Treasury of David
TITLE. A Psalm of David. The sweet singer of Israel appears before us in this Psalm as one enduring reproach. In this he was the type of the great Son of David, and is an encouraging example to us to carry the burden of slander to the throne of grace. It is an ingenious surmise that this appeal to Heaven was written by David at the time of the assassination of Ishbosheth, by Baanah and Rechab, to protest his innocence of all participation in that treacherous murder. The tenor of the Psalm certainly agrees with the supposed occasion, but it is not possible with such a slender clue to go beyond conjecture.
DIVISION. Unity of subject is so distinctly maintained, that there are no sharp divisions. David Dickson has given an admirable summary in these words: "He appeals to God", the supreme Judge, in the testimony of a good conscience, bearing him witness:
first, of his endeavor to walk uprightly as a believer, Verses 1-3;
secondly, of his keeping himself from the contagion of the evil counsel, sinful causes, and examples of the wicked, Verses 4-5;
thirdly, of his purpose still to behave himself holily and righteously, out of love to be partaker of the public privileges of the Lord's people in the congregation, Verses 6-8.
Whereupon he prays to be free of the judgment coming upon the wicked, Verses 9-10.
according as he had purposed to eschew their sins, Verse 11
and he closes the prayer with comfort and assurance of being heard, Verse 12.
Verse 1. Judge me, O Jehovah. A solemn appeal to the just tribunal of the heart searching God, warranted by the circumstances of the writer, so far as regarded the particular offences with which he was wrongly charged. Worried and worn out by the injustice of men, the innocent spirit flies from its false accusers to the throne of Eternal Right. He had need have a clear case who dares to carry his suit into the King's Bench of Heaven. Such an appeal as this is not to be rashly made on any occasion; and as to the whole of our walk and conversation, it should never be made at all, except as we are justified in Christ Jesus. A far more fitting prayer for a sinful mortal is the petition, "Enter not into judgment with your servant."
For I have walked in my integrity. He held integrity as his principle, and walked in it as his practice. David had not used any traitorous or unrighteous means to gain the crown, or to keep it; he was conscious of having been guided by the noblest principles of honor in all his actions with regard to Saul and his family.
What a comfort it is to have the approbation of one's own conscience! If there be peace within the soul, the blustering storms of slander which howl around us are of little consideration. When the little bird in my bosom sings a merry song, it is no matter to me if a thousand owls hoot at me from without.
I have trusted also in the Lord. Faith is the root and sap of integrity. He who leans upon the Lord is sure to walk in righteousness. David knew that God's covenant had given him the crown, and therefore he took no indirect or unlawful means to secure it. He would not slay his enemy in the cave, nor suffer his soldiers to smite him when he slept unguarded on the plain.
Faith will work hard for the Lord, and in the Lord's way, but she refuses so much as to lift a finger to fulfill the devices of unrighteous cunning.
Rebecca acted out a great falsehood in order to fulfill the Lord's decree in favor of Jacob—this was unbelief. But Abraham left the Lord to fulfill his own purposes, and took the knife to slay his son—this was faith.
Faith trusts God to accomplish his own decrees. Why should I steal when God has promised to supply my need? Why should I avenge myself when I know that the Lord has espoused my cause? Confidence in God is a most effectual security against sin.
Therefore I shall not slide. Slippery as the way is, so that I walk like a man upon ice—yet faith keeps my feet from slipping, and will continue to do so. The doubtful ways of policy are sure sooner or later to give a fall to those who run therein. But the ways of honesty, though often rough, are always safe. We cannot trust in God if we walk crookedly. Straight paths and simple faith bring the pilgrim happily to his journey's end.
Verse 2. There are three modes of trial here challenged, which are said in the original to refer to trial by touch, trial by smell, and trial by fire. The psalmist was so clear from the charge laid against him, that he submitted himself unconditionally to any form of examination which the Lord might see fit to employ.
Examine me, O Lord. Look me through and through; make a minute survey; put me to the question, cross examine my evidence.
And prove me. Put me again to trial; and see if I would follow such wicked designs as my enemies impute to me. Try my thoughts and my heart. Assay me as metals are assayed in the furnace, and do this to my most secret parts, where my affections hold their court. See, O God, whether or not I love hatred, and treason, and deceit.
All this is a very bold appeal, and made by a man like David, who feared the Lord exceedingly, it manifests a most solemn and complete conviction of innocence. The expressions here used should teach us the thoroughness of the divine judgment, and the necessity of being in all things profoundly sincere—lest we be found wanting at the last.
Our enemies are severe with us with the severity of spite, and this a brave man endures without fear; but God's severity is that of unswerving right. Who shall stand against such a trial? The sweet singer says "Who can stand before his cold?" and we may well inquire, "Who can stand before the heat of his justice?"
Verse 3. For your loving-kindness is before my eyes. An object of memory, and a ground of hope. A sense of mercy received sets a fair prospect before the faithful mind in its gloomiest condition, for it yields visions of mercies yet to come, visions not visionary but real.
Dwell, dear reader, upon that celestial word loving-kindness. It has a heavenly savor. Is it not an unmatchable word, unexcelled, unrivaled? The goodness of the Lord to us, should be before our eyes as a motive actuating our conduct. We are not under the bondage of the law, but we are under the sweet constraints of grace, which are far more mighty, although far more gentle.
Men sin with the law before their eyes—but divine love, when clearly seen, sanctifies the conversation. If we were not so forgetful of the way of mercy in which God walks toward us, we would be more careful to walk in the ways of obedience toward him.
And I have walked in your truth. The psalmist was preserved from sin by his assurance of the truthfulness of God's promise, which truth he endeavored to imitate as well as to believe.
Observe from this verse that an experience of divine love will show itself in a practical following of divine truth. Those who neglect either the doctrinal or practical parts of truth, must not wonder if they lose the experimental enjoyment of it. Some talk of truth, it is better to walk in it. Some vow to do well in future, but their resolutions come to nothing. Only the regenerate man can say "I have walked in your truth."
Verses 4-5. So far from being himself an open offender against the laws of God, the psalmist had not even associated with the lovers of evil. He had kept aloof from the men of Belial. A man is known by his company, and if we have kept ourselves apart from the wicked, it will always be evidence in our favor should our character be impugned. He who never went to sea, is clearly not the man who scuttled the ship.
Verse 4. I have not sat with vain people. True citizens have no dealings with traitors. David had no seat in the parliament of triflers. They were not his companions at feasts, nor his advisers in council, nor his associates in conversation. We must needs see, and speak, and trade, with men of the world—but we must on no account take our rest and solace in their empty society.
Not only the profane, but the vain are to be shunned by us. All those who live for this life only—are vain, chaffy, frothy men. They are quite unworthy of a Christian's friendship. Moreover as this vanity is often allied with falsehood, it is well to save ourselves altogether from this untoward generation, lest we should be led from bad to worse and from tolerating the vain should come to admire the wicked.
Neither will I go in with dissemblers. Since I know that hypocritical piety is double iniquity, I will cease all acquaintance with pretenders. If I must need walk the same street, I will not enter the same door and spend my time in their society.
The congregation of the hypocrites is not one with which we should cultivate communion; their ultimate rendezvous will be the lowest pit of Hell, let us drop their acquaintance now! for we shall not desire it soon.
We must maintain the separated path with more and more circumspection as we see the great redemption day approaching. Those who would be transfigured with Jesus, must not be disfigured by conformity to the world.
The resolution of the psalmist suggests, that even among professed followers of truth we must make distinctions, for as there are vain people out of the church, so there are dissemblers in it and both are to be shunned with scrupulous decision.
Verse 5. I have hated the congregation of evil doers. A severe sentence, but not too severe. A man who does not hate evil terribly, does not love good heartily. Men, as men, we must always love, for they are our neighbors, and therefore to be loved as ourselves. But evil doers, as such, are traitors to the Great King, and no loyal subject can love traitors. What God hates, we must hate.
The congregation or assembly of evil doers, signifies violent men in alliance and conclave for the overthrow of the innocent. Such synagogues of Satan are to be held in abhorrence.
What a sad reflection it is that there should be . . .
a congregation of evil doers, as well as a congregation of the upright;
a church of Satan, as well as a church of God;
a seed of the serpent, as well as a seed of the woman;
an old Babylon, as well as a new Jerusalem;
a great whore sitting upon many waters to be judged in wrath, as well as a chaste bride of the Lamb to be crowned at his coming.
And will not sit with the wicked. Saints have a seat at another table, and will never leave the King's dainties for the husks of the swine trough. Better to sit with the blind, and the halt, and the lame, at the table of mercy—than with the wicked in their feasts of ungodliness. Yes, better to sit on Job's dunghill than on Pharaoh's throne. Let each reader see well to his company, for such as we keep in this world, we are likely to keep in the next.
Verse 6. I will wash my hands in innocence. He would publicly avow himself to be altogether clear of the accusations laid against him, and if any fault in other matters could be truthfully alleged against him, he would for the future abstain from it.
The washing of the hands is a significant action to set forth our having no connection with a deed, as we still say, "I wash my hands of the whole business."
As to perfect innocence, David does not here claim it, but he avows his innocence of the crimes whereof he was slanderously accused. There is, however, a sense in which we may be washed in absolute innocence, for the atoning blood makes us clean every whit. We ought never to rest satisfied short of a full persuasion of our complete cleansing by Jesus' precious blood.
So will I compass your altar, O Lord. Priests unto God must take great care to be personally cleansed. The brazen laver was as needful as the golden altar. God's worship requires us to be holy in life. He who is unjust to man, cannot be acceptably pious towards God. We must not bring our thank offerings, with hands defiled with guilt. To love justice and purity is far more acceptable to God, than ten thousands of the fat of fed beasts.
We see from this verse that holy minds delight in the worship of the Lord, and find their sweetest solace at his altar. It is their deepest concern never to enter upon any course of action which would unfit them for the most sacred communion with God. Our eye must be upon the altar which sanctifies both the giver and the gift—yet we must never draw from the atoning sacrifice an excuse for sin, but rather find in it a most convincing argument for holiness.
Verse 7. That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving. David was so far instructed that he does not mention the typical offering, but discerns the spiritual offering which was intended thereby, not the groans of bullocks, but songs of gratitude the spiritual worshiper presents. To sound abroad the worthy praises of the God of all grace should be the everyday business of a pardoned sinner. Let men slander us as they will, let us not defraud the Lord of his praises. Let dogs bark, but let us like the moon shine on.
And tell of all your wondrous works. God's people should not be tongue tied. The wonders of divine grace are enough to make the tongue of the mute to sing. God's works of love are wondrous if we consider:
the unworthiness of their objects,
the costliness of their method,
and the glory of their result.
As men find great pleasure in discoursing upon things remarkable and astonishing, so the saints rejoice to tell of the great things which the Lord has done for them.
Verse 8. Lord, I have loved the habitation of your house. Into the abodes of sin he would not enter, but the house of God he had long loved, and loved it still. We would be sad children if we did not love our Father's dwelling place. Though we own no sacred buildings—yet the church of the living God is the house of God, and true Christians delight in her ordinances, services, and assemblies. O that all our days were Sabbaths!
And the place where your honor dwells. In his church God is had in honor at all times, he reveals himself in the glory of his grace, and is proclaimed by his people as the Lord of all. We come not together as the Lord's people to honor the preacher, but to give glory to God. Such an occupation is most pleasant to the saints of the Most High.
What are those gatherings where God is not honored, are they not an offence to his pure and holy eyes, and are they not a sad stumbling block to the people of God? It brings the scalding tear upon our cheek to hear sermons in which the honor of God is so far from being the preacher's object, that one might almost imagine that the preacher worshiped the dignity of manhood, and thought more of it than of the Infinite Majesty of God.
Verse 9. Gather not my soul with sinners. Lord, when, like fruit, I must be gathered, put me not in the same basket with the best of sinners, much less with the worst of them. The company of sinners is so distasteful to us here, that we cannot endure the thought of being bound up in the same bundle with them to all eternity. Our comfort is, that the Great Gardener discerns the tares from the wheat, and will find a separate place for distinct characters.
In the former verses we see that the psalmist kept himself clear of profane people, and this is to be understood as a reason why he should not be thrust into their company at the last. Let us think of the doom of the wicked, and the prayer of the text will forcibly rise to our lips. Meanwhile, as we see the rule of judgment by which like is gathered to its like, we who have passed from death unto life have nothing to fear.
Nor my life with bloody men. Our soul sickens to hear them speak; their cruel dispatches, in which they treat the shooting of their fellow men as rare sport, are horrifying to us. Lord, let us not be shut up in the same prison with them; nay, the same paradise with such men would be a Hell, if they remained as they are now.
Verse 10. In whose hands is mischief. They have both hands full of it, plotting it and carrying it out.
And their right hand, with which they are most dexterous, is full of bribes. Like thieves who would steal with impunity, they carry a sop for the dogs of justice. He who gives bribes is every way as guilty as the man who takes them, and in the matter of our parliamentary elections the rich villain who give the bribe is by far the worse.
Bribery, in any form or shape, should be as detestable to a Christian as carrion to a dove, or garbage to a lamb. Let those whose dirty hands are fond of bribes remember that neither death nor the devil can be bribed to let them escape their well earned doom.
Verse 11. But as for me, I will walk in my integrity. Redeem me and be merciful to me. Here is the lover of godliness entering his personal protest against unrighteous gain. He is a Nonconformist, and is ready to stand alone in his Nonconformity. Like a live fish, he swims against the stream. Trusting in God, the psalmist resolves that the plain way of righteousness shall be his choice, and those who will, may prefer the tortuous paths of violence and deceit.
Redeem me and be merciful to me. Yet, he is by no means a boaster, or a self-righteous vaunter of his own strength, for he cries for redemption and pleads for mercy. Our integrity is not absolute nor inherent, it is a work of grace in us, and is marred by human infirmity. We must, therefore, resort to the redeeming blood and to the throne of mercy, confessing that though we are saints among men, we must still bow as sinners before God.
Verse 12. My foot stands in an even place. The song began in the minor, but it has now reached the major key. Saints often sing themselves into happiness.
The even place upon which our foot stands is the sure, covenant faithfulness, eternal promise and immutable oath of the Lord Almighty. There is no fear of falling from this solid basis, or of its being removed from under us. Established in Christ Jesus, by being vitally united to him, we have nothing left to occupy our thoughts but the praises of our God.
In the congregations I will bless the LORD. Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, and when assembled, let us not be slow to contribute our portion of thanksgiving. Each saint is a witness to divine faithfulness, and should be ready with his testimony. As for the slanderers, let them howl outside the door, while the children sing within.