This psalm is titled To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Lilies.” A Psalm of David.
As with Psalm 45, this psalm is Set to “The Lilies.” The phrase may refer to the general beauty of the composition, to the tune, or even to a six-stringed instrument known as the Shoshannim (the literal translation of the Hebrew).
“Perhaps in no psalm in the whole psalter is the sense of sorrow profounder or more intense than in this. The soul of the singer pours itself out in unrestrained abandonment to the overwhelming and terrible grief which consumes it.” (G. Campbell Morgan)
A. Drowning in disapproval.
1. (1-3) Drowning in a flood of trouble.
Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
Where there is no standing;
I have come into deep waters,
Where the floods overflow me.
I am weary with my crying;
My throat is dry;
My eyes fail while I wait for my God.
a. Save me, O God: David had many times in his life where this prayer was needed. He felt he was about to drown (the waters have come up to my neck). Centuries later, the Son of David heard a drowning disciple cry out, Save me! (Matthew 14:30)
i. Sometimes we feel like things rush in on us, like drowning in a flood. Other times we feel as if the water level slowly rises until we are overwhelmed. Each has its own type of fear and misery.
b. I sink in deep mire: In other psalms David rejoiced at being set upon a rock (Psalm 40:2). Here he is in the opposite position, sinking down in the mud and the mire, where there is no standing.
i. We can picture Jesus sinking down into the deep mire of humanity’s sin and guilt, coming truly to the deep waters, where the floods overflow. No wonder it was said of Jesus before He went to the cross, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed (Matthew 26:37).
ii. Spurgeon described several kinds of deep mire the believer may sink into:
· The deep mire of unbelief.
· The deep mire of trial and difficulty.
· The deep mire of inward corruption.
· The deep mire of the devil’s temptation and oppression.
c. I am weary with my crying: David was worn out with all the energy spent in his crying and crying out as he waited for God to rescue him.
i. My throat is dry: “We are, it is to be feared, more likely to be hoarse with talking frivolities to men than by pleading with God.” (Spurgeon)
2. (4) The problem described.
Those who hate me without a cause
Are more than the hairs of my head;
They are mighty who would destroy me,
Being my enemies wrongfully;
Though I have stolen nothing,
I still must restore it.
a. Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head: This begins the description of the real problems David poetically described in the previous verses. He lived under the great stress of knowing there were many people who simply hated him, and without cause.
i. “Nothing can be conceived more overwhelming than the strange and inexplicable suffering resulting from loyalty to God and zeal for His honor. Undeserved reproach is the most stupendous grief possible to the sensitive soul.” (Morgan)
ii. It’s hard for us to believe that such a wonderful, godly man as David would be so hated. This is human nature, and was even more evident in the hatred without cause directed to Jesus Christ, David’s Greater Son.
iii. Jesus specifically referred to Psalm 69:4 when He spoke to His disciples the night before His crucifixion. He said, But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, “They hated Me without a cause.” (John 15:25)
iv. “There were those among the scribes and Pharisees, the priests and the Levites, who simply hated him. The reason is not far to find. Until he came and stood beside them, they looked like good men…. They hated him freely; they hated him without cause in himself. The only cause was in their evil hearts.” (Barnhouse, cited in Boice)
b. They are mighty who would destroy me: Among the many who hated David were some who went beyond the feelings of hatred to active efforts to destroy him. Those set on David’s destruction were mighty; they could make it happen.
i. “The burdened heart finds some ease in describing how heavy its burden is, and the devout heart receives some foretaste of longed-for help in the act of telling God how sorely His help is needed.” (Maclaren)
c. Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it: The fundamental injustice of David’s misery increased his sense of despair.
i. “Though innocent, he was treated guilty. Though David had no share in plots against Saul, yet he was held accountable for them.” (Spurgeon)
ii. David could only imperfectly say, I have stolen nothing, but his Greater Son could say it in a remarkable way. The devil tried to take what was not his – God’s honor and glory in heaven. Adam took what was not his – the fruit forbidden to him. Moses took what was not lawful for him to take – the life of an Egyptian foreman. David took what was not his – Bathsheba into his bed. Yet Jesus refused to take what was rightfully His; He did not consider it robbery to be equal with God (Philippians 2:6), choosing to set aside Divine privileges that were rightfully His. For this, Jesus was condemned by humanity: He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God (John 19:7).
