Monthly Archives: March 2015

Psalm 125

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-5
Title. —A Song of Degrees. Another step is taken in the ascent, another station in the pilgrimage is reached: certainly a rise in the sense is here perceptible, since full assurance concerning years to come is a higher form of faith than the ascription of farther escapes to the Lord. Faith has praised Jehovah for past deliverances, and t, ere she rises to a confident jury in the present and future safety of believers. She asserts that they shall forever secure who trust themselves with the Lord. We can imagine the pilgrims chanting this song when perambulating the city walls.
We do not assert that David wrote this Psalm, but we have as much ground for doing so as others have for declaring that it was written after the captivity. It would seem provable that all the Pilgrim Psalms were composed, or, at least, compiled by the same writer, and as some of them are certainly by David, there is too conclusive reason for taking away the rest from him.
Division. —First we have a song of holy confidence (Psalms 125:1-2); then a promise, Psalms 125:3; followed by a prayer, Psalms 125:4; and a note of warning.
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 1. They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion. The emphasis lies upon the object of their trust, namely, Jehovah the Lord. What a privilege to be allowed to repose in God] How condescending is Jehovah to become the confidence of his people! To trust elsewhere is vanity; and the more implicit such misplaced trust becomes the more bitter will be the ensuing disappointment; but to trust in the living God is sanctified common sense which needs no excuse, its result shall be its best vindication. There is no conceivable reason why we should not trust in Jehovah, and there is every possible argument for so doing; but, apart from all argument, the end will prove the wisdom of the confidence. The result of faith is not occasional and accidental; its blessing comes, not to some who trust, but to all who trust in the Lord. Trusters in Jehovah shall be as fixed, firm, and stable as the mount where David dwelt, and where the ark abode. To move mount Zion was impossible: the mere supposition was absurd.
Which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. Zion was the image of eternal steadfastness, —this hill which, according to the Hebrew, “sits to eternity, “neither bowing down nor moving to and fro. Thus doth the trusting worshipper of Jehovah enjoy a restfulness which is the mirror of tranquillity; and this not without cause, for his hope is sure, and of his confidence he can never be ashamed. As the Lord sitteth King for ever, so do his people sit enthroned in perfect peace when their trust in him is firm. This is, and is to be our portion; we are, we have been, we shall be as steadfast as the hill of God. Zion cannot be removed, and does not remove; so the people of God can neither be moved passively nor actively, by force from without or fickleness from within. Faith in God is a settling and establishing virtue; he who by his strength setteth fast the mountains, by that same power stays the hearts of them that trust in him. This steadfastness will endure “for ever, “and we may be assured therefore that no believer shall perish either in life or in death, in time or in eternity. We trust in an eternal God, and our safety shall be eternal.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Whole Psalm. In the degrees of Christian virtue, this psalm represents the sixth step—the confidence which the Christian places in the Lord. “It teacheth us, while we ascend and raise our minds unto the Lord our God in loving charity and piety, not to fix our gaze upon men who are prosperous in the world with a false happiness.” (Augustine.) —H. T. Armfield, in “The Gradual Psalms”, 1874.
Whole Psalm. This short psalm may be summed up in those words of the prophet (Isaiah 3:10-11), “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him.” Thus are life and death, the blessing and the curse, set before us often in the psalms, as well as in the law and in the prophets. —Matthew Henry, 1662-1714.
Ver. 1. They that trust in the LORD. Note how he commandeth no work here to be done, but only speaketh of trust, In popery in the time of trouble men were taught to enter into some kind of religion, to fast, to go on pilgrimage, and to do such other foolish works of devotion, which they devised as an high service unto God, and, thereby thought to make condign satisfaction for sin and to merit eternal life. But here the Psalmist leadeth us the plain way unto God, pronouncing this to be the chiefest anchor of our salvation, —only to hope and trust in the Lord; and declaring that the greatest service that we can do unto God is to trust him. For this is the nature of God—to create all things of nothing. Therefore he createth and bringeth forth in death, life; in darkness, light. Now to believe this is the essential nature and most special property of faith. When God then seeth such a one as agreeth with his own nature, that is, which believeth to find in danger help, in poverty riches, in sin righteousness, and that for God’s own mercy’s sake in Christ alone, him can God neither hate nor forsake. —Martin Luther (1483-1546), in “A Commentary on the Psalms of Degrees.”
Ver. 1. They that trust in the Lord. All that deal with God must deal upon trust, and he will give comfort to those only that give credit to him, and make it appear they do so by quitting other confidences, and venturing to the utmost for God. The closer our expectations are confined to God, the higher our expectations may be raised. —Matthew Henry.
Ver. 1. They that trust, etc. Trust, therefore, in the Lord, always, altogether, and for all things. —Robert Nisbet, in “The Songs of the Temple Pilgrims”, 1863.
Ver. 1. Shall be as mount Zion. Some persons are like the sand— ever shifting and treacherous. See Matthew 7:26. Some are like the sea —restless and unsettled. See Isaiah 57:20, James 1:6. Some are like the wind—uncertain and inconstant. See Ephesians 4:14. Believers are like a mountain—strong, stable, and secure. To every soul that trusts him the Lord says, “Thou art Peter.” —W. Hr. J. Page, of Chelsea, 1883.
Ver. 1. As mount Zion, etc. Great is the stability of a believer’s felicity. —John Trapp, 1601-1669.
Ver. 1. Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, etc. Lieutenant Conder, reviewing Mr. Maudslay’s important exploration, says, “It is especially valuable as showing that, however the masonry may have been destroyed and lost, we may yet hope to find indications of the ancient enceinte in the rock scarps which are imperishable.” This is very true; for, while man can destroy what man has made, the everlasting hills smile at his rage. Yet who can hear of it without perceiving the force and sublimity of that glorious description of the immobility of believers.
“They that trust in Jehovah are as mount Zion,
Which shall not be moved, it abideth for ever.”
—James Neil, in “Palestine Explored”, 1882.
Ver. 1. Cannot be removed, etc. They can never be removed from the Lord, though they may be removed from his house and ordinances, as sometimes David was; and from his gracious presence, and sensible communion with him; and out of the world by death: yet never from his heart’s love, nor out of the covenant of his grace, which is sure and everlasting; nor out of his family, into which they are taken; nor from the Lord Jesus Christ, nor out of his hands and arms, nor from off his heart; nor from off him, as the foundation on which they are laid; nor out of a state of grace, either regeneration or justification; but such abide in the love of God, in the covenant of his grace, in the hands of his Son, in the grace wherein they stand, and in the house of God for evermore. —John Gill, 1697-1771.
Ver. 1. Abideth for ever. So surely as Mount Zion shall never be “removed”, so surely shall the church of God be preserved. Is it not strange that wicked and idolatrous powers have not joined together, dug down this mount, and carried it into the sea, that they might nullify a promise in which the people of God exult! Till ye can carry Mount Zion into the Mediterranean Sea, the church of Christ shall grow and prevail. Hear this, yet murderous Mohammedans! —Adam Clarke, 1760-1832.
Ver. 1. Abideth. Literally, sitteth;as spoken of a mountain, “lieth” or “is situated”; but here with the following forever, used in a still stronger sense. —J. J. Stewart Perowne, 1868.
Ver. 1-2. —That which is here promised the saints is a perpetual preservation of them in that condition wherein they are; both on the part of God, “he is round about them from henceforth even for ever”; and on their parts, they shall not be removed, —that is, from the condition of acceptation with God wherein they are supposed to be, — but they shall abide for ever, and continue therein immovable unto the end. This is a plain promise of their continuance in that condition wherein they are, with their safety from thence, and not a promise of some other good thing provided that they continue in that condition. Their being compared to mountains, and their stability, which consists in their being and continuing so, will admit no other sense. As mount Zion abides in its condition, so shall they; and as the mountains about Jerusalem continue, so doth the Lord continue his presence unto them.
That expression which is used, Psalms 125:2, is weighty and full to this purpose, The LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever. What can be spoken more fully, more pathetically? Can any expression of men so set forth the safety of the saints? The Lord is round about them, not to save them from this or that incursion, but from all; not from one or two evils, but from every one whereby they are or may be assaulted. He is with them, and round about them on every side that no evil shall come nigh them. It is a most full expression of universal preservation, or of God’s keeping his saints in his love and favour, upon all accounts whatsoever; and that not for a season only, but it is “henceforth”, from his giving this promise unto their souls in particular, and their receiving of it, throughout all generations, “even for ever.” —John Owen, 1616-1683.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Whole Psalm.
1. The mark of the covenant: “They that trust.”
2. The security of the covenant (Psalms 125:1-2).
3. The rod of the covenant (Psalms 125:3).
4. The tenor of the covenant (Psalms 125:4).
5. The spirit of the covenant, —”peace.”
Ver. 1. See “Spurgeon’s Sermons”, No. 1,450: “The Immortality of the Believer.”
Ver. 1-2.
1. The believer’s singularity: he trusts in Jehovah.
2. The believer’s stability: “abideth for ever.”
3. The believer’s safety: “As the mountains”, etc.
Psalms 125:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever. The hill of Zion is the type of the believer’s constancy, and the surrounding mountains are made emblems of the all surrounding presence of the Lord. The mountains around the holy city, though they do not make a circular wall, are, nevertheless, set like sentinels to guard her gates. God doth not enclose his people within ramparts and bulwarks, making their city to be a prison; but yet he so orders the arrangements of his providence that his saints are as safe as if they dwelt behind the strongest fortifications. What a double security the two verses set before us! First, we are established, and then entrenched; settled, and then sentinelled: made like a mount, and then protected as if by mountains. This is no matter of poetry, it is so in fact; and it is no matter of temporary privilege, but it shall be so for ever. Date when we please, “from henceforth” Jehovah encircles his people: look on as far as we please, the protection extends “even for ever.” Note, it is not said that Jehovah’s power or wisdom defends believers, but he himself is round about them: they have his personality for their protection, his Godhead for their guard. We are here taught that the Lord’s people are those who trust him, for they are thus described in the first verses: the line of faith is the line of grace, those who trust in the Lord are chosen of the Lord. The two verses together prove the eternal safety of the saints: they must abide where God has placed them, and God must for ever protect them from all evil. It would be difficult to imagine greater safety than is here set forth.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem. This image is not realised, as most persons familiar with our European scenery would wish and expect it to be realised. Jerusalem is not literally shut in by mountains, except on the eastern side, where it may be said to be enclosed by the arms of Olivet, with its outlying ridges on the north east and south west. Anyone facing Jerusalem westward, northward, or southward, will always see the city itself on an elevation higher than the hills in its immediate neighbourhood, its towers and walls standing out against the sky, and not against any high background such as that which encloses the mountain towns and villages of our own Cumbriau or Westmoreland valleys. Nor, again, is the plain on which it stands enclosed by a continuous though distant circle of mountains, like that which gives its peculiar charm to Athens and Innsbruck. The mountains in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem are of unequal height, and only in two or three instances— Neby-Samwil, Er-Rain, and Tuleil el-Ful—rising to any considerable elevation. Even Olivet is only a hundred and eighty feet above the top of Mount Zion. Still they act as a shelter: they must be surmounted before the traveller can see, or the invader attack, the Holy City; and the distant line of Moab would always seem to rise as a wall against invaders from the remote east. It is these mountains, expressly including those beyond the Jordan, which are mentioned as “standing round about Jerusalem”, in another and more terrible sense, when on the night of the assault of Jerusalem by the Roman armies, they “echoed back” the screams of the inhabitants of the captured city, and the victorious shouts of the soldiers of Titus.* Arthur Penrhyn Stanly (1815-1881), in “Sinai and Palestine.”
*(Josephus. Bell. Jude 6:5,1)
Ver. 2. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem. Jerusalem is situated in the centre of a mountainous region, whose valleys have drawn around it in all directions a perfect network of deep ravines, the perpendicular walls of which constitute a very efficient system of defence. —William M. Thomson, in “The Land and the Book”, 1881.
Ver. 2. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, etc. The mountains most emphatically stand “round about Jerusalem”, and in doing so must have greatly safeguarded it in ancient times. We are specially told that when Titus besieged the city, he found it impossible to invest it completely until he had built a wall round the entire sides of these mountains, nearly five miles long, with thirteen places at intervals in which he stationed garrisons, which added another mile and a quarter to these vast earthworks. “The whole was completed”, says the Jewish historian, “in three days; so that what would naturally have required some months was done in so short an interval as is incredible.” (Josephus. Wars of the Jews. Book 5, ch. 7, section 2.) Assaults upon the city, even then, could only be delivered effectively upon its level corner to the north west, whence every hostile advance was necessarily directed in all its various sieges. To those familiar with these facts, beautifully bold, graphic, and forceful is the Psalmist’s figure of the security of the Lord’s people—
“The mountains are round about Jerusalem;
And Jehovah is round about his people,
Henceforth, even for evermore.”
These words must have been in Hebrew ears as sublime as they were comforting, and, when sung on the heights of Zion, inspiring in the last degree. —James Neil.
Ver. 2. The LORD is round about his people. It is not enough that we are compassed about with fiery walls, that is, with the sure custody, tile continual watch and ward of the angels; but the Lord himself is our wall: so that every way we are defended by the Lord against all dangers. Above us is his heaven, on both sides he is as a wall, under us he is as a strong rock whereupon we stand so are we everywhere sure and safe. Now if Satan through these munitions casts his darts at us, it must needs be that the Lord himself shall be hurt before we take harm. Great is our incredulity if we hear all these things in vain. —Martin Luther.
Ver. 2. From henceforth, even for ever. This amplification of the promise, taken from time or duration, should be carefully noted; for it shows that the promises made to the people of Israel pertain generally to the Church in every age, and are not to expire with that polity. Thus it expressly declares, that the Church will continuously endure in this life; which is most sweet consolation for pious minds, especially in great dangers and public calamities, when everything appears to threaten ruin and destruction. —D. H. Mollerus, 1639.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 2. The all surrounding presence of Jehovah the glory, safety, and eternal blessedness of his people. Yet this to the wicked would be hell.
Ver. 2. See “Spurgeon’s Sermons”, Nos. 161-2: “The Security of the Church.”
Ver. 2. The endurance of mercy: “From henceforth even for ever.”
Ver. 2. Saints hemmed in by infinite love.
1. The City and the Girdle, or the symbols separated.
a) Jerusalem imaging God’s people. Anciently chosen; singularly honoured; much beloved; the shrine of Deity.
b) The Mountain Girdle setting forth Jehovah: Strength; All sidedness; Sentinel through day and night.
2. The City within the Girdle, or the symbols related.
a) Delightful Entanglement. The view from the windows! (Jehovah “round about.”) To be lost must break through God! Sound sleep and safe labour.
b) Omnipotent Circumvallation, suggesting—God’s determination; Satan’s dismay. This mountain ring immutable. —W. B. Haynes, of Stafford.
Psalms 125:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous. The people of God are not to expect immunity from trial because the Lord surrounds them, for they may feel the power and persecution of the ungodly. Isaac, even in Abraham’s family, was mocked by Ishmael. Assyria laid its sceptre even upon Zion itself. The graceless often bear rule and wield the rod; and when they do so they are pretty sure to make it fall heavily upon the Lord’s believing people, so that the godly cry out by reason of their oppressors. Egypt’s rod was exceeding heavy upon Israel, but the time came for it to be broken. God has set a limit to the woes of his chosen: the rod may light on their portion, but it shall not rest upon it. The righteous have a lot which none can take from them, for God has appointed them heirs of it by gracious entail: on that lot the rod of the wicked may fall, but over that lot it cannot have lasting sway. The saints abide for ever, but their troubles will not. Here is a good argument in prayer for all righteous ones who are in the hands of the wicked.
Lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity. The tendency of oppression is to drive the best of men into some hasty deed for self deliverance or vengeance. If the rack be too long used the patient sufferer may at last give way; and therefore the Lord puts a limit to the tyranny of the wicked. He ordained that an Israelite who deserved punishment should not be beaten without measure: forty stripes save one was the appointed limit. We may therefore expect that he will set a bound to the suffering of the innocent, and will not allow them to be pushed to the uttermost extreme. Especially in point of time he will limit the domination of the persecutor, for length adds strength to oppression, and makes it intolerable; hence the Lord himself said of a certain tribulation, “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”
It seems that even righteous men are in peril of sinning in evil days, and that it is not the will of the Lord that they should yield to the stress of the times in order to escape from suffering. The power and influence of wicked men when they are uppermost are used to lead or drive the righteous astray; but the godly must not accept this as an excuse, and yield to the evil pressure; far rather must they resist with all their might till it shall please God to stay the violence of tim persecutor, and give his children rest. This the Lord here promises to do in due time.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. The rod of the wicked. It is, their rod, made for them; if God scourge his children a little with it, he doth but borrow it from tile immediate and natural use for which it was ordained; their rod, their judgment. So it is called their cup: “This is the portion” and potion “of their cup.” Psalms 11:6. —Thomas Adams, in “An Exposition of the Second Epistle of Peter”, 1633.
Ver. 3. For the rod of the wicked, etc. According to Gussetius, this is to be understood of a measuring rod; laid not on persons, but on lands and estates; and best agrees with the lot, inheritance, and estate of the righteous; and may signify that though wicked men unjustly seize upon and retain the farms, possessions, and estates of good men, as if they were assigned to them by the measuring line; yet they shall not hold them long, or always. —John Gill.
Ver. 3. For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous. No tyranny, although it appear firm and stable, is of long continuance: inasmuch as God does not relinquish the sceptre. This is manifest from the example of Pharaoh, of Saul, of Sennacherib, of Herod, and of others. Rightly, therefore, says Athanasius of Julian the Apostate, “That little cloud has quickly passed away.” And how quickly beyond all human expectation the foundations of the ungodly are overthrown is fully declared in Psalms 37:1-40. —Solomon Gesner, 1559-1605.
Ver. 3. Shall not rest, that is to say, “lie heavy”, so as to oppress, as in Isaiah 25:10, with a further sense of continuance of the oppression. —J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 3. Shall not rest, etc. The wrath of man, like water turned upon a mill, shall come on them with no more force than shall be sufficient for accomplishing God’s gracious purposes on their souls: the rest, however menacing its power may be, shall be made to pass off by an opened sluice. Nevertheless the trouble shall be sufficient to try every man and to prove the truth and measure of his integrity. —Charles Simeon (1759-1836), in “Horae Homileticae.”
Ver. 3. The lot of the righteous. There is a fourfold lot belonging to the faithful.
1. The lot of the saints is the sufferings of the saints. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution:” 2 Timothy 3:12.
2. The lot of the saints is also that light and happiness they have in this world. The lot is “fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage:” Psalms 26:6. When David sat at he sheepfold, which was his lot, he was thus prepared for the kingdom of Israel which was given him by lot from God.
3. But more specially faith, grace, and sanctification; which give them just right and title to the inheritance of glory. Heaven is theirs now; though not in possession, yet in succession. They have the earnest of it; let them grow up to stature and perfection, and take it.
4. Lastly, they have the lot of heaven. Hell is the lot of the wicked: “Behold at evening tide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us”: Isa 27:14. Therefore it is said of Judas, that he went “to his own place”: Acts 1:25. “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup”: Psalms 11:6. But the lot of the righteous is faith, and the end of their faith the salvation of their souls. God gives them heaven, not for any foreseen worthiness in the receivers, for no worthiness of our own can make us our father’s heirs; but for his own mercy and favour in Christ, preparing heaven for us, and us for heaven. So that upon his decree it is allotted to us; and unless heaven could lose God, we cannot lose heaven.
Here, then, consider how the lottery of Canaan may shadow out to us that blessed land of promise whereof tile other was a type. —Thomas Adams.
Ver. 3. Lest the righteous out fort their hands unto iniquity. Lest overcome by impatience, or drawn aside by the world’s allurements or affrightments, they should yield and comply with the desires of the wicked, or seek to help themselves out of trouble by sinister practices. God (saith Chrysostom) acts like a lutanist, who will not let the strings of his lute be too slack, lest it mar the music, nor suffer them to be too hard stretched or screwed up, lest they break. —John Trapp, 1601-1669.
Ver. 3. Lest the righteous put forth their hands, etc. The trial is to prove faith, not to endanger it by too sharp a pressure: lest, overcome by this, even the faithful put forth a hand (as in Genesis 3:22), to forbidden pleasure; or (as in Exodus 22:8), to contamination: through force of custom gradually persuading to sinful compliance, or through despair of good, as the Psalmist (see Psalms 37:1-40 and Psalms 73:1-28) describes some in his day who witnessed the prosperity of wicked men. —The Speaker’s Commentary, 1871-1881.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 3. Observe,
1. The Permission implied. The rod of the wicked may come upon the lot of the righteous. Why?
a) That wickedness may be free to manifest itself.
b) That the righteous may be made to hate sin.
c) That the righteousness of God’s retribution may be seen.
d) That the consolations of the righteous may abound. 2 Corinthians 1:5.
2. The Permanency denied: “The rod…shall not rest”, etc. Illustrate by history of Job, Joseph, David, Daniel, Christ, martyrs, etc.
3. The Probity tried and preserved: “Lest the righteous put forth”, etc., by rebelling, sinful compromise, etc.
a) God will have it tried, to prove its worth, beauty, etc.
b) But no more than sufficiently tried. —John Field, of Sevenoaks.
Ver. 3-4.
1. The good defined: “The upright in heart”; such as do not “turn aside”, and are not “workers of iniquity.”
2. The good distressed: by “the rod of the wicked.”
3. The good delivered: “Do good”; fulfil thy promise (Psalms 125:3). —W. H. J. Page.
Psalms 125:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts. Men to be good at all must be good at heart. Those who trust in the Lord are good; for faith is the root of righteousness, and the evidence of uprightness. Faith in God is a good and upright thing, and its influence makes the rest of the man good and upright. To such God will do good: the prayer of the text is but another form of promise, for that which the Lord prompts us to ask he virtually promises to give. Jehovah will take off evil from his people, and in the place thereof will enrich them with all manner of good. When the rod of the wicked is gone his own rod and staff shall comfort us. Meanwhile it is for us to pray that it may be well with all the upright who are now among men. God bless them, and do them good in every possible form. We wish well to those who do well. We are so plagued by the crooked that we would pour benedictions upon the upright.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good. The Midrash here calls to mind a Talmudic riddle: —There came a good one (Moses Exodus 2:2) and received a good thing (the Thra, or Law, Proverbs 4:2) from the good One (God, Psalms 145:9) for the good ones (Israel, Psalms 125:4). —Franz Delitzsch, 1871.
Ver. 4. Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good. A favourite thought with Nehemiah. See Ne 2:8,18 5:19 13:14,31: “Remember me, O my God, for good”, the concluding words of his book. —Christopher Wordsworth, 1872.
Ver. 4. Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good. They consult their own good best, who do most good. I may say these three things of those who do good (and what is serving God but doing of good? or what is doing good but serving God?). First, they shall receive true good. Secondly, they shall for ever hold the best good, the chief good; they shall not only spend their days and years in good; but when their days and years are spent, they shall have good, and a greater good than any they had, in spending the days and years of this life. They shall have good in death, they shall come to a fuller enjoyment of God, the chief good, when they have left and let fall the possession of all earthly goods. Thirdly, they that do good shall find all things working together for their good; if they have a loss they shall receive good by it; if they bear a cross, that cross shall bear good to them. —Joseph Caryl, 1602-1673.
Ver. 4. Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, etc. Perhaps it may not prove unprofitable to enquire, with some minuteness, who are the persons for whom prayer is presented, and who have an interest in the Divine promises. They are brought before us under different denominations. In Psalms 125:1, they are described as trusting in the Lord: in Psalms 125:2, they are described as the Lord’s people: in Psalms 125:3, they are called the righteous: in Psalms 125:4, they are called good and upright in heart: and in Psalms 125:5, they are called Israel. Let us collect these terms together, and endeavour to ascertain from them, what is their true condition and character, for whose security the Divine perfections are pledged. And while a rapid sketch is thus drawn, let each breathe the silent prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked Way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” —N. M’Michael, in “The Pilgrim Psalms”, 1860.
Ver. 4. Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good. Believers are described as “good”. The name is explained by the Spirit as implying the indwelling of the Holy Ghost and of faith. It is proof that no guile is harboured in their hearts. Prayer is made that God would visit them with goodness. This prayer incited by the Spirit amounts to a heavenly promise that they shall receive such honour. —Henry Law, in “Family Devotion”, 1878.
Ver. 4. Them that be good. Oh, brethren, the good in us is God in us. The inwardness makes the outwardness, the godliness the beauty. It is indisputable that it is Christ in us that makes all our Christianity. Oh, Christians who have no Christ in them—such Christians are poor, cheap imitations, and hollow shams—and Christ will, with infinite impatience, even infinite love, fling them away. —Charles Stanord, in a Sermon preached before the Baptist Union, 1876.
Ver. 4. Upright in their hearts. All true excellence has its seat here. It is not the good action which makes the good man: it is the good man who does the good action. The merit of an action depends entirely upon the motives which have prompted its performance; and, tried by this simple test, how many deeds, which have wrung from the world its admiration and its glory, might well be described in old words, as nothing better than splendid sins. When the heart is wrong, all is wrong. When the heart is right, all is right. —N. M’Michael.
Ver. 4. Upright. Literally, straight, straightforward, as opposed to all moral obliquity whatever. —Joseph Addison Alexander (1809-1860), in “The Psalms Translated and Explained.”
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 4.
1. What it is to be good.
2. What it is for God to do us good.
Psalms 125:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. Two kinds of men are always to be found, the upright and the men of crooked ways. Alas, there are some who pass from one class to another, not by a happy conversion, turning from the twisting lanes of deceit into the highway of truth, but by an unhappy declension leaving the main road of honesty and holiness for the bypaths of wickedness. Such apostates have been seen in all ages, and David knew enough of them; he could never forget Saul, and Ahithophel, and others. How sad that men who once walked in the right way should turn aside from it! Observe the course of the false hearted: first, they look out for crooked ways; next, they choose them and make them “their crooked ways”; and then they turn aside into them. They never intend to go back unto perdition, but only to make a curve and drop into the right road again. The straight way becomes a little difficult, and so they make a circumbendibus, which all along aims at coming out right, though it may a little deviate from precision. These people are neither upright in heart, nor good, nor trusters in Jehovah, and therefore the Lord will deal otherwise with them than with his own people: when execution day comes these hypocrites and time servers shall be led out to the same gallows as the openly wicked. All sin will one day be expelled the universe, even as criminals condemned to die are led out of the city; then shall secret traitors find themselves ejected with open rebels. Divine truth will unveil their hidden pursuits, and lead them forth, and to the surprise of many they shall be set in the same rank with those who avowedly wrought iniquity.
But peace shall be upon Israel. In fact the execution of the deceivers shall tend to give the true Israel peace. When God is smiting the unfaithful not a blow shall fall upon the faithful. The chosen of the Lord shall not only be like Salem, but they shall have salem, or peace. Like a prince, Israel has prevailed with God, and therefore he need not fear the face of man; his wrestlings are over, the blessing of peace has been pronounced upon him. He who has peace with God may enjoy peace concerning all things. Bind the first and last verses together: Israel trusts in the Lord Psalms 125:1, and Israel has peace Psalms 125:5.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5. Such as turn aside unto their crooked ways. This is the anxiety of the pastor in this pilgrim song. The shepherd would keep his sheep from straggling. His distress is that all in Israel are not true Israelites. Two sorts of people, described by the poet, have ever been in the church. The second class, instead of being at the trouble to “withstand in the evil day”, will “put forth their hands unto iniquity”. Rather than feel, they will follow the rod of the wicked. They will “turn aside unto their crooked ways”, sooner than risk temporal and material interests. —Edward Jewitt Robinson, in “The Caravan and the Temple”, 1878.
Ver. 5. Such as turn aside unto their crooked ways. All the ways of sin are called “crooked ways”, and they are our own ways. The Psalmist calls them “their crooked ways”; that is, the ways of their own devising; whereas the way of holiness is the Lord’s way. To exceed or do more; to be deficient or do less, than God requires, both these are “crooked ways”. The way of the Lord lies straight forward, right before us. “Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved; but he that is perverse (or crooked) in his ways shall fall at once”: Proverbs 28:18. The motion of a godly man is like that of the kine that carried the ark: “Who took the straight way to the way of Bethshemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left”: 1 Samuel 6:12. —Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 5. Crooked ways. The ways of sinners are “crooked”; they shift from one pursuit to another, and turn hither and thither to deceive; they wind about a thousand ways to conceal their base intentions, to accomplish their iniquitous projects, or to escape the punishment of their crimes; yet disappointment, detection, confusion, and misery, are their inevitable portion. —Thomas Scott, 1747-1821.
Ver. 5. The LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. They walked according to the prince of the air, and they shall go where the prince of the air is. God will bring forth men from their hiding places. Though they walk among the drove of his children, in procession now, yet if they also walk in by lanes of sin, God will rank them at the latter day, yea, often in this world, with the workers of iniquity. They walk after workers of iniquity here before God, and God will make manifest that it is so before he hath done with them. The reason, my brethren, why they are to be reckoned among workers of iniquity, and as walkers among them, though they sever themselves from them in respect of external conversation, is, because they agree in the same internal principle of sin. They walk in their lusts: every unregenerate man doth so. Refine him how you will, it is certain he doth in heart pursue “crooked ways.” —Thomas Goodwin, 1600-1679.
Ver. 5. Sometimes God takes away a barren professor by permitting him to fall into open profaneness. There is one that hath taken up a profession of the worthy name of the Lord Jesus Christ, but this profession is only a cloak; he secretly practises wickedness; he is a glutton, or a drunkard, or covetous, or unclean. Well, saith God, I will loose the reins of this professor, I will give him up to his vile affections. I will loose the reins of his sins before him, he shall be entangled with his filthy lusts, he shall be overcome of ungodly company. Thus they that turn aside to their own crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. —John Bunyan, 1628-1688.
Ver. 5. But peace shall be upon Israel. Do you ask, What is the peace upon Israel? I answer: —First, the peace of Israel, that is, of a believing and holy soul, is from above, and is higher than all the disturbances of the world; it rests upon him, and makes him calm and peaceful, and lifts him above the world: for upon him rests the Holy Spirit, who is the Comforter; who is essential love and uncreated peace. Secondly, the peace of a believing and holy soul is internal for it is sent down from heaven upon his head, flows into his heart, and dwells there, and stills all agitations of mind. Thirdly, the peace of a believing and holy soul, is also external. It is a fountain of Paradise watering all the face of the earth: Genesis 2:6 : you see it in the man’s face and life. Fourthly, the peace of a believing and holy soul is divine: for chiefly, it maintains peace with God. Fifthly, the peace of a believing and holy soul is universal:to wit, with neighbours, with God, with himself: in the body, in the eyes, in the cars, in tasting, smelling, feeling, in all the members, and in all the appetites. This peace is not disturbed by devils, the world, and the flesh, setting forth their honours, riches, pleasures. Sixthly, the peace of a believing and holy soul is peace eternal and never interrupted; for it flows from an eternal and exhaustless fountain, even from God himself. —Condensed from Le Blanc, 1599-1669.
Ver. 5. Israel. The Israelites derived their joint names from the two chief parts of religion: Israelites, from Israel, whose prayer was his “strength” (Hosea 12:3), and Jews, from Judah, whose name means “praise.” —George Seaton Bowes, in “Illustrative Gatherings”, 1869.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 5. Temporary Professors.
1. The crucial test: “They turn aside.”
2. The crooked policy: they make crooked ways their own.
3. The crushing doom: “led forth with workers of iniquity.”
Ver. 5. Hypocrites.
1. Their ways: “crooked.”
a) Like the way of a winding stream, seeking out the fair level, or the easy descent.
b) Like the course of a tacking ship, which skilfully makes every wind to drive her forward.
c) Ways constructed upon no principle but that of pure selfishness.
2. Their conduct under trial. They “turn aside.”
a) From their religious profession.
b) From their former companions.
c) To become the worst scorners of spiritual things, and the most violent calumniators of spiritually minded men.
3. Their doom: “The Lord shall”, etc.
a) In the judgment they shall be classed with the most flagrant of sinners; “with the workers of iniquity.”
b) They shall be exposed by an irresistible power: “The Lord shall lead them forth.”
c) They shall meet with terrible execution with the wicked in hell. —J. Field.
Ver. 5. (last clause). To whom peace belongs. To “Israel”; the chosen, the once wrestler, the now prevailing prince. Consider Jacob’s life after he obtained the name of Israel; note his trials, and his security under them as illustrating this text. Then take the text as a sure promise.
Ver. 5. (last clause). Enquire,
1. Who are the Israel?
a) Converted ones.
b) Circumcised in heart.
c) True worshippers.
2. What is the peace?
a) Peace of conscience.
b) Of friendship with God.
c) Of a settled and satisfied heart.
d) Of eternal glory, in reversion.
3. Why the certainty (“shall be”)?
a) Christ has made peace for them.
b) The Holy Spirit brings peace to them.
c) They walk in the way of peace.
—J. Field.
WORK UPON THE 125 PSALM.
For lists of Works upon the Psalms of Degrees, see note for Psalms 120:1-7.

