Treasury of David
TITLE. To the Chief Musician on stringed instruments. The music was to be that of stringed instruments. Variety is to be studied in our tunes, and in all other matters relating to sacred song. Monotony is often the death of congregational praise. Providence is varied, and so should our recording songs be.
Maschil. We are to learn and to teach by what we sing. Edification must not be divorced from psalmody.
A Psalm of David. David's productions were as plentiful as they are profitable. His varied life was for our benefit, for from it we derive these hymns, which at this hour are as fresh and as precious as when he wrote them.
When the Ziphims came and said to Saul, Does not David hide himself with us? To curry favor with Saul they were guilty of gross inhospitality. What cared they what innocent blood was shed, just so that they earned the graceless monarch's smile! David came quietly among them, hoping for a little rest in his many flights, but they deserted him in his solitary abode, and betrayed him. He turns to God in prayer, and so strong was his faith that he soon sang himself into delightful serenity.
DIVISION. From verses 1-3, where the Selah makes a pause for us, the psalmist pleads with God, and then in the rest of the song, laying aside all doubt, he chants a hymn of joyful triumph. The vigor of faith is the death of anxiety, and the birth of security.
Verse 1. Save me, O God. You are my Savior; all around me are my foes and their eager helpers. No shelter is permitted me. Every land rejects me and denies me rest. But you, O God, will give me refuge, and deliver me from all my enemies.
By your name, by your great and glorious nature. Employ all your attributes for me. Let every one of the perfections which are blended in your divine name work for me. Is not your honor pledged for my defense?
And judge me by your strength. Render justice to me, for none else will or can. You can give me efficient justice, and right my wrongs by your omnipotence.
We dare not appeal to God in a bad cause, but when we know that we can fearlessly carry our cause before his justice, we may well commit it to his power.
Verse 2. Hear my prayer, O God. This has ever been the defense of saints. As long as God has an open ear we cannot be shut up in trouble. All other weapons may be useless, but all prayer is evermore available. No enemy can spike this gun.
Give ear to the words of my mouth. Vocal prayer helps the supplicant, and we keep our minds more fully awake when we can use our tongues as well as our hearts.
But what is prayer if God hear not? It is all one whether we babble nonsense or plead arguments—if our God grants us not a hearing.
When his case had become dangerous, David could not afford to pray out of mere custom, he must succeed in his pleadings, or become the prey of his adversary.
Verse 3. For strangers are risen up against me. Those who had no cause for ill will had gone against him—people to whom he could have given no offence, for they were strangers to him. They were aliens to his God also, and should these be allowed to worry and destroy him.
A child may well complain to his father when strangers come in to molest him. What right have they to interfere? Let them leave off meddling and mind their own concerns.
And oppressors seek after my soul. Saul, that persecuting tyrant, had stamped his own image on many more. Kings generally coin their own likeness. Saul led the way, and others followed seeking David's soul, his blood, his life, his very existence. Cruel and intense were they in their malice, they would utterly crush the godly man; no half measure would content them.
They have not set God before them. They had no more regard for right and justice than if they knew no God, or cared for none. Had they regarded God they would not have betrayed the innocent to be hunted down like a poor harmless stag. David felt that atheism lay at the bottom of the enmity which pursued him.
Godly men are hated for God's sake, and this is a good plea for them to urge in prayer.
Selah. As if he said, "Enough of this, let us pause." He is out of breath with indignation. A sense of wrong bids him to suspend the music awhile. It may also be observed, that more pauses would, as a rule, improve our devotions. We are usually too much in a hurry—a little more holy meditation would make our words more suitable and our emotions more fervent.
Verse 4. Behold, God is my helper. He saw enemies everywhere, and now to his joy as he looks upon the band of his defenders, he sees one whose aid is better than all the help of men; he is overwhelmed with joy at recognizing his divine champion, and cries, Behold.
And is not this a theme for pious exultation in all time, that the great God protects us, his own people. What does the number or violence of our foes matter, when HE uplifts the shield of his omnipotence to guard us, and the sword of his power to aid us? Little do we care for the defiance of the foe, while we have the defense of God.
