Psalm 42 – Honest Prayer from a Discouraged Saint
This psalm is titled To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of the sons of Korah.
We don’t know when the psalms were gathered into five books, but the separation dates back to before our oldest manuscripts, compiled in the Masoretic Text. This is the first psalm of Book Two; the psalms of Book Two share some general differences with the psalms of the Book One.
The Hebrew word in reference to God is emphasized differently in the first two books of Psalms. “According to Franz Delitsch, in book one the name Jehovah occurs 272 times and Elohim only 15. But in book two, Elohim occurs 164 times and Jehovah only 30 times.” (James Montgomery Boice)
In Book One of Psalms, 37 of the 41 are specifically attributed to David, and the four remaining are unattributed. David is the only known psalmist in Book One.
In Book Two of Psalms, David authored 18 of the 31, more than half. But now, other psalmists appear: Asaph and Solomon have one each, seven (perhaps eight) psalms belong to the sons of Korah, and three have no author listed.
The sons of Korah were Levites, from the family of Kohath. By David’s time it seems they served in the musical aspect of the temple worship (2 Chronicles 20:19).
Korah led a rebellion of 250 community leaders against Moses during the wilderness days of the Exodus (Numbers 16). God judged Korah and his leaders and they all died, but the sons of Korah remained (Numbers 26:9-11). Perhaps they were so grateful for this mercy that they became notable in Israel for praising God.
A. The deep need of the psalmist.
1. (1-3) A sense of great need, distance from God’s house, and discouraging words bring a deep sense of despair.
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”
a. As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God: The sons of Korah began this psalm with a powerful image – a deer aching with thirst. Perhaps the thirst came from drought or from heated pursuit; either way, the deer longed for and needed water. In the same way, the psalmist’s soul longed for and needed God.
i. “Ease he did not seek, honour he did not covet, but the enjoyment of communion with God was an urgent need of his soul; he viewed it not merely as the sweetest of all luxuries, but as an absolute necessity, like water to a stag.” (Spurgeon)
b. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: The psalmist wasn’t thirsty for water, but for God. Drinking and thirst are common pictures of man’s spiritual need and God’s supply. Here, the emphasis is on the desperation of the need.
i. One may go many days without food, but thirsts shows an even more urgent need. “Which is more than hungering; hunger you can palliate, but thirst is awful, insatiable, clamorous, deadly.” (Spurgeon)
ii. For God: “Not merely for the temple and the ordinances, but for fellowship with God himself. None but spiritual men can sympathise with this thirst.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “Sorrow is always a sense of lack. The sorrow of bereavement is the sense of the loss of a loved one. The sorrow of sickness is the lack of health. The ultimate sorrow is the sense of the lack of God. This was the supreme sorrow of the singer.” (Morgan)
iv. He is the living God in at least three senses:
· He alone has life in Himself and of Himself.
· He alone gives life.
· He is distinct from the dead, imagined gods of the heathen.
c. When shall I come and appear before God: For the sons of Korah – connected to the tabernacle and the temple and their rituals – there was an appointed place to appear before God. This was a longing to connect again with God and His people at the tabernacle or temple.
i. Appear before God: “In the place of his special presence and public worship. See Exodus 23:15, 25:30. What is called before the Lord, 1 Chronicles 13:10, is before or with the ark, 2 Samuel 6:7.” (Poole)
ii. “It is not that he does not believe that God is everywhere, or that God is not with him. He is praying to God in the psalms, after all. But his being away from home has gotten him down, and his depressed state has caused him to feel that God is absent.” (Boice)
iii. “A wicked man can never say in good earnest, ‘When shall I come and appear before God?’ because he shall do so too soon, and before he would, as the devils that said Christ came ‘to torment them before their time.’ Ask a thief and a malefactor whether he would willingly appear before the judge.” (Horton, cited in Spurgeon)
d. My tears have been my food day and night: These tears can perhaps be understood in at least two ways. First, they demonstrated the grief that made the psalmist long for relief in God. Second, they showed the psalmist’s grief over the perceived distance from God. Either or both of these could be the case; yet the need was plainly deep and great.
i. “The next best thing to living in the light of the Lord’s love is to be unhappy till we have it, and to pant hourly after it.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Possibly his tears and grief took away his appetite, and so were to him instead of food.” (Poole)
e. While they continually say to me, “Where is your God”: Making the problem worse was being in the company of those who wanted to discourage the psalmist. They wanted to make him feel that at his moment of need, God was nowhere to be found.
i. “The first real atheism came with Greek philosophy. So the taunt did not mean that God did not exist, but that God had abandoned the psalmist.” (Boice)
ii. “Other of God’s suffering saints have met with the like measure. At Orleans, in France, as the bloody Papists murdered the Protestants, they cried out, Where is now your God? What is become of all your prayers and psalms now? Let your God that you called upon save you now if he can.” (Trapp)
iii. Where is your God: “David might rather have said to them, Where are your eyes? where is your sight? for God is not only in heaven, but in me.” (Sibbes, cited in Spurgeon)
2. (4) Painful memories bring further discouragement.
When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
a. I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God: The remembering of happier times made the psalmist sadder. He thought of the times of joyful worship at the house of God and felt so distant from those better days.
i. Pour out my soul: “My soul is dissolved, becomes weak as water, when I reflect on what I have had, and on what I have lost.” (Clarke)
ii. I pour out my soul within me: “In me, i.e. within my own breast, between God and my own soul; not openly, lest mine enemies should turn it into a matter of rejoicing and insulting over me.” (Poole)
b. With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast: He especially remembered the high times of the holidays that marked the Jewish calendar. He thought of the multitude and excitement (voice of joy and praise) that marked the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.
3. (5) Wise speaking to his own soul.
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.
a. Why are you cast down, O my soul: The psalmist paused from the painful memory to challenge his own soul. He did not surrender to his feelings of spiritual depression and discouragement. Instead, he challenged them and brought them before God. He said to those cast down and disquieted feelings, “Hope in God. He will come through again, because He has before.”
i. This is a long way from the surrender that often traps the discouraged or spiritually depressed person. He didn’t say, “My soul is cast down and that’s how it is. There is nothing I can do about it.” The challenge made to his own soul – demanding that it explain a reason why it should be so cast down – is a wonderful example. There were some valid reasons for discouragement; there were many more reasons for hope.
ii. It also wasn’t as if he had not already given many reasons for his discouragement. Many things bothered him.
· Distance from home and the house of God (Psalm 42:2, 42:6).
· Taunting unbelievers (Psalm 42:3, 42:10).
· Memories of better days (Psalm 42:4).
· The present absence of past spiritual thrills (Psalm 42:4).
· Overwhelming trials of life (Psalm 42:7).
· God’s seemingly slow response (Psalm 42:9).
Still, it was as if the psalmist said, “Those are not good enough reasons to be cast down when I think of the greatness of God and the help of His favor and presence.”
iii. “The result is not deadening his sense of sorrow but rather setting it in right relationship to God.” (Morgan)
iv. “You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down – what business have you to be disquieted?’” (Lloyd-Jones, cited in Boice)
v. “David chideth David out of the dumps.” (Trapp)
b. Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him: In his discouragement, the psalmist spoke to himself – perhaps even preached to himself. He didn’t feel filled with praise at the moment. Yet he was confident that as he did what he could to direct his hope in God, that praise would come forth. “I don’t feel like praising Him now, but He is worthy of my hope – and I shall yet praise Him.”
i. “Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey towards it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.” (Smiles, cited in Spurgeon)
c. The help of His countenance: The psalmist knew to look for help in God’s countenance – that is, the approving face of God. He found a better place by challenging his sense of gloom and seeking after God’s face, His countenance.
i. For the help of His countenance: “Hebrew, for the salvations of his face.” (Poole) “Note well that the main hope and chief desire of David rest in the smile of God. His face is what he seeks and hopes to see, and this will recover his low spirits.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “When the sun arises, we cannot be without light; when God turns his countenance towards us, we cannot be without ‘salvation.’” (Horne)
iii. In seeking the help of His countenance, the psalmist understood that the answers were not within himself, but in the living God. He didn’t look within; he looked up.
B. Bringing the need to God.
1. (6) An honest prayer from a distant place.
O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.
a. O my God, my soul is cast down within me: In an almost detached sense, the psalmist reported his cast down soul to God. This was wise, because a common tendency in such times is to stay away from God or act as if we could hide the problem from him. The psalmist did neither.
b. Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan: This explains why he was so far from the house of God and could not appear at the tabernacle or temple. He was far north of Jerusalem, in the heights of Hermon.
i. “We know the chief thing that was bothering him. He was far from Jerusalem and its temple worship on Mount Zion, and therefore felt himself to be cut off from God.” (Boice)
ii. The Hill Mizar: “‘Mizar’ is probably the name of a hill otherwise unknown, and specifies the singer’s locality more minutely, though not helpfully to us.” (Maclaren)
2. (7-8) A prayer from the depths of discouragement.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.
a. Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls: Perhaps the psalmist saw or thought of a waterfall in this high country. He saw how the water plunged down into a deep pool at the base of the waterfall and thought, “I feel that deeply buried under my misery.” It was as if all Your waves and billows have gone over me and he was buried under.
i. The psalmist knew, “I’m in deep trouble on the outside and I’m in deep trouble on the inside.” These two depths seemed to collide in him, sending him deeper still. It is a powerful and poetic description of despair.
· I hear the constant noise of the waterfalls; it never stops.
· I fell from a previous height.
· I plunged down quickly, and was taken down deep.
· I feel buried under all of this.
· I feel like I’m drowning.
ii. Even in this, there are points of light, giving hope.
· I am deep; but You are also – so Your depths call unto me in my depths.
· The waterfalls are Yours; if I am plunged under, then You are with me.
· The waves and billows are Yours; You have measured all this.
iii. “The whole compass of creation affordeth not, perhaps, a more just and striking image of nature and number of those calamities which sin hath brought upon the children of Adam.” (Horne)
iv. Deep calls unto deep: “One wave of sorrow rolls on me, impelled by another. There is something dismal in the sound of the original [Hebrew].” (Clarke)
v. F.B. Meyer thought of this as the depths of God answering to the depths of human need. “Whatever depths there are in God, they appeal to corresponding depths in us. And whatever the depths of our sorrow, desire, or necessity, there are correspondences in God from which full supplies may be obtained.” (Meyer)
· “The deep of divine redemption calls to the deep of human need.” (Meyer)
· “The deep of Christ’s wealth calls to the deep of the saint’s poverty.” (Meyer)
· “The deep of the Holy Spirit’s intercession calls to the deep of the Church’s prayer.” (Meyer)
b. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime: The covenant name of God – the LORD, Yahweh – is somewhat rarely used in Book Two of Psalms. Here it is used with special strength, with great confidence that God will command His lovingkindness to be extended to the despairing one.
i. “His expression is remarkable; he does not say simply that the Lord will bestow, but, ‘command his lovingkindness.’ As the gift bestowed is grace – free favour to the unworthy; so the manner of bestowing it is sovereign. It is given by decree; it is a royal donative. And if he commands the blessing, who shall hinder its reception?” (March, cited in Spurgeon)
c. His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me: The psalmist came to a place of greater confidence, secure in God’s goodness to him in the daytime or at night. In the more frightening night, he would have the gracious comfort of His song to be with him.
d. A prayer to the God of my life: This is another statement of confidence. The song from God will be a prayer, but not unto the God of his death, but to the God of my life.
3. (9-10) More honest telling of the psalmist’s discouragement.
I will say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a breaking of my bones,
My enemies reproach me,
While they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
a. I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me”: There is a pleasant contradiction in this line. The psalmist had the confidence to call God his Rock – his place of security, stability, and strength. At the same time he could honestly bring his feelings to God and ask, “Why have You forgotten me?”
i. The more experienced saint knows there is no contradiction. It was because he regarded God as his Rock that he could pour out his soul before Him so honestly.
b. Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy: The psalmist senses God sustaining him, but his battle is not over. There is the constant oppression of the enemy. The taunt, “Where is your God?” continued from them.
4. (11) A return to a confident challenge of self and focus upon God.
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
a. Why are you cast down, O my soul? As the oppression of the enemy continued, so the psalmist would continue to speak to himself and challenge his own sense of discouragement.
i. “It is an important dialogue between the two aspects of the believer, who is at once a man of convictions and a creature of change.” (Kidner)
ii. “The higher self repeats its half-rebuke, half-encouragement.” (Maclaren)
b. Hope in God: The pleasant words of Psalm 42:5 are repeated as both important and helpful. The psalmist – and everyone buried under discouragement – needed to keep hope in God and keep confidence that he shall yet praise Him.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 41 – Prayer for Help in Sickness and Against Whispering Traitors
The title of this psalm is To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. Alexander Maclaren well described it: “The central mass of this psalm describes the singer as suffering from two evils: sickness and treacherous friends.”
A. The blessed one and the enemy of the blessed one.
1. (1-3) Blessings belonging to the one who considers the poor.
Blessed is he who considers the poor;
The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive,
And he will be blessed on the earth;
You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.
The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness;
You will sustain him on his sickbed.
a. Blessed is he who considers the poor: The idea behind the word here translated poor may include economic poverty, but it is broader. It has the idea of weak or helpless. David described the blessings that come to the righteous man or woman, and he summarizes the life of that righteous one by his generosity to the poor. David didn’t think that this was the only thing that marked the godly, but it was a significant thing.
i. “The poor intended, are such as are poor in substance, weak in bodily strength, despised in repute, and desponding in spirit. These are mostly avoided and frequently scorned.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “There are plenty around you, who, if not poor in the things of this world, are poor in love and hope and the knowledge of God.” (Meyer)
iii. Upon reflection, he who considers the poor – that is, the weak, helpless, and poor – is a broad measure of the righteous man or woman.
· He who considers the poor trusts God, willing to give from his own resources.
· He who considers the poor is kind to those in need.
· He who considers the poor helps those who likely will not help him in return.
· He who considers the poor has a generous heart.
· He who considers the poor gives for their good, not simply to make himself feel good.
iv. Considers: “Implies giving careful thought to this person’s situation, rather than perfunctory help.” (Kidner)
v. Upon reflection, much charity work – by religious, social, and political organizations – fails in this measure: he who considers the poor. Money and assistance are given, but in a way that contributes to chronic dependence and deeply ingrained social problems.
b. The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble: This begins a list of several blessings that come to the generous person. This was especially true under the Old Covenant (sometimes also called the Mosaic Covenant). An essential aspect of that covenant was blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience (as in Deuteronomy 28).
i. “Probably, therefore, the general promises of Psalms 41:1-3 are silently applied by the psalmist to himself; and he is comforting his own sorrow with the assurance…. He has been merciful, and believes, though things look dark, that he will obtain mercy.” (Maclaren)
c. He will be blessed on the earth: This is another indication that this promise of blessing for obedience was connected to the Old Covenant, which dealt much more with earthly and physical blessings than with eternal and spiritual matters.
d. You will sustain him on his sickbed: Most commentators believe that David’s misery and low state in this psalm were due to sickness (Psalm 41:8). Perhaps he was in danger of death (Psalm 41:5). David trusted that God would bless him for his prior goodness to the weak and needy.
2. (4-6) A sinner’s plea for mercy against evil-speaking enemies.
I said, “LORD, be merciful to me;
Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”
My enemies speak evil of me:
“When will he die, and his name perish?”
And if he comes to see me, he speaks lies;
His heart gathers iniquity to itself;
When he goes out, he tells it.
a. LORD, be merciful to me: Without saying it directly, David seemed to appeal to God on the basis of his own good works, especially consideration of the poor (Psalm 41:1). In light of his relative righteousness, and according to the terms of the Old Covenant, David could and did ask God for mercy and blessing.
i. “No appeal is made to justice; the petitioner but hints at the promised reward, but goes straightforward to lay his plea at the feet of mercy.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “It is a plea for mercy in view of the merciless treatment the psalmist has been receiving from his foes and friends alike.” (Boice)
b. Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You: David knew that he had done much good, but that did not erase his sins. He understood that his sins were directed against God and that they made him like a sick or injured person who needed healing in his soul. His body was sick, but more important was his soul-sickness.
i. We can identify at least three ways that David said he needed healing for his soul.
· Heal my soul from its great distress.
· Heal my soul of the effect of sin.
· Heal my soul of my tendency to sin.
ii. David made a plain and honest confession of his sins when he said, I have sinned against You.
· A confession without excuse.
· A confession without qualification.
· A confession without superficiality.
iii. “Saul and Judas each said, ‘I have sinned;’ but David says, ‘I have sinned against thee.’” (Plainer, cited in Spurgeon)
iv. “Applying the petition to David and other sinful believers, how strangely evangelical is the argument: heal me, not for I am innocent, but ‘I have sinned.’ How contrary is this to all self-righteous pleading!” (Spurgeon)
v. “There is no note of despair in his prayer. The psalmist is not depressed by the weight of his sin; it is likely that he makes a general confession of unwitting sins that he may have committed.” (VanGemeren)
c. My enemies speak evil of me: David knew the hurt and difficulty of evil and lies spread about him. Like believers of all ages, David had to endure sometimes-outrageous slander and defamation of character.
i. Don’t forget that David was a good king. “Why should David have had so many enemies if he was actually a good king and a moral person? The reason is jealousy as well as a desire for power in those who were jealous.” (Boice)
ii. “It is often a good man’s lot to be evil spoken of; to have his motives, and even his most benevolent acts, misconstrued.” (Clarke)
iii. The early history of Christianity tells us the reasons why Christians were persecuted, or at least why people in the Roman Empire thought Christians were worthy of persecution.
