Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. TERRIFIC FACTS. (Vers. 2-11.) Let every phrase in this indictment be weighed; it presents as fearful a picture of human wickedness as any contained in the Word of God. It sets before us pride, persecution, device, boasting, ridicule, denial of Providence, hardness, scorn, evil-speaking, defying and denying of God, oppression and crushing of the poor, a glorying in deeds of shame, and expected impunity therein. And what is more trying still is, that God seems to let all this go on, and keeps silence, and stands afar off, and hides himself in times of trouble. Such trials were felt by the Protestants in their early struggles; by the Covenanters in times of persecution in Scotland; by faithful ones on the occasion of the St. Bartholomew Massacre; by the Waldenses and Albigenses; by Puritans and Independents under Charles I.; by Churchmen under Cromwell; and by the Malagasy in our own times; and it is only by the terror of such times that psalms like this can be understood.
II. HARD QUESTIONS. Of these there are two. One is in the first verse.
1. Why is God silent? As we look at matters, we might be apt to say that if God has indeed a people in the world, he will never let them fall into the hands of the destroyer; or that, if they are oppressed by evil men, God will quickly deliver them out of their hands, and will show his disapproval of their ways. But very often is it otherwise - to sight, and then faith is tried; and it is no wonder that Old Testament saints should ask" Why?" when even New Testament saints often do the same! But we know that to his own, God gives an inward peace and strength that are better marks of his love and better proofs of his timely aid than any outward distinction could possibly be. Take, e.g., the case of Blandina in the times of early persecution; and the cases of hundreds of others. And besides this, it is by the Christ-like bearing of believers under hardships such as these, that God reveals the reality and glory of his redeeming pace (see 1 Peter 4:12-14).
2. A second question is: Why doth the wicked contemn God? Ah! why does he? He does contemn God in many ways.
(1) His inward thought is, "There is no God" (ver. 4).
(2) He denies that God will call him to account (ver. 13).
(3) He denies that God watches his actions (ver. 11).
(4) He lulls himself in imagined perpetual security (ver. 6).
Thus the life of such a one is a perpetual denial or defiance of God. And all this is attributed
(a) to "pride" (ver. 4);
(b) to love of evil as evil (ver. 3).
And yet the psalmist, seeing through the vain boast of the ungodly, may well peal out again and again the question, "Why does he do this? "for the implied meaning of the writer is, "Why does he do this, when, in spite of all his proud glorying in ill, he knows that God will bring his wickedness to an end, and will call him to account for it? This is the thought which connects our present division with the next.
III. PERMANENT SOLACE. However hard it may be to interpret the ways of nod at any one crisis, yet the believer knows that he must not judge God by what he sees of his ways, but ought to estimate his ways by what he knows of God. And there are four great truths known about God by the revelation of himself to man.
1. Jehovah is the eternal King (ver. 14).
2. God is the Helper of the fatherless (ver. 14).
4. God hears his people's cry (ver. 17).
When believers know all this, they have a perpetual source of relief even under the heaviest cares. God's plan for the world, in his government thereof by Jesus Christ, is to redress every wrong of man, and to bring about peace, by righteousness (Psalm 72:2, 4).
IV. FERVID PRAYER. (Vers. 12, 15.) Times of severest pressure are those which force out the mightiest prayer (Acts 4:23-30). Luther, etc.; Daniel (Daniel 2:16-18; Daniel 9:1-19). The true method of prayer is thus indicated, viz. to ascertain from God's revelation of himself, what he is and what are his promises, and then to approach him in humble supplication, pleading with him to reveal the glory of his Name, by fulfilling the promises he has made; and when our prayers move in the direct line of God's promises, we are absolutely sure of an answer (but see Psalm 65:5; Revelation 8:4, 5; Deuteronomy 33:26-29). To-day is a day of God's concealing himself; but his day of self-revealing is drawing nigh. - C.
I. THE COMPLAINT. (Vers. 1-11.) Why? Perplexity and fear are natural because of the silence of God. What makes his silence the more awful is that it is in sight of the sufferings of the good (ver. 2). On every side evil abounds. Truth, justice, benevolence, are set at naught. Might prevails against fight. Righteousness is fallen in the dust. Oppression has reached such a height that it seems as if it would finally triumph. The mystery deepens, when we mark that God's silence is in the hearing of the vauntings of the wicked (vers. 3-11). The proud not only boast of their strength, but exult in their success. They have accomplished their evil desires. They parade their insolence and scorn in the very hearing of Heaven. Seeing there is no judgment executed, they harden their hearts, and hold on their way with reckless hardihood.
II. THE APPEAL. (Vers. 12-18.) The cry is impassioned and urgent. God's truth and honour are concerned. Redress must be given, else things will soon be beyond remedy.
1. The experience of the past is urged. (Ver. 14.) God is just. What he has done is earnest of what he will do. His deeds bind him as well as his promises.
2. The present also bears witness. (Ver. 5.) There is requital even now. As surely as the good is blessed in his deed, the wicked is cursed in his wickedness.
3. The future is therefore anticipated with confidence. (Ver. 6.) As the sinker muses on the character and ways of God, he rises to a bolder strain. Faith sees the vision of coming judgment. There are sore trials, there are great perplexities, but God is just. He is not indifferent. He is not helpless. He is not slack concerning his promise. But he waits in long-suffering mercy for the fit - the appointed time. A prepared heart will always find a prepared God (vers. 16-18): "Thou wilt cause thine ears to hear." Men may give their ears, and no more. Not so God. He not only hears, but acts. There is the tenderest pity; but there is also the most tremendous power. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." - W.F.
I. A COMPLAINT TO GOD OF THE DARING ATHEISM OF THE WICKED. (Vers. 1-11.)
1. He imagines himself to be above all restraint, human or Divine. (Vers. 2-4.) Proud. boastful, blessing the robber, despising God, blind. "He requireth not; there is no God."
2. He feels safe and prosperous. (Vers. 5, 6.)
3. His ways are full of deceit and violence. (Vers. 7, 8.) This is a description of the wicked man in the very fulness and monstrosity of his evil power.
4. The cruelty of his ways. (Vers. 9-11.) He is compared to a ravenous lion. His ferocity is entirely unrestrained, because either there is no God or he will not concern himself with the fate of the oppressed and afflicted.
II. A PRAYER FOR GOD'S INTERPOSITION. (Vers. 12-15.)
1. Founded upon the contrast between the thoughts of the wicked and the actual conduct of God. (Vers. 12-14.)
2. And upon the expectations of the helpless and the forlorn. (Ver. 14.) "The helpless leaveth it to thee, and thou wilt not disappoint him."
3. Wickedness can be destroyed and made to disappear from amongst men. (Ver. 15.)
III. THE TRIUMPH OF FAITH. The psalmist looks upon God's work of comfort and salvation as being quite as certain in the future as if they had been works done in the past.
1. Jehovah is King for ever and ever. (Ver. 16.) Nothing can overturn his eternal will.
2. The future triumph of God's righteousness is regarded as already completed. (Vers. 17, 18.) The beginning of the work which he has seen gives him faith that it will be perfected. "Perfect that which concerneth us." "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ." - S.
I. MAN HAS THOUGHTS. He can direct his mind to the past, the present, the future. He can speculate as to the manifold things that come before him and affect his interests. It is his glory that he can think; it is his shame that he so often thinks foolishly.
II. MAN'S THOUGHTS DEPEND UPON HIS MORAL CONDITION. We are creatures of feeling. What is uppermost in our hearts will be uppermost in our thoughts. The good man has good thoughts, the evil man evil thoughts. Change the character of the heart, and you change the character of the thoughts (Proverbs 12:5; Proverbs 15:26; Matthew 12:33).
III. WHEN THE MORAL DISPOSITION IS CORRUPT, THE TENDENCY IS TO EXCLUDE GOD FROM THE THOUGHTS. The plan, the labours, the enjoyments of life are too often without God (Luke 12:19, 20; James 4:13). This is irrational, criminal, and ruinous (Psalm 146:4). - W.F.
I. TRIAL AS A PAINFUL INFLICTION. "For the present... grievous" (Hebrews 12:11).
II. As A HOLY DISCIPLINE. There is a "needs be." God means us good, to make us partakers of his holiness.
III. As A SALUTARY EXPERIENCE. David says, "It was good for me that I was afflicted," and he gives reasons for this. Looking hack, humbled and awed, but grateful, we can praise God for his judgments as well as for his mercies. We have the witness in ourselves that God is love, and that when he chastens us it is for our good. Thus we learn to suffer and to wait. The future is bright with hope. In the heavenly world to which we aspire there shall be no more pain, no more sorrow, nor crying, nor tears. Christ will make all things new. - W.F.