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“A psalm of thanksgiving (Psalms 9:1-2) after a victory (Psalms 9:3) over the heathen wrought by Divine judgment (Psalms 9:4-6), expressing confidence in His constant protection of the oppressed (Psalms 9:7-10); therefore the pious have to thank God (Psalms 9:11-12), and pray to Him in every time of need (Psalms 9:13-14). The judicial government of God causes the enemies finally to perish, and saves the sufferers (Psalms 9:15-18); therefore the prayer (Psalms 9:19-20), which shows the dangerous position of the Psalmist and his people.”—Moll.
In the foregoing psalms we have had much prayer, but here we have a sublime burst of praise. The Psalmist’s soul is filled with admiration and joy in view of the Divine character and government, and in glorious language he gives utterance to the ecstasy of his soul. There is something exceedingly sublime in praise; when we bless God, with the angels we take our part. One of our old poets has some quaint, but fine lines, “On Praise.”
“Praise is devotion fit for mightie minds!
The diff’ring world’s agreeing sacrifice,
Where heav’n divided faiths united finds,
But pray’r in various discord upward flies.
“For pray’r the ocean is, where diversly
Men steer their course, each to a sev’ral coast;
Where all our int’rests so discordant be,
That half beg winds by which the rest are lost.
“By Penitence, when we ourselves forsake,
’Tis but in wise design on piteous heav’n;
In praise we nobly give, what God may take,
And are, without a beggar’s blush, forgiv’n.
“Its utmost force, like powder’s, is unknown!
And though weak kings excess of praise may fear,
Yet when ’tis here, like powder, dang’rous grown,
Heav’n’s vault receives, what would the palace tear.”
—SIR WILLIAM DAVENANT.
Let us notice, then, the thanksgiving of the text:
I. The minstrel.
“I will praise Thee” (Psalms 9:1). “I will show forth Thy works.” All God’s works praise Him, but man is to be the leading singer in the great choir. The Esthonians have a beautiful legend to explain the origin of Song. The god of song descended on the Domberg, on which stands a sacred wood, and there played and sang. All creatures were invited to listen, and they each learnt some fragment of the celestial sound; the listening wood learnt its rustling, the stream its roar; the wind caught and learnt to re-echo the shrillest tones, and the birds the prelude of the song. Man only grasped it all, and therefore his song pierces into the depths of the heart, and upwards to the dwellings of the gods. As this legend pictures, man’s song is the fullest and the deepest; and whilst creation with her thousand voices praises God, from man comes the music which is sweetest to the throne of God. And each of us ought to find a tongue to bless God. “I will praise Thee.” “I will be glad.” “I will sing praise.” We must not leave the organist and chorister to praise God for us, and ourselves stand dumb images in the pews. No proxy here. He has blessed me, and I will glorify Him. Gratitude ought to make musicians of us all.
II. The harp.
“With my whole heart.” The heart is the lyre wherewith to worship God. No instrument of music is so wonderful as this one—full of cunning pipes and exquisite strings; and this is the true harp to take into the closet, into the sanctuary. Not lips merely. “The heart is the instrument of praise, the mouth only its organ.”—Hengstenberg. True praise is an overflow of feeling; we thank God for His goodness, and, as the French say, “There is a tear in our voice.” “Making melody in our heart unto the Lord.” “With my whole heart.” The harp has many strings—some longer, others shorter, some of one tone and colour, whilst the other chords are differently tuned and coloured; and so there are many strings in that living harp with which we should praise God, and every chord should be smitten in His honour. Some of the cathedrals on the Continent contain several organs; and so in our breast are reason, will, imagination, sensibility, and we should summon every faculty to glorify God. Let us call upon all that is within us to bless the holy name.
III. The song.
1. The theme of it; or rather, perhaps, we should say themes. “I will show forth all Thy marvellous works.” I will praise Him for all His grace, gifts, deliverances, consolations, promises. “If we be willing to talk of His deeds, He will give us enough to talk about.”—Power. They are “marvellous works.” “All the benefits received from God are real wonders to the humble soul, for it is an inconceivable grace that God the Lord should show so much mercy, bodily and spiritual, with wonderful wisdom and faithfulness to those who are in the highest degree unworthy.”—Starke.
