Exposition of Psalm 119:65-72

by Charles Spurgeon

65. Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according unto
thy word.

66. Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have
believed thy commandments.

67. Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept
thy word.

68. Thou art ,good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.

69. The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy
precepts with my whole heart.

70. Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.

71. It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might
learn thy statutes.

72. The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of
gold and silver.

In this ninth section the verses in the Hebrew all begin with the letter Teth.
In our own version they all commence with the letter T, except 67 and 71,
and these can easily be made to do so by reading, “Till I was afflicted,”
and, “Tis good for me.” These verses are the tributes of experience,
testifying to the goodness of God, the graciousness of his dealings, and the
preciousness of his word. Especially the Psalmist proclaims the excellent
uses of adversity and the goodness of God in afflicting him. The sixty-fifth
verse is the text of the entire octave.

65. “Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according unto thy
word.” This is the summary of his life, and assuredly it is the sum of ours.
The Psalmist tells the Lord the verdict of his heart; he cannot be silent, he
must speak his gratitude in the presence of Jehovah, his God. From the
universal goodness of God in nature, in verse 64, it is an easy and pleasant
step to a confession of the Lord’s uniform goodness to ourselves
personally. It is something that God has dealt at all with such insignificant
and undeserving beings as we are; and it is far more that he has dealt well
with us, and so well, so wondrously well. He hath done all things well: the
rule has no exception. In providence and in grace, in giving prosperity and
in sending adversity, in everything Jehovah hath dealt well with us. It is
dealing well on our part to tell the Lord that we feel that he hath dealt well
with us; for praise of this kind is specially fitting and comely. This kindness
of the Lord is, however, no chance matter: he promised to do so, and he
has done it according to his word. It is very precious to see the word of the
Lord fulfilled in our happy experience; it endears the Scripture to us, and
makes us love the Lord of the Scripture. The book of providence tallies
with the book of promise: what we read in the page of inspiration we meet
with again in the leaves of our life-story. We may not have thought that it
would be so; but our unbelief is repented of now that we see the mercy of
the Lord to us, and his faithfulness to his word; henceforth we are bound to
display a firmer faith both in God and in his promise. He has spoken well,
and he has dealt well. He is the best of Masters; for it is to very unworthy
and incapable servants that he has acted thus graciously: does not this
cause us to delight in his service more and more? We cannot say that we
have dealt well with our Master; for when we have done all, we are
unprofitable servants; but as for our Lord, he has given us light work, large
maintenance, loving encouragement, and liberal wages. It is a wonder that
he has not long ago discharged us, or at least reduced our allowances, or
handled us roughly; yet we have had no hard dealings, all has been ordered
with as much consideration as if we had rendered perfect obedience. We
have had bread enough and to spare, our livery has been duly supplied, and
his service has ennobled us and made us happy as kings. Complaints we
have none. We lose ourselves in adoring thanksgiving, and find ourselves
again in careful thanks-living.

66. “Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy

“Teach me good judgment and knowledge.” Again he begs for teaching,
as in verse 64, and again he uses God’s mercy as an argument. Since God
had dealt well with him, he is encouraged to pray for judgment to
appreciate the Lord’s goodness. The gift of good judgment is a form of
goodness which the godly man most needs and most desires, and it is one
which the Lord is most ready to bestow. David felt that he had frequently
failed in judgment in the matter of the Lord’s dealings with him: from want
of knowledge he had misjudged the chastening hand of the heavenly
Father, and, therefore he now asks to be better instructed, since he
perceives the injustice which he had done to the Lord by his hasty
conclusions. He means to say — Lord, thou didst deal well with me when I
thought thee hard and stern; be pleased to give me more wit, that I may not
a second time think so ill of my Lord. A sight of our errors and a sense of
our ignorance should make us teachable. We are not able to judge, for our
knowledge is sadly inaccurate and imperfect; if the Lord teaches us
knowledge, we shall attain to good judgment, but not otherwise. The Holy
Ghost alone can fill us with light, and set our understanding upon a proper
balance: let us ardently long for his teachings, since it is most desirable that
we should be no longer mere children in knowledge and understanding.

“For I have believed thy commandments.” His heart was right, and
therefore he hoped his head would be made right. He had faith, and
therefore he hoped to receive wisdom. His mind had been settled in the
conviction that the precepts of the word were from the Lord, and were
therefore just, wise, kind, and profitable. He believed in holiness, and as
that belief is no mean work of grace, upon the soul, he looked for yet
further operations of divine grace. He who believes the commands is the
man to know and understand the doctrines and the promises. If in looking
back upon our mistakes and ignorances, we can yet see that we heartily
love the precepts of the divine will, we have good reason to hope that we
are Christ’s disciples, and that he will teach us and make us men of good
judgment and sound knowledge. A man who has learned discernment by
experience, and has thus become a man of sound judgment, is a valuable
member of a church, and the means of much edification to others. Let all
who would be greatly useful offer the prayer of this verse: “‘Teach me
good judgment and knowledge.”

67. “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word”
“Before I was afflicted I went astray.” Partly, perhaps, through the
absence of trial. Often our trials act as a thorn-hedge to keep us in the
good pasture; but our prosperity is a gap through which we go astray. If
any of us remember a time in which we had no trouble, we also probably
recollect that then grace was low, and temptation was strong. It may be
that some believer cries, “Oh that it were with me as in those summer days
before I was afflicted!” Such a sigh is most unwise, and arises from a
carnal love of ease: the spiritual man who prizes growth in grace will bless
God that those dangerous days are over, and that if the weather be more
stormy it is also more healthy. It is well when the mind is open and candid,
as in this instance: perhaps David would never have known and confessed
his own strayings if he had not smarted under the rod Let us join in his
humble acknowledgments, for doubtless we have imitated him in his
strayings. Wily is it that a little ease works in us so much disease? Can we
never rest without rusting? Never be filled without waxing fat? Never rise
as to one world without going down as to another? What weak creatures
we are to be unable to bear a little pleasure! What base hearts are those
which turn the abundance of God’s goodness into an occasion for sin!

“But now have I kept thy word.” Grace is in that heart which profits by its
chastening. It is of no use to plough barren soil When there is no spiritual
life, affliction works no spiritual benefit; but where the heart is sound,
trouble awakens conscience, wandering is confessed, the soul becomes
again obedient to the command, and continues to be so. Whipping will not
turn a rebel into a child; but to the true child a touch of the rod is a sure
corrective. In the Psalmist’s case the medicine of affliction worked a
change — “but”; an immediate change — “now”; a lasting change —
“have I”; an inward change — “have I kept”; a change Godward —
“thy word.” Before his trouble he wandered, but after it he kept within
the hedge of the word, and found good pasture for his soul: the trial
tethered him to his proper place; it kept him, and then he kept God’s word.
Sweet are the uses of adversity, and this is one of them: it puts a bridle
upon transgression, and furnishes a spur for holiness.

68. “Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.”

“Thou art good, and doest good.” Even in affliction God is good, and
does good. This is the confession of experience. God is essential goodness
in himself, and in every attribute of his nature he is good in the fullest sense
of the term; indeed, he has a monopoly of goodness, for there is none good
but one, that is God. His acts are according to his nature: from a pure
source flow pure streams. God is not latent and inactive goodness; he
displays himself by his doings, he is actively beneficent, he does good. How
much good he does no tongue can tell! How good he is no heart can
conceive! It is well to worship the Lord as the poet here does by describing
him. Facts about God are the best praise of God. All the glory we can give
to God is to reflect his own glory upon himself. We can say no more good
of God than God is and does. We believe in his goodness, and so honor
him by our faith; we admire that goodness, and so glorify him by our love;
we declare that goodness, and so magnify him by our testimony.