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Psalm 124

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Verses 1-8
TITLE. —A Song of degrees of David. Of course the superfine critics have pounced upon this title as inaccurate, but we are at liberty to believe as much or as little of their assertions as we may please. They declare that there are certain ornaments of language in this little ode which were unknown in the Davidic period. It may be so; but in their superlative wisdom they have ventured upon so many other questionable statements that we are not bound to receive this dictum. Assuredly the manner of the song is very like to David’s, and we are unable to see why he should be excluded from the authorship. Whether it be his composition or no, it breathes the same spirit as that which animates the unchallenged songs of the royal composer.
DIVISION. —This short Psalm contains an acknowledgement of favour received by way of special deliverance (1-5), then a grateful act of worship in blessing Jehovah (6, 7), and, lastly, a declaration of confidence in the Lord for all future time of trial. May our experience lead us to the same conclusion as the saints of David’s time. From all confidence in man may we be rescued by a holy reliance upon our God.
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 1. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say. The opening sentence is abrupt, and remains a fragment. By such a commencement attention was aroused as well as feeling expressed: and this is ever the way of poetic fire—to break forth in uncontrollable flame. The many words in italics in our authorized version will show the reader that the translators did their best to patch up the passage, which, perhaps, had better have been left in its broken grandeur, and it would then have run thus: —
“Had it not been Jehovah! He was for us, oh let Israel say! Had it not been Jehovah! He who was for us when men rose against us.”
The glorious Lord became our ally; he took our part, and entered into treaty with us. If Jehovah were not our protector where should we be Nothing but his power and wisdom could have guarded us from the cunning and malice of our adversaries; therefore, let all his people say so, and openly give him the honour of his preserving goodness. Here are two “ifs, “and yet there is no “if” in the matter. The Lord was on our side, and is still our defender, and will be so from henceforth, even for ever. Let us with holy confidence exult in this joyful fact: We are far too slow in declaring our gratitude, hence the exclamation which should be rendered, “O let Israel say.” We murmur without being stirred up to it, but our thanksgiving needs a spur, and it is well when some warm hearted friend bids us say what we feel. Imagine what would have happened if the Lord had left us, and then see what has happened because he has been faithful to us. Are not all the materials of a song spread before us? Let us sing unto the Lord.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Title. —The title informs us that this sacred march was composed by king David; and we learn very clearly from the subject, that the progression referred to was the triumphant return of the king and his loyal army to Jerusalem, upon the overthrow of the dangerous rebellion to which the great mass of the people had been excited by Absalom and his powerful band of confederates. —John Mason Good.
Whole Psalm. —This psalm is ascribed to David. No reference is made to any specific danger and deliverance. There is a delightful universality in the language, which suits it admirably for an anthem of the redeemed, in every age and in every clime. The people of God still live in a hostile territory. Traitors are in the camp, and there are numerous foes without. And the church would soon be exterminated, if the malice and might of her adversaries were not restrained and defeated by a higher power. Hence this ode of praise has never become obsolete. How frequently have its strains of adoring gratitude floated on the breeze! What land is there, in which its outbursting gladness has not been heard! It has been sung upon the banks of the Jordan and the Nile, the Euphrates and the Tigris. It has been sung upon the banks of the Tiber and the Rhine, the Thames and the Forth. It has been sung upon the banks of the Ganges and the Indus, the Mississippi and the Irrawady. And we anticipate a period when the church, surmounting all her difficulties, and victory waving over her banners, shall sing this psalm of praise in every island and continent of our globe. The year of God’s redeemed must come. The salvation of Christ shall extend to the utmost extremities of earth. And when this final emancipation takes place, the nations will shout for joy, and praise their Deliverer in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. —N. McMichael.
Whole Psalm. —In the year 1582, this psalm was sung on a remarkable occasion in Edinburgh. An imprisoned minister, John Durie, had been set free, and was met and welcomed on entering the town by two hundred of his friends. The number increased till he found himself in the midst of a company of two thousand, who began to sing as they moved up the long High Street, “Now Israel may say, “etc. They sang in four parts with deep solemnity, all joining in the well known tune and psalm. They were much moved themselves, and so were all who heard; and one of the chief persecutors is said to have been more alarmed at this sight and song than at anything he had seen in Scotland. —Andrew A. Bonar, in “Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms”, 1859.
Ver. 1. —The Lord…on our side. Jehovah is on the side of his people in a spiritual sense, or otherwise it would be bad for them. God the Father is on their side; his love and relation to them engage him to be so; hence all those good things that are provided for them and bestowed on them; nor will he suffer any to do them hurt, they being as dear to him as the apple of his eye; hence he grants them his gracious presence, supports them under all their trials and exercises, supplies all their wants, and keeps them by his power, and preserves them from all their enemies; so that they have nothing to fear from any quarter. Christ is on their side; he is the Surety for them, the Saviour of them; has taken their part against all their spiritual enemies, sin, Satan, the world, and death; has engaged with them and conquered them: he is the Captain of their salvation, their King at the head of them, that protects and defends them here, and is their friend in the court of heaven; their Advocate and interceding High priest there, who pleads their cause against Satan, and obtains every blessing for them. The Spirit of Jehovah is on their side, to carry on his work in them; to assist them in their prayers and supplications; to secure them from Satan’s temptations; to set up a standard for them when the enemy comes in like a flood upon them; and to comfort them in all their castings down; and to work them up for, and bring them safe to heaven: but were this not the case, what would become of them! —John Gill.
Ver. 1. —Israel. The “Israel” spoken of in this psalm may be Israel in the house of Laban, in whose person the Midrash Tehillim imagines the Psalm to be said. There are certainly some of its phrases which acquire an appropriate meaning from being interpreted in this connection. —H.T. Armfield.
Ver. 1-4. —Such abrupt and unfinished expressions in the beginning of the psalm indicate the great joy and exultation that will not suffer the speaker to finish his sentences. —Robert Bellarmine.
Ver. 1-2. —The somewhat paraphrastic rendering of these verses (with the unnecessary interpolation of the words in italics in the Authorised Version) greatly weaken their force and obscure their meaning. There is far more meant and expressed than simply that God gave the Israelites the victory over their enemies. The psalm is typico prophetic. It sets forth the condition of the church in this world, surrounded by enemies, implacable in their hatred, maddened by rage, and bent on her destruction. It gives assurance of her preservation, and continuous triumph, because Jehovah is her God. It foretells the future, full, and final destruction of all her enemies. It reechoes the song sung on the shores of the Red Sea. In it are heard the notes of the New Song before the great white throne. The praise and thanksgiving are to hwhy, the revealed oyhla, whose “eternal power and Godhead are understood by the things that are made:” —to, hwhy, the revealed ydvla, whom the fathers knew as the Almighty, from the great things which he did for them: —to hwhy, the God who has made a covenant with his people, the Redeemer. It is ladvy, the chosen people of God, the holy nation, the peculiar treasure to him above all peoples, and thus become, as the Rabbins say, “Odium generis gumant, “against whom oda (not men, but man collectively) rose up and sought to destroy. It is ladvy, God’s chosen, the people of the covenant, that with the full delight of a personal “my, “joy in God and sings, “But that Jehovah, was zgl, ours!” Tame and frigid is the rendering—”was on our side.” Jehovah was theirs; that, their safety: that, their blessedness: that, their joy. —Edward Thomas Gibson, 1818-1880.
Ver. 1,2. —
1. God was on our side; he took our part, espoused our cause, and appeared for us. He was our helper, and a very present help, a help on our side, nigh at hand. He was with us; not only for us, but among us, and commander-in-chief of our forces.
2. That God was Jehovah; there the emphasis lies. If it had not been Jehovah himself, a God of infinite power and perfection, that had undertaken our deliverance, our enemies would have overpowered us. Happy the people therefore whose God is Jehovah, a God all sufficient. Let Israel say this to his honour, and resolve never to forsake him.
—Matthew Henry.
Ver. 1,2,8. —These three things will I bear on my heart, O Lord: “The Lord was on our side, “this for the past: “The snare is broken, ” for the present; “Our help is in the name of the Lord, “this for the future. I will not and I cannot be fainthearted, whether in my contest with Satan, in my intercourse with the world, or in the upheavings of my wicked heart, so long as I hold this “threefold cord” in my hand, or rather, am held by it. —Alfred Edersheim.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 1. —The LORD who was on our side. Who is he? Why on our side? How does he prove it? What are we bound to do?
Ver. 1-3. —Regard the text,
1. From the life of Jacob or Israel.
2. From the history of the nation.
3. From the annals of the church.
4. From our personal biography.
Ver. 1-5. —
1. What might have been.
2. Why it has not been.
Ver. 1-5. —
1. What the people of God would have been if the Lord had not been on their side.
(a) What if left to their enemies? Psalms 124:2-3.
Israel left to Pharaoh and his host in the time of
Moses: left to the Caananites in the time of Joshua:
to the Midianites in the time of Gideon: Judah to
the Assyrians in the time of Hezekiah: “Then they
had swallowed us up, “etc.
(b) What if left to themselves? “The stream had gone
over our soul”: Psalms 124:4-5.
2. What the people of God are with the Lord on their side.
(a) All the designs of their enemies against them are
frustrated.
(b) Their inward sorrow is turned into joy.
(c) Both their inward and then outward troubles work
together for their good.
—G. R.
Psalms 124:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us. When all men combined, and the whole race of men seemed set upon stamping out the house of Israel, what must have happened if the covenant Lord had not interposed? When they stirred themselves, and combined to make an assault upon our quietude and safety, what should we have done in their rising if the Lord had not also risen? No one who could or would help was near, but the bare arm of the Lord sufficed to preserve his own against all the leagued hosts of adversaries. There is no doubt as to our deliverer, we cannot ascribe our salvation to any second cause, for it would not have been equal to the emergency; nothing less than omnipotence and omniscience could have wrought our rescue. We set every other claimant on one side, and rejoice because the Lord was on our side.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. —If it had not been the LORD, etc. This repetition is not in vain. For whilst we are in danger, our fear is without measure; but when it is once past, we imagine it to have been less than it was indeed. And this is the delusion of Satan to diminish and obscure the grace of God. David therefore with this repetition stirreth up the people to more thankfulness unto God for his gracious deliverance, and amplifies the dangers which they had passed. Whereby we are taught how to think of our troubles and afflictions past, lest the sense and feeling of God’s grace vanish out of our minds. —Martin Luther.
Ver. 2. —Men rose up against us. It may seem strange that these wicked and wretched enemies, monsters rather than men, should be thus moderately spoken of, and have no other name than this of men given them, which of all others they least deserved, as having in them nothing of man but outward show and shape, being rather beasts, yea, devils in the form and fashion of men, than right men. But hereby the church would show that she did leave the further censuring of them unto God their righteous Judge; and would also further amplify their wickedness, who being men, did yet in their desires and dispositions bewray a more than beastly immanity and inhumanity. —Daniel Dyke (—1614?) in “Comfortable Sermons upon the 124th Psalme, “1617.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 2,3. —
1. To swallow us alive—the desire of our wrathful enemies.
2. To save us alive—the work of our faithful God.
Psalms 124:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us. They were so eager for our destruction that they would have made only one morsel of us, and have swallowed us up alive and whole in a single instant. The fury of the enemies of the church is raised to the highest pitch, nothing will content them but the total annihilation of God’s chosen. Their wrath is like a fire which is kindled, and has taken such firm hold upon the fuel that there is no quenching it. Anger is never more fiery than when the people of God are its objects. Sparks become flames, and the furnace is heated seven times hotter when God’s elect are to be thrust into the blaze. The cruel world would make a full end of the godly seed were it not that Jehovah bars the way. When the Lord appears, the cruel throats cannot swallow, and the consuming fires cannot destroy. Ah, if it were not Jehovah, if our help came from all the creatures united, there would be no way of escape for us: it is only because the Lord liveth that his people are alive.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. —Then they had swallowed us up quick. The metaphor may be taken from famished wild beasts attacking and devouring men (comp.
v. 5); or the reference may be to the case of a man shut up alive in a sepulchre (Proverbs 1:12) and left there to perish, or (Nu 16:80) swallowed up by an earthquake. —Daniel Cresswell.
Ver. 3.—Then they had swallowed us up. The word implies eating with insatiable appetite; every man that eateth must also swallow; but a glutton is rather a swallower than an eater. He throws his meat whole down his throat, and eats (as we may say) without chewing. The rod of Moses, turned into a serpent, “swallowed up” the rods of the Egyptian sorcerers. The word is often applied to express oppression (Psalms 35:25): “Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it: let them not say, We have swallowed him up”: that is, we have made clear riddance of him; he is now a gone man for ever. The ravenous rage of the adversary is described in this language. —Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 3. —Quick. Not an adverb, “quickly, “but an adjective, alive. As greedy monsters, both of the land and of the deep, sometimes swallow their food before the life is out of it, so would the enemies of the Church have destroyed her as in a moment, but for divine interposition. —William S. Plumer.
Ver. 3. —Objection. But what may the reason thereof be? May a man say, that thus the godly shall always prevail and be never overthrown by their enemies, but overcome them rather? Experience doth teach us that they are fewer in number than the wicked are, that they are weaker for power and strength, that they are more simple for wit and policy, and that they are more careless for, diligence and watchfulness than their adversaries be: how, then, comes it to pass that they have the upper hand?
Answer. The Prophet Ezra doth declare it unto us in the 8th chapter of his prophecy, and the 10th verse thereof, it is in few words “because the Lord is with them and for them.”
For, first, he is stronger than all, being able to resist all power that is devised against him and his, and to do whatsoever he will both in heaven and earth.
2. He is wiser than all, knowing how to prevent them in all their ways, and also how to bring matters to pass for the good of his people.
3. He is more diligent than all, to stand, as it were, upon the watch, and to take his advantage when it is offered him, for “He that keepeth Israel doth neither slumber nor sleep.”
4. Lastly, he is happier then all to have good success in all his enterprises, for he doth prosper still in all things which he doth take in hand and none can resist a thought of his; yea, the very “word which goeth out of his mouth doth accomplish that which he wills, and prosper in the thing where unto he doth send it.” In war, all these four things are respected in a captain that will still overcome: first, that he be strong; secondly, that he be wise; thirdly, that he be diligent; and, lastly, that he be fortunate; for the victory goeth not always with the strong, nor always with the wise, nor always with the diligent, nor always with the fortunate; but sometimes with the one of them, and sometimes with the other: Out look, where all four do concur together there is always the victory, and therefore seeing all of them are in God, it is no marvel though those whose battles he doth fight, do always overcome and get the victory. —Thomas Stint, 1621.
Psalms 124:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. Then the waters had overwhelmed us. Rising irresistibly, like the Nile, the flood of opposition would soon have rolled over our heads. Across the mighty waste of waters we should have cast an anxious eye, but looked in vain for escape. The motto of a royal house is, “Tossed about but not submerged”: we should have needed an epitaph rather than an epigram, for we should have been driven by the torrent and sunken, never to rise again.
The stream had gone over our soul. The rushing torrent would have drowned our soul, our hope, our life. The figures seem to be the steadily rising flood, and the hurriedly rushing stream. Who can stand against two such mighty powers? Everything is destroyed by these unconquerable forces, either by being submerged or swept away. When the world’s enmity obtains a vent it both rises and rushes, it rages and rolls along, and spares nothing. In the great water floods of persecution and affliction who can help but Jehovah? But for him where would we be at this very hour? We have experienced seasons in which the combined forces of earth and hell must have made an end of us had not omnipotent grace interfered for our rescue.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4,5. —A familiar, but exceedingly apt and most significant figure. Horrible is the sight of a raging conflagration; but far more destructive is a river overflowing its banks and rushing violently on: for it is not possible to restrain it by any strength or power. As, then, he says, a river is carried along with great impetuosity, and carries away and destroys whatever it meets with in its course; thus also is the rage of the enemies of the church, not to be withstood by human strength. Hence, we should learn to avail ourselves of the protection and help of God. For what else is the church but a little boat fastened to the bank, which is carried away by the force of the waters? or a shrub growing on the bank, which without effort the flood roots up? Such was the people of Israel in the days of David compared with the surrounding nations. Such in the present day is the church compared with her enemies. Such is each one of us compared with the power of the malignant spirit. We are as a little shrub, of recent growth and having no firm hold: but he is like the Elbe, overflowing, and with great force overthrowing all things far and wide. We are like a withered leaf, lightly holding to the tree; he is like the north wind, with great force rooting up and throwing down the trees. How, then, can we withstand or defend ourselves by out’ own power? —Martin Luther.
Ver. 4,5. —First the “waters”; then “the stream” or torrent; then “the proud waters, “lifting up their heads on high. First the waters overwhelm us; then the torrent goes over our soul; and then the proud waters go over our soul. What power can resist the rapid floods of waters, when they overspread their boundaries, and rush over a country? Onward they sweep with resistless force, and men and cattle, and crops and houses, are destroyed. Let the impetuous waters break loose, and, in a few minutes, the scene of life, and industry, and happiness, is made a scene of desolation and woe. Perhaps there is an allusion here to the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. The floods fell upon them, the depths covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. Had God not stretched forth his hand to rescue the Israelites, their enemies would have overwhelmed them. Happy they who, in seasons of danger, have Jehovah for a hiding place. —N. McMichael.
Psalms 124:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. Then the proud waters had gone over our soul. The figure represents the waves as proud, and so they seem to be when they overleap the bulwarks of a frail bark, and threaten every moment to sink her. The opposition of men is usually embittered by a haughty scorn which derides all our godly efforts as mere fanaticism or obstinate ignorance. In all the persecutions of the church a cruel contempt has largely mingled with the oppression, and this is overpowering to the soul. Had not God been with us our disdainful enemies would have made nothing of us, and dashed over us as a mountain torrent sweeps down the side of a hill, driving everything before it. Not only would our goods and possessions have been carried off, but our soul, our courage, our hope would have been borne away by the impetuous assault, and buried beneath the insults of our antagonists. Let us pause here, and as we see what might have been, let us adore the guardian power which has kept us in the flood, and yet above the flood. In our hours of dire peril we must have perished had not our Preserver prevailed for our safe keeping.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5. —Then the proud waters had gone over our soul. The same again, to note the greatness both of the danger and of the deliverance. And it may teach us not lightly to pass over God’s great blessings, but to make the most of them. —John Trapp.
Ver. 5. —
“When winds and seas do rage,
And threaten to undo? me,
Thou dost their wrath assuage,
If I but call unto thee.
A mighty storm last night
Did seek my soul to swallow;
But by the peep of light
A gentle calm did follow.
What need I then despair
Though ills stand round about me;
Since mischiefs neither dare
To bark or bite without thee?”
—Robert Herrick, 1591-1674.
Psalms 124:6*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 6. Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Leaving the metaphor of a boiling flood, he compares the adversaries of Israel to wild beasts who desired to make the godly their prey. Their teeth are prepared to tear, and they regard the godly as their victims. The Lord is heartily praised for not permitting his servants to be devoured when they were between the jaws of the raging ones. It implies that none can harm us till the Lord permits: we cannot be their prey unless the Lord gives us up to them, and that our loving Lord will never do. Hitherto he has refused permission to any foe to destroy us, blessed be his name. The more imminent the danger the more eminent the mercy which would not permit the soul to perish in it. God be blessed for ever for keeping us from the curse. Jehovah be praised for checking the fury of the foe, and saving his own. The verse reads like a merely negative blessing, but no boon can be more positively precious. He has given us to his Son Jesus, and he will never give us to our enemies.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6,7. —Two figures are again employed, in order to show how imminent was the destruction, had there been no divine interposition. The first is that of a savage beast which was formerly used. But an addition is made, to describe the urgency of the danger. The wild beast was not only lying in wait for them; he was not merely ready to spring upon his prey; he had already leaped upon it: he had actually seized it: it was even now between his teeth. What a graphic description! A moment’s delay, and all help would have been in vain. But Jehovah appears on the ground. He goes up to the ferocious beast, and takes out the trembling prey from between his bloody jaws. The danger is imminent; but nothing is too hard for the Lord. “My soul is among lions.” “What time I am afraid I will trust in thee.” “He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up.” The second figure is that of a fowler. The fowler has prepared his snare in a skilful manner. The bird enters it, unconscious of danger: the net is thrown over it; and in an instant its liberty is lost. There it lies, the poor bird, its little heart throbbing wildly, and its little wings beating vainly against the net. It is completely at the mercy of the fowler, and escape is impossible. But again the Lord appears, and his presence is safety He goes up to the net, lifts it from the ground; the bird flies out, lights on a neighbouring tree, and sings among the branches. “Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler.” God rescues his people from the craft and subtlety of their enemies, as he does from their open violence. —N. McMichael.
Ver. 6,7. —We were delivered,
1. Like a lamb out of the very jaws of a beast of prey: God “hath not given us as a prey to their teeth”; intimating that they had no power against God’s people, but what was given them from above. They could not be a prey to their teeth unless God gave them up, and therefore they were rescued, because God would not suffer them to be ruined.
2. Like “a bird, “a little bird, the word signifies a sparrow, “out of the snare of the fowler.” The enemies are very subtle and spiteful, they lay snares for God’s people, to bring them into sin and trouble, and to hold them there. Sometimes they seem to have prevailed so far as to gain their point, the children of God are taken in the snare, and are as unable to help themselves out as any weak and silly bird is; and then is God’s time to appear for their relief; when all other friends fail, then God breaks the snare, and turns the counsel of the enemies into foolishness: “The snare is broken, and so we are delivered.” —Matthew Henry.
HINTS TO PREACHERS
Ver. 6. —
1. The Lamb.
2. The Lion.
3. The Lord.
Ver. 6. —
1. They would gladly devour us.
2. They cannot devour unless the Lord will.
3. God is to be praised since he does not permit them to injure us.
Ver. 6. —
1. The ill will of men against the righteous.
(a) For their spoliation.
(b) For their destruction: “As a prey to their teeth.”
2. The goodwill of God. “Blessed be the Lord, “etc.
(a) What it supposes—that good men, in a measure and
for a time, may be given into the hands of the
wicked.
(b) What it affirms—that they are not given entirely
into their hands:
—G.R.
Psalms 124:7*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 7. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers. Our soul is like a bird for many reasons; but in this case the point of likeness is weakness, folly, and the ease with which it is enticed into the snare. Fowlers have many methods of taking small birds, and Satan has many methods of entrapping souls. Some are decoyed by evil companions, others are enticed by the love of dainties; hunger drives many into the trap, and fright impels numbers to fly into the net. Fowlers know their birds, and how to take them; but the birds see not the snare so as to avoid it, and they cannot break it so as to escape from it. Happy is the bird that hath a deliverer strong, and mighty, and ready in the moment of peril: happier still is the soul over which tim Lord watches day and night to pluck its feet out of the net. What joy there is in this song, “our soul is escaped.” How the emancipated one sings and soars, and soars and sings again. Blessed be God, many of us can make joyous music with these notes, “our soul is escaped.” Escaped from our natural slavery; escaped from the guilt, the degradation, the habit, the dominion of sin; escaped from the vain deceits and fascinations of Satan; escaped from all that can destroy; we do indeed experience delight. What a wonder of grace it is! What a miraculous escape that we who are so easily misled should not have been permitted to die by the dread fowler’s hand. The Lord has heard the prayer which he taught us to pray, and he hath delivered us from evil.
The snare is broken, and we are escaped. The song is worth repeating; it is well to dwell upon so great a mercy. The snare may be false doctrine, pride, lust, or a temptation to indulge in policy, or to despair, or to presume; what a high favour it is to have it broken before our eyes, so that it has no more power over us. We see not the mercy while we are in the snare; perhaps we are so foolish as to deplore the breaking of the Satanic charm; the gratitude comes when the escape is seen, and when we perceive what we have escaped from, and by what hand we have been set free. Then our Lord has a song from our mouths and hearts as we make heaven and earth ring with the notes, “the snare is broken, and we are escaped.” We have been tempted, but not taken; cast down, but not destroyed; perplexed, but not in despair; in deaths oft, but still alive: blessed be Jehovah!
This song might well have suited our whole nation at the time of the Spanish Armada, the church in the days of the Jesuits, and each believer among us in seasons of strong personal temptation.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 7. —Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers, etc. Various snares are placed for birds, by traps, birdlime, guns, etc.: who can enumerate all the dangers of the godly, threatening them from Satan, and from the world? Psalms 91:3 : Hosea 5:1. —”We are delivered, “not by our own skill or cunning, but by the grace and power of God only: so that every device is made vain, and freedom is preserved. —Martin Geier.
Ver. 7. —Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers, etc. I am quite sure that there is not a day of our lives in which Satan does not lay some snare for our souls, the more perilous because unseen; and if seen, because perhaps unheeded and despised. And of this, too, I am equally sure, that if any one brings home with him at night a conscience void of offence towards God and man, it is in no might nor strength of his own, and that if the Lord had not been his guide and preserver he would have been given over, nay, he would have given himself over, as a prey to the devourer’s teeth. I believe there are few even of God’s saints who have not had occasion, in some season of sore temptation, when Satan has let loose all his malice and might, and poured in suggestion upon suggestion and trial upon trial, as he did on Job, and they have been ready to faint, if not to fall by the ways then, perhaps, in a moment when they looked not for it, Satan has departed, foiled and discomfited, and with his prey snatched out of his hands, and they, too, have had gratefully to own, “Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers; tie snare is broken, and we are escaped.” Yes! depend upon it, our best and only hope, “is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” —Barton Bouchier.
Ver. 7. —Our soul is escaped as a bird. The snare of the fowler was the lime-twigs of this world; our soul was caught in them by the feathers, our affections: now, indeed, we are escaped; but the Lord delivered us. —Thomas Adams.
Ver. 7. —As a bird out of the snare of the fowlers. The soul is surrounded by many dangers.
1. It is ensnared by worldliness. One of the most gigantic dangers against which God’s people have specially to guard—an enemy to all spirituality of thought and feeling.
2. It is ensnared by selfishness—a foe to all simple-hearted charity, to all expansive generosity and Christian philanthropy.
3. It is ensnared by unbelief—the enemy of prayer, of ingenuous confidence, of all personal Christian effort. These are not imaginary dangers. We meet them in everyday life. They threaten us at every point, and often have we to lament over the havoc they make in our hearts. —George Barlow, in a “Homiletic Commentary on the Book of Psalms, “1879.
Ver. 7. —The snare is broken. It is as easy for God to deliver his people out of their enemies’ hands, even when they have the godly in their power, as to break a net made of thread or yarn, wherewith birds are taken. —David Dickson.
Ver. 7. —The snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our life lieth open always to the snares of Satan, and we as silly birds are like at every moment to be carried away, notwithstanding the Lord maketh a way for us to escape; yea, when Satan seemeth to be most sure of us, by the mighty power of God the snares are broken and we are delivered. Experience we have hereof in those who are inwardly afflicted and with heaviness of spirit grievously oppressed, that when they seem to be in utter despair, and ready now, as you would say, to perish, yet even at the last pinch, and in the uttermost extremity cometh the sweet comfort of God’s Holy Spirit and raiseth them up again. When we are most ready to perish, then is God most ready to help. “Except the Lord had holpen me, “saith David, “my soul had almost dwelt in silence.” And this again do we mark for the comfort of the weak conscience. It is Satan’s subtlety whereby commonly he disquiets many, that because carnal corruption is in them he would therefore bear them in hand that they are none of Christ’s. In this he plays the deceiver; he tries us by the wrong rule of perfect sanctification; this is the square that ought to be laid to Christ’s members triumphant in heaven, and not to those who are militant on earth. Sin remaining in me will not prove that therefore I am not in Christ, otherwise Christ should have no members upon earth; but grace working that new disposition which nature could never effect proves undoubtedly that we are in Christ Jesus. —Thomas Stint.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 7. —
1. The soul ensnared.
(a) By whom? Wicked men are fowlers. By Satan.
“Satan, the fowler, who betrays
Unguarded souls a thousand ways.”
(b) How? By temptations—to pride, worldliness,
drunkenness, error, or lust, according to the tastes
and habits of the individual.
2. The soul escaped: “Our soul is escaped, “etc. “The snare is broken, “not by ourselves, but by the hand of God.
—G.R.
Ver. 7. —
1. A bird.
2. A snare.
3. A capture.
4. An escape.
Psalms 124:8*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 8. Our help, our hope for the future, our ground of confidence in all trials present and to come.
Is in the name of the Lord. Jehovah’s revealed character is our foundation of confidence, his person is our sure fountain of strength.
Who made heaven and earth. Our Creator is our preserver. He is immensely great in his creating work; he has not fashioned a few little things alone, but all heaven and the whole round earth are the works of his hands. When we worship the Creator let us increase our trust in our Comforter. Did he create all that we see, and can he not preserve us from evils which we cannot see Blessed be his name, he that has fashioned us will watch over us; yea, he has done so, and rendered us help in the moment of jeopardy. He is our help and our shield, even he alone. He will to the end break every snare. He made heaven for us, and he will keep us for heaven; he made the earth, and he will succour us ripen it until the hour cometh for our departure. Every work of his hand preaches to us the duty and the delight of reposing upon him only. All nature cries, “Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah there is everlasting strength.” “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
The following versification of the sense rather than the words of this psalm is presented to the reader with much diffidence: —
Had not the Lord, my soul may cry,
Had not the Lord been on my bide;
Had he not brought deliverance nigh,
Then must my helpless soul have died.
Had not the Lord been on my side,
My soul had been by Satan slain;
And Tophet, opening large and wide,
Would not have gaped for me in vain.
Lo, floods of wrath, and floods of hell,
In fierce impetuous torrents roll;
Had not the Lord defended well,
The waters had o’erwhelm’d my soul.
As when the fowler’s snare is broke,
The bird escapes on cheerful wings;
My soul, set free from Satan’s yoke,
With joy bursts forth, and mounts, and sings.
She sings the Lord her Saviour’s praise;
Sings forth his praise with joy and mirth;
To him her song in heaven she’ll raise,
To him that made both heaven and earth.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 8. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He hath made the earth where the snare lies, so that he can rightfully destroy the snare as laid unlawfully in his domain; he hath made the heaven, the true sphere of the soaring wings of those souls which he has delivered, so that they may fly upwards from their late prison, rejoicing. He came down to earth himself, the Lord Jesus in whose name is our help, that lie might break the snare; be returned to heaven, that we might fly “as the doves to their windows” (Isaiah 60:8), following where lie showed the way. —Richard Rolle, of Hampole (1340), in “Neale and Littledale.”
Ver. 8. —Our help is in the name of the Lord. The fairest fruits of our by past experience is to glorify God by confidence in him for time to come, as here. —David Dickson.
Ver. 8. —The Lord who made heaven and earth. As if the Psalmist had said, As long as I see heaven and earth I will never distrust. I hope in that God which made all these things out of nothing; and therefore as long as I see those two great standing monuments of his power before me, heaven and earth, I will never be discouraged. So the apostle: 1 Peter 4:19, “Commit the keeping of your souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” O Christian! remember when you trust God you trust an almighty Creator, who is able to help, let your case be never so desperate. God could create when he had nothing to work upon, which made one wonder; aud he could create when he had nothing to work with, which is another wonder. What is become of the tools wherewith he made the world? Where is the trowel wherewith he arched the heaven? and the spade wherewith he digged the sea? What had God to work upon, or work withal when he made the world? He made it out of nothing. Now you commit your souls to the same faithful Creator. —Thomas Manton.
Ver. 8. —The Romans in a great distress were put so hard to it, that they were fain to take the weapons out of the temples of their gods to fight with them; and so they overcame. And this ought to be the course of every good Christian, in times of public distress, to fly to the weapons of the church, prayers and tears. The Spartans’ walls were their spears, the Christian’s walls are his prayers. His help standeth in the name of the Lord who hath made both heaven and earth. —Edmund Calamy.
Ver. 8. —The French Protestants always begin their public worship with the last verse of this Psalm, and there is no thought more encouraging and comfortable. —Job Orton, 1717-1783.
Ver. 8. —Our help is in the name of the Lord, etc. These are the words of a triumphing and victorious faith, “Our help standeth in the name of the Lord, which made heaven and earth”: as if he said, the Maker of heaven and earth is my God, and my helper. We see whither he flieth in his great distress. He despairs not, but cries unto the Lord, as one yet hoping assuredly to find relief and comfort. Rest thou also in this hope, and do as he did. David was not tempted to the end he Should despair; think not thou, therefore, that thy temptations are sent unto thee that thou shouldest be swallowed up with sorrow and desperation: if thou be brought down to the very gates of hell, believe that the Lord will surely raise thee up again. If so thou be bruised and broken, know it is the Lord that will help thee again. If thy heart be full of sorrow and heaviness, look for comfort from him, who said, that a troubled spirit is a sacrifice unto him: (Psalms 51:17) Thus he setteth the eternal God, the Maker of heaven and earth, against all troubles and dangers, against the floods and overflowings of all temptations, and swalloweth up, as it were with one breath all the raging furies of the whole world, and of hell itself, even as a little drop of water is swallowed up by a mighty flaming fire: and what is the world with all its force and power, in respect of him that made heaven and earth! —Thomas Stint.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 8. —Our Creator, our Helper. Special comfort to be drawn from creation in this matter.
Ver. 8. —
1. The Helper: “The Lord, who made heaven and earth, “who in his works has given ample proofs of what he can do.
2. The helped. “Our help” is,
(a) Promise in his name.
(b) Sought in his name: these make it ours. —G.R.
Ver. 8. —
1. We have help. As troubled sinners, as dull scholars, as trembling professors, as inexperienced travellers, as feeble workers.
2. We have help in God’s name. In his perfections—”They shall put my name upon the children of Israel.” In his Gospel—”A chosen vessel to bear my name.” In his authority—”In the name of Jesus Christ rise up, “etc.
3. Therefore we exert ourselves.
—W.J.
WORKS ON THE 124th PSALM.
Comfortable sermons upon the 124 psalme. Being thankfull Remembrances for God’s wonderfull deliverance of us from the late gunpowder treason. Preached before the Lady Elizabeth Her Grace, at Combe. By Daniel, Dike, Bachelor in Divinity… London; …1635 also 1617. Quarto. Of no value whatever.
An Exposition on the 124, 125, 126. Psalmes called the Psalmes of Degrees, or The Churches Deliverance. Plainly set forth for the benefit of God’s Church. By Thomas Stint…. London: 1621. 8vo. Excessively rare.

