Treasury of David
TITLE. On account of the similarity of the structure of this Psalm to that of Psalm forty-two, it has been supposed to be a fragment wrongly separated from the preceding song; but it is always dangerous to allow these theories of error in Holy Scripture, and in this instance it would be very difficult to show just cause for such an admission. Why should the Psalm have been broken? Its similarity would have secured its unity had it ever been part and parcel of the forty-second.
Is it not far more likely that some in their imagined wisdom united them wrongly in the few MSS in which they are found as one? We believe the fact is that the style of the poetry was pleasant to the writer, and therefore in after life he wrote this supplemental hymn after the same manner. As an appendix it needed no title. David complains of his enemies, and asks the privilege of communion with God as his surest deliverance from them.
DIVISION. The psalmist cried to God in prayer, Verses
Promises praise in the anticipation of an answer, Verses 4,
and chides himself for his despondency, Verses 5.
Verse 1. Judge me, O God. Others are unable to understand my motives, and unwilling to give me a just verdict. My heart is clear as to intent and therefore I bring my case before you, content that you will impartially weigh my character, and right my wrongs. If you will judge, your acceptance of my conduct will be enough for me; I can laugh at human misrepresentation if my conscience knows that you are on my side; you are the only one I care for; and besides, your verdict will not sleep, but you will see practical justice done to your slandered servant.
And plead my cause against an ungodly nation. One such advocate as the Lord will more than suffice to answer a nation of brawling accusers. When people are ungodly, no wonder that they are unjust; those who are not true to God himself cannot be expected to deal rightly with his people. Hating the King, they will not love his subjects. Popular opinion weighs with many, but divine opinion is far more weighty with the gracious few. One good word from God outweighs ten thousand railing speeches of men. He bears a brazen shield before him whose reliance in all things is upon his God; the arrows of calumny fall harmlessly from such a buckler.
O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man. Deceit and injustice are close companions: he who fawns, will not fear to slander. From two such devils, none can deliver us but God. His wisdom can outwit the craft of the vilest serpent, and his power can over match the most raging lion.
Whether this was Doeg or Ahithophel is small matter, such double distilled villains are plentiful, and the only way of dealing with them is to refer the matter to the righteous Judge of all. If we try to fight them with their own weapons, we shall suffer more serious injury from ourselves than from them. O child of God, leave these your enemies in better hands, remembering that vengeance belongs not to you, but to your Lord. Turn to him in prayer, crying, "O deliver me," and before long you shall publish abroad the remembrance of his salvation.
Verse 2. For. Here is argument, which is the very sinew of prayer. If we reasoned more with the Lord we should have more victories in supplication.
You are the God of my strength.
All my strength belongs to you—I will not, therefore, use it on my own behalf against my personal foes.
All my strength comes from you—I therefore seek help from you, who are able to bestow it.
All my strength is in you, I leave therefore this task of combating my foes entirely in your hands. Faith which leaves such things alone is wise faith.
Note the assurance of David, you are—not I hope and trust so, but I know it is so; we shall find confidence to be our consolation.
Why do you cast me off? Why am I treated as if you did loathe me? Am I become an offence unto you? There are many reasons why the Lord might cast us off, but no reason shall prevail to make him do so. He has not cast off his people, though he for awhile treats them as castoffs. Learn from this question that it is well to inquire into dark providences, but we must inquire of God, not of our own fears. He who is the author of a mysterious trial, can best expound it to us.
"Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain."
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Why do I wander hither and thither like a restless spirit? Why do I wear the weeds of sorrow on my body, and the lines of grief on my face? Oppression makes a wise man mad; why, Lord, am I called to endure so much of it for so long a time?
Here again is a useful question, addressed to the right quarter. The answer will often be because we are saints, and must be made like our Head, and because such sorrow is chastening to the spirit, and yields comfortable fruit. We are not to cross-question the Lord in peevishness, but we may ask of him in humility; God help us to observe the distinction so as not to sin through stress of sorrow.
