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
Jehovah [Yahweh] is called "the name" as far exceeding all other names, and as being proper and peculiar only to the true God. Other things are sometimes called gods, but nothing is or can be called Jehovah but only the Almighty Creator of the world. "That men may know," says David, "that thou, whose name is Jehovah, are the Most High over all the earth" (Ps. 83:18). From his calling himself JEHOVAH the LORD, we may easily gather what kind of thoughts he would have us, his creatures, entertain in our minds concerning him. When we think of him, we must raise our thoughts above all things else and think of him as the Universal Being of the world, who gives essence and existence to all things in it; as Jehovah, the Being in whom we particularly, as well as other things, live and move and have our being; as Jehovah, the Lord paramount over the whole world, to whom all angels and archangels in heaven with all the kings and kingdoms upon earth are entirely subject; as Jehovah, in whom all perfections are so perfectly united that they are all but one infinite perfection; as Jehovah, knowledge itself, always actually knowing all things that ever were, or are, or will be, or can be known; as Jehovah, wisdom itself, always contriving, ordering, and disposing of all and everything in the best order, after the best manner, and to the best possible end; as Jehovah, power, omnipotence itself, continually doing what he wills only by willing it should be done, and always working either with means or without means as he himself sees good; as Jehovah, light and glory itself, shining forth in and by and through everything that is made or done in the whole world; as Jehovah, holiness, purity, simplicity, greatness, majesty, eminency, super-eminency itself, infinitely exalted above all things else, existing in and of himself, and having all things else continually subsisting in him; as Jehovah, goodness itself, doing and making all things good, and so communicating his goodness to all his creatures as to be the only fountain of all the goodness that is in any of them; as Jehovah, justice and righteousness itself, giving to all their due and exacting no more of any man than what is absolutely due to him; as Jehovah, mercy itself, pardoning and forgiving all the sins that mankind commit against him, as soon as they repent and turn to him; as Jehovah, patience and longsuffering itself, bearing a long time even with those who continue in their rebellions against him, waiting for their coming to a due sense of their folly and madness that he may be gracious and merciful to them; as Jehovah, love and kindness and bounty itself, freely distributing his blessings among all his creatures both good and bad, just and unjust, those who love him and those who love him not; as Jehovah, truth and faithfulness itself, always performing what he promises to his people; as Jehovah, infinitude, immensity itself, in all things, to all things, beyond all things, everywhere, wholly, essentially, continually present; as Jehovah, constancy, immutability, eternity itself, without any variableness or shadow of change, yesterday, today, and forever the same. In a word, when we think of the Most High God--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost--we should think of him as Jehovah, Unity in Trinity, Trinity in Unity, Three Persons, One Being, One Essence, One Lord, One Jehovah, blessed forever. This is that glorious, that Almighty being whom the Psalmist here means when he says, "Praise ye the name of the LORD [Yahweh]." (William Beveridge)
"Praise." To prevent any feeling of weariness which might arise from the very frequent repetition [vss. 1, 3, 21] of this exhortation to praise God, it is only necessary to remember that there is no sacrifice in which he takes greater delight than in the expression of praise. Thus, "Sacrifice unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High" (Ps. 50:14); and, "What shall I render unto Yahweh for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of Yahweh" (Ps. 116:12, 13). Particular attention is to be paid to those passages of Scripture which speak in such high terms of that worship of God which is spiritual; otherwise we may be led, in the exercise of a misguided zeal, to spend our labor upon trifles, and in this respect imitate the example of too many who have wearied themselves with ridiculous attempts to invent additions to the service of God, while they have neglected what is of all other things most important. That is the reason why the Holy Spirit so repeatedly inculcates the duty of praise. It is that we may not undervalue or grow careless in this devotional exercise. It implies, too, an indirect censure of our tardiness in proceeding to the duty; for he would not reiterate the admonition were we ready and active in the discharge of it. (John Calvin)
He was not forced to make all that he made, but all that he willed he made. His will was the cause of all things which he made. You make a house because if you did not make it you would be left without a habitation. Necessity compels you to make a home, not free-will. You make a garment because you would go about naked if you did not make it. You are therefore led to making a garment by necessity, not by free-will. You plant a mountain with vines, you sow seed, because if you did not do so you would not have food. All such things you do of necessity. God has made all things of his goodness. He needed nothing that he made, and therefore he has made all things that he willed.
He did whatsoever he willed in the heaven and earth. Do you do all that you will even in your field? You will many things but cannot do all you wish in your own house. Your wife, perchance, gainsays [opposes] you, your children gainsay you, sometimes even your servant contumaciously [obstinately] gainsays you, and you do not what you will. But you say, I do what I will because I punish the disobedient and gainsayer. Even this you do not when you will. (Augustine)
Upon the Arminian's plan (if absurdity can deserve the name of a plan), the glorious work of God's salvation and the eternal redemption of Jesus Christ are not complete unless a dying mortal lends his arm; that is, unless he, who of himself can do nothing, vouchsafe [graciously permit] to begin and accomplish that which all the angels in heaven cannot do, namely, to convert the soul from Satan to God. How contrary is all this to the language of Scripture, how repugnant to the oracles of truth! "Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven and in earth." (Ambrose Serle)
The word "pleases" limits the general note or particle "all" unto all works which in themselves are good, or else serve for good use, and so are pleasing to the Lord for the use sake. He does not say that the Lord [Yahweh] does all things which are done, but all things which he pleases; that is, he does not make men sinful and wicked, neither does he work rebellion in men, which is displeasing to him, but he does whatsoever is pleasing, that is, all things which are agreeable to his nature. And whatsoever is according to his will and good pleasure, that he does, for none can hinder it. This is the true sense and meaning of the words. (George Walker)
With reference to the government of Providence, it is said of God that "he does according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth." Even insensible matter is under his control. Fire and hail, snow and vapor, and stormy wind fulfill his word. And with reference to intelligent agents, we are told that he makes the most refractory, even the wrath of man, to praise him, and the remainder of wrath he restrains. The whole Bible exhibits Jehovah [Yahweh] as so ordering the affairs of individuals and of nations as to secure the grand purpose he had in view in creating the world--viz., the promotion of his own glory in the salvation of a multitude, which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues. One of the most prominent distinctions between divine revelation and ordinary history is that when the same general events are narrated, the latter exhibits (it is its province so to do, it is not able indeed to do more) the agency of man, the former the agency of God. Profane [secular] history exhibits the instruments by which Jehovah works; the finger of divine revelation points to the unseen but almighty hand which wields and guides the instrument, and causes even Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the Jews and the people of Israel, to do what the hand and the counsel of God determined before to be done. (George Payne, in "Lectures on Christian Theology," 1850)
The original word "repent himself" here has a very extensive signification, which cannot be expressed by any one English rendering. It implies taking compassion upon them, with the intention of being comforted in their future, and of taking vengeance on their oppressors. Such are the several meanings in which the word is used. Language fails to express the mind of God toward his faithful people. How dear ought his counsels to be to us, and the consideration of all his ways! This reflection was continually urged upon the nation of Israel, so liable as they were to fall away to idolatry. (W. Wilson)
It is the height of insanity to worship metallic manufactures. Though silver and gold are useful to us when we rightly employ them, there is nothing about them which can entitle them to reverence and worship. If we did not know the sorrowful fact to be indisputable, it would seem to be impossible that intelligent beings could bow down before substances which they must themselves refine from the ore and fashion into form. One would think it less absurd to worship one's own hands than to adore that which those hands have made. What great works can these mock deities perform for man when they are themselves the works of man? Idols are fitter to be played with, like dolls by babes, than to be adored by grownup men. Hands are better used in breaking than in making objects which can be put to such an idiotic use. Yet the heathen love their abominable deities better than silver and gold. It were well if we could say that some professed believers in the Lord had as much love for him. (Charles Spurgeon)
We are not only to bless God, but to praise him. "All thy works shall praise thee, O Yahweh; and thy saints shall bless thee." Blessing relates to his benefits, praise to his excellencies. We bless him for what he is to us, we praise him for what he is in himself. (Thomas Manton)
It becomes the great God to grant great things. "To him who alone does great wonders." When you ask great things, you ask such as it becomes God to give, "whose mercy is great above the heavens!" Nothing under heaven can be too great for him to give. The greater things he bestows, the greater glory redounds to his Name. (David Clarkson)
"Stars." When the First Consul crossed the Mediterranean on his Egyptian expedition, he carried with him a cohort of savans, who ultimately did good service in many ways. Among them, however, as might be expected at that era, were not a few philosophers of the Voltaire-Diderot school. Napoleon, for his own instruction and amusement on shipboard, encouraged disputation among these gentlemen; and on one occasion they undertook to show, and, according to their own account, did demonstrate by infallible logic and metaphysic that there is no God. Bonaparte, who hated all idealogists, abstract reasoners, and logical demonstrators, no matter what they were demonstrating, would not fence with these subtle dialecticians but had them immediately on deck, and, pointing to the stars in the clear sky, replied by way of counter-argument, "Very good, messieurs! But who made all these?" (George Wilson)
Such an emigration as this the world never saw. On the lowest computation the number exceeded three million. Is the magnitude of this movement usually apprehended? Do we think of the emigration of the Israelites from Egypt as of the emigration of a number of families twice as numerous as the population of the principality of Wales, or considerably more than the whole population of the British Metropolis (in 1841), with all their goods, property, and cattle? The collecting together of so immense a multitude--the arranging the order of their march--the provision of the requisite food even for a few days, must, under the circumstances, have been utterly impossible unless a very special and overruling Providence had graciously interfered to obviate the difficulties of the case. To the most superficial observer it must be evident that no man or number of men, having nothing but human resources, could have ventured to undertake this journey. Scarcely any wonder, wrought by Divine power in Egypt, appears greater than this emigration of a nation, when fairly and fully considered. (George Smith)