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Psalm 123

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-4
TITLE. —A Song of degrees. We are climbing. The first step (Psalms 120:1-7) saw us lamenting our troublesome surroundings, and the next saw us lifting or eyes to the hills and resting in assured security; from this we rose to delight in the house of the Lord; but here we look to the Lord himself, and this is the highest ascent of all by many degrees. The eyes are now looking above the hills, and above Jehovah’s footstool on earth, to his throne in the heavens. Let us know it as “the Psalm of the eyes”. Old authors call it Oculus “Sperans”, or the eye of hope. It is a short Psalm, written with singular art, containing one thought, and expressing if in a most engaging manner. Doubtless it would be a favourite song among the people of God. It has been conjectured that this brief song, or rather sigh, may have first been heard in the days of Nehemiah, or under the persecutions of Antiochus. It may be so, but there is no evidence of it; it seems to us quite as probable that afflicted ones in all periods after David’s time found this psalm ready to their hand If it appears to describe days remote from David, it is all the more evident that the Psalmist was also a prophet, and sang what he saw in vision.
Ver. 1. Unto thee lift I up mine eyes. It is good to have some one to look up to. The Psalmist looked so high that he could look no higher. Not to the hills, but to the God of the hills he looked. He believed in a personal God, and knew nothing of that modern pantheism which is nothing more than atheism wearing a fig leaf. The uplifted eyes naturally and instinctively represent the state of heart which fixes desire, hope, confidence, and expectation upon the Lord. God is everywhere, and yet it is most natural to think of him as being above us, in that glory land which lies beyond the skies. “O thou that dwellest in the heavens”, just sets forth,the unsophisticated idea of a child of God in distress: God is, God is in heaven, God resides in one place, and God is evermore the same, therefore will I look to him. When we cannot look to any helper on a level with us, it is greatly wise to look above us; in fact, if we have a thousand helpers, our eyes should still be toward the Lord. The higher the Lord is the better for our faith, since that height represents power, glory, and excellence, and these will be all engaged on our behalf. We ought to be very thankful for spiritual eyes; the blind men of this world, however much of human learning they may possess, cannot behold our God, for in heavenly matters they are devoid of sight. Yet we must use our eyes with resolution, for they will not go upward to the Lord of themselves, but they incline to look downward, or inward, or anywhere but to the Lord: let it be our firm resolve that the heavenward glance shall not be lacking. If we cannot see God, at least we will look towards him. God is in heaven as a king in his palace; he is here revealed, adored, and glorified: thence he looks down on the world and sends succours to his saints as their needs demand; hence we look up, even when our sorrow is so great that we can do no more. It is a blessed condescension on God’s part that he permits us to lift up our eyes to his glorious high throne; yea, more, that he invites and even commands us so to do. When we are looking to the Lord in hope, it is well to tell him so in prayer: the Psalmist uses his voice as well as his eye. We need not speak in prayer; a glance of the eye will do it all; for—
“Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near.”
Still, it is helpful to the heart to use the tongue, and we do well to address ourselves in words and sentences to the God who heareth his people. It is no small joy that our God is always at home: he is not on a journey, like Baal, but he dwells in the heavens. Let us think no hour of the day inopportune for waiting upon the Lord; no watch of the night too dark for us to look to him.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Whole Psalm. —This psalm (as ye see) is but short, and therefore a very fit example to show the force of prayer not to consist in many words, but in fervency of spirit. For great and weighty matters may be comprised in a few words, if they proceed from the spirit and the unspeakable groanings of the heart, especially when our necessity is such as will not suffer any long prayer. Every prayer is long enough if it be fervent and proceed from a heart that understandeth the necessity of the saints. —Martin Luther.
Whole Psalm. —The change of performers in this psalm is very evident; the pronoun in the first distich is in the first person singular, in the rest of psalm the first plural is used. —Stephen Street.
Whole Psalm. —This psalm has one distinction which is to be found in “scarcely any other piece in the Old Testament.” In the Hebrew it has many rhymes. But these rhymes are purely accidental. They result simply from the fact that many words are used in it with the same inflections, and therefore with the same or similar terminations. Regularly recurring and intentional rhymes are not a characteristic of Hebrew poetry, any more than they were of Greek or Latin poetry. —Samuel Cox.
Ver. 1. —Unto thee lift I up mine eyes. He who previously lifted his eyes unto the hills, now hath raised his heart’s eyes to the Lord himself. —The Venerable Bede (672-735), in Neale and Littledale.
Ver. 1. —Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, etc. This is the sigh of the pilgrim who ascendeth and loveth, and ascendeth because he loveth. He is ascending from earth to heaven, and while he is ascending, unto whom shall he lift his eyes, but unto him that dwelleth in heaven? We ascend to heaven each time we think of God. In that ascent lies all goodness: if we would repent, we must look not on ourselves, but on him; if we would be humble, we must look not on ourselves, but on him; if we would truly love, we must look not on ourselves, but on him who dwelleth in the heavens. If we would have him turn his eyes from our sins, we must turn our eyes unto his mercy and truth. —Plain Commentary.
Ver. 1. —Unto thee lift I up mine eyes. Praying by the glances of the eye rather than by words; mine afflictions having swollen my heart too big for my mouth. —John Trapp.
Ver. 1. —Unto thee do I lift up mine eyes. You feel the greatness of the contrast these words imply. Earth and heaven, dust and deity; the poor, weeping, sinful children of mortality, the holy, ever blessed, eternal God: how wide is the interval of separation between them! But over the awful chasm, broader than ocean though it be, love and wisdom in the person of Jesus Christ, have thrown a passage, by which the most sinful may repair unafraid to his presence, and find the shame and the fears of guilt exchanged for the peace of forgiveness and the hope that is full of immortality. —Robert Nisbet.
Ver. 1. —There are many testimonies in the lifting up of the eyes to heaven. 1. It is the testimony of a believing, humble heart. Infidelity will never carry a man above the earth. Pride can carry a man no higher than the earth either. 2. It is the testimony of an obedient heart. A man that lifts up his eye to God, he acknowledgeth thus much, —Lord, I am thy servant. 3. It is the testimony of a thankful heart; acknowledging that every good blessing, every perfect gift, is from the hand of God. 4. It is the testimony of a heavenly heart. He that lifts up his eyes to heaven acknowledgeth that he is weary of the earth; his heart is not there; his hope and desire is above. 5. It is the testimony of a devout heart: there is no part of the body besides the tongue that is so great an agent in prayer as the eye. —Condensed from Richard Holdsworth.
Ver. 1. —O thou that dwellest in the heavens. “That sittest.” The Lord is here contemplated as enthroned in heaven, where he administers the affairs of the Universe, executes judgment, and hears prayer. —James G. Murphy.
Ver. 1,2. —The lifting up the eyes, implies faith and confident persuasion that God is ready and willing to help us. The very lifting up of the bodily eyes towards heaven is an expression of this inward trust: so David in effect saith, From thee, Lord, I expect relief, and the fulfilling of thy promises. So that there is faith in it, that faith which is the evidence of things not seen. How great soever the darkness of our calamities be, though the clouds of present troubles thicken about us, and hide the Lord’s care and loving kindness from us, yet faith must look through all to his power and constancy of truth and love. The eye of faith is a clear, piercing, eagle eye: Moses “endured, as seeing him who is invisible:” Hebrews 11:27. Faith seeth things afar off in the promises (Hebrews 11:13), at a greater distance than the eye of nature can reach to. Take it either for the eye of the body, or the mind, faith will draw comfort not only from that which is invisible, but also from that which is future as well as invisible; its supports lie in the other world, and in things which are yet to come. —Thomas Manton.
Ver. 1,2. —In the first strophe the poet places himself before us as standing in the presence of the Majesty of Heaven, with his eyes fixed on the hand of God, absorbed in watchful expectation of some sign or gesture, however slight, which may indicate the divine will. He is like a slave standing silent but alert, in the presence of the Oriental “lord”, with banns folded on his breast, and eyes fixed on his master, seeking to read, and to anticipate, if possible, his every wish. He is like a maiden in attendance on her mistress, anxiously striving to see her mind in her looks, to discover and administer to her moods and wants. The grave, reserved Orientals, as we know, seldom speak to their attendants, at least on public occasions. They intimate their wishes and commands by a wave of the hand, by a glance of the eye, by slight movements and gestures which might escape notice, were they not watched for with eager attention. Their slaves “hang upon their faces; “they” fasten their eyes” on the eyes of their master; they watch and obey every turn of his hand, every movement of his finger. Thus the Psalmist conceives of himself as waiting on God, looking to him alone, watching for the faintest signal, bent on catching and obeying it. —Samuel Cox.
Ver. 2. —Behold. An ordinary word, but here it hath an extraordinary position. Ordinarily it is a term of attention, used for the awakening of men, to stir up their admiration and audience; but here it is a word not only prefixed for the exciting of men, but of God himself. David is speaking to God in his meditations. “Behold, ” saith he. As we take it with respect to God, so it is a precatory particle: he beseeches God to look down upon him, while he looks up unto God: Look on us, as we look to thee; “Behold, Lord, as the eyes of servants, “etc. If we take it as it hath respect to man, so it is an exemplary particle, to stir them up to do the like. “Behold” what we do, and do likewise; let your eyes be like ours. “Behold, as the eyes of servants are to the hand of their masters, so are our eyes to the Lord our God.” Let yours have the same fixing. So it is a word that draws all eyes after it to imitation. —Richard Holdsworth.
Ver. 2. —Behold as the eyes of servants look, etc. For direction, defence, maintenance, mercy in time of correction, help when the service is over hard, etc., “so do our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, “viz., for direction and benediction. —John Trapp.
Ver. 2. —Eyes of servants unto the hand, etc. Our eyes ought to be to the hand of the Lord our God: —First, that we may admire his works. Secondly, that we may show that our service is pleasant to us; and to show our dependence on such a benign, mighty, and bountiful hand. Thirdly, that we may evince to him our love, and devoted willingness to do all things which he shall command by the slightest movement of a finger. Fourthly, that from him we may receive food, and all things necessary for sustenance. Fifthly, that he may be a defence for us against the enemies that molest us, either by smiting them with the sword, or by shooting of arrows; or by repelling others by the movement of a finger; or, at least, by covering us with the shield of his goodwill. Sixthly and lastly, that, moved by mercy, he would cease from chastisement. —Condensed from Le Blanc.
Ver. 2. —As the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, etc. A traveller says, “I have seen a fine illustration of this passage in a gentleman’s house at Damascus. The people of the East do not speak so much or so quick as those in the West, and a sign of the hand is frequently the only instructions given to the servants in waiting. As soon as we were introduced and seated on the divan, a wave of the master’s hand indicated that sherbet was to be served. Another wave brought coffee and pipes; another brought sweetmeats. At another signal dinner was made ready. The attendants watched their master’s eye and hand, to know his will and do it instantly.” Such is the attention with which we ought to wait upon the Lord, anxious to fulfil his holy pleasure, —our great desire being, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” An equally pointed and more homely illustration may be seen any day, on our own river Thames, or in any of our large seaport towns, where the call boy watches attentively the hand of the captain of the boat, and conveys his will to the engine men. —The Sunday at Home.
Ver. 2. —As the eyes of slaves, watching anxiously the least movement, the Smallest sign of their master’s will. The image expresses complete and absolute dependence. Savary (in his Zetters on Egypt, p. 135), says, “The slaves stand silent at the bottom of the rooms with their hands crossed over their breasts. With their eyes fixed upon their master they seek to anticipate every one of his wishes.” …In the Psalm the eye directed to the hand of God is the “oculus sperans”, the eye which waits, and hopes, and is patient, looking only to him and none other for help. —J.J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 2. —As the eyes of servants, etc. The true explanation, I should apprehend, is this: As a slave, ordered by a master or mistress to be chastised for a fault, turns his or her imploring eyes to that superior, till that motion of the hand appears that puts an end to the bitterness that is felt; so our eyes are up to thee, our God, till thy hand shall give the signal for putting an end to our sorrows: for our enemies, O Lord, we are sensible, are only executing thy orders, and chastening us according to thy pleasure. —Thomas Harmer.
Ver. 2. —Servants. Note how humbly the faithful think of themselves in the sight of God. They are called and chosen to this dignity, to be the heirs and children of God, and are exalted above the angels, and yet, notwithstanding, they count themselves no better in God’s sight than “servants.” They say not here, Behold, like as children look to the hand of their fathers, but “as servants” to the hand of their masters. This is the humility and modesty of the godly, and it is so far off that hereby they lose the dignity of God’s children, to the which they are called, that by this means it is made to them more sure and certain. —Martin Luther.
Ver. 2. —From the everyday conduct of domestic servants we should learn our duty Godwards. Not without cause did our Saviour take his parables from common, everyday things, from fields, vines, trees, marriages, etc., that thus we might have everywhere apt reminders. —Martin Geier.
Ver. 2. —Servants. “A Maiden”. Consider that there be two sorts of servants set down here, man servants and maid servants; and this is to let us know that both sexes may be confident in God. Not only may men be confident in the power of God, but even women also, who are more frail and feeble. Not only may women mourn to God for wrongs done to them, and have repentance for sin, but they may be confident in God also. And therefore see, in that rehearsal of believers and cloud of witnesses, not only is the faith of men noted and commended by the Spirit of God, but also the faith of women: and among the judges, Deborah, Jael, etc., are commended as worthies, and courageous in God. And the women also in the New Testament are noted for their following of Christ—even when all fled from him, then they followed him. —From a Sermon by Alexander Henderson, 1583-1646.
Ver. 2. —Servants. “A Maiden”. We know how shamefully servants were treated in ancient times, and what reproaches must be cast upon them, whilst yet they durst not move a finger to repel the outrage. Being therefore deprived of all means of defending themselves, the only thing which remained for them to do was, what is here stated, to crave the protection of their masters. The same explanation is equally applicable to the case of handmaids. Their condition was indeed shameful and degrading; but there is no reason why we should be ashamed of, or offended at, being compared to slaves, provided God is our defender, and takes our lives under his guardianship; God, I say, who purposely disarms us and strips us of all worldly aid, that we may learn to rely upon his grace, and to be contented with it alone. It having been anciently a capital crime for bondmen to carry a sword or any other weapon about them, and as they were exposed to injuries of every description, their masters were wont to defend them with so much the more spirit, when anyone causelessly did them violence. Nor can it be doubted that God, when he sees us placing an exclusive dependence upon his protection, and renouncing all confidence ib our resources, will, as our defender, encounter and shield us from all the molestation nthat shall be offered to us. —John Calvin
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Whole Psalm. —We have here,
1. The prayer of dependence, Psalms 123:2.
2. The prayer of apprehension: “Unto thee”, etc.
3. The spirit of obedience: “As the eyes of servants:” etc.
4. The patience of the saints: “Until he have mercy upon us.”
—R. Nisbet.
Whole Psalm. —Eyes and no eyes.
1. EYES.
(a) Upward, in confidence, in prayer, in thought.
(b) “Unto, “in reverence, watchfulness, obedience.
(c) Inward, producing a cry for mercy.
2. No EYES.
(a) NO sight of the excellence of the godly.
(b) No sense of their own danger: “at ease.”
(c) No humility before God: “proud.”
(d) No uplifted eyes in hope, prayer, expectation.
Ver. 1. —The eyes of faith.
1. Need uplifting.
2. See best upward.
3. Have always something to see upward.
4. Let us look up, and so turn our eyes from too much introspection and retrospection.
Ver. 1. —
1. The language of Adoration: “Thou that dwellest in the heavens.”
2. The language of Confession.
(a) Of need.
(b) Of Helplessness.
3. The language of Supplication: “Unto thee, “etc.
4. The language of Expectation; as shown in Psalms 123:2.
—G.R.
Psalms 123:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. Behold —for it is worthy of regard among men, and O that the Majesty of heaven would also note it, and speedily send the mercy which our waiting spirits seek. See, O Lord, how we look to thee, and in thy mercy look on us. This Behold has, however, a call to us to observe and consider. Whenever saints of God have waited upon the Lord their example has been worthy of earnest consideration. Sanctification is a miracle of grace; therefore let us behold it. For God to have wrought in men the spirit of service is a great marvel, and as such let all men turn aside and see this great sight. “As the eyes of servants (or slaves) look unto the hand of their masters.” They stand at the end of the room with their hands folded watching their lord’s movements. Orientals speak less than we do, and prefer to direct their slaves by movements of their hands: hence, the domestic must fix his eyes on his master, or he might miss a sign, and so fail to obey it: even so, the sanctified man lifts his eyes unto God, and endeavours to learn the divine will from every one of the signs which the Lord is pleased to use. Creation, providence, grace; these are all motions of Jehovah’s hand, and from each of them a portion of our duty is to be learned; therefore should we carefully study them, to discover the divine will. “And as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, “this second comparison may be used because Eastern women are even more thorough than the men in the training of their servants. It is usually thought that women issue more commands, and are more sensitive of disobedience, than the sterner sex. Among the Roman matrons female slaves had a sorry time of it, and no doubt it was the same among the generality of Eastern ladies. “Even so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God.” Believers desire to be attentive to each and all of the directions of the Lord; even those which concern apparently little things are not little to us, for we know that even for idle words we shall be called to account, and we are anxious to give in that account with joy, and not with grief. True saints, like obedient servants, look to the Lord their God reverentially: they have a holy awe and inward fear of the great and glorious One. They watch, obediently, doing his commandments, guided by his eye. Their constant gaze is fixed attentively on all that comes from the Most High; they give earnest heed, and fear lest they should let anything slip through inadvertence or drowsiness. They look continuously, for there never is a time when they are off duty; at all times they delight to serve in all things: Upon the Lord they fix their eyes expectantly, looking for supply, succour, and safety from his hands, waiting that he may have mercy upon them. To him they look singly, they have no other confidence, and they learn to look submissively, waiting patiently for the Lord, seeking both in activity and suffering to glorify his name. When they are smitten with the rod they turn their eyes imploringly to the hand which chastens, hoping that mercy will soon abate the rigour of the affliction. There is much more in the figure than we can display in this brief comment; perhaps it will be most profitable to suggest the question. —Are we thus trained to service? Though we are sons, have we learned the full obedience of servants? Have we surrendered self, and bowed our will before the heavenly Majesty? Do we desire in all things to be at the Lord’s disposal? If so, happy are we. Though we are made joint heirs with Christ, yet for the present we differ little from servants, and may be well content to take them for our model.
Observe the covenant name, “Jehovah our God”: it is sweet to wait upon a covenant God. Because of that covenant he will show mercy to us; but we may have to wait for it. “Until that he have mercy upon us:”. God hath his time and season, and we must wait until it cometh. For the trial of our faith our blessed Lord may for awhile delay, but in the end the vision will be fulfilled. Mercy is that which we need, that which we look for, that which our Lord will manifest to us. Even those who look to the Lord, with that holy look which is here described, still need mercy, and as they cannot claim it by right they wait for it till sovereign grace chooses to vouchsafe it. Blessed are those servants whom their Master shall find so doing. Waiting upon the Lord is a posture suitable both for earth and heaven: it is, indeed, in every place the right and fitting condition for a servant of the Lord. Nor may we leave the posture so long as we are by grace dwellers in the realm of mercy. It is a great mercy to be enabled to wait for mercy, so much the more spirit, when anyone causelessly did them violence. Nor can it be doubted that God, when he sees us placing an exclusive dependence upon his protection, and renouncing all confidence in our own resources, will, as our defender, encounter and shield us from all the molestation that shall be offered to us. —John Calvin.
Ver. 2. —Hand. With the hand we demand, we promise, we call, dismiss, threaten, entreat, supplicate, deny, refuse, interrogate, admire, reckon, confess, repent; express fear, express shame, express doubt; we instruct, command, unite, encourage, swear, testify, accuse, condemn, acquit, insult, despise, defy, disdain, flatter, applaud, bless, abase, ridicule, reconcile, recommend, exalt, regale, gladden, complain, afflict, discomfort, discourage, astonish; exclaim, indicate silence, and what not? with a variety and a multiplication that keep pace with the tongue. —Michael de Montaigne, 1533-1592.
Ver. 2. —Masters. It is said of Mr. George Herbert, that divine poet, that, to satisfy his independency upon all others, and to quicken his diligence in God’s service, he used in his ordinary speech, when he made mention of the blessed name of Jesus, to add, “my Master.” And, without any doubt, if men were unfeignedly of his mind, their respects would be more to Christ’s command, to Christ’s will, to Christ’s pleasure. —From Spencer’s “Things New and Old”.
Ver. 2. —Our eyes wait. Here the Psalmist uses another word: it is the eye waiting. What is the reason of the second word? Now he leaves the similitude in the first line; for in the first line it is thus, —”As the eyes of servants look, and the eyes of a maiden look”; here it is the eye waits. There is good reason: to wait is more than to look: to wait is to look constantly, with patience and submission, by subjecting our affections and wills and desires to God’s will; that is to wait, David in the second part, in the second line, gives a better word, he betters his copy. There is the duty of a Christian, to better his example; the eyes of servants look, David’s eyes shall wait: “So our eyes wait”. It is true, indeed this word is not in the original, therefore you may observe it is in a small letter in your Bibles, to note that it is a word of necessity, added for the supply of the sense, because the Holy Ghost left it not imperfect, but more perfect, that lie put not in the verb; because it is left to every man’s heart to supply a verb to his own comfort, and a better he cannot than this. And that this word must be added appears by the next words: “until that he have mercy upon us”. To look till he have mercy on us is to wait; so there is good reason why this word is added. If we look to the thing begged—”mercy” —it is so precious that we may wait for it. It was “servants” that he mentioned, and it is their duty to wait upon their masters; they wait upon their trenchers at meat; they wait when they go to bed and when they rise; they wait in every place. Therefore, because he had mentioned the first word, he takes the proper duty; there is nothing more proper to servants than waiting, and if we are the servants of God we must wait. There is good reason in that respect, because it is a word so significant, therefore the Spirit of God varies it; he keeps not exactly to the line, “So do our eyes look, “but he puts it, “So do our eyes wait”. —Richard Holdsworth.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 2. —(Psalms 121:4 with this verse.) Two beholds.
1. God’s watchful eye over us.
2. The saint’s watchful eye upon God.
Ver. 2. —”Our eyes wait upon the Lord our God.”
1. What it is to wait with the eye.
2. What peculiar aspect of the Lord suggests such waiting: “Jehovah our God.” The covenant God is the trusted God.
3. What comes of such waiting—”mercy.”
Ver. 2. —The guiding hand.
1. A beckoning hand—to go near.
2. A directing hand—to go here and there.
3. A quiescent hand—to remain where we are.
—G.R.
Ver. 2. —Homely metaphors, or what may be learned from maids and their mistresses.
Psalms 123:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us. He hangs upon the word “mercy, “and embodies it in a vehement prayer: the very word seems to hold him, and he harps upon it. It is well for us to pray about everything, and turn everything into prayer; and especially when we are reminded of a great necessity we should catch at it as a keynote, and pitch our tune to it. The reduplication of the prayer before us is meant to express the eagerness of the Psalmist’s spirit and his urgent need: what he needed speedily he begs for importunately. Note that he has left the first person singular for the plural. All the saints need mercy; they all seek it; they shall all have it, therefore we pray—”have mercy upon us”. A slave when corrected looks to his master’s hand that the punishment may cease, and even so we look to the Lord for mercy, and entreat for it with all our hearts. Our contemptuous opponents will have no mercy upon us; let us not ask it at their hands, but turn to the God of mercy, and seek his aid alone.
“For we are exceedingly filled with contempt, “and this is an acid which eats into the soul. Observe the emphatic words. Contempt is bitterness, wormwood mingled with gall; he that feels it may well cry for mercy to his God. Filled with contempt, as if the bitter wine had been poured in till it was up to the brim. This had become the chief thought of their minds, the peculiar sorrow of their hearts. Excluding all other feelings, a sense of scorn monopolized the soul and made it unutterably wretched. Another word is added adverbially—exceedingly filled. Filled even to running over, as if pressed down and then heaped up. A little contempt they could bear, but now they were satiated with it, and weary of it. Do we wonder at the threefold mention of mercy when this master evil was in the ascendant? Nothing is more wounding, embittering, festering than disdain. When our companions make little of us we are far too apt to make little of ourselves and of the consolations prepared for us. Oh to be filled with communion, and then contempt will run off from us, and never be able to fill us with its biting vinegar.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. —Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us! Note how a godly man speaks. He does not say, “Have mercy upon me, O Lord have mercy upon me! because I am disgraced; “but, “Have mercy upon us, O Lord, for we are filled with contempt!” The godly man is not so grieved for his own and individual contempt as he is for the general contempt of the good and faithful. There is an accord of the godly, not only in the cross, but also in groanings, and in the invocation of divine grace. —Wolfgang Musculus.
Ver. 3. For we are exceedingly filled. The Hebrew word here used means “to be saturated”; to have the appetite fully satisfied—as applied to one who is hungry or thirsty. Then it comes to mean to be entirely full, and the idea here is, that as much contempt had been thrown upon them as could be: they could experience no more. —Albert Barnes.
Ver. 3. — We are exceedingly filled with contempt. Men of the world regard the Temple Pilgrims and their religion with the quiet smile of disdain, wondering that those who have so much to engage them in a present life should be weak enough to concern themselves about frames and feelings, about an unseen God, and unknown eternity; and this is a trial they find it hard to bear. Their soul, too, is filled exceedingly with the scorning of those that are at ease. The prosperous of their neighbours declare that they have found the world a generous and happy scene to all who deserve its gifts. Poverty and sorrow they attribute to unworthiness alone. “Let them exert themselves” is the unfeeling cry; “let them bestir themselves instead of praying, and with them as with us it will soon be well”; and these words of harsh and unfeeling ignorance aye like poison to the wounds of the bleeding heart. They have further “the contempt of the proud” to mourn; of those who give expression to their fierce disdain by assailing them with words of contumely, and who seek to draw them by reproaches both from peace and from piety. These are still the trials of Zion’s worshippers: silent contempt, open misrepresentation, fierce opposition. Religion, their last comfort, is despised; peace, their first desire, is denied. Anxious to devote themselves in the spirit of humble and earnest piety to the duties of their appointed sphere, they find enemies in open outcry and array against them. But God is their refuge, and to him they go. —Robert Nisbet.
Ver. 3,4. —The second strophe takes up the “have mercy upon us, ” as it were in echo. It begins with a “Kyrie eleison”, which is confirmed in a crescendo manner after the form of steps. —Franz Delitszch.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 3 (first portion). —The Sinner’s Litany. The Saint’s Entreaty.
Ver. 3 (second portion). —The world’s contempt, the abundance of it, the reason of it, the bitterness of it, the comfort under it.
Ver. 3,4. —
1. The occasion of the prayer: the contempt of men. This is often the most difficult to bear.
(a) Because it is most unreasonable. Why ridicule men
for yielding to their own convictions of what is
right?
(b) Most undeserved. True religion injures no man, but
seeks the good of all.
(c) Most profane. To reproach the people of God because
they are his people is to reproach God himself.
2. The subject of the prayer.
(a) The prayer: is not for justice, which might be
desired, but for mercy.
(b) The plea: “For we are, “etc. The reproaches of men
are an encouragement to look for special help from
God. The harp hung upon the willows sends forth its
sweetest tones. The less it is in human hands the
more freely it is played upon by the Spirit of God.
—G.R.
Psalms 123:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease. Knowing no troubles of their own, the easy ones grow cruel and deride the people of the Lord. Having the godly already in secret contempt, they show it by openly scorning them. Note those who do this: they are not the poor, the humble, the troubled, but those who have a merry life of it, and are self content. They are in easy circumstances; they are easy in heart through a deadened conscience, and so they easily come to mock at holiness; they are easy from needing nothing, and from having no severe toil exacted from them; they are easy as to any anxiety to improve, for their conceit of themselves is boundless. Such men take things easily, and therefore they scorn the holy carefulness of those who watch the hand of the Lord. They say, Who is the Lord that we should obey his voice? and then they turn round with a contemptuous look and sneer at those who fear the Lord. Woe unto them that are at case in Zion; their contempt of the godly shall hasten and increase their misery. The injurious effect of freedom from affliction is singularly evident here. Place a man perfectly at case and he derides the suffering godly, and becomes himself proud in heart and conduct. “And with the contempt of the proud”. The proud think so much of themselves that they must needs think all the less of those who are better than themselves. Pride is both contemptible and contemptuous. The contempt of the great ones of the earth is often peculiarly acrid: some of them, like a well known statesman, are “masters of gibes and flouts and sneers”, and never do they seem so much at home in their acrimony as when a servant of the Lord is the victim of their venom. It is easy enough to write upon this subject, but to be selected as the target of contempt is quite another matter. Great hearts have been broken and brave spirits have been withered beneath the accursed power of falsehood, and the horrible blight of contempt. For our comfort we may remember that our divine Lord was despised and rejected of men, yet he ceased not from his perfect service till he was exalted to dwell in the heavens. Let us bear our share of this evil which still rages under the sun, and let us firmly believe that the contempt of the ungodly shall turn to our honour in the world to come: even now it serves as a certificate that we are not of the world, for if we were of the world the world would love us as its own.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. —Exceedingly filled, or perhaps, “has long been filled.” (Comp. Psalms 120:6). This expression, together with the earnestness of the repeated prayer, “Be gracious unto us”, shows that the “scorn” and “contempt” have long pressed upon the people, and their faith has accordingly been exposed to a severe trial. The more remarkable is the entire absence of anything like impatience in the language of the psalm. —J.J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 4. —The scorning of those that are at ease. When men go on prosperously, they are apt wrongfully to trouble others, and then to shout at them in their misery, and to despise the person and cause of God’s people. This is the sure effect of great arrogancy and pride. They think they may do what they please; they have no changes, therefore they fear not God, but put forth their hands against such as be at peace with them (Ps 4:19,20); whilst they go on prosperously and undisturbed, they cannot abstain from violence and oppression. This is certainly pride, for it is a lifting up of the heart above God and against God and without God. And they do not consider his providence, which alternately lifts up and eases down, that adversity may not be without a cordial, nor prosperity without a curb and bridle. When men sit fast, and are well at ease, they are apt to be insolent and scornful. Riches and worldly greatness make men insolent and despisers of others, and not to care what burdens they impose upon them; they are entrenched within a mass of wealth and power and greatness, and so think none can call them to an account. —Thomas Manton.
Ver. 4. —Those that are at ease. The word always means such as are recklessly at their ease, the careless ones, such as those whom Isaiah bids, “rise up, tremble, be troubled; “for “many days and years shall ye be troubled” (Psalms 32:9-11). It is that luxury and ease which sensualise the soul, and make it dull, stupid, hard hearted. —Edward Bonyerie Pusey (1800—), in “The Minor Prophets”.
Ver. 4. —Those that are at ease, who are regardless of the troubles of others. and expect none of their own. —James G. Murphy.
Ver. 4. —Those that are at ease, who are regardless of the troubles of others, and expect none of their own. —James G. Murphy.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 4. —Those that are at ease.
1. Explain their state: “at ease.”
2. Show their ordinary state of mind: “proud.”
3. Denounce their frequent sin: scorn of the godly.
4. Exhibit their terrible danger.

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Psalm 122

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-9
TITLE AND SUBJECT. This brief but spirited Psalm is entitled “A Song of Degrees of David”, and thus we are informed as go its author, and the occasion for which it was designed: David wrote it for the people to sing at the time of their goings up to the holy feasts at Jerusalem. It comes third in the series, and appears to be suitable to be sung when the people had entered the gates, and their feet stood within the city. It was most natural that they should sing of Jerusalem itself, and invoke peace and prosperity upon the Holy City, for it was the centre of their worship, and the place where the Lord revealed himself above the mercy seat. Possibly the city was not all built in David’s day, but he wrote under the spirit of prophecy, and spoke of it as it would be in the age of Solomon; a poet has license to speak of things, not only as they are, but as they will be when they come to their perfection. Jerusalem, or the Habitation of Peace, is used as the key word of this Psalm, wherein we have in the original many happy allusions to the salem, or peace, which they implored upon Jerusalem. When they stood within the triple walls, all things around the pilgrims helped to explain the words which they sang within her ramparts of strength. One voice led the Psalm with its personal “I, ” but ten thousand brethren and companions united with the first musician and swelled the chorus of the strain.
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 1. I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. Good children are pleased to go home, and glad to hear their brothers and sisters call them thither. David’s heart was in the worship of God, and he was delighted when he found others inviting him to go where his desires had already gone: it helps the ardour of the most ardent to hear others inviting them to a holy duty. The word was not “go, “but “let us go”; hence the ear of the Psalmist found a double joy in it. He was glad for the sake of others:glad that they wished to go themselves, glad that they had the courage and liberality to invite others. He knew that it would do them good; nothing better can happen to men and their friends than to love the place where God’s honour dwelleth. What a glorious day shall that be when many people shall go and say, “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” But David was glad for his own sake:he loved the invitation to the holy place, he delighted in being called to go to worship in company, and, moreover, he rejoiced that good people thought enough of him to extend their invitation to him. Some men would have been offended, and would have said, “Mind your own business. Let my religion alone; “but not so King David, though he had mote dignity than any of us, and less need to be reminded of his duty. He was not teased but pleased by being pressed to attend holy services. He was glad to go into the house of the Lord, glad to go in holy company, glad to find good men and women willing to have him in their society. He may have been sad before, but this happy suggestion cheered him up: he pricked up his ears, as the proverb puts it, at the very mention of his Father’s house. Is it so with us? Are we glad when others invite us to public worship, or to church fellowship? Then we shall be glad when the spirits above shall call us to the house of the Lord not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
“Hark! they whisper: angels say,
Sister spirit, come away.”
If we are glad to be called by others to our Father’s house, how much more glad shall we be actually to go there. We love our Lord, and therefore we love his house, and pangs of strong desire are upon us that we may soon reach the eternal abode of his glory. An aged saint: when dying, cheered herself with this evidence of grace, for she cried, “I have loved the habitation of thine house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth, “and therefore she begged that she might join the holy congregation of those who for ever behold the King in his beauty. Our gladness at the bare thought of being in God’s house is detective as to our character, and prophetic of our being one day happy in the Father’s house on high. What a sweet Sabbath Psalm is this! In prospect of the Lord’s day, and all its hallowed associations, our soul rejoices. How well, also, may it refer to the, church! We are happy when we see numerous bands ready to unite themselves with the people of God. The pastor is specially glad when many come forward and ask of him assistance in entering into fellowship with the church. No language is more cheering to him than the humble request, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Whole Psalm. Foxe, in his “Acts and Monuments, “relates of Wolfgang Schuch, the martyr, of Lothareng in Germany, that upon hearing the sentence that he was to be burned pronounced upon him, he began to sing the hundred and twenty second Psalm, Laetus sum in his quae dicta suni mihi. etc.
Whole Psalm. Perhaps the true text of this Psalm is found in its designation, “A Song of Degrees.” Every verse is treated as a degree of advancement in the spiritual life, beginning with “help” from the eternal “hills” for the trials of time, closing with preservation “for evermore.” Henry Melvill.
Ver. 1. I was glad when they said unto me, etc. Gregory Nazianzen writeth that his father being a heathen, and often besought by his wife to become a Christian, had this verse suggested unto him in a dream, and was much wrought upon thereby. John Trapp.
Ver. 1. I was glad when they said, etc. These words seem to be very simple, and to contain in them no great matter; but if you look into the same with spiritual eyes, there appeareth a wonderful great majesty in them; which because our Papists cannot see, they do so coldly and negligently pray, read, and sing this Psalm and others, that a man would think there were no tale so foolish or vain, which they would not either recite or hear with more courage and delight. These words, therefore, must be unfolded and laid before the eyes of the faithful: for when he saith, We will go into the house of the Lord, what notable thing can we see in these words, if we only behold the stones, timber, gold, and other ornaments of the material temple? But to go into the house of the Lord signifieth another manner of thing; namely, to come together where we may have God present with us, hear his word, call upon his holy name, and receive help and succour in our necessity. Therefore it is a false definition of the temple which the Papists make; that it is a house built with stones and timber to the honour of God. What this temple is they themselves know not; for the temple of Solomon was not therefore beautiful because it was adorned with gold and silver, and other precious ornaments; but the true beauty of the temple was, because in that place the people heard the word of the Lord, called upon his name, found him merciful, giving peace and remission of sins, etc. This is rightly to behold the temple, and not as the visored bishops behold their idolatrous temple when they consecrate it. Martin Luther.
Ver. 1. I was glad when they said unto me, Let us (or, We will) go, etc. You have here,
1. David’s delight.
2. The object or reason of it.
In the object there are circumstances enough to raise his joy to the highest note.
First, A company, either a tribe, or many of, or all, the people: “They said unto me.” So, in another place, he speaketh of “walking to the house of God in company:” Psalms 55:14. A glorious sight, a representation of heaven itself, of all the angels crying aloud, the Seraphim to the Cherubim, and the Cherubim echoing back again to the Seraphim, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.”
Secondly, Their resolution to serve the Lord: Dixerunt, “They said it:” and “to say” in Scripture is to resolve. “We will go, ” is either a lie, or a resolution.
Thirdly, Their agreement and joint consent: “We, “This is as a circle, and taketh in all within its compass. If there be any dissenting, unwilling person, he is not within this circumference, he is none of the “We.” A Turk, a Jew, and a Christian cannot say, “We will serve the Lord; “and the schismatic or separatist shutteth himself out of the house of the Lord. “We” is a bond of peace, keepeth us at unity, and maketh many as one.
Fourthly, Their cheerfulness and alacrity. They speak like men going out of a dungeon into the light, as those who had been long absent from what they loved, and were now approaching unto it, and in fair hope to enjoy what they most earnestly desired: “We will go; “we will make haste, and delay no longer. Ipsa festinatio tarda est; “Speed itself is but slow paced.” We cannot be there soon enough.
