Psalm 22 – The Servant of God Forsaken, Rescued, and Triumphant
This is another psalm with a title: To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Deer of the Dawn.” A Psalm of David. We can say that this is a Psalm sung to the Greatest Musician, to an unknown tune, by the Sweet Psalmist of Israel (2 Samuel 23:1). Here, David sings as more than an artist, but also as one of the greatest prophets ever to speak, pointing more to his Greater Son, Jesus the Messiah, than even to himself.
“This is a kind of gem among the Psalms, and is peculiarly excellent and remarkable. It contains those deep, sublime, and heavy sufferings of Christ, when agonizing in the midst of the terrors and pangs of divine wrath and death which surpass all human thought and comprehension.” (Martin Luther, cited in Charles Spurgeon)
A. The agony of the Forsaken One.
1. (1-2) The cry of the forsaken.
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
And in the night season, and am not silent.
a. My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me: This psalm begins abruptly, with a disturbing scene: someone who knows and trusts God is forsaken, and cries out to God in agony.
i. This is a Psalm of David, and there were many instances in the life of David where he might write such an agonized poem. Before and after taking the throne of Israel, David lived in seasons of great danger and deprivation.
ii. While this psalm was certainly true of King David in his life experience, it – like many psalms – is even truer of Jesus the Messiah than of David. Jesus deliberately chose these words to describe His agony on the cross (Matthew 27:46).
iii. “We can be fairly certain that Jesus was meditating on the Old Testament during the hours of his suffering and that he saw his crucifixion as a fulfillment of Psalm 22 particularly.” (Boice)
iv. “I doubt not that David, though he had an eye to his own condition in diverse passages here used, yet was carried forth by the Spirit of prophecy beyond himself, and unto Christ, to whom alone it truly and fully agrees.” (Poole)
b. My God, My God: This opening is powerful on at least two levels. The cry “My God” shows that the Forsaken One truly did have a relationship with God. He was a victim of the cruelty of men, but the cry and the complaint is to God – even My God – and not to or against man. Second, the repetition of the plea shows the intensity of the agony.
i. “Then it was that he felt in soul and body the horror of God’s displeasure against sin, for which he had undertaken.” (Trapp)
c. Why have You forsaken Me? There is a note of surprise in this cry and in the following lines. The Forsaken One seems bewildered; “Why would My God forsake Me? Others may deserve such, but I cannot figure out why He would forsake Me.”
i. We may easily imagine a situation in the life of King David where he experienced this. Many times he found himself in seemingly impossible circumstances and wondered why God did not rescue him immediately.
ii. Yet beyond David and his life, this agonized cry and the intentional identification of Jesus with these words are some of the most intense and mysterious descriptions of what Jesus experienced on the cross. Jesus had known great pain and suffering (both physical and emotional) during His life. Yet He had never known separation or alienation from God His Father. At this moment He experienced what He had not yet ever experienced. There was a significant sense in which Jesus rightly felt forsaken by God the Father on the cross.
iii. On the cross, a holy transaction took place. God the Father regarded God the Son as if He were a sinner. As the Apostle Paul would later write, God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
iv. Yet Jesus not only endured the withdrawal of the Father’s fellowship, but also the actual outpouring of the Father’s wrath upon Him as a substitute for sinful humanity. “This was the blackness and darkness of his horror; then it was that he penetrated the depths of the caverns of suffering.” (Spurgeon)
v. “To be forsaken means to have the light of God’s countenance and the sense of his presence eclipsed, which is what happened to Jesus as he bore the wrath of God against sin for us.” (Boice)
vi. “It was necessary that he should feel the loss of his Father’s smile, – for the condemned in hell must have tasted of that bitterness – and therefore the Father closed the eye of his love, put the hand of justice before the smile of his face, and left his Son to cry, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’” (Spurgeon)
vii. Horrible as this was, it fulfilled God’s good and loving plan of redemption. Therefore Isaiah could say Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him (Isaiah 53:10).
viii. At the same time, we cannot say that the separation between the Father and the Son at the cross was complete. Paul made this clear in 2 Corinthians 5:19: God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself at the cross.
d. Why have You forsaken Me? There is a definite question in these words of David, and as Jesus appropriated them to Himself on the cross. What Jesus endured on the cross was so complex, so dark, and so mysterious that it was, at the moment, beyond emotional comprehension.
i. Spurgeon considered this question with an emphasis on the word You. “‘Thou:’ I can understand why traitorous Judas and timid Peter should be gone, but thou, my God, my faithful friend, how canst thou leave me? This is worst of all, yea worse than all put together. Hell itself has for its fiercest flame the separation of the soul from God.” (Spurgeon)
ii. We can imagine the answer to Jesus’ question: Why? “Because, My Son, You have chosen to stand in the place of guilty sinners. You, who have never known sin, have made the infinite sacrifice to become sin and receive My just wrath upon sin and sinners. You do this because of Your great love, and because of My great love.”
iii. Then the Father might give the Son a glimpse of His reward – the righteously-robed multitude of His people on heaven’s golden streets, “all of them singing their redeemer’s praise, all of them chanting the name of Jehovah and the Lamb; and this was a part of the answer to his question.” (Spurgeon)
e. Why are You so far from helping Me? David knew what it was like to feel the presence and the deliverance of God and had experienced such many times before. Every prior time of help made this dramatic absence of God’s help more devastating. Worse yet, there seemed to be no explanation for the lack of God’s help; thus the question, “Why?”
i. No doubt David experienced this, but only as a shadow compared to how Jesus experienced this. Prior to the cross, Jesus lived every moment in conscious fellowship with God the Father, combined with a continual dependence upon the help of both the Father and the Spirit. At the cross, Jesus felt helpless, as it seemed that the Father was so far from helping Him.
f. O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear: A further dimension of David’s agony was the fact that he made repeated, constant appeals to God and yet felt utterly unheard. His groaning was unanswered, his cry ignored.
i. David certainly experienced this; the greater Son of David experienced it in a far greater degree. On the cross Jesus felt abandoned by the Father, and felt that His groaning and cries went unanswered.
2. (3-5) Remembrance of God’s nature and prior help.
But You are holy,
Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Our fathers trusted in You;
They trusted, and You delivered them.
They cried to You, and were delivered;
They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.
a. But You are holy: The Forsaken One remembered God and His greatness, even when immersed in suffering. He did not curse or blaspheme God, and he knew that his present agony did not change God’s holiness (You are holy) or greatness (Enthroned in the praises of Israel).
i. We have the sense that the present crisis filled David (and the greater Son of David) with doubt and confusion, yet he would not allow doubts as to the holiness or greatness of God. Whatever he did not know in his present situation, he did know that God was holy.
ii. “Here is the triumph of faith – the Saviour stood like a rock in the wide ocean of temptation. High as the billows rose, so did his faith, like the coral rock, wax greater and stronger till it became an island of salvation to our shipwrecked souls. It is as if he had said, ‘It matters not what I endure. Storms may howl upon me; men despise; devils tempt; circumstances overpower; and God himself forsake me, still God is holy; there is no unrighteousness in him.’” (Stevenson, cited in Spurgeon)
iii. “We may not question the holiness of God, but we may argue from it, and use it as a plea in our petitions.” (Spurgeon)
b. Our fathers trusted in You…. They cried to You, and were delivered: David also remembered how God had answered and delivered many times before. Strangely, this would add measures of both comfort and despair: comfort, knowing that he cried to the same God who had delivered before and who could deliver again; despair, knowing that the God who had delivered before now seemed so distant and silent.
i. We can almost hear the agony of the Forsaken One: “They cried to You, and were delivered; I cry to You and am ignored.”
ii. Our fathers: “The use of the plural pronoun ‘our’ shows how one with his people Jesus was even on the cross.” (Spurgeon)
3. (6-8) Mocking the forsaken.
But I am a worm, and no man;
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
“He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”
a. But I am a worm, and no man: The intensity of the conflict made David feel not only ignored, but insignificant. God seems to help other men, but seems to give no help to worms. The low standing he had in his own eyes and in the eyes of others simply added to his agony.
i. It was dramatically fulfilled in the greater Son of David, that on the cross He was a reproach of men, and despised by the people. Cruel men mocked Jesus in His greatest agony (Matthew 27:39-44).
ii. “This verse is a miracle in language. How could the Lord of glory be brought to such abasement as to be not only lower than the angels, but even lower than men. What a contrast between ‘I am’ and ‘I am a worm’!” (Spurgeon)
iii. “He felt himself to be comparable to a helpless, powerless, down-trodden worm, passive while crushed, and unnoticed and despised by those who trod upon him. He selects the weakest of creatures, which is all flesh; and becomes, when trodden upon, writhing, quivering flesh, utterly devoid of any might except strength to suffer. This was a true likeness of himself when his body and soul had become a mass of misery – the very essence of agony – in the dying pangs of crucifixion.” (Spurgeon)
b. They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him”: David’s misery multiplied at those who mocked and misunderstood his agony. They used it as an excuse to call into question his relationship with God, even as the friends of Job did with him in his suffering.
i. It was as if they said, “It seemed that he trusted in the LORD, but we all know that the LORD rescues those who trust in Him. It seemed that he delighted in God, but that must be false because he is not delivered.”
ii. He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him: If Jesus identified with the opening words of Psalm 22 with His great cry from the cross (Matthew 27:46), then His enemies unwittingly identified with the scornful enemies of God and His Anointed in their mockery of Jesus on the cross (Matthew 27:43: He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now).
iii. Spurgeon preached a sermon (Faith Among Mockers) in which he considered the implication of this word against the Forsaken One, “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him.”
· In a truly grace-filled man, his trust in God is known.
· This trust demonstrated by believing men is not understood by the world.
· This true faith will almost certainly be mocked at some time or another.
· The time shall come when the man of faith who has trusted in God shall be abundantly justified.
c. Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him: This statement reveals the frequent ignorance and cruelty of those who oppose God and His people. It claimed to see no deliverance, when it would indeed come soon. It also questioned the delight of God in the Forsaken One, when God did and does truly delight in that one.
i. “A most virulent irony, whereby they sought to cajole him out of his confidence, and so to drive him into utter desperation and destruction.” (Trapp)
4. (9-11) A plea: “You are my God since the earliest days.”
But You are He who took Me out of the womb;
You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts.
I was cast upon You from birth.
From My mother’s womb
You have been My God.
Be not far from Me,
For trouble is near;
For there is none to help.
a. But You are He who took Me out of the womb: David understood – both for himself and, prophetically speaking, for the later-to-come Messiah – that in the depth of agony and the sense of abandonment, one could still appeal to God in remembrance of better times.
i. The Forsaken One did not say, “Since I feel abandoned by God, I will abandon Him.” He remained steadfast through the dark night of the soul, and still made appeal to the God who cared for Him since birth.
ii. “That Child now fighting the great battle of his life, uses the mercy of his nativity as an argument with God. Faith finds weapons everywhere. He who wills to believe shall never lack reasons for believing.” (Spurgeon)
b. Out of the womb…while on My mother’s breasts…from birth…You have been My God: The Forsaken One argued on good, logical grounds. He reminded God of the care given since His very earliest days. That prior grace might seem to be wasted if the sufferer was not rescued in His present crisis.
c. Be not far from Me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help: The plea for help is again eloquently and persuasively stated. God seems far away; but trouble is near – and there is none to help, so You must help me, God!
5. (12-18) The agony of the forsaken.
Many bulls have surrounded Me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.
They gape at Me with their mouths,
Like a raging and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And My tongue clings to My jaws;
You have brought Me to the dust of death.
For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.
a. Many bulls have surrounded Me: The Forsaken One again describes His crisis. He described the people tormenting Him as strong bulls of Bashan, large animals proverbial for their strength. They surround Him and threaten Him.
i. “The bull is the emblem of brutal strength, that gores and tramples down all before it.” (Clarke)
ii. “The priests, elders, scribes, Pharisees, rulers, and captains bellowed round the cross like wild cattle, fed in the fat and solitary pastures of Bashan, full of strength and fury; they stamped and foamed around the innocent One, and longed to gore him to death with their cruelties.” (Spurgeon)
b. I am poured out like water: The Forsaken One felt completely empty. He perceived no resource in Himself able to meet the crisis at hand. Whatever strength or resistance He had was poured out like water upon the ground.
i. “My heart faileth, my spirits are spent and gone like water, which once spilt can never be recovered; my very flesh is melted within me, and I am become as weak as water.” (Poole)
c. My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me: This described the physical extremity of David at the time, but it also is an amazingly specific prophecy of the future suffering of the Son of David on the cross.
i. The deliberately awkward and strained position of the crucified man meant that on the cross Jesus could say, “My bones are out of joint.” David did not know the practice of crucifixion in his day, but he described the physical agony of it with the accuracy of a prophet of the LORD.
ii. There is also some reason to believe (based mainly on John 19:34) that on the cross Jesus suffered from a ruptured heart, making the words “My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me” also amazingly specific.
iii. My tongue clings to My jaws: As was normal for anyone under the agony of crucifixion, Jesus suffered great thirst on the cross (John 19:28).
d. You have brought me to the dust of death: David used this moving poetic phrase to describe the extent of his misery. He probably had in mind the curse God pronounced upon Adam after his sin: For dust you are, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19). Since all humanity was contained in Adam, this curse extends to the entire human race, and David felt himself close to the dust of death.
i. Obviously, David did not die in the crisis described by this psalm; he lived to write it and others. He came to the edge of mortality when God brought him to the dust of death. Yet Jesus, the Son of David, did not merely come to the edge of death; He was plunged into the dust of death and into all of the cursedness implied by that. Jesus bore the sting of Adam’s curse for us (Galatians 3:13) so that we would not have to bear it ourselves.
e. For dogs have surrounded Me; the assembly of the wicked has enclosed Me: David’s crisis would be bad enough even if surrounded by sympathetic friends; his misery was multiplied because there were violent and wicked men on every side.
i. In His death, the Son of David had few sympathizers. Haters, scoffers, and mockers surrounded Jesus on the cross and sought to make His suffering worse (Matthew 27:39-44, Mark 15:29-32).
f. They pierced My hands and My feet: Perhaps here David referred to wounds he received in struggling against these determined enemies; perhaps he wrote purely prophetically. In any regard, hundreds of years before the Romans adopted the Persian practice of crucifixion, the prophet David described the wounds of crucifixion that his Greater Son would bear.
i. The Masoretic Hebrew text of Psalm 22:16 doesn’t say pierced; it says “as a lion.” Yet the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament – long before the Christian era – renders the Hebrew text as saying pierced. While the Masoretic text shouldn’t be casually disregarded, there is good reason to side with the Septuagint and almost every other translation here. “It may even suggest that the Masoretic text was deliberately pointed in the way it was by later Jewish scholars to avoid what otherwise would be a nearly inescapable prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion.” (Boice)
g. I can count all My bones: David examined his wounds and understood that he had no broken bones. The Son of David also, despite his great suffering on the cross, suffered no broken bones. John carefully noted this (John 19:31-37). This fact fulfilled this prophecy, as well as Psalm 34:20 and the pattern of the Passover lamb as described in Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12.
h. They look and stare at Me: In his crisis, David was the focus of unwanted attention. His tormentors did not allow him the dignity of private suffering, but exposed all things to their stare. David’s Great Son also found no place to hide from the unwanted stares of cruel, mocking men at the cross.
i. On the cross Jesus was the focus not only of mocking and humiliation (Matthew 27:39-44, Mark 15:29-32), but also of simple astonishment, as when the centurion said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54). Luke also noted, the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned (Luke 23:48).
ii. “‘They look and stare upon me.’ Oh, how different is that look which the awakened sinner directs to Calvary, when faith lifts up her eye to him who agonised, and bled, and died, for the guilty!” (Morrison, cited in Spurgeon)
i. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots: David was so humbled before his adversaries, so powerless against them, that they took even his clothing and used it for themselves.
i. As with other aspects of Psalm 22, this was fulfilled even more literally in the experience of Jesus than in the life of David. As was the custom of that time, Jesus was stripped naked or nearly naked for the cross, and soldiers gambled (cast lots) for his clothing at the very foot of the cross. John 19:23-24 and Matthew 27:35 quote this line of Psalm 22 as being fulfilled.
ii. “Unholy eyes gazed insultingly upon the Saviour’s nakedness, and shocked the sacred delicacy of his holy soul. The sight of the agonizing body ought to have ensured sympathy from the throng, but it only increased their savage mirth, as they gloated their cruel eyes upon his miseries.” (Spurgeon)
6. (19-21a) A plea for help and deliverance.
But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me;
O My Strength, hasten to help Me!
Deliver Me from the sword,
My precious life from the power of the dog.
Save Me from the lion’s mouth
And from the horns of the wild oxen!
a. But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me: The request of Psalm 22:11 is here repeated. David seemed to believe that he could endure anything if he enjoyed the conscious presence of God. His plea is not focused on the change of his situation, but on the presence of God in the crisis.
b. Hasten to help Me…. Deliver Me…. Save Me: Picturing his adversaries as vicious animals (the dog…the lion’s mouth…the horns of the wild oxen), David pled for the help and deliverance the presence of God brings.
i. These lines reflect not only the great danger and misery of both David and his Greater Son, but especially their trust in the LORD God as their deliverer. He and He alone is their hope.
ii. Deliver Me from the sword: “The wrath of God was the ‘sword,’ which took vengeance on all men…it was the ‘flaming sword,’ which kept men out of paradise.” (Horne)
B. The answer to the Forsaken One.
1. (21b-23) The Forsaken One praises God among His people.
You have answered Me.
I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
You who fear the LORD, praise Him!
