J.Calvin on Psalm 119:139,141 – “…We are too tender and delicate in bearing wrongs.”

JCalvin1As we meditate on our next section of Psalm 119 today (vss.137-144), we also point you to these comments of John Calvin on two verses, 139 and 141. May they also serve to instruct our minds and inflame our hearts with zeal for God and His law.

139. My zeal hath consumed me. 

The Psalmist speaks of his persecutors, by whom it is certain he had been subjected to much trouble. But although they were virulent and cruel towards him, he avows that it was not so much his own private wrongs which offended him as the violation of God’s law; yea rather, that he was so consumed with grief on that account as not to be affected at all with his own individual troubles.

This is an example from which much profit may be derived. We are too tender and delicate in bearing wrongs; and hence it is that if we are but touched with a finger, we are instantly inflamed with anger, whilst at the same time we are but coldly affected at the most grievous offenses committed against God. But if we are animated with the zeal that inspired the Prophet it will carry us away to another kind of sorrow, which will take entire possession of our souls.

141. I am, insignificant and despised.

The meaning is, that although he was tried with poverty and many other calamities, he steadily persevered in the exercise of true godliness, and in the observance of the law. On that account, as he states, he was despised by wicked men. Every man gives praise to God just in proportion as he is gorged with his benefits; and very few will be found applying their minds to the service of God, unless they have all their wishes gratified.

Hence it comes to pass that hypocrites, as long as they are pampered to the full, accumulate riches and increase in power, are very lavish in praising God. But let them be treated in some degree roughly, and immediately the blessed name of God is heard of no more.

Since then men are ordinarily mercenary in serving God, let us learn from the Prophet’s example that true godliness is disinterested, so that when under its influence we cease not to praise God, although he may afflict us with adversity and make us despised in the eyes of the world. These upbraiding words of Christ in John 6:26, ought, no doubt, to be carefully attended to,

“Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” (John 6:26)

The persons then who serve God ingenuously and sincerely, are such as continue steadfast in his fear, although their condition in this world may be mean and despised; in short, they are such as seek not their reward on earth, but through heat and cold, poverty and danger, slanders and mockeries, persevere with unwearied steps in the course of their warfare.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 119r (Tzaddi)

Psalm119rOn this final Lord’s Day of October we focus on the eighteenth section of Psalm 119 (vss.137-144). This stanza is headed by the word “Tzaddi” (or “Tzadde”) because all the lines begin with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet (comparable to our “ts” sound, as in “pots“).

As we reflect on this special section of God’s Word, let us consciously use it to prepare for worship in the Lord’s house of praise and prayer. May we remember that even as Psalm 119 extols God’s law as our guide in life, so God also guides us by that law in the worship that is pleasing to Him because it is according to His will and not our own. Here, then, is God’s Word in this section:


137 Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments.

138 Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful.

139 My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words.

140 Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

141 I am small and despised: yet do not I forget thy precepts.

142 Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.

143 Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights.

144 The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live.

We note here how the inspired psalmist praises God and His law in line after line. Over and over he calls attention to the beautiful attributes of both the Lord and His Word. As God is righteous, so are His judgments, even everlastingly so (vss.137,138,142,144). Because God is faithful, so are His testimonies (v.138). As God is true, so is His law (v.142). As the Lord is very pure (perfectly!), so is His Word (v.140).

These truths about God and His Word have implications for our worship. It means among other things that we ascribe these truths to God and His Word when we worship Him. We may certainly take the psalmist’s words as our own when we come into the Lord’s house for worship. Filled with thoughts of God and consumed with His glory, we should praise Him according to His attributes, pointing them out specifically as the psalmist does. That also helps us remember what our worship is about – not ourselves, our feelings, how we look, etc. – but God and His glory. That must be our focus. Shall we not keep that before us today?

And if we truly believe that God’s law and Word have the same attributes as God Himself, we will treat it with reverence and obedience. When His law is read, we will bow before it, confessing our sins, fleeing to Christ for forgiveness and righteousness, and proclaiming our gratitude with lip and life. When God’s Word is read and proclaimed, we will fall down before it, seeing and savoring the beauty and glory of God and His Son revealed in it. We will gladly receive the gospel of grace made known to us and willingly submit ourselves to the way of righteousness and purity set forth in it.

We will also note in this section of Psalm 119 that once again the psalmist speaks of his suffering. That suffering was primarily the suffering of persecution at the hands of cruel, oppressing enemies, as we have seen many times before. Yet here he does not point out their actions against him as much as he does his response to their attitude to God and His law. He is not discouraged and paralyzed by their hatred of God and himself. Their sin troubles and grieves him (v.143), makes him feel small and despised (v.141); but it also fills him with greater zeal for God and His law. It makes him love God’s Word all the more (v.140), helps him not forget God’s precepts (v.141) and gives him with deeper delight for His commandments (v.143). Can we say the same when we see the sin of the wicked about us and feel their pressure to conform to them? May God by His grace and Spirit work these things in our hearts today.

If you wish to reflect on this section of Psalm 119 through the music of the Psalter, you may use this versification. On this page you will also find piano accompaniment so that you may sing along. Here are the lyrics as found in Psalter #338:

1. O Lord, Thy perfect righteousness
Is in Thy judgment shown;
In Thy unchanging faithfulness
Thy truth Thou hast made known.

2. Because Thy foes forget Thy law
My soul is greatly stirred;
Thy servant loves the purity
Of Thy most holy word.

3. Though I am humble and despised
I strive Thy will to do;
Eternal is Thy righteousness,
And all Thy law is true.

4. Delight amid distress and pain
Do Thy commandments give;
Thy word is righteous evermore,
Teach me that I may live.