Fifthly and lastly: The place where they will serve God:not one of their own choosing; not the groves, or hills, or high places; no oratory which pride, or malice, or faction had erected; but a place appointed and set apart by God himself. Servient Domino in domo sua:”They will serve the Lord in his own house.” They said unto me, “We will go into the house of the Lord.” Anthony Farindon.
Ver. 1. Let us go into the house of the Lord. “Let us go, ” spoken by one hundred men in any city to those over whom they have influence, would raise a monster meeting… But who among those who thus single out the working classes, have gone to them and said, “Let us go—let us go together into the house of the Lord”? The religious adviser, standing at a distance from the multitude, has advised, and warned, and pleaded, saying, “Go, or you will not escape perdition; “”Why don’t you go?” The Christian visitor has likewise used this kind of influence; but how few have taken the working man by the hand, and said, “Let us go together”? You can bring multitudes whom you never can send. Many who would never come alone would come most willingly under the shadow of your company. Then, brethren, to your nonattending neighbour say, “Let us go”; to reluctant members of your own family say, “Let us go”; to those who once went to the house of God in your company, but who have backslidden from worship say, “Let us go”; to all whose ear, and mind, and heart, you can command for such a purpose say, “Let us go—let us go together into the house of the Lord.” Samuel Martin (1817-1878), in a Sermon entitled “Gladness in the Prospect of Public Worship.”
Ver. 1. I was glad when they said unto me, etc. Such in kind, but far greater in degree, is the gladness, which the pious soul experiences when she is called hence; when descending angels say unto her, Thy labour and sorrow are at an end, and the hour of thy enlargement is come; put off immortality and misery at once; quit thy house of bondage, and the land of thy captivity; fly forth, and “let us go together into the house of the Lord, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” George Horne.
Ver. 1-2. This is a mutual exhortation. The members of the church invite each other: “Let us go into the house of the Lord.” It is not enough to say, Go you to church, and I shall stop at home. That will never do. We must invite by example as well as by precept. Mark the plural forms: “Let us go into the house of God. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.” We are to speak as Moses did to Hobab, his brother-in-law, “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good; for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.” The same duty is binding upon us, with regard to those who make no profession of religion, and whose feet never stand in the house of God. Zechariah, in an animated picture of the future glories of the church, describes the newborn zeal of the converts as taking this direction. They cannot but speak of what they have seen and heard, and others must share in their joy. “And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also.” N. M`michael.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Whole Psalm. Observe,
1. The joy with which they were to go up to Jerusalem: Psalms 122:1-2.
2. The great esteem they were to have of Jerusalem: Psalms 122:3-5.
3. The great concern they were to have for Jerusalem, and the prayers they were to put up for its welfare. M. Henry.
Ver. 1.
1. David was glad to go to the house of the Lord. It was the house of the Lord therefore he desired to go. He preferred it to his own house.
2. He was glad when others said to him, “Let us go.” The distance may be great, the weather may be rough, still, “Let us go.”
3. He was glad to say it to others, “Let us go, “and to persuade others to accompany him. G. R.
Ver. 1.
1. Joy in prospect of religious worship.
a) Because of the instruction we receive.
b) Because of the exercises in which we engage.
c) Because of the society in which we mingle.
d) Because of the sacred interests we promote.
2. Joy in the invitation to religious worship.
a) Because it shows others are interested in the service of God.
b) Because it shows their interest in us.
c) Because it furthers the interests of Zion. F.J.B.
Ver. 1. Gladness of God’s house. Are you “glad when, “etc.? Why glad?
1. That I have a house of the Lord to which I may go.
2. That any feel enough interest in me to say, “Let us go, ” etc.
3. That I am able to go to God’s house.
4. That I am disposed to go.
J. G. Butler, in “The Preacher’s Monthly, “1882.
Ver. 1. I was glad, etc. So says,
1. The devout worshipper, who is glad to be invited to God’s earthly house. It is his home, his school, his hospital, his bank.
2. The adhesive Christian, who is glad to be invited to God’s spiritual house. Church is builded together, etc. There would he find a settled rest. Has no sympathies with religious gipsies, or no church people.
3. The dying saint, who is glad to be invited to God’s heavenly house. Simeon—Stephen—Peter—Paul. W. J.
Ver. 1.
1. The duty of attending the services of God’s house.
2. The duty of exciting one another to go.
3. The benefit of being thus excited. F.J.B.
Psalms 122:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem; or, better, “our feet are standing.” The words imply present and joyous standing within the walls of the city of peace; or perhaps the pilgrims felt so sure of getting there that they antedated the joy, and spoke as if they were already there, though they were as yet only on the road. If we are within the church we may well triumph in the fact. While our feet are standing in Jerusalem our lips may well be singing. Outside the gates all is danger, and one day all will be destruction; but within the gates all is safely, seclusion, serenity, salvation, and glory. The gates are opened that we may pass in, and they are only shut that our enemies may not follow us. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion, and so do we when we are enclosed within them. What a choice favour, to be a citizen of the New Jerusalem! Why are we so greatly favoured? Many feet are running the downward road, or kicking against the pricks, or held by snares, or sliding to an awful fall; but our feet, through grace divine, are “standing” —an honourable posture, “within thy gates, O Jerusalem” —an honourable position, and there shall they stand for ever—an honourable future.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. With what a blessed hope do they, while they are here in this mortal life, lift up their affections, desires, and thoughts to the heavenly country, because they are able to say with the prophet, Our feet stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Like those who haste to any place, they are said to be always thinking as if they were already there, and in reality they are there in mind though not in body, and are able greatly to comfort others. What wonder, if a righteous man, wishing to comfort others, should thus speak, “Our feet stand, “i.e., our desires, our contemplations, shall be fixed and stable in thy courts, O Jerusalem; i.e., in the mansions of the heavenly kingdom, so that our conversation shall be in heaven, and all our works be done in relation to eternal life, for which we long with greatest intensity of desire. This is not that Jerusalem which killed the prophets and stoned those that were sent unto her, but that where the perfect vision of peace reigns. Paulus Palanterius.
Ver. 2. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Dr. Clarke, in his travels, speaking of the companies that were travelling from the East to Jerusalem, represents the procession as being very long, and, after climbing over the extended and heavy ranges of hills that bounded the way, some of the foremost at length reached the top of the last hill, and, stretching up their hands in gestures of joy, cried out, “The Holy City! The Holy City!” —and fell down and worshipped; while those who were behind pressed forward to see. So the dying Christian, when he gets on the last summit of life, and stretches his vision to catch a glimpse of the heavenly city, may cry out of its glories, and incite those who are behind to press forward to the sight. Edward Payson, 1783-1827.
Ver. 2. O Jerusalem. The celestial city is full in my view. Its glories beam upon me, its breezes fan me, its odours are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ears, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the river of death, which now appears but as an insignificant rill, that may be crossed at a single step, whenever God shall give permission. The Sun of Righteousness has been gradually drawing nearer and nearer, appearing larger and brighter as he approached, and now he fills the whole hemisphere; pouring forth a flood of glory, in which I seem to float like an insect in the beams of the sun; exulting, yet almost trembling, while I gaze on this excessive brightness, and wondering, with unutterable wonder, why God should deign thus to shine upon a sinful worm. Edward Payson’s dying experience.
Ver. 2. O Jerusalem
Lo, towered Jerusalem salutes the eyes!
A thousand pointing fingers tell the tale;
“Jerusalem!” a thousand voices cry,
“All hail, Jerusalem!” hill, down, and dale
Catch the glad sounds, and shout “Jerusalem, all hail.” Torquato Tasso, 1544-1595.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 2. Here is,
1. Personal attendance: “My feet shall stand, “etc.
2. Personal security: “My feet shall stand.”
3. Personal fellowship: “O Jerusalem.” G. R.
Ver. 2. The inside of the church. The honour, privilege, joy, and fellowship of standing there.
Psalms 122:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together. David saw in vision the city built; no more a waste, or a mere collection of tents, or a city upon paper, commenced but not completed. God’s mercy to the Israelitish nation allowed of peace and plenty, sufficient for the uprise and perfecting of its capital: that City flourished in happy times, even as the church is only built up when all the people of God are prospering. Thanks be to God, Jerusalem is builded: the Lord by his glorious appearing has built up Zion. Furthermore, it is not erected as a set of booths, or a conglomeration of hovels, but as a city, substantial, architectural, designed, arranged, and defended. The church is a permanent and important institution, founded on a rock, builded with art, and arranged with wisdom. The city of God had this peculiarity about it, that it was not a long, straggling street, or a city of magnificent distances (as some mere skeleton places have been styled), but the allotted space was filled, the buildings were a solid block, a massive unity: this struck the dwellers in villages, and conveyed to them the idea of close neighbourhood, sure standing, and strong defence. No quarter could be surprised and sacked while other portions of the town were unaware of the assault: the ramparts surrounded every part of the metropolis, which was singularly one and indivisible. There was no flaw in this diamond of the world, this pearl of cities. In a church one of the most delightful conditions is the compactness of unity: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” A church should be one in creed and one in heart, one in testimony and one in service, one in aspiration and one in sympathy. They greatly injure our Jerusalem who would build dividing walls within her; she needs compacting, not dividing. There is no joy in going up to a church which is rent with internal dissension: the gladness of holy men is aroused by the adhesiveness of love, the unity of life; it would be their sadness if they saw the church to be a house divided against itself. Some bodies of Christians appear to be periodically blown to fragments, and no gracious man is glad to be in the way when the explosions take place: thither the tribes do not go up, for strife and contention are not attractive forces.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together. The deep depressions which secured the city must have always acted as its natural defence. But they also determined its natural boundaries. The city, wherever else it spread, could never overleap the valley of the Kedron or of Hinnom; and those two fosses, so to speak, became accordingly, as in the analogous case of the ancient towns of Etruria, the Necropolis of Jerusalem… The compression between these valleys probably occasioned the words of the Psalmist: “Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity in itself.” It is an expression not inapplicable even to the modern city, as seen from the east. But it was still more appropriate to the original city, if, as seems probable, the valley of Tyropoeon formed in earlier times a fosse within a fosse, shutting in Zion and Moriah into one compact mass not more than half a mile in breadth. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815-1881), in “Sinai and Palestine.”
Ver. 3. Jerusalem. It matters not how wicked or degraded a place may have been in former times, when it is sanctified to the use and service of God it becomes honourable. Jerusalem was formerly Jebus— a place where the Jebusites committed their abominations, and where were all the miseries of those who hasten after another God. But now, since it is devoted to God’s service, it is a city—”compact together, “”the joy of the whole earth.” William S. Plumer.
Ver. 3. Compact. Jerusalem was compactly built; every rood of ground, every foot of frontage, was valuable; house was joined to house; those who had gardens had them beyond the city walls, among the “paradises” of the valley of Jehoshaphat. Samuel Cox.
Ver. 3. Compact together. Methinks Philadelphia, the name of one of the seven golden candlesticks (Revelation 1:11-12), is a very proper fitting name for a church, which signifies brotherly love; and every congregation ought to be in a good sense the family of love. Breaches and divisions, distractions and heart burnings, may happen in other kingdoms which are without God in the world and strangers to the covenant of grace; yet let Jerusalem, the Church of God, be always like a city which is at unity within itself. John Pigot, 1643.
Ver. 3. As a city that is compact together. Can we say of the great universal church throughout the world, what the pilgrims said of Jerusalem when gazing on its splendour, from the surrounding hills, that it is built “as a city that is compact together”? A stately capital, throned on a base of rock, its spacious streets and noble edifices, beautiful in themselves, deriving added splendour from the taste and regularity of their arrangement, appears, both to the scoffing unbeliever and grieving Christian, a singularly inappropriate emblem of the divided and distracted, the jarring and warring church. If the church may be compared to a city in respect of magnitude, it is one in which every one builds on his own plan; in which the various masses which should embellish and support each other are studiously kept apart, suggesting less the idea of a compact and united capital than of detached and isolated forts, held by persons who keep themselves jealously aloof from each other, save when mutual hatred and heart burnings bring them together for conflict. There is some truth in the picture; alas! for the proud, foolish builders who give occasion to it, and who, instead of praying for and seeking the peace of Jerusalem, rejoice in exhibiting, perpetuating, and fomenting strife! But, blessed be God, there is yet more of falsehood than truth in it. With all our divisions the Christian Jerusalem is compact in itself together, What occupies the hearts and tongues of the myriads of worshippers that assemble themselves weekly in the sanctuaries of our beloved land, and of the millions that assemble beyond the Atlantic billows, but the one glorious gospel of the grace of God? Leave out from the computation the priest with his mass book, the cold Socinian without his Saviour, and the deluded orthodox professor who holds the truth in unrighteousness; still yonder and yonder and yonder, whatever their name, their place, or their outward worship, are myriads of true hearts, beating with one pulse, gazing on one hope, possessed of one conviction, and praying and pressing forward to one blessed home. Robert Nisbet.
Ver. 3-4. He commendeth Jerusalem, the figure of the church of God and of the corporation of his people, First, as a city for a community. Secondly, as the place of God’s public assemblies for religious worship. Thirdly, as the place of public judicature, for governing the Lord’s people under David, the type of Christ. Whence learn,
1. The church of God is not without cause compared to a city, and especially to Jerusalem, because of the union, concord, community of laws, mutual commodities, and conjunction of strength which should be among God’s people: Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together.
2. That which commendeth a place most of anything is the erecting of the Lord’s banner of love in it, and making it a place for his people to meet together for his worship: Jerusalem is a city whither the tribes go up.
3. Whatsoever civil distinction God’s children have among themselves, and howsoever they dwell scattered in several places of the earth, yet as they are the Lord’s people, they should entertain a communion and conjunction among themselves as members of one universal church, as the signification of the peoples meeting thrice in the year at Jerusalem did reach: Wither the tribes did go up, the tribes of the Lord.
4. As the tribes, so all particular churches, how far soever scattered, have one Lord, one covenant, one law and Scripture, signified by the tribes going up to the testimony of Israel, or to the Ark of the Covenant or testimony where the whole ordinances of God were to be exercised.
5. The end of the ordinances of God, of holy covenanting and communion, and joining in public worship, is to acknowledge the grace and goodness of God, and to, glorify him; for the tribes did go up to give thanks unto the name of the Lord. David Dickson.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 3.
1. A type of the New Jerusalem.
a) As chosen by God.
b) As founded upon a rock.
c) As taken from an enemy.
2. A type of its prosperity: “Builded as a city.”
3. A type of its perfection: “Compact together.” G. R.
Ver. 3. The unity of the church.
1. Implied in all covenant dealings.
2. Suggested by all Scriptural metaphors.
3. Prayed for by our Lord.
4. Promoted by the gifts of the Spirit.
5. To be maintained by us all.
Ver. 3-4. The united church the growing church.
Psalms 122:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD. When there is unity within there will be gatherings from without: the tribes go up to a compact centre. Note that Israel was one people, but yet it was in a sense divided by the mere surface distinction of tribes; and this may be a lesson to us that all Christendom is essentially one, though from various causes we are divided into tribes. Let us as much as possible sink the tribal individuality in the national unity, so that the church may be many waves, but one sea; many branches, but one tree; many members, but one body. Observe that the tribes were all of them the Lord’s; whether Judah or Benjamin, Manasseh or Ephraim, they were all the Lord’s. Oh that all the regiments of the Christian army may be all and equally the Lord’s own, alike chosen, redeemed, accepted, and upheld by Jehovah.
Unto the testimony of Israel. They went up to the holy city to hear and to bear testimony. Everything in the temple was a testimony unto the Lord, and the annual journeys of the tribes to the hallowed shrine partook of the same testifying character, for these journeys were Israel’s open avowal that Jehovah was their God, and that he was the one only living and true God. When we assemble on the Sabbath a large part of our business is giving out and receiving testimony: we are God’s witnesses; all the tribes of the one church of Jesus Christ bear witness unto the Lord.
To give thanks unto the name of the LORD. Another part of our delightful duty is to praise the Lord. Sacred praise is a chief design of the assembling of ourselves together. All Israel had been fed by the fruit of the field, and they went up to give thanks unto the name of their great Husbandman: we, too, have countless mercies, and it becomes us unitedly in our solemn gatherings to magnify the name of our loving Lord. Testimony should be mingled with thanks, and thanks with testimony, for in combination they bless both God and man, and tend to spread themselves over the hearts of our companions; who, seeing our joyful gratitude, are the more inclined to hearken to our witness bearing.
Here, then, was part of the cause of the gladness of the pious Israelite when he had an invitation to join the caravan which was going to Zion: he would there meet with representatives of all the clans of his nation, and aid them in the double object of their holy assemblies, namely, testimony and thanksgiving. The very anticipation of such delightful engagements filled him to overflowing with sacred gladness.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. The tribes are “the tribes of the Lord, “as being the keepers of his commandments. H. T. Armfield.
Ver. 4. Unto the testimony of Israel, and to give thanks unto the name of the Lord. These two mean nothing else than that in Jerusalem was the appointed place where the word was to be taught and prayer offered. But these ought to be written in golden letters, because David says nothing about the other services, but only of these two. He does not say that the Temple was divinely appointed, that there the victims should be sacrificed; that there incense should be offered; that oblations and sacrifices should be brought; that each one should by his gifts show his gratitude. He says nothing about these things, although only in the Temple were they commanded to be done. He makes mention only of prayer and of thanksgiving. Martin Luther.
Ver. 4. The testimony of Israel. The object which is represented in the Psalm as having power to attract all hearts, and command the ready attendance of the tribes, is “the testimony of Israel, “the revelation, in other words, which God made to that people of his character, feelings, and purposes, as most holy, yet ready to forgive, a just God and the Saviour. This discovery of the nature of that great Being before whom all must appear, is justly regarded as a ground of joy. Robert Nisbet.
Ver. 4-5. Observe what a goodly sight it was to see the testimony of Israel and the thrones of judgment such near neighbours; and they are good neighbours, which may greatly befriend one another. Let “the testimony of Israel” direct the “thrones of judgment, “and the “thrones of judgment” protect “the testimony of lsrael.” Matthew Henry.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 4.
1. The duty of public worship.
a) In one place: “Whither the tribes go up.”
b) In one company, though of many tribes: “Whither the tribes go up.”
2. The design.
a) For instruction: “Unto the testimony of Israel.”
b) For praise: “To give thanks unto the name of the Lord.” G. R.
Psalms 122:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. For there are set thrones of judgment. If discontented with the petty judgments of their village lords, the people could bring their hard matters to the royal seat, and the beloved King would be sure to decide aright; for the judgment thrones were
The thrones of the house of David. We who come to the church and its public worship are charmed to come to the throne of God, and to the throne of the reigning Saviour.
“He reigns! Ye saints, exalt your strains:
Your God is King, your Father reigns:
And he is at the Father’s side,
The Man of love, the Crucified.”
To a true saint the throne is never more amiable than in its judicial capacity; righteous men love judgment, and are glad that right will be rewarded and iniquity will be punished. To see God reigning in the Son of David and evermore avenging the just cause is a thing which is good for weeping eyes, and cheering for disconsolate hearts. They sang of old as they went towards the throne, and so do we. “The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.” The throne of judgment is not removed, but firmly “set, “and there it shall remain till the work of justice is accomplished, and truth and right are set on the throne with their King. Happy people to be under so glorious a rule.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5. Thrones of judgment. On a throne of ivory, brought from Africa or India, the throne of many an Arabian legend, the kings of Judah were solemnly seated on the day of their accession. From its lofty seat, and under that high gateway, Solomon and his successors after him delivered their solemn judgments. That “porch” or “gate of justice, “still kept alive the likeness of the old patriarchal custom of sitting in judgment at the gate; exactly as the Gate of Justice still recalls it to us at Granada, and the Sublime Porte—”the Lofty Gate” at Constantinople. He sat on the back of a golden bull, its head turned over its shoulder, probably the ox or bull of Ephraim; under his feet, on each side of the steps, were six golden lions, probably the lions of Judah. This was “the seat of judgment.” This was the throne of the house of David. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, in “Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church.”
Ver. 5. It was a worthy commendation that David uttered in the praise of Jerusalem when he said, There is the seat for judgment; the which appointing of that seat for judgment was an argument that they loved justice. And first, the place wherein it was set assures us hereof, for it was set in the gate, where through men might have passage to and from the judgment seat. Secondly, the manner of framing the seat in the gate, namely, that the judges of force must sit with their faces towards the rising of the sun, in token that then judgment should be as pure from corruption, as the sun was clear in his chiefest brightness. Oh happy house of David, whose seat was set so conveniently, whose causes were heard so carefully, and matters judged so justly! Henry Smith, 1560-1591.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 5.
1. There are thrones of judgment in the sanctuary. Men are judged there.
a) By the law.
b) By their own consciences.
c) By the gospel.
2. There are thrones of grace: “Of the house of David.”
a) Of David’s Son in the hearts of his people.
b) Of his people in David’s Son. G.R.
Psalms 122:6*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 6. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Peace was her name, pray that her condition may verify her title. Abode of Peace, peace be to thee. Here was a most sufficient reason for rejoicing at the thought of going up to the house of the Lord, since that sacred shrine stood in the centre of an area of peace: well might Israel pray that such peace should be continued. In a church peace is to be desired, expected, promoted, and enjoyed. If we may not say “Peace at any price, “yet we may certainly cry “Peace at the highest price.” Those who are daily fluttered by rude alarms are charmed to reach their nest in a holy fellowship, and abide in it. In a church one of the main ingredients of success is internal peace: strife, suspicion, party spirit, division, —these are deadly things. Those who break the peace of the church deserve to suffer, and those who sustain it win a great blessing. Peace in the church should be our daily prayer, and in so praying we shall bring down peace upon ourselves; for the Psalmist goes on to say,
They shall prosper that love thee, or, perhaps we may read it as a prayer, “May they have peace that love thee.” Whether the passage be regarded as a promise or as a prayer matters not, for prayer pleads the promise, and the promise is the ground of prayer. Prosperity of soul is already enjoyed by those who take a deep interest in the church and cause of God: they are men of peace, and find peace in their holy endeavours: God’s people pray for them, and God himself delights in them. Prosperity of worldly condition often comes to the lovers of the church if they are able to bear it: many a time the house of Obededom is blessed because of the ark of the Lord. Because the Egyptian midwives feared the Lord, therefore the Lord made them houses. No man shall ever be a permanent loser by the house of the Lord: in peace of heart alone. If in nothing else, we find recompense enough for all that we can do in promoting the interests of Zion.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. By praying for Jerusalem’s peace is meant such serene times wherein the people of God might enjoy his pure worship without disturbance. The Church has always had her vicissitudes, sometimes fair, and sometimes foul weather; but her winter commonly longer than her summer; yea, at the same time that the Sun of peace brings day to one part of it, another is wrapped up in the night of persecution. Universal peace over all the churches is a great rarity. William Gumall.
Ver. 6. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. When the Wesleyan Methodists opened a chapel at Painswick, near his own meeting, the late excellent Cornelius Winter prayed three times publicly the preceding Sabbath for their encouragement and success. When Mr. Hoskins, of Bristol, the Independent minister of Castle Green, opened a meeting in Temple Street; what did the incomparable Easterbrooke, the Vicar of the parish? The morning it was opened, he was almost the first that entered it, He seated himself near the pulpit. When the service was over, he met the preacher at the foot of the stairs, and shaking him with both hands, said aloud: “I thank you cordially, my dear brother, for coming to my help—here is room enough for us both; and work enough for us both; and much more than we can both accomplish: and I hope the Lord will bless our cooperation in this good cause.” William Jay.
Ver. 6. Pray (with this princely prophet) for the peace of Jerusalem. I wish I could express the incomparable sweetness of this little hemistichium. I guess, the Holy Ghost was pleased to let the Psalmist play the poet here: the Psalms are holy poetry. The original words have such elegancy here, as (I think) all the Scripture cannot parallel this verse. It is in English inexpressible. For the point in hand only, he bids us pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Peace denominates Jerusalem, `tis the etymon of the word, it means the vision of peace. David by that term most sweetly alludes to the name of the city, yet conceals his wit; which could have been made more open: he said, Mlv Mwlv wlav, “Pray for the peace of Salem.” For so it was called too, called first so, called still so (Psalms 76:2) “At Salem is his tabernacle.” That word merely sounds peace: God would have his Church the house of peace; and his temple there David might not build because he was a man of war; but Solomon his son, who had his name of peace, must build it. Christ, whose the church is, she his spouse, would not be born in Julius Caesar’s reign; he was a warrior too: but in Augustus’s days, who reigned in peace. And this may be a reason too, if you please, why David bids pray but for peace only, an earthly blessing. That word most fitted his art here, and sounded best. But under that word, by poetical synecdoche, he couched all heavenly blessings. Richard Clarke, 1634.
Ver. 6. Pray, etc. Our praying for the church giveth us a share in all the church’s prayers; we have a venture in every ship of prayer that maketh a voyage for heaven, if our hearts be willing to pray for the church; and if not, we have no share in it.
Let no man flatter himself: they that pray not for the church of God love not the church of God. Let them prosper that love thee; that is, that pray for thee, the one is the counterpart of the other. If we do not love it, we will not pray for it; and if we do not pray for it, we do not love it. Yea, if we pray not for the church, we lose our share in the prayers of the church. You will say that man hath a great estate that hath a part in every ship at sea; and yet to have an adventure in all the prayers that are made to heaven is better than all the world. All the church’s prayers are for all the living members of it, viz. —the blessings will be to them, for a man to have a venture ill every ship of prayer of all the churches throughout all the world. I would not (for my part) leave my share in it for all the world; and that man hath no share in it that will not afford a prayer for the church. John Stoughton, 1640.
Ver. 6. They shall prosper that love thee. The word “prosper” conveys an idea which is not in the original. The Hebrew word means to be secure, tranquil, at rest, spoken especially of one who enjoys quiet prosperity: Job 3:26 12:6. The essential idea is that of quietness or rest; and the meaning here is, that those who love Zion will have peace; or, that the tendency of that love is to produce peace. See Romans 5:1. The prayer was for “peace”; the thought in connexion with that was naturally that those who loved Zion would have peace. It is indeed true, in general, that they who love Zion, or who serve God, will “prosper”; but that is not the truth taught here. The idea is that they will have peace:—peace with God; peace in their own consciences; peace in the prospect of death and of the future world; peace amidst the storms and tempests of life; peace in death, in the grave, and for ever. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 6. They shall prosper that love thee. Seeing they prosper that love and bear affection to Jerusalem, let men learn to show good will unto Christ’s church, though as yet they be no ripe scholars themselves in Christ’s school: though they be not grown to perfection let them express a good affection. A good will and inclination, where strength yet faileth, is accepted, and a ready disposition is not rejected: though thou be not yet of the saints, yet love the saints. If thou likest and lovest that thou wouldst be, thou must be that hereafter which yet thou art not. The little bird before she flieth fluttereth with her wings in the nest: the child creepeth before he goeth: so religion begins with affection, and devotion proceedeth from desire. A man must first love that he would be, before he can be that which he loveth. It is a good sign when a man affecteth that which he expects, and doth favour that which he would more fully favour. He that loveth Sion shall prosper: he that loveth virtue shall increase and prosper in it. The day of small things shall not be despised (Zechariah 4:10), neither shall the smoking flax be quenched (Matthew 12:20); but the smoke shall bring forth fire, and fire shall break forth into a flame. Andrew Willett (1562-1621), in “Certaine Fruitfull Meditations upon the 122. Psalme.”
Ver 6. They shall prosper that love thee. The reverse is also true. “None ever took a stone out of the Temple, but the dust did fly into his eyes.” Jewish Proverb.
Ver. 6-9. In this cordial and even impassioned invocation, it is curious to find one of those puns, or plays on words, which are characteristic of Hebrew poetry. The leading words of the strophe are “peace” and “prosperity.” Now the Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, and the Hebrew word for “prosperity” is shalvah, while the Hebrew form of “Jerusalem, “which means “City of Peace, “is Yeru-shalaim. So that, in effect, the poet wishes shalom and shalvah on shalaim —”peace” and “prosperity” on “the City of Peace.” Such an use of words may not strike us as indicating any very subtle or profound sense of humour, or any remarkable artistic skill. But we must always remember that it is always difficult for one race to appreciate the humour, or wit, of another race. We must also remember that this art of playing on words and the sound of words—an art of which we are growing weary—was very novel and surprising to men not surfeited with it as we are, and who were themselves for the most part quite incapable of the simplest dexterities of speech. Samuel Cox.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 6.
1. The prayer,
a) “For Jerusalem”: not for ourselves merely, or for the world; but for the church. For the babes in grace; for the young men, and for the fathers. For the pastors, with the deacons and elders.
b) For the “peace” of Jerusalem. Inward peace and outward peace.
2. The promise.
a) To whom given: “They that love thee.”
b) The promise itself: “They shall prosper” — individually and collectively.
Or,
1. Love to Jerusalem is the effect of true piety.
2. Prayer for Jerusalem is the effect of that love.
3. The peace of Jerusalem is the effect of that prayer; and,
4. The prosperity of Jerusalem is the effect of that peace. G.R.
Ver. 6. God has connected giving and receiving, scattering and increasing, sowing and reaping, praying and prospering.
1. What we must do if we would prosper—”Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
a) Comprehensively: “Peace” —spiritual, social, ecclesiastical, national.
b) Supremely: “Prefer Jerusalem above, “etc.
c) Practically: “Let peace rule in your hearts.” “Seek peace and pursue it.”
2. What we shall gain if we pray thus—”Prosperity.”
a) Temporal prosperity may thus come. God turned again the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends.
b) Spiritual prosperity shall thus come. Affairs of soul—holy exercises and services.
c) Numerical prosperity will thus come. “Increased with men as a flock.” W. J.
Ver. 6-9.
1. The blessings desired for the church.
a) Peace.
b) Prosperity. Notice the order and connection of these two.
2. The way to secure them.
a) Prayer: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
b) Delight in the service of God: “I was glad, “etc.
c) Practical effort: “I will seek thy good.”
3. Reasons for seeking them.
a) For our own sake: “They shall prosper, “etc.
b) For our companions’ sake.
c) For the sake of the “house of the Lord.” F. J. B.
Psalms 122:7*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 7. Peace be within thy walls. See how the poet personifies the church, and speaks to it: his heart is with Zion, and therefore his conversation runs in that direction. A second time is the sweet favour of peace earnestly sought after: “There is none like it, give it me.” Walls were needed to keep out the foe, but it was asked of the Lord that those walls might prove sufficient for her security. May the munitions of rock so securely defend the city of God that no intruder may ever enter within her enclosure. May her ramparts repose in safety. Three walls environed her, and thus she had a trinity of security.
And prosperity within thy palaces, or “Repose within thy palaces.” Peace is prosperity; there can be no prosperity which is not based on peace, nor can there long be peace if prosperity be gone, for decline of grace breeds decay of love. We wish for the church rest from internal dissension and external assault: war is not her element, but we read of old, “Then had the churches rest; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” The bird of Paradise is not a sternly petrel: her element is not the hurricane of debate, but the calm of communion.
Observe that our Jerusalem is a city of palaces: kings dwell within her walls, and God himself is there. The smallest Church is worthy of higher honour than the greatest confederacies of nobles. The order of the New Jerusalem is of more repute in heaven than the knights of the Golden Fleece. For the sake of all the saintly spirits which inhabit the city of God we may well entreat for her the boons of lasting peace and abounding prosperity.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 7. Peace be within thy walls. The Church is a war town, and a walled town, which is situated among enemies, and may not trust them who are without, but must be upon its keeping, as the type thereof, Jerusalem, with her walls and towers, did shadow forth. David Dickson.
Ver. 7. Within thy walls. Or, To thy outward wall. Josephus tells us (Book V.) that there were at Jerusalem three ranges or rows of walls. The sense here is, Let no enemy approach so much as to thy out works to disturb thee. Thomas Fenton.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 7.
1. Where peace is most desirable: “Within thy walls.” Within town walls, within house walls, but principally within temple walls.
2. Where prosperity is most desirable.
a) In the closet.
b) In the church. These are the palaces of the Great King; “The ivory palaces whereby they have made thee glad.” G. R.
Ver. 7. The connection between peace and prosperity.
Ver. 7. Thy walls.
1. Enquire why the church needs walls.
2. Enquire what are the walls of a church.
3. Enquire on which side of them we are.
Ver. 7. The church a palace.
1. Intended for the great King.
2. Inhabited by the royal family.
3. Adorned with regal splendour.
4. Guarded by special power.
5. Known as the court of the blessed and only potentate.
Psalms 122:8*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 8. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. It is to the advantage of all Israel that there should be peace in Jerusalem. It is for the good of every Christian, yea, of every man, that there should be peace and prosperity in the church. Here our humanity and our common philanthropy assist our religious prayer. By a flourishing church our children, our neighbours, our fellow countrymen are likely to be blest. Moreover, we cannot but pray for a cause with which our dearest relatives and choicest friends are associated: if they labour for it, we must and will pray for it. Here peace is mentioned for the third time. Are not these frequent threes some hint of the Trinity? It would be hard to believe that the triple form of so many parts of the Old Testament is merely accidental. At least, the repetition of the desire displays the writer’s high valuation of the blessing mentioned; he would not again and again have invoked peace had he not perceived its extreme desirableness.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 8. For my brethren and companions’ sakes. Because they dwell there; or, because they go up there to worship; or, because they love thee, and find their happiness in thee; or, because they are unconverted, and all my hope of their salvation is to be derived from thee, —from the church, from the influence of religion. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 8. My brethren. On another occasion, an elderly native, formerly a cannibal, addressing the Church members, said, “Brethren!” and, pausing for a moment, continued, “Ah! that is a new name; we did not know the true meaning of that word in our heathenism. It is the `Evangelia a Jesu’ that has taught us the meaning of `brethren.'” William Gill, in “Gems from the Coral Islands, “1869.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 8-9. Two great principles are here laid down why we should pray for the church,
1. Love to the brethren: “For my brethren and companions’ sakes.”
2. Love to God: “Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.” N. M`michael.
Psalms 122:9*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 9. Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good. He prays for Jerusalem because of Zion. How the church salts and savours all around it. The presence of Jehovah, our God, endears to us every place wherein he reveals his glory. Well may we seek her good within whose walls there dwells God who alone is good. We are to live for God’s cause, and to be ready to die for it. First we love it (Psalms 122:6) and then we labour for it, as in this passage: we see its good, and then seek its good. If we can do nothing else we can intercede for it. Our covenant relation to Jehovah as our God binds us to pray for his people, —they are “the house of the Lord our God.” If we honour our God we desire the prosperity of the church which he has chosen for his indwelling.
Thus is the poet glad of an invitation to join with others in the Lord’s service. He goes with them and rejoices, and then he turns his delight into devotion, and intercedes for the city of the great King. O church of the living God, we hail thine assemblies, and on bended knee we pray that thou mayest have peace and felicity. May our Jehovah so send it. Amen.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 9. Because of the house of the Lord. The city that was the scene of so immense assemblies had necessarily a peculiar character of its own. It existed for them, it lived by them. There were priests needed for the conduct of the worship, twenty four courses of them and 20,000 men. There were Levites, their servants, in immense numbers, needed to watch, maintain, clean the temple—to do the menial and ministering work necessary to its elaborate service and stupendous acts of worship. There were scribes needed for the interpretation of the law, men skilled in the Scriptures and tradition, with names like Gamaliel, so famed for wisdom as to draw young men like Saul from distant Tarsus, or Apollos from rich Alexandria. There were synagogues, 480 of them at least, where the rabbis read and the people heard the word which God had in past times spoken unto the fathers by the prophets. The city was indeed in a sense the religion of Israel, incorporated and localized, and the man who loved the one turned daily his face toward the other, saying, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of Jahveh.” A. M. Fairbairn, in “Studies in the Life of Christ, “1881.
Ver. 9. I will seek thy good. It is not a cold wish; it is not a careless, loose seeking after it, that is the phrase in my text— “I will seek thy good.” It is not a careless, loose seeking after it, almost as indifferently as a woman seeks after a pin which she has dropped; no, no; effort is implied. “I will seek”; I will throw my energies into it; my powers, my faculties, my property, my time, my influence, my connections, my family, my house, all that I have under my command shall, as far as I have power to command, and as far as God gives me ability to turn them to such a use, be employed in an effort to promote the interests of Zion. Joseph Irons, 1786-1852.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 9. I will seek thy good.
1. By prayer for the church.
2. By service in the church.
3. By bringing others to attend.
4. By keeping the peace.
5. By living so as to commend religion.
In “Chandler’s Life of David, “vol. 2. pp. 131-4, there is an Exposition of this Psalm.
Ecclesia Triumphans: That is, the Joy of the English Church, for the Happie Coronation of the most vertuous and pious Prince
IAMES by the grace of God King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland… With a briefe Exposition of the 122. Psalme, and fit application to the time… The second edition. By ANDREW WILLETT.] Printed by IOHN LEGAT, Printer to the Vniuersitie of Cambridge, 1614. Folio. This Exposition is generally to be found bound up with Willett’s “Harmonie vpon the First Booke of Samuel.”]

