Psalm 119:5
O that my ways were directed to keep your statutes!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Directed . . .—So LXX. and Vulg. The He brew is perhaps slightly different, established, or settled. (See Proverbs 4:26.)

119:1-8 This psalm may be considered as the statement of a believer's experience. As far as our views, desires, and affections agree with what is here expressed, they come from the influences of the Holy Spirit, and no further. The pardoning mercy of God in Christ, is the only source of a sinner's happiness. And those are most happy, who are preserved most free from the defilement of sin, who simply believe God's testimonies, and depend on his promises. If the heart be divided between him and the world, it is evil. But the saints carefully avoid all sin; they are conscious of much evil that clogs them in the ways of God, but not of that wickedness which draws them out of those ways. The tempter would make men think they are at them out of those ways. The tempter would make men think they are at liberty to follow the word of God or not, as they please. But the desire and prayer of a good man agree with the will and command of God. If a man expects by obedience in one thing to purchase indulgence for disobedience in others, his hypocrisy will be detected; if he is not ashamed in this world, everlasting shame will be his portion. The psalmist coveted to learn the laws of God, to give God the glory. And believers see that if God forsakes them, the temper will be too hard for them.O that my ways were directed ... - Indicating the desire of the pious heart. That desire - a prevailing, constant, uniform desire - is to keep the law of God. It is the aim of the life; it is the supreme purpose of the soul; it is the ruling wish of the man, thus to keep the law of God. He in whose bosom this is not the constant wish cannot be a pious man. The Hebrew particle used here, and rendered "O that," is a particle denoting a wish, or an earnest desire. The word "ways" denotes the course of life. The whole is expressive of an earnest desire to live in accordance with the law of God. It implies also a sense of dependence on God. 4-6. precepts—are those directions which relate to special conduct, from a word meaning "to inspect."

statutes—or ordinances, positive laws of permanent nature. Both words originally denote rather positive than moral laws, such as derive force from the divine appointment, whether their nature or the reasons for them are apprehended by us or not.

commandments—or institutions. The term is comprehensive, but rather denotes fundamental directions for conduct, both enjoining and forbidding.

have respect unto—or regard carefully as to their whole purport.

My desires answer thy commands.

Directed, or established, to wit, by thy grace and Holy Spirit; for the direction of God’s word he had already. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! The psalmist, sensible of his own inability, as every good man is, to keep the commands of God, prays for grace, direction, and assistance in it; that the ways of his mind, his thoughts, affections, and inclinations, might be directed to an observance of the divine precepts; knowing he could not command his thoughts, raise his affections, dispose his mind, and incline his heart thereunto; and finding a backwardness to religious exercises and spiritual duties, and that the ways and actions of his life might be guided to the same; being sensible he could not take one step aright without God and Christ; that the way of man is not in himself, and that it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps; that a good man's steps are ordered by the Lord, and he directs his paths: besides the direction of the word, there is need of the Spirit and grace of God, to cause a person to walk in his statutes, and to keep his judgments, and do them; see Jeremiah 10:23. {c} O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!

(c) David acknowledges his imperfection, desiring God to reform it, that his life may be conformable to God's word.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. Chuqqîm, 21 times, once chuqqôth, ‘statutes,’ LXX δικαιώματα, lit. something engraved or inscribed, so what is prescribed or enacted. Frequently in Deut. (Psalm 4:1 &c.).

5. Oh that my ways were established

To observe thy statutes! (R.V.)

The thought of God’s Will expressed in Psalm 119:4 naturally evokes a prayer that in his whole life and conduct he may fulfil God’s Will, not fitfully and uncertainly, but constantly and consistently. For established cp. Proverbs 4:26.Verse 5. - Oh that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! The first four verses of the stanza are concerned with the Law in itself; the last four treat of the writer's relation to it. He begins by expressing the wish that he, at any rate, may always observe it. The gates of the Temple are called gates of righteousness because they are the entrance to the place of the mutual intercourse between God and His church in accordance with the order of salvation. First the "gates" are spoken of, and then the one "gate," the principal entrance. Those entering in must be "righteous ones;" only conformity with a divine loving will gives the right to enter. With reference to the formation of the conclusion Psalm 118:19, vid., Ew. 347, b. In the Temple-building Israel has before it a reflection of that which, being freed from the punishment it had had to endure, it is become through the mercy of its God. With the exultation of the multitude over the happy beginning of the rebuilding there was mingled, at the laying of the foundation-stone, the loud weeping of many of the grey-headed priests. Levites, and heads of the tribes who had also seen the first Temple (Ezra 3:12.). It was the troublous character of the present which made them thus sad in spirit; the consideration of the depressing circumstances of the time, the incongruity of which weighed so heavily upon their soul in connection with the remembrance of the former Temple, that memorably glorious monument of the royal power of David and Solomon.

