Treasury of David
TITLE. A Psalm of David. This is just such a psalm as the man after God's own heart would compose when he was about to become king in Israel. It is David all over, straight forward, resolute, devout; there is no trace of policy or vacillation, the Lord has appointed him to be king, and he knows it, therefore he purposes in all things to behave as befits a monarch who me the Lord himself has chosen.
If we call this THE PSALM OF PIOUS RESOLUTIONS, we shall perhaps remember it all the more readily. After songs of praise a psalm of practice not only makes variety—but comes in most fittingly. We never praise the Lord better than when we do those things which are pleasing in his sight.
Verse 1. I will sing of mercy and judgment.
He would extol both the love and the severity, the sweets and the bitters, which the Lord had mingled in His experience; he would admire the justice and the goodness of the Lord. Such a song would fitly lead up to godly resolutions as to his own conduct, for that which we admire in our superiors we naturally endeavor to imitate.
Mercy and judgment would temper the administration of David, because he had adoringly perceived them in the dispensations of his God. Everything in God's dealings with us may fittingly become the theme of song, and we have not viewed it aright until we feel we can sing about it. We ought as much to bless the Lord for the judgment with which he chastens our sin, as for the mercy with which he forgives it. There is as much love in the blows of God's hand as in the kisses of his mouth. Upon a retrospect of their lives instructed saints scarcely know which to be most grateful for—the comforts which have, or the afflictions which nave purged them.
Unto you, O LORD, will I sing.
Jehovah shall have all our praise. The secondary agents of either the mercy or the judgment must hold a very subordinate place in one memory, and the Lord alone must be hymned by our heart. Our soul's sole worship must be the lauding of the Lord. The psalmist forsakes the minor key, which was soon to rule him in the one hundred and second psalm, and resolves that, come what may, he will sing, and sing to the Lord too, whatever others might do.
Verse 2. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way.
To be holy is to be wise; a perfect way is a wise way. David's resolve was excellent—but his practice did not fully tally with it. Alas! he was not always wise or perfect—but it was well that it was in his heart.
A king had need be both sage and pure, and, if he be not so in intent, when he comes to the throne, his after conduct will be a sad example to his people. He who does not even resolve to do well, is likely to do very ill. Householders, employers, and especially ministers, should pray for both wisdom and holiness, for they will need them both.
O when will you come unto me?
An ejaculation—but not an interruption. He feels the need not merely of divine help—but also of the divine presence, that so he may be instructed, and sanctified, and made fit for the discharge of his high vocation. David longed for a more special and effectual visitation from the Lord before he began his reign. If God be with us, we shall neither err in judgment nor transgress in character; his presence brings us both wisdom and holiness; away from God we are away from safety.
Godly men are so sensible of infirmity that they cry for help from God, so full of prayer that they cry at all seasons, so intense in their desires that they cry with sighs and groanings which cannot be uttered, saying, "O when will you come unto me?"
I will walk within my house with a blameless heart.
Piety must begin at home. Our first duties are those within our own abode. We must have a blameless heart at home, or we cannot keep a blameless way abroad.
Notice that these words are a part of a song, and that there is no music like the harmony of a gracious life, no psalm so sweet as the daily practice of holiness.
Reader, how does it fare with your family?
Do you sing in the choir, and sin in the chamber.
Are you a saint abroad, and a devil at home?
What we are at home, that we are indeed! He cannot be a true saint whose habitation is a scene of strife, and whose household dreads his appearance at the fireside.
Verse 3. I will set no wicked thing before my eyes.
I will neither delight in it, aim at it or endure it. If I have wickedness brought before me by others I will turn away from it, I will not gaze upon it with pleasure.
The psalmist is very sweeping in his resolve, he declines the least, the most reputable, the most customary form of evil. No wicked thing; not only shall it not dwell in his heart—but not even before his eyes, for what fascinates the eye, is very apt to gain admission into the heart—even as Eve's apple first pleased her sight and then prevailed over her mind and hand.
I hate the work of them that turn aside.
He was warmly against it; he did not view it with indifference—but with utter scorn and abhorrence. Hatred of sin is a good sentinel for the door of virtue. There are persons in courts who walk in a very crooked way, leaving the high road of integrity; and these, by short cuts, and twists, and turns, are often supposed to accomplish work for their masters which simple honest hearts are not competent to undertake. But David would not employ such, he would pay no secret service money, he loathed the practices of men who deviate from righteousness. He was of the same mind as the dying statesman who said, "Corruption wins not more than honesty."
It is greatly to be deplored that in after years he did not keep himself clear in this matter in every case, though, in the main he did; but what would he have been if he had not commenced with this resolve—but had followed the usual crooked Policy of Oriental princes?
How much do we all need divine keeping! We are no more perfect than David, nay, we fall far short of him in many things; and, like him, we shall find need to write a psalm of penitence very soon after our psalm of good resolution.
It shall not cleave to me.
I will disown their ways, I will not imitate their policy: like dirt it may fall upon me—but I will wash it off, and never rest until I am rid of it. Sin, like pitch, is very apt to stick. In the course of our family history crooked things will turn up, for we are all imperfect, and some of those around us are far from being what they should . It must, therefore, be one great object of our care to disentangle ourselves, to keep clear of transgression, and of all that comes with it: this cannot be done unless the Lord both comes to us, and abides with us evermore.
Verse 4. A perverse heart shall depart from me.
He refers both to himself and to those round about him; he would neither be crooked in heart himself, nor employ persons of evil character in his house; if he found such in his court he would chase them away. He who begins with his own heart begins at the fountainhead, and is not likely to tolerate evil companions. We cannot turn out of our family all whose hearts are evil—but we can keep them out of our confidence, and let them see that we do not approve of their ways.