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Psalm 121

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-8
TITLE, ETC. —This bears no other title than “A Song of degrees”. It is several steps in advance of its predecessor, for it tells of the peace of God’s house, and the guardian care of the Lord, while Psalms 120:1-7 bemoans the departure of peace from the good man’s abode, and his exposure to the venomous assaults of slanderous tongues. In the first instance his eyes looked around with anguish, but here they look up with hope. From the constant recurrence of the word keep, we are led to name this song “a Psalm to the keeper of Israel”. Were it not placed among the Pilgrim Psalms we should regard it as a martial hymn, fitted for the evensong of one who slept upon the tented field. It is a soldier’s song as well as a traveller’s hymn. There is an ascent in the psalm itself which rises to the greatest elevation of restful confidence.
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 1. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. It is wise to look to the strong for strength. Dwellers in valleys are subject to many disorders for which there is no cure but a sojourn in the uplands, and it is well when they shake off their lethargy and resolve upon a climb. Down below they are the prey of marauders, and to escape from them the surest method is to fly to the strongholds upon the mountains. Often before the actual ascent the sick and plundered people looked towards the hills and longed to be upon their summits. The holy man who here sings a choice sonnet looked away from the slanderers by whom he was tormented to the Lord who saw all from his high places, and was ready to pour down succour for his injured servant. Help comes to saints only from above, they look elsewhere in vain: let us lift up our eyes with hope, expectance, desire, and confidence. Satan will endeavour to keep our eyes upon our sorrows that we may be disquieted and discouraged; be it ours firmly to resolve that we will look out and look up, for there is good cheer for the eyes, and they that lift up their eyes to the eternal hills shall soon have their hearts lifted up also. The purposes of God; the divine attributes; the immutable promises; the covenant, ordered in all things and sure; the providence, predestination, and proved faithfulness of the Lord—these are the hills to which we must lift up our eyes, for from these our help must come. It is our resolve that we will not be bandaged and blindfolded, but will lift up our eyes.
Or is the text in the interrogative? Does he ask, “Shall I lift up mine eyes to the hills?” Does he feel that the highest places of the earth can afford him no shelter? Or does he renounce the idea of recruits hastening to his standard from the hardy mountaineers? and hence does he again enquire, “Whence cometh my help?” If so, the next verse answers the question, and shows whence all help must come.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Title. “A Song of Degrees.” —It has been ingeniously pointed out that these “degrees” or “steps” consist in the reiteration of a word or thought occurring in one clause, verse, or stanza, which in the next verse or stanza is used, as it were, as a step (or degree) by which to ascend to another and higher truth. Thus in our psalm, the idea of “my help”, expressed in Psalms 121:1, is repeated in Psalms 121:2. This has now become a step by which in Psalms 121:3 we reach the higher truth or explanation of “nay help”, as: “He that keepeth thee will not slumber, “the same idea being with slight modification reembodied in Psalms 121:4. Another “degree” is then reached in Psalms 121:5, when “He who slumbers not” is designated as Jehovah, the same idea once more enlarged upon being (the word occurring twice in Psalms 121:5) in Psalms 121:6. The last and highest degree of this song is attained in Psalms 121:7, when the truth implied in the word Jehovah unfolds itself in its application to our preservation, which, with further enlargement, is once more repeated in Psalms 121:8. Perhaps some internal connexion might be traced between all the fifteen Psalms of Degrees. At any rate, it will not be difficult to trace the same structure if each of the psalms “of Degrees”, making allowance for occasional devotions and modifications. —Alfred Edersheim, in “The Golden Diary”, 1877.
Whole Psalm. —According to Psalms 121:1 this psalm was designed to be sung in view of the mountains of Jerusalem, and is manifestly an evening song for the sacred band of pilgrims, to be sung in the last night watch, the figures of which are also peculiarly suitable for a pilgrim song; and with Psalms 122:1-9, which, according to the express announcement in the introduction, was sung, when the sacred pilgrim trains had reached the gates of Jerusalem, and halted for the purpose of forming in order, for the solemn procession into the Sanctuary, Ps.
134…
The idea is a very probable one, that the psalm was the evening song of the sacred pilgrim band, sung on retiring to rest upon the last evening, when the long wished for termination of their wandering, the mountains of Jerusalem, had come into view in the distance. In this we obtain a suitable connection with the following psalm, which would be sung one station further on when the pilgrims were at the gates of Jerusalem. In this case we find an explanation of the fact, that in the middle point of the psalm there stands the Lord as the “keeper” of Israel, with reference to the declaration. “I keep thee”, which was addressed to the patriarch as he slept on his pilgrimage: and in this case also “he neither slumbereth nor sleepeth” is seen in its true light. —E.W. Hengstenberg.
It has been said Mr. Romaine read this psalm every day; and sure it is, that every word in it is calculated to encourage and strengthen our faith and hope in God. —Samuel Eyles Pierce.
Ver. 1. —I will lift up mine eyes, etc. Since we, being burdened with the effects of worldly pleasures, and also with other cares and troubles, can by no means ascend to thee that art on the top of so high a mountain, accompanied with so many legions of angels that still attend upon thee, we have no remedy, but with thy prophet David now to lift up the eyes of our hearts and minds towards thee, and to cry for help to come down from thee to us, thy poor and wretched servants. —Sir Anthony Cope, in “Meditations on Twenty Select Psalms”,
1547.
Ver. 1. —I will lift up mine eyes, etc. In thy agony of a troubled conscience always look upwards unto a gracious God to keep thy soul steady; for looking downward on thyself thou shalt find nothing but what will increase thy fear, infinite sins, good deeds few, and imperfect: it is not thy faith, but God’s faithfulness thou must rely upon; casting thine eyes downwards on thyself, to behold the great distance betwixt what you deserve and what thou desirest, is enough to make thee giddy, stagger, and reel into despair. Ever therefore lift up thine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh thy help, never viewing the deep dale of thy own unworthiness, but to abate thy pride when tempted to presumption. —Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), in “The Cause and Cure of a Wounded
Conscience”.
Ver. 1. —The hills. There can be no doubt that in Palestine we are in the “Highlands” of Asia. This was the more remarkable in connection with the Israelites, because they were the only civilized nation then existing in the world, which dwelt in a mountainous country… The Hebrew people was raised above the other ancient states, equally in its moral and in its physical relations. From the Desert of Arabia to Hebron is a continual ascent, and from that ascent there is no descent of any importance, except to the pains of the Jordan, Esdraelon, and the coast. From a mountain sanctuary, as it were, Israel looked over the world… It was to the “mountains” of Israel that the exile lifted up his eyes, as the place from whence his help came. —Arthur Penrhyn Stanley.
Ver. 1. —The hills, from whence cometh my help. See no riches but in grace, no health but in piety, no beauty but in holiness, no treasure but in heaven, no delight but in “the things above.” —Anthony Farindon.
Ver. 1. —From whence cometh my help. The natives of India used to say that when Sir Henry Laurence looked twice to heaven and then to earth he knew what to do.
To Heaven I lift mine eye,
To Heaven, Jehovah’s throne,
For there my Saviour sits on high,
And thence shall strength and aid supply
To all He calls His own.
He will not faint nor fail,
Nor cause thy feet to stray:
For him no weary hours assail,
Nor evening darkness spreads her veil
O’er his eternal day.
Beneath that light divine
Securely shalt thou move;
The sun with milder beams shall shine,
And eve’s still queen her lamp incline
Benignant from above.
For he, thy God and Friend,
Shall keep thy soul from harm,
In each sad scene of doubt attend,
And guide thy life, and bless thy end,
With his almighty arm.
—John Bowtiler, 1814.
Ver. 1,2. —Faint at the close of life’s journey, a Christian pilgrim repeated the line, —
“Will he not his help afford?”
She quoted it several times, trying to recall the song in which it occurs, and asked that the once familiar hymn, part of the voice of which she caught, might be all fetched home to her mind again; and she was greatly refreshed and comforted when we read at her bedside Charles Wesley’s spirited paraphrase, beginning, —
“To the hills I lift mine eyes,
The everlasting hills;
Streaming thence in fresh supplies,
My soul the Spirit feels.
Will he not his help afford?
Help, while yet I ask, is given:
God comes down; the God and Lord
That made both earth and heaven.”
—Edward Jewitt Robinson, in “The Caravan and the Temple”, 1878.
Ver. 1-3. —
Look away to Jesus,
Look away from all!
Then we need not stumble,
Then we shall not fall.
From each snare that lures,
Foe or phantom grim.
Safety this ensures,
Look away to him!
—Frances Ridley Havergal.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 1. —The window opened towards Jerusalem.
1. The hills we look to.
2. The help we look for.
3. The eyes we look with.
Ver. 1. —Whence cometh my help? A grave question; for,
1. I need it, greatly, in varied forms, constantly, and now.
2. In few directions can I look for it, for men are feeble, changeable, hostile, etc.
3. I must look above. To Providence, to Grace, to my God.
Psalms 121:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. What we need is help, —help powerful, efficient, constant: we need a very present help in trouble. What a mercy that we have it in our God. Our hope is in Jehovah, for our help comes from him. Help is on the road, and will not fail to reach us in due time, for he who sends it to us was never known to be too late. Jehovah who created all things is equal to every emergency; heaven and earth are at the disposal of him who made them, therefore let us be very joyful in our infinite helper. He will sooner destroy heaven and earth than permit his people to be destroyed, and the perpetual hills themselves shall bow rather than he shall fail whose ways are everlasting. We are bound to look beyond heaven and earth to him who made them both: it is vain to trust the creatures: it is wise to trust the Creator.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. —My help cometh from the Lord. I requite to remember that my, help cometh from the Lord, not only when seemingly there is no outward help from men or otherwise, but also and especially when all seems to go well with me, —when abundance of friends and help are at hand. For then, surely, I am most in danger of making an arm of flesh my trust, and thus reaping its curse; or else of saying to my soul, “Take thine ease”, and finding the destruction which attends such folly. —Alfred Edersheim.
Ver. 2. —Maker of heaven and earth, and therefore mighty to help. —James G. Murphy.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 2. —The Creator the creature’s helper.
Ver. 2. —
1. God is his people’s “help”.
2. He helps them in proportion as they feel their need of his help.
3. His help is never ill vain. “My help cometh.” not from the earth merely, or the skies, but “from the Lord, which made heaven and earth”. Isaiah 40:26-31.
—G.R.
Psalms 121:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved. Though the paths of life are dangerous and difficult, yet we shall stand fast, for Jehovah will not permit our feet to slide; and if he will not suffer it we shall not suffer it. If our foot will be thus kept we may be sure that our head and heart will be preserved also. In the original the words express a wish or prayer, —”May he not suffer thy foot to be moved.” Promised preservation should be the subject of perpetual prayer; and we may pray believing; for those who have God for their keeper shall be safe from all the perils of the way. Among the hills and ravines of Palestine the literal keeping of tim feet is a great mercy; but in the slippery ways of a tried and afflicted life, the boon of upholding is of priceless value, for a single false step might cause us a fall fraught with awful danger. To stand erect and pursue the even tenor of our way is a blessing which only God can give, which is worthy of the divine hand, and worthy also of perennial gratitude. Our feet shall move in progress, but they shall not be moved to their overthrow.
He that keepeth thee will not slumber, —or “thy keeper shall not slumber”. We should not stand a moment if our keeper were to sleep; we need him by day and by night; not a single step can be safely taken except under his guardian eye. This is a choice stanza in a pilgrim song. God is the convoy and body guard of his saints. When dangers are awake around us we are safe, for our Preserver is awake also, and will not permit us to be taken unawares. No fatigue or exhaustion can cast our God into sleep; his watchful eyes are never closed.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. —He will not suffer thy foot to be moved. The sliding of the foot is a frequent description of misfortune, for example, Psalms 38:16, Psalms 66:9, and a very natural one in mountainous Canaan. Where a single slip of the foot was often attended with great danger. The language here naturally refers to complete, lasting misfortune. —E.W. Hengstenberg.
Ver. 3. —He will not suffer thy foot to be moved. A man cannot go without moving of his feet; and a man cannot stand whose feet are moved. The foot by a synechdoche is put for the whole body, and the body for the whole outward estate; so that, “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved”, is, he will not suffer thee or thine to be moved or violently cast down. The power of thine opposers shall not prevail over thee, for the power of God sustains thee. Many are striking at thy heels, but they cannot strike them up while God holds thee up. If the will of thine enemies might stand, thou shouldest quickly fall; but God “will not suffer thy foot to be moved”. —Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 3-8. —There is something very striking in the assurance that the Lord with not suffer the foot even of the most faint and wearied one to be moved. The everlasting mountains stand fast, and we feel as if, like Mount Zion, they could not be removed for ever; but the step of man—how feeble in itself, how liable to stumble or trip even against a pebble in the way! Yet that foot is as firm and immoveable in God’s protection as the hills themselves. It is one of his own sweet promises, that he will give his angels charge over every child Of his, that lie come to no harm by the way. But, oh, how immeasurably beyond even the untiring wings of angels is the love promised here! that love which engages to protect from every danger, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings. In the hours of occupation and hurry, in the conflicts and perils of the day, in the helplessness of sleep, in the glare and heat of the noonday, amid the damps and dews of night, that wakeful eye is still over every child for his good. Man, indeed, goeth forth to his work and to his labour till the evening; but alike as he goes forth in the morning, and as he returns in the evening, the Lord still holds him up in all his goings forth and his comings in; no manner of evil shall befall him. And oh! what a sweet addition is it to the promise, “He shall preserve thy soul”. It is the very argument of the apostle, and the very inference he draws, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry”, —”He neither slumbereth nor sleepeth”, —and then he asks, “Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” From the very dawn of life to its latest close, even for evermore, “He will preserve thee from all evil; he will preserve thy soul.” —Barton Bouchier.
Ver. 3,4,5. —A great practical difficulty is to find a keeper who will remain awake during the whole night. The weariness of those who keen a faithful watch, and their longing for day during the tedious lonely hours of darkness, is alluded to in a graphic and beautiful figure of the Psalmist—
“My soul waiteth for the Lord
More than keepers for the morning,
More than keepers for the morning.”
The usual method adopted to secure due vigilance is to require the man to call out loudly, or to blow a whistle, every quarter of an hour… Yet, notwithstanding all precautions, as soon as sleep falls on the tired camp, it is too often the case that the hireling keeper lies down on the ground, wraps around him his thick “abaiyeh”, or cloak, and, careless of his charge, or overcome with weariness yields himself up to his drowsy propensities.
Viewed in the light of these facts, how full of condescension and cheer is the assurance of God’s never ceasing care—
“He who keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he who keepeth Israel
Doth not slumber or sleep.
Jehovah is thy keeper.”
While the services of the keeper constitute at all times a marked feature of life in Palestine, they are perhaps more needed when travelling through the country than at any other time. Then, when the moving camp is nightly pitched in strange fields, it becomes absolutely necessary to apply to the nearest authorities for a nocturnal guardian, before one can safely lie down to rest. Now this Psalms 121:1-8 being one of “the Songs of Degrees, “was probably composed to be sung on the way to Jerusalem, as a pilgrim hymn, when the Israelites were coming up annually to keep the three great feasts. As a journeying psalm, it would therefore have peculiar significance in its allusion to the keeper by night. —James Neil, in “Palestine Explored”, 1882.
Ver. 3,4. —When one asked Alexander how he could sleep so soundly and securely in the midst of danger, he told him that Parmenlo watched, Oh, how securely may they sleep over whom he watcheth that never slumbers nor sleeps! —From “The Dictionary of Illustrations”, 1873.
Ver. 3,4. —A poor woman, as the Eastern story has it, came to the Sultan one day, and asked compensation for the loss of some property. “How did you lose it?” said the monarch. “I fell asleep”, was the reply, “and a robber entered my dwelling”. “Why did you fall asleep?” “I fell asleep because I believed that you were awake”. The Sultan was so much delighted with the answer of the woman, that he ordered her loss to be made up. But what is true, only by a legal fiction, of human governments, that they never sleep is true in the most absolute sense with reference to the divine government. We can sleep in safety because our God is ever awake. We are safe because he never slumbers. Jacob had a beautiful picture of the ceaseless care of Divine Providence on the night when he fled from his father’s house. The lonely traveller slept on the ground, with the stones for his pillow, and the sky for his canopy. He had a wondrous vision of a ladder stretching from earth to heaven, and on which angels were seen ascending and descending. And he heard Jehovah saying to him, “Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest.” —N. McMichael.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 3 (First clause). —The preservation of saintly character the care of the Creator.
Ver. 3. —Comfort for a pilgrim along the ‘mauvais pas’ of life. We have a Guide omniscient, omnipotent, never slumbering, unchanging.
Ver. 3. —He that keepeth thee will not slumber.
1. The Lord’s care is personal in its objects. The keeper of Israel is the keeper of the individual. God deals with us individually.
(a) This is implied in his care of the church, which is
composed of individuals.
(b) It is involved in the nature of our religion, which
is a personal thing.
(c) It is affirmed in Scripture. Examples; promises;
experiences. “He loved me, “etc., etc.
(d) It is confirmed by experience.
2. The Lord’s care is unwearied in its exercise: “Will not slumber.”
(a) He is never unacquainted with our condition.
(b) He is never indifferent to it.
(c) He is never weary of helping us. We sometimes think
he sleeps, but this is our folly.
—Frederick J. Benskin, of Reading, 1882.
Psalms 121:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The consoling truth must be repeated: it is too rich to be dismissed in a single line. It were well if we always imitated the sweet singer, and would dwell a little upon a choice doctrine, sucking the honey from it. What a glorious title is in the Hebrew—”The keeper of Israel, “and how delightful to think that no form of unconsciousness ever steals over him, neither the deep slumber nor the lighter sleep. He will never suffer the house to be broken up by the silent thief; he is ever on the watch, and speedily perceives every intruder. This is a subject of wonder, a theme for attentive consideration, therefore the word “Behold” is set up as a waymark. Israel fell asleep, but his God was awake. Jacob had neither walls, nor curtains, nor body guard around him; but the Lord was in that place though Jacob knew it not, and therefore the defenceless man was safe as in a castle. In after days he mentioned God under this enchanting name—”The God that led me all my life long”: perhaps David alludes to that passage in this expression. The word “keepeth” is also full of meaning: he keeps us as a rich man keeps his treasures, as a captain keeps a city with a garrison, as a royal guard keeps his monarch’s head. If the former verse is in strict accuracy a prayer, this is the answer to it; it affirms the matter thus, “Lo, he shall not slumber nor sleep—the Keeper of Israel”. It may also be worthy of mention that in verse three the Lord is spoken of as the personal keeper of one individual, and here of all those who are in his chosen nation, described as Israel: mercy to one saint is the pledge of blessing to them all. Happy are the pilgrims to whom this psalm is a safe conduct; they may journey all the way to the celestial city without fear.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. —It is necessary, observes S. Bernard, that “he who keepeth Israel” should “neither slumber nor sleep”, for he who assails Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. And as the One is anxious about us, so is the other to slay and destroy us, and his one care is that he who has once been turned aside may never come back. —Neale and Littledale.
Ver. 4. —Slumber. Sleep. There is no climax in these words, as some have supposed. Etymologically, the first is the stronger word, and it occurs in Ps 76:5 6 of the sleep of death. In this instance there is no real distinction between the two. Possibly there may be an allusion to the nightly encampment, and the sentries of the caravan. —J.J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 4. —He… shall neither slumber nor sleep. This form of expression, he will not slumber nor sleep, would be improper in other languages, according to the idiom of which it should rather be, He will not sleep, yea, he will not slumber: but when the Hebrews invert this order, they argue from the greater to the less. The sense then is, that as God never slumbers even in the smallest degree, we need not be afraid of any harm befalling us while he is asleep. —John Calvin.
Ver. 4. —He that keepeth Israel. With an allusion to Jacob, who slept at Bethel, and to whom the promise of God took this form, “And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou guest”: Genesis 28:15. —Aben Ezra, quoted by H.T. Armfield.
Ver. 4. —Shall neither slumber nor sleep. Man sleeps; a sentinel may slumber on his post by inattention, by long continued wakefulness, or by weariness; a pilot may slumber at the helm; even a mother may fall asleep by the side of the sick child; but God is never exhausted, is never weary, is never inattentive. He never closes his eyes on the condition of his people, on the wants of the world. —Albert Barnes.
Ver. 4. —A number of years ago Captain D. commanded a vessel sailing from Liverpool to New York, and on one voyage he had all his family with him on board the ship.
One night, when all were quietly asleep, there arose a sudden squall of wind, which came sweeping over the waters until it struck the vessel, and instantly threw her on her side, tumbling and crashing everything that was moveable, and awakening the passengers to a consciousness that they were in imminent peril.
Everyone on board was alarmed and uneasy, and some sprang from their berths and began to dress, that they might be ready for the worst.
Captain D. had a little girl on board, just eight years old, who, of course, awoke with the rest.
“What’s the matter?” said the frightened child.
They told her a squall had struck the ship.
“Is father on deck?” said she.
“Yes; father’s on deck.”
The little thing dropped herself on her pillow again without a fear, and in a few moments was sleeping sweetly in spite of winds or waves.
Fear not the windy tempests wild,
Thy bark they shall not wreck;
Lie down and sleep, O helpless child!.
Thy Father’s on the deck. —”The Biblical Treasury”, 1873.
Ver. 4,5. —The same that is the protector of the church in general, is engaged for the preservation of every particular believer; the same wisdom, the same power, the same promises. “He that keepeth Israel” (verse 4), “is thy keeper” (verse 5). The Shepherd of the flock is the Shepherd of every sheep, and will take care that not one, even of the little ones, shall perish.
—Matthew Henry.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 4. —
1. The suspicion—that God sleeps.
2. The denial.
3. The implied opposite—he is ever on the watch to bless.
Ver. 4. —He keepeth Israel,
1. As his chief treasure, most watchfully.
2. As his dearest spouse, most tenderly.
3. As the apple of his eye, most charily and warily.
—Daniel Featley, 1582-1645.
Psalms 121:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. The Lord is thy keeper. Here the preserving One, who had been spoken of by pronouns in the two previous verses, is distinctly named—Jehovah is thy keeper. What a mint of meaning lies here: the sentence is a mass of bullion, and when coined and stamped with the king’s name it will bear all our expenses between our birthplace on earth and our rest in heaven. Here is a glorious person—Jehovah, assuming a gracious office and fulfilling it in person, —Jehovah is thy keeper, in behalf of a favoured individual—thy, and a firm assurance of revelation that it is even so at this hour—Jehovah is thy keeper. Can we appropriate the divine declaration? If so, we may journey onward to Jerusalem and know no fear; yea, we may journey through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil.
The Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. A shade gives protection from burning heat and glaring light. We cannot bear too much blessing; even divine goodness, which is a right hand dispensation, must be toned down and shaded to suit our infirmity, and this the Lord will do for us. He will bear a shield before us, and guard the right arm with which we fight the foe. That member which has the most of labour shall have the most of protection. When a blazing sun pours down its burning beams upon our heads the Lord Jehovah himself will interpose to shade us, and that in the most honourable manner, acting as our right hand attendant, and placing us in comfort and safety. “The Lord at thy right hand shall smite through kings”. How different this from the portion of the ungodly ones who have Satan standing at their right hand, and of those of whom Moses said, “their defence has departed from them”. God is as near us as our shadow, and we are as safe as angels.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5. —The Lord is thy keeper. Two principal points are asserted in these previous words.
1. Jehovah, and Jehovah alone, the omnipotent and self existent God, is the Keeper and Preserver of his people.
2. The people of God are kept, at all times and in all circumstances, by his mighty power unto everlasting salvation; they are preserved even “for evermore.” In the first particular, the divinity of the great Keeper is declared; and, in the second, the eternal security of his people through his omnipotence and faithfulness. This was the Psalmist’s gospel. He preached it to others, and he felt it himself. He did not speculate upon what he did not understand; but he had a clear evidence, and a sweet perception, of these two glorious doctrines, which he delivered to the people… This character, under the name of Jehovah, is the character of Christ. Just such a one is Jesus, the Shepherd of Israel. He says of himself to the Father, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the Son of Perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” …From what has been premised, it seems evident, that the keeper of the faithful is no other than Jehovah. This the Psalmist has proved. It appears equally evident that Christ is their Keeper and Preserver. This he hath declared himself; and his apostles have repeatedly declared it of him. It follows, therefore, that Christ is truly and essentially Jehovah. All the sophistry in the world cannot elude this conclusion; nor all the heretics in the world destroy the premises. And, if Christ be Jehovah, he is all that supreme, eternal, omnipotent being, which Arians, Socinians, and others deny him to be. —Ambrose Serle, in “Hora Sotitarice”, 1815.
Ver. 5. —Keeper. Shade. The titles of God are virtually promises. When he is called a sun, a shield, a strong tower, a hiding place, a portion. The titles of Christ, light of the world, bread of life, the way, the truth, and life; the titles of the Spirit, the Spirit of truth, of holiness, of glory, of grace, and supplication, the sealing, witnessing Spirit; faith may conclude as much out of these as out of promises. Is the Lord a sun? then he will influence me, etc. Is Christ life? then he will enliven me, etc. —David Clarkeon, 1621-1686.
Ver. 5. —Thy shade upon thy right hand. That is, always present with thee; or, as the Jewish Arab renders it, “Closer than thy shadow at, or from thy right hand.” —Thomas Benton, in “Annotations on the Book of Job and the Psalms”, 1732.
Ver. 5. —Thy shade. In eastern countries the sun’s burning rays are often arrows by which premature death is inflicted; and when the Psalmist speaks of Jehovah as a shady covert for the righteous that imagery suggests the idea of the “coup de soleil” or sunstroke as the evil avoided. —J.F., in The Baptist Magazine, 1831.
Ver. 5. —Shade. The Hebrew word is tsel, “a shadow, “and hence it has been supposed that the words, “thy shadow at thy right hand, “are a figurative expression, referring to the protection afforded by the shade of a tree against the scorching rays of the sun, or to the custom which prevails in tropical climates especially, of keeping off the intense heat of the sun by a portable screen, such as an umbrella or parasol. The word is often put for defence in general. Compare Numbers 14:9; Isaiah 30:2; Jeremiah 48:45. —James Anderson.
Ver. 5-8. —How large a writ or patent of protection is granted here! No time shall be hurtful, neither “day nor night, “which includes all times. Nothing shall hurt, neither sun nor moon, nor heat nor cold. These should include all annoyances. Nothing shall be hurt. “Thy soul shall be preserved, thy outgoings and thy comings in shall be preserved.” These include the whole person of man, and him in all his just affairs and actions. Nothing of man is safe without a guard, and nothing of man can be unsafe which is thus guarded. They should be kept who can say, “The Lord is our keeper”; and they cannot be kept, no, not by legions of angels, who have not the Lord for their keeper. None can keep us but he, and he hath promised to keep us “for evermore”. —Joseph Caryl.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 5. —The Lord Keeper.
1. Blessings included in this title.
2. Necessities which demand it.
3. Offices which imply it, —Shepherd, King, Husband, Father, etc.
4. Conduct suggested by it.
Ver. 5 (last clause). God as near us, and as indivisible from us as our shadow.
Ver. 5. —The Lord is thy keeper, not angels.
1. He is able to keep thee. He has infinite knowledge, power, etc.
2. He has engaged to keep thee.
3. He has kept thee.
4. He will keep thee. In his love; in his covenant, etc., as his sheep, his children, his treasures, as the apple of his eye, etc. —F.J.B.
Ver. 5. —The Lord is thy keeper.
1. Wakeful: “Will not slumber.”
2. Universal: “Thy going out and thy coming in:” “From all evil.”
3. Perpetual: “Day:” “night: …evermore.”
4. Special: “Thy:” “Israel.” —W.J.
Psalms 121:6*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 6. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. None but the Lord could shelter us from these tremendous forces. These two great lights rule the day and the night, and under the lordship of both we shall labour or rest in equal safety. Doubtless there are dangers of the light and of the dark, but in both and from both we shall be preserved—literally from excessive heat and from baneful chills; mystically from any injurious effects which might follow from doctrine bright or dim; spiritually from the evils of prosperity and adversity; eternally from the strain of overpowering glory and from the pressure of terrible events, such as judgment and the burning of the world. Day and night make up all time: thus the ever present protection never ceases. All evil may be ranked as under the sun or the moon, and if neither of these can smite us we are indeed secure. God has not made a new sun or a fresh moon for his chosen, they exist under the same outward circumstances as others, but the power to smite is in their case removed from temporal agencies; saints are enriched, and not injured, by the powers which govern the earth’s condition; to them has the Lord given “the precious things brought forth by the sun, and the precious things put forth by the moon, “while at the same moment he has removed from them all glare and curse of heat or damp, of glare or chill.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6. —The sun shall not smite thee. hrh of the sun signifies to smite injuriously (Isaiah 49:10), plants, so that they wither (Psalms 102:5), and the head (John 4:8), so that symptoms of sunstroke (2 Kings 4:19; Jude 8:2 seq.) appear. The transferring of the word to the word is not zeugmatic. Even the moon’s rays may become insupportable, may affect the eyes injuriously, and (more particularly in the equatorial regions) produce fatal inflammation of the brain. From the hurtful influences of nature that are round about him the promise extends in verses 7,8 in every direction. Jahve, says the poet to himself, will keep (guard) thee against all evil, of whatever kind it may be and whencesoever it may threaten; he will keep thy soul, and therefore thy life both inwardly and outwardly; he will keep thy going out and coming in, i.e., all thy business and intercourse of life… everywhere and at all times; and that from this time forth even for ever. —Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 6. —The sun shall not smite thee by day, etc. A promise made with allusion unto, and application of that care which God had over his people, when he brought them out of Egypt through the wilderness, when he guarded them from the heat of the sun by a cloud by day, and from the cold and moistness of the night and moon by a pillar of fire by night. —David Dickson.
Ver. 6. —Nor the moon by night.
The moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound.
—William Shakespeare (1564-1616), in “The Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
Ver. 6. —Joseph Hart in one of his hymns speaks of some who “travel much by night”. To such this promise is precious. —Biblical Treasury.
Ver. 6. —Nor the moon by night. The effect of the moonlight on the eyes in tiffs country is singularly injurious… The moon here really strikes and affects the sight, when you sleep exposed to it, much more than the sun, a fact of which I had a very unpleasant proof one night, and took care to guard against it afterwards; indeed, the sight of a person who should sleep with his face exposed at night would soon be utterly impaired or destroyed. —John Carne, in “Letters from the East”, 1826.
Ver. 6. —Nor the moon by night. In the cloudless skies of the East, where the moon shines with such exceeding clearness, its effects upon the human frame have been found most injurious. The inhabitants of these countries are most careful in taking precautionary measures before exposing themselves to its influence. Sleeping much in the open air, they are careful to cover well their heads and faces. It has been proved beyond a doubt that the moon smites as well as the sun, causing blindness for a time, and even distortion of the features. Sailors are well aware of this fact; and a naval officer relates that he has often, when Sailing between the tropics, seen the commanders of vessels waken up young men who have fallen asleep in the moonlight. Indeed, he witnessed more than once the effects of a moonstroke, when the mouth was drawn on one side and the sight injured for a time. He was of opinion that, with long exposure, the mind might become seriously affected. It is supposed that patients suffering under fever and other illnesses are affected by this planet, and the natives of India constantly affirm that they will either get better or worse, according to her changes. —C.W., in, “The Biblical Treasury”.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 6. —The highest powers, under God, prevented from hurting believers, and even made to serve them.
Ver. 6. —Our Horoscope.
1. Superstitious fears removed.
2. Sacred assurances supplied.
Psalms 121:7*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 7. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil, or keep thee from all evil. It is a great pity that our admirable translation did not keep to the word keep all through the psalm, for all along it is one. God not only keeps his own in all evil times but from all evil influences and operations, yea, from evils themselves. This is a far reaching word of covering: it includes everything and excludes nothing: the wings of Jehovah amply guard Iris own from evils great and small, temporary and eternal. There is a most delightful double personality in tiffs verse: Jehovah keeps the believer, not by agents, but by himself; and the person protected is definitely pointed out by the word thee, —it is not our estate or name which is shielded, but the proper personal man. To make this even more intensely real and personal another sentence is added, “The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:”
he shall preserve thy soul, —or Jehovah will keep thy soul. Soul keeping is the soul of keeping. If the soul be kept all is kept. The preservation of the greater includes that of the less so far as it is essential to the main design: the kernel shall be preserved, and in order thereto the shell shall be preserved also. God is the sole keeper of the soul. Our soul is kept from the dominion of sin, the infection of error, the crush of despondency, the puffing up of pride; kept from the world, the flesh, and the devil; kept for holier and greater things; kept in the love of God; kept unto the eternal kingdom and glory. What can harm a soul that is kept of the Lord?
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 7. —The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil. Lawyers, when they are drawing up important documents, frequently conclude with some general terms to meet any emergency which may possibly occur. They do this on the principle, that what is not in may be supposed to be intentionally left out. In order to guard against this inference, they are not content with inserting a number of particular cases; they conclude with a general statement, which includes everything, whether expressed or not. A similar formula is inserted here. It is of great Importance, that the feet of travellers be kept from sliding, as they pursue their journey. It is of great importance, that they be preserved from heat by day, and from cold by night. But other dangers await them, from which they require protection; and lest the suspicion be entertained, that no provision is made for these being surmounted, they are all introduced in the saving and comprehensive clause. No matter what may be their character, no matter from what quarter they may appear, no matter when they may nome, and no matter how long they may continue, the declaration covers them all. Divine grace changes the nature of everything it handles, and transforms everything it touches into gold. Afflictions are overruled for good; and the virtues of the Christian life are developed with unusual lustre. “The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil.” —N. McMichael.
Ver. 7. —The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil, etc. It is an absolute promise, there are no conditions annexed; it honours God for us simply to believe it, and rest on the Lord for the performance of it. As we view it, what have we to fear? The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, his word is immutable. Jesus preserves body and soul, he is the Saviour of the body as well as of the soul. —Samuel Eyles Pierce.
Ver. 7,8. —The threefold expression, “shall keep thee…thy soul…thy going out and thy coming in, “marks the completeness of the protection vouchsafed, extending to all that the man is and that he does. —J.J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 7,8. —It is of importance to mark the reason why the prophet repeats so often what he had so briefly and in one word expressed with sufficient plainness. Such repetition seems at first sight superfluous: but when we consider how difficult it is to correct our distrust, it will be easily perceived that he does not improperly dwell upon the commendation of tile divine providence. How few are to be found who yield to God the honour of being a “keeper”, in order to their being thence assured of their safety, and led to call upon him in tile midst of their perils! On the contrary, even when we seem to have largely experienced what this protection of God implies, we yet instantly tremble at tile noise of a leaf falling from a tree, as if God had quite forgotten us. Being then entangled in so many unholy misgivings, and so much inclined to distrust, we are taught from the passage that if a sentence couched in a few words does not suffice us, we should gather together whatever may be found throughout tim whole Scriptures concerning the providence of God, until this doctrine—”That God always keeps watch for us” —is deeply rooted in our hearts; so that, depending upon his guardianship alone, we may bid adieu to all the vain confidences of the world. —John Calvin.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 7. —
1. Personal agency of God in providence.
2. Personal regard of providence to the favoured individual.
3. Special care over the centre of the personality— “thy soul.”
Psalms 121:8*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 8. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. When we go out in the morning to labour, and come home at eventide to rest, Jehovah shall keep us. When we go out in youth to begin life, and come in at the end to die, we shall experience the same keeping. Our exits and our entrances are under one protection. Three times have we the phrase, “Jehovah shall keep”, as if the sacred Trinity thus sealed the word to make it sure: ought not all our fears to be slain by such a threefold flight of arrows? What anxiety can survive this triple promise? This keeping is eternal; continuing from this time forth, even for evermore. The whole church is thus assured of everlasting security: the final perseverance of the saints is thus ensured, and the glorious immortality of believers is guaranteed. Under the aegis of such a promise we may go on pilgrimage without trembling, and venture into battle without dread. None are so safe as those whom God keeps; none so much in danger as the self secure. To goings out and comings in belong peculiar dangers since every change of position turns a fresh quarter to the foe, and it is for these weak points that an especial security is provided: Jehovah will keep the door when it opens and closes, and this he will perseveringly continue to do so long as there is left a single man that trusteth in him, as long as a danger survives, and, in fact, as long as time endures. Glory be unto the Keeper of Israel, who is endeared to us under that title, since our growing sense of weakness makes us feel more deeply than ever our need of being kept. Over the reader we would breathe a benediction, couched in the verse of Keble.
“God keep thee safe from harm and sin,
Thy Spirit keep; the Lord watch o’er
Thy going out, thy coming in,
From this time, evermore.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 8. —The Lord shall preserve. The word “shamar” imports a most tender preservation; from it comes “shemuroth”, signifying the eyelids, because they are the keepers of the eye, as the Lord is called in the verse preceding—shomer Ishrael, “the keeper of Israel”. If the lids of the eye open, it is to let the eye see; if they close, it is to let it lest, at least to defend it; all their motion is for the good of the eye. O, what a comfort is here! The Lord calls his Church “the apple of his eye”: “he that toucheth you, touches the apple of mine eye”. The Church is the apple of God’s eye, and the Lord is the covering of it. O, how well are they kept whom “the keeper of Israel” keepeth! The Lord was a buckler to Abraham, none of his enemies could harm him; for his buckler covered him thoroughly. The Lord was a hedge unto Job; Satan himself confessed he could not get through it, howsoever many a time he assayed it, to have done evil unto Job…
But seeing this same promise of preservation was made before (for from the third verse to the end of the Psalm, six sundry times, is the word of keeping or preserving repeated), why is it now made over again? Not without cause; for this doubling and redoubling serves, first, for a remedy of our ignorance. Men, if they be in any good estate, are ready to “sacrifice to their own net, “or “to cause their mouth to kiss their own hand, “as if their own hand had helped them: thus to impute their “deliverance” to their “calf, “and therefore often is this resounded, “The Lord, ” “The Lord.” Is thy estate advanced? The Lord hath done it. Hast thou been preserved from desperate dangers? Look up to the Lord, thy help is from on high, and to him let the praise be returned. Secondly, it is for a remedy of our natural diffidence: the word of the Lord in itself is as sure when it is spoken, as when it is sworn; as sure spoken once, as when it is oftener repeated; yet is not the Lord content to speak only, but to swear also; nor to speak once, but often, one and the selfsame thing. The reason is showed us by the apostle, that hereby he may “declare to the heirs of promise the stability of his counsel.” Hebrews 6:1, Genesis 21:32. As Joseph spake of Pharaoh his vision, “It was doubled, because the thing is established by God, and God hasteth to perform it”; so is it with every word of the Lord, when it is repeated; it is because it is established, and God hastens to perform it. —From a Sermon by Bishop Couper, entitled “His Majesties Coming in”, 1623.
Ver. 8. —The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in. All actions being comprehended under one of these two sorts, “going out” to more public, and “coming in” to more private affairs; or again, “going out” to begin, and “coming in” at the end of the work. But by this expression may here perhaps be more particularly signified that God would protect David, even to the end of his days, whenever he marched out with his armies, or brought them home. —Thomas Fenton.
Ver. 8. —From this time forth, and even for evermore. He has not led me so tenderly thus far to forsake me at the very gate of heaven. —Adoniram Judson.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 8. —Who? “The Lord.” What? “Shall preserve thee.” When? “Going out and coming in from this time forth.” How long? “For evermore.” What then? “I will lift up mine eyes.”
Ver. 8. —
1. Changing—going out and coming in.
2. Unchanging—”The Lord shall preserve, “etc.

