Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
TITLE. "Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the Lord,
concerning the word of Cush the Benjamite."--"Shiggaion of
David." As far as we can gather from the observations of learned men, and
from a comparison of this Psalm with the only other Shiggaion in the Word of
God, (Habakkuk 3:1), this title seems to mean "variable songs," with
which also the idea of solace and pleasure is associated. Truly our life-psalm
is composed of variable verses; one stanza rolls along with the sublime metre of
triumph, but another limps with the broken rhythm of complaint. There is much
bass in the saint's music here below. Our experience is as variable as the
weather in England.
From the title we learn the occasion of the composition of this song. It appears
probable that Cush the Benjamite had accused David to Saul of treasonable
conspiracy against his royal authority. This the king would be ready enough to
credit, both from his jealousy of David, and from the relation which most
probably existed between himself, the son of Kish, and this Cush, or Kish, the
Benjamite. He who is near the throne can do more injury to a subject than an
may be called the SONG OF THE SLANDERED SAINT. Even this sorest of evils
may furnish occasion for a Psalm. What a blessing it would be if we could turn
even the most disastrous event into a theme for song, and so turn the tables
upon our great enemy. Let us learn a lesson from Luther, who once said,
"David made Psalms; we also will make Psalms, and sing them as well as we
can to the honour of our Lord, and to spite and mock the devil."
DIVISION. In the first and second verses the danger is stated, and prayer
offered. Then the Psalmist most solemnly avows his innocence. (3, 4, 5). The
Lord is pleaded with to arise to judgment (6, 7). The Lord, sitting upon his
throne, hears the renewed appeal of the Slandered Supplicant (8, 9). The Lord
clears his servant, and threatens the wicked (10, 11, 12, 13). The slanderer is
seen in vision bringing a curse upon his own head, (14, 15, 16), while David
retires from trial singing a hymn of praise to his righteous God. We have here a
noble sermon upon that text: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall
prosper, and every tongue that riseth against thee in judgment thou shalt
Verse 1. David appears before God
to plead with him against the Accuser, who had charged him with treason and
treachery. The case is here opened with an avowal of confidence in God. Whatever
may be the emergency of our condition we shall never find it amiss to retain our
reliance upon our God. "O Lord my God," mine by a special
covenant, sealed by Jesus' blood, and ratified in my own soul by a sense of
union to thee; "in thee," and in thee only, "do I put
my trust," even now in my sore distress. I shake, but my rock moves
not. It is never right to distrust God, and never vain to trust him. And now,
with both divine relationship and holy trust to strengthen him, David utters the
burden of his desire--"save me from all them that persecute me."
His pursuers were very many, and any one of them cruel enough to devour him; he
cries, therefore, for salvation from them all. We should never think our
prayers complete until we ask for preservation from all sin, and
all enemies. "And deliver me," extricate me from their snares,
acquit me of their accusations, give a true and just deliverance in this trial
of my injured character. See how clearly his case is stated; let us see to it,
that we know what we would have when we are come to the throne of mercy. Pause a
little while before you pray, that you may not offer the sacrifice of fools. Get
a distinct idea of your need, and then you can pray with the more fluency of
Verse 2. "Lest he tear my soul." Here is the plea of fear
co-working with the plea of faith. There was one among David's foes mightier
that the rest, who had both dignity, strength, and ferocity, and was, therefore,
"like a lion." From this foe he urgently seeks deliverance.
Perhaps this was Saul, his royal enemy; but in our own case there is one who
goes about like a lion, seeking whom he may devour, concerning whom we should
ever cry, "Deliver us from the Evil One." Notice the vigour of the
description--"rending it in pieces, while there is none to
deliver." It is a picture from the shepherd-life of David. When the
fierce lion had pounced upon the defenceless lamb, and had made it his prey, he
would rend the victim in pieces, break all the bones, and devour all, because no
shepherd was near to protect the lamb or rescue it from the ravenous beast. This
is a soul-moving portrait of a saint delivered over to the will of Satan. This
will make the bowels of Jehovah yearn. A father cannot be silent when a child is
in such peril. No, he will not endure the thought of his darling in the jaws of
a lion, he will arise and deliver his persecuted one. Our God is very pitiful,
and he will surely rescue his people from so desperate a destruction. It will be
well for us here to remember that this is a description of the danger to which
the Psalmist was exposed from slanderous tongues. Verily this is not an
overdrawn picture, for the wounds of a sword will heal, but the wounds of the
tongue cut deeper than the flesh, and are not soon cured. Slander leaves a slur,
even if it be wholly disproved. Common fame, although notoriously a common liar,
has very many believers. Once let an ill word get into men's mouths, and it is
not easy to get it fully out again. The Italians say that good repute is like
the cypress, once cut it never puts forth leaf again; this is not true if our
character be cut by a stranger's hand, but even then it will not soon regain its
former verdure. Oh, 'tis a meanness most detestable to stab a good man in his
reputation, but diabolical hatred observes no nobility in its mode of warfare.
We must be ready for this trial, for it will surely come upon us. If God was
slandered in Eden, we shall surely be maligned in this land of sinners. Gird up
your loins, ye children of the resurrection, for this fiery trial awaits you
Verses 3-5. The second part of this wandering hymn contains a protestation of
innocence, and an invocation of wrath upon his own head, if he were not clear
from the evil imputed to him. So far from hiding treasonable intentions in his
hands, or ungratefully requiting the peaceful deeds of a friend, he had even
suffered his enemy to escape when he had him completely in his power. Twice had
he spared Saul's life; once in the cave of Adullam, and again when he found him
sleeping in the midst of his slumbering camp: he could, therefore, with a clear
conscience, make his appeal to heaven. He needs not fear the curse whose soul is
clear of guilt. Yet is the imprecation a most solemn one, and only justifiable
through the extremity of the occasion, and the nature of the dispensation under
which the Psalmist lived. We are commanded by our Lord Jesus to let our
yea be yea, and our nay, nay: "for whatsoever is more than this cometh of
evil." If we cannot be believed on our word, we are surely not to be
trusted on our oath; for to a true Christian his simple word is as binding as
another man's oath. Especially beware, O unconverted men! of trifling with
solemn imprecations. Remember the woman at Devizes, who wished she might die if
she had not paid her share in a joint purchase, and who fell dead there and then
with the money in her hand. Selah.
David enhances the solemnity of this appeal to the dread tribunal of God by the
use of the usual pause. From these verses we may learn that no innocence can shield a man from the calumnies of the wicked. David had been scrupulously careful to avoid any appearance of
rebellion against Saul, whom he constantly styled "the Lord's
anointed;" but all this could not protect him from lying tongues. As the
shadow follows the substance, so envy pursues goodness. It is only at the tree
laden with fruit that men throw stones. If we would live without being slandered
we must wait till we get to heaven. Let us be very heedful not to believe the
flying rumors which are always harassing gracious men. If there are no believers
in lies there will be but a dull market in falsehood, and good men's characters
will be safe. Ill-will never spoke well. Sinners have an ill-will to saints, and
therefore, be sure they will not speak well of them.
Verse 6. We now listen to a fresh prayer, based upon the avowal which he has
just made. We cannot pray too often, and when our heart is true, we shall turn
to God in prayer as naturally as the needle to its pole. "Arise,
O Lord, in thine anger." His sorrow makes him view the Lord as a judge
who had left the judgment-seat and retired into his rest. Faith would move the
Lord to avenge the quarrel of his saints. "Lift up thyself because of
the rage of mine enemies"--a still stronger figure to express his
anxiety that the Lord would assume his authority and mount the throne. Stand up,
O God, rise thou above them all, and let thy justice tower above their
villainies. "Awake for me to the judgment that thou hast
commanded." This is a bolder utterance still, for it implies sleep as
well as inactivity, and can only be applied to God in a very limited sense. He
never slumbers, yet doth he often seem to do so; for the wicked prevail, and the
saints are trodden in the dust. God's silence is the patience of longsuffering,
and if wearisome to the saints, they should bear it cheerfully in the hope that
sinners may thereby be led to repentance.
Verse 7. "So shall the congregation of the people compass thee
about." Thy saints shall crowd to thy tribunal with their complaints,
or shall surround it with their solemn homage: "for their sakes
therefore return thou on high." As when a judge travels at the assizes,
all men take their cases to his court that they may be heard, so will the
righteous gather to their Lord. Here he fortifies himself in prayer by pleading
that if the Lord will mount the throne of judgment, multitudes of the saints
would be blessed as well as himself. If I be too base to be remembered, yet, "for
their sakes," for the love thou bearest to thy chosen people, come
forth from thy secret pavilion, and sit in the gate dispensing justice among the
people. When my suit includes the desires of all the righteous it shall surely
speed, for, "shall not God avenge his own elect?"
Verse 8. If I am not mistaken, David has now seen in the eye of his mind the
Lord ascending to his judgment-seat, and beholding him seated there in royal
state, he draws near to him to urge his suit anew. In the last two verses he
besought Jehovah to arise, and now that he is arisen, he prepares to mingle with
"the congregation of the people" who compass the Lord about. The royal
heralds proclaim the opening of the court with the solemn words, "The
Lord shall judge the people." Our petitioner rises at once, and cries
with earnestness and humility, "Judge me, O Lord, according to my
righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me." His hand
is on an honest heart, and his cry is to a righteous Judge.
Verse 9. He sees a smile of complacency upon the face of the King, and in the
name of all the assembled congregation he cries aloud, "Oh let the
wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just." Is
not this the universal longing of the whole company of the elect? When shall we
be delivered from the filthy conversation of these men of Sodom? When shall we
escape from the filthiness of Mesech and the blackness of the tents of Kedar? What
a solemn and weighty truth is contained in the last sentence of the ninth verse!
How deep is the divine knowledge!--"He trieth." How strict,
how accurate, how intimate his search!--"he trieth the hearts,"
the secret thoughts, "and reins," the inward affections.
