Treasury of David
SUBJECT. Charles Simeon gives an excellent summary of this Psalm in the following sentences: "The Psalms are a rich repository of experimental knowledge. David, at the different periods of his life, was placed in almost every situation in which a believer, whether rich or poor, can be placed; in these heavenly compositions he delineates all the workings of the heart. He introduces, too, the sentiments and conduct of the various people who were accessory either to his troubles or his joys; and thus sets before us a compendium of all that is passing in the hearts of men throughout the world. When he penned this Psalm he was under persecution from Saul, who sought his life, and hunted him 'as a partridge upon the mountains.' His timid friends were alarmed for his safety, and recommended him to flee to some mountain where he had a hiding-place, and thus to conceal himself from the rage of Saul. But David, being strong in faith, spurned the idea of resorting to any such pusillanimous expedients, and determined confidently to repose his trust in God."
To assist us to remember this short, but sweet Psalm, we will give it the name of "THE SONG OF THE STEADFAST."
From 1 to 3, David describes the temptation with which he was assailed.
From 4 to 7, the arguments by which his courage was sustained.
Verse 1. "In the Lord put I my trust. How say you to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?" These verses contain an account of a temptation to distrust God, with which David was, upon some unmentioned occasion, greatly exercised. It may be, that in the days when he was in Saul's court, he was advised to flee at a time when this flight would have been charged against him as a breach of duty to the king, or a proof of personal cowardice. His case was like that of Nehemiah, when his enemies, under the garb of friendship, hoped to entrap him by advising him to escape for his life. Had he done so, they could then have found a ground of accusation. Nehemiah bravely replied, "Shall such a man as I flee?" and David, in a like spirit, refuses to retreat, exclaiming, "In the Lord put I my trust. How say you to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?"
When Satan cannot overthrow us by presumption, how craftily will he seek to ruin us by distrust! He will employ our dearest friends to argue us out of our confidence, and he will use such plausible logic, that unless we once for all assert our immovable trust in Jehovah, he will make us like the timid bird which flies to the mountain whenever danger presents itself.
Verse 2. For look! The wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. How forcibly the case is put! The bow is bent, the arrow is fitted to the string: "Flee, flee, you defenseless bird, your safety lies in flight; begone, for your enemies will send their shafts into your heart; hasten, haste, for soon will you be destroyed!"
David seems to have felt the force of the advice, for it came home to his soul; but yet he would not yield, but would rather dare the danger than exhibit a distrust in the Lord his God. Doubtless the perils which encompassed David were great and imminent; it was quite true that his enemies were ready to shoot privily at him.
Verse 3. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? It was equally correct that the very foundations of law and justice were destroyed under Saul's unrighteous government: but what were all these things to the man whose trust was in God alone? He could brave the dangers, could escape the enemies, and defy the injustice which surrounded him.
His answer to the question, "What can the righteous do?" would be the counter-question, "What cannot they do?" When prayer engages God on our side, and when faith secures the fulfillment of the promise, what cause can there be for flight, however cruel and mighty our enemies?
With a sling and a stone, David had smitten a giant before whom the whole hosts of Israel were trembling, and the Lord, who delivered him from the uncircumcised Philistine, could surely deliver him from King Saul and his myrmidons. There is no such word as "impossibility" in the language of faith; that martial grace knows how to fight and conquer, but she knows not how to flee.
Verse 4. David here declares the great source of his unflinching courage. He borrows his light from heaven—from the great central orb of deity. The God of the believer is never far from him; he is not merely the God of the mountain fastnesses, but of the dangerous valleys and battle plains.
"Jehovah is in his holy temple." The heavens are above our heads in all regions of the earth, and so is the Lord ever near to us in every state and condition. This is a very strong reason why we should not adopt the vile suggestions of distrust. There is one who pleads his precious blood in our behalf in the temple above, and there is one upon the throne who is never deaf to the intercession of his Son. Why, then, should we fear? What plots can men devise which Jesus will not discover?
Satan has doubtless desired to have us, that he may sift us as wheat, but Jesus is in the temple praying for us, and how can our faith fail? What attempts can the wicked make which Jehovah shall not behold? And since he is in his holy temple, delighting in the sacrifice of his Son, will he not defeat every device, and send us a sure deliverance?
"Jehovah's throne is in the heavens." He reigns supreme! Nothing can be done in Heaven, or earth, or Hell, which he does not ordain and over-rule. He is the world's great Emperor. Why, then, should we flee? If we trust this King of kings, is not this enough? Cannot he deliver us without our cowardly retreat? Yes, blessed be the Lord our God, we can salute him as Jehovah-nissi—in his name we set up our banners, and instead of flight, we once more raise the shout of war.
