II Samuel 22
This song, which is identical with Psalm 18, though with many verbal
differences, is so universally acknowledged as a genuine composition of
King David, that the objections taken by one or two critics serve only to
give us greater security by reminding us that the other side has been
carefully argued. The differences between its form here and in the Book of
Psalms suggest many important considerations with regard to textual
criticism. From the absence of manuscripts, we have very scanty means of
judging of the correctness of the ordinary Hebrew text. We have, indeed,
abundant proof that the Jews took extreme care of their sacred text in the
early centuries of our era; but we nevertheless find, most frequently in
names, mistakes which have arisen from the carelessness of scribes, and
especially from the confusion by them of similar letters. Thus the Sibbechai
of ch.21:18 becomes Mebunnai in ch. 23:27, owing to some scribe having
mistaken two letters in the name. And as the similarity between them exists, not
in the old Hebrew writing, but in the square character substituted after the exile,
the confusion must be subsequent to that date. In comparing the two texts of this
psalm, we find similar instances of confusion of letters in vs. 11, 42-43; we find
words transposed in vs. 5-6; and clauses repeated or omitted in vs. 13-14. In
short, all the phenomena with which we are familiar in the textual criticism
of the New Testament are also found here. And may we not add that they
end in the same result? The general sense and meaning remain much the
same. The variations of reading do not affect the teaching of Holy
Scripture on any important point. It may be asked, then — Why should we
notice them at all? And why urge them upon the attention of scholars? The
answer is that there exist flaws and blemishes in the Massoretic, that is, the
ordinary Hebrew, text, and that the removal of them is prevented by the
strange idea which accords infallibility to the Massorites, and will not
concede to the far more difficult problem of the ancient Hebrew text that
which is granted as a matter of course to the comparatively modern Greek
text of the New Testament. And thus the Old Testament is neglected, and
left outside that careful and minute study so lavishly expended on the New,
and so rich in useful results.
Of the date when David wrote this psalm there can be little doubt. It was at
the close of his first great series of victories, after Toi, the Hittite King of
Hamath, had sent to him an embassy of congratulation (ch. 8:9-10),
referred to very triumphantly in vs. 45-46. But there is no trace in it
of the sorrow and shame that clouded over his latter days; and no man
whose conscience was stained with sins so dark as those of adultery and
murder could have written words so strongly asserting his integrity and the
cleanness of his hands as are found in vs. 21-25. The psalm belongs to
happiest time, when he had won for
is written from first to last in a tone of jubilant exultation, caused, as we
may well believe, by Nathan’s acceptance of his purpose to build the
temple, and by the solemn appointment of David as the theocratic king. If
it were arranged according to time and matter, it would be placed
immediately after ch. 8., as it is evidently David’s thanksgiving for the
benefits and blessings just promised to him and his seed.
But the scribes inserted it here, not so much because of its historical value,
as because it is a national thanksgiving for the founding of that empire by
of the kingdom of the Messiah. The prophet who compiled the Books of
Samuel rejoiced in David’s victories, not because they gave
dominion, but because they were a fulfill ment of past prophecy, and a
necessary part of the preparation for the religious
to hold. Such as it had been under the judges,
home for the prophetic light. It could not have grown and developed, nor
the race have become a Church fit to be the teacher of all mankind. And in
this hymn the Church expresses her joy at the high office and extended
usefulness to which God has seen fit to call her. The spiritual exposition of
the psalm will naturally be sought in commentaries on the Book of Psalms.
But such matters as its outward form, and the differences between the two
texts, will not be out of place here.
1 “And David spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the
LORD had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the
hand of Saul:” David spake. The introduction was probably written by the
prophet who compiled the Books of Samuel. The scribe who collected the
Book of Psalms would be a priest, and he has repeated it with one or two
additions, the most important of which is that the psalm was written “by
David the servant of Jehovah.” This title; meaning the minister or
vicegerent of Jehovah, is one so high that it would certainly not have been
given to David in his lifetime; nor was it even until Moses was dead that he
was honored with this rank (Deuteronomy 34:5). But what was
David’s right to this title, which put him on a level with Moses? It was this:
In adding to the sacrificial ritual enacted by Moses a daily service in the
temple of sacred minstrelsy and songs, David was acting with higher
powers than were ever exercised by any other person. For though, as we
have seen, Samuel was the originator of these services in his schools, yet.
there is a wide difference between private and public services; and David
made his anthems part of the national liturgy. But it would only be when
the halo of long use had gathered round his holy psalmody that David
would be placed on in equality with Moses, and his authority a institute a
new ritual for the nation be recognized.
2“And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
3 The God of my rock; in Him will I trust: He is my shield, and the
horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my savior;
thou savest me from violence. 4 I will call on the LORD, who is worthy
to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.”
Jehovah is my Cliff and my Stronghold and my Deliverer:
The God of my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My Shield and the Horn of my salvation,
My Fastness and my Place of refuge:
My Saviour: thou savest me from violence.
I call upon Jehovah, the praised One,
And I am saved from my enemies.”
The Syriac in v. 2 inserts, “Fervently do I love thee, Jehovah my
Strength;” but it probably only borrows the words from Psalm 18:1.
For we may well believe that it was at a later period of his life, after deeper
and more heart searching trials, that David thus felt his love to Jehovah
only strengthened and made more necessary to him by the loss of his
earthly happiness. In v. 3, The God of my rock is changed in Psalm
18:2 into “My God my Rock” (Authorized Version, “strength”) —
probably an intentional alteration, as being far less rugged and startling
than this bold metaphor of the Deity being his rock’s God. In the original
the words present each its distinct idea. Thus in ver. 2 the rock is a high
cliff or precipice. It is the word sela, which gave its name to the crag city
of Idumea. Fortress really means a rock, difficult of access, and forming a
secure retreat. It is entirely a natural formation, and not a building. In v. 3
rock is a vast mountainous mass (Job 18:4), and, as it suggests the
ideas of grandeur and immovable might, it is often used for God’s glory as
being the Strength and Protection of His people (Deuteronomy 32:15, 31;
Isaiah 30:29, margin). Next follow two ordinary metaphors, the
shield for defense, and the horn for attack; after which David, who had so
often sought safety among the cliffs and fastnesses of the mountains,
returns to the same circle of thoughts, and calls God his High Tower, the
word signifying, not a building, but a height, a lofty natural stronghold; and
finally his Refuge, a place of safe retreat among the mountains. This and
the rest of the verse are omitted in Psalm 18:2. (See Psalm
this website – CY – 2018) In v. 4 the words are as literally translated above,
and signify, “Whenever I call, I am saved.” In all times of difficulty,
prayer brings immediate deliverance.
Songs of Deliverance (vs. 1-4)
The Facts are:
1. David composes a song at the end of all the deliverances which during
his life God had wrought for him.
2. He describes God as being to him a Rock, a Fortress, a Shield, a High
Tower, a Place of Refuge, and represents him as being actively his
Deliverer and Saviour.
3. He, in looking on to the future, resolves to trust in Him who had been so
much to his life in the past, and expects to be saved from his enemies.
4. He, reviewing the past, feels that God is worthy of the praise expressed
in this song. There is a beautiful congruity in the place of this song being
at the close of the most detailed and protracted narrative of personal
history to be found in the Old Testament, and even in the entire Bible with
the exception of that referring to Christ — seeing that that history was one
of most strange vicissitudes, and full of dangers. The story of David’s life is
so necessarily occupied with events as they appeared to men and as they
pertain to visible history, that this song is a true supplement, inasmuch as it
brings into view the deep spiritual feelings that influenced him in the midst
of those events, and so furnishes a key to the religious life of the great
king. This song of deliverances reminds us of the song
triumphed over Pharaoh and his hosts at the
song of the ransomed as they were to return to
on their heads (Isaiah 35:10), and of the still more wonderful new song
by the redeemed from all nations and kindreds of the earth (Revelation
5:9-13; 14:1-3). In these historic and prophetic instances we have
illustrations of songs of deliverance ever rising from grateful hearts,
establishing thus with the past and the future a community of religious
is at once a fruit and
an evidence of THE DIVINE
REDEMPTION WROUGHT OUT BY THE SAVIOUR! Taking the
experience of David as our guide, we may observe:
INDUCE IMMENSE EFFORTS TO ESCAPE THEM. History tells us
some of the perils of David’s life, both when Saul pursued him with
relentless cunning and cruelty, and when, as king, kindred, friend, and foe,
and also the unseen powers of darkness, sought his ruin. The subsequent
references in vs. 5-6 give his impression of the greatness of his distress;
and the allusions to “rock,” “high tower,” and “fortress” remind us of the
time when his extremity was such that he climbed the craggy cliff or hid
himself in the inaccessible clefts of the rocks. No man was so near to death
as was David, and no good man came nearer to moral and spiritual
destruction than did he in the case of Bathsheba and Uriah. This is the
common lot of men on earth, though some find their perils less than those
of their fellows. In business affairs, in statesmanship, in special enterprises,
in matters of health, in common interaction with men, and in spiritual
experience, there are seasons when it seems to be a question of a few hours
whether we make wreck or escape. Then comes a strain, a demand on our
fullest resources, corresponding to that on David when Saul sought his life,
or when spiritual destruction was in the train of Bathsheba’s unholy love.
THESE EXTREME PERILS. The world is infested with evil, and the best
characters find that, as mortal, fallible men, they are liable to the exigencies
of life, and as good men they are objects of attack by the powers of
darkness. David was an honest, sincere, devout man, and specially dear to
God when Saul hunted his life; and he was superior to many before the
horrible temptation to depart from purity fell upon his soul. Character is a
defense against some dangers, else were it of little worth; but danger to
our calling, our enterprises, our health, our moral position — subtle and
serious — cannot but be our earthly lot. Even our Lord knew the tempter’s
power in the bitterness of poverty; and He warned the best men around His
Person to expect peril to earthly interests, and to watch lest at any time
even their devouter hearts should be overcharged with surfeiting and
drunkenness and the cares of this life (Luke 21:34; compare ch.16).
ESCAPE THESE PERILS. In his reference to “rock,” “refuge,” and
“fortress,” David at once carries us back to the time when he used his
utmost endeavors to escape from Saul by climbing the rocks and taking
refuge among the fastnesses of the mountains (I Samuel 22:1, 5; 23:14-15).
David acted as though all depended on himself. The cave, the cliff, the
gorge, the lofty peak, were sought to cover him as a “shield,” or to raise
him as on a “high tower.” So far as the two men were concerned, it was a
case of skill against skill, endurance against endurance. So, also, in the
more spiritual conflicts of his life, he labored hard to save himself from
destruction. David used many forms of personal exertion to escape the
foes of his highest life:
Ø meditation on the Divine Law,
Ø taking heed to his steps, and
Ø going to the house of the Lord.
So is it with the followers of Christ. They strive daily to ward off the ills
which threaten their temporal interests, and when peril becomes extreme,
they stir up all their energies to maintain their head high above all impending
evils; and what is true of temporal is true also of spiritual interests —
they give all diligence to make their calling election and calling sure.
(II Peter 1:10)
ARE AN INDEX OF AN INVISIBLE RESOURCE. It is just here that we
get at the heart of David’s meaning. A spectator, observing how he set his
skill against that of Saul, how he baffled the cruel persecutor by feats of
daring among the caves and clefts of the rock, might conclude that success
was decided by a mere balance of ingenuity and agility — the rock, the
cave, were his defense. But no; he used these visible things, but all the time
his soul was resting in THE PROTECTION OF GOD! There was a double
exercise of energy — that which expressed itself in agility of movement
among the mountain fastnesses, and that which expressed itself in calm trust
in the care of God. God was his Rock, his Shield, his Fortress. As Elijah
saw chariots of fire where others saw nothing but vacant air, so he saw the
Eternal Rock, and in Him made his refuge. The same double exercise of
energy was at work in his strenuous efforts to maintain his piety. It was not
prayer, use of the Divine Law, and watchfulness that he trusted in, but the
ever present and faithful God. Herein is the characteristic of a truly godly
man. An inner spiritual activity accompanies all the external forms. His soul
goes out after the living God. He finds safety in the invisible Rock of Ages.
God in Christ is his actual Hiding place.
SHADOWS OF EXCELLENCE IN GOD. The rock and the high tower
were the very best things nature afforded to David in his dreadful season of
trial. Those wilds then answered indeed a noble purpose. But David saw in
their protecting powers only a shadow of the real protecting power of
which he was in need. All the saving virtues of the mountain fastnesses
were to him the index of the boundless resources that lie in God. He is the
Rock. Throughout Scripture there seems to be an effort to set forth, if
possible, the reality and vastness and sufficiency of the treasures which are
in God for us. Thus Christ is represented as being the chief and best of all
things in nature:
Ø among stars, the Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:16);
Ø among fruit bearing trees, the luxurious Vine (John 15);
Ø of members of the body, the Head (Colossians 1:18);
Nature can only indicate what wealth of resources we have in Him. His
riches are unsearchable (Ephesians 3:8).
CONFIDENCE IN RESPECT TO THE FUTURE. Reviewing the
wonderful deliverances wrought for him, David says, “In Him will I trust;”
“I shall be saved from mine enemies.” The conflict of life was not over.
New dangers will arise, and other enemies will fill the ranks of the fallen.
But experience of God’s merciful help keeps the spirit calm, and every
triumph in the past by His favor is a guarantee that He will be a very
present Help in every time of need. (Psalm 46:1) How could David doubt
the goodness and power of God after so rich an experience of his aid? If for
no other reason than the confidence it inspires, an occasional deliberate
review of what great things God has done for us is very desirable. Doubt
and fear spring from too much attention to ourselves. Security lies in the
covenant of God, and not in our own powers, and a remembrance of actual
help received is a reading afresh of the many Divine ratifications of the
covenant. The din and hurry of daily life are adverse to reflective habits. It
is well to make positive efforts at certain stages of life to resist the
hindrances to reflection, and allow to pass before the mind the varied
instances in which God has rescued us from impending ruin, both
temporal and spiritual.
CONSIDERATION OF GOD’S GREAT DELIVERANCES. It is not
without solid reason that David says, “I will call on the Lord, who is
worthy to be praised.” There are manifold reasons why praise should be
rendered to God, but here the basis in view is that found by a consideration
of the various acts of mercy He has shown. David’s deliverance from Saul,
from the treachery of Doeg and Ahithophel, from the sorrows and shame
of the banishment from throne and city, and from the more fearful woes of
backsliding, were indeed events never to be forgotten. They meant to him
life, joy, honor, instead of death and disgrace. All that is valuable in life, in
distinction, in personal holiness, and victory over spiritual evil, appealed to
his generous nature to acknowledge in thankful form the great things which
God had done. It is the wont of some agnostic writers to represent the
requirement of praise to God as essentially immoral — as a low
representation of God as selfishly egotistic. It might be enough to say that
agnostics have no right to speak of essential morality, since on their
principles there can be no such thing. But apart from that, it overlooks the
real teaching of Scripture and the natural action of human hearts. Men are
not condemned for not praising God, but for being lovers of sin in thought,
feeling, and deed. Their condition necessarily involves a condemnation, as
surely as an anarchical state involves, by its condition, its own destruction.
