Treasury of David
Verse 1."Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: you have enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer." This is another instance of David's common habit of pleading past mercies as a ground for present favor. Here he reviews his Ebenezers and takes comfort from them. It is not to be imagined that he who has helped us in six troubles, will leave us in the seventh. God does nothing by halves, and he will never cease to help us until we cease to need. The manna shall fall every morning until we cross the Jordan.
Observe, that David speaks first to God--and then to men. Surely we should all speak the more boldly to men--if we had more constant converse with God. He who dares to face his Maker--will not tremble before frail men.
The name by which the Lord is here addressed, God of my righteousness, deserves notice, since it is not used in any other part of Scripture. It means, You are the author, the witness, the maintainer, the judge, and the rewarder of my righteousness; to you I appeal from the calumnies and harsh judgments of men. Herein is wisdom, let us imitate it and always take our suit, not to the petty courts of human opinion--but into the superior court, the King's Bench of heaven.
You have enlarged me when I was in distress.A figure taken from an army enclosed in a crag, and hardly pressed by the surrounding enemy. God has dashed down the rocks and given me room; he has broken the barriers and set me in a large place. Or, we may understand it thus, "God has enlarged my heart with joy and comfort, when I was like a man imprisoned by grief and sorrow." God is a never failing comforter.
Have mercy upon me.Though you may justly permit my enemies to destroy me, on account of my many and great sins--yet I flee to your mercy, and I beseech you to hear my prayer, and bring your servant out of his troubles. The best of men need mercy as truly as the worst of men. All the deliverances of saints, as well as the pardons of sinners, are the free gifts of heavenly grace.
Verse 2."How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah."
The depravity of man as evinced
(1) by continuance in despising Christ,
(2) by loving vanity in his heart, and
(3) seeking lies in his daily life.
In this second division of the Psalm, we are led from the closet of prayer--into the field of conflict. Remark the undaunted courage of the man of God. He allows that his enemies are great men--but still he believes them to be foolish men, and therefore chides them, as though they were but children. He tells them that they love delusions and seek false gods--that is, lying, empty fancies, vain conceits, wicked fabrications. He asks them how long they mean to make his honor a jest, and his fame a mockery? A little of such mirth is too much, why need they continue to indulge in it? Had they not been long enough upon the watch for his halting? Had not repeated disappointments convinced them that the Lord's anointed was not to be overcome by all their calumnies? Did they mean to jest their souls into hell, and go on with their laughter until swift vengeance should turn their merriment into howling?
In the contemplation of their perverse continuance in their vain and lying pursuits, the Psalmist solemnly pauses and inserts a Selah. Surely we too may stop awhile, and meditate upon the deep seated folly of the wicked, their continuance in evil, and their sure destruction; and we may learn to admire that sovereign grace which has made us to differ, and taught us to love truth, and seek after righteousness.
Those who love sin, love vanity; they chase a bubble, they lean upon a reed, their hope is as a spider's web.
We might imagine every syllable of this precious Psalm used by our Master some evening, when about to leave the temple for the day, and retiring to his accustomed rest at Bethany, after another fruitless expostulation with the men of Israel. And we may read it still as the very utterance of his heart, longing over man, and delighting in God. But, further, not only is this the utterance of the Head, it is also the language of one of his members in full sympathy with him in holy feeling. This is a Psalm with which the righteous may make their dwellings resound, morning and evening, as they cast a sad look over a world that rejects God's grace. They may sing it while they cling more and more every day to Jehovah, as their all sufficient heritage, now and in the age to come. They may sing it, too, in the happy confidence of faith and hope, when the evening of the world's day is coming, and may then fall asleep in the certainty of what shall greet their eyes on the resurrection morning. Andrew A. Bonar, 1859
"Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity." This our first parents found, and therefore named their second son Abel, or vanity. Solomon, who had tried these things, and could best tell the vanity of them, he preaches this sermon over again and again. "Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity." It is sad to think how many thousands there are, who can say with the preacher, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity;" nay, swear it, and yet follow after these things as if there were no other glory, nor felicity--but what is to be found in these things which they call vanity. Such men will sell Christ, heaven, and their souls, for a trifle--who call these things vanity--but do not cordially believe them to be vanity--but set their hearts upon them as if they were their crown, the top of all their royalty and glory. Oh! let your souls dwell upon the vanity of all things here below--until your hearts so thoroughly convinced and persuaded of the vanity of them, as to trample upon them, and make them a footstool for Christ to get up, and ride in a holy triumph in your hearts.
