Exposition of Psalm 119:57-64

by Charles Spurgeon

57. Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep
thy words.

58. I intreated thy favor with my whole heart: be merciful unto
me according to thy word.

59. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy

60. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.

61. The bands of the wicked have robbed me: but I have not
forgotten thy law.

62. At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of
thy righteous judgments.

63. I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that
keep thy precepts.

64. The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy

In this section the Psalmist seems to take firm hold upon God himself;
appropriating him (57), crying out for him (58), returning to him (59),
solacing himself in him (61, 62), associating with his people (63), and
sighing for his personal instruction (64). Note how the first verse of this
octave is linked to the last of the former one, of which indeed it is an
expansion. “This I had because I kept thy precepts. Thou art my portion,
O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words.” Being many, these
verses are still but one bread.

57. “Thou art my portion, O Lord: I have said that I would keep thy

“Thou art my portion, O Lord.” A broken expression. The translators
have mended it by insertions, but perhaps it had been better to have left it
alone, and then it would have appeared as n exclamation — “My portion,
O Lord!” The poet’s lost in wonder while he sees that the great and
glorious God is all his own! Well might he be so, for there is no possession
like Jehovah himself. The form of the sentence expresses joyous
recognition and appropriation — “My portions. O Jehovah!” David had
often seen the prey divided, and heard the victor shouting over it; here he
rejoices as one who seizes his share of the spoil; he chooses the Lord to be
his part of the treasure. Like the Levites, he took God to be his portion,
and left other matters to those who coveted them. This is a large and
lasting heritage, for it includes all, and more than all, and it outlasts all; and
yet no man chooses it for himself until God has chosen and renewed him.
Who that is truly wise could hesitate for a moment when the infinitely
blessed God is set before him to be the object of his choice? David leaped
at the opportunity, and grasped the priceless boon. Our author here dares
exhibit the title-deeds of his portion before the eye of the Lord himself, for
he addresses his joyful utterance directly to God, whom he boldly calls his
own. With much else to choose from, for he was a king, and a man of great
resources, he deliberately tums from all the treasures of the world, and
declares that the Lord, even Jehovah, is his portion.

“I have said that I would keep thy words.” We cannot always look back
with comfort upon what we have said, but in this instance David had
spoken wisely and well. He had declared his choice; he preferred the word
of God to the wealth of worldlings. It was his firm resolve to keep — that
is, treasure up and observe — the words of his God; and as he had
aforetime solemnly expressed it: in the presence of the Lord himself, so
here he confesses the binding obligation of his former vow. Jesus said, “If
a man love me, he will keep my words,” and this is a case which he might
have quoted as an illustration; for the Psalmist’s love to God as his portion
led to his keeping the words of God. David took God to be his Prince as
well as his Portion. He was confident as to his interest in God, and
therefore he was resolute in his obedience to him. Full assurance is a
powerful source of holiness. The very words of God are to be stored up;
for whether they relate to doctrine, promise, or precept, they are most
precious. When the heart is determined to keep these words, and has
registered its purpose in the court of heaven, it is prepared for all the
temptations and trials that may befall it; for, with God as its heritage, it is
always in good case.

58. “I intreated thy favor with my whole heart: be merciful unto me
according to thy word.”

“I intreated thy favor with my whole heart.” A fully assured possession of
God does not set aside prayer, but rather urges us to it; he who knows God
to be his God will seek his face, longing for his presence. Seeking God’s
presence is the idea conveyed by the marginal reading, “thy face,” and
this is true to the Hebrew. The presence of God is the highest form of his
favor, and therefore it is the most urgent desire of gracious souls: the light
of his countenance gives us an antepast of heaven. Oh that we always
enjoyed it! The good man entreated God’s smile as one who begged for his
life, and the entire strength of his desire went with the entreaty. Such eager
pleadings are sure of success; that which comes from our heart will
certainly go to God’s heart. The whole of God’s favors are ready for those
who seek them with their whole hearts.

“Be merciful unto me according to thy word.” He has entreated favor,
and the from in which he most needs it is that of mercy; for he is more a
sinner than anything else. He asks nothing beyond the promise, he only
begs for such mercy as the word reveals. And what more could he want or
wish for? God has revealed such an infinity of mercy in his word, that it
would be impossible to conceive of more. See how the Psalmist dwells
upon favor and mercy, he never dreams of merit. He does not demand, but
entreat; for he feels his own unworthiness. Note how he remains a
suppliant, though he knows that he has all things in his God. God is his
portion, and yet he begs for a look at his face. The idea of any other
position before God than that of an undeserving though favored one never
entered his head. Here we have his “Be merciful unto me” rising with as
much intensity of humble pleading as if he still remained among the most
trembling of penitents.. The confidence of faith makes us bold in prayer,
but it never teaches us to live without prayer, or justifies us in being other
than humble beggars at mercy’s gate.

59. “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.”
While studying the word he was led to study his own life, and this caused a
mighty revolution. He came to the word, and then he came to himself, and
this made him arise and go to his Father. Consideration is the
commencement of conversion: first we think, and then we turn. When the
mind repents of ill ways, the feet are soon led into good ways; but there
will be no repenting until there is deep, earnest: thought. Many men are
averse to thought of any kind, and as to thought upon their ways, they
cannot endure it, for their ways will not bear thinking of. David’s ways had
not been all that he could have wished them to be, and so his thoughts
were sobered o’er with the pale cast of regret; but he did not end with idle
lamentations, he set about a practical amendment; he turned and returned,
he sought the testimonies of the Lord, and hastened to enjoy once more the
conscious favor of his heavenly Friend. Action without thought is folly, and
thought without action is sloth: to think carefully and then to act promptly
is a happy combination. He had en-treated for renewed fellowship, and
now he proved the genuineness of his desire by renewed obedience. If we
are in the dark, and mourn an absent God, our wisest method will be not so
much to think upon our sorrows as upon our ways: though we cannot turn
the course of providence, we can turn the way of our walking, and this will
soon mend matters. If we can get our feet right as to holy walking, we shall
soon get our hearts right as to happy living. God will turn to his saints
when they turn to him; yea, he has already favored them with the light of
his face when they begin to think and turn.

60. “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” He
made all speed to get back into the royal road from which he had
wandered, and to run in that road upon the King’s errands. Speed in
repentance and speed in obedience are two excellent things. We are too
often in haste to sin. Oh that we may be in a greater hurry to obey! Delay
in repentance is increase of sin. To be slow to keep the commands is to
break them. There is much evil in a lagging pace when God’s command is
to be followed. A holy alacrity in service is much to be cultivated. It is
wrought in us by the Spirit of God, and the preceding verses describe the
method of it: we are made to perceive and mourn our errors, we are led to
return to the right path, and then we are eager to make up for lost time by
dashing forward to fulfil the precept.

Whatever may be the slips and wanderings of an honest heart, there
remains enough of true life in it to produce ardent piety when once it is
quickened by the visitations of God. The Psalmist entreated for mercy, and
when he received it he became eager and vehement in the Lord’s ways. He
had always loved them, and hence when he was enriched with grace he
displayed great vivacity and delight in them. He made double speed; for
positively he “made haste,” and negatively he refused to yield to any
motive which suggested procrastination — he “delayed not.” Thus he
made rapid advances and accomplished much service, fulfilling thereby the
vow which is recorded in the 57th verse: “I said that I would keep thy
words.” The commands which he was so eager to obey were not
ordinances of man, but precepts of the Most High. Many are zealous to
obey custom and society, and yet they are slack in serving God. It is a
crying shame that men should be served post-haste, and that God’s work
should have the, go-by, or be performed with dreamy negligence.

61. “The bands of the wicked have robbed me: but I have not forgotten
thy law.”

