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ESV: Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.
KJV: Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.
NET: Open my eyes so I can truly see the marvelous things in Your law!
NLT: Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in Your instructions.
The Message: Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders.
The Living Bible: Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word.
Young’s Literal: Uncover mine eyes, and I behold wonders out of Thy law.
This is a simple but powerful prayer for spiritual illumination, asking God by His Spirit to remove the scales from our natural, spiritually blind eyes, that we might see and receive supernatural truth. Spiritual truth cannot be apprehended in a natural way, but requires a supernatural means.
Pastor J. Vernon McGee writes: “This is the verse I used to begin the “Thru the Bible” program years ago when I first taught it in a little weather-beaten church on the side of a red clay hill in Georgia. I used this verse as a theme for many years. This is a good one—“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law [thy word].”
The Bible is filled with spiritual truth that can only be seen with eyes opened by the Spirit of God.
Open (galah) means to uncover, to reveal. The Septuagint Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, translates galah in Psalm 119:18 with the verb apokalupto in the aorist imperative. The verb apokalupto (from apó = from + kalúpto = cover, conceal, English = apocalypse) literally means to remove the cover from and so the idea is to remove that which conceals something. Almost all of the New Testament uses have a figurative use, especially to some aspect of spiritual truth that was previously hidden, but now has the “lid removed” so that it can be seen (understood). We are continually in desperate need for God to remove the lid from His Word, the Bible, so that we might see and understand and obey.
While the verb open is in the imperative form, it is clearly the cry of a beggar who recognizes his abject spiritual poverty and his desperate need of spiritual bread. Do you come to read His Word with this heart attitude—desperate, hungry, impoverished?
Pastor Donald Williams writes: “God must open us up and show us His wondrous things (Ps 119:18). Apart from this, in the words of singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, “I’m a little too blind to see.”
Pastor David Guzik states: “Psalm 119:18 reminds us that it isn’t the word that needs changing, as if it were obscure; we are the ones who are veiled and can’t understand the word of God apart from the work of the Spirit. Paul’s eyes were unveiled when he was converted (Acts 9:18); it was as if scales had dropped from his eyes. The Psalmist didn’t need new revelation; he needed to see the revelation that was already given. He didn’t need new eyes; he needed to see with the eyes he already had.”
Pastor John Piper explains: “By inspiring some things hard to understand, God has unleashed in the world desperation which leads to supplication—the crying out to God for help.” (Psalm 119:18) O beloved, how much more should we cry out for God’s Spirit to illuminate the sacred pages. One of the greatest privileges of having two good eyes is that we can read God’s word. But there is another set of eyes that have to be opened if the glory of God’s word is to shine in our hearts—namely, the eyes of our hearts. The Word of God cannot be truly desired or spiritually comprehended or savingly spoken without the work of the Holy Spirit, whom we ask for by prayer.So practically we must endeavor to forsake all self-reliance as we hear the Word of God, and seek the power of the Holy Spirit—not to tell us things that aren’t in the Scriptures, but to make us feel the wonder of what is in the Scriptures. “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18). We should pray for ourselves the way Paul prayed for the Ephesians: “that God may enlighten the eyes of our hearts to know what is the hope to which he has called us, and what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18). The same psalmist who said “How sweet are thy words to my taste” (Ps 119:103), said earlier, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18). He prayed, because to have holy taste buds on the tongue of the heart is a gift of God. No man naturally hungers for and delights in God’s wisdom.”
Pastor Adrian Rogers applies Psalm 119:18 asking: “Isn’t that a beautiful prayer? Have you ever prayed that? Have you ever thought, “Well, I can just go to the Bible, and I can pull the truth out of the Bible?” Let me tell you, friend: You cannot. You may know Greek and not know God; you may know Hebrew and not know Him. I don’t care who you are in that seminary, or any other Sunday School class—unless you lay that intellectual pride in the dust and pray this prayer—”Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things in thy law”—you’ll not know the God of this book. I want to tell you, my friend: It took a supernatural miracle to reveal it; it took a supernatural miracle to write it; and, it’ll take a supernatural miracle for you to understand it. Do you believe that? Listen. Most of us don’t believe it. If we really believed it, we would agonize before the Lord; we would pray before the Lord; and, we would be saying, “Lord, open Thou mine eyes.”…”Oh, God, illumine me. Open my eyes that I might understand.” When God opens your eyes you’re going to see things you never saw before, you’re going to hear things you never heard before, you’re going to know things you never knew before because God the Holy Spirit is going to teach you. What you need to do when you come to the Bible is to lay your pride of intellect and your brilliance of mind in the dust, and say, “Dear God, if You don’t teach me, I won’t understand it.” You will never go into the Bible and, with a lexicon and with a mind of logic and with a callous hand, just reach in and rip the truth out of the Bible. Oh no—God’s going to reveal that truth to you as you pray—you need to pray when you open the Bible, “Lord, open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things in Thy law. Lord Jesus, help me to see You,” for in order to see Jesus in the Bible, you need light, and you need sight. That’s the first thing that will happen. Your eyes will be opened. God will help you to see things that you have never seen. I can tell when I am walking in the Spirit when I’m reading the Word of God. There are truths that just jump up off the Bible into my heart.”
Pastor Martin Luther wisely advises that when we approach the Word of God for nourishment and spiritual wisdom: “You should completely despair of your own sense and reason, for by these you will not attain the goal. Rather kneel down in your private little room and with sincere humility and earnestness pray God through His dear Son, graciously to grant you His Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide you and give you understanding. As you see, David constantly prays in Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law.”
Pastor Tony Evans writes: “When the Spirit takes “spiritual words,” the Word of God, and combines them with “spiritual thoughts,” a mind and a heart in tune with God, the result is divine illumination. When you combine a spiritually receptive mind with the Word, you have dynamite on your hands. That’s because “he who is spiritual appraises all things” (1Cor 2:15) since he has “the mind of Christ” (1Cor 2:16). This is the key to illumination. Having the mind of Christ is having your spiritual antenna pointed in the direction of the Holy Spirit’s signal. When you are properly attuned, you will understand more things and make more sense out of life than you ever thought possible.”
Behold (look) (nabat) carries the root idea of that which one does with the eye and can describe everything from a mere glance to a careful, sustained, and favorable contemplation. Nabat speaks of physical “looking” and of figurative “looking”, that is, spiritual apprehension. Nabat can speak both of man’s looking upon God and God’s looking upon man. The Septuagint translates nabat in Psalm 119:18 with the verb katanoeo which describes intensive sensory perception of something, and so speaks of looking at something in an attentive, reflective manner, with scrutiny so as to study it or examine it, paying careful attention to the Word of God.
Wondrous things (pala’) is a verb which conveys the meaning of to be wonderful or to do something wonderful. Pala’ means to cause something wonderful, extraordinary, marvelous or amazing to happen. The Septuagint translates pala’ with the adjective thaumasios (thauma = Wonder, admiration) which means wonderful, marvelous, excellent, remarkable, admirable, all adjectives which would be an apt description of the Word of God. The idea of thaumasios pertains to that which causes wonder and which is worthy of amazement.
Pastor David Guzik writes: “There are wondrous things in Scripture; but they can only be seen when the eyes are opened by God. This means that prayer is an important (and often neglected) part of Bible study. It also means that not everyone sees the wondrous things in God’s word, but that when one does see them, they should regard it as evidence of God’s blessing and favor. Jesus rejoiced that God revealed His wisdom this way: At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” (Matthew 11:25). God has given man a sense of wonder, and there are certain things that prompt it. The new and unexpected can cause wonder; the beautiful and great and cause wonder, and the mysterious and unknown can cause wonder. We can say that God has provided for this sense of wonder by giving us His word. The Holy Spirit can make us alive to the Bible, and constantly see things that are new and unexpected; things that are great and beautiful; things that are mysterious and unknown. It is a shame to many Christians that they look for their sense of wonderful to be satisfied without looking to the Word of God. Think of all there is in the Bible that you don’t see. Think of all the wonder, all the treasure that is there, but you don’t see it. You can see such things, though you can’t see everything, and sometimes you will think you see things that are not really there. Yet those who see more than you are not necessarily smarter or better; their eyes are just more open.
