Treasury of David
TITLE. This title is very similar to many we have before studied. To the Chief Musician. It is consigned to the care of the usual overseer of song. When a man does his work well, there is no use in calling in others for novelty's sake.
A Psalm and song of David. A combination of psalm and song, which may be best described by the term, "A Lyrical Poem." In this case the Psalm may be said or sung, and be equally suitable. We have had two such Psalms before, Psalms 30 and 48, and we have now the first of a little series of four following each other. It was meant that Psalms of pleading and longing should be followed by hymns of praise.
SUBJECT AND DIVISION. David sings of the glory of God in his church, and in the fields of nature. Here is the song both of grace and providence. It may be that he intended hereby to commemorate a remarkably plentiful harvest, or to compose a harvest hymn for all ages. It appears to have been written after a violent rebellion had been quelled, verse 7; and foreign enemies had been subdued by signal victory, verse 8. It is one of the most delightful hymns in any language.
We shall view in verses 1-4 the way of approach to God.
Then from verses 5-8 we shall see the Lord in answer to prayer performing wonders for which he is praised.
Then from verses 9-13 we shall sing the special harvest song.
Verse 1. Praise waits for you, O God, in Zion. Though Babylon adores Antichrist, Zion remains faithful to her King; to him, and to him only, she brings her perpetual oblation of worship. Those who have seen in Zion the blood of sprinkling, and know themselves to belong to the church of the firstborn, can never think of her without presenting humble praise to Zion's God; his mercies are too numerous and precious to be forgotten.
The praises of the saints wait for a signal from the divine Lord, and when he shows his face they burst forth at once. Like a company of musicians gathered to welcome and honor a prince, who wait until he makes his appearance, so do we reserve our best praises until the Lord reveals himself in the assembly of his saints; and, indeed, until he shall descend from Heaven in the day of his appearing.
Praise also waits like a servant or courtier in the royal halls—gratitude is humble and obedient. Praise attends the Lord's pleasure, and continues to bless him, whether he shows tokens of present favor or not. She is not soon wearied, but all through the night she sings on in sure hope that the morning comes. We shall continue to wait on, tuning our harps, amid the tears of earth. O what harmonies will those be which we will pour forth, when the home bringing is come, and the King shall appear in his glory.
The passage may be rendered "praise is silent for you;" it is calm, peaceful, and ready to adore you in quietness.
Or, it may mean, our praise is but silence compared with your deservings, O God.
Or, in solemn silence we worship you, because our praise cannot be uttered; accept, therefore, our silence as praise.
Or, we are so engrossed in your praise, that to all other things we are dumb; we have no tongue for anything but you.
Certainly, when the soul is most filled with adoring awe, she is least content with her own expressions, and feels most deeply how inadequate are all mortal songs to proclaim the divine goodness.
A church, bowed in silent adoration by a profound sense of divine mercy, would certainly offer more real praise than the sweetest voices aided by pipes and strings; yet, vocal music is not to be neglected, for this sacred hymn was meant to be sung.
It is well before singing, to have the soul placed in a waiting attitude, and to be humbly conscious that our best praise is but silence compared with Jehovah's glory.
And unto you shall the vow be performed. Perhaps a special vow made during a season of drought and political danger. Nations and churches must be honest and prompt in redeeming their promises to the Lord, who cannot be mocked with impunity.
So, too, must individuals. We are not to forget our vows, or to redeem them to be seen of men—unto God alone must they be performed, with a single eye to his acceptance. Believers are all under covenant, which they made at conversion, and have renewed upon being baptized, joining the church, and coming to the table, and some of them are under special pledges which they entered into under peculiar circumstances; these are to be piously and punctually fulfilled.
We ought to be very deliberate in promising, and very punctilious in performing. A vow unkept will burn the conscience like a hot iron. Vows of service, of donation, of praise, or whatever the may be, are no trifles; and in the day of grateful praise they should, without fail, be fulfilled to the utmost of our power.
