Treasury of David
TITLE. To the Chief Musician. Well might so exceedingly precious a Psalm be specially committed to the most skilled of the sacred musicians. The noblest music should be made tributary to a subject so incomparable. The dedication shows that the song was intended for public worship, and was not a merely personal hymn, as its being in the first person singular might lead us to suppose.
A Psalm of David. This is conclusive as to the authorship; lifted by the Holy Spirit into the region of prophecy, David was honored to write concerning a one far greater than himself.
SUBJECT. Jesus is evidently here, and although it might not be a violent wresting of language to see both David and his Lord, both Christ and the church, the double comment might involve itself in obscurity, and therefore we shall let the sun shine even though this should conceal the stars. Even if the New Testament were not so express upon it, we should have concluded that David spoke of our Lord in Verses 6-9, but the apostle in Hebrews 10:5-9, puts all conjecture out of court, and confines the meaning to him who came into the world to do the Father's will.
DIVISION. From verses 1-3, is a personal thanksgiving;
followed by a general declaration of Jehovah's goodness to his saints, Verses 4-5.
In verses 6-10, we have an avowal of dedication to the Lord's will;
Verses 11-17, contains a prayer for deliverance from
pressing trouble, and for the overthrow of enemies.
Verse 1. I waited patiently for the Lord. Patient waiting upon God was a special characteristic of our Lord Jesus. Impatience never lingered in his heart, much less escaped his lips. All through his agony in the garden, his trial of cruel mockings before Herod and Pilate, and his sufferings on the tree, he waited in omnipotence of patience. No glance of wrath, no word of murmuring, no deed of vengeance came from God's patient Lamb. He waited and waited on; was patient, and patient to perfection, far excelling all others who have according to their measure glorified God in the fires.
Job on the dunghill, does not equal Jesus on the cross. The Christ of God wears the imperial crown among the patient.
Did the Only Begotten wait, and shall we be petulant and rebellious?
And he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. Neither Jesus the head, nor any one of the members of his body, shall ever wait upon the Lord in vain. Mark the figure of inclining, as though the suppliant cried out of the lowest depression, and condescending love stooped to hear his feeble moans. What a marvel it is that our Lord Jesus should have to cry as we do, and wait as we do, and should receive the Father's help after the same process of faith and pleading as must be gone through by ourselves!
The Savior's prayers among the midnight mountains and in Gethsemane expound this verse. The Son of David was brought very low, but he rose to victory; and here he teaches us how to conduct our conflicts so as to succeed after the same glorious pattern of triumph. Let us arm ourselves with the same mind; and panoplied in patience, armed with prayer, and girt with faith, let us maintain the Holy War.
Verse 2. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit. When our Lord bore in his own person the terrible curse which was due to sin, he was so cast down as to be like a prisoner in a deep, dark, fearful dungeon, amid whose horrible glooms the captive heard a noise as of rushing torrents, while overhead resounded the tramp of furious foes. Our Lord in his anguish was like a captive in a secret dungeon, forgotten by all mankind, immured amid horror, darkness, and desolation. Yet the Lord Jehovah made him to ascend from all his abasement; he retraced his steps from that deep Hell of anguish into which he had been cast as our substitute.
He who thus delivered our surety in the extreme, will not fail to liberate us from our far lighter griefs.
Out of the miry clay. The sufferer was as one who cannot find a foothold, but slips and sinks. The figure indicates not only positive misery as in the former figure, but the absence of solid comfort by which sorrow might have been rendered supportable.
Once give man a good foothold, and a burden is greatly lightened, but to be loaded and to be placed on slimy, slippery clay, is to be tried doubly.
Reader, with humble gratitude, adore the dear Redeemer who, for your sake, was deprived of all consolation while surrounded with every form of misery. Mark his gratitude at being born up amid his arduous labors and sufferings, and if you too have experienced the divine help, be sure to join your Lord in this song.
And set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. The Redeemer's work is done. He reposes on the firm ground of his accomplished engagements. He can never suffer again; forever does he reign in glory. What a comfort to know that Jesus our Lord and Savior stands on a sure foundation in all that he is and does for us, and his goings forth in love are not liable to be cut short by failure in years to come, for God has fixed him firmly.
