Treasury of David
TITLE AND SUBJECT. Again, the title "A Psalm of David," is too general to give us any clue to the occasion on which it was written. Its position, as following the twenty-seventh, seems to have been designed, for it is a most suitable sequel to it. It is another of those "songs in the night" of which the pen of David was so prolific. The thorn at the breast of the nightingale was said by the old naturalists to make it sing: David's griefs made him eloquent in holy psalmody. The main pleading of this Psalm is that the suppliant may not be confounded with the workers of iniquity for whom he expresses the utmost abhorrence; it may suit any slandered saint, who being misunderstood by men, and treated by them as an unworthy character, is anxious to stand aright before the bar of God. The Lord Jesus may be seen here pleading as the representative of his people.
DIVISION. The first and second verses earnestly entreat audience of the Lord in a time of dire emergency.
From Verses 2-5, the portion of the wicked is described and deprecated.
In Verses 6-8, praise is given for the Lord's mercy in hearing prayer.
The Psalm concludes with a general petition for the whole host of militant believers.
Verse 1. Unto you will I cry, O Lord, my rock. A cry is the natural expression of sorrow, and is a suitable utterance when all other modes of appeal fail us; but the cry must be alone directed to the Lord, for to cry to man is to waste our entreaties upon the air. When we consider the readiness of the Lord to hear, and his ability to aid—we shall see good reason for directing all our appeals at once to the God of our salvation, and shall use language of firm resolve like that in the text, "I will cry."
The immutable Jehovah is our rock, the immovable foundation of all our hopes and our refuge in time of trouble. We are fixed in our determination to flee to him as our stronghold in every hour of danger. It will be in vain to call to the rocks in the day of judgment, but our rock attends to our cries.
Be not silent to me. Mere formalists may be content without answers to their prayers, but genuine suppliants cannot. They are not satisfied with the results of prayer itself in calming the mind and subduing the will—they must go further and obtain actual replies from Heaven, or they cannot rest; and those replies they long to receive at once, if possible; they dread even a little of God's silence.
God's voice is often so terrible that it shakes the wilderness; but his silence is equally full of awe to an eager suppliant. When God seems to close his ear, we must not therefore close our mouths, but rather cry with more earnestness; for when our note grows shrill with eagerness and grief, he will not long deny us a hearing. What a dreadful case would we be in if the Lord should become forever silent to our prayers! This thought suggested itself to David, and he turned it into a plea, thus teaching us to argue and reason with God in our prayers.
Lest, if you be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. Deprived of the God who answers prayer, we would be in a more pitiable plight than the dead in the grave, and would soon sink to the same level as the lost in Hell. We must have answers to prayer—ours is an urgent case of dire necessity; surely the Lord will speak peace to our agitated minds, for he never can find it in his heart to permit his own elect to perish.
Verse 2. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary. This is much to the same effect as the first verse, only that it refers to future as well as present pleadings. Hear me! Hear me!
Hear the voice of my supplications! This is the burden of both verses. We cannot be put off with a refusal when we are in the spirit of prayer. We labor, use importunity, and agonize in supplications until a hearing is granted us.
The word "supplications," in the plural, shows the number, continuance, and variety of a godly man's prayers. While the expression "hear the voice," seems to hint that there is an inner meaning, or heart voice, about which spiritual men are far more concerned than for their outward and audible utterances.
A silent prayer may have a louder voice than the cries of those priests who sought to awaken Baal with their shouts
When I lift up my hands toward your holy sanctuary. Which holy place was the type of our Lord Jesus; and if we would gain acceptance, we must turn ourselves evermore to the blood besprinkled mercy-seat of his atonement. Uplifted hands have ever been a form of devout posture, and are intended to signify a reaching upward towards God, a readiness, an eagerness to receive the blessing sought after. We stretch out empty hands, for we are beggars. We lift them up, for we seek heavenly supplies. We lift them towards the mercy seat of Jesus, for there our expectation dwells. O that whenever we use devout gestures, we may possess contrite hearts, and so speed well with God.
Verse 3. Draw me not away with the wicked. They shall be dragged off to Hell like felons of old, like logs drawn to the fire, like fagots to the oven. David fears lest he should be bound up in their bundle, drawn to their doom; and the fear is an appropriate one for every godly man.
The best of the wicked are dangerous company in time, and would make terrible companions for eternity. We must avoid them in their pleasures, if we would not be confounded with them in their miseries.
And with the workers of iniquity. These are overtly sinful, and their judgment will be sure. Lord, do not make us to drink of their cup. Activity is found with the wicked even if it be lacking to the righteous. Oh! to be "workers" for the Lord.
Who speak peace to their neighbors, but mischief is in their hearts. They have learned the manners of the place to which they are going. The doom of liars is their portion forever, and lying is their conversation on the road. Soft words, oily with pretended love, are the deceitful meshes of the infernal net in which Satan catches the precious life. Many of his children are learned in his abominable craft, and fish with their father's nets, almost as cunningly as he himself could do it. It is a sure sign of baseness when the tongue and the heart do not ring to the same note.
Deceitful men are more to be dreaded than wild beasts. It would be better to be shut up in a pit with serpents, than to be compelled to live with liars. He who cries "peace" too loudly, means to sell it if he can get his price. If he were so very peaceful he would not need to say so; he means mischief, make sure of that!
Verse 4. Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors: give them after the work of their hands; render to them their desert. When we view the wicked simply as such, and not as our fellow men, our indignation against sin leads us entirely to coincide with the acts of divine justice which punish evil, and to wish that justice might use her power to restrain by her terrors the cruel and unjust. But still the desires of the present verse, as our version renders it, are not readily made consistent with the spirit of the Christian dispensation, which seeks rather the reformation than the punishment of sinners.
If we view the words before us as prophetic, or as in the future tense, declaring a fact, we are probably nearer to the true meaning than that given in our version.
Ungodly reader, what will be your lot when the Lord deals with you according to your desert, and weighs out to you his wrath—not only in proportion to what you have actually done, but according to what you would have done if you could. Our endeavors are taken as facts. God takes the will for the deed, and punishes or rewards accordingly. Not in this life, but certainly in the next, God will repay his enemies to their faces, and give them the wages of their sins. Not according to their fawning words, but after the measure of their mischievous deeds, will the Lord mete out vengeance to them that know him not.
Verse 5. Because they regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands. God works in creation—nature teems with proofs of his wisdom and goodness—yet blind atheists refuse to see him. God works in providence, ruling and overruling, and his hand is very manifest in human history—yet the infidel will not discern him. God works in grace—remarkable conversions are still met with on all hands—yet the ungodly refuse to see the operations of the Lord.
Where angels wonder—carnal men despise! God condescends to teach, and man refuses to learn.
He shall destroy them! He will make them "behold, and wonder, and perish." If they would not see the hand of judgment upon others—then they shall feel it upon themselves. Both soul and body shall be overwhelmed with utter destruction forever and ever!
And not build them up. God's curse is positive and negative; his sword has two edges, and cuts right and left. Their heritage of evil shall prevent the ungodly receiving any good; the ephah shall be too full of wrath to contain a grain of hope. They have become like old, rotten, decayed houses of timber—useless to the owner, and harboring all manner of evil, and, therefore, the Great Builder will demolish them utterly.
Incorrigible offenders may expect speedy destruction. Those who will not mend, shall be thrown away as worthless. Let us be very attentive to all the lessons of God's word and work, lest being found disobedient to the divine will, we be made to suffer the divine wrath.
Verse 6. Blessed be the Lord. Saints are full of blessings. They are a blessed people, and a blessing people. They give their best blessings, the fat of their sacrifices, to their glorious Lord.
Our Psalm was prayer up to this point, and now it turns to praise. They who pray well, will soon praise well. Prayer and praise are the two lips of the soul! They are the two bells to ring out sweet and acceptable music in the ears of God. They are the two angels to climb Jacob's ladder. They are the two altars smoking with incense. They are the two of Solomon's lilies dropping sweet smelling myrrh. They are the two young roes that are twins, feeding upon the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense.
Because he has heard the voice of my supplications. Real praise is established upon sufficient and constraining reasons. It is not irrational emotion, but rises, like a pure spring, from the depths of experience.
Answered prayers should be acknowledged. Do we not often fail in this duty? Would it not greatly encourage others, and strengthen ourselves, if we faithfully recorded divine goodness, and made a point of extolling it with our tongue? God's mercy is not such an inconsiderable thing, that we may safely venture to receive it without so much as thanks. We should shun ingratitude, and live daily in the heavenly atmosphere of thankful love.
Verse 7. Here is David's declaration and confession of faith, coupled with a testimony from his experience.
The Lord is my strength. The Lord employs his power on our behalf, and moreover, infuses strength into us in our weakness. The psalmist, by an act of appropriating faith, takes the omnipotence of Jehovah to be his own. Dependence upon the invisible God gives great independence of spirit, inspiring us with more than human confidence.
And my shield. Thus David found both sword and shield in his God. The Lord preserves his people from unnumbered ills. The Christian warrior, sheltered behind his God, is far more safe than the hero when covered with his shield of brass or triple steel.
My heart trusted in him, and I am helped. Heart work is sure work. Heart trust is never disappointed. Faith must come before help, but help will never be long behindhand. Every day the believer may say, "I am helped," for the divine assistance is given to us every moment, or we would go back unto perdition. When more manifest help is needed, we have but to put faith into exercise, and it will be given us.
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song will I praise him. The heart is mentioned twice to show the truth of his faith and his joy. Observe the adverb "greatly," we need not be afraid of being too full of rejoicing at the remembrance of grace received. We serve a great God, let us greatly rejoice in him.
A song is the soul's fittest method of giving vent to its happiness. It were well if we were more like the singing lark, and less like the croaking raven. When the heart is glowing, the lips should not be silent. When God blesses us, we should bless him with all our heart.
Verse 8. The Lord is their strength. The heavenly experience of one believer is a pattern of the life of all. To all the militant church, without exception, Jehovah is the same as he was to his servant David, "the least of them shall be as David." They need the same aid and they shall have it, for they are loved with the same love, written in the same book of life, and one with the same anointed Head.
And he is the saving strength of his anointed. Here behold king David as the type of our Lord Jesus, our covenant Head, our anointed Prince, through whom all blessings come to us. He has achieved full salvation for us, and we desire saving strength from him, and as we share in the unction which is so largely shed upon him, we expect to partake of his salvation. Glory be unto the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has magnified the power of his grace in his only begotten Son, whom he has anointed to be a Prince and a Savior unto his people.
Verse 9. This is a prayer for the church militant, written in short words, but full of weighty meaning. We must pray for the whole church, and not for ourselves alone.
"Save Your people." Deliver them from their enemies, preserve them from their sins, support them under their troubles, rescue them from their temptations, and ward off every evil from them.
"Bless your inheritance." Grant positive blessings, peace, plenty, prosperity, happiness. Make all your dearly purchased and precious heritage to be comforted by your Spirit. Revive, refresh, enlarge, and sanctify your redeemed people.
"Feed them also." Be a shepherd to your flock, let their bodily and spiritual needs be plentifully supplied. By your word, and ordinances, direct, rule, sustain, and satisfy those who are the sheep of your hand.
"And lift them up forever." Carry them in your arms on earth, and then lift them into your bosom in Heaven! Elevate their minds and thoughts, spiritualize their affections, make them heavenly, Christlike, and holy.
O Lord, answer this our petition, for Jesus' sake.