Verse 2. O you who hear prayer. This is your name, your nature, your glory. God not only has heard, but is now hearing prayer, and always must hear prayer, since he is an immutable being and never changes in his attributes.
What a delightful title for the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Every right and sincere prayer is as surely heard as it is offered. Here the psalmist brings in the personal pronoun you, and we beg the reader to notice how often "you," and "your," occur in this hymn; David evidently believed in a personal God, and did not adore a mere idea or abstraction.
Unto you shall all flesh come. This shall encourage men of all nations to become suppliants to the one and only God, who proves his Deity by answering those who seek his face. Flesh they are, and therefore weak; frail and sinful, they need to pray; and you are such a God as they need, for you are touched with compassion, and do condescend to hear the cries of poor flesh and blood.
Many come to you now in humble faith, and are filled with good, but more shall be drawn to you by the attractiveness of your love, and at length the whole earth shall bow at your feet. To come to God is the life of true religion. We come weeping in conversion, hoping in supplication, rejoicing in praise, and delighting in service.
False gods must in due time lose their deluded votaries, for man when enlightened will not be longer be fooled; but each one who tries the true God is encouraged by his own success to persuade others also, and so the kingdom of God comes to men, and men come to it.
Verse 3. Iniquities prevail against me. Others accuse and slander me, and in addition to my own sins rise up and would beset me to my confusion, were it not for the remembrance of the atonement which covers every one of my iniquities. Our sins would, but for grace, prevail against us in the court of divine justice, in the court of conscience, and in the battle of life. Unhappy is the man who despises these enemies, and worse still is he who counts them his friends! He is best instructed who knows their deadly power, and flees for refuge to him who pardons iniquity.
As for our transgressions, you shall purge them away. You cover them all, for you have provided a covering atoning sacrifice, a mercy-seat which wholly covers your law. Note the word our, the faith of the one penitent who speaks for himself in the first clause, here embraces all the faithful in Zion. He is so persuaded of the largeness of forgiving love that he leads all the saints to sing of the blessing.
What a comfort that iniquities that prevail against us, do not prevail against God. They would keep us away from God, but he sweeps them away from before himself and us; they are too strong for us, but not for our Redeemer, who is mighty, yes, and almighty to save. It is worthy of note that as the priest washed in the laver before he sacrificed, so David leads us to obtain purification from sin before we enter upon the service of song. When we have washed our robes and made them white in his blood, then shall we acceptably sing, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain."
Verse 4. Blessed is the man whom you chose, and cause to approach unto you. After cleansing comes blessing, and truly this is a very rich one. It comprehends both election, effectual calling, access, acceptance, and sonship.
First, we are chosen of God, according to the good pleasure of his will, and this alone is blessedness.
Then, since we cannot and will not come to God of ourselves, he works graciously in us, and attracts us powerfully. He subdues our unwillingness, and removes our inability by the almighty workings of his transforming grace. This also is no slight blessedness.
Furthermore, we, by his divine drawings, are made near by the blood of his Son, and brought near by his spirit, into intimate fellowship; so that we have access with boldness, and are no longer as those who are afar off by wicked works. Here also is unrivaled blessedness.
To crown all, we do not come near in peril of dire destruction, as Nadab and Abihu did, but we approach as chosen and accepted ones, to become dwellers in the divine household. This is heaped up blessedness, vast beyond conception.
But dwelling in the house we are treated as sons, for the servant abides not in the house forever, but the son abides ever. Behold what manner of love and blessedness the Father has bestowed upon us that we may dwell in his house, and go no more out forever. Happy men who dwell at home with God. May both writer and reader be such men.
That he may dwell in your courts. Acceptance leads to abiding. God does not make a temporary choice, or give and take; his gifts and calling are without repentance. He who is once admitted to God's courts shall inhabit them forever; he shall be "No more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home."
Permanence gives preciousness. Terminating blessings are but half blessings. To dwell in the courts of the Great King is to be ennobled; to dwell there forever is to be imparadised. Yet such is the portion of every man whom God has chosen and caused to approach unto him, though once his iniquities prevailed against him.