“The bands of the wicked have robbed me.” Afore-time they derided him,
and now they have defrauded him. Ungodly men grow worse, and become
more and more daring, so that they go from ridicule to robbery. Much of
this bold opposition arose from their being banded together: men will dare
to do in company what they durst not have thought of alone. When
firebrands are laid together, there is no telling what a flame, they will
create. It seems that whole bands of men assailed this one child of God;
they are cowardly enough for anything: though they could not kill him,
they robbed him; the dogs of Satan will worry saints if they cannot devour
them. David’s enemies did their utmost: first the serpents hissed, and then
they stung. Since words availed not, the wicked fell to blows. How much
the ungodly have plundered the saints in all ages, and how often have the
righteous borne gladly the spoiling of their goods!

“But I have not forgotten thy law.” This was well. Neither his sense of
injustice, nor his sorrow at his losses, nor his attempts at defense, diverted
him from the ways of God. He would not do wrong to prevent the
suffering of wrong, nor do ill to avenge ill. He carried the law in his heart,
and therefore no disturbance of mind could take him off from following it.
He might have forgotten himself if he had forgotten the law: as it was, he
was ready to forgive and forget the injuries done him, for his heart was
taken up with the word of God. The bands of the wicked had not robbed
him of his choicest treasure, since they had left him his holiness and his

Some read this passage, “The bands of the wicked environ me.” They
hemmed him in, they cut him off from succor, they shut up every avenue of
escape; but; the man of God had his protector with him; a clear conscience
relied upon the promise, and a brave resolve stuck to the precept. He could
not be either bribed or bullied into sin. The cordon of the ungodly could
not keep God from him, nor him from God: this was because God was his
portion, and none could deprive him of it, either by force or fraud. That is
true grace which can endure the test: some are barely gracious among the
circle of their friends, but this man was holy amid a ring of foes.

62. “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy
righteous judgments.” He was not afraid of the robbers; he rose, not to
watch his house, but to praise his God. Midnight is the hour for burglars,
and there were bands of them around David, but they did not occupy his
thoughts; these were all up and away with the Lord his God. He thought
not of thieves, but of thanks; not of what they would steal, but of what he
would give to his God. A thankful heart is such a blessing that it drives
out fear and makes room for praise. Thanksgiving turns night into day, and
consecrates all hours to the worship of God. Every hour is canonical to a

The Psalmist: observed posture; he did not lie in bed and praise. There is
not much in the position of the body, but there is something, and that
something is to be observed whenever it is helpful to devotion and
expressive of our diligence: or humility. Many kneel without praying, some
pray without kneeling; but the best is to kneel and pray: so here, it would
have been no virtue to rise without giving thanks, and it would have been
no sin to give thanks without rising; but to rise and give thanks is a happy
combination. As for the season, it was quiet, lonely, and such as proved his
zeal. At midnight he would be unobserved and undisturbed; it was his own
time which he saved from his sleep, and so he would be free from the
charge of sacrificing public duties to private devotions. Midnight ends one
day and begins another, it was therefore meet to give the solemn moments
to communion with the Lord. At the turn of the night he turned to his God.
He had thanks to give for mercies which God had given: he had on his
mind the truth of verse fifty-seven,“Thou art my portion,” and if anything
can make a man sing in the middle of the night, that is it.

The righteous doings of the great Judge gladdened the heart of this godly
man. His judgments are the terrible side of God, but they have no terror to
the righteous; they admire them, and adore the Lord for them: they rise at
night to bless God that he will avenge his own elect. Some hate the very
notion of divine justice, and in this they are wide as the poles asunder from
this man of God, who was filled with joyful gratitude at the memory of the
sentences of the Judge of all the earth. Doubtless in the expression, “thy
righteous judgments,” David refers also to the written judgments of God
upon various points of moral conduct; indeed, all the divine precepts may
be viewed in that light; they are all of them the legal decisions of the
Supreme Arbiter of right and wrong. David was charmed with these
judgments. Like Paul, he could say, “I delight in the law of God after the
inward man.” He could not find time enough by day to study the words of
divine wisdom, or to bless God for them, and so he gave up his sleep that
he might tell out his gratitude for such a law and such a Lawgiver.

This verse is an advance upon the sense of verse fifty-two, and contains in
addition the essence of fifty-five. Our author never repeats himself: though
he runs up and down the same scale, his music has an infinite variety. The
permutations and combinations which may be formed in connection with a
few vital truths are innumerable.

