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.
In this section the Psalmist seems to draw still nearer to God in prayer, and to state his case and to invoke the divine help with more of boldness and expectation. It is a pleading passage, and the keyword of it is, "Consider.'" With much boldness he pleads his intimate union with the Lord's cause as a reason why he should be aided. The special aid that he seeks is personal quickening, for which he cries to the Lord again and again.
"Consider mine affliction, and deliver me.'" The writer has a good case, though it be a grievous one, and he is ready, yea, anxious, to submit it to the divine arbitration. His matters are right, and he is ready to lay them before the supreme court. His manner is that of one who feels safe at the throne. Yet there is no impatience; he does not ask for hasty action, but for consideration. In effect he cries "Look into my grief, and see whether I do not need to be delivered. From my sorrowful condition judge as to the proper method and time for my rescue:' The Psalmist desires two things, and these two things blended: first, a full consideration of his sorrow; secondly, deliverance; and, then, that this deliverance should come with a consideration of his affliction. It should be the desire of every gracious man who is in adversity that the Lord should look upon his need, and relieve it in such a way as shall be most for the divine glory, and for his own benefit. The words, "mine affliction,'" are picturesque; they seem to portion off a special spot of woe as the writer's own inheritance: he possesses it as no one else had ever done, and he begs the Lord to have that special spot under his eye: even as a husbandman looking over all his fields may yet take double care of a certain selected plot. His prayer is eminently practical, for he seeks to be delivered; that is, brought out of his trouble and preserved from sustaining any serious damage by it For God to "consider'" is to act in due season: men consider and do nothing; but such is never the case with our God.
"For I do not forget thy law.'" His affliction was not sufficient, with all its bitterness, to drive out of his mind the memory of God's law; nor could it lead him to act contrary to the divine command. He forgot prosperity, but he did not forget obedience. This is a good plea when it can be honestly urged. If we are kept faithful to God's precept, we may be sure that God will remain faithful to his promise. If we do not forget his law, the Lord will not forget us. He will not long leave that man in trouble whose only fear in trouble is lest he should leave the way of right.
"Plead my cause, and deliver me? In the last verse he had prayed, "Deliver me,'" and here he specifies one method in which that deliverance might be vouch-safed, namely, by the advocacy of his cause. In providence the Lord has many ways of clearing the slandered of the accusations brought against them. He can make it manifest to all that they have been belied, and in this way he can practically plead their cause. He can, moreover, raise up friends for the godly who will leave no stone unturned till their characters are cleared; or he can smite their enemies with such fearfulness of heart that they will be forced to confess their falsehood, and thus the righteous will be delivered without the striking of a blow. Dr. Alexander reads it, "Strive my strife, and redeem me'" that is, stand in my stead, bear my burden, fight my fight, pay my price, and bring me out to liberty. When we feel ourselves dumb before the foe, here is a prayer made to our hand. What a comfort that if we sin we have an advocate, and if we do not sin the same pleader is engaged on our side!
"Quicken me.'" We had this prayer in the last section, and we shall have it again and again in this, It is a desire which cannot be too often felt and expressed. As the soul is the center of everything, so to be quickened is the central blessing. More life means more love, more grace, more faith, more courage, more strength; and if' we get these we can hold up our heads before our adversaries. God alone can give this quickening; but to the Lord and Giver of life the wink is easy enough, and he delights to perform it. "According to thy word.'" David had found the blessing of quickening among the promised things, or at least he perceived that it was according to the general tenor of God's word that tried believers should be quickened and brought up again from the dust of the earth; therefore he pleads the word, and desires the Lord to act to him according to the usual run of that word. It is an implied if not an expressed promise, that the Lord will quicken his people. What a mighty plea is this .'"according to thy word'"! No gun in all our arsenals can match it.
"Salvation is far from the wicked.'" By their perseverance in evil they have almost put themselves out of the pale of hope. They talk about being saved. but they cannot know anything of it or they would not remain wicked. Every step they have taken in the path of evil has removed them further from the kingdom of grace: they go from one degree of hardness to another till their hearts become as stone. When they fall into trouble it will be irremediable. Yet they talk big, as if they either needed no salvation, or could save themselves whenever their fancy turned that way. They are so far off from salvation that they do not even know what it means.
"For they seek not thy statutes.'" They do not endeavor to be obedient, but quite the reverse; they seek themselves, they seek evil, and therefore they never find the way of peace and righteousness. When men have broken the statutes of the Lord, their wisest course is by repentance to seek forgiveness, and by faith to seek: salvation: then salvation is near them, so near them that they shall not miss it; but when the wicked continue to seek after mischief, salvation is set further and further from them. Salvation and God's statutes go together: those who are saved by the King of grace love the statutes of the King of glory. The main reason why men are not saved is that they get away from the Word of God. 156. "Great are thy tender mercies, O Lord'" quicken me according' to thy judgments.'"
This verse is exceedingly like verse one hundred and forty-nine, and yet it is no vain repetition. There is such a difference in the main idea, that the one verse stands out distinct from the other. In the first case he mentions his prayer, but leaves the method of its accomplishment with the wisdom or judgment of God; while here he pleads no prayer of his own, but simply the mercies of the Lord, and begs to be quickened by judgments rather than to be left to spiritual lethargy. We may take it for granted that an inspired author is never so short of thoughts as to be obliged to repeat himself: where we think we have a repetition of the same idea in this psalm we are misled by our neglect of careful study. Each verse is a distinct pearl. Each blade of grass in this field has its own drop of heavenly dew.
"Great are thy tender mercies, O Lord.'" Here the Psalmist pleads the largeness of God's mercy, the immensity of his tender love; yea, he speaks of mercies mercies many, mercies tender, mercies great; and with the glorious Jehovah he makes this a plea for his one leading prayer, the prayer for quickening. Quickening is a great and tender mercy; and it is many mercies in one. Shall One so greatly good permit his servant to die? Will not One so tender breathe new life. into him?
"Quicken me according to thy judgments.'" A measure of awakening comes with the judgments of God; they an: startling and arousing; and hence the believer's quickening thereby. David would have every severe stroke sanctified to his benefit, as well as every tender mercy. The first clause of this verse may run, "Many'" or "manifold are thy compassions, O Jehovah.'" This he remembers in connection with the "many persecutors'" of whom he will speak in the next verse. By all these many mercies he pleads for enlivening grace, and thus he has many strings to his bow. We shall never be short of arguments if we draw them from God himself, and urge both his mercies and Ibis judgments as reasons for our quickening.
"Many are my persecutors and mine enemies.'" Those who actually assail me, or who secretly abhor me, are many. He sets this over against the many tender mercies of God. It seems a strange thing that such a truly godly man, as David was, should have many enemies; but it was inevitable. The disciple cannot be loved where his Master is hated. The seed of the serpent must oppose the seed of the woman: it is their nature.
"Yet do I not decline from thy testimonies.'" He did not deviate from the truth of God, but proceeded in the straight way, however many adversaries might endeavor to block up his path. Some men have been led astray by one enemy, but here is a saint who held on his way in the teeth of many persecutors, There is enough in the testimonies of God to recompense us for pushing forward against all the hosts that may combine against us. So long as they cannot drive or draw us into a spiritual decline, our foes have done us no great harm; indeed, they have accomplished nothing by their malice. If we do not decline they are defeated. If they cannot make us sin they have missed their mark. Faithfulness to the truth is victory over our enemies.
"I beheld the transgressors.'" I saw the traitors; I understood their character, their object, their way, and their end. I could not help seeing them, for they pushed themselves into my way. As I was obliged to see them, I fixed my eyes on them, to learn what I could from them.