Oh, the imperfection, the ingratitude, the levity, the inconstancy, the treachery of those creatures we most servilely affect! Ah, did we but weigh man's pain with his payment, his crosses with his mercies, his miseries with his pleasures--we would then see that there is nothing got by the bargain, and conclude, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." Chrysostom said once, "That if he were the fittest in the world to preach a sermon to the whole world, gathered together in one congregation, and had some high mountain for his pulpit, from whence he might have a prospect of all the world in his view, and were furnished with a voice of brass, a voice as loud as the trumpets of the archangel, that all the world might hear him--he would choose to preach upon no other text than that in the Psalms, "How long will you love what is worthless and pursue a lie?" Thomas Brooks, 1608-1680.
Verse 3."But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him." Here we see God's Election--its aspects toward God, our enemies, and ourselves.
But know. Fools will not learn, and therefore they must again and again be told the same thing, especially when it is such a bitter truth which is to be taught them, namely, the fact that the godly are the chosen of God, and are, by distinguishing grace, set apart and separated from among men.
Election is a doctrine which unrenewed men cannot endure--but nevertheless, it is a glorious and well attested truth, and one which should comfort the tried and tempted believer. Election is the guarantee of complete salvation, and an argument for success at the throne of grace. He who chose us for himself--will surely hear our prayer. The Lord's elect shall not be condemned, nor shall their cry be unheard.
David was king by divine decree, and we are the Lord's people in the same manner: let us tell our enemies to their faces, that they fight against God and destiny, when they strive to overthrow our souls. O beloved, when you are on your knees, the fact of your being set apart as God's own peculiar treasure, should give you courage and inspire you with fervency and faith. "Shall not God avenge his own elect, who cry day and night unto him?" Since he chose to love us--he cannot but choose to hear us!
When God chooses a man, he chooses him for himself; for himself to converse with, to communicate himself unto him as a friend, a companion, and his delight.
What rare persons the godly are: "The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor." Pr 12:26. As the flower of the sun, as the wine of Lebanon, as the sparkling jewel upon Aaron's breastplate, such is the orient splendor of a person embellished with godliness ... The godly are precious, therefore they are set apart for God, Know that the Lord has set apart him that is godly for himself. We set apart things that are precious; the godly are set apart as God's peculiar treasure (Psalm 135:4); as his garden of delight (Song 4:12); as his royal diadem (Isa 43:3); the godly are the excellent of the earth (Psalm 16:3); comparable to fine gold (La 4:2); double refined (Zec 13:9). They are the glory of the creation. (Isa 46:13). God calls them, His jewels! (Mal 3:17). Thomas Watson.
Verse 4."Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah."
How many reverse this counsel and sin--but tremble not. O that men would take the advice of this verse and commune with their own hearts. Surely a lack of thought must be one reason why men are so mad as to despite Christ and hate their own mercies.
O that for once their passions would be quiet and let them be still, that so in solemn silence they might review the past, and meditate upon their inevitable doom. Surely a thinking man might have enough sense to discover the vanity of sin and the worthlessness of the world. Stay, rash sinner, stay, before you take the last leap. Go to your bed and think upon your ways. Ask counsel of your pillow, and let the quietude of night instruct you! Do not throw away your soul for nothing! Let reason speak! Let the clamorous world be still awhile, and let your poor soul plead with you to bethink yourself before you seal its fate, and ruin it for ever!
