Psalm 19:13
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) Presumptuous sin.—The Heb., from root meaning to “boil up” or “over,” is properly masculine, and always elsewhere means proud or arrogant men. (So Symmachus and Aquila.) Hence here explain, “Keep thy servant from the companionship of arrogant men, so that they may not get dominion over me, and lead me away from thy Law.”

The great transgression.—Rather, a great transgression, though even without the article it is possible the particular sin of idolatry is intended.

Psalms

OPEN SINS

Psalm 19:13
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Another psalmist promises to the man who dwells ‘in the secret place of the Most High’ that’ he shall not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the pestilence that walketh at noonday,’ but shall ‘tread upon the lion and adder.’ These promises divide the dangers that beset us into the same two classes as our Psalmist does-the one secret; the other palpable and open. The former, which, as I explained in my last sermon, are sins hidden, not from others, but from the doer, may fairly be likened to the pestilence that stalks slaying in the dark, or to the stealthy, gliding serpent, which strikes and poisons before the naked foot is aware. The other resembles the ‘destruction that wasteth at noonday,’ or the lion with its roar and its spring, as, disclosed from its covert, it leaps upon the prey.

Our present text deals with the latter of these two classes. ‘Presumptuous sins’ does not, perhaps, convey to an ordinary reader the whole significance of the phrase, for it may be taken to define a single class of sins-namely, those of pride or insolence. What is really meant is just the opposite of ‘secret sins’-all sorts of evil which, whatever may be their motives and other qualities, have this in common, that the doer, when he does them, knows them to be wrong.

The Psalmist gets this further glimpse into the terrible possibilities which attach even to a servant of God, and we have in our text these three things-a danger discerned, a help sought, and a daring hope cherished.

I. Note, then, the first of these, the dreaded and discerned danger-’presumptuous sins,’ which may ‘have dominion over’ us, and lead us at last to a ‘great transgression.’

Now the word which is translated ‘presumptuous’ literally means that which boils or bubbles; and it sets very picturesquely before us the movement of hot desires-the agitation of excited impulses or inclinations which hurry men into sin in spite of their consciences. It is also to be noticed that the prayer of my text, with singular pathos and lowly self-consciousness, is the prayer of ‘Thy servant,’ who knows himself to be a servant, and who therefore knows that these glaring transgressions, done in the teeth of conscience and consciousness, are all inconsistent with his standing and his profession, but yet are perfectly possible for him.

An old mediaeval mystic once said, ‘There is nothing weaker than the devil stripped naked.’ Would it were true! For there is one thing that is weaker than a discovered devil, and that is my own heart. For we all know that sometimes, with our eyes open, and the most unmistakable consciousness that what we are doing was wrong, we have set our teeth and done it, Christian men though we may profess to be, and may really be. All such conduct is inconsistent with Christianity; but we are not to say, therefore, that it is incompatible with Christianity. Thank God! that is a very different matter. But as long as you and I have two things-viz. strong and hot desires, and weak and flabby wills-so long shall we, in this world full of combustibles, not be beyond the possibility of a dreadful conflagration being kindled by some devil-blown sparks. There are plenty of dry sticks lying about to put under the caldron of our hearts, to make them boil and bubble over! And we have, alas! but weak wills, which do not always keep the reins in their hands as they ought to do, nor coerce these lower parts of our nature into their proper subordination. Fire is a good servant, but a bad master; and we are all of us too apt to let it become master, and then the whole ‘course of nature’ is ‘set on fire of hell.’ The servant of God may yet, with open eyes and obstinate disregard of his better self and of all its remonstrances, go straight into ‘presumptuous sin.’

Another step is here taken by the Psalmist. He looks shrinkingly and shudderingly into a possible depth, and he sees, going down into the abyss, a ladder with three rungs on it. The topmost one is wilful, self-conscious transgression. But that is not the lowest stage; there is another step. Presumptuous sin tends to become despotic sin. ‘Let them not have dominion over me.’ A man may do a very bad thing once, and get so wholesomely frightened, and so keenly conscious of the disastrous issues, that he will never go near it again. The prodigal would not be in a hurry, you may depend upon it, to try the swine trough and the far country, and the rags, and the fever, and the famine any more. David got a lesson that he never forgot in that matter of Bathsheba. The bitter fruit of his sin kept growing up all his life, and he had to eat it, and that kept him right. They tell us that broken bones are stronger at the point of fracture than they were before. And it is possible for a man’s sin-if I might use a paradox which you will not misunderstand-to become the instrument of his salvation.

