Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
TITLE AND SUBJECT. A Song or Psalm of David. To be sung
jubilantly as a national hymn, or solemnly as a sacred psalm. We cannot find it
in our heart to dismiss this psalm by merely referring the reader first to Ps
57:7-11 and then to Ps 60:5-12, though it will be at once seen that those two
portions of Scripture are almost identical with the verses before us. It is true
that most of the commentators have done so, and we are not so presumptuous as to
dispute their wisdom; but we hold for ourselves that the words would not have
been repeated if there had not been an object for so doing, and that this object
could not have been answered if every hearer of it had said, "Ah, we had that
before, and therefore we need not meditate upon it again." The Holy Spirit is
not so short of expressions that he needs to repeat himself, and the repetition
cannot be meant merely to fill the book: there must be some intention in the
arrangement of two former divine utterances in a new connection; whether we can
discover that intent is another matter. It is at least ours to endeavour to do
so, and we may expect divine assistance therein.
We have before us The Warrior's Morning Song, with which
he adores his God and strengthens his heart before entering upon the conflicts
of the day. As an old Prussian officer was wont in prayer to invoke the aid of
"his Majesty's August Ally", so does David appeal to his God and set up his
banner in Jehovah's name.
DIVISION. First we have an utterance dictated by the spirit
of praise, Ps 108:1-5; then a second deliverance evoked by the spirit of
believing prayer, Ps 108:6-12; and then a final word of resolve (Ps 108:13), as
the warrior hears the war trumpet summoning him to join battle immediately, and
therefore marches with his fellow soldiers at once to the fray.
These five verses are found in Ps 57:7-11 almost verbatim: the
only important alteration being the use of the great name of JEHOVAH in Ps 108:3
instead of Adonai in Ps 57:9. This the English reader will only be able to
perceive by the use of capitals in the present Psalm and not in Ps 57:7-11.
There are other inconsiderable alterations, but the chief point of difference
probably lies in the position of the verses. In Ps 57:7-11 these notes of
praise follow prayer and grow out of it; but in this case the psalmist begins at
once to sing and give praise, and afterwards prays to God in a remarkably
confident manner, so that he seems rather to seize the blessing than to entreat
for it. Sometimes we must climb to praise by the ladder of prayer, and at other
times we must bless God for the past in order to be able in faith to plead for
the present and the future. By the aid of God's Spirit we can both pray
ourselves up to praise, or praise the Lord till we get into a fit frame for
prayer. In Ps 57:7-11 these words are a song in the cave of Adullam, and are the
result of faith which is beginning its battles amid domestic enemies of the most
malicious kind; but here they express the continued resolve and praise of a man
who has already weathered many a campaign, has overcome all home conflicts, and
is looking forward to conquests far and wide. The passage served as a fine close
for one psalm, and it makes an equally noteworthy opening for another. We cannot
too often with fixed heart resolve to magnify the Lord; nor need we ever
hesitate to use the same words in drawing near to God, for the Lord who cannot
endure vain repetitions is equally weary of vain variations. Some expressions
are so admirable that they ought to be used again; who would throw away a cup
because he drank from it before? God should be served with the best words, and
when we have them they are surely good enough to be used twice. To use the same
words continually and never utter a new song would show great slothfulness, and
would lead to dead formalism, but we need not regard novelty of language as at
all essential to devotion, nor strain after it as an urgent necessity. It may be
that our heavenly Father would here teach us that if we are unable to find a
great variety of suitable expressions in devotion, we need not in the slightest
degree distress ourselves, but may either pray or praise, "using the same
Verse 1. O God, my heart is fixed. Though I have many wars
to disturb me, and many cares to toss me to and fro, yet I am settled in one
mind and cannot be driven from it. My heart has taken hold and abides in one
resolve. Thy grace has overcome the fickleness of nature, and I am now in a
resolute and determined frame of mind. I will sing and give praise. Both with voice and music will
I extol thee--"I will sing and play", as some read it. Even though I have to
shout in the battle I will also sing in my soul, and if my fingers must needs be
engaged with the bow, yet shall they also touch the ten stringed instrument and
show forth thy praise. Even with my glory --with my intellect, my tongue, my poetic
faculty, my musical skill, or whatever else causes me to be renowned, and
confers honour upon me. It is my glory to be able to speak and not to be a dumb
animal, therefore my voice shall show forth thy praise; it is my glory to know
God and not to be a heathen, and therefore my instructed intellect shall adore
thee; it is my glory to be a saint and no more a rebel, therefore the grace I
have received shall bless thee; it is my glory to be immortal and not a mere
brute which perisheth, therefore my inmost life shall celebrate thy majesty.
