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MINORITIES AND MAJORITIES
“The preceding psalm had set before us the utter vanity of all attempts to injure the throne of God’s anointed King—Messiah. The present psalm relates to that incident in David’s life which stands as the typical instance of rebellion against God’s kingdom;—as the type, therefore, of the working of Antichrist.”—Kay.
I. The majority without God.
1. The greatness of the majority. “How are they increased.” “Many are they” (Psalms 3:1). “Many there be” (Psalms 3:2). “Ten thousands of people, that have set themselves” (Psalms 3:6). Nearly all Israel had deserted the king (2 Samuel 15:12). How often has goodness to find itself outvoted! How often has the man of God to feel a sense of solitude and desolation! Thus Christ. Thus the Church has often been outnumbered by its enemies, again and again. A few holy men have had to struggle against the weight of governments, the influence of the press, the omnipotence of wealth, the organisation of parties, the fury of mobs, and sometimes the power of the pulpit. And the believer feels the air is full of foes: his adversaries are “legion.” He feels that he is alone contending with dark hosts of sins, doubts, fears, and sorrows. “They set themselves round about.” They swarm on every hand, and fix themselves in battle array. The odds were overwhelmingly against the Psalmist; so are the odds overwhelmingly against the Church of Christ, and against the souls which trust in Christ.
2. The bitterness of the majority. “Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God” (Psalms 3:2). “He has offended God: and God, who was his strength, has forsaken him. God will no longer save him. He is a reprobate.”—Kay. “God as well as man is against him; his destruction is certain; prayer itself will be of no avail.”—Perowne (2 Samuel 16:8). His enemies breathe out cruelty. “The words of the adversaries pronounce a judgment upon his inmost life, or upon his personal relationship to God.”—Delitzsch. ‘God,’ they cried, ‘has deserted him.’ And the Psalmist knew that their reproach was not without seeming justification. He knew that his own sin lay at the bottom of this insurrection. “David had plunged himself into the deepest abyss of wretchedness by his adultery with Bathsheba. The rebellion of Absalom belonged to the series of dire calamities which began to come upon him from that time. Plausible reasons were not wanting for such words as these which gave up his cause as lost.”—Delitzsch. Thus his enemies, as well as his disconcerted friends, remember his sin, and regard him as one cast away. And this was the weak point of David in dealing with the hosts of the enemy. And it is with us. A sense of moral blamelessness would enable us to confront boldly with the seraph Abdiel a myriad enemies; but “conscience makes cowards of us all,” and we tremble in the presence of numbers. Thus our spiritual adversaries reproach us; there it no salvation for him in God; and the consciousness of our faithlessness gives a power and sting to their words which penetrate our soul with bitterness, and which might well drive us to despair.
II. The minority with God.
The Psalmist felt himself to be in a minority of one, but with God. Mark:
1. His consciousness of safety (Psalms 3:3). “A shield about me, or around me, covering the whole body; not merely a part of it, as ordinary shields do.”—Alexander. Alone with God the believer feels profoundly safe. “If God be for us,” &c.
2. His refuge in prayer (Psalms 3:4). The Lord heard his cry of penitence and supplication. It was in this cry that the guilty, lonely man put himself right with God. He is away from the sanctuary, away from the ark; but the voice of the solitary and sorrowful reaches God anywhere. Alone with God, this is the secret of the martyr’s strength. If the world forsakes yon, if men and demons mock you, knock at Heaven’s gate with cries, and groans, and tears, and God shall receive and shelter you.
His sublime peacefulness (Psalms 3:5-6). “I laid me down and slept,” &c. Many lie down who cannot sleep, but he could lie down on a rough bed and sleep. God’s hand was his pillow, and his sleep was sweet. The peace of God passeth understanding, and the wildest storms of temptation and persecution cannot disturb it. The Atlantic Ocean is swept by fearful storms, and mountainous billows traverse its surface, but scientific men say it is so quiet down in the depths that if you could stretch a rope of sand from one side of the ocean to the other, there is not disturbance enough to dissolve it. So amid the direst storms of life the believer’s heart is kept in perfect peace, a peace which the world gives net, and which the world does not take away.
4. His assurance of victory (Psalms 3:7). He looks upon victory as certain, as indeed already accomplished. He sees his enemy “as a wild beast whose jaw is broken, and which is unable to devour its prey.”—Kay. He feels assured that God will rebuke the wrath of Shimei, confound the counsel of Ahithophel, frustrate the usurpation of Absalom, and bring to nought the uprising of Israel. So, having put ourselves right with God, although our enemies rage as the waves of the sea, we may confidently anticipate victory.
5. His generous temper (Psalms 3:8). He does not ask for vengeance, but blessing. This verse “casts a bright light into the very depths of his noble soul.”—Ewald. He has been wronged; but as God has forgiven him, so he forgives those who have injured him. Too often when minorities become majorities they exact and tyrannise; but when God exalts us in the gate, our spirit should be forgiving and tender.
1. Do not always trust in the verdicts of majorities. “The longest sword, the strongest lungs, the most voices, are false measures of truth.”—Whichcote.
2. Do not confide in majorities. David was at one time most popular; but how soon the people deserted him. “Mortality is but the stage of mutability.”—Trapp.
3. Do not fear to be in a minority with God. “Everybody,” said Talleyrand, “is cleverer than anybody.” This is fine worldly wisdom no doubt, but God is wiser, stronger than all, and he who is in a minority with God need not fear. “He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world.”
4. Remember that the majority will be against you when God is. When the people thought that God had forsaken the king, they forsook him too. Men often sell their conscience for a majority, but know when God forsakes you, the universe forsakes you.
5. The way to conquer majorities is through penitence and prayer. Thus, in great social and religious reforms, Luther, Wilberforce. So in our spiritual life; “One shall chase a thousand,” &c. And thus shall the majority against the Christian Church be changed into a minority.
In the second verse you have the verdict of sense touching the Psalmist’s character; in the third verse you have the judgment of faith.
I. The verdict of sense.
Psalms 3:2. The verdict of sense was that the king was deserted of God. And observe:
1. This verdict was popular. “Many there be,” &c. It appeared thus to his enemies, and it would seem as if many of his friends shared the same opinion. It was the verdict of the multitude.
2. It was plausible. It regarded the king’s sin. The devil’s advocates would not fail to keep the dark crime of the fallen king before the eyes of the nation. Would not God forsake such a sinner? And then there were the circumstances of the king. He appears fallen and discrowned. Driven away from his palace, and accompanied in exile by a few trembling friends. ‘Surely God had deserted the royal sinner,’ they said.
3. It was confident. “There is no help,” &c. They felt sure that his cause was utterly hopeless: God had cut him off altogether.
II. The judgment of faith.
Psalms 3:3. The voice of the people was not the voice of God. The Psalmist puts his personal consciousness over against the anathemas of the people. He knows God to be his shield, his glory, and the restorer of his fortunes.
How often has this fact been repeated! The verdict of men passed upon their brother is one of capital condemnation, and yet the condemned one has hope in God. How often does the world speak thus:—‘The chief of sinners amongst men,’ ‘the woman that is a sinner.’ How soon society regards these as lost, hopeless! How often has a corrupt Church spoken thus! The Catholics kindled the stake, and consigned the souls of glorious saints to the devil. Nay, is not the true Church of Christ sometimes in danger of falling into this mistake? Are we not ready to give up some cases, some classes, perhaps, as impracticable? How is it that we fall into this great mistake?
1. We take circumstances as the sign of a man’s spiritual status and relationship. The people did in Jerusalem; we do, and it is a great error. A man may be poor, friendless, afflicted, reduced to saddest straits, and yet not be forsaken of God.
2. We ignore the power of penitence. Psalms 3:4. The Psalmist “cried unto the Lord,” &c. The world knows a man’s sins, when it does not know his deep sorrow and burning tears.
3. We limit the mercy and grace of God. God’s pity is greater than ours, and the blood of Jesus makes the foulest clean. “No help for him in God.” Some sinners are so obtuse, defiant, brutal, their wickedness so profound, and chronic, and desperate, that we practically despair of their salvation. Yet, have not our brightest saints been raised out of most abandoned and desperate sinners? The natural historian tells us that the rich olive was once dry and offensive, the luscious peach bitter, the apple-tree full of thorns, the aromatic rose a mere thorn, and the fields of wavy gold but wild grasses. But far more surprising transformations have been wrought in the Church of God. “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor unchaste, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We forget the greatness of redeeming mercy and power.
1. Human judgments are not infallible.
2. Despair not of the worst of men.
3. Despair not of yourselves in life’s darkest moments.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany