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.
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet.'" We are walkers through the city of this world, and we are often called to go out into its darkness; let us never venture there without the light-giving word, lest we slip with our feet. Each :man should use the word of God personally, practically, and habitually, that he may see his way, and see What lies in it. When darkness settles down upon all around me, the word of the Lord, like a flaming torch, reveals my way. Having no fixed lamps :in eastern towns, in old time each passenger carried a lantern with him, that he might not fall into the open sewer, or stumble over the heaps of ordure which defiled the road.
This is a true picture of our path through this dark world: we should not know the way, or how to walk in it, if Scripture, like a blazing flambeau, did not reveal it One of the most practical benefits of Holy Writ is guidance in the acts of daily life: it is not sent to astound us with its brilliance, but to guide us by its instruction. It is true the head needs illumination, but even more the feet need direction, else head and feet may both fall into a ditch. Happy is the man who personally appropriates God's word, and practically uses it as his comfort and counselor, a lamp to his feet. "And a light unto my path.'" It is a lamp by night, a light by day, and a delight at all times. David guided his own steps by it, and also saw the difficulties of his road by its beams. He who walks in darkness is sure, sooner or later, to stumble; while: he who walks by the light of day, or by the lamp of night, stumbleth not, but keeps his uprightness. Ignorance is painful upon practical subjects; it breeds indecision and suspense, and these are uncomfortable: the word of God, by imparting heavenly knowledge, leads to decision, and when that is followed by determined resolution, as in this case, it brings with it great restfulness of heart.
This verse converses with God in adoring and yet familiar tones. Have we not something of like tenor to address to our heavenly Father? Note how much this verse is like the first verse of the first octave, and the first of the second and other octaves. The seconds also are often in unison.
Under the influence of the clear light of knowledge he had firmly made up his mind, and solemnly declared his resolve in the sight of God. Perhaps mistrusting his own fickle mind, he had pledged himself in sacred form to abide faithful to the determinations and decisions of his God. Whatever path might open before him, he was sworn to follow that only upon which the lamp of the word was shining. The Scriptures are God's judgments, or verdicts, upon great moral questions; these are all righteous, and hence righteous men should be resolved to keep them at all hazards, since it must always be right to do right. Experience shows that the less of covenanting and swearing men formally enter upon the better, and the genius of our Savior's teaching is against all unnecessary pledging and swearing; and yet under the gospel we ought to feel ourselves as much bound to obey the word of the Lord as if we had taken an oath so to do.
The bonds of love are not less sacred than the fetters of law. When a man has vowed, he must be careful to "perform it'"; and when a man has not vowed in so many words to keep the Lord's judgments, yet is he equally bound to do so by obligations which exist apart from any promise on our part obligations founded in the eternal fitness of things, and confirmed by the abounding goodness of the Lord our God. Will not ,every believer own that he is under bonds to the redeeming Lord to follow his example, and keep his words? Yes, the vows of the Lord are upon us, especially upon such as have made profession of discipleship, have been baptized into the thrice-holy name, have eaten of the consecrated memorials, and have spoken in the name of the Lord Jesus. We are enlisted, and sworn in, and are bound to be loyal soldiers all through the war. Thus, having taken the word into our hearts by a firm resolve to obey it, we have a lamp within our souls as well as in the Book, and our course will be light unto the end.
"I am afflicted very much.'" According to the last verse, he had been sworn in as a soldier of the Lord, and in this next verse he is called to suffer hardness in that capacity. Our service of' the Lord does not screen us from trial, but rather secures it for us. The Psalmist was a consecrated man, and yet a chastened man; nor were his chastisements light; for it seemed as if the more he was obedient the more he was afflicted. He evidently felt the rod to be bruising him very grievously, and he pleads before the Lord the greatness of his affliction as a reason why he should be sustained under it by an increase of his inner life. He speaks not by' way of murmuring, but by way of pleading; from the very much affliction he argues for very much quickening.
"Quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.'" This is the best remedy for tribulation; the soul is raised above the thought of present distress, and is filled with that holy joy which attends all vigorous spiritual life, and so the affliction grows light. Jehovah alone can quicken: he has life in himself, and therefore can communicate it readily; he can give us life at any moment, yea, at this present instant; for it is of the nature of quickening to be quick in its operation. The Lord has promised, prepared, and provided this blessing of renewed life for all his waiting servants: it is a covenant: blessing, and it is as obtainable as it is needful. Frequently the affliction is made the means of the quickening, even as the stirring of a fire promotes the heat of the flame. In their affliction some desire death; let us pray for life. Our forebodings under trial are often very gloomy; let us entreat the Lord to deal with us, not according to our fears, but according to his own word. David had but few promises to quote, and many of these had been recorded in his; own psalms, yet he pleads the word of the Lord; how much more should we do so, since to us so many holy men have spoken by the Spirit of the Lord in that wonderful library which is now our Bible! Seeing we have more promises, let us offer more prayers, and let us exhibit more of the quickening power of the Word.
"Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord.'" The living praise the living God, and therefore the quickened one presents his sacrifice. He offers prayer, praise, confession, and testimony: these, presented with his voice in the presence of an audience, were the tribute of his mouth unto Jehovah. He trembles lest these should be so ill uttered as to displease the Lord, and therefore he implores acceptance. He pleads that the homage of his mouth was cheerfully and spontaneously rendered: all his utterances were freewill offerings. There can be no value in extorted confessions God's revenues are not derived from forced taxation, but from freewill donation. There can be no acceptance where there is no willingness; there is no work of free grace where there is no fruit of freewill. Acceptance is a favor to be sought from the Lord with all earnestness, for without it our offerings are worse than useless. What a wonder of grace that the Lord will accept anything of such unworthy ones as we are!
"And teach me thy judgments.'" When we render unto the Lord our best, we become all the more concerned to do better. When we know that the Lord has accepted us, we then desire to be further instructed, that we may be still more acceptable. After quickening we need teaching: life without light, or zeal without knowledge, would be,. but half a blessing. These repeated cries for teaching show the humility of the man of God, and also discover to us our own need of similar instruction., Our judgment needs educating till it knows, agrees with, and acts upon, the judgments of the Lord. Those judgments are not always so clear as to be seen at once; we need to be taught in them till we admire their wisdom and adore their goodness as soon as ever we perceive them.
"My soul is continually in my hand.'" He lived in the midst of danger. He had to be always fighting for existence hiding in caves, or contending in battles. This is a very uncomfortable and trying state of affairs, and men are apt to think any expedient justifiable by which they can end such a condition: but David did not turn aside to find safety in sin, for he says,'" Yet do I not forget thy law.'" They say that all things are fair in love and. war; but the holy man thought not so: while he carried his life in his hand, he also carried the law in his heart. No danger of body should make us endanger our souls by forgetting that which is right. Trouble makes many a man forget his duty, and it would have had the same effect upon the Psalmist if he had not obtained quickening (verse 107) and teaching (verse 108). In his memory of the Lord's law lay his safety; he was certainly not forgotten of his God, for his God was not forgotten of him. It is a special proof of grace when nothing can drive truth out of our thoughts, or holiness out of our lives. If we remember the law even when death stares us in the face, we may be well assured that the Lord is remembering us.
"The wicked have laid a snare far me.'" Spiritual life is the scene of constant danger: the believer lives with his life in his hand, and meanwhile all seem plotting to take it from him, by cunning if they cannot by violence. We shall not find it an easy thing to live the life of the faithful. Wicked spirits and wicked men will leave no stone unturned for our destruction. When all other devices fail, and even hidden pits do not succeed, the wicked still persevere in their treacherous endeavors, and, becoming craftier still, they set snares for the victim of their hate. The smaller species of game are usually taken by this method, by gin, or trap, or net, or noose. Wicked men are quite indifferent as to the manner in which they can destroy the good man; they think no more of him than if he were a rabbit or a rat. Cunning and treachery are always the allies of malice, and everything like a generous or chivalrous feeling is unknown among the graceless, who treat the godly as if they were vermin to be exterminated.
When a man knows that he is thus assailed, he is too apt to become timorous, and rush upon some hasty device for deliverance, not without sin in the endeavor; but David calmly kept his way, and was able to write, "Yet I erred not from thy precepts.'" He was not snared, for he kept his eyes open, and kept: near his God. He was not entrapped and robbed, for he followed the King's highway of holiness, where God secures safety to every traveler. He did not err from the right, and he was not deterred from following it, because he referred to the Lord for guidance, and obtained it. If we err from the precepts, we part with the promises; if we get away from God's presence, we wander into the wilds where the fowlers freely spread their nets. From this verse let us learn to be on our guard, for we, too, have enemies both crafty and wicked. Hunters set their traps in the animals' usual runs, and our worst snares are laid in our own ways. By keeping to the ways of the Lord we shall escape the snares of our adversaries, for his ways are safe and free from treachery.
"Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever.'" He chose them as his lot, his portion, his estate; and what is more, he laid hold upon them and made them so taking them into possession and enjoyment. David's choice is our choice. If we might have our desire, we would desire to keep the commands of God perfectly. To know the doctrine, to enjoy the promise, to practice the command be this a kingdom large enough for us. Here we have an inheritance which cannot fade and cannot be alienated; it is for ever, and ours for ever, if we have so taken it. Sometimes, like Israel at their first coming into Canaan, we have to take our heritage by hard fighting, and, if so, it is worthy of all our labor and suffering; but always it has to be taken by a decided choice of the heart, and grip of the will. God's election must be our election. What God gives by grace we must take by faith.
"For they are the rejoicing of my heart.'" The gladness which had come to him through the word of the Lord had caused him to make an unalterable choice of it. All the parts; of Scripture had been pleasing to David, and were so still, and therefore he stuck to them, and meant to stick to them for ever. That which rejoices tile heart is sure to be chosen and treasured. It is not the head-knowledge but the heart-experience which brings the joy.
In this verse, which is the seventh of its octave, we have reached the same sweetness as in the seventh of the last eight (103). It is worthy of observation that in several of the adjoining sevenths delight is evident. How good a thing it is when experience ripens into joy, passing up through sorrow, prayer, conflict, hope, decision, and holy content into rejoicing. Joy fixes the spirit: when once a man's heart rejoices in the divine word, he greatly values it, and is therefore for ever united to it.
He was active and energetic in ruling his own heart: not only could he say, "I am inclined,'" but, "I have inclined.'" He was not half inclined to virtue, but heartily inclined to it. His whole heart was bent on practical, persevering godliness. He was resolved to keep all the statutes of the Lord, with all his heart, throughout all his time, without erring or ending. He made it his end to keep the law unto the end, and that without end. He had by prayer, and meditation, and resolution made his whole being lean towards God's commands; or as we should say in other words the grace of God had inclined him to incline his heart in a sanctified direction. Many are inclined to preach, but the Psalmist was inclined to practice; many are inclined to perform ceremonies, but he was inclined to perform statutes; :many are, inclined to obey occasionally, but David was inclined to obey always; and, alas l many are inclined for temporary religion, but this godly man was so inclined that he felt bound to all eternity to perform the statutes of his Lord and King. Lord, send us such a heavenly inclination of heart as this: then shall we show that thou hast quickened and taught us. To this end create in us a clean heart, and daily renew a right spirit within us, for only so shall we incline in the right direction.
Many have declined who once seemed inclined to better things; may the Lord so rule our hearts that we may never lose our whole-hearted inclination towards holy living!