When he says I will, he supposes that there might be some temptation to
refrain, but this he puts on one side, and with fixed heart prepares himself for
the joyful engagement. He who sings with a fixed heart is likely to sing on, and
all the while to sing well.
Verse 2. Awake, psaltery and harp. As if he could not be
content with voice alone, but must use the well tuned strings, and communicate
to them something of his own liveliness. Strings are wonderful things when some
men play upon them, they seem to become sympathetic and incorporated with the
minstrel as if his very soul were imparted to them and thrilled through them.
Only when a thoroughly enraptured soul speaks in the instrument can music be
acceptable with God: as mere musical sound the Lord can have no pleasure
therein, he is only pleased with the thought and feeling which are thus
expressed. When a man has musical gift, he should regard it as too lovely a
power to be enlisted in the cause of sin. Well did Charles Wesley say: --
"If well I know the tuneful art
To captivate a human heart,
The glory, Lord, be thine.
A servant of thy blessed will,
I here devote my utmost skill
To sound the praise divine."
"Thine own musician, Lord, inspire,
And let my consecrated lyre
Repeat the Psalmist's part.
His Son and Thine reveal in me,
And fill with sacred melody
The fibres of my heart."
I myself will awake early. I will call up the dawn. The
best and brightest hours of the day shall find me heartily aroused to bless my
God. Some singers had need to awake, for they sing in drawling tones, as if they
were half asleep; the tune drags wearily along, there is no feeling or sentiment
in the singing, but the listener hears only a dull mechanical sound, as if the
choir ground out the notes from a worn out barrel organ. Oh, choristers, wake
up, for this is not a work for dreamers, but such as requires your best powers
in their liveliest condition. In all worship this should be the personal resolve
of each worshipper: "I myself will awake."
Verse 3. I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people.
Whoever may come to hear me, devout or profane, believer or heathen, civilized
or barbarian, I shall not cease my music. David seemed inspired to foresee that
his Psalms would be sung in every land, from Greenland's icy mountains to
India's coral strand. His heart was large, he would have the whole race of man
listen to his joy in God, and lo, he has his desire, for his psalmody is
cosmopolitan; no poet is so universally known as he. He had but one theme, he
sang Jehovah and none beside, and his work being thus made of gold, silver, and
precious stones, has endured the fiery ordeal of time, and was never more prized
than at this day. Happy man, to have thus made his choice to be the Lord's
musician, he retains his office as the Poet Laureate of the kingdom of heaven,
and shall retain it till the crack of doom. And I will sing praises unto thee among the nations. This
is written, not only to complete the parallelism of the verse, but to reaffirm
his fixed resolve. He would march to battle praising Jehovah, and when he had
conquered he would make the captured cities ring with Jehovah's praises. He
would carry his religion with him wherever he pushed his conquests, and the
vanquished should not hear the praises of David, but the glories of the Lord of
Hosts. Would to God that wherever professing Christians travel they would carry
the praises of the Lord with them! It is to be feared that some leave their
religion when they leave their homes. Nations and peoples would soon know the
gospel of Jesus if every Christian traveller were as intensely devout as the
Psalmist. Alas, it is to be feared that the Lord's name is profaned rather than
honoured among the heathen by many who are named by the name of Christ.
Verse 4. For thy mercy is great above the heavens, and
therefore there must be no limit of time, or place, or people, when that mercy
is to be extolled. As the heavens over arch the whole earth, and from above
mercy pours down upon men, so shalt thou be praised everywhere beneath the sky.
Mercy is greater than the mountains, though they pierce the clouds; earth cannot
hold it all, it is so vast, so boundless, so exceeding high that the heavens
themselves are over topped thereby. And thy truth teacheth unto the clouds. As far as we can
see we behold thy truth and faithfulness, and there is much beyond which lies
shrouded in cloud, but we are sure that it is all mercy, though it be far above
and out of our sight. Therefore shall the song be lifted high and the psalm
shall peal forth without stint of far resounding music. Here is ample space for
the loudest chorus, and a subject which deserves thunders of praise.
Verse 5. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: and thy
glory above all the earth. Let thy praise be according to the
greatness of thy mercy. Ah, if we were to measure our devotion thus, with what
ardour should we sing! The whole earth with its overhanging dome would seem too
scant an orchestra, and all the faculties of all mankind too little for the
hallelujah. Angels would be called in to aid us, and surely they would come.
