Meditations In the Psalms

Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon

Part II: Psalms 16-30

The Psalms

"As for the saints who are on the earth,
They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight."
(Ps. 16:3)

Their own opinion of themselves is far other than their Beloved's opinion of them. They count themselves to be less than nothing, yet he makes much of them and sets his heart towards them. What wonders the eyes of Divine Love can see where the hands of Infinite Power have been graciously at work. It was this quicksighted affection which led Jesus to see in us a recompense for all his agony, and sustained him under all his sufferings by the joy of redeeming us from going down into the pit. (Charles Spurgeon)


"O Yahweh, you are the portion of my inheritance and my cup."
(Ps. 16:5)

With what confidence and bounding joy does Jesus turn to Jehovah, whom his soul possessed and delighted in! Content beyond measure with his portion in the Lord his God, he had not a single desire with which to hunt after others gods. His cup was full, and his heart was full too. Even in his sorest sorrows he still laid hold with both his hands upon his Father, crying, "My God, my God." He had not so much as a thought of falling down to worship the prince of this world, although tempted with an "all these will I give thee." We, too, can make our boast in the Lord. He is the meat and the drink of our souls. He is our portion, supplying all our necessities, and our cup yielding royal luxuries; our cup in this life and our inheritance in the life to come. As children of the Father who is in heaven, we inherit, by virtue of our joint heirship with Jesus, all the riches of the covenant of grace; and the portion which falls to us sets upon our table the bread of heaven and the new wine of the kingdom. Who would not be satisfied with such dainty diet? Our shallow cup of sorrow we may well drain with resignation, since the deep cup of love stands side by side with it and will never be empty. "Thou maintainest my lot." Some tenants have a covenant in their leases that they themselves shall maintain and uphold, but in our case Jehovah himself maintains our lot. Our Lord Jesus delighted in this truth, that the Father was on his side, and would maintain his right against all the wrongs of men. He knew that his elect would be reserved for him, and that almighty power would preserve them as his lot and reward forever. Let us also be glad, because the Judge of all the earth will vindicate our righteous cause. (Charles Spurgeon)


"I have set Yahweh always before me."
(Ps. 16:8)

David did not by fits and starts set the Lord before him, but he "always" set the Lord before him in his course. He had his eye upon the Lord, and so much the Hebrew word imports. I have equally set the Lord before me; that is the force of the original word. That is, I have set the Lord before me at one time as well as another, without any irregular affections or passions, etc. In every place, in every condition, in every company, in every employment, and in every enjoyment, I have set the Lord equally before me. And this raised him, and this will raise any Christian, by degrees to a very great height of holiness. (Thomas Brooks)


"By the word of your lips I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer."
(Ps. 17:4)

It is a great relief against temptations to have the word ready. The word is called "the sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17). In spiritual conflicts there is none like it. Those that ride abroad in time of danger will not be without a sword. We are in danger, and had need handle the sword of the Spirit. The more ready the Scripture is with us, the greater advantage in our conflicts and temptations. When the devil came to assault Christ, he had Scripture ready for him, whereby he overcame the tempter. The door is barred upon Satan, and he cannot find such easy entrance when the word is hid in our hearts and made use of pertinently. "I write to you, young men, because ye are strong." Where lies their strength? "And the word of God abides in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one" (1 John 2:14). Oh, it is a great advantage when we have the word not only by us, but in us, engrafted in the heart. When it is present with us, we are more able to resist the assaults of Satan. Either a man forgets the word or has lost his affection for it before he can be drawn to sin. (Thomas Manton)


"I have called upon you, for you will hear me, O God."
(Ps. 17:6)

I have called upon thee formerly, therefore, Lord, hear me now. It will be a great comfort to us if trouble, when it comes, finds the wheels of prayer a-going, for then may we come with the more boldness to the throne of grace. Tradesmen are willing to oblige those who have been long their customers. (Matthew Henry)


"Deliver my life from the wicked . . .
From men of the world who have their portion in this life."
(Ps. 17:13,14)

The large portion the wicked possess in the things of this world may tell the righteous of how little value this is in the account of God, in that these things are often given to his enemies plentifully when denied in such a measure to his children. Now this cannot be because he loves or favors his enemies most, but because these lower things, given them in what degree soever, are so mean in his account as that his chosen may learn by his distribution of them to regard them as he does--namely, as no part of their felicity [good fortune], but as common favors to all his creatures, good or bad, enemies or friends. (Daniel Wilcox)

God gives wicked men a portion here to show them what little good there is in all these things, and to show the world what little good there is in all the things that are here below in the world. Certainly if they were much good they should never have them. It is an argument that there is no great excellency in the strength of body, for an ox has more strength than you; there is no great excellency in agility of body, for a dog has it more than you; there is no great excellency in beautiful clothes, for a peacock has them more than you; there is no great excellency in gold and silver, for the Indians who know not God have them more than you. And if these things had any great worth in them, certainly God would never give them to wicked men--a certain argument. As it is an argument that there is no great evil in affliction in this world, because the saints are so much afflicted, so it is no great argument that there is any great good in this world, for the wicked enjoy so much of it.