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Psalm 120

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-7
THE SONG OF DEGREES OR THE GRADUAL PSALMS.
This little psalter within the psalter consists of fifteen brief songs. Why they are grouped together and what is meant by their generic name it would be hard to tell. The conjectures are very mary, but they are mere suppositions. Out of them all the conjecture of Dr. Jebb best commends itself to my own mind, though it would be quite consistent with this suggestion to believe that the series of songs arranged by David became the Pilgrim Psalms of after ages, and were chanted by the Lord’s people as they went up to the temple. They are “Songs of the Goings Up; “so some read the word. Those who delight to spiritualize everything find here Ascents of the Soul, or language fitted to describe the rising of the heal t from the deepest grief to the highest delight. I have thought it well to indicate the methods by which learned men have tried to explain the term “Songs of Degrees, ” but the reader must select his own interpretation. —C.H.S.
In the thirteenth chapter of the First Book of Chronicles, it is related, that David brought up the Ark from Kirjath-jearim to the house of Obed-edom. The word (hjlu) used in the seventh verse, for “bringing up” the Ark, is of the same etymology with, and cognate to that which is translated “degrees.” And upon this occasion the great event was celebrated by the accompaniment of sacred music. “And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets.” Again, in the fifteenth chapter of the same book, in the fourteenth verse, the same term is employed for bringing up the Ark to Jerusalem; and the choral services of the Levites are mentioned in immediate connection. And in the fifth chapter of the Second Book of Chronicles (fifth verse), we are told that Solomon assembled the people at the dedication of the Temple, to bring up the Ark from Sion to the Temple of the Lord. —John Jebb.
I abide in the simple and plain sense as much as I may, and judge that these psalms are called The Psalms of Degrees because the Levites or priests were wont to sing them upon the stairs or some high place; even as with us he that begins the Psalms or preacheth, standeth in a place above the rest, that he may be the better seen and heard: For it seemeth not that these psalms were sung of the multitude which were in the Temple, or of the rest of the choir, but of certain which were appointed to sing them, or at least to begin them on the stairs to the rest, and so have their name; like as some other of the Psalms have their name and title from the singer. But how should a man know all their rites and ceremonies, especially after so long a time, whereby they are now clean worn out of the memory of all men? Seeing therefore among such a multitude of psalms, when the law was yet in his full force and power, some were wont to be sung with one manner of ceremony, and some with another, according to the time and place, as the use and custom then was, let this suffice us to think that this title pertaineth to no point of doctrine, but only to the ceremony of the singers, what manner of ceremony soever it was.
—Martin Luther, in “A Commentarie upon the Psalmes of Degrees, ”
1577.
There were fifteen steps by which the priests ascended into the Temple, on each of which they sang one of these fifteen psalms.
—David Kimchi.
Whatever view of the Songs of Degrees you may take besides, you cannot leave out some association of them with the steps, without ignoring the unanimous belief about them handed down from time immemorial amongst the people who gave them to us; without, in fact, implying that at some epoch or other this strange association of the steps with the psalms was gratuitously invented, and, being invented, secured general acceptance in the sacred literature of the Hebrew nation. It is quite impossible to believe such a thing, when we are dealing with a people so jealous of precedent and authority in religion as the Hebrews have always been. I see, in fact, no sufficient; reason why we should not follow the leading of the Mischna and feel that Songs of Degrees, Songs of the Steps, is as much as to say Songs in the sacred Orchestra.
—H.T. Armyqeld, in “The Gradual Psalms, “1874.
The great Carmelite expositor, Michael Ayguan, alleges that the fifteen psalms were divided by the Jews into three portions of five, with prayers intercalated, much as the Gregorian division of matins into three nocturns; and that each of the three grades of advance in the spiritual life is betokened by each quinary; the beginners, the progressors, and the perfect; or, in other terms, those who are severally in the purgative, the illuminative, and the unitive way. And thus it will be noticed that in Psalms 120:1-7; Psalms 121:1-8; Psalms 122:1-9; Psalms 123:1-4; Psalms 124:1-8, there is constant reference to trouble and danger; in 125-129 to confidence in God; in 130-134, to direct communion with him in his house. And Genebrardus, a later commentator, defines the fifteen degrees of going up out of the valley of weeping to the presence of God to be (1) affliction, (2) looking to God, (3) joy in communion, (4) invocation, (5) thanksgiving, (6) confidence, (7) patient waiting for deliverance, (8) God’s grace and favour, (9) fear of the Lord, (10) martyrdom, (11) hatred of sins, (12) humility, (13) desire for the coming of Christ, (14) concord and charity, (15) constant blessing of God. —Neale and Littledale.
No trace in history, or authentic tradition, can be found of these steps, which owe their construction solely to the accommodating fancy of the Rabbins, who, as usual, imagined facts, in order to support their preconceived theories.
—John Jebb.
It is an additional objection to this Rabbinical conceit, that David, whose name several of these psalms bear—and others of which have evident reference to his time and circumstances—lived in the time of the tabernacle which had no steps.
—James Anderson’s Note to Calvin in loc.
In the version of Theodotian, executed in the early part of the second century, with the express view of correcting the errors of the Septuagint, as well as in the translations by Aquila and by Symmachus, these psalms are rightly described as songs for the journeys up, and are thus at once referred to the stated pilgrimages to the Temple. The expressions, “Thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year” (Exodus 39:24), “If this people go up to do sacrifice” (1 Kings 3:27) —a form of expression constantly employed as often as these sacred journeys are mentioned—is precisely that which the psalms themselves exhibit: “I was glad when it was said unto me, Go up unto the house of the Lord”; and while we may well adopt this view, for the additional reason that it is in harmony with the whole spirit and sentiment which they breathe throughout, we shall find these psalms to form at the same time one of the most admirable and instructive manuals of devotion with which the love of our heavenly Father, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, has been pleased to bless us.
—Robert Nisbet, in “The Songs of the Temple Pilgrims, “1863.
If the traditionary interpretation of the title, Song of Degrees, be accepted, that they were sung by devout pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem to keep the great feasts of the Lord, we may suppose that companies toiling up this long ascent would relieve the tedium of the way by chanting some of them.
From the customs of Orientals still prevalent, I think it highly probable that such an explanation of the title may be substantially correct. Nothing is more common than to hear individuals and parties of natives, travelling together through the open country and along mountain paths, especially during the night, break out into singing some of their favourite songs. Once, descending from the top of Sunnin, above Beirut, with a large company of natives, they spontaneously began to sing in concert. The moon was shining brightly in the clear sky, and they kept up their chanting for a long time. I shall not soon forget the impression made by that moonlight concert, as we wound our way down the eastern side of Lebanon to the Buka’a, on the way to Ba’albek. Through the still midnight air of that lofty region the rough edge of their stentorian voices, softened into melody, rang out full and strong, waking the sleeping echoes far and wide down the rocky defiles of the mountain. Something like this may have often rendered vocal this dreary ascent to Jerusalem. It is common in this country to travel in the night during the summer, and we know that the Hebrew pilgrims journeyed in large companies. On his ascent along this road from Jericho to the Holy City, Jesus was attended not only by the twelve apostles, but by others, both men and women; and it would be strange indeed if sometimes they did not seek relief from this oppressive solitude by singing the beautiful songs of Zion. —William M. Thomson, in “The Land and the Book, “1881.
When we consider the place in the psalter which these “Songs of Degrees, or of the goings up” occupy, we see good reason to accept the statement (of the Syriac version, and of S. Chrysostom, Theodoret, Euthymius, and other Fathers, and also of Symmachus, Aquila, and of Hammond, Ewald, and many moderns), that these psalms describe the feelings of those Israelites who went up with Zerubbabel and Jeshua, and afterwards with Ezra, and still later with Nehemiah, from the land of their captivity and dispersion at Babylon, Susa, and other regions of the East, to the home of their fathers, Jerusalem. Hence, in some of the foregoing psalms, we have seen a reference to the dedication of the Second Temple, Psalms 118:1-29, and of the walls of Jerusalem Psalms 102:1-28, and to the building up of the nation itself on the old foundation of the law of God, given to their fathers at Sinai Psalms 119:1-176. —Christopher Wordsworth.
Gesenius has the merit of having first discerned the true meaning of the questioned inscription, inasmuch as first in 1812, and frequently since that time, he has taught that the fifteen songs have their name from the step like progressive rhythm of their thoughts, and that consequently the name, like the triolet (roundelay) in Western poetry, does not refer to the liturgical usage, but to the technical structure. The correctness of this view has been duly appraised more particularly by De Wette, who adduces this rhythm of steps or degrees, too, among the more artificial rhythms. The songs are called Songs of Degrees or Gradual Psalms as being songs that move onward towards a climax, and that by, means of plokh (epiplokh), i.e., a taking up again of the immediately preceding word by way of giving intensity to the expression; and they are placed together on account of this common characteristic, just like the Miehtammim, which bear that name from a similar characteristic. —Franz Delitzsch.
“Go up, go up, my soul!” must be the motto of one who would enter into the meaning of these psalms. They are a Jacob’s ladder whose foot is fixed on the earth, but the top reaches up to the “heavenly Jerusalem.”
The rhythmical structure of these psalms (in which one line is built up upon another stair wise) is a suitable outward accompaniment of the interior character of the psalms. Short, pointed lines fall in well with the flow of mystico allegorical thought: —as in “Nearer, my God, to thee, “or, “Jerusalem; the golden.” —William Kay.
We may notice the following characteristics of nearly all these psalms: sweetness and tenderness; a sad pathetic tone; brevity; an absence generally of the ordinary parallelism; and something of a quick, trochaic rhythm. —”The Speaker’s Commentary.”
Though it may be they are so called because of their excellency; a song of degrees being an excellent song, as an excellent man is called a man of high degree (1 Chronicles 17:17); these being excellent ones for the matter of them, their manner of composure, and the brevity of them. —John Gill.
This being a matter of small moment, I am not disposed to make it the subject of elaborate investigation; but the probable conjecture is, that this title was given to these psalms because they were sung on a higher key than others. The Hebrew word for degrees being derived from the word, hlu tsalah, to ascend, or go up, I agree with those who are of opinion that it denotes the different musical notes rising in succession. —John Calvin.
Hezekiah liveth, these fifteen years, in safety and prosperity, having humbled himself before the Lord for his pride to the ambassadors of Babel. The degrees of the sun’s reversing, and the fifteen years of Hezekiah’s life prolonging, may call to our minds the fifteen Psalms of Degrees; viz. from Psalms 120:1-7 and forward. There were Hezekiah’s songs that were sung to the stringed instruments in the house of the Lord (Isaiah 38:20): whether these were picked out by him for that purpose may be left to conjecture. —John Lightfoot, 1602—1675.
WORKS UPON Psalms 120:1-7; Psalms 121:1-8; Psalms 122:1-9; Psalms 123:1-4; Psalms 124:1-8; Psalms 125:1-5; Psalms 126:1-6; Psalms 127:1-5; Psalms 128:1-6; Psalms 129:1-8; Psalms 130:1-8; Psalms 131:1-3; Psalms 132:1-18; Psalms 133:1-3; Psalms 134:1-3, COMMONLY CALLED THE PSALMS OF DEGREES.
A Commentarie upon the Fifteene Psalmes, called “Psalmi traduum”, that is, Psalmes of Degrees: Faithfully copied out of the Lectvres of D. Martin Luther, very fruitful and comfortable for all Christian afflicted consciences to reade. Translated out of Latine into English by HENRY BVI, L. London….1577. Quarto, Black Letter. Preface by John Fox, the Martyrologist. Another edition, 1615. Also 8vo., Lewes: 1823; and London: 1819.]
THE ASCENTS OF THE SOUL: OR, DAVID’S Mount Towards GOD’S House. Being Paraphrases on the Fifteen Psalms of Degrees. Written in Italian, By the Illustrious GEO. FRANCESCO LOREDANO, a Noble Venetian, 1656. Rendered in English, Anno Domi 1665. By Henry Hare, Lord Coleraine. London…1681. Small folio.
La Scala Santa: or, A Scale of Devotions, Musical and Gradual. Being Descants on the Fifteen Psalms of Degrees, in Metre; with Contemplations and Collects upon them, in Prose, 1670. By Henry Hare, Lord Coleraine. London…1681. Small folio.
The Pilgrim Psalms: an Exposition of the Songs of Degrees. Psalms
120-134. By the Rev. N. M’MICHAEL, D.D., Dunfermline… Edinburgh and London: 1860. Cr. 8vo.
The Songs of the Temple Pilgrims. An Exposition, Devotional and Practical, of the Psalms of Degrees. By ROBERT NISBET, D.D., Edinburgh. London: 1863. {12mo.]
The Gradual Psalms: a Treatise on the Fifteen Songs of Degrees, with Commentary, based on Ancient Hebrew, Chaldee, and Christian Authorities. By Rev. H. T. ARMFIELD, M.A., F.S.A. London; 1874. Cr. 8vo.]
The Pilgrim Psalms. An Exposition of the Songs of Degrees. By the Rev. SAMUEL COX. London: 1874. Cr. 8vo. In “The Golden Diary of Heart Converse with Jesus in the Book of Psalms”…By ALFRED EDERCHEIM, D.D., Ph.D., London, 1877, there are Expositions of Psalms 121:1-8; Psalms 124:1-8; Psalms 127:1-5; Psalms 133:1-3.
The Caravan and the Temple, and Songs of the Pilgrims. Psalms
120-134. By EDWARD JEWITT ROBINSON. London… 1878.
Psalms 120:1-7.
Suddenly we have left the continent of the vast Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm for the islands and islets of the Songs of Degrees. It may be well to engage in protracted devotion upon a special occasion, but this must cast no slur upon the sacred brevities which sanctify the godly life day by day. He who inspired the longest psalm was equally the author of the short compositions which follow it.
TITLE. —A SONG OF DEGREES. —We have already devoted a sufficient space to the consideration of this title in its application to this psalm and the fourteen compositions which succeed it. These appear to us to be Pilgrim Psalms, but we are not sure that they were always sung in company; for many of them are in the first person singular. No doubt there were solitary pilgrims as well as troops who went to the house of God in company, and for these lonely ones hymns were prepared.
SUBJECT. —A certain author supposes that this hymn was sung by an Israelite upon leaving his house to go up to Jerusalem. He thinks that the good man had suffered from the slander of his neighbours, and was glad to get away from their gossip, and spend his time in the happier engagements of the holy feasts. It may be so, but we hope that pious people were not so foolish as to sing about their bad neighbours when they were leaving them, for a few days. If they wished to leave their houses in safety, and to come home to kind surroundings, it would have been the height of folly to provoke those whom they were leaving behind by singing aloud a psalm of complaint against them. We do not know why this ode is placed first among the Psalms of Degrees, and we had rather hazard no conjecture of our own. We prefer the old summary of the translators—”David prayeth against Doeg” —to any far fetched supposition: and if this be the scope of the psalm, we see at once why it suggested itself to David at the station where the ark abode, and from which he had come to remove it. He came to fetch away the ark, and at the place where he found it he thought of Doeg, and poured out his complaint concerning him. The author had been grievously calumniated, and had been tortured into bitterness by the false charges of his persecutors, and here is his appeal to the great Arbiter of right and wrong before whose judgment seal no man shall suffer from slanderous tongues.
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 1. In my distress. Slander occasions distress of the most grievous kind. Those who have felt the edge of a cruel tongue know assuredly that it is sharper than the sword. Calumny rouses our indignation by a sense of injustice, and yet we find ourselves helpless to fight with the evil, or to act in our own defence. We could ward off the strokes of a cutlass, but we have no shield against a liar’s tongue. We do not know who was the father of the falsehood, nor where it was born, nor where it has gone, nor how to follow it, nor how to stay its withering influence. We are perplexed, and know not which way to turn. Like the plague of flies in Egypt, it baffles opposition, and few can stand before it. Detraction touches us in the most tender point, cuts to the quick, and leaves a venom behind which it is difficult to extract. In all ways it is a sore distress to come under the power of “slander, the foulest whelp of sin.” Even in such distress we need not hesitate to cry unto the Lord. Silence to man and prayer to God are the best cures for the evil of slander.
I cried unto the LORD (or Jehovah). The wisest course that he could follow. It is of little use to appeal to our fellows on the matter of slander, for the more we stir in it the more it spreads; it is of no avail to appeal to the honour of the slanderers, for they have none, and the most piteous demands for justice will only increase their malignity and encourage them to fresh insult. As well plead with panthers and wolves as with black hearted traducers. However, when cries to man would be our weakness, cries to God will be our strength. To whom should children cry but to their father? Does not some good come even out of that vile thing, falsehood, when it drives us to our knees and to our God? “And he heard me”. Yes, Jehovah hears. He is the living God, and hence prayer to him is reasonable and profitable. The Psalmist remembered and recorded this instance of prayer hearing, for it had evidently much affected him; and now he rehearses it for the glory of God and the good of his brethren. “The righteous cry and the Lord heareth them”. The ear of our God is not deaf, nor even heavy. He listens attentively, he catches the first accent of supplication; he makes each of his children confess, —”he heard me”. When we are slandered it is a joy that the Lord knows us, and cannot be made to doubt our uprightness: he will not hear the lie against us, but he will hear our prayer against the lie.
If these psalms were sung at the ascent of the ark to Mount Zion, and then afterwards by the pilgrims to Jerusalem at the annual festivals and at the return from Babylon, we shall find in the life of David a reason for this being made the first of them. Did not this servant of God meet with Doeg the Edomite when he enquired of the oracle by Abiathar, and did not that wretched creature believe him and betray him to Saul? This made a very painful and permanent impression upon David’s memory, and therefore in commencing the ark journey he poured out his lament before the Lord, concerning the great and monstrous wrong of “that dog of a Doeg”, as Trapp wittily calls him. The poet, like the preacher, may find it to his advantage to “begin low, “for then he has the more room to rise: the next Psalm is a full octave above the present mournful hymn. Whenever we are abused it may console us to see that we are not alone in our misery we are traversing a road upon which David left his footprints.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Title. —”A Song of Degrees”. A most excellent song, Tremellius rendereth it; and so indeed this and the fourteen following are, both for the matter, and for the form or manner of expression, which is wondrous short and sweet, as the very epigrams of the Holy Ghost himself, wherein each verse may well stand for an oracle. And in this sense, “adam hammahalah”, or, a man of degrees, is put for an eminent or excellent man: 1 Chronicles 17:17. Others understand it otherwise; wherein they have good leave to abound in their own sense; an error here is not dangerous. —John Trapp.
Whole Psalm. —In the interpretation of these psalms, which sees in them the “degrees” of Christian virtues, this psalm aptly describes the first of such steps—the renunciation of the evil and vanity of the world. It thus divides itself into two parts.
1. The Psalmist, in the person of one beginning the grades of virtue, finds many opponents in the shape of slanderers and ill advisers.
2. He laments the admixture of evil—”Woe is me”. —H.T. Armfield.
Whole Psalm. —It is a painful but useful lesson which is taught by this first of the Pilgrim Psalms, that all who manifest a resolution to obey the commands and seek the favour of God, may expect to encounter opposition and reproach in such a course… This these worshippers of old found when preparing to seek the Lord in his Temple. They were watched in their preparation by malignant eyes; they were followed to the house of prayer by the contempt and insinuations of bitter tongues. But their refuge is in him they worship; and, firmly convinced that he never can forsake his servants, they look up through the cloud of obloquy to his throne, and implore the succour which they know that his children shall ever find there. “O Lord, in this my trouble deliver my soul”. —Robert Nisbet.
Whole Psalm. —The pilgrims were leaving home; and lying lips commonly attack the absent. They were about to join the pilgrim caravan; and in the excitements of social intercourse their own lips might easily deviate from truth. The psalm, moreover, breathes an intense longing for peace; and in this world of strife and confusion, when is that longing inappropriate? Is it any marvel that a Hebrew, with a deep spiritual longing for peace, should cry as he started for the Temple, “Let me get out of all that, at least for a time. Let me be quit of this fever and strain, free from the vain turbulence and conflicting noises of the world. Let me rest and recreate myself a while in the sacred asylum and sanctuary of the God of peace. God of peace, grant me thy peace as I worship in thy presence; and let me find a bettered world when I come back to it, or at least bring a bettered and more patient heart to its duties and strifes”. —Samuel Cox.
Ver. 1. —In my distress I cried unto the Lord, etc. See the wondrous advantage of trouble, —that it makes us call upon God; and again see the wondrous readiness of mercy, that when we call he heareth us! Very blessed are they that mourn while they are travelling the long upward journey from the Galilee of the Gentiles of this lower world to the heavenly Jerusalem, the high and holy city of the saints of God. —J.W. Burgon, in “A Plain Commentary”.
Ver. 1. —In my distress. God’s help is seasonable; it comes when we need it. Christ is a seasonable good… For the soul to be dark, and for Christ to enlighten it; for the soul to be dead, and Christ to enliven it; for the soul to be doubting, and for Christ to resolve it; and for the soul to be distressed, and for Christ to relieve it; is not this in season? For a soul to be hard, and for Christ to soften it; for a soul to be haughty, and for Christ to humble it; for a soul to be tempted, and for Christ to succour it; and for a soul to be wounded, and for Christ to heal it? Is not this in season? —R. Mayhew, 1679.
Ver. 1. —Cried. Heard. The verbs are in the past tense, but do not refer merely to a past occasion. Past experience and present are here combined. From the past he draws encouragement for the present. —J.J. Stewart Perowne.
Ver. 1. —And he heard me. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much: James 5:16; Zechariah 13:9. He that prayeth ardently, speeds assuredly (Psalms 91:15); and the delayed return of prayer should be carefully observed and thankfully improved: Psalms 66:20. —John Trapp.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 1. —A reminiscence.
1. It is threefold; distress, prayer, deliverance.
2. It has a threefold bearing: it excites my hope, stimulates my petitions, and arouses my gratitude.
Ver. 1. —
1. Special trouble: “In my distress.”
2. Special prayer: “I cried unto the Lord.”
3. Special favour: “He heard me.” —G.R.
Psalms 120:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips. It will need divine power to save a man from these deadly instruments. Lips are soft: but when they are lying lips they suck away the life of character and are as murderous as razors. Lips should never be red with the blood of honest men’s reputes, nor salved with malicious falsehoods. David says, “Deliver my soul”: the soul, the life of the man, is endangered by lying lips; cobras are not more venomous, nor devils themselves more pitiless. Some seem to lie for lying sake, it is their sport and spirit: their lips deserve to be kissed with a hot iron; but it is not for the friends of Jesus to render to men according to their deserts. Oh for a dumb generation rather than a lying one! The faculty of speech becomes a curse when it is degraded into a mean weapon for smiting men behind their backs. We need to be delivered from slander by the Lord’s restraint upon wicked tongues, or else to be delivered out of it by having our good name cleared from the liar’s calumny.
And from a deceitful tongue This is rather worse than downright falsehood. Those who fawn and flatter, and all the while have enmity in their hearts, are horrible beings; they are the seed of the devil, and he worketh in them after his own deceptive nature. Better to meet wild beasts and serpents than deceivers: these are a kind of monster whose birth is from beneath, and whose end lies far below. It should be a warning to liars and deceivers when they see that all good men pray against them, and that even bad men are afraid of them. Here is to the believer good cause for prayer. “Deliver us from evil”, may be used with emphasis concerning this business. From gossips, talebearers, writers of anonymous letters, forgers of newspaper paragraphs, and all sorts of liars, good Lord deliver us!
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. —Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, etc. An unbridled tongue is “vehiculum Diaboli”, the chariot of the Devil, wherein he rides in triumph. Greenhorn doth describe the tongue prettily by contraries, or diversities: “It is a little piece of flesh, small in quantity, but mighty in quality; it is soft, but slippery; it goeth lightly, but falleth heavily; it striketh soft, but woundeth sore; it goeth out quickly, but burneth vehemently; it pierceth deep, and therefore not healed speedily; it hath liberty granted easily to go forth but it will find no means easily to return home; and being once inflamed with Satan’s bellows, it is like the fire of hell.” The course of an unruly tongue is to proceed from evil to worse, to begin with foolishness, and go on with bitterness, and to end in mischief and madness. See Ecclesiastes 10:13. The Jew’s conference with our Saviour began with arguments: “We be Abraham’s seed, “said they, etc.; but proceeded to blasphemies: “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” and ended in cruelty: “Then took they up stones to cast at him.” John 8:33; John 8:48; John 8:59. This also is the base disposition of a bad tongue to hate those whom it afflicts: Proverbs 26:28.
The mischief of the tongue may further appear by the mercy of being delivered from it, for,
1. So God hath promised it (John 5:15; John 5:21). “God saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty, “and “thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue, “or from being betongued, as some render it, that is, from being, as it were, caned or cudgelled with the tongues of others. “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues” (Psalms 31:20); that is, from all calumnies, reproaches, evil speakings of all kinds. God will preserve the good names of his people from the blots and bespatterings of malicious men, as kings protect their favourites against slanders and clamours.
2. So the saints have prayed for it, as David: “Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.” —Edward Reyner.
Ver. 2. —Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, etc. In the drop of venom which distils from the sting of the smallest insect, or the spike of the nettle leaf, there is concentrated the quintessence of a poison so subtle that the microscope cannot distinguish it, and yet so virulent that it can inflame the blood, irritate the whole constitution, and convert day and night into restless misery; so it is sometimes with the words of the slanderer. —Frederick William Robertson.
Ver. 2. —Lying lips bore false witness against him, or with a “deceitful tongue” tried to ensnare him, and to draw something from him, on which they might ground an accusation. —George Horne.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 2. —The unjustly slandered have, besides the avenging majesty of their God to protect them, many other consolations, as
1. The consciousness of innocence to sustain them.
2. The promise of divine favour to support them: “I will hide thee from the scourge of the tongue.”
3. There is the consideration to soothe: “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, “etc.
4. That a lie has not usually a long life.
5. There is, lastly, for comfort, the repairing influence of time. —R. Nisbet.
Ver. 2. —A prayer against slander. We are liable to it; it would do us great injury and cause us great pain; yet none but the Lord can protect us from it, or deliver us out of it.
Psalms 120:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. What shall be given unto thee? What is the expected guerdon of slander? It ought to be something great to make it worth while to work in so foul an atmosphere and to ruin one’s soul. Could a thousand worlds be bribe enough for such villainous deeds? The liar shall have no welcome recompense: he shall meet with his deserts; but what shall they be? What punishment can equal his crime? The Psalmist seems lost to suggest a fitting punishment. It is the worst of offences—this detraction, calumny, and slander. Judgment sharp and crushing would be measured out to it if men were visited for their transgressions. But what punishment could be heavy enough? What form shall the chastisement take? O liar, “what shall be given unto thee?”
Or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? How shalt thou be visited? The law of retaliation can hardly meet the case, since none can slander the slanderer, he is too black to be blackened; neither would any of us blacken him if we could. Wretched being! He fights with weapons which true men cannot touch. Like the cuttlefish, he surrounds himself with an inky blackness into which honest men cannot penetrate. Like the foul skunk, he emits an odour of falsehood which cannot be endured by the true; and therefore he often escapes, unchastised by those whom he has most injured. His crime, in a certain sense, becomes his shield; men do not care to encounter so base a foe. But what will God do with lying tongues? He has uttered his most terrible threats against them, and he will terribly execute them in due time.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 3. —What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? What dost thou expect, “thou false tongue, “in pleading a bad cause? What fee or reward hast thou for being an accuser instead of an advocate? What shall it profit thee (as we put it in the margin); what shalt thou gain by thy deceitful tongue? or (as our margin hath it again), “What shall the deceitful tongue give unto thee, “that thou goest about slandering thy brother, and tearing his good name? Hath thy deceitful tongue houses or lands to give thee? hath it any treasures of gold and silver to bestow upon thee? Surely, as itself is so it gives only “Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper” as the next verse intimates… The tongue indeed will speak often in these cases gratis, or without a fee; but it never doth without danger and damage to the speaker. As such speakers shoot arrows, like the arrows of the mighty, and as they scatter coals, like the coals of juniper, so they usually get an arrow in their own sides, and not only burn their fingers, but heap coals of fire upon their own heads. Ungodly men will do mischief to other men purely for mischief’s sake: yet when once mischief is done it proves most mischievous to the doers of it; and while they hold their brethren’s heaviness a profit, though they are never the better, they shall feel and find themselves in a short time much the worse. —Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 3,4. —What shall be given? Intimating that his enemy expected some great reward for his malice against David; but, saith the Psalmist, he shall have “sharp arrows of the Almighty, with coals of juniper”; as if he had said, “Whatever reward he have from men, this shall be his reward from God”. —John Jackson, in “The Morning Exercises”, 1661.
Ver. 3,4. —The victim of slander, in these heavy complaints he has just uttered, may be indulging in excess, which pious friends are represented as coming forward to reprove by reminding him how little a true servant of God can be really injured by slander. Hence, as in the margin of our Bibles, the psalm assumes the dramatic form, and represents his fellow worshippers as asking the complainer: What evil, O servant of God, can the false tongue give to thee! Nursling of Omnipotence, what can it do to thee… The answer of suffering nature and bleeding peace still returns: “It is like the sharp arrows of the mighty, like coals of juniper”. An arrow from the bow of a mighty warrior, that flies unseen and unsuspected to its mark, and whose presence is only known when it quivers in the victim’s heart, not unaptly represents the silent and deadly flight of slander; while the fire which the desert pilgrim kindles on the sand, from the dry roots of the juniper, a wood which, of all that are known to him, throws out the fiercest and most continued heat, is not less powerfully descriptive of the intense pain and the lasting injury of a false and malicious tongue. —Robert Nisbet.
Ver. 3,4. —Coals of juniper, these “shall be given unto thee”. As if he had said, thou shalt have the hottest coals, such coals as will maintain heat longest, implying that the hottest and most lasting wrath of God should be their portion. Some naturalists say that coals of juniper raked up in the ashes will keep fire a whole year; but I stay not upon this. —Joseph Caryl.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 3. —The rewards of calumny. What can they be? What ought they to be? What have they been?
Ver. 3. —
1. What the reviler does for others.
2. What he does to himself.
3. What God will do with him.
Psalms 120:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. Sharp arrows of the mighty. Swift, sure, and sharp shall be the judgment. Their words were as arrows, and so shall their punishment be. God will see to it that their punishment shall be comparable to an arrow keen in itself, and driven home with all the force with which a mighty man shoots it from his bow of steel, — “sharp arrows of the mighty”. Nor shall one form of judgment suffice to avenge this complicated sin. The slanderer shall feel woes comparable to coals of juniper, which are quick in flaming, fierce in blazing, and long in burning. He shall feel sharp arrows and sharper fires. Awful doom! All liars shall have their portion in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. Their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched. Juniper coals long retain their heat, but hell burneth ever, and the deceitful tongue may not deceive itself with the hope of escape from the fire which it has kindled. What a crime is this to which the All merciful allots a doom so dreadful! Let us hate it with perfect hatred. It is better to be the victim of slander than, to be the author of it. The shafts of calumny will miss the mark, but not so the arrows of God: the coals of malice will cool, but not the fire of justice. Shun slander as you would avoid hell.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. —Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper. The world’s sin is the world’s punishment. A correspondence is frequently observed between the transgression and the retribution… This law of correspondence seem to be here indicated. Similar figures are employed to express the offence and the punishment of the wicked. “They bend their tongue like a bow for lies.” “Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot in secret at the perfect.” But let the slanderer be upon his guard. There is another bow besides that in his possession. The arrows are sharp and burning; and when they are sent from the bow by the arm of Omnipotence, nothing can resist their force, and in mortal agony his enemies bite the dust. “He hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death: He ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.” “God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded; so shall they make their own tongue fall upon themselves.” This train of thought is also pursued in the illustration of fire. James compares the tongue of slander to fire. “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among the members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” Such is the tongue, and here is the punishment: “Coals of juniper, “remarkable for their long retention of heat. And yet what a feeble illustration of the wrath of God, which burns down to the lowest hell! “His lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire.” Liars are excluded from heaven by a special enactment of the Sovereign; and all of them “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” With what solemn awe should we not cry out to the Lord, “Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody mens!” —N. McMichael, in “The Pilgrim Psalms”, 1860.
Ver. 4. —Sharp arrows of the mighty. He compares wicked doctrine to an arrow which is not blunt, but sharp; and moreover which is cast, not of him that is weak and feeble, but that is strong and mighty; so that there is danger on both sides, as well of the arrow which is sharp and able to pierce, as also of him which with great violence hurleth the same. —Martin Luther.
Ver. 4. —Arrows. Coals of juniper. When the tongue is compared to “arrows”, there is a reference (according to the Midrash), to the irrevocableness of the tongue’s work. Even the lifted sword may be stayed, but the shot arrow may not. The special point to be drawn out in the mention of “coals of juniper”, is the inextinguishableness of such fuel. There is a marvellous story in the Midrash which illustrates this very well. Two men in the desert sat down under a juniper tree, and gathered sticks of it where with they cooked their food. After a year they passed over the same spot where was the dust of what they had burned; and, remarking that it was now twelve months since they had the fire, they walked fearlessly upon the dust, and their feet were burned by the “coals” beneath it, which were still unextinguished. —H.T. Armfield.
Ver. 4. —Coals of juniper. The fire of the Retham burns for a very long time covered with its ashes; like malignant slander. But the secret malignity becomes its own terrible punishment. —William Kay.
Ver. 4. —Coals of juniper. We here at Wadf Kinnah found several Bedouins occupied in collecting brushwood, which they burn into charcoal for the Cairo market; they prefer for this purpose the thick roots of the shrub Retham, “Genista raetam” of Forskal, which grows here in abundance. —Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, 1784-1817.
Ver. 4. —Coals of juniper. At this time we spoke four “ships of the desert”, bound for Cairo, and loaded with “coals of juniper”, or, in other words, with charcoal made from the roots or branches of the ratam, or white broom of the desert, the identical bush referred to by the sacred writer. —John Wilson, in “The Lands of the Bible visited and
described”, 1847.
Ver. 4. —By “coals of juniper, “we understand arrows made of this wood, which when heated possesses the property of retaining the heat for a long time; and consequently, arrows of this kind, after having been placed in the fire, would in the hands of the warrior do terrible execution. Some persons think that this verse is not to be understood as a figurative description of calumny, but rather of the punishment which God will inflict upon the calumniator. They therefore regard this as an answer to the question in the preceding verse: “What shall he give?” etc. —George Phillips.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 4. —The nature of slander and the punishment of slander.
Ver. 4. —
1. The tongue is sharper than an arrow.
(a) It is shot in private.
(b) It is tipped with poison.
(c) It is polished with seeming kindness.
(d) It is aimed at the most tender part.
2. The tongue is more destructive than fire. Its scandals spread with greater rapidity. They consume that which other fires cannot touch, and they are less easily quenched. “The tongue”, says an Apostle, “is a fire…and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell”. A fiery dart of the wicked one. —G.R.
Psalms 120:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. Woe is me, that sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! Gracious men are vexed with the conversation of the wicked. Our poet felt himself to be as ill at ease among lying neighbours as if he had lived among savages and cannibals. The traitors around him were as bad as the unspeakable Turk. He cries “Woe is me!” Their sin appalled him, their enmity galled him. He had some hope from the fact that he was only a sojourner in Mesech; but as years rolled on the time dragged heavily, and he feared that he might call himself a dweller in Kedar. The wandering tribes to whom he refers were constantly at war with one another; it was their habit to travel armed to the teeth; they were a kind of plundering gypsies, with their hand against every man and every man’s hand against them; and to these he compared the false hearted ones who had assailed his character. Those who defame the righteous are worse than cannibals; for savages only eat men after they are dead, but these wretches cat them up alive.
“Woe’s me that I in Mesech am
A sojourner so long;
That I in tabernacles dwell
To Kedar that belong.
My soul with him that hateth peace
Hath long a dweller been;
I am for peace; but when I speak,
For battle they are keen.
My soul distracted mourns and pines
To reach that peaceful short,
Where all the weary are at rest,
And troublers vex no more”.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5. —Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! Mesech was a son of Japheth; and the name here signifies his descendants, the Mosques, who occupied that wild mountain region which lies between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Kedar, again, was a son of Ishmael; and the name here signifies his descendants, the wandering tribes, whose “hand is against every man, and every man’s hand against them.” There is no geographical connection between those two nations: the former being upon the north of Palestine, and the latter upon the south. The connection is a moral one. They are mentioned together, because they were fierce and warlike barbarians. David had never lived on the shores of the Caspian Sea, or in the Arabian wilderness; and he means no more than this, that the persons with whom he now dwelt were as savage and quarrelsome as Mesech and Kedar. After a similar fashion, we call rude and troublesome persons Turks, Tartars, and Hottentots. David exclaims, I am just as miserable among these haters of peace, as if I had taken up my abode with those savage and treacherous tribes. —N. McMichael.
Ver. 5. —Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, etc. David exclaims, Alas for me because, dwelling amongst false brethren and a bastard race of Abraham, he was wrongfully molested and tormented by them, although he had behaved himself towards them in good conscience. Since then, at the present day, in the church of Rome, religion is dishonoured by all manner of disgraceful imputations, faith torn in pieces, light turned into darkness, and the majesty of God exposed to the grossest mockeries, it will certainly be impossible for those who have any feeling of true piety within them to lie in the midst of such pollutions without great anguish of spirit. —John Calvin.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 5. —Bad lodgings. Only the wicked can be at home with the wicked. Our dwelling with them is trying, and yet it may be useful
(1) to them,
(2) to us: it tries our graces, reveals our character,
abates our pride, drives us to prayer, and makes us
long to be home.
Ver. 5.—
1. None but the wicked enjoy the company of the wicked.
2. None but the worldly enjoy the company of worldlings.
3. None but the righteous enjoy the company of the righteous. —G.R.
Psalms 120:6*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 6. My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. Long, long enough, too long had he been an exile among such barbarians. A peace maker is a blessing, but a peace hater is a curse. To lodge with such for a night is dangerous, but to dwell with them is horrible. The verse may apply to any one of the Psalmist’s detractors: he had seen enough of him and pined to quit such company. Perhaps the sweet singer did not at first detect the nature of the man, for he was a deceiver; and when he did discover him he found himself unable to shake him off, and so was compelled to abide with him. Thoughts of Doeg, Saul, Ahithophel, and the sons of Zeruiah come to our mind, —these last, not as enemies, but as hot blooded soldiers who were often too strong for David. What a change for the man of God from the quietude of the sheepfold to the turmoil of court and the tumult of combat! How he must have longed to lay aside his sceptre, and to resume his crook. He felt the time of his dwelling with quarrelsome spirits to be long, too long; and he only endured it because, as the Prayer book version has it, he was constrained so to abide.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6. —The Arabs are naturally thievish and treacherous; and it sometimes happens, that those very persons are overtaken and pillaged in the morning who were entertained the night before with all the instances of friendship and hospitality. Neither are they to be accused for plundering strangers only, and attacking almost every person whom they find unarmed and defenceless, but for those many implacable and hereditary animosities which continually subsist among them; literally fulfilling the prophecy of Hagar, that “Ishmael should be a wild man; his hand should be against every man, and every man’s hand against him”. —Thomas Shaw, 1692-1751.
Ver. 6. —Our Lord was with the wild beasts in the wilderness. There are not a few who would rather face even these than the angry spirits which, alas, are still to be found even in Christian Churches. —Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, 1879.
Ver. 6,7. —What holy and gentle delight is associated with the very name of peace. Peace resting upon our bosom, and soothing all its cares: peace resting upon our households, and folding all the members in one loving embrace: peace resting upon our country, and pouring abundance from her golden horn peace resting upon all nations, and binding them together with the threefold cord of a common humanity, a common interest, and a common religion! The man who hates peace is a dishonour to the race, an enemy to his brother, and a traitor to his God. He hates Christ, who is the Prince of peace. He hates Christians, who are men of peace. —N. McMichael.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 6. —
1. Trying company.
2. Admirable behaviour.
3. Undesirable consequences: “When I speak, they are for war”.
Psalms 120:7*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 7. I am for peace. Properly, “I am peace”; desirous of peace, peaceful, forbearing, —in fact, peace itself.
But when I speak, they are for war. My kindest words appear to provoke them, and they are at daggers drawn at once. Nothing pleases them; if I am silent they count me morose, and if I open my mouth they cavil and controvert. Let those who dwell with such pugilistic company console themselves with the remembrance that both David and David’s Lord endured the same trial. It is the lot of the saints to find foes even in their own households. Others besides David dwelt in the place of dragons. Others besides Daniel have been cast into a den of lions. Meanwhile, let those who are in quiet resting places and peaceful habitations be greatly grateful for such ease. “Deus nobis haec otia fecit”: God has given us this tranquillity. Be it ours never to inflict upon others that from which we have been screened ourselves.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 7. —I am for peace, etc. Jesus was a man of peace; he came into our world, and was worshipped at his nativity as the Prince of peace: there was universal peace throughout the world at the time of his birth; he lived to make peace “by the blood of his cross”: he died to complete it. When he was going out of the world, he said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”: John 14:27. When he was risen from the dead, and made his first appearance to his disciples, he said unto them. “Peace be unto you”: he is the peace maker: the Holy Ghost is the peace bringer: his gospel is the gospel of peace; it contains the peace of God which passeth all understanding. “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war”. The bulk of the Jewish nation abhorred Christ, they were for putting him to death; to avenge which, the Lord brought the Roman army against them, and many of them were utterly destroyed. So David literally was for peace with Saul; yet, when opportunities made way for any negotiations, it was soon discovered Saul was for war, instead of peace, with him.
May we see how this, which is the introductory psalm to those fourteen which follow, styled Songs of Degrees, hath a concern with our Lord Jesus Christ; and that David the son of Jesse was in many cases a type of him, and several of his enemies, sorrows, and griefs, forerunning figures of what would befall Messiah, and come upon him. Amen. —Samuel Eyles Pierce.
Ver. 7. —I am for peace. Good men love peace, pray for it, seek it, pursue it, will give anything but a good conscience for it. Compare Matthew 5:9; Hebrews 7:14 : W.S. Plumer. “It is a mark of a pious man, as far as in him is, to seek peace”: Arnesius. “I would not give one hour of brotherly love for a whole eternity of contention”: Dr. Ruffner.
Ver. 7. —When l speak, they are for war. He spoke with all respect and kindness that could be; proposed methods of accommodation; spoke reason, spoke love; but they would not so much as hear him patiently; but cried out, To arms! To arms! so fierce and implacable were they, and so bent on mischief. Such were Christ’s enemies: for his love they were his adversaries; and for his good words and good works they stoned him; and if we meet with such enemies we must not think it strange, nor love peace the less for our seeking it in vain. “Be not overcome of evil”, no, not of such evil as this; “but”, even when thus tried, still try to “overcome evil with good”. —Matthew Henry.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Ver. 7. —The character of the man of God. He is at peace. He is for peace. He is peace. He shall have peace.
Ver. 7. —
1. Piety and peace are united.
2. So are wickedness and war.

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Psalm 118

holy-bible-background

Verses 1-29
AUTHOR AND SUBJECT. In the book Ezra 3:10-11, we read that “when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise he Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.” Now the words mentioned in Ezra are the first and last sentences of this Psalm, and we therefore conclude that the people chanted the whole of this sublime song; and, moreover, that the use of this composition on such occasions was ordained by David, whom we conceive to be its author. The next step leads us to believe that he is its subject, at least in some degree; for it is clear that the writer is speaking concerning himself in the first place, though he may not have strictly confined himself to all the details of his our personal experience. That the Psalmist had a prophetic view of our Lord Jesus is very manifest; the frequent quotations from this song in the New Testament prove this beyond all questions; but at the same time it could not have been intended that every particular line and sentence should be read in reference to the Messiah, for this requires very great ingenuity, and ingenious interpretations are seldom true. Certain devout expositors have managed to twist the expression of Psalms 118:17, “I shall not die, but live, “so as to make it applicable to our Lord, who did actually die, and whose glory it is that he died; but we cannot bring our minds to do such violence to the words of holy writ.
The Psalm, seems to us to describe either David or some other man of God who was appointed by the divine choice to a high and honourable office in Israel. This elect champion found himself rejected by his friends and fellow countrymen, and at the same time violently opposed by his enemies. In faith in God he battles for his appointed place, and in due time he obtains it in such a way as greatly to display the power and goodness of the Lord. He then goes up to the house of the Lord to offer sacrifice, and to express his gratitude for the divine interposition, all the people blessing him, and wishing him abundant prosperity. This heroic personage, whom we cannot help thinking to be David himself, broadly typified our Lord, but not in such a manner that in all the minutiae of his struggles and prayers we are to hunt for parallels. The suggestion of Alexander that the speaker is a typical individual representing the nation, is exceedingly well worthy of attention, but it is not inconsistent with the idea that a personal leader may be intended, since that which describes the leader will be in a great measure true of his followers. The experience of the Head is that of the members, and both may be spoken of in much the same terms. Alexander thinks that the deliverance celebrated cannot be identified with any one so exactly as with that from the Babylonian exile; but we judge it best to refer it to no one incident in particular, but to regard it as a national song, adapted alike for the rise of a chosen here, and the building of a temple. Whether a nation is founded again by a conquering prince, or a temple founded by the laying of its cornerstone in joyful state, the Psalm is equally applicable.
DIVISION. We propose to divide this Psalm thus, from Psalms 118:1-4 the faithful are called upon to magnify the everlasting mercy of the Lord; from Psalms 118:5-18 the Psalmist gives forth a narrative of his experience, and an expression of his faith; in Psalms 118:19-21 he asks admittance into the house of the Lord, and begins the acknowledgment of the divine salvation. In Psalms 118:22-27 the priests and people recognize their ruler, magnify the Lord for him, declare him blessed, and bid him approach the altar with his sacrifice. In Psalms 118:28-29 the grateful hero himself exalts God the ever merciful.
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 1. O give thanks unto the LORD. The grateful hero feels that he cannot himself alone sufficiently express his thankfulness, and therefore he calls in the aid of others. Grateful hearts are greedy of men’s tongues, and would monopolize them all for God’s glory. The whole nation was concerned in David’s triumphant accession, and therefore it was right that they should unite in his adoring song of praise. The thanks were to be rendered unto Jehovah alone, and not to the patience or valour of the hero himself. It is always well to trace our mercies to him who bestows them, and if we cannot give him anything else, let us at any rate give him our thanks. We must not stop short at the second agent, but rise at once to the first cause, and render all our praises unto the Lord himself. Have we been of a forgetful or murmuring spirit? Let us hear the lively language of the text, and allow it to speak to our hearts: “Cease your complaining, cease from all self glorification, and give thanks unto the Lord.”
For he is good. This is reason enough for giving him thanks; goodness is his essence and nature, and therefore he is always to be praised whether we are receiving anything from him or not. Those who only praise God because he does them good should rise to a higher note and give thanks to him because he is good. In the truest sense he alone is good, “There is none good but one, that is God”; therefore in all gratitude the Lord should have the royal portion. If others seem to be good, he is good. If others are good in a measure, he is good beyond measure. When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord because he is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless him that “he is good.” We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questionable, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; his dispensations may vary, but his nature is always the same, and always good. It is not only that he was good, and will be good, but he is good; let his providence be what it may. Therefore let us even at this present moment, though the skies be dark with clouds, yet give thanks unto his name.
Because his mercy endureth for ever. Mercy is a great part of his goodness, and one which more concerns us than any other, for we are sinners and have need of his mercy. Angels may say that he is good, but they need not his mercy and cannot therefore take an equal delight in it; inanimate creation declares that he is good, but it cannot feel his mercy, for it has never transgressed; but man, deeply guilty and graciously forgiven, beholds mercy as the very focus and centre of the goodness of the Lord. The endurance of the divine mercy is a special subject for song: notwithstanding our sins, our trials, our fears, his mercy endureth for ever. The best of earthly joys pass away, and even the world itself grows old and hastens to decay, but there is no change in the mercy of God; he was faithful to our forefathers, he is merciful to us, and will be gracious to our children and our children’s children. It is to be hoped that the philosophical interpreters who endeavour to clip the word “for ever”, into a mere period of time will have the goodness to let this passage alone. However, whether they do or not, we shall believe in endless mercy—mercy to eternity. The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the grand incarnation of the mercy of God, calls upon us at every remembrance of him to give thanks unto the Lord, for “he is good.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Whole Psalm. This is the last of those Psalms which form the great Hallel, which the Jews sang at the end of the passover. Adam Clarke.
Whole Psalm. The whole Psalm has a peculiar formation. It resembles the Maschal Psalms, for each verse has of itself its completed sense, its own scent and hue; one thought is joined to another as branch to branch and flower to flower. Franz Delitzsch.
Whole Psalm. Nothing can surpass the force and majesty, as well as the richly varied beauty, of this Psalm. Its general burden is quite manifest. It is the prophetic expression, by the Spirit of Christ, of that exultant strain of anticipative triumph, wherein the virgin daughter of Zion will laugh to scorn, in the immediate prospect of her Deliverer’s advent, the congregated armies of the Man of Sin (Psalms 118:10-13). Arthur Pridham.
Whole Psalm. The two Psalms 117:1-2 th and 118th, are placed together because, though each is a distinct portion in itself, the 117th is an exordium to that which follows it, an address and an invitation to the Gentile and heathen world to acknowledge and praise Jehovah.
We are now arrived at the concluding portion of the hymn, which Christ and his disciples sung preparatory to their going forth to the Mount of Olives. Nothing could be more appropriate or better fitted to comfort and encourage, at that awful period, than a prophecy which, overleaping the suffering to be endured, showed forth the glory that was afterwards to follow, and a song of triumph, then only recited, but in due time to be literally acted, when the cross was to be succeeded by a crown. This Psalm is not only frequently quoted in the New Testament, but it was also partially applied at one period of our Saviour’s sojourn on earth, and thus we are afforded decisive testimony to the purpose for which it is originally and prophetically destined. It was partially used at the time when Messiah, in the days of his humiliation, was received with triumph and acclamation into Jerusalem; and we may conclude it will be fully enacted, when our glorified and triumphant Lord, coming with ten thousand of his saints, will again stand upon the earth and receive the promised salutation, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of Jehovah.” This dramatic representation of Messiah coming in glory, to take his great power and reign among us, is apportioned to the chief character, “the King of kings and Lord of lords, “to his saints following him in procession, and to priests and Levites, representing the Jewish nation.
The Conqueror and his attendants sing the 117th Psalm, an introductory hymn, inviting all, Jews and Gentiles, to share in the merciful kindness of God, and to sing his praises. It is a gathering together of all the Lord’s people, to be witnesses and partakers of his glory. Psalms 118:1-3 are sung by single voices. As the procession moves along, the theme of rejoicing is announced. The first voice repeats, O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever. Another single voice calls on Israel to acknowledge this great truth; and a third invites the house of Aaron, the priesthood, to acknowledge their share in Jehovah’s love. Psalms 118:4 is a chorus; the whole procession, the living: and the dead who are raised to meet Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16), shout aloud the burden of the song, Psalms 118:1. Arrived at the temple gate, or rather, the gate of Jerusalem, the Conqueror alone sings, Psalms 118:5-7. He begins by recounting the circumstances of his distress. Next, he tells of his refuge: I betook me to God, I told him my sorrows, and he heard me. The procession, in chorus, sings Psalms 118:8-9, taking up the substance of Messiah’s chaunt, and fully echoing the sentiment, It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. The Conqueror alone again sings Psalms 118:10-14. He enlarges on the magnitude of his dangers, and the hopelessness of his situation. It was not a common difficulty, or a single enemy, whole nations compassed him about. The procession in chorus, Psalms 118:15-16, attributes their Lord’s gloat deliverance to his righteous person, and to his righteous cause. Justice and equity and truth, all demanded that Messiah should not be trodden down. “Was it not thine arm, O Jehovah, which has gotten thee the victory?” Messiah now takes up the language of a conqueror, Psalms 118:17-19. My sufferings were sore, but they were only for a season. I laid down my life, and I now take it up again: and then, with a loud voice, as when he roused Lazarus out of the grave, he cries to those within the walls, Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD. The priests and Levites within instantly obey his command, and while they throw open the gates, they sing, This is the gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter. As he enters, the Conqueror alone repeats Psalms 118:21. His sorrows are ended, his victory is complete. The objects for which he lived and died, and for which his prayers were offered, are now fulfilled, and thus, in a few short words, he expresses his joy and gratitude to God. The priests and Levites sing in chorus Psalms 118:22-24. Depositaries and expounders of the prophecies as they had long been, they now, for the first time, quote and apply one, Isaiah 28:16, which held a conspicuous place, but never before was intelligible to Jewish ears. “The man of sorrows, “the stone which the builders refused, is become the headstone of the corner. The Conqueror is now within the gates, and proceeds to accomplish his good purpose, Lu 1:68. Hosannah, save thy people, O LORD, and send them now prosperity, Psalms 118:25. The priests and Levites are led by the Spirit to use the words foretold by our Lord, Mt 28:39. Now at length the veil is removed, and his people say, Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord, Psalms 118:26. The Conqueror and his train (Psalms 118:27) now praise God, who has given light and deliverance and salvation, and they offer to him the sacrifice of thanksgiving for all that they enjoy. The Conqueror alone (Psalms 118:28) next makes a solemn acknowledgment of gratitude and praise to Jehovah, and then, all being within the gates, the united body, triumphant procession, priests and Levites, end, as they commenced, O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. R. H. Ryland, in “The Psalms restored to Messiah, “1853.
Whole Psalm. It was Luther’s favourite Psalm, his beauteous Confitemini, which “had helped him out of what neither emperor nor king, nor any other man on earth, could have helped him.” With the exposition of this his noblest jewel, his defence and his treasure, he occupied himself in the solitude of his Patmos (Coburg). Franz Delitzsch.
Whole Psalm. This is my Psalm, my chosen Psalm. I love them all; I love all holy Scripture, which is my consolation and my life. But this Psalm is nearest my heart, and I have a peculiar right to call it mine. It has saved me from many a pressing danger, from which nor emperor, nor kings, nor sages, nor saints, could have saved me. It is my friend; dearer to me than all the honours and power of the earth… But it may be objected, that this Psalm is common to all; no one has a right to call it his own. Yes; but Christ is also common to all, and yet Christ is mine. I am not jealous of my property; I would divide it with the whole world… And would to God that all men would claim the Psalm as especially theirs! It would be the most touching quarrel, the most agreeable to God—a quarrel of union and perfect charity. Luther. From his Dedication of his Translation of Psalms 118:1-29 to the Abbot Frederick of Nuremberg.
Ver. 1. For he is good. The praise of God could not be expressed in fewer words than these, “For he is good.” I see not what can be more solemn than this brevity, since goodness is so peculiarly the quality of God, that the Son of God himself when addressed by some one as “Good Master, “by one, namely, who beholding his flesh, and comprehending not the fulness of his divine nature, considered him as man only, replied, “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God.” And what is this but to say, If you wish to call me good, recognize me as God? Augustine.
Ver. 1. His mercy endureth for ever. What the close of Psalms 117:1-2 says of God’s truth, viz., that it endureth for ever, Psalms 118:1-4 says of its sister, his mercy or lovingkindness. Franz Delitzsch.
Ver. 1-4. As the salvation of the elect is one, and the love of God to them one, so should their song be one, as here four several times it is said, His mercy endureth for ever. David Dickson.
Ver. 1-4. Because we hear the sentence so frequently repeated here, that “the mercy of the Lord endureth for ever, “we are not to think that the Holy Spirit has employed empty tautology, but our great necessity demands it: for in temptations and dangers the flesh begins to doubt of the mercy of God; therefore nothing should be so frequently impressed on the mind as this, that the mercy of God does not fail, that the Eternal Father wearies not in remitting our sins. Solomon Gesner.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 1-4.
1. The subject of songs “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good.”
2. The chorus—”His mercy endureth for ever.”
3. The choir—”Let Israel now say, “etc.; “Let the house of Aaron, “etc.; “Let them that fear the Lord, “etc.
4. The rehearsal—”Let them now say, “that they may be better prepared for universal praise hereafter.
Psalms 118:2*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 2. Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. God had made a covenant with their forefathers, a covenant of mercy and love, and to that covenant he was faithful evermore. Israel sinned in Egypt, provoked the Lord in the wilderness, went astray again and again under the judges, and transgressed at all times; and yet the Lord continued to regard them as his people, to favour them with his oracles, and to forgive their sins. He speedily ceased from the chastisements which they so richly deserved, because he had a favour towards them. He put his rod away the moment they repented, because his heart was full of compassion. “His mercy endureth for ever” was Israel’s national hymn, which, as a people, they had been called upon to sing upon many former occasions; and now their leader, who had at last gained the place for which Jehovah had destined him, calls upon the whole nation to join with him in extolling, in this particular instance of the divine goodness, the eternal mercy of the Lord. David’s success was mercy to Israel, as well as mercy to himself. If Israel does not sing, who will? If Israel does not sing of mercy, who can? If Israel does not sing when the Son of David ascends the throne, the very stones will cry out.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 2. Let Israel now say. Albeit all the elect have interest in God’s praise for mercies purchased by Christ unto them, yet the elect of Israel have the first room in the song; for Christ is first promised to them, and came of them according to the flesh, and will be most marvellous about them. David Dickson.
Ver. 2. Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. Let such who have had an experience of it, acknowledge and declare it to others; not only believe it with their hearts, and privately give thanks for it, but with the mouth make confession of it to the glory of divine grace. John Gill.
Ver. 2-4. Now. Beware of delaying. Delays be dangerous, our hearts will cool, and our affections will fall down. It is good then to be doing while it is called today, while it is called now. Now, now, now, saith David; there be three nows, and all to teach us that for aught we know, it is now or never, today or not at all; we must praise God while the heart is hot, else our iron will cool. Satan hath little hope to prevail unless he can persuade us to omit our duties when the clock strikes, and therefore his skill is to urge us to put it off till another time as fitter or better. Do it anon, next hour, next day, next week (saith he); and why not next year? Hereafter (saith he) it will be as well as now. This he saith indeed, but his meaning (by hereafter) is never: and he that is not fit today, hath no promise but he shall be more unapt tomorrow. We have neither God nor our own hearts at command; and when we have lost the opportunity, God to correct us perhaps will not give us affections. The cock within shall not crow to awaken us, the sun shall not shine, and then we are in danger to give over quite; and if we come once to a total omission of one duty, why not of another, and of another, and so of all? and then farewell to us. Richard Capel (1586-1656) in “Tentations, their Nature, Danger, Cure.”
Psalms 118:3*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 3. Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. The sons of Aaron were specially set apart to come nearest to God, and it was only because of his mercy that they were enabled to live in the presence of the thrice holy Jehovah, who is a consuming fire. Every time the morning and evening lamb was sacrificed, the priests saw the continual mercy of the Lord, and in all the holy vessels of the sanctuary, and all its services from hour to hour, they had renewed witness of the goodness of the Most High. When the high priest went in unto the holy place and came forth accepted, he might, above all men, sing of the eternal mercy. If this Psalm refers to David, the priests had special reason for thankfulness on his coming to the throne, for Saul had made a great slaughter among them, and had at various times interfered with their sacred office. A man had now come to the throne who for their Master’s sake would esteem them, give them their dues, and preserve them safe from all harm. Our Lord Jesus, having made all his people priests unto God, may well call upon them in that capacity to magnify the everlasting mercy of the Most High. Can any one of the royal priesthood be silent?
Psalms 118:4*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 4. Let them now that fear the LORD say, that his mercy endureth for ever. If there were any throughout the world who did not belong to Israel after the flesh, but nevertheless had a holy fear and lowly reverence of God, the Psalmist calls upon them to unite with him in his thanksgiving, and to do it especially on the occasion of his exaltation to the throne; and this is no more than they would cheerfully agree to do, since every good man in the world is benefited when a true servant of God is placed in a position of honour and influence. The prosperity of Israel through the reign of David was a blessing to all who feared Jehovah. A truly God fearing man will have his eye much upon God’s mercy, because he is deeply conscious of his need of it, and because that attribute excites in him a deep feeling of reverential awe. “There is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared.”
In the three exhortations, to Israel, to the house of Aaron, and to them that fear the Lord, there is a repetition of the exhortation to say, “that his mercy endureth for ever.” We are not only to believe, but to declare the goodness of God; truth is not to be hushed up, but proclaimed. God would have his people act as witnesses, and not stand silent in the day when his honour is impugned. Specially is it our joy to speak out to the honour and glory of God when we think up, in the exaltation of his dear Son. We should shout “Hosannah, “and sing loud “Hallelujahs” when we behold the stone which the builders rejected lifted into its proper place.
In each of the three exhortations notice carefully the word “now.” There is no time like time present for telling out the praises of God. The present exaltation of the Son of David now demands from all who are the subjects of his kingdom continual songs of thanksgiving to him who hath set him on high in the midst of Zion. Now with us should mean always. When would it be right to cease from praising God, whose mercy never ceases?
The fourfold testimonies to the everlasting mercy of God which are now before us speak like four evangelists, each one declaring the very pith and marrow of the gospel; and they stand like four angels at the four corners of the earth holding the winds in their hands, restraining the plagues of the latter days that the mercy and long suffering of God may endure towards the sons of men. Here are four cords to bind the sacrifice to the four horns of the altar, and four trumpets with which to proclaim the year of jubilee to every quarter of the world. Let not the reader pass on to the consideration of the rest of the Psalm until he has with all his might lifted up both heart and voice to praise the Lord, “for his mercy endureth for ever.”
“Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord, for he is kind;
For his mercies shall endure
Ever faithful, ever sure.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 4. Them that fear the LORD. Who were neither of “the house of Aaron, “that is, of the priests or Levites; nor of “the house of Israel, “that is, native Jews; yet might be of the Jewish religion, and “fear the LORD.” These were called proselytes, and are here invited to praise the Lord. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 4. God’s mercy endureth for ever. That is, his covenant mercy, that precious church privilege: this is perpetual to his people, and should perpetually remain as a memorial in our hearts. And therefore it is that this is the foot or burden of these first four verses. Neither is there any idle repetition, but a notable expression of the saints’ insatiableness of praising God for his never failing mercy. These heavenly birds having got a note, sing it over and over. In the last Psalm there are but six verses, yet twelve Hallelujahs. Abraham Wright.
Psalms 118:5*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 5. I called upon the LORD in distress, or, “out of anguish I invoked Jah.” Nothing was left him but prayer, his agony was too great for aught beside; but having the heart and the privilege to pray he possessed all things. Prayers which come out of distress generally come out of the heart, and therefore they go to the heart of God. It is sweet to recollect our prayers, and often profitable to tell others of them after they are heard. Prayer may be bitter in the offering, but it will be sweet in the answering. The man of God had called upon the Lord when he was not in distress, and therefore he found it natural and easy to call upon him when he was in distress. He worshipped he praised, he prayed: for all this is included in calling upon God, even when he was in a straitened condition. Some read the original “a narrow gorge”; and therefore it was the more joy to him when he could say “The Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.” He passed out of the defile of distress into the well watered plain of delight. He says, “Jah heard me in a wide place, “for God is never shut up, or straitened. In God’s case hearing means answering, hence the translators rightly put, “The Lord answered me, “though the original word is “heard.” The answer was appropriate to the prayer, for he brought him out of his narrow and confined condition into a place of liberty where he could walk at large, free from obstruction and oppression. Many of us can join with the Psalmist in the declarations of this verse; deep was our distress on account of sin, and we were shut up as in a prison under the law, but in answer to the prayer of faith we obtained the liberty of full justification wherewith Christ makes men free, and we are free indeed. It was the Lord who did it, and unto his name we ascribe all the glory; we had no merits, no strength, no wisdom, all we could do was to call upon him, and even that was his gift; but the mercy which is to eternity came to our rescue, we were brought out of bondage, and we were made to delight ourselves in the length and breadth of a boundless inheritance. What a large place is that in which the great God has placed us! All things are ours, all times are ours, all places are ours, for God himself is ours; we have earth to lodge in and heaven to dwell in, —what larger place can be imagined? We need all Israel, the whole house of Aaron, and all them that fear the Lord, to assist us in the expression of our gratitude; and when they have aided us to the utmost, and we ourselves have done our best, all will fall short of the praises that are due to our gracious Lord.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 5. Perhaps Psalms 118:5, which says, I called upon the LORD in distress (literally, out of the narrow gorge), and the LORD answered me on the open plain —which describes the deliverance of Israel from their captivity, —may have been sung as they defiled from a narrow ravine into the plain; and when they arrived at the gate of the temple, then they broke forth in full chorus into the words, “Open to me the gates of righteousness” (Psalms 118:19). Christopher Wordsworth.
Ver. 5. It is said, I called upon the LORD. Thou must learn to call, and not to sit there by thyself, and lie on the bench, hang and shake thy head, and bite and devour thyself with thy thoughts; but come on, thou indolent knave, down upon thy knees, up with thy hands and eyes to heaven, take a Psalm or a prayer, and set forth thy distress with tears before God. Martin Luther.
Ver. 5. The LORD answered me, and set me in a large place. It may be rendered, The LORD answered me largely;as he did Solomon, when he gave him more than he asked for; and as he does his people, when he gives them a sufficiency and an abundance of his grace; not only above their deserts, but above their thoughts and expectations. See Ephesians 3:20. John Gill.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 5.
1. The season for prayer—”in distress.”
2. The answer in season—”The Lord answered me.”
3. The answer beyond the request—”And set me, “etc.
Psalms 118:6*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 6. The LORD is on my side, or, he is “for me.” Once his justice was against me, but now he is my reconciled God, and engaged on my behalf. The Psalmist naturally rejoiced in the divine help; all men turned against him, but God was his defender and advocate, accomplishing the divine purposes of his grace. The expression may also be translated “to me, “that is to say, Jehovah belongs to me, and is mine. What infinite wealth is here! If we do not magnify the Lord we are of all men most brutish.
I will not fear. He does not say that he should not suffer, but that he would not fear: the favour of God infinitely outweighed the hatred of men, therefore setting the one against the other he felt that he had no reason to be afraid. He was calm and confident, though surrounded with enemies, and so let all believers be, for thus they honour God.
What can man do unto me? He can do nothing more than God permits; at the very uttermost he can only kill the body, but he hath no more that he can do. God having purposed to set his servant upon the throne, the whole race of mankind could do nothing to thwart the divine decree: the settled purpose of Jehovah’s heart could not be turned aside, nor its accomplishment delayed, much less prevented, by the most rancorous hostility of the most powerful of men. Saul sought to slay David, but David outlived Saul, and sat upon his throne. Scribe and Pharisee, priest and Herodian, united in opposing the Christ of God, but he is exalted on high none the less because of their enmity. The mightiest man is a puny thing when he stands in opposition to God, yea, he shrinks into utter nothingness. It were a pity to be afraid of such a pitiful, miserable, despicable object as a man opposed to the almighty God. The Psalmist here speaks like a champion throwing down the gauntlet to all comers, defying the universe in arms; a true Bayard, without fear and without reproach, he enjoys God’s favour, and he defies every foe.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 6. The LORD is on my side. The reason which the Psalmist gives here for his trusting, or for his not fearing, is the great fact, that the Lord is on his side; and the prominent idea which this brings before us is Alliance; the making common cause, which the great God undoubtedly does, with imperfect, yet with earnest, trusting man.
We know very well the great anxiety shown by men, in all their worldly conflicts, to secure the aid of a powerful ally; in their lawsuits, to retain the services of a powerful advocate; or, in their attempts at worldly advancement, to win the friendship and interest of those who can further the aims they have in view. When Herod was highly displeased with the armies of Tyre and Sidon, they did not venture to approach him until they had made Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, their friend. If such and such a person be on their side, men think that all must go well. Who so well off as he who is able to say, The LORD is on my side? Philip Bennet Power, in “The I Will’s of the Psalms, “1861.
Ver. 6. God is with those he calls and employs in public service. Joshua was exhorted to be strong and of good courage, “For the Lord thy God is with thee” (Joshua 1:9). So also was Jeremiah, “Be not afraid of their faces; for I am with thee to deliver thee” (Jeremiah 1:8). God’s presence should put life into us. When inferior natures are backed with a superior, they are full of courage: when the master is by, the dog will venture upon creatures greater than himself and fear not; at another time he will not do it when his master is absent. When God is with us, who is the supreme, it should make us fearless. It did David; The LORD is on my side; I will not fear what man can do unto me. Let him do his worst, frown, threat, plot, arm, strike; the Lord is on my side, he hath a special care for me, he is a shield unto me, I will not fear, but hope; as it is in the next verse. “I shall see my desire on them that hate me, “I shall see them changed or ruined. Our help is in the name of the Lord, but our fears are in the name of man. William Green hill.
Ver. 6. I will not fear. David, (or God’s people, if you will,) being taught by experience, exults in great confidence, but does not say, the Lord is my helper, and I shall suffer no more, knowing that while he is a pilgrim here below he will have much to suffer from his daily enemies; but he says, The LORD is my helper, I will not fear what man can do unto me. Robert Bellarmine.
Ver. 6. Man does not here mean a man, but mankind, or man as opposed to God. Joseph Addison, Alexander.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 6.
1. When may a man know that God is on his side?
2. What confidence may that man enjoy who is assured of divine aid?
Psalms 118:7*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 7. The LORD taketh my part with them that help me. Jehovah condescended to be in alliance with the good man and his comrades; his God was not content to look on, but he took part in the struggle. What a consolatory fact it is that the Lord takes our part, and that when he raises up friends for us he does not leave them to fight for us alone, but he himself as our chief defender deigns to come into the battle and wage war on our behalf. David mentioned those that helped him, he was not unmindful of his followers; there is a long record of David’s mighty men in the book of Chronicles, and this teaches us that we are not to disdain or think little of the generous friends who rally around us; but still our great dependence and our grand confidence must be fixed upon the Lord alone. Without him the strong helpers fail; indeed, apart from him in the sons of men there is no help; but when our gracious Jehovah is pleased to support and strengthen those who aid us, they become substantial helpers to us.
Therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me. The words, “my desire, “are added by the translators; the Psalmist said, “I shall look upon my haters: I shall look upon them in the face, I shall make them cease from their contempt, I shall myself look down upon them instead of their looking down upon me. I shall see their defeat, I shall see the end of them.” Our Lord Jesus does at this moment look down upon his adversaries, his enemies are his footstool; he shall look upon them at his second coming, and at the glance of his eyes they shall flee before him, not being able to endure that look with which he shall read them through and through.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 7.
1. The value of true friends.
2. The greater value of help from above.
Psalms 118:8*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 8. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better in all ways, for first of all it is wiser: God is infinitely more able to help, and more likely to help, than man, and therefore prudence suggests that we put our confidence in him above all others. It is also morally better to do so, for it is the duty of the creature to trust in the Creator. God has a claim upon his creatures’ faith, he deserves to be trusted; and to place our reliance upon another rather than upon himself, is a direct insult to his faithfulness. It is better in the sense of safer, since we can never be sure of our ground if we rely upon mortal man, but we are always secure in the hands of our God. It is better in its effect upon ourselves: to trust in man tends to make us mean, crouching, dependent; but confidence in God elevates, produces a sacred quiet of spirit, and sanctifies the soul. It is, moreover, much better to trust in God, as far as the result is concerned; for in many cases the human object of our trust fails from want of ability, from want of generosity, from want of affection, or from want of memory; but the Lord, so far from falling, does for us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or even think. This verse is written out of the experience of many who have first of all found the broken reeds of the creature break under them, and have afterwards joyfully found the Lord to be a solid pillar sustaining all their weight.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 8. It may perhaps be considered beneath the dignity and solemnity of our subject to remark, that this 8th verse of this Psalm is the middle verse of the Bible. There are, I believe, 31,174 verses in all, and this is the 15,587th. I do not wish, nor would I advise you to occupy your time in counting for yourselves, nor should I indeed have noticed the subject at all, but that I wish to suggest one remark upon it, and that is, that though we may generally look upon such calculations as only laborious idleness, —and they certainly have been carried to the most minute dissection of every part of Scripture, such as to how many times the word “Lord, “the word “GOD, ” and even the word “and, “occurs, —yet I believe that the integrity of the holy volume owes a vast deal to this scruple weighing of these calculators. I do not say, nor do I think, that they had such motives in their minds; but whatever their reasons were, I cannot but think that there was an overruling Providence in thus converting these trifling and apparently useless investigations into additional guards and fences around the sacred text. Barton Bouchier.
Ver. 8. It is better to trust in the LORD, etc. Luther on this text calleth it, artem artium, et mirificam, ac suam artem, non fidere hominibus, that is, the art of arts, and that which he had well studied, not to put confidence in man: as for trust in God, he calleth it sacrificium omnium gratissimum et suavissimum, et cultum omnium pulcherrimum, the most pleasant and sweetest of all sacrifices, the best of all services we perform to God. John Trapp.
Ver. 8. It is better to trust in the LORD. All make this acknowledgment, and yet there is scarcely one among a hundred who is fully persuaded that God alone can afford him sufficient help. That man has attained a high rank among the faithful, who resting satisfied in God, never ceases to entertain a lively hope, even when he finds no help upon earth. John Calvin.
Ver. 8. It is a great cause oftentimes why God blesseth not means, because we are so apt to trust in them, and rob God of his glory, not waiting for a blessing at his hands. This causeth the Lord to cross us, and to curse his own benefits, because we seek not him, but sacrifice to our own nets, putting confidence in outward means. Therefore when we hope for help from them, God bloweth upon them, and turneth them to our hurt and destruction. Abraham Wright.
Ver. 8. When my enemies have been brought to contempt, let not my friend present himself unto me as a good man, and bid me repose my hope in himself; for still must I trust in the Lord alone. Augustine.
Ver. 8-9. Nothing is more profitable than dwelling on familiar truths. Was there ever a good man who did not believe that it was better to trust in Jehovah than rely on any created arm? Yet David here repeats this truth, that if possible it may sink deep into every mind. William S. Plumer.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 8-9. Better. It is wiser, surer, morally more right, more ennobling, more happy in result.
Psalms 118:9*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 9. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. These should be the noblest of men, chivalrous in character, and true to the core. The royal word should be unquestionable. They are noblest in rank and mightiest in power, and yet as a rule princes are not one whit more reliable than the rest of mankind. A gilded vane turns with the wind as readily as a meaner weathercock. Princes are but men, and the best of men are poor creatures. In many troubles they cannot help us in the least degree: for instance, in sickness, bereavement, or death; neither can they assist us one jot in reference to our eternal state. In eternity a prince’s smile goes for nothing; heaven and hell pay no homage to royal authority. The favour of princes is proverbially fickle, the testimonies of worldlings to this effect are abundant. All of us remember the words put by the world’s great poet into the lips of the dying Wolsey; their power lies in their truth:
“O how wretched
Is that poor man that hangs on princes’ favours!
There is betwixt that smile we would aspire to,
That sweet aspect of princes, and their ruin,
More pangs and fears than wars or women have;
And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,
Never to hope again.”
Yet a prince’s smile has a strange witchery to many hearts, few are proof against that tuft hunting which is the index of a weak mind. Principle has been forgotten and character has been sacrificed to maintain position at court; yea, the manliness which the meanest slave retains has been basely bartered for the stars and garters of a profligate monarch. He who puts his confidence in God, the great King, is thereby made mentally and spiritually stronger, and rises to the highest dignity of manhood; in fact, the more he trusts the more is he free, but the fawning sycophant of greatness is meaner than the dirt he treads upon. For this reason and a thousand others it is infinitely better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 9. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. David knew that by experience, for he confided in Saul his king, at another time in Achish, the Philistine, at another time in Ahithophel his own most prudent minister, besides some others; and they all failed him; but he never confided in God without feeling the benefit of it. Robert Bellarmine.
Ver. 9. It is better, etc. Literally, “Good is it to trust in Jehovah more than to confide in man.” This is the Hebrew form of comparison, and is equivalent to what is stated in our version. “It is better, “etc. It is better, (1) because man is weak, —but God is Almighty; (2) because man is selfish, —but God is benevolent; (3) because man is often faithless and deceitful, —God never; (4) because there are emergencies, as death, in which man cannot aid us, however faithful, kind, and friendly he may be, —but there are no circumstances in this life, and none in death, where God cannot assist us; and (5) because the ability of man to help us pertains at best only to the present life, —the power of God will be commensurate with eternity. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 9. Than to put confidence in princes. Great men’s words, saith one, are like dead men’s shoes; he may go barefoot that waiteth for them. John Trapp.
Ver. 9. They who constantly attend upon God, and depend upon him, have a much sweeter life, than those that wait upon princes with great observance and expectation. A servant of the Lord is better provided for than the greatest favourites and minions of princes. Thomas Manton.
Psalms 118:10*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 10. All nations compassed me about. The hero of the Psalm, while he had no earthly friend upon whom he could thoroughly rely, was surrounded by innumerable enemies, who heartily hated him. He was hemmed in by his adversaries, and scarce could find a loophole of escape from the bands which made a ring around him. As if by common consent all sorts of people set themselves against him, and yet he was more than a match for them all, because he was trusting in the name of the Lord. Therefore does he joyfully accept the battle, and grasp the victory, crying,
but in the name of the LORD will I destroy them, or “cut them in pieces.” They thought to destroy him, but he was sure of destroying them;they meant to blot out his name, but he expected to render not only his own name but the name of the Lord his God more illustrious in the hearts of men. It takes grand faith to be calm in the day of actual battle, and especially when that battle waxes hot; but our hero was as calm as if no fight was raging. Napoleon said that God was always on the side of the biggest battalions, but the Psalmist warrior found that the Lord of hosts was with the solitary champion, and that in his name the battalions were cut to pieces. There is a grand touch of the ego in the last sentence, but it is so overshadowed with the name of the Lord that there is none too much of it. He recognized his own individuality, and asserted it: he did not sit still supinely and leave the work to be done by God by some mysterious means; but he resolved with his own trusty sword to set about the enterprise, and so become in God’s hand the instrument of his own deliverance. He did all in the name of the Lord, but he did not ignore his own responsibility, nor screen himself from personal conflict, for he cried, “I will destroy them.” Observe that he does not speak of merely escaping from them like a bird out of the snare of the fowler, but he vows that he will carry the war into his enemies’ ranks, and overthrow them so thoroughly that there should be no fear of their rising up a second time.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 10. All nations compassed me about. A multitude of enemies everywhere cannot hinder the presence of God with us. Acts 17:28. They are without; He is within, in our hearts; they are flesh; He is Spirit: they are frail; He is immortal and invincible. Martin Geier.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 10. Take a wide range and consider what has been done, should be done, and may be done “in the name of the Lord.”
Psalms 118:11*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 11. They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about. He had such a vivid recollection of his danger that his enemies seem to live again in his verses. We see their fierce array, and their cruel combination of forces. They made a double ring, they surrounded him in a circle of many ranks, they not only talked of doing so, but they actually shut him up and enclosed him as within a wall. His heart had vividly realized his position of peril at the time, and now he delights to call it again to mind in order that he may the more ardently adore the mercy which made him strong in the hour of conflict, so that he broke through a troop, yea, swept a host to destruction.
But in the name of the LORD will I destroy them. I will subdue them, get them under my feet, and break their power in pieces. He is as certain about the destruction of his enemies as he was assured of their having compassed him about. They made the circle three and four times deep, but for all that he felt confident of victory. It is grand to hear a man speak in this fashion when it is not boasting, but the calm declaration of his heartfelt trust in God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 11. Whether Tertullus persecute the church with his tongue, or Elymas with his hand, God hath the command of both. Indeed the wicked are the mediate causes of our troubles: the righteous are as the centre, the other the circumference; which way soever they turn, they find themselves environed; yet still the centre is fixed and immovable, being founded upon Christ. It is good for some men to have adversaries; for often they more fear to sin, lest they should despise them, than dislike it for conscience, lest God should condemn them. They speak evil of us: if true, let us amend it; if false, contemn it; whether false or true, observe it. Thus we shall learn good out of their evil; make them our tutors, and give them our pupillage. In all things let us match them, in nothing fear them: “which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to us of salvation, “Philippians 1:28. The church is that tower of David; if there be a thousand weapons to wound us, there are a thousand shields to guard us, Song of Solomon 4:4. Thomas Adams.
Psalms 118:12*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 12. They compassed me about like bees. They seemed to be everywhere, like a swarm of bees, attacking him at every point; nimbly flying from place to place, stinging him meanwhile, and inflicting grievous pain. They threatened at first to baffle him: what weapon could he use against them? They were so numerous, so inveterate; so contemptible, yet so audacious; so insignificant and yet so capable of inflicting agony, that to the eye of reason there appeared no possibility of doing anything with them. Like the swarm of flies Egypt, there was no standing against them; they threatened to sting a man to death with their incessant malice, their base insinuations, their dastardly falsehoods. He was in an evil case, but even there faith availed. All powerful faith adapts itself to all circumstances, it can cast out devils, and it can drive out bees. Surely, if it outlives the sting of death, it will not die from the sting of a bee.
They are quenched as the fire of thorns. Their fierce attacks soon came to an end, the bees lost their stings and the buzz of the swarm subsided; like thorns which blaze with fierce crackling and abundant flame, but die out in a handful of ashes very speedily, so did the nations which surrounded our hero soon cease their clamour and come to an inglorious end. They were soon hot and soon cold, their attack was as short as it was sharp. He had no need to crush the bees, for like crackling thorns they died out of themselves. For a third time he adds,
for in the name of the Lord will I destroy them, or “cut them down, “as men cut down thorns with a scythe or reaping hook.
What wonders have been wrought in the name of the Lord! It is the battle cry of faith, before which its adversaries fly apace. “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon” brings instant terror into the midst of the foe. The name of the Lord is the one weapon which never fails in the day of battle: he who knows how to use it may chase a thousand with his single arm. Alas! we too often go to work and to conflict in our own name, and the enemy knows it not, but scornfully asks, “Who are ye?” Let us take care never to venture into the presence of the foe without first of all arming ourselves with this impenetrable mail. If we knew this name better, and trusted it more, our life would be more fruitful and sublime.
“Jesus, the name high over all,
In hell, or earth, or sky,
Angels and men before it fall,
And devils fear and fly.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 12. They compassed me about like bees. Christ’s enemies are so spiteful, that in fighting against his kingdom, they regard not what become of themselves, so they may hurt his people; but as the bee undoes herself in stinging, and loses her life or her power with her sting, so do they. All that the enemies of Christ’s church can do against his people is but to trouble them externally; their wounds are like the sting of a bee, that is, unto pain and swelling, and a short trouble only, but are not deadly. David Dickson.
Ver. 12. They compassed me about like bees. Now, as the north east wind of course was adverse to any north east progress, it was necessary that the boat should be towed by the crew. As the rope was being drawn along through the grass on the banks it happened that it disturbed a swarm of bees. In a moment, like a great cloud, they burst upon the men who were dragging; everyone of them threw himself headlong into the water and hurried to regain the boat. The swarm followed at their heels, and in a few seconds filled every nook and cranny of the deck. What a scene of confusion ensued may readily be imagined.
Without any foreboding of ill, I was arranging my plants in my cabin, when I heard all around me a scampering which I took at first to be merely the frolics of my people, as that was the order of the day. I called out to enquire the meaning of the noise, but only got excited gestures and reproachful looks in answer. The cry of “Bees! bees!” soon broke upon my ear, and I proceeded to light a pipe. My attempt was entirely in vain; in an instant bees in thousands are about me, and I am mercilessly stung all over my face and hands. To no purpose do I try to protect my face with a handkerchief, and the more violently I fling my hands about, so much the more violent becomes the impetuosity of the irritated insects. The maddening pain is now on my cheek, now in my eye, now in my hair. The dogs from under my bed burst out frantically, overturning everything in their way. Losing well nigh all control over myself, I fling myself into the river; I dive down, but all in vain, for the stings rain down still upon my head. Not heeding the warning of my people, I creep through the reedy grass to the swampy bank. The grass lacerates my hands, and I try to gain the mainland, hoping to find shelter in the woods. All at once four powerful arms seize me and drag me back with such force that I think I must be choked in the mud. I am compelled to go back on board, and flight is not to be thought of… I felt ready, in the evening, for an encounter with half a score of buffaloes or a brace of lions rather than have anything more to do with bees; and this was a sentiment in which all the ship’s company heartily concurred. George Schweinfurth, in “The Heart of Africa, “1873.
Ver. 12. David said of his enemies, that they came about him like bees; he doth not say like wasps. For though they used their stings, yet he found honey in them too. Peter Smith, 1644.
Ver. 12. They compassed me about like bees.
As wasps, provoked by children in their play,
Pour from their mansions by the broad highway,
In swarms the guiltless traveller engage,
Whet all their stings, and call forth all their rage,
All rise in arms, and with a general cry,
Assert their waxen domes, and buzzing progeny;
Thus from the tents the fervent legion swarms,
So loud their clamours, and so keen their arms. Homer.
Ver. 12. They are quenched as the fire of thorns. The illustration from the “fire of thorns” is derived from the fact that they quickly kindle into a blaze, and then the flame soon dies away. In Eastern countries it was common to burn over their fields in the dry time of the year, and thus to clear them of thorns and briers and weeds. Of course, at such a time they would kindle quickly, and burn rapidly, and would soon be consumed. So the Psalmist says it was with his enemies. He came upon them, numerous as they were, as the fire runs over a field in a dry time, burning everything before it. Albert Barnes.
Ver. 12. In the name of the LORD. This has been understood as the tessera, the sentence of attack, or signal to engage, like those of Cyrus—Jupiter is our leader and ally—Jupiter our captain and preserver. Cyropaed. 1. 3 and 7; and Gideon, Jude 7:18. This interpretation being only founded on the repetition, may it not more probably be designed as suited to the musical performance? Samuel Burder.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 12.
1. Faith’s innumerable annoyances.
2. Their speedy end.
3. Faith’s complete victory.
Psalms 118:13*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 13. Thou hast thrust sore at me, “Thrusting, thou hast thrust at me.” It is a vigorous apostrophe, in which the enemy is described as concentrating all his thrusting power into the thrusts which he gave to the man of God. He thrust again and again with the keenest point, even as bees thrust their stings into their victim. The foe had exhibited intense exasperation, and fearful determination, nor had he been without a measure of success; wounds had been given and received, and these smarted much, and were exceeding sore. Now, this is true of many a tried child of God who has been wounded by Satan, by the world, by temptation, by affliction; the sword has entered into his bones, and left its mark.
That I might fall. This was the object of the thrusting: to throw him down, to wound him in such a way that he would no longer be able to keep his place, to make him depart from his integrity, and lose his confidence in God. If our adversaries can do this they will have succeeded to their heart’s content: if we fall into grievous sin they will be better pleased than even if they had sent the bullet of the assassin into our heart, for a moral death is worse than a physical one. If they can dishonour us, and God in us, their victory will be complete. “Better death than false of faith” is the motto of one of our noble houses, and it may well be ours. It is to compass our fall that they compass us; they fill us with their venom that they may fill us with their sin.
But the Lord helped me; a blessed “but.” This is the saving clause. Other helpers were unable to chase away the angry nations, much less to destroy all the noxious swarms; but when the Lord came to the rescue the hero’s single arm was strong enough to vanquish all his adversaries. How sweetly can many of us repeat in the retrospect of our past tribulations this delightful sentence, “But the Lord helped me.” I was assailed by innumerable doubts and fears, but the Lord helped me; my natural unbelief was terribly inflamed by the insinuations of Satan, but the Lord helped me; multiplied trial were rendered more intense by the cruel assaults of men, and I knew not what to do, but the Lord helped me. Doubtless, when we land on the hither shore of Jordan, this will be one of our songs, “Flesh and heart were failing me, and the adversaries of my soul surrounded me in the swellings of Jordan, but the Lord helped me. Glory be unto his name.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 13. Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall. The apostrophe is strong, and probably directed to some particular person in the battle, who had put David in great danger. Samuel Burder.
Ver. 13. Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall. Thou hast indeed. Thou hast done thy part, O Satan, and it has been well done. Thou hast known all my weakest parts, thou hast seen where my armour was not buckled on tightly, and thou hast attacked me at the right time and in the right way. The great Spanish poet, Calderon, tells of one who wore a heavy suit of armour for a whole year, and laid it by for one hour, and in that hour the enemy came, and the man paid for his negligence with his life. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” John Mason Neale.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 13.
1. Our great antagonist.
2. His fierce attacks.
3. His evident object: “that I might fall.”
4. His failure: “but the Lord helped me.”
Psalms 118:14*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 14. The LORD my strength and song, my strength while I was in the conflict, my song now that it is ended; my strength against the strong, and my song over their defeat. He is far from boasting of his own valour; he ascribes his victory to its real source, he has no song concerning his own exploits, but all his peans are unto Jehovah Victor, the Lord whose right hand and holy arm had given him the victory.
And is become my salvation. The poet warrior knew that he was saved, and he not only ascribed that salvation unto God, but he declared God himself to be his salvation. It is an all comprehending expression, signifying that from beginning to end, in the whole and in the details of it, he owed his deliverance entirely to the Lord. Thus can all the Lord’s redeemed say, “Salvation is of the Lord.” We cannot endure any doctrine which puts the drown upon the wrong head and defrauds the glorious King of his revenue of praise. Jehovah has done it all; yea; in Christ Jesus he is all, and therefore in our praises let him alone be extolled. It is a happy circumstance for us when we can praise God as alike our strength, song, and salvation; for God sometimes gives a secret strength to his people, and yet they question their own salvation, and cannot, therefore, sing of it. Many are, no doubt, truly saved, but at times they have so little strength, that they are ready to faint, and therefore they cannot sing: when strength is imparted and salvation is realised then the song is clear and full.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 14. The LORD is my strength and song, and as become my salvation. “My strength, “that I am able to resist my enemies; “my salvation, “that I am delivered from my enemies; “my song, “that I may joyfully praise him and sing of him after I am delivered. William Nicholson, 1662.
Ver. 14. Good songs, good promises, good proverbs, good doctrines are none the worse for age. What was sung just after the passage of the Red Sea, is here sung by the prophet, and shall be sung to the end of the world by the saints of the Most High. William S. Plumer.
Ver. 14. And is become my salvation. Not that he hath become anything which he was not before, but because his people, when they believed on him, became what they were not before, and then he began to be salvation unto them when turned towards him, which he was not to them when turned away from himself. Augustine.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 14.
1. Strength under affliction.
2. Song in hope of deliverance.
3. Salvation, or actual escape out of trial.
Psalms 118:15*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 15. The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous. They sympathised in the delight of their leader and they abode in their tents in peace, rejoicing that one had been raised up who, in the name of the Lord, would protect them from their adversaries. The families of believers are happy, and they should take pains to give their happiness a voice by their family devotion. The dwelling place of saved men should be the temple of praise; it is but righteous that the righteous should praise the righteous God, who is their righteousness. The struggling hero knew that the voice of woe and lamentation was heard in the tents of his adversaries, for they had suffered severe defeat at his hands; but he was delighted by the remembrance that the nation for whom he had struggled would rejoice from one end of the land to the other at the deliverance which God had wrought by his means. That hero of heroes, the conquering Saviour, gives to all the families of his people abundant reasons for incessant song now that he has led captivity captive and ascended up on high. Let none of us be silent in our households: if we have salvation let us have joy, and if we have joy let us give it a tongue wherewith it may magnify the Lord. If we hearken carefully to the music which comes from Israel’s tents, we shall catch a stanza to this effect,
the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly: Jehovah has manifested his strength, given victory to his chosen champion, and overthrown all the armies of the foe. “The Lord is a man of war, the Lord is his name.” When he comes to blows, woe to his mightiest opponent.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 15. Thy voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous. Every one should be careful that his dwelling is one of the tabernacles of the righteous, and that he himself together with his household should walk in righteousness (Lu 1:75). And he should be so diligent in hymns and sacred songs, that his rooms should resound with them. Martin Geier.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 15. The joy of Christian households. It is joy in salvation: it is expressed, —”The voice”: it abides: “the voice is”:it is joy in the protection and honour given by the Lord’s right hand.
Ver. 15-16.
1. True joy is peculiar to the righteous.
2. In their tabernacles: in their pilgrimage state.
3. For salvation: rejoicing and salvation go together.
4. From God: “the right hand, “etc.: three right hands; both the salvation and the joy are from the hand of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost; the right hand of each doeth valiantly. G. R.
Psalms 118:16*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 16. The right hand of the LORD is exalted, lifted up to smite the enemy, or extolled and magnified in the eyes of his people. It is the Lord’s right hand, the hand of his skill, the hand of his greatest power, the hand which is accustomed to defend his saints. When that is lifted up, it lifts up all who trust in him, and it casts down all who resist him.
The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. The Psalmist speaks in triplets, for he is praising the triune God, his heart is warm and he loves to dwell upon the note; he is not content with the praise he has rendered, he endeavours to utter it each time more fervently and more jubilantly than before. He had dwelt upon the sentence, “they compassed me about, “for his peril from encircling armies was fully realised; and now he dwells upon the valour of Jehovah’s right hand, for he has as vivid a sense of the presence and majesty of the Lord. How seldom is this the case: the Lord’s mercy is forgotten and only the trial is remembered.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 16. The right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly. Thrice he celebrates God’s right hand, to set forth his earnest desire to say the utmost; or, in reference to the Sacred Trinity, as some will have it. John Trapp.
Psalms 118:17*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 17. I shall not die, but live. His enemies hoped that he would die, and perhaps he himself feared he should perish at their hand: the news of his death may have been spread among his people, tor the tongue of rumour is ever ready with ill news, the false intelligence would naturally cause great sorrow and despondency, but he proclaims himself as yet alive and as confident that he shall not fall by the hand of the destroyer. He is cheerfully assured that no arrow could carry death between the joints of his harness, and no weapon of any sort could end his career. His time had not yet come, he felt immortality beating within his bosom. Perhaps he had been sick, and brought to death’s door, but he had a presentiment that the sickness was not unto death, but to the glory of God. At any rate, he knew that he should not so die as to give victory to the enemies of God; for the honour of God and the good of his people were both wrapped up in his continued success. Feeling that he would live he devoted himself to the noblest of purposes: he resolved to bear witness to the divine faithfulness,
