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 these verses holy fear is apparent and prominent. The man of God trembles test in any way or degree the Lord should remove his favor from him. The eight verses are one continued pleading for the abiding of grace in his soul, and it is supported by such holy arguments as would only suggest themselves to a spirit: burning with love to God.
"Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord.'" He desired mercy as well as teaching, for he was guilty as well as ignorant. He needed much mercy and varied mercy, hence the request is in the plural. He needed mercies from God rather than from man and so he asks for "thy mercies.'" The way of grace appeared to be blocked, and therefore he begs that the mercies may have their way cleared by God, and may "come'" to him. He who said, "Let there be light,'" can also say, "Let there be mercy.'" It may be that under a :Dense of unworthiness the writer feared lest mercy should be given to others, and not to himself; he therefore cries, "Let them come unto me "; "Bless me, even me also, O my Father.'" The words are tantamount to our well-known verse
Lord, thine enemies come to me to reproach me, let thy mercies come to me to defend me; trials and troubles abound, and labors and sufferings not a few approach me; Lord, let thy mercies in great number enter by the same gate, and at the same hour; for art thou not "the God of my mercy'"?
"Even thy salvation.'" This is the sum and crown of all mercies deliverance from all evil, both now and for ever. Here is the first mention of salvation in the psalm, and it is joined with mercy: "By grace are ye saved.'" Salvation is styled "thy salvation,'" thus ascribing it wholly to the Lord: "He that is our God is the God of salvation.'" What a mass of mercies are heaped together in the one salvation of our Lord Jesus! It includes the mercy which spares us till our conversion, and leads to that conversion. We have calling mercy, regenerating mercy, converting mercy, justifying mercy, pardoning mercy. Nor can we exclude from complete salvation any of those many mercies which conduct the believer safely to glory. Salvation is an aggregate of mercies, incalculable in number, priceless in value, incessant in application, eternal in endurance. To the God of our mercies be glory, world without end.
"According to thy word.'" The way of salvation is described in the word; salvation itself is promised in the: word; and its inward manifestation is wrought by the word; so that in all respects the salvation which is in Christ Jesus is in accordance with God's word. David loved the Scriptures, but he longed experimentally to know the salvation contained in them: he was not satisfied to read the word, he longed to experience its inner sense. He valued the field of Scripture for the sake of the treasure which he had discovered in it. He was not contented with having chapter and verse, he wanted mercies and salvation.
Note that in the first verse of the section which bears the letter HE (33)the Psalmist prayed to keep God's word, and here in VAU he begs the Lord to keep his word. In the first case he longed to come to the God of mercies, and here he would have the Lord's mercies come; to him: there he sought grace to persevere in faith, and here he seeks the end of his faith, even the salvation of his soul.
"So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me.'" This is an unanswerable answer. When God, by granting us salvation, gives to our prayers an answer of peace, we are ready at once to answer the objections of the infidel, the quibbles of the skeptical, and the sneers of the contemptuous. It is most desirable that revilers should be answered, and hence we may expect the Lord to save his people, in order that a weapon may be put into their hands with which to rout his adversaries. When those who reproach us are also reproaching God, we may ask him to help us to silence them by sure proofs of his mercy and faithfulness.
"For I trust in thy word.'" His faith was seen by his being trustful while under trial, and he pleads it as a reason why he should be helped to beat back reproaches by a happy experience. Faith is our argument when we :seek mercies and salvation; faith in the Lord who has spoken to us in his word. "I trust in thy word'" is a declaration more worth the making than any other; for he who can truly make it has received power to become a child of God, and so to be the heir of unnumbered mercies. God hath more respect to a man's trust than to all else that is in him; for the Lord hath chosen faith to be the hand into which he will place his mercies and his salvation. If any reproach us for trusting in God, we. reply to them with arguments the most conclusive when we show that God has kept his promises, heard our prayers, and supplied our needs. Even the most skeptical are forced to bow before the logic of facts.
In this second verse of this octave the Psalmist makes a confession of faith, and a declaration of his belief and experience. Note that he does the same in the corresponding verses of the sections which follow. See 50, "Thy word hath quickened me'"; 58, "I intreated thy favor "; 66, "I have believed thy commandments'"; 74, "I have hoped in thy word.'" A wise preacher might find in these a valuable series of experimental discourses.