All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel!
a. You have answered Me: After pouring out His soul in agony, now the Forsaken One has a glorious sense that God has answered Him. The crisis became bearable in the knowledge that God is not removed from His suffering nor silent in it.
i. The answer of God to the Forsaken One instantly meant that He no longer felt forsaken. The deliverance from the crisis itself may be yet to come, but the deliverance from the sense of being forsaken by God in the midst of the crisis was His. There is immense relief, joy, and peace in the words, “You have answered Me.”
ii. “As he thus cries, the conviction that he is heard floods his soul…. It is like a parting burst of sunshine at the end of a day of tempest.” (Maclaren)
iii. It is easy to see these words fulfilled in the experience of David; but they were perfectly completed in Jesus. This was also the resolution that another forsaken one – Job – fought so hard for. Even without an immediate deliverance from difficulty, there is immense comfort in knowing that God is there and that He is not silent in the midst of our crises.
iv. Knowing that Jesus fulfilled this prophetic psalm, it is fair to wonder just when He could speak or live the fulfillment of these words, “You have answered Me.” Perhaps – though it is impossible to say with certainty – it was while He still hung on the cross, yet after the mysterious, glorious transaction of bearing the sin of mankind. Perhaps it was after the triumphant announcement, It is finished! (John 19:30), yet before (or even in) the warm words, Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit (Luke 23:46). Those words point to a re-established sense of fellowship replacing the prior sense of forsakenness.
b. I will declare Your name to My brethren: Having been delivered – if not from the crisis itself, certainly from the sense of being forsaken in the crisis – now the promise is made to glorify and praise the God of deliverance. Others needed to know of God’s greatness in such extremity.
i. Hebrews 2:12 quotes the second half of Psalm 22 (specifically, Psalm 22:22), proving clearly that the entire psalm points to Jesus, not just the agony of the first half.
ii. On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed a glorious prayer, and one line of that prayer reads: I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it (John 17:26). Those words, prayed in the shadow of the cross, can be understood as a deliberate desire to fulfill this word in Psalm 22, I will declare Your name to My brethren. Jesus understood that His obedient work on the cross would bring great glory to His God and Father, declaring the greatness of His name.
iii. We may say that this section of Psalm 22 reflects the primary reason Jesus went to the cross: to glorify and obey His God and Father.
c. You who fear the LORD, praise Him: The command is given to praise, to glorify, and to fear the LORD. The God of such great deliverance deserves all three things from all humanity.
i. We prophetically see in this section Jesus doing two great things in the aftermath of His great work on the cross:
· Jesus declares God’s name (I will declare Your name to My brethren).
· Jesus leads the redeemed in praise (In the midst of the assembly I will praise You).
ii. Of this second point, Spurgeon observed: “I like to think that when we pray on earth our prayers are not alone, but our great High Priest is there to offer our petitions with his own. When we sing on earth it is the same. Is not Jesus Christ in the midst of the congregation, gathering up all the notes which come from sincere lips, to put them into the golden censer, and to make them rise as precious incense before the throne of the infinite majesty?” (Spurgeon)
2. (24-25) Praising the God who answers the forsaken.
For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
Nor has He hidden His face from Him;
But when He cried to Him, He heard.
My praise shall be of You in the great assembly;
I will pay My vows before those who fear Him.
a. For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted: David’s triumphant words – again, perfectly fulfilled in his greater son Jesus – reflect a profound spiritual wisdom and depth. The God who answers the Forsaken One allowed the affliction of the afflicted; yet He has not despised or abhorred it. God has used and would use that affliction to good and great purpose.
i. Some of God’s people automatically associate all affliction with the disfavor of God. It is true that sometimes affliction may come as punishment (for the unbeliever) or as discipline (for the believer). Yet sometimes affliction is something God does not despise, and uses to good effect in the lives of His people.
ii. It is in this sense that the words of Isaiah 53:10 were fulfilled: Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. The affliction was not despised.
b. Nor has He hidden His face from Him: Certainly David (and the greater Son of David) felt that the Father hid His face (Why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me?…. You do not hear, Psalm 22:1-2). Yet now, after God’s answer has come (Psalm 22:21b), it is clear that He never did leave the afflicted, even in the midst of the affliction.
c. But when He cried to Him, He heard: The answer seemed an intolerably long time in coming, but it came. David and the Son of David could both say, “He heard My cry.”
d. My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay my vows: There are two aspects to a right response to such a wonderful deliverance. The first is public praise, and the second is keeping promises.
3. (26-27) Others who rejoice in the God who answers.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
Those who seek Him will praise the LORD.
Let your heart live forever!
All the ends of the world
Shall remember and turn to the LORD,
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before You.
a. The poor shall eat and be satisfied: If God shows such faithfulness to the afflicted, there is hope for the poor. The good God will take care of the poor who trust Him and seek Him. They will praise the LORD also.
i. The faithfulness of God to the Forsaken One becomes a foundation for His faithfulness to others in need, such as the poor. His satisfaction in the work of the Son of David means grace and blessing and joy (Let your heart live forever!) for others.
b. Those who seek Him will praise the LORD: There is a promise in this, that those who seek Him will in fact find the LORD, and thus they will praise Him.
i. “There are souls now weeping for sin and longing for a Savior who will soon find them, and then will become most hearty singers of the new song. They are coming, coming in their thousands even now. The music of praise shall be continued as long as the sun, and the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. From generation to generation shall the name of the Lord be praised.” (Spurgeon)
c. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD: The faithfulness of God to the Forsaken One even becomes the base for bringing all the ends of the world to the LORD. Not only is it true that the LORD has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted (Psalm 22:24), but He uses that affliction to reach all the ends of the world for the knowledge of God, for repentance unto Him, and for His worship (all the families of the nations shall worship before You).
i. We may say that this section of Psalm 22 shows the second great reason why Jesus went to the cross: out of simple love for those who would believe on Him and His saving work, and therefore remember and turn to the LORD. It is not an overly-sentimental exaggeration to say that Jesus thought of His redeemed and loved them up to the cross and on the cross.
ii. Hebrews 12:2 says of Jesus: who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame. Psalm 22 powerfully displays that joy, both in His obedience to and glorifying of His God and Father, and the joy of rescuing and loving those who would trust on Him; that there would be brethren that He declared the name of God unto (Psalm 22:22).
iii. “In that last happy interval, before he actually gave up his soul into his Father’s hands, his thoughts rushed forward and found a blessed place of rest in the prospect that, as the result of his death, all the kindreds of the nations would worship before the Lord, and that by a chosen seed the Most High should be honored.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “I think it is an absolutely wonderful thought and one that should move us to the most intent love for and devotion to Jesus Christ. You and I were in Jesus’ thoughts at the very moment of his death. It was for you and me explicitly and for our salvation from sin that he was dying.” (Boice)
4. (28-31) Enduring praise for a faithful God.
For the kingdom is the LORD’s,
And He rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth
Shall eat and worship;
All those who go down to the dust
Shall bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep himself alive.
A posterity shall serve Him.
It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation,
They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born,
That He has done this.
a. For the kingdom is the LORD’s, and He rules over the nations: The experience of affliction and crisis did not make the formerly Forsaken One lose any sense of confidence in God’s power and authority. The LORD’s reign over the nations makes sense of both His prior crisis and the call to all nations to worship before the LORD (Psalm 22:27).
i. This reminds us that one day Jesus will reign over all nations. It would be unthinkable otherwise. “Is Christ, the great King, satisfied to settle down in a corner of the world as ruler over one scanty province?” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Our new-born nature craves for the spread of the Redeemer’s kingdom, and prays for it instinctively.” (Spurgeon)
b. All the prosperous of the earth shall eat and worship; all those who go down to the dust shall bow before Him: The LORD God is so highly exalted that all honor Him, both the prosperous of the earth and those who go down to the dust.
i. It is of note that though all honor the LORD, they honor Him in different ways. The prosperous of the earth enjoy a fellowship meal and worship God. In contrast, those who go down to the dust simply bow before the LORD in humble reverence.
ii. This has much the same idea as the later passage of the Apostle Paul, when he wrote: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).
iii. Those who go down to the dust suggests those who are rightly humbled, but it can also be understood in a broader sense. Earlier in the psalm, dust suggested the mortality of man and his place under the curse (Psalm 22:15). David may here use those who go down to the dust as a simple representation of all humanity.
iv. If this is true, then the phrase even he who cannot keep himself alive follows the same thought. It is a suggestive phrase, especially considering the connection in this psalm with Jesus the Messiah, the greater Son of David. Of all humanity, Jesus was singular as One who could keep himself alive. Jesus Himself said of His life, No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again (John 10:18).
c. A posterity shall serve Him. It will be recounted of the LORD to the next generation: The faithfulness of God unto the formerly Forsaken One is told throughout the generations, bringing great glory to the LORD. They will all look at what has been accomplished in and through the formerly Forsaken One and hear, “That He has done this.”
· This results in service through the generations (a posterity shall serve Him).
· This results in God’s fame through the generations (It will be recounted of the LORD to the next generation).
· This results in the spread of the message of God’s righteousness through the generations (They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born).
i. We can say that Jesus thought of His Jewish brothers on the cross (My brethren, Psalm 22:22). He thought of the Gentiles who come into the assembly of the redeemed (in the great congregation, Psalm 22:25). He even thought of future generations whom He would rescue and who would trust Him (to the next generation…to a people who will be born, Psalm 22:30-31).
ii. “Finally the vision extends to unborn generations (30f.), in terms which anticipate the preaching of the cross, recounting God’s righteousness (or deliverance, a secondary meaning of the word) revealed in the action He has taken.” (Kidner)
iii. This all adds to the wonderful truth – true for King David of Israel, but far more gloriously fulfilled in Jesus Christ – that none of the Forsaken One’s sufferings were wasted. Every drop of that cup of agony was and is used to the great glory of God.
iv. In the fullest measure, Jesus appropriated the victory of the second half of this psalm just as much as He did the agony of the first half. “Just before He died, Jesus cried out, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). This is a quotation from the last verse of Psalm 22. In our text that verse reads, ‘he has done it,’ referring to God as subject. But there is no object for the verb in Hebrew, and it can equally well be translated, ‘It is finished.’” (Boice)
v. “The psalm which began with the cry of dereliction ends with the word he has wrought it, and announcement not far removed from our Lord’s great cry, ‘It is finished.’” (Kidner)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 21 – The Joyful King
The title of this psalm is the same as several others: To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. It logically connects with the previous one, Psalm 20. It would seem that the victory prayed for and trusted in has been realized, and now David thanks God for the victory given.
“There the people prayed for the king; here they give thanks for him: there they asked that his desires might be fulfilled; here they bless Jehovah, who has fulfilled them; there the battle was impending; here it has been won, though foes are still in the field.” (Alexander Maclaren)
A. A grateful, joyful king.
1. (1-2) The king’s joy in God’s strength.
The king shall have joy in Your strength, O LORD;
And in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!
You have given him his heart’s desire,
And have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
a. The king shall have joy in Your strength, O LORD: King David had many reasons to take joy in the strength of God. Perhaps this joy came from preservation and success in battle or some other deliverance.
i. The tone of the opening of this psalm is passionate. “The shoutings of the early Methodists in the excitement of the joy were far more pardonable than our own lukewarmness. Our joy should have some sort of inexpressibleness in it.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The king: “The ancient Jewish Targum (the Chaldean paraphrase of the Old Testament) and Talmud render the word king in verse 1 by melek mashiach (King Messiah), which means that the Jews in an early period understood these words to be spoken of the Messiah. A change came in the Middle Ages as a result of a judgment by Rabbi Solomon Isaaci, known as Rashi (b. A.D. 1040). He endorsed the early view but suggested it be dropped, saying, ‘Our old doctors interpreted this psalm of King Messiah, but in order to meet the Schismatics [that is, the Christians] it is better to understand it of David himself.’” (Boice)
b. You have given him his heart’s desire: The strength and salvation of God came to David in response to both the desire of his heart and his spoken prayers (the request of his lips).
i. This speaks to the special place answered prayer has in the life of the believer. Every Christian should know the thrill of frequent, wonderful answers to prayer. When a Christian does not enjoy the blessing of answered prayer, it is because he is prayerless, he is praying wrongly, or he has some hindrance in prayer.
ii. There are many things that can hinder prayer in the life of the believer, things which would prevent him from saying with David, “You have given him his heart’s desire, and have not withheld the request of his lips.” Unanswered prayer should be regarded as a warning signal that there may be a problem in one or more of the following reasons for unanswered prayer:
· Not abiding in Jesus (John 15:7).
· Unbelief (Matthew 17:20-21).
· Failure to fast (Matthew 17:21).
· Husband not honoring his wife (1 Peter 3:7).
· Not asking (James 4:2).
· Selfish praying (James 4:3).
· Disobedience (1 John 3:22).
· Not praying in God’s will (1 John 5:14-15).
· Unconfessed sin (James 5:16).
· Cold, passionless prayer (James 5:16-18; 2 Kings 20:5).
· Prayerlessness or a lack of persistence in prayer (Luke 18:1-7; Psalm 55:17).
· Sin against others (Matthew 5:23-24).
· Lack of unity (Matthew 18:19).
· Not praying in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14).
· Pride (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34).
· Lying and deceitfulness (Psalm 17:1).
· Lack of Bible reading and Bible teaching (Proverbs 28:9).
· Trusting in the length or the form of prayer (Matthew 6:7).
iii. The avoidance of these things does not earn or merit God’s response; He is not in debt to us if we avoid them. Yet they are clearly hindrances to answered prayer.
c. Selah: The idea in the Hebrew for this word (occurring 74 times in the Old Testament) is for a pause. Most scholars think it speaks of a reflective pause, a pause to meditate on the words just spoken. It may also be a musical instruction, or a musical interlude of some kind.
i. We take this Selah as an opportunity to thank God for the strength and salvation He has shown in our lives, and for the glorious way He answers prayer. We, like King David of old, take joy in such a great and loving God.
2. (3-7) Reasons for the king’s joy.
For You meet him with the blessings of goodness;
You set a crown of pure gold upon his head.
He asked life from You, and You gave it to him—
Length of days forever and ever.
His glory is great in Your salvation;
Honor and majesty You have placed upon him.
For You have made him most blessed forever;
You have made him exceedingly glad with Your presence.
For the king trusts in the LORD,
And through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved.
a. You meet him with the blessings of goodness: King David could see that the goodness of God had come to meet him. God brought it to him, more than David chasing down these blessings of goodness.
i. It was certainly true that God went before David with blessings, and that David recognized and praised Him for it. Yet often it did not seem like that in the many long years between his anointing for the throne as a young man and when he finally took the throne of Israel.
ii. God’s goodness and grace come to meet us all the time.
· The grace of His love loves us before we ever loved Him.
· The grace of restraint keeps us back from committing sins that would put us even more out of reach of the Gospel.
· The grace of salvation comes out to meet us, bringing us the goodness of God and making us able to receive the Gospel.
· The grace of ministry prepares us a thousand ways for what God has for us in the future.
· The grace of service prepares the ground where we will work before we ever get there.
b. You set a crown of pure gold upon his head: David wore the crown both of the throne of Israel – God’s special nation – and the crown of victory. Its nature of pure gold shows how special the nation and the victory were.
i. It was undeniably true of King David that he let God put the crown on his head. Though in some sense he had the right and the reasons to forcibly take the crown from Saul, he waited for God to place it upon his head.
c. He asked life from You, and You gave it to him: David went into battle praying that God would preserve his life, and now he celebrated the answer to that prayer. In the life-and-death danger of battle, David was given life and length of days.
i. “While the gift of life…for ever and ever might have implied to an Old Testament reader either a hyperbole…or an allusion to the endless dynasty promised to David in 2 Samuel 7:16, the New Testament has filled in the picture firmly with the figure of the ultimate king, the Messiah, for whom the whole stanza is true without exaggeration.” (Kidner)
d. His glory is great in Your salvation: David knew the exaltation that came to kings and victors in battle; but here he declared that this glory, this honor, this majesty he enjoyed came from God and not from himself.
e. You have made him exceedingly glad with Your presence: David proclaimed that he was most blessed forever, but it was the presence of God Himself that was his greatest blessing and gladness. David was more thrilled with the presence of God than with the crown of royalty or victory.
f. The king trusts in the LORD, and through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved: David declared his trust in the mercy of God, and that it would continue to preserve and bless him in the future.
i. Each of these things was certainly true of King David, but they are also – or perhaps even more so – true of David’s greater Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ the Son of David. We can apply each line in Psalm 21:3-7 to Jesus, victorious after His great work on the cross.
· Victorious Jesus was met with the blessings of goodness when He ascended to heaven.
· Jesus wears the crown, both as King of Kings and glorious conqueror – and His crown is of pure gold.
· Jesus asked life from God the Father, and as God’s Holy One was delivered from the grave.
· Jesus gloried in the salvation extended to Him from the Father – not a salvation from sin, but a victory over sin and death.
· Jesus rejoiced in the presence of His Father, even though there was a sense in which it was turned away from Him on the cross.
· Jesus continues to trust in His Father and will not be moved.
ii. “Napoleon crowned himself, but Jehovah crowned the Lord Jesus; the empire of the one melted in an hour, but the other has an abiding dominion.” (Spurgeon)
iii. We think particularly of what Psalm 21:6 tells us of Jesus: For You have made him most blessed forever; You have made him exceedingly glad with Your presence. This verse tells us that even though Jesus was a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3), yet at the same time He was a man who knew what it was to be most blessed forever and exceedingly glad.
iv. “He was the Prince of Peace, even when he was despised and rejected of men. Deep as were his griefs, we may reckon Jesus of Nazareth among the happiest of men.” (Spurgeon)
v. We can think of many reasons why Jesus is so happy:
· He never sinned, and sin is the mother of sorrow.
· He never was pained by His conscience.
· He never endured in Himself hatred, envy, bitterness or unforgiveness.
· He had perfect peace in the wisdom and power of God the Father.
· He was a giving, generous man who knew the joy of giving.
· He completely finished His work and knew the satisfaction of that.
· He is the source of all blessing and knows the joy of blessing others.
· He rejoices over every sinner that comes to repentance.
· He rejoices in seeing His people at work for Him.
· He rejoices in the sufferings they endure for Him.
B. The judgments of God defend His people.
1. (8-10) What God will do to His enemies.
Your hand will find all Your enemies;
Your right hand will find those who hate You.
You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of Your anger;
The LORD shall swallow them up in His wrath,
And the fire shall devour them.
Their offspring You shall destroy from the earth,
And their descendants from among the sons of men.
a. Your hand will find all Your enemies: David recognized that even though he was victorious in battle, God was not done finding and judging His enemies.
i. The time of Your anger: “The expression, ‘the time of thine anger,’ reminds us that as now is the time of his grace, so there will be a set time for his wrath…. There is a day of vengeance of our God; let those who despise the day of grace remember this day of wrath.” (Spurgeon)
b. The LORD shall swallow them up in His wrath: David confidently expressed his confidence that God would judge His enemies, and he expressed that confidence in the strongest terms – even that God would also judge the posterity of those who fight against Him.
i. “We pity the lost for they are men, but we cannot pity them as enemies of Christ.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The fire shall devour them: “Those that might have had Christ to rule and save them, but rejected him, and fought against him, even the remembrance of that will be enough to make them to eternity a fiery oven to themselves.” (Henry, cited in Spurgeon)
2. (11-12) Why the enemies of God deserve judgment.
For they intended evil against You;
They devised a plot which they are not able to perform.
