Treasury of David
TITLE AND SUBJECT. A Song or Psalm of David.
To be sung jubilantly as a national hymn, or solemnly as a sacred psalm. We cannot find it in our heart to dismiss this psalm by merely referring the reader first to Psalm 57:7-11 and then to Psalm 60:5-12, though it will be at once seen that those two portions of Scripture are almost identical with the verses before us. It is true that most of the commentators have done so, and we are not so presumptuous as to dispute their wisdom; but we hold for ourselves that the words would not have been repeated if there had not been an object for so doing, and that this object could not have been answered if every hearer of it had said, "Ah, we had that before, and therefore we need not meditate upon it again."
The Holy Spirit is not so short of expressions that he needs to repeat himself, and the repetition cannot be meant merely to fill the book. There must be some intention in the arrangement of two former divine utterances in a new connection; whether we can discover that intent is another matter. It is at least ours to endeavor to do so, and we may expect divine assistance therein.
First we have an utterance dictated by the spirit of praise, Verses 1-5;
then a second deliverance evoked by the spirit of believing prayer, Verses 6-12;
and then a final word of resolve (Verses 13), as the warrior hears the war trumpet summoning him to join battle immediately, and therefore marches with his fellow soldiers at once to the fray.
Verse 1. O God, my heart is fixed.
Though I have many wars to disturb me, and many cares to toss me to and froóyet I am settled in one mind and cannot be driven from it. My heart has taken hold and abides in one resolve. Your grace has overcome the fickleness of nature, and I am now in a resolute and determined frame of mind.
I will sing and give praise.
Both with voice and music will I extol you, "I will sing and play", as some read it. Even though I have to shout in the battle I will also sing in my soul, and if my fingers must needs be engaged with the bowóyet shall they also touch the ten stringed instrument and show forth your praise.
Even with my glory.
With my intellect, my tongue, my poetic faculty, my musical skill, or whatever else causes me to be renowned, and confers honor upon me. It is my glory to be able to speak and not to be a dumb animal, therefore my voice shall show forth your praise. It is my glory to know God and not to be a heathen, and therefore my instructed intellect shall adore you. It is my glory to be a saint and no more a rebel, therefore the grace I have received shall bless you. It is my glory to be immortal and not a mere brute which perishes, therefore my inmost life shall celebrate your majesty.
When he says I will, he supposes that there might be some temptation to refrainóbut this he puts on one side, and with fixed heart prepares himself for the joyful engagement. He who sings with a fixed heart is likely to sing on, and all the while to sing well.
Verse 2. Awake, psaltery and harp.
As if he could not be content with voice aloneóbut must use the well-tuned strings, and communicate to them something of his own liveliness. Strings are wonderful things when some men play upon them, they seem to become sympathetic and incorporated with the minstrel as if his very soul were imparted to them and thrilled through them. Only when a thoroughly enraptured soul speaks in the instrument, can music be acceptable with God. As mere musical sound the Lord can have no pleasure therein, he is only pleased with the thought and feeling which are thus expressed. When a man has musical gift, he should regard it as too lovely a power to be enlisted in the cause of sin. Well did Charles Wesley say:
"If well I know the tuneful art
To captivate a human heart,
The glory, Lord, be Thine.
A servant of your blessed will,
I here devote my utmost skill
To sound the praise divine."
"Your own musician, Lord, inspire,
And let my consecrated lyre
Repeat the Psalmist's part.
His Son and Your reveal in me,
And fill with sacred melody
The fibers of my heart."
I myself will awake early. I will call up the dawn.
The best and brightest hours of the day shall find me heartily aroused to bless my God. Some singers had need to awake, for they sing in drawling tones, as if they were half asleep; the tune drags wearily along, there is no feeling or sentiment in the singingóbut the listener hears only a dull mechanical sound, as if the choir ground out the notes from a worn out barrel-organ.
Oh, choristers, wake up, for this is not a work for dreamersóbut such as requires your best powers in their liveliest condition. In all worship this should be the personal resolve of each worshiper: "I myself will awake."
Verse 3. I will praise you, O LORD, among the people.