· They accused Christians of hostility to the emperors and conspiracy against the state.
· They accused Christians of incest.
· They accused Christians of cannibalism.
· They accused Christians of being atheists.
· They accused Christians of being “haters of humanity.”
· They accused Christians of being the reason why problems plagued the empire.
iv. The enemies of early Christianity spoke evil of the followers of Jesus, and they spoke lies.
· Christians were good citizens and prayed for the emperor.
· Christians lived pure moral lives.
· Christians never practiced anything like cannibalism.
· Christians were certainly not atheists.
· Christians loved others, and showed it all the time.
· Christians made the empire better, not worse.
v. Still, these lies were commonly believed and Christians were persecuted because of them. The apologists of the early church did what they could to tell the truth, but it was a losing public relations battle. These lies were popularly believed.
d. When will he die, and his name perish? This is what the evil-speaking enemies of David said among themselves. They couldn’t wait for David to die, and they did whatever they could to bring his death to pass.
i. If he comes to see me: See “is used for visiting the sick in 2 Kings 8:29, and speaks lying condolence, while he greedily collects encouraging symptoms that the disease is hopeless.” (Maclaren)
ii. “When they visited the king his courtiers said the right things: ‘We were so sorry to hear that you are sick…. We have been praying for you and will continue to pray…. We hope you are going to be better really soon…. Everything is being taken care of…. Is there anything we can do?’ These words were sheer hypocrisy. These people were not hoping that David would get well at all. After they left him they said things like, ‘Didn’t he look awful?… I don’t think he’s going to make it, do you?’” (Boice)
e. His heart gathers iniquity to itself: David thought of the evil heart like a magnet, constantly drawing additional sin and iniquity unto itself.
3. (7-9) Whispers and betrayal.
All who hate me whisper together against me;
Against me they devise my hurt.
“An evil disease,” they say, “clings to him.
And now that he lies down, he will rise up no more.”
Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.
a. All who hate me whisper together against me: David knew of – or at least could sense – the whispered conspiracies set in motion against him, meant to devise his hurt.
i. All who hate me whisper together: “The spy meets his comrades in conclave and sets them all a-whispering. Why could they not speak out? Were they afraid of the sick warrior? Or were their designs so treacherous that they must needs be hatched in secrecy?” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The same weapons are frequently employed against the servants of Christ; but let them not be, on that account, discouraged from following their Master.” (Horne)
b. An evil disease…clings to him: This may have been true. David described such a time of illness in Psalm 38:3 and 38:6-8. David’s enemies were happy at the thought that he might die and rise up no more.
i. We can imagine how his enemies – probably pretended friends – said this of David as he suffered on his sickbed.
ii. What they said was strong and condemning toward David. “The word ‘vile’ [evil] is a translation of ‘Belial’ and could also be rendered as ‘a sickness from the devil’ or ‘an accursed disease.’” (VanGemeren)
c. Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me: David’s woe was made more bitter because among his enemies were those who had once been a familiar friend to him. He knew what it was like when trusted friends – those he had close relationship with (who ate my bread) – betrayed him.
i. David was betrayed by his own son Absalom (2 Samuel 15) and by a trusted adviser named Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:12 and 15:31). “What greater wound can there be than a treacherous friend?” (Trapp)
ii. In the ultimate and most sinister sense, this was fulfilled when Judas betrayed Jesus. Jesus specifically applied these words to Judas and his treachery. In John 13:18 Jesus quoted this phrase, but only the words He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me. Some think Jesus deliberately left off the words in whom I trusted because He didn’t trust Judas. However, Jesus did make him the treasurer among the disciples (John 12:6 and 13:29).
iii. “The kiss of the traitor wounded our Lord’s heart as much as the nail wounded his hand.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “So these words were literally fulfilled in David, and yet the Holy Ghost, which dictated them, looked further in them, even to Christ and Judas, in whom they received a further and fuller accomplishment.” (Poole)
v. “The idiom ‘has lifted up his heel against me’ signifies a treacherous act (cf. Genesis 3:15; Psalm 55:12-14).” (VanGemeren)
vi. “Not merely turned his back on me, but left me with a heavy kick such as a vicious horse might give.” (Spurgeon)
B. A plea and praise.
1. (10-12) David prays for mercy from God and triumph over his enemies.
But You, O LORD, be merciful to me, and raise me up,
That I may repay them.
By this I know that You are well pleased with me,
Because my enemy does not triumph over me.
As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,
And set me before Your face forever.
a. O LORD, be merciful to me and raise me up, that I may repay them: David prayed not only for forgiveness and deliverance, but also for triumph over his enemies. As the LORD’s anointed, he felt justified in this, and looked for God’s deliverance as evidence that God was well pleased with him.
i. “The plea that I may repay them is unusual, in that the psalms mostly pray that God Himself will do this.” (Kidner)
b. You uphold me in my integrity: David felt that in contrast to his enemies, he was a man of integrity. Still, he needed God to uphold him in his integrity – recognizing that it was God’s work in him.
c. And set me before Your face forever: This was the most important thing to David, more important than triumph over his enemies. To be set…before the face of God meant to enjoy His favor and fellowship.
i. “To stand before an earthly monarch is considered to be a singular honour, but what must it be to be a perpetual courtier in the palace of the King Eternal, Immortal, Invisible?” (Spurgeon)
ii. We notice that all the benefits of Psalm 41:11-12 are in the present tense. David did not believe that God would bring them to him; he believed that he had them already.
2. (13) Ending with praise.
Blessed be the LORD God of Israel
From everlasting to everlasting!
Amen and Amen.
a. Blessed be the LORD God of Israel: Many commentators believe that this is an end not only to this psalm, but to the first book of Psalms. Here Yahweh is honored as the covenant God of Israel. It was fitting for David to end the song with his eyes on the LORD, not upon himself or his enemies.
i. The five books of the Psalms are as follows:
· Book One – Psalms 1 to 41 (41 psalms).
· Book Two – Psalms 42 to 72 (31 psalms).
· Book Three – Psalms 73 to 89 (17 psalms).
· Book Four – Psalms 90 to 106 (17 psalms).
· Book Five – Psalms 107 to 150 (44 psalms).
ii. “Each of the five books ends with an outburst of praise, clinched by a double Amen (here and at 72:19; 89:52), an Amen and Hallelujah [Praise the Lord, NKJV] (106:48) or, finally, what is virtually a double Hallelujah (150:6), indeed a whole psalm of doxology.” (Kidner)
iii. Morgan thought that the emphasis on the LORD God of Israel in this doxology was fitting for the first book of Psalms. “The prevailing name of God found in this collection is Jehovah. The songs have set forth in varied ways all that this name meant to the men of faith. Thus the Doxology utters the praise of Jehovah, Who is the God of Israel.” (Morgan)
b. From everlasting to everlasting: The LORD is to be praised as the eternal God, stretching from eternity past to eternity future.
i. “The word everlasting in Hebrew means the vanishing point. The idea is that the God of Israel is Jehovah from the past which is beyond human knowledge, to the future which is equally so…. To us the great truth is made more clear in the words of Jesus: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega.’” (Morgan)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 40 – The Servant Comes to Do God’s Will
This psalm is simply titled To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
To the Chief Musician: “Well might so exceedingly precious a Psalm be specially committed to the most skilled of the sacred musicians.” (Charles Spurgeon)
A Psalm of David: G. Campbell Morgan speculated, “In this case the reason for the song in all probability was that of the deliverance of David from all the long experience of outlawry and suffering; and the fact that he had been brought to his coronation.”
A. Proclaiming a joyful deliverance.
1. (1-3) The blessed results of patient waiting for the LORD.
I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the LORD.
a. I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me: The idea of David waiting on or for the LORD has been common, especially in the last few psalms (Psalm 25:5, 25:21, 27:14, 37:7, 37:9). In the previous psalm (Psalm 39:7) David waited upon the LORD without immediate answer. Here, the answer is stated: He inclined to me, and heard my cry.
i. “I waited patiently, Heb. in waiting I waited; which doubling of the word notes that he waited diligently and earnestly, patiently and perseveringly, until God should please to help him.” (Poole)
ii. “The theme of waiting, expounded in Psalm 37, has had its painful application in Psalms 38-39, but now its triumphant outcome.” (Kidner)
iii. “Think ye, brethren, might it not read – ‘I waited impatiently for the Lord,’ in the case of most of us?” (Spurgeon)
b. He inclined to me, and heard my cry: The word inclined has the sense of God bending down to David in his affliction, removing any perceived distance between the LORD and His servant. When David knew God heard his cry, he was confident of a favorable answer.
i. “The patient waiting resulted in the singer’s feeling that Jehovah was bending over him and listening to his cry.” (Morgan)
ii. “As when someone’s attention is arrested and riveted.” (Kidner)
c. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit…and set my feet upon a rock: These were further benefits to David as he waited patiently for the LORD. God delivered him from his present crisis (which was like miry clay), and set him in a much better and more secure place (established my steps). David’s prayer for deliverance was answered.
d. He has put a new song in my mouth – praise to our God: This is another benefit to David in waiting on the Lord. His deliverance brought forth spontaneous praise, a new song that came from God Himself.
i. God will inspire songs and words of praise. This almost sounds selfish or self-serving, but when we understand how good and right it is for the creature to praise the Creator, the redeemed to praise the Redeemer, the delivered to praise the Deliverer, then it makes sense. We are grateful that God gives us the ability to praise Him.
ii. It is possible that this psalm was the new song God put into David’s mouth. “The suffering servant of God always becomes the singing one. For as the secret of song is ever that of waiting for God, doing the will of God, in and through suffering, the result is always deliverance, and the issue a song.” (Morgan)
e. Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD: This is one more benefit from David’s patient waiting for the LORD. The deliverance and the praise that came from it were an effective testimony to others. They were inspired to fear the LORD and to trust in Him.
i. Trust in the LORD: “Trusting in the Lord is the evidence nay the essence of salvation. He who is a true believer is evidently redeemed from the dominion of sin and Satan.” (Spurgeon)
2. (4-5) Trusting the God who thinks about His people.
Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust,
And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered.
a. Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust: This is a natural and appropriate thought flowing from what David had just experienced. He knew by experience that trust – as shown by waiting patiently for the LORD – is blessed.
i. “A man may be as poor as Lazarus, as hated as Mordecai, as sick as Hezekiah, as lonely as Elijah, but while his hand of faith can keep its hold on God, none of his outward afflictions can prevent his being numbered among the blessed, but the wealthiest and most prosperous man who has no faith is accursed, be he who he may.” (Spurgeon)
b. And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies: David connected trusting God with moral conduct – in this case, the ability to discern and judge the character of others and act appropriately toward them. Perhaps David’s crisis came from refusing to respect the proud or those who turn aside to lies.
i. Does not respect the proud: “For the proud he uses the term that became the nickname for Egypt, the empty blusterer, Isaiah 30:7.” (Kidner)
c. Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works…and Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted: David praised God as the worker of many wonderful works and for His thoughts toward His people. David knew that God thought about him (and His people), and thought about them favorably – otherwise there would be no blessing in those thoughts.
i. “Creation, providence, and redemption, teem with wonders as the sea with life.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The past is full of His miracles (wondrous deeds), the future full of his plans – this is the force of the word thoughts.” (Kidner)
iii. In Psalm 8:4 David wondered, What is man that You are mindful of him? He considered the greatness of the universe and was amazed that God would think about man at all. Here he took that idea much further and is amazed at how much God thinks about His people. By implication he is also amazed that God thinks such loving, gracious thoughts toward His people, and so many that they are more than can be numbered.
iv. God’s thoughts toward us are wonderful because they are God’s thoughts. “When I think, it is a poor, little, weak, empty head that is thinking; but when God thinks, the gigantic mind which framed the universe is thinking upon me.” (Spurgeon)
v. God’s thoughts toward us are wonderful because they are so many; they cannot be recounted. “You cannot count God’s thoughts of you…. One gracious thought is followed by another, swiftly as the beams of light flash from the sun, so that it is impossible for us to number them.” (Spurgeon)
B. The willing servant proclaims God’s praise.
“Here we enter upon one of the most wonderful passages in the whole of the Old Testament, a passage in which the incarnate Son of God is seen not through a glass darkly, but as it were face to face.” (Spurgeon)
1. (6-8) The coming of the Bond Servant.
Sacrifice and offering You did not desire;
My ears You have opened.
Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.”
a. Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened: David understood that in a relative sense, God didn’t want animal sacrifices. God wanted surrendered, willing servants.
i. In Psalm 40:6 four kinds of offering are mentioned:
· Sacrifice (offerings made with blood).
· Offering (offerings made without blood).
· Burnt offering (offerings of total consecration).
· Sin offering (offerings to atone for sin).
ii. What did God desire instead of sacrifice? Obedience. This was true for David’s predecessor Saul. King Saul offered sacrifices just fine; what he didn’t do was obey God (1 Samuel 15:22-23). Ultimately this was fulfilled by the Son of David. Jesus came and was perfectly obedient, and His obedience is credited unto us.
b. My ears You have opened: Instead of animal sacrifices, God wants servants who will listen to Him and surrender to Him as a willing slave surrenders to his master.
i. David likely referred to the custom of marking a bond-servant according to Exodus 21:5-6, where a slave who wanted to remain in his master’s house and in his master’s service would be marked with an opened ear – that is, his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever (Exodus 21:6).
ii. It’s a remarkable thing to think of this ceremony being carried out in ancient Israel. A servant said, “I know I have fulfilled my obligations to my master, and I have served what I have owed. Yet I love my master and am so grateful for what he has given that I will gladly obligate myself for life, not out of debt or shame or defeat, but out of love.” This was David’s heart toward God, and this heart and life were greater than any animal sacrifice.
iii. The ceremony in Exodus 21:5-6 described only one ear being pierced through or opened. The text of Psalm 40 describes two ears You have opened. Some regard this as evidence that the psalmist had something else in mind other than the bond-slave ceremony, such as simply opening the ear to hear and obey. It is better to regard it as David’s expression of total surrender – beyond what the law itself demanded, as if he said “Lord, take both my ears!”
iv. Horne gives an explanation apart from the Exodus 21:5-6 ceremony: “For the expression, ‘Mine ears hast thou opened,’ seems equivalent to, ‘Thou hast made me obedient.’ Thus, Isaiah 50:5, ‘The Lord God hath opened mine ears, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.’” (Horne)
c. Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened: David’s surrender to God was wonderful and an impressive example. Yet he only foreshadowed the ultimate submission to God carried out by the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:5-10 quotes the Septuagint (ancient Greek) translation of Psalm 40:6-8. This is a wonderful and remarkable prophecy of the work of Jesus.
· It shows God’s ultimate dissatisfaction in animal sacrifices, looking forward to a Perfect Sacrifice (Sacrifice and offering You did not desire).
· It shows that God the Son came in a prepared body (the Septuagint reads, But a body You have prepared for Me, Hebrews 10:5).
· It shows the public, open coming of the Messiah. It was as if Jesus said, “Behold, here I am – I am the One.” (Behold, I come).
· It shows the Messiah as the great theme of the Hebrew Scriptures (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me).
· It shows the dedication of the Messiah to the will of God (I delight to do Your will).
· It shows the Messiah’s love for and obedience to the word of God (Your law is within My heart).
i. Sacrifice and offering You did not desire: “It is remarkable, that all the offerings and sacrifices which were considered to be of an atoning or cleansing nature, offered under the law, are here enumerated by the psalmist and the apostle, to show that none of them, nor all of them, could take away sin; and that the grand sacrifice of Christ was that alone which could do it.” (Clarke)
ii. “The Septuagint, from which Paul quoted, has translated this passage, ‘A body hast thou prepared me:’ how this reading arose it is not easy to imagine, but since apostolical authority has sanctioned the variation, we accept it as no mistake, but as an instance of various readings equally inspired.” (Spurgeon)
d. In the scroll of the book it is written of me: In a far lesser sense David could say this of himself, because his ascension to the throne of Israel was prophesied long before it took place. Yet any fulfillment of this in David is a pale shadow to its amazing and perfect fulfillment in David’s greater Son, Jesus the Messiah.
e. I delight to do Your will, O my God: Again, in a far lesser sense this was true of David, the man after God’s heart. Yet any fulfillment of this in David is a pale shadow of its amazing and perfect fulfillment in David’s greater Son, Jesus the Messiah. Jesus said that doing God’s will was to Him as necessary and delightful as food (John 4:34).
i. I delight to do Your will: “Jesus not only did the Father’s will, but found a delight therein; from old eternity he had desired the work set before him; in his human life he was straitened till he reached the baptism of agony in which he magnified the law, and even in Gethsemane itself he chose the Father’s will, and set aside his own.” (Spurgeon)
ii. To do: “It was Jesus who was the doer of the work. The Father willed it; but he did not do it. It was Jesus who did it, who wrought it out; who brought it in; who carried it within the veil, and laid it as an acceptable and meritorious offering at the feet of his well-pleased Father. The work then is done; it is finished. We need not attempt to do it. We cannot do it. We cannot do that which is already done; and we could not do it, though it were yet undone.” (Frame, cited in Spurgeon)
iii. Your law is within my heart: Open “up most men’s hearts, and there you shall find written, The god of this present world. But God’s law is in good men’s hearts, to live and die with it.” (Trapp)
2. (9-12) Public proclamation of the good news and God’s praise.
I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O LORD, You Yourself know.
I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth
From the great assembly.
Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O LORD;
Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.
