Treasury of David
This is one of the alphabetical psalms, composed with much art, and, doubtless, so arranged that the memory might be aided. The Holy Spirit condescends to use even the more artificial methods of the poet, to secure attention, and impress the heart.
TITLE. David's Psalm of Praise. It is David's, David's very own, David's favorite. It is David's Praise just as another (Psalm 86) is David's Prayer. It is altogether praise, and praise pitched in a high key. David had blessed God many a time in other psalms, but this he regarded as his peculiar, his crown jewel of praise.
Certainly David's praise is the best of praise, for it is that of a man of experience, of sincerity, of calm deliberation, and of intense warmth of the heart. It is not for any one of us to render David's praise, for David only could do that, but we may take David's psalm as a model, and aim at making our own personal adoration as much, like it as possible: we shall be long before we equal our model. Let each Christian reader present his own praise unto the Lord, and call it by his own name. What a wealth of varied praise will thus be presented through Christ Jesus!
DIVISION. The psalm does not fall into any marked divisions, but is one and indivisible. Our other translators have mapped out this song with considerable discernment. It is or a perfect arrangement, but it will suit our convenience in exposition. David praises God:
for his fame or glory (verses 1-7),
for his goodness (verses 8-10),
for his kingdom (verses 11-13),
for his providence (verses 14-16),
for his saving mercy (verses 17-21).
Verse 1. I will extol you, my God, O king. David as God's king, adores God as his king. It is well when the Lord's royalty arouses our loyalty, and our spirit is moved to magnify his majesty. The Psalmist has extolled his Lord many a time before, he is doing so still, and he will do so in the future: praise is for all tenses.
When we cannot express all our praise just now, it is wise to register our resolution to continue in the blessed work, and write it down as a bond, "I will extol you."
See how David testifies his devotion and adherence to his God by the pronoun "my", how he owns his allegiance by the title "king", and how he goes on to declare his determination to make much of him in his song.
And I will bless your name forever and ever. David determined that his praise should rise to blessing, should intelligently spend itself upon the name or character of God, and should be continued world without end. He uses the word "bless" not merely for variation of sound, but also for the deepening and sweetening of the sense.
To bless God is to praise him with a personal affection for him, and a wishing well to him: this is a growingly easy exercise as we advance in experience and grow in grace. David declares that he will offer every form of praise, through every form of existence. His notion of duration is a full one, "forever" has no end, but when he adds another "ever" to it he forbids all idea of a close. Our praise of God shall be as eternal as the God we praise.
Verse 2. Every day will I bless you. Whatever the character of the day, or of my circumstances and conditions during that day, I will continue to glorify God.
We should see abundant cause in each day for rendering special blessing unto the Lord. All before the day, all in the day, all following the day should constrain us to magnify our God every day, all the year round.
Our love to God is not a matter of holy days: every day is alike holy to holy men. David here comes closer to God than when he said, "I will bless your name": it is now, "I will bless you."
This is the center and kernel of true devotion: we do not only admire the Lord's words and works, but himself. Without realizing the personality of God, praise is well near impossible; you cannot extol an abstraction.
And I will praise your name forever and ever. He said he would bless that name, and now he vows to praise it; he will extol the Lord in every sense and way. Eternal worship shall not be without its variations; it will never become monotonous. Heavenly music is not harping upon one string, but all strings shall be tuned to one praise.
Observe the personal pronouns here: four times he says "I will": praise is not to be discharged by proxy—there must be your very self in it, or there is nothing in it.
Verse 3. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised. Worship should be somewhat like its object—great praise for a great God. There is no part of Jehovah's greatness which is not worthy of great praise. In some beings greatness is but vastness of evil—in him it is magnificence of goodness. Praise may be said to be great when the song contains great matter, when the hearts producing it are intensely fervent, and when large numbers unite in the grand acclaim. No chorus is too loud, no orchestra too large, no psalm too lofty for the lauding of the Lord Almighty.
"And his greatness is unsearchable.
Still his worth your praise exceeds,
Excellent are all his deeds."
