The title of this psalm reads To the Chief Musician. To the tune of “Death of the Son.” A Psalm of David. The title indicates for us that David wrote this psalm to God Himself (generally regarded as the “Chief Musician”) to a popularly known tune in his day (in Hebrew, Muth Labben). In this psalm, David celebrates the help and goodness of God with a big vision for the nations.
While most believe the title Muth Labben refers to a tune, others suggest that it refers to an instrument upon which the song was played. Some (as in the New King James Version) associate the title with the phrase The Death of the Son, and apply that title as the ancient Chaldee version does: “Concerning the death of the Champion who went out between the camps,” referring to Goliath. Perhaps David wrote this psalm remembering the victory over Goliath from the vantage point of many years since that triumph.
“From this point in the Psalter up to Psalm 148 the versions differ over the numbering of the psalms, since the LXX[Septuagint] and Vulgate, followed by the Roman church, count Psalms 9 and 10 as a single poem, while the Protestant churches follow the Hebrew reckoning.” (Derek Kidner)
A. Praising God for how He deals with an enemy.
1. (1-2) Singing praises to the God who does great things.
I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart;
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
a. I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart: David recognized that God was worthy of praise with the whole heart. His entire being should be directed in affection toward God.
i. “Half heart is no heart.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “We do not praise God with our lips very much, if at all. And when we do, if we do, we praise him halfheartedly…. It is more often true that Christians complain of how God has been treating them, carry on excessively about their personal needs or desires, or gossip.” (Boice)
b. I will tell of all Your marvelous works: Here, David described an important and often neglected way to praise God – to tell of all His marvelous works. Simply remembering and telling the great things God has done is a wonderful way to praise Him.
i. “Christians, so called, when they meet, seldom speak about God! Why is this? Because they have nothing to say.” (Clarke)
ii. Marvelous works: “Wonderful deeds (or things) is a single Hebrew word, particularly frequent in the Psalms, used especially of the great redemptive miracles (e.g. Psalm 106:7, 22), but also of their less obvious counterparts in daily experience (cf. Psalm 71:17), and of the hidden glories of Scripture (Psalm 119:18).” (Kidner)
iii. David could see that “Today is as full of God to this man as the sacred yesterdays of national history, and his deliverances as wonderful as those of old.” (Maclaren)
c. I will be glad and rejoice in You: David here described a second way to praise God, by simply finding and expressing gladness and joy in God. This is simply choosing to rest in and celebrate the goodness, greatness, and kindness of God.
d. I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High: Here, David listed a third way to praise God with the whole heart, by singing praise to the name of God. The idea is to honor and celebrate the character and nature of God, recognizing Him as the Most High.
i. O Most High: “God was so first called by Melchizedek, upon a like occasion as here by David, Genesis 14:19-20.” (Trapp)
2. (3-5) David praises God for defending him against his enemies.
When my enemies turn back,
They shall fall and perish at Your presence.
For You have maintained my right and my cause;
You sat on the throne judging in righteousness.
You have rebuked the nations,
You have destroyed the wicked;
You have blotted out their name forever and ever.
a. When my enemies turn back, they shall fall and perish at Your presence: In the first two verses of this psalm, David described general reasons for praising God, reasons that are always valid. Now, he recounted a reason more specific to his present circumstances; he praised God for the way that the Most High defeated his enemies.
b. For You have maintained my right and my cause: David saw God move against his enemies by defending him on the principle of right and wrong in his conflict.
i. This shows us that the God of David – that is, the God of the Bible – is not dispassionate regarding right and wrong among men; He is not always neutral in human conflict. It is entirely true that men may think God is on their side when He is not, and that it may be that God is against both parties in a dispute. Nevertheless, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David could say, “For You have maintained my right and my cause.”
ii. Understanding this should not make us automatically claim that God is on our side in our battles or disputes; it should rather make us endeavor to be on God’s side, by rigorously conforming ourselves to His word.
c. You sat on the throne…You have rebuked the nations…You have blotted out their name forever and ever: David saw God in action among the nations, righteously judging the wicked.
i. By implication, we see that David also justified and defended the righteous – that is, himself, in the present situation.
ii. “The past tenses of verses 5-8 are ‘prophetic perfects,’ a feature of the Old Testament: they describe coming events as if they have already happened, so certain is their fulfillment and so clear the vision.” (Kidner)
3. (6-8) David celebrates the Lord’s victory.
O enemy, destructions are finished forever!
And you have destroyed cities;
Even their memory has perished.
But the LORD shall endure forever;
He has prepared His throne for judgment.
He shall judge the world in righteousness,
And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.
a. O enemy, destructions are finished forever: David shifted his focus from speaking directly to the LORD to addressing the enemies whom the LORD had defeated. David assured them that their evil work of destruction would end in futility.
i. “The metaphor of a judgment-seat is exchanged for a triumphant description of the destructions fallen on the land of the enemy, in all which God alone is recognised as the actor.” (Maclaren)
b. But the LORD shall endure forever: We might have expected David to set himself in contrast to the wicked; yet he was wise and humble enough to know that God would judge the wicked more for being His own enemies instead of David’s.
c. He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness: David looked forward to the eventual and ultimate rule of God over all nations. This would be the perfect expression of God’s righteous judgment.
i. “The psalm is a great pattern of praise on a far too much neglected level in our day. We praise God much for His mercy. That is right, but it is a good thing to recognize His righteous rule, and to praise Him for that.” (Morgan)
ii. One thousand years after David’s time, the Apostle Paul quoted this line on Mars Hill: He shall judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31).
B. Praising God for how He treats the oppressed.
1. (9-10) God is a trustworthy refuge.
The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble.
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
a. The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed: Here, David was grateful that God did more than judge the wicked; He also was a refuge and support for those oppressed by the wicked.
i. Times of trouble: According to Maclaren, this translates a rare word, and “occurs only here and in Psalm 10:1. It means a cutting off, i.e., of hope of deliverance. The notion of distress intensified to despair is conveyed.”
b. Those who know Your name will put their trust in You: David understood that the help of God wasn’t given just because God favored some and opposed others. It was because His people have relationship with Him (know Your name), they have faith in Him (put their trust in You), and they seek Him (who seek You).
i. It is a serious trial to the child of God to feel forsaken by God. There are particular times when we are likely to feel that the Lord has forsaken us.
·When we have sinned.
·When we face great trouble.
·When we have some great job to do.
·When we feel our prayers are unanswered.
ii. Yet we can find refuge in seeking God, in knowing His name. “To ‘know Thy name’ is here equivalent to learning God’s character as made known by His acts.” (Maclaren)
iii. “We never trust a man till we know him, and bad men are better known than trusted. Not so the Lord, for where his name is poured out as an ointment, there the virgins love him, fear him, rejoice in him, repose upon him.” (Trapp)
iv. “Men complain of their little faith: the remedy is in their own hands; let them set themselves to know God…. But for all this, you must make time. You cannot know a friend from hurried interviews, much less God. So you must steep yourself in deep, long thoughts of his nearness and his love.” (Meyer)
2. (11-12) Singing praise to the God who remembers His people.
Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion!
Declare His deeds among the people.
When He avenges blood, He remembers them;
He does not forget the cry of the humble.
a. Sing praises to the LORD: David exhorted others to do what he had already done in this psalm – to praise the LORD, and to declare His deeds among the people.
i. “Singing and preaching, as means of glorifying God, are here joined together, and it is remarkable that, connected with all revivals of gospel ministry, there has been a sudden outburst of the spirit of song. Luther’s Psalms and Hymns were in all men’s mouths, and in the modern revival under Wesley and Whitfield, the strains of Charles Wesley, Cennick, Berridge, Toplady, Hart, Newton, and many others, were the outgrowth of restored piety.” (Spurgeon)
ii. David here communicated something known among those who praise God. When they praise God, it is natural for them to draw others into similar praise.
b. When He avenges blood, He remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the humble: David called others to praise God for the same reasons he had praised Him earlier; notably, because God is a partisan on behalf of the oppressed and the humble. God even avenges their blood.
i. Numbers 35:33-34 tells us that the blood of unavenged murders pollutes the earth. The blood of Abel spoke to God (Genesis 4:10), and the blood of Nabal was seen by God (2 Kings 9:26). God has promised to avenge blood and remember the murdered. “The designation of God as ‘making inquisition for blood’ thinks of Him as the Goel, or Avenger. To seek here means to demand back…to demand compensation or satisfaction, and this finally comes to mean to avenge or punish.” (Maclaren)
ii. It reminds us that God will remember and avenge the blood of His persecuted people. “O persecutors, there is a time a-coming, when God will make a strict enquiry after the blood of Hooper, Bradford, Latimer, Taylor, Ridley, etc. There is a time a-coming, wherein God will enquire who silenced and suspended such-and-such ministers, and who stopped the mouths of such-and-such, and who imprisoned, confined, and banished such-and-such, who were once burning and shining lights, and who were willing to spend and be spent that sinners might be saved, and that Christ might be glorified.” (Spurgeon)
3. (13-14) A plea for mercy from the God who remembers.
Have mercy on me, O LORD!
Consider my trouble from those who hate me,
You who lift me up from the gates of death,
That I may tell of all Your praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion.
I will rejoice in Your salvation.
a. Have mercy on me, O LORD: David had just considered that God remembered the cry of the humble. Now, David wanted God to remember him in his season of trouble (consider my trouble from those who hate me).
i. Gates of death…Your praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: “The contrast between the gates of death and the gates of the New Jerusalem is very striking; let our songs be excited to the highest and most rapturous pitch by the double consideration of whence we are taken.” (Spurgeon)
b. That I may tell of all Your praise: David wanted God to rescue him so that he could give God all the more praise, and all the more passionately to rejoice in God’s salvation.
i. Again, the idea is that David has much more than his own benefit and well-being in mind. Even his deliverance is a way for God to bring more glory to Himself. David did not see his rescue as the final goal; the goal was always God’s greater glory.
ii. I will rejoice in Your salvation: “It is a good thing for the melancholy to become a Christian; it is an unfortunate thing for the Christian to become melancholy. If there is any man in the world that has a right to have a bright, clear face and a flashing eye, it is the man whose sins are forgiven him, and who is saved with God’s salvation.” (Spurgeon)
4. (15-16) The destiny of the wicked.
The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made;
In the net which they hid, their own foot is caught.
The LORD is known by the judgment He executes;
The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Meditation. Selah
a. The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made: David understood the triumph of God to be so complete that His enemies were ensnared in the same trap they set for others. Even the best plans and efforts of those who oppose God end up serving His purpose.
i. This pattern is demonstrated again and again in the Scriptures.
· Esau and Isaac plot against the purpose of God and end up serving it.
· Joseph’s brothers fight against the plan of God only to further it.
· Haman built a gallows for Mordecai the Jew, only to be executed upon it himself.
· Judas betrayed Jesus and became himself a fulfillment of prophecy.
ii. This, of course, never justifies the evil that men do; though the betrayal of Judas sent Jesus to the cross, he himself was rightly called the son of perdition (the one destined for destruction) for his evil work (John 17:12).
iii. “There is nothing that a wicked man does that is not against his own interest. He is continually doing himself harm, and takes more pains to destroy his soul than the righteous man does to get his saved unto eternal life. This is a weighty truth; and the psalmist adds: Higgaion; Selah. Meditate on this; mark it well.” (Clarke)
b. The LORD is known by the judgment He executes: The greatness of God is demonstrated by the way He can use the plans and efforts of the ungodly, while also bringing righteous judgment upon them.
C. Appealing to the God who judges in righteousness.
1. (17-18) God will deal with both the wicked and the humble.
The wicked shall be turned into hell,
And all the nations that forget God.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten;
The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.
a. The wicked shall be turned into hell: Here, as David approaches the conclusion of the psalm, he considered the end of the wicked – ultimate destruction in hell.
i. In the patterns of Hebraic poetry, the phrase “and all the nations that forget God” can be considered just another way of describing the wicked mentioned in the previous line. Yet it is a useful repetition, reminding us of the inherently great sin of forgetting God.
ii. What does the sinner forget about God?
· Man forgets the infinite majesty and glory of God.
· Man forgets the mercies of God.
· Man forgets the laws of God.
· Man forgets the presence of God.
· Man forgets the justice of God.
iii. Why does the sinner forget God?
· Man forgets God because the thought of God makes him afraid.
· Man forgets God because the thought of God doesn’t entertain him enough.
· Man forgets God because the thought of God makes it hard to carry on in sin.
iv. “The forgetters of God are far more numerous than the profane or profligate, and according to the very forceful expression of the Hebrew, the nethermost hell will be the place into which all of them shall be hurled headlong. Forgetfulness seems a small sin, but it brings eternal wrath upon the man who lives and dies in it.” (Spurgeon)
v. The wicked shall be turned into hell: “Hebrew, into into hell (twice), that is, into the nethermost hell, the lowest dungeon of hell…. R. Solomon’s note here is, they shall be carried away from hell to judgment, and from judgment they shall be returned to the deepest pit of hell.” (Trapp)
b. For the needy shall not always be forgotten: David expresses a beautiful contrast here. The wicked try to forget God; yet the needy and poor (here describing the godly who are oppressed by God’s enemies) are not…forgotten.
i. Shall not always be forgotten reminds us that from the perception of the needy and poor, they may for a time feel forgotten. Yet the good God promises that they will not always feel this way, and their expectation will not forever be disappointed.
ii. There are few more painful things than feeling forgotten and feeling disappointed. To those in such pain, God makes these wonderful promises; that they shall not always be forgotten, and their expectation will not perish.
· You shall not always be forgotten at the mercy-seat; so keep praying.
· You shall not always be forgotten in the Word; so keep reading.
· You shall not always be forgotten from the pulpit; so keep hearing.
· You shall not always be forgotten at the Lord’s Table; so keep receiving.
· You shall not always be forgotten in your service; so keep serving.
· You expect to have peace in Jesus; in Him you will have it.
· You expect to triumph over sin; in Him you will triumph.
· You expect to get out of trouble; in Him you will be delivered.
· You expect to grow strong in faith; in Him you will be strengthened.
· You expect to have spiritual joys and experiences; in Him you will have them.
iii. “The needy, and the poor, whose expectation is from the Lord, are never forgotten, though sometimes their deliverance is delayed for the greater confusion of their enemies, the greater manifestation of God’s mercy, and the greater benefit to themselves.” (Clarke)
2. (19-20) An appeal for God to glorify Himself among the nations.
Arise, O LORD,
Do not let man prevail;
Let the nations be judged in Your sight.
Put them in fear, O LORD,
That the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah
a. Arise, O LORD, do not let man prevail: Previously in this psalm, David expressed a firm confidence in God’s judgment of the wicked and His vindication of the righteous. Yet David did not allow this expectation to make him passive or fatalistic in regard to the outworking of God’s plan. Instead, he boldly prayed, “Arise, O LORD, do not let man prevail.”
i. “Prayers are the Church’s weapons…whereby she is terrible as an army with banners; she prays down her enemies.” (Trapp)
ii. “The word for man, in both verses, is one which tends to emphasize his frailty.” (Kidner)
iii. “All the wealth of Croesus, the wisdom of Solon, the power of Alexander, the eloquence of Demosthenes, if added together, would leave the possessor but a man. May we ever remember this, lest like those in the text, we should be put in fear.” (Spurgeon)
b. Let the nations be judged in Your sight…that the nations may know themselves to be but men: David again expressed his confidence in God’s judgment of the wicked. Yet this did not lead David to a hatred of mankind or unhealthy joy in judgment. His real hope was that the display of God’s judgment would teach the nations their proper place before God (to be but men).
i. This is a place of humility, and as David has already noted in this psalm, the humble are remembered before God (Psalm 9:12). This was a prayer for God to reach the nations through the display of His judgment.
ii. “Strange, that man, dust in his original, sinful by his fall, and continually reminded of both by every thing in him and about him, should yet stand in need of some sharp affliction, some severe visitation from God, to bring him the knowledge of himself, and make him feel who and what he is.” (Horne)
iii. “So the two parts of the psalm end with the thought that the ‘nations’ may yet come to know the name of God, the one calling upon those who have experienced His deliverance to ‘declare among the peoples His doings,’ the other praying God to teach by chastisement what nations who forget Him have failed to learn from mercies.” (Maclaren)
iv. “What prayer, then, can we pray which is of more vital importance than that the nations may know themselves to be but men? Such knowledge must drive them to dependence upon God, and such dependence is the secret of national strength, and of national prosperity and permanence.” (Morgan)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org