Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
TITLE. A Prayer of David. We have here one of the five
psalms entitled Tephillahs or prayers. This psalm consists of praise as
well as prayer, but it is in all parts so directly addressed to God that it is
most fitly called "a prayer." A prayer is none the less but all the more a
prayer because veins of praise run through it. This psalm would seem to have
been specially known as David's prayer; even as the ninetieth is "the prayer of
Moses." David composed it, and no doubt often expressed himself in similar
language; both the matter and the wording are suitable to his varied
circumstances and expressive of the different characteristics of his mind. In
many respects it resembles Ps 17:1-15, which bears the same title, but in other
aspects it is very different; the prayers of a good man have a family likeness,
but they vary as much as they agree. We may learn from the present psalm that
the great saints of old were accustomed to pray very much in the same fashion as
we do; believers in all ages are of one genus. The name of God occurs very
frequently in this psalm, sometimes it is Jehovah, but more commomly Adonai,
which it is believed by many learned scholars was written by the Jewish
transcribers instead of the sublimer title, because their superstitious dread
led them to do so: we, labouring under no such tormenting fear, rejoice in
Jehovah, our God. It is singular that those who were so afraid of their God,
that they dared not write his name, had yet so little godly fear, that they
dared to alter his word.
DIVISION. The psalm is irregular in its construction but
may be divided into three portions, each ending with a note of gratitude or of
confidence: we shall therefore read from Ps 86:1-7, and then, (after another
pause at the end of Ps 86:13), we will continue to the end.
Verse 1. Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me. In
condescension to my littleness, and in pity to my weakness, "bow down thine ear,
O Lord." When our prayers are lowly by reason of our humility, or feeble by
reason of our sickness, or without wing by reason of our despondency, the Lord
will bow down to them, the infinitely exalted Jehovah will have respect unto
them. Faith, when she has the loftiest name of God on her tongue, and calls him
Jehovah, yet dares to ask from him the most tender and condescending acts of
love. Great as he is he loves his children to be bold with him. For I am poor and needy --doubly a son of poverty, because,
first, poor and without supply for my needs, and next needy, and so full of
wants, though unable to supply them. Our distress is a forcible reason for our
being heard by the Lord God, merciful, and gracious, for misery is ever the
master argument with mercy. Such reasoning as this would never be adopted by a
proud man, and when we hear it repeated in the public congregation by those
great ones of the earth who count the peasantry to be little better than the
earth they tread upon, it sounds like a mockery of the Most High. Of all
despicable sinners those are the worst who use the language of spiritual poverty
while they think themselves to be rich and increased in goods.
Verse 2. Preserve my soul. Let my life be safe from my
enemies, and my spiritual nature be secure from their temptations. He feels
himself unsafe except he be covered by the divine protection. For I am holy. I am set apart for holy uses, therefore do
not let thine enemies commit a sacrilege by injuring or defiling me: I am clear
of the crimes laid to my charge, and in that sense innocent; therefore, I
beseech thee, do not allow me to suffer from unjust charges: and I am
inoffensive, meek, and gentle towards others, therefore deal mercifully with me
as I have dealt with my fellow men. Any of these renderings may explain the
text, perhaps all together will expound it best. It is not self righteous in
good men to plead their innocence as a reason for escaping from the results of
sins wrongfully ascribed to them; penitents do not bedaub themselves with mire
for the love of it, or make themselves out to be worse than they are out of
compliment to heaven. No, the humblest saint is not a fool, and he is as well
aware of the matters wherein he is clear as of those wherein he must cry
"peccavi." To plead guilty to offences we have never committed is as
great a lie as the denial of our real faults. O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee. Lest
any man should suppose that David trusted in his own holiness he immediately
declared his trust in the Lord, and begged to be saved as one who was not holy
in the sense of being perfect, but was even yet in need of the very clements of
salvation. How sweet is that title, "my God", when joined to the other, "thy
servant"; and how sweet is the hope that on this ground we shall be saved;
seeing that our God is not like the Amalekitish master who left his poor sick
servant to perish. Note how David's poor I am (or rather the I
repeated without the am) appeals to the great I AM with that
sacred boldness engendered by the necessity which breaks through stone walls,
aided by the faith which removes mountains.
Verse 3. Be merciful unto me, O Lord. The best of men need
mercy, and appeal to mercy, yea to nothing else but mercy; they need it for
themselves, and crave it eagerly of their God as a personal requisite. For I cry unto thee daily. Is there not a promise that
importunity shall prevail? May we not, then, plead our importunity as an
argument with God? He who prays every day, and all the day, for so the word may
mean, may rest assured that the Lord will hear him in the day of his need. If we
cried sometimes to man, or other false confidences, we might expect to be
referred to them in the hour of our calamity, but if in all former times we have
looked to the Lord alone, we may be sure that he will not desert us now. See how
David pleaded, first that he was poor and needy, next that he was the Lord's set
apart one, then that he was God's servant and had learned to trust in the Lord,
and lastly that he had been taught to pray daily; surely these are such holy
pleadings as any tried believer may employ when wrestling with a prayer hearing
God, and with such weapons the most trembling suppliant may hope to win the day.
Verse 4. Rejoice the soul of thy servant. Make my heart
glad, O my Maker, for I count it my honour to call myself again and again thy
servant, and I reckon thy favour to be all the wages I could desire. I look for
all my happiness in thee only, and therefore unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. As the heliotrope
looks to the sun for its smile, so turn I my heart to thee. Thou art as the
brazen serpent to my sick nature, and I lift up my soul's eye to thee that I may
live. I know that the nearer I am to thee the greater is my joy, therefore be
pleased to draw me nearer while I am labouring to draw near. It is not easy to
lift a soul at all; it needs a strong shoulder at the wheel when a heart sticks
in the miry clay of despondency: it is less easy to lift a soul up to the Lord,
for the height is great as well as the weight oppressive; but the Lord will take
the will for the deed, and come in with a hand of almighty grace to raise his
poor servant out of the earth and up to heaven.
