An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1828)/Psalms
OF THE BOOK OF
We have now before us one of the choicest and most excellent parts of all the Old Testament; nay, so much is there in it of CHRIST and his gospel, as well as of GOD and his law, that it has been called the abstract, or summary, of both Testaments. The History of Israel, which we were long upon, led us to camps and council-boards, and there entertained and instructed us in the knowledge of GOD. The book of Job brought us into the schools, and treated us with profitable disputations concerning GOD and his providence; but this book brings us into the sanctuary, draws us off from converse with men, with the politicians, philosophers, or disputers, of this world, and directs us into communion with GOD, by solacing and reposing our souls in him, lifting up, and letting out, our hearts toward him. Thus may we be in the mount with GOD; and we understand not ourselves, if we say not, It is good to be here.
Let us consider,
I. The title of this book. It is called, 1. The Psalms; under that title it is referred to, Luke xxiv. 44. The Hebrew calls it Tehillim, which properly signifies Psalms of praise; because many of them are such: but Psalms is a more general word, meaning all metrical compositions fitted to be sung, which may as well be historical, doctrinal, or supplicatory, as laudatory. Though express and to excite all the other affections, as well as this of joy. The priests had a mournful muse as well as joyful ones; and the divine institution of singing psalms is thus largely displayed; for we are directed, not only to praise GOD, but to teach and admonish ourselves and one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, Col. iii. 16. 2. It is called the Book of Psalms; so it is quoted by St. Peter, Acts i. 20. It is a collection of psalms, of all the psalms that were divinely inspired, which, though composed at several times and upon several occasions, are here put together without any reference to, or dependence upon, one another; thus they were preserved from being scattered and lost, and laid in so much greater readiness for the service of the church. See what a good Master we serve, and what pleasantness there is in wisdom's ways, when we are not only commanded to sing at our work, and have cause enough given us to do so, but have words also put in our mouths, and songs prepared to our hands.
II. The Author of this book. It is, no doubt, derived originally from the Blessed Spirit. They are spiritual songs, words which the Holy Ghost taught. The penman of most of them was David, the son of Jesse, who is therefore called the sweet Psalmist of Israel, 2 Sam. xxiii. 1. Some that have not his name in their titles, yet are expressly ascribed to him elsewhere; as Ps. ii. (Acts iv. 25.) and Ps. xcvi. cv. (1 Chron. xvi.) One psalm is expressly said to be the prayer of Moses; (Ps. xc.) and that some of the psalms were penned by Asaph, is intimated, 2 Chron. xxix. 30. where they are said to praise the Lord in the words of David, and Asaph, who is there called a seer or prophet. Some of the psalms seem to have been penned long after; as Ps. cxxxvii. at the time of the captivity in Babylon; but the far greater part of them were certainly penned by David himself, whose genius lay toward poetry and music, and who was raised up, qualified, and animated, for the establishing of the ordinance of singing psalms in the church of GOD, as Moses and Aaron were, in their day, for the settling of the ordinances of sacrifice; theirs is superseded, but his remains, and will to the end of time, when it shall be swallowed up in the songs of eternity. Herein David was a type of CHRIST, who descended from him, not from Moses, because he came to take away sacrifice, (the family of Moses was soon lost and extinct,) but to establish and perpetuate joy and praise; for of the family of David in CHRIST there shall be no end.
III. The scope of it. It is manifestly intended, 1. To assist the exercises of natural religion, and to kindle in the souls of men those devout affections which we owe to GOD as our Creator, Owner, Ruler, and Benefactor. The book of Job helps to prove our first principles of the divine perfections and providence; but this helps to improve them in prayers and praises, and professions of desire toward him, dependence on him, and an entire devotedness and resignation to him. Other parts of scripture show that GOD is infinitely above man, and his sovereign LORD; but this shows us that he may, notwithstanding, be conversed with by us sinful worms of the earth; and there are ways in which, if it be not our own fault, we may keep up communion with him in all the various conditions of human life. 2. To advance the excellencies of revealed religion, and, in the most pleasing powerful manner, to recommend it to the world. There is indeed little or nothing, in all the book of Psalms, of the ceremonial law. Though sacrifice and offering were yet to continue many ages, yet they are here represented as things which GOD did not desire, (Ps. xl. 6.—li. 16.) as things comparatively little, and which, in time, were to vanish away. But the word and law of GOD, those parts of it which are moral, and of perpetual obligation, are here, all along, magnified and made honourable, no where more. And CHRIST, the Crown and Centre of revealed religion, the Foundation, Corner, and Top-stone, of that blessed building, is here clearly spoken of in type and prophecy; both his sufferings and the glory that should follow, and the kingdom that he should set up in the world, which GOD's covenant with David, concerning his kingdom, was to have its accomplishment in. What a high value does this book put upon the word of GOD, his statutes and judgments, his covenant, and the great and precious promises of it; and how does it recommend them to us as our guide and stay, and our heritage for ever!
IV. The use of it. All scripture, being given by inspiration of GOD, is profitable to convey divine light into our understandings; but this book is of singular use with that to convey divine life and power, and a holy warmth, into our affections. There is no one book of scripture that is more helpful to the devotions of the saints than this, and it has been so in all ages of the church, ever since it was written, and the several parts of it delivered to the chief musician, for the service of the church. 1. It is of use to be sung. Further than David's psalms we may go, but we need not, for hymns and spiritual songs. What the rules of the Hebrew metre were, even the learned are not certain. But these psalms ought to be rendered according to the metre of every language, at least, so as that they may be sung for the edification of the church. And methinks it is a great comfort to us, when we are singing David's psalms, that we are offering the very same praises to GOD, that were offered him in the days of David and the other godly kings of Judah. So rich, so well made, are these divine poems, that they can never be exhausted, can never be worn thread-bare. 2. It is of use to be read and opened by the ministers of CHRIST, as containing great and excellent truths, and rules concerning good and evil. Our Lord JESUS expounded the psalms to his disciples, the gospel psalms, and opened their understandings (for he had the key of David) to understand them, Luke xxiv. 44. 3. It is of use to be read and meditated upon by all good people. It is a full fountain, out of which we may all be drawing water with joy. The Psalmist's experiences are of great use for our direction, caution, and encouragement. In telling us, as he often does, what passed between God and his soul, he lets us know what we may expect from GOD, and what he will expect, and require, and graciously accept, from us. David was a man after GOD's own heart, and therefore those who find themselves in some measure according to his heart, have reason to hope that they are renewed by the grace of GOD, after the image of GOD, and may have much comfort in the testimony of their consciences for them, that they can heartily say Amen to David's prayers and praises. 4. Even the Psalmist's expressions too are of great use; and by them the Spirit helps our praying infirmities, because we know not what to pray for as we ought. In all our approaches to GOD, as well as in our first returns to GOD, we are directed to take with us words, (Hos. xiv. 2.) these words, words which the Holy Ghost teaches. If we make David's psalms familiar to us, as we ought to do, whatever errand we have at the throne of grace, by way of confession, petition, or thanksgiving, we may from thence be assisted in the delivery of it; whatever devout affection is working in us, holy desire or hope, sorrow or joy, we may there find apt words wherewith to clothe it; sound speech which cannot be condemned. It will be good to collect the most proper and lively expressions of devotion, which we find here, and to methodize them, and reduce them to the several heads of prayer, that they may be the more ready to us. Or, we may take sometimes one choice psalm, and sometimes another, and pray it over, that is, enlarge upon each verse in our own thoughts, and offer up our meditations to God, as they arise from the expressions we find there. The learned Dr. Hammond, in his preface to the paraphrase on the Psalms, (sect. 29.) says, "That going over a few psalms with these interpunctions of mental devotion, suggested, animated, and maintained, by the native life and vigour which is in the psalms, is much to be preferred before the saying over of the whole Psalter; since nothing is more fit to be averted in religious offices, than their degenerating into heartless, dispirited, recitations." If, as St. Austin advises, we form our spirit by the affection of the psalm, we may then be sure of acceptance with GOD, in using the language of it. Nor is it only our devotion, and the affections of our mind, that the book of Psalms assists, teaching us how to offer praise so as to glorify GOD, but it is also a directory to the actions of our lives, and teaches us how to order our conversation aright, so as that, in the end, we may see the salvation of GOD, Ps. l. 23. The Psalms were thus serviceable to the Old Testament Church, but to us Christians they may be of more use than they could be to them who lived before the coming of CHRIST; for, as Moses's sacrifices, so David's songs, are expounded and made more intelligible by the gospel of CHRIST, which lets us within the veil; so that, if to David's prayers and praises we add St. Paul's prayers in his Epistles, and the new songs in the Revelation, we shall be thoroughly furnished for this good work; for the scripture, perfected, makes the man of GOD perfect.As to the division of this book, we need not be solicitous; there is no connexion (or very seldom) between one psalm and another, nor any reason discernible for the placing of them in the order wherein we here find them; but it seems to be ancient, for that which is now the second psalm, was so in the Apostles' time, Acts xiii. 33. The vulgar Latin joins the ix. and x. together; all popish authors quote by that, so that thenceforward, throughout the book, their number is one short of ours; our xi. is their x.; our cxix. their cxviii. But then they divide the cxlvii. into two, and so make up the number of cl. Some have endeavoured to reduce the psalms to proper heads, according to the matter of them, but there is often such a variety of matter in one and the same psalm, that it cannot be done with any certainty; but the seven penitential psalms have been in a particular manner singled out by the devotions of many. They are reckoned to be the vi, xxxii, xxxviii, li, cii, cxxx, and cxliii. The psalms were divided into five books, each concluding with Amen, Amen, or Hallelujah; the first ending with Ps. xli, the second with Ps. lxxii, the third with Ps. lxxxix, the fourth with Ps. cvi, the fifth with Ps. cl. Others divide them into three fifties; others into sixty parts, two for every day of the month, one for the morning, the other for the evening. Let good Christians divide them for themselves, so as may best increase their acquaintance with them, that they may have them at hand upon all occasions, and may sing them in the spirit and with the understanding.
This is a psalm of instruction concerning good and evil, setting before us life and death, the blessing and the curse, that we may take the right way which leads to happiness, and avoid that which will certainly end in our misery and ruin. The different character and condition of godly people and wicked people, those that serve God and those that serve him not, is here plainly stated in a few words; so that every man, if he will be faithful to himself, may here see his own face, and then read his own doom. That division of the children of men into saints and sinners, righteous and unrighteous, the children of God and the children of the wicked one, as it is ancient, ever since the struggle began between sin and grace, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, so it is lasting, and will survive all other divisions and subdivisions of men into high and low, rich and poor, bond and free; for by this, men's everlasting state will be determined, and the distinction will last as long as heaven and hell. This psalm shows us, I. The holiness and happiness of a godly man, v. 1..3.II. The sinfulness and misery of a wicked man, v. 4, 5.III. The ground and reason of both, v. 6. Whoever collected the psalms of David, (probably it was Ezra,) with good reason put this psalm first, as a preface to the rest, because it is absolutely necessary, to the acceptance of our devotions, that we be righteous before God, (for it is only the prayer of the upright that is his delight,) and, therefore, that we be right in our notions of blessedness, and in our choice of the way that leads to it. Those are not fit to put up good prayers, who do not walk in good ways.
1.BLESSED is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful: 2. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season: his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The psalmist begins with the character and condition of a godly man, that those may first take the comfort of that, to whom it belongs. Here is,
I. A description given of the godly man's spirit and way, by which we are to try ourselves. The Lord knows them that are his by name, but we must know them by their character; for that is agreeable to a state of probation, that we may study to answer to the character, which is indeed both the command of the law, which we are bound in duty to obey, and the condition of the promise, which we are bound in interest to fulfil. The character of a good man is here given by the rules he chooses to walk by, and to take his measures from. What we take at our setting out, and at every turn, for the guide of our conversation, whether the course of this world, or the word of God, is of material consequence. An error in the choice of our standard and leader, is original and fatal; but if we be right here, we are in a fair way to do well.
1. A godly man, that he may avoid the evil, utterly renounces the conduct of evil-doers, and will not be led by them; (v. 1.) He walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, &c. This part of his character is put first, because those that will keep the commandments of their God, must say to evil-doers, Depart from us; (cxix. 115.) and departing from evil, is that in which wisdom begins. (1.) He sees evil-doers round about him, the world is full of them, they walk on every side; they are here described by three characters, ungodly, sinners, and scornful. See by what steps men arrive at the height of impiety: Nemo repente fit turpissimus—None reach the height of vice at once. They are ungodly first, casting off the fear of God, and living in the neglect of their duty to him: but they rest not there; when the services of religion are laid aside, they come to be sinners, they break out into open rebellion against God, and engage in the service of sin and Satan; omissions make way for commissions; and by these the heart is so hardened, that, at length, they come to be scorners, they openly defy all that is sacred, scoff at religion, and make a jest of sin. Thus is the way of iniquity down hill; the bad grow worse, sinners themselves become tempters to others, and advocates for Baal. The word which we translate ungodly, signifies such as are unsettled, aim at no certain end, and walk by no certain rule, but are at the command of every lust, and at the beck of every temptation. The word for sinners, signifies such as are determined for the practice of sin, and set it up as their trade. The scornful, are those that set their mouths against the heavens. These the good man sees with a sad heart, they are a constant vexation to his righteous soul. But, (2.) He shuns them, wherever he sees them. He does not do as they do; and, that he may not, he does not converse familiarly with them. [1.] He does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly; he is not present at their councils, nor does he advise with them; though they are ever so witty, and subtle, and learned, if they are ungodly, they shall not be the men of his counsel; he does not consent to them, nor say as they say; (Luke xxiii. 51.) he does not take his measures from their principles, nor act according to the advice which they give and take. The ungodly are forward to give their advice against religion, and it is managed so artfully, that we have reason to think ourselves happy, if we escape being tainted and ensnared by it. [2.] He stands not in the way of sinners; he avoids doing as they do; their way shall not be his way, he will not come into it, much less will he continue in it, as the sinner does, who sets himself in a way that is not good, xxxvi. 4. He avoids (as much as may be) being where they are: that he may not imitate them, he will not associate with them, nor choose them for his companions. He does not stand in their way, to be picked up by them, (Prov. vii. 8.) but keeps as far from them as from a place or person infected with the plague, for fear of the contagion, Prov. iv. 14, 15. He that would be kept from harm, must keep out of harm's way. [3.] He sits not in the seat of the scornful; he does not repose himself with those that sit down secure in their wickedness, and please themselves with the searedness of their own consciences; he does not associate with those that sit in close cabal, to find out ways and means for the support and advancement of the Devil's kingdom, or that sit in open judgment, magisterially to condemn the generation of the righteous. The seat of the drunkards, is the seat of the scornful, lxix. 12. Happy is the man that never sits in it, Hos. vii. 5.
2. A godly man, that he may do that which is good and cleave to it, submits to the direction of the word of God, and makes that familiar to him, v. 2. This is that which keeps him out of the way of the ungodly, and fortifies him against their temptations; By the words of thy lips I have kept me from the path of the is the law of God, which is holy, just, and good, which he freely consents to, and so delights in, after the inner man, Rom. vii. 16, 22. All who are well pleased that there is a God, must be well pleased that there is a Bible, a revelation of God, of his will, and the only way to happiness in him. (2.) The intimate acquaintance which a good man keeps up with the word of God; in that law doth he meditate day and night; by this it appears that his delight is in it, for what we love, we love to think of, cxix. 97. To meditate on God's word, is to discourse with ourselves concerning the great things contained in it, with a close application of mind, a fixedness of thought, till we be suitably affected with those things, and experience the favour and power of them in our hearts. This we must do, day and night; we must have a constant habitual regard to the word of God, as the rule of our actions and the spring of our comforts, and we must have it in our thoughts, accordingly, upon every occasion that occurs, whether night or day. No time is amiss for meditating on the word of God, nor any time unseasonable for those visits. We must not only set ourselves to meditate on God's word, morning and evening, at the entrance of the day and of the night; but these thoughts should be interwoven with the business and converse of every day, and with the repose and slumbers of every night; When I awake, I am still with thee., xvii. 4. We need not court the fellowship of sinners, either for pleasure or for improvement, while we have fellowship with the word of God, and with God himself in and by his word; When thou wakest, it shall talk with thee, Prov. vi. 22. We may judge of our spiritual state by asking, "What is the law of God to us? What account do we make of it? What place has it in us?" See here, (1.) The entire affection which a good man has for the law of God; his delight is in it. He delights in it, though it be a law, a yoke, because it
II. An assurance given of the godly man's happiness, with which we should encourage ourselves to answer the character of such.
1. In general, he is blessed, v. 1. God blesses him, and that blessing will make him happy. Blessednesses are to him; blessings of all kinds, of the upper and nether springs, enough to make him completely happy; none of the ingredients of happiness shall be wanting to him. When he undertakes to describe a blessed man, he describes a good man; for, after all, those only are happy, truly happy, that are holy, truly holy; and we are more concerned to know the way to blessedness, than to know wherein blessedness will consist. Nay, goodness and holiness are not only the way to happiness, (Rev. xxii. 14.) but happiness itself; supposing there was not another life after this, yet that man is a happy man, that keeps in the way of his duty.
2. His blessedness is here illustrated by a similitude; (v. 3.) He shall be like a tree, fruitful and flourishing. This is the effect, (1.) Of his pious practice: he meditates in the law of God, turns that in succum et sanguinem—into juice and blood, and that makes him like a tree. The more we converse with the word of God, the better furnished we are for every good word and work. Or, (2.) Of the promised blessing; he is blessed of the Lord, and therefore he shall be like a tree. The divine blessing produces real effects. It is the happiness of a godly man, [1.] That he is planted by the grace of God; these trees were by nature wild olives, and will continue so till they are grafted anew, and so planted by a power from above. Never any good tree grew of itself, it is the planting of the Lord, and therefore he must in it be glorified; (Isa. lxi. 3.) The trees of the Lord are full of sap. [2.] That he is placed by the means of grace; here called the rivers of water, those rivers which make glad the city of our God; (xlvi. 4.) from these a good man receives supplies of strength and vigour, but in secret, undiscerned ways. [3.] That his practices shall be fruit, abounding to a good account, Phil. iv. 17. To those whom God first blessed, he said, Be fruitful; (Gen. i. 22.) and still, the comfort and honour of fruitfulness are a recompense for the labour of it. It is expected from those who enjoy the mercies of grace, that, both in the temper of their minds, and in the tenor of their lives, they comply with the intentions of that grace, and then they bring forth fruit. And, be it observed to the praise of the great Dresser of the vineyard, they bring forth their fruit, (that which is required of them,) in due season, when it is most beautiful and most useful; improving every opportunity of doing good, and doing it in its proper time. [4.] That his profession shall be preserved from blemish and decay; His leaf shall not wither. Even the leaf of those who bring forth only the leaves of profession, without any good fruit, will wither, and they shall be as much ashamed of their profession as ever they were proud of it; but if the word of God rule in the heart, that will keep the profession green, both to our comfort and to our credit; the laurels, thus won, shall never wither. [5.] That prosperity shall attend him, wherever he goes, soul-prosperity. Whatever he does, in conformity to the law, it shall prosper and succeed, to his mind, or above his hope.
In singing these verses, being duly affected with the malignant and dangerous nature of sin, and transcendent excellencies of the divine law, and the power and efficacy of God's grace, from which our fruit is found, we must teach and admonish ourselves, and one another, to watch against sin and all approaches toward it, to converse much with the word of God, and abound in the fruit of righteousness: and, in praying over them, we must seek to God for his grace both to fortify us against every evil word and work, and to furnish us for every good word and work.
4. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
1. The description of the ungodly given, v. 4. (1.) In general; they are the reverse of the righteous, both in character and condition; they are not so. The LXX emphatically repeat this, not so the ungodly, they are not so; they are led by the counsel of the wicked, in the way of sinners, to the seat of the scornful; they have no delight in the law of God, nor ever think of it; they bring forth no fruit, but grapes of Sodom; they cumber the ground. (2.) In particular; whereas the righteous are like useful, fruitful, trees, they are like the chaff which the wind drives away, the very lightest of the chaff, the dust which the owner of the floor desires to have driven away, as not capable of being put to any use. Would you value them? Would you weigh them? They are like chaff, of no worth at all in God's account, how highly soever they may value themselves. Would you know the temper of their minds? They are light and vain, they have no substance in them, no solidity; they are easily driven to and fro by every wind and temptation, and have no steadfastness. Would you know their end? The wrath of God will drive them away in their wickedness, as the wind does the chaff, which is never gathered, or looked after more. The chaff may be for a while, among the wheat; but He is coming, whose fan is in his hand, and who will thoroughly purge his floor. They that by their own sin and folly make themselves as chaff, will be found so, before the whirlwind and fire of divine wrath, (xxxv. 5.) so unable to stand before it, or to escape it, Isa. xvii. 13.
