Treasury of David
TITLE. To the Chief Musician. Even short Psalms, if they record but one instance of the goodness of the Lord, and rebuke but briefly the pride of man, are worthy of our best minstrelsy. When we see that each Psalm is dedicated to "the chief musician," it should make us value our psalmody, and forbid us to praise the Lord carelessly.
A Maschil. An Instructive. Even the malice of a Doeg may furnish instruction to a David.
A Psalm of David. He was the prime object of Doeg's doggish hatred, and therefore the most fitting person to draw from the incident the lesson concealed within it. When Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech. By this deceitful tale bearing, he procured the death of all the priests at Nob: though it had been a crime to have supported David as a rebel, they were not in their intent and knowledge guilty of the fault. David felt much the villainy of this arch enemy, and here he denounces him in vigorous terms; it may be also that he has Saul in his eye.
DIVISION. We shall follow the sacred pauses marked by the Selahs of the poet.
Verse 1. Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? Doeg had small matter for boasting in having procured the slaughter of a band of defenseless priests. A mighty man indeed to kill men who never touched a sword! He ought to have been ashamed of his cowardice. He had no room for exultation! Honorable titles are but irony where the wearer is base and cruel.
If David alluded to Saul, he meant by these words pityingly to say, "How can one by nature fitted for nobler deeds, descend to so low a level as to find a theme for boasting in a slaughter so heartless and mischievous?"
The goodness of God endures continually. A beautiful contrast. The tyrant's fury cannot dry up the perennial stream of divine mercy. If priests be slain, their Master lives. If Doeg for awhile triumphs the Lord will outlive him, and right the wrongs which he has done. This ought to modify the proud exultations of the wicked, for after all, while the Lord lives, iniquity has little cause to exalt itself.
Verse 2. Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit. You speak with an ulterior motive. The information given was for Saul's assistance apparently, but in very deed in his heart the Edomite hated the priests of the God of Jacob.
It is a mark of deep depravity, when the evil spoken is craftily intended to promote a yet greater evil—like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.
David represents the false tongue as being effectual for destruction. He may mean that as with a razor a man's throat may be cut very speedily, under the pretense of shaving him, even thus keenly, basely, but effectually Doeg destroyed the band of the priests. Whetted by malice, and guided by craft, he did his cruel work with accursed thoroughness.
Verse 3. You love evil rather than good. He loved not good at all. If both had been equally profitable and pleasant, he would have preferred evil.
And falsehood rather than speaking the truth. He was more at home at lying than at truth. He spoke not the truth except by accident, but he delighted heartily in falsehood.
SELAH. Let us pause and look at the proud blustering liar. Doeg is gone, but other dogs bark at the Lord's people. Saul's cattle master is buried, but the devil still has his drovers, who gladly would hurry the saints like sheep to the slaughter.
Verse 4. You love every harmful word. You have a taste, a gusto for evil language. All devouring words. There are words that, like boa constrictors, swallow men whole, or like lions, rend men to pieces; these words evil minds are fond of. Their oratory is evermore furious and bloody. That which will most readily provoke the lowest passions, they are sure to employ, and they think such pandering to the madness of the wicked to be eloquence of a high order.
O you deceitful tongue! Men can manage to say a great many furious things, and yet cover all over with the pretext of justice. They claim that they are jealous for the right, but the truth is they are determined to put down truth and holiness, and craftily go about it under this transparent pretense.
Verse 5. God shall likewise destroy you forever. Gladly would the persecutor destroy the church, and therefore God shall destroy him, pull down his house, pluck up his roots, and make an end of him.
He shall take you away. God shall extinguish his coal and sweep him away like the ashes of the hearth. He would have quenched the truth, and God shall quench him.
And pluck you out of your dwelling place, like a plant torn from the place where it grew, or a captive dragged from his home. Ahimelech and his brother priests were cut off from their abode, and so should those be who compassed and contrived their murder.
And root you out of the land of the living. The persecutor shall be eradicated, stubbed up by the root, cut up root and branch. He sought the death of others and death shall fall upon him. He troubled the land of the living, and he shall be banished to that land where the wicked cease from troubling. Those who will not "let live" have no right to "live." God will turn the tables on malicious men, and mete out to them a portion with their own measure.
SELAH. Pause again, and behold the divine justice proving itself more than a match for human sin.
Verse 6. The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at him, saying,
The righteous—the object of the tyrant's hatred—shall outlive his enmity, and also shall see, before his own face, the end of the ungodly oppressor. God permits Mordecai to see Haman hanging on the gallows. David had brought to him the tokens of Saul's death on Gilboa.
And fear. Holy awe shall sober the mind of the godly man; he shall reverently adore the God of providence. And shall laugh at him. If not with righteous joy—yet with solemn contempt. Schemes so far reaching all baffled, plans so deep, so politic, all thwarted. The old serpent is caught in his own subtlety. This is a good theme for that deep seated laughter which is more akin to solemnity than merriment.
Verse 7. Lo. Look you here, and read the epitaph of a mighty man, who lorded it proudly during his little hour, and set his heel upon the necks of the Lord's chosen.
This is the man that made not God his strength. Behold the man! The great vainglorious man. He found a fortress, but not in God. He gloried in his might, but not in the Almighty. Where is he now? How has it fared with him in the hour of his need? Behold his ruin, and be instructed.
But trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness. The substance he had gathered, and the destructions he had wrought, were his boast and glory.
Wealth and wickedness are dreadful companions; when combined, they make a monster. When the devil is master of money bags, he is a devil indeed. Beelzebub and Mammon together heat the furnace seven times hotter for the child of God, but in the end that shall work out their own destruction. Wherever we see today a man great in sin and substance, we shall do well to anticipate his end, and view this verse as the divine in memoriam.
Verse 8. But I, hunted and persecuted though I am, am like a green olive tree. I am not plucked up or destroyed, but am like a flourishing olive tree, which out of the rock draws oil, and amid the drought still lives and grows.
Flourishing in the house of God. He was one of the divine family, and could not be expelled from it; his place was near his God, and there was he safe and happy, despite all the machinations of his foes.
He was bearing fruit, and would continue to do so when all his proud enemies were withered like branches lopped from the tree.
I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. Eternal mercy is my present confidence. David knew God's mercy to be eternal and perpetual, and in that he trusted. What a rock to build on! What a fortress to fly to!
Verse 9. I will praise you forever. Like your mercy shall my thankfulness be. While others boast in their riches, I will boast in my God; and when their glorying is silenced forever in the tomb, my song shall continue to proclaim the loving-kindness of Jehovah.
Because you have done it. You have vindicated the righteous, and punished the wicked. God's memorable acts of providence, both to saints and sinners, deserve, and must have our gratitude. David views his prayer as already answered, the promise of God as already fulfilled—and therefore at once lifts up the sacred Psalm.
And I will wait on your name. God shall still be the psalmist's hope; he will not in future look elsewhere. He whose name has been so gloriously made known in truth and righteousness, is justly chosen as our expectation for years to come.
For it is good before your saints. Before or among the saints David intended to wait, feeling it to be good both for him and them to look to the Lord alone, and wait for the manifestation of his character in due season.
Men must not too much fluster us; our strength is to sit still. Let the mighty ones boast, we will wait on the Lord; and if their haste brings them present honor, our patience will have its turn by and by, and bring us the honor which excels.