Their not rendering acknowledgments to God for His mercies is only a
symptom of the real evil, and not the actual cause of condemnation. A
heart true to generous and pure instincts will always admire power blended
with goodness, and be thankful for good placed within reach by that
beneficent power. “Praise is comely for the upright.” (Psalm 33:1)
ONLY PRELIMINARY BLESSINGS. All through these verses David
speaks of deliverance, of being saved from certain evils, and God as a
Deliverer, a Saviour. This, of course, is a negative good; it is doing
something that he may not die, and not be lost. But it is only a superficial
view to say that this was all that David was thinking of His present position
as honored king, ruling over a united nation, and blessed with a moral
elevation superior to any other man then living, is the counterfoil to this
negative aspect. There was no need to say in words what he now was. His
life tells that side of the record of God’s mercy and power. (What a great
blessing for “goodness and mercy to follow us all the days of our lives”
- Psalm 23:6 – CY - 2018) He refers to the deliverances as blessings
preliminary to his positive elevation to honor and distinction. Being
delivered from the hand of Saul, he was made king in succession;
being saved from the banishment consequent on Absalom’s rebellion,
of course he was positively restored; being rescued from the sin
of backsliding, of course he was reinstated in the Divine favor and
holiness of life. This is the correct and New Testament view of the great
deliverance, or salvation, wrought for us by Christ. We are delivered from
the curse and guilt of sin; but that is the negative good, preliminary,
necessary to the implied positive elevation to sonship and eternal holiness.
He saves from condemnation, but does not leave us as merely liberated
souls. He gives us therewith “power to become the sons of God.” (John
1:12) He makes us “kings and priests unto God.” (Revelation 1:6)
The positive aspect of salvation means elevation, progress, conformity
of nature to the Divine will.
God the Refuge and Deliverer (vs. 2-4)
The psalm was composed as a thanksgiving for the safety and deliverances
David had experienced when Saul so persistently sought to destroy him,
and afterwards in the wars with the house of Saul, and with the heathen
tribes that set themselves against him. It appears to belong to an earlier
period than the place it occupies in the book would indicate. It is scarcely
possible that David could have asserted his uprightness and innocence in
the strong terms of vs. 21-25 after his great sins. These verses form the
introduction to the psalm, and express in emphatic language the safety and
salvation which David had found in God. The Christian may use the words
of the similar perils to which he is exposed, and of others not immediately
in the psalmist’s view.
spiritual. To reputation. From our own constitutional tendencies. From
diseases and accidents. From the malice of men, and their favor. From
prosperity and adversity. From solitude and society. From labors, rest,
and pleasures. From Satan and his angels. From the broken Law and
injured justice of God. Always and everywhere, under all circumstances
and conditions, we are all exposed to perils.
psalmist labors to express his sense of the protection, safety, and
deliverance which God had vouchsafed to him, yea, which God Himself had
been to him. The imagery he uses is taken chiefly from natural features of
and safety during the time that he was hunted by Saul. He calls him “my
Rock,” in the heights and recesses of which he had been safe from his foes;
“my Fortress,” his fortified castle, too high to be reached, too strong to be
broken into; “my Deliverer,” by whose aid he had escaped from many a
peril; “the God of my Rock,” equivalent to “my mighty God;” “my Shield
and the Horn of my salvation,” at once protecting him in battle and pushing
his enemies to their destruction; “my high Tower,” or lofty Retreat; “my
Refuge and my Saviour.” What the Almighty was to David He is to all His
people. We may use similar language. Our dangers may not be so fearful in
appearance, or so numerous, or so obvious; but they are as real and
serious. And our safety and deliverance must come from “the Lord.” The
words of the text show that it is not only what He employs for our good,
nor what He Himself does, but what He is, that assures of safety. Not only
does He afford protection and secure deliverance; He is our Protector and
Deliverer. In His almightiness, love, knowledge, wisdom, universal
presence, observation, and operation, WE REALIZE SALVATION!
In Jesus Christ, His very righteousness has become our friend, and assures us
of victory. The safety thus assured is not absolute immunity from trouble,
but protection from the evil it might produce, and change of its character.
The righteous are visited with calamities similar to those which befall the
wicked, and in some conditions of society with calamities peculiar to
themselves. But in their case they lose their unfriendly character, and
become visitations of a Father’s love, means of deliverance from worse
evils, and of obtaining greater good. The evil which they might do God will
defend us from, if we trust and obey Him. Nor are the righteous sure of
absolute preservation from sin, though they would enjoy perfect immunity
if they fulfilled the necessary conditions on their part. But they have a right
to feel sure of preservation of’ body and soul in this world, until their
appointed work is done; and of final deliverance from all evils
(II Timothy 4:18). They should not desire more.
Ø Faith. “In Him will I trust” (v. 3). Confidence in God as our Friend,
Protector, and Saviour. Especially as He is revealed to us in the gospel.
Faith assures us of the Divine love, lays hold of the Divine strength,
enables us to flee to God as our Refuge, to rise to the lofty Rock and
Tower where we are above all adverse powers, and safe from their
assaults, and gives the calmness needful for employing such means as
tend to safety and victory. “All things are possible to him that
believeth” (Mark 9:23).
Ø Prayer. “I will call on the Lord...so shall I be saved from mine enemies”
(v. 4). Faith prompts obedience, as in other respects, so in respect to
prayer. Divine help and protection are promised to those who pray.
“Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt
glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). The sense of peril, the knowledge that there
is safety in God, and that His delivering power is exercised on behalf of
those who seek Him, cannot but lead the Christian to that earnest and
believing prayer which prevails. The Apostle Paul, after pointing out
other methods of ensuring victory over our enemies, adds, “Praying
always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 6:18).
DELIVERANCE REALIZED, AND ANTICIPATED. Praise. This psalm
is one of the returns of praise which David made to his Deliverer, of whom
he speaks in v. 4 as “the Lord who is worthy to be praised.” Many are
ready to pray to God in danger, who forget or refuse to praise Him when
they have experienced deliverance. The Christian will not fail to give
thanks, not only for what he has experienced of Divine protection, but for
what he feels sure he shall experience, up to and including victory over
death itself, “the last enemy,” in view of whose approach he sings,
“Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord
Jesus Christ” I Corinthians 15:26, 57).
God Worthy to be Praised (v. 4)
The conjunction of ideas here is a little singular. “I will pray to the Lord,
who is worthy to be praised.” It may originate in the feeling that it is
fitting that, when we seek new blessings from God, we should not be
unmindful of those which He has already bestowed. Praise should
accompany prayer (see Philippians 4:6, “prayer... with thanksgiving”).
Add that the subjects of praise are encouragements to prayer. In the act of
praising Him we are reminding ourselves of the strong reasons we have for
hopefully seeking further mercies from Him.
entreated, strictly obeyed, and submitted to. He is worthy of thankful and
rejoicing obedience and submission. It is not fitting that He should be
served sullenly or silently; or that prayer to Him should be as a cry of a
slave to his master, or of one oppressed to his oppressor, or as a request
for help addressed to a stranger. We should speak to Him with the
confidence and love which his relation to us and past goodness are fitted to
inspire. One way of ensuring this is to blend praise with prayer.
Some obtain praise who are not worthy of it in any measure; others, much
more than they deserve. But God is worthy of and “exalted above all
blessing and praise” (Nehemiah 9:5). Whether we consider His nature,
His regard for His creatures, His works or His gifts, we must feel that it is
impossible to render Him praise worthy of Him. But to the utmost of our
power we should praise Him for:
Ø His glorious perfections. Especially His infinite moral excellences:
o his truth,
o righteousness, and
Ø His wonderful works.
o In creation,
o providence, and
Ø Specially, His redeeming mercy. His kindness to us in Christ. The display
of His perfections in the gift, the Person, and the work of our Lord and
Saviour. The mercy He exercises in the forgiveness of sin, the admission of
sinners into His family, and all the operations by which He brings His “many
sons [and daughters] unto glory,” (Hebrews 2:10). The gift of the Holy
Spirit for this purpose. The final bliss and glory.
Ø The goodness of God to ourselves. Not forgetting that He is “worthy to
be praised” for the commonest blessings we enjoy, as well as those
distinguishing blessings which we receive as His children through faith in
Christ. And not only for the blessings which give us pleasure, but for those
which give us pain, but are bestowed that we may become in a greater
measure “partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).
Ø By ALL HIS CREATURES according to their capacity. All His inanimate and
irrational creatures do praise Him. Their existence, qualities, order, and (as
to the living creatures) their happiness “show forth the excellences” of their
Creator. “All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord” (Psalm 145:10; compare
Psalm 19:1-4; Psalm 148;). All intelligent beings ought to praise Him; all
the right minded of them do. Those who enjoy least of His bounty have
much to thank Him for, and often praise Him more than those who enjoy
Ø Especially by His redeemed people. Who are the objects of His special
regard and gracious operation, and to whom the work of praise on earth is
peculiarly committed (Isaiah 43:21; I Peter 2:9). On some accounts
the redeemed and regenerate have more reason to give thanks to God than
those who have never sinned.
On earth a bounty not indulged on high,
And downward look for Heaven’s superior praise…
They sang Creation, for in that they shared:
Creation’s great superior, man, is thine;
Thine is redemption; they just gave the key,
‘Tis thine to raise and eternize the song.”
Nevertheless, angels do give thanks for redemption, and with good reason.
For it is the work of the God whom they love; it enriches their conceptions
of Him; it enlarges their service of Him; and it supremely and eternally
blesses vast multitudes in whom they feel the deepest interest. It thus
gratifies their desires, and adds to their wealth of knowledge, goodness,
Ø The kind. Clearly the best possible; which is not necessarily that which is
most poetical or most musical, though in these respects man should do his
best. But that is best of all which comes from the heart, and from a heart
fullest of admiration, adoration, love, and gratitude. Much which professes
to be praise of God is heartless mockery.
Ø The duration. Forever and ever (Ephesians 3:21). While we have any
being, in this world and the next (Psalm 145:1-3; 146:2). For, AS GOD
IS EVERLASTING, THE REASONS FOR PRAISING HIM CAN
5 “When the waves of death compassed me, the floods of ungodly
men made me afraid; 6 The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the
snares of death prevented me; 7 In my distress I called upon the LORD,
and cried to my God: and He did hear my voice out of His temple, and
my cry did enter into His ears.”
“For the breakers of death surrounded me;
Torrents of wickedness [Hebrew, ‘of Belial’] terrified me;
Cords of Sheol surrounded me;
Snares of death came suddenly upon me.
In my distress I cried unto Jehovah,
And to my God I cried.
And He heard my voice out of His palace,
And my cry was in His ears.”
Instead of breakers — waves dashing violently on rocks — Psalm 18:4
has “cords of death;” translated “sorrow” in the Authorized Version. But
“cords of death” mean the fatal snares of the hunter, and are not in keeping
with “torrents of wickedness.” “Belial,” literally, “worthlessness,” is by
many supposed, from the context to mean here “destruction,” that is,
physical instead of moral wickedness. So in Nahum 1:11 “a counselor
of Belial” means a ruinous, destructive counselor. Sheol is the world of
the departed, and is equivalent to “death.” Cried is the same verb twice
used. In Psalm 18:6 it is altered, in the former part of the verse unto “I
called” — a change probably suggested by the more fastidious taste of a
later age. For temple we should translate palace, or heavenly temple. It is
not the temple in
dwelling, that is meant. Instead of the terse ellipse, “And my cry in His
ears,” the full but heavy phrase, “My cry before him came into His ears,”
is substituted in Psalm 18:6.
Prayer in Distress Heard (v. 7)
The distress referred to is graphically described in vs. 5-6, 17-18. The
interposition of God for the psalmist’s deliverance is poetically depicted in
vs. 8-20. The connecting link is given in this verse. David, in his danger
and trouble, called on God, and therefore he was delivered. We have here:
Ø Enemies. As in David’s case, with the dangers of the battles fought
against them. There are many forms less extreme in which the enmity of
men may show itself and occasion pain or peril.
Ø Circumstances. Worldly losses and anxieties.
Ø Personal affliction. Of body or mind. Special distress from afflictions
which implicate the nerves, and so the mind itself.
Ø Death of loved ones or dear friends.
Ø Conviction of sin. (See Psalm 32:3-4.) It would be well if this form
of distress were more common.
Ø Pressure of powerful temptation. The mighty and threatening uprising of
inward corruptions, or the pressing solicitations of evil from without.
Ø Fear of calamities or of death.
trouble or danger. Yet all do not; and of many the prayers are
unacceptable, because they lack the moral and spiritual elements of
successful prayer (see Hosea 7:14). Prayer must be:
Ø That of a righteous man. (vs. 21-25; James 5:16; Psalm 66:18.)
Yet the prayers of one who is stirred by his affliction to sincere
repentance will be heard; for repentance is the beginning of righteousness.
Ø Offered in faith. (Matthew 21:22.)
Ø Importunate and persevering. (Luke 11:8, seq.; 18:1-8.)
Ø Accompanied, where practicable, with the use of appropriate means.
David fought vigorously as well as prayed earnestly.
temple” (equivalent to “the heavens”), and, interposing in majesty and
power, delivered him, discomfiting and scattering his foes. True prayer is
always heard and answered; but the deliverance granted is often not
according to our conceptions and desires, yet ever according to the perfect
wisdom and goodness of our heavenly Father. Sometimes the causes of our
distress are removed; sometimes they are allowed to continue, but the
distress is allayed, and the causes turned into blessings. So it was with
Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” although he prayed earnestly and repeatedly
(II Corinthians 12:8-10) Spiritual deliverance, however, is always
granted to those who truly seek it; and ultimately complete rescue from all
that afflicts the Christian.
David’s victories were wrought through the skill and valor of himself and
his troops, he gives to God all the glory of them; for he knew that ALL
WAS DUE TO HIM! His example will be followed by the Christian, as he
reviews life and calls to mind his distresses and deliverances. He will recognize
the hand of God in all, and render praise to Him who both furnishes the
means of deliverance and exercises the power which renders them
successful. Finally, let none wait for trouble before they begin to pray.
Live in the habit of prayer, and you will be able, when trouble comes,
to pray truly and successfully. “Pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians
5:17) Otherwise you may find yourself in the miserable condition of
those described in v. 42, who “looked even unto the Lord, but he
answered them not.”
8 “Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven
moved and shook, because He was wroth. 9 There went up a smoke out of
His nostrils, and fire out of His mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
10 He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was
under His feet.”
“And the earth quaked and trembled;
The foundations of the heavens shook,
And quaked because He was wroth.
A smoke went up in His nostril,
And fire out of His mouth devoured;
Red hot cinders burned from Him.
And He bowed the heavens and came down,
And darkness was under His feet.”
In describing the manifestation of God for His deliverance, David bore in
mind and repeated the description of God’s descent to earth given in
Exodus 19:16, 18. But the poetic vigor of David’s imagination
intensities the imagery, and makes it more grand and startling. Not merely
· the earthquake, the volcano and the storm cloud, but
· the dim form of the Almighty is present,
Ø with the smoke of just anger at unrighteousness ascending
from His nostrils, and,
the lightnings flashing forth to execute His wrath.
But David certainly intended that these metaphors should remain ideal; and
it was quite unnecessary for the Targum carefully to eliminate all such
expressions as seem to give the Almighty human shape. In so doing it merely
changes poetry into prose. But even more dull and commonplace is the
explanation given by some modern commentators, that all that is meant is that
David was once saved by a thunderstorm from some danger or other. Really
this glorious imagery, taken from all that is grandest on earth, is intended to
magnify to us the spiritual conception of God’s justice coming forth to visit the
earth and do right and equity. In v. 8 for “the foundations of the heavens,”
we find in Psalm 18:7 “the foundations of the hills.” The former is the
grander metaphor, and signifies the mighty mountain ranges, like those of
and, perhaps, also the rain driven in wreaths along the ground by the wind.
Red hot cinders burned from Him describes the flashing lightnings that
were shot forth like the coals from the refiner’s furnace when heated to the
full. It is to be regretted that the Revised Version retains the bathos of the
old rendering, that God’s fiery breath set coals on fire.
11 “And He rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and He was seen upon the
wings of the wind. 12 And He made darkness pavilions round about Him,
dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies. 13 Through the brightness before
Him were coals of fire kindled.”
“And He rode upon a cherub, and did fly;
And He was seen upon the wings of the wind.
And He made darkness booths round about Him;
Gathering of waters, thickenings of clouds.
Out of the brightness before Him
Coals of fire burned.”
In ch. 6:2 Jehovah is described as sitting upon the cherubim; His presence
there, called by the rabbins HIS SHECHINAH, that is, dwelling, being
indicated by a cloud of light. In this psalm the cherub is His chariot, on
which He rides forth to judgment. He was seen. There can be little doubt
that the right reading is preserved in Psalm 18:10, where we find a verb
signifying the swooping down of a bird of prey upon its quarry
(Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 48:40). The two words differ only
in the substitution of r for d, and these letters are so similar in Hebrew that
they are constantly interchanged. Booths; made of branches of trees, and
forming a temporary abode. So the dark storm clouds are gathered round
the Almighty to veil His awful form from sight as He goes forth for
judgment. Gathering of waters; probably the right reading, instead of
which in the psalm we find “dark waters.” The gathering of waters would
describe the massing of the rain clouds. The difference here also consists
only in one letter. Out of the brightness, which closely surrounds the
Deity in the midst of the black mass of the tempest, the lightning flashes
forth. This brightness is the Shechinah (see above), to which Paul also
refers where he says that God’s dwelling is in “the unapproachable light”
(I Timothy 6:16).
14 “The LORD thundered from heaven, and the most High uttered His
voice. 15 And He sent out arrows, and scattered them; lightning, and
discomfited them. 16 And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations
of the world were discovered, at the rebuking of the LORD, at the blast of
the breath of His nostrils.”
“Jehovah thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice.
And He sent forth arrows, and scattered them [the evil doers];
Lightning, and terrified them.
And the sea beds became visible,
The foundations of the world were laid bare,
At the rebuke of Jehovah,
By the breath of the wind of His nostril.”
Terrified. The verb signifies” to strike with sudden terror and alarm” (see
Exodus 14:24; Joshua 10:10). It describes here the panic caused by
the lightning, and by the violent throes of nature, so powerfully described
in v. 16. Laid bare. This is the meaning of the word “discovered” in the
Authorized Version. When the version was made, it was equivalent to
“uncovered,” but has now changed its signification.
17 “He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters;
18 He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated
me: for they were too strong for me. 19 They prevented me in the day of
my calamity: but the LORD was my stay. 20 He brought me forth also
into a large place: He delivered me, because He delighted in me.”
“He stretched forth His hand from on high; He took me,
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
From them that hated me; for they were too mighty for me.
For they attacked me in the day of my misfortune.
But Jehovah became my Staff,
And He brought me forth into a wide place
He delivered me, because He had pleasure in me.”
In the midst of this fearful convulsion of nature, while all around are
stricken with panic, David sees a hand stretched out from above, ready to
deliver him from the overwhelming flood of hatred and peril. Attacked
me. The word does not signify “to prevent,” or” anticipate,” but “to assail”
So in v. 6, “The snares of death assailed me;” and in Isaiah 37:33,
“The King of
verb in all these places. Staff; in the Authorized Version, “stay.” But it
means something to lean upon, and is rightly translated “staff” in Psalm
23:4. A wide place; in opposition to the straits of affliction. He had
pleasure in me. In ch. 15:26 this confidence is gone, and David
doubts whether the favor of Jehovah had not been forfeited by him.
God’s Answer to the Cry of Distress (vs. 5-19)
The Facts are:
1. David represents death, the grave, and ungodly men, under various
figures, as causing him deep distress.
2. He states that, on crying unto God out of the greatness of his distress,
his voice entered even into His ears.
3. He thus indicates, in strong figurative language, the tokens of God’s
attention to his cry.
c. The blending of concealed purpose with distinct manifestations of the
reality of His interposition (vs. 12-14).
d. The pressure of His agencies on David’s enemies (v. 15).
e. The thorough rending of all barriers by His mighty power so as to effect
deliverance for His servant (vs. 16-19). David represents his condition as
one of isolated anguish — he is cut off from God and man, standing in a
position of peril and suffering, from which there is no chance of escape.
Doubtless there were several occasions in his checkered life when this was
true; but he describes them in the terms more strictly appropriate to the
time when, being pursued by Saul and his emissaries, he took refuge in
mountains. Like one standing on a slight elevation when the floods are
gathering around, he sees only, on every side, death as waves eager to
sweep him away. The ungodly men with Saul rush on as a torrent from
which there is no escape. The sorrows arising from the thought of all his
youthful and patriotic aspirations being soon buried in a premature grave,
and a once promising life being cut off as a worthless thing, gather
irresistibly around his soul. Whichever way he turns, to the cliffs or the
plain, to the ravine or the cave, he sees that death is there spreading out
snares to catch him. Neither God nor man is nigh to rescue. Life’s great
and holy purposes are being crushed and blighted forever. No one cares for
his soul. It was then, when destruction was inevitable, that, as a last
desperate resort, he poured out his anguish before God and cried for help.
The help came, and the fact and form of the interposition are the theme of
his song. Here we notice:
EXTREMITIES. David’s life was especially providential. He was from his
youth the child of
his patriotism and his goodness, he was persecuted by Saul, a jealous,
suspicious king, even to the degree that he despaired of his life. All the forces
of society and of nature seemed to go against him, and meanwhile the God
of his youth and early manhood was silent and apparently far away. Our
only interpretation of the facts is that God allows his servants sometimes to
be brought very low. He does not give them the immunity from pain and
peril which their relative goodness and fidelity would seem to warrant. Yet
this is not the result of mere arbitrariness or neglect. It is part of an
educational purpose, and inseparable from a government of men free in
their deeds of wrong. The latent qualities of the righteous and their powers
for future use can often be best developed by means of adverse events
which throw them more absolutely on God than under smooth and easy
conditions they ever could be. We need not be surprised if we fall into
manifold trials (I Peter 4:12).
OF PRAYER. David had been accustomed, like all pious men, to pray, but
now he cried unto God. There was a reserve store of prayer in him which
now became developed. He realized as never before his need of God, his
helplessness, apart from pure Divine interposition and aid, to accomplish
the purpose for which he had been selected by Samuel. There was more
faith in him than he had been aware of, and now it was brought into
exercise. This was the first gain in the educational process. In the spiritual
life, as in the physical and mental, our capacities become atrophied if not
well used, and circumstances that draw them forth in unusual degree enrich
us with a permanent legacy of increased power. There is a natural tendency
to inertia, which the stress of our environment urges us to overcome. How
great is the power placed in our hands by the privilege of prayer, who can
tell? There are indications of its greatness in particular instances recorded
in the Bible and known in modern life. It availeth much. (James 5:16)
It is the human agency by which the exercise of the Almighty Power has
conditioned its own exercise. How seldom do we cry unto God as though
we really wanted Him and His aid!
A REALITY IN LIFE. David contrasts in thought his position and that of
his enemies. He was apparently left alone by God and man; they were
prosperous, numerous, strong, and eager as rolling waves. Death was
before and behind him, so that he could not move; they were free to act,
and no one to put them in peril. But a change came; the cry of distress had
entered into the very ear of God, and, as though there were a sudden
change in the Divine relationship to human forces, rescue came. To David
the interposition was as real as the previous peril and agony. It was not
mere faint heartedness in Saul, not accidental diversion of his thoughts, not
a simple refusal of his men to go further in pursuit of the victim of his
malice; it was God who had somehow so acted on men and things as to
bring about deliverance. The strong figures used by David in vs. 8-12
express the conviction that God had come to his help, not simply by the
action of normal laws, but by the invisible contact of the eternal energy
with those laws, wondrously subordinating them to a special design. The
true believer still sees God in his great deliverances. The answer to prayer
is a great reality. God can and does get at His suffering children. Men see
not the invisible hand, but those who cry to God recognize it. The
profoundest matters of life are objects of faith, and in faith, as in intention,
there is a transcendent knowledge passing all demonstration and all
THE EYE OF FAITH THEIR STRONG CHARACTERISTICS. David
here reflects on the deliverances wrought for him in answer to earnest
prayer, and their characteristics appear to him to be best represented by the
bold and vigorous language in vs. 8-16. Among these we may notice:
Ø A twofold revelation — to himself, as the God of power actually
stooping to his help, and holding in His hand the most terrible and most
subtle forces of nature; and to His enemies, as the great God causing His
voice so to be heard in the course of things as to reveal His wrath and
impress men with a sense of His greatness and majesty.
Ø An assurance blended with uncertainty. The coming down and the
Divine brightness brought assurance unmistakable; but the darkness and
mystery of His movements indicated that His methods of working out a
saving purpose were beyond human penetration.
Ø Use of appropriate agencies for frustrating wicked purposes. The
Divine “arrows” were so directed by unerring wisdom as to scatter
those who hitherto were bent on pursuit.
Ø Thoroughness in clearing away all natural obstacles to the perfecting
of the deliverance. So thorough was the reserve to be that the swollen
torrents and deep places were to be entirely made bare of water in order
to render escape complete. We may look at our deliverances as from
enemies human or fiendish, and we shall find that God does make
Himself known as our Friend, and causes our foes to feel His
displeasure. We know that He helps, but we know not all His ways.
He brings influences to bear on our foes, so that they are weakened,
and what He does He does perfectly, clearing away whatever may
hinder our safety. The same general truths will hold good if we look
at our many deliverances from spiritual peril. He sets Himself against
evil, and comes to our sorrowing soul. He lets us know enough for
our cheer, but does not throw full light on all His methods. He
brings the mighty influences of His Word and Spirit to destroy the
power of sin, and by the tremendous work of Christ clears away
every obstacle to our full salvation.
1. When we come into great troubles let us take comfort that in this matter
we are sharing in an experience which, in the case of some of the best of
men, has developed a more earnest spirit of prayer.
2. The records of God’s dealings with His saints shows that there is no
distress too deep for Him to reach and remedy.
3. There is no place on earth but that the voice of prayer is free to enter
into God’s holy temple and even to His ear.
4. Although for a season during the prosperity of those who persecute the
pious it may seem as though they were exempt from displeasure, yet God is
angry with them, and will in some significant way cause them to know it.
“...God is angry with the wicked every day.” (Psalm 7:11)
5. However desperate our case, we may rest assured that God is in
possession of all the means of gaining access to our need, and of scattering
whatever evils threaten us with ruin.
6. There are no powers, however deep seated and established, but that, if
we trust in God, he will clear them out of the way, so that we may find a
position of safety, and consequent elevation to honor and blessedness.
Rescue from Mighty Foes (vs. 17-20)
In vs. 8-16 the psalmist depicts Jehovah as appearing in His glory for the
deliverance of His servant. The picture may have been occasioned by a
storm which, in one of his battles, had terrified his enemies and aided in
their discomfiture (compare Joshua 10:11; I Samuel 7:10). In the text
he narrates the deliverance itself.
Ø Malignant. “Hated me.” There was not only opposition and contest, but
personal hatred. Many of the Christian’s foes have this quality in a high
degree (John 17:14), notably their great leader and chief, Satan
(equivalent to “adversary,” I Peter 5:8).
Ø Powerful. “My strong enemy… too strong for me.” In physical strength,
or military, or in numbers. David may have had in view such instances as
those recorded in chps. 8:3-5 and 21:15-17. The Christian’s foes
also are “powers” (Ephesians 6:12). Wherein consists the power of the
enemies of the righteous?
o Their inherent vigor;
o their adaptation to our lower nature;
o their number.
Ø Subtle. “They prevented me in the day of my calamity.” They rushed
upon him unexpectedly, when he was enfeebled by calamity, and poorly
prepared for them. David may be thinking of the attack of the Syrians of
exhausted by the contest with him (ch. 8:5); or of the assault of
the giant Ishbi-benob, while he was faint from fighting against the
Philistines (ch. 21:15-16). Thus, also, the Christian’s foes often
surprise him when he is preoccupied or distressed by troubles. The day of
calamity is a day of spiritual danger.
Ø In a measure successful. So that he became as a man struggling for life
in “great waters” (compare vs. 5-6). It seemed as if he must be swallowed
up. Thus, also, the enemies of the Christian may do him much mischief,
temporal and even spiritual; but there is a limit to their power. “For the
eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show
Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him”
(II Chronicles 16:9).
interposition on behalf of His servant, in answer to his cry of distress, is
described in the previous verses. They set forth:
Ø His awful majesty.
Ø His power over all the forces of nature.
Ø The intensity of his interest in His troubled servants. How He rouses
Himself, as it were, for the rescue of those in whom He delights (v. 20).
Ø His anger against their enemies. (vs. 8-9.) With such a Friend, who
can neither be surprised, evaded, or resisted, the righteous need not
dread the might of any adversary, nor despair of deliverance from
the direst troubles.
Ø Supported him in his perils. “The Lord was my Stay.”
Ø He saved him from them. “He stretched forth His hand from on high;
He laid hold of me; He drew me out of great waters; He delivered me,” etc.
God’s hand can reach His servants in the lowest depths of trouble, and is
strong to rescue them from the strongest of their foes.
Ø He brought him into a condition of freedom and safety. “Into a large
place,” a broad, open space, where no “cords of Sheol,” or “snares of
death” (v. 6, Revised Version), would embarrass or endanger him;
where he could move about with perfect freedom, and yet perfect security.
Such help from on high is realized by God’s people in this world; perfectly
when the hand of their God lays hold of them and raises them from earth
and acts of Jehovah are of such a nature that to merely recite them is
TO PRAISE HIM! We should acquaint ourselves as fully as possible with
HIS EXCELLENCES AND HIS WORKS, that we may better praise Him
by declaring them; but our own experience of His power and goodness will
give us the liveliest apprehension of them, and stimulate us to the most
21 "The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness: according
to the cleanness of my hands hath He recompensed me. 22 For I have kept
the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
23 For all His judgments were before me: and as for His statutes, I did
not depart from them. 24 I was also upright before Him, and have kept
myself from mine iniquity. 25 Therefore the LORD hath recompensed me
according to my righteousness; according to my cleanness in His eye sight."
“Jehovah hath requited me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands hath He recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of Jehovah,
And sinned not so as to depart from my God.
For all His judgments have been kept in sight,
And from His statutes I have not departed.
I was also perfect towards Him,
And was on my guard against my sin.
Therefore hath Jehovah recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to my cleanness in His eyesight.”
It is impossible to suppose that these verses could have been written after
David’s fall. For while he acknowledges in them a tendency to sin, he
affirms that he had been on his guard against it, and that he had ever kept
God’s statutes present before his view. However complete may be the
penitent’s recovery, yet can he never again be “perfect,” the word applied
to an animal without blemish, and therefore fit for sacrifice. The crime
remains a blemish, even though the intense sorrow for the sin may make it
the means of even attaining to a higher stage of spirituality and devotion. In
v. 22 the words literally are, “I have not sinned away from God,” sin
necessarily removing the sinner away from that nearness to God which is
the privilege of the saint.
God Rewarding the Righteous (vs. 21-25)
“He delivered me because He delighted in me,” the psalmist had just said.
The reasons of the Divine delight in him, and his consequent deliverance,
are given in these verses. They at first startle us, as inconsistent with the
humility which is part of the character of a godly man, and as peculiarly
unsuitable in the mouth of one who had been guilty of adultery and murder.
The latter part of the difficulty is removed if, as is most probable, the psalm
belongs to the earlier period of David’s reign, before his commission of
those grievous sins. As to the former, we should hardly find the Apostle
Paul writing in this strain; but rather referring all his successes to the
exceeding grace of God (see I Corinthians 15:9-10). His
consciousness of sin in general, and of his special guilt on account of his
persecution of Christians, prevented everything that savored of boasting,
at least before God. But even he, in appealing to men, did not shrink from
reciting his excellences and devoted labors (see II Corinthians 1:12; 6:3-10;
11:5-31), though ready to call himself a “fool” for recounting them.
And, after all, the truth that God does reward the righteous according to
their righteousness is as much a doctrine of the New Testament as of the
Old; and there are occasions when Christians may fittingly recognize and
declare that the favor God is showing them is according to their
righteousness; although the deeper consciousness of sin, and of entire
dependence on the mercy of God, which is awakened by the revelations of
the gospel, makes the Christian more reluctant to mention his virtues as a
reason for the kindness of God to him. As the meritorious ground of such
kindness, David would have been as far as Paul from regarding them.
and phrases, which only in part differ from each other.
Ø Righteousness. Uprightness, rectitude, moral and spiritual goodness in
Ø Cleanness of hands. Hands free from the stain of innocent blood, of
“filthy lucre,” etc.
Ø Observance of God’s ways. The ways He prescribes of thought, feeling,
speech, and action. These are inquired after and followed by the good man.
Ø Adherence to God. “Have not wickedly departed from my God” — from
His presence, worship, the ways He prescribes, and in which He is to be
found. Some degree of turning from God at times, every one who knows
himself will be conscious of; but “wickedly” to depart from him, to do so
consciously, deliberately, persistently, this is apostasy, the very opposite of
godliness and righteousness. The Christian will esteem the slightest
deviation from God as wicked; but he justly recalls his perseverance in the
habits of piety and holiness, in spite of all temptations, with thankfulness.
Ø Mindfulness of His Word, and persevering obedience to it. God’s Word
is “His statutes,” what He has determined and appointed, and “His
judgments,” what He declares and prescribes as just and right. These the
psalmist “kept before” him, and from them he “did not depart.” And his
attention and obedience to them were universal — they extended to “all”
of them. One necessary quality of a true obedience. “Then shall I not be
ashamed when I have respect unto all thy commandments” (Psalm
Ø Uprightness before God. With regard both to Him and to men.
Ø Avoidance of the besetting sin. “I have kept myself from mine iniquity.”
There is a particular sin to which each is specially prone (besetting sin).
To keep one’s self from that, by watchfulness, prayer, and resolute resistance,
is special evidence of genuine piety.
8. Purity of life in general. “My cleanness,” and that “in his eyesight,” a
very different thing from being pure in the eyes of men. Includes purity of
heart as well as conduct, such as is so true and genuine as to bear the
deliverance from so many perils and enemies, he recognized the Divine
reward of his righteousness, the Divine reply to the calumnies of his
enemies, the Divine attestation of his innocence.
Ø There is a real righteousness in the character of godly men. By this they
are essentially distinguished from others. It is not a mere difference of
Ø The Divine recompense of such righteousness is certain. On account of:
o The character of God. “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness”
o His relation to the righteous. As their Father, etc.
o His promises.
o His almighty power. He is able to do all that is suitable to His nature,
and that He has bound Himself to do by His Word.
Ø Those who receive such recompense should recognize and acknowledge
it. The righteous do continually receive recompense for their righteousness;
rewards, both spiritual, material, and social. But sometimes the happy
results of their piety are very manifest, and then they should be specially
o To the glory of God. Praising Him and inciting others to praise Him.
o For encouragement of themselves and their brethren. Increasing their
faith, and strengthening their determination to continue in their chosen
course, and their assurance of ultimate, complete recognition and reward.
For the whole reward is not yet. “Great is your reward in heaven”
(Matthew 5:12); but on earth the “guerdon” may be
“Many a sorrow, many a labor,
Many a tear.”
Finally, in the Lord Jesus Christ we have the perfect Example of
righteousness and its recompense; how it may be tried, and how sure
is its reward. In Him, too, we behold the Source of righteousness for
us, and the Pledge of its ultimate triumph.
Self Preservation (v. 24; Psalm 18:23)
“I kept myself from mine iniquity” (perversion, distortion, departure from
the line of truth and rectitude). The life of a good man is a conflict (ch.10:12).
“A man will never persevere in the practice of uprightness and godliness,
unless he carefully keep himself from his inquiry” (Calvin).
Ø There is none greater than sin. Every other evil is slight compared with
Ø Each man has “his besetting sin.” “I kept myself,” not merely against
iniquity becoming my own, but against the iniquity which lies near to
me, and to which I am specially liable from my constitution or condition
(I Samuel 24:5). A traitor within the fortress is a more dangerous foe
than any other.
Ø It besets him at all times, in all places, and by manifold “devices.”
Ø To be overcome by it is inexpressibly disastrous.
Ø Due consideration of the danger. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Ø Constant and resolute vigilance against the first approaches of the enemy
Ø The habitual practice of self-restraint and self-denial. “Where there is
no restraint, the people perish!” (Proverbs 29:18) (This will be one
of the problems at the end of time – “incontinence” – II Timothy 3:3 –
CY – 2018)
Ø The daily exercise of the virtues and graces that are most opposite to the
sins to which he is disposed (Galatians 5:16).
Ø Familiar acquaintance with the Word or God (Ephesians 6:13-17).
Ø Continual looking unto God for His effectual aid. “Kept [guarded]
by the power of God through faith,” etc. (I Peter 1:5).
Ø Unceasing prayer. “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1:21);
“Keep yourselves from idols” (I John 5:21).
because of the advantages by which it is attended.
Ø An assurance of personal sincerity (I John 5:18; Hebrews 3:14).
“The careful abstaining from our own iniquity is one of the best
evidences of our own integrity; and the testimony of our conscience
that we have done so will be such a rejoicing as will not only lessen
the grief of an afflicted, state, but increase the comfort of an advanced
state” (Matthew Henry).
Ø An experience of Divine help, of which it is indispensable.
Ø An increase of moral strength.
Ø A preparation for future victories. “To mortify and conquer our own
appetites is more praiseworthy than to storm strong cities, to defeat
mighty armies, work miracles, or raise the dead” (Scupoli).
“...he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)
26 "With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful, and with the
upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright. 27 With the pure thou wilt
shew thyself pure; and with the forward thou wilt shew thyself unsavory.
28 And the afflicted people thou wilt save: but thine eyes are upon the
haughty, that thou mayest bring them down."
“With the pious man thou wilt show thyself pious;
With the perfect man thou wilt show thyself perfect;
With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure;
And with the crooked thou wilt show thyself perverse.
And the afflicted people thou wilt save;
And thine eyes are upon the haughty, to bring them down.”
Having affirmed his integrity, and that God therefore had pleasure in him
and rewarded him, David now asserts that this is the unfailing rule of
God’s dealings with men. The general current of their lives is so ordered as
to be in harmony with their characters. It is not by luck or good fortune
that prosperity attends the righteous, nor is it by chance that things go
awry with the fraudulent, but it is by the law of God’s providence. Pious.
The Hebrew word means “pious” in the original sense of the word, which
includes kindness to men as well as love to God. Perverse. In the
Authorized Version “unsavoury.” Really it is the same word as that used in
Psalm 18:26, and signifies “thou wilt make thyself twisted,” only the
form is archaic, as is the case with some other words here. Experience
confirms the psalmist’s verdict. For constantly a strange perversity of
fortune and an untowardness of events are the lot of those whose hearts
are crooked. Afflicted. The word in the original includes the idea of
humility, and so leads naturally on to the thought of the abasement of the
proud. In the psalm the somewhat harsh expression used here has been
softened into the more easy phrase, “The haughty eyes thou wilt bring
Correspondence between the Character of Men
the Conduct of God towards Them
The psalmist, having spoken of God’s treatment of himself according to his
righteousness, now shows that his case was no exception to the general
rule of the Divine proceedings, but an illustration of it; that, universally,
God renders to men according to their character and works.
same truth, when he says, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain
mercy” (Matthew 5:7); and when He declares, “If ye forgive men their
trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (ibid. 6:14);
and teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven
our debtors” (ibid. v.12, Revised Version). But how does this consist
with the doctrine of justification by faith? It must be in harmony with it,
since both are Divine. If it do not accord with some human statements of
the doctrine, it must be because these are erroneous or defective. Faith is
not a mere assent to the truth, or reliance on the atonement of Christ and
the mercy of God in Him; but it involves acceptance of Christ as Teacher
and Lord as well as Redeemer, and therefore a willing obedience to His
instructions, of which part is that we should be forgiving, and that only
those who are shall be forgiven — only the merciful shall find mercy.
Moreover, faith in the love of God in Christ works love in the heart; a faith
which does not is of no avail. From another point of view, “repentance
toward God” is as essential to salvation as “faith toward our Lord Jesus
Christ” (Acts 20:21), and will be produced by it. It is vain, therefore,
for the unmerciful to trust in the mercy of God, or to cry to Him for mercy;
His mercy is shown only to the merciful. But to them it is shown; and that
Ø in the forgiveness of their sins, but
Ø in the bestowment of all needful blessings.
They also should bear in mind that their enjoyment of the
love of God will be in proportion to the love which they cherish and
display; and that every degree of selfishness will deprive them of some
essentially upright, just, faithful; but the happy experience of His
uprightness is for those who “walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11) — those
who are sincere and true hearted towards God and men. To these He will
show Hmself upright by manifesting to them His favor, and fulfilling to
them all His promises (compare Psalm 92:12-15); while to others He will
show the same quality by the execution of His threatenings.
heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Ø Genuine Christians are holy. Truly so, though not perfectly. They have
been cleansed by the Word and Spirit of God, and “the blood of Jesus
Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (I John 1:7). They have turned
from sin, and it is their abhorrence. They watch and pray against it; and,
when they fall into it, mourn with sincere grief. They cherish purity of heart,
lip, and life. They desire and strive after perfect holiness.
Ø To such God shows Himself holy.
o He reveals to them His holiness. They are capable of such a revelation,
because of their purity of heart. Sin blinds the soul, incapacitating it
from discerning and appreciating THE HOLY!
o He acts towards them holily. He requires holiness of them, and works
it in them. All His dealings with them are in accordance with holiness,
and have for their end to promote their sanctification. Hence he does
not indulge his children, but, when necessary, afflicts them, that they
may become more and more “partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews
12:10). He will not be satisfied until they perfectly reflect His image,
and He can “present them holy and unblameable and unreproveable
in His sight” (Colossians 1:22).
Ø Sinners are froward. They are perverse, unreasonable, ungovernable,
impracticable. They show this in their feeling and conduct towards God,
His Word and ways. They will not submit to His instructions or obey His
commands. They “walk contrary unto” Him (Leviticus 26:21), and do the
opposite to that which He enjoins.
Ø To them God shows Himself froward. It is a bold expression, and
therefore, perhaps, the translators of this book softened it into
“unsavonry,” or distasteful. But the same word is rightly translated in
Psalm 18:26, “froward.” The meaning is clear. God acts as if perverse
towards the perverse. As they will not pay regard to His will, He will not to
their desires and prayers. As they oppose Him, He opposes them, thwarts
their purposes, disappoints their hopes. As they “walk contrary unto” Him,
He “will also walk contrary unto” them (Leviticus 26:24). It is a
universal truth, discernible:
o In nature. If we would have nature work good to us, we must learn
and obey its laws. If we will not, they will work us harm.
o In the affairs of life — in business and association with men. If we will
not ascertain and live according to the laws which should regulate our
conduct, they will avenge themselves, inflicting pain, loss, perhaps
o In respect to religion and salvation. These originate in the
benevolent will of God; and if we would experience their benefits,
we must have humble and obedient regard to THAT WILL! We
must ask of Him, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) and
“What wilt thou have me to do?” (ibid. 9:6) If we choose
to reject the Divine revelations and requirements, and in pride and
perversity take a course opposed to them, the Almighty will not alter
His plans to please us, but will bring upon us the just consequences
of our frowardness. He will appear froward to the froward, in that,
when they call upon Him, He will not answer; when they seek him
early, they shall not find Him (see Proverbs 1:24-29). It is vain and
foolish for man to assert his own proud, capricious will; he will
find that there is another and stronger will, that will assert itself to
his discomfiture and destruction, UNLESS HE REPENT!
Divine Rectitude (vs. 26-28; Psalm 18:25-27)
Consider the righteousness of God as it appears in:
1. The supreme importance which He attaches to moral distinctions
amongst men. Such distinctions are often made light of in comparison with
wisdom, might, and riches (Jeremiah 9:23-24); and those who possess the
latter despise and trample upon the ignorant, the weak, and the poor (v. 27).
But God has chiefly respect to men in their moral attitude toward
Himself, their relation to the law of right, their personal character (I Samuel 2:30).
With Him the great distinction is that between the righteous and the wicked
(Psalm 34:15-16). Whilst His infinite greatness dwarfs earthly power and
honor into insignificance, His perfect righteousness exalts moral worth
2. The different treatment which He adopts toward men of different
character. In Himself HE IS ALWAYS THE SAME (I Samuel 15:29;
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” Hebrews 13:8);
but the aspect which His character and dealings assume toward them is determined
by their own character and conduct, and is the necessary manifestation of
His unchangeable rectitude — on the one hand, toward the “loving,” etc.,
full of love (all that is kind, desirable, and excellent); on the other, toward
the “perverse,” perverse (contrary, antagonistic, “as an enemy,”
Lamentations 2:5; Leviticus 26:23-24; Hosea 2:6), inflicting
severe chastisement. “There is a higher law of grace, whereby the
sinfulness of man but draws forth the tenderness of a father’s pardoning
pity; and the brightest revelation of His love is made to froward prodigals.
But this is not the psalmist’s view here, nor does it interfere with the law of
retribution in its own sphere” (Maclaren).
3. The signal change which he makes in their relative positions:
a. saving and exalting the oppressed and afflicted, and
b. humbling the proud oppressor;
His purpose therein being to vindicate, honor, and promote
righteousness, and to restrain, correct, and put an end to iniquity
(I Samuel 2:8,10). “What is God doing now?” it was asked of Rabbi Jose,
and the reply was, “He makes ladders on which he causes the poor to
ascend and the rich to descend” (The Midrash).
God Observing and Humbling the Proud (v. 28)
“Thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou mayest bring them down.” The
mention of “afflicted people” in the first clause of this verse renders it
probable that the psalmist, in the second, referred to proud oppressors who
had afflicted them. But the words express a general truth.
Ø He sees them; knows who they are, distinguishes them from others,
overlooks none of them.
Ø He sees through them, with those piercing eyes of His, that search the
hearts of men. However they may conceal or disguise their pride before
men, they cannot before Him.
Ø HE NOTICES all the exercises and manifestations of their pride.
o Their self-complacency and self-laudation;
o their contempt of others,
o their insolence,
o their injustice,
o their oppression of the meek and humble,
o their self-assertion as towards Him,
o their resistance and unsubmissiveness, etc.;
all is open to His view; and He notes all for remembrance exposure, and
punishment. If the proud did but realize that the eyes of the Infinite One
were upon them, how ridiculous would their pride soon appear to
themselves! how unbecoming and contemptible as well as impious! How
would the things on which they pride themselves:
o their strength,
o mastery of men,
o virtues, etc.,
SHRIVEL INTO INSIGNIFICANCE as they looked upon them with
the consciousness that God was looking on!
Ø He keeps them ever in sight. So that nothing can escape His view, and
they cannot elude Him or do anything to the real injury of His servants.
effectual way. Jesus said, “Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased”
Ø Jehovah sometimes brings down the haughty from the position which
fosters or displays their pride. He may deprive them of that on which they
pride themselves — their property, mental vigor, physical strength,
reputation (by permitting them to fall into some disgraceful sin, or
otherwise), power over others. He may bring reverses upon them in the full
career of their prosperity or enterprises; snatch from them the coveted
prize just as they are about to grasp it; rescue the humble victims of their
oppressions. While reducing them to a lower level, he may exalt above
them some whom they have despised. In the height of their glory he may
strike them suddenly down:
are all illustrations of the humbling which God may administer to the
haughty. In every case of impenitent pride terrible humiliation comes
at death and judgment.
Ø He sometimes brings the proud down in their own esteem — humbles
their spirit. This may be by such methods as have just been referred to; and
the spirit may be humbled without being really changed. But the happiest
humiliation is that which is wrought in the heart by the Word and Spirit of
God, aided by such methods or apart from them. The man thus affected
comes to see his true position as a creature and a sinner. He discerns and
recognizes his entire dependence on God; that whatever he has he has
received (I Corinthians 4:7). He perceives and acknowledges the sin
and folly of his pride, humbles himself before God on account of it, casts
himself on His mercy, gladly accepts pardon and salvation as a free gift of
God’s grace in Christ Jesus; and thus receives a better exaltation than ever
he had known or imagined before. Happy those haughty ones whom God
thus brings down!
Then, eschew pride; and “be clothed with humility” (I Peter 5:5-6). This grace may
best be learned at the cross of Christ. There we see our condition of evil and peril
as sinners, our
entire dependence for salvation on THE MERCY OF GOD and THE MERITS
OF HIS SON and our equality in respect to sin and salvation with the meanest
of those we are tempted to despise. There also we have presented to our
contemplation the noblest model of humility and self-humiliation
JESUS CHRIST THE RIGHTEOUS! (Philippians 2:5-8).
29 "For thou art my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness.
30 For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall.
31 As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: He is
a buckler to all them that trust in Him."
“For thou, Jehovah, art my Lamp;
And Jehovah will make my darkness light.
For by thee do I run upon a troop;
In my God I leap over a wall.
God — His way is perfect;
The word of Jehovah is purified.
He is a Shield to all that trust in Him.”
Lamp. The lamp burning in the house is the proof of life and activity
present there; and thus the extinguishing of the lamp means ruin and
desolation (Job 21:17). So David is called “the lamp of Israel” (ch. 21:17),
because the active life of the nation centred in him. In a still
higher sense the life and being of His people centers in God, and without
Him the soul is waste and void, like the universe before God said, “Let
there be light.” I run. To the warrior in old time speed was as important as
strength, and thus Homer constantly calls Achilles “fleet of foot.” It was
his fleetness which gave Asahel a high place among the mighties (ch. 2:18),
and to this quality David now refers. The troop signifies a
light armed band of marauders, whom with God’s aid David could
overtake, and stop in their course of rapine. The wall means fortifications
like those of
old time, but David had captured that city with a rapidity so great that the
metaphor in the text is most appropriate. Purified; or, refined. This does
not mean that it is proved by experience and found true, but that it is
absolutely good and perfect like refined gold (Psalm 12:6).
God the Lamp of His People (v. 29)
The image of a lamp seems at first too humble to be employed of God.
“The Lord God is a Sun” (Psalm 84:11) appears more suitable for One
so great, who is the Light of the universe. Still, the humbler and homelier
image is expressive. A lamp is of service where the sun is of none — in
mines, dark cellars and dungeons, etc. Its light is more readily commanded
and appropriated. We can say, “My lamp,” we cannot so well say, “My
sun.” And so this image may convey to us more readily how God is a Light
in the darkest places and obscurest recesses; available to each for his own
particular needs and for the humblest uses of daily life. But the distinction
need not and should not be pressed. The word is an image of light.
Ø He shines as a bright lamp.
o He is Light without darkness (I John 1:5); essential, independent,
unchangeable, and eternal Light. Not needing to be or capable of
being replenished, as all other lamps, literal or figurative.
o He shines pre-eminently in His Son Jesus Christ.
o In and by His Word — its declarations, precepts, promises,
threatenings. “The commandment is a lamp, and the Law is light”
o By His Spirit, in the reason, conscience, and heart of man. Thus “the
spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord” (Proverbs 20:27, Revised
o In and by His people. He so shines on them as to make them lights.
Ø He thus fulfils the various purposes of a lamp.
o Revealing. Himself, and in His light all other persons and things in their
true nature and relations to him and each other (compare Ephesians
5:13). Bringing into view what had been hidden in the heart, etc., by
o Guiding. In the way that is right and safe, and leads to salvation
(Psalm 119:105). He thus gives “the light of life” (John 8:12).
o Cheering (Psalm 4:6-7; 97:11; compare Esther 8:16).
Ø He is a lamp to each believer. “My Lamp.” Similarly,” The Lord is my
Light” (Psalm 27:1). The godly man accepts the Divine light,
uses it in practical life, enjoys the comfort of it. Others reject it, and
wander and stumble on in darkness.
darkness.” From his knowledge of God and his promises, and his past
experience, the psalmist felt assured that whatever darkness might come
upon him, God would be his light in and through it, yea, would turn the
darkness into light. Such an assurance may be cherished by all the people
of God. He will lighten the darkness which may arise from:
Ø Perplexity. As to Divine truth and as to the path of duty.
Ø Sin. The memory of sins long past or recent; the consciousness of
proneness to evil.
Ø Spiritual gloom. When the lights of heaven seem blotted out, and God
seems Himself to have deserted the soul (Psalm 22:1-2; 42:1-11).
Ø Troubles. Afflictions of body; bereavements, making dark the home;
unkindness or unfaithfulness of friends; worldly losses. When all other
lights go out, and leave in gloom, GOD REMAINS THE LIGHT
of His friends, and will in due time lighten their darkness.
Let all, then, accept this glorious Lamp for their guidance and comfort.
How blessed the world of which it is said, “There shall be no night
there…for the Lord God giveth them light;” and again, “The glory
of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the Light thereof” (Revelation
God’s Righteousness in Saving the Righteous (vs. 20-30)
The Facts are:
1. David states that, in delivering him from his enemies, God recognized
his uprightness and purity.
2. He affirms that, as a matter of fact, he had in his conduct endeavored
to live according to the will of God.
3. He declares the general truth that, in thus rescuing him the upright, and
showing disfavor to the perverse persecutor, there was exemplified the
principle of the usual Divine procedure.
4. He ascribes the successes of the past, not to himself, however upright,
but to God, his Light in darkness and his Strength for deeds of daring.
There is, in David’s references to his own righteousness and purity, an
appearance of what is now called, self-righteousness. He seems to violate
the primary canons of Christian propriety and to establish a doctrine of
merit. But this interpretation of his words is an utter misconception of his
meaning, and proceeds from an ignorance of the historical circumstances
he had in mind when penning the words. It is a wrong done to personal
experiences of the Old Testament to approach their interpretation with
certain prepossessions based on New Testament teaching with reference to
our personal unworthiness before God on account of our essential
sinfulness. David was not speaking of his state absolutely before God; he
was not thinking of the question as to whether he or any one else was a
sinner. His sole thought was of the distinct charges brought against him by
such men as Doeg the Edomite, and believed by the foolish king Saul; and
he was conscious that his being hunted by Saul was a grievous wrong, a
treatment he did not deserve. He was the righteous man, for he loved Saul,
showed him kindness, and paid him honor; Saul and Doeg and others in
the conspiracy were the unrighteous men, uttering falsehoods, using
cruelty, and cherishing malice. God came as Judge between them, and by
interposition showed His delight in what His servant had been and done in
this particular matter, and His displeasure with Saul for his wicked conduct.
He vindicates the gracious interposition of God on the ground that it is a
righteous and glorious thing on the part of God to rescue those who suffer
unrighteously, and to declare, by His rescue of them, His delight in them as
compared with the men who cause their sufferings (compare I Samuel 21:7;
22:9-13, 18-23; 24:7-15; 26:10-20). The vindication and illustration of
God’s righteousness in saving His people may be considered as follows.
THAT GOD SAVES THE RIGHTEOUS. In ordinary speech we say that
God saves sinners. That is true in the sense that all men saved, whether
temporally or spiritually, are, in their relation to Him, sinful, or
transgressors of the Law. But in relation to others and in relation to
specific obligations which He may impose on them, they may be relatively
righteous, and His saving them may be because they are so. Thus:
Ø Those who are righteous in life, as compared with others, are saved
from calamity and suffering. Noah was a righteous man, and therefore
was spared, while the Flood
carried away the wicked.
righteous man in comparison with the Sodomites, and therefore was
delivered by Divine pressure put upon him from the destruction which
befell the rest. Some of the
better Churches in
the woe that was to come on others, because God “knew their works”
(Revelation chps 2 and 3). The more holy and devoted to Christ we are,
and the more minutely our lives are regulated by the laws of God as
written in His Word and works, and in our own mental and physical
nature, the more shall we be saved from woes that come upon others
who violate laws physical, moral, and spiritual.
Ø Those who suffer as being unrighteous, when all the time they are not
so. This was the case of David, who was persecuted most bitterly by
Saul on the ground that he hated his king and sought his life, when all
the time he loved his king and guarded his life. It was as a righteous man
in this particular that God saved him from distress. The same was true of
Joseph in prison; of the Apostles Peter and Paul; yea, of our Saviour
Himself. And still does God save His people from the reproach and
sorrow brought on them by being represented as being other than
they really are (Matthew 5:11-12; I Peter 4:14-17).
Ø Those who conform to the gospel law of salvation. Before God all are
sinners, and condemned by their own consciences as also by the broken
Law. But Christ has made full atonement for sin, and now therefore
God, in His sovereign grace, has laid down a new law for us to keep,
based upon his acceptance of Christ’s perfect work, namely, that we
exercise faith in Christ as our atoning Saviour. We are not to try and
keep the Decalogue as a condition of being accepted; we cannot attain
to the righteousness of the moral Law. We are not to plead the value
of repentance and a future life better than the past; all that is indefinite,
uncertain. But we are simply to have faith in Christ as set forth in the
gospel, that is all that God requires for our acceptance; that is the
newly created law, the sum of all obligations in reference to obtaining
justification before God. In other words, we are to attain to the
“righteousness of faith,” the righteousness which consists in
fulfilling the obligation created by gospel grace, and then there is no
condemnation: we walk then as freed sons in the glorious liberty of
the children of God.
NATURE TO SAVE THE RIGHTEOUS. God’s treatment of Noah and
marks His distinction of character on the basis of goodness. It is the Divine
nature to love the good and hate the evil tendencies of men. When the
persecuted are delivered, there is a vindication of character and a
repressing of wrong which cannot but accord with God’s natural love of
justice. When He graciously accepts us on the condition that we have
fulfilled all that He requires under the gospel order, and in our justification
recognizes the “righteousness of faith” (Romans 3:25-28; 4:5-6, 11, 13),
He, accepting that kind of righteousness, that fulfillment of all
obligation, maintains the honor of the violated Law under which we had
lived, and glorifies the sacrificial work of his beloved Son. There is
therefore nothing arbitrary in the “law of faith.”
ACCORD WITH THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE OF GOD’S
GOVERNMENT. David was quite warranted in saying that when God, in
the matter of the deliverance from the persecutions of Saul, recompensed
him according to his righteousness (v. 25), he was simply acting in
harmony with his general kindness to the merciful and upright, and His
stern and repressive ways of providence toward the perverse (vs. 26-27).
The actual laws revealed in the Decalogue, in the civil institutions of
Moses, in the precepts of the New Testament, in the constitution of the
physical and mental worlds, all go for the good and against the wicked,
whatever be the form or degree of the goodness or wickedness. It may be
that, for reasons not yet made clear, the wicked triumph for a while and the
righteous cry out in agony, “O Lord, how long!” but God’s government is
vast, intricate, and stretching far into the future, and there are forces at
work by which at last the righteous shall be exalted and the wicked abased
(Psalm 5:4-6, 11-12; 37:6-7, 23-40).
RIGHTEOUSNESS LAY NO CLAIM TO MERIT. The object of David
in this passage is not to proclaim his own deeds and claim a right to God’s
favor, but rather to set forth the righteousness and goodness of God in
saving those who conform to His will. He had kept the ways, the statutes,
and the judgments of God (vs. 23-24) in respect to his behavior toward
Saul, — he could honestly say that; and he considers it a matter of praise
and glory to God that He manifested His love of what is just in coming to
the rescue of such a one. To have allowed Saul to triumph would have
been a reflection on Divine justice. In all this, therefore, there is no
reference to merit in the sight of God, any more than Noah felt that he
merited God’s favor. It was in neither case a question of the desert of the
entire life, but of the state of the life in relation to other men. So in our
personal salvation through faith, THERE IS NO CLAIM OF MERIT!
IT IS ALL OF GRACE! The “law of faith” is the creation of grace,
and the heart to conform to it is of grace. The light in which we see
spiritual things, and in which we rejoice, is not our own. The Lord is our
Lamp, and He lightens our darkness (v. 29). If we are able to break
through troops of spiritual foes, and leap over walls (v. 30) that hem us in,
it is not because of our strength; IT IS ONLY BY OUR GOD who of
His free mercy supplies all our need.
God’s Way, Word, and Defense
(v. 31; Psalm 18:30)
“I can overcome all opposition in and with my God” (v. 30); for:
1. His way is perfect. His providential dealings, especially in leading His
servant forward in the conflict. Although oft times mysterious and different
from what might have been expected, it is marked by perfect rectitude,
perfect wisdom, perfect love; and is exactly adapted to effect His holy and
beneficent purposes (Job 23:8-10; Psalm 77:19; 97:2).
2. His Word is tried (purified as silver and gold, without dross, and very
precious). It is the chief means of preparation, instruction and help; “the
sword of the Spirit.” Its declarations are true, its directions good, its
promises faithful (Proverbs 30:5; Psalm 12:6-8). The more it is
tested, whether by friends or foes, by examination or experience, the more
it proves itself to be indeed the Word of God, and of unspeakable worth.
“There is none like that; give it me” (I Samuel 21:9).
3. His defence is sure; Himself effectuating His Word, and being “a Shield
to all that trust in him,” affording:
b. constant, and
c. complete protection.
Faith is the bond of union between men and God, the “taking
hold of his strength,” a necessary means of defense, and hence often called
a shield (Ephesians 6:16; Hebrews 10:35); but it is God Himself
who is such in the highest sense (Jeremiah 51:20; Deuteronomy 33:29;
Psalm 5:12). HE IS GOD ALONE! (v. 32); the absolute,
incomparable, perfect One; worthy to be trusted and praised (v. 4).
Perfection of God’s Way and Word (v. 31)
These words may be regarded as a brief summary of the lessons which
David had learned from his varied experiences and meditations. They are
the perfection of God’s way, the unmixed truth of His Word, and the safety
of all who flee to Him for protection.
true of all His proceedings, in every department of His operations. His ways
in nature are to a large extent inscrutable; but we are sure they are infinitely
wise and good. His method of redeeming and saving sinners is PERFECT!
But here the reference is rather to the course of His providence — the way in
which He leads, governs, protects, and delivers His servants.
Ø The meaning of the assertion. That God’s way is perfectly wise and
good and holy, perfectly adapted to fulfill the purposes of His love towards
His children, and leads to an end that is perfectly good. That, in comparison
with the way we might have preferred, it is infinitely superior.
Ø The grounds of the assertion. It expresses a conviction which springs
o Reason. Because God is perfect, His way must be. Perfect Wisdom
and Goodness cannot err; unbounded power carries into effect the
determinations of perfect Wisdom and Goodness.
o Revelation. Holy Writ is in most cases our first source of knowledge as
to God and His ways; and it abounds in declarations adapted to assure
us, in the midst of all our perplexities respecting the mysteries of Divine
providence, that the ways of God are right and good, and will issue in
good to those who love and obey Him.
o Experience. Looking back on his own life, with its many difficulties,
struggles, and perils, David could see enough of the way of God in it
all to awaken in him a profound conviction that it was a perfect way.
And no one who serves God can fail to recognize this truth in his own
life, however much may remain at present dark and difficult,
o Observation. By which the experience of others becomes available for
ourselves. In this we may include the recorded experience of others in
biography and history, in the sacred or other books. The history of the
Church and of individuals abounds in instances adapted to increase
our confidence in the perfection of the Divine way, while leaving vast
spaces of unsolved mystery.
Ø The influence which this truth should have upon us.
o Thankfulness and praise.
o Unwavering confidence, however dark some of the Divine
proceedings may be, whether towards ourselves or others.
o Cheerful submission to the guidance and government of God.
and so purified and refined, as metals by fire (compare Psalm 12:6, “The
words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth,
purified seven times”). The meaning is that God’s Word is thoroughly
genuine, true, sincere, free from every particle of opposite qualities. The
statement applies TO EVERY WORD OF GOD — his declarations,
revelations, precepts, promises, and threatenings. It is most probably
made here as to His promises. These are all thoroughly true and reliable,
free from error, free from deceit. FOR GOD:
Ø Cannot lie (Titus 1:2).
Ø Cannot be mistaken. Knows perfectly all the future, all possible
hindrances to the accomplishment of His purposes, and His own
power to conquer them.
Ø Cannot change. Not in purpose; not in power. Thus whatever tends to
throw more or less of uncertainty upon human promises is absent from the
Divine (see further on ch. 7:28). The Word of God is “tried” in
another sense of the Hebrew word. It has been “tested,” put to the proof,
in ten thousands of instances, and has ever been found true. The experience
of every believer testifies to ITS PERFECT TRUTH; and the experience
of the Church, and of the world in its connection with the Church, throughout
all ages, gives THE SAME ASSURANCE! Then:
o Let us trust the Word of God with a confidence suited to its entire
o Let us be glad and thankful that, amidst so much that is unreliable,
we have here A FIRM FOUNDATION on which to rest our life and
o Let our word correspond with that of God in its freedom from all
insincerity and untruthfulness, if it cannot be free from the
uncertainty which springs from ignorance, inability, or mutability.
Ø The protection itself. “He is a Buckler [Shield] to all them that trust in
Him.” Not only He secures protection, He is Himself the Shield that
protects. As a hen protects her chickens under her own wings (Psalm 91:4),
so the Lord covers and defends His people with His own Being and
perfections. Their enemies have to conquer Him before they can injure
them. They are under the guardianship of His knowledge, power, goodness,
faithfulness; and these must fail before they can perish.
Ø The persons who enjoy such protection. “All them that trust in Him” —
all, as the word is, who flee to Him for refuge.
o It is one of the characteristics of the godly, that in their perils they flee
for refuge to God. It is to God they flee; not to some merely imaginary
being whom they call God — a God, for instance, who, however
despised in the time of prosperity, is always at the call of men in
trouble; too merciful to punish his foes severely; too tender hearted
to disregard the cry of distress, although it come from impenitent
hearts. Such confidence is vain. God’s Word contains not a promise
to the ungodly and unholy, however troubled they may be, unless
the trouble subdue their hearts to A TRUE REPENTANCE! But those
who live by faith in God naturally turn to Him in danger and distress.
o To them HE IS A SHIELD. Their faith itself, God-produced and
God-sustained, is a shield (Ephesians 6:16); it inspires their prayers
and struggles after safety; and in response to their confidence and
their prayers the Almighty becomes their Defense, and they are safe!
o Their safety is according to their faith. Faith which is mixed with doubt
is an occasion of peril. Intermittent faith brings intermittent safety. If
for a time we flee from our Refuge, we are exposed defenseless to the
assaults of our enemies, and shall be wounded and distressed. Then,
“trust in Him at all times, ye people ” (Psalm 62:8); and let your
prayer be, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5), and, “Pray for
us that our faith fail not” (see Luke 22:32).
The Facts are:
1. David asserts the exclusive perfection of God.
2. He states that his strength and power are from God, and that God
teaches him to move and act with advantage in times of war and difficulty.
3. He refers to the help received through the graciousness of God, and the
fact that thereby he was able to subdue all his enemies.
4. He alludes to the subjugation of the people to himself as the
consequence of Divine help, and looks on to further triumphs over
5. He recounts the fact of his deliverance, and makes the final reference to
them a fresh reason for thanksgiving.
32 "For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our
God? 33 God is my strength and power: and He maketh my way perfect.
34 He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high
“For who is God, save Jehovah?
And who is a rock, save our God?
God is my strong Fortress,
And He guideth the perfect in his way.
He maketh my feet like the hinds,
And upon my high places He doth set me.”
God; Hebrew, El; the Mighty One, used several times in this psalm. In the
second clause the word is Elohim, the ordinary name of God. The
psalmist’s question is a strong assertion that Jehovah alone is God, and that
He alone is a Rock of safety for His people. He guideth, etc. In Psalm
18:32 “He maketh my way perfect,” like His own. The phrase here is
probably that which David wrote, as being less usual, and it signifies that
God will direct the upright man in his good way. Hinds. David’s feet are
swift as hinds, an animal famous for its speed and sureness of foot. My
high places. The tops of the mountains are the favorite resort of the
antelope; and so with David, the possession of such rocky citadels as
Bozez and Seneh (I Samuel 14:4) made him master of the whole country.
Jehovah the Only God, the Only Rock (v. 32)
David’s experience of what Jehovah his God had been to him impels him
triumphantly to contrast Him with all other that men called gods.
worshipped by the nations around, which had proved themselves unable to
protect their worshippers from his victorious arms. The question may be
asked as to all other idols, and all persons and things that men serve as if
they were gods — self, wealth, the world, etc.:
Ø Which of them has PERFECTIONS LIKE THOSE OF JEHOVAH?
He is the living God, the everlasting, infinite in power, wisdom, and love;
perfect in holiness and righteousness. To whom besides can such attributes
be ascribed? “There is none else” (Deuteronomy 4:39).
Ø Which of them has done or can do works LIKE HIS? “All the gods of the
peoples are idols: but the Lord made the heavens” (Psalm 96:5,
Revised Version; compare Isaiah 45:18).
Ø Which of them can help their worshippers AS HE CAN? They are “vain
things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain” (I Samuel
Ø Which of them, then, is worthy to receive homage such as IS DUE TO HIM?
Fear, trust, love, worship, obedience. Yet the unregenerate do honor one
or other of these vanities more than God. They, as truly as the heathen,
“worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed
forever” (Romans 1:25, Revised Version).
Ø God is a Rock. A term applied to him by Moses (Deuteronomy 32:4),
and afterwards very frequently, especially in the Book of Psalms.
God is to those who trust in Him what a rock, lofty and difficult of ascent
and access to strangers, is to a people invaded by powerful foes. In Him
they find safety and protection. And as a rock is marked by strength,
stability, and permanence, so God is mighty to protect, unchangeable, a
Rock of ages, “an everlasting Rock” (Isaiah 26:4, Revised Version),
A Refuge available through each life and for all generations.
Ø He alone is worthy of the name. There are other persons and things
which minister strength and safety to men. “Wisdom is a defense, and
money is a defence” (Ecclesiastes 7:12), friendship also, and civil
government and military force, etc. BUT NONE besides God deserves the
name of a Rock.
o They are limited in their worth; He, unbounded. One or another of
them may be a refuge against some dangers; He, against all. They
may not be at hand in the time of most pressing need; He is always
o They are feeble and unstable; He, strong and firm.
o They are transient; He, everlasting.
o They are dependent; He, their independent Source. All their
fitness and ability to aid us IS FROM HIM, so that, when they
are of service to us, it is He that is showing Himself to be our Rock.
o Accept thankfully the good they can do; but trust in THE LORD
ALONE with absolute and unwavering confidence.
o Beware of resorting to God’s gifts as a refuge from Himself. From
the thought of Him; from the reproaches of a guilty conscience; from
the penalties of His Law
o If you reject or neglect God for others, bethink you what help they
can give you WHEN HE EXECUTES HIS JUDGMENTS UPON
YOU!. (Judges 10:14; Jeremiah 2:28.)
God is My Strength (v. 33)
“The God who girdeth me with strength” (Psalm 18:32). Physical
strength is derived from God. Much more is spiritual. It is obtained
through faith. And every believer may say, “His strength is mine.” Thereby:
1. I live — live unto God, “soberly, righteously, and godly in this present
world” (Titus 2:12; Habakkuk 2:4; Galatians 2:20).
2. I stand — stand fast in temptation, attack, danger (Romans 14:4;
II Corinthians 1:24; Philippians 4:1).
3. I walk — walk forward, in the way of the Lord, surely, swiftly (v. 34),
perseveringly (II Corinthians 5:7; Isaiah 40:31).
4. I labor — labor with and for God, zealously, patiently, and not in vain
(Isaiah 26:12; I Corinthians 15:58).
5. I endure — endure “hardness,” afflictions, reproaches, yea, all things,
supported and “strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward
man” (II Timothy 2:3; Hebrews 11:27; Psalm 138:3).
6. I fight — fight “the good fight of faith,” against his enemies,
courageously and effectually (v. 35).
7. I overcome — overcome in life and death (I Corinthians 15:57).
35 "He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by
mine arms. 36 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy
gentleness hath made me great. 37 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me;
so that my feet did not slip."
“He teaeheth my hands to war;
And mine arms can bend a bow of bronze.
And thou hast given me thy saving shield;
And thy hearing of me hath made me great.
Thou hast enlarged my steps under me;
And my feet have not slipped.”
Bow of bronze. In Job 20:24 we also read of bows made of this metal,
or compound of metals, which was a far more ancient material for weapons
than steel. The bending of such a bow was proof of great strength, and the
last artifice of Penelope, to save herself from the suitors, was to promise
her hand to the man who could bend Ulysses’ bow. Thy hearing of me; in
Psalm 18:35, and Authorized Version and Revised Version here, “thy
gentleness.” The words in the Hebrew are very nearly alike, but the
Septuagint notices the difference, and translates “hearing” in this place, but
“chastisement” in the psalm. The Vulgate has “gentleness” or “mildness”
here, and “discipline” in the psalm. The Syriac alone has “discipline” in
both places. My feet; literally, ankle bones, the weakness of which causes
men to totter.
Divine Protection and Guidance (v. 33)
The experience of David, and the purpose of the psalm, naturally lead to
repetition of declarations and images descriptive of the protection and
guidance which had been vouchsafed to him. They are not unsuitable to
record the convictions and feelings of every good man as he reviews the
past and anticipates the future. This verse in the Revised Version reads,
“God is my strong Fortress, and He guideth the perfect in his way.”
Ø We have powerful foes. The world and the flesh, the devil and his angels,
assault us continually, and would destroy, not only our peace, but our
souls. They are too strong and numerous for our power and skill; and no
creature power is sufficient for our defense.
Ø God is our Almighty Protector. The Fortress into which we can flee, and
where we are safe; which no enemy can scale or breach. His presence
surrounds us; His power defends us. Yea, He is in our hearts to strengthen
and protect us. Everywhere, and under all circumstances, we can resort to
this REFUGE, and defy our foes. We should therefore be ready to go
anywhere and do anything at God’s command. He may lead us where
temptations are numerous and powerful; but obeying and trusting Him,
we are secure.
preferred by the Revisers gives a good sense, harmonizing with many
statements of Holy Writ. “He guideth the perfect in his way,” or, perhaps,
“His [God’s] way.” The man who is “perfect” in the sense of “upright,”
sincere, true, righteous, wholehearted, may be assured of Divine guidance;
while the insincere, hypocritical, double minded, shall be left to go astray.
In the margin of the Revised Version, however, another reading and
rendering are given, viz. “guideth my way in perfectness,” which appears to
be substantially in agreement with the Authorized Version, “maketh my
Ø God leads His people in their way. By His providence, Word, Spirit.
In respect to the affairs of this life, and those of the soul and eternity.
He guides them into the position He has chosen for them, and to and
in the work He appoints for them. “The steps of a good man are
ordered by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23).
Ø His lead is perfect. Such was the conclusion of the psalmist in reference
to his own way. He could see that all had been ordered aright for the
accomplishment of the Divine purposes respecting him. Such will be
the conclusion of all God’s servants at the last; and their faith in
God will enable them to cherish this conviction now,
notwithstanding all the perplexities in which they may be involved.
The way in which they may be led may not be always pleasant;
but it is:
o The best way. The way of holiness; the way in which they can gain
most real good, serve and honor God most, be most useful, attain
ultimately the greatest glory and felicity.
o The safe way. Sometimes a way which avoids enemies and perils; in
other cases, a way through the midst of them, which God makes safe
by His protection.
o The way that ends in eternal glory and blessedness. It is “the way of
life which goeth upward” (Proverbs 15:24, Revised Version).
“The end” is “everlasting life” (Romans 6:22). It may be asked how
it comes to pass that those who have God for their Guide nevertheless
make such grievous mistakes, and fall into so much trouble.
§ The troubles which spring from want of worldly wisdom,
as well as those which arise from circumstances, are under
Divine guidance. It is the will of God that His people should
suffer, and His benevolent purpose is often made manifest
in the spiritual profit and greater usefulness of the sufferers.
§ Even good men do not fully seek and follow the guidance of
God. They too frequently choose their own way, and thus fall
into mischief. But God, in His goodness, does not therefore
forsake them. He leads those who are true at heart out of the
evils into which they have brought themselves, turns their
very sins and follies to account in training them for further
service, and brings them safe home at last.
Ø Be thankful FOR SUCH A GUIDE!
Ø See to it that you ever honestly seek and submit to HIS GUIDANCE!
Ø By the study of His Word and providence, and by earnest prayer,
inquire what is the way in which He would have you go; and,
when you see it, WALK IN IT!
Knowledge of God Founded on Experience (vs. 31-37)
From vs. 31-37 David seems to state some of the results arising out of
his experience of God’s dealing with him during the earlier portion of his
life. He can now say with emphasis what at one time could only be said as
a matter of general profession on the part of a pious Hebrew; and there is
in v. 31 an implied contrast with certain apprehensions entertained during
those seasons of isolation and distress, when no one cared for his soul, and
the course of providence seemed to be all against him. And in this respect
others are like him; the more profound their personal experience in life, the
more clear and sure are their conceptions of THE INEFFABLE (too great or
extreme to be expressed or described in words) PERFECTIONS OF GOD!
EXPERIENCE THAN OF SPECULATION. Among the Hebrews there
were grand traditional beliefs and conceptions which placed their pure
monotheism far above the theistic faiths of other nations, and David in
early years inherited these, and could give beautiful expression to them.
But the traditional and even reasoned views which he had acquired were
not his greatest treasure. A long life of communion, service, conflict, and
patient trust had caused him to see THAT EXPERIENCE was the most
important element in this matter of knowledge of God. No doubt it is
possible to reason up to God. The logical outcome of the principle of
causation is God, and the moral nature of man is only intelligible on the
hypothesis of A SUPREME PERSONAL RULER! It is not true that
speculative philosophy leads away from God. All its lines, when straightly
pursued, converge on Him. The question is one of personal relations,
and it is not within the competence of a speculative inquirer to settle this
great question regardless of the deep, ineradicable, and most sacred
experience of which human nature is capable.
FULLER, AND MORE ASSURED KNOWLEDGE THAN ANY
OTHER MEANS. Experience is of first importance in matters pertaining
to spiritual things. We know the reality of unseen beings existing beneath
the fleshly covering of the body more truly by the mysterious contact of
our self with an invisible counterpart, than by any physiological or
psychological arguments. There is an inexpressible knowledge in our
conscious intuitions of other minds being in communion with our own,
which is the more clear, sure, and satisfying, in that it is inexpressible in
words. Likewise the personal experience of holy men brings them so near
to the living God, so directly in contact with His Spirit, and gives them such
clear and irresistible convictions of His Being and His glorious character,
that to such men the light thrown on the question of the Divine existence
and character by processes of reasoning seems very cold and dim. They can
dispense with it for themselves. Like the Apostle John, they have tasted
and handled and felt the Divine reality (I John 1:1-3).
ESPECIALLY TO HIS EXCLUSIVE PERFECTIONS. After his deep
and often trying experience, David could speak most confidently of God as
“perfect” in all things. HE ALONE WAS WORTHY OF THE NAME GOD!
The points referred to are:
Ø His methods.
Ø His Word.
Ø His care.
His methods of discipline, of guidance, of instruction, and of working out
purposes seemed strange and obscure while David was in trial, but in the
end he saw that ALL WAS PERFECT! So is it ever, The more we
experience of Hs “ways,” the more do we learn their wisdom, goodness,
and justice. His “Word,” considered as promise, covenant, revelation, or
manifestation in Christ, requires personal experience to enable us to see
HOW PERFECT IT IS! (For this to happen, “....Ye must be born again.”
(John 3:7) How hearty an “Amen” can multitudes give to this statement!
His care is discovered by our experience through scenes of danger and peril
to be indeed sufficient, suited to every emergency, and most gentle and
considerate. As our “Buckler,” “Shield,” and “Rock,” we know Him more
truly, as life advances and the heart becomes charged with unutterable
experiences, to be perfect. (“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father
in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48; “The Lord will perfect that which
concerneth me.” Psalm 138:8 – CY – 2018) How vain are all the negations
and disputations of restless speculators to the soul rich in such experience!
ISSUES IN DEVELOPMENT OF CHARACTER AND FITNESS FOR
HIGHEST FORM OF WORK. The holy man enriched by such knowledge
is not a mere knowing creature; he becomes a man of higher character and
more extended activity. His way is made perfect; his feet are those of the
hind; he rises to the best positions in the spiritual sphere; his hands are fit
for warfare; he becomes calm and strong in the guarantee of a perpetual
shield; and distinction in the highest society and fitness for the holiest
service are the outcome of God’s gracious dealings. As David, after all his
strange experience of God’s power and gentleness, was more strong in
faith, more skilful in administration, more apt at spiritual warfare, and more
conformed to the Divine will; so all who follow on to know the Lord more
perfectly, and enter more deeply into the secret of the Lord, rise in spiritual
character, and become more fit instruments for doing the purest form of
work in the world.
The Gentleness of God (v. 36)
This beautiful saying of David’s is a wonderful illustration of
the tenderness of his own heart, and of the deep and thoroughly evangelical
thoughts he entertained of the character of God. There is much in this song
to remind us of terrible power (vs. 7-18); but it was to David the power
and terribleness of One who pities the poor and needy, and, out of His deep
compassion, throws the shield of His almightiness over them. In one respect
this display of power is an expression of gentleness; it is tender care and
loving kindness for the needy in their defensive aspect. It was gentleness
a. took David from the sheepcote to make him King of Israel;
b. succored and consoled him when exiled in lonely mountains and
c. spared his soul and healed his wounds when he fell into his
d. upheld his broken spirit when the crushing blow of rebellion came as
chastisement for sin;
e. gradually fashioned his character in spite of adverse influences of the age, and
made him a blessing to
f. so toned his life that now in old age, instead of being a proud monarch boasting
of his strength, he is constrained to ascribe all the glory of his life TO GOD!
It is the gentleness of God that elevates and ennobles all His people.
DEALINGS WITH US. To it — called in the New Testament, love — we
owe our redemption THROUGH CHRIST! The revelation of
“righteousness,” of which the Apostle Paul speaks (Romans 1:17), is
made because of the deep love of God, His tender pity for His erring
children. Our Saviour, who is the express Image of His Person (Hebrews
1:3), was, during His earthly course, the embodiment of all that is sweet,
tender, pitiful, gentle. The bruised reed, the smoking flax, knew his
gentleness. (Isaiah 42:3; Matthew 12:20) Weeping widows, fallen women,
outcast lepers, despised sinners, little children, a sorrowing Mary at the
cross, were only a few instances in which the infinite tenderness of his
nature went forth in words and deeds of blessing. The spirit of His gospel is
that of tender compassion for all men. In our personal experience THE
SAME SPIRIT IS REVEALED! He found us bruised, defiled, without
hope; and He tenderly bound up our wounds, took away our guilt, and gave
us power to become His sons. (John 1:12) In our lapses, how tender,
how patient, and pitiful! When adversity has come, home laid desolate,
or health taken away, how gently His hand has held us up and assuaged
our grief! And when by the open grave, and broken down with sorrow,
His all-sufficing gentleness has come and turned our sorrow into joy.
O BLESSED GENTLENESS! How dear and precious is our God to
our often weary and sinful hearts!
ELEVATE OUR LIFE. It made David “great.” That was its object, and
he, appreciating its blessedness, found that it did secure its object. A
knowledge of this as the distinguishing quality in God’s dealings with
men, tends in itself to raise our conceptions of God, and of the order of His
government. The end for which His gentleness found expression in the
work of Christ is that we may be raised from our low estate, and be heirs
of HIS OWN GLORY! When we open our hearts to His gentle Spirit, we,
like the prodigal, rise from our degradation and become reinstated as beloved
and honored children. In seasons of calamity it gives us strength to endure
and to wait, and a deep consciousness of its reality often throws over the
character a more than earthly beauty; and when His love has done all its
blessed work in us, we shall rise to a far more glorious position than that
occupied by David when, as king, he reached the highest honor attainable
among men (John 17:24).
AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO US FOR THE FUTURE. David was
evidently able to look on to the future with perfect composure. THE
LOVE of the past was PLEDGE FOR THE FUTURE. Our review of
God’s gracious dealings with us will cause us to sing of His loving kindness,
(which is better than life! Psalm 63:3 – CY – 2018) and to fear no evil.
Having given us His beloved Son, we are sure HE WILL GIVE US
ALL THINGS! (Romans 8:32).
True Greatness (v. 36)
“Thy answering hath made me great.” Psalm 18:35, “Thy gentleness”
(humility, meekness, condescending grace). True greatness consists not in
external prosperity, nor in splendid achievements, but in moral and spiritual
excellence. “The good alone are great.” Notice —
Ø Conscious weakness, the sense of utter helplessness in himself
(I Samuel 30:1-10; John 15:5; II Corinthians 12:10; Hebrews 11:34).
Ø Believing prayer (v. 7). “By showing us our own nothingness, humility
forces us to depend upon God; and the expression of that dependence is
Ø Ardent aspiration. “When sea water rises into the clouds it loses its
saltness and becomes fresh; so the soul when lifted up to God” (Tamil
when called upon for help, which was manifested in the fact that God made
his steps broad” (Keil).
Ø In wonderful condescension (Psalm 138:6).
Ø By manifold methods; preserving, instructing, strengthening, exalting
those who trust in Him.
Ø With considerate adaptation to their nature and capacities. “The great
God and Father, intent on making His children great, follows them and plies
them with the gracious indirections of a faithful and patient love”
(Bushnell, ‘Christ and his Salvation’). “Like as father pitieth his children,
so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13).
and appropriated by a plant, appears in its abounding strength, beauty, and
fruitfulness, so the effect of Divine grace appears in enlargement and
elevation of mind, sincere and fervent love to God, a set purpose to do his
will, eminence in “love, joy, peace, gentleness,” etc. (Galatians 5:22),
maturity of character (Hosea 14:5-7), holy and beneficent activity,
growing conformity to the perfect Pattern of true greatness (Matthew
20:25-27). “Have the mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus”
Greatness from God’s Condescension (v. 36)
“Thy gentleness hath made me great.” David had been raised from a
humble position to one of greatness. He had become great in arms, in royal
dignity, in the extent of his dominion. In these words he ascribes all his
greatness to the condescending goodness of God. The word translated
“gentleness” is elsewhere used only of men, and signifies “humility”
(Proverbs 15:33; 18:12; 22:4). But in speaking of God, we use the
word “condescension” rather than “humility.” Yet it is said of Him
(Psalm 113:6) that “He humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in
heaven and in the earth;” i.e. He stoops to regard them; it is condescension
in Him to notice them. The words of the text may be used by all Christians;
especially by some of them.
Ø All of them are made great. For they are made:
o Sons and daughters of the great God, brothers and sisters of Jesus
the Son of God, having a nature corresponding with the names.
They are “partakers of the Divine nature” (II Peter 1:4), and therefore
God like, in holiness, righteousness, and love.
o Wise with heavenly wisdom. A nobler wisdom than that of
philosophers. “Taught of God” (John 6:45), who reveals to them
what He hides from the worldly wise (Matthew 11:25).
o Powerful with the noblest power, that which is moral and spiritual, by
which they “overcome the world” (I John 5:4), rule their own spirits
(Proverbs 16:32), and subdue others to the obedience of faith.
o Friends and associates of the best of God’s creatures — holy angels
and redeemed men; with whom they form one family (Ephesians
o Heirs, and at length possessors, of a grand and enduring estate
(I Peter 1:4). These things are not mere names or fancies; they are solid
and enduring realities, to have the lowest place and the humblest share
in which is, in the nature of things, to be greater than the greatest of
earthly dignitaries who have no part in them.
Ø Some of them are made specially great. They realize, in a larger
measure than others, the various elements of greatness mentioned above.
They have more of God in them; and hence are richer in spiritual wisdom
and goodness, exercise a wider and stronger influence, do a greater work,
attain to greater honor and renown in this world and the next. Apostles,
martyrs; eminent teachers, evangelists, missionaries, and reformers;
monarchs, too, and statesmen, poets, etc., who are also devoted Christians.
Such special greatness arises sometimes and in part from:
o Greater natural endowments. More of physical energy, or intellectual
power, or emotional force, to begin with.
o Or greater opportunities, which may be such as rank and fortune give,
or the state of things around them, or such as poverty, affliction, and
o Special earnestness, faithfulness, and diligence in the cultivation and
employment of powers and opportunities (Luke 19:16-26).
o Special prayerfulness. Hence abundant impartation of the Holy Spirit,
the Source and Sustainer of all spiritual excellence.
o Deeper humility. Without this all seeming greatness is not greatness at
all “in the kingdom of heaven,” and will shrivel into nothingness
(Matthew 18:1-4; Luke 9:48; 14:11).
ASCRIBED BY THOSE WHO ATTAIN TO IT. To the condescension of
God. David recognized that all his greatness was owing to the goodness
and power of God, and in their exercise on his behalf he discerned
unspeakable condescension. Similar should and will be the feeling of all
who are raised to spiritual greatness.
Ø The work of God in their exaltation is a work of condescension. This
appears as we consider:
o His greatness and holiness, and their littleness and sinfulness
(Psalm 8; Isaiah 57:15). God must stoop to reach and raise such
o His various operations upon and for them. When we consider what is
involved in the Divine processes by which they are exalted, they resolve
themselves into attention (so to speak) to, and animating or controlling
influence over, a countless multitude of small matters. Yet we shall not
be astonished at this when we remember that not a sparrow is forgotten
by God, and that His children “are of more value than many sparrows”
(Luke 12:6-7). Also that great results depend on small things; and that,
in fact, to the Infinite Mind there is nothing great, nothing small.
o And pre-eminently, the incarnation and work of the Son of God.
The self-humiliation of the eternal Word in becoming man (John
1:1-3, 14), and of the God Man in lowly service to lowly people,
patiently enduring the greatest indignities and most painful and
ignominious sufferings, “obedient unto death, even the death of
the cross” (Matthew 20:28; Luke 22:27; John 13:2-5; Philippians
o The work of the Holy Spirit. Stooping to dwell in the hearts of the
mean and sinful, bearing with neglect, waywardness, resistance, and
Ø The condescension thus displayed promotes spiritual greatness. Not
only as it is exercised in the ways before mentioned, but:
o As it is apprehended and realized. The majesty, holiness, and justice of
God tend to humiliate and repress the human spirit, and discourage
aspiration and effort. At best it produces only a “spirit of bondage”
(Romans 8:15). But under the influence of condescending love, love is
enkindled, confidence is awakened, the heart expands and enlarges, is
inspired with the freedom and courage which prepare for noble service of
God and man, rises heavenward and yet looks on earth with kindlier eye,
and more resolute purpose to labor and suffer for its good.
o As it incites to imitation. Contemplating the grandeur and beauty
of the Divine condescension, we become transformed into its image.
We learn to stoop to the lowly and even the degraded. We are content
to serve in lowly offices, if thereby we can benefit our fellow men.
It no longer seems strange that we should be required “to wash one
another’s feet” (John 13:14). And this is the way to become great
(Mark 10:43-44). Yet we must not indulge the thought or assume
the air of condescension, or we shall fail both to benefit others and
to secure honor for ourselves. Rather let us accustom ourselves to
think in how many and important respects we are on a level with
those whose good we seek. This will produce in us genuine humility,
and enable us to feel towards our brethren a brotherly sympathy
which will banish the sense of superiority.
38 "I have pursued mine enemies, and destroyed them; and turned not
again until I had consumed them. 39 And I have consumed them, and
wounded them, that they could not arise: yea, they are fallen under my feet.
40 For thou hast girded me with strength to battle: them that rose up
against me hast thou subdued under me."
“I have pursued my enemies and destroyed them;
Neither did I turn again until I had consumed them.
And I have consumed them, and smitten them through, and they arose not;
Yea, they fell under my feet.
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle;
Thou hast made them that rose against me to bow under me.”
In the Psalms, for destroyed we find “overtaken,” and the second “I have
consumed them” is omitted. This exultation of David at the result of his
wars is in accordance with the harsh treatment inflicted by him upon the
vanquished. His enemies were God’s enemies, whom he must consume.
The “new commandment” of Christianity forbids and condemns this delight
41 "Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might
destroy them that hate me. 42They looked, but there was none to save;
even unto the LORD, but He answered them not. 43 Then did I beat them
as small as the dust of the earth, I did stamp them as the mire of the street,
and did spread them abroad."
“And mine enemies thou hast made to turn upon me their back,
Even those that hate me; and have utterly destroyed them.
They looked, but there was none to save,
Even to Jehovah, but He answered them not.
And I beat them small as the dust of the earth;
As the mire of the streets I stamped upon them, I trode them down.”
Those that hate me. The sentence is to be completed from the previous
clause, “my haters” and “my enemies” being equivalent. There are several
small variations between the text here and in Psalm 18, such as “they
cried” for they looked; and “I emptied them out” for I stamped upon them,
the difference in both cases consisting in a single letter.
44 "Thou also hast delivered me from the strivings of my people, thou
hast kept me to be head of the heathen: a people which I knew not
shall serve me. 45 Strangers shall submit themselves unto me: as soon as
they hear, they shall be obedient unto me. 46 Strangers shall fade away,
and they shall be afraid out of their close places."
“And thou hast delivered me from the strivings of my people;
Thou hast protected me that I might be head of the nations.
A people whom! knew not have become my servants;
Children of strangers have submitted themselves to me;
At the hearing of the ear they obeyed me.
The children of the strangers faded away;
They fled trembling out of their fastnesses.”
People, in the singular, means the Jewish people as opposed to the nations,
that is, the heathen world. The strivings here referred to are the long
dissensions which followed Ishbosheth’s death, and delayed for many the
appointment of David as king of
which had protected him during that dangerous period had a higher
purpose than the union of the twelve tribes under one head. He was to be
the founder also of that empire over the nations which symbolized the gift
of the heathen world to Christ. And this empire had been extended to
people previously unknown to David. Such might be the case with
Hadarezer, King of Zobah, but it more especially referred to Toi, and the
arms, but from the hearing of the ear, that is, from the wide extended fame
of David’s conquests, that Toi sent ambassadors to offer allegiance and
presents. They fled trembling. This is certainly the sense in Psalm 18:45,
where, however, there is a transposition of letters. Probably it is the
sense here. But if we might go to the cognate languages for an explanation
of a rare word, it would mean “came limping out of their fastnesses,” as
men worn out with fatigue and exhaustion.
Life’s Warfare (vs. 38-44)
David takes a general survey of his life’s conflicts, and is able to say at the close
that his triumph over enemies is complete. The language is strong, and to modern
ears fierce and vindictive; but we have to consider the position which he believed
himself to hold under God, and which he believed to be imperiled by his
adversaries. He was, and knew it well, the anointed of the Lord, set over the
people as the representative of God, and for the distinct purpose of preparing
the way for the realization of those vast promises of good to the world made
to Abraham, and devoutly cherished by every enlightened Hebrew.
Consequently, the personal element in his case largely disappeared. The
attacks on him were attacks on God’s government, an effort to frustrate
God’s purposes; and, believing those purposes to be the wisest and best, he
regarded the attempt to put them aside as most wicked; indeed, as the
crime of high treason against the Eternal King. That men who thus oppose
the Lord’s anointed, and are instrumental in committing so great a sin or
doing so serious a mischief in the world, deserved the judgment which God
allowed to come is obvious, or he would not have allowed it; and,
admitting this, there is no obvious sin in David expressing in figurative
terms his acquiescence and even satisfaction in that judgment. There is no
sin in a man’s spiritual vision being so high and wide that he sees justice,
and is glad that justice is done. It is only when we introduce the more
personal element, and judge by it alone, that David’s words are felt to be
improper. His life’s warfare suggests ours, and that being led on by the
Captain of our salvation.
men under Saul’s leading, Amalekites, Philistines, and rebels within the
kingdom, sought the ruin of David, both personally and in his capacity as
anointed king. No words can set forth adequately the number, strength,
activity, and combinations of the spiritual foes that practically seek our
spiritual life, and also oppose the claims and prerogatives of Christ.
(We are dealing with “spiritual wickedness in high places” – Ephesians
6:12 – CY – 2018) Every Christian life is a spiritual reproduction of David’s
temporal life; and in the antagonism of our own Christian experience we have
a miniature view of the great
conflict going on between the King in
the principalities and powers of darkness and the countless forces that lie
concealed in the depths of human depravity.
CHANGES. From the day that Saul entertained a wicked jealousy of
his powers (I Samuel 18:8) till
the revolt of
his guard, and in some form or other defend his person and his right to the
kingdom. Now he is in deepest distress, and now rescued by the
interposition of God. Sorrow and joy were his portion. The lesson for us is
obvious. Our warfare is lifelong. As long as there is lurking evil within the
domain of our nature, as long as strong and subtle temptations come upon
us, and the great enemy seeketh our life, so long we must stand in the
whole armor of God, and watch and strive (Ephesians 6:10-17). And,
also, we have our seasons of anguish and desolation, our faintings and
fears, our falls and wounds, as well as our songs of triumph and joy. The
Apostle Paul wrote at the close of his toils and conflicts as one who had
suffered much and accomplished much. What is true of us personally is
true in a way of the great Church militant; there are, as history reveals,
times of sore defeat and sorrow and apparent abandonment, and times
again of magnificent triumphs.
GOD AND USE OF GIFTS. The language in which David describes the
issue of his conflicts reveals that all through he cherished unceasing faith in
God, and used well the fingers
to fight which
darkest seasons his hope was in God. Not armies, but GOD formed his
Refuge, Strength, and Defence (vs. 40- 41). Saving the great lapse, when
for a time the soul was estranged from its Source of blessing, there was a
calm and unshaken confidence that the great purpose for which he was
called to the throne would be realized, and this rendered moral support to
all material means employed for subduing foes. It is the characteristic of
our warfare that it is the “good fight of faith.” (I Timothy 6:12) From first
to last, trust in the presence, help, and succor of God enters into the exercise
of all watchfulness, prayerfulness, and resolute endeavors to subdue
everything to Christ. Success in Christian warfare springs from a subtle
Ø the most absolute faith in the almighty grace of God with
Ø the most energetic use of knowledge and resolve.
By this combination also, the Church, in its corporate action, seeks to
banish spiritual foes from the kingdom, and to extend Christ’s supremacy
over all people and lands.
compare David when an outcast among the caves of the mountains, or a
wanderer among an alien people, dependent on heathen hospitality for his
sustenance and protection (I Samuel 27:1-7), with David at the close
of his reign, dwelling in regal splendor, and in peace from all his foes, we
can see how complete his triumph, and how true in effect is the bold
language of this song. Helpless, unbefriended by the Judge of all the earth,
his oppressors are as the beaten dust and trampled mire. Aliens and the
rebellious among his own people (vs. 41-44) alike are brought low, and
all their pride and strength has vanished. It is only when we come to the
end of our Christian career that we can say this of all our foes; but it can
even now be said of many in the past. The strongest language of David will
be inadequate to express the completeness of the victory we shall at last
obtain over all spiritual foes. As
on the shore of the
looked over the calm glassy scene of a former arena of conflict and peril,
so we each shall, through Christ, be able to survey the past and see our
enemies no more. More than conquerors, we shall sing the song of
triumph. Sin and temptation, the horrible dangers, the slippery places, the
roaring torrents, the deep waters, will have been overcome, and our
sanctified nature will constitute a domain in which the voice of tumult is no
more heard. Our personal triumph will be analogous to THE TRIUMPH OF
CHRIST over all the evil forces that once opposed His blessed reign.
47 "The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God
of the rock of my salvation. 48 It is God that avengeth me, and that
bringeth down the people under me. 49 And that bringeth me forth
from mine enemies: thou also hast lifted me up on high above them
that rose up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man."
“Jehovah liveth; and blessed be my Rock,
And exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation,
Even the God that giveth me avengements,
And bringeth down peoples under me.
And bringeth me forth from my enemies.
Yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me;
From the violent man thou deliverest me.”
In Psalm 18:46 we find simply “the God of my salvation.” Perhaps
there seemed to the compiler to be some confusion in calling Jehovah, first
David’s Rock, and then the God of his rock (but see note on v. 3).
Avengements, in the plural. In the Law the sanctions were chiefly
temporal, and therefore the saints of old watched anxiously for, and were
strengthened by observing, the constantly recurring proofs of God’s
righteous government of men. Peoples, in the plural; heathen nations. The
violent man may especially be Saul, as is supposed in the title prefixed to
this song in the Book of Psalms. There probably it is general, and includes
all who were bitter in their hostility to David.
50 "Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the
heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name. 51 He is the tower of
salvation for His king: and sheweth mercy to His anointed, unto David,
and to his seed for evermore."
“Therefore will I praise thee among the nations,
And to thy Name will I sing.
Great deliverance giveth He to His king,
And showeth grace to His messiah —
To David, and to his seed forever.”
Great deliverance; literally, He maketh great the salvation of His king;
that is, He rescueth him marvelously again and again. The K’ri substitutes
tower, but it has no support either from the versions or from Psalm 18.,
though admitted into the Authorized Version. The difference between the
two words “making great” and “tower” is, in the Hebrew, trifling. To His
messiah. This mercy was shown to David as the anointed theocratic king,
whose rule was the symbol of that of Christ.
David’s Song of Praise (vs. 1-51)
“And David spake unto Jehovah the words of this song,” etc. (v. 1). It is
a song of:
1. The Anointed (Messiah) of the Lord, His king (v. 51), His servant
(Psalm 18., inscription). Like Moses and Joshua, David held a peculiar and
exalted position in the kingdom of God under the Old Testament. He was
“a man [unlike Saul] of God’s own choosing” (I Samuel 13:14; 16:28),
to fill the office of theocratic king, and to fulfill His purposes concerning
Israel and the world; he was also specially fitted for his vocation, faithfully
devoted to it, and greatly blessed in it. And in the consciousness of this he
2. Praise to the Lord, on the ground of His perfections, His relations, His
benefits; prompted by the desire to render to Him the honor which is His
due (I Samuel 2:1-10). “To praise God means nothing else than to
ascribe to Him the glorious perfections which He possesses; for we can only
give to Him what is His own” (Hengstenberg). And, more especially, of:
3. Thanksgiving for past deliverance, from imminent perils, to which, as
the servant of God, he was exposed through the hatred and opposition of
his enemies. Of these Saul was the most formidable; and, after becoming
King of Israel, David was attacked by numerous heathen nations, both
separately and in combination (ch. 5:17; chps. 8 and10). It was probably
when “the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies”
(ch.7:1), and after the promise of an everlasting kingdom (ibid. vs.12-16),
that the song was uttered; though by some it is regarded as “a great hallelujah,
with which he retired from the theatre of life.“ Having obtained many and
signal victories, he does not, as irreligious men are accustomed to do, sing a
song of triumph in honor of himself, but exalts and magnifies God, the Author
of these victories, by a train of striking and appropriate epithets, and in a style
of surpassing grandeur and sublimity” (Calvin).
4. Confidence in future triumph over all the enemies of the kingdom of
God; of which the success already attained is an assurance. God is praised,
not only for what He is and has been to him, but also for what He will be to
“David and his seed forever” (v. 51). Of this song, consider:
Ø The personal and intimate relationship of Jehovah to His servant
“Jehovah is my Rock, and my Fortress. and my, yea, my Deliverer,
My Rock God, in whom I trust,” etc. (vs. 2-3)
o He stands in a peculiar relation (beyond that which He bears to all men)
to those to whom He reveals His Name, whom He takes into His
fellowship, and to whom He promises to be “their God.” These things
make it possible to say, “my God,” and (along with His gracious acts)
incite the personal and ardent affection expressed at the commencement
of Psalm 18 (a liturgical variation of the song), “Fervently do I love
thee, O Jehovah my Strength,” (ibid. v. 1)
o Nature, history, and experience furnish manifold emblems of His
excellences, and of the blessings which He bestows on those who
trust in Him (I Samuel 2:2; Deuteronomy 32:4; Genesis 15:1). These
suggested by the physical aspect of
perilous condition and special deliverances of David in his early life,
as a fugitive and a soldier, beset by many foes.
o He is all-sufficient for the needs of His people, however numerous
and great, for their;
§ permanent security, and
§ complete salvation.
“As worthy to be praised, do I call on Jehovah,
And (whenever I call) I am saved from mine enemies.”
“Faith knows no past and no future. What God has done and will do is
present to it.”
Ø His marvelous deliverance. (vs. 5-20.) In a single comprehensive
picture David describes the many dangers that encompassed him during his
persecution by Saul, and the many prov