Originally each division and verse began with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the Hebrew, each verse begins with the respective Hebrew letter/name for that division. There are 22 divisions
of 8 verses each, for 176 verses. Naming goes as follows:
ALEPH, BETH, GIMEL, DALETH, HE, VAU, and on
for 22, completing the Hebrew alphabet.
"O how love I thy law!'" It is a note of exclamation. He loves so much that he must express his love, and express it to God in rapturous devotion. In making the attempt he perceives that his emotion is inexpressible, and therefore he cries, "O how I love!'" We not only reverence but love the law, we obey it out of love, and even when it chides us for disobedience we love it none the less. The law is God's law, and therefore it is our love. We love it for its holiness, and pine to be holly; we love it for its wisdom, and study to be wise; we love it for its perfection, and long to be perfect. Those who know the power of the gospel perceive an infinite loveliness in the law as they see it fulfilled and embodied in Christ Jesus.
"It is my meditation all the day'" This was both the effect of his love to the law and the cause of that love. He meditated in God's word because he loved it, and loved it the more because he meditated in it. He could not have enough of it, so ardently did he love it; all the day was not too long for his converse with it. His marin prayer, his noonday thought, his evensong were all out of Holy Writ; yea, in his worldly business he still kept his mind saturated with the law of the Lord. It is said of some men that the more you know them the less you admire them; but the reverse is true of God's word. Familiarity with the word of God breeds affection, and affection seeks yet greater familiarity. When "thy law'" and "my meditation'" are together all the day, the day grows holy, devout, and happy, and the heart lives with God in love to his Word, and delight therein. David turned away from all else but the word and will of the Lord, for in the preceding verse he tells us that he had seen an end of all perfection; but he turned in unto the law and tarried there the whole day of his life on earth, growing henceforth wiser and holier.
"Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies.'" The commandments were his book, but God was his teacher. The letter can make us knowing, but only the divine Spirit can make us wise. Wisdom is knowledge put to practical use. Wisdom comes to us; through obedience: "If any man will do his; will he shall know of the doctrine.'" We learn not only from promise, and doctrine, and sacred history, but also from precept and command: in fact, from the commandments we gather the most practical wisdom, and that which enables us best to cope with our adversaries. A holy life is the highest wisdom and the surest defense. Our enemies are renowned for subtlety, from the first father of them, the old serpent, down to the last cockatrice that has been hatched from the egg; and it would be vain for us to try to be a match with them in the craft and mystery of cunning; for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. we must go to another school and learn of a different instructor, and then by uprightness we shall baffle fraud, by simple truth we shall vanquish deep-laid scheming, and by open candor we shall defeat slander.
A thoroughly straightforward man, devoid of all policy, is a terrible puzzle to diplomatists; they suspect him of a subtle duplicity through which they cannot see; while he, indifferent to their suspicions, holds on the even tenor of his way, and baffles all their arts. Yes, "honesty is the best policy.'" He who is taught: of God has a practical wisdom such as malice cannot supply to the crafty; while harmless as a dove, he also exhibits more than the serpent's wisdom.
"For they are ever with me.'" He was always studying or obeying the commandments; they were his choice and constant companions. If we wish to become proficient we must be indefatigable. If we keep the wise law ever near us we shall become wise, and when our adversaries assail us we shall be prepared for them with that ready wit which lies in having the word of God at our fingers' ends. As a soldier in battle must never lay aside his shield, so must we never have the word of God out of our minds; it must be ever with us.
"I have more understanding' than all my teachers.'" That which the Lord had taught him had been useful in the camp, and now he finds it equally valuable in the schools. Our teachers are not always to be trusted; in fact, we may not follow any of them implicitly, for God will call us to account for the use of our understandings. When even our pilot errs, it behooves us to follow closely the chart of the Word of God, that we may be able to save the vessel If our teachers are in all things sound and safe, they will be right glad for us to excel them, and they will be the first to own that the teaching of the Lord is better than any teaching which they can give us. Disciples of Christ who sit at his feet are often better skilled in divine things than doctors of divinity.
"For thy testimonies are my meditation.'" Meditation upon the Scripture itself is the best mode of acquiring understanding. We may hear the wisest teachers and remain fools, but if we meditate upon the sacred word we must become wise. There is more wisdom in the testimonies of the Lord than in all the teachings of men if they were all gathered into one vast library. The Book of books outweighs all the rest.
David does not hesitate to speak the truth in this place concerning himself, even though it is to his own honor, for he is quite innocent of selfconsciousness. In speaking of his "understanding'" he means to extol the law and the Lord, and not himself. There is not a grain of boasting in these bold expressions, but only a child-like desire to set forth the excellence of the Lord's word. He who knows the truths taught in the Bible will be guilty of no egotism if he believes himself to be possessed of more important truth than all the agnostic professors in the universe.
The men of old age, and the men of old time, were outdone by the holier and more youthful learner, tie had been taught to observe in heart and life the precepts of the Lord, and this was more than the most venerable sinner had ever learned, more than the philosopher of antiquity had so much as aspired to know. He had the word with him, and so outstripped his foes; he meditated on it, and so outran his friends; he practiced it, and so outshone his elders. The instruction derived from Holy Scripture is useful in many directions, superior from many points of view, unrivalled everywhere and in every way. As our soul may make her boast in the Lord:, so may we boast in his word. "There is none like it: give it me,'" said David as to Goliath's sword, and we may say the same as to the word of the Lord. If men prize antiquity they have it here. The ancients are had in high repute; but what did they all know compared with that which we perceive in the divine precepts? "The old is better'" says one: but the oldest of all is the best of all, and what is that but the word of the Ancient of days.
