Well might David acknowledge the benefit of affliction, since he had thus learned in God's statutes something that was better to him than thousands of gold and silver. This was indeed an enlightened judgment for one to form, who had so small a part of the law of God's mouth, and so large a portion of this world's treasure. And yet, if we study only his book of Psalms to know the important uses and privileges of this law, and his son's book of Ecclesiastes, to discover the real value of paltry gold and silver, we shall, under Divine teaching, be led to make the same estimate for ourselves. Yes, believer, with the same, or rather with far higher delight than the miser calculates his thousands of gold and silver, do you tell out the precious contents of the law of your God. After having endeavored in vain to count the thousands in your treasure, one single name sums up their value, "the unsearchable riches of Christ." Would not the smallest spot of ground be estimated at thousands of gold and silver, were it known to conceal under its surface a mine of inexhaustible treasure? This it is that makes the word so inestimable. It is the field of the "hidden treasure." "The pearl of great price" is known to be concealed here. You would not, therefore, part with one leaf of your Bible for all the thousands of gold and silver. You know yourself to be in possession of the substance—you have found all besides to be a shadow. "I lead"—says the Savior, "in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment; that I may cause them that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures." The grand motive, therefore, in "searching the Scriptures," is because "they testify of Christ." A sinner has but one want—a Savior. A believer has but one desire—to "know and win Christ." With a "single eye," therefore, intent upon one point, he studies this blessed book. "With unveiled face he beholds in this glass the glory of the Lord:" and no arithmetic can compute the price of that, which is now unspeakably better to him than the treasures of the earth.
Christian! bear your testimony to your supreme delight in the book of God. You have here opened the surface of much intellectual interest and solid instruction. But it is the joy that you have found in the revelation of the Savior, in His commands, in His promises, in His ways, that leads you to exclaim, "More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold!" Yes, indeed—every promise— every declaration—centering in Him, is a pearl; and the word of God is full of these precious pearls. If then they be the richest who have the best and the largest treasure, those who have most of the word in their hearts, not those who have most of the world in their possession—are justly entitled to this preeminence. "Let then the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom." For those who are rich in this heavenly treasure are men of substance indeed.
True—this is a correct estimate of the worth of God's law—better than this world's treasure. But is it better to me? Is this my decided choice? How many will inconsiderately acknowledge its supreme value, while they yet hesitate to relinquish even a scanty morsel of earth for an interest in it! Do I then habitually prefer this law of God's mouth to every worldly advantage? Am I ready to forego every selfish consideration, if it may only be the means of uniting my heart more closely to the Book of God? If this be not my practical conviction, I fear I have not yet opened the mine. But if I can assent to this declaration of the man of God, I have made a far more glorious discovery than Archimedes; and therefore may take up his expression of joyful surprise—'I have found it! I have found it!' What? That which the world could never have given me—that of which the world can never deprive me.
And—Lord—help me to prize the law as coming from Your mouth. Let it be forever written upon my heart. Let me be daily exploring my hidden treasures. Let me be enriching myself and all around me with the present possession and interest in these heavenly blessings.
Yet how affecting is it to see men poor in the midst of great riches! Often in the world we see the possessor of a large treasure—without a heart to enjoy it—virtually therefore a pauper. Oftener still in the Church do we see professors (may it not be so with some of us?) with their Bibles in their hands—yet poor even with the external interest in its "unsearchable riches." Often also do we observe a want of value for the whole law or revelation of God's mouth. Some parts are highly honored to the depreciation of the rest. But let it be remembered that the whole of Scripture "is given by inspiration of God and is therefore profitable" for its appointed end. Oh! beware of resting satisfied with a scanty treasure. Prayer and diligence will bring out not only "things new," but the "old" also with a new and brighter glow. Scraping the surface is a barren exercise. Digging into the affections is a most enriching employ. No vein in this mine is yet exhausted. And rich indeed shall we be, if we gather only one atom of the gold each day in prayerful meditation. But as you value your progress and peace in the ways of God—as you have an eye to your Christian perfection—put away that ruinous thought—true as an encouragement to the weak, but false as an excuse to the slothful—that a little knowledge is sufficient to carry us to heaven.
"The law of your mouth." A sweetly expressive name for the word of God. It comes from God's own mouth with freshness and power to our souls. Things written are as dried herbs; but speech has a liveliness and dew about it. We do well to look upon the word of the Lord as though it were newly spoken into our ear; for in very truth it is not decayed by years, but is as forcible and sure as though newly uttered. Precepts are prized when it is seen that they come forth from the lips of our Father who is in Heaven. The same lips which spoke us into existence have spoken the law by which we are to govern that existence. Whence could a law so sweetly proceed as from the mouth of our covenant God? Well may we prize beyond all price that which comes from such a source!
"Is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver." If a poor man had said this, the world's witlings would have hinted that the grapes are sour, and that men who have no wealth are the first to despise it; but this is the verdict of a man who owned his thousands, and could judge by actual experience of the value of money and the value of truth. He speaks of great riches, he heaps it up by thousands, he mentions the varieties of its forms—"gold and silver"; and then he sets the word of God before it all, as better to him, even if others did not think it better to them. Wealth is good in some respects, but obedience is better in all respects. It is well to keep the treasures of this life; but far more commendable to keep the law of the Lord. The law is better than gold and silver, for these may be stolen from us, but not the word; these take to themselves wings, but the word of God remains; these are useless in the hour of death, but then it is that the promise is most dear. Instructed Christians recognize the value of the Lord's word, and warmly express it, not only in their testimony to their fellow men, but in their devotions to God. It is a sure sign of a heart which has learned God's statutes when it prizes them above all earthly possessions; and it is an equally certain mark of grace when the precepts of Scripture are as precious as its promises. The Lord cause us thus to prize the law of his mouth.
See how this portion of the psalm is flavored with goodness. God's dealings are good (65), holy judgment is good (66), affliction is good (67), God is good (68), and here the law is not only good, but better than the best of treasure. Lord, make us good, through your good word! Amen.
Exposition of Verses 73 to 80
YOUR hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn your commandments.
They that fear you will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in your word.
I know, O LORD, that your judgments are right, and that you in faithfulness have afflicted me.
Let, I pray you, your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to your word unto your servant.
Let your tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for your law is my delight.
Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in your precepts.
Let those that fear you turn unto me, and those that have known your testimonies.
Let my heart be sound in your statutes; that I be not ashamed.
We have now come to the tenth portion, which in each stanza begins with Dod; 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.