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Superscription. “To the chief Musician:” see Introduction to Psalms 57:0. “A Psalm of David,” The structure and character of the psalm confirm the title as to its Davidic authorship. The allusions in the psalm are so general that they might have been used by the poet on many occasions in his life; so that we are unable to determine the particular occasion of its composition. Homiletically we see in the psalm—
THE PRAYER AND PREDICTION OF THE GOOD MAN CONCERNING HIS WICKED ENEMIES
We have here—
I. Prayer for preservation from wicked enemies (Psalms 64:1-6). Consider—
1. The description of the enemies. This the poet has given at some length.
(1.) Their character. “The wicked, … the workers of iniquity.” The words indicate positive and unmistakable wickedness of character, and terrible constancy and activity in evil doing.
(2.) Their object. It is clearly implied in Psalms 64:1 that they aimed at the life of David. “Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.” They sought to kill him. This was true of Saul and those who aided him in his persecutions of David. It was true also of Absalom and the rebels.
(3.) Their weapons. “Who whet their tongue like a sword,” &c. Conant: “Who have sharpened their tongue like a sword, have fitted their arrow—bitter speech, to shoot,” &c. Slander is the weapon of which David makes mention here. It was not by any means the only weapon used against him, but it was one which evidently caused him acute suffering. The figures here used to set it forth we have met with before. (See on Psalms 52:2; Psalms 57:4; Psalms 59:7; and, for that of the fixed arrows Psalms 58:7.)
(4.) Their method. This included (a.) Conspiracy. “The secret counsel of the wicked, … they commune of laying snares privily, … both the inward thought of every one, and the heart is deep.” In confidential council they formed their secret plans by which they hoped to effect their wicked designs. They were deliberate, secret, methodical. (b.) Tumultuousness. “The insurrection of the workers of iniquity.” Or, “The tumultuous throng of evil doers.” The secret counsel led to the exciting of the passions of evil men against the Psalmist. (c.) Secret and sudden attack. “They shoot in secret at the perfect” (or, upright); “suddenly they shoot at him and fear not.” The Psalmist had not to meet manly foes in fair encounter. His enemies were like robbers or murderers who waylay the defenceless traveller in a secret place, and suddenly, when he deems himself secure, make their attack upon him. And in doing this they were fearless. They were unseen of men; and they regarded not God. They had no fear of God, no dread of His judgment, (d.) Persistent effort. “They encourage themselves in an evil matter,” &c. Hengstenberg: “They strengthen for themselves an evil plan.” Perowne: “They take every means to secure their object, follow it up resolutely.” (e.) Inventiveness. “They search out iniquities,” &c. Conant: “They search for iniquities; we are ready (say they); a device searched out!” They invented or contrived iniquitous plans; and when they succeeded in so doing, they made their boast of it.
This description of the enemies of the Psalmist impresses us with two things:
First: The terrible perversion and depravation of their nature. How fearful the misuse of the powers of thought, invention, action, persistence!
Second: The alarming criminality of their character and conduct. How tremendous is their guilt!
2. The prayer of the Psalmist “Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer,” &c.
(1.) Its object. “Preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked,” &c. The Psalmist was conscious of his exposedness to danger, and of his inability to protect or deliver himself; and he seeks the protection of the Most High. He asks for preservation not simply from peril, but from alarm or terror. God can preserve in the midst of the greatest dangers, and inspire the soul with the most exultant confidence.
(2.) Its confidence. “Thou wilt hide me from the secret counsel,” &c. Barnes: “There is both an implied prayer that this might be done, and a confident belief that it would be done.” The prayer was not the cry of despair, but the expression of trustful desire.
In the foregoing we have an illustration of the foes, and the resource of the godly soul in danger. We have spiritual enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil. They are aiming at the ruin of our souls. They seek to accomplish this by various means—by subtlety and by strength, by persistent efforts and by sharp and sudden attacks, &c. We have neither the skill nor the strength successfully to cope with them. Our need of Divine preservation and help is great and constant. Our safety is in believing prayer to God.