Selah.O sinner! pause while I question you awhile in the words of a sacred poet,
"Sinner, is your heart at rest?
Is your bosom void of fear?
Are you not by guilt oppressed?
Speaks not conscience in your ear?
Can this world afford you bliss?
Can it chase away your gloom?
Flattering, false, and vain it is;
Tremble at the worldling's doom!
Think, O sinner, on your end,
See the judgment day appear,
There must your spirit wend,
There your righteous sentence hear.
Wretched, ruined, helpless soul,
To a Savior's blood apply;
He alone can make you whole,
Fly to Jesus, sinner, fly!"
Stand in awe and sin not.Jehovah is a name of great power and efficacy, a name that has in it five vowels, without which no language can be expressed; a name that has in it also three syllables, to signify the Trinity of persons, the eternity of God, One in Three and Three in One; a name of such dread and reverence among the Jews, that they tremble to name it, and therefore they use the name Adonai (Lord) in all their devotions. And thus ought everyone to "stand in awe, and sin not," by taking the name of God in vain; but to sing praise, and honor, to remember, to declare, to exalt, to praise and bless it; for holy and reverend, only worthy and excellent is his name. Rayment, 1630.
Commune with your own heart.The language is similar to that which we use when we say, "Consult your better judgment," or "Take counsel of your own good sense." Albert Barnes.
If you would exercise yourself to godliness in solitude, accustom yourself to soliloquies, I mean to conference with yourself. He needs never be idle--who has so much business to do with his own soul. It was a famous answer which Antisthenes gave when he was asked what fruit he reaped by all his studies. 'By them,' says he, 'I have learned both to live and talk with myself.' Soliloquies are the best disputes; every good man is best company for himself, of all the creatures. Holy David enjoins this to others, Commune with your own hearts upon your bed, and be still.
Commune with your own hearts; when you have none to speak with, talk to yourselves. Ask yourselves for what end you were made, what lives you have led, what times you have lost, what love you have abused, what wrath you have deserved. Call yourselves to a reckoning, how you have improved your talents, how true or false you have been to your trust, what provision you have laid in for an hour of death, what preparation you have made for a great day of account.
Upon your beds.Secrecy is the best opportunity for this duty. The silent night is a good time for this speech. When we have no outward objects to disturb us, and to call our eyes, as the fools' eyes are always, to the ends of the earth; then our eyes, as the eyes of the wise, may be in our heads; and then our minds, like the windows in Solomon's temple, may be wide open. The most successful searches have been made in the night season; the soul is then wholly shut up in the earthly house of the body, and has no visits from strangers to disquiet its thoughts. Physicians have judged dreams a probable sign whereby they might find out the distempers of the body. Surely, then, the bed is no bad place to examine and search into the state of the soul.
And be still.Self communion will much help to curb your headstrong, ungodly passions. Serious consideration, like the throwing of dirt upon bees, will allay inordinate affections when they are full of fury, and make such a hideous noise. Though sensual appetites and unruly desires are, as the people of Ephesus, in an uproar, pleading for their former privilege, and expecting their usual provisions, as in the days of their predominance, if consciences use its authority, commanding them in God's name, whose officer it is, to keep the king's peace, and argue it with them, as the town clerk of Ephesus, "We are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this day's concourse;" all is frequently by this means hushed, and the tumult appeased without any further mischief. George Swinnock, 1627-1673.
Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.When we are most retired from the world, then we are most fit to have, and usually have, most communion with God. If a man would but abridge himself of sleep, and wake with holy thoughts, when deep sleep falls upon sorrowful laboring men, he might be entertained with visions from God, though not such visions as Eliphaz and others of the saints have had--yet visions he might have. Every time God communicates himself to the soul, there is a vision of love, or mercy, or power, something of God in his nature, or in his will, is shown unto us. David shows us divine work when we go to rest. The bed is not all for sleep: "Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still." Be still or quiet, and then commune with your hearts; and if you will commune with your hearts, God will come and commune with your hearts, too--his Spirit will give you a loving visit and visions of his love. Joseph Caryl.