I have read of Gregory, that being advanced to preferment, professed that there was no Scripture that went so to his heart, that struck such a trembling into his spirit, that daunted him so much as this Scripture did: "Here you have your reward, son. In your lifetime you have had your pleasure." Oh, this was a dreadful Scripture that sounded in his ears continually, as Hierom speaks of that Scripture, "Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment." Night and day Hierom thought that Scripture sounded in his ears, so Gregory this: "Here you have your reward. In this life you have had your pleasure." This was the Scripture that night and day sounded in his ears. O that it might please God to assist so far, to speak out of this Scripture to you, that I might make this Scripture ring in your ears even when you lie upon your beds, after the sermon is done, that yet you may think this Scripture rings in yours ears: "Men of this world, you have their portion in this life." (Jeremiah Burroughs)

That which wicked men possess of this world is all that they ever can hope for. Why should we grudge them filled bags or swelling titles! It is their whole portion; they now receive their good things. Have you food and clothing? That is children's fare. Envy not ungodly men who flaunt it in the gallantry of the world. They have more than you, but it is all they are likely to have. The Psalmist gives us an account of their estate. They are "the men of this world, who have their portion in this life, and whose bellies God fills with his hid treasure." Whereas you, O Christian, who possess nothing, are heir-apparent of heaven, co-heir with Jesus Christ, who is the heir of all things and has an infinite mass of riches laid up for you-- so great and infinite that all the stars of heaven are too few to account it by. You have no reason to complain of being kept short, for all that God has is yours, whether prosperity or adversity, life or death, all is yours. What God gives is for your comfort. What he denies or takes away is for your trial. It is for the increase of those graces which are far more gracious than any temporal enjoyment. If, by seeing wicked and ungodly men flow in wealth and ease, when you are forced to struggle against the inconveniences and difficulties of a poor estate, you have learned a holy contempt and disdain of the world. Believe it, God has herein given you more than if he had given you the world itself. (Ezekiel Hopkins)


"I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."
(Ps. 17:15)

In this Psalm, holy David's afflictions are neither few nor small--his innocency that is wounded by malicious slanderers; his life that is in jeopardy by deadly enemies that compass him about; his present condition that is embittered unto him by the pressing wants of a barren wilderness, while his foes live deliciously in Saul's court. And yet under the weight and combination of so many sore evils, David carries himself as one who is neither hopeless nor forsaken, yea, lays his estate in the balance against theirs, and in this low ebb of his vies with them for happiness. And at last shutting up the Psalm with a triumphant epiphonema, concludes himself to be by far the better man: "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." They, 'tis true, enjoy the face of their king, whose favor is as a cloud of latter rain promising a fruitful harvest of many blessings. "But I," says he, "shall behold the face of God in righteousness," whose loving-kindness is better than life, clothed with all its royalties. They have their bellies filled with hidden treasure, having more than a common hand of bounty opened unto them. But I have more gladness put into my heart, more than in the time that their corn and wine increased. They have their portion in hand as being men of this world. But I have mine laid up in the other. "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." In these words we have his and every believer's eternal happiness in the other life, set forth in three particulars as a most effectual antidote against present troubles and temptations that arise from the malice of wicked men against them. (William Spurstow)


"Yahweh rewarded me according to my righteousness."
(Ps. 18:20)