Pastor James Montgomery Boice states: “If we want to see wonderful things in the Scriptures, it is not enough for us merely to ask God to open our eyes that we might see them. We must also study the Bible carefully. The Holy Spirit is given not to make our study unnecessary but to make it effective.”
Pastor John Piper comments: “If we are going to be inclined to the Word and stay with it and delight in it and memorize it and meditate on it, we must see more than dull facts, we must see “wonderful things.” That is not the function of the natural mind alone. That is the work of the Spirit to give you a mind to see great things for what they really are. Delight-giving Bible reading and Bible meditation is a work of God on our hearts and minds. That is why we must pray continually for that divine work. In other words, the Word of God contains wonderful things, but we will not see them without God’s help—His illumination. And if we miss what is in the Word of God without his help, then prayer becomes the natural partner to hearing the Word. We pray, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things from your law.”
Pastor John MacArthur states: “The preacher must be dependent upon God the Holy Spirit for divine insight and understanding of God’s Word. Without the Spirit’s illumination and power, the message will be relatively impotent. The preacher must be in constant prayerful communion with God to receive the full impact of the Word. The obvious one to consult for clarification is the original Author.”
Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon: “If you do not understand a book by a departed writer you are unable to ask him his meaning, but the Spirit, Who inspired Holy Scripture, lives forever, and He delights to open the Word to those who seek His instruction.”
Law (torah – derives from yarah that means to shoot an arrow, for a teacher aims to hit the target and achieve specific goals in the lives of the students) is a feminine noun meaning instruction, direction, law, Torah, the whole Law. Torah basically means “teaching” whether it is the wise man instructing his son or God instructing Israel. The torah encompasses instructions from God to His people on how they should live so that He might be glorified. The torah was to be adhered to as a total way of life, to permeate every decision, every thought. Torah was given to men to make known the way in which they should walk. In Psalm 119:18 torah refers to our Father’s instructions on how we His children are to live during our short sojourn as aliens in enemy dominated territory.
Pastor Dwight L. Moody writes: “We have a great many prayer-meetings, but there is something just as important as prayer, and that is that we read our Bibles, that we have Bible study and Bible lectures and Bible classes, so that we may get hold of the Word of God. When I pray, I talk to God, but when I read the Bible, God is talking to me; and it is really more important that God should speak to me than that I should speak to Him. I believe we should know better how to pray if we knew our Bibles better.”
Pastor John Newton writing on Psalm 119:18: “Let me suppose a person to have a curious cabinet, which is opened at his pleasure, and not exposed to common view. He invites all to come and see it, and offers to show it to anyone who asks him. It is hid, because he keeps the key, but none can complain, because he is ready to open it whenever he is desired. Some, perhaps, disdain the offer, and say, “Why is it locked at all?” Some think it is not worth seeing, or amuse themselves with guessing at the contents. But those who are simply desirous for themselves, leave others disputing, go according to appointment, and are gratified. These have reason to be thankful for the favor, and the others have no just cause to find fault. Thus the riches of Divine grace may be compared to a richly-furnished cabinet to which “Christ is the door.” The Word of God likewise is a cabinet generally locked up, but the key of prayer will open it. The Lord invites all, but He keeps the dispensation in His own hand. They cannot see these things, except He shows them; but then He refuses none that sincerely ask Him. The wise men of the world can go no further than the outside of this cabinet; they may amuse themselves and surprise others with their ingenious guesses at what is within; but a child that has seen it opened can give us satisfaction, without studying or guessing at all. If men will presume to aim at the knowledge of God, without the knowledge of Christ, Who is the way and the door; if they have such a high opinion of their own wisdom as to suppose they can understand the Scriptures without the assistance of His Spirit; or, if their worldly wisdom teaches them that those things are not worth their inquiring, what wonder is it that they should continue to be hid from their eyes?”
