Treasury of David
TITLE. A Psalm of David. This Psalm is wisely placed. Whoever edited and arranged these sacred poems, he had an eye to apposition and contrast; for if in Psalm 137:1-9 we see the need of silence before revilers, here we see the excellence of a brave confession. There is a time to be silent, lest we cast pearls before swine; and there is a time to speak openly, lest we be found guilty of cowardly not confessing.
The Psalm is evidently of a Davidic character, exhibiting all the fidelity, courage, and decision of that King of Israel and Prince of Psalmists. Of course the critics have tried to rend the authorship from David on account of the mention of the temple, though it so happens that in one of the Psalms which is allowed to be David's the same word occurs.
Many modern critics are to the word of God what blowflies are to the food of men: they cannot do any good, and unless relentlessly driven away they do great harm.
DIVISION. In full confidence David is prepared to own his God before the gods of the heathen, or before angels or rulers (verses 1-3); he declares that he will instruct and convert kings and nations, until on very highway men shall sing the praises of the Lord (verses 4-5). Having thus spoken, he utters his personal confidence in Jehovah, who will help his lowly servant, and preserve him from all the malice of wrathful foes (verses 6-8).
Verse 1. I will praise You with my whole heart. His mind is so taken up with God that he does not mention his name: to him there is no other God, and Jehovah is so perfectly realized and so intimately known, that the Psalmist, in addressing him, no more thinks of mentioning his name than we should do if we were speaking to a father or a friend. He sees God with his mind's eye, and simply addresses him with the pronoun "you."
He is resolved to praise the Lord, and to do it with the whole force of his life, even with his whole heart. He would not submit to act as one under restraint, because of the opinions of others; but in the presence of the opponents of the living God he would be as hearty in worship as if all were friends and would cheerfully unite with him. If others do not praise the Lord, there is all the more reason why we should do so, and should do so with enthusiastic eagerness.
We need a broken heart to mourn our own sins, but a whole heart to praise the Lord's perfections. If ever our heart is whole and wholly occupied with one thing, it should be when we are praising the Lord.
Before the gods will I sing praise unto you. Why should these idols rob Jehovah of his praises? The Psalmist will not for a moment suspend his songs because there are images before him, and their foolish worshipers might not approve of his music. I believe David referred to the false gods of the neighboring nations, and the deities of the surviving Canaanites. He was not pleased that such gods were set up; but he intended to express at once his contempt of them, and his own absorption in the worship of the living Jehovah by continuing most earnestly to sing wherever he might be. It would be paying these dead idols too much respect to cease singing because they were perched aloft.
In these days when new religions are daily excogitated, and new gods are set up, it is well to know how to act. Bitterness is forbidden, and controversy is apt to advertise the heresy. The very best method is to go on personally worshiping the Lord with unvarying zeal, singing with heart and voice his royal praises.
Do they deny the Divinity of our Lord? Let us the more fervently adore him. Do they despise the substitutionary atonement? Let us the more constantly proclaim it.
Had half the time spent in councils and controversies been given to praising the Lord, the church would have been far sounder and stronger than she is at this day. The Hallelujah Legion will win the day. Praising and singing are our armor against the idolatries of heresy, our comfort under the depression caused by insolent attacks upon the truth, and our weapons for defending the gospel. Faith when displayed in cheerful courage, has about it a sacred contagion: others learn to believe in the Most High when they see his servant
"Calm 'mid the bewildering cry,
Confident of victory."
Verse 2. I will worship toward your holy temple, or the place of God's dwelling, where the ark abode. He would worship God in God's own way. The Lord had ordained a center of unity, a place of sacrifice, a house of his indwelling; and David accepted the way of worship enjoined by revelation.
Even so, the true hearted believer of these days must not fall into the will worship of superstition, or the wild worship of skepticism, but reverently worship as the Lord himself prescribes.
The idol gods had their temples; but David averts his glance from them, and looks earnestly to the spot chosen of the Lord for his own sanctuary. We are not only to adore the true God, but to do so in his own appointed way. The Jew looked to the temple, we are to look to Jesus, the living temple of the Godhead.
And praise your name for your loving kindness and for your truth. Praise would be the main part of David's worship; the name or character of God the great object of his song; and the special point of his praise the grace and truth which shone so conspicuously in that name.
The person of Jesus is the temple of the Godhead, and therein we behold the glory of the Father, "full of grace and truth."
It is upon these two points that the name of Jehovah is at this time assailed—his grace and his truth. He is said to be too stern, too terrible, and therefore "modern thought" displaces the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and sets up an effeminate deity of its own making. As for us, we firmly believe that God is love, and that in the summing up of all things it will be seen that Hell itself is not inconsistent with the beneficence of Jehovah, but is, indeed, a necessary part of his moral government now that sin has intruded into the universe. True believers hear the thunders of his justice, and yet they do not doubt his loving-kindness.
Especially do we delight in God's great love to his own elect, such as he showed to Israel as a race, and more especially to David and his seed when he entered into covenant with him. Concerning this there is abundant room for praise.