Viewing this Psalm as prophetical of the Messiah, these strongly-expressed claims to righteousness are readily understood, for his garments were white as snow; but considered as the language of David they have perplexed many. Yet the case is clear, and if the words be not strained beyond their original intention, no difficulty need occur. Albeit that the dispensations of divine grace are to the fullest degree sovereign and irrespective of human merit, yet in the dealings of Providence there is often discernible a rule of justice by which the injured are at length avenged, and the righteous ultimately delivered. David's early troubles arose from the wicked malice of envious Saul, who no doubt prosecuted his persecutions under cover of charges brought against the character of "the man after God's own heart." These charges David declares to have been utterly false, and asserts that he possessed a grace-given righteousness which the Lord had graciously rewarded in defiance of all his calumniators [slanderers]. Before God, the man after God's own heart was a humble sinner, but before his slanderers he could with unblushing face speak of the "cleanness of his hands" and the righteousness of his life. He knows little of the sanctifying power of divine grace who is not at the bar of human equity able to plead innocence. There is no self-righteousness in an honest man knowing that he is honest, nor even in his believing that God rewards him in providence because of his honesty, for such is often a most evident matter of fact. But it would be self-righteousness indeed if we transferred such thoughts from the region of providential government into the spiritual kingdom, for there grace reigns not only supreme but sole in the distribution of divine favors. It is not at all an opposition to the doctrine of salvation by grace, and no sort of evidence of a Pharisaic spirit, when a gracious man, having been slandered, stoutly maintains his integrity and vigorously defends his character. A godly man has a clear conscience and knows himself to be upright. Is he to deny his own consciousness and to despise the work of the Holy Ghost by hypocritically making himself out to be worse than he is? A godly man prizes his integrity very highly, or else he would not be a godly man at all. Is he to be called proud because he will not readily lose the jewel of a reputable character? A godly man can see that in divine providence uprightness and truth are in the long run sure to bring their own reward. May he not, when he sees that reward bestowed in his own case, praise the Lord for it? Yea rather, must he not show forth the faithfulness and goodness of his God? Read the cluster of expressions in this and the following verses as the song of a good conscience, after having safely outridden a storm of obloquy, persecution, and abuse, and there will be no fear of our upbraiding the writer as one who set too high a price upon his own moral character. (Charles Spurgeon)


"And I kept myself from my iniquity."
(Ps. 18:23)

It is possible to keep ourselves from such sins as David did, who professes here of himself great sincerity, that he had kept himself from that iniquity to which he was strongly tempted, and which he was prone to fall into. The method which holy David made use of gives us the first and best direction; and that is, by constant and fervent prayer to implore the divine aid and the continual assistance of his Holy Spirit that God would not only keep us from falling into them, but even turn our hearts from inclining to them, and help us to see our folly and our danger. For alas! we are not able of ourselves to help ourselves, not so much as to think a good thought, much less to resist an evil inclination or a strong temptation; but "our sufficiency is of God." "It is God (says the Psalmist here), who girds me with strength, and makes my way perfect" (v. 32). . . . Next, that we take care to avoid such things and decline such occasions as are most likely to snare us and gain upon us, lest one thing hook in another, and we be caught in the gin before we suspect the danger. (Henry Dave)


"Therefore I will give thanks to you, O Yahweh, among the heathen."
(Ps. 18:49)

Paul cites this verse (Rom. 15:9): "And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: For this reason I will confess to you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name." This is clear evidence that David's Lord is here, but David is here too, and is to be viewed as an example of a holy soul making its boast in God even in the presence of ungodly men. Who are the despisers of God that we should stop our mouths for them? We will sing to our God whether they like it or no, and force upon them the knowledge of his goodness. Too much politeness to traitors may be treason to our King. (Charles Spurgeon)


"The heavens declare the glory of God."
(Ps. 19:1)

Man has been endued by his Creator with mental powers capable of cultivation. He has employed them in the study of the wonderful works of God which the universe displays. His own habitation has provided a base which has served him to measure the heavens. He compares his own stature with the magnitude of the earth on which he dwells; the earth with the system in which it is placed; the extent of the system with the distance of the nearest fixed stars; and that distance again serves as a unit of measurement for other distances which observation points out. Still no approach is made to any limit. How extended these wonderful works of the Almighty may be, no man can presume to say. The sphere of creation appears to extend around us indefinitely on all sides; "to have its center everywhere, its circumference nowhere." These are considerations which from their extent almost bewilder our minds. But how should they raise our ideas toward their great Creator, when we consider that all these were created from nothing, by a word, by a mere volition of the Deity. "Let them be," said God, and they were. (Temple Chevallier in The Hulsean Lectures for 1827)

Should a man live underground and there converse with the works of art and mechanism, and should afterwards be brought up into the open day and see the several glories of the heaven and earth, he would immediately pronounce them the works of such a Being as we define God to be. (Aristotle)


"The law of Yahweh is perfect, converting the soul."
(Ps. 19:7)

This version conveys a sense good and true in itself, but is not in accordance with the design of the Psalmist which is, to express the divine law on the feelings and affections of good men. The Hebrew terms properly mean, "bringing back the spirit" when it is depressed by adversity, by refreshing and consoling it. Like food, it restores the faint and communicates vigor to the disconsolate. (William Walford)