Song should be founded upon search; hymns composed without thought are of no worth, and tunes upon which no pains have been spent are beneath the dignity of divine adoration. Yet when we meditate most, and search most studiously—we shall still find ourselves surrounded with unknowable wonders, which will baffle all attempts to sing them worthily.
The best adoration of the Unsearchable is to own him to be so, and close the eyes in reverence before the excessive light of his glory. Not all the minds of all the centuries shall suffice to search out the unsearchable riches of God. He is past finding out; and, therefore, his deserved praise is still above and beyond all that we can render to him.
Verse 4. One generation shall praise your works to another. There shall be a tradition of praise: men shall pass on the service, they shall make it a point to instruct their descendants in this hallowed exercise. We look back upon the experience of our fathers, and sing of it; even thus shall our sons learn praise from the Lord's works among ourselves.
Let us see to it that we praise God before our children, and never make them think that his service is an unhappy one.
And shall declare your mighty acts. The generations shall herein unite: together they shall make up an extraordinary history. Each generation shall contribute its chapter, and all the generations together shall compose a volume of matchless character.
David began with "I", but he has in this verse soon reached to an inconceivable multitude, comprehending all the myriads of our race of every age.
The praise of the Lord enlarges the heart, and as it grows upon us our minds grow with it. God's works of goodness and acts of power make up a subject which all the eras of human story can never exhaust. A heart full of praise seems to live in all the centuries in delightful companionship with all the good. We are not afraid that the incense will ever cease to burn upon the altars of Jehovah: the priests die, but the adoration lives on. All glory be unto him who remains the same Lord throughout all generations.
Verse 5. I will speak of the glorious honor of your majesty. Tis fit that a king should speak of the majesty of the King of kings. David cannot give over the worship of God into the hands of others, even though all generations should undertake to perpetuate it. He must have his own individual share in it, and so he says, "I will speak." What a speaker! for he no sooner begins than he heaps up words of honor, "the glorious honor of your majesty", or "the beauty of the honor of your majesty." His language labors to express his meaning; he multiplies the terms by which he would extol Jehovah, his King.
Everything which has to do with the Great King is majestic, honorable, glorious. His least is greater than man's greatest, his lowest is higher than man's highest. There is nothing about the infinite Lord which is unworthy of his royalty; and, on the other hand, nothing is lacking to the splendor of his reign: his majesty is honorable, and his honor is glorious. He is altogether wonderful.
And of your wondrous works. All the works of God among men are Godlike, but certain of them are specially calculated to create surprise. Many works of power, of justice, of wisdom, are wonderful. His work of grace is wondrous above all. This specially, and all the rest proportionately, should be spoken of by holy men, by experienced men, and by men who have the ability to speak with power. These things must not be permitted to pass away in silence; if others do not remember them, representative men like David must make a point of conversing upon them in private, and speaking of them in public. Let it be the delight of each one of us according to our position to speak lovingly of our Lord.
Verse 6. And men shall speak of the might of your terrible works. If unobservant of other matters these acts of judgment shall seize their attention and impress their minds so that they must talk about them. Did not men in our Savior's day speak of the falling tower of Siloam and the slaughtered Galileans? Are there not rumors of wars, when there are not even whispers of other things? Horrible news is sure to spread: under mercies men may be dumb, but concerning miseries they raise a great outcry. The force of dread is a power which loosens the tongue of the multitude: they are sure to talk of that which makes the ear to tingle and the hair to stand upright. While they are thus occupied with "fearsome facts", such as the drowning of a world, the destruction of the cities of the plain, the plagues of Egypt, the destruction at the Red Sea, and so forth—David would look at these affairs in another light, and sing another tune.
And I will declare your greatness. Those acts which were terrible deeds to most men were mighty deeds, or greatnesses to our holy poet: these he would publish like a herald, who mentions the titles and honors of his royal master. It is the occupation of every true believer to rehearse the great doings of his great God. We are not to leave this to the common converse of the crowd, but we are personally to make a declaration of what we have seen and known.
We are even bound in deep solemnity of manner to warn men of the Lord's greatness in his terrible acts of justice: thus will they be admonished to abstain from provoking him.
To fulfill this duty we are already bound by solemn obligations, and we shall do well to bind ourselves further by resolutions, "I will—God helping me, I will."