Verse 5. For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive.
Good at giving and forgiving; supplying us with his good, and removing
our evil. Here was the great reason why the Psalmist looked to the Lord
alone for his joy, because every joy creating attribute is to be found in
perfection in Jehovah alone. Some men who would be considered good are so self
exultingly indignant at the injuries done them by others, that they cannot
forgive; but we may rest assured that the better a being is, the more willing he
is to forgive, and the best and highest of all is ever ready to blot out the
transgressions of his creatures. And plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
God does not dispense his mercy from a slender store which perchance may be so
impoverished as to give out altogether, but out of a cornucopiae he pours forth
the infinite riches of his mercy: his goodness flows forth in abounding streams
towards those who pray and in adoring worship make mention of his name. David
seems to have stood in the cleft of the rock with Moses, and to have heard the
name of the Lord proclaimed even as the great lawgiver did, for in two places in
this psalm he almost quotes verbatim the passage in Ex 34:6 --"The Lord
God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."
Verse 6. Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer. Even the glory
which his spirit had beheld did not withdraw him from his prayer, but rather
urged him to be more fervent in it; hence he implores the Lord to hear his
requests. Attend to the voice of my supplications. Here are
repetitions, but not vain repetitions. When a child cries it repeats the same
note, but it is equally in earnest every time, and so was it with the suppliant
here. Note the expression, "the voice of my supplications", as if they were not
all voice but were partly made up of inarticulate noise, yet amid much that was
superfluous there really was a distinct voice, an inner meaning, a living sense
which was the heart's intention. This he would have the Lord sift out from the
chaff, and hear amid the mingled din. May our prayers never be voiceless; may
the soul's intent always give them a live core of meaning.
Verse 7. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for
thou wilt answer me. A pious resolve backed by a judicious reason. It
is useless to cry to those who cannot or will not hear; once convince men that
prayer has no effect upon God, and they will have no more of it. In these busy
days and especially in troublous times, men cannot afford to waste time in
entreaties which must be unavailing. Our experience confirms us in the belief
that Jehovah the living God really does aid those who call upon him, and
therefore we pray and mean to pray, not because we are so fascinated by prayer
that for its own sake we would continue in it if it proved to be mere folly and
superstition, as vain philosophers assert; but because we really, indeed, and of
a truth, find it to be a practical and effectual means of obtaining help from
God in the hour of need. There can be no reason for praying if there be no
expectation of the Lord's answering. Who would make a conscience of pleading
with the winds, or find a solace in supplicating the waves? The mercy seat is a
mockery if there be no hearing nor answering. David, as the following verses
show, believed the Lord to be a living and potent God, and indeed to be "God
alone", and it was on that account that he resolved in every hour of trouble to
call upon him.
Verse 8. Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O
Lord. There are gods by delegated office, such as kings and magistrates, but
they are as nothing in the presence of Jehovah; there are also gods by the
nomination of superstition, but these are vanity itself, and cannot be compared
with the living and true God. Even if the heathen idols were gods, none of them
in power or even in character, could be likened unto the self existent, all
creating God of Israel. If every imaginary deity could start into actual
existence, and become really divine, yet would we choose Jehovah to be our God,
and reject all others. Neither are there any works like unto thy works. What have
the false gods ever made or unmade? What miracles have they wrought? When did
they divide a sea, or march through a wilderness scattering bread from the
skies? O Jehovah, in thy person and in thy works, thou art as far above all gods
as the heavens are above the nethermost abyss.
Verse 9. All nations whom thou hast made, and these include
all mankind, since they all come of the first Adam--thy creature, and their lives
are all distinct creations of thine omnipotence. All these shall come
with penitent hearts, in thine own way, to thine own self, and worship
before thee, O Lord. Because thou art thus above all gods, the people who
have been so long deceived shall at last discover thy greatness, and shall
render thee the worship which is thy due: thou hast created them all, and unto
thee shall they all yield homage. This was David's reason for resorting to the
Lord in trouble, for he felt that one day all men would acknowledge the Lord to
be the only God. It makes us content to be in the minority today, when we are
sure that the majority will be with us tomorrow, ay, and that the truth will one
day be carried unanimously and heartily. David was not a believer in the theory
that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensation will wind up
with general darkness, and idolatry. Earth's sun is to go down amid tenfold
night if some of our prophetic brethren are to be believed. Not so do we expect,
but we look for day when the dwellers in all lands shall learn righteousness,
shall trust in the Saviour, shall worship thee alone, O God, and shall
glorify thy name. The modern notion has greatly damped the zeal of the
church for missions, and the sooner it is shown to be unscriptural the better
for the cause of God. It neither consorts with prophecy, honours God, nor
inspires the church with ardour. Far hence be it driven.
Verse 10. For thou art great. He had before said, "thou art
good"; it is a grand thing when greatness and goodness are united; it is only in
the Divine Being that either of them exists absolutely, and essentially. Happy
is it for us that they both exist in the Lord to an equal degree. To be great
and not good might lead to tyranny in the King, and for him to be good and not
great might involve countless calamities upon his subjects from foreign foes, so
that either alternative would be terrible; let the two be blended, and we have a
monarch in whom the nation may rest and rejoice. And doest wondrous things. Being good, he is said to be
ready to forgive: being great, he works wonders: we may blend the two, for there
is no wonder so wonderful as the pardon of our transgressions. All that God does
or makes has wonder in it; he breathes, and the wind is mystery; he speaks, and
the thunder astounds us; even the commonest daisy is a marvel, and a pebble
enshrines wisdom. Only to fools is anything which God has made uninteresting:
the world is a world of wonders. Note that the verb doest is in the
present, the Lord is doing wondrous things, they are transpiring before our
eyes. Where are they? Look upon the bursting buds of spring or the maturing
fruits of autumn, gaze on the sky or skim the sea, mark the results of
providence and the victories of grace, everywhere at all times the great
Thaumaturge stretches forth his rod of power.