But not only do men attack the loving-kindness of God, but the truth of God is at this time assailed on all sides; some doubt the truth of the inspired record as to its histories, others challenge the doctrines, many sneer at the prophecies; in fact, the infallible word of the Lord is at this time treated as if it were the writing of impostors, and only worthy to be carped at. The swine are trampling on the pearls at this time, and nothing restrains them. Nevertheless, the pearls are pearls still, and shall yet shine about our Monarch's brow.
We sing the loving-kindness and truth of the God of the Old Testament, "the God of the whole earth shall he be called." David before the false gods, first sang, then worshiped, and then proclaimed the grace and truth of Jehovah; let us do the same before the idols of the New Theology.
For you have magnified your word above all your name. The word of promise made to David was in his eyes more glorious than all else that he had seen of the Most High. Revelation excels creation in the clearness, definiteness, and fullness of its teaching. The name of the Lord in nature is not so easily read as in the Scriptures, which are a revelation in human language, specially adapted to the human mind, treating of human need, and of a Savior who appeared in human nature to redeem humanity. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but the divine word will not pass away, and in this respect especially it has a preeminence over every other form of manifestation.
Moreover, the Lord lays all the rest of his name under tribute to his word: his wisdom, power, love, and all his other attributes combine to carry out his word. It is his word which creates, sustains, quickens, enlightens, and comforts. As a word of command it is supreme; and in the person of the incarnate Word it is set above all the works of God's hands.
The sentence in the text is wonderfully full of meaning. We have collected a vast mass of literature upon it, but space will not allow us to put it all into our notes. Let us adore the Lord who has spoken to us by his word, and by his Son; and in the presence of unbelievers let us both praise his holy name and extol his holy word.
Verse 3. In the day when I cried you answer me. No proof is so convincing as that of experience. No man doubts the power of prayer after he has received an answer of peace to his supplication. It is the distinguishing mark of the true and living God that he hears the pleadings of his people, and answers them. The idol-gods hear not and answer not, but Jehovah's memorial is, "the God who hears prayer."
There was some special day in which David cried more vehemently than usual; he was weak, wounded, worried, and his heart was wearied; then like a child he "cried"—cried unto his Father. It was a bitter, earnest, eager prayer, as natural and as plaintive as the cry of a babe.
The Lord answered it, but what answer can there be to a cry—to a mere inarticulate wail of grief? Our heavenly Father is able to interpret tears and cries, and he replies to their inner sense in such a way as fully meets the case. The answer came in the same day as the cry ascended: so speedily does prayer rise to Heaven, so quickly does mercy return to earth. The statement of this sentence is one which all believers can make, and as they can substantiate it with many facts, they ought boldly to publish it, for it is greatly to God's glory.
Well might the Psalmist say, "I will worship" when he felt bound to say "you answered me." Well might he glory before the idols and their worshipers when he had answers to prayer to look back upon.
This also is our defense against modern heresies: we cannot forsake the Lord, for he has heard our prayers.
And strengthened me with strength in my soul. This was a true answer to his prayer. If the burden was not removed—yet strength was given with which to bear it, and this is an equally effective method of help. It may not be best for us that the trial should come to an end; it may be far more to our advantage that by its pressure we should learn patience. Sweet are the uses of adversity, and our prudent Father in Heaven will not deprive us of those benefits. Strength imparted to the soul is an inestimable blessing; it means courage, fortitude, assurance, heroism.
By his word and Spirit the Lord can make the trembler brave, the sick whole, the weary bright. This soul might will continue: the man having been strengthened for one emergency remains vigorous for life, and is prepared for all future labors and sufferings; unless, indeed, he throws away his force by unbelief, or pride, or some other sin.
When God strengthens, none can weaken. Then is our soul strong indeed when the Lord infuses might into us.
Verse 4. All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord, when they hear the words of your mouth. Kings have usually small concern to hear the word of the Lord; but King David feels assured that if they do hear it they will feel its power. A little piety goes a long way in courts; but brighter days are coming, in which rulers will become hearers and worshipers: may the advent of such happy times be hastened.
What an assembly, "all the kings of the earth!" What a purpose! Gathered to hear the words of Jehovah's mouth. What a preacher! David himself rehearses the words of Jehovah. What praise! when they all in happy union lift up their songs unto the Lord.
Kings are as gods below, and they do well when they worship the God above. The way of conversion for kings is the same as for ourselves: faith to them also comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Happy are those who can cause the word of the Lord to penetrate palaces; for the occupants of thrones are usually the last to know the joyful sounds of the gospel.
David, the king, cared for kings' souls, and it will be wise for each man to look first after those who are of his own order. He went to his work of testimony with fall assurance of success: he meant to speak only the words of Jehovah's mouth, and he felt sure that the kings would hear and praise Jehovah.
