Treasury of David
TITLE. To the Chief Musician upon the lilies. Thus for the second time we have a Psalm entitled "upon the lilies." In the forty-first they were golden lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh, and blooming in the fair gardens which skirt the ivory palaces. In this psalm this we have the lily among thorns, the lily of the valley, fair and beautiful, blooming in the garden of Gethsemane.
A Psalm of David. If any inquire, "of whom speaks the psalmist? of himself, or of some other man?" we would reply, "of himself, and of some other man." Who that other is, we need not be long in discovering; it is the Crucified alone who can say, "in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." His footprints all through this sorrowful song have been pointed out by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, and therefore we believe, and are sure, that the Son of Man is here.
Yet is seems to be the intention of the Spirit, while he gives us personal types, and so shows the likeness to the firstborn which exists in the heirs of salvation, to set forth the disparities between the best of the sons of men, and the Son of God, for there are verses here which we dare not apply to our Lord; we almost shudder when we see our brethren attempting to do so, as for instance verse 5. Especially do we note the difference between David and the Son of David in the imprecations of the one against his enemies, and the prayers of the other for them. We commence our exposition of this Psalm with much trembling, for we feel that we are entering with our Great High Priest into the most holy place.
DIVISION. This Psalm consists of two portions of 18 verses each. These again may each be sub divided into three parts.
Under the first head, from verses 1-4, the sufferer spreads his complaint before God.
Then he pleads that his zeal for God is the cause of his sufferings, in verses 5-12.
This encourages him to plead for help and deliverance, from verses 13-18.
In the second half of the Psalm he details the injurious conduct of his adversaries, from verses 19-21;
calls for their punishment, verses 22-28,
and then returns to prayer, and to a joyful anticipation of divine interposition and its results, verses 29-36.
Verse 1. Save me, O God. "He saved others, himself he cannot save." With strong cries and tears he offered up prayers and supplications unto him who was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared (Heb 5:7). Thus David had prayed, and here his Son and Lord utters the same cry.
This is the second Psalm which begins with a "Save me, O God," and the former (Psalm 54) is but a short summary of this more lengthened complaint. It is remarkable that such a scene of woe should be presented to us immediately after the jubilant ascension hymn of the last Psalm, but this only shows how interwoven are the glories and the sorrows of our ever blessed Redeemer. The head which now is crowned with glory is the same which wore the thorns. He to whom we pray, "Save us, O God," is the selfsame person who cried, "Save me, O God."
For the waters are come in unto my soul. Sorrows, deep, abounding, deadly, had penetrated his inner nature. Bodily anguish is not his first complaint; he begins not with the gall which embittered his lips, but with the mighty griefs which broke into his heart.
All the sea outside a vessel is less to be feared than that which finds its way into the hold. A wounded spirit who can bear. Our Lord in this verse is seen before us as a Jonah, crying, "The waters compassed me about, even to the soul." He was doing business for us on the great waters, at his Father's command; the stormy wind was lifting up the waves thereof, and he went down to the depths until his soul was melted because of trouble. In all this he has sympathy with us, and is able to support us when we, like Peter, beginning to sink, cry to him, "Lord, save, or we perish!"
Verse 2. I sink in deep mire. In water one might swim, but in mud and mire all struggling is hopeless; the mire sucks down its victim.
Where there is no standing. Everything gave way under the Sufferer; he could not get foothold for support—this is a worse fate than drowning. Here our Lord pictures the close, clinging nature of his heart's woes. "He began to be sorrowful, and very heavy." Sin is as mire for its filthiness, and the holy soul of the Savior must have loathed even that connection with it which was necessary for its expiation. His pure and sensitive nature seemed to sink in it, for it was not his element, he was not like us born and acclimated to this great dismal swamp.
Here our Redeemer became another Jeremiah, of whom it is recorded (Jeremiah 38:6) that his enemies cast him into a dungeon wherein "was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire."
Let our hearts feel the emotions, both of contrition and gratitude, as we see in this simile the deep humiliation of our Lord.
I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. The sorrow gathers even greater force; he is as one cast into the sea, the waters go over his head. His sorrows were first within, then around, and now above him. Our Lord was no fainthearted sentimentalist; his were real woes, and though he bore them heroically—yet were they terrible even to him. His sufferings were unlike all others in degree, the waters were such as soaked into the soul; the mire was the mire of the abyss itself, and the floods were deep and overflowing.
To us the promise is, "the rivers shall not overflow you," but no such word of consolation was given to him. My soul, your Well beloved endured all this for you. Many waters could not quench his love, neither could the floods drown it; and, because of this, you have the rich benefit of that covenant assurance, "as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with you, nor rebuke you." He stemmed the torrent of almighty wrath, that we might forever rest in Jehovah's love!