3. (5-12) Living with the constant disapproval of man.
O God, You know my foolishness;
And my sins are not hidden from You.
Let not those who wait for You, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed because of me;
Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel.
Because for Your sake I have borne reproach;
Shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my brothers,
And an alien to my mother’s children;
Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up,
And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.
When I wept and chastened my soul with fasting,
That became my reproach.
I also made sackcloth my garment;
I became a byword to them.
Those who sit in the gate speak against me,
And I am the song of the drunkards.
a. You know my foolishness; and my sins are not hidden from You: In many of the psalms, David proclaimed his innocence compared to his adversaries. In Psalm 69 David confessed his sin and failings, appealing to God’s mercy.
i. “[By] Foolishness he means lesser sins, committed through ignorance or inconsiderateness, and by sins those of a grosser nature.” (Poole)
ii. My sins are not hidden from You: “It ought to render confession easy, when we are assured that all is known already.” (Spurgeon)
iii. My sins are not hidden from You: We may spiritually apply this to Jesus, noting the public nature of His humiliation on the cross. Nailed to the cross, likely with no clothing at all before a mocking public, Jesus accomplished His great work on the cross with nothing hidden. He had no sins of His own to bear, but the bearing of our sins was not hidden from either God or man.
b. Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me: David’s concern was not only the effect it had upon himself, but especially the effect it had upon the people of God. The thought of embarrassing those who seek God was painful to David.
i. “He feared lest other believing and loyal souls should be deflected from faith, and dishonoured because of what they saw of his sufferings.” (Morgan)
ii. “It ought to be the prayer of every Christian, especially if he be a minister of the gospel, that his sufferings in the world may not give just offence to the brethren, or the church.” (Horne)
iii. O Lord GOD of hosts: “This phrase includes three designations for God. He is the Lord of the universe [Lord, Adonai], the LORD of the covenant [GOD, Yahweh], and the Divine Warrior [of hosts, Zaboath].” (VanGemeren)
c. Shame has covered my face: Among the other problems caused by David’s sin, he also had to deal with damaged relationships with his brothers.
i. “Unless this aversion of his brethren had pained him, he would not have complained of it. It would not have pained him unless he had felt a special affection for them.” (Musculus, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. How strange it was that Jesus’ own brothers rejected Him and treated Him as a stranger (John 7:5, Mark 3:21). If any should have stood by Him and defended Him to the death, it should have been His own brothers.
d. Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me: David’s sin was not the only cause of his problems. He was also rejected and spoken against because of his zeal for God and His house.
i. The zeal connected to God’s house for David was evident in his desire to build God a temple (2 Samuel 7:1-3) and in the diligent preparation he made for the temple that his son Solomon would actually build (1 Chronicles 22:1-5).
ii. When Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple courts at the beginning of His ministry, His disciples remembered this very passage from Psalm 69:9 (John 2:17).
iii. “Eaten me up; exhausted and wasted my natural moisture and vital spirits, which is oft effected by grief and anger, and fervent love and desire; of which passions zeal is composed.” (Poole)
iv. “Some men are eaten up with lechery, others with covetousness, and a third class with pride, but the master-passion with our great leader was the glory of God, jealousy for his name, and love to the divine family.” (Spurgeon)
e. The reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me: David was happy to identify himself with God, counting it an honor to bear the disapproval of those who disapproved of Yahweh.
i. The Apostle Paul referenced Psalm 69:9 in speaking of the sacrificial nature of Jesus in Romans 15:3: For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”
f. When I wept and chastened my soul with fasting, that became my reproach: David was rejected because of his foolishness and sins (Psalm 69:5). When he repented, then people disapproved of that.
i. I also made sackcloth my garment: “[This was] A fashion at solemn fasts among the Easterlings; as if they thought the coarsest clothing too good for them; and but for shame would have gone stark naked.” (Trapp)
ii. I became a byword to them: The idea is becoming a proverb, a label. In our world this is a deliberate strategy, to dismiss people simply by giving them a label so that you don’t have to think about or engage their ideas. Faithful believers know the sting of this today. They are derided as religious nuts and fundamentalists and radicals and haters.
g. Those who sit in the gate speak against me, and I am the song of the drunkards: David became the target of scorn and disapproval from almost everyone, from the leaders of the city to the city drunks.
i. “Of the drunkards; of the scum of the people; of all lewd and debauched persons. Thus both high and low conspired against him.” (Trapp)
ii. “To this day the tavern makes rare fun of the tabernacle, and the ale-bench is the seat of the scorner.” (Spurgeon)
iii. The High Priest and the thief on the cross both reviled Jesus.
B. The prayer for rescue.
1. (13-15) The appeal to God.
But as for me, my prayer is to You,
O LORD, in the acceptable time;
O God, in the multitude of Your mercy,
Hear me in the truth of Your salvation.
Deliver me out of the mire,
And let me not sink;
Let me be delivered from those who hate me,
And out of the deep waters.
Let not the floodwater overflow me,
Nor let the deep swallow me up;
And let not the pit shut its mouth on me.
a. As for me, my prayer is to You: With the constant disapproval from men, David naturally and wisely turned to God. He would seek God and make his prayer to the One who would hear in the multitude of Your mercy.
i. In the acceptable time: “It was a time of rejection with man, but of acceptance with God. Sin ruled on earth, but grace reigned in heaven.” (Spurgeon)
b. Let not the floodwater overflow me: With poetic repetition, David returned to the image of him drowning, asking God to rescue him from those who hate him.
2. (16-18) Asking for speedy deliverance.
Hear me, O LORD, for Your lovingkindness is good;
Turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.
And do not hide Your face from Your servant,
For I am in trouble;
Hear me speedily.
Draw near to my soul, and redeem it;
Deliver me because of my enemies.
a. Hear me, O LORD, for Your lovingkindness is good: Appealing to God because of his loyal love (lovingkindness, hesed), David once again asked for the multitude of God’s tender mercies.
b. Do not hide Your face from Your servant, for I am in trouble: By presenting himself to God as His servant and in trouble, David hoped to appeal to God’s compassion.
3. (19-21) The plea for compassion.
You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor;
My adversaries are all before You.
Reproach has broken my heart,
And I am full of heaviness;
I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none;
And for comforters, but I found none.
They also gave me gall for my food,
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
a. You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor: The appeal to God’s compassion continued, especially because David bore much reproach in his loyalty to God (Psalm 69:9b).
i. Adam Clarke wrote of Psalm 69:19-20: “This is one of the most forcible appeals to mercy and compassion that was ever made. The language of these two verses is inimitable; and the sentiment cannot be mended. I can devise no comment that would not lessen their effect.” (Clarke)
ii. My adversaries are all before You: Spurgeon pictured these words in the heart of Jesus in His great suffering: “The whole lewd and loud company is now present to thine eye: Judas and his treachery; Herod and his cunning; Caiaphas and his counsel; Pilate and his vacillation; Jews, priests, people, rulers, all, thou seest and wilt judge.” (Spurgeon)
b. I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none: David asked God for help because there was none to help him.
c. They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink: Instead of help, David found cruelty from his enemies. They gave him bitter things to eat (gall for my food) and sour vinegar to drink.
i. “Gall, or poison, or bitter herbs [hemlock], Hosea 10:4.” (Poole)
ii. “Such are the comforts often administered by the world to an afflicted and deserted soul.” (Horne) As believers we must have special care that we are not like the world in this respect, and that we do not increase the misery of those who are already laid low.
iii. This is another line in Psalm 69 that is referred to in the New Testament, specifically in the suffering of Jesus. On the cross they gave Him vinegar to drink. This is described in Matthew 27:34; John 19:28-29 is even more clear with John adding that this was done that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
iv. “What David was offered in metaphor, Jesus was offered in fact, according to Matthew 27:34, 48, where the Greek words for gall and vinegar are those that the Septuagint uses here.” (Kidner)
4. (22-28) Asking for the defeat of his enemies.
Let their table become a snare before them,
And their well-being a trap.
Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see;
And make their loins shake continually.
Pour out Your indignation upon them,
And let Your wrathful anger take hold of them.
Let their dwelling place be desolate;
Let no one live in their tents.
For they persecute the ones You have struck,
And talk of the grief of those You have wounded.
Add iniquity to their iniquity,
And let them not come into Your righteousness.
