Psalm 62 – My Only Rock, My Only Salvation
The title of this psalm is To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.
The Chief Musician is thought by some to be the Lord GOD Himself, and others suppose him to be a leader of choirs or musicians in David’s time, such as Heman the singer or Asaph (1 Chronicles 6:33, 16:5-7, and 25:6).
Jeduthun (mentioned also in the titles of Psalm 39 and Psalm 77) was one of the musicians appointed by David to lead Israel’s public worship (1 Chronicles 16:41; 25:1-3). Charles Spurgeon wrote regarding Jeduthun: “The sons of Jeduthun were porters or doorkeepers, according to 1 Chronicles 16:42. Those who serve well make the best of singers, and those who occupy the highest posts in the choir must not be ashamed to wait at the posts of the doors of the Lord’s house.”
A. Waiting upon God, who is my rock and defense.
1. (1-2) David’s soul silently waits for God.
Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be greatly moved.
a. Truly my soul silently waits for God: The emphasis in this line is of surrendered silence before God and God alone. The word truly is often translated alone or only and seems to have that sense here.
i. “It is hard to see this in the English text, because the Hebrew is almost untranslatable, but in the Hebrew text the word only or alone occurs five times in the first eight verses (in verses 1, 2, 4, 5, 6), and once in verse 9.” (Boice) Kidner said of this Hebrew word ak, “It is an emphasizer, to underline a statement or to point to a contrast; its insistent repetition gives the psalm a tone of special earnestness.”
ii. “The words have all been said – or perhaps no words will come – and the issue rests with Him alone.” (Kidner)
iii. “The natural mind is ever prone to reason, when we ought to believe; to be at work, when we ought to be quiet; to go our own way, when we ought steadily to walk on in God’s ways.” (Müller, cited in Spurgeon)
iv. “This is why God keeps you waiting. All that is of self and nature must be silence; one voice after another cease to boast; one light after another be put out; until the soul is shut up to God alone.” (Meyer)
b. From Him comes my salvation: In many psalms David began by telling his great need or describing his present crisis. Here, David began by declaring his great confidence in and trust upon God.
i. Psalm 62 seems to come from a time of trouble, yet it asks God for nothing. It is full of faith and trust, but has no fear, no despair, and no petition.
ii. “There is in it throughout not one single word (and this is a rare occurrence), in which the prophet expresses fear or dejection; and there is also no prayer in it, although, on other occasions, when in danger, he never omits to pray.” (Amyraut, cited in Spurgeon)
c. He only is my rock and my salvation: David trusted in God alone for his strength and stability. The description is of a man completely focused upon God for His help, firmly resolved to look nowhere else.
i. “Because God only is our Rock, let us ever be silent only for God.” (Morgan)
ii. He is my defense: Or, fortress. “The tried believer not only abides in God as in a cavernous rock; but dwells in him as Warrior in some bravely defiant tower or lordly castle.” (Spurgeon)
2. (3-4) David complains to his enemies and of his enemies.
How long will you attack a man?
You shall be slain, all of you,
Like a leaning wall and a tottering fence.
They only consult to cast him down from his high position;
They delight in lies;
They bless with their mouth,
But they curse inwardly. Selah
a. How long will you attack a man: David’s faith was in God alone, but he had words for his enemies. He rebuked them for their crazy persistence in attacking him, and warned them of judgment to come (you shall be slain).
b. Like a leaning wall and a tottering fence: David’s image is clear enough, but there is disagreement among translators and commentators as to whom this applies. The New King James Version presents the opponents of David as the leaning wall and a tottering fence. Others think that David himself was the leaning wall, in his weakness unfairly set upon by his enemies.
i. Spurgeon gave the sense of the first: “Boastful persecutors bulge and swell with pride, but they are only as a bulging wall ready to fall in a heap; they lean forward to seize their prey, but it is only as a tottering fence inclines to the earth upon which it will soon lie at length.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The English Standard Version gives the second sense: How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence.
c. They only consult to cast him down: David described his enemies as those who only think through a matter if it involves bringing down a man of God. They were liars, especially in the sense of being two-faced (they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly).
3. (5-7) David’s calm confidence in God alone.
My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.
a. My soul, wait silently for God alone: In the opening lines of the psalm, David said that this was the state of his soul. Here he spoke to his soul, telling it to remain in that place of trust in and surrender to God. David’s complete expectation was upon God.
i. “David now urges on himself the silence which he simply stated in verse 1.” (Kidner)
ii. For God alone: “They trust not God at all who trust him not alone. He that stands with one foot on a rock, and another foot upon a quicksand, will sink and perish, as certainly as he that standeth with both feet upon a quicksand. David knew this, and therefore calleth earnestly upon his soul (for his business lay most within doors) to trust only upon God.” (Trapp)
b. He only is my rock and my salvation: David assured himself by repeating the lines from Psalm 62:2. It was true for David and he wanted it to remain true.
i. He is my defense: “Not my defender only, but my actual protection.” (Spurgeon)
c. I shall not be moved: David repeated the idea from Psalm 62:2, but with this small variation. In verse 2 he wrote, I shall not be greatly moved. In this verse he seems to come to an even stronger position: I shall not be moved.
i. “There may be deep meaning in the slight omission of ‘greatly’ in the second refrain. Confidence has grown.” (Maclaren)
d. My refuge is in God: The emphasis again reflects David’s decision to trust in nothing or no one else. God alone is his salvation, his glory, his rock, his strength, and his refuge. We sense David was tempted to trust many different things, but he refused and kept his expectation in God alone.
i. “Observe how the Psalmist brands his own initials upon every name which he rejoicingly gives to his God – my expectation, my rock, my salvation, my glory, my strength, my refuge; he is not content to know that the Lord is all these things; he acts in faith towards him, and lays claim to him under every character.” (Spurgeon)
B. David teaches others and teaches himself.
1. (8) Teaching the people to trust in God.
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah
a. Trust in Him at all times, you people: David felt what was good for him was good for others, also. As a leader of God’s people he spoke wisdom to them, reminding them that God was worthy at all times of their trust in Him.
i. “The comforts which David had found, he exhorteth others to seek, in faith and prayer.” (Spurgeon)
b. Pour out your heart before Him: God’s strength and stability made David rightly think of Him as a rock. Yet God was not insensitive or unfeeling like a rock. God invites His people to pour out their heart – their sorrows, their joys, their trust, and their doubt, all of it – before Him.
i. “Pour it out as water. Not as milk, whose colour remains. Not as wine, whose savour remains. Not as honey, whose taste remains. But as water, of which, when it is poured out, nothing remains.” (Le Blanc, cited in Spurgeon)
c. God is a refuge for us: He welcomes the poured-out heart as the cities of refuge welcomed the hunted man in ancient Israel.
2. (9-10) Teaching the people what not to trust in.
Surely men of low degree are a vapor,
Men of high degree are a lie;
If they are weighed on the scales,
They are altogether lighter than vapor.
Do not trust in oppression,
Nor vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase,
Do not set your heart on them.
a. Surely men of low degree are a vapor, men of high degree are a lie: This psalm speaks much of trusting in God alone. Now David explained why it was important to not set trust in man. David understood that whether they are men of low degree or high degree, they are altogether lighter than vapor. There is no substance there worthy of trust.
i. “Common men can give no help. They are vanity, and it is folly to trust in them; for although they may be willing, yet they have no ability to help you: ‘Rich men are a lie.’ They promise much, but perform nothing; they cause you to hope, but mock your expectation.” (Clarke)
ii. However, it is possible that David did not intend the reader to understand a distinction between men of low degree and men of high degree; it may simply be an expression of Hebrew poetic repetition and parallelism. “The distinction of ‘lowborn men’ and ‘the highborn’ is based on the different words for ‘man’ in the MT [Masoretic Text]: adam and ish (Psalm 62:9; cf. 49:2). But it is equally possible to treat both [parts] of Psalm 62:9 as a general reference to mankind: ‘mankind is but a breath; mankind is but a lie.’” (VanGemeren)
iii. “The point, then, is not so much that we have nothing to fear from man (as in Psalm 27:1ff.), as that we have nothing to hope from him.” (Kidner)
b. Do not trust in oppression, nor vainly hope in robbery: David had seen men advance through cruel or dishonest ways. He warned the people against this, understanding that the results never justify the evil used to get the results.
c. If riches increase, do not set your heart on them: As a king, David ended up being a very wealthy man, though most of his earlier years were lived in deep poverty. David knew what it was to see riches increase, and he knew the foolishness of setting one’s heart on them. It’s possible to hold great wealth without trusting in those riches, but it isn’t easy.
i. “If they grow in an honest, providential manner, as the result of industry or commercial success, do not make much account of the circumstance; be not unduly elated, do not fix your love upon your money-bags.” (Spurgeon)
ii. There are at least three ways in which one may set the heart on riches.
· To take excessive pleasure in riches, making them the source of joy for life.
· To place one’s hope and security in riches.
· To grow proud and arrogant because of riches.
iii. “Whether rightly or wrongly won, they are wrongly used if they are trusted in.” (Maclaren)
iv. “Riches are themselves transient things; therefore they should have but our transient thoughts.” (Caryl, cited in Spurgeon)
v. “As we must not rest in men, so neither must we repose in money. Gain and fame are only so much foam of the sea.” (Spurgeon)
vi. “1 Timothy 6:17ff. may be alluding to this verse in its own careful treatment of the subject.” (Kidner)
3. (11-12) Teaching himself about God’s power and mercy.
God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.
Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy;
For You render to each one according to his work.
a. God has spoken once, twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God: This truth was deeply ingrained in David’s soul. Through repetition he understood that power belongs to God and to none other. This is why David was so determined to trust in God and God alone.
i. Since power belongs to God, David refused to look for strength anywhere else. Since power belongs to God, David did not long for power unto himself. Since power belongs to God, David did not become arrogant as a ruler, knowing any power he held was as God’s representative.
b. Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy: Gratefully, David understood that God’s nature was much more than power. He also is rich in mercy. Just as men could and should look to God for power, so they should look to Him for mercy.
i. Mercy translates one of the great words of the Old Testament, hesed. It may perhaps be better translated as love, lovingkindness, or loyal love. David knew power belongs to God, but that God is a God of love who is loyal and good to His people.
ii. “The second attribute used to be translated ‘mercy’, but verse 12 makes it particularly clear that this word (hesed) has its basis in what is true and dependable. It is closely linked with covenant-keeping, hence the modern translations, steadfast love or ‘true love.’” (Kidner)
iii. “David says that he has learned two lessons: that God is strong and that God is loving.” (Boice)
iv. This meant that David had no expectation of mercy from man. If it came he was pleased, but he knew that ultimately this great covenant love [mercy] belonged to God.
v. “This tender attribute sweetens the grand thought of his power: the divine strength will not crush us, but will be used for our good; God is so full of mercy that it belongs to him, as if all the mercy in the universe came from God, and still was claimed by him as his possession.” (Spurgeon)
vi. “This is the only truly worthy representation of God. Power without love is brutality, and love without power is weakness. Power is the strong foundation of love, and love is the beauty and the crown of power.” (Perowne, cited in Boice)
vii. “The power of God is more than the strength of the adversaries; the mercy of God is equal to dealing with all the need of the failing soul.” (Morgan)
c. For You render to each one according to his work: We don’t normally think of this as an expression of God’s mercy. In some ways it sounds more like God’s judgment. Yet David had in mind the good man or woman whose goodness is despised by this world. The God of mercy would reward their goodness (even on a relative measure) as the world ignored or rejected it.
i. “Man neither helps us nor rewards us; God will do both.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “To all mankind, therefore, the prophet here recommendeth meditation on these two most interesting subjects; the ‘power’ of God to punish sin, and his ‘mercy’ to pardon it. Fear of the former will beget desire of the later.” (Horne)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 61 – Hope and Help When My Heart is Overwhelmed
This psalm is titled To the Chief Musician. On a stringed instrument. A Psalm of David. David was often in trouble; we don’t know the life circumstances which prompted this psalm. It does seem to come after he came to the throne. Because of a reference to the end of the earth, some have thought it comes from the time of Absalom’s rebellion or on his military campaign near the Euphrates (2 Samuel 8:3-4). Those are possible, but by no means certain settings for this psalm.