Verse 3. I am weary of my crying. Not of it, but by it, with it. He had prayed until he sweat great drops of blood, and well might physical weariness intervene.
My throat is dried, parched, and inflamed. Long pleading with awful fervor had scorched his throat as with flames of fire. Few, very few, of his saints follow their Lord in prayer so far as this. We are, it is to be feared, more likely to be hoarse with talking frivolities to men, than by pleading with God; yet our sinful nature demands more prayer than his perfect humanity might seem to need. His prayers should shame us into fervor. Our Lord's supplications were salted with fire, they were hot with agony; and hence they weakened his system, and made him "a weary man and full of woes."
My eyes fail while I wait for my God. He wanted in his direst distress nothing more than his God; that would be all in all to him. Many of us know what watching and waiting mean; and we know something of the failing eye when hope is long deferred: but in all this Jesus bears the palm; no eyes ever failed as his did or for so deep a cause.
No painter can ever depict those eyes; their pencils fail in every feature of his all but fair but all marred countenance, but most of all do they come short when they venture to portray those eyes which were fountains of tears. He knew both how to pray and to watch, and he would have us learn the like.
There are times when we should pray until the throat is dry, and watch until the eyes grow dim. Only thus can we have fellowship with him in his sufferings. What! can we not watch with him one hour? Does the flesh shrink back? O cruel flesh to be so tender of yourself, and so ungenerous to your Lord!
Verse 4. Those who hate me. Surprising sin that men should hate the altogether lovely one, truly is it added, without a cause, for reason there was none for this senseless enmity. He neither blasphemed God, nor injured man. As Samuel said: "Whose ox have I taken? or whose donkey have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed?" Even so might Jesus inquire. Besides, he had not only done us no evil, but he had bestowed countless and priceless benefits. Well might he demand, "For which of these works do you stone me?" Yet from his cradle to his cross, beginning with Herod and not ending with Judas, he had foes without number; and he justly said, they are more than the hairs of my head. Both the civilians and the military, laics and clerics, doctors and drunkards, princes and people, set themselves against the Lord's anointed. "This is the heir, let us kill him that the inheritance may be ours," was the unanimous resolve of all the keepers of the Jewish vineyard; while the Gentiles outside the walls of the garden furnished the instruments for his murder, and actually did the deed. The hosts of earth and Hell, banded together, made up vast legions of antagonists, none of whom had any just ground for hating him.
They that would destroy me, being my enemies wrongfully, are mighty. It was bad that they were many, but worse that they were mighty. All the ecclesiastical and military powers of his country were arrayed against him. The might of the Sanhedrin, the mob, and the Roman legions were combined in one for his utter destruction: "Away with such a fellow from this earth; it is not fit that he should live!" was the shout of his ferocious foes.
David's adversaries were on the throne when he was hiding in caverns, and our Lord's enemies were the great ones of the earth; while he, of whom the world was not worthy, was reproached of men and despised of the people.
Then I restored that which I took not away. Though innocent, he was treated as guilty. Though David had no share in plots against Saul—yet he was held accountable for them. In reference to our Lord, it may be truly said that he restores what he took not away; for he gives back to the injured honor of God a recompense, and to man his lost happiness, though the insult of the one and the fall of the other were neither of them, in any sense, his doings. Usually, when the ruler sins the people suffer. But here the proverb is reversed—the sheep go astray, and their wanderings are laid at the Shepherd's door.
Verse 5. O God, you know my foolishness. David might well say this, but not David's Lord; unless it be understood as an appeal to God as to his freedom from the folly which men imputed to him when they said he was mad.
That which was foolishness to men was superlative wisdom before God. How often might we use these words in their natural sense, and if we were not such fools as to be blind to our own folly, this confession would be frequently on our lips. When we feel that we have been foolish we are not, therefore, to cease from prayer, but rather to be more eager and fervent in it. Fools had good need consult with the infinitely wise.
And my sins are not hid from you. They cannot be hid with any fig leaves of mine; only the covering which you will bring me can conceal their nakedness and mine. It ought to render confession easy, when we are assured that all is known already. That prayer which has no confession in it may please a Pharisee's pride, but will never bring down justification. They who have never seen their sins in the light of God's omniscience are quite unable to appeal to that omniscience in proof of their piety. He who can say, You know my foolishness, is the only man who can add, "But you know that I love you."
Verse 6. Let not them that wait on you, O Lord God Almighty, be ashamed for my sake. If he were deserted, others who were walking in the same path of faith would be discouraged and disappointed. Unbelievers are ready enough to catch at anything which may turn humble faith into ridicule, therefore, O God of all the armies of Israel, let not my case cause the enemy to blaspheme—such is the spirit of this verse.