“Teach me thy statutes.” The same prayer as before, backed with the
same argument. He prays, “Lord be good, and do good to me, that I may
both be good and do good through thy teaching.” The man of God was a
learner, and delighted to learn: he ascribed this to the goodness of the
Lord, and hoped that for the same reason he would be allowed to remain in
the school and learn on till he could perfectly practice every lesson. His
chosen class-book was the royal statutes; he wanted no other. He knew the
sad result of breaking those statutes, and by a painful experience he had
been led back to the way of righteousness; and therefore he begged, as the
greatest possible instance of the divine goodness, that he might be taught a
perfect: knowledge of the law, and a complete conformity to it. He who
mourns that he has not kept the word longs to be taught it; and he who
rejoices that by grace he has been taught to keep it, is not less anxious for
the like instruction to be continued to him.

In verse 12, which is the fourth verse of Beth, we have much the same
sense as in this fourth verse of Teth.

69. “The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts
with my whole heart.”

“The proud have forged a lie against me.” They first derided him (51),
then defrauded him (61), and now they have defamed him. To injure his
character they resorted to falsehood, for they could find nothing against
him if they spoke the truth. They forged a lie as a blacksmith beats out a
weapon of iron, or they counterfeited the truth as men forge false coin. The
original may suggest a common expression — “They have patched up a lie
against me.” They were not too proud to lie. Pride is a lie; and when a
proud man utters lies “he speaketh of his own.” Proud men are usually
the bitterest opponents of the righteous: they are envious of their good
fame, and are eager to ruin it. Slander is a cheap and handy weapon if the
object is the destruction of a gracious reputation; and when many proud
ones conspire to concoct, exaggerate, and spread abroad a malicious
falsehood, they generally succeed in wounding their victim, and it is no
fault of theirs if they do not kill him out right. Oh the venom which lies
under the tongue of a liar! Many a happy life has been embittered by it,
and many a good repute has been poisoned as with the deadliest drug. It is
painful to the last degree to hear unscrupulous men hammering away at the
devil’s anvil forging a new calumny; the only help against it is the sweet
promise, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every
tongue that riseth against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.”

“But I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.” My one anxiety shall
be to mind my own business, and stick to the commandments of the Lord.
If the mud which is thrown at us does not blind our eyes or bruise our
integrity, it will do us little harm. If we keep the precepts, the precepts will
keep us in the day of contumely and slander. David renews his resolve —
“I will keep”; he takes a new look at the commands, and sees them to be
really the Lord’s — “thy precepts”; and he arouses his entire nature to
the work — “with my whole heart.” When slanders drive us to more
resolute and careful obedience they work our lasting good: falsehood
hurled against us may be made to promote our fidelity to the truth, and the
malice of men may increase our love to God. If we try to answer lies by
our words we may be beaten in the battle; but a ho1y life is an
unanswerable refutation of all calumnies. Spite is balked if we persevere in
holiness despite all opposition.

70. “Their, heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.”

“Their heart is as fat as grease.” They delight in fatness, but I delight in
thee. Their hearts, through sensual indulgence, have grown insensible,
coarse, and groveling; but thou hast saved me from such a fate through thy
chastening hand. Proud men grow fat through carnal luxuries, and this
makes them prouder still. They riot in their prosperity, and fill their hearts
therewith till they become insensible, effeminate, and self-indulgent. A
greasy heart is something horrible; it is a fatness which makes a man
fatuous, a fatty degeneration of the heart which leads to feebleness and
death. The fat in such men is killing the life in them. Dryden wrote,

“O souls! In whom no heavenly fire is found,
Fat minds and ever groveling on the ground.”

In this condition men have no heart except for luxury, their very being
seems to swim and stew in the fat of cookery and banqueting. Living on
the fat of the land, their nature is subdued to that which they have fed
upon; the muscle of their nature has gone to softness and grease.

