Psalm 119:45
I will walk at liberty: for I have sought thy precepts. The Apostle Paul earnestly contends that" we are called unto liberty," but he carefully distinguishes liberty from self-willedness. A man can never have his liberty save on the supposition that he knows what to do with it, and is able to do what he knows. And so the godly man is a free man, be is able to do what he likes, but the distinct assumption is that his likes have come into the renewing grace, and are still in the sanctifying grace, of God. He is free because he is right-willed, and can be trusted with his liberty. The phrase is significant, "freedom in righteousness." We get the idea illustrated if we observe our anxiety that our sons should be right-principled ere they go forth to meet life's temptations. We are not afraid for them to have their freedom, if only they are right-willed. The psalmist may only mean freedom from special circumstances of constraint and intimidation, but we can use his words in a more comprehensive and more general sense.

I. RIGHT-WILLEDNESS AS A CONDITION TO BE GAINED AND KEPT. Here it is the disposition to seek the guidance and help of God's precepts in every emergency of life. Wrong-willedness is an undue tendency to trust in self for wisdom and guidance. Dependent man never comes right until he wants God; and he never keeps right unless he leans on God. The very essence of the example of the Lord Jesus lies in his right-willedness. No restraint had ever to be put on him, because he always wanted what God wanted for him. We only get our wills set in harmony with God's in the persuasion and power of God's Spirit; but we can set ourselves, and keep ourselves, open to his gracious leadings and inspirings and inworkings.

II. RIGHT-WILLEDNESS AS A CONDITION IN WHICH FREEDOM CAN BE ENJOYED. Where there is that disposition and purpose there is always sensitiveness to evil. It is detected at once. It is disliked. To it there is a natural resistance. It is illustrated in Joseph, who "could not do wickedly;" and in the Hebrew youths, who could not "defile themselves with the king's meat." These young people could be trusted anywhere, because they were set on doing right. The only man in God's world who is really free, and can be safely trusted with freedom, is the man who means to do right, who is resolved to do God's will as he may get to know it. - R.T.







And I will walk at liberty: for I seek Thy precepts.
Homilist.

I. LIBERTY IS IN PROGRESSIVE ACTION. Few can truthfully say, "I will walk"; they are carried, they are driven on the way of life, they act not from themselves, but from others. They are mere spokes in the wheel of the social machine.

II. LIBERTY IS IN THE PURSUIT OF RIGHT.

(Homilist.)

I. MEN IN THIS WORLD ARE UNDER THE REIGN OF LAW. We can see that this is so in matters of everyday experience.

II. THE ROOT OF BONDAGE LIES IN DISOBEDIENCE TO LAW, AND SO IS IN MAN AND NOT IN GOD. He says, "I will walk at liberty, for I seek Thy precepts," and the reverse of that saying is no less true. A plain truth it is, simple even to self-evidence, and yet how slow men are to take it in. It must be the purpose of any true scheme of redemption to lead those who receive it to magnify the law and to make it honourable.

III. LIBERTY, FREEDOM, ENLARGEMENT, ARE FOUND IN OBEDIENCE TO GOD'S LAW.

(E. Medley.)

Homilist.
I. DEEP TRUST is essential to perfect freedom. "Love casteth out fear." The return of the spirit of man to God is inward emancipation — to he the child of God and say Father — "Our Father." To trust in Him is unshackled freedom.

II. HOLY LIVING is essential to emancipation. To walk at liberty. Liberty is loving service. Freedom to sin would be vilest slavery.

III. ILLUMINATION is needful for perfect freedom, knowledge, etc.

IV. The SPIRIT of LOVE is needful for full emancipation.

1. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.

2. Fear not. If this spirit of ours be in earnest, God is working in us. May the light of His Spirit guide us "to perfect peace"!

(Homilist.)

Liberty is not so much a producing force as a product of other forces. It is not so much a power as it is open space within which other powers work. We want to walk at liberty. How can we do it? If we do not thus walk at liberty, there is only one alternative — stay in bondage. If the psalmist studied God's will that he might walk at liberty, how much greater is the obligation upon us to do the same, and how much greater our facilities and our encouragement!

1. There is liberty from the world. Sometimes men are in bondage to the world in this sense, that the mainspring of their life is to stand well with it, to do what their set, their society, the world round about them, wishes them to do. Sometimes the bondage is aggravated by another feature, viz. the effort to rise higher, to get into another set; and, oh, how aggravated is the bondage under which many thus live and labour! Freedom from that is obtained when we walk according to God's statutes. "Godliness with contentment is great gain;" and these things, the godliness with the contentment, will break these clanking chains of insane and stupid ambition and will prepare you to walk at liberty.

2. There is liberty from bad ways — love of the world, drunkenness, gambling, etc. We learn to walk circumspectly; we learn to keep the heart with all diligence; we learn to hate evil and to do good. We walk securely, for we have been taught of the Spirit to walk with God.

