Exposition of Psalm 119:129-136

by Charles Spurgeon

129. Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep

130. The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth
understanding unto the simple.

131. I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy

132. Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou
usest to do unto those that love thy name.

133. Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity haw
dominion over me.

134. Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep
thy precepts.

135. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy

136. Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep
not thy law.

129. “Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them.”
All the verses of this section begin with the seventeenth letter of the
Hebrew alphabet; but each verse with a different word. This seventeenth
letter is the letter P. The section is precious, practical, profitable, powerful;
peculiarly so. Let us pray for a blessing upon the reading of it.

“Thy testimonies are wonderful” Full of wonderful revelations,
commands, and promises. Wonderful in their nature, as being free from all
error, and bearing within themselves overwhelming self-evidence of their
truth; wonderful in their effects, as instructing, elevating, strengthening,
and comforting the soul. Jesus the eternal Word is called Wonderful, and
all the uttered words of God are wonderful in their degree. Those who
know them best wonder at them most. It is wonderful that God should
have borne testimony at all to sinful men, and more wonderful still that his
testimony should be of so heavenly a character, so clear, so full, so
gracious, so mighty.

“Therefore doth my soul keep them.” Their wonderful character so
impressed itself upon his mind that he kept them in his memory: their
wonderful excellence so charmed his heart that he kept them in his life.
Some men wonder at the words of God, and use them for their speculation;
but David was always practical, and therefore the more he wondered the
more he obeyed. Note that his religion was soul work; not with head and
hand alone did he keep the testimonies; but his soul, his truest and most:
real self, held fast to them. The Psalmist was so charmed with the revealed
will of God that he felt bound to exhibit its power in his daily life. His
wondering and pondering produced reverential obedience.

130. “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto
the simple.”

“The entrance of thy words giveth light.” No sooner do they gain
admission into the soul than they enlighten it: what light may be expected
from their prolonged indwelling! Their very entrance floods the mind with
instruction, for they are so full, so clear; what brightness must their abiding
bring! On the other hand, there must be such an “entrance” or there will
be no illumination. The mere hearing of the word with the external ear is of
small value by itself; but when the words of God enter into the chambers of
the heart, then light is scattered on all sides. This is the work of God: he
alone can give entrance to his word. We knock at the door in vain till grace
opens it. The word finds no entrance into some minds because they are
blocked up with self-conceit, or prejudice, or indifference; but where due
attention is given, divine illumination must surely follow upon a knowledge
of the mind of God. O Lord, make a clear entrance into my soul! Grant
that thy words, like the beams of the sun, may enter through the window of
my understanding, and dispel the darkness of my mind!

“It giveth understanding unto the simple:” The sincere and candid are the
true disciples of the word. To such it gives not only knowledge, but
understanding. These simple-hearted ones are frequently despised, and
their simplicity has another meaning infused into it, so as to be made the
theme of ridicule; but what matters it? Those whom the world dubs as
fools are among the truly wise if they are taught of God. What a divine
power rests in the word of God, since it not only bestows light, but even
gives that mental eye by which the light is received — “ It giveth
understanding”! Hence the value of the words of God to the simple, who
cannot receive mysterious truth unless their minds are aided to see it and
prepared to grasp it.

131. “I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy

“I opened my mouth, and panted.” An enlarged desire is one or the first
fruits of an understanding given us of the Lord. So animated was the
Psalmist’s desire, that he looked into the animal world to find a picture of
it. Men restrain their expressions; but in the animal world all is natural and
therefore truthful and forceful; and therefore, being filled with an intense
longing, holy David was not ashamed to describe it by a most expressive,
natural, and yet singular symbol. Like a stag that has been hunted in the
chase, and is hard pressed, and therefore pants for breath, so did the
Psalmist pant for tile entrance of God’s word into his soul. Nothing else
could content him. All that the world could yield him left him still panting
with open mouth. His soul panted for God, for the living God, and for
grace to walk with him in the way of holiness.

“For I longed for thy commandments.” Longed to know them, longed to
obey them, longed to be conformed to their spirit, longed to teach them to
others. He was a servant of God, and his industrious mind longed to
receive orders; he was a learner in the school of grace, and his eager spirit
longed to be taught of the Lord. Oh for more of this eager hungering,
thirsting, pining, panting!

132. “Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do
unto those that love thy name,”

“Look thou upon me.” A godly man cannot long be without prayer.
During the previous verses he had been expressing his love to God’s word,
but here he is upon his knees again. This prayer is specially short, but
exceedingly sententious: “Look thou upon me.” While he stood with
open mouth panting for the commandments, he besought the Lord to look
upon him, and let his condition and his unexpressed longings plead for him.
He desires to be known of God, and daily observed by him. He wishes also
to be favored with the divine smile, which is included in the word “look.”
If a look from us to God has saving efficacy in it, what may we not expect
by means of a look from God to us?

“And be merciful unto me.” Christ’s look at Peter was a look of mercy,
and all the looks of the heavenly Father are of the same kind. If he looked
in stern justice, his eyes would not endure us; but looking in mercy, he
spares and blesses us. If God looks and sees us panting, he will not fail to
be merciful to us.