He is forever and eternally able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by him, seeing that in the highest heavens he ever lives to make intercession for them.
Jesus is the true Joseph taken from the pit to be Lord of all.
It is something more than a "sip of sweetness" to remember that if we are cast like our Lord into the lowest pit of shame and sorrow, we shall by faith rise to stand on the same elevated, sure, and everlasting rock of divine favor and faithfulness.
Verse 3. And he has put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God. At the Passover, before his passion, our Lord sang one of the grand old Psalms of praise; but what is the music of his heart now, in the midst of his redeemed! What a song is that in which his glad heart forever leads the chorus of the elect!
Justice magnified and grace victorious;
Hell subdued and Heaven glorified;
death destroyed and immortality established;
sin overthrown and righteousness resplendent;
what a theme for a hymn in that day when our Lord drinks the red wine new with us all in our heavenly Father's kingdom!
Even on earth, and before his great passion, he foresaw the joy which was set before him, and was sustained by the prospect.
Our God. The God of Jesus, the God of Israel, "my God and your God." How will we praise him, but ah! Jesus will be the chief player on our stringed instruments; he will lead the solemn hallelujah which shall go up from the sacramental host redeemed by blood. Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. A multitude that no man can number shall see the griefs and triumphs of Jesus, shall tremble because of their sinful rejection of him, and then through grace shall receive faith and become trusters in Jehovah. Here is our Lord's reward. Here is the assurance which makes preachers bold and workers persevering.
Reader, are you one among the many? Note the way of salvation, a sight, a fear, a trust! Do you know what these mean by possessing and practicing them in your own soul? Trusting in the Lord is the evidence, nay, the essence of salvation. He who is a true believer is evidently redeemed from the dominion of sin and Satan.
Verse 4. Blessed. This is an exclamation similar to that of the first Psalm, "Oh, the happiness of the man." God's blessings are emphatic, "I know that he whom you bless is blessed," indeed and in very truth.
Is that man that makes the Lord his trust. Faith obtains promises. A simple single eyed confidence in God is the sure mark of blessedness. A man may be as poor as Lazarus, as hated as Mordecai, as sick as Hezekiah, as lonely as Elijah, but while his hand of faith can keep its hold on God, none of his outward afflictions can prevent his being numbered among the blessed. But the wealthiest and most prosperous man who has no faith is accursed, be he who he may.
And respects not the proud. The proud expect all men to bow down and do them reverence, as if the worship of the golden calves were again set up in Israel. But believing men are too noble to honor mere money-bags, or cringe before bombastic dignity. The righteous pay their respect to humble goodness, rather than to inflated self-consequence.
Our Lord Jesus was in this our bright example. No flattery of kings and great ones ever fell from his lips—he gave no honor to dishonorable men. The haughty were never his favorites.
Nor such as turn aside to lies. Heresies and idolatries are lies, and so are avarice, worldliness, and pleasure seeking. Woe to those who follow such deceptions. Our Lord was ever both the truth and the lover of truth, and the father of lies had no part in him.
We must never pay deference to apostates, time-servers, and false teachers; they are an ill leaven, and the more we purge ourselves of them the better. They are blessed whom God preserves from all error in creed and practice.
Judged by this verse, many apparently happy people must be the reverse of blessed, for anything in the shape of a purse, a fine equipage, or a wealthy establishment, commands their reverence, whether the owner be a blasphemer or a saint, an idiot or a philosopher. Truly, were the arch fiend of Hell to ride a rich carriage, and live like a king, he would have thousands who would court his acquaintance.
Verse 5. Many, O Lord my God, are your wonderful works which you have done. Creation, providence, and redemption, teem with wonders as the sea with life.
Our special attention is called by this passage to the marvels which cluster around the cross and flash from it. The accomplished redemption achieves many ends, and encompasses a variety of designs. The effects of the atonement are not to be reckoned up, the influences of the cross reach further than the beams of the sun. Wonders of grace beyond all enumeration take their rise from the cross: adoption, pardon, justification, and a long chain of godlike miracles of love proceed from it.
Note that our Lord here speaks of the Lord as "my God." The man Christ Jesus claimed for himself and us a covenant relationship with Jehovah. Let our saving interest in our God be ever to us our peculiar treasure.
And your thoughts which are toward us. The divine thoughts march with the divine acts, for it is not according the God's wisdom to act without deliberation and counsel. All the divine thoughts are good and gracious towards his elect. God's thoughts of love are very many, very wonderful, very practical! Muse on them, dear reader; no sweeter subject ever occupied your mind. God's thoughts of you are many, let not yours be few in return. They cannot be reckoned up. Their sum is so great as to forbid alike analysis and numeration. Human minds fail to measure, or to arrange in order, the Lord's ways and thoughts; and it must always be so, for he has said, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
No maze to lose oneself in like the labyrinth of divine love. How sweet to be outdone, overcome and overwhelmed by the astonishing grace of the Lord our God!
If I would declare and speak of them. Surely this should be the occupation of my tongue at all seasonable opportunities.
They are more than can be numbered. Far beyond all human arithmetic they are multiplied; thoughts from all eternity, thoughts of my fall, my restoration, my redemption, my conversion, my pardon, my upholding, my perfecting, my eternal reward. The list is too long for writing, and the value of the mercies too great for estimation.
Yet, if we cannot show forth all the works of the Lord, let us not make this an excuse for silence; for our Lord, who is in this our best example, often spoke of the tender thoughts of the great Father.
Verse 6. Here we enter upon one of the most wonderful passages in the whole of the Old Testament—a passage in which the incarnate Son of God is seen not through a glass darkly, but as it were face to face.
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire. In themselves considered, and for their own sakes, the Lord saw nothing satisfactory in the various offerings of the ceremonial law. Neither the victim pouring forth its blood, nor the fine flour rising in smoke from the altar, could yield content to Jehovah's mind—he cared not for the flesh of bulls or of goats, neither had he pleasure in corn and wine, and oil.
Typically these offerings had their worth, but when Jesus, the great Antitype, came into the world, they ceased to be of value—as candles are of no use when the sun has arisen.
My ears have you opened. Our Lord was quick to hear and perform his Father's will; his ears were as if excavated down to his soul; they were not closed up like Isaac's wells, which the Philistines filled up, but clear passages down to the fountains of his soul. The prompt obedience of our Lord is here the first idea.
There is, however, no reason whatever to reject the notion that the digging of the ear here intended may refer to the boring of the ear of the servant, who refused out of love to his master to take his liberty, at the year of jubilee. His perforated ear, the token of perpetual service, is a true picture of our blessed Lord's fidelity to his Father's business, and his love to his Father's children. Jesus irrevocably gave himself up to be the servant of servants for our sake and God's glory.
The Septuagint, from which Paul quoted, has translated this passage, "A body have you prepared me." How this reading arose it is not easy to imagine, but since apostolic authority has sanctioned the variation, we accept it as no mistake, but as an instance of various readings equally inspired.
In any case, the passage represents the Only Begotten as coming into the world equipped for service; and in a real and material body, by actual life and death, putting aside all the shadows of the Mosaic law.
Burnt offering and sin offering have you not required. Two other forms of offerings are here mentioned; tokens of gratitude and sacrifices for sin as typically presented are set aside; neither the general nor the private offerings are any longer demanded. What need of mere emblems when the substance itself is present? We learn from this verse that Jehovah values far more, the obedience of the heart than all the imposing performances of ritualistic worship; and that our expiation from sin comes not to us as the result of an elaborate ceremonial, but as the effect of our great Substitute's obedience to the will of Jehovah.
Verse 7. Then said I. That is to say, when it was clearly seen that man's misery could not be remedied by sacrifices and offerings. It being certain that the mere images of atonement, and the bare symbols of propitiation were of no avail, the Lord Jesus intervened. O blessed "then said I."
Lord, ever give us to hear and feed on such living words as these, so peculiarly and personally your own.
Lo, I come. Behold, O heavens, and earth, and places under the earth! Here is something worthy of your most intense gaze. Sit down and watch with earnestness, for the invisible God comes in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as an infant the Infinite hangs at a virgin's breast!