This plaintive ode is one of the most charming compositions in the whole Book of Psalms for its poetic power. If it were not inspired it would nevertheless occupy a high place in poesy, especially the former portion of it, which is tender and patriotic to the highest degree. In the later verses (7, 8, 9), we have utterances of burning indignation against the chief adversaries of Israel--an indignation as righteous as it was fervent. Let those find fault with it who have never seen their temple burned, their city ruined, their wives ravished, and their children slain. They might not, perhaps, be quite so velvet-mouthed if they had suffered after this fashion. It is one thing to talk of the bitter feeling which moved captive Israelites in Babylon, and quite another thing to be captives ourselves under a savage and remorseless power, which knew not how to show mercy but delighted in barbarities to the defenseless. The song is such as might fitly be sung in the Jews' wailing-place. It is a fruit of the Captivity in Babylon, and often has it furnished expression for sorrows which else had been unutterable. It is an opalesque Psalm within whose mild radiance there glows a fire which strikes the beholder with wonder. (Charles Spurgeon)
The insulting nature of the demand will become more conspicuous if we consider that the usual subjects of these songs were the omnipotence of Jehovah and his love towards his chosen people. (William Keatinge Clay)
In Herod, the Idumean, Edom's hatred found its concentrated expression. His attempt was to destroy him whom God had laid in Zion as the "sure foundation." (William Kay)
Edom's hatred was the hatred with which the carnal mind in its natural enmity against God always regards whatever is the elect object of his favor. Jerusalem was the city of God. "Raze it, raze it even to the ground," is the mischievous desire of every unregenerate mind against every building that rests on the elect Stone of Divine foundation. For God's election never pleases man until, through grace, his own heart has become an adoring receiver of that mercy which, while in his natural state, he angrily resented and refused to own in its effects on other men. From Cain to Antichrist this solemn truth holds always good. (Arthur Pridham)
In the beginning of the fifth year of Darius happened the revolt of the Babylonians, which cost him the trouble of a tedious siege again to reduce them . . . . he besieged the city with all his forces . . . . As soon as the Babylonians saw themselves begirt [surrounded] by such an army as they could not cope with in the field, they turned their thoughts wholly to the supporting of themselves in the siege; in order whereto they took a resolution, the most desperate and barbarous that ever any nation practiced. For to make their provisions last the longer, they agreed to cut off all unnecessary mouths among them, and therefore drawing together all the women and children, they strangled them all, whether wives, sisters, daughters, or young children useless for the wars, excepting only that every man was allowed to save one of his wives, whom he best loved, and a maidservant to do the work of the house. (Humphrey Prideaux)
It needs no record to tell us that, in the siege and carrying away of Jerusalem great atrocities were committed by the conquerors. We may be quite sure that "Many a childing mother then and newborn baby died," for the wars of the old world were always attended by such barbarous cruelties. The apostrophe of verses 8, 9, consequently merely proclaims the certainty of a just retribution--of the same retribution that the prophets had foretold (Isa. 13:16; 47; Jer. 50; compare, "Who are to be destroyed, verse 8), and the happiness of those who should be its ministers; who should mete out to her what she had measured to the conquered Jew. It was the decree of Heaven that their "children" should "be dashed to pieces before their eyes." The Psalmist simply recognizes the decree as just and salutary. He pronounces the terrible vengeance to have been deserved. To charge him with vindictiveness, therefore, is to impugn the justice and mercy of the Most High. And there is nothing to sustain the charge, for his words are simply a prediction, like that of the prophet. "As you have done, it shall be done to you; your reward [reprisal] shall return upon your own head" (Obad. 15). (Joseph Hammond)
"Happy shall he be who takes," etc. That is, so oppressive have you been to all under your domination as to become universally hated and detested, so that those who may have the last hand in your destruction and the total extermination of your inhabitants shall be reputed "happy"--shall be celebrated and extolled as those who have rid the world of a curse so grievous. These prophetic declarations contain no excitement to any person or persons to commit acts of cruelty and barbarity, but are simply declarative of what would take place in the order of the retributive providence and justice of God, and the general opinion that should in consequence be expressed on the subject. Therefore, praying for the destruction of our enemies is totally out of the question. (Adam Clarke)
Psalms 138-145. These eight Psalms are composed in the first person, and they follow very happily after the fifteen "Songs of Up-goings," and the three Psalms of praise uttered by the chorus of those who have gone up to Zion. Those Psalms were the united utterances of national devotion. These eight Psalms are the devout Israelite's Manual of private prayer and praise. (Christopher Wordsworth)
If this Psalm refers to the promise in 2 Sam. 7, there can be no doubt of the correctness of the superscription which ascribes it to David. For he, on whom the promise has been conferred, himself stands forth as the speaker. Proof also of David's authorship is found in the union, so characteristic of him, of bold courage (see especially vs. 3) and deep humility (see vs. 6). And in proof of the same comes, finally, the near relationship in which it stands with the other Psalms of David, especially those which likewise refer to the promise of the everlasting kingdom; and with David's thanksgiving in 2 Sam. 7, the conclusion of which remarkably agrees with the conclusion of our Psalm: "And now, Lord God, the word which thou hast spoken upon thy servant and upon his house, that fulfill even to eternity, and do as thou hast spoken." (E. W. Hengstenberg)
There is much diversity in the meaning assigned to "gods" in this verse. It may mean literally, "in an idolatrous country, in the very temples of false gods," as so many Christian martyrs bore testimony to the faith. The LXX, Vulgate, Ethiopic, and Arabic translate angels. The Chaldee has judges, the Syriac kings, and the earlier Greek fathers explain it as a reference to the choirs of Priests and Levites in the Temple. (Zigabenus, in Neale and Littledale)
Some (LXX, Luther, Calvin, etc.) interpret these words of the angels and compare Ps. 29:1. But it is doubtful if the Hebrew word Elohim, used nakedly and without any explanation, can have this meaning. It is also, as it would seem, in this connection, pointless. Others (Rabbins, Flamin., Delitzsch, etc.) interpret "the great ones of the earth," and compare verse 4 below and Pss. 82:1, 119:46, etc. But this interpretation, too, seems to give no special force to the passage. Probably (Aq., Symm., Jer., etc.) the meaning is, "Before, or in the presence of, the gods of the heathen, i.e., in scorn of, in sight of the idols, who can do nothing, I will praise Jehovah, who does miracles for me and his people." For a similar expression, see Ps. 23:5, Heb.: see also Pss. 95:3, 96:5, for places in which the Hebrew word "gods" is used probably for idols. (Speaker's Commentary)
This Psalm is entitled "a Psalm of David," and Calvin considers him to be its author agreeably to the title. But the mention of "the temple" in this verse seems to render such an opinion doubtful. If, however, we translate this word by "mansion," which is the proper rendering of the original--"the mansion of thy sanctity,"-- this objection to its composition by David falls to the ground. (James Anderson)
There are two beautiful thoughts brought out here. One is, "God's condescension in thought;" the other, "his tenderness in action." These are both included in "lovingkindness." And both of these are shown by God to his own people. He humbled himself to behold the things of the children of men; he condescends to men of low estate. Of the blessed Jesus it is said, that "though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). Who can tell the depths to which God condescends in loving thought? We are told that the very hairs of our head are all numbered; and if the hairs of our head, then surely all else beside. God, as the Heavenly Father, takes an interest in everything about his people. He takes this interest in matters which they think beneath his notice, or of which they, from their ignorance, do not know the importance. The mother may draw whole stores of comfort from a realization of the condescending thoughtfulness of God. He will be interested about her babe. If she commit it to him, he who made the universe will, with his infinite mind, think upon her cradle and the helpless creature who is rocked to sleep therein. The sick man may draw whole stores of comfort from the same source, for he can believe that the ONE by whom the body was fearfully and wonderfully made will think over the sufferings of that body and alleviate them, or give strength for the endurance of them if they must be borne. Condescension of thought marks all the dealings of God with his people. And following hard upon it comes tenderness in action. Now this "tenderness in action" is a great part of the lovingkindness of God. It is meet [fitting] that a thoughtful mind and tender hand should go together in the perfection of love. God is not only energetic, but tender also in action. He is the God of the dewdrops as well as the God of the thunder showers, the God of the tender grass blade as much as of the mountain oak. We read of great machines that are able to crush iron bars, and yet they can touch so gently as not to break the shell of the smallest egg. As it is with them, so is it with the hand of the Most High. He can crush a world and yet bind up a wound. And great need have we of tenderness in our low estate; a little thing would crush us. We have such bruised and feeble souls, that unless we had One who would deal tenderly with us we must soon be destroyed. (Philip Bennett Power)
This is a dark sentence at the first view, but as a judicious expositor upon the place well observes, the words may be thus read, and will better agree with the Hebrew, "you have magnified your name above all things, in your word." That is, in fulfilling your word you have magnified your name above all things in that you have fulfilled your word. What you freely promised, you have faithfully performed. What you have spoken with your mouth, you have fulfilled with your hand; for which your name is wonderfully to be magnified. (James Nalton)
God has sent his word to us as a mirror, to reflect his glory. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork" (Ps. 19:1). From them may his eternal power and Godhead be clearly seen. In his providential dealings, also, is much of his wisdom and goodness exhibited. But of his perfections, generally, we can form no idea from these things; of his purposes we can know nothing. The state of the heathen world clearly attests this, for they behold the wonders of Creation and Providence as well as we: "There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world" (Ps. 19:3,4). But in the sacred volume all the glory of the Godhead shines. There we are admitted, so to speak, even to the council chamber of the Most High to hear the covenant entered into between the Father and the Son--the Father engaging to give to him a seed, whom he should have for his inheritance if he, on his part, would "make his soul an offering for their sins," and in their nature expiate the guilt of their iniquities. This mysterious transaction having taken place in the incarnation and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, we behold all the perfections of God united and harmonizing in a way that they never did, or could, by any other means. We see justice more inexorable than if it had executed vengeance on the whole human race, and mercy more abundant than if it had spared the whole human race without any such atonement. There, as it is well expressed, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85:10). Of this great mystery we find not a trace in the whole creation besides, but in the word it is reflected as in a mirror (2 Cor. 3:18); and it shines so brightly that the very angels around the throne are made wiser by the revelation of it to the Church (Eph. 3:10).
