Introduction

Many are the testimonies to the impact and influence of this psalm. Augustine saw Psalm 119 rising up like a Tree of Life in Paradise. Thomas a Kempis modelled his ‘Little Alphabet of the Monks in the School of Christ’ on it. Wilberforce, during the troubled year of 1819, noted in his diary: ‘Walked from Hyde Park corner, repeating the 119th Psalm, a great comfort.’ John Ruskin reflected, ‘It is strange, that of all the pieces of the Bible which my mother…taught me, and which cost me most to learn, and which was, to my child’s mind, chiefly repulsive – the 119th Psalm – has now become of all the most precious to me, in its overflowing and glorious passion for the law of God.’ The great pioneer missionary, Henry Martyn, found solace and encouragement in learning this Psalm by heart. He often found that repeating it would help him into a more spiritual frame of mind. At the age of nine David Livingstone won a New Testament from his Sunday school teacher for repeating Psa 119 by heart.

Matthew Henry, in his biography of his father, writes, ‘Once, pressing the study of the Scriptures, he advised us to take a verse of Psalm 119 every morning to meditate upon, and so go over the Psalm twice in a year; and that, he said, will bring you to be in love with all the rest of the Scriptures.’

It has been suggested that this Psalm was composed by David towards the end of his life, based on thoughts he had jotted down over a long period of time. There is, therefore, little by way of flow or connection from one verse to another. Like the Proverbs, it is ‘a chest of gold rings, not a chain of gold links’ (Henry). The dominating theme is ‘the Word of God’: every verse except three makes specific mention of the Scriptures. Still, every thought is different; the writer never repeats himself.

Here is a ‘giant among the Psalms’ (Kidner). It bring to full flower the delight in God’s law which is expressed in Psa 1:2, and reaps the bountiful harvest which is hinted at in Psa 19:7ff.

This psalm is an acrostic. Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet in turn introduces eight successive verses. >Poetry

Eight different words for Scripture are employed in this psalm: ‘law’; ‘testimonies’; ‘precepts’; ‘statutes’; ‘commandments’; ‘ordinances’; ‘word’; ‘promise’. We should not spend too much time analysing each one, but rather sense their cumulative impact. Along with these are some recurring themes which reflect the Psalmist’s response to the Word: ‘delight’, v14; v16; v72; ‘love’, v57; v103; ; and ‘awe’, v120; v161.

The benefits of Scripture include: liberty, v45; v96; enlightenment, v105; v130; life, ; and counsel, v24.

Let us not accuse the Psalmist of bibliolatry: for every reference to Scripture relates it to its Author. Indeed, almost the whole psalm is a meditative prayer addressed to him. ‘This is true piety: a love of God is not dessicated by study but refreshed, informed and nourished by it’ (Kidner).

Hints are given throughout of the Psalmist’s own life-situation. (a) He feels himself to be in a largely alien world, Ps 119v95; v126, subject to derision, v22, slander, v69, and intrigue, v85. He reacts to his isolation with tears, v136, and anger, v53. (b) He sometimes feels as though he is struggling to survive, v61f, although his note of dejection is frequently answered by an affirmation of faith, v81-83. He is conscious of his own temptations and shortcomings, v36f; v176. But his afflictions have been vastly outweighed by the glories of God’s Word, v162. Therefore he commends it to all, v42f; v46; v79. (c) He demonstrates an enthusiastic persistence, v32.

Psa 119:1 Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.

Psa 119:2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.

Psa 119:3 They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways.

Psa 119:4 You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.

Psa 119:5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!

Psa 119:6 Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.

Psa 119:7 I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.

Psa 119:8 I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.

Psa 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.

Psa 119:10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.

Psa 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Psa 119:12 Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.

Psa 119:13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.

Psa 119:14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.

Psa 119:15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.

‘There is a distinct difference between Christian and New Age forms of meditation. In Christian meditation, the believer’s mind is actively engaged and focuses on the Word of God. The believer is always conscious and never seeks a mystical experience of direct contact with God. New Age meditators, on the other hand, attempt to empty their minds through repetitious chanting or yogic breathing exercises. For them the goal is to experience oneness with the universe or attain God-consciousness.’  (Apologetics Study Bible)

Psa 119:16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

Psa 119:17 Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word.

Psa 119:18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

‘Some men can perceive no wonders in the gospel, but David felt sure that there were glorious things in the law: he had not half the Bible, but he prized it more than some men prize the whole. He felt that God had laid up great bounties in his word, and he begs for power to perceive, appreciate, and enjoy the same. We need not so much that God should give us more benefits, as the ability to see what he has given.’ (Spurgeon)

‘The prayer implies a conscious darkness, a dimness of spiritual vision, a powerlessness to remove that defect, and a full assurance that God can remove it. It shows also that the writer knew that there were vast treasures in the word which he had not yet fully seen, marvels which he had not yet beheld, mysteries which he had scarcely believed. The Scriptures teem with marvels; the Bible is wonder land; it not only relates miracles, but it is itself a world of wonders. Yet what are these to closed eyes? And what man can open his own eyes, since he is born blind? God himself must reveal revelation to each heart. Scripture needs opening, but not one half so much as our eyes do: the veil is not on the book, but on our hearts. What perfect precepts, what precious promises, what priceless privileges are neglected by us because we wander among them like blind men among the beauties of nature, and they are to us as a landscape shrouded in darkness!’ (Spurgeon)

‘The Psalmist had a measure of spiritual perception, or he would never have known that there were wondrous things to be seen, nor would he have prayed, “open thou mine eyes”; but what he had seen made him long for a clearer and wider sight. This longing proved the genuineness of what he possessed, for it is a test mark of the true knowledge of God that it causes its possessor to thirst for deeper knowledge.’ (Spurgeon)

‘”What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” was the gracious inquiry of the loving Jesus to a poor longing one on earth. “Lord! that I may receive my sight, ” was the instant answer. So here, in the same spirit, and to the same compassionate and loving Lord, does the Psalmist pray, “Open thou mine eyes”; and both in this and the preceding petition, “Deal bountifully with thy servant, ” we see at once who prompted the prayer.’ (Barton Bouchier)

‘If it be asked, seeing David was a regenerate man, and so illumined already, how is it that he prays for the opening of his eyes? The answer is easy: that our regeneration is wrought by degrees. The beginnings of light in his mind made him long for more; for no man can account of sense, but he who hath it. The light which he had caused him to see his own darkness; and therefore, feeling his wants, he sought to have them supplied by the Lord.’ (William Cowper)

‘The saints do not complain of the obscurity of the law, but of their own blindness. The Psalmist doth not say, Lord make a plainer law, but, Lord open mine eyes: blind men might as well complain of God, that he doth not make a sun whereby they might see. The word is “a light that shineth in a dark place” (2 Pet 1:19). There is no want of light in the Scripture, but there is a veil of darkness upon our hearts; so that if in this clear light we cannot see, the defect is not in the word, but in ourselves.’ (Manton)

‘We come to our reading of the Bible with our own agenda, bias, questions, preoccupations, concerns and convictions, and, unless we are extremely careful, we impose these on the biblical text. We may sincerely pray before we read, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Ps 119:18), but still the same non-communication may persist. For even that introductory prayer, though to be sure it is taken from the Psalter, is suspect because it lays down the kind of message we want to hear.

“Please, Lord, I want to see some ‘wonderful thing’ in your word.”

But he may reply, “What makes you think I have only ‘wonderful things’ to show you? As a matter of fact, I have some rather ‘disturbing things’ to show you today. Are you prepared to receive them?”

“Oh no, Lord, please not”, we stammer in reply. “I come to Scripture only to be comforted; I really do not want to be challenged or disturbed.”‘

(Stott, Authentic Christianity, 133)

Psa 119:19 I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.

Psa 119:20 My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.

Psa 119:21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands.

Psa 119:22 Remove from me scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes.

Psa 119:23 Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees.

Psa 119:24 Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.

Psa 119:25 I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.

Psa 119:26 I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees.

Psa 119:27 Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.

Psa 119:28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

Psa 119:29 Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law.

Psa 119:30 I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.

Psa 119:31 I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame.