(Note: Kurtz, in combating our interpretation, reduces the number of the weeping ones to "some few," but the narrative says the very opposite.)

And even further on there towered aloft before Zerubbabel, the leader of the building, a great mountain; gigantic difficulties and hindrances arose between the powerlessness of the present position of Zerubbabel and the completion of the building of the Temple, which had it is true been begun, but was impeded. This mountain God has made into a plain, and qualified Zerubbabel to bring forth the top and key-stone (האבן הראשׁה) out of its past concealment, and thus to complete the building, which is now consecrated amidst a loud outburst of incessant shouts of joy (Zechariah 4:7). Psalm 118:22 points back to that disheartened disdain of the small troubles beginning which was at work among the builders (Ezra 3:10) at the laying of the foundation-stone, and then further at the interruption of the buidling. That rejected (disdained) corner-stone is nevertheless become ראשׁ פּנּהּ, i.e., the head-stone of the corner (Job 38:6), which being laid upon the corner, supports and protects the stately edifice - an emblem of the power and dignity to which Israel has attained in the midst of the peoples out of deep humiliation.

In connection with this only indirect reference of the assertion to Israel we avoid the question - perplexing in connection with the direct reference to the people despised by the heathen - how can the heathen be called "the builders?" Kurtz answers: "For the building which the heathen world considers it to be its life's mission and its mission in history to rear, viz., the Babel-tower of worldly power and worldly glory, they have neither been able nor willing to make use of Israel...." But this conjunction of ideas is devoid of scriptural support and without historical reality; for the empire of the world has set just as much value, according to political relations, upon the incorporation of Israel as upon that of every other people. Further, if what is meant is Israel's own despising of the small beginning of a new ear that is dawning, it is then better explained as in connection with the reference of the declaration to Jesus the Christ in Matthew 21:42-44; Mark 12:10., Acts 4:11 (ὑφ ̓ ὑμῶν τῶν οἰκοδομούντων), 1 Peter 2:7, the builders are the chiefs and members of Israel itself, and not the heathen. From 1 Peter 2:6; Romans 9:33, we see how this reference to Christ is brought about, viz., by means of Isaiah 28:16, where Jahve says: Behold I am He who hath laid in Zion a stone, a stone of trial, a precious corner-stone of well-founded founding - whoever believeth shall not totter. In the light of this Messianic prophecy of Isaiah Psa 118:22 of our Psalm also comes to have a Messianic meaning, which is warranted by the fact, that the history of Israel is recapitulated and culminates in the history of Christ; or, according to John 2:19-21 (cf. Zechariah 6:12.), still more accurately by the fact, that He who in His state of humiliation is the despised and rejected One is become in His state of glorification the eternal glorious Temple in which dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and is united with humanity which has been once for all atoned for. In the joy of the church at the Temple of the body of Christ which arose after the three days of burial, the joy which is here typically expressed in the words: "From with Jahve, i.e., by the might which dwells with Him, is this come to pass, wonderful is it become (has it been carried out) in our eyes," therefore received its fulfilment. It is not נפלאת but נפלאת, like הבאת in Genesis 33:11, קראת from קרא equals קרה in Deuteronomy 31:29; Jeremiah 44:23, קראת from קרא, to call, Isaiah 7:14. We can hear Isaiah 25:9 sounding through this passage, as above in Psalm 118:19., Isaiah 26:1. The God of Israel has given this turn, so full of glory for His people, to the history.

(Note: The verse, "This is the day which the Lord hath made," etc., was, according to Chrysostom, an ancient hypophon of the church. It has a glorious history.)