Whoever may come to hear me, devout or profane, believer or heathen, civilized or barbarian, I shall not cease my music. David seemed inspired to foresee that his Psalms would be sung in every land, from Greenland's icy mountains to India's coral strand. His heart was large, he would have the whole race of man listen to his joy in God, and lo, he has his desire, for his psalmody is cosmopolitanóno poet is so universally known as he. He had but one theme, he sang Jehovah and none beside, and his work being thus made of gold, silver, and precious stones, has endured the fiery ordeal of time, and was never more prized than at this day. Happy man, to have thus made his choice to be the Lord's musician, he retains his office as the Poet Laureate of the kingdom of Heaven, and shall retain it until the crack of doom.
And I will sing praises unto you among the nations.
This is written, not only to complete the parallelism of the verseóbut to reaffirm his fixed resolve. He would march to battle praising Jehovah, and when he had conquered he would make the captured cities ring with Jehovah's praises. He would carry his religion with him wherever he pushed his conquests, and the vanquished should not hear the praises of Davidóbut the glories of the Lord Almighty.
Would to God that wherever professing Christians travel they would carry the praises of the Lord with them! It is to be feared that some leave their religion when they leave their homes. Nations and peoples would soon know the gospel of Jesus if every Christian traveler were as intensely devout as the Psalmist. Alas, it is to be feared that the Lord's name is profaned rather than honored among the heathen by many who are named by the name of Christ.
Verse 4. For your mercy is great above the heavens.
And therefore there must be no limit of time, or place, or people, when that mercy is to be extolled. As the heavens over arch the whole earth, and from above mercy pours down upon men, so shall you be praised everywhere beneath the sky.
Mercy is greater than the mountains, though they pierce the clouds; earth cannot hold it all, it is so vast, so boundless, so exceeding high that the heavens themselves are overótopped thereby.
And your truth teaches unto the clouds.
As far as we can see we behold your truth and faithfulness, and there is much beyond which lies shrouded in cloudóbut we are sure that it is all mercy, though it be far above and out of our sight. Therefore shall the song be lifted high and the psalm shall peal forth without stint of far resounding music. Here is ample space for the loudest chorus, and a subject which deserves thunders of praise.
Verse 5. Be exalted, O God, above the heavensóand your glory above all the earth.
Let your praise be according to the greatness of your mercy. Ah, if we were to measure our devotion thus, with what ardor should we sing! The whole earth with its overhanging dome would seem too scant an orchestra, and all the faculties of all mankind too little for the hallelujah. Angels would be called in to aid us, and surely they would come. They will come in that day when the whole earth shall be filled with the praises of Jehovah. We long for the time when God shall be universally worshiped, and his glory in the gospel shall be everywhere made known.
This is a truly missionary prayer. David had none of the exclusiveness of the modern Jew, or the narrow-heartedness of some nominal Christians. For God's sake, that his glory might be everywhere revealed, he longed to see Heaven and earth full of the divine praise. Amen, so let it be.
Now prayer follows upon praise, and derives strength of faith and holy boldness therefrom. It is frequently best to begin worship with a hymn, and then to bring forth our vials full of odors after the harps have commenced their sweeter sounds.
Verse 6. That your beloved may be deliveredósave with your right hand, and answer me.
Let my prayer avail for all the beloved ones. Sometimes a nation seems to hang upon the petitions of one man. With what ardor should such a one pour out his soul! David does so here.
It is easy praying for the Lord's beloved, for we feel sure of a favorable answer, since the Lord's heart is already set upon doing them good: yet it is solemn work to plead when we feel that the condition of a whole beloved nation depends upon what the Lord means to do with us whom he has placed in a representative position.
"Answer me, that your many beloved ones may be delivered": it is an urgent prayer. David felt that the case demanded the right hand of Godóhis wisest, speediest, and most efficient interposition, and he feels sure of obtaining it for himself, since his cause involved the safety of the chosen people.
Will the Lord fail to use his right hand of power on behalf of those whom he has set at his right hand of favor? Shall not the beloved be delivered by him who loves them? When our suit is not a selfish oneóbut is bound up with the cause of God, we may be very bold about it.
Verse 7. God has spoken in his holiness.
Aforetime the Lord had made large promises to David, and these his holiness had guaranteed. The divine attributes were pledged to give the son of Jesse great blessings; there was no fear that the covenant God would run back from his plighted word.
