Psalm 89
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Psalm 89:1, 2, 5, 8
Psalm 89:1, 2, 5, 8, etc.

God's faithfulness. This is the keynote of the psalm, the beautiful strain which is heard over and over again in varied forms throughout. There are pieces of music in which some one sweet air recurs repeatedly, now as if amid the rush and roar of a tempest, anon, when the music has sunk down into quietness; you hear it now loud, now soft, now stirring in sonorous strains, now soothing in plaintive gentle tones; but it is the same air still. And the blessed thought of the faithfulness of God thus recurs throughout this psalm. In ver. 1 praise celebrates it. "With my mouth will I make known," etc. Does it not deserve this? Who is there can deny the faithfulness of God? He is ever true to his word. Let us, then, openly confess it, and in the very confession the conviction of it in our own souls shall be deepened. In ver. 2 faith stays itself upon it. The verse seems to be a sort of soliloquy. The speaker is encouraging his own trust by asserting his belief that mercy shall be built up forever; it shall not crumble away and come to nought, but, like some glorious fabric that may take a long time for its completion, it shall, nevertheless, be built up, and so built that it shall eternally abide. And as to God's faithfulness, it shall be as are the heavens themselves - the very type of all that is abiding, unchangeable, and the reverse of "the restless vicissitudes, the ever-shifting shores, of earth." So did the soul of the psalmist speak to itself of God's faithfulness, and thereby encourage itself to trust in him. Well will it be for us to talk to ourselves in a similar way. In ver. 5 the angels of God praise it. "Thy faithfulness also is praised in the assembly of the holy ones" (Perowne). That is, in the midst of the angels of heaven, in that Church of the Firstborn, God's faithfulness is the theme of their song. Compare the songs of the redeemed as given in the Apocalypse. Let us get ready to join in that blessed choir by our now beginning a like song. In ver. 8 no human faithfulness can be compared with it. "What faithfulness is like unto thy faithfulness?" - so a great scholar renders the last half of ver. 8. And may we not all of us ask the like question? Not but what human faithfulness is a blessed fact; there have been those who have been faithful unto death to God and to their fellow men. Paul, when ready to be offered up, could declare, "I have kept the faith." And there have been many such. But what is the fidelity even of the best of men, much more of the mass of men, as compared to that of God. Hence are we bidden, Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help." Would that we trusted God as we do men! In ver. 24 it is promised to his people. "My faithfulness shall be with him." What a rebuke is this to our wretched yet ever recurring misgivings and fears! It is one of the gifts of God that are "without repentance" (cf. Romans 3:3). In ver. 33 the sins of God's people do but change its form, not its substance. God was equally faithful in the sore distresses which he sent to Israel, as in the great benefits and blessings which, when they were obedient, he bestowed upon them. He will have all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Therefore, if gentle means will not serve, stern ones shall. In vers. 38-51 believing prayer pleads it as an all-prevailing plea. - S.C.

The previous psalm was written by a man in the dark, who could pray, but could not sing. The writer of this psalm can both pray and sing, But there is an important difference between the "darknesses" of the two psalmists. Heman suffered from severe bodily afflictions, such as are often attended by severe mental depressions. Ethan was distressed by anxious public or national conditions, which concerned him in an official rather than in a personal way. His hope in God was not clouded by bodily weakness. In him faith could triumph over fear.

I. ETHAN'S TIME OF DARKNESS. "Ethan was born in the time of David, but moulded chiefly by the influences, literary and religious, which characterized the age of Solomon." There is no reason for rejecting the ancient reference of this psalm to the reign of Rehoboam; to the breaking up of the Davidic kingdom; and to the humiliating invasion of Shishak, the Pharaoh of Egypt. Exactly what would then come to the mind of the pious man was that the Davidic covenant seemed to have failed; God was not fulflling the promise to establish David's seed forever. "It was in the reigns of Rehoboam, when ten tribes had forsaken their allegiance to the Davidic dynasty, and the promise of the steadfastness of David's throne seemed suddenly revoked, that the faithful worshippers would most readily recall the vision of Nathan, with its attendant promises, and wonder where were the former loving kindnesses which God sware unto David in his truth. Appropriate to this period is the apparent allusion to the raids of a foreign army." Distress that comes from public circumstances is rather intellectual than emotional, and the struggle cannot be so severe as when there is introduced the element of personal suffering. But they do invaluable service who can inspire the hope of a nation in its dark hours; for nations, too, "are saved by hope."

II. ETHAN'S SONG IN THE TIME OF DARKNESS. A song of faith in a time of fear. A song of thankful memories in a time of present calamities. A song of joy in God himself, when God's ways seemed "past finding out." A man can sing in the dark, however dark it may be, and whatever form the darkness may take, only if he has right thoughts of God, and can keep firm hold on God. Things may be perplexing; but if we know the doer of the things, and have full confidence in him, we can quietly wait until his issues can be unfolded. Our song stops when we lose the sense of God's relation to our circumstances. Keep the relation, and we can always sing of God, and then we soon come to sing also of God's ways. - R.T.

Psalm 89:1-52
Psalm 89:1-52. The general subject -

God's promise to David and his seed - but the present state of things is a bitter contrast to the promise, and a prayer that God would remove the contrast. Suggests -

I. THAT GOD HAS ENTERED INTO A GRAND COVENANT WITH MANKIND. Given us the greatest and most precious promises.

1. Promises that relate to our highest nature. "I will be a Father to them, and ye shall be my sons and daughters."

2. That relate to our greatest calamity. Redemption from sin and pardon to the penitent.

3. That relate to our endless being. The completeness and glory of the Divine work begun in us here.


1. Because the covenant was made out of his love, voluntarily.

2. Because God is true and faithful, and cannot deceive.

3. Because God has the power and ability to do all that he promises. Not like men.


1. We transgress, and bring upon ourselves punishment. The consequences which God has attached to transgression.

2. Our unrepented sins take from us the power to receive the Divine promises. "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God."


1. He has sent Christ as the proof of this to a sinful world.

2. He sends his Spirit into the heart to plead with us.

3. He is infinitely patient, waiting for our penitent return. - S.

The psalmist seems to have before his mind the picture of some glorious palace, whose foundation, laid broad and deep and strong, was now uprising in majesty and beauty before him. He seems to see it rising tier on tier, and course on course, and as he beholds it being gradually and gloriously up built, his adoration and Praise burst forth, and he exclaims, "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever." What did he mean? Probably the remembrance of God's mercy to Israel was present to his thought - how that had been "built up;" more and more added; new favours, new enlargements, new communications of the Divine bounty continually given, until Israel had risen to the height of her national glory; - so had God's mercy gone on, building up their state and filling them with good. In their own history the text had been shown to be true. But it has other illustrations. Take -

I. THE SALVATION OF THE HUMAN RACE. It is the supreme instance of mercy being built up forever.

1. It began in the nature of God. For God is love, and love longs for objects on which to lavish itself. Hence came creation, and then redemption in all its successive stages of mercy.

2. The first promise after man had fallen.

3. The preservation of a righteous seed in such as Seth, Enoch, and those who, called on the Name of the Lord."

4. The call of Abraham, the father of the faithful, in whose seed all the families of the earth should be blessed.

5. The multiplication and redemption of his seed.

6. The giving of the Law. This was to be for the nations as "a child leader to lead us to Christ." And in spite of all corruptions, this knowledge of God was preserved, and by the providence of God spread abroad widely.

7. Then the coming of Christ, of whom all the Law and the prophets did testify.

8. The baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the creation of the Christian Church. Thus step by step the glorious fabric of redeemed humanity has been thus far built up; and the building is still going on, and will go on

"Till the whole ransomed Church of God Be saved, to sin no more."

II. THE PERFECTING OF THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL. Trace the history of any one of those whom God has redeemed, and in that individual's experience of the ways of God there will be found further illustration of how "mercy is built up forever."

1. In the circumstances, whatever they were, which led the soul to realize its deep need. The Holy Spirit uses all manner of means to bring this about.

2. In the surrender of the will to Christ. Faith, believing, coming to Christ, are all, with other such expressions, only different forms of stating that the soul has given up its will to God.

3. Then the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. From this results that sanctification which is the "being changed into Christ's image, from glory to glory,"

4. The disciplines of God's providence. All these are parts of the building process, unsightly, unlovely, repellant, having no form nor comeliness in them, and yet in and through them mercy is being built up, the work of God in the soul is advanced.

5. The means of grace - prayers, sacraments, Scriptures, work for God, to which he calls us - all are for our perfecting.

III. THE RECOMPENSES OF MERCY. "Blessed are the merciful," said our Lord, and it is so. Take as an historic illustration the founding of Pennsylvania, and the way in which the Quakers dealt with the Indians. Other methods are but demonstrations of the truth that they that take the sword perish by the sword. And it is so with individuals. God loves mercy, and recompenses it; he will build it up forever.


1. Render praise to the Lord. For mercy is ever needed by us all.

2. Hope continually. For mercy is to be built up forever: it wearies not; it will, it must, have its way at length. Hope, then, for the myriads yet unsaved; God knows how to build them in. And never despair of yourselves.