Verse 3. O send out your light and your truth. The joy of your presence and the faithfulness of your heart; let both of these be manifest to me. Reveal my true character by your light, and reward me according to your truthful promise. As the sun darts forth his beams, so does the Lord send forth his favor and his faithfulness towards all his people; and as all nature rejoices in the sunshine, even so the saints triumph in the manifestation of the love and fidelity of their God, which, like the golden sunbeam, lights up even the darkest surroundings with delightful splendor.
Let them lead me. Be these my star to guide me to my rest. Be these my Alpine guides to conduct me over mountains and precipices to the abodes of grace. Let them bring me unto your holy hill, and to your tabernacles.
First in your mercy bring me to your earthly courts, and end my weary exile—and then in due time admit me to your celestial palace above.
We seek not light to sin by, nor truth to be exalted by it, but that they may become our practical guides to the nearest communion with God. Only such light and truth as are sent us from God will do this, common light is not strong enough to show the road to Heaven, nor will mere moral or physical truths assist to the holy hill; but the light of the Holy Spirit, and the truth as it is in Jesus—these are elevating, sanctifying, perfecting; and hence their virtue in leading us to the glorious presence of God.
It is beautiful to observe how David's longing to be away from the oppression of man, always leads him to sigh more intensely for communion with God.
Verse 4. Then will I go unto the altar of God. If David might but be favored with such a deliverance as would permit his return, it would not be his own house or heritage which would be his first resort, but to the altar of God his willing feet should conduct him. His whole heart would go as sacrifice to the altar, he himself counting it his greatest happiness to be permitted to lie as a burnt offering wholly dedicated to the Lord.
With what exultation should believers draw near unto Christ, who is the antitype of the altar! clearer light should give greater intensity of desire.
Unto God my exceeding joy. It was not the altar as such that the psalmist cared for, he was no believer in the heathenism of ritualism. His soul desired spiritual fellowship, fellowship with God himself in very deed. What are all the rites of worship unless the Lord be in them; what, indeed, but empty shells and dry husks?
Note the holy rapture with which David regards his Lord! He is not his joy alone, but his exceeding joy; not the fountain of joy, the giver of joy, or the maintainer of joy, but that joy itself.
The margin has it, "The gladness of my joy," that is, the soul, the essence, the very affections of my joy. To draw near to God, who is such a joy to us, may well be the object of our hungering and thirsting.
Yes, upon the harp will I praise you. His best music, for his best love. When God fills us with joy we ought ever to pour it out at his feet in praise, and all the skill and talent we have should be laid under contribution to increase the divine revenue of glory.
O God, my God. How he dwells upon the name which he loves so well! He already harps on it as though his harp music had begun. What sweeter sounds can music know than these four words? To have God in possession, and to know it by faith, is the heart's heaven—a fullness of bliss lies therein.
Verse 5. Why are you cast down, O my soul? If God be yours, why this dejection? If he uplifts you, why are you so near the ground? The dew of love is falling—O withering heart, revive.
And why are you disquieted within me? What cause is there to break the repose of your heart? Why do you indulge unreasonable sorrows, which benefit no one, fret yourself, and dishonor your God? Why overburden yourself with forebodings?
Hope in God, or wait for God. There is need of patience—but there is ground for hope. The Lord cannot but avenge his own elect. The heavenly Father will not stand by and see his children trampled on forever; as surely as the sun is in the heavens, light must arise for the people of God, though for awhile they may walk in darkness. Why, then, should we not be encouraged, and lift up our head with comfortable hope?
For I shall yet praise him. Times of complaint will soon end, and seasons of praise will begin. Come, my heart, look out of the window, borrow the telescopic glass, forecast a little, and sweeten your chamber with sprigs of the sweet herb of hope.
Who is the health of my countenance, and my God. My God will clear the furrows from my brow, and the tear marks from my cheek; therefore will I lift up my head and smile in the face of the storm. The Psalm has a blessed ending, such as we would gladly imitate when death puts an end to our mortal existence.