Immanuel did not send, but come; he came in his own personality, in all that constituted his essential self he came forth from the ivory palaces to the abodes of misery; he came promptly at the destined hour; he came with sacred alacrity as one freely offering himself.
In the volume of the book it is written of me. In the eternal decree it is thus recorded. The mystic scroll of predestination which providence gradually unfolds, contained within it, to the Savior's knowledge, a written covenant, that in the fullness of time the divine "I" should descend to earth to accomplish a purpose which multitudes of bullocks and rams could not achieve. What a privilege to find our names written in the book of life, and what an honor, since the name of Jesus heads the page! Our Lord had respect to his ancient covenant engagements, and herein he teaches us to be scrupulously just in keeping our word; have we so promised, it is so written in the book of remembrance? then let us never be defaulters.
Verse 8. I delight to do your will, O my God. Our blessed Lord alone could completely do the will of God. The law is too broad for such poor creatures as we are to hope to fulfill it to the uttermost. But Jesus not only did the Father's will, but found a delight therein. From old eternity he had desired the work set before him; in his human life he was straitened until he reached the baptism of agony in which he magnified the law. Even in Gethsemane itself he chose the Father's will, and set aside his own.
Herein is the essence of obedience, namely, in the soul's cheerful devotion to God. Our Lord's obedience, which is our righteousness, is in no measure lacking in this eminent quality. Notwithstanding his measureless griefs, our Lord found delight in his work, and for "the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame."
Yes, your law is within my heart. No outward, formal devotion was rendered by Christ; his heart was in his work, holiness was his element, the Father's will his food and drink.
We must each of us be like our Lord in this, or we shall lack the evidence of being his disciples. Where there is no heart work, no pleasure, no delight in God's law, there can be no acceptance by God. Let the devout reader adore the Savior for the spontaneous and hearty manner in which he undertook the great work of our salvation.
Verse 9. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation. The purest morality and the highest holiness were preached by Jesus. Righteousness divine was his theme. Our Lord's whole life was a sermon, eloquent beyond comparison, and it is heard each day by myriads. Moreover, he never shunned in his ministry to declare the whole counsel of God; God's great plan of righteousness he plainly set forth. He taught openly in the temple, and was not ashamed to be a faithful and a true witness. He was the great evangelist—the master of itinerant preachers—the head of the clan of open air missionaries.
O servants of the Lord, hide not your lights, but reveal to others what your God has revealed to you; and especially by your lives testify for holiness, be champions for the right, both in word and deed.
Lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, as you know. Never either from love of ease, of fear of men, did the Great Teacher's lips become closed. He was instant in season and out of season. The poor listened to him, and princes heard his rebuke; Publicans rejoiced at him, and Pharisees raged; but to them both he proclaimed the truth from Heaven.
It is well for a tried believer when he can appeal to God and call him to witness that he has not been ashamed to bear witness for him; for rest assured if we are not ashamed to confess our God, he will never be ashamed to own us.
Yet what a wonder is here, that the Son of God should plead, just as we plead, and urge just such arguments as would befit the mouths of his diligent minsters! How truly is he "made like unto his brethren."
Verse 10. I have not hid your righteousness within my heart. On the contrary, "Never has any man spoken like this man." God's divine plan of making men righteous was well known to him, and he plainly taught it. What was in our great Master's heart, he poured forth in holy eloquence from his lips. The doctrine of righteousness by faith, he spoke with great simplicity of speech. Law and gospel equally found in him a clear expositor.
I have declared your faithfulness and your salvation. Jehovah's fidelity to his promises and his grace in saving believers were declared by the Lord Jesus on many occasions, and are blessedly blended in the gospel which he came to preach.
God, faithful to his own character, law and threatenings, and yet saving sinners, is a peculiar revelation of the gospel. God faithful to the saved ones evermore is the joy of the followers of Christ Jesus.
