Treasury of David
SUBJECT. We have before us a National Anthem, fitted to be sung at the outbreak of war, when the monarch was girding on his sword for the fight. If David had not been vexed with wars, we might never have been favored with such psalms as this.
There is a needs be for the trials of one saint, that he may yield consolation to others.
A happy people here plead for a beloved sovereign, and with loving hearts cry to Jehovah, "God save the King." We gather that this song was intended to be sung in public, not only from the matter of the song, but also from its dedication "To the Chief Musician." We know its author to have been Israel's sweet singer, from the short title, "A Psalm of David."
The particular occasion which suggested it, it would be mere folly to conjecture, for Israel was almost always at war in David's day. His sword may have been hacked, but it was never rusted.
It needs but a moment's reflection to perceive that this hymn of prayer is prophetic of our Lord Jesus, and is the cry of the ancient church on behalf of her Lord, as she sees him in vision enduring a great fight of afflictions on her behalf. The militant people of God, with the great Captain of salvation at their head, may still in earnest plead that the pleasure of the Lord may prosper in his hand. We shall endeavor to keep to this view of the subject in our brief exposition, but we cannot entirely restrict out remarks to it.
DIVISION. The first four verses are a prayer for the success of the king.
Verses 5, 6, and 7 express unwavering confidence in God and his Anointed.
Verse 8 declares the defeat of the foe.
Verse 9 is a concluding appeal to Jehovah.
Verse 1. "May the Lord hear you in the day of trouble." All loyal subjects pray for their king, and most certainly citizens of Zion have good cause to pray for the Prince of Peace. In times of conflict loving subjects redouble their pleas, and surely in the sorrows of our Lord his church could not but be in earnest.
All the Savior's days were days of trouble, and he also made them days of prayer. The church joins her intercession with her Lord's, and pleads that he may be heard in his cries and tears. The agony in the garden was especially a gloomy hour, but he was heard in that he feared. He knew that his Father heard him always—yet in that troublous hour no reply came until thrice he had fallen on his face in the garden; then sufficient strength was given in answer to prayer, and he rose a victor from the conflict.
In this he is our example, teaching us that if we are to receive any advantage from the prayers of others, we must first pray for ourselves. What a mercy that we may pray in the day of trouble, and what a still more blessed privilege that no trouble can prevent the Lord from hearing us! Troubles roar like thunder, but the believer's voice will be heard above the storm. O Jesus, when you plead for us in our hour of trouble, the Lord Jehovah will hear you. This is a most refreshing confidence, and it may be indulged in without fear.
"May the name of the God of Jacob defend you;" or, as some read it, "set you in a high place." By "the name" is meant the revealed character of God. We are not to worship "the unknown God," but we should seek to know the covenant God of Jacob, who has been pleased to reveal his name and attributes to his people. There may be much in a royal name, or a learned name, or a venerable name, but it will be a theme for heavenly scholarship to discover all that is contained in the divine name.
The glorious power of God defended and preserved the Lord Jesus through the battle of his life and death, and exalted him above all his enemies. His warfare is now accomplished in his own proper person—but in his mystical body, the church, he is still beset with dangers, and only the eternal arm of our God in covenant can defend the soldiers of the cross, and set them on high out of the reach of their foes. The day of trouble is not over, the pleading Savior is not silent, and the name of the God of Israel is still the defense of the faithful.
The name, "God of Jacob," is suggestive; Jacob had his day of trouble, he wrestled, was heard, was defended, and in due time was set on high, and his God is our God still, the same God to all his wrestling Jacobs.
The whole verse is a very fitting blessing to be pronounced by a gracious heart over a child, a friend, or a minister, in prospect of trial. It includes both temporal and spiritual protection, and directs the mind to the great source of all good. How delightful to believe that our heavenly Father has pronounced it upon our favored heads!
Verse 2. "May he send you help from the sanctuary." Out of Heaven's sanctuary came the angel to strengthen our Lord, and from the precious remembrance of God's doings in his sanctuary our Lord refreshed himself when on the tree.