The Lord is with those who uphold my soul. The reigning Lord, the great Adonai is in the camp of my defenders. Here was a greater champion than any of the three mighties, or than all the valiant men who chose David for their captain. The psalmist was very confident, he felt so thoroughly that his heart was on the Lord's side that he was sure God was on his side.
He asked in the first verse for divine deliverance, and here he returns thanks for divine upholding. While we are seeking one mercy which we have not, we must not be unmindful of another which we have. It is a great mercy to have some friends left us, but a greater mercy still to see the Lord among them, for like so many ciphers our friends count for nothing until the Lord sets himself as a great unit in the front of them.
Verse 5. He shall reward evil unto my enemies. They worked for evil, and they shall have their wages. It cannot be that malice should go unavenged. It would be cruelty to the good, to be lenient to their persecutors. It is appointed, and so it must ever be, that those who shoot upward the arrows of malice—shall find them fall upon themselves1 The recoil of their own gun has often killed oppressors.
Cut them off in your truth. Not in ferocious revenge is this spoken, but as an Amen to the sure sentence of the just Judge. Let the veracity of your threatenings, be placed beyond dispute; the decree is right and just, let it be fulfilled. It is not a private desire, but the solemn utterance of a military man, a grossly injured man, a public leader destined to be a monarch, and a man well trained in the school of Moses, whose law ordains eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.
Verse 6. I will freely sacrifice unto you. Spontaneously will I bring my freewill offerings. So certain is he of deliverance, that he offers a vow by anticipation. His overflowing gratitude would load the altars of God with victims cheerfully presented. The more we receive from God, the more we ought to render to God. The spontaneousness of our gifts, is a great element in their acceptance; the Lord loves a cheerful giver.
I will praise your name, O Lord. As if no amount of sacrifice could express his joyful feelings, he resolves to be much in vocal thanksgiving. The name which he invoked in prayer (verse 1), he will now magnify in praise.
Note how roundly he brings it out: O Jehovah. This is ever the grand name of the revealed God of Israel, a name which awakens the most sublime sentiments, and so nourishes the most acceptable praise. None can praise the Lord so well as those who have tried and proved the preciousness of his name in seasons of adversity.
The psalmist adds, for it is good, and surely we may read this with a double nominative, God's name is good, and so is his praise. It is of great use to our souls to be much in praise. We are never so holy or so happy as when our adoration of God abounds. Praise is good in itself, good to us, and good to all around us. If David's enemies are described in verse 3 as not setting God before them, he here declares that he is of a different mind from them, for he resolves to have the Lord in perpetual remembrance in his sacrifices and praises.
Verse 7. For he has delivered me out of all trouble. Up to that time deliverance had come; and for that danger also he felt that rescue was near. David lived a life of dangers and hair—breadth escapes—yet he was always safe. In the retrospect of his very many deliverances he feels that he must praise God, and looking upon the mercy which he sought as though it were already received, he sang this song over it—
"And a new song is in my mouth,
To long loved music set,
Glory to you for all the grace
I have not tasted yet."
Out of all trouble our covenant God is pledged to bring us, and therefore even now let us uplift the note of triumph unto Jehovah, the faithful preserver of those who put their trust in him. Thus far have we proved his promise good; he changes not, and therefore in all the unknown future he will be equally our guardian and defense, "showing himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward him."
And my eye has seen his desire upon my enemies. He knew that yet he should look on his haughty foes, gazing down on them in triumph—as now they looked on him in contempt. He desired this as a matter of justice, and not of personal pique. His righteous soul exulted because he knew that unprovoked malice would meet with a righteous punishment.
Could we keep out of our hearts all personal enmity as fully as the psalmist did in this Psalm, we might yet equally feel with him a sacred acquiescence and delight in that divine justice which will save the righteous and overthrow the malicious.
In closing, let us trust that if we are as friendless as this man of God, we may resort in prayer as he did, exercise the like faith, and find ourselves before long singing the same joyous hymn of praise.