Psalm 119:73

The psalmist has just come forth from some heavy affliction; but all through it God's Word has been his stay; and some of the results of such God-sustained affliction are shown in this section. They may be classed under the three heads of -

I. CONVICTION. This relates:

1. To the fact that his life has been ordered of God. (Ver. 73.) "Thy hands have," etc. He is speaking not merely of his body, that God created that, but rather he speaks of that as proof that all else concerning him had been made and fashioned of God - his life was according to the settled purpose and plan of God. "He knoweth the way that I take." Blessed is it when we come to recognize this truth; for then shall we know that we are not the sport of mere caprice or blind chance, but are under the control of God, who cannot err, and who, "like as a father, pitieth his children."

2. That in righteousness and faithfulness God had afflicted him. (Ver. 75.) Men find it very hard to say this now; they never do say it of themselves; but God's grace can enable a man to say it, as here and hereafter in heaven we shall say it. But it is good to be able to say it now.

II. ASSURANCE (ver. 74) that his trust in God under his affliction would win for him the glad welcome of those who feared God. The warm welcome of the people of God is one of the many recompenses with which those who for Christ's sake suffer will be met (Matthew 19:29).

III. PRAYERFULNESS. Note his petitions:

1. For understanding, so that he might learn, etc. (Ver. 73.) This is a petition he is perpetually offering (see vers. 34, 125, 144, 169, 27, 100, etc.). It implies that if men did but understand, their hearts would turn to God (Psalm 14:2; Psalm 82:5; Isaiah 6:10). And, undoubtedly, it would be so. The failure is not in the intellect, but in the heart.

2. For more knowledge of God's promised mercy (vers. 76, 77); so that he may be comforted thereby, and that he might live (ver. 77). Life without the realization of God's tender mercies would not be worth having.

3. For the bringing of the proud to shame, if so be God's will; if it were not, then he would not be without help, for he would meditate in, etc. (ver. 78).

4. For the friendship of the good. How blessed to have this (ver. 79)!

5. For soundness of heart in God's statutes. The heart is the all-important thing. - S.C.

Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding.
I. RECOGNIZING GOD AS THE AUTHOR OF HIS EXISTENCE. "Thy hands." I am not the creature of chance or of necessity, the product of the blind forces of nature. I recognize Thy hands, the hands of infinite skill and goodness. He made us.

1. Then, to study our constitutions is to study Him.

2. Then His claims upon our activities are absolute. No one has a right to us but Himself. We are His.

II. LOOKING TO GOD AS THE EDUCATOR OF HIS SPIRIT. Thou hast commandments concerning us — laws that should rule all the powers with which Thou hast endowed us. I am ignorant of them, enlighten me, I beseech Thee. "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" Thou hast given me a capacity for moral knowledge; but that knowledge I have not. I am in the dark. Kindle within me that light that will enable me to go the way Thou wouldst have me go. I have a wonderful nature that I know not how to use. "Give me understanding."

III. IMPLORING GOD AS THE PERFECTER OF HIS BEING. He knew that God made him for the purpose, and that that purpose could only be realized by correct moral information, a practical obedience to His will. And hence he prays, "Give me understanding."

1. This plea is rational. It is from the less to the greater. Thou hast made me for Thyself. I want to be Thine by my own willing and devoted service. Thou madest me without my choice or consent. I entreat Thee to give me that, to make my being a blessing to myself and an honour to Thee.

2. It is a powerful plea. It is the cry of a child in distress to a tender parent. It is more than this — it is the cry of a frail, ignorant, dying creature to the loving and almighty Author of its being. I should not have been, had it not been for Thee. Oh, grant me what I ask, and make my being blessed.

3. It is a loyal plea. What I ask for is, not the gratification of my own selfish wishes, but that; "I may learn Thy commandments" — learn them — practically learn them.