On a stringed instrument: “The word Neginah (the singular of Neginoth) may be understood to be synonymous with the kinnor or harp: that is to say, the instrument of eight strings, probably played with a bow or plectrum.” (John Jebb, cited in Charles Spurgeon)
A. The prayer.
1. (1-2) Crying out for rescue when overwhelmed.
Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
a. Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer: This was wise praying from David. He understood that though God hears all prayer in one sense, in the sense of answering and responding favorably, God does not hear or attend to all prayer. Opening his prayer this way, David did not presume a response from God, but actively asked for the response.
i. “Pharisees may rest in their prayers; true believers are eager for an answer to them: ritualists may be satisfied when they have ‘said or sung’ their litanies and collects, but living children of God will never rest till their supplications have entered the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth.” (Spurgeon)
b. From the end of the earth I will cry to You: From what we know, David did not travel far outside the Promised Land. Yet figuratively he was at the end of human understanding and strength and resources; there was a real and powerful sense in which this prayer was offered from the end of the earth.
i. “Though the phrase ‘from the ends of the earth’ may denote a geographical distance away from the land (cf. Psalm 46:9; Deuteronomy 28:49), it is also a metaphor for despair, alienation, and spiritual distance from the Lord.” (VanGemeren)
ii. David did not say, from the end of the earth I will give up hope or from the end of the earth I will deny that You love me. At the limit of his wisdom, endurance, and ability, David said, I will cry to You.
iii. “Observe that David never dreamed of seeking any other God; he did not imagine the dominion of Jehovah to be local: he was at the end of the promised land, but he knew himself to be still in the territory of the Great King.” (Spurgeon)
c. When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I: David knew there would be times when his heart was overwhelmed. In those moments he needed at least three things.
· He needed the rock, a place of stability and security, something strong enough to stand against crashing waves or quaking earth.
· He needed a rock that is higher than I, a place above himself, above his wisdom, above his abilities.
· He needed God to lead him to that rock. David was unable to get to the firm-footed place above his crisis on his own.
i. Overwhelmed: The same word is translated faints in Jonah 2:7. “Here David had the added trial of depression or exhaustion; cf. the same word…[is found] in the title of Psalm 102, where the condition is subsequently described at some length.” (Kidner)
ii. We are not told why David was overwhelmed, and it is better that we do not know. If we knew his specific circumstances, we would be strongly tempted to limit God’s rescue only to those in the same situation. God wanted this prayer to be prayed by His people no matter the reason their heart is overwhelmed.
iii. To the rock: “The thought of God being a rock is prominent in the Davidic psalms because David had used the rocks of the Judean wilderness as places of refuge and protection.” (Boice)
iv. “His imagination sees towering above him a great cliff, on which, if he could be planted, he might defy pursuit or assault. But he is distant from it, and the inaccessibility which, were he in its clefts, would be his safety, is now his despair. Therefore he turns to God and asks Him to bear him up in His hands, that he may set his foot on that rock.” (Maclaren)
d. To the rock that is higher than I: Assuming David wrote this as king, humanly speaking he had reached the top of the ladder. He still realized that wasn’t enough, and needed something higher than himself.
i. That is higher than I: “Thus his prayer was for elevation above self in God.” (Morgan)
ii. Ultimately Jesus Christ is the Rock that is higher than I. “Higher than I, because of His divine origin; higher, because of His perfect obedience; higher, because of His supreme sufferings; higher, because of his ascension to the right hand of power.” (Meyer)
2. (3-4) Present trust based on past faithfulness.
For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah
a. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy: David remembered that God had answered such prayers in the past. In the past God Himself had been a shelter and strong tower for David.
b. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever: The word tabernacle is simply the word for tent. David had one of two (or perhaps both) ideas in mind:
· The tent of God as a refuge for the weary traveler, the place where protection and hospitality are given to the honored guest.
· The tent of God as the tabernacle of meeting, the center of Israel’s sacrifice and worship.
i. “The imagery of dwelling in the tent goes back to the desert experience (cf. Exodus 33:7-11; Numbers 11:16-17) when the Lord resided among the tribes of Israel in a tent.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “He saith not, I shall abide in my palace, but in thy tabernacle, which he more highly esteemed.” (Trapp)
c. I will trust in the shelter of Your wings: Again there may be one of two ideas or the conscious reference to both ideas.
· Wings as the near and protected place that a mother bird gives to her offspring, protecting her chicks under the shelter of her wings.
· Wings as that which marked and surrounded the interior of God’s tabernacle of meeting and the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant, which included the designs of cherubim and their wings.
d. A shelter…a strong tower…Your tabernacle…the shelter of Your wings: With image after image, David built upon the idea of the rock that is higher than I first stated in Psalm 61:2. No one image could fully express the greatness of God’s help to David.
B. The answer to the prayer.
1. (5-7) God’s care for King David.
For You, O God, have heard my vows;
You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name.
You will prolong the king’s life,
His years as many generations.
He shall abide before God forever.
Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him!
a. For You, O God, have heard my vows: David probably referred to past vows of grateful allegiance to God, which he continued to honor. God heard these vows and responded to them, giving David rule over God’s people (the heritage of those who fear Your name).
i. You, O God, have heard my vows: “Often have I purposed to be wholly thine, – to serve thee alone, – to give up my whole life to thy service: and thou hast heard me, and taken me at my word; and given me that heritage, the privilege of enjoying thee in thy ordinances, which is the lot of them that fear thy name.” (Clarke)
b. You will prolong the king’s life: David confidently expected God’s blessing upon his reign. It was not because he thought so highly of himself; it was because he thought so highly of the God who keeps His promises.
i. “Long ‘life’ (literally, ‘days’) is an idiom for the prosperity of the reigning monarch as well as for the preservation of his dynasty, similar to the British ‘God save the queen.’” (VanGemeren)
ii. His years as many generations: “Thus he speaks, partly because his kingdom was not like Saul’s, a matter of one age, expiring with his life, but established to him and his heirs for ever; and partly because Christ, his Son and Heir, should actually and in his own person possess the kingdom for ever.” (Poole)
c. He shall abide before God forever: David could only say this in reference to himself in a very limited way. He could say it without limitation of the Messiah that was promised to come from his lineage (2 Samuel 7:11-16).
i. He shall abide before God forever: “Literally, ‘He shall sit for ever before the faces of God.’ He shall ever appear in the presence of God for us.” (Clarke)
ii. “The psalm is…[so] Messianic that the everlasting kingdom of the Christ alone fulfils its prayer.” (Maclaren)
iii. “The promises of the Lord have found their focus in the messiahship of Jesus the Christ, whose rule is established by the promise and reward of the Father (Ephesians 4:7-13).” (VanGemeren)
d. Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him: David himself needed this mercy and truth, but he also knew that his Greater Son, the promised Messiah, would also rely upon God’s mercy and truth.
i. “Let these two (thy mercy and thy truth) be the supporters of his throne, let them be of his lifeguard, let them be his due and prepared portion.” (Trapp)
ii. “As men cry, ‘Long live the king,’ so we hail with acclamation our enthroned Immanuel, and cry, ‘Let mercy and truth preserve him.’ Eternal love and immutable faithfulness are the bodyguards of Jesus’ throne.” (Spurgeon)
2. (8) Praising God forever.
So I will sing praise to Your name forever,
That I may daily perform my vows.
a. So I will sing praise to Your name forever: David began the psalm desperately crying out to God with a heart that was fainting and overwhelmed. The song ends with praise, honoring the character of God as expressed in His name, and doing so forever.
b. That I may daily perform my vows: David knew he had an unending obligation to thank and honor God. It could and should be done daily and that forever.
i. “God daily performs his promises, let us daily perform our vows; he keeps his covenant, let us not forget ours.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Forever…daily: “Here the word ever carries the mind illimitably forward, while day after day directs it first to what lies immediately ahead.” (Kidner)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 60 – From Defeat to Victory in God
This psalm is titled To the Chief Musician. Set to “Lily of the Testimony.” A Michtam of David. For teaching. When he fought against Mesopotamia and Syria of Zobah, and Joab returned and killed twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.
Lily of the Testimony may refer to an instrument or to a tune.
This is a Michtam, a golden psalm of David, intended for teaching, to instruct his present and future generations, especially about relying upon God and nothing else in conflict.
The historical markers against Mesopotamia and Syria of Zobah, and Joab returned and killed twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt place it sometime in the earlier part of King David’s reign, when he subjected neighboring nations. 2 Samuel 8:1-8 records David’s victories over Philistia, Moab, and Syria. 2 Samuel 10:1-19 tells of David’s victories over Ammon and Syria. 1 Chronicles 18:11-13 gives us David’s victories over Edom (and specifically in the Valley of Salt), Moab, Ammon, Philistia, and Amalek.
The victories described in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles do not mention the kind of setbacks lamented in this psalm. It reminds us that the historical record often condenses events, and that the successes were real, yet not always immediate.
A. The defeated nation.
1. (1-3) A plea for mercy from God who has afflicted His people.
O God, You have cast us off;
You have broken us down;
You have been displeased;
Oh, restore us again!
You have made the earth tremble;
You have broken it;
Heal its breaches, for it is shaking.
You have shown Your people hard things;
You have made us drink the wine of confusion.
a. O God, You have cast us off; You have broken us down: David and the armies of Israel fought against foreign armies and experienced some measure of defeat. David knew that when the Lord fought for Israel, victory was assured; if there was defeat, it was likely because of God’s displeasure. Therefore David appealed to what he believed to be the ultimate cause, not the immediate cause.
i. Worse than defeat was the sense of separation from God. “God’s people live a meaningless existence without his presence. They take defeat seriously, because divine abandonment is the most miserable condition.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “But for this psalm and its title we should have had no inkling of the resilience of David’s hostile neighbours at the peak of his power.” (Kidner)
b. Oh, restore us again: If in some way God had caused the defeat of Israel, it did not discourage David from appealing to Him that His favor be restored. This cry, restore us again, immediately brings hope to the matter.
i. “To be cast off by God is the worst calamity that can befall a man or a people; but the worst form of it is when the person is not aware of it and is indifferent to it. When the divine desertion causes mourning and repentance, it will be but partial and temporary.” (Spurgeon)
c. You have made the earth tremble: David felt as if the whole earth shook at the defeat of God’s people, yet the God who could shake the earth could also heal its breaches.
d. You have shown Your people hard things; You have made us drink the wine of confusion: Israel’s defeat was hard to understand, and there were many other aspects of their situation that caused David confusion. Still, there was a kind of comfort in understanding that God was the author of it all, because what God does in judgment or discipline, He can restore in love and mercy.
i. “Thou hast showed thy people hard things, God will be sure to plough his own ground, whatsoever becometh of the waste; and to weed his own garden, though the rest of the world should be let alone to grow wild.” (Trapp)
ii. The wine of confusion: “We reel as drunken men; we are giddy, like those who have drank too much wine; but our giddiness has been occasioned by the astonishment and dismay that have taken place in consequence of the prevalence of our enemies, and the unsettled state of the land.” (Clarke)
iii. “So far gone was Israel, that only God’s interposition could preserve it from utter destruction. How often have we seen churches in this condition, and how suitable is the prayer before us, in which the extremity of the need is used as an argument for help.” (Spurgeon)
2. (4-5) Hope in His deliverance.
You have given a banner to those who fear You,
That it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah
That Your beloved may be delivered,
Save with Your right hand, and hear me.
a. You have given a banner to those who fear You: David felt that God had cast off and broken Israel, yet he would not stop flying the banner of allegiance and trust in God. The truth about God – who He is and what He has done – demanded that this banner be displayed.
i. “He gave them an ensign, which would be both a rallying point for their hosts, a proof that he had sent them to fight, and a guarantee of victory.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The concept of the banner was connected to Israel’s reliance upon God and His victory for them. “When Amalek fought against Israel in Rephidim, victory came to the people of God as Moses, supported by Aaron and Hur, prayed on the mount and Joshua went forth to battle. After the victory Moses built an altar, and called the name of it ‘Jehovah Nissi,’ that is, Jehovah our Banner.” (Morgan)
iii. Selah: “Note the ‘Selah’ at this point, suggesting especial attention to this fact. For the sake of that banner the cry for deliverance is raised.” (Morgan)
b. That Your beloved may be delivered: Claiming himself as God’s beloved, despite the present defeat, David understood that his rescue would be found in greater allegiance to God, not less.
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)
B. The victorious God.
1. (6-8) God’s word of triumph over the nations.
