Monthly Archives: January 2015

Psalm 77

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-20
TITLE. To the Chief Musician, to Jeduthun. It was meet that another leader of the psalmody should take his turn. No harp should be silent in the courts of the Lord’s house. A Psalm of Asaph. Asaph was a man of exercised mind, and often touched the minor key; he was thoughtful, contemplative, believing, but withal there was a dash of sadness about him, and this imparted a tonic flavour to his songs. To follow him with understanding, it is needful to have done business on the great waters, and weathered many an Atlantic gale.
DIVISIONS. If we follow the poetical arrangement, and divide at the Selahs, we shall find the troubled man of God pleading in Psalms 77:1-3, and then we shall hear him lamenting and arguing within himself, Psalms 77:4-9. From Psalms 77:10-15 his meditations run toward God, and in the close he seems as in a vision to behold the wonders of the Red Sea and the wilderness. At this point, as if lost in an ecstasy, he hurriedly closes the Psalm with an abruptness, the effect of which is quite startling. The Spirit of God knows when to cease speaking, which is more than those do who, for the sake of making a methodical conclusion, prolong their words even to weariness. Perhaps this Psalm was meant to be a prelude to the next, and, if so, its sudden close is accounted for. The hymn now before us is for experienced saints only, but to them it will be of rare value as a transcript of their own inner conflicts.
EXPOSITION
Ver. 1. I cried unto God with my voice. This Psalm has much sadness in it, but we may be sure it will end well, for it begins with prayer, and prayer never has an ill issue. Asaph did not run to man but to the Lord, and to him he went, not with studied, stately, stilted words, but with a cry, the natural, unaffected, unfeigned expression of pain. He used his voice also, for though vocal utterance is not necessary to the life of prayer, it often seems forced upon us by the energy of our desires. Sometimes the soul feels compelled to use the voice, for thus it finds a freer vent for its agony. It is a comfort to hear the alarm bell ringing when the house is invaded by thieves.
Even unto God with my voice. He returned to his pleading. If once sufficed not, he cried again. He needed an answer, he expected one, he was eager to have it soon, therefore he cried again and again, and with his voice too, for the sound helped his earnestness.
And he gave ear unto me. Importunity prevailed. The gate opened to the steady knock. It shall be so with us in our hour of trial, the God of grace will hear us in due season.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Whenever, and by whomsoever, the Psalm may have been written, it clearly is individual, not national. It utterly destroys all the beauty, all the tenderness and depth of feeling in the opening portion, if we suppose that the people are introduced speaking in the first person. The allusions to the national history may indeed show that the season was a season of national distress, and that the sweet singer was himself bowed down by the burden of the time, and oppressed by woes which he had no power to alleviate; but it is his own sorrow, not the sorrow of others under which he sighs, and of which he has left the pathetic record. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 1. In the beginning of the Psalm, before speaking of his sorrows, he hastens to show the necessary and most efficacious remedy for allaying sorrow. He says that he did not, as many do, out of their impatience of grief or murmuring, either accuse God of cruelty or tyranny, or utter blasphemous words by which dishonour might fall upon God, or by indulging in sorrow and distrust hasten his own destruction, or fill the air with vain complaining, but fled straight to God and to him unburdened his sorrow, and sought that he would not shut him out from that grace which he bountifully offers to all. This is the only and sure sovereign remedy which most effectually heals his griefs. Mollerus.
Ver. 1. I cried. To the Orientals the word qeu presented the idea of a crash, as of the heavens sending out thunders and lightnings. Whence beyond other things he metaphorically says, he cried for sorrow; …shaken with a tempest of thoughts he burst out into an open and loud sounding complaint. Hermann Venema.
Ver. 1. Even unto God with my voice. The repetition here is emphatic. The idea is that it was an earnest or fervent cry. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 1. (last clause). At the second knock, the door of grace flew open: the Lord heard me. John Collings.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 1. The benefit of using the voice in private prayer.
Ver. 1,3,5,10. Note the wise man’s progress out of his soul trouble.
I. I cried.
II. I remembered.
III. I considered.
IV. I said.
WORK ON THE SEVENTY-SEVENTH PSALM
“An Exposition upon the Seventy-seventh Psalm, made by the constant Martyr of Christ, Master John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester and Worcester.” In the “Later Writings of Bishop Hooper.” (In Parker Society’s Publications, and also in the “British Reformer’s” series of the Religious Tract Society.)
Psalms 77:2*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 2. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord. All day long his distress drove him to his God, so that when night came he continued still in the same search. God had hidden his face from his servant, therefore the first care of the troubled saint was to seek his Lord again. This was going to the root of the matter and removing the main impediment first. Diseases and tribulations are easily enough endured when God is found of us, but without him they crush us to the earth.
My sore ran in the night, and ceased not. As by day so by night his trouble was on him and his prayer continued. Some of us know what it is, both physically and spiritually, to be compelled to use these words: no respite has been afforded us by the silence of the night, our bed has been a rack to us, our body has been in torment, and our spirit in anguish. It appears that this sentence is wrongly translated, and should be, “my hand was stretched out all night, “this shows that his prayer ceased not, but with uplifted hand he continued to seek succour of his God.
My soul refused to be comforted. He refused some comforts as too weak for his case, others as untrue, others as unhallowed; but chiefly because of distraction, he declined even those grounds of consolation which ought to have been effectual with him. As a sick man turns away even from the most nourishing food, so did he. It is impossible to comfort those who refuse to be comforted. You may bring them to the waters of the promise, but who shall make them drink if they will not do so? Many a daughter of despondency has pushed aside the cup of gladness, and many a son of sorrow has hugged his chains. There are times when we are suspicious of good news, and are not to be persuaded into peace, though the happy truth should be as plain before us as the King’s highway.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
Ver. 2. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord. Days of trouble must be days of prayer; in days of inward trouble, especially when God seems to have withdrawn from us, we must seek him, and seek till we find him. In the day of his trouble he did not seek for the diversions of business or recreation, to shake off his trouble that way, but he sought God, and his favour and grace. Those that are under trouble of mind, must not think to drink it away, or laugh it away, but pray it away. Matthew Henry.
Ver. 2. My sore ran in the night. Hebrew: My hand was poured out; that is, stretched out in prayer; or wet with continual weeping. Non fuit remissa, nec retracta in lectum. John Trapp.
Ver. 2. My sore ran in the night, and ceased not, etc. There is no healing of this wound, no easing of this sore, no cleansing of the conscience, no quieting of a man’s spirit: till God whom the soul seeketh show himself as the Physician, the evil continueth still and groweth. David Dickson.
Ver. 2. My soul refused to be comforted. God has provided suitable and sufficient comfort for his people. He sends them comforters just as their circumstances require. But they at times refuse to hear the voice of the charmer. The Lord has perhaps taken away an idol–or he withholds his sensible presence, that they may learn to live by faith–or he has blighted their worldly prospects –or he has written vanity and emptiness upon all their gourds, cisterns, and delights. They give way to passion, as did Jonah–or they sink into sullen gloom–or allow unhumbled pride to rule the spirit–or yield to extreme sorrow, as Rachel did–or fall under the power of temptation–or imbibe the notion that they have no right to comfort. This is wrong, all wrong, decidedly wrong. Look at what is left you, at what the gospel presents to you, at what heaven will be to you. But the psalmist was recovered from this state. He was convinced that it was wrong. He was sorry for his sin. He was reformed in his spirit and conduct. He wrote this Psalm to instruct, caution, and warn us. Observe, they who are entitled to all comfort, often through their own folly, enjoy the least. The Lord’s people are often their own tormentors, they put away the cup of comfort from them, and say they are unworthy of it
O Thou source of every blessing,
Chase my sorrows, cheer my heart,
Till in heaven, thy smiles possessing,
Life, and joy, and peace impart. James Smith.
Ver. 2. My soul refused to be comforted. Poor I, that am but of yesterday, have known some that have been so deeply plunged in the gulf of despair, that they would throw all the spiritual cordials that have been tendered to them against the walls. They were strong in reasoning against their own souls, and resolved against everything that might be a comfort and support unto them. They have been much set against all ordinances and religious services; they have cast off holy duties themselves, and peremptorily refused to join with others in them; yea, they have, out of a sense of sin and wrath, which hath laid hard upon them, refused the necessary comforts of this life, even to the overthrow of natural life, and yet out of this horrible pit, this hell upon earth, hath God delivered their souls, and given them such manifestations of his grace and favour, that they would not exchange them for a thousand worlds. O despairing souls, you see that others, whose conditions have been as bad if not worse than yours, have obtained mercy. God hath turned their hell into a heaven; he hath remembered them in their low estate; he hath pacified their raging consciences, and quieted their distracted souls; he hath wiped all tears from their eyes; and he hath been a well spring of life unto their hearts. Therefore be not discouraged, O despairing souls, but look up to the mercyseat. Thomas Brooks.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 2. See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, “No. 853. “A Sermon for the Most Miserable of Men.”
Ver. 2.
I. Special prayer: In the days, etc.
II. Persevering prayer: hands lifted up to God by night
as well as by day.
III. Agonizing prayer: my soul refused to be
comforted, until the answer came. “Being in an
agony, he prayed, “etc.
Ver. 2. (last clause). When this is wise, and when it is censurable.
Psalms 77:3*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 3. I remembered God, and was troubled. He who is the wellspring of delight to faith becomes an object of dread to the psalmist’s distracted heart. The justice, holiness, power, and truth of God have all a dark side, and indeed all the attributed may be made to look black upon us if our eye be evil; even the brightness of divine love blinds us, and fills us with a horrible suspicion that we have neither part nor lot in it. He is wretched indeed whose memories of the Ever Blessed prove distressing to him; yet the best of men know the depth of this abyss.
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. He mused and mused but only sank the deeper. His inward disquietudes did not fall asleep as soon as they were expressed, but rather they returned upon him, and leaped over him like raging billows of an angry sea. It was not his body alone which smarted, but his noblest nature writhed in pain, his life itself seemed crushed into the earth. It is in such a case that death is coveted as a relief, for life becomes an intolerable burden. With no spirit left in us to sustain our infirmity, our case becomes forlorn; like man in a tangle of briars who is stripped of his clothes, every hook of the thorns becomes a lancet, and we bleed with ten thousand wounds. Alas, my God, the writer of this exposition well knows what thy servant Asaph meant, for his soul is familiar with the way of grief. Deep glens and lonely caves of soul depressions, my spirit knows full well your awful glooms!
Selah. Let the song go softly; this is no merry dance for the swift feet of the daughters of music, pause ye awhile, and let sorrow take breath between her sighs.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
Ver. 3. I remembered God, and was troubled. If our hearts or consciences condemn us, it is impossible to remember him without being troubled. It will then be painful to remember that he is our Creator and Redeemer, for the remembrance will be attended with a consciousness of base ingratitude. It will be painful to think of him as Lawgiver; for such thoughts will remind us that we have broken his law. It will be painful to think of his holiness; for if he is holy, he must hate our sins, and be angry with us as sinners: –of his justice and truth, for these perfections make it necessary that he should fulfil his threatenings and punish us for our sins. It will be painful to think of his omniscience–for this perfection makes him acquainted with our most secret offences, and renders it impossible for conceal them from his view; of his omnipresence–for the constant presence of an invisible witness must be disagreeable to those who wish to indulge their sinful propensities. It will be painful to think of his power–for it enables him to restrain or destroy, as he pleases: of his sovereignty, for sinners always hate to see themselves in the hands of a sovereign God: of his eternity and immutability–for from his possessing these perfections it follows that he will never alter the threatening which he has denounced against sinners, and that he will always live to execute them. It will be painful to think of him as judge; for we shall feel, that as sinners, we have no reason to expect a favourable sentence from his lips. It will even be painful to think of the perfect goodness and excellence of his character; for his goodness leaves us without excuse in rebelling against him, and makes our sins appear exceedingly sinful. Edward Payson.
Ver. 3. I remembered God, and was troubled. All had not been well between God and him; and whereas formerly, in his remembrance of God, his thoughts were chiefly exercised about his love and kindness, now they were wholly possessed with his own sin and unkindness. This causeth his trouble. Herein lies a share of the entanglements occasioned by sin. Saith such a soul in itself, “Foolish creature, hast thou thus requited the Lord?” Is this the return that thou hast made unto him for all his love, his kindness, his consolations, mercies? Is this thy kindness for him, thy love to him? Is this thy kindness to thy friend? Is this thy boasting of him, that thou hadst found so much goodness and excellence in him and his love, that though all men should forsake him, thou never would do so? Are all thy promises all thy engagements which thou madest unto God, in times of distress upon prevailing obligations, and mighty impressions of his good Spirit upon thy soul, now come to this, that thou shouldest so foolishly forget, neglect, despise, cast him off? Well! now he is gone; he is withdrawn from thee; and what wilt thou do? Art thou not even ashamed to desire him to return? They were thoughts of this nature that cut Peter to the heart upon his fall. The soul finds them cruel as death, and strong as the grave. It is bound in the chains of them, and cannot be comforted, Psalms 38:3-6. John Owen.
Ver. 3. There are moments in the life of all believers when God and his ways become unintelligible to them. They get lost in profound meditation, and nothing is left them but a desponding sigh. But we know from Paul the apostle that the Holy Spirit intercedes for believers with God, when they cannot utter their sighs. Romans 8:26. Augustus F. Tholuck.
Ver. 3. Selah. In the end of this verse is put the word Selah. And it doth note unto the reader or hearer what a miserable and comfortless thing man is in trouble, if God be not present with him to help him. It is also put as a spur and prick for every Christian man and woman to remember and call upon God in the days of their troubles. For as the Jews say, wheresoever this word Selah is, it doth admonish and stir up the reader or hearer to mark what was said before it; for it is a word always put after very notable sentences. John Hooper.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 1,3,5,10. Note the wise man’s progress out of his soul trouble.
I. I cried.
II. I remembered.
III. I considered.
IV. I said.
Psalms 77:4*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 4. Thou holdest mine eyes waking. The fears which thy strokes excite in me forbid my eyelids to fall, my eyes continue to watch as sentinels forbidden to rest. Sleep is a great comforter, but it forsakes the sorrowful, and then their sorrow deepens and eats into the soul. If God holds the eyes waking, what anodyne shall give us rest? How much we owe to him who giveth his beloved sleep!
I am so troubled that I cannot speak. Great griefs are dumb. Deep streams brawl not among the pebbles like the shallow brooklets which live on passing showers. Words fail the man whose heart fails him. He had cried to God but he could not speak to man, what a mercy it is that if we can do the first, we need not despair though the second should be quite out of our power. Sleepless and speechless Asaph was reduced to great extremities, and yet he rallied, and even so shall we.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Whenever, and by whomsoever, the Psalm may have been written, it clearly is individual, not national. It utterly destroys all the beauty, all the tenderness and depth of feeling in the opening portion, if we suppose that the people are introduced speaking in the first person. The allusions to the national history may indeed show that the season was a season of national distress, and that the sweet singer was himself bowed down by the burden of the time, and oppressed by woes which he had no power to alleviate; but it is his own sorrow, not the sorrow of others under which he sighs, and of which he has left the pathetic record. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 4. Thou holdest mine eyes waking. Thou art afflicted with want of sleep: –A complaint incident to distempered bodies and thoughtful minds. Oh, how wearisome a thing it is to spend the long night in tossing up and down in a restless bed, in the chase of sleep; which the more eagerly it is followed, flies so much the farther from us! Couldest thou obtain of thyself to forbear the desire of it, perhaps it would come alone: now that thou suest for it, like to some froward piece, it is coy and overly, and punishes thee with thy longing. Lo, he that could command a hundred and seven and twenty provinces, yet could not command rest. `On that night his sleep departed from him, ‘Ezra 6:1, neither could be forced or entreated to his bed. And the great Babylonian monarch, though he had laid some hand on sleep, yet he could not hold it; for “his sleep brake from him, “Daniel 2:1. And, for great and wise Solomon, it would not so much as come within his view. “Neither day nor night seeth he sleep with his eyes.” Ecclesiastes 8:16. Surely, as there is no earthly thing more comfortable to nature than bodily rest (Jeremiah 31:26); so, there is nothing more grievous and disheartening… Instead of closing thy lids to wait for sleep, lift up thy stiff eyes to him that “giveth his beloved rest, “Psalms 127:2. Whatever be the means, he it is that holdeth mine eyes waking. He that made thine eyes, keeps off sleep from thy body, for the good of thy soul: let not thine eyes wake, without thy heart. The spouse of Christ can say, “I sleep, but my heart waketh, “Song of Solomon 5:2. How much more should she say, “Mine eyes wake, and my heart waketh also!” When thou canst not sleep with thine eyes, labour to see him that is invisible: one glimpse of that sight is more worth than all the sleep that thine eyes can be capable of. Give thyself up into his hands, to be disposed of at his will. What is this sweet acquiescence but the rest of the soul? which if thou canst find in thyself, thou shalt quietly digest the want of thy bodily sleep. Joseph Hall, in his “Balm of Gilead.”
Ver. 4. I am so troubled that I cannot speak. He adds that he was so cut down and lifeless that he could not speak. Little griefs, as it is often said, are uttered, great ones strike us dumb. In great troubles and fears the spirit fails the exterior members, and flows back to its fountain; the limbs stand motionless, the whole body trembles, the eyes remain fixed, and the tongue forgets its office. Hence it is that Niobe was represented by the poets as turned into a stone. The history of Psammentius also, in Herodotus, is well known, how over the misfortunes of his children he sat silent and overwhelmed, but when he saw his friend’s calamities he bewailed them with bitter tears. Mollerus.
Ver. 4. I am so troubled that I cannot speak. Sometimes our grief is so violent that it finds no vent, it strangles us, and we are overcome. It is with us in our desertions as with a man that gets a slight hurt; at first he walks up and down, but not looking betimes to prevent a growing mischief, the neglected wound begins to fester, or to gangrene, and brings him to greater pain and loss. So it is with us many times in our spiritual sadness; when we are first troubled, we pray and pour out our souls before the Lord; but afterwards the waters of our grief drown our cries and we are so overwhelmed, that if we might have all the world we cannot pray, or at least we can find no enlargement, no life, no pleasure in our prayers; and God himself seems to take no delight in them, and that makes us more sad, Psalms 22:1. Timothy Rogers (1660-1729), in “A Discourse on Trouble of Mind, and the Disease of Melancholy.”
Ver. 4. Troubled. Or, bruised: the Hebrew word probably signifieth an astonishment caused by some great blow received. John Diodati.
Ver. 4. I cannot speak. Words are but the body, the garment, the outside of prayer; sighs are nearer the heart work. A dumb beggar getteth an alms at Christ’s gates, even by making signs, when his tongue cannot plead for him; and the rather, because he is dumb. Objection. I have not so much as a voice to utter to God; and Christ saith, “Cause me to hear thy voice” (Song of Solomon 2:14). Answer. Yea, but some other thing hath a voice beside the tongue: “The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping” (Psalms 6:8). Tears have a tongue, and grammar, and language, that our Father knoweth. Babes have no prayer for the breast, but weeping: the mother can read hunger in weeping. Samuel Rutherford.
Ver. 4. If through all thy discouragements thy condition prove worse and worse, so that thou canst not pray, but are struck dumb when thou comest into his presence, as David, then fall making signs when thou canst not speak; groan, sigh, sob, “chatter, “as Hezekiah did; bemoan thyself for thine unworthiness, and desire Christ to speak thy requests for thee, and God to hear him for thee. Thomas Goodwin.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 4.
I. A good man cannot rest on his bed until his soul rests
on God.
II. He cannot speak freely to others until God speaks
peace to his soul. G. R.
Ver. 4. Occupation for the sleepless, and consolation for the speechless.
Psalms 77:5*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 5. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. If no good was in the present, memory ransacked the past to find consolation. She fain would borrow a light from the altars of yesterday to light the gloom of today. It is our duty to search for comfort, and not in sullen indolence yield to despair; in quiet contemplation topics may occur to us which will prove the means of raising our spirits, and there is scarcely any theme more likely to prove consolatory than that which deals with the days of yore, the years of the olden time, when the Lord’s faithfulness was tried and proven by hosts of his people. Yet it seems that even this consideration created depression rather than delight in the good man’s soul, for he contrasted his own mournful condition with all that was bright in the venerable experiences of ancient saints, and so complained the more. Ah, sad calamity of a jaundiced mind, to see nothing as it should be seen, but everything as through a veil of mist.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Whenever, and by whomsoever, the Psalm may have been written, it clearly is individual, not national. It utterly destroys all the beauty, all the tenderness and depth of feeling in the opening portion, if we suppose that the people are introduced speaking in the first person. The allusions to the national history may indeed show that the season was a season of national distress, and that the sweet singer was himself bowed down by the burden of the time, and oppressed by woes which he had no power to alleviate; but it is his own sorrow, not the sorrow of others under which he sighs, and of which he has left the pathetic record. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 5. The days of old. Doubtless to our first parents the darkness of the first night was somewhat strange; persons who had never seen anything but the light of the day, when the shadows of the night first did encompass them, could not be without some apprehension: yet when at the back of a number of nights they had seen the day spring of the morning lights constantly to arise; the darkness of the blackest nights was passed over without fear, and in as great security, as the light of the fairest days. To men who have always lived upon land, when first they set to sea, the winds, waves, and storms are exceeding terrible; but when they are a little beaten with the experience of tempests, their fears do change into resolution and courage. It is of no small use to remember that those things which vex most our spirit, are not new, but have already been in times before our days. Robert Baylie’s Sermon before the House of Commons. 1643.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 1,3,5,10. Note the wise man’s progress out of his soul trouble.
I. I cried.
II. I remembered.
III. I considered.
IV. I said.
Ver. 5-6. There are four rules for obtaining comfort in affliction.
I. The consideration of God’s goodness to his people of
old.
II. Remembrance of our own past experience.
III. Self examination.
IV. The diligent study of the word. G. R.
Psalms 77:6*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 6. I call to remembrance my song in the night. At other times his spirit had a song for the darkest hour, but now he could only recall the strain as a departed memory. Where is the harp which once thrilled sympathetically to the touch of those joyful fingers? My tongue, hast thou forgotten to praise? Hast thou no skill except in mournful ditties? Ah me, how sadly fallen am I! How lamentable that I, who like the nightingale could charm the night, am now fit comrade for the hooting owl.
I commune with mine own heart. He did not cease from introspection, for he was resolved to find the bottom of his sorrow, and trace it to its fountain head. He made sure work of it by talking not with his mind only, but with his inmost heart; it was heart work with him. He was no idler, no melancholy trifler; he was up and at it, resolutely resolved that he would not tamely die of despair, but would fight for his hope to the last moment of life.
And my spirit made diligent search. He ransacked his experience, his memory, his intellect, his whole nature, his entire self, either to find comfort or to discover the reason why it was denied him. That man will not die by the hand of the enemy who has enough force of soul remaining to struggle in this fashion.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Whenever, and by whomsoever, the Psalm may have been written, it clearly is individual, not national. It utterly destroys all the beauty, all the tenderness and depth of feeling in the opening portion, if we suppose that the people are introduced speaking in the first person. The allusions to the national history may indeed show that the season was a season of national distress, and that the sweet singer was himself bowed down by the burden of the time, and oppressed by woes which he had no power to alleviate; but it is his own sorrow, not the sorrow of others under which he sighs, and of which he has left the pathetic record. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 6. I call to remembrance my song in the night. Either (1) “I will now, in the present night of affliction, remember my former songs.” “Though this is a time of distress, and my present circumstances are gloomy, yet I have known brighter days. He that lifted me up, has cast me down, and he can raise me up again.” Sometimes this reflection, indeed, adds a poignancy to our distress, as it did to David’s trouble, Psalms 42:4. Yet it will bear a better improvement, which he seems to make of it; Psalms 77:11, and so Job, (Job 2:10.) “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” And his case shows that after the most sweeping calamities the Lord can again give things a turn in favour of them that hope in him. Therefore, present troubles should not make us forget former comforts, especially as the former so much exceeded our deserts, and the present afflictions fall so short of our demerits. Or (2) the text may mean, “I will remember how I have been enabled to sing in the former nights of affliction.” And surely it is especially seasonable to remember supports and consolations granted under preceding distresses. Elihu complained (Job 35:10), “There is none that saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs on the night.” David comforted himself with the thought, “Though deep calleth unto deep, yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me.” Psalms 42:8. And the Lord promised by Isaiah (Isaiah 30:29), “Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept.” No doubt Paul and Silas remembered their song in the night, when imprisoned at Philippi; and it afforded them encouragement under subsequent trials. And cannot many of you, my brethren, in like manner, remember the supports and consolations you have enjoyed in former difficulties, and how the Lord turned the shadow of death into morning? And ought you not to trust to him that hath delivered, that he will yet deliver? He that hath delivered in six troubles, will not forsake you in seven. The “clouds may return after the rain, “but not a drop can fail without the leave of him, who rides on the heavens for your help, and in his excellency on the sky. Did you not forbode at first a very different termination of the former troubles? and did the Lord disappoint your fears, and put a new song into your mouth; and will you not now begin to trust him, and triumph in him? Surely you have found that the Lord can clear the darkest skies. “Light is sown for the righteous, “and ere long you shall see an eternal day. If such songs are given to the pilgrims of the night, how shall they sing in that world where the sun shall set no more! There will be no night there. John Ryland. 1753-1825.
Ver. 6. I call to remembrance: being glad in this scarcity of comfort, to live upon the old store, as bees do in winter. John Trapp.
Ver. 6. My song in the night. The “songs of the night” is as favourite a word of the Old Testament as “glory in tribulation” is of the New, and it is one of those which prove that both Testaments have the self same root and spirit. John Kerr.
Ver. 6. My spirit made diligent search. He falls upon self examination, and searcheth his spirit, to consider why the hand of God was so against him, and why the face of God was so hid from him. Some read it, “I digged into my spirit; “as Ezekiel digged into the wall, to search for and find out the abomination, that made the Lord thus leave him in the dark, and hide his face from him. He searcheth the wound of his spirit; that was another way to cure it. It is a notable way to cure the wounds of the soul, for the soul to search them. John Collings.
Ver. 6 My spirit made diligent search. The verb vbx, chaphas, signifies such an investigation as a man makes who is obliged to strip himself in order to do it; or to lift up coverings, to search fold by fold, or in our own phrase, to leave no stone unturned. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 6. My spirit made diligent search. As Ahasuerus, when he could not sleep, called for the records and chronicles of his kingdom, so the doubting soul betakes himself to the records of heaven, the word of God in the Scriptures, and one while he is reading there, another while looking into his heart, if he can find there anything that answers the characters of Scripture faith, as the face in the glass doth the face of man. David, when he was at a loss what to think of himself, and many doubts did clog his faith, insomuch that the thinking of God increased his trouble, he did not sit down and let the ship drive, as we say, not regarding whether God loved him or no, but communes with his own heart, and his spirit makes diligent search. Thus it is with every sincere soul under doubting: he dares no more sit down contented in that unresolved condition, than one who thinks he smells fire in his house dares settle himself to sleep till he hath looked in every room and corner, and satisfied himself that all is safe, lest he should be waked with the fire about his ears in the night: and the poor doubting soul is much more afraid, lest it should wake with hell fire about it: whereas a soul in a state and under the power of unbelief is secure and careless. William Gurnall.
Ver. 6. Diligent search. Thus duty requires diligence. External acts of religion are facile; to lift up the eye to heaven, to bow the knee, to read a prayer, this requires no more labour than for a papist to tell over his beads; but to examine a man’s self, to take the heart all in pieces as a watch, and see what is defective, this is not easy. Reflective acts are hardest. The eye can see everything but itself. It is easy to spy the faults of others, but hard to find out our own. Thomas Watson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 5-6. There are four rules for obtaining comfort in affliction.
I. The consideration of God’s goodness to his people of
old.
II. Remembrance of our own past experience.
III. Self examination.
IV. The diligent study of the word. G. R.
Ver. 6. Remembrance. A good memory is very helpful and useful.
1. It is a great means of knowledge: for what signifies your reading or hearing, if you remember nothing?
2. It is a means of faith: 1 Corinthians 15:2.
3. It is a means of comfort. If a poor Christian in distress could remember God’s promises they would inspire him with new life; but when they are forgotten, his spirits sink.
4. It is a means of thankfulness.
5. It is a means of hope; for “experience worketh hope” (Romans 5:4), and the memory is the storehouse of experience.
6. It is a means of repentance; for, how can we repent or mourn for that which we have forgotten?
7. It is a means of usefulness. When one spark of grace is truly kindled in the heart, it will quickly endeavour to heat others also. R. Steele.
Psalms 77:7*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 7. Wilt the Lord cast off forever? This was one of the matters he enquired into. He painfully knew that the Lord might leave his people for a season, but his fear was that the time might be prolonged and have no close; eagerly, therefore, he asked, will the Lord utterly and finally reject those who are his own, and suffer them to be the objects of his contemptuous reprobation, his everlasting cast offs? This he was persuaded could not be. No instance in the years of ancient times led him to fear that such could be the case.
And will he be favourable no more? Favourable he had been; would that goodwill never again show itself? Was the sun set never to rise again? Would spring never follow the long and dreary winter? The questions are suggested by fear, but they are also the cure for fear. It is a blessed thing to have grace enough to look such questions in the face, for their answer is self evident and eminently fitted to cheer the heart.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 7. (first clause). To place the question in a strong light, let us consider,
I. Of whom is the question raised? the Lord.
II. What course of action is in question? cast off for
ever.
III. Towards whom would the action be performed?
Psalms 77:8*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 8. Is his mercy clean gone for ever? If he has no love for his elect, has he not still his mercy left? Has that dried up? Has he no pity for the sorrowful?
Doth his promise fail for evermore? His word is pledged to those who plead with him; is that become of none effect? Shall it be said that from one generation to another the Lord’s word has fallen to the ground; whereas aforetime he kept his covenant to all generations of them that fear him? It is a wise thing thus to put unbelief through the catechism. Each one of the questions is a dart aimed at the very heart of despair. Thus have we also in our days of darkness done battle for life itself.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Whenever, and by whomsoever, the Psalm may have been written, it clearly is individual, not national. It utterly destroys all the beauty, all the tenderness and depth of feeling in the opening portion, if we suppose that the people are introduced speaking in the first person. The allusions to the national history may indeed show that the season was a season of national distress, and that the sweet singer was himself bowed down by the burden of the time, and oppressed by woes which he had no power to alleviate; but it is his own sorrow, not the sorrow of others under which he sighs, and of which he has left the pathetic record. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 8. Doth his promise fail for evermore? Let no appearing impossibilities make you question God’s accomplishment of any of his gracious words. Though you cannot see how the thing can be done, it is enough, if God has said that he will do it. There can be no obstructions to promised salvation, which we need to fear. He who is the God of this salvation, and the Author of the promise, will prepare his own way for the doing of his own work, so that “every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill brought low.” Lu 3:5. Though the valleys be so deep that we cannot see the bottom, and the mountains so high that we cannot see the tops of them, yet God knows how to raise the one and level the other; Isaiah 53:1 : “I that speak in righteousness (or faithfulness) am mighty to save.” If anything would keep back the kingdom of Christ, it would be our infidelity; but he will come, though he should find no faith on the earth. See Romans 3:3. Cast not away your confidence because God defers his performances. Though providence run cross, though they move backwards and forwards, you have a sure and faithful word to rely upon. Promises, though they be for a time seemingly delayed, cannot be finally frustrated. Dare not to harbour such a thought within yourselves. The being of God may as well fail as the promise of God. That which does not come in your time, will be hastened in his time, which is always the more convenient season. Timothy Cruso.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 8. These questions,
I. Suppose a change in the immutable Jehovah in two
glorious attributes.
II. Are contrary to all past evidence.
III. Can only arise from the flesh and Satan; and,
therefore,
IV. Are to be met in the power of the Spirit, with strong
faith in the Eternal God.
Psalms 77:9*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 9. Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Has El, the Mighty One, become great in everything but grace? Does he know how to afflict, but not how to uphold? Can he forget anything? Above all, can he forget to exercise that attribute which lies nearest to his essence, for he is love?
Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Are the pipes of goodness choked up so that love can no more flow through them? Do the bowels of Jehovah no longer yearn towards his own beloved children? Thus with cord after cord unbelief is smitten and driven out of the soul; it raises questions and we will meet it with questions: it makes us think and act ridiculously, and we will heap scorn upon it. The argument of this passage assumes very much the form of a reductio ad absurdam. Strip it naked, and mistrust is a monstrous piece of folly.
Selah. Here rest awhile, for the battle of questions needs a lull.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
Ver. 9. Hath God forgotten to be gracious? In what pangs couldest thou be, O Asaph, that so woeful a word should fall from thee: Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Surely, the temptation went so high, that the next step had been blasphemy. Had not that good God, whom thy bold weakness questions for forgetfulness, in great mercies remembered thee, and brought thee speedily to remember thyself and him; that, which you confess to have been infirmity, had proved a sinful despair. I dare say for thee, that word washed thy cheeks with many a tear, and was worthy of more; for, O God, what can be so dear to thee, as the glory of thy mercy? There is none of thy blessed attributes, which thou desirest to set forth so much unto the sons of men, and so much abhorrest to be disparaged by our detraction, as thy mercy. Thou canst, O Lord, forget thy displeasure against thy people; thou canst forget our iniquities, and cast our sins out of thy remembrance, Micah 7:18-19; but thou canst no more forget to be gracious, than thou canst cease to be thyself. O my God, I sin against thy justice hourly, and thy mercy interposes for my remission: but, oh, keep me from sinning against thy mercy. What plea can I hope for, when I have made my advocate my enemy? Joseph Hall.
Ver. 9. Hath God forgotten to be gracious? The poor child crieth after the mother. What shall I do for my mother! Oh, my mother, my mother, what shall I do for my mother! And it may be the mother stands behind the back of the child, only she hides herself, to try the affection of the child: so the poor soul cries after God, and complains, Oh my Father! my Father! Where is my heavenly Father? Hath he forgotten to be gracious? Hath he shut up his lovingkindness in displeasure? when, (all the while), God is nearer than they think for, shining upon them in “a spirit of grace and supplications, “with sighs and “groans that cannot be uttered.” Thus the gracious woman, weeps: My dear Saviour, my dear Lord and Master, he is “taken out of the sepulchre, and I know not where they have laid him!” Thus she complains to the disciples, and thus she complains to the angels, when Christ stood at her very back and overheard all: nay, when she turned her about and saw him, yet at first she did not know him; nay, when he spoke to her and she to him, yet she knew him not, but thought he had been the gardener, John 20:15. Thus it is with many a gracious soul; though God speaks home to their hearts in his Word, and they speak to him by prayer, and they cannot say but the Spirit “helps their infirmities; “yet they complain for want of his presence, as if there were nothing of God in them. Matthew Lawrence.
Ver. 9. Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? The metaphor here is taken from a spring, the mouth of which is closed, so that its waters can no longer run in the same channel; but, being confined, break out and take some other course. Wilt thou take thy mercy from the Israelites and give it to some other people? Adam Clarke.
Ver. 9. Selah. Thus was he going on with his dark and dismal apprehensions, when on a sudden he first checked himself with that word, Selah; stop there; go no further; let us hear no more of these unbelieving surmises; and then he chid himself, Psalms 77:10 : This is mine infirmity. Matthew Henry.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 77:10*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 10. And I said, This is my infirmity. He has won the day, he talks reasonably now, and surveys the field with a cooler mind. He confesses that unbelief is an infirmity, a weakness, a folly, a sin. He may also be understood to mean, “this is my appointed sorrow, “I will bear it without complaint. When we perceive that our affliction is meted out by the Lord, and is the ordained portion of our cup, we become reconciled to it, and no longer rebel against the inevitable. Why should we not be content if it be the Lord’s will? What he arranges it is not for us to cavil at.
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. Here a good deal is supplied by our translators, and they make the sense to be that the psalmist would console himself by remembering the goodness of God to himself and others of his people in times gone by: but the original seems to consist only of the words, “the years of the right hand of the most High, “and to express the idea that his long continued affliction, reaching through several years, was allotted to him by the Sovereign Lord of all. It is well when a consideration of the divine goodness and greatness silences all complaining, and creates a childlike acquiescence.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
Ver. 10. This is my infirmity. Literally, this is my disease, –which appears to mean, This is my lot and I must bear it; lo! it is a partial evil, for which the equity of God’s government should not be questioned. The authorised version, This is my infirmity, suggests, perhaps advisedly, another signification, viz., These thoughts are but hallucinations of my agony, –but to this gloss I should scruple to commit myself. C. B. Cayley.
Ver. 10. It is the infirmity of a believer to be thinking of himself, and drawing false inferences (for all such inferences are necessarily erroneous), from what he sees or feels, as to the light in which he is beheld and estimated on the part of God. It is his strength, on the other hand, to remember the right hand of the Most High–to meditate upon the changeless truth and mercy of that God who has committed himself in holiness to the believing sinner’s sure salvation, by causing the Son of his love to suffer in our stead the dread reality of penal death. Arthur Pridham.
Ver. 10. Infirmity. An infirmity is this, –some sickness or indisposition of the soul, that arises from the weakness of grace. Or an infirmity is this, –when the purpose and inclination of the heart is upright, but a man wants strength to perform that purpose; when “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41); when a man can say with the apostle, “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not, “Romans 7:18. When the bent and inclination of the soul is right, but either through some violence of corruption or strength of temptation, a man is diverted and turned out of the way. As the needle in the seaman’s compass, you know if it be right it will stand always northwards, the bent of it will be toward the North Pole, but being jogged and troubled, it may sometimes be put out of frame and order, yet the bent and inclination of it is still northward; this is an infirmity. James Nalton. 1664.
Ver. 10. It is unnecessary to state all the renderings which the learned have given of this verse. It is unquestionably ambiguous, as the word ytwlh may be derived from different roots, which have different significations. I derive it from lwx or llx which signifies to be in pain as a woman in labour, and as it is in the infinitive, I render it, “the time of my sorrow or pain.” The next term, twgv, I derive from hgv to change, as the Chaldee does, Ainsworth, Hammond, and others; and I render it potentially. I consider the whole as a beautiful metaphor. The author considers himself as in distress, like a woman in travail; and like her, hopes soon to have his sorrow turned to joy. He confides in God’s power to effect such a change; and hence naturally recollects the past instances of God’s favour to his people. Benjamin Boothroyd.
Ver. 10. I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. Not the moments, nor the hours, nor days of a few short afflictions, that his left hand hath dealt to me: but the years of his right hand; those long, large, and boundless mercies wherewith he hath comforted me. Thomas Adams.
Ver. 10. I will remember the years, etc. The words in the Hebrew text are shenoth jemin gneljon, which I find to be variously rendered and translated by interpreters. I shall not trouble you with them all at this present time, but only take notice of two of them, which I conceive are the principal and most comprehensive; the one is our oldest English translation, and the other of our last and newest; the former reads the words thus: The right hand of the Most High can change all this. The latter reads the words thus, as we have it now before us, I will remember the years, etc. The main ground of this variation is the different exposition of the Hebrew word shenoth, which may be translated either to change, from the verb in the infinitive mood, or else may be translated years, from the noun in the plural number. This hath given the occasion to this difference and variety of translation, but the sense is very good and agreeable which way soever we take it– First, take it according to the former translation, as it does exhibit to us the power of God. The right hand of the Lord can change all this. This was that whereby David did support himself in his present affliction; that the Lord was able to change and alter this his condition to him, and that for the better… For the second sense here before us, that’s this: I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High; where the word remember is borrowed from the next following verse, to supply the sense of this, as otherwise being not in the text. Now here the prophet David fetches a ground of comfort from God’s practice, as before he did from his power; there, from what God could do; here, from what he has done already in former time, and ages, and generations. Thomas Horton.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 1,3,5,10. Note the wise man’s progress out of his soul trouble.
I. I cried.
II. I remembered.
III. I considered.
IV. I said.
Ver. 10. A confession applicable to many other matters. Such as, fear of death, fear of desertion, dread of public service, sensitiveness of neglect, etc.
Ver. 10. My infirmity. Different meanings of this word. These would furnish a good subject. Some infirmities are to be patiently endured, others gloried in, others taken in prayer to God for his Spirit’s help, and others lamented and repented of.
Ver. 10-12. Remember, meditate, talk.
Psalms 77:11*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 11. I will remember the works of the Lord. Fly back my soul, away from present turmoil, to the grandeurs of history, the sublime deeds of Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts; for he is the same and is ready even now to defend his servants as in days of yore.
Surely I will remember thy wonders of old. Whatever else may glide into oblivion, the marvellous works of the Lord in the ancient days must not be suffered to be forgotten. Memory is a fit handmaid for faith. When faith has its seven years of famine, memory like Joseph in Egypt opens her granaries.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
Ver. 11. I will remember, etc. Remember and commemorate, as the Hebrew (by a double reading) imports. John Trapp.
Ver. 11. I will remember. Faith is a considering grace: he that believes will not make haste; no, not to think or speak of God. Faith hath a good memory, and can tell the Christian many stories of ancient mercies; and when his present meal falls short, it can entertain the soul with a cold dish, and not complain that God keeps a bad house. Thus David recovered himself, when he was even tumbling down the hill of temptation: This is my infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember thy wonders of old. Therefore, Christian, when thou art in the depths of affliction, and Satan tempts thee to asperse God, as if he were forgetful of thee, stop his mouth with this: No, Satan, God hath not forgot to do for me, but I have forgot what he hath done for me, or else I could not question his fatherly care at present over me. Go, Christian, play over thy own lessons, praise God for past mercies, and it will not be long before thou hast a new song put into thy mouth for a present mercy…
Sometimes a little writing is found in a man’s study that helps to save his estate, for want of which he had gone to prison; and some one experience remembered keeps the soul from despair, a prison which the devil longs to have the Christian in. “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope, “La 3:21. David was famous for his hope, and not less eminent for his care to observe and preserve the experiences he had of God’s goodness. He was able to recount the dealings of God with him; they were so often the subject of his meditation and matter of his discourse, that he had made them familiar to him. When his hope is at a loss, he doth but exercise his memory a little, and he recovers himself presently, and chides himself for his weakness. I said, this is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. The hound, when he hath lost his scent, hunts backwards and so recovers it, and pursues his game with louder cry than ever. Thus, Christian, when thy hope is at a loss, and you question your salvation in another world, then look backward and see what God hath already done for thee. Some promises have their day of payment here, and others we must stay to receive in heaven. Now the payment which God makes of some promises here, is an earnest given to our faith that the others also shall be faithfully discharged when their date expires; as every judgment inflicted here on the wicked is sent as a pledge of that wrath the full sum whereof God will make up in hell. William Gurnall.
Ver. 11. The works of the Lord… Thy wonders. The psalmist does not mean to draw a distinction between the works and the wonders of God; but, rather, to state that all God’s works are wonders… All, whether in providence or grace–all God’s works are wonderful. If we take the individual experience of the Christian, of what is that experience made up? Of wonders. The work of his conversion, wonderful! –arrested in a course of thoughtlessness and impiety; graciously sought and gently compelled to be at peace with God, whose wrath he had provoked. The communication of knowledge, wonderful! –Deity and eternity gradually piled up; the Bible taken page by page, and each page made a volume which no searching can exhaust. The assistance in warfare, wonderful! –himself a child of corruption, yet enabled to grapple with the world, the flesh, and the devil, and often to trample them under foot. The solaces in affliction, wonderful! –sorrow sanctified so as to minister to joy, and a harvest of gladness reaped from a field which has been watered with tears. The foretastes of heaven, wonderful! –angels bringing down the clusters of the land, and the spirit walking with lightsome tread the crystal river and the streets of gold. All wonderful! Wonderful that the Spirit should strive with man; wonderful that God should bear with his backslidings; wonderful that God should love him notwithstanding his pollution; wonderful that God should persist in saving him, in spite, as it were, of himself. Oh! those amongst you who know anything, experimentally, of salvation through Christ, well know that the work is wonderful in its commencement, wonderful in its continuance, and they will need no argument to vindicate the transition from works to wonders. It will be the transition of your own thoughts and your own feelings, and you will never give in the record of God’s dealings with yourselves without passing, as the psalmist passed, from mentioning to ascription. Ye may set yourselves to commemorate God’s works, ye will find yourselves extolling God’s wonders. Ye may begin with saying, I will remember the works of the Lord; but ye will conclude by exclaiming, Surely I will remember thy wonders of old. Henry Melvill.
Ver. 11. Thy wonders. The word is in the singular here, and also in Psalms 77:14. So also in the next verse, Thy work, because the one great wonder, the one great work in which all others were included, is before his thoughts. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 11. Thy wonders. He had before spoken to others, but here he turns to God. It is good for a soul in a hard exercise, to raise itself from thinking of God and of his works, unto speaking unto God directly: no ease or relief will be found till address be made unto himself, till we turn our face toward him and direct our speech unto him, as here the psalmist doth, from the midst of the eleventh verse to the end of the psalm. David Dickson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 10-12. Remember, meditate, talk.
Ver. 11-12.
I. Consolation derived from the remembrance of the past.
II. Consolation increased by meditation.
III. Consolation strengthened by communication: “and
talk, “etc. G. R.
Psalms 77:12*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12. I will meditate also of all thy work. Sweet work to enter into Jehovah’s work of grace, and there to lie down and ruminate, every thought being absorbed in the one precious subject.
And talk of thy doings. It is well that the overflow of the mouth should indicate the good matter which fills the heart. Meditation makes rich talking; it is to be lamented that so much of the conversation of professors is utterly barren, because they take no time for contemplation. A meditative man should be a talker, otherwise he is a mental miser, a mill which grinds corn only for the miller. The subject of our meditation should be choice, and then our task will be edifying; if we meditate on folly and affect to speak wisdom, our double mindedness will soon be known unto all men. Holy talk following upon meditation has a consoling power in it for ourselves as well as for those who listen, hence its value in the connection in which we find it in this passage.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Whenever, and by whomsoever, the Psalm may have been written, it clearly is individual, not national. It utterly destroys all the beauty, all the tenderness and depth of feeling in the opening portion, if we suppose that the people are introduced speaking in the first person. The allusions to the national history may indeed show that the season was a season of national distress, and that the sweet singer was himself bowed down by the burden of the time, and oppressed by woes which he had no power to alleviate; but it is his own sorrow, not the sorrow of others under which he sighs, and of which he has left the pathetic record. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 10-12. Remember, meditate, talk.
Ver. 11-12.
I. Consolation derived from the remembrance of the
past.
II. Consolation increased by meditation.
III. Consolation strengthened by communication: “and
talk, “etc. G. R.
Ver. 12. Themes for thought and topics for conversation. Creation, Providence, Redemption, etc.
Psalms 77:13*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 13. Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary, or in holiness. In the holy place we understand our God, and rest assured that all his ways are just and right. When we cannot trace his way, because it is “in the sea, “it is a rich consolation that we can trust it, for it is in holiness. We must have fellowship with holiness if we would understand “the ways of God to man.” He who would be wise must worship. The pure in heart shall see God, and pure worship is the way to the philosophy of providence.
Who is so great a God as our God? In him the good and the great are blended. He surpasses in both. None can for a moment be compared with the mighty One of Israel.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
Ver. 13. Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary. The word sanctuary is to be taken either for heaven or for the temple. I am rather inclined to refer it to heaven, conceiving the meaning to be, that the ways of God rise high above the world, so that if we are truly desirous to know them, we must ascend above all heavens. Although the works of God are in part manifest to us, yet all our knowledge of them comes far short of their immeasurable height. Besides, it is to be observed, that none enjoy the least taste of his works but those who by faith rise up to heaven. And yet, the utmost point to which we can ever attain is, to contemplate with admiration and reverence the hidden wisdom and power of God, which, while they shine forth in his works, yet far surpass the limited powers of our understanding. John Calvin.
Ver. 13. Thy way is in the sanctuary. That is, every one of the elect may and ought to learn in thy church the conduct and proceedings of thy providence towards those that were thine. John Diodati.
Ver. 13,19. In the sanctuary and In the sea. His way is in the sanctuary, and His wayis in the sea. Now there is a great difference between these two things. First of all, God’s way is in the sanctuary, where all is light, all is clear. There is no mistake there. There is nothing, in the least degree, that is a harass to the spirit. On the contrary, it is when the poor, troubled one enters into the sanctuary, and views things there in the light of God, that he sees the end of all else– everything that is entangled, the end of which he cannot find on the earth. But not only is God’s way in the sanctuary (and when we are there, all is bright and happy); but God’s way is in the “sea.” He walks where we cannot always trace his footsteps. God moves mysteriously by times, as we all know. There are ways of God which are purposely to try us. I need not say that it is not at all as if God had pleasure in our perplexities. Nor is it as if we had no sanctuary to draw near to, where we can rise above it. But, still, there is a great deal in the ways of God that must be left entirely in his own hands. The way of God is thus not only in the sanctuary, but also in the sea. And yet, what we find even in connection with his footsteps being in the sea is, “Thou leddest thy people like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” That was through the sea; afterwards, it was through the wilderness. But it had been through the sea. The beginnings of the ways of God with his people were there; because, from first to last, God must be the confidence of the saint. It may be an early lesson of his soul, but it never ceases to be the thing to learn. How happy to know that, while the sanctuary is open to us, yet God himself is nearer still–and to him we are brought now. As it is said (1 Peter 3:1-22), “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.” This is a most precious thing; because there we are in the sanctuary at once, and brought to God himself. And I am bold to say, that heaven itself would be but a small matter if it were not to God that we are brought. It is better than any freedom from trial–better than any blessing, to be in the presence of the One we belong to; who is himself the source of all blessing and joy. That we are brought to him now is infinitely precious. There we are in the sanctuary brought to God. But, still, there are other ways of God outside the sanctuary –In the sea. And there we often find ourselves at a loss. If we are occupied with the sea itself, and with trying to scan God’s footsteps there, then they are not known. But confidence in God himself is always the strength of faith. May the Lord grant us increasing simplicity and quietness in the midst of all that we pass through, for his name’s sake. From “Things New and Old.” 1865.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 13,19. In the sea, in the sanctuary. God’s way incomprehensible, though undoubtedly right: in his holiness lies the answer to its enigmas.
Psalms 77:14*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 14. Thou art the God that doest wonders. Thou alone art Almighty. The false gods are surrounded with the pretence of wonders, but you really work them. It is thy peculiar prerogative to work marvels; it is no new or strange thing with thee, it is according to thy wont and use. Herein is renewed reason for holy confidence. It would be a great wonder if we did not trust the wonder working God.
Thou hast declared thy strength among the people. Not only Israel, but Egypt, Bashan, Edom, Philistia, and all the nations have seen Jehovah’s power. It was no secret in the olden time and to this day it is published abroad. God’s providence and grace are both full of displays of his power; he is in the latter peculiarly conspicuous as “mighty to save.” Who will not be strong in faith when there is so strong an arm to lean upon? Shall our trust be doubtful when his power is beyond all question? My soul see to it that these considerations banish thy mistrusts.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
Ver. 14. The God that doest wonders. If he said, Thou art the God that hast done wonders, it would be plain that he spake only of those ancient miracles which were wrought in former days: but now that he saith, Thou art the God that doest wonders, he evidently refers to those wonderful works, which he is doing now, and shall not cease to do even to the end of the world. Gerhohus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 14. Thaumaturgeis, or the Great Wonder worker.
Psalms 77:15*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 15. Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. All Israel, the two tribes of Joseph as well as those which sprang from the other sons of Jacob, were brought out of Egypt by a display of divine power, which is here ascribed not to the hand but to the arm of the Lord, because it was the fulness of his might. Ancient believers were in the constant habit of referring to the wonders of the Red Sea, and we also can unite with them, taking care to add the song of the Lamb to that of Moses, the servant of God. The comfort derivable from such a meditation is obvious and abundant, for he who brought up his people from the house of bondage will continue to redeem and deliver till we come into the promised rest.
Selah. Here we have another pause preparatory to a final burst of song.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
Ver. 15. The sons of Jacob and Joseph. The distinction between the sons of Jacob and Joseph is not meaningless. For by the sons of Jacob or Israel the believing Jews are properly intended, those that trace their descent to him not only according to the flesh but according to faith. Of whom although Joseph was one, yet since he was sold by his brethren and after many sufferings among foreign tribes raised to high rank, it is highly congruous to distinguish him from the sons of Jacob, and he is fitly regarded as a prince of the Gentiles apart from Jacob’s sons, who sold him. Gerhohus.
Ver. 15. The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Was it Joseph or was it Jacob that begat the children of Israel? Certainly Jacob begat, but as Joseph nourished them, they are called by his name also. Talmud.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 15. And Joseph. The honour of nourishing those who have been begotten of God by other men’s labours.
Ver. 15. Redemption thy power, the consequence, evidence, and necessary attendant of redemption by price.
Ver. 15.
I. The redeemed: thy people; the sons of, etc.
1. In captivity though they are his people.
2. His people though they are in captivity. II. The redemption: from Egyptian bondage. III. The Redeemer: Thou, with thine arm, etc. God by Christ, his arm: Mine own arm brought, etc. To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? G. R.
Psalms 77:16*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 16. The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid. As if conscious of its Maker’s presence, the sea was ready to flee from before his face. The conception is highly poetical, the psalmist has the scene before his mind’s eye, and describes it gloriously. The water saw its God, but man refuses to discern him; it was afraid, but proud sinners are rebellious and fear not the Lord.
The depths also were troubled. To their heart the floods were made afraid. Quiet caves of the sea, far down in the abyss, were moved with fear; and the lowest channels were left bare, as the water rushed away from its place, in terror of the God of Israel.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
Ver. 16. The waters saw thee, O God, etc. “The waters of the Red Sea, “says Bishop Horne, “are here beautifully represented as endued with sensibility; as seeing, feeling, and being confounded, even to the lowest depths, at the presence and power of their great Creator, when he commanded them to open a way, and to form a wall on each side of it, until his people were passed over.” This in fact is true poetry; and in this attributing of life, spirit, feeling, action, and suffering to inanimate objects, there are no poets who can vie with those of the Hebrew nation. Richard Mant.
Ver. 16. The depths also were troubled. The depths are mentioned in addition to the waters, to show that the dominion and power of God reach not only to the surface of the waters, but penetrate to the most profound abysses, and agitate and restrain the waters from their lowest bottom. Mollerus.
Ver. 16-18. The waters saw thee, but men do not see thee. The depths were troubled, but men say in their heart, There is no God. The clouds poured out water, but men pour not out cries and tears unto God. The skies send out a sound, but men say not, Where is God my Maker? Thine arrows also went abroad, but no arrows of contrition and supplication are sent back by men in return. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven, but men hear not the louder thunders of the law. The lightnings lightened the world, but the light of truth shines in darkness and the darkness comprehends it not. The earth trembled and shook, but human hearts remain unmoved.
“My heart it shakes not at the wrath
And terrors of a God.” George Rogers.
Ver. 16-19. As soon as ever the whole Egyptian army was within it, the sea flowed to its own place, and came down with a torrent raised by storms of wind, and encompassed the Egyptians. Showers of rain also came down from the sky, and dreadful thunders and lightning, with flashes of fire. Thunderbolts also were darted upon them; nor was there anything which used to be sent by God upon men, as indications of his wrath, which did not happen at this time; for a dark and dismal might oppressed them. And thus did all these men perish, so that there was not one man left to be a messenger of this calamity to the rest of the Egyptians. Josephus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 16-18.
I. The homage of nature to the God of grace.
II. Its subserviency to his designs. G. R.
Psalms 77:17*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 17. The clouds poured out water. Obedient to the Lord, the lower region of the atmosphere yielded its aid to overthrow the Egyptian host. The cloudy chariots of heaven hurried forward to discharge their floods.
The skies sent out a sound. From the loftier aerial regions thundered the dread artillery of the Lord of Hosts. Peal on peal the skies sounded over the heads of the routed enemies, confusing their minds and adding to their horror.
Thine arrows also went abroad. Lightnings flew like bolts from the bow of God. Swiftly, hither and thither, went the red tongues of flame, on helm and shield they gleamed; anon with blue bale fires revealing the innermost caverns of the hungry sea which waited to swallow up the pride of Mizraim. Behold, how all the creatures wait upon their God, and show themselves strong to overthrow his enemies.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
Ver. 16-18. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:16” for further information.
“My heart it shakes not at the wrath
And terrors of a God.” George Rogers.
Ver. 16-19. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:16” for further information.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 16-18.
I. The homage of nature to the God of grace.
II. Its subserviency to his designs. G. R.
Psalms 77:18*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 18. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven, or in the whirlwind. Rushing on with terrific swiftness and bearing all before it, the storm was as a chariot driven furiously, and a voice was heard (even thy voice, O Lord!) out of the fiery car, even as when a mighty man in battle urges forward his charger, and shouts to it aloud. All heaven resounded with the voice of the Lord.
The lightnings lightened the world. The entire globe shone in the blaze of Jehovah’s lightnings. No need for other light amid the battle of that terrible night, every wave gleamed in the fire flashes, and the shore was lit up with the blaze. How pale were men’s faces in that hour, when all around the fire leaped from sea to shore, from crag to hill, from mountain to star, till the whole universe was illuminated in honour of Jehovah’s triumph.
The earth trembled and shook. It quaked and quaked again. Sympathetic with the sea, the solid shore forgot its quiescence and heaved in dread. How dreadful art thou, O God, when thou comest forth in thy majesty to humble thine arrogant adversaries.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Whenever, and by whomsoever, the Psalm may have been written, it clearly is individual, not national. It utterly destroys all the beauty, all the tenderness and depth of feeling in the opening portion, if we suppose that the people are introduced speaking in the first person. The allusions to the national history may indeed show that the season was a season of national distress, and that the sweet singer was himself bowed down by the burden of the time, and oppressed by woes which he had no power to alleviate; but it is his own sorrow, not the sorrow of others under which he sighs, and of which he has left the pathetic record. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 16-18. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:16” for further information.
“My heart it shakes not at the wrath
And terrors of a God.” George Rogers.
Ver. 16-19. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:16” for further information.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 16-18.
I. The homage of nature to the God of grace.
II. Its subserviency to his designs. G. R.
Psalms 77:19*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 19. Thy way is in the sea. Far down in secret channels of the deep is thy roadway; when thou wilt thou canst make a sea a highway for thy glorious march.
And thy path in the great waters. There, where the billows surge and swell, thou still dost walk; Lord of each crested wave.
And thy footsteps are not known. None can follow thy tracks by foot or eye. Thou art alone in thy glory, and thy ways are hidden from mortal ken. Thy purposes thou wilt accomplish, but the means are often concealed, yea, they need no concealing, they are in themselves too vast and mysterious for human understanding. Glory be to thee, O Jehovah.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
Ver. 16-19. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:16” for further information.
Ver. 19. Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, etc. Until lately, not much was known of oceanic currents, nor of their influences on the condition of particular localities and the intercourse of man with man. They are now seen to be the way or path of the Creator in the great waters. Numerous agencies tend to the production of these currents. Amongst them we may reckon the propagation of the tide wave in its progress over the globe, the duration and strength of certain winds, the variations in density which seawater undergoes in different latitudes, and at different depths, by change of temperature, and the quantity of salt it contains, and by the hourly alterations of atmospheric pressure which take place within the tropics. The oceanic currents are nearly constant in breadth, crossing the sea in many directions. Long bands of seaweed carried by the currents shew at once their velocity, and the line of demarcation between the waters at rest and the waters in motion. Between the tropics there is a general movement of the sea from east to west, called the equatorial current, supposed to be due to the trade winds, and the progress of the tide wave. There are narrower currents carrying warm water to higher and cold water to lower latitudes. Edwin Sidney, in “Conversations on the Bible and Science.” 1860.
Ver. 19. Thy way is in the sea, where no man can wade, except God be before him, but where any man may walk if God take him by the hand and lead him through. David Dickson.
Ver. 19. Thy footsteps are not known. He often goeth so much out of our sight, that we are unable to give an account of what he doeth, or what he is about to do. Frequently the pillar of divine providence is dark throughout, to Israelites as well as Egyptians; so that his own people understand not the riddles, till he is pleased to be his own interpreter, and to lead them into his secrets. Samuel Slater(-1704), in “The Morning Exercises.”
Ver. 19. Thy footsteps are not known. That is, they are not always known; or, they are not known in all things; yea, they are not altogether known in anything. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 19. Thy footsteps are not known. Upon some affair of great consequence which had occurred in some providential dispensation, Luther was very importunate at the throne of grace to know the mind of God in it; and it seemed to him as if he heard God speak to his heart thus: “I am not to be traced.” Referring to this incident, one adds, “If he is not to be traced, he may be trusted; “and that religion is of little value which will not enable a man to trust God where he can neither trace nor see him. But there is a time for everything beneath the sun, and the Almighty has his `times and seasons.’ It has been frequently with my hopes and desires, in regard to providence, as with my watch and the sun, which has often been ahead of true time; I have gone faster than providence, and have been forced to stand still and wait, or I have been set back painfully. That was a fine sentiment of Flavel, “Some providence, like Hebrew letters, must be read backwards.” Quoted in “Christian Treasury, “1849. Author not mentioned.
Ver. 19. See also notes on Psalms 77:13.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 13,19. In the sea, in the sanctuary. God’s way incomprehensible, though undoubtedly right: in his holiness lies the answer to its enigmas.
Ver. 19.
I. The ways of God to men are peculiar: In the sea:
thy path, etc.
II. They are uniform, they lie in regular footsteps.
III. They are inscrutable: like the path of the ship upon
the waters, not of the ploughshare on the land.
Ver. 19. God’s way is in the sea. In things changeable, ungovernable, vast, unfathomable, terrible, overwhelming, the Lord has the ruling power.
Psalms 77:20*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 20. Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. What a transition from tempest to peace, from wrath to love. Quietly as a flock Israel was guided on, by human agency which veiled the excessive glory of the divine presence. The smiter of Egypt was the shepherd of Israel. He drove his foes before him, but went before his people. Heaven and earth fought on his side against the sons of Ham, but they were equally subservient to the interests of the sons of Jacob. Therefore, with devout joy and full of consolation, we close this Psalm; the song of one who forgot how to speak and yet learned to sing far more sweetly than his fellows.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. See Psalms on “Psalms 77:1” for further information.
Ver. 20. Thou leddest thy people like a flock, etc. From this verse the afflicted may learn many consolations. First, that the best people that be are no better able to resist temptation, than the simple sheep is able to withstand the brier that catcheth him. The next, that man is of no more ability to beware of temptations, than the poor sheep is to avoid the brier, being preserved only by the diligence of the shepherd. The third, that as the shepherd is careful of his entangled and briard sheep, so is God of his afflicted faithful. And the fourth is, that the people of Israel could take no harm of the water, because they entered the sea at God’s commandment. Whereof we learn, that no danger can hurt when God doth command us to enter into it; and all dangers overcome us if we choose them ourselves, besides God’s commandment; as Peter, when he went at God’s commandment upon the water, took no hurt; but when he entered into the bishop’s house upon his own presumption, was overcome and denied Christ. The Israelites, when they fought at God’s commandment, the peril was nothing; but when they would do it of their own heads, they perished: so that we are bound to attend upon God’s commandment, and then no danger shall destroy us, though it pain us. The other doctrine is in this, that God used the ministry of Moses and Aaron in the deliverance of his people, who did command them to do nothing but that the Lord did first bid. Whereof we learn that such as be ministers appointed of God, and do nothing but as God commandeth, are to be followed; as Paul saith, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” John Hooper.
Ver. 20. Thou leddest thy people like a flock. Observe, the good shepherd leads his followers like sheep: First, with great solicitude and care, to protect them from wolves. Secondly, with consideration and kindness, for the sheep is a harmless animal. Thirdly, with a wise strictness, for sheep easily wander, and they are of all animals the most stupid. Thomas Le Blanc.
Ver. 20. Leddest thy people. Our guiding must be mild and gentle, else it is not duxisti, but traxisti; drawing and driving, and no leading. Leni spiritu non dure manu, rather by an inward sweet influence to be led, than by an outward extreme violence to be forced forward. So did God lead his people here. Not the greatest pace, I wist, for they were a year marching that they might have posted in eleven days, as Moses saith. (De 1:2.) No nor yet the nearest way neither, as Moses telleth us. (Exodus 8:18.) For he fetched a compass divers times, as all wise governors by his example must do, that desire rather safely to lead, than hastily to drive forward. “The Spirit of God leadeth this people, “saith Isaiah (Isaiah 63:14) “as an horse is ridden down the hill into a valley; ” which must not be at a gallop, lest horse and ruler both come down one over another; but warily and easily. Lancelot Andrewes.
Ver. 20. By the hand of Moses and Aaron. He says not, Moses and Aaron led the people of Israel; but, Thou leddest the people, and that thy people, by the hand of Moses and Aaron. Great was the power of these two men; nevertheless neither of them was the shepherd of the sheep, but each was a servant to the one and only true shepherd, to whom the sheep exclusively belonged. Nor yet was either the leader of the sheep, but the shepherd himself was present and led his own flock, to whom these two acted as servants. There are therefore three things to be learned from this passage. First, the sheep do not belong to the servants, but to the true shepherd. Secondly, the true shepherd is the leader of his own sheep. Thirdly, the offices of Moses and Aaron was to attend to this duty, that the Lord’s sheep should be properly led and pastured. So Christ himself leads the sheep, his own sheep, and for this work he employs the ministry of his servants. Musculus.
Ver. 20. The psalmist has reached the climax of his strain, he has found relief from his sorrow by forcing his thoughts into another channel, by dwelling on all God’s mightiest wonders of old; but there he must end: in his present intensity of passion he cannot trust himself to draw forth in detail any mere lessons of comfort. There are seasons when even the holiest faith cannot bear to listen to words of reasoning; though it can still find a support whereon to rest, in the simple contemplation, in all their native grandeur, of the deeds that God hath wrought. Joseph Francis Thrupp.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 20.
I. The subjects of divine guidance: thy people.
II. The manner of their guidance: like a flock —
separated, united, dependent.
III. The agents employed: by the hand; the Great
Shepherd leads by the hand of under shepherds. “May
every under shepherd keep his eye intent on Thee.”
Ver. 20. Church history.
I. The church a flock.
II. God seen as leading it on.
III. Instrumentality always used.

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Psalm 76

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-12
TITLE. To the Chief Musician on Neginoth. The Precentor is here instructed to perform this song to the music of stringed instruments. The master of the harpers was called for his most skilful minstrelsy, and truly the song is worthy of the sweetest sounds that strings can yield. A Psalm or Song of Asaph. The style and matter indicate the same hand as that which wrote the preceding; and it is an admirable arrangement which placed the two in juxtaposition. Faith in the 75th Psalm sung of victories to come, and here it sings of triumphs achieved. The present Psalm is a most jubilant war song, a paean to the King of kings, the hymn of a theocratic nation to its divine ruler. We have no need to mark divisions in a song where the unity is so well preserved.
EXPOSITION
Ver. 1. In Judah is God known. If unknown in all the world beside, he has so revealed himself to his people by his deeds of grace, that he is no unknown God to them.
His name is great in Israel. To be known, in the Lord’s case, is to be honoured: those who know his name admire the greatness of it. Although Judah and Israel were unhappily divided politically, yet the godly of both nations were agreed concerning Jehovah their God; and truly whatever schisms may mar the visible church, the saints always “appear as one” in magnifying the Lord their God. Dark is the outer world, but within the favoured circle Jehovah is revealed, and is the adoration of all who behold him. The world knows him not, and therefore blasphemes him, but his church is full of ardour to proclaim his fame unto the ends of the earth.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. No Psalm has a greater right to follow Psalms 75:1-10 than this, which is inscribed To the Precentor, with accompaniment of stringed instruments (vid.) iv. 1, a Psalm by Asaph, a song. Similar expressions (God of Jacob, Ps 75:10 77:7; saints, wicked of the earth, Ps 75:9 76:10), and the same impress throughout speak in favour of unity of authorship. In other respects too, they form a pair: Psalms 75:1-10 prepares the way for the divine deed of judgments as imminent, which Psalms 76:1-12 celebrates as having taken place. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 1. In Judah is God known. God is truly and savingly known only in and through his Son; God indeed is obscurely and darkly known in his works, as a God of power; in his providence, as a God of authority, wisdom, and order; in his common mercies, as a God of bounty; and in his punishments and judgments, as a God of justice; but in Christ opened and preached in the gospel, God is known with a clear, a comfortable, and saving knowledge, as a father of grace and singular mercy and lovingkindness. In Judah (saith the psalmist) is God known: his name is great in Israel. In Judah, in his church, where his word and ordinances are, where Christ is preached and the mystery of man’s salvation is opened, there God is known truly without error, perspicuously without obscurities, and savingly without uncertainties; there he is known as a King in his courts, for the glory and beauty which he there manifests; as a teacher in his school, for the wisdom and knowledge which he there dispenses; as a dweller in his house, for the holy orders he there prescribes, and gracious rule and dominion he there erects and beareth in the souls of his servants; as a bridegroom in the banqueting house, for the spiritual dainties he there maketh, for the clear and open manifestation of himself, and love and comforts he there ministereth to his spiritual friends and guests; and his name is great in Israel; his power, wisdom, truth, love, and goodness is much magnified and very glorious in their apprehensions who know him in Christ Jesus. Alexander Grosse.
Ver. 1. His name. By the name of God here, God himself is understood; for in so many good effects as God uttereth himself towards his kirk, so many names he giveth to himself whereby he may be praised of her. As for example, when he promises unto his kirk freely grace and mercy, his kirk giveth him a name, and calleth him merciful. When he keepeth his promise, and uttereth himself a faithful God to his kirk, his kirk giveth him a name, and calleth him a true God. When he delivereth his kirk out of danger, and sheweth him a mighty God, and terrible against his enemies, the kirk giveth him a name, and calleth him a potent God, and so forth in the rest of his effects: so that by the name of God is understood here God himself, as God maketh himself to be known in his wonderful works. Robert Bruce.
Ver. 1. His name is great in Israel. Properly the great name in Israel, that is, the church, is the name of Jesus, which is great, first, by its efficacy: for it signifies Saviour. There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. Secondly, it is great in dignity: for it is the name that is above every name… Thirdly, it is great in the breadth if its range, Psalms 8:1 : How excellent is thy name in all the earth. Thomas Le Blanc.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 1. Reverence for God’s name proportionate to true knowledge of it.
Psalms 76:2*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 2. In Salem also is his tabernacle. In the peaceful city he dwells, and the peace is perpetuated, because there his sacred tent is pitched. The church of God is the place where the Lord abides and he is to her the Lord and giver of peace.
And his dwelling place in Zion. Upon the chosen hill was the palace of Israel’s Lord. It is the glory of the church that the Redeemer inhabits her by his Holy Spirit. Vain are the assaults of the enemy, for they attack not us alone, but the Lord himself. Immanuel, God with us, finds a home among his people, who then shall work us ill?
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. No Psalm has a greater right to follow Psalms 75:1-10 than this, which is inscribed To the Precentor, with accompaniment of stringed instruments (vid. 4,1), a Psalm by Asaph, a song. Similar expressions (God of Jacob, Ps 75:10 77:7; saints, wicked of the earth, Ps 75:9 76:10), and the same impress throughout speak in favour of unity of authorship. In other respects too, they form a pair: Psalms 75:1-10 prepares the way for the divine deed of judgments as imminent, which Psalms 76:1-12 celebrates as having taken place. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 2. In Salem also is his tabernacle. It is not without meaning that Jerusalem has the appellation of Salem; for it is thereby insinuated that the tabernacle of God, notwithstanding the assault of foes, in the very heart of the tumults of war remained in peace. How much more now that the invaders had been overthrown, would prosperity be enjoyed? Hermann Venema.
Ver. 2. In Salem also is his tabernacle. God the Holy Ghost is a spirit of peace, he is the comforter; he seals up peace (2 Corinthians 1:22). This blessed dove brings the olive branch of peace in his mouth: now a peaceable disposition evidences something of God in a man, therefore God loves to dwell there. “In Salem is God’s tabernacle:” Salem signifies peace; God dwells in a peaceable spirit. Thomas Watson.
Ver. 2. In Salem also is his tabernacle, etc. All the old versions, as well as the two English ones, have missed one especial force of this passage. There is no direct reference in words to any human habitation, but to the lair of the Lion of Judah. The word wkm does not only mean his tabernacle, but his covert, and is so translated in another place (Jeremiah 25:38): “He hath forsaken his covert, as the lion; “and the vaguer word wtgwem which succeeds may well be translated by “den, “or some equivalent phrase. Psalms 10:9. Simon De Muis.
Ver. 2-3. The care of Salem, or Zion, lies at the bottom of all God’s powerful acting and workings among the sons of men. Every mighty work of God throughout the world may be prefaced with these two verses. The whole course of affairs in the world in steered by Providence in reference to the good of Salem. John Owen.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 2. The peculiar relation of God to his church.
Ver. 2. (first clause). A peaceful church the tabernacle of God. The benefits peace confers, the evils of strife, the causes of dissension, and the means of promoting unity.
Psalms 76:3*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 3. There brake he the arrows of the bow. Without leaving his tranquil abode, he sent forth his word and snapped the arrows of his enemies before they could shoot them. The idea is sublime, and marks the ease, completeness, and rapidity of the divine action.
The shield, and the sword, and the battle. Every weapon, offensive and defensive, the Lord dashed in pieces; death bearing bolts and life preserving armour were alike of no avail when the Breaker sent forth his word of power. In the spiritual conflicts of this and every age, the like will be seen; no weapon that is formed against the church shall prosper, and every tongue that rises against her in judgment, she shall condemn.
Selah. It is meet that we should dwell on so soul stirring a theme, and give the Lord our grateful adoration, –hence a pause is inserted.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. No Psalm has a greater right to follow Psalms 75:1-10 than this, which is inscribed To the Precentor, with accompaniment of stringed instruments (vid. iv. 1), a Psalm by Asaph, a song. Similar expressions (God of Jacob, Ps 75:10 77:7; saints, wicked of the earth, Ps 75:9 76:10), and the same impress throughout speak in favour of unity of authorship. In other respects too, they form a pair: Psalms 75:1-10 prepares the way for the divine deed of judgments as imminent, which Psalms 76:1-12 celebrates as having taken place. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 2-3. The care of Salem, or Zion, lies at the bottom of all God’s powerful acting and workings among the sons of men. Every mighty work of God throughout the world may be prefaced with these two verses. The whole course of affairs in the world in steered by Providence in reference to the good of Salem. John Owen.
Ver. 3. There. Observe how it is said, There he brake, namely, in his temple, his habitation there. For unto that his temple doth the coherence in the verse afore carry it, for that was last in mention, and with the greatest emphasis. In the story we read how that Sennacherib’s overthrow was from Hezekiah’s prayer in the temple; for upon Sennacherib’s letter, and Hezekiah’s hearsay of the blasphemy, he took himself thither, went instantly into the temple, and began his prayer thus: “O thou God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims.” He invocates him under that style of his dwelling in the holiest, and so hearing prayers there. Thus you have it recorded both in Isaiah and in 2 Kings 19:15. And how suitably, in answer hereunto, it is said here in the Psalm, that God gave forth sentence presently out of his tabernacle, yea, and that so suddenly too, as that the very execution is said to be done there, that is, from thence. And yet again, in the eighth verse of the Psalm, it is said to be a sentence from heaven too; Thou didst cause judgment (so called because it was the sentence of God as a judge) to be heard from heaven. Thus Hezekiah prayed, and thus God heard; and both as in the temple. Thomas Goodwin.
Ver. 3. There. These men, to wit the King of Asshur and his accomplices, came to cast out God out of his dwelling place; but he stood to the defence of his own house, and showed them that he would not remove for their pleasure. Robert Bruce.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 3. Christian glories, or the victories vouchsafed to the church over heathenism, heresy, persecution, etc.
Ver. 3.
I. Where enemies are conquered; “There; “not on the
battlefield so much as in the house of God; as Amalek
by Moses on the Mount; Sennacherib by Hezekiah in the
Sanctuary.
II. How there?
1. By faith.
2. By prayer. “The weapons of our warfare, “etc.
Psalms 76:4*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 4. Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey. Far more is Jehovah to be extolled than all the invading powers which sought to oppress his people, though they were for power and greatness comparable to mountains. Assyria had pillaged the nations till it had become rich with mountains of spoil, this was talked of among men as glory, but the psalmist despised such renown, and declares that the Lord was far more illustrious. What are the honours of war but brags of murder? What the fame of conquerors but the reek of manslaughter? But the Lord is glorious in holiness, and his terrible deeds are done in justice for the defence of the weak and the deliverance of the enslaved. Mere power may be glorious, but it is not excellent: when we behold the mighty acts of the Lord, we see a perfect blending of the two qualities.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. No Psalm has a greater right to follow Psalms 75:1-10 than this, which is inscribed To the Precentor, with accompaniment of stringed instruments (vid. iv. 1), a Psalm by Asaph, a song. Similar expressions (God of Jacob, Ps 75:10 77:7; saints, wicked of the earth, Ps 75:9 76:10), and the same impress throughout speak in favour of unity of authorship. In other respects too, they form a pair: Psalms 75:1-10 prepares the way for the divine deed of judgments as imminent, which Psalms 76:1-12 celebrates as having taken place. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 4. God was not known in Babylon, in Egypt, in other nations, his tabernacle and dwelling place was not amongst them, therefore they were not glorious. But see what is in the fourth verse, Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey; thou Judah, thou Israel, thou Salem, thou Zion, that hast spiritual mercies and blessings, art more glorious than they, whatever their glory be. Have the nations abroad goodly towers? thou hast the temple; have they stately cities? thou hast Jerusalem, the city of God; have they wise men? thou hast the prophets; have they gods of gold, silver, and stones; thou hast the true living God, Jehovah, to be thy God; have they human laws that are good? thou hast divine laws that excel; have they temporal excellencies? thou hast spiritual; have they the glory of the world? thou hast the glory of heaven. William Greenhill.
Ver. 4. The mountains of prey. Why are they called the mountains of prey? There is a reference to the lairs of the lions in the mountains, whence they rush forth upon those who come that way, and tear them in pieces. In the same way the dwelling place of God was represented above under the title of a tabernacle or lair. Moreover, this is a mystic epithet of the mountains of Judah, by which it is hinted that the enemies who venture to approach that lair are wont to be torn in sunder: a terrible example of which had just been shown in the case of the Assyrian, there overthrown, torn, and spoiled. Compare Isaiah 31:4. Hermann Venema.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 4. The Lord, our portion, compared with the treasures of empires.
Ver. 4.
I. What the world is, compared with the church:
Mountains of prey.
1. Cruelty instead of love.
2. Violence instead of peace. II. What the church is compared with the world.
1. More glorious, because more excellent.
2. More excellent, because more glorious. Both are more real and abiding. G. R.
Psalms 76:5*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 5. The stouthearted are spoiled. They came to spoil, and lo! they are spoiled themselves. Their stout hearts are cold in death, the angel of the pestilence has dried up their life blood, their very heart is taken from them.
They have slept their sleep. Their last sleep–the sleep of death.
And none of the men of might have found their hands. Their arms are palsied, they cannot lift a finger, for the rigour of death has stiffened them. What a scene was that when Sennacherib’s host was utterly destroyed in one night. The hands which were furious to pull down Jerusalem, could not even be raised from the sod, the most valiant warriors were as weak as the palsied cripples at the temple gate, yea, their eyes they could not open, a deep sleep sealed their vision in everlasting darkness. O God, how terrible art thou! Thus shalt thou fight for us, and in the hour of peril overthrow the enemies of thy gospel. Therefore in thee will we trust and not be afraid.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. No Psalm has a greater right to follow Psalms 75:1-10 than this, which is inscribed To the Precentor, with accompaniment of stringed instruments (vid. iv. 1), a Psalm by Asaph, a song. Similar expressions (God of Jacob, Ps 75:10 77:7; saints, wicked of the earth, Ps 75:9 76:10), and the same impress throughout speak in favour of unity of authorship. In other respects too, they form a pair: Psalms 75:1-10 prepares the way for the divine deed of judgments as imminent, which Psalms 76:1-12 celebrates as having taken place. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 5. The stouthearted are spoiled. There is indicated in these words that consternation of mind which deprives of judgment and power. The valiant are spoiled of their heart: that is, they who at other times were wise and courageous have now lost their heart, and have been reduced to foolishness and stupidity. Hermann Venema.
Ver. 5. The stouthearted are spoiled. After the breaking of their weapons their spoliation is recorded, for that follows the slaughter of foes. Nor is mention made of that without reason. They had come to spoil, therefore are they deservedly spoiled. Musculus.
Ver. 5. The stouthearted are spoiled. Some translate it, They are spoiled of their stout heart. The stouthearted, the strong, are spoiled. The strong man may be spoiled by a stronger; that’s a good sense, but it is more elegantly rendered, they are spoiled of their stout heart; that is, the Lord takes their heart out of their bosom. Daring men, who fear nothing, are turned into Magor-missabibs–fear round about; their stout hearts are taken from them, and they are so far from being a terror to other men, that they run from the shadow of a man; their courage is down; they cannot give a child a confident look, much less look dangers or enemies in the face. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 5. (last clause). The strength and power of a man is in his hands; if they be gone, all his hope is gone. If a man’s sword be taken from him, he will do what he can with his hands; but if his hands be gone, he may go to sleep for any disturbance he will work. For men not to find their hands, is not to have that power for the execution of their designs which formerly they had. John Owen.
Ver. 5. (last clause). As we say of a man that goes lamely or lazily, “he cannot find his feet; “so of a man that acts lamely or lazily, or of a soldier that fights faintly and cowardly, he cannot find his hands. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 5-6.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever were still!
And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride:
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock breaking surf.
And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.
George Gordon, Lord Byron.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 5. They have slept their sleep. Divers kinds of deaths or sleeps for the various classes of men.
Psalms 76:6*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 6. At thy rebuke. A word accomplished all, there was no need of a single blow.
O God of Jacob. God of thy wrestling people, who again like their father supplant their enemy; God of the covenant and the promise, thou hast in this gracious character fought for thine elect nation.
Both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep. They will neither neigh nor rattle again; still are the trampings of the horses and the crash of the cars; the calvary no more creates its din. The Israelites always had a special fear of horses and scythed chariots; and, therefore, the sudden stillness of the entire force of the enemy in this department is made the theme of special rejoicing. The horses were stretched on the ground, and the chariots stood still, as if the whole camp had fallen asleep. Thus can the Lord send a judicial sleep over the enemies of the church, a premonition of the second death, and this he can do when they are in the zenith of power; and, as they imagine, in the very act of blotting out the remembrance of his people. The world’s Rabshakahs can write terrible letters, but the Lord answers not with pen and ink, but with rebukes, which bear death in every syllable.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. No Psalm has a greater right to follow Psalms 75:1-10 than this, which is inscribed To the Precentor, with accompaniment of stringed instruments (vid. iv. 1), a Psalm by Asaph, a song. Similar expressions (God of Jacob, Ps 75:10 77:7; saints, wicked of the earth, Ps 75:9 76:10), and the same impress throughout speak in favour of unity of authorship. In other respects too, they form a pair: Psalms 75:1-10 prepares the way for the divine deed of judgments as imminent, which Psalms 76:1-12 celebrates as having taken place. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 5-6. See Psalms on “Psalms 76:6” for further information.
Ver. 6. Cast into a deep sleep. It is observable that the verb here used is the same as is used in the narrative of the act of Jael, and of the death of the proud enemy of Israel, Sisera, cast into a deep sleep, by God’s power, working by the hand of a woman. Christopher Wordsworth.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 76:7*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 7. Thou, even thou, art to be feared. Not Sennacherib, nor Nisroch his god, but Jehovah alone, who with a silent rebuke had withered all the monarch’s host.
“Fear him, ye saints, and then ye shall
Have nothing else to fear.”
The fear of man is a snare, but the fear of God is a great virtue, and has great power for good over the human mind. God is to be feared profoundly, continually, and alone. Let all worship be to him only.
And who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? Who indeed? The angels fell when their rebellion provoked his justice; Adam lost his place in Paradise in the same manner; Pharaoh and other proud monarchs passed away at his frown; neither is there in earth or hell any who can abide the terror of his wrath. How blest are they who are sheltered in the atonement of Jesus, and hence have no cause to fear the righteous anger of the Judge of all the earth.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. No Psalm has a greater right to follow Psalms 75:1-10 than this, which is inscribed To the Precentor, with accompaniment of stringed instruments (vid. iv. 1), a Psalm by Asaph, a song. Similar expressions (God of Jacob, Ps 75:10 77:7; saints, wicked of the earth, Ps 75:9 76:10), and the same impress throughout speak in favour of unity of authorship. In other respects too, they form a pair: Psalms 75:1-10 prepares the way for the divine deed of judgments as imminent, which Psalms 76:1-12 celebrates as having taken place. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 7. Thou, even thou, art to be feared. The emphasis in the word thou, redoubled, implies as much as if he had said, Not principalities, not powers, not hell, not death, nor anything for themselves, but thou, O Lord, alone art to be feared. Arguments and reasons to confirm it are two, here laid down in the text: the first is drawn from God’s anger, who hath decreed, and accordingly executes vengeance upon all the proud. The second is drawn from his power; not princes, not armies, not men, not angels, are able to endure the breath of his fury; for, Who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?… The anger of God is a terrible, unspeakable, unsupportable, intolerable, burden. Every word in the text hath a special emphasis to prove this. Who may stand? Who? Shall angels? They are but like refracted beams or rays, if God should hide his face, they would cease to shine. Shall man? His glory and pomp, like the colours in the rainbow, vanish away, when God puts forth in anger the brightness of his face. Shall devils? If he speak the word, they are tumbled down from heaven like lightning. Stand in thy sight. Stand. What! a reed against a cedar, a thistle in Lebanon against a cedar in Lebanon; a feather against a flame; a grasshopper against an Almighty, a head of glass against a rod of brass? When once thou art angry. Angry. By sending out his wrath, that it wounds like arrows; angry, in pouring it out, that it drowns like water; angry, in kindling of it, that it burns like fire; a consuming fire, but you tell me such a fire may be quenched; an unquenchable fire, but since that may cease to burn, when it lacks matter, it is in one word an everlasting fire, that never goes out. That, that’s it; such anger as is never fully shown, but in punishment of reprobates; in no punishment, but that in hell; in none in hell, but that eternal. John Cragge’s “Cabinet of Spiritual Jewells.” 1657.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 7. The anger of God. A very suggestive subject.
Psalms 76:8*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 8. Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven. So complete an overthrow was evidently a judgment from heaven; those who saw it not, yet heard the report of it, and said, “This is the finger of God.” Man will not hear God’s voice if he can help it, but God takes care to cause it to be heard. The echoes of that judgment executed on the haughty Assyrian are heard still, and will ring on down all the ages, to the praise of divine justice.
The earth feared and was still. All nations trembled at the tidings, and sat in humbled awe. Repose followed the former turmoils of war, when the oppressor’s power was broken, and God was reverenced for having given quiet to the peoples. How readily can Jehovah command an audience! It may be that in the latter days he will, by some such miracles of power in the realms of grace, constrain all earth’s inhabitants to attend to the gospel, and submit to the reign of his all glorious Son. So be it, good Lord.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. No Psalm has a greater right to follow Psalms 75:1-10 than this, which is inscribed To the Precentor, with accompaniment of stringed instruments (vid. iv. 1), a Psalm by Asaph, a song. Similar expressions (God of Jacob, Ps 75:10 77:7; saints, wicked of the earth, Ps 75:9 76:10), and the same impress throughout speak in favour of unity of authorship. In other respects too, they form a pair: Psalms 75:1-10 prepares the way for the divine deed of judgments as imminent, which Psalms 76:1-12 celebrates as having taken place. Franz Delitzsch.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 8-9.
I. The characters described: the meek of the earth.
II. The need implied.
1. To be vindicated.
2. To be saved. III. The divine interposition on their behalf: Thou didst cause, etc. When God arose, etc. IV. The effect of their deliverance: The earth feared, etc. G. R.
Psalms 76:9*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 9. When God arose to judgment. Men were hushed when he ascended the judgment seat and actively carried out the decrees of justice. When God is still the people are in tumult; when he arises they are still as a stone.
To save all the meek of the earth. The Ruler of men has a special eye towards the poor and despised; he makes it his first point to right all their wrongs. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” They have little enough of it now, but their avenger is strong and he will surely save them. He who saves his people is the same God who overthrows their enemies; he is as omnipotent to save as to destroy. Glory be unto his name.
Selah. Here pause, and let devout contemplation adore the God of Jacob.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. No Psalm has a greater right to follow Psalms 75:1-10 than this, which is inscribed To the Precentor, with accompaniment of stringed instruments (vid. iv. 1), a Psalm by Asaph, a song. Similar expressions (God of Jacob, Ps 75:10 77:7; saints, wicked of the earth, Ps 75:9 76:10), and the same impress throughout speak in favour of unity of authorship. In other respects too, they form a pair: Psalms 75:1-10 prepares the way for the divine deed of judgments as imminent, which Psalms 76:1-12 celebrates as having taken place. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 9. God arose to judgment. This great judgment was wrought upon the enemies when God rose: it was not done when God sat; for the whole time when he sat his enemies were aloft, stirring their time, raging in murder, oppression, and blood… He bringeth in God here after the manner of earthly judges, after the custom of our judges; for first they sit down, they try, seek out, and advise, and after consideration they resolve, and after resolution they rise up, give forth judgment, and pronounce the sentence; even so the prophet bringeth in God after the same manner; sitting, and after sitting, rising and pronouncing the sentence. Robert Bruce.
Ver. 9. To save all the meek. We see from this passage what care God takes of the afflicted. When he is angry with the ungodly, he is angry with them chiefly because they have oppressed the poor and the innocent. Although he detests all iniquity, yet he is most indignant with that which is committed against the needy and guiltless. So in Psalms 12:1-8, “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord.” So in this verse, when God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth. Musculus.
Ver. 9. Is not this the day when the Saviour comes to reign? the day when the results of things shall best be seen; the day when every saint with anointed eye shall see that events all tended to the glory of God; the day when they shall sing better far than now.
“Surely the wrath of man praiseth thee.
Thou girdest thyself with the remnant of wrath.” Andrew A. Bonar.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 8-9.
I. The characters described: the meek of the earth.
II. The need implied.
1. To be vindicated.
2. To be saved. III. The divine interposition on their behalf: Thou didst cause, etc. When God arose, etc. IV. The effect of their deliverance: The earth feared, etc. G. R.
Psalms 76:10*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 10. Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee. It shall not only be overcome but rendered subservient to thy glory. Man with his breath of threatening is but blowing the trumpet of the Lord’s eternal fame. Furious winds often drive vessels the more swiftly into port. The devil blows the fire and melts the iron, and then the Lord fashions it for his own purposes. Let men and devils rage as they may, they cannot do otherwise than subserve the divine purposes.
The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. Malice is tethered and cannot break its bounds. The fire which cannot be utilised shall be damped. Some read it “thou shalt gird, “as if the Lord girded on the wrath of man as a sword to be used for his own designs, and certainly men of the world are often a sword in the hand of God, to scourge others. The verse clearly teaches that even the most rampant evil is under the control of the Lord, and will in the end be overruled for his praise.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. No Psalm has a greater right to follow Psalms 75:1-10 than this, which is inscribed To the Precentor, with accompaniment of stringed instruments (vid. iv. 1), a Psalm by Asaph, a song. Similar expressions (God of Jacob, Ps 75:10 77:7; saints, wicked of the earth, Ps 75:9 76:10), and the same impress throughout speak in favour of unity of authorship. In other respects too, they form a pair: Psalms 75:1-10 prepares the way for the divine deed of judgments as imminent, which Psalms 76:1-12 celebrates as having taken place. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 10. Surly the wrath of man shall praise thee. Persecutions tend to correct the failings of good men, and to exercise and illustrate their several graces and virtues. By these, good men are usually made much better and more approved, while they tend to exercise our patience, to quicken our devotion, to evidence out zeal and Christian fortitude, and to show to the whole world what love we bear to the truth, and how much we are willing to undergo for the honour of God. Till they have suffered something for it, truth is too apt to grow cheap and be less prized many times, even by those that are good men in the main; whereas we are apt on the contrary, never to value it at a higher rate, or to be more zealous for it, or to make better use of it, than when it is opposed and persecuted. What more truly beneficial therefore, or tending to the divine glory, than for God, who useth to bring good out of evil, to make use also of the opposers of his truth, to rouse up his servants whom he sees growing more remiss and negligent than they should be, and to suffer such temptations to assault them, by which their drowsy minds may be spurred on into a greater love and zeal for the truth, and a deeper sense of the divine benefit in it, and in general, excited to the more diligent performance of their duty. Richard Pearson. 1684.
Ver. 10. The wrath of man shall praise thee. In the Septuagint it is, The wrath of man shall keep holy day to thee, shall increase a festival for thee. God many times gets up in the world on Satan’s shoulders. When matters are ravelled and disordered, he can find out the right end of the thread, and how to disentangle us again; and when we have spoiled a business, he can dispose it for good, and make an advantage of those things which seem to obscure the glory of his name. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 10. The wrath of man shall praise thee. The wrath of wicked men against the people of God is very tributary to his praise.
1. It puts them upon many subtle devices and cunning stratagems, in frustrating of which the wisdom of God and his care of his Church is very much illustrated.
2. The wrath of wicked men impels them to many violent and forcible attempts upon the people of God to destroy them, and so gives him occasion to manifest his power in their defence.
3. It makes them sometimes fit to be his instruments in correcting his people, and so he vindicates himself from the suspicion of being a patron to sin in them that are nearest to him, and makes them that hate holiness promote it in his people, and them that intend them the greatest hurt, to do them the greatest good.
4. It administers occasion to him for the manifestation of the power of his grace in upholding the spirits of his people and the being of his church in despite of all that enemies can do against them.
5. It serves very much to adorn God’s most signal undertakings for his people in the world.
6. It serves to manifest the glory of God’s justice upon his people’s enemies in the day when he rises up to avenge himself upon them, when he shall stand over them, lashing them with scorpions, and at every blow mind their former cruelties. Here, take that for your inhuman rage against my people at such a place, and that for your barbarous usage of them at such a time. Now see how good it is to be imprisoned, beaten, tortured, burnt, and sawn asunder. Thus the enemies themselves are often constrained to acknowledge with Adoni Bezek the righteous hand of God upon them in the day of inquisition. Condensed from John Warren’s Sermon before Parliament. 1656.
Ver. 10. The wrath of man. Wrath is anger accented unto the highest pitch, or blown up into a flame. The wrath of man, (in the original it is The wrath of Adam, or the wrath of clay, weak, impotent man) shall praise thee, i.e., it shall turn to the praise and glory of God through his overruling providence, though quite otherwise intended. God will bring honour to himself, and serve his own holy and wise designs out of it… This expression, the wrath of man, imports the weakness and impotence of it; it is but the wrath of Adam, or of red clay. How contemptibly doth the Spirit of God speak of man, and of the power of man, in Scripture? “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?” The wrath of man, when it is lengthened out to its utmost boundaries, can only go to the length of killing the body, or in the breaking the sheath of clay in which the soul lodges, and then it can do no more. Ebenezer Erskine.
Ver. 10. Shall praise thee. God turns the wrath of man to the praise of his adorable sovereignty. Never have the Lord’s people had such awful impressions of the sovereignty of God, as when they have been in the furnace of man’s wrath, then they become dumb with silence. When the Chaldean and Sabean robbers are let loose to plunder and spoil the substance of Job, he is made to view adorable sovereignty in it, saying, “The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord.” It is in such a case as this that God says to his own people, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen.” What work of God about the church is advanced by the wrath of men?
1. His discovering work; for by the wind of man’s wrath he separates between the precious and the vile, betwixt the chaff and the wheat. In the day of the church’s prosperity and quiet, hypocrites and true believers are mingled together, like the chaff and the wheat in the barn floor: but the Lord, like the husbandman, opens the door of his barn, and puts the wind of man’s wrath through it, that the world may know which is which. O, sirs, much chaff is cast up already, both among ministers and professors; but it is like the wind and sieve may cast up much more yet ere all be done.
2. God’s purging work is advanced among his own children by the wrath of men: there is much of the dross of corruption cleaves to the Lord’s people while in the wilderness. Now, the Lord heats the furnace of man’s wrath, and casts his people into it, that when he has tried them, he may bring them forth as gold.
3. God’s uniting work is hereby advanced. In a time of peace and external tranquillity the sheep of Christ scatter and divide among themselves; but God lets loose the dogs upon them, and then the flock runs together; or like pieces of metal cast into the fire, they run together in a lump.
4. God’s enlarging work, or his work of spreading the gospel, is sometimes advanced by the wrath of man. Acts 8:1-5. The gospel, like the chamomile, the more it is trodden upon, the more it spreads. Ebenezer Erskine.
Ver. 10. The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. The remainder of wrath, i.e. what is left behind of the wrath of men, when God has glorified himself thereby. Even after God has defeated the purposes of wicked men, and made them contribute to his glory, yet there is abundance of wrath remaining. But what becomes of that wrath that is left? God shall restrain it. The word signifies to gird up. However God may see fit to slacken the bridle of his providence, and suffer wicked men to vent their wrath and enmity, as far as it shall contribute to his glory; yet the super abounding and the remainder of his wrath that is not for his glory and his people’s profit, God will gird it up, that they shall not get it vented… If any wrath of man remain beyond what shall bring in a revenue of praise unto God, he will restrain it, and bind it up like the waters of a mill: he will suffer as much of the current of water to run upon the wheel, as serves to carry it about and grind his corn, but the remainder of the water he sets it off another way: so God will let out as much of the current of man’s wrath as shall serve the ends of his glory and our good, but the remainder of the stream and current he will restrain, and turn another way. In Isaiah 28:1-29 we are told that God will not be aye “threshing his corn, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen. This cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.” All this comfort is sure and certain, there is not the least peradventure about it, that the flame of man’s wrath shall praise the Lord, and the superfluous fire shall be quenched, or hemmed in; for here we have God’s parole of honour for it: Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. Ebenezer Erskine.
Ver. 10. The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. twmh Chemoth, “wrath, “in the plural number, seems to be put in opposition to chamoth, the single wrath of man in the former part of the verse; to shew there is more wrath which God is to restrain, than merely that of man. There is also more pride which needs a like restraint; namely, that of the first Lucifer, who sinned, and, as is thought, fell by aspiring to ascend, and to be like the Most High. There are finally, other counsels also, as well as other wrath and pride, besides human, which God confounds. There is a wisdom that descendeth not from above (no, nor grows on earth) but is devilish, James 3:15. And both wrath, pride, and wisdom, of devils as well as men, shall God restrain, when he pleases not to turn them to his praise. Let there be hellish plots, yet our God shall confound them.
From “A Sermon preached”… before the Queen… By Edward (Wetenhall) Lord Bishop of Corke and Rosse. 1691.
Ver. 10. Thou shalt restrain. This, in the Hebrew, is expressed in one word, rygxt, which imports the girding or binding of it on every side, that it shall by no means break out, but shall be kept in, as a dog in a chain, as a lion in his den, how violent soever. Cornelius Burges, in “Another Sermon preached to the Honourable House of Commons… November the fifth, 1641.”
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 10.
I. Evil permitted for good: the wrath, etc.
II. Restrained for good: The remainder, etc.
Or,
I. Ruled.
II. Overruled. G. R.
Psalms 76:11*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 11. Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God. Well may we do so in memory of such mercies and judgments. To vow or not is a matter of choice, but to discharge our vows is our bounden duty. He who would defraud God, his own God, is a wretch indeed. He keeps his promises, let not his people fail in theirs. He is their faithful God and deserves to have a faithful people.
Let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared. Let surrounding nations submit to the only living God, let his own people with alacrity present their offerings, and let his priests and Levites be leaders in the sacred sacrifice. He who deserves to be praised as our God does, should not have mere verbal homage, but substantial tribute. Dread Sovereign, behold I give myself to thee.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. No Psalm has a greater right to follow Psalms 75:1-10 than this, which is inscribed To the Precentor, with accompaniment of stringed instruments (vid. iv. 1), a Psalm by Asaph, a song. Similar expressions (God of Jacob, Ps 75:10 77:7; saints, wicked of the earth, Ps 75:9 76:10), and the same impress throughout speak in favour of unity of authorship. In other respects too, they form a pair: Psalms 75:1-10 prepares the way for the divine deed of judgments as imminent, which Psalms 76:1-12 celebrates as having taken place. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 11. Round about him. A description of his people, as the twelve tribes pitched round about the tabernacle, Numbers 2:2; and the twenty-four elders were round about God’s throne, Revelation 4:4. So the Chaldee expounds it; –Ye that dwell about his sanctuary. Henry Ainsworth.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 11.
I. To whom vows may be made. Not to man, but God.
II. What vows should be thus made.
1. Of self dedication.
2. Of self service.
3. Of self sacrifice. III. How kept: Vow and pay.
1. From duty.
2. From fear of his displeasure. G. R.
Ver. 11. The propriety, obligation, pleasure, and profit of presenting gifts unto the Lord.
Psalms 76:12*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12. He shall cut off the spirit of princes. Their courage, skill, and life are in his hands, and he can remove them as a gardener cuts off a slip from a plant. None are great in his hand. Caesars and Napoleons fall under his power as the boughs of the tree beneath the woodman’s axe.
He is terrible to the kings of the earth. While they are terrible to others, he is terrible to them. If they oppose themselves to his people, he will make short work of them; they shall perish before the terror of his arm, “for the Lord is a man of war, the Lord is his name.” Rejoice before him all ye who adore the God of Jacob.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. No Psalm has a greater right to follow Psalms 75:1-10 than this, which is inscribed To the Precentor, with accompaniment of stringed instruments (vid. iv. 1), a Psalm by Asaph, a song. Similar expressions (God of Jacob, Ps 75:10 77:7; saints, wicked of the earth, Ps 75:9 76:10), and the same impress throughout speak in favour of unity of authorship. In other respects too, they form a pair: Psalms 75:1-10 prepares the way for the divine deed of judgments as imminent, which Psalms 76:1-12 celebrates as having taken place. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 12. Cut off. He deals with princes as men deal with a vine. An axe is too strong for a cluster of grapes, or a sprig of a vine; it easily cuts them off: so God by a judgment easily cuts off the spirit of princes; they are not able to stand against the least judgments of God: when he puts strength into worms, or any other creature they fall. William Greenhill, in a Sermon, entitled, “The Axe at the Root.”
Ver. 12. The Lord cuts off the spirit of princes; the word is, he slips off, as one should slip off a flower between one’s fingers, or as one should slip off a bunch of grapes from a vine, so soon is it done. How great uncertainty have many great ones, by their miserable experience, found in their outward glory and worldly felicity! What a change hath a little time made in all their honours, riches, and delights! That victorious emperor Henry the Fourth, who had fought fifty-two pitched battles, fell to that poverty before he died, that he was forced to petition to be a prebend in the church of Spier, to maintain him in his old age. And Procopius reports of King Gillimer, who was a potent king of the Vandals, who was so low brought, as to intreat his friends to send him a sponge, a loaf of bread, and a harp; a sponge to dry up his tears, a loaf of bread to maintain his life, and a harp to solace himself in his misery. Philip de Comines reports of a Duke of Exeter, who though he had married Edward the Fourth’s sister, yet he saw him in the Low Countries begging barefoot. Bellisarius, the chief man living in his time, having his eyes put out, was led at last in a string, crying, “give a halfpenny to Bellisarius.” Jeremiah Burroughs.

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Psalm 75

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-10
TITLE. To the Chief Musician. Here is noble work for him, for the cry of the last Psalm is about to be heard, and the challenge of the foes of Israel taken up by God himself. Here the virgin daughter of Zion despises her foe, and laughs him to scorn. The destruction of Sennacherib’s army is a notable illustration of this sacred song. Al-taschith. Here is another of the “destroy not” Psalms, and the title may be intended as a check upon the natural fierceness of the oppressed, or a taunt for the savage foe, who is here bitterly bidden to destroy not, because the nation is well aware that he cannot. Here, in holy faith, the sucking child plays at the hole of the asp, and the weaned child puts his hand on the cockatrice den. A Psalm or Song of Asaph. For reading or singing. A hymn to God and a song for his saints. Happy were the people who having found a Milton in David had an almost equal songster in Asaph: happiest of all, because these poets were not inspired by earth’s Castalian fount, but drank of “the fount of every blessing.”
DIVISION. The people’s song of gratitude and adoration begins the hymn in Psalms 75:1. In the next four Psalms 75:2-5, the Lord reveals himself as ruling the world in righteousness. Then follows a warning voice from the church to her enemies, Psalms 75:6-8, and a closing song anticipatory of the glory due to God and the utter defeat of the foe.
EXPOSITION
Ver. 1. Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks. Not to ourselves, for we were helpless, but to Elohim who heard our cry, and replied to the taunt of our foes. Never let us neglect thanksgiving, or we may fear that another time our prayers will remain unanswered. As the smiling flowers gratefully reflect in their lovely colours the various constituents of the solar ray, so should gratitude spring up in our hearts after the smiles of God’s providence.
Unto thee do we give thanks. We should praise God again and again. Stinted gratitude is ingratitude. For infinite goodness there should be measureless thanks. Faith promises redoubled praise for greatly needed and signal deliverances.
For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare. God is at hand to answer and do wonders–adore we then the present Deity. We sing not of a hidden God, who sleeps and leaves the church to her fate, but of one who ever in our darkest days is most near, a very present help in trouble. “Near is his name.” Baal is on a journey, but Jehovah dwells in his church. Glory be unto the Lord, whose perpetual deeds of grace and majesty are the sure tokens of his being with us always, even unto the ends of the world.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. Al-taschith. Destroy not. This seems to have been used by David as a maxim during the violent persecutions of Saul, as if to remind himself to forebear revenge, though it was often in his power to inflict it, upon his unnatural enemy. F. G. Hubbard, in “The Psalms Chronologically arranged, with Historical Introductions”. New York. 1856.
Whole Psalm. As these words are really a prayer, while at the same time the Psalm is thrown into the form, not of petitions, but of a thanksgiving, it ought to be considered as a thank prayer, uttered beforehand, and containing petitions within it. Berleb. Bible.
Ver. 1. Thy name is near. The name of God is said to be near, because it had come into public notice, and was in every mind and every tongue–opposed to what is unknown and obscure, which is said to be far remote. Compare De 30:11. Hermann Venema.
Ver. 1. The psalmist doubles this duty in the practice of the saints; Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, we give thanks, we do it; as if none else did it but they, or as if they had done noting else. Joseph Caryl, in “A Sermon before the House of Commons, “entitled, “The Saints’ Thankful Acclamation.”
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 1. The unceasing thanksgiving of the church, her grand cause for adoration: the nearness of her God, and the evident proof thereof in the displays of his power.
Ver. 1.
I. Do we give thanks?
II. We do give thanks.
III. What thanks do we give.?
IV. When do we give thanks?
V. Let us give thanks again.
Psalms 75:2*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 2. When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly. This is generally believed to be the voice of God, who will, when he accepts his people, mount his judgment seat and avenge their cause in righteousness. It is rendered by some, “I will take a set time; “and by others, “I will seize the moment.”
“God never is before his time,
He is never too late.”
He determines the period of interposition, and when that arrives swift are his blows and sure are his deliverances. God sends no delegated judge, but sits himself upon the throne. O Lord, let thy set time come for grace. Tarry no longer, but for the truth and the throne of Jesus be thou speedily at work. Let the appointed assize come, O Jesus, and sit thou on thy throne to judge the world in equity.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
None.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Good resolutions commendable, how they should be made, strengthened, and performed.
Psalms 75:3*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 3. The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved. When anarchy is abroad, and tyrants are in power, everything is unloosed, dissolution threatens all things, the solid mountains of government melt as wax; but even then the Lord upholds and sustains the right.
I bear up the pillars of it. Hence, there is no real cause for fear. While the pillars stand, and stand they must for God upholds them, the house will brave out the storm. In the day of the Lord’s appearing a general melting will take place, but in that day our covenant God will be the sure support of our confidence.
“How can I sink with such a prop
As my eternal God,
Who bears the earth’s huge pillars up,
And spreads the heavens abroad.”
Selah. Here may the music pause while the sublime vision passes before our view; a world dissolved and an immutable God uplifting all his people above the terrible commotion.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 3. I bear up the pillars of it. I prevent it from falling to pieces, as a house, supported by columns too weak to bear its weight, would do. Daniel Cresswell.
Ver. 3. I bear up the pillars of it. Learn to whom the glory of bearing up the world is due. God’s providence is the true Atlas which supports the world, and doth shoulder up the world, whilst it treads on sin and sinners. Upon a serious view taken of providence on this wise displayed, we may say as they said of old, “The Lord, he is the God; the Lord he is the God, “1 Kings 18:39. Thomas Crane.
Ver. 3. We can imagine a monarch, and especially an eastern monarch, in the plenitude of his power, and the arrogance of his pride, as he casts his haughty glance over the ensign of his might, saying to himself, “I bear up the pillars of the earth.” But one could never imagine such a thought arising in the heart, or proceeding from the lips of David or Hezekiah. I know not who of the sons of Adam, frail and feeble at their best estate, could have ever said, The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. I know of none but him who said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, “and who, as he said these words, ascended up into heaven to exercise that sovereignty, and repair that mighty ruin which had been wrought on earth when Satan triumphed in Paradise. Barton Bouchier.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 3. The Lord the stay of his people under the worst circumstances.
Ver. 3. Teacheth us that no disorder or confusion should hinder us from doing that which God requireth of us; nay, rather, the more things are out of order the more readily should we labour to redress them. Thomas Wilcocks.
Psalms 75:4*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 4. I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly. The Lord bids the boasters boast not, and commands the mad oppressors to stay their folly. How calm is he, how quiet are his words, yet how divine the rebuke. If the wicked were not insane, they would even now hear in their consciences the still small voice bidding them cease from evil, and forbear their pride.
And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn. He bids the ungodly stay their haughtiness. The horn was the emblem of boastful power; only the foolish, like wild and savage beasts, will lift it high; but they assail heaven itself with it, as if they would gore the Almighty himself. In dignified majesty he rebukes the inane glories of the wicked, who beyond measure exalt themselves in the day of their fancied power.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 4. Fools. The ungodly are spiritual fools. If one had a child very beautiful, yet if he were a fool, the parent would have little joy in him. The Scripture hath dressed the sinner in a fool’s coat: and let me tell you, better be a fool void of reason, than a fool void of grace: this is the devil’s fool. Proverbs 14:9. Is not he a fool who refuseth a rich portion? God offers Christ and salvation, but the sinner refuseth this portion: “Israel would none of me.” Psalms 81:11. Is not he a fool who prefers an annuity before an inheritance? Is not he a fool who tends his mortal part, and neglects his angelical part? As if one should paint the wall of his house, and let the timber rot. Is not he a fool who will feed the devil with his soul? As that emperor who fed his lion with a pheasant. Is not he a fool who lays a snare for himself? Proverbs 1:18. Who consults his own shame? Habakkuk 2:10. Who loves death? Proverbs 8:36. Thomas Watson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 4.
I. Who spoke to them? I.
II. Who were they? Fools, wicked.
III. What did you say?
IV. What was the good of it? Or, Rebuke of sin, a duty.
Ver. 4. The unhallowed trio: –wickedness, folly, pride.
Psalms 75:5*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 5. Lift not up your horn on high. For their abounding pride there is a double rebuke. A word from God soon abases the lofty. Would to God that all proud men would obey the word here given them; for, if they do not, he will take effectual means to secure obedience, and then woe will come upon them, such as shall break their horns and roll their glory in the mire for ever.
Speak not with a stiff neck. Impudence before God is madness. The outstretched neck of insolent pride is sure to provoke his axe. Those who carry their heads high shall find that they will be lifted yet higher, as Haman was upon the gallows which he had prepared for the righteous man. Silence, thou silly boaster! Silence! or God will answer thee. Who art thou, thou worm, that thou shouldest arrogantly object against thy Maker’s laws and cavil at his truth? Be hushed, thou vainglorious prater, or vengeance shall silence thee to thine eternal confusion.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 5. Horn. The word horn was used in the Hebrew metaphorically to express either honour, as Ps 112:9 132:18, etc.; or strength, Micah 4:13, “I will make thine horn iron.” De 33:17, etc. To humble and cast down was often represented by the figure of breaking or cutting off the horn, as here (Psalms 75:10). La 2:3, “Cut off all the horn of Israel.” To exalt the horn of any one was to bestow honour and dignity upon him; so also, to make it bud. Ps 132:17 89:18 Ezekiel 29:21. Here, to lift up the horn betokens presumption. It was also somewhat later a symbol for kingdom, Zechariah 1:18, and Daniel. “Four Friends.”
Ver. 5. Speak not with a stiff neck. Mr. Bruce has observed that the Abyssinian kings have a horn on their diadem; and that the keeping it erect, or in a projecting form, makes them appear as if they had a stiff neck; and refers to this passage for the antiquity of the usage, and the appearance also. Adam Clarke.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 5. Arguments against pride in heart, appearance, and speech.
Psalms 75:6*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 6. For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. There is a God, and a providence, and things happen not by chance. Though deliverance be hopeless from all points of the compass, yet God can work it for his people; and though judgment come neither from the rising or the setting of the sun, nor from the wilderness of mountains, yet come it will, for the Lord reigneth. Men forget that all things are ordained in heaven; they see but the human force, and the carnal passion, but the unseen Lord is more real far than these. He is at work behind and within the cloud. The foolish dream that he is not, but he is near even now, and on the way to bring in his hand that cup of spiced wine of vengeance, one draught of which shall stagger all his foes.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 6. For promotion cometh neither from the east, etc. The word promotion here is used in a very expressive way; it means the desire of self advancement, Myrh (harim), and would teach us that all our inward schemes, and outward plans, cannot gain for us advancement, unless based upon the fear and love of God; we look forward to improve our circumstances, like to the ascending of a mountain, and nerve ourselves to the effort of ascent, fondly thinking that no eye watches our efforts; but as “shame is the promotion of fools, “so disappointment is often the return of rashness… From the east promotion doth not come; the word east here is very expressive, auwmm (mimmotza), the rising of the sun, the outgoing of light, the dawning of the day, and the manifesting or revealing of God. We look around; and in the early dawning of youth, with high hopes, mental energies, and perhaps superior talents, anticipate victory over our compeers, and a course of worldly success and prosperity; but alas! how often are all these hopes blighted and a succession of reverses humbles our spirits. Promotion cometh not from the west. The original is bremmw (umimmagnarab) and it means duskiness, darkness, and the setting sun, –hence the west. When the clouds of years press upon us, and darkened shadows overtake us in various ways, such as loss of dear and early friends, the buoyancy of youth gone by, hopes softened down to personal ease, and the power of the constitution reduced; then God often wills that promotion shall not come. We now approach to the last point from whence promotion cometh not, that is from the south, rbrm (mid bar) a waste place, the Arabian desert; hence the south. In dry and solitary places like the sandy desert little advancement can be looked for; like the human intellect, unless cultivated and improved by care and education it is barren as the desert to all holy feelings and improvement, the natural passions like sand choke up every patch susceptible of cultivation, and close up all the avenues to thought and devotion. A godless man is like the Arabian desert, of no profit to himself or his neighbours; like ever shifting sands being tossed to and fro by his own wayward passions; heated with the suns of turbulence, self will, and recklessness, he is a desert, a waste where God will not vouchsafe the light of his countenance for promotion. Like the disobedient Jews of old, Psalms 78:49, we may speak of this man saying, “How oft did he provoke him in the wilderness and grieve him in the desert!” Let us then cultivate the higher part of our being, and then we may produce fruit unto holiness; let us not wreck so noble a ship as the soul by careless steering and neglect, but trim its sails with early good instruction, and then may we arrive at the haven where we would be. Having now illustrated the three points mentioned in our text, let us turn to the one (the north) where promotion or advancement may be looked for. Coldness is emblematical of purity, and coldness is an attribute of the north. The pure in heart shall see God. God is the northern light that gleams over the stillness of life’s night. “He giveth snow like wool; he scattereth the hoar frost like ashes; he casteth forth his ice like morsels.” Be it ours to be humbly dependent upon God; for whatever station he may choose to keep us in, godliness alone will prove our promotion and true riches. If our anxieties are directed toward pleasing him, then shall we prosper, and he will shew us “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and the Lamb.” (Revelation 22:1.) Condensed from a Sermon by Gregory Bateman, preached March 16th, 1862, on his entering upon the Vicarage of Ulrome.
Ver. 6. For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. Here are three of the four winds specified, and it is said, “promotion” comes from neither of them. But why is it not also said that promotion comes not from the north? that’s the question. I answer; –it were answer enough to say, that we ought not to put questions curiously about such things; it should satisfy us that the Spirit of God is pleased to say it is so, and no more. Yet some tell us, the reason why it is not said promotion cometh not from the north, is because indeed it cometh out of the north, which, say they, is intimated in the Hebrew word for the north, which signifies hidden or secret. Promotion comes not from the east, nor west, nor south, but from the north. It comes from the north in a figure or mystery, that is, it comes from some hidden providence, or secret hand, which many take no more notice of than we do of the furthest part of the north. God promotes many in this world to power, and sends them great prosperity, we see not how or which way: the causes and contrivances of it are hidden close, and in the breast of God. This also is a truth; in that sense we may say, “Fair weather cometh from the north.” Promotion is visible, but the manner of it is a secret; we see not the causes for which, nor the ways in which it cometh. It is enough to touch these niceties, and to touch them can do no hurt, while the matter arising from them hath the clear consent of, and is harmonious with other plain places of Scripture. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 6. Promotion; or, lifting up. The word is evidently an emphatic word in the Psalm; it is the same which occurs in verses four and five, and again in verse seven and verse ten. I have, therefore, given the same rendering of it throughout. The rendering of the authorized version promotion, besides losing sight of the manifestly designed repetition of the same word, is peculiarly unfortunate in conveying a wrong idea. Lifting up, in its Hebrew sense, does not mean promotion, as we commonly understand it, but deliverance from trouble, safety, victory. The image, in particular, of lifting up the head or the horn (the last borrowed from wild beasts, such as buffaloes, etc., in whom the horn is the symbol of strength), denotes courage, strength, and victory over enemies. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 6. Nor from the south. “From the wilderness, “the great wilderness lying in that direction. Three quarters are mentioned, the north only being omitted. This may be accounted for, supposing the Psalm to refer to Sennacherib, by the fact that the Assyrian army approached from the north; and therefore it would be natural to look in all directions but that for assistance to repel the invader. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 6-7. “I thought to promote thee to great honour, “said the king of Moab to Balaam; and yet that promotion ended in a dishonoured and a bloody death. I have often thought of many of the Lord’s servants on earth, so superciliously passed by and passed over in man’s catalogue of worthies, with what glad and grateful surprise they will at length receive that promotion denied on earth, when their own Master shall say to them, “Friend, come up higher; “and then, as they sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, shall they have honour of them that sit at meat with them. Barton Bouchier.
Ver. 6-10. The rise and fall of nations and empires are in this Psalm ascribed to God. He exalts one and puts down another at his pleasure. In this he generally uses instrumentality, but that instrumentality is always rendered effectual by his own agency. When nations or individuals are prosperous, and glorious, and powerful, they usually ascribe all to themselves or to fortune. But it is God who has raised them to eminence. When they boast he can humble them. In these verses God is considered as the governor of the world, punishing the wicked, and pouring out judgment on his enemies. The calamities of war, pestilence, and famine, are all ministers of providence to execute wrath. Alexander Carson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 6-7. The changes of providence not the tricks of fortune.
Psalms 75:7*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 7. But God is the judge. Even now he is actually judging. His seat is not vacant; his authority is not abdicated; the Lord reigneth evermore.
He putteth down one, and setteth up another. Empires rise and fall at his bidding. A dungeon here, and there a throne, his will assigns. Assyria yields to Babylon, and Babylon to the Medes. Kings are but puppets in his hand; they serve his purpose when they rise and when they fall. A certain author has issued a work called “Historic Ninepins, “(Timbs), a fit name of scorn for all the great ones of the earth. God only is; all power belongs to him; all else is shadow, coming and going, unsubstantial, misty, dream like.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 6-7. See Psalms on “Psalms 75:6” for further information.
Ver. 6-10. See Psalms on “Psalms 72:9” for further information.
The rise and fall of nations and empires are in this Psalm ascribed to God. He exalts one and puts down another at his pleasure. In this he generally uses instrumentality, but that instrumentality is always rendered effectual by his own agency. When nations or individuals are prosperous, and glorious, and powerful, they usually ascribe all to themselves or to fortune. But it is God who has raised them to eminence. When they boast he can humble them. In these verses God is considered as the governor of the world, punishing the wicked, and pouring out judgment on his enemies. The calamities of war, pestilence, and famine, are all ministers of providence to execute wrath. Alexander Carson.
Ver. 7.
“Here he exalts neglected worms
To sceptres and a crown;
Anon the following page he turns,
And treads the monarch down.” Isaac Watts.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 6-7. The changes of providence not the tricks of fortune.
Ver. 7. God acts as a judge and not arbitrarily in his providential arrangements.
Psalms 75:8*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 8. For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup. The punishment of the wicked is prepared, God himself holds it in readiness; he has collected and concocted woes most dread, and in the chalice of his wrath he holds it. They scoffed his feast of love; they shall be dragged to his table of justice, and made to drink their due deserts.
And the wine is red. The retribution is terrible, it is blood for blood, foaming vengeance for foaming malice. The very colour of divine wrath is terrible; what must the taste be?
It is full of mixture. Spices of anger, justice, and incensed mercy are there. Their misdeeds, their blasphemies, their persecutions have strengthened the liquor as with potent drugs;
“Mingled, strong, and mantling high;
Behold the wrath divine.”
Ten thousand woes are burning in the depths of that fiery cup, which to the brim is filled with indignation.
And he poureth out of the same. The full cup must be quaffed, the wicked cannot refuse the terrible draught, for God himself pours it out for them and into them. Vain are their cries and entreaties. They could once defy him, but that hour is over, and the time to requite them if fully come.
But the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them. Even to the bitter end must wrath proceed. They must drink on and on for ever, even to the bottom where lie the lees of deep damnation; these they must suck up, and still must they drain the cup. Oh the anguish and the heart break of the day of wrath! Mark well, it is for all the wicked; all hell for all the ungodly; the dregs for the dregs; bitters for the bitter; wrath for the heirs of wrath. Righteousness is conspicuous, but over all terror spreads a tenfold night, cheerless, without a star. Oh happy they who drink the cup of godly sorrow, and the cup of salvation: these, though now despised, will then be envied by the very men who trod them under foot.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 6-10. See Psalms on “Psalms 75:6” for further information.
Ver. 8. In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red (which notes fierce wrath); and it is full of mixture. This mixture is of judgments, plagues, and punishments; “this is the portion of their cup” (Psalms 11:1-7). But what will the Lord do with this mixed cup? Who shall sip at the top of the cup he tells us not; but he is express whose the bottom is: he poureth out of the same –some drops are spilt here and there–but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them. Alas, they loathe it, their stomachs turn at it; they have not been brought up to drink dregs; they have had their wine well refined, and sparkling with spirits in crystal glasses; and how can they get this down? They who have drunk so willingly and freely of the cup of sin, shall be forced, whether they will or no, to drink the cup of judgment. And it is not a sip or two shall serve their turns; they must drink all, dregs and all, they shall drink it to the bottom and yet they shall never come to the bottom; they have loved long draughts, and now they shall have one long enough; there is eternity to the bottom. If a cup of affliction, which, in the effect, is a cup of salvation, be sometime, or for a time, nauseous to the godly, how deadly sick will the ungodly be, who must for ever, drink a cup of wrath and death. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 8. In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, etc. It is a cup: well, there is a cup that David thirsts for: “I will take the cup of salvation.” Psalms 116:13. There is wine in it: better; for wine cheers the hearts, and puts alacrity into the spirits. That wine is red: better still; so it should be; this argues the lustre and goodness of it: “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, “Proverbs 23:31 : the colour adds to the pleasure. But now it is full of mixture: alas, this mixture spoils all. It is compounded, brewed, made unwholesome: this changeth the condition of the cup, of the wine, of the colour, of all. It is mixed with the wrath of God, the malice of Satan, the anguish of soul, the gall of sin, the tears of despair: it is red, that is, of a sanguine colour, the wine of blood. But yet so long as it is in the cup, they need not meddle with it: nay, but the Lord will pour it out; he shall hold their mouths to it, and make them drink it: the rankest poison in the world, the gall of dragons, and venom of asps, is pleasant and healthful to it. Yet be it a little of the top, let them but taste it; nay, they must drink it off, to the very bottom, the sediments, dreg, lees, and all; even the very filth of vengeance. And lest any drops should be left behind, they shall wring them out, and suck them down to their confusion. The cup is all bitter, and full of sorrow, saith Augustine: the godly do often taste the top, and feel the bitterness, but then it is suddenly snatched from them; but the ungodly shall drink the very grounds, and most extreme poison. Thomas Adams.
Ver. 8. In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; red with wrath, in the day of God’s wrath. It is full of mixture: it hath no mixture of good, no sweetness at all in it, but all sorts of evil are mingled in out of the world; but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink: they have not only the cup, but the dregs of the cup, that is, the worst of the cup; for as in a good cup, the deeper the sweeter; so in an evil cup, the deeper the worse: the dregs and the worst, the bottom is the bitterest of a bitter cup. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 8. A cup. There seems to be here an allusion to the cup of malediction, as the Jews called that “mixed cup of wine” and frankincense, which used to be given to condemned criminals before their execution, in order to take away their senses. Richard Mant.
Ver. 8. The wine is red, or “the wine foameth, “i.e. as it is poured into the cup from the wine jar, as is expressed in the next member of the verse. Mixture, i.e. the aromatic herbs, &c., which were put into the wine to make it more intoxicating. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 8. The wine is red. The remedy is suitable to the disease, and the punishment to the sin: Sanguinem sitisti sanguinem vitis (as he once says); Thou hast thirsted after blood, and blood thou shalt drink. Because men delight in blood, therefore blood shall be poured out unto them; yea, their own blood shall be poured out. This is the way of God’s providence, and the manner of his dealings in the world; which because it is filled with cruelty shall be therefore filled with blood. Thomas Horton.
Ver. 8. Red. The Hebrew word rmx rather means turbid: and it probably contains a further allusion to the particulars above mentioned; the wine being rendered turbid by stirring up the lees, and by the mixture of intoxicating drugs. Richard Mant.
Ver. 8. Full of mixture. There are some who think that mixture is here named because they rarely drink pure wine in those regions, since they are so warm; and because the wine is there more generous than in these colder quarters. But a different signification is intended; it is that spices are mingled with the wine. Francis Vatablus. 1547.
Ver. 8. Mixture. In all the afflictions of God’s people there’s an intermixture and temperament of love and favour, which shows itself in them. As, first of all, there’s a mixture of strength and patience for the bearing of it. Secondly, there’s a mixture of comfort and goodness as to the things themselves. God is not altogether in affliction, but he is very much in mercy with it; and as he is pleased to exercise his servants with several troubles, so he does likewise vouchsafe them many blessings together with them, which he does comfort them withal. And then, thirdly, there’s another thing also which is much observable in the afflictions of God’s people, which makes this mixture complete, and that is, a mixture of improvement and edification. Thomas Horton.
Ver. 8. The dregs. (We quote this for its singularity rather than its value. It is a notable instance of the force of party zeal. Thus the Evangelical Anglican, in his ardour against Ritualistic errors, finds aid in a passage which would not ordinarily be understood to relate to the question. Any stick is good enough to beat a dog with.) Now, as the cup of red wine is the Christian doctrine which converts the soul, and in which the true believer spiritually luxuriates, so the dregs thereof are those merely outward, formal, and ceremonious circumstances, which are nothing in themselves more than the dregs and leavings of the signified reality and spiritual substance. And when the text says that the wicked shall wring out the dregs of Christian doctrine, and shall drink of them, we are led to fix our attention upon the main peculiarity of Pharisaical religion. As God satisfies his people with the true spiritual refreshment of genuine Christian doctrine; so does he leave to the unenlightened spirit, who will not seek him as he ought to do, the mere outside formalities, which being indeed to religion necessarily, but of it form no vital part. They are but the refuse of the magnificent heaven realising substance. T. D. Gregg. 1855.
Ver. 8. All the wicked. They shall all do it too, we may not omit that: all the wicked of the earth. As there’s an universality of the judgment, so there’s universality of the sufferers; they shall drink all of it, and they shall all of them drink it, that so no man may favour or flatter himself with hope of escape. Thomas Horton.
Ver. 8. Shall wring them out. Here’s the necessity also of it; it is unavoidable; They shall drink it, that is, even against their minds, whether they will or no. It is very likely that wicked men would be very loath to come to this condition: they can be content to sin, but they cannot endure to be punished for sin… This cup shall not pass from them, but they shall drink of it, even against their stomachs, where they never so much loath it. Yea, and which is more, they shall suck it up; God will turn the cup up to them, and will make them to take it every jot; he will not spare them one drop of it, which they shall be suffered to leave behind… The Lord himself (as I may say) will stand over them, and see them do it without any favour or indulgence. Thomas Horton.
Ver. 8. When God’s people have drunk the red wine in the cup, the wicked must drink the dregs: the cup passeth from place to place till all be drank off. William Greenhill.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 8. In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, etc.
I. As to matter of preparation, consider it so, and
thus it is in the hand of the Lord.
II. By way of qualification: it is he that tempers
it; it was full of mixture.
III. By way of distribution, as giving to every one
his share and portion in it. Thomas Horton.
Ver. 8. The cup of wrath. Where it is, what it is, how full it is, who brings it, who must drink it.
Ver. 8. Full of mixture. Wrath of God, remorse, memory of lost joy, fear of future, recriminations, despair, shame, etc., all these are ingredients of the mingled cup.
Ver. 8. (last clause).
I. “The dregs” of the cup: the wrath of wrath, the gall
of bitterness.
II. The dregs of the people: “all wicked.”
Psalms 75:9*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 9. But I will declare for ever. Thus will the saints occupy themselves with rehearsing Jehovah’s praises, while their foes are drunken with the wine of wrath. They shall chant while the others roar in anguish, and justly so, for the former Psalm informed us that such had been the case on earth, –“thine enemies roar in the sanctuary, ” –the place where the chosen praised the Lord.
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. The covenant God, who delivered Jacob from a thousand afflictions, our soul shall magnify. He has kept his covenant which he made with the patriarch, and has redeemed his seed, therefore will we spread abroad his fame world without end.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 6-10. See Psalms on “Psalms 75:6” for further information.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 9. Our life work: to declare and to sing.
Psalms 75:10*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 10. All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off. Power and liberty being restored to Israel, she begins again to execute justice, by abasing the godless who had gloried in the reign of oppression. Their power and pomp are to be smitten down. Men wore horns in those days as a part of their state, and these, both literally and figuratively, were to be lopped off; fir since God abhors the proud, his church will not tolerate them any longer.
But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted. In a rightly ordered society, good men are counted great men, virtue confers true rank, and grace is more esteemed than gold. Being saved from unrighteous domination, the chief among the chosen people here promises to rectify the errors which had crept into the commonwealth, and after the example of the Lord himself, to abase the haughty and elevate the humble. This memorable ode may be sung in times of great depression, when prayer has performed her errand at the mercyseat, and when faith is watching for speedy deliverance. It is a song of the second advent, CONCERNING THE NEARNESS OF THE JUDGE WITH THE CUP OF WRATH.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 6-10. See Psalms on “Psalms 75:6” for further information.

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Psalm 74

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-23
TITLE. Maschil of Asaph. An instructive Psalm by Asaph. The history of the suffering church is always edifying; when we see how the faithful trusted and wrestled with their God in times of dire distress, we are thereby taught how to behave ourselves under similar circumstances; we learn moreover, that when fiery trial befalls us, no strange thing happened unto us, we are following the trail of the host of God.
DIVISION. From Psalms 74:1-11 the poet pleads the sorrows of the nation, and the despite done to the assemblies of the Lord; then he urges former displays of divine power as a reason for present deliverance (Psalms 74:12-23). Whether it is a prophetic Psalm, intended for use in troubles foreseen, or whether it was written by a later Asaph, after the invasion by Sennacherib or during the Maccabean wars, it would be very hard to determine, but we see no difficulty in the first supposition.
EXPOSITION
Ver. 1. O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? To cast us off at all were hard, but when thou dost for so long a time desert they people it is an evil beyond all endurance–the very chief of woes and abyss of misery. It is our wisdom when under chastisement to enquire, “Show me wherefore thou contendest with me?” and if the affliction be a protracted one, we should more eagerly enquire the purport of it. Sin is usually at the bottom of all the hiding of the Lord’s face; let us ask the Lord to reveal the special form of it to us, that we may repent of it, overcome it, and henceforth forsake it. When a church is in a forsaken condition it must not sit still in apathy, but turn to the hand which smiteth it, and humbly enquire the reason why. At the same time, the enquiry of the text is a faulty one, for it implies two mistakes. There are two questions, which only admit of negative replies. “Hath God cast away his people?” (Romans 11:1); and the other, “Will the Lord cast off for ever?” (Psalms 77:7). God is never weary of his people so as to abhor them, and even when his anger is turned against them, it is but for a small moment, and with a view to their eternal good. Grief in its distraction asks strange questions and surmises impossible terrors. It is a wonder of grace that the Lord has not long ago put us away as men lay aside cast off garments, but he hateth putting away, and will still be patient with his chosen.
Why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? They are thine, they are the objects of thy care, they are poor, silly, and defenceless things: pity them, forgive them, and come to their rescue. They are but sheep, do not continue to be wroth with them. It is a terrible thing when the anger of God smokes, but it is an infinite mercy that it does not break into a devouring flame. It is meet to pray the Lord to remove every sign of his wrath, for it is to those who are truly the Lord’s sheep a most painful thing to be the objects of his displeasure. To vex the Holy Spirit is no mean sin, and yet how frequently are we guilty of it; hence it is no marvel that we are often under a cloud.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. There is one singularity in this Psalm which reminds one strongly of Psalms 44:1-26 : there is not one mention of national or personal sin throughout, no allusion to the Lord’s righteous dealing in their punishment, no supplication for pardon and forgiveness; and yet one can hardly doubt that the writer of the Psalm, be he who he may, must have felt as keenly as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, or any other prophet of the captivity, the sins and iniquities which had brought all this sore evil upon them. But still, though there be expostulations, there is no complaint; though there be mourning, there is no murmuring; there is far more the cry of a smitten child, wondering why, and grieving that his father’s face is so turned away from him in displeasure, and a father’s hand so heavy on the child of his love. Or, as we might almost say, it is like the cry of one of those martyred ones beneath the altar, wondering at the marauder and oppressor, and exclaiming, “How long, O Lord, how long?” And yet it is the appeal of one who was still a sufferer, still groaning under the pressure of his calamities, “Why has thou cast us off for ever? We see not our signs, there is no more any prophet among us.” Barton Bouchier.
Whole Psalm. The peculiarity of this Psalm is marred by the very frequent use of the xeg, for ever:, Psalms 74:1; Psalms 74:3; Psalms 74:10. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Ver. 1. This Psalm, and particularly these words, do contain the church’s sad lamentation over her deep affliction, together with her earnest expostulations with God about the cause. Two things there are that the church in these words doth plead with God. First, The greatness of her affliction: secondly, the nearness of he relation.
1. The greatness of her affliction. And there were three things in her affliction that did make it lie very heavy upon her. First, the root of this affliction; and that was God’s anger: Why doth thine anger smoke, etc. Secondly, the height of this affliction; God was not only angry, but he did smoke in his anger. Thirdly, the length of this affliction: it was so long that God did seem to cast them off for ever.
2. The nearness of her relation: Against the sheep of thy pasture; as if they should have said, Lord, if thou hadst done this against thine enemies, it had been no wonder; if thou hadst poured out thy wrath against the vessels of wrath, it had not been so much. But what! wilt thou draw out thy sword against the sheep of thy pasture? It were no wonder that thou shouldest take the fat and the strong, and pour out thy judgments upon them; but wilt thou do it to thy sheep?
There be several doctrines that I may raise from these words; as,
First doctrine: That God’s people are his sheep.
Second doctrine: That God may be sorely angry with his own people, with his own sheep.
Third doctrine: That when God is angry with his people, it becomes them carefully to enquire into the cause.
Fourth doctrine: That when God’s people are under afflictions, they ought to take notice of, and be much affected with, his anger, from which they do proceed.
Fifth doctrine: That God’s people under affliction are, or should be, more affected with his anger than with their smart. This is that which the church doth complain of, not that the church did so smart, but that God was displeased and angry; that did most affect them.
Sixth doctrine: That God’s people are apt to have misgiving thoughts of God when they are in sore afflictions. God was angry with his people, and their hearts did misgive them, as if God did cast off his people.
Seventh doctrine: That God may be angry with his people, so sore, and so long, that in the judgment of sense it may seem that they are for ever cast off. Eighth doctrine: That though the people of God may not murmur against his proceedings, yet they may humbly expostulate with him about the cause. Joseph Alleine. 1633-1668.
Ver. 1. Why doth thine anger smoke, etc. Anger is a fire; and in men, and other creatures enraged, a smoke seemeth to go out of their nostrils. Xenophon saith of the Thebans, when they are angry they breathe fire. This then is spoken of God, after the manner of men. John Trapp.
Ver. 1. The sheep of thy pasture. There is nothing more imbecile than a sheep: simple, frugal, gentle, tame, patient, prolific, timid, domesticated, stupid, useful. Therefore, while the name of sheep is here used, it is suggested how pressing the necessity is for divine assistance, and how well befitting the Most High it would be to make their cause his own. Lorinus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 1.
I. The divine displeasure a fact.
II. It is but in measure, and we are very liable to
exaggerate it.
III. Even while it lasts our relation to him is
unaffected: Sheep of thy pasture.
IV. Our business is to enquire the reason of it, and act
accordingly.
Ver. 1. (second clause). The Lord’s anger with his people compared to smoke.
I. It is not a consuming fire.
II. It suggests fear of the fire.
III. It darkens the light of joy.
IV. It blinds the eyes of faith.
V. It checks the breath of life.
VI. It blackens the beauty of our worldly comforts.
Psalms 74:2*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 2. Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old. What a mighty plea is redemption. O God, canst thou see the blood mark on thine own sheep, and yet allow grievous wolves to devour them? The church is no new purchase of the Lord; from before the world’s foundation the chosen were regarded as redeemed by the Lamb slain; shall ancient love die out, and the eternal purpose become frustrate? The Lord would have his people remember the paschal Lamb, the bloodstained lintel, and the overthrow of Egypt; and will he forget all this himself? Let us put him in remembrance, let us plead together. Can he desert his blood bought and forsake his redeemed? Can election fail and eternal love cease to glow? Impossible. The woes of Calvary, and the covenant of which they are the seal, are the security of the saints.
The rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed. So sweet a plea deserved to be repeated and enlarged upon. The Lord’s portion is his people–will he lose his inheritance? His church is his kingdom, over which he stretches the rod of sovereignty; will he allow his possessions to be torn from him? God’s property in us is a fact full of comfort: his value of us, his dominion over us, his connection with us are all so many lights to cheer our darkness. No man will willingly lose his inheritance, and no prince will relinquish his dominions; therefore we believe that the King of kings will hold his own, and maintain his rights against all comers.
This mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt. The Lord’s having made Zion the especial centre of his worship, and place of his manifestation, is yet another plea for the preservation of Jerusalem. Shall the sacred temple of Jehovah be desecrated by heathen, and the throne of the Great King be defiled by his enemies? Has the Spirit of God dwelt in our hearts, and will he leave them to become a haunt for the devil? Has he sanctified us by his indwelling, and will he, after all, vacate the throne? God forbid. It may be well to note that this Psalm was evidently written with a view to the temple upon Zion, and not to the tabernacle which was there in David’s time, and was a mere tent; but the destructions here bewailed were exercised upon the carved work of a substantial structure. Those who had seen the glory of God in Solomon’s peerless temple might well mourn in bitterness, when the Lord allowed his enemies to make an utter ruin of that matchless edifice.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2. Remember thy congregation. It is not without reason that they do not say, Remember us, but Remember thy congregation, not ours, but thine; nor that because it has now begun to be thine, but which thou hast purchased of old, the rod of thine inheritance which thou hast redeemed: likewise, this Mount Zion; not wherein we, but wherein thou hast dwelt. They had nothing which they could bring before an angry God with greater confidence, than the ancient lovingkindness shown to their fathers in former days. Musculus.
Ver. 2. The rod of thine inheritance. hlxg jbv, the inheritance rod is the staff with which the inheritance is measured; jkv hdmh hgq, the land surveyor’s rod (Ezekiel 40:3); and this is used as lrwg, the lot, is for the portion, for the inheritance itself. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Ver. 2. Thine inheritance. It signifies a nation, which through all successions God had a peculiar right and title to. Henry Hammond.
Ver. 2. Thou hast redeemed, i.e., the purchased people, by restoring them when they had been alienated, and had fallen into the hands of others: like a goel, or near kinsman, who ransoms a brother hurried into captivity, and regains an inheritance that has been sold. Hermann Venema.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 2.
I. The Lord’s relation to his people.
1. Election.
2. Redemption.
3. Indwelling. II. The prayer arising from it: Remember.
Psalms 74:3*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 3. Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations. The ruin made had already long been an eyesore to the suppliant, and there seemed no hope of restoration. Havoc lorded it not only for a day or a year, but with perpetual power. This is another argument with God. Would Jehovah sit still and see his own land made a wilderness, his own palace a desolation? Until he should arise, and draw near, the desolation would remain; only his presence could cure the evil, therefore is he entreated to hasten with uplifted feet for the deliverance of his people.
Even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary. Every stone in the ruined temple appealed to the Lord; on all sides were the marks of impious spoilers, the holiest places bore evidence of their malicious wickedness; would the Lord for ever permit this? Would he not hasten to overthrow the foe who defied him to his face, and profaned the throne of his glory? Faith finds pleas in the worst circumstances, she uses even the fallen stones of her desolate palaces, and assails with them the gates of heaven, casting them forth with the great engine of prayer.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 3. Lift up thy feet. Or, thy hammers, that is, “thy strokes, “to “stamp” or “beat down” the enemy “unto perpetual desolations.” Thus the “feet” are used to “tread down with, ” Isaiah 26:6; and so the Greek taketh it here, changing the metaphor, and translating it, “Thy hands, “which are also instruments to strike down with. Or, lift up thy feet, that is, come quickly to see the perpetual desolations, which the enemy hath made. Henry Ainsworth.
Ver. 3. Lift up thy feet. Abu Walid renders it, Tread hard upon thine enemies. The Jewish Arab, Shew forth thy punishment, adding in a note that the lifting up the feet implies punishment, the bringing under by force being usually expressed by treading under the feet. Henry Hammond.
Ver. 3. Lift up thy feet, etc. To these desolations they seek that God would lift up his footsteps, that is, that he would approach. In Genesis 29:1, there occurs the phrase, to lift the feet; here the expression is much more marked–to lift up the footsteps –and must be taken to mean a swift, impetuous, majestic, and powerful approach; like a hero, who strikes the ground with heavy tread, and advances rapidly with far sounding footsteps. Hermann Venema.
Ver. 3. In the sanctuary. Their cities had been laid waste, their provinces, their farms, their vineyards, their oliveyards. They themselves had been everywhere cut down without striking a blow in defence, and their means of life had been snatched away without resistance. Yet they speak not of these things; not because things of this sort ought not to cause grief, nor yet because the saints are not touched with a sense of their loss; but because those things which threatened the extinction of religion and the worship of God, overtopped the feeling of all these other misfortunes with an intolerable sorrow. Musculus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 3. Church mischief.
I. The church has enemies.
II. Wickedness in the church is their great weapon.
III. This causes much desolation to weak saints, to
enquirers, to peace, to prayer, to usefulness.
IV. The cure for it is God’s interposition.
Ver. 3-4. The power of prayer.
I. On one side were,
1. Desolation: perpetual, etc.
2. Desecration.
3. Declamation: enemies roar.
4. Demonstration: they set up. II. On the other side is,
1. Supplication.
2. This brings God to the rescue effectually and quickly.
Psalms 74:4*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 4. Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations. Where thy people sang like angels, these barbarians roar like beasts. When thy saints come together for worship, these cruel men attack them with all the fury of lions. They have no respect for the most solemn gatherings, but intrude themselves and their blasphemies into our most hallowed meetings. How often in times of persecution or prevalent heresy has the church learned the meaning of such language. May the Lord spare us such misery. When hypocrites abound in the church, and pollute her worship, the case is parallel to that before us; Lord save us from so severe a trial.
They set up their ensigns for signs. Idolatrous emblems used in war were set up over God’s altar, as an insulting token of victory, and of contempt for the vanquished and their God. Papists, Arians, and the modern school of Neologians, have, in their day, set up their ensigns for signs. Superstition, unbelief, and carnal wisdom have endeavoured to usurp the place of Christ crucified, to the grief of the church of God. The enemies without do us small damage, but those within the church cause her serious harm; by supplanting the truth and placing error in its stead, they deceive the people, and lead multitudes to destruction. As a Jew felt a holy horror when he saw an idolatrous emblem set up in the holy place, even so do we when in a Protestant church we see the fooleries of Rome, and when from pulpits, once occupied by men of God, we hear philosophy and vain deceit.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 4. Thine enemies roar, etc. The word gav is used especially of the roar of the lion… In this place we may justly extend the application of the verb to those noisy words, whether mirthful or boastful, blasphemous against God and calamitous to his people (Psalms 74:10), breathing terror and threatenings through edicts; or rude and senseless, as in their idolatrous worship; or in their prayers and thoughtless songs. As in Isaiah 52:5, its meaning is to howl. Hermann Venema.
Ver. 4. They set up their ensigns for signs. The meaning is, that the enemy, having abolished the signs of the true God, of his people and religion, such as circumcision, the feasts, sacrifices, the other ordinances of religion, and other marks of liberty, substituted his own idolatrous signs, as the signs of his authority and religion. Hermann Venema.
Ver. 4-7. (The persecution under Antiochus. B.C. 168.) Athenaeus proceeded to Jerusalem, where, with the assistance of the garrison, he prohibited and suppressed every observance of the Jewish religion, forced the people to profane the Sabbath, to eat swine’s flesh, and other unclean food, and expressly forbade the national rite of circumcision. The Temple was dedicated to Jupiter Olympus: the statue of that deity was erected on part of the altar of burnt offerings, and sacrifice duly performed… As a last insult, the feasts of the Bacchanalia, the license of which, as they were celebrated in the later ages of Greece, shocked the severe virtue of the older Romans, were substituted for the national festival of Tabernacles. The reluctant Jews were forced to join in these riotous orgies, and to carry the ivy, the insignia of the god. So near was the Jewish nation, and the worship of Jehovah, to total extermination. Henry Hart Milman (1791-1868), in “A History of the Jews.”
(Under Titus.) And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings lying round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple, and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator, with the greatest acclamation of joy. Josephus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 3-4. The power of prayer.
I. On one side were,
1. Desolation: perpetual, etc.
2. Desecration.
3. Declamation: enemies roar.
4. Demonstration: they set up. II. On the other side is,
1. Supplication.
2. This brings God to the rescue effectually and quickly.
Ver. 4. Ensigns for signs. The craft of Satan is supplanting truth with deceptive counterfeits.
Psalms 74:5*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 5. A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees. Once men were renowned for felling the cedars and preparing them for building the temple, but now the axe finds other work, and men are as proud of destroying as their fathers were of erecting. Thus in the olden times our sires dealt sturdy blows against the forests of error, and laboured hard to lay the axe at the root of the trees; but, alas! their sons appear to be quite as diligent to destroy the truth and to overthrow all that their fathers built up. O for the good old times again! O for an hour of Luther’s hatchet, or Calvin’s mighty axe!
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 4-7. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:4” for further information.
(Under Titus.) And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings lying round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple, and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator, with the greatest acclamation of joy. Josephus.
Ver. 5. A man was famous, etc. It enhances the cruelty of the enemy that the temple which had been at the cost of so much treasure, adorned with such great elegance and splendour, and finished with untiring industry and consummate skill, was not saved thereby from their barbarous hands, but was utterly overthrown. There is a simile in these verses. The enemies breaking to pieces with great violence and casting down the altars and beams of the temple, are compared to the woodman, who with axe in hand cuts down the strong trees of the wood. Mollerus.
Ver. 5. A man was famous, etc. That is, very renowned were the workmen, who, by Hiram’s order, cut down the rough cedars and firs in the thick Tyrian forests, for the building of thy Temple, and thereby they did an acceptable service to thee. Thomas Fenton.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 5. True fame. To build for God with labour, daring, diligence, skill, etc.
Psalms 74:6*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 6. But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers. The invaders were as industrious to destroy as the ancient builders had been to construct. Such fair carving it was barbarous to hew in pieces, but the Vandals had no mercy and broke down all, with any weapon which came to hand. In these days men are using axes and sledgehammers against the gospel and the church. Glorious truths, far more exquisite than the goodliest carving, are cavilled over and smashed by the blows of modern criticism. Truths which have upheld the afflicted and cheered the dying are smitten by pretentious Goths, who would be accounted learned, but know not the first principals of the truth. With sharp ridicule, and heavy blows of sophistry, they break the faith of some: and would, if it were possible, destroy the confidence of the elect themselves. Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans are but types of spiritual foes who labour to crush the truth and the people of God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 4-7. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:4” for further information.
Ver. 6. The carved work thereof. Even barbarian invaders are wont to spare the more splendid buildings for art’s sake. Demetrius, when he had taken a picture painted by Protogenes in the suburbs of Rhodes, was besought by the Rhodians to be lenient towards art, lest he should destroy the painting. He replied that he would sooner burn the statues of his father than so great a work of art. The ferocity of these enemies, therefore, outdoes the barbarity of others, for they ruthlessly cast down an edifice sculptured and polished with the greatest skill. Mollerus.
Ver. 6. The carved work. Mywtb Pittuchim: used in 1 Kings 6:29, of the “carved figures of cherubim, and palm trees, and open flowers, “which were on the Temple walls. William Kay.
Ver. 6. With axes and hammers. It is noted by a learned interpreter, that the words in the original rendered in our translation, with axes and hammers, are not properly Hebrew, but Syriac words, purposely to hint thereby the time when and the persons by whom this was done. Arthur Jackson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 6. Vandal work against the truth of God.
Ver. 6-7. Things feared by a church.
I. Injury to her doctrines or ordinances: carved work.
II. The fire of strife, division, etc.
III. The defilement of sin. Either of these three will
throw a church down; let her guard and pray against
them.
Psalms 74:7*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 7. They have cast fire into thy sanctuary. Axes and hammers were not sufficient for the purpose of the destroyers, they must needs try fire. Malice knows no bounds. Those who hate God are never sparing of the most cruel weapons. To this day the enmity of the human heart is quite as great as ever; and, if providence did not restrain, the saints would still be as fuel for the flames.
They have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground. They made a heap of the temple, and left not one stone upon another. When the Lord left Mount Zion, and the Roman gained entrance, the military fury led the soldiers to burn out and root up the memorial of the famous House of the Lord. Could the powers of darkness have their way, a like fate would befall the church of Christ. “Rase it, “say they, “rase it even to the foundation thereof.” Defilement to the church is destruction; her foes would defile her till nothing of her purity, and consequently of her real self, remained. Yet, even if they could wreak their will upon the cause of Christ, they are not able to destroy it, it would survive their blows and fires; the Lord would hold them still like dogs on a leash, and in the end frustrate all their designs.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 4-7. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:4” for further information.
(Under Titus.) And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings lying round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple, and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator, with the greatest acclamation of joy. Josephus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 6-7. Things feared by a church.
I. Injury to her doctrines or ordinances: carved work.
II. The fire of strife, division, etc.
III. The defilement of sin. Either of these three will
throw a church down; let her guard and pray against
them.
Psalms 74:8*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 8. They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together. It was no idle wish, their cruelty was sincere, deep seated, a matter of their inmost heart. Extirpation was the desire of Haman, and the aim of many another tyrant; not a remnant of the people of God would have been left if oppressors could have had their way. Pharaoh’s policy to stamp out the nation has been a precedent for others, yet the Jews survive, and will: the bush though burning has not been consumed. Even thus the church of Christ has gone through baptism of blood and fire, but it is all the brighter for them.
They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land. Here is no allusion to places called synagogues, but to assemblies; and as no assemblies for worship here held in but one place, the ruin of the temple was the destruction of all the holy gatherings, and so in effect all the meeting places were destroyed. One object of persecutors has always been to put an end to all conventicles, as they have called them. Keep them from meeting and you will scatter them, so have the enemy said; but, glory be to God, saints are independent of walls, and have met on the hill side, by the moss, or in the catacombs, or in a boat at sea. Yet has the attempt been almost successful, and the hunt so hot, that the faithful have wandered in solitude, and their solemn congregations have been, under such circumstances, few and far between. What sighs and cries have in such times gone up to the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth. How happy are we that we can meet for worship in any place we choose, and none dare molest us.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 8. The synagogues of God. It is the opinion of Spencer, Vitringa, and of the learned in general, that the institution of synagogues for worship originated in the reading of the law publicly after the collection of its volumes by Ezra, and that, consequently, there were no such places of solemn assembly previous to the Babylonish captivity. Some of the Jews themselves have expressed a conviction that this is the fact, and the Scriptures give no intimation of their existence antecedently to that time. We are aware, however, that one of the first Hebraists of the present day, the Rev. Dr. Macaul, inclines to the opinion of an earlier origin than that generally adopted. We quote his words: “The existence of such places before the Babylonish captivity has been much disputed”; and most writers, arguing from the silence of the Old Testament, incline to the opinion that they originated in Babylon, and that after the restoration similar oratories were opened in the land of Israel; and hence some infer that the Seventy-fourth Psalm, which says in the eighth verse, They have burned up all the synagogues in the land, was written in the post Babylonian times. The argument from silence is, however, far from conclusive. The translation of yrewm as synagogues, in the verse just cited, might fairly lead to a similar translation in some other passages which were confessedly written before the captivity; and the circumstances, character, and necessities of the Israelites, the great body of whom were far removed from the temple, prove indisputably that in their towns and villages they must have had some locality where they assembled on their sabbaths, new moons, and other solemn days, for the purpose of receiving instruction in the law, and for public prayer. That locality, however different from subsequent arrangements, was the origin of the synagogue. How such assemblies were conducted before the captivity it is now impossible to say. F. A. Cox.
Ver. 8. Synagogues. Dr. Prideaux affirms that they had no synagogues before the Babylonish captivity; for the main service of the synagogue, says he, being the reading of the law unto the people, where there was no book of the law to be read, there certainly could be no synagogues. But how rare the book of the law was through all Judaea, before the Babylonish captivity, many texts of Scripture tell us. When Jehoshaphat sent teachers through all Judaea, to instruct the people in the law of God, they carried a book of the law with them (2 Chronicles 17:9), which they needed not have done if there had been any copies of the law in those cities to which they went; which certainly there would have been had there been any synagogues in them. And when Hilkiah found the law in the temple (2 Kings 22:8), neither he nor king Josiah needed to have been so surprised at it, had books of the law been common on those times. Their behaviour on that occasion sufficiently proves they had never seen it before, which could not be the case had there then been any other copies of it to be found among the people; and if there were no copies of the law at that time among them, there could then be most certainly no synagogues for them to resort to for the hearing of it read unto them. From whence he concludes there could be no synagogues among the Jews, till after the Babylonish captivity. Cruden’s Concordance.
Ver. 8. Synagogues. The assertion of those who are in favour of the Maccabean origin of the Psalm, that these words describe the destruction of the synagogues, is met by the remark, that in all the copious accounts which we have of the transactions of these times, there is nothing said of any such work of destruction. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Ver. 8. Synagogues. In the Old Testament we find no traces of meetings for worship in synagogues. Temporary altars, groves, and high places were used alike by the Jewish saints and sinners for the worship of God and idols. The only pre-exile instance which seems to indicate that the devout in Israel were in the habit of resorting to pious leaders for blessings and instruction on stated occasions, is to be found in 2 Kings 4:23, where the Shunammite’s husband asks, “Wherefore wilt thou go to him (Elisha) today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath.” Yet 2 Kings 22:8, etc.; 2 Chronicles 34:14, etc., testify undoubtedly against the existence of places of worship under the monarchy. It is during the exile, whilst the temple worship was in abeyance, that we find indubitable proof of the systematic meetings on fasts for devotion and instruction (Zec 7:3-5 8:19). Religious meetings were also held on Sabbaths and fasts, to instruct the exiles in the divine law, and to admonish them to obey the divine precepts, (Ezra 10:1-9 Ne 8:1-3 9:1-3 13:1-3). These meetings, held near the temple and in other localities, were the origin of the synagogue, and the place in which the people assembled was denominated the house of assembly. Hence, also, the synagogue in the temple itself… These synagogues soon became very popular, so that the psalmist in depicting worship in the time of the Maccabees declares that the many meeting places of God–or the Synagogues of God as the A.V. rightly renders it–have been laid waste. Christian D. Ginsburg, in Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature.
Ver. 8. (second clause). The sense seems to be, they (the Chaldaean invaders) have abolished all the solemnities in the land. They have taken away the daily sacrifice; they have put an end to the festivals and feasts of our holy ritual. Compare La 2:6: “He hath violently taken away his tabernacle; he hath destroyed his places of the assembly, “(or rather, his assembly, his moed). “The Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion.” Christopher Wordsworth.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 8. The destruction of rural churches, the aim of our enemies: the injury they would so do, and our duty to prevent it: the means the destroyers use: bribery, oppression, etc. Our proper method for sustaining such churches.
Psalms 74:9*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 9. We see not our signs. Alas, poor Israel! No Urim and Thummim blazed on the High Priest’s bosom, and no Shechaniah shone from between the cherubim. The smoke of sacrifice and cloud of incense no more arose from the holy hill; solemn feasts were suspended, and even circumcision, the covenant sign, was forbidden by the tyrant. We, too, as believers, know what it is to lose our evidences and grope in darkness; and too often do our churches also miss the tokens of the Redeemer’s presence, and their lamps remain untrimmed. Sad complaint of a people under a cloud!
There is no more any prophet. Prophecy was suspended. No inspiring psalm or consoling promise fell from bard or seer. It is ill with the people of God when the voice of the preacher of the gospel fails, and a famine of the word of life falls on the people. God sent ministers are as needful to the saints as their daily bread, and it is a great sorrow when a congregation is destitute of a faithful pastor. It is to be feared, that with all the ministers now existing, there is yet a dearth of men whose hearts and tongues are touched with the celestial fire.
Neither is there any among us that knoweth how long. If someone could foretell an end, the evil might be borne with a degree of patience, but when none can see a termination, or foretell an escape, the misery has a hopeless appearance, and is overwhelming. Blessed be God, he has not left his church in these days to be so deplorably destitute of cheering words; let us pray that he never may. Contempt of the word is very common, and may well provoke the Lord to withdraw it from us; may his long suffering endure the strain, and his mercy afford us still the word of life.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 9. We see not our signs. As if they had said, heretofore God was wont to give us signs and tokens, he would even work miracles for us, or he would send a prophet to instruct and advise us what to do; we had those who could tell us how long, that is, how long our troubles should last, and when we should have our expected end of them; but now we are in trouble, and no man can tell us how long, now we are left to the wide world, to shift for ourselves as well as we can; the Lord will not advise us what to do, nor give us his mind what’s best to be done, or how to proceed; thus deplorable was their condition upon the hiding of God’s face from them. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 9. We see not our signs. These signs, which he mourned that he did not see, were certain outward marks of God’s special favour, certain testimonies of his presence, certain memorials that he was with them to bless them. And it is said that there were five things in Solomon’s temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, which were not in the second temple, which was erected after the Babylonish captivity. Five memorials or tokens of God’s special presence were then wanting. One was the ark of the covenant; another, the fire from heaven upon the brazen altar; the third, the Shechaniah, or cloud that rested upon the mercyseat; the fourth, the Urim and Thummim which were in the breastplate of the high priest; and the fifth, the spirit of prophecy. For though there were the prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, at the time of, and shortly after, the restoration; yet the spirit of prophecy ceased with Malachi, and did not reappear until John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord Jesus… The lamentation of the church here, then, was, that she saw not her signs. So now, the church of the living God, the regenerate family of Zion, have often reason to pour out the same melancholy complaint. Signs of God’s favour, marks and testimonies of his work of grace upon their souls, are often so out of sight, so buried in obscurity, so enveloped in clouds of darkness, that the living family are compelled, from soul feeling, to take up the language of lamentation here expressed, and say, We see not our signs. J. C. Philpot. 1802-1869.
Ver. 9. Our signs. The ordinary signs of Israel being God’s peculiar people are the passover (Exodus 12:13), the Sabbath (Exodus 21:13), the temple, the altar, the sacrifices; the extraordinary ones are God’s miracles wrought in his people’s behalf (Psalms 78:43). A. R. Fausset.
Ver. 9. There is no more any prophet. By us it ought to be observed what they do not say: It is not, –here is no more any giant or warlike leader who may deliver us from the adversary: but, there is no more any prophet. And yet when the prophets were with them, they were contemptible in the eyes of all, maltreated by the wicked and put to death. Musculus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 9. (first clause).
I. There are such things as signs, that is, tokens
and marks of God’s special favour to the soul.
II. There is also a seeing those signs when God, the
Holy Ghost, is pleased to shine upon them.
III. There is a third state, where there is not seeing
the signs, those signs being enveloped in darkness,
dimness, and obscurity. J. C. Philpot.
Psalms 74:10*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 10. O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? Though we know not how long yet thou dost. The times and seasons are with thee. When God is reproached, there is hope for us, for it may be he will hearken and avenge his dishonoured name. Wickedness has great license allowed it, and justice lingers on the road; God has his reasons for delay, and his seasons for action, and in the end it shall be seen that he is not slack concerning his promise as some men count slackness.
Shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? He will do so for ever, unless thou dost give him his quietus. Wilt thou never defend thyself, and stop slanderous tongues? Wilt thou always endure the jeers of the profane? Is there to be no end to all this sacrilege and cursing? Yes, it shall all be ended, but not by and by. There is a time for the sinner to rage, and a time in which patience bears with him; yet it is but a time, and then, ah, then!
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 10. Shall the enemy blaspheme the name for ever? The sinner never leaves his sin till sin first leaves him: did not death put a stop to his sin, he would never cease from sin. This may be illustrated by a similitude thus: A company of gamesters resolve to play all night, and accordingly they sit down to chess tables, or some other game; their candle, accidentally or unexpectedly, goes out, or is put out, or burnt out; their candle being out, they are forced to give over their game, and go to bed in the dark; but had the candle lasted all night, they would have played all night. This is every sinner’s case in regard of sin: did not death put out the candle of life, the sinner would sin still. Should the sinner live for ever, he would sin for ever; and, therefore, it is a righteous thing with God to punish him for ever in hellish torments. Every impenitent sinner would sin to the days of eternity, if he might live to the days of eternity. O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? For ever, and evermore; or for ever and yet–for so the Hebrew loves to exaggerate: as if the sinner, the blasphemer, would set a term of duration longer than eternity to sin in. The psalmist implicitly saith, Lord, if thou dost but let them alone for ever, they will certainly blaspheme thy name for ever and ever. I have read of the crocodile, that he knows no maximum quod sic, he is always growing bigger and bigger, and never comes to a certain pitch of monstrosity so long as he lives. Quamdiu vivit crescit. Every habituated sinner would, if he were let alone, be such a monster, perpetually growing worse and worse. Thomas Brooks.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 10. A prayer for revival.
I. How God is reproached.
II. What are the ill effects of it.
III. When we may expect him to arise.
Psalms 74:11*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 11. Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? Wherefore this inaction, this indifference for thine own honour and thy people’s safety? How bold is the suppliant! Does he err? Nay, verily, we who are so chill, and distant, and listless in prayer are the erring ones. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and he who learns the art shall surely prevail with God by its means. It is fit that we should enquire why the work of grace goes on so slowly, and the enemy has so much power over men: the inquiry may suggest practical reflections of unbounded value.
“Why dost thou from the conflict stay?
Why do thy chariot wheels delay?
Lift up thyself, hell’s kingdom shake,
Arm of the Lord, awake, awake.”
Pluck it out of thy bosom. A bold simile, but dying men must venture for their lives. When God seems to fold his arms we must not fold ours, but rather renew our entreaties that he would again put his hand to the work. O for more agony in prayer among professing Christians, then should we see miracles of grace. We have here before us a model of pleading, a very rapture of prayer. It is humble, but very bold, eager, fervent, and effectual. The heart of God is always moved by such entreaties. When we bring forth out strong reasons, then will he bring forth his choice mercies.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
None.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 11.
I. The patience of God with man: He `withdraws his hand,
even, ‘etc., he hesitates to strike.
II. The impatience of man with God: “pluck it, “etc. G. R.
Psalms 74:12*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12-23. Having spread the sad case before the Lord, the pleader now urges another series of arguments for divine help. He reasons from the Lord’s former wonders of grace, and his deeds of power, imploring a repetition of the same divine works.
Ver. 12. For God is my King of old. How consoling is this avowal! Israel in holy loyalty acknowledges her King, and claims to have been his possession from of old, and thence she derives a plea for defence and deliverance. If the Lord be indeed the sole monarch of our bosoms, he will in his love put forth his strength on our behalf; if from eternity he has claimed us as his own, he will preserve us from the insulting foe.
Working salvation in the midst of the earth. From the most remote period of Israel’s history the Lord had worked out for her many salvations; especially at the Red Sea, the very heart of the world was astonished by his wonders of deliverance. Now, every believer may plead at this day the ancient deeds of the Lord, the work of Calvary, the overthrow of sin, death, and hell. He who wrought out our salvation of old will not, cannot desert us now. Each past miracle of grace assures us that he who has begun to deliver will continue to redeem us from all evil. His deeds of old were public and wrought in the teeth of his foes, they were no delusions or make believes; and, therefore, in all our perils we look for true and manifest assistance, and we shall surely receive it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 12. God is my King of old, etc. Let us learn from this verse how to think of our God. First, that he is our King, and therefore we ought to be encouraged to pray for his help against the ungodly, and to place ourselves in entire submission to his will and government. Secondly, that he is not a new God, but the Ancient of Days, and that whatever salvation has been wrought not only in the midst of his own people, but in the midst of the whole earth, even among those by whom he is not acknowledged, has been wrought by him. Let this meaning strike at the root of all trust in other gods, or in any creature. Musculus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 12.
I. The sovereignty of God.
II. Its antiquity.
III. Our loyalty to it.
IV. The practical character of his reign: working.
V. The graciousness of it: working salvation.
VI. The place of its operation: in the midst of the
earth.
Psalms 74:13*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12-23. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:12” for further information.
Ver. 13. Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength. Infinite power split the Red Sea in twain. Israel delighted to rehearse this famous act of the Lord.
Thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. Monsters long accustomed to the deep found themselves left high and dry. Huge things of the sea cave and the coral grot were deprived of their vital element, and left with crushed heads upon the dry channel bed. There, too, that old dragon Pharaoh was utterly broken, and Egypt herself had the head of her power and pomp broken with an almighty blow. Even thus is that old dragon broken by him who came to bruise the serpent’s head, and the sea of wrath no longer rolls before us; we pass through it dry shod. Our faith as to the present is revived by glad memories of the past.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 13. Thou didst divide the sea. Thou, O Lord, didst make firm the flowing sea, that there might be a way for our fathers to pass over, and in those very waters through which thou didst lead thy ransomed, thou didst utterly overthrow the hosts of Egypt, who were like dragons for ferocity, as they sought to devour thy people. Jansenius.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 74:14*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12-23. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:12” for further information.
Ver. 14. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces. It is the Lord who has done it all. The mighty dragon of Egypt was utterly slain, and his proud heads broken in pieces. Our Lord Jesus is the true Hercules, dragons with a hundred heads are crushed beneath his foot: the infernal hydra he utterly vanquishes.
And gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness. Not only did the wild beasts feed upon the carcasses of the Egyptians, but the dwellers along the shores stripped the bodies and enriched themselves with the spoil. Israel, too, grew rich with the relics of her drowned adversaries. How often do great afflictions work our lasting good. Leviathan, who would have devoured us, is himself devoured, and out of the monster we gather sweetness. Let us not give way to fear; hydra headed evils shall be slain, and monstrous difficulties shall be overcome, and all things shall work our lasting good.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 14. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan, etc. It is spoken of Pharaoh’s army which God destroyed in the Red Sea; that is, the destruction of the Egyptians was a pledge of the accomplishment of God’s promise to cast the Canaanite out of the promised land, and to give them possession of it. Many hardships they were to pass through in the wilderness, but God gave them this mercy as food, not to their bodies, but food to their faith, while they were in the wilderness: therefore, those former great and glorious promises were accomplished. So that former mercies are food that God gives unto the faith of his people to feed upon, till he hath perfectly accomplished whatever he hath promised unto his church. William Strong.
Ver. 14. Leviathan. The Arabic Lexicographers (quoted by Bochart) affirm that Pharao, in the Egyptian language, signified a crocodile. Parkhurst remarks that in Schenchzer’s Physica Sacra may be seen a medal with Julius Caesar’s head on one side, and on the reverse a crocodile with this inscription: AGYPTO CAPTA, Egypt taken. M. Mariette has discovered at Karnak a monumental stele of Thothmes on which the king says of himself,
“Fierce as the huge crocodile, I made them see the glory of
my God;
Terrible Lord of the waters, none dare even approach him.”
Ver. 14. Leviathan is a name given not only to the crocodile, but to the whale and other large fishes. The Zum, or people inhabiting the wilderness, are supposed, by many sensible writers, to be the Ichthyophagy, or fish eaters, who occupied, according to ancient authors, a part of the coast of the Red Sea. The psalmist is here speaking of Israel’s passage through its waters; and it is a singular fact that Diodorus, who lived about two thousand years ago, mentions a tradition, prevalent amongst these very persons, to the effect that in the time of their remote forefathers an extraordinary reflux took place, the channel of the gulf becoming dry, and the green bottom appearing, whilst the whole body of waters rolled away in an opposite direction. There can be little doubt that this strange people would have used for food, and various purposes, such great fish as might have been cast ashore on the termination of the miracle. Most writers give this text a figurative meaning, but that is no reason why it may not be also literally understood; for such a mode of speaking is common in the Bible. But whether we understand it one way or the other, we have the testimony of heathens to its propriety and force. If, by the term Leviathan, we believe Egypt to be intended, and by its heads those petty states into which that country was divided, the traditions of India, and the East, inform us that such designations were well understood, and therefore beautifully applicable. Anon., in “Biblical and Theological Gleanings”; by William O’Neill. 1854.
Ver. 14. Meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness. May not the exact meaning be that even as the sea monsters washed upon the shore furnished food for the inhabitants of the Red Sea, even so the symbolic dragon power of Egypt when destroyed at the Red Sea, became food for Israel’s faith, and even furnished provision for their wilderness journey by the spoil which was cast up by the tide. C. H. S.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 14. God’s defeat of our enemies, and the benefit accruing to ourselves.
Psalms 74:15*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12-23. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:12” for further information.
Ver. 15. Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood. Jordan was divided by Jehovah’s power; the Lord is able to repeat his miracles, what he did with a sea, he can do with a river; lesser difficulties shall be removed as well as greater ones. Perhaps the fountain refers to the smitten rock, which from its cleft poured forth a perpetual stream; so the Lord opens to us springs of water in the wilderness.
Thou driedst up mighty rivers, rivers which were permanent, and not like the transient torrents of the land, were dried up for awhile; the Jordan itself, being such, was laid dry for a season. Observe the repetition of the pronoun “thou; “the song is all for God, and the prayer is all directed to him. The argument is that he who wrought such wonders would be pleased to do the like now that an emergency had arisen.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 15. Flood. God in dividing Jordan did not only divide the water that ordinarily belonged to the river, or the water which came from its fountains, but also the extraordinary additional waters by the great rains a little before harvest. So God cleaved both the fountain, i.e., the fountain water, and the flood. Jonathan Edwards.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 15. The wonderful nature of gracious supplies, illustrated by the smitten rock.
Psalms 74:16*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12-23. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:12” for further information.
Ver. 16. The day is thine, the night also is thine. Thou art not restricted by times and seasons. Our prosperity comes from thee, and our adversity is ordained by thee. Thou rulest in the darkness, and one glance of thine eye kindles it into day. Lord, be not slack to keep thy word, but rise for the help of thy people.
Thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Both light and the light bearer are of thee. Our help, and the instrument of it, are both in thy hand. There is no limit to thy power; be pleased to display it and make thy people glad. Let thy sacred preparations of mercy ripen; say, “Let there be light, “and light shall at once dispel our gloom.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 16. The day is thine, the night also is thine.
Ah! do not be sorrowful, darling,
And do not be sorrowful, pray–
Taking the year together, my dear,
There is not more night than day.
And God is God, my darling,
Of night as well as day;
And we feel and know that we can go,
Wherever he leads the way.
A God of the night, my darling,
Of the night of death so grim,
The gate that leads out of life, good wife,
Is the gate that leads to Him.
From “In the Sere and Yellow Leaf, “in “The Circling Year.”
Ver. 16. Day. Night. These changes are according to a fixed law. Day and night are the ordinances of heaven upon earth for the growth of earth’s life, and, if we could trace the sunshine and the dark in every follower of God, we should see them arranged with equal wisdom. It is a more complex work, but, be sure of this, there is order in it all, and the hand that rules the world in its orbit, and that makes it fulfil its course through light and shade, is governing our lives for a higher than earthly end. One feature of the law is presented so far for our guidance. It is a law of alternation. It is day and night, and, let us thank God, it is also in due time night and day. Each has its time and use. John Ker. 1869.
Ver. 16. Thou hast prepared the light. It is but recently that we have been able to form any conception of the power of light as an agent in the economy of the globe; the discoveries of Actinism are among the most interesting and marvellous of natural science. The discovery that “no substance can be exposed to the sun’s rays without undergoing a chemical change, “has been described as scarcely less important in its effects than the discovery of the law of gravitation. A sunbeam is one of the most powerful of all the agencies of nature; magical as it is, it breaks up the strongest chemical affinities; it is the author of colour, and it is the creator of a myriad combinations, which all tend to the harmony of the world. Nor ought we to forget the moral influence of light. We are all aware of the sensible difference produced in our moral natures by a fine day or a dark day. Light gives zest and tone to the spirits; light gives buoyancy and joy to the soul; light crowds the chambers of the mind with ideas; Light is Life: the merest insect could not live without light; and even blind natures receive, in those organs which are not the property of vision, the assurance of its benignant operations. Light is Order: and at its wand and command the separation takes place, and dark and light pair off into their separate ranks. Light is Beauty: whether in the refulgence of the moon; the chill sparkle of the stars; the unrivalled play of colours in the attenuated film of the soap bubble, at once the toy of childhood and the tool of the sage; the rich play of tints in the mother of pearl, or the rich gorgeous rays in the plumes of birds. Light is Purity: forms that rankle out of the glance of its clear, steady beam, contract around themselves loathness and disgust, and become the seats of foulness and shame. Light is Growth: where it is, we know that nature pursues her work in life and in vigour; light gives vitality to the sap; light removes obstructions from the pathway of the growing agencies, while, in its absence, forms become stunted, gnarled, and impaired. Light is Health: as it darts its clear and brilliant points to and fro, it brings in its train those blessings of elasticity and energy, which give the fulness of being–which is perfect health to the expanding forms. There is a fine consistency, when Scripture makes light to contain, as it were, the seeds of all things, and when the prelude of all creation is made to be those words, “God said, Let there be light.” This, then, is the part light is made to play in the history of the world; it is used by moral power to become the creator of moral influence. What a long series of creations elapsed before moral causes seemed to operate in the affairs of the globe! But he, whose nature and whose names are Light, had given to light its distinct being and work; and that creative word, “Let there be light, “spoke right forwards to the moral energies which were to be superinduced by its creation. Thus light, it is true, went before all things, and became the cause of moral consequences; but then, this arose from the divine hand, whence darted its benevolent beams. It was God who gave it its divine commission, to divine between light and darkness; it was God who made it the fountain of knowledge and of day; it was God who gave to it the faculty to become, in turn, a creator, and to warm into life and beauty a myriad seeds and shape of loveliness. E. Paxton Hood.
Ver. 16. The light and the sun. I was considerably affected in my younger days by the long standing objection, that Moses made light to exist before the creation of the sun; as books then usually taught, what some still fancy, that there could not have been light without this luminary. But not choosing, on such important point, to attach my faith to any general assertion, I sought to find out if any investigator of the nature of light had perceived any distinction in its qualities or operation, which made it a fluid or matter independent of the sun. It was not easy, before the year 1791, to meet with the works of any student of nature on such a subject, as it had been little attended to; but I at length saw the fact asserted by Henckel, a German of the old school, of some value in his day, and soon afterwards some experiments were announced in England which confirmed the supposition. It has been a favourite point of attention with me ever since; and no truth in philosophy seems to be now more clearly ascertained than that light has a distinct existence, separate and independent of the sun. This is a striking confirmation of the Mosaic record; for that expressly distinguishes the existence and operation of light from the solar action upon it, and from that radiation of it which is connected with his beams and presence. By Moses, an interval of three days is placed between the luminous creation, and the appearance and position of the sun and moon. Light was, therefore, operating by its own laws and agencies, without the sun, and independently of his peculiar agency, from the first day to the fourth of our terrestrial fabrication. But from the time that the sun was placed in his central position, and his rays were appointed to act on our earth, they have been always performing most beneficial operations, essential to the general course of things. Sharon Turner (1768-1847), in “The Sacred History of the World.”
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 16. God present alike in all dispensations of providence.
Ver. 16-17.
I. The God of grace is the God of nature: The day in
thine, etc.
II. The God of nature is the God of grace: the wisdom, the
power, the faithfulness the same. See Psalms 19:1-14. G. R.
Psalms 74:17*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12-23. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:12” for further information.
Ver. 17. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth. Land and sea receive their boundaries from thee. Continents and islands are mapped by thy hand. Observe, again, how everything is ascribed to the divine agency by the use of the pronoun “thou; “not a word about natural laws, and original forces, but the Lord is seen as working all. It will be well when all our “ologies” are tinctured with “theology, “and the Creator is seen at work amid his universe. The argument of our text is, that he who bounds the sea can restrain his foes; and he who guards the borders of the dry land can also protect his chosen.
Thou hast made summer and winter. Return, then, good lord, to us the bright summer days of joy. We know that all our changes come of thee, we have already felt the rigours of thy winter, grant us now the genial glow of thy summer smile. The God of nature is the God of grace; and we may argue from the revolving seasons that sorrow is not meant to rule the year, the flowers of hope will blossom, and ruddy fruits of joy will ripen yet.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 17. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth. The actual distribution of sea and land over the surface of the globe is likewise of the highest importance to the present condition of organic life. If the ocean were considerably smaller, or if Asia and America were concentrated within the tropics, the tides, the oceanic currents, and the meteorological phenomenon on which the existence of the vegetable and animal kingdoms depend, would be so profoundly modified, that it is extremely doubtful whether man could have existed, and absolutely certain that he could never have risen to a high degree of civilisation. The dependence of human progress upon the existing configuration of the globe necessarily leads us to the conclusion that both must be the harmonious work of the same Almighty Power, and that a divine and immutable plan has from all eternity presided over the destinies of our planet. It is almost superfluous to point out how largely the irregular windings and undulations of the coasts, the numerous islands scattered over the face of the waters, the promontories stretching far away into the domains of the sea, and the gulfs plunging deeply into the bosom of the land, have contributed to the civilisation of the human race by multiplying its points of contact with the ocean, the great highway of nations. G. Hartwig, in “The Harmonies of Nature.” 1866.
Ver. 17. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth. Consider the form of the earth. It is known to be globular, and in shape nearly like an orange. And why has God chosen that form? With a view that it might be inhabited by living creatures on its whole surface. In order to this, every part of the globe must have sufficient light and heat, the wind must have a free circulation, and the water must be diffused over all its parts. The rotundity of the earth is best calculated to promote these conveniences: for this round form admits light and heat, without which there could be no life all over the globe. The revolutions of day and night, the changes in the temperature of the air, heat, cold, dryness or moisture, could not have taken place without this form. Had the earth been square, had it been conic, had it been an hexagon, or any other angular form, what must the consequence have been? The greatest part of our earth would have been drowned, whilst the rest, would have languished with drought. Some countries must have been torn in pieces by storms, while others would have been deprived of the wholesome circulation of wind. I have new reason to admire the supreme wisdom, when I reflect on the enormous mass which composes our world. Were the earth softer, or more spongy than it is, men and animals would sink into it; were it harder and less penetrable, it would resist the toil of the labourer, and lose its capacity for producing and nourishing the multitude of plants, herbs, roots, and flowers, which now spring out of its bosom. There are regular and distinct strata found in the earth; some of stone, others of metal and minerals. There are numerous and evident advantages which result from these in favour of mankind. Do not the strata of gravel, sunk deep in the earth, purify and in a manner filter the water and render it sweet and fit for use? On the surface of the earth there is a varied prospect; there is an admirable mixture of plains and valleys, of small hills and mountains. The man must be blind indeed that does not see the wise purpose of the Great Author of nature, in thus diversifying the surface of the earth. Were the earth an even plain, how much beauty would it lose? Besides, this variety of valley and mountain is very favourable to the health of living creatures, and were there no hills, the earth would be less peopled with men and animals. There would be fewer plants, fewer simples and trees. We should be deprived of metals and minerals: the vapours would not be condensed, nor should we have either springs or rivers. Must we not then acknowledge that the whole plan of the earth, its form, its inward and outward construction, are all regulated according to the wise laws, which all combine towards the pleasure and happiness of mankind? O thou supreme Author of nature, thou hast done all things well! Whichever way I turn my eyes, whether I penetrate into the interior structure of the globe thou hast appointed me to inhabit, or whether I examine its surface, I everywhere discover marks of profound wisdom and infinite goodness. Christopher Christian Sturm.
Ver. 17. Thou hast made summer and winter. Plasmasti ea. Now thou hast done all this and more for mankind in general, wilt thou be wanting to thy church? John Trapp.
Ver. 17. Winter. As if fatigued with so many cares, nature now rests; this, however, is only to collect new force, again to be employed for the good of the world. But even this rest, which nature enjoys in winter, is a secret activity. A new creation is preparing in silence. The necessary dispositions are already making, that the desolate earth may again recover the children she has lost. The corn which is to serve us for food, already shoots. The fibres of plants, which are to adorn our fields and gardens, begin insensibly to open. O my beneficent Creator! Here I find fresh cause to adore thy wisdom and power. The repose which nature takes it as worthy to enter into the plan of thy wise providence, as the activity she shows in spring and summer. Thou hast wisely combined the several revolutions of the earth, thou hast equally divided its rest and labour. It is thy will that each day should vary the scenes of nature, in that way which is most proper for the perfection of the whole. Pardon, O God, my temerity, If I have been so stupid as to blame anything in the government of the world. I am more than ever convinced that all the plans of thy providence, though they may appear extraordinary to my weak reason, are replete with wisdom and goodness. Christopher Christian Sturm. 1750-1786.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 16-17.
I. The God of grace is the God of nature: The day in
thine, etc.
II. The God of nature is the God of grace: the wisdom, the
power, the faithfulness the same. See Psalms 19:1-14. G. R.
Psalms 74:18*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12-23. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:12” for further information.
Ver. 18. Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O Lord. Against thee, the ever glorious Maker of all things, have they spoken, thine honour have they assailed, and defied even thee. This is forcible pleading indeed, and reminds us of Moses and Hezekiah in their intercessions: “What wilt thou do unto thy great name?” “It may be that the Lord thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, who hath reproached the living God.” Jehovah is a jealous God, and will surely glorify his own name; here our hope finds foothold.
And that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name. The meanness of the enemy is here pleaded. Sinners are fools, and shall fools be allowed to insult the Lord and oppress his people; shall the abjects curse the Lord and defy him to his face. When error grows too bold its day is near, and its fall certain. Arrogance foreshadows ripeness of evil, and the next step is rottenness. Instead of being alarmed when bad men grow worse and more audacious, we may reasonably take heart, for the hour of their judgment is evidently near.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
None.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 74:19*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12-23. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:12” for further information.
Ver. 19. O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked. Thy poor church is weak and defenceless as a dove, but yet her adversaries cannot touch her without thy permission; do not give them leave to devour her, consign her not to the merciless fangs of her foes. She is thy dove, thy turtle, thy favoured one, do not cast her to her enemies. Be merciful, and preserve the weak. Thus may we each plead, and with good hope of prevailing, for the Lord is very pitiful and full of compassion.
Forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever. They look to thee for everything, for they are very poor, and they are thy poor, and there is a company of them, collected by thyself; do not turn thy back on them for long, do not appear strange unto them, but let their poverty plead with thee; turn thou unto them, and visit thine afflicted. In such pleas we also can personally join when at any time we are sorely tried, and the Lord’s presence is hidden from us.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 19. O deliver not, etc. How weak soever the church be, and how many and strong soever the enemy be, yet cannot they all devour the church, except the Lord should deliver his church over into their hands, against which evil the church hath ground of confidence to pray, O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked; for he hath given his church wings, and a hiding place too, as the comparison imports, if he please to give her the use thereof also. David Dickson.
Ver. 19. The people of God are taught in this form of supplication how to edge and keen their prayers, and make them vigorous; to wit, by disclaiming any ability or sufficiency in themselves; by styling themselves a congregation of poor, silly, weak doves, no way able to encounter an army of bestial, cunning, crafty, bloody, boisterous enemies. This plea the people of God make use of: “With thee the fatherless findeth mercy, “Hosea 14:3. John Langley.
Ver. 19. The soul of thy turtledove. They compare themselves to a turtledove, whose nature leads it, in whatever way it may be afflicted, not to indulge in noisy impatience, but to mourn in secret; so the afflicted people of Israel were unable to do anything but breathe their sighs and groans to God. Musculus.
Ver. 19. Thy turtledove. God’s people are an harmless, innocent people, altogether unable and insufficient to help themselves against their enemies, who are numerous, cruel, and barbarous. Hence they are resembled to sheep, doves; called in the Word, fatherless, orphans, little ones, babes, poor, simple, needy. They are men bound to their good behaviour, may not harbour so much as a bad thought against any; are called to suffer, not to do wrong. Julian did jeer at them for this; he would strike them on the one cheek, and tell them that their Master taught them to turn the other; his soldiers would take away their cloaks, and mind them that they must part with their coats also. Out of their own dispositions they judge of others, therefore may easily be deceived and entrapped. Thus Gedaliah, that sweet man, would not believe the relation of Johanan touching the conspiracy of the crocodile Ishmael against him; nay, was even angry with him for his faithful dealing that way, and it cost him his life. Jer 40:16,41. That famous admiral of France, Jasper Coligny, though he had information and intelligence from sundry parts beyond the seas, that the court did intend to mischief him, and that there was no security in their promises and agreements, though backed with oaths, thrust himself, notwithstanding, upon the lion, and was smoothed with one paw and torn with the other: being such, they lie open to the rage of many adversaries… One would think these turtles should rather win the love of all that come near them than incur the hatred of any, for they are quiet and peaceable persons. In the mount of the Lord there is no hurt done (Isaiah 11:9), yet, notwithstanding, they are maligned by a world of people. Because they are not like them (1 Peter 4:4); because they are not of their number (John 15:19); because their persons and their sacrifices are more acceptable with God than the others’ (Genesis 4:4); because they reprove them for their evil ways (John 3:20); because they are for the most part poor and mean, have no great forecast in worldly affairs, are no deep politicians, they are such as those pauperes Lugdunensis, those poor men of Lyons in France, therefore are exposed to beasts and lions (Matthew 1:25); because they mourn for sin in themselves and others: they quarrel with the dove even because of her mournful note. They will jeer at sighing sisters, and men that hang the head like a bulrush; yet, seeing this bulrush cannot grow without mire and mud, why should it not hang the head? John Langley.
Ver. 19. Thy turtledove. This expression may, perhaps, be further illustrated from the custom, ancient and modern, of keeping doves as favourite birds (see Theocritus v. 96, and Virgil Eclog. 3. v 68, 69), and from the care taken to secure them from such animals as are dangerous to them. James Merrick.
Ver. 19. Turtle Doves, of whatever species they be, whether travellers or domesticated, are equally preserved by the inhabitants of Egypt: they do not kill, and never eat them. Wishing to know the motive of this abstinence among people who possess so little in the greater part of their action, I learnt that it was for the honour of humanity. It is a consequence of the respect due to hospitality, which the Arabs hold in such high estimation, and of which they have communicated some shades to the people who dwell among them. They would regard it as a violation of this hospitality not to spare those birds, which come with a perfect confidence to live amongst them, and there to become skilful but useless receptors of love and tenderness. The very farmer, who sees his harvest a prey for the flights of turtle doves which alight on his fields, neither destroys nor harasses them, but suffers them to multiply in tranquillity. C. N.S. de M. Sonnini. 1775-1811.
Ver. 19. Forget not the congregation of thy poor. Thy poor, by way of discrimination. There may be a greater distance between poor and poor, than there is between poor and rich. There are many “ragged regiments, “”congregations of poor, “whom the Lord will forget for ever; but his poor shall be saved. And these poor are of two sorts; either poor in regard of wealth and outward substance, or poor in regard of friends or outward assistance. A rich man, especially a godly rich man, may be in a poor case, destitute and forsaken, wanting patronage and protection. God saveth the poor in both notions, both those that have no friends, and those that have no estates. Joseph Caryl.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 19. The soul of the believer compared to a turtledove.
Psalms 74:20*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12-23. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:12” for further information.
Ver. 20. Have respect unto the covenant. Here is the master key, –heaven’s gate must open to this. God is not a man that he should lie; his covenant he will not break, nor alter the thing that hath gone forth out of his lips. The Lord had promised to bless the seed of Abraham, and make them a blessing; here they plead that ancient word, even as we also may plead the covenant made with the Lord Jesus for all believers. What a grand word it is! Reader, do you know how to cry “Have respect unto thy covenant”?
For the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. Darkness is the fit hour for beasts of prey, and ignorance the natural dwelling place of cruelty. All the world is in a measure dark, and hence everywhere there are cruel enemies of the Lord’s people; but in some places a sevenfold night of superstition and unbelief has settled down, and there rage against the saints reaches to madness. Has not the Lord declared that the whole earth shall be filled with his glory? How can this be if he always permits cruelty to riot in dark places? Surely, he must arise, and end the days of wrong, the era of oppression. This verse is a most telling missionary prayer.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 20. Have respect. The word, in the original signification of it, imports a fastening of the eyes upon some object, that a man desires to look into. Hence, by a metaphor, it is transferred to the eyes of the mind, and signifies a serious weighing and consideration of a thing. God is said to “wink at the times of ignorance, “or not to regard it, Acts 17:30. God’s people here look at God, as if he did wink at his covenant, and neither look at it, nor them in their miseries. The psalmist desires him that he would be mindful of it for his people’s deliverance. Francis Taylor, in “A Sermon preached before the House of Commons, ” entitled “God’s Covenant the Churches Plea.” 1645.
Ver. 20. Have respect unto the covenant. This presseth the Lord more than the former; this is the close grappling, as it were, with him in the words of Jacob: “I will not let thee go till thou hast blessed me.” This is the throwing out of the greatest sheet anchor in the tempest, for it lays hold on God’s faithfulness, and truth, and fatherly goodness. If they be not in covenant with God, it may be charged upon them. –“You have violated my holy law, you have incensed my wrath against you by your perverse ways, therefore I will not help you, but give you up; “but now the souls that be in covenant with God will not be put off so (be it spoken with holy reverence), but will cry out, O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, yet have respect unto thy covenant. Yet be sure you walk uprightly before the Lord…With what face can any one say, Lord, have respect unto thy covenant, when he casts his own covenant behind his back, and cannot say with the prophet David, “I have a respect to all thy commandments”? How canst thou say, “Deliver me not up to the many beasts without, “when thou art not afraid to be delivered up to thy vile, bestial lusts and affections that are within? Thou hypocrite, first labour the subduing of the monsters that are within thee, then a fair way will be open to have thine enemies subdued round about thee. John Langley.
Ver. 20. Have respect unto the covenant. Those persons and preachers who decline to think and speak of gospel mercies and free salvation as secured by covenant, deprive themselves and others of much of the blessed comforts of God’s word. Such was not the manner of the inspired psalmist. William S. Plumer.
Ver. 20. God seems to his people to neglect his covenant, when they are oppressed by ungodly men. So Asaph complains. After an acknowledgment that God was the Shepherd of Israel, and so in covenant with his people, and accordingly had wonderfully brought them out of Egypt, and made them flourish marvellously in the land of Canaan, he attributes their misery to God’s neglect. Many reasons may be given of this unkind carriage of God’s people to him. As, first, because their misery blinds them; and blind men when they are smitten suspect every man that comes near them. Secondly, self love makes us suspect any rather than ourselves, yea, even God himself. The people should have reflected upon themselves that were innocent, but in their sorrows they reflect upon God that was innocent. We are all Adam and Eve’s children. When Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, she tacitly lays the fault upon God: “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Genesis 3:13. Hadst thou not made a subtil serpent I had not broken thy commandment. Adam lays it openly upon God: “The woman who thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Genesis 3:12. Hadst thou not given me such a companion to betray me, I had been innocent. So we their posterity, when trouble is upon us, suspect God’s breaking covenant, rather than our own. Thus our nurses beat the stone when children stumble through their own neglect. Thirdly, in time of need we most commonly suspect such as are best able to help us. The sick man, if he be in danger of death, suspects not his ignorant neighbours, but his skilful physician. He that is oppressed in his estate, when the sentence goes against him, suspects none more than the advocate, or the judge. We know God is best able to help us; our corruption, therefore, makes us to suspect him most, if our troubles continue. Fourthly, we most suspect those who, as we think, have most reason to help us in our miseries, and do it not. If the servant wants meal or apparel, he complains not of his fellow servants but of his master, who is tied by covenant to provide for him; if the child be wronged by the servants, he lays not the fault upon his brethren but upon his father, who by bands of nature is obliged to take care of him. So we, being in covenant with God, wonder not much if others fail us, but complain heavily if God seems to neglect us. Francis Taylor.
Ver. 20. The psalmist moves God in prayer to look to his covenant by this argument: For the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty; that is, of cruel men, or of men so full of cruelty, that they deserve rather to be called cruelty than cruel: this sort of men inhabit and fill up all those places where the light of holy truth doth not shine. Now, if they who want the light, or have no true knowledge of God among them, are hereby prepared for the acting of all manner of wickedness, how much more are they prepared for the acting of wickedness who have thrust the light from them, and are in dark places of their own making? The prophet Hosea shows (Hosea 4:1), that where there is no knowledge of God in a land, for want of means, there is no truth nor mercy (that is, there is none exercised) in that land, but oppression, deceit, and falsehood bear down all: how much more must it be so when there is no knowledge of God in a land, because of the contempt of means, and rebellion against the light? What wickedness will not they do in the dark, who put out the candle that they may not see what they do? Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 20. (second clause). This might have some literal meaning. The dark places of the earth, some have thought, may here describe in the first instance, the caves, the dens, and the woods of the land; for there are many such (as travellers testify) in the land of Judaea, and in unsettled times they have often been the abode of robbers and murderers, who have thence sallied forth to molest and cut off the travellers, to ravish peaceful villages, to waylay and plunder the merchant, to commit all sorts of crimes, and then to return in impunity to these dark retreats, where they laugh at all law, human or divine; they quaff, with horrid pleasure, the recollection of the widow’s tears, and listen with inhuman joy to the echoing remembrances of the orphan’s moan and the dying father’s shriek. But what a land thus infested would be, is but a faint image of the heathen world. Wherever heathenism spreads itself, there are the dark places of the earth. The Scripture often tells us that. John Hambleton. 1839.
Ver. 20. The dark places. An allusion, as sometimes interpreters conceive, to the dens of wild beasts, wherein they hide themselves to seize upon their prey, Psalms 104:21-22. To these cruel men are compared. Psalms 10:8-9. “He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent. He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor.” Such places oppressors and robbers choose. Others take it for an allusion to prisons and dark dungeons void of light. As the prophet, Isaiah 42:7, describes a prison: “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” So trouble in Scripture is compared to darkness, and prosperity to light; because darkness is irksome, and light comfortable: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; “and then the sorry hiding places whither God’s people went to hide themselves are here meant. Yet, could they not there be quiet, but were pursued, found out, and spoiled by their adversaries. Others take dark places for obscure and mean places, as dark men, in the original, are called mean men in our translation, Proverbs 22:29. And then it may either signify that the meanest men did oppress God’s people, or that the poorest and meanest of God’s people were not spared. Such usage have we found in our time, when the poor cottages of our foes have sent out pillagers, and no cottagers of ours have escaped spoiling in diverse places. Francis Taylor.
Ver. 20. Cruelty. Heathenism is cruel. It is not changed in character since the days when parents made their children to pass through fire to Moloch. At this very day, for instance, infanticide prevails in China; and the “law, “says a book of authority–“the law, otherwise so rigorous, does not take the slightest cognisance of that crime, nor ever subject those guilty of it to punishment. Every morning before it is light, waggons traverse the different quarters of the city of Pekin to receive the dead infants.” Well may they go “before it is light; “”the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.” “The missionaries of that city obtained details, which justify belief that the number of infants (chiefly females) destroyed there is upwards of three thousand annually.” Think of this same proportion, extended throughout that densely peopled empire. Among the same people suicide is also of frequent occurrence. What a contrast with the religion which stays the rash hand, and calls out, “Do thyself no harm!” We might pass to India; and there the flames of the funeral piles, on which so many widows were annually burnt, had hardly expired, when we were shocked, only a few years since, with other proofs of the cruelty of heathenism. What painful details were those, which our government brought to light respecting the secret murderers of India! What think you of a vast fraternity of murderers, consisting of many thousands of persons, which has existed from generation to generation, which has been ramified over the whole country from Cape Comorin to the Himalayan mountains, which has flourished alike under Hindu, Mahometan, and British rulers, and which has every year destroyed multitudes of victims–and all this under the sanction of religion? The murderous system, they say, has been enjoined them by the goddess Kalee, who is represented as having made a grant of half the human race to her votaries, (to be murdered, that is) according to certain prescribed forms. John Hambleton.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 20.
I. The title given to heathen nations: dark places of
the earth. Not without the light of nature, or of
reason, or of natural conscience, or of philosophy,
as of Greece and Rome; but without the light of
revelation.
II. Their condition: full of, etc.: cruelty in their
public, social, and private relationships. See
Romans 1:1-32 : “without natural affection, implacable,
unmerciful.”
III. Their part in the covenant. This is known from their
part in its promises, and in prophecies: I will give
thee the heathen, etc.
IV. The prayer of others on their behalf: Have
respect, etc.; Oh send forth thy light, etc.
The conversion of the world will be in answer to the prayers of the church.
Psalms 74:21*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12-23. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:13” for further information.
Ver. 21. O let not the oppressed return ashamed. Though broken and crushed they come to thee with confidence; suffer them not to be disappointed, for then they will be ashamed of their hope.
Let the poor and needy praise thy name. By thy speedy answer to their cries make their hearts glad, and they will render to thee their gladdest songs. It is not the way of the Lord to allow any of those who trust in him to be put to shame; for his word is, “He shall call upon me, and I will deliver him, and he shall glorify me.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
None.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 74:22*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12-23. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:22” for further information.
Ver. 22. Arise, O God, plead thine own cause. Answer thou the taunts of the profane by arguments which shall annihilate both the blasphemy and the blasphemer. God’s judgments are awful replies to the defiance of his foes. When he makes empires crumble, and smites persecutors to the heart, his cause is pleaded by himself as none other could have advocated it. O that the Lord himself would come into the battle field. Long has the fight been trembling in the balance; one glance of his eyes, one word from his lip, and the banners of victory shall be borne on the breeze.
Remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily. The Lord is begged to remember that he is himself reproached, and that by a mere man–that man a fool, and he is also reminded that these foul reproaches are incessant and repeated with every revolving day. It is bravely done when faith can pluck pleas out of the dragon’s mouth and out of the blasphemies of fools find arguments with God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
None.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 22. God pleading his own cause in providential visitations of nations and individuals, as also in remarkable conversions and awakenings.
Ver. 22.
I. The glory of our cause: it is the Lord’s own.
II. The hope of our cause: he will plead it himself.
III. The hope thus derivable from the violence of man: it
will move the Lord to arise.
Psalms 74:23*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12-23. See Psalms on “Psalms 74:12” for further information.
Ver. 23. Forget not the voice of thine enemies. Great warrior let the enemy’s taunt provoke thee to the fray. They challenge thee; accept thou the gage of battle, and smite them with thy terrible hand. If the cries of thy children are too feeble to be heard, be pleased to note the loud voices of thy foes and silence their profanities for ever.
The tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually. The ungodly clamour against thee and thy people, their blasphemies are loud and incessant, they defy thee, even thee, and because thou repliest not they laugh thee to scorn. They go from bad to worse, from worse to worst; their fury swells like the thunders of an advancing tempest. What will it come too? What infamy will next be hurled at thee and thine? O God, wilt thou for ever bear this? Hast thou no regard for thine honour, no respect for thy glory? Much of this Psalm has passed over our mind while beholding the idolatries of Rome, (the author visited Rome in November and December, 1871, while this portion of the Treasury of David was in progress) and remembering her bloody persecution of the saints. O Lord, how long shall it be ere thou wilt ease thyself of those profane wretches, the priests, and cast the harlot of Babylon into the ditch of corruption? May the church never cease to plead with thee till judgment shall be executed, and the Lord avenged upon Antichrist.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 23. If we are compelled to close our most solemn and urgent devotions, and our most earnest supplications, without seeing one ray of light beaming upon our path, it may comfort us to remember that so the pious psalmist closed this complaint. To hope against hope is the most blessed kind of hope. William S. Plumer.

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Psalm 73

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-28
TITLE. A Psalm of Asaph. This is the second Psalm ascribed to Asaph, and the first of eleven consecutive Psalms bearing the name of this eminent singer. Some writers are not sure that Asaph wrote them, but incline to the belief that David was the author, and Asaph the person to whom they were dedicated, that he might sing them when in his turn he became the chief musician. But though our own heart turns in the same direction, facts must be heard; and we find in 2 Chronicles 29:30, that Hezekiah commanded the Levites to sing “the words of David and of Asaph the seer; “and, moreover, in Nehemiah 12:46, David and Asaph are mentioned together, as distinct from “the chief of the singers, “and as it would seem, as joint authors of psalmody. We may, therefore, admit Asaph to be the author of some, if not all, of the twelve Psalms ascribed to him. Often a great star which seems to be but one to the eyes of ordinary observers, turns out upon closer inspection to be of a binary character; so here the Psalms of David are those of Asaph too. The great sun of David has a satellite in the moon of Asaph. By reading our notes on Psalm Fifty, in Volume 2, the reader will glean a little more concerning this man of God.
SUBJECT. Curiously enough this Seventy-third Psalm corresponds in subject with the Thirty-seventh: it will help the memory of the young to notice the reversed figures. The theme is that ancient stumbling block of good men, which Job’s friends could not get over; viz. –the present prosperity of wicked men and the sorrows of the godly. Heathen philosophers have puzzled themselves about this, while to believers it has too often been a temptation.
DIVISIONS. In Psalms 73:1 the psalmist declares his confidence in God, and, as it were, plants his foot on a rock while he recounts his inward conflict. From Psalms 73:2-14 he states his temptation; then, from Psalms 73:15-17 he is embarrassed as how to act, but ultimately finds deliverance from his dilemma. He describes with awe the fate of the ungodly in Psalms 73:18-20, condemns his own folly and adores the grace of God, Psalms 73:21-24, and concludes by renewing his allegiance to his God, whom he takes afresh to be his portion and delight.
EXPOSITION
Ver. 1. Truly, or, more correctly, only, God is good to Israel. He is only good, nothing else but good to his own covenanted ones. He cannot act unjustly, or unkindly to them; his goodness to them is beyond dispute, and without mixture.
Even to such as are of a clean heart. These are the true Israel, not the ceremonially clean but the really so; those who are clean in the inward parts, pure in the vital mainspring of action. To such he is, and must be, goodness itself. The writer does not doubt this, but lays it down as his firm conviction. It is well to make sure of what we do know, for this will be good anchor hold for us when we are molested by those mysterious storms which arise from things which we do not understand. Whatever may or may not be the truth about mysterious and inscrutable things, there are certainties somewhere; experience has placed some tangible facts within our grasp; let us, then, cling to these, and they will prevent our being carried away by those hurricanes of infidelity which still come from the wilderness, and, like whirlwinds, smite the four corners of our house and threaten to overthrow it. O my God, however perplexed I may be, let me never think ill of thee. If I cannot understand thee, let me never cease to believe in thee. It must be so, it cannot be otherwise, thou art good to those whom thou hast made good; and where thou hast renewed the heart thou wilt not leave it to its enemies.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. The Seventy-third Psalm is a very striking record of the mental struggle which an eminently pious Jew underwent, when he contemplated the respective conditions of the righteous and the wicked. Fresh from the conflict, he somewhat abruptly opens the Psalm with the confident enunciation of the truth of which victory over doubt had now made him more and more intelligently sure than ever, that God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. And then he relates the most fatal shock which his faith has received, when he contrasted the prosperity of the wicked, who, though they proudly contemned God and man, prospered in the world and increased in riches, with his own lot, who, though he had cleansed his heart and washed his hands in innocency, had been plagued all the day long and chastened every morning. The place where his doubts were removed and his tottering faith reestablished, was the sanctuary of God. God himself was the teacher. What, then, did he teach? By what divinely imparted considerations was the psalmist reassured? Whatever is the proper rendering of Psalms 73:4; whether, There are no sorrows (tending) to their death, or, There are no sorrows until their death, –their whole life to the very last is one unchequered course of happiness–that verse conveys to us the psalmist’s mistaken estimate of the prosperity of the wicked, before he went unto the sanctuary of God. The true estimate, at which he afterwards arrived, is found in Psalms 73:18-20. Now, admitting (what, by the way, is somewhat difficult of belief, inasmuch as the sudden and fearful temporal destruction of all or even the most prosperous, cannot be made out) that the end of these men means only and always their end in this world, we come to the conclusion that, in the case of the wicked, this Psalm does not plainly and undeniably teach that punishment awaits them after death; but only that, in estimating their condition, it is necessary, in order to vindicate the justice of God, to take in their whole career, and set over against their great prosperity the sudden and fearful reverses and destruction which they frequently encounter. But, in turning to the other side of the comparison, the case of the righteous, we are not met by the thought, that as the prosperity of the wicked is but the preparation for their ruin, the raising higher the tower that the fall may be the greater, so the adversity of the godly is but an introduction to worldly wealth and honour. That though is not foreign to the Old Testament writers. “Evildoers shall be cut off; “writes one of them, “but those who wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Psalms 37:9-11. But it is not so much as hinted at here. The daily chastening may continue, flesh and heart may fail, but God is good to Israel notwithstanding: he is their portion, their guide, their help while they live, and he will take them to his glorious presence when they die. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. The New Testament has nothing higher or more spiritual than this. The reference of the last clause to happiness after death is, I believe, generally acknowledged by Jewish commentators. They left it to the candour of Christian expositors to doubt or deny it. Thomas Thompson Perowne, in “The Essential Coherence of the Old and New Testaments.” 1858.
Whole Psalm. In Psalm Seventy-three the soul looks out, and reasons on what it sees there; namely, successful wickedness and suffering righteousness. What is the conclusion? “I have cleansed my heart in vain.” So much for looking about. In Psalm Seventy-seven the soul looks in, and reasons on what it finds there. What is the conclusion? “Hath God forgotten to be gracious?” So much for looking in. Where, then, should we look? Look up, straight up, and believe what you see there. What will be the conclusion? You will understand the “end” of man, and trace the “way” of God. From “Things New and Old, a Monthly Magazine.” 1858.
Whole Psalm. In this Psalm, the psalmist (Asaph) relates the great difficulty which existed in his own mind, from the consideration of the wicked. He observes (Psalms 73:2-3), As for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. In the fourth and following verses he informs us what, in the wicked, was his temptation. In the first place, he observed, that they were prosperous, and all things went well with them. He then observed their behaviour in their prosperity, and the use which they made of it; and that God, notwithstanding such abuse, continued their prosperity. Then he tells us by what means he was helped out of this difficulty, viz., by going into the sanctuary (Psalms 73:16-17), and proceeds to inform us what considerations they were which helped him, viz., —
1. The consideration of the miserable end of wicked men. However they prosper for the present, yet they come to a woeful end at last (Psalms 73:18-20).
2. The consideration of the blessed end of the saints. Although the saints, while they live, may be afflicted, yet they come to a happy end at last (Psalms 73:21-24).
3. The consideration that the godly have a much better portion than the wicked, even though they have no other portion but God; as in Psalms 73:25-26.
Though the wicked are in prosperity, and are not in trouble as other men; yet the godly, though in affliction, are in a state infinitely better, because they have God for their portion. They need desire nothing else: he that hath God hath all. Thus the psalmist professes the sense and apprehension which he had of things: Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. In the twenty-fourth verse the psalmist takes notice how the saints are happy in God, both when they are in this world and also when they are taken to another. They are blessed in God in this world, in that he guides them by his counsel; and when he takes them out of it they are still happy, in that he receives them to glory. This probably led him to declare that he desired no other portion, either in this world or in that to come, either in heaven or upon earth. Jonathan Edwards.
Ver. 1. Truly: it’s but a particle; but the smallest filings of gold are gathered up. Little pearls are of great price. And this small particle is not of small use, being rightly applied and improved. First, take it (as our translators gave it us) as a note of asseveration. Truly. It’s a word of faith, opposite to the psalmist’s sense and Satan’s injections. Whatsoever sense sees or feels, whatsoever Satan insinuates and says; yet precious faith with confidence asserts, Truly, verily God is good. He is not only good in word, but in deed also. Not only seemingly good, but certainly good. Secondly, consider it as an adversative particle, Yet, so our old translation. Ainsworth renders it, yet surely; taking in the former and this together. And then the sense runs thus: How ill soever things go in the world, how ill soever it fares with God’s church and people amongst men, yet God is good to Israel. Thirdly, some conceive that the word carries admiration. Oh, how good is God to Israel. Where expressions and apprehensions fail, there the psalmist takes up God’s providence with admiration. Oh, how wonderfully, how transcendently good is God to Israel! This yet (as I conceive) hath a threefold reference to the body of the Psalm. For as interpreters observe, though these words are set in the beginning, yet they suggest the conclusion of the psalmist’s conflict. And the psalmist seems to begin somewhat abruptly. Yet God is good. But having filled his thoughts with his former follies and fears, and now seeing himself in a safe condition both for the present and the future, he is full of confidence and comfort; and that which was the strongest and chiefest in his heart now breaks our first: Yet God is good.
1. This yet relates unto his sufferings, Psalms 73:14 : All the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. Notwithstanding the variety and frequency of the saint’s sufferings, yet God is good. Though sorrow salutes them every morning at their first awaking, and trouble attends them to bed at night, yet God is good. Though temptations many and terrible make batteries and breeches upon their spirits, yet God is good to Israel.
2. This yet reflects upon his sinning, the fretting and wrangling of his distempered heart (Psalms 73:2-3; Psalms 73:21). Though sinful motions do mutiny in the soul against God’s wise administration, though there be foolish, proud quarrelling with divine providence, and inexcusable distrust of his faithful promises; though fretfulness at others prosperity and discontent at their own adversity, yet God is good. Israel’s sinful distempers cause not the Almighty to change the course of his accustomed goodness. While corruptions are kept from breaking out into scandal, while the soul contends against them, and is humbled for them (as the psalmist was), this conclusion must be maintained: yet God is good.
3. This yet looks back upon his misgivings. There had been distrustful despondency upon the good man’s heart. For from both the premises (viz., his sufferings and sinning) he had inferred this conclusion, Psalms 73:13, Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. As if he had said, “I have kept fasts, observed Sabbaths, heard sermons, made prayers, received sacraments, given alms, avoided sins, resisted temptations, withstood lusts, appeared for Christ and his cause and servants in vain”: yea, his heart had added an asseveration (verily) to this faithless opinion, but now he is of another mind: Yet God is good. The administrations of God are not according to the sad surmises of his people’s misgiving hearts. For, though they through diffidence are apt to give up their holy labours as lost, and all their conscientious care and carriage as utterly cast away; yet God is good to Israel. Simeon Ash, in a Sermon entitled “God’s Incomparable Goodness unto Israel.” 1647.
Ver. 1. David opens the Psalm abruptly, and from this we learn what is worthy of particular notice, that, before he broke forth into this language, his mind had been agitated with many doubts and conflicting suggestions. As a brave and valiant champion, he had been exercised in very painful struggles and temptations; but, after long and arduous exertion, he at length succeeded in shaking off all perverse imaginations, and came to the conclusion that yet God is gracious to his servants, and the faithful guardian of their welfare. Thus these words contain a tacit contrast between the unhallowed imaginations suggested to him by Satan, and the testimony in favour of true religion with which he now strengthens himself, denouncing, as it were, the judgment of the flesh, in giving place to misgiving thoughts with respect to the providence of God. We see, then, how emphatic is this exclamation of the psalmist. He does not ascend into the chair to dispute after the manner of the philosophers, and to deliver his discourse in a style of studied oratory; but as if he had escaped from hell, he proclaims with a loud voice, and with impassioned feeling, that he had obtained the victory. John Calvin.
Ver. 1. (first clause).
Yet sure the gods are good: I would think so,
If they would give me leave!
But virtue in distress, and vice in triumph,
Make atheists of mankind. Dryden.
Ver. 1. God is good. There is a beauty in the name appropriated by the Saxon nations to the Deity, unequalled except by his most reverential Hebrew appellation. They called him “GOD, “which is literally “THE GOOD.” The same word thus signifying the Deity, and his most endearing quality. Turner.
Ver. 1. God is good. Let the devil and his instruments say what they will to the contrary, I will never believe them; I have said it before, and I see no reason to reverse my sentence: Truly God is good. Though sometimes he may hide his face for awhile, yet he doth that in faithfulness and love; there is kindness in his very scourges, and love bound up in his rods; he is good to Israel: do but mark it first or last: “The true Israelite, in whom there is no guile, shall be refreshed by his Saviour.” The Israelite that wrestles with tears with God, and values his love above the whole world, that will not be put off without his Father’s blessing, shall have it with a witness: “He shall reap in joy though he may at present sow in tears. Even to such as are of a clean heart.” The false hearted hypocrite, indeed, that gives God only his tongue and lip, cap and knee, but reserves his heart and love for sin and the world, that hath much of compliment, but nothing of affection and reality, why let such a one never expect, while in such a state, to taste those reviving comforts that I have been treating of; while he drives such a trade, he must not expect God’s company. James Janeway. 1636-1674.
Ver. 1. Even to such as are of a clean heart. Purity of heart is the characteristic note of God’s people. Heart purity denominates us the Israel of God; it makes us of Israel indeed; “but all are not Israel which are of Israel.” Romans 9:6. Purity of heart is the jewel which is hung only upon the elect. As chastity distinguishes a virtuous woman from an harlot, so the true saint is distinguished from the hypocrite by his heart purity. This is like the nobleman’s star or garter, which is a peculiar ensign of honour, differing him from the vulgar; when the bright star of purity shineth in a Christian’s heart it doth distinguish him from the formal professor…
God is good to the pure in heart. We all desire that God should be good to us; it is the sick man’s prayer: “The Lord be good to me.” But how is God good to them? Two ways.
1. To them that are pure all things are sanctified, Titus 1:15 : “To the pure all things are pure; ” estate is sanctified, relations are sanctified; as the temple did sanctify the gold and the altar did sanctify the offering. To the unclean nothing is clean; their table is a snare, their temple devotion a sin. There is a curse entailed upon a wicked man (De 28:16), but holiness removeth the curse, and cuts off the entail: “to the pure all things are pure.”
2. The clean hearted have all things work for their good. Romans 8:28. Mercies and afflictions shall turn to their good; the most poisonous drugs shall be medicinal; the most cross providence shall carry on the design of their salvation. Who, then, would not be clean on heart? Thomas Watson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Whole Psalm. It containeth the godly man’s trial, in the former part of it, and his triumph, in the latter part of it. We have,
I. The grievous conflict between the flesh and the
spirit, to the 15th verse.
II. The glorious conquest of the spirit over the flesh, to
the end. G. Swinnock.
Whole Psalm.
I. The cause of his distemper.
II. The cure of it.
III. The psalmist’s carriage after it. G. Swinnock.
Ver. 1. The true Israel, the great blessing, and the sureness of it: or, the proposition of the text expounded, enforced, and applied.
Ver. 1. (first clause). Israel’s receipts from God are,
I. For quantity, the greatest;
II. For variety, the choicest;
III. For quality, the sweetest;
IV. For security, the surest;
V. For duration, the most lasting. Simeon Ash.
WORKS UPON THE SEVENTY-THIRD PSALM
Certain Comfortable Expositions of the Constant Martyr of Christ JOHN HOOPER, Bishop of Gloucester and Worcester, 1555, written in the time of his Tribulation and Imprisonment, upon the Twenty-third, Sixty-second, Seventy-third, and Seventy-seventh Psalm of the prophet David. (In Parker Society’s publications, and also in the “British Reformers” series of the Religious Tract Society.)
David Restored; or, And Antidote against the Prosperity of the Wicked and the Afflictions of the Just, shewing the different ends of both. In a most seasonable discourse upon the Seventy-third Psalm. By the Right Reverend Father in God EDWARD PARRY. Late Lord Bishop of Killaloe. 1660.
Psalms 73:2*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 2. Here begins the narrative of a great soul battle, a spiritual Marathon, a hard and well fought field, in which the half defeated became in the end wholly victorious.
But as for me. He contrasts himself with his God who is ever good; he owns his personal want of good, and then also compares himself with the clean in heart, and goes on to confess his defilement. The Lord is good to his saints, but as for me, am I one of them? Can I expect to share his grace? Yes, I do share it; but I have acted an unworthy part, very unlike one who is truly pure in heart.
My feet were almost gone. Errors of heart and head soon affect the conduct. There is an intimate connection between the heart and the feet. Asaph could barely stand, his uprightness was going, his knees were bowing like a falling wall. When men doubt the righteousness of God, their own integrity begins to waver.
My steps had well nigh slipped. Asaph could make no progress in the good road, his feet ran away from under him like those of a man on a sheet of ice. He was weakened for all practical action, and in great danger of actual sin, and so of a disgraceful fall. How ought we to watch the inner man, since it has so forcible an effect upon the outward character. The confession in this case is, as it should be, very plain and explicit.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2. But as for me. Literally, it is, And I, which ought to be read with emphasis; for David means that those temptations which cast an affront upon the honour of God, and overwhelm faith, not only assail the common class of men, or those who are endued only with some small measure of the fear of God, but that he himself, who ought to have profited above all others in the school of God, had experienced his own share of them. By thus setting himself forth as an example, he designed the more effectually to arouse and incite us to take great heed to ourselves. John Calvin.
Ver. 2. Let such also as fear God and begin to look aside on the things of this world, know it will be hard even for them to hold out in faith and in the fear of God in time of trial. Remember the example of David, he was a man that had spent much time in travelling towards heaven; yet, looking but a little aside upon the glittering show of this world, had very near lost his way, his feet were almost gone, his steps had well nigh slipped. Edward Elton. 1620.
Ver. 2. He tells us that his feet were almost gone. The word signifies to bow, or bend under one. My steps had well nigh slipped, or poured out, kept not within their true bounds; but like water poured out and not confined, runs aside. Though these expressions be metaphorical, and seemingly dark and cloudy, yet they clearly represent unto us this truth, that his understanding was misguided, his judgment was corrupt, his affections disordered, turbulent, and guilty of too great a passion; and this, the consequence (Psalms 73:22 in which he acknowledges himself ignorant, foolish, and brutish) do sufficiently evidence. Our understanding and judgment may well bear the comparison for feet, for as the one, in our motion, supports the body, so the other, in human actions and all employments, underprops the soul. The affections, also, are as paths and steps; as these of the feet, so these are the prints and expressions of the judgment and mind. Edward Parry, in “David Restored.” 1660.
Ver. 2. Almost gone. There is to be noted that the prophet said he was almost gone, and not altogether. Here is the presence, providence, strength, safeguard, and keeping of man by Almighty God, marvellously set forth. That although we are tempted and brought even to the very point to perpetrate and do all mischief, yet he stays us and keeps us, that the temptation shall not overcome us. John Hooper. 1495-1555.
Ver. 2-14. But the prosperity of wicked and unjust men, both in public and in private life, who, though not leading a happy life in reality, are yet thought to do so in common opinion, being praised improperly in the works of poets, and all kinds of books, may lead you –and I am not surprised at your mistake–to a belief that the gods care nothing for the affairs of men. These matters disturb you. Being led astray by foolish thoughts, and yet not able to think ill of the gods, you have arrived at your present state of mind, so as to think that the gods to indeed exist, but that they despise and neglect human affairs. Plato.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 2.
I. How far a believer may fall.
II. How far he shall not fall.
III. What fears are and what are not allowable.
Ver. 2. A retrospect of our slips; prospect of future danger; present preparation for it.
Psalms 73:3*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 3. For I was envious at the foolish. “The foolish” is the generic title of all the wicked: they are beyond all others fools, and he must be a fool who envies fools. Some read it, “the proud:” and, indeed, these, by their ostentation, invite envy, and many a mind which is out of gear spiritually, becomes infected with that wasting disease. It is a pitiful thing that an heir of heaven should have to confess “I was envious, “but worse still that he should have to put it, “I was envious at the foolish.” Yet this acknowledgment is, we fear, due from most of us.
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. His eye was fixed too much on one thing; he saw their present, and forgot their future, saw their outward display, and overlooked their soul’s discomfort. Who envies the bullock his fat when he recollects the shambles? Yet some poor afflicted saint has been sorely tempted to grudge the ungodly sinner his temporary plenty. All things considered, Dives had more cause to envy Lazarus than Lazarus to be envious of Dives.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2-14. See Psalms on “Psalms 73:2” for further information.
Ver. 3. I was envious at the foolish, etc. If we consider with ourselves how unlikely a thing it is to grow big with riches, and withal to enter through the eye of a needle, how unusual a thing it is to be emparadised in this life and yet enthroned in that to come, it will afford us matter of comfort if we are piously improsperous as well as of terror if we are prosperously impious. We should be taught by the precept of the prophet David not to fret ourselves because of evildoers, nor to be envious against the workers of iniquity; for “The prosperity of fools shall but destroy them, “saith Solomon, and “the candle of the wicked shall be put out.” Proverbs 24:1-2; Proverbs 24:19-20. Prosperity it seems is a dangerous weapon, and none but the innocent should dare to use it. The psalmist himself, before he thought upon this, began to envy the prosperity of wicked men. William Crouch, in “The Enormous Sin of Covetousness detected.” 1708.
Ver. 3. I was envious at the foolish. Who would envy a malefactor’s going up a high ladder, and being mounted above the rest of the people, when it is only for a little, and in order to his being turned over and hanged? That is just the case of wicked men who are mounted up high in prosperity; for it is so only that they may be cast down deeper into destruction. It would be a brutish thing to envy an ox his high and sweet pasture, when he is only thereby fitted for the day of slaughter. Who would have envied the beasts of old the garlands and ribbons with which the heathen adorned them when they went to be sacrificed? These external ornaments of health, wealth, pleasure, and preferments, wherewith wicked men are endowed, cannot make their state happy, nor change their natures for the better. Whatever appearance these things make in the eyes of the world, they are but like a noisome dunghill covered with scarlet, as vile and loathsome in God’s sight as ever. How quickly is the beauty of earthly things blasted. “The triumphing of the wicked is short.” Job 20:5. They live in pleasures on the earth for awhile, but God “sets them in slippery places, “from whence they soon slide into perpetual pain and anguish. They have a short time of mirth, but they shall have an eternity of mourning. John Willison.
Ver. 3. For I was envious at the foolish. The sneering jest of Dionysius the younger, a tyrant of Sicily, when, after having robbed the temple of Syracuse, he had a prosperous voyage with the plunder, is well known. “See you not, “says he to those who were with him, “how the gods favour the sacrilegious?” In the same way the prosperity of the wicked is taken as an encouragement to commit sin; for we are ready to imagine that, since God grants them so much of the good things of this life, they are the objects of his approbation and favour. We see how their prosperous condition wounded David to the heart, leading him almost to think that there was nothing better for him than to join himself to their company, and to follow their course of life. John Calvin.
Ver. 3. Envious. If you are touched with envy at seeing the peace of the wicked, shut your eyes, do not look at it, for envious eyes think anything vast on which they gaze. Actius Sincerus, a man of rare wit and great reputation, when in the presence of king Frederic, witnessed a discussion among physicians on what would most effectually sharpen the eyesight? The fumes of fennel, said some; the use of a glass, said others; some one thing, some another; but I, said he, replied, Envy. The doctors were astonished, and much amusement afforded to the audience at their expense. Then I continued: Does not Envy make all things seem larger and fuller? And what could be more to your purpose than that the very faculty of seeing should itself be made greater and stronger. Thomas Le Blanc.
Ver. 3. The prosperity of the wicked. Socrates, being asked what would be vexatious to good men, replied, “The prosperity of the bad.” Thomas Le Blanc.
Ver. 3. Diogenes, the cynic, seeing Harpalus, a vicious fellow, still thriving in the world, he was bold to say that wicked Harpalus’s living long in prosperity was an argument that God had cast off his care of the world, that he cared not which end went forward. But he was a heathen. Yet, for all that, the lights of the sanctuary have burnt dim; stars of no small magnitude have twinkled; men of eminent parts, famous in their generation for religion and piety, have staggered in their judgment to see the flourishing estate of the wicked. It made Job to complain, and Jeremiah to expostulate with God; and David was even ready to sink in seeing the prosperity of ungodly men: to see the one in wealth, the other in want; the one honourable, the other despised; the one upon a throne, the other on a dunghill. John Donne.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 73:4*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 4. For there are no bands in their death. This is mentioned as the chief wonder, for we usually expect that in the solemn article of death, a difference will appear, and the wicked will become evidently in trouble. The notion is still prevalent that a quiet death means a happy hereafter. The psalmist had observed that the very reverse is true. Careless persons become case hardened, and continue presumptuously secure, even to the last. Some are startled at the approach of judgment, but many more have received a strong delusion to believe a lie. What with the surgeon’s drugs and their own infidelity, or false peace, they glide into eternity without a struggle. We have seen godly men bound with doubts, and fettered with anxieties, which have arisen from their holy jealousy; but the godless know nothing of such bands: they care neither for God nor devil.
Their strength is firm. What care they for death? Frequently they are brazen and insolent, and can vent defiant blasphemies even on their last couch. This may occasion sorrow and surprise among saints, but certainly should not suggest envy, for, in this case, the most terrible inward conflict is infinitely to be preferred to the profoundest calm which insolent presumption can create. Let the righteous die as they may, let my last end be like theirs.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2-14. See Psalms on “Psalms 73:2” for further information.
Ver. 4. There are no bands in their death, etc. That is, when they die, they die in their strength, they do not pine away with long and tedious sickness; they live in pleasure, and die with ease. They are not bound to their beds, and tied down with the cords of chronical, lingering diseases. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 4. There are no bands in their death, etc. It is not their lot to look upon frequent and bitter deaths, like the righteous, nor is there in their affliction any firmness or permanence. If at any time affliction falls upon them, they are speedily delivered from it. Moreover, whatever calamity happens to them, they have the strength and support of riches; and, elevated by their wealth, they appear to forget their troubles. Cornelius Jansenius. 1510-1576.
Ver. 4. There are no bands in their death. The Hebrew word burx signifieth a band which is knotted or tied; and then the sense may be, they have not that which might bind them over unto a speedy and troublesome death; hence, Castelio writes, non sunt necessitates quae eos enesent, there are no necessities which threaten their death–such as variety of distempers, sicknesses and diseases, those messengers of death. Aquila, therefore, renders the word ouk eisi duspayeiai, there are no pangs or distempers; no sorrows or sicknesses, saith Ainsworth: they are not bound over to death or execution by the variety of diseases, or by the power of injury of others. The prophet, by telling us their strength is firm, expounds this phrase, and lets us know that these wicked men had lives spun of even threads, without danger of ravelling or breaking. They had lusty bodies, strong limbs, sound vitals, without agonies or ruptures; lived as those who had no cause to fear death; and when they expired, it was without much antecedent pain; they fell as ripe apples from the tree. Edward Parry.
Ver. 4. By bands we may understand any heavy burdens, which are wont to be bound on them upon whom they are laid; and so, by way of analogy, any grievous pains or torturing diseases. Their strength is firm, continues vigorous till their death. Thomas Fenton.
Ver. 4. In their death. It comes upon them in vigorous health, for they are strong and robust, and drag not out a sickly existence through continuous complaints. Some regard the bands of death as hindrances as if it were said–They suddenly die, in a moment, nor are they racked with pains, as in Job 21:13. It is considered the highest felicity for the profane, when they have enjoyed the pleasures and the pomp of life, to descend in an instant to the grave. Even Julius Caesar, on the day before he was slain, declared that it seemed to him to be a happy death to die suddenly and unexpectedly. Therefore, according to these interpreters, David complains that the ungodly, without the vexations of disease, pass on to death by a smooth and tranquil course; but there is more truth in the opinion of those who, reading both clauses of the verse together, their strength is firm, and there are no bands to death, think that they are not dragged to death like captives; for since diseases overcome our strength, they are so many messengers of death to admonish us of our frailty. They are not, therefore, in vain compared to chains with which God binds us to his yoke lest vigour and strength should incite us to be froward. But their strength is firm. Franciscus Vatablus.
Ver. 4. Men may die like lambs and yet have their place for ever with the goats. Matthew Henry.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 4. Quiet death; the cases of the godly and ungodly distinguished by the causes of the quiet, and the unreliability of mere feelings shown.
Psalms 73:5*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 5. They are not in trouble as other men. The prosperous wicked escape the killing toils which afflict the mass of mankind; their bread comes to them without care, their wine without stint. They have no need to enquire, “Whence shall we get bread for our children, or raiment for our little ones?” Ordinary domestic and personal troubles do not appear to molest them.
Neither are they plagued like other men. Fierce trials do not arise to assail them: they smart not under the divine rod. While many saints are both poor and afflicted, the prosperous sinner is neither. He is worse than other men, and yet he is better off; he ploughs least, and yet has the most fodder. He deserves the hottest hell, and yet has the warmest nest. All this is clear to the eyes of faith, which unriddles the riddle; but to the bleared eye of sense it seems an enigma indeed. They are to have nothing hereafter, let them have what they can here; they, after all, only possess what is of secondary value, and their possessing it is meant to teach us to set little store by transient things. If earthly good were of much value, the Lord would not give so large a measure of it to those who have least of his love.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2-14. See Psalms on “Psalms 73:2” for further information.
Ver. 5. They are not in the trouble of men, for God has given them over to the desire of their own hearts, that they who are filthy may be filthy still: like a sick man, are they, to whom a wise physician forbids nothing, since the disease is incurable. Gerhohus.
Ver. 5. Other men. Hebrew, Mda Adam: the whole human race. A. R. Fausset.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 5. The bastard’s portion contrasted with that of the true son.
Psalms 73:6*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 6. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain. They are as great in their own esteem as if they were aldermen of the New Jerusalem; they want no other ornament than their own pomposity. No jeweller could sufficiently adorn them; they wear their own pride as a better ornament than a gold chain.
Violence covereth them as a garment. In their boastful arrogance they array themselves; they wear the livery of the devil, and are fond of it. As soon as you see them, you perceive that room must be made for them, for, regardless of the feelings and rights of others, they intend to have their way, and achieve their own ends. They brag and bully, bluster and browbeat, as if they had taken out license to ride roughshod over all mankind.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2-14. See Psalms on “Psalms 73:2” for further information.
Ver. 6. A chain of pearl doth not better become their necks, nor the richest robes adorn their backs, than sin doth, in their judgments, become and suit their souls; they glory in their shame. Plato saith of Protagoras that he boasted, whereas he had lived sixty years, he had spent forty years in corrupting youth. They brag of that which they ought to bewail. George Swinnock.
Ver. 6. Violence covereth them as a garment. They wear it, and shew it openly as their garment. See the like phrase of cursing, Psalms 109:18-19. But the meek, and godly, cover themselves otherwise, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10; Colossians 3:12; Colossians 3:14, etc. John Richardson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 73:7*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 7. Their eyes stand out with fatness. In cases of obesity the eyes usually appear to be enclosed in fat, but sometimes they protrude; in either case the countenance is changed, loses its human form, and is assimilated to that of fatted swine. The face is here the index of the man: the man has more than suffices him; he is glutted and surfeited with wealth, and yet is one of the wicked whom God abhorreth.
They have more than heart could wish. Their wishes are gratified, and more; their very greediness is exceeded; they call for water, and the world gives them milk; they ask for hundreds, and thousands are lavished at their feet. The heart is beyond measure gluttonous, and yet in the case of certain ungodly millionaires, who have rivalled Sardanapalus both in lust and luxury, it has seemed as if their wishes were exceeded, and their meat surpassed their appetite.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2-14. See Psalms on “Psalms 73:2” for further information.
Ver. 7. Their eyes. “A man may be known by his look, “saith the son of Sirach, Sirach 19:29. The choleric, the lascivious, the melancholy, the cunning, etc., frequently bear their tempers and ruling passions strongly marked on their countenances: but more especially doth the soul of a man look forth at his eyes. George Horne.
Ver. 7. (first clause). They sink others’ eyes into their heads with leanness, while their own eyes stand out with fatness. Thomas Adams.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 7. The dangers of opulence and luxury.
Psalms 73:8*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 8. They are corrupt. They rot above ground; their heart and life are depraved.
And speak wickedly concerning oppression. The reek of the sepulchre rises through their mouths; the nature of the soul is revealed in the speech. They choose oppression as their subject, and they not only defend it, but advocate it, glory in it, and would fain make it the general rule among all nations. “Who are the poor? What are they made for? What, indeed, but to toil and slave that men of education and good family may enjoy themselves? Out on the knaves for prating about their rights! A set of wily demagogues are stirring them up, because they get a living by agitation. Work them like horses, and feed them like dogs; and if they dare complain, send them to the prison or let them die in the workhouse.” There is still too much of this wicked talk abroad, and, although the working classes have their faults, and many of them very grave and serious ones too, yet there is a race of men who habitually speak of them as if they were an inferior order of animals. God forgive the wretches who thus talk.
They speak loftily. Their high heads, like tall chimneys, vomit black smoke. Big talk streams from them, their language is colossal, their magniloquence ridiculous. They are Sir Oracle in every case, they speak as from the judges’ bench, and expect all the world to stand in awe of them.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2-14. See Psalms on “Psalms 72:9” for further information.
Ver. 8. They are corrupt. Prosperity, in an irreligious heart, breeds corruption, which from thence is emitted by the breath in conversation, to infect and taint the minds of others. George Horne.
Ver. 8. They speak wickedly concerning oppression. Indeed, we see that wicked men, after having for some time got everything to prosper according to their desires, cast off all shame, and are at no pains to conceal themselves, when about to commit iniquity, but loudly proclaim their own turpitude. “What!” they will say, “is it not in my power to deprive you of all that you possess, and even to cut your throat?” Robbers, it is true, can do the same thing; but then they hide themselves for fear. These giants, or rather inhuman monsters, of whom David speaks, on the contrary not only imagine that they are exempted from subjection to any law, but, unmindful of their own weakness, foam furiously, as if there were no distinction between good and evil, between right and wrong. John Calvin.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 8. Connection between a corrupt heart and a proud tongue.
Psalms 73:9*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 9. They set their mouth against the heavens. Against God himself they aim their blasphemies. One would think, to hear them, that they were demigods themselves, and held their heads above the clouds, for they speak down upon other men as from a sublime elevation peculiar to themselves. Yet they might let God alone, for their pride will make them enemies enough without their defying him.
And their tongue walketh through the earth. Leisurely and habitually they traverse the whole world to find victims for their slander and abuse. Their tongue prowls in every corner far and near, and spares none. They affect to be universal censors, and are in truth perpetual vagrants. Like the serpent, they go nowhere without leaving their slime behind them; if there were another Eden to be found, its innocence and beauty would not preserve it from their filthy trail. They themselves are, beyond measure, worthy of all honour, and all the rest of mankind, except a few of their parasites, are knaves, fools, hypocrites, or worse. When these men’s tongues are out for a walk, they are unhappy who meet them, for they push all travellers into the kennel: it is impossible altogether to avoid them, for in both hemispheres they take their perambulations, both on land and sea they make their voyages. The city is not free from them, and the village swarms with them. They waylay men in the king’s highway, but they are able to hunt across country, too. Their whip has a long lash, and reaches both high and low.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2-14. See Psalms on “Psalms 73:2” for further information.
Ver. 9. Their tongue walketh through the earth. This shows the boundless and unlimited disorder of the tongue. The earth carries a numerous offspring of men, who are of several habits, states, and conditions, which give occasion of variety of discourses and different kinds of language. These men spare none: Their tongue walketh through the earth, and leaves nothing unspoken of. If men be poor, they talk of oppressing and mastering of them; if they oppose, they discourse of violence and suppressing… If in this perambulation they meet with truth, they darken it with lies and home made inventions; if with innocence, they brand it with false accusations and bitter aspersions; if with a strict government and good laws, then they cry, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us; “if with religion, they term it heresy, or superstition; if with patience, they term it obstinacy and perverseness; if with the church, they think of nothing less than devouring it, and cry, “Let us take the houses of God in possession; “if with the thoughts of a resurrection, and of future hopes, “Let us eat and drink, “cry they, “for tomorrow we shall die.” Thus no corner is left unsearched by their abusive tongue, which walks through the earth…. They may walk over the earth, but they will set their mouth against the heavens. Here they stay, stand fixed and resolute, and take that place, as a special white they would hit. Edward Parry.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 73:10*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 10. Therefore his people return hither. God’s people are driven to fly to his throne for shelter; the doggish tongues fetch home the sheep to the Shepherd. The saints come again, and again, to their Lord, laden with complaints on account of the persecutions which they endure from these proud and graceless men.
And waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. Though beloved of God, they have to drain the bitter cup; their sorrows are as full as the wicked man’s prosperity. It grieves them greatly to see the enemies of God so high, and themselves so low, yet the Lord does not alter his dispensations, but continues still to chasten his children, and indulge his foes. The medicine cup is not for rebels, but for those whom Jehovah Rophi loves.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2-14. See Psalms on “Psalms 73:2” for further information.
Ver. 10. Therefore his people return hither. It seems impossible to ascertain, with any degree of precision, the meaning of this verse, or to whom it relates. Some think it intends those people who resort to the company of the wicked, because they find their temporal advantage by it; while others are of opinion that the people of God are meant, who, by continually revolving in their thoughts the subject here treated of, namely, the prosperity of the wicked, are sore grieved and forced to shed tears in abundance. Mr. Mudge translates the verse thus: Therefore let his (God’s) people come before them, and waters in full measure would be wrung out from them; that is, should God’s people fall into their hands, they would squeeze them to the full, they would wring out all the juice out of their bodies. He takes waters in full measure to have been a proverbial expression. Samuel Burder.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 10.
I. The believer’s cup is bitter.
II. It is full.
III. Its contents are varied waters.
IV. It is but a cup, measured and limited.
V. It is the cup of his people, and, consequently,
works good in the highest degree.
Psalms 73:11*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 11. And they say, How doth God know? Thus dare the ungodly speak. They flatter themselves that their oppressions and persecutions are unobserved of heaven. If there be a God, is he not too much occupied with other matters to know what is going on upon this world? So they console themselves if judgments be threatened. Boasting of their own knowledge, they yet dare to ask,
Is there knowledge in the Most High? Well were they called foolish. A God, and not know? This is a solecism in language, a madness of thought. Such, however, is the acted insanity of the graceless theists of this age; theists in name, because avowed infidelity is disreputable, but atheists in practice beyond all question. I could not bring my mind to accept the rendering of many expositors by which this verse is referred to tried and perplexed saints. I am unable to conceive that such language could flow from their lips, even under the most depressing perplexities.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2-14. See Psalms on “Psalms 73:2” for further information.
Ver. 11. How doth God know? etc. Men may not disbelieve a Godhead; nay, they may believe there is a God, and yet question the truth of his threatenings. Those conceits that men have of God, whereby they mould and frame him in their fancies, suitable to their humours, which is a thinking that he is such a one as ourselves (Psalms 1:1-6), are steams and vapours from this pit, and the “hearts of the sons of men are desperately set within them to do evil” upon these grounds; much more when they arise so high as in some who say: How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High? If men give way to this, what reason can be imagined to stand before them? All the comminations of Scripture are derided as so many theological scarecrows, and undervalued as so many pitiful contrivances to keep men in awe. Richard Gilpin.
Ver. 11. Ovid thus speaks in one of his verses: “Sollicitor nullos esse putare deos; “I am tempted to think that there are no gods.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 11. The atheists open question; the oppressor’s practical question; the careless man’s secret question; and the fearful saint’s fainting question. The reasons why it is ever asked, and the conclusive reasons which put the matter beyond question.
Psalms 73:12*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12. Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world. Look! See! Consider! Here is the standing enigma! The crux of Providence! The stumblingblock of faith! Here are the unjust rewarded and indulged, and that not for a day or an hour, but in perpetuity. From their youth up these men, who deserve perdition, revel in prosperity. They deserve to be hung in chains, and chains are hung about their necks; they are worthy to be chased from the world, and yet the world becomes all their own. Poor purblind sense cries, Behold this! Wonder, and be amazed, and make this square with providential justice, if you can.
They increase in riches; or, strength. Both wealth and health are their dowry. No bad debts and bankruptcies weigh them down, but robbery and usury pile up their substance. Money runs to money, gold pieces fly in flocks; the rich grow richer, the proud grow prouder. Lord, how is this? Thy poor servants, who become yet poorer, and groan under their burdens, are made to wonder at thy mysterious ways.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2-14. See Psalms on “Psalms 73:2” for further information.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 12. This verse suggests solemn enquiries for persons who are growing rich.
Psalms 73:13*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 13. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain. Poor Asaph! he questions the value of holiness when its wages are paid in the coin of affliction. With no effect has he been sincere; no advantage has come to him through his purity, for the filthy hearted are exalted and fed on the fat of the land. Thus foolishly will the wisest of men argue, when faith is napping. Asaph was a seer, but he could not see when reason left him in the dark; even seers must have the sunlight of revealed truth to see by, or they grope like the blind. In the presence of temporal circumstances, the pure in heart may seem to have cleansed themselves altogether in vain, but we must not judge after the sight of the eyes.
And washed my hands in innocency. Asaph had been as careful of his hands as of his heart; he had guarded his outer as well as his inner life, and it was a bitter thought that all of this was useless, and left him in even a worse condition than foul handed, black hearted worldlings. Surely the horrible character of the conclusion must have helped to render it untenable; it could not be so while God was God. It smelt too strong of a lie to be tolerated long in the good man’s soul; hence, in a verse or two, we see his mind turning in another direction.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2-14. See Psalms on “Psalms 73:2” for further information.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 73:14*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 14. For all the day long have I been plagued. He was smitten from the moment he woke to the time he went to bed. His griefs were not only continued, but renewed with every opening day. And chastened every morning. This was a vivid contrast to the lot of the ungodly. There were crowns for the reprobates and crosses for the elect. Strange that the saints should sigh and the sinners sing. Rest was given to the disturbers, and yet peace was denied to the peace makers. The downcast seer was in a muse and a maze. The affairs of mankind appeared to him to be in a fearful tangle; how could it be permitted by a just ruler that things should be so turned upside down, and the whole course of justice dislocated.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2-14. See Psalms on “Psalms 73:2” for further information.
Ver. 14. All the day long have I been plagued, etc. Sickly tempers must have a medicinal diet: to be purged both at spring and fall will scarce secure some from the malignity of their distempers. The Lord knows our frame, and sees what is usually needful for every temper; and when he afflicts most frequently, he does no more than he sees requisite. David Clarkson.
Ver. 14. If a man be watchful over his own ways, and the dealings of God with him, there is seldom a day but he may find some rod of affliction upon him; but, as through want of care and watchfulness, we lose the sight of many mercies, so we do of many afflictions. Though God doth not every day bring a man to his bed, and break his bones, yet we seldom, if at all, pass a day without some rebuke and chastening. I have been chastened every morning, saith the psalmist… As sure, or as soon, as I rise I have a whipping, and my breakfast is bread of sorrow and the water of adversity… Our lives are full of afflictions; and it is as great as part of a Christian’s skill to know afflictions as to know mercies; to know when God smites, as to know when he girds us; and it is our sin to overlook afflictions as well as to overlook mercies. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 14. The way to heaven is an afflicted way, a perplexed, persecuted way, crushed close together with crosses, as was the Israelites way in the wilderness, or that of Jonathan and his armour bearer, that had a sharp rock on the one side and a sharp rock on the other. And, whilst they crept upon all four, flinty stones were under them, briars and thorns on either hand of them; mountains, crags, and promontories over them; sic potitur caelum, so heaven is caught by pains, by patience, by violence, affliction being our inseparable companion. “The cross way is the highway to heaven, “said that martyr (Bradford); and another, “If there be any way to heaven on horseback, it is by the cross.” Queen Elizabeth is said to have swum to the crown through a sea of sorrows. They that will to heaven, must sail by hell gates; they that will have knighthood, must kneel for it; and they that will get in at the strait gate, must crowd for it. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate, “saith our Saviour; strive and strain, even to an agony, as the word signifieth. Heaven is compared to a hill; hell to a hole. To hell a man may go without a staff, as we say; the way thereto is easy, steep, strawed with roses; it is but a yielding to Satan, a passing from sin to sin, from evil purposes to evil practices, from practice to custom, etc. Sed revocure gradum, but to turn short again, and make straight steps to our feet, that we may force through the strait gate, hic labor, hoc opus est, opus non pulvinaris sed pulveris; this is a work of great pains, a duty of no small difficulty. John Trapp.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 14. The frequent and even constant chastisement of the righteous; the necessity and design thereof; and the consolations connected therewith.
Psalms 73:15*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 15. If I say, I will speak thus. It is not always wise to speak one’s thoughts; if they remain within, they will only injure ourselves; but once uttered, their mischief may be great. From such a man as the psalmist, the utterance which his discontent suggested would have been a heavy blow and deep discouragement to the whole brotherhood. He dared not, therefore, come to such a resolution, but paused, and would not decide to declare his feelings. It was well, for in his case second thoughts were by far the best.
I should offend against the generation of thy children. I should scandalise them, grieve them, and perhaps cause them to offend also. We ought to look at the consequences of our speech to all others, and especially to the church of God. Woe unto the man by whom offence cometh! Rash, undigested, ill considered speech, is responsible for much of the heart burning and trouble in the churches. Would to God that, like Asaph, men would bridle their tongues. Where we have any suspicion of being wrong, it is better to be silent; it can do no harm to be quiet, and it may do serious damage to spread abroad our hastily formed opinions. To grieve the children of God by appearing to act perfidiously and betray the truth, is a sin so heinous, that if the consciences of heresy mongers were not seared as with a hot iron, they would not be so glib as they are to publish abroad their novelties. Expressions which convey the impression that the Lord acts unjustly or unkindly, especially if they fall from the lips of men of known character and experience, are as dangerous as firebrands among stubble; they are used for blasphemous purposes by the ill disposed; and the timid and trembling are sure to be cast down thereby, and to find reason for yet deeper distress of soul.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 15. I should offend, etc. That is, I do God’s church a great deal of injury, which hath always been under afflictions, if I think or say, that all her piety hath been without hope, or her hope without effect. Others understand it to mean, I deceive the generation, viz., I propound a false doctrine unto them, which is apt to seduce them. Others, “behold the generation, “etc.; that is to say, notwithstanding all afflictions, it is certain that thou art a Father to the Church only; which is sufficient to make me judge well of these afflictions; I have done ill, and confess I have erred in this my rash judgment. John Diodati.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 15. How we may bring injury on the saints; why we should avoid so doing, and how.
Psalms 73:16*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 16. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me. The thought of scandalising the family of God he could not bear, and yet his inward thoughts seethed and fermented, and caused an intolerable anguish within. To speak might have relieved one sorrow, but, as it would have created another, he forbore so dangerous a remedy; yet this did not remove the first pangs, which grew even worse and worse, and threatened utterly to overwhelm him. A smothered grief is hard to endure. The triumph of conscience which compels us to keep the wolf hidden beneath our own garments, does not forbid its gnawing at our vitals. Suppressed fire in the bones rages more fiercely than if it could gain a vent at the mouth. Those who know Asaph’s dilemma will pity him as none others can.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
None.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 73:17*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 17. Until I went into the sanctuary of God. His mind entered the eternity where God dwells as in a holy place, he left the things of sense for the things invisible, his heart gazed within the veil, he stood where the thrice holy God stands. Thus he shifted his point of view, and apparent disorder resolved itself into harmony. The motions of the planets appear most discordant from this world which is itself a planet; they appear as “progressive, retrograde, and standing still; “but could we fix our observatory in the sun, which is the centre of the system, we should perceive all the planets moving in perfect circle around the head of the great solar family.
Then understood I their end. He had seen too little to be able to judge; a wider view changed his judgment; he saw with his mind’s enlightened eye the future of the wicked, and his soul was in debate no longer as to the happiness of their condition. No envy gnaws now at his heart, but a holy horror both of their impending doom, and of their present guilt, fills his soul. He recoils from being dealt with in the same manner as the proud sinners, whom just now he regarded with admiration.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 17. By the sanctuaries of God some, even among the Hebrews, understand the celestial mansions in which the spirits of the just and angels dwell; as if David had said, This was a painful thing in my sight, until I came to acknowledge in good earnest that men are not created to flourish for a short time in this world, and to luxuriate in pleasures while in it, but that their condition here is that of pilgrims, whose aspirations, during their earthly pilgrimage, should be towards heaven. I readily admit that no man can form a right judgment of the providence of God but he who elevates his mind above the earth; but it is more simple and natural to understand the word sanctuary as denoting celestial doctrine. As the book of the law was laid up in the sanctuary, from which the oracles of heaven were to be obtained, that is to say, the declaration of the will of God; and as this was the true way of acquiring profitable instruction, David very properly puts entering into the sanctuaries for coming to the school of God, as if his meaning were this: Until God become my schoolmaster, and until I learn by his word what otherwise my mind, when I come to consider the government of the world, cannot comprehend, I stop short all at once, and understand nothing about the subject. When, therefore, we are here told that men are unfit for contemplating the arrangements of divine providence, until they obtain wisdom elsewhere than from themselves, how can we attain to wisdom but by submissively receiving what God teaches us, both by his word and by his Holy Spirit? David by the word sanctuary alludes to the external manner of teaching, which God had appointed among his ancient people; but along with the word he comprehends the secret illumination of the Holy Spirit. John Calvin.
Ver. 17. The joy of a wicked man is imperfect in itself, because it is not so as it seems to be, or it is not sincerely so. It is not pure gold, but alloyed and adulterated with sorrow. It may look well to one that is blear eyed, but it will not pass for good to one that looks well to it. Let any one consider and weigh it well in the balance of the sanctuary, whither David went to fetch the scales for the same purpose, and he will find it too light by many grains. It is not so inside as it is without; no more than a mud wall that is plastered with white, or a stinking grave covered with a glorious monument. It is upouloz, looking fair and smooth, like true joy; as a wounded member that is healed too soon (and you know how God by the prophet complains of the hurt of his people that was slightly healed, Jeremiah 6:14), and it looks as well as any other part of the body; but, underneath, there is still a sore, which festers so much more, and is the worse, for that the outside is so well. Where pretences, and cloaks, and disguises are the fairest; there the knavery, and the poison, and the evil concealed are usually foulest. Zachary Bogan (1625-1659), in “Meditations of the Mirth of a Christian Life.”
Ver. 17. Then understood I. There is a famous story of providence in Bradwardine to this purpose. A certain hermit that was much tempted, and was utterly unsatisfied concerning the providence of God, resolved to journey from place to place till he met with some who could satisfy him. An angel in the shape of a man joined himself with him as he was journeying, telling him that he was sent from God to satisfy him in his doubts of providence. The first night they lodged at the house of a very holy man, and they spent their time in discourses of heaven, and praises of God, and were entertained with a great deal of freedom and joy. In the morning, when they departed, the angel took with him a great cup of gold. The next night they came to the house of another holy man, who made them very welcome, and exceedingly rejoiced in their society and discourse; the angel, notwithstanding, at his departure killed an infant in the cradle, which was his only son, he having been for many years before childless, and, therefore, was a very fond father of this child. The third night they came to another house, where they had like free entertainment as before. The master of the family had a steward whom he highly prized, and told them how happy he accounted himself in having such a faithful servant. Next morning he sent his steward with them part of their way, to direct them therein. As they were going over the bridge the angel flung the steward into the river and drowned him. The last night they came to a very wicked man’s house, where they had very untoward entertainment, yet the angel, next morning, gave him the cup of gold. All this being done, the angel asked the hermit whether he understood those things? He answered, his doubts of providence were increased, not resolved, for he could not understand why he should deal so hardly with those holy men, who received them with so much love and joy, and yet give such a gift to that wicked man who used them so unworthily. The angel said, I will now expound these things unto you. The first house where we came the master of it was a holy man; yet, drinking in that cup every morning, it being too large, it did somewhat unfit him for holy duties, though not so much that others or himself did perceive it; so I took it away, since it is better for him to lose the cup of gold than his temperance. The master of the family where we lay the second night was a man given much to prayer and meditation, and spent much time in holy duties, and was very liberal to the poor all the time he was childless; but as soon as he had a son he grew so fond of it, and spent so much time in playing with it, that he exceedingly neglected his former holy exercise, and gave but little to the poor, thinking he could never lay up enough for his child; therefore I have taken the infant to heaven, and left him to serve God better upon earth. The steward whom I did drown had plotted to kill his master the night following; and as to that wicked man to whom I gave the cup of gold, he was to have nothing in the other world, I therefore gave him something in this, which, notwithstanding, will prove a snare to him, for he will be more intemperate; and “let him that is filthy be filthy still.” The truth of this story I affirm not, but the moral is very good, for it shows that God is an indulgent Father to the saints when he most afflicts them; and that when he sets the wicked on high he sets them also in slippery places, and their prosperity is their ruin. Proverbs 1:32. Thomas White, in “A Treatise of the Power of Godliness.” 1658.
Ver. 17. Their end. Providence is often mysterious and a source of perplexity to us. Walking in Hyde Park one day, I saw a piece of paper on the grass. I picked it up; it was a part of a letter; the beginning was wanting, the end was not there; I could make nothing of it. Such is providence. You cannot see beginning or end, only a part. When you can see the whole, then the mystery will be unveiled. Thomas Jones. 1871.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 17.
I. Entrance into the place of fellowship with God, it
privileges, and the way thereto.
II. Lessons learned in that hallowed place; the text
mentions one.
III. Practical influence of the fellowship, and the
instruction.
Ver. 17-18. The sinner’s end; See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, “No. 486.
Psalms 73:18*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 18. The Psalmist’s sorrow had culminated, not in the fact that the ungodly prospered, but that God had arranged it so: had it happened by mere chance, he would have wondered, but could not have complained; but how the arranger of all things could so dispense his temporal favours, was the vexatious question. Here, to meet the case, he sees that the divine hand purposely placed these men in prosperous and eminent circumstances, not with the intent to bless them but the very reverse.
Surely thou didst set them in slippery places. Their position was dangerous, and, therefore, God did not set his friends there but his foes alone. He chose, in infinite love, a rougher but safer standing for his own beloved.
Thou castedst them down into destruction. The same hand which led them up to their Tarpeian rock, hurled them down from it. They were but elevated by judicial arrangement for the fuller execution of their doom. Eternal punishment will be all the more terrible in contrast with the former prosperity of those who are ripening for it. Taken as a whole, the case of the ungodly is horrible throughout; and their worldly joy instead of diminishing the horror, actually renders the effect the more awful, even as the vivid lightning amid the storm does not brighten but intensify the thick darkness which lowers around. The ascent to the fatal gallows of Haman was an essential ingredient in the terror of the sentence–“hang him thereon.” If the wicked had not been raised so high they could not have fallen so low.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 18. Slippery places. The word in the original signifies slick, or smooth, as ice or polished marble, and is from thence by a metaphor used for flattery. Hence, Abenezra renders it, In locis adulationis posuisti eos: thou hast set them in places of flattery. Edward Parry.
Ver. 18. They are but exalted, as the shellfish by the eagle, according to the naturalist, to be thrown down on some rock and devoured. Their most glorious prosperity is but like a rainbow, which showeth itself for a little time in all its gaudy colours, and then vanisheth. The Turks, considering the unhappy end of their viziers, use this proverb, “He that is in the greatest office is but a statue of glass.” Wicked men walk on glass or ice, thou hast set them in slippery places; on a sudden their feet slip–they fall, and break their necks. George Swinnock.
Ver. 18,20. Their banqueting house is very slippery, and the feast itself a mere dream. Thomas Adams.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 17-18. The sinner’s end; See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, “No. 486.
Ver. 18. Thou didst set them in slippery places.
I. It implies that they were always exposed to sudden,
unexpected destruction. As he that walks in
slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he
cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or
fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at
once without warning.
II. They are liable to fall of themselves, without
being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that
stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but
his own weight to throw him down.
III. There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one
moment out of hell but the mere pleasure of God. Jonathan Edwards.
Ver. 18-20. The end of the wicked is,
I. Near: Thou hast set, etc. It may happen at any
time.
II. Judicial: Thou bringest, etc.
III. Sudden: How are they, etc.
IV. Tormenting: They are utterly consumed, etc.
V. Eternal: Left to themselves; gone from the mind of
God; and disregarded as a dream when one awaketh. No
after act respecting them, either for deliverance or
annihilation.
Psalms 73:19*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 19. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! This is an exclamation of godly wonder at the suddenness and completeness of the sinners’ overthrow. Headlong is their fall; without warning, without escape, without hope of future restoration! Despite their golden chains, and goodly apparel, death stays not for manners but hurries them away; and stern justice unbribed by their wealth hurls them into destruction.
They are utterly consumed with terrors. They have neither root nor branch left. They cease to exist among the sons of men, and, in the other world, there is nothing left of their former glory. Like blasted trees, consumed by the lightning, they are monuments of vengeance; like the ruins of Babylon they reveal, in the greatness of their desolation, the judgments of the Lord against all those who unduly exalt themselves. The momentary glory of the graceless is in a moment effaced, their loftiness is in an instant consumed.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 19. They are utterly consumed with terrors. Their destruction is not only sudden, but entire; it is like the breaking in pieces of a potter’s vessel, a sherd of which cannot be gathered up and used; or like the casting of a millstone into the sea, which will never rise more; and this is done with terrors, either by terrible judgments inflicted on them from without, or with terrors inwardly seizing upon their minds and consciences, as at the time of temporal calamities, or at death, and certainly at the judgment, when the awful sentence will be pronounced upon them. See Job 27:20. John Gill.
Ver. 19. If thou shouldest live the longest measure of time that any man hath done, and spend all that time in nothing but pleasures (which no man ever did but met with some crosses, afflictions, or sicknesses), but at the evening of this life, must take up thy lodging in the “everlasting burnings” and “devouring fire” (Isaiah 30:14); were those pleasures answerable to these everlasting burnings? An English merchant that lived at Dantzic, now with God, told us this story, and it was true. A friend of his (a merchant also), upon what grounds I know not, went to a convent, and dined with some friars. His entertainment was very noble. After he had dined and seen all, the merchant fell to commending their pleasant lives: “Yea, “said one of the friars to him, “we live gallantly indeed, had we anybody to go to hell for us when we die.” Giles Firmin (1617-1617), in “The Real Christian, or, A Treatise of Effectual Calling.”
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Verses 18-20. The end of the wicked is,
I. Near: Thou hast set, etc. It may happen at any
time.
II. Judicial: Thou bringest, etc.
III. Sudden: How are they, etc.
IV. Tormenting: They are utterly consumed, etc.
V. Eternal: Left to themselves; gone from the mind of
God; and disregarded as a dream when one awaketh. No
after act respecting them, either for deliverance or
annihilation.
Ver. 19. The first sight and sense of hell by a proud and wealthy sinner, who has just died in peace.
Psalms 73:20*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 20. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. They owe their existence and prosperity to the forbearance of God, which the psalmist compares to a sleep; but as a dream vanishes so soon as a man awakes, so the instant the Lord begins to exercise his justice and call men before him, the pomp and prosperity of proud transgressors shall melt away. When God awakes to judgment, they who despise him shall be despised; they are already “such stuff as dreams are made of, “but then the baseless fabric shall not leave a wreck behind. Let them flaunt the little hour, poor unsubstantial sons of dreams; they will soon be gone; when the day breaketh, and the Lord awake as a mighty man out of his sleep, they will vanish away. Who cares for the wealth of dreamland? Who indeed but fools? Lord, leave us not to the madness which covets unsubstantial wealth, and ever teach us thine own true wisdom.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 18,20. Their banqueting house is very slippery, and the feast itself a mere dream. Thomas Adams.
Ver. 20. As a dream when one awaketh. The conception is rather subtle, but seems to have been shrewdly penetrated by Shakespeare, who makes the Plantagenet prince (affecting, perhaps, the airs of a ruler in God’s stead) say to his discarded favourite–
“I have long dreamt of such a kind of man,
So surfeit swelled, so old and so profane,
But being awake I do not despise my dream.” Henry IV.
For as it is the inertness of the sleeper’s will and intellect that gives reality to the shapes and figments, the very sentiments and purposes that throng his mind; so it seems, as it were, to be the negligence and oversight of the Moral Ruler that makes to prosper the wicked or inane life and influence. So Paul says, in reference to the polytheism of the ancient world: “and the times of this ignorance God winked at.” Acts 17:30. C. B. Cayley, in “The Psalms in Metre.” 1860.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 18-20. The end of the wicked is,
I. Near: Thou hast set, etc. It may happen at any
time.
II. Judicial: Thou bringest, etc.
III. Sudden: How are they, etc.
IV. Tormenting: They are utterly consumed, etc.
V. Eternal: Left to themselves; gone from the mind of
God; and disregarded as a dream when one awaketh. No
after act respecting them, either for deliverance or
annihilation.
Ver. 20. The contemptible object: –a self righteous, or boastful, or persecuting, or cavilling, or wealthy sinner when his soul is called before God.
Psalms 73:21*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 21. The holy poet here reviews his inward struggle and awards himself censure for his folly. His pain had been intense; he says,
Thus my heart was grieved. It was a deep seated sorrow, and one which penetrated his inmost being. Alexander reads it, “My heart is soured.” His spirit had become embittered; he had judged in a harsh, crabbed, surly manner. He had become atrabilious, full of black bile, melancholy, and choleric; he had poisoned his own life at the fountain head, and made all its streams to be bitter as gall.
And I was pricked in my reins. He was as full of pain as a man afflicted with renal disease; he had pierced himself through with many sorrows; his hard thoughts were like so many calculi in his kidneys; he was utterly wretched and woebegone, and all through his own reflections. O miserable philosophy, which stretches the mind on the rack, and breaks it on the wheel! O blessed faith, which drives away the inquisitors, and sets the captives free!
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 21. Thus my heart was grieved, etc. Two similitudes are used, by which his grief and indignation or zeal are described. First, he says his heart boiled over like yeast. The passion which was stirred up in his thoughts he compares to the yeast which inflates the whole mass, and causes it to swell or boil over… The other simile is taken from the internal pains which calculi produce; I was pricked in my reins. They who have felt them are aware of the torture, and there is no need for a long description. It signifies that his great pain was mingled with indignation, and that this came fresh upon him as often as he looked upon the prosperity of the ungodly. Mollerus.
Ver. 21. Reins. Before all the other intestines there are the kidneys (twylb, nefroi), placed on both sides of the lumbar vertebrae on the hinder wall of the abdomen, of which the Scripture makes such frequent mention, and in the most psychically significant manner. It brings the most tender and the most inward experience of a manifold kind into association with them. When man is suffering most deeply within, he is pricked in his kidneys (“reins”). When fretting affliction overcomes him, his kidneys are cloven asunder (Job 16:13; compare La 3:13); when he rejoices profoundly, they exult (Proverbs 23:16); when he feels himself very penetratingly warned, they chasten him (Psalms 16:7); when he very earnestly longs, they are consumed away with his body (Job 19:27). As the omniscient and all penetrating knower of the most secret hidden things of man, God is frequently called (from Psalms 7:10 to the Apocalypse) the Trier of the hearts and reins; and of the ungodly it is said, that God is far from their reins (Jeremiah 12:2), that is, that he, being withdrawn back into himself, allows not himself to be perceived by them. Franz Delitzsch.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 73:22*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 22. So foolish was I. He, though a saint of God, had acted as if he had been one of the fools whom God abhorreth. Had he not even envied them? –and what is that but to aspire to be like them? The wisest of men have enough folly in them to ruin them unless grace prevents.
And ignorant. He had acted as if he knew nothing, had babbled like an idiot, had uttered the very drivel of a witless loon. He did not know how sufficiently to express his sense of his own fatuity.
I was as a beast before thee. Even in God’s presence he had been brutish, and worse than a beast. As the grass eating ox has but this present life, and can only estimate things thereby, and by the sensual pleasure which they afford, even so had the psalmist judged happiness by this mortal life, by outward appearances, and by fleshly enjoyments. Thus he had, for the time, renounced the dignity of an immortal spirit, and, like a mere animal, judged after the sight of the eyes. We should be very loath to call an inspired man a beast, and yet, penitence made him call himself so; nay, he uses the plural, by way of emphasis, and as if he were worse than any one beast. It was but an evidence of his true wisdom that he was so deeply conscious of his own folly. We see how bitterly good men bewail mental wanderings; they make no excuses for themselves, but set their sins in the pillory, and cast the vilest reproaches upon them. O for grace to detest the very appearance of evil!
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 22. So foolish was I, and ignorant, etc. Is not a cavilling spirit at the Lord’s dispensations bad, both in its roots and fruits? What are the roots of it but (1) ignorance; (2) pride, this lifteth up (Hebrews 2:4); (3) impatience, or want of waiting on God to see the issues of matters; so in Jonah 4:8-11; (4) forgetfulness who the Lord is, and who man is that grumbles at his Maker, La 3:39, Romans 9:20. And as for the fruits, they are none of the best, but bad enough. Men are ready to flag in duty, yea, to throw it off, Romans 9:13, and Malachi 3:14; yea, in the way to blaspheme God; see Job 2:9, Malachi 3:13, Revelation 16:9. Thomas Crane, in “A Prospect of Divine Providence.” 1672.
Ver. 22. I was as a beast before thee. I permitted my mind to be wholly occupied with sensible things, like the beasts that perish, and did not look into a future state, nor did I consider nor submit to the wise designs of an unerring providence. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 22. I was as a beast before thee. The original has in it no word of comparison; it ought to be rather translated, I was a very beast before thee, and we are told that the Hebrew word being in the plural number, gives it a peculiar emphasis, indicating some monstrous or astonishing beast. It is the word used by Job which is interpreted “behemoth, “–“I was a very monster before thee, “not only a beast, but one of the most brutish of all beasts, one of the most stubborn and intractable of all beasts. I think no man can go much lower than this in humble confession. This is a description of human nature, and of the old man in the renewed saint which is not to be excelled. C.H.S.
Ver. 22. Among the many arguments to prove the penman of the Scripture inspired by the Spirit of God, this is not the last and least–that the penmen of holy writ do record their own faults and the faults of their dearest and nearest relatives. For instance hereof, how coarsely doth David speak of himself: So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. And do you think that the face of St. Paul did look the more foul by being drawn with his own pencil, when he says, “I was a murderer, a persecutor, the greatest of sinners, “etc? This is not usual in the writings of human authors, who praise themselves to the utmost of what they could, and rather than lose a drop of applause they will lick it up with their own tongues. Tully writes very copiously in setting forth the good service which he did the Roman state, but not a word of his covetousness, of his affecting popular applause, of his pride and vain glory, of his mean extraction and the like. Whereas, clean contrary, Moses sets down the sin and punishment of his own sister, the idolatry and superstition of Aaron his brother, and his own fault in his preposterous striking the rock, for which he was excluded the land of Canaan. Thomas Fuller.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 22. Our folly, ignorance, and brutishness. When displayed. What effect the fact should have upon us; and how greatly it illustrates divine grace.
Ver. 22-25.
1. The psalmist’s confession concerning the flesh.
2. The faithful expressions of the spirit.
3. The conclusion of the whole matter. See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, “No. 467.
Psalms 73:23*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 23. Nevertheless I am continually with thee. He does not give up his faith, though he confesses his folly. Sin may distress us, and yet we may be in communion with God. It is sin beloved and delighted in which separates us from the Lord, but when we bewail it heartily, the Lord will not withdraw from us. What a contrast is here in this and the former verse! He is as a beast, and yet continually with God. Our double nature, as it always causes conflict, so is it a continuous paradox: the flesh allies us with the brutes, and the spirit affiliates us to God.
Thou hast holden me by my right hand. With love dost thou embrace me, with honour ennoble me, with power uphold me. He had almost fallen, and yet was always upheld. He was a riddle to himself, as he had been a wonder unto many. This verse contains the two precious mercies of communion and upholding, and as they were both given to one who confessed himself a fool, we also may hope to enjoy them.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 23. I am continually with thee, as a child the tender care of a parent; and as a parent, during my danger of falling in a slippery path, “thou hast holden me, thy child, by my right hand.” George Horne.
Ver. 23. I am continually with thee. He does not say that the Lord is continually with “his people, “and holds, and guides, and receives them; he says, “He is continually with me; He holds me; He will guide me; He will receive me.” The man saw, and felt, and rejoiced in his own personal interest in God’s care and love. And he did this (mark), in the very midst of affliction, with “flesh and heart failing; “and in spite too of many wrong, and opposite, and sinful feelings, that had just passed away; under a conviction of his own sinfulness, and folly, and, as he calls it, even “brutishness.” Oh! it is a blessed thing, brethren, to have a faith like this. Charles Bradley. 1838.
Ver. 23. I am still with thee. The word translated still properly means always, and denotes that there had been no change or interruption in the previous relation of the parties. There is a perfectly analogous usage of the French toujours. Joseph Addison Alexander.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 22-25.
I. The psalmist’s confession concerning the flesh.
II. The faithful expressions of the spirit.
III. The conclusion of the whole matter. See “Spurgeon’s
Sermons, “No. 467.
Ver. 23.
I. God does not forsake his people when they forsake him:
Nevertheless I am continually, etc.
II. God does not lose his hold on them when they lose
their hold on him: Nevertheless thou hast holden,
etc.
Ver. 23-24.
I. What he says of the present: I am continually with
thee.
II. What he says of the past: Thou hast holden me, etc.
III. What he say of the future: Thou shalt guide, etc. W. Jay.
Ver. 23-24. Communing, upholding, on leading, reception to glory, four glorious privileges; especially as bestowed on one who was grieved, foolish, ignorant, and a beast. Note the contrasts.
Psalms 73:24*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 24. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel. I have done with choosing my own way, and trying to pick a path amid the jungle of reason. He yielded not only the point in debate, but all intentions of debating, and he puts his hand into that of the great Father, asking to be led, and agreeing to follow. Our former mistakes are a blessing, when they drive us to this. The end of our own wisdom is the beginning of our being wise. With Him is counsel, and when we come to him, we are sure to be led aright.
And afterward. “Afterward!” Blessed word. We can cheerfully put up with the present, when we foresee the future. What is around us just now is of small consequence, compared with afterward.
Receive me to glory. Take me up into thy splendour of joy. Thy guidance shall conduct me to this matchless terminus. Glory shall I have, and thou thyself wilt admit me into it. As Enoch was not, for God took him, so all the saints are taken up–received up into glory.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 24. Thou shalt guide me. How are we to work our way in strange lands, if left entirely to our own resources? Hence it is, that so much is said in the Bible about guides, and that the Lord is called the guide of his people. They are in a foreign land, a land of pits and snares; and, without a good guide, they will be sure to fall into the one, or be caught in the other. “This God is our God, for ever and ever, “saith the psalmist; and not only so, but he condescends to “be our guide, and will be, even unto death” (Psalms 48:14). Can we have a better guide? When a guide has been well recommended to us by those who have tried him, it is our wisdom to place ourselves unreservedly in his hands; and if he say our way lies to the right, it would show our folly to say we were determined to go to the left. John Gadsby.
Ver. 24. Guide… receive. After conversion, God still works with us: he doth not only give grace, but actual help in the work of obedience: “He worketh all our works in us, “Isaiah 26:12. His actual help is necessary to direct, quicken, strengthen, protect and defend us. In our way to heaven, we need not only a rule and path, but a guide. The rule is the law of God; but the guide is the Spirit of God. Thomas Manton.
Ver. 24. Afterward. After all our toil in labour and duty, after all our crosses and afflictions, after all our doubts and fears that we should never receive it; after all the hiding of his face, and clouds and darkness that have passed over us; and after all our battles and fightings for it, oh, then how seasonably will the reception of this reward come in: Thou wilt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. O blessed afterwards; when all your work is done, when all your doubts and fears are over, and when all your battles are fought; then, O then, ye shall receive the reward. John Spalding.
Ver. 24. Receive me to glory. Mendelssohn in his Beor, has perceived the probable allusion in this clause to the translation of Enoch. Of Enoch it is said, Genesis 5:24, Myhla wta xql, “God took him.” Here (Psalms 73:24), the psalmist writes, ygzqt Kwbk. “Thou shalt take me to glory, or gloriously.” In another (Psalms 49:16) we read, ygzqy yk. “For he (God) shall take me.” I can hardly think that the two latter expressions were written and read in their context by Jews without reference to the former. Thomas Thompson Perowne.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 22-25.
I. The psalmist’s confession concerning the flesh.
II. The faithful expressions of the spirit.
III. The conclusion of the whole matter. See “Spurgeon’s
Sermons, “No. 467.
Ver. 23-24.
I. What he says of the present: I am continually with
thee.
II. What he says of the past: Thou hast holden me,
etc.
III. What he say of the future: Thou shalt guide, etc. W. Jay.
Ver. 23-24. Communing, upholding, on leading, reception to glory, four glorious privileges; especially as bestowed on one who was grieved, foolish, ignorant, and a beast. Note the contrasts.
Ver. 24. The Enoch walk, and the Enoch reception into glory.
Psalms 73:25*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 25. Whom have I in heaven but thee? Thus, then, he turns away from the glitter which fascinated him to the true gold which was his real treasure. He felt that his God was better to him than all the wealth, health, honour, and peace, which he had so much envied in the worldling; yea, He was not only better than all on earth, but more excellent than all in heaven. He bade all things else go, that he might be filled with his God.
And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. No longer should his wishes ramble, no other object should tempt them to stray; henceforth, the Ever living One should be his all in all.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 25. Whom have I in heaven but thee, etc. How small is the number of those who keep their affections fixed on God alone! We see how superstition joins to him many others as rivals for our affections. While the Papists admit in word that all things depend upon God, they are, nevertheless, constantly seeking to obtain help from this and the other quarter independent of him. John Calvin.
Ver. 25. It pleased David, and it pleases all the saints, more that God is their salvation, whether temporal or eternal, than that he saves them. The saints look more at God than at all that is God’s. They say, Non tua, sed te; we desire not thine, but thee, or nothing of thine like thee. Whom have I in heaven but thee? saith David. What are saints? what are angels, to a soul without God? It is true of things as well as of persons. What have we in heaven but God? What’s joy without God? What’s glory without God? What’s all the furniture and riches, all the delicacies, yea, all the diadems of heaven, without the God of heaven? If God should say to the saints, Here is heaven, take it amongst you, but I will withdraw myself, how would they weep over heaven itself, and make it a Baca, a valley of tears indeed. Heaven is not heaven unless we enjoy God. It is the presence of God which makes heaven: glory is but our nearest being unto God. As Mephibosheth replied, when David told him, “I have said, thou and Ziba divide the land:” “Let him take all, if he will, “saith Mephibosheth, I do not so much regard the land as I regard thy presence; “Let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace to his own house, “where I may enjoy him. So if God should say to the saints, Take heaven amongst you, and withdraw himself, they would even say, Nay, let the world take heaven, if they will, if we may not have thee in heaven, heaven will but be an earth, or rather but a hell to us. That which saints rejoice in, is that they may be in the presence of God, that they may sit at his table, and eat bread with him; that is, that they may be near him continually, which was Mephibosheth’s privilege with David. That’s the thing which they desire and which their souls thirst after; that’s the wine they would drink. “My soul, “saith David (Psalms 42:2), “thirsteth for God, for the living God; when” (I think the time is very long, when) “shall I come and appear before God?” Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 25-26. Gotthold was invited to an entertainment, and had the hope held out that he would meet with a friend whom he loved, and in whose society he took the greatest delight. On joining the party, however, he learned that, owing to some unforeseen occurrence, this friend was not to be present, and felt too much chagrined to take any share in the hilarity. The circumstances afterwards led him into the following train of thought: The pious soul, that sincerely loves and fervently longs for the Lord Jesus, experiences what I lately did. She seeks her Beloved in all places, objects, and events. If she finds him, who is happier? If she finds him not, who more disconsolate? Ah! Lord Jesus, thou best of friends, thou art the object of my love; my soul seeketh thee, my heart longeth after thee. What care I for the world, with all its pleasures and pomp, its power and glory, unless I find thee in it? What care I for the daintiest food, the sweetest drinks, and the merriest company, unless thou art present, and unless I can dip my morsel in thy wounds, sweeten my draught with thy grace, and hear thy pleasant words. Verily, my Saviour, were I even in heaven, and did not find thee there, it would seem to me no heaven at all. Wherefore, Lord Jesus, when with tears, sighs, yearnings of heart, and patient hope, I seek thee, hide not thyself from me, but suffer me to find thee; for, Lord! whom have I in heaven but thee; and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. Christian Scriver.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 22-25.
I. The psalmist’s confession concerning the flesh.
II. The faithful expressions of the spirit.
III. The conclusion of the whole matter. See “Spurgeon’s
Sermons, “No. 467.
Ver. 25. God the best portion of the Christian. Jonathan Edwards’ Works, Vol. 2, pp. 104-7.
Ver. 25. Heaven and earth ransacked to find a joy equal to the Lord himself. Let the preacher take up various joys and show the inferiority.
Psalms 73:26*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 26. My flesh and my heart faileth. They had failed him already, and he had almost fallen; they would fail him in the hour of death, and, if he relied upon them, they would fail him at once.
But God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. His God would not fail him, either as protection or a joy. His heart would be kept up by divine love, and filled eternally with divine glory. After having been driven far out to sea, Asaph casts anchor in the old port. We shall do well to follow his example. There is nothing desirable save God; let us, then, desire only him. All other things must pass away; let our hearts abide in him, who alone abideth for ever.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 25-26. See Psalms on “Psalms 73:25” for further information.
Ver. 26. My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. In which words we may take notice of five things.
I. The order inverted. When he mentions his malady he
begins with the failing of the flesh, and then of the
heart; but when he reports the relief he begins with
that of the heart. From hence observe that when
God works a cure in man (out of love) he begins with
the heart–he cures that first. And there may
be these reasons for it.
1. Because the sin of the heart is often the procuring cause of the malady of body and soul.
2. The body ever fares the better for the soul, but not the soul for the body.
3. The cure of the soul is the principal cure. II. The suitableness of the remedy to the malady. Strength of heart for failing of heart, and a blessed portion for the failing of the flesh. Observe, that there is a proportionate remedy and relief in God for all maladies and afflictions whatsoever, both within and without. If your hearts fail you, God is strength; if your flesh fails you, or comforts fail you, God is a portion. III. The prophet’s interest; he calls God his portion. Observe, that true Israelites have an undoubted interest in God: –He is theirs. IV. The prophet’s experience in the worst time. He finds this to be true, that when communicated strength fails, there is a never failing strength in God. Observe, that Christians’ experiences of God’s all sufficiency are then fullest and highest when created comforts fail them. V. There is the prophet’s improvement of his experience for support and comfort against future trials and temptations. Observe, that a saint’s consideration of his experience of God’s all sufficiency in times of exigency, is enough to bear up and to fortify his spirit against all trials and temptations for the time to come.
Thus you may improve the text by way of observation; but there are two principal doctrines to be insisted on. First, that God is the rock of a saint’s heart, his strength, and his portion for ever. Secondly, that divine influence and relief passeth from God to his people when they stand in most need thereof.
First. God is the rock of a saint’s heart, strength, and portion for ever. Here are two members or branches in this doctrine.
1. That God is the rock of a saint’s heart, strength.
2. That God is the portion of a saint. Branch 1. God is the rock of a saint’s heart, strength. He is not only strength, and the strength of their hearts, but the rock of their strength; so Isaiah 17:10. Psalms 62:7, rwu, the same word that is used in the text, from hence comes our English word “sure.” Explication. God is the rock of our strength, both in respect of our naturals and also of our spirituals: he is the strength of nature and of grace (Psalms 27:1); the strength of my life natural and spiritual. God is the strength of thy natural faculties–of reason and understanding, of wisdom and prudence, of will and affections. He is the strength of all thy graces, faith, patience, meekness, temperance, hope, and charity; both as to their being and exercise. He is the strength of all thy comfort and courage, peace and happiness, salvation and glory. Psalms 140:7. “O God, the rock of my salvation.” In three respects. First. He is the author and giver of all strength. Psalms 18:32 : “It is God that girdeth me with strength.” Ps 24:11: “He will give strength to his people.” Ps 138:3 68:35. Secondly. He is the increaser and perfecter of a saint’s strength; it is God that makes a saint strong and mighty both to do and suffer, to bear and forbear, to believe and to hope to the end; so Hebrews 11:34 : “Out of weakness they were made strong; “so 1 John 2:14. And therefore is that prayer of Peter, 1 Peter 5:10. Thirdly. He is the preserver of your strength; your life is laid up in God. Colossians 3:3. Your strength is kept by the strength of God; so Psalms 91:1. God doth overshadow the strength of saints, that no breach can be made upon it. Psalms 63:7. “In the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.” Samuel Blackerby. 1673.
Ver. 26. Oh, strange logic! Grace hath learned to deduce strong conclusions out of weak premises, and happy out of sad. If the major be, My flesh and my heart faileth; and the minor, “There is no blossom in the fig tree, nor fruit in the vine, “etc.; yet his conclusion is firm and undeniable: The Lord is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever; or, Yet will I rejoice in the God of my salvation. And if there be more in the conclusion than in the premises, it is the better; God comes even in the conclusion. John Sheffield, in “The Rising Sun.” 1654.
Ver. 26. My flesh and my heart faileth. They who take the expression in a bad sense, take it to be a confession of his former sin, and to have relation to the combat mentioned in the beginning of the Psalm, between the flesh and the spirit; as if he had said, I was so surfeited with self conceitedness that I presumed to arraign divine actions at the bar of human reason, and to judge the stick under water crooked by the eye of my sense, when, indeed, it was straight: but now I see that flesh is no fit judge in matters of faith; that neither my flesh nor heart can determine rightly of God’s dispensations, nor hold out uprightly under Satan’s temptations; for if God had not supported me my flesh had utterly supplanted me: My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart. Flesh is sometimes taken for corrupt nature. Galatians 5:13. First, because it is propagated by the flesh (John 3:6); secondly, because it is executed by the flesh (Romans 7:25); thirdly, because corruption is nourished, strengthened, and increased by the flesh. 1 John 2:16. They who take the words in a good sense, do not make them look back so far as the beginning of the Psalm, but only to the neighbour verse. George Swinnock.
Ver. 26. God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. The Hebrew carrieth it, but God is the rock of my heart, i.e., a sure, strong, and immovable foundation to build upon. Though the winds may blow, and the waves beat, when the storm of death cometh, yet I need not fear that the house of my heart will fall, for it is built on a sure foundation: God is the rock of my heart. The strongest child that God hath is not able to stand alone; like the hop or ivy, he must have somewhat to support him, or he is presently on the ground. Of all seasons, the Christian hath most need of succour at his dying hour; then he must take his leave of all his comforts on earth, and then he shall be sure of the sharpest conflicts from hell, and therefore, it is impossible he should hold out without extraordinary help from heaven. But the psalmist had armour of proof ready, wherewith to encounter his last enemy. As weak and fearful a child as he was, he durst venture a walk in the dark entry of death, having his Father by the hand: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me, “Psalms 23:1-6. Though at the troubles of my life, and my trial at death, my heart is ready to fail me, yet I have a strong cordial which will cheer me in my saddest condition: God is the strength of my heart.
And my portion. It is a metaphor taken from the ancient custom among the Jews, of dividing inheritances, whereby every one had his allotted portion; as if he had said, God is not only my rock to defend me from those tempests which assault me, and, thereby, my freedom from evil; but he is also my portion, to supply my necessities, and to give me the fruition of all good. Others, indeed, have their parts on this side the land of promise, but the author of all portions is the matter of my portion. My portion doth not lie in the rubbish and lumber, as theirs doth whose portion is in this life, be they never so large; but my portion containeth him whom the heavens, and heaven of heavens, can never contain. God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever; not for a year, or an age, or a million of ages, but for eternity. Though others’ portions, like roses, the fuller they blow, the sooner they shed; they are worsted often by their pride, and wasted through their prodigality, so that at last they come to want–and surely death always rends their persons and portions asunder; yet my portion will be ever full, without diminution. Without alteration, this God will be my God for ever and ever, my guide and aid unto death; nay, death, which dissolves so many bonds, and unties such close knots, shall never part me and my portion, but give me a perfect and everlasting possession of it. George Swinnock.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 26.
I. The psalmist’s complaint: My flesh and my heart
faileth.
II. His comfort: But God, etc. Or, we may take
notice,
I. Of the frailty of his flesh.
II. Of the flourishing of his faith.
Doctrine 1. That man’s flesh will fail him. The highest,
the holiest man’s heart will not always hold out. The
prophet was great and gracious, yet his flesh failed him.
Doctrine 2. That it is the comfort of a Christian, in his
saddest condition, that God is his portion. G. Swinnock.
Ver. 26. “The Fading of the Flesh, ” Swinnock’s Treatise. (Nichol’s Puritan Series.)
Ver. 26. Where we fail and where we cannot fail.
Psalms 73:27*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 27. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish. We must be near God to live; to be far off by wicked works is death.
Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. If we pretend to be the Lord’s servants, we must remember that he is a jealous God, and requires spiritual chastity from all his people. Offences against conjugal vows are very offensive, and all sins against God have the same element in them, and they are visited with the direst punishments. Mere heathens, who are far from God, perish in due season; but those who, being his professed people, act unfaithfully to their profession, shall come under active condemnation, and be crushed beneath his wrath. We read examples of this in Israel’s history; may we never create fresh instances in our own persons.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS None.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 27.
I. The sad conditions.
II. The terrible punishments.
III. The implied consolations.
Psalms 73:28*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 28. But it is good for me to draw near to God. Had he done so at first he would not have been immersed in such affliction; when he did so he escaped from his dilemma, and if he continued to do so he would not fall into the same evil again. The greater our nearness to God, the less we are affected by the attractions and distractions of earth. Access into the most holy place is a great privilege, and a cure for a multitude of ills. It is good for all saints, it is good for me in particular; it is always good, and always will be good for me to approach the greatest good, the source of all good, even God himself.
I have put my trust in the Lord God. He dwells upon the glorious name of the Lord Jehovah, and avows it as the basis of his faith. Faith is wisdom; it is the key of enigmas, the clue of mazes, and the pole star of pathless seas. Trust and you will know.
That I may declare all thy works. He who believes shall understand, and so be able to teach. Asaph hesitated to utter his evil surmisings, but he has no diffidence in publishing abroad a good matter. God’s ways are the more admired the more they are known. He who is ready to believe the goodness of God shall always see fresh goodness to believe in, and he who is willing to declare the works of God shall never be silent for lack of wonders to declare.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 28. It is good for me to draw near to God. When he saith, it is good, his meaning is it is best. This positive is superlative. It is more than good for us to draw nigh to God at all times, it is best for us to do so, and it is at our utmost peril not to do so; For, lo, saith the psalmist (Psalms 73:27), they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. It is dangerous to be far from God, but it is more dangerous to go far from him. Every man is far off by nature, and wicked men go further off: the former shall perish, the latter shall be destroyed. He that fares best in his withdrawing from God, fares bad enough; therefore, it is best for us to draw nigh unto God. He is the best friend at all times, and the only friend at sometimes. And may we not say that God suffers and orders evil times, and the withdrawing of the creature, for that very end, that we might draw nearer unto him? Doth he not give up the world to a spirit of reviling and mocking that he may stir up in his people a spirit of prayer? Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 28. It is good; that is, it puts in us a blessed quality and disposition. It makes a man to be like God himself; and, secondly, it is good, that is, it is comfortable; for it is the happiness of the creature to be near the Creator; it is beneficial and helpful. To draw near. How can a man but be near to God, seeing he filleth heaven and earth: “Whither shall I go from thy presence?” Psalms 139:7. He is present always in power and providence in all places, but graciously present with some by his Spirit, supporting, comforting, strengthening the heart of a good man. As the soul is said to be tota in toto, in several parts by several faculties, so God, is present to all, but in a diverse manner. Now we are said to be near to God in diverse degrees: first, when our understanding is enlightened; intellectus est veritatis sponsa; and so the young man speaking discreetly in things concerning God, is said not to be far from the kingdom of God, Mr 12:34. Secondly, in minding: when God is present to our minds, so that the soul is said to be present to that which it minds; contrarily it is said of the wicked, that “God is not in all their thoughts, “Psalms 10:4. Thirdly, when the will upon the discovery of the understanding comes to choose the better part, and is drawn from that choice to cleave to him, as it was said of Jonathan’s heart, “it was knit to David, ” 1 Samuel 18:1. Fourthly, when our whole affections are carried to God, loving him as the chief good. Love is the firstborn affection. That breeds desire of communion with God. Thence comes joy in him, so that the soul pants after God, “as the hart after the water springs, “Psalms 41:1. Fifthly, and especially, when the soul is touched with the Spirit of God working faith, stirring up dependence, confidence, and trust on God. Hence ariseth sweet communion. The soul is never at rest till it rests on him. Then it is afraid to break with him or to displease him; but it groweth zealous and resolute, and hot in love, stiff in good cases; resolute against his enemies. And yet this is not all, for God will have also the outward man, so as the whole man must present itself before God in word, in sacraments; speak of him and to him with reverence, and yet with strength of affection mounting up in prayer, as in a fiery chariot; hear him speak to us; consulting with his oracles; fetching comforts against distresses, directions against maladies. Sixthly, and especially, we draw near to him when we praise him; for this is the work of the souls departed, and of the angels in heaven, that are continually near unto him. The prophet here saith, It is good for me. How came he to know this? Why, he had found it by experience, and by it he was thoroughly convinced. Richard Sibbes.
Ver. 28. To draw near to God. It is not one isolated act. It is nor merely turning to God, and saying, “I have come to him.” The expression is draw. It is not a single act; it is the drawing, the coming, the habitual walk, going on, and on, and on, so long as we are on earth. It is, therefore, an habitual religion which must be pressed and enforced upon us. Montagu Villiers. 1855.
Ver. 28. To draw near to God. To draw near to God,
1. A man should make his peace with God, in and through the Mediator Jesus Christ; for, until once that be done, a man must be said to be far from God, and there is a partition wall standing betwixt God and him. It is the same with that advice given by Eliphaz to Job: “Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee, ” Job 22:21. Be friends with God, and all shall be well with you.
2. It is to seek more after communion and fellowship with God, and to pursue after intimacy and familiarity with him; and to have more of his blessed company with us in our ordinary walk and conversation; according to that word, “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance, “Psalms 89:15.
3. As it stands here in the text, it is the expression of one who hath made up his peace already, and is on good terms with God; and doth differ a little from what the words absolutely imply; and so we may take it thus,
(a) It implies the confirming or making sure our
interest in God, and so it supposes the man’s
peace to be made with God; for, whoever be the
author of this Psalm, it supposes he has made
his peace; and, therefore, in the following words
it is subjoined, I have put my trust in the
Lord, etc.; that is, I have trusted my soul
unto God, and made my peace with him through a
mediator. It is good, whatever comes, it
is always good to be near to God,
that way, and to be made sure in him.
(b) It implies to be more conformed unto the image of
God, and, therefore, this nearness to him is
opposed to that of being far from God. It is
good, says he to draw near to God in our duty;
when so many are far from him.
(c) It implies, to lay by all things in the world,
and to seek fellowship and communion with God,
and to be more set apart for his blessed company,
and to walk with him in a dependence upon him as
the great burden bearer, as he who is to be all
in all unto us.
In a word, to draw near unto God, is to make our peace with him, and to secure and confirm that peace with him, and to study a conformity unto him, and to be near unto him in our walk and conversation; in our fellowship, and whole carriage, and deportment, to be always near unto him. William Guthrie.
Ver. 28. The Epicurean, says Augustine, is wont to say, It is good for me to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh: the Stoic is wont to say, For me it is good to enjoy the pleasures of the mind: The Apostle used to say (not in words but in sense), It is good for me to cleave to God. Lorinus.
Ver. 28. The Lord God. The names The Lord Jehovah are a combination expressive of God’s sovereignty, self existence, and covenant relation to his people. Joseph Addison Alexander.

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Psalm 72

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-20
TITLE. A Psalm for Solomon. The best linguists affirm that this should be rendered, of or by Solomon. There is not sufficient ground for the rendering for. It is pretty certain that the title declares Solomon to be the author of the Psalm, and yet from Psalms 72:20 it would seem that David uttered it in prayer before he died. With some diffidence we suggest that the spirit and matter of the Psalm are David’s, but that he was too near his end to pen the words, or cast them into form: Solomon, therefore, caught his dying father’s song, fashioned it in goodly verse, and, without robbing his father, made the Psalm his own. It is, we conjecture, the Prayer of David, but the Psalm of Solomon. Jesus is here, beyond all doubt, in the glory of his reign, both as he now is, and as he shall be revealed in the latter day glory.
DIVISION. We shall follow the division suggested by Alexander. “A glowing description of the reign of Messiah as righteous, Psalms 72:1-7; universal, Psalms 72:8-11; beneficent, Psalms 72:12-14; and perpetual, Psalms 72:15-17; to which are added a doxology, Psalms 72:18-19; and a postscript, Psalms 72:20.”
EXPOSITION
Ver. 1. Give the king thy judgments, O God. The right to reign was transmitted by descent from David to Solomon, but not by that means alone: Israel was a theocracy, and the kings were but the viceroys of the greater King; hence the prayer that the new king might be enthroned by divine right, and then endowed with divine wisdom. Our glorious King in Zion hath all judgment committed unto him. He rules in the name of God over all lands. He is king “Dei Gratia” as well as by right of inheritance.
And thy righteousness unto the king’s son. Solomon was both king and king’s son; so also is our Lord. He has power and authority in himself, and also royal dignity given of his Father. He is the righteous king; in a word, he is “the Lord our righteousness.” We are waiting till he shall be manifested among men as the ever righteous Judge. May the Lord hasten on his own time the long looked for day. Now wars and fightings are even in Israel itself, but soon the dispensation will change, and David, the type of Jesus warring with our enemies, shall be displaced by Solomon the prince of peace.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. For Solomon. I shall but mention a threefold analogy between Christ and Solomon.
1. In his personal wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-30); so Christ (Colossians 2:3); “In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
2. In the glorious peace and prosperity of his kingdom: the kingdom was peaceably settled in his hand. 1Ch 22:9 4:24-25. And so he fell to the work of building the temple, as Christ doth the church; so Christ (Isaiah 9:6); he is the Prince of Peace, the great Peacemaker. Ephesians 2:14.
3. In his marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter. Some observe that the daughter of Pharaoh never seduced him: neither is there any mention made of the Egyptian idols. 1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:7. In his other outlandish marriages he did sin; but this is mentioned as by way of special exception (1 Kings 11:1); for she was a proselyte, and so it was no sin to marry her: and the love between her and Solomon is made a type of the love between Christ and the church. So Christ hath taken us Gentiles to be spouse unto him. Psalms 45:1-17. Samuel Mather (1626-1671), in “The Figures or Types of the Old Testament.”
Whole Psalm. The Seventy-second Psalm contains a description of an exalted king, and of the blessings of his reign. These blessings are of such a nature as to prove that the subject of the Psalm must be a divine person.
1. His kingdom is to be everlasting.
2. Universal.
3. It secures perfect peace with God and goodwill among men.
4. All men are to be brought to submit to him through love.
5. In him all the nations of the earth are to be blessed; i.e., as we are distinctly taught in Galatians 3:16, it is in him that all the blessings of redemption are to come upon the world. Charles Hodge, in “Systematic Theology.” 1871.
Whole Psalm. This Psalm was penned by a king, it is dedicated to a king, and is chiefly intended concerning him who is “King of kings.” Joseph Caryl, in a Sermon entitled “David’s Prayer for Solomon.”
Whole Psalm. Two Psalms bear Solomon’s name in their titles. One of these is the Hundred and Twenty-seventh, the other is the Seventy-second; and here the traces of his pen are unequivocal. A mistaken interpretation of the note appended to it, “The prayers of David the Son of Jesse are ended, “led most of the old commentators to attribute the Psalm to David, and to suppose that it is a prayer offered in his old age “for Solomon, “as the peaceful prince who was to succeed him on the throne. However, it has long been known that the note in question refers to the whole of the preceding portion of the Psalter, much of which was written by Asaph and the sons of Korah; and there can be no doubt that the title can only be translated, “of Solomon.” So clear are the traces of Solomon’s pen that Calvin, whose sagacity in this kind of criticism has never been excelled, although he thought himself obliged, by the note at the end of the Psalm, to attribute the substance of it to David, felt Solomon’s touch so sensibly, that he threw out the conjecture that the prayer was the father’s, but that it was afterward thrown into the lyrical form by the son. This is not the place for detailed exposition; I will, therefore, content myself with remarking that, properly speaking, the Psalm is not “for Solomon” at all. If it refers to him and his peaceful reign, it does so only in as far as they were types of the Person and Kingdom of the Prince of Peace. The Psalm, from beginning to end, is not only capable of being applied to Christ, but great part is incapable of being fairly applied to any other. William Binnie.
Whole Psalm. This is the forth of those Psalms which predict the two natures of Christ. This Psalm admonishes us that we believe in Christ as perfect God, and perfect Man and King. Psalter of Peter Lombard(–1164).
Whole Psalm. That under the type of Solomon (to whom it is inscribed) the Messiah is “The King” of whom this Psalm treats, we have the consent, not only of the most eminent divines of modern times, and of the Fathers of the early Christian church, but the ancient and most distinguished Jewish expositors; of which reference, indeed, it contains the most conclusive internal evidence. And, as under a new type, so is the kingdom here presented to us in a new aspect, in marked contradistinction to its character as foreshadowed by its other great type, the Davidic: for the character of David’s reign was conquest. He was “a man of war” (1 Chronicles 28:1-3); the appointed instrument for subjecting the enemies of God’s people Israel, by whom they were put in undisturbed possession of the promised land. But the character of Solomon’s reign was peace, the import of his name, succeeding to the throne after all enemies had been subdued, and governing the kingdom which David’s wars had established (1 Kings 2:12), the two types, respectively, of Christ as he is yet to be manifested at his next appearing; first revealed as David, as seen in the vision of that event (Revelation 19:11): “I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war, “etc., subduing the Antichristian confederacy (Revelation 19:19-21), as before predicted in the Second Psalm, of this same confederacy: “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” And then, as Solomon, taking his throne, and extending the blessings of his kingdom of peace to the ends of the earth. David in the Second Psalm; Solomon in this. William De Burgh.
Whole Psalm. The reader is reminded of James Montgomery’s hymn, beginning, “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed; “it is a very beautiful versification of this Psalm, and will be found in “Our Own Hymn Book, ” No. 353.
Ver. 1. Give the king thy judgments, O God. Right and authority to execute judgment and justice. The Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son. John Fry.
Ver. 1. The king… The king’s son. I do not apprehend, with the generality of interpreters, that by The king, and The king’s son, David means himself and his son, but Solomon only, to whom both the titles agree, as he was David’s son, and anointed by him king during his lifetime. Samuel Chandler.
Ver. 1. The king… The king’s son. We see that our Lord is here termed both Klm, and Klm Nb, being king himself, and also the son of a king; both as respects his human origin, having come forth from the stock of David, and also as to his divine origin; for the Father of the universe may, of course, be properly denominated King. Agreeably to this designation, we find on the Turkish coins the inscription: Sultan, son of Sultan. George Phillips.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Whole Psalm.
I. He shall.
II. They shall. Ring the changes on these, as the Psalm does.
Ver. 1. The prayer of the ancient church now fulfilled.
I. Our Lord’s titles.
1. King, by divine nature.
2. King’s Son, in both natures. Thus we see his power innate and derived. II. Our Lord’s authority: “Judgments.”
1. To rule his people.
2. To rule the world for his people’s benefit.
3. To judge mankind.
4. To judge devils. III. Our Lord’s character. He is righteous in rewarding and punishing, righteous towards God and man. IV. Our loyal prayer. This asks for his rule over ourselves and the universe.
WORK UPON THE SEVENTY-SECOND PSALM
In CHANDLER’S Life of David, Vol. 2, pp. 440-44, there is an Exposition of this Psalm.
Psalms 72:2*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 2. He shall judge thy people with righteousness. Clothed with divine authority, he shall use it on the behalf of the favoured nation, for whom he shall show himself strong, that they be not misjudged, slandered, or in any way treated maliciously. His sentence shall put their accusers to silence, and award the saints their true position as the accepted of the Lord. What a consolation to feel that none can suffer wrong in Christ’s kingdom: he sits upon the great white throne, unspotted by a single deed of injustice, or even mistake of judgment: reputations are safe enough with him. And thy poor with judgment. True wisdom is manifest in all the decisions of Zion’s King. We do not always understand his doings, but they are always right. Partiality has been too often shown to rich and great men, but the King of the last and best of monarchies deals out even handed justice, to the delight of the poor and despised. Here we have the poor mentioned side by side with the king. The sovereignty of God is a delightful theme to the poor in spirit; they love to see the Lord exalted, and have no quarrel with him for exercising the prerogatives of his crown. It is the fictitious wealth which labours to conceal real poverty, which makes men cavil at the reigning Lord, but a deep sense of spiritual need prepares the heart loyally to worship the Redeemer King. On the other hand, the King has a special delight in the humbled hearts of his contrite ones, and exercises all his power and wisdom on their behalf, even as Joseph in Egypt ruled for the welfare of his brethren.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2. Thy judgments. From whom does he seek these? O God, he says, give them. Therefore is it the gift of God that kings should judge righteously and observe justice. Moreover, he does not simply say, O God, give judgment to the king, and righteousness to the king’s son; but thy judgments and thy righteousness. Grant them this grace, that what is just in thy sight they may judge. The world has its own judgments and its own righteousness, but deals in such a way that true righteousness is more oppressed than approved. Not such are the judgments and righteousness of God. Musculus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 2. The rule of Christ in his church.
I. The subjects.
1. Thy people, the elect, called, etc.
2. Thy poor, through conviction and consciousness of sin. II. The ruler. He, only, truly, constantly, etc. III. The rule. –Righteous, impartial, gentle, prudent, etc. Lesson. Desire this rule.
Psalms 72:3*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 3. The mountains shall bring peace to the people. Thence, aforetime, rushed the robber bands which infested the country; but now the forts there erected are the guardians of the land, and the watchmen publish far and near the tidings that no foe is to be seen. Where Jesus is there is peace, lasting, deep, eternal. Even those things which were once our dread, lose all terror when Jesus is owned as monarch of the heart: death itself, that dark mountain, loses all its gloom. Trials and afflictions, when the Lord is with us, bring us an increase rather than a diminution of peace.
And the little hills, by righteousness. Seeing that the rule of the monarch was just, every little hill seemed clothed with peace. Injustice has made Palestine a desert; if the Turk and Bedouin were gone, the land would smile again; for even in the most literal sense, justice is the fertilizer of lands, and men are diligent to plough and raise harvests when they have the prospect of eating the fruit of their labours. In a spiritual sense, peace is given to the heart by the righteousness of Christ; and all the powers and passions of the soul are filled with a holy calm, when the way of salvation, by a divine righteousness, is revealed. Then do we go forth with joy, and are led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills break forth before us into singing.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 3. The mountains shall bring peace to the people, etc. Those who apply this Psalm to Solomon expound the distich thus; “That the steep mountains on the frontier, strongly garrisoned, shall secure the land from hostile invasion; and the hills, cleared of the banditti, which in the rude ages were accustomed to inhabit them, under the government of the king, intended in this Psalm, should be the peaceful seats of a useful, civilised peasantry.” This sense is not ill expressed in Mr. Merrick’s translation:
“Peace, from the fort clad mountain’s brow,
Descending, bless the plain below;
And justice from each rocky cell,
Shall violence and fraud expel.”
But so little of the Psalm is at all applicable to Solomon, and the greater part of it so exclusively belongs to the Messiah, that I think these mountains and hills allude to the nature of the land of Judaea; and the general sense is, that, in the times of the great king, the inhabitants of that mountainous region shall live in a state of peace and tranquillity. The thing intended is the happy condition of the natural Israel, in the latter day restored to God’s favour, and to the peaceful possession of their own land. It is a great confirmation of this sense, that righteousness is mentioned as the means of the peace which shall be enjoyed. Samuel Horsley.
Ver. 3. The mountains shall bring peace to the people. It was, and still is, common in the East to announce good or bad news from the tops of mountains and other eminences. By this means acts of justice were speedily communicated to the remotest parts of the country. Thus, when Solomon decided the controversy between the two harlots, the decision was quickly known over all the land. See 1 Kings 3:28. Alexander Geddes.
Ver. 3. The mountains shall bring peace. The reference is to the fertility of the soil, which now is shown in an extraordinary way, when mountain summits, which are either oppressed with hopeless sterility or yield at a far inferior rate to the valleys, produce all things plentifully. And by this figure he signifies that this happiness of his kingdom shall not be the portion of a few only, but shall abound in all places and to all people, of every condition and of every age. No corner of the land, he affirms, shall be destitute of this fertility. Mollerus.
Ver. 3. The mountains shall bring peace. You may be sure to have peace when your mountains shall bring forth peace; when those mountains, which heretofore were mountains of prey and hills of the robbers, shall be a quiet habitation; when peace shall not be walled up in cities, or fenced in by bulwarks, but the open fields and highways, the mountains and the hills shall yield it abundantly; under every hedge, and under every green tree, there shall you find it; when the cottagers and the mountaineers shall have their fill of it; when they shall eat and be satisfied, lie down and none shall make them afraid, then the blessing is universal: and this is the work of righteousness. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 3. The mountains and hills are not at all named as the most unfruitful places of the land, which they really were not, in Palestine, compare De 33:15, Psalms 147:8, “Who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains; ” Psalms 65:12, –nor even because what is on them can be seen everywhere, and from all sides. (Tholuck), compare against this, Joel 3:18, “The mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, “Isaiah 55:12, –but, as being the most prominent points and ornaments of the country, and, therefore, as representing it, well fitted to express the thought that the country shall be everywhere filled with peace. E. W. Hengstenberg.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 3. Mountains of divine decree, of immutable truth, of almighty power, of eternal grace, etc. These mountains of God are securities of peace.
Psalms 72:4*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 4. He shall judge the poor of the people. He will do them justice, yea, and blessed be his name, more than justice, for he will delight to do them good.
He shall save the children of the needy. Poor, helpless things, they were packhorses for others, and paupers themselves, but their King would be their protector. Happy are God’s poor and needy ones; they are safe under the wing of the Prince of Peace, for he will save them from all their enemies.
And shall break in pieces the oppressor. He is strong to smite the foes of his people. Oppressors have been great breakers, but their time of retribution shall come, and they shall be broken themselves. Sin, Satan, and all our enemies must be crushed by the iron rod of King Jesus. We have, therefore, no cause to fear; but abundant reason to sing–
“All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall,
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown him lord of all.”
It is much better to be poor than to be an oppressor; for both the needy and their children find an advocate in the heavenly Solomon, who aims all his blows at haughty ones, and rests not till they are utterly destroyed.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 4. The children of the needy. The phrase, the children of the afflicted, is put for the afflicted, an idiom quite common in Hebrew; and a similar from of expression is sometimes used by the Greeks, as when they say uiouv iatrwn, the sons of physicians for physicians. John Calvin.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 4. The poor man’s King, or the benefits derived by the poor from the reign of Jesus.
Psalms 72:5*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 5. They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure. And well they may. Such righteousness wins the cheerful homage of the poor and the godly, and strikes dismay into the souls of unrighteous oppressors; so that all through the lands, both good and bad are filled with awe. Where Jesus reigns in power men must render obeisance of some sort. His kingdom, moreover, is no house of cards, or dynasty of days; it is as lasting as the lights of heaven; days and nights will cease before he abdicates his throne. Neither sun nor moon as yet manifest any failure in their radiance, nor are there any signs of decrepitude in the kingdom of Jesus; on the contrary, it is but in its youth, and is evidently the coming power, the rising sun. Would to God that fresh vigour were imparted to all its citizens to push at once the conquests of Immanuel to the uttermost ends of the earth.
Throughout all generations shall the throne of the Redeemer stand. Humanity shall not wear out the religion of the Incarnate God. No infidelity shall wither it away, nor superstition smother it; it shall rise immortal from what seemed its grave; as the true phoenix, it shall revive from its ashes! As long as there are men on earth Christ shall have a throne among them. Instead of the fathers shall be the children. Each generation shall have a regeneration in its midst, let Pope and Devil do what they may. Even at this hour we have before us the tokens of his eternal power; since he ascended to his throne, eighteen hundred years ago, his dominion has not been overturned, though the mightiest of empires have gone like visions of the night. We see on the shore of time the wrecks of the Caesars, the relics of the Moguls, and the last remnants of the Ottomans. Charlemagne, Maximilian, Napoleon, how they flit like shadows before us! They were and are not; but Jesus for ever is. As for the houses of Hohenzollern, Guelph, or Hapsburg, they have their hour; but the Son of David has all hours and ages as his own.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 5. —
The lofty glory of the Flavian family shall remain,
Enduring like the sun and stars. Martial. –Bk. 9. Epig. 7.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 5. The perpetuity of the gospel, reasons for it, things which threaten it, and lessons derived from it.
Psalms 72:6*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 6. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass. Blessings upon his gentle sway! Those great conquerors who have been the scourges of mankind have fallen like the fiery hail of Sodom, transforming fruitful lands into deserts; but he with mild, benignant influence softly refreshes the weary and wounded among men, and makes them spring up into newness of life. Pastures mown with the scythe, or shorn by the teeth of cattle, present, as it were, so many bleeding stems of grass, but when the rain falls it is balm to all these wounds, and it renews the verdure and beauty of the field; fit image of the visits and benedictions of “the consolation of Israel.” My soul, how well it is for thee to be brought low, and to be even as the meadows eaten bare and trodden down by cattle, for then to thee shall the Lord have respect; he shall remember thy misery, and with his own most precious love restore thee to more than thy former glory. Welcome Jesus, thou true Bien-aime, the Well beloved, thou art far more than Titus ever was–the Delight of Mankind.
As showers that water the earth. Each crystal drop of rain tells of heavenly mercy, which forgets not the parched plains: Jesus is all grace, all that he does is love, and his presence among men is joy. We need to preach him more, for no shower can so refresh the nations. Philosophic preaching mocks men as with a dust shower, but the gospel meets the case of fallen humanity, and happiness flourishes beneath its genial power. Come down, O Lord, upon my soul, and my heart shall blossom with thy praise: —
“He shall come down as still and light
As scattered drops on genial field;
And in his time who loves the right,
Freely shall bloom, sweet peace her harvest yield.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 6. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, etc. This is spoken and promised of Christ, and serves to teach us that Christ coming to his church and people, by the gracious influences of his Holy Spirit, is most useful and refreshing to their souls, like showers of rain to the dry ground, or a meadow newly cut to make it spring again. Christless souls are like the dry ground; without the moisture of saving grace their hearts are hard; neither rods, mercies, nor sermons, make impression upon them. Why? They are without Christ, the fountain of grace and spiritual influences. Before the fall man’s soul was like a well watered garden, beautiful, green, and fragrant; but by his apostasy from God, in Adam our first head, the springs of grace and holiness are quite dried up in his soul; and there is no curing of this drought but by the soul’s union with a new head; to wit, Christ our second Adam, who has the Spirit given him without measure for the use of all his members. Now, when we are united by faith to Christ, our Head of influences, the dry land is turned into water springs; Christ “comes down as the rain” by his Spirit of regeneration, and brings the springs of grace into the soul. He is the first and immediate receptacle of the Holy Spirit, and all regenerating and sanctifying influences, and out of his fulness we must by faith receive them. And when at any time the springs of grace are interrupted in the soul by sin or unbelief, so as the ground turns dry, the plants wither, and the things which remain are ready to die, the soul hath need to look up to Jesus Christ to come down with new showers upon the thirsty ground and decayed plants.
1. As the rain is the free gift of God to the dry ground, it comes free and cheap to poor and rich, small and great, and cost them nothing: so Christ with his blessings is God’s free gift to a dry and perishing world; for which we should be continually thankful.
2. As nothing can stop the falling of the rain; so nothing can hinder Christ’s gracious influences, when he designs to awake, convince, or soften a hard heart. When those showers do fall on sinners, the most obstinate will must yield, and cry, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?
3. As the rain is most necessary and suitable to the dry ground, and to the various plants it produces, and also to the different parts of every plant or tree– such as the root, trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit; so Christ is absolutely necessary, and his influence most suitable to all his people’s souls, and to every faculty of them–the understanding, will, memory, and affections; and to all their different graces, faith, love, repentance, etc.; to root and establish them, strengthen and confirm them, quicken and increase them, cherish and preserve them.
4. As the rain comes in diverse ways and manners to the earth, sometimes with cold winds and tempests, thunders and lightnings, and at other times with calmness and warmth; so Christ comes to sinners, sometimes with sharp convictions and legal terrors, and sometimes with alluring invitations and promises.
5. O how pleasant are the effects of rain to languishing plants, to make them green and beautiful, lively and strong, fragrant and beautiful! So the effects of Christ’s influences are most desirable to drooping souls, for enlightening and enlivening them, for confirming and strengthening them, for comforting and enlarging them, for appetizing and satisfying them, transforming and beautifying them. A shower from Christ would soon make the church, though withered, turn green and beautiful, and to send forth a smell as of a field that the Lord hath blessed; and likewise some drops of this shower, falling down upon the languishing graces of communicants, would soon make them vigorous and lively in showing forth their Saviour’s death at his table. John Willison.
Ver. 6. There cannot be a more lively image of a flourishing condition than what is conveyed to us in these words. The grass which is forced by the heat of the sun, before the ground is well prepared by rains, is weak and languid, and of a faint complexion; but when clear shining succeeds the gentle showers of spring, the field puts forth its best strength, and is more beautifully arrayed than ever Solomon in all his glory. Thomas Sherlock. 1678.
Ver. 6. He shall come down, dry There is a fourfold descending of Christ which the Scripture mentions.
I. His incarnation, the manifestation of himself in the
flesh.
II. The abasing himself in condition; he did not only
assume human flesh, but all the natural infirmities
of our flesh.
III. The subjecting of himself to death.
IV. The distillations of his grace and spiritual
blessings upon his church. Ralph Robinson.
Ver. 6. (first clause). Some render this “like dew on the fleece.” The mysterious fleece of Gideon, which on being exposed to the air, is first of all filled with the dew of heaven, while all the ground around it is quite dry, and which afterwards becomes dry while the earth is watered, pictures to us, according to the old divines, that the dew of Heaven’s grace was poured out upon Judaea at the time when all the rest of the world remained in barrenness and ignorance of God; but that now, by a strange alteration, this same Judaea lies in dryness and forgetfulness of God, while on the contrary, all the other nations of the earth are inundated with the dew of heavenly grace. Pasquier Quesnel.
Ver. 6. Upon the mown grass. The Hebrew word used here hath a double signification. It signifies a shorn fleece of wool, and it signifies a meadow newly mown. This hath occasioned divers readings. Some read it, He shall come down like the rain into a fleece of wool: so the Septuagint. They that follow this reading make it an allusion unto the dew that fell upon Gideon’s fleece (Jude 6:37-39), when all the land beside was dry, and, again, upon the rest of the land when the fleece was dry. Others read it according to our translation: He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass. This seems to me more agreeable to the meaning of the Holy Ghost; especially because of the clause following, which is added by way of explication: As showers that water the earth. As the showers, Mybybr Rain and showers differ only as less and more; rain signifies smaller showers, and showers signify greater rain. De 32:2. Rain falling in multitude of drops is called a shower. That water the earth. The word Pyzrz zarziph, which is here translated water, is only used in this place in all the Bible. It signifies to water by dispersion, to water by drops. The showers are dispersed in drops all over the face of the earth, in a very regular and artificial way. “God hath divided, “saith Job, “a watercourse for the overflowings of water.” Job 38:25. The rain is from the cloud spouted out by drops after such a manner that every part hath its share. Ralph Robinson.
Ver. 6. The mown grass; literally, that which is shorn, whether fleece or meadow. In the former sense it occurs Jude 6:37, and so the older translators all take it, (Aq epi kouran, LXX and others epi plokon, Jerome and Vulgate, in vellus, )probably with the idea that the reign of the monarch would be accompanied by signal tokens of the divine favour and blessing, like the dew upon Gideon’s fleece; in the latter sense, the word is found Amos 7:1; and this is indisputably its meaning here, as the parallel shows. The mown meadow is particularly mentioned, because the roots of the grass would be most exposed to the summer heat after the crop has been gathered in, and the effect would be most striking in the shooting of the young green blade after the shower. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 6. The field, the shower, the result. This verse is easily enough handled in a variety of ways.
Psalms 72:7*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 7. In his days shall the righteous flourish. Beneath the deadly Upas of unrighteous rule no honest principles can be developed, and good men can scarcely live; but where truth and uprightness are on the throne, the best of men prosper most. A righteous king is the patron and producer of righteous subjects. None flourish under Nero but those who are monsters like himself: like will to like; and under the gentle Jesus the godly find a happy shelter.
And abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. Where Jesus reigns he is known as the true Melchizedek, king both of righteousness and peace. Peace based upon right is sure to be lasting, but no other will be. Many a so called Holy Alliance has come to the ground ere many moons have filled their horns, because craft formed the league, perjury established it, and oppression was the design of it; but when Jesus shall proclaim the great Truce of God, he will ordain perpetual peace, and men shall learn war no more. The peace which Jesus brings is not superficial or short lived; it is abundant in its depth and duration. Let all hearts and voices welcome the King of nations; Jesus the Good, the Great, the Just, the Ever blessed.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 7. Righteous. Peace. Do you ask what he is individually? The answer is, “King of Righteousness:” a being loving righteousness, working righteousness, promoting righteousness, procuring righteousness, imparting righteousness to those whom he saves, perfectly sinless, and the enemy and abolisher of all sin. Do you ask what he is practically, and in relation to the effect of his reign? The answer is, “King of Peace:” a sovereign whose kingdom is a shelter for all who are miserable, a covert for all who are persecuted, a resting place for all who are weary, a home for the destitute, and a refuge for the lost. Charles Stanford.
Ver. 7. Abundance of peace. Literally, multitude of peace; that is, the things which produce peace, or which indicate peace, will not be few, but numerous; they will abound everywhere. They will be found in towns and villages, and private dwellings; in the calm and just administration of the affairs of the State; in abundant harvests; in intelligence, in education, and in undisturbed industry; in the protection extended to the rights of all. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 7. So long as the moon endureth. It does not necessarily follow from these words that the moon will ever cease to exist. The idea, commonly held, of the annihilation of the starry firmament is without foundation in Scripture. Such an idea has a pernicious influence on the human mind, inasmuch as it leads men to depreciate that which bears in such striking character the stamp and impress of the divine glory. Frederic Fysh.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 7.
I. The righteous flourish more at one season than
another.
II. They flourish most when Jesus is with them: in his
days, etc.
III. The fruit of their growth is proportionately
abundant: and abundance, etc. G. Rogers.
Ver. 7. Abundance of peace. Abundant overtures of peace, abundant redemption making peace, abundant pardon conferring peace, abundant influences of the Spirit sealing peace, abundant promises guaranteeing peace, abundant love spreading peace, etc.
Psalms 72:8*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 8. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea. Wide spread shall be the rule of Messiah; only the Land’s End shall end his territory: to the Ultima Thule shall his sceptre be extended. From Pacific to Atlantic, and from Atlantic to Pacific, he shall be Lord, and the oceans which surround each pole shall be beneath his sway. All other power shall be subordinate to his; no rival nor antagonist shall he know. Men speak of the Emperor of all the Russias, but Jesus shall be Ruler of all mankind.
And from the river unto the ends of the earth. Start where you will, by any river you choose, and Messiah’s kingdom shall reach on to the utmost bounds of the round world. As Solomon’s realm embraced all the land of promise, and left no unconquered margin; so shall the Son of David rule all lands given him in the better covenant, and leave no nation to pine beneath the tyranny of the prince of darkness. We are encouraged by such a passage as this to look for the Saviour’s universal reign; whether before or after his personal advent we leave for the discussion of others. In this Psalm, at least, we see a personal monarch, and he is the central figure, the focus of all the glory; not his servant, but himself do we see possessing the dominion and dispensing the government. Personal pronouns referring to our great King are constantly occurring in this Psalm; he has dominion kings fall down before him, and serve him; for he delivers, he spares, he saves, he lives, and daily is he praised.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 8. From the river. There are many modern interpreters who, from the mention of the “river” –namely, the river Euphrates–in the other clause of the verse, think that the boundaries of the land of Palestine are here to be understood, that country being described as extending from the Red Sea to the Sea of Syria, otherwise called the Sea of the Philistines, and the Great Sea; and from the Euphrates to the Great Desert lying behind Palestine and Egypt. These are the limits of the Israelitish territory: the former, from the south to the west; the latter, from the north to the east. (Genesis 15:18.) But, in this passage, there can scarcely be a doubt that by the river –to wit, the Euphrates–is indicated the extreme boundary of the earth towards the east. In a highly poetical, magnificent description, such as is given in this song, of a king exalted above all others, nothing can be conceived more inappropriate than saying that the dominions of such a king should be bounded by the limits of Palestine. Ernest F. C. Rosenmueller (1768-1835), in “The Biblical Cabinet, ” vol. 32.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 8. The universal spread of the gospel. Other theories as to the future overturned, and their evil influence exposed; while the benefit and certainty of this truth is vindicated.
Psalms 72:9*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 9. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him. Unconquered by arms, they shall be subdued by love. Wild and lawless as they have been, they shall gladly wear his easy yoke; then shall their deserts be made glad, yea, they shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.
And his enemies shall lick the dust. If they will not be his friends, they shall be utterly broken and humbled. Dust shall be the serpent’s meat; the seed of the serpent shall be filled therewith. Homage among Orientals is often rendered in the most abject manner, and truly no sign is too humiliating to denote the utter discomfiture and subjugation of Messiah’s foes. Tongues which rail at the Redeemer deserve to lick the dust. Those who will not joyfully bow to such a prince richly merit to be hurled down and laid prostrate; the dust is too good for them, since they trampled on the blood of Christ.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 9. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him, etc. This is equivalent to saying, the wild Arabs, that the greatest conquerors could never tame, shall bow before him, or become his vassals; nay, his enemies, and, consequently, these Arabs among the rest, shall lick the dust, or court him with the most abject submissions. T. Harmer’s Observations.
Ver. 9. His enemies shall lick the dust. Bear in mind that it was a custom with many nations that, when individuals approached their kings, they kissed the earth, and prostrated their whole body before them. This was the custom especially throughout Asia. No one was allowed to address the Persian kings, unless he prostrated himself on the ground and kissed the footsteps of the king, as Xenophon records. Thomas Le Blanc.
Ver. 9-10. Wilderness, Tarshish, Sheba. The most uncivilized, the most distant, and the most opulent nations shall pay their homage to him. Augustus F. Tholuck.
Ver 9-11. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. They shall humble themselves under the mighty hand of Christ; they shall acknowledge and receive him as their Lord; they shall fear and reverence him as their King; they shall veil and bow to his sceptre: they shall put themselves, and all that is theirs, under Christ; they shall give themselves to the exaltation and setting up of Christ. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. They shall consecrate their abilities to Christ’s service; they shall communicate of their substance to the maintenance of Christ’s church, and minister to the preservation and increase of Christ’s kingdom. All kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. All shall adore and serve him as their king; all shall exalt and honour him, as loyal subjects, their heavenly sovereign; all persons, from the highest to the lowest, must serve the Lord Jesus, and study to make him glorious; grace works obedience in the hearts of princes, as well as in the hearts of beggars. The sun as well as the stars, did obeisance unto Christ, under his kingdom and gospel. Alexander Grosse(-1654), in “Sweet and Soul Persuading Inducements leading unto Christ.” 1632.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 9 (last clause). The ignoble end of Christ’s enemies.
Psalms 72:10*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 10. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents. Trade shall be made subservient to the purposes of mediatorial rule; merchant princes, both far and near, shall joyfully contribute of their wealth to his throne. Seafaring places are good centres from which to spread the gospel; and seafaring men often make earnest heralds of the cross. Tarshish of old was so far away, that to the eastern mind it was lost in its remoteness, and seemed to be upon the verge of the universe; even so far as imagination itself can travel, shall the Son of David rule; across the blue sea shall his sceptre be stretched; the white cliffs of Britain already own him, the gems of the Southern Sea glitter for him, even Iceland’s heart is warm with his love. Madagascar leaps to receive him; and if there be isles of the equatorial seas whose spices have as yet not been presented to him, even there shall he receive a revenue of glory. He has made many an islet to become a Holy Isle, and hence, a true Formosa.
The kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Agriculture and pasturage shall contribute their share. Foreign princes from inland regions, as yet unexplored, shall own the all embracing monarchy of the King of kings; they shall be prompt to pay their reverential tribute. Religious offerings shall they bring, for their King is their God. Then shall Arabia Felix be happy indeed, and the Fortunate Isles be more than fortunate. Observe, that true religion leads to generous giving; we are not taxed in Christ’s dominions, but we are delighted to offer freely to him. It will be a great day when kings will do this: the poor widow has long ago been before them, it is time that they followed; their subjects would be sure to imitate the royal example. This free will offering is all Christ and his church desire; they want no forced levies and distraints, let all men give of their own free will, kings as well as commoners; alas! the rule has been for kings to give their subjects’ property to the church, and a wretched church has received this robbery for a burnt offering; it shall not be thus when Jesus more openly assumes the throne.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 9-10. Wilderness, Tarshish, Sheba. See Psalms on “Psalms 72:9” for further information.
Ver. 9-11. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. See Psalms on “Psalms 72:9” for further information.
Ver. 10. Tarshish was an old, celebrated, opulent, cultivated, commercial city, which carried on trade in the Mediterranean, and with the seaports of Syria, especially Tyre and Joppa, and that it most probably lay on the extreme west of that sea. Was there, then, in ancient times, any city in these parts which corresponded with these clearly ascertained facts? There was. Such was Tartessus in Spain, said to have been a Phoenician colony; a fact which of itself would account for its intimate connection with Palestine and the Biblical narratives. As to the exact spot where Tartessis (so written originally) lay, authorities are not agreed, as the city had ceased to exist when geography began to receive attention; but it was not far from the Straits of Gibraltar, and near the mouth of the Guadalquivir, consequently at no great distance from the famous Granada of later days. The reader, however, must enlarge his notion beyond that of a mere city, which, how great soever, would scarcely correspond with the ideas of magnitude, affluence, and power, that the Scriptures suggest. The name, which is of Phoenician origin, seems to denote the district of south western Spain, comprising the several colonies which Tyre planted in that country, and so being equivalent to what we might designate Phoenician Spain. We are not, however, convinced that the opposite coast of Africa was not included, so that the word would denote to an inhabitant of Palestine the extreme western parts of the world. J. R. Beard, in “A Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature.” 1866.
Ver. 10. The isles. Myya, only in the Psalter besides, Psalms 97:1, where, and uniformly, so rendered. The word, however, denotes all habitable land as opposed to water (see Genesis 10:5, where first it occurs, with Isaiah 42:15), and so “maritime land, whether the sea coast of continent or island” (Gesenius); especially the countries washed by the Mediterranean, and the remote coasts to the west of Palestine. So in the parallel prophecy, Isa 60:9 11:11 41:1-2 Isa 42:10-12 49:1, etc. Accordingly, “The isles shall wait for his law, “(Isaiah 42:4) is expounded in Matthew 12:22 –“In Him shall the Gentiles trust.” William DeBurgh.
Ver. 10. Sheba and Seba. There appear to have been two nations living in the same region, viz., Southern Arabia. One of these was descended from Cush, the son of Ham, and the other from Joktan, a descendant of Shem. These two people were often antagonistic in interests, despite the similarity of their names, but their divisions would be healed, and unitedly they would offer tribute to the Great King. It is an Arab proverb, “divided as the Sabaeans, “but Christ makes them one. “The Greek geographers usually couple Abyssinia with Yemen, in Arabia, and invariably represent the Abyssinian as an Arab or Sabaean race. Modern travellers, also, unanimously agree in recognising the Arab type among those Abyssinian populations which do not belong to the African stock.” That the Sabaean nations were wealthy is clear from the Greek historian Agatharchides. “The Sabaeans, “says he, “have in their houses an incredible number of vases and utensils of all sorts, of gold and silver, beds and tripods of silver, and all the furniture of astonishing richness. Their buildings have porticoes with columns sheathed with gold, or surmounted by capitals of silver. On the friezes, ornaments, and the framework of the doors, they place plates of gold encrusted with precious stones. They spend immense sums in adorning these edifices, employing gold, silver, ivory, and precious stones, and materials of the greatest value.” They appear, also, to have acquired great wealth by trading, both with India and Africa, their peninsula lying between those two regions. Rich would be their gifts if Lenormant and Chevallier’s description of their commerce be correct. “The principal importations from India were gold, tin, precious stones, ivory, sandalwood, spices, pepper, cinnamon, and cotton. Besides these articles, the storehouses of southern Arabia received the products of the opposite coast of Africa, procured by the Sabaeans in the active coasting trade they carried on with this not far distant land, where Mosyton (now Ras Abourgabeh) was the principal port. These were, besides the spices that gave name to that coast, ebony, ostrich feathers, and more gold and ivory. With the addition of the products of the soil of southern Arabia itself, incense, myrrh, laudanum, precious stones, such as onyx and agates, lastly, aloes from the island of Socotra, and pearls from the fisheries of the Gulf of Ormus, we shall have the list of the articles comprised in the trade of this country with Egypt, and with those Asiatic countries bordering on the Mediterranean; and at the same time, by considering this activity of such a traffic.” “Poor as God’s people usually are, the era will surely arrive when the richest of the rich will count it all joy to lay their treasures at Jesus’ feet.” C. H. S.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 10. Christian finance; voluntary but abundant are the gifts presented to Jesus.
Psalms 72:11*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 11. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him. Personally shall they pay their reverence, however mighty they may be. No matter how high their state, how ancient their dynasty, or far off their realms, they shall willingly accept him as their Imperial Lord.
All nations shall serve him. The people shall be as obedient as the governors. The extent of the mediatorial rule is set forth by the two far reaching alls, all kings, and all nations: we see not as yet all things put under him, but since we see Jesus crowned with glory and honour in heaven, we are altogether without doubt as to his universal monarchy on earth. It is not to be imagined that an Alexander or a Caesar shall have wider sway than the Son of God. “Every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Hasten it, O Lord, in thine own time.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 9-11. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. See Psalms on “Psalms 72:9” for further information.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 72:12*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12. For he shall deliver the needy. Here is an excellent reason for man’s submission to the Lord Christ; it is not because they dread his overwhelming power, but because they are won over by his just and condescending rule. Who would not fear so good a Prince, who makes the needy his peculiar care, and pledges himself to be their deliverer in times of need?
When he crieth. He permits them to be so needy as to be driven to cry bitterly for help, but then he hears them, and comes to their aid. A child’s cry touches a father’s heart, and our King is the Father of his people. If we can do no more than cry it will bring omnipotence to our aid. A cry is the native language of a spiritually needy soul; it has done with fine phrases and long orations, and it takes to sobs and moans; and so, indeed, it grasps the most potent of all weapons, for heaven always yields to such artillery.
The poor also, and him that hath no helper. The proverb says, “God helps those that help themselves; “but it is yet more true that Jesus helps those who cannot help themselves, nor find help in others. All helpless ones are under the especial care of Zion’s compassionate King; let them hasten to put themselves in fellowship with him. Let them look to him, for he is looking for them.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 12. He shall deliver the needy when he crieth. There needeth no mediator between him and his subjects; he heareth the needy when they cry. The man that hath nothing within him or without him to commend him to Christ, to assist, help, relieve, or comfort him in heaven or earth, is not despised by Christ, but delivered from that which he feareth. David Dickson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 12. Christ’s peculiar care of the poor.
Ver. 12.
I. Pitiable characters.
II. Abject conditions: “cry; “”no helper.”
III. Natural resort: “crieth.”
IV. Glorious interposition. G. Rogers.
Psalms 72:13*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 13. He shall spare the poor and needy. His pity shall be manifested to them; he will not allow their trials to overwhelm them; his rod of correction shall fall lightly; he will be sparing of his rebukes, and not sparing in his consolations.
And shall save the souls of the needy. His is the dominion of souls, a spiritual and not a worldly empire; and the needy, that is to say, the consciously unworthy and weak, shall find that he will give them his salvation. Jesus calls not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He does not attempt the superfluous work of aiding proud Pharisees to air their vanity; but he is careful of poor Publicans whose eyes dare not look up to heaven by reason of their sense of sin. We ought to be anxious to be among these needy ones whom the Great King so highly favours.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 13. He shall spare; more correctly, compassionate or comfort the poor and needy; and shall save their souls, or preserve the lives of the needy. William Henry Alexander, in “The Book of Praises: being the Book of Psalms… with Notes Original and Selected.” 1867.
Ver. 13. And shall save the souls of the needy. Scipio used to say, that he would rather save a single citizen than slay a thousand enemies. Of this mind ought all princes to be towards their subjects; but this affection and love rose to the highest excellence and power in the breast of Christ. So ardent is his love for his own, that he suffers not one of them to perish, but leads them to full salvation, and, opposing himself to both devils and tyrants who seek to destroy their souls, he constrains their fury and confounds their rage. Mollerus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 72:14*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 14. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence. These two things are the weapons with which the poor are assailed: both law and no law are employed to fleece them. The fox and the lion are combined against Christ’s lambs, but the Shepherd will defeat them, and rescue the defenceless from their teeth. A soul hunted by the temptations of Satanic craft, and the insinuations of diabolical malice, will do well to fly to the throne of Jesus for shelter.
And precious shall their blood be in his sight. He will not throw away his subjects in needless wars as tyrants have done, but will take every means for preserving the humblest of them. Conquerors have reckoned thousands of lives as small items; they have reddened fields with gore, as if blood were water, and flesh but manure for harvests; but Jesus, though he gave his own blood, is very chary of the blood of his servants, and if they must die for him as martyrs, he loves their memory, and counts their lives as his precious things.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 14. And precious shall their blood be in his sight. The Angolani so despised their slaves that they would sometimes give as many as twenty-two for one hunting dog… But Christ prefers the soul of one of his servants to the whole world, since he died that it might be made more capable of entering into eternal felicity. For breaking one goblet the Roman cast his slave into the pond to be devoured by the muraenae. But the Son of God came down from heaven to earth to deliver mankind, his vile, ungrateful, faithless servants, from the pangs of the serpent, like the golden fleece, and save them as Jonah from the whale. Is not their blood precious in his sight? Thomas Le Blanc.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 14. The martyr’s hope in life and comfort in death. G. Rogers.
Ver. 14 (last clause). The martyr’s blood.
I. Seen of God when shed.
II. Remembered by him.
III. Honoured by being a benefit to the church.
IV. Rewarded especially in heaven.
Psalms 72:15*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 15. And he shall live. Vive le Roi! O King! live for ever! He was slain, but is risen and ever liveth.
And to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba. These are coronation gifts of the richest kind, cheerfully presented at his throne. How gladly would we give him all that we have and are, and count the tribute far too small. We may rejoice that Christ’s cause will not stand still for want of funds; the silver and the gold are his, and if they are not to be found at home, far off lands shall hasten to make up the deficit. Would to God we had more faith and more generosity.
Prayer also shall be made for him continually. May all blessings be upon his head; all his people desire that his cause may prosper, therefore do they hourly cry, “Thy kingdom come.” Prayer for Jesus is a very sweet idea, and one which should be for evermore lovingly carried out; for the church is Christ’s body, and the truth is his sceptre; therefore we pray for him when we plead for these. The verse may, however, be read as “through him, “for it is by Christ as our Mediator that prayer enters heaven and prevails. “Continue in prayer” is the standing precept of Messiah’s reign, and it implies that the Lord will continue to bless.
And daily shall he be praised. As he will perpetually show himself to be worthy of honour, so shall he be incessantly praised: —
“For him shall constant prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown his head;
His name, like sweet perfume, shall rise
With every morning’s sacrifice.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 15. And he shall live; Hebrew, “So shall he live; “i.e., the poor man. Charles Carter.
Ver. 15. And he shall live. There is a clear reference to the coronation of kings in the loud acclamations, Long live the King! and the bestowal of the customary gifts and presents, as is plain from 2 Samuel 16:16, 1 Kings 1:39, 1 Samuel 10:27, 2 Chronicles 17:5. Hermann Venema.
Ver. 15. He shall live. Alexander the Great acknowledged at death that he was a frail and feeble man. “Lo! I, “said he, “am dying, whom you falsely called a god.” But Christ proved that he was God when, by his own death, he overcame, and, as I may say, slew death. Thomas Le Blanc.
Ver. 15. He shall live. It is a great consolation to soldiers imperilled amid many forms of death, that their king shall live. Whence one of the chief of these warriors, consoling himself, said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and at the last day I shall rise from the earth.” Great is the consolation of the dying, that he for whom, or in whom, they die, shall live for evermore. With whom, if we die, we shall also live again, and share his riches equally with himself; for rich indeed is our Solomon, in whom are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. Gerhohus.
Ver. 15. Prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised. It might have been rendered, “Prayer also shall be made through him continually, and daily shall he be blessed.” The word is rendered “blessed, “when speaking if an act of worship towards God; and the word translated “for” is sometimes used for “through, “as Joshua 2:15, “Through the window.” If we hold the translation “for him, “then it must be understood of the saints praying for the Father’s accomplishment of his promises, made to the Son in the covenant of redemption, that his kingdom may come, his name be glorified, and that he may see his seed, and that the full reward may be given him for his sufferings, and so that he may receive the joy that was set before him. Jonathan Edwards.
Ver. 15. Prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised. In all conquered countries, two things marked the subjection of the people:
1. Their money was stamped with the name of the conqueror.
2. They were obliged to pray for him in their acts of public worship. Adam Clarke.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 15. Prayer shall be made for him. We are to pray for Jesus Christ. Owing to the interest he has in certain objects, what is done for them is done for himself and so he esteems it. We, therefore, pray for him when we pray for his ministers, his ordinances, his gospel, his church–in a word, his cause. But what should we pray for on his behalf?
I. The degree of its resources; that there be always a
sufficiency of suitable and able instruments to carry
on the work.
II. The freedom of its administration; that whatever
opposes or hinders its progress may be removed.
III. The diffusion of its principles; that they may become
general and universal.
IV. The increase of its glory, as well as its extent. W. Jay.
Ver. 15. Prayer for Jesus, a suggestive topic. Daily praise, a Christian duty.
Ver. 15. A living Saviour, a giving people; the connection between the two. Or, Christ in the church fills the exchequer, fosters the prayer meeting, and sanctifies the service of song.
Psalms 72:16*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 16. There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains. From small beginnings great results shall spring. A mere handful in a place naturally ungenial shall produce a matchless harvest. What a blessing that there is a handful; “except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah:” but now the faithful are a living seed, and shall multiply in the land.
The fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon. The harvest shall be so great that the wind shall rustle through it, and sound like the cedars upon Lebanon: —

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Psalm 71

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-24
There is no title to this Psalm, and hence some conjecture that Psalms 70:1-5 is intended to be a prelude to it, and has been broken off from it. Such imaginings have no value with us. We have already met with five Psalms without title, which are, nevertheless, as complete as those which bear them.
We have here THE PRAYER OF THE AGED BELIEVER, who, in holy confidence of faith, strengthened by a long and remarkable experience, pleads against his enemies, and asks further blessings for himself. Anticipating a gracious reply, he promises to magnify the Lord exceedingly.
DIVISION. The first four verses are faith’s cry for help; the next four are a testimony of experience. From Psalms 71:9-13, the aged saint pleads against his foes, and then rejoices in hope, Psalms 71:14-16. He returns to prayer again in Psalms 71:17-18, repeats the confident hopes which cheered his soul, Psalms 71:19-21; and then he closes with the promise of abounding in thanksgiving. Throughout, this Psalm may be regarded as the utterance of struggling, but unstaggering, faith.
EXPOSITION
Ver. 1. In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. Jehovah deserves our confidence; let him have it all. Every day must we guard against every form of reliance upon an arm of flesh, and hourly hang our faith upon the ever faithful God. Not only on God must we rest, as a man stands on a rock, but in him must we trust, as a man hides in a cave. The more intimate we are with the Lord, the firmer will our trust be. God knows our faith, and yet he loves to hear us avow it; hence, the psalmist not only trusts in the Lord, but tells him that he is so trusting.
Let me never be put to confusion. So long as the world stands, stand thou by me; yea, for ever and ever be faithful to thy servant. If thou forsake me, men will ridicule my religion, and how shall I be able to answer them? Confusion will silence me, and thy cause will be put to shame. This verse is a good beginning for prayer; those who commence with trust shall conclude with joy.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. This Psalm, which has no title in the Hebrew, in the LXX has the title, By David, of the sons of Jonadab, and of those who were first made prisoners. If any authority be allowed to this title, we must suppose that this was a Psalm written by David, which was used, as particularly adapted to the circumstances of their condition, by the Rechabites, who were descended from Jonadab (Jeremiah 35:1-19), and the Jews, who were taken by the Chaldeans as captives to Babylon. However this may be, it seems probable that David was the author of this Psalm, and that he wrote it in his extreme age, and but a little while before he died. The line which follows the next Psalm, and closes the second book, perhaps has a reference to this fact. Some of the Fathers interpret the Psalm mystically of the church in her old age, and her trials at the end of the world. “Plain Commentary.”
Whole Psalm. The Psalm, I am aware, is anonymous, and is, therefore, by many recent critics referred to some later writer; but I am satisfied that Venema and Hengstenberg have adduced sufficient reasons for retaining the opinion of Calvin and the older expositors, that it is from David’s pen, and is the plaintive song of his old age. It shows us the soul of the aged saint, darkened by the remembrance of his great transgression, and by the swarms of sorrows with which that sin filled all his later years. But he finds comfort in reverting to the happy days of his childhood, and especially to the irrevocable trust which he was then enabled to repose in God. The thoughts and feelings expressed remind one of those which invest with such a solemn, tender interest the Second Epistle to Timothy, which embalms the dying thoughts of the great apostle. Like Paul, David takes a retrospect of the Lord’s dealings with him from the beginning; and, in effect, declares, with the dying apostle: “I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12. Only, there is this notable difference between the two, that while Paul gathered confirmation of his faith from the experience of a thirty years’ walk with his Lord, David’s experience stretched over more than twice so many years; for it began with his childhood. William Binnie.
Whole Psalm. It will be asked how Christ could use such verses as Psalms 71:9; Psalms 71:18, since these look forward apparently to the frailty of age. The reply to this felt difficulty is, these expressions are used by him in sympathy with his members, and in his own case denote the state equivalent to age. His old age was, ere he reached three and thirty years, as John 8:57 is supposed to imply: for “Worn out men live fast.” Barclay seems to give the right sense in the following lines: —
“Grown old and weak, with pain and grief,
Before his years were half complete.”
Besides, the words signify, “Forsake me not from this time onward, even were I to live to grey hairs.” This is a view that conveys precious consolation to aged ones, who might be ready to say that Christ could not altogether enter into their feelings, having never experienced the failing weakness of age, the debility, the decay, the bodily infirmities so trying to the spirit. But this Psalm shows us, that in effect he did pass through that stage of our sojourning, worn out and wasted in bodily frame and feeling, by living so much in so short a time. The aged members of his church may find his sweet sympathy breathed out in Isaiah 46:3-4; and, here they may almost see him learning the lesson in a human way, as he bends under the weight of our frailties. For this reason, among others, this Psalm was specially prized by Robert Blair, one of our godly forefathers. He used to call it “His Psalm.” Andrew A. Bonar.
Ver. 1. In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. As if he should say: O Lord, permit not those who put their trust in thee to be confounded, and to be held up as a laughing stock. I have placed all my hope in thee, and thou art that God who, for the sake of thy goodness and truth, hast never deserted those who hope in thee. If thou shalt suffer me to be confounded, the enemies to triumph, and my hope to be placed in thee in vain, certainly this shame shall fall upon thine own name… Let us, therefore, learn from this place to be more anxious about what may happen to the name of God through us, than to our own; whether it be through us in doing, or in us in suffering. The prophet is fearful lest he should be confounded on account of his hope placed in God, although it was not in his own power, nor could he prevent it… It is necessary, first, that we should be of those who place their hope in God, then it is necessary that this piety of our hearts should not be confined to ourselves only, but should be known to all those who come in contact with us, even our opponents and enemies; else it is not possible for us to dread this kind of confusion feared by the prophet, when nobody knows that our hope is placed in God. No artist suffers confusion, if he has never shared the good opinion of his fellow men. To no sick man can it be said, Physician, heal thyself, if his reputation for medical skill has never stood high. So of those, it cannot be said, They hoped in God, let him save them if he will have them, of whom it was never remarked that they placed any hope in God. His solicitude, therefore, belongs only to those whose hope is in the Lord; upon others it cannot fall. Musculus.
Ver. 1. In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. It is a good beginning, and a recommendation to our prayers, when we can declare our faith and trust to be in God alone. Edward Walter, in “A Help to the profitable reading of the Psalms.” 1854.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Arguments used to induce to Lord to hear, drawn,
I. From his justice and equity: Deliver me in
thy righteousness.
II. From his word and promise: Thou hast given
commandment, etc.
III. From his power: Thou art my rock. etc.
IV. From his relation to him: My God, my hope.
V. From the qualities of his adversaries: They
were wicked, unrighteous, and cruel.
VI. From his confidence: Thou art my hope.
VII. From his gracious providence: By thee have I
been holden up, etc.
VIII. From his thankful heart: My praise shall be
continually, etc.
IX. He had none to trust to but God: Thou art my
refuge. Adam Clarke.
Ver. 1. Faith is a present act; faith is a personal act, faith deals only with God, faith knows what she is about, faith kills her fears by prayer.
WORK UPON THE SEVENTY-FIRST PSALM
Hieronymi Savonarolae Ferrariensis Meditationes in Psalmos– Miserere–In Te Domine Speravi, et Qui Regis Israel (12mo. Leyden: 1633).
Psalms 71:2*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 2. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape. Be true, O God, to thy word. It is a righteous thing in thee to keep the promises which thou hast made unto thy servants. I have trusted thee, and thou wilt not be unrighteous to forget my faith. I am taken as in a net, but do thou liberate me from the malice of my persecutors.
Incline thine ear unto me, and save me. Stoop to my feebleness, and hear my faint whispers; be gracious to my infirmities, and smile upon me: I ask salvation; listen thou to my petitions, and save me. Like one wounded and left for dead by mine enemies, I need that thou bend over me and bind up my wounds. These mercies are asked on the plea of faith, and they cannot, therefore, be denied.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 2. Deliver me in thy righteousness. Incline thine ear. Let my deliverance be the fruit of thy promise, and of my prayer; and so it will be much the sweeter. John Trapp.
Ver. 2. In thy righteousness. The righteousness of God is in this place that virtue by which he makes good his promises– revenges injuries and rewards piety–which is elsewhere called his veracity. Upon this perfection David here calls, not because he was innocent before God, but because God had bound himself to him by promises, as if he were, in the presence of the men who were persecuting him, both innocent and righteous; and, therefore, worthy of being delivered from this last terrible calamity into which he has fallen through Absalom, since God had thus acted towards him. Hermann Venema.
Ver. 2. Thy righteousness. Not mine. He knew that he was being chastened for his sin against Uriah. He pleads no merit of his own. Simon de Muis.
Ver. 2. Incline thine ear. And since I am so wounded that I am not able to send up my cry to thee, the Most High, do thou incline thine ear to me as I lie half dead, left by the robbers who have wounded and spoiled me. Gerhohus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 2. An appeal.
I. To the power of God: Deliver me.
II. To the faithfulness of God: In thy righteousness.
III. To the providence of God: Cause me to escape.
IV. To the condescension of God: Incline thine ear.
V. To the mercy of God: Save me.
Ver. 2. Cause me to escape. From whom? From what? How? By what power? For what end?
Psalms 71:3*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 3. Be thou my strong habitation. Permit me to enter into thee, and be as much at home as a man in his own house, and then suffer me to remain in thee as my settled abode. Whereas foes molest me, I need a dwelling framed and bulwarked, to sustain a siege and resist the attacks of armies; let, then, thine omnipotence secure me, and be as a fortress unto me. Here we see a weak man, but he is in a strong habitation; his security rests upon the tower in which he hides, and is not placed in jeopardy through his personal feebleness.
Whereunto I may continually resort. Fast shut is this castle against all adversaries, its gates they cannot burst open; the drawbridge is up, the portcullis is down, the bars are fast in their places; but, there is a secret door, by which friends of the great Lord can enter at all hours of the day or night, as often as ever they please. There is never an hour when it is unlawful to pray. Mercy’s gates stand wide open, and shall do so, till, at the last, the Master of the house has risen up and shut to the door. Believers find their God to be their habitation, strong and accessible, and this is for them a sufficient remedy for all the ills of their mortal life.
Thou hast given commandment to save me. Nature is charged to be tender with God’s servants; Providence is ordered to work their good, and the forces of the invisible world are ordained as their guardians. David charged all his troops to spare the young man Absalom, but yet he fell. God’s commandment is of far higher virtue, for it compels obedience, and secures its end. Destruction cannot destroy us, famine cannot starve us; but we laugh at both, while God’s mandate shields us. No stones of the field can throw us down, while angels bear us up in their hands; neither can the beasts of the field devour us, while David’s God delivers us from their ferocity, or Daniel’s God puts them in awe of us. For thou art my rock and my fortress. In God we have all the security which nature which furnishes the rock, and art which builds the fortress, could supply; he is the complete preserver of his people. Immutability may be set forth by the rock, and omnipotence by the fortress. Happy is he who can use the personal pronoun “my” –not only once, but as many times as the many aspects of the Lord may render desirable. Is he a strong habitation? I will call him “my strong habitation, “and he shall be my rock, my fortress, my God (Psalms 71:4), my hope, my trust (Psalms 71:5), my praise (Psalms 71:6). All mine shall be his, all his shall be mine. This was the reason why the psalmist was persuaded that God had commanded his salvation, namely, because he had enabled his to exercise a calm and appropriating faith.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 3. Whereunto I may continually resort. Would he then want to repair to him always? Our necessities, our work, our danger require it constantly. We are commanded to pray without ceasing. And if, while we acknowledge and feel the obligation, we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, we shall not lament it. Loving him, as well as depending upon him, we shall find it good to draw near to God, and delight ourselves in the Almighty; and we shall never find him, when we want him, inaccessible. There is a way to our strong habitation, and we know the way. There is a door, and we have the key. No sentinel keeps us back; the dwelling is our own: and who dares to forbid us all its accommodations and contents? Kings, however disposed, cannot be always approachable. Owing to the multitude of their claims, and the limitation of their powers, and the importance of keeping up a sense of their dignity, they are only accessible at certain times, and with stately formalities. But the King of kings allows us to come boldly to the throne of grace; and enjoins us in every thing, by prayer and supplication, to make our requests unto him. We cannot be too importunate, or by our continual coming weary him. William Jay.
Ver. 3. Thou hast given commandment to save me. Let us observe his words; he ascribes to the word and command of God a saving virtue, which no power on earth, none in hell, nor death itself can resist. Only, he says, give the command that I may be saved, and, in a moment, I shall be wholly saved. Musculus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 3. (first two clauses). The believer abiding in God and continually resorting to him.
Ver. 3. (Third clause). A command based on the divine promise, clothed with divine power, addressed to all necessary agencies, and embracing all exigencies.
Psalms 71:4*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 4. Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked. God is on the same side with us, and those who are our enemies are also his, for they are wicked; therefore will the Lord surely rescue his own confederates, and he will not suffer the evil to triumph over the just. He who addresses such a prayer as this to heaven, does more injury to his enemies than if he had turned a battery of Armstrongs upon them.
Out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. Being wicked to God, they become unrighteous towards men, and cruel in their persecutions of the godly. Two hands are here mentioned: they grasp and they crush; they strike and they would slay if God did not prevent; had they as many hands as Briarcus, the finger of God would more than match them.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 4. The cruel man is literally the leavened man, leavened with hatred of truth and enmity to God; and, therefore, a violent opposer of his people. So, in 1 Corinthians 5:8 we are cautioned against the “leaven of malice and wickedness, “which, in accordance with the figure, may pervade the whole natural character of an ungodly man, his faculties and affections. W. Wilson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 4.
I. When God is for us, the wicked are against us.
II. When the wicked are against us, God is for us.
Psalms 71:5*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 5. For thou art my hope, O Lord God. God who gives us grace to hope in him, will assuredly fulfil our hope, and, therefore, we may plead it in prayer. His name is “Jehovah, the hope of Israel” (Jeremiah 17:13); and, as he cannot be a false or failing hope, we may expect to see our confidence justified.
Thou art my trust from my youth. David had proved his faith by notable exploits when he was a youth and ruddy; it was to him a cheering recollection, and he felt persuaded that the God of his youth would not forsake him in his age. They are highly favoured who can like David, Samuel, Josiah, Timothy, and others say, “Thou art my trust from my youth.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 5. Thou art my hope. Not only is our hope in him but he himself is our hope. “God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, “saith St. Paul, “our hope.” 1 Timothy 1:1. Yea, there is a deeper, nearer depth: “The glory of the mystery of the gospel, “says St. Paul, “is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ himself is our hope, as the only Author of it; Christ is our hope, as the End of it; and Christ, who is the Beginning and the End, is our hope also by the way; for he saith, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27. Each yearning of our hearts, each ray of hope which gleams upon us, each touch which thrills us, each voice which whispers in our inmost hearts of the good things laid up in store for us, if we will love God, are the light of Christ enlightening us, the touch of Christ raising us to new life, the voice of Christ, “Whoso cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out; “it is “Christ in us, the hope of glory, “drawing us up by his spirit who dwelleth in us, unto himself our hope. For our hope is not the glory of heaven, not joy, not peace, not rest from labour, not fulness of our wishes, nor sweet contentment of the whole soul, nor understanding of all mysteries and all knowledge, not only a torrent of delight; it is “Christ our God, “”the hope of glory.” Nothing which God could create is what we hope for; nothing which God could give us out of himself, no created glory, or bliss, or beauty, or majesty, or riches. What we hope for is our Redeeming God himself, his love, his bliss, the joy of our Lord himself who hath so loved us, to be our joy and our portion for ever. E. B. Pusey.
Ver. 5. From my youth. The remembering and acknowledging of God in youth will be great satisfaction in old age. O what joy will reflection upon youthful piety yield! Even Seneca, a heathen, could say: “Youth well spent is the greatest comfort of old age.” David could confidently plead with God for deliverance out of the hand of the wicked: For, saith he, thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth. “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth” (Psalms 71:9; Psalms 71:17-18). An ingenuous master will not turn off a superannuated servant. When the proconsul bade Polycarp deny Christ and swear by the emperor, he answered: “I have served Christ these eighty-six years, and he hath not once injured me, and shall I now deny him?” Jacob could say: “God hath fed me all my life long unto this day; he hath been kind to me all my days, and I trust he will look to me even in the end; and shall I now turn my back on him?” Whither can I go to mend myself for a master? “Thou only hast the words of eternal life.” He that hath been the stay of my youth, will be the staff of my age. I dare venture my soul upon his promise who hath hitherto maintained me by his providence. “In the days of my youth, the secret of God was upon my tabernacle, his candle did shine upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness; “and, though now “the sun, and the light, and moon and stars be darkened, “in this my natural horizon, yet “the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” I have abundant experience of his grace and presence. O the days of mercy I have had many years ago! A good man said: “I got that in my youth, which I would not for all the world have to get now.” Oliver Heywood. 1629-1702.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 5. God the essence of hope and faith.
Psalms 71:6*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 6. By thee have I been holden up from the womb. Before he was able to understand the power which preserved him, he was sustained by it. God knows us before we know anything. The elect of old lay in the bosom of God before they were laid on their mothers’ bosoms; and when their infantile weakness had no feet strong enough to carry it, the Lord upheld it. We do well to reflect upon divine goodness to us in childhood, for it is full of food for gratitude.
Thou art he that took me out of my mother’s bowels. Even before conscious life, the care of God is over his chosen. Birth is a mystery of mercy, and God is with both mother and babe. If marriages are registered in heaven, we may be sure that births are also. Holy women do well to bless God for his mercy to them in nature’s perilous hour; but every one who is born of woman has equal cause for thankfulness. She, whose life is preserved, should render thanks, and so should he whose life is given.
My praise shall be continually of thee. Where goodness has been unceasingly received, praise should unceasingly be offered. God is the circle where praise should begin, continue, and endlessly revolve, since in him we live, and move, and have our being.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 6. He did not, like most men, recognise the hand of God only when, in an extraordinary manner, it became manifest in life; but his eye of faith regards the ordinary works of God as miracles. The translation from his mother’s womb to the light of day is to him an object of praise. (Psalms 22:9-10.) And, really, is not the preservation of the embryo, in its narrow confines, a miracle? Is it not a pledge, simultaneously with man’s growing into being, of our after experience in life, that we have a God “who bringeth us out of death to light?” (Psalms 68:20.) Is not the reason of our finding so little of praise, to be sought in our having no eyes for his daily miracles? The psalmist has eyes for the daily miracles of the Lord; and, therefore, his mouth is daily full of the praise of the Lord. Augustus F. Tholuck.
Ver. 6. Blessed be God that ever I was born. Halyburton.
Ver. 6. This verse corresponds with the preceding, except that David proceeds farther. He not only celebrates the goodness of God, which he had experienced from his childhood, but, also, those proofs of it which he had received previous to his birth. An almost similar confession is contained in Psalms 22:9-10, by which is magnified the wonderful power and inestimable goodness of God in the generation of men, the way and manner of which would be altogether incredible, were it not a fact with which we are quite familiar. If we are astonished at that part of the history of the flood, in which Moses declares (Genesis 8:13), that Noah and his household lived ten months amidst the offensive nuisance produced by so many living creatures, when he could not draw the breath of life, have we not equal reason to marvel that the infant, shut up within its mother’s womb, can live in such a condition as would suffocate the strongest man in half an hour? But we thus see how little account we make of the miracles which God works, in consequence of our familiarity with them. The Spirit, therefore, justly rebukes this ingratitude, by commending to our consideration this memorable instance of the grace of God which is exhibited in our birth and generation. When we are born into the world, although the mother do her office, and the midwife may be present with her, and many others may lend their help, yet did not God, putting, so to speak, his hand under us, receive us into his bosom, what would become of us? and what hope would there be in the continuance of our life? Yea, rather, were it not for this, our very birth would be an entrance into a thousand deaths. God, therefore, is with the highest propriety said to take us out of our mother’s bowels. To this corresponds the concluding part of the verse, My praise shall be continually of thee by which the psalmist means that he has been furnished with matter for praising God without intermission. John Calvin.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 71:7*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 7. I am as a wonder unto many. “To thousand eyes a mark and gaze am I.” The saints are men wondered at; often their dark side is gloomy even to amazement, while their bright side is glorious even to astonishment. The believer is a riddle, an enigma puzzling the unspiritual; he is a monster warring with those delights of the flesh, which are the all in all of other men; he is a prodigy, unaccountable to the judgments of ungodly men; a wonder gazed at, feared, and, by and by, contemptuously derided. Few understand us, many are surprised at us.
But thou art my strong refuge. Here is the answer to our riddle. If we are strong, it is in God; if we are safe, our refuge shelters us; if we are calm, our soul hath found her stay in God. When faith is understood, and the grounds of her confidence seen, the believer is no longer a wonder; but the marvel is that so much unbelief remains among the sons of men.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 7. I am as a wonder unto many. The Hebrew word translated wonder, would, perhaps, be better expressed by portent. It denotes anything uncommon and wonderful, and admits a double meaning. Some interpreters are of opinion, that it is here taken in the most favourable sense, and that the psalmist represents himself as considered, by the many, as a prodigy of God’s goodness. But the whole tenor of the Psalm is against this meaning; which is not badly expressed by Green: “I am become a gazing stock to the multitude.” Alexander Geddes. 1737-1802.
Ver. 7. I am as a wonder unto many etc. On several accounts a converted man may be an object of surprise among his contemporaries. This may arise from the circumstance of his conversion dating at a late period of his life, when his long continuance in a state of impenitence seemed to render it almost certain that he would persist in it to the last. It is, indeed, a wonder to see any human being’s course entirely altered at a late period, and to observe him afterwards moving in a totally different direction, influenced by different principals. Or, to take the instance of another convert, the character he is enabled to sustain, founded upon his great change, is in such marked and continued contrast to his former habits of life as to render it difficult to recognise in the Christian of today the sinner of yesterday. “Is Saul also among the prophets?” Or, in yet another example, the means divinely employed to effect result, as to place the result itself under suspicion and doubt. Every godly man, like Ananias of old, may hesitate to admit into his society the persecutor or the profligate of unhappy notoriety, except upon clearly discerning that he has become a new creature in Christ Jesus, and that old evil habits have passed away. At the same time, his former ungodly associates are mortified at his renunciation of fellowship with them, and are malicious enough to promulgate false reports concerning his character and motives. “They think it strange, “says the apostle, “that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.” Yet to such a convert his God is a sun and shield–a shield from the shafts of cruel slander, and a refuge to him from all storms of persecution. In all similar cases the language of the psalmist becomes particularly appropriate: I am as a wonder unto many; but thou art my strong refuge. John Leifchild.
Ver. 7. A wonder. The Messiah did not attract the admiring gaze of mankind. He did arrest attention; he did excite wonder; but it was not the wonder of admiration. A few whose eyes God had opened, saw, indeed, in some measure, the real grandeur that was amid all this apparent meanness. They “beheld his glory–the glory as of the only begotten of the Father; “a glory that bedimmed all created lustre. But the great body of those who beheld him were, “astonished” at him. His external appearance, especially when contrasted with his claim to be the Messiah, shocked them. The Galilean peasant–the Nazarene carpenter–the son of Joseph, claiming God for his own Father, –declaring himself the “bread of life, “and “the light of the world, “and asserting that the destinies of eternity hung on the reception or rejection of him and his message; all this excited a mingled emotion of amazement and indignation, scorn and horror, in the bosom of the great majority of his countrymen. He was a wonder, a prodigy unto many. A mixture of pity and contempt, disgust and wonder, seems to have stirred the stern bosom of the Roman governor, when he brought him out wearing the robe of mock royalty and the torturing crown, and exclaimed, “Behold the man.” Even his friends were confounded, though their astonishment bore a different character. The closing scene, notwithstanding what appear to us very plain forewarnings, appears to have come on them like a thunderbolt. They were overwhelmed with amazement, as well as sorrow. What blank astonishment sat on their countenances when he made the announcement, “Verily I say unto you, one of you shall betray me!” How must their amazement have risen at the successive scenes of Gethsemane, and the hall of the high priest, and the court of Pilate, till at last they saw him, in whom they trusted that he should redeem Israel, nailed to a cross like a felonious slave–execrated of man, and deserted of God! Then their amazement reached its consummation: they were “astonished at him.” John Brown, in “The Sufferings and Glories of the Messiah.”
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 7. (first clause). may be accommodated to,
I. The Saviour.
II. The Saint. He is a wonder in reference to
(1) What he once was;
(2) What he now is;
(3) What he will hereafter be.
III. The sinner is “a wonder unto many; “a wonder to
three worlds: to
(1) angels;
(2) saints;
(3) devils and lost souls. Warwell Fenn. 1830.
Ver. 7. Consider the text, with reference to David, to Christ, and to the Christian.
I. With reference to David.
1. David was a wonder as a man.
2. As a king.
3. As a servant of God. II. With respect to Christ.
1. Christ was a wonder in his person.
2. In his life.
3. In his miracles.
4. In his teaching.
5. In his sufferings.
6. In his ascension and mediatorial glory. III. With regard to the Christian.
1. The Christian is a wonder to himself.
2. To the world.
3. To wicked spirits.
4. To the angels in heaven. John Cawood. 1830.
Psalms 71:8*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 8. Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day. What a blessed mouthful! A man never grows nauseated though the flavour of it be all day in his mouth. God’s bread is always in our mouths, so should his praise be. He fills us with good; let us be also filled with gratitude. This would leave no room for murmuring or backbiting; therefore, may we well join with holy David in this sacred wish.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 8. Let my mouth be filled with thy praise. Let my mouth, I say, be so filled with thy praise, that from the bottom of my heart, even to the lips of my mouth, the plenitude of thy grace, O God, infused into my heart, and diffused over my lips, may loyally magnify thee; so shall I not be found like that people, of whom thou dost say: “This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Isaiah 29:13. Gerhohus.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 8.
I. What? filled with what? –murmurings? doubts? fears?
No! Praise. My own? –of men? No. Thy
praise. Thy honour.
II. When? All the day.
1. The whole day.
2. Every day; a good preparation for heaven.
Psalms 71:9*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 9. Cast me not off in the time of old age. David was not tired of his Master, and his only fear was lest his Master should be tired of him. The Amalekite in the Bible history left his Egyptian servant to famish when he grew old and sick, but not so the Lord of saints; even to hoar hairs he bears and carries us. Alas for us, if we were abandoned by our God, as many a courtier has been by his prince! Old age robs us of personal beauty, and deprives us of strength for active service; but it does not lower us in the love and favour of God. An ungrateful country leaves its worn out defenders to starve upon a scanty pittance, but the pensioners of heaven are satisfied with good things.
Forsake me not when my strength faileth. Bear with me, and endure my infirmities. To be forsaken of God is the worst of all conceivable ills, and if the believer can be but clear of that grievous fear, he is happy: no saintly heart need be under any apprehension upon this point.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 9. Cast me not off in the time of old age, etc.; for now I have most need of thee. The white rose is soonest cankered; so is the white head soonest corrupted. Saepe nigrum cor est, caput album. Satan maketh a prey of old Solomon, Asa, Lot, others; whom when young he could never so deceive. The heathens, therefore, well warn us to look well to our old age, as that which cometh not alone, but is infested with many diseases, both of body and mind. This David knew, and, therefore, prayed as here: Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth. He is a rare old man that can say with Caleb (Joshua 14:10; Joshua 14:14), “Behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, “etc. John Trapp.
Ver. 9. Cast me not off in the time of old age, etc. It is not unnatural or improper for a man who sees old age coming upon him to pray for special grace, and special strength, to enable him to meet what he cannot ward off, and what he cannot but dread; for who can look upon the infirmities of old age, as coming upon himself, but with sad and pensive feelings? Who would wish to be an old man? Who can look upon a man tottering with years, and broken down with infirmities; a man whose sight and hearing are gone; a man who is alone amidst the graves of all the friends that he had in early life; a man who is a burden to himself, and to the world; a man who has reached the “Last scene of all that ends the strange, eventful history” –that scene of
“Second childishness, and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything; ”
that scene when one can say–
“I have lived long enough; my way of life
Is fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf;
And that which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; ”
Who can think of all this and not pray for special grace for himself, should he live to see those days of infirmity and weakness? And who, in view of such infirmities, can fail to see the propriety of seeking the favour of God in early years? Albert Barnes.
Ver. 9. Cast me not off in the time of old age, etc. David, mindful of the noble actions which, through God’s assistance, he had achieved in his youth, beseeches him not to desert his servant, when persecuted by a rebellious son, in his old age. The weakness and temptations peculiar to that time of life, render this a petition necessary for all to make, before we are overtaken by it. The church findeth but too much occasion to make the same, now that she is sunk in years; when faith languisheth, charity waxeth cold, and the infirmities of a spiritual old age are coming fast upon her. George Horne.
Ver. 9. Cast me not off. God had cast of his predecessor, Saul, and things looked as if he now meant to cast him off. His people also seemed disposed, by their joining with Absalom, to cast him off: hence the force of the petition. Andrew Fuller.
Ver. 9. Forsake me not when my strength faileth. Neither will Christ forsake his church in the latter days of its age, when the weakness of faith becomes more prevalent. W. Wilson.
Ver. 9. Forsake me not when my strength faileth. June 28. This day I enter on my eighty-sixth year. I now find I grow old:
(1) My sight is decayed, so that I cannot read a small
print, unless in a strong light.
(2) My strength is decayed, so that I walk much slower
than I did some years since.
(3) My memory of names, whether of persons, or places, is
decayed, till I stop a little to recollect them.
What I should be afraid of, is, if I took thought for the morrow, that my body should weigh down my mind, and create either stubbornness, by the decrease of my understanding, or peevishness, by the increase of bodily infirmities; But thou shalt answer for me, O Lord my God. John Wesley.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 9. There are some peculiar circumstances of old age which render this blessing–the favour and presence of God–necessary.
I. Old age is a time of but little natural enjoyment, as
Barzillai acknowledged, 2 Samuel 19:35.
II. It is a time of life in which the troubles of life
are often known to increase.
III. Old age is a time in which the troubles of life not
only increase, but become less tolerable.
IV. Old age is a time which ought to command respect, and
does so among dutiful children and all serious
Christians: but it is often known to be attended with
neglect. This is the case especially where they are
poor and dependent. It has been the case where
public characters have lost their youthful vivacity,
and the brilliancy of their talents. A. Fuller.
Ver. 9. There is,
I. Fear, mixed with faith.
1. Natural to old age.
2. Suggested by the usage of the world. II. Faith mixed with fear: “Cast me not, “etc.
1. Old age is not a sin.
2. It is a crown of glory if found, etc.
Psalms 71:10*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 10. For mine enemies speak against me. Dogs howl over a dying lion. When David’s arm was able to chastise his foes, they were yet impudent enough to slander him, and he fears that now they will take fresh license in the hour of his weakness. The text most properly means that his enemies had said that God would forsake him; and, therefore, he is the more earnest that the Lord’s faithful dealings may give them the lie.
And they that lay wait for my soul take counsel together. The psalmist had enemies, and these were most malicious; seeking his utter destruction, they were very persevering, and staid long upon the watch; to this they added cunning, for they lay in ambush to surprise him, and take him at a disadvantage; and all this they did with the utmost unanimity and deliberation, neither spoiling their design by want of prudence, nor marring its accomplishment by a lack of unity. The Lord our God is our only and all sufficient resort from every form of persecution.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
None.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 71:11*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 11. Saying, God hath forsaken him. O bitter taunt! There is no worse arrow in all the quivers of hell. Our Lord felt this barbed shaft, and it is no marvel if his disciples feel the same. Were this exclamation the truth, it were indeed an ill day for us; but, glory be to God, it is a barefaced lie.
Persecute and take him. Let loose the dogs of persecution upon him, seize him, worry him,
for there is none to deliver him. Down with him, for he has no friends. It is safe to insult him, for none will come to his rescue. O cowardly boasts of a braggart foe, how do ye wound the soul of the believer: and only when his faith cries to his Lord is he able to endure your cruelty.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 11. All kinds of distresses are obnoxious to the worst of misjudgings from malevolent minds. The sufferings of Christ produced this censorious scoff, “Let God deliver him, if he will have him.” (Matthew 27:43.) David’s trouble easily induced his adversaries to conclude that God had forsaken him, and that there was none to deliver him. But in troubles of this nature, where especially there are frightful complainings against themselves, men are more easily drawn out to be peremptory in their uncharitable judgments concerning them, because the trouble itself is somewhat rare, and apt to beget hideous impressions, and, withal, the vent which the afflicted parties give by their bemoaning of their estate, in hope to ease themselves thereby, is but taken as a testimony against themselves and the undoubted echoes of their real feelings. Richard Gilpin (1625-1700), in “Daemonologia Sacra; or, a Treatise of Satan’s Temptations.” (In Nichols Series of Puritan Divines.)
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 11-12. Two great lies and two sweet prayers.
Psalms 71:12*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 12. O God, be not far from me. Nearness to God is our conscious security. A child in the dark is comforted by grasping its father’s hand.
O my God, make haste for my help. To call God ours, as having entered into covenant with us, is a mighty plea in prayer, and a great stay to our faith. The cry of “make haste” has occurred many times in this portion of the Psalms, and it was evoked by the sore pressure of affliction. Sharp sorrows soon put an end to procrastinating prayers.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
None.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 11-12. Two great lies and two sweet prayers.
Psalms 71:13*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 13. Let them be confounded and consumed that are adversaries to my soul. It will be all this to them to see thy servant preserved; their envy and malice, when disappointed, will fill them with life consuming bitterness. The defeat of their plans shall nonplus them, they shall be confounded as they enquire the reason for their overthrow; the men they seek to destroy seem so weak, and their cause so contemptible, that they will be filled with amazement as they see them not only survive all opposition, but even surmount it. How confounded must Pharaoh have been when Israel multiplied, despite his endeavours to exterminate the race; and how consumed with rage must the Scribes and Pharisees have become when they saw the gospel spreading from land to land by the very means which they used for its destruction.
Let them be covered with reproach and dishonour that seek my hurt. He would have their shame made visible to all eyes, by their wearing it in their blushes as a mantle. They would have made a laughing stock of the believer, if his God had forsaken him; therefore, let unbelief and atheism be made a public scoffing in their persons.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 13. Let them be confounded, etc. Let them, who were so wicked that they never hoped anything good of me, be confounded by the evidence of the blessings which manifestly fall upon me; and, let them fail, the grounds of their abuse being taken away, as a fire fails when the fagots are removed. Gerhohus.
Ver. 13. Let them be confounded, etc. By the law of retaliation (talio), he might have said: “Be thou an adversary to their souls, and seek their hurt.” Nothing of this is hinted at: his only desire is that they may be confounded and fail, that they may be covered with disgrace and shame. He seeks nothing beyond the frustration of their attempts, that they may begin to be ashamed, and have no cause for boasting that they came off victorious. Musculus.
Ver. 13. Shame ariseth from utter disappointments. If hope deferred causeth shame, then much more hope destroyed. When a man sees his hopes quite cut off, so that he can no way reach the thing he looked for, shame takes hold of him strongly. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 13. That are adversaries to my soul. That hated him with a diabolical hatred, as the devil hates the souls of men, and who has his name Satan from the word here used. All wicked men are Satans, full of enmity against God and all good men; and such were David’s enemies, spiteful and malicious, and nothing would satisfy them but his life. John Gill.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 13-14.
I. What the wicked gain by opposing the righteous:
Let them, etc. Psalms 71:13.
II. What the righteous gain from being opposed by them,
Psalms 71:14 : But I, etc.
Psalms 71:14*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 14. The holy faith of the persecuted saint comes to the front in these three verses.
But I will hope continually. When I cannot rejoice in what I have, I will look forward to what shall be mine, and will still rejoice. Hope will live on a bare common, and sing on a branch laden down with snow. No date and no place are unsuitable for hope. Hell alone excepted, hope is a dweller in all regions. We may always hope, for we always have grounds for it: we will always hope, for it is a never failing consolation.
And will yet praise thee more and more. He was not slack in thanksgiving; in fact, no man was ever more diligent in it; yet he was not content with all his former praises, but vowed to become more and more a grateful worshipper. When good things are both continual and progressive with us, we are on the right tack. We ought to be misers in going good, and our motto should be “more and more.” While we do not disdain to “rest and be thankful, “we cannot settle down into resting in our thankfulness. “Superior” cries the eagle, as he mounts towards the sun: higher and yet higher is also our aim, as we soar aloft in duty and devotion. It is our continual hope that we shall be able more and more to magnify the Lord.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 14. But I will hope continually. Behold, O Lord, I have prayed to thee, and I am comforted. Hope has thus taught me. I am glad; because in thee have I trusted, I shall never be confounded. Sorrow returned, equipped with vast array, fortified at all points with swords and spears, and with great clamour beleaguered my city. The din of his horsemen terrified me; and, standing at the gates, he commanded silence, and thus loudly spake: “Behold the man who trusted in God; who said, I shall not be confounded for ever; who took hope for a consoler.” And, when he observed me blushing at these words, he drew nearer, and said: “Where are the promises which were thy trust? Where the consolation? Where the deliverance? What have thy tears availed thee? What help have thy prayers brought thee from heaven? Thou hast cried, and no one has answered; thou hast wept, and who have been moved with pity for thee? Thou hast called upon thy God, and he has been silent. Thou hast prayed to him, and he has hidden himself from thee: there has come no voice nor sound… Arise, therefore, and flee for help to man, that he may free thee from thy prison.” With these words, there arose such a din of arms in the camp–such a clamour of men and sounding of trumpets–that I could hardly keep up heart; and, unless my beloved Hope had brought me help, Sorrow would have seized and carried me off in chains to his own place. Comes Hope to me, gleaming in divine brightness, and, smiling, said: “O soldier of Christ, how is thy heart? What is this struggle in thy mind?” At these words, I began to blush. “Fear not, “she said, “Evil shall not capture thee; thou shalt never perish. Behold, I am with thee, to deliver thee. Dost thou not know what is written (Psalms 12:1-8), `The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.’ As one of the foolish women hath this Sorrow spoken; never shall he be able to persuade thee that there is no God, or that God does not exercise a providence over all.” Girolamo Savonarola. 1452-1498.
Ver. 14. And I will always hope, and add to (literally, add upon, accumulate, increase) all thy praise. To all thy praise which I have uttered hitherto, I will continue still to add. Joseph Addison Alexander.
Ver. 14. I will expect continually. But what did he expect? That for which he prayed in the ninth verse–the preservation of his prosperity, the presence and the help of God to the very end of life. Wherefore, he adds, continually, in perpetuity, in the time of old age, –usque ad mortem. Hermann Venema.
Ver. 14. As there is no end to the lovingkindness of Jehovah, there should be none to our gratitude. The hope of a Christian enableth him to be thankful, even in the dark season of affliction. Mrs. Thomson.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 13-14.
I. What the wicked gain by opposing the righteous:
Let them, etc. Psalms 71:13.
II. What the righteous gain from being opposed by them,
Psalms 71:14 : But I, etc.
Ver. 14. See “Spurgeon’s Sermons, “No. 998; “More and More.”
Psalms 71:15*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 15. My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day. We are to bear testimony as experience enables us, and not withhold from others that which we have tasted and handled. The faithfulness of God in saving us, in delivering us out of the hand of our enemies, and in fulfilling his promises, is to be everywhere proclaimed by those who have proved it in their own history. How gloriously conspicuous is righteousness in the divine plan of redemption! It should be the theme of constant discourse. The devil rages against the substitutionary sacrifice, and errorists of every form make this the main point of their attack; be it ours, therefore, to love the doctrine, and to spread its glad tidings on every side, and at all times. Mouths are never so usefully employed as in recounting the righteousness of God revealed in the salvation of believers in Jesus. The preacher who should be confined to this one theme would never need seek another: it is the medulla theologae, the very pith and marrow of revealed truth. Has our reader been silent upon this choice subject? Let us, then, press him to tell abroad what he enjoys within: he does not well who keeps such glad tidings to himself.
For I know not the numbers thereof. He knew the sweetness of it, the sureness, the glory, and the truth of it; but as to the full reckoning of its plenitude, variety, and sufficiency, he felt he could not reach to the height of the great argument. Lord, where I cannot count I will believe, and when a truth surpasses numeration I will take to admiration. When David spoke of his enemies, he said they were more in number than the hairs of his head; he had, therefore, some idea of their number, and found a figure suitable to set it out; but, in the case of the Lord’s covenant mercies, he declares, “I know not the number, “and does not venture upon any sort of comparison. To creatures belong number and limit, to God and his grace there is neither. We may, therefore, continue to tell out his great salvation all day long, for the theme is utterly inexhaustible.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 15. The righteousness of God, here mentioned, includes not only the rectitude of his nature, and the equity of his proceedings, but likewise that everlasting righteousness which his Son hath brought in for our justification. God’s righteousness and salvation are here joined together; and, therefore, let no man think to put them asunder, or expect salvation without righteousness. Mrs. Thomson.
Ver. 15. I know not the numbers. David began his arithmetic, in Psalms 71:14, with addition: “I will yet praise thee more and more; “but he is fairly beaten in this first rule of sacred mathematics. His calculation fails him, the mere enumeration of the Lord’s mercies overwhelms his mind; he owns his inadequacy. Reckon either by time, by place, or by value, and the salvation of God baffles all powers of estimation. C. H. S.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 15.
I. The determination avowed.
1. To recount the instances of the divine faithfulness in his deliverances.
2. To recount them publicly: My mouth, etc.
3. Constantly: All the day. II. The reason assigned: For I know not, etc. “Eternity’s too short to utter all thy praise.” Therefore I begin it now, and will continue it.
Psalms 71:16*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 16. I will go in the strength of the Lord God. Our translators give us a good sense, but not the sense in this place, which is on this wise, “I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord Jehovah.” He would enter into those deeds by admiring study, and then, wherever he went, he would continue to rehearse them. He should ever be a welcome guest who can tell us of the mighty acts of the Lord, and help us to put our trust in him. The authorised version may be used by us as a resolve in all our exertions and endeavours. In our own strength we must fail; but, when we hear the voice which saith, “Go in this thy might, “we may advance without fear. Though hell itself were in the way, the believer would pursue the path of duty, crying:
I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only. Man’s righteousness is not fit to be mentioned–filthy rags are best hidden; neither is there any righteousness under heaven, or in heaven, comparable to the divine. As God himself fills all space, and is, therefore, the only God, leaving no room for another, so God’s righteousness, in Christ Jesus, fills the believer’s soul, and he counts all other things but dross and dung “that he may win Christ, and be found in him, not having his own righteousness which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith.” What would be the use of speaking upon any other righteousness to a dying man? and all are dying men. Let those who will cry up man’s natural innocence, the dignity of the race, the purity of philosophers, the loveliness of untutored savages, the power of sacraments, and the infallibility of pontiffs; this is the true believer’s immovable resolve: “I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.” For ever dedicated to thee, my Lord, be this poor, unworthy tongue, whose glory it shall be to glorify thee.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 16. I will go. The word to go must be here taken in the sense of going to battle against enemies. This, he says, he will do, trusting not to his own, but to the power of the Lord, his heart fired with the memory of the righteousness of God. So is it in another place: “Some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we in the name of our God.” Musculus.
Ver. 16. I will go in the strength of the Lord. The minister goes thus by realising this strength and depending on it. In this strength he goes into the path of communion with God, into the fields of conflict, in the privacy of domestic life, and in all the walks of active life. His boast is in the righteousness of Christ; and he mentions this to God as the ground of his confidence, to himself as the spring of his comforts, to others as the hope of salvation. Substance of Sermon by James Sherman. The first preached by him after his settlement at Surrey Chapel. September 4th, 1836.
Ver. 16. The strength of the Lord God. The power of God is expressed in the plural number, to show the greatness of it, which is as a garrison to the believer. John Gill.
Ver. 16. I will go in the strength of the Lord. The phrase, to go in, or, with the strengths of God, does not teach us that he would go by means of them, by their help and assistance, as many have thought, first, because the word is used to signify the illustrious and mighty deeds of God; secondly, because it denotes the subject of praise; but to go with the strength of Jehovah, as the rendering ought to be… is to go as if girt with his former deeds of power–girt with them as if with the material of praise. Hermann Venema.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 16.
I. The resolution: I will go.
II. The reservation: Thy strength only–thy
righteousness only.
Psalms 71:17*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 17. O God, thou hast taught me from my youth. It was comfortable to the psalmist to remember that from his earliest days he had been the Lord’s disciple. None are too young to be taught of God, and they make the most proficient scholars who begin betimes.
And hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. He had learned to tell what he knew, he was a pupil teacher; he continued still learning and declaring, and did not renounce his first master; this, also, was his comfort, but it is one which those who have been seduced from the school of the gospel, into the various colleges of philosophy and scepticism, will not be able to enjoy. A sacred conservatism is much needed in these days, when men are giving up old lights for new. We mean both to learn and to teach the wonders of redeeming love, till we can discover something nobler or more soul satisfying; for this reason we hope that our gray heads will be found in the same road as we have trodden, even from our beardless youth.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 17. O God, thou hast taught me from my youth. Whence was it that David understood “more than the ancients”? (Psalms 119:100.) He had a Father to teach him; God was his instructor. Many a child of God complains of ignorance and dulness; remember this, thy Father will be thy tutor; he hath promised to give “his Spirit to lead thee into all truth” (John 6:13); and God doth not only inform the understanding, but inclines the will; he doth not only teach us what we should do, but enables us to do it. (Ezekiel 36:27); “I will cause you to walk in my statutes.” What a glorious privilege is this, to have the star of the word pointing us to Christ, and the loadstone of the Spirit drawing! Thomas Watson.
Ver. 17. Thou hast taught me from my youth. If you ask me what were the ways by which David was taught, I might ask you what they were not… God taught him by his shepherd’s crook; and by the rod and sceptre of a king he taught him. He taught him by the shouts of the multitude–“Saul hath slain his thousands and David his ten thousands; “and he taught him just as much, if not more, by the contempt he met in the court of the Philistines. He taught him by the arrows of Jonathan, levelled in friendship; and he taught him by the javelin of Saul levelled at his life. He taught him by the faithlessness of Abiathar, and the faithlessness of even his faithful Joab; and he taught him by the faithfulness of Abishai, and the faithfulness of Mephibosheth; and, let me add too, by the rebellion of Absalom, and the selfishness of Adonijah; they were all means, by which the Lord taught this his servant. And be assured, you that are under his teaching, there is nothing in your lives, but he can teach you by it: by comforts and crosses, by your wounds and your healings, by that which he gives and by what he takes away. He unteaches his child, that he may teach him; shows him his folly, that he may make him wise; strips him of his vain confidence, that he may give him strength; makes him know that he is nothing, that he may show him that he has all in the Lord–in Jesus his Beloved one. James Harrington Evans.
Ver. 17. Thou hast taught me from my youth. Youth needs a teacher that it may embrace virtue. Seneca says, Virtue is a hard thing to youth, it needs a ruler and guide; vices are acquired without a master. How prone he was in his boyhood and youth to vices, we may see in Psalms 25:1-22. “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions.” Jerome, in his Epistle to Nepotianus, says: “As fire in green wood is stifled, so wisdom in youth, impeded by temptations and concupiscence, does not unfold its brightness, unless by hard work, and steady application and prayer, the incentives of youth are inwardly repelled.” Hence it is that almost all nations have provided good and wise teachers of the young. Among the Spartans, one was chosen from the Magistrates and Senators to be paidonomos, rector of the boys… At Athens there were twelve men named Sophronistae, elected by the suffrages of all the tribes, to moderate the manners of youth… God is the teacher of his servants. Plato says, oiden einai yeioteron, that there is nothing more divine than the education of children. Of God the Father, or of the whole Trinity, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, says, 1 Samuel 2:3 : “The Lord is a God of knowledge; “(Scientiarum, Vulg.) that is, as the Chaldee has it, he knows all things… Socrates says, that he is the mind of the universe. Without him, therefore, all are demented; but with him, and through him, in a single moment they become wise. Philo, in his treatise of the sacrifice of Cain and Abel, says, Masters cannot fill the mind of their pupils as if they were pouring water into a vessel; but when God, the fountain of wisdom, communicates knowledge to the human race, he does it without delay, in the twinkling of an eye… His anointing shall teach you of all things. 1 John 2:27. Thomas Le Blanc.
Ver. 17. From my youth. Is it such “a crown of glory” to be found old in the ways of righteousness? Do you then begin to be godly betimes; that, if you live in this world you may have this crown set upon your heads when you are ancient; for is it not better for you to be plants of God’s house, than weeds upon the dunghill? Those that are wicked are but as weeds upon a dunghill, but you that are godly are as plants in God’s own orchard. In Romans 16:7, we find that Andronicus and Junia are commended because they were in Christ before Paul: “They were in Christ before me.” It is an honourable thing to be in Christ before others; this is honourable when you are young; and then going on in the ways of godliness all your young time, and so in your middle age, and till you come to be old. Jeremiah Burroughs.
Ver. 17. Wondrous works. Observe that he calls the blessing of divine aid so often received in affliction, wondrous works. By this expression, he shows us, with what grievous perils he was tossed; then how he had been snatched from them by the hand of God, contrary to the expectation of all men. Therefore, God is wonderful among his saints. To this end the adversities of the saints tend, that they may show forth in them the wonderful works of God. Musculus.
Ver. 17-18. The integrity of our hearts and ways, in former walkings after God, and service for God, may by faith in Christ, as in all our justification, be pleaded. See also Isaiah 38:3 and Psalms 119:10. The Lord himself maketh it to himself a motive to show mercy to his people (Isaiah 63:8, Jeremiah 2:2); only we must use this plea more rarely and sparingly, in a self denying way, in faith in Christ’s righteousness, as made ours. Thomas Cobbet.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 17. O God, thou hast taught me. None but God can teach us experimentally; and the lessons he teaches are always useful and important. He teaches all his scholars to know themselves–their depravity, poverty, and slavery. He teaches them his law–its purity, claims, and penalty. He teaches them his gospel–its fulness, freeness, and sensibility. He teaches them to know himself; as a reconciled God, as their Father and faithful friend. His teaching is accompanied with power and authority. We may know divine teaching by its effects: it always produces humility–they sit as his feet; dependence upon him; abhorrence of sin; love to God as a teacher; obedience to the lessons taught; thirst for further attainments; and it brings us daily to Jesus. James Smith.
Psalms 71:18*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 18. Now also when I am old and grey headed, O God, forsake me not. There is something touching in the sight of hair whitened with the snows of many a winter: the old and faithful soldier receives consideration from his king, the venerable servant is beloved by his master. When our infirmities multiply, we may, with confidence, expect enlarged privileges in the world of grace, to make up for our narrowing range in the field of nature. Nothing shall make God forsake those who have not forsaken him. Our fear is lest he should do so; but his promise kisses that fear into silence.
Until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation. He desired to continue his testimony and complete it; he had respect to the young men and little children about him, and knowing the vast importance of training them in the fear of God, he longed to make them all acquainted with the power of God to support his people, that they also might be led to walk by faith. He had leaned on the almighty arm, and could speak experimentally of its all sufficiency, and longed to do so ere life came to a close.
And thy power to every one that is to come. He would leave a record for unborn ages to read. He thought the Lord’s power to be so worthy of praise, that he would make the ages ring with it till time should be no more. For this cause believers live, and they should take care to labour zealously for the accomplishment of this their most proper and necessary work. Blessed are they who begin in youth to proclaim the name of the Lord, and cease not until their last hour brings their last word for their divine Master.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 17-18. See Psalms on “Psalms 71:17”
Ver. 18. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not. God exalts pardoning grace to some more, and sanctifying grace to others; he is the God of grace. Those ships that have been in long voyages at sea, three or four years out, have gone through hot climates and cold, passed the equinoctial line again and again, and have run through many a difficulty, and great storms, and yet have been kept alive at sea, as they speak, when these shall meet one another at sea near the haven, how will they congratulate? And old disciples should do so, that God hath kept grace alive in their souls. And I would ask you how many thousand ships have you seen cast away before your eyes? How many that have made “shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, “as the apostle speaks? This and that profession, that has run into this and that error damnable, or false opinions and teaching, though all of smaller moment; others that have struck upon quicksands of worldly preferments, and many split upon rocks, and yet you have been kept. This should move you to bless this your God, the God of grace, the more. Come, let me knock at your hearts; are none of you old professors, like old hollow oaks, who stand in the woods among professors still, and keep their stand of profession still, and go to ordinances, etc.; but the “rain they drink in, “as the apostle’s word is, serves to no other end but to rot them. “These are nigh unto cursing.” Or, have you green fruits still growing on you, as quickly and lively affections to God and Christ, and faith and love, as at the first, and more abounding? O bless God you are so near the haven, and lift up your hearts, your redemption draws near; and, withal, raise your confidence, that that God of grace, who hath called you into his eternal glory, will keep you for it, and possess you of it shortly. Thomas Goodwin.
Ver. 18. Forsake me not; until, etc. Apostasy in old age is fearful. He that climbs almost to the top of a tower, then slipping back, hath the greater fall. The patient almost recovered, is more deadly sick by a relapse. There were stars struck from heaven by the dragon’s tail (Revelation 12:4); they had better never have perched so high. The place where the Israelites fell into that great folly with the daughters of Moab, was in the plain, within the prospect of the Holy Land; they saw their inheritance, and yet fell short of it. So wretched is it for old men to fall near to their very entry of heaven, as old Eli in his indulgence (1 Samuel 2:1-36); old Judah in his incest (Genesis 38:1-30); old David with Bathsheba; old Asa trusting in the physicians more than in God (2 Chronicles 16:12); and old Solomon built the high places. Some have walked like cherubs in the midst of the stones of fire, yet have been cast as profane out of God’s mountain. Ezekiel 28:14; Ezekiel 28:16. Thus the seaman passeth all the main, and suffers wreck in the haven. The corn often promises a plenteous harvest in the blade, and shrinks in the ear. You have seen trees loaden with blossoms, yet, in the season of expectation, no fruit. A comedy that holds well many scenes, and goes lamely off in the last act, finds no applause. Remember Lot’s wife (Lu 17:32): think on that pillar of salt, that it may season thee. Thomas Adams.
Ver. 18. Until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, etc. Are there better preachers of the works of God to be found than hoary parents in the circle of their children; or grandparents in that of their grandchildren? Augustus F. Tholuck.
Ver. 18.
With years oppressed, with sorrows worn,
Dejected, harassed, sick, forlorn,
To thee, O God, I pray;
To thee my withered hands arise,
To thee I lift these failing eyes:
Oh, cast me not away!
Thy mercy heard my infant prayer;
Thy love, with all a mother’s care,
Sustained my childish days:
Thy goodness watched my ripening youth,
And formed my heart to love thy truth,
And filled my lips with praise.
O Saviour! has thy grace declined?
Can years affect the Eternal Mind,
Or time its love destroy?
A thousand ages pass thy sight,
And all their long and weary flight
Is gone like yesterday.
Then, even in age and grief, thy name
Shall still my languid heart inflame,
And bow my faltering knee:
Oh, yet this bosom feels the fire,
This trembling hand and drooping lyre,
Have yet a strain for thee!
Yes, broken, tuneless still, O Lord,
This voice, transported, shall record
Thy goodness tried so long;
Till, sinking slow, with calm decay,
Its feeble murmurs melt away,
Into a seraph’s song. Sir Robert Grant.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 18. The peculiar testimony of pious old age, what it is based upon, to whom it should be directed, and what we may hope from it.
Psalms 71:19*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 19. Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high. Very sublime, unsearchable, exalted, and glorious is the holy character of God, and his way of making men righteous. His plan of righteousness uplifts men from the gates of hell to the mansions of heaven. It is a high doctrine gospel, gives a high experience, leads to high practice, and ends in high felicity.
Who hast done great things. The exploits of others are mere child’s play compared with thine, and are not worthy to be mentioned in the same age. Creation, providence, redemption, are all unique, and nothing can compare with them.
O God, who is like unto thee. As thy works are so transcendent, so art thou. Thou art without compeer, or even second, and such are thy works, and such, especially, thy plan of justifying sinners by the righteousness which thou hast provided. Adoration is a fit frame of mind for the believer. When he draws near to God, he enters into a region where everything is surpassingly sublime; miracles of love abound on every hand, and marvels of mingled justice and grace. A traveller among the high Alps often feels overwhelmed with awe, amid their amazing sublimities; much more is this the case when we survey the heights and depths of the mercy and holiness of the Lord.
O God, who is like unto thee.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 19. O God, who is like unto thee? Either for greatness or goodness, for power or for mercy, for justice, truth, and faithfulness; for the perfections of his nature, or the works of his hands; and to be praised, reverenced, and adored, as he is. John Gill.
Ver. 19. Who is like unto thee! Krmk ym, Mi camocha. God is alone: who can resemble him? He is eternal; he can have none before, and there can be none after; for, in the infinite unity of trinity, he is that eternal, unlimited, impartible, incomprehensible, and uncompounded, ineffable Being, whose essence is hidden from all created intelligences, and whose counsels cannot be fathomed by any creature that even his own hand can form. “WHO IS LIKE UNTO THEE!” will excite the wonder, amazement, praise, and adoration of angels and men to all eternity. Adam Clarke.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 19. A sermon might be instructively worked out upon “the high things of God.”
Psalms 71:20*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 20. Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again. Here is faith’s inference from the infinite greatness of the Lord. He has been strong to smite; he will be also strong to save. He has shown me many heavy and severe trials, and he will also show me many and precious mercies. He has almost killed me, he will speedily revive me; and though I have been almost dead and buried, he will give me a resurrection, and
bring me up again from the depths of the earth. However low the Lord may permit us to sink, he will fix a limit to the descent, and in due time will bring us up again. Even when we are laid low in the tomb, the mercy is that we can go no lower, but shall retrace our steps and mount to better lands; and all this, because the Lord is ever mighty to save. A little God would fail us, but not Jehovah the Omnipotent. It is safe to lean on him, since he bears up the pillars both of heaven and earth.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 20. Thou shalt quicken me again, etc. Here Jerome triumphs over the Jews, challenging them when this was ever verified in David, for he was never dead and quickened again; and, therefore, this must needs be expounded of him as that in Psalms 16:1-11 : “Thou wilt not leave my soul in the grave; “and to “the depths of the earth, “here, answer those words, Ephesians 4:9, “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?” Yet, this may also be applied to David, being figuratively understood, as a like speech of Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:1-36. John Mayer.
Ver. 20. And thou shalt bring me up, etc. This is an allusion to men who are unhappily fallen into a deep pit of water. The meaning is, Thou shalt draw me out of the extreme danger into which I am plunged, and wherein I shall perish without thy help. Thomas Fenton.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 20.
I. The future benefit of present trials: “Hereafter, ”
said Aneas to his shipwrecked companions. “It will
delight us to think of these things.”
II. The present benefit of future mercies: “Glory to thee
for all the grace we have not tasted yet.”
Psalms 71:21*
EXPOSITION
Ver. 21. Thou shalt increase my greatness. As a king, David grew in influence and power. God did great things for him, and by him, and this is all the greatness believers want. May we have faith in God, such as these words evince.
And comfort me on every side. As we were surrounded with afflictions, so shall we be environed with consolations. From above, and from all around, light shall come to dispel our former gloom; the change shall be great, indeed, when the Lord returns to comfort us.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 21. Greatness increasing with comfort, and comfort increasing with greatness; very rarely united. George Rogers.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
None.
Psalms 71:22*
EXPOSITION
Here is the final vow of praise.
Ver. 22. I will also praise thee with the psaltery. Love so amazing calls for sweetest praise. David would give his best music, both vocal and instrumental, to the Best of Masters. His harp should not be silent, nor his voice.
Even thy truth, O my God. This is ever a most enchanting attribute–viz., the truth or faithfulness of our covenant God. On this we rest, and from it we draw streams of richest consolation. His promises are sure, his love unalterable, his veracity indisputable. What saint will not praise him as he remembers this?
Unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel. Here is a new name, and, as it were, a new song. The Holy One of Israel is at once a lofty and an endearing name, full of teaching. Let us resolve, by all means within our power, to honour him.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 22. With the psaltery… with the harp. There was a typical signification in them; and upon this account they are not only rejected and condemned by the whole army of Protestant divines, as for instance, by Zuinglius, Calvin, Peter Martyr, Zepperus, Paraeus, Willet, Ainsworth, Ames, Calderwood, and Cotton; who do, with one mouth, testify against them, most of them expressly affirming that they are a part of the abrogated legal pedagogy; so that we might as well recall the incense, tapers, sacrifices, new moons, circumcision, and all the other shadows of the law into use again. But Aquinas himself also, though a Popish schoolman, pleads against them upon the same account, quia aliquid figurabant, and saith, the Church in his time did not use them, ne videatur judaizare, lest they should seem to judaize. Samuel Mather, on The Types.
Ver. 22. Psaltery… harp. Suppose singing with instruments were not typical, but only an external solemnity of worship, fitted to the solace of the outward senses of children under age, such as the Israelites were in the Old Testament (Galatians 4:1-3); yet now, in the grown age of the heirs of the New Testament, such external pompous solemnities are ceased, and no external worship reserved, but such as holdeth forth simplicity and gravity; nor is any voice now to be heard in the church of Christ, but such as is significant and edifying by signification (1 Corinthians 14:10-11; 1 Corinthians 14:26), which the voice of instruments is not. John Cotton, 1585-1652.
Ver. 22. Holy One of Israel. This name of God occurs in the Psalms only in two other places, Ps 71:78,41 89:18 these last two being, according to Delitzsch, older Psalms than this. In Isaiah, this name of God occurs thirty times; in Habakkuk once; in Jeremiah (who may have adopted it from Isaiah) twice (Jer 50:29 51:5). J. J. Stewart Perowne.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 22. A choice subject for song–“thy truth, “which may mean either doctrinal truth, or the attribute of faithfulness, its manifestation in history, and in our own experience.
Ver. 22-23.
I. The soul of music: Not in the instrument or the voice,
but in the soul. “I will sing with the understanding
also.” “Making melody in the heart, “etc.
II. The music of the soul. The soul which thou hast
redeemed. Redemption is the music of souls once lost.
Their only song in heaven.
Psalms 71:23*
EXPOSITION
Here is the final vow of praise.
Ver. 23. My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee. It shall be no weariness to me to praise thee. It shall be a delightful recreation, a solace, a joy. The essence of song lies in the holy joy of the singer.
And my soul, which thou hast redeemed. Soul singing is the soul of singing. Till men are redeemed, they are like instruments out of tune; but when once the precious blood has set them at liberty, then are they fitted to magnify the Lord who bought them. Our being bought with a price is a more than sufficient reason for our dedicating ourselves to the earnest worship of God our Saviour.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Ver. 23. My lips; my soul. Hypocrites praise God with the lips only; but David joins the soul to the lips. William Nicholson.
Ver. 23. Greatly. See how the word great is repeated. Great things done, Psalms 71:19; great troubles shown, Psalms 71:20; greatness increased, Psalms 71:21; and great rejoicing consequent thereon, in Psalms 71:23. In a great God, doing great things, it is meet greatly to rejoice. C. H. S.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Ver. 22-23.
I. The soul of music: Not in the instrument or the voice,
but in the soul. “I will sing with the understanding
also.” “Making melody in the heart, “etc.
II. The music of the soul. The soul which thou hast
redeemed. Redemption is the music of souls once lost.
Their only song in heaven.
Psalms 71:24*
EXPOSITION
Here is the final vow of praise.
Ver. 24. My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long. I will talk to myself, and to thee, my God, and to my fellow men: my theme shall be thy way of justifying sinners, the glorious display of thy righteousness and grace in thy dear Son; and this most fresh and never to be exhausted subject shall be ever with me, from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same. Others talk of their beloveds, and they shall be made to hear of mine. I will become an incessant talker, while this matter lies on my heart, for in all company this subject will be in season.
For they are confounded, for they are brought unto shame, that seek my hurt. As in many other Psalms, the concluding stanzas speak of that as an accomplished fact, which was only requested in former verses. Faith believes that she has her request, and she has it. She is the substance of things hoped for–a substance so real and tangible, that it sets the glad soul singing. Already sin, Satan, and the world are vanquished, and the victory is ours.
“Sin, Satan, Death appear
To harass and appal:
Yet since the gracious Lord is near,
Backward they go, and fall.”
“We meet them face to face,
Through Jesus’ conquest blest;
March in the triumph of his grace,
Right onward to our rest.”

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