Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
muth, which is equivalent to "death," seems to put us on a line of thought which is, at any rate, in harmony with the entire psalm. If we grant (as appears from the whole tenor of the verses) that the reference is to the death of some enemy, by whose plots and snares the people of God were imperilled, the whole song reads naturally enough. Whether we read "Labben" as a proper name, or read it "of the Son," or regard the psalm as referring to the death of Goliath of Gath, is of no consequence as regards its general meaning or spiritual significance. Delitzsch, indeed, says, "This psalm is a thoroughly national song of thanksgiving for victory by David, belonging to the time when Jahve was already enthroned on Zion (ver. 14), and therefore to the time after the ark was brought home." He asks," Was it composed after the triumphant extermination of the Syro-Ammonitish War?" Hengstenberg remarks, "The relation which David had in view when he composed this psalm for public use was that of the Church of God to its external enemies." Note: It is a fitting occasion for sanctuary-song when God's people are delivered from threatening perils. Many English hearts would send up such a shout of praise as we find here, over England's deliverance from the Spanish Armada. The joy, however, was not in its destruction, but in Britain's safety. For a pulpit exposition of the psalm, we have five lines of thought presented to us.
I. WE HAVE HERE SHOWN US IN WHAT PERIL GOD'S PEOPLE HAD BEEN PLACED. Although we cannot be sure to what specific events this psalm refers, yet several phrases therein show us the kind of peril to which the writer alludes, and thus put both expositor and preacher on the line for usefully and helpfully dealing therewith on any special occasion when unusual perils beset the Church of God. E.g.:
1. Enemies (ver. 3).
2. Oppression (ver. 12).
3. Murder (ver. 12).
4. Deceit (ver. 15).
Four formidable terms, surely - sufficiently typical of perils which have had to be confronted again and again in the history of God's Church, whether from paganism, or from the papacy, or from mere worldly hostility to goodness and truth.
II. GOD HAD WROUGHT A GREAT DELIVERANCE FOR HIS PEOPLE. The psalm is, owing to this deliverance, one of triumph and joy.
1. It was so illustrious as to be altogether marvellous, yea, miraculous (ver. 1).
2. God had manifested his judgments (ver. 7).
3. He had rebuked the nations (ver. 5).
4. Had brought guilty cities low, and even blotted them out (ver. 6).
5. Had shown himself as the Goel, the Avenger of innocent blood (ver. 12).
6. Had manifested his remembrance of the poor and of the oppressed (ver. 12).
7. Had made the devices of the wicked to recoil upon themselves.
These are but so many illustrative forms of the way in which God's providence is ever working in the world, even now, under the administration of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Head over all things to his Church.
III. SUCH DELIVERANCES HAD THROWN GREAT LIGHT ON GOD'S CHARACTER, WORKS, AND WAYS. They had shown:
1. How truly there is a throne high above all the scheming and plotting of men (ver. 7)!
2. That under the sway of that throne judgment is administered for all who are oppressed.
3. That this judgment is manifested in vindicating right and putting wrong to shame (vers. 7, 8).
4. That such glorious and gracious government reveals the lustre of God's everlasting Name. All providential dealings are disclosers of God. "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."
IV. A SONG OF GRATITUDE, TRIUMPH, AND TRUST IS HEREBY AWAKENED. The very beginning of the psalm is an outburst of thankfulness (ver. 1). The psalmist gathers from deliverances already effected, a ground of trust in God for future days (vers. 9, 10). Judgments already brought to pass prove that God will not let evil deeds slumber in everlasting forgetfulness, and that he will not let the cry of the humble and downtrodden remain for ever unheard (ver. 12). Yea, more. They prove the glorious truth which is triumphantly proclaimed in ver. 17, "The wicked shall return to Sheol, and all the nations that forget God." Few verses, indeed, have been more violently twisted than this to make it suit the exigencies of mediaeval theology. It has been repeatedly dealt with as if it were a sentence on the wicked of everlasting woe. The question of future punishment is dealt with clearly enough in other parts of the Word of God. But it is not that which is intended here. The verse means - God will not suffer wicked people or nations perpetually to oppress the Church. In a little, in his own good time, they shall return to the dust whence they came, and enter the invisible realm of the dead. That this is the meaning intended is shown by the verse which follows (ver. 18; cf. also Psalm 37:10). Cheer up, ye poor, despised, and oppressed people of God! Your Vindicator liveth. He will bring you forth to the light when your foes shall have vanished from the scene.
V. THE GRATEFUL SONG OVER MERCIES PAST IS FOLLOWED BY A PRAYER THAT MERCIES YET NEEDED MAY BE VOUCHSAFED.
1. Although there had been a marked deliverance, yet the affliction from which the psalmist had suffered still left its scars upon him. Hence the prayer in vers. 13, 14. The oppression and the oppressor may be speedily removed, but the depression thereby caused lasts long after. And only the . prolonged bestowal of grace to help in time of need will ever be sufficient to meet the case.