For innumerable evils have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up;
They are more than the hairs of my head;
Therefore my heart fails me.
a. I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness in the great assembly: David said this to assure God (and himself) that he had glorified God among His people. This was part of the new song and praise that came from his deliverance. David would not restrain his lips in offering this praise.
i. Yet, as in the previous verses, this has a far greater and perfect fulfillment in Jesus, the Son of David. It was true of Jesus in His earthly ministry. “This is what Jesus can say. He was the Prince of open-air preachers, the Great Itinerant, the President of the College of all preachers of the gospel.” (Spurgeon)
ii. It is also true of Jesus in eternity come. Of Jesus it is true, in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You (Hebrews 2:12 as a fulfillment of Psalm 22:22). It’s a remarkable thing to think of Jesus leading the assembly of God’s people in praise to God the Father!
b. I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart: The righteousness of God was evident in both David’s words and actions. It wasn’t set in a secret place that had no connection with how he actually lived his life.
i. I have not hidden: “This intimates, that whoever undertook to preach the gospel of Christ would be in great temptation to hide it, and conceal it, because it must be preached with great contention, and in the face of great opposition.” (Henry, cited in Spurgeon)
c. Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me: Though David praised God for past and present deliverance, he would not presume upon the future. He kept himself in humble prayer before God, asking for a constant supply of His tender mercies.
i. It is not difficult to see this as a prayer of Jesus, the Son of David. As He lived upon this earth, He did so as a man in constant reliance upon His fellowship and perfect communion with God the Father. We see this as a prayer of Jesus, perhaps especially in His sufferings on the cross: Do not withhold Your tender mercies from Me, O LORD; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve Me.
ii. Truly it was on the cross that Jesus could say, innumerable evils have surrounded Me.
d. My iniquities have overtaken me: David needed this constant supply of the mercy, lovingkindness, and truth of God because he knew his own sins. He asked God to not leave him to his many sins (more than the hairs of my head), but to deliver him in mercy.
i. There is a sense in which Jesus could never say, “My iniquities have overtaken Me.” He was and is the spotless Lamb of God, without any sin or defect. Yet in another sense those words are perfect in their description of Jesus, because in His life and especially His sufferings He consciously and perfectly identified with His people, taking on their sins as His own. For Jesus, they were My iniquities – but not because he committed the sins, but because out of love He chose to bear them and all the wrath they deserved.
ii. “If this be taken of Christ, he is Maximus peccatorum, the greatest of sinners by imputation, 2 Corinthians 5:21.” (Trapp)
C. Proclaiming a heartfelt plea for help.
1. (13-15) The plea for deliverance.
Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me;
O LORD, make haste to help me!
Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion
Who seek to destroy my life;
Let them be driven backward and brought to dishonor
Who wish me evil.
Let them be confounded because of their shame,
Who say to me, “Aha, aha!”
a. Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: Despite his many iniquities, David could and did rely upon the LORD for deliverance. He skillfully phrased the request, not only asking God to deliver him, but asking God to take pleasure in his deliverance. He could ask boldly because he believed it to be consistent with God’s pleasure.
i. We might take this principle and apply it to many of our requests.
· Be pleased, O LORD, to forgive me.
· Be pleased, O LORD, to correct me.
· Be pleased, O LORD, to provide for me.
· Be pleased, O LORD, to heal me.
· Be pleased, O LORD, to guide me.
· Be pleased, O LORD, to bless me.
ii. It should not surprise us that the psalm begins with triumphant praise and then desperately asks for help. “Are there any deliverances in this perilous and incomplete life so entire and permanent that they leave no room for future perils? Must not prevision of coming dangers accompany thankfulness for past escapes?” (Maclaren)
b. O LORD, make haste to help me: Though David made his request with skill, it was also made with urgency. David understood that help too long delayed was the same as help denied.
c. Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion who seek to destroy my life: This was the help that David sought. God had graciously delivered him (Psalm 40:1-3), but the threat remained. David prayed that God would dishonor his enemies and cause them to be confounded.
i. As in many of his psalms, David is in trouble. Yet one would not know this from the first part of the psalm. Yes, David needed God’s protection and help and would ask for it – but he could not forget or neglect the wonderful deliverance God had given up to that point, and make an appropriately surrendered response.
ii. “The psalmist prays for his enemies’ fall and shame in accordance with the principles of justice and with the promise of God to curse those who cursed his own.” (VanGemeren)
iii. Who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”: “O ungodly reader, if such a person glance over this page, beware of persecuting Christ and his people, for God will surely avenge his own elect. Your ‘ahas’ will cost you dear. It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.” (Clarke)
2. (16-17) Praise with another plea.
Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
Let such as love Your salvation say continually,
“The LORD be magnified!”
But I am poor and needy;
Yet the LORD thinks upon me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Do not delay, O my God.
a. Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You: David called the people of God – at least those who seek Him – to be happy in Him, and to say continually, “The LORD be magnified!”
i. David thought praising God was to magnify Him – that is, to make Him larger in one’s perception. Magnification does not actually make an object bigger, and we can’t make God bigger. But to magnify something or someone is to perceive it as bigger, and we must do that regarding the LORD God.
ii. Let such as love Your salvation say continually: “One would think that self-love alone should make us love salvation. Ay, but they love it because it is his, ‘that love thy salvation.’ It is the character of a holy saint to love salvation itself; not as his own only, but as God’s, as God’s that saves him.” (Goodwin, cited in Spurgeon)
b. But I am poor and needy; yet the LORD thinks upon me: David could combine his sense of great joy in God with a realistic appraisal of his present need. Secure in the truth that God cared for and thought about him, David again appealed to God to be his help and deliverer, and he needed God to do this without delay.
i. “He cries, ‘I am poor and needy.’ His joy is found in Another. He looks away from self, to the consolations which the eternal purpose has prepared for him.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Poor and needy: “With such a Father and such a Friend, poverty becometh rich, and weakness itself is strong.” (Horne)
iii. Yet the LORD thinks upon me: “He thought upon thee, and he thinks upon thee still. When the Father thinks of his children, he thinks of thee. When the great Judge of all thinks of the justified ones, he thinks of thee. O Christian, can you grasp the thought? The Eternal Father thinks of you!” (Spurgeon)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 39 – Wisdom to Speak Under God’s Correction
This psalm is titled 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 62 and Psalm 77) was one of the musicians appointed by David to lead Israel’s public worship (1 Chronicles 16:41; 25:1-3).
This is a Psalm of David, though it cannot be connected to any specific point in his life. It is possible that it was from his last few years of life.
A. David finds the words to pray a prayer of wisdom.
1. (1-3) David’s silent agony.
I said, “I will guard my ways,
Lest I sin with my tongue;
I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle,
While the wicked are before me.”
I was mute with silence,
I held my peace even from good;
And my sorrow was stirred up.
My heart was hot within me;
While I was musing, the fire burned.
Then I spoke with my tongue:
a. I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue: David began this psalm by recounting his prayer – asking God’s help in not speaking foolishly or sinfully when the wicked are before me.
i. “David’s feelings were running high enough to be taken for disloyalty if he had vented them in the wrong company.” (Kidner)
ii. “He knew how his words would be misunderstood and misused by such persons. To them his words would seem to be a criticism of God and his ways.” (Boice)
iii. “The firmest believers are exercised with unbelief, and it would be doing the devil’s work with a vengeance if they were to publish abroad all their questionings and suspicions.” (Spurgeon)
b. I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good: David found it easier to speak nothing than to speak wisely. He soon felt the pressure that one feels when intense feelings are kept silent.
i. In the previous psalm David showed his godliness by his silence before his accusers (I am like a mute who does not open his mouth, Psalm 38:13). In Psalm 38 the idea was that David did well to not defend himself. Here he did well to not speak his doubts and fears while the wicked are before me.
ii. “Perhaps he feared that if he began to talk at all, he would be sure to speak amiss, and, therefore, he totally abstained. It was an easy, safe, and effectual way of avoiding sin, if it did not involve a neglect of the duty which he owed to God to speak well of his name.” (Spurgeon)
c. My heart was hot within me: In this instance silence was not golden for David. It brought him sorrow and inner turmoil (the fire burned).
i. “The metaphors ‘my heart grew hot’ and ‘the fire burned’ express anger (cf. Deuteronomy 19:6; Jeremiah 51:39; Ezekiel 36:5). The more he reflected on his situation, the more he became exasperated.” (VanGemeren)
2. (4-6) David’s wise words.
“LORD, make me to know my end,
And what is the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am.
Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my age is as nothing before You;
Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.” Selah
“Surely every man walks about like a shadow;
Surely they busy themselves in vain;
He heaps up riches,
And does not know who will gather them.”
a. LORD, make me to know my end: David’s silence was broken in the best way – by humble prayer to God. He would not speak his fears and doubts before the wicked, but he would pour them out before His God. Here David asked God for wisdom – specifically, the wisdom to know the shortness and the frailty of his life (that I may know how frail I am).
i. We might have expected David to break his silence by telling off his enemies or by defending his own righteousness. He did neither; he sought God for wisdom. “It is well that the vent of his soul was Godward and not towards man. Oh! if my swelling heart must speak, Lord let it speak with thee.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Make me to know my end: “This was not a prayer inspired by a desire to know when life would end; it was not a request to be told the date of death. It was a prayer for an accurate apprehension of the fact that life quantitatively – that is, as to the number of its days – is as nothing.” (Morgan)
iii. You have made my days as handbreadths: “He compares it to a ‘handbreadth,’ one of the smallest units of measurement in ancient Israel. It is equivalent to ‘a couple of inches.’” (VanGemeren)
iv. “Life is very short, but a great deal may be done. Our Lord Jesus Christ, in three years, saved the world. Some of his followers in three years have been the means of saving many and many a soul.” (Spurgeon)
b. Certainly every man at his best state is but a vapor: David was a champion, an accomplished Special Forces warrior, a leader, a celebrity, a skilled poet, a musical genius, a survivor, and a king. If anyone might have thought more highly of himself, David had the right to. Yet he understood that he, like every man is – at his best state – merely a vapor, a puff of steam or smoke.
i. “He learns that, since life is short, the only real meaning of a man or woman’s existence must be in his relationship to God, for God is eternal.” (Boice)
c. Selah: The idea in the Hebrew for this word (occurring 74 times in the Old Testament) is for a pause. Most people think it speaks of a reflective pause, a pause to meditate on the words just spoken. It may also be a musical instruction, for a musical interlude of some kind.
i. This Selah is an appropriate call for each one to pause and think of the shortness and frailty of his life. It should drive us to great dependence upon God and great earnestness about life and doing good in the short time we do have.
d. Surely they busy themselves in vain: Sounding very much like the later Book of Ecclesiastes, David thought about the mass of humanity who lived ignoring the shortness and frailty of life.
· Each of them walks about, but like a shadow, living a life with no substance.
· They are busy, but in vain, being blind to eternal things.
· Each of them works hard and heaps up riches, yet does not think beyond his own short and frail life.
i. This is the land of shadows. Heaven is the land of reality, of true high definition.
ii. “Every man that exists, is vanity. All his projects, plans, schemes, etc., soon come to nothing. His body also moulders with the dust, and shortly passes both from the sight and remembrance of men.” (Clarke)
B. The cause revealed, the cure requested.
1. (7-11) Trusting God in a season of correction for sin.
“And now, Lord, what do I wait for?
My hope is in You.
Deliver me from all my transgressions;
Do not make me the reproach of the foolish.
I was mute, I did not open my mouth,
Because it was You who did it.
Remove Your plague from me;
I am consumed by the blow of Your hand.
When with rebukes You correct man for iniquity,
You make his beauty melt away like a moth;
Surely every man is vapor.” Selah
a. And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You: Perceiving the shortness and frailty of life made David put his expectation and hope upon God and not upon himself. In right standing and friendship with the Living God, David could understand and prepare for life beyond this life.
i. “Here the psalmist steps off the sand, and puts his foot on the rock. Happy is the man who can say to the Lord, ‘My hope is in thee.’” (Spurgeon)
ii. My hope is in You: “That is life, in which desire and expectation are centered in God. Such life is of an entirely different quality from that in which desire and expectation are centered in self, in circumstances, or in men.” (Morgan)
b. Deliver me from all my transgressions: David looked to God and not to himself for deliverance from sin. He knew – as the Apostle Paul would later declare – that the focus should be on God and not self (Romans 7:24-8:4).
i. Deliver me from all my transgressions: “That I may not be disappointed of my hopes of enjoying thee and thy favour, which is the only thing that I desire, pardon all my sins, which stand like a thick cloud between thee and me, and fill me with fears about my condition both here and hereafter.” (Poole)
c. Remove Your plague from me; I am consumed by the blow of Your hand: We learn that David prayed this prayer from a season of great weakness and the sense that he was under the painful correction of God. He successfully avoided speaking words of self-justification; as he poured out his heart to God, he also prayed for relief from his affliction.
i. “It is bold for a sufferer to say to God, ‘Hold! enough!’ but all depends on the tone in which it is said. It may be presumption, or it may be a child’s free speech, not in the least trenching on a Father’s authority.” (Maclaren)
ii. Because it was You who did it: “He does not understand everything; but at least he knows that a personal God, instead of an impersonal force, is in charge over his life.” (VanGemeren)
d. When with rebukes You correct man for iniquity, You make his beauty melt away like a moth: We learn that David’s great sense of the shortness and frailty of life came under a deep and painful sense of the correction of God. We can suppose that this was one of the reasons God sent His correction to David: to give him the hunger for, the prayer for, and the blessing of this wisdom.
i. “The metaphor of a moth suggests the brevity of man’s life or the destructive power of a moth.” (VanGemeren)
2. (12-13) A humble prayer for restored favor and regained strength.
“Hear my prayer, O LORD,
And give ear to my cry;
Do not be silent at my tears;
For I am a stranger with You,
A sojourner, as all my fathers were.
Remove Your gaze from me, that I may regain strength,
Before I go away and am no more.”
a. Do not be silent at my tears; for I am a stranger with You: David appealed to Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, asking that He answer with mercy upon him in his sense of separation from God.
i. My tears: “His prayer swells into crying, and that again melts into tears, which go straight to the great Father’s heart. Weeping eyes are never turned to heaven in vain; the gates of mercy open wide when the hot drops touch them.” (Maclaren)
b. I am a stranger with You, a sojourner, as all my fathers were: David was not only a native Israeli, but the king of Israel. If anyone had a claim to citizenship it was he; yet he understood that his real home was in heaven and not upon this earth.
i. Significantly, David did not say that he was a stranger from God, but a stranger with God. He was a stranger, but not alone. They were strangers together in a hostile world. “Here is a man still undergoing trial and acutely conscious of it, but he has found the secret place of communion and this conditions his attitudes.” (Morgan)
ii. “Abraham first described himself as a stranger and a sojourner…. All his children, those who inherit a like faith, must say the same. Faith cannot find a home on this side of the stars. It has caught a glimpse of the Infinite, and it can never be content with anything else.” (Meyer)
iii. “If an Englishman goes to the Continent, and tries to pass himself off as a German or a Frenchman he is soon detected; and, in a similar fashion, a true Christian reveals the fact that he is an alien in this world; his ways and manners and customs are not those of the men of the world, who have their portion in this life.” (Spurgeon)
iv. If we are indeed strangers and sojourners, then it follows that:
· It is sure we have a home somewhere.
· It is not surprising that we sometimes long to get home.
· If we are strangers, then we should treat each other well.
· It should be a comfort to the Christian in death.
c. Remove Your gaze from me, that I may regain strength: Knowing that his weakness was due to the heavy hand of God upon him, David humbly asked God to look at him no longer with the eyes of correction. The psalm ends without resolution, but David appeals to and shows trust in the LORD.
i. “Yet for the moment, like Job or Jeremiah, he can see no more than death, and ask no more than respite…. The very presence of such prayers in Scripture is a witness to His understanding. He knows how men speak when they are desperate.” (Kidner)
ii. Before I go away and am no more: “Hebrew before I go, to wit, unto the grave, as this phrase is used, Genesis 15:2,25:32; or the way of all the earth, as the phrase is completed, Joshua 23:14; or whence I shall not return, as it is Job 10:21.” (Poole)
iii. “This Psalm is, with the utmost propriety, appointed by the church to be used at the burial of the dead, as a funeral is indeed the best comment upon it.” (Horne)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 38 – The Sick Sinner’s Only Hope
This psalm is titled A Psalm of David. To bring to remembrance. “Since with God to remember is to act, this word speaks of laying before Him a situation that cries out for His help.” (Derek Kidner)
It is a song full of pain and dark with guilt, as David felt the sore effects (seemingly both physical and spiritual) of his sin. Commentators guess at the occasion of this in David’s life, but there is no certain link to a specific time or event.
“The same title is given to Psalm 70, where in like manner the Psalmist pours out his complaint before the Lord.” (Charles Spurgeon)
This is one of those noted as the penitential psalms, along with Psalm 6, Psalm 32, Psalm 51, Psalm 102, Psalm 130, and Psalm 143.
A. The depth of David’s trouble.
1. (1-2) Pierced by God’s displeasure.
O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your wrath,
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure!
For Your arrows pierce me deeply,
And Your hand presses me down.
a. Do not rebuke me in Your wrath: Under a sense of God’s deep displeasure, David cried out to God. He followed a wise path, drawing near to the LORD though he sensed both God’s wrath and displeasure.
i. “The anger of others I can bear, but not thine. As thy love is most sweet to my heart, so thy displeasure is most cutting to my conscience.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The petition here preferred, as in the sixth Psalm, is, that Jehovah would not condemn as a judge, but chasten as a father, for the amendment and preservation of the offender.” (Horne)
b. Your arrows pierce me deeply, and Your hand presses me down: David used poetic pictures to describe how deeply he sensed the displeasure of God.
i. Your arrows pierce me: “This no doubt, refers to the acute pains which he endured; each appearing to his feeling as if an arrow were shot into his body.” (Clarke)
c. Your hand presses me down: We read of the deep distress and agony of David in the psalm and recognize that it was because of his own sin (as will be described). We then understand that on the cross Jesus was made the target of the same agony, but for our sins, not for His own. This hand pressed down upon Jesus, and in a greater way than David ever knew.
i. “The holy Jesus, at the time of his passion, received these arrows, and sustained this weight, for the sins of the whole world.” (Horne)
ii. Understanding the agony helps us to understand something of the greatness of the love that sent Him to the cross – for us.
2. (3-5) Overwhelmed by iniquity.
There is no soundness in my flesh
Because of Your anger,
Nor any health in my bones
Because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
My wounds are foul and festering
Because of my foolishness.
a. There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger: David not only sensed God’s displeasure spiritually, but also physically. This may have been because the chastening hand of God was evident in some kind of illness or injury, or it may have been because of the physical toll of stress in a season of deep spiritual depression.
i. “That David describes a natural disease here cannot reasonably be doubted; but what that disease was, who shall attempt to say? However, this is evident, that whatever it was, he most deeply deplored the cause of it; and as he worthily lamented it, so he found mercy at the hand of God.” (Clarke)
b. Nor any health in my bones because of my sin: David recognized the hand of God in his misery, but he did not think it was without cause. He knew that it was because of his sin, his iniquities, and his foolishness. David was miserable, but not a victim in the commonly understood sense – because his sins were the cause of the crisis.
i. “‘Thine anger…my sin.’ I, alas! am as an anvil under two hammers; one of thine anger, another of my sin; both of them beating incessantly upon me.” (Baker, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. Because of my sin: “For although David confesses that he is being judged for his sin – God has made this clear to him – he is nevertheless glorifying God in the way he deals with it. Primarily, he is not faulting God.” (Boice)
c. Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me: David felt oppressed under the weight of his sins. He hoped that an honest and heartfelt telling of his misery would move God’s compassion.
i. My wounds are foul and festering: “Sin is the wound of the soul, which must be washed with the tears of repentance, cleansed by the blood of Christ, and healed by the Spirit of the Holy One.” (Horne)
ii. “Am I addressing any, who think they are not saved because they have not known such terrors as some others have experienced? Let me remind you, dear friends, that there are many of the true children of God who have never known these horrors…. These horrors and terrors are not essential to salvation, or else they would have been commanded.” (Spurgeon)
3. (6-8) David’s trouble and turmoil.
I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly;
I go mourning all the day long.
For my loins are full of inflammation,
And there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and severely broken;
I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.
a. I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly: The pain of David’s sin affected him in almost every way. He described a severe depression and melancholy as well as specific bodily afflictions (full of inflammation…no soundness in my flesh). He was weak and severely broken.
i. “No fastidiousness keeps the psalmist from describing offensive details.” (Maclaren)
ii. Loins are full of inflammation: Barnes suggested that this might refer to a problem with the kidneys, such as painful kidney stones. “The word here used, according to Gesenius, properly denotes the internal muscles of the loins near the kidneys.” (Barnes, cited in Spurgeon)
iii. Bowed down greatly: “As the body by pain, so the soul by guilt, is ‘distorted’ from its original uprightness; it is ‘bowed down’ to the earth, through shame and fear.” (Horne)
b. I groan because of the turmoil of my heart: David was known as the sweet psalmist of Israel (2 Samuel 23:1). Yet with great honesty, he could also groan before God and man, composing a bitter psalm describing his misery in the strongest of terms.
i. I groan: The King James Version may follow the Hebrew more accurately by translating, I have roared. “When our prayers appear to be rather animal than spiritual, they are none the less prevalent with the…Father of mercy.” (Spurgeon)
5. (9-10) Hiding nothing in his misery.
Lord, all my desire is before You;
And my sighing is not hidden from You.
My heart pants, my strength fails me;
As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.
a. Lord, all my desire is before You: Speaking to God as his master (Lord, Adonai), David appealed to God with complete transparency. His misery was not hidden from God or from any who would hear this psalm.
i. Our instinct is to follow the pattern of Adam and Eve and hide our sin and hide from God. David here is an example of the kind of unconcealed communication that is important for the one who truly desires God.
ii. All my desire: “Intense groaning desires towards God are in themselves works of grace.” (Spurgeon)
b. As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me: David felt so low that life and light were leaving him.
i. My heart pants: “The heart’s action is described by a rare word, which in its root means to go round and round, and is here in an intensive form expressive of violent motion.” (Maclaren)
6. (11-14) Forsaken by friends, hunted by enemies.
My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague,
And my relatives stand afar off.
Those also who seek my life lay snares for me;
Those who seek my hurt speak of destruction,
And plan deception all the day long.
But I, like a deaf man, do not hear;
And I am like a mute who does not open his mouth.
Thus I am like a man who does not hear,
And in whose mouth is no response.
a. My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague: David’s misery was unrelieved by either friends or relatives. His loved ones either did not care or could not help David.
i. “Relief may come in the form of the little pleasures of life and in the moments of shared experiences with friends, but the psalmist had none of these.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “The word plague is perhaps chosen for its associations with leprosy (e.g., four times in Leviticus 13:3, Hebrew), for this is how his friends were treating David.” (Kidner)
b. Those also who seek my life lay snares for me: David endured worse than the lack of support from friends and relatives. He also faced determined enemies who constantly plotted his destruction.
c. I am like a man who does not hear: David was so depressed and afflicted that he felt powerless to respond to these attacks. His inability to defend himself meant that he needed God more than ever.
i. In whose mouth is no response: “Like David, when he let Shimei shriek his curses at him from the hillside and answered not [2 Samuel 16:5-14], the psalmist is deaf and silent to malicious tongues. He will speak to God, but to man he is silent, in utter submission of will.” (Maclaren)
ii. “David was bravely silent, and herein was eminently typical of our Lord Jesus, whose marvellous silence before Pilate was far more eloquent than words.” (Spurgeon)
B. The glimmer of hope in the LORD.
1. (15-16) Hope in the God who will hear.
For in You, O LORD, I hope;
You will hear, O Lord my God.
For I said, “Hear me, lest they rejoice over me,
Lest, when my foot slips, they exalt themselves against me.”
a. For in You, O LORD, I hope: Despite his spiritual depression, David clung to hope in the LORD. Though he did not feel it, in faith he said, You will hear. David chose to allow his affliction to press him toward God instead of away from the God who was his only hope.
b. LORD…Lord…God: Psalm 38:15 is an example of the use of the three Hebrew words most commonly used to refer to God in one verse.
· LORD, translated from Yahweh, referring to the covenant God of Israel.
· Lord, translated from Adonai, referring to God as Master or person of respect.
· God, translated from Elohim, the plural of the word for God in the generic sense.
c. Hear me, lest they rejoice over me: David appealed to God not only because he was miserable, but also because he did not want his adversaries to rejoice over him.
2. (17-20) Ready to fall before strong enemies.
For I am ready to fall,
And my sorrow is continually before me.
For I will declare my iniquity;
I will be in anguish over my sin.
But my enemies are vigorous, and they are strong;
And those who hate me wrongfully have multiplied.
Those also who render evil for good,
They are my adversaries, because I follow what is good.
a. For I will declare my iniquity: David again thought about his own sin that was the cause of his misery. In many other psalms David declared his innocence, especially in comparison to his enemies – but not in this psalm. This psalm came out of David’s anguish over his sin.
i. “To be sorry for sin is no atonement for it, but it is the right spirit in which to [turn] to Jesus, who is the reconciliation and the Saviour.” (Spurgeon)
b. My enemies are vigorous, and they are strong: David appealed to God for help in light of the energy and strength of his enemies, and because they were against him for no good reason (I follow what is good).
i. They are my adversaries: The Hebrew word translated adversaries is the root for the title Satan. “They Satanically hate me, as if they were transformed into so many breathing devils.” (Trapp)
3. (21-22) The urgent plea unto God.
Do not forsake me, O LORD;
O my God, be not far from me!
Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!
a. Do not forsake me, O LORD: The psalm closes without eloquence, only with a heartfelt cry. More than anything, David wanted the sense of God’s presence (be not far from me). It is likely that the absence of that sense was David’s greatest trial in this dark season.
i. “Whoever carefully reads over this psalm will see what a grievous and bitter thing it is to sin against the Lord, and especially to sin after having known his mercy, and after having escaped from the corruption that is in the world. Reader, be on thy guard; a life of righteousness may be lost by giving way to a moment’s temptation, and a fair character sullied for ever!” (Clarke)
b. Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation: David pressed his need before God with urgency and looked to the LORD as his only salvation. The psalm ends without a change in circumstances but with continued faith in God.
i. In these last two verses, David again used the three most common Hebrew references to Deity. “The God he knew by name (Yahweh, 21a) and by covenant (my God), and as Master and Saviour (22b).” (Kidner)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 37 – Wisdom Over Worry
This psalm is simply titled A Psalm of David. Psalm 37:25 tells us that it is David in his older years, giving wisdom in the pattern of a song. This psalm is roughly acrostic in arrangement, with the lines arranged with Hebrew sentences that begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In style this is a wisdom psalm, directed not to God but to man, teaching after the manner of the Book of Proverbs.
A. Counsel for the afflicted people of God.
1. (1-2) Don’t worry about the ungodly.
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.
a. Do not fret because of evildoers: It is a common thing for the righteous to fret or be envious of the wicked. Asaph was bothered by this problem in Psalm 73, wondering why the wicked often experienced so much prosperity.
i. “The words ‘do not fret’ literally mean ‘do not get heated,’ which is also how we might express it. Or we might say, ‘Don’t get all worked up.’ Or even, ‘Be cool.’” (Boice)
ii. “To fret is to worry, to have the heart-burn, to fume, to become vexed. Nature is very apt to kindle a fire of jealousy when it sees law-breakers riding on horses, and obedient subjects walking in the mire.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Morgan wrote of this worry, this fret: “It is wrong; it is harmful; it is needless. Let the trusting wait. Events will justify the action.”
iv. “It is as foolish as it is wicked to repine or be envious at the prosperity of others. Whether they are godly or ungodly, it is God who is the dispenser of the bounty they enjoy; and, most assuredly, he has a right to do what he will with his own. To be envious in such a case, is to arraign the providence of God.” (Clarke)
b. They shall soon be cut down like the grass: David gives the same answer Asaph came to in Psalm 73, understanding that any prosperity experienced by the workers of iniquity was only temporary. Grass is green for a season, and so is the herb – but they both wither quickly.
i. “In the Middle East the lush spring vegetation may lose its beauty in a few days after a hot, dry desert wind (hamsin) has parched the land.” (VanGemeren)
ii. We think of a wicked man eating a magnificent dinner while a godly man goes hungry. The wicked man eats anything and everything he wants, and his table is loaded as he enjoys his meal. Then we see the bigger picture: he eats his last meal on death row and in a moment will face terrible judgment. Now, with larger perspective, the godly man doesn’t envy or worry about the wicked man. “Evil men instead of being envied, are to be viewed with horror and aversion; yet their loaded tables, and gilded trappings, are too apt to fascinate our poor half-opened eyes.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “The test is found in Time. All the apparent prosperity of the wicked is transient; it passes and perishes, as do the wicked themselves.” (Morgan)
2. (3-4) Put your trust and delight in the LORD.
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
a. Trust in the LORD, and do good: Instead of worrying and envying, David counseled the man or woman of God to simply trust God and do good for His glory. It is remarkable how quickly we can get distracted from the simple work of trusting God and doing good. Looking at the seeming prosperity of the wicked is one way we are often distracted.
i. “Faith cures fretting. Sight is cross-eyed, and views things only as they seem, hence her envy; faith has clearer optics to behold things as they really are, hence her peace.” (Spurgeon)
b. Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness: David also counseled the man or woman of God to leave aside worry and envy by simply enjoying the blessings God gives. He provided Israel a land to enjoy, and His faithfulness was like food for them every day.
c. Delight yourself also in the LORD: David advised the man or woman of God to replace worry and envy with a conscious delight in the LORD. This means to cheer one’s heart and mind by considering and by faith receiving the multiple blessings of God.
i. Delight yourself: Several writers explain and apply this idea.
· “Expect all thy happiness from him, and seek it in him.” (Clarke)
· “It includes a deliberate redirection of one’s emotions…[such as] Paul and Silas in prison, singing as well as praying.” (Kidner)
· “We cannot delight thus without effort. We must withdraw our eager desires from the things of earth, fastening and fixing them on Him.” (Meyer)
· “In a certain sense imitate the wicked; they delight in their portion – take care to delight in yours, and so far from envying you will pity them.” (Spurgeon)
· “The reason many apparent Christians do not delight in God is that they do not know him very well, and the reason they do not know him very well is that they do not spend time with him.” (Boice)
ii. “Do not think first of the desires of thy heart, but think first of delighting thyself in thy God. If thou hast accepted him as thy Lord, he is thine; so delight in him, and then he will give thee the desires of thy heart.” (Spurgeon)
iii. We notice that David wrote delight yourself also in the LORD. The word also is important, reminding us that there are legitimate joys and pleasures in life outside the life of the spirit. The believer who truly trusts God has the capability to also find true delight in the LORD.
iv. “Again, he delights in you; I speak to such of whom this may be supposed. And it is indefinitely said, ‘His delights were with the sons of men,’ Proverbs 8:31. Think what he is, and what you are; and at once, both wonder and yield.” (Howe, cited in Spurgeon)
d. And He shall give you the desires of your heart: This is a wonderful and even safe promise. The one who truly delights in the LORD will find his heart and desires changed, steadily aligning with God’s own good desires for his life. Thus we see that finding delight in God is a key to a happy, satisfied life.
i. This shows that God intends to fulfill the heart desires of the redeemed man or woman of God. To be sure, it is possible for such desires to be clouded by sin or selfishness; yet even when so clouded there is almost always a godly root to the desire that is entirely in the will of God. The man or woman of God should find his or her rest in this, and leave aside worry and envy.
ii. “They said of Martin Luther as he walked the streets, ‘There comes a man that can have anything of God he likes.’ You ask the reason of it. Because Luther delighted himself in his God.” (Spurgeon)
iii. The principle of Psalm 37:4 is the foundation for a principle sometimes called Christian Hedonism. Normally, we think of hedonism as the idolatry of pleasure. The term Christian Hedonism has been used to describe a righteous pursuit of satisfaction and pleasure, one that is rooted in a delighted focus upon God.
iv. Most of all, it shows that when we delight ourselves in the LORD, He gives us our delight. If He is our delight, He gives us more of Himself. “Longings fixed on Him fulfill themselves.” (Maclaren)
3. (5-6) Trust God to protect and promote you.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
a. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him: Here David explained what it means to delight one’s self in the LORD, as described in the previous verse. It means to commit one’s way to Him and to truly trust in the LORD. It means to find peace, protection, and satisfaction in a surrendered focus upon God.
i. Commit your way: “The Hebrew for commit is literally ‘roll’, as though getting rid of a burden (cf. Joshua 5:9). But it comes to be used simply as a synonym for ‘entrust’ (Proverbs 16:3) or ‘trust’; cf. Psalm 22:8.” (Kidner)
b. And He shall bring it to pass: The one who has this delighted focus upon God will see Him bring these promises to pass. Fame and fortune are not promised, but the true and deep desires of the heart find their fulfillment.
i. “The more we fret in this case, the worse for us. Our strength is to sit still. The Lord will clear the slandered. If we look to his honour, he will see to ours.” (Spurgeon)
c. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light: As God fulfills these desires of heart, the righteousness of the man or woman of God is revealed, shining forth in light like the noonday sun.
i. He shall bring forth your righteousness: “To the view of the world; from which it hath hitherto seemed to be hid or eclipsed by reproaches, and by grievous calamities.” (Poole)
ii. As the light: “It shall be as visible to men as the light of the sun, and that at noon-day.” (Poole)
iii. “As God said in the beginning, ‘Let there be light, and there was light;’ so he shall say, Let thy innocence appear, and it will appear as suddenly and as evident as the light was at the beginning.” (Clarke)
4. (7-8) Find rest in the God who deals with the wicked.
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.
a. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him: Because God has promised to faithfully take care of those who put their trust in Him, we can rest in the LORD. We can wait patiently for Him instead of fretting and fearing that God has forgotten us or intends evil for us.
i. Rest in the LORD speaks of a particular kind of rest – the rest of silence, ceasing from words of self-defense. The idea is that we will not speak to vindicate ourselves; we will trust in God to protect us.
ii. “Do not murmur or repine at his dealings, but silently and quietly submit to his will, and adore his judgments, and, as follows, wait for his help.” (Poole)
iii. “If the spotless Lamb of God was silent, before those who were divesting him of his honours, and robbing him of his life, ‘silent’ resignation cannot but become one who suffers for his sins.” (Horne)
b. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret – it only causes harm: David wisely advised the man or woman of God to give up anger, wrath, and worry (fret). They accomplish nothing except harm. They are the opposite of delighting oneself in the LORD and patiently waiting upon Him.
i. Cease from anger: “Especially anger against the arrangements of Providence, and jealousies of the temporary pleasures of those who are so soon to be banished from all comfort. Anger anywhere is madness, here it is aggravated insanity.” (Spurgeon)
5. (9-11) Trust that God will punish evildoers and reward the meek.
For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the LORD,
They shall inherit the earth.