Psa 119:32 I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

I run…for you have set my heart free – Guthrie speaks of a twofold influence of the Holy Spirit: ‘either ordinary: and this is the operation of the Holy Spirit on the soul, and the habits of grace there, whereby they are still kept alive, and in some exercise and acting, although not very discernible. This influence, I conceive, doth always attend believers, and is that `keeping and watering night and day, and every moment,’ promised Isaiah 27:3. Or, this influence is more singular and special, and is the same to a gracious, although a withered soul, as the `wind and breath to the dry bones’ (Ezek. 37:9, 10); putting them in good case, and `as the dew or rain to the grass,’ or newly-mown field and parched ground. (Ps. 77:6.) Such influence is meant by the `blowing of the south-wind, making the spices to flow out.’ (Song 4:16.) When the Spirit moveth thus, there is an edge put upon the graces of God in the soul, and they are made to act more vigorously. This is the `enlarging of the heart,’ by which `a man doth run in the ways of God.’ (Ps. 119:32.) This influence is more discernible than the former, and not so ordinarily communicated. Also here sometimes the wind bloweth more upon one grace, and sometimes more discernible upon another, and often upon many of the graces together; and, according to the lesser or greater measure of this influence, the soul acteth more or less vigorously towards God; and since faith is a created grace in the soul, this influence of the Spirit is upon it, sometimes less, sometimes more, and accordingly is the Assurance’,’of faith small or great.’

Psa 119:33 Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.

Psa 119:34 Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.

Psa 119:35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.

Psa 119:36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.

Psa 119:37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Psa 119:38 Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared.

Psa 119:39 Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good.

Psa 119:40 How I long for your precepts! Preserve my life in your righteousness.

Psa 119:41 May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise;

Psa 119:42 then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word.

Psa 119:43 Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws.

Psa 119:44 I will always obey your law, for ever and ever.

Psa 119:45 I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.

Psa 119:46 I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame,

Psa 119:47 for I delight in your commands because I love them.

Psa 119:48 I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.

Psa 119:49 Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope.

Psa 119:50 My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

Psa 119:51 The arrogant mock me without restraint, but I do not turn from your law.

Psa 119:52 I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them.

Psa 119:53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law.

Psa 119:54 Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge.

Psa 119:55 In the night I remember your name, O LORD, and I will keep your law.

Psa 119:56 This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.

Psa 119:57 You are my portion, O LORD; I have promised to obey your words.

Psa 119:58 I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.

Psa 119:59 I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.

Psa 119:60 I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.

Psa 119:61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law.

Psa 119:62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.

Psa 119:63 I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts.

Psa 119:63: *Put Off – Put On

Psa 119:64 The earth is filled with your love, O LORD; teach me your decrees.

Psa 119:65 Do good to your servant according to your word, O LORD.

Psa 119:66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.

Psa 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.

Psa 119:68 You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.

Psa 119:69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart.

Psa 119:70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law.

Psa 119:71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

‘Prosperity, ease, and the desires of the soul, send leanness to the soul; the evils of the world are much better than the good thereof.’ (James Fraser)

Psa 119:72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

Psa 119:73 Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.

Psa 119:74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.

Psa 119:75 I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

Psa 119:76 May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.

Psa 119:77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.

Psa 119:78 May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts.

Psa 119:79 May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes.

Psa 119:80 May my heart be blameless toward your decrees, that I may not be put to shame.

Psa 119:81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word.

Psa 119:82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?”

Psa 119:83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees.

Psa 119:84 How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors?

Psa 119:85 The arrogant dig pitfalls for me, contrary to your law.

Psa 119:86 All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for men persecute me without cause.

Psa 119:87 They almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.

Psa 119:88 Preserve my life according to your love, and I will obey the statutes of your mouth.

Psa 119:89 Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.

Psa 119:90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.

Psa 119:91 Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.

Psa 119:92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.

Psa 119:93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.

Psa 119:94 Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts.

Psa 119:95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes.

Psa 119:96 To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.

Psa 119:97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.

”Lord,’ said Augustine, ‘let the holy Scriptures be my chaste delight.’ Chrysostom compares the Scripture to a garden, every truth is a fragrant flower, which we should wear, not on our bosom, but in our heart. David counted the Word ‘sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.’ Psa 19:10. There is that in Scripture which may breed delight. It shows us the way to riches:Deut 28:5, Prov 3:10; to long life, Psa 34:12; to a kingdom, Heb 12:28. Well then may we count those the sweetest hours which are spent in reading the holy Scriptures; well may we say with the prophet, Jer 15:16, ‘Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and they were the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity)

‘Were I to enjoy Hezekiah’s grant and to have fifteen years added to my life, I would be much more frequent in my applications to the throne of grace.  Were I to renew my studies, I would take my leave of those accomplished trifles – the historians, the orators, the poets of antiquity – and devote my attention to the Scriptures of truth.  I would sit with much greater assiduity at my divine Master’s feet and desire to know nothing but “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” [1 Corinthians 2.2].  This wisdom, whose fruits are peace in life, consolation in death, and everlasting salvation after death – this I would trace, this I would seek, this I would explore through the spacious and delightful fields of the Old and New Testaments.’  (James Hervey).

