V. 1, 2. It is not said, by whom, or on what occasion, this psalm was written ; but it is generally thought, that David composed it, when driven from Jerusalem by Absalom’s rebellion. Yet this is by no means certain : and some think that it was written by some pious Levite, in the days of Hezekiah, when kept from the temple by the Assyrian army. The Psalmist, however, reflecting with regret on the beauties of the sanctuary from which he was banished, and the delight which he had taken in attending on the ordinances there administered, not only breaks out in the language of strong and ardent desire, to be restored to the courts of God ; but declares that his soul so earnestly longed after the living God himself, and the enjoyment of his love, that his body also was affected by it. (Notes, Psalms 73:23-28. Psalms 119:19-21; Psalms 119:81-82. Song of Solomon 2:5; Song of Solomon 5:8.) Or lie may mean, that he longed to " present his body as a " living sacrifice," by such external acts of worship, as would most suitably express the fervent affections of his soul. Living God.
(2) Notes, Joshua 3:10-13. 1 Samuel 17:25-26. Jeremiah 10:9-10. Daniel 6:25-28. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.
V. 3. The Psalmist seems here to envy the birds their privilege of building their nests at, or near to, the altar: of God ; (meaning the tabernacle or temple, where were the altar of burnt-offering and the altar of incense ;) while he was driven as an exile to a great distance from them. Yet, as it can scarcely be conceived, that the birds were left unmolested in their nests to hatch and brood their young, at the altar of God, in the days of David or Hezekiah ; it has been supposed, that ne only meant, that the birds found in their nests that tranquillity, repose, am satisfaction, which the ordinances of God" had affbrdec him, but of which he was now deprived.
(Note, Matt, viii 18 20.) My King, &c.] Notes, Psalms 44:4. Psalms 45:1. Psalms 145:1-2 Matthew 25:31-40; Matthew 5:34.
V. 4. Some of the priests and Levites dwelt continual!) at the sanctuary, which to a carnal mind might appear f wearisome confinement: but the Psalmist deemed then very happy ; and those also who resided so near to the courts of God, that they could constantly join in the praises and adorations there presented, and who counted this their delightful employment.
(Notes, 10. Psalms 26:6-8. Psalms 27:4-6. Psalms 65:4; Psalms 134:1-3, Psalms 135:1-3. 1 Chronicles 16:37-43.) The Septuagint render the latter clause ; " They will praise thee for ever and ever," the strongest term for eternity contained in the Greek language; and no doubt the Psalmist counted those happy who perpetually praised God at the sanctuary on earth - T because this was both a preparation for the eternal worship of heaven, and an earnest of it. (Notes, Psalms 30:11-12. Psalms 145:1-2. Psalms 146:2.)
V. 5. (Notes, 11, 12. Psalms 1:1-3. Psalms 32:1-2. Psalms 119:1.) ’ Happy also is that man, (how mean soever his outward condition be,) who, relying on the divine protection, (Exodus 34:24,) goes up three times a year to the solemn feasts at Jerusalem ; or when he is debarred that liberty, ’ as I now am, is one of those devout persons, whose hearts are more in the high ways that lead thither, than ’ at their own home.’ Bp. Patrick. The man, who trusting in God for strength and protection, pressed through dangers and difficulties, from cordial love to the courts of God, aptly represented those, who, being strong in the Lord, walk with alacrity in his ways, aspiring after and longing for the joys of heaven. (Marg. Ref. Notes, Philippians 3:12-14; Philippians 3:20-21.)
V. 6, 7 The valley of Baca, or ’ of mulberry-trees, ’ was a barren place ; so that they which passed through ’ must dig pits for water; signifying that no lets can hinder them, that are fully bent to come to Christ’s church ; neither yet that God will ever fail them.’ Some translate " Baca," weeping : and probably it was a dreary valley, through which from some parts of the land the people must pass, in going up to Jerusalem : but in one way or other, those, who from regard to the ordinances of God encountered the difficulty, were carried well through it. They ’ pass it as cheerfully, as if it abounded in pleasant springs ; ’ and depending on God, as the Fountain of what they want, ’ receive from him the blessing of plentiful and seasonable ’ showers to refresh them on their journey. So that the ’ whole company go from stage to stage with unwearied vigour.’ Bp. Patrick. The word rendered " pools," signifies also blessings. (Notes, Is. 43: 14 -21, Jeremiah 31:8-9. Ezekiel 34:23-31; v: 26.) Thus they were enabled to proceed with increasing vigour and alacrity, till each of them appeared before God in his courts on mount Zion ; or, till " the God of gods appeared to them " in Zion," manifesting his glory and communicating spiritual blessings through his holy ordinances. (Notes, Job 17:8-9. Is. 40: 21- 31.) The whole description may be properly accommodated to the Christian’s pilgrimage, through this vale of tears to the felicity of heaven.
V. 8, 9. The power of the LORD God of hosts to repel every enemy, and remove every obstacle, and his readiness to hear the requests of the patriarch Jacob and his descendants, encouraged the Psalmist’s earnest prayer, to be permitted, according to the desire of his heart, to return to the courts of God. (Notes, Genesis 32:9-12; Genesis 32:24-30. Hosea 12:3-6.) He also intreated him to " look on " the face of his Anointed," his Messiah, his Christ, the king, as the type of Christ. If David wrote this psalm, he might mean to request God, that he would favour his king, whom he had expressly chosen, and ordered to be anointed; and not suffer a rebel and an usurper to prevail against him. (Notes, Psalms 2:1-6.) But he is generally supposed to have looked forward to the promised Messiah, of whom he was the type and progenitor: and indeed he might plead this as a powerful argument, why the Lord should rescue him from his enemies, that the Messiah was to descend from him ; and he might expect that the root should be preserved for the sake of that illustrious Branch.
(Notes, Is. 6: 13; 7: 2; 65. 8- 10. Matthew 24:21-22.)
V. 10. (Mar<r. and Marg. Ref. Notes, I, 2. Luke 2:41-52. Romans 8:5-9. Revelation 3:12-13.) ’I would rather ’ choose to be in the lowest and basest room in thy holy ’ tabernacle, than to be settled in whatsoever dignity out ’ of the bounds of thy church.’ Bp. Hall.
V. 11, 12. The sun enlightens, warms, enlivens, and fructifies the face of the earth : thus the Lord gives light, comfort, and fruitfulness to those, on whom he shines with the beams of his saving grace. This sun may indeed be clouded or eclipsed ; but it remains unchanged, and will soon burst forth again, as if with increasing splendour. (Nates, 2 Samuel 23:3-4. Mai. 4: 2, 3. John 8:12. Revelation 21:22-27.) In this world the Lord gives " grace," which he, as a Sun, ripens into "glory" in the world above: (Notes,Psalms 73:23-28. Romans 5:1-2:) while as a Shield, he protects the happy man who trusts in him, against all assailants, however formidable ; and withholds nothing truly good from any who walk before him in up-rightness of heart. (Marg. Ref. Notes, Genesis 15:1. Deuteronomy 33:29. 2 Samuel 12:8. Matthew 6:33-34. 1 Timothy 4:6-7) This the Psalmist knew, which cheered his spirits amidst his tribulations, and while he waited the answer to his prayers : and he concludes with most emphatically declaring that man happy, however poor or persecuted, tempted or afflicted, who trusted in the Lord.
Divine ordinances are the believer’s solace in this evil world ; because in them he communes with " the living " God," and enjoys his gracious presence. (Notes, Psalms 122:1; Psalms 2:7; Is 58. 13, 14.) This renders his tabernacles so amiable in his eyes, and dear to his heart : this causes him to value the privilege of attending them; and to regret, as the greatest calamity, the banishment or confinement from them. Indeed the Lord himself is " the Rest " of his people; (Notes, Psalms 90:1-2. Psalms 91:1-2. Psalms 116:7 ;) but on earth, they cannot approach him, except through his appointed means of grace : so that these are to their souls, as the nest to the bird, which resorts thither and is contented and easy, but is unsettled when absent : yet this is only an earnest of the happiness of heaven, where the blessed inhabitants are always praising their God. But how can they dream of entering that holy habitation, and sharing its pure pleasures and society, who complain of the worship of God on earth as a tedious and wearisome task? (Note, Amos 8:4-10; Amos 5:5:) who think those wretched, that spend all their days in his service ; because they share not the carnal pleasure and dissipation, which they themselves prefer to the employment of angels ? But not only are those happy, who have arrived at heaven : they likewise may be congratulated, who have set out, with the desire of their hearts, in the search and pursuit of that felicity ; and who, making the Lord their Strength, walk with pleasure in his ways and approve them in their hearts. They may have to pass through many a valley of weeping, and many a thirsty desert : but wells of salvation shall be opened for them, and consolations sent for their support. The journey itself, and the prospect of its happy end, will revive their hearts ; they shall go from strength to strength, with increasing cheerfulness and confidence, till every one of them arrives safe in the holy city, to appear before God, to see him as he is, and to be for ever with him, and like unto him. (Note, 1 John 3:1-3.) May the Lord then incline the heart of every one of us to set out and proceed with alacrity in this pilgrimage, and may he defend us through it : may we pray without ceasing, (through the great Mediator, " the Lord’s Anointed," whose face he beholds, and whose intercession he delights in,) for ourselves and for all our fellow-travellers. Thus we shall learn to count one day in the courts of God better than a thousand spent elsewhere ; to value the little time which we have employed with him, more than all the rest of our lives ; and to deem the meanest place in his service preferable to the highest preferments in the tents, or even in the palaces, of the ungodly. If we do not choose in this manner, we are carnally-minded; and " to be carnally- " minded is death." But what can all the honours, riches, and distinctions of the world do for us, compared with the blessings of his favour, who is a " Sun and a Shield ? " If he gives us grace here and glory hereafter, he will not withhold any thing truly good from us. He has not indeed engaged to give riches and temporal dignities ; but he has promised to give grace and glory to every one, who seeks them in his appointed way ; and lie delights in fulfilling this promise. What is grace, but heaven begun below, in the knowledge, love, and service of God? What is glory, but the completion of this felicity, in perfect conformity to him, and the full enjoyment of him for ever? And if he has begun to give us grace, his grace will be sufficient for us, and will certainly ripen into glory. Let us then seek this true happiness ; and desire to be fruitful, through the benign influences of the Sun of righteousness, as well as safe and cheerful under the protection of " the Shield of " salvation." Let us study to walk uprightly in his ways, and to trust in his mercies : let us thankfully receive what he gives, and be well satisfied to be without what he withholds, or takes away ; for we may be sure that he sees it evil for us : and let us hold it fast, as an indisputable principle, notwithstanding all possible tribulation, that the man is happy, who trusts in the LORD of hosts, the God of Jacob.