For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more.
But the meek shall inherit the earth,
And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
a. Those who wait on the LORD, they shall inherit the earth: This is another reason for our delight in and rest upon the LORD. We can trust His promise that He will take care of His own not only in this world, but in the world to come. In contrast, evildoers shall be cut off.
i. “I have frequently remarked to you that, although the wolf is very strong and fierce, and the sheep is very weak and timid, yet there are more sheep in the world than there are wolves; and the day will come when the last wolf will be dead, and then the sheep shall cover the plains and feed upon the hills. Weak as the righteous often are, they ‘shall inherit the land’ when the wicked shall have been cut off from the earth.” (Spurgeon)
b. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more: The evildoers have their day of prosperity, but it is short-lived. Soon the wicked who are the famous and praised in this world will be of no notice or standing at all (you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more).
i. “The shortness of life makes us see that the glitter of the wicked great [ones] is not true gold.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The whole duration of the world itself is but ‘a little while’ in the sight of him whose hope is full of immortality.” (Horne)
c. But the meek shall inherit the earth: For emphasis, David repeated the idea of God’s care for and reward to the meek. They, not the evildoers of this world, shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
i. “The ‘meek’ are they who bear their own adversities, and the prosperity of their enemies, without envy, anger, or complaint.” (Horne)
ii. “The context gives the best possible definition of the meek: they are those who choose the way of patient faith instead of self-assertion.” (Kidner)
iii. The meek shall inherit the earth: Jesus quoted this line in the Sermon on the Mount, in the third beatitude (Matthew 5:5). “It is right to say that Psalm 37 is an exposition of the third beatitude, even though it was written a thousand years before Jesus began his public ministry. It unfolds the character of the meek or trusting person in the face of the apparent prosperity of the wicked.” (Boice)
B. The triumph of the godly and the passing of the wicked.
1. (12-15) With a laugh, God defeats the wicked.
The wicked plots against the just,
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees that his day is coming.
The wicked have drawn the sword
And have bent their bow,
To cast down the poor and needy,
To slay those who are of upright conduct.
Their sword shall enter their own heart,
And their bows shall be broken.
a. The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth: Earlier in this psalm, David contrasted the fate of the righteous with the fate of the wicked. Now he considered the inevitable conflict between the righteous and the wicked – how, without reason, the wicked plots against the just. Their gnashing of teeth shows the depth of their anger and hatred.
i. “The wicked show by their gestures what they would do if they could; if they cannot gnaw they will gnash: if they may not bite they will at least bark.” (Spurgeon)
b. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming: For all the plotting and gnashing of teeth of the wicked, they accomplish nothing against the Lord and His people. God simply laughs at them, knowing their end.
i. “If God can laugh at the wicked, shouldn’t we be able at least to refrain from being agitated by them?” (Boice)
ii. For He sees that his day is coming: “The evil man does not see how close his destruction is upon his heels; he boasts of crushing others when the foot of justice is already uplifted to trample him as the mire of the streets.” (Spurgeon)
c. The wicked have drawn the sword and have bent their bow: The wicked plot and gnash their teeth, but they do not stop there. They work to carry out their plots and their fierce anger against God’s people. Even so, God shall protect His own and their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.
i. “Like Haman they shall be hanged upon the gallows built by themselves for Mordecai. Hundreds of times has this been the case. Saul, who sought to slay David, fell on his own sword.” (Spurgeon)
2. (16-17) God’s blessing upon the humble righteous.
A little that a righteous man has
Is better than the riches of many wicked.
For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
But the LORD upholds the righteous.
a. A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked: Since whatever the wicked has cannot last, the little that the righteous man has is better than all that the wicked possess. A God-trusting, righteous life is the best long-term investment strategy.
i. “His blessing can multiply a mite into a talent, but his curse will shrink a talent to a mite.” (Horne)
ii. “A little blest is better than a great deal curst; a little blest is better than a world enjoyed; a pound blest is better than a thousand curst; a black crust blest is better than a feast curst; the gleanings blest are better than the whole harvest curst; a drop of mercy blest is better than a sea of mercy curst.” (Brooks, cited in Spurgeon)
b. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous: The reward of the wicked is to have their own arms broken. The reward of the righteous is to be upheld by God’s own arms.
3. (18-20) The lasting good of the upright.
The LORD knows the days of the upright,
And their inheritance shall be forever.
They shall not be ashamed in the evil time,
And in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.
But the wicked shall perish;
And the enemies of the LORD,
Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish.
Into smoke they shall vanish away.
a. The LORD knows the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be forever: The apparent reward of the wicked is temporary and fleeting. The inheritance of the upright is eternal. All this is more reason to avoid worry or envy of the wicked in their seeming (yet temporary) prosperity.
i. For the LORD knows the days of the upright: “He is acquainted with all his circumstances, severings, and ability to bear them; and he will either shorten his trials or increase his power.” (Clarke)
b. In the days of famine they shall be satisfied: God can even find a way to provide for His own when others have nothing.
c. Into smoke they shall vanish away: The success, fame, and prosperity of the wicked is as temporary as smoke. It never has any real substance and soon vanishes completely.
i. Into smoke they shall vanish away: Adam Clarke noted that some ancient manuscripts render this line differently. “If we follow the Hebrew, it intimates that they shall consume as the fat of lambs. That is, as the fat is wholly consumed in sacrifices by the fire on the altar, so shall they consume away in the fire of God’s wrath.”
4. (21-22) Blessing and cursing.
The wicked borrows and does not repay,
But the righteous shows mercy and gives.
For those blessed by Him shall inherit the earth,
But those cursed by Him shall be cut off.
a. The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives: David knew that the difference between the wicked and the righteous was not only found in what they believed and in whom they trusted. The difference was also often seen in their conduct. The wicked are takers, borrowing and not repaying. The righteous are givers, full of mercy.
i. Does not repay: “May refuse to do it, because he is a wicked man; or be unable to do it, because he is reduced to beggary.” (Clarke)
b. Those blessed by Him shall inherit the earth: The promise of earth-inheritance is repeated a third time. This is a blessing for the righteous, while the wicked find themselves cursed by the LORD and cut off.
5. (23-24) God’s guidance and support for the good man.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the LORD upholds him with His hand.
a. The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: The reward for the righteous is not only in the age to come. In the present day, God guides the steps of a good man. As he seeks the LORD and delights in Him, he finds his life proves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
i. The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: “There is nothing for good in the text. Geber is the original word, and it properly signifies a strong man, a conqueror or hero; and it appears to be used here to show, that even the most powerful must be supported by the Lord, otherwise their strength and courage will be of little avail.” (Clarke)
ii. “This was emphatically true of the man Christ, whose steps Jehovah established, and in whose way he delighted.” (Horne)
b. And He delights in his way: Another great and present benefit for the righteous man or woman is the knowledge that God delights in him. This is especially clear for the believer under the New Covenant who knows and experiences a standing in grace, having been justified by faith (Romans 5:1-2).
c. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand: David described a third great benefit for the righteous man or woman who trusts in the LORD. Though he may at times fall (in the sense of stumbling), he will not fall away – that is, shall not be utterly cast down. This is not because of his own internal strength or goodness, but because the LORD upholds him.
C. Wisdom from a man after God’s heart.
1. (25-26) A testimony of God’s blessing and care for the righteous.
I have been young, and now am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Nor his descendants begging bread.
He is ever merciful, and lends;
And his descendants are blessed.
a. I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread: David gave a testimony from his own experience. He noted that God cared for those who trusted in Him and walked in His righteousness. They were not forsaken and their descendants were also blessed.
i. This was David’s testimony after many years (I have been young, and now am old). Seeing God’s faithfulness to His people, David wanted a younger generation to also trust in Him, learning from his wisdom.
ii. David knew that among his ancestors were some who left Israel, fearful in a time of famine (Ruth 1). When they returned after several disastrous years in Moab, they found the people of Bethlehem had been provided for. God knew how to take care of those who trusted in Him in times of famine, and has done so since then.
iii. One way that God provides for the righteous and their descendants is through the ethic of hard work that belongs to the redeemed, who know that all things should be done heartily, as unto the LORD – including working for a living.
b. I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread: This statement is troublesome to some, because they have seen or experienced instances where godly men or women – or their offspring – have been in famine, extreme poverty, or reduced to begging.
i. We first note that this psalm is a wisdom psalm, very much like Proverbs. In the Bible’s wisdom literature, general principles are often presented in the absolute when they are intended to be understood as general or even overwhelming principles – understanding that there can be exceptions.
ii. We also note that David simply wrote of his experience. He did not write that this was an absolute principle, but his own observation.
iii. Some, like Adam Clarke, had the same experience and observation: “I believe this to be literally true in all cases. I am now grey-headed myself; I have travelled in different countries, and have had many opportunities of seeing and conversing with religious people in all situations in life; and I have not, to my knowledge, seen one instance to the contrary. I have seen no righteous man forsaken, nor any children of the righteous begging their bread. God puts this honour upon all that fear him; and thus careful is he of them, and of their posterity.”
iv. Others, like Charles Spurgeon, did not have the same experience and observation: “It is not my observation just as it stands, for I have relieved the children of undoubtedly good men, who have appealed to me as common [beggars]. But this does not cast a doubt upon the observation of David.”
v. “And it has been my unhappy lot, within these very walls, to have to minister relief to the unworthy and reprobate sons of Christian ministers, about whose piety I could entertain no doubt, and some of whom, are now in heaven. These good men’s children have walked contrary to God, so God has walked contrary to them. I have often hoped that the poverty I saw might be the means of bringing them to seek the God of their fathers!” (Spurgeon)
vi. “With the more complex civilization in the midst of which we live, perhaps sometimes the righteous have been driven to beg, but even now such cases are surely rare, and after some varied experience I would want to subject him who begs to somewhat severe cross-examination before accepting his testimony against the psalmist.” (Morgan)
c. He is ever merciful, and lends: In times of scarcity, the righteous one not only receives God’s provision, but with a generous and merciful heart he lends to others in need.
i. “How stingy, covetous professors can hope for salvation is a marvel to those who read such verses as this in the Bible.” (Spurgeon)
2. (27-29) The promised reward for obedience.
Depart from evil, and do good;
And dwell forevermore.
For the LORD loves justice,
And does not forsake His saints;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.
The righteous shall inherit the land,
And dwell in it forever.
a. Depart from evil, and do good: The righteous man or woman trusts in God, but also receives and values moral instruction. God’s care for him does not make him careless, but careful in pleasing Him.
i. This line also speaks to the righteous man or woman in the heat of difficulty. “A conflict with evil too often tempts one to fight the enemy with his own weapons.” (Kidner)
ii. “Having therefore these glorious promises and privileges, let no man do any evil or unjust thing to enrich or secure himself, nor abstain from pious and charitable actions for fear of undoing himself by them.” (Poole)
b. For the LORD loves justice, and does not forsake His saints: Since God loves justice, so should His people. He is faithful to them and does not forsake them, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.
i. The descendants of the wicked shall be cut off: “The children who follow the wicked steps of wicked parents shall, like their parents, be cut off. God’s judgments descend to posterity, as well as his mercies.” (Clarke)
c. The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell in it forever: Once again in this psalm, David described the blessing appointed to the righteous in the coming age. They would find a secure place and inheritance in the world to come.
i. The saints shall one day have power over all things; and meanwhile they are sure of a sufficiency, if not a superfluity.” (Trapp)
3. (30-31) The character of God’s righteous one.
The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom,
And his tongue talks of justice.
The law of his God is in his heart;
None of his steps shall slide.
a. The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom: David again turns to the conduct of God’s righteous man or woman, noted for their wise and just words.
b. The law of his God is in his heart: The righteous man (or woman) is also noted by his possession of and love for the word of God. In a way that would be truly fulfilled by the New Covenant, he has the word of God in his heart (Jeremiah 31:33). Because of this knowledge of and reliance upon God’s word, none of his steps shall slide.
i. “He hath a Bible in his head and another in his heart.” (Trapp)
4. (32-33) The character and the response of the wicked.
The wicked watches the righteous,
And seeks to slay him.
The LORD will not leave him in his hand,
Nor condemn him when he is judged.
a. The wicked watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him: In considering the remarkable blessings God has appointed to the righteous, David did not think it meant life would be easy. One danger continually faced was from the wicked who hated the righteous without cause.
i. “There want not those still that carry about Cain’s bloody club, hating to the death that goodness in another that they neglect in themselves.” (Trapp)
b. The LORD will not leave him in his hand: Thankfully, the righteous man or woman is not at the mercy of the wicked. God will protect him, particularly in the ultimate judgment (nor condemn him when he is judged).
i. “And the day is coming, when he who hath stood tamely at the bar of men, and hath suffered for truth and righteousness, shall be advanced to a throne among the saints and martyrs, to assist at the trial of his once-insulting judges.” (Horne)
5. (34-36) An exhortation to trust, based on testimony.
Wait on the LORD,
And keep His way,
And He shall exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it.
I have seen the wicked in great power,
And spreading himself like a native green tree.
Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found.
a. Wait on the LORD, and keep His way, and He shall exalt you to inherit the land: For the fifth time in this psalm, David promised the people of God that they would inherit the land. As king of Israel, David had a concern for their territory, but he could also extend that thought to the age to come. God’s people have their place, even a land of some sort in the coming age.
I, Wait on the LORD: “Wait in obedience as a servant, in hope as an heir, in expectation as a believer.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Wait on the LORD, and keep His way: “While we are waiting let us take heed of wavering.” (Watson, cited in Spurgeon)
b. When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it: For the fifth time in this psalm, David promised that the wicked would be cut off or cut down in some sense. Their coming doom was just as certain as the coming blessing and security of the righteous.
i. David used a green tree as a picture of the wicked in their prosperity. Psalm 1 uses a flourishing tree as a picture of the righteous. “Here it is used in reverse, the wicked being compared to a green tree which flourishes for a time but soon passes away and is seen no more.” (Boice)
c. I have seen the wicked in great power: David once again relied on his personal experience and testimony. He had seen wicked people rise to great security and success, only to have passed away and to have become no more.
i. Behold, he was no more: “What clean sweeps death makes! To the surprise of all men the great man was gone, his estates sold, his business bankrupt, his house alienated, his name forgotten, and all in a few months!” (Spurgeon)
6. (37-38) An invitation to gain the same testimony.
Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright;
For the future of that man is peace.
But the transgressors shall be destroyed together;
The future of the wicked shall be cut off.
a. Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright: The righteous men and women of this world get little attention. The culture is more interested in the godless and the wicked. Yet David counseled us to notice the blameless and the upright of this world, because the future of that man is peace.
b. The future of the wicked shall be cut off: For the sixth and final time in this psalm, David reminds us that the future of the wicked is no future to be desired.
i. “There is nothing unworthy in solemn thankfulness when God’s judgments break the teeth of some devouring lion.” (Maclaren)
7. (39-40) The reliable help and deliverance of the LORD.
But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
He is their strength in the time of trouble.
And the LORD shall help them and deliver them;
He shall deliver them from the wicked,
And save them,
Because they trust in Him.
a. The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD: This is a helpful thought at the end of this psalm. In David’s praise and encouragement of righteous men or women, it is possible that one might think those ones are saved by their own righteousness. David reminds us that their salvation is from the LORD, and that He is their strength in the time of trouble.
i. He is their strength in the time of trouble: “While trouble overthrows the wicked, it only drives the righteous to their strong Helper, who rejoices to uphold them.” (Spurgeon)
b. He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him: David brings the thought back to the fundamental trust that the righteous have in God. Their place in Him is secured in their trusting love of the LORD.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 36 – Mercy to the Heavens
This psalm is titled To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD. Only Psalm 18 also uses the phrase the servant of the LORD in the title, and John Trapp observed that Psalm 18 comes from David’s old age, and Psalm 36 comes from a younger David. From youth to old age, he was David the servant of the LORD and “He took more pleasure in the names of duty than of dignity.” (John Trapp)
A. A contrast between the wicked man and the righteous God.
1. (1-4) The wicked man.
An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
For he flatters himself in his own eyes,
When he finds out his iniquity and when he hates.
The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit;
He has ceased to be wise and to do good.
He devises wickedness on his bed;
He sets himself in a way that is not good;
He does not abhor evil.
a. An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: The sense in the original is that this is literally an oracle of transgression, as if David were divinely taught by the sins of others.
i. The same Hebrew word (neum) is used in many places describing an utterance from God (such as in the phrase says the LORD in Genesis 22:16 and Numbers 14:28). It is used to describe an oracle of David in 2 Samuel 23:1 (thus says David the son of Jesse). The use in Psalm 36:1 is interesting: it is “thus says transgression” or an oracle of transgression.
ii. “Men’s sins have a voice to godly ears. They are the outer index of an inner evil.” (Spurgeon)
iii. There is a secondary way to understand this: that the oracle of transgression is that which speaks in the heart of the sinner himself. “We have then a bold personification of ‘Transgression’ as speaking in the secret heart of the wicked, as in some dark cave, such as heathen oracle-mongers haunted…. This is the account of how men come to do evil: that there is a voice within whispering falsehood.” (Maclaren)
b. There is no fear of God before his eyes: This may be obvious but is often forgotten. The foundation of the wicked man’s character and deeds is a lack of the fear of God. He does not respect or reverence God as he should.
i. “It is likely that Paul had this psalm in mind as he composed the opening chapters of his great letter, since he quotes verse 1 in Romans 3:18.” (Boice)
ii. “The description of the evil man is graphic. He has by some means persuaded himself that God does not interfere with men. Consequently he has no fear of God, enthrones himself at the centre of his own being, and goes in the way of wickedness in thought and in action.” (Morgan)
c. He flatters himself in his own eyes: The wicked man lowers his estimation of God and raises his estimation of himself. He thinks of himself much more highly than he should both in regard to his sins (his iniquity) and his prejudices (hates).
i. The essence of flattery is found in words that say one is better than he or she actually is. We usually think of flattery as coming from others, but we are entirely able to tell ourselves that we are better than we actually are.
ii. Matthew Poole described several ways one may flatter oneself in regard to sin:
· That his sins “are not sins, which a mind bribed by passion and interest can easily believe.”
