Monthly Archives: April 2016

Psalm 148


Psalm 148:
The Hallelujah Chorus of the Universe Celebrating Messiah’s Coronation
148:1 Praise ye Jehovah. Praise ye Jehovah from the heavens: Praise him in the heights.
148:2 Praise ye him, all his angels: Praise ye him, all his host.
148:3 Praise ye him, sun and moon: Praise him, all ye stars of light.
148:4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, And ye waters that are above the heavens.
148:5 Let them praise the name of Jehovah; For he commanded, and they were created.
148:6 He hath also established them for ever and ever: He hath made a decree which shall not pass away.
148:7 Praise Jehovah from the earth, Ye sea-monsters, and all deePsalm
148:8 Fire and hail, snow and vapor; Stormy wind, fulfilling his word;
148:9 Mountains and all hills; Fruitful trees and all cedars;
148:10 Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and flying birds;
148:11 Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth;
148:12 Both young men and virgins; Old men and children:
148:13 Let them praise the name of Jehovah; For his name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and the heavens.
148:14 And he hath lifted up the horn of his people, The praise of all his saints; Even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye Jehovah.

The exhortation to the heavenly host ( vss. 1-6 ).
The exhortation to the earthly host ( vss. 7-12 ).
The establishment of the kingdom of God upon earth ( vss. 13, 14).
Psalm 148, like the two preceding and the two following it, begins with the word “Hallelujah.” This is a note that is sounded throughout the Book of Psalms, as well as in many other portions of the Scriptures. The basic assumption underlying this exhortation is that God is very praiseworthy, and that we have occasion to render such adoration to Him.

The entire psalm is an exhortation to the beings throughout the entire universe to render praise and adoration to God for some great Blessing. What is that event? The last two verses of the psalm reveal it clearly:

Let them praise the name of Jehovah;
For his name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and the heavens.
And he hath lifted up the horn of his people, The praise of all his saints;
Even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him.
Praise ye Jehovah.” ( vss. 13,14)

According to this quotation the time here foreseen by the prophet is one in which God alone is exalted; in which His glory is placed above the earth and the heavens; in which the horn of His people is lifted up — the praise of all His saints; and in which Israel is brought near to God. When these statements are read in the light of parallel utterances from other psalms and the prophets, it is seen that the hymn writer was speaking of the great millennial reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, when the glory of God encircles the earth as the waters cover the sea. With this key to the proper understanding of the psalm, let us now turn to the exhortation addressed to the heavenly host:

I. The Exhortation to the Heavenly Host
Praise ye Jehovah.
Praise ye Jehovah from the heavens: Praise him in the heights.
Praise ye him, all his angels: Praise ye him, all his host.
Praise ye him, all his angels: Praise him, all ye stars of light.
Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, And ye waters that are above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of Jehovah; For he commanded, and they were created.
He hath also established them for ever and ever: He hath made a decree which shall not pass away.” (vss. 1-6)

Following the word, hallelujah, is the exhortation, “Praise ye Jehovah from the heavens.” This is a very unique statement and at first sounds rather strange. We know that “the heavens are the heavens of Jehovah; But the earth has he given to the children of men” (Psalm 115:16). Moreover, “Jehovah hath established his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all” (Psalm 103:19). The great multitude of angels, who are the ministers of Jehovah, are round about His throne in the heavens of the heavens (Psalm 103:20; Daniel 7:9,10). In view of these facts the exhortation, “Praise ye Jehovah from the heavens,” does not refer to the praise of Jehovah in the heavens, who is there seated upon His throne. Language like this would be inappropriate. But when we remember, as stated above, that the time here foreseen and the events for which praise is to be rendered to God are the millennial reign of our Lord and His sitting enthroned in Zion upon earth, we see that the expression is indeed the normal one. The psalmist in vision sees Jehovah, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel, seated upon His glorious throne in Jerusalem (cf. Jeremiah 3:16-18). He therefore looks to the heavens and calls upon the seraphim, the cherubim, and all ranks and orders of angels to burst forth into praise, from the heights above, of Israel’s King, who begins His earthly reign in Zion. They thus are called upon to look down from the heaven of the heavens to Jehovah upon earth and to praise Him for what He has begun to do — to establish a reign of righteousness, justice, and a permanent peace. This thought is repeated in the parallel exhortation, “Praise him in the heights.” Our writer sees these hosts in the heights of heaven and calls upon them to look at what is going on upon the earth and to praise Jehovah who has come to earth and who has introduced such a blessed reign among men. That all of the created angels in the heavens are included in the exhortation is seen from verse 2. There will therefore swell, like the rolling of the sea billows, the praises of Jehovah when He thus inaugurates His earthly reign.

In verse 3 the psalmist personifies the sun, moon, and stars and calls upon them to render similar praise to Jehovah because of His having established His reign upon the earth. Of course, being inanimate objects, they cannot render vocal praise, but at that time they will be in such a condition that they will perfectly reflect glory upon Jehovah who, as we see from other passages, creates the heavens above anew and the earth anew.

Mention is made in verse 4 of the “heavens of heavens” and of the “waters that are above the heavens.” The expression “heavens of heavens,” is parallel in structure to the term, holy of holies, an expression that referred to the most holy place in the Tabernacle and also in the Temple at Jerusalem. The holy of holies was the most sacred place where the Shekinah of glory, the symbol of God’s presence, resided. The word, heavens, indicates the great expanse of the universe; but the heavens of the heavens refers to what we usually call “the very presence of God.” Thus the very heavens of the heavens are here personified and are called upon to render praise to Jehovah, as He begins His reign upon earth. Also the waters that are above the heavens are urged in like manner to render praise to Jehovah because of His marvelous reign. In Genesis, chapter 1, we are told that waters submerged the earth. On the second day of reconstruction part of these waters that were upon the earth were removed and placed above the expanse of heaven. This is a literal statement of an historical fact. There may be other waters, and doubtless are in addition to these that were removed from the earth. We have every reason to believe that there were such waters in the heavens, and that they will likewise reflect glory and praise upon Jehovah as He reigns in Zion.

In verse 5 our hymn writer declares that God “commanded, and they were created.” To what is reference here made? To all of the angelic hosts in the heavens? Or simply to the heavens of the heavens and the waters above the heavens? Or are all, both the intelligent beings and the material universe, included in this statement? It is difficult for us to say. I am inclined, however, to believe that he was speaking of the material universe, which Jehovah, who is reigning upon earth, created as is shown in John 1:1-4. They have their being solely because He brought them into existence. He at that time, who was rejected by His people when He came to earth the first time, will be enthroned in glory, reigning among His ancient people. The material universe is therefore called upon to break forth into praise and celebration that the long-rejected, despised Messiah has come unto His own.

According to verse 6 the material universe has been established forever and ever by “a decree which shall not pass away.” If this passage were the only one which we had to consider, we would of necessity be forced to understand that the material universe is to remain always. But when we turn to Psalm 102:23-28, we see a contrast drawn between Messiah, the Creator of all things, and the visible creation. They are to be changed and pass away, but He is to remain forever and ever. The Lord Jesus in His Olivet Discourse declared, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Was Jesus mistaken? Absolutely not! His prediction will find fulfillment in the passing away of the material universe. But when will this occur? The answer is found in Revelation 20:11 “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” At the end of the Millennium, when the judgment of the great white throne is established, the material universe will pass out of existence. John said that the heavens and earth fled away, as he saw in vision, at that future time. They did not pass away into some corner of the universe where they will be relegated to oblivion throughout eternity. No. They pass away and there is found no place for them — they pass out of existence. Then God creates the eternal heavens and the eternal earth which will last forever and ever.

Let no one conclude that there is a contradiction between the psalmist’s statement concerning the material universe and its abiding forever and the statements of our Lord and of John concerning their passing away. As I showed in my exposition of Psalm 145 (Biblical Research Monthly, Sept., 1946) the word and phrases in the original rendered “for ever” or “for ever and ever” do not connote what the English term “forever” signifies. These mean perpetuity, continuity. If there are no limits placed by the context or by parallel passages, we are to understand that the thing about which the affirmation is made is to continue without limitation, and that it means forever in the English sense of the term. But when there are limitations in the immediate context, or in parallel passages, then we must recognize said limits and understand the term or terms accordingly. Since other passages tell us that this material universe is not to remain forever but is to pass away, we are to understand that this set up which will be established upon this earth when Messiah returns will continue on without any interruption until He will have completed His reign upon the earth, at the conclusion of which, as we learn from New Testament passages, the material universe will pass away and will give place to the new one which God will create and which will exist forever and ever.

II. The Exhortation o the Earthly Host
Praise Jehovah from the earth, Ye sea-monsters , and all deeps:
Fire and hail, snow and vapor; Stormy wind, fulfilling his word;
Mountains and all hills; Fruitful trees and all cedars;
Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and flying birds;
Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth;
Both young men and virgins; Old men and children:” (vss. 7-12)

The psalmist, turning from the heavens and their hosts, looks upon the entire world and the fullness thereof, calling upon them likewise to render praise to Jehovah, who has come as King to establish His reign of righteousness upon the earth.

In verse 7 he addresses “Sea-Monsters and all deeps” calling upon them to render praise to God. Of course marine life as a whole is included in this exhortation and is addressed as if it were human, capable of rendering praise to the Lord. In verse 8 “fire and hail, snow and vapor” are likewise addressed, being thus personified, and are urged to render this universal adoration to Messiah for His glorious reign. The psalmist then addresses the “stormy wind, fulfilling his word.” God has His way in the storm and in the whirlwind. They are but the servants of the Almighty in the carrying out of His beneficent plans and purposes for the world: “Jehovah is slow to anger, and great in power, and will by no mean clear The guilty: Jehovah hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet” (Nahum 1:3).

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm.
His voice sublime is heard afar; In distant peals it dies;
He yokes the whirlwind to His car, And sweeps the howling skies.”

God works everything together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.

“Mountains and all hills: Fruitful trees and all cedars” are called upon (vs. 9) to join in the universal ascription of praise to Messiah. “Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and flying birds” are also exhorted to join in with this praise of triumph in celebration of Messiah’s reign.

“Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth” are next invited to join in this chorus of exaltation. Together with the mighty ones of earth, “young men and virgins; Old men and children” are urged to come and render their praise and adoration to earth’s illustrious King.

The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 2:9-11 was given a glimpse of this period when universal ascription of praise will be rendered to Messiah: “Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every Knee shall bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. “According to the inspired Apostle every intelligent creature in the heavens above, on the earth beneath, and underneath the earth will bow the knee and will confess with the tongue that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This passage includes all angels, cherubim, and seraphim in the heavens; all the saved, whether in heaven or upon the earth; all the lost, who at that time will be in Hades; and Satan and all his hosts. Thus all intelligent beings will see facts and truths as they are and will confess that God is a righteous, just, and true Sovereign, that He was holy and righteous in creating spirits and men with the power of free choice, and that the redemption which the Lord Jesus Christ purchased for all who believe is absolutely in keeping with the principles of righteousness, justice, and truth; and that the condemnation of all who reject the mercy extended to them through our Lord Jesus is just and righteous — hence all are to the glory of God through our Lord Jesus. Obviously the devil and his cohorts and all the lost will voluntarily admit that the plan of the ages which find its fulfillment in the redemption wrought by Christ and in His exaltation are to God’s praise and glory. When we interpret our psalm at its face value and in the light of related passages and compare Paul’s statement in the Philippians Letter with it, we see that both were talking about the same thing — the exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ here upon earth as Lord of lords and King of kings, after His long period of being dishonored and rejected.

III. The Establishment of the Kingdom of God upon Earth
Let them praise the name of Jehovah; For his name alone is exalted;
His glory is above the earth and the heavens.
And he hath lifted up the horn of his people, The praise of all his saints;
Even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him.
Praise ye Jehovah.” (vss. 13,14)

In these concluding verses the psalmist addresses both the heavens with their hosts of intelligent beings and the earth with its teeming population, urging them to join in with his ascription of praise to “the name of Jehovah; For his name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and the heavens.” The “name of Jehovah” in many passages of the Old Testament is equivalent to Jehovah himself. That our passage has this connotation is clear from the fact that it is His name that is exalted. In the honoring of His name Jehovah himself is exalted. “His glory is above the earth and the heavens.” This expression can be taken literally, indicating that His glory is emblazoned above the earth and the heavens. Everything will be scintillating with the radiance of His glory. In other words, for the first time in all the millenniums of the earth’s existence created beings will be able to see the reflection of His glory throughout the material universe. God hides Himself behind the clouds of darkness (Psalm 97:2) and robes Himself in garments of light (Psalm 104:2). Thus His creatures have been unable to see the wonderful manifestation of His glorious being. But when the time arrives here foreseen by the prophet, then the glory of God, the Messiah, will be reflected above the earth and throughout the whole universe.

Not only are the thoughts just expressed set forth in these words, but also the idea that Jehovah, the Lord Jesus Christ alone, during that wonderful era will be exalted. Should I speak figuratively, and yet reverently, in this connection, I would say that the idea is that the spotlight is focused upon Him. He, the long-rejected King of Israel, will be occupying the central position on the stage of the universe, and the white light of the glory of the Eternal Being will be shining upon Him.

What a contrast to the history of the Messiah for the last twenty centuries! He came to earth, but His own did not receive Him; only a few, comparatively speaking, did accept Him. But He has been in rejection and in humiliation from the time of His coming until the present. He will still be relegated to a place of insignificance until the day of which the psalmist is speaking. Then He will be the center of attraction for the entire universe of intelligent beings. He will be exalted to the highest position of glory and power.

At that time God the Father will have “lifted up the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; Even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him.” The word “horn” when it is used symbolically, as is evident in this connection, always signifies either power in the abstract sense of the term, or a king. In this context it cannot be the former, but the later only. This horn of His people can only be the Messiah himself. At that time He will be the praise of all His saints. The psalmist here is speaking of the same subject mentioned in Psalm 110:2,3:

Jehovah will send forth the rod of thy strength out of Zion: Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
Thy people offer themselves willingly In the day of thy power, in holy array:
Out of the womb of the morning Thou hast the dew of thy youth.”

Messiah’s people will offer themselves most willingly in the day of His power. He will be the object of all their praise. The people of Israel, whom God created for His own glory, will then be placed in their rightful position among the nations. At the present time she is the tail of the nations, as Moses stated in Deuteronomy, chapter 32; but when this vision is fulfilled, she will be the nearest to the Messiah himself — “a people near unto him.”

Messiah will reign in Mount Zion, which will at that time be the joy of the whole earth. Israel will be the head of the nations. This people will be the priestly race. She will attend to all spiritual matters throughout the Messiah’s glorious reign, such as the Temple service at Jerusalem and the proclamation of the Word of God to the teeming millions of earth’s population of that era. Glorious things are foretold for suffering Israel.

On the other hand, the believers of the present age, both Jews and Gentiles, will have their spiritual bodies and will be reigning with Christ for a thousand years. Thus there will be glory enough for all. Great things are in store for those who know and who love the Lord Jesus Christ. With this vision before us, let us exclaim, as did the psalmist, in the last line of his psalm, “Hallelujah.” — Praise ye Jehovah!


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Moral Purity in a Polluted World (Genesis 39:1-20)


Moral Purity in a Polluted World (Genesis 39:1-20)

It’s not news that we live in a culture obsessed with sex. Of course, sexual immorality is nothing new. But it used to be hidden and generally viewed as wrong by our culture. Now it’s blatant and shrugged off as no big deal.

It would be wonderful if Christians had resisted this moral breakdown, but that’s not so. Many pastors (some famous, some not) have fallen into sexual sin. A Christianity Today ([10/2/87], pp. 25-45) survey reported that one out of eight pastors admit to committing adultery since being in the ministry! Among CT’s subscribers who were not pastors, it was one out of four! In answer to, “Since you’ve been over 21, have you ever done anything with someone (not your spouse) that you feel was sexually inappropriate?” 45 percent of lay persons and 23 percent of pastors answered “yes”. Remember, this wasn’t with Christians in general, but with subscribers to Christianity Today, a magazine aimed at church leaders.

With statistics like that, you begin to wonder, Is it possible to be morally pure in our polluted world? The story of Joseph in Genesis 39 says, “Yes!” If Joseph, a young man reared in a society as morally corrupt as ours, who had no Bible, no church, and not much parental training, alone in a foreign culture, could resist the direct proposition of his master’s wife, then we can resist sexual temptation.

We CAN be morally pure in a polluted world.

But it’s not going to happen accidentally. You don’t win wars without knowing your weak areas, knowing the enemy’s tactics, having a strategy, and being willing to pay the price. I want to give you four principles from our test that will help you gain and maintain moral purity in this polluted world.

1. Be aware of situations where you’re vulnerable.

The stage is set in verses 1-6. Joseph had been sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguard. He was the security chief, also responsible for executing anyone Pharaoh didn’t want around. You wouldn’t want to get on Potiphar’s bad side!

Because the Lord was with Joseph, he did well under Potiphar. There is no mention of the struggles this 17-year-old boy must have gone through when he arrived. He was torn from his father, taken to a strange culture where he couldn’t understand the language, and sold as a piece of property to this powerful man. Yet with God’s strength, he adjusted to the situation. By the time he was in his mid-twenties, Joseph had been put in charge of everything Potiphar owned. Potiphar trusted Joseph so much that he didn’t even check up on him. And, as the NIV translates, “Joseph was well-built and handsome”. That sets the stage for the temptation that follows. Satan hits you with temptation when you’re most vulnerable. Joseph’s situation reveals four situations where you’re vulnerable.


Joseph was a single man in his twenties, with the normal sex drive of any young man. He was a country boy in a sophisticated foreign capital, working in a home frequented by the rich and famous. He had no friends who shared his belief in God. As far as he knew, this tempting situation was private and would never be known to anyone else. He didn’t know that his story would be recorded in the world’s most-read book. He was vulnerable!

If you travel in business or if you find yourself alone in a different city where nobody will know if you give in to sexual temptation, be on guard! Satan will hit you. You may think that no one will ever find out, but the Bible warns, “…be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). God knows everything. Sin is never private.


Success always opens up new temptations. We read, “after these events” (Joseph’s success) Potiphar’s wife looked with desire at Joseph (39:7). It wasn’t just his good looks, but also his success that attracted her.

If you’re good-looking, be on guard! Only three men in the Bible are called good-looking: Joseph, David, and Absalom. All three were hit with sexual temptation; two failed. If God has given you good looks, you need to be careful not to dress seductively (that applies to men as well as women) or to use your looks to manipulate people.

Studies have shown that besides good looks, women are attracted to men who are financially successful, confident, competent, who have power and influence, and public recognition. Also, women are drawn to men who are compassionate, gentle and attentive listeners. Except for financial success, most of those factors fit many pastors. Men in ministry need to be on guard! Joseph didn’t let his success or good looks bring him down.


Potiphar’s wife was needy. Her husband was busy with his important job. Every time Pharaoh traveled, he was gone, sometimes for weeks at a time. Being a “macho” man, Potiphar probably didn’t excel in sensitivity to his wife. Her bitterness bleeds through when she blames her husband for her problem with Joseph (39:14. 17). This neglected wife longed for attention and intimacy. She mistakenly thought she would get it through sex outside of marriage.

Any time someone of the opposite sex begins sharing his or her marriage frustrations with you and telling you how kind and sensitive you are, look out! If you’re not careful you’ll think, “Why that no good brute she’s married to! She deserves better than he is. She just needs someone to be kind to her.” You’re vulnerable to sexual temptation.


Joseph must have felt lonely. His mother had died. He was separated from his father. His brothers had rejected him. He was a slave without any friends who understood or shared his background. Any normal young man desires the companionship of a woman. He might never be able to marry and have sexual relations. Potiphar’s wife could have met many pressing needs. But Joseph didn’t yield!

Sexual temptation is never just physical. There’s always the good feeling that comes from being desired by someone else. God designed marriage and sex within marriage to meet our needs. If we try to meet our needs through sex outside of marriage, we’ll have immediate pleasure but long term pain. We end up enslaved to sin.

If you’re married, you need to cultivate companionship with you wife. Don’t let emotional drift set in. If you’re single, pray for a wife! And use lonely times to deepen your intimacy with the Lord, while maintaining your commitment to moral purity. The first step to moral purity is to be aware of situations where you’re vulnerable.

2. Be aware of how temptation works.

First, as we’ve seen, the stage is set: A needy woman and a vulnerable man who is also a servant of God. Satan won’t leave that situation alone. Next, there is flattery and surprise, the direct approach: “Lie with me”. Probably she had dropped hints before, but now it hit him head on. Joseph must have felt strangely good: “This important woman desires me?” But Joseph said no and the problem went away. Right? He said no, but the problem didn’t go away.

The next stage was her persistence: “…she spoke to Joseph day after day (39:10). She tried to get him to reconsider, to wear him down by sheer repetition of the idea, the way TV advertisers do. That’s how Delilah caused Samson’s downfall.

The last step was her sudden ambush, where Joseph had to give in or flee. She waited until he was alone in the house. Concentrating on his work, Joseph probably didn’t realize that the two of them were alone or he would have taken precautions. But she knew. She grabbed him by the coat and again said, “Lie with me!” Joseph left his coat in her hand and ran outside.

That’s how temptation often works: You’re vulnerable; there’s a surprise opportunity which flatters you; if you resist that, there will be other opportunities, pressure to get you to reconsider; then, there will be the sudden ambush, where you hardly have time to think. You must act immediately, and your decision in that instant determines everything. Because of that, the third step toward moral purity is the most important:

3. Make a commitment to purity and develop a strategy before the temptation hits.

Joseph’s resistance wasn’t accidental or natural. He had made a previous commitment to moral purity and he had a strategy for resistance already in place.


Joseph was a man of integrity in all areas of live. Verses 4-6 repeat four times that all Potiphar owned was in Joseph’s charge. He could be trusted with Potiphar’s money.

Integrity affects all of life. If Joseph had been cheating on business matters, it would have been easier to cheat with Potiphar’s wife. Any time there is adultery, there is deception. If you’ll make a commitment to integrity across the board, it will be easier to maintain that integrity when the opportunity to cheat sexually comes knocking.


When Potiphar’s wife surprised Joseph with her offer, he just said no. If he had been toying with it in his mind, he could have yielded. He had thought about it and the answer was no. A lot of folks want to be delivered from temptation, but they’d like to keep in touch. But you’ve got to decide up-front that you want to be morally pure. It begins by confronting lustful thoughts. No one ever committed adultery who didn’t first entertain it in his mind.

Derek Kidner points out that Joseph’s arguments for refusal (39:8-9) are the same that another man could have used for yielding. His master trusted him, so he was free from close supervision; he had control over all matters except this one—why not take it too? Many men would view sex with a prominent woman like this as the path to social and political opportunity. Besides, she was his master’s wife. Shouldn’t he submit to her?

It’s easy to rationalize sin. With the same circumstances, you can construct arguments either in favor of obedience to God or against it. It all depends on your focus, on what you’re aiming for. You’ve got to decide beforehand that you want to be a man or woman of God and that you will say no when temptations to sexual immorality come, as surely they will.


When Potiphar’s wife propositioned him, Joseph didn’t think about his needs; he pointed out his responsibilities toward his master, toward her, and toward God (39:8-9). If he had focused on his needs, he could have built a case for yielding.

I’ve found this helpful in dealing with sexual sin on the thought level, where it always begins. I am responsible as a Christian witness, as a father, and as a pastor. Even if you’re single, you never sin alone; your sin tarnishes the name of Christ. If I confront lustful thoughts, it stops right there. If I entertain them, rationalizing. “I’ve got needs,” I expose many others to Satan’s attacks. If I fail morally, I’m failing my family, my church, the lost, and my God. So I’ve got to be responsible to judge my lustful thoughts.


Joseph was alone with Potiphar’s wife in Egypt, far from is family. But he knew that he was not alone, that if he gave in to her desire, he would sin primarily against God. Four times in this chapter (39:2, 3, 21, 23) it says, “The Lord was with Joseph.” Of course, being omnipresent, the Lord is with everybody, but that’s not what this means. It means that God was with Joseph in a special way. Joseph lived with an awareness of God’s presence. He didn’t want to trade that blessing for the passing pleasure of sin.

Ask God to give you a constant sense of His holy presence. All sin is done in His sight and is primarily against Him. If we covet God’s blessing in our lives, we will fear Him and flee temptation.


Joseph calls this “a great evil”, a “sin against God”. One of the ways Satan gets us is by swapping the labels on sin, so that it doesn’t sound quite so bad. How often in the press do you read about someone doing a great evil? Usually it’s called an affair or a fling. It sounds fun!

When you’re tempted, focus on the evil of the sin, not on its pleasure. All sin has its attractive side, or we wouldn’t give it a second thought. Adultery has a certain thrill. But it also wreaks destruction and tears apart families, not to mention the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, which can be fatal. When Eve was tempted, she focused on the attractiveness of the fruit and she fell. Joseph focused on the evil of adultery and stood firm.


We read that Joseph “did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her” (39:10). This relates to the up-front commitment to be pure. If you want to be pure and you know that someone or someplace will tempt you, then avoid that person or place. If you’re tempted by pornography, don’t go into a store where it’s readily available. If a woman at work is flirtatious, avoid her as much as possible. Don’t lead her on by listening to her. Give strong signals that you’re not interested.


When she finally went so far as to grab Joseph’s coat, he ran. The Bible never says that we should stand and pray and quote precious verses when sexual temptation hits. “Flee immorality!” (1 Cor. 6:18). Resist the devil (James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:9), but flee youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22). As one of my older professors in seminary said, “Men, they aren’t just youthful”. You’ve got to flee them all your life. You won’t yield while you’re running the other way.

So, Joseph ran away and God rewarded him for his righteousness. Right? Not quite. That leads to the final step toward moral purity in a polluted world:

4. Be willing to pay the price for your convictions.

Potiphar’s wife was humiliated by Joseph’s refusal and her humiliation quickly turned to rage. As the poet wrote, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”. So she framed Joseph and he spent the next few years in prison.

There is reason to think that Potiphar didn’t believe her story. If he did, he would have executed Joseph that day. The text says that his anger burned (39:19), but not that it burned against Joseph. He could see his wife’s flirtatious ways. He knew Joseph’s integrity. But he had to do something to get her off his back. He would lose a servant who had brought him great prosperity, but he couldn’t let it slide. If he believed Joseph over his wife she would have made life difficult for him. Potiphar couldn’t have missed the way she blamed him: “This Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to make sport of me…” (39:17). She was blaming Joseph and her husband.

Because the world is so polluted, you can expect to pay a price when you take a stand for purity. People will slander you. They’ll blame you for their sin. You could even lose your job. Joseph had plenty of time sitting in prison to replay the scene and think about what he would do if he had the chance again. Satan always comes to you after you’ve done the right thing and gotten stung for it and whispers, “Next time just give in and all this won’t happen. See how your God takes care of you”.

But Joseph still had the presence and blessing of God, even in prison (39:21-23). It wasn’t worth trading that, even with prison, for the fleeing pleasure he would have enjoyed with Potiphar’s wife.


An old priest was asked by a young man, “Father, when will I cease to be bothered by sins of the flesh?” The priest replied, “I wouldn’t trust myself, my son, until I was dead three days”.

The battle for moral purity in a polluted world is a lifelong war. But it is winnable if you’ll be aware of situations where you are vulnerable and be on guard; be aware of how temptation works; make a commitment to purity and develop a strategy before temptation hits; and, be willing to pay the price that purity in a polluted world has cost every disciple of Jesus Christ.

If you’ve already defiled yourself with sexual sin or you’re presently ensnared by it, Christ will deliver you and give you victory if you turn to Him. No sin is beyond His Grace. To every sinner who comes to Him, He says, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more: (John 8:11). Let’s commit ourselves to be men and women who are pure in thought and deed!