3. Get employed in this blessed building work. There is room for us all.

4. Weary not in showing mercy. It is to go on forever. If we meet with rude rebuff, still go on with the sacred toil. God's mercy is built up forever: be ours likewise! - S.C.

Thy seed will I establish forever. The keynote of the psalm is the "faithfulness" of God to his word. "God had entered into 'an everlasting covenant' with David, and had confirmed that covenant with an oath. In the most absolute and unconditional form, God had pledged himself to establish the kingdom of David and his seed forever, to beat down all their adversaries under their feet, and to maintain their throne as long as the sun and moon should endure" (see 2 Samuel 7:8-16; Isaiah 55:3). The psalmist lived when men were tempted to think God was forgetting his word, or failing to fulfil it. But he persisted in it that, whatever appearances might suggest, God never forgot his word, never failed to fulfil his word, and the covenant with David was being kept, in the fullest and best sense, though it might prove to be a spiritual rather than a material sense.

I. GOD'S WORD MUST ALWAYS BE TAKEN WITH GOD'S MEANING. So often men fix their own meanings to what God says or promises, and then they are surprised and disheartened because that does not happen which they expect. Take two illustrations. Men said that God's covenant with David meant that there should always be a Davidic kingdom, and always a member of David's house on its throne. That was man's meaning put on God's words; that was not God's meaning put into his own words. So the Jews read into the prophecies their expectations of a temporal, delivering Messiah, and the Messiah who came was no fulfilment of their dreams. We need to learn that, whatever God says, using material terms and figures, is but illustrative of spiritual fact or truth. David's perpetual kingdom is Messiah's spiritual kingdom. Head with God's meaning, God's word stands eternally true. And if spiritual sensibilities are duly awakened and cultured, the spiritual meanings and spiritual fulfilments come to be regarded as really the only important ones.

II. GOD'S WORD TO SOME MUST BE TAKEN TO REPRESENT GOD'S PURPOSE FOR ALL. Much mistake has been made by regarding God's covenants with individuals as mere privileges of the individual. God puts his covenant into a form for some, that all men may be helped to understand what his covenant with all men is. The illustrative character of all local covenants needs to be more fully apprehended, and more clearly pointed out. "Every Divine promise is but a limited expression of a general principle; every Divine covenant, even if it be made with a few, is nevertheless made for the benefit of the many, and can only be an instance of his ways, an illustration of a mercy as wide as the heavens, and of a faithfulness which extends to all generations of man kind." - R.T.

The Bible writers seem to think that the angels must be referred to by this term. But God's people are certainly called "saints" in the Psalms, as in Psalm 116:15. There may be intended a contrast between heaven and earth in this verse. Heaven above and the earth below unite to praise the faithfulness of God. The term "saints" is one that we find difficult to apply, in a general way, to God's people, because it seems to assume an actual and perfect holiness, which we can neither find in ourselves nor ascribe to others. And, on the other hand, the term "saints" has been deteriorated by its application to the hermit class, who, by bodily austerities, have endeavoured to cleanse away sin and master passion. We have but little admiration for "saints" after that pattern. The Old Testament term has a clear, well defined meaning. Its idea is "separated ones." It stands for all the people of Israel regarded as separated unto God - his peculiar people. Then as "holiness" is specially associated with God, and is his supreme requirement of those who belong to him, God's saints, or separated ones, come to be thought of as "holy ones," and so we get our modern idea of the saint. Giving the widest, and yet most searching, application of the term, we may say -

I. THE LORD'S SAINTS ARE THOSE WHO ARE SEPARATED FROM SELF. Illustrate this by the contrast of the Israelite nation with the Gentile nations. God left the Gentiles to a free experiment. By self-effort and self-service they were to win the highest possibilities of humanity, if they could. Israel was taken out of this self-experiment, separated from the nations and from the self-service. So now the Christian is the man who, in the world of self-interests, is separated from the self-seeking principle. The Christian's Lord "pleased not himself." Christians do not "seek their own." Their saintliness ties in this: "By love they serve one another."


(1) That they may praise his Name;

(2) carry out his mission;

(3) witness for his truth;

(4) obey his will;

(5) catch and reflect his Spirit.

So their saintliness comes to be godliness, God-likeness, and this really is Christliness, Christ-likeness. The Christian saint is the man in Christ. - R.T.