"All things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to
Verse 10. The judge has heard the cause, has cleared the guiltless, and
uttered his voice against the persecutors. Let us draw near, and learn the
results of the great assize. Yonder is the slandered one with his harp in hand,
hymning the justice of his Lord, and rejoicing aloud in his own deliverance. "My
defense is of God, which saveth the upright in heart." Oh, how good to
have a true and upright heart. Crooked sinners, with all their
craftiness, are foiled by the upright in heart. God defends the right. Filth
will not long abide on the pure white garments of the saints, but shall be
brushed off by divine providence, to the vexation of the men by whose base hands
it was thrown upon the godly. When God shall try our cause, our sun has risen,
and the sun of the wicked is set for ever. Truth, like oil, is ever above, no
power of our enemies can drown it; we shall refute their slanders in the day
when the trumpet wakes the dead, and we shall shine in honour when lying lips
are put to silence. O believer, fear not all that thy foes can do or say against
thee, for the tree which God plants no winds can hurt.
Verse 11. "God judgeth the righteous," he hath not given
thee up to be condemned by the lips of persecutors. Thine enemies cannot sit on
God's throne, nor blot thy name out of his book. Let them alone, then, for God
will find time for his revenge. "God is angry with the wicked every day." He not only detests sin, but is angry with those who continue to indulge in it. We have no insensible and stolid God to deal with; he can be angry, nay, he is angry to-day and every day with
you, ye ungodly and impenitent sinners. The best day that ever dawns on a sinner
brings a curse with it. Sinners may have many feast days, but no safe days. From
the beginning of the year even to its ending, there is not an hour in which
God's oven is not hot, and burning in readiness for the wicked, who shall be as
Verse 12. "If he turn not, he will whet his sword." What
blows are those which will be dealt by that long uplifted arm! God's sword has
been sharpening upon the revolving stone of our daily wickedness, and if we will
not repent, it will speedily cut us in pieces. Turn or burn is the sinner's only
alternative. "He hath bent his bow and made it ready."
Verse 13. Even now the thirsty arrow longs to wet itself with the blood of
the persecutor. The bow is bent, the aim is taken, the arrow is fitted to
the string, and what, O sinner, if the arrow should be let fly at thee even now!
Remember, God's arrows never miss the mark, and are, every one of them,
"instruments of death." Judgment may tarry, but it will not come too
late. The Greek proverb saith, "The mill of God grinds late, but grinds to
Verse 14. In three graphic pictures we see the slanderer's history. A woman
in travail furnishes the first metaphor. "He travaileth with
iniquity." He is full of it, pained until he can carry it out, he longs
to work his will, he is full of pangs until his evil intent is executed. "He
hath conceived mischief." This is the original of his base design. The
devil has had doings with him, and the virus of evil is in him. And now behold
the progeny of this unhallowed conception. The child is worthy of its father,
his name of old was,"the father of lies," and the birth doth not belie
the parent, for he brought forth falsehood. Thus, one figure is carried
out to perfection; the Psalmist now illustrates his meaning by another, taken
from the stratagems of the hunter.
Verse 15. "He made a pit, and digged it." He was
cunning in his plans, and industrious in his labours. He stooped to the dirty
work of digging. He did not fear to soil his own hands, he was willing to work
in a ditch if others might fall therein. What mean things men will do to
wreak revenge on the godly. They hunt for good men, as if they were brute
beasts; nay, they will not give them the fair chase afforded to the hare or the
fox, but must secretly entrap them, because they can neither run them down nor
shoot them down. Our enemies will not meet us to the face, for they fear us as
much as they pretend to despise us. But let us look on to the end of the scene.
The verse says, he "is fallen into the ditch which he made."
Ah! there he is, let us laugh at his disappointment. Lo! he is himself the
beast, he has hunted his own soul, and the chase has brought him a goodly
victim. Aha, aha, so should it ever be. Come hither and make merry with this
entrapped hunter, this biter who has bitten himself. Give him no pity, for it
will be wasted on such a wretch. He is but rightly and richly rewarded by being
paid in his own coin. He cast forth evil from his mouth, and it has fallen into
his bosom. He has set his own house on fire with the torch which he lit to burn
a neighbour. He sent forth a foul bird, and it has come back to its nest.
Verse 16. The rod which he lifted on high, has smitten his own back. He shot
an arrow upward, and it has "returned upon his own head." He
hurled a stone at another and it has "come down upon his own pate."
Curses are like young chickens, they always come home to roost. Ashes always fly
back in the face of him that throws them. "As he loved cursing, so let it
come unto him." (Psalm 109:17.) How often has this been the case in the
histories of both ancient and modern times. Men have burned their own fingers
when they were hoping to brand their neighbour. And if this does not happen now,
it will hereafter. The Lord has caused dogs to lick the blood of Ahab in the
midst of the vineyard of Naboth. Sooner or later the evil deeds of persecutors
have always leaped back into their arms. So it will be in the last great day,
when Satan's fiery darts shall all be quivered in his own heart, and all his
followers shall reap the harvest which they themselves have sown.
