David seems at a loss for expressions adequately to set forth the fervency of his love and delight in the ways and word of God. Here we find him lifting up his hands with the gesture of one, who is longing to embrace the object of his desire with both hands and his whole heart. Perhaps also in lifting up his hands unto the commandments, he might mean to express his looking upward for assistance to keep them, and to live in them. But how humbling this comparison with ourselves! Alas! how often from the neglect of this influence of the Spirit of God, do our "hands hang down," instead of being lifted up, in these holy ways! We are too often content with a scanty measure of love: without any sensible "hungering and thirsting after righteousness;" neither able to pray with life and power, nor to hear with comfort and profit, nor to "do good and communicate" with cheerfulness, nor to meditate with spiritual delight, nor to live for God with zeal and interest, nor to anticipate the endurance of the cross with unflinching resolution—the soul being equally disabled for heavenly communion and active devotedness. Shall we look for ease under the power of this deadening malady? Let us rather struggle and cry for deliverance from it. Let us subscribe ourselves before God as wretched, helpless, and guilty. He can look upon us, and revive us. Let us then "take hold upon His covenant," and plead that He will look upon us. Let us "put Him in remembrance" of the glory of His name, which is much more concerned in delivering us out of this frame, by His quickening grace, than in leaving us, stupid, corrupt, and carnal in it. Professor! awake: or beg of the Lord to awaken you! For if your cold sleeping heart is contented with the prospect of a heaven hereafter, without seeking for a present foretaste of its joy, it may be a very questionable matter whether heaven will ever be yours.
Delight, however, will exercise itself in an habitual meditation in the statutes. The breathing of the heart will be, "Oh, how love I Your law! it is my meditation all the day." It is in holy meditation on the word of God, that all the graces of the Spirit are manifested. What is the principle of faith, but the reliance of the soul upon the promises of the word? What is the sensation of godly fear, but the soul trembling before the threatenings of God? What is the object of hope, but the apprehended glory of God? What is the excitement of desire or love, but longing, endearing contemplations of the Savior, and of His unspeakable blessings? Hence we can scarcely conceive of the influence of grace separated from spiritual meditation on the word. It is this which, under Divine teaching, draws out its hidden contents, and exhibits them to the soul, as the objects upon which the principles and affections of the Divine life are habitually exercised. Not that any benefit can be expected from meditation, even upon the word of God, as an abstract duty. If not deeply imbued with prayer, it will degenerate into dry speculative study. Without some distinct practical application, it will be unedifying in itself, and unsatisfactory for its important ends—the discerning of the mind of God, and feeding upon the rich provision of the Gospel.
Why then is the Bible read only—not meditated on? Because it is not loved. We do not go to it, as the hungry man to his food, as the miser to his treasure. The loss is incalculable. Our superficial knowledge has no practical influence. It is only as we "search," that we "know it for our good."
Let it then be a matter of daily inquiry. Does my reading of the word of God furnish food for my soul, matter for prayer, direction for conduct? Scriptural study, when entered upon in a prayerful spirit, will never, like many other studies, be unproductive. The mind that is engaged in it, is fitly set for bearing fruit; it will "bring forth fruit in due season." Meditation kindles love, as it is the effect of love, "While I was musing, the fire burned." "Whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues in it, this man is blessed in his deed." But let us take heed, that the root of religion in the soul is not cankered by the indulgence of secret sin. The largest supply of Christian ordinances will fail to refresh us, except the heart be kept right with God in simplicity of faith, love, and diligence in the service of Christ.
Come then, Christian, let us set our hearts to a vigorous, delighting devotedness to the statutes of our God. "It is not a vain thing for us; because it is our life." But to regard some of the words only would be to obey our own will, not God's. Let us lift up our hands to them all. How shadowy is the joy of speculative contemplation, if it does not draw the heart to practical exercise! Let faith return our obligations in the full apprehension of the Lord's mercy. And then will love constrain us to nothing less than "a living sacrifice" to His service. If the professor sleeps in notional godliness, let us employ our active meditation in searching for the mine that lies not on the surface, but which never fails to enrich diligent, patient, persevering labor.
"My hands also will I lift up unto your commandments, which I have loved." He will stretch out towards perfection as far as he can, hoping to reach it one day. When his hands hang down he will cheer himself out of languor by the prospect of glorifying God by obedience; and he will give solemn sign of his hearty assent and consent to all that his God commands. The phrase "lift up my hands" is very full of meaning, and doubtless the sweet singer meant all that we can see in it, and a great deal more. Again he declares his love; for a true heart loves to express itself; it is a kind of fire which must send forth its flames. It was natural that he should reach out towards a law which he delighted in, even as a child holds out its hand to receive a gift which it longs for. When such a lovely object as holiness is set before us, we are bound to rise towards it with our whole nature, and until that is fully accomplished we should at least lift up our hands in prayer towards it Where holy hands and holy hearts go, the whole man will one day follow.
"And I will meditate in your statutes." He can never have enough of meditation. Loving subjects wish to be familiar with their sovereign's statutes, lest they should offend through ignorance. Prayer with lifted hands, and meditation with upward-glancing eyes will in happy union work out the best inward results. The prayer of verse 41 is already fulfilled in the man who is thus struggling upward and studying deeply. The whole of this verse is in the future, and may be viewed not only as a determination of David's mind, but as a result which he knew would follow from the Lord's sending him his mercies and his salvation. When mercy comes down, our hands will be lifted up; when we enjoy the consciousness that God thinks upon us with special love, we are sure to think of him.
Exposition of Verses 49 to 56
REMEMBER the word unto your servant, upon which you have caused me to hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction: for your word has quickened me.
The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from your law.
I remembered your judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself.
Horror has taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake your law.
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.
I have remembered your name, O LORD, in the night, and have kept your law.
This I had, because I kept your precepts.
This octrain deals with the comfort of the word. It begins by seeking the main consolation, namely, the Lord's fulfillment of his promise, and then it shows how the word sustains us under affliction, and makes us so impervious to ridicule that we are moved by the harsh conduct of the wicked rather to horror of their sin than to any submission to their temptations. We are then shown how the Scripture furnishes songs for pilgrims, and memories for night-watchers; and the portion concludes by the general statement that the whole of this happiness and comfort arises out of keeping the statutes of the Lord.