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O Lord my God, in Thee do I put my trust.
An appeal from the slandered
I. The appeal (Psalms 7:1-2; Psalms 7:6). A petition for freedom and deliverance from his persecutors, in which he desires God to be attentive to him, because of the relation between them, and because he trusted Him: and he also desires God to be benevolent, because he was in danger of death, having many enemies.
II. His reasons. He makes protestation of his innocency, and appeals to God’s justice. He wants God to do justice both to him and to the wicked. The close of the Psalm is a doxology,--thanks that a true, just, and merciful God would judge for the righteous, save those who are true of heart, establish the just, and take revenge upon the wicked; for this, says David, “I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness.” (William Nicholson, D. D.)
David and his enemies
This Psalm consisteth principally of three parts. In the first part he prayeth for deliverance from his enemies, setting out his innocence and upright dealing toward them (Psalms 7:1-5). In the second he prayeth against his enemies, declaring what good shall come to his children by the overthrow of the wicked (Psalms 7:6-10). In the third he pronounceth God’s judgment against the ungodly, which, being once manifested, he promises to yield hearty thanks unto the Lord (Psalms 7:11-17). Learn that trust and confidence in God is always necessary to them that pray to Him; for otherwise all our supplications are but lip labour, and lost. Also, we learn to pray for deliverance from our persecutors, or else we might justly be accounted betrayers of ourselves. Many of God’s children may stand upon their innocency to men-ward, and say in their measure--which of you can convict me of sin, but not before God. We may sometimes pray against some enemies of the Church, but we should make God’s promises (general or particular) the ground of our prayers. When men will not judge rightly we may by prayer refer our causes to Him who hath no respect of persons. Verses 12, 13 declare what mischievous minds the wicked carry toward the godly, and what means they will work to accomplish their naughtiness; and that should teach us wisdom and circumspection, that we fall not into their nets. (Thomas Wilcocks.)
The ferocity of persecutors
It is reported of tigers that they enter into a rage on the scent of fragrant spices: so do ungodly men at the blessed savour of godliness. I have read of some barbarous nations, who when the sun shines hot upon them, they shoot up their arrows against it: so do wicked men at the light and heat of godliness. There is a natural antipathy between the spirits of godly men and the wicked (Genesis 3:15). (Jeremiah Burroughs.)
Exemplary conduct under social trial
David’s conduct indicates three things.
I. Earnest application. In the midst of his trial he looks to heaven. In his supplication, see--
1. A strong confidence in God as ever accessible; equal to all emergencies; large enough to receive all sufferers; immutable amidst the revolution of ages.
2. A terrible sense of danger. “Lest he tear my soul like a lion.”
3. A deep consciousness of innocence. “If there be iniquity in my hands.”
4. An earnest invocation for help. “Arise, O Lord, lift up Thyself.” His ideas of God throughout this Psalm are very anthropomorphic. In this invocation he has respect for three things--
(1) The spiritual good of his country;
(2) the administrative justice of God;
(3) the universal extension of wickedness.
II. Devout meditations (Psalms 7:10-16).
1. On the character of God; as a friend of the just; an enemy of the wicked, whose opposition is constant, terrible, and avoidable.
2. On the condition of sinners. He regards his position as
(1) painfully laborious;
(2) abortively laborious;
(3) self-ruinously laborious.
III. Reverent adoration. Note--
1. The character in which he worships the Almighty. As righteous and as supreme.
2. The spirit with which he worships the Almighty. “I will sing praise.” Song is the language of happiness. True worship is happiness. All happy spirits worship, and worship is song. (Homilist.)
Turning to God in time of need
I. Prayer (Psalms 7:1-2). If David desired deliverance from his foes, how much more do we need deliverance from our arch enemy (1 Peter 5:8-9).
II. Protestation (Psalms 7:3-5). (1 Samuel 24:1-22; 1 Samuel 26:1-25). So far had he been from the offence they charged him with.
