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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 1
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Psalm 19:10-11

10. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the droppings of honeycombs. 457457     “Et ce qui distille des rais de miel.” — Fr. 11. Moreover, by them is thy servant made circumspect; and in the keeping of them there is great reward.

 

10. More to be desired are they than gold. The Psalmist now exalts the law of God both on account of its price and sweetness. This commendation depends on the commendations given in the preceding verses; for the many and great advantages which he has just now enumerated, ought justly to make us account heavenly truth the highest and most excellent treasure, and to despise, when compared with it, all the gold and silver of the world. Instead of the word fine gold, which the Latins have called Aurum obryzum, 458458     “Lequel les Latins ont nomm, Aurum obryzum.” Fr. some render the Hebrew word a jewel, or precious stones, 459459     The rendering of the Septuagint is, λιθον τιμιον, precious stone; and in Psalm 119:127, they translate the same Hebrew word, τοπαζιον, a topaz, which is a precious stone. This last Greek word, according to Hesychius, is derived from the Hebrew word פז, paz. but the other translation is more generally received, namely, fine gold, that is, gold which is pure and well refined in the furnace; and there are many passages of Scripture by which this rendering is confirmed. 460460     The word is evidently used for fine gold in Psalm 21:3, and Job 28:17. The Hebrew word פז, paz, is derived from פזה, pazah, which signifies to strengthen; 461461     Or to consolidate: and hence פז, paz, means solid gold, or gold “well purified” for the more it is purified, it is the more solid, and consequently of greater weight and value. from which we may conjecture that the Psalmist does not mean the gold of any particular country, as if one should say the gold of Ophir, but gold completely refined and purified by art. So far is פז, paz, from being derived from the name of a country, that, on the contrary, it appears from Jeremiah 10:9, that the land of Uphaz took its name from this Hebrew word, because it had in it mines of the finest gold. As to the origin of the word obrizum, which the Latins have used, we cannot say any thing with certainty, except that, according to the conjecture of Jerome, it signifies brought from the land of Ophir, as if it had been said, aurum Ophrizum. In short, the sense is, that we do not esteem the law as it deserves, if we do not prefer it to all the riches of the world. If we are once brought thus highly to prize the law, it will serve effectually to deliver our hearts from an immoderate desire of gold and silver. To this esteem of the law there must be added love to it, and delight in it, so that it may not only subdue us to obedience by constraint, but also allure us by its sweetness; a thing which is impossible, unless, at the same time, we have mortified in us the love of carnal pleasures, with which it is not wonderful to see us enticed and ensnared, so long as we reject, through a vitiated taste, the righteousness of God. From this we may again deduce another evidence, that David’s discourse is not to be understood simply of the commandments, and of the dead letter, but that he comprehends, at the same time, the promises by which the grace of God is offered to us. If the law did nothing else but command us, how could it be loved, since in commanding it terrifies us, because we all fail in keeping it? 462462     “Veu qu’en commandant elle nous espouante, a cause que nous deraillons tous en l’observation d’icelle?” — Fr. Certainly, if we separate the law from the hope of pardon, and from the Spirit of Christ, so far from tasting it to be sweet as honey, we will rather find in it a bitterness which kills our wretched souls.

11. Moreover, by them is thy servant made circumspect. These words may be extended generally to all the people of God; but they are properly to be understood of David himself, and by them he testifies that he knew well, from his own experience, all that he had stated in the preceding verses respecting the law. No man will ever speak truly and in good earnest of heavenly truth, but he who has it deeply fixed in his own heart. David therefore acknowledges, that whatever prudence he had for regulating and framing his life aright, he was indebted for it to the law of God. Although, however, it is properly of himself that he speaks, yet by his own example he sets forth a general rule, namely, that if persons wish to have a proper method for governing the life well, the law of God alone is perfectly sufficient for this purpose; but that, on the contrary, as soon as persons depart from it, they are liable to fall into numerous errors and sins. It is to be observed that David, by all at once turning his discourse to God, appeals to him as a witness of what he had said, the more effectually to convince men that he speaks sincerely and from the bottom of his heart. As the Hebrew word זהר, zahar, which I have translated made circumspect, signifies to teach, as well as to be on one’s guard, some translate it in this place, Thy servant is taught, or warned, by the commandments of the law. But the sentence implies much more, when it is viewed as meaning that he who yields himself to God to be governed by him is made circumspect and cautious, and, therefore, this translation seems to me to be preferable. In the second clause the Psalmist declares, that whoever yield themselves to God to observe the rule of righteousness which he prescribes, do not lose their labor, seeing he has in reserve for them a great and rich reward: In keeping of them there is great reward. It is no mean commendation of the law when it is said, that in it God enters into covenant with us, and, so to speak, brings himself under obligation to recompense our obedience. In requiring from us whatever is contained in the law, he demands nothing but what he has a right to; yet such is his free and undeserved liberality, that he promises to his servants a reward, which, in point of justice, he does not owe them. The promises of the law, it is true, are made of no effect; but it is through our fault: for even he who is most perfect amongst us comes far short of full and complete righteousness; and men cannot expect any reward for their works until they have perfectly and to the full satisfied the requirements of the law. Thus these two doctrines completely harmonize: first, that eternal life shall be given as the reward of works to him who fulfils the law in all points; and, secondly, that the law notwithstanding denounces a curse against all men, because the whole human family are destitute of the righteousness of works. This will presently appear from the following verse. David, after having celebrated this benefit of the law - that it offers an abundant reward to those who serve God — immediately changes his discourse, and cries out, Who can understand his errors? by which he pronounces all men liable to eternal death, and thus utterly overthrows all the confidence which men may be disposed to place in the merit of their works. It may be objected, that this commendation, In the keeping of thy commandments there is great reward, is in vain ascribed to the law, seeing it is without effect. The answer is easy, namely, that as in the covenant of adoption there is included the free pardon of sins, upon which depends the imputation of righteousness, God bestows a recompense upon the works of his people, although, in point of justice, it is not due to them. What God promises in the law to those who perfectly obey it, true believers obtain by his gracious liberality and fatherly goodness, inasmuch as he accepts for perfect righteousness their holy desires and earnest endeavors to obey.


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