"His eyes behold." The eternal Watcher never slumbers; his eyes never know a sleep.
"His eyes examine the children of men." He narrowly inspects their actions, words, and thoughts. As men, when intently and narrowly inspecting some very minute object, almost close their eyelids to exclude every other object, so will the Lord look all men through and through. God sees each man as much and as perfectly as if there were no other creature in the universe! He sees us always—he never removes his eye from us. He sees us entirely, reading the recesses of the soul as readily as the glancings of the eye. Is not this a sufficient ground of confidence, and an abundant answer to the solicitations of despondency? My danger is not hid from him; he knows my extremity, and I may rest assured that he will not allow me to perish while I rely alone on him. Why, then, should I take wings of a timid bird, and flee from the dangers which beset me?
Verse 5. "The Lord tries the righteous." He does not hate them, but only tries them. They are precious to him, and therefore he refines them with afflictions. None of the Lord's children may hope to escape from trial, nor, indeed, in our right minds, would any of us desire to do so, for trial is the channel of many blessings.
"Tis my happiness below
Not to live without the cross;
But the Savior's power to know,
Sanctifying every loss.
* * * * * * * *
Trials make the promise sweet;
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to his feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there.
Did I meet no trials here,
No chastisement by the way;
Might I not, with reason, fear
I should prove a cast-away?
Bastards may escape the rod,
Sunk in earthly vain delight;
But the true-born child of God
Must not—would not, if he might."
Is not this a very cogent reason why we should not distrustfully endeavor to shun a trial?—for in so doing we are seeking to avoid a blessing.
"But the wicked and him that loves violence his soul hates!" Why, then, shall I flee from these wicked men? If God hates them, I will not fear them. Haman was very great in the palace until he lost favor; but when the king abhorred him, how bold were the meanest attendants to suggest the gallows for the man at whom they had often trembled! Look at the black mark upon the faces of our persecutors, and we shall not run away from them. If God is in the quarrel as well as ourselves, it would be foolish to question the result, or avoid the conflict.
Sodom and Gomorrah perished by a fiery hail, and by a brimstone shower from Heaven; so shall all the ungodly. They may gather together like Gog and Magog to battle, but the Lord will rain upon them "an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone!" Ezekiel 38:22.
Verse 6. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. Some expositors think that in the term "horrible tempest," there is in the Hebrew an allusion to that burning, suffocating wind, which blows across the Arabian deserts, and is known by the name of Simoom. "A burning storm," one calls it, while another great commentator reads it "wrath-wind;" in either version the language is full of terrors.
What a tempest will that be which shall overwhelm the despisers of God! Oh! what a shower will that be which shall pour out itself forever upon the defenseless heads of impenitent sinners in Hell! Repent, you rebels, or this fiery deluge shall soon surround you. Hell's horrors shall be your inheritance, your entailed estate!
"The portion of your cup." The dregs of that cup you shall wring out, and drink forever. A drop of Hell is terrible, but what must a full cup of torment be? Think of it! A cup of misery—but not a drop of mercy!
O people of God, how foolish is it to fear the faces of men who shall soon be faggots in the fire of Hell! Think of their end, their fearful end, and all fear of them must be changed into contempt of their threatenings, and pity for their miserable estate.
Verse 7. The delightful contrast of the last verse is well worthy of our observation, and it affords another overwhelming reason why we should be steadfast, unmoveable, not carried away with fear, or led to adopt carnal expedients in order to avoid trial.
For the righteous Lord loves righteousness." It is not only his office to defend it, but his nature to love it. He would deny himself if he did not defend the just. It is essential to the very being of God that he should be just. Fear not, then, the end of all your trials, but "be just, and fear not." God approves, and, if men oppose, what matters it?
"His countenance does behold the upright." We need never be out of countenance, for God countenances us. He observes, he approves, he delights in the upright. He sees his own image in them, an image of his own fashioning, and therefore with delight he regards them.
Shall we dare to put forth our hand unto iniquity in order to escape affliction? Let us have done with by-ways and short turnings, and let us keep to that fair path of right along which Jehovah's smile shall light us.
Are we tempted to put our light under a bushel, to conceal our religion from our neighbors? Is it suggested to us that there are ways of avoiding the cross, and shunning the reproach of Christ? Let us not hearken to the voice of the charmer, but seek an increase of faith, that we may wrestle with principalities and powers, and follow the Lord, fully going outside the camp, bearing his reproach. Mammon, the flesh, the devil, will all whisper in our ear, "Flee as a bird to your mountain!" But let us come forth and defy them all. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." There is no room or reason for retreat. Advance! Let the vanguard push on! To the front! all you powers and passions of our soul. On! on! in God's name, on! for "the Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."