Treasury of David
TITLE. To the Chief Musician.
Here is noble work for him, for the cry of the last Psalm is about to be heard, and the challenge of the foes of Israel taken up by God himself. Here the virgin daughter of Zion despises her foe, and laughs him to scorn. The destruction of Sennacherib's army is a notable illustration of this sacred song. Here is another of the "destroy not" Psalms, and the title may be intended as a check upon the natural fierceness of the oppressed, or a taunt for the savage foe, who is here bitterly bidden to destroy not, because the nation is well aware that he cannot. Here, in holy faith, the sucking child plays at the hole of the asp, and the weaned child puts his hand on the cockatrice den. A Psalm or Song of Asaph. For reading or singing. A hymn to God and a song for his saints. Happy were the people who having found a Milton in David had an almost equal songster in Asaph: happiest of all, because these poets were not inspired by earth's Castalian fount, but drank of "the fount of every blessing.
DIVISION. The people's song of gratitude and adoration begins the hymn in Psalms 75:1.
In the next four verses, 2-5 , the Lord reveals himself as ruling the world in righteousness.
Then follows a warning voice from the church to her enemies, verses 6-8, and a closing song anticipatory of the glory due to God and the utter defeat of the foe.
Verse 1. Unto you, O God, do we give thanks.
Not to ourselves, for we were helpless—but to Elohim who heard our cry, and replied to the taunt of our foes. Never let us neglect thanksgiving, or we may fear that another time our prayers will remain unanswered. As the smiling flowers gratefully reflect in their lovely colors the various constituents of the solar ray, so should gratitude spring up in our hearts after the smiles of God's providence.
Unto you do we give thanks.
We should praise God again and again. Stinted gratitude is ingratitude. For infinite goodness there should be measureless thanks. Faith promises redoubled praise for greatly needed and signal deliverances.
For that your name is near your wondrous works declare.
God is at hand to answer and do wonders—adore we then the present Deity. We sing not of a hidden God, who sleeps and leaves the church to her fate—but of one who ever in our darkest days is most near, a very present help in trouble.
Near is his name.
Baal is on a journey—but Jehovah dwells in his church. Glory be unto the Lord, whose perpetual deeds of grace and majesty are the sure tokens of his being with us always, even unto the ends of the world.
Verse 2. When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly.
This is generally believed to be the voice of God, who will, when he accepts his people, mount his judgment seat and avenge their cause in righteousness. It is rendered by some, "I will take a set time;" and by others, "I will seize the moment."
"God never is before his time,
He is never too late!"
He determines the period of interposition, and when that arrives swift are his blows and sure are his deliverances. God sends no delegated judge—but sits himself upon the throne. O Lord, let your set time come for grace. Tarry no longer—but for the truth and the throne of Jesus be speedily at work. Let the appointed assize come, O Jesus, and sit on your throne to judge the world in equity.
Verse 3. The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved.
When anarchy is abroad, and tyrants are in power, everything is unloosed, dissolution threatens all things, the solid mountains of government melt as wax; but even then the Lord upholds and sustains the right.
I bear up the pillars of it.
Hence, there is no real cause for fear. While the pillars stand, and stand they must for God upholds them, the house will brave out the storm. In the day of the Lord's appearing a general melting will take place—but in that day our covenant God will be the sure support of our confidence.
"How can I sink with such a prop
As my eternal God,
Who bears the earth's huge pillars up,
And spreads the heavens abroad."
Learn to whom the glory of bearing up the world is due. God's providence is the true Atlas which supports the world, and does shoulder up the world, while it treads on sin and sinners.
I know not who of the sons of Adam, frail and feeble at their best estate, could have ever said, The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. I know of none but him who said, "All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth," and who, as he said these words, ascended up into Heaven to exercise that sovereignty, and repair that mighty ruin which had been wrought on earth when Satan triumphed in Paradise. Barton Bouchier.
Selah. Here may the music pause while the sublime vision passes before our view—a world dissolved and an immutable God uplifting all his people above the terrible commotion!
Verse 4. I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly.
The Lord bids the boasters boast not, and commands the mad oppressors to stay their folly. How calm is he, how quiet are his words—yet how divine the rebuke. If the wicked were not insane, they would even now hear in their consciences the still small voice bidding them cease from evil, and forbear their pride.
The ungodly are spiritual fools. If one had a child very beautiful—yet if he were a fool, the parent would have little joy in him. The Scripture has dressed the sinner in a fool's coat: and let me tell you, better be a fool void of reason, than a fool void of grace: this is the devil's fool. Proverbs 14:9. Is not he a fool who refuses a rich portion? God offers Christ and salvation—but the sinner refuses this portion: "Israel would have none of me." Psalm 81:11. Is not he a fool who tends his mortal part, and neglects his angelical part? As if one should paint the wall of his house, and let the timber rot. Is not he a fool who will feed the devil with his soul? As that emperor who fed his lion with a pheasant. Is not he a fool who lays a snare for himself? Proverbs 1:18. Who consults his own shame? Hab 2:10. Who loves death? Proverbs 8:36. Thomas Watson.