and declare the works of the LORD. He determined to recount the works of Jah; and he does so in this Psalm, wherein he dwells with love and admiration upon the splendour of Jehovah’s prowess in the midst of the fight. While there is a testimony for God to be borne by us to any one, it is certain that we shall not be hurried from the land of the living. The Lord’s prophets shall live on in the midst of famine, and war, and plague, and persecution, till they have uttered all the words of their prophecy; his priests shall stand at the altar unharmed till their last sacrifice has been presented before him. No bullet will find its billet in our hearts till we have finished our allotted period of activity,
“Plagues and deaths around me fly,
Till he please I cannot die:
Not a single shaft can hit,
Till the God of love sees fit.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 17. I shall not die, but live. As Christ is risen, “we shall not die, but live”; we shall not die eternally, but we shall live in this world, the life of grace, and in the world to come, the life of glory; that we may in both declare the “works” and chant the praises of God our Saviour. We are “chastened” for our sins, but “not given over to death” and destruction everlasting; nay, our being “chastened” is now a proof that we are not so given over; “for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” Hebrews 12:7. George Horne.
Ver. 17. I shall not die, but live. To live, signifies, not barely to live, but to live comfortably, to have content with our life; to live is to prosper. Thus the word is often used in Scripture. “I shall not die, but live.” David did not look upon himself as immortal, or that he should never die; he knew he was subject to the statute of death: but the meaning is, I shall not die now, I shall not die by the hands of these men, I shall not die the death which they have designed me to; or when he saith, “I shall not die, but live, “his meaning is, I shall live comfortably and prosperously, I shall live as a king. That which we translate (1 Samuel 10:24) “God save the king, “is, “Let the king live, “that is, let him prosper, and have good days; let him have peace with all, or victory over his enemies. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 17. I shall not die, etc. The following incident is worth recording: “Wycliffe was now getting old, but the Reformer was worn out rather by the harassing attacks of his foes, and his incessant and ever growing labours, than with the weight of years, for he was not yet sixty. He fell sick. With unbounded joy the friars heard that their great enemy was dying. Of course he was overwhelmed with horror and remorse for the evil he had done them, and they would hasten to his bedside and receive the expression of his penitence and sorrow. In a trice a little crowd of shaven crowns assembled round the couch of the sick man—delegates from the four orders of friars. `They began fair, ‘wishing him `health and restoration from his distemper’; but speedily changing their tone, they exhorted him, as one on the brink of the grave, to make full confession, and express his unfeigned grief for the injuries he had inflicted on their order. Wycliffe lay silent till they should have made an end, then, making his servant raise him a little on his pillow, and fixing his keen eyes upon them, he said with a loud voice, `I shall not die, but live, and declare the evil deeds of the friars.’ The monks rushed in astonishment and confusion from the chamber.” J. A. Wylie, in “The History of Protestantism.”
Ver. 17. I shall not die, not absolutely, for see Psalms 89:48; Hebrews 9:27; but not in the midst of my days, Ps 103:24; nor according to the will of mine enemies, who “thrust at me that I might fall, “Psalms 118:13. But, on the contrary, I shall live, not simply as he had hitherto lived, in the greatest distress, which would be a wretched life, a living death: but lively, joyous, happy. Of this, he says he is secure; this the word asserts. On what foundation does he rest? Psalms 118:14-15, “Because God had become his salvation, “and “the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.” Jacob Alting.
Ver. 17. And declare the works of the LORD. Matter of praise abounds in all the divine works, both of the general creation and preservation and of the redemption of our souls: chiefly, that God, besides the life of nature, has given to us the life of grace, without which we could not properly praise God and declare his works. Rivetus.
Ver. 17. And declare the works of the LORD. In the second member of the verse, he points out the proper use of life. God does not prolong the lives of his people, that they may pamper themselves with meat and drink, sleep as much as they please, and enjoy every temporal blessing; but to magnify hint for his benefits which he is daily heaping upon them. John Calvin.
Ver. 17. According to Matthesius, Luther had this verse written against his study wall.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 17.
1. Good men are often in special danger: Joseph in the pit; Moses in the ark of bulrushes; Job on the dunghill; David’s narrow escapes from the hand of Saul; Paul let down in a basket; what a fruit basket was that! How much was suspended upon that cord! The salvation of how many!
2. Good men have often a presentiment of their recovery from special danger: “I shall not die, but live.”
3. Good men have a special desire for the preservation of their lives: “live and declare the works of the Lord.” G. R.
Ver. 17, 19, 22. The victory of the risen Saviour and its far reaching consequences:
(1) Death is vanquished;
(2) the gates of righteousness are opened;
(3) the cornerstone of the church is laid. Deichert, in Lange’s Commentary.
Psalms 118:18*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 18. The LORD hath chastened me sore. This is faith’s version of the former passage, “Thou hast thrust sore at me; “for the attacks of the enemy are chastisements from the hand of God. The devil tormented Job for his own purposes, but in reality the sorrows of the patriarch were chastisements from the Lord. “Chastening, Jah hath chastened me, “says our poet: as much as to say that the Lord had smitten him very severely, and made him sorrowfully to know the full weight of his rod. The Lord frequently appears to save his heaviest blows for his best beloved ones; if any one affliction be more painful than another it falls to, the lot of those whom he most distinguishes in his service. The gardener prunes his best roses with most care. Chastisement is sent to keep successful saints humble, to make them tender towards others, and to enable them to bear the high honours which their heavenly Friend puts upon them.
But he hath not given me over unto death. This verse, like the thirteenth, concludes with a blessed “but, “which constitutes a saving clause. The Psalmist felt as if he had been beaten within an inch of his life, but yet death did not actually ensue. There is always a merciful limit to the scourging of the sons of God. Forty stripes save one were all that an Israelite might receive, and the Lord will never allow that one, that killing stroke, to fall upon his children. They are “chastened, but not killed”; their pains are for their instruction, not for their destruction. By these things the ungodly die, but gracious Hezekiah could say, “By these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit.” No, blessed be the name of God, he may chastise us, but he will not condemn us; we must feel the smarting rod, but we shall not feel the killing sword. He does not give us over unto death at any time, and we may be quite sure that he has not done so while he condescends to chasten us, for if he intended our final rejection he would not take the pains to place us under his fatherly discipline. It may seem hard to be under the afflicting rod, but it would be a far more dreadful thing if the Lord were to say, “He is given unto idols, let him alone.” Even from our griefs we may distil consolation, and gather sweet flowers from the garden in which the Lord has planted salutary rue and wormwood. It is a cheering fact that if we endure chastening God dealeth with us as with sons, and we may well be satisfied with the common lot of his beloved family.
The hero, restored to health, and rescued from the dangers of battle, now lifts up his own song unto the Lord, and asks all Israel, led on by the goodly fellowship of the priests, to assist him in chanting a joyful Te Deum.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 18. The LORD hath chastened me sore. Strong humours require strong physic to purge them out. Where corruption is deeply rooted in the heart, a light or small matter will not serve the turn to work it out. No; but a great deal of stir and ado must be made with it. Thomas Horton.
Ver. 18. But he hath not given me over unto death. It might have been worse, may the afflicted saint say, and it will yet be better; it is in mercy and in measure that God chastiseth his children. It is his care that “the spirit fail not before him, nor the souls which he hath made, “Isaiah 57:16. If his child swoons in the whipping, God lets fall the rod, and falls a kissing it, to fetch life into it again. John Trapp.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 18.
1. The afflictions of the people of God are chastisements: “The Lord hath chastened me.”
2. Those chastisements are often severe: hath chastened me sore.
3. The severity is limited: “it is not unto death.” G. R.
Psalms 118:19*
EXPOSITION.
Ver 19. Open to me the gates of righteousness. The grateful champion having reached the entrance of the temple, asks for admission in set form, as if he felt that he could only approach the hallowed shrine by divine permission, and wished only to enter in the appointed manner. The temple of God was meant for the righteous to enter and offer the sacrifices of righteousness, hence the gates are called the gates of righteousness. Righteous deeds were done within its walls and righteous teachings sounded forth from its courts. The phrase “the gate is sometimes used to signify power or empire”; as, for instance, “the Sublime Porte” signifies the seat of empire of Turkey; the entrance to the temple was the true Sublime Porte, and what is better, it was the porta justitiae, the gate of righteousness, the palace of the great King, who is in all things just.
I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD. Only let the gate be opened, and the willing worshipper will enter; and he will enter in the right spirit, and for the best of purposes, that he may render homage unto the Most High. Alas, there are multitudes who do not care whether the gates of God’s house are opened or not; and although they know that they are opened wide they never care to enter, neither does the thought of praising God so much as cross their minds. The time will come for them when they shall find the gates of heaven shut against them, for those gates are peculiarly the gates of righteousness through which there shall by no means enter anything that defileth. Our champion might have praised the Lord in secret, and doubtless he did so; but he was not content without going up to the assembly, there to register his thanksgivings. Those who neglect public worship generally neglect all worship; those who praise God within their own gates are among the readiest to praise him within his temple gates. Our hero had also in all probability been sore sick, and therefore like Hezekiah he says, “The Lord was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of my life in the house of the Lord.” Public praise for public mercies is every way most appropriate, most acceptable to God, and most profitable to others.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 19. Open to me the gates of righteousness. The gates won by his righteousness, to whom we daily say, “Thou only art holy”; the gates which needed the “Via Dolorossa and the cross, before they could roll back on their hinges. On a certain stormy afternoon, after the sun had been for three hours darkened, the world again heard of that Eden from which, four thousand years before, Adam had been banished. “Verily I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” O blessed malefactor, who thus entered into the heavenly gardens! O happy thief, that thus stole the kingdom of heaven! And see how valiantly he now enters it. “Open to me the gates of righteousness. Not “God be merciful to me a sinner”; not “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” But this is what is called the suppliant; omnipotence of prayer. “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” John Mason Neale.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 19.
1. Access to God desired.
2. Humbly requested: “Open to me.”
3. Boldly accepted: “I will go into them.”
4. Gratefully enjoyed: “And praise the Lord.”
Psalms 118:20*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 20. This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter. Psalmist loves the house of God so well that he admires the very gate thereof, and pauses beneath its arch to express his affection for it. He loved it because it was the gate of the Lord, he loved it because it was the gate of righteousness, because so many godly people had already entered it, and because in all future ages such persons will continue to pass through its portals. If the gate of the Lord’s house on earth is so pleasant to us, how greatly shall we rejoice when we pass that gate of pearl, to which none but the righteous shall ever approach, but through which all the just shall in due time enter to eternal felicity. The Lord Jesus has passed that way, and not only set the gate wide open, but secured an entrance for all those who are made righteous in his righteousness: all the righteous must and shall enter there, whoever may oppose them. Under another aspect our Lord is himself that gate, and through him, as the new and living Way, all the righteous delight to approach unto the Lord. Whenever we draw near to praise the Lord we must come by this gate; acceptable praise never climbs over the wall, or enters by any other way, but comes to God in Christ Jesus; as it is written, “no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” Blessed, for ever blessed, be this wondrous gate of the person of our Lord.
Psalms 118:21*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 21. Having entered, the champion exclaims, I will praise thee, not “I will praise the Lord, “for now he vividly realizes the divine presence, and addresses himself directly to Jehovah, whom his faith sensibly discerns. How well it is in all our songs of praise to let the heart have direct and distinct communion with God himself! The Psalmist’s song was personal praise too: —”I will praise thee”; resolute praise, for he firmly resolved to offer it; spontaneous praise, for he voluntarily and cheerfully rendered it, and continuous praise, for he did not intend soon to have done with it. It was a life long vow to which there would never come a close, “I will praise thee.”
For thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. He praises God by mentioning his favours, weaving his song out of the divine goodness which he had experienced. In these words he gives the reason for his praise, —his answered prayer, and the deliverance which he had received in consequence. How fondly he dwells upon the personal interposition of God! “Thou hast heard me.” How heartily he ascribes the whole of his victory over his enemies to God; nay, he sees God himself to be the whole of it: “Thou art become my salvation.” It is well to go directly to God himself, and not to stay even in his mercy, or in the acts of his grace. Answered prayers bring God very near to us; realised salvation enables us to realise the immediate presence of God. Considering the extreme distress through which the worshipper had passed, it is not at all wonderful that he should feel his heart full of gratitude at the great salvation which God had wrought for him, and should at his first entrance into the temple lift up his voice in thankful praise for personal favours so great, so needful, so perfect.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 21. I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me. There is a point which we would especially notice, and that is, praise for hearing prayer. In this point, almost above all others, God is frequently robbed of his praise. Men pray; they receive an answer to their prayers; and then forget to praise. This happens especially in small things; we should ever remember that whatever is worth praying for, is worth praising for also. The fact is, we do not recognize God in these small things as much as we should; if we do praise, it is for the receipt of the blessing, with which we are pleased, leaving out of account the One from whom the blessing has come. This is not acceptable to God; we must see him in the blessing, if we would really praise. The Psalmist says, “I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me”; he praised not only because he had received, but also because he had been heard —because the living God, as a hearing God, was manifested in his mercies. And when we know that God has heard us, let us not delay our praise; if we put off our thanksgiving until perhaps only the evening, we may forget to praise at all; and if we do praise, it will in all probability be with only half the warmth which would animate our song at first. God loves a quick return for his blessings; one sentence of heartfelt thanksgiving is worth all the formalism of a more laboured service. There is a freshness about immediate praise which is like the bloom upon the fruit; its being spontaneous adds ineffably to its price.
Trace, then, dear reader, a connection between your God and your blessing. Recognize his hearing ear as well as his bounteous hand, and be yours the Psalmist’s words, I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me. Philip Bennet Power.
Psalms 118:22*
EXPOSITION.
This passage (Psalms 118:22-27) will appear to be a mixture of the expressions of the people and of the hero himself.
Ver. 22. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. Here the people magnify God for bringing his chosen servant into the honourable office, which had been allotted to him by divine decree. A wise king and valiant leader is a stone by which the national fabric is built up. David had been rejected by those in authority, but God had placed him in a position of the highest honour and the greatest usefulness, making him the chief cornerstone of the state. In the case of many others whose early life has been spent in conflict, the Lord has been pleased to accomplish his divine purposes in like manner; but to none is this text so applicable as to the Lord Jesus himself: he is the living stone, the tried stone, elect, precious, which God himself appointed from of old. The Jewish builders, scribe, priest, Pharisee, and Herodian, rejected him with disdain. They could see no excellence in him that they should build upon him; he could not be made to fit in with their ideal of a national church, he was a stone of another quarry from themselves, and not after their mind nor according to their taste; therefore they cast him away and poured contempt upon him, even as Peter said, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders”; they reckoned him to be as nothing, though he is Lord of all. In raising him from the dead the Lord God exalted him to be the head of his church, the very pinnacle of her glory and beauty. Since then he has become the confidence of the Gentiles, even of them that are afar off upon the sea, and thus he has joined the two walls of Jew and Gentile into one stately temple, and is seen to be the binding cornerstone, making both one. This is a delightful subject for contemplation.
Jesus in all things hath the preeminence, he is the principal stone of the whole house of God. We are accustomed to lay some one stone of a public building with solemn ceremony, and to deposit in it any precious things which may have been selected as a memorial of the occasion: henceforth that cornerstone is looked upon as peculiarly honourable, and joyful memories are associated with it. All this is in a very emphatic sense true of our blessed Lord, “The Shepherd, the Stone of Israel.” God himself laid him where he is, and hid within him all the precious things of the eternal covenant; and there he shall for ever remain, the foundation of all our hopes, the glory of all our joys, the united bond of all our fellowship. He is “the head over all things to the church, “and by him the church is fitly framed together, and groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord. Still do the builders refuse him: even to this day the professional teachers of the gospel are far too apt to fly to any and every new philosophy sooner than maintain the simple gospel, which is the essence of Christ: nevertheless, he holds his true position amongst his people, and the foolish builders shall see to their utter confusion that his truth shall be exalted over all. Those who reject the chosen stone will stumble against him to their own hurt, and ere long will come his second advent, when he will fall upon them from the heights of heaven, and grind them to powder.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 22. The stone. The head stone of the corner. Christ Jesus is a stone: no firmness, but in him. A fundamental stone: no building, but on him. A corner stone: no piecing nor reconciliation, but in him. James Ford, 1856.
Ver. 22. The stone which the builders rejected, etc. To apply it to Christ, “The Stone” is the ground of all. Two things befall it; two things as contrary as may be, —1. Refused, cast away; then, called for again, and made head of the building. So, two parts there are to the eye. 1. The refusing;2. The raising;which are his two estates, his humiliation, and his exaltation. In either of these you may observe two degrees, a quibus, and quosque, by whom and how far. By whom refused? We weigh the word, aeificantes:not by men unskilful, but by workmen, professed builders;it is so much the worse. How far? We weigh the word, —reprobaverunt; usque ad reprobari, even to a reprobation. It is not improbaverunt, disliked, as not fit for some eminent place; but reprobaverunt, utterly reprobate, for any place at all.
Again, exalted, by whom? The next words are a Domino, by God, as good a builder, nay, better than the best of them; which makes amends for the former. And How far? Placed by him, not in any part of the building;but in the part most in the eye (the corner), and in the highest place of it, the very head.
So, rejected, and that by the builders, and to the lowest estate: and from the lowest estate exalted in caput anguli, to the chiefest place of all; and that by God himself. Lancelot Andrewes.
Ver. 22. The stone which the builders refused, etc. We need not wonder, that not only the powers of the world are usually enemies to Christ, and that the contrivers of policies, those builders, leave out Christ in their building, but that the pretended builders of the church of God, though they use the name of Christ, and serve their turn with that, yet reject himself, and oppose the power of his spiritual kingdom. There may be wit and learning, and much knowledge of the Scriptures, amongst those that are haters of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the power of godliness, and corrupters of the worship of God. It is the spirit of humility and obedience, and saving faith, that teach men to esteem Christ, and build upon him. The vanity and folly of these builders’ opinion appears in this, that they are overpowered by the great Architect of the church: his purpose stands. Notwithstanding their rejection of Christ, he is still made the head corner stone. They cast him away by their reproaches, and by giving him up to be crucified and then cast into the grave, causing a stone to be rolled upon this stone which they had so rejected, that it might appear no more, and so thought themselves sure. But even from thence did he arise, and became the head of the corner. Robert Leighton.
Ver. 22. The stone which the builders refused, etc. That is to say, God sent a living, precious, chosen stone on earth; but the Jews, who then had the building of the church, rejected that stone, and said of it, “This man, who observeth not the Sabbath, is not of God and, “We have no king but Caesar, “and, That seducer said, I will rise after three days”; and many similar things beside. But this stone, so rejected by the builders as unfit for raising the spiritual edifice, is become the head of the corner; has been made by God, the principal architect, the bond to connect the two walls and keep them together; that is to say, has been made the head of the whole church, composed of Jews and Gentiles; and such a head, that whoever is not under him cannot be saved; and whoever is built under him, the living stone, will certainly be saved. Now all this is the Lord’s doing, done by his election and design, without any intervention on the part of man, and therefore, it is wonderful in our eyes. For who is there that must not look upon it as a wonderful thing, to find a man crucified, dead and buried, rising, after three days, from the dead, immortal, with unbounded power, and declared Prince of men and angels, and a way opened through him for mortal man, to the kingdom of heaven, to the society of the angels, to a happy immortality? Robert Bellarmine.
Ver. 22. The stone which the builders refused. Here we behold with how strong and impregnable a shield the Holy Ghost furnishes us against the empty vaunting of the Papal clergy. Be it so, that they possess the name, “chief builders”; but if they disown Christ, does it necessarily follow that we must disown him also? Let us rather contemn and trample under our feet all their decrees, and let us reverence this precious stone upon which our salvation rests. By the expression, is become the head of the corner, we are to understand the real foundation of the church, which sustains the whole weight of the edifice; it being requisite that the corners should form the main strength of buildings. John Calvin.
Ver. 22. The stone, etc. That is, I, whom the great men and rulers of the people rejected (1 Samuel 26:19), as the builders of a house reject a stone unfit to be employed in it, am now become king over Israel and Judah; and a type of that glorious King who shall hereafter be in like manner refused (Lu 19:14 Lu 20:17), and then be by God exalted to be Lord of all the world, and the foundation of all men’s happiness. Thomas Fellton.
Ver. 22 The stone. The author of Historia Scholastica mentions it as a tradition that at the building of the second temple there was a particular stone of which that was literally true, which is here parabolically rehearsed, viz., that it had the hap to be often taken up by the builders, and as oft rejected, and at last was found to be perfectly fit for the most honourable place, that of the chief cornerstone, which coupled the sides of the walls together, the extraordinariness whereof occasioned the speech here following: This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. Henry Hammond.
Ver. 22. The head stone of the corner. How of the “corner”? The corner is the place where two walls meet: and there be many twos in this building:the two walls of nations. Jews and Gentiles;the two of conditions, bond and free;the two of sex, male and female:the great two (which this Easter day we celebrate) of the quick and the dead;above all, the greatest two of all, heaven and earth. Lancelot Andrewes.
Ver. 22. Is become the head stone of the corner.
Higher yet and ever higher, passeth he those ranks above,
Where the seraphs are enkindled with the flame of endless
love;
Passeth them, for not even seraphs ever loved so well as he
Who hath borne for his beloved, stripes, and thorns, and
shameful tree;
Ever further, ever onward, where no angel’s foot may tread,
Where the twenty-four elders prostrate fall in mystic
dread:
Where the four strange living creatures sing their hymn
before the throne,
The Despised One and rejected passeth, in his might alone;
Passeth through the dazzling rainbow, till upon the
father’s right
He is seated, his Co-Equal, God of God, anti Light of
Light. R. F. Littledale.
Ver. 22. Head stone of the corner. It is now clear to all by divine grace whom Holy Scripture calls the cornerstone. Him in truth who, taking unto himself from one side the Jewish, and from the other the Gentile people, unites, as it were, two walls in the one fabric of the Church; them of whom it is written, “He hath made both one”; who exhibited himself as the Cornerstone, not only in things below, but in things above, because he united on earth the nations of the Gentiles to the people of Israel, and both together to angels. For at his birth the angels exclaimed, “On earth peace, good will toward men.” Gregory, quoted by Henry Newland, 1860.
Ver. 22. The corner. By Bede it is rendered as a reason why the Jewish builders refused our Saviour Christ for the head place, Quia in uno pariete, stare amabant. They could endure no corner;they must stand alone upon their own single wall; be of themselves, not join with Gentiles or Samaritans. And Christ they endured not, because they thought if he had been heard he would have inclined that way. Alias oves oportet me adducere (John 10:16). Alias they could not abide. But sure, a purpose there must be, alias oves adducendi, of bringing in others, of joining a corner, or else we do not facere secundum exemplar, build not according to Christ’s pattern; our fashion of fabric is not like his. Lancelot Andrewes.
Ver. 22-27. By the consent of all expositors, in this Psalm is typed the coming of Christ, and his kingdom of the gospel. This is manifested by an exaltation, by an exultation, by a petition, by a benediction. The exaltation:Psalms 118:22, The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. The Jews refused this stone, but God hath built his church upon it.
The exultation:Psalms 118:24, This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. A more blessed day than that day was wherein he made man, when he had done making the world; “Rejoice we, and be glad in it.”
The petition:Psalms 118:25, Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Thy justice would not suffer thee to save without the Messiah; he is come, “Save now, O LORD, I beseech thee.” Our Saviour is come, let mercy and salvation come along with him.
The benediction makes all clear: Psalms 118:26, Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD. For what David here prophesied, the people after accomplished: Matthew 21:9, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” The corollary or sum is in my text: Psalms 118:27, God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. Thomas Adams.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 22. In these words we may notice the following particulars.
1. The metaphorical view in which the church is here represented, namely, that of a house or building.
2. The character that our Immanuel bears with respect to this building; he is the stone in a way of eminence, without whom there can be no building, no house for God to dwell in among the children of men.
3. The character of the workmen employed in this spiritual structure; they are called builders.
4. A fatal error they are charged with in building the house of God; they refuse the stone of God’s choosing; they do not allow him a place in his own house.
5. Notice the place that Christ should and shall have in this building, let the builders do their worst: he is made the head stone of the corner. The words immediately following declare how this is effected, and how the saints are affected with the news of his exaltation, notwithstanding the malice of hell and earth: “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes.” Ebenezer Erskine.
Ver. 22-23.
1. The mystery stated. (a) That which is least esteemed by men as a means of salvation is most esteemed by God. (b) That which is most esteemed by God when made known is least esteemed by man.
2. The mystery explained. The way of salvation is the Lord’s doing, therefore marvellous in our eyes. —G.R.
Ver. 22-25. —
1. Christ rejected.
2. Christ exalted.
3. His exaltation is due to God alone.
4. His exaltation commences a new era.
5. His exaltation suggests a new prayer. See Spurgeon’s Sermon, no. 1,420.
Psalms 118:23*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 23. This is the LORD’S doing. The exalted position of Christ in his church is not the work of man, and does not depend for its continuation upon any builders or ministers; God himself has wrought the exaltation of our Lord Jesus. Considering the opposition which comes from the wisdom, the power, and the authority of this world, it is manifest that if the kingdom of Christ be indeed set up and maintained in the world it must be by supernatural power. Indeed, it is so even in the smallest detail. Every grain of true faith in this world is a divine creation, and every hour in which the true church subsists is a prolonged miracle. It is not the goodness of human nature, nor the force of reasoning, which exalts Christ, and builds up the church, but a power from above. This staggers the adversary, for he cannot understand what it is which baffles him: of the Holy Ghost He knows nothing.
It is marvellous in our eyes. We actually see it; it is not in our thoughts and hopes and prayers alone, but the astonishing work is actually before our eyes. Jesus reigns, his power is felt, and we perceive that it is so. Faith sees our great Master, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; she sees and marvels. It never ceases to astonish us, as we see, even here below, God by means of weakness defeating power, by the simplicity of his word baffling the craft of men, and by the invisible influence of his Spirit exalting his Son in human hearts in the teeth of open and determined opposition. It is indeed “marvellous in our eyes, “as all God’s works must be if men care to study them. In the Hebrew the passage reads, “It is wonderfully done”: not only is the exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth itself wonderful, but the way in which it is brought about is marvellous: it is wonderfully done. The more we study the history of Christ and his church the more fully shall we agree with this declaration.
Psalms 118:24*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 24. This is the day which the LORD hath made. A new era has commenced. The day of David’s enthronement was the beginning of better times for Israel; and in a far higher sense the day of our Lord’s resurrection is a new day of God’s own making, for it is the dawn of a blessed dispensation. No doubt the Israelitish nation celebrated the victory of its champion with a day of feasting, music and song; and surely it is but meet that we should reverently keep the feast of the triumph of the Son of David. We observe the Lord’s day as henceforth our true Sabbath, a day made and ordained of God, for the perpetual remembrance of the achievements of our Redeemer. Whenever the soft Sabbath light of the first day of the week breaks upon the earth, let us sing,
“This is the day the Lord hath made,
He calls the hours his own;
Let heaven rejoice, let earth be glad,
And praise surround the throne.”
We by no means wish to confine the reference of the passage to the Sabbath, for the whole gospel day is the day of God’s making, and its blessings come to us through our Lord’s being placed as the head of the corner.
We will rejoice and be glad in it. What else can we do? Having obtained so great a deliverance through our illustrious leader, and having seen the eternal mercy of God so brilliantly displayed, it would ill become us to mourn and murmur. Rather will we exhibit a double joy, rejoice in heart and be glad in face, rejoice in secret and be glad in public, for we have more than a double reason for being glad in the Lord. We ought to be specially joyous on the Sabbath: it is the queen of days, and its hours should be clad in royal apparel of delight. George Herbert says of it:
“Thou art a day of mirth,
And where the weekdays trail on ground,
Thy flight is higher as thy birth.”
Entering into the midst of the church of God, and beholding the Lord Jesus as all in all in the assemblies of his people, we are bound to overflow with joy. Is it not written, “then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord”? When the King makes the house of prayer to be a banqueting house, and we have grace to enjoy fellowship with him, both in his sufferings and in his triumphs, we feel an intense delight, and we are glad to express it with the rest of his people.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 24. This is the day which the LORD hath made. 1. Here is the doctrine of the Christian sabbath: “it is the day which the Lord hath made, “has made remarkable, made holy, has distinguished it from other days; he has made it for man: it is therefore called the Lord’s day, for it bears his image and superscription. 2. The duty of the Sabbath, “we will rejoice and be glad in it”; not only in the institution of the day, that there is such a day appointed, but in the occasion of it, Christ’s becoming “the head of the corner.” This we ought to rejoice in, both as his honour and our advantage. Sabbath days must be rejoicing days, and then they are to us as the days of heaven. See what a good Master we serve, who having instituted a day for his service, appoints it to be spent in holy joy. Matthew Henry.
Ver. 24. This is the day, etc. The “queen of days, “as the Jews call the Sabbath. Arnobius interprets this text of the Christian Sabbath; others, of the day of salvation by Christ exalted to be the head cornerstone; in opposition to that dismal day of man’s fall. John Trapp.
Ver. 24. Because believers have ever cause for comfort, therefore they are commanded always to rejoice, Php 3:1 4:4. Whether their sins or sufferings come into their hearts, they must not sorrow as they that have no hope. In their saddest conditions, they have the Spirit of consolation. There is seed of joy sown within them when it is turned under the clods, and appears not above ground. But there are special times when God calls for this grain to spring up. They have some red letters, some holy days in the calendar of their lives, wherein this joy, as wine at a wedding, is most seasonable; but among all those days it never relishes so well, it never tasteth so pleasantly, as on a Lord’s day. Joy suits no person so much as a saint, and it becomes no season so well as a Sabbath.
Joy in God on other days is like the birds chirping in winter, which is pleasing; but joy on the Lord’s day is like their warbling times and pretty notes in spring, when all other things look with a suitable delightful aspect. This is the day which the LORD hath made, (he that made all days, so especially this day, but what follows?) we will rejoice and be glad in it. In which words we have the church’s solace, or joy, and the season, or day of it. Her solace was great: “We will rejoice and be glad.” Those expressions are not needless repetitions, but shew the exuberance or high degree of their joy. The season of it: “This is the day which the LORD hath made.” Compare this place with Matthew 11:22-23, and Acts 4:11, and you will find that the precedent verses are a prophetical prediction of Christ’s resurrection, and so this verse foretells the church’s joy upon that memorable and glorious day. And, indeed, if “a feast be made for laughter, “Ecclesiastes 10:19, then that day wherein Christ feasts his saints with the choicest mercies may well command their greatest spiritual mirth. A thanksgiving day hath a double precedence of a fast day. On a fast day we eye God’s anger; on a thanksgiving day we look to God’s favour. In the former we specially mind our corruptions; in the latter, God’s compassions; —therefore a fast day calls for sorrow, a thanksgiving day for joy. But the Lord’s day is the highest thanksgiving day, and deserveth much more than the Jewish Purim, to be a day of feasting and gladness, and a good day. George Spinnock.
Ver. 24. Day which the LORD hath made. As the sun in heaven makes the natural day by his light, so does Christ the Sun of Righteousness make ours a spiritual day. Starke.
Ver. 24. Day which the LORD hath made. Adam introduced a day of sadness, but another day is made by Christ: Abraham saw his day from afar, and was glad; we will walk even now in his light. Johann David Friesch, 1731.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 24. —
1. What is spoken of.
(a) The gospel day.
(b) The sabbath day.
2. What is said of it.
(a) It is given by God.
(b) To be joyfully received by man. —G.R.
Psalms 118:25*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 25. Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD. Hosanna! God save our king! Let David reign! Or as we who live in these latter days interpret it, —Let the Son of David live for ever, let his saving help go forth throughout all nations. This was the peculiar shout of the feast of tabernacles; and so long as we dwell here below in these tabernacles of clay we cannot do better than use the same cry. Perpetually let us pray that our glorious King may work salvation in the midst of the earth. We plead also for ourselves that the Lord would save us, deliver us, and continue to sanctify us. This we ask with great earnestness, beseeching it of Jehovah. Prayer should always be an entreating and beseeching.
O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Let the church be built up: through the salvation of sinners may the number of the saints be increased; through the preservation of saints may the church be strengthened, continued, beautified, perfected. Our Lord Jesus himself pleads for the salvation and the prosperity of his chosen; as our Intercessor before the throne he asks that the heavenly Father would save and keep those who were of old committed to his charge, and cause them to be one through the indwelling Spirit. Salvation had been given, and therefore it is asked for. Strange though it may seem, he who cries for salvation is already in a measure saved. None can so truly cry, “Save, I beseech thee, “as those who have already participated in salvation; and the most prosperous church is that which most imploringly seeks prosperity. It may seem strange that, returning from victory, flushed with triumph, the hero should still ask for salvation; but so it is, and it could not be otherwise. When all our Saviour’s work and warfare were ended, his intercession became even more prominently a feature of his life; after he had conquered all his foes he made intercession for the transgressors. What is true of him is true of his church also, for whenever she obtains the largest measure of spiritual blessing she is then most inclined to plead for more. She never pants so eagerly for prosperity as when she sees the Lord’s doings in her midst, and marvels at them. Then, encouraged by the gracious visitation, she sets apart her solemn days of prayer, and cries with passionate desire, “Save now, “and “Send now prosperity.” She would fain take the tide at the flood, and make the most of the day of which the Lord has already made so much.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 25. Save. With the Hebrews salvation is a wide word, comprising all the favours of God that may lead to preservation; and therefore the Psalmist elsewhere extends this act both to man and beast, and, as if he would comment upon himself, expounds swson save, by euodwson? It is so dear a title of God, that the prophet cannot have enough of it. Joseph Hall.
Ver. 25. Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD. Let him have the acclamations of the people as is usual at the inauguration of a prince; let every one of his loyal subjects shout for joy, “Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD.” This is like vivat rex, and speaks both a hearty joy for his accession to the crown, an entire satisfaction in his government, and a zealous affection to the interests and honour of it. Hosanna signifies, “Save now, I beseech thee.” Lord, save me, I beseech thee; let this Saviour be my Saviour; and in order to that my Ruler: let me be taken under his protection, and owned as one of his willing subjects. His enemies are my enemies; Lord, I beseech thee, save me from them. Send me an interest in that prosperity which his kingdom brings with it to all those that entertain it. Let my soul prosper and be in health, in that peace and righteousness which his government brings. Psalms 72:3. Let me have victory over those lusts that war against my soul, and let divine grace go on in my heart, conquering and to conquer. Matthew Henry.
Ver. 25. Save now, or, hosanna. Our thanksgivings on earth must always be accompanied with prayers for further mercies, and the continuance of our prosperity; Our hallelujahs with hosannas. Ingram Cobbin.
Ver. 25. Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord, etc. Hosanna. The cry of the multitudes as they thronged in our Lord’s triumphal procession into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9; Matthew 21:18 Mr 11:9,15, John 12:13) was taken from this Psalm, from which they were accustomed to recite Psalms 118:25-26 at the Feast of Tabernacles. On that occasion the great Hallel, consisting of Psalms 113:1-9; Psalms 114:1-8; Psalms 115:1-18; Psalms 116:1-19; Psalms 117:1-2; Psalms 118:1-29 was chanted by one of the priests, and at certain intervals the multitudes joined in the responses, waving their branches of willow and palm, and shouting as they waved them, Hallelujah, or Hosannah, or, “O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.” This was done at the recitation of Psalms 118:1; Psalms 118:29; but according to the school of Hillel, at the words “Save now, we beseech thee.” The school of Shammai, on the contrary, say it was at the words, “Send now prosperity.” Rabban Gamaliel and R. Joshua were observed by R. Akiba to wave their branches only at the words, “Save now, we beseech thee” (Mishna, Succah, 3. 9). On each of the seven days during which the feast lasted the people thronged the court of the temple, and went in procession about the altar, setting their boughs bending towards it; the trumpets sounding as they shouted Hosannah. But on the seventh day they marched seven times round the altar, shouting meanwhile the great Hosannah to the sound of the trumpets of the Levites (Lightfoot, Temple Service, 16. 2). The very children who could wave the palm branches were expected to take part in the solemnity (Mishna, Succah, 3. 15; Matthew 21:15). From the custom of waving the boughs of myrtle and willow during the service the name Hosannah was ultimately transferred to the boughs themselves, so that according to Elias Levita (Thisbi. sv), “the bundles of the willows of the brook which they carry at the Feast of Tabernacles are called Hosannahs.” William Aldis Wright, in “Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, “1863.
Ver. 25. Send now prosperity, .God will send it, but his people must pray for it. “I came for thy prayers, “Daniel 10:12. John Trapp.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 25. —What is church prosperity? Whence must it come? How can we obtain it?
Ver. 25. —
1. The object of the prayer.
(a) Salvation from sin.
(b) Prosperity in righteousness.
2. The earnestness of the prayer: “I beseech thee, I beseech thee”.
3. The urgency of the prayer, “now—now” —now that the gates of righteousness are open, now that the foundation stone is laid, now that the gospel day has come—now, Lord! now! —G.R.
Psalms 118:26*
EXPOSITION.
Ver 26. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the LORD. The champion had done everything “in the name of the Lord”: in that name he had routed all his adversaries, and had risen to the throne, and in that name he had now entered the temple to pay his vows. We know who it is that cometh in the name of the Lord beyond all others. In the Psalmist’s days he was The Coming One, and he is still The Coming One, though he hath already come. We are ready with our hosannas both for his first and second advent; our inmost souls thankfully adore and bless him and upon his head unspeakable joys. “Prayer also shall be made for him continually: and daily shall he be praised.” For his sake everybody is blessed to us who comes in the name of the Lord, we welcome all such to our hearts and our homes; but chiefly, and beyond all others, we welcome himself when he deigns to enter in and sup with us and we with him. O sacred bliss, fit antepast of heaven! Perhaps this sentence is intended to be the benediction of the priests upon the valiant servant of the Lord, and if so, it is appropriately added,
We have blessed you out of the house of the LORD. The priests whose business it was to bless the people, in a sevenfold degree blessed the people’s deliverer, the one chosen out of the people whom the Lord had exalted. All those whose high privilege it is to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, because they are made priests unto God in Christ Jesus, can truly say that they bless the Christ who has made them what they are, and placed them where they are. Whenever we feel ourselves at home with God, and feel the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba Father, “the first thought of our hearts should be to bless the elder Brother, through whom the privilege of sonship has descended to such unworthy ones. In looking back upon our past lives we can remember many delightful occasions in which with joy unutterable we have in the fulness of our heart blessed our Saviour and our King; and all these memorable seasons are so many foretastes and pledges of the time when in the house of our great Father above we shall for ever sing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, “and with rapture bless the Redeemer’s name.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 26. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the LORD. The difference between Christ and Antichrist is to be noticed, because Christ did not come in his own name, but in the name of the Father; of which he himself testified, John 5:43, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” Thus all faithful ministers of the Church must not come in their own name, or the name of Baal, or of Mammon and their own belly, but in the name of God, with a lawful call; concerning which see Hebrews 5:1-14 Re 10:1-11 15:1-8. Solomon Gesner.
Psalms 118:27*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 27. God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light, or “God is Jehovah, “the only living and true God. There is none other God but he. The words may also be rendered, “Mighty is Jehovah.” Only the power of God could have brought us such light and joy as spring from the work of our Champion and King. We have received light, by which we have known the rejected stone to be the head of the corner, and this light has led us to enlist beneath the banner of the once despised Nazarene, who is now the Prince of the kings of the earth. With the light of knowledge has come the light of joy; for we are delivered from the powers of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Our knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ came not by the light of nature, nor by reason, nor did it arise from the sparks which we ourselves had kindled, nor did we receive it of men; but the mighty God alone hath showed it to us. He made a day on purpose that he might shine upon us like the sun, and he made our faces to shine in the light of that day, according to the declaration of the twenty-fourth verse. Therefore, unto him be all the honour of our enlightenment. Let us do our best to magnify the great Father of lights from whom our present blessedness has descended.
“Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. Some think that by this we are taught that the king offered so many sacrifices that the whole area of the court was filled, and the sacrifices were bound even up to the altar; but we are inclined to keep to our own version, and to believe that sometimes restive bullocks were bound to the altar before they were slain, in which case Mant’s verse is correct”:
“He, Jehovah, is our Lord:
He, our God, on us hath shined:
Bind the sacrifice with cord,
To the horned altar bind.”
The word rendered “cords” carries with it the idea of wreaths and boughs, so that it was not a cord of hard, rough rope, but a decorated band; even as in our case, though we are bound to the altar of God, it is with the cords of love and the bands of a man, and not by a compulsion which destroys the freedom of the will. The sacrifice which we would present in honour of the victories of our Lord Jesus Christ is the living sacrifice of our spirit, soul, and body. We bring ourselves to his altar, and desire to offer him all that we have and are. There remains a tendency in our nature to start aside from this; it is not fond of the sacrificial knife. In the warmth of our love we come willingly to the altar, but we need constraining power to keep us there in the entirety of our being throughout the whole of life. Happily there is a cord which, twisted around the atonement, or, better still, around the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our only Altar, can hold us, and does hold us: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then all died; and that he died for all, that they that live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” We are bound to the doctrine of atonement; we are bound to Christ himself, who is both altar and sacrifice; we desire to be more bound to him than ever, our soul finds her liberty in being tethered fast to the altar of the Lord. The American Board of Missions has for its seal an ox, with an altar on one side and a plough on the other, and the motto “Ready for either, “—ready to live and labour, or ready to suffer and die. We would gladly spend ourselves for the Lord actively, or be spent by him passively, whichever may be his will; but since we know the rebellion of our corrupt nature we earnestly pray that we may be kept in this consecrated mind, and that we may never, under discouragements, or through the temptations of the world, be permitted to leave the altar, to which it is our intense desire to be for ever fastened. Such consecration as this, and such desires for its perpetuity, well beseem that day of gladness which the Lord hath made so bright by the glorious triumph of his Son, our covenant head, our well beloved.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 27. God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light. The Psalmist was clearly possessed of light, for he says, “God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light.” He was evidently, then, possessed of light; and this light was in him as “the light of life.” This light had shone into his heart; the rays and beams of divine truth had penetrated into his conscience. He carried about with him a light which had come from God; in this light he saw light, and in this light he discerned everything which the light manifested. Thus by this internal light he knew what was good and what was evil, what was Sweet and what was bitter, what was true and what was false, what was spiritual and what was natural. He did not say, This light came from creature exertion, this light was the produce of my own wisdom, this light was nature transmuted some action of my own will, and thus gradually rose into existence from long time and assiduous cultivation. But he ascribes the whole of that light which he possessed unto God the Lord, as the sole author and the only giver of it. Now, if God the Lord has ever showed you and me the same light which he showed his servant of old, we carry about with us more or less of a solemn conviction that we have received this light from him. There will, indeed, be many clouds of darkness to cover it; there will often be doubts and fears, hovering like mists and fogs over our souls, whether the light which we have received be from God or not. But in solemn moments when the Lord is pleased a little to revive his work; at times and seasons when he condescends to draw forth the affections of our hearts unto himself, to bring us into his presence, to hide us in some measure in the hollow of his hand, and give us access unto himself, at such moments and seasons we carry about with us, in spite of all our unbelief, in spite of all the suggestions of the enemy, in spite of all doubts and fears and suspicions that rise from the depths of the carnal mind, in spite of all these counter workings and undermining, we carry about with us at these times a solemn conviction that we have light, and that this light we have received from God. And why so? Because we can look back to a time when we walked in no such light, when we felt no such light, when everything spiritual and heavenly was dark to us, and we were dark to them.
Those things which the Spirit of God enables a man to do, are in Scripture sometimes called sacrifices. “That we may offer, “we read, “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ.” The apostle speaks of “receiving of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from the brethren at Philippi; an odour of a sweet smell; a sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing to God.” Philippians 4:18. So he says to the Hebrew church: “But to do good and to communicate (that is, to the wants of God’s people), forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Hebrews 13:16. Well, then, these spiritual sacrifices which a man offers unto God are bound also to the horns of the altar. They are not well pleasing in the sight of God, except they are bound to the horns of the altar, so as to derive all their acceptance from the altar. Our prayers are only acceptable to God as they are offered through the cross of Jesus. Our praises and thanksgivings are only acceptable to God as they are connected with the cross of Christ, and ascend to the Father through the propitiation of his dear Son. The ordinances of God’s house are only acceptable to God as spiritual sacrifices, when they are bound to the horns of the altar. Both the ordinances of the New Testament—baptism and the Lord’s supper—have been bound by the hands of God himself to the horns of the altar; and no one either rightly went through the one, or rightly received the other, who had not been first spiritually bound by the same hand to the horns of the altar. Every act of liberality, every cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple, every feeling of sympathy and affection, every kind word, every compassionate action, shown to a brother; all and each are only acceptable to God as they ascend to him through the mediation of his dear Son. And, therefore, every sacrifice of our own comfort, or of our own advantage, of our own time, or of our own money, for the profit of God’s children, is only a spiritual and acceptable sacrifice so far as it is bound to the horns of the altar, linked on to the cross of Jesus, and deriving all its fragrance and odour from its connection with the incense there offered by the Lord of life and glory. J. C. Philpot.
Verse 27. How comfortable is the light! It is so comfortable that light and comfort are often put for the same thing: God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light, that is, the light of counsel what to do, and the light of comfort in what we do, or after all our sufferings. Light is not only a candle held to us, to do our work by, but it comforts and cheereth us in our work. Ecclesiastes 11:7. Joseph Caryl.
Ver. 27. Shewed us light: bind the sacrifice. Here is somewhat received; somewhat to be returned. God hath blessed us, and we must bless God. His grace, and our gratitude, are the two lines my discourse must run upon. They are met in my text; let them as happily meet in your hearts, and they shall not leave you till they bring you to heaven. Thomas Adams.
Ver. 27. Bind the sacrifice with cords, etc. The sacrifice we are to offer to God, in gratitude for redeeming love, is ourselves, not to be slain upon the altar, but “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1) to be bound to the altar; spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise, in which our hearts must be fixed and engaged, as the sacrifice was bound “with cords to the horns of the altar.” Matthew Henry.
Ver. 27. Bind the sacrifice, etc. It is a saying among the Hebrews, that the beasts that were offered in sacrifice, they were the most struggling beasts of all the rest; such is the nature of us unthankful beasts, when we should love God again, we are readier to run away from him; we must be tied to the altar with cords, to draw from us love or fear. Abraham Wright.
Ver. 27. With cords. This word is sometimes used for thick twisted cords, Jude 15:13; sometimes for thick branches of trees, used at some feasts, Ezekiel 19:11, Leviticus 23:40. Hereupon this sentence may two ways be read; bind the feast with thick branches, or, bind the sacrifice with cords;both mean one thing, that men should keep the festivity with joy and thanks to God, as Israel did at their solemnities. Henry Ainsworth.
Ver. 27. Even unto the horns of the altar. Before these words must be understood, lead it: for the victims were bound to rings fixed in the floor. “The horns” were architectural ornaments, a kind of capitals, made of iron or of brass, somewhat in the form of the curved horns of an animal, projecting from the four angles of the altar. The officiating priest, when he prayed, placed his hands on them, and sometimes sprinkled them with the blood of the sacrifice: compare Exodus 30:3, Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18. At the end of this verse the word saying must be supplied. Daniel Cresswell.
Ver. 27. Unto the horns. That is, all the court over, until you come even to the horns of the altar, intending hereby many sacrifices or boughs. Henry Ainsworth.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 27. —Bind the sacrifice, etc. Devotion is the mother, and she hath four daughters.
1. Constancy: “Bind the sacrifice”.
2. Fervency: Bind it “with cords”.
3. Wisdom: Bind it “to the altar”.
4. Confidence: Even to the “horns” of the altar. —Thomas Adams.
Ver. 27. —Bind the sacrifice with cords, etc.
1. What is the sacrifice? Our whole selves, every talent, all our time, property, position, mind, heart, temper, life to the last.
2. Why does it need binding? It is naturally restive. Long delay, temptations, wealth, rank, discouragement, scepticism, all tend to drive it from the altar.
3. To what is it bound? To the doctrine of atonement. To Jesus and his work. To Jesus and out work.
4. What are the cords? Our own vows. The need of souls. Our joy in the work. The great reward. The love of Christ working upon us by the Holy Spirit.
Psalms 118:28*
EXPOSITION.
Now comes the closing song of the champion, and of each one of his admirers.
Ver. 28. Thou art my God, and I will praise thee, my mighty God who hath done this mighty and marvellous thing. Thou shalt be mine, and all the praise my soul is capable of shall be poured forth at thy feet.
Thou art my God, I will exalt thee. Thou hast exalted me, and as far as my praises can do it, I will exalt thy name. Jesus is magnified, and he magnifies the Father according to his prayer, “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” God hath given us grace and promised us glory, and we are constrained to ascribe all grace to him, and all the glory of it also. The repetition indicates a double determination, and sets forth the firmness of the resolution, the heartiness of the affection, the intensity of the gratitude. Our Lord Jesus himself saith, “I will praise thee”; and well may each one of us, humbly and with confidence in divine grace, add, on his own account, the same declaration, “I will praise thee.” However others may blaspheme thee, I will exalt thee; however dull and cold I may sometimes feel myself, yet will I rouse up my nature, and determine that as long as I have any being that being shall be spent to thy praise. For ever thou art my God, and for ever I will give thee thanks.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Ver. 28. God. The original for “God” gives force to this passage: Them art my “El” —The Mighty One; therefore will I praise thee: my “Eloah” —a varied form with substantially the same sense, “and I will extol thee” —lift thee high in glory and honour. Henry Cowles.
Ver. 28. This “extolling the Lord” will accomplish one of the great ends of praise, viz., his exaltation. It is true that God both can and will exalt himself, but it is at once the duty and the privilege of his people to exalt him. His name should be borne up and magnified by them; the glory of that name is now, as it were, committed to them: what use are we making of the opportunity and the privilege? Philip Bennet Power.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 28. —
1. The gladdest fact in all the world: “Thou art my God.”
2. The fittest spirit in which to enjoy it: “Praise thee”
Ver. 28. —
1. The effect of Christ being sacrificed for us: “Thou art my God.”
2. The effect of our being offered as an acceptable sacrifice to him: “I will praise thee, I will exalt thee.” Or,
(a) The covenant blessing: “Thou art my
God.”
(b) The covenant obligation: “I will praise thee.” —G.R.
Psalms 118:29*
EXPOSITION.
Ver. 29. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. The Psalm concludes as it began, making a complete circle of joyful adoration. We can well suppose that the notes at the close of the loud hallelujah were more swift, more sweet, more loud than at the beginning. To the sound of trumpet and harp, Israel, the house of Aaron, and all that feared the Lord, forgetting their distinctions, joined in one common hymn, testifying again to their deep gratitude to the Lord’s goodness, and to the mercy which is unto eternity. What better close could there be to this right royal song? The Psalmist would have risen to something higher, so as to end with a climax, but nothing loftier remained. He had reached the height of his grandest argument, and there he paused. The music ceased, the song was suspended, the great hallel was all chanted, and the people went every one to his own home, quietly and happily musing upon the goodness of the Lord, whose mercy fills eternity.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
Ver. 29. —
1. The beginning and the end of salvation is mercy.
2. The beginning and end of its requirements is thanksgiving. —G.R.
WORK UPON THE 118 PSALM.
In “The Works of John Boys”, 1626, folio, pp. 861-870, there is an exposition of this psalm.

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