God has sent his word to us as a standard, to which everything may be referred. Of God's will we know nothing except by the word. "We know neither good nor evil from all that is before us." What God requires of us, nothing in Creation or Providence can inform us. What he will do for us we cannot ascertain. How he will deal with us we cannot ascertain. But in the sacred volume all is written as with a sunbeam. There is nothing which God expects us to do for him that is not there most explicitly declared, nothing which he engages to do for us that does not form the subject of a distinct promise. The whole of his procedure in the day of judgment is there laid open--the laws by which we shall be judged; the manner in which the testimony, whether against us or in our favor, shall be produced; the grounds on which the sentence of condemnation or acquittal shall be passed; yes, the very state to which every person, either as acquitted or condemned, shall be consigned. All is so clearly made known that every person who will judge himself with candor now may assuredly anticipate his fate. There is nothing left to conjecture. Every man has a standard to which he may refer, for the rectifying of his judgment in every particular; so that nothing can be added for the instruction of our minds, or the regulation of our future expectations.
God has sent his word to us as a fountain, from whence all his blessings emanate. Great blessings, beyond all doubt, flow down to us through the works of Creation and Providence. In fact, they are incessantly administering to our welfare, for "God opens his hands and fills all things living with plenteousness." Still, however, the benefits derived from them are only temporal; whereas those which the inspired volume imparts are spiritual and eternal, from whence we derive all our knowledge of Divine truth and all our hopes of everlasting salvation. Nor is it the knowledge only of truth that we obtain, but the operation and efficacy of it on our souls. There is in Divine truth, when applied by the Holy Spirit, a power to wound, to sanctify, to save (Ps. 19:7-11). When it comes to the soul with power, the stoutest heart in the universe is made to tremble. When it is poured out as balm, the most afflicted creature under heaven is made to leap for joy. Look over the face of the globe and see how many who were once under the unrestrained dominion of sin are now transformed into the image of their God, and then ascend to heaven and behold the myriads of the redeemed around the throne of God uniting their hallelujahs to God and to the Lamb. To this state were they all brought by that blessed word which alone could ever prevail for so great a work. Thus it is that God has magnified his word; and thus it is that he will magnify it to the end of time. Yes, through eternity will it be acknowledged as the one source of all blessings that shall ever be enjoyed. (Charles Simeon)
This is one of those expressions of Scripture that seem so comprehensive and yet so amazing. To my mind it is one of the most remarkable expressions in the whole book of God. "Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." The name of God includes all the perfections of God; everything that God is and which God has revealed himself as having--his justice, majesty, holiness, greatness, and glory, and whatever he is in himself, that is God's name. And yet he has "magnified" something "above his name"--his word--his truth. This may refer to the Incarnate Word, the Son of God, who was called "the Word." "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one" (1 John 5:7); "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God" (1 John 1:1). You may take the words either as meaning that God has magnified his Word--his eternal Son--above all his great name (that is, he has set Jesus on high above all the other perfections of his majesty), or take it as meaning his written word, which is written in the sacred Scriptures. So in that case, [he has magnified] not only the Incarnate Word in the person of Jesus, but also the written word in the Scriptures of truth. He has magnified it [the Scriptures] above all his name in the fulfillment of it. God's faithfulness being so dear to him, he has exalted his faithfulness above all his other perfections. We see this in nature. Here is a man so to be depended upon, so faithful to his word that he will sacrifice anything sooner than depart from it. That man will give up his property, or life itself, rather than forfeit his word. So God has spoken of magnifying his word above all his name. He would sooner allow all his other perfections to come to naught than for his faithfulness to fail. He has so magnified his faithfulness that his love, his mercy, his grace would all sooner fail than his faithfulness--the word of his mouth and what he has revealed in the Scripture. What a firm salvation then is ours which rests upon his word, when God has magnified that word above all his name! What volumes of blessedness and truth are contained therein! So that, if God has revealed his truth to your soul and given you faith to anchor in the word of promise, sooner than that should fail he would suffer the loss of all, for he has magnified his word above all his name. (Joseph C. Philpot)
"You make me brave in my soul (with) strength." The common version of this clause ("strengthens me with strength in my soul") contains a paranomasia not in the original, where the verb and noun have not even a letter in common. The verb is by some translated made me proud, i.e., elated me, not with a vain or selfish pride, but with a lofty and exhilarating hope. (Joseph Addison Alexander)
This Psalm is one of the sublimest compositions in the world. How came a shepherd boy to conceive so sublime a theme and to write in so sublime a strain? Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. What themes are more sublime than the Divine attributes? And which of these attributes is more sublime than Omnipresence? Omniscience, spirituality, infinity, immutability and eternity are necessarily included in it. (George Rogers)
The Psalm has an immediately practical aim, which is unfolded near the close. It is not an abstract description of the Divine attributes with a mere indirect purpose in view. If God is such a being, if his vital agency reaches over all his creation, pervades all objects, illumines the deepest and darkest recesses; if his knowledge has no limits, piercing into the mysterious processes of creation, into the smallest and most elemental germs of life; if his eye can discern the still more subtle and recondite [deep/hidden] processes of mind, comprehending the half-formed conception, the germinating desire "afar off"; if, anterior to all finite existence, his predetermining decree went forth; if in those ancient records of eternity man's framework, with all its countless elements and organs in all the ages of his duration, were inscribed--then for his servant, his worshipper on earth, two consequences follow most practical and momentous: first, the ceasing to have or feel any complacency [friendly civility] with the wicked, any sympathy with their evil ways, and communion with them as such; and, secondly, the earnest desire that God would search the Psalmist's soul, lest in its unsounded depths there might be some lurking iniquity, lest there might be, beyond the present jurisdiction of his conscience, some dark realm which the Omniscient eye only could explore. (Bela Edwards)
There is no "me" after "known" in the Hebrew. Therefore it is better to take the object after "known" in a wider sense. The omission is intentional, that the believing heart of all who use this Psalm may supply the ellipsis. You have known and know all that concerns the matter in question, as well whether I and mine are guilty or innocent (Ps. 44:21); also my exact circumstances, my needs, my sorrows, and the precise time when to relieve me. (A. R. Fausset)
"Searched." The Hebrew word originally means to dig, and is applied to the search for precious metals (Job 28:3), but metaphorically to a moral inquisition into guilt. (Joseph Addison Alexander)
Verses 1-5. God knows everything that passes in our inmost souls better than we do ourselves. He reads our most secret thoughts; all the cogitations of our hearts pass in review before him; and he is as perfectly and entirely employed in the scrutiny of the thoughts and actions of an individual as in the regulation of the most important concerns of the universe. This is what we cannot comprehend. But it is what, according to the light of reason, must be true, and, according to revelation, is indeed true. God can do nothing imperfectly. We may form some idea of his superintending knowledge by conceiving what is indeed the truth, that all the powers of the Godhead are employed--and solely employed-- in the observation and examination of the conduct of one individual. I say this is indeed the case, because all the powers of the Godhead are employed upon the least as well as upon the greatest concerns of the universe, and the whole mind and power of the Creator are as exclusively employed upon the formation of a grub as of a world. God knows everything perfectly, and he knows everything perfectly at once. This, to a human understanding, would breed confusion. But there can be no confusion in the Divine understanding because confusion arises from imperfection. Thus God, without confusion, beholds as distinctly the actions of every man as if that man were the only created being, and the Godhead were solely employed in observing him. Let this thought fill your mind with awe and with remorse. (Henry Kirke White)