But there is another possibility quite as probable, and very often recurring, and that is that the disease, like some other morbid states of the human frame, shall leave a tendency to recurrence. A pin-point hole in a dyke will be widened into a gap as big as a church-door in ten minutes, by the pressure of the flood behind it. And so every act which we do in contradiction of our standing as professing Christians, and in the face of the protests, all unavailing, of that conscience which is only a voice, and has no power to enforce its behests, will tend to recurrence once and again. The single acts become habits, with awful rapidity. Just as the separate gas jets from a multitude of minute apertures coalesce into a continuous ring of light, so deeds become habits, and get dominion over us. ‘He sold himself to do evil.’ He made himself a bond-slave of iniquity. It is an awful and a miserable thing to think that professing Christians do often come into that position of being, by their inflamed passions and enfeebled wills, servants of the evil that they do. Alas! how many of us, if we were honest with ourselves, would have to say. ‘I am carnal, sold unto sin.’

That is not the lowest rung of the slippery ladder. Despotic sin ends in utter departure.

The word translated here, quite correctly, ‘transgression,’ and intensified by that strong adjective attached, ‘a great transgression,’ literally means rebellion, revolt, or some such idea; and expresses, as the ultimate issue of conscious transgression prolonged and perpetuated into habit, an entire casting off of allegiance to God. ‘No man can serve two masters.’ ‘His servants ye are whom ye obey,’ whomsoever ye may call your master. The Psalmist feels that the end of indulged evil is going over altogether to the other camp. I suppose all of us have known instances of that sort. Men in my position, with a long life of ministry behind them, can naturally remember many such instances. And this is the outline history of the suicide of a Christian. First secret sin, unsuspected, because the conscience is torpid; then open sin, known to be such, but done nevertheless; then dominant sin, with an enfeebled will and power of resistance; then the abandonment of all pretence or profession of religion. The ladder goes down into the pit, but not to the bottom of the pit. And the man that is going down it has a descending impulse after he has reached the bottom step and he falls-Where? The first step down is tampering with conscience. It is neither safe nor wise to do anything, howsoever small, against that voice. All the rest will come afterward, unless God restrains-’first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear,’ and then the bitter harvest of the poisonous grain.

II. So, secondly, note the help sought.

The Psalmist is like a man standing on the edge of some precipice, and peeping over the brink to the profound beneath, and feeling his head beginning to swim. He clutches at the strong, steady hand of his guide, knowing that unless he is restrained, over he will go. ‘Keep Thou back Thy servant from presumptuous sins.’

So, then, the first lesson we have to take is, to cherish a lowly consciousness of our own tendency to light-headedness and giddiness. ‘Blessed is the man that feareth always.’ That fear has nothing cowardly about it. It will not abate in the least the buoyancy and bravery of our work. It will not tend to make us shirk duty because there is temptation in it, but it will make us go into all circumstances realising that without that divine help we cannot stand, and that with it we cannot fall. ‘Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.’ The same Peter that said, ‘Though all should forsake Thee, yet will not I,’ was wiser and braver when he said, in later days, being taught by former presumption, ‘Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.’

Let me remind you, too, that the temper which we ought to cherish is that of a confident belief in the reality of a divine support. The prayer of my text has no meaning at all, unless the actual supernatural communication by God’s own Holy Spirit breathed into men’s hearts be a simple truth. ‘Hold Thou me up,’ ‘Keep Thou me back,’ means, if it means anything, ‘Give me in my heart a mightier strength than mine own, which shall curb all this evil nature of mine, and bring it into conformity with Thy holy will.’

How is that restraining influence to be exercised? There are many ways by which God, in His providence, can fulfil the prayer. But the way above all others is by the actual operation upon heart and will and desires of a divine Spirit, who uses for His weapon the Word of God, revealed by Jesus Christ, and in the Scriptures. ‘The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God,’ and God’s answer to the prayer of my text is the gift to every man who seeks it of that indwelling Power to sustain and to restrain.