I have not concealed your loving-kindness and your truth from the great congregation. The tender as well as the stern attributes of God, our Lord Jesus fully unveiled. Concealment was far from the Great Apostle of our profession. Cowardice he never exhibited, hesitancy never weakened his language. He who as a child of twelve years spoke in the temple among the religious teachers, and afterward preached to five thousand at Gennesaret, and to the vast crowds at Jerusalem on that great day, the last day of the feast—was always ready to proclaim the name of the Lord, and could never be charged with unholy silence. He could be silent when so the prophecy demanded and patience suggested, but otherwise, preaching was his food and his drink, and he kept back nothing which would be profitable to his disciples. This in the day of his trouble, according to this Psalm, he used as a plea for divine aid. He had been faithful to his God, and now begs the Lord to be faithful to him.
Let every silent professor, tongue tied by sinful shame, bethink himself how little he will be able to plead after this fashion in the day of his distress.
Verse 11. Withhold not your tender mercies from me, O Lord. Alas! these were to be for awhile withheld from our Lord while on the accursed tree, but meanwhile in his great agony he seeks for gentle dealing; and the coming of the angel to strengthen him, was a clear answer to his prayer. He had been blessed aforetime in the desert, and now at the entrance of the valley of the shadow of death, like a true, trustful, and experienced man, he utters a holy, plaintive desire for the tenderness of Heaven. He had not withheld his testimony to God's truth, now in return he begs his Father not to withhold his compassion.
This verse might more correctly be read as a declaration of his confidence that help would not be refused; but whether we view this utterance as the cry of prayer, or the avowal of faith, in either case it is instructive to us who take our suffering Lord for an example, and it proves to us how thoroughly he was made like unto his brethren.
Let your loving-kindness and your truth continually preserve me. He had preached both of these, and now he asks for an experience of them, that he might be kept in the evil day and rescued from his enemies and his afflictions.
Nothing endears our Lord to us more than to hear him thus pleading with strong crying and tears to him who was able to save. O Lord Jesus, in our nights of wrestling, we will remember you.
Verse 12. For innumerable evils have compassed me about. On every side he was beset with evils; countless woes environed the great Substitute for our sins. Our sins were innumerable, and so were his griefs. There was no escape for us from our iniquities, and there was no escape for him from the woes which we deserved. From every quarter evils accumulated about the blessed One, although in his heart evil found no place.
My iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up. He had no sin, but sins were laid on him, and he took them as if they were his. "He was made sin for us." The transfer of sin to the Savior was real, and produced in him as man, the horror which forbade him to look into the face of God, bowing him down with crushing anguish and intolerable woe.
O my soul, what would your sins have done for you eternally, if the Friend of sinners had not condescended to take them all upon himself?
Oh, blessed Scripture: "The Lord has made to meet upon him the iniquity of us all." Oh, marvelous depth of love, which could lead the perfectly immaculate to stand in the sinner's place, and bear the horror of great trembling which sin must bring upon those conscious of it.
They are more than the hairs of my head—therefore my heart fails me. The pains of the divine penalty were beyond computation, and the Savior's soul was so burdened with them, that he was sorely amazed, and very heavy even unto a sweat of blood. His strength was gone, his spirits sank, he was in an agony.
"Came at length the dreadful night.
Vengeance with its iron rod
Stood, and with collected might
Bruised the harmless Lamb of God,
See, my soul, your Savior see,
Prostrate in Gethsemane!"
"There my God bore all my guilt,
This through grace can be believed;
But the horrors which he felt
Are too vast to be conceived.
None can penetrate through thee,
Doleful, dark Gethsemane."
"Sins against a holy God;
Sins against his righteous laws;
Sins against his love, his blood;
Sins against his name and cause;
Sins immense as is the sea—
Hide me, O Gethsemane!"
Verse 13. Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. How touching! How humble! How plaintive! The words thrill us as we think that after this sort our Lord and Master prayed. His petition is not so much that the cup should pass away undrained, but that he should be sustained while drinking it, and set free from its power at the first fitting moment. He seeks deliverance and help; and he entreats that the help may not be slow in coming; this is after the manner of our pleadings. Is it not?
Note, reader, how our Lord was heard in that he feared, for there was after Gethsemane a calm endurance which made the fight as glorious as the victory.
Verse 14. Let them be ashamed and confounded who seek after my soul to destroy it. Whether we read this as a prayer or a prophecy it matters not, for the powers of sin, and death, and Hell, may well be ashamed as they see the result of their malice forever turned against themselves. It is to the infinite confusion of Satan, that his attempts to destroy the Savior destroyed himself. The diabolical conclave who plotted in council are now all alike put to shame, for the Lord Jesus has met them at all points, and turned all their wisdom into foolishness.