There is no treasuring up the holy word, unless there is a casting out of all unholiness: if we keep the good word, we must let go the evil. David had zealously watched his steps and put a check upon his conduct he had refrained his feet. No one evil way could entice him, for he knew that if he only went astray in one road he had practically left the way of righteousness; therefore he avoided every foul way.. The by-paths were smooth and flowery, but he knew right well that they were evil, and so he turned his feet away, and plodded along the strait and thorny pathway which leads to God. It is a pleasure to look back upon self-conquests " I have refrained,'" and a greater delight still to know that we did this out of no mere desire to stand well with our fellows, but with the one motive of keeping the law of the Lord. Sin avoided that obedience may be perfected is the essence of this verse; or it may be that the Psalmist would teach us that there is no real reverence for the book where there is not carefulness to avoid every transgression of its precepts. How can we as servants of the Lord keep his word if we do not keep our own works and words from bringing dishonor upon it?
They are well taught whom God teaches. What we learn from the Lord we never forget. God's instruction has a practical effect we follow his way when he teaches us; and it has an abiding effect we do not depart: from holiness. Read this verse in connection with the preceding, and you get the believer's "I have,'" and his "I have not'": he is good both positively and negatively. What he did, namely, "refrained his feet,'" preserved him from doing that which otherwise he might have done, namely, "departed from thy judgments.'" He who is careful not to go an in aside will not leave the road. He who never touches the: intoxicating cup will never be drunk. He who never utters an idle word will never be profane. It' we begin to depart a little, we can never tell where we shall end. The Lord brings us to persevere :in holiness by abstinence from the beginning of sin; but whatever be the method, he is the worker of our perseverance, and to him be all the glory. God's word pronounces judgments as to moral actions, and we shall do well to maintain those judgments as our infallible rule of thought and life.
"How sweet are thy words unto my taste!'" He had not only heard the words of God, but fed upon them: they affected his palate as well as his ear: they had an inward effect on his taste as well as an outward effect on his hearing. God's words are many and varied, and the whole of them make up what we call "the word'": David loved them each one, individually, and the whole of them as a whole, and therefore he tasted an indescribable sweetness in them. He expresses the fact of their sweetness; but as he cannot express the degree of their sweetness he cries, "How sweet!'" Being God's words they were divinely sweet to God's servant; he who put the sweetness into them had prepared the taste of his servant to discern and ,enjoy it. David makes no distinction between promises and precepts, doctrines and threatenings; they are all included in God's words, and all are precious in his esteem. Oh for a deep love to all that the Lord has revealed, whatever form it may take!
"Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!'" When he did not only eat but also speak the word, by instructing others, he felt an increased delight in it. The sweetest of all temporal things falls short: of the infinite deliciousness of the eternal word: honey itself is outstripped in sweetness by the word of the Lord. When the Psalmist fed on it he found it sweet; but when he bore witness of it, it became sweeter still. How wise it will be on our part to keep the word on our palate by meditation and on our tongue by confession I It must be sweet to cur taste when we think of it, or it will not be sweet to our mouth when we talk of it. We must taste in the study what we preach in the pulpit. We must first spiritually become men of taste, and then we shall have a true enjoyment in setting forth the beauty and sweetness of the truth of God.
"Through thy precepts I get understanding.'" God's direction is our instruction. Obedience to the divine will begets wisdom of mind :and action. As God's way is always best, those who follow it are sure to be justified by the result, If the Lawgiver were foolish his law would be the same, and obedience to such a law would involve us in a thousand mistakes; but as the reverse is the case, we may count ourselves happy to have such a. wise, :prudent, and beneficial law to be the rule of our lives. We are wise if we obey, and we grow wise by obeying.
"Therefore I hate every false way.'" Because he had understanding, and because of the divine precepts, he detested sin and falsehood. Every sin is a falsehood: we commit sin because we believe a lie, and in the end the flattering evil turns a liar to us, and we find ourselves betrayed. True hearts are not indifferent about falsehood, they' grow warm in indignation: as they love the truth, so they hate the lie. Saints have a universal horror of all that is untrue; they tolerate no falsehood or folly, they set their faces against all error of doctrine or wickedness of life. He who is a lover of one sin is in league with the whole army of sins; we must have neither truce nor parley with even one o[ these Amalekites, for the Lord hath war with them from generation to generation, and so must we. It is well to be a good hater. And what is that? A hater of no living being, but a hater of "every false way.'" The way of self-will, of self-righteousness, of self-seeking, of wordliness, of pride, of unbelief, of hypocrisy, of lustfulness .these are all false ways, and therefore not only to be shunned, but to be abhorred. This final verse of the strophe marks a great advance in character, and shows that the man of God is growing stronger, bolder, and happier than aforetime. He has been taught of the Lord, so that he discerns between the precious and the vile, and while he loves the truth fervently he hates falsehood intensely. May all of us reach this state of discrimination and determination, so that we may greatly glorify God!