I will not know a wicked person.
He shall not be my intimate, my bosom friend. I must know him as a man or I could not discern his character—but if I know him to be wicked, I will not know him any further, and with his evil I will have no communion.
"To know" in Scripture means more than mere perception, it includes fellowship, and in that sense it is here used. Princes must disown those who disown righteousness; if they know the wicked, they will soon be known as wicked themselves.
Verse 5. Whose privily slanders his neighbor, him will I cut off.
He had known so bitterly the miseries caused by slanderers that he intended to deal severely with such vipers when he came into power, not to revenge his own ills—but to prevent others from suffering as he had done.
To give one's neighbor a stab in the dark is one of the most atrocious of crimes, and cannot be too heartily reprobated—yet such as are guilty of it often find patronage in high places, and are considered to be men of penetration, trusty ones who have a keen eye, and take care to keep their lords well posted up. King David would lop the goodly tree of his state of all such superfluous boughs.
Him that has an haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not I tolerate.
Proud, domineering, supercilious gentlemen, who look down upon the poor as though they were so many worms crawling in the earth beneath their feet, the psalmist could not bear. The sight of them made him suffer, and therefore he would not suffer them.
Great men often affect aristocratic airs and haughty manners, David therefore resolved that none should be great in his palace but those who had more grace and more sense than to indulge in such abominable vanity.
Proud men are generally hard, and therefore very unfit for office; persons of high looks provoke enmity and discontent, and the fewer of such people about a court the better for the stability of a throne. If all slanderers were now cut off, and all the proud banished—it is to be feared that the next census would declare a very sensible diminution of the population!
Verse 6. My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me.
He would seek them out, engage their services, take care of them, and promote them to honor. This is a noble occupation for a king, and one which will repay him infinitely better than listening to the soft nothings of flatterers. It would be greatly for the profit of us all if we chose our servants rather by their piety than by their cleverness; he who gets a faithful servant gets a treasure, and he ought to do anything sooner than part with him.
Those who are not faithful to God will not be likely to be faithful to men. If we are faithful ourselves, we shall not care to have those about us who cannot speak the truth or fulfill their promises; we shall not be satisfied until all the members of our family are upright in character.
He who walks in a perfect way, he shall serve me.
What I wish myself to be, that I desire my servant to be. Employers are to a great degree responsible for their servants, and it is customary to blame a master if he retains in his service persons of notorious character; therefore, lest we become partakers of other men's sins, we shall do well to decline the services of bad characters. A good master does well to choose a good servant; he may take a prodigal into his house for the sinner's good—but if he consults his own good he will look in another quarter.
Wicked nursemaids and teachers have great influence for evil over the minds of little children, and ungodly servants often injure the morals of the older members of the family—and therefore great care should be exercised that godly servants should be employed as far as possible. Even irreligious men have the sense to perceive the value of Christian servants, and surely their own Christian brethren ought not to have a lower appreciation of them.
Verse 7. He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house.
He had power to choose his courtiers, and he meant to exercise it. Deceit among most orientals is reckoned to be a virtue, and is only censured when it is not sufficiently cunning, and therefore comes to be found out; it was therefore all the more remarkable that David should have so determinedly set his face against it. He could not tell what a deceitful man might be doing, what plots he might be contriving, what mischief he might be brewing, and therefore he resolved that he would at any rate keep him out of his house, that his palace might not become a den of villainy. Cheats in the market are bad enough—but deceivers at our own table we cannot bear.
He who counts lies shall not tarry in my sight.
He would not have a liar within sight or hearing; he loathed the mention of him. Grace makes men truthful, and creates in them an utter horror of everything approaching to falsehood. If David would not have a liar in his sight, much less will the Lord; neither he who loves nor he who makes a lie shall be admitted into Heaven. Liars are obnoxious enough on earth; the saints shall not be worried with them in the next world.
Verse 8. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land.
At the very outset of his government he would promptly deal out justice to the worthless, he would leave them no rest—but make them leave their wickedness or feel the lash of the law. The righteous magistrate "bears not the sword in vain." To favor sin, is to discourage virtue; undue leniency to the bad, is unkindness to the good. When our Lord comes in judgment, this verse will be fulfilled on a large scale; until then he sinks the judge in the Savior, and bids men leave their sins and find pardon. Under the gospel we also are bidden to suffer long, and to be kind, even to the unthankful and the evil; but the office of the magistrate is of another kind, and he must have a sterner eye to justice than would be proper in private persons. Is he not to be a terror to evil-doers?
That I may cut off all the wicked doers from the city of the Lord.
Jerusalem was to be a holy city, and the psalmist meant to be doubly careful in purging it from ungodly men. Judgment must begin at the house of God. Jesus reserves his scourge of small cords for sinners inside the temple. How pure ought the church to be, and how diligently should all those who hold office therein labor to keep out and chase out men of unclean lives. Honorable offices involve serious responsibilities; to trifle with them will bring our own souls into guilt, and injure beyond calculation the souls of others. Lord, come to us, that we, in our several positions in life, may walk before you with perfect hearts.
Verse 8. That I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the LORD.
As the kingdom of David was only a faint image of the kingdom of Christ, we ought to set Christ before our view; who, although he may bear with many hypocrites—yet as he will be the judge of the world, will at length call them all to on account, and separate the sheep from the goats. And if it seems to us that he tarries too long, we would think of that morning which will suddenly dawn, that all filthiness being purged away, true purity may shine forth.