Thou art God alone. Alone wast thou God before thy
creatures were; alone in godhead still art thou now that thou hast given life to
throngs of beings; alone for ever shalt thou be, for none can ever rival thee.
True religion makes no compromises, it does not admit Baal or Dagon to be a god;
it is exclusive and monopolizing, claiming for Jehovah nothing less than all.
The vaunted liberality of certain professors of modern thought is not to be
cultivated by believers in the truth. "Philosophic breadth" aims at building a
Pantheon, and piles a Pandemonium; it is not for us to be helpers in such an
evil work. Benevolently intolerant, we would, for the good of mankind, as well
as for the glory of God, undeceive mankind as to the value of their compromises,
--they are mere treason to truth. Our God is not to be worshipped as one among
many good and true beings, but as God alone; and his gospel is not to be
preached as one of several saving systems, but as the one sole way of salvation.
Lies can face each other beneath one common dome; but in the temple of truth the
worship is one and indivisible.
Verse 11. Teach me thy way, O LORD. Instruct me thus at all
times, let me live in thy school; but teach me now especially since I am in
trouble and perplexity. Be pleased to shew me the way which thy wisdom and mercy
have prepared for my escape; behold I lay aside all wilfulness, and only desire
to be informed as to thy holy and gracious mind. Not my way give me, but
thy way teach me, I would follow thee and not be wilful. I will walk in thy truth. When taught I will practise what
I know, truth shall not be a mere doctrine or sentiment to me, but a matter of
daily life. The true servant of God regulates his walk by his master's will, and
hence he never walks deceitfully, for God's way is ever truth. Providence has a
way for us, and it is our wisdom to keep in it. We must not be as the bullock
which needs to be driven and urged forward because it likes not the road, but be
as men who voluntarily go where their trusted friend and helper appoints their
path. Unite my heart to fear thy name. Having taught me one way,
give me one heart to walk therein, for too often I feel a heart and a heart, two
natures contending, two principles struggling for sovereignty. Our minds are apt
to be divided between a variety of objects, like trickling streamlets which
waste their force in a hundred runnels; our great desire should be to have all
our life floods poured into one channel and to have that channel directed
towards the Lord alone. A man of divided heart is weak, the man of one object is
the man. God who created the bands of our nature can draw them together,
tighten, strengthen, and fasten them, and so braced and inwardly knit by his
uniting grace, we shall be powerful for good, but not otherwise. To fear God is
both the beginning, the growth, and the maturity of wisdom, therefore should we
be undividedly given up to it, heart, and soul.
Verse 12. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my
heart. When my heart is one, I will give thee all of it. Praise should never
be rendered with less than all our heart, and soul, and strength, or it will be
both unreal and unacceptable. This is the second time in the psalm that David
calls the Lord "my God", the first time he was in an agony of prayer (Ps 86:2),
and now he is in an ecstacy of praise. If anything can make a man pray and
praise, it is the knowledge into that the Lord is his God. And I will glorify thy name for evermore, eternity
gratitude will prolong its praise. God has never done blessing us, let us never
have done blessing him. As he ever gives us grace, let us ever render to him the
glory of it.
Verse 13. For great is thy mercy toward me. Personal
experience is ever the master singer. Whatever thou art to others, to me thy
mercy is most notable. The psalmist claims to sing among the loudest, because
his debt to divine mercy is among the greatest. And thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. From
the direst death and the deepest dishonour David had been kept by God, for his
enemies would have done more than send him to hell had they been able. His sense
of sin also made him feel as if the most overwhelming destruction would have
been his portion had not grace prevented, therefore does he speak of deliverance
from the nethermost abode of lost spirits. There are some alive now who can use
this language unfeignedly, and he who pens these lines most humbly confesses
that he is one. Left to myself to indulge my passions, to rush onward with my
natural vehemence, and defy the Lord with recklessness of levity, what a
candidate for the lowest abyss should I have made myself by this time. For me,
there was but one alternative, great mercy, or the lowest hell. With my whole
heart do I sing, "Great is thy mercy towards me, and thou hast delivered my soul
from the lowest hell." The psalmist here again touches a bold and joyful note, but
soon he exchanges it for the mournful string.
Verse 14. O God, the proud are risen against me. They could
not let God's poor servant alone, his walk with God was as smoke to their eyes,
and therefore they determined to destroy him. None hate good men so fiercely as
do the high minded and domineering. And the assemblies of violent men have sought after my
soul. Unitedly oppressors sought the good man's life; they hunted in packs,
with keen scent, and eager foot. In persecuting times many a saint has used
these words in reference to Papal bishops and inquisitors. And have not set thee before them. They would not have
molested the servant if they had cared one whit for the master. Those who fear
not God are not afraid to commit violent and cruel acts. An atheist is a
misanthrope. Irreligion is akin to inhumanity.
Verse 15. But thou, O Lord. What a contrast! We get away
from the hectorings and blusterings of proud but puny men to the glory and
goodness of the Lord. We turn from the boisterous foam of chafing waves to the
sea of glass mingled with fire, calm and serene. "Art a God full of compassion,
and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth." A truly
glorious doxology, in which there is not one redundant word. As we have before
observed, it is mainly transcribed from Ex 34:6. Here is compassion for the weak
and sorrowing, grace for the undeserving, longsuffering for the provoking, mercy
for the guilty, and truth for the tried. God's love assumes many forms, and is
lovely in them all. Into whatsoever state we may be cast, there is a peculiar
hue in the light of love which will harmonize with our condition; love is one
and yet sevenfold, its white ray contains the chromatic scale. Are we sorrowful?
We find the Lord full of compassion. Are we contending with temptation? His
grace comes to our aid. Do we err? He is patient with us. Have we sinned? He is
plenteous in mercy. Are we resting on his promise? He will fulfil it with
Verse 16. O turn unto me. As though the face of God had been
before averted in anger, the suppliant pleads for a return of conscious favour.
One turn of God's face will turn all our darkness into day. And have mercy upon me, that is all he asks, for he is
lowly in heart; that is all he wants, for mercy answereth all a sinner's needs. Give thy strength unto thy servant. Gird me with it that I
may serve thee, guard me with it that I may not be overcome. When the Lord gives
us his own strength we are sufficient for all emergencies, and have no cause to
fear any adversaries. And save the son of thine handmaid. He meant that he was a
home born servant of God. As the sons of slaves were their master's property by
their birth, so he gloried in being the son of a woman who herself belonged to
the Lord. What others might think a degrading illustration he uses with delight,
to show how intensely he loved the Lord's service; and also as a reason why the
Lord should interpose to rescue him, seeing that he was no newly purchased
servant, but had been in the house from his very birth.
Verse 17. Shew to me a token for good. Let me be assured of
thy mercy by being delivered out of trouble.
That they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed.
"Some token of thy favour show,
Some sign which all my foes may see;
And filled with blank confusion know,
My comfort and my help in thee."
What bodes good to me shall make them quail and blush.
Disappointed and defeated, the foes of the good man would feel ashamed of what
they had designed. "Because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me." God
doth nothing by halves, those whom he helps he also consoles, and so makes them
not merely safe but joyful. This makes the foes of the righteous exceedingly
displeased, but it brings to the Lord double honour. Lord, deal thou thus with
us evermore, so will we glorify thee, world without end. Amen.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. --The prophet David has penned two psalms, which he
has eminently appropriated to himself as his own: the one is styled David's
prayer, though many other psalms are prayers--it is Ps 86:1-17; the other
David's praise, Ps 145:1-21. The first his tephilla, the latter
his tehilla; in each of these he makes a solemn rehearsal of the very
words of Moses, in Ex 34:6-7. In Ps 86:1-17 he brings them in as they were a
support unto his faith in his distresses from sins and miseries, to which use he
puts them, Ps 86:3-4 6-7. And again, Ps 86:16-17, he makes a plea of these words
by way of prayer. In Ps 145:1-21, he brings them in as they are an
elogium or celebration of the glorious nature and excellencies of God, to
excite the sons of men to love and praise him. --Thomas Goodwin.
Title. --This Psalm was published under the title of
A Prayer of David; not as if David sung all his prayers, but into
some of his songs he inserted prayers; for a psalm will admit the expression of
any pious and devout affections. But it is observable how very plain the
language of this psalm is, and how little there is in it of poetical flights or
figures, in comparison with some other psalms; for the flourishes of wit are not
the proper ornaments of prayer. --Matthew Henry.
Title. --There was much, very much, of God's peculiar
character, his glorious name, brought to view in the close of the last Psalm.
This may account for its being followed by another, A Prayer of
David, almost equally full of the character of Jehovah. The key note of this
Psalm is Jehovah's name. --Andrew A. Bonar.
Whole Psalm. Christ prays throughout the whole of this
Psalm. All the words are spoken exclusively by Christ, who is both God and man.
--Psalt. Cassiodori, 1491.
Whole Psalm. In this Psalm Christ the Son of God and Son of
Man, one God with the Father, one man with men, to whom we pray as God, prays in
the form of a servant. For he prays for us, and he prays in us, and he is prayed
to by us. He prays for us as our Priest. He prays in us as our Head. He is
prayed to by us as our God. --Psalt. Pet. Lombard. 1474.
Verse 1. Bow down thine ear, O Lord. As the careful
physician doth to his feeble patient: so Basil glosseth here. --John
Verses 1-4. Poor, holy, trusteth, I cry.
The petitioner is first described as poor, then holy, next
trusting, after that crying, finally, lifted up to God. And
each epithet has its fitting verb; bow down to the poor, preserve
the holy, save the trusting, be merciful to him who cries,
rejoice the lifted up. It is the whole gamut of love from the Incarnation
to the Ascension; it tells us that Christ's humiliation will be our glory and
joy. --Neale and Littledale's Commentary.
Verse 2. Holy. The word has been variously translated:
--Godly, De Muis, Ainsworth and others; charitable, or
beneficent, Piscator; merciful or tenderhearted, Mariana;
diligently or earnestly compassionate, Vatablus; meek,
Calvin; a beloved one, Version of American Bible Union; one
whom thou lovest, Perowne; a devoted or dedicated man,
Verse 2. For I am Holy. Some have objected to David's
pleading his own good character; but if he did not go beyond the truth, and the
occasion called for it, there was nothing wrong in his so doing. Job, David,
Peter, John and Paul all did it, Job 27:5 Ps 116:16 Joh 21:15-17 Re 1:10 1Co
9:1. Nor is it presumptuous to ask God to show mercy to us for we show it to
others; or to forgive us for we forgive others, Mt 5:7 6:14-15. --William S.
Verse 2. I am holy...thy servant which trusteth in thee.
They that are holy, yet must not trust in themselves, or in their own
righteousness, but only in God and his grace. --Matthew Henry.
Verse 2. Save thy servant that trusteth in thee. When God
saves his servant, he saves what belongs to himself; and, when he saves him that
trusts in him, he shows himself to be just and faithful, in carrying out what he
Verses 2-5. The aspirations after holiness which are found in
this Psalm, coupled with its earnest invocation of mercy from the God with whom
there is forgiveness, render it peculiarly applicable to those whose daily
access is to a throne of needed grace. Christians know that while their
standing is the blameless perfection of the Lord their righteouness, they
are in many things offenders still. Nor do we ever fully prove the preciousness
of Jesus as our portion, except we are drawn to him by that Spirit which reveals
to us a nakedness and poverty within ourselves, which his blessed fulness can
alone redress. There is a consciousness of personal sanctification through
faith (Ps 86:2) associated with an acutely sensitive perception of intrinsic
worthlessness, such as only finds relief in the remembrance of unaltered grace
(Ps 86:5), which, to the exercised spirit of one really growing in the knowledge
of God, will address itself with an especial acceptance. --Arthur Pridham.
Verse 3. Be merciful unto me. Lest any should by the former
words, ("I am holy", )suspect him to be a merit monger, he beggeth mercy
with instancy and constancy of request. --John Trapp.
Verse 3. I cry unto thee daily. A great difference between
saints and sinners in prayer is that sinners who pray at all, pray only when
they are in trouble, whereas saints cry daily unto God. Compare Job
27:10. --William S. Plumer.
Verse 4. Rejoice the soul of thy servant, etc. As I have not
found rest in anything created, I have raised up my soul on the wings of thought
and desire to thee my Creator. Love bears one's soul up; and it has been truly
said, that the soul is more where it loves, than where it actually is. Thought
and desire are the wings of love; for he that loves is borne on to, and abides
in, what he loves, by thinking constantly on, and longing for, the object of his
love. Whoever truly, and from his heart, loves God, by thinking on him and
longing for him lifts up his soul to God; while, on the contrary, whoever loves
the earth, by thinking on and coveting the things of the earth, lets his soul
down to its level. --Bellarmine.
Verse 4. Unto thee, Lord, do I lift my soul. If thou hadst
corn in thy rooms below, thou wouldest take it up higher, lest it should grow
rotten. Wouldest thou remove thy corn, and dost thou suffer thy heart to rot on
the earth? Thou wouldest take thy corn up higher: lift up thy heart to heaven.
And how can I, dost thou say? What ropes are needed? What machines? What
ladders? Thy affections are the steps; thy will the way. By loving thou
mountest, by neglect thou descendest. Standing on the earth thou art in heaven,
if thou lovest God. For the heart is not so raised as the body is raised: the
body to be lifted up changes its place: the heart to be lifted up changes its
Verse 4. Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift my soul, intimates
that he had brought himself to the Lord as a living sacrifice, even as the
heave offering in the tabernacle--to show that it belonged to God and to
his altar, and, that man had no part in it--was lifted up by the hands of the
priests. --Benjamin Weiss.
Verse 4. --I lift up my soul. It denotes the devotion,
fervency, heartiness, and sincerity of his prayer; the doing of it with a true
heart, the lifting up of the heart with the hands unto God, La 3:41; or by way
of offering unto the Lord, not the body only, but the soul or heart also; or as
a deposition committed into is hands. --John Gill.
Verse 4. Lord. Here, and in all the verses in this psalm
where ynda Adonai, occurs, many MSS read hwhy, Yehovah. The Jews,
out of reverence to the incommunicable name Jehovah pronounce ynda where
in the text. It is, therefore, not improbable that hwhy is in the true reading in all
these places. --Note to Calvin in loc.
Verse 5. For thou, Lord, art good, and whither should
beggars go but to the door of the good house keeper? --Matthew Henry.
Verse 5. Ready to forgive. The mercy of God is a ready
mercy, and his pardons are ready for his people; his pardons and mercies are not
to seek, he hath them at hand, he is good and ready to forgive. Whereas
most men, though they will forgive, yet they are not ready to forgive,
they are hardly brought to it, though they do it at last. But God is "ready
to forgive"; he hath, as it were, pardons ready drawn (as a man who would be
ready to do a business, he will have such writings as concern the passing of it
ready); there is nothing to do but to put in the date and the name; yea indeed,
the date and the name are put in from all eternity. Thus the Scripture speaks to
show how forward God is to do good; he needs not set his heart to it; his heart
is ever in the exactest fitness. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 5. Plenteous in mercy. It is a thing marvellously
satisfactory and pleasing to the heart of a man to be still taking from a great
heap; and upon this ground are those proverbial sayings, There is no fishing
like to a fishing in the sea; no service like the service of a king: because in
one there is the greatest plenty and abundance of that kind of pleasure that
fishers look after; and for them that serve, and must live by their service,
there is none like that of princes, because they have abundance of reward and
opportunity whereby to recompense the services of those that do wait and attend
upon them. . . . And upon the same ground is it that the Scriptures, in several
places, do not only assert and testify that God is merciful and gracious, but
abundant in mercy and full of grace; and not simply that there is redemption in
him, but plenteousness of redemption: Ps 103:8 130:7 Isa 55:7; "Let the
wicked forsake his way", etc.; "Let him return unto the Lord and he will have
mercy; and unto our God, for lie will abundantly pardon." The commodity which we
stand in need of is mercy and the pardon of our sins, in case we have been
unholy and ungodly creatures; this commodity is abundantly in God. There it is
treasured up as waters are in the store house of the sea; there is no end of the
treasures of his grace, mercy, pardon, and compassion. There is no man, being in
want, but had ten times rather go to a rich man's door to be relieved, than to
the door of a poor man, if he knoweth the rich man to be as liberal and
bountifully disposed as the poor man can be. --John Goodwin.
Verse 6. Supplications ytwnwxt, deprecations. The
Psalmist forms a peculiar Hebrew word, feminine plural, not found elsewhere, to
convey more impressively the idea of suppliant weakness. --A.R. Fausset.
Verses 8-10. --There are two kinds of doubt which are wont in
the hour of temptation to assail the soul: the doubt as to God's
willingness, and the doubt as to God's power to succour. The first
of these the Psalmist has already put from him; he now shows that he has
overcome the second. God is able as well as willing to help, and every being on
the face of the earth who receives help, receives it from the hand of Him who is
the only God, and who shall one day be recognized (so speaks the strong
prophetic hope within him, Ps 86:9) as the only God. --J.J.S. Perowne.
Verses 9-10. All nations shall worship before thee, because
as King of Nations, thou art great, thy sovereignty absolute and
incontestable, thy Majesty terrible and unsupportable, thy power universal and
irresistible, thy riches vast and inexhaustible, thy dominion boundless and
unquestionable; and for the proof of this, thou doest wondrous things,
which all nations admire, and from whence they might easily infer that thou
art God alone; not only none like thee, but none beside thee. --Matthew
Verse 11. Teach me thy way: I will walk in thy truth:
unite my heart. Here is the "Via, Veritas, Vita" of the Gospel (Joh
14:6). "Via tua, Veritas tua, Vita tua, Christus." Christ is our Way, Truth, and
Life, because he is Man united to God, and is one substance with the Father.
Verse 11. Teach me. There is no point on which the world is
more dark than that of its own ignorance--we might truly say, "it is ignorant of
its ignorance" --it knows enough when it learns by rote a few first principles of
religion; it comforts itself that it is not atheistical because it believes that
there is a God; but as to knowing his ways, laws, mind, or any such things, with
them it has nothing at all to do. The people of the world do not care for
enlightenment; they feel no pressing need for it; in all probability they have
an instinctive feeling that if enlightened they would know a little more than
they wish to know, that their newly acquired knowledge would interfere with
their old habits and ways, and this is one reason why all spiritual teaching
which goes beneath the surface is distasteful to the majority of men. They
cannot bear to be brought into contact with God, in anything but a general way;
the particulars of his character may not agree over well with the particulars of
their lives! It is the fashion in the present day to talk of man's
enlightenment, and to represent human nature as upheaving under its load, as
straining towards a knowledge of truth; such is not in reality the case, and
whenever there is an effort in the mind untaught of the Spirit, it is directed
towards God as the great moral and not as the great spiritual
Being. A man untaught of the Holy Ghost may long to know a moral, he can
never desire to know a spiritual Being. --John Hyatt, 1767-1826.
Verse 11. Teach. The common version of the verb here is too
vague, as it fails to bring out the peculiar suitableness of the term to express
the kind of teaching here specifically meant. The original meaning of the Hebrew
word is to point out or mark the way. --J.A. Alexander.
Verse 11. I will walk in thy truth. Conform to Scripture.
Let us lead Scripture lives. Oh that the Bible might be seen to be printed in
our lives! Do what the Word commands. Obedience is an excellent way of
commenting upon the Bible. Let the Word be the sun dial by which you set your life. What
are we the better for having the Scriptures, if we do not direct all our
speeches and actions according to it? What is a carpenter better for his rule
about him, if he sticks it at his back, and never makes use of it for measuring
and squaring? So, what are we the better for the rule of the Word, if we do not
make use of it, and regulate our lives by it? --Thomas Watson.
Verse 11. I will walk in thy truth. Walking, in the
Scripture, takes in the whole of our conversation or conduct: and to walk
in anything, intends a fulness of it. For a man to walk in pride,
is something more than to be proud: it says, that pride is his way, his element;
that he is wholly under the influence of it. --William Jay.
Verse 11. Unite my heart to fear thy name. The end
which he desired to secure was that he might truly fear God, or properly
reverence and honour him; the means which he saw to be necessary for this
was that his "heart" might be "united" in this one great object;
that is, that his heart might be single in its views and purposes; that there
might be no distracting purposes; that one great aim might be always before him.
The word rendered unite -- dxy, yahhad --occurs as a
verb only in three places. In Ge 49:6 it is rendered united: "Unto their
assembly, mine honour, be not thou united." In Isa 14:20 it is translated
joined: "Thou shalt not be joined unto them." The adverb
ya-hhad --occurs often, and is rendered together, Ge 13:6 22:6,8,19 36:7;
et soepe. The idea is that of union, or conjunction; of being
together; of constituting one; and this is accomplished in the heart when there
is one great ruling object before the mind which nothing is allowed to interfere
with. It may be added, that there is no more appropriate prayer which a man can
offer than that his heart may have such unity of purpose, and that nothing may
be allowed to interfere with that one supreme purpose. --Albert Barnes.
Verse 11. Unite my heart, etc. Sincerity drives but one
design, and that is to please and enjoy God; and what can more establish and fix
the soul in the hour of temptation than this? The reason why the hypocrite is
unstable in all his ways, is given us by the apostle: he is "a double minded
man", a man of two souls in one body; as a profane wretch once boasted, that he
had one soul for God, and another for anything. But all the designs of a
gracious heart are united in one; and so the entire stream of his affections
runs strong. It is base by ends and self interests, that, like a great many
ditches cut out of the bank of a river, draw away the stream out of its proper
channel, and make its waters fail. But if the heart be united for God, then we
may say of such a Christian, as was said of a young Roman, "What he does is done
with all his might." A man of only one design, puts out all his strength to
carry it; nothing can stand before him. Sincerity brings a man's will into subjection to the will of
God; and this being done, the greatest danger and difficulty is over with such a
man. This is that holy oil which makes the wheels of the soul run nimbly, even
in the difficult paths of obedienee. --John Flavel.
Verse 11. Unite my heart.
Give me thine heart but as I gave it thee:
Or give it me at least as I
Have given mine
To purchase thine.
I halved it not when I did die;
But gave myself wholly to set thee free.
The heart I gave thee was a living heart;
And when thy heart by sin was slain,
I laid down mine
To ransom thine,
That thy dead heart might live again,
And live entirely perfect, not in part.
But whilst thine heart's divided, it is dead;
Dead unto me, unless it liveTo me alone,
It is all one
To keep all, and a part to give:
For what's a body worth without an head!
Yet, this is worse, that what thou keepest from me
Thou dost bestow upon my foes
And those not mine
Alone, but thine;
The proper causes of thy woes,
From whom I gave my life to set thee free.
Have I betrothed thee to myself, and shall
The devil, and the world, intrude
Upon my right,
Eeen in my sight?
Think not thou canst me so delude:
I will have none, unless I may have all.
I made it all, I gave it all to thee,
I gave all that I had for it:
If I must lose,
I would rather choose
Mine interest in all to quit:
Or keep it whole, or give it whole to me.
--Francis Quarles, in "The School of the Heart."
Verse 11. Unite my heart to fear thy name.
In knotts, to be loosed never,
Knitt my heart to thee forever,
That I to thy name may beare
Fearful love and loving feare.
Verse 12. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart:
and I will glorify thy name. We glorify God by praising him.
Doxology, or praise, is a God exalting work. Ps 50:23. "Whoso offereth praise
glorifieth me." The Hebrew word, Bara, to create, and Barak, to
praise, are little different, because the end of creation is to praise God.
Though nothing can add to God's essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the
eyes of others. When we praise God, we spread his fame and renown, we display
the trophies of his excellency. In this manner the angels glorify him; they are
the choristers of heaven, and do trumpet forth his praise. Praising God is one
of the highest and purest acts of religion. In prayer we act like men; in praise
we act like angels. Believers are called "temples of God", 1Co 3:16. When our
tongues praise, then the organs of God's spiritual temple are sounding. How sad
it is that God hath no more glory from us in this way! Many are full of
murmuring and discontent, but seldom bring glory to God, by giving him the
praise due to his name. We read of the saints having harps in their hands, the
emblems of praise. Many have tears in their eyes and complaints in their mouths,
but few have harps in their hands, blessing and glorifying God. Let us honour
God this way. Praise is the quit rent we pay to God: while God renews our lease,
we must renew our rent. --Thomas Watson.
Verse 12. I will praise thee, O Lord, & c. Such a soul
as David was is enlarged to talk high of God: I will praise thee, O Lord
my God, with all my heart; and I will glorify thy name for evermore.
Alas! poor creature, how canst thou proclaim him "for evermore"? A soul
fired with desire to praise God, burns after both more perfect things and more
lasting than it is able to perform. "To will is present with it", etc. See but
the reachings and longings of such a soul, how it swells in desires to glorify
God! --Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 12. With all my heart. When my heart is
united to fear thy name, then shall I praise thee with my whole heart.
Verse 13. Hell is put metaphorically for great and extreme
dangers, or miseries which seem irrecoverable and remediless; these are
figuratively called hell, because hell, properly taken, is a place from
whence there is no recovery. There's no release from the chains of darkness: all
changes are on earth; heaven and hell know none. When David praises the Lord
for delivering his soul from the lowest hell, he meaneth an estate
on earth of the lowest and deepest danger imaginable: mercy helped him at the
worst. To be as low as hell, is to be at the lowest. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 13. The lowest hell. According to Jewish traditions,
there are seven different regions, in the abode of departed souls. --Daniel
Verse 13. Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.
Someone having a troublesome cause was to be sent to prison: another comes and
defends him; what does he say when he thanks him? Thou hast delivered my soul
out of prison. A debtor was to be tortured: his debt is paid; he is said to be
delivered from being tortured. They were not in all these evils; but because
they were in such due course towards them, that unless aid had been brought,
they would have been in them, they rightly say that they are delivered from
thence, whither they were not suffered by their deliverers to be taken.
Verses 13, 16. There is no stronger argument of God's
infallible readiness to grant our requests, than the experience of his former
concessions. So David reasons, "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the
lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this
Philistine", 1Sa 17:37. This is the argument a priori, the voice of a
strong faith, that persuades the conscience God will be gracious to him, because
he hath been gracious. The prophet thus often comforted his soul: "Thou hast
enlarged me when I was in distress"; therefore, "have mercy upon me, and hear my
prayer", Ps 4:1. So, Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest
hell; therefore, O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me. Let
the justiciaries deduce arguments from their own present merits, my soul from
God's former mercies. Thou, O Lord, madest me good, restoredst me when I was
evil; therefore have mercy upon me, miserable sinner, and give me thy salvation.
Thus Paul grounded his assurance: because the Lord had stood with him, and
delivered him out of the lion's mouth; therefore the Lord shall deliver me
still, from every evil work, and preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom. 2Ti
4:17-18. --Thomas Adams.
Verse 15. Thou, O Lord, Adonai, art a God; El, the strong
God, full of compassion; the same words as Moses useth. Instead of
Jehovah, Adonai is used, "O Lord"; but then El, strong God, is the
same word. The meaning is, let all the strength and power thou the strong
God hast in thee be for my advantage. Now, is it not a bold request to say,
Lord, wilt thou give me all thy strength to help me? A very bold request indeed;
but his mercy moves him to grant it. Thus then petition him: Thou art a God
merciful and gracious, give thy strength to me! Thou, O God, givest all thy
attributes up to thy children, to serve their advantage, as well as to serve thy
own glory; give me thy strength! --Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 15. Full of compassion. The original word
Rachum is very emphatical; it signifies such tenderness as parents have
toward their children when their bowels yearn within them. --"Critical and
Practical Exposition of the Pentateuch." 1748.
Verse 16. Save the son of thine handmaid. Deliver me, who am
as completely thy property, as the offspring of a female slave born in her
master's house, and which belongs of right to him. Ge 14:14 Jer 2:14.
--William Keatinge Clay.
Verse 17. Shew me a token for good. These words do not, as
some think, necessarily imply David's asking for some specific or miraculous
token; he regards deliverance itself as a token. We ask whether it be not true,
that in the same measnre as we recognise the mysteriously governing influence of
God in every day events, we regard those things as signs and miracles, which to
others appear common place? --Augustus F. Tholuck.
Verse 17. Perhaps, the token for good means that
spiritual joy which he asked for in the beginning of the Psalm, when he said,
"Rejoice the soul of thy servant" for such joy to a holy soul in
tribulation is the clearest sign of the grace of God, and on the sight of it all
manner of persecutors are confounded; and then the meaning would be, "shew me
a token for good"; give me the grace of that spiritual joy that will appear
exteriorily in my countenance, "that they which hate me may see" such calmness
and tranquillity of soul, "and be confounded"; for thou, O Lord, hast
helped me in the struggle, consoled me in my sorrow, and hast already converted
my sadness into interior joy and gladness. --Robert Bellarmine.
Verse 17. Shew me a token for good, may be rendered "make me
a sign for good." Weiss paraphrases it, "make of me such a sign or monument of
good that all my enemies may be arrested by it, and be daunted at injuring a man
so assisted by the Lord."
Verse 17. Hast holpen me, in struggle; and comforted
me, in sorrow. --Augustine.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
1. A singular request--that the Lord should bow his ear.
2. A singular plea--"I am poor and needy."
3. The singular grace of God will answer the request, because
singular grace has made the petitioner feel his need.
1. The blessing sought is present, spiritual, complete and
2. Our reasons for expecting it are--
(a) Our belonging to God--"I am holy."
(b) God's belonging to us--"my God."
(c) Our faith, which has the promise.
(d) Our fruits, which prove our faith--"thy servant"
Verse 3. --Importunity.
1. When she pleads--"daily."
2. How she pleads--"I cry."
3. To whom she pleads--"unto thee."
4. For what she pleads--"be merciful."
Verse 3. --I will cry daily for pardoning,
sanctifying, assisting, preserving, providing and guiding mercy. --William
1. The believer's joy is from God--"Rejoice", & c.
2. The believer's joy is in God--"unto thee", & c.
1. The great lift.
2. The heavy weight--"my soul".
3. The weak worker--"I lift".
4. The great height--"unto thee".
5. The appointed machinery--means of grace; and,
6. The expected aid--"Rejoice", etc.
Verse 5. --Encouraging thoughts of God.
1. He has goodness in his essence.
2. He has forgiveness in readiness.
3. He has mercy in action, flowing forth from him plenteously.
4. His very discrimination is gracious--"all them that call upon
Verse 6. The praying man desires above all things an answer.
Objections to such an expectation. Grounds for continuing to expect, and duties
incumbent upon those who realise such expectations.
Verse 6. The voice of supplication. It is the voice of
weakness, of penitence, of faith, of hope, of the new nature, of knowledge,
1. Help needed.
2. Help sought.
3. Help found. --G.R.
1. A time to be expected--"day of my trouble."
2. A resolve to be practised--"I will call upon
3. A result to be experienced--"thou wilt answer me."
Verse 7. --Prayer is the design of trouble, the evidence that
it is sanctified, its solace, and the medium of deliverance from it. --William
1. God is one; the only God: characters of false gods inferior
2. His works are unique. Nature, providence, grace, all
peculiar in many respects. A good theme for a thoughtful preacher.
Verse 9. The certain conversion of the world as opposed to
1. God is "great", therefore great things may be
expected of him.
2. He is unsearchable, therefore "wondrous things" may
be expected of him.
3. He is irresistible, therefore impossibihties to others may
be expected of him: "Thou art God alone". --G.R.
Verse 11. In the disposition of mind which is expressed in
these words, the believer stands opposed to four descriptions of character.
1. The ignorant and thoughtless sinner, who neither regards his
way nor his end.
2. The Antinomian, who is zealous for doctrines, and averse
from the practice of religion.
3. The Pharisee, who disregards religious sentiment, and makes
practice all in all.
4. The hypocrite, who appears to be divided between religion
and the world. --John Hyatt, 1811.
Verse 11. The Christian as a scholar, a man of action, and
a man of devotion.
Verse 11. Holiness taught, truth practised, God adored; and
thus the life perfected.
Verse 11. (middle clause). We should walk in the
belief of the truth, its practice, enjoyment, and profession. --William
Verse 11. (third clause). The necessity, benefit,
and reasonableness of whole heartedhess in religion.
Verse 12. --The art of praising God by heart.
1. Where I might have been--"the lowest hell."
2. What thou hast done for me--"hast delivered."
3. What thou art doing--"great is thy mercy."
Verse 13. (first clause). --God's mercy great
in election, redemption, calling, pardon, upholding, etc. It is so, at this very
moment, in supplying my needs, preserving from danger, consoling in sorrow, etc.
Great is thy mercy towards me--so great a sinner, with such needs, so
provoking, so full of doubts, etc.
Verses 13-15. The three verses describe salvation,
consequent persecution, and all sufficient consolation.
Verse 15. The shades of the light of love. Compassion upon
suffering, grace towards unworthiness, long suffering to provocation, mercy
towards sin, truth towards the promise.
1. My pedigree--"son of thine handmaid."
2. My occupation--"thy servant."
3. My character--needing "mercy."
4. My request "turn unto me."
Verse 16. In what respects a servant of God may be girt
with divine power.
Verse 17. What inward feelings and outward providences are
"tokens for good."