Our blessed Lord ever had a tender concern for his people, and would not have his own oppression of spirit become a source of discouragement to them.
Let not those that seek you be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. He appealed to the Lord Almighty by his power to help him, and now to the God of Israel by his covenant faithfulness to come to the rescue. If the captain of the host fails, how will it fare with the rank and file? If David flees, what will his followers do? If the king of believers shall find his faith unrewarded, how will the feeble ones hold on their way?
Our Lord's behavior during his sharpest agonies is no cause of shame to us; he wept, for he was man, but he murmured not, for he was sinless man. He cried, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;" for he was human, but he added, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will," for his humanity was without taint of rebellion. In the depths of tribulation no repining word escaped him, for there was no repining in his heart. The Lord of martyrs witnessed a good confession. He was strengthened in the hour of peril, and came off more than a conqueror, as we also shall do, if we hold fast our confidence even to the end.
Verse 7. Because for your sake I have borne reproach. Because he undertook to do the Father's will, and teach his truth, the people were angry. Because he declared himself to be the Son of God, the priesthood raved. They could find no real fault in him, but were forced to hatch up a lying accusation before they could commence their sham trial of him. The bottom of the quarrel was, that God was with him, and he with God, while the Scribes and Pharisees sought only their own honor.
Reproach is at all times very cutting to a man of integrity, and it must have come with acute force upon one of so unsullied a character as our Lord. Yet see, how he turns to his God, and finds his consolation in the fact that he is enduring all for his Father's sake. The like comfort belongs to all misrepresented and persecuted saints.
Shame has covered my face. Men condemned to die frequently had their faces covered as they were dragged away from the judge's seat, as was the case with the wicked Haman in Esther 7:8: after this fashion they first covered our Lord with a veil of opprobrious accusation, and then hurried him away to be crucified.
Moreover, they passed him through the trial of cruel mockings, besmeared his face with spittle, and covered it with bruises, so that Pilate's "Ecce Homo" called the world's attention to an unexampled spectacle of woe and shame.
The stripping on the cross must also have suffused the Redeemer's face with a modest blush, as he hung there exposed to the cruel gaze of a ribald multitude.
Ah, blessed Lord, it was our shame which you were made to bear! Nothing more deserves to be reproached and despised than sin, and lo, when you were made sin for us you were called to endure abuse and scorn. Blessed be your name it is over now, but we owe you more than heart can conceive for your amazing stoop of love.
Verse 8. I am become a stranger unto my brethren. The Jews his brethren in race rejected him, his family his brethren by blood were offended at him, his disciples his brethren in spirit forsook him and fled; one of them sold him, and another denied him with oaths and cursings. Alas, my Lord, what pangs must have smitten your loving heart to be thus forsaken by those who should have loved you, defended you, and, if need be, died for you.
And an alien unto my mother's children. These were the nearest of relatives, the children of a father with many wives felt the tie of consanguinity but loosely, but children of the same mother owned the band of love; yet our Lord found his nearest and dearest ones ashamed to own him. As David's brethren envied him, and spoke evil of him, so our Lord's relatives by birth were jealous of him, and his best beloved followers in the hour of his agony were afraid to be known as having any connection with him.
These were sharp arrows of the mighty in the soul of Jesus, the most tender of friends. May none of us ever act as if we were strangers to him; never may we treat him as if he were an alien to us. Rather let us resolve to be crucified with him, and may grace turn the resolve into fact.
Verse 9. For the zeal of your house has eaten me up. His burning ardor, like the flame of a candle, fed on his strength and consumed it. His heart, like a sharp sword, cut through the scabbard.
Some men are eaten up with lechery, others with covetousness, and a third class with pride, but the master passion with our great leader was the glory of God, jealousy for his name, and love to the divine family. Zeal for God is so little understood by men of the world, that it always draws down opposition upon those who are inspired with it; they are sure to be accused of sinister motives, or of hypocrisy, or of being out of their senses.
When zeal eats us up, ungodly men seek to eat us up too, and this was preeminently the case with our Lord, because his holy jealousy was preeminent. With more than a seraph's fire he glowed, and consumed himself with his fervor.
And the reproaches of them that reproached you have fallen upon me. Those who habitually blaspheme God now curse me instead. I have become the butt for arrows intended for the Lord himself. Thus the Great Mediator was, in this respect, a substitute for God as well as for man, he bore the reproaches aimed at the one, as well as the sins committed by the other.
Verse 10. When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach. Having resolved to hate him, everything he did was made a fresh reason for reviling. If he ate and drank as others, he was a man gluttonous and a wine bibber; if he wept himself away and wore himself out with fasting, then he had a devil and was mad.
