Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher - Works Upon This Psalm
TITLE AND SUBJECT. To the Chief Musician upon Gittith. A
Psalm for the sons of Korah. This Psalm well deserved to be committed to the
noblest of the sons of song. No music could be too sweet for its theme, or too
exquisite in sound to match the beauty of its language. Sweeter than the joy of
the wine press, (for that is said to be the meaning of the word rendered upon
Gittith), is the joy of the holy assemblies of the Lord's house; not even the
favoured children of grace, who are like the sons of Korah, can have a richer
subject for song than Zion's sacred festivals. It matters little when this Psalm
was written, or by whom; for our part it exhales to us a Davidic perfume, it
smells of the mountain heather and the lone places of the wilderness, where King
David must have often lodged during his many wars. This sacred ode is one of the
choicest of the collection; it has a mild radiance about it, entitling it to be
called The Pearl of Psalms. If the twenty-third be the most
popular, the one-hundred- and-third the most joyful, the
one-hundred-and-nineteenth the most deeply experimental, the fifty-first the
most plaintive, this is one of the most sweet of the Psalms of peace.
Pilgrimages to the tabernacle were a grand feature of Jewish life. In our
country, pilgrimages to the shrine of Thomas of Canterbury, and our Lady of
Walsingham, were so general as to affect the entire population, cause the
formation of roads, the erection and maintenance of hostelries, and the creation
of a special literature; this may help us to understand the influence of
pilgrimage upon the ancient Israelites. Families journeyed together, making
bands which grew at each halting place; they camped in sunny glades, sang in
unison along the roads, toiled together over the hill and through the slough,
and as they went along, stored up happy memories which would never be forgotten.
One who was debarred the holy company of the pilgrims, and the devout worship of
the congregation, would find in this Psalm fit expression for his mournful
DIVISION. We will make our pauses where the poet or the
musician placed them, namely, of the Selahs.
Verse 2. My soul longeth, it pines, and faints to meet with
the saints in the Lord's house. The desire was deep and insatiable-- the very
soul of the man was yearning for his God. Yea, even fainteth; as though it could not long hold out,
but was exhausted with delay. He had a holy lovesickness upon him, and was
wasted with an inward consumption because he was debarred the worship of the
Lord in the appointed place. For the courts of the Lord. To stand once again in those
areas which were dedicated to holy adoration was the soul longing of the
psalmist. True subjects love the courts of their king. My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. It was
God himself that he pined for, the only living and true God. His whole nature
entered into his longing. Even the clay cold flesh grew warm through the intense
action of his fervent spirit. Seldom, indeed, does the flesh incline in the
right direction, but in the matter of Sabbath services our weary body sometimes
comes to the assistance of our longing heart, for it desires the physical rest
as much as the soul desires the spiritual repose. The psalmist declared that he
could not remain silent in his desires, but began to cry out for God and his
house; he wept, he sighed, he pleaded for the privilege. Some need to be whipped
to church, while here is David crying for it. He needed no clatter of bells from
the belfry to ring him in, he carried his bell in his own bosom: holy appetite
is a better call to worship than a full chime.
Verse 3. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house. He envied the
sparrows which lived around the house of God, and picked up the stray crumbs in
the courts thereof; he only wished that he, too, could frequent the solemn
assemblies and bear away a little of the heavenly food. And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her
young. He envied also the swallows whose nests were built under the eaves of
the priest's houses, who there found a place for their young, as well as for
themselves. We rejoice not only in our personal religious opportunities, but in
the great blessing of taking our children with us to the sanctuary. The church
of God is a house for us and a nest for our little ones. Even thine altars, O Lord of hosts. To the very altars
these free birds drew near, none could restrain them nor would have wished to do
so, and David wished to come and go as freely as they did. Mark how he repeats
the blessed name of Jehovah of Hosts; he found in it a sweetness which helped
him to bear his inward hunger. Probably David himself was with the host, and,
therefore, he dwelt with emphasis upon the title which taught him that the Lord
was in the tented field as well as within the holy curtains. My King and my God. Here he utters his loyalty from afar.
If he may not tread the courts, yet he loves the King. If an exile, he is not a
rebel. When we cannot occupy a seat in God's house, he shall have a seat in our
memories and a throne in our hearts. The double "my" is very precious; he lays
hold upon his God with both his hands, as one resolved not to let him go till
the favour requested be at length accorded.
Verse 4. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house. Those he
esteems to be highly favoured who are constantly engaged in divine worship--the
canons residentiary, yea, the pew openers, the menials who sweep and dust. To
come and go is refreshing, but to abide in the place of prayer must be heaven
below. To be the guests of God, enjoying the hospitalities of heaven, set apart
for holy work, screened from a noisy world, and familiar with sacred things--why
this is surely the choicest heritage a son of man can possess. They will be still praising thee. So near to God, their
very life must be adoration. Surely their hearts and tongues never cease from
magnifying the Lord. We fear David here drew rather a picture of what should be
than of what is; for those occupied daily with the offices needful for public
worship are not always among the most devout; on the contrary, "the nearer the
church the further from God." Yet in a spiritual sense this is most true, for
those children of God who in spirit abide even in his house, are also ever full
of the praises of God. Communion is the mother of adoration. They fail to praise
the Lord who wander far from him, but those who dwell in him are always
magnifying him. Selah. In such an occupation as this we might be content to
remain for ever. It is worth while to pause and meditate upon the prospect of
dwelling with God and praising him throughout eternity.
Verse 5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee.
Having spoken of the blessedness of those who reside in the house of God, he now
speaks of those who are favoured to visit it at appointed seasons, going upon
pilgrimage with their devout brethren: he is not, however, indiscriminate in his
eulogy, but speaks only of those who heartily attend to the sacred festivals.
The blessedness of sacred worship belongs not to half hearted, listless
worshippers, but to those who throw all their energies into it. Neither prayer,
nor praise, nor the hearing of the word will be pleasant or profitable to
persons who have left their hearts behind them. A company of pilgrims who had
left their hearts at home would be no better than a caravan of carcasses, quite
unfit to blend with living saints in adoring the living God. In whose heart are the ways of them,
or far better, in whose heart are thy ways. Those who love the ways of God
are blessed. When we have God's ways in our hearts, and our heart in his ways,
we are what and where we should be, and hence we shall enjoy the divine
Verse 6. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a
well. Traversing joyfully the road to the great assembly, the happy pilgrims
found refreshment even in the dreariest part of the road. As around a well men
meet and converse cheerfully, being refreshed after their journey, so even in
the vale of tears, or any other dreary glen, the pilgrims to the skies find
sweet solace in brotherly communion and in anticipation of the general assembly
above, with its joys unspeakable. Probably there is here a local allusion, which
will never now be deciphered, but the general meaning is clear enough. There are
joys of pilgrimage which make men forget the discomforts of the road. The rain also filleth the pools. God gives to his people
the supplies they need while traversing the roads which he points out for them.
Where there were no natural supplies from below, the pilgrims found an abundant
compensation in waters from above, and so also shall all the sacremental host of
God's elect. Ways, which otherwise would have been deserted from want of
accommodation, were made into highways abundantly furnished for the travellers'
wants, because the great annual pilgrimages led in that direction; even so,
Christian converse and the joy of united worship makes many duties easy and
delightful which else had been difficult and painful.
Verse 7. They go from strength to strength. So far from
being wearied they gather strength as they proceed. Each individual becomes
happier, each company becomes more numerous, each holy song more sweet and full.