They will come in that day when the whole earth shall be filled with the praises
of Jehovah. We long for the time when God shall be universally worshipped, and
his glory in the gospel shall be everywhere made known. This is a truly
missionary prayer. David had none of the exclusiveness of the modern Jew, or the
narrow heartedness of some nominal Christians. For God's sake, that his glory
might be everywhere revealed, he longed to see heaven and earth full of the
divine praise. Amen, so let it be. Now prayer follows upon praise, and derives strength of faith
and holy boldness therefrom. It is frequently best to begin worship with a hymn,
and then to bring forth our vials full of odours after the harps have commenced
their sweeter sounds.
Verse 6. That thy beloved may be delivered: save with thy
right hand, and answer me. Let my prayer avail for all the beloved
ones. Sometimes a nation seems to hang upon the petitions of one man. With what
ardour should such an one pour out his soul! David does so here. It is easy
praying for the Lord's beloved, for we feel sure of a favourable answer, since
the Lord's heart is already set upon doing them good: yet it is solemn work to
plead when we feel that the condition of a whole beloved nation depends upon
what the Lord means to do with us whom he has placed in a representative
position. "Answer me, that thy many beloved ones may be delivered": it is
an urgent prayer. David felt that the case demanded the right hand of
God, --his wisest, speediest, and most efficient interposition, and he feels sure
of obtaining it for himself, since his cause involved the safety of the chosen
people. Will the Lord fail to use his right hand of power on behalf of those
whom he has set at his right hand of favour? Shall not the beloved be delivered
by him who loves them? When our suit is not a selfish one, but is bound up with
the cause of God, we may be very bold about it.
Verse 7. God hath spoken in his holiness. Aforetime the Lord
had made large promises to David, and these his holiness had guaranteed. The
divine attributes were pledged to give the son of Jesse great blessings; there
was no fear that the covenant God would run back from his plighted word. I will rejoice. If God has spoken we may well be glad: the
very fact of a divine revelation is a joy. If the Lord had meant to destroy us
he would not have spoken to us as he has done. But what God has spoken is a
still further reason for gladness, for he has declared "the sure mercies of
David", and promised to establish his seed upon his throne, and to subdue all
his enemies. David greatly rejoiced after the Lord had spoken to him by the
mouth of Nathan. He sat before the Lord in a wonder of joy. See 1Ch 17:1-27, and
note that in the next chapter David began to act vigorously against his enemies,
even as in this Psalm he vows to do. I will divide Shechem. Home conquests come first. Foes must
be dislodged from Israel's territory, and lands properly settled and managed. And mete out the valley of Succoth. On the other side
Jordan as well as on this the land must be put in order, and secured against all
wandering marauders. Some rejoicing leads to inaction, but not that which is
grounded upon a lively faith in the promise of God. See how David prays, as if
he had the blessing already, and could share it among his men: this comes of
having sung so heartily unto the Lord his helper. See how he resolves on action,
like a man whose prayers are only a part of his life, and vital portions of his
Verse 8. Gilead is mine. Thankful hearts dwell upon the
gifts which the Lord has given them, and think it no task to mention them one by
one. Manasseh is mine. I have it already, and it is to me the
token and assurance that the rest of the promised heritage will also come into
my possession in due time. If we gratefully acknowledge what we have we shall be
in better heart for obtaining that which as yet we have not received. He who
gives us Gilead and Manasseh will not fail to put the rest of the promised
territory into our hands. Ephraim also is the strength of mine head. This tribe
furnished David with more than twenty thousand "mighty men of valour, famous
throughout the house of their fathers": the faithful loyalty of this band was,
no doubt, a proof that the rest of the tribe were with him, and so he regarded
them as the helmet of the state, the guard of his royal crown. Judah is my lawgiver. There had he seated the government
and chief courts of justice. No other tribe could lawfully govern but Judah:
till Shiloh came the divine decree fixed the legal power in that state. To us
also there is no lawgiver but our Lord who sprang out of Judah; and whenever
Rome, or Canterbury, or any other power shall attempt to set up laws and
ordinances for the church, we have but one reply--"Judah is my lawgiver." Thus
the royal psalmist rejoiced because his own land had been cleansed of intruders,
and a regular government had been set up, and guarded by an ample force, and in
all this he found encouragement to plead for victory over his foreign foes. Even
thus do we plead with the Lord that as in one land and another Christ's holy
gospel has been set up and maintained, so also in other lands the power of his
sceptre of grace may be owned till the whole earth shall bow before him, and the
Edom of Antichrist shall be crushed beneath his feet.
Verse 9. Moab is my washpot. This nation had shown no
friendly spirit to the Israelites, but had continually viewed them as a detested
rival, therefore they were to be subdued and made subject to David's throne. He
claims by faith the victory, and regards his powerful enemy with contempt. Nor
was he disappointed, for "the Moabites became David's servants and brought him
gifts" (2Sa 8:2). As men wash their feet after a long journey, and so are
revived, so vanquished difficulties serve to refresh us: we use Moab for a
washpot. Over Edom will I cast out my shoe. It shall be as the floor
upon which the bather throws his sandals, it shall lie beneath his foot, subject
to his will and altogether his own. Edom was proud, but David throws his slipper
at it; its capital was high, but he casts his sandal over it; it was strong, but
he hurls his shoe at it as the gage of battle. He had not entered yet into its
rock built fortresses, but since the Lord was with him he felt sure that he
would do so. Under the leadership of the Almighty, he felt so secure of
conquering even fierce Edom itself that he looks upon it as a mere slave, over
which he could exult with impunity. We ought never to fear those who are
defending the wrong side, for since God is not with them their wisdom is folly,
their strength is weakness, and their glory is their shame. We think too much of
God's foes and talk of them with too much respect. Who is this hope of Rome? His
Holiness? Call him not so, but call him His Blasphemy! His Profanity! His
Impudence! What are he and his cardinals, and his legates, but the image and
incarnation of Antichrist, to be in due time cast with the beast and the false
prophet into the lake of fire? Over Philistia will I triumph. David had done so in his
youth, and he is all the more sure of doing it again. We read that "David smote
the Philistines and subdued them" (2Sa 8:1), even as he hath smitten Edom and
filled it with his garrisons. The enemies with whom we battled in our youth are
yet alive, and we shall have more brushes with them before we die, but, blessed
be God, we are by no means dismayed at the prospect, for we expect to triumph
over them even more easily than aforetime.
Thy right hand shall thy people aid;
Thy faithful promise makes us strong;
We will Philistia's land invade.
And over Edom chant the song.
Through thee we shall most valiant prove,
And tread the foe beneath our feet;
Through thee our faith shall hills remove,
And small as chaff the mountains beat.
Verse 10. Faith leads on to strong desire for the
realization of the promise, and hence the practical question, Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me
into Edom? The difficulty is plainly perceived. Petra is strong and
hard to enter: the Psalmist warrior knows that he cannot enter the city by his
own power, and he therefore asks who is to help him. He asks of the right
person, even of his Lord, who has all men at his beck, and can say to this man,
"show my servant the road", and he will show it, or to this band, "cut your way
into the rock city", and they will assuredly do it. Of Edom it is written by
Obadiah", The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the
clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, who shall
bring me down to the ground? Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though
thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the
Lord." David looked for his conquest to Jehovah's infinite power and he looked
not in vain.
Verse 11. Wilt not thou, O God, who hast cast us off? This
is grand faith which can trust the Lord even when he seems to have cast us off.
Some can barely trust him when he pampers them, and yet David relied upon him
when Israel seemed under a cloud and the Lord had hidden his face. O for more of
this real and living faith. The casting off will not last long when faith so
gloriously keeps her hold. None but the elect of God who have obtained "like
precious faith" can sing--
"Now thou arrayest thine awful face
In angry frowns, without a smile;
We, through the cloud, believe thy grace,
Secure of thy compassion still."
And wilt not thou, O God, go forth with our hosts? Canst
thou for ever forsake thine own and leave thy people to be overthrown by thine
enemies? The sweet singer is sure that Edom shall be captured, because he cannot
and will not believe that God will refrain from going forth with the armies of
his chosen people. When we ask ourselves, "Who will be the means of our
obtaining a promised blessing?" we need not be discouraged if we perceive no
secondary agent, for we may then fall back upon the great Promiser himself, and
believe that he himself will perform his word unto us. If no one else will lead
us into Edom, the Lord himself will do it, if he has promised it. Or if there
must be visible instruments he will use our hosts, feeble as they are. We
need not that any new agency should be created, God can strengthen our present
hosts and enable them to do all that is needed; all that is wanted even for the
conquest of a world is that the Lord go forth with such forces as we already
have. He can bring us into the strong city even by such weak weapons as we wield
Verse 12. Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of
man. This prayer has often fallen from the lips of men who have been
bitterly disappointed by their fellows, and it has also been poured out unto the
Lord in the presence of some gigantic labour in which mortal power is evidently
of no avail. Edom cannot be entered by any human power, yet from its fastnesses
the robber bands come rushing down; therefore, O Lord, do thou interpose and
give thy people deliverance. Help divine is expected because help human is of no
avail. We ought to pray with all the more confidence in God when our confidence
in man is altogether gone. When the help of man is vain, we shall not find it
vain to seek the help of God.
Verse 13. God's help shall inspire us to help ourselves.