Who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? It does not come to our minds to attempt any comparisons of God with any one, because, according to our associations, there is no one on the same plane with him, and so no comparisons are suggested. But in ancient times every nation had its separate deity; these deities were thought, by their worshippers, to be real and supreme, and so comparisons with Jehovah could be made. They were made, by outsiders, to his disadvantage; and they might well be made, by psalmist and prophet, to his honour (see the eloquent comparisons in Isaiah 40.). Here the psalmist is but assuring himself by thinking high things of God, because the actual present dealings of God suggested doubting thoughts. What God is always steadies our thinking when we are perplexed by what God does. The comparison need not be fully elaborated; the following points may be illustrated.

I. GOD IS INCOMPARABLE IN POWER. If God does a thing, we may first of all say he was under no compulsion to do it. He could have done otherwise. If he has put forth his power in this particular way, we may be sure he willed to act this way, and his will is based on perfect knowledge and absolute wisdom. Of no created being, of no so called deity, can it be declared that he has uncontrolled power, and yet the power is in no way to be teared, because it is in the control of perfect intelligence, absolute wisdom, and infinite love.

II. GOD IS INCOMPARABLE IN PURITY. Here the one idea on which we may dwell is God's truthfulness, faithfulness, to his word. Scripture constantly asserts that God never disappoints men. He is true to his word. This cannot be asserted of any created being, or of any so called deity, whose word can only be the word of some created being representing him. "Hath he said, and shall he not do it? hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" "God is not a man, that he should lie."

III. GOD IS INCOMPARABLE IN PITY. It seems to the psalmist of Rehoboam's distressed age as if God "had forgotten to be gracious." But he may rest his soul in the confidence that none can pity like God; and if Divine action should ever seem strange, it can only be said that God's pity is checking the action of what, in God, men may think to be severity. - R.T.

Throughout the Scriptures the sea is regarded as an object of fear; its majesty, greatness, masterfulness, seem mostly to have impressed men. It had not then been tamed by human skill; the compass was not known; the few vessels were inefficiently constructed for ocean sailing, and they seldom ventured out of sight of land. Scripture speaks of "the raging of the sea," of "the raging waves of the sea," of its voice "roaring," of the "floods lifting up their voice," of the "wicked being like the troubled sea," of "those that go down to the sea" seeing "the wonders of the Lord, and his judgments in the deep," of the "great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable." And even when it seems to have a gentler thought, and says, "There go the ships," immediately it adds a note of power and fear, "There is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein."

I. THE SEA WAS A SYMBOL OF SEPARATION, AND SO OF THE EARTHLY TROUBLES THAT COME OUT OF SEPARATIONS. When friends in those days were carried away over the sea, they seemed to be utterly, hopelessly lost. We may have to some extent mastered this feeling by making of the ocean a highway, and yet still our friends are more truly lost to us when the sea divides us than when the land does. And yet, in family life, there are worse dividers than the sea.

II. THE SEA BROUGHT THE SUPREME SENSE OF DANGER, AND SO SYMBOLIZED THE PERILS TO WHICH DAILY LIFE IS EXPOSED. The sea is ever raging as if it would devour. The waters sink as if they would swallow us up, or rise as if they would cast us out. In our boats there is but an inch of wood between us and death. Yet our real perils are those which come to our soul's life. "Fear not them who can but kill the body." What the sea may typify is far more important than what the sea can do.

III. THE SEA SEEMED TO EMBODY THE IDEA OF MYSTERY. We can never seem to understand the sea; never account for the sea; never feel sure what it is going to do; never read the secrets it holds in its bosom. It is the symbol for us of the mysteries, often so distressing, so agonizing, with which we are surrounded - mysteries of life, of truth, of duty, of ourselves, of God, of eternity, which compel our life on earth to be a "life of faith."

IV. THE SEA WAS AN EMBLEM OF THE CHANGEABLENESS THAT CHARACTERIZES ALL EARTHLY THINGS. It is well called the troubled, restless sea; and this we feel quite as truly in summer calm, when only gentle winds blow across it, as in winter conflicts, when wild winds raise high the tides. It ever reminds us that "the fashion of this world passeth away." Yet the psalmist could see God restraining and using even the sea, and with this thought encourages our fullest confidence in him. - R.T.

Prayer book Version, "Righteousness and equity are the habitation of thy seat;" Revised Version, "Justice and judgment are the foundation of thy throne." The terms "justice," "righteousness." stand for the abstract virtue; the terms "judgment," "equity," stand for the applications and adaptations of justice to times, circumstances, and men. Equity is the law of right applied to particular circumstances. The double assertion made concerning God is that what he does is always right judged by the standards of righteousness, and always right judged by the frailties and infirmities of men. Both these considerations help to bring men full confidence in him, and assurance concerning his ways with them.