That will keep our passions down. The bubbling water is lowered in its temperature, and ceases to bubble, when cold is added to it. When God’s Spirit comes into a man’s heart, that will deaden his desires after earth and forbidden ways. He will bring blessed higher objects for all his affections. He who has been fed on ‘the hidden manna’ will not be likely to hanker after the leeks and onions, however strong their smell and pungent their taste, that grew in the Nile mud in Egypt. He who has tasted the higher sweetnesses of God will have his heart’s desires after lower delights strangely deadened and cooled. Get near God, and open your hearts for the entrance of that divine Spirit, and then it will not seem foolish to empty your hands of the trash that they carry in order to grasp the precious things that He gives. A bit of scrap-iron magnetised turns to the pole. My heart, touched by the Spirit of God dwelling in me, will turn to Him, and I shall find little sweetness in the else tempting delicacies that earth can supply. ‘Keep Thy servant back from,’ by depriving him of the taste for, ‘presumptuous sins.’

That Spirit will strengthen our wills. For when God comes into a heart, He restores the due subordination which has been broken into discord and anarchy by sin. He dismounts the servant riding on horseback, and carrying the horse to the devil, according to the proverb, and gives the reins into the right hands. Now, if the gift of God’s Spirit, working through the Word of God, and the principles and the motives therein unfolded, and therefrom deducible, be the great means by which we are to be kept from open and conscious transgression, it follows very plainly that our task is twofold. One part of it is to see that we cultivate that spirit of lowly dependence, of self-conscious weakness, of triumphant confidence, which will issue in the perpetual prayer for God’s restraint. When we enter upon tasks which may be dangerous, and into regions of temptation which cannot but be so, though they be duty, we should ever have the desire in our hearts and upon our lips that God would keep us from, and in, the evil.

The other part of our duty is to make it a matter of conscience and careful cultivation, to use honestly and faithfully the power which, in response to our desires, has been granted to us. All of you, Christian men and women, have access to an absolute security against every transgression; and the cause lies wholly at your own doors in each case of failure, deficiency, or transgression, for at every moment it was open to you to clasp the Hand that holds you up, and at every moment, if you failed, it was because your careless fingers had relaxed their grasp.

III. Lastly, observe the daring hope here cherished.

‘Then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.’ That is the upshot of the divine answer to both the petitions which have been occupying us in these two successive sermons. It is connected with the former of them by the recurrence of the same word, which in the first petition was rendered ‘cleanse’-or, more accurately, ‘clear’-and in this final clause is to be rendered accurately, ‘I shall be clear from the great transgression.’ And it obviously connects in sense with both these petitions, because, in order to be upright and clear, there must, first of all, be divine cleansing, and then divine restraint.

So, then, nothing short of absolute deliverance from the power of sin in all its forms should content the servant of God. Nothing short of it contents the Master for the servant. Nothing short of it corresponds to the power which Christ puts in operation in every heart that believes in Him. And nothing else should be our aim in our daily conflict with evil and growth in grace. Ah! I fear me that, for an immense number of professing Christians in this generation, the hope of-and, still more, the aim towards-anything approximating to entire deliverance from sin, have faded from their consciences and their lives. Aim at the stars, brother! and if you do not hit them, your arrow will go higher than if it were shot along the lower levels.

Note that an indefinite approximation to this condition is possible. I am not going to discuss, at this stage of my discourse, controversial questions which may be involved here. It will be time enough to discuss with you whether you can be absolutely free from sin in this world when you are a great deal freer from it than you are at present. At all events, you can get far nearer to the ideal, and the ideal must always be perfect. And I lay it on your hearts, dear friends! that you have in your possession, if you are Christian people, possibilities in the way of conformity to the Master’s will, and entire emancipation from all corruption, that you have not yet dreamed of, not to say applied to your lives. ‘I pray God that He would sanctify you wholly, and that your whole body, soul, and spirit be preserved blameless unto the coming.’

That daring hope will be fulfilled one day; for nothing short of it will exhaust the possibilities of Christ’s work or satisfy the desires of Christ’s heart.

