Treasury of David
TITLE. To the Chief Musician. The leader of the choir, for the time being, is charged with this song. It were well if the chief musicians of all our congregations estimated their duty at its due solemnity, for it is no mean thing to be called to lead the sacred song of God's people, and the responsibility is by no means light.
A Psalm of David. His life was one of conflict, and very seldom does he finish a Psalm without mentioning his enemies; in this instance his thoughts are wholly occupied with prayer against them.
DIVISION. From verses 1-6 he describes the cruelty and craftiness of his foes.
From verses 7-10 he prophesies their overthrow.
Verse 1. Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer. It often helps devotion if we are able to use the voice and speak audibly; but even mental prayer has a voice with God which he will hear.
We do not read that Moses had spoken with his lips at the Red Sea, and yet the Lord said to him, "Why do you cry unto me?" Prayers which are unheard on earth, may be among the best heard in Heaven.
It is our duty to note how constantly David turns to prayer; it is his battle axe and weapon of war. He uses it under every pressure, whether of inward sin or outward wrath, foreign invasion or domestic rebellion.
Just so, we shall act wisely if we make prayer to God our first and best trusted resource in every hour of need.
Preserve my life from fear of the enemy. From harm and dread of harm protect me; or it may be read as an expression of his assurance that it would be so; "from fear of the foe you will preserve me." With all our sacrifices of prayer, we should offer the salt of faith.
Verse 2. Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked. From their hidden snares hide me. Circumvent their counsel; let their secrets be met by your secret providence; their counsels of malice by your counsels of love.
From the insurrection of the workers of iniquity. When their secret counsels break forth into clamorous tumults, be you still my preserver. When they think evil, let your divine thoughts defeat them. When they do evil, let your powerful justice overthrow them. In both cases, let me be out of reach of their cruel hand, and even out of sight of their evil eye. It is a good thing to conquer malicious foes, but a better thing still to be screened from all conflict with them, by being hidden from the strife. The Lord knows how to give his people peace, and when he wills to make quiet, he is more than a match for all disturbers, and can defeat alike their deep laid plots and their overt hostilities.
Verse 3. Who sharpen their tongue like a sword. Slander has ever been the master weapon of the godly man's enemies, and great is the care of the malicious to use it effectively. As warriors grind their swords, to give them an edge which will cut deep and wound desperately, so do the unscrupulous invent falsehoods which shall be calculated to inflict pain, to stab the reputation, to kill the honor of the righteous.
What is there which an evil tongue will not say? What misery will it not labor to inflict?
And bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words. Far off they dart their calumnies, as archers shoot their poisoned arrows. They studiously and with force prepare their speech as bent bows, and then with cool, deliberate aim, they let fly the shaft which they have dipped in bitterness. To sting, to inflict anguish, to destroy, is their one design. Insult, sarcasm, taunting defiance, nicknaming, all these were practiced among Orientals as a kind of art; and if in these Western regions, with more refined manners, we are less addicted to the use of rough abuse, it is yet to be feared that the less apparent venom of the tongue inflicts none the less poignant pain.
However, in all cases, let us fly to the Lord for help. David had but the one resource of prayer against the twofold weapons of the wicked, for defense against sword or arrow, he used the one defense of faith in God.
Verse 4. That they may shoot in secret at the perfect. They lie in ambush, with bows ready bent to aim a coward's shaft at the upright man. Sincere and upright conduct will not secure us from the assaults of slander. The devil shot at our Lord himself, and we may rest assured he has a fiery dart in reserve for us. He was absolutely perfect, we are only so in a relative sense, hence in us there is fuel for fiery darts to kindle on.
Observe the baseness of malicious men; they will not accept fair combat, they shun the open field, and skulk in the bushes, lying in ambush against those who are not so acquainted with deceit as to suspect their treachery, and are to manly to imitate their despicable modes of warfare.
Suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not. To secrecy they add suddenness. They give their unsuspecting victim no chance of defending himself; they pounce on him like a wild beast leaping on its prey. They lay their plans so warily that they fear no detection.
We have seen in daily life the arrow of calumny wounding its victim sorely; and yet we have not been able to discover the quarter from which the weapon was shot, nor to detect the hand which forged the arrowhead, or tinged it with the poison.
Is it possible for justice to invent a punishment sufficiently severe to meet the case of the dastard who defiles my good name, and remains himself in concealment? An open liar is an angel compared with this demon. Vipers and cobras are harmless and amiable creatures compared with such a reptile. The devil himself might blush at being the father of so base an offspring.
Verse 5. They encourage themselves in an evil matter. Godly men are frequently discouraged, and not infrequently discourage one another, but the children of darkness are wise in their generation and keep their spirits up, and each one has a cheering word to say to his fellow villain. Anything by which they can strengthen each other's hands in their one common design they resort to; their hearts are thoroughly in their black work.
They commune of laying snares privily. Laying their heads together they count and recount their various wicked devices, so as to come at some new and masterly device. They know the benefit of cooperation, and are not sparing in it; they pour their experience into one common fund, they teach each other fresh methods.