The sinner directed to review himself, that he may be convinced of sin. Andrew Fuller, 1754-1815.
Be still.Advice—good and practical--but hard to follow. Grace is needed to enable one to be still.
Verse 5."Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord." Provided that the rebels had obeyed the voice of the last verse, they would now be crying, "What shall we do to be saved?" And in the present verse, they are pointed to the sacrifice, and exhorted to trust in the Lord.
When the Jew offered sacrifice righteously, that is, in a spiritual manner, he thereby set forth the Redeemer, the great sin-atoning Lamb; there is, therefore, the full gospel in this exhortation of the Psalmist. O sinners, flee you to the sacrifice of Calvary, and there put your whole confidence and trust, for he who died for men is the LORD JEHOVAH.
Verse 6."Many are asking, 'Who can show us any good?' Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord." See here, the cry of the world and the Christian contrasted. The cravings of the soul all satisfied in God. We have now entered upon the third division of the Psalm, in which the faith of the afflicted one finds utterance in sweet expressions of contentment and peace.
There were many, even among David's own followers, who wanted to see rather than to believe. Alas! this is the tendency of us all! Even the regenerate sometimes groan after the sense and sight of prosperity, and are sad when darkness covers all good from view. As for worldlings, this is their unceasing cry, Who will show us any good? Never satisfied, their gaping mouths are turned in every direction, their empty hearts are ready to drink in any carnal delusion which impostors may invent; and when these fail, they soon yield to despair, and declare that there is no good thing in either heaven or earth.
The true believer is a man of a very different mold. His face is not downward like the beasts--but upward like the angels! He drinks not from the muddy pools of Mammon--but from the fountain of life above.
The light of God's countenance is enough for him. This is his riches, his honor, his health, his ambition, his ease. Give him this, and he will ask no more. This is joy unspeakable, and full of glory. Oh, for more of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that our fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ may be constant and abiding!
Where Christ reveals himself--there is satisfaction in the slenderest earthly portion, and without Christ there is emptiness in the greatest earthly fullness. Alexander Grosse, on enjoying Christ, 1632.
Many,said David, ask who will show us any good? meaning riches, and honor, and pleasure, which are not good. But when he came to godliness itself, he leaves out "many," and prays in his own person, Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon us. Henry Smith.
Who will show us any good?Man wants good; he hates evil as evil, because he has pain, suffering, and death through it; and he wishes to find that supreme good which will content his heart, and save him from evil. But men mistake this good. They look for a good that is to gratify their passions; they have no notion of any happiness that does not come to them through the medium of their senses. Therefore they reject spiritual good, and they reject the Supreme God, by whom alone all the powers of the soul of man can be gratified. Adam Clarke.
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.This was the blessing of the high priest and is the heritage of all the saints. It includes reconciliation, assurance, communion, blessing, in a word, the fullness of God. Oh, to be filled therewith!
Verse 6-7.Lest riches should be accounted evil in themselves--God sometimes gives them to the righteous; and lest they should be considered as the chief good--he frequently bestows them on the wicked. But they are more generally the portion of his enemies than his friends. Alas! what is it to receive from God--and not to be received by God? to have no other dews of blessing--than such as shall be followed by showers of brimstone? We may compass ourselves with sparks of security, and afterwards be secured in eternal misery. This world is a floating island, and so sure as we cast anchor upon it, we shall be carried away by it. He can never lack treasure who has such a golden mine--as God. He is enough without the creature--but the creature is not anything without him. It is, therefore, better to enjoy him without anything else--than to enjoy everything else without him. It is better to be a wooden vessel filled with wine--that a golden one filled with water. William Secker's Nonsuch Professor, 1660.
