Treasury of David
TITLE. A Psalm and Song at the Dedication of the House of David; or rather, A Psalm, a Song of Dedication for the House. By David. A song of faith since the house of Jehovah, here intended, David never lived to see. A Psalm of praise, since a sore judgment had been stayed, and a great sin forgiven.
From our English version it would appear that this Psalm was intended to be sung at the building of that house of cedar which David erected for himself, when he no longer had to hide in the Cave of Adullam, but had become a great king. If this had been the meaning, it would have been well to observe that it is right for the believer when relocating, to dedicate his new abode to God. We should call together our Christian friends, and show that where we dwell, God dwells; and where we have a tent, God has an altar. But as the song refers to the temple, for which it was David's joy to lay by in store, and for the site of which he purchased in his later days the floor of Ornan, we must content ourselves with remarking the holy faith which foresaw the fulfillment of the promise made to him concerning Solomon. Faith can sing—
"Glory to you for all the grace
I have not tasted yet."
Throughout this Psalm there are indications that David had been greatly afflicted, both personally and relatively, after having, in his presumption, imagined himself secure.
When God's children prosper one way, they are generally tried another, for few of us can bear unmingled prosperity. Even the joys of hope need to be mixed with the pains of experience, and the more surely so when comfort breeds carnal security and self-confidence. Nevertheless, pardon soon followed repentance, and God's mercy was glorified.
The Psalm is a song, and not a complaint. Let it be read in the light of the last days of David, when he had numbered the people, and God had chastened him, and then in mercy had bidden the angel to sheathe his sword. On the floor of Ornan, the poet received the inspiration which glows in this delightful ode. It is the Psalm of the numbering of the people, and of the dedication temple which commemorated the staying of the plague.
In Verses 1-3, David extols the Lord for delivering him.
In Verses 4-5 he invites the saints to unite with him in celebrating divine compassion.
In Verses 6-7 he confesses the fault for which he was chastened.
In Verses 8-10 repeats the supplication which he offered,
and concludes with commemorating his deliverance and vowing eternal praise.
Verse 1. I will extol you. I will have high and honorable conceptions of you, and give them utterance in my best music. Others may forget you, murmur at you, despise you, blaspheme you—but "I will extol you," for I have been favored above all others. I will extol your name, your character, your attributes, your mercy to me, your great forbearance to my people; but, especially will I speak well of yourself; "I will extol you," O Jehovah; this shall be my cheerful and constant employ.
For you have lifted me up. Here is an antithesis, "I will exalt you, for you have exalted me." I would render according to the benefits received. The Psalmist's praise was reasonable. He had a reason to give for the praise that was in his heart. He had been drawn up like a prisoner from a dungeon, like Joseph out of the pit, and therefore he loved his deliverer.
Grace has uplifted us . . .
from the pit of Hell,
from the ditch of sin,
from the Slough of Despond,
from the bed of sickness,
from the bondage of doubts and fears!
Have we no song to offer for all this?
How high has our Lord lifted us? He has lifted us up into the children's place, to be adopted into his family! He has lifted us up into union with Christ, "to sit together with him in heavenly places." Lift high the name of our God, for he has lifted us up above the stars!
And have not made my foes to rejoice over me. This was the judgment which David most feared out of the three evils. He said, 'let me fall into the hand of the Lord, and not into the hand of man.' Terrible indeed were our lot if we were delivered over to the will of our enemies. Blessed be the Lord, we have been preserved from so dire a fate. The devil and all our spiritual enemies have not been permitted to rejoice over us; for we have been saved from the fowler's snare. Our evil companions, who prophesied that we would go back to our old sins, are disappointed. Those who watched for our halting, and would gladly say, "Aha! Aha! So would we have it!" have watched in vain until now. O happy they whom the Lord keeps so consistent in character that the lynx-eyes of the world can see no real fault in them. Is this our case? Let us ascribe all the glory to him who has sustained us in our integrity.
Verse 2. O Lord my God, I cried unto you, and you have healed me. David sent up prayers for himself and for his people when visited with the pestilence. He went at once to headquarters, and not roundabout to fallible means.
God is the best physician, even for our bodily infirmities. We do very wickedly and foolishly when we forget God. It was a sin in Asa that he trusted to physicians and not to God. If we must have a physician, let it be so, but still let us go to our God first of all. Above all, remember that there can be no power to heal in medicine of itself; the healing energy must flow from the divine hand. If our watch is out of order, we take it to the watchmaker. If our body or soul be in an evil plight, let us resort to him who created them, and has unfailing skill to put them in right condition.
As for our spiritual diseases, nothing can heal these evils but the touch of the Lord Christ. If we do but touch the hem of his garment, we shall be made whole, while if we embrace all other physicians in our arms, they can do us no service.
"O Lord my God." Observe the covenant name which faith uses, "my God." Thrice happy is he who can claim the Lord himself to be his portion. Note how David's faith ascends the scale. He sang "O Lord" in the first verse, but it is "O Lord my God," in the second.