Verse 5. Yes, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD. Here is a double wonder—kings in God's ways, and kings singing there. Let a man once know the ways of Jehovah, and he will find therein abundant reason for song; but the difficulty is to bring the great ones of the earth into ways so little attractive to the carnal mind. Perhaps when the Lord sends us a King David to preach, we shall yet see monarchs converted and hear their voices raised in devout adoration.
For great is the glory of the LORD. This glory shall overshadow all the greatness and glory of all kings: they shall be stirred by a sight of it to obey and adore. O that Jehovah's glory were revealed even now! O that the blind eyes of men could once behold it, then their hearts would be subdued to joyful reverence. David, under a sense of Jehovah's glory, exclaimed, "I will sing" (verse 1), and here he represents the kings as doing the same thing.
Verse 6. Though the Lord be high. In greatness, dignity, and power, Jehovah is higher than the highest. His nature is high above the comprehension of his creatures, and his glory even exceeds the loftiest soarings of imagination.
Yet has he respect unto the lowly. He views them with pleasure, thinks of them with care, listens to their prayers, and protects them from evil. Because they think little of themselves he thinks much of them. They reverence him, and he respects them. They are low in their own esteem, and he makes them high in his esteem.
But the proud he knows afar off. He does not need to come near them in order to discover their utter vanity: a glance from afar reveals to him their emptiness and offensiveness. He has no fellowship with them, but views them from a distance. He is not deceived, but knows the truth about them, despite their blustering. He has no respect unto them, but utterly abhors them. To a Cain's sacrifice, a Pharaoh's promise, a Rabshakeh's threat, and a Pharisee's prayer—the Lord has no respect. Nebuchadnezzar, when far off from God, cried, "Behold this great Babylon which I have built"; but the Lord knew him, and sent him grazing with cattle.
Proud men boast loudly of their culture and "their freedom of thought", and even dare to criticize their Maker. But he knows them from afar, and will keep them at arm's length in this life, and shut them up in Hell in the eternity.
Verse 7. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will revive me. If I am walking there now, or shall be doing so in years to come, I have no cause for fear; for God is with me, and will give me new life. When we are somewhat in trouble it is bad enough, but it is worse to penetrate into the center of that dark continent and traverse its midst: yet in such a case the believer makes progress, for he walks; he keeps to a quiet pace, for he does no more than walk; and he is not without the best of company, for his God is near to pour fresh life into him.
It is a happy circumstance that, if God be away at any other time—yet he is pledged to be with us in trying hours: "When you pass through the rivers I will be with you." He is in a blessed condition who can confidently use the language of David, "you will revive me."
He shall not make his boast of God in vain: he shall be kept alive, and made more alive than ever. How often has the Lord quickened us by our sorrows! Are they not his readiest means of exciting to fullness of energy the holy life which dwells within us? If we receive reviving, we need not regret affliction. When God revives us, trouble will never harm us.
You shall stretch forth your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand shall save me. This is the fact which would revive fainting David. Our foes fall when the Lord comes to deal with them; he makes short work of the enemies of his people—with one hand he routs them. His wrath soon quenches their wrath; his hand stays their hand. Adversaries may be many, and malicious, and mighty—but our glorious Defender has only to stretch out his arm and their armies vanish.
The sweet singer rehearses his assurance of salvation, and sings of it in the ears of the Lord, addressing him with this confident language. He will be saved—saved dexterously, decidedly, divinely; he has no doubt about it. God's right hand cannot forget its cunning; Jerusalem is his chief joy, and he will defend his own elect.
Verse 8. The Lord will perfect that which concerns me. All my interests are safe in Jehovah's hands.
"The work which his goodness began,
The arm of his strength will complete;
His promise is yes and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet."
God is concerned in all that concerns his servants. He will see to it that none of their precious things shall fail of completion; their life, their strength, their hopes, their graces, their pilgrimage—shall each and all be perfected. Jehovah himself will see to this and therefore it is most sure.
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever. The refrain of the former Psalm is in his ears, and he repeats it as his own personal conviction and consolation. The first clause of the verse is the assurance of faith, and this second one reaches to the full assurance of understanding. God's work in us will abide unto perfection because God's mercy towards us thus abides.
Forsake not the works of your own hands. Our confidence does not cause us to live without prayer, but encourages us to pray all the more. Since we have it written upon our hearts that God will perfect his work in us, and we see it also written in Scripture that his mercy changes not, with holy earnestness we entreat that we may not be forsaken. If there be anything good in us, it is the work of God's own hands—will he leave it? Why has he wrought so much in us if he means to give us up? He who has gone so far, will surely persevere with us to the end. Our hope for the final perseverance of the believer lies in the final perseverance of the believer's God. If the Lord begins to build, and does not finish, it will not be his honor. He will have a desire to the work of his hands, for he knows it has cost him already, and he will not throw away a vessel upon which he has expended so much of labor and skill. Therefore do we praise him with our, whole heart, even in the presence of those who depart from his Holy Word, and, set up another god and another gospel; which are not another, but there be some that trouble us.