Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 70

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-5


Superscription.—“To the chief musician, a psalm of David, to bring to remembrance.” “To the chief musician.” (See introduction to Psalms 57:0). “To bring to remembrance.” Barnes: “The Hebrew term used—לְהַזְכִּיר, lehazkir—means limply for bringing to remembrance, or for reminding. The meaning is, that it is a record for the purpose of reminding; that is, of keeping up the remembrance of something which had occurred in his own experience, and which might be useful to himself or to others; the record of some valuable lessons which had been learned from what he had experienced in the trials referred to.” Some are of opinion that the expression indicates that the Psalm was used to remind the Psalmist and others of the wants and circumstances to which it was applied. Others that, inasmuch as God seemed to have forgotten them, the Psalm was intended to bring the Psalmist and people to His remembrance.

The Psalm is almost exactly similar to Psalms 40:13-17 of Psalms 40:0. It seems as though it had been taken from that Psalm and slightly altered to adapt it to some new occasion. “We do not know what the occasion in either case was, but it would seem that in this instance the Psalmist found, in the closing verses of the 40th Psalm, language which very nearly expressed what he felt on some particular occasion, and which might, by a slight change, be applied to the use for which it was then desired.”

Hengstenberg regards this and the following Psalm as forming “one pair, the 70th being like an introduction to the 71st.”


We regard this Psalm as the prayer of a good man suffering from persecution. Consider—

I. The circumstances and condition of the suppliant. Of these he sets before us three main features—

1. Persecution (Psalms 70:2-3). Here are three forms of persecution.

(1) Active and deadly hostility. “Them that seek after my soul.” There were those who were seeking to destroy the life of the Psalmist. So implacable was their enmity that nothing less than his destruction could satisfy them.

(2) Delight in injury. “Them that desire my hurt.” When loss or trouble, affliction or calamity, came upon the Psalmist, there were those who were glad because of it. If they did not smite him themselves, they rejoiced when others did so. If they did not do him evil, they heartily wished it him.

(3) Scoffing. “Them that say, Aha, aha!” This is the language of reproach and scorn. It also expresses exultation over another, and gratification at the calamities or troubles that befall him. “The damage of the godly is the delight of the wicked; and an enemy to the godly is he that laughs and scorns at the misery of the godly.” Christians have to meet with persecution in our own day. The forms of persecution change, but the persecuting spirit remains unchanged from the time of the Psalmist even until now. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

2. Affliction. “I am poor and needy.” Conant: “I am afflicted and needy.” It is the cry of one who was in distress or suffering, and felt himself destitute of all help and resource except in God.

3. Need. This is consequent upon the persecution and affliction. The peril arising from his persecutions he needed deliverance from. The stress and strain of his affliction were so severe that he needed help to enable him to endure them. “Poverty and necessity are very good pleas in prayer to a God of infinite mercy, who despises not the sighing of a contrite heart, who has pronounced a blessing upon the poor in spirit, and who fills the hungry with good things.”

II. The prayer of the suppliant.

1. The Being to whom it is addressed. “O God, … Jehovah, … my help and my deliverer.” The Psalmist directs his prayer to the Almighty and self-existent One, who is swift to hear and strong to save those who call upon Him. He mentions his personal interest in this great Being. “My help and my deliverer.” This confidence was based upon,

(1) The promises of God to His people,
(2) The former experiences of the Psalmist. Again and again he had found God to be “a very present help in trouble.”
2. The objects which it seeks to attain. The Psalmist seeks

(1) His own deliverance. “Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord.” Conant: “O God—to my rescue, O Jehovah—to my help, make haste.” That which he seeks for himself all men require. Ultimate deliverance from all trials and afflictions, and “grace to help in time of need,” are blessings which each and all men should seek for themselves.

(2) The discomfiture of his enemies. “Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul, let them be turned backward and put to confusion that desire my hurt. Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame that say, Aha, aha!” These expressions are of frequent occurrence in the Psalms. They are used to set forth the frustration and failure of the hopes and projects of the wicked. The number and variety of expressions—“ashamed, … confounded, … turned backward, … put to confusion”—are intended to give intensity and force to the idea. It is not only lawful but commendable to pray that the designs and hopes of wicked men might be frustrated.

(3) The prosperity of the godly. “Let all those that seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee; and let such as love Thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.” The blessedness of the true seeker after God is to find Him, and in finding Him to realize fulness of joy. The blessedness of the lover of the salvation of God is to enjoy it, and enjoying it to give God glory. David prays for the frustration of the hopes of the wicked, and for the fruition of the hopes of the good.

