Exposition of Psalm 119:97-104

by Charles Spurgeon

97. O how love I thy law I it is my meditation all the day.

98. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than
mine enemies: for they are ever with me.

99. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy
testimonies are my meditation.

100. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy

101. I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might
keep thy word.

102. I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast
taught me.

103. How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yes, sweeter
than honey to my mouth!

104. Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate
every false way.

97. “O how love I thy law I it is my meditation all the day.”

“O how love I thy law!” It is a note of exclamation. He loves so much
that he must express his love, and express it to God in rapturous devotion.
In making the attempt he perceives that his emotion is inexpressible, and
therefore he cries, “O how I love!” We not only reverence but love the
law, we obey it out of love, and even when it chides us for disobedience we
love it none the less. The law is God’s law, and therefore it is our love. We
love it for its holiness, and pine to be holly; we love it for its wisdom, and
study to be wise; we love it for its perfection, and long to be perfect. Those
who know the power of the gospel perceive an infinite loveliness in the law
as they see it fulfilled and embodied in Christ Jesus.

“It is my meditation all the day” This was both the effect of his love to
the law and the cause of that love. He meditated in God’s word because he
loved it, and loved it the more because he meditated in it. He could not
have enough of it, so ardently did he love it; all the day was not too long
for his converse with it. His matin prayer, his noonday thought, his
evensong were all out of Holy Writ; yea, in his worldly business he still
kept his mind saturated with the law of the Lord. It is said of some men
that the more you know them the less you admire them; but the reverse is
true of God’s word. Familiarity with the word of God breeds affection, and
affection seeks yet greater familiarity. When “thy law” and “my
meditation” are together all the day, the day grows holy, devout, and
happy, and the heart lives with God in love to his Word, and delight
therein. David turned away from all else but the word and will of the Lord,
for in the preceding verse he tells us that he had seen an end of all
perfection; but he turned in unto the law and tarried there the whole day of
his life on earth, growing henceforth wiser and holier.

98. “Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine
enemies: for they are ever with me.”

“Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine
enemies.” The commandments were his book, but God was his teacher.
The letter can make us knowing, but only the divine Spirit can make us
wise. Wisdom is knowledge put to practical use. Wisdom comes to us;
through obedience: “If any man will do his; will he shall know of the
doctrine.” We learn not only from promise, and doctrine, and sacred history,
but also from precept and command: in fact, from the commandments we
gather the most practical wisdom, and that which enables us best to cope with
our adversaries. A holy life is the highest wisdom and the surest defense. Our
enemies are renowned for subtlety, from the first father of them, the old
serpent, down to the last cockatrice that has been hatched from the egg; and it
would be vain for us to try to be a match with them in the craft and mystery of
cunning; for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the
children of light. we must go to another school and learn of a different
instructor, and then by uprightness we shall baffle fraud, by simple truth we
shall vanquish deep-laid scheming, and by open candor we shall defeat slander.
A thoroughly straightforward man, devoid of all policy, is a terrible puzzle to
diplomatists; they suspect him of a subtle duplicity through which they cannot
see; while he, indifferent to their suspicions, holds on the even tenor of his way,
and baffles all their arts. Yes, “honesty is the best policy.” He who is taught:
of God has a practical wisdom such as malice cannot supply to the crafty; while
harmless as a dove, he also exhibits more than the serpent’s wisdom.

“For they are ever with me.” He was always studying or obeying the
commandments; they were his choice and constant companions. If we wish
to become proficient we must be indefatigable. If we keep the wise law
ever near us we shall become wise, and when our adversaries assail us we
shall be prepared for them with that ready wit which lies in having the
word of God at our fingers’ ends. As a soldier in battle must never lay
aside his shield, so must we never have the word of God out of our minds;
it must be ever with us.

99. “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies
are my meditation.”

“I have more understanding than all my teachers.” That which the Lord
had taught him had been useful in the camp, and now he finds it equally
valuable in the schools. Our teachers are not always to be trusted; in fact,
we may not follow any of them implicitly, for God will call us to account
for the use of our understandings. When even our pilot errs, it behooves us
to follow closely the chart of the Word of God, that we may be able to
save the vessel. If our teachers are in all things sound and safe, they will be
right glad for us to excel them, and they will be the first to own that the
teaching of the Lord is better than any teaching which they can give us.
Disciples of Christ who sit at his feet are often better skilled in divine
things than doctors of divinity.

“For thy testimonies are my meditation.” Meditation upon the Scripture
itself is the best mode of acquiring understanding. We may hear the wisest
teachers and remain fools, but if we meditate upon the sacred word we
must become wise. There is more wisdom in the testimonies of the Lord
than in all the teachings of men if they were all gathered into one vast
library. The Book of books outweighs all the rest.

David does not hesitate to speak the truth in this place concerning himself,
even though it is to his own honor, for he is quite innocent of self-consciousness.
In speaking of his “understanding” he means to extol the law and the Lord, and
not himself. There is not a grain of boasting in these bold expressions, but only a
child-like desire to set forth the excellence of the Lord’s word. He who knows
the truths taught in the Bible will be guilty of no egotism if he believes himself to
be possessed of more important truth than all the agnostic professors in the

100. “I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.”
The men of old age, and the men of old time, were outdone by the holier
and more youthful learner, he had been taught to observe in heart and life
the precepts of the Lord, and this was more than the most venerable sinner
had ever learned, more than the philosopher of antiquity had so much as
aspired to know. He had the word with him, and so outstripped his foes; he
meditated on it, and so outran his friends; he practiced it, and so outshone
his elders. The instruction derived from Holy Scripture is useful in many
directions, superior from many points of view, unrivalled everywhere and
in every way. As our soul may make her boast in the Lord:, so may we
boast in his word. “There is none like it: give it me,” said David as to
Goliath’s sword, and we may say the same as to the word of the Lord. If
men prize antiquity they have it here. The ancients are had in high repute;
but what did they all know compared with that which we perceive in the
divine precepts? “The old is better” says one: but the oldest of all is the
best of all, and what is that but the word of the Ancient of days.

