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“From the matter of this psalm it appears that it was composed with reference to some calumny on the character of David; but commentators are not agreed as to when and by whom this injury was inflicted. Perhaps the conduct of Doeg might give occasion to this poem, inasmuch as this man had grossly misrepresented David to Saul, and insinuated that he was conspiring against the life of his king; whereas the very reverse of this statement was the truth.”—Phillips.
THE EXTREMITY AND ASYLUM OF THE SAINTS
There can be but little doubt that this psalm was uttered by David when he was slandered by the courtiers of Saul, and when he was pursued by that deluded monarch. The situation of David is a picture of the situation in which all saints often find themselves.
I. Their extremity.
The Psalmist was like a partridge on the mountains, “like a roe or gazelle chased by the lions.”—Perowne. So are God’s people frequently tempted, tried, borne down by various agents, and shapes of evil.
(1.) The enemies of the righteous are multiplied. “All them that persecute me” (Psalms 7:1). Some one has said, “If we have an enemy we meet him everywhere.” This is very true of our great enemy the devil; we meet him everywhere. “His name is legion.” “There is a devil in every berry of the grape,” said Mahomet. Yes; and a devil in everything else with which we have to do. The diabolical creeps into everything, and the righteous man is ever menaced and endangered. In the flesh, in the world, in things necessary, things beautiful, things sacred, are ambushed enemies, bending the bow, and shooting privily at the righteous.
(2.) These enemies are malign. “Lest he tear my soul like a lion rending it in pieces” (Psalms 7:2). As a wild beast would tear to pieces a lamb, so would the devil afflict the soul. How bitterly the devil hates the children of God! How bitterly the world often persecutes the saints!
(3.) Those enemies are resistless. “While there is none to deliver” (Psalms 7:2). He could not deliver himself, and he had no helper among men. His enemies felt that they reigned supreme and would crush him when they pleased. So with our spiritual foes. Policy, reason, pledges, &c., what are these but hirelings which flee in the hour of trial, and the wolf catcheth the sheep. A man measures himself in vain with the powers of darkness; these powers soon vanquish flesh and blood. No matter how strong the iron-clads of human building, the devil’s artillery soon sinks them.
II. Their refuge.
“O Lord, my God, in Thee do I put my trust” (Psalms 7:1). “With Thee have I taken shelter.”—Horsley.
(1.) The security of this shelter. The Almighty God. Better than walls of granite, than gates of brass, than lines of steel:
“Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.”
“God’s assistance is the strongest, quickest, and surest help.”—Moll.
(2.) The condition of its enjoyment, (a) A personal relationship to God. “My God.” (b) A constant faith in God. “In Thee do I trust.” “The door is closed to prayer unless it is opened with the key of trust.”—Calvin.
The Psalmist, who so constantly acknowledges and bitterly deplores his sin, here puts in another plea. “He protests passionately his innocence, his soul surging with emotion as he thinks how unjustly he has been assailed.”—Perowne.
Concerning this plea, let us observe:
I. We may plead “not guilty” of some particular sin when we cannot plead freedom from sin.
“If I have done this” (Psalms 7:3). We cannot plead freedom from sin (1 John 1:8), but we may plead freedom from particular faults with which we may be charged (Job 31:16). Let us glorify the grace which has preserved us from so many sins to which we are prone.
II. We may plead “not guilty” before men when we cannot thus plead before God.
Job vindicated himself before his friends, but in the presence of God abased himself, and repented in sackcloth and ashes. We may often most properly assert our integrity before men, but “concerning the law of our God,” it is another thing.
III. We may plead “not guilty” before God when we have rested in the merits of Christ.
“The righteousness of faith before God must be distinguished from righteousness and innocence of life before man; yet a true Christian must be able to console himself with both.”—Starke. “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” One of our legal writers says: “So completely does a pardon of treason or felony extinguish the crime, that when granted to a man, even after conviction or attainder, it will enable him to have an action of slander against another for calling him traitor or felon; because the pardon makes him as it were a new man, and gives him a new capacity and credit. In the eye of the law, the offender is as innocent as if he had never committed the offence.” So completely does the blood and righteousness of Christ absolve us from sin.
“Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay!
Fully absolved through these I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.”
IV. When we can justly plead “not guilty” before God or man, we may rely on a triumphal acquittal.
Psalms 7:6-10. “Hitherto the Psalmist has protested his innocence; now, in the full consciousness of that innocence, he comes before the very judgment-seat of God, and demands the fullest and most public vindication. Then he sees as it were in a vision the judgment set: ‘Thou hast commanded judgment.’ Next, that sentence may be pronounced with due solemnity, he calls upon God to gather the nations round Him, and to seat Himself upon His judgment-throne. Lastly, he prays God, as the Judge of all nations, to judge himself.”—Perowne.