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living,
And not be written with the righteous.
a. Let their table become a snare before them, and their well-being a trap: David hurt under the scorn of those who sat comfortably while he was in misery. He prayed that their ease would become a trap.
i. In the section from Psalm 69:22-28, it’s hard to know if David meant, “This is what I want God to do to them” or “This is what I know God will do to them.” In either sense the point is clear. “He denounceth ten plagues, or effects of God’s wrath, to come upon them for their wickedness.” (Dickson, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. “Their table figuratively sets forth their prosperity, the abundance of all things. It represents peace and security, as in Psalm 33:5; Job 36:16.” (Venema, cited in Spurgeon)
iii. This peril waiting for those who rejected the man after God’s heart as described in Psalm 69:22-23 was quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:9-10 as appropriate to those among his own people who rejected Jesus.
b. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see: David’s enemies had distorted vision when they looked at him; he prayed the distortion would become permanent blindness.
c. Pour out Your indignation upon them: David asked God to fulfill a series of curses upon his enemies, ending with the wish that they would be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.
i. Let their dwelling place become desolate: This line is twice referred to in the New Testament. Jesus quoted it in sadness over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:38) and Peter quoted it as descriptive of the desolation of Judas (Acts 1:20).
ii. Add iniquity to their iniquity: “Punish one sin with another (by giving them up to a reprobate sense, to an incurable hardness), and plague them soundly for their sin. The same Hebrew word signifieth both sin and punishment; these two are tied together with chains of adamant.” (Trapp)
iii. Let them be blotted out of the book: “But to blot names therefrom is not only to kill, but to exclude from the national community, and so from all the privileges of the people of God.” (Maclaren)
iv. Most draw a contrast between these severe prayers of David and what seems to be a more loving approach to enemies taught in the New Testament. “But the very juxtaposition of David cursing his tormentors and Jesus praying for His, brings out the gulf between type and antitype, and indeed between accepted attitudes among saints of the Old Testament and the New.” (Kidner)
v. That more loving approach is often given example in the great forgiveness Jesus showed even for those who nailed Him to the cross. G. Campbell Morgan had a somewhat contrary analysis: “He said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ That was a prayer inspired by His freedom from all personal vindictiveness. Neither in that prayer, nor in any of His teachings, can we find a word of tolerance for those who do evil, knowing that it is evil.” (Morgan)
5. (29-33) Lifting up the poor and humble one.
But I am poor and sorrowful;
Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high.
I will praise the name of God with a song,
And will magnify Him with thanksgiving.
This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bull,
Which has horns and hooves.
The humble shall see this and be glad;
And you who seek God, your hearts shall live.
For the LORD hears the poor,
And does not despise His prisoners.
a. Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high: David did not only pray for the downfall of his enemies. He also asked God to rescue him from drowning in the mire of hateful men and to establish him up on high.
i. I am poor and sorrowful: “Literally, I am laid low, and full of pain or grief. Hence the prayer, ‘Let thy salvation, O God set me on high!’ My oppression has laid me low; thy salvation shall make me high!” (Clarke)
b. I will praise the name of God with a song: Moving to greater confidence, the psalmist vowed to praise and magnify God for His rescue. This sincere praise honored God even more than an animal sacrifice.
i. Which has horns and hooves: “A bullock was in its prime for sacrifice, under the law, when it began to put forth its ‘horns and hoofs.’” (Horne)
c. You who seek God, your hearts shall live: The trial of the psalmist would not be wasted. He would become a lesson to others who seek God and show them how their hearts shall live.
6. (34-36) The triumphant conclusion.
Let heaven and earth praise Him,
The seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion
And build the cities of Judah,
That they may dwell there and possess it.
Also, the descendants of His servants shall inherit it,
And those who love His name shall dwell in it.
a. Let heaven and earth praise Him: As low as this psalm began, it soars to the highest praise in the end. Heaven and earth are not big enough to give God the praise He is due. The seas and everything that moves in them will also bring Him praise.
b. For God will save Zion and build the cities of Judah: The vision is lifted high above the problems of one man. Now David prayed for blessing for Jerusalem and Judah, that they may dwell there and possess it.
i. Some believe that the specific mention of the cities of Judah and no mention of broader Israel means this psalm, or this portion of the psalm, must date to either the days of the divided monarchy or of the Babylonian exile. This is not at all necessary. First, it is not unusual that David would have special regard for the land of his own tribe, Judah. Second, it may have been composed in the seven years and six months when David was king over Judah, before he was king over the other 11 tribes (2 Samuel 2:1-11).
c. Those who love His name shall dwell in it: Scorned by his enemies, David knew that he and others who love His name would inherit the land and dwell in it.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org