Meditations In the Psalms

Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon

Part I: Psalms 1-15

The Psalms

"But his delight is in the law of Yahweh."
(Ps. 1:2)

"But his will is in the law of the LORD." The "will," which is here signified, is that delight of heart and that certain pleasure in the law, which does not look at what the law promises nor at what it threatens, but at this only--that "the law is holy, and just, and good." Hence it is not only a love of the law, but that loving delight in the law which no prosperity, nor adversity, nor the world, nor the prince of it can either take away or destroy; for it victoriously bursts its way through poverty, evil report, the cross, death, and hell, and in the midst of adversities shines the brightest. (Martin Luther)

"He who sits in the heavens shall laugh."
(Ps. 2:4)

"He who sits in the heavens" at once fixes our thoughts on a being infinitely exalted above man, who is of the earth, earthly. And when it is said "He shall laugh," this word is designed to convey to our minds the idea that the greatest confederacies among kings and people, and their most extensive and vigorous preparations to defeat his purposes or to injure his servants, are in his sight altogether insignificant and worthless. He looks upon their poor and puny efforts not only without uneasiness or fear, but he laughs at their folly. He treats their impotency with derision. He knows how he can crush them like a moth when he pleases, or consume them in a moment with the breath of his mouth. How profitable it is for us to be reminded of truths such as these! Ah, it is indeed "a vain thing" for the potsherds of the earth to strive with the glorious Majesty of Heaven. (David Pitcairn)

"Arise, O Yahweh; save me, O my God!
For you have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone;
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly."
(Ps. 3:7)

When God takes vengeance upon the ungodly, he will smite in such a manner as to make them feel his almightiness in every stroke. All his power shall be exercised in punishing and none in pitying. O that every obstinate sinner would think of this, and consider his unmeasurable boldness in thinking himself able to grapple with Omnipotence! (Stephen Charnock)

"I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For you alone, O Yahweh, make me dwell in safety."
(Ps. 4:8)

Due observation of Providence will both beget and secure inward tranquility in your minds amidst the vicissitudes and revolutions of things in this unstable vain world. "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for the Lord only makes me dwell in safety." He resolves that sinful fears of events shall not rob him of his inward quiet, nor torture his thoughts with anxious presages. He will commit all his concerns into that faithful fatherly hand that had hitherto wrought all things for him. And he means not to lose the comfort of one night's rest, nor bring the evil of tomorrow upon the day; but knowing in whose hand he was, wisely enjoys the sweet felicity of a resigned will. Now this tranquility of our minds is as much begotten and preserved by a due consideration of providence as by anything whatsoever. (John Flavel)

"Give ear to my words, O Yahweh, consider my meditation."
(Ps. 5:1)

It is certain that the greater part of men, as they babble out vain, languid, and inefficacious prayers, most unworthy the ear of the blessed God, so they also seem in some degree to set a just estimate upon them, neither hoping for any success from them nor indeed seeming to be at all solicitous about it, but committing them to the mind as vain words, which in truth they are. But far be it from a wise and pious man that he should so foolishly and coldly trifle in so serious an affair. His prayer has a certain tendency and scope, at which he aims with assiduous and repeated desires, and does not only pray that he may pray, but that he may obtain an answer. And as he firmly believes that it may be obtained, so he firmly and constantly and eagerly urges his petition, that he may not flatter himself with an empty hope. (Robert Leighton, D.D.)

"My voice you shall hear in the morning, O Yahweh;
In the morning I will direct it to you, and I will look up."
(Ps. 5:3)

In these words you may observe two things. First, David's posture in prayer: "I will direct my prayer unto thee." Second, his practice after prayer: "And I will look up." The prophet in these words makes use of two military words. First, he would not only pray but marshal up his prayers; he would put them in battle array (so much the Hebrew word imports.) Second, when he had done this, then he would be as a spy upon his watchtower to see whether he prevailed, whether he got the day or no (and so much the Hebrew word imports). When David had set his prayers, his petitions, in rank and file, in good array, then he was resolved he would look abroad, he would look about him to see at what door God would send in an answer of prayer. He is either a fool or a madman, he is either very weak or very wicked, who prays and prays but never looks after his prayers; who shoots many an arrow towards heaven but never minds where his arrows alight. (Thomas Brooks)

"Have mercy on me, O Yahweh, for I am weak."
(Ps. 6:2)