2. The future security of the world depends on the manifestation of the Divine presence and power; in counteracting the base designs of men, in asserting the right, and avenging the wrong (ver. 19).
3. This can only be done, perhaps, by such judgments as will make the nations tremble, and so will cause them to feel their utter impotence in the grasp of the mighty God (ver. 20). Note: The remarks, applicable to so many psalms, should not be overlooked here.
1. That we have here, not words of God to man, but words of man to God. Hence they may or may not be models for our imitation. Anyway, no inspiration in prayer can rise above the level of the revelation which had been granted where and when such prayer was offered.
2. Although, in every country and age, prayer from the heart must be limited by the measure of light in the conscience, yet a gracious God will answer it, not according to its limitation or imperfection, but according to his infinite wisdom, his boundless love, and his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
3. The Divine answers to such prayers as we find in the psalm, although they bring deliverance to the righteous, will bring terror and confusion to the wicked. The destruction of Pharaoh's host is the salvation of the hosts of the Lord. - C.
I. NATURE OF THE PSALMIST'S THANKSGIVING.
1. All his powers of mind and soul took part in it. "With my whole heart." He ascribed his deliverances to God, and not to himself; therefore he was not half-hearted in his praise.
2. He gathered up in his mental vision the mercies of a lifetime. "All thy marvellous works." He was filled with a sense of wonder when he thought of the long succession of God's marvel-lolls ways towards him. The last deliverance did not blot out the memory of those that had gone before.
3. 'God's condescension filled him with rejoicing gratitude. He felt that God was "most High," and that he had wonderfully stooped to regard him and his affairs - the same thought as in the previous psalm.
II. THE GROUNDS OF THE PSALMIST'S THANKSGIVING. Speaking generally, it was for deliverance from his enemies. The language here suggests:
1. That the sense of God's presence with us nerves us against our greatest dangers. (Ver. 3.) Perils and temptations lose their power over us when we know God to be with us.
2. God's deliverances from evil spring out of his regard for what is right. (Ver. 4.) God's righteousness is as much concerned for our salvation as his love and mercy. The rescue of a soul from sin satisfies the sense of infinite right, and is part of the eternal administration of God.
3. The psalmist saw in prospect the certain destruction of all wickedness, both individual and social. (Vers. 5, 6.) The prospect of the prevalence and reign of righteousness filled him with holy gladness and thanksgiving. Not only himself, but all righteous persons, would then enjoy peace and safety. One evil man can do much mischief, and work wide ruin; but when cities and governments become corrupt, their power for evil sweeps all virtue out of its path. Therefore David rejoiced in their extirpation. Let us cultivate a thankful spirit for all the wonderful deliverances which God has made possible and actual to us. - S.
I. THE PRELUDE TO THIS SONG. He praises God for his marvellous works and for his supremacy.
1. They captivated and subdued his whole nature: "With my whole heart."
2. They filled him with joy.
3. He published them to others.
II. THE SPECIAL CAUSES OF HIS GRATITUDE. God had judged his cause and maintained the right by subduing his enemies.
1. We too have enemies to be subdued - difficulties and temptations and hindrances which threaten our safety and destroy our peace.
2. David overlooks his own instrumentality in his victories by thinking only of the great First Cause of them. He saw God in everything. We lose sight of the cause in the instrument, and are not so devout as he. We see law where he saw a person. The highest men see both - the law which prescribes the way of conquest, and him who imparts the needed strength to obey.
III. DAVID REJOICED OVER THE COMPLETE DESTRUCTION OF HIS ENEMIES.
1. He thought it right to rejoice over the destruction of human life; for he thought God sanctioned and did it.
2. Our outward difficulties may vanish, while the inward may remain.
3. We shall fully rejoice only when all our enemies, inward and outward, are vanquished. - S.
is, viz. righteous, and a Helper of the oppressed.
I. GOD'S RULE IS A CONTINUAL EXERCISE OF JUDGMENT. (Vers. 7-9.)
1. This seals the doom of the unrighteous. It will destroy them and their works (vers. 5, 6).
2. This secures the safety and the triumph of the righteous. Ultimately and really, if not immediately and in appearance.
3. This is a comfort and a refuge for those who suffer from injustice and oppression. (Ver. 9.) God is a strong Tower, into which they may run and find shelter from their troubles.
II. THE GROUNDS OF FAITH IN GOD.
1. When we know how to name him. (Ver. 10.) Jacob wanted to know the name of the Being who wrestled with him, because the true name indicates the true nature. In our ignorance of the nature of things, we give arbitrary names; but if we have learnt anything of the nature of God, we shall know his true name, and then shall be able to trust in him without fear at all times.
2. God reveals himself as the faithful God to those who earnestly seek him. (Ver. 10.) And to none else. We can never prove the fidelity of any one of whom we have never felt the need. And we never seek earnestly for any one unless he becomes in some way necessary to us. And it is only thus, by experience, we find that God does not forsake those who seek him. Knowledge, faith; and experience are thus connected.
