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THIS psalm has many characteristics which distinguish it, not only from all that have preceded it in the collection, but from all those which are assigned to David by their titles. In the first pace, it is the longest of such psalms, extending, as it does, to fifty distinguish it, not only from all that have verses, or a hundred and fourteen lines, but from all Hebrew poetry. Next, it is continuous, not broken into strophes (Hengstenberg). Thirdly, it appears, not only in the Psalter, but also in one of the historical books the Second Book of Samuel, in what seems to be a second edition. Further, it is in itself a very remarkable composition, being distinguished alike by "vigour and grace; full of archaic grandeur, and yet free from abrupt transitions and thoughts labouring for utterance, such as make some of the earlier psalms difficult to understand" ('Speaker's Commentary'). Hitzig calls it "an unrivalled production of art and reflection."
The authorship of David is generally allowed, and indeed has been questioned only by three recent critics—Olshausen, Von Lengerke, and Professor Cheyne. The period at which it was written is declared in the title to be "when the Lord had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul"—a date which is quite in accord with the contents of the poem. For while it celebrates his deliverance from perils of various kinds—from a "strong enemy" (Psalms 18:17), from a "flood of ungodly men" (Psalms 18:4), from the near approach of death (Psalms 18:4, Psalms 18:5), and from a host of foreign enemies (Psalms 18:29-43)—there is no allusion in it to domestic foes, and no indication of remorse for any special sin. The exact time cannot be fixed; but it was probably soon after the series of victories described in 2 Samuel 10:1-19; and before the events recorded in 2 Samuel 11:1-27. and 12.
It is thought, with some reason, that the psalm was composed for a great occasion of public thanksgiving. Most likely it was processional, and therefore not broken into strophes, but continuous. Still, we may trace in it,
(1) an introduction, or prologue (2 Samuel 11:1-3), which is an ascription of praise;
(2) a central mass, chiefly in a narrative form (2Sa 11:4 -45), recounting God's goodness; and
(3) a conclusion, or epilogue (verses 46-50), which is mainly thanksgiving. The central mass is further broken up by the interposition into the narrative of a passage (2 Samuel 11:19-27) declaring the grounds of the favour and protection which God had extended to the psalmist, and, so far, "setting forth the subjective principles on which the Lord imparts his aid" to his servants (Hengstenberg).
I will love thee, O Lord, my Strength. This opening is very remarkable. The verb translated "I will love" expresses the very tenderest affection, and is elsewhere never used to denote the love of man towards God, but only that of God towards man. The entire verse, moreover, is withdrawn from the "second edition" of the psalm (2 Samuel 22:1-51.)—which was perhaps prepared for liturgical use—as too sacred and too private to suit a public occasion.
The Lord is my Rock; or, my Cliff—my Sela'—an expression used commonly of Petra. And my Fortress (comp. Psalms 144:2). Not only a natural stronghold, but one made additionally strong by art. And my Deliverer. A living Protector, not a mere inanimate defence. My God, my Strength; rather, my Rock, as the same word (tsur) is translated in Exodus 17:6; Exodus 33:21, Exodus 33:22; Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:31; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 23:3; Isaiah 26:4. It is the word from which the strong city, Tyro, derived its. name. In whom I will trust (comp. Dent. 32:37). My Buckler (comp. Genesis 15:1, where God announced himself as Abraham's "Shield;" and see also Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalms 3:2; Psalms 5:12; Psalms 84:11; Psalms 119:114; Psalms 144:2). The Horn also of my salvation (comp. Luke 1:69). The horn is the emblem at once of strength and of dignity. A "horn of salvation" is a source of excellency and might, whence "salvation'' or deliverance comes to those who trust in it. And my high Tower (comp. Psalms 9:9, with the comment ad loc.). It is remarked that God, in this passage, receives seven epithets, "the mystic number which in sacred things symbolizes perfection" (Delitzsch).
I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised. Not so much a simple future, "I will call upon the Lord at some particular time," as a future of continuance, "I call, and will ever call, upon the Lord, worthy to be praised;" and so—i.e; so long as I call—shall I be saved from mine enemies (comp. Psalms 5:10, Psalms 5:12; Psalms 6:8-10; Psalms 10:15, Psalms 10:16, etc.).
The sorrows of death compassed me. Here begins the narrative of David's sufferings in the past. "'The sorrows'—or rather, 'the cords'—of death," he says, "encompassed me," or "coiled around me" (Kay). Death is represented as a hunter, who goes out with nets and cords, encompassing his victims and driving them into the toils. David's recollection is probably of the time when he was "hunted upon the mountains" by Saul (1 Samuel 26:20), and expected continually to be caught and put to death (1Sa 19:1; 1 Samuel 23:15; 1 Samuel 27:1). And the floods of ungodlymen made me afraid; literally, the torrents of Belial, or of ungodliness. The LXX. have χείμαῤῥοι, ἀνομίας. Streams of ungodly men, the myrmidons of Saul, cut him off from escape.
The sorrows of hell compassed me about; literally, the cords of Sheol, or Hades. Death and Hell are, both of them, personified, and made to join in the chase. The ensnaring nets are drawn nearer and nearer; at last the toils close in, the last cast is made, and the prey is taken. The snares of death prevented me; or, came upon me (Revised Version)—"took me by surprise" (Kay).
In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God. At this supreme moment, when he is entangled in the snares, and on the point of being slain, the psalmist represents himself as invoking the aid of the Almighty. As Hengstenberg notes, "While the manifold distresses are united in the beginning of the verse into one great 'distress,' so the manifold Divine hearings and helps are united into a single grand hearing and help"—and, we may add, the manifold cries into one great cry. He heard my voice out of his temple; i.e. his tabernacle, since the temple was not yet built (comp. Psalms 5:7; Psalms 11:4); or perhaps, "out of heaven "(Cheyne). And my cry came before him, even into his ears (comp. Exodus 2:23, where the same word is used for the "cry" of the children of Israel in Egypt).
Then the earth shook and trembled; or, quailed and quaked (Kay, who thus expresses the assonance of the Hebrew vat-tig'ash vat-tir' ash). The psalmist must not be understood literally. He does not mean that the deliverance came by earthquake, storm, and thunder, but describes the discomfiture and dismay of his opponents by a series of highly poetical images. In these he, no doubt, follows nature closely, and probably describes what he had seen, heard, and felt. The foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken. In violent earthquakes, the earth seems to rock to its foundations; mountain ranges are sometimes actually elevated to a height of several feet; rocks topple down; and occasionally there are earth-slips of enormous dimensions. Because he was wroth. God's anger against the psalmist's enemies produced the entire disturbance which he is describing.