The Gospel knows nothing of irreclaimable outcasts. To it there is but one unpardonable sin, and that is the sin of refusing the cleansing of Christ’s blood and the sanctifying of Christ’s Spirit. Whoever you are, whatever you are, go to God with this prayer of our text, and realise that it is answered in Jesus Christ, and you will not ask in vain. If you will put yourself into His hands, and let Him cleanse and restrain, He will give you new powers to detect the serpents in the flowers, and new resolution to shake off the vipers into the fire. For there is nothing that God wants half so much as that we, His wandering children, should come back to Him, and He will cleanse us from the filth of the swine trough and the rags of our exile, and clothe us in ‘fine linen clean and white.’ We may each be sinless and guiltless. We can be so in one way only. If we look to Jesus Christ, and live near Him, He ‘will be made of God unto us wisdom,’ by which we shall detect our secret sins; ‘righteousness,’ whereby we shall be cleansed from guilt; ‘sanctification,’ which shall restrain us from open transgression; ‘and redemption,’ by which we shall be wholly delivered from evil and ‘presented faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.’Psalm 19:13. Keep back thy servant also — Hebrew, חשׂךְ, chasoch, cohibe, subtrahe, restrain, or withdraw. The word is emphatical, and implies the natural and great proneness of man to commit even wilful sins, and the necessity of divine grace, as a bridle, to keep men from the commission of them. From presumptuous sins — Having begged pardon for his secret faults, including therein, probably, sins of ignorance and infirmity; he now prays for restraining grace, to keep him from sins committed knowingly and deliberately, against the convictions and the remonstrances of conscience and the motions of God’s Holy Spirit. Let them not have dominion over me — If at any time I be tempted to any such sins, Lord, let them not prevail over me; and if I do fall into them, let me speedily rise again. Then shall I be upright — That will be an evidence of my sincerity, and I shall have this comfort, that though I am still compassed about with many infirmities, yet I am an upright person, and such as thou dost accept. And I shall be innocent — Hebrew, נקיתי, nikkeeti, I shall be cleansed, or kept pure, as this word primarily signifies; from the great transgression — From the guilt of such presumptuous sins, which are, indeed, very great transgressions, and such as, if followed by impenitence and obstinacy, thou wilt not pardon.19:11-14 God's word warns the wicked not to go on in his wicked way, and warns the righteous not to turn from his good way. There is a reward, not only after keeping, but in keeping God's commandments. Religion makes our comforts sweet, and our crosses easy, life truly valuable, and death itself truly desirable. David not only desired to be pardoned and cleansed from the sins he had discovered and confessed, but from those he had forgotten or overlooked. All discoveries of sin made to us by the law, should drive us to the throne of grace, there to pray. His dependence was the same with that of every Christian who says, Surely in the Lord Jesus have I righteousness and strength. No prayer can be acceptable before God which is not offered in the strength of our Redeemer or Divine Kinsman, through Him who took our nature upon him, that he might redeem us unto God, and restore the long-lost inheritance. May our hearts be much affected with the excellence of the word of God; and much affected with the evil of sin, and the danger we are in of it, and the danger we are in by it.Keep back thy servant also - Restrain thy servant; or, do not suffer him to commit those sins.

From presumptuous sins - The word used here is manifestly designed to stand in some respects in contrast with the secret faults mentioned in the previous verse. The word - זד zêd - means properly that which is boiling, swelling, inflated; then proud, arrogant; with the accessory notion of shameless wickedness or impiety. Gesenius, Lexicon. The word is rendered proud in Psalm 86:14; Psalm 119:21, Psalm 119:51, Psalm 119:69, Psalm 119:78, Psalm 119:85,Psalm 119:122; Proverbs 21:24; Isaiah 13:11; Jeremiah 43:2; Malachi 3:15; Malachi 4:1. It does not occur elsewhere. The prevailing thought is that of pride, and the reference is particularly to sins which proceed from self-confidence; from reliance on one's own strength. The word does not mean open sins, or flagrant sins, so much as those which spring from self-reliance or pride. The prayer is substantially that he might have a proper distrust of himself, and might not be left by an improper reliance on his own power to the commission of sin. This also is said in view of the extent and spirituality of the law of God - expressing the earnest desire of the author of the psalm that he might not be left to violate a law so pure and holy.

