This is, as we all know, the longest by far of all the Psalms; but it is full of deep interest, and worthy of patient study.
It does not contain either history or prophecy, doctrine or exhortation. It alludes to no nation or people, their pact or future.
It mentions the name of “God” but once, and “the Lord” some twenty times. It breathes some sixty prayers—the shortest being in three syllables: “Help Thou me.” It draws attention, however, to the Word of God, in one or other of its forms, in every verse except two. It eulogizes that Word.
The writer, however pious, does not stand on Christian ground; that is, he does not enjoy the blessings revealed to us in that glorious system. He never speaks of the Father, Son, or Spirit, nor of an accomplished redemption, with the full assurance and settled peace which it brings to the soul of the Christian. To all this he is, of course, a stranger, for redemption had not yet been wrought.
He mentions heaven but once, feeling that his life was lived on earth, where, on account of the faith which he had, his sufferings, at the hands of his enemies, were forced upon him.
The one thing indispensable was “the Word.” Oh! how he loved it! It was his meditation all the day, “Sweeter than honey to his mouth.” He clung to it as a drowning man to a spar. His experiences were not altogether dissimilar from those of the case described to us in Romans 7, though, perhaps, not so deep. He does not call himself “wretched,” because his conflict was more with external than internal foes. Romans 7 treats of the awful discovery of “the sinfulness of sin” (a strange expression) and the learning of the deepest and most humiliating lesson that can, and should, be learned! Here the depths are not so profound, nor the darkness so great, nor despair so terrible. God is not so distant; and it is just this fact that God is accessible, that His ear is open, and His hand outstretched, that leads to the plaintive, but not hopeless cry: “Help Thou me.” Hope counts on help, and, thank God, not in vain. Then, notice that the entire Psalm, save the first five verses, is in the singular. After saying that the undefiled in the way are blessed, and presenting that unquestionable fact as the thesis, the writer exclaims: “O, that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes”—his personal ways. And so to the end, the same laudable desire, in differing forms of language, expresses itself in the ear of Him Whose name is so seldom used.
Still, all through, the address is direct, immediate, importunate. It is “God and I” dealing face to face. No intermediary nor third party; no auxiliary nor helper. The intercourse is personal, private, precious and prevailing. No wonder that this Psalm, though fragmentary, is so attractive!
I knew an old Christian woman who, soon after conversion when young, learned the whole Psalm by heart. It formed her character right through life, and placed the stamp of the fear and love of God upon her spirit in living power. I knew another who, at seventy-five, did the same. It passed quickly from her memory, but at seventy-seven she learned it again!
“There were giants in those days”! Surely; but, “What man has done man can do.”
Do we seek God now as they did? Is His sacred Word as indispensable to us as it was to them?
Let us test our measure of thirst by the eager spiritual tenacity of the language of Psalm 119.