63. “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep
thy precepts.”

“I am a companion of all them that fear thee.” The last verse said, “I
will,” and this says, “I am.” We can hardly hope to be right in the future
unless we are right now. The holy man spent his nights with God and his
days with God’s people. Those who fear God love those who fear him, and
they make small choice as to the rank of their companions so long as they
are truly God-fearing men. David was a king, and yet he consorted with
“all” who feared the Lord, whether they were obscure or famous, poor
or rich. He was a fellow-commoner of the College of All-saints.

He did not select a few specially eminent saints and leave ordinary believers
alone. No, he was glad of the society of those who had only the beginning
of wisdom in the shape of  “the fear of the Lord”: he was pleased to sit
with them on the lower forms of the school of faith. He looked for inward
godly fear, but he also expected to see outward piety, in those whom he
admitted to his society; hence he adds, “and of them that keep thy
precepts.” If they would keep the Lord’s commands, the Lord’s servant
would keep their company. David was known to be on the godly side, he
was ever of the Puritanic party: the men of Belial hated him for this, and no
doubt despised him for keeping such unfashionable company as that of
humble men and women who were strait-laced and religious; but the man
of God is by no means ashamed of his associates; so far from this, he even
glories to avow his union with them, let his enemies make what they can of
it. He found both pleasure and profit in saintly society; he grew better by
consorting with tile good, and derived honor from keeping right honorable
company. What says the reader? Does he relish holy society? Is he at home
among gracious people? If so, he may derive comfort from the fact. Birds
of a feather flock together. A man is known by his company. Those who
have no fear of God before their eyes seldom desire the society of saints; it
is too slow, too dull for them. Be this our comfort, that when we are let go
by death we shall go to our own company, and those who loved the saints
on earth shall be numbered with them in heaven.

There is a measure of parallelism between this seventh of its octave and the
seventh of Teth (71) and of Jod (79); but, as a rule, the similarities which
were so manifest in earlier verses are now becoming dim. As the sense
deepens, the artificial form of expression is less regarded.

64. “The early, O Lord, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.”
“The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy.” David had been exiled, but he
had never been driven beyond the range of mercy, for he found the world
to be everywhere filled with it. He had wandered in deserts and hidden in
caves, and there he had seen and felt the lovingkindness of the Lord. He
had learned that far beyond the bounds of the land of promise and the race
of Israel the love of Jehovah extended, and in this verse he expressed that
large-hearted idea of God which is so seldom seen in the modern Jew.
How sweet it is to us to know that not only is there mercy all over the
world, but there is such an abundance of it that the earth is “full” of it! It
is little wonder that: the Psalmist, since he knew the Lord to be his portion,
hoped to obtain a measure of his mercy for himself. He desired to know
more of one so good; and as the Lord has so freely revealed himself in
nature, he felt encouraged to pray, “teach me thy statutes.” It was to him
the beau-ideal of mercy to be taught of God, and taught in God’s own law.
He could not think of a greater mercy than this. Surely, he who fills the
universe with his grace will grant such a request as this to his own child,
Let us breathe the desire to the All-merciful Jehovah, and we may be
assured of its fulfillment.

The first verse of this eight is fragrant with full assurance and strong
resolve, and this last verse overflows with a sense of the divine fullness,
and of the Psalmist’s personal dependence. This is an illustration of the fact
that: full assurance neither damps prayer nor hinders humility. It would be
no error if we said that it creates lowliness and suggests supplication.
“Thou art my portion, O Lord,” is well followed by “teach me”; for the
heir of a great estate should be thoroughly educated, that his behavior may
comport with his fortune. What manner of disciples ought we to be whose
inheritance is the Lord of hosts! Those who have God for their Portion
long to have him for their Teacher. Moreover, those who have resolved to
obey are the most eager to be taught. “I have said that I would keep thy
words” is beautifully succeeded by “teach me thy statutes.” Those who
wish to keep a law are anxious to know all its clauses and provisions, lest
they should offend through inadvertence. He who does not care to be
instructed of the Lord has never honestly resolved to be holy.

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