Therefore You will make them turn their back;
You will make ready Your arrows on Your string toward their faces.
a. For they intended evil against You: The strong statements of judgment in Psalm 21:8-10 seem to demand an explanation. Why such a severe judgment? Because they intentionally rebelled against God and His people, even though their plans were bigger than their ability to perform (they devised a plot which they are not able to perform).
i. “Intentional evil has a virus in it which is not found in sins of ignorance; now as ungodly men with malice aforethought attack the gospel of Christ, their crime is great, and their punishment will be proportionate.” (Spurgeon)
ii. We find comfort in the truth that they devised a plot which they are not able to perform. Many threaten and confidently announce the demise of God’s work in our day, but they most definitely are not able to perform it.
b. You will make them turn their back: David sees – and perhaps literally saw – the enemies of God running away on the field of battle, with their back turned against the advancing armies of God.
c. You will make ready Your arrows on Your string toward their faces: David saw the enemies of God as helpless before the ready arrows and taut bow string of the war-like, judging God. His arrows are aimed right at their faces.
i. “The judgments of God are called his ‘arrows,’ being sharp, swift, sure, and deadly.” (Horne)
ii. This reminds us how near the judgment of God actually is against those who reject Him, and how it is only His great mercy that prevents the release of His arrow of judgment against them. It is a great (but rarely regarded or understood) sin that man ignores and presumes upon this great mercy.
3. (13) Praising the God of strength.
Be exalted, O LORD, in Your own strength!
We will sing and praise Your power.
a. Be exalted, O LORD, in Your own strength: David worshipped God directly here. He exalted the LORD who had this great strength within Himself, and never needed to rely on another for strength.
i. “Exalt thyself, O Lord – thy creatures cannot exalt thee.” (Clarke)
b. We will sing and praise Your power: After the direct statement of praise, David expressed the determination that he and the people of God would continue to praise God, and to do so in song.
i. The psalm’s end is consistent with the tone throughout. It is full of praise to God for the blessings of victory, deliverance, and answered prayer. This attitude should always be among the people of God.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 20 – The LORD Saves His Anointed
The title of this psalm is the same as several others: To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. Yet the psalm itself is different, notably because it is in the voice of a multitude that prays on behalf of the King of Israel as he is ready to go into battle. This is seen in the way the psalm speaks in the first-person plural (We) in Psalm 20:1-5 and 20:7-9. The first-person singular (I) of 20:6 is likely the response of either David himself or the High Priest on his behalf.
Yet since this is A Psalm of David, perhaps David took a moment of spontaneous prayer by the people on his behalf and shaped it into a song to remember and recall the spiritual strength and glory of that moment.
A. The people pray for the King.
1. (1-2) May the LORD answer and help.
May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble;
May the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
May He send you help from the sanctuary,
And strengthen you out of Zion;
a. May the LORD answer you: This was a prayer from a multitude or congregation (based on the use of we in Psalm 20:5) that God would answer the prayers of one, who in context is the king readying for battle.
i. We know that “you” refers to one person, because it is in the singular. “You is singular throughout, identified in verse 6 as the Lord’s anointed.” (Kidner)
ii. The picture is that of King David, before battle – perhaps something like the battle with the Syrians in 2 Samuel 10 – at the tabernacle of God and offering prayers and sacrifices. Here the onlooking multitude responds to the king’s prayer with the cry, “May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble.”
iii. “It is one of the most stirring of the Psalms, by its tense awareness of life-and-death issues soon to be resolved.” (Kidner)
iv. With the eye of faith, we see that this also speaks to the great battle fought by one greater than King David – by Jesus, the Son of David and the King of Kings. We can imagine this prayer being offered prophetically for Jesus as He pointed Himself toward the cross, where He would fight the greatest battle against sin, death, and Satan’s power.
b. Answer you in the day of trouble…defend you…send you help…strengthen you: After the pattern of Hebrew poetry, this idea is intensively expressed by the use of repetition with slight variation. David was about to lead Israel into battle, and he needed the help of God in each of these ways.
i. Because King David was about to lead Israel as a whole into battle, the language is full of references appealing to the LORD as the God of Israel.
· The LORD: Using Yahweh, the covenant name of God.
· The God of Jacob: Remembering Israel’s patriarch.
· From the sanctuary: Calling to mind the tabernacle, the center of Israel’s worship.
· Out of Zion: Referring to the hills of Jerusalem.
ii. “This word for sanctuary is simply ‘holiness’, a synonym here for Zion, where already God’s ark, but not yet His Temple, signified His presence.” (Kidner)
iii. The prayer that God would strengthen you out of Zion is fitting for more than the field of battle. It is also appropriate for the church pulpit, which is a field of battle in a spiritual sense. “This verse is a benediction befitting a Sabbath morning, and may be the salutation either of a pastor to his people, or of a church to its minister.” (Spurgeon)
2. (3) May the LORD receive sacrifice.
May He remember all your offerings,
And accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah
a. May He remember all your offerings: Sacrifice was commonly made at important moments, such as on the eve of battle. This is a prayer that the LORD would see and receive the sacrifices King David would make before war.
i. All your offerings: “The minchah, which is here mentioned, was a gratitude-offering. It is rarely used to signify a bloody sacrifice.” (Clarke)
b. May He remember…and accept your burnt sacrifice: This reminds us that not all sacrifices are accepted before God. If they were not offered with faith and in accordance with the Levitical system, they would not be remembered or accepted by God.
i. Burnt sacrifice: “The olah here mentioned was a bloody sacrifice. The blood of the victim was spilt at the altar, and the flesh consumed.” (Clarke)
ii. The place of faith was important in the Old Testament sacrificial system. The one who brought the offering had to trust in the ultimate, perfect sacrifice that God would one day provide, the one that each animal sacrifice pointed toward (Genesis 22:8, 22:14).
iii. “The prayer for acceptance of the burnt offering is very graphic, since the word rendered ‘accept’ is literally ‘esteem fat.’” (Maclaren)
c. Selah: The idea in the Hebrew for this word (occurring 74 times in the Old Testament) is for a pause. Most scholars think it speaks of a reflective pause, a pause to meditate on the words just spoken. It may also be a musical instruction, or a musical interlude of some kind.
i. We take this Selah as an opportunity to consider Jesus, and see that this prayer was appropriate for Him as He faced the cross. The prayer was worthy to be prayed – that God would indeed remember and accept the offering Jesus made on the cross, which could rightly be called a burnt sacrifice, as it was burned with the fire of God’s righteous judgment, and Jesus held nothing back in this sacrifice.
3. (4) May the LORD grant fulfillment.
May He grant you according to your heart’s desire,
And fulfill all your purpose.
a. May He grant you according to your heart’s desire: In this moment, King David had one desire – to defend the people of God and the kingdom in covenant with God. Therefore it was good to pray, “May He grant you according to your heart’s desire.”
i. When our desires are in accord with the plan and will of God for us, we can pray this same prayer with confidence. We can also look for God to bring our desires more and more into conformity with His, in the course of our Christian growth.
b. And fulfill all your purpose: Since David’s purpose was victory for the people of God, this was a good and necessary prayer to pray.
i. We see this statement also applied to the great desire and purpose for the King of Kings as He went to battle to accomplish our salvation. We look to Jesus, struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane and say to Him, “May He grant You according to Your heart’s desire, and fulfill all Your purpose.”
ii. On a personal level, we also see that God gives each one a purpose to fulfill in His great plan of the ages. The key to a life of fulfilled desire and achieved purpose is to find our place in His great plan, instead of hoping to make God an actor in our plan.
· Jesus knew this fulfilled desire and purpose, shown by His prayer in John 17: I have finished the work which You have given Me to do (John 17:4).
· The Apostle Paul knew this fulfilled desire and purpose, shown by these words toward the end of his earthly life: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).
4. (5) May the LORD answer prayer.
We will rejoice in your salvation,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
a. We will rejoice in your salvation: This was the confidence the people had in King David’s success. They had so much trust in God’s deliverance that they had already planned to set up our banners of joyful celebration.
i. “Here the raising of the banners signifies God’s victory over the enemies.” (VanGemeren)
ii. The banners are “Our flags of defiance to the enemy, or our tokens of triumph to God’s glory, who hath given us the victory.” (Trapp)
b. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions: Once again the prayer demonstrates the confidence that God would hear and fulfill the prayers of His king.
i. This was true both of David and the Son of David (John 17:1-5); of the King of Israel and the King of Kings. Jesus prayed for success in His work on the cross, and it was unthinkable that the Father would not answer the prayers of the Son.
B. The triumph of the LORD’s Anointed.
1. (6) The LORD saves His anointed.
Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.
a. Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed: Here King David expressed the great confidence that God would answer the prayers of His people. God would save (rescue) the king (His anointed).
i. His anointed: In a sense, all of the kings of Israel were God’s anointed because they were all appointed to their office by a literal anointing of oil poured upon their head. This literal anointing with oil was a picture of the spiritual anointing with the Holy Spirit needed for their duty of leading the people of God as king. In saying “His anointed,” David refers to himself as king.
ii. His anointed: At the same time, it was also understood that there would come an ultimate Anointed One, the perfect King of Israel – the Meshiach, the Christ, the Messiah (as in Psalm 2 and others). It was true of David and Israel in his day that the Lord saves His anointed and his people; it is even more perfectly true of the ultimate and perfect Anointed One, Jesus Christ.
iii. “The verb ‘saves’, from the same root as ‘victorious,’ could yield the translation ‘the LORD gives victory to his anointed.’” (VanGemeren) Kidner also notes that saves (in Psalm 20:6 and 20:9) comes from the same root in Hebrew as the name of Jesus.
iv. Indeed, the LORD saves His anointed:
· The Father saved the Son from sin.
· The Father saved the Son from pride.
· The Father saved the Son from self-reliance.
· The Father saved the Son from doubt.
· The Father saved the Son from failure.
· The Father saved the Son from death, by raising Him from the dead.
b. He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand: This confirms and strengthens the idea that the LORD saves His anointed.
i. He is saved by an answer; God is not silent to His anointed.
ii. He is saved from heaven; God hears and sends help from His throne.
iii. He is saved with power, with the saving strength.
iv. He is saved with skill and favor, with the strength that comes from His right hand.
v. Each of these was true for King David, but even more perfectly true of the Son of David, the ultimate anointed of the LORD.
2. (7) Trusting in the name of the LORD.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
a. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: David knew what kings and their people usually trusted in – human strength and the ways it is often expressed (in chariots and in horses).
i. If writing today, David might say something like, “Some trust in nuclear weapons and some trust in tanks.” It is part of human nature to put our trust in such things.
ii. “Chariots and horses are very terrible, especially to raw soldiers unaccustomed to their whirling onset; but the Name is mightier.” (Maclaren)
iii. Part of the reason David refused to trust in chariots and horses was because God had commanded it so, commanding in the Law of Moses that the Kings of Israel would not multiply horses for themselves, either for use in cavalry or to pull war-chariots (Deuteronomy 17:16).
b. But we will remember: David drew a strong contrast. “They trust in those things, but our trust is in God.”
i. “In the spiritual war, in which we are all engaged, the first and necessary step to victory is, to renounce all confidence in the wisdom and strength of nature and the world; and to remember, that we can do nothing, but in the name, by the merits, through the power, and for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and our God.” (Horne)
ii. “Alas, how many in our day who profess to be the Lord’s are as abjectly dependent upon their fellow-men or upon an arm of flesh in some shape or other, as if they had never known the name of Jehovah at all.” (Spurgeon)
c. But we will remember the name of the LORD our God: David put his trust in the person, the character of God. He didn’t carry the name of the LORD as a magical incantation; rather the name speaks of the comprehensive character of God and is an expression of His faithfulness to His covenant with Israel.
i. “By the name of God is generally understood, in Holy Writ, the various properties and attributes of God: these properties and attributes make up and constitute the name of God. As when Solomon says, ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe.’” (Melvill, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. This – the character and faithfulness of God – was stronger to David and Israel than thousands of chariots or horses.
iii. Therefore, we sense a triumphant defiance in David when he says, “But we will remember.” He acknowledges how easy it is to forget, and how counter-intuitive to human nature it is to trust God instead of human strength and resources.
3. (8-9) The triumph of those who trust in the LORD.
They have bowed down and fallen;
But we have risen and stand upright.
May the King answer us when we call.
a. They have bowed down and fallen; but we have risen and stand upright: David’s trust in God could be justified on many grounds, but one of those was the simple truth that David found that trusting God works, he learned that this faith leads to success. Those who trusted in chariots and horses have bowed down and fallen. Those who remembered the name of the LORD have risen and stand upright.
b. Save, LORD! May the King answer us when we call: The rescue David confidently sang of had not completely come. He still needed to cry out, “Save, LORD!” He still had his trust in the anticipated answer of the LORD.
i. “This is the language of faith, not after the battle, but before it.” (Morgan)
ii. “The final phrase, literally ‘in the day of our calling’, has a telling echo of the opening verse.” (Kidner)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 19 – The Heavens, the Word, and the Glory of God
The title tells us both the author and the audience of the psalm: To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. Some believe that the Chief Musician is 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).
“This Psalm reflects, more than any other, the beauty and splendor of the Hebrew poetry found in the Psalter. C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.’” (Willem VanGemeren)
A. The message from the heavens.
1. (1-4a) The message from the heavens is broad.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.
a. The heavens declare the glory of God: David looked to the heavens – not the spiritual heaven where God is enthroned, but the heavens of the blue sky and the night sky – and he clearly saw the glory of God declared.
i. He could see it in the blue sky, with the glory of the sun and clouds and the beauty of sunrises and sunsets.
ii. He could see it in the night sky, with the brightness of the moon, the awe of the starry sky and the cloudy spread of the distant galaxies.
iii. These together – with their size, their awe, their grandeur – shouted to David and all who would see, “The God who created all this is glorious, and this is evidence of His glory.”
· He is glorious in His size, having created something so big.
· He is glorious in His engineering, having created something that works together so well.
· He is glorious in His artistry, having created something so beautiful.
· He is glorious in His goodness and kindness, having created something for all humanity to see.
b. And the firmament shows His handiwork: David repeated the idea in the previous line. “Firmament” is a poetic way of referring to the heavens or the sky, and they show the handiwork of God.
c. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge: The day sky and the night sky speak to us, and reveal knowledge about the glory, wisdom, and creative greatness of God.
i. Utters speech: “This is stronger in the Hebrew text than it appears to be in English, for the image is literally of a gushing spring that copiously pours forth sweet, refreshing waters of revelation.” (Boice)
ii. Reveals knowledge: “Knowledge is well matched with night, since without the night skies man would have known, until recently, nothing but an empty universe.” (Kidner) If God had not placed the stars in the night sky, the blackness of night would have communicated powerfully to all humanity, ancient and modern, “There is nothing and no one out there.”
iii. “Though all preachers on earth should grow silent, and every human mouth cease from publishing the glory of God, the heavens above will never cease to declare and proclaim his majesty and glory. They are for ever preaching; for, like an unbroken chain, their message is delivered from day to day and from night to night.” (Tholuck, cited in Spurgeon)
iv. “Day bids us labour, night reminds us to prepare for our last home; day bids us work for God, and night invites us to rest in him; day bids us look for endless day, and night warns us to escape from everlasting night.” (Spurgeon)
d. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard: The glory of God in the visible heavens is for all to see; it is communicated to all mankind, no matter what their language. It is a message that has gone out through all the earth.
i. The Apostle Paul expanded this idea in Romans 1. He explained that God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Paul told us that because this testimony had gone out through all creation, all men are without excuse for rejecting the God who gave us such clear (and beautiful) evidence of His power and wisdom.
ii. “Should a man live underground, and there converse with the works of art and mechanism, and should afterwards be brought up into the open day, and see the several glories of the heaven and earth, he would immediately pronounce them the works of such a Being as we define God to be.” (Aristotle, cited in Spurgeon)
iii. “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” (Astronomer and physicist Robert Jastrow, cited in Boice)
2. (4b-6) The message from the heavens is strong and glorious.
In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.
Its rising is from one end of heaven,
And its circuit to the other end;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
a. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun: David poetically described the nighttime sky as a dwelling place – a tent, a tabernacle – for the sun. The sun comes out of its “tent” every day to cross the heavens, and returns to its tabernacle at night.
i. “God has assigned it its place to occupy and its course to run; the whole sky its mere tent and track.” (Kidner)
b. Like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race: The sun makes its course through the sky with strength and joy, like a man in his prime or an athlete running a race.
i. “All would agree that the psalm, if it glances at mythology, repudiates it. The sun may be ‘like’ a bridegroom or a runner; it is in fact no more than a glorious part of God’s ‘handiwork.’” (Kidner)
c. Its rising is from one end of heaven…there is nothing hidden from its heat: The sun covers the whole sky, and its strength extends everywhere. It is a wonderful example of the glory of God declared in the heavens.