"And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth.'" Do not prevent my pleading for thee by leaving me without deliverance; for how could I continue to proclaim thy word if I found it fail me? such would seem to be the run of the meaning. The word of truth cannot be a joy to our mouths unless we have an experience of it in our lives, and it may be wise for us to be silent if we cannot support our testimonies by the verdict of our consciousness. This prayer may also refer to other modes by which we may be disabled from speaking in the name of the Lord: as, for instance, by our falling into open sin, by our becoming depressed and despairing, by our laboring under sickness or mental aberration, by our finding no door of utterance, or meeting with no willing audience. He who has once preached the gospel from his heart is filled with horror at the idea of being put out of the ministry; he will crave to be allowed a little share in the holy testimony, and will reckon his dumb Sabbaths to be days of banishment and punishment.
"For I have hoped in thy judgments.'" He had expected God to appear and vindicate his cause, that so he might speak with confidence concerning his faithfulness. God is the author of our hopes, and we may most fittingly entreat him to fulfil them. The judgments of his providence are the outcome of his word; what he says in the Scriptures he actually performs in his government; we may therefore look for him to show himself strong on the behalf of his own threatenings and promises, and we shall not look in vain.
God's ministers are sometimes silenced through the sins of their people, and it becomes them to plead against such a judgment; better far that they should suffer sickness or poverty than that the candle of the gospel should be put out among them, and that thus they should be left to perish without remedy. The Lord save us, who are his ministers, from being made the instruments of inflicting such a penalty. Let us exhibit a cheerful hopefulness in God, that we may plead it in prayer with him when he threatens to close our lips.
In the close of this verse there is a declaration of what the Psalmist had done in reference to the word of the Lord, and in this the thirds of the octaves are often alike. See 35, "therein do I delight'"; 43, "I have hoped in thy judgments'"; 51, "yet have I not declined from thy law'"; 59, "I turned my feet unto thy testimonies "; and verses 67, 83, 99, etc. These verses would furnish an admirable series of meditations.
Nothing more effectually binds a man to the way of the Lord than an experience of the truth of his word, embodied :in the form of mercies and deliverance's. Not only does the Lord's faithfulness open our mouths against his adversaries, but it also knits our hearts to his fear, and makes our union with him more and more intense. Great mercies lead us to feel an inexpressible gratitude which, failing to utter itself in time, promises to engross eternity with praises. To a heart on flame with thankfulness, the "always, unto eternity and perpetuity'" of the text will not seem to be redundant; yea, the hyperbole of Addison in his famous verse will only appear to be solid sense:
God's grace alone can enable us to keep his commandments without break and without end; eternal love must grant us eternal life, and out of this eternal life will come everlasting obedience. There is no other way to ensure our perseverance in holiness but by the word of truth abiding in us, as David prayed it might abide with him.
The verse begins with "So,'" as did verse 42. When God grants his salvation, we are so favored that we silence our worst enemy and glorify our best friend. Mercy answereth all things. If God doth but give us salvation we can conquer hell and commune with heaven, answering reproaches, and keeping the law, and that to the end, world without end. We may not overlook another sense which suggests itself here. David prayed that the word of truth might not be taken .out of his mouth, and so would he keep God's law: that is to say, by public testimony as well as by personal life he would fulfil the divine will, and confirm the bonds which bound him to his Lord for ever. Undoubtedly the grace which enables us to bear witness with the mouth is a great help to ourselves as well as to others: we feel that the vows of the Lord are upon us, and that we cannot run back. Our ministry is useful to ourselves first, or it would not, in the next place, be useful to others. We must so preach and teach the word of God, that we thereby fulfil our life-work, and fulfil the law of love, constantly and consistently. It is a horrible thing when a man's preaching only increases his sin because he preaches otherwise than Scripture teaches.
Saints find no bondage in sanctity. The Spirit of holiness is a free spirit; he sets men at liberty and enables them to resist every effort to bring them under subjection. The way of holiness is not a track for slaves, but the King's highway for freemen, who are joyfully journeying from the Egypt of bondage to the Canaan of rest. God's; mercies and his salvation, by teaching us to love the precepts of the word, set us at a happy rest; and the more we seek after the perfection of our obedience, the more shall we enjoy complete emancipation from every form of spiritual slavery. David at one time of his life was in great bondage through having; followed a crooked policy. He deceived Achish so persistently that he was driven to acts of ferocity to conceal it, and he must have felt very unhappy in his unnatural position as an ally of Philistines, and captain of the body-guard of their king. He must have :feared lest through his falling into the crooked ways of falsehood the truth would no longer be on his tongue, and he therefore prayed God in some way to work his deliverance, and set him at liberty from such slavery. By terrible things in righteousness did the Lord answer him at Ziklag: the snare was broken, and he escaped.
The verse is united to that which goes before; for it begins with the word "And,'" which acts as a hook to attach it to the preceding verses. It mentions another of the benefits expected from the coming of mercies from God. The man of God had mentioned the silencing of his enemies (42), power to proceed in testimony (43), and perseverance in holiness; now he dwells upon liberty,, which next to life is dearest to all brave men. He says, "I shall walk,'" indicating his daily progress through life; "at liberty,'" as one who is out of prison, unimpeded by adversaries, unencumbered by burdens, unshackled, allowed a wide range, and roaming without fear. Such liberty would be dangerous if a man were seeking himself or his own lusts; but when the one object sought after is the will of God, there can be no need. to restrain the searcher. We need not circumscribe the man who can say, "I seek thy precepts.'" Observe, in the preceding verse he said he would keep the law; but here he speaks of seeking it. Does he not mean that he will obey what he knows, and endeavor to know more? Is not this the way to the highest form of liberty to be always laboring to know the mind of God, and to be conformed to it? Those who keep the law are sure to seek it, and bestir themselves to keep it more and more.
This is part of his liberty; he is free from fear of the greatest, proudest, and most tyrannical of men. David was called to stand before kings when he was an exile; and afterwards, when he was himself a monarch, he knew the tendency of men to sacrifice their religion to pomp and statecraft; but it was his resolve to do nothing of the kind. He would sanctify politics, and make cabinets know that the Lord alone is governor among the nations. As a king he would speak to kings concerning the King of kings. He says, "I will speak:"' prudence might have suggested that his life and conduct would be enough, and that it would be better not to touch upon religion in the presence of royal personages who worshipped other gods, and claimed to be right in so doing. He had already most fittingly preceded this resolve by the declaration, "I will walk;'" but he does not make his personal conduct, an excuse for sinful silence, for he adds, "I will speak.'" David claimed religious liberty, and took care to use it, for he spoke out what he believed, even when he was in the highest company. In what he said he took care to keep to God's own word, for he say's, "I will speak of thy testimonies.'" No theme is like this, and there is no way of handling that theme like keeping close to the book, and using its thought and language. The great hindrance to our speaking upon holy topics in all companies is shame, but the Psalmist will "not be ashamed'"; there is nothing to be ashamed of, and there is no excuse for being ashamed, and yet many are as quiet as the dead for fear some creature like themselves should be offended. When God gives grace, cowardice soon vanishes. He who speaks for God in God's power, will not be ashamed When beginning to speak, nor while speaking, nor after speaking; for his theme is one which is fit for kings, needful to kings, and beneficial to kings. If kings object, we may well be ashamed of them, but never of our Master who sent us. or of his message, or of his design in sending it.
Next to liberty and courage comes delight. When we have done our duty, we find a great reward in it. If David had not spoken for his Master before kings, he would have been afraid to think of the law which he had neglected; but after speaking up for his Lord he felt a sweet serenity of heart when musing upon the word. Obey the command, and you will love it; carry the yoke, and it will be easy, and rest will come by it. After speaking of the law, the Psalmist was not wearied of his theme, but: he retired to meditate upon it he discoursed, and then he delighted; he preached, and then repaired to his study to renew his strength by feeding yet again upon the precious truth. Whether he delighted others or not when he was speaking, he never failed to delight himself when he was musing on the word of the Lord. He declares that he loved the Lord's commands, and by his avowal he unveils the reason for his delight in them: where our love is, there is our delight. David did not delight in the courts of kings, for there he found places of temptation to shame, but in the Scriptures he found himself at home; his heart was in them, and they yielded him supreme pleasure. No wonder that he spoke of keeping the law, which he loved: Jesus says, "If a man love me he will keep my words.'" No wonder that he spoke of walking at liberty and speaking boldly, for true love is ever free and fearless, Love is the fulfilling of the law; where love to the law of God reigns in the heart, the life must be full of blessedness. Lord, let thy mercies come to us, that we may love thy word and way, and find our whole delight therein.
The verse is in the future, and hence it sets forth, not only what David had done, but what he would do; he would in time to come delight in his Lord's commands. He knew that they would neither alter, nor fail to yield him joy. He knew also that grace would keep him in the same condition of heart towards the precepts of the Lord, so that he should throughout his whole life take. a supreme delight in holiness. His heart was so fixed in love to God's will that he was sure that grace would always hold him under its delightful influence.
All the psalm is fragrant with love to the word, but here for the first time,, love is expressly spoken of. It is here coupled with delight, and in verse 165 with "great peace.'" All the verses in which love declares itself in so many words are worthy of note. See verses 47, 97, 113, 119, 127, 140, 159, 163, 165, 167.
"My hands also will I lift up unto thy 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 till 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 thy 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.