Faith is neither a coward nor a sluggard: she knows that God is with her, and
therefore she does valiantly; she knows that he will tread down her enemies, and
therefore she arises to tread them down in his name. Where praise and prayer
have preceded the battle, we may expect to see heroic deeds and decisive
victories. Through God is our secret support; from that source we draw
all our courage, wisdom, and strength. We shall do valiantly. This is the public outflow from that
secret source: our inward and spiritual faith proves itself by outward and
valorous deeds. He shall tread down our enemies. They shall fall before
him, and as they lie prostrate he shall march over them, and all the hosts of
his people with him. This is a prophecy. It was fulfilled to David, but it
remains true to the Son of David and all who are on his side. The Church shall
yet arouse herself to praise her God with all her heart, and then with songs and
hosannas she will advance to the great battle; her foes shall be overthrown and
utterly crushed by the power of her God, and the Lord's glory shall be above all
the earth. Send it in our time, we beseech thee, O Lord.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Note the different application of the words as
they are used in Ps 57:1-11 and Ps 60:1-12, and as they are employed in Ps
108:1-13. In the former they were prophetic of prosperity yet to come, and
consolatory in the expectation of approaching troubles. In the latter, they are
eucharistic for mercies already received, and descriptive of the glorious things
which God has prepared for his Son and for Israel his people. The Psalm, thus
interpreted, announces that Messiah's travail is ended, when the troubles of
Israel are brought to a close. David's Son and David's Lord has taken to himself
his great power and begun to reign, and sitting upon the throne of his glory, he
sings this hymn, Ps 108:1-6. But with the glory of the Redeemer is associated
also the restoration, to favour and happiness, of Israel, his long cast off, but
not forgotten people. The setting up of King Messiah upon the holy hill of Zion
is graphically described, and all Jehovah's promises are realised in the most
ample measure. Messiah is described as a conqueror when the battle is won, and
kings and nations, prostrate at his feet, await his sentence and judgment upon
them. "I will rejoice. I will divide and portion out Shechem and the valley of
Succoth. Gilead is mine, and I give it to the children of Gad and Reuben. And
Manasseh also is mine. Ephraim is my strength in war: my horn of defence. Judah
is my king." Thus in gracious and flattering words, the victor addresses his
confederates and subjects. In a different strain, a strain of sarcasm and
contempt, he announces his pleasure respecting his vanquished enemies." Moab I
will use as a vessel to wash my feet in. Over proud Edom I will cast my shoe, as
an angry master to a slave ministering to him. Philistia follow my chariot, and
shout forth my triumph." But what is to be understood of the next passage, Ps
108:10, "Who will bring me into Edom?" Edom is already treated as a vassal
state, Ps 108:9. When all the nations become the kingdoms of Messiah, what is
this Edom that is to be amongst his latest triumphs? One passage only seems to
bear upon it, Isa 63:1, and from this we learn that it is from Edom as the last
scene of his vengeance, the conquering Messiah will come forth, "clothed with a
vesture dipped in blood." This Edom is therefore named with anxiety, because
after its overthrow, Messiah will shine out "King of kings, and Lord of lords",
Re 19:13-16. --R.H. Ryland.
Whole Psalm. This psalm hath two parts: in the former is
the thanksgiving of faith and promise of praise, in hope of obtaining all which
the church is here to pray for, (Ps 108:1-5). In the latter part is the prayer
for preservation of the church, Ps 108:6, with confidence to be heard and
helped, whatsoever impediment appear, against all who stand out against Christ's
kingdom, whether within the visible church (Ps 108:7-8), or whether without,
such as are professed enemies unto it, (Ps 108:9-11), which prayer is followed
forth (Ps 108:12), and comfortably closed with assurance of the Church's victory
by the assistance of God, Ps 108:13. --David Dickson.
Verse 1. O God, my heart is fixed. The wheels of a chariot
revolve, but the axletree turns not; the sails of a mill move with the wind, but
the mill itself moves not; the earth is carried round its orbit, but its centre
is fixed. So should a Christian be able, amidst changing scenes and changing
fortunes, to say, "O God, my heart is fixed, my heart is fixed."
--G.S. Bowes, in "Illustrative Gatherings", 1862.
Verse 1. My heart is fixed. The prophet saith his heart
was ready, so the old translation hath it; the new translation,
"My heart is fixed." The word in the Hebrew signifies, first,
ready, or prepared. Then, secondly, it signifies fixed. We
first fit, prepare a thing, sharpen it, before we drive it into the ground, and
then drive it in and fix it. So ask seriously and often, that thy heart may be
ready, and may also be fixed, and this by a habit which brings readiness
and fixedness, as in other holy duties, so in that of meditation. --Nathanael
Ranew, in "Solitude improved by Divine Meditation," 1670.