Heavenly heart music is an ascending thing, like the pillars of smoke which rose from the altar of incense.
I cried unto you. I could hardly pray, but I cried. I poured out my soul as a little child pours out its desires. I cried to my God. I knew to whom to cry; I did not cry to my friends, or to any arm of flesh. Hence the sure and satisfactory result—You have healed me. I know it. I am sure of it. I have the evidence of spiritual health within me now: glory be to your name! Every humble suppliant with God who seeks release from the disease of sin, shall speed as well as the Psalmist did, but those who will not so much as seek a cure, need not wonder if their wounds putrefy and their soul dies.
Verse 3. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from the grave. Mark, it is not "I hope so;" but it is, "You have; you have; you have"—three times over. David is quite sure, beyond a doubt, that God has done great things for him, whereof he is exceeding glad. He had descended to the brink of the sepulcher, and yet was restored to tell of the forbearance of God. Nor was this all, he owned that nothing but grace had kept him from the lowest Hell, and this made him doubly thankful. To be spared from the grave is much; to be delivered from the pit of Hell is more. Hence there is growing cause for praise, since both deliverances are alone traceable to the glorious right hand of the Lord, who is the only preserver of life, and the only Redeemer of our souls from Hell.
Verse 4. Sing unto the Lord, O saints of his. "Join my song! Assist me to express my gratitude." He felt that he could not praise God enough himself, and therefore he would enlist the hearts of others. Sing unto the Lord, O saints of his. David would not fill his choir with reprobates, but with sanctified people, who could sing from their hearts. He calls to you, you people of God, because you are saints. If sinners are wickedly silent, let your holiness constrain you to sing. You are his saints—chosen, blood-bought, called, and set apart for God; sanctified on purpose that you should offer the daily sacrifice of praise. Abound in this heavenly duty. Sing unto the Lord. It is a pleasing exercise; it is a profitable engagement. Do not need to be stirred up so often to so pleasant a service.
And give thanks. Let your songs be grateful songs, in which the Lord's mercies shall live again in joyful remembrance. The very remembrance of the past should tune our harps, even if present joys are lacking.
At the remembrance of his holiness. Holiness is an attribute which inspires the deepest awe, and demands a reverent mind; but still give thanks at the remembrance of it. "Holy, holy, holy!" is the song of seraphim and cherubim. Let us join it—not dolefully, as though we trembled at the holiness of God, but cheerfully, as humbly rejoicing in it.
Verse 5. For his anger endures but a moment. David here alludes to those dispensations of God's providence which are the chastisement ordered in his paternal government towards his erring children, such as the plague which fell upon Jerusalem for David's sins. These are but short judgments, and they are removed as soon as real penitence sues for pardon and presents the great and acceptable sacrifice.
What a mercy is this, for if the Lord's wrath smoked for a long season, flesh would utterly fail before him. God puts up his rod with great readiness as soon as its work is done; he is slow to anger and swift to end it. If his temporary and fatherly anger be so severe, that it has need be short—then what must be the terror of eternal wrath exercised by the Judge towards his adversaries?
In his favor is life. As soon as the Lord looked favorably upon David, the city lived, and the king's heart lived too. We die like withered flowers when the Lord frowns, but his sweet smile revives us as the dews refresh the field. His favor not only sweetens and cheers life, but it is life itself, the very essence of life. He who would know life—let him seek the favor of the Lord.
Weeping may endure for a night; but nights are not forever. Even in the dreary winter the day star lights his lamp. It seems fit that in our nights the dews of grief should fall. When the Bridegroom's absence makes it dark within, it is fit that the widowed soul should pine for a renewed sight of the Well-beloved.
But joy comes in the morning. When the Sun of Righteousness comes, we wipe our eyes, and joy chases out intruding sorrow. Who would not be joyful that knows Jesus? The first beams of the morning brings us comfort when Jesus is the day dawn, and all believers know it to be so. Mourning only lasts to morning. When the night is gone the gloom shall vanish. This is adduced as a reason for saintly singing, and forcible reason it is. Short nights and merry days call for the psaltery and harp.
Verse 6. In my prosperity. When all his foes were quiet, and his rebellious son dead and buried, then was the time of peril. Many a vessel founders in a calm. No temptation is so bad as tranquility.
I said, 'I shall never be moved.' Ah! David, you said more than was wise to say, or even to think, for God has founded the world upon the floods, to show us what a poor, mutable, moveable, inconstant world it is. Unhappy is he who builds upon it! He builds himself a dungeon for his hopes. Instead of conceiving that we shall never be moved, we ought to remember that we shall very soon be removed altogether.
Nothing is abiding beneath the moon. Because I happen to be prosperous today, I must not imagine that I shall be in my high estate tomorrow. As in a wheel, the uppermost spokes descend to the bottom in due course, so it is with mortal conditions. There is a constant revolution: many who are in the dust today shall be highly elevated tomorrow; while those who are now aloft shall soon grind the earth.
Prosperity had evidently turned the psalmist's head, or he would not have been so self—confident. He stood by grace, and yet forgot himself, and so met with a fall.
Reader, is there not much of the same proud stuff in all our hearts? Let us beware lest the fumes of intoxicating success get into our brains and make fools of us also.
Verse 7. Lord, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong. He ascribed his prosperity to the Lord's favor—so far so good, it is well to own the hand of the Lord in all our stability and wealth. But observe that the good in a godly man is not unmingled good, for this was alloyed with carnal security. His state he compares to a mountain, a molehill would have been more accurate—we can never think too little of ourselves! He boasted that his mountain stood strong, and yet he had before, in Psalm 29, spoken of Sirion and Lebanon as moving like young wild oxen. Was David's state more firm than Lebanon?
Ah, vain conceit, too common to us all! How soon the bubble bursts when God's people get conceit into their heads, and imagine that they are to enjoy immutability beneath the stars, and constancy upon this whirling orb.
How touchingly and teachingly God corrected his servant's mistake: You hid your face, and I was troubled. There was no need to come to blows, a hidden face was enough. This proves, first, that David was a genuine saint, for no hiding of God's face on earth would trouble a sinner; and, secondly, that the joy of the saint is dependent upon the presence of his Lord. No mountain, however firm, can yield us rest when our communion with God is broken, and his face is concealed. However, in such a case, it is well to be troubled. The next best thing to basking in the light of God's countenance, is to be thoroughly unhappy when that bliss is denied us.
"Lord, let me weep for nothing but sin!
And after none but Thee!
And then I would—O that I might,
A constant weeper be!"
Verse 8. I cried to you, O Lord. Prayer is the unfailing resource of God's people. If they are driven to their wit's end, they may still go to the mercy-seat. When an earthquake makes our mountain tremble, the throne of grace still stands firm, and we may come to it. Let us never forget to pray, and let us never doubt the success of prayer. The hand which wounds, can heal. Let us turn to him who smites us, and he will be entreated of us. Prayer is better solace than Cain's building a city, or Saul's seeking for music. Mirth and carnal amusements are a sorry prescription for a mind distracted and despairing. Prayer will succeed where all else fails.
Verse 9. In this verse we learn the form and method of David's prayer. It was an argument with God, an urging of reasons, a pleading of his cause. It was not a statement of doctrinal opinions, nor a narration of experience, much less a sly hit at other people under a pretense of praying to God. All of these things and worse, have been substituted for holy supplication at certain prayer meetings. He wrestled with the angel of the covenant with vehement pleadings, and therefore he prevailed. Head and heart, judgment and affections, memory and intellect were all at work to spread the case aright before the Lord of love.
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Will you not lose a songster from your choir, and one who loves to magnify you?
Shall the dust praise you? Shall it declare your truth? Will there not be one witness the less to your faithfulness and veracity? Spare, then, your poor unworthy one for your own name sake!
Verse 10. Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me. A short and comprehensive petition, available at all seasons—let us use it full often. It is the publican's prayer—be it ours. If God hears prayer, it is a great act of mercy; our petitions do not merit a reply.
O Lord, be my helper. Another compact, expressive,
ever-fitting prayer. It is suitable to hundreds of the cases of the Lord's
to the minister when he is going to preach,
to the sufferer upon the bed of pain,
to the toiler in the field of service,
to the believer under temptation,
to the Christian under adversity.
When God helps, difficulties vanish. He is the help of his people—a very present help in times of trouble.
The two brief petitions of this verse are commended to believers full of business, denied to those longer seasons of devotion which are the rare privilege of those whose days are spent in retirement.
Verse 11. You turned my mourning into dancing. Observe the contrast, God takes away the mourning of his people; and what does he give them instead of it? Quiet and peace? Yes, and a great deal more than that. He makes their hearts to dance at the sound of his name.
You removed my sackcloth. He takes off their sackcloth. That is good. What a delight to be rid of the habiliments of woe! But what then? He clothes us. And how? With some common dress? Nay, but with that royal vestment which is the array of glorified spirits in Heaven.
You have clothed me with gladness. This is better than to wear garments of silk or cloth of gold, bedecked with embroidery and bespangled with gems. Many a poor man wears this heavenly apparel wrapped around his heart, though rags are his only outward garb. Such a man needs not envy the emperor in all his pomp.
Glory be to you, O God, if, by a sense of full forgiveness and present justification, you have enriched my spiritual nature, and filled me with gladness!
Verse 12. To the end—namely, with this view and intent—that my glory—that is, my soul—may sing praise to you, and not be silent. It would be a shameful crime, if, after receiving God's mercies, we should forget to praise him. God would not have our tongues lie idle while so many themes for gratitude are spread on every hand. He would have no dumb children in the house. They are all to sing in Heaven, and therefore they should all sing on earth. Let us sing with the poet:
"I would begin the music here,
And so my soul should rise;
Oh for some heavenly notes to bear
My passions to the skies!"
O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto you forever!
"I will praise him in life; I will praise him in death;
I will praise him as long as he lends me breath;
And say when the death dew lays cold on my brow,
If ever I loved you, my Jesus, 'tis now."