I. GOD'S WAYS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT TO THE STANDARD. "Righteousness is the basis of his throne;" the distinguishing feature of his rule. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" If it be asked - Where is the standard of righteousness? we may reply - In man's own moral sense. If he knows right from wrong, he must know right. The appraisement man can make of his own acts involves his power to appraise acts which are said to be acts of God. But this caution needs to be fully presented and illustrated - that the standard of right is not the sentiment of any single individual, but the harmouious sentiment of all the race in all the ages. It is a human standard, not an individual standard. There has grown up in the world a standard of righteousness, which is now well established; by it the acts declared as God's may be judged; and it will always be found that inspired descriptions of righteousness are, in effect, descriptions of the established human standard; and that all acts of God commended in the inspired record will stand the test of that established human standard. It should be carefully shown that there is not one standard for man, and a differing standard for God. Right for God is right for man. Cases that seem doubtful are simply cases misapprehended. Poets may say, "Whatever is is right." Pious men say, "Whatever God does is right."

II. GOD'S WAYS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT TO THE CIRCUMSTANCE. There is a temporary right as well as an eternal right. There is an uneducated right, and a cultured right, dependent on conditions of conscience. There is a right at the moment, and a right forever. There is a right absolute, and a right in adaptation. Illustrate from the mother's idea of right in relation to her child. She has to fit her right to the capacity and condition of her child. There is a right form and setting and clothing of the eternal right. So the psalmist may find God's right in the adjustment of his dealings with the wilful and wayward Davidic king, Rehoboam. - R.T.

We do not know the circumstances which occasioned this psalm, but we may fitly apply the words of our text to the revelation of God in Christ. Now -


1. It tells of forgiveness. This is the need of all, the indispensable need, and is met only in Christ. Therefore the gospel, which tells of Christ, and his atonement, and the full free forgiveness granted in him to every penitent, believing soul, is a joyful sound.

2. Of a new nature. Forgiveness apart from this would be of little avail. but Christ is "made unto us...sanctification" (see Ezekiel 36:25-31).

3. Of peace of soul - that inward calm and rest of faith which, combined with the consciousness of pardon and purity in Christ, constitute here and now a real heaven in the soul.

4. Of eternal life. Our joy abides. For all these reasons the gospel is a joyful sound.


1. In what they possess. A new and happy relationship with God.

2. In what they are.

3. In the influence they exert.


1. A man's life. "They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance," etc. A man must get through life some way: the question is - How? But here is a way told of which is, indeed, a good way. To walk in the light of God's countenance is to have the consciousness of God's love resting on one. To know you have the love of a valued friend is good: how much more that of God! It gives serenity of heart, freedom from fear, confidence of deliverance from all evil.

2. A man's spirit. "In thy Name shall they rejoice," etc. Joy is essential to the healthy life of the soul, as light is to that of the body. Now that in which they who are spoken of here rejoice is the Name of God: "thy Name." But by the Name of God is meant all that which we find in God. "He hath done all things well" is the verdict which their souls promptly and steadily pronounce. The man is born again, renewed in the spirit of his mind, and hence God is no longer a terror or a dislike to him, but "his exceeding Joy."

3. A man's condition. "In thy righteousness shall they be exalted." Before their own conscience; for it is kept pure and void of offence. Before their fellow men. Is not that so? "Them that honour me I will honour," saith God. We see this every day. And in the presence of God at last. "They shall be mine in the day when I make up my jewels" (Malachi 3:17).


1. For many professed Christians do not; and hence they show a sad and unhappy contrast to what has been said. They do not seem blessed any way - not in their daily life, nor in the spirit of their mind, nor are they "exalted" at all as is here said.

2. The reason is that, though they may be familiar with the letter of the gospel, they yet do not really know it. For to know the joyful sound is to realize and to appropriate it, to heartily believe and obey it.

3. The conditions of such knowledge are: We must greatly desire it; we must prepare for it, for however large our heart may be, the Lord's grace will want all the room; therefore if it be cumbered with other and evil things, there will not be room for him. The Israelites at the Passover were to put away the leaven. So must we put away all known sin. And then believe, trust, and for yourself, the glad gospel message. So shall you come to really know it, and our text shall be fulfilled for you. - S.C.

The horn is a constant symbol of strength; the exalted horn, therefore, of strength triumphant. Now, we observe -

I. STRENGTH IS THE GREAT NEED OF THE SOUL OF MAN. Not physical strength, nor intellectual, nor social, but spiritual. There may be knowledge, and good desire, and religious emotions, and holy resolve; but all these things leave a man weak unless they be rendered effectual by a fervent will.