God has spoken in His holiness:
“I will rejoice;
I will divide Shechem
And measure out the Valley of Succoth.
Gilead is Mine, and Manasseh is Mine;
Ephraim also is the helmet for My head;
Judah is My lawgiver.
Moab is My washpot;
Over Edom I will cast My shoe;
Philistia, shout in triumph because of Me.”
a. I will rejoice: Speaking as an inspired prophet, David understood the words God Himself spoke. God Himself would rejoice in His Lordship over Israel and His victory over the nations.
b. I will divide Shechem and measure out the Valley of Succoth: With these and the following lines, God proclaimed how the land of Israel was His special possession. The specific mentions of Shechem, of the Valley of Succoth, of Gilead, of Manasseh, of Ephraim, and of Judah show that God did not speak symbolically, but geographically. Though He is Lord over all the earth, He has a special care and regard for the land of Israel.
i. As the nations battled, it was as if David understood the LORD to step forward and settle the disputes with His authority. “It is no longer a matter of rivals fighting for possession, but of the lord of the manor parceling out his lands and employments exactly as it suits him.” (Kidner)
ii. “Ephraim is called a ‘helmet’ (literally, ‘the strength of my head’), symbolic of force; Judah is a ‘scepter’ (cf. Genesis 49:10), symbolic of dominon and governance.” (VanGemeren)
iii. “Note the repeated mine and my, for everything is His, not theirs, and those to whom He gives it are His tenants and stewards. Yet it is theirs all the more securely for that.” (Kidner)
c. Moab is My washpot; over Edom I will cast My shoe: God also said that He would exalt Himself over the surrounding nations. Both Moab and Edom were noted for their pride (Isaiah 16:6, Obadiah 1:3). Here God gives them places of humble service.
i. “The picture of Moab coming with a washbasin for the warrior to wash his feet represents her subjugation to servant status.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “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)
2. (9-12) Renewed trust in the God who helps.
Who will bring me to 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 lead me to Edom? Is it not You, O God, who cast us off: David knew that their previous defeat was because God did not fight for them, who did not go out with our armies. He trusted that God would lead Israel to victory over the strong city.
i. The strong city: “When David speaks of ‘the fortified city’ he can only mean Petra, the most inaccessible and apparently impregnable mountain stronghold of Edom. Only God could give victory over a fortress like that, and David knew it. So he cries to God, acknowledging that ‘the help of man is worthless.’” (Boice)
b. Give us help from trouble, for 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.
i. “For vain is the help of man. As they had lately experimented in Saul, a king of their own choosing, but not able to save them from those proud Philistines.” (Trapp)
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)
c. Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies: David understood that it wasn’t God’s desire for Israel to leave off 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. The psalm that began in defeat would end in victory.
i. We will do valiantly: “Divine working is not an argument for human inaction, but rather is it the best excitement for courageous effort.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “For our part, there will be valiant deeds; for God’s part, there will be not only His hand on ours, but His foot on the enemy.” (Kidner)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 59 – Praise to My High Tower Against Assassins
The title of this psalm is To the Chief Musician. Set to “Do Not Destroy.” A Michtam of David when Saul sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him. This refers to the incident in 1 Samuel 19:11-12, which was when the murderous intent of King Saul against David was openly revealed, and David began his long season of living as a fugitive.
A. David describes the bloodthirsty assassins.
1. (1-2) A prayer for deliverance and defense.
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
Defend me from those who rise up against me.
Deliver me from the workers of iniquity,
And save me from bloodthirsty men.
a. Deliver me from my enemies, O my God: Many were David’s perils, many were his enemies, and many were the psalms that begin with this thought. We think it strange that the man after God’s heart, Israel’s greatest earthly king, had so many enemies. The idea is less strange when we think of how many enemies the Son of David had.
i. David cried out, O my God, meaning it in the most reverent way. Through this psalm David declared his close and personal connection with God.
· My God (Psalm 59:1).
· My Defense (Psalm 59:9, 17).
· My God of mercy (Psalm 59:10, 17).
· My Strength (Psalm 59:9, 17).
ii. We wish that those who thoughtlessly exclaim O my God today would change and do so with the heart and sense of personal trust that David had.
b. Defend me: The sense of this ancient Hebrew word is to lift up, as into a safe and defended place. It says, “Lift me up to Your high tower where I am even higher above those who rise up against me.” This idea is repeated three more times in the psalm (Psalm 59:9, 16-17).
i. “The word protect [defend] (Psalm 59:1), like the kindred word ‘fortress’ [defense] (Psalm 59:9, 16-17), contains the thought of what is set high up, out of reach.” (Kidner)
ii. “He is a high tower or place of refuge and retreat to the soul in trouble and danger.” (Morgan)
c. Save me from bloodthirsty men: David was the target of a focused assassination plot that came from the highest levels of Israel’s government. Many felt they could advance their favor before King Saul by shedding David’s blood. Knowing the danger, David looked to God for rescue and defense.
2. (3-5) Describing the need.
For look, they lie in wait for my life;
The mighty gather against me,
Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O LORD.
They run and prepare themselves through no fault of mine.
Awake to help me, and behold!
You therefore, O LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel,
Awake to punish all the nations;
Do not be merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah
a. For look, they lie in wait for my life: The circumstances of 1 Samuel 19:11-12 must have amazed David. Assassins came against his own home, hoping to surprise him in the routines of daily life. David saw the mighty gather against him and looked to God for help.
b. Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O LORD: David didn’t make a claim to sinless perfection. He simply understood and said to God that there was no justified reason at all for Saul to send the bloodthirsty assassins against him.
i. They run and prepare themselves: “The zeal and diligence of the wicked in the cause of unrighteousness might well reprove the languor and tardiness of saints in the work of faith and labour of love. In the church of God nothing is the source of more mischief than the want of true zeal and liveliness.” (Plumer, cited in Spurgeon)
c. Awake to help me, and behold: David feared he would die if God were asleep to his need. He asked God to be active for him and to look (behold) upon his crisis.
d. O LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel: David appealed to God with a variety of His names and titles.
· He was Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel (LORD).
· He was Elohim Sabaoth, the commander of heavenly armies (God of hosts).
· He was Elohi Israel, the God of His chosen people (God of Israel).
i. “The petitions in Psalm 59:5 are remarkable, both in their accumulation of the Divine names and in their apparent transcending of the suppliant’s need…. Each name suggests something in God which encourages hope, and when appealed to by a trusting soul, moves Him to act.” (Maclaren)
e. Awake to punish all the nations: The hope of God setting things right in David’s cause made the psalmist think of God setting things right on a global scale. David looked to the God of angelic armies (LORD God of hosts) to judge the nations and all wicked transgressors.
i. “The psalmist looks for his own deliverance as one instance of that world-wide manifestation of Divine justice which will ‘render to every man according to his deeds.’” (Maclaren)
ii. Selah: “‘Selah,’ assuredly God will have them in derision; ‘Selah,’ assuredly God shall shiver their bones, shake their best actions, and discover their impurity; ‘Selah,’ assuredly God’s hand shall be heavy upon them, and they shall not discern it to be his hand till they are consumed. ‘Selah,’ assuredly, verily, amen, this is a faithful, an infallible truth; as the Lord liveth it shall be so.” (Wright, cited in Spurgeon)
3. (6-7) The proud arrogance of David’s enemies.
At evening they return,
They growl like a dog,
And go all around the city.
Indeed, they belch with their mouth;
Swords are in their lips;
For they say, “Who hears?”
a. At evening they return, they growl like a dog: The men sent to watch David’s house and kill him were determined. They didn’t give up quickly and they growled like dangerous dogs, going all around the city to find and murder David.
i. “David called them dogs, and no doubt a pretty pack they were, a cursed cursing company of curs.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “They make a noise like a dog; either when he is hungry and pursuing his prey, and howls for meat; or when he is enraged, and grins and snarls where he cannot or dare not bite.” (Poole)
iii. “There is some uncertainty over the word growl, which is the expression used for the Israelites’ ‘murmuring’ – one might almost say ‘whining’ in the wilderness, and makes excellent sense.” (Kidner)
b. They belch with their mouth; swords are in their lips: Perhaps David actually saw and heard such a belch as he watched those who watched him. He heard their sharp words against him, and their disregard for God or David or any authority (Who hears?).
i. They belch: “The word rendered (A.V. [King James Version] and R.V. [Revised Version]) ‘belch’ means to gush out, and is found in a good sense in Psalm 19:1. Here it may perhaps be taken as meaning ‘foam,’ with some advantage to the truth of the picture.” (Maclaren)
ii. “The root idea is of bubbling up and bursting out; so in terms of dogs Jerusalem Bible has ‘See how they slaver at the mouth.’” (Kidner)
iii. Who hears: “David doth not hear us, either to discover, and so to prevent our plots; or to punish us for them; and God either doth not hear or not regard what we say and do against David; and therefore we may speak and act what we think fit.” (Poole)
B. God’s response to the bloodthirsty men.
1. (8-10) David’s strong confidence in God.
But You, O LORD, shall laugh at them;
You shall have all the nations in derision.
I will wait for You, O You his Strength;
For God is my defense.
My God of mercy shall come to meet me;
God shall let me see my desire on my enemies.
a. But You, O LORD, shall laugh at them: David’s danger from the assassins was real and fearful. Yet he understood that they were nothing against God. The LORD could simply laugh at them and their arrogant claim that God did not hear or care about their evil.
b. You shall have all the nations in derision: David saw God’s laugh against the men who waited outside his house to kill him in connection with God’s triumph over all the nations. All who opposed God would be held in derision.
c. God is my defense: The word defense has the idea of a high tower or fortress. David believed that God was like a strong, high tower for him. It seemed impossible for David to survive against such a powerful conspiracy against him, but God would be his defense, his high tower.
i. “‘For God is my defence,’ my high place, my fortress, the place of my resort in the time of my danger. If the foe be too strong for me to cope with him, I will retreat into my castle, where he cannot reach me.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “There is perhaps no more beautiful description of what God is to His tried people. The phrase suggests at once strength and peace. A tower against which all the might of the foe hurls itself in vain.” (Morgan)
d. My God of mercy shall come to meet me: David didn’t only believe that the LORD was the God of mercy in a distant, theoretical sense. He could confidently say, My God of mercy. He knew that God would be merciful to him and that God would meet him, even lead him, in his need.
i. Shall come to meet me: “The word meet (Psalm 59:10a) is vivid: It is based on the idea of what is ‘in front’ of someone, usually in the sense of confronting them by coming to meet them, as in the beautiful phrase of Psalm 21:3. But it can alternatively imply going in front to lead the way.” (Kidner)
ii. Meyer considered that Psalm 59:9-10 uses three titles for God that are precious for the troubled believer: my God of mercy, my defense [high tower], and strength.
iii. “Meditate on these three attributes. He is the God of your mercy, the Fountain from which pure mercy flows, and nothing but mercy; He is your High Tower, whom you may put between yourself and Saul’s hate, He is your Strength, not that you receive strength from Him, but that you appropriate Him as your strength.” (Meyer)
iv. God shall let me see my desire on my enemies: “Observe that the words, ‘my desire,’ are not in the original. From the Hebrew we are taught that David expected to see his enemies without fear. God will enable his servant to gaze steadily upon the foe without trepidation; he shall be calm, and self-possessed, in the hour of peril.” (Spurgeon)
2. (11-13) David asks that his enemies be defeated to bring God glory.
Do not slay them, lest my people forget;
Scatter them by Your power,
And bring them down,
O Lord our shield.
For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips,
Let them even be taken in their pride,
And for the cursing and lying which they speak.
Consume them in wrath, consume them,
That they may not be;
And let them know that God rules in Jacob
To the ends of the earth. Selah
a. Do not slay them, lest my people forget; scatter them: David didn’t only want the defeat of his enemies. He wanted them defeated in a way that would do the most good for God’s people. If those enemies were kept alive but scattered, the lesson would last longer.
i. Lest my people forget reminds us that whenever David prayed for the destruction of his enemies (and sometimes he prayed quite severely), he had in mind not only his personal deliverance but also what the display of Divine justice would teach God’s people.
ii. “Hereby it most plainly appears that David, in these and the like imprecations against his enemies, was not moved thereunto by his private malice, or desire of revenge, but by the respect which he had to God’s honour and the general good of his people.” (Poole)
b. For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips, let them even be taken in their pride: David seemed especially offended at the proud words he overheard from the men who hoped to ambush him. With cursing and lying they boasted of David’s death and their own advancement through it.
c. Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be: Just a few lines before David prayed that God would not slay them; now he repeated the prayer consume them twice for emphasis. There is no contradiction; we see that such prayers simply expressed David’s desire that God “get them,” and he didn’t care much about how God got them.
d. Let them know that God rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth: What David did care about was God’s honor and glory. David prayed that the way God dealt with these bloodthirsty assassins would tell the ends of the earth something about God’s righteous rule in the world.
i. Let them know that God rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth: These words are very similar to what David said to Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:46, an event that happened not very long before Saul sent the assassins after David. He discerned that these enemies acted very Goliath-like.
3. (14-15) The abiding danger.
And at evening they return,
They growl like a dog,
And go all around the city.
They wander up and down for food,
And howl if they are not satisfied.
a. At evening they return, and growl like a dog: The line from Psalm 59:6 is repeated for emphasis. We sense David peeking through a window at the assassins surrounding his house and seeing them for the pack of dangerous dogs that they are.
b. They wander up and down for food, and howl if they are not satisfied: As David watched them, he noticed them wander the streets around his house the way hungry dogs hunt for food.
4. (16-17) Singing praise despite the danger.
But I will sing of Your power;
Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning;
For You have been my defense
And refuge in the day of my trouble.
To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises;
For God is my defense,
My God of mercy.
a. But I will sing of Your power: The murdering dogs howl in the street, but David will sing of God’s power and mercy. They wait for him in the evening, but David was confident that with God as his defense and refuge, he would survive until morning and survive singing.
i. “While the wicked are howling, growling, and snarling (Psalm 59:14-15), the servant of God praises the Lord instead.” (VanGemeren)
b. To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises: Though a conspiracy to kill him still existed in the highest places of the kingdom, David’s heart was filled with songs of praise instead of dark fears. He started the psalm asking God for His defense (Psalm 59:1); at the end of the psalm he was so confident that God is my defense that he could sing about it.
i. It is easy to read I will sing and I will sing aloud and I will sing praises and assume that the same wording is repeated. Kidner observed that these three phrases used three different words. “Three different words are used for this, which might be rendered ‘I will sing…I will shout (Psalm 59:16); I will raise a psalm (Psalm 59:17).” (Kidner)
ii. When King Saul sent assassins to David’s house, he openly revealed his desire to kill David. From then on, for the next many years (perhaps 10 to 15 years), David had to live as a fugitive, constantly in danger of his life. It’s interesting to notice that David entered that period singing praises and was still able to pour out his heart to God in song at the end of that period (2 Samuel 1:17-27).
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 58 – Words to and Against the Wicked Judges
This psalm is titled To the Chief Musician. Set to “Do Not Destroy.” A Michtam of David. The phrase Do Not Destroy may refer to the tune, to David’s determination to not destroy Saul, or to David’s plea that God would not allow him to be destroyed.
We have noted that Michtam indicates golden and that they are golden psalms. Some commentators give an alternate meaning of Michtam, that of engraving. One commentator used that thought to picture David writing or scratching these psalms on the walls of his refuge caves.
“The proper meaning of the root of Michtam is to engrave, or to stamp a metal. It therefore, in strictness, means, an engraving or sculpture. Hence in the Septuagint, it is translatedστηλογραφία [stelographia], an inscription on a column. I would venture to offer a conjecture in perfect harmony with this view. It appears by the titles of four out of these six psalms, that they were composed by David while flying and hiding from the persecutions of Saul. What, then, should hinder us from imagining that they were inscribed on the rocks and on the sides of the caves which so often formed his place of refuge? This view would accord with the strict etymological meaning of the word, and explain the rendering of the Septuagint.” (Jebb, cited in Spurgeon)
A. Speaking to the wicked rulers.
1. (1-2) A challenge to wicked judges.
Do you indeed speak righteousness, you silent ones?
Do you judge uprightly, you sons of men?
No, in heart you work wickedness;
You weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth.
a. Do you judge uprightly, you sons of men: David directed this psalm against those who were rulers or judges in some sense. Some think they were leaders aligned with Saul who passed judgment on the fugitive David, condemning him to a death sentence as a traitor. David challenged these rulers and the uprightness of their decisions.
i. We picture David as a fugitive, perhaps at Adullam Cave. He hears from a messenger that some assembled court of leaders close to King Saul has met and judicially condemned him as a traitor, worthy of death. David is outraged at the injustice of it and proclaims this psalm.
ii. “Saul having attempted the life of David, the latter was obliged to flee from the court, and take refuge in the deserts of Judea. Saul, missing him, is supposed by Bishop Patrick to have called a council, when they, to ingratiate themselves with the monarch, adjudged David to be guilty of treason in aspiring to the throne of Israel. This being made known to David was the cause of this psalm.” (Clarke)
iii. John Trapp had his own idea: “David here talketh to Abner and the rest, who, to please Saul, pronounced David a rebel, and condemned him absent for an enemy to the state.” (Trapp)
iv. “Rather than limiting the sense of ‘judge’ to legal disputes, it may be well to be guided by the usage of the same Hebrew root in Psalm 58:11 and in Psalm 98:9b: ‘govern’ or ‘rule.’” (VanGemeren)
v. David was outraged at corruption, perhaps because he now felt the sting of it. It’s human nature to not care much about government and legal corruption until it personally hurts us.
b. Do you indeed speak righteousness, you silent ones: There is some question about the best way to translate the original here given as silent ones. Taking the text as it is, David challenged those leaders who should have defended him or other innocents but instead stayed silent.
i. “The interrogation, are ye indeed, expresses wonder, as at something scarcely credible. Can it be so? Is it possible? Are you really silent, you, whose very office is to speak for God, and against the sins of men?” (Alexander, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. “The problem is that these judges did not speak up for the right course of action when evil was being planned.” (Boice)
iii. Some translations (such as the NIV) follow a different manuscript tradition and translate silent ones as rulers.
c. No, in your heart you work wickedness: After questioning the words and justice of his enemies, David examined their intentions and their actions. Their intention was to work wickedness and in their actions they dispensed violence in the earth.
i. “The Psalmist doth not say, they had wickedness in their heart, but they did work it there: the heart is a shop within, an under-ground shop; there they did closely contrive, forge, and hammer out their wicked purposes, and fit them into actions.” (Caryl, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. David said they weigh out the violence against others; with careful thought and deliberation they gave it out. “As righteous judges ponder the law, balance the evidence, and weigh the case, so the malicious dispense injustice with malice aforethought in cold blood.” (Spurgeon)
2. (3-5) A description of the wicked rulers.
The wicked are estranged from the womb;
They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.
Their poison is like the poison of a serpent;
They are like the deaf cobra that stops its ear,
Which will not heed the voice of charmers,
Charming ever so skillfully.
a. The wicked are estranged from the womb: David diagnosed the problem of the judges; they were wicked at the root, in their nature, from birth. David understood this of all humanity including himself (Psalm 51:5).
i. “The description in verses 3ff. is close enough to what is quoted in Romans 3:10ff. to warn the reader that he faces a mirror, not only a portrait.” (Kidner)
ii. “G.K. Chesterson said that the doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy that has been empirically validated by thirty-five hundred years of human history.” (Boice)
iii. “Sinful, indeed, we are all by nature, and a birth-blot we bring into the world with us, making us strangers and strayers from God.” (Trapp)
iv. In the next few verses, “Figure is heaped on figure in a fashion suggestive of intense emotion.” (Maclaren)
b. They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies: Their corrupt nature was evident early in life, especially in their words. No one has to teach a child how to lie; with some poetic hyperbole we can say they are born, speaking lies.
i. “To be untruthful is one of the surest proofs of a fallen state, and since falsehood is universal, so also is human depravity.” (Spurgeon)
c. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: The lies are not harmless; they are like poison. The words of judges and rulers have special power to oppress others, and their poison is more deadly. The words of these judges were as dangerous as a deadly, unpredictable cobra.
i. “The wicked are as dangerous as the venomous cobra that bites his trainer when touched and handled by him.” (VanGemeren)
B. Speaking to God who judges the wicked.
1. (6-8) David calls upon God to ruin the wicked.
Break their teeth in their mouth, O God!
Break out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!
Let them flow away as waters which run continually;
When he bends his bow,
Let his arrows be as if cut in pieces.
Let them be like a snail which melts away as it goes,
Like a stillborn child of a woman, that they may not see the sun.
a. Break their teeth in their mouth, O God: David prayed that God would take vengeance on these dangerous judges. The power of serpents and lions was in their fangs; David asked God to take away their deadly bite.
i. “The imprecatory nature of the prayer may seem strange to our ears, but the radical nature of evil requires a response from the God of justice.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “If they have no capacity for good, at least deprive them of their ability for evil.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Fangs: “The great teeth,called the grinders, which are more sharp and strong than the rest, and more used in breaking and tearing what they are about to eat.” (Poole)
b. Let them flow away as waters which run continually: David asked for the rapid and complete dispersion of these men and their power – like a snail which melts as it goes away.
i. “Let them be minished away like the waters which sometimes run in the desert, but are soon evaporated by the sun, or absorbed by the sand.” (Clarke)
ii. “A slug does not actually melt away as it moves along the ground leaving its slimy trail behind. But it seems to.” (Boice)
c. Like a stillborn child: With a severe and startling image, David prayed for the death of his enemies, or rather that they had never been born to see the light of day.
i. “Their life comes never to ripeness, their aims are abortive, their only achievement is to have brought misery to others, and horror to themselves. Such men as Herod, Judas, Alva, Bonner, had it not been better for them if they had never been born?” (Spurgeon)
2. (9-11) David’s confidence in God’s judgment.
Before your pots can feel the burning thorns,
He shall take them away as with a whirlwind,
As in His living and burning wrath.
The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked,
So that men will say,
“Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
Surely He is God who judges in the earth.”
a. Before your pots can feel the burning thorns: The Hebrew of these lines is difficult but the thought may be that David considered how quickly a bunch of dry thorns burn in a fire under cooking pots. David prayed that God’s judgment would come upon his enemies like a flash of fire.
b. The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance: David thought of the happiness coming to the righteous at God’s judgment on these unjust and oppressive rulers, as if the righteous walked the victorious field of battle with God (his feet in the blood of the wicked).
i. “If it is right in God to destroy, it cannot be wrong in His servants to rejoice that He does. Only they have to take heed that their emotion is untarnished by selfish gratulation, and is not untinged with solemn pity for those who were indeed doers of evil, but were themselves the greatest sufferers from their evil.” (Maclaren)
ii. “It is a sickly sentimentality and a wicked weakness that have more sympathy with the corrupt oppressors than with the anger of God.” (Morgan)
iii. When it comes to rejoicing in God’s victory over those who wickedly oppress others, “The New Testament will, if anything, outdo this language in speaking of the day of reckoning (e.g. Revelation 14:19f.; 19:11ff.), while repudiating carnal weapons for the spiritual war (Revelation 12:11).” (Kidner)
iv. “It is hard, but not impossible, to take all that is expressed in the psalm, and to soften it by some effluence from the spirit of Him who wept over Jerusalem, and yet pronounced its doom.” (Maclaren)
c. Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely He is God who judges the earth: David desired the world to see there was a moral order under God where righteousness is rewarded and wickedness is judged. He longed for the justice that these wicked rulers denied.
i. “All men shall be forced by the sight of the final judgment to see that there is a God, and that he is the righteous ruler of the universe. Two things will come out clearly after all – there is a God and there is a reward for the righteous.” (Spurgeon)
ii. A reward for the righteous: “Yes, child of God, there is a reward for thee. It is not in vain that thou hast washed thy hands in innocency. But it will not come in the coinage or honour of this age, else it would be evanescent and perishable. God is already giving thee of the eternal and divine – peace, joy, blessedness; and one day thou shalt be fully vindicated.” (Meyer)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 57 – From the Cave to Above the Heavens
The title of this psalm is To the Chief Musician. Set to “Do Not Destroy.” A Michtam of David when he fled from Saul into the cave. Derek Kidner says of Do not Destroy: “This may well be a tune-indication: cf. Isaiah 65:8, where the phrase is identified as a popular saying (perhaps a snatch of vintage song), and borrowed to become a reassuring word from God. Yet notice also David’s instructions about Saul, ‘Destroy him not’ (1 Samuel 26:9).”
Charles Spurgeon noted, “There are four of these ‘Destroy not’ psalms, namely, the 57th, 58th, 59th, and 75th. In all of them there is a distinct declaration of the destruction of the wicked and the preservation of the righteous.”
This is another Michtam, or Golden Psalm. The cave was probably at Adullam, mentioned in 1 Samuel 22:1, though the caves of En Gedi (1 Samuel 24:1) are also a possibility. Adullam seems to be the best fit; therefore we can say that Psalm 34 is also associated with this period of David’s life.
A. A trusting soul set among lions.
1. (1-3) The trusting soul.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by.
I will cry out to God Most High,
To God who performs all things for me.
He shall send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.
a. Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me: The need was so great that David repeated the request. When he fled from Saul into the cave, he had been through several near-death terrors (see Psalm 56). David came to Adullam Cave (1 Samuel 22) alone, discouraged, and in continued danger.
b. For my soul trusts in You: David did not say this to earn the mercy of God; mercy can’t be earned. He said it to tell God that He was David’s only hope. His soul trusted in God and nothing else; there was nothing else to trust in.
i. “How can the Lord be unmerciful to a trustful soul? Our faith does not deserve mercy, but it always wins it from the sovereign grace of God when it is sincere.” (Spurgeon)
c. In the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge: Using a familiar image David expressed his trust and hope in God for defense. The idea is of how a mother bird shields her young chicks from predators, from the elements, and from dangers by gathering them under her wings.
i. This figure of speech is also used in three other psalms (Psalms 17:8, 36:7, and 63:7). Jesus used this same word picture to show his love and desired care for Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37.
ii. “Even as the parent bird completely shields her brood from evil, and meanwhile cherishes them with the warmth of her own heart, by covering them with her wings, so do thou with me, most condescending God, for I am thine offspring, and thou hast a parent’s love in perfection.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Morgan connected this with Psalm 55:6 (Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest). “There the desire was for the inefficient wings of a dove for flight. Here the sense is of the sufficient wings of God for refuge until calamities are past.” (Morgan)
iv. I will make my refuge: We should not focus so much on what David exactly meant by wings that we miss the greater fact: God was his refuge. “We should notice that David does not call the cave his refuge, though it was a refuge in a certain physical sense. Rather it is God whom he calls his refuge.” (Boice)
d. I will cry out to God Most High…He shall send from heaven and save me: David came to the cave alone, and God was his only help. Yet he was confident, knowing as a military man the strategic value of high ground in battle. He looked for help from the Most High who occupied the greatest high ground of all: heaven.
i. God Most High: “It could well have brought memories of God’s good hand on Abram, another homeless man.” (Kidner)
ii. God who performs all things for me: “It is a marvelous thing to consider God is literally willing to perform all things in us, and for us, if only we will let Him. The mischief is that most of us insist on performing all things in the energy of our own resolve, in the strength of our own power.” (Meyer)
iii. He shall send from heaven and save me: “Were there no human agents or earthly means that he could employ, he would send his angels from heaven to rescue me from my enemies.” (Clarke)
e. He reproaches the one who would swallow me up: God would speak against David’s enemies, either the Philistines or the servants of Saul. For God to speak against them would be enough to protect David and defeat them.
i. Selah: “The Selah at the end of the clause is unusual in the middle of a verse; but it may be intended to underscore, as it were, the impiety of the enemy, and so corresponds with the other Selah in Psalm 57:6, which is also in an unusual place, and points attention to the enemy’s ruin, as this does to his wickedness.” (Maclaren)
2. (4) The dangerous enemies.
My soul is among lions;
I lie among the sons of men
Who are set on fire,
Whose teeth are spears and arrows,
And their tongue a sharp sword.
a. My soul is among lions: David had many reasons to believe his enemies were much more powerful than he. In describing his great disadvantage, he hoped to appeal to the mercy of God.
i. “The allusions to lying down among lions may possibly have been suggested by the wild beasts prowling round the psalmist’s shelter.” (Maclaren)
ii. “Would any man take the Church’s picture, saith Luther? Then let him paint a silly poor maid sitting in a wood or wilderness, compassed about with hungry lions, wolves, boars, and bears.” (Trapp)
iii. Peter thought that the enemy of our soul was something like a lion against us: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). When we feel threatened by the devil, we may appeal to God as David did.
iv. Spurgeon gave comfort and advice to believers who felt they were among lions:
· If you are among lions, you will have fellowship with Jesus and His church.
· If you are among lions, you will be driven nearer to your God.
· If you are among lions, remember that God has them on a leash.
· If you are among lions, remember there is another Lion, of the Tribe of Judah.
b. I lie among the sons of men who are set on fire, whose teeth are spears and arrows: David spoke of his enemies in fearful terms, especially noting the power of their words against him (their tongue a sharp sword).
i. “The horrors of a lion’s den, the burning of a fiery furnace, and the cruel onset of war, are the striking images by which David here describes the peril and wretchedness of his present condition.” (Morison, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. “The fiercest of beasts, the most devouring of elements, and the sharpest of military weapons, are selected to represent the power and fury of David’s enemies.” (Horne)
3. (5) The God-exalting refrain.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.
a. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens: David declared this to his own soul and unto the Lord Himself. He recognized that God was worthy to be exalted high above the sky (the heavens).
i. “The poet is in the shadow of the cave at first, but he comes to the cavern’s mouth at last, and sings in the sweet fresh air, with his eye on the heavens, watching joyously the clouds floating therein.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Above the heavens, i.e. higher than the heavens, or to the highest degree possible; or above all the false gods which are supposed to reside in heaven.” (Poole)
iii. “David wants God to be exalted in his own personal circumstances and by the way he trusts and praises him even in difficulties.” (Boice)
b. Let Your glory be above all the earth: David correctly reasoned that his problems all came from earth; he would glorify God above all the earth. God was worthy of David’s praise and focus more than any crisis or danger on the earth.
i. “The good man interjects a verse of praise; and glorious praise too, seeing it comes up from the lion’s den and from amid the coals of fire.” (Spurgeon)
B. From the danger of the pit to praise above the heavens.
1. (6) The enemy’s trap and what became of it.
They have prepared a net for my steps;
My soul is bowed down;
They have dug a pit before me;
Into the midst of it they themselves have fallen. Selah
a. My soul is bowed down; they have dug a pit before me: In the previous lines David’s soul soared above the heavens. Now he is back down, in danger of going into the pit his enemies prepared to trap him.
b. Into the midst of it they themselves have fallen: The pit prepared by enemies has instead trapped those who dug it. From his circumstances as he came to the cave, we sense David said this with the anticipation of faith. It had not yet happened, but he knew that it would.
2. (7-10) Praise from a steadfast heart.
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and give praise.
Awake, my glory!
Awake, lute and harp!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing to You among the nations.
For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens,
And Your truth unto the clouds.
a. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast: The psalm began with David twice appealing for mercy; now David twice expressed his steadfast confidence in God. Though alone in the cave and troubles behind and ahead, he could allow his heart to be steadfast in God.
i. “Fixity of heart is the secret of songs.” (Morgan)
b. I will sing and give praise: The steadfast heart led to a singing heart. Perhaps David wished he had a lute and harp with him in the cave to accompany his singing of praise.
i. “With lip and with heart will I ascribe honour to thee. Satan shall not stop me, nor Saul, nor the Philistines. I will make Adullam ring with music, and all the caverns thereof echo with joyous song.” (Spurgeon)
ii. 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)
iii. Awake, lute and harp: “Rabbi Solomon Jarchi tells us that David had a harp at his bed’s head, which played of itself when the north wind blew on it; and then David arose to give praise to God. This account has been treated as a ridiculous fable by grave Christian writers.” (Clarke)
c. I will sing to You among the nations: Even from the cave, David could envision his song of praise extending to the nations and among the peoples.
i. “Faith lifts us high above the personal sense of pain, and creates a passion for the exaltation of God among the nations.” (Morgan)
ii. “These words, or their near-equivalent in Psalm 18:49, are taken with full seriousness in Romans 15:9 as a prophecy which had to be fulfilled.” (Kidner)
d. Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds: A cave narrows and darkens the vision of most people, but David’s heart and song soared unto the clouds. He exalted the mercy and truth of God even from difficult circumstances.
i. “A hard and ungrateful heart beholds even in prosperity only isolated drops of divine grace; but a grateful one like David’s, though chased by persecutors, and striking the harp in the gloom of a cave, looks upon the mercy and faithfulness of God as a mighty ocean, waving and heaving from the earth to the clouds, and from the clouds to the earth again.” (Tholuck, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. “The resurrection of Jesus from the grave, foreshadowed in the deliverance of David from the hand of Saul, was a transaction which caused the heavens and all the powers therein, to extol the mercy and truth of God.” (Horne)
3. (11) The God-exalting refrain.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.
a. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens: The refrain is repeated because of its goodness and for emphasis. It’s important to remember that David’s circumstances were not much better when he sang this song. He was delivered from the immediate danger at Gath, but a cave was a long way from the throne of Israel which God had promised him. David didn’t wait for his circumstances to change before he praised God above the heavens.
b. Let Your glory be above all the earth: We sense the freedom in David’s spirit. Though in a cave, his soul glorified God above all the earth.
i. Kidner observed regarding the repeated refrain: “Sung now not with the defiant faith of Psalm 57:5, but with grateful love.”
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 56 – Faith in the Midst of Fear
The title of this psalm is To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Silent Dove in Distant Lands.” A Michtam of David when the Philistines captured him in Gath. It is probable (though not certain) that The Silent Dove in Distant Lands was the tune to which this psalm was sung; some connect it with the theme, thinking it represents a dove in trouble even as David was in trouble.
Like Psalm 16 and the next four psalms, Psalm 56 is called A Michtam of David. The title Michtam is best understood as golden, though others think it is related to a word meaning to cover, implying necessary secrecy in a time of crisis.
The time when the Philistines captured him in Gath is recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-15. It deals with the period between the visit to the tabernacle at Nob and David’s arrival at Adullam. David was alone, desperate, afraid – and not thinking too clearly.
A. Fear and faith in response to constant danger.
1. (1-2) Looking to the Most High for mercy.
Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up;
Fighting all day he oppresses me.
My enemies would hound me all day,
For there are many who fight against me, O Most High.
a. Be merciful to me, O God: David was in great and constant danger from many enemies – both the Philistines and Saul’s servants. He cried out to God, knowing that divine help could rescue him from any man-made threat. He appealed to the mercy of God, not relying on what he may or may not deserve.
i. “Instead of building up gradually to his complaint, the psalmist pours out his heart immediately.” (VanGemeren)
ii. Swallow me up: “The open mouths of sinners when they rage against us should open our mouths in prayer.” (Spurgeon)
b. There are many who fight against me, O Most High: On earth David was greatly outnumbered, so he looked for help from the God who is enthroned above. David knew the strategic value of high ground in battle; it made sense for him to look for help from the Most High.
i. “To set forth the indignity of the thing, he repeateth the same sentence again in the plural number, noting that there were not a few of them bitterly bent by might and main to mischief him, a poor forlorn, friendless man.” (Trapp)
ii. Adam Clarke understood O Most High in a different way: “I do not think that this word expresses any attribute of God, or indeed is at all addressed to him. It signifies, literally, from on high, or from a high or elevated place: ‘For the multitudes fight against me from the high or elevated place.’” (Clarke)
2. (3-4) Afraid and not afraid.
Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?
a. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You: The young man who killed the lion and the bear, who killed Goliath, and was a successful young captain in Israel’s army, did not deny the presence of fear. There were times when he was afraid. Yet he knew what to do with that fear, to boldly proclaim His trust in God despite the fear.
i. “He feared, but that fear did not fill the whole area of his mind, for he adds, ‘I will trust in thee.’ It is possible, then, for fear and faith to occupy the mind at the same moment.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Many do not serve God or speak a word in His name to others out of fear, and they wait for a time when they are no longer afraid to do so. David would counsel them, “I am sometimes afraid – but I trust in God and do what is right to do.” Don’t wait for the fear to stop before you do what is right before the Lord.
iii. “It is a sure sign of grace when a man can trust in his God, for the natural man, when afraid, falls back on some human trust, or he thinks that he will be able to laugh at the occasion of fear.” (Spurgeon)
b. I will praise His word: In the midst of the declaration of his trust in God, David calls attention to the praiseworthiness of God’s word. His trust in God was directly connected with God’s word. His trust wasn’t a blind hope or wish cast up to heaven; it was based on God’s revealed character and revealed promises.
i. We say we trust God, but how do we confidently know anything about God? We know it through His Word, through His self-revelation to us.
ii. “It might also be the case, however, that David is thinking specifically of the words of God that were brought to him by the prophet Samuel, assuring him that he would be king over Israel (cf. 1 Samuel 16:1-13).” (Boice)
c. In God I have put my trust; I will not fear: Trusting God has given David the momentum toward even greater faith. He began by trusting God even while afraid; with that trust rewarded, he can take a further step: I will not fear.
i. “First, the singer declares that in the hour of fear he will trust. Then he declares he will trust and not be afraid.” (Morgan)
d. What can flesh do to me: Our instinctive reply to this rhetorical question is, a lot of harm. We constantly hear of and experience great harm that comes from mankind. Yet in the context of David’s trust in the Most High, he realizes that with God for him, it doesn’t matter what man or men may be against him.
3. (5-7) The continuing danger.
All day they twist my words;
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
They gather together,
They hide, they mark my steps,
When they lie in wait for my life.
Shall they escape by iniquity?
In anger cast down the peoples, O God!
a. All day they twist my words: The attacks against David were not only violent; they were also devious, with the twisting and distortion of his words and intentions. His many enemies constantly plotted against him for evil, hoping to lie in wait and kill David with a surprise attack.
i. “The unremitting pressure is the worst part of the ordeal. It was the first thing David emphasized: all day long…all day long (Psalm 56:1,2); and now he tells of it again (Psalm 56:5).” (Kidner)
ii. “The verb ‘twist’ is derived from a root that signifies a laborious, toilsome, unrewarding act. They plot so as to undo whatever the godly man has spoken and has planned to do right.” (VanGemeren)
iii. Twist my words: “This is a common mode of warfare among the ungodly. They put our language on the rack; they extort meanings from it which it cannot be made fairly to contain.” (Spurgeon)
b. Shall they escape by iniquity: David appealed to God’s justice. It wasn’t right for these wicked enemies to triumph over him. Whether they were the Philistines of Gath or Saul’s servants, David asked God to cast them down.
B. God’s sympathetic care for David.
1. (8-9) God noticed David’s misery.
You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?
When I cry out to You,
Then my enemies will turn back;
This I know, because God is for me.
a. You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle: In this period of David’s life, before coming to Adullam Cave (1 Samuel 22), he was completely alone. This made him value the sympathy and care of God all the more, and he found great comfort in the thought that God noted his misery.
i. “The reason for hope in God’s justice lies in his divine nature and promise to vindicate his children. For this purpose the psalmist adds a personal note about the extent of his suffering.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “Put my tears into thy bottle; regard, and remember, and pity them.” (Poole)
iii. “His sorrows were so many that there would need a great wine-skin to hold them all.” (Spurgeon)
iv. My tears into Your bottle: “Here is an allusion to a very ancient custom, which we know long obtained among the Greeks and Romans, of putting the tears which were shed for the death of any person into small phials, called lacrymatories or urnae lacrymales and offering them on the tomb of the deceased. Some of these were of glass, some of pottery, and some of agate, sardonyx, etc. A small one in my own collection is of hard baked clay.” (Clarke)
v. Spurgeon noted this practice and such ancient bottles, but believed that David made no allusion at all to this Roman practice.
b. This I know, because God is for me: This was the ground of David’s confidence. His wanderings and tears did not mean that God was against him. Instead he knew that God was for him, and would answer his prayer for rescue.
i. God is for me: “What can we possibly desire more, than this assurance, that, how many, or how formidable soever our enemies may be, yet there is one always ready to appear in our defence, whose power no creature is able to resist? ‘This I know,’ saith David; and had we the faith of David, we should know it too.” (Horne)
ii. God is for me: “Paul was to echo the triumphant end of this verse (or Psalm 118:7a), and cap it with ‘who is against us?’ (Romans 8:31).” (Kidner)
2. (10-11) Confidence in God declared again.
In God (I will praise His word),
In the LORD (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
a. I will praise His word: For the second and third times in this psalm, David declared the greatness of God’s word. This was how he knew that God was for him. It wasn’t just a wish, a dream, or a hope. It was well-grounded, because God said it in His word.
b. In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me: David repeated this phrase again, preaching confidence to himself. Because God was for him (confirmed by His word), David need not fear what man could do to him.
i. “When news came to Luther, that both emperor and pope had threatened his ruin, he bravely answered, I care for neither of them, I know whom I have trusted.” (Trapp)
3. (12-13) Fulfilling the vow.
Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God;
I will render praises to You,
For You have delivered my soul from death.
Have You not kept my feet from falling,
That I may walk before God
In the light of the living?
a. Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises to You: David referred to the sacrifice he would offer for the deliverance he knew God would bring. He was a long distance from God’s altar so the sacrifice could not yet be made; but in David’s heart it was already done, as was the anticipated rescue.
i. “So sure is he of deliverance, that, as often in similar psalms, his thoughts are busied in preparing his sacrifice of thanks before the actual advent of the mercy for which it is to be offered.” (Maclaren)
ii. Render praises: “Thank offerings can be a term for literal sacrifices (e.g. Leviticus 7:12) and for songs of gratitude (e.g. Psalm 26:7).” (Kidner)
iii. “Reader, what hast thou vowed to God? To renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful desires of the flesh; to keep God’s holy word and commandment; and to walk before him all the days of thy life. These things hast thou vowed; and these vows are upon thee. Wilt thou pay them?” (Clarke)
b. You have delivered my soul from death: On his way to Gath, in Gath, and on his way from Gath, David’s life was in constant danger. God and God alone delivered His life from his enemies, and kept his feet from falling.
c. That I may walk before God in the light of the living: David knew that this was why God spared his life. It wasn’t so that David could do his own thing or live unto himself. It was so that he could live rightly before God.
i. “Thus in this short psalm, we have climbed from the ravenous jaws of the enemy into the light of Jehovah’s presence, a path which only faith can tread.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The fact that Jesus seems to have used the last words of Psalm 56:13 in John 8:12 makes us think of verse 13 in light of the deliverance Jesus brings to those who trust him and the ‘life’ as his gift of salvation by the Holy Spirit.” (Boice)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 55 – Trusting God Against a Treacherous Enemy
The title of this psalm is To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Contemplation of David. The psalm describes a time of some kind of rebellion or power struggle against David, and a key leader in the struggle was a trusted associate who betrayed David. The city is dangerous because of the rebellion, and David cries out to God. Most commentators fit this psalm to Absalom’s rebellion (2 Samuel 15-18) and the trusted associate as Ahithophel. Parts of this psalm seem to fit Absalom’s rebellion, but some parts don’t. It’s hard to imagine David wishing Absalom to hell (Psalm 55:15) when he didn’t even want him to die. It may be that the events connected with this psalm are unrecorded in the sacred history of the life of David.
A. Fear: David describes his trouble.
1. (1-3) Misery in oppression.
Give ear to my prayer, O God,
And do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and hear me;
I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily,
Because of the voice of the enemy,
Because of the oppression of the wicked;
For they bring down trouble upon me,
And in wrath they hate me.
a. Do not hide Yourself from my supplication: We sense in David’s prayer that he felt God was distant, as if He were hiding from David. He asked God to attend to me, and hear me. David believed he could face almost anything with the strong sense of God’s presence and pleasure.
i. “In that dread hour when Jesus bore our sins upon the tree, his Father did hide himself, and this was the most dreadful part of all the Son of David’s agony.” (Spurgeon)
b. I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily: At the beginning of this psalm, David had little peace. He was restless, complaining, and moaning; and his moans were noisy. He needed help from God.
i. “What a comfort that we may be thus familiar with our God! We may not complain of him, but we may complain to him.” (Spurgeon)
c. They bring down trouble upon me: David was troubled by the voice of the enemy (this psalm seems to emphasize the singular instead of several enemies) and the oppression of the wicked. They hated David and caused great trouble for him.
i. They bring down trouble upon me: “They tumble it on me, as men do stones or anything else upon their besiegers, to endamage them; so did these sin, shame, anything, upon innocent David, to make him odious.” (Trapp)
2. (4-8) Fighting fear.
My heart is severely pained within me,
And the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me,
And horror has overwhelmed me.
So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
Indeed, I would wander far off,
And remain in the wilderness. Selah
I would hasten my escape
From the windy storm and tempest.”
a. My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me: The stress of this crisis did cause David mental anguish, increased by the real danger of death. All this made David tremble in fear and feel that horror has overwhelmed me.
i. Severely pained: “His heart is palpitating like a woman in labor.” (VanGemeren)
ii. The terrors of death: “I am in hourly expectation of being massacred.” (Clarke)
iii. “He can do nothing but groan or moan. His heart ‘writhes’ in him. Like an avalanche, deadly terrors have fallen on him and crushed him. Fear and trembling have pierced into his inner being, and ‘horror’ (a rare word, which the LXX [Septuagint] here renders darkness) wraps him round or covers him, as a cloak does.” (Maclaren)
iv. Clarke noted what a natural and true description this is of the steps that lead to overwhelming horror. “How natural is this description! He is in distress – he mourns – makes a noise – sobs and sighs – his heart is wounded – he expects nothing but death – this produces fear – this produces tremor, which terminates in that deep apprehension of approaching and inevitable ruin that overwhelms him with horror. No man ever described a wounded heart like David.” (Clarke)
b. Oh, that I had wings like a dove: David wished he could just escape this terror-filled situation and remain in the wilderness. It is likely that David wrote this under the stress and intrigues of power once he came to the throne. He longed for the simpler days when he repeatedly saw God’s faithfulness in the wilderness.
i. “An old writer tells us it would have been more honourable for him to have asked for the strength of an ox to bear his trials, than for the wings of a dove to flee from them.” (Jay, cited in Spurgeon)
c. I would hasten my escape, from the windy storm and tempest: If David had the wings of a bird he would simply escape from his present problems. Most people can identify with David’s longing.
i. “Like a dove; which being fearful, and pursued by birds of prey, flies away, and that very swiftly and far, and into solitary places, where it hides and secures itself in the holes of the rocks, or in some other secret and safe place; all which fitly represents David’s present disposition and desire.” (Poole)
ii. “It is some comfort to us to know that there are spiritual giants who have had this urge, whether they have succumbed to it like Elijah (1 Kings 19:3ff.) or withstood it like Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:2; 10:19).” (Kidner)
iii. David wanted to simply escape – but he did not. “So the psalmist’s wish was but a wish; and he, like the rest of us, had to stand to his post, or be tied to his stake, and let enemies and storms do their worst.” (Maclaren)
B. Fury: David asks God to deal with his enemies.
1. (9-11) Destroy them, O Lord.
Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues,
For I have seen violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it on its walls;
Iniquity and trouble are also in the midst of it.
Destruction is in its midst;
Oppression and deceit do not depart from its streets.
a. Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: From the repeated reference to the speech of his enemies (Psalm 55:3, 9, 11-12), we sense this was some kind of whispering attack on David that was serious enough to endanger his life. Here he prayed that God would divide those who spoke evil against him.
i. Many see an allusion to the confusion of tongues at Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). “His prayer is perceptive, and a lesson to us: he remembers how God dealt with Babel (Psalm 55:9a), another arrogant city, by exploiting the inherent divisiveness of evil.” (Kidner)
ii. If this psalm is connected to Absalom’s rebellion and Ahithophel’s treason, the answer to the prayer is recorded in 2 Samuel 17:1-23 when there was a division of opinion among Abasalom’s advisers Ahithophel and Hushai.
b. I have seen violence and strife in the city: The attacks against David may have begun with words but did not end with them. People walked the city day and night causing trouble for David. The crisis at hand was not merely a problem for David, but for God’s people in general.
i. “The city, the holy city had become a den of wickedness: conspirators met in the dark and talked in little knots in the streets even in broad daylight.” (Spurgeon)
c. Destruction is in its midst; oppression and deceit do not depart from its streets: The instability and intrigue made the whole city unsafe.
2. (12-14) A reflection on the bitterness of a friend’s betrayal.
For it is not an enemy who reproaches me;
Then I could bear it.
Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me;
Then I could hide from him.
But it was you, a man my equal,
My companion and my acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together,
And walked to the house of God in the throng.
a. For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it: David refers to a specific person who speaks against (reproaches) him. This was someone once aligned with David who nevertheless exalted himself against David.
i. “None are such real enemies as false friends.” (Spurgeon)
b. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance: The unnamed man was a partner and friend to David. They helped each other with advice (took sweet counsel together) and went to the house of God together.
i. “The psalmist feels that the defection of his false friend is the worst blow of all. He could have braced himself to bear an enemy’s reviling; he could have found weapons to repel, or a shelter in which to escape from, open foes; but the baseness which forgets all former sweet companionship in secret, and all association in public and in worship, is more than he can bear up against.” (Maclaren)
ii. We don’t know exactly when this happened in David’s life – if it was before or after his sin with Bathsheba and cover-up murder of Uriah. Yet the connection of David’s words here with his sin against Uriah is stunning. “What David was unwittingly describing in this moving passage was also the essence of his own treachery to Uriah, one of his staunchest friends (2 Samuel 23:39).” (Kidner)
3. (15) Asking God to take vengeance.
Let death seize them;
Let them go down alive into hell,
For wickedness is in their dwellings and among them.
a. Let death seize them; let them go down alive into hell: This remarkably strong statement from David shows how dangerous the man was to the peace of God’s people and how deeply he had wounded David. It was a strong prayer, but it was a prayer that left vengeance to God, and David refused to take vengeance himself.
i. “The phrase, let them go down to Sheol alive, is a clear echo of Numbers 16:30, where Moses had called for proof that in resisting him the rebels of his day were resisting God.” (Kidner)
b. For wickedness is in their dwellings and among them: David called upon God to bring such a severe judgment because the wickedness was so deeply ingrained in them.
i. “It seems significant that David does not specifically mention his former friend in this malediction. In fact, he seems to have distinguished between his enemies, who are cursed here, and his former friend in the previous section, who is not cursed.” (Boice)
C. Faith: Finding rest in God.
1. (16-19) Confidence in God despite the attacks of the enemy.
As for me, I will call upon God,
And the LORD shall save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
I will pray, and cry aloud,
And He shall hear my voice.
He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me,
For there were many against me.
God will hear, and afflict them,
Even He who abides from of old. Selah
Because they do not change,
Therefore they do not fear God.
a. As for me, I will call upon God, and the LORD shall save me: David abruptly switched from praying for destruction to declaring calm confidence in God. It’s a further indication that he was able to leave his crisis – and his enemies – in the hands of the LORD, who would save him.
i. “The Psalmist would not endeavour to meet the plots of his adversaries by counterplots, nor imitate their incessant violence, but in direct opposition to their godless behaviour would continually resort to his God.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “If I read the text aright, we here have David talking to himself; and what we are to endeavor to do is, to talk to ourselves, just as David talked to himself.” (Spurgeon)
b. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray: David’s confidence in God was rooted in sincere dependence on God, demonstrated by constant prayer. Together all this gave David the confidence in God to say, He shall hear my voice.
i. “The Hebrews began their day in the evening, and hence David mentions the evening first.” (Clarke)
c. He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: David felt that his soul had been rescued (bought out, redeemed) from turmoil and crisis and into peace. The battle continued (there were still many against him), but his soul was in peace.
d. God will hear, and afflict them, even He who abides from of old: David was confident that the eternal God would answer His prayer.
e. Because they do not change, therefore they do not fear God: The sense of they do not change is somewhat obscure. It likely refers either to the idea that they do not change for the better, or they have not had to change because of adversity.
i. “Their not having ‘changes’ is closely connected with their not fearing God. The word is elsewhere used for changes of raiment, or for the relief of military guards. Calvin and others take the changes intended to be vicissitudes of fortune, and hence draw the true thought that unbroken prosperity tends to forgetfulness of God.” (Maclaren)
ii. “Most of those who have few or no afflictions and trials in life, have but little religion. They become sufficient to themselves, and call not upon God.” (Clarke)
2. (20-21) The treachery of David’s enemy.
He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him;
He has broken his covenant.
The words of his mouth were smoother than butter,
But war was in his heart;
His words were softer than oil,
Yet they were drawn swords.
a. He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; he has broken his covenant: David’s unnamed enemy was also treacherous, breaking peaceful relationships and breaking agreements with others.
b. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: Using repetition and vivid images, David showed how dishonorable his unnamed enemy was. In contrast we see how honorable David was in not specifically naming the man.
3. (22-23) Confidently leaving the matter in God’s hands.
Cast your burden on the LORD,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction;
Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days;
But I will trust in You.
a. Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you: There are few greater burdens to bear than a one-time friend who becomes a treacherous and dangerous enemy. David knew that even this was a burden that God could and should bear.
i. “God imposes burdens, to see what we will do with them. We may carry them to our undoing, or we may cast them on Him for his blessed countenance.” (Meyer)
ii. “The word burden is too restrictive: it means whatever is given you, your appointed lot (hence in New English Bible, ‘your fortunes’). And the promise is not that God will carry it, but that he will sustain you.” (Kidner)
iii. He shall sustain: “The experience of suffering was not taken away from the servant of God, but he was sustained, and so made strong enough to resist its pressure, and through it to make his service more perfect. This is how God ever sustains us in the bearing of burdens.” (Morgan)
iv. “If I cast my burden upon the Lord, what business have I to carry it myself? How can I truthfully say that I have cast it upon him if still I am burdened with it?” (Spurgeon)
b. He shall never permit the righteous to be moved: David had hope and confidence because he was persuaded that his fate did not rest in the hands of treacherous men. God was still Lord over all, and God had the final word on whether the righteous would be moved or not.
i. Morgan noted the movement in this psalm from fear to fury and now finally to faith. “Fear leads only to desire to flee. Fury only emphasizes the consciousness of the wrong. Faith alone creates courage.” (Morgan)
c. You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction: The faithful God would not only help and establish the righteous, He would also bring down those bloodthirsty and deceitful men who caused so much trouble among God’s people.
d. But I will trust in You: The psalm appropriately ended with David’s focus upon God, not his enemies. He would trust in Him and not be disappointed.
i. “The I is emphatic, dismissing the preoccupation with the enemy. In effect, there are two parties involved, not three. ‘As for me, I will trust in the Lord.’” (Kidner)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 54 – Help When Abandoned and Betrayed
This psalm is titled To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Contemplation of David when the Ziphites went and said to Saul, “Is David not hiding with us?” There were actually two times when the Ziphites betrayed David unto King Saul, first in 1 Samuel 23 and the second in 1 Samuel 26. David escaped both times, but the circumstances of this psalm seem to best fit the circumstances of 1 Samuel 23, when David learned of the Ziphite betrayal but before the deliverance of God was displayed (1 Samuel 23:26-29).
This is one of the few psalms with a specific musical direction: With stringed instruments. It is also called A Contemplation. The Hebrew word for Contemplation (maskil) might be better understood as instruction (James Montgomery Boice).
A. David’s danger.
1. (1-2) Looking to the name and strength of God.
Save me, O God, by Your name,
And vindicate me by Your strength.
Hear my prayer, O God;
Give ear to the words of my mouth.
a. Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your strength: In his distress, David relied on both the name and the strength of God. Name speaks of the nature and character of God; strength speaks of His great power. David knew that God’s strength could respond to his need by what he knew of God’s name.
i. By Your name: “Nothing less than the whole fulness of the manifested God is enough for the necessities of one poor man.” (Maclaren)
ii. David’s rescue would be his vindication. His enemies would have greater evidence that David was in the right and they were in the wrong when God answered this prayer and preserved this man after His heart.
iii. God gave David a remarkable vindication after each time the Ziphites betrayed David. Shortly after both times the Ziphites betrayed David, he had the opportunity to kill King Saul. Both times he spared Saul’s life (1 Samuel 24, 26), and both times Saul admitted his great wrong.
b. Hear my prayer, O God: It was common for David and others in their prayers to merely ask for God to hear or give ear to their cry. It was assumed that if the good and merciful God heard, He would act.
2. (3) The description of the need.
For strangers have risen up against me,
And oppressors have sought after my life;
They have not set God before them. Selah
a. For strangers have risen up against me: David’s troubles came from the Ziphites, as noted in the title of this psalm and in 1 Samuel 23:14-24. The Ziphites were Israelis; they were even of the same tribe as David (Judah). Yet their betrayal of David was so contrary to both David and God’s cause that David could rightly refer to them as strangers, as oppressors who sought David’s life.
i. “The Ziphites, though David’s countrymen, acted the part of ‘strangers’ or ‘aliens,’ in seeking to deliver him up to his unjust and cruel enemy.” (Horne)
ii. Today some who are outwardly counted among the people of God will act as strangers as they betray the Son of David to gain the favor of those allied with the king of this world, the Prince of the Power of the Air.
b. They have not set God before them: Their problems were not only in relation to David, but also in relation to God. Their rejection of David was just another way that they rejected God. We don’t know if David specifically had Saul in mind, but it certainly fit the jealous king.
i. “David felt that atheism lay at the bottom of the enmity which pursued him. Good men are hated for God’s sake, and this is a good plea for them to urge in prayer.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “This was a bad period for David. It was a time when seemingly he had nowhere to turn. He was unsafe even in the wilderness, and there was hardly anyone he could trust.” (Boice)
B. Proclamation and prayer.
1. (4-5a) The proclamation.
Behold, God is my helper;
The Lord is with those who uphold my life.
He will repay my enemies for their evil.
a. Behold, God is my helper: Though a hunted man, David could confidently expect God’s help. His present adversity had not led him to question the goodness of God, but to appeal to it.
i. “David was bringing himself and then his enemies to God’s attention; he now brings God before his own attention.” (Kidner)
ii. Maclaren had in mind that David said, Behold, God is my helper to his enemies. “The suppliant rises from his knees, and points the enemies round him to his one Helper.” (Maclaren)
iii. “Little care we for the defiance of the foe while we have the defence of God.” (Spurgeon)
b. The Lord is with those who uphold my life: The sense of this remarkable statement is that Adonai is among those who help me by upholding my life.
i. “In 4b the ancient versions, followed by most modern ones, seem to have found the Hebrew text too startling, where it numbers God ‘among’ the upholders of my life. But this is not belittling Him; it is seeing His hand behind the human help.” (Kidner)
ii. He will repay my enemies for their evil: “They worked for evil, and they shall have their wages.” (Spurgeon)
2. (5b-6) The prayer.
Cut them off in Your truth.
I will freely sacrifice to You;
I will praise Your name, O LORD, for it is good.
a. Cut them off in Your truth: David came to prayer again. He asked God to kill or cast out his enemies, and to do it in Your truth. David could pray such bold prayers against his enemies because he believed more than his self-interest was at risk; so was God’s truth.
i. Cut them off: “He desires that God would destroy them with a death-dealing blow, which is the force the word contains; its primitive sense is to be silent, to keep silence, whence it is transferred to a stroke penetrating deeply and striking fatally, such as is called a silent blow, opposed to a sounding one, which is wont to rebound and not pierce deeply.” (Venema, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. “Thou hast promised to save me; these have purposed to destroy me. Thy truth is engaged in my defence; they will destroy me if permitted to live; to save thy truth, and to accomplish its promises, thou must cut them off.” (Clarke)
iii. Some are uncomfortable with prayers that ask for the doom of enemies. It’s true that Jesus told us to pray in a more generous way for our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). Yet there is nothing wrong with the basic principle of wanting to see good triumph and for God to do His work against those who do evil.
iv. David lived out another aspect of this prayer. He prayed, Cut them off in Your truth but refused to take vengeance in his own hands. Immediately after the second betrayal of the Ziphites (1 Samuel 26:1) David had the opportunity to kill King Saul in his sleep and he refused to do it. David would not cut him off; he waited upon God to do it.
b. I will freely sacrifice to You: This described what is sometimes called a freewill sacrifice – one that is given to God without specific reference to a previous vow made. It was a sacrifice that didn’t need to be made; it was done freely out of gratitude.
i. “Freely sacrifice; not by constraint, as many do, because they are obliged to it, and cannot neglect it without shame and inconvenience to themselves; but with a willing and cheerful mind, which thou lovest in and above all sacrifices.” (Poole)
c. I will praise Your name, O LORD, for it is good: David said this in anticipation of God’s rescue, but not in a demand for the rescue. He was able to praise God while the problem remained and before the prayer was answered.
i. “Christians should follow his example: they should consider how great things God hath done for them, and should never suffer the voice of praise and thanksgiving to cease in the church of the redeemed.” (Horne)
3. (7) The confident conclusion.
For He has delivered me out of all trouble;
And my eye has seen its desire upon my enemies.
a. For He has delivered me out of all trouble: David confidently brought his request to God, knowing that many times before God had delivered him. God’s past faithfulness became the ground for future faith.
i. “This is the language of faith; this is the triumph of trust.” (Trapp)
ii. It is likely that David said this in faith, in anticipation of deliverance. When it came, it was remarkable. After the Ziphites betrayed David in 1 Samuel 23:19 Saul came very close to capturing him. When David was almost in Saul’s grasp, the king learned of a Philistine invasion and had to break off his pursuit (1 Samuel 23:27-28).
iii. “David lived a life of dangers and hair-breadth ‘scapes, yet was he always safe.” (Spurgeon)
b. My eye has seen its desire upon my enemies: David knew what it was like to defeat his enemies before (Goliath is one example); he trusted that he would know it again.
i. “As admiring God’s justice on his enemies, and love towards his people, he was well pleased with such a providence, and beheld it with comfort.” (Trapp)
ii. There is a sense in which David in this psalm prefigured his Great Son. Jesus was the anointed King yet to come into the fullness of His kingdom. He came to rescue and lead God’s people, and when He did, some among God’s people betrayed Him unto death. We can easily see these lines from the psalm in the mouth of Jesus, praying to His Father:
Save Me, O God, by Your name,
Strangers have risen up against Me.
Behold, God is My helper;
He has delivered Me out of all trouble.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 53 – The Faithful God Delivers His People from Fools
This psalm has the title To the Chief Musician. Set to “Mahalath.” A Contemplation of David. The title describes for us the author, audience, and tune or instrument of the song (Psalm 88 is the one other psalm set to “Mahalath”). This psalm is essentially a repetition of Psalm 14, with a few small modifications, probably intended to give faith and courage to Israel in the midst of a national challenge, such as the threat of invasion or a siege.
A. The sad condition of the man who rejects God.
1. (1) David’s analysis of the God-rejecting man.
The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity,
There is none who does good.
a. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God”: David looked at those who denied the existence of God and came to the conclusion that they are fools. The idea behind this ancient Hebrew word translated fool is more moral than intellectual. David did not have in mind those not smart enough to figure God out (no one is that smart); he had in mind those who simply reject God.
i. From the italics in the New King James Version, we can see that what the fool actually says is, “No God.” “That is, ‘No God for me.’ So his is a practical as well as theoretical atheism. Not only does he not believe in God, he also acts on his conviction.” (Boice)
ii. David says this because of the plain evidence that there is a God, evidence in both creation and human conscience that Paul described in Romans 1. The fact that some men insist on denying the existence of God does not erase God from the universe; it instead speaks to their own standing as fools. As Paul wrote in Romans 1:22, Professing to be wise, they became fools.
iii. “The Hebrew word for fool in this psalm is nabal, a word which implies an aggressive perversity, epitomized in the Nabal of 1 Samuel 25:25.” (Kidner)
iv. The God-denying man is a fool because:
· He denies what is plainly evident.
· He believes in tremendous effect with no cause.
· He denies a moral authority in the universe.
· He believes only what can be proven by the scientific method.
· He takes a dramatic, losing chance on his supposition that there is no God.
· He refuses to be persuaded by the many powerful arguments for the existence of God.
v. There are many powerful arguments for the existence of God; among them are these:
· The Cosmological Argument: The existence of the universe means there must be a creator God.
· The Teleological Argument: The existence of design in the universe means there must be a designer God.
· The Anthropological Argument: The unique nature and character of humanity means there must be a relational God.
· The Moral Argument: The existence of morality means there must be a governing God.
vi. “Which is cause, and which is effect? Does atheism result from folly, or folly from atheism? It would be perfectly correct to say that each is cause and each is effect.” (Morgan)
b. The fool has said in his heart: David not only found what the fool said to be significant; where he said it is also important (in his heart). The God-denying man David has in mind is not merely troubled by intellectual objections to the existence of God; in his heart he wishes God away, typically for fundamentally moral reasons.
i. John 3:20 explains it this way: For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
ii. This means that the man David had in mind is not an atheist for primarily intellectual reasons. “Honest intellectual agnosticism does not necessarily produce immorality; dishonest emotional atheism always does.” (Morgan)
iii. It means that when we speak with those who deny God, we should not only – or even primarily – speak to their head, but also to their heart. “Let the preacher aim at the heart, and preach the all-conquering love of Jesus, and he will by God’s grace win more doubters to the faith of the gospel than any hundred of the best reasoners who only direct their arguments to the head.” (Spurgeon)
iv. The phrasing of said in his heart also reminds us that it is possible for one to say in his mind that there is a God, yet deny it in his heart and life. One may believe in God in theory, yet be a practical atheist in the way he lives.
v. 1 Samuel 27:1 tells us what David said in his heart on one occasion: Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand. Was this not David, in some sense, also denying God and speaking as a fool?
vi. “It is in his heart he says this; this is the secret desire of every unconverted bosom. If the breast of God were within the reach of men, it would be stabbed a million times in one moment. When God was manifest in the flesh, he was altogether lovely; he did no sin; he went about continually doing good: and yet they took him and hung him on a tree; they mocked him and spat upon him. And this is the way men would do with God again.” (Macheyne, cited in Spurgeon)
c. They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity: David here considers the result of denying God. It leads men into corruption and abominable iniquity. This isn’t to say that every atheist lives a dissolute life and every God-believer lives a good life; yet there is a marked difference in moral behavior between those who take God seriously and those who do not.
d. There is none who does good: As David considered the sin of the God-denier, he looked out over the landscape of humanity and concluded that there is none who does good. He did not mean that there is no human good in this world, but that fallen man is so fallen that he does not by instinct do good, and even the good he may do is tinged with evil.
· We are born with both the will and the capacity to do evil; no one has to teach a child to do bad.
· The path of least resistance usually leads us to bad, not good.
· It is often easier to encourage others to do bad, instead of good.
· Many of our good deeds are tinged with selfish, bad motives.
i. “This is no exaggeration, since every sin implies the effrontery of supposedly knowing better than God, and the corruption of loving evil more than good.” (Kidner)
ii. “There is too much dainty dealing nowadays with atheism; it is not a harmless error, it is an offensive, putrid sin, and righteous men should look upon it in that light.” (Spurgeon)
2. (2-3) Heaven’s analysis of fallen humanity.
God looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
Every one of them has turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.
a. God looks down from heaven upon the children of men: While man may wish to forget about God, God never forgets about man. He is always observing man, looking down from heaven upon the children of men.
i. In man’s rejection of God, there is often the wish that God would just leave us alone. This is an unwise wish, because all human life depends upon God (Acts 17:28; Matthew 5:45). This is an impossible wish, because God has rights of a Creator over His creation.
ii. “The words remind us of God descending from heaven to observe the folly of those building the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:5) or looking down upon the wickedness of the race prior to his judgment by the flood.” (Kidner)
iii. One of the differences between this psalm and Psalm 14 is that the word Elohim replaces Yahweh repeatedly; it is difficult to discern the exact reason why.
iv. Both the similarities and the differences of the two psalms are instructive. “Some slight alterations show how a great song may be adapted to meet the need of some special application of its truth.” (Morgan)
b. To see if there are any who understand, who seek God: When God does look down from heaven, one thing He looks for is if there is any understanding or seeking among humanity.
i. God looks for this not primarily as an intellectual judgment; He doesn’t wonder if there are any smart enough to figure Him out. He looks for this more as a moral and spiritual judgment; He looks for men who understand His heart and plan, and who seek Him for righteousness sake.
ii. If someone does actually seek God, it is evidence that God is doing a work in that person. One may be religious and conduct rituals yet not really seek God at all. Men often seek an idol of their own making, not the true God who lives and reigns in heaven.
iii. “You have gone through this form of worship, but you have not sought after God. I am sick of this empty religiousness. We see it everywhere; it is not communion with God, it is not getting to God; indeed, God is not in it at all.” (Spurgeon, from a sermon on Romans 3)
c. Every one of them has turned aside, they have together become corrupt: When God looks, this is what He finds. He finds that man has turned away from God, and has therefore become corrupt.
i. Poole on turned aside: “Or, are grown sour, as this word signifies.… And so this is a metaphor from corrupted drinks, as the next [become corrupt] is taken from rotten meat.”
ii. “The Hebrews have the same word for sin and a dead carcase; and again the same word for sin and stench.” (Trapp)
d. There is none who does good, no, not one: When God finds none who does good, it is because there are none. It isn’t as if there were some and God couldn’t see them. David here observes and remembers that man is truly, profoundly, deeply fallen.
i. David’s use of “there is none who does good” suddenly broadens the scope beyond the atheist to include us. “‘After all, we are not atheists!’ we might say. But now, as we are let in on God’s perspective, we see that we are too included. In other words, the outspoken atheist of verse 1 is only one example of mankind in general.” (Kidner)
ii. “What a picture of our race is this! Save only where grace reigns, there is none that doeth good; humanity, fallen and debased, is a desert without an oasis, a night without a star, a dunghill without a jewel, a hell without a bottom.” (Spurgeon)
B. God’s defense of His righteous people.
1. (4-5) God defends His people when attacked.
Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge,
Who eat up my people as they eat bread,
And do not call upon God?
There they are in great fear
Where no fear was,
For God has scattered the bones of him who encamps against you;
You have put them to shame,
Because God has despised them.
a. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge: David first considered the profound fallenness of man; now he deals with the fate of God’s people in such a fallen world. God’s people might seem like the weak fools, but David understood that it is the workers of iniquity who have no knowledge.
i. “The question has almost a tone of surprise, as if even Omniscience found a matter of wonder in men’s mysterious love of evil.” (Maclaren)
b. Who eat up my people as they eat bread: It looks like the workers of iniquity are strong and have the upper hand. David wondered if the people of God are abandoned to the fools and the corrupt of this world, to those who do not call upon God.
i. “As they eat bread, i.e. with as little regret or remorse, and with as much greediness, and delight, and constancy too, as they use to eat their meat.” (Poole)
ii. And do not call upon God: “Practical atheism is, of course, prayerless.” (Maclaren)
c. There they are in great fear where no fear was: Here this psalm briefly but significantly departs from the words of Psalm 14. The idea seems to be that David took Psalm 14, slightly modified it to meet the present crisis, and used it to encourage Israel.
i. It seems that it was during a time of attack or siege from an enemy (him who encamps against you). David trusted that God would put the enemy in great fear, even though their strategic position gave them no real reason to fear (where no fear was).
ii. David prayed for something that God had promised an obedient Israel. God promised to send such fear (Leviticus 26:36).
iii. David prayed for something that God had done on other occasions. There were many times when God sent fear into the hearts of Israel’s enemies. Examples include Joshua against the Canaanites (Joshua 10:10), Gideon against the Midianites (Judges 7), Jonathan and his armor-bearer against the Philistines (1 Samuel 14), and Hezekiah against the Assyrians (2 Kings 18-19).
iv. “God they feared not, of men they were greatly feared, and yet here they feared a fear where no fear was.” (Trapp)
v. “The fear of God is either an impelling motive, leading in the ways of life; or it becomes a compelling terror, issuing in destruction.” (Morgan)
d. You have put them to shame, because God has despised them: Here God answers the fool who despises Him with despising the fool in return. However, it seems that it was not only the fool’s denial of God that provoked the Almighty; it was more pointedly the fool’s attack against the people of God. We might say that attacking the people of God is just as foolish as denying God’s existence.
2. (6) Longing for God’s salvation.
Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
When God brings back the captivity of His people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.
a. Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion: David knew that God was a refuge for His people and that the workers of iniquity would never win. Yet that was hard to see at the present time, so David expressed his great longing that God would bring the victory and deliverance He had promised to His people.
b. When God brings back the captivity of His people: This was not the Babylonian captivity, many generations after David’s time. Here captivity is used in a general sense, speaking of any time or situation where God’s people are oppressed and bound.
i. “We take that phrase ‘turns the captivity’ in the sense in which it admittedly bears in Job 42:10 and Ezekiel 16:53, namely that of deliverance from misfortune.” (Maclaren)
c. Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad: David anticipated the coming deliverance, and called the people of God to be joyful in consideration of it.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
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