Exposition of Psalm 119:160-168

by Charles Spurgeon

161. Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart
standeth in awe of thy word.

162. I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.

163. I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.

164. Seven times a day do praise thee because of thy righteous

165. That peace have they which love thy law: and nothing
shall offend them.

166. Lord, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy

167. My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them

168. I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies: for all my
ways are before thee.

We are drawing near to the end. The pulse of the Psalm beats more quickly
than usual; the sentences are shorter, the sense is more vivid, the strain is
more full and deep. The veteran of a thousand battles, the receiver often
thousand mercies, rehearses his experience, and anew declares his loyalty
to the Lord and his law. Oh, that when we come to the close of life we may
be able to speak as David does as he closes his life-psalm! Not boastfully,
but still boldly, he places himself among the obedient servants of the Lord.
Oh, to be clear in conscience when life’s sun is setting!

161. “Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth
in awe of thy word.”

“Princes have persecuted me without a cause.” Such persons ought to
have known better; they should have had sympathy with one of their own
rank. A man expects a fair trial at the hands of his peers. It is ignoble for
any one to be prejudiced; but worst of all for noblemen to be so. If honor
were banished from all other breasts it should remain in the bosom of
kings, and certainly honor forbids the persecution of the innocent. Princes
are appointed to protect the virtuous and avenge the oppressed, and it is a
shame when they themselves become the assailants of the righteous. It was
a sad case when the man of God found himself attacked by the judges of
the earth, for their eminent position added weight and venom to their
enmity. It was well that the sufferer could truthfully assert that this;
persecution was “without a cause.” He had not broken their laws, he had
not injured them, he had not even desired to see them injured: he had not
been an advocate of rebellion or anarchy, he had neither openly nor
secretly opposed their power, and therefore, while this made their
oppression the more inexcusable, it took away a part of its sting, and
helped the brave-hearted servant of God to bear up under their

“But my heart standeth in awe of thy word.” He might have been
overcome by awe of the princes, had it not been that a greater fear drove
out the less, and he was swayed by awe of God’s word. How little are
crowns and scepters in the judgment of that man who perceives a more
majestic royalty in the commands of his God! We are not likely to be
disheartened by persecution, nor driven by it into sin, if the word of God
exerts supreme power over our minds.

162. “I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.” His awe did
not prevent his joy; his fear of God was not of the kind which perfect love
casts out, but of the sort which it nourishes. He trembled at the word of the
Lord, and yet rejoiced at it. He compares his joy to that of one who has
been long in battle, and has at last won the victory and is dividing the
spoil. This usually falls to the lot of princes; and though David was divided
from other monarchs by their persecution of him, yet he had victories of his
own, which they understood not, and treasures in which they could not
share. He could say, —

“With causeless hate by princes chased,
Still on thy word my heart is placed.
That word I dread; that word I hold
More dear than heaps of captured gold.”

“David’s spoil” was more than equal to the greatest gains of all the
mighty men. His holy booty taken by his earnest: contention for the truth
of God was greater than all the trophies that can be gained in war. Grace
divides greater spoil than falls to the lot of sword or bow.

In the evil times we have to fight hard for divine truth: every doctrine costs
us a battle. But when we gain a full understanding of eternal truth by
personal struggles it becomes doubly precious to us. If we have unusual
battling for the word of God, may we have for our spoil a firmer hold upon
the priceless word!

Perhaps the, passage may mean that the Psalmist rejoiced as one who
comes upon hidden treasure for which he has not fought, in which case we
find the analogy in the man of God who, while reading the Bible, makes
grand and blessed discoveries of the grace of God laid up for him —
discoveries which surprise him, for he looked not to find such a prize.
Whether we come by the truth as finders or as warriors fighting for it, the
heavenly treasure should be equally dear to us. With what quiet joy does
the ploughman steal home with his golden find! How victors shout as they
share the plunder! How glad should that man be who has discovered his
portion in the promises of Holy Writ, and is able to enjoy that portion for
himself, knowing by the witness of the Holy Spirit that it is all his own!

163. “I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.”

“I hate and abhor lying.” A double expression for an inexpressible
loathing. Falsehood in doctrine, in life, or in speech, falsehood in any form
or shape, had become utterly detestable to the Psalmist. This was a
remarkable statement for an Oriental to make; for, generally, lying is the
delight of Easterns, and the only wrong they see in it is when their skill is at
fault, so that the lie is found out. David himself had made much progress
when he had come to this; for he, too, had practiced guile in his day. He
does not, however, alone refer to falsehood in conversation; he evidently
intends perversity in faith and teaching. He wrote down all opposition to
the God of truth as lying, and then he turned his whole soul against it with
the intensest form of indignation. Godly men should detest false doctrine
even as they abhor any other lie.