Let them not have dominion over me - Let them not reign over me; that is, let them not get the mastery or the ascendancy over me. Let me not become the slave of sin; so subject to it that it shall domineer over me. Sin often secures that kind of triumph or mastery over the mind, making a slave of him who yields to it. The pious man alone is a true freeman. He is emancipated from the dominion of sin, and walks in true liberty: see John 8:32, John 8:36; Galatians 5:1.

Then shall I be upright - Hebrew: I shall be perfect. On the meaning of the word used here, see the note at Psalm 19:7. It means here that he would be truly a servant of God; or, that he would have this evidence that he was a friend of God, that he was kept from the indulgence of secret faults, and from open transgressions - that is, his piety would have completeness of parts; or, it would be shown to be true and genuine. It cannot be demonstrated from the use of the word that he supposed that he would be absolutely perfect or free from all sin. See the note at Job 1:1.

And I shall be innocent - This does not mean that he would be absolutely innocent, or free from all sin; but it means here, as it is explained in the following phrase, that he would be innocent of the great transgression, or would be free from that.

From the great transgression - Margin, as in Hebrew, much. It does not, refer to any one specific offence, but it means that he would be free from the transgression which would exist if he were not cleansed from secret faults, and if he were not kept back from presumptuous sins. He would be saved from the great guilt which would ensue if he should give unchecked indulgence to secret faults, and if he should be allowed to commit the open sins which were the result of pride and over-weening self-confidence.

12-14. The clearer our view of the law, the more manifest are our sins. Still for its full effect we need divine grace to show us our faults, acquit us, restrain us from the practice, and free us from the power, of sin. Thus only can our conduct be blameless, and our words and thoughts acceptable to God. Keep back, or restrain, or withdraw; which word is emphatical, and signifies man’s natural and great proneness even to the worst of sins, and the necessity of God’s grace, as a bridle, to keep men from rushing upon them. Having begged pardon for his former errors, he now begs grace to keep him from relapses for the time to come.

From presumptuous sins; from known and evident sins, such as are committed against knowledge and deliberation with design, and resolution, and eagerness, with resistance against the checks of conscience, and the motions of God’s Spirit, and with contempt both of God’s commands and judgments, and so with pride and insolency, which this word signifies. See Exodus 21:14. And such a sin was that of David’s in the matter of Uriah, to which he seems to have an eye, and prayeth to be kept from such miscarriages.

Let them not have dominion over me; if I be at any time tempted to any such sins, Lord, let them not prevail over me; and if I do fall into them, let me speedily rise again, and not willingly give up myself to the customary practice of them.

Then shall I be upright; that will be an evidence of my sincerity, and I shall have this comfort, that although I am not absolutely perfect, but encompassed with many infirmities, yet I am an upright person, and such as thou wilt accept.

I shall be innocent; thou wilt hold me for innocent. Or, I shall be cleansed, or kept pure, as this word primarily signifies.

From the great transgression, i.e. from the guilt of such presumptuous sins, which are indeed very great transgressions, and such as, if accompanied with obstinacy and impenitency, thou wilt not pardon. But as for other sins of ignorance or infirmity, thou wilt graciously remit them for thy covenant’s sake, made with me in and through thy Christ. Otherwise, from much transgression, or from innumerable sins, which usually follow the commission of one presumptuous sin, as David found by his own sad experience. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins,.... Some understand these words of persons: the Septuagint, and the versions that follow that, render it "from strangers": such who are strangers to God and godliness; that is, keep from all conversation with them in things sinful, or from others' sins; from having a fellowship with them, being a partaker of them, lest their plagues and punishments should be shared in: others, as the Targum, "from proud men", who are haughty, insolent, and conceited of themselves; lest he should be so corrupted and drawn aside by them: but rather the words are to be understood of sins wilfully, contumaciously, and presumptuously committed; and the petition supposes, that these may be committed by good men, if left to themselves; and that there is a proneness in them to them; and that they would rush into them, were they not kept back and restrained by the powerful and efficacious grace of God: and it also supposes that the saints cannot keep themselves; that God only can keep them from evil; and therefore they pray to him that he would, who does keep them by his power, at least from a final and total falling away

let them not have dominion over me: neither presumptuous sins, nor any other, Psalm 119:133; as they shall not, Romans 6:14; as sin has over wicked men; and they yield a ready obedience to the laws and lusts of it; it reigns over them as a king and tyrant, even unto death: it is something very powerful in good men; it prevails over them, and carries them captive; wherefore they pray it may not have a continued dominion, as it shall not; because they are in another kingdom, and under grace as a governing principle, which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life;

then shall I be upright; in heart, and walk uprightly in conversation; being cleansed from secret faults, and kept from notorious crimes, and gross enormities; and shall exercise a conscience void of offence, both to God and man; and be "perfect", as the word is sometimes rendered, at least comparatively; and absolutely so, as washed in Christ's blood, and justified by his righteousness;

and I shall be innocent from the great transgression; which some understand of pride, others of apostasy; perhaps the sin against the Holy Ghost may be intended; though the words may be rendered, "from much transgression" (k); and the sense is, that he should be cleared and acquitted of a multitude of transgressions he had been guilty of; or be preserved from much sin, which otherwise he should have fallen into.

(k) "multa", Montanus, Rivetus, Gejerus, Cocceius; so Ainsworth.

Keep back thy servant also from {m} presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: {n} then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

(m) Which are done purposely and from malice.

(n) If you suppress my wicked affections by your Holy Spirit.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. For sins committed ‘in error,’ (A.V. through ignorance) and for ‘hidden’ offences, the ceremonial law provided an atonement (Leviticus 4:1 ff., Leviticus 4:13 ff; Leviticus 5:2 ff.; Numbers 15:22 ff.); but for sins committed ‘with a high hand,’ in a spirit of proud defiance, there was no atonement (Numbers 15:30-31). From such presumptuous sins he prays to be restrained, as David was once restrained from a desperate act of revenge (1 Samuel 25:39). Such sins soon become a man’s masters, and he becomes their slave (John 8:34). They rule over him, instead of his ruling over them (Genesis 4:7). For presumptuous, lit. proud, cp. presumptuously, lit. in pride, Exodus 21:14; Deuteronomy 17:12-13.

Then (he continues) if Thou dost grant me this grace, shall I be perfect, heart-whole with Thee (Psalm 18:23), and I shall be clear from great transgression, innocent of the deadly sin of rebellion (Isaiah 1:2) and apostasy from Jehovah.

But the word rendered ‘presumptuous sins’ everywhere else means ‘proud men,’ and this may be its meaning here. The Psalmist prays to be saved from the oppression of the proud and godless, lest he should be tempted even to deny God. Cp. Psalm 119:121-122; and note how often “the proud” are mentioned in that Psalm, and how the thought of faithfulness to the Law in the teeth of mockery and persecution is emphasised ( Psalm 119:51; Psa 119:69; Psa 119:78; Psa 119:85-87).Verse 13. - Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins (comp. Exodus 21:14; Numbers 15:30; Deuteronomy 17:12). Wilful, intentional, deliberate sins are intended - such as cut off from grace. They are called "presumptuous ones," being "personified as tyrants who strive to bring the servant of God into unbecoming subjection to them" (Hengstenberg). Let them not have dominion over me (comp. Psalm 119:133; Romans 6:14). Then shall I be upright; or, "blameless" (ἄμωμος, LXX.). And I shall be innocent from the great transgression. There is no article in the original. Translate, and innocent of great transgression (see the Revised Version). (Heb.: 19:8-10) No sign is made use of to mark the transition from the one part to the other, but it is indicated by the introduction of the divine name יהוה instead of אל. The word of nature declares אל (God) to us, the word of Scripture יהוה (Jahve); the former God's power and glory, the latter also His counsel and will. Now follow twelve encomiums of the Law, of which every two are related as antecedent and consequent, rising and falling according to the caesural schema, after the manner of waves. One can discern how now the heart of the poet begins to beat with redoubled joy as he comes to speak of God's word, the revelation of His will. תּורה does not in itself mean the law, but a pointing out, instruction, doctrine or teaching, and more particularly such as is divine, and therefore positive; whence it is also used of prophecy, Isaiah 1:10; Isaiah 8:16, and prophetically of the New Testament gospel, Isaiah 2:3. But here no other divine revelation is meant than that given by the mediation of Moses, which is become the law, i.e., the rule of life (νόμος), of Israel; and this law, too, as a whole not merely as to its hortatory and disciplinary character, but also including the promises contained in it. The praises which the poet pronounces upon the Law, are accurate even from the standpoint of the New Testament. Even Paul says, Romans 7:12, Romans 7:14, "The Law is holy and spiritual, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." The Law merits these praises in itself; and to him who is in a state of favour, it is indeed no longer a law bringing a curse with it, but a mirror of the God merciful in holiness, into which he can look without slavish fear, and is a rule for the direction of his free and willing obedience. And how totally different is the affection of the psalmists and prophets for the Law, - an affection based upon the essence and universal morality of the commandments, and upon a spiritual realisation of the letter, and the consolation of the promises, - from the pharisaical rabbinical service of the letter and the ceremonial in the period after the Exile!