"And was grieved.'" I was sorry to see such sinners. I was sick of them, disgusted with them, I could not endure them. I found no pleasure in them, they were a sad sight to me, however fine their clothing or witty their chattering. Even when they were most mirthful a sight of them made my heart heavy; I could not tolerate either them or their doings.
"Because they kept not thy word.'" My grief was occasioned more by their sin against God than by their enmity against myself. O Lord, I could bear their evil treatment of my words, but not their neglect of thy word. Thy word is so precious to me that those who will not keep it move me to indignation; I cannot keep the company of those who keep not God's word. That they should have no love for me is a trifle; but to despise the teaching of the Lord is abominable.
"Consider,'" or see, "how I love thy precepts.'" A second time he asks for consideration. As he said before, "Consider mine affliction,'" so now he says "Consider mine affection.'" He loved the precepts of God loved them unspeakably loved them so as to be grieved with those who did not love them. This is a sure test: many there are who have a warm side towards the promises, but as for the precepts, they cannot endure them. The Psalmist so loved everything that was good and excellent, that he loved all that God had commanded. The precepts are all of them wise and holy, therefore the man of God loved them extremely, loved to know them, to think of them, to proclaim them, and principally to practice them. He asked the Lord to remember and consider this, not upon the ground of merit, but that it should serve as an answer to the slanderous accusations which at this time were the sting of his sorrow.
"Quicken me, O Lord, according to thy loving-kindness.'" Here he comes back to his former prayer, "Quicken me'"' (v. 154), "quicken me'" (v. 156). "Quicken me.'" He prays again the third time, using the same words. There is no harm in using repetitions: the thing forbidden is the using of vain repetitions, as the heathen do.
David felt like one who was half stunned with the assaults of his foes, ready to faint under their incessant malice; hence he cries, "Quicken me.'" What he wanted was revival, restoration, renewal; therefore he pleaded for more life. O thou who didst quicken me when I was dead, quicken me again, that I may not return to the dead! Quicken me, that I may outlive the blows of my enemies, the faintness of my faith, and the swooning of my sorrow. This time he does not say, "Quicken me according to thy judgments,'" but, "Quicken me, O Lord, according to thy lovingkindness.'" On the love and mercy of God he places his last and greatest reliance. This is the great gun which he brings up last to the conflict: it is his ultimate argument; if this succeed not, he must fail. He has long been knocking at mercy's gate, and with this plea he strikes his heaviest blow. When he had fallen into great sin this was his plea, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness,'" and now that he is in great trouble he flies to the same effectual reasoning. Because God is love he will give us life; because he is kind he will again kindle the heavenly flame within us.
The sweet singer finishes up this section in the same way as the last, by dwelling upon the sureness of the truth of God. It will be well for the reader to note the likeness between verses 144, 152, and the present one. "Thy word is true.'" Whatever the transgressors may say, God is true, and his word is true. The ungodly are false, but God's word is true. They charge us with being false, but our solace is that God's true word will clear us. "From the beginning.'" God's word has been true from the first moment in which it was spoken, true throughout the whole of history, true to us from the instant in which we believed it; ay, true to us before we were true to it. Some read it, "Thy word is true from the head'"; true, as a whole, true from top to bottom. Experience had taught David this lesson, and experience is teaching us the same. The Scriptures are as true in Genesis as in Revelation, and the five books of Moses are as inspired as the four Gospels.
"And every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.'" That which thou hast decided remains irreversible in every case. Against the decisions of the Lord no writ of error can be demanded, neither will there ever be a repealing of any of the acts of his sovereignty. There is not one single mistake either in the word of God or in the providential dealings of God. Neither in the book of revelation nor of providence will there be any need to put a single line of errata. The Lord has nothing to regret or to retract, nothing to amend or to reverse. All God's judgments, decrees, commands, and purposes are righteous, and as righteous things are lasting things, every one of them will outlive the stars. "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.'" God's justice endureth for ever. This is a cheering thought; but there is a much sweeter one, which of old was the song of the priests in the temple; let it be ours: "His mercy endureth for ever,'"