Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,
says Yahweh of Hosts. Zechariah 4:6
Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of Glory may come in! Who is this King of Glory?
Yahweh of Hosts: He is the King of Glory. Psalm 24:9-10
Observe here what is a true and perfect confession of the divine goodness. Whenever God so blesses his own people that his goodness is perceived by carnal sense, in bestowing riches, honors, peace, health and things of that kind, then it is easy to acknowledge that God is good; and that acknowledgment can be made by the most carnal men. The case stands otherwise when he visits offenders with the rod of correction and scourges them with the grace of chastisement. Then the flesh hardly bears to confess what by its own sense it does not perceive. It fails to discern the goodness of God unto salvation in the severity of the rod and the scourging, and therefore refuses to acknowledge that goodness in strokes and sufferings. The prophet, however, throughout this Psalm celebrates in many instances the way wherein the sinning people were arrested and smitten. And when he proposed that this Psalm should be sung in the church of God, Israel was under the cross and afflictions. Yet he demands that Israel should acknowledge that the Lord is good, that his mercy endures forever, even in the act of smiting the offender. That therefore alone is a true and full confession of the divine goodness which is made not only in prosperity but also in adversity. (Musculus)
"Oh, visit me." This is a beautiful figure. The prayer is not, "Give me a more intense desire, increased energy of action that I may please thee, that I may serve thee, that I may go step by step up to thee, every step bringing with it a fresh sense of meritorious claim upon thee." No such thing. It is "Visit me;" "descend down upon me" daily from thine own lofty throne, for the fulfillment of thine own purposes. (George Fisk)
To provoke is an expression setting forth a peculiar and more than ordinary degree of misbehavior and seems to import an insolent daring resolution to offend. A resolution not content with one single stroke of disobedience, but such a one as multiplies and repeats the action till the offense greatens and rises into an affront. And as it relates to God, so I conceive it as aimed at him in a threefold respect. First, of his power. Secondly, of his goodness. Thirdly, of his patience.
First. It rises up against the power and prerogative of God. It is, as it were, an assault upon God sitting upon his throne, a snatching at his scepter, and a defiance of his very royalty and supremacy. He who provokes God does in a manner dare him to strike and to revenge the injury and invasion upon his honor. He considers not the weight of God's almighty arm and the edge of his sword, the swiftness and poison of his arrows, but puffs at all and looks the terrors of sin-revenging justice in the face. The Israelites could not sin against God, after those miracles in Egypt, without a signal provocation of that power that they had so late and so convincing an experience of. A power that could have crushed an Israelite as easily as an Egyptian and given as terrible an instance of its consuming force upon false friends as upon professed enemies, in the sight of God, perhaps, the less sort of offenders of the two.
Second. Provoking God imports an abuse of his goodness. God, as he is clothed with power, is the proper object of our fear; but as he displays his goodness, of our love. By one he would command; by the other he would win and (as it were) court our obedience. And an affront to his goodness, his tenderness, and his mercy exceeds an affront of his power as much as a wound at the heart transcends a blow on the hand. For when God shall show miracles of mercy--step out of the common road of providence-- commanding the host of heaven, the globe of the earth, and the whole system of nature out of its course to serve a design of goodness upon a people (as he did upon the Israelites), was not a provocation after such obliging passages infinitely base and insufferable, and a degree of ingratitude higher than the heavens struck at and deeper than the sea that they passed through?
Third. Provoking God imports an affront upon his longsuffering and his patience. The movings of nature in the breasts of mankind tell us how keenly, how regretfully, every man resents the abuse of his love; how hardly any prince, but one, can put up an offense against his acts of mercy; and how much more of an affront it is to despise majesty ruling by the golden scepter of pardon than by the iron rod of penal law. But now patience is a further and a higher advance of mercy. It is mercy drawn out at length, mercy wrestling with baseness and striving, if possible, even to weary and outdo ingratitude. And therefore a sin against this is the highest pitch, the utmost improvement, and, as I may so speak, the ne plus ultra of provocation. For when patience shall come to be tired and even out of breath with pardoning, let all the invention of mankind find something further either upon which an offender may cast his hope or against which he can commit a sin. But it was God's patience the ungrateful Israelite sinned against. For they even plied and pursued him with sin upon sin, one offense following and thronging upon the neck of another, the last account still rising highest and swelling bigger, till the treasures of grace and pardon were so far drained and exhausted that they provoked God to swear, and what is more, to swear in his wrath, and with a full purpose of revenge that they should never enter into his rest. (Robert South)
If Christians could be brought to entertain a just sense of the value and power of intercessory prayer, surely it would abound. It is a terrible reproof against the lying prophets of Ezekiel's time: "Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord" (Ezek. 13:5). Compare Ex. 32:9-14. (William S. Plumer)
Murmuring has in it much unbelief and distrust of God. They could not believe that the wilderness was the way to Canaan, that God would provide and furnish a table for them there and relieve them in all their straits. So it is with us in trouble. We quarrel with God's providence because we do not believe his promises. We do not believe that this [trouble] can be consistent with love or can work for good in the end. (John Willison)
All Israel saw the bold lewdness of Zimri, but their hearts and eyes were so full of grief that they had not room enough for indignation. Phinehas looked on with the rest, but with other affections. When he saw this defiance bidden to God and this insultation upon the sorrow of his people (that while they were wringing their hands a proud miscreant dared outface their humiliation with his wicked dalliance), his heart boils with a desire of a holy revenge. And now that hand, which was used to a censer and sacrificing knife, takes up his javelin and with one stroke joins these two bodies in their death that were joined in their sin, and in the very flagrance of their lust makes a new way for their souls to their own place. O noble and heroical courage of Phinehas! which, as it was rewarded of God, so is worthy to be admired of men. He does not stand casting of scruples: "Who am I to do this? The son of the high priest. My place is all for peace and mercy. It is for me to sacrifice and pray for the sin of the people, not to sacrifice any of the people for their sin. My duty calls me to appease the anger of God what I may, not to revenge the sins of men; to pray for their conversion, not to work the confusion of any sinner. And who are these? Is not the one a great prince in Israel, the other a princess of Midian? Can the death of two so famous personages go unrevenged? Or, if it be safe and fit, why does my uncle Moses rather shed his own tears than their blood? I will mourn with the rest. Let them revenge whom it concerns." But the zeal of God has barred out all weak deliberations, and he holds it now both his duty and his glory to be an executioner of so shameless a pair of offenders. . . .
Now the sin is punished, the plague ceases. The revenge of God sets out ever after the sin; but if the revenge of men (which commonly comes later) can overtake it, God gives over the chase. How oft has the infliction of a less punishment avoided a greater! There are none so good friends to the state as courageous and impartial ministers of justice. These are the reconcilers of God and the people more than the prayers of them who sit still and do nothing. (Joseph Hall)
Believer, can you read this and feel no shame? Do your bold efforts testify your zeal? Sinners blaspheme God's name. Do you rebuke? His Sabbaths are profaned. Do you protest? False principles are current? Do you expose the counterfeits? Vice stalks in virtue's garb. Do you tear down the mask? Satan enthralls the world. Do you resist? Nay, rather are you not dozing unconcerned? Whether Christ's cause succeeds or be cast down, you little care. If righteous zeal girded your loins, braced your nerves, moved the rudder of your heart and swelled your sails of action, would God be so unknown and blasphemy so daring?
Mark next, the zeal of Phinehas is sound-minded. It is not as a courser without rein, a torrent unembanked, a hurricane let loose. Its steps are set in order's path. It executes God's own will in God's own way. The mandate says, let the offenders die. He aims a deathblow, then, with obedient hand. The zeal which heaven kindles is always a submissive grace. (Henry Law in "Christ is All")
Martin Luther said once of the Lord's Prayer that "it was the greatest martyr on earth because it was used so frequently without thought and feeling, without reverence and faith." This quaint remark, as true as it is sad, applies perhaps with still greater force to the word "Amen."
Familiar to us from our infancy is the sound of this word, which has found a home wherever the natives have learned to adore Israel's God and Savior. It has been adopted, and without translation retained, in all languages in which the gospel of Jesus the Son of David is preached. The literal signification, "So be it," is known to all. Yet few consider the deep meaning, the great solemnity, and the abundant consolation treasured up in this word, which has formed for centuries the conclusion of the prayers and praises of God's people. A word which is frequently used without due thoughtfulness, and unaccompanied with the feeling which it is intended to call forth, loses its power from this very familiarity, and though constantly on our lips lies bedridden in the dormitory of our soul. But it is a great word this word "Amen," and Luther has truly said, "As your Amen is, so has been your prayer."
It is a word of venerable history in Israel and in the church. The word dates as far back as the law of Moses. When a solemn oath was pronounced by the priest, the response of the person who was adjured consisted simply of the word "Amen." In like manner the people responded "Amen" when, from the heights of Ebal and Gerizim, the blessings and the curses of the divine law were pronounced. Again, at the great festival which David made when the ark of God was brought from Obed-Edom, the Psalm of praise which Asaph and his brethren sang concluded with the words, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel forever and ever. And all the people said, Amen" (1 Chr. 16:36). Thus we find in the Psalms not merely that David concludes his Psalm of praise with the word Amen, but he says, "And let all the people say, Amen." (Adolph Saphir, in "The Lord's Prayer," 1870)
"He brought down their heart." O believer, God may see you have many and strong lusts to be subdued, and that you need many and sore afflictions to bring them down. Your pride and obstinacy of heart may be strong, your distempers deeply rooted, and therefore the physic [medicine] must be proportioned to them. (John Willison)
"His word" who "healed them" was his essential Word, even the second person in the Godhead, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word who was made flesh and dwelt among us. Of this divine Word it was foretold in the Old Testament that he should arise with the glory of the morning sun, bringing healing in his wings for all our maladies. And accordingly the New Testament relates that Jesus went about all Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing ALL manner of sickness and ALL manner of disease among the people. He healed the bodily disease miraculously to prove that he was the Almighty Physician of the soul. And it is remarkable that he never rejected any person who applied to him for an outward cure, to demonstrate to us that he would never cast out any person who should apply to him for a spiritual cure. (William Romaine)
His attributes are much honored in calling upon him, especially in times of dangers and distresses. 1. When you call upon God at sea, you honor his sovereignty. God says to these proud waves, "So far and no farther!" So, "the storm and hail," they fulfill his will, and when he pleases he commands a calm. 2. Prayer in time of danger honors God's wisdom, when we see no way open for mercies and deliverance to come in at, then to look up to him, believing. "He knows how to deliver out of temptation." O how much of the wisdom of God appears in preservation in time of danger! And is it not a good token of mercy coming in when persons pray, though all visible ways are blocked up? This honors God's wisdom, which we acknowledge is never at a loss as to ways of bringing in mercy and deliverance. 3. The faithfulness of God is much honored in times of danger, when he is called upon. The faithfulness of a friend does most appear in a strait. Now if you can rely upon his promise, God's faithfulness is the best line men sinking at sea can lay hold on. So I might add, calling upon God honors all his other attributes. (John Ryther in "The Seaman's Preacher")