I will rejoice. If God has spoken we may well be glad: the very fact of a divine revelation is a joy. If the Lord had meant to destroy us he would not have spoken to us as he has done. But what God has spoken is a still further reason for gladness, for he has declared "the sure mercies of David", and promised to establish his seed upon his throne, and to subdue all his enemies. David greatly rejoiced after the Lord had spoken to him by the mouth of Nathan. He sat before the Lord in a wonder of joy. See 1 Chronicles 17:1-27, and note that in the next chapter David began to act vigorously against his enemies, even as in this Psalm he vows to do.
I will divide Shechem.
Home conquests come first. Foes must be dislodged from Israel's territory, and lands properly settled and managed.
And mete out the valley of Succoth.
On the other side Jordan as well as on this the land must be put in order, and secured against all wandering marauders. Some rejoicing leads to inactionóbut not that which is grounded upon a lively faith in the promise of God.
See how David prays, as if he had the blessing already, and could share it among his menóthis comes from having sung so heartily unto the Lord his helper. See how he resolves on action, like a man whose prayers are only a part of his life, and vital portions of his action.
Verse 8. Gilead is mine. Thankful hearts dwell upon the gifts which the Lord has given them, and think it no task to mention them one by one.
Manasseh is mine.
I have it already, and it is to me the token and assurance that the rest of the promised heritage will also come into my possession in due time. If we gratefully acknowledge what we have, we shall be in better heart for obtaining that which as yet we have not received.
He who gives us Gilead and Manasseh will not fail to put the rest of the promised territory into our hands.
Ephraim also is the strength of my head.
This tribe furnished David with more than twenty thousand "mighty men of valor, famous throughout the house of their fathers": the faithful loyalty of this band was, no doubt, a proof that the rest of the tribe were with him, and so he regarded them as the helmet of the state, the guard of his royal crown.
Judah is my lawgiver.
There had he seated the government and chief courts of justice. No other tribe could lawfully govern but Judah: until Shiloh came the divine decree fixed the legal power in that state. To us also there is no lawgiver but our Lord who sprang out of Judah; and whenever Rome, or Canterbury, or any other power shall attempt to set up laws and ordinances for the church, we have but one reply, "Judah is my lawgiver."
Thus the royal psalmist rejoiced because his own land had been cleansed of intruders, and a regular government had been set up, and guarded by an ample force, and in all this he found encouragement to plead for victory over his foreign foes.
Even thus do we plead with the Lord that as in one land and another Christ's holy gospel has been set up and maintained, so also in other lands the power of his scepter of grace may be owned until the whole earth shall bow before him, and the Edom of Antichrist shall be crushed beneath his feet.
Verse 9. Moab is my washpot.
This nation had shown no friendly spirit to the Israelitesóbut had continually viewed them as a detested rival, therefore they were to be subdued and made subject to David's throne. He claims by faith the victory, and regards his powerful enemy with contempt. Nor was he disappointed, for "the Moabites became David's servants and brought him gifts" (2 Samuel 8:2). As men wash their feet after a long journey, and so are revived, so vanquished difficulties serve to refresh usówe use Moab for a washpot.
Over Edom will I cast out my shoe.
It shall be as the floor upon which the bather throws his sandals, it shall lie beneath his foot, subject to his will and altogether his own. Edom was proudóbut David throws his slipper at it; its capital was highóbut he casts his sandal over it; it was strongóbut he hurls his shoe at it as the gage of battle. He had not entered yet into its rock built fortressesóbut since the Lord was with him he felt sure that he would do so. Under the leadership of the Almighty, he felt so secure of conquering even fierce Edom itself that he looks upon it as a mere slave, over which he could exult with impunity.
We ought never to fear those who are defending the wrong side, for since God is not with them, their wisdom is folly, their strength is weakness, and their glory is their shame.
We think too much of God's foes and talk of them with too much respect. Who is this pope of Rome? His Holiness? Call him not soóbut call him, His Blasphemy! His Profanity! His Impudence! What are he and his cardinals, and his legatesóbut the image and incarnation of Antichrist, to be in due time cast with the beast and the false prophet into the lake of fire!
Over Philistia will I triumph.