“We take the blessing from above,
And wonder at the boundless love.”
And it is our duty to show these forth. Tell what God has done for you. “Songs without words,” the unspoken and unspeakable joy and worship of the heart, are acceptable before God; but we must utter the memory of His great goodness that the world may know and believe. As one has said, “Christian experience will save the world.”
2. The joyfulness of it. “I will be glad.” The knowledge of God’s love thrills the soul. When the devil played on our heart he brought out the dismal wailing of a perpetual “Dead March;” but if we yield our heart to God, it shall utter forth an endless “Hallelujah Chorus” of gladsomeness and triumph.
3. The object of it. “I will praise Thee.” “I will rejoice in Thee” “I will joy and triumph in Thee, not merely in Thy presence, or because of Thee, i.e., because of what Thou hast done, but in communion with Thee, and because of my personal interest in Thee.”—Alexander. In prayer there is a remembrance of ourselves, but in praise God fills our eye and our heart. As the harp-string passes out of sight trembling with music, so self is forgotten when we joy in God.
4. The occasion of it (Psalms 9:3). “Because my enemies are turned back, because they stumble and perish before Thy countenance.”—Speaker’s Com. “The Romans in their triumphs presented a palm to Jupiter.”—Trapp. So in each blessing, victory, joy, let us afresh tune our harps, and glorify the great source of all blessings. More than this, in the dark days let us take our harp from the willow and glorify God. The legend says that Orpheus was drowned, and it is because his lyre is in the flood that the waters make such sweet music. Certainly the harp of David is never sweeter than when it sounds from a flood of tears. “We glory in tribulation also. That is truly a new kind of men, that live among the dead, and are glad among the suffering.”—Luther.
THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT IN ITS RELATION TO THE NATIONS
I. The Divine government is characterised by equity.
Psalms 9:4. “Thou satest in the throne judging right.” “He shall judge the world in righteousness” (Psalms 9:8). It sometimes seems as if God acted towards nations and men with a strange partiality, but it is really not so; deep down is the law of truth and righteousness, and all God’s ways are equal. In the 4th verse the Psalmist says, “Thou hast passed sentence for me and done me right.”—Horsley. And thus it shall be with each nation, each individual. The Scriptures assure us of this. Conscience testifies to this. Although we see the saint wronged, and the sinner triumphant a thousand times, yet conscience persistently testifies that justice will be done.
II. The Divine government is vindicated with severity.
Psalms 9:5-6. “And cities, Thou, O God, hast rooted out; their memorial, even theirs is perished. What God destroys cannot be restored, and their cities are desolate for ever.”—Wordsworth. “They are perpetual ruins.”—Perowne. “The Psalmist appears to be speaking of the entire destruction of the cities of the enemy, and he seems to state in this clause that they should be completely desolated, so as to prevent any re-establishment of them at a future time; or so as to make it impossible for the work of desolation to be carried any further. The memory of them has perished.”—Phillips.
1. Observe, God’s government will vindicate itself. Some one has said, “That the Spanish laws are the best in the world, but they are never acted upon.” God’s laws are the best laws, and, be sure, He will insist upon every one of them.
2. God’s government vindicates itself now. “God does not postpone judgment and salvation till the end of the world, although times of trouble come for the pious, and days of apparent victory for their enemies. He already judges in history individuals and nations, so that all traces of them are blotted out from the earth, and their name is forgotten.”—Moll. Thrones founded in unrighteousness fall, fortunes are shipwrecked, cities perish, empires and armies melt. Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, Roman, Jewish—all are illustrations.
3. God’s government vindicates itself with awful severity. God blots out the impenitent nation or person. The nations before Him are as the drop of a bucket, and, as such, are dried up in the hot light of His wrath, when once He is angry.