101. “I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy
word.” There is no treasuring up the holy word, unless there is a casting
out of all unholiness: if we keep the good word, we must let go the evil.
David had zealously watched his steps and put a check upon his conduct
— he had refrained his feet. No one evil way could entice him, for he knew
that if he only went astray in one road he had practically left the way of
righteousness; therefore he avoided every foul way. The by-paths were
smooth and flowery, but he knew right well that they were evil, and so he
turned his feet away, and plodded along the strait and thorny pathway
which leads to God. It is a pleasure to look back upon self-conquests —
“I have refrained,” and a greater delight still to know that we did this out of
no mere desire to stand well with our fellows, but with the one motive of
keeping the law of the Lord. Sin avoided that obedience may be perfected
is the essence of this verse; or it may be that the Psalmist would teach us
that there is no real reverence for the book where there is not carefulness
to avoid every transgression of its precepts. How can we as servants of the
Lord keep his word if we do not keep our own works and words from
bringing dishonor upon it?

102. “I have not departed from thy judgments: far thou hast taught me.”
They are well taught whom God teaches. What we learn from the Lord we
never forget. God’s instruction has a practical effect — we follow his way
when he teaches us; and it has an abiding effect — we do not depart: from
holiness. Read this verse in connection with the preceding, and you get the
believer’s “I have,” and his “I have not”: he is good both positively and
negatively. What he did, namely, “refrained his feet,” preserved him from
doing that which otherwise he might have done, namely, “departed from
thy judgments.” He who is careful not to go an in aside will not leave the
road. He who never touches the intoxicating cup will never be drunk. He who
never utters an idle word will never be profane. If we begin to depart a little,
we can never tell where we shall end. The Lord brings us to persevere in
holiness by abstinence from the beginning of sin; but whatever be the method,
he is the worker of our perseverance, and to him be all the glory.

God’s word pronounces judgments as to moral actions, and we shall do
well to maintain those judgments as our infallible rule of thought and life.

103. “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to
my mouth!”

“How sweet are thy words unto my taste!” He had not only heard the
words of God, but fed upon them: they affected his palate as well as his
ear: they had an inward effect on his taste as well as an outward effect on his
hearing. God’s words are many and varied, and the whole of them make up
what we call “the word”: David loved them each one, individually, and the
whole of them as a whole, and therefore he tasted an indescribable sweetness in
them. He expresses the fact of their sweetness; but as he cannot express the
degree of their sweetness he cries, “How sweet!” Being God’s words they
were divinely sweet to God’s servant; he who put the sweetness into them had
prepared the taste of his servant to discern and enjoy it. David makes no
distinction between promises and precepts, doctrines and threatenings; they are
all included in God’s words, and all are precious in his esteem. Oh for a deep
love to all that the Lord has revealed, whatever form it may take!

“Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” When he did not only eat but
also speak the word, by instructing others, he felt an increased delight in
it. The sweetest of all temporal things falls short: of the infinite
deliciousness of the eternal word: honey itself is outstripped in sweetness
by the word of the Lord. When the Psalmist fed on it he found it sweet; but
when he bore witness of it, it became sweeter still. How wise it will be on
our part to keep the word on our palate by meditation and on our tongue
by confession! It must be sweet to cur taste when we think of it, or it will
not be sweet to our mouth when we talk of it. We must taste in the study
what we preach in the pulpit. We must first spiritually become men of
taste, and then we shall have a true enjoyment in setting forth the beauty
and sweetness of the truth of God.

104 “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every
false way.”

“Through thy precepts I get understanding.” God’s direction is our
instruction. Obedience to the divine will begets wisdom of mind and
action. As God’s way is always best, those who follow it are sure to be
justified by the result, If the Lawgiver were foolish his law would be the
same, and obedience to such a law would involve us in a thousand
mistakes; but as the reverse is the case, we may count ourselves happy to
have such a. wise, prudent, and beneficial law to be the rule of our lives.
We are wise if we obey, and we grow wise by obeying.

“Therefore I hate every false way.” Because he had understanding, and
because of the divine precepts, he detested sin and falsehood. Every sin is a
falsehood: we commit sin because we believe a lie, and in the end the
flattering evil turns a liar to us, and we find ourselves betrayed. True hearts
are not indifferent about falsehood, they grow warm in indignation: as
they love the truth, so they hate the lie. Saints have a universal horror of all
that is untrue; they tolerate no falsehood or folly, they set their faces
against all error of doctrine or wickedness of life. He who is a lover of one
sin is in league with the whole army of sins; we must have neither truce nor
parley with even one of these Amalekites, for the Lord hath war with them
from generation to generation, and so must we. It is well to be a good
hater. And what is that? A hater of no living being, but a hater of  “every
false way.” The way of self-will, of self-righteousness, of self-seeking, of
wordliness, of pride, of unbelief, of hypocrisy, of lustfulness — these are
all false ways, and therefore not only to be shunned, but to be abhorred.
This final verse of the strophe marks a great advance in character, and
shows that the man of God is growing stronger, bolder, and happier than
aforetime. He has been taught of the Lord, so that he discerns between the
precious and the vile, and while he loves the truth fervently he hates
falsehood intensely. May all of us reach this state of discrimination and
determination, so that we may greatly glorify God!

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