Nothing is more cruel than prejudice, its eye colors all with the medium through which it looks, and its tongue rails at all indiscriminately. Our Savior wept much in secret for our sins, and no doubt his private soul chastening on our behalf were very frequent. Lone mountains and desert places saw repeated agonies, which, if they could disclose them, would astonish us indeed. The emaciation which these exercises wrought in our Lord made him appear nearly fifty years old when he was but little over thirty; this which was to his honor, was used as a matter of reproach against him.
Verse 11. I made sackcloth also my garment. This David did literally, but we have no reason to believe that Jesus did. In a spiritual sense he, as one filled with grief, was always a sackcloth wearer.
And I became a proverb to them. He was ridiculed as "the man of sorrows," quoted as "the acquaintance of grief." He might have said, "Here I and sorrow sit." This which should have won him pity only earned him new and more general scorn. To interweave one's name into a mocking proverb is the highest stretch of malice, and to insult one's acts of devotion is to add profanity to cruelty.
Verse 12. Those who sit in the gate speak against me. The ordinary gossips who meet at the city gates for idle talk make me their theme, the business men who there resort for trade forget their merchandise to slander me, and even the beggars who wait at men's doors for alms contribute their share of insult to the heap of infamy.
And I was the song of the drunkard. The ungodly know no merrier jest than that in which the name of the holy is traduced. The flavor of slander is piquant, and gives a relish to the revelers' wine. The character of the man of Nazareth was so far above the appreciation of the men of strength to mingle strong drink, it was so much out of their way and above their thoughts, that it is no wonder it seemed to them ridiculous, and therefore well adapted to create laughter over their cups. The saints are ever choice subjects for satire.
Butler's Hudibras owed more of its popularity to its irreligious banter than to any intrinsic cleverness. To this day the tavern makes rare fun of the tabernacle, and the ale bench is the seat of the scorner. What a wonder of condescension is here that he who is the adoration of angels should stoop to be the song of drunkards! What amazing sin that he whom seraphs worship with veiled faces should be a scornful proverb among the most abandoned of men.
"The byword of the passing throng,
The ruler's scoff, the drunkard's song."
Verse 13. But as for me, my prayer is unto you, O Lord. He turned to Jehovah in prayer as being the most natural thing for the godly to do in their distress. To whom should a child turn but to his father. He did not answer them; like a sheep before her shearers he was silent to them, but he opened his mouth unto the Lord his God, for he would hear and deliver.
In an acceptable time. It was a time of rejection with man, but of acceptance with God. Sin ruled on earth, but grace reigned in Heaven. There is to each of us an accepted time, and woe to us if we suffer it to glide away unimproved. God's time must be our time, or it will come to pass that, when time closes, we shall look in vain for space for repentance. Our Lord's prayers were well timed, and always met with acceptance.
O God, in the multitude of your mercy hear me. Even the perfect one makes his appeal to the rich mercy of God, much more should we. To misery no attribute is more sweet than mercy, and when sorrows multiply, the multitude of mercy is much prized. When enemies are more than the hairs of our head, they are yet to be numbered, but God's mercies are altogether innumerable, and let it never be forgotten that every one of them is an available and powerful argument in the hand of faith.
In the truth of your salvation. "Jehovah's faithfulness is a further mighty plea." His salvation is no fiction, no mockery, no changeable thing, therefore he is asked to manifest it, and make all men see his fidelity to his promise. Our Lord teaches us here the sacred art of wrestling in prayer, and ordering our cause with arguments; and he also indicates to us that the nature of God is the great treasury of strong reasons, which shall be to us most prevalent in supplication.
Verse 14. Deliver me out of the mire and let me not sink. He turns into prayer the very words of his complaint; and it is well, if, when we complain, we neither feel nor say anything which we should fear to utter before the Lord as a prayer. We are allowed to ask for deliverance from trouble as well as for support under it; both petitions are here combined. How strange it seems to hear such language from the Lord of glory.
Let me be delivered from them that hate, me, and out of the deep waters. Both from his foes, and the griefs which they caused him, he seeks a rescue. God can help us in all ways, and we may, therefore, put up a variety of requests without fear of exceeding our liberty to ask, or his ability to answer.
Verse 15. Let not the water-flood overflow me. He continues to recapitulate the terms of his lament. He is willing to bear suffering, but entreats grace that it may not get the victory over him. He was heard in that he feared.
Neither let the deep swallow me up. As Jonah came forth again, so let me also arise from the abyss of woe; here also our Lord was heard, and so shall we be. Death itself must disgorge us.