III. GROUNDS OF THE JOYFUL WORSHIP OF GOD.
1. God specially dwells in the Church. (Ver. 11.) The glory between the cherubim was in Zion. He gathers with his people where they gather, and specially manifests himself. "Where two or three are gathered together," etc.
2. It is a high privilege to know and declare to others the Divine work. (Ver. 11.) To be able to expound God's work truly is to help to bring God nearer to men, and so to help to save them.
3. God always remembers the cause of the afflicted. (Ver. 12.) The meaning is - God will not let the murderer go unpunished, but will avenge the relatives of the murdered man, and so relieve and console their sufferings. But he hears the cry of all afflicted ones, whatever the cause of their suffering, and comforts them by his Spirit. - S.
VII. IF WE HAVE ENTERED BY THE GATES OF ZION, AND DWELT THERE WITH GOD, WE NEED NOT FEAR WHEN CALLED TO PASS THROUGH THE GATES OF DEATH. Job asks (Job 38:17), "Have the gates of death been opened to thee?" They have to others. They will be by-and-by to us. We are always near them and in sight of them, but we have no power over them. We cannot hinder them from opening when it is God's will, nor can we return when once we have passed through them. It cannot be long before our turn comes. Every setting sun, every passing hour, every beat of the pulse, is bringing the time nearer. Happy are we if we are found ready, so that the gates of death may be to us the entering into the city, where we may have right to the tree of life and the endless joys of God (Revelation 22:14)! - W.F.
I. THE PSALMIST'S PRAYER TO THE RIGHTEOUS GOD. (Vers. 13, 14.)
1. The appeal. "Graciously see or consider my trouble. I am unjustly suffering from the hatred of men. If thou wilt only look upon the fact as it is, then I am confident thou wilt interpose and save me." For the Divine sympathy is always on the side of justice.
2. The arguments which enforces the appeal. Two.
(1) He had had many deliverances from dangers nearly fatal. From the gates of death. Experience taught him faith and hope.
(2) He would proclaim the Divine praise in the most public place. "In the gates," etc. (ver. 14). He felt that that would be acceptable to God. (But see the Exposition.)
II. THE DIVINE WORK IS A REVELATION OF THE DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Vers. 15-18.)
1. The plots of the wicked become the means of their own destruction. (Vers. 15, 16.) Because the righteous Being overrules in the affairs of men. No wicked schemes can be so well laid but that in the end they ruin him who laid them. We have examples of this in the first and third Napoleons, and constantly recurring ones in more private life.
2. The premature end of the ungodly. (Ver. 17.) "The Wicked must return to the unseen world" - sooner than others, is implied (not "the wicked shall be turned into hell"). Wickedness and vice tend to shorten life.
3. The righteous expectation of the afflicted shall be fulfilled. The poor and the afflicted hope in God, and their hope shall not be disappointed. "God is not unrighteous to forget your work of faith and labour of love."
III. AN URGENT CALL UPON GOD TO GIVE STILL MORE EVIDENT PROOF OF HIS RIGHTEOUS RULE. (Vers. 19, 20.) "Arise, O Lord, let not man have the upper hand: let not weak man carry himself as if he were strong." What is needed to put men in fear is some irresistible work of judgment among men, that shall put God's supreme rule beyond all doubt. There is something here of impatience - a wish to hasten God's slow but sure methods of maintaining the cause of truth and righteousness in the world. - S.
I. SALVATION IS ASCRIBED TO GOD. All deliverances are of God. There may be human means and instruments. There may be judges and saviours, such as Joshua (Nehemiah 9:27). But behind all is God. This holds true of all deliverances - national and individual - of the body, and of the soul. More especially is this true of the deliverance from our enemies, and of our redemption by Jesus Christ.
II. MANIFESTS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD. God must act in agreement with his character. He cannot deny himself. Therefore in whatsoever deliverances God effects, we may be sure that his righteousness will shine resplendent. So it is of the salvation by Christ (Romans 1:16, 17). How vain to ask for help, if we are not willing to have it in God's way! How foolish to expect deliverance, save in the form that will glorify God's Name - his righteousness as truly as his mercy, his justice as well as his love!
III. FORESHADOWS THE FINAL JUDGMENT OF THE WORLD. Every judgment is a sign and pattern of the last judgment. There is no change with God. All through, and in everything he does, he has acted like himself. His Law will stand, His righteousness will be vindicated in the end as in the beginning. The cross of Christ itself prophesies of the just judgments of God. "If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:31). God's people may await with confidence the result.
IV. CALLS FORTH THE HALLELUJAHS OF THE GOOD. There is the joy of trust (ver. 13); of gratitude (ver. 14), of hope (vers. 15-20). By faith we see the King in his beauty, and rejoice in his rejoicing. - W.F.