Behold, what rhetoric he uses to move God to cure him: "I am weak," an argument taken from his weakness, which indeed were a weak argument to move any man to show his favor, but is a strong argument to prevail with God. If a diseased person would come to a physician and only lament the heaviness of his sickness, the physician would say "God help you." Or if an oppressed person came to a lawyer and showed him the estate of his action and asked his advice, that is a golden question. To go to a merchant to crave raiment, he will either have money in hand or a surety. For a courtier's favor you must have your reward ready in your hand. But coming before God the most forcible argument that you can use is your necessity, poverty, tears, misery, unworthiness; and confessing them to him it shall be an open door to furnish you with all things that he has. The tears of our misery are forcible arrows to pierce the heart of our heavenly Father, to deliver us and pity our hard case. The beggars lay open their sores to the view of the world that the more they may move men to pity them. So let us deplore our miseries to God, that he, with the pitiful Samaritan, at the sight of our wounds may help us in due time. (Archibald Symson)

"Arise, O Yahweh, in your anger;
Lift yourself up because of the rage of my enemies;
Rise up for me to the judgment you have commanded!"
(Ps. 7:6)

In the end of the verse, David shows that he asks nothing but what is according to the appointment of God. And this is the rule which ought to be observed by us in our prayers; we should in everything conform our requests to the divine will, as John also instructs us (1 John 4:14). And, indeed, we can never pray in faith unless we attend, in the first place, to what God commands, that our minds may not rashly and at random start aside in desiring more than we are permitted to desire and pray for. David, therefore, in order to pray aright, reposes himself on the word and promise of God. And the import of his exercise is this: Lord, I am not led by ambition or foolish headstrong passion or depraved desire, inconsiderately to ask from thee whatever is pleasing to my flesh. But it is the clear light of thy word which directs me, and upon it I securely depend. (John Calvin)

"For you have made him a little lower than the angels."
(Ps. 8:5)

Perhaps it was not so much in nature as in position that man, as first formed, was inferior to the angels. At all events, we can be sure that nothing higher could be affirmed of the angels than that they were made in the image of God. If, then, they had originally superiority over man, it must have been in the degree of resemblance. The angel was made immortal, intellectual, holy, powerful, glorious, and in these properties lay their likeness to the Creator. But were not these properties given also to man? Was not man made immortal, intellectual, holy, powerful, glorious? And if the angel excelled the man, it was not, we may believe, in the possession of properties which had no counterpart in the man; both bore God's image, and both therefore had lineaments of the attributes which center in Deity. Whether or not these lineaments were more strongly marked in the angel than in the man, it were presumptuous to attempt to decide. But it is sufficient for our present purposes that the same properties must have been common to both, since both were modeled after the same divine image. And whatever originally the relative positions of the angel and the man, we cannot question that since the fall man has been fearfully inferior to the angels. The effect of transgression has been to debase all his powers, and so bring him down from his high rank in the scale of creation. But, however degraded and sunken, he still retains the capacities of his original formation, and since these capacities could have differed in nothing but degree from the capacities of the angel, it must be clear that they may be so purged and enlarged as to produce, if we may not say to restore, the equality . . . . Oh! it may be, we again say, that an erroneous estimate is formed, when we separate by an immense space the angel and the man, and bring down the human race to a low station in the scale of creation. If I search through the records of science, I may indeed find that, for the furtherance of magnificent purposes, God has made man "a little lower than the angels;" and I cannot close my eyes to the melancholy fact, that as a consequence upon apostasy there has been a weakening and a rifling of those splendid endowments which Adam might have transmitted unimpaired to his children. And yet the Bible teems with notices, that so far from being by nature higher than men, angels even now possess not an importance which belongs to our race. It is a mysterious thing, and one to which we scarcely dare allude, that there has arisen a Redeemer of fallen men, but not of fallen angels. We would build no theory on so awful and inscrutable a truth. But is it too much to say that the interference on the behalf of man and the non-interference on the behalf of angels gives ground for the persuasion that men occupy at least not a lower place than angels in the love and the solicitude of their Maker? Besides, are not angels represented as "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation?" And what is the idea conveyed by such a representation if it be not that believers, being attended and waited on by angels, are as children of God marching forwards to a splendid throne, and so elevated amongst creatures that those who have the wind in their wings, and are brilliant as a flame of fire, delight to do them honor? And, moreover, does not the repentance of a single sinner minister gladness to a whole throng of angels? And who shall say that this sending of a new wave of rapture throughout the hierarchy of heaven does not betoken such immense sympathy with men as goes far towards proving him the occupant of an immense space in the scale of existence? We may add also that angels learn of men, inasmuch as Paul declares to the Ephesians that "now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places is made known by the church, the manifold wisdom of God." And when we further remember that in one of those august visions with which the Evangelist John was favored, he beheld the representatives of the church placed immediately before the eternal throne while angels standing at a greater distance thronged the outer circle, we seem to have accumulated proof that men are not to be considered as naturally inferior to angels--that however they may have cast themselves down from eminence and sullied the luster and sapped the strength of their first estate, they are still capable of the very loftiest elevation, and require nothing but the being restored to their forfeited position and the obtaining room for the development of their powers, in order to their shining forth as the illustrious ones of the creation, the breathing, burning images of the Godhead . . . . The Redeemer is represented as submitting to be humbled--"made a little lower than the angels," for the sake or with a view to the glory that was to be the recompense of his sufferings. This is a very important representation--one that should be most attentively considered; and from it may be drawn, we think, a strong and clear argument for the divinity of Christ.

We could never see how it could be humility in any creature, whatever the dignity of his condition, to assume the office of a Mediator and to work out our reconciliation. We do not forget to how extreme degradation a Mediator must consent to be reduced, and through what suffering and ignominy he could alone achieve our redemption. But neither do we forget the unmeasured exaltation which was to be the Mediator's reward, and which, if Scripture be true, was to make him far higher than the highest of principalities and powers. And we know not where would have been the amazing humility, where the unparalleled condescension, had any mere creature consented to take the office on the prospect of such a recompense. A being who knew that he should be immeasurably elevated if he did a certain thing can hardly be commended for the greatness of his humility in doing that thing. The nobleman who should become a slave, knowing that in consequence he should be made a king, does not seem to us to afford any pattern of condescension. He must be the king already, incapable of obtaining any accession to his greatness, ere his entering the state of slavery can furnish an example of humility. And, in like manner, we can never perceive that any being but a divine Being can justly be said to have given a model of condescension in becoming our Redeemer . . . . If he could not lay aside the perfections, he could lay aside the glories of Deity; without ceasing to be God he could appear to be man. And herein we believe was the humiliation--herein that self-emptying which Scripture identifies with our Lord's having been "made a little lower than the angels." In place of manifesting himself in the form of God and thereby centering on himself the delighted and reverential regards of all unfallen orders of intelligences, he must conceal himself in the form of a servant; and no longer gathering that rich tribute of homage, which had flowed from every quarter of his unlimited empire, produced by his power, sustained by his providence, he had the same essential glory, the same real dignity, which he had ever had. These belonged necessarily to his nature, and could no more be parted with even for a time than could that nature itself. But every outward mark of majesty and of greatness might be laid aside; and Deity, in place of coming down with such dazzling manifestations of supremacy as would have compelled the world he visited to fall prostrate and adore, might so veil his splendors and so hide himself in an ignoble form that when men saw him there should be no "beauty that they should desire him." And this was what Christ did in consenting to be "made a little lower than the angels;" and in doing this he emptied himself, or "made himself of no reputation." The very being who in the form of God had given its light and magnificence to heaven appeared upon earth in the form of a servant. And not merely so--for every creature is God's servant, and therefore the form of a servant would have been assumed had he appeared as an angel or an archangel--but in the form of the lowest of these servants, being "made in the likeness of men"--of men the degraded, the apostate, the perishing. (Henry Melvill, B.D., 1854)

"I will praise You, O Yahweh, with my whole heart;
I will tell of all Your marvelous works."
(Ps. 9:1)

When we have received any special good thing from the Lord, it is well, according as we have opportunities, to tell others of it. When the woman who had lost one of her ten pieces of silver found the mission portion of her money, she gathered her neighbors and her friends together, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost." We may do the same. We may tell friends and relations that we have received such-and-such a blessing, and that we trace it directly to the hand of God. Why have we not already done this? Is there a lurking unbelief as to whether it really came from God, or are we ashamed to own it before those who are perhaps accustomed to laugh at such things? Who knows so much of the marvelous works of God as his own people. If they be silent, how can we expect the world to see what he has done? Let us not be ashamed to glorify God by telling what we know and feel he has done. Let us watch our opportunity to bring out distinctly the fact of his acting. Let us feel delighted at having an opportunity, from our own experience, of telling what must turn to his praise. And them that honor God, God will honor in turn. If we be willing to talk of his deeds, he will give us enough to talk about. (P. S. Power, in 'I Wills' of the Psalms)

"He shall judge the world in righteousness."
(Ps. 9:8)

In this judgment tears will not prevail, prayers will not be heard, promises will not be admitted, repentance will be too late; and as for riches, honorable titles, scepters, and diadems, these will profit much less. The inquisition shall be so curious and diligent that not one light thought nor one idle word (not repented of in the life past) shall be forgotten. For truth itself has said, not in jest, but in earnest, "Of every idle word which men have spoken, they shall give an account in the day of judgment." Oh, how many which now sin with great delight, yea, even with greediness (as if we served a god of wood or of stone, which sees nothing or can do nothing), will be then astonished, ashamed, and silent! Then shall the days of your mirth be ended, and you shall be overwhelmed with everlasting darkness. Instead of your pleasures you shall have everlasting torments. (Thomas Tymme)

"The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever."
(Ps. 9:18)

A heathen could say, when a bird scared by a hawk flew into his bosom, "I will not betray you unto your enemy, seeing you come to me for sanctuary." How much less will God yield up a soul unto its enemy when it takes sanctuary in his name, saying, "Lord, I am haunted with such a temptation, dogged with such a lust. Either you must pardon it or I am damned. Mortify it, or I shall be a slave to it. Take me into the bosom of your love for Christ's sake. Castle me in the arms of your everlasting strength. It is in your power to save me from, or give me up into the hands of my enemy. I have no confidence in myself or any other. Into your hands I commit my cause myself, and rely on you." This dependence of a soul undoubtedly will awaken the almighty power of God for such a one's defense. He has sworn the greatest oath that can come out of his blessed lips, even by himself, that such a one who flies for refuge to hope in him shall have strong consolation. This indeed may give the saint the greater boldness of faith to expect kind entertainment when he repairs to God for refuge, because he cannot come before he is looked for. God, having set up his name and promises as a strong tower, both calls his people into these chambers and expects they should betake themselves there. (William Gurnall)

"Why do you stand afar off, O Yahweh?
Why do you hide in times of trouble?"
(Ps. 10:1)

To the tearful eye of the sufferer the Lord seemed to stand still, as if he calmly looked on and did not sympathize with his afflicted one. Nay, more, the Lord appeared to be afar off, no longer "a very present help in trouble," but an inaccessible mountain, into which no man would be able to climb. The presence of God is the joy of his people, but any suspicion of his absence is distracting beyond measure. Let us, then, ever remember that the Lord is near us. The refiner is never far from the mouth of the furnace when his gold is in the fire, and the Son of God is always walking in the midst of the flames when his holy children are cast into them. Yet he who knows the frailty of man will little wonder that when we are sharply exercised, we find it hard to bear the apparent neglect of the Lord when he forbears to work our deliverance.

"Why do you hide in times of trouble?" It is not the trouble, but the hiding of our Father's face which cuts us to the quick. When trial and desertion come together, we are in as perilous a plight as Paul, when his ship fell into a place where two seas met (Acts 27:41). It is but little wonder if we are like the vessel which ran aground, and the fore-part stuck fast and remained unmovable while the hinder part was broken by the violence of the waves. When our sun is eclipsed, it is dark indeed. If we need an answer to the question, "Why do you hide yourself?" it is to be found in the fact that there is a "needs-be," not only for trial, but for heaviness of heart under trial (1 Pet. 1:6). But how could this be the case, if the Lord should shine upon us while he is afflicting us? If the parent comfort his child while he is correcting him, where would be the use of the chastening? A smiling face and a rod are not fit companions. God bares the back that the blow may be felt, for it is only felt affliction which can become blessed affliction. If we are carried in the arms of God over every stream, where would be the trial, and where the experience which trouble is meant to teach us? (Charles Spurgeon)

"His eyes behold, his eyelids test the sons of men."
(Ps. 11:4)

The eternal Watcher never slumbers; his eyes never know a sleep. "His eyelids try the children of men." He narrowly inspects their actions, words and thoughts. As men, when intently and narrowly inspecting some very minute object, almost close their eyelids to exclude every other object, so will the Lord look all men through and through. God sees each man as much and as perfectly as if there were no other creature in the universe. He sees us always; he never removes his eye from us. He sees us entirely, reading the recesses of the soul as readily as the glancing of the eye. Is not this a sufficient ground of confidence, and an abundant answer to the solicitations of despondency? My danger is not hid from him; he knows my extremity, and I may rest assured that he will not suffer me to perish while I rely alone on him. Wherefore, then, should I take the wings of the timid bird and flee from the dangers which beset me. (Charles Spurgeon)

"Yahweh tries the righteous."
(Ps. 11:5)

Except our sins, there is not such plenty of anything in all the world as there is of troubles which come from sin, as one heavy messenger came to Job after another. Since we are not in paradise but in the wilderness, we must look for one trouble after another. As a bear came to David after a lion, and a giant after a bear, and a king after a giant, and Philistines after a king, so, when believers have fought with poverty, they shall fight with envy; when they have fought with envy, they shall fight with infamy; when they have fought with infamy, they shall fight with sickness. They shall be like a laborer who is never out of work. (Henry Smith)