Let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. When a great stone was rolled over the well, or pit, used as a dungeon, the prisoner was altogether enclosed, and forgotten like one on the oubliettes of the Bastille; this is an apt picture of the state of a man buried alive in grief and left without remedy; against this the great sufferer pleaded and was heard. He was baptized in agony but not drowned in it; the grave enclosed him, but before she could close her mouth he had burst his prison.
It is said that truth lies in a well, but it is assuredly an open well, for it walks abroad in power; and so our great Substitute in the pit of woe and death was yet the Conqueror of death and Hell. How appropriately may many of us use this prayer. We deserve to be swept away as with a flood, to be drowned in our sins, to be shut up in Hell; let us, then, plead the merits of our Savior, lest these things happen unto us.
Verse 16. Hear me, O Lord. Do not refuse your suppliant Son. It is to the covenant God, the ever living Jehovah, that he appeals with strong crying.
For your loving-kindness is good. By the greatness of your love have pity upon your afflicted. It is always a stay to the soul to dwell upon the preeminence and excellence of the Lord's mercy. It has furnished sad souls much good cheer to take to pieces that grand old Saxon word, which is here used in our version, loving-kindness. Its composition is of two most sweet and fragrant things, fitted to inspire strength into the fainting, and make desolate hearts sing for joy.
Turn unto me according to the multitude of your tender mercies. If the Lord does but turn the eye of pity, and the hand of power, the mourner's spirit revives. It is the gall of bitterness to be without the comfortable smile of God; in our Lord's case his grief culminated in "Lama Sabachthani," and his bitterest cry was that in which he mourned an absent God.
Observe how he dwells anew upon divine tenderness, and touches again that note of abundance, "The multitude of your compassions."
Verse 17. And hide not your face from your servant. A good servant desires the light of his master's countenance; that servus servorum, who was also rex regium, could not bear to lose the presence of his God. The more he loved his Father, the more severely he felt the hiding of his face.
For I am in trouble. Stay your rough wind in the day of your east wind; do not add sorrow upon sorrow. If ever a man needs the comforting presence of God it is when he is in distress; and, being in distress, it is a reason to be pleaded with a merciful God why he should not desert us. We may pray that our flight be not in the winter, and that God will not add spiritual desertion to all our other tribulations.
Hear me speedily. The case was urgent, delay was dangerous, nay deadly. Our Lord was the perfection of patience—yet he cried urgently for speedy mercy; and therein he gives us liberty to do the same, so long as we add, "nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."
Verse 18. Draw near unto my soul. The near approach of God is all the sufferer needs; one smile of Heaven will still the rage of Hell.
And redeem it. It shall be redemption to me if you will appear to comfort me. This is a deeply spiritual prayer, and one very suitable for a deserted soul. It is in renewed communion that we shall find redemption realized.
Deliver me because of my enemies, lest they should, in their vaunting, blaspheme your name, and boast that you are not able to rescue those who put their trust in you. Jesus, in condescending to use such supplications, fulfills the request of his disciples: "Lord, teach us to pray."
Following we have a sad recapitulation of sorrows, with more especial reference to the people concerned in their infliction.
Verse 19. You have known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonor. It is no novelty or secret, it has been long continued; you, O God, have seen it; and for you to see the innocent suffer is an assurance of help. Here are three words piled up to express the Redeemer's keen sense of the contempt poured upon him; and his assurance that every form of malicious despite was observed of the Lord.
My adversaries are all before you. The whole lewd and loud company is now present to your eye: Judas and his treachery; Herod and his cunning; Caiaphas and his counsel; Pilate and his vacillation; Jews, priests, people, rulers—all you see and will judge.
Verse 20. Reproach has broken my heart. There is no hammer like it. Our Lord died of a broken heart, and reproach had done the deed. Intense mental suffering arises from slander; and in the case of the sensitive nature of the immaculate Son of Man, it sufficed to lacerate the heart until it broke. "Then burst his mighty heart."
And I am full of heaviness. Calumny and insult bowed him to the dust; he was sick at heart. The heaviness of our Lord in the garden is expressed by many and forcible words in the four gospels, and each term goes to show that the agony was beyond measure great; he was filled with misery, like a vessel which is full to the brim.
And I looked for some to take pity, but there was none. "Deserted in his utmost need, by those his former bounty fed." Not one to say him a kindly word, or drop a sympathetic tear. Among ten thousand foes there was not one who was touched by the spectacle of his misery; not one with a heart capable of humane feeling towards him.