Long ago a laconic moralist gave this summary of wisdom, "Live as you were meant to live." This sentence recognizes the fact that there is a purpose the discovery of which is man's first anxiety and the accomplishment of which is man's supreme aim. Now, our Bible tells us that we have to do God's will, to serve God, to glorify God, to do good, to do right, to find and to keep in the truth. I think the significance of these phrases will appear if we consider some workmanship of man in relation to its maker's purpose. At South Kensington there is a clock made above 500 years ago under the hammer of a Glastonbury monk. It has measured out the moments of fifteen generations of men That piece of mechanism has done and is still doing its maker's will. It has served its maker's purpose. It fulfils his praiseworthy intention and so praises him. Every stroke of its pendulum is to the glory of the Glastonbury smith. It keeps (so to say) its maker's commandments. What he meant it to do it has done well and truly. Think of this clockwork of the brain, this delicate mechanism of thought and feeling. Year in, year out, the restless wheels of desire and feeling, of thought and passion, play into one another and mark results on the solemn dial of life. Matters may be so mismanaged as to put the machinery into a whirl of wild confusion. It is, on the other hand, possible to secure such inward adjustment, such balance, such regulative control, such true impulse, as to make the soul a splendid harmony and the life a utility which men acknowledge with reverence and benediction. With God's work, as with man's, the essential thing is to be true to the Maker's purpose. There is a commandment — a Divine intention to which every one must be true. "Thy hands have made me, and fashioned me; give me understanding of Thy will and commandment." Somewhere, at the outset of human story, God did give this knowledge to His creatures. Along the line of the Jewish people that knowledge came in a pure stream — pure compared with its deep pollution as it ran through other histories. Man's necessary life-knowledge has two branches. If for the general understanding of religion it is essential to throw the soul directly upon God, much more is that necessary for particular understanding of our individual perplexities. Take the case of the captain of a ship. Education and experience have given him general knowledge of the capabilities of ships, of the ways of sailors, of navigation, of coast-lines, storms and signals. These are the mariner's alphabet, and correspond to the Christian's general knowledge of God and life of the Saviour and the soul. But imagine the ship's captain on a voyage to a new port, in a new ship, with a fresh sort of cargo and a strange crew. His ship gets into storms, or among icebergs. There are break-downs and accidents to ship and tackling. Besides his general sailor lore the captain obviously requires presence of mind, tact, resource, the gift to see what needs to be done, and what can be done in every new emergency. Such readiness for the event corresponds to the Christian's application of religious truth to the perplexities of his personal career. About the generalities of religion we are fairly informed. We know what is right and what is wrong. We understand the perils of temptation and we know the grace of God. We know the ways of the world, and we know the truths of Holy Scripture. All this is our miscellaneous sailing-lore. But every day we make a new voyage and venture, in which sudden accidents may happen. Storm or collision may come. We may find ourselves confronted by new circumstances, and we want the quickly-acting instinct of Christian temper so as to be able to say " none of these things move me." Can we meet difficulty with patience? Can we take failure with hopefulness? Can we be meek and yet strong, pleasant and yet good, gentle and yet firm? Can we so pass through things temporal as to fail not of things that are eternal? For all this we need more than general knowledge of Divine truth; we require that the power of Christ shall rest upon us. Give me understanding, that for each act and for each step I may know Thy commandment. Nor is this the end of the matter. There are emergencies and perplexities which form a class by themselves. We come to places when it is hard to know which is right — the way on the right hand or the way on the left hand. Infallibility does not belong even to the man whose soul is nearest to God. Insurance against ever making a wrong decision, or taking a wrong step is not gained by the most Christian sincerity and faith. Through all his campaigns the Duke of Wellington never made a serious mistake. Sometimes good men show similar wisdom in the conduct of life's stern warfare, but there is no guarantee for this clear and precise practical judgment. Often you must "Do the sum to prove it." Do it carefully. Do it honestly. Do it for the most part on your knees. The rest is with God. "They cry unto the Lord in their trouble and He delivereth them out of all their distresses." "If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God." Keep near to the source of light and direction, not merely in the acts and offices of devotion but in all the sincere aims of daily conduct.

(S. Gregory.)

Thomas Carlyle was once present when a conversation was started between some friends on the subject of evolution. Having quietly listened for a time, the Chelsea sage seized the opportunity of a pause to remark, with considerable solemnity and emphasis, "Gentlemen, you seem well pleased to trace your descent from a tadpole, and an ape, but I would say with David, 'Lord, Thou hast made me a little lower than the angels.'"

(J. H. Hitchens, D. D.)

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