Compared with our stinted knowledge, how amazing is the knowledge of God! As he made all things, he must be intimately acquainted not only with their properties but with their every essence. His eye, at the same instant, surveys all the works of his immeasurable creation. He observes not only the complicated system of the universe, but the slightest motion of the most microscopic insect; not only the sublimest conception of angels, but the meanest propensity of the most worthless of his creatures. At this moment he is listening to the praises breathed by grateful hearts in distant worlds, and reading every groveling thought which passes through the polluted minds of the fallen race of Adam. . . . At one view he surveys the past, the present, and the future. No inattention prevents him from observing, no defect of memory or of judgment obscures his comprehension. In his remembrance are stored not only the transactions of this world, but of all the worlds in the universe; not only the events of the six thousand years which have passed since the earth was created, but of a duration without beginning. Nay, things to come, extending to a duration without end, are also before him. An eternity past and an eternity to come are, at the same moment, in his eye; and with that eternal eye he surveys infinity. How amazing! How inconceivable! (Henry Duncan)
By the "spirit of God" we are not here, as in several other parts of Scripture, to conceive of his power merely, but his understanding and knowledge. In man the spirit is the seat of intelligence, and so it is here in reference to God, as is plain from the second part of the sentence where by "the face of God" is meant his knowledge or inspection. (John Calvin)
"Hell" in some places in Scripture signifies the lower parts of the earth, without relation to punishment. By "heaven" he means the upper region of the world, without any respect to the state of blessedness; and "hell" is the most opposite and remote in distance, without respect to misery. As if he had said, Let me go where I will, your presence finds me out. (Joseph Caryl)
Never was so terse and expressive a description of the physical conformation of man given by any human being. So "fearfully" are we made that there is not an action or gesture of our bodies which does not, apparently, endanger some muscle, vein, or sinew, the rupture of which would destroy either life or health. We are so "wonderfully" made that our organization infinitely surpasses in skill, contrivance, design, and adaptation of means to ends, the most curious and complicated piece of mechanism not only ever executed "by art and mans' device," but ever conceived by human imagination. (Richard Warner)
What is meant by saying that the soul is in the body, any more than saying that a thought or a hope is in a stone or a tree? How is it joined to the body? what keeps it one with the body? what keeps it in the body? what prevents it any moment from separating from the body? When two things which we see are united, they are united by some connection which we can understand. A chain or cable keeps a ship in its place; we lay the foundation of a building in the earth, and the building endures. But what is it which unites soul and body? how do they touch? how do they keep together? how is it we do not wander to the stars or the depths of the sea, or to and fro as chance may carry us, while our body remains where it was on earth? So far from its being wonderful that the body one day dies, how is it that it is made to live and move at all? how is it that it keeps from dying a single hour? Certainly it is as incomprehensible as anything can be, how soul and body can make up one man; and, unless we had the instance before our eyes, we should seem in saying so to be using words without meaning. For instance, would it not be extravagant and idle to speak of time as deep or high, or of space as quick or slow? Not less idle, surely, it perhaps seems to some races of spirits to say that thought and mind have a body, which in the case of man they have, according to God's marvelous will. (John Henry Newman)
Moses describes the creation of man (Gen. 2:7): "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Now what God did then immediately, he does still by means. Do not think that God made man at first, and that ever since men have made one another. No (says Job), "he that made me in the womb made him:" ch. 31:15. David will inform us: "I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works," etc. As if he had said, Lord, I am wonderfully made, and thou hast made me. I am a part or parcel of thy marvelous works, yea, the breviate or compendium of them all. The frame of the body (much more the frame of the soul, most of all the frame of the new creature in the soul) is God's work, and it is a wonderful work of God. And therefore David could not satisfy himself in the bare affirmation of this, but enlarges in the explication of it in verses 15 and 16. David took no notice of father or mother, but ascribed the whole efficiency of himself to God. And indeed David was as much made by God as Adam; and so is every son of Adam. Though we are begotten and born of our earthly parents, yet God is the chief parent and the only fashioner of us all. Thus graciously spake Jacob to his brother Esau, demanding, "Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God has graciously given thy servant": Gen. 33:5. Therefore, as the Spirit of God warns, "Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves" (Ps. 100:3); which as it is true especially of our spiritual making, so 'tis true also of our natural. (Joseph Caryl)
How cold and poor are our warmest thoughts towards God! How unspeakably loving and gloriously rich are his thoughts towards us! (A. R. Fausset)
True faith is precious; it is like gold, it will endure a trial. Presumption is but a counterfeit, and cannot abide to be tried (1 Pet. 1:7). A true believer fears no trial. He is willing to be tried by God. He is willing to have his faith tried by others, he shuns not the touchstone. He is much in testing himself. He would not take anything upon trust, especially that which is of such moment. He is willing to hear the worst as well as the best. That preaching pleases him best which is most searching and distinguishing (Heb. 4:12). He is loath to be deluded with vain hopes. He would not be flattered into a false conceit of his spiritual state. When trials are offered, he complies with the apostle's advice (2 Cor. 13:5). (David Clarkson)
Verses 23, 24. The text is a prayer, and it indicates, as we think, three great facts in regard to the suppliant. The first, that David thoroughly wished to become acquainted with himself; the second, that he felt conscious that God could see through all disguises; and the third, that he desired to discover, in order that by Divine help he might correct, whatsoever was wrong in his conduct.
Now, the first inference which we draw from the text, when considered as indicating the feelings of the petitioner is, that he was thoroughly honest, that it was really his wish to become acquainted with his own heart. And is there, you may say, anything rare or remarkable in this? Indeed we think there is. It would need, we believe, a very high degree of piety to be able to put up with sincerity the prayers of our text. For, will you tell me that it does not often happen, that even while men are carrying on a process of self-examination there is a secret wish to remain ignorant of certain points, a desire not to be proved wrong when interest and inclination combine in demanding an opposite verdict? . . . In searching into yourselves you know where the tender points are, and those points you will be apt to avoid so as not to put yourselves to pain, nor make it evident how much you need the caustic and the knife. Indeed, we may be sure that we state nothing but what experience will prove, when we declare it a high attainment in religion to be ready to know how bad we are. . . . And this had evidently been reached by the Psalmist, for he pleads very earnestly with God that he would leave no recess of his spirit unexplored, that he would bring the heart and all its thoughts, the life and all its ways under a most searching examination, so that no form and no degree of evil might fail to be detected. (Henry Melvill)
Self-examination is not the simple thing which, at first sight, it might appear. No Christian who has ever really practiced it has found it easy. Is there any exercise of the soul which any one of us has found so unsatisfactory, so almost impossible, as self-examination? The fact is this, that the heart is so exceedingly complicated and intricate, and it is so very near the eye which has to investigate it, and both it and the eye are so restless and so shifting, that its deep anatomy baffles our research. Just a few things, here and there, broad and open, and floating upon the surface a man discovers; but there are chambers receding within chambers, in that deepest of all deep things--a sinner's heart--which no mere human investigation ever will reach . . . it is the prerogative of God alone to "search" the human heart.
To the child of God--the most intimate with himself in all the earth--I do not hesitate to say, "There are sins latent at this moment in you, of which you have no idea; but it only requires a larger measure of spiritual illumination to impress and unfold them. You have no idea of the wickedness that is now in you." But while I say this, let every Christian count well the cost before he ventures on the bold act of asking God to "search" him. For be sure of this, if you do really and earnestly ask God to "search" you, he will do it. And he will search you most searchingly; and if you ask him to "try" you, he will try you,--and the trial will be no light matter!
I am persuaded that we often little calculate what we are doing--what we are asking God to do--when we implore him to give us some spiritual attainment, some growth in grace, some increase in holiness, or peace. To all these things there is a condition, and that condition lies in a discipline, and that discipline is generally proportionate to the strength and the measure of the gift that we ask.