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils. Emissions of smoke are a common feature of volcanic disturbances, with which earthquakes are closely connected. The LXX. give, instead of "out of his nostrils," in his anger (ἐν ὀργῇ αὐτοῦ), which is better, since the Hebrew prefix בּ, "in," certainly cannot mean "out of." And fire out of his mouth devoured. Fire-balls are said to have accompanied some earthquakes, as especially that one by which Julian's design of rebuilding Jerusalem was frustrated. Coals were kindled by it. The fire-balls above spoken of are declared to have scorched and burnt the workmen employed by Julian.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down (comp. Psalms 145:5). In a storm the clouds do actually descend, and the whole heaven seems to be bowed down to earth. God is said to "come down" to earth whenever he delivers the oppressed, and takes vengeance on their oppressors (see Exodus 3:8; 2 Samuel 22:10; Psalms 144:5; Isaiah 64:1-12. I, 3, etc.). And darkness was under his feet. A deep darkness commonly accompanies both earthquake and storm. When God actually descended on Mount Sinai, it was amid thunders and lightnings, and "a thick cloud" (Exodus 19:16), elsewhere called "thick darkness" (Deuteronomy 5:22).
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly. The imagery here transcends all experience, and scarcely admits of comment or explanation. God is represented as borne through the heavens, as he proceeds to execute his purposes, by the highest of his creatures, the cherubim. Elsewhere (Psalms 104:3) he sails through the sky supported on clouds. Yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind; rather, he sped swiftly (Kay). The verb used is different from that translated "did fly" in the preceding verse. It is applied elsewhere especially to the eagle (Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22).
He made darkness his secret place; i.e. he hid himself amid clouds and thick darkness. In executing his judgments he did not allow himself to be seen. God's action is always secret and inscrutable. His pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. The original runs as follows: "He made darkness his secret place—his pavilion round about him—dark waters, thick clouds of the skies." The whole forms one sentence, "his pavilion" being in apposition with "secret place," and the last clause, "dark waters, thick clouds of the skies," being exegetical of the "darkness" in the first clause. God's "pavilion," or "tent" (סבּה), is mentioned again in Psalms 27:5 and Psalms 31:20.
At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed. The "brightness" intended is probably that of lightning. The "thick clouds" are riven and parted asunder for the lightning to burst forth. Then come, almost simultaneously, hail stones and coals of fire; i.e; hail like that which fell in Egypt before the Exodus (Exodus 9:22-34), when "there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail" (Psalms 18:24)—a fire which "ran along upon the ground," or some very unusual electrical phenomenon.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice. With the lightning came, necessarily, thunder, rolling along the heavens, and seeming like the voice of God (comp. Job 38:4, Job 38:5). Hail stones and coals of fire. The phrase is repeated for the sake of emphasis. The hail and the lightning are represented as conjointly the ministers of the Divine vengeance.
Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them. God's "arrows" are often spoken of. Job felt them within him (Job 6:4). David has already said of them, that they are "ordained against the persecutors'' (Psalms 7:13). We may understand by the expression any sharp pains, mental or bodily, which God sends. And he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. The effect of the tempest of God's wrath is to "scatter" and "discomfit" the enemy (comp. Exodus 14:24). Instead of" and he shot out lightnings," our Revisers give, and lightnings manifold, which is perhaps better.
Then the channels of waters were seen. By "the channels of waters" seem to be meant the torrent-courses, so common in Palestine, especially on either side of Jordan, which convey into it the winter rains. These "were seen," lit up by the "lightnings manifold," having previously been in darkness (see Psalms 18:9-11). At the same time, the foundations of the world were discovered. The earthquake (Psalms 18:7) still continuing, the earth gaped in places, and the glare of the lightning enabled the eye to penetrate deep into the solid globe—so deep that it seemed to reach the "foundations." At thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils (comp. Psalms 18:7, "because he was wroth").
He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. While destruction thus came upon David's enemies (Psalms 18:12-14), God's protecting hand was stretched out to save David himself, who was carefully "taken" and tenderly "drawn" forth from among the "many waters," i.e. the dangers and difficulties which threatened him. Some commentators see in the words used—"he sent, he took me, he drew me"—a tacit reference to Exodus 2:5, Exodus 2:10, and, by implication, a sort of parallel between the deliverance of David from his foes and that of Moses from the waters of the Nile (Kay, Hengstenberg, 'Speaker's Commentary').
He delivered me from my strong enemy. This is generally understood of Saul. By the defeat of Gilboa, and its consequences (1 Samuel 31:1-4), God delivered David from the peril of death which hung over him so long as Saul lived. And from them which hated me. David's enemies among the courtiers of Saul were powerless without their master. Many, probably, fell in the battle; the rest sank into obscurity. For they were too strong for me. I must have succumbed to them had not God helped me.
They prevented me in the day of my calamity. But the Lord was my Stay. God frustrated all the designs of David's foes, and prevented him from falling into their hands.
He brought me forth also into a large place (comp. Psalms 31:8; Psalms 118:5). By "a large place" is probably meant open ground, not encompassed by snares, or nets, or enemies in ambush. He delivered me, because he delighted in me. David now proceeds to explain the grounds of God's favour towards him. He begins by summing up all in a word, "God delighted in him." He then goes on to explain the causes of God's "delight" (Psalms 18:20-26).
The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness. David has spoken of his "righteousness" already in Psalms 7:8. We must not suppose him to mean absolute blamelessness, any more than Job means such blamelessness by his "integrity" (Job 27:5; Job 31:6). He means honesty of purpose, the sincere endeavour to do right, such conduct as brings about "the answer of a good conscience before God" (1 Peter 3:21). According to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me (comp. Job 27:9; Psalms 24:4). "Clean hands" are hands unstained by any wicked action.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord. Compare the statement of the young man whom Jesus "looked upon and loved' (Mark 10:21), "All these commandments have I observed from my youth" (Psalms 18:20). And have not wickedly departed from my God. It is observed that the word translated by "departed wickedly" implies "wilful and persistent wickedness" ('Speaker's Commentary')—"an entire alienation from God" (Calvin). Not even in the humblest of the penitential psalms, when David is bewailing his great offence, does he use this verb of himself. He is an example to all men not to indulge in a false humility, nor employ phrases concerning himself which go beyond the truth.
For all his judgments were before me; i.e. "all his commandments" (compare the use of the same word (מִשׁפַט throughout the hundred and nineteenth psalm). And I did not put away his statutes from me. The wicked are said to "cast God's commandments behind their back" (1 Kings 14:9; Nehemiah 9:26; Psalms 50:17; Ezekiel 23:35). David declares that he had never so acted; he had kept God's statutes always well before him, had borne them in mind, and given heed to them.
I was also upright before him (compare what is said of David in 1Ki 11:4; 1 Kings 14:8; 1 Kings 15:5). Like Job, he was "perfect and upright "—" one that feared God, and eschewed evil" (Job 1:1). And I kept myself from mine iniquity; i.e. from the sin to which I was especially tempted." (Kay compares the αὐπερίστατος ἁμαρτία of Hebrews 12:1.) But what sin this was, we have no means of determining. All that appears is that David had an inclination to some particular form of sin, against which he found it necessary to be continually upon his guard.
Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. Having set forth the particulars of his righteousness (Psalms 18:21-23), the psalmist returns to his previous general statement (Psalms 18:20), and emphatically reaffirms it.
A short didactic digression is here interposed, extending the principles on which God has dealt with David and his enemies, to mankind generally (Psalms 18:25-27); after which a return is made to Go&'s special dealings with David (Psalms 18:28).
With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful. The main principle is that God will act towards men as they act towards him. If they are kindly, gracious, loving towards him—for this is what the word chasid means—he will be kindly, gracious, loving towards them, and vice versa, as explained in Psalms 18:26, Psalms 18:27. With an upright man thou wilt show thyself upright; or, a perfect man (Revised Version). The word is the same as that used in Psalms 4:3; Psalms 12:1; Psalms 31:23; Psalms 34:6; Psalms 37:28, etc; and generally translated "godly," or, in the plural, "saints."
With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward; rather, thou wilt show thyself adverse. The same root is not here used for the verb as for the adjective, as is done in the three preceding clauses. The reason is well explained in the 'Speaker's Commentary:' "In dealing with the good, God shows his approval by manifesting attributes similar or identical in essence; in dealing with the wicked, he exhibits attributes which are correlative—in just proportion to their acts," but not identical. God cannot "show himself froward"—he can only show himself opposed, antagonistic, an adversary. What the psalmist means to say is that, if men oppose and thwart God, he in return will oppose and thwart them. But they will act in a perverse spirit, he in a spirit of justice and righteousness.
For thou wilt save the afflicted people; i.e. the oppressed and down-trodden, who are assumed to be pious and God-fearing (comp. Psalms 10:12-14; Psalms 11:2, etc.). But wilt bring down high looks (comp. Psalms 101:5 and Proverbs 6:17). The fact of "pride going before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall," was noticed by the heathen of the ancient world, no less than by the" peculiar people." And both alike attributed the downfall of the proud to God. "Seest thou," says Herodotus, "how God with his lightning smites always the bigger animals, and will not suffer them to wax insolent, while those of a lesser bulk chafe him not? How likewise his bolts ever fall on the highest houses and the tallest trees? So plainly does he love to bring down everything that exalts itself. Thus ofttimes a mighty host is discomfited by a few men, when God in his jealousy sends panic or storm from heaven, and they perish in a way unworthy of them. For God allows no one to have high thoughts but himself" (vii. 10, § 5). But the heathen seem to have imagined that God envied the proud ones, and therefore cast them down.
As in the former narrative section (Psalms 18:4-24) David seems to have had his earlier troubles in mind, so, in the present one, his troubles since he entered upon the kingdom seem especially to engage his thoughts. These consisted chiefly of wars with foreign enemies, in which, while he incurred many dangers, he was, upon the whole, eminently successful.
For thou wilt light my candle; rather, my lamp—the word generally used of the lamps supported by the seven-branched candelabrum of the tabernacle (see Exodus 25:37; Exodus 37:22, Exodus 37:23; Exodus 40:25). David himself is called "the lamp of Israel" in 2 Samuel 21:17. The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. The true lamp of David, which "enlightened his darkness," was "the light of God's countenance." While this shone upon him, his whole path was bright, and he himself, reflecting the Divine rays, was a lamp to others.
For by thee I have run through a troop. The military key-note is at once struck. Gedud (גְּדוּד) is a marauding band of light-armed troops sent out to plunder an enemy's country. David "ran through" such a "troop," when he pursued and defeated the Amalekites who had plundered and burnt Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:17). It is called three times a gedud (Psalms 18:8 and Psalms 18:15 twice). And by my God have I leaped over a wall. Shur (שׁוּר) is a rare word for "wall," occurring in the Hebrew text only here and in Genesis 49:22, though used also of the walls of Jerusalem in the Chaldee of Ezra (Ezra 4:12, Ezra 4:13, Ezra 4:16). It may designate the walls of Jerusalem in this place, and David may intend to allude to his conquest of the stronghold of Zion from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5:6, 2 Samuel 5:7).
As for God, his way is perfect (comp. Deuteronomy 32:4, "His work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment"). What God does, he does effectually; he does not have recourse to half-measures. The word of the Lord is tried; i.e. the promises of God are sure, they have been tested, and tried as by fire, and will never fail. He is a Buckler to all those that trust in him (comp. Psalms 18:2).
For who is God save the Lord (see Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 32:39). As the one and only God, absolute confidence may be placed in Jehovah, who is able to protect and preserve to the uttermost all who serve him. Or who is a Rock save our God? (comp. Psalms 18:2; and see also Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:30, Deuteronomy 32:31; and Psalms 61:2).
It is God that girdeth me with strength (comp. Psalms 18:39). And maketh my way perfect. Keeps me, i.e; in the right way—the way of his commandments.
He maketh my feet like hinds' feet. The Israelites reckoned swiftness of foot, agility, and endurance among the highest of warlike qualities. These qualities were needed especially in the pursuit of defeated enemies; and the rapidity of David's conquests (2 Samuel 5:6-10; 2 Samuel 8:1-14; 2Sa 10:15 -20) must be ascribed to them mainly. And setteth me upon my high places; i.e. establishes me in the strongholds that command my extensive territory, and give me secure possession of it, as Zion, Rabbath-Ammon, Damascus, Petra, perhaps Zobah, Rehob, and others.
He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms (comp. Psalms 144:1). "A bow of steel" is a mistranslation, since nechusha (נְחוּשָׁה) is not "steel," but "brass," or rather "bronze "-and bows of steel were unknown to the ancients. Compare the comment on Job 20:24.
Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation; i.e. in battle thou extendest over me the shield of thy protection. Nothing was more common in ancient warfare than for a warrior, while he was engaged in using his offensive weapons, especially the bow, to be protected from the missiles of the enemy by a comrade who held a shield before him. The Assyrian kings were constantly thus defended in battle, and it was even common for an ordinary archer to be similarly guarded. And thy right hand hath holden me up. The "right hand" is always spoken of as the arm of greatest strength (comp. Psalms 44:3; Psalms 45:4; Psalms 48:10; Psalms 60:5, etc.). And thy gentleness hath made me great; rather, thy condescension (Kay)—the quality in God which most nearly corresponds to humility in man. The word is not elsewhere used of God.
Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. Job often complained that God "hedged in his steps" (Job 3:23) and "fenced up his way" (Job 19:5), so that he had no liberty of movement. David enumerates among the blessings which he receives of God, the freedom which he enjoys (comp. Psalms 31:8). He is at liberty to go where he likes. and also his footsteps "do not slip." This is rather an independent clause than a consequence. Translate, and my ankles slip not.
I have pursued mine enemies and overtaken them (see 1 Samuel 30:8-17; 2 Samuel 8:1-13; 2 Samuel 10:6-18). Neither did I turn again till they were consumed. The greatest severities exercised by David seem to have been those against Edom (1 Kings 11:15, 1 Kings 11:16) and Ammon (2 Samuel 12:29-31). Otherwise he would seem not to have used, with any great harshness, his rights as a conqueror.
I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. It is remarkable that the nations which David subdued scarcely ever, while he lived, rose up again in revolt.
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle. Having boasted of his own actions during the space of two verses (Psalms 18:37, Psalms 18:38), David falls back upon his habitual acknowledgments, that all which he has done has been done wholly through the strength of the Divine arm, which has upheld him, sustained him, and given him the victory. Thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me; rather, thou hast bowed down mine adversaries under me (Hengstenberg, Kay, Cheyne).
Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; i.e. "thou hast made them turn their backs upon me in flight" (comp. Exodus 23:27, where the same expression is used). That I might destroy them that hate me. David must not be supposed to speak from personal animosity. He expresses himself as the king of God's people, bound to do his utmost to protect them, and to deliver them from the enemies who "hate" him only because he is the leader and champion of his countrymen. The neighbouring nations in David's time seem to have been bent on the total extirpation of the Hebrew people.
They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not. It seems strange, at first sight, that the heathen enemies of David should "cry unto the Lord," i.e. to Jehovah; and hence some have been driven to suppose that a victory over domestic enemies is here interpolated into the series of foreign victories. But it seems better to explain, with Hengstenberg and the 'Speaker's Commentary,' that the heathen did sometimes, as a last resort, pray to a foreign god, whom they seemed to find by experience to be more powerful than their own (see Jonah 1:14). Jehovah was known by name, as the God of the Israelites, to the surrounding nations. Mesha mentions him upon the Moabite Stone; and Sennacherib declared, by the mouth of Rabshakeh, "Am I come up without the Lord against this place to destroy it? The Lord (Jehovah) said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it" (2 Kings 18:25).
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind (comp. Psalms 35:5). The enemy were beaten and dispersed so that they seemed driven as dust before the wind. I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets. They were made no account of, treated with as little ceremony as the clay in the streets. Language of utter contempt.
Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people. David now approaches his conclusion. In one verse he at once sums up his past deliverances and anticipates fresh glories. God has delivered him from the strivings of those who were hostile to him among his own people (see Psalms 18:4-18), and has also given him victory over the heathen. In the future he will do even more. And thou hast made me the head of the heathen. The antithesis between "people" (עָם) and "heathen," or "nations" (גוֹיָם), is unmistakable. The long series of David's victories have made him "head" over the latter. This is less clearly seen in the history of David's reign than in the description given of the state of the kingdom inherited from David by Solomon (1 Kings 4:21, 1 Kings 4:24). A people whom I have not known shall serve me. It is not clear that this was ever fulfilled literally in the person of David, and, we are entitled to explain it as a Messianic prophecy, parallel with that of Psalms 2:8.
As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me; literally, at the hearing of the ear. But the meaning is that given in the Authorized Version. The words aptly describe the conversion of the Gentiles (see Acts 10:34-48; Acts 13:48; Acts 17:11; Acts 18:8, etc.). The strangers shall submit themselves unto me; literally, the sons of the stranger shall pay court to me—not necessarily a false court, as Hengstenberg and others suppose, but, as Dr. Kay explains, an "obsequious and servile homage."
The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places. Converts are represented as coming into the Church, not merely from love, but partly from fear. The kingdom of the Redeemer at once attracts and alarms. So Isaiah says, "The nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted … The sons also of them that afflict thee shall come kneeling unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet, and they shall call thee, The city of the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 60:12-14; see also Micah 7:16, Micah 7:17).
This glorious and triumphant psalm concludes with a solemn ascription of praise, blessing, and thanksgiving to Almighty God—partly recapitulation of what has preceded (Psalms 18:47, Psalms 18:48), partly additional (Psalms 18:46, Psalms 18:49, Psalms 18:50). Terms of praise are accumulated, and the whole is made to culminate in a Messianic burst, where David is swallowed up in his "Seed;" and the "Anointed King" presented to our view is rather the antitype than the type—rather Christ Jesus than the son of Jesse.
The Lord liveth. God was known to Israel as "the living God" from the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 5:26). The epithet exalted him above all other so-called gods, who were not living. But it had also a very precious, absolute meaning. God's life was the source of man's. It was through God (who had life in himself) breathing into man the breath of life that man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Hence "the living God" (Psalms 42:2) is "the God of our life" (Psalms 42:8). And blessed be my Rock (see Psalms 18:1, Psalms 18:31). In blessing "his Rock," David blesses God for his qualities of firmness, steadfastness, and trustworthiness. And let the God of my salvation be exalted. "The God of my salvation" is a favourite phrase with David (see Psalms 25:5; Psalms 27:9; Psalms 38:22; Psalms 51:14; Psalms 88:1). Other writers use it rarely. When David prays that the God of his salvation (i.e. the God who continually saves him and preserves him) may be "exalted," he probably desires that he may be praised and honoured of all men.
It is God that avengeth me; rather, even the God avengeth me (comp. Psalms 18:3, Psalms 18:6, Psalms 18:14, Psalms 18:17, etc.). And subdueth the people under me; rather, the peoples; i.e. the nations (comp. Psalms 18:37-42).
He delivereth me from mine enemies. The "deliverance" was especially from domestic foes (see Psalms 18:17, Psalms 18:19). His foreign foes seem never to have brought David into much peril. Yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me. The "lifting up" was above enemies of both kinds (see Psalms 18:43). Thou hast delivered me from the violent man (comp. Psalms 18:17). There is no reason to doubt that in both places Saul is intended. He was at once David's "enemy," and a "man of violence." Were the question open otherwise, it would be closed by the statement in the title.
Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen. As, in some sense, "the head of the heathen" (Psalms 18:43), David was bound to offer prayer, and praise, and thanksgiving "among them," if it were only to teach them by his example, and lead them on towards the worship of the true God. And sing praises unto thy Name; i.e. to thy Person—God being in his Name.
Great deliverance giveth he to his king; literally, he magnifies salutations to his king. The primary reference seems to be to the gracious message which God sent to David by Nathan when he had brought the tabernacle into Jerusalem, and purposed to build a "house" worthy of it (see 2 Samuel 7:8-16). God had then "saluted" David as "his servant" (Psalms 18:5), and sent him a message of the most gracious character, even promising the kingdom to him and to his seed "for ever" (Psalms 18:13, Psalms 18:16). And showeth mercy to his anointed, to David. No doubt David is primarily intended, both by the "king" of the first clause, and by the "anointed" of the second; but the combination of the two, and the immediate mention of the "seed" which is to reign "for ever," carry the passage beyond the psalmist individually, and give to the conclusion of the psalm, at any rate, a semi-Messianic character. As Hengstenberg says, "Psalms of this kind are distinguished from those which may more strictly be called Messianic, only by this—that in the latter the Messiah exclusively is brought into view, while here he is presented to our notice only as a member of the seed of David".