Verse 5. By terrible things in righteousness will you answer us, O God of our salvation. God's memorial is that he hears prayer, and his glory is that he answers it in a manner fitted to inspire awe in the hearts of his people.
The saints, in the commencement of the Psalm, offered praise in reverential silence; and now, in the like awe-stricken spirit, they receive answers to their prayers.
The direct allusion here is, no doubt, to the Lord's overthrow of the enemies of his people in ways calculated to strike terror into all beholders; his judgments in their severe righteousness were calculated to excite fear both among friends and foes. Who would not fear a God whose blows are so crushing?
We do not always know what we are asking for when we pray; when the answer comes, the veritable answer, it is possible that we may be terrified by it.
We seek sanctification—and trial will be the reply.
We ask for more faith—and more affliction is the result.
We pray for the spread of the gospel—and persecution scatters us.
Nevertheless, it is good to ask on, for nothing which the Lord grants in his love can do us any harm. Terrible things will turn out to be blessed things after all, where they come in answer to prayer.
See in this verse how righteousness and salvation are united, the terrible things with the gracious answers. Where but in Jesus could they be blended? The God who saves may answer our prayers in a way which puts unbelief into a flutter; but when faith spies the Savior, she remembers that "things are not what they seem," and she is of good courage. He who is terrible is also our refuge from terror when we see him in the Well beloved.
The confidence of all the ends of the earth. The dwellers in the far off isles trust in God; those most remote from Zion yet confide in the ever living Jehovah. Even those who dwell in countries, frozen or torrid, where nature puts on her varied terrors, and those who see dread wonders on the deep—yet fly from the terrors of God and place their confidence in the God of terrors.
His arm is strong to smite, but also strong to save.
And of them that are afar off upon the sea. Both elements have their elect band of believers. If the land gave Moses elders, the sea gave Jesus apostles. Noah, when all was ocean, was as calm with God as Abraham in his tent. All men are equally dependent upon God—the seafaring man is usually most conscious of this, but in reality he is not more so than the gardener, nor the gardener than anyone else. There is no room for self-confidence on land or sea, since God is the only true confidence of men on earth or ocean.
Faith is a plant of universal growth, it is a tree of life on shore and a plant of renown at sea; and, blessed be God, those who exercise faith in him anywhere shall find that he is swift and strong to answer their prayers. A remembrance of this should quicken our devotions when we approach unto the Lord our God.
Verse 6. Who by his strength sets fast the mountains. He, as it were, fixed them in their sockets, and preserved them from falling by earthquake or storm. The firmest owe their stability to him. Philosophers of the forget God school are too much engrossed with their laws of upheaval to think of the Upheaver. Their theories of volcanic action and glacier action, etc., etc., are frequently used as bolts and bars to shut the Lord out of his own world.
Our poet is of another mind, and sees God's hand settling Alps and Andes on their bases, and therefore he sings in his praise. Let me forever be just such an unphilosophical simpleton as David was, for he was nearer akin to Solomon than any of our modern theorists.
Being girded with power. The Lord is so himself, and he therefore casts a belt of strength around the hills, and there they stand, braced, belted, and bulwarked with his might.
The poetry is such as would naturally suggest itself to one familiar with mountain scenery; power everywhere meets you, sublimity, massive grandeur, and stupendous force are all around you. And God is there, the author and source of all.
Let us learn that we poor puny ones, if we wish for true establishment, must go to the strong for strength. Without him, the everlasting hills would crumble; how much more shall all our plans, projects, and labors come to decay. Repose, O believer, where the mountains find their bases—namely, in the undiminished might of the Lord God.
Verse 7. Which stills the noise of the seas. His soft breath smoothes the sea into a glass, and the mountainous waves into ripples. God does this. Calms are of the God of peace; it needs not that we look for a hurricane when it is said that he comes. He walked of old in the garden in the cool of the day; he is resting even now, for his great seventh day is not yet over, and he is always "the Lord and giver of peace."