· That his sins “are but small and venial sins.”
· That his sins “will be excused, if not justified by honest intentions, or by outward professions and exercise of religion, or by some good actions, wherewith he thinks to make some compensation for them or some other way.”
iii. “He had not God before his eyes in holy awe, therefore he puts himself there in unholy admiration. He who makes little of God makes much of himself. They who forget adoration fall into adulation. The eyes must see something, and if they admire not God they will flatter self.” (Spurgeon)
iv. When he finds out his iniquity: “He vainly thinks his crimes may be concealed, or disguised, till a discovery breaks the charm, and disperses the delusion.” (Horne)
v. “Until God by some dreadful judgment undeceive him.” (Poole)
vi. He flatters himself when the sin is discovered. “To smooth over one’s own conduct to one’s conscience (which is the meaning of the Hebrew) is to smooth one’s own path to hell.” (Spurgeon)
d. He has ceased to be wise and to do good: The character of the wicked man is shown in his words (which are wickedness and deceit), in his plans (he devises wickedness), in his habits (sets himself in a way that is not good), and in his attractions (he does not abhor evil).
i. Iniquity and deceit: “This pair of hell dogs generally hunt together, and what one does not catch the other will; if iniquity cannot win by oppression, deceit will gain by chicanery.” (Spurgeon)
ii. He devises wickedness on his bed: “Which notes that he doth it, 1. Constantly and unweariedly, preferring it before his own rest. 2. Earnestly and seriously, when his mind is freed from all outward distractions, and wholly at leisure to attend that business about which it is employed, compare Psalm 4:4. 3. Freely, from his own inclination, when none are present to provoke him to it.” (Poole)
iii. “The evil person is not merely drifting into evil ways. He is inventing ways to do it, in contrast to the godly who spent the wakeful hours of the night meditating on God and his commandments [as in Psalm 1:2 and 63:6].” (Boice)
iv. On his bed…in a way: “The phrase ‘on his bed’ is parallel with ‘on the way’. The ungodly considers evil both in his lying down and in his walking.” (VanGemeren)
v. He sets himself in a way that is not good: “And there meaneth to keep him, as the word importeth; set he is, and he will not be removed, being every whit as good as ever he meaneth to be.” (Trapp)
vi. He does not abhor evil: “So far from having a contempt and abhorrence for evil, he even rejoices in it, and patronises it. He never hates a wrong thing because it is wrong, but he meditates on it, defends it, and practises it.” (Spurgeon)
vii. Sin is found in what we don’t do as well as in what we do. “A striking note in this description is the prominence of negative sins among the positive ones: viz. ceased…not good…spurns not.” (Kidner)
2. (5-6) The good and righteous God.
Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the great mountains;
Your judgments are a great deep;
O LORD, You preserve man and beast.
a. Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens: We sense that David has thought long enough about the wicked man. Now he turns to the great mercy and faithfulness of Yahweh (the LORD), the covenant God of Israel.
i. The translation of mercy here is inconsistent, for the same Hebrew word hesed is translated as lovingkindness in both Psalm 36:7 and 36:10. This wonderful word speaks of God’s love and mercy, especially to His covenant people.
ii. “The most important of the attributes from the perspective of this psalm is hesed, usually translated ‘unfailing love’ or ‘lovingkindness.’” (Boice)
iii. “One can easily imagine that the psalm was written on some natural height from which the singer looked out on a far-stretching scene in which he saw symbols of truth concerning his God. Note the sweep of vision: the heavens, the skies or clouds, the mountains, the great deep, the river, and over all, the light.” (Morgan)
iv. Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens: “Like the ethereal blue, it encompasses the whole earth, smiling upon universal nature, acting as a canopy for all the creatures of earth, surmounting the loftiest peaks of human provocations, and rising high above the mists of mortal transgression.” (Spurgeon)
b. Mercy…faithfulness…righteousness…judgments: David can only describe these attributes of God with the biggest things he can think of – the heavens, the clouds that fill the sky, the great mountains, and the great deep of the sea.
i. Reaches to the clouds: Hebrew, “ad shechakim, to the eternal regions; above all visible space.” (Clarke)
ii. Great mountains: In Hebrew, “mountains of God…. David, that is, after the manner of the Hebrew tongue, which, when it would magnify anything, addeth the name of God.” (Trapp)
c. O LORD, You preserve man and beast: The goodness of God is shown in the way He cares for His creatures. The ecosystem of His creation has enough to provide for the needs of those He has created, both man and beast.
B. Looking to the God of mercy for help against wicked men.
1. (7-9) Thanks for the goodness of God toward His people.
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.
They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.
a. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God: Considering the care of God for His people and His creation, David felt the mercy of God to be a precious and personal thing.
i. “The word precious establishes at once the change of scale from the immense to the intimate and personal.” (Kidner)
ii. The repeated use of the word lovingkindness is instructive. It “needs both emphases: that of verse 5 as too great to grasp, and of verse 7 as too good to let slip.” (Kidner)
b. Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings: The merciful God is a place of rest and protection for the people of God. God invites all among the children of men to find this refuge of trust in Him.
i. There are two main ways that commentators understand the figure shadow of Your wings. Some take it to mean the wings of the cherubim represented in His tabernacle and the later temple. Cherubim wings were depicted on the lid of the ark of the covenant, which was the representation of God’s throne. Others take it in the sense that a hen covers her young chicks under her wings to protect, hide, and shelter them.
ii. “These…are the two wings of the Divine goodness, under which the children of men take refuge. The allusion may be to the wings of the cherubim, above the mercy-seat.” (Clarke)
iii. “As chickens in a storm, or when the puttock threateneth, hover and cover under the hen.” (Trapp)
iv. “The picture of taking refuge in the shadow of thy wings was used of Ruth by Boaz (Ruth 2:12), and of Jerusalem by Jesus (Matthew 23:37); it shows an aspect of salvation which is as humbling as it is reassuring.” (Kidner)
c. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house: God cares for and protects those who trust in Him as a gracious and honorable host would for anyone in his house. The fullness of God’s house is enough to satisfy anyone, offering a virtual river of…pleasures in Him.
i. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house: The word fullness here is literally fatness, and its use is suggestive. “The fattest is esteemed the fairest and the most excellent food; therefore the saint was enjoined to offer the fat in sacrifice under the law. As God expects the best from us, so he gives the best to us.” (Swinnock, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. The fullness of Your house: Spurgeon cited a story by Arnot regarding a man who moved his family to a much larger and better equipped home. His young son kept running through the house yelling, “Is this ours, father? And is this ours?” Arnot observed: “The child did not say [Is this] ‘yours;’ and I observed that the father while he told the story was not offended with the freedom. You could read in his glistening eye that the infant’s confidence in appropriating as his own all that his father had, was an important element in his satisfaction.” This will be one of our great joys in heaven when we come to our Father’s house. With unmeasured satisfaction we will have the right to roam heaven and say, “Is this ours? And is this ours?” and say it unto eternity.
iii. The river of Your pleasures: “Union with Him is the source of all delight, as of all true fruition of desires. Possibly a reference to Eden may be intended in the selection of the word for ‘pleasures,’ which is a cognate with that name.” (Maclaren)
iv. The river of Your pleasures: “Some drops from the celestial cup are sufficient, for a time, to make us forget our sorrows, even while we are in the midst of them. What then may we not expect from full draughts of those pleasures which are at thy right hand, O Lord, for evermore?” (Horne)
v. “Augustine tells us that one day, when he was about to write something upon the eighth verse of the thirty-sixth Psalm, ‘Thou shalt make them drink of the rivers of thy pleasures,’ and being almost swallowed up with the contemplation of heavenly joys.” (Brooks, cited in Spurgeon)
vi. “The psalmist’s conception of religion is essentially joyful. No doubt there are sources of sadness peculiar to a religious man, and he is necessarily shut out from much of the effervescent poison of earthly joys drugged with sin. Much in his life is inevitably grave, stern, and sad. But the sources of joy opened are far deeper than those that are closed.” (Maclaren)
d. With You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light: The satisfaction and pleasures found in God are connected to life and light. They heal and build, giving life; they are full of the light of truth and goodness.
i. A fountain speaks of “1. Causality. It is in God as in a fountain, and from him is derived to us. 2. Abundance. 3. Excellency. Water is sweetest in the fountain.” (Poole)
ii. “Of all the abundant and varying life, He is the Source or Fountain, and the sunshine of His face is the light on everything.” (Morgan)
iii. In Your light we see light: “‘Tis but a kind of dim twilight comparatively, which we enjoy here in this world. While we are hid in this prison-house we can see but little; but our Father’s house above is full of light.” (Cruso, cited in Spurgeon)
iv. In Your light we see light is similar in thought to what John wrote in the opening words of his Gospel: Jesus was the true Light which gives light to every man (John 1:9). “It is hard to doubt that John was thinking of Psalm 36:9 as he composed the prelude.” (Boice)
2. (10-12) Prayer for continued blessing and protection.
Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You,
And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
Let not the foot of pride come against me,
And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.
There the workers of iniquity have fallen;
They have been cast down and are not able to rise.
a. Continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You: Having received the good mercy and righteousness of God, David rightly prays that it would continue for himself and all those who know God in right relationship.
i. Continue Your lovingkindness: “The Hebrew is, draw forth, or draw out thy lovingkindness: a metaphor either taken from vessels of wine, which being set abroach once, yield not only one cup, but many cups; so when God setteth abroach the wine of his mercy, he will not fill your cup once, but twice and seven times.” (Greenhill, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. “Learn from this verse, that although a continuance of mercy is guaranteed in the covenant, we are yet to make it a matter of prayer.” (Spurgeon)
iii. We note the parallelism between those who know You and the upright in heart. David naturally thought that those who genuinely knew God would be upright in heart.
b. Let not the foot of pride come against me: David earlier praised God as the one who protects and blesses His people (Psalm 36:7). Now David prayed that God would fulfill this aspect of His character, protecting His servant against both the foot and the hand of the wicked.
c. There the workers of iniquity have fallen: David considered the end of the wicked men that he thought of at the beginning of this psalm. They are fallen, and so much so that they are not able to rise. Unlike the righteous who may fall seven times yet rise up again (Proverbs 24:16), the workers of iniquity remain in the dust as God protects His servants.
i. “From his serene shelter under the wing, the suppliant looks out on the rout of baffled foes, and sees the end which gives the lie to the oracle of transgression and its flatteries. ‘They are struck down,’ the same word as in the picture of the pursuing angel of the Lord in Psalm 35.” (Maclaren)
ii. There is some emphasis on the word there in this phrase. Some think it refers to the pride mentioned in the previous verse, and others to the place where the workers of iniquity practiced their sin.
iii. “THERE, has been applied by many of the fathers to the pride spoken of in the preceding verse. There, in or by pride, says Augustine, do all sinners perish.” (Clarke)
iv. “There, where they come against me, and hope to ruin me. He seems as it were to point to the place with his finger.” (Poole)
v. “There, where they plotted or practised the downfall of the righteous; as Henry III of France was stabbed in the same chamber where he and others had contrived the Parisian massacre.” (Trapp)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 35 – “Awake to My Vindication”
This psalm is simply titled A Psalm of David. This is one of what are commonly known as the Imprecatory Psalms, which in strong terms ask God to defeat and destroy the enemies of His people. As you read through the book of Psalms, the Imprecatory Psalms become more intense. Psalm 7 is perhaps the mildest, while some count at least 30 curses in Psalm 109.
It is difficult to assign this psalm to any particular period of David’s life. However, the phrasing of Psalm 35:1a is similar to what David said to Saul in 1 Samuel 24:15, so it may be linked to the period of David’s life when Saul pursued him.
A. David and his adversaries.
1. (1-3) David pleads to God for defense.
Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me;
Fight against those who fight against me.
Take hold of shield and buckler,
And stand up for my help.
Also draw out the spear,
And stop those who pursue me.
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation.”
a. Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me: Many adversaries fought against David, and many were the times he prayed, “Fight against those who fight against me.” He could rightly pray this prayer because he generally lived in God’s will, and those who fought against him were opposed to God.
i. “The prayer in verse 1a uses the same word and metaphor as David does with his remonstrance with Saul (1 Samuel 24:15).” (Maclaren)
ii. “The verb ‘contend’ [strive] is a legal term, frequently used among the prophets.” (VanGemeren)
iii. “More literally, litigate, O Lord, with them that litigate against me, contend against them that contend with me.” (Cresswell, cited in Spurgeon)
iv. “Every saint of God shall have this privilege: the accuser of the brethren shall be met by the Advocate of the saints.” (Spurgeon)
b. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help: With vivid images David called upon God to put on His armor and fight on David’s behalf.
i. We often don’t think of God having armor, but He does. Isaiah 59:17 says of the LORD: For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.
ii. “The Lord is likened to a warrior who contends on behalf of his own. He comes with a small shield (magen) and a ‘buckler’ (sinnah, a large, possibly rectangular shield often carried by a shield-bearer; cf. 1 Samuel 17:7, 41), together with a ‘spear and javelin.’” (VanGemeren)
c. Also draw out the spear: A shield and a buckler are primarily defensive weapons, but David also called upon God to be on the offense for him. As David found protection behind God’s shield and buckler, he also asked God to keep his enemies at a distance with a spear.
i. “This armed Jehovah, grasping shield and drawing spear, utters no battle shout, but whispers consolation to the trembling man crouching behind his shield. The outward side of Divine activity, turned to the foe, is martial and menacing; the inner side is full of tender, secret breathings of comfort and love.” (Maclaren)
ii. “Before the enemy comes to close quarters the Lord can push them off as with a long spear.” (Spurgeon)
d. Say to my soul, “I am your salvation”: David needed to hear it again and again in his soul – that God was his salvation, and no one else. David was not his own salvation; God reminded his soul, “I am your salvation.”
i. “So trying were the circumstances, so poignant the pain, that he was at least in danger of losing his assurance in God. Hence the plea that God would give him the inward sense of certainty: ‘Say unto my soul – I am thy salvation.’ It was a request for the renewing or strengthening of the inner communion with God, which is ever the secret of strength in days of turmoil and sorrow.” (Morgan)
ii. “Brethren, there is nothing that can make you strong to labor for God, bold to fight against your enemies, and mighty to resist your temptations, like a full assurance that God is your God, and your sure salvation.” (Spurgeon)
iii. This statement suggests many aspects of David’s assurance.
· David had his doubts.
· David was not content when he had his doubts.
· David knew where to obtain full assurance.
· David’s assurance had a divine source.
· David’s assurance was deep and personal.
· David’s assurance was present, not future.
2. (4-8) David prays for the destruction of his enemies.
Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor
Who seek after my life;
Let those be turned back and brought to confusion
Who plot my hurt.
Let them be like chaff before the wind,
And let the angel of the LORD chase them.
Let their way be dark and slippery,
And let the angel of the LORD pursue them.
For without cause they have hidden their net for me in a pit,
Which they have dug without cause for my life.
Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly,
And let his net that he has hidden catch himself;
Into that very destruction let him fall.
a. Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor who seek after my life: David asked God to not only protect him, but also to vindicate him. He wanted it to be seen and known that he really did serve and obey God, and that those who opposed him were made like chaff before the wind.
i. “Viewing sinners as men, we love them and seek their good, but regarding them as enemies of God, we cannot think of them with anything but detestation, and a loyal desire for the confusion of their devices. No loyal subject can wish well to rebels. Squeamish sentimentality may object to the strong language here used, but in their hearts all good men wish confusion to mischief-makers.” (Spurgeon)
b. Let the angel of the LORD chase them: For emphasis, David prayed twice for the intervention of God’s special messenger, the angel of the LORD.
i. Knowingly or not, David called upon God the Son for His help. “In my judgment this figure was a preincarnate manifestation of the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, which is why he is regularly called ‘the LORD.’” (Boice)
ii. “The angel of the Lord is either our salvation or our doom; cf. Exodus 23:20-22.” (Kidner)
iii. “Chaff driven before the wind may rest against a wall; but where shall they rest who are chased by an angel?” (Trapp)
c. Without cause they have hidden their net for me in a pit: For emphasis, twice David asked God to note that his enemies came against him without cause.
i. It’s easy to be too confident in one’s own blamelessness, and many have repeated the sense of David’s prayer without being blameless. Nevertheless David could rightly pray that those who came against him did so without cause.
ii. “Without cause, twice here, and again in 19, touches the very nerve of David’s pain…. The psalms make us specially sensitive to the hurt of injustice.” (Kidner)
iii. “Net-making and pit-digging require time and labour, and both of these the wicked will expend cheerfully if they may but overthrow the people of God.” (Spurgeon)
d. Let his net that he has hidden catch himself: David prayed that the guilty one would truly be caught in his own trap – and the guilty one was his adversary. David prayed that destruction would come upon his adversary unexpectedly.
i. We can pray on the same principle against our spiritual adversaries, the principalities and powers that battle against us in the spiritual realm. The devil has snares (1 Timothy 3:7, 2 Timothy 2:26) and he has strategies (2 Corinthians 2:11) set against us. We may rightly pray that the devil is caught in and by his own snares and strategies.
