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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 59

Verses 1-17

Psalms 59:1-17

Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God.

Revelations of the good and bad in human nature

The enmity of man towards man.

1. From the description that David here gives of his enemies, we learn that--

(1) They hated him with a deadly hate. They sought nothing less than his life; they were “bloody men.”

(2) They hated him without a cause. “Without my fault.”

(3) They hated him with furious rage. They are represented as furious beasts of prey, as ravenous dogs, as malignant slanderers, whose words are cutting as a “sword,” from whose mouth belches the lava of abuse.

(4) They hated him with persistent effort. They watch in the day, wait in ambush, return at night, and thus on until their fiendish purposes are attained.

2. The fact that men are thus enemies to men--

(1) Argues human apostasy. At some time or other there has happened in human life a moral earthquake which has riven the social body into pieces.

(2) Reveals the need of Christ. He reconciles man to man by reconciling all men to God.

The appeal of selfishness to heaven. What merit is there in such a prayer as this? Can it ever meet acceptance with that God who willeth not the death of a sinner, and who is not “willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”?

The confidence of piety in God. Despite all the imperfections of David’s character, the root of the matter was in him. “I will sing aloud of thy mercy,” etc. Perfection of character is only gradually reached. “The acorn,” it has been said, “does not become an oak in a day; the ripened scholar was not made such by a single lesson; the well-trained soldier was not a raw recruit yesterday; it is not one touch of the artist’s pencil that produces a finished painting; there are always months between seed-time and harvest; even so, the path of the just is like the ‘shining light’ which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Homilist.)

God’s defence of His persecuted people

A lady was wakened up by a very strange noise of peeking against the window-pane, and she saw a butterfly flying backward and forward inside the window-pane in great fright, and outside a sparrow pecking and trying to get at it. The butterfly did not see the glass, and expected every moment to be caught; and the sparrow did not see the glass, and expected every moment to catch the butterfly; yet all the while the little creature was as safe as if it had been three miles away, because of the glass between it and the sparrow. So it is with the Christians who are abiding in Christ. His presence is between them and every danger. It really does seem that Satan does not understand about this mighty and invisible power that protects us, or else he would not waste his efforts--like the sparrow, he does not see. And Christians are often like the butterfly, and do not see their defence, and so are frightened, and flutter backwards and forwards in terror. But all the while Satan cannot touch the soul that has the Lord Jesus between itself and him. (Christian Age.)

Verse 9

Psalms 59:9

Because of his strength, will I wait upon Thee.

Waiting and singing

(with Psalms 59:17):--“My strength! I will wait upon Thee,” so says the psalmist in the midst of his troubles; and because he does so, he says at the end of the psalm, repeating his earlier vow, but with an alteration that means a great deal, “My strength! I will sing unto Thee.” If you have waited, while in the middle of trouble, you will be sure to sing after it, and perhaps even during it.

The thoughts of God that light up the darkness. “My strength,” “my tower,” “the God of my mercy”--these are the thoughts which burn for this devout soul in the darkness of trouble. Notice, first, how that “my” is the very strength and nerve of the psalmist’s confidence. It is not so much what he thinks God to be--though that is all important--as that he thinks that, whatever God is, He is it to him. “My defence, my strength; the God of my mercy”--who gives it to me, that is, the mercy that I need. And notice the happy reiteration indicative of assured possession, and blissful counting of one’s wealth. With each repetition of the “my” there is a fresh outgoing of the heart in confidence, in conscious weakness, and in believing appropriation of God’s strength a tightening of the fingers on his treasure. If we are in sorrow, let us say, “I will go unto God, my exceeding joy.” If we are exposed to the hurtling of a whole flight of arrows of disaster, let us say, “I dwell in the pavilion where no calamity comes.” If we are conscious of weakness, let us cast ourselves into those strong arms, and be sure that from their clasp there will come tingling into our feebleness the electric thrill of His almightiness, and that we, too, shall be able to “do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us.” My strength, because I am weak; “my fortress,” because I am assailed; “the God of my mercy,” because I need His mercy.

What such views of God hearten a man to do. “My strength, I will wait upon Thee,” says the first of our texts. “I will look unto Him “ is, perhaps, nearer the meaning of the words than the “wait” of our version. If these three blessed thoughts, “my strength, my tower, the God of my mercy,” are uppermost in our heart, there will be the fixed attitude and eye of expectancy. Did you ever see a dog sitting and looking up into its master’s face, waiting for a morsel to be cast, that it might snap at it and swallow it? That is a very homely illustration of the way in which Christian men should sit and look at God. If He is “my strength,” and “my tower,” and if “my mercy” comes from Him, then no attitude befits me except that of such gazing expectancy and steadfast direction of mind and heart to Him, “My strength, I will watch Thee.” And there should be, too, not only expectancy in the look, but patience, and not only expectancy and patience, but submission. Stand before Him, waiting to know what is to be done by you with the strength that He gives, and how the mercy that He inbreathes is to be expressed and manifested in your life. This waiting should be the fixed attitude and posture of our spirits. The psalmist had to make a definite resolution to look away to God, for there was a great deal that tempted him to look elsewhere. He says, “I will wait,” and the original conveys very strongly the idea of his having to set his teeth, as it were, in the effort to keep himself quiet and waiting before God. If we look to Him we are kept up, and we are kept right; but it takes all our will-power, and it needs a very resolute effort if we are not to be forced out of the attitude of faith and to let our eyes turn to alarmed gazing at the stormy seas. Without such effort we shall be weakened by looking at the foes and not at the fortress, at the difficulties and inward weakness and not at our strength, but we shall find the means of making this effort after steadfastness of expectant gaze in faithful remembrance of the great Name of the Lord, our strength and our fortress.

What comes of this waiting. He that began with saying, “O my strength, I will wait upon Thee,” ends with saying, “O my strength, I will sing praises unto Thee.” That is to say, away in the future there lies the certainty that all will end in thankfulness and rapture of praise-giving, and in the present, whilst the attitude of watchfulness has to be kept up, and evils and dangers are still round us, there may glow in our hearts a quiet assurance as to how they are all going to end, and how for the waiting in the present there will be substituted glad praise in the future. Into the midst of winter we can bring summer. We can live by hope, we can say, “To-day I will watch, tomorrow I shall praise.” And because to-morrow we shall praise, there will be some praise mingling with the watchfulness of to-day. Let us do the one now, and at last we shall do the other. Do the one, and even in the doing of it the other will begin. The waiting and the praising are twins, the one a trifle older than the other. “Unto Thee, my strength, will I look,” and even now the waiting soul may have a song, feeble perhaps and broken, like the twitter of birds when the east wind blows and the clouds are low in the early spring, but which will mellow and swell into fuller rapture when the dark, ungenial days are overpast. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Verse 10

Psalms 59:10

The God of my mercy shall prevent me.

A singular title and a special favour

Our trials and troubles, while they test and develop us, do also by Divine grace strengthen and improve us, and ever have we great cause to bless God for them when grace sanctifies them to our highest good. Had not David been a man of many afflictions he would never have penned such a verse as our text, a confident utterance of unstaggering faith, full of meaning, rich with consolation, the very cream of assured hope in God.

David’s looking to his God. “The God of mercy,” saith he. Note that this psalm was composed by him upon the occasion of his being shut up in the house of Michal, Saul’s daughter, and surrounded by his adversaries. The messengers of the bloodthirsty king watched the house all night long, to kill him, and when they had not effected their purpose, Saul demanded that he should be brought, on his bed, into his presence, that he might slay him. It was not easy for a man, when his enemies were watching the house, to escape out of their hands. David, however, does not appear to have been at all disturbed, but with perfect confidence in God he expected that a way of escape would be made for him.

1. David looked to God on this occasion because he had before this habitually waited upon Him. His faith had realized the existence of God, and his soul had felt the power of that realized truth. This is a thing unknown to the unconverted, and unfelt to any high degree by large numbers of those who profess to know the Lord.

2. David was driven more closely to his God by the peculiar trouble with which he was environed. It is a blessed thing when the waves of affliction wash us upon the rock of confidence in God alone, when darkness below gives us an eye to the light above. The psalmist says in the verse preceding the text, “Because of his strength”--that is, the strength of the foe--“will I wait upon Thee, for God is my defence.” Because the enemy is too strong for me, therefore will I turn to my God, and invoke His omnipotence as my defence. To come to the end of yourself is to get to the beginning of your God. Blessed is that extremity which is God’s opportunity.

3. As soon as David had looked alone to his God his trials grew small. In his own esteem they grew to be nothing, for he says, “Thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them, Thou shalt have all the heathen in derision”; and methinks something of the laughter of God penetrated David’s spirit; and in that house wherein he was enclosed as a prisoner he smiled in his heart at the disappointment which awaited his foes. Faith laughs at that which fear weeps over; it leaps over mountains at whose feet mere mortal strength lies down to die.

David’s appropriation of the Divine mercy. “The God of my mercy.” Notice that the pith of the title lies in the appropriating word “my.” Luther used to say that the very soul of divinity lay in the possessive pronouns; another divine said that all the stir there ever has been in the world has been caused by meum and tuum, mine and thine. “It is mine,” says one man; “It is mine,” cries another man, and then comes a conflict. “It is mine,” says one king; “Nay,” says another, “it is not thine,” and then fierce war begins. Nothing influences a man so much as that which he calls his own. “The God of my mercy.”

1. David appropriated to himself a portion of Divine mercy as being peculiarly his; and we shall never advance in the divine life unless we do the same, for the mercy which is in common to all men, of what avail is it to any man? But the mercy which any one man by faith grasps for himself, this is the mercy which will bless him and which he will prize above all things.

2. I think he meant, too, that there was a portion of mercy which he had already received, which was, therefore, altogether his own. The “God of my mercy”--he meant the God of the mercy he had already experienced. Well may it bring the tears into your eyes to think of it. The mercy which nursed you in your infancy; the mercy which watched over you in your youth and kept you when you were apt to stray; the mercy which restrained you from many a deadly sin, etc.

3. And, remember, that all the mercy you have had is little compared with the mercy you have yet to receive. As the rich father thinks, “This will I give to my eldest son, and that to the second, and that to the third,” and so he puts by a portion for each of his children; so has God mapped out and allotted for each one of us some choice and special mercy fitted for our peculiar case, which no one can receive but ourselves, but which we must and shall obtain.

4. But I think David made a larger grasp than this, for when he said, “The God of my mercy,” he felt as if all the mercy in the heart of God belonged to him. If any one saint should have all the wants of all the saints in the world put upon him, and if his necessities should be so great that nothing would supply them but the whole of the infinite mercy which fills the heart of God, that child of God should have all the mercy which the Lord Himself can dispense.

David confining in God. “The God of my mercy shall prevent me,” or anticipate me by His mercy. Now, it so happens that the Hebrew word may be read in all three tenses, and some have said it should be understood, “The God of my mercy has prevented me”; others, “does prevent me”; and a third party, like our translators, read it, “shall prevent me.” Whichever tense you choose is true, and the whole three put together may be viewed as the full meaning of the passage.

1. “The Lord has prevented me.” This is one of the grand doctrines of the Gospel, the doctrine of eternal love, spontaneous, self-generated, having no cause but itself. God loved us before we loved Him--he prevented us with love. Before His people were born God had elected and redeemed them, and prepared the Gospel, by which in due time they are called. He is before us in all good things. O Lord, Thou hast the first hand with Thy people; they seek Thee early, but Thou art up before them, Thou hast distanced them in the race of affection; Alpha art Thou, indeed!

2. The Lord hast prevented us, but the meaning of the passage is that He does still prevent us. Is He not daily doing so? Before you can feel the pinch of want the mercy is given. God goes before you day by day, and His paths drop fatness. Even in the common acceptation of the word “prevent” God has often so gone before us that He has prevented us from the commission of many sins, into which otherwise we should have fallen to our sorrow and damage. Again, how often has He prevented our prayers! Before we have asked, we have had; while we were yet calling, we have received. The desire of the righteous is granted oftentimes as soon as it takes shape, and before it is expressed.

3. It will always be so. God will prevent us. A good captain, when he is marching an army through a country, takes care to make provision for every emergency. It is time for the soldier, to camp, and they need tents. Bring up the baggage wagons, here are the tents which you ask for! The men must have their rations. Here they are! Serve them out! The meat needs cooking. See, there are the portable kitchens and the fuel! The army comes to a river by and by, how will they pass it? Why, the engineers are ready, and pontoons are very soon thrown across. It is wonderful how the well-skilled commander foresees every possible emergency, and has everything ready just at the nick of time. Much more is it so with our God. So let us close with these three practical reflections. If He prevents us with mercy, let us not hesitate to come to Him. Loiter not, O soul, if thou wouldst have the mercy of God. Is God so quick? Wilt thou be slow? Does He go first, and wilt thou not follow?

4. Is God so quick in mercy? Let us who are His be very quick in service. Say in your heart, “My God, since Thou dost prevent me, I cannot hope to keep pace with Thy mercy, but at any rate I will not lag further behind Thee than I must. When I have done all I can for Thee, how little it is, but that little shall be done.” George Herbert once described the good man as resolved “to build a spital, or mend common ways,” and in his day these were acts of charity which piety delighted in; other good deeds are more fitting for these days. Houses for worship are wanted in many a populous district, and orphan children need to be fed. He who can buy no sweet cane with money, can bring time and zeal and effort, and these are precious. What, then, will you do?

5. And now finally, believer, cast yourself into your Lord’s arms. Have done with fretting; have done with anxiety and doubt. Mount like the lark to your God, and sing as you mount. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verses 16-17

Psalms 59:16-17

But I will sing of Thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of Thy mercy in the morning.

Meditation and praise

The subject of the psalmist’s meditation.

1. He meditated upon the Divine mercy. All the perfections of the Divine nature are glorious, and furnish matter for delightful meditation. But it is from His mercy that we draw our chief consolation, encouragement, and hope.

2. He contemplated God as his refuge in trouble. “Thou hast been my defence and refuge,” etc. We have every encouragement to put our trust in God. He is represented as a “rock,” a “fortress,” a “high tower,” a “shield,” and a “buckler.” God as a refuge--

(1) Is near--always at hand.

(2) Affords the greatest security.

(3) Is suitable. Our troubles differ, but He is a suitable refuge in every trouble,

(4) David proved God as his refuge. Saul had laid plots to destroy him, but the Lord had delivered him. We also have obtained support and relief by trusting in God.

3. He contemplated God as his strength and confided in His power. In what respects are we to consider God as the strength of His people?

(1) He defends them from danger by His power.

(2) He assists and strengthens them for duty by His grace.

The influence of the psalmist’s meditation. It led him to praise God.

1. Praising God is most reasonable.

2. Is a pleasant and delightful exercise.

3. Should be a part of every day’s employment. Divine goodness is daily manifested, and should be daily acknowledged.

4. Will tend to prepare us to meet the trials which may yet be before us.

5. Will tend to meeten us for the enjoyment of heaven.

6. Requires a suitable frame of mind. True praise springs from gratitude; and is promoted by a consideration of what God is, what He has (lone for us, and what he has promised to do for us.


1. How great are the privileges of the people of God!

2. How important seriously to consider whether we are interested in these privileges.

3. Learn the importance of continuing to make God our refuge in trouble. (Anon.)

In the morning.--

Morning energy

The morning is my time fixed for my meeting the Lord. What meaning there is in the word “morning”; it is a cluster of rich grapes. Let me crush them and drink the sacred wine. “In the morning “--then God meant me to be at my best in strength and hope; I have not to climb in my weariness; in the night I have buried yesterday’s fatigue, and in the morning I take a new lease of energy. Give God thy strength--all thy strength He asks only what He first gave. In the morning--then He may mean to keep me long that He may make me rich. In the morning--then it is an endless road He bids me climb, else how could I reach it ere the sun be set? Sweet morning! there is hope in its music. (Joseph Parker.)

The God of my mercy.--

Personal appropriation of mercy

If God show mercy to thousands, labour to know that this mercy is for you. “He is the God of my mercy.” A man that was ready to drown saw a rainbow; saith he, “What am I the better, though God will not drown the world, if I drown.” So, what are we the better--God is merciful--if we perish? Let us labour to know God’s special mercy for us. (Watson.)


Psalms 60:1-12

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 59". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.