Verse 7. They shall abundantly utter the memory of your great goodness. They shall pour forth grateful memories even as springs gush with water, plenteously, spontaneously, constantly, joyously. The Lord's redeemed people having been filled with his great goodness, shall retain the happy recollection of it, and shall be moved often and often to utter those recollections. Not content with a scanty mention of such amazing love, they shall go on to an abundant utterance of such abundant favor. It shall be their delight to speak with one another of God's dealings with them, and to compare notes of their experiences.
God has done nothing stintedly; all his goodness is great goodness, all worthy to be remembered, all suggestive of holy discourse. Upon this subject there is no scarcity of matter, and when the heart is right there is no need to stop from lack of facts to tell. Oh, that there were more of these memories and utterances, for it is not fit that the goodness of the living God should be buried in the cemetery of silence, in the grave of ingratitude.
And shall sing of your righteousness. They shall say and then sing. And what is the theme which impels them to leave the pulpit for the orchestra? What do they sing of? They sing of that righteousness which is the sinner's terror, which even godly men mention with deep solemnity. Righteousness received by gospel light is in reality the secret foundation of the believer's hope. God's covenant of grace is our strong consolation, because he who made it is righteous, and will not run back from it. Since Jesus died as our substitute, righteousness requires and secures the salvation of all the redeemed. This attribute is our best friend, and therefore we sing of it.
Modern thinkers would gladly expunge the idea of righteousness from their notion of God; but converted men would not. It is a sign of growth in grace when we rejoice in the justice, rectitude, and holiness of our God. Even a rebel may rejoice in mercy, which he looks upon as laxity; but a loyal rejoices when he learns that God is so just that not even to save his own people, would he consent to violate the righteousness of his moral government. Few men will shout for joy at the righteousness of Jehovah, but those who do so are his chosen, in whom his soul delights.
Verse 8. The Lord is gracious. Was it not in some such terms that the Lord revealed himself to Moses? Is not this Jehovah's glory? To all living men his aspect: he is gracious, or full of goodness and generosity. He treats creatures with kindness, his subjects with consideration, and his saints favor. His words and ways, his promises and his gifts, his plans and his purposes all manifest his grace, or free favor. There is nothing suspicious, diced, morose, tyrannical, or unapproachable in Jehovah—he is condescending and kind.
And full of compassion. To the suffering, the weak, the despondent, he is full of pity. He feels for them, he feels with them heartily, and in a practical manner. Of this pitifulness he is full, so the compassionates freely, constantly, deeply, divinely, and effectually. In fullness in a sense not known among men, and this fullness is all fragrant sympathy for human misery. If the Lord is full of compassion there is no in him for forgetfulness or harshness, and none should suspect him. What an ocean of compassion there must be since the Infinite God is full of compassion.
Slow to anger. Even those who refuse his grace yet share in his long-suffering. When men do not repent, but, on the contrary, go from bad to worse—God is averse to let his wrath flame forth against them. Greatly patient and anxious that the sinner may live, he still forbears. "Love is patient and is kind", and God is love.
And of great mercy. This is his attitude towards the guilty. When men at last repent, they find pardon awaiting them. Great is their sin, and great is God's mercy. They need great help, and they have it though they deserve it not; for he is good to the greatly guilty.
Verse 9. The LORD is good to all. No one, not even his fiercest enemy, can deny this; for the falsehood would be too barefaced, since the very existence of the lips which slander him, is a proof that it is slander. He allows his enemies to live, he even supplies them with food, and smooths their way with many comforts; for them the sun shines as brightly as if they were saints, and the rain waters their fields as plentifully as if they were perfect men. Is not this goodness to all?
In our own land the gospel sounds in the ears of all who care to listen; and the Scriptures are within reach of the poorest child. It would be a wanton wresting of Scripture to limit this expression to the elect, as some have tried to do; we rejoice in electing love, but none the less we welcome the glorious truth, "Jehovah is good to all."