2. The doom of the ungodly read, v. 5. (1.) They will be cast, upon their trial, as traitors convicted; they shall not stand in the judgment; they shall be found guilty, shall hang down the head with shame and confusion, and all their pleas and excuses will be overruled as frivolous. There is a judgment to come, in which every man's present character and work, though ever so artfully concealed and disguised, shall be truly and perfectly discovered, and appear in their own colours, and every man's future state will be, by an irreversible sentence, determined for eternity. The ungodly must appear in that judgment, to receive according to the things done in the body; they may hope to come off, nay, to come off with honour, but their hope will deceive them; they shall not stand in the judgment; so plain will the evidence be against them, and so just and impartial will the judgment be upon it. (2.) They will be for ever shut out from the society of the blessed; they shall not stand in the congregation of the righteous; in the judgment, so some, in that court wherein the saints, as assessors with Christ, shall judge the world, those holy myriads with which he shall come to execute judgment upon all, Jude 14. 1 Cor. vi. 2. Or, in heaven; there will be seen, shortly, a general assembly of the church of the first-born, a congregation of the righteous, of all the saints, and none but saints, and saints made perfect, such a congregation of them as never was in this world, 2 Thess. ii. 1. The wicked shall not have a place in the congregation. Into the new Jerusalem none unclean or unsanctified shall enter; they shall see the righteous enter into the kingdom, and themselves, to their everlasting vexation, thrust out, Luke xiii. 27. The wicked and profane, in this world, ridiculed the righteous and their congregation, despised them, and cared not for their company; justly, therefore, will they be for ever separated from them. Hypocrites, in this world, under the disguise of a plausible profession, may thrust themselves into the congregation of the righteous, and remain undisturbed and undiscovered there; but Christ cannot be imposed upon, though his ministers may; the day is coming when he will separate between the sheep and the goats, the tares and the wheat; see Matth. xiii. 41, 49. That great day, so the Chaldee here calls it, will be a day of discovery, a day of distinction, and a day of final division. Then you shall return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, which here it is sometimes hard to do, Mal. iii. 18.
3. The reason rendered of this different state of the godly and wicked, v. 6. (1.) God must have all the glory of the prosperity and happiness of the righteous. They are blessed, because the Lord knows their way; he chose them into it, inclined them to choose it, leads and guides them in it, and orders all their steps. (2.) Sinners must bear all the blame of their own destruction. Therefore the ungodly perish, because the very way in which they have chosen and resolved to walk, leads directly to destruction; it naturally tends toward ruin, and therefore must necessarily end in it. Or, we may take it thus, The Lord approves of, and is well pleased with, the way of the righteous, and therefore, under the influence of his gracious smiles, it shall prosper, and end well; but he is angry at the way of the wicked, all they do is offensive to him, and therefore it shall perish, and they in it. It is certain that every man's judgment proceeds from the Lord, and it is well or ill with us, and is likely to be so to all eternity, according as we are, or are not, accepted of God. Let this support the drooping spirits of the righteous, that the Lord knows their way, knows their hearts, (Jer. xii. 3.) knows their secret devotions, (Matth. vi. 6.) knows their character, how much soever it is blackened and blemished by the reproaches of men, and will shortly make them and their way manifest before the world, to their immortal joy and honour. Let this cast a damp upon the security and jollity of sinners, that their way, though pleasant now, will perish at last.
In singing these verses, and praying over them, let us possess ourselves with a holy dread of the wicked man's portion, and deprecate it with a firm and lively expectation of the judgment to come, and stir up ourselves to prepare for it, and with a holy care, to approve ourselves to God in every thing, entreating his favour with our whole hearts.
As the foregoing psalm was moral, and showed us our duty, so this is evangelical, and shows us our Saviour. Under the type of David's kingdom, which was of divine appointment, met with much opposition, but prevailed at last, the kingdom of the Messiah, the Son of David, is prophesied of, which is the primary intention and scope of the psalm; and I think there is less in it of the type, and more of the anti-type, than in any of the gospel-psalms, for there is nothing in it but what is applicable to Christ, but some things that are not at all applicable to David; (v. 6, 7.) Thou art my Son, (v. 8.) I will give thee the uttermost parts of the earth, and, (v. 12.) Kiss the Son. It is interpreted of Christ, Acts iv. 27.—xiii. 33. Heb, i. 5. The Holy Ghost here foretells, I. The opposition that should be given to the kingdom of the Messiah, v. 1..3. II. The baffling and chastising of that opposition, v. 4, 5. III. The setting up of the kingdom of Christ, notwithstanding that opposition, v. 6. IV. The confirmation and establishment of it, v. 7. V. A promise of the enlargement and success of it, v. 8, 9. VI. A call and exhortation to kings and princes, to yield themselves the willing subjects of this kingdom, v. 10..12. Or thus; We have here, 1. Threatenings denounced against the adversaries of Christ's kingdom, v. 1..6. 2. Promises made to Christ himself the Head of this kingdom, v. 7..9. 3. Counsel given to all, to espouse the interests of this kingdom, v. 10..12. This psalm, as the former, is very fitly prefixed to this book of devotions, because, as it is necessary to our acceptance with God, that we should be subject to the precepts of his law, so it is likewise, that we should be subject to the grace of his gospel, and come to him in the name of a Mediator.
1. WHY do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying, 3. Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
We have here a very great struggle about the kingdom of Christ, hell and heaven contesting it; the seat of the war is this earth, where Satan has long had an usurped kingdom, and exercised dominion to that degree, that he has been called The prince of the power of the very air we breathe in, and The god of the world we live in. He knows very well that, as the Messiah's kingdom rises and gets ground, his falls and loses ground; and therefore, though it will be set up certainly, it shall not be set up tamely. Observe here,
I. The mighty opposition that would be given to the Messiah and his kingdom, to his holy religion and all the interests of it, v. 1··3. One would have expected that so great a blessing to this world, should have been universally welcomed and embraced, and that every sheaf should immediately have bowed to that of the Messiah, and all the crowns and sceptres on earth should have been laid at his feet; but it proves quite contrary. Never were the notions of any sect of philosophers, though ever so absurd, nor the powers of any prince or state, though ever so tyrannical, opposed with so much violence as the doctrine and government of Christ. A sign that it was from heaven, for the opposition was plainly from hell originally.
1. We are here told who would appear as adversaries to Christ, and the Devil's instruments in this opposition to his kingdom. Princes and people, court and country, have sometimes separate interests, but here they are united against Christ; not the mighty only, but the mob, the heathen, the people, numbers of them, communities of them; though usually fond of liberty, yet they were averse to the liberty Christ came to procure and proclaim. Not the mob only, but the mighty, (among whom one might have expected more sense and consideration,) appear violent against Christ; though his kingdom is not of this world, nor intended to weaken their interests, but very likely, if they pleased, to strengthen them, yet the kings of the earth and rulers are up in arms immediately. See the effects of the old enmity in the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman, and how general and malignant the corruption of mankind is. See how formidable the enemies of the church are; they are numerous, they are potent. The unbelieving Jews are here called heathen, so wretchedly were they degenerated from the faith and holiness of their ancestors; they stirred up the heathen, the Gentiles, to persecute the christians. As the Philistines and their lords, Saul and his courtiers, the disaffected party and their ringleaders, opposed David's coming to the crown; so Herod and Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews, did their utmost against Christ and his interest in men, Acts iv. 27.
2. Who it is that they quarrel with, and muster up all their forces against; it is against the Lord, and against his Anointed, against all religion in general, and the christian religion in particular. It is certain that all who are enemies to Christ, whatever they pretend, are enemies to God himself; they have hated both me and my Father, John xv. 24. The great Author of our holy religion is here called the Lord's Anointed, or Messiah, or Christ, in allusion to the anointing of David to be king: he is both authorized and qualified to be the church's Head and King, is duly invested in the office, and every way fitted for it; yet there are those that are against him; nay, therefore they are against him, because they are impatient of God's authority, envious at Christ's advancement, and have a rooted enmity to the Spirit of holiness.
3. The opposition they give, is here described; (1.) It is a most spiteful and malicious opposition. They rage and fret, they gnash their teeth, for vexation at the setting up of Christ's kingdom; it creates them the utmost uneasiness, and fills them with indignation, so that they have no enjoyment of themselves; see Luke xiii. 14. John xi. 47. Acts v. 17, 33.—xix. 28. Idolaters raged at the discovery of their folly, the chief priests and Pharisees at the eclipsing of their glory and the shaking of their usurped dominion. They that did evil, raged at the light. (2.) It is a deliberate and politic opposition. They imagine, or meditate; they contrive means to suppress the rising interests of Christ's kingdom, and are very confident of the success of their contrivances; they promise themselves that they shall run down religion, and carry the day. (3.) It is a resolute and obstinate opposition. They set themselves, set their faces as a flint, and their hearts as an adamant, in defiance of reason and conscience, and all the terrors of the Lord; they are proud and daring, like the Babel-builders, and will persist in their resolution come what will. (4.) It is a combined and confederate opposition. They take counsel together, to assist and animate one another in this opposition; they carry their resolutions, nemine contradicente—unanimously, that they will push on the unholy war against the Messiah with the utmost vigour: and, thereupon, councils are called, cabals are formed, and all their wits are at work, to find out ways and means for the preventing of the establishment of Christ's kingdom, lxxxiii. 5
4. We are here told what it is they are exasperated at, and what they aim at in this opposition; (v. 3.) Let us break their bands asunder. They will not be under any government; they are children of Belial, that cannot endure the yoke, at least, the yoke of the Lord and his Anointed. They will be content to entertain such notions of the kingdom of God and the Messiah, as will serve them to dispute of, and to support their own dominion with: if the Lord and his Anointed will make them rich and great in the world, they will bid them welcome, but if they will restrain their corrupt appetites and passions, regulate and reform their hearts and lives, and bring them under the government of a pure and heavenly religion, truly then they will not have this man to reign over them, Luke xix. 14. Christ has bands and cords for us; they that will be saved by him, must be ruled by him; but they are cords of a man, agreeable to right reason, and bands of love, conducive to our true interest: and yet against those the quarrel is. Why do men oppose religion, but because they are impatient of its restraints and obligations? They would break asunder the bands of conscience they are under, and the cords of God's commandments by which they are called to tie themselves out from all sin, and to tie themselves up to all duty; they will not receive, but cast them away as far from them as they can.
5. They are here reasoned with concerning it, v. 1. Why do they do this? (1.) They can show no good cause for opposing so just, holy, and gracious, a government, which will not interfere with the secular powers, nor introduce any dangerous principles hurtful to kings or princes; but, on the contrary, if universally received, would bring a heaven upon earth. (2.) They can hope for no good success in opposing so powerful a kingdom, with which they are utterly unable to contend. It is a vain thing; when they have done their worst, Christ will have a church in the world, and that church shall be glorious and triumphant; it is built upon a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The moon walks in brightness, though the dogs bark at it.
II. The mighty conquest gained over all this threatening opposition. If heaven and earth be the combatants, it is easy to foretell which will be the conqueror. They that make this mighty struggle, are the people of the earth, and the kings of the earth, who, being of the earth, are earthy; but He whom they contest with, is one that sits in the heavens, v. 4. He is in the heaven, a place of such a vast prospect, that he can oversee them all, and all their projects; and such is his power, that he can overcome them all, and all their attempts: he sits there, as one easy and at rest, out of the reach of all their impotent menaces and attempts. There he sits as Judge in all the affairs of the children of men, perfectly secure of the full accomplishment of all his own purposes and designs, in spite of all opposition, xxix. 10. The perfect repose of the Eternal Mind may be our comfort under all the disquietments of our mind. We are tossed on earth, and in the sea, but he sits in the heavens, where he has prepared his throne for judgment; and therefore,
1. The attempts of Christ's enemies are easily ridiculed; God laughs at them as a company of fools. He has them, and all their attempts, in derision, and therefore the virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised them, Isa. xxxvii. 22. Sinners' follies are the just sport of God's infinite wisdom and power; and those attempts of the kingdom of Satan, which in our eyes are formidable, in his are despicable. Sometimes God is said to awake, and arise, and stir up himself, for the vanquishing of his enemies; here he is said to sit still, and do it; for the utmost operations of God's omnipotence create no difficulty at all, nor the least disturbance to his eternal rest.
2. They are justly punished, v. 5. Though God despises them as impotent, yet he does not therefore wink at them, but is justly displeased with them as impudent and impious, and will make the most daring sinners to know that he is so, and to tremble before him. (1.) Their sin is a provocation to him; he is wroth, he is sorely displeased. We cannot expect that God should be reconciled to us, or well pleased in us, but in and through the Anointed; and therefore, if we affront and reject him, we sin against the remedy, and forfeit the benefit of his interposition between us and God. (2.) His anger will be a vexation to them; if he but speak to them in his wrath, even the breath of his mouth will be their confusion, slaughter and consumption, Isa. xi. 4. 2 Thess. ii. 8. He speaks, and it is done; he speaks in wrath, and sinners are undone: as a word made us, so a word can unmake us again; Who knows the power of his anger? The enemies rage, but cannot vex God. God sits still, and yet vexes them, puts them into a consternation, (as the word is,) and brings them to their wit's end: his setting up this kingdom of his Son, in spite of them, is the greatest vexation to them that can be. They were vexations to Christ's good subjects; but the day is coming, when vexation shall be recompensed to them,
3. They are certainly defeated, and all their counsels turned headlong; (v. 6.) Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. David was advanced to the throne, and became master of the strong hold of Zion, notwithstanding the disturbance given him by the malecontents in his kingdom, and particularly the affronts he received from the garrison of Zion, who taunted him with their blind and their lame, their maimed soldiers, 2 Sam. v. 6. The Lord Jesus is exalted to the right hand of the Father, has all power both in heaven and in earth, and is Head over all things to the church, notwithstanding the restless endeavours of his enemies to hinder his advancement. (1.) Jesus Christ is a King, and is invested by him who is the Fountain of power, with the dignity and authority of a sovereign Prince, in the kingdom both of providence and grace. (2.) God is pleased to call him his King, because he is appointed by him, and intrusted for him with the sole administration of government and judgment. He is his King, for he is dear to the Father, and one in whom he is well-pleased. (3.) Christ took not this honour to himself, but was called to it, and he that called him, owns him; I have set him; his commandment, his commission, he received from the Father. (4.) Being called to this honour, he was confirmed in it; high places (we say) are slippery places, but Christ, being raised, is fixed; "I have set him, I have settled him." (5.) He is set upon Zion, the hill of God's holiness, a type of the gospel-church, for on that the temple was built, for the sake of which the whole mount was called holy. Christ's throne is set up in his church, that is, in the hearts of all believers, and in the societies they form. The evangelical law of Christ is said to go forth from Zion, (Isa. ii. 3. Mic. iv. 2.) and therefore that is spoken of as the headquarters of this General, the royal seat of this Prince, in whom the children of men shall be joyful.
We are to sing these verses with a holy exultation, triumphing over all the enemies of Christ's kingdom, (not doubting but they will all of them be quickly made his footstool,) and triumphing in Jesus Christ as the great Trustee of power; and we are to pray, in firm belief of the assurance here given; "Father in heaven, Thy kingdom come; let thy Son's kingdom come."
7. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
We have heard what the kings of the earth have to say against Christ's kingdom, and have heard it gainsaid by him that sits in heaven; let us now hear what the Messiah himself has to say for his kingdom, to make good his claims; it is what all the powers on earth cannot gainsay.
I. The kingdom of the Messiah is founded upon a decree, an eternal decree, of God the Father. It was not a sudden resolve, it was not the trial of an experiment, but the result of the counsels of the divine wisdom, and the determinations of the divine will, before all worlds, neither of which can be altered. The precept or statute, so some read it; the covenant or compact, so others; the federal transactions between the Father and the Son concerning man's redemption, represented by the covenant of royalty made with David and his seed, lxxxix. 3. This our Lord Jesus often referred himself to, as that which, all along in his undertaking, he governed himself by; This is the will of him that sent me, John vi. 40. This commandment have I received of my Father, John x. 18.—xiv. 31.
II. There is a declaration of that decree, as far as is necessary for the satisfaction of all those who are called and commanded to yield themselves subjects to this King, and to leave them inexcusable, who will not have him to reign over them. The decree was secret, it was what the Father said to the Son, when he possessed him in the beginning of his way, before his works of old; but it is declared by a faithful Witness, who had lain in the bosom of the Father from eternity, and came into the world as the Prophet of the church, to declare him, John i. 18. The Fountain of all being is, without doubt, the Fountain of all power; and it is by, from, and under, him, that the Messiah claims a right to rule, from what Jehovah said to him, by whose word all things were made, and are governed. Christ here makes out a twofold title to his kingdom.
1. A title by inheritance; (v. 7.) Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. This scripture the apostle quotes, (Heb. i. 5.) to prove, not only that Christ has a more excellent name than the angels, but that he obtained it by inheritance, v. 4. He is the Son of God, not by adoption, but his begotten Son, the only begotten of the Father, John i. 14. And the Father owns him, and will have this declared to the world, as the reason why he is constituted King upon the holy hill of Zion; he is therefore unquestionably entitled to, and perfectly qualified for, that great trust. He is the Son of God, and therefore of the same nature with the Father, has in him all the fulness of the Godhead, infinite wisdom, power, and holiness. The supreme government of the church is too high an honour, and too hard an undertaking, for any mere creature; none can be fit for it but him who is one with the Father, and was from eternity by him, as one brought up with him, thoroughly apprized of all his counsels, Prov. viii. 30. He is the Son of God, and therefore dear to him, his beloved Son, in whom he is well-pleased; and upon this account we are to receive him as a King; for because the Father loveth the Son, he hath given all things into his hand, John iii. 35.—v. 20. Being a Son, he is Heir of all things, and the Father having made the worlds by him, it is easy to infer thence, that by him also he governs them; for he is the eternal Wisdom and the eternal Word. If God hath said unto him, "Thou art my Son," it becomes each of us to say to him, "Thou art my Lord, my Sovereign." Further, to satisfy us that his kingdom is well-grounded upon his sonship, we are here told what his sonship is grounded on; This day have I begotten thee; which refers both to his eternal generation itself, for it is quoted, (Heb. i. 5.) to prove that he is the Brightness of his Father's glory, and the express Image of his person, (v. 3.) and to the evidence and demonstration given of it by his resurrection from the dead, for to that also it is expressly applied by the apostle; (Acts xiii. 33.) He hath raised up Jesus again, as it is written, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. It was by the resurrection from the dead, that sign of the prophet Jonas, which was to be the most convincing of all, that he was declared to be the Son of God with power, Rom. i. 4. Christ is said to be the first-begotten and first-born from the dead. Rev. i. 5. Col. i. 18. Immediately after his resurrection, he entered upon the administration of his mediatorial kingdom; it was then that he said, All power is given unto me, and to that especially he had an eye when he taught his disciples to pray, Thy kingdom come.
2. A title by agreement, v. 8, 9. The agreement is, in short, this; The Son must undertake the office of an intercessor, and, upon that condition, he shall have the honour and power of a universal Monarch; see Isa. liii. 12. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, because he made intercession for the transgressors: he shall be a Priest upon his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both, Zech. vi. 13.
(1.) The Son must ask. This supposes his putting himself voluntarily into a state of inferiority to the Father, by taking upon him the human nature; for, as God, he was equal in power and glory with the Father, and had nothing to ask. It supposes the making of a satisfaction, by the virtue of which, the intercession must be made, and the paying of a price, on which this large demand was to be grounded; see John xvii. 4, 5. The Son, in asking the heathen for his inheritance, aims, not only at his own honour, but at their happiness in him; so that he intercedes for them, ever lives to do so, and is therefore able to save to the uttermost.
(2.) The Father will grant more than to the half of the kingdom, even to the kingdom itself. It is here promised him, [1.] That his government shall be universal; he shall have the heathen for his inheritance; not the Jews only, to whose nation the church had been long confined, but the Gentiles also; those in the uttermost parts of the earth, (as this nation of ours,) shall be his possession, and he shall have multitudes of willing loyal subjects among them. Baptized christians are the possession of the Lord Jesus; they are to him for a name and a praise, God the Father gives them to him, when by his Spirit and grace he works upon them to submit their necks to the yoke of the Lord Jesus. This is, in part, fulfilled; a great part of the Gentile world received the gospel, when it was first preached, and Christ's throne was set up there where Satan's seat had long been. But it is to be yet further accomplished, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of his Christ, Rev. xi. 15. Who shall live when God doeth this! [2.] That it shall be victorious; Thou shalt break them, those of them that oppose thy kingdom, with a rod of iron, v. 9. This was, in part, fulfilled, when the nation of the Jews, those that persisted in unbelief and enmity to Christ's gospel, were destroyed by the Roman power, which was represented, (Dan. ii. 40.) by feet of iron, as here by a rod of iron. It had a further accomplishment in the destruction of the Pagan powers, when the christian religion came to be established; but it will not be completely fulfilled, till all opposing rule, principality and power, shall be finally put down, 1 Cor. xv. 24. See cx. 5, 6. Observe, How powerful Christ is, and how weak the enemies of his kingdom are before him; he has a rod of iron wherewith to crush them that will not submit to his golden sceptre; they are but like a potter's vessel before him, suddenly, easily, and irreparably, dashed in pieces by him; see Rev. ii. 27. "Thou shalt do it; thou shalt have leave to do it." Nations shall be ruined, rather than the gospel-church shall not be built and established; I have loved thee, therefore will I give men for thee, Isa. xliii, 4. "Thou shalt have power to do it; none shall be able to stand before thee, thou shalt do it effectually." They that will not bow, shall break.
In singing this, and praying it over, we must give glory to Christ as the eternal Son of God, and our rightful Lord, and must take comfort from this promise, and plead it with God, that the kingdom of Christ shall be enlarged and established, and shall triumph over all opposition.
10. Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
We have here the practical application of this gospel doctrine, concerning the kingdom of the Messiah, by way of exhortation to the kings and judges of the earth. They hear that it is in vain to oppose Christ's government; let them therefore be so wise for themselves, as to submit to it. He that has power to destroy them, shows that he has no pleasure in their destruction, for he puts them into a way to make themselves happy, v. 10. Those that would be wise, must be instructed; and those are truly wise, that receive instruction from the word of God. Kings and judges stand upon a level with common persons before God; and it is as necessary for them to be religious as for any others. They that give law and judgment to others, must receive it from Christ; and it will be their wisdom. What is said to them, is said to all, and is required of every one of us; only it is directed to kings and judges, because of the influence which their example will have upon their inferiors, and because they were men of rank and power, that opposed the setting up of Christ's kingdom, v. 2. We are exhorted,
I. To reverence God, and to stand in awe of him, v. 11. This is the great duty of natural religion. God is great, and infinitely above us, just and holy, and provoked against us, and therefore we ought to fear him and tremble before him; yet he is our Lord and Master, and we are bound to serve him, our Friend and Benefactor, and we have reason to rejoice in him; and these are very well consistent with each other, for, 1. We must serve God in all ordinances of worship, and all instances of a godly conversation, but with a holy fear, a jealousy over ourselves, and a reverence of him. Even kings themselves, whom others serve and fear, must serve and fear God; there is the same infinite distance between them and God, that there is between the meanest of their subjects and him. 2. We must rejoice in God; in subordination to him, we may rejoice in other things, but still with a holy trembling, as those that know what a glorious and jealous God he is, whose eye is always upon us; our salvation must be wrought out with fear and trembling, Phil. ii. 12. We ought to rejoice in the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, but rejoice with trembling, with a holy awe of him, a holy fear for ourselves, lest we come short, and a tender concern for the many precious souls to whom his gospel and kingdom are a savour of death unto death. Whatever we rejoice in, in this world, it must always be with trembling, lest we grow vain in our joy, and be puffed up with the things we rejoice in, and because of the uncertainty of them, and the damp which by a thousand accidents may soon be cast upon our joy. To rejoice with trembling, is to rejoice as though we rejoice not, 1 Cor. vii. 30.
II. To welcome Jesus Christ, and to submit to him, v. 12. This is the great duty of the christian religion; it is that which is required of all, even kings and judges, and it is our wisdom and interest to do it. Observe here,
1. The command given for this purpose; Kiss the Son. Christ is called the Son, because so he was declared, (v. 7.) Thou art my Son. He is the Son of God by eternal generation, and, upon that account, he is to be adored by us. He is the Son of man, the Mediator, (John v. 27.) and, upon that account, to be received and submitted to; he is called the Son, to include both, as God is often called emphatically the Father, because he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in him our Father, and we must have an eye to him under both considerations. Our duty to Christ is here expressed figuratively, Kiss the Son: not with a betraying kiss, as Judas kissed him, and as all hypocrites, who pretend to honour him, but really affront him; but with a believing kiss. (1.) With a kiss of agreement and reconciliation; Kiss, and be friends, as Jacob and Esau; let the quarrel between us and God terminate, let the acts of hostility cease, and let us be at peace with God in Christ, who is our Peace. (2.) With a kiss of adoration and religious worship; they that worshipped idols, kissed them, 1 Kings xix. 18. Hos. xiii. 2. Let us study how to do honour to the Lord Jesus, and to give unto him the glory due unto his name. He is thy Lord, and worship thou him, xlv. 11. We must worship the Lamb, as well as him that sits on the throne. Rev. v. 9··13. (3.) With a kiss of affection and sincere love; "Kiss the Son; enter into a covenant of friendship with him, and let him be very dear and precious to you; love him above all, love him in sincerity, love him much, as she did, to whom much was forgiven, and, in token of it, kissed his feet," Luke vii. 38. (4.) With a kiss of allegiance and loyalty, as Samuel kissed Saul, 1 Sam. x. 1. "Swear fealty and homage to him, submit to his government, take his yoke upon you, and give up yourselves to be governed by his laws, disposed of by his providence, and entirely devoted to his interest."
2. The reasons to enforce this command; they are taken from our own interest, which God, in his gospel, shows a concern for. Consider,
(1.) The certain ruin we run upon, if we refuse and reject Christ; "Kiss the Son; for it is at your peril if you do not." [1.] "It will be a great provocation to him; do it, lest he be angry." The Father is angry already, the Son is the Mediator that undertakes to make peace; if we slight him, the Father's wrath abides upon us, (John iii. 36.) and not only so, but there is an addition of the Son's wrath too, to whom nothing is more displeasing than to have the offers of his grace slighted, and the designs of it frustrated. The Son can be angry, though a Lamb; he is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the wrath of this King, this King of kings, will be as the roaring of a lion, and will drive even mighty men and chief captains to seek in vain for shelter in rocks and mountains, Rev. vi. 16. If the Son be angry, who shall intercede for us? There remains no more sacrifice, no other name, by which we can be saved. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. [2.] It will be utter destruction to yourselves; lest ye perish from the way, or in the way, so some. "In the way of your sins, and from the way of your vain hopes; lest your way perish," (as i. 6.) "lest you prove to have missed the way to happiness. Christ is the way; take heed lest ye be cut off from him as your way to God." It intimates that they were, or, at least, thought themselves, in the way; but, by neglecting Christ, they perished from it, which aggravates their ruin, that they go to hell from the way to heaven; are not far from the kingdom of God, and yet never arrive there.
(2.) The happiness we are sure of, if we yield ourselves to Christ. When his wrath is kindled, though but a little, the least spark of that fire is enough to make the proudest sinner miserable, if it fasten upon his conscience; for it will burn to the lowest hell: one would think it should therefore follow, "When his wrath is kindled, woe be to those that despise him;" but the Psalmist startles at the thought, and blesses those that escape such a doom. They that trust in him, and so kiss him, are truly happy; but they will especially appear to be so, when the wrath of Christ is kindled against others. Blessed will they be in the day of wrath, who, by trusting in Christ, have made him their Refuge and Patron; when the hearts of others fail them for fear, they shall lift up their heads with joy; and then those who now despise Christ and his followers, will be forced to say to their own greater confusion, "Now we see that blessed are all they, and they only, that trust in him."
In singing this, and praying it over, we should have our hearts not only filled with a holy awe of God, but borne up with a cheerful confidence in Christ, in whose mediation we may comfort and encourage ourselves and one another; We are the circumcision, that rejoice in Christ Jesus.
As the foregoing psalm, in the type of David in preferment, showed us the royal dignity of the Redeemer; so this, by the example of David in distress, shows us the peace and holy security of the redeemed: how safe they really are, and think themselves to be, under the divine protection. David, being now driven out from his palace, from the royal city, from the holy city, by his rebellious son Absalom, I. Complains to God of his enemies, v. 1, 2. II. Confides in God, and encourages himself in him as his God, notwithstanding, v. 3. III. Recollects the satisfaction he had in the gracious answers God gave to his prayers, and his experience of his goodness to him, v. 4, 5. IV. Triumphs over his fears, (v. 6.) and over his enemies, whom he prays against, v. 7. V. Gives God the glory, and takes to himself the comfort, of the divine blessing and salvation which are sure to all the people of God, v. 8. Those speak best of the truths of God, who speak experimentally; so David here speaks of the power and goodness of God, and of the safety and tranquillity of the godly.
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
1. LORD, how are they increased that trouble me? many are they that rise up against me. 2. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. 3. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of my head.
The title of this psalm and many others, is as a key hung ready at the door, to open it, and let us into the entertainments of it; when we know upon what occasion a psalm was penned, we know the better how to expound it. This was composed, or, at least, the substance of it was meditated and digested in David's thoughts, and offered up to God, when he fled from Absalom his son, who formed a conspiracy against him, to take away, not his crown only, but his life; we have the story, 2 Sam. xv. &c. 1. David was now in great grief; when, in his flight, he went up the mount of olives, he wept greatly, with his head covered, and marching bare-foot; yet then he composed this comfortable psalm. He wept and prayed, wept and sung, wept and believed; this was sowing in tears. Is any afflicted? Let him pray; nay, let him sing psalms, let him sing this psalm. Is any afflicted with undutiful disobedient children? David was; and yet that did not hinder his joy in God, nor put him out of tune for holy songs. 2. He was now in great danger, the plot against him was laid deep, the party that sought his ruin was very formidable, and his own son at the head of them, so that his affairs seemed to be at the last extremity; yet then he kept hold of his interest in God, and improved that. Perils and frights should drive us to God, not drive us from him. 3. He had now a great deal of provocation given him by those from whom he had reason to expect better things; from his son, whom he had been indulgent of; from his subjects, whom he had been so great a blessing to; this he could not but resent, and it was enough to break in upon any man's temper; yet he was so far from any indecent expressions of passion and indignation, that he had calmness enough for those acts of devotion, which require the greatest fixedness and freedom of thought. The sedateness of his mind was evinced by the Spirit's coming upon him; for the Spirit chooses to move upon the still waters. Let no unkindness, no not of a child or a friend, ever be laid so much to heart as to disfit us for communion with God. 4. He was now suffering for his sin in the matter of Uriah; this was the evil which, for that sin, God threatened to raise up against him out of his own house; (2 Sam. xii. 11.) which, no doubt, he observed, and took occasion thence to renew his repentance for it. Yet he did not therefore cast away his confidence in the divine power and goodness, nor despair of succour. Even our sorrow for sin must not hinder either our joy in God, or our hope in God. 5. He seemed cowardly in fleeing from Absalom, and quitting his royal city, before he had had one struggle for it; and yet, by this psalm, it appears that he was full of true courage arising from his faith in God. True christian fortitude consists more in a gracious security and serenity of mind, in patient bearing, and patient waiting, than in daring enterprises with sword in hand.
In these three verses, he applies himself to God. Whither else should we go but to him, when any thing grieves us or frightens us? David was now at a distance from his own closet, and from the courts of God's house, where he used to pray; and yet he could find a way open heaven-ward. Wherever we are, we may have access to God, and may draw nigh to him, whithersoever we are driven. David, in his flight, attends his God,
I. With a representation of his distress, v. 1, 2. He looks round, and takes, as it were, a view of his enemies' camp, or receives information of their designs against him, which he brings to God, not to his own council-board. Two things he complains of, concerning his enemies.
1. That they were very many; Lord, how are they increased! Beyond what they were at first, and beyond whatever he thought they would have been. Absalom's faction, like a snow-ball, strangely gathered in its motion. He speaks of it as one amazed; and well he might, that a people he had so many ways obliged, should almost generally rebel against him, and choose for their head such a foolish and giddy young man as Absalom was. How slippery and deceitful are the many! And how little fidelity and constancy is to be found among men! David had had the hearts of his subjects, as much as ever any king had, and yet now, of a sudden, he had lost them. As people must not trust too much to princes, (cxlvi. 3.) so princes must not build too much upon their interest in the people. Christ, the Son of David, had many enemies, when a great multitude came to seize him, when the crowd cried, Crucify him. Crucify him. How were they then increased, that troubled him! Even good people must not think it strange, if the stream be against them, and the powers that threaten them, glow more and more formidable.
2. That they were very malicious; they rose up against him, they aimed to trouble him; but that was not all, they said of his soul, There is no help for him in God. That is, (1.) they put a spiteful and invidious construction upon his troubles, as Job's friends did upon his; concluding that, because his servants and subjects forsook him thus, and did not help him, God had deserted him, and abandoned his cause, and he was therefore to be looked on, or rather to be looked off, as a hypocrite, and a wicked man. (2.) They blasphemously reflected upon God as unable to relieve him; "His danger is so great, that God himself cannot help him." It is strange, that so great unbelief should be found in any, especially in many, in Israel, as to think any party of men too strong for Omnipotence to deal with. (3.) They endeavoured to shake his confidence in God, and drive him to despair of relief from him. "They have said it to my soul;" so it may be read; compare xi. 1.—xlii. 10. This grieved him worst of all, that they had so bad an opinion of him, as to think it possible to take him off from that foundation. The mere temptation was a buffeting to him, a thorn in his flesh, nay, a sword in his bones. Note, A child of God startles at the very thought of despairing of help in God; you cannot vex him with any thing so much, as if you offer to persuade him, There is no help for him in God. David comes to God, and tells him what his enemies said of him, as Hezekiah spread Rabshakeh's blasphemous letter before the Lord. "They say, There is no help for me in thee; but, Lord, if it be so, I am undone. They say to my soul, There is no salvation" (for so the word is)" "for him in God; but, Lord, do thou say unto my soul, I am thy salvation, (xxxv. 3.) and that shall satisfy me, and, in due time, silence them." To this complaint he adds Selah, which occurs about 70 times in the book of psalms. Some refer it to the music with which, in David's time, the psalms were sung; others to the sense, and that it is a note commanding a solemn pause. Selah, Mark that, or, "Stop there, and consider a little." As here, they say, There is no help for him in God, Selah. "Take time for such a thought as this, Get thee behind me, Satan; The Lord rebuke thee! Away with such a vile suggestion!"
II. With a profession of his dependence upon God, v. 3. An active believer, the more he is beaten off from God, either by the rebukes of Providence, or the reproaches of enemies, the faster hold he will take of him, and the closer will he cleave to him; so David here, when his enemies said, There is no help for him in God, cries out with so much the more assurance, "But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; let them say what they will, I am sure thou wilt never desert me, and I am resolved, I will never distrust thee." See what God is to his people, what he will be, what they have found him, what David found in him. 1. Safety. "Thou art a Shield for me, a Shield about me," so some, "to secure me on all sides, since my enemies surrounded me." Not only my Shield, (Gen. xv. 1.) which denotes an interest in the divine protection; but a shield for me, which denotes the present benefit and advantage of that protection. 2. Honour; Thou art my Glory. Those whom God owns for his, are not only safe and easy, but really look great, and have true honour put upon them, far above that which the great ones of the earth are proud of. David was now in disgrace, the crown was fallen from his head; but he will not think the worse of himself, while he has God for his Glory, Isa. lx. 19. "Thou art my Glory; thy glory I reckon mine;" (so some;) "this is what I aim at, and am ambitious of, whatever my lot is, and whatever becomes of my honour—that I may be to my God for a name and a praise." 3. Joy and deliverance; "Thou art the lifter up of my head; thou wilt lift up my head out of my troubles, and restore me to my dignity again, in due time; however, thou wilt lift up my head under my troubles, so that I shall not droop nor be discouraged, nor shall my spirits fail." If, in the worst of times, God's people can lift up their heads with joy, knowing that all shall work for good to them, they will own it is God that is the Lifter up of their head, that gives them both cause to rejoice, and hearts to rejoice.
In singing this, and praying it over, we should possess ourselves with an apprehension of the danger we are in from the multitude and malice of our spiritual enemies, who seek the ruin of our souls by driving us from God, and we should concern ourselves in the distresses and dangers of the church of God, which is every where spoken against, every where fought against; but, in reference to both, we should encourage ourselves in our God who owns and protects, and will, in due time, crown his own interest both in the world, and in the hearts of his people.
4. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah. 5. I laid me down and slept; I awaked: for the Lord sustained me. 6. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. 7. Arise, O Lord: save me, O my God; for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek-bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. 8. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.
David, having stirred up himself by the irritations of his enemies to take hold on God as his God, and so gained comfort, in looking upward, when, if he looked round about him, nothing appeared but what was discouraging, here looks back with pleasing reflections upon the benefit he had derived from trusting in God, and looks forward with pleasing expectations of a very bright and happy issue to which the dark dispensation he was now under would shortly be brought.
I. See with what comfort he looks back upon the communion he had had with God, and the communications of his favour to him, either in some former troubles he had been in, and, through God's goodness, got through, or, in this, hitherto. David had been exercised with many difficulties, often oppressed and brought very low; but still he had found God all-sufficient.
He now remembered, with pleasure,
1. That his troubles had always brought him to his knees, and that, in all his difficulties and dangers, he had been enabled to acknowledge God, and to lift up his heart to him, and his voice too; (this will be a comfortable reflection, when we are in trouble;) I cried unto God with my voice. Care and grief do us good and no hurt, when they set us a praying, and engage us, not only to speak to God, but to cry to him, as those that are in earnest. And though God understands the language of the heart, when the voice is not heard, (1 Sam. i. 13.) and values not the hypocritical prayers of those who cause their voice to be heard on high, (Isa. lviii. 4.) vox et præterea nihil—mere sound, yet when the earnestness of the voice comes from the fervency of the heart, it shall be taken notice of, in the account, that we cried unto God with our voice.
2. That he had always found God ready to answer his prayers; He heard me out of his holy hill, from heaven, the high and holy place; from the ark on mount Zion, whence he used to give answers to those that sought to him. David had ordered Zadok to carry back the ark into the city, when he was flying from Absalom, (2 Sam. xv. 25.) knowing that God was not tied, no, not to the ark of his presence, and that, notwithstanding the distance of place, he could by faith receive answers of peace from the holy hill; nothing can fix a gulf between the communications of God's grace towards us, and the operations of his grace in us; between his favour and our faith. The ark of the covenant was in mount Zion, and all the answers to our prayers come from the promises of that covenant; Christ was set King upon the holy hill of Zion; (ii. 6.) and it is through him whom the Father hears always, that our prayers are heard.
3. That he had always been very safe, and very easy, under the divine protection; (v. 5.) "I laid me down and slept, composed and quiet; and awaked refreshed, for the Lord sustained me;" (1.) This is applicable to the common mercies of every night, which we ought to give thanks for alone, and with our families, every morning. Many have not where to lay their head, (but wander in deserts,) or, if they have, dare not lie down, for fear of the enemy; but we have laid us down in peace. Many lie down, and cannot sleep, but are full of tossings to and fro till the dawnings of the day, through pain of body, or anguish of mind, or the continual alarms of fear in the night; but we lie down, and sleep in safety, though incapable of doing any thing then for our own preservation. Many lie down, and sleep, and never wake again, they sleep the sleep of death, as the first-born of the Egyptians; but we lie down, and sleep, and awake again to the light and comfort of another day; and whence is it, but because the Lord has sustained us with sleep as with food? We have been safe under his protection, and easy in the arms of his good providence. (2.) It seems here to be meant of the wonderful quietness and calmness of David's spirit, in the midst of his dangers. Having by prayer committed himself and his cause to God, and being sure of his protection, his heart was fixed, and he was easy. The undutifulness of his son, the disloyalty of his subjects, the treachery of many of his friends, the hazard of his person, the fatigues of his march, and the uncertainty of the event, never deprived him of an hour's sleep, nor gave any disturbance to his repose; for the Lord, by his grace and the consolations of his Spirit, powerfully sustained him, and made him easy. It is a great mercy, when we are in trouble, to have our minds stayed upon God, so as never either to eat or sleep with trembling and astonishment. (3.) Some of the ancients apply it to the resurrection of Christ; in his sufferings, he offered up strong cries, and was heard; and therefore, though he laid him down, and slept the sleep of death, yet he awaked the third day, for the Lord sustained him, that he should not see corruption.
4. That God had often broken the power, and restrained the malice, of his enemies; had smitten them upon the cheek-bone, (v. 7.) had silenced them and spoiled their speaking, blemished them and put them to shame, smitten them on the cheek reproachfully; had disabled them to do the mischief they intended; for he had broken their teeth. Saul and the Philistines, who were sometimes ready to swallow him up, could not effect what they designed. The teeth that are gnashed or sharpened against God's people, shall be broken. When, at any time, the power of the church's enemies seems threatening, it is good to remember how often God has broken it; and we are sure that his arm is not shortened. He can stop their mouths, and tie their hands.
II. See with what confidence he looks forward to the dangers he had yet in prospect. Having put himself under God's protection, and often found the benefit of it,
1. His fears were all stilled and silenced, v. 6. With what a holy bravery does he bid defiance to the impotent menaces and attempts of his enemies! "I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that either in a foreign invasion, or an intestine rebellion, set themselves, encamp, against me round about." No man seemed less safe; (his enemies are numerous, ten thousands; they are spiteful and resolute "They have set themselves against me; nay, they have prevailed far, and seem to have gained their point; for they are against me round about on every side, thousands against one;") and yet no man was more secure; "I will not be afraid, for all this; they cannot hurt me, and therefore they shall not frighten me; whatever prudent methods I take for my own preservation, I will not disquiet myself, distrust my God, nor doubt of a good issue at last." When David, in his flight from Absalom, bade Zadok carry back the ark, he spake doubtfully of the issue of his present troubles, and concluded, like an humble penitent, Here I am, let him do to me what seemeth him good, 2 Sam. xv. 26. But now, like a strong believer, he speaks confidently, and has no fear concerning the event. Note, A cheerful resignation to God is the way to obtain a cheerful satisfaction and confidence in God.
2. His prayers were quickened and encouraged, v. 7. He believed God was his Saviour, and yet prays; nay, he therefore prays, Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God. Promises of salvation do not supersede, but engage, our petitions for it. He will for this be inquired of.
3. His faith became triumphant. He began the psalm with complaints of the strength and malice of his enemies; but concludes it with exultation in the power and grace of his God, and now sees more with him than against him, v. 8. Two great truths he here builds his confidence upon, and fetches comfort from. (1.) That salvation belongeth unto the Lord; he has power to save, be the danger ever so great; it is his prerogative to save, when all other helps and succours fail; it is his pleasure, it is his property, it is his promise to those that are his, whose salvation is not of themselves, but of the Lord. Therefore all that have the Lord for their God, according to the tenor of the new covenant, are sure of salvation; for he that is their God, is the God of salvation. (2.) That his blessing is upon his people; he not only has power to save them, but he has assured them of his kind and gracious intentions toward them. He has, in his word, pronounced a blessing upon his people; and we are bound to believe that that blessing does accordingly rest upon them, though there are not the visible effects of it. Hence we may conclude, that God's people, though they may lie under the reproaches and censures of men, are surely blessed of him, who blesses indeed, and therefore can command a blessing.
In singing this, and praying it over, we must own the satisfaction we have had in depending upon God, and committing ourselves to him, and encourage ourselves, and one another, to continue still hoping, and quietly waiting for, the salvation of the Lord.
David was a preacher, a royal preacher, as well as Solomon; many of his psalms are doctrinal and practical as well as devotional; the greatest part of this psalm is so, in which Wisdom cries to men, to the sons of men, (as Prov. viii. 4, 5.) to receive instruction. The title does not tell us, as that of the former did, that it was penned on any particular occasion, nor are we to think that all the psalms were occasional, though some were; but that many of them were designed, in general, for the instruction of the people of God, who attended in the courts of his house, the assisting of their devotions, and the directing of their conversations: such a one I take this psalm to be. Let us not make the prophecy of scripture to be of more private interpretation than needs must, 2 Pet. i. 20. Here, I. David begins with a short prayer; (v. 1.) and that prayer preaches. II. He directs his speech to the children of men, and, 1. In God's name, reproves them for the dishonour they do to God, and the damage they do to their own souls, v. 2. 2. He sets before them the happiness of godly people, for their encouragement to be religious, v. 3. 3. He calls upon them to consider their ways, v. 4. III. He exhorts them to serve God, and trust to him, v. 5. IV. He gives an account of his own experiences of the grace of God working in him, 1. Enabling him to choose God's favour for his felicity, v. 6. 2. Filling his heart with joy therein, v. 7. 3. Quieting his spirit in the assurance of the divine protection he was under, night and day, v. 8.
To the chief musician on Neginoth. A psalm of David.
1. HEAR, me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. 2. O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. 3. But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him. 4. Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. 5. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness; and put your trust in the Lord.
The title of the psalm acquaints us, that David, having penned it by divine inspiration for the use of the church, delivered it to the chief musician, or master of the song, who (according to the divine appointment of psalmody made in his time, which he was chiefly instrumental in the establishment of) presided in that service. We have a particular account of the constitution, the modelling of the several classes of singers, each with a chief, and the share each bore in the work, 1 Chron. xxv. Some prophesied according to the order of the king, v. 2. Others prophesied with the harp, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, v. 3. Of others, it is said, that they were to lift up the horn, v. 5. But of them all, that they were for song in the house of the Lord, (v. 6.) and were instructed in the songs of the Lord, v. 7. This psalm was committed to one of the chiefs, to be sung on Neginoth—Stringed instruments, (Hab. iii. 19.) which were played on with the hand; with music of that kind the choristers were to sing this psalm: and it should seem that then they only sung, not the people; but the New Testament appoints all Christians to sing, (Eph. v. 19. Col. iii. 16.) from whom it is expected that they do it decently, not artfully; and therefore there is not now so much occasion for musical instruments as there was then; the melody is to be made in the heart.
In these verses,
I. David addresses himself to God, v. 1. Whether the sons of men, to whom he is about to speak, will hear, or whether they will forbear, he hopes and prays that God will give him a gracious audience, and an answer of peace; "Hear me when I call, and accept my adorations, grant my petitions, and judge upon my appeals; have mercy upon me, and hear me." All the notice God is pleased to take of our prayers, and all the returns he is pleased to make to them, must be ascribed, not to our merit, but purely to his mercy. "Hear me for thy mercy-sake," is our best plea. Two things David here pleads further, 1. "Thou art the God of my righteousness; not only a righteous God thyself, but the Author of my righteous dispositions, who hast by thy grace wrought that good that is in me, hast made me a righteous man; therefore hear me, and so attest thine own work in me; thou art also the Patron of my righteous cause, the Protector of my wronged innocency, to whom I commit my way, and whom I trust to bring forth my righteousness as the light." When men condemn us unjustly, this is our comfort, It is God that justifies; he is the God of a believer's righteousness. 2. "Thou hast formerly enlarged me when I was in distress, enlarged my heart in holy joy and comfort under my distresses, enlarged my condition by bringing me out of my distresses; therefore now, Lord, have mercy upon me, and hear me." The experience we have had of God's goodness to us in enlarging us when we have been in distress, is not only a great encouragement to our faith and hope for the future, but a good plea with God in prayer; "Thou hast; wilt thou not? For thou art God, and changest not; thy work is perfect."
II. He addresses himself to the children of men, for the conviction and conversion of those that are yet strangers to God, and that will not have the Messiah, the Son of David, to reign over them.
1. He endeavours to convince them of the folly of their impiety; (v. 2.) "O ye sons of men," (of great men, so some; men of high degree, understanding it of the partisans of Saul or Absalom,) "how long will you oppose me and my government, and continue disaffected to it, under the influence of the false and groundless suggestions of those that wish evil to me?" Or, it may be taken more generally; God, by the psalmist, here reasons with sinners to bring them to repentance. "You that go on in the neglect of God and his worship, and in contempt of the kingdom of Christ and his government, consider what you do;" (1.) "You debase yourselves, for you are sons of men;" (the word signifies man as a noble creature;) "consider the dignity of your nature, and the excellency of those powers of reason with which you are endued, and do not act thus irrationally, and unbecoming yourselves." Let the sons of men consider and show themselves men. (2.) "You dishonour your Maker, and turn his glory into shame." They may well be taken as God's own words, charging sinners with the wrong they do him in his honour: or, if David's words, glory may be understood by God, whom he called his Glory, iii. 3. Idolaters are charged with changing the glory of God into shame, Rom. i. 23. All wilful sinners do so by disobeying the commands of his law, despising the offers of his grace, and giving that affection and service to the creature, which are due to God only. Those that profane God's holy name, that ridicule his word and ordinances, and, while they profess to know him, in works deny him, do what in them lies to turn his glory into shame. (3.) "You put a cheat upon yourselves, you love vanity, and seek after leasing, or lying, or that which is a lie. You are yourselves vain and lying, and you love to be so." Or, "You set your hearts upon that which will prove, at last, but vanity and a lie:" they that love the world, and seek the things that are beneath, love vanity, and seek lies; as they also do that please themselves with the delights of sense, and portion themselves with the wealth of this world; for these will deceive them, and so ruin them. "How long will you do this? Will you never be wise for yourselves, never consider your duty and interest? When shall it once be?" Jer. xiii. 27. The God of heaven thinks the time long that sinners persist in dishonouring him, and in deceiving and ruining themselves.
2. He shows them the peculiar favour which God has for good people, the special protection they are under, and the singular privileges to which they are entitled, v. 3. This comes in here, (1.) As a reason why they should not oppose or persecute him that is godly, or think to run him down. It is at their peril, if they offend one of these little ones, whom God has set apart for himself, Matth. xviii. 6. God reckons that those who touch them touch the apple of his eye; and he will make their persecutors to know it sooner or later. They have an interest in heaven, God will hear them, and therefore let none dare to do them any injury, for God will hear their cry, and plead their cause, Exod. xxii. 23. It is generally supposed that David speaks of his own' designation to the throne; he is the godly man, whom the Lord has set apart for that honour, and who does not usurp it, or assume it to himself; "The opposition, therefore, you give to him and to his advancement, is very criminal, for therein you fight against God, and it will be vain and ineffectual." God has, in like manner, set apart the Lord Jesus for himself, that Merciful One; and those that attempt to hinder his advancement will certainly be baffled, for the Father hears him always. Or, (2.) As a reason why they should themselves be good, and walk no longer in the counsel of the ungodly; "You have hitherto sought vanity; be truly religious, and you will be truly happy, here and for ever; for," [1.] "God will secure to himself his interest in you." The Lord has set apart him that is godly, every particular godly man, for himself, in his eternal choice, in his effectual calling, in the special disposals of his providence, and operations of his grace; they are purified unto him a peculiar people. Godly men are God's separated, sealed, ones; he knows them that are his, has set his image and superscription upon them; he distinguishes them with uncommon favours; They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels. Know this; let godly people know it, and let them never alienate themselves from him to whom they are thus appropriated; let wicked people know it, and take heed how they hurt those whom God protects. [2.] "God will secure to you an interest in himself;" this David speaks with application; The Lord will hear when I call unto him. We should think ourselves happy, if we had the ear of an earthly prince; and is it not worth while, upon any terms, especially such easy ones, to gain the ear of the King of kings? Let us know this, and forsake lying vanities for our own mercies.
3. He warns them against sin, and exhorts them both to frighten and to reason themselves out of it; (v. 4.) "Stand in awe and sin not;" (Be angry and sin not, so the LXX, and some think the apostle takes that exhortation from him, Eph. iv. 26.) "commune with your own hearts. Be converted; and, in order thereunto, consider and fear." Note, (1.) We must not sin, nor miss our way, and so miss our aim. (2.) One good remedy against sin is to stand in awe. "Be moved," so some, in opposition to carelessness and carnal security. "Always keep up a holy reverence of the glory and majesty of God, and a holy dread of his wrath and curse, and dare not to provoke him." (3.) One good means of preventing sin, and preserving a holy awe, is, to be frequent and serious in communing with our own hearts; "Talk with your hearts; you have a great deal to say to them, they may be spoken with at any time, let it not be unsaid." A thinking man is in a fair way to be a wise and a good man. "Commune with your hearts; examine them by serious self-reflection, that you may acquaint yourselves with them, and amend what is amiss in them; employ them in solemn pious meditations, let your thoughts fasten upon that which is good, and keep close to it. Consider your ways, and observe the directions here given, in order to the doing of this work well and to good purpose." [1.] "Choose a solitary time; do it when you lie awake upon your beds. Before you turn you, to go to sleep at night," (as some of the heathen moralists have directed,) "examine your consciences with respect to what you have done that day, particularly what you have done amiss, that you may repent of it. When you awake in the night, meditate upon God, and the things that belong to your peace." David himself practised what he here counsels others to do; (lxiii. 6.) I remember thee on my bed; upon a sick-bed particularly we should consider our ways, and commune with our own hearts about them. [2.] "Compose yourselves into a serious frame; Be still. When you have asked conscience a question, be silent, and wait for an answer; even in unquiet times, keep your spirits calm and quiet."
4. He counsels them to make conscience of their duty; (v. 5.) Offer to God the sacrifice of righteousness. We must not only cease to do evil, but learn to do well. They that were disaffected to David and his government, would soon come to a better temper, and return to their allegiance, if they would but worship God aright: and those that know the concerns that lie between them and God, will be glad of the Mediator, the Son of David. It is required here from every one of us, (1.) That we serve him; "Offer sacrifices to him, your own selves first, and your best sacrifices." But they must be sacrifices of righteousness, good works; all the fruits of the reigning love of God and our neighbour, and all the instances of a religious conversation, which are better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices. "Let all your devotions come from an upright heart; let all your alms be sacrifices of righteousness." The sacrifices of the unrighteous, God will not accept, they are an abomination, Isa. i. 11, &c. (2.) That we confide in him. "First make conscience of offering the sacrifices of righteousness, and then you are welcome to put your trust in the Lord. Serve God without any diffidence of him, or any fear of losing by him. Honour him, by trusting in him only, and not in your wealth, or in an arm of flesh; trust in his providence, and lean not to your own understanding; trust in his grace, and go not about to establish your own righteousness or sufficiency."
In singing these verses, we must preach to ourselves the doctrine of the provoking nature of sin, the lying vanity of the world, and the unspeakable happiness of God's people; and we must press upon ourselves the duties of fearing God, conversing with our own hearts, and offering spiritual sacrifices; in praying over these verses, we must beg of God grace thus to think, and thus to do.
6. There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. 7. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. 8. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.
We have here,
I. The foolish wish of worldly people; There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Who will make us to see good? What good they meant, is intimated, v. 7. It was the increase of their corn and wine; all they desired was plenty of the wealth of this world, that they might enjoy abundance of the delights of sense. Thus far they are right, that they are desirous of good, and solicitous about it; but there are these things amiss in this wish, 1. They inquire, in general, "Who will make us happy?" but do not apply themselves to God, who alone can; and so they expose themselves to be ill-advised, and show they would rather be beholden to any than to God, for they would willingly live without him. 2. They inquire for good that may be seen, seeming good, sensible good; and they show no concern for the good things that are out of sight, and are the objects of faith only. The source of idolatry was a desire of gods that they might see, therefore they worshipped the sun; but, as we must be taught to worship an unseen God, so to seek an unseen good, 2 Cor. iv. 18. We look, with an eye of faith, further than we can see with an eye of sense. 3. They inquire for any good, not for the chief good; all they want is outward good, present good, partial good, good meat, good drink, a good trade, and a good estate; and what are all these worth, without a good God, and a good heart? Any good will serve the turn of most men, but a gracious soul will not be put off so. This way, this wish, of carnal worldlings is their folly, and yet many there be that join in it; their doom will be accordingly; "Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, the penny thou didst agree for."
II. The wise choice which godly people make. David, and the pious few that adhered to him, dissented from that wish, and joined in this prayer. Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. 1. He disagrees from the vote of the many; God had set him apart for himself by distinguishing favours, and therefore he sets himself apart by a distinguishing character. "They are for any good, for worldly good, but so am not I; I will not say as they say; any good will not serve my turn; the wealth of the world will never make a portion for my soul, and therefore I cannot take up with it." 2. He and his friends agree in their choice of God's favour as their felicity, that is it which, in their account, is better than life and all the comforts of life.
(1.) That is it which they most earnestly desire and seek after; this is the breathing of their souls, "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us; most are for other things, but we are for this." Good people, as they are distinguished by their practices, so they are by their prayers, not the length and language of them, but the faith and fervency of them; they whom God has set apart, have a prayer by themselves, which, though others may speak the words of it, they only offer up in sincerity; and this is a prayer which they all say Amen to; "Lord, let us have thy favour, and let us know that we have it, and we desire no more; that is enough to make us happy. Lord, be at peace with us, accept of us, manifest thyself to us, let us be satisfied of thy loving-kindness, and we will be satisfied with it." Observe, Though David speaks of himself only, in the 7th and 8th verses, he speaks, in this prayer, for others also, "upon us," as Christ taught us to pray, "Our Father." All the saints come to the throne of grace on the same errand, and in this they are one, they all desire God's favour as their chief good. We should beg it for others as well as for ourselves, for in God's favour there is enough for us all, and we shall have never the less for others sharing in what we have.
(2.) That is it in which, above any thing, they rejoice; (v. 7.) "Thou hast hereby often put gladness into my heart; not only supported and refreshed me, but filled me with joy unspeakable; and therefore that is it which I will still pursue, which I will seek after all the days of my life." When God puts grace in the heart, he puts gladness in the heart; nor is any joy comparable to that which gracious souls have in the communications of the divine favour, no, not the joy of harvest, of a plentiful harvest, when the corn and wine increase. This is gladness in the heart, inward, solid, substantial, joy. The mirth of worldly people is but a flash, a shadow; even in laughter their heart is sorrowful, Prov. xiv. 13. "Thou hast given gladness in my heart; so the word is. True joy is God's gift, not as the world giveth, John xiv. 27. The saints have no reason to envy carnal worldlings their mirth and joy, but should pity them rather, for they may know better, and will not.
(3.) That is it which they entirely confide in, and in that confidence they are always easy, v. 8. He had laid him down, and slept, (iii. 5.) so he will still; "I will lay me down (having the assurance of thy favour) in peace, and with as much pleasure as those whose corn and wine increase, and who lie down as Boaz did in his threshing-floor, at the end of the heap of corn, to sleep there when his heart was merry; (Ruth iii. 7.) for thou only makest me to dwell in safety. Though I am alone, yet I am not alone, for God is with me; though I have no guards to attend me, the Lord alone is sufficient to protect me; he can do it himself when all other defences fail." If he have the light of God's countenance, [1.] He can enjoy himself. His soul returns to God, and reposes itself in him as its Rest, and so he lays him down, and sleeps in peace. He has what he would have, and is sure that nothing can come amiss to him. (2.) He fears no disturbance from his enemies, sleeps quiet, and is very secure, because God himself has undertaken to keep him safe. When he comes to sleep the sleep of death, and to lie down in the grave, to make his bed in the darkness, he will then, with good old Simeon, depart in peace, (Luke ii. 29.) being assured that God will receive his soul, to be safe with himself, and that his body also shall be made to dwell in safety in the grave. (3.) He commits all his affairs to God, and contentedly leaves the issue of them with him. It is said of the husbandman, that, having cast his seed into the ground, he sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed springs and grows up, he knows not how, Mark iv. 26, 27. So a good man, having, by faith and prayer, cast his care upon God, sleeps and rests night and day, and is very easy, leaving it to his God to perform all things for him, and prepared to welcome his holy will.
In singing these verses, and praying over them, let us, with a holy contempt of the wealth and pleasure of this world, as insufficient to make us happy, earnestly seek the favour of God, and pleasingly solace ourselves in that favour; and, with a holy indifferency about the issue of all our worldly concerns, let us commit ourselves and all our affairs to the conduct and custody of the Divine Providence, and be satisfied that all shall be made to work for good to us, if we keep ourselves in the love of God.
This psalm is a prayer, a solemn address to God, at a time when the psalmist was brought into distress by the malice of his enemies; many such times passed over David, nay, there was scarcely any time of his life to which this psalm may not be accommodated; for in this he was a type of Christ, that he was continually beset with enemies; and his powerful and prevalent appeals to God, when he was so beset, pointed at Christ's dependence on his Father, and triumphs over the powers of darkness, in the midst of his sufferings. In this psalm, I. David settles a correspondence between his soul and God, promising to pray, and promising himself that God would certainly hear him, v. 1..3. II. He gives to God the glory, and takes to himself the comfort, of God's holiness, v. 4..6. III. He declares his resolution to keep close to the public worship of God, v. 7. IV. He prayed, 1. For himself, that God would guide him, v. 8. 2. Against his enemies, that God would destroy them, v. 9, 10. 3. For all the people of God, that God would give them joy, and keep them safe, v. 11, 12. And this is all of great use to direct us in prayer.
To the chief musician upon Nehiloth. A psalm of David.
1. GIVE ear to my words, O Lord; consider my meditation. 2. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. 3. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. 4. For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; neither shall evil dwell with thee. 5. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. 6. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.
The title of this psalm has nothing in it peculiar, but that it is said to be upon Nehiloth, a word no where else used. It is conjectured, (and it is but a conjecture,) that it signifies wind instruments, with which this psalm was sung, as Neginoth was supposed to signify the stringed-instruments.
In these verses, David had an eye to God,
I. As a prayer-hearing God; such he has always been, ever since men began to call upon the name of the Lord, and yet is still as ready to hear prayer as ever. Observe how David here styles him, O Lord; (v. 1, 3.) Jehovah, a self-existent, self-sufficient, Being, whom we are bound to adore, and, "my King and my God, (v. 2.) whom I have avouched for my God, to whom I have sworn allegiance, and under whose protection I have put myself as my King." We believe that the God we pray to is a King and a God, King of kings, and God of gods; but that is not enough, the most commanding encouraging principle of prayer, and the most powerful prevailing plea in prayer, is, to look upon him as our King and our God, whom we lie under peculiar obligations to, and whom we have peculiar expectations from. Now observe,
1. What David here prays for, which may encourage our faith and hopes, in all our addresses to God. If we pray fervently, and in faith, we have reason to hope, (1.) That God will take cognizance of our case, the representation we make of it, and the requests we make upon it; for so he prays here; Give ear to my words, O Lord. Though God is in heaven, he has an ear open to his people's prayers, and it is not heavy, that he cannot hear. Men, perhaps, will not, or cannot, hear us; our enemies are so haughty, that they will not, our friends at such a distance, that they cannot; but God, though high, though in heaven, can, and will. (2.) That he will take it into his wise and compassionate consideration, and will not slight it, or turn it off with a cursory answer; for so he prays, Consider my meditation. David's prayers were not his words only, but his meditations; as meditation is the best preparative for prayer, so prayer is the best issue of meditation. Meditation and prayer should go together, xix. 14. It is when we thus consider our prayers, and then only, that we may expect that God will consider them, and take that to his heart which comes from ours. (3.) That he will, in due time, return a gracious answer of peace: for so he prays, (v. 2.) Hearken to the voice of my cry. His prayer was a cry, it was the voice of his cry, which denotes fervency of affection, and importunity of expression; such effectual fervent prayers of a righteous man avail much, and do wonders.
2. What David here promises, as the condition on his part to be performed, fulfilled, and kept, that he might obtain this gracious acceptance; this may guide and govern us in our addresses to God, that we may present them aright, for we ask, and have not, if we ask amiss.
Four things David here promises, and so must we.
(1.) That he will pray, that he will make conscience of it, and make a business of it; unto thee will I pray. "Others live without prayer, but I will pray." Kings on their own thrones (so David was) must be beggars at God's throne. "Others pray to strange gods, and expect relief from them, but to thee, to thee only, will I pray." The assurances God has given us of his readiness to hear prayer, should confirm our resolution to live and die praying.
(2.) That he will pray in the morning; his praying voice shall be heard then, and then shall his prayer be directed, that shall be the date of his letters to heaven; "Morning, and evening, and at noon, will I pray, nay, seven times a day, will I praise thee;" but certainly, morning-prayer is especially our duty; we are the fittest for prayer, when we are in the most fresh, and lively, and composed, frame, got clear of the slumbers of the night, revived by them, and not yet filled with the business of the day. We have then most need of prayer, considering the dangers and temptations of the day to which we are exposed, and against which we are concerned, by faith and prayer, to fetch in fresh supplies of grace.
(3.) That he will have his eye single, and his heart intent, in the duty; I will direct my prayer, as a marksman directs his arrow to the white; with such a fixedness and steadiness of mind should we address ourselves to God. Or, as we direct a letter to a friend at such a place, so must we direct our prayers to God as our Father in heaven; and let us always send them by the Lord Jesus, the great Mediator, and then they will be sure not to miscarry. All our prayers must be directed to God; his honour and glory must be aimed at as our highest end, in all our prayers; let our first petition be, Hallowed Glorified, be thy name; and then we may be sure of the same gracious answer to it that was given to Christ himself, I have glorified it, and I will glorify it yet again.
(4.) That he will patiently wait for an answer of peace; "I will look up; will look after my prayers, and hear what God the Lord will speak, (lxxxv. 8. Hab. ii. 1.) that, if he grant what I asked, I may be thankful, if he deny, I may be patient, if he defer, I may continue to pray and wait, and may not faint." We must look up, or look out, as he that has shot an arrow looks to see how near it has come to the mark. We lose much of the comfort of our prayers, for want of observing the returns of them. Thus praying, thus waiting, as the lame man looked steadfastly on Peter and John, (Acts iii. 4.) we may expect that God will give ear to our words, and consider them, and to him we may refer ourselves, as David here, who does not pray, "Lord, do this, or the other, for me;" but, "Hearken to me, consider my case, and do in it as seemeth good unto thee."
II. As a sin-hating God, v. 4··6. David takes notice of this, 1. As a warning to himself, and all other praying people, to remember that, as the God with whom we have to do is gracious and merciful, so he is pure and holy; though he is ready to hear prayer, yet, if we regard iniquity in our heart, he will not hear our prayers, lxvi. 18. 2. As an encouragement to his prayers against his enemies; they were wicked men, and therefore enemies to God, and such as he had no pleasure in. See here,
(1.) The holiness of God's nature; when he says. Thou art not a God that has pleasure in wickedness, he means, "Thou art a God that hates it, as directly contrary to thine infinite purity and rectitude, and holy will." Though the workers of iniquity prosper, let none thence infer, that God has pleasure in wickedness, no not in that by which men pretend to honour him, as those do that hate their brethren, and cast them out, and say, Let the Lord be glorified. God has no pleasure in wickedness, though covered with a cloak of religion. Let those, therefore, who delight in sin, know that God has no delight in them; nor let any say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God is not the Author of sin, neither shall evil dwell with him; it shall not always be countenanced, and suffered to prosper. Dr. Hammond thinks this refers to that law of Moses, which would not permit strangers, who persisted in their idolatry, to dwell in the land of Israel.
(2.) The justice of his government; The foolish shall not stand in his sight, shall not be smiled upon by him, nor admitted to attend upon him, nor shall they be acquitted in the judgment of the great day. The workers of iniquity are very foolish. Sin is folly, and sinners are the greatest of all fools; not fools of God's making, those are to be pitied, he hates nothing that he has made, but fools of their own making, and those he hates. Wicked people hate God, justly therefore are they hated of him, and it will be their endless misery and ruin. "Those whom thou hatest, thou shalt destroy; particularly two sorts of sinners, who are here marked for destruction. [1.] Those that are fools, that speak leasing or lying, and that are deceitful. There is a particular emphasis laid on these sinners, (Rev. xxi. 8.) All liars, and (ch. xxii. 15.) Whosoever loves and makes a lie; nothing is more contrary than this, and therefore nothing more hateful, to the God of truth. [2.] Those that are cruel; Thou wilt abhor the bloody man; for inhumanity is no less contrary, no less hateful, to the God of mercy, whom mercy pleases. Liars and murderers are in a particular manner said to resemble the Devil, and to be his children, and therefore it may well be expected that God should abhor them. These were the characters of David's enemies; and such as these are still the enemies of Christ and his church, men perfectly lost to all virtue and honour; the worse they are, the surer we may be of their ruin in due time.
In singing these verses, and praying them over, we must engage and stir up ourselves to the duty of prayer, and encourage ourselves in it, because we shall not seek the Lord in vain; and must express our detestation of sin, and our awful expectation of that day of Christ's appearing, which will be the day of the perdition of ungodly men.
7. But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy; and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple. 8. Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness, because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face. 9. For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre, they flatter with their tongue. 10. Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels: cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee. 11. But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. 12. For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.
In these verses, David gives three characters; of himself, of his enemies, and of all the people of God; and subjoins a prayer to each of them.
I. He gives an account of himself, and prays for himself, v. 7, 8. 1. He is steadfastly resolved to keep close to God and to his worship. Sinners go away from God, and so make themselves odious to his holiness, and obnoxious to his justice; "But as for me, that shall not keep me from thee." God's holiness and justice are so far from being a terror to the upright in heart, to drive them from God, that they are rather by them invited to cleave to him. David resolves, (1.) To worship God, to pay his homage to him, and give unto God the glory due unto his name. (2.) To worship him publicly; "I will come into thy house, the courts of thy house, to worship there with other thy faithful worshippers." David was much in secret worship, prayed often alone, (v. 2, 3.) and yet was very constant and devout in his attendance on the sanctuary. The duties of the closet are designed to prepare us for, not excuse us from, public ordinances. (3.) To worship him reverently, and with a due sense of the infinite distance there is between God and man; "In thy fear will I worship, with a holy awe of God upon my spirit," Heb. xii. 28. God is greatly to be feared by all his worshippers. (4.) To take his encouragement, in worship, from God himself only. [1.] From his infinite mercy: it is in the multitude of God's mercy, (the inexhaustible treasures of mercy that are in God, and the innumerable proofs and instances of it which we receive from him,) that David confides, and not in any merit or righteousness of his own, in his approaches to God. The mercy of God should ever be the foundation both of our hopes, and of our joy, in every thing wherein we have to do with him. [2.] From the instituted medium of worship, which was then the temple, here called the temple of his holiness, as a type of Christ, the great and only Mediator, who sanctifies the service, as the temple sanctified the gold, and to whom we must have an eye in all our devotions, as they then had to the temple. 2. He earnestly prays that God, by his grace, would guide and preserve him always in the way of his duty; (v. 8.) Lead me in thy righteousness, because of mine enemies, Hebr. "because of those which observe me, which watch for my halting, and seek occasion against me." See here, (1.) The good use which David made of the malice of his enemies against him; the more curious they were in spying faults in him, that they might have whereof to accuse him, the more cautious he was to avoid sin and all appearances of it, and the more solicitous to be always found in the good way of God and duty. Thus, by wisdom and grace, good may come out of evil. (2.) The right course which David took for the baffling of those who sought occasion against him: he committed himself to a divine guidance, begged of God, both by his providence and by his grace, to direct him in the right way, and keep him from turning aside out of it, at any time, in any instance whatsoever, that the most critical and captious of his enemies, like Daniel's, might find no occasion against him. The way of our duty is here called God's way and his righteousness, because he prescribes to us by his just and holy laws, which if we sincerely set before us as our rule, we may in faith beg of God to direct us in all particular cases. How this prayer of David's was answered to him, see 1 Sam. xviii. 14, 15.
II. He gives an account of his enemies, and prays against them, v. 9, 10. 1. If his account of them be true, as, no doubt, it is, they have a very bad character; and if they had not been bad men indeed, they could not have been enemies to a man after God's own heart. He had spoken (v. 6.) of God's hating the bloody and deceitful man; "Now, Lord," says he, "that is the character of my enemies: they are deceitful, there is no trusting them, for there is no faithfulness in their mouth." They thought it was no sin to tell a deliberate lie, if it might but blemish David, and make him odious; "Lord, lead me," says he, (v. 8.) "for such as these, are the men I have to do with, against whose slanders innocency itself is no security. Do they speak fair? Do they talk of peace and friendship? They flatter with their tongues; it is designed to cover their malice, and to gain their point the more securely. Whatever they pretend of religion or friendship, two sacred things, they are true to neither, their inward part is wickedness itself, it is very wickedness. They are likewise bloody, for their throat is an open sepulchre, cruel as the grave, gaping to devour and to swallow up; insatiable as the grave, which never says, "It is enough," Prov. xxx. 15, 16. This is quoted, (Rom. iii. 13.) to show the general corruption of mankind, for they are all naturally prone to malice. Tit. iii. 3. The grave is opened for them all, and yet they are as open graves to one another. 2. If his prayer against them be heard, as, no doubt, it is, they are in a bad condition. As men are, and do, so they must expect to fare. He prays to God to destroy them, according to what he had said, (v. 6.) "Thou shalt destroy men of this character." So let them fall; and sinners would soon throw themselves into ruin, if they were let alone. The psalmist prays that God would cast them out of his protection and favour, out of the heritage of the Lord, out of the land of the living; and woe to those whom God casts out. They have by their sins deserved destruction; there is enough to justify God in their utter rejection; "Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions by which they have filled up the measure of their iniquity, and are become ripe for ruin." Persecuting God's servants, fills the measure as soon as any thing, 1 Thess. ii. 15, 16. Nay, they may be easily made to fall by their own counsels; that which they do, to secure themselves, and do mischief to others, by the over-ruling providence of God, may be made the means of their destruction, vii. 15.—ix. 15. He pleads, "They have rebelled against thee: had they been only mine enemies, I could safely have forgiven them; but they are rebels against God, his crown and dignity; they oppose his government, and will not repent, to give him glory, and therefore I plainly foresee their ruin." His prayer for their destruction comes not from a spirit of revenge, but from a spirit of prophecy, by which he foretold, That all who rebel against God will certainly be destroyed by their own counsels. If it be a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble his people, as we are told it is, (2 Thess. i. 6.) we pray it may be done, whenever we pray, Father, thy will be done.
III. He gives an account of the people of God, and prays for them, concluding with an assurance of their bliss, which he doubted not of his own interest in. Observe,
1. The description he gives of God's people. They are the righteous; (v. 12.) for they put their trust in God, are well assured of his power and all-sufficiency, venture their all upon his promise, and are confident of his protection in the way of their duty; and they love his name, are well-pleased with all that by which God has made himself known, and take delight in their acquaintance with him. This is true and pure religion, to live a life of complacency in God, and dependence on him.
2. His prayer for them; "Let them rejoice; let them have cause to rejoice, and hearts to rejoice; fill them with joy, with great joy and unspeakable; let them shout for joy, with constant joy and perpetual, let them ever shout for joy, with holy joy, and that which terminates in God; let them be joyful in thee, in thy favour, in thy salvation; not in any creature. Let them rejoice because thou coverest them, or overshadowest them, dwellest among them." Perhaps it is an allusion to the pillar of cloud and fire, which was to Israel a visible token of God's special presence with them, and the special protection they were under. Let us learn of David to pray, not for ourselves only, but for others; for all good people, for all that trust in God, and love his name, though not in every thing of our mind, or in our interest. Let all that are entitled to God's promises, have a share in our prayers; grace be with all that love Christ in sincerity. This is to concur with God.
3. His comfort concerning them, v. 12. Therefore he takes them into his prayers, because they are God's peculiar people; therefore he doubts not but his prayers shall be heard, and they shall always rejoice; for, (1.) They are happy in the assurance of God's blessing; Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; wilt command a blessing upon them. Thou hast in thy word pronounced them blessed, and therefore wilt make them truly so. Those whom thou blessest, they are blessed indeed." (2.) "They are safe under the protection of thy favour; with that thou wilt crown him," so some read it; "it is his honour, it will be to him a diadem of beauty, and make him truly great: with that thou wilt compass him, wilt surround him on every side as with a shield." A shield, in war, guards only one side but the favour of God is to the saints a defence on every side; like the hedge about Job, round about, so that, while they keep themselves under the divine protection, they are entirely safe, and ought to be entirely satisfied.
In singing these verses, and praying them over, we must by faith put ourselves under God's guidance and care, and then please ourselves with his mercy and grace, and with the prospect of God's triumphs, at last, over all his enemies, and his people's triumphs in him and in his salvation.
David was a weeping prophet as well as Jeremiah, and this psalm is one of his lamentations: either it was penned in a time, or, at least, calculated for a time, of great trouble, both outward and inward. Is any afflicted? Is any sick? Let him sing this psalm. The method of this psalm is very observable, and what we shall often meet with. He begins with doleful complaints, but ends with joyful praises; like Hannah, who went to prayer with a sorrowful spirit, but, when she had prayed, went her way, and her countenance was no more sad. Three things the psalmist is here complaining of; I. Sickness of body. II. Trouble of mind, arising from the sense of sin, the meritorious cause of pain and sickness. III. The insults of his enemies, upon occasion of both. Now here, 1. He pours out his complaints before God, deprecates his wrath, and begs earnestly for the return of his favour, v. 1..7. 2. He assures himself of an answer of peace, shortly, to his full satisfaction, v. 8..10. This psalm is like the book of Job.
To the chief musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith. A psalm of David.
1. O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. 2. Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed. 3. My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O Lord, how long? 4. Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: O save me for thy mercies' sake. 5. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? 6. I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim: I water my couch with my tears. 7. Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.
These verses speak the language of a heart truly humbled under humbling providences, of a broken and contrite spirit under great afflictions, sent on purpose to awaken conscience, and mortify corruption. Those heap up wrath, who cry not when God binds them; but those are getting ready for mercy, who, under God's rebukes, sow in tears, as David does here.
Let us observe here,
I. The representation he makes to God of his grievances; he pours out his complaint before him: whither else should a child go with his complaints, but to his father? 1. He complains of bodily pain and sickness; (v. 2.) My bones are vexed: his bones and his flesh, like Job's, were touched. Though David was a king, yet he was sick and pained; his imperial crown would not keep his head from aching. Great men are men, and subject to the common calamities of human life. Though David was a stout man, a man of war from his youth, yet that will not secure him from distempers, which will soon make even the strong men to bow themselves. Though David was a good man, yet neither will his goodness keep him in health; Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. Let this help to reconcile us to pain and sickness, that it has been the lot of some of the best saints, and that we are directed and encouraged, by their example, to show before God our trouble in that case, who is for the body, and takes cognizance of its ailments. 2. He complains of inward trouble; My soul is also sore vexed; and that is much more grievous than the vexation of the bones. The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, if that be in good plight; but, if that be wounded, the grievance is intolerable. David's sickness brought his sin to his remembrance, and he looked upon it as a token of God's displeasure against him; that was the vexation of his soul, that made him cry, I am weak, heal me. It is a sad thing for a man to have his bones and his soul vexed at the same time; but this has been sometimes the lot of God's own people; nay, and this completed this complicated trouble, that it was continued upon them a great while, which is here intimated in that expostulation, (v. 3.) Thou, O Lord, how long? To the living God we must, at such a time, apply ourselves, who is the only Physician both of body and mind, and not to the Assyrians, not to the god of Ekron.
II. The impression which his troubles made upon him. They lay very heavy; he groaned till he was weary, wept till he made his bed to swim, and watered his couch; (v. 6.) wept till he had almost wept his eyes out; (v. 7.) Mine eye is consumed because of grief. David had more courage and consideration than to mourn thus for any outward affliction; but, when sin sat heavy upon his conscience, and he was made to possess his iniquities, when his soul was wounded with the sense of God's wrath, and his withdrawings from him, then he takes on thus, and mourns in secret, and even his soul refuses to be comforted. This not only kept his eyes waking, but kept his eyes weeping. Note 1. It has often been the lot of the best men to be men of sorrows; our Lord Jesus himself was so: our way lies through a vale of tears, and we must accommodate ourselves to the temper of the climate. 2. It well becomes the greatest spirits to be tender and to relent, under the tokens of God's displeasure. David, who could face Goliath himself, and many another threatening enemy, with an undaunted bravery, yet melts into tears at the remembrance of sin, and under the apprehensions of divine wrath; and it is no diminution at all to his character. 3. True penitents weep in their retirements. The Pharisees disguised their faces, that they might appear unto men to mourn; but David mourns in the night upon the bed where he lay, communing with his own heart, and no eye was a witness to his grief, but the eye of Him who is all eye. Peter went out, covered his face, and wept. 4. Sorrow for sin ought to be great sorrow; so David's was; he wept so bitterly, so abundantly, that he watered his couch. 5. The triumphs of wicked men, in the sorrows of the saints, add very much to their grief. David's eye waxed old, because of his enemies, who rejoiced in his afflictions, and put bad constructions upon his tears. In this great sorrow, David was a type of Christ, who often wept, and who cried out. My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, Heb. v. 7.
III. The petitions which he offers up to God, in this sorrowful and distressed state. 1. That which he dreads as the greatest evil, is, the anger of God. This was the wormwood and the gall in the affliction and the misery; it was the infusion of this that made it indeed a bitter cup; and therefore he prays, (v. 1.) O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, though I have deserved it, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. He does not pray, "Lord, rebuke me not; Lord, chasten me not;" for, as many as God loves, he rebukes and chastens, as a father the son in whom he delights. He can bear the rebuke and chastening well enough, if God, at the same time, lift up the light of his countenance upon him, and by his Spirit make him to hear the joy and gladness of his loving-kindness; the affliction of his body will be tolerable, if he have but comfort in his soul. No matter though sickness make his bones ache, if God's wrath do not make his heart ache; therefore his prayer is, "Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath; let me not lie under the impressions of that, for that will sink me." Herein David was a type of Christ, whose sorest complaint, in his sufferings, was, of the trouble of his soul, and of the suspension of his Father's smiles. He never so much as whispered a complaint of the rage of his enemies, "Why do they crucify me?" or the unkindness of his friends, "Why do they desert me?" But he cried with a loud voice. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Let us thus deprecate the wrath of God more than any outward trouble whatsoever, and always take heed of treasuring up wrath against a day of affliction. 2. That which he desires as the greatest good, and which would be to him the restoration of all good, is, the favour and grace of God. He prays, (1.) That God would pity him, and look upon him with compassion; he thinks himself very miserable, and misery is the proper object of mercy. Hence he prays, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord; in wrath, remember mercy, and deal not with me in strict justice." (2.) That God would pardon his sins; for that is the proper act of mercy, and is often chiefly intended in that petition, Have mercy upon me. (3.) That God would put forth his power for his relief: Lord, heal me, (v. 2.) Save me, (v. 4.) speak the word, and I shall be whole, and all will be well." (4.) That he would be at peace with him; "Return, O Lord, receive me into thy favour again, and be reconciled to me. Thou hast seemed to depart from me, and neglect me, nay, to set thyself at a distance, as one angry; but now, Lord, return, and show thyself nigh to me." (5.) That he would especially preserve the inward man, and the interests of that, whatever becomes of the body; "O Lord, deliver my soul from sinning, from sinking, from perishing for ever." It is an unspeakable privilege, that we have a God to go to in our afflictions, and it is our duty to go to him, and thus to wrestle with him, and we shall not seek in vain.
IV. The pleas with which he enforces his petitions; not to move God, (he knows our cause, and the true merits of it, better than we can state it,) but to move himself. 1. He pleads his own misery, and that his misery had continued long; "I am weak, I am troubled, sore troubled; O Lord, how long shall I be so?" 2. He pleads God's mercy; thence we take some of our best encouragements in prayer; Save me, for thy mercies' sake. 3. He pleads God's glory; (v. 5.) "For in death there is no remembrance of thee. Lord, if thou deliver me and comfort me, I will not only give thee thanks for my deliverance, and stir up others to join with me in these thanksgivings, but I will spend the new life thou shalt intrust me with, in thy service, and to thy glory; and, all the remainder of my days, I will preserve a grateful remembrance of thy favours to me, and be quickened thereby in all instances of service to thee: but if I die, I shall be cut short of that opportunity of honouring thee, and doing good to others; for in the grave, who will give thee thanks?" Not but that separate souls live and act, and the souls of the faithful joyfully remember God, and give thanks to him. But, (1.) In the second death, (which, perhaps, David, being now troubled in soul under the wrath of God, had some dreadful apprehensions of,) there is no pleasing remembrance of God; devils and damned spirits blaspheme him, and do not praise him. "Lord, let me not lie always under this wrath, for that is Sheol, it is Hell itself, and lays me under an everlasting disability to praise thee." They that sincerely seek God's glory, and desire and delight to praise him, may pray, in faith, "Lord, send me not to that dreadful place, where there is no devout remembrance of thee, nor any thanks given to thee." (2.) Even the death of the body puts an end to our opportunity and capacity of glorifying God in this world, and serving the interests of his kingdom among men, by opposing the powers of darkness, and bringing many on this earth to know God, and devote themselves to him. Some have maintained, that the joys of the saints in heaven are more desirable, infinitely more so, than the comforts of saints on earth; yet the services of saints on earth, especially such eminent ones as David was, are more laudable, and redound more to the glory of the divine grace, than the services of the saints in heaven, who are not employed in maintaining the war against sin and Satan, nor in edifying the body of Christ. Courtiers in the royal presence are most happy, but soldiers in the field are more useful; and therefore we may, with good reason, pray, that, if it be the will of God, and he has any further work for us or our friends to do in this world, he will yet spare us, or them, to serve him. To depart and be with Christ, is most happy for the saints themselves; but for them to abide in the flesh, is more profitable for the church. This, David had an eye to, when he pleaded this, In the grave, who shall give thee thanks? xxx. 9.—lxxxviii. 10.—cxv. 17. Isa. xxxviii. 18. And this, Christ had an eye to, when he said, I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world.
We should sing these verses with a deep sense of the terrors of God's wrath, which we should therefore dread and deprecate above any thing; and with thankfulness, if this be not our condition, and compassion to those who are thus afflicted: if we be thus troubled, let it comfort us, that our case is not without precedent, nor, if we humble ourselves and pray, as David did, shall it be long without redress.
8. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity: for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping. 9. The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer. 10. Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore-vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.
What a sudden change is here for the better! He that was groaning, and weeping, and giving up all for gone, (v. 6, 7.) here looks, and speaks, very pleasantly. Having made his requests known to God, and lodged his case with him, he is very confident the issue will be good, and his sorrow turned into joy.
1. He distinguishes himself from the wicked and ungodly, and fortifies himself against their insults; (v. 8.) Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. When he was in the depth of his distress, (1.) He was afraid that God's wrath against him would give him his portion with the workers of iniquity; but now that this cloud of melancholy was blown over, he is assured that his soul shall not be gathered with sinners, for they are not his people: he began to suspect himself to be one of them, because of the heavy pressures of God's wrath upon him; but now that all his fears are silenced, he bids them depart, knowing that his lot is among the chosen. (2.) The workers of iniquity had teased him, and taunted him, and asked him, "Where was thy God?" triumphing in his despondency and despair; but now he had wherewith to answer them that reproached him, for God was about to return in mercy to him, had now comforted his spirit, and would shortly complete his deliverance. (3.) Perhaps they had tempted him to do as they did, to quit his religion, and betake himself for ease to the pleasures of sin. But now, "Depart from me, I will never lend an ear to your counsel; you would have had me to curse God and die, but I will bless him and live." This good use we should make of God's mercies to us, we should thereby have our resolution strengthened never to have any thing more to do with sin and sinners. David was a king, and he takes this occasion to renew his purpose of using his power for the suppression of sin, and the reformation of manners, lxxv. 4.—ci. 3. When God has done great things for us, that should put us upon studying what we shall do for him. Our Lord Jesus seems to borrow these words from the mouth of his father David, when, having all judgment committed to him, he shall say, Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity, (Luke xiii. 27.) and so teaches us to say now, cxix. 115.
2. He assures himself that God was, and would be, propitious to him, notwithstanding the present intimations of wrath which he was under. (1.) He is confident of a gracious answer to this prayer which he is now making. While he is yet speaking, he is aware that God hears, (as Isa. lxv. 24. Dan. ix. 20.) and therefore speaks of it as a thing done, and repeats it with an air of triumph, "The Lord hath heard," and again, "The Lord hath heard." By the workings of God's grace upon his heart, he knew his prayer was graciously accepted, and therefore did not doubt but it would, in due time, be effectually answered. His tears had a voice, a loud voice, in the ears of the God of mercy; The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping; silent tears are not speechless ones: his prayers were cries to God; "The Lord has heard the voice of my supplication, has put his Fiat—Let it be done, to my petitions, and so it will appear shortly." (2.) Thence he infers the like favourable audience of all his other prayers; "He has heard the voice of my supplication, and therefore he will receive my prayer; for he gives, and does not upbraid with former grants."
3. He either prays for the conversion, or predicts the destruction, of his enemies and persecutors, v. 10. (1.) It may very well be taken as a prayer for their conversion; "Let them all be ashamed of the opposition they have given me, and the censures they have passed upon me. Let them be (as all true penitents are) vexed at themselves for their own folly; let them return to a better temper and disposition of mind, and let them be ashamed of what they have done against me, and take shame to themselves." (2.) If they be not converted, it is a prediction of their confusion and ruin. They shall be ashamed and sore-vexed, (so it may be read,) and that justly; they rejoiced that David was vexed, (v. 2, 3.) and therefore, as usually, it returns upon themselves, they also shall be sore-vexed. They that will not give glory to God, shall have their faces filled with everlasting shame.
In singing this, and praying over it, we must give glory to God, as a God ready to hear prayer, must own his goodness to us in hearing our prayers, and must encourage ourselves to wait upon him, and to trust in him, in the greatest straits and difficulties.
It appears by the title, that this psalm was penned with reference to the malicious imputations that David was unjustly laid under by some of his enemies. Being thus wronged, I. He applies himself to God for favour, v. 1, 2. II. He appeals to God concerning his innocency as to those things whereof he was accused, v. 3..5. III. He prays to God to plead his cause, and judge for him against his persecutors, v. 6..9. IV. He expresses his confidence in God, that he would do so, and would return the mischief upon the head of those that designed it against him, v. 10..16. V. He promises to give God the glory of his deliverance, v. 17. In this, David was a type of Christ, who was himself, and still is, in his members, thus injured, but will certainly be righted at last.
Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the Lord, concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite.
1. O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me; 2. Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver. 3. O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there be iniquity in my hands; 4. If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy;) 5. Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah. 6. Arise, O Lord, in thine anger; lift up thyself, because of the rage of mine enemies; and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded. 7. So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes, therefore, return thou on high. 8. The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me. 9. O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.
Shiggaion is a song or psalm; the word is used so only here and Hab. iii. 1. A wandering song, so some: the matter and composition of the several parts being different, but artificially put together. A charming song, so others; very delightful. David not only penned it, but sang it himself in a devout religious manner unto the Lord, concerning the words or affairs of Cush the Benjamite, that is, of Saul himself, whose barbarous usage of David bespoke him rather a Cushite, or Ethiopian, than a true-born Israelite. Or, more likely, it was some kinsman of Saul, named Cush, who was an inveterate enemy to David, misrepresented him to Saul as a traitor, and (which was unnecessary) exasperated Saul against him; one of those children of men, children of Belial indeed, whom David complains of, (1 Sam. xxvi. 19.) that made mischief between him and Saul. David, thus basely abused, has recourse to the Lord: the injuries men do us, should drive us to God, for to him we may commit our cause. Nay, he sings to the Lord, his spirit was not ruffled by it, nor cast down, but so composed and cheerful, that he was still in tune for sacred songs, and it did not occasion one jarring string in his harp. Thus let the injuries we receive from men, instead of provoking our passions, kindle and excite our devotions. In these verses,
I. He puts himself under God's protection, and flies to him for succour and shelter; (v. 1.) "Lord, save me, and deliver me from the power and malice of all them that persecute me, that they may not have their will against me." He pleads, 1. His relation to God. "Thou art my God, and, therefore, whither else should I go but to thee? Thou art my God, and therefore my Shield; (Gen. xv. 1.) my God, and therefore I am one of thy servants, who may expect to be protected." 2. His confidence in God; "Lord, save me, for I depend upon thee; in thee do I put my trust, and not in any arm of flesh." Men of honour will not fail those that repose a trust in them, especially if they themselves have encouraged them to do so: which is our case. 3. The rage and malice of his enemies, and the imminent danger he was in of being swallowed up by them; "Lord, save me, or I am gone; he will tear my soul like a lion tearing his prey;" with so much pride, and pleasure, and power, so easily, so cruelly. St. Paul compares Nero to a lion, (2 Tim. iv. 17.) as David here compares Saul. 4. The failure of all other helpers; "Lord, be thou pleased to deliver me, for otherwise there is none to deliver," v. 2. It is the glory of God to help the helpless.
II. He makes a solemn protestation of his innocency, as to those things whereof he was accused, and by a dreadful imprecation appeals to God, the Searcher of hearts, concerning it, v. 3··5. Observe, in general, 1. When we are falsely accused by men, it is a great comfort, if our own consciences acquit us.
———————— Hic murus aheneus esto,
Nil conscire sibi. ———————————
Be this thy brazen bulwark of defence,
Still to preserve thy conscious innocence.
Happy indeed, when not only they cannot prove their calumnies, (Acts xxiv. 13.) but when our hearts can disprove them, to our own satisfaction. 2. God is the Patron of wronged innocency. David had no court on earth to appeal to; his prince, who should have righted him, was his sworn enemy; but he had the court of heaven to fly to, and a righteous Judge there, whom he could call his God. And here see,
(1.) What the indictment is, which he pleads not guilty to. He was charged with a traitorous design against Saul's crown and life, that he compassed and imagined to depose and murder him, and, in order to that, levied war against him. This he utterly denies: he never did this, there was no iniquity of this kind in his hand, (v. 3.) he abhorred the thought of it. He never rewarded evil to Saul, when he was at peace with him, nor to any other, v. 4. Nay, as some think it should be rendered, he never rendered evil for evil, never did them mischief that had injured him.
(2.) What evidence he produces of his innocency: it is hard to prove a negative, and yet this was a negative which David could produce very good proof of; (v. 4.) I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy. By this it appeared, beyond contradiction, that David had no design against Saul's life—that, once and again, Providence so ordered it, that Saul lay at his mercy, and there were those about him, that would soon have dispatched him, but David generously and conscientiously prevented it, when he cut off his skirt, (1 Sam. xxiv. 4.) and afterward, when he took away his spear, (1 Sam. xxvi. 12.) to attest for him what he could have done. Saul himself owned both these to be undeniable proofs of David's integrity and good affection to him. If we render good for evil, and deny ourselves the gratifications of our passion, it may turn to us for a testimony, more than we think of, another day.
(3.) What doom he would submit to, if he were guilty; (v. 5.) Let the enemy persecute my soul to the death; and my good name when I am gone, let him lay my honour in the dust. This intimates, [1.] That, if he had been indeed injurious to others, he had reason to expect that they would repay him in the same coin. He that has his hand against every man, must count upon it that every man's hand will be against him. [2.] That, in that case, he could not with any confidence go to God, and beg of him to deliver him, or plead his cause. It is a presumptuous, dangerous, thing for any that are guilty, and suffer justly, to appeal to God, as if they were innocent, and suffered wrongfully; such must humble themselves, and accept the punishment of their iniquity, and not expect that the righteous God will patronise their unrighteousness. [3.] That he was abundantly satisfied in himself, concerning his innocency; it is natural to us to wish well to ourselves; and therefore, a curse to ourselves, if we swear falsely, has been thought as awful a form of swearing as any other. With such an oath, or imprecation, David here ratifies the protestation of his innocency, which yet will not justify us in doing the like for every light and trivial cause; for the occasion here was important.
III. Having this testimony of his conscience concerning his innocency, he humbly prays to God to appear for him against his persecutors, and backs every petition with a proper plea, as one that knew how to order his cause before God.
1. He prays that God would manifest his wrath against his enemies, and pleads their wrath against him; "Lord, they are unjustly angry at me, be thou justly angry with them, and let them know that thou art so, v. 6. In thine anger lift up thyself to the seat of judgment, and make thy power and justice conspicuous, because of the rage, the furies, the outrages, (the word is plural,) of mine enemies." Those need not fear men's wrath against them, who have God's wrath for them. Who knows the power of his anger?
2. He prays that God would plead his cause; Awake for me to judgment; let my cause have a hearing to the judgment which thou hast commanded. That speaks, (1.) The divine power; as he blesses effectually, and is therefore said to command the blessing, so he judges effectually, and is therefore said to command the judgment, which is such as none can countermand; for it certainly carries execution along with it. (2.) The divine purpose and promise; "It is the judgment which thou hast determined to pass upon all the enemies of thy people. Thou hast commanded the princes and judges of the earth to right the injured, and vindicate the oppressed; Lord, awaken thyself to that judgment." He that loves righteousness, and requires it in others, will, no doubt, execute it himself. Though he seem to connive at wrong, as one asleep, he will awake in due time, (lxxviii. 65.) and will make it to appear that the delays were no neglects. He prays, (v. 7.) "Return thou on high, maintain thine own authority, resume thy royal throne of which they have despised the sovereignty, and the judgment-seat of which they have despised the sentence. Return on high, visibly, and in the sight of all, that it may be universally acknowledged that Heaven itself owns and pleads David's cause." Some make this to point at the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, who, when he returned to heaven, (returned on high in his exalted state,) had all judgment committed to him. Or, it may refer to his second coming, when he shall return on high to this world, to execute judgment upon all. This return his injured people wait for, and pray for, and to it they appeal from the unjust censures of men. He prays again, (v. 8.) "Judge me, judge for me, give sentence on my side."
To enforce this suit, [1.] He pleads that his cause was now brought into the proper court; The Lord shall judge the people, v. 8. It is his place; it is his promise. God is the judge; "Therefore, Lord, judge me." He is the Judge of all the earth, and therefore, no doubt, he shall do right, and all will be obliged to acquiesce in his judgment. [2.] He insists upon his integrity as to all the matters in variance between him and Saul, and desires only to be judged, in this matter, according to his righteousness, and the sincerity of his heart in all the steps he had taken toward his preferment. [3.] He foretells that it would be much for the glory of God, and the edification and comfort of his people, if God would appear for him; "So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about; therefore do it for their sakes, that they may attend thee with their praises and services in the courts of thine house." First, They will do it of their own accord. God's appearing on David's behalf, and fulfilling his promise to him, would be such an instance of his righteousness, goodness, and faithfulness, as would greatly enlarge the hearts of all his faithful worshippers, and fill their mouths with praise. David was the darling of his country, especially of all the good people in it; and therefore when they saw him in a fair way to the throne, they would greatly rejoice, and give thanks to God; crowds of them would attend his footstool with their praises for such a blessing to their land. Secondly, If David come into power, as God had promised him, he will take care to bring people to church, by his influence upon them, and the ark shall not be neglected, as it was in the days of Saul, 1 Chron. xiii. 3.
3. He prays, in general, for the conversion of sinners, and the establishment of saints; (v. 9.) "O let the wickedness, not only of my wicked enemies, but of all the wicked, come to an end; but establish the just." Here are two things which every one of us must desire, and may hope for. (1.) The period of sin; that it may be brought to an end in ourselves and others. When corruption is mortified, when every wicked way and thought are forsaken, and the stream which ran violently toward the world and the flesh, is driven back, and runs toward God and heaven, then the wickedness of the wicked comes to an end. When there is a general reformation of manners, when atheists and profane are convinced and converted, when a stop is put to the spreading of the infection of sin, so that evil men proceed no further, their folly being made manifest; when the wicked designs of the church's enemies are baffled, and their power broken, and the man of sin is destroyed; then the wickedness of the wicked comes to an end. And this is that which all that love God, and, for his sake, hate evil, desire and pray for. (2.) The perpetuity of righteousness; but establish the just. As we pray that the bad maybe made good, so we pray that the good may be made better, that they may not be seduced by the wiles of the wicked, nor shocked by their malice; that they may be confirmed in their choice of the ways of God, and in their resolution to persevere therein; may be firm to the interests of God and religion, and zealous in their endeavours to bring the wickedness of the wicked to an end. His plea to enforce this petition is, For the righteous God trieth the hearts and the reins; and therefore he knows the secret wickedness of the wicked, and knows how to bring it to an end: and the secret sincerity of the just he is witness to, and has secret ways of establishing.
As far as we have the testimony of an unbiassed conscience for us, that in any instance we are wronged and injuriously reflected on, we may, in singing these verses, lodge our appeal with the righteous God, and be assured that he will own our righteous cause, and will one day, in the last day at furthest, bring forth our integrity as the light.
10. My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart. 11. God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. 12. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. 13. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors. 14. Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. 15. He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. 16. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate. 17. I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness; and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high.
David, having lodged his appeal with God by prayer and a solemn profession of his integrity, in the former part of the psalm, in this latter part does, as it were, take out judgment upon the appeal, by faith in the word of God, and the assurance it gives of the happiness and safety of the righteous, and the certain destruction of wicked people that continue impenitent.
I. David is confident that he shall find God his powerful Protector and Saviour, and the Patron of his oppressed innocency; (v. 10.) "My defence is of God. Not only, God is my Defender, and I shall find him so, but I look for defence and safety in no other; my hope for shelter in a time of danger is placed in God alone; if I have defence, it must be of God." My shield is upon God, so some read it; there is that in God which gives an assurance of protection to all that are his. His name is a strong tower, Prov. xviii. 10. Two things David builds this confidence upon. 1. The particular favour God has for all that are sincere; He saves the upright in heart, saves them with an everlasting salvation, and therefore will preserve them to his heavenly kingdom; he saves them out of their present troubles, as far as is good for them; their integrity and uprightness will preserve them. The upright in heart are safe, and ought to think themselves so, under the divine protection. 2. The general respect he has for justice and equity; God judgeth the righteous; he owns every righteous cause, and will maintain it in every righteous man, and will protect him. God is a righteous Judge, so some read it, who not only doeth righteousness himself, but will take care that righteousness be done by the children of men, and will avenge and punish all unrighteousness.
II. He is no less confident of the destruction of all his wicked persecutors, even as many of them as would not repent, to give glory to God. He reads their doom here, for their good, if possible, that they might cease from their enmity; or, however, for his own comfort, that he might not be afraid of them, nor aggrieved at their prosperity and success for a time. He goes into the sanctuary of God, and there understands, 1. That they are children of wrath; they are not to be envied, for God is angry with them, is angry with the wicked every day. They are every day doing that which is provoking to him, and he resents it, and treasures it up against the day of wrath. As his mercies are new every morning toward his people, so his anger is new every morning against the wicked, upon the fresh occasions given for it by their renewed transgressions. God is angry with the wicked, even in the merriest and most prosperous of their days, even in the days of their devotion: for if they be suffered to prosper, it is in wrath; if they pray, their very prayers are an abomination. The wrath of God abides upon them, (John iii. 36.) and continual additions are made to it. 2. That they are children of death, as all the children of wrath are; sons of perdition, marked out for ruin. See their destruction:
(1.) God will destroy them; the destruction they are reserved for is, destruction from the Almighty, which ought to be a terror to every one of us, for it comes from the wrath of God, v. 13, 14. It is here intimated, [1.] That the destruction of sinners may be prevented by their conversion, for it is threatened, with that proviso; If he turn not from his evil way, if he do not let fall his enmity against the people of God, then let him expect it will be his ruin; but if he turn, it is implied that his sins shall be pardoned, and all shall be well. Thus even the threatenings of wrath are introduced with a gracious implication of mercy, enough to justify God for ever in the destruction of them that perish; they might have turned and lived, but they chose rather to go on and die, and their blood is therefore upon their own heads. [2.] That if it be not thus prevented by the conversion of the sinner, it will be prepared for him by the justice of God. In general, (v. 13.) He has prepared for him the instruments of death, of all that death which is the wages of sin. If God will slay, he will not want instruments of death for any creature; even the least and weakest may be made so when he pleases. First, Here is a variety of instruments, all which breathe threatenings and slaughter. Here is a sword which wounds and kills at hand, a bow and arrows which wound and kill at a distance, those who think to get out of the reach of God's vindictive justice. If the sinner flies from the iron weapon, yet the bow of steel shall strike him through, Job xx. 24. Secondly, These instruments of death are all said to be made ready; God has them not to seek, but always at hand; judgments are prepared for scorners; Tophet is prepared of old. Thirdly, While God is preparing his instruments of death, he gives the sinners timely warning of their danger, and space to repent and prevent it. He is slow to punish, and long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish. Fourthly, The longer the destruction is delayed to give time for repentance, the sorer will it be, and the heavier will it fall, and lie for ever, if that time be not so improved, while God is waiting; the sword is in the whetting, and the bow in the drawing. Fifthly, The destruction of impenitent sinners, though it come slowly, yet comes surely; for it is ordained, they are of old ordained to it. Sixthly, Of all sinners, persecutors are set up as the fairest marks of divine wrath; against them, more than any other, God has ordained his arrows. They set God at defiance, but cannot set themselves out of the reach of his judgments.
(2.) They will destroy themselves, v. 14··16. The sinner is here described as taking a great deal of pains to ruin himself, more pains to damn his soul than, if directed aright, would save it. [1.] It is described by the pains of a labouring woman that brings forth a false conception, v. 14. The sinner's head with its politics conceives mischief, contrives it with a great deal of art, lays the plot deep, and keeps it close; the sinner's heart with its passions travails with iniquity, and is in pain to be delivered of the malicious projects it is hatching against the people of God. But what does it come to when it comes to the birth? It is falsehood, it is a cheat upon himself, it is a lie in his right hand; he cannot compass what he intended; nor, if he gain his point, will he gain the satisfaction he promised himself; he brings forth wind, (Isa. xxvi. 18.) stubble, (Isa. xxxii. 11.) death, (James i. 15.) that is, falsehood. [2.] By the pains of a labouring man, that works hard to dig a pit, and then falls into it, and perishes in it. First, This is true, in a sense, of all sinners; they prepare destruction for themselves, by preparing themselves for destruction; loading themselves with guilt, and submitting themselves to their corruptions. Secondly, It is often remarkably true of those who contrive mischief against the people of God, or against their neighbours; by the righteous hand of God it is made to return upon their own heads; what they designed for the shame and destruction of others proves to be their own confusion.
————————— Nec lex est justior ulla,
Quàm, Necis artifices arte perire suâ. ———
There is not a juster law than, That the author of a murderous contrivance should perish by it. Some apply it to Saul, who fell upon his sword.
In singing this psalm, we must do as David here does; (v. 17.) praise the Lord according to his righteousness; give him the glory of that gracious protection under which he takes his afflicted people, and of that just vengeance with which he will pursue them that afflict them; thus we must sing to the praise of the Lord most high, who, when his enemies deal proudly, shows that he is above them.
This psalm is a solemn meditation on, and adoration of, the glory and greatness of God, of which we are all concerned to think highly and honourably. It begins and ends with the same acknowledgment of the transcendent excellency of God's name. It is proposed for proof, (v. 1.) That God's name is excellent in all the earth! And then it is repeated, as proved, (with a quod erat demonstrandum—which was to be demonstrated,) in the last verse. For the proof of God's glory, he gives instances of his goodness to man; for God's goodness is his glory. God is to be glorified, I. For making known himself and his great name to us, v. 1. II. For making use of the weakest of the children of men, by them to serve his own purposes, v. 2. III. For making even the heavenly bodies useful to man, v. 3, 4. IV. For making him to have dominion over the creatures in this lower world, and thereby placing him but little lower than the angels, v. 5..8. This psalm is, in the New Testament, applied to Christ, and the work of our redemption which he wrought out; the honour given by the children of men to him. (v. 2. Matt. xxi. 16.) and the honour put upon the children of men by him, both in his humiliation, when he was made little lower than the angels, and in his exaltation, when he was crowned with glory and honour, v. 5, 6. Heb. ii. 6..8. 1 Cor. xv. 27. When we are observing the glory of God in the kingdom of nature and Providence, we should be led by that, and through that, to the contemplation of his glory in the kingdom of grace.
To the chief musician upon Gittith. A psalm of David.
1. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. 2. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, because of thine enemies; that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
The psalmist here sets himself to give to God the glory due to his name. Dr. Hammond grounds a conjecture upon the title of this psalm, concerning the occasion of penning it. It is said to be upon Gittith, which is generally taken for the tune, or musical instrument, with which this psalm was to be sung; but he renders it upon the Gittite, that is, Goliath the Gittite, whom he vanquished and slew; (1 Sam. xvii.) that enemy was stilled by him who was, in comparison, but a babe and a suckling. The conjecture would be probable enough, but that we find two other psalms with the same title, lxxxi. and lxxxiv.
Two things David here admires,
I. How plainly God displays his glory himself, v. 1. He addresses himself to God with all humility and reverence, as the Lord, and his people's Lord; O Lord, our Lord. If we believe that God is the Lord, we must avouch and acknowledge him to be ours. He is ours, for he made us, protects us, and takes special care of us. He must be ours, for we are bound to obey him, and submit to him; we must own the relation, not only when we come to pray to God, as a plea with him to show us mercy, but when we come to praise him, as an argument with ourselves to give him glory: and we shall never think we can do that with affection enough, if we consider,
1. How bright God's glory shines even in this lower world; How excellent is his name in all the earth! The works of creation and Providence evince and proclaim to all the world, that there is an infinite Being, the Fountain of all being, power, and perfection, the sovereign Ruler, powerful Protector, and bountiful Benefactor, of all the creatures. How great, how illustrious, how magnificent, is his name in all the earth! The light of it shines in men's faces every where; (Rom. i. 20.) if they shut their eyes against it, that is their fault. There is no speech or language, but the voice of God's name either is heard in it, or may be. But this looks further, to the gospel of Christ, by which the name of God, as it is notified by divine revelation, which, before, was great in Israel only, came to be so in all the earth, the utmost ends of which have thus been made to see God's great salvation, Mark xvi. 15, 16.
2. How much brighter it shines in the upper world; Thou hast set thy glory above the heavens. (1.) God is infinitely more glorious and excellent than the noblest of creatures, and those that shine brightest. (2.) Whereas we on this earth only hear God's excellent name, and praise that, the angels and blessed spirits above see his glory, and praise that, and yet he is exalted far above even their blessing and praise. (3.) In the exaltation of the Lord Jesus to the right hand of God, who is the Brightness of his Father's glory, and the express Image of his person, God set his glory above the heavens, far above all principalities and powers.
II. How powerfully he discovers it by the weakest of his creatures; (v. 2.) Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, or perfected praise, the praise of thy strength, Matth. xxi. 16. This bespeaks the glory of God, 1. In the kingdom of nature. The care God takes of little children, (when they first come into the world, the most helpless of all animals,) the special protection they are under, and the provision nature has made for them, ought to be acknowledged by every one of us, to the glory of God, as a great instance of his power and goodness; and the more sensibly, because we have all had the benefit of it, for to this we owe it, that we died not from the womb, that the knees then prevented us, and the breasts, that we should suck. "This is such an instance of thy goodness, as may for ever put to silence the enemies of thy glory, who say, There is no God." 2. In the kingdom of Providence; in the government of this lower world he makes use of the children of men, some that know him, and others that do not, (Isa. xlv. 4.) and these such as have been babes and sucklings; nay, sometimes he is pleased to serve his own purposes by the ministry of such as are still, in wisdom and strength, little better than babes and sucklings. 3. In the kingdom of grace, the kingdom of the Messiah. It is here foretold, that, by the apostles, who were looked upon but as babes, unlearned and ignorant men, (Acts iv. 13.) mean and despicable, and by the foolishness of their preaching, the Devil's kingdom should be thrown down, as Jericho's walls were by the sound of rams'-horns. The gospel is called the arm of the Lord, and the rod of his strength; this was ordained to work wonders, not out of the mouth of philosophers or orators, politicians or statesmen, but of a company of poor fishermen, who lay under the greatest external disadvantages; yea, we hear children crying, Hosanna to the Son of David, when the chief priests and Pharisees owned him not, but despised and rejected him; to that therefore our Saviour applies this, (Matth. xxi. 16.) and by it stilled the enemy, sometimes the grace of God appears wonderfully in young children, and he teaches them knowledge, and makes them to understand doctrine, who are but newly weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts, Isa. xxviii. 9. Sometimes the power of God brings to pass great things in his church by very weak and unlikely instruments; and confounds the noble, wise and mighty, by the base, and weak, and foolish, things of the world, that no flesh might glory in his presence, but the excellency of the power might the more evidently appear to be of God, and not of man, 1 Cor. i. 27, 28. This he does, because of his enemies, because they are insolent and haughty, that he may still them, may put them to silence, and put them to shame, and so be justly avenged on the avengers; see Acts iv. 14.—vi. 10. The Devil is the great enemy and avenger, and by the preaching of the gospel he was, in a great measure, stilled, his oracles were silenced, the advocates of his cause were confounded, and unclean spirits themselves not suffered to speak.
In singing this, let us give God the glory of his great name, and of the great things he has done by the power of his gospel, in the chariot of which the exalted Redeemer rides forth, conquering and to conquer, and ought to be attended, not only with our praises, but with our best wishes. Praise is perfected, God is in the highest degree glorified, when strength is ordained out of the mouth of babes and sucklings.
3. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers; the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4. What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 5. For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. 6. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things under his feet: 7. All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; 8. The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. 9. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
David here goes on to magnify the honour of God, by recounting the honours he has put upon man, especially the man Christ Jesus. The condescensions of the divine grace call for our praises as much as the elevations of the divine glory; how God has condescended in favour to man, the psalmist here observes with wonder and thankfulness, and recommends it to our thoughts. See here,
I. What it is that leads him to admire the condescending favour of God to man; it is his consideration of the lustre and influence of the heavenly bodies, which are within the view of sense; (v. 3.) I consider thy heavens, and there, particularly, the moon and the stars. But why does he not take notice of the sun, which much excels them all? Probably because it was in a night-walk, by moon-light, that he entertained and instructed himself with this meditation, when the sun was not within view, but only the moon and the stars, which, though they are not altogether so serviceable to man as the sun is, yet are no less demonstrations of the wisdom, power, and goodness, of the Creator. Observe, 1. It is our duty to consider the heavens. We see them, we cannot but see them; by this, among other things, man is distinguished from the beasts, that, while they are so framed as to look downward to the earth, man is made erect to look upward toward heaven; Os homini sublime dedit, cœlumque tueri jussit—To man he gave an erect countenance, and bade him gaze on the heavens, that thus he may be directed to set his affections on things above; for what we see has not its due influence upon us, unless we consider it. 2. We must always consider the heavens as God's heavens; not only as all the world is his, even the earth and the fulness thereof, but in a more peculiar manner; The (2.) When we consider of what great use the heavens are to men on earth, and how the lights of heaven are divided unto all nations, (Deut. iv. 19. Gen. i. 15.) we may well say, "Lord, what is man, that thou shouldest settle the ordinances of heaven, with an eye to him and to his benefit, and that his comfort and convenience should be so much consulted in the making of the lights of heaven, and directing their motions!", even the heavens, are the Lord's, (cxv. 16.) they are the place of the residence of his glory, and we are taught to call him Our Father in heaven. 3. They are therefore his, because they are the work of his fingers; he made them, he made them easily; the stretching out of the heavens needed not any outstretched arm, it was done with a word; he made them with very great curiosity and fineness, like a nice piece of work which the artist makes with his fingers. 4. Even the lesser lights, the moon and stars, show the glory and power of the Father of lights, and furnish us with matter for praise. 5. The heavenly bodies are not only the creatures of the divine power, but subject to the divine government; God not only made them, but ordained them; and the ordinances of heaven can never be altered. But how does this come in here, to magnify God's favour to man? (1.) When we consider how the glory of God shines in the upper world, we may well wonder that he should take cognizance of such a mean creature as man; that he who resides in that bright and blessed part of the creation, and governs it, should humble himself to behold the things done upon this earth; see cxiii. 5, 6.
II. How he expresses this admiration; (v. 4.) "Lord, what is man! (Enosh, sinful, weak, miserable, man, a creature so forgetful of thee, and his duty to thee,) that thou art thus mindful of him; that thou takest cognizance of him, and of his actions and affairs; that, in the making of the world, thou hadst a respect to him! What is the son of man, that thou visitest him; that thou not only feedest him and clothest him, protectest him and providest for him, in common with other creatures, but visitest him, as one friend visits another, art pleased to converse with him, and concern thyself for him! What is man, (so mean a creature,) that he should be thus honoured, (so sinful a creature,) that he should be thus countenanced and favoured!" Now this refers,
1. To mankind in general. Though man is a worm, and the son of man is a worm, (Job xxv. 6.) yet God puts a respect upon him, and shows him abundance of kindness; man is, above all the creatures in this lower world, the favourite and darling of Providence. For,
(1.) He is of a very honourable rank of beings We may be sure he takes place of all the inhabitants of this lower world, for he is made but a little lower than the angels, (v. 5.) lower indeed, because by his body he is allied to the earth, and to the beasts that perish, and yet by his soul, which is spiritual and immortal, he is so near akin to the holy angels, that he may be truly said to be but a little lower than they, and is in order next to them. He is but for a little while lower than the angels, while his great soul is cooped up in a house of clay, but the children of the resurrection shall be ἰσάγγελοι—angels' peers, (Luke xx. 36.) and no longer lower than they.
(2.) He is endued with noble faculties and capacities; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour; he that gave him his being has distinguished him, and qualified him for a dominion over the inferior creatures; for, having made him wiser than the beasts of the earth, and the fowls of heaven, (Job xxxv. 11.) he has made him fit to rule them, and it is fit that they should be ruled by him. Man's reason is his crown of glory; let him not profane that crown by disturbing the use of it, nor forfeit that crown by acting contrary to its dictates.
(3.) He is invested with a sovereign dominion over the inferior creatures, under God, and is constituted their lord. He that made them, and knows them, and whose own they are, has made man to have dominion over them, v. 6. His charter, by which he holds this royalty, bears equal date with his creation, (Gen. i. 28.) and was renewed after the flood. Gen. ix. 2. God has put all things under man's feet, that he might serve himself, not only of the labour, but of the productions and lives, of the inferior creatures; they are all delivered into his hand, nay, they are all put under his feet. He specifies some of the inferior animals; (v. 7, 8.) not only sheep and oxen, which man takes care of and provides for, but the beasts of the field, as well as those of the flood, yea, and those creatures which are most at a distance from man, as the fowl of the air, yea, and the fish of the sea, which live in another element, and pass unseen through the paths of the seas. Man has arts to take these; though many of them are much stronger, and many of them are much swifter, than he, yet, one way or other, he is too hard for them, Jam. iii. 7. Every kind of beasts, and birds, and things in the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed; he has likewise liberty to use them as he has occasion; Rise, Peter, kill and eat, Acts x. 13. Every time we partake of fish or of fowl, we realize this dominion which man has over the works of God's hands; and it is a reason for our subjection to God, our chief Lord, and to his dominion over us.
2. But this refers, in a particular manner, to Jesus Christ; of him we are taught to expound it, (Heb. ii. 6··8.) where the apostle, to prove the sovereign dominion of Christ, both in heaven and in earth, shows that he is that man, that son of man, here spoken of, whom God has crowned with glory and honour, and made to have dominion over the works of his hands. And it is certain that the greatest favour that ever was showed to the human race, and the greatest honour that ever was put upon the human nature, were exemplified in the incarnation and exaltation of the Lord Jesus; these far exceed the favours and honours done us by creation and providence, though they also are great, and far more than we deserve.
We have reason humbly to value ourselves by it, and thankfully to admire the grace of God in it,
(1.) That Jesus Christ assumed the nature of man, and in that nature humbled himself. He became the Son of man, a partaker of flesh and blood; being so, God visited him; which some apply to his sufferings for us, for it is said, (Heb. ii. 9.) For the suffering of death, a visitation in wrath, he was crowned with glory and honour. God visited him; having laid upon him the iniquity of us all, he reckoned with him for it, visited him with a rod and with stripes, that we by them might be healed. He was, for a little while, (so the apostle interprets it,) made lower than the angels, when he took upon him the form of a servant, and made himself of no reputation.
(2.) That, in that nature, he is exalted to be Lord of all. God the Father exalted him, because he had humbled himself; crowned him with glory and honour, the glory which he had with him before the worlds were; set him at his own right hand; constituted him not only the Head of the church, but Head over all things to the church; and gave all things into his hand, intrusted him with the administration of the kingdom of providence, in conjunction with, and subserviency to, the kingdom of grace. All the creatures are put under his feet; and, even in the days of his flesh, he gave some specimens of his power over them, as when he commanded the winds and the seas, and appointed a fish to pay his tribute.
With good reason, therefore, does the psalmist conclude as he began, Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, which has been honoured with the presence of the Redeemer, and is still enlightened by his gospel, and governed by his wisdom and power! In singing this, and praying it over, though we must not forget to acknowledge, with suitable affections, God's common favours to mankind, particularly in the serviceableness of the inferior creatures to us, yet we must especially set ourselves to give glory to our Lord Jesus, by confessing that he is Lord, submitting to him as our Lord, and waiting till we see all things put under him, and all his enemies made his footstool.
In this psalm, I. David praises God for pleading his cause, and giving him victory over his enemies and the enemies of his country, (v. 1..6.) and calls upon others to join with him in his songs of praise, v. 11, 12. II. He prays to God, that he might have still further occasion to praise him, for his own deliverances, and the confusion of his enemies, v. 13, 14, 19, 20. III. He triumphs in the assurance he had of God's judging the world, (v. 7, 8.) protecting his oppressed people, (v. 9, 10, 18.) and bringing his and their implacable enemies to ruin, v. 15..17. This is very applicable to the kingdom of the Messiah, the enemies of which have been, in part, destroyed already, and shall be yet more and more, till they all be made his footstool; which we are to assure ourselves of, that God may have the glory, and we may take the comfort.
To the chief musician upon Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.
1. I WILL praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart , I will show forth all thy marvellous works. 2. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou Most High. 3. When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence. 4. For thou hast maintained my right and my cause, thou sattest in the throne judging right. 5. Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever. 6. O thou enemy! destructions are come to a perpetual end; and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them. 7. But the Lord shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment; 8. And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. 9. The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.
The title of this psalm gives a very uncertain sound concerning the occasion of penning it. It is upon Muth-labben, which some make to refer to the death of Goliath, others of Nabal, others of Absalom; but I incline to think it signifies only some tune, or musical instrument, to which this psalm was intended to be sung; and that the enemies he is here triumphing in the defeat of, are the Philistines, and the other neighbouring nations that opposed his settlement in the throne; whom he contested with, and subdued, in the beginning of his reign, 2 Sam. v. 8.
In these verses,
I. David excites and engages himself to praise God for his mercies, and the great things he had of late done for him and his government, v. 1, 2. Note, 1. God expects suitable returns of praise from those for whom he has done marvellous works. 2. If we would praise God acceptably, we must praise him in sincerity, with our hearts, and not only with our lips, and be lively and fervent in the duty, with our whole heart. 3. When we give thanks for some one particular mercy, we should take occasion thence to remember former mercies, and so to show forth all his marvellous works. 4. Holy joy is the life of thankful praise, as thankful praise is the language of holy joy; I will be glad and rejoice in thee. 5. Whatever occurs to make us glad, our joy must pass through it, and terminate in God only; I will be glad and rejoice in thee, not in the gift so much as in the Giver. 6. Joy and praise are properly expressed by singing psalms. 7. When God has showed himself to be above the proud enemies of the church, we must take occasion thence to give glory to him as the Most High. 8. The triumphs of the Redeemer ought to be the triumphs of the redeemed; see Rev. xii. 10.—xix. 5.—xv. 3, 4.
II. He acknowledges the almighty power of God, as that which the strongest and stoutest of his enemies were no way able to contest with, or stand before, v. 3. But, 1. They are forced to turn back; their policy and their courage fail them, so that they cannot, they dare not, push forward in their enterprises, but retire with precipitation. 2. When once they turn back, they fall and perish; even their retreat will be their ruin, and they will save themselves no more by flying than by fighting. If Haman begin to fall before Mordecai, he is a lost man, and shall prevail no more; see Esth. vi. 13. 3. The presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power, are sufficient for the destruction of his and his people's enemies. That is easily done, which a man does with his very presence; with that, God confounds his enemies, such a presence has he. This was fulfilled, when our Lord Jesus, with one word, I am he, made his enemies to fall back at his presence; (John xviii. 6.) he could, at the same time, have made them perish. 4. When the enemies of God's church are put to confusion, we must ascribe it to the power, not of instruments, but of his presence, and give him all the glory.
III. He gives to God the glory of his righteousness, in his appearing on his behalf; (v. 4.) "Thou hast maintained my right and my cause, my righteous cause; when that came on, thou satest in the throne, judging right. Observe, 1. God sits in the throne of judgment; to him it belongs to decide controversies, to determine appeals, to right the injured, and to punish the injurious; for he has said, Vengeance is mine. 2. We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth, and that with him there is no unrighteousness. Far be it from God, that he should pervert justice. If there seems to us to be some irregularity in the present decisions of Providence, yet these, instead of shaking our belief of God's justice, may serve to strengthen our belief of the judgment to come, which will set all to rights. 3. Whoever disown and desert a just and injured cause, we may be sure that the righteous God will maintain it, and plead it with jealousy, and will never suffer it to be run down.
IV. He records, with joy, the triumphs of the God of heaven over all the powers of hell, and attends those triumphs with his praises, v. 5. By three steps the power and justice of God had proceeded against the heathen, and wicked people, who were enemies to the king God had lately set up upon his holy hill of Zion. 1. He had checked them; "Thou hast rebuked the heathen; hast given them real proofs of thy displeasure against them." This he did, before he destroyed them, that they might have taken warning by the rebukes of Providence, and so have prevented their own destruction. (2.) He had cut them off; Thou hast destroyed the wicked. The wicked are marked for destruction, and some are made monuments of God's vindictive justice, and destructive power, in this world. (3.) He has buried them in oblivion and perpetual infamy; had put out their name for ever, that they should never be remembered with any respect.
V. He exults over the enemy whom God thus appears against; (v. 6.) Thou hast destroyed cities. Either, "Thou, O enemy, hast destroyed our cities, at least, in intention and imagination;" or, "Thou, O God, hast destroyed their cities by the desolation brought upon their country." It may be taken either way; for the psalmist will have the enemy to know. 1. That their destruction is just; and that God was but reckoning with them for all the mischief which they had done, and designed, against his people. The malicious and vexatious neighbours of Israel, as the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Syrians, had made incursions upon them, (when there was no king in Israel to fight their battles,) and destroyed their 2. That it is total and final, such a destruction as should make a perpetual end of them, so that the very memorial of their cities should perish with them. So devouring a thing is time, and, much more, such desolations do the righteous judgments of God make upon sinners, that great and populous cities have been reduced to such ruins, that their very memorial is perished, and those who have sought them could not find where they stood; but we look for a city that has stronger foundations.and done what they could to make their memorial perish with them; but now the wheel was turned upon them, their destructions of Israel were come to a perpetual end, they shall now cease to spoil, and must themselves be spoiled, Isa. xxxiii. 1.
VI. He comforts himself, and others, in God, and pleases himself with the thoughts of him.
1. With the thoughts of his eternity. On this earth we see nothing durable, even strong cities are buried in rubbish, and forgotten; but the Lord shall endure for ever, v. 7. There is no change of his being; his felicity, power, and perfection, are out of the reach of all the combined forces of hell and earth; they may put an end to our liberties, our privileges, our lives, but our God is still the same, and sits even upon the floods, unshaken, undisturbed, xxix. 10.—xciii. 2.
2. With the thoughts of his sovereignty both in government and judgment; He has prepared his throne, has fixed it by his infinite wisdom, has fixed it by his immutable counsel. It is the great support and comfort of good people, when the power of the church's enemies is threatening, and the posture of its affairs melancholy and perplexed, that God now rules the world, and will shortly judge the world.
3. With the thoughts of his justice and righteousness in all the administrations of his government. He does all, every day, he will do all, at the last day, according to the eternal, unalterable, rules of equity; (v. 8.) He shall judge the world, all persons and all controversies, shall minister judgment to the people, shall determine their lot both in this and in the future state, in righteousness and in uprightness, so that there shall not be the least colour of exception against it.
4. With the thoughts of that peculiar favour which God bears to his own people, and the special protection which he takes them under. The Lord, who endures for ever, is their everlasting Strength and Protection; he that judges the world, will be sure to judge for them, when at any time they are injured or distressed; (v. 9.) He will be a refuge for the oppressed; a high place, a strong place, for the oppressed, in time of trouble. It is the lot of God's people to be oppressed in this world, and to have troublous times appointed to them; perhaps God may not immediately appear for them as their Deliverer and Avenger; but, in the midst of their distresses, they may by faith fly to him as their Refuge, and may depend upon his power and promise for their safety, so that no real hurt shall be done them.
5. With the thoughts of that sweet satisfaction and repose of mind which they have, that make God their Refuge; (v. 10.) "They that know thy name, will put their trust in thee, as I have done; (for the grace of God is the same in all the saints,) "and then they will find, as I have found, that thou dost not forsake them that seek thee;" for the favour of God is the same towards all the saints. Note, (1.) The better God is known, the more he is trusted. Those who know him to be a God of infinite wisdom, will trust him further than they can see him; (Job xxxv. 14.) those who know him to be a God of almighty power, will trust him when creature-confidences fail, and they have nothing else to trust to, (2 Chron. xx. 12.) and those who know him to be a God of infinite grace and goodness, will trust him, though he slay them; Job xiii. 15. Those who know him to be a God of inviolable truth and faithfulness, will rejoice in his word of promise, and rest upon that, though the performance be deferred, and intermediate providences seem to contradict it. Those who know him to be the Father of spirits, and an everlasting Father, will trust him with their souls as their main care, and trust in him at all times, even to the end. (2.) The more God is trusted, the more he is sought unto. If we trust God, we shall seek him by faithful and fervent prayer, and by a constant care to approve ourselves to him in the whole course of our conversation. (3.) God never did, nor ever will, disown or desert any that duly seek to him, and trust in him. Though he afflict them, he does not leave them comfortless; though he seem to forsake them for a while, yet he will gather them with everlasting mercies.
11. Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings. 12. When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble. 13. Have mercy upon me, O Lord; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death: 14. That I may show forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation. 15. The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. 16. The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah. 17. The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. 18. For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever. 19. Arise, O Lord; let not man prevail; let the heathen be judged in thy sight. 20. Put them in fear, O Lord; that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah.
In these verses,
I. David, having praised God himself, calls upon and invites others to praise him likewise, v. 11. Those who believe God is greatly to be praised, not only desire to do that work better themselves, but desire that others also may join with them in it, and would gladly be instrumental to bring them to it; Sing praises to the Lord which dwelleth in Zion. As the special residence of his glory is in heaven, so the special residence of his grace is in his church, of which Zion was a type: there he meets his people with his promises and graces, and there he expects they should meet him with their praises and services. In all our praises, we should have an eye to God as dwelling in Zion, in a special manner present in the assemblies of his people, as their Protector and Patron. He resolved himself to show forth God's marvellous works, (v. 1.) and here he calls upon others to declare among the people his doings: he commands his own subjects to do it, for the honour of God, of their country, and of their holy religion; he courts his neighbours to do it; to sing praises, not, as hitherto, to their false gods, but to Jehovah who dwelleth in Zion, to the God of Israel, and to own among the heathen, that the Lord has done great things for his people Israel, cxxvi. 3, 4. Let them particularly take notice of the justice of God in avenging the blood of his people Israel on the Philistines, and their other wicked neighbours, who had, in making war upon them, used them barbarously, and given them no quarter, v. 12. When God comes to make inquisition for blood by his judgments on earth, before he comes to do it by the judgment of the great day, he remembers them, remembers every drop of the innocent blood which they have shed, and will return it sevenfold upon the head of the blood-thirsty; he will give them blood to drink, for they are worthy. This assurance he might well build upon that word, (Deut. xxxii. 43.) He will avenge the blood of his servants. Note, There is a day coming, when God will make inquisition for blood, when he will discover what has been shed secretly, and avenge what has been shed unjustly; see Isa. xxvi. 21. Jer. li. 35. In that day, it will appear how precious the blood of God's people is to him, (lxxii. 14.) when it must all be accounted for. It will then appear that he has not forgotten the cry of the humble, neither the cry of their blood, nor the cry of their prayers, but that both are sealed up among his treasures.
II. David, having praised God for former mercies and deliverances, earnestly prays that God would still appear for him; for he sees not yet all things put under him. He prays, 1. That God would be compassionate to him; (v. 13.) "Have mercy upon me, who, having misery only, and no merit, to speak for me, must depend upon mere mercy for relief." 2. That he would be concerned for him; he is not particular in his request, lest he should seem to prescribe to God; but refers himself to the wisdom and will of God, in this modest request; "Lord, consider my trouble, and do for me as thou thinkest fit." He pleads, (1.) The malice of his enemies, the trouble which he suffered of them that hated him; and hatred is a cruel passion. (2.) The experience he had had of divine succours, and the expectation he now had of the continuance of them, as the necessity of his case required; "O thou that liftest me up, that canst do it, that hast done it, that wilt do it, whose prerogative it is to lift up thy people from the gates of death." We are never brought so low, so near to death, but God can raise us up. If he has saved us from spiritual and eternal death, we may thence take encouragement to hope, that in all our distresses he will be a very pleasant help to us. (3.) His sincere purpose to praise God, when his victories should be completed; (v. 14.) "Lord, save me; not that I may have the comfort and credit of it, but that thou mayest have the glory, that I may show forth all thy praise, and that publicly, in the gates of the daughter of Zion;" there God was said to dwell, (v. 11.) and there David would attend him, with joy in God's salvation, typical of the great salvation which was to be wrought out by the Son of David.
III. David by faith foresees and foretells the certain ruin of all wicked people, both in this world and in that to come. 1. In this world, v. 15, 16. God executes judgment upon them, when the measure of their iniquities is full, and does it so, as, (1.) To put shame upon them, and make their fall inglorious; for they sink into the pit which they themselves digged, (vii. 15.) they are taken in the net which they themselves laid for the insnaring of God's people, and they are snared in the work of their own hands. In all the struggles David had with the Philistines, they were the aggressors, 2 Sam. v. 17, 22. And other nations were subdued by those wars in which they embroiled themselves. The overruling providence of God frequently so orders it, that their persecutors and oppressors are brought to ruin by those very projects which they intended to be destructive to the people of God. Drunkards kill themselves; prodigals beggar themselves; the contentious bring mischief upon themselves; and thus men's sins may be read in their punishment, and it becomes visible to all, that the destruction of sinners is not only meritoriously, but efficiently, of themselves, which will fill them with the utmost confusion. (2.) So as to get honour to himself; The Lord is known, he makes himself known, by these judgments, which he executes. It is known that there is a God who judges in the earth; that he is a righteous God, and one that hates sin, and will punish it. In these judgments, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The psalmist, therefore, adds here, a note extraordinary, commanding special regard, Higgaion; it is a thing to be carefully observed and meditated upon. What we see of present judgments, and what we believe of the judgment to come, ought to be the subject of our frequent and serious meditations. 2. In the other world; (v. 17.) The wicked shall be turned into hell, as captives into the prison-house, even all the nations that forget God. Note, (1.) Forgetfulness of God is the cause of all the wickedness of the wicked. (2.) There are nations of those that forget God, multitudes that live without God in the world, many great and many mighty nations, that never regard him, nor desire the knowledge of his ways. (3.) Hell will, at last, be the portion of such, a state of everlasting misery and torment; Sheol, a pit of destruction, in which they and all their comforts will be for ever lost and buried. Though there be nations of them, yet they shall be turned into hell, like sheep into the slaughter-house; (xlix. 14.) and their being so numerous, will neither be any security or ease to them, nor any loss to God, or the least impeachment of his goodness.
IV. David encourages the people of God to wait for his salvation, though it should be long deferred, v. 18. The needy may think themselves, and others may think them, forgotten for a while, and their expectation of help from God may seem to have perished, and to have been for ever frustrated; but he that believes does not make haste; the vision is for an appointed time, and at the end it shall speak: we may build upon it as undoubtedly true, that God's people, God's elect, shall not always be forgotten, nor shall they be disappointed of their hopes from the promise. God will not only remember them, at last, but will make it appear that he never did forget them; it is impossible he should, though a woman may forget her sucking child.
V. He concludes with prayer, that God would humble the pride, break the power, and blast the projects, of all the wicked enemies of his church; "Arise, O Lord, (v. 19.) stir up thyself, exert thy power, take thy seat, and deal with all these proud and daring enemies of thy name, and cause, and people." 1. "Lord, restrain them, and set bounds to their malice. Let not man prevail, consult thine own honour, and let not weak and mortal men prevail against the kingdom and interest of the almighty and immortal God. Shall mortal man be too hard for God, too strong for his Maker?" 2. "Lord, reckon with them, let the heathen be judged in thy sight, let them be plainly called to an account for all the dishonour done to thee, and the mischief done to thy people." Impenitent sinners will be punished in God's sight; and, when their day of grace is over, the bowels even of infinite mercy will not relent toward them, Rev. xiv. 10. 3. Put them in fear, O Lord; (v. 20.) strike a terror upon them, make them afraid with thy judgments. God knows how to make the strongest and stoutest of men to tremble, and to flee when none pursues; and thereby he makes them know and own that they are but men; they are but weak men, unable to stand before the holy God; sinful men, the guilt of whose consciences makes them subject to alarms. Note, It is a very desirable thing, much for the glory of God, and the peace and welfare of the universe, that men should know, and consider, themselves to be but men, depending creatures, mutable, mortal, and accountable.
In singing this, we must give to God the glory of his justice, in pleading his people's cause against his and their enemies, and encourage ourselves to wait for the year of the redeemed and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion, even the final destruction of all anti-christian powers and factions, to which many of the ancients apply this psalm.
The Septuagint translation joins this psalm with the ninth, and makes them but one; but the Hebrew makes it a distinct psalm; the scope and style are certainly different. In this psalm, I. David complains of the wickedness of the wicked, describes the dreadful pitch of impiety, at which they were arrived, (to the great dishonour of God, and the prejudice of his church and people,) and notices the delay of God's appearing against them, v. 1..11. II. He prays to God to appear against them for the relief of his people, and comforts himself with the hopes that he would do so in due time, v. 12..18.
1. W HY standest thou afar off, O Lord? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble? 2. The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined. 3. For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth. 4. The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God; God is not in all his thoughts. 5. His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them. 6. He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity. 7. His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud; under his tongue is mischief and vanity. 8. He sitteth in the lurking-places of the villages; in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor. 9. He lieth in wait secretly, as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net. 10. He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones. 11. He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it.
David, in these verses, discovers,
I. A very great affection to God and his favour; for, in the time of trouble, that which he complains of most feelingly, is, God's withdrawing his gracious presence; (v. 1.) "Why standest thou afar off, as one unconcerned in the indignities done to thy name, and the injuries done to thy people?" Note, God's withdrawings are very grievous to his people at any time, but especially in times of trouble. Outward deliverance is afar off, and is hidden from us, and then we think God is afar off, and we therefore want inward comfort; but that is our own fault, it is because we judge by outward appearance, we stand afar off from God by our unbelief, and then we complain that God stands afar off from us.
II. A very great indignation against sin, the sins that made the time perilous, 2 Tim. iii. 1. He beholds the transgressors, and is grieved, is amazed, and brings to his heavenly Father their evil report: not in a way of vain-glory, boasting before God that he was not as these publicans, (Luke xviii. 11.) much less venting any personal resentments, piques, or passions, of his own; but as one that laid to heart that which is offensive to God, and all good men, and earnestly desired a reformation of manners. Passionate and satirical invectives against bad men do more hurt than good; if we will speak of their badness, let it be to God in prayer, for he alone can make them better.
This long representation of the wickedness of the wicked, is here summed up in the first words of it, (v. 2.) The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor; where two things are laid to their charge, pride and persecution; the former the cause of the latter. Proud men will have all about them to be of their mind, of their religion, to say as they say, to submit to their dominion, and acquiesce in their dictates; and those that either eclipse them, or will not yield to them, they malign, and hate with an inveterate hatred. Tyranny, both in state and church, owes its original to pride. The psalmist, having begun this description, presently inserts a short prayer, a prayer in a parenthesis, which is an advantage, and no prejudice to the sense; Let them be taken, as proud people often are, in the devices that they have imagined, v. 2. Let their counsels be turned headlong, and let them fall headlong by them.
These two heads of the charge are here enlarged upon.
1. They are proud, very proud, and extremely conceited of themselves; justly, therefore, did he wonder that God did not speedily appear against them, for he hates pride, and resists the proud.
(1.) The sinner proudly glories in his power and success. He boasts of his heart's desire, boasts that he can do what he pleases, (as if God himself could not control him,) and that he has all he wished for, and has carried his point. Ephraim said, I am become rich, I have found me out substance, Hos. xii. 8. "Now, Lord, is it for thy glory to suffer a sinful man thus to pretend to the sovereignty and felicity of a God?"
(2.) He proudly contradicts the judgment of God, which, we are sure, is according to truth; for he blesses the covetous, whom the Lord abhors. See how God and men differ in their sentiments of persons; God abhors covetous worldlings, who make money their god, and idolize it; he looks upon them as his enemies, and will have no communion with them; The friendship of the world is enmity to God. But proud persecutors bless them, and approve their sayings, xlix. 13. They applaud them as wise, whom God pronounces foolish; (Luke xii. 20.) they justify them as innocent, whom God condemns as deeply guilty before him; and they admire them as happy in having their portion in this life, whom God declares, upon that account, truly miserable; Thou, in thy life-time, receivedst thy good things.
(3.) He proudly casts off the thoughts of God, and all dependence upon him, and devotion to him; (v. 4.) the wicked, through the pride of his countenance, that pride of his heart which appears in his very countenance, (Prov. vi. 17.) will not seek after God; nor entertain the thoughts of him; God is not in all his thoughts, not in any of them, All his thoughts are, that there is no God. See here, [1.] The nature of impiety and irreligion; it is, not seeking after God, and not having him in our thoughts. No inquiry is made after him, (Job xxxv. 10. Jer. ii. 6.) there is no desire toward him, no communion with him, and a secret wish to have no dependence upon him, and not to be beholden to him. Wicked people will not seek after God, that is, will not call upon him; they live without prayer, and that is living without God. They have many thoughts, many projects and devices, but no eye to God in any of them, no submission to his will, nor aim at his glory. [2.] The cause of this impiety and irreligion; and that is pride. Men will not seek after God, because they think they have no need of him, their own hands are sufficient for them; they think it a thing below them to be religious, because religious people are few, and mean, and despised, and the restraints of religion will be a disparagement to them.
(4.) He proudly makes light of God's commandments and judgments; (v. 5.) His ways are always grievous; he is very daring and resolute in his sinful courses, he will have his way, though ever so tiresome to himself, and vexatious to others; he travails with pain in his wicked courses, and yet his pride makes him wilful and obstinate in them. God's judgments (what he commands, and what he threatens for the breach of his commands) are far above out of his sight; he is not sensible of his duty by the law of God, nor of his danger by the wrath and curse of God. Tell him of God's authority over him, he turns it off with this, that he never saw God, and therefore does not know that there is a God; he is in the height of heaven, and Quæ supra nos nihil ad nos—We have nothing to do with things above us. Tell him of God's judgments, which will be executed upon those that go on still in their trespasses, and he will not be convinced that there is any reality in them; they are far above out of his sight, and therefore he thinks they are mere bugbears.
(5.) He proudly despises all his enemies, and looks upon them with the utmost disdain; he puffs at them whom God is preparing to be a scourge and ruin to him, as if he could baffle them all, and was able to make his part good with them. But as it is impolitic to despise an enemy, so it is impious to despise any instrument of God's wrath.
(6.) He proudly sets trouble at defiance, and is confident of the continuance of his own prosperity; (v. 6.) He hath said in his heart, and pleased himself with the thought, I shall not be moved; my goods are laid up for many years, and I shall never be in adversity: like Babylon, that said, I shall be a lady for ever, Isa. xlvii. 7. Rev. xviii. 7. Those are nearest ruin, who thus set it furthest from them.
2. They are persecutors, cruel persecutors: for the gratifying of their pride and covetousness, and, in opposition to God and religion, they are very oppressive to all within their reach. Observe, concerning these persecutors:
(1.) That they are very bitter and malicious; (v. 7.) His mouth is full of cursing. Those he cannot do a real mischief to, yet he will spit his venom at, and breathe out the slaughter which he cannot execute. Thus have God's faithful worshippers been anathematized, and cursed, with bell, book, and candle. Where there is a heart full of malice, there is commonly a mouth full of curses.
(2.) That they are very false and treacherous. There is mischief designed, but it is hid under the tongue, not to be discerned, for his mouth is full of deceit and vanity; he has learned of the Devil to deceive, and so to destroy; with this his hatred is covered, Prov. xxvi. 26. He cares not what lies he tells, nor what oaths he breaks, nor what arts of dissimulation he uses to compass his ends.
(3.) That they are very cunning and crafty in carrying on their designs. They have ways and means to concert what they intend, that they may the more effectually accomplish it. Like Esau, that cunning hunter, he sits in the lurking places, in the secret places, and his eyes are privily set to do mischief; (v. 8.) not because he is ashamed of what he does, (if he blushed, there were some hopes he would repent,) nor because he is afraid of the wrath of God, for he imagines God will never call him to an account, (v. 11.) but because he is afraid, lest the discovery of his designs should be the breaking of them. Perhaps it refers particularly to robbers and highwaymen, who lie in wait for honest travellers, to make a prey of them and what they have.
(4.) That they are very cruel and barbarous. Their malice is against the innocent, who never provoked them; against the poor, who cannot resist them; and over whom it will be no glory to triumph. Those are perfectly lost to all honesty and honour, against whose mischievous designs neither innocence nor poverty will be any man's security. Those that have power, ought to protect the innocent, and provide for the poor; yet he will be the destroyer of those whose guardian he ought to be. And what do they aim at? It is to catch the poor, and draw them into their net, get them into their power, not to strip them only, but to murder them; they hunt for the precious life. They are God's poor people that they are persecuting, against whom they bear a mortal hatred, for his sake whose they are, and whose image they bear, and therefore they lie in wait to murder them: he lies in wait as a lion that thirsts after blood, and feeds with pleasure upon the prey. The Devil, whose agent he is, is compared to a roaring lion, that seeks not what, but whom, he may devour.
(5.) That they are base and hypocritical; (v. 10.) He crouches, and humbles himself, as beasts of prey do, that they may get their prey within their reach. This intimates, that the sordid spirits of persecutors and oppressors will stoop to any thing, though ever so mean, for the compassing of their wicked designs; witness the scandalous practices of Saul, when he hunted David. It intimates likewise, that they cover their malicious designs with the pretence of meekness and humility, and kindness to those they design the greatest mischief to; they seem to humble themselves, as if to take cognizance of the poor, and concern themselves in their concernments, when it is in order to make them fall, to make a prey of them.
(6.) That they are very impious and atheistical, v. 11. They could not thus break through all the laws of justice and goodness toward man, if they had not first shaken off all sense of religion, and risen up in rebellion against the light of its most sacred and self-evident principles; He hath said in his heart, God has forgotten. When his own conscience rebuked him for his wickedness, and threatened him with the consequences of it, and asked, how he would answer it to the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, he turned it off with this, God has forsaken the earth, Ezek. viii. 12.—ix. 9. This is a blasphemous reproach, [1.] Upon God's omniscience and providence, as if he could not, or did not, see what men do in this lower world. [2.] Upon his holiness and the rectitude of his nature, as if, though he did see, yet he did not dislike, but was willing to connive at, the most unnatural and inhuman villanies. [3.] Upon his justice and the equity of his government, as if, though he did see and dislike the wickedness of the wicked, yet he would never reckon with them, nor punish them for it, either because he could not, or durst not, or was not inclined to it. Let those that suffer by proud oppressors, hope that God will, in due time, appear for them; for those that are abusive to them, are abusive to God Almighty too.
In singing this, and praying it over, we should have our hearts much affected with a holy indignation at the wickedness of the oppressors, a tender compassion for the oppressed, and a pious zeal for the glory and honour of God, with a firm belief that he will, in due time, right the injured, and reckon with the injurious.
12. Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up thy hand: forget not the humble. 13. Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it. 14. Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto
- By the heathen, it is more probable, we are to understand the Gentiles, exclusively.—Ed.