III. The Divine government survives all opposition.
Psalms 9:7. “The enemy has been utterly annihilated, whilst Jehovah remains King for ever.”—Perowne. “The serene majesty of the eternal Judge is contrasted with the struggles and overthrow of evil men.”—Speaker’s Com. We are reminded (Isaiah 6:1.), “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.” Kings die, and their kingdoms perish, but God sitteth a King for ever, and of His government there shall be no end. The kingdom of Christ will survive all hostilities—political, ecclesiastical, philosophical, personal.
IV. The Divine government comprehends all nations, and shall bring them all into judgment.
Psalms 9:8. “And He shall judge the world in righteousness, He shall minister judgment to the peoples in uprightness.” He will apply to us in modern times the same severe tests which He applied to the peoples of the past; and if, when weighed in the balances, we are found wanting, He shall blot out our name from under the heavens. Let us honour God in our age and nation, for if we rule, and legislate, and serve in His fear, our throne shall be established; and the way for God to dwell in a nation is for every one to see that God dwells in his heart.
GOD THE PROTECTOR AND AVENGER OF THE OPPRESSED
God has His eye on the strong and unjust, and He will not fail to punish them; He has His eye on the weak and faithful, and will vindicate their cause. What a record of injustice is history! How the true, good, noble, in every age, have been wronged! Thousands are still being similarly wronged. What is the relation of God to these?
I. He is their Protector.
1. The strength of this protection (Psalms 9:9). “The Lord will be a refuge.” “Properly, as in the margin, a high place, a fort on the summit of an inaccessible rock, such as often afforded a refuge to David in early days of exile.”—Speaker’s Com. What a power there is in the grace of God to lift a man above his trouble! The blessing of God comes down on His tried and persecuted people, and they feel at once they are sweetly lodged in an inaccessible Rock. Violence cannot overturn it; Sorrow cannot get a foothold in it; Fear cannot scale it; the devil can find no secret winding in it by which he may reach the saints. It is a rock of strength and safety, and blessed are all those who claim, its shelter.
“How happy are the little flock,
Who, safe beneath their guardian-rock,
In all commotions rest!
‘When war’s and tumult’s waves run high,
Unmoved above the storm they lie;
They lodge in Jesus’ breast.”
2. The seasonableness of it (Psalms 9:9). “A refuge in times of trouble, i.e., steeped in trouble.”—Kay. If it were a physical presence, we might sometimes justly say, “Lord, if thou hadst been here,” this and that disaster would not have occurred; but the spiritual presence is ever with us. He is a help in the time of trouble; a present help, a very present help. In South-Eastern India there is a wild race which believes that all the evil in the world is done whilst God is sleeping; if He were not obliged to sleep there would be no sickness, no sorrow, no death. What a comfort to feel that God’s eyes neither slumber nor sleep, and that He is never far from any one of us. God is the nearest to us when we want Him the most.
3. The immutability of it. “Thou hast not forsaken them that seek Thee” (Psalms 9:10). “Hast never failed them that seek Thee.”—P. B. Version. And He never will.
II. He is their Avenger.
Psalms 9:12. “Like the Goël, the next of kin, who was bound to avenge the murder of his kinsman, so God calls the murderer to account, requires satisfaction at his hand.”—Perowne.
Let us learn:
1. Not to oppress. It is a fearful thing in anywise to wrong our brother. The cry of the oppressed reaches God, and God cannot rest on His throne until that cry is avenged. Let us not do anything against our brother’s rights, freedom, property, conscience, happiness, life, character. He “has no friend, kick him.” But the weak man at your feet has a Friend; don’t kick him, help him on his feet, and God shall bless you.
2. In oppression trust in God. “They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee” (Psalms 9:10). “Those knowing Thy name, i.e., those who are acquainted with Thy power.”—Phillips. Such will trust God. “They can do no otherwise that savingly know God’s sweet attributes and noble acts for His people.”—Trapp.