Pastor George Morrison speaking on “wonderful things” in Psalm 119:18: “True wonder is never dispelled by what we know. That alone is genuine wonder—the wonder not of ignorance, but of knowledge, the wonder that does not vanish when we know, but grows and deepens with everything we know. It was the wonder of the apostle Paul. It was the wonder in the heart of Jesus. And it is the wonder we will feel forever in the perfected knowledge of eternity. It is not knowledge, then, that is the foe of wonder; it is something far more commonplace than that. The blight that wilts our faculty of wonder is the familiarity that begets contempt. Someone has said that if all the stars were to cease shining for a hundred years and then were suddenly to flash on again, there is not an eye on earth but would be lifted heavenward and not a heart but would break forth in praise to God. But the stars were there when we were little children, and they will be shining in the heavens tonight. And to us the spectacle is so familiar that we have lost the wonder of it all. Live forty years in such a world as this and a certain blindness falls on the eyes. And therefore the need that when the evening falls, the morning breaks, and the summer comes again, we should pray as the psalmist prayed so long ago, “Lord, open my eyes that I may see.” May I say in passing that all great experiences tend to recreate the sense of wonder? Sickness, sorrow, death, conversion have a way of bringing new wonder into everything. And I suggest that in the will of God, which is as merciful as it is wise, that recreating of the sense of wonder may be one purpose of many an hour of discipline.”
Singer/songwriter Darlene Zschech’s devotional on Psalm 119:18: “Two people walk down the same road. One sees the beauty and majesty of God’s creation in a sunrise or sunset, in the color of the sky, in trees and plants. The other sees nothing to find joy in and grumbles. What’s the difference? One had his eyes truly open. How many times do we miss blessings simply because we weren’t looking for them? We get busy and distracted. We get stuck in bad moods. We think too much about ourselves—what I need and want. When our minds are stuck on all that is wrong, we miss all the wonderful things God puts in our path. There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “When the student is ready the teacher will arrive.” Could this be true of God’s Word? Could it be that until our eyes and hearts are open, we are going to miss the wonderful things that God has for us to learn and live? David’s prayer was so simple: “Open my eyes.” But it was profound. He was surrounded on every side by his enemies. What was he asking God to do? He wanted his focus to be on God’s provision as found in His Word—not on his problems. Where are your eyes focused now? God’s promises and provisions or your problems?”
Have you ever found yourself skimming rapidly over your daily portion of Bible reading to get that task mentally checked off your list? In contrast, the psalmist longed to know the wonderful truths in God’s laws and to obey them. He understood his need for God’s commands and was consumed with a desire for them. We may not always share the psalmist’s hunger and enthusiasm, but we have Psalm 119, where almost every verse describes the greatness of God’s Word. It instructs us, encourages us, and shows us the path of life. Much more than just an intellectual challenge, the living words of Scripture are our foundation for prayer and lead us to the Father’s heart. If God’s Word seems dry and less than “wonderful,” maybe it’s because you’re leaving the Holy Spirit out of your reading time. Ask him to open your spiritual eyes to perceive and understand the wonderful truths in the Word of God. He won’t disappoint you!
Lord Jesus, open my eyes, and grant me wisdom to see and understand the wonderful truths in your law! Let me never take your Word for granted. Help me to treasure it and meditate on it day and night. I want to delight in your Word, to obey it, and to commit myself to walking in the light it provides. I praise you that your Word lights the path at my feet so that I don’t have to wander in the darkness. Guide me today with your wonderful Word. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Look Up—meditate on Psalm 119:18… pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.
Look In—as you meditate on Psalm 119:18… pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: “Because God is_________, I will_____________.”
Look Out—as you meditate on Psalm 119:18…pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.
* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