3. The urgency with which it is presented. “Make haste to help me, O Lord, … make haste unto me, O God; … O Lord, make no tarrying.” The Psalmist was so deeply conscious of his own affliction and peril and helplessness, and of his entire dependence upon the help of God, that he prays with almost passionate urgency for the immediate interposition of God on his behalf. He would constrain God to appear for him at once. “He who cannot wait for the help of God, will never gain it; but he must pray for it and may urge his circumstances in prayer.” Urgency of need will be followed by urgency of entreaty, and urgency of entreaty by speedy help. “Though death, or danger of it, were never so near, God can come quickly and prevent it; and prayer is a swift messenger, which in the twinkling of an eye can go and return with an answer from heaven.”


(Psalms 70:1; Psalms 70:5.)

“Make haste to help me, O Lord.… Make haste unto me, O God;.… O Lord, make no tarrying.”
The urgency of the Psalmist implies—

I. A deep sense of present and immediate need. This was awakened in him by—

1. The extremity of the danger to which he was exposed. His foes were many and were eagerly seeking to destroy his life. His afflictions were severe. He felt that if he were not speedily relieved he must perish.

2. The limitation of the resources at his command. Personally he was not able to cope with his enemies, or to bear up under his distresses. He felt that any help which he could expect from man would prove insufficient for his great and pressing requirements.

3. The conviction that adequate help could be found only in God. The Psalmist evidently felt that the help of God was the one thing that he required for his support and salvation. If that help were speedily given, all would be well with him; but if it were withheld, the issue world be his utter overthrow or his destruction—hence the urgency of his prayer.

II. Apparent delay in answering his prayer. There is never any real delay in answering prayer; but at times God seems to us to disregard our cries to Him. We cry with David, “How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord! for ever?” &c. (Psalms 13:1-4). Or, with Habakkuk, “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and Thou wilt not hear?”

1. During what seems delay to us God may be answering our prayer. He does not always answer our prayers by granting our requests. During the apparent delay we are kept from sinking, our enemies do not completely triumph over us, we are graciously sustained. In such cases the divine answer to our prayers is not deliverance from trouble, but support in trouble; not the removal of the thorn from the flesh, but, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

2. The seeming delay may be productive of richest blessing.

(1.) It may teach us the most important lessons. How eminently fitted to teach us the true nature of prayer! Its grand aim is not to induce God to do our will, but to lead us to cheerfully acquiesce in His will; not the gratification of our desires, but the perfection of our being.

(2.) It may develop the noblest attributes of character. It may intensify our desires. “Sometimes God seems to delay helping His own people, that He may excite such earnest desires as these” which are expressed in this psalm. Delay may promote patience; may teach and train us to wait calmly and resolutely upon God. “Prayer,” says Dr. Reynolds, “however importunate, constant, and fervent, must have its hours of rest, and of the waiting for answer and fulfilment. Like Elijah, we must look from the height of Carmel over the great sea for the little cloud which shall arise and cover the sky, in answer to our prayer. We must open our every faculty to receive the Holy Ghost; we must wait with earnest though patient expectation; we must listen for the gentle knocking of the mighty Stranger at the door of our heart; we must wait amid the discords of the world and the swoop of the storm through the wilderness, and when the strong wind rends the mountains, and the earthquake and the fire follow in wild succession—for the still small voice—we must ‘rest in the Lord, and still wait patiently for Him.’ ” Moreover, delay may develop trust, may train us to confide in God in times of imminent peril and deep distress. The seeming delay may in many ways be far better for us than a manifest and immediate answer to our prayers. Huntington: “One of our hardest lessons is to find out the wisdom of our hindrances; how we are to be put forward and upward by being put back and put down; encouraged by being rebuked; prospered by being baffled.… It needs wakeful watchers, spiritual eyesight, to read that riddle of life, how defeat helps progress; how a compulsory standing still speeds us on; how humiliation exalts;” and how what seems to us the continued silence of God may be the wise and gracious answer to our prayers.

III. Strong faith in the entreatableness of God. It is abundantly clear that the Psalmist did not regard God as imprisoned and bound by the laws and order of the universe which He created. Nor did he regard Him as a Being who cannot be moved by any urgency of supplication. A great faith in God as the hearer and answerer of prayer throbs in these impassioned cries for His speedy help. The instinct which finds utterrance in such cries points to the reality of prayer—to the fact that it has a real place and function in the universe of God.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 70". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/psalms-70.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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