"The statutes of Yahweh are right, rejoicing the heart."
(Ps. 19:8)

How odious is the profaneness of those Christians who neglect the Holy Scriptures and give themselves to reading other books! How many precious hours do many spend, and that not only on work days but holy days [as well], in foolish romances, fabulous histories, lascivious poems! And why this, but that they may be cheered and delighted, when a full joy is only to be had in these holy books. Alas! the joy you find in those writings is perhaps pernicious, such as tickles your lust and promotes contemplative wickedness. At the best it is but vain, such as only pleases the fancy and affects the wit; whereas these holy writings (to use David's expression), are "right, rejoicing the heart." Again, are there not many who set more by Plutarch's morals, Seneca's epistles, and such like books than they do by the Holy Scriptures? It is true, beloved, there are excellent truths in those moral writings of the heathen, but yet they are far short of these sacred books. Those may comfort against outward troubles, but not against inward fears. They may rejoice the mind, but cannot quiet the conscience. They may kindle some flashy sparkles of joy, but they cannot warm the soul with a lasting fire of solid consolations. And truly, brethren, if ever God gives you a spiritual ear to judge of things aright, you will then acknowledge there are no bells like to those of Aaron's, no harp like to that of David's, no trumpet like to that of Isaiah's, no pipes like to those of the apostle's. And you will confess with Petrus Damianus, that those writings of heathen orators, philosophers, poets, which formerly were so pleasing, are now dull and harsh in comparison of the comfort of the Scriptures. (Nathanael Hardy)


"Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults."
(Ps. 19:12)

Sins are many times hid from the godly man's eye though he commits them, because he is not diligent and accurate in making a search of himself, and in an impartial studying of his own ways. If any sin be hid, as Saul was behind the stuff or as Rahab had hid the spies, unless a man be very careful to search, he shall think no sin is there where it is. Hence it is that the Scripture does so often command that duty of searching and trying, of examining and communing with our hearts. Now what need were there of this duty but that it is supposed many secrets and subtle lusts lie lurking in our hearts, which we take no notice of? If then the godly would find out their hidden lusts, know the sins they not yet know, they must more impartially judge themselves. They must take time to survey and examine themselves. They must not in an overly and slight manner, but really and industriously look up and down as they would search for thieves. They must again and again look into this dark corner and that dark corner of their hearts as the woman sought for the lost coin. This self-scrutiny and self-judging, this winnowing and sifting of ourselves, is the only way to see what is chaff and what is wheat, what is mere refuse and what is enduring. (Anthony Burgess)

Sin is of a growing and advancing nature. From weakness to willfulness, from ignorance to presumption is its ordinary course and progress. The cloud that Elijah's man saw was at first no bigger than a hand's breadth, and it threatened no such thing as a general tempest. But yet, at last, it overspread the face of the whole heavens. So truly, a sin that at first arises in the soul, though as a small mist and scarcely discernible, yet if it be not scattered by the breath of prayer it will at length overspread the whole life and become most tempestuous and raging. And therefore David, as one experienced in the deceitfulness of sin, does thus digest and methodize his prayer: first against secret and lesser sins, and then against the more gross and notorious, as knowing the one proceeds and issues from the other. Lord, cleanse me from my secret faults; and this will be a most effectual means to preserve and keep thy servant from presumptuous sins. (Ezekiel Hopkins)


"Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression."
(Ps. 19:13)

Any small sin may get the upper hand of the sinner and bring him under in time; and after that, once habituated by long custom, he cannot easily shake off the yoke, neither redeem himself from under the tyranny thereof. We see the experiment of it but too often and too evidently in our common swearers and drunkards. Yet do such kind of sins, for the most part, grow on by little and little, steal into the throne insensibly, and do not exercise dominion over the enslaved soul till they have got strength by many and multiplied acts. But a presumptuous sin works a great alteration in the state of the soul at once, and by one single act advances marvelously [astonishingly], weakening the spirit and giving a mighty advantage to the flesh, even to the hazard of a complete conquest. (Robert Sanderson)

It is in the motions of a tempted soul to sin, as in the motions of a stone falling from the brow of a hill. It is easily stopped at first, but when once it is set a-going who shall stop it? And therefore it is the greatest wisdom in the world to observe the first motions of the heart--to check and stop it there. (G. H. Salter)


"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of Yahweh our God."
(Ps. 20:7)

The most dreaded war-engine of David's day was the war-chariot, armed with scythes, which mowed down men like grass. This was the boast and glory of the neighboring nations. But the saints considered the name of Jehovah [Yahweh] to be a far better defense. As the Israelites might not keep horses, it was natural for them to regard the enemy's cavalry with more than usual dread. It is, therefore, all the greater evidence of faith that the bold songster can here disdain even the horse of Egypt in comparison with the Lord of hosts. Alas, how many in our day who profess to be the Lord's are as abjectly dependent upon their fellowmen or upon an arm of flesh in some shape or other, as if they had never known the name of Jehovah at all. Jesus, be thou alone our rock and refuge, and never may we mar the simplicity of our faith. "We will remember the name of the Lord our God." "Our God" in covenant, who has chosen us and whom we have chosen; this God is our God. The name of our God is JEHOVAH [Yahweh], and this should never be forgotten; the self-existent, independent, immutable, ever-present, all-filling I AM. Let us adore that matchless name and never dishonor it by distrust or creature-confidence. Reader, you must know it before you can remember it. May the blessed Spirit reveal it graciously to your soul! (Charles Spurgeon)


"For you meet him with the blessings of goodness."
(Ps. 21:3)

A large portion of our blessing is given us before our asking or seeking. Existence, reason, intellect, a birth in a Christian land, the calling of our nation to the knowledge of Christ, and Christ himself, with many other things, are unsought bestowed on men, as was David's right to the throne on him. No one ever asked for a Saviour till God of his own motion promised "the seed of the woman." (William S. Plumer)


"Your hand will find all your enemies;
Your right hand will find those who hate you."
(Ps. 21:8)

Saul killed himself for fear of falling into the hands of his enemies, and thought death less terrible than the shame that he would have endured in seeing himself in their power. What will it be then "to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31), of an offended God, of God unchangeably determined to be avenged? "Who can stand before his indignation?" says the prophet Nahum (ch. 1:6). Who will dare look on him? Who will dare show himself? "Who may abide the day of his coming" (Mal. 3:2) without shuddering and fainting for fear? If Joseph's brethren were so terrified that they "could not answer him" when he said "I am Joseph your brother," how will it be with sinners when they shall hear the voice of the Son of God when he shall triumph over them in his wrath and say to them "I am he" whom ye despised, "I am he" whom ye have offended, "I am he" whom he have crucified? If these words, "I am he," overthrew the soldiers in the garden of Olives (John 18:6), though spoken with extreme gentleness, how will it be when his indignation bursts forth, when it falls upon his enemies like a thunderbolt and reduces them into dust? Then will they cry out in terror and say to the mountains, "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6:16). (James Nouet)


"Their fruit shall thou destroy from the earth
And their seed from among the children of men."
(Ps. 21:10)

A day is coming when all the "fruits" of sin, brought forth by sinners in their words, their writings, and their actions, shall be "destroyed." Yea, the tree itself, which had produced them, shall be rooted up and cast into the fire. The "seed" and posterity of the wicked, if they continue in the way of their forefathers, will be punished like them. Let parents consider, that upon their principles and practices may depend the salvation or destruction of multitudes after them. The case of the Jews, daily before their eyes, should make them tremble. (George Horne)


"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
(Ps. 22:1)

When Christ complains of having been forsaken by God, we are not to understand that he was forsaken by the First Person, or that there was a dissolution of the hypostatic union, or that he lost the favor and friendship of the Father. But he signifies to us that God permitted his human nature to undergo those dreadful torments and to suffer an ignominious death, from which he could, if he chose, most easily deliver him. Nor did such complaints proceed either from impatience or ignorance, as if Christ were ignorant of the cause of his suffering, or was not most willing to bear such abandonment in his suffering. Such complaints were only a declaration of his most bitter sufferings. And whereas through the whole course of his passion with such patience did our Lord suffer as not to let a single groan or sigh escape from him, so now, lest the bystanders may readily believe that he was rendered impassible by some superior power, therefore when his last moments were nigh he protests that he is true man, truly passible--forsaken by his Father in his sufferings, the bitterness and acuteness of which he then intimately felt. (Cardinal Robert Bellarmine)


"O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not hear."
(Ps. 22:2)

For our prayers to appear to be unheard is no new trial, Jesus felt it before us, and it is observable that he still held fast his believing hold on God, and cried still, "My God." On the other hand, his faith did not render him less importunate, for amid the hurry and horror of that dismal day he ceased not his cry, even as in Gethsemane he had agonized all through the gloomy night. Our Lord continued to pray even though no comfortable answer came, and in this he set us an example of obedience to his own words, "men ought always to pray, and not to faint." No daylight is too glaring, and no midnight too dark to pray in. And no delay or apparent denial, however grievous, should tempt us to forbear from importunate pleading. (Charles Spurgeon)


"All those who see me ridicule me."
(Ps. 22:7)

Imagine this dreadful scene. Behold this motley multitude of rich and poor, of Jews and Gentiles! Some stand in groups and gaze. Some recline at ease and stare. Others move about in restless gratification at the event. There is a look of satisfaction on every countenance. None are silent. The velocity of speech seems tardy. The theme is far too great for one member to utter. Every lip and head and finger is now a tongue. The rough soldiers, too, are busied in their coarse way. The work of blood is over. Refreshment has become necessary. Their usual beverage of vinegar and water is supplied to them. After they are each satisfied, they approach the cross, hold some forth to the Savior, and bid him drink as they withdraw it (Luke 23:36). They know he must be suffering an intense thirst, and they therefore aggravate it with the mockery of refreshment. Cruel Romans! And ye, O regicidal Jews! Was not death enough? Must mockery and scorn be added? On this sad day Christ made you one indeed! Dreadful unity--which constituted you the joint mockers and murderers of the Lord of glory! (John Stevenson)


"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For you are with me."
(Ps. 23:4)

This unspeakably delightful verse has been sung on many a dying bed, and has helped to make the dark valley bright numberless times. Every word in it has a wealth of meaning. "Yea, though I walk," as if the believer did not quicken his pace when he came to die, but still calmly walked with God. To walk indicates the steady advance of a soul which knows its road, knows its end, resolves to follow the path, feels quite safe, and is therefore perfectly calm and composed. The dying saint is not in a flurry, he does not run as though he were alarmed, nor stand still as though he would go no further. He is not confounded nor ashamed, and therefore keeps to his old pace. Observe that it is not walking in the valley, but through the valley. We go through the dark tunnel of death and emerge into the light of immortality. We do not die, but do but sleep to wake in glory. Death is not the house but the porch, not the goal but the passage to it. The dying article is called a valley. The storm breaks on the mountain, but the valley is the place of quietude; and thus full often the last days of the Christian are the most peaceful in his whole career. The mountain is bleak and bare, but the valley is rich with golden sheaves, and many a saint has reaped more joy and knowledge when he came to die than he ever knew while he lived. And, then, it is not "the valley of death," but "the valley of the shadow of death," for death in its substance has been removed and only the shadow of it remains. Someone has said that when there is a shadow there must be light somewhere, and so there is. Death stands by the side of the highway in which we have to travel, and the light of heaven shining upon him throws a shadow across our path. Let us then rejoice that there is a light beyond. Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man's pathway even for a moment. The shadow of a dog cannot bite. The shadow of a sword cannot kill. The shadow of death cannot destroy us. Let us not, therefore, be afraid. "I will fear no evil." He does not say there shall not be any evil, . . . but "I will fear no evil;" as if even his fears--those shadows of evil--were gone forever. The worst evils of life are those which do not exist except in our imagination. If we had no troubles but real troubles, we should not have a tenth part of our present sorrows. We feel a thousand deaths in fearing one, but the Psalmist was cured of the disease of fearing. "I will fear no evil," not even the Evil One himself. I will not dread the last enemy; I will look upon him as a conquered foe, an enemy to be destroyed, "For thou art with me." This is the joy of the Christian! "Thou art with me." (Charles Spurgeon)


"Who may ascend into the hill of Yahweh?
Or who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart."
(Ps. 24:3,4)

Shall I tell you, then, who is a moral man in the sight of God? It is he who bows to the divine law as the supreme rule of right; he who is influenced by a governing regard to God in all his actions; he who obeys other commands spontaneously, because he has obeyed the first and great command, "Give me thy heart." His conduct is not conformed to custom or expediency but to one consistent, immutable standard of duty. Take this man into a court of justice and call on him to testify, and he will not bear false witness. Give him the charge of untold treasures, he will not steal. Trust him with the dearest interests of yourself or family, you are safe, because he has a living principle of truth and integrity in his bosom. He is as worthy of confidence in the dark as at noonday, for he is a moral man--not because reputation or interest demands it, not because the eye of public observation is fixed upon him, but because the love and fear of God have predominant ascendancy in his heart. (Ebenezer Porter)


"Pardon my iniquity, for it is great."
(Ps. 25:11)