Discussion Questions

To what degree should we try to shelter ourselves and our kids from sexually explicit movies, TV, books, magazines, etc.?
Discuss this statement: No one ever falls into sexual sin without first entertaining it in his or her mind.
Where do we cross the line between temptation and sin?
Is “sexual addiction” a disease? Is it proper to refer to it by that term? Why/why not?
Copyright, 1997, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

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Psalm 38


I. “Author of the psalm” – The psalm purports to have been written by David, and there is no reason to doubt that it was composed by him. There is no tradition to the contrary, and there is nothing in the psalm inconsistent with such a supposition.

II. “The title” – The psalm is said in the title to be designed “to bring to remembrance.” The same title occurs in Psalm 70:1-5, though there is no resemblance between the two, except that they both have reference to the attempts and purposes of the enemies of David, and to trials in different forms which had come from them. The Latin Vulgate renders this: “A Psalm of David, for remembrance concerning the Sabbath.” The Septuagint renders it in the same manner. The Arabic: In which there is a mention of the sabbath.” Whence these allusions to the sabbath were derived is unknown, as there is nothing in the Hebrew corresponding with them. The Aramaic Paraphrase has prefixed, “For a good memorial concerning Israel.” The Hebrew term used – להזכיר lehazekiyr – means simply “for bringing to remembrance,” or for reminding. The meaning is, that it is a record for the purpose of “reminding;” that is, of keeping the “remembrance” of something which had occurred in his own experience, and which might be useful to himself or to others; the record of some valuable lessons which had been learned from what he had experienced in the trials referred to. Compare Genesis 40:14; 1 Kings 17:18; Ezekiel 21:24. Gesenius (Lexicon) renders it, “To bring to remembrance, sc., oneself with God.” Grotius says of it, “This psalm is designed to inculcate the perpetual remembrance of David and his sin, and of the pardon that was granted.” There can be no doubt that the psalm had this design of making a permanent record of an important event in the life of the author, or of his “experience” in a time of great calamity; but why this title was affixed only to this psalm and to Psalm 70:1-5 is wholly unknown. There are many other psalms to which, it would seem, the title might have been prefixed with equal propriety, as containing important reminiscences of trials, and of religious experience under those trials.

III. “Occasion of the psalm” – The particular time or occasion on which the psalm was composed is unknown. There are no recorded events in the life of David to which this psalm would be “particularly” applicable, though, in a life of trial and suffering such as his was, there can be no doubt that there may have been many such occasions. It is impossible now, however, to fix the exact time or occasion with any degree of accuracy or probability. What is known is, that it was with reference to sickness Psalm 38:3-8, Psalm 38:10-11, and to the neglect which was evinced, and the cruel treatment which he received, in sickness Psalm 38:11-12, Psalm 38:19-20.

IV. The contents of the psalm.

(1) The psalm describes the condition of one who was suffering from “sickness,” Psalm 38:2-3, Psalm 38:5, Psalm 38:7-8, Psalm 38:10-11. Some have supposed that this is merely “figurative” language, and that it is designed to represent calamity, trouble, sorrow, heavily pressing upon him as if he were sick; others have supposed that it is intended to refer, not to David, but to the people of Israel as afflicted and persecuted, represented under the image of one suffering from disease; but the most natural and obvious interpretation is to regard it as a literal description of one who was suffering under some form of disease. There were doubtless occasions in the long life of David when this actually occurred; and there are occasions in the lives of the people of God of a similar kind, sufficiently numerous to make it proper that an inspired record of the experience of a good man thus suffering should be preserved, as an example of the proper spirit to be manifested in sickness. What was the “character” or “nature” of that sickness may appear in the examination of the particular expressions in the record.

(2) The condition of the sufferer as aggravated by two things:

(a) By the neglect of his friends – by their turning away from him in his trials, Psalm 38:11;

(b) By the efforts of his enemies – taking advantage of his sickness, and bringing against him accusations which he was not then able to meet, Psalm 38:12.

(3) He himself traces all these trials, arising either from his disease or from the attacks of his enemies, to his own sins, and regards them all as the expression of the divine displeasure against his transgressions, Psalm 38:3-4, Psalm 38:6, Psalm 38:18. The effect of his suffering from sickness was to bring his sins to remembrance – an effect not uncommon, and, under the Providence of God, not undesigned – though he may have erred, as the afflicted often do, in supposing that his sickness was a “specific punishment” for sin, or was intended to correct him for some “particular” transgression.

(4) His own calmness and meekness in respect to the charges which, amid his other trials, his enemies brought against him, Psalm 38:13-14. He says that he was like a deaf man that did not hear, and like a mute man that did not open his mouth. He “seemed” not to hear anything that was said to his disadvantage, and he was as silent as though he had been mute.

(5) His earnest prayer for the interposition of God in these circumstances of sickness and trial, Psalm 38:15-22. He says that his only help is in God, Psalm 38:15; he prays that God will not allow his enemies to triumph over him, Psalm 38:16; he says that he is ready to halt, or that his strength is nearly exhausted, and he fears that his patience will utterly give way, Psalm 38:17; he says that he will confess all his sin, Psalm 38:18; he refers to the fact that his enemies are “lively,” and are on the alert for his fall, Psalm 38:19-20; and in view of all this, he earnestly calls on God to save him, Psalm 38:21-22.

There is a striking resemblance between this psalm and Psalm 6:1-10, in the general structure, and in some of the particular expressions. Both appear to have been composed in a time of sickness, though not probably in the same sickness; and both express substantially the same feelings. The forty-first psalm, also, appears to have been composed on a similar occasion. In a revelation adapted to mankind, and designed to be applicable in its instructions and promises to the various conditions in which men are placed on the earth, it was to be presumed that there would be a not unfrequent reference to the sick bed – to the trials on a couch of languishing. And in an inspired book of “devotion,” like the Book of Psalms, designed to illustrate the nature of piety in the various and diversified situations of life, the object of a revelation could not be fully accomplished without an illustration of the feelings of piety in the time of sickness, and in the prospect of death – for such scenes must occur in the world, and it is eminently in such scenes that we desire to know what is the proper feeling to be cherished; what true religion is at such a time; what it will do to sustain and comfort the soul.

The Book of Psalms, therefore, would not have been complete without such an illustration of the nature of piety; and hence, it was every way probable that psalms like this would be composed, and every way improbable that no such psalms would be found in a book of inspired devotion. It seems to me, therefore, unnatural, and not demanded by any proper views of interpretation, to regard this psalm, and the other similar psalms, as DeWette, Hengstenberg, Rosenmuller and others do, and as the Aramaic Paraphrase and Jarchi do, as descriptive of “general calamity, Ungluck;” or of calamity coming upon “a people” – rather than a particular affliction in the form of sickness coming upon “an individual.” The great value of the book of Psalms consists in the fact that it furnishes illustrations of the nature and power of true religion in all the varied circumstances of the lives of individual friends of God.

Verse 1
O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath – See the notes at Psalm 6:1, where the same language occurs, except in the change of a single Hebrew “word,” that is, “wrath,” though expressing the same idea.

Neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure – See the notes at Psalm 6:1. The Hebrew in both is the same, except that in this place the negative particle is omitted, but without affecting the sense. It is not improbable that the one was copied from the other, or that this was composed with the language of the former in the memory. Thus we often use language with which we are familiar, as being well adapted to express our ideas.

Verse 2
For thine arrows slick fast in me – See the notes at Job 6:4. The word rendered “stick fast” – נחת nâchath – means properly to go or come down; to descend; and the literal idea here would be, “thine arrows come down upon me.” It is not so much the idea of their “sticking fast” when in the wound or flesh; it is that they come down upon one, and pierce him. The meaning is, that he was afflicted “as if” God had wounded him with arrows – arrows which pierced deep in his flesh. Compare the notes at Psalm 45:5. The allusion is to the disease with which he was afflicted.

And thy hand presseth me sore – The same word is used here which in the former part of the verse is rendered “stick fast.” The idea is, that the hand of God had “descended” or “come down” upon him, prostrating his strength, and laying him on a bed of pain.

Verse 3
There is no soundness in my flesh – There is no sound place in my flesh; there is no part of my body that is free from disease. The word used here – מתם methôm – occurs only in Judges 20:48, where it is rendered “men;” in Isaiah 1:6, and in this place, where it is rendered “soundness.” See the notes at Isaiah 1:6. It means that the body was wholly diseased; but what was the nature of the disease we are not informed. It would seem, however, that it was some cutaneous disease, or some disease that produced outward and loathsome eruptions that made his friends withdraw from him, Psalm 38:7, Psalm 38:11; compare Psalm 41:8.

Because of thine anger – That is, he regarded this as a punishment for sin; a specific manifestation of the divine displeasure on account of some particular offence or act of transgression. He does not refer, however, to the particular sin which he regarded as the cause of his sickness, and it is probable that this is just an instance of that state of mind, often morbid, in which we consider a particular calamity that comes upon us as a special proof of the divine displeasure. There are, undoubtedly, cases when sickness may be properly thus regarded; but it should be observed that, as this is not the universal rule in regard to sickness and other trials – as they come upon us under general laws, and because in sweeping over a community they often fall upon the righteous as well as the wicked, – we should not infer at once, when we are sick or otherwise afflicted, that it is for any “particular” sin, or that it is proof of any special displeasure of God against us. It is undoubtedly right to regard all affliction as having a close connection with sin, and to allow any calamity to suggest to us the idea of our depravity, for sin is the original cause of all the wretchedness and woe on earth; but under this general law we cannot always determine the “particular” reason why calamity comes on us. It may have other purposes and ends than that of being a specific punishment for our offences.

Neither is there any rest in my bones – Margin: “peace” or “health.” The Hebrew word means “peace.” The idea is, that there was no comfort; no rest. His bones were filled with constant pain. The flesh “and the bones” constitute the entire man; and the idea here is, that he was universally diseased. The disease pervaded every part of the body.

Because of my sin – Regarding his sin as the immediate cause of his suffering. In a general sense, as has been remarked above, it is not wrong to regard sin as the cause of all our misery, and we may allow our suffering to be, in some degree, a measure or gauge of the evil of sin. The error consists in our regarding a particular form of trial as the punishment of a particular sin. The effect in the case of tile psalmist was undoubtedly to bring to remembrance his sins; to impress his mind deeply with a sense of the evil of sin; to humble him at the recollection of guilt. This effect is not improper or undesirable, provided it does not lead us to the conclusion, often erroneous, that our affliction has come upon us on account of a particular transgression. That may be so indeed; but the idea that that is the universal rule in regard to affliction is one which we are not required to entertain. See the notes at Luke 13:1-5.

Verse 4
For mine iniquities are gone over mine head – This is merely an enlargement of the idea suggested in the last verse – that his present sickness was to be traced to his sin, and that he was suffering the punishment for sin. The idea is here that his sins were very numerous and very aggravated. They had risen up around him, or had so accumulated that the mass rose, like waves of the sea, above his head. A somewhat similar idea – though the thought there refers rather to the number of sins than the degree of guilt – occurs in Psalm 40:12: “Mine iniquities … are more than the hairs of my head.”

As an heavy burden … – That is, they are so heavy that I cannot bear them, and my frame has sunk under them. This might mean either that the sense of sin was so great that he could not bear up under it, but had been crushed by it (compare Psalm 32:3-4); or that on account of sin, “as if” it were a heavy weight, he had been crushed by disease. The general idea is, that the real cause of his sickness was the fact that he was a great sinner, and that God was punishing him for it.

Verse 5
My wounds stink – The word rendered “wounds” here means properly the swelling or wales produced by stripes. See the notes at Isaiah 1:6; notes at Isaiah 53:5. The meaning here is, that he was under chastisement for his sin; that the stripes or blows on account of it had not only left a mark and produced a swelling, but that the skin itself had been broken, and that the flesh had become corrupt, and the sore offensive. Many expositors regard this as a mere figurative representation of the sorrow produced by the consciousness of sin; and of the loathsome nature of sin, but it seems to me that the whole connection rather requires us to understand it of bodily suffering, or of disease.

And are corrupt – The word used here – מקק mâqaq – means properly to melt; to pine away; and then, to flow, to run, as sores and ulcers do. The meaning here is, My sores run; to wit, with corrupt matter.

Because of my foolishness – Because of my sin, regarded as folly. Compare the notes at Psalm 14:1. The Scripture idea is that sin is the highest folly. Hence, the psalmist, at the same time that he confesses his sin, acknowledges also its foolishness. The idea of sin and that of folly become so blended together – or they are so entirely synonymous – that the one term may be used for the other.

Verse 6
I am troubled – Margin, “wearied.” The Hebrew word means to bend, to curve; then, to be distorted, to writhe with pain, convulsions, and spasms. In Isaiah 21:3, the same word is rendered, “I was bowed down at the hearing of it;” that is, Sorrow so took hold of him, that at the intelligence he writhed with pain as a woman in travail. So here it means that he was bent, or bowed down, or that he writhed in pain as the result of his iniquities.

I am bowed down greatly – Compare Psalm 35:14. The word means properly to bow down; then, to be brought low; to be depressed with pain, grief, sorrow: Psalm 10:10; Isaiah 2:11.

I go mourning all the day long – Constantly; without any intermission. On the word rendered “go mourning” – קדר qâdar – see the notes at Psalm 35:14. The idea here is, that, on account of sin, he was crushed and bowed down as a mourner is with his sorrows, and that he appeared constantly as be walked about with these badges of grief and heavy sorrow. The disease which he had, and which was so offensive to himself Psalm 38:5, and to others Psalm 38:11, was like the filthy and foul garments which mourners put on as expressive of their sorrow. See Job 1:20, note; Job 2:8, note.

Verse 7
For my bones are filled with a loathsome disease – This would seem to indicate the seat of the disease, though not its nature. The word used here, according to Gesenius (Lexicon), properly denotes the internal muscles of the loins near the kidneys, to which the fat adheres. The word rendered “loathsome” – the word “disease” being supplied by our translators – is derived from קלה qâlâh a word which means to roast, to parch, as fruit, grain, etc.; and then, in the form used here, it means scorched, burned; hence, a burning or inflammation; and the whole phrase would be synonymous with “an inflammation of the kidneys.” The word used here does not imply that there was any eruption, or ulcer, though it would seem from Psalm 38:5 that this was the fact, and that the inflammation had produced this effect.

And there is no soundness in my flesh – See Psalm 38:3. His disease was so deep-seated and so pervading, that there did not seem to be “any” soundness in his flesh. His whole body seemed to be diseased.

Verse 8
I am feeble – The word used here means properly to be cold, or without warmth; and then, to be torpid or languid. Compare Genesis 45:26. Would not this be well represented by the idea of a “chill?”

And sore broken – This word means to break in pieces; to beat small; to crush; and then it may be used to denote being broken in spirit, or crushed by pain and sorrow: Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 19:10.

I have roared – I have cried out on account of my suffering. See the notes at Psalm 22:1.

By reason of the disquietness of my heart – The word here rendered “disquietness” means properly “a roaring,” as of the sea: Isaiah 5:30; and then, a groaning, or roaring, as of the afflicted. Here the “heart” is represented as “roaring” or “crying out.” The lips only gave utterance to the deeper groanings of the heart.

Verse 9
Lord, all my desire is before thee – That is, Thou knowest all that I would ask or that I need. This is the expression of one who felt that his only hope was in God, and that He fully understood the case. There was no need of repeating the request. He was willing to leave the whole case with God.

And my groaning is not hid from thee – My sighing; the expression of my sorrow and anguish. As God certainly heard these sighs, and as He wholly understood the case, David hoped that He would mercifully interpose in his behalf.

Verse 10
My heart panteth – The word rendered “panteth,” in its original form, means properly to go about; to travel around; and then, to travel around as a merchant or pedlar, or for purposes of traffic: Genesis 23:16; Genesis 37:28; Genesis 42:34. Applied to the heart, as it is here, it means to move about rapidly; to palpitate; to beat quick. It is an expression of pain and distress, indicated by a rapid beating of the heart.

My strength faileth me – It is rapidly failing. He regarded himself as rapidly approaching death.

As for the light of mine eyes – My vision; my sight.

It also is gone from me – Margin, as in Hebrew: “is not with me.” This is usually an indication of approaching death; and it would seem from all these symptoms that he appeared to be drawing near to the end of life. Compare Psalm 13:3; Psalm 6:7; Psalm 31:9.

Verse 11
My lovers – See the notes at Psalm 31:11. The reference here is to those who professed to be his friends.

And my friends – The word used here means properly an acquaintance, a companion, a friend, Job 2:11; Job 19:21; then, a lover, a friend, a neighbor. The phrase here would be synonymous with our word “kinsmen.”

Stand aloof – They are unwilling to come near me; they leave me to suffer alone.

From my sore – Margin: “stroke.” The Hebrew word means properly a stroke, a blow, Deuteronomy 17:8; Deuteronomy 21:5; then a stroke in the sense of calamities or judgments, such as God brings upon men: Genesis 12:17; Exodus 11:1. The meaning here is, that they stand aloof from him, or refuse to come near him, as if he were afflicted with some contagious disease.

And my kinsmen – Margin: “neighbors.” The Hebrew word used here – קרוב qârôb – means properly near, nigh; spoken of a place, Genesis 19:20; then of time, Isaiah 13:6; then of kindred or affinity, Numbers 27:11; and then of friendship, meaning our intimate acquaintance – as we should say, those who are “near” to us, Job 19:14. The word would be applicable to neighbors or to warm personal friends.

Verse 12
They also that seek after my life – This was a new aggravation of his affliction, that those who were his enemies now sought to accomplish their purposes against him with better hopes of success, by taking advantage of his sickness.

Lay snares for me – On the meaning of this phrase, see the notes at Psalm 9:15. The idea here is that they sought this opportunity of ensnaring or entrapping him so as to ruin him. They took advantage of the fact that he was weak and helpless, and of the fact that he was forsaken or abandoned by his friends, to accomplish his ruin. how this was done is not stated. It might have been by their coming on him when he was thus helpless; or it might have been by endeavoring in his weak condition to extort confessions or promises from him that might be turned to his ruin. An enemy may hope to succeed much better when the one opposed is sick than when he is well, and may take advantage of his weak state of body and mind, and of the fact that he seems to be forsaken by all, to accomplish what could not be done if he were in the enjoyment of health, or sustained by powerful friends, or by a public opinion in his favor.

And they that seek my hurt – They who seek to injure me.

Speak mischievous things – Slanderous words. They charge on me things that are false, and that tend to injure me. The very fact that he was thus afflicted, they might urge (in accordance with a prevailing belief, and with the conviction of the psalmist also, Psalm 38:3-5) as a proof of guilt. This was done by the three friends of Job; and the enemies of the psalmist may thus have taken advantage of his sickness to circulate false reports about him which he could not then well meet.

And imagine deceits – Imagine or feign deceitful things; things which they know to be false or unfounded.

All the day long – Constantly. They seem to have no other employment. See Psalm 35:20.

Verse 13
But I, as a deaf man, heard not – I was as if I had been deaf, and did not hear them or know what they were about. I took no notice of what they did anymore than if I had not heard them. That is, he did not reply to them; he did not become angry; he was as calm and patient as if they had said nothing.

And I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth – As if I were a man that could not speak. I was perfectly silent under all this persecution. Compare 2 Samuel 16:10. How eminently true was this of the Saviour! Isaiah 53:7; 1 Peter 2:23; Matthew 26:63; Matthew 27:12, Matthew 27:14.

Verse 14
Thus I was as a man that heareth not – The sentiment in the former verse is repeated here to show the greatness of his patience and forbearance, or to fix the attention on the fact that one who was so calumniated and wronged could bear it patiently.

And in whose mouth are no reproofs – As a man who never reproved another; who, whatever might be the wrong which he endured, never replied to it; as he would be who was incapable of reproof, or who had no faculty for reproving. The whole of this is designed to show his entire patience under the wrongs which he suffered.

Verse 15
For in thee, O Lord, do I hope – This shows the reason or ground of his patience. He committed his whole cause to God. He believed that God would take care of his reputation, and that he would vindicate him. See Psalm 37:5-6. He had no doubt that He would protect his character, and that, notwithstanding the reproaches of his enemies, his true character would at last be made to shine forth, so that all men would see that he had been unjustly aspersed. The exact idea here is expressed, and the sentiment was beautifully and perfectly illustrated, in what is said of the Lord Jesus: “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously,” 1 Peter 2:23.

Thou wilt hear, O Lord my God – Margin, as in Hebrew: “answer.” The idea is, that God would answer his prayers, and that his character would, in answer to those prayers, be set right before the world.

Verse 16
For I said – This is the prayer to which he referred in the previous verse. He prayed that he might not be permitted to fall away under the influence of his sins and sufferings; that his faith might remain firm; that he might not be allowed to act so as to justify the accusations of his enemies, or to give them occasion to rejoice over his fall. The entire prayer Psalm 38:16-18 is one that is based on the consciousness of his own weakness, and his liability to sin, if left to himself; on the certainty that if God did not interpose, his sins would get the mastery over him, and he would become in his conduct all that his enemies desired, and be in fact all that they had falsely charged on him.

Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me – literally, “For I said, lest they should rejoice over me.” It is the language of earnest desire that they might “not” thus be allowed to rejoice over his fall. The same sentiment occurs substantially in Psalm 13:3-4. The motive is a right one; alike

(a) in reference to ourselves personally – that our foes may not triumph over us by the ruin of our character; and

(b) in reference to its bearing on the cause of virtue and religion – that that cause may not suffer by our misconduct; compare Psalm 69:6.

When my foot slippeth –

(a) When my foot really has slipped, or when I have committed sin (as the psalmist did not deny that he had done, Psalm 38:3-5, Psalm 38:18); or

(b) when it “might” occur “again” (as he felt was possible); or

(c) if I deviate in the slightest degree from perfect virtue; if I inadvertently do anything wrong.

The slipping of the foot is an indication of the want of firmness, and hence, it comes to represent the falling into sin.

They magnify themselves against me – See Psalm 35:26. They exult over me; they triumph; they boast. They “make themselves great” on my fall, or by my being put down. This he says

(a) they were disposed to do, for they had shown a disposition to do it whenever he had fallen into sin;

(b) he apprehended that they would do it again, and they had already begun to magnify themselves against him, as if they were certain that it would occur.

He did not deny that there was ground to fear this, for he felt that his strength was almost gone Psalm 38:17, and that God only could uphold him, and save him from justifying all the expectations of his enemies.

Verse 17
For I am ready to halt – Margin, as in Hebrew, “for halting.” The word from which the word used here is derived means properly to lean on one side, and then to halt or limp. The meaning here is, that he was like one who was limping along, and who was ready to fall; that is, in the case here referred to, he felt that his strength was almost gone, and that he was in continual danger of falling into sin, or sinking under his accumulated burdens, and of thus giving occasion for all that his enemies said of him, or occasion for their triumphing over him. Men often have this feeling – that their sorrows are so great that they cannot hope to hold out much longer, and that if God does not interpose they must fall.

And my sorrow is continually before me – That is, my grief or suffering is unintermitted. Probably the reference here is particularly to that which “caused” his grief, or which was the source of his trouble – his sin. The fact that he was a sinner was never absent from his mind; that was the source of all his trouble; that was what so pressed upon him that it was likely to crush him to the dust.

Verse 18
For I will declare mine iniquity – That is, he was not disposed to hide his sin. He would make no concealment of the fact that he regarded himself as a sinner. He admitted this to be true, and he admitted that his sin was the cause of all his troubles. It was the fact that he was a sinner that so painfully affected his mind; and he was not disposed to attempt to conceal it from anyone.

I will be sorry for my sin – I will not deny it; I will not apologize for it. I admit the truth of what my conscience charges on me; I admit the correctness and the propriety of the divine judgment by which I have been affiicted on account of my sin; I desire to repent of all my transgressions, and to turn from them. Compare Leviticus 26:41. The calamity brought upon the psalmist for his sin had produced the desired effect in this respect, that it had brought him to true repentance; and now, with the full confession of his sin, he was anxious only lest he should fall utterly, and should give his enemies, and the enemies of the truth, the occasion to triumph over him which they desired.

Verse 19
But mine enemies are lively … – DeWette renders this, “My enemies live and are strong.” The word translated “lively” – חיים chayiym – means properly “living, being alive.” The literal translation would be, “My enemies, being alive, are strong.” The idea is, that while he was weak and apparently near to death, they were in the full vigor of life and health. They were able to engage in active efforts to accomplish their purposes. They could take advantage of his weakness; and he could not contend with them, for he was no match for them. In every respect they had the advantage of him; and he prays, therefore, for the divine interposition in his behalf.

And they that hate me wrongfully – Hebrew, “falsely.” See Psalm 35:19.

Are multiplied – They are numerous. They are constantly increasing.

Verse 20
They also that render evil for good – They whose characteristic it is to return evil for good, are opposed to me. This implies that those who were now seeking his ruin had been formerly benefitted by him. They were persons who cherished no grateful recollection of favors bestowed on them, but who found a pleasure in persecuting and wronging their benefactor. Compare Psalm 35:12-16. “Are my adversaries.” Are now opposed to me; have become my enemies.

Because I follow the thing that good is – This properly means, Because I follow the good. The Hebrew word rendered “because” – תחת tachath – means properly the lower part; what is underneath; then, below; beneath. The idea here is, that the “underlying reason” of what they did was that he followed good, or that he was a righteous man; or, as we say, This was “at the bottom” of all their dealings with him. Sinner as he felt he was (and as he acknowledged he was) before God, and true as it was that his “sickness” was brought upon him by God for his sinfulness, yet the reason why “men” treated him as they did, was that he was a friend of God – a religious man; and their conduct, therefore, was sheer persecution. We may, with entire consistency, be very humble before God, and acknowledge that we deserve all that He brings upon us; and yet, at the same time, we may be sensible that we have not wronged men, and that their conduct toward us is wholly undeserved, is most ungrateful, is sheer malignity against us.

Verse 21
Forsake me not, O Lord – That is, Do not leave me in my troubles, my sickness, my sorrow. Leave me not to die; leave me not to complain and dishonor thee; leave me not to the reproaches of my enemies.

O my God, be not far from me – See Psalm 35:22. Compare Psalm 10:1; Psalm 13:1.

Verse 22
Make haste to help me – Margin, as in Hebrew: “for my help.” This is an earnest prayer that God would come immediately to his rescue.

O Lord my salvation – See the notes at Psalm 27:1. The effect, therefore, of the trials that came upon the psalmist was to lead him to cry most earnestly to God. Those sorrows led him to God. This is one of the designed effects of affliction. Trouble never accomplishes its proper effect unless it leads us to God; and anything that “will” lead us to him is a gain in the end. The deeper our trouble, therefore, the greater may be the ultimate good to us; and at the end of life, when we come to look over all that has happened in our journey through this world, that on which we may look back with most satisfaction and gratitude may be the sorrows and afflictions that have befallen us – for these will be then seen to have been among the chief instrumentalities by which we were weaned from sin; by which we were led to the Saviour; by which we were induced to seek a preparation for heaven. No Christian, when he comes to die, ever feels that he has been too much afflicted, or that any trial has come upon him for which there was not occasion, and which was not designed and adapted to do him good.

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“Out of all the available options, which church should I attend?”

People often choose a church based on the appearance of the building, the friendliness of the people, or the programs that are offered.

As important as these qualities are, other qualities surpass them all . . .

First and foremost, the church you choose should hold to the fundamentals of the Christian faith: the inspiration and authority of the Bible and Jesus’ virgin birth, eternal deity, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, and literal return. Bible-teaching churches of all varieties hold these primary beliefs as essential truths.

But beyond these fundamentals, there are specific teachings that set one church apart from the others.

Baptists are distinguished from other Christian groups by specific Biblical distinctives. The name “Baptist” identifies people who hold those distinctives.These Baptist distinctives relate to questions of vital interest today. For example, Does absolute truth exist, or are all belief systems relative? Who controls the program, property, finances, staffing, and doctrinal position of a local church? How does being a representative of God on earth affect the believer’s marriage, work, or relationship to government and society? Does God dispense His grace through religious rituals? Should a free society “legislate righteousness”? Is it right to “judge” anything about another person? Is there a Biblical model for church leadership? What is the proper relationship between church and state?

Why Is It Important to Know the Baptist Distinctives?

They are Biblical! They are part of God’s truth as revealed in His Word.

The knowledge of these facts provides practical benefits relevant to today.

Such knowledge enables one to select a church that is faithful to these Biblical truths.
It demonstrates the meaning, worth, and significance of the name “Baptist.”
General titles that lack identification, such as “Christian” or “Christ” and churches labeled “community” or “nondenominational,” leave much room for ambiguities and misunderstandings. The name “Baptist” is understood through its distinctives. Baptists should be confident that when their name is heard, no ambiguities are left in defining what they stand for. Certain Biblical distinctives have distinguished their doctrinal position.
It helps members maintain the Baptist position of their church, preventing digression into unscriptural positions.
Each member of a Baptist church needs to know what a Biblical Baptist individual and a Biblical Baptist church does and then do these things faithfully.

How Did These Distinctives Originate?

Baptists arrived at these distinctives through careful study of the Bible. That is why these teachings are more precisely called the Biblical distinctives of Baptists rather than Baptist distinctives.

These teachings emerged as Baptist distinctives because individual Baptist churches have consistently and independently held to them, not because some group of Baptist leaders composed the list and then imposed the distinctives on local churches.

Church groups other than Baptists have held some of the Baptist distinctives, and one may even find churches that hold all of the distinctives but do not call themselves Baptist. Such groups are “baptistic,” but for some reason they choose not to be identified as Baptists. On the other hand, some churches naming themselves “Baptist” are not truly Baptist because they no longer hold the historic Baptist beliefs or even the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

Baptists are people of the Book above all else. And Baptists enjoy a priceless heritage of generations who have exalted God’s Son our Savior and have proclaimed God’s inspired Word.

What Are the Eight Baptist Distinctives?

These teachings may be remembered by associating them with the letters that form the word “BAPTISTS.”

Biblical Authority

The Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice because the Bible is inspired by God and bears the absolute authority of God Himself. Whatever the Bible affirms, Baptists accept as true. No human opinion or decree of any church group can override the Bible. Even creeds and confessions of faith, which attempt to articulate the theology of Scripture, do not carry Scripture’s inherent authority.
2 Timothy 3:15–17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20, 21
Autonomy of the Local Church

The local church is an independent body accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. All human authority for governing the local church resides within the local church itself. Thus the church is autonomous, or self-governing. No religious hierarchy outside the local church may dictate a church’s beliefs or practices. Autonomy does not mean isolation. A Baptist church may fellowship with other churches around mutual interests and in an associational tie, but a Baptist church cannot be a “member” of any other body.
Colossians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 8:1–5, 19, 23
Priesthood of the Believer

“Priest” is defined as “one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God.” Every believer today is a priest of God and may enter into His presence in prayer directly through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. No other mediator is needed between God and people. As priests, we can study God’s Word, pray for others, and offer spiritual worship to God. We all have equal access to God—whether we are a preacher or not.
1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 5:9, 10
Two Ordinances

The local church should practice two ordinances: (1) baptism of believers by immersion in water, identifying the individual with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, and (2) the Lord’s Supper, or communion, commemorating His death for our sins.
Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:23–32
Individual Soul Liberty

Every individual, whether a believer or an unbeliever, has the liberty to choose what he believes is right in the religious realm. No one should be forced to assent to any belief against his will. Baptists have always opposed religious persecution. However, this liberty does not exempt one from responsibility to the Word of God or from accountability to God Himself.
Romans 14:5, 12; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Titus 1:9

Saved, Baptized Church Membership

Local church membership is restricted to individuals who give a believable testimony of personal faith in Christ and have publicly identified themselves with Him in believer’s baptism. When the members of a local church are believers, a oneness in Christ exists, and the members can endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Acts 2:41–47; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 4:3
Two Offices

The Bible mandates only two offices in the church–pastor and deacon. The three terms—”pastor,” “elder,” and “bishop,” or “overseer”—all refer to the same office. The two offices of pastor and deacon exist within the local church, not as a hierarchy outside or over the local church.
1 Timothy 3:1–13; Acts 20:17–38; Philippians 1:1
Separation of Church and State

God established both the church and the civil government, and He gave each its own distinct sphere of operation. The government’s purposes are outlined in Romans 13:1–7 and the church’s purposes in Matthew 28:19 and 20. Neither should control the other, nor should there be an alliance between the two. Christians in a free society can properly influence government toward righteousness, which is not the same as a denomination or group of churches controlling the government.
Matthew 22:15–22; Acts 5:17–29
What sets one church apart from all the others? We have seen that it is the church’s distinctive beliefs that set it apart from all others and that Baptists in general hold to some convictions that make them different from all other groups. Regular Baptist churches will continue to hold to the Baptist distinctives because these distinctives are historically Biblical. They are relevant to the issues facing contemporary society and the church. So when “shopping” for a church, look for the name “Baptist” and then take a closer look to make sure that church is upholding the Biblical Baptist distinctives.

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Psalm 88


This psalm is altogether of a mournful and desponding character. The author is a sufferer; he is expecting to die; he fears to die; he longs to live; his mind is overwhelmed with gloom which does not seem to be irradiated by one ray of hope or consolation. It is, in this respect, unlike most of the psalms which relate to sickness, to sorrow, to suffering, for in those psalms generally there springs up, in answer to prayer, a gleam of hope – some cheerful view – some sustaining prospect; so that, though a psalm begins in despondency and gloom, it ends with joy and triumph. Compare, among others, Psalm 6:9-10; Psalm 7:17; Psalm 13:6; Psalm 42:8, Psalm 42:11; Psalm 56:11-13; Psalm 59:16; Psalm 69:34, Psalm 69:36. But in this psalm there is no relief; there is no comfort. As the Book of Psalms was designed to be useful in all ages, and to all classes of people, and as such a state of mind as that described in this psalm might occur again and often – it was proper that such a condition of utter despondency, even in a good man, should be described, in order that others might see that such feelings are not necessarily inconsistent with true religion, and do not prove that even such a sufferer is not a child of God. It is probable that this psalm was designed to illustrate what may occur when disease is such as to produce deep mental darkness and sorrow. And the Book of Psalms would have been incomplete for the use of the church, if there had not been at least one such psalm in the collection.

The psalm is said, in the title, to be “A Psalm or Song for (margin, of) the sons of Korah” – combining, in some way unknown to us, as several of the other psalms do, the properties of both a psalm and a song. The phrase, “for the sons of Korah,” means here, probably, that it was composed for their use, and not by them, unless “Heman the Ezrahite” was one of their number. On the phrase, “To the chief Musician,” see the notes at the title to Psalm 4:1-8. The words, “upon Mahalath Leannoth,” are of very uncertain signification. They are rendered by the Septuagint and the Vulgate “for Maeleth, to answer;” by Luther, “to sing, of the weakness of the miserable;” by Prof. Alexander, “concerning afflictive sickness.” The word “Mahalath” seems here to be a form of מחלה machăleh which means properly, “sickness, disease.” It is rendered, with a slight variation in the pointing, “disease” in 2 Chronicles 21:15; Exodus 15:26; “infirmity,” in Proverbs 18:14; and “sickness” in Exodus 23:25; 1 Kings 8:37; 2 Chronicles 6:28. It does not occur elsewhere, and would be properly rendered here, therefore, “disease, sickness, or infirmity.” The Hebrew which is rendered “Leannoth,” לענית le‛anoyth is made up of a preposition (ל l ) and a verb. The verb – ענה ‛ânâh – means:

(1) to chant or sing;

(2) to lift up the voice in any way – to begin to speak;

(3) to answer;

(4) to mean to say, to imply.

The verb also has another class of significations;

(a) to bestow labor upon,

(b) to suffer, to be afflicted, and might here refer to such affliction or trouble.

According to the former signification, which is probably the true one here, the allusion would be to something which was said or sung in respect to the sickness referred to; as, for example, a mournful melody composed for the occasion; and the purpose would be to express the feelings experienced in sickness. According to the other signification it would refer to affliction, and would be little more than a repetition of the idea implied in the word Mahalath. It seems to me, therefore, that there is a reference in the word “Leannoth” to something which was said or sung on that occasion; or to something which might be properly said or sung in reference to sickness. It is difficult to translate the phrase, but it might be somewhat literally rendered, “concerning sickness – to be said or sung;” that is, in reference to it. The word Maschil (see the notes at the title to Psalm 32:1-11) conveys the idea that it is a didactic or instructive psalm – suggesting appropriate thoughts for such a season. The psalm is ascribed to “Heman the Ezrahite.” The name Heman occurs in 1 Kings 4:31; 1 Chronicles 2:6; 1 Chronicles 6:33; 1 Chronicles 15:17, 1 Chronicles 15:19; 1 Chronicles 16:42; 1 Chronicles 25:1, 1 Chronicles 25:4-6; 2 Chronicles 5:12; 2 Chronicles 29:14; 2 Chronicles 35:15 – usually in connection with Ethan, as among those whom David placed over the music in the services of the sanctuary.

Nothing is known of the occasion on which the psalm was composed, except, as is probably indicated in the title, that it was in a time of sickness; and from the psalm itself we find that it was when the mind was enveloped in impenetrable darkness, with no comfort.

The psalm consists of two parts:

I. A description of the sick man‘s suffering, Psalm 88:1-9. His soul was full of troubles, and he drew near to the grave, Psalm 88:3; he was, as it were, already dead, and like those laid in the deep grave, whom God had forgotten, Psalm 88:4-6; the wrath of God lay heavily on him, and all his waves went over him, Psalm 88:7; God had put away all his friends from him, and had left him to suffer alone, Psalm 88:8; his eye mourned by reason of his affliction, and he cried daily to God, Psalm 88:9.

II. His prayer for mercy and deliverance, Psalm 88:10-18. The reasons for the earnestness of the prayer, or the grounds of petition are,

(a) that the dead could not praise God, or see the wonders of his hand, Psalm 88:10-12;

(b) that the faithfulness and loving-kindness of God could not be shown in the grave, Psalm 88:11;

(c) that his troubles were deep and overwhelming, for God had cast off his soul, and had hid his face from him; he had been long afflicted; he was distracted with the terrors of God; the fierce wrath of God went over him; lover and friend and acquaintance had been put far from him, Psalm 88:13-18.

Verse 1
O Lord God of my salvation – On whom I depend for salvation; who alone canst save me. Luther renders this, “O God, my Saviour.”

I have cried day and night before thee – literally, “By day I cried; by night before thee;” that is, my prayer is constantly before thee. The meaning is, that there was no intermission to his prayers; he prayed all the while. This does not refer to the general habit of his life, but to the time of his sickness. He had prayed most earnestly and constantly that he might be delivered from sickness and from the dangers of death. He had, as yet, obtained no answer, and he now pours out, and records, a more earnest petition to God.

Verse 2
Let my prayer come before thee – As if there were something which hindered it, or which had obstructed the way to the throne of grace; as if God repelled it from him, and turned away his ear, and would not hear.

Incline thine ear unto my cry – See the notes at Psalm 5:1.

Verse 3
For my soul is full of troubles – I am full of trouble. The word rendered as “full” means properly to satiate as with food; that is, when as much had been taken as could be. So he says here, that this trouble was as great as he could bear; he could sustain no more. He had reached the utmost point of endurance; he had no power to bear anymore.

And my life draweth nigh unto the grave – Hebrew, to Sheol. Compare the notes at Isaiah 14:9; notes at Job 10:21-22. It may mean here either the grave, or the abode of the dead. He was about to die. Unless he found relief he must go down to the abodes of the dead. The Hebrew word rendered life is in the plural number, as in Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:14, Genesis 3:17; Genesis 6:17; Genesis 7:15; et al. Why the plural was used as applicable to life cannot now be known with certainty. It may have been to accord with the fact that man has two kinds of life; the animal life – or life in common with the inferior creation; and intellectual, or higher life – the life of the soul. Compare the notes at 1 Thessalonians 5:23. The meaning here is, that he was about to die; or that his life or lives approached that state when the grave closes over us; the extinction of the mere animal life; and the separation of the soul – the immortal part – from the body.

Verse 4
I am counted with them that go down into the pit – I am so near to death that I may be reckoned already as among the dead. It is so manifest to others that I must die – that my disease is mortal – that they already speak of me as dead. The word “pit” here means the grave – the same as Sheol in the previous verse. It means properly

(1) a pit,

(2) a cistern, Genesis 37:20,

(3) a prison or dungeon, Isaiah 24:22,

(4) the grave, Psalm 28:1; Psalm 30:4; Isaiah 38:18.

I am as a man that hath no strength – Who has no power to resist disease, no vigor of constitution remaining; who must die.

Verse 5
Free among the dead – Luther renders this, “I lie forgotten among the dead.” DeWette renders it, “Pertaining to the dead – (den Todten angehorend) – stricken down, like the slain, I lie in the grave,” and explains it as meaning, “I am as good as dead.” The word rendered “free” – חפשׁי chophshı̂y – means properly, according to Gesenius (Lexicon),

(1) prostrate, weak, feeble;

(2) free, as opposed to a slave or a captive;

(3) free from public taxes or burdens.

The word is translated “free” in Exodus 21:2, Exodus 21:5, Exodus 21:26-27; Deuteronomy 15:12-13, Deuteronomy 15:18; 1 Samuel 17:25; Job 3:19; Job 39:5; Isaiah 58:6; Jeremiah 34:9-11, Jeremiah 34:14; and at liberty in Jeremiah 34:16. It occurs nowhere else except in this verse. In all these places (except in 1 Samuel 17:25, where it refers to a house or family made free, and Job 39:5, where it refers to the freedom of the wild ass), it denotes the freedom of one who had been a servant or slave. In Job 3:19, it has reference to the grave, and to the fact that the grave delivers a slave or servant from obligation to his master: “And the servant is free from his master.” This is the idea, I apprehend, here. It is not, as DeWette supposes, that he was weak and feeble, as the spirits of the departed are represented to be (compare the notes at Isaiah 14:9-11), but that the dead are made free from the burdens, the toils, the calamities, the servitudes of life; that they are like those who are emancipated from bondage (compare Job 7:1-2; Job 14:6); that death comes to discharge them, or to set them at liberty. So the psalmist applies the expression here to himself, as if he had already reached that point; as if it were so certain that he must die that he could speak of it as if it had occurred; as if he were actually in the condition of the dead. The idea is that he was to all appearance near the grave, and that there was no hope of his recovery. It is not here, however, the idea of release or emancipation which was mainly before his mind, or any idea of consolation as from that, but it is the idea of death – of hopeless disease that must end in death. This he expresses in the usual language; but it is evident that he did not admit any comfort into his mind from the idea of freedom in the grave.

Like the slain that lie in the grave – When slain in battle. They are free from the perils and the toils of life; they are emancipated from its cares and dangers. Death is freedom; and it is possible to derive solace from that idea of death, as Job did Job 3:19; but the psalmist here, as remarked above, did not so admit that idea into his mind as to be comforted by it.

Whom thou rememberest no more – As if they were forgotten by thee; as if they were no longer the object of thy care. They are suffered to lie and waste away, with no care on thy part to restore them to life, or to preserve them from offensiveness and decay. So the great, the beautiful, and the good lie neglected in the grave.

And they are cut off from thy hand – Margin, “by.” The Hebrew is literally “from thy hand,” but still the idea is that it was by the agency of God. They had been cut down, and were forgotten – as if God regarded them no more. So we shall all moulder in the grave – in that deep, dark, cold, silent, repulsive abode, as if even God had forgotten us.

Verse 6
Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit – That is, I am as if I were thus laid; the deep grave seems now to lie so certainly before me, that it may be spoken of as if it were already my abode. The words rendered “lowest pit” mean literally the pit under, or beneath. The reference is to the sepulchre, as in Psalm 88:4.

In darkness – The dark grave; the realms of the dead. See the notes at Job 10:21-22.

In the deeps – The caverns; the deep places of the earth or the sea. All these expressions are designed to convey the idea that he was near the grave; that there was no hope for him; that he must die. Perhaps also there is connected with this the idea of trouble, of anguish, of sorrow; of that mental darkness of which the grave was an image, and into which he was plunged by the prospect of death. The whole scene was a sad one, and he was overwhelmed with grief, and saw only the prospect of continued sorrow and gloom. Even a good man may be made afraid – may have his mind made sad and sorrowful – by the prospect of dying. See Isaiah 38. Death is naturally gloomy; and when the light of religion does not shine upon the soul, and its comforts do not fill the heart, it is but natural that the mind should be full of gloom.

Verse 7
Thy wrath lieth hard upon me – Presses me down; burdens me. The meaning is, that that which was the proper and usual expression of wrath or displeasure – to wit, bodily and mental suffering – pressed hard on him. and crushed him to the earth. These bodily sufferings he interpreted, in the sad and gloomy state of mind in which he was, as evidences of the divine displeasure against himself.

And thou hast afflicted me – Thou hast oppressed me, or broken me down.

With all thy waves – literally, “thy breakers;” that is, with expressions of wrath like the waves of the sea, which foam and break on the shore. Nothing could be a more striking image of wrath. Those “breakers” seem to be so furious and angry, they rush along with so much impetuosity, they are so mighty, they dash with such fury on the shore, that it seems as if nothing could stand before them. Yet they find a barrier such as we should little expect. The low and humble beach made of shifting sand, where there seems to be no stability, is an effectual barrier against all their rage; as the humble piety of the child of God, apparently without strength to resist calamity, bears all the beatings of affliction, and maintains its place as the heavy waves of sorrow roll upon it. On the meaning of the word used here, and on the idea expressed, see the notes at Psalm 42:7.

Verse 8
Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me – The same ground of complaint, or expression of the depth of affliction, occurs elsewhere, Psalm 31:11; Psalm 38:11; Psalm 69:8. See also Job 19:13-17.

Thou hast made me an abomination unto them – As something which they would avoid, or from which they would revolt and turn away – as we turn away from the body of a dead man, or from an offensive object. The word means properly an object to be detested or abominated, as things unclean, Genesis 43:32; or as idolatry, 1 Kings 14:24; 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 23:13.

I am shut up – As in prison; to wit, by disease, as when one is confined to his house.

And I cannot come forth – I cannot leave my couch, my room, my house. Compare Job 12:14.

Verse 9
Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction – I weep; my eye pours out tears. Literally, My eye pines away, or decays. Compare Job 16:20, note; Isaiah 38:3, note; Psalm 6:6, note.

Lord, I have called daily upon thee – That is, I have prayed earnestly and long, but I have received no answer.

I have stretched out my hands unto thee – I have spread out my hands in the attitude of prayer. The idea is that of earnest supplication.

Verse 10
Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? – The wonders – or the things suited to excite admiration – which the living behold. Shall the dead see those things which here tend to excite reverence for thee, and which lead people to worship thee? The idea is that the dead will be cut off from all the privileges which attend the living on earth; or, that those in the grave cannot contemplate the character and the greatness of God. He urges this as a reason why he should be rescued. The sentiment here is substantially the same as in Psalm 6:5. See the notes at that passage. Compare Isaiah 38:18.

Shall the dead arise and praise thee? – The original word, here rendered “the dead,” is Rephaim – רפאים rephâ’iym On its meaning, see the notes at Isaiah 14:9. It means, properly, relaxed, languid, feeble, weak; and is then applied to the dead – the shades – the Manes – dwelling in the under-world in Sheol, or Hades, and supposed to be as shades or shadows, weak and feeble. The question here is not whether they would rise to live again, or appear in this world, but whether in Sheol they would rise up from their resting places, and praise God as men in vigor and in health can on the earth. The question has no reference to the future resurrection. It relates to the supposed dark, dismal, gloomy, inactive state of the dead.

Verse 11
Shall thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave? – Thy goodness; thy mercy. Shall anyone make it known there? shall it there be celebrated?

Or thy faithfulness in destruction? – In the place where destruction seems to reign; where human hopes perish; where the body moulders back to dust. Shall anyone there dwell on the fidelity – the truthfulness – of God, in such a way as to honor him? It is implied here that, according to the views then entertained of the state of the dead, those things would not occur. According to what is now made known to us of the unseen world it is true that the mercy of God will not be made known to the dead; that the Gospel will not be preached to them; that no messenger from God will convey to them the offers of salvation. Compare Luke 16:28-31.

Verse 12
Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? – In the dark world; in “the land of darkness and the shadow of death; a land of darkness, as darkness itself, and where the light is as darkness.” Job 10:21-22. “And thy righteousness.” The justice of thy character; or, the ways in which thou dost maintain and manifest thy righteous character.

In the land of forgetfulness – Of oblivion; where the memory has decayed, and where the remembrance of former things is blotted out. This is a part of the general description, illustrating the ideas then entertained of the state of the dead; that they would be weak and feeble; that they could see nothing; that even the memory would fail, and the recollection of former things pass from the mind. All these are images of the grave as it appears to man when he has not the clear and full light of revelation; and the grave is all this – a dark and cheerless abode – all abode of fearfulness and gloom – when the light of the great truths of the Gospel is not suffered to fall upon it. That the psalmist dreaded this is clear, for he had not yet the full light of revealed truth in regard to the grave, and it seemed to him to be a gloomy abode. That people without the Gospel ought to dread it, is clear, for when the grave is not illuminated with Christian truth and hope, it is a place from which man by nature shrinks back, and it is not wonderful that a wicked man dreads to die.

Verse 13
But unto thee have I cried, O Lord – I have earnestly prayed; I have sought thy gracious interposition.

And in the morning – That is, each morning; every day. My first business in the morning shall be prayer.

Shall my prayer prevent thee – Anticipate thee; go before thee: that is, it shall be early; so to speak even before thou dost awake to the employments of the day. The language is that which would be applicable to a case where one made an appeal to another for aid before he had arisen from his bed, or who came to him even while he was asleep – and who thus, with an earnest petition, anticipated his rising. Compare the notes at Job 3:12; compare Psalm 21:3; Psalm 59:10; Psalm 79:8; Psalm 119:148; Matthew 17:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

Verse 14
Lord, why castest thou off my soul? – Why dost thou forsake or abandon me? Why is it that thou dost not interpose, since thou hast all power, and since thou art a God of mercy? Why dost thou not deliver me from my troubles? How often are good people constrained to ask this question! How often does this language express exactly what is passing in their minds! How difficult, too, it is to answer the question, and to see why that God who has all power, and who is infinitely benevolent, does not interpose to deliver his people in affliction! The answer to this question cannot be fully given in this world; there will be an answer furnished doubtless in the future life.

Why hidest thou thy face from me? – Why dost thou not lift up the light of thy countenance upon me, and show me thy favor? God seemed to turn away from him. He seemed unwilling even to look upon the sufferer. He permitted him to bear his sorrows, unpitied and alone.

Verse 15
I am afflicted and ready to die – I am so afflicted – so crushed with sorrow and trouble – that my strength is nearly gone, and I can endure it but a little longer.

From my youth up – That is, for a long time; so long, that the remembrance of it seems to go back to my very childhood. My whole life has been a life of trouble and sorrow, and I have not strength to bear it longer. It may have been literally true that the author of the psalm had been a man always afflicted; or, this may be the language of strong emotion, meaning that his sufferings had been of so long continuance that they seemed to him to have begun in his very boyhood.

While I suffer thy terrors – I bear those things which produce terror; or, which fill my mind with alarm; to wit, the fear of death, and the dread of the future world.

I am distracted – I cannot compose and control my mind; I cannot pursue any settled course of thought; I cannot confine my attention to anyone subject; I cannot reason calmly on the subject of affliction, on the divine government, on the ways of God. I am distracted with contending feelings, with my pain, and my doubts, and my fears – and I cannot think clearly of anything. Such is often the case in sickness; and consequently what we need, to prepare us for sickness, is a strong faith, built on a solid foundation while we are in health; such an intelligent and firm faith that when the hour of sickness shall come we shall have nothing else to do but to believe, and to take the comfort of believing. The bed of sickness is not the proper place to examine the evidences of religion; it is not the place to make preparation for death; not the proper place to become religious. Religion demands the best vigor of the intellect and the calmest state of the heart; and this great subject should be settled in our minds before we are sick – before we are laid on the bed of death.

Verse 16
Thy fierce wrath goeth over me – Like waters. See Psalm 88:7.

Thy terrors have cut me off – That is, I am as one already dead; I am so near to death that I may be spoken of as dead.

Verse 17
They came round about me daily like water – Margin, “as in” Hebrew, all the day. That is, his troubles seemed to be like the waves of the sea cohnstantly breaking on the shore. See Psalm 42:7.

They compassed me about together – My troubles did not come singly, so that I could meet them one at a time, but they seemed to have banded themselves together; they all came upon me at once.

Verse 18
Lover and friend hast thou put far from me – That is, Thou hast so afflicted me that they have forsaken me. Those who professed to love me, and whom I loved – those whom I regarded as my friends, and who seemed to be my friends – are now wholly turned away from me, and I am left to suffer alone. See the notes at Psalm 88:8.

And mine acquaintance into darkness – The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate render this, “my acquaintance from my misery.” Luther, “Thou hast caused my friends and neighbors, and my kindred, to separate themselves far from me, on account of such misery.” The literal rendering would be, my acquaintances are darkness. This may mean either that they had so turned away that he could not see them, as if they were in the dark; or, that his familiars now – his companions – were dark and dismal objects – gloomy thoughts – sad forebodings. Perhaps the whole might be translated, “Far away from me hast thou put lover and friend – my acquaintances! All is darkness!” That is, When I think of any of them, all is darkness, sadness. My friends are not to be seen. They have vanished. I see no friends; I see only darkness and gloom. All have gone, leaving me alone in this condition of unpitied sorrow! This completes the picture of the suffering man; a man to whom all was dark, and who could find no consolation anywhere – in God; in his friends; in the grave; in the prospect of the future. There are such cases; and it was well that there was one such description in the sacred Scriptures of a good man thus suffering – to show us that when we thus feel, it should not be regarded as proof that we have no piety. Beneath all this, there may be true love to God; beyond all this, there may be a bright world to which the sufferer will come, and where he will forever dwell.

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Praise the Lord


This beautiful and animated psalm closes the series of the Hallelujah Psalms Psalm 146150, and appropriately also closes the entire volume. Its author is unknown, but in respect to the object for which it was composed there can be no uncertainty. It was manifestly designed, whoever wrote it, to occupy the very place which it does occupy – to complete the volume devoted to praise. Praise is the suitable ending of the book; praise is what the Spirit of inspiration meant to secure in the heart and on the lips. In the review of the whole there is occasion for praise. In view of all that has been disclosed about God, about his religion, about the manifestations of his mercy and grace to his people, there is occasion for praise. After all that has been experienced, observed, and recorded in this book – all of trial, sorrow, temptation, conflict, disappointment, sickness, bereavement, persecution, war, captivity, bondage, exile, tears, pain, darkness, trouble – there is, as the result of the whole, as there will be at the end of our own troubled and chequered lives, occasion for exultation, praise, triumph – songs, rejoicings, raptures, hallelujahs. This psalm, then, made up wholly of expressions of gratitude and praise, is an appropriate close to the entire Book of Psalms. So may our lives close, when its varied scenes are over, with thanksgivings and praises, as a proper expression in view of the past, and as emblematic of the uninterrupted employment that awaits us in the heavens.

Verse 1
Praise ye the Lord – See the notes at Psalm 146:1.

Praise God in his sanctuary – His holy place; the place where he dwells. The allusion here is, probably, to the temple, the place of his abode on earth.

Praise him in the firmament of his power – The whole expression is equivalent to earth and heaven; Praise him on earth; praise him in heaven. The word rendered firmament is the same which is used in Genesis 1:6. It properly means an expanse – a thing spread out. The verb from which the word is derived means to beat; then, to beat out – that is, to spread out by beating, as gold is; and then, simply to spread out, to expand. Compare Psalm 136:6; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24. In Syriac the word means to make firm; but this idea is not necessarily in the Hebrew word. The idea of a firmament as something firm is derived from the Septuagint – in Genesis 1:6, στερέωμα stereōma – in this place, ἐν στερεώματι en stereōmati The Hebrew, however, merely means “an expanse” – something spread out, as the heavens seem to us to be “stretched out;” and the call here is on all that dwell above that expanse – in heaven – to unite with those on earth in his praise. It is called “the expanse of his power” because it is in the heavens – in the sun, the moon, the stars – that the power of God seems to be principally displayed.

Verse 2
Praise him for his mighty acts – See the notes at Psalm 145:4: “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.” The Hebrew word is the same. The reference is to that which displays the power of God; the things which manifest his omnipotence.

Praise him according to his excellent greatness – Hebrew, the multitude of his greatness. Let the praise in elevation correspond with this; let it be such as shall properly express this; let all be employed that will contribute to make this known, or that will be appropriate to this. Hence, the psalmist proceeds to call on all to make use of everything, by instrument and voice, that would in any manner set forth the praise of God.

Verse 3
Praise him with the sound of the trumpet – Margin, cornet. In this verse and the verses following there is an allusion to the instruments of music which were commonly employed in Hebrew worship. The idea is, that all these – all that could properly express praise – should be used to celebrate the praises of God. Each one, with its own distinct note, and all combined in harmony, should be employed for this purpose. Most of these instruments, and many more, are now combined in the organ, where the instruments, instead of being played on by separate performers, are so united that they can be supplied with wind from one source – the bellows – and all played by one performer. Thus one mind directs the performance, securing, if skillfully done, perfect unity and harmony. This instrument was unknown to the Hebrews. Among them, each instrument had its own performer. The trumpet was principally used to call the people together, but it was also an important instrument among those used by the bands of musicians that performed in the temple, as its tones are now important ones in the organ.

Praise him with the psaltery and harp – Hebrew, the נבל nebel and כנור kinnôr See these instruments described in the notes at Isaiah 5:12. The word here rendered psaltery is there rendered viol – “And the harp and the viol,” etc.

Verse 4
Praise him with the timbrel – Hebrew, תף tôph See this described in the notes at Isaiah 5:12. It is rendered tabret and tabrets in Genesis 31:27; 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 18:6; Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 24:8; Isaiah 30:32; Jeremiah 31:4; Ezekiel 28:13; timbrel and timbrels in Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:34; 2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 13:8; Job 21:12; Psalm 81:2; Psalm 149:3; and in the margin in Jeremiah 31:4. The word does not occur elsewhere. It was an instrument that was struck with the hands.

And dance – See this word explained in the notes at Psalm 149:3. Dancing among the Hebrews seems to have accompanied the timbrel or tabret. See Exodus 15:20,

Praise him with stringed instruments – מנים minniym This word means strings, from a verb which means to divide; and the proper reference would be to slender threads, as if they were divided, or made small. It is nowhere else applied to instruments of music, but might be properly applied to a harp, a violin, a bass-viol, etc. The word strings is indeed applied elsewhere to instruments of music Psalm 33:2; Psalm 144:9; 1 Samuel 18:16; Isaiah 38:20; Habakkuk 3:19, but the Hebrew word is different. Such instruments were commonly used in the praise of God. See the notes at Psalm 33:2.

And organs – Hebrew, עוגב ‛ûgâb See this word explained in the notes at Job 21:12. It occurs elsewhere only in Genesis 4:21; Job 21:12; Job 30:31; in all of which places it is rendered organ. The word is derived from a verb meaning to breathe, to blow; and would be applicable to any wind-instrument. It here represents the whole class of wind-instruments. The word organ is a Greek word, and is found in the Septuagint in this place; and hence, our word organ has been introduced into the translation. The Greek word properly denotes

(a) something by which work is accomplished, as a machine;

(b) a musical instrument;

(c) the material from which anything is made;

(d) the work itself. (Passow, Lexicon).

Our word organ, as used in music, suggests the idea of a combination of instruments or sounds. That idea is not found in the Hebrew word. It denotes merely a wind-instrument. Neither the Hebrews nor any of the ancient nations had an instrument that corresponded with the organ as we now use the term.

Verse 5
Praise him upon the loud cymbals – literally, “the cymbals of sound” or hearing. That is, Let there be audibly expressed joy. The allusion here is to an instrument of music that was most distinctly heard in union with other instruments. The sound of the cymbal would be most clearly audible in its accompaniment of the other instruments referred to, as the sound of cymbals, or as the “triangle” would be now. The Hebrew word rendered cymbal means a tinkling, clanging, ringing, as of metal, or of arms; then, a whirring, as of wings (compare the notes at Isaiah 18:1); then, any tinkling or clanging instrument, as a fish-spear or harpoon; then, cymbals, instruments of music. The cymbal, as now used, is an instrument of brass, in a circular form, like a dish, producing, when two are struck gether, a sharp, ringing sound – Webster. An instrument of this kind is evidently referred to here. The word occurs in the Bible in the following places only: Deuteronomy 28:42, rendered locust; 2 Samuel 6:5, rendered, as here, cymbal; Job 41:7, rendered fish-spears; and Isaiah 18:1, rendered shadowing with.

Praise him upon the high-sounding cymbals – The cymbals of joyful voice. On the word teruah, rendered high, see the notes at Psalm 89:16. A loud, lofty sound or shout, as on the reception of a conqueror, is the idea here; and the sense is, that the praise of God was to be celebrated with that which would in the highest sense express joy and triumph.

Verse 6
Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord – All living things in the air, the earth, the waters. Let there be one universal burst of praise. Let his praises be celebrated not only with instruments of music, but let all living beings unite in that praise; let a breathing universe combine in one solemn service of praise.

Praise ye the Lord – Hallelu-jah. Thus, at the end of all the trials, the conflicts, the persecutions, the sorrows, the joys recorded in this book, the psalmist gives utterance to feelings of joy, triumph, transport, rejoicing; and thus at the end of all – when the affairs of this world shall be closed – when the church shall have passed through all its trials, shall have borne all its persecutions, shall have suffered all that it is appointed to suffer – when the work of redemption shall be complete, and all the ransomed of the Lord shall have been recovered from sin, and shall be saved – that church, all heaven, the whole universe, shall break forth in one loud, long, triumphant Hallelujah. “The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away,” Isaiah 35:10.

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Psalm 4


1. “The title of the psalm.” – The title of this psalm is “To the chief Musician on Neginoth. A psalm of David.” This phrase in the title, “To the chief Musician,” occurs at the beginning of 53 psalms, and at the close of the hymn in Habakkuk 3:19. It is uniformly rendered “to the chief Musician,” and means that the psalm was intended for him, or was to be given to him, probably to regulate the manner of performing it. In no one instance does the title imply that he was the author. The word rendered “Chief Musician, מנצח menâtsēcha is derived from נצח nâtsach properly meaning “to shine,” but not used in the Qal. In the Piel form it means to be conspicuous; to be over anything; to be chief; to be superintendent 2 Chronicles 2:2, 2 Chronicles 2:18; 2 Chronicles 34:12, and then it means to lead in music. The meaning of the form used here, and in the other places where it occurs as a title to a psalm, is “Chief Musician,” or precentor; and the idea is, that the psalm is to be performed under his direction; or that the music is to be directed and adapted by him.

In the case before us there is a particular designation of the “instrument” that was to be employed in the music; which occurs also in Psalm 6:1-10; Psalm 54:1-7; Psalm 61:1-8; Psalm 67:1-7; Psalm 76:1-12; where the same instrument is mentioned as here. In Psalm 8:1-9; Psalm 84:1-12, another instrument is mentioned; and in Psalm 60:1-12; Psalm 4:1-8; Psalm 6:1-10; Psalm 54:1-7; Psalm 67:1-7; Psalm 76:1-12. It means in these cases that the psalm was designed to be sung with the accompaniment of some stringed instrument, or under the direction of the musician, who presided over the department of stringed instruments. It designates nothing as to the kind of stringed instruments which were to be employed.

2. “The author of the psalm.” This psalm, like the preceding, purports to be a psalm of David, and there is no reason to doubt the correctness of this opinion. Indeed, there is some internal probability that, if the former psalm was composed by him, this was also, for as that appears to be a “morning” psalm Psalm 3:5, so this seems to be its counterpart, and to be designed to be an “evening” psalm, Psalm 4:4, Psalm 4:8. The general resemblance in the structure, and the reference in the one to the morning, and in the other to the evening, show that the two were designed, probably, to be a kind of “double” psalm, to be used on the same day, the one in the morning, and the other in the evening. If this is so, and if David was the author of the third psalm, then there is the same reason to suppose that he was the author also of this. It may be added there has been a general concurrence of opinion in the belief that the psalm was written by David.

3. “The occasion on which the psalm was composed.” There is nothing in the psalm, or in the title, to determine this question, and it is now impossible to settle it with certainty. The Jewish interpreters generally, and most Christian expositors, suppose that it was composed on the same occasion as the preceding, in relation to the rebellion of Absalom. But there is nothing in the psalm itself which will certainly determine this, or which would make it improbable that it might have been composed at some other time in the life of David. It should be said, however, that there is nothing in the psalm which is inconsistent with that supposition, especially as the manifest purpose of the psalm is to make the occasion, whatever it was, one on which to utter great thoughts that would be valuable at all times. There is some internal evidence that this psalm was composed in reference to the same circumstances as the preceding, with this difference, that “that” was when the writer was in the midst of his troubles, and when he thought it a great mercy that he had been permitted to enjoy a night of quiet rest Psalm 3:5; “this,” when he had obtained deliverance from those troubles, and now felt that he “could” give himself to calm repose without anxiety and fear, Psalm 4:8.

4. “The contents of the psalm.” The psalm expresses general confidence in God, and a general sense of security. The writer is conscious, indeed, that he has enemies, and that they would “turn” his “glory into shame” if they could; that they are false men who seek his ruin by detractions Psalm 4:2, but still he has confidence in God that all will be well. Though he has enemies who are seeking to destroy him, yet his mind is so calm that he feels that he can commit himself confidently to God, and lie down and slumber. The general subject, therefore, of the psalm is the fact that confidence in God will make the mind calm in the midst of troubles, and that reliance on his protecting care will enable us to give ourselves at night to undisturbed repose. The following points occur in the psalm on this general subject.

(a) The writer calls on God to hear him, and makes it the ground of his petition that he had formerly heard him – that he had enlarged him when he was in distress, Psalm 4:1.

(b) He addresses directly his enemies, and gives them counsel as to what they ought to do, Psalm 4:2-5. He solemnly appeals to them, and asks them how long they would persevere in attempting to turn his glory into shame, Psalm 4:2; he conjures them to remember that all their efforts must be in vain, since the Lord had set apart him that was godly for himself, and would protect him, Psalm 4:3; he exhorts them to stand in awe, and to fear the consequences of the course which they were pursuing, and exhorts them to take proper time to reflect upon it – to think on it in the night, when alone with God, and when away from the excitements of the day, Psalm 4:4; and he entreats them to become themselves true worshippers of God, and to offer to him the sacrifices of righteousness, Psalm 4:5.

(c) He contrasts the sources of his own joy and theirs, Psalm 4:6-7. They were seeking worldly good, and endeavored to find their happiness in that alone; he desired more than that, and, as the chief source of his joy, asked that God would lift upon him the light of his countenance. He had experienced this, and he says that God “had put gladness into his heart more than in the time that their corn and wine increased.” He had more real happiness in the conscious favor of God than the greatest worldly prosperity without that could afford. Religion will, in time of trouble, give more true happiness than all that the world can bestow.

(d) As the result of all, and in view of all these mercies and comforts, he says that he will lie calmly down and sleep. Though he had enemies, his mind is composed and calm; though there may be dangers, he can confide in God; and though he may be less prospered in worldly things than others, he has a joy in religion superior to all that the world can give; and that makes the mind calm as the body is committed to rest in the darkness of the night, Psalm 4:8.

Verse 1
Hear me when I call – When I pray. The word “hear” in such cases is always used in the sense of “listen to,” “hear favorably,” or “attend to;” hence, in the literal sense it is always true that God “hears” all that is said. The meaning is, “hear and answer me,” or grant me what I ask.

O God of my righteousness – That is, O my righteous God. This is a common mode of expression in Hebrew. Thus, in Psalm 2:6, “hill of my holiness,” meaning “my holy hill;” Psalm 3:4, “his hill of holiness,” meaning “his holy hill.” The psalmist here appeals to God as “his” God – the God in whom he trusted; and as a “righteous” God – a God who would do that which was right, and on whom, therefore, he might rely as one who would protect his own people. The appeal to God as a righteous God implies a conviction in the mind of the psalmist of the justice of his cause; and he asks God merely to do “right” in the case. It is not on the ground of his own claim as a righteous man, but it is that, in this particular case, he was wrongfully persecuted; and he asks God to interpose, and to cause justice to be done. This is always a proper ground of appeal to God. A man may be sensible that in a particular case he has justice on his side, though he has a general conviction that he himself is a sinner; and he may pray to God to cause his enemies to do right, or to lead those whose office it is to decide the case, to do what ought to be done to vindicate his name, or to save him from wrong.

Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress – That is, on some former occasion. When he was “pressed” or “confined,” and knew not how to escape, God had interposed and had given him room, so that he felt free. He now implores the same mercy again. He feels that the God who had done it in former troubles could do it again; and he asks him to repeat his mercy. The prayer indicates confidence in the power and the unchangeableness of God, and proves that it is right in our prayers to recall the former instances of the divine interposition, as an argument, or as a ground of hope that God would again interpose.

Have mercy upon me – In my present troubles. That is, Pity me, and have compassion on me, as thou hast done in former times. Who that has felt the assurance that God has heard his prayer in former times, and has delivered him from trouble, will not go to him with the more confident assurance that he will hear him again?

Verse 2
O ye sons of men – Turning from God to men; from Him in whom he hoped for protection to those who were engaged in persecuting him. We are not, of course, to suppose that they were present with him, but this is an earnest, poetic remonstrance, “as if” they were with him. The reference is doubtless to Absalom and his followers; and he calls them “sons of men,” as having human feelings, passions, and purposes, in strong distinction from that righteous God to whom he had just made his solemn appeal. God was holy, true, and just, and he might appeal to Him; they were ambitious and wicked, and from them he had nothing to hope. He looked upon God as righteous altogether; he looked upon them as altogether depraved and wicked. God he regarded as his just Protector; them he regarded as seeking only to wrong and crush him.

How long – The phrase used here might refer either to “time” or to “extent.” How long in regard to “time,” – or to what “degree” or “extent” will you thus persecute me? The former, however, seems to be the true signification.

Will ye turn my glory into shame – My honor, or what becomes my rank and station. If this refers to the rebellion in the time of Absalom, the allusion is to the fact that his enemies were endeavoring to rob him of his scepter and his crown, and to reduce him to the lowest condition of beggary and want; and he asks with earnestness how long they intended to do him so great injustice and wrong.

Will ye love vanity – Compare the notes at Psalm 2:1. That is, how long will you act as if you were in love with a vain and impracticable thing; a thing which “must” be hopeless in the end. The idea is, that God had chosen him, and anointed him, and had determined that he should be king Psalm 4:3, and therefore, that their efforts “must be” ultimately unsuccessful. The object at which they were aiming could not be accomplished, and he asks how long they would thus engage in what must, from the nature of the case, be fruitless.

And seek after leasing – The word “leasing” is the Old English word for “lie.” The idea here is, that they were pursuing a course which would yet prove to be a delusion – the hope of overturning his throne. The same question, in other respects, may be asked now. Men are seeking that which cannot be accomplished, and are acting under the influence of a lie. What else are the promises of permanent happiness in the pursuits of pleasure and ambition? What else are their attempts to overthrow religion and virtue in the world?

Selah – See the notes at Psalm 3:2.

Verse 3
But know – This is addressed to those whom, in the previous verse, he had called the “sons of men;” that is, his foes. This is designed to show them that their opposition to him must be vain, since God had determined to set him apart for his own service, and would, therefore, hear his prayer for relief and protection.

That the Lord hath set apart – That Yahweh had done this; that is, that he had designated him to accomplish a certain work, or that he regarded him as an instrument to perform it. He would, therefore, protect him whom he had thus appointed; and their efforts were really directed against Yahweh himself, and must be vain.

Him that is godly for himself – For his own purposes, or to accomplish his own designs. The reference is here undoubtedly to the psalmist himself; that is, to David. The word “godly,” as applied to himself, is probably used in contrast with his enemies as being engaged in wicked designs, to wit, in rebellion, and in seeking to dispossess him of his lawful throne. The psalmist felt that his cause was a righteous cause, that he had done nothing to deserve this treatment at their hands; and that he had been originally exalted to the throne because God regarded him as a friend of himself and of his cause; and because he knew that he would promote the interests of that cause. The word here rendered “godly,” חסיד châsı̂yd is derived from חסד chesed which means desire, ardor, zeal; and then kindness, benignity, love toward God or man. Here the word properly denotes one who has love to God, or one who is truly pious; and it is correctly rendered “godly.” Compare Psalm 30:4-5; Psalm 31:23; Psalm 37:28. The idea is, that as God had appointed him for his own great purposes, the real aim of the rebels was to oppose Yahweh; and the purposes in which they were engaged could not, therefore, be successful.

The Lord will hear when I call unto him – As I am engaged in his service; as I am appointed to accomplish a certain purpose for him, I may confidently believe that he will hear me, and will deliver me out of their hands. Is not this always the true ground of encouragement to pray – that if God has a purpose to accomplish by us he will hear our prayer, and save us from danger, and deliver us out of the hand of our enemies? And should not this be the main design in our prayers – that God “would” thus spare us that we may accomplish the work which he has given us to do?

Verse 4
Stand in awe – Still addressed to those who in Psalm 4:2 are called “sons of men;” that is, to his enemies. This is rendered by Prof. Alexander, “Rage and sin not.” The Aramaic Paraphrase renders it, “Tremble before him, and sin not.” The Latin Vulgate, “Irascimini” – “be angry.” The Septuagint ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε orgizesthe kai mē hamartanete “Be ye angry, and sin not” – a rendering which Paul seems to have had in his eye in Ephesians 4:26, where the same language is found. It is not necessary, however, to suppose that, in this case, or by so quoting this language, Paul meant to give his sanction to the Septuagint translation of the passage. The truth doubtless is, that he found this language in that version, and that he quoted it, not as a correct translation, but as exactly expressing an idea which he wished to convey – in the same way as he would have quoted an expression from a Greek classic.

It was made to convey an inspired sentiment by his use of it; whether it was a fair translation of the original Hebrew was another question. For the meaning of the sentiment, see the notes at Ephesians 4:26. The original word here – רגז râgaz – means to be moved, disturbed, disquieted, thrown into commotion; and as this may be by anger, fear, or grief, so the word comes to be used with reference to any one of these things. – Gesenius, Lexicon. The connection here would seem to require that it should be understood with reference to “fear” – since we cannot suppose that the writer would counsel them to be moved or agitated by wrath or anger, and since there was no ground for exhorting them to be moved by grief. The true idea is, doubtless, that which is conveyed in our translation – that they were to fear; to stand in awe; to reflect on the course which they were pursuing, and on the consequences of that course, and by so doing to cease from their plans, and to sin no further. God had determined to protect him whom they were engaged in persecuting, and, in prosecuting their plans, they must come into conflict with His power, and be overcome. The counsel, therefore, is just such as may properly be given to all men who are engaged in executing plans of evil.

And sin not – That is, by continuing to prosecute these plans. Your course is one of rebellion against Yahweh, since he has determined to protect him whom you are endeavoring to drive from his throne, and any further prosecution of your schemes must be regarded as additional guilt. They had indeed sinned by what they had already done; they would only sin the more unless they abandoned their undertaking.

Commune with your own heart – Hebrew: “Speak with your own heart;” that is, consult your own “heart” on the subject, and be guided by the result of such a deliberation. The language is similar to what we often use when we say, “Consult your better judgment,” or “Consult your feelings,” or “Take counsel of your own good sense;” as if a man were divided against himself, and his passions, his ambition, or his avarice, were contrary to his own better judgment. The word “heart” here is used in the sense in which we now use it as denoting the seat of the affections, and especially of right affections; and the meaning is, “Do not take counsel of, or be influenced by, your head, your will, your passions, your evil advisers and counselors; but consult your own better feelings, your generous emotions, your sense of right, and act accordingly.” People would frequently be much more likely to do right if they would consult their “hearts” as to what should be done than they are in following the counsels which actually influence them. The secret, silent teachings of the “heart” – the heart when unbiased and uninfluenced by bad counselors – is often our best and safest guide.

Upon your bed – Admirable advice to those who are engaged in plans of wickedness. In the silence of night; in solitary musings on our bed; when withdrawn from the world, and from all the promptings of passion and ambition, and when, if at any time, we cannot but feel that the eye of God is upon us, the mind is most likely to be in a proper state to review its plans, and to inquire whether those plans can be expected to meet the divine approbation.

And be still – When you are thus quiet, reflect on your doings. For a most beautiful description of the effect of night and silence in recalling wicked men from their schemes, see Job 33:14-17. Compare the notes at that passage.

Selah – This, as explained in the notes at Psalm 3:2, marks a musical pause. The pause here would well accord with the sense, and would most happily occur after the allusion to the quiet communion on the bed, and the exhortation to be still.

Verse 5
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness – Offer righteous sacrifices; that is, sacrifices prompted by right motives, and in accordance with the prescriptions in the law of God. This appears to be addressed also to those who in Psalm 4:2 are called “sons of men;” that is, those who were arrayed against the psalmist. According to the common opinion this psalm was composed by David on occasion of his being driven from his throne and kingdom; and, of course, Zion, the ark, and the tabernacle, were in the hands of his enemies. The exhortation here may be, either that, as his enemies were now in possession of the usual seat of public worship, they would conduct the worship of God by keeping up the regular daily sacrifice; or, more probably, it means that in view of their sins, particularly in this rebellion, and as the result of the calm reflection to which he had exhorted them in Psalm 4:4, they should now manifest their repentance, and their purpose to turn to God, by presenting to him an appropriate sacrifice. They were sinners. They were engaged in an unholy cause. He exhorts them to pause, to reflect, to turn to God, and to bring a sacrifice for their sins, that their guilt might be blotted out.

And put your trust in the Lord – That is, turn from your evil ways, and confide in God in all his arrangements, and submit to him. Compare Psalm 2:12.

Verse 6
There be many that say – Some have supposed, as DeWette and others, that the allusion of the psalmist here is to his own followers, and that the reference is to their anxious fears in their misfortunes, as if they were poor and forsaken, and knew not from from where the supply of their wants would come. The more probable interpretation, however, is that the allusion is to the general anxiety of mankind, as contrasted with the feelings and desires of the psalmist himself in reference to the manner in which the desire was to be gratified. That is, the general inquiry among mankind is, who will show us good? Or, where shall we obtain that which seems to us to be good, or which will promote our happiness?

Who will show us any good? – The word “any” here is improperly supplied by the translators. The question is more emphatic as it is in the original – “Who will show us good?” That is, Where shall happiness be found? In what does it consist? How is it to be obtained? What will contribute to it? This is the “general” question asked by mankind. The “answer” to this question, of course, would be very various, and the psalmist evidently intends to place the answer which “he” would give in strong contrast with that which would be given by the mass of men. Some would place it in wealth; some in honor; some in palaces and pleasure grounds; some in gross sensual pleasure; some in literature; and some in refined social enjoyments. In contrast with all such views of the sources of true happiness, the psalmist says that he regards it as consisting in the favor and friendship of God. To him that was enough; and in this respect his views stood in strong contrast with those of the world around him. The “connection” here seems to be this – the psalmist saw those persons who were arrayed against him intent on their own selfish aims, prosecuting their purposes, regardless of the honor of God and the rights of other men; and he is led to make the reflection that this is the “general” character of mankind. They are seeking for happiness; they are actively employed in prosecuting their own selfish ends and purposes. They live simply to know how they shall be “happy,” and they prosecute any scheme which would seem to promise happiness, regardless of the rights of others and the claims of religion.

Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us – That is, in contrast with the feelings and plans of others. In the pursuit of what “they” regarded as good they were engaged in purposes of gain, of pleasure, or of ambition; he, on the contrary, asked only the favor of God – the light of the divine countenance. The phrase, “to lift up the light of the countenance” on one, is of frequent occurrence in the Scriptures, and is expressive of favor and friendship. When we are angry or displeased, the face seems covered with a dark cloud; when pleased, it brightens up and expresses benignity. There is undoubtedly allusion in this expression to the sun as it rises free from clouds and tempests, seeming to smile upon the world. The language here was not improbably derived from the benediction which the high priest was commanded to pronounce when he blessed the people of Israel Numbers 6:24-26, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” It may be added here, that what the psalmist regarded as the “supreme good” – the favor and friendship of God – is expressive of true piety in all ages and at all times. While the world is busy in seeking happiness in other things – in wealth, pleasure, gaiety, ambition, sensual delights – the child of God feels that true happiness is to be found only in religion, and in the service and friendship of the Creator; and, after all the anxious inquiries which men make, and the various experiments tried in succeeding ages, to find the source of true happiness, all who ever find it will be led to seek it where the psalmist said his happiness was found – in the light of the countenance of God.

Verse 7
Thou hast put gladness in my heart – Thou hast made me happy, to wit, in the manner specified in Psalm 4:6. Many had sought happiness in other things; he had sought it in the favor of the Lord, and the Lord had given him a degree of happiness which they had never found in the most prosperous worldly condition. This happiness had its seat in the “heart,” and not in any external circumstances. All true happiness must have its seat there, for if the heart is sad, of what avail are the most prosperous external circumstances?

More than in the time – More than they have had in the time referred to; or, more than I should have in such circumstances.

That their corn and their wine increased – When they were most successful and prosperous in worldly things. This shows that when, in Psalm 4:6, he says that many inquired who would show them any “good,” what they aspired after was worldly prosperity, here expressed by an increase of grain and wine. The word rendered “corn” means grain in general; the word rendered “wine” – תירושׁ tı̂yrôsh – means properly “must, new wine,” Isaiah 65:8. The reference here is probably to the joy of harvest, when the fruits of the earth were gathered in, an occasion among the Hebrews, as it is among most people, of joy and rejoicing.

Verse 8
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep – The word “both” here means “at the same time;” that is, I will alike be in peace, and I will lie down and will sleep; I will have a mind at peace (or, in tranquility) when I lie down, and will sleep calmly. This is said in view of his confidence in God, and of his belief that God would preserve him. He had put his trust in him; he had sought his happiness in him, and now he felt assured that he had nothing to fear, and, at peace with God, he would lie down and compose himself to rest. This is the counterpart of what is said in Psalm 3:5. There he says in the morning, that, though surrounded by fear, he “had” been permitted to lie calmly down and sleep; here he says, that, though he is surrounded by fear, he has such confidence in God, that he “will” give himself to quiet slumber. His mind was free from anxiety as to the result of the present troubles; he had calm confidence in God; he committed all to him; and thus gave himself to rest. No one can fail to admire the beauty of this; and no one can fail to perceive that entire confidence in God, and an assurance that all things are under his control, are best adapted of all things to give peaceful days and nights.

For thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety – There are two ideas here:

(a) One a confidence that he would abide in safety;

(b) the other, that he owed this entirely to the Lord.

He had no power to defend himself, and yet he felt assured that he would be safe – for he put his trust entirely in the Lord. The whole language implies unwavering trust or confidence in God, and is thus instructive and useful for all. It teaches us:

(1) that in the midst of troubles we may put our trust in God; and

(2) that religion is adapted to make the mind calm in such circumstances, and to enable its possessor to lie down without anxiety in the slumbers of the night, and to pursue without anxiety the duties of the day.

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