B. The message from the word of God.
1. (7-9) The glorious character of God’s word, described seven ways.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
a. The law of the LORD: Here David abruptly shifted from praising the God who reveals Himself in creation to praising the same God for revealing Himself in His word. It is as if David said, “Creation tells us much about God, but His word tells us much more.”
i. “‘Two things’, according to Kant, ‘fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe…the starry heavens above and the moral law within.’ The psalm transcends the second of these themes by looking to the divine law revealed.” (Kidner)
ii. One reason the word is a greater revelation than creation is that it tells us much more about God. It reveals Him as the covenant God of love, as reflected in the structure of this psalm. In Psalm 19:1-6, God is referred to as El – the most generic word for God in the Hebrew language (even more generic than the commonly used Elohim). Yet here at Psalm 19:7-9, God is referred to as Yahweh (the LORD), the God of covenant love and faithfulness to His people.
iii. “He is wisest who reads both the world-book and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, ‘My Father wrote them both.’” (Spurgeon)
iv. David then explains seven glorious statements about the word of God: how wonderful and effective it is. As is common in other places – especially the great Psalm 119 – David used a variety of expressions to refer to the word of God (law, testimony, statutes, commandment, fear, judgments). It is best to see these as poetic terms describing God’s written revelation in general, rather than one specific type of revelation (such as only the laws given in the Mosaic law).
b. The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: The word of God is perfect. It gives us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). While it does not give us all knowledge, all the knowledge it gives is true and perfect. Understood in its literary context, God’s word is never wrong in science or history or the understanding of either divine or human nature.
i. Part of the perfection of God’s word is that it is effective; it does the work of converting the soul. There is power in the reading and hearing and studying of the word of God that goes beyond intellectual benefit; it actually changes for the better – converts – the soul.
ii. The Hebrew word translated here as converting is perhaps better understood as reviving – that is, bringing new life to the soul. “First, God’s word ‘revives.’ Its restorative quality gives healing to the whole person by assuring forgiveness and cleansing and by giving life to the godly.” (VanGemeren)
c. The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple: The word of God is sure, being reliable and certain. As the psalmist would write in Psalm 119:89, Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.
i. “Sure, by its passive form, can mean not only what is firm but what is confirmed: cf. ‘verified’ in Genesis 42:20.” (Kidner)
ii. Because it is so sure and certain, it does the work of making wise the simple. Many people of simple education or upbringing have tremendous wisdom unto life and godliness because they study and trust the sure word of the LORD.
d. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: God’s word and the commands contained within are right. They are morally right, they are practically right, and they are universally right. They are right because it is the revelation of a God who is holy, true, and always right.
i. Are right: “To make straight, smooth, right, upright, opposed to crookedness in mind or conduct; showing what the man should be, both within and without.” (Clarke)
ii. The one who knows the word of God and the God of the word rejoices in this. He finds joy, actual pleasure in the truth of God and relationship with God revealed in His word.
e. The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes: Because God’s word comes from a God who is Himself pure and holy, the word itself is pure. A pure God can communicate no other way. We never have to worry about the word of God leading people into sin or impurity; if it seems to have happened, it is evidence that the Scriptures have been twisted (2 Peter 3:16).
i. This pure word will enlighten the eyes. It will bring the cheer and comfort and knowledge and confidence that a light in the midst of darkness brings.
f. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever: The word of God is clean, and therefore is enduring forever. It will never fade or corrode, diminishing because of impurity. It is clean and it makes clean.
i. Here David called the word of God the “fear of the LORD.” It is deeply connected to the awe and majesty of God Himself. One who reads and hears and studies the word of God, meeting Him in His word, will have an appropriate appreciation of God’s awe and majesty – the fear of the LORD.
g. The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether: David summarized this beautiful chain of seven pearls, each describing some aspect of the word of God. Here he declared that the words of God are true and righteous altogether; there is nothing false or unrighteous in His word.
i. There is no applied aspect to this statement as in the previous five. For David, it was enough to simply say it: “true and righteous altogether.” Perhaps David assumed we would be wise and logical enough to apply it ourselves: “Therefore read it, study it, meditate on it, love it, live it.”
ii. Remember that King David wrote this with only a fraction of what we have today as the word of God; his portion was not as glorious as the complete revelation of God. David would have had the first five books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy); Joshua, Judges, a few psalms; and perhaps Job and Ruth. We can only imagine what King David would have written about Isaiah or Hosea or the entire Psalter, much less any of the books of the New Testament. We can say with confidence that God’s word is far more glorious than King David knew!
2. (10-11) The great value of God’s word.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.
a. More to be desired are they than gold: King David insisted that the value of God’s word – His written revelation to man – was more valuable and desirable than gold itself. David wanted no amount of money or wealth to command his attention and affection more than the word of God.
i. King David was a massively wealthy man, yet he is rarely known for his riches. He is much more known for his great heart toward God. His son Solomon was even more wealthy than David, and was known for his riches – yet not nearly as much for his heart toward God and his love of God’s word.
ii. If it weren’t enough to say that God’s word should be more desirable than gold, King David amplified the point by saying, “Yea, than much fine gold.”
iii. “This is strictly true; but who believes it? By most men gold is preferred both to God and his judgments; and they will barter every heavenly portion for gold and silver!” (Clarke)
b. Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb: For King David, God’s word was not only to be held in greater esteem than material wealth, but also greater than experiences of the senses. Honey is sweet and pleasant to eat, but God’s word is sweeter still.
c. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward: David here gave two reasons why the word of God was greater than material wealth or sensual pleasures.
i. God’s word gives instruction – warning – that wealth or pleasures do not give (is warned).
· Warning is needed for sins we are susceptible to.
· Warning is needed for dangers we cannot see.
· Warning is needed for dangers we cannot appreciate.
· Warning is needed for dangers far off in the future.
· Warnings are often rejected.
ii. God’s word gives benefit – reward – greater than wealth or pleasures (great reward).
d. In keeping them there is great reward: It is also true that there is great reward for keeping the word of God; but that is not what the psalmist said here. Here David noted the reward in keeping them. There is a sense in which obedience becomes its own reward, because we live the way God wants us and designed us to live.
i. One of the great rewards of keeping the word of God is peace of mind. “A quiet conscience is a little heaven. A martyr was fastened to the stake, and the sheriff who was to execute him expressed his sorrow that he should persevere in his opinions, and compel him to set fire to the pile. The martyr answered, ‘Do not trouble yourself, for I am not troubling myself. Come and lay your hand upon my heart, and see if it does not beat quietly.’ His request was complied with, and he was found to be quite calm. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘lay your hand on your own heart, and see if you are not more troubled than I am; and then go your way, and, instead of pitying me, pity yourself.’” (Spurgeon)
3. (12-13) The desire for inward cleansing.
Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
a. Who can understand his errors? In the previous verse David reflected on the warnings found in the word of God, and in the great reward found in obeying God’s word. This made him reflect on the times and ways he had ignored the warnings and not kept the word.
i. In asking “Who can understand his errors?” David understood that he had ignored and disobeyed God’s word even more than he was aware of. What he knew was enough to make him concerned; his actual errors before God were still worse.
ii. Notably, the fact that we cannot understand our errors does not excuse us from them. We are still accountable for such errors and faults before God and must trust in His atonement to cleanse us from these errors and secret faults.
b. Cleanse me from secret faults: David wisely prayed this prayer, knowing that he could not know just how many his errors were before God. He needed cleansing even from the sins and faults that were secret to him.
i. “We desire the inner purity of heart. But this is peculiarly God’s prerogative. It is his work to cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of his Holy Spirit. ‘Cleanse THOU me.’” (Meyer)
ii. Secret faults: “From those which I have committed, and have forgotten; from those for which I have not repented; from those which have been committed in my heart, but have not been brought to act in my life; from those which I have committed without knowing that they were sins, sins of ignorance; and from those which I have committed in private, for which I should blush and be confounded were they to be made public.” (Clarke)
c. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins: David added this because he knew that his problem was greater than secret faults and unknown errors. Without God’s help (which he here prayed for), he was also perfectly capable of committing presumptuous sins, sins done in a proud and knowing way.
i. Things that make sin presumptuous:
· When we know better.
· When friends have warned us.
· When God Himself has warned us.
· When we have warned others against the same sins.
· When we plan and relish our sin.
ii. The description of errors and secret faults and presumptuous sins reminds us that sin has a progression.
· It goes from passing temptation to chosen thought (errors).
· It goes from chosen thought to object of meditation.
· It goes from object of meditation to wished-for fulfillment.
· It goes from wished-for fulfillment to planned action (secret faults).
· It goes from planned action to opportunity sought.
· It goes from opportunity sought to performed act.
· It goes from performed act to repeated action.
· It goes from repeated action to delight (presumptuous sins).
· It goes from delight to new and various ways.
· It goes from new and various ways to habit.
· It goes from habit to idolatry, demanding to be served.
· It goes from idolatry to sacrifice.
· It goes from sacrifice to slavery.
iii. All along this continuum the Holy Spirit – and hopefully our conscience – say, “No – stop!” All along this continuum, we are given the way of escape by God (1 Corinthians 10:13), if we will only take it. Yet if we do not, and we end up in slavery to sin, it legitimately questions the state of our soul (1 John 3:6-9).
iv. Because of this great danger, David prayed keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins. “Will you just note, that this prayer was the prayer of a saint, the prayer of a holy man of God? Did David need to pray thus? Did the ‘man after God’s own heart’ need to cry, ‘Keep back thy servant?’ Yes, he did.” (Spurgeon)
d. Let them not have dominion over me: Indeed, King David not only knew that he was capable of such sins, but that they could potentially have dominion over him. His prayer was rightly placed; his love of God’s word and his dependence upon God in prayer would help him stay free from the dominion of enslaving sin.
i. This prayer is even more fitting for one who relates to God on the basis of the New Covenant. As Paul wrote, For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14).
e. Then I shall be blameless: David knew that when sin was addressed in his life – dealing both with inward, secret sin and outward, presumptuous, enslaving sin – then he could be blameless and innocent of great transgression.
i. This was not a claim of sinless perfection, either achieved or to attain to before resurrection. David knew well that he needed to be cleansed, and trusted in God’s perfect sacrifice – prefigured by the animal sacrifices he practiced in the Mosaic system. David understood blamelessness and innocence on a human, relative level and not in an absolute sense according to the Divine measure.
4. (14) A prayer of surrender and purity.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
a. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight: David closed this glorious psalm with a humble surrender of his mouth and heart to God. He knew that real godliness was not only a matter of what a man did, but also of what he said and thought in his heart.
i. This was not a proud proclamation that David knew he was innocent and blameless; it was a plea to be made so by the transforming power of God.
ii. Acceptable in Your sight: “The psalm ends, not on the note of avoiding sin, but on that of offering back to God the mind’s fitting response to His own words, as a pure sacrifice (cf. Hosea 14:2). This is the probable implication of acceptable, a term often found in sacrificial contexts.” (Kidner)
b. O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer: King David looked to the Lord GOD to be his strength and redemption. He knew that he needed a Redeemer, and that the faithful God would rescue him.
i. Strength can also be translated as Rock. God’s strength is like a mighty rock that rescues us and gives us a firm standing place.
ii. Redeemer is that great Hebrew word goel, the kinsman-redeemer. It was the goel who bought his relative out of slavery, who rescued him in bankruptcy and total loss. King David looked to God Himself as his kinsman-redeemer.
iii. “If our Rock were not our Redeemer, we should be without hope. If our Redeemer were not our Rock, still might we be afraid. It is good that we never forget the mutual interpretation of these two revelations of God.” (Morgan)
iv. This psalm has run a glorious course. It begins with recognizing the glory of God in creation, and then the glory of His written revelation. Next to this great God and His great works, David knew himself to be small and sinful. Yet this great God would also be David’s strength and Redeemer as David put his trust in Him.
v. The glorious God of creation and revelation was also the glorious God of personal relationship and redemption for His people. King David knew this; so should we.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 18 – Great Praise from a Place of Great Victory
This is a long psalm; there are only three psalms longer in the entire collection (78, 89, and 119). Its length is well suited to its theme, as described in the title. The title itself is long, with only one longer in the psalter (Psalm 60): To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all of his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said:
In the title David tells us whom the psalm was written for: God Himself, who is the Chief Musician. He tells us more about himself, that we should consider him the servant of the LORD. He tells us the occasion for the writing of the psalm – possibly not only the immediate aftermath of Saul’s death (described in 1 Samuel 31; 2 Samuel 1), but also of the period leading to David’s enthronement (2 Samuel 2-5). He tells us also something about Saul, who out of great, undeserved kindness on David’s part, is not explicitly counted among the enemies of David (from the hand of all of his enemies and from the hand of Saul).
This psalm is virtually the same as the psalm sung by David at the very end of his life, as recorded in 2 Samuel 22. It is likely that David composed this song as a younger man; yet in his old age David could look back with great gratitude and sing this song again, looking at his whole life.
A. God’s past deliverance for David.
1. (1-3) David praises the God of his deliverance.
I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.
a. I will love You, O LORD: This was a triumphant declaration made in a season of great triumph. It is true that David decided to love the LORD, but even more true that he simply felt compelled to love the LORD who delivered him so wonderfully.
i. Since he was taken from the sheepfold and anointed the future king of Israel, David had lived some 20 or so years as a fugitive, and as a man who had lost everything. He lost his safety, he lost his youth, he lost his family, he lost his career, he lost his rights, he lost his connection with the covenant people of God, he lost his comforts, and at times he even lost his close relationship with God. Despite all, he remained steadfast to the Lord, and God – in His timing – delivered David and fulfilled the long-ago promise of his anointing.
ii. In saying, “I will love You,” David used a somewhat unusual word. “This word for love is an uncommon one, impulsive and emotional. Found elsewhere only in its intensive forms, it usually expresses the compassionate love of the stronger for the weaker.” (Boice)
iii. “Hebrew, I will love thee dearly and entirely…from the very heart-root.” (Trapp)
iv. “The precluding invocation in Psalm 18:1-3 at once touches the high-water mark of Old Testament devotion, and is conspicuous among its noblest utterances. Nowhere else in Scripture is the form of the word employed which is here used for ‘love.’ It has special depth and tenderness.” (Maclaren)
v. David said, “I will love You” to the God who delivered him, not only for rescuing him from his trial, but for all God did in and through the trials to make him what he was. David wasn’t bitter against God, as if he said, “Well, it’s about time You delivered me.” Instead he was grateful that the years of trouble had done something good and necessary in his life.
b. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer: David knew this to be true before, but he knew it by faith. Now David sang from a perspective that knew this by experience in a greater way than ever before.
i. When David said, “The LORD is my rock,” he likely meant it in more than one sense. A rock was of help to the ancient Judean in several ways.
· It could provide essential shade, always needed in the merciless sun and heat of the desert (as in Isaiah 32:2).
· It could provide shelter and protection in its cracks and crevasses (as in Exodus 33:22 and Proverbs 30:26).
· It could provide a firm place to stand and fight, as opposed to sinking sand (as in Psalm 40:2).
c. My God, my strength, in whom I will trust: David knew the triumph of God’s strength over the long trial. Many people fall under the excruciating length of an extended season of trial, and David almost did (1 Samuel 27; 29-30).
i. That fact that David saw his God as his strength reminds us of the promise later expressed through Paul: Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10).
d. My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold: As David listed honoring name for God upon honoring name (we can count nine just in these first few verses), we get the feeling of a flood of praise and emotion from David. He can’t say enough about who God is and the great things He has done for David.
i. It is revealing that David can speak so eloquently about his God and what God has done for him. As Maclaren says, “The whole is one long, loving accumulation of dear names.” This means that David both knew God and had experienced God.
ii. In these nine titles, we see what God was for David:
· His strength, the One who empowered him to survive against and defeat his enemies.
· His rock, which indicates a place of shelter, safety, and a secure standing.
· His fortress, a place of strength and safety.
· His deliverer, the One who made a way of escape for him.
· His God, “my strong God, not only the object of my adoration, but he who puts strength in my soul.” (Clarke)
· His strength, but this uses a different Hebrew word than in Psalm 18:1. According to Clarke, the idea behind this word is fountain, source, origin.
· His shield, who defends both his head and his heart.
· His horn, meaning his strength and defense.
· His stronghold, his high tower of refuge where he could see an enemy from a great distance and be protected from the adversary.
iii. “When he was conscious that the object of his worship was such as he has pointed out in the above nine particulars, it is no wonder that he resolves to call upon him; and no wonder that he expects, in consequence, to be saved from his enemies; for who can destroy him whom such a God undertakes to save?” (Clarke)
e. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies: In previous psalms David cried out to God from times of intense crisis; now he cries out to God with the same strength to praise Him for His deliverance. It is sad to say that many are far more passionate in asking for help than they ever are in giving thanks or praise.
i. The thought, “So shall I be saved from my enemies” did not always come easily for David. Not very long before this great season of victory, he said to himself: Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines (1 Samuel 27:1). This shows that there were times when David deeply doubted the final victory he now enjoyed; but it also shows that in the end, his faith – and more importantly, God’s strength – was greater than his weakness.
ii. Therefore, at this point, it is all a song of praise for David. “To be saved singing is to be saved indeed. Many are saved mourning and doubting; but David had such faith that he could fight singing, and win the battle with a song still on his lips.” (Spurgeon)
2. (4-6) The danger that made David cry out to the LORD.
The pangs of death surrounded me,
And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid.
The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the LORD,
And cried out to my God;
He heard my voice from His temple,
And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.
a. The pangs of death surrounded me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid: David described two threats: first, the threat of death, and second the floods of ungodliness. The overwhelming presence of ungodliness was a significant trial to David.
i. This reminds us that despite the fact that David was a true warrior, he was also a sensitive soul who was troubled by the deeds and words of the ungodly.
b. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me: This was another way of saying that David was threatened with death. Sheol is another word for the grave or death.
c. He heard my voice from His temple: This was long before the later building of the temple in the days of Solomon. The city of Jerusalem wasn’t even in Israeli control at the time David wrote this (not until 2 Samuel 5:6-10). Yet David knew that God had a temple, a heavenly temple that was the model for the tabernacle and the later temple (Exodus 25:9, 25:40), and that God heard prayer from heaven.
i. What did God hear from His temple? God heard David’s cry (cried out to my God). “This same poor man cried, and the cry set Jehovah’s activity in motion. The deliverance of a single soul may seem a small thing, but if the single soul has prayed it is no longer small, for God’s good name is involved.” (Maclaren)
3. (7-15) The majestic deliverance God brought to David.
Then the earth shook and trembled;
The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken,
Because He was angry.
Smoke went up from His nostrils,
And devouring fire from His mouth;
Coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With darkness under His feet.
And He rode upon a cherub, and flew;
He flew upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness His secret place;
His canopy around Him was dark waters
And thick clouds of the skies.
From the brightness before Him,
His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire.
The LORD thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe,
Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
The foundations of the world were uncovered
At Your rebuke, O LORD,
At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.
a. Then the earth shook and trembled: David describes the dramatic deliverance God brought to him. It was marked by earthquakes, the indignation of God (He was angry), smoke and fire, and the personal intervention of God (He rode upon a cherub, and flew).
i. “When a monarch is angry, and prepares for war, his whole kingdom is instantly in commotion. Universal nature is here represented as feeling the effects of its sovereign’s displeasure, and all the visible elements are disordered.” (Horne)
ii. Smoke went up from His nostrils: “A violent [Middle Eastern] method of expressing fierce wrath. Since the breath from the nostrils is heated by strong emotion, the figure portrays the Almighty Deliverer as pouring forth smoke in the heat of his wrath and the impetuousness of his zeal.” (Spurgeon)
iii. He rode upon a cherub, and flew: David here emphasized the speed of God’s deliverance. “As swiftly as the wind. He came to my rescue with all speed.” (Poole) We may fairly wonder if it seemed speedy to David at the time.
iv. This terminology of David emphasizes the judgment of God; but since the judgment is directed against David’s enemies, it means deliverance for David. God won this victory against David’s strong enemy, against those who hated David (Psalm 18:16-17).
v. There is a larger principle here: understanding that deliverance for a righteous person or people often means judgment against those who oppress them.
b. The LORD thundered from heaven: David set phrase upon phrase in describing the great work of God on his behalf. According to David’s description, God moved heaven, sky, earth, and sea to deliver David.
i. When David described help coming to him through earthquakes, thunder, storms, and lightning, he clearly used poetic images from the way God delivered Israel from Egypt, at Mount Sinai, and during the conquest of Canaan under Joshua. Yet it is also entirely possible – if not probable – that he also literally saw such phenomenon sent from God to protect and fight for him. Though such events are not recorded in 1 or 2 Samuel, we remember that there were long periods of David’s life (such as when he was hunted as a fugitive from Saul) of which we have few descriptions of events. He must have experienced God’s deliverance again and again in a variety of ways.
ii. The way David describes it all leaves us with two impressions. First, he really believed those things happened as recorded in the Bible. Second, he saw the same God do similar things for him in his own day.
iii. Significantly, we might say that David could only really see this once his deliverance was accomplished. In the midst of his trial, David had many reasons and occasions to wonder where the delivering hand of God was. God’s deliverance is always seen most clearly looking back; looking forward it is often only seen by faith.