III. An appeal (Psalms 7:6-9). By a bold metaphor he attributes the success of his foes to some temporary abdication on God’s part of His throne, and he entreats Him to reassume His throne and give His decisions, as Eastern judges are wont to do, in the midst of the people standing around.
IV. Prediction (Psalms 7:10-16). Evil recoils like a boomerang on those who set it in motion. Ralph the Rover perished at the Incheape Rock. The huntsman at eventide falls into the pit prepared in the morning for his prey. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Trust in God
I. The conditions of trust in God.
1. We must lay to heart the glorious truth of the everlasting love of God towards us, and realise that He is our reconciled Father in Christ.
2. We must ever seek to do His will. We cannot “rest in the calm sun glow of His face” if we are not earnestly seeking to do the things that please Him.
3. We must not trust in ourselves. The pride of the human heart is great, hence we are unwilling to confess our inability to keep God’s commandments.
4. We must not trust in others. Asa’s end a warning against trusting in an arm of flesh (2 Chronicles 16:12-13).
II. We ought to trust in God.
1. In times of loneliness and depression (John 16:32; Psalms 56:3).
2. Times of danger, difficulty, and temptation. God is our refuge (Psalms 57:1); our guide (Psalms 48:14); God is faithful (1 Corinthians 10:13).
III. The result of trust in God.
1. Blessedness (Psalms 84:12).
2. Perfect peace (Isaiah 26:8). (J. P. Wright.)
While there is none to deliver.
Times when there must be a God
Why pray so loudly, clearly, and distinctly? Because the enemy is mighty, and he may “tear my soul like a lion . . . while there is none to deliver.” If it be a question between man and man, woe betide the weak! If the great battles of human existence are to be measured by the strength of the contending parties, virtue will be thrown down, discrowned, destroyed. But there are times when there must be a God: controversy would be intolerable, doubt would be out of place--not blasphemy against heaven, but blasphemy against the agonised heart. In these dark times we may be said to create a God. Judge these questions in your high moods; there is no intellectual ladder that you can set up against this mystery, and by which you can climb your way into the presence of the throne: the heart can fly all the distance, counting the separate constellations nothing in the exercise of its infinite strength, created by infinite trust. What we have lost in all these matters may be described as the Divine fire. We have thought to beat cold iron into shape. Iron will only obey the hammer and the hand when fire has undertaken to do the intermediate work; it is when the soul is on fire that we have no doubt about God. When we are prosperous, too highly indulged, even sated with luxury and plenty, we play the agnostic, the atheist, the speculative thinker; but when circumstances change, when the floor gives way, when the earth rocks, when the sun sinks, as if in mortal fear, and shuts out the day; when the child dies, and when all nature seems to be set in array against the processes of life--then the real man within us will talk. When agony is stinging the soul, and darkness is accumulating itself upon the life like a burden, then let man say whether he is imbecile, whether he is unworthy of the related condition of things, and of the sovereignty which overrules and guides and crowns them all. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
O Lord my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands.
The appeal of conscious integrity
When near his end Mahomet made an effort to obtain himself the peace and pardon of the living before presenting himself before his Judge. Sustained beneath the arms by his two cherished disciples, Abubeker and All, he trailed himself along to the pulpit of the mosque, and said, with a feeble voice, “Mussulmans! if I have ever maltreated any among you, let him now come and strike me in turn. If I have offended any of you by word, let him return insult for insult. If I have taken from any his property, let him take all I possess upon the earth. And these are not vain words; let no one, in doing himself justice, apprehend my resentment. Resentment and anger are not in my character.” A man dared to step from the crowd and claim of him a concealed debt. “Help thyself,” said the prophet; “it is better to blush in this life before men, for one’s injustice, than to blush in the other world before God.” (Lamartine’s Turkey.)
Arise, O Lord, in Thine anger: lift up Thyself because of the rage of mine enemies.
The first of the imprecatory Psalms
Comminations are present in verses 11-17, and imprecations upon the writer himself (under certain contingencies) in verse 5.
I. The psalm is not vindictive.
1. It is certainly David’s composition, and by his twice sparing Saul we know this was not his character. Cush the Benjamite was some follower of Saul who had plotted against David. It is probable that in 1 Samuel 24:1-22. we have the historic setting of the Psalm. The points of contact between the two are many.
2. And Cush was flagrantly an evil-doer (verses 2, 3, 4, 14, 15). Hence these denunciations are uttered.
II. See what he prays for. It is simply that God will awake.
III. What he predicts. That the Lord will whet His sword, etc. Neither in prayer nor prediction is there any disproportion between the sin and its punishment. It is less than what God had Himself said He would do (Deuteronomy 32:23; Deuteronomy 32:42).
IV. Why he thus denounces. Not because although he had spared his enemy, yet in his heart he was thirsting for revenge. If he had wanted revenge he could have taken it. But--
1. From the instinct of self-preservation.
2. Desire for the repression of crime.
3. For the glory of God. We deny, therefore, that the Psalm is vindictive. (Joseph Hammond.)
For their sakes, therefore, return Thou on high.
David’s strong language
David had no difficulty in invoking a tremendous punishment upon his enemies. But the language must be judged by the times in which it was employed. Not only so, but every man has his own language. In a sense there is a private and individual tongue. You must know the speaker before you can understand the speech. The man explains the mystery that is round about him. David’s language was very strong; but David was a poet, and a Hebrew poet, a poet of poets. All the poetry that had gone before him was but as a pedestal, on which he stood to lift himself and his art into a nobler elevation. We must not, therefore, judge David’s language, especially when it is imprecatory, with our critical notions of propriety and measure. No other terms would have expressed his then feeling. Were he with us now, none would be so sweet in song, none so tender in prayer. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.
Integrity and peace
A truly noble confidence! and yet many of our time would call the language very dangerous, if it were spoken by any but one of the Scripture saints. Some, on the other hand, charge it as a fault in our doctrine of salvation by grace, that it lets down even the standards of our morality itself; because it is a part of our merit, under grace, to have no merit. Let us see if we can find the true place for integrity under the Christian salvation by noting--
I. How the Scriptures speak of integrity. The text cited does not stand alone. David says again, “Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity.” Good men are called “upright,” “just,” “righteous,” and “right.” It is even declared that they “shall deliver their own souls by their righteousness.” The Christian disciples of the New Testament dare to say that they have a conscience void of offence. They exhort others to walk so as they have them for examples. Making the strongest confessions of ill-desert, and resting their salvation on the justifying grace of God, they are still able to be free in professing their own conscious integrity in their discipleship. The explanation is not difficult if we consider--
II. What integrity means. As an integer is a whole, in distinction from a fraction, which is only a part, so a man of integrity is a man whose aim in the right is a whole aim, in distinction from one whose aim is divided, partial, or unstable. It does not mean that he has never been a sinner, or that he is not now, but simply that the intent of his soul is to do and be wholly right with God and man. Distinguish between commercial integrity and the higher integrity of religion. What does it signify that a man gives men their due, and will not give God His? God is a person as truly as men are, more closely related to us, a better friend, one who has claims of right more sacred. Does it entitle one to the name of a just man that he is honest with men of one colour and not with those of another? What, then, shall we think of mere commercial integrity taken, by itself? Real integrity, ready to do right to God as to men, to men as to God, must be the condition of Christian character itself. Let us inquire--
III. In what manner? If Christ saves men, not by their merit, or on terms of justice or reward, but by purely gratuitous favour, what place have we for insisting on the need of integrity at all? It seems to be the comfort of what some call their piety, that God is going to dispense with all merit in them, which they take to mean all sound reality of character,--all exactness of principle and conduct. Integrity is wholeness of aim or intent; but mere intent does not make a character. Yet it is just that by which all evil will be vanquished, under Christ and by grace, because it puts a man at the very gate of faith, where all God’s helps are waiting for Him. His new and better aim is his way of coming into the righteousness of God. The Scripture conditions all help on the integrity of the soul. “Ye shall seek and find Me, if ye search for Me with all your heart.” Let us note, in conclusion--