Verse 1. Meditation is a fixed duty. It is not a cursory
work. Man's thoughts naturally labour with a great inconsistency; but meditation
chains them, and fastens them upon some spiritual object. The soul when it
meditates lays a command on itself, that the thoughts which are otherwise
flitting and feathery should fix upon its object; and so this duty is very
advantageous. As we know a garden which is watered with sudden showers is more
uncertain in its fruit than when it is refreshed with a constant stream; so when
our thoughts are sometimes on good things, and then run off; when they only take
a glance of a holy object, and then flit away, there is not so much fruit
brought into the soul. In meditation, then, there must be a fixing of the heart
upon the object, a steeping the thoughts, as holy David: "O God, my heart is
fixed." We must view the holy object presented by meditation, as a limner
who views some curious piece, and carefully heeds every shade, every line and
colour; as the Virgin Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her
heart. Indeed; meditation is not only the busying the thoughts, but the centring
of them; not only the employing of them, but the staking them down upon some
spiritual affair. When the soul, meditating upon something divine, saith as the
disciples in the transfiguration (Mt 17:4), "It is good to be here." --John
Wells, in the "Practical Sabbatarian," 1668.
Verse 1. With my glory. The parallel passage in the Prayer
book version is, "with the best member I have." The tongue, being considered the
best member, is here described as the glory of man --as that which tends
to elevate him in the scale of creation; and therefore the pious man resolves to
employ his speech in giving utterance to the goodness of God. God is glorified
by the praise of his redeemed, and the instrument whereby it is effected is
man's glory. --The Quiver.
Verses 1-2. As a man first tunes his instrument, and then
playeth on it so should the holy servant of God first labour to bring his
spirit, heart, and affections into a solid and settled frame for worship, and
then go to work; My heart is fixed, or prepared firmly, I will sing
and give praise. As the glory of man above the brute creatures, is that from
a reasonable mind he can express what is his will by his tongue: so the glory of
saints above other men, is to have a tongue directed by the heart, for
expressing of God's praise: "I will sing and give praise, even with my
glory." Under typical terms we are taught to make use of all sanctified
means for stirring of us up unto God's service: for this the psalmist intends,
when he saith, Awake psaltery and harp. We ourselves must first be
stirred up to make right use of the means, before the means can be fit to stir
us up: therefore saith he, I myself will awake right early.
Verses 1-5. After David has professed a purpose of praising
God (Ps 108:1-3) he tells you, next, the proportion that is between the
attributes which he praiseth in God, and his praise of him. The greatness of the
attributes mercy and truth we have in Ps 108:4, Thy truth reaches unto
the clouds; and there is an answerable greatness in his praises of God for
them, Ps 108:5: Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: and thy glory
above all the earth. He wishes and endeavours to exalt him as high in
his praises as he is in himself; to exalt him above the earth, above the heaven,
and the clouds. --Henry Jeanes.
Verse 2. With reference to this passage the Talmud says, "A
cithern used to hang above David's bed; and when midnight came the north wind
blew among the strings, so that they sounded of themselves; and forthwith he
arose and busied himself with the Torah until the pillar of the dawn ascended."
Rashi observes, "The dawn awakes the other kings; but I, said David, will awake
the dawn." --Franz Delitzsch
Verse 2. When the Hebrew captives were sitting in sorrow "by
the waters of Babylon", they wept, and hung their harps on the willows, and
could not be prevailed upon by the conquerors to sing "the songs of Zion in that
land" (Ps 137:1,4). But when "the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, then
was their mouth filled with laughter and their tongue with singing" (Ps
126:1-2). Then the psaltery and harp of former generations
awoke (Ps 108:2). The old songs revived on their lips, and the melodies
of David acquired new charms for them. --Christopher Wordsworth.
Verse 2. Awake early.
"Yet never sleep the sun up; prayer should
Dawn with the day, there are set awful hours
Between heaven and us; the manna was not good
After sun rising, for day sullies flowers."
Verse 4. For thy mercy is great, etc. His mercy is
great--that mercy sung of lately (Ps 107:1,43). It is "from above the
heavens" (Mymv-lem); i.e., coming
down to us as do drops of a fertilizing shower; even as the "Peace on earth", of
Lu 2:14, was first "peace in heaven" (Lu 19:38). --Andrew A. Bonar.
Verse 4. The mercy of God was then great above the
heavens, when the God man, Christ Jesus, was raised to the highest heavens, and
the truth of our salvation established on the very throne of God. --W.