4. (16-19) David set in safety.
He sent from above, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me,
For they were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the LORD was my support.
He also brought me out into a broad place;
He delivered me because He delighted in me.
a. He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy: David felt that he was drowning when the strong hand of God picked him out of many waters. Like a man caught up in a flood, David knew that his enemies were too strong for him, but that God could deliver him.
i. “Some will not see the hand of God, but I warrant you, brethren, those who have been delivered out of the deep waters will see it. Their experience teaches them that God is yet among us.” (Spurgeon)
b. He also brought me out into a broad place: The strong hand of God not only plucked David from the flood, but it also set him in a safe place.
c. He delivered me because He delighted in me: We can say that David meant this in two ways. First, he delighted in David in the sense that He chose him, anointed him, and set His marvelous lovingkindness (Psalm 17:7) upon David. Second, he delighted in David because he lived a righteous life, as explained in the following verses.
i. “Deliverance from sin, deliverance from evil propensities, deliverance from spiritual enemies – each deliverance bears evidence of God’s love to us…. How much he delights in you it is not possible to say. The Father delights in you, and looks upon you with doting love; like as a father takes pleasure in his child, so does he rejoice over you.” (Spurgeon)
5. (20-24) God delivered David because of his righteousness.
The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands
He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His judgments were before me,
And I did not put away His statutes from me.
I was also blameless before Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.
Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands in His sight.
a. The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness: During his long season of affliction under Saul, David was challenged to respond in unrighteous ways. He had many opportunities to strike out against Saul as a matter of self-defense. Yet David consistently conducted himself in righteousness and knew that God rewarded him because of it.
b. I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God…. I was also blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity: This was not a claim of sinless perfection on David’s part. In fact, the year or so before the death of King Saul was spent in some significant measure of spiritual and moral compromise (1 Samuel 27; 29-30). Yet through it all David kept a core of integrity toward God, was correctable despite his failings, and most importantly did not fail in the greatest test: to not give in to the temptation to gain the throne through killing or undermining Saul.
i. We believe this psalm – twice recorded in Scripture, with minor variations, both here and in 2 Samuel 22 – actually speaks from two contexts. Here, according to the title, it was sung first from David’s victory over Saul and receiving of the throne of Israel. In 2 Samuel 22 David sang it as a grateful retrospect over his entire life. He can say “I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God” in both contexts, but with somewhat different meaning. It meant one thing to say it before his sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah; it was another thing to say it after that sin.
ii. Spurgeon explained how the statement could be true both before and after the scandal with Bathsheba: “Before God the man after God’s own heart was a humble sinner, but before his slanderers he could with unblushing face speak of the ‘cleanness of his hands’ and the righteousness of his life.”
iii. Nevertheless, we can largely agree with Adam Clarke: “The times in which David was most afflicted were the times of his greatest uprightness. Adversity was always to him a time of spiritual prosperity.”
c. I kept myself from my iniquity: Some think this is arrogance or pride on David’s part. Spurgeon quotes one commentator who protested, “Kept himself! Who made man his own keeper?” Yet we know there is certainly a sense in which we must keep ourselves from sin, even as Paul spoke of a man cleansing himself for God’s glory and for greater service (2 Timothy 2:21).
i. We may see a personal danger in the words, my iniquity. It shows that there is iniquity in every person, and that we must be on special guard against our own tendencies to sin, to practice iniquity. It is true that all we like sheep have gone astray; but we have also turned each one to our own way. Our iniquity may be in us from birth; it may have been educated into us by a bad family or by bad company. Our iniquity may come to us through temptations, through adversity, or through prosperity – even by our blessings.
ii. These words of David also tell us of a special guard. David was determined to keep himself from his iniquity. “Be resolved in the power of the Holy Spirit that this particular sin shall be overcome. There is nothing like hanging it up by the neck, that very sin, I mean. Do not fire at sin indiscriminately; but, if thou hast one sin that is more to thee than another, drag it out from the crowd, and say, ‘Thou must die if no other does. I will hang thee up in the face of the sun.’” (Spurgeon)
iii. One may object: “Yet David did not keep himself from his iniquity, and some years after this he sinned with Bathsheba, and he grievously sinned against Uriah.” That is true, and David was disciplined greatly for that sin. Nevertheless, we never hear of him sinning in a similar way after his repentance from that terrible transgression. There is a real sense in which after his repentance, David did keep himself from his iniquity. As Benjamin Franklin wrote: “Many princes sin with David, but few repent with him.”
d. Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness: David resisted the remarkably strong temptation to depose Saul and take the throne promised to him by either violence or intrigue. This was the consistent expression of righteousness that the LORD rewarded by giving David a throne that could not be taken from him.
i. David here simply testified to his clean conscience, which is a good and wonderful thing. “A godly man has a clear conscience, and knows himself to be upright; is he to deny his own consciousness, and to despise the work of the Holy Ghost, by hypocritically making himself out to be worse than he is?” (Spurgeon)
6. (25-27) An abiding principle of God’s dealing with man.
With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;
With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
With the pure You will show Yourself pure;
And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.
For You will save the humble people,
But will bring down haughty looks.
a. With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful: David understood a basic principle of God’s dealing with men; that God often treats a man in the same way that man treats others.
i. Jesus explained this principle in the Sermon on the Mount: For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you (Matthew 7:2). Human nature wants to use a small measure of mercy with others, but wants a large measure of mercy from God. Jesus told us to expect the same measure from God that we give to others.
ii. “Note that even the merciful need mercy; no amount of generosity to the poor, or forgiveness to enemies, can set us beyond the need of mercy.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “The attitude of God towards men is created by their attitude towards Him.” (Morgan) This principle works in a positive way; those who show great mercy are given great mercy. It also works in a negative way: with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. One illustration of this was how God used the shrewd Laban to educate the devious Jacob (Genesis 27-28).
iv. It is significant that this appears in the psalm that celebrates David’s victory over Saul. Both sides of this principle (God’s dealing with the merciful and the devious) were mightily illustrated in the lives of David and Saul through their ongoing conflict.
v. Translators have had trouble with the second half of Psalm 18:26, because it communicates a difficult concept. It’s easy say that if a man is pure toward God, then God will be pure to him. But you can’t say that if a man is wicked toward God, then God will be wicked toward him, because God can’t do wickedness. So, “David expresses the second half of the parallel by a somewhat ambiguous word, the root meaning of which is ‘twisted.’ The verse actually says, ‘To the twisted (or crooked) you will show yourself twisted (or crooked)’…. The idea seems to be that if a person insists in going devious ways in his dealings with God, God will outwit him, as that man deserves.” (Boice)
vi. Leviticus 26:23-24 promises such a thing: And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins.
b. You will save the humble people, but will bring down haughty looks: God loves to give grace to the humble, and likewise resists the proud (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
i. Humble people: The idea behind the Hebrew word ani refers to the poor, afflicted, and needy ones. God’s care for these humble people is found in several psalms (Psalm 10:2, 22:24, 35:10, 68:10), though the Hebrew word ani may be translated differently in different places.
B. God’s present and future power for David.
1. (28-30) God gives His light and word to empower David.
For You will light my lamp;
The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the LORD is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
a. For You will light my lamp: David now moves from joyful thanks for the past to confidence in the future. The same God who brought him to the throne would give him the light he needed to rule and enlighten his darkness.
b. For by You I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall: This gives thanks for past victories, and thanks God for present strength. One might think that after the 20-some years of living as a fugitive from Saul, David would simply be exhausted. This was not the case; God empowering him, he felt strong enough to accomplish superhuman feats.
i. “By thee I have broken through the armed troops of mine enemies. I have scaled the walls of their strongest cities and castles, and so taken them.” (Poole)
ii. “With faith, how easy all exploits become! When we have no faith, though, to fight with enemies, and overcome difficulties, is hard work indeed; but, when we have faith, oh, how easy our victories! What does the believer do? There is a troop, – well, he runs in faith, then, to fight with enemies, and overcome difficulties is hard wall, what about that? He leaps over it. It is amazing how easy life becomes when a man has faith. Does faith diminish difficulties? Oh, no, it increaseth them; but it increaseth his strength to overcome them. If thou hast faith, thou shalt have trials; but thou shalt do great exploits, endure great privations, and get triumphant victories.” (Spurgeon)
c. His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven: David spoke of the great things he could do as empowered by God, but he came back to the thought of the greatness of God. He considered the perfection of His way, and the proven character of His word.
i. The word of the LORD is proven: “Literally tried in the fire. It has stood all tests; and has never failed those who pleaded it before its author.” (Clarke)
ii. David could say “the word of the LORD is proven” from his personal experience. The word given to David – that he would be the next king of Israel, plus hundreds of smaller promises – had been proven true.
iii. Many do not know this from their own experience because they will never allow themselves to be put in a situation where God must prove His word true. David knew the truth of this from the extreme circumstances of his life.
2. (31-36) God gives David strength and skill.
For who is God, except the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength,
And makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of deer,
And sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to make war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
Your right hand has held me up,
Your gentleness has made me great.
You enlarged my path under me,
So my feet did not slip.
a. For who is God, except the LORD? David here celebrated the reality of the God of Israel against the illusions of the gods of the nations. The Philistines, the Moabites, the Edomites, and all the rest had their gods; but only Yahweh (the LORD) is God.
i. “Vain were the idols of the ancient world, Baal and Jupiter; as vain are those of modern times – pleasure, honour, and profit. They cannot bestow content, or make their votaries happy below; much less can they deliver from death, or open the everlasting doors above.” (Horne)
b. It is God who arms me with strength…. He makes my feet like the feet of deer: David knew by experience the strength of God given to him, and also the skill to use such strength. This skill was like the skill that deer have, who can run effortlessly upon the high places.
i. David sang about the way God helped him make war (as in 2 Samuel 8). God gave him strength, helped him run swiftly and on a secure path (makes my way perfect…feet like the feet of deer), made him strong enough to bend a bow of bronze, and gave him the shield of Your salvation. As a warrior, David knew God as one who helped him make war triumphantly. As God gave David what he needed (physical strength and skill), God will also give us what we need.
ii. Kidner suggests that the bow of bronze was actually a wooden bow that was reinforced with metal.
c. Your right hand has held me up; Your gentleness has made me great: David was held by the strength and skill of God’s right hand, and made great by the gentleness of God.
i. We don’t often think of someone being made great by the gentleness of God. It is easy to underestimate the power of God’s gentleness, and we often want a more evidently spectacular work from God. Yet David – this great warrior – received from and responded to the gentleness of God.
ii. We can say this was the gentleness of God in at least two respects. It was the gentleness that God showed to David, and the gentleness that David learned from God and showed to others. “While it was the gentleness God exercised that allowed David his success, it was the gentleness God taught him that was his true greatness.” (Kidner)
iii. God had shown His gentleness to David in many ways, and there were even more ways after his victory over Saul and taking of the throne.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when he was a despised member of his family, neglected, ignored, tending the sheep in solitude.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He consoled his soul when Saul began to envy and hate him.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He gave him a friend like Jonathan.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He allowed him to have the holy bread at the tabernacle as he was fleeing from Saul.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He told Abigail about Nabal, thereby keeping David from slaughtering a foolish man and his family.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He granted him the self-control to spare Saul’s life – twice.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He protected him even when he was foolish, such as when he acted like a madman in the court of a Philistine ruler.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He prevented him fighting on behalf of the Philistines against Saul and Israel.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He comforted him after David had lost all at Ziklag; where David encouraged himself in the LORD and afterwards recovered all.
iv. We notice also what this gentleness of God did: it made David great. We can say that the gentleness of God makes every believer great also, more than they often consider.
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their royal birth; who has a greater claim to royal birth than the son or daughter of the King of Kings?
·In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their election; what greater election is there than to be the elect of God?
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their wealth; who has greater riches than the children and heirs of the God who owns all?
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their victories; who has achieved greater victory than the one who is in unity with Jesus Christ, the greatest champion of all?
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their influence; who has greater influence than the child of God who can move the hand of God with his faithful and righteous prayers?
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their discoveries; who has discovered anything greater than the nature of the infinite and eternal God?
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their history; who has a greater heritage than a member of the body of Christ as it spans through the ages and generations?
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their destiny; who has a more glorious and amazing destiny than the heirs of His glory, those who are His own inheritance?
3. (37-42) God gives David victory over his enemies.
I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them;
Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed.
I have wounded them,
So that they could not rise;
They have fallen under my feet.
For You have armed me with strength for the battle;
You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
You have also given me the necks of my enemies,
So that I destroyed those who hated me.
They cried out, but there was none to save;
Even to the LORD, but He did not answer them.
Then I beat them as fine as the dust before the wind;
I cast them out like dirt in the streets.
a. I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them: Here David had in mind those other than Saul. David knew that as King of Israel he would have to face enemies from surrounding nations, and here he celebrated the past victories God gave him against his enemies.
b. Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed…. You have also given me the necks of my enemies: David fought as a true warrior, and sought to utterly defeat the enemies of Israel on the field of battle. He properly believed that God gave him the victory over these enemies.
i. “Thou hast made me a complete conqueror. Treading on the neck of an enemy was the triumph of the conqueror, and the utmost disgrace of the vanquished.” (Clarke)
ii. “Of David we may say, as one did of Julius Caesar, you may perceive him to have been an excellent soldier by his very language; for he wrote with the same spirit he fought.” (Trapp)
4. (43-49) God establishes David’s throne.
You have delivered me from the strivings of the people;
You have made me the head of the nations;
A people I have not known shall serve me.
As soon as they hear of me they obey me;
The foreigners submit to me.
The foreigners fade away,
And come frightened from their hideouts.
The LORD lives!
Blessed be my Rock!
Let the God of my salvation be exalted.
It is God who avenges me,
And subdues the peoples under me;
He delivers me from my enemies.
You also lift me up above those who rise against me;
You have delivered me from the violent man.
Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles,
And sing praises to Your name.
a. You have delivered me from the strivings of the people: David knew that taking the throne of Israel was more than just a matter of removing Saul. There were also the strivings of the people, of those who did not immediately support David as king over a united Israel (2 Samuel 2-5).
b. You have made me the head of the nations; a people I have not known shall serve me: David also knew that God would raise him up not only as the King of Israel, but as a regional power with authority over neighboring nations who brought him tribute.
i. Isaiah 55:3-5 (and other passages) tell us that this promise will have an even greater fulfillment in the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ, when David will be the king over the millennial Israel, which will be exalted above the other nations of the earth.
ii. As soon as they hear of me they obey me: We could say that Psalm 18:44 tells us how we should obey Jesus. This not only tells us of the obligation of the believer, but also that one can immediately come to Jesus Christ, be converted, and live obediently to God. No probation period is necessary.
iii. “If any of you have thought that trusting Christ does not involve obeying him, you have made a great mistake. They do very wrong who cry up believing in Christ, and yet depreciate obedience to him, for obeying is believing in another form, and springs out of believing.” (Spurgeon)
c. The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock: All of this made David love and honor the LORD more than ever. He gave praise to God for the great things He had done. He had truly delivered David from the violent man, most notably the murderous Saul who hunted him.
i. “If we begin with ‘The Lord is my Rock,’ we shall end with ‘Blessed be my Rock.’” (Maclaren)
d. Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your name: On one level, this was David praising God for his deliverance and safety among his neighboring kingdoms. On a second level, Paul quotes this in Romans 15:8-12 as the first of four Old Testament prophesies demonstrating that the work of Jesus Christ was not only for the Jewish people, but for the Gentiles also.
i. “And therefore David is here transported beyond himself, even to his seed forever, as it is expressed in Psalm 18:50, and speaks this in special relation to Christ.” (Poole)
ii. “While David may have thought only of Yahweh’s fame spread abroad, his words at their full value portray the Lord’s anointed (Psalm 18:50), ultimately the Messiah, praising Him among – in fellowship with – a host of Gentile worshippers.” (Kidner)
iii. “At this point we are encouraged to look back over the entire psalm for messianic meanings.” (Boice) We can see many pictures of Jesus and His work in this psalm:
· Psalm 18:1-6 suggests His death (the pangs of death encompassed me…the sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me).
· Psalm 18:7-18 suggests His resurrection (the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken…. He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy).
· Psalm 18:19-27 suggests His exaltation (I have kept the ways of the LORD…. I was also blameless before Him…. Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness).
· Psalm 18:28-42 suggests His victory (For by You I can run against a troop…. I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them). Jesus was strong enough to run against a troop and be victorious; the enemies against Jesus were strong and disciplined; yet Christ confronted them and defeated them. Jesus was great enough to jump over a wall: the wall of God’s holy law that separated us from Him. He didn’t destroy the wall; instead with His holy life He jumped over it and fulfilled the law on our behalf.
· Psalm 18:43-50 suggests His kingdom (You have made me the head of the nations…. The foreigners submit to me…. You also lift me up above those who rise against me…. Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles).
iv. While the use of Psalm 18:49 in Romans 15:9 does show that the Holy Spirit spoke of Jesus and His work here, it also has a unique application to David himself. “There is a sense in which it applies particularly to David, well observed by Theodoret: ‘We see,’ says he, ‘evidently the fulfilment of this prophecy; for even to the present day David praises the Lord among the Gentiles by the mouth of true believers; seeing there is not a town, village, hamlet, country, nor even a desert, where Christians dwell, in which God is not praised by their singing the Psalms of David.’” (Clarke)
5. (50) God blesses His anointed king.