3. (9-10) Promised praise for anticipated deliverance.
And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD;
It shall rejoice in His salvation.
All my bones shall say,
“LORD, who is like You,
Delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him,
Yes, the poor and the needy from him who plunders him?”
a. And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: After pleading to God for deliverance and protection, David promised that his soul would be appropriately happy in the LORD.
i. “We do not triumph in the destruction of others, but in the salvation given to us of God.” (Spurgeon)
b. All my bones shall say, “LORD, who is like You”: David promised that his entire being would be given in honor to God, who delivers the poor from him who is too strong for him.
4. (11-14) David’s previous care for his adversaries.
Fierce witnesses rise up;
They ask me things that I do not know.
They reward me evil for good,
To the sorrow of my soul.
But as for me, when they were sick,
My clothing was sackcloth;
I humbled myself with fasting;
And my prayer would return to my own heart.
I paced about as though he were my friend or brother;
I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother.
a. They reward me evil for good: David remembered the dishonor of his enemies, who gave him evil when he gave them good – all to the sorrow of his soul.
i. “Causeless hatred is the lot of the good in this evil world. Their goodness is cause enough; for men’s likes and dislikes follow their moral character.” (Maclaren)
ii. They reward me evil for good: “This was never more literally true of David, than it was of the holy Jesus, when, standing before Pontius Pilate, he received no other return from the Jews, for all the gracious words which he had spoken, and all the merciful works which he had done among them, than that of being slandered, and put to death.” (Horne)
iii. To the sorrow of my soul: To be misunderstood or be made the deliberate target of false accusation is great sorrow. Smyth (cited in Spurgeon) suggested several reasons why God might allow such a sorrowful trial.
· To humble His people.
· To cause them to seek Him in urgent prayer.
· To prevent them from pursuing the very thing falsely accused of.
· To test whether His people will rely upon Him in all things.
· To teach them how to behave toward others when they are falsely accused.
· To warn them against making false accusations against others.
b. When they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: David described some of the good that he did for his enemies. He showed remarkable love and concern for them when they were sick, making their problems his own and caring for them as though they were my friend or brother.
5. (15-16) How David’s adversaries betrayed him.
But in my adversity they rejoiced
And gathered together;
Attackers gathered against me,
And I did not know it;
They tore at me and did not cease;
With ungodly mockers at feasts
They gnashed at me with their teeth.
a. But in my adversity they rejoiced: David treated these enemies well in their adversity, but they were happy in David’s time of crisis.
i. “This mobbing of one who has suddenly become vulnerable, whose goodness has put men to shame, was eagerly re-enacted at the trial of Jesus.” (Kidner)
b. Attackers gathered against me, and I did not know it: The attacks from David’s enemies were worse because they were hidden from David and came upon him as a surprise.
6. (17-18) Praise promised for prayed-for deliverance.
Lord, how long will You look on?
Rescue me from their destructions,
My precious life from the lions.
I will give You thanks in the great assembly;
I will praise You among many people.
a. Lord, how long will You look on? David spoke honestly before God, admitting that he felt God was passive and indifferent. He begged God for rescue in his distress – which was so bad he felt lions were after him.
b. I will give You thanks in the great assembly: David vowed that he would give God the glory for His deliverance and do so publically.
B. The prayer for vindication.
1. (19-22) Reasons for vindication before his enemies.
Let them not rejoice over me who are wrongfully my enemies;
Nor let them wink with the eye who hate me without a cause.
For they do not speak peace,
But they devise deceitful matters
Against the quiet ones in the land.
They also opened their mouth wide against me,
And said, “Aha, aha!
Our eyes have seen it.”
This You have seen, O LORD;
Do not keep silence.
O Lord, do not be far from me.
a. Let them not rejoice over me who are wrongfully my enemies: David continued his prayer, asking God to vindicate him before his enemies.
i. “Wink with their eye, i.e. mock me, or insult over me, as the phrase signifies, Proverbs 6:13; 10:10.” (Poole)
ii. Who hate me without a cause: “Jesus identified with those who suffer without apparent cause, because he applies the words of Psalm 35:19 (cf. Psalm 69:4) to himself (John 15:25).” (VanGemeren)
b. They devise deceitful matters against the quiet ones in the land: David prayed for vindication against his enemies because they plotted against God’s humble, simple people.
i. The German Lutheran Bible translated the phrase the quiet ones in the land as die Stillen im Lande. It later became a phrase to describe believers in Germany, especially those from the Pietistic tradition. They emphasized living a quiet, devoted life of peace before God and man, and trusting in God to defend them.
ii. “In every age God has had his quiet ones. Retired from its noise and strife, withdrawn from its ambitions and jealousies, unshaken by its alarms; because they had entered into the secret of a life hidden in God.” (Meyer)
iii. “When men rage about thee, go and tell Jesus. When storms are high, hide thee in his secret place. When others compete for fame and applause, and their passion might infect thee, get into thy closet, and shut thy door, and quiet thyself as a weaned babe.” (Meyer)
c. This You have seen, O LORD…. O Lord, do not be far from me: David continued his plea to God, using two different names for God in the Hebrew text – two different names that are often translated in English by one word.
· LORD, with small capital letters, translates the Hebrew word Yahweh – the covenant name of God.
· Lord, with regular letters, translates the Hebrew word Adonai – the ancient Hebrew word for Lord. Sometimes adonai has the sense of Sir and sometimes it has the sense of God.
i. This You have seen, O LORD: “God has seen the facts of the case, and these include not only David’s innocence, but also that he is being falsely accused and slandered.” (Boice)
ii. This You have seen, O LORD: “Thou hast seen is a perfect foil to the enemy’s cry, ‘our eyes have seen it!’” (Kidner)
2. (23-26) The plea for Divine vindication.
Stir up Yourself, and awake to my vindication,
To my cause, my God and my Lord.
Vindicate me, O LORD my God, according to Your righteousness;
And let them not rejoice over me.
Let them not say in their hearts, “Ah, so we would have it!”
Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.”
Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion
Who rejoice at my hurt;
Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
Who exalt themselves against me.
a. Stir up Yourself, and awake to my vindication: David was confident that he was on God’s side in his contention with his enemies, yet he longed for God to actively vindicate him. It seemed that God was too passive, so David cried out for Him to stir up Yourself and to awake on David’s behalf.
b. My God and my Lord: Here David used another word in the Hebrew vocabulary for God, the word Elohim – commonly translated as God. This is the plural for the generic word for God.
i. My God and my Lord: “The cry of Thomas when he saw the wounds of Jesus. If he did not count our Lord to be divine, neither does David here ascribe Deity to Jehovah, for there is no difference except in the order of the words and the tongue in which they were spoken; the meaning is identical.” (Spurgeon)
c. Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion who rejoice at my hurt: David simply and powerfully asked God to be his defense before his enemies.
i. Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor: “He will shame them for shaming his people, bring them to confusion for making confusion, pull off their fine apparel and give them a beggarly suit of dishonour, and turn all their rejoicing into weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Truly, the saints can afford to wait.” (Spurgeon)
3. (27-28) Asking that the people of God take joy in David’s vindication.
Let them shout for joy and be glad,
Who favor my righteous cause;
And let them say continually,
“Let the LORD be magnified,
Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.”
And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness
And of Your praise all the day long.
a. Let them shout for joy and be glad, who favor my righteous cause: Through the psalms in general, we see that David did not think of himself as perfect in a sinless sense. Yet in many of the disputes with his enemies, he had no problem seeing that he was on God’s side and they were not. In many of these conflicts, we don’t sense that David was troubled by self-doubt.
i. “The enemy’s fall is the occasion of glad praise, not because his intended victim yields to the temptation to take malicious delight in his calamity (Schadenfreude). His own deliverance, not the other’s destruction, makes the singer joyful in Jehovah.” (Maclaren)
b. Let the LORD be magnified: David spoke much of his own need and trouble in this psalm. Yet he ended with a strong focus on God and His praise. He thought of the people of God enlarging the LORD in their hearts and minds, and of his continual praise to God (my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness and of Your praise all the day long).
i. “Mine enemies’ great design is to magnify themselves, verse 26, but my chief desire is that God may be magnified.” (Poole)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 34 – Praise from the Cave
This psalm is titled A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed. A fugitive from Saul, David went to the Philistine city of Gath but found no refuge there and narrowly escaped. Those events are recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-22:1. Following that, David went to the cave at Adullam where many desperate men joined him. This joyful and wise psalm seems to have been written from that cave, and sung in the presence of those men.
The structure of this psalm is an acrostic, or nearly so. Each verse begins with another letter of the Hebrew alphabet, except for the letter waw. The purpose of the acrostic format in this psalm mainly seems to be as a device used to encourage learning and memorization.
Abimelech was probably a title given to rulers among the Philistines; the ruler’s proper name was Achish (1 Samuel 21:10).
A. Calling God’s people to praise.
1. (1-2) A life overflowing with praise.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the LORD;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
a. I will bless the LORD at all times: Given the title of this psalm and its historical setting, we see David triumphant and relieved at God’s rescue when he was held by the Philistines (1 Samuel 21:10-22:1).
i. “He may have acted like a fool, but he was not so foolish as to neglect praise of him who was his only true wisdom. He may have been hiding in a dismal cave, but this psalm tells us that in his heart he was hiding in the Lord.” (Boice)
ii. Praise shall continually be in my mouth: “Not in my heart merely, but in my mouth too. Our thankfulness is not to be a silent thing; it should be one of the daughters of music.” (Spurgeon)
b. My soul shall make its boast in the LORD: David might have boasted in himself. The 1 Samuel account describes how David cleverly won his freedom by pretending madness, but he knew that the working of the thing was due to God, not his own cleverness.
i. “What scope there is for holy boasting in Jehovah! His person, attributes, covenant, promises, works, and a thousand things besides, are all incomparable, unparalleled, matchless; we may cry them up as we please, but we shall never be convicted of vain and empty speech in so doing.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Yet in a sense, David had little to boast of, from a human perspective. He had to humiliate himself like a madman to escape the Philistines, whom he had foolishly sought refuge among – even bringing Goliath’s sword with him to Gath!
iii. Therefore this is a humble boast of David, boasting in the LORD and even a bit in his own humiliation. “Paul, in his great passage on boasting, may have remembered this saying and this episode, and so recalled his own ignominious escape from another foreign king (2 Corinthians 11:30-33), and the lessons learned in such straits.” (Kidner)
iv. “The seeming idiot scribbling on the gate is now saint, poet, and preacher; and, looking back on the deliverance won by a trick, he thinks of it as an instance of Jehovah’s answer to prayer!” (Maclaren)
c. The humble shall hear of it and be glad: David won his freedom by a radical display of humility. Other humble people would be glad to hear how God blessed and rewarded David’s humility.
i. It’s significant that he calls the people of God in general the humble. It is as if being proud were a denial of God Himself – and in a sense, it is.
2. (3-7) The testimony of the delivered one.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
I sought the LORD, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
a. Oh, magnify the LORD with me: David knew there was something magnetic about the true praise of God. When one genuinely praises God, he or she wants to draw others into the practice of praise. If it is good for one to exalt His name, then it is even better to do it together with His people.
i. David thought praising God was to magnify Him – that is, to make Him larger in one’s perception. Magnification does not actually make an object bigger, and we can’t make God bigger. But to magnify something or someone is to perceive it as bigger, and we must do that regarding the LORD God.
ii. “As not sufficient to do a great work himself, he calleth in the help of others.” (Trapp)
iii. “The Christian, not only himself magnifies God, but exhorts others to do likewise; and longs for that day to come, when all nations and languages, laying aside their contentions and animosities, their prejudices and their errors, their unbelief, their heresies, and their schisms, shall make their sound to be heard as one, in magnifying and exalting their great Redeemer’s name.” (Horne)
b. I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears: David’s simple testimony is still powerful thousands of years later. David sought the LORD – looked to Him in loving trust. God then heard His servant, with the implication that He heard him with love, sympathy, and action. God responded when He delivered David from all his fears.
i. Commentators are divided regarding whether or not David sinned when he feigned madness among the Philistines, or if he was obedient and guided by God. Morgan observed, “There does seem to be incongruity between David feigning madness to save his life, and this exalted outpouring of praise to God as the Great Deliverer.”
ii. “Wherein, whether he sinned or not, is matter of dispute; but this is undoubted, that God’s favour and his deliverance at that time was very remarkable, and deserved this solemn acknowledgment.” (Poole)
iii. “Even when I was in the enemies’ hands, and playing my pranks as a mad-man amongst them, I prayed secretly and inwardly.” (Trapp)
iv. Even if David sinned in feigning madness, God delivered him and did not abandon him. “It is easy to understand how, in the quietness and solemnity of that cave of refuge, he recovered, and that with new power, his sense of the Divine care and wisdom and might and sufficiency. So he sang.” (Morgan)
c. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed: In moving from “I” to “They,” David indicates that this experience was not his alone. Many others have known and will know what it is to set the focus of their loving trust upon God and receive His help.
i. They looked to Him: “The more we can think upon our Lord, and the less upon ourselves, the better. Looking to him, as he is seated upon the right hand of the throne of God, will keep our heads, and especially our hearts, steady when going through the deep waters of affliction.” (Smith, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. And were radiant: The idea is that they draw radiance from God’s own glory. Later, the Apostle Paul would explain much the same thought: But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18). This radiance is evidence that one has truly looked to Him.
iii. “Radiant is a word found again in Isaiah 60:5, where it describes a mother’s face lighting up at the sight of her children, long given up for lost.” (Kidner)
iv. And their faces were not ashamed: David also knew that God would never forsake the one who trusts in Him. God would give him confidence in the moment and vindication in time.
d. This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him: David again emphasized his personal experience of these truths. He was the one. He was the poor man who cried out to God, and God graciously answered.
· A cry is short, and not sweet.
· A cry is brief, and bitter.
· A cry is the language of pain.
· A cry is a natural production.
· A cry has much meaning and no music.
i. Acting the madman among the Philistines, David certainly was the poor man. “To get the force of David’s words one has only to recall his peril and his abject clowning to save his life.” (Kidner)
e. The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him: David narrowly escaped death among the Philistines. He was still a hunted, wanted man with King Saul determined to kill him. A rag-tag group of desperate losers gathered to him at Adullam. David was at a genuine low point; yet he was still filled with praise and trust, even knowing that God had an angelic camp all around him.
i. The triumph and joy of this song is so clear that it is easy to forget the life context of the psalm. “It is for people who find themselves at the absolute low point in life, which is where David was. Or find themselves between a rock, which in this case was King Saul, and a hard place, which was King Achish. It is for you when everything seems against you.” (Boice)
ii. David’s protection was real, even if it was invisible. He could not see the angelic presence around him, but it was real. Many times in the Old Testament, the angel of the LORD was an actual material appearance of Yahweh Himself (as in Judges 13). We don’t know if David meant an angelic being sent by God, or God Himself present with the believer. Both are true.
iii. “The fugitive, in his rude shelter in the cave of Adullam, thinks of Jacob, who, in his hour of defenceless need, was heartened by the vision of the angel encampment surrounding.” (Maclaren)
iv. Psalm 34:7 is one passage that gives support to the thought of a guardian angel for everyone, or perhaps at least for believers. One can’t say that this passage proves the idea, but it is consistent with it. “Let the consideration of these invisible guardians, who are also spectators of our actions, at once restrain us from evil, and incite us to good.” (Horne)
3. (8-10) An invitation to share the joyful testimony.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.
a. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good: After telling of his own experience, David challenged the reader (or singer) of this psalm to experience God’s goodness for himself or herself. It could only come through a personal encounter, in some ways similar to a taste or to see.
i. Taste and sight are physical senses, ways in which we interact with the material world. In some ways, faith is like a spiritual sense, and with it we interact with the spiritual world. To taste and to see are like trusting God, loving Him, seeking Him, looking unto Him.
ii. “Taste, i.e. consider it seriously, and thoroughly, and affectionately; make trial of it by your own and others’ experiences. This is opposed by those slight and vanishing thoughts which men have of it.” (Poole)
iii. “As he that feels the fire hot, or as he that tasteth honey sweet, ye need not use arguments to persuade him to believe it; so here, let a man but once taste that the Lord is good, and he will thenceforth, as a new-born babe, desire the sincere milk of the word.” (Trapp)
iv. “Both Hebrews 6:5 and 1 Peter 2:3 use this verse to describe the first venture into faith, and to urge that the tasting should be more than a casual sampling.” (Kidner)
v. “There are some things, especially in the depths of the religious life, which can only be understood by being experienced, and which even then are incapable of being adequately embodied in words. ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good.’ The enjoyment must come before the illumination; or rather the enjoyment is the illumination.” (Binney, cited in Spurgeon)
b. Blessed is the man who trusts in Him: David was sure that the one who did taste and see – or, who trusted in God – would not be forsaken. God would make him blessed.
c. Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints: David thought that to fear the LORD was much like trusting Him and experiencing His goodness. This fear is the proper reverence and respect that man has for Deity. If you really experience God’s goodness, if you really experience the blessedness of trusting Him, you will also have an appropriate fear of the LORD.
d. Those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing: Even one as strong as the young lions may lack and suffer hunger; but David testified of God’s greater provision.
i. “The word ‘lions’ may be a metaphor for those who are strong, oppressive, and evil.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “Were there lions prowling around the camp at Adullam, and did the psalmist take their growls as typical of all vain attempts to satisfy the soul?” (Maclaren)
iii. David experienced a good thing from God in his deliverance among the Philistines. He knew that the good thing was not due to his own strength or might; it was the goodness of God extended to those who seek the LORD.
iv. “Although God doth usually take a special care to supply the wants of good men, and hath oft done it by extraordinary ways, when ordinary have failed, yet sometimes he knows, and it is certainly true, that wants and crosses are more needful and useful to them than bread, and in such cases it is a greater mercy of God to deny them supplies than to grant them.” (Poole)
v. “Paul had nothing, and yet possessed all things.” (Trapp)
B. Teaching the people of God.
1. (11-14) Living in the fear of the LORD.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
a. Come, you children, listen to me: Following David’s deliverance from feigned madness among the Philistines, many who were in distress, in debt, or in discontent gathered to him at the cave at Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1-2). It’s reasonable to think that David taught these men his own recent lessons of faith, including the fear of the LORD.
i. As David describes the fear of the LORD, it is rooted in action, not religious feelings. “David is saying that the fear of the Lord is doing right, that is, that it involves obedience.” (Boice)
b. Who is the man who desires life: David taught his unusual group of followers what one must do to see God’s blessing on his life – to live in the fear of the LORD.