There is no help like that which is of God's sending, and no deliverance like that which comes out of his sanctuary. The sanctuary to us is the person of our blessed Lord, who was typified by the temple, and is the true sanctuary which God has pitched, and not man. Let us fly to the cross for shelter in all times of need and help will be sent to us. Men of the world despise sanctuary help, but our hearts have learned to prize it beyond all material aid. They seek help out of the armory, or the treasury—but we turn to the sanctuary.
"And strengthen you out of Zion." Out of the assemblies of the pleading saints who had for ages prayed for their Lord, help might well result to the despised sufferer, for praying breath is never spent in vain.
To the Lord's mystical body the richest comes in answer to the pleadings of his saints assembled for holy worship as his Zion. Certain advertisers recommend a strengthening plaster, but nothing can give such strength to the loins of a saint as waiting upon God in the assemblies of his people.
This verse is a blessing befitting a Sabbath morning, and may be the salutation either of a pastor to his people, or of a church to its minister. God in the sanctuary of his dear Son's person, and in the city of his chosen church is the proper object of his people's prayers, and under such a character may they confidently look to him for his promised aid.
Verse 3. "Remember all your offerings, and accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah." Before war kings offered sacrifice, upon the acceptance of which the depended for success.
Our blessed Lord presented himself as a victim, and was a sweet savor unto the Most High, and then he met and routed the embattled legions of Hell. Still does his burnt sacrifice perfume the courts of Heaven, and through him the offerings of his people are received as his sacrifices and oblations. We ought in our spiritual conflicts to have an eye to the sacrifice of Jesus, and never venture to war until first the Lord has given us a token for good at the altar of the cross, where faith beholds her bleeding Lord.
"Selah." It is well to pause at the cross before we march onward to battle, and with the psalmist cry "Selah." We are too much in a hurry to make good progress. A little pausing might greatly help our speed. Stay, good man, there is a haste which hinders; rest awhile, meditate on the burnt sacrifice, and put your heart right for the stern work which lies before you.
Verse 4. "Grant according to your own heart, and fulfill all your counsel." Christ's desire and counsel were both set upon the salvation of his people. The church of old desired for him good speed in his design, and the church in these latter days, with all her heart desires the complete fulfillment of his purpose. In Christ Jesus sanctified souls may appropriate this verse as a promise; they shall have their desire, and their plans to glorify their Master shall succeed. We may have our own will—when our will is God's will. This was always the case with our Lord, and yet he said, "not as I will, but as you will." What need for submission in our case; if it was necessary to him, then how much more for us?
Verse 5. "We will rejoice in your salvation." In Jesus there is salvation; it is his own, and hence it is called your salvation; but it is ours to receive and ours to rejoice in. We should fixedly resolve that come what may, we will rejoice in the saving arm of the Lord Jesus. The people in this psalm, before their king went to battle, felt sure of victory, and therefore began to rejoice beforehand; how much more ought we to do this who have seen the victory completely won!
Unbelief begins weeping for the funeral before the man is dead; why should not faith commence singing before the dance of victory begins? Buds are beautiful, and promises not yet fulfilled are worthy to be admired. If joy were more general among the Lord's people, God would be more glorified among men; the happiness of the subjects is the honor of the sovereign.
"And in the name of our God we will set up our banners." We lift the standard of defiance in the face of the foe, and wave the flag of victory over the fallen adversary. Some proclaim war in the name of one king, and some of another—but the faithful go to war in Jesus' name, the name of the incarnate God, Immanuel, God with us. The times are evil at present, but so long as Jesus lives and reigns in his church we need not furl our banners in fear, but advance them with sacred courage.
"Jesus' tremendous name
Puts all our foes to flight;
Jesus, the meek, the angry Lamb
A lion is in fight."
The church cannot forget that Jesus is her advocate before the throne, and therefore she sums up the desires already expressed in the short sentence, "The Lord fulfill all your petitions."
Be it never forgotten that among those petitions is that choice one, "Father, I will that they also whom you have given me be with me where I am."
Verse 6. "Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed." We live and learn, and what we learn we are not ashamed to acknowledge. He who thinks he knows everything will miss the joy of finding out new truth; he will never be able to cry, "now I know," for he is so wise in his own conceit that he knows all that can be revealed and more. Souls conscious of ignorance shall be taught of the Lord, and rejoice as they learn.
Earnest prayer frequently leads to assured confidence. The church pleaded that the Lord Jesus might win the victory in his great struggle, and now by faith she sees him saved by the omnipotent arm. She evidently finds a sweet relish in the fragrant title of "anointed;" she thinks of him as ordained before all worlds to his great work, and then endowed with the needful qualifications by being anointed of the Spirit of the Lord. This is evermore the choicest solace of the believer, that Jehovah himself has anointed Jesus to be a Prince and a Savior, and that our shield is thus the Lord's own anointed.
"He will hear him from his holy Heaven with the saving strength of his right hand." It is here asserted confidently that God's holiness and power would both come to the rescue of the Savior in his conflict, and surely these two glorious attributes found congenial work in answering the sufferer's cries. Since Jesus was heard—we shall be also. God is in Heaven, but our prayers can scale those glorious heights. Those heavens are holy, but Jesus purifies our prayers, and so they gain admittance. Our need is great, but the divine arm is strong, and all its strength is "saving strength;" that strength, moreover, is in the hand which is most used and which is used most readily—the right hand. What encouragements are these for pleading saints!
Contrasts frequently bring out the truth vividly, and here the church sets forth the creature confidences of carnal men in contrast with her reliance upon the Prince Immanuel and the invisible Jehovah.
Verse 7. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses." Chariots and horses make an imposing show, and with their rattling, and dust, and fine caparisons, make so great a figure that vain man is much taken with them; yet the discerning eye of faith sees more in an invisible God than in all these. The most dreaded war-engine of David's day was the war-chariot, armed with scythes, which mowed down men like grass. This was the boast and glory of the neighboring nations; but the saints considered the name of Jehovah to be a far better defense. As the Israelites might not keep horses, it was natural for them to regard the enemy's calvary with more than usual dread. It is, therefore, all the greater evidence of faith that the bold songster can here disdain even the horse of Egypt in comparison with the Lord Almighty.
Alas, how many in our day who profess to be the Lord's are as abjectly dependent upon their fellow-men or upon an arm of flesh in some shape or other, as if they had never known the name of Jehovah at all. Jesus, be alone our rock and refuge, and never may we mar the simplicity of our faith.
"We will remember the name of the Lord our God." "Our God" in covenant, who has chosen us and whom we have chosen; this God is our God. The name of our God is JEHOVAH, and this should never be forgotten. He is the self-existent, independent, immutable, ever-present, all-filling I AM. Let us adore that matchless name, and never dishonor it by distrust or creature confidence. Reader, you must know it before you can remember it. May the blessed Spirit reveal it graciously to your soul!
Verse 8. They have bowed down and fallen; but we have risen and stand upright. How different the end of those whose trusts are different! The enemies of God are uppermost at first, but they before long are brought down by force, or else fall of their own accord. Their foundation is rotten, and therefore when the time comes it gives way under them. Their chariots are burned in the fire, and their horses die of pestilence, and where is their boasted strength?
As for those who rest on Jehovah, they are often cast down at the first onset, but an Almighty arm uplifts them, and they joyfully stand upright. The victory of Jesus is the inheritance of his people. The world, death, Satan, and sin, shall all be trampled beneath the feet of the champions of faith; while those who rely upon an arm of flesh shall be ashamed and confounded forever.
Verse 9. Save, LORD! May the King answer us when we call. The Psalm is here recapitulated. That Jesus might himself be delivered, and might then, as our King, hear us—is the two-fold desire of the Psalm. The first request is granted, and the second is sure to all the chosen seed; and therefore we may close the Psalm with the hearty shout, "God save the King." "God save King Jesus, and may he soon come to reign."