II. Prediction of the destruction of wicked enemies (Psalms 64:7-10). The Psalmist titters his confident expectation that God would destroy his foes. In so doing he mentions—
1. The Author of their destruction. “God shall shoot at them,” &c. Let us not misunderstand or misuse the word “author” here. The meritorious cause of their destruction is in themselves. “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself.” But in the administration of His righteous government God visits them with the judgments which their sins have deserved. He smites them justly with the punishment they have merited.
2. Its instruments. “With an arrow: suddenly shall they be wounded. So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves.” “The arrow of God here corresponds to the arrow of the wicked in Psalms 64:3-4” And their tongue by which they sought to injure others shall prove the instrument of their own destruction. God destroys the wicked with their own weapons. (Comp. Psalms 7:15-16; Psalms 9:15-16.)
3. Its manner. “Suddenly shall they be wounded.” When they think that they are about to succeed in their evil plans, on what they deem the very eve of their triumph, the Divine judgment bursts upon them. (Comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:3.)
4. Its effect.
(1.) Upon the companions of the wicked. “All that see them shall flee away,” so that they may not be involved in their ruin (Numbers 16:34).
(2.) Upon men in general. (a.) It would lead to some knowledge of the Divine government. “They shall wisely consider of His doing.” Both Hengstenberg and Moll render this: “And understand His work.” They shall see that the judgment is not the result of chance or human agency; but the work of a just and Holy God. (b.) It would inspire awe. “All men shall fear.” Barnes: “Judgments, punishments, wrath are adapted and designed to make a deep impression on mankind. On this principle, the final punishment of the wicked will make a deep and salutary impression on the universe for ever.” (c.) It would incite to a declaration of the hand of God. “Men shall declare the work of God.” “A man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous; verily He is a God that judgeth in the earth.”
(3.) Upon the upright. “The righteous shall be glad in the Lord,” &c. (a.) It inspires their joy.” “Glad in the Lord;” because of the vindication of the government of God, and the certainty of their own safety. (b.) It increases their confidence. “Shall trust in Him;” because His doings furnish additional grounds and encouragements to confidence. (c.) It enkindles their triumph. “All the upright in heart shall glory.” Their soul shall make its boast in the Lord. And their joy and trust and triumph are all religious—not vindictive, or revengeful, or self-conceited; but religious—“in the Lord.”
1. Let the wicked take warning.
2. Let the godly take encouragement. Be not dismayed in the struggles of the spiritual life. However many or mighty, however subtle or skilful our enemies may be, we shall triumph over them. “Through God we shall do valiantly; for He shall tread down our enemies.”
(Psalms 64:5. “They say, who shall see them?”)
I. This notion has great influence upon the conduct of man.
It is worthy of consideration, as indicating the nature of evil, that it finds such a notion convenient and necessary.
Offenders against man retire to the dark when they mean to perpetrate their evil deeds. The murderer, the thief, &c. Concealment is the helpmeet of wrong.
Because they sometimes, perhaps often, escape the most watchful human eyes, they fancy it possible to escape the eye of God.
They would have no interest whatever in reaching this conclusion if they never wished to do anything wrong. The sinner persuades himself of two or three things: he has gained his end; he has escaped observation; he has avoided the punishment. It is not necessary that all this be formulated. It is sufficient if the mind accustoms itself to question whether God sees. The sinner will take advantage of a doubt.
II. This notion is utterly untruthful and delusive. Whether our sinful deeds are seen by man or not, there is One to whom they are open as the day. If there is a God at all, this must be so. If you persuade yourself that God does not see, you persuade yourself that God is not. That part of the universe which God does not know, has no God. He who does not know everything is limited: therefore he is not God.
But you cannot see Him. When you cannot see a man you infer that he is not present. Because you cannot see God you infer that He is not present. Thus you require that which would argue Him nothing more than a man after all. The spirituality of the Divine nature makes it possible for Him to be everywhere and see everything.
III. God has often in human experiences, shown the delusiveness of this notion, and the time is fixed for the complete demonstration of its delusiveness.
1. Character is often seen through by man. We may be deceived as to individual acts. But our view of a man’s general character is usually correct.
2. Retribution often follows man’s deeds in the present world. It followed and overtook Joseph’s brethren, Achan and Saul.
3. The future state will show that God saw. At the judgment day the books will be opened. What is written there will prove that sin was seen. Hell will be an everlasting proof.
CONCLUSION.—Sinner, God sees you: has seen you all along. Be warned! Christian,
1. Be encouraged and comforted by the thought that God sees. He sees the good and their goodness.
2. Be more constantly influenced by this thought.
(1.) Let it restrain from sin.
(2.) Let it stimulate to holy obedience and earnest work.—J. R., in The Pulpit Analyst.
THE CHARACTER AND PRIVILEGES OF THE GODLY
We have here—
I. A description of character. “The righteous, … the upright in heart.”
1. Righteousness of character. Not merely correctness of external conduct, but uprightness of heart—moral excellence of principle and disposition and tendency. But how is this to be attained? “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Man is prone to sin, his heart is prone to crooked ways, &c. In the sight of God, “all have sinned.” But the sinful may be made righteous by faith in the righteousness and love of God manifested in Jesus Christ—or, more correctly, by faith in Jesus Christ as the Revealer of God and Saviour of men. The godly in pre-Christian ages attained unto righteousness through faith. And for us to-day righteousness of character is attainable only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:20-28.)
2. Righteousness of conduct. “The upright in heart” will be the upright in action. “Every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him.… Let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous.” But how shall we acquire the strength to do this? We have it not in ourselves. “To will is present with me, but to perform that which is good is not.” In the work, and death, and life of our Lord we have not simply an atonement, but an inspiration also. Through Him we obtain both pardon and power, both forgiveness and “grace to help in time of need.” “When I am weak, then am I strong.” “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
II. A declaration of privilege. “The righteous shall be glad,” &c. Here are three privileges—
1. Joy. “Shall be glad in the Lord.” Notice concerning this joy,
(1.) Its cause. (a.) Because of the vindication of the government of God. This was a reason of the gladness spoken of by the Psalmist. “The Lord reigneth.” The world is neither anarchic, nor governed by the strongest temporal power, nor by chance, nor by Satan; but by God. (b.) Because under His government the interests of the righteous are secure. Those of the Psalmist had seemed extremely imperilled; but God had overthrown the wicked, &c. God governs the world so as to secure the safety and blessedness of His loyal subjects. He is on their side. (Romans 8:31; 1 Peter 3:13).
(2.) Its character. “Glad in the Lord.” The rejoicing of the righteous is religious. It is not vindictive, or revengeful, or self-confident. It proceeds from God as its source, and it flows to Him as its end. It originated in His doings; it expresses itself in His praise. “In the Lord” how abundant are the reasons and how wide the scope for joy?
2. Trust. “And shall trust in Him.” In the case of the Psalmist, God’s judgment upon the wicked
(1.) supplied additional evidence of His trustworthiness; and
(2.) was especially fitted to encourage trust in Him in time of darkness, trial, and peril. He had watched the progress of the wicked enemies of the Psalmist, and at the moment when they seemed about to leap into triumph, He had interposed. His interposition carried irresistible ruin to them, and complete salvation to His people. What He had done He would in like circumstances and conditions do again. How great are our encouragements to trust Him! His goodness and wisdom and power, His purposes, promises and performances, all are charged with incitements to confidence in Him!
3. Triumph. “Shall glory.” Every man has some object in which he glories or boasts. One glories in his wisdom, another in his might, another in his riches, another in his honours. All these are mistaken, &c. (Jeremiah 9:23-24). “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” “My soul shall make her boast in the Lord.” He whose confidence is reposed in God has the most excellent reasons for exultation. He is the greatest Being, the best Being. He has pledged Himself to defend and save those who trust in Him. He cannot fail.
1. The portion of the righteous at its worst is immeasurably superior to that of the wicked at its best.
2. By prayer and faith, by consecration and effort, let us seek to make that portion ours.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 64". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany