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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 109

Verses 1-31

Psalms 109:1-31

Hold not Thy peace, O God of my praise.

A song of imprecation

The misdeeds of the wicked (Psalms 109:1-5).

The imprecation of wrath (verses 6-20).

The cry for mercy (Psalms 109:21-25). “The thunder and lightning are now followed by deep, sorrowful complaint like a flood of tears.”

The display of the Divine righteousness (Psalms 109:26-31). In this concluding strophe the cry for help is renewed, together with a confident assurance of being answered. The suppliant asks relief in such way as to show that it came from God’s own hand. God’s blessing is set in sharp contrast with men’s cursing. The efforts of the ungodly shall end in disappointment and shame, but the Lord’s servant will only rejoice. This deliverance will call forth his thanks, which will not be private, but expressed in the presence of a multitude. (T. W. Chambers, D. D.)

Verse 4

Psalms 109:4

But I give myself unto prayer.

The universal suitability of prayer

This is the great resource of God’s children. Observe the disjunctive particle “but” with which the text begins. Let others do this or that (he would say), “but I give myself unto prayer,” or, as it stands in the original, But I--prayer; as though he meant to imply that prayer was everything to him;--I have no other resource, and I need none. What shall we do, asks the pious parent, to secure our children, who will soon be beyond the control of parental authority, and will have to encounter the snares of a world which “lieth in wickedness”? Give yourselves unto prayer. Let us take another case; namely, the feelings and anxieties of the junior touching the senior members of the household. Here I desire to speak a word in favour of family prayer. Give yourselves unto prayer, as Abraham did, who wherever he went, “there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord.” The opening of the new year calls for a review of the past, and that review is fraught with matter for humiliation. Be humbled: yet let not humiliation take the gloomy and unbelieving character of despondency. And in order to prevent this, give yourself unto prayer. (T. E. Hankinson, M.A.)

Constancy in prayer

When a pump is frequently used, but little pains are necessary to have water; the water pours out at the first stroke, because it is high. But if the pump has not been used for a long time, the water gets low, and when you want it you must pump a long while, and the water comes only after great effort. It is so with prayer; if we are instant in prayer, every little circumstance awakens the disposition to pray, and desires and words are always ready. But if we neglect prayer it is difficult for us to pray, for the water in the well gets low. (Felix Neff.)

Verse 5

Psalms 109:5

They have rewarded me evil for good.

Evil for good

Florence, when dominated by the preaching of Savonarola, became transformed; high-born ladies threw aside their jewels and finery, men turned from evil ways into sobriety, the churches were crowded with all classes of the people, from nobles to peasants; the very children were turned into instruments of the good work, going through the streets in procession, singing hymns and collecting money for the poor--and then the tide turned, and, when Savonarola was in the crisis of his struggle with the pope, almost the whole city was against him; a mob attacked his convent of San Marco; and the great friar went to his martyrdom, with the sorer martyrdom of his heart at the thought that all his work was overturned. (Hugh Black.)

Verse 8

Psalms 109:8

Let his days be few; and let another take his office.

The outcast’s place filled

(for St. Matthias’ Day):--The words in themselves sound simple enough; they might seem to speak of no more than all human beings must undergo, by the necessity of their mortal nature. All our days are few: they are but as grass, they are gone almost before we can count them. All our places, stations, and offices, whatever they may be, must soon pass away from us, and another take them in our place. But this, the common lot of all, is here turned into a fearful and peculiar curse, for those who slight high privileges, and betray sacred trusts. The instance of Judas is a very plain one, for showing forth the dealings of God’s providence in this respect. His short life as an apostle would have been a blessing, had he been such as St. James, the first of the twelve who came to his great reward: he would have departed, and been with Christ so much the sooner. But as it was, what judgment could be more fearful? Thus his days were signally cut short; and as to another taking his office, St. Peter reminded the disciples that the Scriptures concerning him were of course to be fulfilled, especially two which he specified: “Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein;” and, “His bishopric let another take.” Now, it is a serious thought for us all, If Judas Iscariot, who, favoured as he was, had never received the Holy Ghost; if the Jewish people, whose highest privileges were but a shadow of what we receive in Baptism,--if they had their days cut off by so dreadful a sentence, and their place in God’s world given over to others: what are Christians, what are Christian pastors to expect, should they prove, after all, unclean and unworthy? The nearer Christ has called us to Himself, the more dangerous surely are the first beginnings and whispers of sin; and the nearer we have ventured to approach, the greater advantage have we given to Satan, except we tried in earnest to purify our hearts and desires. No doubt, St. Matthias himself may have had trembling thoughts like these, wherewith to keep himself lowly and humble, when he was called to so great an honour, so high a place in the Church. What must have been the new apostle’s thoughts, when he was thus put in mind of Judas’s place! How earnestly must he have prayed in his secret heart, that such place, or a worse, might never be his own! I say a worse; for must it not be worse for those who, besides Judas’s other privileges, have also that which is above all, union with Christ by His Holy Spirit, and yet fall away as Judas did? That privilege Matthias received within a few days, when the Holy Ghost came down upon the assembled apostles, and he never forfeited its; he went on glorifying God as an apostle, until he was permitted to glorify Him as a martyr. Or how can a sinner ever be thankful enough that it is not yet over with him; that he has still time, he knows not how much, to humble and punish himself heartily for his great imperfection and unworthiness; to watch and break himself of all beginnings of sin; to subdue the flesh to the Spirit; in all things; to acquaint himself with God in all the ways of His Church; to fear always; and to be more faithful and true in every part of his calling towards God and man? (Plain Sermons by contributors to the “Tracts for the Times.”)

The Apostleship of St. Matthias

There is a fearful light, as it were, around the Apostleship of Matthias. We cannot think of him without recalling his memory who went before. Surely, we imagine, he must have gone about the work of an apostle With a fear and trembling which even Peter never knew.

1. It is remarkable that the sin of Judas was amongst those particulars of the life and sorrows of the Saviour of the world which were not obscurely predicted in the Old Testament. He was placed upon his trial; a certain position given him, a position of vast privileges. These Scriptures were amongst the means vouchsafed to enable him to maintain his station in the spiritual world, and finish the work given him to do. Now, the state of Judas thus viewed is a very correct type of our own. Consider for a moment the Christian Church itself. It stands indeed to the Jewish race, as Matthias to Iscariot. The Israelites were the first called to be God’s special servants; to them was the commission given to keep alive the remembrance of His name, to make His praise to be glorious. They betrayed the trust; they adhered not to His worship; they gave His honour to another; they stoned His prophets; they rejected His Son! And then went forth the decree, “Let their days be few, and let another take their office.” There is a voice from the past to the present, from the old Israel to the new, which bids us not be high minded, but fear, as those who fill a traitor’s place. And when we extend our thoughts from the Christian Church to the whole human race, we find the same to hold good. There is much to confirm the idea, that the creation of man had its origin in the fall of Satan and his angels. Before us is now placed the choice which ages ago was given to Satan and his legions--the choice whether in sincerity and truth we will be the servants of the Son of God. We are on our trial now, as they were before the pillars of the earth were set up; but with this advantage, that like Judas, who sinned after their manner, we have warnings against the consequences of rebellion. He with the example of their sin and punishment, fell into the same sin, viz. the disowning the Only Begotten. We, with his example also, are called to stand where they stood, and exhibit the obedience which they withheld.

2. But there are deducible from the foregoing remarks, certain truths touching our relation to God.

(1) For example, we learn in a most striking manner from what has been advanced, the sureness with which God’s will is accomplished, sooner or later. God has no need of our services; He requires not our obedience; our very sins help on His designs. If we are obedient, He will work through us; if disobedient, He equally bends us to His purpose; or it may be, blots us out of the book of the living, and calls others into existence to do that which we refused; and all without the least pause in the majestic march of His providence. If we resist, it costs Him nothing to say, “Let another take His office.”

(2) Again, we cannot but press upon you the wonderful uniformity of the test to which God has subjected all His creatures; the test is simply, loyalty to the Only Begotten Son. There are but two kingdoms, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness; but two monarchs, the Lord Jesus, upon the right hand of the Father, and the outcast archangel, in the fiery abyss. And all choice between good and evil, right and wrong, is a choice between these. (Bishop Wood ford.)

Verse 21

Psalms 109:21

But do Thou for me, O God the Lord, for Thy name’s sake.

An exemplary prayer

It is true in its direction. It is addressed to “God the Lord.” There is but One all-suffering Being to whom we can address our prayers. Think what is requisite to be able to answer prayer at all times--infinite intelligence, unlimited goodness, universal sovereignty, etc. The petition of the psalmist indicates his belief that he was approaching such a Being. If he could but secure the help of God he would leave everything else to Him.

It is personal in its aim. “Do Thou for me.” Man’s first business is to secure the blessing of God for himself. We should not keep the vineyard of another and neglect our own. We should not attempt to lead ethers unto Jesus Christ until we know Him as our own Saviour. This is not selfish, but benevolent.

It is submissive in its spirit. The wise and good man leaves the means and the manner of blessing to God. He leaves the time also to God. This submission is both wise and pious.

It is powerful in its plea. “For Thy name’s sake.” The name represents the character of God. The honour of the Divine name is bound up with His treatment of His people. If any one trusting in God were to perish, the glory of His name would be sullied. Such a plea--

1. Implies great faith in God on the part of Him who urges it.

2. Honours God by the exalted conception of His character which it implies.

3. Prevails with God. The man who honours God by believing greatly in Him is mighty with God in prayer. (W. Jones.)

The Christian’s prayer

General remarks.

1. The petition may be considered as addressed with equal propriety to each of the Persons in the Godhead, who are the joint objects of religious worship, possessed of the same adorable perfections, and equally concerned in carrying on the work, and conveying the blessings of salvation.

2. Though the good man may and should pray for others, yet he is and ought to be principally concerned for himself. “Do Thou for me”; for my body, for my soul, especially the latter. Begin Thy work there in conviction and conversion, carry it on in progressive sanctification, and perfect it in eternal glory. “Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.”

3. The good man desires that what God does may be for him, and not against him; that He would deal by him as a friend, and not as an enemy.

4. When we desire that God should “do for us,” it is proper that we should leave the way and manner entirely to Him.

What is implied.

1. Do that for me which I cannot do for myself. Reduce my wandering heart, direct my feeble steps, teach me both the way in which Thou walkest towards me, and the way in which I ought to walk toward Thee, the way of duty and of peace.

2. Do that for me which no one else either can or will do. They cannot restore case to a distempered body, nor comfort to a discontented mind; cannot reprieve one moment from the demands of death, nor disarm it of its terrors.

3. Do that for me which Thou knowest to be necessary, and without which I must be undone for ever.

4. Do all that for me which Thou hast appointed and promised, and whereby Thou mayest be glorified. In all our prayers it becomes us to have an eye to

(1) The Divine appointments: for if our petitions do not refer to them, and are not regulated by them, they are not likely to meet with acceptance, nor to procure a blessing.

(2) The Divine promises.

(3) The Divine glory.


1. The prayer of the psalmist will apply not only to a state of prosperity, but adversity; not only to God’s merciful dispensations, but also to those which are afflictive. “Do Thou for me,” in wounding as well as healing, in casting down as well as lifting up.

2. The petition is suitable for those who have most to do for God, or their fellow-creatures; such as magistrates, ministers, masters of families and others. There are also peculiar seasons to which it is especially suited; when our path is intricate, and our work difficult, either in the morning of the Sabbath, or in the near approach of death.

3. It is likewise necessary at all seasons, and for all sorts of persons. (B. Beddome, M.A.)

All of grace

Sir James Simpson, the doctor-saint, was waiting for a train at a station, and when it drew up he saw a poor lad, looking very ill, being conveyed by his mother home. He went in beside them into the carriage, and asked all about the boy. By and by he said to the mother, “Your boy might be made quite well; why don’t you take him to Dr. So-and-So? Because,” said the mother, “I haven’t money enough to pay the fees.” “Well,” said the stranger, “I am a doctor;” and then he told his name, to the poor woman’s great surprise. “Will you put him in my hands, and I will do what I can for him, and it shall cost you nothing?” The mother thankfully consented; her boy was carefully treated, and in a few weeks’ time returned home quite cured. The great Physician does all His cures, bestows all His blessings, and gives all His salvation, for love’s sake. And His healing is perfect. (H. O. Mackey.)


Psalms 110:1-7

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 109". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.