"This, according to the title, is one of David's psalms, but there is nothing in the circumstances, so far as we know them, of his history which can lead us to associate the psalm with any particular period. Tholuck thinks it is aimed at persons by whom David was surrounded in the court of Saul. But it is not one or two prominent individuals whose conduct forms the burden of the Psalmist's complaint. He is evidently smarting from the falseness and the hypocrisy of the time. The defection which he deplores is a national defection. Like Elijah in the desert, he feels himself alone. A taint has spread through society. Falsehood is everywhere, truth nowhere."—Perowne.
I. The golden age of a country may be a "dark age" in the estimate of the saint.
"The time of David, incomparably the best age in the history of Israel, and yet, viewed in the light of the spirit of holiness, an age so radically corrupt."—Delitzsch. The age of David was in many respects the "golden age" of Israel, then it was great in literature, commerce, statesmanship, music, architecture, and arms. And yet David bemoans it, and sighs amid all its splendour. The true glory of a country is moral, and where the moral element is wanting, all other glories are dim. David felt that whilst palaces, people, chariots, gems, and gold, were on the increase, pious, honest, true-hearted men were on the decrease; nay, they seemed in danger of disappearing altogether, and he felt the gravity of the situation. David lamented over Jerusalem in the supreme hour of its material and political greatness; Paul overlooked the museums, pictures, statues, palaces of Athens, and "his spirit was stirred in him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry;" and when we survey the magnificence of our country, we must weep to think of the atheism, the sin, the folly of the people. Philosophers, poets, commanders, artists, orators, statesmen, millionaires, do not make "a golden age," but the presence of many virtuous and godly men, and where these are wanting, colours, marbles, jewels, domes, and plumes, are but dust and ashes. The age that we call "golden," Heaven may call "dark;" the age that is written down in human histories as supremely august may be an age which angels record in Heaven's "Book of Lamentations."
II. The faults with which a splendid civilisation may be chargeable.
Dr. John Brown says, "In observing the advances of commerce, we shall find that in its first stages it supplies mutual necessities, prevents mutual wants, extends mutual knowledge, eradicates mutual prejudice, and spreads mutual humanity. In its middle and more advanced period, it provides conveniences, increases numbers, gives birth to arts and science, creates equal laws, diffuses general plenty and general happiness. If we view it in its third and highest stage, we shall see it change its nature and effects. It brings in superfluity and vast wealth, begets avarice, gross luxury, or effeminate refinement among the higher ranks, together with general loss of principle." The Jewish nation seemed to have entered on this latest stage. David charges his age—
1. With the lack of faithfulness. "The faithful fail" (Psa ). Honest and true-hearted men were not to be found. Is there not a counterpart to this in our day? The immorality of trade is constantly deplored, and the strange lack of conscientiousness in all classes of the community.
2. With untruthfulness (Psa ). Insincerity and falsehood. "That which the writer especially laments is the prevailing untruthfulness."—Delitzsch. Is not this a feature of our times?
3. Pride. "The tongue that speaketh proud things" (Psa ). "Talking big."—Horsley. When did the tongue speak prouder things than now?
4. Boasting (Psa ). "They declare themselves to be absolutely free, and exalted above all authority."—Delitzsch. Is not this pride, arrogance, defiance, a characteristic of our day? "The idea of the whole verse is, by our own lips and our tongues we can accomplish what we will."—Alexander. And is not this the idea of this generation? "Our puissance is our own: our own right hand shall teach us highest deeds, by proof to try who is our equal."—Paradise Lost.
5. And the fifth verse seems to suggest that goodness is treated with contempt. Psa "signify that at that time wickedness was the way to preferment, and that good men were the objects of persecution."—Clarke. "It is the fault of all high civilisations to think lightly of sin."—Arnold. And out of this scepticism, pride, and sensuality, come crimes of darkest complexion and largest proportion, peculiar to advanced civilisations. According to the height of the mountain is the depth of the valley; according to the intensity of the light is the depth of the shade; and according to the wealth, freedom, learning, splendour of a nation, are its crimes exaggerated and its vices crimson.
III. Duty of the Christian patriot.
1. To cry mightily to God against the prevailing wickedness. "Help, Lord!" (Psa ). The effectual fervent prayer, &c.
2. To protest by word and act against this iniquity, as David did (Psa ).
3. To rest in days of triumphant wickedness in the word and power of God (Psa ).
4. To claim God's promise, and keep himself unspotted from the world (Psa ).
THE CHARACTERISTIC OF A DIVINE REVELATION
We are taught here:
I. The grand characteristic of a Divine revelation.
"The words of the Lord are pure words" (Psa ). The words of men, as the Psalmist has just been showing, are mixed and impure, but God's words are free from all base elements. Ignorance, prejudice, falsehood, passion, insincerity, impurity, debase the words of men, but not God's words. "Every word of God is pure." "His words are true and righteous altogether." The words of men are the smoky fires of earth; "the words of God" are the starry lights of heaven, pure and cloudless, and "which never lead astray."
II. That the Scriptures which profess to be the words of the Lord have been tested, and their divinity established.
Where is this pure light? This Book claims to contain the words of God; its pretensions have been tried, and it comes forth as pure silver from the crucible.
1. It has been tried by criticism, its contents discussed and analysed, the genuineness, authenticity, canonicity, inspiration, of the various books discussed again and again. What is the result? Scores of critics—men most sincere, acute, learned, honest—have tried these pages, and approved them as the handwriting of God. And if you go to the different schools of sceptical criticism, each school will give you back some portion of the Book as authentic and Divine, and amongst them all you get back pretty nearly the whole Book.
2. It has been tried by science. Says one of our great scientists: "Science has established no results hostile to the evidences of Revelation." Neither the stars nor the stones fight against it. Buckland, Sedgwick, Hugh Miller, the greatest of modern geologists; Brewster, the most famous of modern astronomers; Faraday, the most illustrious of modern chemists; these splendid names were Christian; these master-spirits of the scientific world loved this book, found no fault with it, died resting upon it their immortal hopes. There is not much the matter with Revelation where it touches Nature, or these masters would have found it out.
3. It has been tried by experience. Do the Scriptures accomplish what they promise in respect to man's condition and necessities? Christ said to the Jews, "If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not." So we may say of the Scriptures.
(1.) They have been tried in relation to man's social necessities. According to the sceptic, the Bible is false in fact, false in philosophy, false in morals, and it ought to make society selfish, anarchical, barbaric. But it does not. It does the very opposite. Our civilisation has its roots in the Bible; and if you take the Bible to a pagan land, it changes everything into purer and milder forms. It creates everywhere the highest intelligence, the largest liberty, the purest morality, the truest progress.
(2.) They have been tried in relation to man's moral and spiritual necessities. It is just what we need. It gives us that light, pardon, liberty, purity, joy, for which we sigh. The Scriptures appeal to the multitudes whom it has saved from sin and misery, and exclaims, as Christ did, "The works that I do, they bear witness of Me." The Scriptures have been tried by suffering men, guilty men, dying men, unsophisticated men, men of loftiest gifts, and they have found it just what they needed, all that they needed. "By its fruits we know it." Know it to be no poison tree to destroy; no barren tree to mock hungering men with leaves and blossoms; but a tree of life, whose fruits satisfy the longing soul, and whose very leaves are for the healing of the nations.
We observe finally:
III. The consequent preciousness of the Sacred Scriptures.
Precious as purified silver. Precious in life, in death. We value what is tried. In sickness, a tried medicine; in trouble, a tried friend; in had weather, a tried ship, a tried captain, a tried anchor. Thank God! we have a tried religion. The Bible never failed our glorious religious ancestry, and it will never fail us.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 12". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany