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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 18

Verses 1-3

Psalms 18:1-3

I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.

The tale of a life

In this magnificent hymn the royal poet sketches, in a few grand outlines, the tale of his life--the record of his marvellous deliverances, and of the victories which Jehovah had given him--the record, too, of his own heart, the truth of its affection towards God, and the integrity of purpose by which it had ever been influenced. Throughout that singularly chequered life, hunted as he had been by Saul before he came to the throne, and harassed perpetually after he became king by rivals, who disputed his authority and endeavoured to steal away the hearts of his people--compelled to fly for his life before his own son, and engaged afterwards in long and fierce wars with foreign nations--one thing had never forsaken him, the love and presence of Jehovah. By His help he had subdued every enemy, and now, in his old age, looking back with devout thankfulness on the past, he sings this great song of praise to the God of his life. With a heart full of love he will tell how Jehovah delivered him, and then there rises before the eyes of his mind the whole force and magnitude of the peril from which he had escaped. So much the more wonderful appears the deliverance which accordingly he represents in a bold poetical figure, as a stooping of the Most High from heaven to save him--who comes, as He came of old to Sinai, with all the terror and gloom of earthquake, and tempest, and thick darkness. But God delivers those only who trust in Him and who are like Him. There must be an inner life of communion with God, if man will know His mercy. Hence David passes on to that covenant relationship in which he had stood to God. He had ever been a true Israelite, and therefore God, the true God of Israel, had dealt with him accordingly. And thus it is at the last that the servant of Jehovah finds his reward. (J. J. Stewart Perowne, B. D.)

Have we permission to love God

It will awaken surprise in you to hear this question, yet it cannot exceed mine on hearing it, as I once did, from a distinguished man whom I had long regarded as truly devout. Being together at the house of his relative, this man, of worldwide reputation as a man of genius, astonished me with this question, “What do you understand by love to God?” I looked at him with surprise; but before I could speak he added, “I know what fear of God means; but I do not understand what is meant when I am called upon to love God.” Had I uttered the thought which arose in my mind I should have said, “I always supposed you to be a Christian; can it be possible that you have need that one should teach you the alphabet of religious experience? But I put questions to him, encouraged by his frank nature, and I now discovered that his difficult was this, that loving God implied a degree of familiarity which seemed to him unsuitable in a finite creature when approaching his Creator. He acknowledged that the language of the Bible encouraged the idea of familiarity in our intercourse with God; still, he preferred to explain all such permission by what he called Orientalism. In vain was it urged in reply that Orientalism rather forbade than encouraged liberty in approaching Majesty; prostration, even to abjectness, was enjoined on ministers of state, as well as menial servants. Hence there are two extremes against which we have need to be on our guard. One is familiarity; the other is stoicism. The apostles maintain a just medium between these extremes. The question which I have already mentioned as put to me by a man of distinguished genius was also expressed by a plain man, a mechanic, he was in the last stages of a decline, but in full possession of his faculties. Once as I was leaving his bedside he said, “One thing more I wish to ask: I lie here and talk with God in a way which startles me. I use expressions of endearment, address Him by affectionate names, make requests as a child to a parent, indulge in words of adoration; all of which, on second thought, seem to me too free for a mortal to use in his intercourse with his Master. Yet my feelings are so strong that I cannot restrain myself.” I said to him, “You ask, May you love God thus? The Saviour says, quoting the Old Testament, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.’ Do you ever exceed this. An expression of satisfaction came over his face. The next day he had gone to see Him “whom not having seen” he “loved.” The words of the text leave no room to question that the, predominant feeling of David was this, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.” Then he proceeds to heap up epithets of love to God. He draws them from his experience in wildernesses and caves. Had he been a seafaring man we doubtless should have had him saying, “Thou art my lighthouse, my pilot, my harbour; to Thee I am homeward bound; with Thee I am safe home.” How enthusiastic in passionate expression of love to God is all true religious poetry. And when a man is converted, how his heart goes out in love to God. See this in Paul. And here is one instance from the preaching of the Gospel, and there are scores of such. A man was riding home on horseback after evening service, meditating on what he had heard. He was secretly persuaded to yield himself up to God, when all at once light from heaven broke upon his mind, revealing to him the way of salvation by Christ with a sense of peace with God and the joy of pardoned sin; so that he found himself in a new world. Unable to contain his joy at the discovery, having no one at home who could enter into his feelings, turning his horse’s head, he rode back three miles to the minister’s house, and called him to the door. Taking both of the minister’s hands in his, he cried out, “Oh, sir! what a God we have!” which was the substance of all that he said, for it was impossible for words to express his emotions, and he mounted and rode home, singing and praying. No one would have found it more impossible than he to answer the question, “What do you understand by loving God?”--he whose whole being was at that hour flooded with it could have found no words to define his emotions. Does anyone say, “Of what value can such emotions be to God?” We might answer him, Of what value is anything to God? He will one day give up this globe to fire. There is nothing of any value to God except love. The whole object of God in the Bible seems everywhere to have been to make men love Him.

The experience of men in the Bible shows us that the sum of human duty is to love God. See the Book of Deuteronomy, to which our Lord so often referred. It is full of expostulations to urge Israel to love God. Joshua, too, does not hid them tremble, as he well might, in view of their stupendous history, but “love the Lord.” Some will say this seems very strange. Let such consider that there is no way in which, on account of the hardness of our hearts, God brings us to love Him more effectually than by His terrible dispensations. When night comes down in the Azores the lavender beds yield perfumes which all day long the hot sun had consumed. After a storm we look for sea mosses and pebbles which the working of the sea has ,brought on shore. “The Lord hath said that He will dwell in the thick darkness”--so spoke Solomon, and it is true. If God desires to draw a Christian very near to Himself, He will almost always send a heavy trial upon him. David said, “When He hath tried me I shall come forth as gold.” We see Christians who have been grievously afflicted, cleaving to God the more that He smites them. If God has set His love on a man He may honour him by great trials. He cannot trust all to bear great trials. He said of Saul of Tarsus, “I will show him how great things he must suffer, for My sake.” Probably there is nothing which excites the admiration of angels more than to see us loving God the more that He afflicts us. Then they see the power of faith; how it makes a man endure as seeing Him who is invisible.

The Cross of Christ is the Divine testimony to man, not only that he may but that he must love God. See how John in his epistles insists on this, that God is Love. The governing principle in God is love. Other attributes belong to Him, but He is none of them. “God is Love.” Therefore He must desire the love of His people. They are born of the Spirit. Shall man, His new creation, be a cold, phlegmatic, intellectual being? May we be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fulness of God. (N. Adams, D. D.)

A text that looks two ways

Backward, upon the mercies and deliverances of God. These are expressed in the titles used--strength, rock, fortress, etc. These are synonymous phrases, signifying one and the same thing. There is not here merely the exuberance of a poetical style. The apparent exaggeration in David’s hymn flows from the abundance of a devout and grateful heart labouring to empty and discharge its fulness. How well such a full acknowledgment would become us!

Forward, in the returns of duty, to which he engageth himself.

1. Of love (Psalms 18:1).

2. Of trust (Psalms 18:1).

3. Of praise and prayer (Psalms 18:3).

We are to love God for His own excellencies, because He requires it, and in response to His love. Trust is an act of friendship, and the greatest fruit it yields, mutual confidence, springing naturally from mutual affection. (J. Dolben, D. D.)

A song of thanksgiving in review of a troublous life

This Psalm is a fervent outpouring of gratitude, not for any single deliverance, but for all the deliverances of his tried and stormy life.

A life greatly troubled. Four facts concerning “ungodly men.” They were worthless, numerous, violent, and indefatigable. And our sufferings, as David’s, grow out of our physical constitution, our social relationships, our moral delinquencies and remorses.

A God equal to all emergencies. God appears to David in his trials in a two-fold aspect--passive and active: resting as a rock, and moving as a thunderstorm.

1. God appeared to him as his all-sufficient protector. A refuge impregnable, ever accessible, and everlasting.

2. God appeared as his triumphant deliverer. The description of God moving for his deliverance is grandly poetic. This poetic description is both natural and religious. Three observations are suggested--

(1) It is a movement in answer to prayer.

(2) It is a movement sublimely grand.

(3) It is a movement completely effective.

A soul alive with true sentiments.

1. Love. Love to God is the essence of goodness, and the sum total of man’s obligation.

2. Trust. This is connected with love. True love has respect to excellence, and will ever lead to trusting.

3. Praise. “I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.” Worship is heaven. (Homilist.)

Love to God possible..

“I cannot love God,” said a thoughtless man, “for I have never seen Him.” “Canst thou not?” replied his companion. “Then thou canst do less than the little blind girl who sits under the shade of the chestnut tree on the village green. She can love her father and mother, though she has never seen them, and will never see them till the latest hour of her life.”

Jesus is my love

The Lollards’ Tower in London, constructed by Chicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his palace at Lambeth, at the cost of six hundred pounds, was often filled with persons accused of heresy. The walls of this dungeon still bear witness to the sorrows and hopes of those who suffered in this place. The words “Jesus amor meus (Jesus is in Love), written by some poor martyr, may still be seen upon the wall in the Lollards’ Tower.

David’s thanksgiving for his deliverance

Many songs of thanksgiving were composed by David. Perhaps it would be too bold for us to say that this Psalm excels them all; but we may say without hesitation, that none of them excels this.

Of David’s deliverance from the hands of his enemies. In the early part of David’s life he obtained signal instances of God’s preserving mercy. A lion and a bear came to destroy a lamb of his fold; David had the courage to attack both these fierce animals in defence of the young of his flock, and the Lord delivered him. A great deliverance was granted to himself, and through him to his people, when the Lord delivered into his hand the terrible giant of Gath. Many and wonderful were the deliverances which he obtained from Saul. David sometimes thought it necessary for himself to leave the Lord’s land and to seek refuge among strangers, who were not such heathens as many of his own people. Among them, too, he found protection and obtained great deliverances. The king of Moab behaved to him with kindness, so far as we know. Among the Philistines he was more than once in extreme danger. But the Lord was still his stay and his helper. When the Philistines were brought low by many terrible engagements, David was still exposed to great perils, but the Lord preserved him whithersoever he went. Neither Moabites, nor Ammonites, nor Syrians of different kingdoms could stand before him, either singly or in conjunction, for the Lord taught his hands to war and his fingers to fight. But when the Lord had given him rest from his enemies round about, evil rose up against him out of his own kingdom and out of his own house. Sheba rose up after Absalom to seek his life, but he soon lost his own, as his predecessor in wickedness had done. These were some of David’s deliverances from his many visible enemies; and they were attended and sweetened by other deliverances, not less, but still more important. He was sometimes almost overwhelmed by fear and dejection of spirit. He was often in great bodily distress; but he cried unto the Lord and was healed (Psalms 30:1-12). But the most dangerous of his troubles were those which he suffered from the law in his members warring against the law in his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which was in his members.

Of God as the deliverer of David. “Salvation is of the Lord” (Psalms 3:8). Everywhere we find him giving to the Lord the glory of the salvation wrought for him. “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer. The God of my rock, in Him will I trust: He is my shield and the horn of my salvation; my high tower and my refuge, my Saviour, Thou savest me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:2-3). “For who is God save the Lord? Who is a rock save our God?” (2 Samuel 22:32). We know that there were many heroes who obtained a just and glorious name for the valiant exploits which they performed in the defence of their king and country. One of them had the honour of preserving the life of David when the hand of a terrible giant was lifted up against him. And there were many besides his mighty men to whom he was greatly indebted for signal service. His life was at one time saved by the kindness and wit of his wife Michal, at another time by the good offices of Jonathan, and even the Philistines were at one time made the instruments of preserving the life of that champion of Israel who was to be the destroyer of their power. But we never find David employing his fine genius in celebrating the exploits of these heroes to whom he was so greatly indebted. God is pleased for the most part to employ means and instruments in His works of mercy or of vengeance. But they do neither less nor more than God has intended to accomplish by them. It was God who made use of the Philistines for the salvation of David at Selah-hammah-lekoth. They were far from meaning so, neither did their heart think so. God employed not only men on earth, but the angels of heaven, for the deliverance of David from his enemies, and therefore, in his commendations of the goodness of God to himself, he assures us that the angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear the Lord, and delivers them. “Let their way be dark and slippery, and let the angel of the Lord persecute them” (Psalms 35:1-28). Whatever were the means employed for the deliverances of David, no doubt was left in the mind of any reasonable man concerning the great Author of his salvation. The Lord gave us sensible proofs of His presence with David and of His indignation against his enemies, as if He had in the literal sense bowed the heavens and come down. Had we hearts like David we would often be rejoicing in God, and singing His praises, when our corrupt dispositions prompt us to utter complaints as if God had forgotten to be gracious, because He will not resign the management of all our affairs into our own hands.

Of this Psalm of thanksgiving to God felt all His deliverances. In this Psalm we find David expressing--

1. The ardour of his love to that God who had blessed him with so many and such wonderful deliverances. Dearly he loved the God of his salvation, before he needed any of the deliverances which gave occasion to this Psalm. But every new deliverance increased the ardour of his love.

2. We find him expressing his firm reliance on God as the God of his salvation. His faith was powerfully invigorated by every new deliverance. And would we not greatly dishonour Him if we withheld from Him our confidence after a thousand proofs of His special favour? (Psalms 18:2-3).

3. He expatiates on the greatness, on the grace, on the glory of these salvations which had been wrought for him. He illustrates the greatness of the salvations by representing the dreadful danger from which he was delivered. The terrors of death had fallen upon him. He was like a brand plucked out of the burning, or like a man raised out of the grave. His deliverance was the answer of fervent cries addressed to God from the depths into which he was cast. We are too much disposed to look with a careless eye on the great works of God.

4. He celebrates the excellency of those Divine perfections which were manifested in his deliverance. He shews forth the glory of that righteousness which appeared in the gracious rewards bestowed on himself, and the vengeance inflicted on his wicked enemies. He shows forth the glory of the Lord as the God of salvation, who bad given striking and incontestable proofs of His saving power and grace in the salvations wrought for him. None of the gods of the nations had ever given any proofs of their power to save their worshippers that trusted in them. Great things God had done for David. David had himself performed wonderful things, and achieved victories that were to make him famous through all generations. But not to himself, but to his God was the praise due.

5. He praises God, and expresses his unshaken confidence in Him for the great things that were yet to be done for him, and for his seed after him. On the whole, we are taught by this Psalm what improvement we ought to make of the great works of God, recorded in His Word. If David saw and admired and celebrated in such strains of rapture his deliverance from the hand of his enemies, can we sufficiently admire the glory that shines forth in the whole train of providential administration recorded in the volume of inspiration? Manifold were the salvations wrought by God for Abraham and Jacob, for Moses and the people of Israel. Nor ought we to forget any of God’s deliverances wrought for ourselves. Nor ought we to forget the obligations that lie upon us to praise God for our friends and brethren. (G. Lawson.)

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer.

Shutting the gates of Derry

In token of his gratitude to Jehovah for deliverance from Saul’s malevolence, David wrote this Psalm, a glowing composition, in which martial similes abound. Thanksgiving is not only a national, but an individual duty. There are few today who seem to apprehend this obligation. With simple truthfulness it might be affirmed of most of us--“Prayers are many, thanks are rare. How many of us who, in critical moments and in sad emergencies, resorted to our God for deliverance and protection, sought His presence again when He heard our prayer and saw our tears?” Not without deep meaning and subtle experience of human perversity did David write, “I will pay Thee my vows which I spake with my mouth when I was in trouble.” (M. B. Hogg, B. A.)

The horn of my salvation.--

“The horn of my salvation”

The allusion here is doubtful. Some have supposed the reference to be to the horns of animals, by which they defend themselves and attack their enemies. “God is to me, does for me, what their horns do for them.” Others consider it as referring to the well-established fact, that warriors were accustomed to place horns, or ornaments like horns, on their helmets. The horn stands for the helmet; and “the helmet of salvation” is an expression equivalent to “a saving, a protecting helmet.” Others consider the reference as to the corners or handles of the altar in the court of the tabernacle or temple, which are called its horns. Others suppose the reference to be to the highest point of a lofty and precipitous mountain, which we are accustomed to call its peak. No doubt, in the Hebrew language, horn is used for mountain, as in Isaiah 5:1. A very fertile mountain is called a horn of oil. The sense is substantially the same whichever of these views we take; though, from the connection with “shield” or “buckler,” I am induced to consider the second of these views as the most probable. It seems the same idea as that expressed (Psalms 140:7), “Thou hast covered,” and Thou wilt cover “my head in the day of battle.” (John Brown.)

Verse 3

Psalms 18:3

I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.

The object, nature, and effect of prayer

Few men have known more of the variegated scenes of human life than David.

David’s purpose. “I will call upon the Lord.” Here we have what he declares concerning the Lord--that He is “worthy to be praised.” By considering why we praise men we may be furnished with reasons why God is worthy to be praised.

1. We praise men for the beauty of their persons.

2. For the largeness of their minds. But what are all the intellectual attainments of mortals compared with the infinite mind of God?

3. For the benevolence of their hearts; for their tender sympathetic feelings towards the objects of distress. Then how much does God deserve our praise for His benevolence? This in God is universal, absolute, wonderful, and perpetual. “His mercy endureth forever.”

4. For the liberality of their actions. God scatters His gifts with a most liberal hand. That we may conceive how worthy God is to be praised, consider Him not only in His absolute, but also in His relative character. As a friend, a king, a father. Man’s excellency is derived, God’s attributes and perfections are essentially His own.

David’s confidence. Or what he asserts relative to himself: His purpose was pious, rational, scriptural, necessary, and beneficial. He says, “I shall be saved from mine enemies.” This supposes--

1. That he had enemies.

2. That he was in danger from his enemies. And

3. That he had no expectation of saving himself. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

Verses 4-6

Psalms 18:4-6

The sorrows of death compassed me.

Estimating our sorrows

No attempt is here made to diminish the severity of the crisis. Often when a great agony is overpast, the sufferer himself forgets its intensity and is inclined to think that it might have been cured by less ostentatious menus than had been adopted for its pacification. We are seldom critically correct in the recollection of our sorrows. We either unduly magnify them, or we so far modify their intensity as to make any remedial measures look as simple and superficial as possible. David vividly remembered all his afflictive experience. He does not hesitate to speak of that experience in words which are metaphorical, if not romantic, without at all affecting the reality of the trouble through which he had passed. He says, “the sorrows of death compassed” him. Some have interpreted this expression as birth pangs; others, again, have used the word cords. It has been thought that the figure of the hunter in the next verse, in which we read of the “snares of death,” fixes the meaning there to be cords. In Samuel, David represents himself as submerged or overwhelmed by the progress or waves of the trouble which had been made to pass over him. Sometimes, indeed, we do not know what real trouble we have been in until we have been removed from it for some distance, and thus enabled that we may also recollect our greatest deliverances. There is no true piety in undervaluing the darkness and the horror through which the soul has passed. Instead of making light of the most tragical experiences of life, we should rather accumulate them, that we may see how wondrous has been the interposition of the Divine hand, and how adequate are the resources of heaven to all the necessities of this mortal condition. Even admitting the words to be metaphorical, they present a vivid picture of what human sorrow may be,--whatever may be rationally imagined may be actually undergone; as to David’s consciousness, what is here stated was a matter of the sternest reality. It should be borne in mind, too, that trouble is a different thing to different men, even when it comes in the same guise and quantity. Much must depend upon temperament. Things animate suffer; things inanimate do not respond to the blow with which they are struck. The poetic temperament is the most suffering of all. According to the sensitiveness of the nature is the terribleness of the stroke which falls upon it. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

David’s afflictions and fears

We never can be duly thankful to God if we forget the troubles which we have suffered, and the distress of our souls when they were pressing us down. “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.” When Paul speaks of a great deliverance bestowed upon him in Asia, he says that God had delivered him from so great a death. In another passage he protests that he died daily.

Of the great distresses and dangers of David. David probably enjoyed such happiness and tranquillity as this evil world can afford before he was anointed by Samuel to be king over Israel; but almost from that time, whilst he was yet in early youth, his troubles commenced. His sore distresses were not at an end when he was advanced to the throne. But the greatest of all his dangers after his advancement to the kingdom was that to which he was exposed by his unnatural son Absalom, and his treacherous counsellor Ahithophel.

The consideration of the state of his mind under his troubles.

1. Great sorrow often obtained possession of his soul. “My soul is exceeding sorrowful,” or encompassed with sorrow even unto death. And as David was an eminent type of that blessed person, his sorrows may be considered as an emblem of those unequalled sorrows which seized on our Redeemer when He was bearing our iniquities. Poverty, exile, reproach, and danger of life are evils which make a deep impression of grief upon the minds of most men, especially when they meet together; and David, though a wise and an holy man, was not exempt from the feelings of human nature. But David was often compelled to dwell amongst men who without cause were his enemies (Psalms 56:1-13). And his friends were afraid to perform the offices of friendship. But exile is more distressing to a lover of his country than poverty. It was peculiarly distressing to an Israelite indeed, who could not leave his country without leaving behind him the sanctuary of his God. “They have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go serve other gods. Woe is me that I dwell in Meshech, and sojourn in the tents of Kedar.” His heart was broken with reproach whilst he heard the slanders of many. Continual dangers to himself and to his adherents could not fail to fill his mind with great uneasiness. He had indeed promises which assured him of a happy event to himself, but there is no wonder that his faith, of these promises was sometimes shaken. But to his grief for himself, and for his friends, let us add what he felt for his country, for the indignities done to his God, and even for the guilt and misery which his enemies were bringing upon themselves, and we shall see that he drunk deeper than most other men have done in any age of the cup of affliction. He hated and abhorred every false way, and therefore he was pierced with grief at the sight and hearing of that wickedness which everywhere abounded.

2. Great fear often seized upon him. The floods of ungodly men made him afraid. But of whom was he afraid? Did he think that the Lord had forgotten to be gracious, and had in anger shut up His tender mercies? Surely he was a firm believer in the mercy and faithfulness of God. And yet his faith had a great fight to endure. It was sore tried by many enemies and by ham dispensations of providence. In days of great temptation it is very difficult to restrain those corrupt reasonings by which faith is embarrassed. What if he had made God his enemy? He surely deserved to be rebuked in God’s indignation, and chastised in His sore displeasure. God was true to His word, but His faithfulness was not bullied by destroying in the desert that generation which He brought out of Egypt, although they had the promise of entering into God’s rest which would have been fulfilled to them if they had not come short of it through their own unbelief. Such might be the workings of David’s mind at the times when a deep consciousness of guilt, and a terrifying sense of Divine displeasure discomposed his mind, although during the greater part even of the days of tribulation he could glorify God by an unshaken confidence. No man is always himself. David could often say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” But at other times he cried out in the agony of his soul, “I am cut off from Thine eyes; I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me; I am gone like the shadow when it declineth; I am tossed up and down as the locust.”

Why God suffered the holy man to be brought into such calamitous situations. May we not reasonably hope, that those men whom God blesses with His special favour will be preserved from those sorrows and fears which are the just portion of the wicked? Can He not by His Divine power, by which He rules over the world, set them high above all their enemies, and fill their mouths at all times with songs of triumph? Undoubtedly he can, and undoubtedly He would do it if He saw that it would tend to their best advantage.

1. His faith was tried and approved. We are called to count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trying of our faith worketh patience. Some remains of unbelief were found in David when his faith was tried as it were by fire (Psalms 27:13-14; Psalms 118:1-29).

2. His sore afflictions were means for quickening his devotions. Never was there a more fervent supplicant at the throne of grace.

3. He learned from his sore adversities the value of the Word of God. He learned the value of its promises, its precepts, its warning, its histories.

4. Those graces were improved in him by his afflictions, to the exercise of which he was to be called in the days of his prosperity--his humility, his meekness, his humanity and tenderness of heart to the poor and afflicted. David would not have been such an excellent model for kings as he was if he had obtained the throne like his successors, by hereditary right, without passing to it through a great fight of afflictions. The experience of misery taught him to pity and succour the miserable.

5. His great and sore afflictions prepared the way for those marvellous loving kindnesses which inspired him with joy and praise. He would not have spoken so rapturously on many occasions of the salvations wrought for him by the God of his salvation if he had not tasted the bitter dregs of the cup of affliction.

6. He was designed to be an eminent type of our Lord Jesus Christ in his sufferings and in his exaltation. Many of his Psalms speak of the sufferings and glory of Christ under the figure of his own sufferings and glory.

7. The Church in every age was to derive unspeakable benefit from David’s sufferings,


1. Think it not strange that you must endure many chastisements and trials in the world. Are your afflictions equal in number or greatness to David’s?

2. Admire the providence of God. He knows how to execute His purposes by means which seem calculated to defeat them.

3. Be ready to meet with every occurrence in the course of your lives. You do not know what evil shall befall you; but you know that man is born to trouble. Whilst you enjoy peace and quietness, be thankful but not secure. (G. Lawson.)

The floods of ungodly men made me afraid.--

Excessive wickedness destructive to a nation

By the overflowing of ungodliness the holy writer may be presumed to mean an uncommon prevalence of wickedness exceeding its ordinary measure and proportion in the world. The image represents to us impiety grown to the height, of insolence,. regardless of all rules and unrestrained by discipline.

1. Ungodliness may use to such a pitch of insolence as to be without restraint from laws or authority. The truth of fact is apparent from all histories; and it cannot be wondered at that, when the fear of God and the remonstrances of conscience have lost their force, all human authority proves weak and ineffectual. Civil government is ordained for the punishment of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well, and whenever it is duly executed it promotes and secures the happiness of society; but unless it be assisted, supported, and conducted by religion, all its strength will be but weakness, and all its wisdom folly. If the magistrate be without any restraint flora conscience and religion, the provision of laws will become of little effect. And if the subjects of any community are without any sense of the obligations of conscience and unrestrained by religion, human laws will be found but a weak provision for peace and justice among them.

2. Whenever this is the case there is reason to apprehend the greatest evils in consequence of it. Consider the miserable consequences which even naturally must attend it. When all the wild lusts and passions of corrupt nature are let loose to their several pursuits, unrestrained by Divine and human laws, no person is secured from injury, no property from fraud or rapine. Consider such a land as exposed to the vengeance of an offended God. The natural effects of prevailing impiety are indeed properly inflictions of God, they execute an established rule and constitution of providence, by which it is ordained that all sin should be attended with some immediate punishment. But the justice of God often visits the wicked with some more signal and extraordinary inflictions.

3. What conduct is in duty and prudence required from all who are in view of such a danger.

(1) The ministers of God are by a peculiar call and obligation required to lift up their voice and cry aloud, to warn the people of their transgressions. They are placed as watchmen, and as they that must give account. Besides the special duties of those who are distinguished by a public character, every private subject who has any zeal for the glory of God, or any concern for the welfare of his country, must labour together with them, and according to his station and capacities endeavour to dispel the cloud and divert the impending ruin.

(2) By a resolute application of private reproof and admonition, by a just and open detestation of impiety, and by a vigorous assistance to the magistrate in the assertion of his authority, and the execution of all good laws, to repress the insolence of wicked men, and make the workers of iniquity ashamed.

(3) Upon the whole, everyone who fears God will under so just an apprehension of His judgments set himself with all his strength and with all his might to reduce within bounds the overflowing of ungodliness, and recall the spirit and practice of religion. If this happy effect can be obtained by the united labours and prayers of good men, God will be entreated for the land and turn away His anger from it. (J. Rogers, D. D.)

Verse 7

Psalms 18:7

Then the earth shook and trembled.

Earthquakes, their moral suggestions

It is not for us to speculate concerning the physical causes of earthquakes. With the Bible in our hands we are privileged to regard the mightiest and the most destructive forces of nature as the ministers of His will “who is wise in counsel, benevolent in purpose, and almighty in power.”

The perilous condition of our earthly existence. Deep is the sense of insecurity which the earthquake strikes to our inward souls. But this is only one out of many perils that every moment threaten our destruction. This insecurity shows--

1. The absurdity of setting our affections on material good. Set your affection on things above.

2. The folly of postponing the preparation for eternity. How absurd to presume one minute upon the future, when every minute is uncertain.

The probability of a coming crisis in the history of our planet. Geology teaches that the subterraneous forces of the earth have effected wonderful crises in its history. It is only natural to suppose that the forces which swept away races that preceded them will one day sweep man from its sphere, and make the earth the habitation of other races of existences yet to be created. Science gives a testimony concerning a coming crisis that is positive and satisfactory. The Bible assures us that a crisis awaits the world (2 Peter 3:1-18).

The element of severity in the Divine government. Storms, pestilences, famines, and earthquakes attest severity in the government of God.

1. The sinner deserves the severity.

2. The sinner requires the severity.

The wisdom of seeking the Divine protection.

1. That protection can be obtained through a practical reliance on the mediation of Christ for acceptance.

2. The protection has been obtained. The ancient believers enjoyed it.

3. The protection secures from all danger. Then is God your protector? (Homilist.)

Verse 11

Psalms 18:11

His pavilions round about Him were . . . thick clouds of the skies.

The ministry of the cloud

His pavilions are thick clouds! Then the cloud is not a destructive libertine, some stray, haphazard, lawless force, the grim parent of shadow and chill and tempest. “His pavilions are thick clouds.” The clouds are the dwelling places of God. He lives in them; He moves through them; He pervades them with the gentle ministries of grace and love. “The clouds drop down their dew.” Then the clouds are more than shutters; they are springs. They do more than exclude the sunlight; they are the parents of the fertilising rains, and the drenching mists and dews. It is something of a triumph when we have got thus far in our religious faith. The cloud may hide the light; it does not destroy it. The cloud does not disprove the light; it is really the proof of the light. Without the warm and genial light there could be no cloud; the cloud is the creation of light. When, therefore, the cloud is forming, it means the sun is working. Raindrops can be traced to sunbeams. Love yearns to send a gentle rain, and so love prepares a cloud. So, the cloud is part of the answer to our prayer for dew. If, therefore, I have been asking my God for a softening, fertilising rain, I must not be discomfited by the appearance of a chilling and darkening cloud. If I have been asking for a drenching baptism of dew, I must not lose my heart when there comes a confusing mist. We asked the Lord to bless our nation; there came a chilling disappointment; the answer was in a cloud! Have you ever noticed how many of the dispositions of the perfected life can only be richly gained in the baptism of shadow and tears? And when I contemplate the dispositions which are the creations of the Spirit I feel that for their perfect nourishing something is needed of moistness and of shade. Here is a short list of the beautiful things: “Love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” I am more inclined to call them ferns than flowers! I don’t think they would come to any luxurious profusion and beauty if they were grown in the prolonged and cloudless glare! Here is an exquisite fern--“gentleness.” Where will you find it growing in richest profusion? You will find it growing in the life that has known the shadow and the tear. There is no touch so tenderly gentle as the touch of the wounded hand. There is no speech so insinuatingly sympathetic as the speech of those who have been folded about by the garment of night. Gentleness is a fern, and it requires the ministry of the cloud. Here is another rare and beautiful fern--“long suffering.” How can you grow that in the “garish day”? “Long suffering” is a fern, and it needs the ministry of the cloud. And is it otherwise with the ferns of “goodness” and “love”? How this love fern expands when life passes into the shadow; when husband or child is laid low, how love puts on strength and beauty, whether the lover be peasant wife or queen! Now, I do not think we have any difficulty in perceiving the influence of the cloud in the individual life. “in my distress Thou hast enlarged me.” Enlarged! It is a very spacious word, and includes the complementary meanings of broadening and enrichment. “In my cloud experience Thou hast enriched me!” A man goes into the cloud rough and boorish, and full of domineering aggression, and he emerges from its ministry strangely softened and refined! He entered the cloud hard and dry as a pavement; he emerges with disposition suggestive of the fernery. “In my distress Thou hast enriched me!” But the cloud experience is not only the minister of enrichment, but also of enlargement! It is in the cloud that men grow the fern of a spacious tolerance. Narrowness is transformed to breadth. In the personal life, if it were not for the cloud we should become and remain dry and infertile as Sahara; it is the providential cloud that calls forth the hidden growth, the sleeping ferns, and transforms, the dust heap into a thing of grace and beauty. It is not otherwise with the ministry of the cloud m the sphere of the home. There is many a family which never realises its unity until it is enveloped in the folds of a chilling cloud. Health and luxury are too often divisive; sickness and sorrow are wondrous cements. Luxury nourishes a thoughtless individualism; adversity discovers hidden and profounder kinships. “We shall know each other better when the mists have roiled away!” Ah! but we sometimes never know each other until we meet together in the mist! It is in the common cloud that the family finds its kinship. It is in our sorrow that deep calleth unto deep, and our communion is revealed. Is it otherwise in the larger life and family of the nations? Does the cloud ministry exercise its influence in the State? Surely we may say that the common life of a people is deepened and enriched by the ministry of the shade. A people is not consolidated by common material interests end aims. It is not by free trade or by reciprocity that we shall forge the links of enduring fellowships. Juxtaposition is not fellowship. It is not the prosperous glare that makes us one. We fall apart in the noontide; we draw closer to each other in the night. It is in the national clouds and shadows, and in the nation’s tears that you will find the forces of a true consolidation. The clouds, in their courses, have been the friends of the national life. (J. H. Jowett M. A.)

Verse 13

Psalms 18:13

The Lord also thundered in the heavens.

The terrors of an Eastern thunderstorm

There is said to be something peculiarly terrific in an Oriental thunderstorm. Its vivid lightning and intense darkness, succeeding each other with startling rapidity, are appalling. This is indicated in the words, “at the brightness that was before Him, His thick clouds passed”; that is, passed away. So intense is the light of the lightning’s flash that the whole mass of dark clouds seems to pass away, and their place to be occupied for an instant by a mass of solid light, shedding its beams over everything upon the earth like a midday sun. The light, however, is only for an instant--and then a darkness, that may be felt, shuts up the whole from every vision but His, to whom the darkness and the light are both alike. Meanwhile the roar of the thunder, the voice of the Most High in the clouds, is incessant; the lightnings flashing from cloud to cloud, from the clouds to the earth, and from the earth back again to the clouds. Moreover, it seems as if He who measureth the waters in the hollow of His hand had poured them out, for the rain descends in torrents, mingled at times with destructive hail, while coals of fire--balls of meteoric flame--run along the ground (Exodus 9:23). (David Caldwell, A. M.)

Verse 16

Psalms 18:16

He sent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many waters.

Divine interpositions

We are not as those who believe in two co-existent forces, each supreme, one of whom shall create disasters, and the other distribute blessings. The prince of evil is, according to our faith, subordinate to the great Lord of all. Everywhere is God, and in all things His hand is present; in the things which seem to us evil, as well as in the events which appear to us good, God is at work. We freely admit that we do not understand this, and therefore we do not attempt to explain it; but we believe and adore. We need not try to justify the ways of God with men, for He asks no defence at our hands. If there is a providence, why are such terrible evils permitted?

Miraculous interpositions in the calamities of this life are not to be expected.

1. Such interpositions would change the whole arrangement of the world.

2. If interpositions were given to save the lives of godly men alone, as some would have it, then this world would become the place of judgment, which it is not intended to be.

3. If God were to interpose in the case of all calamities it would involve many evils. It would encourage idleness, neglect of sanitary laws, carelessness, etc.

4. Divine interpositions of a miraculous sort would not be attended with the advantage to the ungodly which we might suppose, because if there were miracles of mercy on the behalf of God’s people to snatch them from a watery grave or other perils, then we might expect to have, and naturally should have, miracles of judgment too.

Providential interpositions are frequent among God’s people. They come in the way of deliverance from floods of trouble. “He took me, He drew me out of many waters.” He does this not by miracles. He violates no law of nature, but yet delivers in a marvellous way. He does not quench the violence of the flame, yet a precious life is saved from a burning building. The Lord allows all the forces of nature to drive on in their ordinary course, and yet the outcome of it all is, that His servant is delivered and his prayers are answered. This He does in various ways. The sick are restored to health. Business is made to prosper. Enemies are turned to friends, or they die, like Haman. Then believe in the unexpected. Believe that God will do for you something which you know nothing about. The Lord always has a plan in reserve. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Deliverance out of deep waters

The testimonies of experience are always welcome to us. In sickness, those of the experienced physician. In battle, those of the proved commander. This Psalm seems to be a leaf taken out of David’s private diary.

Let us inquire whence it was that God took David. “He sent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many waters.” The term “waters” is used in the Scriptures to express a state of trouble and mental disquietude. Apart from the naturalness of the imago as descriptive of something which overwhelms, and desolates, and lays waste, to an Eastern mind this image would have a peculiar force and beauty; for in the mountainous parts of Judea, even as in Switzerland to this very day, the people were liable to sudden inundations, which would sweep away flocks and herds, towns and villages, in their disastrous and overwhelming torrent. Well, David says, “God drew me out of many waters”; intimating, first, his deliverance from the depths of outward danger. And as from many dangers, so from many sorrows had God taken David out. Think of the sorrow of his exile, the sorrows so many and terrible that came upon him through his great sin. And yet God took him out of them all. But sickness, bereavement, exile were not David’s deepest waters; but sin, the displeasure of God, merited condemnation for his offences, who could hold up the bead in such waters? “A wounded spirit who can bear?” The image in the text is commonly used in connection with David’s sins. The penitential Psalms will be found to abound with such allusions. “Out of the depths have I cried,” etc. “I am come unto deep waters.” “Thou hast afflicted me with all Thy waves.” His sins had plunged him into many deep waters. And as with sorrows, so with sins, have we not known a like experience to that of David? May not the same confession of misery which they caused us, and of God’s “God,” says Bunyan, gracious deliverance out of them, come truly from our lips? “God,” says Bunyan, “will sometimes cleave a saint with a wedge of his own timber,” that is, He will make him feel the consequences of his own sin, in order that the bitterness of his distress may draw him to a better choice. But to draw a struggling man out of the waters and to take no further care of him--to leave him on the brink of the same pit, and liable again to make shipwreck in the same sea, this is not the way of Him “whose work is perfect” and therefore we inquire, not only whence God took David, but--

Whither He took him. This David beautifully expresses in the 40th Psalm. “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” Here, then, we have the deliverance perfected. Not only is he raised from the depths, but he is exalted to the heights; not only is he drawn out of the waters, but be is set upon a rock. Fear is superseded by the tranquilities of the promise; a calm conscience stills the agitations of despair. In all your afflictions, therefore, whether of “mind, body, or estate,” trust to the arm which once drew you out of the waters. You are safe where He would draw you; it is even to the rock of His protection, to the secret of His pavilion, to the covering of His arm, to the tower of His great name. And so your comfort is, that if the waters be many, the succours shall be ninny. God will “send from above”; grace from above to deliver you, promises from above to cheer you, a Spirit from above to guide you, a Saviour from above to defend and bless you. When your race is over, when your struggles are finished, and when you are landed safely on the eternal shores, then to the God of all grace shall you sing this song of praise. “He sent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many waters.” (Daniel Moore, M. A.)

Saved from the depths

Jewels long hidden under the lava flood at Pompeii have been recovered undimmed, and divers have recently been searching for valuable gems lost in the sea near Trieste in 1822. When the river overflowed the summer palace of the Shah of Persia at Lar he fled in such haste that his jewels were forgotten. An astute officer of the court gave orders that the banks of the river were to be searched when the flood had subsided, and by this means he restored the jewels to his master, and was rewarded by being promoted to high rank. (W. Y. Fullerton.)

Verses 20-27

Psalms 18:20-27

The Lord reward me according to my righteousness.

Of the justice of David’s behaviour

David’s righteousness. Righteousness consists in rendering to all their due, and the revealed will of God is the standard of it (Deuteronomy 6:25). As we are under infinitely greater obligations to perform our duty to God than we can be under to perform any services to our fellow men, righteousness includes in it that piety which has God for its object, as well as the performance of those duties to which our neighbours have a right. Yet it is not seldom used to denote the rectitude of our dispositions and conduct to our fellow men, as godliness denotes right tempers and behaviour towards God. David laid it down as his settled purpose to walk in the law of the Lord, the great standard of righteousness, and through Divine mercy he was enabled to keep his resolution inviolable through the course of his life. He did not pretend to perfection. He referred all his actions to the glory of God; he loved His testimonies with his whole heart, and took pleasure in the habitation of His house. He made use of all his power to advance the honour of his God.

1. He behaved righteously towards King Saul, his first and great enemy. He was just to all his fellow subjects whilst he lived under the government of Saul. He acquired a high reputation for the prudence with which he managed all his affairs, and he would not have attained this honest fame if he had not abstained from all appearance of evil. We have no reason to form the least doubt of the care that David took, when he was an outlaw and a fugitive, to keep his followers from using any unwarrantable means for the supply of their wants, although they must often have been in extreme poverty. We have a testimonial from Nabal’s servants of the honesty of David’s men, and even of their generous care of Nabal’s substance, at a time when the ,good man was almost reduced to beggary. We have no reason to doubt of David’s rectitude of behaviour in all the dealings that he had with strangers. He had transactions in the time of his troubles with the king of Moab, to whom he committed the care of his father and mother when they could no longer dwell with safety at Bethlehem. We have no further account of any dealings with that prince, although we afterwards find him carrying on a bloody war with the Moabites. We have not the means of knowing whether the king of Moab had provoked this war by cruelty to David’s father and mother; but we can have no doubt that the cause of the war was just on David’s part. After the kind treatment which he received from the king of Gath, he took Gath out of the hands of the Philistines, but the Philistines themselves were the authors of the war. David in his government was a man of blood, but in his disposition he was a man of peace. A necessity was laid upon him to fight the battles of the Lord, and of the people of the Lord. When he was advanced to the throne of Israel it is testified of him that he did justice and judgment to all his people. He tells us (Psalms 75:1-10; Psalms 101:1-8) how he intended to govern his family and his kingdom, and doubtless, as far as human infirmity would permit, he kept his resolution. Gratitude may well be considered as an ingredient of justice. We owe returns of love and of the proper fruits of it to friends who love us, and who are glad to serve us according to the best of their abilities. David’s gratitude to his benefactors was a remarkable part of his character. We find him sending presents of the spoils gained in battle to those places where he and his men were accustomed to haunt. When Saul was dead he was so far from expressing resentment against him, that he inquired whether there were any left of his family, that he might show them the kindness of God for Jonathan’s sake, And many years afterwards he showed that Jonathan was not forgotten by him, when he took care to secure Mephibosheth from the destruction brought upon the family of Saul, at the requisition of the Gibeonites. He was grateful for favours even to those heathens from whom he received any kindness. Nahash, king of the Ammonites, showed kindness on some occasions to David, perhaps rather from hatred to Saul than goodwill to the poor man whom Saul oppressed. Yet David showed kindness unto Hanun, the son of Nahash, for his father’s sake. Righteousness in a king will dispose him to an impartial execution of the laws against criminals. A wise king crusheth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them. But how was this consistent with the favour showed to Joab and to Absalom? Did he not know that God had forbidden any satisfaction to be taken for the life of a murderer? Yes, he knew it very well, and took measures even when he was dying that Joab’s grey hairs should not come down to the grave without blood. It is perhaps impossible entirely to justify him for suffering that bloody man to live so long above the ground. Yet never was lenity to a criminal more excusable. Seldom has a prince or a nation been more indebted to a subject than David and his people were to Joab for brilliant services. And it appears to have been almost impracticable to bring to condign punishment a man so popular, and of such power in the army as Joab. David himself made this excuse for himself when he said, “These men, the sons of Zerniah, are too strong for me.” We may observe likewise that David was once indebted for his own life to Abishai, the brother of Joab, who seems to have had some share in the blood of Abner. He might with some appearance of reason think that he owed a life to the family of his sister Zeruiah, or that at least he might incline to the favourable side when plausible reasons could be advanced for their exculpation. We cannot pretend to vindicate his behaviour in the case of Uriah. But we cannot reprobate that part of his conduct in stronger language than David himself did. We may make the same observation concerning another instance of David’s procedure, which has given occasion to animadversions on his conduct; I mean the charge given to Solomon concerning Shimei. “Behold thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite of Bahurim, which cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim; but he came down to meet me at Jordan, and I sware to him by the Lord, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword. Now, therefore, hold him not guiltless, for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him, but his hoary head bring thou clown to the grave with blood.” We might have observed that fidelity in performing engagements is an essential part of justice in which it cannot be supposed that David would be deficient. But how could David observe his promise and oath to Shimei if he brought down the hairs of Shimei with blood to the grave by the hands of Solomon? A man is no less accountable for what he commands to be done, than for what he does with his own hands. Can we reasonably suppose that David on his deathbed would commit an act of wickedness for which his memory might be detested by all who feared an oath? In fact, we find that the crime of cursing David at Mahanaim was not the ground of the sentence against Shimei, although the reason he had given by that crime to suspect his loyalty was the cause why he was laid under a prohibition of leaving Jerusalem under pain of death. But there is another reading of the last part of the charge equally agreeable to the words of the original, which clears the character of David from all blame, Neither bring down his grey hairs to the grave with blood; keep a strict eye over him as a man disaffected to my family; punish him for any new crime by which he may merit punishment, but let my oath be sacred, and bring not down his grey hairs to the grave with blood, for that crime which I sware by the Lord not to punish with death. Charity is essential to justice. There are duties which we owe to all men, by the second great commandment of the law, the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves. If David had not conscientiously observed this precept he could not have so often appealed to God, the Searcher of hearts, as the witness of his inviolable regard to these Divine testimonies, which were the light to his path and the lamp by which his feet were guided in the way of peace.

God’s regard to David’s righteousness in the deliverances granted to him from his enemies. Without all doubt, David ascribed all the rich favours he received from God to that sovereign and free mercy to which every saint of God must be infinitely indebted (Psalms 86:11; Psalms 116:4-5). He was sensible, like his father Jacob, that he was not worthy of the least of God’s mercies, and that there was no merit in the least of his works (Psalms 138:2-3). But he knew at the same time that, through the infinite mercy of God, the good works of His people are accepted and rewarded by Him (Psalms 11:6). Mercy and truth meet together in God, righteousness and peace kiss each other, and display their united glories in the administrations of His providence to His people. The Lord shows forth the exceeding riches of His grace in making them righteous, and when they are made righteous He shows both His grace and His justice in rewarding them according to their righteousness. There is so much sin mingled even with their good works that, if they were still under the law, they could not escape the condemnation at once of all their works, and of their persons likewise. But all their iniquities, and amongst other iniquities those which cleave to their holy things, are covered from God’s sight. Their good works, therefore, cannot but be well-pleasing to God, and richly rewarded by Him. He will never be unrighteous to forget any of their works or labours of love, and therefore those who follow after righteousness shall have a sure reward. But did not David glory in himself rather than in the Lord when he spoke of his own righteousness m such high terms. This question leads us--

To consider David’s consciousness of his own righteousness. He speaks with perfect assurance concerning the regard which God expressed to his righteousness. Is this the language of humility? It would indeed be very presumptuous to form and to express such a judgment concerning ourselves without searching our own hearts, without comparing them with the law of God, and without finding good evidence that our hearts are sound in God’s statutes. But in none of these particulars had David been negligent.

1. He had searched his heart as well as his ways. “I thought,” he says, “upon my ways., and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies.” He was far from thinking that his ways could be right unless his heart was right in the sight of God.

2. His standard by which be tried himself was the law of his God. He was fully sensible of the folly of trying himself by any other standard.

3. He found in his heart and ways an habitual conformity to the law of God. He was indeed constrained to acknowledge that in many things he had offended God. When he meditated on the admirable purity of the law he cried, “Who can understand his errors? cleanse Thou me from secret faults.” Yet he could with confidence say that he had hoped for God’s salvation, and done His commandments. This conclusion he did not rashly form from the consideration of a few of his actions, or of the frame of his heart at some particular periods of his life. Many deceive themselves by forming a hasty judgment of themselves, founded on temporary impressions made upon their minds in some moments of seriousness, excited by some particular circumstance of providence, or by the transient influence of some Divine truths. He knew the deceitfulness of the heart of man, and that without Divine illumination he might easily deceive himself. He therefore referred himself to God, the Searcher of hearts, to preserve him from entertaining any false hopes of the goodness of his own condition (Psalms 139:23-24).

The assurance which David had of God’s respect to his own righteousness in the deliverances granted to him by His gracious providence. We must not place humility ill all affected ignorance of what is true, either concerning oar own personal righteousness or concerning God’s acceptance of it. Nothing could be more dangerous than the presumption that God is well pleased with us if our way or our heart is perverse before Him (Micah 3:10-12). Nothing could be more unbecoming in a Christian than the forgetfulness of his infinite obligations to that grace which has blotted out his innumerable transgressions. Yet it is desirable for every child of God to be well assured of the cleanness of his hands in God’s sight, and of the acceptance of his works as well as of his person. As it is our duty to pray to God for the acceptance of our services, it must be our duty likewise humbly and thankfully to acknowledge God’s righteousness and grace in His dealings with us. The riches of Divine mercy appear in the acceptance of our works, and in the consequent rewards bestowed on them, as well as in the acceptance of our persons. Were it not that our iniquities are hidden from God’s sight, such works as even David’s could not have been rewarded by that God who is of purer eyes than to behold evil. “Go thy way,” says Solomon, “eat thy bread with cheerfulness, and drink thy wine with a merry heart, for God now accepteth thy works.” If God does not accept our works, we can have no well-grounded pleasure in the bounties of His providence. On the whole learn--

1. The great advantage of walking in the ways of God. “The Lord loveth him that followeth after righteousness. Say ye to the righteous, it shall be well with him.” What reason have we to adore that plan of mercy which allows us to hope for Divine acceptance, and for the reward of our works done to please God, although they are so imperfect that we must daily seek from God the pardon of our iniquities.

2. God’s people ought patiently to hold on in the way of righteousness amidst the most discouraging dispensations of providence. David had, after all his dismal days, a new song put into his mouth to magnify the Lord.

3. When we obtain deliverances it is our duty to consider how we behaved under our troubles. Yet we still ought to bless God for deliverances hem trouble, although we should not dare to say that we have kept the way of God when we are under it.

4. Let us give praise to God for the great salvation wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ. The deliverances of David were salvations to all Israel. It is to be feared that many of us are totally destitute of righteousness. (G. Lawson.)

Justification by works

Why did God delight in David? The Psalmist declares that the ultimate reason was no arbitrary favouritism, but that God delighted in His servant because of his personal faith and character. David asserts the sincerity of his desire to please God; he asserts the uprightness of his conduct before God. The spirit of this appeal is far removed from Pharisaism; it is not an outburst of self-complacency and vain gloriousness, but the legitimate expression of conscious integrity. If the grace of God has done anything for us, why should we not simply and candidly realise and express the fact? Nothing succeeds like success, and we are ignoring a fountain of inspiration when we timidly shut our eyes to, the clear evidences of the victories of the inner life. To the glory of God’s grace let us honestly acknowledge to ourselves and others the growing dominion of righteousness in our soul.

1. God deals with us as we deal with Him. “Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me.” God had dealt with him as he had dealt with God. He trusted God, and God delivered him; he loved God, and God delighted in him; he served God, and God honoured and blessed him. This is ever the great canon of the Divine rule. As we love God, He will love us. “We love God, because He first loved us”; but having known His love, there is a very true sense in which its proportion is henceforth determined by the measure of our reciprocation. As we trust God, He will succour us. A great faith sinks Alpine ranges to a plain, it crosses Atlantic depths dryshod. The lack of such faith entangles us in many embarrassments and miseries. As we serve God He will requite us. According to the measure of our love, faith, and service shall be our safety, strength, and bliss. Are any poor in joy, grace, power, and peace? Let them act more generously towards God.

2. God deals with us as we deal with one another (see Psalms 18:25-26). The great truth taught in these verses is, that God’s dealing with us is regulated by our dealing with one another. This is the clear, hill teaching of the whole of revelation. How mistaken are those who imagine spiritual religion to be anti-social. It is a common complaint that religious faith is a weakening, impoverishing, disintegrating influence in social life: the love given to God is supposed to be subtracted from our love to humanity; the service rendered to the kingdom of God is considered as so much filched from the service of humanity. No mistake could be greater. God does not judge us apart from society, but strictly in and through our relation to it. As we deal with our brother the great Father deals with us. Some people are religious without being good; that is, they are not kind to their fellows, just, generous, truthful, helpful. This will not do. A true Christian is both religious and good. God does not test us by our ecclesiastical life, but by our social, human life. Social duty and spiritual prosperity are closely related. When we suffer stagnation of spiritual life we search for the reason in the neglect of Church fellowship or worship, the reading of God’s Word, or of the sacraments; but the reason will just as often be found in our failure to do justly and to love mercy in our social relation.

3. God deals with us as we deal with ourselves. “I was also upright before Him.” As we honour ourselves by keeping ourselves pure, God honours us by abundance of grace and peace. There is a true sense ill which He accepts us according to our own valuation. If we reverence our body, hallow our gifts, prize our fair name, esteem our time and influence as choice treasure, God follows up such self-respect by great spiritual enrichment and blessing. If we would realise the fulness of blessing we must respect ourselves and keep from iniquity. (W. L. Watkinson.)

God’s interpositions

As a vindication of his own character.

1. He--David--regarded his character as very excellent. Of that excellency he speaks in terms emphatic and strong. Can his language be justified? Not in an absolute sense. Morally, in the sight of God, David was very far from a perfect man. It can be justified in an average sense, and in an official sense.

2. David regarded his character as divinely influential. Was he right in supposing that God came to his deliverance on account of what he was in himself, or on account of what he had done to serve Him?

1. Individual character is known to God.

2. Individual character is interesting to God. Nothing in the universe touches the heart of the Great Father so much as the moral character of His children.

As an illustration of God’s manifestation. He rises to a view of the great principle with which God deals with all His moral creatures. As man is, so is God to him. This is true in two respects.

1. As a personal power. God treats man according to his character.

2. As a mental conception. Man’s idea of God is his God, it is the deity, he worships. Man worships the God he has imaged to himself; and men have different images, according to the state of their own hearts. The revengeful man has a God of vengeance, the sectarian man has a God of sects, the capricious man has a capricious God, the selfish man has a greedy God, the despotic man has an arbitrary God, and the loving man has a loving God. Our moral nature rises and falls with our conception of God, for “man must need assimilate himself to what he worships.” “Every man copies the God in whom he believes.” (Homilist.)

Verse 23

Psalms 18:23

I was also upright before Him, and kept myself from mine iniquity.

The upright heart, and its darling sin

Things that David here takes notice of.

1. The greatness of the danger he was in.

2. The glory of his deliverance, regarded as an answer to prayer.

3. The fruit of it. The love of God is enlarged and inflamed. His confidence in God is enlarged. He is by this quickened and encouraged unto prayer.

4. The grounds of all these mercies. God’s free grace. In the person to whom the mercy is bestowed; for as God stands in a peculiar covenant relation to His people, so He hath a peculiar providence over them. God is with His people at all times, but He is nearest to them in the worst times. David shows wherein his sincerity doth appear. “I have not departed from God wickedly.” “All His judgments were before me.” “I was also upright before Him, and I kept me from mine iniquity.” A sincere heart hath the most serious resolutions, the most unfeigned detestations, and therefore the greatest and the most diligent watchings against his own iniquity, that sin to which his nature is most prone, and wherein he is most apt to be ensnared. In the text are two things.

David’s profession of his sincerity. There is a two-fold perfection. A legal perfection, which is a perfect conformity in nature and in life to the law of God. This was not the perfection that David here spoke of, for his failings were known and confessed by himself. There is an evangelical perfection, according to the tenor of the second covenant, and this is two fold: a perfection of justification, and a perfection of sanctification. There is a walking with God, before God, and after God; that is, in reference to the precepts of God, the providences of God, and the pattern and example of God; and these three expressions set forth a choice perfection. A godly man may have his heart upright and perfect, even in the imperfection of his ways. A man that is sincere is in God’s account a perfect man; sincerity is the truth of all grace, the highest pitch that is to be attained here. Sincerity of heart gives a man boldness, even ill the presence of God, notwithstanding many failings.

The testification of it. How did he prove this perfection? “I have kept myself from mine iniquity.” He refers to some proper and peculiar evil and way of sinning that Was his “special darling”; a beloved sin. His care was to keep himself from it. A man cannot keep himself: the Lord is his keeper. But the Lord will have us cooperate with Him. When we perform anything, by His grace we do it. So we are said to “cleanse ourselves.” The doctrine is this--even the best and dearest of God’s people have some sins that they are more prone to than others, which may be called their own iniquity. What is a man’s own iniquity? In every man by nature sin doth reign, and a man is in just judgment given up unto the power of it. The reign of sin is double, virtual, due to original sin; and actual, due to bias of will. Actual sin is that way of sin and death that a man chooseth to himself, he having looked abroad upon all the contentments of the world, his own corrupt inclination doth choose unto himself to follow with greatest sweetness, and contentment, and delight, as that wherein the happiness of his life consists. What is it for a man to keep himself from his iniquity?

1. He takes care to keep the evil of that sin always in his eye, and to keep himself low in this consideration, that he hath been guilty of it in times past.

2. There is no sin that the heart of man is more perfectly against. The godly man hates that sin most, and breaks out against it with the greatest detestation, by which God hath been most dishonoured, and whereby his conscience hath been most enslaved in times past.

3. He is in this, above all other sins, most jealous of his heart; he fears it in respect of every occasion, and opportunity, and temptation.

4. This sin he prays most against.

5. He turns the edge of the threatening against this sin.

6. He endeavours to grow up in the contrary grace, and strengthens it by all means. How doth this prove a sincere heart? It shows a man to be truly affected by God’s dishonour. It shows the truth of a man’s self-denial, and his hatred against sin. It shows forth the sincerity of a man’s love for God. How may a man know what his “darling sin” is? It is that where a man’s treasure is. It is what is most sweet to him; what he favours most, and hides most. This sin makes all a man’s lusts serviceable to it. It is the sin that most interrupts thee in holy duties. (William Strong.)

I kept myself from mine iniquity.

Kept from iniquity

A personal danger. “Mine iniquity.” This is a dreadful possession to have in the house: a man had better have a cage of cobras than have an iniquity, yet we have each of us to deal at home with some special form of sin. Each man has his own way of sinning. It may take its speciality from our natural constitution. He who judges all men alike does them an injustice. Our tendency is to decry the particular form of sin that we find in others. It may be engendered by education. How impressible we are in childhood! Certain forms of iniquity grow out of our particular condition. Each period of life has its own special snare. It is so with the condition of our life as to our outward circumstances. The rich man has his temptations, and the poor has his. Iniquities come through both prosperity and adversity. Iniquities surround us all in daily life. Your iniquity is likely to be that iniquity which thou hast oftenest fallen into in thy previous life. And that which you do not like to hear condemned is, very probably, your iniquity.

A special guard. “I kept myself from mine iniquity.”

1. You must find out what it is. You must get a clear idea of your own iniquity. Endeavour to get a due sense of its foulness and guilt in the sight of God. Ask the Lord to make thee hate most that sin to which thou art most inclined.

2. Be resolved in the power of the Holy Spirit that this particular sin shall be overcome. There is nothing like hanging it up by the neck,--that very sin, I mean. The true path of safety is to pray and believe against all sin. We conquer sin by faith in Christ.

A happy result. If we do keep from sin, what a blessing it will be to us. It will be a triumph of grace. It will be our best testimony to others. And what a sweet peace this will give to the conscience. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Resolute restraint

A noted characteristic of Mr. Cecil was his decision of character. It is said that he had studied for a painter, and after he had changed his object he retained a fondness and taste for the art. He was once called to visit a sick lady, in whose room there was a painting which so strongly attracted his attention that he found himself diverted from the sick person and absorbed by the painting. From that moment he formed the resolution of mortifying a taste which he found so intrusive and so obstructive to his nobler pursuits, and determined never again to frequent the exhibition.

Our own iniquity

David comforts himself in his innocence and integrity, but ascribes that to God’s restraining and assisting grace, which kept him back from that iniquity to which be was strongly tempted. What that particular sin was is not here mentioned.

There is some particular sin which each one may call his own iniquity. What it is in each case is certainly known to God. And every man may know it himself, by communing with his own heart, and considering his ways; by laying his life to the rule of his conscience, and measuring his conscience by the rule of God’s law. That there is greater proclivity in every, one to some peculiar sins is sufficiently evident from every man’s private conscience.

1. We are more inclinable to some sins than to others, through our natural tempers and complexions. The corruptible body presseth down the soul. And such is the predominancy of some elements and humours, to which the naturalist ascribes the diversity of constitutions, that from thence also the moralist derives the different tempers of men’s minds and inclinations, Thus the sanguine incline most to lust and wantonness, incontinence and intemperance; the choleric to anger and passion, pride and contention; the melancholic to envy, discontent, distrust, and despair; the phlegmatic to covetousness and idleness, and lukewarmness in religion. So that, according to the different constitutions of men’s bodies, there arise different inclinations in their souls and minds; and as it is the proper business of reason to find out and restrain, so it is the great work of grace and religion to subdue and mortify the predominant passion.

At some certain periods of our lives we are more inclinable to some sins than others. Every age of human life has some peculiar darling that commonly bears the sway. In age, men are prone to such things as most conduce to their temporal advantage; they hoard up riches. In youth, men are prone to such things as most gratify their sensual appetites.

We are more inclinable to some sins than others, by reason of our education or our company. By these things men’s minds and manners are as much, if not more, fashioned than by nature itself.

We are prone to some sins through the several states and conditions of life into which providence brings us. When we are healthy and strong we are apt to forget God. Sickness tempts us to be impatient towards Him. Prosperity makes men proud, and abundance insolent and wanton. Adversity tempts us to be envious and querulous, fraudulent and pilfering. There are more temptations to some sins than others, from the different professions or courses of life men take upon themselves.

There are some particular sins to which men are liable through religion itself. Many men’s confidence of their own way is often attended with great censoriousness and uncharitableness towards all that differ from them. Observe that it is possible to keep ourselves from our own particular sins, as David did. This we may do by cherishing the grace that is freely given us of God, and remembering the vows we have so often made Him. What helps and directions are needful?

1. By constant and fervent prayer implore the Divine aid.

2. In vain may we expect God’s help without our own diligent endeavours.

3. Take care to avoid such things and decline such occasions as are most likely to ensnare us.

4. Never think the evil of sin less than it is.

5. Be tender of violating your consciences. (Henry Dove, D. D.)

The Christian successful in conquering his besetting sins

Every man has one or more particular sins to which he, as an individual, is especially prone. The iniquity is emphatically his own. Varied and numerous, indeed, are the sins of the human heart, against which the Christian must guard; but every man has some particular sins which especially cleave to him (Hebrews 12:1), and David seems to allude to such. It would be well for us frequently to examine our own hearts for the express purpose of finding out our besetting sins.

1. There is usually a constitutional propensity to the sin.

2. The circumstances in which the individual is placed may favour the indulgence of the sin. How ill would it have been for Joseph, had he been of profligate nature, that he was placed in the house of Potiphar.

3. And Satan is particularly busy in furnishing temptations to the commission of the darling sin. He knows too well the evil propensities of the human heart, and, like a skilful angler, varies his baits to suit the tastes of his victims. When he saw pride working in the heart of David he provoked him to number Israel.

Every good man, conscious that he is prone to some particular sins, will direct his principal efforts against them. He is anxious to keep himself from his own iniquity. His efforts proceed on enlightened principles. The good man does not presume on his own strength; he devoutly prays for the assistance of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, he is persuaded that vigorous efforts on his part are indispensable, in the order of means. True, no man, strictly speaking, can keep himself.. David could not, he knew he could not; but he means that he had so exerted himself that God had given him success. How to secure this for ourselves I urge--

1. The importance of acknowledging our individual sins when we come before God. Be not content with general confession. For sometimes, when the conscience prompts to minute confession, we restrain the impulse, through a secret misgiving that if cherished it would either prevent the gratification of our favourite lust, or at least augment our subsequent distress, by rendering us the more inexcusable in the indulgence of it. Guard against this delusion. Go and spread your ease, with all its aggravations, before God, and cry for help against the darling sin.

2. The Christian makes it his especial business to mortify the sin: he is not satisfied with merely weakening its power; he aims at its destruction.

3. He forms strong resolutions against the sin. All the powers of his mind are in exercise; he deliberates and resolves to oppose his iniquity. His vows are recorded not on tables of stone, but in the fleshy tables of the heart. Aware of his own weakness, this is his determination--I will go forth against the sin in the strength of the Lord of hosts.

4. He carefully shuns everything which may facilitate the indulgence of the sin. Is intemperance the favourite propensity? In vain do former jovial companions invite him to partake of the intoxicating cup. The Christian will not go in the way of evil men. When unavoidably in circumstances of danger he is doubly on his guard. We are, at times, thus unavoidably placed in such positions.

5. The first risings of the sin he quickly and stoutly opposes. Nothing is more important than this. It is the part of wisdom to commence the attack, before the enemy has time to concentrate his forces. The smallest aperture in the embankment of a mighty river should be stopped, or it will increase, and the waters deluge the surrounding country, in spite of all resistance. The single spark must be extinguished, or a general conflagration may ensue.

6. The Christian furnishes his mind with cogent arguments, especially Scriptural ones, against his particular sins. If the prince of heathen philosophers could subdue his passionate temper by considerations derived from reason only, how much more may be expected from us who have reason and revelation both. Let the Psalmist teach us, who said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”

7. He will carefully cherish the opposite graces. The timid child we stimulate to acts of bravery, convinced that as these acts increase his timidity Will decline. It is thus in the school of Christ; the more individual graces are cherished, the more their opposite vices will diminish.

8. He vigorously perseveres, till he has in a great measure gained his end.

Success in his efforts the good man will ever regard as an invaluable blessing. He can scarcely find language sufficiently elevated to express his feelings. Oh, success in these efforts, what a blessing!

1. It is a signal victory: a powerful enemy is subdued. Would you estimate its power? How difficult victory was. How many have fallen ill such conflict.

2. No other victory can equal it. He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city.

3. The results are glorious. For--

(1) Other conflicts are rendered comparatively easy: The soldier who has stormed the strongly fortified castle has no difficulty in battering down the mud walls of a cottage; and the Christian who has subdued his reigning sin has a fair prospect of overcoming his other iniquities.

(2) It affords the most decisive evidence of personal piety. How anxious the believer is to make his calling and election sure, and where is he to look for decisive evidence? But if he be successful in the subjection of reigning lusts, his conscience assures him this is the best evidence.

(3) It enables the Christian to discharge the duties, and realise the privileges of religion, with greater spirit and delight.

(4) It diffuses a sweet calm over the soul and imparts solid satisfaction. Suppose the reigning passion indulged, what evil consequences ensue. The gratification, too, is but momentary. Soon it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder. How delightful the feelings of David when Abigail kept him from shedding the blood of Nabal.

(5) It is particularly pleasing to God, and will be honoured, not only now but hereafter, with the emphatic marks of the Divine approbation. Oh, ye in whose hearts sin reigns without opposition, beware lest iniquity be your ruin. Take refuge in the Lord Jesus. Pray for the Spirit of God. Christians, if the subject has been exemplified in your happy practice, be humble, be grateful, and give God the praise. If it has reproved and grieved you, remember it is designed to stimulate and profit you. Rely upon the Spirit of God, and fear not to say, “I will keep myself from mine iniquity.” (Essex Remembrancer.)

Verses 25-26

Psalms 18:25-26

With the merciful Thou wilt show Thyself merciful.

Poetic justice actual justice

What we call poetic justice pervades the whole Bible. We feel ill the advancing civilisations that there is a reaching more and more to a realisation of this justice. In Job we have its full exemplification. There the latter end of the history of the mart vindicates all. It is a dangerous teaching that some people try to wring out of the New Testament, that good people must not expect success in this world; that only the children of this world are wise in their generation, and can secure to themselves worldly prosperity. The opposite teaching is not near so dangerous, and not so wide of the truth, that all things will come out well in this life for those who do right. It does not always so turn out, but this is the tendency. We do not believe it is a good policy even in the material world to be bad. With the merciful God is merciful, and with the pure He is pure, and with the froward He is froward. Let us go beyond the physical world into the moral world. God is present with His world, governing it constantly. I do not believe that He is unknowable. He has wrought Himself in all His work, and is, of all powers, the most perpetually forced upon our attention. All science, all art, all of our studies are theological studies. Now, God reveals Himself as always on the side of right. In the moral world penalty follows wrong, and reward follows right with unfailing certainty. There is no confusion, there is no uncertainty in the moral world. Judgment is present everywhere. Of all scepticism, that is the most dangerous that questions the fundamental difference between right and wrong in their nature and tendencies. Plutarch speaks of the delay of judgment. There is no such delay. It comes, and comes at once. There are various elements that go to make up this penalty. Remorse, which is everywhere present in greater or less degree. Various social and civil penalties. The actual loss in our moral natures. Our idea of God is determined largely by our own character. The vision we have of God in the plain of the intellectual perception is a reflection of our own selves. The God of each man is different from the God of other men. As you are, so is your God. (John W. Chadwick.)

God’s mercy among Christians

It is only in a rough sort of way at the best, as far as observation of individuals will carry us, that we see distinction made by Providence between the upright and the froward. But as no one knew better than the author of this Psalm, it is not to the fortunes of men, but to their whole experience as rational and spiritual beings, that we have to look in order to see how true it is that God shows Himself to every man according to what every man is.

In the first place, our life is experience of God; for in Him most literally we live and move and have our being. If we find that this set of actions has one result and that set has another--this, as far as it goes, is a most authentic revelation to us of God. To say, therefore, that life is different to different men, above all as they differ in point of spiritual character, is to say that God shows Himself to them as so many different gods. To an honest man life is different from what it is to a rogue; different to a merciful man from what it is to a churl or a miser; different to a pure man from what it is to a sot or a debauchee. To take the illustration which is nearest at hand--David would have had a different experience from Saul whether he had or had not got Saul’s place. The one man could be eminently happy with a shepherd’s crook, and it mattered little to either so long as each was what he was in character. No two men could have had a more different experience in their lives; but the difference, such as it was, we can see, was in themselves--not made by their fortunes, but by their characters; not by the events of peace or war, but by the quality of mercy in the one case and of wilfulness in the other. Thus justice is done between man and man where justice is sure, and where it is perfect--in themselves. Many good people at the present time are haunted by an alarm which is altogether visionary. Look, they say, how many who live vicious lives know nothing of remorse! If there be no such thing as eternal punishment for the wicked, then there is no punishment; if there be no hell, there is no harm. But this is to take a very narrow view of human experience. There is much more remorse in people’s hearts than they wear upon their sleeves. Many a smiling face, if you could get behind that mask, would show you grim enough features. At the same time, I grant readily that if remorse, so called, were all the difference between man and man on the score of character, the difference might seem to be trifling. It is the best and not the worst natures which know most of remorse. A good man falls into sin, and he knows what hell is. The wicked have no bands in their death. Consciences, which ought to burn, are seared; they should be live coals, and they are white cold ashes. I grant all this. But is there nothing besides remorse in question as between life and life? For apart from remorse and everything like it, and in the nature of things, and everywhere and always, it is one thing to be upright and another to be wilful, it is one thing to be a kind man and another to be an unkind, one thing to be pure and another to be impure. The good of being good is ill being so, and not in having no remorse; and the evil of being evil is in being so, and not in having remorse. Why will people so constantly forget this or overlook it? It is not that these different men have here and there, at odd moments, different or contrary experiences, but that the world in which each lives is a wholly different world. I know, for certain, that he who loves righteousness and truth and goodness would think that fate the cruellest of all possible which condemned him to be a rogue or a hypocrite. Thus, in the first place, because life is experience of God, to different men God is different. But I hasten now to remark that to different men--

He is also different as an object of study and reflection. On many other subjects, or rather on most, if people agree they do agree, and if they differ they differ, and there is an end of it. But it is different with regard to the highest object of human thought--God. People may agree, and do agree, in their language respecting Him, who have little or nothing in common in their thought and meaning. In point of fact, I venture to say, in the first place, among us, who all profess the same creed, there are Gods many and Lords many. Wesley, it is said, remonstrated with Whitfield as to his ideas of God, telling him, “your God is my devil.” And is it not obvious that something of the same sort might be said by sets of Christians at the present day to other sets? It is not what you read in sacred books, but the common notions of men that shape the common beliefs about God. Protestants do not believe in the God of the Romanist, nor he in heirs, though they have the same Bible and the same great articles of faith. To be condemned to think of God, as some men think of Him, and must think of Him, their life being stronger than their creed, not as a being to be loved, but as one to be feared or hated--this is punishment. If the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness? If your religion is night, where is your day? If God is a bugbear, what is your life? What other gain, or reward, or happiness, on the other hand, would you desire than the religion of Christ--to love righteousness and truth and goodness with all your heart and soul and strength and mind, and to believe that God, who is over all, and is the Beginning and the End of all, is all that you love? What other reward, gain, happiness would you have than that? Christianity is a sorry gain, I admit, to many who profess it, except it be the only escape from the bottomless pit, and from the lake of fire and brimstone. It is a sorry gain to those, and they are many, whose notion is that something which God can give them, or some place in which He can put them, will be heaven. But that which makes God Himself our heaven is great gain, without reference to any life but this. With this a man might live and die, and doubt if he is to live again, and with his last breath bless God--the merciful man’s God, and his exceeding great reward.

I have but to add, then, last of all, as the practical lesson which we get from all this--a man may change his Church and his creed and not change his God; but he changes his God when he changes his life. Let us, by trying to do the will of God in our daily life, learn of the truth whether it be of God. Otherwise we shall never learn it. (J. Service.)

The attitude of God towards good and bad men

Even as the sun, which unto eyes being sound and without disease is very pleasant and wholesome, but unto the same eyes, when they are feeble, sore, and weak, is very troublesome and hurtsome, yet the sun is ever all one and the self same that was before; so God hath ever shown Himself benign and bountiful to those who are kind and tender hearted towards His saints, and are merciful to those who show mercy. But unto the same men, when they fall into wickedness, and grow and are full of cruelty, the Lord showeth Himself to be very wrathful and angry, and yet is one and the same immutable God from everlasting to everlasting. (Robert Cawdray.)

Verse 28

Psalms 18:28

Thou wilt light my candle.

Lighted candles

In the East the poorest people burnt a lamp all through the night time, for they dreaded a dark house as a terrible calamity. When they had light they were happy, and in some degree prosperous. David says that God will light his home lamp for him, and will thus make his home happy for him. In Proverbs 20:27 we find this sentence, “The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord.” The question is, are we lighted candles? Away in the north there is a lighthouse that has no light at all in it; but yet it shines, because a light that burns upon the shore is reflected into the lantern far out at sea. All very well for the lantern, but it will not do for us; we must have the light within ourselves. But we cannot light ourselves. Jesus must light up our souls by giving us His Spirit, and when He does this then we can give light to others and get more light from Him. If He does this for us we must continue burning. Jesus desires this, and also that we should burn properly. George Whitfield said he hoped he “should die blazing, and not go off as a snuff.” And remember that our lighted candle may light another candle, and yet have as much light as it had before. God uses one soul to help and bless another soul. In the diary of Thomas Carlyle there was a sketch of a candle that burned as it wasted. Underneath Carlyle had written, “May I be wasted, so I be of use.” (J. J. Ellis.)

Lighting our candles at heaven’s torch

That which makes a candle what it is is its adaptation to receive light, and by burning itself to transmit that light. God is the great Light of this universe, and we know not of how many universes besides. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” That is the one great central fact which keeps mankind from despair,--the assurance that at its heart the universe is not dark but bright; it is bright with wisdom, bright with power, and bright with love. It is man’s supreme glory that he has this kinship with God. However dark his nature may have become through sin, it is of such a kind that it can be lighted from heaven’s torch. There has never yet been discovered any man or any tribe of men who did not have this power or capacity to receive Divine illumination. Now, there is one thing to which I specially desire to call your attention, and that is that the candle, in order to receive the light from the match or the taper or the torch, must yield itself to the light. There is no way to shine except by burning ourselves. Though we were created as the candles of the Lord, we have the power to refuse to give our hearts up to be lighted by heaven’s fire Indeed, we may, if we are foolish and wicked enough to do it, lend our hearts to be lighted by the devil’s fire, and give forth a baleful flame that will make the darkness deeper not only for ourselves, but for everyone who is influenced by us. God will not forcibly take our candle and light it at the heavenly fire. We must yield it to His hands through our own decision. (L. A. Banks, D. D.)

The Lord my God shall make my darkness to be light.--

Light out of darkness

David’s deliverance from his enemies was the work of no human strength or skill, but of the unseen Master whom David served, and therefore he is so buoyant and hopeful as he looks forward to the future. The future had troubles in store for David,--troubles in his family, troubles with his subjects, and, worst of all, troubles that would come of his own misconduct. But be the future what it may, David can rest upon the moral certainty that he will still enjoy that illuminating and strengthening presence of which he has had experience in the past. This confidence in a light that will not fail in the dark hours of life is eminently Christian. There are three dark shadows which fall across every human life--the shadow of sin, the shadow of pain, and the shadow of death.

The shadow of sin. Sin is the transgression in will or in fact of the eternal moral law. Sin itself is the contradiction of God, it is the repudiation of God, the perverse activity of the created will. Sin is not always an act: often it is a state; it is an attitude of the will, it is an atmosphere of mind and disposition; it pervades thought, it insinuates itself into the springs of resolve, it presides over life where there is no conscious or deliberate intention of welcoming it, it changes its form again and again. But throughout it is one in root and principle, the resistance of the created will to the will of God: and this resistance means darkness, not in the sky above our heads, but far worse--darkness in the moral nature, darkness in the moral intelligence, darkness at the centre of the soul. This darkness was felt in the degree possible to them by the heathen. It explains the vein of sadness which runs through the highest heathen literature. For us Christians the sin is blacker, and the shame is greater in proportion to our higher knowledge of God and His will. In order to escape from this dark shadow, men have tried to persuade themselves that sin is not what we know it to be, and the conscience which reveals it to us is only prejudice, or a bundle of prejudices accumulated through centuries of human life. But the shadow of sin cannot be conjured away; it lies thick and dark upon human life. Upon us, sitting as we are in the darkness of the region of the shadow of death, there shines the sun of God’s pardoning love, and He, our Lord and God, in very deed makes our darkness to be light.

The shadow of pain. We know pain, not in itself, but by its presence, by its effects. The problem of pain is a distressing, almost overwhelming one. It is pain which dogs our steps from the cradle to the grave. It is not limited to man’s bodily constitution; the mind is capable of sharper pain than any that can be caused by a diseased or wounded body. How to deal with pain; how to alleviate it; how to do away with it--these have been questions which men have discussed for thousands of years. Pain, on the whole, remains inaccessible to human treatment, and especially does it resist attempts to ignore its bitterness. Pain in the world of men is the consequence of wrong-doing, but our Lord did no guile, and yet He was a sufferer. Man suffers more than the animals, the higher races of men suffer more than the lower. As the Man of Sorrows, our Lord showed that pain is not to be measured by the reasons for it which we can trace in nature; it has more and larger purposes, which we can only guess at, but as associated with resignation, love, sanctity, pain is most assuredly the harbinger of peace and joy. On the Cross its triumph was unique; it availed to take away the sin of the world.

The shadow of death. The thought that death must come at last casts over thousands of lives a deep gloom. No real comfort is to be had by reflecting that the laws of nature are irresistible. The darkness of the grave is not less lightened by our Lord and Saviour than is the darkness of sin or the darkness of pain. He has entered the sphere of death, and with Christians death is no longer dark. That our Lord makes these three dark shadows to be light is the experience in all ages of thousands of Christians. (Canon Liddon.)

Verse 29

Psalms 18:29; Psalms 18:33-34

By Thee have I run through a troop.

Surmounting impossible difficulties

This is a poetical way of representing the fact that impossibilities have often been made possible in our own experience. Looking back upon certain combinations of circumstances, we cannot but feel that we were surrounded by great and high walls, and that troops of dangers thickened around us in deadly array, Now that we see ourselves in a “large place,” we are tempted to believe that we are still in a dream, and that our liberty is a thing which we hold only in the uncertain light of a momentary vision. When our imagination is vexed by the cross colours which make up the panorama of life, it is easy to persuade us that tomorrow we shall be back again in chains, for we have enjoyed but an imaginary liberty. Then, under happier circumstances, we see how the miracle is a simple reality,--that we have in very deed escaped perils which at one time seemed to be insurmountable, and that our escape is due entirely to the exercise of the almightiness of God. It is remarkable how, under such circumstances, we unconsciously magnify our own importance in the universe. We do not mean to be ostentatious and proud when we declare that God has exerted Himself specially on our behalf, and has indeed Himself been disquieted until our comfort was restored and established. The Psalmist speaks here as if he were the sole object of the Lord’s care, and as if the Infinite took delight only in his well-being and prosperity. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Energy put into a man

Sir Alexander Ball was one of those great men who adorned our navy at the end of the eighteenth century. The following anecdote is told of him by his friend the poet Coleridge. “In a large party at Malta I had observed a naval officer listening to Sir A. Ball with a mixed expression of awe and affection that gave a more than common interest to so manly a countenance. This officer afterwards told me that he considered himself indebted to Sir Alexander for that which was dearer to him than his life. ‘When he was Lieutenant Ball,’ said he, ‘he was the officer I accompanied in my first boat expedition, being then a midshipman, and only in my fourteenth year. As we were rowing up to the vessel which we were to attack, amid a discharge of musketry, I was overpowered by fear, and seemed on the point of fainting away. Lieutenant Ball, who saw the condition I was in, placed himself close beside me, and still keeping his countenance directed towards the enemy, pressed my hand in the most friendly manner, and said in a low voice, ‘Courage, my dear boy. You will recover in a minute or so. I was just the same when I first went out in this way.’ ‘Sir,’ added the officer to me, ‘it was just as if an angel had put a new soul into me. With the feeling I was not yet dishonoured, the whole burden of agony was removed; and from that moment I was as fearless and forward as the oldest of the boat’s crew.’”

One trophy for two exploits

What is true of David is true of David’s Lord. The Holy Ghost has presented to us the experience of Jesus in that model of experience through which David passed. So the text tells both of Christ and the believer also. Let us speak of it.

In relation to Christ. And

1. For the first sentence, “By Thee have I run through a troop.” Christ’s enemies were as a troop for number. Who can count them? But also for their discipline. They were marshalled under that skilful and crafty leader Satan, the arch fiend and Prince of Darkness. And his servants are well trained. He came against Jesus with his army, in settled order. It was no wild rush of Some Tartar host, but a well arranged and well regulated attack. Never let us undervalue the strength of Christ’s enemies. Now, this sentence has been read in varied ways, and each is very suggestive. One reads it, “By Thee have I run to a troop”; so that Jesus did not wait for the attack, but made it Himself, See how He went forth to meet Judas and the armed band on the night of the betrayal. But our version reads, “through a troop,” and this is also accurate. For His victory was complete. They stood firm as if they would not flinch, they thought they had defeated Him; but His Cross was the very symbol of His omnipotence, for in weakness was He strong. See Him running through this troop. And how speedily. His sufferings were but short. What a stride was that which Jesus took when He marched right through His enemies, and laid them right and left slain before Him. There is yet another version, “By Thee have I run after a troop.” As if he would say, “I met them, fought them, vanquished them, pursued them, and captured them.” “He led captivity captive. Note the words, “By Thee. He acted as the servant of God. But it is blessed to think that the Father as well as the Son, yea, the whole Trinity of sacred Persons, is engaged for our redemption.

2. The second sentence, “By my God have I leaped over a wall.” David seems to be describing the capture of some fortress, such as Jebus, afterwards called Jerusalem. Now Satan had shut us all up in a mighty fortress. It had as one bulwark the strength of sin and the law; as another the suggestions of Satan to men’s hearts; and then there was the deep ditch of men’s sins, and the mound outside of Human Depravity. Now Christ comes, and He leaps over these walls. And He not only Himself surmounted these walls, but brought all His people on His shoulders, as AEneas carried off his old father Anchises. And all this also was “by my God.” He acted as Mediator. Let our souls meditate much upon Christ’s victories.

To the believer. He has his troops of enemies and his imprisoning wall. But sometimes he makes the mistake of trying to climb over the troop when he should break through them, and of trying to break through the wall which he should climb over. Let him have courage for the troop to run through them, and discretion for the wall to climb over it. And by means of faith he can do this. Luther often used to defy Satan to battle. I care not to do that, but he used in his queer quaint way to say, “I often laugh at Satan, and there is nothing makes him so angry as when I attack him to his face, and tell him that through God I am more than a match for him, tell him to do his worst, and yet I will beat him; and tell him to put forth his fury, and yet I will overcome him.” He that has made God his refuge need fear no storm. “Look,” said a poor woman to a lady who called to see her, “Look, ma’am, I’ll show you all I’m worth.” And she showed her her cupboard with nothing in it but a dry crust; and a chest, but it was empty. “That is all I am worth, ma’am, but I have not a doubt or fear but that God will supply my need.” Now that woman bad learnt how to run through a troop and by her God to leap over a wall. What have you for your soul like that? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 30

Psalms 18:30

As for God, His way is perfect.

God’s ministries

Many mythologies have told how the gods arm their champions, but the Psalmist reaches a loftier height than these. He ventures to think of God as doing the humble office of bracing on his girdle, but the girdle is itself strength. God, whose own “way is perfect,” makes His servant’s way in some measure like His own; and though, no doubt, the figure must be interpreted in a manner congruous with the context, as chiefly implying “perfection” in regard to the purpose in hand - namely, warfare - we need not miss the deeper truth, that God’s soldiers are fitted for conflict by their “ways” being conformed to God’s. This man’s “strength was as the strength of ten, because his heart was pure.” Strength and swiftness are the two characteristics of antique heroes, and God’s gift bestowed both on the Psalmist. Light of foot as a deer, and able to climb to the robber forts perched on crags as a chamois would, his hands deft, and his muscular arms strong to bend the bow which others could not use, he is the ideal of the warrior of old; and all these natural powers he again ascribes to God’s gift. A goddess gave Achilles his wondrous shield, but what was it to that which God binds on this warrior’s arm? As his girdle was strength, and not merely a means of strength, his shield is salvation, and not merely a means of safety. The fact that God purposes to save, and does act for saving, is the defence against all dangers and enemies. It is the same deep truth as the prophet expresses by making “salvation” the walls and bulwarks of the strong city where the righteous nation dwells in peace. God does not thus arm His servant and then send him out alone to fight as he can, but “Thy right hand holds me up.” What assailant can beat him down if that Hand is under his armpit to support him? The beautiful rendering of the Authorised Version, “Thy gentleness,” scarcely conveys the meaning, and weakens the antithesis of the Psalmist’s “greatness,” which is brought out by translating “Thy lowliness,” or even more boldly, “Thy humility.” There is that in God which answers to the peculiarly human virtue of lowliness; and unless there were, man would remain small, and unclothed with God-given strength. The devout soul thrills with wonder at God’s stooping love, which it discerns to be the foundation of all His gifts, and therefore of its blessedness. The Singer saw deep into the heart of God, and anticipated the great word of the one Revealer, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The perfection of providential dispensations

David had by this time followed the Lord through many a dark step, and he had endured various troubles. Now he is looking back and giving his verdict as to them all. There is--

1. A magnificent preface--“As for God.” He is standing up for God.

2. What of God he commends--“His way,” whether it be that in which men walk with God, personal holiness, or the way wherein God walks with men--the way of His providence, His dispensations.

3. The commendation is perfect. Now, in illustration of text--

To our corrupt eyes God’s way is not always perfect. Because--

1. We cannot always see the reason of it (Psalms 77:19). The Lord leads man he knows not where. We have to wait to know (Acts 10:17; John 13:6-7).

2. It sometimes seems to forget the promises. We are ready to cry, as in Jeremiah 15:18, “Wilt Thou be altogether unto me as a liar?” Abraham went in to Hagar for this reason.

3. It sometimes goes cross to the promises, as when Abraham was commanded to offer up Isaac. See also Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:1). The way in the wilderness is often crooked.

4. It runs at times seemingly quite contrary to the design of Providence. The Lord designs good, but disappointment after disappointment cross it more and more. Thus it was with Joseph when cast into the dungeon. Oftentimes Providence reads best backwards (Deuteronomy 32:36). Sometimes--

5. It lays aside the most likely means (1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 2 Kings 5:11; John 16:6-7). Sometimes--

6. It falls on means quite contrary to its design. As when clay was used to cure the blind. When the Lord heals by wounding (Romans 8:28). Then--

7. Providence smiles though wicked men get the sunny side of the brae and walk contrary to God. This made Asaph stammer (Psalms 73:12-14, and Jeremiah 12:1-2). But there is no fault in this (Psalms 92:7). See the end of all these things.

8. The good troubled (Ecclesiastes 8:14). Job. But 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. And--

9. Great afflictions meeting the Lord’s people in the way of duty. This often Jacob’s case.

But God’s way is perfect. It is according to the pattern shown in the Word. Is suited to our need (Deuteronomy 32:4). Is ever suited to the time. Is stable. (T. Boston. D. D.)

The Word of the Lord is tried.--

The Bible tested and triumphant

Look at some of the severe tests to which the Bible has been subjected, and by successfully meeting which it has vindicated its claims to a Divine origin, and to universal human acceptance.

The bible has stood the test of time. Since the Sacred Canon closed, how many and how vast are the changes which have gone on among men. Hardly one of the ancient powers is today extant. How great have been the strides of human progress! Yet the science of salvation, as taught in the Bible, has needed no remodeling. The race does not outgrow the religion of the Bible. Compare the case of the Bible with the poems of Homer. The two works are, in a certain sense, contemporaneous; critics have denied to the Bible any higher inspiration than that of human genius; and Greek poetry held among that ancient people very much the same place as did the sacred Scriptures among the Jews. Three thousand years ago the two works stood before the world on a comparative equality. How stands the case today? Homer is read as a model of epic verse and specimen of old Ionic Greek. The Bible is read everywhere as a transcript of the Eternal.

The test of criticism. Criticism, the most searching and severe to which any work has ever been subjected. A criticism often hostile. But the old Book has come out of it only purified.

The test of practical trial. In the patent office are models of many beautiful machines that could not be worked. The Book will stand every practical test. It gives the solution of the great enigmas of the human soul, and provides the consolation for life’s dark hours, those hours of disappointment, adversity, sorrow, and bereavement which come so surely to us all. (B. B. Loomis, Ph. D.)

The Word of the Lord commended to our faith by its being a tried Word

A thing that has been tried is deemed all the more valuable on that account. A medicine which has been found on trial to be a sure remedy for certain kinds of disease is held in high estimation. It is thus that the Word of the Lord is commended to our high esteem. It is a tried Word.

Science has tried it. For though at first it denied, now it does homage to the Word of God. For example--

1. Geology. In its early development many facts were brought forward that seemed to bear hard on Scripture statements. Several years since the discovery was made, or was thought to be made, by perforating the successive lavas formed by the volcanic overflowings of Mount AEtna, that the earth must have existed, in its present form, at least fourteen thousand years. The discovery was published by Brydone, an English traveller in Sicily, and flew like light through Europe, and was seized upon by multitudes as furnishing complete evidence that the chronology of the Bible is false and the Bible itself untrue. But subsequent investigation has proved that the supposed discovery was based on an entirely false view of facts. At a later period the astronomical tables of India were supposed to furnish incontestable proof of a much higher antiquity belonging to our globe than is assigned it according to the writings of Moses. But these same astronomical tables were afterwards examined by the great French philosopher Laplace, and were demonstrated to be of comparatively modern date, and furnish not the slightest evidence against the Mosaic chronology. In like manner the variety of languages, and the diversity of colour and form which distinguish the different races of men, have often been urged with great confidence as disproving the account given in Genesis of the common origin of mankind. But the study of ethnography, or the classification of nations by a comparison of their languages, together with a better acquaintance with the natural history of man, has removed this objection, and shown to the satisfaction of the most competent judges that the human race sprang from a common pair. It is with science as it is with the human mind in youth, it is apt to be self-conceited and sceptical; but in its maturity it becomes humble, modest, and reverent of God’s Word. Hence, as Professor Hitchcock of Amherst College says in his Religion of Geology, “Every part of science which has been supposed, by the fears of friends or the malice of foes, to conflict with religion, has been found at length, when fully understood, to be in perfect harmony with its “principles,” “and even to illustrate them.

Time has tried it. It is with the Bible as it is with its Divine Author: “One day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

Friends have tried it. For they have been all made such by the transforming and subduing power of the Word itself. Consider their numbers, and what it has done for them, and the circumstances under which they have made trial of it and never found it fail.

Enemies have tried it: by persecution; by laws directed against it; by ridicule; by philosophy, and by every means left at their command. Still the object of all these attacks remains uninjured, while one army of its enemies after another has passed away in defeat and dishonour. Though it has been ridiculed more bitterly, misrepresented more grossly, opposed more rancorously, and burnt more frequently than any other book, or perhaps than all other books united, it is so far from sinking under the efforts of its enemies that it is plainly gathering fresh strength from age to age, and the probability of its surviving until the consummation of all things is now far greater than ever.

It has been tried in its influence on individual character, upon society, and all the best interests of man. See what institutions it has founded for human good, and maintains them still. Hence learn--

1. There is no fear for the future. As nature’s answers are ever uniform and constant and true, so are those of the Word of the Lord.

2. It is a serious matter for anyone to set himself “against” it. Voltaire said, “It has been the boast of ages that twelve men established Christianity in the world. I will show the world that one man can destroy it.” But where is Voltaire, or what did he accomplish of his impious boast? He lived long, and he worked hard and went down to the grave, cursing the horrid work in which he had spent his days.

3. Let us all prepare to meet the scenes which it tells us are yet before us: death, judgment, eternity. Prepare to meet your God, prepare, through His mercy in Christi to meet Him in peace. For the time is at hand when all that He has said in His Word of the righteous and the wicked, and of heaven and hell, will be matter of experience, of personal unchanging experience to us all. (Joel Hawes, D. D.)


Verses 33-34

Psalms 18:29; Psalms 18:33-34

By Thee have I run through a troop.

Surmounting impossible difficulties

This is a poetical way of representing the fact that impossibilities have often been made possible in our own experience. Looking back upon certain combinations of circumstances, we cannot but feel that we were surrounded by great and high walls, and that troops of dangers thickened around us in deadly array, Now that we see ourselves in a “large place,” we are tempted to believe that we are still in a dream, and that our liberty is a thing which we hold only in the uncertain light of a momentary vision. When our imagination is vexed by the cross colours which make up the panorama of life, it is easy to persuade us that tomorrow we shall be back again in chains, for we have enjoyed but an imaginary liberty. Then, under happier circumstances, we see how the miracle is a simple reality,--that we have in very deed escaped perils which at one time seemed to be insurmountable, and that our escape is due entirely to the exercise of the almightiness of God. It is remarkable how, under such circumstances, we unconsciously magnify our own importance in the universe. We do not mean to be ostentatious and proud when we declare that God has exerted Himself specially on our behalf, and has indeed Himself been disquieted until our comfort was restored and established. The Psalmist speaks here as if he were the sole object of the Lord’s care, and as if the Infinite took delight only in his well-being and prosperity. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Energy put into a man

Sir Alexander Ball was one of those great men who adorned our navy at the end of the eighteenth century. The following anecdote is told of him by his friend the poet Coleridge. “In a large party at Malta I had observed a naval officer listening to Sir A. Ball with a mixed expression of awe and affection that gave a more than common interest to so manly a countenance. This officer afterwards told me that he considered himself indebted to Sir Alexander for that which was dearer to him than his life. ‘When he was Lieutenant Ball,’ said he, ‘he was the officer I accompanied in my first boat expedition, being then a midshipman, and only in my fourteenth year. As we were rowing up to the vessel which we were to attack, amid a discharge of musketry, I was overpowered by fear, and seemed on the point of fainting away. Lieutenant Ball, who saw the condition I was in, placed himself close beside me, and still keeping his countenance directed towards the enemy, pressed my hand in the most friendly manner, and said in a low voice, ‘Courage, my dear boy. You will recover in a minute or so. I was just the same when I first went out in this way.’ ‘Sir,’ added the officer to me, ‘it was just as if an angel had put a new soul into me. With the feeling I was not yet dishonoured, the whole burden of agony was removed; and from that moment I was as fearless and forward as the oldest of the boat’s crew.’”

One trophy for two exploits

What is true of David is true of David’s Lord. The Holy Ghost has presented to us the experience of Jesus in that model of experience through which David passed. So the text tells both of Christ and the believer also. Let us speak of it.

In relation to Christ. And

1. For the first sentence, “By Thee have I run through a troop.” Christ’s enemies were as a troop for number. Who can count them? But also for their discipline. They were marshalled under that skilful and crafty leader Satan, the arch fiend and Prince of Darkness. And his servants are well trained. He came against Jesus with his army, in settled order. It was no wild rush of Some Tartar host, but a well arranged and well regulated attack. Never let us undervalue the strength of Christ’s enemies. Now, this sentence has been read in varied ways, and each is very suggestive. One reads it, “By Thee have I run to a troop”; so that Jesus did not wait for the attack, but made it Himself, See how He went forth to meet Judas and the armed band on the night of the betrayal. But our version reads, “through a troop,” and this is also accurate. For His victory was complete. They stood firm as if they would not flinch, they thought they had defeated Him; but His Cross was the very symbol of His omnipotence, for in weakness was He strong. See Him running through this troop. And how speedily. His sufferings were but short. What a stride was that which Jesus took when He marched right through His enemies, and laid them right and left slain before Him. There is yet another version, “By Thee have I run after a troop.” As if he would say, “I met them, fought them, vanquished them, pursued them, and captured them.” “He led captivity captive. Note the words, “By Thee. He acted as the servant of God. But it is blessed to think that the Father as well as the Son, yea, the whole Trinity of sacred Persons, is engaged for our redemption.

2. The second sentence, “By my God have I leaped over a wall.” David seems to be describing the capture of some fortress, such as Jebus, afterwards called Jerusalem. Now Satan had shut us all up in a mighty fortress. It had as one bulwark the strength of sin and the law; as another the suggestions of Satan to men’s hearts; and then there was the deep ditch of men’s sins, and the mound outside of Human Depravity. Now Christ comes, and He leaps over these walls. And He not only Himself surmounted these walls, but brought all His people on His shoulders, as AEneas carried off his old father Anchises. And all this also was “by my God.” He acted as Mediator. Let our souls meditate much upon Christ’s victories.

To the believer. He has his troops of enemies and his imprisoning wall. But sometimes he makes the mistake of trying to climb over the troop when he should break through them, and of trying to break through the wall which he should climb over. Let him have courage for the troop to run through them, and discretion for the wall to climb over it. And by means of faith he can do this. Luther often used to defy Satan to battle. I care not to do that, but he used in his queer quaint way to say, “I often laugh at Satan, and there is nothing makes him so angry as when I attack him to his face, and tell him that through God I am more than a match for him, tell him to do his worst, and yet I will beat him; and tell him to put forth his fury, and yet I will overcome him.” He that has made God his refuge need fear no storm. “Look,” said a poor woman to a lady who called to see her, “Look, ma’am, I’ll show you all I’m worth.” And she showed her her cupboard with nothing in it but a dry crust; and a chest, but it was empty. “That is all I am worth, ma’am, but I have not a doubt or fear but that God will supply my need.” Now that woman bad learnt how to run through a troop and by her God to leap over a wall. What have you for your soul like that? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 34

Psalms 18:34

He teacheth my hands to war.

Divine endowment for service

God raises up men specially qualified to meet the exigencies of human society--the soldier, the statesman, the lawgiver, the teacher of religion, the ready writer, the eloquent man, and the cunning artificer. He had need of a soldier to accomplish the purposes of His will, and He qualified David for the work, and so long as David prosecuted his wars, free of ambitious and malevolent feelings, and solely with the desire of accomplishing the will of God, he served God as acceptably in the field as he could have served Him in His temple. Provided his cause be just, and he prosecute it with right motives, the patriot soldier is engaged on as holy a work as the priest at the altar. God so taught David the art of war that “a bow of steel was broken by his arms.” It required the use of both hands and feet to bend the ancient bow of steel; how great, then, must David’s strength have been to break it with his arms. This verse has, of course, a spiritual application, showing how easily God can clothe with overcoming might all who are engaged in the good fight of faith, enabling them to overcome, with a moiety of their strength, the strongest weapons with which they may be assailed. (David Caldwell, A. M.)

Verse 35

Psalms 18:35

Thy gentleness hath made me great.

The gentleness of God

When the coarse mind of sin makes up gods by its own natural light, those gods reveal the coarseness and the sin together. The God of revelation contrives to be a gentle being; hiding His power that He might put confidence and courage in the feelings of His children.

What do we mean by gentleness? God’s gentleness lies in His consenting to the use of indirection, as a way of gaining His adversaries. Instead of coming down upon man in a manner of direct onset, to carry His submission by storm, He gently lays siege to him, waiting for his willing consent. It is the very genius of Christianity itself to bring men to obedience by a course of loving indirection from what is revealed in that wondrous indirection of grace, the incarnate life and death of Jesus. But where is the gentleness of God in those inexorable forces of the external world? Is it such a God that moves by indirection? Yes, and all the more properly, because these terrible forces permit Him to do it. He can hide His omnipotence--can set His will behind His love for a time, because He has these majestic inexorabilities for the rear guard of His mercies.

The end God has in view in condescending to these gracious methods,--to make us great. The Christian Gospel is a plan to bring down the loftiness of our pride and the wilfulness of our rebellion, but to make us loftier in capacity and power and personal majesty. This is true of our will and of our intellect. Then, how perverse are those who require God to convert them by force. Let us adjust our conceptions of the true scale of a Christian man by God’s careful respect for our liberty, the detentions of His violated feeling, the sending of His Son, and the silent intercession of His Spirit. Be it ours to live with a sense of our high calling upon us. (Horace Bushnell, D. D.)

The Divine gentleness

The idea here is, goodness manifested in gentle dealings, in loving kindness and tender mercy--an exhibition of the goodness of God which had often awakened his heart’s warmest gratitude and led him to ascribe praise to Jehovah. The idea of lowliness enters into the meaning of the word gentleness; it is indeed essential to it. Gentleness is put in contrast with greatness. There is first God stooping down to that which is lowly, and as the result of this, His condescension, we have the gentle tender rule of His loving administration.

The gentleness of our father’s rule. It was due to the Father’s gentleness--

1. That we were brought under His genial sway.

2. That we have been kept in the school of Christ. There He conquers our dulness and wilfulness by His gentleness.

3. The gentleness of the Divine rule is revealed to us in the experience of life. Illustrate from our days of sin, days of punishment, days of affliction, days of weariness, and the hour of death.

The effects which this genial sway produces in us. Sept. reads, “Thy discipline.” The Chaldee paraphrase reads, “Thy word hath increased me.” There are some Christians of whom you feel that their humility--so beautiful and sincere and unpretending and unobtrusive--is an honour to them. Do you know the secret of this their greatness It is the product of Divine culture. We know some Christians whose zeal for God and God’s house is such that they are made honourable by it. It is because the Divine gentleness has been so sweetly realised as to create a passionate desire to make some expression of its gratitude. Saviour Divine! may Thy gentleness make us gentle--gentle in thought, in intent, in speech, in action,--that we may live gentle lives of loving devotedness to the God whose discipline and leadings are ever tender and kind! (Edward Leach.)

Gods gentleness our greatness

It is remarkable that the Psalmist should speak of God as gentle, and of himself as great, and that he should ascribe his own greatness to God’s gentleness, as the effect to the cause. This would appear to reverse the natural order of things. The greatness of God might well teach us a lesson of gentleness.

The import of that gentleness which is ascribed to God. Contrast it with His infinite power and universal sovereignty. There is united in the Divine character surpassing gentleness and transcendant greatness. To what but the Lord’s gentleness, forbearance, long suffering, and tender mercy is it owing that our rebellious and guilty race haw been so long spared and so graciously dealt with? But it is in the person of His well-beloved Son, the meek and lowly Saviour, that the gentleness of God is exhibited to us in a visible and palpable form. Was not the Spirit of Christ emphatically one of gentleness? Did not that lovely Spirit, so aptly typified by the similitude of a dove, characterise His every word and action? Such a combination of gentleness with fortitude; of meekness with dignity; of the tenderest love with the most inflexible firmness, belongs only to Immanuel. The delineation of the character is far above human power.

The nature of the greatness which the Psalmist affirms to be the effect of the Divine gentleness. Is it the grandeur of wealth, power, fame, or royal dignity to which he refers? His own testimony negatives the supposition. It is of moral greatness, as distinct from earthly grandeur,--greatness of principle, of soul, of destiny--that greatness which teaches man to contemn sensual indulgences, that greatness which consists in spiritual endowments, and heavenly relationships--this is the only greatness which really dignifies and ennobles a never-dying spirit. This true spiritual greatness is at once the evidence and the effect of a Divine nature. To such heavenly greatness God’s gentleness would lead us by Christ Jesus. The one subject of our everlasting songs will be, the gentleness of God in Christ. (W. F. Vance, M. A.)

The genesis of greatness

Hengstenberg calls this Psalm the great hallelujah of David’s life, and one with which he retires from the theatre of action. David was at his best when he wrote these words. There were times when he was not fitted to pen such an ode.

The character of true greatness. The world has admired and even deified the human earthward side of greatness, and overlooked the spiritual, Godward side. Men have exalted power, wealth, intellectual superiority above character or moral greatness, founded in faith, purity, and trust in God. Since the religion of Jesus Christ has prevailed, men are beginning to put character in the light of His matchless Excellence. How far like Him is any admired character? It is a cheerful sign that Christian communities demand some degree of moral greatness in those called to posts of power. The greatest nations of the globe are Christian. The most influential statesmen are reverent in their attitude, if not professedly converted men. True greatness is moral goodness.

The source of this true greatness. David is here reviewing his life. He is getting at the force that wrought in all these years and led him safely on and up, that has developed an inward life as well as an outward opulence and power. It is God. “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” This word “gentleness” is translated condescension or benignity. It is gracious kindness to one’s referrer. The sun pours its fervid rays on the earth, kiting its flowers and fruits into beauty, and ripening its bounty year by year. So the face of God, like Divine sunshine, calls out of you and me all that is good and really great. We realise this fact as we muse on the Divine love, so unwearied and continuous through our lives. Let us all strive to realise that God’s eye of love rests on us. He sees our joy and grief, our loss and gain, our sin and our sorrow. Let us ever keep the windows of our life open to Him. God’s benignant grace makes us truly great. (George E. Reed, D. D.)

The gentleness of God, and our greatness

The gentleness of God--it is a wonderful word: a word that never could have originated with man. There are gods of might, grim and terrible. Man has never invented a god of gentleness. Jove is but a hurler of thunderbolts. Unto us our God hath revealed Himself, and lo, He is our Father, Almighty and Everlasting, yet His chosen emblem is the Breath, the Dew, the Lamb, the Dove,--all that sets forth the gentleness of our God. How best may we get hold of this wondrous truth? Gentleness is many sided. The word is rendered condescension, goodness, patience--but gentleness is more than these, or less. With us it may be but a lack of energy, a lack of decision. What passes for gentleness may be only a colourless mixture of weakness and unconcern, a forbearance that amiably smiles at everything and everybody, because it is less trouble than doing anything else. But it is difficult to think of gentleness in an intense nature. How can such an one be gentle? It is David, the valiant champion and captain of Israel, brave, heroic, chivalrous David, the man, too, of fierce passions, who gives us this experience. He knew as well as any the power and majesty of the Most High. And yet as he looks back upon his life he sees that the greatness of it has grown up out of the gentleness of God. We see the gentleness of God bearing in this brave soldier its own fruit, making him gracious and gentle; and at such times it is that he rises to his highest greatness. For myself I think I get furthest into the heart of this truth when I think of gentleness as the grace of one who puts himself in our place, making himself so one with us that he understands how we feel, taking our weakness and our difficulty and doubt and fear as his own. God is our father and mother too--setting ever before Himself the loftiest purpose concerning us, yet ever seeing our weakness, feeling it, and stooping tenderly to help us. That is the gentleness of God. If I am to think of God as the sublime, the majestic only, what hope have I? What allowance can be made for weakness, for ignorance, for peculiar difficulties? But if the infinite love and gentleness of God do bring Him down to be one with me in my very flesh and blood, one with me in all the round of daily life and circumstance, then I may set out with confidence. If He understand me in all my peculiarities and needs, and be ever ready to help me, then may I triumph--His gentleness shall make me great. This perfect understanding of us away by ourselves, and this perfect sympathy with us, this separate love and separate help, is the very strength and sweetness of the Gospel of Christ. God is not consumed, as some have thought, with an incessant craving for His own glory. God is consumed with an incessant longing for the welfare and blessedness of His children. All things are set and perfectly adjusted to this end. You to whom the beginnings of the life of God are a perplexity, goodness is a despair--He calls you to Himself that His gentleness may make you great. His purposes concerning us are altogether too great to be won by force; they can only be fulfilled by His gentleness. (Mark Guy Pearse.)

The gentleness of God, and the moral greatness of man

The gentleness of God.

1. Not a quality men usually ascribe to God. The sense of sin is the prime cause of the dread of God.

2. Not a single, but a complex attribute. Its base is goodness. Its aspects and operations are manifold. It is always sympathetic, but it is not mere softness. It does not exclude severity when severity is demanded. God both hurls the thunderbolt and distils the dew.

The effect of God’s gentleness on the moral greatness of man. The faculties of man are great, his destiny is great, and the Gospel of his salvation is great. The character and conduct of man are often little, very little indeed; but the powers and possibilities of his nature cannot be trivial. The Divine gentleness seen in--

1. Convincing of sin.

2. Prompting to a better life.

3. Upholding the saint in his progress toward perfection. The afterlife of the believing man on earth needs the ministry of God’s gentleness. In the fight with evil within, the soul not infrequently grows sick of itself, weary of its own infirmities, and loses all heart about its own predicted victories. In such hours the experience of God’s great patience with us, when we have given up all patience with ourselves, is of priceless value.


1. Other attributes besides the gentleness of God must contribute to the moral life and welfare of the soul. Rigour and tenderness are both requisite to the moral guidance and training of our race.

2. In the moral development and perfection of fallen men the gentleness of God discharges the highest function. The strong hand retains, the hand of gentleness elicits and fosters. Authority moulds from without; love inspires from within.

3. The aim of the moral activity of God in this planet is to ensure the moral greatness of man.

4. Let none fail to weigh the condemning power of God’s gentleness. The sufficiency of any moral force to encourage, inspire, and exalt is the exact measure of its ability to condemn. (H. Batchelor, B. A.)

Great lives

Gentleness is love in action. Geologists tell us that the silent influences of the atmosphere are far more powerful than the noisy forces of nature: quiet sunshine than thunder, and gentle rain than earthquake. So the gentleness of God is His grandest excellence. His gentleness shows itself in the goodness which teaches us to know Him and inspires us to become like Him; in the mercy which, remembering that we are but dust, forgives our sins and blots out the record of our iniquity. The spirit of the New Testament reveals the gentleness of God as manifested in the life of our Saviour; for gentleness was the prevailing disposition of Jesus. Jesus was gentle in all His words, and meek in all His actions. In His disposition you have a picture of the spirit of the Almighty God. And His object is ever to make us truly great.

The gentleness of God in the inspiration of His love. Love is the strongest force we know. Impelled by it, the wife has not feared to suck the poison from the wound of her husband, and love has ever been willing to lay down its life to save its beloved. Love is refining and elevating in proportion to its purity and power. Even the love of a dog makes a bad man better than he otherwise would be. There is a hunger for love in the human heart. The prisoner for life is the better for the love of the rat who creeps about his dungeon. One of the worst characters portrayed by Charles Dickens is that of Bill Sykes--a creature apparently without natural affection--yet even he had a soft place in his heart, and was moved with pity when trying to drown his faithful dog. The most helpless being in this world is a newborn child; and it is this very helplessness that appeals so strongly to our love. But when you realise that you are loved of God, it makes you great in noble deeds. Love calls forth love. God’s gentleness is known by its record in the Bible and by its inspiration in our carts. And so the New Testament tells me of a fact--that in the heart of God there is love for me. But what should be the result when we know that our Saviour laid down His sacred life for us? Surely, that love, when it is felt in our heart, shall make the feeblest man great.

Notice His gentleness in the pleading of His spirit with every man. The Holy Spirit pleads with every man; and we are taught not to grieve God by resisting that hallowed influence.

The gentleness of God in giving us the power of the risen life of Jesus Christ. May God make us great--

1. In our friendship to one another.

2. In our obedience to God.

3. In our actions.

4. In bearing our trials. You are one of God’s jewels. But the polishing on the wheel must be if it is to shine brilliantly.

5. In our homes. Let us put away our littleness of character, and our feebleness in charity, and all that makes us mean and unlovely. We should be great in action as in thought. It is far more noble to be great than to be a king. Be great because God in His gentleness intends to lead you to paradise to be kings and priests. Let your actions be worthy of your high destiny; and may the gentleness of God uplift you from sin, and make you His children, whose lives shall adorn the Gospel of our Saviour. (W. Birch.)

The Divine gentleness

Whatever may have been the special link of association in the Psalmist’s mind between the dignity to which he had himself been raised and the condescension of the Most High, the text naturally suggests to our own minds the connection subsisting between the gentleness of God and the true greatness of man.

Consider the fact of the Divine gentleness; Gentleness is more than kindness. A man may be benevolent, and yet rude. He may do much good to others, and yet his well-doing may lack tenderness, and even his condescension may be a phase of his pride. But when we speak of the “gentleness” of any man or woman we speak of a quality into which enter the elements of humility, sympathy, simplicity, delicacy of feeling, calmness of spirit, patience, and long suffering. It is a quality which eludes definition. It is to be felt rather than described. Gentleness is, so to speak, an “expression” on the face of love, the power of which may be realised in a moment, but the characteristics of which can with difficulty be transferred to the canvas. Now, when we speak of the gentleness of God we speak primarily of a quality in the Divine nature, made known to us, as it could only be, by its manifestations, by the revelation of an actual feeling in the Divine heart. We know how the gentleness of the human heart expresses itself,--in smiles which steal their way into the soul as the sunbeams steal into forest nooks; in tones which fall upon the ear as dew upon the grass, or as “snowflake upon snowflake.” And so, when we find in God’s works and ways the characteristics of lowliness and tenderness, we ought not merely to say that God acts as if He were gentle, but we ought to trace these characteristics upwards to an actual quality in the Divine nature. Carrying, then, this principle with us, let us look at some of the modes in which the Divine gentleness is revealed. And--

1. The very language which I have just been using about the sunlight, the dew, the summer breeze, may suggest to us that God manifests His gentleness in the minuter forms and quieter aspects of nature. Creation reveals God: His wisdom, power, glory, but also, to some extent, His character. Not all things in nature thus reveal His character, but most do. We have in nature that which tells of what is grand and awful in Him. The vast mountains, with their wintry summits hidden in snow and mist; the ocean, lashed into fury by the tempest which strews upon its waters the wrecks of human industry; the earthquake and volcano, the thunder roar and lightning flash--these are manifestations of a majesty which is almighty to create or to destroy. But when, on the other hand, we walk out into the fields on some fresh spring morning, and see the buds opening in the hedgerows; or when, on the quiet summer eve, we stroll by some streamlet and hear the birds sing among the leaves which are gleaming in the sunset, then God seems nearer to us than in thunder roar or ocean tempest. Nearer to us, because the nearness is one which we can more easily bear--not of majestic power, but of quiet gentleness. How this gentle presence steals into our hearts amid the flowers. Yes; even if there were nothing else to testify to the gentleness of God, the flowers would bear their silent witness. Mere power could manifest itself in ten thousand other and grander ways. What must be the nature of Him who finds a delight in thus clothing the earth with beauty? Pluck one of the daisies at your feet, and think--the great God who made the worlds has made this little flower to grow! Must not He Himself, then, be gentle and lowly, even as He is mighty? “A fevered child hushed to sleep by its mother” look at that picture for a moment.

2. Another mode in which the Divine gentleness is revealed--namely, in the creation and maintenance of human affection. It is God who is the Inspirer of that love within the mother’s heart. He it is who has constituted those relations which bind us to one another, and which tend to elicit the deepest and tenderest affection. And has not man been created in the Divine image? Would he have been constituted with these capacities of affection unless his Maker delighted in beholding their exercise? How near God draws to us in the gentle courtesies of home and friendship: more near than even in the quiet scenes of nature. How often does some daughter within a household become, through her loving ways, as “a smile of God” to her parents; and the cradle of a sleeping infant, as another “Bethel” to the grateful mother, a very “gate of heaven” to her soul, giving her new glimpses of the presence and tenderness of God. Yes, “out of the mouth even of babes and sucklings God,” etc. And in friendship too, with its tender ministries and patient loving help--how this tells of the Divine sympathy, and of Him who “healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” There could be no tenderness at all in us, if its archetype were not first in Him.

3. God has also manifested His gentleness in the gift and Person of His Son Jesus Christ. Here, indeed, the revelation of the Divine humility reaches its climax. We cannot kneel in imagination before the manger of Bethlehem without feeling how real is the lowliness of God. The incarnation of the Divine Son was itself a humiliation. And this incarnation, remember, was the answer of the Creator to the sin of His creatures. Men were forgetting and forsaking Him, and trampling His laws under their feet. And all this enmity of theirs He meets--not with another deluge, not with fire and brimstone from heaven; but with the gift of the only-begotten Son, to take upon Him their nature, that the Divine Life might thus be inwrought, as it were, into the very texture of humanity, and that the world might be saved. Oh, what patient humility is here! How gently did the great God thus steal into the midst of the human family in the form of this Bethlehem Child. And how all through His life on earth does He show the same lowly gentleness. I might speak to you of other modes in which God manifests His gentleness. I might remind you how tenderly He often deals with us in His providence--erecting barriers of circumstance which help to keep us in the path of safety; mingling mercy also even with His chastisements; laying a gentle hand on the wound which must be probed, and sweetening the bitterness of the cup which must be drunk. Think, too, of the gentleness implied in the gift of the Holy Spirit the Comforter, who wrestles with us when we are tempted to sin, rebukes our transgressions in deep whispers within the soul, and gives peace and consolation by His own indwelling presence.

The effect of the Divine gentleness upon ourselves. It “makes us great.” It enlarges our being: helps us to the attainment of noble spiritual character. And He does this--

1. By raising our estimate of our own nature. So long as we think only of the greatness of God and of His holiness, our own weakness and sin make us feel almost as if our existence were a worthless thing. But when God draws near to us in His gentleness, and calls us His “children,” then we begin to be conscious of the dignity of our being.

2. The gentleness of God “makes us great” by inspiring us with faith in Himself. Humility, not pride, is the godlike attribute; and faith in God is the root of all the highest creature greatness. For it is the key to self-conquest; and “he who ruleth his own spirit is,” etc. What has not faith done in and by those who have been inspired with its might? (Hebrews 11:1-40) Now as faith is the secret of all this higher spiritual greatness, so the gentleness of God is the secret of this faith. We could not look up to God with a childlike confidence if He were merely in our thoughts “the Thunderer of Olympus.” But, being lowly and gracious in His own nature, He so manifests His fatherly gentleness as to win our trust. And thus the Divine gentleness “makes us great,” by awakening within us that faith which is the root of greatness.

3. The gentleness of God “makes us great,” by inducing the development of all our highest capacities. It has been remarked that civilisation has proceeded with more rapid strides and has reached a higher stage on the broader plains of earth, amid the tamer and quieter aspects of nature, than in the neighbourhood of the loftiest mountains and the grander features of our world. See the contrast between the populations of India or South America and those that cover the plains of Europe. The theory is that, in presence of the more sublime phenomena of nature, the spirit of man is awed and crushed, so that his development is cramped and fettered; whereas, on the broader plains of the world, his spirit becomes freer, and he learns to master the forces of nature, instead of cringing before her like a slave. But, however this may be, we know from our own experience that men who are greater, wiser, nobler than ourselves, help us in proportion as they stoop to us and identify themselves with us. To be met with gentleness is to be mightily helped, if it be only the gentleness of a strength which we respect. And thus it is that the Divine gentleness induces the development of our noblest powers. So long as we think only of the majesty of God there is danger lest terror paralyse our souls. But it is far otherwise when we realise the Divine lowliness--when we feel that God is drawing near to us in tender sympathy, and encouraging us, as “dear children,” to do our best for Him. Then our reverence for His greatness only makes our gratitude for His condescension the more intense; and this gratitude is a stimulus to all holy energy. Our meditation suggests two practical lessons--

(1) Learn how you may yourselves become greater. Your whole being will shrivel if you worship a colossal fate or an almighty spectre. The devotees of mere power grow weak. Let awe and trust blend themselves in your souls.

(2) Learn how you may help others to become greater. Treat them with gentleness, not with a weak softness--that will only enervate. Cultivate robustness of character. But see to it that you cultivate gentleness also. Has some poor ship dashed itself on the rocky coast, and would you save the crew with that strong thick rope of yours? Then attach to it the slender cord, and throw them that; that may bring them the strong rope, which will prove the means of their deliverance. Would you save men from a spiritual shipwreck? Would you strengthen souls in the hour of temptation? Then the stronger your own character is, the better; but let your strength avail itself of gentleness, and it will become the mightier to protect and redeem. Would you make men wiser? Then the wiser you yourselves are, the better; but your wisdom must in gentleness stoop to their ignorance, if you would educate and instruct them. Would you make men purer? Then the purer your own heart is, the better; but your purity must in gentleness bear pityingly and patiently with them, if you would arouse them to a truer self-respect, and lead them into a higher and holier life. It is the gentleness of greatness that makes men great. (T. Campbell Finlayson.)

The power of God’s gentleness

No one can glance, even in the most hasty manner, over this Divine song without observing the recognition of God’s hand in all things by which it is pervaded.

And at the very outset we find rising out of these words the question, what is that greatness which in the Christian is produced by God’s gentleness? Scarcely two individuals have the same idea of greatness. All, indeed, will agree that it denotes preeminence, but each will have his own preference as to the department in which that is to be manifested. Some associate it with the deeds of the warrior on the battlefield, others with the triumphs of the orator, or the achievements of the artist, the poet, the philosopher, the man of science; others, with the acquisition of rank or wealth or power. But the greatness which God’s gentleness produces may co-exist with many of these, but is independent of them all. For man is great in the proportion that he resembles the holy God who made him. Man’s greatness, therefore, is greatness in holiness. It is a moral thing, for the truest manliness and the highest God likeness are convertible terms. Behold our Lord Jesus Christ. Is there anyone who imagines that His greatness was lessened by the fact that He laboured at the carpenter’s bench and was one of the poorest of the people? Not among warriors, poets, artists, statesmen, or the like do we name Him; yet even in the estimation of those who deny His deity, He is regarded as the greatest of men. Why? Because of His preeminence in holiness. Now, true greatness in man is precisely what it was in Him who, because He was the God-man, was the archetypal man. It is moral excellence, the greatness of character, preeminence in holiness, and is such that no external meanness can obscure its radiance, and no blaze of earthly glory can outshine its brightness. Thus, whatever our outward sphere may be, to be truly great we must have an inward character of holiness manifesting itself in all our actions; and he will be the greatest who, wherever he may be, is likest Christ. Some years ago a poor Spanish sailor was brought into a Liverpool hospital to die, and, after he had breathed his last, there was found upon his breast tattooed, after the manner of his class, a representation of Christ upon the Cross. You call that superstition, and perhaps you are right; yet there was beauty ill it too, for if we could have in our hearts what that poor seaman had painfully, and with the needle point, punctured over his, we should be great indeed. Is not this, in truth, the open secret of Paul’s preeminence? for he thus describes himself: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifest in our body.” The manifestation of the life of Jesus: that is greatness, and to get that we must bear about in the body “the dying of the Lord.”

But how does God’s gentleness make us great?

1. It is because the human heart is always more deeply affected by tenderness than sternness. See this in the reformation of criminals. If you attempt to drag a man by force his nature is to resist you; but if you attempt to attract him by love, it is equally in his nature to follow you. And this is the principle of the Cross of Christ. God might have left us justly to our sins; but He would make us great, and therefore Christ died. It is this which turns the heart to God as Sinai could never do. But the manifestation of this love attracts: in other words, His gentleness produces in me that love to Him which is the source and inspiration of holiness. But, passing from the general to the particular, you may see the words of the text verified in the manner in which God receives individuals into His love, and so begins in them the greatness of holiness. “The bruised reed He does not break; the smoking flax He does not quench”; and there is no one here whom He will not willingly and lovingly receive. Read those gentle and beneficent words which fell so frequently from His lips. Peruse such parables as that of the lost sheep, or that of the prodigal son. Ah! who can tell how many have been encouraged to go to Him by such declarations and invitations as these? And now, as they revert to the first faint stirrings of the new life in them which these words evoked, they can say with truth, “Thy gentleness hath made us great.”

2. See this also in the manner in which God in Christ Jesus trains His people after they have come to Him He does not leave them to themselves. He teaches them yet more and more of His grace; yet, in truest tenderness, He teaches them as they are able to bear it.

3. And in His dealings with His people now. Terrible are, at times, their trials, but “He stayeth His rough wind in the day of His east wind,” and if the thorn of trial be not extracted, there comes the precious assurance, “My grace is sufficient for thee; My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The subject has a two-fold application. It presents Jehovah to the sinner in a very affectionate attitude. Think of it, my friend. God is tender toward you. How often you have provoked Him with your iniquities, your ingratitude, your procrastination! Yet He has not cut you down. You are living evidences of His gentleness. Finally, this subject shows the Christian how he should seek to bring others to the knowledge of Jesus. The gentleness of God should be repeated and reproduced in us, and we should deal with others with the same tenderness and affection as God hath dealt with us. Parents, seek the greatness of your children, that is their godliness, not by rigorous, unbending sternness, but in tender forbearance. You have heard of the mother who, as she was sitting on the brow of a hill, suffered her child unnoticed to wander from her side, until he stood upon the very edge of the beetling cliff. She was appalled when she discovered where he was, but her maternal instinct would not let her shriek. All she did was to open her arms and beckon him to her embrace, and the little fellow, unconscious of the danger in which he stood, ran to be folded to her bosom. So let it be with you. When you see your young people standing on some precipice of temptation, do not scold or blame or cry out about it; that will only push them over. Rather open to them the arms of your affection. Make home to them more attractive than aught else. Let your fatherhood and motherhood become more to them than ever and by your very gentleness you will make them great. Sabbath school teacher, this text speaks to you, and bids you, in your earnest efforts for your scholars’ welfare, show to them the same gentleness that Jesus manifested when He took the children in His arms and blessed them. Do not lose your temper with them, but be gentle with them, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (W. N. Taylor, D. D.)

Verse 36

Psalms 18:36

Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.

The double blessing of enlargement and safety

A smooth pathway leading to spacious possessions and camping grounds had been opened for him. Instead of threading the narrow mountain path, and hiding in the cracks and corners of caverns, he was able to traverse the plains and dwell under his own vine and fig tree. It is no small mercy to be brought into full Christian liberty and enlargement, but it is a greater favour still to be enabled to walk worthily ill such liberty, not being permitted to slip with our feet. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 46

Psalms 18:46

The Lord liveth; and blessed be my Rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

The Rock of salvation

True religion has nothing in it cloudy, melancholy, depressing. It is in itself full of fire, love, light, warmth. Our sadness arises from our sin and sorrow, but in God there is that to fill us with joy. Now here we have--

A living Lord. It is a living Christ that sheds a glory around Calvary, and around the tomb in which His body was laid. What would be our grief if He were not living?

A solid rock. Christ will build His Church thereon. And it is a rock for refuge.

Its exaltation. He is exalted by tab Father; and in the Bible; and in the contrite believing heart; and in the life and purpose of all His people. Let us build on this Rock. (George Merrell.)

Verse 49

Psalms 18:49

Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee among the heathen.

David’s deliverance and thanksgiving

Of David delivered. The wonder is, how so good a man, so gracious a prince, should have enemies and rebels; should fall into such dangers and afflictions; should need so many deliverances. But even in the best men there is something amiss. All saints are sinners, and sin will be punished in God’s children soonest of all. It is impossible for governors to escape the smart of popular murmurings, tumults, and rebellions; for Moses the meekest, David the best, and Solomon the wisest of kings did not. The best of kings may be under the Cross, and need deliverances.

Of God his deliverer. That all deliverance comes from the Lord needs no proof, from Scripture or reason. Philosophers, poets, historians all acknowledge this truth. The heathen everywhere ascribe all good successes to their gods. Among us there are some who will not allow God to govern in His own house, but deny Him any care of things below. As He only brings us into affliction, so He only can remove the afflictions. If we believe this most certain truth, that all deliverance is from the Lord, we must show the fruits of that faith when in distress.

Of David’s thankfulness for his deliverance. Here observe--

1. The person performing it. That is, David. “I will do it,” saith he.

2. The duty itself That is, thanksgiving. “I will give thanks.”

3. The manner how he will do it, and that is--

(1) publicly,

(2) cheerfully. Gratitude is not the business of a year, but of a whole life. (Gilbert Sheldon, D. D.)

Verse 50

Psalms 18:50

Great deliverance giveth He to the King.

Great deliverances

This is Christ’s resurrection Psalm. It is a Psalm of deliverance or salvation--the two words are the same. This deliverance is one of love, power, and righteousness. The whole history of the Bible from beginning to end pertains to what God calls deliverance. First of all, we have King David’s history, the history of deliverance. Secondly, we have in Israel’s history a history of deliverance. Thirdly, in Messiah’s history we have a history of deliverance. Fourthly, in the Church’s history we have a history of deliverance. And lastly, in the history of each individual man we have a history of deliverance. It is deliverance from first to last. (A. Bonar.)


Psalms 19:1-14

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 18". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.