Psalms 18:25, Psalms 18:26
God's revelation of himself is suited to man's capacity.
"With the merciful," etc. We see what we have eyes to see; hear what we have ears to hear; feel what we have capacity to feel. Suppose four listeners to the same piece of music. To one, with a critical ear, it is a rendering, good or ill, of the musician's composition; to a second, a strain of national music; to a third, full of memories of childhood; to a fourth, who has no ear for music, a tedious noise. Suppose a group watching a lamb skipping in a field. One is a painter; another, a naturalist; another, a shepherd; another, a butcher. Each sees something the rest cannot see. Perhaps a simple Christian coming by sees what none of them perceives—a reminder of the good Shepherd, who gathers the lambs in his arms. As in outward things, so in spiritual. As with bodily sight, hearing, feeling, so with spiritual perception. He that has eyes will see. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Therefore the lesson of the text is a great and widely applicable truth—God's revelation of himself is suited to men's spiritual capacity. Different souls get different views of God.
I. THIS IS TRUE OF GOD'S DEALINGS.
1. They appear different to different eyes. Visit two homes, perhaps in the same street, in which there is similar trouble—sick-ness, or bereavement, or failure in business, or sore poverty. In one, all is gloom, repining, comfortless perplexity. In the other, there is light in the darkness, a rainbow on the storm. To one sufferer God's ways are hard, dark, mysterious; he is even ready to think them unjust. The other says, "I could not bear it in my own strength, but the Lord stands by me and strengthens me. God's will must be right. He cannot make mistakes or be unfaithful. He is my Refuge and Strength." So with God's government of the world and general providence. One mind fastens on the pain, sorrow, calamity, which every hour records—pestilence, earthquake, tempest, and so forth. Another sees that the universal design and general working of all natural laws is for good and happiness, not evil; that the main part of human suffering has its root in sin; that "the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord;" and trusts God for the rest.
2. God's dealings not only appear different; they are and must be different, according to the temper and attitude of our souls. To the soul that bows under God's hand, trusts his Word, clings closer to him in trial, it is "chastening"—full of mercy, rich in result (Hebrews 12:6, etc.). The proud, stubborn heart, that resents and rebels against affliction, is hardened by it, like Pharaoh.
II. IT IS SO WITH GOD'S WORD. Come to the Scriptures in a cavilling, critical, hostile spirit, and they will teem with difficulties. Read them carelessly, scornfully; they will be dull and lifeless. Search them, with an earnest desire to know the truth, with prayer for the Holy Spirit's teaching, with candour and humility; they will "talk with thee" (Proverbs 6:22), and unfold their secrets. Thou shalt hear God's own voice speaking to thy soul; and find what the Thessalonians found (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
III. SO IT WAS WITH OUR LORD JESUS. Isaiah's prediction was fulfilled (Isaiah lilt. 2, 3). Scrupulously religious persons, but blinded by self-righteousness, could no more see his glory than sceptics, hypocrites, or scoffing triflers (Matthew 13:14, Matthew 13:15). But his disciples—those who first believed on him, and then lived in close converse with him—could say, "We beheld his glory" (John 1:14).
CONCLUSION. SO it is to-day. This is a universal law—What God is to you—what Christ is to you, shows what you are, and determines what you shall be. The gospel is an open secret, but still a secret, from proud, worldly hearts. The physician is for those who are sick and know it. The Saviour is for sinners who feel themselves sinners. The living water will not flow into a vessel turned upside down. Heaven itself would be no heaven to a heart full of love of the world, of self, of sin, and void of love to God.
Our exaltation through God's gentleness.
"Thy gentleness hath made me great." "Gentleness!" A most remarkable and wonderful word to apply to the Almighty Creator, the infinite God! Nowhere else do we find it thus applied. As applied to men, the Hebrew word so rendered here means "meekness," "lowliness." We are reminded of our Saviour's words, "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart." "Gentleness" is a very happy and beautiful translation. "Condescension," which the Revisers give in the margin, would not be nearly so apt. It reminds us of Psalms 113:6. But there the leading thought is the glory and condescension of God; here, our exaltation through his gracious gentleness.
I. THE GENTLENESS OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE IS THE SAFEGUARD OF ALL OUR WELFARE, the condition of all human greatness and prosperity. Human life is like a flower, that can thrive only if fenced from storms and frosts. We are in a world filled with forces which, if they broke loose, would be our destruction. There is power sleeping in the winds and waves to wreck or drown all our navies; in earthquakes, to overthrow all our cities; in blight and insect ravages, to destroy our harvests. Even the light snowflakes, if they fell for a fortnight twenty feet deep all over our land, would turn it into a desert of the dead. On the other hand, how gently those immense forces work which minister to life! How smoothly earth flies in her yearly circle! No eye, or ear, or sense of ours can make the vapour rising from the ocean to fill the springs and water the plains; the secret ministry of the world of plants to the life of the animal world—pouring forth from numberless millions of millions of invisible mouths vital air, and removing what otherwise would soon poison and stifle us; or the pulse of growth in bud and blade, leaf, flower, and fruit, in spring and summer, as the returning tide of life answers to the gentle sunshine. "He causeth the grass to grow," etc. (Psalms 104:14, Psalms 104:24, Psalms 104:27; 2 Corinthians 9:10). How gently the great machine works! How gently the sunbeam touches the eye, after its flight of over ninety millions of miles in eight minutes! How gently the force of gravity, that holds suns and worlds in their places, draws the child's foot to the ground and poises the gnat in the air! True, nature has a stern side, by fixing our thoughts on which a gloomy view may be made out. But take in the whole scope of natural law and Divine providence. For one city overthrown by earthquake, how many have stood safe for ages! For one shipwreck, how many prosperous voyages! For a season of local scarcity, how many plenteous harvests! For one home in mourning, how many bright with health and love!—how many happy years, perhaps, in that very home! In a word, our Saviour sums up all we can say of the gracious gentleness of our Father's providence (Luke 12:6, Luke 12:7; Matthew 6:26-30).
II. THE GENTLENESS OF GOD'S REVELATION OF HIMSELF IN HIS WORD IS OUR HIGHEST WISDOM. The Bible is a wonderfully different book from anything the wisest of men could have imagined as a revelation of God. Philosophers and men of genius, had they been consulted, would have agreed that it must be a book for the select few, not the multitude. The notion of teaching peasants, slaves, children, the deep things of God, would have seemed to them folly. But "the foolishness of God is wiser than men." He has given us a book for the cottage, the schoolroom, the sick-chamber, as well as for the college, the palace, the cathedral. A compilation of short books that look as though collected by chance, yet with wondrous living unity. Depth is concealed by clearness; sublimity by simplicity. Its deepest, highest lessons are given in words a child may understand. No words are too homely, no similitudes too humble, if only they can point the arrow of truth, or wing it home to the heart. We read of God's eye, ear, hand, face; his throne, footstool, sword; of his remembering, forgetting, being angry, grieved, repeating, being well-pleased (look at Amos 2:13; Malachi 1:6; Isaiah 1:3, Isaiah 1:14, Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 49:15, Isaiah 49:16; Revelation 7:17). A long unlovely name has been invented. by learned men to express this setting forth of Divine things in human language, "anthropomorphism." It is used as though a reproach, indicating the ignorance and narrowness of the sacred writers. Suppose the Bible had been a book to please philo-sophia critics, what would have been its value to mankind? Suppose our heavenly Father had disdained to speak to us in our own language, how should we have learned that we are his children? The aim of his Word, his message to men, is not to make us philosophers, but to bring us sinners home to God. That teaching which best secures this end is worthiest of God.
III. THE GENTLENESS OF GOD IS THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF OUR PRAYERS. It would seem reasonable for God to say to us, "Prayer is needless; I know all your wants and desires. Presumptuous; I am the Judge, not you, of what is best. Useless; you cannot change my all-wise purposes." Then we should have been deprived of the main comfort of life; our sheet-anchor in trouble; our closest, happiest, highest fellowship with our Maker and Father. Look at Abraham interceding for the guilty cities; Moses interceding for apostate Israel; Jonah crying from the sea-depths; Peter praying by the corpse of Dorcas; Paul over that of Eutychus. Read the promises to prayer. Consult the experience of all Christians in all ages. In prayer, our weakness takes hold on God's strength. His gentleness makes us great.
IV. Lastly, GOD'S GENTLENESS IS SEEN IN HIS MERCY TOWARDS SINNERS. The Bible, like Nature, has a severe side; a severity solely aimed against that which is man's deadliest enemy—sin. It is possible so to read it that terror and judgment seem to overshadow mercy and love. This is to misread it utterly. It is to forget that the terrible judgments it records—such as the Deluge, the destruction of Sodom, the plagues of Egypt, the destruction of the sinful nations, the overthrow of Jerusalem, of Babylon—stand as sure warnings, indispensably necessary, in the long thousands of years during which God has made the sun to shine and his rain to fall on the evil and unthankful, "not willing that any should perish" (Matthew 5:45; 2 Peter 3:9). Above all, the crowning revelation of God to man, for which the whole Old Testament law and history were the preparation, is "the meekness and gentleness of Christ." He is "the Brightness of the Father's glory, the express Image of his Person." All power is his. That brightness might have blinded us; that power crushed us. But "though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich." His gentleness makes us great. He stoops to lift us to God. Jesus, the Man of sorrows, the Friend of sinners, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, weeping by the grave, bidding the weary come to him for rest, taking the children in his arms, washing his disciples' feet, led as a lamb to the slaughter, praying for his murderers, bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, asks us, as he asked his apostles, "Have ye understood all these things?" And if our hearts can answer, "Yea, Lord," he replies, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."
HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE
The conqueror's song of praise and hope.
It is not our purpose, nor is it our province, in this section of the 'Pulpit Commentary,' to write homilies on specific texts; but rather to deal with this psalm (as we have done with others) as a whole—for it is a unity—and to show how grand a basis it presents for the pulpit exposition of the provisions of "the everlasting covenant" to which allusion is made in the last verse of the psalm. The student and expositor might with advantage refer at the outset to Isaiah 4:3, "I will give you the sure mercies of David," with the view of showing that the promises made to David do immeasurably transcend any merely personal reference; that they include all the blessings which come to us through him who, though David's Son, was yet David's Lord. There is no reason to doubt the Davidic authorship of the psalm. There are, moreover, more data than most psalms present, to aid us in deciding the approximate date of its composition. We have it recorded in 2 Samuel 22:4-51. This gives us one historic clue to its date. Besides, the tone of triumph which is heard throughout it was scarcely heard in the later days of David, after his great crime had darkened the remainder of his earthly life. 2 Samuel 22:19-24 could scarcely have been written after that catastrophe, even though it be urged that David writes rather of his administration as king than of his behaviour as a man. Regarding, then, the inscription at the head as showing us the occasion on which the psalm was first penned, and taking into account the prophetic far-reaching-ness of its closing words, we are called on to view it in a double aspect—one historical, the other typical.
I. LET US SKETCH ITS CONTENTS AS HISTORICALLY REFERRING TO KING DAVID AND HIS CONQUESTS.
1. Here is a distinct reference to David as king. And while we should miss very much of the significance of the psalm, were we to omit the larger view to which we shall presently refer, yet, on the other hand, if we omit the strictly historical application, our use of the psalm will be strangely incomplete. As, without the historic setting, there would be no basis on which to set anything further, so, without the larger view, there would be no adequate superstructure set up upon that basis. Combine both, and the glory of the psalm stands forth as combining inspiration and revelation in the contents of this triumphant song (see 2 Samuel 22:50, where the remarkable, phrase occurs, "his king;" i.e. God's king). David was God's appointed king for Israel, and as such he tunes his harp for Jehovah's praise.
2. With David as king, God had made a covenant. This is implied in 2 Samuel 22:50, where the mercies already granted are referred to as pledged "for evermore."
3. David had been plunged into fierce conflict. (See 2Sa 22:4, 2 Samuel 22:5.) The study of David's life will furnish us with a host of facts in this direction.
4. Conflict had driven him to earnest prayer. (2 Samuel 22:6.) Again and again had he passed through this experience (see Psalms 34:6; Psalms 138:3). The believer's most piercing cries are sent upward to God, when he is being pierced by the sharpest arrows of affliction. How is it that we so often need the pressure of sorrow to quicken us from languor in prayer. Sad,—that prayer should be forced out rather than drawn out]
5. Prayer had been followed by timely deliverance. This is set forth in poetry which is truly sublime (see 2 Samuel 22:7-16). £ 'The Divine deliverance was seen:
(1) In girding the assailed one with strength (2 Samuel 22:39).
(2) In rescuing him from his pursuers (2 Samuel 22:16).
(3) In causing the foe to be prostrate under the conqueror's feet (2 Samuel 22:40).
(4) In bringing forth the conqueror to liberty and gladness (2 Samuel 22:19).
6. Such deliverance led him to triumph in God. It may be asked, however, "Is not such joy in God rather of an inferior order, when it arises because God has done for us just what we wished?" Perhaps so. But that is not a correct setting of the case before us. It is this: God had promised deliverance. David pleaded with God on the ground of the promise; and he found the great Promiser true. Hence the jubilation. When prayers that are presented on the basis of God's promise are abundantly answered, gratitude may well burst forth in holy song (see 2 Samuel 22:1, 2 Samuel 22:2). What joy to a believer to read in the trials and reliefs of life a perpetual revelation of the loving-kindness of God!
7. The mercies of the past assure him of help in the future. (2 Samuel 22:50.) "For evermore." Even so. So often has prayer been turned to praise, so often have we cast our burden at God's feet, and borne a song away, that we cannot doubt him now. Rather will we sing, "Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice." God has helped us, and will "for evermore."
II. LET US NOTE ITS CONTENTS TYPICALLY, AS FULFILLED AND FULFILLING IN ONE WHO IS OF DAVID'S SEED, YET IS DAVID'S LORD. £ Although it is easy to explain the greater part of the phrases of this psalm by incidents in David's personal career, there are some which seem to tower above his or any man's experience, and which can be adequately interpreted only as the psalm is regarded as having not only historical meaning, but also typical and predictive significance. How this manifests itself will appear, we trust, from the present outlines.
1. The kingship of David was not only personal, but also typical and prophetic. That such was the case may be gathered from the last verse of this psalm, and also from a study of the following passages: 2 Samuel 7:12-16; 2 Samuel 23:2-5; Psalms 16:8-10; Psalms 89:20-37; Psalms 132:11-18; Psalms 110:1-7.; Matthew 22:41-45; Acts 2:25-36; Acts 13:32-37. That gracious redemptive work, which began with the calling out of Abraham (Isaiah 51:2, Hebrew), was being carried forward through David with a view to its fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is seated on David's throne. And the glory of King David is infinitely surpassed in David's Lord; while the promises made to David and his seed are made over to all who are in blessed covenant relation to God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 4:3). £
2. The Lord Jesus and his saints are gone forth to war. (Acts 13:34.) In a high and holy sense, as the kingship of David was typical, so also were his wars. One of the early visions of the seer of Patmos indicated this. He sees One who speaks of himself as the Root and Offspring of David (Revelation 22:16) going forth conquering and to conquer (Revelation 6:2); and, indeed, the entire Book of the Apocalypse might be called the 'Book of the Wars of the Lord.'
3. The issue of the great conflict is already foreseen. The "for evermore" with which the psalm closes spans the whole of the present dispensation, and reaches forward to the time when Jesus shall have "all enemies beneath his feet." This is beyond doubt. The everlasting covenant is "ordered in all things and sure."
4. Ere this final victory, there will intervene many a struggle and many a rescue. While David's Lord is on high, controlling the conflict, and administering all, the saints are in the midst of the struggle. As individuals they are called to "wrestle against the world-rulers of darkness." Ministers of the gospel are to "endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ." And the Church, as a whole, will have to undergo many a severe struggle. At times it may seem as if the cause were all but lost. But the great Commander will ensure his army all timely rescue as well as final triumph.
5. All the enemies of Christ will be put to shame. (Isaiah 60:12; Romans 16:20; Psalms 18:40-42; also Psalms 18:13, Psalms 18:14, Psalms 18:45.)
6. The great King will receive the homage of the peoples, and be exalted above all. (Acts 13:43, Acts 13:44.) The expression in Acts 13:43, "the Head of the nations," can be fully accomplished only in Christ as our victorious Lord. "All nations shall serve him."
7. All who are now fighting on the King's side will share his victory. That which is the result for David is ensured also to "his seed" (Acts 13:50). As our Lord is not alone in the war, so he will not be alone when the war is over. His triumph will be that also of those who are his.
8. The result of all will be a new disclosure of God. (Acts 13:1, Acts 13:2, Acts 13:30, Acts 13:31, Acts 13:46, Acts 13:47.) Just as David's career was ever unfolding to him the faithfulness and love of God, so will the result of the Church's conflict reveal to believers how great, how vast, was the scheme of mercy for men's deliverance, and for the discomfiture of the powers of ill. The glory of God will stand out revealed in the day of final triumph, putting doubts and fears to fiight, as his love stands forth vindicated in the glorious result of all. And the oft-repeated Scripture phrase, "They shall know that I am the Lord," will be fulfilled with a glory and grandeur beyond our utmost stretch of thought.
9. All this is now God's noblest prophecy, and will be hereafter the theme of the saints' noblest song. Psalms 18:1-50, may well be regarded as finding its exposition, its supplement, in Revelation 5:1-14. In the psalm we have God's providences forecast; in the Apocalypse we have God's providences reviewed. In the former David's conquests are recited; in the latter the conquests of the Root of David. In the former we have the song of the victorious David; in the latter the new song of the victorious Seed of David. And by as much as David's Lord is greater than David, by so much will the new song of the redeemed transcend the noblest flights of Hebrew praise.—C.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
A retrospect of life.
The sailor tells of the perils of the sea; the traveller recounts the varied incidents of his career; and the soldier who has passed through battles and sieges can speak of hairbreadth escapes and moving accidents by flood and field. So it is with human life. We have the power of looking back; we can in imagination revive the past, and as scene after scene rises before us, our heart is thrilled with various emotions. And what we have experienced and recalled, we can set forth to others. The opening of this psalm is very touching and beautiful. It is as if the fire which had been burning within could no longer be restrained. The psalmist's pent-up feelings must find an outlet. Before and beyond all, he must let his full heart speak. "I will love thee, O Lord, my strength." This may be regarded as the key-note, and it is touching how the psalmist dwells upon it, with variations, as if he could not let it go (Psalms 18:2). Love to God was not an impulse, or the result of purposes, but the very habit and delight of his soul. Name after name, and epithet after epithet, is pronounced, each having its own peculiar associations, and each; not only expressing, but exciting his love the more. In this retrospect of life we have—
I. THE PERILS ESCAPED. Various images are employed. We see how enemies increased and dangers thickened. In the midst of one terrible scene of tumult and storm, where all perils are gathered into one, the psalmist seems about to be engulfed. But in his helplessness, the hand of God from out of the cloud lays hold of him, and draws him forth from the great waters. His cry for help was not in vain. So let us remember with gratitude God's goodness. There are some that dishonour the great memories of life, because they forget God. Let us acknowledge the hand of God, not only in the crises of our life, but also in the countless instances in which God has shielded us from dangers that we knew not, and saved us from evils and mischances of our daily life which else might have been our ruin.
II. THE PRINCIPLES EVOLVED. Trials are a test. There are certain principles which we should do well to hold fast, whatever comes.
1. God's Fatherly care. Relation stands. God does not change his love, though he may change his ways. Through all afflictions he cleaves to his people, and his people should cleave to him.
2. The efficacy of prayer. There are infinite resources with God, but they are only available to us by prayer. We may not be able to see how help can come, or relief may reach us in ways different from what we expected; but let us have faith in God's Word. "Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee." To this David and all the saints bear witness.
3. That all things are working to a perfect end. God is just, and will do justly. God is good, and he cannot will us aught but good. Let us trust him utterly. "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord" (Lamentations 3:26; Romans 8:28).
III. THE BLESSINGS ENJOYED. Light shines in the darkness. Strength is evolved out of weakness. Progress is made in spite of opposition. Peace is enjoyed in the midst of trouble. Hope is cherished in the face of difficulties and sorrows. Victory is assured over every foe. And why? Because God is with his people (Psalms 18:31-45).
IV. THE ACKNOWLEDGMENTS DEMANDED. (Psalms 18:46, Psalms 18:50.) The psalm concludes with a joyous burst of praise, in which, with brief touches, scenes previously described are recalled, and the rich fulness of the Divine goodness is set forth. There is personal thanksgiving for God's love and mighty works. But there is more. There is the acknowledgment of God as the God of all flesh—not only of David and of Israel, but of all nations. And there is the grand hope expressed that, as God had brought the nations around within the dominion of Israel, so he would draw all the nations of the earth within the benign and blessed rule of Messiah (Romans 15:9). "In Christ, the Son of David, David's fallen throne has lasting continuance; and in him everything that was promised to David's seed has eternal truth and reality. According to its final prospect, the praise of Jahve, the God of David, his Anointed, is praise of the Father of Jesus Christ' (Delitzsch).—W.F.
A God-made man.
We often hear of what are called self-made men; but here is something nobler by far—a God-made man. "Thy gentleness hath made me great." We learn from this text that—
I. MAN IS CAPABLE OF GREATNESS. At first, man was made great, for he was made in the image of God. But he sinned and fell. Still, the capacity remained. Hence there was misery. Ambition wrongly directed became a bane. Powers and cravings that rose above earthly things left the heart unsatisfied. To be great, man must be raised from his fallen state, and renewed in the spirit of his mind. Love is the spirit of greatness; service is its test, and power with man is its proof. He is the greatest who serves his brethren best in love.
II. THAT GOD IS ABLE TO MAKE MAN GREAT. It has been said that "some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them;" but this is a low and false view of greatness. It is of the earth, earthy. True greatness does not come from without, but from within; it is not a thing of circumstances, but of character; it does not depend upon the will of other men, but upon the spirit that dwelleth in us. We must be great in heart before we can be great in life. When God would make a man great, he not only gives him the right spirit, but submits him to a process of education and discipline. God has already made many great. Think of the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs, and the exceeding great multitude of the saints of every kindred and tongue; all these would acknowledge, with glad and grateful hearts, that they owed everything to God. Their confession would be, "We are his workmanship" (Ephesians 2:10; Revelation 4:10).
III. GOD MAKES MEN GREAT BY HIS GENTLENESS. Force may overcome force, but it cannot win the heart. If we are dealt with in the way of terror and wrath, our tendency will be to resistance, a version, and alienation. Severity may be, at times, necessary, but it is not severity but love that conquers. Mark God's gentleness:
1. In his manifestation of himself in Christ.
2. In the love of the Spirit in the Word.
3. In the gracious discipline of Providence.
We have in the life of David a beautiful example of the way in which God makes a man great. In the Gospels we have the true doctrine as to greatness (Matthew 20:26), and illustrative facts of the most convincing kind. See how Matthew was called; how Zacchseus was raised to a nobler life; how Peter and the rest of the apostles were trained to humble and loving service in behalf of their fellow-men. These, and such as these, will be hailed as truly great men when kings and conquerors, and all the "laurelled Barabbases of history," who have lived only for themselves, are forgotten.—W.F.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
The retrospect of a life: a sermon for the close of the year.
"In this magnificent hymn the royal poet sketches in a few grand outlines the history of his life. By God's help he had subdued every enemy, and now, in middle life, looking back with devout thankfulness on the past, he sings this great song of praise to the God of his life." Divisions of the psalm:
1. The introduction, setting forth all that Jehovah is to David (Psalms 18:1-3).
2. The record of David's sufferings and peril, and the mighty deliverance by which he was rescued (Psalms 18:4-19).
3. The reason for this deliverance, in the character of God and the principles of his government (Psalms 18:20-30).
4. The blessings which David had received in his life; his own preservation and that of his race; help and strength in battle, rule over all enemies (Psalms 18:31-45).
5. Joyful thanksgiving and acknowledgment of all God's mercies (Psalms 18:46-50). The general subject of the psalm is—The retrospect of a life. The interest of such a retrospect depends on the following conditions:—
I. WHETHER A MAN HAS HAD A HISTORY OR NOT. (Psalms 18:43.) Anything to distinguish his life from the uneventful lives of the myriads who are born, pass through life, and die, and leave no trace behind them. But Moses and David, Paul and others, gave birth to history, and have mingled in the greatest affairs of a nation and of the world, and have much to think of and celebrate when they look hack. So of modern great men. They animated and created their opportunities. Have we made our lives in any way worth looking back upon? Domestic history. Thinkers as well as actors make history. What Christ has done.
II. WHETHER A MAN HAS SEEN GOD IN HIS LIFE OR NOT. (Psalms 18:19, Psalms 18:29, Psalms 18:32, Psalms 18:39.) To most men God has been only remotely related to their lives—a power at the back of things generally, but not occupying every single event and experience of their existence. To David and all the great saints of the world, God was everything and everywhere in his life. God had anointed him for every work and every office; and every event was a manifestation of his love and righteousness and power. The consciousness of such a past is very grand and elevating. Our life is rich or poor accordingly. Sense of God in common life and duties.
III. WHETHER THE LIFE HAS BEEN RIGHTEOUS OR WICKED. (Psalms 18:20.) We turn our eyes from a life that has been ill spent, and are filled with reproach and sorrow. If we know that we have lived a wicked life, we know that we are unworthy and guilty, and are self-condemned. Whether David wrote this psalm before or after his sin with Bathsheba, we cannot say; but he affirms his righteousness in the most emphatic way. "He has kept the ways of the Lord, and has not wickedly departed from him." Such a retrospect is full of deep power and sense of triumph.
IV. WHETHER A MAN HAS ACHIEVED HIS OBJECTS OR NOT. (Psalms 18:37, Psalms 18:38, Psalms 18:48.) David was a king, and had been in many wars and troubles; but he had, through God, triumphed over all his difficulties and foes. How many of us fail, or only partly succeed, in the things we aim at, because we have been profane and faithless!
V. WHETHER WE HAVE A FUTURE TO ANTICIPATE, AS WELL AS A PAST TO REMEMBER. To some the past is all; they have no future. But David had a bright future as well as a glorious past. "In thy presence is fulness of joy," etc.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 18". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20