God hears oftener from an afflicted people than he either does or can from a people that are at ease, quiet, and out of danger. The prodigal son was very high and resolved never to return till brought low by pinching and nipping afflictions; then his father had some tidings of him. Hagar was proud in Abraham's house, but humbled in the wilderness. Jonah was asleep in the ship, but awake and at prayer in the whale's belly. Manasses lived in Jerusalem like a libertine, but when bound in chains at Babel his heart was turned to the Lord. Corporal diseases forced many under the gospel to come to Christ, whereas others that enjoyed bodily health would not acknowledge him. One would think that the Lord would abhor to hear those prayers that are made only out of the fear of danger and not out of the love, reality, and sincerity of the heart. If there had not been so many miseries of blindness, lameness, palsies, fevers, etc., in the days of Christ, there would not have been that flocking after him. (Daniel Pell)
The word here rendered "righteous" is not what the Scripture commonly uses to signify righteous or justified persons; but it is another word, and conveys another idea. It signifies to direct, to set right; and the "righteous" here mentioned are they who are directed in the right way, and walk, as Enoch did, with God in his way and not in the way of the world. And these "shall see" the goodness and mercy of God's dealings with the fallen race of man. They shall have eyes to see the ways of his providence. The same grace which set them right will manifest to them the reasonableness of the plan of redemption. They shall see and admire, and be thankful for the wonders of his redeeming love, which are recorded in this divine hymn. (William Romaine)
[He] will carefully note and remark what is here said of the fall and recovery of mankind, of our state by nature and by grace. True wisdom consists in observing these two things--what we are in ourselves, and what we are in Christ; in a deep sense of our misery by sin, stirring us up to seek our remedy in the Redeemer. This is wisdom. And whosoever is thus wise unto salvation "shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord;" shall be able to apply what he understands of it to his own private use and benefit. The verb in the original rendered "shall understand," is in the conjugation called Hithpael, which signifies to act upon itself. Whosoever observes those things properly finds his own interest in them. He makes the understanding of them useful to himself. He does not study them as a science or theory, but as interesting points in which he is nearly concerned, and which he therefore tries to bring home for his own private advantage. When he hears of the mercies of the Lord Jesus recorded in this Psalm, he desires to partake of them. When he hears of the great deliverances vouchsafed to sinful ruined man, he studies to have his own share in them. What is said of these persons who wandered out of the way in the wilderness, and fell into the bondage of sin, and were afflicted with its diseases, and troubled like a stormy sea with its continual tempests--all this he knows was his own case, and therefore what follows of their flourishing state after Christ delivered them may be his also, if he cry unto the Lord as they did for help. And he never ceases praying and seeking until the blessed Jesus brings him to the haven of the church, where he would be. And if he find the church diminished and brought low, he is not discouraged; but relies on the promises of his God, who will set him on high out of the reach of public calamity, when he comes to destroy an infidel church. He observes what is said on this Psalm concerning those things; and he knows it to be true by his own experience. And therefore the lovingkindness of the Lord here recorded is to him a subject of exceeding great joy, because he has tasted of it. Whoso is wise will bring his knowledge of this Psalm home to his own heart, and he shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord. He shall be able to apply what he understands to his own benefit, and shall therefore be continually praising the Lord for his goodness and declaring the wonders which he has done for the salvation of men. (William Romaine)
Note the different application of the words as they are used in Psalms 57 and 60. In the former they were prophetic of prosperity yet to come, and consolatory in the expectation of approaching troubles. In the latter they are eucharistic for mercies already received, and descriptive of the glorious things which God has prepared for his Son and for Israel his people. The Psalm, thus interpreted, announces that Messiah's travail is ended when the troubles of Israel are brought to a close. David's Son and David's Lord has taken to himself his great power and begun to reign, and sitting upon the throne of glory he sings this hymn, verses 1 to 6. But with the glory of the Redeemer is associated also the restoration to favor and happiness of Israel, his long cast off but not forgotten people. The setting up of King Messiah upon the holy hill of Zion is graphically described, and all Jehovah's promises are realized in the amplest measure. Messiah is described as a conqueror when the battle is won; and kings and nations, prostrate at his feet, await his sentence and judgment upon them. "I will rejoice. I will divide and portion out Shechem and the valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine, and I give it to the children of Gad and Reuben. And Manasseh also is mine. Ephraim is my strength in war, my horn of defense. Judah is my king." Thus in gracious and flattering words the victor addresses his confederates and subjects. In a different strain, a strain of sarcasm and contempt, he announces his pleasure respecting his vanquished enemies. "Moab I will use as a vessel to wash my feet in. Over proud Edom I will cast my shoe, as an angry master to a slave ministering to him. Philistia, follow my chariot and shout forth my triumph."
But what is to be understood of the next passage, verse 10, "Who will bring me into Edom?" Edom is already treated as a vassal state, verse 9. When all the nations become the kingdoms of Messiah, what is this Edom that is to be amongst his latest triumphs? One passage only seems to bear upon it, Isaiah 63:1, and from this we learn that it is from Edom as the last scene of his vengeance [that] the conquering Messiah will come forth "clothed with a vesture dipped in blood." This Edom is therefore named with anxiety, because after its overthrow Messiah will shine out "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:13-16). (R. H. Ryland)
This somewhat difficult expression may be thus explained. Moab and Edom were to be reduced to a state of lowest vassalage to the people of God. The one was to be like a pot or tub fit only for washing the feet in, while the other was to be like the domestic slave standing by to receive the sandals thrown to him by the person about to perform his ablutions, that he might first put them by in a safe place and then come and wash his master's feet. ("Rays from the East")
"Mysterious" was the one word written opposite this Psalm in the pocket Bible of a late devout and popular writer. It represents the utter perplexity with which it is very generally regarded. (Joseph Hammond)
In this Psalm David is supposed to refer to Doeg the Edomite, or to Ahithophel. It is the most imprecatory of the Psalms, and may well be termed the Iscariot Psalm. What David here refers to his mortal enemy, finds its accomplishment in the betrayer of the Son of David. It is from the 8th verse that Peter infers the necessity of filling up the vacancy occasioned by the death of Judas: it was, says he, predicted that another should take his office. (Paton J. Gloag)
We may consider Judas, at the same time, as the virtual head of the Jewish nation in their daring attempt to dethrone the Son of God. The doom pronounced and the reasons for it apply to the Jews as a nation, as well as to the leader of the band who took Jesus. (Andrew A. Bonar)
TO THE CHIEF MUSICIAN. Intended therefore to be sung, and sung in the temple service! Yet is it by no means easy to imagine the whole nation singing such dreadful imprecations. We ourselves, at any rate, under the gospel dispensation, find it very difficult to infuse into the Psalm a gospel sense, or a sense at all compatible with the Christian spirit; and therefore one would think the Jews must have found it hard to chant such strong language without feeling the spirit of revenge excited; and the arousal of that spirit could never have been the object of divine worship in any period of time--under law or under gospel. At the very outset this title shows that the Psalm has a meaning with which it is fitting for men of God to have fellowship before the throne of the Most High: but what is that meaning? This is a question of no small difficulty, and only a very childlike spirit will ever be able to answer it.
A PSALM OF DAVID. Not therefore the ravings of a malicious misanthrope, or the execrations of a hot, revengeful spirit. David would not smite the man who sought his blood, he frequently forgave those who treated him shamefully; and therefore these words cannot be read in a bitter, revengeful sense, for that would be foreign to the character of the son of Jesse. The imprecatory sentences before us were penned by one who with all his courage in battle was a man of music and of tender heart, and they were meant to be addressed to God in the form of a Psalm, and therefore they cannot possibly have been meant to be mere angry cursing.
Unless it can be proved that the religion of the old dispensation was altogether hard, morose, and Draconian, and that David was of a malicious, vindictive spirit, it cannot be conceived that this Psalm contains what one author has ventured to call "a pitiless hate, a refined and insatiable malignity." To such a suggestion we cannot give place, no, not for an hour. But what else can we make of such strong language? Truly this is one of the hard places of Scripture, a passage which the soul trembles to read. Yet as it is a Psalm unto God and given by inspiration, it is not ours to sit in judgment upon it, but to bow our ear to what God the Lord would speak to us therein.
This Psalm refers to Judas, for so Peter quoted it; but to ascribe its bitter denunciations to our Lord in the hour of his sufferings is more than we dare to do. These are not consistent with the silent Lamb of God, who opened not his mouth when led to the slaughter. (Charles Spurgeon)
The Imprecations. It is possible, as Tholuck thinks, that in some of the utterances in what are called the vindictive Psalms, especially the imprecations in Psalm 109, unholy personal zeal may have been mingled with holy zeal, as was the case seemingly with the two disciples James and John, when the Lord chided their desire for vengeance (Luke 9:54-56). But, in reality, the feeling expressed in these Psalms may well be considered as virtuous anger, such as Bishop Butler explains and justifies in his sermons on "Resentment and the Forgiveness of Injuries," and such as Paul teaches in Ephesians 4:26, "Be ye angry, and sin not." Anger against sin and a desire that evildoers may be punished are not opposed to the spirit of the gospel, or to that love of enemies which our Lord both enjoined and exemplified. If the emotion or its utterance were essentially sinful, how could Paul wish the enemy of Christ and the perverter of the gospel to be accursed (άνάθεμα, 1 Cor. 16:22; Gal. 1:8); and especially, how could the spirit of the martyred saints in heaven call on God for vengeance (Rev. 6:10), and join to celebrate its final execution (Rev. 19:1-6). Yea, resentment against the wicked is so far from being necessarily sinful that we find it manifested by the Holy and Just One himself, when in the days of his flesh he looked around in his hearers "with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts" (Mark 3:5); and when in "the great day of his wrath" (Rev. 6:17), he shall say to "all workers of iniquity" (Luke 13:27), "Depart from me, ye cursed" (Matt. 25:41). (Benjamin Davies)
Wicked men must needs say wicked things, and these we have reason to dread. But in addition they utter false and deceitful things, and these are worst of all. There is no knowing what may come out of mouths which are at once lewd and lying. The misery caused to a good man by slanderous reports no heart can imagine but that which is wounded by them. In all Satan's armory there are no worse weapons than deceitful tongues. To have a reputation, over which we have watched with daily care, suddenly bespattered with the foulest aspersions, is painful beyond description. But when wicked and deceitful men get their mouths fully opened, we can hardly expect to escape any more than others. Lying tongues cannot lie still. Bad tongues are not content to vilify bad men but choose the most gracious of saints to be the objects of their attacks. Here is reason enough for prayer. The heart sinks when assailed with slander, for we know not what may be said next, what friend bay be alienated, what evil may be threatened, or what misery may be caused to us and others. (Charles Spurgeon)
The first thing that the Psalmist asks is that his foe might be subjected to the evil of having a man placed over him like himself--a man with no regard for justice, truth, and right; a man who would respect character and propriety no more than he had himself done. It is, in fact, a prayer that he might be punished in the line of his offenses. It cannot be wrong that a man should be treated as he treats others; and it cannot be in itself wrong to desire that a man should be treated according to his character and deserts, for this is the object of all law, and this is what all magistrates and legislators are endeavoring to secure. (Albert Barnes)
What worse punishment could a man have? The proud man cannot endure the proud, nor the oppressor brook the rule of another like himself. The righteous in their patience find the rule of the wicked a sore bondage; but those who are full of resentful passions and haughty aspirations are slaves indeed when men of their own class have the whip hand of them. For Herod to be ruled by another Herod would be wretchedness enough, and yet what retribution could be more just? What unrighteous man can complain if he finds himself governed by one of like character? (Charles Spurgeon)
He judged and condemned others in the vilest manner, he suffered not the innocent to escape. And it would be a great shame if in his time of trial, being really guilty, he should be allowed to go free. Who would wish Judge Jeffries to be acquitted if he were tried for perverting justice? Who would desire Nero or Caligula to be cleared if set at the bar for cruelty? When Shylock goes into court, who wishes him to win his suit? (Charles Spurgeon)
Who would desire a persecuting tyrant to live long? As well might we wish length of days to a mad dog. If he will do nothing but mischief, the shortening of his life will be the lengthening of the world's tranquility. (Charles Spurgeon)
Though in matters of a civil or judicial character, we have it upon the highest authority that the children are not to be made accountable for the fathers, nor the fathers for the children, but every transgressor is to bear the penalty of his own sin. Yet, in a moral, and in a social and spiritual sense, it is impossible that the fathers should eat sour grapes and yet that the children's teeth should not be set on edge. The offspring of the profligate and the prodigal may, and often do, avoid the specific vices of the parent; but rarely, if ever, do they escape the evil consequences of those vices. And this reaction cannot be prevented until it shall please God first to unmake and then to remodel his whole intelligent creation. (T. Dale)
This would inevitably be the case when the man died, but the Psalmist uses the words in an emphatic sense--he would have his widow "a widow indeed," and his children so friendless as to be orphaned in the bitterest sense. He sees the result of the bad man's decease and includes it in the punishment. The tyrant's sword makes many children fatherless, and who can lament when his barbarities come home to his own family, and they too weep and lament. Pity is due to all orphans and widows as such, but a father's atrocious actions may dry up the springs of pity. Who mourns that Pharaoh's children lost their father or that Sennacherib's wife became a widow? As Agag's sword had made women childless, none wept when Samuel's weapon made his mother childless among women. If Herod had been slain when he had just murdered the innocents at Bethlehem, no man would have lamented it even though Herod's wife would have become a widow. These awful maledictions are not for common men to use, but for judges, such as David was, to pronounce over the enemies of God and man. (Charles Spurgeon)
Both from existence and from memory let them pass away till none shall know that such a vile brood existed. Who wishes to see the family of Domitian or Julian continued upon earth? Who would mourn if the race of Tom Paine or of Voltaire should come to an utter end? It would be undesirable that the sons of the utterly villainous and bloodthirsty should rise to honor, and if they did they would only revive the memory of their father's sins. (Charles Spurgeon)
Lafayette, the friend and ally of Washington, was in his youth confined in a French dungeon. In the door of his cell there was cut a small hole, just big enough for a man's eye. At that hole a sentinel was placed, whose duty it was to watch, moment by moment, till he was relieved by a change of guard. All Lafayette saw was the winking eye, but the eye was always there. Look when he would, it met his gaze. In his dreams he was conscious it was staring at him. "Oh," he says, "it was horrible. There was no escape. When he lay down and when he rose up, when he ate and when he read, that eye searched him." (New Cyclopaedia of Illustrative Anecdote," 1875)
Although the Jews of later times have gone about to wrest it to another meaning, yet this Psalm is so approved and undoubted a prophecy of Christ that the Pharisees dared not deny it, when being questioned by our Saviour (Matt. 22:42,43) how it should be, seeing Christ is the son of David, that David notwithstanding should call him Lord, saying, "The Lord said unto my Lord," they could not answer him a word, whereas the answer had been very easy and ready if they could have denied this Psalm to be meant of Christ. But they knew it could not be otherwise understood, and it was commonly taken among them to be a prophecy of their Messiah, according to the very evidence of the text itself, which cannot be fitted to any other but only to Christ our Saviour, the Son of God. For whereas some of them since then have construed all these things as spoken in the name of the people of Judah concerning David their king, the text itself refuses that construction, when in those words, "Sit thou at my right hand," it mentions an honor done to him of whom it speaks greater than can be fitted to the angels, and therefore much less to be applied unto David. Again, that which is spoken in the fourth verse of the priesthood cannot be understood of David, who was indeed a king but never had anything spoken as touching the priesthood to appertain unto him, and of whom it cannot be conceived how it should be said, "Thou art a priest forever," etc. Yea, there is nothing here spoken whereof we may see in David any more but some little shadow in comparison of that which has come to pass in Jesus Christ. (Robert Abbot)
The subjects of the Priest-King are willing soldiers. In accordance with the warlike tone of the whole Psalm, our text describes the subjects as an army. That military metaphor comes out more closely when we attach the true meaning of the words "in the day of thy power." The word rendered, and rightly rendered, "power," has the same ambiguity which that word has in the English of the date of our translation, and for a century later, as you may find in Shakespeare and Milton, who both used it in the sense of "army." Singularly enough we do not employ "powers" in that meaning, but we do another word which means the same thing--and talk of "forces," meaning thereby "troops." . . . "The day of thy power" is not a mere synonym for "for the time of thy might," but means specifically "the day of thine army," that is, "the day when thou dost muster thy forces and set them in array for the war." The King is going forth to conquest. But he goes not alone. Behind him come his faithful followers, all pressing on with willing hearts and high courage. (Alexander McLaren)
What doctrine does the Scripture afford more comfortable to a drooping soul than this, that God has sworn his Son a priest forever, to sanctify our persons, and purge our sins, and tender all our petitions to his Father? What sin is so heinous for which such a priest cannot satisfy by the oblation of himself? what cause so desperate in which such an advocate, if he will plead, may not prevail? We may be sure God will not be hard to be intreated of us, who himself has appointed us such an intercessor to whom he can deny nothing; and to that end has appointed him to sit at his right hand to make intercession for us. (Abraham Wright)
The exhortation is immediately succeeded by the expression of a firm resolve; the Psalmist having commenced by urging the duty of gratitude upon others--"Praise ye the Lord," forthwith announces his determination to act upon his own advice--"I will praise the Lord with my whole heart." Such a conjunction of ideas is fraught with several most important lessons. (1) It teaches us, very emphatically, that our preaching, if it is to carry weight and conviction, must be backed and exemplified by our conduct; that we need never expect to persuade others by arguments which are too weak to influence ourselves. (2) Another inference is similarly suggested--that our own decision should be given without reference to the result of our appeal. The Psalmist did not wait to ascertain whether those whom he addressed would attend to his exhortation, but, before he could receive a reply, declared unhesitatingly the course he would himself adopt. (W. T. Maudson, in a Sermon on Thanksgiving, 1855)
The first thing that we notice is, that whereas the preceding verse spoke of the Lord's "works" in the plural number, this speaks of his "work" in the singular number. It would seem as if the Psalmist, from the contemplation of the works of the Lord in general, was, as it were, irresistibly drawn away to the study of one work in particular; his mind and whole attention, so to speak, absorbed in that one work, a work so preeminently glorious and divine that it eclipses, at least in his eyes, all the other works, although he has just said of them that they are great and sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. "The works of the Lord are great. His work is honorable and glorious." My next remark is, that the words used in the original are different, and as the former more strictly signifies makings, or things made, so the word in this verse more properly imports a doing or a thing done, and this, perhaps, is not without its significance. It leads me to the inference that from the contemplation of the great works of creation--God's makings--wonderful and interesting and useful as they are, the spiritual mind of God's servant rapidly passes to some greater deed which the Lord has done, some more marvelous act which he has accomplished and which he designates as an honorable and a glorious deed. Now, since I consider that he spoke before of Christ as the visible and immediate agent in creation, without whom was not anything made that was made, can we hesitate long as to this greater work, the rather as to it is immediately subjoined the suggestive sentence, "And his righteousness endures forever." Is not this "doing" the making an end of sin and the bringing in of an everlasting righteousness? Is it not the great mystery in which, as in creation, though the Eternal Father is the Fountain source, the Original Contriver, He, the co-eternal Son, is the Doer, the Worker? Is it not, in short, salvation, the all-absorbing subject of God's people's wonder, love, and praise? (James H. Vidal)
The most amazing perverseness in man is proven by the fact that he does not remember what God has so arranged that it would seem impossible that it should be forgotten. (William S. Plumer)
Consider, that power to do good is a dangerous ability unless we use it. Remember that it is God who gives wealth, and that he expects some answerable return of it. Live not in such an inhuman manner as if Nabal and Judas were come again into the world. Think frequently and warmly of the love of God and Jesus to you. You will not deny your crumbs to the miserable when you thankfully call to mind that Christ gave for you his very flesh and blood. Consider, as one great end of poverty is patience so one great end of wealth is charity. Think how honorable it is to make a present to the great King of the world, and what a condescension it is in his all-sufficiency to do that good by us which he could so abundantly do without us. (Thomas Tenison)
If some instances of the Divine humility surprise, the following may amaze us: To see the great King of heaven stooping from his height and condescending himself to offer terms of reconciliation to his rebellious creatures! To see offended majesty courting the offenders to accept of pardon! To see God persuading, entreating and beseeching men to return to him with such earnestness and importunity as if his very life were bound up in them and his own happiness depended upon theirs! To see the adorable Spirit of God, with infinite long-suffering and gentleness, submitting to the contempt and insults of such miserable, despicable wretches as sinful mortals are! Is not this amazing? (Valentine Nalson)
This is an instance of his gracious stoop of love: he frequently lifts the lowest of mankind out of their poverty and degradation and places them in positions of power and honor. His good Spirit is continually visiting the down-trodden, giving beauty for ashes to those who are cast down and elevating the hearts of his mourners till they shout for joy. These upliftings of grace are here ascribed directly to the divine hand, and truly those who have experienced them will not doubt the fact that it is the Lord alone who brings his people up from the dust of sorrow and death. When no hand but his can help, he interposes, and the work is done. It is worth while to be cast down to be so divinely raised from the dust, whereon they lay like worthless refuse, cast off and cast out, left as they thought to rot into destruction and to be everlastingly forgotten. How great a stoop from the height of his throne to a dunghill! How wonderful that power which occupies itself in lifting up beggars, all befouled with the filthiness in which they lay! For he lifts them out of the dunghill, not disdaining to search them out from amidst the base things of the earth that he may by their means bring to nought the great ones, and pour contempt upon all human glorying. What a dunghill was that upon which we lay by nature! What a mass of corruption is our original estate! What a heap of loathsomeness we have accumulated by our sinful lives! What reeking abominations surround us in the society of our fellow men! We could never have risen out of all this by our own efforts; it was a sepulchre in which we saw corruption and were as dead men. Almighty were the arms which lifted us, which are still lifting us, and will lift us into the perfection of heaven itself. Praise ye the Lord. (Charles Spurgeon)
And now the glorious day was come when, by a stupendous miracle, Jehovah had determined to show how able he was to remove every obstacle in the way of his people, and to subdue every enemy before their face. By his appointment the host, amounting probably to two millions-and-a-half of persons (about the same number as had crossed the Red Sea on foot), had removed to the banks of the river three days before, and now in marching array awaited the signal to cross the stream. At any time the passage of the river by such a multitude, with their women and children, their flocks and herds, and all their baggage, would have presented formidable difficulties. But now the channel was filled with a deep and impetuous torrent which overflowed its banks and spread widely on each side, probably extending nearly a mile in width; while in the very sight of the scene were the Canaanitish hosts, who might be expected to pour out from their gates and exterminate the invading multitude before they could reach the shore. Yet these difficulties were nothing to Almighty power and only served to heighten the effect of the stupendous miracle about to be wrought.