They say, Who shall see them? So sedulously do they mask their attacks, that they defy discovery; their pitfalls are too well hidden, and themselves too carefully concealed to be found out. So they think, but they forget the all-seeing eye, and the all-discovering hand, which are ever near by them.
Great plots are usually laid bare. As in the Gunpowder Plot, there is usually a breakdown somewhere or other; among the conspirators themselves truth finds an ally, or the stones of the field cry out against them.
Let no Christian be in bondage through fear of deep laid Jesuitical schemes, for surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, nor divination against Israel; the toils of the net are broken, the arrows of the bow are snapped, the devices of the wicked are foiled. Therefore, fear not, you tremblers; for the Lord is at your right hand, and you shall not be hurt of the enemy.
Verse 6. They search out iniquities. Diligently they consider, invent, devise, and seek for wicked plans to wreak their malice. These are no common villains, but explorers in iniquity, inventors and concoctors of evil. Sad indeed it is that to ruin a godly man, evil men will often show as much avidity as if they were searching after treasure. The Inquisition could display instruments of torture, revealing as much skill as the machinery of our modern exhibitions. The deep places of history, manifesting most the skill of the human mind, are those in which revenge has arranged diplomacy, and used intrigue to compass its diabolical purposes.
They accomplish a diligent search. Their design is perfected, consummated, and brought into working order. They have sought and found the sure method of vengeance. Exquisite are the refinements of malice! Hell's craft furnishes inspiration to the wicked who fashion deceit. Earth and the places under it are ransacked for the material of war, and profound skill turns all to account.
Both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart is deep. No superficial wit is theirs; but sagacity, sharpened by practice and keen hatred. Wicked men have frequently the craft to hasten slowly, to please in order to ruin, to flatter that before long they may devour, to bow the knee that they may ultimately crush beneath their foot.
He who deals with the serpent's seed, has good need of the wisdom which is from above: the generation of vipers twist and turn, wind and wiggle—yet evermore they are set upon their purpose, and go the nearest way to it when they wander round about.
Alas! how dangerous is the believer's condition, and how readily may he be overcome if left to himself. This is the complaint of reason and the moan of unbelief. When faith comes in, we see that even in all this the saints are still secure, for they are all in the hands of God.
Verse 7. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow. They shot, and shall be shot. A greater archer than they are shall take sure aim at their hearts. One of his arrows shall be enough, for he never misses his aim. The Lord turns the tables on his adversaries, and defeats them at their own weapons.
Suddenly shall they be wounded. They were looking to surprise the saint, but, lo! they are taken at unawares themselves; they desired to inflict deadly wounds, and are smitten themselves with wounds which none can heal. While they were bending their bows, the great Lord had prepared his bow already, and he let slip the shaft when least they looked for such an unsparing messenger of justice.
"Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord." The righteous need not learn the arts of self-defense or of attack, their avenging is in better hands than their own.
Verse 8. So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves. Their slander shall recoil. Their curses shall come home to roost. Their tongue shall cut their throats. It was both sword, and bow and arrow; it shall be turned against them, and bring home to them full punishment.
All that see them shall flee away. Afraid, both of them and their overthrow, their former friends shall give them wide space, lest they perish with them.
Who cares to go near to Herod when the worms are eating him? Or to be in the same chariot with Pharaoh when the waves roar round him? Those who crowded around a powerful persecutor, and cringed at his feet, are among the first to desert him in the day of wrath.
Woe unto you, you liars! Who will desire fellowship with you in your seething lake of fire?
Verse 9. And all men shall fear. They shall be filled with awe by the just judgments of God, as the Canaanites were by the overthrow of Pharaoh at the Red Sea. Those who might have been bold in sin, shall be made to tremble and to stand in awe of the righteous Judge.
And shall declare the work of God. It shall become the subject of general conversation. So strange, so pointed, so terrible shall be the Lord's overthrow of the malicious, that it shall be spoken of in all companies.
They sinned secretly, but their punishment shall be wrought before the face of the sun.
For they shall wisely consider of his doing. The judgments of God are frequently so clear and manifest that men cannot misread them, and if they have any thought at all, they must extract the true teaching from them. Some of the divine judgments are a great deep, but in the case of malicious persecutors the matter is plain enough, and the most illiterate can understand.
Verse 10. The righteous shall be glad in the Lord. Admiring his justice and fully acquiescing in its displays, they shall also rejoice at the rescue of injured innocence, yet their joy shall not be selfish or sensual, but altogether in reference to the Lord.
And shall trust in him. Their observation of providence shall increase their faith; since he who fulfills his threatenings, will not forget his promises.
And all the upright in heart shall glory. The victory of the oppressed shall be the victory of all upright men; the whole host of the elect shall rejoice in the triumph of virtue. While strangers fear, the children are glad in view of their Father's power and justice. That which alarms the evil man, cheers the godly man. Lord God of mercy, grant to us to be preserved from all our enemies, and saved in your Son with an everlasting salvation.