And for comforters, but I found none. His dearest ones had sought their own safety, and left their Lord alone. A sick man needs comforters, and a persecuted man needs sympathy; but our blessed Surety found neither on that dark and doleful night when the powers of darkness had their hour. A spirit like that of our Lord feels acutely desertion by beloved and trusted friends, and yearns for real sympathy. This may be seen in the story of Gethsemane:
"Backwards and forwards thrice he ran.
As if he sought some help from man;
Or wished, at least, they would condole,
It was all they could—his tortured soul."
"What ever he sought for, there was none;
Our Captain fought the field alone.
Soon as the chief to battle led,
That moment every soldier fled."
Verse 21. They gave me also gall for my food. This was the sole refreshment cruelty had prepared for him. Others find pleasure in their food, but his taste was made to be an additional path of pain to him.
And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. A criminal's draught was offered to our innocent Lord, a bitter portion to our dying Master. Sorry entertainment had earth for her King and Savior.
How often have our sins filled the gall cup for our Redeemer? While we blame the Jews, let us not excuse ourselves.
From this point David and our Lord for awhile part company, if we accept the rendering of our version. The severe spirit of the law breathes out imprecations, while the tender heart of Jesus offers prayers for his murderers. The whole of these verses, however, may be viewed as predictions, and then they certainly refer to our Lord, for we find portions of them quoted in that manner by the apostle in Romans 11:9-10, and by Christ himself in Matthew 23:38.
Verse 22. Let their table become a snare before them. There they laid snares, and there they shall find them. From their feasts they would afford nothing but wormwood for their innocent victim, and now their banquets shall be their ruin.
It is very easy for the daily provisions of mercy to become temptations to sin. As birds and beasts are taken in a trap by means of baits for the appetite, so are men snared full often by their foods and drinks. Those who despise the upper springs of grace, shall find the nether springs of worldly comfort prove their poison. The table is used, however, not alone for feeding, but for conversations, transacting business, counsel, amusement, and religious observance. To those who are the enemies of the Lord Jesus that table may, in all these respects, become a snare. This first plague is terrible, and the second is like unto it.
And that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. This, if we follow the original closely, and the version of Paul in the Romans, is a repetition of the former phrase; but we shall not err if we say that, to the rejecters of Christ, even those things which are calculated to work their spiritual and eternal good, become occasions for yet greater sin. They reject Christ, and are condemned for not believing on him; they stumble on this stone, and are broken by it. Wretched are those men, who not only have a curse upon their common blessings, but also on the spiritual opportunities of salvation. This second plague even exceeds the first.
Verse 23. Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not. They shall wander in a darkness that may be felt. They have loved darkness rather than light, and in darkness they shall abide. Judicial blindness fell upon Israel after our Lord's death and their persecution of his apostles; they were blinded by the light which they would not accept.
Eyes which see no beauty in the Lord Jesus, but flash wrath upon him, may well grow yet more dim, until death spiritual leads to death eternal.
And make their loins continually to shake. Their conscience shall be so ill at ease that they shall continually quiver with fear; their backs shall bend to the earth (so some read it) with groveling avarice, and their strength shall be utterly paralyzed, so that they cannot walk firmly, but shall totter at every step.
See the terrifying, degrading, and enfeebling influence of unbelief. See also the retaliation of justice—those who will not see shall not see; those who would not walk in uprightness shall be unable to do so.
Verse 24. Pour out your wrath upon them. What can be too severe a penalty for those who reject the incarnate God, and refuse to obey the commands of his mercy? They deserve to be flooded with wrath, and they shall be; for upon all who rebel against the Savior, Christ the Lord, "the wrath is come to the uttermost." 1 Thessalonians 2:16.
God's wrath is no trifle; the anger of a holy, just, omnipotent, and infinite Being, is above all things to be dreaded! Even a drop of it consumes, but to have it poured upon us is inconceivably dreadful. O God, who knows the power of your anger?
And let your wrathful anger take hold of them. Grasping them, arresting them, abiding on them. If they flee, let it overtake and seize them; let it lay them by the heels in the condemned cell, so that they cannot escape from execution. It shall indeed be so with all the finally impenitent, and it ought to be so.
God is not to be insulted with impunity, and his Son, our ever gracious Savior, the best gift of infinite love—is not to be scorned and scoffed at for nothing. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy, but what shall be the "more severe punishment" reserved for those who have trodden under foot the Son of God?
Verse 25. Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents. This may signify that their posterity shall be cut off, and the abode which they occupy shall be left a ruin. Or, as our Lord quoted it, it refers to the temple, which was left by its divine occupant and became a desolation.
What occurs on a large scale to families and nations is often fulfilled in individuals, as was conspicuously the case with Judas, to whom Peter referred this prophecy, Acts 1:20, "For it is written in the book of Psalms, let this habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein."
