"Praise is lovely for the upright." It is at once their duty and their privilege. But what does highest exercise amount to, when placed on the ground of its own merit? We clothe our ideas with magnificence of language, and deck them out with all the richness of imagery; and perhaps we are pleased with our forms of praise. But what are they in His sight beyond the offering of a contemptible worm, spreading before its Maker its own mean and low notions of Divine Majesty? If a worm were to raise its head, and cry—'O sun! You are the source of light and heat to a widely-extended universe'—it would, in fact, render a higher praise to the sun, than we can ever give to our Maker. Between it and us there is some proportion—between us and God none. Yet, unworthy as the offering confessedly is, He will not despise it. No, more, instead of spurning it from His presence, He has revealed Himself as "inhabiting the praises of Israel;" thus intimating to us, that the service of praise is "set forth in His sight as incense;" and at the same time, that it should be the daily and unceasing exercise of one at his own home.
The true character of praise, however, depends entirely upon the state of the heart. In the contemplative philosopher it is only cheerless, barren admiration: in the believer it becomes a principle of comfort and encouragement. For, can he forget the revelation, which his God has given of Himself in the gospel of His dear Son; how it divests every attribute of its terrors, and shines before us in all the glory of His faithfulness and love? The ascription of praise, "Blessed are You, O Lord," frames itself therefore into the prophet's song, "Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retains not His anger forever, because He delights in mercy."
Truly then He is "blessed" in Himself, and delights to communicate His blessedness to His people. Hence we are emboldened to ask for continual "teaching in His statutes," in the truths which He has revealed, and the precepts which He has enjoined; that we may "be followers of Him, as dear children," and "walk with Him in love."
The practical influence, however, of Divine light, constitutes its peculiar privilege. Man's teaching puffs up—God's teaching humbles. Man's teaching may lead us into error as well as into truth—God's teaching is "the unction from the Holy One, by which we know all things." Man's teaching may make us more learned—God's teaching makes us more holy. It persuades, while it enlightens. It draws the heart, inclines the will, and carries out the soul to Christ. The tried character of God encourages us to look for His teaching, "Good and upright is the Lord; therefore will He teach sinners in the way." Our warrant is especially confirmed in approaching Him as our covenant God, "Lead me in Your truth, and teach me; for You are the God of my salvation. Teach me to do Your will: for You are my God."
Reader! do you desire to praise your God? Then learn to frequent the new and living way, "by which alone you can offer your sacrifice acceptably."And while engaged in this holy service, inquire, surrounded as you are with the means of instruction, what progress you are making in His statutes. Seek to have a deeper acquaintance with the character of God. Seek to be the vessels of honor and glory, into which He is pouring more and more continually, "until they be filled with all the fullness of God." Value the unspeakable blessing of Divine teaching, by which you learn to live the life, and begin the blessedness of God.
"Blessed are you, O LORD." These are words of adoration arising out of an intense admiration of the divine character, which the writer is humbly aiming to imitate. He blesses God for all that he has revealed to him, and wrought in him; he praises him with warmth of reverent love, and depth of holy wonder. These are also words of perception uttered from a remembrance of the great Jehovah's infinite happiness within himself. The Lord is and must be blessed, for he is the perfection of holiness; and this is probably the reason why this is used as a plea in this place. It is as if David had said: I see that in conformity to yourself my way to happiness must lie, for you are supremely blessed; and if I am made in my measure like to you in holiness, I shall also partake in your blessedness.
No sooner is the word in the heart than a desire arises to mark and learn it. When food is eaten, the next thing is to digest it; and when the word is received into the soul the first prayer is—Lord, teach me its meaning. "Teach me your statutes"; for thus only can I learn the way to be blessed. You are so blessed that I am sure you will delight in blessing others; and this blessing I crave of you that I may be instructed in your commands. Happy men usually rejoice to make others happy; and surely the happy God will willingly impart the holiness which is the fountain of happiness. Faith prompted this prayer, and based it, not upon anything in the praying man, but solely upon the perfection of the God to whom he made supplication. Lord, you are blessed, therefore bless me by teaching me.
We need to be disciples or learners—"teach me"; but what an honor to have God himself for a teacher! How bold is David, to beg the blessed God to teach him! Yet the Lord put the desire into his heart when the sacred word was hidden there, and so we may be sure that he was not too bold in expressing it. Who would not wish to enter the school of such a Master to learn of him the are of holy living? To this Instructor we must submit ourselves if we would practically keep the statutes of righteousness. The King who ordained the statutes knows best their meaning, and as they are the outcome of his own nature he can best inspire us with their spirit. The petition commends itself to all who wish to cleanse their way, since it is most practical, and asks for teaching, not upon recondite lore, but upon statute-law. If we know the Lord's statutes, we have the most essential education.
Let us each one say, "Teach me your statutes." This is a sweet prayer for everyday use. It is a step above that of verse 10," O let me not wander," as that was a rise beyond that of 8, "O forsake me not utterly." It finds its answer in verses 98–100: "You through your commandments have made me wiser than my enemies," etc.; but not until it had been repeated even to the third time in the "Teach me" of verses 33 and 66, all of which I beg my reader to peruse. Even after this third pleading, the prayer occurs again in so many words in verses 124 and 139, and the same longing comes out near the close of the psalm in verse 171—"My lips shall utter praise when you have taught me your statutes."