And his tender mercies are over all his works. Not "his new covenant works", as one read it the other day who was wise above that which is written, yes, contrary to that which is written. Kindness is a law of God's universe: the world was planned for happiness; even now that sin has so sadly marred God's handiwork, and introduced elements which were not from the beginning, the Lord has so arranged matters that the fall is broken, the curse is met by an antidote, and the inevitable pain is softened with mitigations. Even in this sin-stricken world, under its disordered economy, there are abundant traces of a hand skillful to soothe distress and heal disease.
That which makes life bearable is the tenderness of the great Father. This is seen in the creation of an insect, as well as in the ruling of nations. The Creator is never rough, the Provider is never forgetful, the Ruler is never cruel. Nothing is done to create disease, no organs are arranged to promote misery; the incoming of sickness and pain is not according to the original design, but a result of our disordered sinful state. Man's body as it left the Maker's hand was neither framed for disease, decay, nor death, neither was the purpose of it discomfort and anguish. Far otherwise, it was framed for joyful activity, and a peaceful enjoyment of God. Jehovah has in great consideration laid up in the world cures for our ailments, and helps for our feebleness; and if many of these have been long in their discovery, it is because it was more for man's benefit to find them out himself, than to have them labeled and placed in order before his eyes.
We may be sure of this, that Jehovah has never taken delight in the ills of his creatures, but has sought their good, and laid himself out to alleviate the distresses into which they have guiltily plunged themselves.
The duty of kindness to animals may logically be argued from this verse. Should not the children of God be like their Father in kindness?
Verse 10. All your works shall praise you, O LORD. There is a something about every creature which redounds to the honor of God. The skill, kindness, and power manifested in the formation of each living thing is in itself to the praise of God, and when observed by an intelligent mind the Lord is honored thereby. Some works praise him by their being, and others by their well-being; some by their mere existence, and others by their hearty volition.
And your saints shall bless you. These holy ones come nearer, and render sweeter adoration. They wish well to God; they would make him more blessed, if such a thing were possible; they desire blessings upon his cause and his children, and invoke success upon his work and warfare. None but blessed men will bless the Lord. Only saints or holy ones will bless the thrice holy God. If we praise Jehovah because of his works around us, we must go on to bless him for his works within us. Let the two "shalls" of this verse be fulfilled, especially the latter one.
Verse 11. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom. Excellent themes for saintly minds. Those who bless God from their hearts rejoice to see him enthroned, glorified, and magnified in power. No subject is more profitable for humility, obedience, hope, and joy than that of the reigning power of the Lord our God. His works praise him, but they cannot crown him. This remains for holy hands and hearts. It is their high pleasure to tell of the glory of his kingdom in its justice, kindness, eternity, and so forth.
Kingdoms of earth are glorious for riches, for extent of territory, for victories, for liberty, for commerce, and other matters; but in all true glories the kingdom of Jehovah excels them. Time, eternity, and all space are filled with the glories of God—on these we love to speak.
And talk of your power. This power supports the kingdom and displays the glory, and we are sure to talk of it when the glory of the divine kingdom is under discussion. God's power to create or to destroy, to bless or to punish, to strengthen or to crush—is matter for frequent rehearsal. All power comes from God. Apart from him the laws of nature would be inoperative. His power is the one source of force—mechanical, vital, mental, spiritual. Beyond the power of God which has been put forth, infinite force lies latent in himself. Who can calculate the reserve forces of the Infinite? How, then, can his kingdom fail?
We hear talk of the five great powers, but what are they to the One Great Power? The Lord is "the blessed and only Potentate." Let us accustom ourselves to think more deeply and speak more largely of this power which ever makes for righteousness and works for mercy.
Verse 12. To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts. These glorious deeds ought to be known to all mankind; but yet few reckon such knowledge to be an essential part of education. As the State cannot teach these holy histories, the people of God must take care to do it themselves. The work must be done for every age, for men have short memories in reference to their God, and the doings of his power. They inscribe the deeds of their heroes upon brass, but the glorious acts of Jehovah are written upon the sand, and the tide of time washes them from present memory; therefore we must repeat the lesson, and yet again repeat it.
The saints are the religious instructors of the race; they ought to be not only the historians of the past, but the bards of the present, whose duty it is to keep the sons of men in memory of the great deeds which the Lord did in the days of their fathers and in the old time before them.
Note the contrast between the great deeds of God and the puny sons of Adam, who have even degenerated from their father, though he was as nothing compared with his Maker.
And the glorious majesty of his kingdom. What a grand subject! Yet this we are to make known; the publication of it is left to us who bless the Lord. "The glory of the majesty of his reign." What a theme! Jehovah's reign as sovereign Lord of all, his majesty in that dominion, and the glory of that majesty! The threefold subject baffles the most willing mind. How shall we make this known to the sons of men? Let us first labor to know it ourselves, and then let us make it a frequent subject of discourse, so shall men know it from us, the Holy Spirit attending our word.
Verse 13. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. His meditation has brought him near to God, and God near to him. He speaks to him in adoration, changing the pronoun from "his" to "your." He sees the great King, and prostrates himself before him.
It is well when our devotion opens the gate of Heaven, and enters within the portal, to speak with God face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.
The point upon which the Psalmist's mind rests is the eternity of the divine throne, "your reign is a reign of all eternities." The Lord's kingdom is without beginning, without break, without bound, and without end. He never abdicates his throne, neither does he call in a second to share his empire. None can overthrow his power, or break away from his rule. Neither this age, nor the age to come, nor ages of ages shall cause his sovereignty to fail. Herein is rest for faith. "The Lord sits King forever."
And your dominion endures throughout all generations. Men come and go like shadows on the wall, but God reigns eternally. We distinguish kings as they succeed each other by calling them first and second; but this King is Jehovah, the First and the Last. Adam in his generation knew his Creator to be King, and the last of his race shall know the same. All hail, Great God! You are ever Lord of lords!
These three verses are a reverent hymn concerning "the kingdom of God". They will be best appreciated by those who are in that kingdom in the fullest sense, and are most truly loyal to the Lord. It is, according to these verses, a kingdom of glory and power; a kingdom of light which men are to know, and of might which men are to feel; it is full of majesty and eternity; it is the blessing of every generation. We are to speak of it, talk of it, and make it known, and then we are to acknowledge it in the homage directed distinctly to the Lord himself—as in verse 13.
In these three verses Jehovah is adored for his gracious providence towards men and all other creatures; this fitly follows the proclamation of his royalty, for we here see how he rules his kingdom, and provides for his subjects.
Verse 14. The Lord upholds all that fall. Read this verse in connection with the preceding, and admire the unexpected contrast: he who reigns in glorious majesty—yet condescends to lift up and hold up those who are apt to fall. The form of the verb shows that he is always doing this; he is Jehovah upholding. His choice of the fallen, and the falling, as the subjects of his gracious help is specially to be noted.
The fallen of our race, especially fallen women, are shunned by us, and it is peculiar tenderness on the Lord's part that such he looks upon, even those who are at once the chief of sinners and the least regarded of mankind.
The falling ones among us are too apt to be pushed down by the strong: their timidity and dependence make them the victims of the proud and domineering. To them also the Lord gives his upholding help. The Lord loves to reverse things—he puts down the lofty, and lifts up the lowly.
And raises up all those that are bowed down. Another deed of condescension. Many are despondent, and cannot lift up their heads in courage, or their hearts with comfort; but these he cheers. Some are bent with their daily load, and these he strengthens.
Jesus loosed a daughter of Abraham whom Satan had so bound that she was bowed down, and could by no means lift up herself. In this he proved himself to be the true Son of the Highest. Think of the Infinite bowing to lift up the bowed, and stooping to be leaned upon by those who are ready to fall. The two "alls" should not be overlooked—the Lord has a kindly heart towards the whole company of the afflicted.
Verse 15. The eyes of all wait upon you. They have learned to look to you: it has become their nature to turn to you for all they need. As children look to a father for all they need, so do the creatures look to God, the all-sufficient Provider. It were well if all men had the eye of faith, and if all waited therewith upon the Lord. And you give them their meat in due season. They wait, and God gives. The thought of this brings God so near to our poet-prophet. Is it to be wondered at when the Lord is feeding the hungry all around us—giving food to all creatures, and to ourselves among them? Like a flock of sheep the creatures stand around the Lord as their great Shepherd; all eyes are on his hand expecting to receive their food; nor are they disappointed, for when the hour comes, suitable provender is ready for each creature.