The fierce proclamation of Nebuchadnezzar, "that every people, nation, and language, that speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill," is but an anticipation of that dread hour when the enemies of the Lord shall be broken in pieces, and perish out of the land.
Verse 26. For they persecute him whom you have smitten. They are cruel, where they should be pitiful. When a stroke comes to any in the providence of God, their friends gather around them and condole, but these wretches hunt the wounded and vex the sick. Their merciless hearts invent fresh blows for him who is "smitten of God and afflicted."
And they talk to the grief of those whom you have wounded. They lay bare his wounds with their rough tongues. They lampoon the mourner, satirise his sorrows, and deride his woes. They pointed to the Savior's wounds, they looked and stared upon him, and then they uttered shameful accusations against him.
After this fashion the world still treats the members of Christ. If a godly man be a little down in estate, how glad they are to push him over altogether, and, meanwhile, to talk everywhere against him. God takes note of this, and will visit it upon the enemies of his children; he may allow them to act as a rod to his saints, but he will yet avenge his own elect. "Thus says the Lord Almighty; I am jealous for Jerusalem, and for Zion, with a great jealousy; and I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction."
Verse 27. Add iniquity unto their iniquity. Unbelievers will add sin to sin, and so, punishment to punishment. This is the severest imprecation, or prophecy, of all. For men to be let alone to fill up the measure of their iniquity, is most equitable, but yet most awful.
And let them not come into your righteousness. If they refuse it, and resist your gospel, let them shut themselves out of it.
"He who will not when he may,
When he would he shall have nay."
Those who choose evil shall have their choice. Men who hate divine mercy shall not have it forced upon them, but (unless sovereign grace interpose) shall be left to themselves to aggravate their guilt, and ensure their doom.
Verse 28. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living. Though in their conceit they wrote themselves among the people of God, and induced others to regard them under that character, they shall be unmasked and their names removed from the register. Enrolled with honor, they shall be erased with shame.
Death shall obliterate all recollection of them; they shall be held no longer in esteem, even by those who paid them homage. Judas first, and Pilate, and Herod, and Caiaphas—all in due time, were speedily wiped out of existence; their names only remain as bywords, but among the honored men who live after their departure they are not recorded.
And not be written with the righteous. This clause is parallel with the former, and shows that the inner meaning of being blotted out from the book of life is to have it made evident that the name was never written there at all.
Man in his imperfect copy of God's book of life will have to make many emendations, both of insertion and erasure; but, as before the Lord, the record is forever fixed and unalterable.
Beware, O man, of despising Christ and his people, lest your soul should never partake in the righteousness of God, without which men are condemned already.
Imprecations, prophecies, and complaints are ended—and prayer of a milder sort begins, intermingled with bursts of thankful song, and encouraging foresight of coming good.
Verse 29. But I am poor and sorrowful. The psalmist was afflicted very much, but his faith was in God. The poor in spirit and mourners are both blessed under the gospel, so that here is a double reason for the Lord to smile on his suppliant.
No man was ever poorer or more sorrowful than Jesus of Nazareth—yet his cry out of the depths was heard, and he was uplifted to the highest glory.
Let your salvation, O God, set me up on high. How fully has this been answered in our great Master's case, for he not only escaped his foes personally, but he has become the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him, and this continues to glorify him more and more.
O you poor and sorrowful ones, lift up your heads, for as with your Lord so shall it be with you. You are trodden down today as the mire of the streets, but you shall ride upon the high places of the earth before long; and even now you are raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.
Verse 30. I will praise the name of God with a song. He who sang after the Passover, sings yet more joyously after the resurrection and ascension. He is, in very truth, "the sweet singer of Israel." He leads the eternal melodies, and all his saints join in chorus.
And will magnify him with thanksgiving. How sure was our Redeemer of ultimate victory, since he vows a song even while yet in the furnace.
In us, also, faith foresees the happy outcome of all affliction, and makes us even now begin the music of gratitude which shall go on forever increasing in volume, world without end.
What clear shining after the rain we have in this and succeeding verses. The darkness is past, and the glory light shines forth as the sun. All the honor is rendered unto him to whom all the prayer was presented; he alone could deliver and did deliver, and, therefore, to him only be the praise.
Verse 31. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that has horns and hoofs. No sacrifice is so acceptable to God, who is a Spirit, as that which is spiritual. He accepted bullocks under a dim and symbolic dispensation; but in such offerings, in themselves considered, he had no pleasure. "Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?" Here he puts dishonor upon mere outward offerings by speaking of the horns and hoofs, the offal of the victim.