Verses 4-5. There is more stuff and substance of good in the
Lord's promises than the sharpest sighted saint did or can perceive; for when we
have followed the promise, to find out all the truth which is in it, we meet
with a cloud of unsearchable riches, and are forced to leave it there; for so
much is included in this, Thy truth reacheth unto the clouds. The
height of our praising of God is to put the work of praising God upon himself,
and to point him out unto others as going about the magnifying of his own name,
and to be glad for it, as here; Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens;
and thy glory above all the earth. --David Dickson.
Verses 4-6. There is great confidence here, and, as ever,
mercy to the soul which knows itself and comes before truth. But, then, for its
own deliverance and blessing it looks to the exalting of God. This shows it must
be a holy, righteous exalting. "Be thou exalted, O God, above the
heavens: and thy glory above all the earth; that thy beloved may be delivered."
It is a blessed thought, and this is what faith has to lay hold of now, even in
the time of trial, that our blessing and God's glory are one, only we must put
his glory first. --J.N. Darby.
Verse 6. That thy beloved may be delivered, etc. The church
is the Lord's "beloved", or the incorporation, more loved than anything
else in the world, therefore here called, "Thy beloved." Because the
church is God's beloved, the care of it should be most in our mind, and the love
of the preservation of it should draw forth our prayer most in favour of it.
"That thy beloved may be delivered: save." --David Dickson.
Verse 6. God being thus exalted according to the majesty of
his truth, the special plea of the Spirit of Jesus, founded on the mercy which
has throned itself above the heavens, is next urged (Ps 108:6) on behalf of the
nation of his ancient love. That thy beloved (ones) may be delivered,
save with thy right hand and answer me. It is the Spirit of Immanuel
that thus makes intercession for his well remembered people according to God.
His land should be rid in due time of those who had burdened it with wickedness.
For God had spoken in his holiness concerning the portion of his
anointed. --Arthur Pridham.
Verse 7. God hath spoken the word of assurance. This refers
to all the words in which the land of their inheritance was defined, especially
Ge 15:18 Ex 23:31 De 11:24, and that remarkable prediction concerning the
perpetuity of David's line, 2Sa 7:1-17, which must have made a deep impression
on his mind. From these passages it is evident that Aram as well as Edom was
included in the full compass of the territory designed for Israel, and that
David felt himself to be in the path of destiny when he was endeavouring to
extend his sway from the river of Egypt to the great river, even the Euphrates.
In his holiness, in the immutable integrity of his heart, which was an
infallible guarantee for the fulfilment of his promise. I will exult.
This is the exclamation of the representative head of the people, when he
ponders upon the divine utterance. --James G. Murphy.
Verse 7. Faith closing with a promise, will furnish joy to
the believer before he enjoys the performance of it: God hath spoken,
saith he, I will rejoice. --David Dickson.
Verse 7. He, the second David, had accomplished his warfare,
and had crowned himself with victory. Henceforth he would apportion the kingdoms
of the world and subdue them unto himself at his own holy will. Ephraim and
Judah, Moab and Philistia, the Jew first and then the Gentile, were to be
brought to confess him as their Lord. --Plain Commentary.
Verse 8. Ephraim also is the strength of mine head. As
Ephraim was the most populous of all the tribes, he appropriately terms it
the strength of his head, that is, of his dominions. --John
Verse 9. Moab, who had enticed Israel to impurity, is
made a vessel for its purifying. Edom, descendant of him who despised his
birthright, is deprived of his independence; --for "flinging a shoe" was a sign
of the transference of a prior claim on land. Ru 4:7. --William Kay.
Verse 9. Moab is my washpot. The office of washing the feet
was in the East commonly performed by slaves, and the meanest of the family, as
appears from what Abigail said to David when he took her to wife, "Behold, let
thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord", 1Sa
25:41; and from the fact of our Saviour washing his disciples' feet, to give
them an example of humility, Joh 8:5. The word nipthr, used in this last passage, signifies in general a washing
pot, and is put for the word podoniptron,
the term which the Greeks, in strict propriety of speech, applied to a vessel
for washing the feet. As this office was servile, so the vessels employed for
this purpose were a mean part of household stuff. Gataker and Le Clerc
illustrate this text from an anecdote related by Herodotus, concerning Amasis,
king of Egypt, who expressed the meanness of his own origin by comparing himself
to a pot for washing the feet in, (Herod. Lib. 2. c. 172). When, therefore, it
is said, "Moab is my washing pot", the complete and servile subjection of
Moab to David is strongly marked. This is expressed, not by comparing Moab to a
slave who performs the lowest offices, as presenting to his master the basin for
washing his feet, but by comparing him to the mean utensil itself. See 2Sa 8:2
1Ch 18:1-2, 12-13. --James Anderson's Note to Calvin on Isa 60:1-12.
Verse 9. Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast my shoe.
This somewhat difficult expression may be thus explained. Moab and Edom were to
be reduced to a state of lowest vassalage to the people of God. The one was to
be like a pot or tub fit only for washing the feet in, while the other was to be
like the domestic slave standing by to receive the sandals thrown to him by the
person about to perform his ablutions, that he might first put them by in a safe
place, and then come and wash his master's feet. --"Rays from the East."
Verse 9. Over Edom will I cast my shoe. David overthrew
their army in the "Valley of Salt", and his general, Joab, following up the
victory, destroyed nearly the whole male population (1Ki 11:15-16), and placed
Jewish garrisons in all the strongholds of Edom (2Sa 8:13-14). In honour of that
victory the Psalmist warrior may have penned the words in Ps 60:8, "Over Edom
will I cast my shoe." --J.L. Porter in, "Smith's Dictionary of the
Verse 10. The strong city built on the rock, even man's
hardened heart, stronger and more stony than the tomb, he had conquered and
overcome; and in him and his might are his people to carry on his warfare, and
to cast down all the strongholds of human pride, and human stubbornness, and
human unrepentance. --Plain Commentary.
Verses 10-11. It is not conclusive evidence that we are not
called to undertake a given work or perform a certain duty, because it is very
difficult, or even impossible for us to succeed without special help from God.
If God calls David to take Petra, he shall take Petra. --William S.
Verse 11. Wilt not thou, O God? His hand shall lead him even
to Petra, which seems unapproachable by human strength. That marvellous rock
city of the Edomites is surrounded by rocks some of which are three hundred feet
high, and a single path twelve in width leads to it. The city itself is partly
hewn out of the cloven rocks, and its ruins, which however belong to a later
period, fill travellers with amazement. --Augustus F. Tholuck.
Verse 11. He who came victorious from Edom, and with
garments dyed in the blood of his passion from Bozrah, will henceforth now go
forth with the armies of the true Israel, --for what are hosts without the Lord
of hosts? --to subdue their enemy. --Plain Commentary.
Verse 12. Give us help from trouble, etc. He who would have
God's help in any business, must quit confidence in man's help; and the seeing
of the vanity of man's help must make the believer to trust the more unto, and
expect the more confidently God's help, as here is done. "Give us help from
trouble: for vain is the help of man." --David Dickson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Whole Psalm. Parts of two former psalms are here united in
1. Repetition is here sanctioned by inspiration.
(a) Of what? Of hymns, of prayers, of sermons.
(b) For what? For impression. "As we said before so say I now again, if any man preach", etc. For confirmation:
"Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say rejoice": they went through Syria and Cilicia again confirming the
churches. For preservation: quotations authenticate originals, a writing in two copies is safer than in
2. Rearrangement is here sanctioned by inspiration.
(a) Different experiences may require it. Sometimes the heart is most fixed at the commencement of a
spiritual exercise: sometimes at its close. Hence the commencement of one psalm is the close of another.
(b) Different occasions may require it. As of sorrow and joy. Two parts of two different hymns may better
harmonise with a particular occasion than either one separately considered. --G.R.
1. The best occupation: praise. Worthy--
(a) Of the heart in its best condition.
(b) Of the best faculties of the best educated man.
2. The best resolution.
(a) Arising from a fixed heart.
(b) Deliberately formed.
(c) Solemnly expressed.
(d) Joyfully executed.
3. The best results. To praise God makes a man both happier and
holier, stronger and bolder--as the succeeding verses show.
Verse 2. The benefit of early rising. The sweetness of the
Sabbath morning early prayer meeting.
Verse 3. We must not restrain praise because we are
overheard by strangers, nor because the listeners are heathen, or ungodly, or
are numerous, or are likely to oppose. There may be all the more reason for our
outspoken praise of God when we are in such circumstances.
Verses 4-5. The greatness of mercy, the height of truth, and
the immensity of the Divine praise.
Verse 6. The prayer of a representative man. There are times
when to answer me is to deliver the church--at such times I have a
Verse 7. God's voice the cause of joy, the reason for
action, the guarantee of success.
Verse 8. Judah is my lawgiver. Jesus the sole and only
lawmaker in the church.
Verse 11. (first clause). --Confidence in a frowning
Verse 11. (second clause). Whether God will go forth
with our hosts depends upon--Who they are? What is their object? What is their
motive and spirit? What weapons do they use? etc.
Verse 12. The failure of human help is often
1. The direct cause of our prayer.
2. The source of urgency in pleading.
3. A powerful argument for the pleader.
4. A distinct reason for hope to light upon.
Verse 13. How, when, and why a believer should do valiantly.