And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn.
He bids the ungodly stay their haughtiness. The horn was the emblem of boastful power; only the foolish, like wild and savage beasts, will lift it high; but they assail Heaven itself with it, as if they would gore the Almighty himself. In dignified majesty he rebukes the inane glories of the wicked, who beyond measure exalt themselves in the day of their imagined power.
Verse 5. Lift not up your horn on high.
For their abounding pride there is a double rebuke. A word from God soon abases the lofty. Would to God that all proud men would obey the word here given them; for, if they do not, he will take effectual means to secure obedience, and then woe will come upon them, such as shall break their horns and roll their glory in the mire forever.
Speak not with a stiff neck.
Impudence before God is madness. The outstretched neck of insolent pride is sure to provoke his axe. Those who carry their heads high shall find that they will be lifted yet higher, as Haman was upon the gallows which he had prepared for the righteous man. Silence, you silly boaster! Silence! or God will answer you. Who are you, you worm, that you should arrogantly object against your Maker's laws and cavil at his truth? Be hushed, you vainglorious prater, or vengeance shall silence you to your eternal confusion!
Verse 6. For promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.
There is a God, and a providence, and things happen not by chance. Though deliverance be hopeless from all points of the compass—yet God can work it for his people; and though judgment come neither from the rising or the setting of the sun, nor from the wilderness of mountains—yet come it will, for the Lord reigns. Men forget that all things are ordained in Heaven; they see but the human force, and the carnal passion—but the unseen Lord is more real far than these. He is at work behind and within the cloud. The foolish dream that he is not—but he is near even now, and on the way to bring in his hand that cup of spiced wine of vengeance, one draught of which shall stagger all his foes!
Verse 7. But God is the judge.
Even now he is actually judging. His seat is not vacant; his authority is not abdicated; the Lord reigns evermore.
He puts down one, and sets up another.
Empires rise and fall at his bidding. A dungeon here, and there a throne—his will assigns. Assyria yields to Babylon, and Babylon to the Medes. Kings are but puppets in his hand; they serve his purpose when they rise and when they fall. God only is; all power belongs to him; all else is shadow, coming and going, unsubstantial, misty, dream like.
Verse 8. For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup.
The punishment of the wicked is prepared, God himself holds it in readiness; he has collected and concocted woes most dreadful, and in the chalice of his wrath he holds it. They scoffed his feast of love; they shall be dragged to his table of justice, and made to drink their due deserts.
And the wine is red.
The retribution is terrible, it is blood for blood, foaming vengeance for foaming malice. The very color of divine wrath is terrible—what must the taste be?
It is full of mixture.
Spices of anger, justice, and incensed mercy are there. Their misdeeds, their blasphemies, their persecutions have strengthened the liquor as with potent drugs:
"Mingled, strong, and mantling high;
Behold the wrath divine!"
Ten thousand woes are burning in the depths of that fiery cup, which to the brim is filled with indignation!
And he pours out of the same.
The full cup must be quaffed, the wicked cannot refuse the terrible draught, for God himself pours it out for them and into them. Vain are their cries and entreaties. They could once defy him—but that hour is over, and the time to requite them if fully come!
But the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.
Even to the bitter end must wrath proceed. They must drink on and on forever, even to the bottom where lie the lees of deep damnation; these they must suck up, and still must they drain the cup! Oh the anguish and the heart break of the day of wrath! Mark well, it is for all the wicked; all Hell for all the ungodly; the dregs for the dregs; bitters for the bitter; wrath for the heirs of wrath. Righteousness is conspicuous—but over all terror spreads a tenfold night, cheerless, without a star.
Oh happy they who drink the cup of godly sorrow, and the cup of salvation: these, though now despised, will then be envied by the very men who trod them under foot.
Verse 9. But I will declare forever.
Thus will the saints occupy themselves with rehearsing Jehovah's praises, while their foes are drunken with the wine of wrath. They shall chant while the others roar in anguish, and justly so, for the former Psalm informed us that such had been the case on earth, "your enemies roar in the sanctuary"—the place where the chosen praised the Lord.
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. The covenant God, who delivered Jacob from a thousand afflictions, our soul shall magnify. He has kept his covenant which he made with the patriarch, and has redeemed his seed, therefore will we spread abroad his fame world without end.
Verse 10. All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off.
Power and liberty being restored to Israel, she begins again to execute justice, by abasing the godless who had gloried in the reign of oppression. Their power and pomp are to be smitten down. Men wore horns in those days as a part of their state, and these, both literally and figuratively, were to be lopped off; for since God abhors the proud, his church will not tolerate them any longer.
But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.
In a rightly ordered society, godly men are counted great men, virtue confers true rank, and grace is more esteemed than gold. Being saved from unrighteous domination, the chief among the chosen people here promises to rectify the errors which had crept into the commonwealth, and after the example of the Lord himself, to abase the haughty and elevate the humble.
This memorable ode may be sung in times of great depression, when prayer has performed her errand at the mercy-seat, and when faith is watching for speedy deliverance. It is a song of the second advent, concerning the nearness of the judge with the cup of wrath.