Let mariners magnify the God who rules the waves.
The noise of their waves. Each separate brawler amid the riot of the storm is quieted by the divine voice.
And the tumult of the people. Nations are as difficult to rule as the sea itself, they are as fitful, treacherous, restless, and furious; they will not brook the bridle nor be restrained by laws. Canute had not a more perilous seat by the rising billows, than many a king and emperor has had when the multitude have been set on mischief, and have grown weary of their lords.
God alone is King of nations. The sea obeys him, and the yet more tumultuous nations are kept in check by him. Human society owes its preservation to the continued power of God. Evil passions would secure its instant dissolution—envy, ambition, and cruelty would create anarchy tomorrow if God did not prevent. Whereof we have had clear proof in the various French revolutions.
Glory be unto God who maintains the fabric of social order, and checks the wicked, who would gladly overthrow all things. The child of God is seasons of trouble should fly at once to him who stills the seas—nothing is too hard for him.
Verse 8. They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid of your tokens (wonders). Signs of God's presence are not few, nor confined to any one region. These tokens are sometimes terrible phenomena in nature—such as earthquakes, pestilence, tornado, or storm; and when these are seen, even the most barbarous people tremble before God.
At other times they are dread works of providence—such as the overthrow of Sodom, and the destruction of Pharaoh. The rumor of these judgments travels to earth's utmost verge, and impresses all people with a fear and trembling at such a just and holy God.
We bless God that we are not afraid but rejoice at his tokens; with solemn awe we are glad when we behold his mighty acts. We fear, but not with slavish fear.
You make the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice. East and west are made happy by God's favor to the dwellers therein. Our rising hours are bright with hope, and our evening moments mellow with thanksgiving. Whether the sun go forth or come in we bless God and rejoice in the gates of the day. When the fair morning blushes with the rosy dawn we rejoice; and when the calm evening smiles restfully we rejoice still. We do not believe that the dew weeps the death of the day; we only see jewels bequeathed by the departing day for its successor to gather up from the earth.
Faith, when she sees God, rounds the day with joy. She cannot fast, because the bridegroom is with her. Night and day are alike to her, for the same God made them and blessed them. She would have no rejoicing if God did not make her glad; but, blessed be his name, he never ceases to make joy for those who find their joy in him.
Verse 9. You visit the earth, and water it. God's visits leave a blessing behind; this is more than can be said of every visitor. When the Lord goes on visitations of mercy, he has abundance of necessary things for all his needy creatures. He is represented here as going round the earth, as a gardener surveys his garden, and as giving water to every plant that requires it, and that not in small quantities, but until the earth is drenched and soaked with a rich supply of refreshment.
O Lord, in this manner visit your church, and my poor, parched, and withering piety. Make your grace to overflow towards my graces; water me, for no plant of your garden needs it more.
You greatly enrich it. Millions of dollars could not so much enrich mankind as the showers do. The soil is made rich by the rain, and then yields its riches to man; but God is the first giver of all. How truly rich are those who are enriched with grace—this is great riches.
With the river of God, which is full of water. The brooks of earth are soon dried up, and all human resources, being finite, are liable to failure; but God's provision for the supply of rain is inexhaustible; there is no bottom or shore to his river. The deluge poured from the clouds of yesterday may be succeeded by another tomorrow, and yet the waters above the firmament shall not fail.
How true this is in the realm of grace; there the river of God is full of water, and "of his fullness have we all received, and grace upon grace." The ancients in their fables spoke of Pactolus, which flowed over sands of gold; but this river of God, which flows above and from which the rain is poured, is far more enriching; for, after all, the wealth of men lies mainly in the harvest of their fields, without which even gold would be of no value whatever.
You provide them with corn. Corn is specially set apart to be the food of man. In its various species it is a divine provision for the nutriment of our race, and is truly called the staff of life. We hear in commerce of "prepared corn flour," but God prepared it long before man touched it. As surely as the manna was prepared of God for the tribes, so certainly is corn made and sent by God for our daily use.