3. There is liberty from bad memories — bad, putrid memories. There may be compunction for the sin, there may be vows against it, there may be honest purposes to resist and overcome it, and these purposes to a good degree carried out; but the horrid, poisonous memories remain in the soul. There is liberty from these to those who walk in God's statutes, liberty that can be had nowhere else. "A new heart will I give you," etc.

4. There is liberty from fear and terror. With the dark cloud of impending wrath overhanging you, how can you walk at liberty? But take God's precepts, know them, believe them, do them, and this terror is removed, this fear is taken away.

(John Hall, D. D.)

Christian Observer.
Liberty and freedom are words not unfrequently used in the Bible in a political, social, and religious sense. How greatly did Israel rejoice in his freedom from the yoke of Egypt. Among the rewards offered to the man who should silence the boastings of Goliath was this, "that his father's house should be made free in Israel." Both the psalmist and St. Paul recognized it as an essential feature in spiritual life, for the one declares that he walked at liberty when he sought the Divine precepts" (Psalm 119:45); and the other, that "where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty." (2 Corinthians 3:17).

I. WHAT, THEN, IS TRUE LIBERTY? Whether we choose to call it by this term, or by the Saxon term "freedom," it must be evident that it has reference to restraint of some kind. The word emancipation indicates the same. It necessarily implies the removal or absence of something which cramps energies we wish to exert, or impedes acts we purpose to perform. But here a question arises. Is there such a thing in the world as absolute and entire freedom? and if there be, is it worth the having? Alexander Selkirk, on his desolate island, had such liberty. A man may have it now, if he will. Let him only go into a lonely wilderness, far away from human society, there provide for his own wants, and do everything for himself, and he will realize the idea of absolute and entire liberty. No one will restrain, control, or interrupt him; he is at liberty to do whatever his power may be sufficient to accomplish. Whether this absolute and unrestrained liberty be worth much seems to be settled by the fact that very few choose it. But is this the only sort of life in which absolute and unrestrained liberty can be realized? We believe it is. We may safely affirm that a man who had adopted such a course of life could not come out of his isolated position to mingle with other persons without giving up some portion of his liberty. He obtains indeed an equivalent for what he gives, perhaps more than an equivalent; but his liberty is abridged, he is no longer absolutely and entirely free.

II. SOME OF THE RESTRAINTS WHICH ARE COMPATIBLE WITH GENUINE FREEDOM, AND REGULATE IT TO GOOD ENDS.

1. The general welfare of society.

2. The rights of other individuals. On passing down the street, you see in an open shop window, or at a door, an article of food or clothing: you greatly desire — perhaps you urgently need it. Why is it that you do not at once exercise your liberty and take it? It is easy to do so; and if it lay in the street you would do it at once. You will reply, that the man inside, in the shop, has a right to it, and you have none. You may buy that right from him, if you please; but until you do, you are no more at liberty to take that article than he is at liberty to put his hand in your pocket and take your purse. His right, then, restrains your liberty, and your right restrains his.

3. A person may say, I admit these restraints and will respect them; but I will do as I please, so long as I do not interfere with the rights and liberties of others. I will enjoy my liberty, and allow them theirs; I will eat, drink, and be merry; I will choose the companionship of those who wish to do as I do; and if I spend my money foolishly, and revel in what you stigmatize as vices, what does it matter, since I allow all others to do as they like? Such seems to have been the liberty which the prodigal son in the parable desired, sought, and exercised. Yet is this liberty of his subject to no restraint? What means, then, that violent headache, that prostration of strength, that empty purse? We find, then, that there is no such thing, except in solitude, as absolute and unrestrained liberty; every man's freedom is checked and limited every day and at every turn, and must, of necessity, be so restrained.

III. APPLY THIS IDEA OF REAL LIBERTY TO THE SPIRITUAL LIFE AND WALK OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN. The Christian is a free man. St. Paul speaks of the liberty with which Christ has made him free. Is this liberty of his, then, absolute, or restrained? He rejoices in the liberty wherewith Christ has set him free, and yet he feels that he is "not his own, because bought with a price." He knows, he feels, that God's law is a restraint; but he rejoices that it restrains him; for "he serves God with his spirit in the Gospel of His Son," and loves his servitude as much as his liberty. In fact, he regards them as identical; much as our Prayer-book has expressed it: "Whose service is perfect freedom." St. Paul also unites the two ideas: "He that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman; likewise he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant." Conclusion: —

1. We should always remember that we are not at liberty to do evil.

2. Let us learn to love the restraints of God's law.

(Christian Observer.)

Lawlessness, licence, is not liberty. True liberty is found only in obedience to proper restraint. A river finds liberty to flow only between banks; without these it would only spread out into a slimy, stagnant pool. Planets uncontrolled by laws would only bring wreck to themselves and the universe. The same law which fences us in fences others out; the restraints which regulate our liberty also ensure and protect us. It is the right kind of control and e cheerful obedience which make a freeman.

(A. T. Pierson, D. D.)

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