We see here that God is the Judge of all. The whole “congregation;” all nations. God can judge righteously. Psalms 7:9. “The reins are the seat of the emotions, just as the heart is the seat of the thoughts and feelings. Reins and heart lie naked before God.”—Delitzsch. God will judge righteously. He will condemn the guilty; He will establish the just.
Has our reputation been slandered? David feels bitterly the perfidious sayings of his foes, the injustice of their accusations. The French proverb says, “The tongue cuts deeper than the lance;” and David felt it to be so. Some men are said to labour under a strange necessity, that whenever they see a beautiful dress, they must throw vitriol on it; and so wicked men feel, and yield to, the devilish impulse of aspersing noble characters and noble names. Have we suffered from the tongues of such? Or have our rights been invaded? Have men unjustly touched our position, our freedom, our property? Nay, is our life taken away by violent or unjust men? Let us look confidently to the great assize. God will vindicate the just, and tread the proud oppressor in the dust. There is a famous picture entitled “Waiting for the Verdict.” You may write that over all graveyards—“Waiting for the verdict.” We play our part, and go our way, but for all God shall bring us into judgment; the silent nations underground wait the peal which shall call them to receive the final verdict, and the Judge of all the earth shall do right.
1. The sense of innocence makes us hopeful towards God. “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God” (1 John 3:21).
2. The sense of innocence makes us gentle towards men (Psalms 7:9). “His prayer is not directed against the individual as such, but against the wickedness that is in them. This psalm is the key to all psalms which contain prayers against one’s enemies.”—Delitzsch.
GOD AS A MAN OF WAR
In these verses, God’s dealing with the unrighteous is vividly portrayed. We see God troubled by sin, and rising up to take vengeance upon it; and these verses are an epitome of the entire action of God with sinners. He is angry with them, and proceeds to bring them to reason.
I. The Divine admonition.
“God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalms 7:11). Barnes says on this passage: “Continually, constantly, always. This is designed to qualify the previous expression, ‘angry.’ It is not excitement. It is not temporary passion, such as we see in men. It is not sudden emotion, soon to be succeeded by a different feeling when the passion passes off. It is the steady and uniform attribute of His unchanging nature to be always opposed to the wicked—to all forms of sin; and in Him, in this respect, there will be no change. The wicked will find Him no more favourable to their character and course of life tomorrow than He is to-day—no more beyond the grave than this side of the tomb. What He is to-day, He will be tomorrow and every day.” This is no doubt true, but it is scarcely the truth taught in the text. Many of the great commentators agree that the sense of these words is—God is patient with sinners, and gives them daily warning of His displeasure, and of the gathering storm of His wrath. “If God will in the end let His wrath break forth, He will not do it without having previously given threatenings thereof every day, viz., to the ungodly (cf. Isaiah 66:14; Malachi 1:4). He makes these feel His anger beforehand in order to strike a wholesome terror into them.”—Delitzsch. “God is not a Judge who punishes daily, but who threatens daily; for if God should punish us always, and as often as we deserve it, the world would no longer endure; therefore thou shouldst know that God’s long-suffering invites thee to repentance.”—Moll. “Although He is not angry every day—i.e., His anger is not breaking forth upon every occasion—yet the season of judgment will surely come.”—Horsley. Thus God is constantly warning the sinner. One of our philosophers speaks of “the premonitory symptoms of Nature’s displeasure.” So in the moral world are there premonitory symptoms of the Divine displeasure. Every day, in the sinner’s conscience or body, intellect or estate, does God make signs of His gathering anger, so that the wicked may forsake their wickedness and escape the wrath to come.
II. The Divine amnesty.
“If he turn” (Psalms 7:12). “If he turn,” there is forgiveness and life. Oh, most important “if”! If he turn, all is well; if he turn not, all is lost. Blessed opportunity! the sinner may turn. And all sinners have the ability to turn, for God commands them all to turn, and God does not command impossibilities. God’s commands are promises; and when He invites all to return to Him, He strengthens all that they may do it. “Do not think God has done anything concerning thee before thou camest into being whereby thou art determined either to sin or misery. This is a falsehood, and they that entertain such thoughts live in a lie.”—Whichcote. O sinner! improve this truce of God.
III. The Divine arsenal.
Psalms 7:12-13. “He will whet His sword,” &c. God is a man of war, and here we get a glimpse into His armoury, and behold the artillery with which He wars on obstinate sinners.
1. Mark the variety of His weapons. God’s armoury is full of weapons. “Sword,” “bow,” “arrows.” Storms, diseases, plagues, famines, wars, earth-quakes, terrors of conscience, secrets of the prison-house we know not. God’s armoury is full of awful weapons—weapons which can destroy both body and soul.
2. The readiness of His weapons. “He hath bent His bow and made it ready” (Psalms 7:12). “He ordaineth His arrows” (Psalms 7:13). Or, “He will put His arrows in action.”—Horsley. “The wrath of God may be slow, but it is always sure. In thoughtless security man wantons and whiles away the precious hours; he knows not that every transgression sets a fresh edge on the sword, which is there continually whetting for his destruction; nor considers that he is the mark of an archer who never errs, and who, at this very instant, perhaps, has fitted to the string that arrow which is to pierce his soul with everlasting anguish.”—Horne. “The sword of Heaven is not in haste to smite, nor doth it linger.”
3. The deadly efficacy of His weapons. “Instruments of death.” “He ordaineth His arrows,” or, as some translate it, “His arrows He maketh fiery.” “Arrows wrapped round with some inflammable material, which become ignited in their passage through the air, and set on fire whatever they light upon.”—Perowne. “The whetting of the sword is but to give a keener edge, that it may cut the deeper. God is silent as long as the sinner will let Him, but when the sword is whet it is to cut, and when the bow is bent it is to kill; and woe be to that man who is the butt.”—Lecker, quoted by Spurgeon. “ ‘If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold of judgment, I will render vengeance to Mine enemies’ (Deuteronomy 32:41). And where will God whet His glittering sword? Where are blades usually whetted? Let us look. Surely on a whirling, circular stone. And on what stone will God whet His sword? I reply, On that stony heart of the sinner which is ever revolving, never at rest. Watch the grindstone a little while. See how it plunges down into a trough of turbid, foul, and muddy water. O stone, stone! why rush down into this filth? Rise up! rise up from this uncleanness. I put my hand to it, I set the stone in motion. How easily is it made to revolve! It moves—it leaves that sink of filth—it mounts upwards. In vain! It whirls round, and with a rush seeks again its bed of pollution. Heart of sinner, hard and stony! why dost thou not emerge from the corruption in which thou wallowest? ‘I will emerge,’ thou repliest. Why dost thou not leave thy enmities, thy passions, thy shameful uncleanness? ‘I will leave them,’ is the answer. And yet nothing comes of these fine promises. Always on the move like the grindstone, you never remove from the trough of slime; always leaving sin, that with fresh relish you may plunge into it again. Know, you sinners who are so full of good resolutions which come to nought; so full of promises of amendment which end in relapse, that it is on whirling grindstones such as you that the glittering sword of Divine vengeance is whetted. ‘If I whet My glittering sword, I will render vengeance to Mine enemies.’ ”—Joseph de Barzia, 1600.
THE SELF-PUNISHING NATURE OF SIN
A somewhat different view of retribution is here given to that given in Psalms 7:12-13. There God is represented as using against the sinner His own peculiar weapons; here He is represented as beating and punishing His enemies with their own weapons. “Evil shall slay the wicked.”
I. All sin is the digging of a pit.
Sin does not seek to rise by the stepping stones of lawful and noble endeavour; it knows of no eminence but by lowering others. Ambition, with its throne-building, is yet a pit-digging. It seeks to raise itself on the trampled rights, and pleasures, and lives of others. Lying is a pit-sinking for others. Lust serves itself by ensnaring and debasing others. Envying sickens at another’s joy, and seeks to secure itself by giving others a fall. Covetousness is always grave-digging, that it may inherit others’ wealth. Sin would sink the throne of God. Sin knows not how to shine but by darkening others, knows not how to exalt itself but by depressing others, knows not how to feast itself but by starving others, knows not how to enrich itself but by spoiling others, knows not how to save itself but by damning others. Pit-digging is hard work. The image of a travailing woman, in the 14th verse, reminds us that the development of evil is attended with severest labour and keenest sorrows. It is infinitely harder work to rise by violence, fraud, spoliation, than by virtuous paths. It may be hard to climb the steep where Fame’s proud temple shines afar; but the bitterest toil is theirs who seek to rise by sinking. Pit-digging is humiliating work; it is a perpetual stoop. It kills all the nobility of a man; it is full of shame.
II. All sin sinks into the pit which it digs.
The workman rises with his work, and the workman sinks with his work. He who digs a pit for another digs a grave for himself. How often has the truth of these verses, 15 and 16, been seen by us!
1. Nature guarantees that it shall be so. The sinning member suffers; the sinner suffers on the same lines as he transgresses.
2. History teems with illustrations of this truth. In sacred and profane history we find a thousand examples of men falling into the pits they digged for others.
3. The Scriptures assure us that this will be so to the bitter end. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap.”
ALPHA AND OMEGA
(FIRST verse and the LAST.)
The contrast between the opening and the closing verse of this psalm is instructive. It reminds us—
I. That God’s equity may be obscured in the beginning, but it shall be vindicated in the end.
In the first verse, God’s righteousness is hidden; the wicked triumph. But in the last verse of the psalm all is clear, and the Lord is praised “according to His righteousness.” Wait!
II. That the sinner’s beginning may be grand, but his end shall be disaster.
In the opening of the psalm the sinner is a lion, strong, proud, dominant; but in the end of the psalm the lion is howling in a pit. Wait!
III. That the saints may have beginnings of sorrow, but the end shall be triumphant.
With the commencement of the psalm David weeps and laments, but he ends with a song. Wait!
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 7". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20