he
preached, and then repaired to his study to renew his strength by feeding
yet again upon the precious truth. Whether he delighted others or not when
he was speaking, he never failed to delight himself when he was musing on
the word of the Lord. He declares that he loved the Lord’s commands, and
by his avowal he unveils the reason for his delight in them: where our love
is, there is our delight. David did not delight in the courts of kings, for
there he found places of temptation to shame, but in the Scriptures he
found himself at home; his heart was in them, and they yielded him
supreme pleasure. No wonder that he spoke of keeping the law, which he
loved: Jesus says, “If a man love me he will keep my words.” No wonder
that he spoke of walking at liberty and speaking boldly, for true love is ever
free and fearless, Love is the fulfilling of the law; where love to the law of
God reigns in the heart, the life must be full of blessedness. Lord, let thy
mercies come to us, that we may love thy word and way, and find our
whole delight therein.

The verse is in the future, and hence it sets forth, not only what David had
done, but what he would do; he would in time to come delight in his
Lord’s commands. He knew that they would neither alter, nor fail to yield
him joy. He knew also that grace would keep him in the same condition of
heart towards the precepts of the Lord, so that he should throughout his
whole life take a supreme delight in holiness. His heart was so fixed in
love to God’s will that he was sure that grace would always hold him
under its delightful influence.

All the psalm is fragrant with love to the word, but here for the first time,
love is expressly spoken of. It is here coupled with delight, and in verse
165 with “great peace.” All the verses in which love declares itself in so
many words are worthy of note. See verses 47, 97, 113, 119, 127, 140,
159, 163, 165, 167.

48. “My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have
loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.”

“My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have
loved.” He will stretch out towards perfection as far as he can, hoping to
reach it one day. When his hands hang down he will cheer himself out of
languor by the prospect of glorifying God by obedience; and he will give
solemn sign of his hearty assent and consent to all that his God commands.
The phrase “lift up my hands” is very full of meaning, and doubtless the
sweet singer meant all that we can see in it, and a great deal more. Again
he declares his love; for a true heart loves to express itself; it is a kind of
fire which must send forth its flames. It was natural that he should reach
out towards a law which he delighted in, even as a child holds out its hand
to receive a gift which it longs for. When such a lovely object as holiness is
set before us, we are bound to rise towards it with our whole nature, and
till that is fully accomplished we should at least lift up our hands in prayer
towards it. Where holy hands and holy hearts go, the whole man will one
day follow.

“And I will meditate in thy statutes.” He can never have enough of
meditation. Loving subjects wish to be familiar with their sovereign’s
statutes, lest they should offend through ignorance. Prayer with lifted
hands, and meditation with upward-glancing eyes will in happy union work
out the best inward results. The prayer of verse 41 is already fulfilled in the
man who is thus struggling upward and studying deeply. The whole of this
verse is in the future, and may be viewed not: only as a determination of
David’s mind, but as a result which he knew would follow from the Lord’s
sending him his mercies and his salvation. When mercy comes down, our
hands will be lifted up; when we enjoy the consciousness that God thinks
upon us with special love, we are sure to think of him.

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