“But I delight in thy law.” How much better is it to joy in the law of the
Lord than to joy in sensual indulgences! This makes the heart healthy, and
keeps the mind lowly. No one who loves holiness has the slightest cause to
envy the prosperity of the worldling. Delight in the law elevates and
ennobles, while carnal pleasure clogs the intellect and degrades the
affections. There is and always ought to be a vivid contrast between the
believer and the sensualist, and that contrast is as much seen in the
affections of the heart as in the actions of the life: their heart is as fat as
grease, and our heart is delighted with the law of the Lord. Our delights
are a better test of our character than anything else: as a man’s heart is, so
is the man. David oiled the wheels of life with his delight in God’s law, and
not with the fat of sensuality. He had his relishes and dainties, his festivals
and delights, and all these he found in doing the will of the Lord his God.
When law becomes delight, obedience is bliss. Holiness in the heart causes
the soul to eat the fat of the land. To have the law for our delight will
breed in our hearts the very opposite of the effects of pride: deadness,
sensuality, and obstinacy will be cured, and we shall become teachable,
sensitive, and spiritual. How careful should we be to live under the
influence of the divine law, that we fall not under the law of sin and death!

71. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” Even though the affliction
came from bad men, it was over-ruled for good ends; though it was bad as
it came from them, it was good for David. It benefited him in many ways,
and he knew it. Whatever he may have thought while under the trial, he
perceived himself to be the better for it when it was over. It was not good
to the proud to be prosperous, for their hearts grew sensual and insensible;
but affliction was good for the Psalmist. Our worst is better for us than the
sinner’s best. It is bad for sinners to rejoice, and good for saints to sorrow.
A thousand benefits have come to us through our pains and griefs, and
among the rest is this — that we have thus been schooled in the law.

“That I might learn thy statutes.” These we have come to know and to
keep by feeling the smart of the rod. We prayed the Lord to teach us (66),
and now we see how he has already been doing it. Truly he has dealt well
with us, for he has dealt wisely with us. We have been kept from the
ignorance of the greasy-hearted by our trials, and this, if there were nothing
else, is just cause for constant gratitude. To be larded by prosperity is not
good for the proud; but for the truth to be learned by adversity is good for
the humble. Very little is to be learned without affliction. If we would be
scholars we must be sufferers. As the Latins say, Experientia docet,
experience teaches. There is no royal road to learning the royal statutes;
God’s commands are best read by eyes wet with tears.

72. “The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and

“The law of thy mouth.” A sweetly expressive name for the word of God.
It comes from God’s own mouth with freshness and power to our souls.
Things written are as dried herbs; but speech has a liveliness and dew about
it. We do well to look upon the word of the Lord as though it were newly
spoken into our ear; for in very truth it is not decayed by years, but is as
forcible and sure as though newly uttered. Precepts are prized when it is
seen that they come forth from the lips of our Father who is in heaven. The
same lips which spoke us into existence have spoken the law by which we
are to govern that existence. Whence could a law so sweetly proceed as
from the mouth of our covenant God? Well may we prize beyond all price
that which comes from such a source!

“Is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” If a poor man had
said this, the world’s wit-lings would have hinted that the grapes are sour,
and that men who have no wealth are the first to despise it; but this is the
verdict of a man who owned his thousands, and could judge by actual
experience of the value of money and the value of truth. He speaks of great
riches, he heaps it up by thousands, he mentions the varieties of its forms
— “ gold and silver”; and then he sets the word of God before it all, as
better to him, even if others did not think it better to them. Wealth is good
in some respects, but obedience is better in all respects. It is well to keep
the treasures of this life; but far more commendable to keep the law of the
Lord. The law is better than gold and silver, for these may be stolen from
us, but not the word; these take to themselves wings, but the word of God
remains; these are useless in the hour of death, but then it is that the
promise is most dear. Instructed Christians recognize the value of the
Lord’s word, and warmly express it, not only in their testimony to their
fellow-men, but in their devotions to God. It is a sure sign of a heart which
has learned God’s statutes when it prizes them above all earthly
possessions; and it is an equally certain mark of grace when the precepts of
Scripture are as precious as its promises. The Lord cause us thus to prize
the law of his mouth.

See how this portion of the psalm is flavored with goodness. God’s
dealings are good (65), holy judgment is good (66), affliction is good (67),
God is good (68), and here the law is not: only good, but better than the
been of treasure Lord, make us good, through thy good word! Amen.

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