“But thy law do I love.” He did not merely yield to it, but he had great
pleasure in it. A sullen obedience is essentially rebellion: only a hearty love
will secure sincere loyalty to law. David loved the law of God because it is
the foe of falsehood and the guardian of truth. His love was as ardent as his
hate: he intensely loved the word of God, which is in itself pure truth. True
men love truth, and hate lying. It is well for us to know which way our
hates and loves run; and we may do essential service to others by declaring
what: are the objects of our admiration and detestation. Both love and hate
are contagious, and when they are sanctified the wider their influence the

164. “Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous

He labored perfectly to praise his perfect God, and therefore fulfilled the
perfect number of songs — that number being seven. He reached a Sabbath
in his praise, and before he rested on his bed he found sweet rest in the
joyful adoration of Jehovah. Seven may also intend notable frequency.
Frequently he lifted up his heart in thanksgiving to God for his divine
teachings in the word, and for his divine actions in providence. With his
voice he extolled the righteousness of the Judge of all the earth. As often
as he thought of God’s ways a song leaped to his lips. At the sight of the
oppressive princes, and at the hearing of the abounding falsehood around
him, he felt all the more bound to adore and magnify God, who in all things
is truth and righteousness, When others slander us, or in any other way rob
us of our just need of praise, it should be a warning to us not to fall into
the same conduct towards our God, who is so much more worthy of
honor. If we praise God when we are persecuted, our music will be all the
sweeter to him because of our constancy in suffering. If we keep clear of
all lying, our song will be the more acceptable because it comes out of
honest lips. If we never flatter men, we shall be in the better condition for
honoring the Lord. Do we praise God seven times a day? Alas! the
question needs altering — Do we praise him once in seven days? O
shameful fraud, which deprives the Ever Blessed of the music of this lower

The pre-eminent holiness of Jehovah’s laws and acts should bring forth
from us continued praise. Happy are holy men to be ruled by a righteous
governor who never errs! Each lover of righteousness will say in his

“Just are thy laws; I daily raise
The sevenfold tribute of my praise”

165. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend

“Great peace have they which love thy law.” What a charming verse is
this! It deals not with those who perfectly keep the law — for where
should such men be found? — but with those who love it, whose hearts
and hands are made to square with its precepts and demands. These men
are ever striving, with all their hearts, to walk in obedience to the law, and
though they are often persecuted they have peace, yea, great peace; for
they have learned the secret of the reconciling blood, they have felt the
power of the comforting Spirit, and they stand before the Father as men
accepted. The Lord has given them to feel his peace, which passeth all
understanding. They have many troubles, and are likely to be persecuted by
the proud; but their usual condition is that of deep calm peace too great for
“these light afflictions” to break.

“And nothing shall offend them,” or, “shall really injure them.” “All
things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the
called according to his purpose.” It must needs be that offences come; but
these lovers of the law are peacemakers, and so they neither give nor take
offence. That peace which is founded upon conformity to God’s will is a
living and lasting one, worth writing of with enthusiasm, as the Psalmist
here does.

166. “Lord, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy
commandments.” Here we have salvation by grace, and the fruits thereof.
All David’s hope was fixed upon God, he looked to him alone for
salvation; and then he endeavored most earnestly to fulfil the commands of
ibis law. Those who place least reliance upon good works are very
frequently those who have the most of them: that same divine teaching
which delivers us from confidence in our own doings leads us to abound in
every good work to the glory of God. In times of trouble there are two
things to be done, the first is to hope in God, and the second is to do that
which is right. The first without the second would be mere presumption;
the second without the first mere formalism. It is well if in looking back we
can claim to have acted in the way which is commanded of the Lord. If we
have acted rightly towards God we are sure that he will act kindly towards

167. “My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly.”

“My soul hath kept thy testimonies.” My outward life has kept thy
precepts, and my inward life, my soul, has kept thy testimonies. God has
borne testimony to many sacred truths, and these we hold fast with all our
heart and soul, for we value them as life itself. The gracious man stores up
the truth of God within his heart as a treasure exceedingly dear and
precious — he keeps it His secret soul, his inmost self, becomes the
guardian of these divine teachings which are his sole authority in soul
matters. To him it becomes a great joy in his old age to be able to say,
“My soul hath kept thy testimonies.”

“And I 1ove them exceedingly.” This was Why he kept them, and, having
kept them, this was the result of the keeping. He did not merely store up
revealed truth by way of duty, but because of a deep, unutterable affection
for it. He felt that he could sooner die than give up any part of the
revelation of God. The more we store our minds with heavenly truth, the
more deeply shall we be in love with it: the more we see the exceeding
riches of the Bible, the more will our love exceed measure, and exceed

168. “I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies; dear all my ways are
before thee,”

“I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies.” Both the practical and the
doctrinal parts of God’s word he had stored up, and preserved, and
followed. It is a blessed thing to see the two forms of the divine word
equally known, equally valued, equally confessed: there should be no
picking and choosing as to the mind of God. We know those who
endeavor to be careful as to the precepts, but who seem to think that the
doctrines of the gospel are mere matters of opinion, which they may shape
for themselves. This is not a perfect condition of things. We have known
others again who are very rigid as to the doctrines, and painfully lax with
reference to the precepts. This also is far from right. When the two are
“kept” with equal earnestness, then have we the perfect man.

“For all my ways are before thee?” Probably he means to say that this was
the motive of his endeavoring to be right both in head and heart, because
he knew that God saw him, and under the sense of the divine presence he
was afraid to err. Or else he is thus appealing to God to bear witness to the
truth of what he has said. In either case it is no small consolation to feel
that our heavenly Father knows all about us, and that if princes speak
against us, and worldlings fill their mouths with cruel lies, yet he can
vindicate us, for there is nothing secret or hidden from him.

We are struck with the contrast between this verse, which is the last of its
octave, and verse 176, which is similarly placed in the next octave. This is a
protest of innocence, “I have kept thy precepts,” and that a confession of
sin, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep.” Both were sincere, both
accurate. Experience makes many a paradox plain, and this is one. Before
God we may be clear of open fault, and yet at the same time mourn over a
thousand heart-wanderings which need his restoring hand.

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