“As thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.” Look on me as thou
lookest on those who love thee; be merciful to me as thou art accustomed
to be towards those who truly serve thee. There is a use and wont which
God observes towards them that love him, and David craved that he might
experience it. He would not have the Lord deal either better or worse with
him than he was accustomed to deal with his saints — worse would not
save him, better could not be. In effect he prays, “I am thy servant; treat
me as thou treatest thy servants. I am thy child; deal with me as with the
rest of thy children.’” Especially is it clear from the context that he desired
such an entering in of the word, and such a clear understanding of it, as
God usually gives to his own, according to the promise, ‘“All thy children
shall be taught of the Lord.”

Reader, do you love the name of the Lord? Is his character most honorable
in your sight? most dear to your heart? This is a sure mark of grace; for no
soul ever loved the Lord except as the result of love received from the
Lord himself.

133. “Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion
over me.”

“Order my steps in thy word.” This is one of the Lord’s customary
mercies to his chosen, — “He keepeth the feet of his saints.” Thus he
useth to do unto those who love his name. By his grace he enables us to
put our feet step by step in the very place which his word ordains. This
prayer seeks a very choice favor, namely, that every distinct act, every step,
may be arranged and governed by the will of God. This does not stop
short of perfect holiness, neither will the believer’s desires be satisfied with
anything beneath that blessed consummation.

“And let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” This is the negative
side of the blessing. We ask to do all that is right, and to fall under the
power of nothing that is wrong. God is our sovereign, and we would have
every thought in subjection to his sway. Believers have no darling sins to
which they would be willing to bow. They pant for perfect deliverance
from the dominion of evil, and being conscious that they cannot obtain it of
themselves, they cry unto God for it.

Taken in connection with the former clause, we learn, that to avoid all sin
we must observe all duty. Only by actual obedience can we be preserved
from falling into evil. Omissions lead to commissions: only an ordered life
can save us from the disorder of iniquity.

134. “Deliver me: from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy

“Deliver me from the oppression of man.” David had tasted all the
bitterness of this great evil. It had made him an exile from his country, and
banished him from the sanctuary of the Lord: therefore he pleads to be
saved from it. It is said that oppression makes a wise man mad, and no
doubt it has made many a righteous man sinful. Oppression is in itself
wicked, and it drives men to wickedness. We little know how much of our
virtue is due to our liberty; if we had been in bonds under haughty tyrants
we might have yielded to them, and instead of being confessors we might
now have been apostates. He who taught us to pray, “Lead us not into
temptation,” will sanction this prayer to be delivered from oppression,
since it is of much the same tenor. To be oppressed is to be tempted. Lord,
preserve us from it.

“So will I keep thy precepts.” When the stress of oppression was taken
off he would go his own way, and that way would be the way of the Lord.
Although we ought not to yield to the threatenings of men, yet many do so;
the wife is in many instances compelled by the oppression of her husband
to act against her conscience: children and servants, families and societies,
and even whole nations, have been brought into the same difficulty. Sins
committed through intimidation will be largely laid at the oppressor’s door;
and it usually pleases God ere long to overthrow those powers and persons
which compel men to do evil. The worst of it is, that some people, when
the pressure is taken off from them, follow after unrighteousness of their
own accord. These give evidence of being sinners in grain. As for the
righteous, it happens to them as it did to the apostles of old, “Being let go,
they went to their own company.” When saints are freed from tyrants,
they joyfully pay homage to their Lord and King.

135. “Make thy face shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes.”
“Make thy face to shine upon thy servant.” Oppressors frown, but do
thou smile. They darken my life, but do thou shine upon me, and all will be
bright The Psalmist again declares that he is God’s servant; and therefore
he values his Master’s smile. He seeks for no favor from others, but only
from his own Lord and Master.

“And teach me thy statutes.” He seeks holy education as the chief token
of divine love. This is the favor which he considers to be the shining of the
face of God upon him. If the Lord will be exceeding gracious, and make
him his favorite, he will ask no higher blessing than still to be taught the
royal statutes. See how the good man craves after holiness! This is the
choicest of all gems in his esteem. As we say among men that a good
education is a great fortune, so to be taught of the Lord is a gift of special
grace. The most favored believer needs teaching; even when he walks in
the light of God’s countenance, he has still to be taught the divine statutes,
or he will transgress.

136. “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy
law.” He wept in sympathy with God to see the holy law despised and
broken. He wept in pity for men who were thus drawing down upon
themselves the fiery wrath of God. His grief was such that he could
scarcely give it vent; his tears were not mere drops of sorrow, but rivers of
waters torrents of woe.

In this sacred grief the man of God became like the Lord Jesus, who beheld
the city, and wept over it; and like unto Jehovah himself, who hath no
pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but that he turn unto him and live.
The experience of this verse indicates a great advance upon anything we
have read before in this divine song: the psalm and the Psalmist are both
growing. That man is a ripe believer who sorrows because of the sins of
others. Mourners in Zion are among the chief of the saints. In verse 120 his
flesh trembled at the presence of God, but here it seems to melt and flow away
in floods of tears. “Teach me thy statutes” is followed by an expression of
great tenderness of heart. None are so affected by heavenly things as those
who are much in the study of the word, and are thereby taught the truth and
essence of things. Carnal men are afraid of brute force, and weep over losses
and crosses; but spiritual men feel a holy fear of the Lord himself, and most of
all lament when they see dishonor cast upon his holy name.

“Lord, let me weep for naught but sin,
And after none but thee,
And then I would, O that I might I
A constant weeper be.”

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