Verse 7."You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound." Here we have, an assurance of the Savior's love, the source of unrivaled joy. The believer's joys:
"It is better, " said one, "to feel God's favor one hour in our repenting souls, that to sit whole ages under the warmest sunshine that this world affords." Christ in the heart is better than corn in the barn, or wine in the vat. Corn and wine are but fruits of the world--but the light of God's countenance is the ripe fruit of heaven. "You are with me," is a far more blessed cry than "Harvest home!" Let my granary be empty, I am yet full of blessings if Jesus Christ smiles upon me; but if I have all the world, I am poor without him.
We should not fail to remark that this verse is the saying of the righteous man, in opposition to the saying of the many. How quickly does the tongue betray the character! The metal of a bell is best known by its sound. Birds reveal their nature by their song. Owls cannot sing the carol of the lark, nor can the nightingale hoot like the owl. Let us, then, weigh and watch our words, lest our speech should prove us to be foreigners, and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.
What madness and folly is it that the favorites of heaven should envy the men of the world, who at best do but feed upon the scraps that come from God's table! Temporals are the bones; spirituals are the meat. Is it below a man to envy the dogs, because of the bones! And is it not much more below a Christian to envy others for temporals, when himself enjoys spirituals? Thomas Brooks.
You have put gladness in my heart.The comforts which God reserves for his mourners are filling comforts (Ro 15:13); "The God of hope fill you with joy" (Joh 16:24); "Ask that your joy may be full." When God pours in the joys of heaven--they fill the heart, and make it run over (2Co 7:4); "I am exceeding joyful;" the Greek is, I overflow with joy, as a cup that is filled with wine until it runs over. Outward comforts can no more fill the heart than a triangle can fill a circle. Spiritual joys are satisfying (Ps 63:5); "My heart shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips."
"You have put gladness in my heart." Worldly joys do put gladness into the face--but God puts gladness into the heart; divine joys are heart joys (Zec 10:7 Joh 16:22); "Your heart shall rejoice" (Lu 1:47); "My spirit rejoiced in God." And to show how filling these comforts are, which are of a heavenly extraction, the psalmist says they create greater joy than when "corn and wine increase." Wine and oil may delight--but not satisfy; they have their vacuity and indigence. We may say, as Zec 10:2, "They comfort in vain." Outward comforts do sooner cloy than cheer, and sooner weary that fill. Xerxes offered great rewards to him that could find out a new pleasure; but the comforts of the Spirit are satisfactory, they refresh and delight the heart (Psalm 94:19), "Your comforts delight my soul." There is as much difference between heavenly comforts and earthly, as between a banquet that is eaten, and one that is painted on the wall. Thomas Watson.
Verse 8."I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Sweet Evening Hymn! I shall not sit up to watch through fear--but I will lie down; and then I will not lie awake listening to every rustling sound--but I will lie down and sleep in peace, for I have nothing to fear. He that has the wings of God above him--needs no other curtain. Better than bolts or bars--is the protection of the Lord. Armed men kept the bed of Solomon--but we do not believe that he slept more soundly than his father, whose bed was the hard ground, and who was hunted by blood thirsty foes. Note the word alone, which means that God alone was his keeper, and that though alone, without man's help, he was even then in good keeping, for he was "alone with God." A quiet conscience is a good bedfellow. How many of our sleepless hours might be traced to our untrusting and disordered minds.
They slumber sweetly--whom faith rocks to sleep. No pillow so soft as a promise; no cover so warm as an assured interest in Christ.
O Lord, give us this calm repose on you, that like David we may lie down in peace, and sleep each night while we live; and joyfully may we lie down in the appointed season, to sleep in death, to rest in God!
It is said of the farmer, that having cast his seed into the ground, he sleeps and rises day and night, and the seed springs and grows he knows not how. Mr 4:26,27. So a good man having by faith and prayer cast his care upon God, he rests night and day, and is very easy, leaving it to his God to perform all things for him according to his holy will. Matthew Henry.