THE PERSONAL REALISATION OF GENERAL TRUTHS
The Psalmist has been dealing with great principles, and regarding these in their application to great nations and long periods of time, when he interrupts the general reflection by this personal cry. These two verses are considered to break the unity of the psalm. “They disturb the unity of the psalm, and interfere awkwardly with its general strain of triumph.”—Delitzsch. But we must remember that the Psalmist writes as a man, not as an artist, and we have here the instinctive, irrepressible cry of his heart.
I. His personal fault.
“Have mercy upon me, O Lord” (Psalms 9:13). Is there not here a recognition of his own unworthiness, as well as his own suffering? He asks for help, but it is on the ground of mercy. So should we ever in acknowledging the corruption of human nature remember the corruption of our own; and in deploring the sin of the world take care to deplore our own sin. How often we forget this! The woman of Samaria was versed in theological lore, and acknowledged with freedom various great religious principles, but how strangely she forgot her own personal situation! In the presence of Sinai, of Calvary, of an imperfect and guilty race, let us cry before Heaven, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
II. His personal need.
“Consider my trouble” (Psalms 9:13). Whilst the Psalmist thought of the general sorrow, he recalled before God his own. Every heart knows its own bitterness, and it is our privilege to make our case known to God. Every one of us may go to God and cry, “Consider my trouble” We cannot go with every little ailment to the doctor, nor with every little perplexity to the lawyer, nor with every little trouble to a friend; but we may go to God with all our distresses, and He will give us audience and relief. He appeals to God as.
III. His personal Helper.
“Thou that liftest me up” (Psalms 9:13). He has seen in God the world’s Judge and Redeemer, and he now recognises God as his God. Let us not stay short of this personal relationship and plea. Let us not lose ourselves in a crowd. Let us be able to say, “O Lord, Thou art my Lord, and my God, and my Helper.” Finally, the Psalmist vows:
IV. His personal consecration.
Psalms 9:14. “That I may show forth,” &c. In “the gates,” as the most public place of concourse. It ought not only to be, “All the earth praises Thee,” but also, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” Our voice, profession, gifts, service are needed. I must praise God, acknowledge Him, love Him, and seek to build up His kingdom.
THE EXTREMITIES OF THE SAINTS
I. The depth of their distress.
“Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death” (Psalms 9:13). “From desperate and deadly dangers, such as threaten present destruction, and show a man the grave even gaping for him. David was oft at this pass; and God delivered Paul from so great a death (2 Corinthians 1:10). He commonly reserveth His hand for a dead-lift, and rescueth those who were even talking of their graves.”—Trapp. Believers are often brought “very low.” Constitutional infirmity; bodily sickness; worldly trouble; spiritual conflicts; persecution; these often depress and bewilder the saints, and they are at their “wits’ end.”
II. The fulness of their deliverance.
“In the gates of Jerusalem” (Psalms 9:14). He brings His people from the gates of hell to the gates of glory. “There is a beautiful contrast between ‘the gates of death,’ in the preceding verse, and ‘the gates of the daughter of Sion,’ or the heavenly Jerusalem, in this—the one leads down to the pit, the other up to the Mount of God; the one opens into perpetual darkness, the other into light eternal; from the one proceeds nothing but what is evil, from the other nothing but what is good; infernal spirits watch at the one, the other are unbarred by the hands of angels. What a blessing, then, is it to be snatched from the former, and transported to the latter.”—Horne.
1. God has thus lifted up His people in their conversion. They were “snatched as brands from the burning,” and placed in safety in the Church, which is the “gate of heaven.”
2. God does thus lift up His people in their experience. When our sins, our sorrows, our sufferings, our persecutors have brought us very low, how God interferes on our behalf, and turns the shadow of death into the morning!
3. God will thus lift up His people from death and the grave. He will transfigure their crown of thorns into amaranth; change their corruptible into incorruption; raise them from the dust and worms to stars and angels!
“Millions of transgressors poor
Thou hast for Jesus’ sake forgiven;
Made them of Thy favour sure,
And snatched from hell to heaven.”
III. The expression of their gratitude.
“That I may show forth all Thy praise,” &c. (Psalms 9:14). “That I may recount all Thy praise.” “This is one important end for which he asks to be delivered, namely, that God may have the praise of his deliverance.”—Alexander. We will praise Him on earth, and surely no song in heaven shall be louder and sweeter than ours.