He is able now to plead for more distant salvation and prosperity with all the more fervent confidence. אנּא (six times אנּה) is, as in every other instance (vid., on Psalm 116:4), Milra. הושׁיעה is accented regularly on the penult., and draws the following נא towards itself by means of Dag. forte conj.; הצליחה on the other hand is Milra according to the Masora and other ancient testimonies, and נא is not dageshed, without Norzi being able to state any reason for this different accentuation. After this watchword of prayer of the thanksgiving feast, in Psalm 118:26 those who receive them bless those who are coming (הבּא with Dech) in the name of Jahve, i.e., bid them welcome in His name.

The expression "from the house of Jahve," like "from the fountain of Israel" in Psalm 68:27, is equivalent to, ye who belong to His house and to the church congregated around it. In the mouth of the people welcoming Jesus as the Messiah, Hoosanna' was a "God save the king" (vid., on Psalm 20:10); they scattered palm branches at the same time, like the lulabs at the joyous cry of the Feast of Tabernacles, and saluted Him with the cry, "Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord," as being the longed-for guest of the Feast (Matthew 21:9). According to the Midrash, in Psalm 118:26 it is the people of Jerusalem who thus greet the pilgrims. In the original sense of the Psalm, however, it is the body of Levites and priests above on the Temple-hill who thus receive the congregation that has come up. The many animals for sacrifice which they brought with them are enumerated in Ezra 6:17. On the ground of the fact that Jahve has proved Himself to be אל, the absolutely mighty One, by having granted light to His people, viz., loving-kindness, liberty, and joy, there then issues forth the ejaculation, "Bind the sacrifice," etc. The lxx renders συστήσασθε ἑορτὴν ἐν τοῖς πυκάζουσιν, which is reproduced by the Psalterium Romanum: constituite diem solemnem in confrequentationibus, as Eusebius, Theodoret, and Chrysostom (although the last waveringly) also interpret it; on the other hand, it is rendered by the psalterium Gallicum: in condensis, as Apollinaris and Jerome (in frondosis) also understand it. But much as Luther's version, which follows the latter interpretation, "Adorn the feast with green branches even to the horns of the altar," accords with our German taste, it is still untenable; for אסר cannot signify to encircle with garlands and the like, nor would it be altogether suited to חג in this signification.

(Note: Symmachus has felt this, for instead of συστήσασθε ἑορτὴν ἐν τοῖς πυκάζουσιν (in condensis) of the lxx, he renders it, transposing the notions, συνδήσατε ἐν πανηγύρει πυκάσματα. Chrysostom interprets this: στεφανώματα καὶ κλάδους ἀνάψατε τῷ ναῷ, for Montfaucon, who regards this as the version of the Sexta, is in error.)

Thus then in this instance A. Lobwasser renders it comparatively more correctly, although devoid of taste: "The Lord is great and mighty of strength who lighteneth us all; fasten your bullocks to the horns beside the altar." To the horns?! So even Hitzig and others render it. But such a "binding to" is unheard of. And can אסר עד possibly signify to bind on to anything? And what would be the object of binding them to the horns of the altar? In order that they might not run away?! Hengstenberg and von Lengerke at least disconnect the words "unto the horns of the altar" from any relation to this precautionary measure, by interpreting: until it (the animal for the festal sacrifice) is raised upon the horns of the altar and sacrificed. But how much is then imputed to these words! No indeed, חג denotes the animals for the feast-offering, and there was so vast a number of these (according to Ezra loc. cit. seven hundred and twelve) that the whole space of the court of the priests was full of them, and the binding of them consequently had to go on as far as to the horns of the altar. Ainsworth (1627) correctly renders: "unto the hornes, that is, all the Court over, untill you come even to the hornes of the altar, intending hereby many sacrifices or boughs." The meaning of the call is therefore: Bring your hecatombs and make them ready for sacrifice.

(Note: In the language of the Jewish ritual Isru-chag is become the name of the after-feast day which follows the last day of the feast. Psalm 118 is the customary Psalm for the Isru-chag of all מועדים.)

The words "unto (as far as) the horns of the altar" have the principal accent. In v. 28 (cf. Exodus 15:2) the festal procession replies in accordance with the character of the feast, and then the Psalm closes, in correspondence with its beginning, with a Hodu in which all voices join.

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