(The following texts highlighted in this color of blue is taken from
The Treasury of David by Charles Haddon Spurgeon) "Excerpted text
Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved. Materials are reproduced
Title and Subject. A Psalm of Asaph. A Psalm of complaint such as
Jeremiah might have written amid the ruins of the beloved city. It evidently
treats of times of invasion, oppression, and national overthrow. Asaph was
a patriotic poet, and was never more at home than when he rehearsed the
history of his nation. Would to God that we had national poets whose song
should be of the Lord.
Division. From vs.1-4 the complaint is poured out, from vs. 5-12 prayer is
presented, and, in the closing verse, praise is promised.
1 “O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance;” - It is the cry of
amazement at sacrilegious intrusion; as if the poet were struck with horror.
The stranger pollutes thine hallowed courts with his tread. All Canaan is thy land,
but thy foes have ravaged it - “thy holy temple have they defiled;” - Into the
inmost sanctuary they have profanely forced their way, and there behaved
themselves arrogantly. Thus, the holy land, the holy house, and the holy city, were
all polluted by the uncircumcised. It is an awful thing when wicked men are found
in the church and numbered with her ministry. Then are the tares sown with the
wheat, and the poisoned gourds cast into the pot. (Matthew 13:24-30; II Kings
4:38-41) - “they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.” After devouring and defiling,
they have come to destroying, and have done their work with a cruel
completeness. Jerusalem, the beloved city, the joy of the nation, the abode
of her God, was totally wrecked. Alas! alas! for Israel! It is sad to see the
foe in our own house, but worse to meet him in the house of God; they
strike hardest who smite at our religion. The psalmist piles up the agony;
he was a suppliant, and he knew how to bring out the strong points of his
case. We ought to order our case before the Lord with as much care as if
our success depended on our pleading. Men in earthly courts use all their
powers to obtain their ends, and so also should we state our case with
earnestness, and bring forth our strong arguments.
2 "The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto
the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the
earth." The enemy cared not to bury the dead, and there was not a
sufficient number of Israel left alive to perform the funeral rites; therefore,
the precious relics of the departed were left to be devoured of vultures and
torn by wolves. Beasts on which man could not feed fed on him. The flesh
of the Lord’s people became meat for carrion crows and hungry dogs. Dire
are the calamities of war, yet have they happened to God's saints and
servants. This might well move the heart of the poet, and he did well to
appeal to the heart of God by reciting the grievous evil. Such might have
been the lamentation of an early Christian as he thought of the
amphitheatre and all its deeds of blood. Note in the two verses how the
plea is made to turn upon God's property in the temple and the people: --
we read "thine inheritance," "thy temple," "thy servants,"and "thy saints."
Surely the Lord will defend His own, and will not suffer rampant adversaries
to despoil them.
3 "Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem."
The invaders slew men as if their blood was of no more value than so much
water; they poured it forth as lavishly as when the floods deluge the plains.
The city of holy peace became a field of blood - "and there was none to bury
them." The few who survived were afraid to engage in the task. This was a serious
trial and grievous horror to the Jews, who evinced much care concerning their
burials. Has it come to this, that there are none to bury the dead of thy family,
O Lord? Can none be found to grant a shovelful of earth with which to cover up
the poor bodies of thy murdered saints? What woe is here! How glad should we
be that we live in so quiet an age, when the blast of the trumpet is no more heard
in our streets.
4 "We are become a reproach to our neighbors," Those who have
escaped the common foe make a mockery of us, they fling our disasters
into our face, and ask us, "Where is your God?" Pity should be shown to
the afflicted, but in too many cases it is not so, for a hard logic argues that
those who suffer more than ordinary calamities must have been extraordinary
sinners. Neighbors especially are often the reverse of neighborly; the nearer they
dwell the less they sympathize. It is most pitiable it should be so - "a scorn and
a derision to them that are round about us." To find mirth in others' miseries,
and to exult over the ills of others, is worthy only of the devil and of those
whose father he is. Thus the case is stated before the Lord, and it is a very
deplorable one. Asaph was an excellent advocate, for he gave a telling description
of calamities which were under his own eyes, and in which he sympathized, but we
have a mightier Intercessor above, who never ceases to urge our suit before
the eternal throne. (Hebrews 7:25)
5 "How long, Lord?" Will there be no end to these chastisements? They are
most sharp and overwhelming; wilt thou much longer continue them?
"Wilt thou be angry for ever?" Is thy mercy gone so that thou wilt for ever
smite? "Shall thy jealousy burn like fire?" There was great cause for the Lord to
be jealous, since idols had been set up, and Israel had gone aside from His
worship, but the psalmist begs the Lord not to consume His people utterly
as with fire, but to abate their woes.
6 "Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee."
If thou must smite look further afield; spare thy children and strike thy foes. There
are lands where thou art in no measure acknowledged; be pleased to visit these first
with thy judgments, and let thine erring Israel have a respite - "and upon the
kingdoms that have not called upon thy name." Hear us the prayerful, and
avenge thyself upon the prayerless. Sometimes providence appears to deal much
more severely with the righteous than with the wicked, and this verse is a bold appeal
founded upon such an appearance. It in effect says, Lord, if thou must empty out the
vials of thy wrath, begin with those who have no measure of regard for thee, but are
openly up in arms against thee; and be pleased to spare thy people, who are thine
notwithstanding all their sins.
7 "For they have devoured Jacob." The oppressor would quite eat
up the saints if he could. If these lions do not swallow us, it is because the
Lord has sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths (Daniel 6:22) - "and laid
waste his dwelling place,"or his pasture. The invader left no food for man or
beast, but devoured all as the locust. The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
8 “O remember not against us former iniquities:” – Sins accumulate against
nations. Generations lay up stores of transgressions to be visited upon their
successors; hence this urgent prayer. In Josiah’s days the most earnest
repentance was not able to avert the doom which former long years of
idolatry had sealed against Judah (II Kings 23:1-30). Every man has reason
to ask for an act of oblivion for his past sins, and every nation should make this a
continual prayer. “let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us: for we are
brought very low.” Hasten to our rescue, for our nation is hurrying down to
destruction; our numbers are diminished and our condition is deplorable. Observe
how penitent sorrow seizes upon the sweeter attributes, and draws her pleas from
the “tender mercies” of God; see, too, how she pleads her own distress, and not
her goodness, as a motive for the display of mercy. Let souls who are brought very
low find an argument in their abject condition. What can so powerfully appeal to
pity as dire affliction? The quaint prayer-book version is touchingly expressive;
“O remember not our old sins, but have mercy upon us, and that soon, for
we have come to great misery.” This supplication befits a sinner’s life. We
have known seasons when this would have been as good a prayer for our
burdened heart as any that human mind could compose.
9 “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name:” – This is
masterly pleading. No argument has such force as this. God’s glory was
tarnished in the eyes of the heathen by the defeat of His people, and the
profanation of His temple; therefore, His distressed servants implore His aid, that
His great name may no more be the scorn of blaspheming enemies – “and
deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake.” Sin, the root
of the evil, is seen and confessed; pardon of sin is sought as well as removal of
chastisement, and both are asked not as matters of right, but as gifts of grace.
God’s name is a second time brought into the pleading. Believers will find it
their wisdom to use very frequently this noble plea: it is the great gun of the
battle, the mightiest weapon in the armory of prayer.
10 “Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God?” – Why should
those impious mouths be filled with food so sweet to them, but so bitter to us? When
the afflictions of God’s people become the derision of sinners, and cause them to
ridicule religion, we have good ground for expostulation with the Lord. “Let Him
be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of
thy servants which is shed.” Justice is desired that God may be vindicated and
feared. It is but meet that those who taunted the people of God, because they
smarted under the Lord’s rod, should be made themselves also to smart by the
same hand. If any complain of the spirit of this imprecation, we think they do so
needlessly; for it is the common feeling of every patriot to desire to see his
country’s wrongs redressed, and of every Christian to wish a noble vengeance
for the church by the overthrow of error. The destruction of the Antichrist is
the recompense of the blood of the martyrs, and by no means is it to be
deprecated; far rather is it one of the most glorious hopes of the latter days.
11 “Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee;” – When thy people
cannot sing, and dare not shout aloud, then let their silent sigh ascend into thine
ear, and secure for them deliverance. These words are suitable for the afflicted
in a great variety of conditions; men of experience will know how to adapt them
to their own position and to use them in reference to others – “according to
the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die.”
Faith grows while it prays; the appeal to the Lord’s tender mercy is here
supplemented by another addressed to the divine power, and the petitioner rises
from a request for those who are brought low, to a prayer for those who are on
the verge of death, set apart as victims for the slaughter. How consoling is it to
desponding believers to reflect that God can preserve even those who bear
the sentence of death in themselves. Men and devils may consign us to perdition,
while sickness drags us to the grave, and sorrow sinks us to the dust; but there
is One who can keep our soul alive, ay, an bring it up again from the depths
of despair. A lamb shall live between the lion’s jaws if the Lord wills it. Even in
the charnel, life shall vanquish death if God be near.
12 “And render unto our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom their
reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord.” They denied
thine existence, mocked thy power, insulted thy worship, and destroyed thy
house; up, therefore, O Lord, and make them feel to the full that thou art not
to be mocked with impunity. Pour into their laps good store of shame because
they dared insult the God of Israel. Recompense them fully, till they have
received the perfect number of punishments. It will be so. The wish of the
text will become matter of fact. The Lord will avenge His own elect though
He bear long with them. (Luke 18:7)
13 “So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for
ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.” The gratitude of
the church is lasting as well as deep. On her tablets are memorials of great
deliverances, and, as long as she shall exist, her sons will rehearse them with
delight. We have a history which will survive all other records, and it is bright
in every line with the glory of the Lord. From the direst calamities God’s
glory springs, and the dark days of His people become the prelude to unusual
displays of the Lord’s love and power. (Zechariah 14:3)
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