Exposition of Psalm 119:73-80

by Charles Spurgeon

73. Thy hand have made me and fashioned me: give me
understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.

74. They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I
have hoped in thy word.

75. I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou
in faithfulness hast afflicted me.

76. Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort,
according to thy word unto thy servant.

77. Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy
law is my delight.

78. Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me
without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts.

79. Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have
known thy testimonies.

80. Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed.

We have now come to the tenth portion, which in each stanza begins with
Jod; but it certainly does not treat of jots and tittles and other trifles. Its
subject would seem to be personal experience and its attractive influence
upon others. The prophet is in deep sorrow, but looks to be delivered and
made a blessing. Endeavoring to teach, the Psalmist first seeks to be taught
(verse 73), persuades himself that he will be well received (74), and then
repeats the testimony which he intends to bear (75). He prays for more
experience (76, 77), for the baffling of the proud (78), for the gathering
together of the godly to him (79), and for himself again, that he may be
fully equipped for his witness-bearing, and may be sustained in it (80). This
is the anxious yet hopeful cry of one who is heavily afflicted by cruel
adversaries, and therefore makes his appeal to God as his only friend.

73. “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding
that I may learn thy command-merits”

“Thy hands have made me and fashioned me.” It is profitable to
remember our creation, it is pleasant to see that the divine hand has had
much to do with us; for it never moves apart from the divine thought. It
excites reverence, gratitude, and affection towards God when we view him
as our Maker, putting forth the careful skill and power of his hands in our
forming and fashioning. He took a personal interest in us, making us with
his own hands; he was doubly thoughtful, for he is represented both as
making and molding us. In both giving existence and arranging existence
the Lord manifested love and wisdom; and therefore we find reasons for
praise, confidence, and expectation in our being and well-being.

“Give me understanding, that I may team thy commandments.” As thou
hast made me, teach me. Here is the vessel which thou hast fashioned;
Lord, fill it! Thou hast given me both soul and body; grant me now thy
grace that my soul may know thy will, and my body may join in the
performance of it. The plea is very forcible; it is an enlargement of the cry,
“Forsake not the, work of thine own hands.” Without understanding the
divine law and rendering obedience to it, we are imperfect and useless; but
we may reasonably hope that the great Potter will complete his work, and
give the finishing touch to it, by imparting to us sacred knowledge and holy
character. If God had roughly made us, and had not also elaborately
fashioned us, this argument would lose much of its force; but surely from
the delicate art and marvelous skill which the Lord has shown in the
formation of the human body, we may infer that he is prepared to take
equal pains with the soul, till it shall perfectly bear his image.

A man without a mind is an idiot, the mere mockery of a man; and a mind
without grace is wicked, the sad perversion of a mind. We pray that we
may not be left without spiritual judgment or understanding: this the
Psalmist sought in verse 66, and he here pleads for it again: there is no true
knowing and keeping of the commandments without it. Fools can sin; but
only those who are taught of God can be holy. We often speak of gifted
men; but he has the best gifts to whom God has given a sanctified
understanding wherewith to know and prize the ways of the Lord. Note
well that David’s prayer for understanding is not for the sake of speculative
knowledge, and the gratification of his curiosity: he desires an enlightened
judgment, that he may learn God’s commandments, and so become
obedient and holy. This is the best of learning. A man may abide in the
College: where this science is taught all his days, and yet cry out for ability
to learn more. The commandment of God is exceeding broad, and so it
affords scope for the most vigorous and instructed mind: in fact, no man
has by nature an understanding capable of compassing so wide a field, and
hence the prayer, “Give me understanding”; — as much as to say — I can
learn other things with the mind I have, but thy law is so pure, so perfect,
spiritual and sublime, that I need to have my mind enlarged before I can
become proficient in it. He appeals to his Maker to do this, as if he felt that
no power short of that which made him could make him wise unto
holiness. We need a new creation, and who can grant us this but the
Creator himself? He who made us to live must make us to learn; he who
gave us power to stand must give us grace to understand. Let us each one
breathe to heaven the prayer of this verse ere we advance a step further;
for we shall be lost even in these petitions unless we pray our way through
them, and cry to God for understanding.

74. “They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have
hoped in thy word.” When a man of God obtains grace for himself he
becomes a blessing to others, especially if that grace has made him a man
of sound understanding and holy knowledge.

God-fearing men are encouraged when they meet with experienced
believers. A hopeful man is a God-send when things are declining or in
danger. When the hopes of one believer are fulfilled, his companions are
cheered and established, and led to hope also. It is good for the eyes to see
a man whose witness is that the Lord is true; it is one of the joys of saints
to hold converse with their more advanced brethren. The fear of God is not
a left-handed grace, as some have called it; it is quite consistent with
gladness; for if even the sight of a comrade gladdens the God-fearing, how
glad must they be in the presence of the Lord himself! We do not only meet
to share each other’s burdens, but to :partake in each other’s joys,
gracious men contribute largely to the stock of mutual gladness. Hopeful
men bring gladness with them. Despondent spirits spread the infection of
depression, and hence few are glad to see them; while those whose hopes
are grounded upon God’s word carry sunshine in their faces, and are
welcomed by their fellows. When professors by their freezing words chill
all hearts; the godly avoid their company. May this never be our character!

75 “I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in
faithfulness hast afflicted me.”

“I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right.” He who would learn
more must be thankful for what he already knows, and be willing to
confess it to the glory of God. The Psalmist had been sorely tried, but he
had continued to hope in God under his trial, and now he avows his
conviction that he had been justly and wisely chastened. This he not only
thought but knew, so that he. was positive about it, and spoke without a
moment’s hesitation. Saints are sure about the rightness of their troubles,
even when they cannot see the intent of them. It :made the godly glad to
hear David say this, “And that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”
Because love required severity, therefore the Lord exercised it was not
because God was unfaithful that the believer found himself in a sore strait,
but for just the opposite reason: it was the faithfulness of God to his
covenant which brought the chosen one under the rod. It might not be
needful that other’s should be tried just then; but it was necessary to the
Psalmist, and therefore the Lord did not withhold the blessing. Our
heavenly Father is no Eli: he will not suffer his children to sin without
rebuke, his love is too intense for that. The man who makes the confession
of this verse is already progressing in the school of grace, and is learning
the commandments. This third verse of the section corresponds to the third
of Teth (67), and in a degree to several other verses which make the thirds
in their octaves.

76. “Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according
to thy word unto thy servant.” Having confessed the righteousness of the
Lord, he now appeals to his mercy, and while he does not ask that the rod
may be removed, he earnestly begs for comfort under it. Righteousness and
faithfulness afford us no consolation if we cannot also taste of mercy, and,
blessed be God, this is promised us in the word, and therefore we may
expect it. The words “merciful kindness” are a happy combination, and
express exactly what we need in affliction: mercy to forgive the sin, and
kindness to sustain under the sorrow. With these we can be comfortable in
the cloudy and dark day, and without them we are wretched indeed; for
these, therefore, let us pray unto the Lord, whom we have grieved by our
sin, and let us plead the word of his grace as our sole reason for expecting
his favor. Blessed be his name, notwithstanding our faults we are still his
servants, and we serve a compassionate Master. Some read the last clause,
“according to thy saying unto thy servant”; some special saying of the
Lord was remembered and pleaded: can we not remember some such
“faithful saying,” and make it the groundwork of our petitioning? That
phrase, “according to thy word,” is a very favorite one; it shows the
motive for mercy and the manner of mercy. Our prayers are according to
the mind of God when they’ are according to the word of God.

77. “Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is
my delight.”

“Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live.” He was so hard
pressed that he was at death’s door if God did not succor him. He needed
not only mercy, but “mercies,” and these must be of a very gracious and
considerate kind, even “tender mercies,” for he was sore with his
wounds. These gentle favors must be of the Lord’s giving, for nothing less
would suffice; and they must “come” all the way to the sufferer’s heart,
for he was not able to journey after them; all he could do was to sigh out,
“Oh that they would come”! If deliverance did not soon come, he felt
ready to expire; and yet he told us but a verse or so ago that he hoped in
God’s word: how true it is that hope lives on when death seems written on
all besides! A heathen said, “dum spiro spero,” while I breathe I hope; but
the Christian can say, “dum expiro spero,” even when I expire I still
expect the blessing. Yet no true child of God can live without the tender
mercy of the Lord; it is death to him to be under God’s displeasure. Notice,
again, the happy combination of the words of our English version. Was
there ever a sweeter sound than this — “ tender mercies”? He who has
been grievously afflicted, and yet tenderly succored, is the only man who
knows the meaning of such choice language.

How truly we live when tender mercy comes to us! Then we do not
merely exist, but live; we are lively, full of life, vivacious, and vigorous.
We know not what life is till we know God. Some are said to die by the
visitation of God, but we live by it.

“For thy law is my delight.” O blessed faith I He is no mean believer who
rejoices in the law even when its broken precepts cause him to suffer. To
delight in the word when it rebukes us, is proof that we are profiting under
it. Surely this is a plea which will prevail with God, however bitter our
griefs may be; if we still delight in the law of the Lord he cannot let us die,
he must and will cast a tender look upon us, and comfort our hearts.

78. “Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without
a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts.”

“Let the proud be ashamed.” He begged that the judgments of God might
no longer fall upon himself, but upon his cruel adversaries. God will not
suffer those who hope in his word to be put to shame, for he reserves that
reward for haughty spirits: they shall yet be overtaken with confusion, and
become the subjects of contempt, while God’s afflicted ones shall again lift
up their heads. Shame is for the proud, for it is a shameful thing to be
proud. Shame is not for the holy, for there is nothing in holiness to be
ashamed of.

“For they dealt perversely with me without a cause.” Their malice was
wanton, he had not provoked them. Falsehood was employed to forge an
accusation against him; they had to bend his actions out of their true shape
before they could assail his character. Evidently the Psalmist keenly felt the
malice of his foes. His consciousness of innocence with regard to them
created a burning sense of injustice, and he appealed to the righteous Lord
to take his part and clothe his false accusers with shame. Probably he
mentioned them as “the proud,” because he knew that the Lord always
takes vengeance on proud men, and vindicates the cause of those whom
they oppress. Sometimes he mentions the proud, and sometimes the
wicked, but he always means the same persons; the words are
interchangeable: he who is proud is sure to be wicked, and proud
persecutors are, the worst of wicked men.

“But I will meditate in thy precepts.” He would leave the proud in God’s
hands, and give himself up to holy studies and contemplations. To obey the
divine precepts we have need to know them, and think much of them,
hence, this persecuted saint felt that meditation must be his chief
employment. He would study the law of God, and not the law of
retaliation. The proud are not worth a thought. The worst injury they can
do us is to take us away from our devotions; let us baize them by keeping
all the closer to our God when they are most malicious in their onslaughts.
In a similar position to this we have met with the proud in other octave
and shall meet them yet again. They are evidently a great plague to the
Psalmist, but he rises above them.

79. “Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have known thy
testimonies.” Perhaps the tongue of slander had alienated some of the
godly, and probably the actual faults of David had grieved many more. He
begs God to turn to him, and then to turn his people towards him. Those
who are right with God are also anxious to be right with his children.
David craved the love and sympathy of gracious men of all grades — of
those who were beginners in grace, and of those who were mature in piety
— “those that fear thee,” and “those that have known thy testimonies.”
We cannot afford to lose the love of the least of the saints; and if we have
lost their esteem we may most properly pray to have it restored. David was
the leader of the godly party in the nation, and it wounded him to the heart
when he perceived that those who feared God were not as glad to see him
as aforetime they had been. He did not bluster, and say that if they could
do without him he could very well do without them; but he so deeply felt
the value of their sympathy, that he made it a matter of prayer that the
Lord would turn their hearts to him again. Those who are dear to God, and
are instructed in his word, should be very precious in our eyes, and we
should do our utmost to be upon good terms with them.

David has two descriptions for the saints: they are God-fearing and God-
knowing. They possess both devotion and instruction; they have both the
spirit and the science of true religion. We know some believers who are
gracious, but not intelligent; and, on the other hand, we also know certain
professors who have all head and no heart: he is the man who combines
devotion with intelligence. We neither care for devout dunces nor for
intellectual icebergs. When fearing and knowing walk hand in hand they
cause men to be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. If those
choice spirits who both love God and learn of God are my favorite
companions I may hope that I am one of their order. Grant, O Lord, that
such persons ever turn to me because they find in me congenial company!

80. “Let my heart be sound in thy statutes: that I be not ashamed.” This
is even more important than to be held in esteem by good men. This is the
root of the matter. If the heart be sound in obedience to God, all is well, or
will be well. If right at heart we are right in the main. If we be not sound
before God, our name for piety is an empty sound. Mere profession wilt
fail, and undeserved esteem will disappear like a bubble when it bursts;
only sincerity and truth will endure in the evil day. He who is right at heart
has no reason for shame, and he never shall have any. Hypocrites ought to
be ashamed now, and they shall one day be put to shame without end: their
hearts are rotten, and their names shall rot. This eightieth verse is a
variation of the prayer of the seventy-third verse; there the Psalmist sought
sound understanding, here he goes deeper, and begs for a sound heart.
Those who have learned their own frailty by sad experience, are led to dive
beneath the surface, and cry to the Lord for truth in the inward parts. In
closing the consideration of these eight verses, let us join with the writer in
the prayer, “Let my heart be sound in thy statutes.”

Back | Home | Books & Articles | Spurgeon Gems | Pink Gems
Devotional Helps | Puritan Prayers | Inspirational Quotes | Inspirational Poems
Audio Messages | Assurance | Prayer | Praise | About Our Ministry