Verse 17. We conclude with the joyful contrast. In this all these Psalms are
agreed; they all exhibit the blessedness of the righteous, and make its colours
the more glowing by contrast with the miseries of the wicked. The bright jewel
sparkles in a black foil. Praise is the occupation of the godly, their
eternal work, and their present pleasure. Singing is the fitting
embodiment for praise, and therefore do the saints make melody before the Lord
Most High. The slandered one is now a singer: his harp was unstrung for a very
little season, and now we leave him sweeping its harmonious chords, and flying
on their music to the third heaven of adoring praise.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
"Shiggaion," though some have attempted to fix on it a reference to
the moral aspect of the world as depicted in this Psalm, is in all probability
to be taken as expressing the nature of the composition. It conveys the
idea of something erratic ((Heb.), to wander) in the style; something not
so calm as other Psalms; and hence Ewald suggests, that it might be
rendered, "a confused ode," a Dithyramb. This characteristic of
excitement in the style, and a kind of disorder in the sense, suits Habakkuk
3:1, the only other place where the word occurs. Andrew A. Bonar.
Whole Psalm. Whatever might be the occasion of the Psalm, the real
subject seems to be the Messiah's appeal to God against the false accusations of
his enemies; and the predictions which it contains of the final conversion of
the whole world, and of the future judgment, are clear and explicit. Samuel
Horsley, LL.D., 1733-1806.
Verse 1. "O Lord, my God, in thee do I put my trust."
This is the first instance in the Psalms where David addresses the Almighty by
the united names Jehovah and my God. No more suitable words can be placed at the
beginning of any act of prayer or praise. These names show the ground of the
confidence afterward expressed. They "denote at once supreme reverence and
the most endearing confidence. They convey a recognition of God's infinite
perfections, and of his covenanted and gracious relations." William S.
Verse 2. "Lest he tear my soul like a lion," etc. It
is reported of tigers, that they enter into a rage upon the scent of fragrant
spices; so do ungodly men at the blessed savour of godliness. I have read of
some barbarous nations, who, when the sun shines hot upon them, they shoot up
their arrows against it; so do wicked men at the light and heat of godliness.
There is a natural antipathy between the spirits of godly men and the wicked.
Genesis 3:15. "I will put enmity between thy seed and her seed." Jeremiah
Verse 3. "O Lord, my God, if I have done this, if there be
iniquity in my hands." In the primitive times the people of God were
then a people under great reproach. What strange things does Tertullian tell us
they reproached them withal; as that in their meetings they made Thyestes
suppers, who invited his brother to a supper, and presented him with a dish of
his own flesh. They charged them with uncleanness because they met in the night
(for they durst not meet in the day,) and said, they blew out the candles when
they were together, and committed filthiness. They reproached them for
ignorance, saying, they were all unlearned; and therefore the heathens in
Tertullian's time used to paint the God of the Christians with an ass's head,
and a book in his hand to signify that though they pretended learning, yet they
were an unlearned, silly people, rude and ignorant. Bishop Jewel in his sermon
upon Luke 11:5, cites this out of Tertullian, and applies it to his
time:--"Do not our adversaries do the like," saith he, "at this
day, against all those that profess the gospel of Christ? Oh, say they, who are
they that favour this way? they are none but shoemakers, tailors, weavers, and
such as were never at the university;" they are the bishop's own words. He
cites likewise Tertullian a little after, saying, that the Christians were
accounted the public enemies of the State. And Josephus tells us of Apollinaris,
speaking concerning the Jews and Christians, that they were more foolish than
any barbarian. And Paulus Fagius reports a story of an Egyptian, concerning the
Christians, who said, "They were a gathering together of a most filthy,
lecherous people;" and for the keeping of the Sabbath, he says, "they
had a disease that was upon them, and they were fain to rest the seventh day
because of that disease." And so in Augustine's time, he hath this
expression, "Any one that begins to be godly, presently he must prepare to
suffer reproach from the tongues of adversaries;" and this was their usual
manner of reproach, "What shall we have of you, an Elias? a Jeremy?"
And Nazianzen, in one of his orations says, "It is ordinary to reproach,
that I cannot think to go free myself." And so Athanasius, they called him
Sathanasius, because he was a special instrument against the Arians. And
Cyprian, they called him Coprian, one that gathers up dung, as if all the
excellent things that he had gathered in his works was but dung. Jeremiah
Verse 3. "If I have done this; if there be iniquity in my
hands." I deny not but you may, and ought to be sensible of the wrong
done to your name, for as "a good name is a precious ointment"
(Canticles 1:3), so to have an evil name is a great judgment; and therefore you
ought not to be insensible of the wrong done to your name by slanders and
reproaches, saying, "Let men speak of me what they please, I care not, so
long as I know mine own innocency," for though the testimony of your own
innocency be a ground of comfort unto you, yet your care must be not only to
approve yourselves unto God, but also unto men, to be as careful of your good
names as possibly ye can; but yet you are not to manifest any distemper or
passion upon the reproachful speeches of others against you. Thomas Gouge,
Verse 3. It is a sign that there is some good in thee if a wicked
world abuse thee. "Quid mali feci?" said Socrates, what evil
have I done that this bad man commends me? The applause of the wicked usually
denotes some evil, and their censure imports some good. Thomas Watson.
Verse 3. "If there be iniquity in my hands."
Injustice is ascribed to the hand, not because injustice as always,
though usually it be, done by the hand. With the hand men take away, and with
that men detain the right of others. David speaks thus (1 Chronicles 12:17),
"Seeing there is no wrong in mine hands;" that is, I have done no
wrong. Joseph Caryl.
Verses 3, 4. A good conscience is a flowing spring of assurance.
"For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in
simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of
God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to
you-ward." 2 Corinthians 1:12. "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not,
then have we confidence towards God." 1 John 3:21. A good conscience has
sure confidence. He who has it sits in the midst of all combustions and
distractions, Noah-like, all sincerity and serenity, uprightness and boldness.
What the probationer disciple said to our Saviour, "Master, I will follow
thee whithersoever thou goest," that a good conscience says to the
believing soul; I will stand by thee; I will strengthen thee; I will uphold
thee; I will be a comfort to thee in life, and a friend to thee in death.
"Though all should leave thee, yet will I never forsake thee," Thomas
Verse 4. "Yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine
enemy." Meaning Saul, whose life he twice preserved, once in Engedi,
and again when he slept on the plain. John Gill.
Verse 4. "If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace
with me." To do evil for good, is human corruption; to do good for
good, is civil retribution; but to good for evil, is Christian perfection.
Though this be not the grace of nature, yet it is the nature of grace. William
Verse 4. Then is grace victorious, and then hath a man a noble and
brave spirit, not when he is overcome by evil (for that argueth weakness), but
when he can overcome evil. And it is God's way to shame the party that did the
wrong, and to overcome him too; it is the best way to get the victory over him.
When David had Saul at an advantage in the cave, and cut off the lap of his
garment, and did forbear any act of revenge against him, Saul was melted, and
said to David, "Thou art more righteous than I." 1 Samuel 24:17.
Though he had such a hostile mind against him, and chased and pursued him up and
down, yet when David forbear revenge when it was in his power, it overcame him,
and he falls a-weeping. Thomas Manton.
Verse 5. "Let him tread down my life upon the earth."
The allusion here is to the manner in which the vanquished were often treated in
battle, when they were rode over by horses, or trampled by men in the dust. The
idea of David is, that if he was guilty he would be willing that his enemy
should triumph over him, should subdue him, should treat him with the utmost
indignity and scorn. Albert Barnes, in loc.
Verse 5. "Mine honour in the dust." When Achilles
dragged the body of Hector in the dust around the walls of Troy, he did but
carry out the usual manners of those barbarous ages. David dares in his
conscious innocence to imprecate such an ignominious fate upon himself if indeed
the accusation of the black Benjamite be true. He had need have a golden
character who dares to challenge such an ordeal. C. H. S.
Verse 6. "The judgment which thou hast ordained." In
the end of the verse he shows that he asks nothing but what is according to the
appointment of God. And this is the rule which ought to be observed by us in our
prayers; we should in everything conform our requests to the divine will, as
John also instructs us. 1 John 4:14. And, indeed, we can never pray in faith
unless we attend, in the first place, to what God commands, that our minds may
not rashly and at random start aside in desiring more than we are permitted to
desire and pray for. David, therefore, in order to pray aright, reposes himself
on the word and promise of God; and the import of his exercise is this: Lord, I
am not led by ambition, or foolish headstrong passion, or depraved desire,
inconsiderately to ask from thee whatever is pleasing to my flesh; but it is the
clear light of thy word which directs me, and upon it I securely depend. John
Verse 7. "The congregation of the people:" either, 1.
A great number of all sorts of people, who shall observe thy justice, and
holiness, and goodness in pleading my righteous cause against my cruel and
implacable oppressor. Or rather, 2. The whole body of thy people Israel, by whom
both these Hebrew words are commonly ascribed in Holy Scripture. "Compass
thee about;" they will, and I, as their king and ruler in thy stead,
will take care that they shall come from all parts and meet together to worship
thee, which in Saul's time they have grossly neglected, and been permitted to
neglect, and to offer to thee praises and sacrifices for thy favour to me, and
for the manifold benefits which they shall enjoy by my means, and under my
government. "For their sakes;" or, for its sake, i.e.,
for the sake of thy congregation, which now is woefully dissipated and
oppressed, and has in a great measure lost all administration of justice, and
exercise of religion. "Return thou on high," or, return to
thy high place,i.e. to thy tribunal, to sit there and judge my cause. An
allusion to earthly tribunals, which generally are set up on high above the
people. 1 Kings 10:19. Matthew Poole, 1624-1679.
Verse 8. Believers! let not the terror of that day dispirit you when
you meditate upon it; let those who have slighted the Judge, and continue
enemies to him and the way of holiness, droop and hang down their heads when
they think of his coming; but lift ye up your heads with joy, for the last day
will be your best day. The Judge is your Head and Husband, your Redeemer, and
your Advocate. Ye must appear before the judgment-seat; but ye shall not come
into condemnation. His coming will not be against you, but for you. It is
otherwise with unbelievers, a neglected Saviour will be a severe
Judge. Thomas Boston, 1676-1732.
Verse 9. "The righteous God trieth the hearts and reins."
As common experience shows that the workings of the mind, particularly the
passions of joy, grief, and fear, have a very remarkable effect on the reins
or kidneys. (See Proverbs 23:16; Psalm 73:21), so from their retired
situation in the body, and their being hid in fat, they are often used to denote
the most secret workings and affections of the soul. And to "see or examine
the reins," is to see or examine those most secret thoughts or
desires of the soul. John Parkhurst, 1762.
Verse 9 (last clause). "The righteous God trieth the
hearts and reins."
"I that alone am infinite, can try
How deep within itself thine heart doth lie.
Thy seamen's plummet can but reach the ground,
I find that which thine heart itself ne'er found.
--Francis Quarles, 1592-1644.
Verse 9. "The heart," may signify the cogitations,
and the "reins" the affections. Henry Ainsworth.
Verse 10. "My defense is of God." Literally, "My
shield is upon God," like Psalm 62:8, "My salvation is upon
God." The idea may be taken from the armour-bearer, ever ready at hand to
give the needed weapon to the warrior. Andrew A. Bonar.
Verse 11. "God judgeth the righteous," etc. Many
learned disputes have arisen as to the meaning of this verse; and it must be
confessed that its real import is by no means easily determined: without the
words written in italics, which are not in the original, it will read thus,
"God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry every day." The question
still will be, is this a good rendering? To this question it may be replied,
that there is strong evidence for a contrary one. AINSWORTH translates it,
"God is a just judge; and God angrily threateneth every day."
With this corresponds the reading of COVERDALE'S Bible, "God is a righteous
judge, and God is ever threatening." In King Edward's Bible, of 1549, the
reading is the same. But there is another class of critics who adopt quite a
different view of the text, and apparently with much colour of argument. BISHOP
HORSLEY read the verse, "God is a righteous judge, although he is not angry
every day." In this rendering he seems to have followed most of the ancient
versions. The VULGATE read it, "God is a judge, righteous, strong, and
patient; will he be angry every day?" The SEPTUAGINT reads it, "God is
a righteous judge, strong, and longsuffering; not bringing forth his anger every
day." The SYRIAC has it, "God is the judge of righteousness; he is not
angry every day." In this view of the text Dr. A. Clarke agrees, and
expresses it as his opinion that the text was first corrupted by the CHALDEE.
This learned divine proposes to restore the text thus, "(Heb.), el,
with the vowel point tseri, signifies God; (Heb.), al, the same
letters, with the point pathach, signifies not." There is by
this view of the original no repetition of the divine name in the verse, so that
it will simply read, as thus restored, "God is a righteous judge, and is
NOT angry every day." The text at large, as is intimated in the VULGATE,
SEPTUAGINT, and some other ancient versions, conveys a strong intimation of the
longsuffering of God, whose hatred of sin is unchangeable, but whose anger
against transgressors is marked by infinite patience, and does not burst forth
in vengeance every day. John Morrison, in "An Exposition of the Book of
Verse 11. "God is angry." The original expression
here is very forcible. The true idea of it appears to be, to froth or foam
at the mouth with indignation. Richard Mant, D.D., 1824.
Verses 11, 12. God hath set up his royal standard in defiance of all
the sons and daughters of apostate Adam, who from his own mouth are proclaimed
rebels and traitors to his crown and dignity; and as against such he hath taken
the field, as with fire and sword, to be avenged on them. Yea, he gives the
world sufficient testimony of his incensed wrath, by that of it which is
revealed from heaven daily in the judgments executed upon sinners, and those
many but of a span long, before they can show what nature they have by actual
sin, yet crushed to death by God's righteous foot, only for the viperous kind of
which they come. At every door where sin sets its foot, there the wrath of God
meets us. Every faculty of soul, and member of body, are used as a weapon of
unrighteousness against God; so every one hath its portion of wrath, even to the
tip of the tongue. As man is sinful all over, so is he cursed all over. Inside
and outside, soul and body, is written all with woes and curses, so close and
full, that there is not room for another to interline, or add to what God hath
written. William Gurnall.
Verses 11-13. The idea of God's righteousness must have possessed
great vigour to render such a representation possible. There are some excellent
remarks upon the ground of it in Luther, who, however, too much overlooks the
fact, that the psalmist presents before his eyes this form of an angry and
avenging God, primarily with the view of strengthening by its consideration his
own hope, and pays too little regard to the distinction between the psalmist,
who only indirectly teaches what he described as part of his own inward
experience, and the prophet: "The prophet takes a lesson from a coarse
human similitude, in order that he might inspire terror unto the ungodly. For he
speaks against stupid and hardened people, who would not apprehend the reality
of a divine judgment, of which he had just spoken; but they might possibly be
brought to consider this by greater earnestness on the part of man. Now, the
prophet is not satisfied with thinking of the sword, but adds thereto the bow;
even this does not satisfy him, but he describes how it is already stretched,
and aim is taken, and the arrows are applied to it as here follows. So hard,
stiff-necked and unabashed are the ungodly, that however many threatenings may
be urged against them, they will still remain unmoved. But in these words he
forcibly describes how God's anger presses hard upon the ungodly, though they
will never understand this until they actually experience it. It is also to be
remarked here, that we have had so frightful a threatening and indignation
against the ungodly in no Psalm before this; neither has the Spirit of God
attacked them with so many words. Then in the following verses, he also recounts
their plans and purposes, shows how these shall not be in vain, but shall return
again upon their own head. So that it clearly and manifestly appears that to all
those who suffer wrong and reproach, as a matter of consolation, that God hates
such revilers and slanderers above all other characters. E. W. Hengstenberg,
in loc., 1845.
Verse 12. "If he turn not," etc. How few do believe
what a quarrel God hath with wicked men? And that not only with the loose, but
the formal and hypocritical also? If we did we would tremble as much to be among
them as to be in a house that is falling; we would endeavour to "save"
ourselves "from this untoward generation." The apostle would not so
have adjured them, so charged, so entreated them, had he not known the danger of
wicked company. "God is angry with the wicked every day;" his bow
is bent, the arrows are on the string; the instruments for their ruin are
all prepared. And is it safe to be there where the arrows of God are ready to
fly about our ears? How was the apostle afraid to be in the bath with Cerinthus!
"Depart," saith God by Moses, "from the tents of Korah, Dathan,
and Abiram, lest ye be consumed in all their sins." How have the baskets of
good figs suffered with the bad! Is it not prejudicial to the gold to be with
the dross? Lot had been ruined by his neighbourhood to the Sodomites if God had
not wrought wonderfully for his deliverance. Will you put God to work miracles
to save you from your ungodly company? It is dangerous being in the road with
thieves whilst God's hue and cry of vengeance is at their backs. "A
companion of fools shall be destroyed." The very beasts may instruct you to
consult better for your security: the very deer are afraid of a wounded chased
deer, and therefore for their preservation thrust him out of their company. Lewis
Verse 12. "If he turn not, he will whet his sword,"
etc. The whetting of the sword is but to give a keener edge that it may cut the
deeper. God is silent as long as the sinner will let him; but when the sword is
whet, it is to cut; and when the bow is bent, it is to kill; and woe be to that
man who is the butt. William Secker.
Verse 13. "He hath also prepared for him the instruments of
death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors." It is said
that God hath ordained his arrows against the persecutors; the word signifies
such as burn in anger and malice against the godly; and the word translated ordained,
signifies God hath wrought his arrows; he doth not shoot them at random, but he
works them against the wicked. Illiricus hath a story which may well be a
commentary upon this text in both the parts of it. One Felix, Earl of
Wartenberg, one of the captains of the Emperor Charles V., swore in the presence
of divers at supper, that before he died he would ride up to the spurs in the
blood of the Lutherans. Here was one that burned in malice, but behold how God
works his arrows against him; that very night the hand of God so struck him,
that he was strangled and choked in his own blood; so he rode not, but bathed
himself, not up to the spurs, but up to the throat, not in the blood of the
Lutherans, but in his own blood before he died. Jeremiah Burroughs.
Verse 13. "He ordaineth his arrows," This might more
exactly be rendered, "He maketh his arrows burning." This image would
seem to be deduced from the use of fiery arrows. John Kitto, 1804-1854.
Verse 14. "Behold he travaileth with iniquity," etc.
The words express the conception, birth, carriage and miscarriage,
of a plot against David. In which you may consider:--(1.) What his enemies
did. (2.) What God did. (3.) What we all should do: his enemies' intention,
God's prevention, and our duty; his enemies' intention, he
travaileth with iniquity, and conceiveth mischief; God's prevention, he
brought forth a lie; our duty, Behold. . . . . Observe the
aggravation of the sin, he conceiveth. He was not put upon it, or forced
into it: it was voluntary. The more liberty we have not to sin, makes our sin
the greater. He did not this in passion, but in cold blood. The less will, less
sin. Richard Sibbs.
Verse 14. "He travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived
mischief." All note that conceiving is before travailing, but here
travailing, as a woman in labour, goeth first; the reason whereof is, that the
wicked are so hotly set upon the evil which they maliciously intend, that they
would be immediately acting of it if they could tell how, even before they have
conceived by what means; but in fine they bring forth but a lie, that is, they
find that their own hearts lied to them, when they promised good success, but
they had evil. For their haste to perpetrate mischief is intimated in the word
rendered "persecutors" (verse 13), which properly signifieth ardentes,
burning; that is, with a desire to do mischief--and this admits of no
delay. A notable common-place, both setting forth the evil case of the wicked,
especially attempting anything against the righteous, to move them to
repentance--for thou hast God for thine enemy warring against thee, whose force
thou canst not resist--and the greedy desire of the wicked to be evil, but
their conception shall all prove abortive. J. Mayer, in loc.
Verse 14. "And hath brought forth falsehood." Every
sin is a lie. Augustine.
"Earth's entertainments are like those of Jael.
Her left hand brings me milk, her right, a nail."
Verses 14, 15. "They have digged a pit for us"--and
that low, unto hell--"and are fallen into it themselves."
"No juster law can be devised or made,
Than that sin's agents fall by their own trade."
The order of hell proceeds with the same degrees; though it give a greater
portion, yet still a just proportion, of torment. These wretched guests were too
busy with the waters of sin; behold, now they are in the depth of a pit,
"where no water is." Dives, that wasted so many tuns of wine, cannot
now procure water, not a pot of water, not a handful of water, not a drop of
water, to cool his tongue. Desideravit guttam, qui non dedit micam.
(Augustine Hom. 7) A just recompense! He would not give a crumb; he shall not
have a drop. Bread hath no smaller fragment than a crumb, water no less fraction
than a drop. As he denied the least comfort to Lazarus living, so Lazarus shall
not bring him the least comfort dead. Thus the pain for sin answers the pleasure
of sin. . . . Thus damnable sins shall have semblable punishments; and as
Augustine of the tongue, so we may say of any member. . . . If it will not serve
God in action, it shall serve him in passion. Thomas Adams.
Verse 15. "He made a pit, and digged it." The
practice of making pitfalls was anciently not only employed for ensnaring wild
beasts, but was also a stratagem used against men by the enemy, in time of war.
The idea, therefore, refers to a man who, having made such a pit, whether for
man or beast, and covered it over so as completely to disguise the danger, did
himself inadvertently tread on his own trap, and fall into the pit he had
prepared for another. Pictorial Bible.
Verse 16. That most witty of commentators, Old Master Trapp, tells the
following notable anecdote, in illustration of this verse: That was a very
remarkable instance of Dr. Story, who, escaping out of prison in Queen
Elizabeth's days, got to Antwerp, and there thinking himself out of the reach of
God's rod, he got commission under the Duke of Alva to search all ships coming
thither for English books. But one Parker, an English merchant, trading for
Antwerp, laid his snare fair (saith our chronicler), to catch this foul bird,
causing secret notice to be given to Story, that in his ship were stores of
heretical books, with other intelligence that might stand him in stead. The
Canonist conceiving that all was quite sure, hasted to the ship, where, with
looks very big upon the poor mariners, each cabin, chest, and corner above-board
were searched, and some things found to draw him further on: so that the hatches
must be opened, which seemed to be unwillingly done, and great signs of fear
were showed by their faces. This drew on the Doctor to descend into the hold,
where now in the trap the mouse might well gnaw, but could not get out, for the
hatches were down, and the sails hoisted up, which, with a merry gale, were
blown into England, where ere long he was arraigned, and condemned of high
treason, and accordingly executed at Tyburn, as he had well deserven.
Verse 16. The story of Phalaris's bull, invented for the torment of
others, and serving afterwards for himself, is notorious in heathen story. . . .
. It was a voluntary judgment which Archbishop Cranmer inflicted on himself when
he thrust that very hand into the fire, and burnt it, with which he had signed
to the popish articles, crying out, "Oh, my unworthy right hand!"
but who will deny that the hand of the Almighty was also concerned in it? William
Turner in "Divine Judgments by way of Retaliation", 1697.
Verse 17. To bless God for mercies is the way to increase them; to
bless him for miseries is the way to remove them: no good lives so long as that
which is thankfully improved; no evil dies so soon as that which is patiently
endured. William Dyer.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
The necessity of faith when we address ourselves to God. Show the worthlessness
of prayer without trust in the Lord.
Verses 1, 2. Viewed as a prayer for deliverance from all enemies,
especially Satan the lion.
Verse 3. Self-vindication before men. When possible, judicious, or
serviceable. With remarks upon the spirit in which it should be attempted.
Verse 4. "The best revenge." Evil for good is
devil-like, evil for evil is beast-like, good for good is man-like, good for
evil is God-like.
Verse 6. How and in what sense divine anger may become the hope of the
fought by fire, or man's anger overcome by God's anger.
Verse 7. The congregation of the people."
Who they are.
Why they congregate together with one another.
Where they congregate.
Why they choose such a person to be the centre of their congregation.
Verse 7. The gathering of the saints around the Lord Jesus.
Verse 7 (last clause). The coming of Christ to judgment for the
good of his saints.
Verse 8. The character of the Judge before whom we all must stand.
Verse 9 (first clause). (1)
By changing their hearts; or (2)
by restraining their wills, (3) or depriving them of power,
or removing them. Show the times when, the reasons why, such a prayer should be offered, and
how, in the first sense, we may labour for its accomplishment.
Verse 9. This verse contains two grand prayers, and a noble proof that
the Lord can grant them.
Verse 9. The period of sin, and the perpetuity of the righteous. Matthew
Verse 9. "Establish the just." By what means and in
what sense the just are established, or, the true established church.
Verse 9 (last clause). God's trial of men's hearts.
Verse 10. "Upright in heart." Explain the character.
Verse 10. The believer's trust in God, and God's care over him. Show
the action of faith in procuring defence and protection, and of that defence
upon our faith by strengthening it, etc.
Verse 11. The Judge, and the two persons upon their trial.
Verse 11 (second clause). God's present, daily, constant, and
vehement anger, against the wicked.
Verse 12. See "Spurgeon's Sermons," No. 106. "Turn or
Verses 14, 15, 16. Illustrate by three figures the devices and defeat
Verse 17. The excellent duty of praise.
Verse 17. View the verse in connection with the subject of the Psalm,
and show how the deliverance of the righteous, and the destruction of the wicked
are themes for song.