David had done so in his youth, and he is all the more sure of doing it again. We read that "David smote the Philistines and subdued them" (2 Samuel 8:1), even as he has smitten Edom and filled it with his garrisons.
The enemies with whom we battled in our youth are yet alive, and we shall have more brushes with them before we die, but, blessed be God, we are by no means dismayed at the prospect, for we expect to triumph over them even more easily than aforetime.
Your right hand shall your people aid;
Your faithful promise makes us strong;
We will Philistia's land invade.
And over Edom chant the song.
Through you we shall most valiant prove,
And tread the foe beneath our feet;
Through you our faith shall hills remove,
And small as chaff the mountains beat.
Verse 10. Faith leads on to strong desire for the realization of the promise, and hence the practical question, Who will bring me into the strong city? Who will lead me into Edom? The difficulty is plainly perceived. Petra is strong and hard to enter: the Psalmist warrior knows that he cannot enter the city by his own power, and he therefore asks who is to help him. He asks of the right person, even of his Lord, who has all men at his beck, and can say to this man, "show my servant the road", and he will show it; or to this band, "cut your way into the rock city", and they will assuredly do it.
Of Edom it is written in Obadiah 1:3-4, "The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, 'Who can bring me down to the ground?' Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down," declares the LORD." David looked for his conquest to Jehovah's infinite power and he looked not in vain.
Verse 11. Will not you, O God, who have cast us off?
This is grand faith which can trust the Lord even when he seems to have cast us off. Some can barely trust him when he pampers them, and yet David relied upon him when Israel seemed under a cloud and the Lord had hidden his face. O for more of this real and living faith. The casting off will not last long when faith so gloriously keeps her hold. None but the elect of God who have obtained "like precious faith" can singó
"Now you array your solemn face
In angry frowns, without a smile;
We, through the cloud, believe your grace,
Secure of your compassion still."
And will not you, O God, go forth with our hosts?
Can you forever forsake your own and leave your people to be overthrown by your enemies? The sweet singer is sure that Edom shall be captured, because he cannot and will not believe that God will refrain from going forth with the armies of his chosen people.
When we ask ourselves, "Who will be the means of our obtaining a promised blessing?" we need not be discouraged if we perceive no secondary agent, for we may then fall back upon the great Promiser himself, and believe that he himself will perform his word unto us.
If no one else will lead us into Edom, the Lord himself will do it, if he has promised it. Or if there must be visible instruments he will use our hosts, feeble as they are. We need not that any new agency should be created, God can strengthen our present hosts and enable them to do all that is needed; all that is wanted even for the conquest of a world, is that the Lord go forth with such forces as we already have. He can bring us into the strong city even by such weak weapons as we wield today.
Verse 12. Give us help from troubleófor vain is the help of man.
This prayer has often fallen from the lips of men who have been bitterly disappointed by their fellows, and it has also been poured out unto the Lord in the presence of some gigantic labor in which mortal power is evidently of no avail. Edom cannot be entered by any human poweróyet from its fastnesses the robber bands come rushing down; therefore, O Lord, interpose and give your people deliverance. Help divine is expected, because help human is of no avail. We ought to pray with all the more confidence in God when our confidence in man is altogether gone. When the help of man is vain, we shall not find it vain to seek the help of God.
Verse 13. With God we will gain the victory.
God's help shall inspire us to help ourselves. Faith is neither a coward nor a sluggard: she knows that God is with her, and therefore she does valiantly; she knows that he will tread down her enemies, and therefore she arises to tread them down in his name. Where praise and prayer have preceded the battle, we may expect to see heroic deeds and decisive victories. Through God is our secret support; from that source we draw all our courage, wisdom, and strength. This is the public outflow from that secret source: our inward and spiritual faith proves itself by outward and valorous deeds.
And he will trample down our enemies.
They shall fall before him, and as they lie prostrate he shall march over them, and all the hosts of his people with him.
This is a prophecy. It was fulfilled to Davidóbut it remains true to the Son of David and all who are on his side. The Church shall yet arouse herself to praise her God with all her heart, and then with songs and hosannas she will advance to the great battle; her foes shall be overthrown and utterly crushed by the power of her God, and the Lord's glory shall be above all the earth. Send it in our time, we beseech you, O Lord.