David pleads the greatness of his sin, and not the smallness of it. He enforces his prayer with this consideration, that his sins are very heinous. But how could he make this a plea for pardon? I answer: Because the greater his iniquity was, the more need he had of pardon. It is as much as if he had said, "Pardon my iniquity, for it is so great that I cannot bear the punishment; my sin is so great that I am in necessity of pardon; my case will be exceedingly miserable unless thou be pleased to pardon me." He makes use of the greatness of his sin to enforce his plea for pardon, as a man would make use of the greatness of calamity in begging for relief. When a beggar begs for bread, he will plead the greatness of his poverty and necessity. When a man in distress cries for pity, what more suitable plea can be urged than the extremity of his case? And God allows such a plea as this; for he is moved to mercy towards us by nothing in us, but the miserableness of our case. He does not pity sinners because they are worthy, but because they need his pity. . . . Herein does the glory of grace by the redemption of Christ much consist; namely, in its sufficiency for the pardon of the greatest sinners. The whole contrivance of the way of salvation is for this end--to glorify the free grace of God. God had it on his heart from all eternity to glorify this attribute, and therefore it is, that the device of saving sinners by Christ was conceived. The greatness of divine grace appears very much in this, that God by Christ saves the greatest offenders. The greater the guilt of any sinner is, the more glorious and wonderful is the grace manifested in his pardon. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Rom. 5:20). The apostle, when telling how great a sinner he had been, takes notice of the abounding of grace in his pardon, of which his great guilt was the occasion. "Who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 1:13,14). The Redeemer is glorified in that he proves sufficient to redeem those who are exceedingly sinful, in that his blood proves sufficient to wash away the greatest guilt, in that he is able to save men to the uttermost, and in that he redeems even from the greatest misery. It is the honor of Christ to save the greatest sinners when they come to him, as it is the honor of a physician that he cures the most desperate diseases or wounds. Therefore, no doubt, Christ will be willing to save the greatest sinners if they come to him; for he will not be backward to glorify himself and to commend the value and virtue of his own blood. Seeing he has so laid out himself to redeem sinners, he will not be unwilling to show that he is able to redeem to the uttermost. (Jonathan Edwards)


"Examine me, O Yahweh, and prove me;
Try my mind and my heart."
(Ps. 26:2)

The Psalmist uses three words, "examine," "prove," "try." These words are designed to include all the modes in which the reality of anything is tested; and they imply together that he wished the most thorough investigation to be made. He did not shrink from any test. (Albert Barnes)


"I have hated the assembly of evildoers,
And will not sit with the wicked."
(Ps. 26:5)

How few consider how they harden wicked men by an intimacy with them, whereas withdrawal from them might be a means to make them ashamed! While we are merry and jovial with them, we make them believe their condition is not deplorable, their danger is not great. Whereas if we shunned them, as we would a bowed wall, while they remain enemies to the Lord, this might do them good, for the startling of them and rousing of them out of their unhappy security and strong delusions wherein they are held. (Lewis Stuckley)


"I had fainted,
Unless I had believed to see the goodness of Yahweh in the land of the living."
(Ps. 27:13)

The words in italics are supplied by our translators; but, far from being necessary, they injure the sense. Throw out the words I had fainted and leave a break after the verse, and the elegant figure of the Psalmist will be preserved: "Unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living"--what! what, alas! should have become of me! (Adam Clarke)


"To you I will cry, O Yahweh my rock;
Do not be silent to me."
(Ps. 28:1)

Let us observe what the heart desires from God. It is that he would speak. "Be not silent to me." Under these circumstances, when we make our prayer, we desire that God would let us know that he hears us, and that he would appear for us, and that he would say he is our Father. And what do we desire God to say? We want him to let us know that he hears us. We want to hear him speak as distinctly to us as we feel that we have spoken to him. We want to know that we have been heard, not only by faith, but by God's having spoken to us on the very subject whereupon we have spoken to him. When we feel thus assured that God has heard us, we can with the deepest confidence leave the whole matter about which we have been praying in his hands. Perhaps an answer cannot come for a long time. Perhaps things, meanwhile, seem working in a contrary way. It may be that there is no direct appearance at all of God upon the scene. Still faith will hold up and be strong, and there will be comfort in the heart from the felt consciousness that God has heard our cry about the matter, and that he has told us so. We shall say to ourselves, "God knows all about it. God has in point of fact told me so. Therefore I am in peace." And let it be enough for us that God tells us this when he will perhaps tell us no more. Let us not want to try and induce him to speak much when it is his will to speak but little. The best answer we can have at certain times is simply the statement that "he hears." By this answer to our prayer he at once encourages and exercises our faith. "It is said," said Rutherford, speaking of the Saviour's delay in responding to the request of the Syrophenician woman, "he answered not a word, but it is not said, he heard not a word. These two differ much. Christ often hears when he does not answer--his not answering is an answer, and speaks thus--'pray on, go on and cry, for the Lord holds his door fast bolted not to keep you out, but that you may knock, and knock, and it shall be opened.' " (Philip Bennett Power)


"Give them according to their deeds."
(Ps. 28:4)

Here, again, occurs the difficult question about praying for vengeance, which, however, I shall dispatch in a few words. In the first place, then, it is unquestionable that if the flesh move us to seek revenge, the desire is wicked in the sight of God. He not only forbids us to imprecate evil upon our enemies in revenge for private injuries, but it cannot be otherwise than that all those desires which spring from hatred must be disordered. David's example, therefore, must not be alleged by those who are driven by their own intemperate passion to seek vengeance. The holy prophet is not inflamed here by his own private sorrow to devote his enemies to destruction; but laying aside the desire of the flesh, he gives judgment concerning the matter itself. Before a man can, therefore, denounce vengeance against the wicked, he must first shake himself free from all improper feelings in his own mind. In the second place, prudence must be exercised that the heinousness of the evils which offend us drive us not to intemperate zeal, which happened even to Christ's disciples when they desired that fire might be brought from heaven to consume those who refused to entertain their Master (Luke 9:54). They pretended, it is true, to act according to the example of Elijah; but Christ severely rebuked them, and told them that they knew not by what spirit they were actuated. In particular, we must observe this general rule--that we cordially desire and labor for the welfare of the whole human race. Thus it will come to pass that we shall not only give way to the exercise of God's mercy, but shall also wish the conversion of those who seem obstinately to rush upon their own destruction. In short, David, being free from every evil passion, and likewise endued with the spirit of discretion and judgment, pleads here not so much his own cause as the cause of God. And by this prayer he further reminds both himself and the faithful that although the wicked may give themselves loose reins in the commission of every species of vice with impunity for a time, they must at length stand before the judgment-seat of God. (John Calvin)


"The voice of Yahweh is powerful."
(Ps. 29:4)

I would render unto God the glory due to his name for the admirable change that he has wrought in my heart. There was nothing to be found in me but an impious hardness and inveterate disorder. From this helpless state he changed me into a new man and made resplendent the glory of his name and the power of his grace. He alone can work such prodigies. Unbelievers who refuse to acknowledge the hand of God in creation must surely in my case admit that "this is the finger of God." Yes, great God, chaos knows not how to resist you, it hears your voice obediently; but the obdurate heart repels you, and your mighty voice too often calls to it in vain. You are not as great and wonderful in creating worlds out of nothing as you are when you command a rebel heart to arise from its abyss of sin and to run in the ways of your commandments. To disperse a chaos of crime and ignorance by the majesty of your word, to shed light on the most dire darkness, and by the Holy Ghost to establish harmonious order where all was confusion, manifests in far greater measure your omnipotence than the calling forth of heavenly laws and celestial suns from the first chaos. (J. B. Massillon)


"Now in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved."
(Ps. 30:6)

Prosperity is more pleasant than profitable to us. Though in show it looks like a fair summer, yet it is indeed a wasting winter, and spends all the fruit we have reaped in the harvest of sanctified affliction. We are never in greater danger than in the sunshine of prosperity. To be always indulged of God and never to taste of trouble, is rather a token of God's neglect than of his tender love. (William Struther)

Our entering upon a special service for God, or receiving a special favor from God, are two solemn seasons which Satan makes use of for temptation. . . . We are apt to get proud, careless, and confident after or upon such employments and favors, even as men are apt to sleep or surfeit upon a full meal, or to forget themselves when they are advanced to honor. Job's great peace and plenty made him, as he confesses, so confident that he concluded he should "die in his nest" (29:18). David, enjoying the favor of God in a more than ordinary measure (though he was more acquainted with vicissitudes and changes than most of men), grows secure in his apprehension that he "should never be moved." But he acknowledges his mistake and leaves it upon record as an experience necessary for others to take warning by, that when he became warm under the beams of God's countenance, then he was apt to fall into security. And this it seems was usual with him--when he was most secure he was nearest some trouble or disquiet. . . . Enjoyments beget confidence; confidence brings forth carelessness; carelessness makes God withdraw and gives opportunity to Satan to work unseen. And thus, just as armies which have grown secure after victory are often surprised, so too are we when after our spiritual advancements we are thrown down. (Richard Gilpin)

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