What deep—weighty—impressive thoughts were exercising the Psalmist's mind! He had just marked the happy influence of the testimonies upon the believer's heart. Now he again recurs to their righteousness—as the Divine administration—not subject to the incessant variations of the human standard—but everlasting—of unalterable obligation—binding us unchangeably to God, and God to us. His creatures can virtually "make them void" by their rebellion; but they cannot change their character, or shake their foundation. No—themselves shall be the instruments of their fulfillment. Every word shall be established either by them as His obedient servants, or in and upon them as rebel transgressors. What solemn weight therefore is due to this Divine standard! It seems now to be trampled under foot; but its righteousness, inflexible in its demands, and unalterable in its obligations—will before long assert its sovereignty over the world, when every other standard shall have passed away. It will be the rule of the Divine procedure at the great day of decision. When the "great white throne" is set up—when "the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books are opened, and another book is opened, which is the book of life;" and the dead are judged out of those things which were written in the books, "according to their works"—the acknowledgment will be made throughout the universe of God—The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting. How glorious is the confidence of being dealt with in that great day upon an everlasting foundation of righteousness!
But this view of the Divine righteousness and everlasting obligation of the testimonies, naturally suggests the prayer for a more spiritual, enlightened, and experimental acquaintance with them. Often before had the petition been sent up. But who can cry too often or too earnestly? One ray of this understanding is of far higher value than all the intellectual or speculative knowledge in the world. If its first dawn exhibits the infinite difference between light and darkness—if prayer for it implies a measure already received, still—Give me understanding—will be the cry—not of the "little child" whose spiritual perception is just opening—but of the "father who has known Him that is from the beginning." Let me know the holiness of Your testimonies—their extent—their perfection—their intimate connection with every part of my daily walk—with the restraint of my inclination, the regulation of my temper, the direction of every step of my path. And indeed the more devoutly we study them, the more shall we feel our need of supplication for Divine teaching, to give us more adoring and thankful views of the government of God, and to subjugate our caviling disposition to the humbling influence of faith.
The principle of spiritual and eternal life flows from the enlightened perception of the testimonies of God. Give me understanding, and I shall live. For "this is life eternal, that we might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." His testimonies are the revelation of Himself. If then we "have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things," our knowledge of them will become more spiritual in its character, more experimental in its comforts, and more practical in its fruits. And thus, 'the life of God in the soul' will invigorate us for higher attainments in evangelical knowledge, and more steady advancement in Christian holiness. But how infinitely do we live below the full privilege of knowing God in His testimonies! Christians of a Scriptural standard are "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded."
And then—what will it be at the great consummation; when our God of love will have put His last hand to His glorious work; when the mark of all our aims—the term of all our hopes and desires—all that we have so long labored for—so earnestly panted after—so restlessly pursued—when all shall be attained? Then indeed we shall live a life worthy of the name—not as now under the shadowed glimmerings—but under the immediate full-eyed glory of His light and love; having escaped forever the deadliest of all dangers—sin—the very deadliness of death itself.
"The righteousness of your testimonies is everlasting." First he had said that God's testimonies were righteous, then that they were everlasting, and now that their righteousness is everlasting. Thus he gives us a larger and more detailed account of the word of God as he proceeds. The longer he is engaged in writing upon it, the more he has to write. The more we say in praise of holy writ, the more we may say, and the more we can say. God's testimonies to man cannot be assailed, they are righteous from beginning to end; and though ungodly men have opposed the divine justice, especially in the plan of salvation, they have always failed to establish any charge against the Most High. Long as the earth shall stand, long as there shall be a single intelligent creature in the universe, it will be confessed that God's plans of mercy are in all respects marvelous proofs of his love of justice: even that he may be gracious Jehovah will not be unjust.
"Give me understandings and I shall live." This is a prayer which he is constantly praying, that God would give him understanding. Here he evidently considers that such a gift is essential to his living. To live without understanding is not to live the life of a man, but to be dead while we live. Only as we know and apprehend the things of God can we be said to enter into life. The more the Lord teaches us to admire the eternal rightness of his word, and the more he quickens us to the love of such rightness, the happier and the better we shall be. As we love life, and seek many days that we may see good, it behooves us to seek immortality in the everlasting word which lives and abides forever, and to seek good in that renewal of our entire nature which begins with the enlightenment of the understanding and passes on to the regeneration of the entire man. Here is our need of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, and the Guide of all the quickened ones, who shall lead us into all truth. Oh, for the visitations of his grace at this good hour!
We live by the Word of God, in the sense that it preserves us from those sinful ways which would be death to us. To understand and copy the righteousness of God is the best preservative from all our deadly foes. If the Lord will give us understanding so that we do this, we shall indeed live in the highest and best sense, despite the powers of death and Hell.
Exposition of Verses 145 to 152
I CRIED with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep your statutes.
I cried unto you; save me, and I shall keep your testimonies.
I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in your word.
Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in your word.
Hear my voice according unto your loving-kindness: O LORD, quicken me according to your judgment.
They draw near that follow after mischief: they are far from your law.
You are near, O LORD; and all your commandments are truth.
Concerning your testimonies, I have known of old that you have founded them forever.
This section is given up to memories of prayer. The Psalmist describes the time and the manner of his supplication, and pleads with God for deliverance from his troubles. He who has been with God in the closet will find God with him in the furnace. If we have cried we shall be answered. Delayed answers may drive us to importunity; but we need not fear the ultimate result, since God's promises are not uncertain, but are "founded forever." The whole passage shows us: How he prayed (verse 145). What he prayed for (verse 146). When he prayed (verse 147). How long he prayed (verse 148). What he pleaded (verse 149). What happened (verse 151). How he was rescued (verse 150). What was his witness as to the whole matter (verse 152). May the Lord bless our meditations on this instructive passage!