|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
119:17-24 If God deals in strict justice with us, we all perish. We ought to spend our lives in his service; we shall find true life in keeping his word. Those that would see the wondrous things of God's law and gospel, must beg him to give them understanding, by the light of his Spirit. Believers feel themselves strangers on earth; they fear missing their way, and losing comfort by erring from God's commandments. Every sanctified soul hungers after the word of God, as food which there is no living without. There is something of pride at the bottom of every wilful sin. God can silence lying lips; reproach and contempt may humble and do us good, and then they shall be removed. Do we find the weight of the cross is above that we are able to bear? He that bore it for us will enable us to bear it; upheld by him we cannot sink. It is sad when those who should protect the innocent, are their betrayers. The psalmist went on in duty, and he found comfort in the word of God. The comforts of the word of God are most pleasant to a gracious soul, when other comforts are made bitter; and those that would have God's testimonies to be their delight, must be advised by them. May the Lord direct us in exercising repentance of sin, and faith in Christ.
Verse 17. - Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy Word; rather, grant unto thy servant that I may live. Give me the blessing of a long life, that so my keeping of thy Word may be long. The psalmist seems to be praying especially for himself; but the argument of his prayer will extend to all "servants of the Lord."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
GIMEL.--The Third Part.
GIMEL. Deal bountifully with thy servant,.... Which character is mentioned, not by way of plea or argument for favour, but as expressive of modesty, sense of duty, and obligation to it. He pleads not his services by way of merit; but prays that God would deal bountifully with him, in a way of grace and mercy: or "render good" unto him, as the Targum; bestow it on him as a free gift. The Lord deals bountifully with men, when he gives himself unto them as their portion and inheritance; his Son, and all things along with him; his Spirit, and the graces of it; and every daily needful supply of grace;
that I may live, and keep thy word; life natural is the bounty of God; he grants life and favour, he grants life as a favour, and all the mercies and blessings of it; and through the gracious dealings of God with his people, they live spiritually and live comfortably; in his favour is life; the life of faith is encouraged and invigorated in them by it; and eternal life is the free gift and bounty of God through Christ, by whom they have both a right unto it and meetness for it: and the desire of good men to live in this world is not to indulge themselves in carnal lusts and pleasures; not to live to themselves, nor to the lusts of the flesh, nor to the will of men; but to live soberly, righteously, and godly; to live by faith in Christ, and in hope of eternal life through him; and while they live to keep the word of God, and not forget it, as Aben Ezra interprets it, to lay it up for their own use, and preserve it for others, and observe its instructions, cautions, and directions.
The Treasury of David
17 Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word.
18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
19 I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me.
20 My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.
21 Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments.
22 Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept thy testimonies.
23 Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes.
24 Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors.
In this section the trials of the way appear to be manifest to the Psalmist's mind, and he prays accordingly for the help which will meet his case. As in the last eight verses he prayed as a youth newly come into the world, so here he pleads as a servant and a pilgrim, who growingly finds himself to be a stranger in an enemy's country. His appeal is to God alone, and his prayer is specially direct and personal. He speaks with the Lord as a man speaketh with his friend.
"Deal bountifully with thy servant." He takes pleasure in owning his duty to God, and counts it the joy of his heart to be in the service of his God. Out of his condition he makes a plea, for a servant has some hold upon a master; but in this case the wording of the plea shuts out the idea of legal claim, since he seeks bounty rather than reward. Let my wages be according to thy goodness, and not according to my merit. Reward me according to the largeness of thy liberality, and not according to the scantiness of my service. The hired servants of our Father have all of them bread enough and to Spare, and he will not leave one of his household to perish with hunger. If the Lord will only treat us as he treats the least of his servants we may be well content, for all his true servants are sons, princes of the blood, heirs of life eternal. David felt that his great needs required a bountiful provision, and that his little desert would never earn such a supply; hence he must throw himself upon God's grace, and look for the great things he needed from the great goodness of the Lord. He begs for a liberality of grace, after the fashion of one who prayed. "O Lord, thou must give me great mercy or no mercy, for little mercy will not serve my turn."
"That I may live." Without abundant mercy he could not live. It takes great grace to keep a saint alive. Even life is a gift of divine bounty to such undeserving ones as we are. Only the Lord can keep us in being, and it is mighty grace which preserves to us the life which we have forfeited by our sin. It is right to desire to live, it is meet to pray to live, it is just to ascribe prolonged life to the favour of God. Spiritual life, without which this natural life is mere existence, is also to be sought of the Lord's bounty, for it is the noblest work of divine grace, and in it the bounty of God is gloriously displayed. The Lord's servants cannot serve him in their own strength, for they cannot even live unless his grace abounds towards them.
"And keep thy word." This should be the rule, the object, and the joy of our life. We may not wish to live and sin; but we may pray to live and keep God's word. Being is a poor thing if it be not well-being. Life is only worth keeping while we can keep God's word; indeed, there is no life in the highest sense apart from holiness: life while we break the law is but a name to live.
The prayer of this verse shows that it is only through divine bounty or grace that we can live as faithful servants of God, and manifest obedience to his commands. If we give God service it must be because he gives us grace. We work for him because he works in us. Thus we may make a chain out of the opening verses of the three first octaves of this Psalm: Psalm 119:1 blesses the holy man, Psalm 119:9 asks how we can attain to such holiness, and Psalm 119:17 traces such holiness to its secret source, and shows us how to seek the blessing. There more a man prizes holiness and the more earnestly he strives after it, the more will he be driven towards God for help therein, for he will plainly perceive that his own strength is insufficient, and that he cannot even so much as live without the bounteous assistance of the Lord his God.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
GIMEL. (Ps 119:17-24).
17-20. Life is desirable in order to serve God; that we may do so aright, we should seek to have our eyes opened to behold His truth, and earnestly desire fully to understand it.
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