“My soul, through my Redeemer’s care,
Saved from the second death I feel,
My eyes from tears of dark despair,
My feet from falling into hell.
“Wherefore to Him my feet shall run,
My eyes on His perfections gaze;
My soul shall live for God alone;
And all within me shout His praise.”
1. In the darkest hours do not despair. In the darkest hours of life, of death, do not despair. At the gates of death, believe, hope! “There is nothing desperate in the state of good men where there is a right principle within them, and God’s superintendency over them.”—Whichcote. “When the axe already touches thy neck, still hope in God’s saving grace.”—Talmud. From the deepest pit we see the stars.
2. In the darkest hours remember that the depth of the shade prophesies the fulness of the glory which is to be revealed. As much as you are brought low, so much shall you be lifted up. From gates of death you spring to beautiful gates of lofty Christian life and worship; to pearly gates, golden gates of heavenly rest and victory. Men measure mountains by their shadows; and so from the sorrows of to-day we may argue somewhat to the grandeurs which await us. But even then we must remember that “the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
We are taught here:
I. That the pit of human misery and ruin is digged by man, not by God.
“The pit that they made” (Psalms 9:15). Yes; all the pits into which man falls are self-digged. That is true of all the pits on earth. God’s laws were all made for man’s good and joy, but we create misery for ourselves. What scenes of misery there are on the earth—jails, madhouses, penitentiaries, &c., &c.; but God did not design these places. In the original arrangement of things our perfection and pleasure alone were designed; but pride, appetite, folly, covetousness, have dug the horrible pits from whence come up evermore sighs of misery and despair. This is true of the pit of hell. God made Eden for us, the beautiful earth, heaven beyond; but we make hell for ourselves. We build its prisons, kindle its fires, forge its fetters, originate its woe. As Dr. Griffin says, “God is right, and man is wrong.”
II. That sin may be cleverly devised and executed, but its frustration is certain.
“The pit that they made, the net which they hid.” How subtlely the thing has been conceived and wrought! Sin is often an attempt to overmatch man; to take advantage of his ignorance, or weakness, or unwariness. It is always an attempt to overmatch God. It is dexterously done, so to break the laws of God as to escape the threatened penalty. But it does not succeed. The sinner falls into the pit, is taken in the snare. We think of cheating man, devil, God; but we shall only cheat ourselves.
III. That sin may long remain unpunished, but its punishment is certain.
“The Lord is known by the judgment which He executeth” (Psalms 9:16). “Known is Jehovah, or has made Himself known. Justice has He done, or judgment has He executed. God has revealed Himself as present and attentive, notwithstanding His apparent oblivion and inaction, by doing justice on His enemies, or rather by making them do justice on themselves.”—Alexander. God will arise to punish sinners; and the punishment shall be all the more terrible for the delay. V. Hugo says concerning the sea: “Beware of the gale that has been long delayed. It was Angot who said that ‘the sea pays well old debts.’ ” Sinner, beware of the wrath long delayed; justice pays well old debts.
IV. That the final punishment of sin is overwhelming.
Psalms 9:17. “Not the heathen, as such, but all (of whatever race) who wilfully forget and put away from them that knowledge of Himself which God has inscribed on men’s consciences.”—Kay. “God’s righteousness shall be seen in cutting off the wicked by a sudden and premature end.”—Perowne.
1. The saints must trust in God (Psalms 9:18). “The patient abiding of the meek” shall not be in vain.—P. B. Version.
2. The ungodly must tremble at the judgments of God (Psalms 9:20). They are “but men,” however proud and defiant they may be. “Crowns leave their wearers, but men, degrees of eminent learning, make their owners not more than men; valour and conquest cannot elevate beyond the dead level of ‘but men;’ and all the wealth of Crœsus, the wisdom of Solon, the power of Alexander, the eloquence of Demosthenes, if added together, would leave the possessor but a man.”—Spurgeon. And what can man do when God awakes to judgment?
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany