By Henry Law
This psalm begins with prayer. Solemn admonition and earnest entreaties follow. Then the believer's chief good appears in contrast to the lot of the ungodly. May that chief good be richly ours!
1. "Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness; You have enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer."
Acquaintance with God brings mighty help to prayer. Strong arguments flow from experience. "You are my righteousness" is a prevailing motive. The believer stands pardoned through grace, and richly robed in Jesus' merits. One with Christ, he appears as free from guilt as God's own Son. He, also, can boldly point to past deliverances. Many had been his difficulties, but the chains were loosened, and God set him free. He thus gains courage for urgent prayers, and he learns the art of winning mercies. He plies it well.
2. "How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?"
True grace is pitiful of sin's mad ways, and seeks occasion to remonstrate. The service of God is glory. The wicked scorn it as contemptible. What folly can be worse! Their hearts delight in this world's empty bauble. They greedily pursue a mocking shadow. Wisdom expostulates, How long! When will such madness have an end!
3. "But know that the Lord has set apart him who is godly for Himself. The Lord will hear when I call unto Him."
There is a truth which annihilates such folly. God has a chosen seed. Eternal destination marks them as His own. They are godly because the Spirit seeks and calls and works most mightily within them. They are severed from the world as wheat from chaff, as gold from dross, as sheep from goats, as jewels from the quarry's dust. They are distinguished with most precious grace, especially with the gift of prayer. They often call, and never call in vain. Know this, O sons of men, and cease your fruitless opposition.
4. "Stand in awe, and sin not; commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still."
Wise precepts here instruct. Ponder the greatness, the majesty, the power, the glory of Jehovah. Tremble in awe of His almightiness. Let holy dread repress each rebel thought. His arm is raised against all sin. Flee sin, then, as most sure destruction. Search the recesses of your treacherous hearts. Detect their secret whispers. Nip evil in its earliest bud. In still retirement, in night's tranquil hours, become acquainted with yourselves. Thus learn the happy art of checking wicked words. Become expert in silence.
5. "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord."
In worship let all formality be unknown. Outward service is vain show except the heart and all its powers grow warm. Those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Do not trust in your holiest acts. Sin soils them all. Your best is worth nothing! No, rather, it is a filthy rag before God's eyes. When all is done, your trust must be in God's tender mercy, in forbearing grace, in pardoning love, in the atoning blood. There is no hope for man but in the work of Christ.
6. "There are many who say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us."
The restless worldling is ever craving and is ever void. Conscious of inward emptiness, he seeks contentment which he never finds. The flowers plucked soon wither in the hand. The sigh is frequent, "Ah! that I knew where happiness resides!" Believers know that all delights are in God's smile, in a sense of His reconciled love, in His abiding favor, in the sight of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. This is the joy of joys, the heaven of heavens. For this incessant prayer should be made. Shine, gracious Lord! Cause darkness to flee far away! Let Your bright beams bring light and floods of peace. May we ever revel in the rich joy of the Gospel's tidings!
7. "You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased."
Let the world scorn. Believers are the happy men. David's experience is their common lot. Their happiness is inward--the heart is its seat--it is implanted by God. It is real, substantial, and abiding. It laughs to scorn the transient merriment which earth's plenty gives. Excitement may follow the abundant harvest; revelry may exult in the luxuriant vintage; but the flare is momentary, and sinks in gloom. It is from earth, and earthly. The joy of the Lord is like the Giver--pure, perfect, and eternal.
8. "I will both lay down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety."
How sweet is the peace resulting from God's smile! No rage of earth or hell can ruffle it. In all disquietudes it is unmoved repose. What God bestows, no power can disturb. His gift is safety. Safe then are His people. Such is the Spirit's teaching in this psalm. May our hearts be able to respond, 'Our glad experience attests these truths!'