What is the difference whether we gather wheat ears or manna; and what does it matter if the first comes upward to us, and the second comes downward to us? God is as much present beneath as above.
It is as great a marvel that food should rise out of the dust, as that it should fall from the skies!
When you have so provided for it. When all is prepared to produce corn, the Lord puts the finishing stroke, and the grain is forthcoming. Not even, when all the material is prepared, will the wheat be perfected without the continuous and perfecting operation of the Most High. Blessed be the Great Householder; he does not allow the harvest to fail, he supplies the teeming myriads of earth with bread enough from year to year. Even thus does he grant heavenly food to his redeemed ones. "He has given food unto those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant."
Verse 10. You watered the ridges thereof abundantly; you settle the furrows thereof. Ridge and furrow are drenched. The ridges beaten down and settled, and the furrows made to stand like gutters flooded to the full.
You make it soft with showers. The drought turned the clods into iron, but the plenteous showers dissolve and loosen the soil.
You bless the springing thereof. Vegetation enlivened by the moisture leaps into vigor, the seed germinates and sends forth its green shoot, and the smell is that as of a field which the Lord has blessed.
All this may furnish us with a figure of the operations of the Holy Spirit in beating down high thoughts, filling our lowly desires, softening the soul, and causing every holy thing to increase and spread.
Verse 11. You crown the year with your goodness. The harvest is the plainest display of the divine bounty, and the crown of the year. The Lord himself conducts the coronation, and sets the golden coronal upon the brow of the year.
Or we may understand the expression to mean that God's love encircles the year as with a crown; each month has its gems, each day its pearl. Unceasing kindness girdles all time with a belt of love. The providence of God in its visitations makes a complete circuit, and surrounds the year.
And your paths drop fatness. The footsteps of God, when he visits the land with rain, create fertility. It was said of the Tartar hordes, that grass grew no more where their horses' feet had trodden; so, on the contrary, it may be said that the march of Jehovah, the Fertiliser, may be traced by the abundance which he creates.
For spiritual harvests we must look to him, for he alone can give "times of refreshing" and feasts of Pentecost.
Verse 12. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness. Not alone where man is found do the showers descend, but away in the lone places, where only wild animals have their haunt, there the bountiful Lord makes the refreshing rain to drop. Ten thousand oases smile while the Lord of mercy passes by. The birds of the air, the wild goats, and the fleet stags rejoice as they drink from the pools, newly filled from Heaven.
The most lonely and solitary souls God will visit in love.
And the little hills rejoice on every side. On all hands the eminences are girt with gladness. Soon they languish under the effects of drought, but after a season of rain they laugh again with verdure.
Verse 13. The pastures are clothed with flocks. The clothing of man first clothes the fields. Pastures appear to be quite covered with numerous flocks when the grass is abundant.
The valleys also are covered over with corn. The arable as well as the pasture land is rendered fruitful. God's clouds, like ravens, bring us both bread and flesh. Grazing flocks and waving crops are equally the gifts of the Preserver of men, and for both praise should be rendered. Sheep shearing and harvest should both be holiness unto the Lord.
They shout for joy. The bounty of God makes the earth vocal with his praise, and in opened ears it lifts up a joyous shout. The cattle low out the divine praises, and the rustling ears of grain sing a soft sweet melody unto the Lord.
"You forests bend, you harvests wave to him;
Breathe your still song into the reaper's heart,
As home he goes beneath the joyous moon.
Bleat out afresh, you hills; you mossy rocks
Retain the sound; the broad responsive low
You valleys raise; for the GREAT SHEPHERD reigns,
And his unsuffering kingdom yet will come."
They also sing. The voice of nature is articulate to God; it is not only a shout, but a song. Well ordered are the sounds of animate creation as they combine with the equally well tuned ripple of the waters, and sighings of the wind. Nature has no discords. Her airs are melodious, her chorus is full of harmony. All, all is for the Lord; the world is a hymn to the Eternal—blessed is he who, hearing, joins in it, and makes one singer in the mighty chorus.