Let those who wish me evil be driven backward and put to shame. It is even so; the hosts of darkness are utterly put to the rout, and made a theme for holy derision forever and ever. How did they gloat over the thought of crushing the seed of the woman! But the Crucified has conquered, the Nazarene has laughed them to scorn, the dying Son of Man has become the death of death and hell's destruction. Forever blessed be his name.
Verse 15. Let them be desolate. Or appalled. Even as Jesus was desolate in his agony, so let his enemies be in their despair when he defeats them. The desolation caused in the hearts of evil spirits and evil men by envy, malice, chagrin, disappointment, and despair, shall be a fit recompense for their cruelty to the Lord when he was in their hands.
For a reward of their shame that say unto me, Aha, aha. How did the foul fiend insult over our Lord! Behold how shame is now his reward! Do wicked men today pour shame upon the name of the Redeemer? Their desolation shall avenge him of his adversaries!
Jesus is the gentle Lamb to all who seek mercy through his blood. But let despisers beware, for he is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and "who shall rouse him up?" The Jewish rulers exulted and scornfully said, "Aha, aha!" But when the streets of Jerusalem ran like rivers deep with gore, "and the temple was utterly consumed," then their house was left unto them desolate, and the blood of the last of the prophets, according to their own desire, came upon themselves and upon their children.
O ungodly reader, if such a person glances over this page, beware of persecuting Christ and his people, for God will surely avenge his own elect. Your "Ahas!" will cost you dear. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.
Verse 16. Let all those that seek you, rejoice and be glad in you. We have done with Ebal and turn to Gerizim. Here our Lord pronounces blessings on his people. Note who the blessed objects of his petition are: not all men, but some men, "I pray for them—I do no pray for the world." He pleads for seekers: the lowest in the kingdom, the babes of the family; those who have true desires, longing prayers, and consistent endeavors after God. Let seeking souls pluck up heart when they hear of this.
What riches of grace, that in his bitterest hour Jesus should remember the lambs of the flock! And what does he entreat for them? it is that they may be doubly glad, intensely happy, emphatically joyful—for such the repetition of terms implies.
Jesus would have all seekers made happy, by finding what they seek after, and by winning peace through his grief.
As deep as were his sorrows, so high would he have their joys.
He groaned, that we might sing.
He was covered with a bloody sweat, that we might be anointed with the oil of gladness.
Let such as love your salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified. Another result of the Redeemer's passion is the promotion of the glory of God by those who gratefully delight in his salvation. Our Lord's desire, should be our directory. We love with all our hearts his great salvation, let us then, with all our tongues proclaim the glory of God which is resplendent therein.
Never let his praises cease. As the heart is warm with gladness, let it incite the tongue to perpetual praise. If we cannot do what we would for the spread of the kingdom, at least let us desire and pray for it. Be it ours to make God's glory the chief end of every breath and pulse. The suffering Redeemer regarded the consecration of his people to the service of Heaven as a grand result of his atoning death. It is the joy which was set before him—that God is glorified as the reward of the Savior's travail.
Verse 17. But I am poor and needy. The man of sorrows closes with another appeal, based upon his affliction and poverty.
Yet the Lord thinks upon me. Sweet was this solace to the holy heart of the great sufferer. The Lord's thoughts of us are a cheering subject of meditation, for they are ever kind and never cease.
His disciples forsook him, and his friends forgot him, but Jesus knew that Jehovah never turned away his heart from him, and this upheld him in the hour of need.
You are my help and my deliverer. His unmoved confidence stayed itself alone on God. O that all believers would imitate more fully their great Apostle and High Priest in his firm reliance upon God, even when afflictions abounded and the light was veiled.
Make no tarrying, O my God. The peril was imminent, the need urgent, the suppliant could not endure delay, nor was he made to wait, for the angel came to strengthen, and the brave heart of Jesus rose up to meet the foe.
Lord Jesus, grant that in all our adversities we may possess like precious faith, and be found like you, more than conquerors.