Psa 119:98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me.

Psa 119:99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.

Psa 119:100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.

Psa 119:101 I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word.

Psa 119:102 I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me.

Psa 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psa 119:104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.

Psa 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

‘Let us lead Scripture lives. Oh that the Bible might be seen printed in our lives! Do what the Word commands. Obedience is an excellent way of commenting upon the Bible. Psa 86:2:’I will walk in thy truth.’ Let the Word be the sun-dial by which you set your life. What are we the better for having the Scripture, if we do not direct all our speeches and actions according to it? What is a carpenter the better for his rule about him, if he sticks it at his back, and never makes use of it for measuring and squaring his work? So, what are we the better for the rule of the Word, if we do not make use of it, and regulate our lives by it? How many swerve and deviate from the rule! The Word teaches to be sober and temperate, but they are drunk; to be chaste and holy, but they are profane; they go quite from the rule! What a dishonour is it to religion, for men to live in contradiction to Scripture! The Word is called a ‘light to our feet.’ Psa 119:105. It is not only a light to our eyes to mend our sight, but to our feet to mend our walk. Oh let us lead Bible conversations!’ (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity)

Psa 119:106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.

Psa 119:107 I have suffered much; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.

Psa 119:108 Accept, O LORD, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.

Psa 119:109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law.

Psa 119:110 The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.

Psa 119:111 Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.

Psa 119:112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.

Psa 119:113 I hate double-minded men, but I love your law.

Psa 119:114 You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

Psa 119:115 Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!

Psa 119:116 Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.

Psa 119:117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees.

Psa 119:118 You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their deceitfulness is in vain.

Psa 119:119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross; therefore I love your statutes.

Psa 119:120 My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.

Psa 119:121 I have done what is righteous and just; do not leave me to my oppressors.

Psa 119:122 Ensure your servant’s well-being; let not the arrogant oppress me.

Psa 119:123 My eyes fail, looking for your salvation, looking for your righteous promise.

Psa 119:124 Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees.

Psa 119:125 I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.

Psa 119:126 It is time for you to act, O LORD; your law is being broken.

Psa 119:127 Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold,

Psa 119:128 and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.

Psa 119:129 Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them.

Psa 119:130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple”].

Distributed light.  ‘If all the light of the heavenly luminaries had been contracted into one, it would have been destructive, not useful, to our sight; but being by divine wisdom distributed into sun, moon, and stars, each giving out his own proportion, it is suited to declare the glory of God and to enlighten the world. So, if the whole revelation of the glory of Christ, and all that belongs unto it, had been committed into one series and contexture of words, it would have overwhelmed our minds rather than enlightened us. Why God has distributed the light of it through the whole firmament of the books of the Old and New Testament; whence it communicates itself, by various parts and degrees, unto the proper use of the church.’ (John Owen)

Psa 119:131 I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.

Psa 119:132 Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.

Psa 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.

Psa 119:134 Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts.

Psa 119:135 Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees.

Psa 119:136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.

Psa 119:137 Righteous are you, O LORD, and your laws are right.

Psa 119:138 The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.

Psa 119:139 My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words.

Psa 119:140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.

Psa 119:141 Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget your precepts.

Psa 119:142 Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true.

Psa 119:143 Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight.

Psa 119:144 Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that I may live.

Psa 119:145 I call with all my heart; answer me, O LORD, and I will obey your decrees.

Psa 119:146 I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes.

Psa 119:147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.

Psa 119:148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.

Psa 119:149 Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your laws.

Psa 119:150 Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law.

Psa 119:151 Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true.

Psa 119:152 Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever.

Psa 119:153 Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.

Psa 119:154 Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise.

Psa 119:155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees.

Psa 119:156 Your compassion is great, O LORD; preserve my life according to your laws.

Psa 119:157 Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes.

Psa 119:158 I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word.

Psa 119:159 See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your love.

Psa 119:160 All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.

Psa 119:161 Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word.

Psa 119:162 I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil.

Psa 119:163 I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law.

Psa 119:164 Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.

Psa 119:165 Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.

Psa 119:166 I wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands.

Psa 119:167 I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly.

Psa 119:168 I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you.

Psa 119:169 May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word.

Psa 119:170 May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise.

Psa 119:171 May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.

Psa 119:172 May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.

Psa 119:173 May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.

Psa 119:174 I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.

Psa 119:175 Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.

Psa 119:176 I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.

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