Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, by John Nelson Darby, [1857-62], at sacred-texts.com
Psalm 119 is in general the law written in the heart. This gives it an important place in the series of psalms. It is found distinctly connected too with Israel's sorrows in the last days and their previous departure from God. The different divisions of the psalm show, I think, each a different phase of the exercises of heart connected with the law being written on it, though the general principle runs of course through it. I will very briefly notice the main bearing of each.
The first part presents to us naturally the great general principle. It is the third general "Blessed is the man" the return of the soul in trial and distress to the great truth of Psalm 1, where the effect is seen under the immediate government of God. Psalm 32 gives the blessedness of forgiveness; this, of the walk with God on the return of the wanderer in spite of all difficulties and contempt. We have indeed another special blessing at the end of the first book, where Christ is so fully brought in. In the last psalm of that book he is pronounced blessed who understands His position, be it in Himself or in those who walk in His footsteps; for the first psalm supposed blessedness under the government of God, making good all His will towards the just, and the reverse seemed to be true. In fact, as we know, to man's eye this wholly failed (bringing in a heavenly and divine righteousness and redemption). Hence true blessedness was shown in discerning, in understanding, the position in which that true blessed One was as rejected by men that true poor man taking Himself practically the place He describes as blessed, as we have seen in the sermon on the mount, while the great truth of the law in the heart is laid down. Yet the circumstances also come out in this first part "forsake me not utterly."
Secondly the word associates with God. Not only is one blessed who keeps it, but it is cleansing: the desire of the heart is positively fixed on it (see the connection of Jehovah and His word, Psa 119:10-11).
In the third part we find very distinctly the leaning on divine mercy in trial, connected with the law in the heart. The godly Israelite looks to Jehovah's bountiful dealing, but with a view to hearty obedience (). Verse 19 (Psa 119:19) shows his state; Verse 21, (Psa 119:21), as we have seen in all this book, Jehovah's intervention, already known in deliverance, though not in complete blessing; Verses 22-23, (Psa 119:22-23), the contempt the poor remnant undergo. Jehovah's law had been his delight and comfort under it.
In the fourth part the trial is more inward. His soul is cleaving to the dust, but he looks to divine relief according to the word. His desire looks to the effect of that living water from God. He has been open before Godhas declared his own ways: so it ever is. He desires all way of evil to be removed by God from him. He has held fast by the word looks that God should not put him to shame. But he is looking for enlargement of heart, that he may run freely in God's ways. Such is the sure effect when under the discipline of God. A soul who has found delight in His will and holiness is yet looking to run in liberty. Though in the heart, the word here referred to is more of an outwardly expressed will, like Zacharias and Elizabeth, a beautiful moral expression of the remnant. With the Christian it will be more absolute and inward, more holiness than testimonies (though it may begin by them perhaps), whether in his first divine calling or under discipline. It is for him walking in the light as God is in the light not the "ordinances and commandments of Jehovah." Yet it is in principle essentially the same. To apply this psalm directly is to lower the divine standard of thought for the saint now. But the nature of the moral exercise may be most instructively used; just as subjection and confidence in trial is always right, though the forms of it in the Jew are wholly below the Christian's (compare with this Philippians, where we have Christian experience).
The fifth part looks for divine guidance and teaching in the ways and law of God; the sixth, for manifest mercies in that path, that he may have courage before adversaries and hold fast the law of God. In the seventh, having been quickened by the word, he reckons on it, for God had caused him to trust it as His; so that now he leans on all its assurances. In troubles, when there was no outward cheering of nature, it sustained his heart. This brings him to the eighth. Jehovah was thus his portion. He had sought Him, judged himself, turned his feet to Jehovah's testimonies. He reckoned on Him, and would thank Him in the secret watches of the night, when his heart was left to itself. He was the companion of those that feared Jehovah. This brightens up his thoughts, and he sees His power in mercy around. This is a beautiful picture of the working of the heart.
The ninth brings out the circumstances of the psalm. In the comfort of the last part he can look with God's eye and mind at these circumstances. These are much before our view (that is, feelings about them) in this part of the psalm. Jehovah has already dealt well with him according to His word, and he looks for divine teaching to understand the mind of God well. He had been under discipline: but before this he had gone astray, but now had got into the spirit and path of obedience. He sees the proud lying against him, and their heart fat as grease (no link in state or obedience with Jehovah); and sees how good it was to have been afflicted, that he might learn Jehovah's statutes. Nothing marks more the setting right of the soul than thisthe turning to Jehovah's will "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"and counting all good that leads to this, and gives God's will as authority, and morally its place in the heart.
The tenth part has two main thoughts. Jehovah is his Creator has formed him. He looks to Him to guide His own poor creature as a faithful Creator. Those that fear Jehovah will be glad when they see Him, because they hope in His word. Secondly, he knows that thus in very faithfulness He has caused him to be afflicted, and now looks for mercies to come unto him, and the proud to be ashamed, and that those that fear Jehovah may turn to him. All this is linked with soundness in Jehovah's statutes.
In the eleventh the cry becomes more urgent. He is under the pressure of trial, his soul fainting for deliverance looking for Jehovah to execute judgment, for he is walking in Jehovah's precepts. And the proud persecute him wrongfully they heed not Jehovah nor His law.
But, twelfth, creation is a witness to the abiding faithfulness of God; His word is settled in heaven, where nothing can reach or shake it. But for Jehovah's law, which sustained his heart, he had perished in the pressure of affliction. In truth, how precious to have the word in such a world! We have more than commandments. But we can say, I have seen an end of all perfection. Another and more confident thought grows up out of all this exercise "I am thine."
In the thirteenth he expresses his own internal delight in Jehovah's law, and its effect in spiritual intelligence.
In the fourteenth it guides his path. Afflicted and oppressed, he looks for comfort to Him whose judgments he has taken as his path in spite of enemies and their snares.
The fifteenth gives the horror of vain thoughts, and looking to God as his hiding-place, with his rejection of evildoers. He looks to Jehovah to uphold him, that he may not be ashamed in his hope; and looks with solemn trembling on the sure judgment of the wicked.
In the sixteenth he presses more earnestly the interference of Jehovah in deliverance. The way in which the wicked have made void Jehovah's law only makes him cling the closer to it. It was time for Jehovah to work.
The following parts all bring out the effects of his strong attachment to Jehovah's law and testimonies, its value in every aspect for his heart; the trial he was in still in this path of righteousness; and how he would walk in Jehovah's ways when set free; his grief at transgressors. He looks for teaching, quickening, keeping; and recalls the everlasting character of God's testimonies; so that he held fast, though oppressed by the wicked.
The last part is more general as a closing one, though in the same spirit. It sums up, so to speak, the whole. It desires that the cry of the oppressed delighter in the law may come up before Jehovah; asks for understanding according to His word for deliverance according to it; and assures praise when taught His statutes. His tongue will speak of His word. He has the sense of their righteousnesslooks for the hand of Jehovah to help, because he has chosen His precepts. Jehovah's salvation has been longed for (man not trusted in). Jehovah's law has been his delight, not his own will, nor the prosperous man's ways. He looks for life, that he may praise, and that Jehovah's judgment may help him; for the power of death and evil was before him. He owns finally his having gone astray, and looks for Jehovah as the Shepherd of Israel to seek him, for he has not forgotten His commandments. Such is the moral state of Israel in the last days when (in their land, I apprehend) the law is written in their heart, but full deliverance and final blessing are not come. The psalm is, in fact, the moral development of the hearts of those that fear God in the circumstances prophetically brought out in Psalm 118.