· Keep your tongue from evil: David taught his men – rough as they were – that they should not speak evil.
· And your lips from speaking deceit: David taught them that a particular form of evil to avoid is that of lying and deceit.
· Depart from evil and do good: David spoke to his men about simply directing the life away from evil and toward good.
· Seek peace and pursue it: David taught his men to think not only in terms of war and battles, but in terms of peace, and the pursuit of it. Peace with God and among men should be sought.
c. And loves many days, that he may see good: David’s instruction of his men at the cave at Adullam was very much in light of the Old Covenant, by which he and the rest of Israel related to God. Under the New Covenant, God’s blessing is in Jesus Christ and received by faith, not only by our own obedience.
i. “To teach men how to live and how to die, is the aim of all useful religious instruction. The rewards of virtue are the baits with which the young are to be drawn to morality. While we teach piety to God we should also dwell much upon morality towards man.” (Spurgeon)
2. (15-16) Living under the watchful eye of God.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
a. The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous: David continued to instruct his men, teaching them about the watchful eye and attentive ear of God upon His people. This was another aspect of the reward for those who lived the obedience described in Psalm 34:13-14.
b. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil: It was important for David’s men to also know that – particularly under the Old Covenant – there were not only blessings for obedience, but curses for disobedience. Those stuck in their evil and rebellion could find their remembrance gone from the earth.
3. (17-18) God, the helper of the humble.
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears,
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
a. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears: David reminded his men at the cave at Adullam that God’s attentive care is upon the righteous. David’s testimony was that God had delivered him out of all his troubles.
b. The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart: This teaching from David was wonderful for the men at the cave at Adullam to hear. They – being in debt, distressed, and discontent – were likely those with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. They were objects of God’s favor and salvation, not His scorn.
i. “Those whose spirits are oppressed, and even broken, with the greatness of their calamities…. Those whose hearts or spirits are truly and deeply humbled under the hand of God.” (Poole)
ii. “A bird with a broken wing, an animal with a broken leg, a woman with a broken heart, a man with a broken purpose in life – these seem to drop out of the main current of life into shadow. They go apart to suffer and droop. The busy rush of life goes on without them. But God draws nigh.” (Meyer)
iii. “Broken hearts think God is far away, when he is really most near to them; their eyes are holden so that they see not their best friend. Indeed, he is with them, and in them, but they know it not.” (Spurgeon)
iv. A contrite spirit: “‘The beaten-out spirit’…the hammer is necessarily implied; in breaking to pieces the ore first, and then plating out the metal when it has been separated from the ore.” (Clarke)
4. (19-22) God’s care for His righteous ones.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He guards all his bones;
Not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.
The LORD redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.
a. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: David spoke from his own experience to his men at the cave at Adullam. Though he was relatively young, he had still suffered many afflictions, even as a righteous man.
i. “‘Many are the afflictions,’ but more are the deliverances.” (Maclaren)
b. But the LORD delivers him out of them all: This was the principle that answered the previous statement. Indeed, the righteous had many afflictions; yet God’s deliverance was real in David’s life and still is real in the experience of many of God’s people.
c. He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken: David could look at his own body and see that though he had endured many battles, accidents, and hardships – yet not one bone was broken.
i. According to the Gospel of John, David spoke not only of his own experience. He also spoke prophetically of the Messiah to come, Jesus Christ. John explained that the Roman soldiers who supervised the crucifixion of Jesus came to His body on the cross, expecting to hasten and guarantee His death in the traditional way – breaking the legs of the crucified victim. When they looked carefully, they learned that Jesus was already dead and they pierced His side to confirm it. John wrote, for these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken” (John 19:36).
ii. “Christ’s bones were in themselves breakable, but could not actually be broken by all the violence in the world, because God had fore-decreed, a bone of him shall not be broken.” (Fuller, cited in Spurgeon)
d. Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned: David had confidence in more than the rescue of the righteous. He was also confident that the wicked and those who hate would be judged.
i. Evil shall slay the wicked: “Either, 1. The evil of sin. His own wickedness, though designed against others, shall destroy himself. Or, 2. The evil of misery. When the afflictions of good men shall have a happy issue, [the affliction of the wicked] shall end in their total and final destruction.” (Poole)
e. None of those who trust in Him shall be condemned: David could proclaim that God would rescue the soul of His servants, and they would be found in a place outside God’s condemnation.
i. Many centuries later the Apostle Paul would write, There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Even under the Old Covenant, David knew something of this freedom from condemnation.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 33 – The Great and Awesome God
“If the purest form of a hymn is praise to God for what He is and does, this is a fine example.” (Derek Kidner)
A. Praising the great God.
1. (1-3) A call to praise with songs and joy.
Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous!
For praise from the upright is beautiful.
Praise the LORD with the harp;
Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.
Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy.
a. Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous: This unattributed psalm begins with a call for God’s righteous to rejoice and praise. The psalmist primarily referred to those among God’s people who walked rightly.
i. “Psalm 32 ended by calling on the righteous to sing praises to God. This note is picked up on in Psalm 33, almost as if its first three verses were written as an elaboration of Psalm 32:11.” (Boice)
ii. Rejoice in the LORD: “Calling upon the saints to be cheerful; and indeed there is hardly any duty more pressed in the Old and New Testament, or less practised.” (Trapp)
iii. God’s people are called to rejoice in the LORD, and in nothing else. “To rejoice in temporal comforts is dangerous, to rejoice in self is foolish, to rejoice in sin is fatal, but to rejoice in God is heavenly.” (Spurgeon)
iv. Under the New Covenant we may extend this to those declared righteous through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26). Those who are righteous by God’s decree have an even greater responsibility to rejoice and praise.
b. For praise from the upright is beautiful: God regards worship from His people (both upright in a relative sense and declared to be upright) as beautiful. It pleases Him and creates the sense of appreciation for beauty. God appreciates our praise.
i. “It is apparently meant for liturgical use…. The opening summons to praise takes us far away from the solitary wrestlings and communings in former psalms.” (Maclaren)
ii. “Take away the Christian’s power of praising God, and you make him a poor earth-worm, bound here with doubts, and fears, and cares; but let him but kindle in his soul the flame that burns in heaven of seraphic love to God, and away he mounts.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “An upright person is one without deception (Psalm 32:2), full of integrity of heart, and the opposite of the perverse (Proverbs 8:8).” (VanGemeren)
iv. “Praise in the mouth of a sinner is like an oracle in the mouth of a fool; how uncomely is it for him to praise God, whose whole life is a dishonouring of God? It is as indecent for a wicked man to praise God, who goes on in sinful practices, as it is for a usurer to talk of living by faith, or for the devil to quote Scripture.” (Watson, cited in Spurgeon)
c. Praise the LORD with the harp; make melody with an instrument of ten strings: God also declared His satisfaction with worship through music and musical instruments. This can please God, the Creator of music and the Great Musician.
i. “Experts tell us that the kinnor [harp]…and nebel [instrument of ten strings]…were both stringed instruments, differing in the position of the sounding board, which was below in the former and above in the latter, and also in the covering of the strings.” (Maclaren)
ii. The psalmist clearly exhorted God’s people to praise Him with the accompaniment of musical instruments. Strangely, some have thought that such musical accompaniment belonged only to the Old Covenant and not to the New.
iii. Spurgeon was one who preferred worship sung without musical instruments, but he would not command it. “We who do not believe these things to be expedient in worship, lest they should mar its simplicity, do not affirm them to be unlawful, and if any George Herbert or Martin Luther can worship God better by the aid of well-tuned instruments, who shall gainsay their right? We do not need them, they would hinder than help our praise but if others are otherwise minded, are they not living in gospel liberty?” (Spurgeon)
iv. Nevertheless, the most important instrument is the heart. “Music, both vocal and instrumental, is of eminent use in setting forth the praises of God; but there is no instrument like the rational soul, and no melody like that of well-tuned affections.” (Horne)
d. Sing to Him a new song: God loves to receive the rejoicing and praise of His people expressed in song, especially the new song.
i. “‘New song’ simply means that every praise song should emerge from a fresh awareness of God’s grace.” (Boice)
ii. “As God gives you fresh occasions, so do not content yourselves with the old songs or psalms, made by the holy men of God, but make new ones suited to the occasions.” (Poole)
iii. “Put off oldness ye know the new song. A new man, a New Testament, a new song. A new song belongeth not to men that are old; none learn that but new men, renewed through grace from oldness, and belonging now to the New Testament, which is the kingdom of heaven.” (Augustine, cited in Spurgeon)
e. Play skillfully with a shout of joy: Skillful musicianship and enthusiasm fitting for the joy of God’s people are other ways God is honored with praise.
i. A shout of joy: “Heartiness should be conspicuous in divine worship. Well-bred whispers are disreputable here. It is not that the Lord cannot hear us, but that it is natural for great exultation to express itself in the loudest manner. Men shout at the sight of their kings: shall we offer no loud hosannahs to the Son of David?” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Note the call in that verse for freshness and skill as well as fervour; three qualities rarely found together in religious music.” (Kidner)
2. (4-5) The greatness of God expressed in His character, who He is.
For the word of the LORD is right,
And all His work is done in truth.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
a. For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth: The truth of God’s word is a further reason for praise. In addition, God does His work in truth – not with deceit or manipulation.
i. “His word and His work are inseparable, for His words are never empty.” (Kidner)
ii. “In all this we find the true secret of our confidence, and so of our joy. The word and the work of God are ever one. His word never returns to Him empty – it accomplishes that which He pleases.” (Morgan)
b. He loves righteousness and justice: The psalmist kept thinking of the greatness of God’s character – His love for righteousness and justice and His goodness spread all over the earth. The psalmist rightly rejoiced that Yahweh, the God who is really there, is not amoral or without goodness. He is what we who are made in His image would understand as “good.”
i. “The Psalmist means that there is no spot in [the earth] where the traces and footprints of God’s love may not be discerned, if only the eyes and the heart are opened.” (Meyer)
ii. “The Lord’s love (hesed) is evident in his works on earth. With respect to the rest of creation, he shows the same loyalty, constancy, and love that has found particular expression in the covenant relationship with his people.” (VanGemeren)
iii. “He might, if he had pleased, have made everything we tasted bitter, everything we saw loathsome, everything we touched a sting, every smell a stench, every sound a discord.” (Paley, cited in Spurgeon)
iv. “Earth might have been as full of terror as of grace, but instead thereof it teems and overflows with kindness…. If earth be full of mercy, what must heaven be where goodness concentrates its beams?” (Spurgeon)
3. (6-7) The greatness of God expressed in His creation.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deep in storehouses.
a. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made: The greatness of God goes beyond His moral goodness; He is also the God of all power and authority. By His mere word the universe was created.
i. “It is noteworthy that the occasions of the new song are very old acts, stretching back to the first creation and continued down through the ages.” (Maclaren)
ii. “The world was created by the ‘word’ or fiat of God, which may be here described, after the manner of men, as formed by ‘the breath of his mouth.’” (Horne)
b. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap: The psalmist looked at the mighty oceans and understood that they reflected God’s power and wisdom in creation.
i. “In storehouses; either in the clouds, or in the bowels of the earth, whence he can draw them forth when he sees fit.” (Poole)
ii. “What is meant, however, here, is the separation of land and water at first, and possibly the continuance of the same power keeping them still apart, since the verbs in verse 7 are participles, which imply continued action.” (Maclaren)
iii. “To speak of nature’s obedient glory is to be reminded of man’s blatant defiance.” (Kidner)
4. (8-9) A call for all the earth to fear the LORD.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
a. Let all the earth fear the LORD: This is the logical response to recognizing a God who is perfect in both character and power. People should set themselves in a state of humble awe before Him.
i. “He who made all things, preserves all things, and can in a moment destroy all things, is the proper object of our ‘fear’; and that we fear him so little, is a most convincing proof of the corruption and blindness of our hearts.” (Horne)
b. For He spoke, and it was done: The psalmist again considered the word of God and its effective power. God never speaks empty words, they are full of active power to insure their fulfillment.
i. Luke 7:1-9 tells the story of a Roman centurion who so trusted Jesus that he believed, “For He spoke, and it was done.” Jesus praised the faith of that centurion.
B. The greatness of God among the nations.
1. (10-12) The greatness of God among the nations and His nation.
The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.
a. The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing: The psalmist has already praised God for His moral character and His creative power. Now he praised God for His active, guiding hand through human history. God moves among the Gentile nations as He pleases to accomplish His counsel and the plans of His heart.
i. “Their persecutions, slanders, falsehoods, are like puff-balls flung against a granite wall – they produce no result at all; for the Lord overrules the evil, and brings good out of it. The cause of God is never in danger: infernal craft is outwitted by infinite wisdom, and Satanic malice held in check by boundless power.” (Spurgeon)
b. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD: In considering the perfections of God, it shows the blessedness of the nation that will consciously align itself with God and His purposes.
i. “The nations feared many gods, each of whom ruled over the various heavenly bodies and over the sky, land, and sea…. Since the Lord made everything and rules sovereign over the whole universe, the nations should recognize that he alone is the Creator-Ruler.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “O how happy is that nation which has Jehovah for its Elohim; the self-existent and eternal Lord for its covenant God; one who should unite himself to it by connections and ties the most powerful and endearing!” (Clarke)
c. The people He has chosen as His own inheritance: In a national sense this is Israel, the people and nation chosen for a unique place in the plan of God. In a broader sense it speaks of the blessing that belongs to all those chosen by the LORD, regarded as His own inheritance.
i. “So thrice happy is that people of Israel, who, though they be despised by the Gentiles, are chosen by this Almighty God, to be his peculiar portion, and friends, and servants.” (Poole)
2. (13-15) The greatness of God over each individual.
The LORD looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men.
From the place of His dwelling He looks
On all the inhabitants of the earth;
He fashions their hearts individually;
He considers all their works.
a. He sees all the sons of men: God in all His perfections and plans for the nations and ages also has His eye on humanity as individuals. His greatness does not exclude His individual interest in all the inhabitants of the earth.
b. He fashions their hearts individually: God made us one by one, each with our own particular physical, mental, emotional makeup, including the allowance of our weaknesses and sinful inclinations. As our Maker He has the right of inspection, so He considers all our works.
3. (16-17) The weakness of even the mighty among men.
No king is saved by the multitude of an army;
A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for safety;
Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.
a. No king is saved by the multitude of an army: In considering the greatness of God and the extent of His reach, the psalmist understood that human effort alone does not determine events. God’s work and plan in, and beyond, and sometimes instead of human effort, accomplish His purpose.
i. “All along the line of history this verse has been verified. The strongest battalions melt like snowflakes when God is against them.” (Spurgeon)
b. A horse is a vain hope for safety: Horses were some of the most advanced military tools in that day. Because there is a God in heaven who governs the affairs and destiny of men, even the use of the most effective resources and technologies cannot in themselves determine the outcome.
i. “If the strength of horses be of God, or be his gift (Job 39:19), then trust not in the strength of horses: use the strength of horses, but do not trust the strength of horses.” (Caryl, cited in Spurgeon)
4. (18-19) The care of God for the individual.
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,
To deliver their soul from death,
And to keep them alive in famine.
a. The eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him: The psalmist continues to think both of God’s hand in world-shaking events (such as the battles of kings), and His most minute care for the individual.
i. Jesus told us that God cares for the smallest of birds (Matthew 10:29); surely He will care for those who honor Him, who are made in His image.
ii. “They who fear God need not fear anything else; let them fix their eye of faith on him, and his eye of love will always rest upon them.” (Spurgeon)
b. On those who hope in His mercy: Those who truly fear the LORD find their hope in His mercy, not in their own goodness or righteousness.
i. To deliver their soul: “Freedom from troubles he promiseth not; but deliverance in due time he assureth them.” (Trapp)
5. (20-22) Resolution in light of God’s greatness.
Our soul waits for the LORD;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
Because we have trusted in His holy name.
Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You.
a. Our soul waits for the LORD: Having praised Him and considered God’s greatness from many angles, it was appropriate to simply wait for the LORD – for His guidance, His word, His deliverance – looking to Him as our help and shield.
b. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name: Earlier the psalmist called God’s people to rejoice because of God’s character and might. Now he calls us to praise God because of our blessed experience of trusting in His holy name.
i. Our heart shall rejoice in him: “Here is the fruit of our confidence: our souls are always happy, because we have taken God for our portion.” (Clarke)
ii. Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us: “The hymn concludes with a prayer, requesting that God will refresh his people with his love (hesed).” (VanGemeren)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
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