Psalm 108 – Praise and Trust from the Past for Today
This psalm is titled A Song. A Psalm of David. It is actually a compilation of sections from two other psalms. Psalm 108:1-5 is very similar to Psalm 57:7-11, and Psalm 108:6-13 is almost identical to Psalm 60:5-12. These are David’s words, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, taken and applied to a present challenge. The enemies specified in Psalm 108:9-13 are Moab, Edom, and Philistia (with the emphasis on Edom). It may be that the old foe, subdued earlier in David’s day, rose again and Israel must defeat her again.
Psalm 108 shows us that we can and should use the words of Scripture as our present prayers and praises, suitable to our present situation.
“This is not a new song, save in its arrangement.” (G. Campbell Morgan)
“The Holy Spirit is not so short of expressions that he needs to repeat himself, and the repetition cannot be meant merely to fill the book: there must be some intention in the arrangement of two former divine utterances in a new connection.” (Charles Spurgeon)
A. The declaration of God’s praise.
1. (1-2) The earnest nature of David’s praise to God.
O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and give praise, even with my glory.
Awake, lute and harp!
I will awaken the dawn.
a. My heart is steadfast: As in Psalm 57:7, David sang of the strength of his heart in God. His steadfast confidence in God gave him a fixed point from which he could and would sing and give praise.
b. Even with my glory: David praised God with the best of his being. Whatever glory belonged to David, he directed it toward God in praise.
c. Awake, lute and harp: The earnest praise offered to God was musical. David was a skilled musician (1 Samuel 16:18), and it could be said that this skill was part of his glory – so he offered it to God in praise.
i. Lute and harp: “The Psaltery [lute] was a stringed instrument, usually with twelve strings, and played with the fingers. The harp or lyre was a stringed instrument, usually consisting of ten strings. Josephus says that it was struck or played with a key. It appears, however, that it was sometimes played with the fingers.” (Barnes, cited in Spurgeon)
d. I will awaken the dawn: David was determined to give God the best in praise, so he gave unto God the choice part of the day. David let the sound of his praise greet the dawn as it rose in the early morning hours.
i. David was awake, so he could awaken the dawn. “Some singers had need to awake, for they sing in drawling tones, as if they were half asleep; the tune drags wearily along, there is no feeling or sentiment in the singing, but the listener hears only a dull mechanical sound…. Oh, choristers, wake up, for this is not a work for dreamers, but such as requires your best powers in their liveliest condition.” (Spurgeon)
2. (3-4) The wide audience of David’s praise.
I will praise You, O LORD, among the peoples,
And I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your mercy is great above the heavens,
And Your truth reaches to the clouds.
a. I will praise You, O LORD, among the peoples: David directed his praise to Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel. Yet he was praising Yahweh in the presence of the people of Israel (the peoples) or among the nations. His praise was not secret, but open and public.
b. For Your mercy is great above the heavens: The large audience was appropriate because of the large nature of God’s great mercy (hesed, lovingkindness, loyal love, or covenant love). David understood that the mercy of God was so great that if it were to be measured, it would extend above the heavens, and His truth would reach to the clouds.
i. “God is exalted above the heavens. His glory does fill the earth. The goal of history is that God might be known as God and be honored for it.” (Boice)
3. (5-6) A cry of exaltation to God.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
And Your glory above all the earth;
That Your beloved may be delivered,
Save with Your right hand, and hear me.
a. Be exalted, O God: If the measure of God’s mercy and truth are high above the heavens and the clouds, then the honor and recognition to God should also be that great. A God of great mercy and truth is worthy of great praise and recognition of glory.
b. That Your beloved may be delivered: David’s praise transformed into a prayer, asking that he would be rescued from his present distress. The opening of Psalm 108 is so filled with praise that we didn’t even know David was in trouble. He only mentioned his distress after setting his heart and mind right with praise from his entire being.
c. Your beloved: David understood that God loved him, and he appealed to God on that basis. David’s mind understood that there were many others that God loved, but his heart came to God as if he were the only one, not one of many. Beloved (Hebrew, yadid) was the meaning David’s own name – dawid, which means beloved.
i. Beloved: “The Hebrew word belongs to the language of love poetry; it appeals to the strongest of bonds, the most ardent of relationships.” (Kidner)
d. Save with Your right hand: The right hand is regarded as the hand of skill and strength. God’s rescue could not come through half measures. David called upon God to bring all His skill and strength into his rescue.
B. The declaration of God’s victory.
1. (7-8) God’s dominion over Israel and its land.
God has spoken in His holiness:
“I will rejoice;
I will divide Shechem
And measure out the Valley of Succoth.
Gilead is Mine; Manasseh is Mine;
Ephraim also is the helmet for My head;
Judah is My lawgiver.
a. God has spoken in His holiness: David was a prophet (Acts 2:30) and was about to prophesy of Yahweh’s ultimate victory over all nations. He began by noting that this proclamation came from God’s holiness – His quality and character of being separate and set apart from all His creation.
b. I will rejoice: God’s victory over all nations will make Him happy. He will not perform this reluctantly.
c. I will divide Shechem and measure out the Valley of Succoth: These verses refer to both a city and a region in Israel. God declared His sovereignty over the land; He would divide and measure it as He pleased. Comprehensively, the regions of greater Israel (including Gilead and Manasseh on the east side of the Jordan River, and the central sections of Judah and Ephraim) were under His dominion.
d. Ephraim also is the helmet for My head: The tribe of Ephraim descended from Joseph and was one of the prominent tribes of Israel. Sometimes the northern tribes were collectively called Ephraim, after this large and influential tribe. Ephraim was like a helmet, expressing God’s strength and security.
i. “As Ephraim was the most populous of all the tribes, he appropriately terms it the strength of his head, that is, of his dominions.” (Calvin, cited in Spurgeon)
e. Judah is My lawgiver: If Ephraim expressed God’s strength, the tribe of Judah expressed His rule and government, as a lawgiver. Judah was the tribe of King David and later of Jesus the Messiah.
2. (9) God’s dominion over the nations.
Moab is My washpot;
Over Edom I will cast My shoe;
Over Philistia I will triumph.”
a. Moab is My washpot: Yahweh was not merely a local deity with authority over Israel alone. He was the God of all the nations, and David recognized that by mentioning three neighboring kingdoms. God would use Moab as it pleased Him, and if it were for humble service like a pot for washing feet, then so be it. David did conquer Moab (2 Samuel 8:2).
i. Both Moab and Edom were noted for their pride (Isaiah 16:6, Obadiah 3). Here God gives them places of humble service. “The picture of Moab coming with a washbasin for the warrior to wash his feet represents her subjugation to servant status.” (VanGemeren)
b. Over Edom I will cast My shoe: In a day when roads and paths were dirty and covered with refuse of all kinds, a person’s shoes were regarded with contempt. If God wanted to throw a dirty shoe over Edom as an expression of His contempt, He had the power and right to do it. With God’s power, David did conquer Edom (2 Samuel 8:14).
i. “Will I cast out my shoe, i.e. I will use them like slaves; either holding forth my shoes, that they may pluck them off; or throwing my shoes at them, either in anger or contempt, as the manner of many masters was and is in such cases.” (Poole)
c. Over Philistia I will triumph: God’s dominion would also be expressed over these long and bitter enemies of Israel. God helping, David did conquer the Philistines (2 Samuel 8:1).
3. (10-13) Trust in God and the help He will bring.
Who will bring me into the strong city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
Is it not You, O God, who cast us off?
And You, O God, who did not go out with our armies?
Give us help from trouble,
For the help of man is useless.
Through God we will do valiantly,
For it is He who shall tread down our enemies.
a. Who will bring me into the strong city? This psalm appears to have been composed and sung on the eve of battle. Before David confronted a strong city of Edom, he praised God and expressed his total confidence in God’s dominion over Israel and the pagan nations.
b. The strong city: The most notable strong city among the Edomites was the famous Petra. We have no record of David attacking or conquering that city. If the strong city refers to Petra, perhaps David did conquer it, but it is not in the Biblical record. Or, David may mean Petra as simply an example of what seemed to be an unconquerable city that could not resist God’s power if He willed it.
i. “There were a number of well-fortified cities in Edom, the source of the country’s strength and great pride, but when the psalm speaks of the fortified city it can only mean Petra, the legendary, inaccessible, and apparently impregnable mountain stronghold of Edom.” (Boice)
ii. This is an important and eternal principle: That which seems unconquerable can be overcome by the power of God.
c. Is it not You, O God, who cast us off? David prayed this prayer in light of recent defeats, recognizing that those defeats came because God’s favor did not shine upon Israel’s armies. If God did not go out with our armies, there was no hope for victory – for the help of man is useless.
i. The help of man is useless: David had seen many brave men accomplish great things on the field of battle. Yet for David and for Israel, the help of man was not enough; indeed, it was useless. God’s help would lead them to victory.
ii. “The king is not looking for a military solution to his problems, such as alliances with other kings, because he knows that their ‘help is worthless’.” (VanGemeren)
iii. “We ought to pray with all the more confidence in God when our confidence in man is altogether gone. When the help of man is vain, we shall not find it vain to seek the help of God.” (Spurgeon)
d. Through God we will do valiantly: David’s formula was simple. Without God, they could do nothing. With and through God, they could win great victories and accomplish great things. The victory belonged to God (it is He who shall tread down our enemies); it was Israel’s place to praise God and bring themselves into right relationship with Him. This was the goal of this psalm, and we can suppose that it accomplished its purpose and the battle David faced was won.
i. David understood that it was not for Israel to avoid fighting and passively see what God would do. Instead, they would fight, but fight through God. Their fighting through God would be brave and valiant, and in it they would see God tread down our enemies.
ii. We will do valiantly: “Divine working is not an argument for human inaction, but rather it is the best excitement for courageous effort.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Through God we will do valiantly: “What, then, is the meaning of this word? That God will overcome Edom? By no means. Rather that the people who are of fixed heart in God will themselves do the valiant deed, but that they will do it through Him. This is ever the way of victory.” (Morgan)
iv. It is He who shall tread down our enemies: “Faith is neither a coward nor a sluggard she knows that God is with her, and therefore she does valiantly; she knows that he will tread down her enemies, and therefore she arises to tread them down in his name.” (Spurgeon)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org