Great deliverance He gives to His king,
And shows mercy to His anointed,
To David and his descendants forevermore.
a. Great deliverance He gives to His king: David could say this with confidence, not only that God would give him deliverance, but also more importantly that he was His king. David knew this because he did all that he could to make sure that he did not seize or usurp the throne. He let God give it to him in time. David therefore had the blessed benefit of knowing that he was God’s king, and not one of his own making.
b. And shows mercy to His anointed: David perhaps thought back some 20 years before, when he was first anointed for the throne that he now received. It had been a long, but important journey between the time of his anointing and his receiving the throne.
c. To David and his descendants forevermore: Here David understood something by either intuition or by faith, something that would not be specifically promised to him until later. The promise was that David (and not Saul) would begin a hereditary monarchy in Israel, and that his descendants would also sit on the throne of Israel. This was the promise to build a house for David that God explicitly made in 2 Samuel 7:1-17.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 17 – Shelter Under the Shadow of His Wings
The title of this psalm is simply A Prayer of David. We can’t attach it to a specific time in David’s life, because there are too many possible points where this connects with his general circumstances. This psalm is remarkable for its trust in God, its lack of confidence in self, and its glorious heavenly hope.
A. A plea to be heard in time of crisis.
1. (1-2) David presents his cause to the LORD.
Hear a just cause, O LORD,
Attend to my cry;
Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from Your presence;
Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright.
a. Hear a just cause, O LORD: As is common in Psalms, David again prayed from a time of crisis. Here he began his appeal to God by declaring the justice of his cause. He believed God had every reason to attend to his cry because his cause was just.
i. It is entirely possible for someone to think that his cause is just when it is not; or for both parties in a fight to each be absolutely convinced that his own cause is just. We cannot automatically apply these words of David to ourselves and immediately judge our cause as just.
ii. Yet we can look at our cause as impartially and dispassionately as possible, looking at it from the perspective of others to the best of our ability, and be more concerned with what is truly just than simply what favors us.
iii. “A cry is our earliest utterance, and in many ways the most natural of human sounds; if our prayer should like the infant’s cry be more natural than intelligent, and more earnest than elegant, it will be none the less eloquent with God. There is a mighty power in a child’s cry to prevail with a parent’s heart.” (Spurgeon)
b. Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips: Even as David was convinced regarding the justice of his cause, he was also careful to speak honestly about his problem. The idea is that David has not deceived so as to deserve his current problem, and that he was not withholding facts that would undermine his cause.
i. In Psalm 139:23-24, David prayed: Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. This wonderful prayer – to know one’s own heart and hidden motives and sins – is the kind of thing that David prayed before he prayed this psalm. He comes to God here with some confidence through a tested conscience.
ii. Deceitful lips: “They have Jacob’s voice, but Esau’s hands; they profess like saints, but practise like Satans; they have their long prayers, but short prayings.” (Bales, cited in Spurgeon)
c. Let my vindication come from Your presence: David did not want a vindication that came from himself. In his long struggle with King Saul, David had several opportunities to set things right himself, but he refused and waited until vindication came from the presence of God.
i. This was an important way that David left his problem to the LORD. “God, I refuse to take matters into my own hands. I will wait for vindication to come from Your presence; I want to know that this is Your work and not mine.”
d. Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright: David phrased his request in a way that put more emphasis upon God’s justice than on his own cause. He did believe that his cause was just; but he spoke in a manner that gave more importance to the things that are upright.
i. David’s idea was something like this: “LORD, I believe my cause is just and I have searched my own heart for deceit. Yet I wait for Your vindication, and I want You to do and to promote what is right. If I’m not on Your side, move me so that I am.”
ii. “I desire nothing that is unreasonable or unjust, but that thou wouldst judge righteously between me and mine enemies, and vindicate my own honour and faithfulness in making good thy promise to me.” (Poole)
2. (3-4) A plea from a tested heart.
You have tested my heart;
You have visited me in the night;
You have tried me and have found nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
Concerning the works of men,
By the word of Your lips,
I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer.
a. You have tested my heart: David invited the test in the previous verses; here he speaks as having passed the test (You have tried me and have found nothing).
i. Clarke assumes (probably rightly) that this psalm comes from the context of Saul hunting David. “Thou hast seen me in my most secret retirements, and knowest whether I have plotted mischief against him who now wishes to take away my life.” (Clarke)
ii. It takes some level of patience and maturity to let God test one’s heart in this manner. We must accept the fact that we might be wrong and that someone else may be right in the matter. We must be more interested in God’s justice and His standard of right and wrong than we are in winning our cause. We must come to God and His word with a heart ready to be convicted and corrected.
iii. There are three questions for everyone to ask: “Do I allow God to test my heart? Can I be corrected? Will I listen to others when they tell me that I may be wrong?”
iv. David did allow God to test his heart, and therefore he came with great confidence in prayer. “Open and unconfessed sin is a great prayer barrier. An upright life is a strong basis for appeals.” (Boice)
v. Boice suggests these questions for examining our heart before prayer:
· Are we being disobedient?
· Are we being selfish?
· Are we neglecting some important duty?
· Is there a wrong we should first make right?
· Are our priorities in order?
b. I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress: David was careful to not speak in a sinful way about his crisis. He could speak in a way that might deceive others or himself, and promote his own cause at the expense of God’s justice; yet David purposed that it would not be so.
i. “The strong professions of heart-cleanness and outward obedience which follow are not so much denials of any sin as avowals of sincere devotion and honest submission of life to God’s law.” (Maclaren)
c. By the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer: This was one reason why David was good at this kind of strong self-analysis. He lived by the words of God’s lips; he knew and loved and lived God’s word.
i. It was this word that tried David and found nothing. It was this word that gave David the wisdom and the strength to keep away from the paths of the destroyer.
ii. David learned and displayed this lesson over and over again during his long crisis with King Saul. David had to protect himself, his family, and his men from Saul without becoming himself a twisted, self-interested destroyer like Saul.
B. A plea for protection.
1. (5) Hold up my steps.
Uphold my steps in Your paths,
That my footsteps may not slip.
a. Uphold my steps: David felt that he was in danger of falling or slipping into disaster; he needed God to hold up his steps, so that his footsteps may not slip.
i. “The word of God affords us direction, but the grace of God must enable us to follow its direction, and that grace must be obtained by prayer.” (Horne)
ii. “What! Slip in God’s ways? Yes, the road is good, but our feet are evil, and therefore slip, even on the King’s highway.” (Spurgeon)
b. In Your paths: This again shows the significant humility of David’s prayer. He wants to be upheld, but only on God’s paths. Included in this is the unspoken prayer, “LORD, if I am not on Your path, please put me there. I want to be in Your paths, not my own.”
2. (6-9) Keep me safe by Your power.
I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God;
Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech.
Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand,
O You who save those who trust in You
From those who rise up against them.
Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
Hide me under the shadow of Your wings,
From the wicked who oppress me,
From my deadly enemies who surround me.
a. I have called upon You, for You will hear me: David’s calm confidence in the midst of his crisis is encouraging. Though his problems were not gone yet, he still was confident that God would hear when he called.
i. Boice explained how this psalm is a great pattern of prayer. “It models prayer by the way the psalmist uses arguments to make his appeal to God. He does not merely ask for what he wants or needs. He argues his case, explaining to God what God should answer.”
ii. We don’t make such arguments in prayer because we can, through brilliant or persuasive arguments, convince God to do something that He doesn’t really want to do. Instead, it is “because arguments force us to carefully think through what we are asking and to sharpen our requests.” (Boice)
b. Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand: This is the first appearance in Psalms of the wonderful word, lovingkindness. David asked that this special love be shown to him by the special power of God (Your right hand).
i. Kidner on lovingkindness: “Steadfast love, or ‘true love’ (New English Bible) is that faithfulness to a covenant, to which marital devotion gives some analogy. It is the word which older versions translated ‘lovingkindness’, before its connection with covenanting and its strong element of fidelity were fully appreciated.”
ii. “This is the love by which he enters into a favorable relationship with his people, promising to be their God.” (Boice)
iii. Yet David spoke of more than lovingkindness here; he spoke of marvelous lovingkindness, and that by Your right hand. “The wonder of extraordinary love is that God should make it such an ordinary thing, that he should give to us ‘marvellous lovingkindness,’ and yet should give it so often that it becomes a daily blessing, and yet remains marvellous still.” (Spurgeon)
iv. Many of us ask for or only expect God’s moderate lovingkindness. We make our prayers, our faith, and our expectations small. David here shows us a pattern to expect and ask from God marvelous lovingkindness.
v. “Do you not see that you have been a marvellous sinner? Marvellously ungrateful have you been; marvellously have you aggravated your sins; marvellously did you kick against a mother’s tears; marvellously did you defy a father’s counsels; marvellously have you laughed at death; marvellously have you made a covenant with death and a league with hell…‘Oh!’ saith he, ‘God will never have mercy on me; it is too great a thing to hope, too great a wonder to expect!’ Young man, here is a new prayer for you, ‘Show thy marvellous loving-kindness.’” (Spurgeon)
c. Keep me as the apple of Your eye: The phrase “apple of Your eye” was used to describe something precious, easily injured and demanding protection. David wanted to be kept by God as if he were something valuable and even fragile.
i. “No part of the body more precious, more tender, and more carefully guarded than the eye; and of the eye, no portion more peculiarly to be protected than the central apple, the pupil, or as the Hebrew calls it, ‘the daughter of the eye.’ The all-wise Creator has placed the eye in a well-protected position; it stands surrounded by projecting bones like Jerusalem encircled by mountains. Moreover, its great Author has surrounded it with many tunics of inward covering, besides the hedge of the eyebrows, the curtain of the eyelids, and the fence of the eyelashes; and, in addition to this, he has given to every man so high a value for his eyes, and so quick an apprehension of danger, that no member of the body is more faithfully cared for than the organ of sight.” (Spurgeon)
ii. This figure of speech is also used in Deuteronomy 32:10, Proverbs 7:2, and Zechariah 2:8. To be kept as the apple of the eye means:
· To be kept with many guards and protections.
· To always be kept safe.
· To be kept from the small things, like dust and grit.
· To always be kept sensitive and tender.
· To be kept clear and unobstructed.
· To be kept as something beautiful and eminently useful.
d. Hide me under the shadow of Your wings: This is another powerful figure of speech. The idea is of how a mother bird shields her young chicks from predators, from the elements, and from dangers by gathering them under her wings.
i. This figure of speech is also used in three other psalms (Psalms 36:7, 57:1, and 63:7). Jesus used this same word picture to show His love and desired care for Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37.
ii. “Even as the parent bird completely shields her brood from evil, and meanwhile cherishes them with the warmth of her own heart, by covering them with her wings, so do thou with me, most condescending God, for I am thine offspring, and thou hast a parent’s love in perfection.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Taken together, these two phrases are powerful pictures of God’s care for His people. “He who has so fenced and guarded that precious and tender part, the pupil of the eye, and who has provided for the security of a young and helpless brood under the wings of their dam, is here entreated to extend the same providential care and parental love to the souls of his elect.” (Horne)
e. From the wicked who oppress me, from my deadly enemies who surround me: The threat in David’s life was real. He faced not only oppression that made his life difficult, but also deadly enemies who wanted to end his life.
i. In the midst of these real threats, David did the right thing: he prayed. “Fears that have become prayers are already more than half conquered.” (Maclaren)
ii. Boice quotes a Bible teacher who had the habit of praying a certain prayer when he felt he was under attack: “Lord, your property is in danger.”
3. (10-14) Defeat my proud and arrogant enemies.
They have closed up their fat hearts;
With their mouths they speak proudly.
They have now surrounded us in our steps;
They have set their eyes, crouching down to the earth,
As a lion is eager to tear his prey,
And like a young lion lurking in secret places.
Arise, O LORD,
Confront him, cast him down;
Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword,
With Your hand from men, O LORD,
From men of the world who have their portion in this life,
And whose belly You fill with Your hidden treasure.
They are satisfied with children,
And leave the rest of their possession for their babes.
a. They have closed up their fat hearts: David here begins to describe the deadly enemies who oppressed him so. They were insensitive (fat hearts), and spoke proudly.
i. “The meaning plainly is, that pride is the child of plenty, begotten by self-indulgence, which hardens the hearts of men against the fear of God, and the love of their neighbours…. Let every man take care, that, by pampering the flesh, he does not raise up an enemy of this stamp against himself.” (Horne)
b. Surrounded us in our steps…set their eyes…crouching down to the earth, as a lion: David described the dangerous, wild, beast-like actions of his enemies. They would destroy him as a lion destroys its prey.
c. Arise, O LORD, confront him, cast him down: David declared his dependence on God to protect him. It wasn’t because David was afraid of such lion-like enemies; as a young boy David had bested both the bear and the lion (1 Samuel 17:33-37). It was because David needed to see his enemy defeated by the hand of God, not the hand of David.
i. Confront him: “Hebrew, prevent his face, i.e., go forth against him, and meet and face him in battle, as enemies used to do.” (Poole)
ii. This psalm has no firm connection to any particular recorded event in David’s life, but it is not hard to see it belonging to the long period when Saul hunted David. During that time David refused to strike out against Saul when he had the opportunity, because he knew that God must strike against Saul, and not David himself.
d. Deliver my life from the wicked…from men of the world who have their portion in this life: David recognized that one characteristic of his enemies was that they looked much more to this life than they did to eternity.
i. And, they may very well have had some satisfactions in this life: whose belly You fill…they are satisfied with children, and leave the rest of their possession for their babes. Spurgeon explained it like this: “Their sensual appetite gets the gain which it craved for. God gives to these swine the husks which they hunger for. A generous man does not deny dogs their bones; and our generous God gives even his enemies enough to fill them, if they were not so unreasonable as never to be content.”
4. (15) The settled confidence of prayer.
As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.
a. As for me: David here set himself in contrast to his enemies, who looked only to this life and not to eternity.
i. “This superb verse soars straight up from the prosperous lowlands of Psalm 17:14, where all was earthbound.” (Kidner)
ii. “I do not envy this their felicity, but my hopes and happiness are of another nature. I do not place my portion in earthly and temporal treasures, as they do, but in beholding God’s face.” (Poole)
iii. “The smell of the furnace is upon the present psalm, but there is evidence in the last verse that he who wrote it came unharmed out of the flame.” (Spurgeon)
b. I will see Your face: David was confident not only of life after death, but that he would one day see the face of God. The idea is not merely of contact with God, but of unhindered fellowship with God.
c. See Your face in righteousness: The idea is that David would have a righteousness that would enable him to see the face of God, to have this unhindered relationship with Him.
i. From a New Covenant perspective, we can say that this righteousness is the gift of God, granted to those who receive the person and work of Jesus by faith.
d. I shall be satisfied when I awake: David knew that the transition from this life to the next was like waking. He knew that the world beyond was more real and less dreamlike than our own.
i. We tend to think of heaven and its realities as an uncertain, cloudy dream world. In truth it is more real than our present environment, which by contrast will seem uncertain and cloudy when we awake in God’s presence.
ii. “The moment is at hand when we shall awake and start up and declare ourselves fools for having counted dreams as realities, whilst we were oblivious to the eternal realities.” (Meyer)
iii. Though David’s focus was on eternity, this verse does not ignore the present day. There is a real sense in which these realities – closer fellowship with God, His righteousness in our life, a life truly awake, a life more and more conformed to His image – can in greater and greater measure be ours in this life. We should remember that eternal life begins now.
e. When I awake in Your likeness: David did not have a sophisticated understanding of heaven; one might say that no one in the Old Testament really did. Yet he did know that when he saw God’s face, when he received His righteousness, when he awoke in heaven’s reality, that he would be in God’s likeness.
i. David seemed to anticipate what Paul would write some 1,000 years later: For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). The destiny of God’s people is to be conformed into the image of God, as perfectly displayed in Jesus Christ His Son.
ii. This – and perhaps only this – would make David satisfied. The implication is that he would never be satisfied until:
· He saw God’s face, enjoying unhindered relationship with Him.
· He received God’s righteousness.
· He would awake in and live in heaven’s reality.
· He was conformed into God’s likeness.
iii. “The mind will be satisfied with his truth, the heart with his love, the will with his authority. We shall need nothing else.” (Meyer)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 16 – The Benefits of a Life-Commitment to God
This psalm is titled A Michtam of David. The title Michtam is commonly understood as golden; others think it is related to a word meaning to cover. Since the psalms with this title (16, 56-60) are written from times of peril, some think the idea is of covering the lips in the sense of secrecy, as if this were a secret or silent psalm given in a time of crisis. This is a wonderful song relating how David found the secret of contentment and great gladness even in pressing times; it also powerfully predicts Jesus and His work for us.
A. David’s confidence in God.
1. (1-3) What David’s soul said to the LORD.
Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.
O my soul, you have said to the LORD,
“You are my Lord,
My goodness is nothing apart from You.”
As for the saints who are on the earth,
“They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”
a. Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust: It seems that David wrote this psalm from a time of trouble, because he asked for preservation, knew that he would not be moved (Psalm 16:8), and had confidence in some kind of resurrection (Psalm 16:10). Yet the tone of this psalm is not despair or complaint; it is settled joy. Despite his trouble, David had a praising confidence in his God.
i. “This was a most powerful plea, for to trust God is the highest honour we can do him, it is to set the crown upon his head.” (Trapp)
ii. “Preserve me from the world; let me not be carried away with its excitements; suffer me not to be before its blandishments, nor to fear its frowns. Preserve me, from the devil; let him not tempt me above what I am able to bear. Preserve me from myself; keep me from growing envious, selfish, high-minded, proud, slothful. Preserve me from those evils into which I see others run, and preserve me, from those evils into which I am myself most apt to run; keep me from evils known and from evils unknown.” (Spurgeon)
b. You are my Lord: This is what David’s soul had said to the LORD. David happily said that Yahweh (LORD) was his master (Lord).
i. David knew how to speak to his own soul; Psalms 42:5 and 43:5 are other examples. It is a good thing to speak good things to our own soul.
c. My goodness is nothing apart from You: David knew that his very best – all of his goodness – was nothing apart from God.
· It was nothing when it came to making David righteous before God; he needed God to bring His righteousness to David.
· It was nothing because David’s goodness was itself a gift of God; therefore apart from Him, it was nothing.
· It was nothing because David’s goodness, as precious as it was, was of small value without his relationship with God.
i. “I receive all good from thee, but no good can I return to thee; wherefore I acknowledge thee to be most rich, and myself to be most beggardly.” (Greenham, cited in Spurgeon)
d. As for the saints who are on the earth: David proclaimed regarding God’s people on this earth, “They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” David delighted in the people of God, despite all their failings, scandals, and embarrassments.
i. This is an obvious failing for many followers of Jesus Christ today. They are so negative about the people of God that they find themselves unable to see any excellence in God’s people, unable to delight in them.
ii. “This is a practical matter, for it is a way by which we can measure our relationship to the Lord. Do you love other Christians? Do you find it good and rewarding to be with them? Do you seek their company? This is a simple test. Those who love the Lord will love the company of those who also love him.” (Boice)
2. (4-6) The folly of idolatry and the blessing of honoring the LORD.
Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god;
Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer,
Nor take up their names on my lips.
O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.
a. Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god: David understood that those who served other gods found many sorrows in life.
i. David knew that his life, lived for God, was not an easy one. He experienced many hardships because he remained faithful to God. Nevertheless, he also knew that life lived for another god was even more difficult. It was the attitude of Peter in John 6:66-69, when he said “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
ii. “There is a distinct echo of the story of the Fall in the phrase, multiply their sorrows, since very similar words were spoken to Eve in the Hebrew of Genesis 3:16. There could hardly be a more ominous allusion to what follows from apostasy.” (Kidner)
b. Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer: David allowed his knowledge of the futility of pagan beliefs to affect his behavior. Therefore, he would not follow the pagans in their vain practices.
i. “Many heathens sacrificed to their idols (that is, to devils) with man’s blood, against all laws of humanity and piety.” (Trapp) In addition, the priests of Baal offered their own blood to their false god; some Roman Catholics and Muslims also whip themselves to blood, offering their blood to their twisted conception of God.
c. O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot: After stating that there was nothing found in the pagan gods, David explained the good he received from Yahweh.
i. You are the portion of my inheritance: David was the youngest son in a family with many sons. He could expect no inheritance from his family; yet he took joy and comfort in the fact that God was the portion of his inheritance, and he knew that he had a good inheritance. The lines that marked out his inheritance had fallen to him in pleasant places.
ii. God said to the priests in the days of Moses: “I am your portion and your inheritance” (Numbers 18:20). David understood that this was a promise given not only to the priests, but also to all who would trust God to be the portion of their inheritance. “Every godly man has the same possession and the same prohibitions as the priests had. Like them he is landless, and instead of estates has Jehovah.” (Maclaren)
iii. You maintain my lot: This described the portion of David’s inheritance. David was confident that God would maintain what He had first given to him.
iv. This attitude did not come easily or always to David. He complained to Saul in 1 Samuel 26:19: for they have driven me out this day from sharing in the inheritance of the LORD, saying, “Go, serve other gods.” Yet here in this psalm, he comes back to the conclusion that the LORD is his inheritance and will maintain his lot.
v. David’s words here speak of contentment. He is content with what God has given him. A mark of our age – especially with the Baby Boom generation and perhaps even more with those following – is discontentment, boredom, and restlessness. The generation with short attention spans, the constant need for excitement and adrenaline rushes, and 24-hour-a-day entertainment, needs to know by experience what David knew.
B. The benefits of David’s confidence.
1. (7-8) The benefits of guidance and security.
I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
I have set the LORD always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
a. I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel: The false gods of the nations could never give counsel the way the LORD gave it to David. When David needed guidance, God gave it to him, and therefore David praised God.
b. My heart also instructs me in the night seasons: David’s heart was instructed first by God and His Word, and therefore his heart could also instruct him in the ways of God. This is an example of the benefits that come from the transformation of thinking spoken of in Romans 12:1-2.
i. Solomon says in Psalm 127:1-2 that it can be vain to stay up late to try to figure out your problems. Yet David, Solomon’s father, knew the joy of communing with God in the night seasons and receiving guidance from Him.
ii. “Methinks I hear a sweet still voice within me, saying, This is the way, walk in it; and this in the night season, when I am wrapped in rest and silence.” (Trapp)
c. I have set the LORD always before me: This speaks of a decision David made to put God first in his life. He determined that God would always be his focus, his perspective.
i. In the ultimate sense, only Jesus did this perfectly. He was always in the intimate presence of His Father. “The method taken by Christ, as man, to support himself in time of trouble, and persevere unto the end, was to maintain a constant and actual sense of the presence of Jehovah…he then feared not the powers of earth and hell combined for his destruction.” (Horne)
d. Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved: This was the plain result of David’s decision to put God first. There was a standing and security in David’s life that would not have otherwise existed.
2. (9-11) The benefits of joy and preservation.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
a. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices: David continued to describe the benefits of his decision to set the LORD always before him (Psalm 16:8). This decision brought a gladness and a glory to David’s life.
i. For those who do not live out a true commitment to God, it is easy for them to think of what such a commitment costs them. This is not entirely bad, because this kind of decision to set the LORD always before one’s self does have a cost, and the cost should be counted and appreciated. It may cost certain pleasures, popularity, anonymity, family relationships, life goals, career choices, financial priorities, and so forth.
ii. Yet David also tells us some of the benefits of such a life decision: my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices. There was happiness and a glory David knew by this life commitment that he would not have known otherwise.
iii. David could maturely understand both the costs and the benefits, and sing a song of praise about his life decision.
b. My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol: David described a further benefit of his life decision to set the LORD always before him. It was the confidence of God’s care and blessing in the life beyond. David had the settled hope (a confidence, not a simple wish) that God would not leave his soul in the grave (Sheol), but that his life would continue on in the presence of God.
i. This statement is a wonderful declaration of trust in some sort of resurrection and afterlife. Yet, Psalms contains both such confident statements and other more doubtful words about the life beyond (such as in Psalm 6:5 and 88:11). This cloudy understanding of the afterlife in the Old Testament does not surprise the reader of the New Testament, who knows that Jesus Christ brought life and immortality to light (2 Timothy 1:10).
c. Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption: Wonderfully (and perhaps unknowingly), David spoke beyond himself. In one sense David was indeed the Holy One of God, whose soul would not be left in the grave. Yet in a greater and more literal sense, only Jesus Christ fulfills this in His resurrection.
i. This was perceived by Peter on the Day of Pentecost, who said that these words went beyond David who was obviously dead, buried in a grave, and whose body had long ago decayed into dust (Acts 2:25-31).
ii. In quoting and applying this passage from Psalm 16 to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, Peter showed an inspired understanding of the work of Jesus on the cross. He understood that because Jesus bore our sin without becoming a sinner, He remained the Holy One, even in His death. Since it is incomprehensible that God’s Holy One should be bound by death, the resurrection was absolutely inevitable. As Peter said: It was not possible that He should be held by death (Acts 2:24).
iii. The fact that Jesus remained God’s Holy One despite the ordeal of the cross demonstrates that Jesus bore the penalty of human sin without becoming a sinner Himself. It also shows that this payment of sins was perfect and complete, the only type of payment a Holy One could make. In these ways (as Peter understood), the resurrection proves the perfection of Jesus’ work on the cross.
iv. We might imagine Jesus applying this promise to Himself in the agony before and during the crucifixion, and even afterwards. “It was as though our Lord had stayed his soul upon these words as He left this world and entered the unseen…He sang, as He went, this hymn of immortal hope.” (Meyer)
d. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy: With these words David seemed to understand that the benefits of this life commitment to God were received in both this life, and the life beyond.
i. The path of life is something enjoyed by the believer both now, and in eternity. God gives us eternal life to enjoy as a present gift, extending into eternity.
ii. In Your presence is fullness of joy: This was a joy David could experience now (in the context of his previously mentioned gladness and rejoicing), but also ultimately receive when in the more immediate presence of God.
iii. Peter also quoted these lines in his message on the Day of Pentecost. They show that instead of being punished for His glorious work on the cross, Jesus was rewarded, as prophetically described in this psalm.
e. At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore: David had full confidence that his life with God – both now and forevermore – would be marked by the highest and best pleasures. This is life lived above shallow entertainments and excitements.
i. These pleasures are enjoyed at a place: “We are also told that heaven is to be enjoyed at the right hand of God. The right hand, even on earth, is the place of favor, and the place of honor, and the place of security. The right-hand place is always regarded as the place of dignity and nobility in all courts. God is not going to give his people any left-handed heaven, but they are to dwell at his right hand for evermore.” (Spurgeon)
ii. At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore: This tells that both in this life and the life beyond, true pleasures forevermore are found at the right hand of God, not in separation from Him.
iii. In his fictional work The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote in the voice of a senior devil, complaining about the “unfair advantage” that God has against the devils as they do their dark work: “He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a façade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures forevermore’. Ugh! I don’t think He has the least inkling of that high and austere mystery to which we rise in the Miserific Vision. He’s vulgar, Wormwood. He has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least – sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side.”
iv. The conclusion of this psalm is especially wonderful when we consider how it began. “The refugee of verse 1 finds himself an heir, and his inheritance beyond all imagining and all exploring.” (Kidner)
v. When we go back to the first verse, we remember that this life of gladness and rejoicing and fullness of joy is not a problem-free life. It is a life that may be challenged and face attack on many levels. Yet in that a life commitment to God has been made and is enjoyed, it is a secure, happy, blessed life.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 15 – The Character of the One God Receives
This psalm is simply titled A Psalm of David. In it, David meditates over the character of the man received into the presence of God. We have no precise occasion for this psalm, but it may well have been on the bringing of the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). This was a time when David was very much concerned with the questions asked and answered in this psalm.
A. The question presented: Who can come before God?
1. (1a) Who can come to the tabernacle of God?
LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
a. LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? In one sense, David’s question here is figurative. Though he, like the sons of Korah, may have wished to live in the house of God (Psalm 84:2-4; 84:10), it was impossible for him because David was not a priest.
i. The word translated abide can be better thought of as sojourn; it describes a visit, receiving the hospitality of a tent-dwelling host. This opening is understood in light of the customs of hospitality in the ancient Near East.
ii. “In the gracious hospitality of the antique world, a guest was sheltered from all harm; his person was inviolable, his wants all met. So the guest of Jehovah is safe, can claim asylum from every foe and share in all the bountiful provision of His abode.” (Maclaren)
b. Abide in Your tabernacle: The tabernacle of God was the great tent of meeting that God told Moses and Israel to build for Him during the Exodus (Exodus 25-31). This tabernacle survived through several centuries, and at David’s time seems to have been at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39-40).
i. Since the tabernacle was the place where man met with God through the work of the priests and the practice of sacrifice, David’s longing to abide in Your tabernacle was actually a desire to abide in the presence of God.
ii. David has in mind the life that lives in the presence of God – who walks in close fellowship with God because the heart, the mind, and the life are all in step with the heart, mind, and life of God.
2. (1b) Who can come to the hill of God’s temple?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
a. Who may dwell in Your holy hill? In one sense, David here simply uses the Hebrew technique of repetition to ask the same question as in the first part of the verse.
i. The word dwell here has a more permanent sense than the word abide in the previous line. It is as if David wrote, “Who may be received as a guest into God’s tent, enjoying all the protections of His hospitality? Who may live as a citizen in His holy hill?”
b. Your holy hill: Yet in another sense, David asked a second, more intense question. At this time, the tabernacle of God was at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39 and 21:29). Depending upon when David wrote this psalm, it may very well be that the ark of the covenant was in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:17) and even at the holy hill of Moriah, where God had told David to build the temple (2 Samuel 24:18-21; 1 Chronicles 21:28-22:5, 2 Chronicles 3:1).
i. Since the tabernacle was not at God’s holy hill in David’s time (though the ark of the covenant was), David has two different – yet similar – places in mind.
B. The character of the one who can come before God.
1. (2-3) His character among his friends and neighbors.
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;
a. He who walks uprightly: In describing the character of the man who can live in God’s presence, David begins with two general descriptions (walks uprightly, and works righteousness).
i. In one sense David speaks from an Old Covenant perspective. Though the Old Covenant gave an important place to sacrifice and atonement through blood, it also based blessing and cursing on obedience (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28). The disobedient could not expect blessing, including the blessing of God’s presence.
ii. The New Covenant gives us a different ground for blessing and relationship with God: the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Under the New Covenant, faith rather than performance is the basis for blessing.
iii. Nevertheless, David’s principle is also accurate under the New Covenant in this sense: the conduct of one’s life is a reflection of his fellowship with God. As John wrote: If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6). We might say that under the Old Covenant a righteous walk was the precondition for fellowship with God; under the New Covenant a righteous walk is the result of fellowship with God, founded on faith.
iv. “The Christian answer to the psalmist’s question goes deeper than his, but is fatally incomplete unless it include his and lay the same stress on duties to men.” (Maclaren)
v. “David responds to the question of verse 1 with representative answers. This means that the items listed in verse 2-5 are not all-inclusive.” (Boice) We also see this from similar passages such as Psalm 24:3-4 and Isaiah 33:14-17, which are not identical in the items listed.
b. Speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue: David here understood that an upright and righteous life is known by the way someone speaks. As Jesus said in Matthew 12:34: Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
i. “I think more damage has been done to the church and its work by gossip, criticism, and slander than by any other single sin. So I say, don’t do it. Bite your tongue before you criticize another Christian.” (Boice)
ii. Clarke wrote this about the word backbite: “He is a knave, who would rob you of your good name; he is a coward, that would speak of you in your absence what he dared not to do in your presence; and only an ill-conditioned dog would fly at and bite your back when your face was turned. All these three ideas are included in the term; and they all meet in the detractor and calumniator. His tongue is the tongue of a knave, a coward, and a dog.”
c. Nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend: David also knew that righteousness is expressed in the way we treat one another. We might have thought David would have given greater priority to religious obligations such as sacrifice or purification ceremonies – which certainly have their place, but are useless without the practical godliness of being good and honest and honorable to neighbors and friends.
i. In these words of David, we also see the deeper work of Jesus Christ, who commanded us to not only love our neighbor and friend, but also to love our enemies and those who spitefully use us (Matthew 5:44).
2. (4-5a) His character among difficult people.
In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the LORD;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
a. In whose eyes a vile person is despised: David knew that we cannot love good unless we also oppose evil. As it says in Proverbs 8:13: The fear of the LORD is to hate evil. Yet this righteous man also honors those who fear the LORD; he makes his judgments about men on a godly basis, not from favoritism, flattery, or corruption.
i. “Who rejected the wicked, however rich and honourable; and chose the well inclined, however poor and contemptible in the world.” (Horne)
ii. “He doth not admire his person, nor envy his condition, nor court him with flatteries, nor value his company and conversation, nor approve of or comply with his courses; but he thinks meanly of him; he judgeth him a most miserable man, and a great object of pity he abhors his wicked practices, and labours to make such ways contemptible and hateful to all men as far as it lies in his power.” (Poole)
iii. Honors those who fear the LORD: “We must be as honest in paying respect as in paying our bills. Honour to whom honour is due. To all good men we owe a debt of honour, and we have no right to hand over what is their due to vile persons who happen to be in high places.” (Spurgeon)
b. He who swears to his own hurt and does not change: The idea behind this is the man keeps his promises even when it is no longer to his advantage to do so.
i. “Joshua and the elders kept their oath to the Gibeonites, though to their inconvenience.” (Trapp)
ii. “The law prohibited the substitution of another animal sacrifice for that which had been vowed (Leviticus 27:10); and the psalm uses the same word for ‘changeth,’ with evident allusion to the prohibition, which must therefore have been known to the psalmist.” (Maclaren)
c. He who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent: David described the man who wants to live a righteous life when it comes to money. Many people who would be considered godly in other areas of their lives still have not decided to use their money in a way that honors God and shows love and care to others.
i. Usury “is condemned in the Bible, not in general (cf. Deuteronomy 23:20; Matthew 25:27) but in the context of trading on a brother’s misfortunes, as a comparison between Deuteronomy 23:19 and Leviticus 25:35-38 makes clear.” (Kidner)
ii. “I am convinced that the concern of this verse is not with receiving interest for money loaned, though it seems to say that, but rather with whom the interest is taken from. In other words, the verse concerns greed eclipsing justice…. The best Old Testament illustration of the abuse verse 5 is talking about is in Nehemiah 5, where all the wealthy were taking advantage of the poor among the exiles when all should have been helping one another.” (Boice)
iii. It is easy – and proper – to look at this list and see where we fall short. Yet seeing our sin in this psalm should drive us to Jesus. We see this whole psalm through the grid of the New Covenant; we see Jesus as having perfectly fulfilled the requirements of the law and the standards of this psalm. We see that by faith His obedience is accounted as ours, and that we are being transformed into His image, thus the fulfillment of this psalm should more and more mark our life.
3. (5b) The blessing that comes from this character.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
a. He who does these things: David has in mind the basic performance-based system of the Old Covenant. The one who has pleased God with this kind of performance can expect blessing from God.
i. “To continue in sin is to frustrate the very purpose of God in grace. To do that is to be excluded from His tent, to be shut out from the holy mountain.” (Morgan)
b. Shall never be moved: In the Old Covenant system, this stability of life is a blessing from God given to the obedient. Under the New Covenant, the promise of stability and security is given to those who abide in faith, such faith being evident through a life lived in general obedience.
i. The idea behind shall never be moved is that this righteous one will be a guest in the tent of God forever (as in Psalm 61:4). In New Testament words, we could express it like this: And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:17).
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
Psalm 14 – Fallen Man and a Faithful God
This psalm is simply titled To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. With this title, we have the author (David) and the intended audience (the Chief Musician), whom we can take to represent more than a choir leader such as Asaph; it looks to the ultimate Musician of the universe, God Himself. “The thought of the whole psalm is the safety of godliness, and the peril of ungodliness.” (G. Campbell Morgan)
A. The sad condition of the man who rejects God.
1. (1) David’s analysis of the God-rejecting man.
The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.
a. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God”: David looked at those who denied the existence of God and came to the conclusion that they are fools. The idea behind this ancient Hebrew word translated fool is more moral than intellectual. David did not have in mind those not smart enough to figure God out (no one is that smart); he had in mind those who simply reject God.
i. From the italics in the New King James Version we can see that what the fool actually says is, “No God.” “That is, ‘No God for me.’ So his is a practical as well as theoretical atheism. Not only does he not believe in God, he also acts on his conviction.” (Boice)
ii. David says this because of the plain evidence that there is a God: evidence in both creation and human conscience that Paul described in Romans 1. The fact that some men insist on denying the existence of God does not erase God from the universe; it instead speaks to their own standing as fools. As Paul wrote in Romans 1:22, Professing to be wise, they became fools.
iii. “The Hebrew word for fool in this psalm is nabal, a word which implies an aggressive perversity, epitomized in the Nabal of 1 Samuel 25:25.” (Kidner)
iv. The God-denying man is a fool because:
· He denies what is plainly evident.
· He believes in tremendous effect with no cause.
· He denies a moral authority in the universe.
· He believes only what can be proven by the scientific method.
· He takes a dramatic, losing chance on his supposition that there is no God.
· He refuses to be persuaded by the many powerful arguments for the existence of God.
v. There are many powerful arguments for the existence of God; among them are these:
· The Cosmological Argument: The existence of the universe means there must be a creator God.
· The Teleological Argument: The existence of design in the universe means there must be a designer God.
· The Anthropological Argument: The unique nature and character of humanity means there must be a relational God.
· The Moral Argument: The existence of morality means there must be a governing God.
vi. “Which is cause, and which is effect? Does atheism result from folly, or folly from atheism? It would be perfectly correct to say that each is cause and each is effect.” (Morgan)
b. The fool has said in his heart: David not only found what the fool said to be significant; where he said it is also important (in his heart). The God-denying man David has in mind is not merely troubled by intellectual objections to the existence of God; in his heart he wishes God away, typically for fundamentally moral reasons.
i. John 3:20 explains it this way: For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
ii. This means that the man David had in mind is not an atheist for primarily intellectual reasons. “Honest intellectual agnosticism does not necessarily produce immorality; dishonest emotional atheism always does.” (Morgan)
iii. When we speak with one who denies God, we should not only – or even primarily – speak to his head, but also to his heart. “Let the preacher aim at the heart, and preach the all-conquering love of Jesus, and he will by God’s grace win more doubters to the faith of the gospel than any hundred of the best reasoners who only direct their arguments to the head.” (Spurgeon)
iv. The phrasing of said in his heart also reminds us that it is possible for one to say in his mind that there is a God, yet deny it in his heart and life. One may believe in God in theory, yet be a practical atheist in the way he lives.
v. 1 Samuel 27:1 tells us what David said in his heart on one occasion: Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand.” Was this not David, in some sense, also denying God and speaking as a fool?
vi. “Practical denial or neglect of His working in the world, rather than a creed of negation, is in the psalmist’s mind. In effect, we say that there is no God when we shut Him up in a far-off heaven, and never think of Him as concerned in our affairs. To strip Him of His justice and rob Him of His control is the part of a fool. For the Biblical conception of folly is moral perversity rather than intellectual feebleness, and whoever is morally and religiously wrong cannot be in reality intellectually right.” (Maclaren)
c. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works: David here considers the result of denying God. It leads men into corruption and abominable works. This isn’t to say that every atheist lives a dissolute life and every God-believer lives a good life; yet there is a marked difference in moral behavior between those who take God seriously and those who do not.
d. There is none who does good: As David considered the sin of the God-denier, he looked out over the landscape of humanity and concluded that there is none who does good. He did not mean that there is no human good in this world, but that fallen man is so fallen that he does not by instinct do good, and even the good he may do is tinged with evil.
· We are born with both the will and the capacity to do evil; no one has to teach a child to do bad things.
· The path of least resistance usually leads us to do bad, not to do good.
· It is often easier to encourage others to do bad things, instead of good things.
· Many of our good deeds are tinged with selfish, bad motives.
i. “This is no exaggeration, since every sin implies the effrontery of supposedly knowing better than God, and the corruption of loving evil more than good.” (Kidner)
2. (2-3) Heaven’s analysis of fallen humanity.
The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.
a. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men: While man may wish to forget about God, God never forgets about man. He is always observing man, looking down from heaven upon the children of men.
i. In man’s rejection of God, there is often the wish that God would just leave us alone. This is an unwise wish, because all human life depends upon God (Acts 17:28; Matthew 5:45). This is an impossible wish, because God has rights of a creator over His creation.
ii. “The words remind us of God descending from heaven to observe the folly of those building the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:5) or looking down upon the wickedness of the race prior to his judgment by the flood.” (Kidner)
b. To see if there are any who understand, who seek God: When God does look down from heaven, one thing He looks for is if there is any understanding or seeking among humanity.
i. God looks for this not primarily as an intellectual judgment; He doesn’t wonder if there are any smart enough to figure Him out. He looks for this more as a moral and spiritual judgment: if there are men who understand His heart and plan, and who seek Him for righteousness sake.
ii. We deceive ourselves into thinking that man, on his own, really does seek God. Don’t all the religions and rituals and practices from the beginning of time demonstrate that man does indeed seek God? Not at all. If man initiates the search then he doesn’t seek the true God, the God of the Bible. Instead he seeks an idol that he makes himself.
iii. “You have gone through this form of worship, but you have not sought after God. I am sick of this empty religiousness. We see it everywhere; it is not communion with God, it is not getting to God; indeed, God is not in it at all.” (Spurgeon, from a sermon on Romans 3)
c. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt: When God looks, this is what He finds. He finds that man has turned away from God and has therefore become corrupt.
i. Poole on turned aside: “Or, are grown sour, as this word signifies.”
ii. “The Hebrews have the same word for sin and a dead carcase; and again the same word for sin and stench.” (Trapp)
d. There is none who does good, no, not one: When God finds none who does good, it is because there are none. It isn’t as if there were some and God couldn’t see them. David here observes and remembers that man is truly, profoundly, deeply fallen.
i. David’s use of “there is none who does good” suddenly broadens the scope beyond the atheist to include us. “‘After all, we are not atheists!’ we might say. But now, as we are let in on God’s perspective, we see that we are too included. In other words, the outspoken atheist of verse 1 is only one example of mankind in general.” (Kidner)
ii. “What a picture of our race is this! Save only where grace reigns, there is none that doeth good; humanity, fallen and debased, is a desert without an oasis, a night without a star, a dunghill without a jewel, a hell without a bottom.” (Spurgeon)
B. God’s defense of His righteous people.
1. (4-6) God defends the generation of the righteous.
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge,
Who eat up my people as they eat bread,
And do not call on the LORD?
There they are in great fear,
For God is with the generation of the righteous.
You shame the counsel of the poor,
But the LORD is his refuge.
a. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge: David first considered the profound fallenness of man; now he deals with the fate of God’s people in such a fallen world. God’s people might seem like the weak fools, but David understood that it is the workers of iniquity who have no knowledge.
i. “The question has almost a tone of surprise, as if even Omniscience found…wonder in men’s mysterious love of evil.” (Maclaren)
b. Who eat up my people as they eat bread: It looks like the workers of iniquity are strong and have the upper hand. David wondered if the people of God are abandoned to the fools and the corrupt of this world, to those who do not call on the LORD.
i. “As they eat bread, i.e. with as little regret or remorse, and with as much greediness, and delight, and constancy too, as they use to eat their meat.” (Poole)
ii. And do not call on the LORD: “Practical atheism is, of course, prayerless.” (Maclaren)
c. There they are in great fear, for God is with the generation of the righteous: After asking the question, David now answers it with great wisdom. The workers of iniquity seem strong and confident, but they are actually in great fear, because they can’t erase the consciousness that God is with the generation of the righteous.
i. “A panic terror seized them: ‘they feared a fear,’ as the Hebrew puts it; an undefinable, horrible, mysterious dread crept over them. The most hardened of men have their periods when conscience casts them into a cold sweat of alarm.” (Spurgeon)
ii. As strong as they may wish to deny it, they live under the cloud of knowing that they are battling against God, and can therefore never win.
d. You shame the counsel of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge: David here announces it to the workers of iniquity previously mentioned – that they may work against the poor, but God has a refuge for them that cannot be breached. They are fighting against God and will never succeed.
i. Spurgeon considered the ways that the poor takes counsel.
· He takes counsel with his own weakness and sees that he must depend upon God.
· He takes counsel with his observations and sees the end of the wicked.
· He takes counsel with the Bible and trusts it to be the word of God.
· He takes counsel with his own experience and sees that God answers prayer.
ii. Spurgeon used this verse to consider the ways that Christians should stand strong though they are shamed and mocked by the workers of iniquity. “You young men in the great firms of London, you working men that work in the factories – you are sneered at. Let them sneer. If they can sneer you out of your religion, you have not got any worth having. Remember you can be laughed into hell, but you can never be laughed out of it.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “‘Oh! but they will point at you.’ Cannot you bear to be pointed at? ‘But they will chaff you.’ Chaff – let them chaff you. Can that hurt a man that is a man? If you are a molluscous creature that has no backbone, you may be afraid of jokes, and jeers, and jests; but if God has made you upright, stand upright and be a man.” (Spurgeon)
2. (7) Longing for the LORD’s salvation.
Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD brings back the captivity of His people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.
a. Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion: David knew that the LORD was a refuge for His people and that the workers of iniquity would never win. Yet that was hard to see at the present time, so David expressed his great longing that God would bring the victory and deliverance He had promised to His people.
b. When the LORD brings back the captivity of His people: This was not the Babylonian Captivity, many generations after David’s time. Here captivity is used in a general sense, speaking of any time or situation where God’s people are oppressed and bound.
i. “We take that phrase ‘turns the captivity’ in the sense in which it admittedly bears in Job 42:10 and Ezekiel 16:53, namely that of deliverance from misfortune.” (Maclaren)
c. Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad: David anticipates the coming deliverance, and calls the people of God to be joyful in consideration of it.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org
Psalm 13 – Enlighten My Eyes
The title tells us both the author and the audience of the psalm: To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. Some believe that the Chief Musician is 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). This is a psalm of transition. Starting in discouragement and despair, David finishes in a place of trust, joy, and encouragement.
A. David’s despair.
1. (1) David’s despair with the LORD.
How long, O LORD?
Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
a. How long, O LORD? It seems that every child of God has asked this question at one time or another, and that every follower of God has felt neglected by God – or at least that he has waited a long time for God to do what needs to be done.
i. “If the reader has never yet found occasion to use the language of this brief ode, he will do so ere long, if he be a man after the Lord’s own heart.” (Spurgeon)
ii. How long? “This question is repeated no less than four times. It betokens very intense desire for deliverance, and great anguish of heart…. It is not easy to prevent desire from degenerating into impatience. O for grace that, while we wait on God, we may be kept from indulging a murmuring spirit!” (Spurgeon)
iii. How long is the critical question. Often we faint under the simple length of our trials. We feel we could endure almost anything if we knew when it would come to an end; yet sometimes we are tried under problems that make us cry out, “How long?”
iv. “Whenever you look into David’s Psalms, you may somewhere or another see yourselves. You never get into a corner but you find David in that corner. I think that I was never so low that I could not find that David was lower; and I never climbed so high that I could not find that David was up above me, ready to sing his song upon his stringed instrument, even as I could sing mine.” (Spurgeon)
b. Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? The pain in David’s heart came from a sense that God had forgotten him and that God was distancing Himself from him. No doubt, David had faced worse circumstances but had faced them more bravely when he had sensed the presence of God with him. Yet now, feeling distant from God, it did not take much to send David into despair.
i. God will never forget us: But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands. (Isaiah 49:14-16)
ii. “The final absence of God is hell itself. ‘Depart from me, ye cursed,’ is worse than ‘into everlasting fire.’ To be punished from the presence of the Lord is the hell of hells, 2 Thessalonians 1:9.” (Trapp)
c. Forget…. Hide Your face: Of course, God did not forget David. God did not hide His face from David – but David felt like it. When we have such strong feelings, then the feelings create their own reality. David felt God had forgotten him, and felt God was hiding. So, in a sense, it was true for David – but true according to feelings, not according to fact.
i. There is a balance in life when it comes to feelings. Some people ignore feelings and think that feelings should have nothing to do with our relationship with God. This is an extreme viewpoint, because God has given us feelings as an expression of His image in us. We can feel anger, love, care, sorrow, and many other feelings, because God feels those feelings. Feelings are a gift from God and a sign that we are made in His image.
ii. On the other side, some live their lives ruled by feelings. They believe whatever reality their feelings present them. The problem with this is that though we have feelings because we are made in the image of God, our feelings are affected by our fallenness. We can’t trust our feelings because of this. It was all right for David to feel these feelings, and good to take them to God, but he should never accept the reality of feelings as “real” reality.
iii. “This is a lesson of profound value. If the heart be overburdened and Jehovah seems to hide His face, let the story of woe be told to Him. It is a holy exercise. Men may not understand it. They may even charge us with failing faith.” (Morgan)
2. (2) David’s despair with himself and others.
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
a. How long shall I take counsel in my soul: No wonder David was discouraged! Taking counsel in his own soul had led him to sorrow in his heart daily. When I am discouraged and depressed, the answer is not in looking inside myself, but in looking to the LORD.
i. Many times when I am confronted with problems, I find this to be true: The more I think about the problems, the more depressed I get. But when I pray about the problems, a glorious sense of release and peace comes.
ii. Thinking about our troubles is hard work. Trouble is often like a pill God wants us to just swallow, but we make it worse by keeping it in our mouths and chewing it.
iii. Spurgeon proposed a sermon on the phrase, “How long should I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?” He suggested that the sermon would have these points: “Self-torture, its cause, curse, crime, and cure.”
b. How long will my enemy be exalted over me? This mentions the third way that David was depressed. David didn’t want to lose in any area he was attacked and see his enemy…exalted over him. David was depressed in three ways:
· First, in his relationship with God.
· Second, within himself.
· Third, in regard to his enemies.
i. This was not a purely selfish desire. David knew he was the LORD’s man, with a special calling to lead God’s people. In this sense, David’s enemies were the LORD’s enemies, and enemies against the people of God.
ii. David’s feeling that God had abandoned him was connected to his sense of depression. Boice helpfully lists several sources of spiritual depression:
· Temperament may incline one to depression.
· Illness can drain the physical strength and lead to depression.
· Exhaustion can also leave one quite open to depression and the feeling of abandonment.
· The let-down after some great effort, fueled by coming down off of an adrenaline high, can often lead to depression.
· Pressure from spiritual and natural enemies can push us toward depression.
B. David’s dependent prayer.
1. (3) David prays for his relationship with God.
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
a. Consider and hear me: We should not think that David meant two different things when he said, “Consider and hear me.” He used the Hebrew method of repetition to show emphasis. David desperately cried out to God, asking the LORD to hear him.
i. David felt God was not listening before (Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? Psalm 13:1). Yet he should continue to cry out because God is honored when we persistently and desperately cry out to Him.
ii. God often waits until our prayers are desperate before He answers us. The cause of the powerlessness of much of our prayer is lack of desperation; too often we almost pray with the attitude of wanting God to care about things we really don’t care too much about.
iii. Desperate prayer has power not because it in itself persuades a reluctant God. Instead, it demonstrates that our heart cares passionately about the things God cares about, fulfilling Jesus’ promise If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you (John 15:7).
b. Enlighten my eyes: David had the wisdom to know that though he felt powerful feelings, he wasn’t seeing reality. His vision was clouded and dark, so he cried out to God, “Enlighten my eyes.”
i. This was a great prayer. We need the light of God to shine upon us and to give us His wisdom and knowledge. No matter what problem we are in, we should cry out with all our heart, “Enlighten my eyes.”
ii. The Apostle Paul knew the importance of having our eyes enlightened by the Lord. This is what he prayed for Christians: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (Ephesians 1:17-19).
c. Lest I sleep the sleep of death: If we are not enlightened by God, we will surely fall asleep. And often, spiritual sleep leads to spiritual death.
i. Paul may have had this verse in mind when he wrote of our need for the light of Jesus: Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light (Ephesians 5:14).
2. (4) David prays for victory over his enemies.
Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”;
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
a. Lest my enemy say: David knew one of the worst parts about losing to anyone is hearing him boast after he has defeated you. He did not want his enemy to rejoice when he was brought low.
b. Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved: Knowing how his enemies would gloat over his fall, David was even more determined to not be moved.
i. “Awareness of God and the enemy is virtually the hallmark of every psalm of David; the positive and negative charges which produced the driving force of his best years.” (Kidner)
C. David’s declaration.
1. (5a) David’s trust in God’s mercy.
But I have trusted in Your mercy;
a. I have trusted: David, after his prayer, came to a place of confidence and trust. I have trusted speaks in the past tense; it is as if David remembered that he really did trust God, and he cleared away the fog from his sleepy eyes as God enlightened his eyes.
b. In Your mercy: At this place of discouragement, David could not trust in God’s justice, or in God’s law, or in God’s holiness. Those things might condemn him because his feelings had made him not see clearly. But he could always trust in God’s mercy. When you can’t trust anything else, trust in God’s mercy.
i. “He begins his prayer as if he thought God would never give him a kind look more…. But by the time he had exercised himself a little in duty, his distemper wears off, the mists scatter, and his faith breaks out as the sun in its strength.” (William Gurnall, cited in Spurgeon)
2. (5b-6a) David’s joy in the LORD and His salvation.
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
a. My heart shall rejoice: Now, David was still in the realm of feelings (rejoice). But he directed his feelings instead of having his feelings direct him (shall rejoice). He told his heart to get busy rejoicing!
b. In Your salvation: This is what David rejoiced in. David, if he could rejoice in nothing else, could rejoice in the salvation God gave him. This is solid ground for any believer. If you are saved, you can rejoice, and tell your heart to start rejoicing.
c. I will sing to the LORD: David knew rejoicing is wonderfully expressed in singing. So, he would sing to the LORD. Singing to the LORD would both express his joy and increase his joy.
i. “There is not half enough singing in the world…I remember a servant who used to sing while she was at the wash-tub. Her mistress said to her, ‘Why, Jane, how is it that you are always singing?’ She said, ‘It keeps the bad thoughts away.’” (Spurgeon)
ii. David moved from being depressed and feeling abandoned by God, to singing joy. “The fact that we feel abandoned itself means that we really know God is there. To be abandoned you need somebody to be abandoned by. Because we are Christians and have been taught by God in the Scriptures, we know that God still loves us and will be faithful to us, regardless of our feelings.” (Boice)
3. (6b) With enlightened eyes, David sees God’s goodness.
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
a. Because He has dealt bountifully with me: As David thought about it, he had good reason to rejoice and sing, because God had been good to him. If we will only think about it, every person on this earth has reason to rejoice, because in some way God has been good to everyone.
b. He has dealt bountifully with me: What a transition! In the beginning of the psalm, David was overwhelmed by his feelings and believed that God forgot him and was hiding from him. He had trouble with God, with himself, and with others. Yet now he sees how God had dealt bountifully with him. Because his eyes were enlightened, David could now see God’s goodness, and what a change in perspective that was!
i. Before God can enlighten our eyes, we must agree that we don’t see everything. We need to realize that our feelings are not giving us full and accurate information. But if we will do this, and cry out to the LORD, He will enlighten our eyes and bring us from a place of despair to a place of trust, joy, and confidence!
ii. “[In times of trouble, the Lord] would with one Scripture or another, strengthen me against all; insomuch that I have often said, Were it lawful, I could pray for greater trouble, for the greater comfort’s sake.” (John Bunyan, cited in Spurgeon)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
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