Observe the punctuality of the Lord in giving food at meal time—in the season when it is due. This he does for all, and each living thing has its own season, so that the Lord of Heaven is feeding his great flock both by day and by night, during every moment of time.
Verse 16. You open your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing. You alone provide, O Jehovah! You do it liberally, with open hand. You do it easily, as if it were only to open your hand. You do this at once as promptly as if all supplies were ready to hand. Living things have needs, and these create desires; the living God has suitable supplies at hand, and these he gives until inward satisfaction is produced, and the creature sighs no longer.
In spiritual things, when God has raised a desire, he always gratifies it; hence the longing is prophetic of the blessing. In no case is the desire of the living thing excited to produce distress, but in order that it may seek and find satisfaction.
These verses refer to natural providence; but they may equally well apply to the stores of grace, since the same God is king in both spheres. If we will but wait upon the Lord for pardon, renewing, or whatever else we need—we shall not wait in vain. The hand of grace is never closed while the sinner lives. In these verses we behold our God in the realm of his free-grace dealing well with his believing people.
Verse 17. The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. His ways and works are both worthy to be praised. Jehovah cannot be unjust or impure. Let his doings be what they may, they are in every case righteous and holy. This is the confession of the godly who follow his ways, and of the gracious who study his works. Whatever God is or does, must be right. In the salvation of his people he is as righteous and holy as in any other of his ways and works. He has not manifested mercy at the expense of justice, but the rather he has magnified his righteousness by the death of his Son.
Verse 19. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear him. That is, those who reverence his name and his law. Inasmuch as they have respect unto his will, he will have respect unto their will. They shall have their way, for they have his way in their hearts. A holy heart only desires what a holy God can give, and so its desire is filled full out of the fullness of the Lord.
He also will hear their cry, and will save them. Divinely practical shall his nearness be, for he will work their deliverance. He will listen to their piteous cry, and then will send salvation from every ill. This he will do himself personally; he will not trust them to angels or saints.
Verse 20. The Lord preserves all those who love him. They keep him in their love, and he keeps them by his love. See how these favored ones have advanced from fearing the Lord and crying to him, even to loving him, and in that love they are secure from all danger.
Mark the number of "alls" in these later verses of the Psalm. In each of these God is all in all.
But all the wicked will he destroy. Wickedness is an offence to all holy beings, and therefore those who are determined to continue in it must be weeded out. As good sanitary laws remove all creatures of pest and plague, so does the moral government of God mark every evil thing for destruction; it cannot be tolerated in the presence of a perfectly holy God.
What ruins wicked men frequently become in this life! What monuments of wrath will they be in the world to come! Like Nineveh and Babylon, and other destroyed places, they shall only exist to declare how thoroughly God fulfills his righteous threatenings.
Verse 21. My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD. Whatever others may do, I will not be silent in the praise of the Lord. Whatever others may speak upon, my topic is fixed once for all: I will speak the praise of Jehovah. I am doing it, and I will do it as long as I breathe.
And let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. Praise is no monopoly for one, even though he is a David; others are debtors, let them also be songsters. All men of every race, condition, or generation should unite to glorify God. No man need think that he will be rejected when he comes with his personal note of praise; all are permitted, invited, and exhorted to magnify the Lord.
Especially should his holiness be adored: this is the crown, and in a certain sense the sum, of all his attributes. Only holy hearts will praise the holy name, or character of the Lord. Oh, that all flesh were sanctified, then would the sanctity of God be the delight of all.
Once let the song begin and there will be no end to it. It shall go on forever and a day, as the old folks used to say. If there were two forevers, or twenty forevers, they ought all to be spent in the praises of the ever-living, ever-blessing, ever-blessed JEHOVAH.
Blessed be the Lord forever for having revealed to us his name, and blessed be that name as he has revealed it; yes, blessed be he above all that we can know, or think, or say. Our hearts revel in the delight of praising him. Our mouth, our mind, our lip, our life shall be our Lord's throughout this mortal existence, and when time shall be no more.