I do not know what may have been the state of the Psalmist at the period when he indited [composed] this Psalm; but I should think either one of Saul's most cruel persecutions, or the rebellion of his son Absalom, followed quick upon the traces of that prayer, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts," etc.
Still, whatever his attainment, every child of God will desire, at any sacrifice, to know his own exact state before God. For as he desires in all things to have a mind conformed to the mind of God, so he is especially jealous lest he should, by any means, be taking a different view or estimate of his own soul from that which God sees it. (Condensed from James Vaughan)
It is easy to commit to memory the seemly prayer of an ancient penitent, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts." The dead letters, worn smooth by frequent use, may drop freely from callous lips, leaving no sense of scalding on the conscience; and yet, truth of God though they are, they may be turned into a lie in the act of utterance. (William Arnot)
Hypocrisy at the fashionable end of the town is very different from hypocrisy in the city. The modish hypocrite endeavors to appear more vicious than he really is, the other kind of hypocrite more virtuous. The former is afraid of everything that has the show of religion in it, and would be thought engaged in many criminal gallantries and amours which he is not guilty of. The latter assumes a face of sanctity, and covers a multitude of vices under a seeming religious deportment.
But there is another kind of hypocrisy, which differs from both these. I mean that hypocrisy by which a man does not only deceive the world, but very often imposes on himself; that hypocrisy which conceals his own heart from him and makes him believe he is more virtuous than he really is, and either not attend to his vices or mistake even his vices for virtues. It is this fatal hypocrisy and self-deceit which is taken notice of in those words, "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults."
These two kinds of hypocrisy, namely, that of deceiving the world and that of imposing on ourselves, are touched with wonderful beauty in the hundred and thirty-ninth Psalm. The folly of the first kind of hypocrisy is there set forth by reflections on God's omniscience and omnipresence, which are celebrated in as noble strains of poetry as any other I ever met with, either sacred or profane [secular]. The other kind of hypocrisy, whereby a man deceives himself, is intimated in the two last verses, where the Psalmist addresses himself to the great Searcher of hearts in that emphatical petition, "Try me, O God, and seek the ground of my heart. Prove me, and examine my thoughts. Look well if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Joseph Addison)
In St. James' day, as now, it would appear that there were idle men and idle women who went about from house to house dropping slander as they went; and yet you could not take up that slander and detect the falsehood there. You could not evaporate the truth in the slow process of the crucible and then show the residuum of falsehood glittering and visible. You could not fasten upon any word or sentence and say that it was calumny [slander]. For in order to constitute slander, it is not necessary that the word spoken should be false--half-truths are often more calumnious than whole falsehoods. It is not even necessary that a word should be distinctly uttered; a dropped lip, an arched eyebrow, a shrugged shoulder, a significant look, an incredulous expression of countenance, nay, even an emphatic silence may do the work. And when the light and trifling thing which has done the mischief has fluttered off, the venom is left behind to work and rankle, to inflame hearts, to fever human existence, and to poison human society at the fountain springs of life. Very emphatically was it said by one whose whole being had smarted under such affliction, "Adders' poison is under their lips." (Frederick William Robertson)
As incense is carefully prepared, kindled with holy fire, and devoutly presented unto God, so let my prayer be. We are not to look upon prayer as easy work requiring no thought; it needs to be "set forth." What is more, it must be set forth "before the Lord," by a sense of his presence and a holy reverence for his name. Neither may we regard all supplication as certain of divine acceptance; it needs to be set forth before the Lord "as incense," concerning the offering of which there were rules to be observed. Otherwise it would be rejected of God. (Charles Spurgeon)
In the gorgeous ceremonial worship of the Hebrews, none of the senses were excluded from taking part in the service. . . . The sense of smell occupied, perhaps, the most prominent place; for the acceptance of the worship was always indicated by a symbol borrowed from this sense: "The Lord smelled a sweet savor." The prayer of the people ascended as incense, and the lifting up of their hands as the eventing sacrifice. The altar of incense occupied one of the most conspicuous and honored positions in the tabernacle and temple. . . . On this altar a censer full of incense poured forth its fragrant clouds every morning and evening. And yearly, as the day of atonement came round, when the high priest entered the holy of holies he filled a censer with live coals from the sacred fire on the altar of burnt-offerings and bore it into the sanctuary, where he threw upon the burning coals the "sweet incense beaten small," which he had brought in his hand. Without this smoking censer he was forbidden, on pain of death, to enter into the awful shrine of Jehovah. Notwithstanding the washing of his flesh and the linen garments with which he was clothed, he dare not enter the holiest of all with the blood of atonement unless he could personally shelter himself under a cloud of incense.
It has been supposed by some writers that incense was invented for the purpose of concealing or neutralizing the noxious effluvia caused by the number of beasts slaughtered every day in the sanctuary. . . . but it derived its chief importance in connection with the ceremonial observances of the Mosaic ritual from the fact of its being the great symbol of prayer. It was offered at the time when the people were in the posture and act of devotion; and their prayers were supposed to be presented to God by the priest and to ascend to him in the smoke and odor of that fragrant offering. Scripture is full of allusions to it, understood in this beautiful symbolical sense. Acceptable, prevailing prayer was a sweet-smelling savor to the Lord. . . .
The altar of incense stood in the closest connection with the altar of burnt-offerings. The blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled on the horns of both on the great day of annual atonement. Morning and evening, as soon as the sacrifice was offered, the censer poured forth its fragrant contents, so that the perpetual incense within ascended simultaneously with the perpetual burnt-offering outside. Without the live coals from off the sacrificial altar, the sacred incense could not be kindled; and without the incense previously filling the holy place, the blood of atonement from the altar of burnt-offering could not be sprinkled on the mercy-seat. Beautiful and expressive type of the perfect sacrifice and the all-prevailing intercession of Jesus--of intercession founded upon atonement, of atonement preceded and followed by intercession! Beautiful and expressive type, too, of the prayers of believers kindled by the altar-fire of Christ's sacrifice, and perfumed by his merits! (Hugh Macmillan in "The Ministry of Nature," 1871)
A man would never use this language without a conviction of the importance of the subject. . . . Everything is transacted by speech in natural, civil, and religious concerns. How much, therefore, depends on the good or evil management of the tongue! What an ardor of holy love and friendship, or of anger and malice, may a few words fan into a flame! The tongue is the principal instrument in the cause of God; and it is the chief engine of the devil. Give him this, and he asks no more. There is no mischief or misery he will not accomplish by it. The use, the influence of it, therefore, is inexpressible; and words are never to be considered only as effects, but as causes, the operation of which can never be fully imagined. Let us suppose a case, I fear, but too common. You drop, in the thoughtlessness of conversation or for the sake of argument or wit, some irreligious, skeptical expression. It lodges in the memory of a child or a servant. It takes root in a soil favorable to such seed. It gradually springs up and brings forth fruit in the profanation of the Sabbath, the neglect of the means of grace, in the reading of improper books, in the choice of dangerous companions. Who can tell where it will end? But there is a Being who knows where it began. It will be acknowledged that some have it in their power, by reason of their office, talents, and influence, to do much more injury than others; but none are so insignificant as to be harmless.
A man would never use this language without a conviction that he is in danger of transgression. And if David was conscious of a liability to err, shall we ever presume on our safety? Our danger arises from the depravity of our nature. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked"; and "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" Our danger arises from the contagion of example. There is nothing in which mankind are more universally culpable than in the disorders of speech. Yet with these we are constantly surrounded, and to these we have been accustomed from our impressible infancy. We are in danger from the frequency of speech. "In the multitude of words there lacks not sin." We must of necessity speak often, but we often speak without necessity. Duty calls us to intermingle much with our fellow-creatures; but we are too little in the closet and too much in the crowd--and when we are in company we forget the admonition, "Let every man be swift to hear and slow to speak."
A man would never use this language without a conviction of inability to preserve himself. The Bible teaches us this truth not only doctrinally, but historically. The examples of good men, and men eminent in godliness, confirm it in the very article before us. Moses, the meekest man in the earth, "spake unadvisedly with his lips." You have heard of the patience of Job, but he "cursed the day of his birth"; and Jeremiah, the prophet of the Lord, did the same. Peter said, "Though all men should be offended because of thee, I will never be offended. Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee." But how did he use his tongue a few hours after? Then "began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man!"
A man would never use this language without a conviction of the wisdom of applying to God for the assistance he needs. Prayer is the effect of our weakness and the expression of our dependence. It confesses the agency of God. (1) In the first place, God is equal to our preservation. (2) His succours [aids] are not to be obtained without prayer. (3) Prayer always brings the assistance it implores. (Condensed from W. Jay's sermon on The Regulation of the Tongue)
This verse is so obscure as to be almost unintelligible. According to the English versions, it expresses his willingness to be rebuked by good men for his benefit. But this sense is not only hard to be extracted from the words, but foreign from the context. Of the many contradictory interpretations which have been proposed, the most probable is that which makes the sentence mean that the sufferings endured by the good man, even at the hand of the wicked, are chastisements inflicted by a righteous God in justice and with mercy, and as such may be likened to a festive ointment, which the head of the sufferer should not refuse as he will still have need of consolation and occasion to invoke God in the midst of trials and of mischiefs yet to be experienced. (Joseph Addison Alexander)
If the righteous smite us by reproofs, it must be taken as a kindness and as a precious balsam, which does not break our head but heal us. Not that we are bound to belie ourselves in compliance with every man's censorious humor that will accuse us; but we must be more ready to censure ourselves than others, and more ready to confess a fault than to expect a confession from others whom we reprove. Sincerity and serious repentance will be honorable in that person who is most careful to avoid sin, and most ready penitently to confess it when he has been overcome, and truly thankful to those that call him to repentance; as being more desirous that God and his laws and religion should have the glory of their holiness than that he himself should have the undue glory of innocency and escape the deserved shame of sin. (Richard Baxter)
Reproofs are a good physic [medicine], but they have an unpleasant reception. It is hard for men not to throw them back on the face of them that gives them. Now nothing is more powerful to keep a reproof from thus coming back than the holiness of the person that reproves. "Let the righteous smite me," says David, "it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head." See how well it is taken from such a hand, from the authority that holiness carries with it. None but a vile wretch will smite a righteous man with reproach for smiting him with a reproof if softly laid on, and like oil fomented and worked into him, as it should, with compassion and love to his soul! Thus we see how influential the power of holiness would be unto the wicked; neither would it be less upon our brethren and fellow-Christians. Holy David professed he would take it as a kindness for the righteous to smite him; yea, as kindly as if he broke a box of precious oil upon his head, which was among the Jews a high expression of love. (William Gurnall)
Some persons pride themselves on being blunt, or, as they call it, "honest." But very blunt people do little good to others and get little love to themselves. The Scriptures recommend gentleness and kindness. Reproof should fall like the dew, and not like the rushing hailstorm. The "oil" insinuates itself; the stone wounds and then rebounds. Christians should take heed of getting fond of the work of "rebuking." Such "spiritual constables" do a great deal of mischief without intending it. They are in a church what a very witty and sarcastic person is in society, or what a tell-tale is in school, and approximate very closely to that class which the apostle terms "busybodies in other men's matters." Our manner must be tender and winning. The nail of reproof, says an old writer, must be well oiled in kindness before it is driven home. Meddling with the faults of others is like attempting to move a person afflicted with the rheumatic gout. It must be done slowly and tenderly, nor must we be frightened by an outcry or two. The great thing is to show the person that you really love him. And if you manifest this in the sight of God, he will bless your efforts and give you favor in the sight of an erring brother. (Christian Treasury)
"Yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities." That is, if ever they who are my reprovers fall into calamity, though they may think they provoked me so by reproving me, that they have lost my love and have cast themselves out of my prayers, or that I will never speak well of them or for them again, yet I will pray for them with all my heart as their matter shall require. I will pray for them when they have most need of prayer, even "in their calamities." Some heighten the sense thus--The more they sharpen their reproof, the more I think myself bound to pray for them. It shows an excellent spirit, not to be hindered from doing good to others by anything they do or speak against us, nor their sharpest (though perhaps mistaken) reproofs of us. Thus it was that that good man Job "prayed for his friends," who had spoken much against him, and not only reproved him without cause but reproached him without charity [love]. (Joseph Caryl)
"The cave." Leaving our horses in charge of some Arabs, and taking one for our guide, we started for the cave now known as Mugharet Khureitun, which is believed to be the cave Adullam, having a fearful gorge below, gigantic cliffs above, and the path winding along a narrow shelf of the rock. At length, from a great rock hanging on the edge of the shelf, we entered by a long leap a low window which opened into the perpendicular face of the cliff. We were then within the traditional hold of David, and, creeping half doubled through a narrow crevice for a few rods, we stood beneath the dark vault of the first grand chamber of this mysterious and oppressive cavern (1 Sam. 22:1,2; 2 Sam. 23:13-17). Our whole collection of lights did little more than make the damp darkness visible. After groping about as long as we had time to spare, we returned to the light of day, fully convinced that, with David and his lion-hearted followers inside, all the strength of Israel under Saul could not have forced an entrance--would not have even attempted it. (William M. Thompson)
A great reason why we reap so little benefit in prayer is because we rest too much in generals; and if we have success, it is but dark so that often we cannot tell what to make of the issue of prayer. Besides, to be particular in our petitions would keep the spirit much from wandering when we are intent upon a weighty cause, and the progress of the soul in grace would manifest its gradual success in prayer. (Samuel Lee)
I wish you much comfort from David's thought: "When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path." The Lord is not withdrawn to a great distance, but his eye is upon you. He sees you not with the indifference of a mere spectator, but he observes with attention, he knows, he considers your path. Yea, he appoints it, and every circumstance about it is under his direction. Your trouble began at the hour he saw best--it could not come before; and he has marked the degree of it to a hair's breadth, and its duration to a minute. He knows likewise how your spirit is affected; and such supplies of grace and strength, and in such seasons as he sees needful, he will afford in due season. So that when things appear darkest, you shall still be able to say, Though chastened, not killed. Therefore hope in God, for you shall yet praise him. (John Newton)
Although we as Christians possess the full solution of the problem of suffering, yet we frequently find ourselves in the position of Job in regard to this or that particular affliction. There are sorrows so far reaching, so universal; there are losses so absolute, and blows so terrible and inexplicable that it seems for a time as if we were wrapped in thickest gloom, and as if the secret of the Lord had not been revealed. Why was this man stricken and that man spared? Why was such and such a being, in whom so many hopes centered, or who had already realized so many pleasant expectations, why was he withdrawn? Why was that other person left, a useless encumbrance to earth? Why was that voice, which found echo in so many hearts, suddenly silenced? Why have I been smitten? Why have I lost that which rendered my moral life beautiful and useful? Oftentimes the soul seems lost for awhile in thoughts which overwhelm it; it loses its foothold, it tumbles about helplessly amid the deep waters of affliction. It seems as if all were over. Do not believe it. Remember Job. You cannot go to greater lengths of despair than he, and yet God had pity on him. There is much comfort for you in this example of indescribable suffering, exasperated to the highest degree and yet pardoned and consoled. Cling to the memory of this blessed fact as to a cable of deliverance, a board or a plank amidst the shipwreck. And then remember that affliction forms part of God's plan, and that he also asks you to manifest ready and absolute confidence in him. (E. DePressense)
"Answer me in thy righteousness." Forgiveness is not inconsistent with the truth or righteousness, and the pardon which in mercy God bestows upon the sinner is bestowed in justice to the well-beloved Son who accepted and discharged the sinner's obligations. This is an infinitely precious truth, and the hearts of thousands in every age have been sustained and gladdened by it. A good old Christian woman in humble life so fully realized this, that when a revered servant of God asked her, as she lay on her dying pillow, the ground of her hope for eternity, she replied with great composure, "I rely on the justice of God"; adding, however, when the reply excited surprise, "justice, not to me, but to my Substitute, in whom I trust. (Robert Macdonald)
Not only the worst of my sins, but the best of my duties speak me a child of Adam. (William Beveridge)
So far from being able to answer for my sins, I cannot answer even for my righteousness. (Bernard of Clairvaux)
"My heart within me is desolate." Or rather, "is full of amazement," literally, "astonies itself"; seeks to comprehend the mystery of its sufferings, and is ever beaten back upon itself in its perplexity. Such is the full force of the reflexive conjugation here employed. (J. J. Stewart Perowne)
"Make haste, O Lord, to deliver. Make haste to help me, O Lord," Nay, if a man does not desire the light of God's countenance soon, it is a certain proof that he does not desire it at all. If the natural language of his heart be not, "hear me speedily," delay is to him no exercise of patience. The very idea of patience implies that something is contrary to our wish; and the stronger the desire is, the more difficult will that exercise of patience become. (John Fawcett)
The Spirit of life does free us from the law of sin and death; but not from the holy, and pure, and good, and righteous law of God (Rom. 8:1-3). (Thomas Shepard)
There were three qualities of a valiant soldier found in Christ, the Captain of our salvation, in his war against Satan, which his followers are bound to emulate: boldness in attack, skill in defense, steadiness in conflict, all of which he teaches by his example (Matt. 4:1, 4, 7, 10, 11). He was bold in attack, for he began the combat by going up into the wilderness to defy the enemy. So we, too, should be always beforehand [in advance] with Satan; ought to fast even if not tempted to gluttony, and be humble though not assailed by pride, and so forth. He was skillful in defense, parrying every attack with Holy Writ; where we, too, in the example of the saints may find lessons for the combat. He was steadfast in conflict, for he persevered to the end, till the devil left him and angels came and ministered unto him. And we, too, should not be content with repelling the first attack, but persevere in our resistance until evil thoughts are put to flight and heavenly resolutions take their place. (Neale and Littledale)
I want to speak of a great defect among us, which often prevents the realization of going "from strength to strength"; viz., the not using, not trading with the strength given. We should not think of going to God for money only to keep it in the bank. But are we not doing this with regard to strength? We are constantly asking for strength for service; but if we are not putting this out in hearty effort, it is of no use to us. Nothing comes of hoarded strength.
"Blessed be the Lord my strength, who teaches my hands to war and my fingers to fight." David, you see, was looking for strength for a purpose. Some people seem to expect strength, but never attempt to put forth their hands to war and their fingers to fight. There is so little venturing upon God, so little use of grace given, partly from fear of man, partly from indolence and worldly-mindedness. . . . It is not for us to be merely luxuriating in the power which God supplies. Action strengthens, and before we have a right to ask for an increase, we must use that already given. (Catherine Pennefather)
David calls God by names connected with the chief deliverances of his life. The Psalms abound in local references and descriptive expression, e.g. Ps. 18:2 [and in this place.] The word translated "fortress" is Metzudah or masada. From 1 Sam. 23:29, I have no doubt that he is speaking of Masada, an isolated peak 1,500 feet high, on which was a stronghold. (James Wareing Bardsley)
"Man is like to vanity." When Cain was born, there was much ado about his birth: "I have gotten a man-child from God," says his mother. She looked upon him as a great possession and therefore called his name Cain, which signifies "a possession." But the second man that was born unto the world bare the title of the world, "vanity"; his name was Abel, that is, "vanity." A premonition was given in the name of the second man, what would or should be the condition of all men. In Psalm 144:4 there is an allusion unto those two names. We translate it, "Man is like to vanity"; the Hebrew is, "Adam is as Abel." Adam, you know, was the name of the first man, the name of Abel's father. But as Adam was the proper name of the first, so it is an appellative, or common to all men, now Adam; that is, man or all men are Abel-- vain, and walking in a vain show. (Joseph Caryl)
With what idle dreams, what foolish plans, what vain pursuits are men for the most part occupied! They undertake dangerous expeditions and difficult enterprises in foreign countries, and they acquire fame; but what is it?--Vanity! They pursue deep and abstruse speculations, and give themselves to that "much study which is a weariness to the flesh," and they attain to literary renown and survive in their writings; but what is it?--Vanity! They rise up early and sit up late, and eat the bread of anxiety and care, and thus they amass wealth; but what is it?--Vanity! They frame and execute plans and schemes of ambition, they are loaded with honors and adorned with titles, they afford employment for the herald and form a subject for the historian; but what is it?--Vanity! In fact, all occupations and pursuits are worthy of no other epithet if they are not preceded by and connected with a deep and paramount regard to the salvation of the soul, the honor of God, and the interests of eternity. . . . Oh, then, what phantoms, what airy nothings are those things that wholly absorb the powers and occupy the days of the great mass of mankind around us! Their most substantial good perishes in the using, and their most enduring realities are but "the fashion of this world that passes away." (Thomas Raffles)
It is an easy thing to conceive the glory of the Creator manifested in the good of an innocent creature; but the glory of the righteous Judge manifested in the good of the guilty criminal is the peculiar, mysterious wisdom of the Cross. (John McLaurin)
According to the doctrine of Christianity, we are not the creatures of a God who takes no care of his beings and leaves them to themselves; not the offspring of a father who disowns his children, who does not concern himself about them and is indifferent to their happiness and their misery. No; never has God, according to that comfortable doctrine, left himself unwitnessed to man; never withdrawn from him his fatherly providence and love; never abandoned the fortunes of his feeble, helpless, untutored children to blind chance or to their own ignorance. No; from their first progenitor to his latest posterity he has himself provided for their support, their instruction, their guidance, their progress to higher attainments. He has constantly revealed himself to them in various ways; constantly shed innumerable benefits on them; sometimes lovingly correcting and sometimes bountifully blessing them; has constantly been nigh to them and has left them in want of no means for becoming wiser and better. (George Joachim Zollikofer)
While atheism in its strict signification, namely, that of total denial of God's existence, is scarcely if at all to be found on earth, atheism as regards the denial of God's providence is the espoused creed of hundreds among us. . . . Providence, which is confessed in great things, is rejected in small things. And even if you can work up men to an easy confession that God presides over national concerns, you will find them withdrawing individuals from his scrutiny. We bring against this paring down of God's providence a distinct charge of atheism. If we confess the existence of a God at all, we read it in the workmanship of the tiniest leaf as well as [in] the magnificent pinnacles of Andes and Alps. If we believe in the providence of God at all, we must confess that he numbers the hairs of our heads as well as marshals the stars of the firmament. And that providence is not universal and therefore cannot be godlike if a sparrow, any more than a seraph, flit away unregarded.
Now the words before us set themselves most strenuously against this popular atheism. The whole creation is represented as fastening its gaze on the universal Parent, and as drawing from his fullness the supply of every necessity. "The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season." There is made, you observe, no exception whatever. The exhibition is simply that of every rank and order of being looking to the Almighty, confessing dependence upon him, and standing environed by his guardianship. So that in place of anything which approximates to the abandonment of our creation, the Psalmist asserts a ceaseless attention to its wants [needs], the suspension of which for an instant would cause chill and darkness throughout the whole universe. (Henry Melvill)
It is said that God gives them "their food" and "in its season," for the very variety of it serves more to illustrate the providence of God. Each has its own way of feeding, and the different kinds of aliment [sustenance] are designed and adapted for different uses. David therefore speaks of the food which is particular to them. The pronoun is not in the plural, and we are not to read in their season, as if it applied to the animals. The food he notices is given in its season; for here also we are to notice the admirable arrangements of divine providence, that there is a certain time appointed for harvest, vintage, and hay crop, and that the year is so divided into intervals that the cattle are fed at one time on grass, at another on hay, or straw, or acorns, or other products of the earth. Were the whole supply poured forth at one and the same moment, it could not be gathered together so conveniently. And we have no small reason to admire the seasonableness with which the different kinds of fruit and aliment are yearly produced. (John Calvin)
This seems as if depicted from a housekeeper's habit of feeding a brood of chickens and other creatures. She flings abroad with full and open hand a large supply, not measuring to a grain just what might be enough. (Martin Geier)
Who can fear that because God's ways are unsearchable they may not be all tending to the final good of his creatures, when he knows that with the tenderness of a most affectionate parent this Creator and Governor ministers to the meanest [lowliest] living thing? Who can be disquieted by the mysteriousness of the Divine dealings when he remembers that they are those of one who never ceases for a solitary moment to consult the happiness of whatsoever he has formed? Who, in short, can distrust God because clouds and darkness are found about him, when there is light enough to show that he is the vigilant guardian of every tenant of this earth, that his hand upholds and his breath animates and his bounty nourishes the teeming hordes of the city, and the desert, and the ocean? It seems that there is thus a beautiful, though tacit [unexpressed], process of reasoning in our text, and that the seventeenth verse is set in its proper connection. It is as though David had said, "Come, let us muse on the righteousness of God. He would not be God if he were not righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works; and therefore we may be sure that whatsoever he does is the best that could be done, whether or not we can discover its excellence."
Yes, this may be true, but when we look on the divine dealings what an abyss of dark waters there is! How unsearchable, how unfathomable are God's judgments! We admit it; but being previously convinced of God's righteousness, we ought not to be staggered by what is dark in his dispensations.
"True," you reply, "but the mind does not seem satisfied by this reasoning. It may be convincing to the intellect, but it does not address itself to the feelings." Well, then, pass from what is dark in God's dealing to what is clear. He is about your path and about your bed. He "preserves man and beast." "His tender mercies are over all his works." Is this a God of whom to be suspicious? Is this a God to mistrust? Oh! surely if you will fortify yourselves by such facts as these--"Thou, O Lord, satisfiest the desire of every living thing;" "The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season"--if, I say, you will fortify your minds by such facts as these you will be able at all times and in all circumstances to join heartily in the acknowledgment of the Psalmist--"The Lord is righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works." (Henry Melvill)
God does not give grudgingly. It seems to be a characteristic of the divine nature, both in the natural and moral world, to raise desires, not with a view to disappoint but to satisfy them. O what a consoling thought is this! If there be any desires in us which are not satisfied, it is through their being self-created ones, which is our own fault; or through artificial scarcity from men's luxury, which is the fault of our species. God raises no desires as our Creator but he gives enough to satisfy them; and none as our Redeemer and Sanctifier but what shall be actually satisfied. O the wonderful munificence of God! "How great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!" (Andrew Fuller)
The ground upon which praise is here ascribed to God may seem a common one, being in everyone's mouth. But in nothing is wisdom shown more than in holding fast the truth, that God is just in all his ways, so as to retain in our hearts an unabated sense of it amidst all troubles and confusions. Though all acknowledge God to be just, most men are no sooner overtaken by affliction than they quarrel with his severity. Unless their wishes are immediately complied with they are impatient, and nothing is more common than to hear his justice impeached. As it is everywhere abused by the wicked imputations men cast upon it, here it is very properly vindicated from such ungrateful treatment, and asserted to be constant and unfailing however loudly the world may disparage it. It is expressly added, "in all his ways and works"; for we fail to give God due honor unless we recognize a constant tenor of righteousness in the whole progress of his operation. Nothing is more difficult in the time of trouble, when God has apparently forsaken us, or afflicts us without cause, than to restrain our corrupt feelings from breaking out against his judgments." (John Calvin)
"Holy in all his works." God is good, the absolute and perfect; and from good nothing can come but good. And therefore all which God has made is good, as he is; and therefore if anything in the world seems to be bad, one of two things must be true of it.
Either it is not bad, though it seems so to us; and God will bring good out of it in his good time, and justify himself to men, and show us that he is holy in all his works and righteous in all his ways. Or else--If the thing be really bad, then God did not make it. It must be a disease, a mistake, a failure, of man's making or some person's making but not of God's making. For all that he has made he sees eternally; and behold, it is very good. (Charles Kingsley)
To call upon God in truth is, first, to repose an implicit confidence in the faithfulness of his promise, and to look for unlimited answers to prayer from the riches of his grace in Christ Jesus. But it is also, in the next place, to feel our own urgent need of the things for which we supplicate, and to realize an earnest and unfeigned concern to obtain them. "What things ye desire when ye pray," said the Lord, "believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." And hence we gather that the hearty desire, arising out of the consciousness of need, is an integral and inseparable part of genuine and effectual prayer. (Thomas Dale)
George Carpenter, the Bavarian martyr, being desired by some godly brethren, that when he was burning in the fire he would give them some sign of his constancy, answered, "Let this be a sure sign unto you of my faith and perseverance in the truth, that so long as I am able to hold open my mouth, or to whisper, I will never cease to praise God and to profess his truth"; the which also he did, says my author; and so did many other martyrs besides. (John Trapp)
A striking illustration of the folly of counting God out of one's plans for life is given in the course of William M. Tweed, whose death is recently announced. Here was a man who sought wealth and power, and who for a time seemed successful in their pursuit. Apparently he did not propose to obey God or to live for a life to come. What he wanted was worldly prosperity. He thought he had it. He went to congress. He gathered his millions. He controlled the material interests of the metropolis of his country. He openly defied public sentiment and courts of justice in the prosecution of his plans. He was a brilliant and therefore a dangerous example of successful villainy. But the promise of prosperity for the life which now is, is only to the godly. As William M. Tweed lay dying in a prison-house in the city he once ruled, his confession of bitter disappointment was, "My life has been a failure in everything. There is nothing I am proud of." If any young man wants to come to an end like this, the way to it is simple and plain. "The great God who formed all things both rewards the fool, and rewards transgressors." "The way of the wicked he turns upside down." (American Sunday School Times, 1878)
Why is it declared to be "pleasant" and "comely" to praise the Deity? Not only because if we glorify him he will also glorify us, but because he is so infinitely glorious that we are infinitely honored simply in being reckoned worthy to worship One so great. (John Lorinus)
See the wonderful goodness of God, who besides the light of nature has committed to us the sacred Scriptures. The heathen are enveloped in ignorance. "As for his judgments, they have not known them." They have the oracles of the Sybils, but not the writings of Moses and the apostles. How many live in the region of death, where the bright star of Scripture has never appeared! We have the blessed Book of God to resolve all our doubts, and to point out a way of life to us. "Lord, how is it thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" (John 14:22). (Thomas Watson)
Is this universal praise never to be realized? Is it only the longing intense desire of the Psalmist's heart, which will never be heard on earth and can only be perfected in heaven? Is there to be no jubilee in which the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands? If there is to be no such day, then is the word of God of none effect. If no such universal anthem is to swell the chorus of heaven and to be re-echoed by all that is on earth, then is God's promise void. It is true, in this Psalm our translation presents it to us as a call or summons for everything that has or has not breath to praise the Lord--or as a petition that they may praise. But it is in reality a prediction that they shall praise. . . . This Psalm is neither more nor less than a glorious prophecy of that coming day when not only shall the knowledge of the Lord be spread over the whole earth, as the waters cover the sea, but from every created object in heaven and in earth, animate and inanimate, from the highest archangel through every grade and phase of being, down to the tiniest atom--young men and maidens, old men and children, and all kings and princes, and judges of the earth shall unite in this millennial anthem to the Redeemer's praise. (Barton Bouchier)
The half-learned man is apt to laugh at the simple faith of the clown or savage who tells us that rain comes from God. The former, it seems, has discovered that it is the product of certain laws of air, water, and electricity. But truly the peasant is the more enlightened of the two, for he has discovered the main cause and the real Actor, while the other has found only the second cause and the mere instrument. It is as if a friend were to send us a gift of ingenious and beautiful workmanship, and just as our gratitude was beginning to rise to the donor, some bystanders were to endeavor to damp it all by telling us that the gift is the product of certain machinery he had seen. (James MacCosh)
"Old men." Reflections on your own conduct through life will suggest to you many reasons for praise and thanksgiving. But on this part of the subject it is proper to put you in mind of the two great classes into which men are divided: saints and sinners. If you belong to the former class, who is it that has made you to differ from others? Give thanks to him who delivered you from the power of darkness and translated you into the kingdom of his dear Son. Have you been enabled to do some good works in the course of your lives? For every one of them bless God, who worked "in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Have any of your endeavors been successful to bring about the reformation of any of your fellowmen or to promote their spiritual welfare? What sufficient thanks can you render to God for making you the humble ministers of his grace?
But there are too many of the old who have no reason to think that they have yet passed from death to life. These, certainly, are very unfit to praise God, and will not be able to praise him with their hearts unless that change pass upon them without which no man shall ever enter into the kingdom of heaven. Yet, surely, they have great reason to praise the Lord; and they may see good reason for it although they cannot carry their knowledge into practice. You have, indeed, greater reason to praise God that you are in the land of the living than those who are in a better state, because if you were deprived of your present life nothing is left for you but the terrors of eternal death. Bless God, all you who have lived fifty or sixty years in sin and have been all along spared in a world so full of mercy. You are still called by the gospel to receive that salvation which you have long treated with contempt. (Condensed from a sermon by George Lawson, 1749-1820, entitled, The Duty of the Old to Praise God)
"The dance" was in early times one of the modes of expressing religious joy (Ex. 15:20; 2 Sam. 6:16). When from any cause men's ideas shall undergo such a revolution as to lead them to do the same thing for the same purpose, it will be time enough to discuss that matter. In our time, dancing has no such use and cannot, therefore, in any wise be justified by pleading the practice of pious Jews of old. (William Swan Plumer)
The sacred dance of devout joy is no example, nor even excuse, for frivolous dances, much less for lewd ones. (Charles Spurgeon)
They who from hence urge the use of music in religious worship must, by the same rule, introduce dancing, for they went together, as in David's dancing before the ark (Judges 21:21). But whereas many Scriptures in the New Testament keep up singing as a gospel ordinance, none provide for the keeping up of music and dancing; the gospel canon for Psalmody is to "sing with the spirit and with the understanding." (Matthew Henry)
There is an interesting association connected with this Psalm which deserves to be recorded: that in former times, when the casting of church bells was more of a religious ceremony, this Psalm was chanted by the brethren of the guild as they stood ranged around the furnace and while the molten metal was prepared to be let off into the mold ready to receive it. One may picture these swarthy sons of the furnace with the ruddy glow of the fire upon their faces as they stand around, while their deep voices rung forth this Hymn of Praise. (Barton Bouchier)
The very ambiguity of "all breath" gives extraordinary richness of meaning to this closing sentence. From the simple idea of wind instruments, mentioned in the context, it leads us by a beautiful transition to that of vocal, articulate, intelligent praise uttered by the breath of living men, as distinguished from mere lifeless instruments. Then, lastly, by a natural association we ascend to the idea expressed in the common version, "everything that has breath," not merely all that lives but all that has a voice to praise God. There is nothing in the Psalter more majestic or more beautiful than this brief but most significant finale in which solemnity of tone predominates, without however in the least disturbing the exhilaration which the close of the Psalter seems intended to produce, as if in emblematical allusion to the triumph which awaits the church and all its members, when through much tribulation they shall enter into rest. (Joseph Addison Alexander)
© Copyright 2017 Rediscovering the Bible. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us | Email Webmaster