1. Restores it.

2. Sustains it.

3. Inspires it.

4. The loss of God's favour paralyzes it.

We know how the favour of men, their applause and encouragement, puts strength into us: how much more the conscious favour of God! With that there is nothing a man will not do and dare and be.

III. THOSE WHO ARE IN THAT FAVOUR ALONE POSSESS THIS SECRET. We may know of it, speak of it, extol it, commend it, and yet not be "in" it. We enter into it:

1. By coming away from whatever cannot dwell with it; from all known sin especially.

2. By surrender of our will - our heart, that is - to God.

3. By keeping touch with God, in habitual prayer, praise, and obedience. So we enter this favour, and abide there. - S.C.

This declaration, besides its main theme, teaches us much concerning God's exaltations of men. As:

1. Wherefore God exalts men. It certainly is not to gratify mere selfish ambition. Those who climb up to high places from such motives are certainly not set there by God, and will soon have to climb down again. All history teaches the short-lived power of mere selfish ambition. But one motive we may regard as moving the Divine mind would be his love for the exalted one. Now, there is no greater joy that ever comes to a good man than that of being the means of great good. to others. It is a pure delight, and of intense kind. The love of God would, therefore, bestow such delight on his chosen ones. His chief motive, however, is the good of others. What would have become of Israel but for David? Saul's rule was but another name for shipwreck of the state. David saved it from such ruin. And the good of others, the people at large, is the motive of all God's exaltations; other ends may be proposed and secured, but this is assuredly the chief. The possession of power is, therefore, a tremendous responsibility, and happy are the peoples whose rulers ever remember and practically recognize this. And it is true of all power whatsoever, whether little or great. "No man liveth to himself."

2. Such exaltation generally means great suffering. He who is the supreme illustration of the truth of our text was "made perfect through suffering." And it is ever so. What a terrible discipline David went through ere he attained the throne! Moses too, and Paul, and God's heroes generally. Let us, then, remember wherefore suffering is sent to any of us - that it is for our uplifting; let us take care not to hinder this purpose.

3. How God exalts - by choosing those whom he exalts not by, but out of, the people. The people can rarely be trusted. Go over the list of mankind's greatest helpers and saviours, right up to our Saviour himself. Would the people have chosen them? They would far more likely have crucified them, as they did the greatest of them all. The vox populi is the vox Dei only when it endorses the previous choice of God. For men have seen that God has chosen for them, and they willingly accept his choice. But the main theme of our text concerns:

4. Whom God chooses - from "out of the people." Now, consider in this statement -

I. ITS TRUTH. See this:

1. In the history of David. (Psalm 78:70, 71.)

2. In well nigh all deliverers of the people, from Moses downwards, from Gideon to Garibaldi - they have been ever "chosen out of the people."

3. In Christ our Lord. He was indeed thus chosen. His royal descent from David availed him not, for the glory of that race had utterly disappeared. Hence he was altogether of the people - by birth; associates; social rank; habits; education; by his teaching, which was not at all "as the scribes," but understood and welcomed by "the common people;" by his life of poverty; by his death; all the way along, from "the bare manger to the bitter cross," he was one of the people. It was a slave's death that he died. "He was rich, yet for our sakes," etc.


1. "The people" were the mass of mankind, who needed to be saved.

2. One from themselves would better understand them.

3. More readily sympathize.

4. God is wont to choose the foolish things of this world (1 Corinthians 1:27).

5. Christ's sharing the people's lot assured them of the love of God, and so led them to turn to him, which is salvation. They learned so that "God is love."

III. ITS LESSONS. They are such as these:

1. The approachableness of God. Christ has shown us that he keeps no state to frighten us from his presence. Everybody came to him, and may come to God.

2. The indispensable condition of rendering real help. (See Mark 10:43-45.) We must go down among those whom we would bless.

3. How little worth are the great things of the world! Power, wealth, rank - God chose none of them.

4. Christ knows all about me; for he, too, was one of the people. I need not keep away.

5. Adore him. Does he not deserve it? O thou ever-blessed Lord!

6. Help in the exaltation. For his throne, the throne of his exaltation and which he delights in, is made of human hearts. Enthrone him, then, in your heart.

"Take my heart, it is thine own; It shall be thy royal throne." S.C.

The text reads on, "With my holy oil have I anointed him," and right down to ver. 37 we have the repeated declarations of God's favour towards him. Now, this has seemed to many a choice most strange, and sorely needing vindication. The statement concerning David - that he was "a man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) - has perplexed not a few. And we unreservedly admit that -

I. GOD'S CHOICE OF DAVID DOES APPEAR STRANGE. For what a category of crimes his career as recorded in the Scriptures declares! In cold blood he slays two hundred Philistines (1 Samuel 18:20-27). He leaves his wife Michal to face her father's rage, when she had risked her own life to save his (1 Samuel 19:11-17). He bids Jonathan lie to his father (1 Samuel 20:5, 6). He lies cruelly to Abimelech and the priests at Nob, and then left them to Saul's vengeance (1 Samuel 21:1, 2; 1 Samuel 22:9-19). He deceives Achish (1 Samuel 21:10-15). He would, in revenge, have slain Nabal and all his house (1 Samuel 25:2-38). He lies to King Achish, who had given him Ziklag, by pretending that he had fought against Judah; and, to conceal his lie, he cruelly slaughters the Geshurites and others (1 Samuel 27.). He takes terrible revenge on Amalek (1 Samuel 30:1-17). Instead of punishing Joab, as he ought to have done, he utters terrible imprecations against him (2 Samuel 3:28, 29). He tortures the Ammonites (2 Samuel 12:27-31). He deals cruelly with Mephibosheth, stripping him of all his property, and giving it to Ziba (2 Samuel 16:1-4; 2 Samuel 19:24-30). He violates his oath to Saul, that he would not slay his children; nevertheless, he afterwards gave them up to the Gibeonites, who hanged them (1 Samuel 24:21; 2 Samuel 21:1-9). And then his great sin in the matter of Uriah - a sin in which no element of baseness, treachery, cruelty, and lust was wanting; and yet all the while he was a great psalm singer (2 Samuel 11:2-17). He piously exhorts Solomon to walk in the ways of the Lord; and yet he himself kept his harem crowded with ever more women (2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Kings 2:3). His terrible death bed charge to Solomon to slay Joab and Shimei. His imprecatory psalms (see Psalm 109.). And we have no record of any great good deeds to set off against these other terrible ones. Yes; it must be admitted that the choice of David needs vindication. A loud professor of religion, and yet, etc.


1. Because the expression so much complained of - David's being "a man offer God's own heart - refers, not to his personal character, but to his official conduct. He was called of God to restore the kingdom which Saul had destroyed, to subdue the Philistines, etc. These purposes he accomplished. So far he was a man after God's own heart. His moral delinquencies are recorded that we may know where the Divine approbation stops short" (F.D. Maurice). But we confess we do not lay much stress upon this. 1 Kings 15:1-5 does not bear it out. We prefer to vindicate the Divine choice of David in another manner.

2. He was worthy when the words were spoken of him, and for a long while after. Had he been always what he afterwards became, such high commendation would not have been given. Then:

3. He knew no better than to do as did all others. As to his life as an outlaw, a kind of Oriental Robin Hood, he was driven to it by the jealousy and hate of Saul; and as to his lies and stratagems, his ferocities and tortures, all such things were held lawful in his day; and, though they shock us as we read of them, they were held as altogether right by his contemporaries. We must distinguish between the vitia temporis and the vitia hominis (Farrar), and not condemn the man for not tieing altogether different from and beyond the public sentiment of his age.

4. What he did know of right he mainly did. See his patriotism, his courage, his military ability, the salvation of his country from ruin. See his delight and his trust in God, and his deep penitence for his sin. And see the unbounded honour and love of his people which he won and kept. Is all this to go for nothing?

5. And remember how he was punished for his sins. In his family. His sons had seen their father indulge himself: why shouldn't they? (Kingsley). And in his nature he was punished; Its bent and bias became horribly sensual. Indulgence increased the evil, and so came about the shameful tragedy of his adultery and Uriah's murder. It was not a sudden fall, he had long been tending that way. And in his character. He never really recovered. He shuffles shamefully to his grave; his courage, his self-control, his nobleness, well nigh all gone. One is reminded of King Lear -

Vex not his ghost; oh, let him pass; He hates him, That would upon the rack of this rough world Stretch him out longer." He dies a miserable and pitiful man, his last words being his charge to Solomon about Shimei: "His hoary head bring thou down to the grave with blood." Think of that as the last words of the David of the twenty-third psalm! What a melancholy failing away! There is no favouritism in God. If his children sin, they suffer, and that supremely. God loves them too much to let it be otherwise.


1. Thankfulness that we are born in a more enlightened age; that there would be shame now where there was then no shame.

2. Strong religious feeling and profession are no certain safeguards against sin, but only heighten its guilt.

3. Repentance may be real, yet the results of sin not be recalled.

4. We dare never remit even for one day the waiting of our soul upon God in watchfulness and prayer.

5. The judgments of God against our sin are his mercy to our soul.

6. He who forgave the contrite David forgives still. - S.C.

But thou hast cast off, and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thine anointed. The psalmist may have been reminded of the first king, Saul, from whom the favour of God was wholly removed, and he may have feared that the same sad fate was reserved for David's grandson, Rehoboam, in spite of the very remarkable and apparently ever-enduring promises made to David. Certainly, when he composed this psalm, everything did look very black. Rehoboam was acting very foolishly and very wilfully, and bringing himself and the nation into what seemed overwhelming judgments. The king was humiliated, the kingdom was prostrated, the people were perplexed; all the world seemed out of joint. All depended on the point of view from which the psalmist regarded these "present appearances." He might stand beside his fellow countrymen, and see them as they saw them, in a strictly human light. Or he might try to rise up to a place beside God, and see them as God saw them - see them in the Divine light. Then he would know that "things are not what they seem."

I. PERPLEXITIES OF PRESENT APPEARANCES PARTLY ARISE FROM MAN'S IMPERFECT VISION. He never sees more than parts of a thing at a time; even as, with his bodily vision, he can only see a front, a little of two sides, and nothing at all of the back. What man cannot see often holds the key to the meaning of what he sees. Man's mistakes are imperfect apprehensions. Concerning God, man may search all ways, and yet be compelled at last to look on all the product of his toil, and say, "These are parts of his ways." We never really know a thing until we know it all round, and all through; and we mistake when we attempt to judge appearances. If it seems that God has forsaken David, and forgotten his covenant, we may confidently say," Since God is what he is, that cannot be which seems." Appearances here are deceitful.

II. PERPLEXITIES OF PRESENT APPEARANCES ARE RELIEVED AS WE CAN ENTER INTO GOD'S PURPOSES. Once apprehend that God is the Lord of discipline; the eternal Father who chastises and corrects and trains his children, and then strangest appearances begin to gain their meanings. They are seen to be as temporary as a boy's flogging, and as truly the sign of a Father's anxious love. They are proofs that God has not "forgotten to be gracious." "How did Ethan, in this psalm, find ground for faith, for trust and hope? Simply in the conviction that God had sent these calamities in mercy, for correction, for discipline, and not for destruction." We can never read appearances aright until we read them in the light of what we do know, or may know, of God. - R.T.

Remember how short my time is. This is the argument of an old man, who knows there can be but a "little while" before his passing time, and is supremely anxious to see the ways of the Lord justified while he is "in the land of the living" Compare Hezekiah's exclamation, when told that he must die. As Ethan was born in the reign of David, and lived through the forty years of Solomon's reign, he must have been an old man in the later time of Rehoboam. In this psalm he gives us the last results of a long life of observation and experience. Trusting fully in God's faithfulness, Ethan could grasp the idea that the present depression of the nation was a temporary discipline; but this only made him the more earnestly plead with God that the discipline might be completed, and the restoration might be granted, before he passed away.

I. First argument: BECAUSE LIFE IS SO FRAIL, DO NOT OVER TRY IT WITH PERPLEXING DEALINGS. The psalmist says, "How fleeting and frail life is!" It is a poor thing, very weak; it cannot stand over-much strain. He deprecates too severe trial in the Divine discipline; afraid of himself, lest faith should fail. The calamities falling upon David's nation seemed more than he could bear. He thought about them day and night; they suggested painful doubts. So he pleads his frailty before God, begging that the calamities may not be carried to extremes, and the faith in God, which he longs to keep, be quite overwhelmed. We can sympathize with Ethan. The strain of modern conflict often seems as if it would overwhelm us. We are too weak, we think, to bear any more. Learn of Ethan that we may plead our frailty with God, and ask for gracious limitations of the strain under which we are put.

II. Second argument: BECAUSE LIFE IS SO SHORT, FINISH THE COURSE OF DISCIPLINE SPEEDILY, SO THAT I MAY UNDERSTAND THY DEALINGS, AND REJOICE IN THE ISSUES. It is the argument of one who intensely longs for the honour of God to be manifested, and for the highest well being of God's people to be secured. Indeed, his very intensity puts his faith in peril; for he wants to see for himself, while he lives, God's honour vindicated, and God's word fulfilled; he cannot be quite content with the assurance that God is jealous of his own honour, and supremely concerned in his people's well being. It is impatience, but it is the impatience of a thoroughly earnest soul. God's work will go on, God's glory will be advanced, whether we die or live. - R.T.

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