The divine Law is called תּמימה, "perfect," i.e., spotless and harmless, as being absolutely well-meaning, and altogether directed towards the well-being of man. And משׁיבת נפשׁ restoring, bringing back, i.e., imparting newness of life, quickening the soul (cf. Pil. שׁובב, Psalm 23:3), to him, viz., who obeys the will of God graciously declared therein, and enters upon the divine way or rule of salvation. Then in the place of the word תורה we find עדוּת, - as the tables of the Ten Commandments (לחוּת העדוּת) are called, - from עוּד (העיד), which signifies not merely a corroborative, but also a warning and instructive testimony or attestation. The testimony of Jahve is נאמנה, made firm, sure, faithful, i.e., raised above all doubt in its declarations, and verifying itself in its threatenings and promises; and hence מחכּימת פּתי, making wise simplicity, or the simple, lit., openness, the open (root פת to spread out, open, Indo-Germ. prat, πετ, pat, pad), i.e., easily led astray; to such an one it gives a solid basis and stability, σοφίζει αὐτὸν, 2 Timothy 3:15. The Law divides into פּקּוּדים, precepts or declarations concerning man's obligation; these are ישׁרים, straight or upright, as a norma normata, because they proceed from the upright, absolutely good will of God, and as a norma normans they lead along a straight way in the right track. They are therefore משׂמּחי לב, their educative guidance, taking one as it were by the hand, frees one from all tottering, satisfies a moral want, and preserves a joyous consciousness of being in the right way towards the right goal. מצות יהוה, Jahve's statute (from צוּה statuere), is the tenour of His commandments. The statute is a lamp - it is said in Proverbs 6:23 -and the law a light. So here: it is בּרה, clear, like the light of the sun (Sol 6:10), and its light is imparted to other objects: מאירת עינים, enlightening the eyes, which refers not merely to the enlightening of the understanding, but of one's whole condition; it makes the mind clear, and body as well as mind healthy and fresh, for the darkness of the eyes is sorrow, melancholy, and bewilderment. In this chain of names for the Law, יראת ה is not the fear of God as an act performed, but as a precept, it is what God's revelation demands, effects, and maintains; so that it is the revealed way in which God is to be feared (Psalm 34:12) - in short, it is the religion of Jahve (cf. Proverbs 15:33 with Deuteronomy 17:19). This is טהורה, clean, pure, as the word which is like to pure gold, by which it is taught, Psalm 12:7, cf. Job 28:19; and therefore עמדת לעד, enduring for ever in opposition to all false forms of reverencing God, which carry their own condemnation in themselves. משׁפּטי ה are the jura of the Law as a corpus juris divini, everything that is right and constitutes right according to the decision of Jahve. These judgments are אמת, truth, which endures and verifies itself; because, in distinction from most others and those outside Israel, they have an unchangeable moral foundation: צדקוּ יחדּו, i.e., they are צדיקים, in accordance with right and appropriate (Deuteronomy 4:8), altogether, because no reproach of inappositeness and sanctioned injustice or wrong clings to them. The eternal will of God has attained a relatively perfect form and development in the Law of Jahve according to the standard set up as the law of the nation.

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