Daily Family Worship

Psalm 119: 161-168: Love for the Lord’s Word

by | Jun 28, 2024

psalm 119: 161-168

“Princes have persecuted me without a cause,” the Psalmist complains, in verse 161. Such persons ought to have known better; they should have had sympathy at least with David, who was one of their own rank. A man expects a fair trial at the hand of his peers; and moreover, if honor is banished from all other hearts, it should remain in the heart of kings – and honor forbids the persecution of the innocent. Government leaders are appointed to protect the innocent and avenge the oppressed, and it is a shame when they themselves become the oppressors of the innocent and the assailants of the righteous. It was a sad case when the man of God found himself attacked by the judges of the earth, for the eminent position added weight and venom to their enmity. But it was good for the sufferer that he could truthfully assert that this persecution was without cause! He had not broken any laws; he had not injured the princes; he had not even desired to see them injured. He had not been an advocate of rebellion or anarchy; he had neither openly nor secretly opposed their power. Therefore, while this made their oppression the more inexcusable, it took away a part of its sting; and it helped the brave-hearted servant of the Lord bear up under it. “My heart,” said he, “standeth in awe of thy word.” He might have been overcome by awe of these wicked princes – except that a greater fear drove out the lesser, and he was swayed by an awe of God’s Word. How little do crowns and scepters become, in the judgment of that person who perceives a more majestic royalty in the commands of his God! We are not likely to be disheartened by persecution, or driven by it into sin, if the Word of the Lord continually has supreme power over our minds.

What was David’s attitude toward this Word? “I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil!” he exclaims (verse 162). His awe did not prevent his joy; his fear of God was not the kind which perfect love casts out, but the sort which it nourishes. He trembled at the Word of the Lord, and yet he also rejoiced in it. He compares his joy to that of one who has been in a long battle, who has finally won the victory and is dividing the spoil. This usually falls to the lot of princes; and although David was not united with them in their persecutions, yet he had his victories – and his spoil was equal to their greatest gains. But to him, the profits made in searching the Scriptures were greater than all the trophies of war! We, too, must fight for Divine truth; every doctrine costs us a battle; but when we gain a full understanding of it by personal struggles, it becomes doubly precious to us! In these days, Godly persons have a full share of battling for the Word of God; may we have, for our spoil, a firmer hold upon the priceless Word!

This reference to “great spoil” is most natural coming from the lips of David; for he had been a soldier from his youth up, and he knew – personally and literally – what it was like to divide up the spoil of war. How beautiful it is to hear men speaking like themselves – and not in unnatural and stilted language – both in prayer and in praise! For example, if David the soldier spoke with cold and dead propriety, you would not know whether he was a soldier or a common citizen. But let him grow enthusiastic, and his natural speech betrays him; wars and rumors of wars are in his utterances, and he sings and prays to martial music!

For the believer, there is joy arising out of the very fact that Holy Scripture may be considered better than “great spoil!” In the dividing of spoil, there is always a sense of victory; and there is certainly a sense of victory in believing God’s Word. In getting firm hold upon the faithful testimony of our Lord, we achieve a conquest over all our doubts, fears, and disquietudes. Moreover, in dividing up spoils of war, there is profit and pleasure and honor; and when we can say that the things which God has revealed to us in the Scriptures are ours, then we are rich beyond a miser’s wildest dreams! But that is not all – for the dividing up of spoil is a prophecy of rest after the war; and so is that delightful dividing up of the Word of God, and the believing thereon by faith. “Ah!” said the Romans when they spoiled old Carthage; “we shall never see another Hannibal at our gates, nor dread the ships of Carthage in our seas.” They had overcome their most potent adversary when they utterly spoiled her, and then they looked for a long period of peace. And that is just like the joy of receiving the Word! When we believe that Jesus took away our sins, and suffered for them on the tree, then we are no more troubled by the guilt of sin! When we believe that our heavenly Father overrules all things for the good of His people, then sorrow and sighing and fear and fretting flee away forever!

O Lord, we pray that we may have a true love for the Great Book, which will bring us great peace and great protection from You, our great God. We ask for grace to live constantly in the society of Your Law, so that it may breed in our hearts a restfulness such as nothing else can! Amen.

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