We grow as we advance if heaven be our goal. If we spend our strength in God's
ways we shall find it increase. Every one of them in Zion appeareth before God. This was
the end of the pilgrim's march, the centre where all met, the delight of all
hearts. Not merely to be in the assembly, but to appear before God was the
object of each devout Israelite. Would to God it were the sincere desire of all
who in these days mingle in our religious gatherings. Unless we realise the
presence of God we have done nothing; the mere gathering together is nothing
Verse 8. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer. Give me to go
up to thy house, or if I may not do so, yet let my cry be heard. Thou listenest
to the united supplications of thy saints, but do not shut out my solitary
petition, unworthy though I be. Give ear, O God of Jacob. Though Jehovah of hosts, thou art
also the covenant God of solitary pleaders like Jacob; regard thou, then, my
plaintive supplication. I wrestle here alone with thee, while the company of thy
people have gone on before me to happier scenes, and I beseech thee bless me;
for I am resolved to hold thee till thou speak the word of grace into my soul.
The repetition of the request for an answer to his prayer denotes his eagerness
for a blessing. What a mercy it is that if we cannot gather with the saints, we
can still speak to their Master. Selah. A pause was needed after a cry so vehement, a prayer
Verse 9. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of
thine anointed. Here we have the nation's prayer for David; and the
believer's prayer for the Son of David. Let but the Lord look upon our Lord
Jesus, and we shall be shielded from all harm; let him behold the face of his
Anointed, and we shall be able to behold his face with joy. We also are anointed
by the Lord's grace, and our desire is that he will look upon us with an eye of
love in Christ Jesus. Our best prayers when we are in the best place are for our
glorious King, and for the enjoyment of his Father's smile.
Verse 10. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand.
Of course the psalmist means a thousand days spent elsewhere. Under the most
favourable circumstances in which earth's pleasures can be enjoyed, they are not
comparable by so much as one in a thousand to the delights of the service of
God. To feel his love, to rejoice in the person of the anointed Saviour, to
survey the promises and feel the power of the Holy Ghost in applying precious
truth to the soul, is a joy which worldlings cannot understand, but which true
believers are ravished with. Even a glimpse at the love of God is better than
ages spent in the pleasures of sense. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to
dwell in the tents of wickedness. The lowest station in connection
with the Lord's house is better than the highest position among the godless.
Only to wait at his threshold and peep within, so as to see Jesus, is bliss. To
bear burdens and open doors for the Lord is more honour than to reign among the
wicked. Every man has his choice, and this is ours. God's worst is better than
the devil's best. God's doorstep is a happier rest than downy couches within the
pavilions of royal sinners, though we might lie there for a lifetime of luxury.
Note how he calls the tabernacle the house of my God; there's where the sweetness
lies: if Jehovah be our God, his house, his altars, his doorstep, all become
precious to us. We know by experience that where Jesus is within, the outside of
the house is better than the noblest chambers where the Son of God is not to be
Verse 11. For the Lord God is a sun and shield. Pilgrims
need both as the weather may be, for the cold would smite them were it not for
the sun, and foes are apt to waylay the sacred caravan, and would haply destroy
it if it were without a shield. Heavenly pilgrims are not left uncomforted or
unprotected. The pilgrim nation found both sun and shield in that fiery cloudy
pillar which was the symbol of Jehovah's presence, and the Christian still finds
both light and shelter in the Lord his God. A sun for happy days and a shield
for dangerous ones. A sun above, a shield around. A light to show the way and a
shield to ward off its perils. Blessed are they who journey with such a convoy;
the sunny and shady side of life are alike happy to them. The Lord will give grace and glory. Both in due time, both
as needed, both to the full, both with absolute certainty. The Lord has both
grace and glory in infinite abundance; Jesus is the fulness of both, and, as his
chosen people, we shall receive both as a free gift from the God of our
salvation. What more can the Lord give, or we receive, or desire. No good thing will he withhold from them that walk
uprightly. Grace makes us walk uprightly and this secures every covenant
blessing to us. What a wide promise! Some apparent good may be withheld, but no
real good, no, not one. "All things are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ
is God's." God has all good, there is no good apart from him, and there is no
good which he either needs to keep back or will on any account refuse us, if we
are but ready to receive it. We must be upright and neither lean to this or that
form of evil: and this uprightness must be practical, --we must walk in
truth and holiness, then shall we be heirs of all things, and as we come of age
all things shall be in our actual possession; and meanwhile, according to our
capacity for receiving shall be the measure of the divine bestowal. This is
true, not of a favoured few, but of all the saints for evermore.
Verse 12. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth
in thee. Here is the key of the Psalm. The worship is that of faith,
and the blessedness is peculiar to believers. No formal worshipper can enter
into this secret. A man must know the Lord by the life of real faith, or he can
have no true rejoicing in the Lord's worship, his house, his Son, or his ways.
Dear reader, how fares it with thy soul?
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. Here note, that the sons, that is, the posterity of
wicked and rebellious Korah, have an honourable place in God's sacred and solemn
service: for to them sundry of David's psalms are commended. . . . Here see the verifying of God's word, for the comfort of all
godly children, that the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, Eze
18:14,17,20, if he see his father's sins and turn from them. Thomas Pierson
(1570-1633), in "David's Heart's Desire."
O Lord of hosts, how lovely in mine eyes
The tents where thou dost dwell!
For thine abode my spirit faints and sighs;
The courts I love so well.
My longing soul is weary
Within thy house to be;
This world is waste and dreary,
A desert land to me.
The sparrow, Lord, hath found a sheltered home,
The swallow hath her nest;
She layeth there her young, and though she roam,
Returneth there to rest.
I, to thine altar flying,
Would there for ever be;
My heart and flesh are crying,
O living God, for thee!
How blest are they who in thy house abide!
Thee evermore they praise.
How strong the man whom thou alone dost guide,
Whose heart doth keep thy ways.
A pilgrim and a stranger,
He leaneth on thine arm;
And thou, in time of danger,
Dost shield him from alarm.
From strength to strength through Baca's vale of woe,
They pass along in prayer,
And gushing streams of living water flow,
Dug by their faithful care;
Thy rain is sent from heaven
To fertilise the land,
And wayside grace is given
Till they in Zion stand.
Lord God of hosts, attend unto my prayer!
O Jacob's God, give ear!
Behold, O God, our shield, we through thy care,
Within thy courts appear!
Look thou upon the glory
Of thine Anointed's face;
In him we stand before thee,
To witness of thy grace!
One day with thee excelleth over and over
A thousand days apart;
In thine abode, within thy temple door,
Would stand my watchful heart.
Men tell me of the treasure
Hid in their tents of sin;
I look not there for pleasure,
Nor choose to enter in.
Own then the Lord to be thy Sun, thy Shield--
No good will he withhold;
He giveth grace, and soon shall be revealed
His glory, yet untold.
His mighty name confessing,
Walk thou at peace and free;O Lord, how rich the blessing
Of him who trusts in thee!
--German Choral Music.
Verse 1. How amiable are thy tabernacles. What was there in
them that appeared so amiable? Perchance, the edifice was famed for the skill
and cost bestowed on it? But the temple of extraordinary beauty was not yet
constructed. The tabernacle was lowly, more suited to pilgrims than to a great
people, and little becoming the king himself. Therefore to the pious there is no
need of vast or sumptuous temples to the end that they should love the house of
Verse 1. How amiable are thy tabernacles. What made the
tabernacle of Moses lovely was not the outside, which was very mean, as the
Church of God outwardly is, through persecution, affliction, and poverty; but
what was within, having many golden vessels in it, and those typical of things
much more precious; moreover, here the priests were to be seen in their robes,
doing their duty and service, and, at certain times, the high priest in his rich
apparel; here were seen the sacrifices slain and offered, by which the people
were taught the nature of sin, the strictness of justice, and the necessity and
efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ: here the Levites were heard singing their
songs, and blowing their trumpets: but much more amiable are the Church of God
and its ordinances in Gospel times, where Christ, the Great High Priest, is seen
in the glories of his person, and the fulness of his grace; where Zion's
priests, or the ministers of the gospel, stand clothed, being full fraught with
salvation, and the tidings of it; where Christ is evidently set forth, as
crucified and slain, in the ministry of the word, and the administration of
ordinances; here the gospel trumpet is blown, and its joyful sound echoed forth,
and songs of love and grace are sung by all believers; besides, what makes these
tabernacles still more lovely are, the presence of God here, so that they are no
other than the house of God, the gate of heaven; the provisions that are here
made, and the company that is here enjoyed. John Gill.
Verse 1. Amiable. The adjective is rendered by the English
versions amiable, in the sense of the French amiable, lovely. But
the usage of the Hebrew word requires it to be understood as meaning dear,
beloved, which is exactly the idea here required by the context. The plural,
dwellings, has reference to the subdivisions and appurtenances of the
sanctuary, and is applied to the tabernacle in Ps 48:3. Compare Ps 68:35. The
divine titles are as usual significant. While one suggests the covenant relation
between God and the petitioner, the other makes his sovereignty the ground for a
prayer for his protection.. Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 1. Tabernacles. By the name of tabernacles we
are put in mind of the church's peregrination and wandering from one place unto
another, until she come unto her own true country. For as tabernacle and tents
of war be removed hither and thither, so the Church of God in this life hath no
sure and quiet abode, but often is compelled to change her seat. This
pilgrimage, whereby indeed every man, as Augustine doth say, is a pilgrim in
this world, doth admonish us of sin, which is the cause of this peregrination.
For, because of sin, we are cast with our first parents out of Paradise into the
land wherein we sojourn. So that we are removed from Jerusalem, that is, from
the sight and fruition of peace, into Babylon, that is, into confusion and
exile, wherein we wander far and wide. Nicholas Heminge (Hemminguis)
(1513-1600), in "The Faith of the Church Militant."
Verses 1-2. When we cannot express the greatness of a thing
in direct terms, we are fain to fly to wonder, and so doth David here, because
he cannot express sufficiently how amiable the Tabernacles of the Lord are, he
therefore falls to wondering, and helps himself with a question; How amiable are
thy Tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts? But is not David's wondering itself wonderful,
that the tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts should be so wonderfully amiable? Is
it not a wonder they should be amiable at all? For are not his tabernacles tents
of war? and is there anything in war that can be amiable? If he had said: How
terrible are thy Tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts; his wonder had been with
some congruity; for the Lord of Hosts is terrible in all his works; but to say,
How amiable are thy Tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts, seems to imply a
contradiction; for though they may be amiable, as they are tabernacles, yet they
must needs be terrible, as they are Tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts; and when
this terribleness hath made an abatement in their amiableness, what place will
be left for wonder, to give cause to say, How amiable are thy Tabernacles, O
Lord of Hosts? But if he had said, How terrible are thy Tabernacles, O Lord of
Hosts; though it might have been wonderful in the degree, yet it could not be
wonderful in the kind: for what wonder is it, if the Tabernacles of the Lord of
Hosts be terrible? But when he saith, How amiable are thy Tabernacles, O Lord of
Hosts; this is not only wonderful in the degree, but in the kind much more. For
what can be more wonderful, than that being Tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts,
they should be amiable, and so amiable as to be wondered at? But is it not, that
God is in himself so amiable, that all things of His, even his terrors
themselves, are amiable; his tabernacles and his tents, his sword and his spear,
his darts and his arrows, all amiable; terrible no doubt to his enemies, but
amiable, wonderfully amiable to all that love and fear him, and great reason
they should be so, seeing they are all in their defence, and for their
safeguard; though they be Tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts to the wicked, yet
they are Courts of the Prince of Peace to the godly, and this makes my soul
to long for the courts of the Lord. For I desire indeed to be a
courtier, yet not as I am now: God knows I am very unfit for it, but because
God's Courts are such, they make any one fit, that but comes into them; they
receive not men fit, but make them fit, and he that was before but a shrub in
Baca, as soon as he comes into the Courts of the Lord is presently made a cedar
in Lebanon. Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 2. My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, etc. Every
amiableness is not so great to make a longing, nor every longing so great to
make a fainting; nor every fainting so great to make the soul to faint; Oh,
then, consider how great this amiableness is, which makes my soul not only to
long, but to faint with longing! And blame me not for fainting, as though it
were my own fault for not restraining my longing; for seeing his Tabernacles are
of infinite amiableness, they must need work in me an infinite delighting, and
that delighting an infinite longing; and what restraint can there be of that
which is infinite? No, alas, my fainting is but answerable to my longing, and my
longing but answerable to the amiableness. If I had the offer made me, which was
made to Christ, to enjoy all the kingdoms of the earth, but with condition to
want the Courts of the Lord; this want would bring to my soul a greater grief
than that enjoying would give it contentment: for seeing his Tabernacles are so
amiable, where He is Lord of Hosts, how amiable must they needs be, where he is
Prince of Peace? and Prince of Peace he is in his Courts, though in his camp he
be Lord of Hosts. Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 2. My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth. The word
hlk (fainteth) signifies to be consumed with longing, as the Latins say, deperire
aliquem amore (he is dying of love), that is, he so vehemently loves, and is
enflamed with so great a desire to obtain the loved object, that he wastes and
pines away unless his wish is gratified. Therefore, an ardent longing is meant,
which so torments and burns the mind, that flesh and marrow waste away, so long
as it is not permitted to enjoy the thing desired. Mollerus.
Verse 2. soul...heart...flesh. Marking the whole man, with
every faculty and affection. The verbs are also very expressive. The first
longeth, means literally, "hath grown pale, "as with the intensity of the
feeling; the second, fainteth, is more exactly "faileth, "or "is
consumed." Job 19:27. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Verse 2. Crieth. The word that is here rendered crieth,
is from (Heb.), that signifies to shout, shrill, or cry out, as soldiers do
at the beginning of a battle, when they cry out, Fall on, fall on, fall on, or
when they cry out after a victory, Victory, victory, victory! The Hebrew word
notes a strong cry, or to cry as a child cries when it is sadly hungry, for now
very whit of the child cries, hands cry, and face cries, and feet cry. Thomas
Verse 2. Living God. Ps 42:2, My soul thirsteth for God,
for the living God, is the only other place in the Psalms where God
is so named. This particular form of expression, El Chay, occurs but
twice beside in the Bible, Jos 3:10 Ho 1:10. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Verse 3. The sparrow hath found an house, etc. The tender
care of God, over the least of his creatures, is here most touchingly alluded
to. The Psalmist, while an exile, envies them their privileges. He longs to be
nestling, as it were, in the dwelling place of God. The believer finds a perfect
home and rest in God's altars; or, rather, in the great truths which they
represent. Still, his confidence in God is sweetened and strengthened by the
knowledge of his minute, universal, providential care. It becomes his admiring
delight. "God fails not, "as one has beautifully said, "to find a house for the
most worthless, and a nest for the most restless of birds." What
confidence this should give us! How we should rest! What repose the soul finds
that casts itself on the watchful, tender care of him who provides so fully for
the need of all his creatures! We know what the expression of "nest" conveys,
just as well as that of "a house." Is it not a place of security, a shelter from
storm, a covert to hide oneself in, from every evil, a protection from all that
can harm, "a place to rest in, to nestle in, to joy in?" But there is one thing
in these highly privileged birds which strike us forcibly in our
meditations--they knew not him from whom all this kindness flowed --they knew
neither his heart nor his hand. They enjoyed the rich provisions of his tender
care; he thought of everything for their need, but there was no fellowship
between them and the Great Giver. From this, O my soul, thou mayest learn a
useful lesson. Never rest satisfied with merely frequenting such places, or with
having certain privileges there; but rise, in spirit, and seek and find and
enjoy direct communion with the living God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. The
heart of David turns to God himself. My heart and my flesh crieth out
for the living God. Things New and Old.
Verse 3. The swallow a nest, etc. The confidence which these
birds place in the human race is not a little extraordinary. They not only put
themselves, but their offspring in the power of men. I have seen their nests in
situations where they were within the reach of one's hand, and where they might
have been destroyed in an instant. I have observed them under a doorway, the
eaves of a low cottage, against the wall of a tool shed, on the knocker of a
door, and the rafter of a much frequented hay loft. Edward Jesse, in
"Gleanings in Natural History." 1856.
Verse 3. Even thine altars. There were two altars; the
"brazen altar, "and the "golden altar; "to those, no doubt, the psalmist refers.
Both were of shittim wood, which sets forth the holy humanity --the perfect
manhood, of the Lord Jesus. Incarnation lies at the foundation of all his work
for us, and all our blessing in him. The one altar was overlaid with brass, the
other with pure gold. The overlaying shadows forth his Godhead, but in
distinct aspects. We have the same Jesus in both, but shadowed forth in
different circumstances. In the one, humiliation and suffering; in the other,
exaltation and glory. Things New and Old.
Verse 3. Thine altars. There is in the original a
pathetical, a vehement, a broken expressing, expressed, O thine altars.
It is true (says David) thou art here in the wilderness, and I may see thee
here, and serve thee here, but O thine altars, O Lord of Hosts, my
King and my God. John Donne.
Verse 3. Thine altars is a poetical way of saying,
Thy house. It is manifestly a special term, instead of a general.
Yet it has been seriously argued, that no birds could or would ever be suffered
to build their nests on the altar. Surely this sort of expression, which is
hardly a figure, is common enough. A parte apotiori fit
denominato. We say, "There goes a sail." What should we think of a man who
should argue that a sail cannot go? The altars mean the temple. There was
"no jutty frieze,
Buttress, nor coigne of vantage, but these birds
Had made their pendant bed; "
not to mention that trees grew within the sacred enclosure,
where birds might have built their nests. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Verse 3. A custom, existing among several nations of
antiquity, is deemed capable of illustrating the present passage. For birds,
whose nests chanced to be built on the temples, or within the limits of them,
were not allowed to be driven away, much less to be killed, but found there a
secure and undisturbed abode. William Keating Clay.
Verse 4. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; etc.
Alas, how happens this? There were tabernacles before, as belonging to a
Lord; and courts as belonging to a king, and altars as belonging
to a God; and now to be but a house as belonging to a private man; and so
all this great rising to end in a fall? No, my soul, it is no fall, it is an
aggregation rather of all the other; for where his tabernacles did but
serve to shew his power, his courts but to shew his majesty; his
altars but to shew his deity, his house serves to shew them all;
for in his house there will still be praising him, and his praise and
glory is the sum of all. Or is it that to dwell in God's house is a kind of
appropriating him to ourselves, seeing his tabernacles and his courts lie open
to strangers, his house open to none but his servants; and seeing in the
nearness to God, and conversing with him, consists all true blessedness;
therefore Blessed are they that dwell in his house, but how dwell
in it? Not to look in sometimes as we pass by, or to stay in it a time, as we do
at an inn, but to be constant abiders in it day and night, as to which we have
devoted ourselves and bowed our service. Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 4. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house. What was
this house more to David than another house, save that here he reckoned upon
enjoying the Divine Presence? So that here was a heart so naturalized to this
presence as to affect an abode in it, and that he might lead his life with God,
and dwell with him all his days; he could not be content with giving a visit now
and then. And why should this temper of spirit in the clearer light of the
gospel be looked upon as an unattainable thing! A lazy despondency, and the mean
conceit that it is modest not to aim so high, starve religion, and stifles all
truly noble and generous desires. Let this then be the thing designed with you,
and constantly pursue and drive the design, that you may get into the
disposition of spirit toward God. John Howe.
Verse 4. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, etc.
Blessed indeed, we too may exclaim, and blessed shall they be for ever. They are
dwellers, not visitors, in God's house. I will dwell in
the house of the Lord for ever. This is true, blessedly true, of all who
trust in Jesus now. But though God's children are all priests by birth, as were
the sons of Aaron, they are not all, alas! priests by consecration. (See Exodus
29.) Comparatively few know their priestly place at the golden altar. Many of
them are doubting as to whether their sins, root and branch, were all consumed
outside the camp; and, consequently, such are afraid to come within the court,
and as for being assured of their full justification and sanctification in the
risen One, they gravely doubt and fear that such blessedness can ever be their
happy lot. Hence that state of soul which answers to priestly consecration at
the laver, and happy worship at the golden altar, is unknown and unenjoyed. They
are not priests by consecration. Our text is plain. They will still be praising thee.
Doubts, fears, unsettled questions, all are gone. Such cannot exist in the holy
place. All, of course, who are in Christ, must be in God's account where he is;
but all who believe in Christ, do not know and believe that they are in him,
as being one with him now. When the state of our souls answers to
what is symbolized by the holy place, we can only praise: They that dwell in
thy house will be still praising thee. Then we are happily near to
God, and have communion with him, in the glorified Christ, through the power of
the Holy Ghost. Things New and Old.
Verse 4. They will be still praising thee. How appears it to
be true, that they who dwell in God's house will always be praising him, seeing
it is but seldom seen that servants be so forward to praise their masters? O my
soul! it is not so much the good dispositions of the servants, as the infinite
worthiness of the Master that makes them to praise him, for when they see the
admirable economy of his government, when they see how sweetly he disposeth all
things in weight and measure, when they find him to use them more like children
than servants, what heart can be so ungrateful as not to praise him? And seeing
by dwelling in God's house, they see these things continually, therefore they
that dwell in his house will always be praising him. Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 4. They will be still praising thee. As having hearts
full of heaven, and consciences full of comfort. There cannot but be music in
the temple of the Holy Ghost. John Trapp.
Verse 4. Still praising. It is not enough to praise him, it
must be a praising him still, before it will make a blessedness; and
though to praise God be an easy matter, yet to praise him still, will be
found a busy work, indeed to flesh and blood a miserable work, for if I be still
praising him, what time shall I have for any pleasures? O my soul, if thou make
it not thy pleasure, thy chief, thy only pleasure to be praising him, thou art
not like in haste to come to blessedness. And marvel not that David speaks thus
under the law, when St. Paul under the Gospel saith as much: Whether ye eat
or drink, or whatsoever ye do, let all be done to the glory and praise
of God. Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 5. In whose heart are thy ways. That is, who love the
ways that lead to thy house. Earnest Hawkins.
Verse 5. In whose heart are the ways of them. Literally,
The steeps are on their hearts. The steep ascents on which the
tabernacle stood. Horsley renders, They are bent on climbing the steep
ascents. Perhaps the (Heb.) were more properly the raised
causeways or stairs leading up to Mount Zion, or all through the mountain
country on the road to Jerusalem. John Fry.
Verse 5. In whose heart are the ways. The natural heart is a
pathless wilderness, full of cliffs and precipices. When the heart is renewed by
grace, a road is made, a highway is prepared for our God. See Isa
40:3-4. Frederick Fysh.
Verse 6. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well,
etc. I consider the valley here mentioned to be the same as the valley of
Bochim, mentioned in Jud 2:1,5, which received its name from the
weeping of the Jews, when they were rebuked by an angel for their
disobedience to the commands of God. This valley is called m'kkh, Habbcaim,
in 2Sa 5:24, the h of hkk to weep being changed into a. Josephus mentions,
that the circumstance there related occurred en
toiv alsesi toiv kaloumenoiv Klauqmwsi. Antiquities
Jud. lib 7 c 4. my'kkh, Habb'caim, is rendered in that verse by the
LXX Klauqmwn, weepings;and in Jud 2:1 kykkh, Habbocim, is also
rendered by the LXX. Klauqmwn, weepings. The valley mentioned in Ps 84:6 is
called by the LXX. Klauqmwn. I am inclined therefore to think, that in this
place, joining to'kkh the m of the following word, and supplying y before it, we ought
to read nymy'kkh instead of ny`m'kkh... All the ancient versionists seem to have thought,
that the valley in this verse received its name from hkk, bacah, to weep.
I translate the verse, Passing through the valley of Bochim, they will
make it a fountain even of blessings; it shall be covered with the
former rain. The Psalm has been supposed to have been written by
Jehoshaphat. Probably he passed through Bochim, which seems to have been an arid
valley, when he marched against the Moabites and Ammonites; see 2 Chronicles 20.
After the victory the army of Jehoshaphat assembled in a valley, where they
blessed the Lord; and from this circumstance it received the name of Berachah:
see 2Ch 20:26. Perhaps the word tvkrk in this verse has an
allusion to that circumstance; and perhaps the valley of Berachah was, before
that glorious occasion, called the valley of Bochim. Richard Dixon.
Verse 6. Passing through the valley of weeping make him,
that is, Jehovah, a fountain. That is, they trust, and from him look
for help, who having plain paths in their mind must pass through many
difficulties. Similar help is sought by those, who, suffering from a scanty
supply of water, press on through a dry valley, and yet do not despair or grow
weary, but have God for their fountain, from which they drink and are refreshed.
Verse 6. The valley of Baca. Valley of tear shrubs. E. W.
Verse 6. Baca, signifieth a mulberry tree, which loves to
grow in dry places that be sandy and barren, 2Sa 5:23-24, or 1Ch 14:14-15. Now
they whose hearts be set upon God's house and holy worship, when they go
thitherward through a sandy, dry, barren valley, do make it a well, --that is,
repute and count it as a well, the word rhrtysy signifieth to put or set,
as Ge 3:15; Ps 21:6,12 83:11,13. For thus will they say with themselves,
thinking upon the comfort of God's favour to whom they go, that it shall be to
them as the rain of blessings, a plentiful and liberal rain upon the ground.
Verse 6. Make it a well. That which seemed an impediment
turns to a furtherance; at least, no misery can be so great, no estate so
barren, but a godly heart can make it a well, out of which to draw forth water
of comfort; either water to cleanse, and make it a way to repentance; or water
to cool, and make it a way to patience; or water to moisten, and make it a way
of growing in grace; and if the well happen to be dry, and afford no water from
below, yet the rain shall fill their pools, and supply them with
water from above. If natural forces be not sufficient, there shall be
supernatural graces added to assist them, that though troubles of the world seem
rubs in the way to blessedness, yet in truth they are none, they hinder not
arriving at the mark we aim at, they hinder us not from being made members of
Sion, they hinder us not from approaching the presence of God. No, my soul, they
are rather helps, for by this means we go from strength to strength,
from strength of patience, to strength of hope; from strength of hope, to
strength of faith, to strength of vision; and then will be accomplished that
which David speaks here; Blessed is the man whose strength is in God,
and in whose heart his ways are. Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 6. The rain. Little as there may be of water, that
little suffices on their way. It is a well to them. They find only
"pools (which) the early rain has (barely) covered" -- but
are content with the supply by the way. It is as good and sufficient to them as
if showers of the heavy autumnal rains had filled the well. Pilgrims forget the
scanty supply at an inn, when they have abundance in view at the end. Israelites
going up to the Passover made light of deficient water, for their hearts were
set on reaching Jerusalem. Andrew A. Bonar.
Verses 6-7. The most gloomy present becomes bright to them:
passing through even a terrible wilderness, they turn it into a place of
springs, their joyous hope and the infinite beauty of the goal, which is worth
any amount of toil and trouble, afford them enlivening comfort, refreshing,
strengthening in the midst of the arid steppe. Not only does their faith bring
forth water out of the sand and rocks of the desert, but God also on his part
lovingly anticipates their love, and rewardingly anticipates their faithfulness:
a gentle rain, like that which refreshes the sown fields in the autumn, descends
from above and enwraps the valley of Baca in a fulness of blessing... the arid
steppe becomes resplendent with a flowery festive garment (Isa 35:1-19), not to
outward appearance, but to them spiritually, in a manner none the less true and
real. And whereas under ordinary circumstances, the strength of the traveller
diminishes in proportion as he has traversed more and more of his toilsome road,
with them it is the very reverse; they go from strength to
strength. Franz Delitzsch.
Verse 7. They go from strength to strength. Junius reads it,
and so it is in the Hebrew, "They go from company to company." As they went up
to Jerusalem they went in troops and companies. Possibly we translate it
strength because much of our safety consisteth in good society. George
Verse 7. Every one of them in Zion appeareth before
God. That is, every one of them answering to the character described. Others
as well as they would appear in Zion before God; but not to enjoy his presence,
and receive tokens of his favour. Blessedness was not to be enjoyed, but it
could only be enjoyed by those who had been previously fitted for it by
character and attainment. As certainly as these had been acquired, so certainly
would the blessedness be enjoyed by each and by all of them. Every one of
them in Zion appeareth before God. No one has perished by the
way--none been devoured by wild beasts--none cut off by the wandering
banditti--none become faint hearted and turned back. The whole bands are
assembled-- young and old, weak and strong; all answer to their names, and
testify to the goodness of the Lord in bearing them up, and bringing through --in
affording them rest, and yielding them pleasure. So shall it ever be with true
spiritual pilgrims. The grace of God will always prove sufficient to preserve
them, safe and blameless, to his heavenly kingdom and glory--troubles shall not
overwhelm them-- temptations not wholly overcome them--spiritual enemies shall not
destroy them. They are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation,
ready to be revealed in the last time. Their names are written in the Lamb's
book of life, and the Lamb himself shall see to it that each of them is found in
the day of account. Then shall he be able to say, Those whom thou hast given
me I have kept, and none of them is lost. "They are all here before
God." William Makelvie. 1863.
Verse 8. There are two distinct thoughts of great practical
value to the Christian, in this short prayer. There is the sense of divine
majesty, and the consciousness of divine relationship. As Lord of
hosts, he is almighty in power; as the God of Jacob, he is
infinite in mercy and goodness to his people. Things New and Old.
Verse 9. While many, alas, are satisfied with mere
formalities in religion, or with the dry discussion of doctrines, high or low,
as they may be called, see thou and be occupied with Christ himself. It is the
knowledge of his person that gives strength and joy to the soul. At all times,
under all circumstances, we can say, Look upon the face of thine
Anointed. We cannot always say, Look on us; but we may always say,
Look on Him. In deepest sorrow through conscious failure, or in trials
and difficulties through faithfulness to his name, we can ever plead with God
what Christ is. God is ever well pleased with him--ever occupied with him as
risen from the dead and exalted to his own right hand in heaven; and he would
have us also to be occupied with him as the heart's exclusive object. True faith
can only rest on God's estimate of Christ, not on inward thoughts and
feelings. That which may be called the faith of the formalist, rests on the
ability of his own mind to judge of these matters. He trusts in himself. This is
the essential difference between faith in appearance and faith in reality.
Things New and Old.
Verse 9. Look upon the face of thine anointed. For I shall
never come to look upon thy face, if thou vouchsafe not first to look upon mine:
if thou afford me not as well the benefit of thine eyes, to look upon me, as the
favour of thine ears, to hear me, I shall be left only to a bare expectation,
but never come to the happiness of fruition; but when thou vouchsafest to look
upon my face, that look of thine hath an influence of all true blessedness, and
makes me find what a happiness it is to have the God of Jacob for my shield.
Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 10. A day. The least good look that a man hath from
God, and the least good word that a man hears from God, and the least love
letter and love token that a man receives from God is exceedingly precious to
that man that hath God for his portion. One day in thy courts is
better than a thousand elsewhere. He doth not say, One year in thy courts is
better than a thousand elsewhere, but One day in thy courts is
better than a thousand elsewhere; nor doth he say, One quarter of a year in thy
courts is better than a thousand elsewhere, but One day in thy courts
is better than a thousand elsewhere; nor doth he say, One month is
better than a thousand elsewhere, but One day in thy courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere, to shew that the very least of God is
exceeding precious to a gracious soul that hath God for his portion. Thomas
Verse 10. Another sign of God's children is, to delight to
be much in God's presence. Children are to be in the presence of their father;
where the King is, there is the court; where the presence of God is, there is
heaven. God is in a special manner present in his ordinances, they are the Ark
of his presence. Now, if we are his children, we love to be much in holy duties.
In the use of ordinances we draw near to God, we come into our Father's
presence; in prayer we have secret conference with God; the soul while it is
praying, is as it were parleying with God. In the word we hear God speaking from
heaven to us; and how doth every child of God delight to hear his Father's
voice! In the sacrament God kisseth his children with the kisses of his lips; he
gives them a smile of his face, and a privy seal of his love: oh, it is good to
draw near to God. It is sweet being in his presence: every true child of God
saith, "A day in thy courts is better than a thousand!" Thomas Watson.
Verse 10. I had rather be a doorkeeper, etc. Some read it,
"I would rather be fixed to a post in the house of my God, than live at liberty
in the tents of the wicked; "alluding to the law concerning servants, who if
they would not go out free, were to have their ear bored to the door post, Ex
21:5-6. David loved his Master, and loved his work so well, that he desired to
be tied to this service for ever, to be more free to it, but never to go out
free from it, preferring bonds to duty far before the greatest liberty to sin.
Such a superlative delight have holy hearts in holy duties; no satisfaction in
their account is comparable to that in communion with God. Matthew Henry.
Verse 10. I had rather be a doorkeeper. In the sense that
Christ is a Door, David may well be content to be a Door Keeper, and though in
God's house there be many mansions, yet seeing all of them are glorious, even
the door keeper's place is not without its glory. But if you think the office to
be mean, consider then whose officer he is, for even a door keeper is an officer
in God's house, and God never displaceth his officers unless it be to advance
them to a higher; whereas, in the courts of princes, the greatest officers are
oftentimes displaced, turned off often with disgrace. Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 10. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God,
etc. Happy are those persons, whom God will use as besoms to sweep out the
dust from his temple; or who shall tug at an oar in the boat where Christ and
his church are embarked. William Secker, in "The Nonsuch Professor."
Verse 10. Doorkeeper. This is a Korhite psalm, and the
descendants of Korah were, in fact, porters, and "keepers of the gates of the
tabernacle, and keepers of the entry, "as well as being permitted to swell the
chorus of the inspired singers of Israel. Bossuet, quoted by Neale and
Verse 10. Instead of, I had rather be a doorkeeper,
the margin has, according to the Hebrew, "I would choose rather to sit at
the threshold." Ainsworth's translation is: "I have chosen to sit at the
threshold, in the house of my God; "and Dr. Boothroyd's is: "Abide, or sit, at
the threshold." See 2Ki 12:9 22:4 25:18 1Ch 9:19 2Ch 23:4; Es 2:21 6:2. In all
these passages the marginal reading is threshold. I think the word
door keeper does not convey the proper meaning of the words, "to sit at
the threshold; " because the preference of the Psalmist was evidently given to a
very humble position; whereas that of a door keeper, in Eastern
estimation, is truly respectable and confidential. The marginal reading,
however, "to sit at the threshold, "at once strikes on an Eastern mind as a
situation of deep humility. See the poor heathen devotee; he goes and sits near
the threshold of his temple. Look at the beggar; he sits, or prostrates himself,
at the threshold of the door or gate, till he shall have gained his suit.
Verse 10. House. Tents. Observe the force of the contrasted
expressions. The house is the Lord's; the tents are of the wicked.
The pleasures of sin are for a season only; the world passeth away, and the
lusts thereof. Arthur Pridham.
Verse 10. The tents. It is not any tents, or tents of any
ordinary kind, that are understood, but rich, powerful, glorious, and splendid
Verse 11. The Lord God is a sun, conveys a striking and
impressive truth, when we think of the sun only in his obvious character as a
source of light and heat. But what new energy is given to this magnificent
emblem, when we learn from astronomy that he is a grand center of attraction,
and when we, in addition, take in that sublime generalization that the sun is
the ultimate source of every form of power existing in the world! The wind wafts
the commerce of every nation over the mighty deep; but the heat of the sun has
rarefied that air, and set that wind in motion. The descending stream yields a
power which grinds your grain, turns your spindles, works your looms, drives
your forges; but it is because the sun gathered up the vapour from the ocean,
which fell upon the hills, and is finding its way back to the source whence it
came. The expansive energy of steam propels your engine; but the force with
which it operates is locked up in the coal (the remains of extinct forests
stored among your hills), or is derived from the wood that abounds in your
forests, which now crown and beautify their summits. Both these primeval and
these existing forests drew their substance from the sun: it is the chemical
force resident in his rays which disengaged their carbon from the atmosphere,
and laid it up as a source of power for future use. The animal exerts a force by
muscular contraction; he draws it from the vegetable on which he feeds; the
vegetable derives it from the sun, whose rays determine its growth. Every time
you lift your arm, every time you take a step, you are drawing on the power the
sun has given you. When you step into the railway carriage, it is the sun power
that hurries you along. When gentle breezes fan your languid cheek, and when the
restless tornado levels cities in its fury, they are the servants of the sun.
What an emblem of Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being!
Verse 11. The sun, which among all inanimate
creatures is the most excellent, notes all manner of excellency, provision, and
prosperity; and the shield, which among all artificial creatures is the
chiefest, notes all manner of protection whatsoever. Under the name of grace,
all spiritual good is wrapped up; and under the name of glory, all
eternal good is wrapped up; and under the last clause, No good thing will he
withhold, is wrapped up all temporal good: all put together speaks out God
to be an all sufficient portion. Thomas Brooks.
Verse 11. The Lord God is a shield. He is a shield to our
persons: "Touch not, "said he, "mine anointed, and do my prophets no
harm." "The Lord, "said Moses in his name, "the Lord shall preserve thy going
out and thy coming in. He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in
all thy ways, lest at any time thou shalt dash thy foot against a stone. Hast
thou considered my servant Job? said God to Satan: --Yes, replied Satan, I have;
thou hast set a hedge about him." Yes, brethren: the Lord God is a
shield. He is a shield to our graces. The dislike and malice of Satan
is principally levelled at us when we become subjects of divine influence.
"Simon, Simon, "said our Saviour, "Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may
sift thee as wheat, but, "he adds, "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail
not." There was a shield to the good man's faith, or he and it too had been
gone. You may remember the name of Little Faith in Bunyan's Pilgrim. It appears
that Hopeful was greatly surprised that the robbers had not taken his jewels
from him; but he was given to understand that they were not in his own
keeping. Yes, Christian, HE shall be thy "shield" to cover thy hope when
it appears to thee to be giving up the ghost... Yes, and He will be a shield
to thy property. "Hast thou not set a hedge about all that he
hath?" Though Job was tried a little while, his property was only put out to
interest; by and by it came back cent per cent; and he gained, besides, a vast
increase of knowledge and of grace. Matthew Wilks. 1746-1829.
Verse 11. Turn your thoughts to the combination; the Lord
God is a sun and shield. As a sun he shows me more and more of my
sinfulness; but then as a shield, he gives me power to oppose it and assurance
that I shall conquer. As a sun, he discloses so much of the enormity of guilt,
that I am forced to exclaim, "Mine iniquities are like a sore burden, too heavy
for me to bear; "but then as a shield, he shows me that he has laid the load on
a Surety, who bore it into a land of forgetfulness. As a sun, he makes me daily
more and more sensible of the utter impossibility of my working out a
righteousness of my own; but then, as a shield, he fastens constantly my
thoughts on that righteousness of his Son, which is meritoriously conveyed to
all who believe on his name. As a sun, in short, he brings fact to my knowledge,
(inasmuch as he brings myself and mine enemies to my knowledge,)which would make
the matter of deliverance seem out of reach and hopeless, if he were not at the
same time a shield; but seeing that he is both a shield as well as a sun, the
disclosures which he makes as a sun only prepare me for the blessings which he
imparts as a shield. Who then shall wonder, that after announcing the character
of God, the psalmist should break into expressions of confidence and assurance?
It may be, that as the corruption of nature is brought continually before me,
deeper and wider and darker, Satan will ply me with the suggestion; "The
guiltiness is too inveterate to be eradicated, and too enormous to be pardoned;
"and if God were a sun, and nothing more, it might be hard to put away the
suggestion as a device of the father of lies. I might then fear. I might fear
God's holiness, thinking I should never be fitted for communion with Deity; I
might fear God's justice, thinking I should never find acquittal at the last
dread assize. But can I fear either, when besides a sun, God is also a shield?
Can I fear God's justice, when as a shield he places sufferings to my account,
which satisfy the law, even to the last penalty? Can I fear his holiness, when
he gives me interest in an obedience which fulfils every precept? Does not the
one character, that of a shield, help me to scatter those solicitudes, which may
well be excited through the operation of the other character, that of a sun? And
am I not warranted--nay, am I not living far below my privilege--if I fail in
deriving from the combination of character a boldness and a confidence, not to
be overborne by those suspicions, which have Satan for their author? As a sun,
God shows me myself; as a shield, God shows me himself. The sun discloses mine
own nothingness; the shield, Divine sufficiency. The one enables me to discern
that I deserve nothing but wrath and can earn nothing but shame; the other, that
I have a title to immortality, and may lay claim to an enduring inheritance in
heaven. I learn, in short, from God as a Sun, that if I have "wages, "I
must have eternal death; but from God as a Shield, that if I will receive
the "free gift, "I may have "eternal life." Whom then shall I fear?
Myself--confessedly my worst enemy? "The Sun" makes a man start from himself; the
"Shield" assures him that he shall be protected against himself and builded up
"for a habitation of God through the Spirit." Shall I shrink from Satan and the
hosts of principalities and powers? The "Sun" shows them awful in their might
and vehement in their malice; but the "Shield" exhibits them spoiled and led
captive, when Christ died and rose again. Shall I dread death? Indeed the "Sun"
makes death terrible, forcing me to read God's curse in the motionless limbs and
mouldering features; but then the "Shield" displays the open sepulchre, the
quickened dust, the marvels of a resurrection, the mountain and the ocean and
the valley yielding up the sleeping generations. Is death to be dreaded? Take
the catalogue of things, which, inasmuch as we are fallen creatures, God, as our
"Sun, "instructs us to fear; and we shall find, that insomuch as we are redeemed
creatures, God as our "Shield" enables us to triumph over all our fears. Who
therefore shall hesitate to agree, that there results from this combination of
character exactly that system of counterpoise, which we affirm to be
discoverable in grace as well as in providence? Who can fail, if indeed he have
been disciplined by that twofold tuition, which informs man first that he has
destroyed himself and then that God hath "laid help on One that is mighty, "the
former lesson humiliating, the latter encouraging, the one making way for the
other, so that the scholar is emptied of every false confidence that he may be
fitted to entertain the true--oh! who, we say, can fail to gather from the
combination of Divine character the inference drawn by the Psalmist? to exclaim
(that is), after recording that "the Lord God is a Sun and a Shield" --He will
give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk
uprightly? Henry Melvill.
Verse 11. The words of the text are as a voice from heaven,
inviting me up thither, and answering all the doubts and fears of such as
believe and follow the joyful sound. Am I in darkness, and fear I shall
never find the way? Open thine eye, O my soul! look up to the Father of lights:
the Lord is a sun, whose steady beams shall direct thy steps. Is there an
inward veil to be removed from my mind, as well as obscurity from my path? He is
sufficient for both. God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, can
shine into the heart, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory, and lead
on to it. (Co 4:6.) He can make the day dawn, and the day star to arise in our
hearts; (2Pe 1:19), and by both, guide our feet into the way of peace.
(Lu 1:79.) Doth the same light that discovers my way, discover what opposition I
am like to meet with? what enemies and dangers I am to go through? Hear, O my
soul, the Lord is a shield. Light and strength are conjoined; none
can miscarry under his conduct, nor have any reason to be discouraged. With this
he comforteth Abraham. Ge 15:1, Fear not: I am thy shield. Do I
groan under a sense of my unmeetness for the heavenly kingdom? Let this support
my soul, the Lord will give grace. Am I altogether unworthy of so high a
happiness? It springs from his own most free, unbounded love; the Lord will
give glory. Am I urged with a thousand wants that need supply, what more can
be added? No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
Nothing that is evil can be desired; and nothing that is good shall be denied.
Here, O my soul, is a fountain opened; here thy eager thirst may be fully
satisfied; thy largest desires filled up; and thy mind be ever at rest.
Verse 11. Why need a saint fear darkness, when he has such a
sun to guide him? Or dread dangers, when he has such a shield to guard him?
Verse 11. The Lord will give glory. "Man, "says a wise
author, "is the glory of this lower world; the soul is the glory of man; grace
is the glory of the soul; and heaven is the glory of grace." Heaven, or glory,
is grace matured and brought to infinite perfection; there we shall see his
face, and have his name written in our foreheads; and we shall reign with him
for ever and ever. Matthew Wilks.
Verse 11. No good thing will he withhold. etc. But how is
this true, when God oftentimes withholds riches and honours, and health of body
from men, though they walk never so uprightly; we may therefore know that
honours and riches and bodily strength, are none of God's good things; they are
of the number of things indifferent which God bestows promiscuously upon the
just and unjust, as the rain to fall and the sun to shine. The good things of
God are chiefly peace of conscience and the joy in the Holy Ghost in this life;
fruition of God's presence, and vision of his blessed face in the next, and
these good things God never bestows upon the wicked, never withholds from the
godly, and they are all cast up in one sum where it is said, Beati mundo corde,
quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt: Blessed are the pure in heart (and such
are only they that walk uprightly) for they shall see God. But is
walking uprightly such a matter with God, that it should be so rewarded? Is it
not more pleasing to God to see us go stooping than walking uprightly, seeing
stooping is the gait of humility, than which there is nothing to God more
pleasing? It is no doubt a hard matter to stoop and go upright both at once, yet
both must be done, and both indeed are done, are done at once by every one that
is godly; but when I say they are done both at once, I mean not of the body, I
know two such postures in the body both at once are impossible; but the soul can
do it, the soul can stoop and go upright both at once; for then doth the soul
walk upright before God, when it stoops in humility before God and men. Sir
Verse 11. This is an immense fountain; the Lord fill all the
buckets of our hearts at the spring, and give us capacious souls, as he hath a
liberal hand. Thomas Adams.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
1. Why called Tabernacles? To include
(a) the holiest of all;
(b) The holy place;
(c) The court and precincts of the Tabernacle. Amiable is predicated of these. The courts
amiable--the holy place more amiable--the holiest of all most amiable.
2. Why called the Tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts? To denote
(a) Its connection with the boundless universe.
(b) Its distinction from it. Present everywhere where God is peculiarly present here.
3. Why called amiable?
(a) Because of the character in which God dwells here. Is condescension amiable? Is love? Is
mercy? Is grace? These are displayed here.
(b) Because of the purpose for which he resides here. To save sinners: to comfort saints.
Verses 1-3. The Titles for God in these three verses are
worth dwelling upon. Jehovah of Hosts; the living God; my King and my
God. G. R.
1. The Eloquence of Grief. David in his banishment envies the sparrows and the swallows that had built their nests by the
house of God, more than Absalom who had usurped his palace and his throne.
2. The Ingenuity of Prayer. Why should
sparrows and swallows be nearer to thy altars than I am, O Lord of hosts, my King and my
God! "Fear not, ye are of more value than many sparrows." G.
1. The Privilege suggested--dwelling in the house of God. Some birds fly over the house of God--some
occasionally alight upon it--others build their nests and train up their young there. This was the privilege
which the Psalmist desired.
2. The Fact asserted. Blessed
are they that dwell, etc., who make it the spiritual home of themselves and their
3. The Reason given. They will be still,
(a) They will have much for which to praise God;
(b) They will see much to praise in God. G. R.
Verse 5. Man is blessed,
1. When his strength is in God. Strength to believe, strength to obey, strength to suffer.
2. When God's ways are in him. In whose heart, etc. When the doctrines, precepts, and promises of God are
deeply engraved upon the heart. G. R.
Verse 5. The preciousness of intensity and enthusiasm in
religious belief, worship, and life.
Verses 5-7. The blessed people are described,
1. By their earnest desire and resolution to take this journey,
though they dwelt far off from the tabernacle, Ps 84:5.
2. By their painful passage, yet some refreshments by the way,
3. By their constant progress, till they came to the place they
aimed at, Ps 84:7. T. Manton.
Verse 6. As the valley of weeping symbolizes dejection, so a
"well" symbolizes ever flowing salvation and comfort (compare Joh 4:14 Isa
1. The valley of Baca. Of this valley we may observe,
(a) It is much frequented.
(b) Unpleasant to flesh and blood.
(c) Very healthful.
(d) Very safe.
(e) Very profitable.
2. The toilsome effort: make it a
(a) Comfort may be obtained in the deepest trouble.
(b) Comfort must be obtained by exertion.
(c) Comfort obtained by one is of use to others, as a well may
3. The heavenly supply. The rain also filleth the pools. All
is from God; effort is of no avail without him.
1. Trusting God in trouble brings present comfort--Who passing, etc.
2. Present comfort ensures still larger supplies--The rain also, etc. G. R.
Verse 8. There is,
1. Progression. They go;
(a) The people of God cannot remain stationary;
(b) They must not recede;
(c) They should always be advancing.
2. Invigoration. From strength to strength.
(a) From one ordinance to another;
(b) from one duty to another;
(c) from one grace to another;
(d) from one degree of grace to another. Add faith to faith, virtue to virtue, knowledge to
3. Completion. Every one of them, etc. G. R.
1. Prayer is not confined to the Sanctuary. David, inhis banishment, says, Hear my prayer.
2. Help is not confined to the Sanctuary. The Lord ofhosts is "here, "as well as in his tabernacle. SeePs 84:1.
3. Grace is not confined to the Sanctuary. Here, too,in the wilderness is the covenanting God, the God ofJacob. G. R.
Verse 8. Pleas for answers to prayer in the titles here
1. He is JEHOVAH, the living, all wise, all powerful, faithful, gracious, and immutable God.
2. He is God of hosts, having abundant agencies under his control; he can send angels, restrain devils,
actuate good men, overrule bad men, and govern all other agents.
3. He is the God of Jacob, of chosen Jacob, as seen in Jacob's dream; God of Jacob in his banishment, in his
wrestling (and so a God overcome by prayer), God pardoning Jacob's sins, God preserving Jacob and his
seed after him.
Verse 9. Observe,
1. The Faith. Our shield is thine anointed--Thine Anointed is our Shield. This is not David, because
he says our Shield, but David's greater Son. A gleam of Gospel light through the thick clouds.
2. The Prayer. Behold, O God, etc. Look, etc. Look upon him as our Representative, and look upon us
3. The Plea.
(a) He has engaged to be our defence from thine anger;
(b) he has been anointed to this office by thee. G. R.
1. What God is to us.
2. What we would have him look at.
3. Where we would be: hidden behind the shield--seen in the person of Christ.
Verse 10. Here is,
1. A comparison of Places. A day in thy courts, etc. How much more a day in heaven! What, then, must an
eternity in heaven be!
2. A comparison of Persons. I would rather be a doorkeeper, etc. Better be the least in the Church
than the greatest in the world. If "better reign in hell than serve in heaven" was Satan's first thought
after he fell, it was the first thought only. G.R.
1. Days in God's courts. Days of hearing, of repenting, of believing, of adoration, of communion, of revival,
2. Their preciousness. Better than a thousand days of victory, of pleasure, of money making, of harvest, of
discussion, of travelling amid beauties of nature.
3. Reasons for this preciousness. They are more pleasurable, more profitable now, and more
preparatory for the future and for heaven. The employment, the society, the enjoyment, the result,
etc., are all better.
1. What God is to his people. A sun and shield.
(a) The source of all good;
(b) a defence from all evil.
2. What he gives.
(a) Grace here;
(b) glory hereafter.
3. What he withholds. All that is not good. If he withholds health or wealth, or his own smiles from
us, it is because they are not good for us at that particular time. G. R.
1. The one thing that makes man blessed. Trust in God. Blessed, etc.
(a) For all things;
(b) at all times;
(c) in all circumstances.
2. The Blessing contained in that one thing. God himself becomes ours;
(a) his mercy for our pardon;
(b) his power for our protection;
(c) his wisdom for our guidance;
(d) his faithfulness for our preservation;
(e) his all sufficiency for our supply.
3. The certainty of the blessing.
(a) From David's own experience;
(b) from the solemn appeal to God respecting it. O Lord God of hosts, etc. G. R.
Verse 12. The blessedness of the life of faith over that of
carnal enjoyment, religious feeling, self confidence, living upon marks and
evidences, trusting in man, etc.
WORKS UPON THE EIGHTY-FOURTH PSALM
The Faith of the Church Militant, made moste effectualie
described in this exposition of the 84. Psalme, by that reverend Pastor, and
publike Professor of God's word, in the famous universitie of Haffine in
Denmarke, NICHOLAS HEMMINGIVS. A treatise written as to the instruction of the
ignorant in the groundes of religion, so to the confutation of the Jews, the
Turkes, Atheists, Papists, Heretiks, and all other adversaries of the trueth
whatsoever. Translated out of Latin into English, &c. by THOMAS ROGERS. At
London, printed by H. Middleton for Andrew Maunsel. Anno. 1581.
David's Heart's Desire; or An Exposition of Psalm 84.; in
Excellent Encouragments against Afflictions... by Thomas Pierson, M.A.
(Reprinted in Nichol's Series of Puritan Commentaries.)
An Exposition upon some select Psalms of David... By ROBERT ROLLOCK. 1600. 16mo.
Meditations and Disquisitions upon seven Consolatorie Psalmes
of David... By Sir RICHARD BAKER, Knight. 1640. (pg 119-142.)
Meditations on the Eighty-fourth Psalm, in "Things New and Old.
A Monthly Magazine." Vol. IX. 1866.