"They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak."
(Ps. 12:2)

Man is nothing but insincerity, falsehood, and hypocrisy, both in regard to himself and in regard to others. He does not wish that he should be told the truth, he shuns saying it to others; and all these moods, so inconsistent with justice and reason, have their roots in his heart. (Blaise Pascal)

"How long will my enemy be exalted over me?"
(Ps. 13:2)

'Tis a great relief to the miserable and afflicted, to be pitied by others. It is some relief when others, though they cannot help us, yet seem to be truly concerned for the sadness of our case; when by the kindness of their words and of their actions they do a little smooth the wounds they cannot heal. But 'tis an unspeakable addition to the cross when a man is brought low under the sense of God's displeasure, to have men to mock at his calamity, or to revile him, or to speak roughly. This does inflame and exasperate the wound that was big enough before, and it is a hard thing when one has a dreadful sound in his ears to have every friend to become a son of thunder. It is a small matter for people that are at ease to deal severely with such as are afflicted, but they little know how their severe speeches and their angry words pierce them to the very soul. 'Tis easy to blame others for complaining, but if such had felt but for a little while what it is to be under the fear of God's anger, they would find that they could not but complain. It cannot but make any person restless and uneasy when he apprehends that God is his enemy. It is no wonder if he makes every one that he sees, and every place that he is in, a witness of his grief. But now it is a comfort in our temptations and in our fears that we have so compassionate a friend as Christ is, to whom we may repair. "For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). (Timothy Rogers)

"I will sing to Yahweh,
Because he has dealt bountifully with me."
(Ps. 13:6)

Faith keeps the soul from sinking under heavy trials, by bringing in former experiences of the power, mercy, and faithfulness of God to the afflicted soul. Hereby was the Psalmist supported in distress. Oh, says faith, remember what God has done both for your outward and inward man. He has not only delivered your body when in trouble, but he has done great things for your soul. He has brought you out of a state of black nature, entered into a covenant relation with you, made his goodness pass before you. He has helped you to pray, and many times has heard your prayers and your tears. Has he not formerly brought you out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and put a new song in your mouth, and made you to resolve never to give way to such unbelieving thoughts and fears again? And how unbecoming is it for you now to sink in trouble? (John Willison)

"The fool has said in his heart, There is no God."
(Ps. 14:1)

He who shall deny there is a God sins with a very high hand against the light of nature. For every creature, yes, the least gnat and fly, and the meanest worm that crawls upon the ground will confute and confound that man who disputes whether there be a God or no. The name of God is written in such full, fair and shining characters upon the whole creation, that all men may run and read that there is a God. The notion of a deity is so strongly and deeply impressed upon the tables of all men's hearts, that to deny a God is to quench the very principles of common nature. Yes, it is formally deicidium, a killing of God, as much as in the creature lies. There are none of these atheists in hell, for the devils believe and tremble (James 2:19). The Greek phrissousi, that is here used, signifies properly the roaring of the sea. It implies such an extreme fear as causes not only trembling but also a roaring and screeching out (Mark 6:49; Acts 16:29). The devils believe and acknowledge four articles of our faith (Matt. 8:29): (1) They acknowledge God, (2) Christ, (3) the day of judgment, (4) that they shall be tormented then; so that he who does not believe that there is a God is more vile than a devil. To deny there is a God is a sort of atheism that is not to be found in hell. (T. Brooks)

"But he honors those who fear Yahweh."
(Ps. 15:4)

Though the godly some way or other be injurious unto us, we ought nevertheless to honor and not to despise them. So Joseph did Mary, though he supposed her to have dealt injuriously with him; and she had done so, indeed, if it had been with her as he imagined. Calvin's resolution concerning Luther was very admirable in this respect. They differed much about the presence of Christ in the sacrament. And Luther, being of a vehement spirit, wrote bitterly against those who held otherwise in that point than he himself did. This enforced some, who were more nearly concerned in the business, to prepare to answer Luther. Calvin, understanding and fearing lest they being provoked by Luther's tartness should deal with him in the like kind, wrote to Bullinger, a prime man among them, persuading and exhorting him to carry the business so as to show all due respect unto Luther, considering what worth and excellency there was in him however he had demeaned himself in that particular. And he adds, that he often used to say that although Luther should call him devil, yet he would do him that honor to acknowledge him a choice servant of God. (Christopher Cartwright)

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