When you have walked with God from morning until night, it remains that you conclude the day well, when you would give yourself to rest at night. Therefore, first, look back and take a strict view of your whole carriage that day past. Reform what you find amiss; and rejoice, or be grieved, as you find you have done well or ill, as you have advanced or declined in grace that day. Secondly, since you cannot sleep in safety if God, who is your keeper (Psalm 121:4-5), does not wake and watch for you (Ps 127:1); and though you have God to watch when you sleep, you cannot be safe, if he who watches be your enemy. Therefore it is very convenient that at night you renew and confirm your peace with God by faith and prayer, commending and committing yourself to God's tuition by prayer (Ps 3:4-5 92:2), with thanksgiving before you go to bed. Then shall you lie down in safety. Psalm 4:8. All this being done--yet while you are putting off your apparel, when you are lying down, and when you are in bed, before you sleep, it is good that you commune with your own heart. Psalm 4:4. If possibly you can fall asleep with some heavenly meditation, then will your sleep be more sweet (Pr 3:21,24-25); and more secure (Pr 6:21-22); your dreams fewer, or more comfortable; your head will be fuller of good thoughts (Pr 6:22), and your heart will be in a better frame when you awake, whether in the night or in the morning. Condensed from Henry Scudder's Daily Walk, 1633.
I will both,etc. We have now to retire for a moment from the world, into the stillness and privacy of the chamber of sleep. God is here revealed to us as exercising personal care in the still chamber. And there is something here which should be inexpressibly sweet to the believer, for this shows the minuteness of God's care, and the individuality of His love; how it condescends and stoops, and acts, not only in great things--but also in little spheres; not only where glory might be procured from great results--but where nothing is to be had but the gratitude and love of a poor feeble creature, whose life has been protected and preserved, in a period of helplessness and sleep.
How blessed would it be if we made larger recognition of God in the still chamber; if we thought of Him as being there in all hours of illness, of weariness, and pain; if we believed that His interest and care are as much concentrated upon the feeble believer there--as upon His people when in the wider battlefield of the strife of tongues.
There is something inexpressibly touching in this "lying down" of the Psalmist. In thus lying down he voluntarily gave up any guardianship of himself; he resigned himself into the hands of God; he did so completely, for in the absence of all care he slept; there was here a perfect trust.
Many a believer lies down--but it is not to sleep. Perhaps he feels safe enough so far as his body is concerned--but cares and anxieties invade the privacy of his chamber. Many a poor believer might say, "I will lay me down--but not to sleep."
There is a trial in stillness; and oftentimes the still chamber makes a larger demand upon loving trust, than the battlefield. O that we could trust God more and more with personal things! O that he were the God of our bed-chamber, as well as of our temples and houses! O that we could bring Him more and more into the minutiae of daily life! If we did thus, we would experience a measure of rest to which we are, perhaps, strangers now; we would have less dread of the sick chamber; we would have that unharassed mind which conduces most to repose, in body and soul; we would be able to say, "I will lie down and sleep, and leave tomorrow with God!"Philip Bennett Power's "I Wills" of the Psalms.
Due observation of Providence will both beget and secure inward tranquility in your minds amidst the vicissitudes and revolutions of things in this unstable vain world. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for the Lord only makes me dwell in safety. He resolves that sinful fears of events shall not rob him of his inward quiet, nor torture his thoughts with anxious presages; he will commit all his concerns into that faithful fatherly hand that had hitherto wrought all things for him; and he means not to lose the comfort of one night's rest, nor bring the evil of tomorrow upon the day; but knowing in whose hand he was--he wisely enjoys the sweet felicity of a resigned will. Now this tranquility of our minds is as much begotten and preserved by a due consideration of providence, as by anything whatever. John Flavel, 1627-1691.
Happy is the Christian, who having nightly with this verse, committed himself to his bed as to his grave, shall at last, with the same words, resign himself to his grave as to his bed, from which he expects in due time to arise, and sing a morning hymn with the children of the resurrection. George Horne, 1776.