By the command of Jehovah, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant, the sacred symbol of the Divine presence, marched more than half-a-mile in front of the people, who were forbidden to come any nearer to it. Thus it was manifest that Jehovah needed not protection from Israel but was their guard and guide, since the unarmed priests feared not to separate themselves from the host and to venture with the ark into the river in the face of their enemies. And thus the army, standing aloof, had a better opportunity of seeing the wondrous results and of admiring the mighty power of God exerted on their behalf, for no sooner had the feet of the priests touched the brim of the overflowing river than the swelling waters receded from them. And not only the broad lower valley, but even the deep bed of the stream was presently emptied of water and its pebbly bottom became dry. The waters which had been in the channel speedily ran off and were lost in the Dead Sea, while those which would naturally have replaced them from above were miraculously suspended and accumulated in a glassy heap far above the city Adam that is beside Zaretan. These places are supposed to have been at least forty miles above the Dead Sea, and may possibly have been much more, so that nearly the whole channel of the Lower Jordan from a little below the Lake of Tiberias to the Dead Sea was dry. . . . What a glorious termination of the long pilgrimage of Israel was this, and how worthy of the power, wisdom, and goodness of their Divine Protector! "The passage of this deep and rapid river," remarks Dr. Hales, "at the most unfavorable season, was more manifestly miraculous, if possible, than that of the Red Sea, because here was no natural agency whatever employed, no mighty wind to sweep a passage, as in the former case, no reflux of the tide on which minute philosophers might fasten to depreciate the miracle. It seems, therefore, to have been providentially designed to silence cavils respecting the former; and it was done at noon-day, in the face of the sun, and in the presence, we may be sure, of the neighboring inhabitants, and struck terror into the kings of the Canaanites and Amorites westward of the river." (Philip Henry Gosse, in "Sacred Streams," 1877)
The Psalmist, by this repetition, implies our natural tendency to self-idolatry, and to magnifying of ourselves, and the difficulty of cleansing our hearts from these self-reflections. If it be angelical to refuse an undue glory stolen from God's throne (Rev. 22:8,9), it is diabolical to accept and cherish it. "To seek our own glory is not glory" (Prov. 25:27). It is vile and the dishonor of a creature who, by the law of his creation, is referred to another end. So much as we sacrifice to our own credit, to the dexterity of our hands, or the sagacity of our wit, we detract from God. (Stephen Charnock)
Above the reach of mortal sneers, overhearing all the vain janglings of men, but looking down with silent scorn upon the makers of the babel. Supreme above all opposing power, the Lord reigns upon a throne high and lifted up. Incomprehensible in essence, he rises above the loftiest thought of the wise. Absolute in will and infinite in power, he is superior to the limitations which belong to earth and time. This God is our God, and we are not ashamed to own him, albeit he may not work miracles at the beck and call of every vain-glorious boaster who may choose to challenge him. Once they bade his Son come down from the cross and they would believe in him. Now they would have God overstep the ordinary bounds of his providence and come down from heaven to convince them. But others matters occupy his august mind besides the convincing of those who willfully shut their eyes to the super-abundant evidence of his divine power and Godhead which are all around them. If our God be neither seen nor heard and is not to be worshipped under any outward symbol, yet is he none the less real and true, for he is where his adversaries can never be--in the heavens, whence he stretches forth his scepter and rules with boundless power. (Charles Spurgeon)
Mercy is God's darling attribute, and by his infinite wisdom he has enabled mercy to triumph over justice without in any degree violating his honor or his truth. The character of merciful is that by which our God seems to delight in being known. When he proclaimed himself amid terrific grandeur to the children of Israel, it was as "the Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin." And such was the impression of this his character on the mind of Jonah that he says to him, "I knew that thou wert a merciful God." These, however, are not mere assertions--claims made to the character by God on the one hand, and extorted without evidence from man on the the other; for in whatever way we look upon God and examine into his conduct towards his creatures, we perceive it to bear the impression of mercy. Nor can we more exalt the Lord our God than by speaking of his mercy and confiding in it; for our "Lord's delight is in them who fear him, and put their trust in his mercy." (John Gwyther)
Then is the time of help, when men are brought low: and therefore God who does all things in due time when I was brought low, then helped me. Wherefore, O my soul, let it never trouble you how low soever you are brought, for when your state is at the lowest, then is God's assistance at the nearest. We may truly say, God's ways are not as the ways of the world, for in the world when a man is once brought low he is commonly trampled upon, and nothing is heard then but, "down with him, down to the ground." But with God it is otherwise, for his delight is to raise up those who fall, and when they are brought low then to help them. Hence it is no such hard case for a man to be brought low; may I not rather say his case is happy? For is it not better to be brought low and have God to help him than to be set aloft and left to help himself? (Sir Richard Baker)
Consider the variety of aspects of that rest which a good man seeks, and the ground upon which he will endeavor to realize it. It consists in: (1) Rest from the perplexities of ignorance and the wanderings of error. (2) Rest from the vain efforts of self-righteousness and the disquietude of a proud and legal spirit. (3) Rest from the alarms of conscience and the apprehensions of punishment hereafter. (4) Rest from the fruitless struggles of our degenerate nature and unaided conflicts with indwelling sin. (5) Rest from the fear of temporal suffering and solicitude arising from the prospect of danger and trial. (6) Rest from the distraction of uncertainty and indecision of mind and from the fluctuations of undetermined choice. (R. S. M'All)
But in what thing is it that all men should be liars? Indeed, in this for one: to think that God regards not and loves not them whom he suffers to be afflicted. For we may rather think he loves them most whom he suffers to be most afflicted, and we may truly say he would never have suffered his servant Job to be afflicted so exceedingly cruelly if he had not loved him exceedingly tenderly; for there is nothing lost by suffering afflictions. No, my soul, they do but serve to make up the greater weight of glory when it shall be revealed. (Sir Richard Baker)
I have wondered oftentimes why God will suffer his saints to die. I mean not the death natural, for I know statutum est omnibus semel mori; but the death that is by violence, and with torture. For who could endure to see them he loves so cruelly handled? But now I see the reason of it: for, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." And what marvel then if he suffer his saints to die when by dying they are wrought and made fit jewels to be set in his cabinet. For as God has a bottle which he fills up with the tears of his saints, so I may say he has a cabinet which he decks up with the deaths of his saints. And, O my soul, if you could but comprehend what a glory it is to serve for a jewel in the decking up of God's cabinet, you would never wonder why he suffers his saints to be put to death, though with never so great torments, for it is but the same which Saint Paul says, "The afflictions of this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed." (Sir Richard Baker)
It is of value or importance in such respects as the following: (1) As it is the removal of another of the redeemed to glory, the addition of one more to the happy hosts above. (2) As it is a new triumph of the work of redemption, showing the power and the value of that work. (3) As it often furnishes a more direct proof of the reality of religion than any abstract argument could do. How much has the cause of religion been promoted by the patient deaths of Ignatius, Polycarp, and Latimer, and Ridley, and Huss, and Jerome of Prague, and the hosts of martyrs! What does not the world owe and the cause of religion owe to such scenes as occurred on the deathbeds of Baxter, and Thomas Scott, and Halyburton, and Payson! What an argument for the truth of religion, what an illustration of its sustaining power, what a source of comfort to those who are about to die to reflect that religion does not leave the believer when he most needs its support and consolation, that it can sustain us in the severest trial of our condition here, that it can illuminate what seems to us of all places most dark, cheerless, dismal, repulsive--"the valley of the shadow of death." (Albert Barnes)
This is an exhortation to the Gentiles to glorify Jehovah and a clear proof that the Old Testament spirit differed widely from that narrow and contracted national bigotry with which the Jews of our Lord's day became so inveterately diseased. The nations could not be expected to join in the praise of Jehovah unless they were also to be partakers of the benefits which Israel enjoyed; and hence the Psalm was an intimation to Israel that the grace and mercy of their God were not to be confined to one nation but would in happier days be extended to all the race of man, even as Moses had prophesied when he said, "Rejoice, O ye nations, his people" (Deut. 32:43), for so the Hebrew has it. The nations were to be his people. He would call them a people that were not a people, and her beloved that was not beloved. We know and believe that no one tribe of men shall be unrepresented in the universal song which shall ascend unto the Lord of all. Individuals have already been gathered out of every kindred and people and tongue by the preaching of the gospel, and these have right heartily joined in magnifying the grace which sought them out and brought them to know the Savior. These are but the advance-guard of a number which no man can number who will come ere long to worship the all-glorious One. (Charles Spurgeon)
The praise of God could not be expressed in fewer words than these, "For he is good." I see not what can be more solemn than this brevity, since goodness is so peculiarly the quality of God, that the Son of God himself when addressed by some one as "Good Master," by one, namely, who beholding his flesh and comprehending not the fullness of his divine nature, considered him as man only, replied, "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God." And what is this but to say, If thou wish to call me good, recognize me as God? (Augustine)
All make this acknowledgment, and yet there is scarcely one among a hundred who is fully persuaded that God alone can afford him sufficient help. That man has attained a high rank among the faithful, who resting satisfied in God never ceases to entertain a lively hope, even when he finds no help upon earth. (John Calvin)
In the second member of the verse he points out the proper use of life. God does not prolong the lives of his people that they may pamper themselves with meat and drink, sleep as much as they please, and enjoy every temporal blessing; but to magnify him for his benefits which he is daily heaping upon them. (John Calvin)
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