The opus operatum, which our ritualists think so much of, the Lord puffs at. The horning and hoofing are nothing to him, though to Jewish ritualists these were great points, and matters for critical examination; our modern rabbis are just as precise as to the mingling of water with their wine, the baking of their wafers, the cut of their vestments, and the performance of genuflections towards the right quarter of the compass.
O fools, and slow of heart to perceive all that the Lord has declared. "Offer unto God thanksgiving" is the everlasting rubric of the true directory of worship. The depths of grief into which the suppliant had been plunged gave him all the richer an experience of divine power and grace in his salvation, and so qualified him to sing more sweetly "the song of loves." Such music is ever most acceptable to the infinite Jehovah.
Verse 32. The humble shall see this and be glad. Grateful hearts are ever on the look out for recruits, and the rejoicing psalmist discerns with joy the fact, that other oppressed and lowly men observing the Lord's dealings with his servants are encouraged to look for a like outcome to their own tribulations.
The standing consolation of the godly is the experience of their Lord, for as he is so are we also in this world; yes, moreover, his triumph has secured ours, and therefore, we may on the most solid grounds rejoice in him. This gave our great leader satisfaction as he foresaw the comforts which would flow to us from his conflict and conquest.
And your heart shall live that seek God. A similar assurance is given in Psalm 22, which is near akin to this. It would have been useless to seek if Jesus' victories had not cleared the way, and opened a door of hope; but, since the Breaker has gone up before us, and the King at the head of us, our hope is a living one, our faith is living, our love is living, and our renewed nature is full of a vitality which challenges the cold hand of death to damp it.
Verse 33. For the Lord hears the poor. The examples of David and David's Lord, and tens of thousands of the saints, all go to prove this. Monarchs of the nations are deaf to the poor, but the Sovereign of the Universe has a quick ear for the needy. None can be brought lower than was the Nazarene, but see how highly he is exalted: descend into what depths we may, the prayer-hearing God can bring us up again.
And despises not his prisoners. Poor men have their liberty, but these are bound; however, they are God's prisoners, and, therefore, prisoners of hope. The captive in the dungeon is the lowest and least esteemed of men, but the Lord sees not as man sees; he visits those who are bound with chains, and proclaims a jail delivery for his afflicted. God despises no man, and no prayer that is honest and sincere. Distinctions of rank are nothing with him; the poor have the gospel preached to them, and the prisoners are loosed by his grace. Let all poor and needy ones hasten to seek his face, and to yield him their love.
Verse 34. Let the Heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and everything that moves therein. The doxology of a glowing heart. The writer had fathomed the deeps, and had ascended to the heights; and, therefore, calls on the whole range of creation to bless the Lord. Our Well-Beloved here excites us all to grateful adoration: who among us will hold back? God's love to Christ argues good to all forms of life; the exaltation of the Head brings good to the members, and to all in the least connected with him. Inasmuch as the creation itself also is by Christ's work to be delivered from bondage, let all that have life and motion magnify the Lord. Glory be unto you, O Lord, for the sure and all including pledge of our Surety's triumph; we see in this the exaltation of all your poor and sorrowful ones, and our heart is glad.
Verse 35. For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah. Poor, fallen Israel shall have a portion in the mercy of the Lord; but, above all, the church, so dear to the heart of her glorious bridegroom, shall be revived and strengthened.
Ancient saints so dearly loved Zion, that even in their distresses they did not forget her; with the first gleam of light which visited them, they fell to pleading for the faithful: see notable instances of this which have passed under our eye already. Psalm 5:11, 14:7, 22:23, 51:18.
To us, in these modern times, it is the subject of cheering hope that better days are coming for the chosen people of God, and for this we would ever pray. O Zion, whatever other memories fade away, we cannot forget you.
That they may dwell there, and have it in possession. Whatever captivities may occur, or desolations be caused, the land of Canaan belongs to Israel by a covenant of salt, and they will surely repossess it; and this shall be a sign unto us, that through the atonement of Christ, all the poor in spirit shall enjoy the mercies promised in the covenant of grace. The sure mercies of David shall be the heritage of all the seed.
Verse 36. The seed also of his servants shall inherit it. Under this image, which, however, we dare not regard as a mere simile, but as having in itself a literal significance, we have set forth to us the enrichment of the saints, consequent upon the sorrow of their Lord. The termination of this Psalm strongly recalls in us that of the twenty-second. The seed lie near the Savior's heart, and their enjoyment of all promised good is the great concern of his unselfish soul. Because they are his Father's servants, therefore he rejoices in their welfare.
And they that love his name shall dwell therein. He has an eye to the Father's glory, for it is to his praise that those who love him should attain, and forever enjoy, the utmost happiness.
Thus a Psalm, which began in the deep waters, ends in the city which has foundations. How gracious is the change. Hallelujah!