1. What it is that gives such peace and loftiness of bearing to the life of a truly righteous man. Storms of detraction and malignant conspiracies against his character may drive their clouds about Him, but he sits above with his God, and they all sail under. “The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effects of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” Here, too--
2. Is the ground of all failures, and all highest successes in the Christian life. Only to be an honest man, in this genuinely Christian sense, signifies a great deal more than most of us ever conceive. Little do we realise how honest a man must be to pray, how heartily, simply, totally he must mean what he prays for. Perhaps he prays much, and has it for a continual wonder that God does not answer his prayers. Perhaps he has conceived a higher standing in religion, and has tried long to reach it, and finds it not. Strange as it may seem, here is the root of the difficulty--that his projected attainments are dear ahead of his integrity. Some traitor is hid in his soul’s chambers, that is kept there, and carefully fed. Success is the fixed destiny of any soul that has once reached the point of whole intent. I note--
3. A very important deduction, namely,--that every man who comes into a state of right intent will forthwith also be a Christian. Whoever is willing to be carried just where it will carry him, cost him what it may, in that man the spirit of all sin is broken, and his mind is in a state to lay hold of Christ and be laid hold of by Him. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards Him.” God is on the look-out always for an honest man--him to help and with him, and for him, to be strong. And if there be one, God will not miss him; for His desiring, all-searching eyes are running the world through always to find him. (Horace Bushnell, D. D.)
Self-respect and self- righteousness
Is this speech self-righteous? If so it is a bad speech: for self-righteousness is a bad temper of mind; few are worse. But there is another temper of mind which looks like it at first, but is not so, and which is right in its way. I mean the temper of Job when his friends tried to make him out a bad man. He declared he would tell no lies about himself. “Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. I have, on the whole, tried to be a good man, and I will not make myself out a bad one.” St. John said, “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
I. But we may misuse that doctrine. Many do.
1. Some people try to confess as many sins as possible. They do not go and commit them, but they fancy themselves guilty of them. This is all too common. It is ruinous oftentimes to the body; I have seen people kill their own bodies and die early by this folly. And they kill their souls too, and enter into strong delusions and believe lies. And yet one pities them more than we can be angry with them, and all the more because they are generally the most innocent, and who have least to confess. We should pray for them.
2. But there is a worse misuse of St. John’s doctrine than this. A man may be proud of calling himself a miserable sinner, and of confessing his sins. But if he really knew the misery of sin he would not talk so much about it. His talk is only another way of saying, “I am a better man than you. I confess my sins, and you do not.”
II. But what is the right use of the doctrine? If you refuse, like Job, to own yourself guilty of what you know you are not guilty of, such a man will tell you that you are ignorant of the first principles of the gospel. You are building integrity and morality. Now, he is partly right, and so are you. St. Paul will help us, for he said, I judge not mine own self; for I know nothing against myself, yet am I not hereby justified; but He that judgeth me is the Lord.” Now, no man was ever less self-righteous than Paul, and yet he says, “I know nothing against myself.” Then, here is the rule. If you have done wrong, confess that; if you have done right, be not afraid to say you have. And to keep up self-respect, go on trying to do right. Wrong no man, least of all, a woman, But, mind, your right-doing will not justify you, for we all have sinned.
III. Remember the Lord will judge you. Be glad of this, as David was, for he knew that the Lord would bring him out of his sin. You must not think of God as hard, or you will fret and not fight. But if you believe Him good you will fight and not fret. And you will be able to leave yourself in His hands. (Charles Kingsley.)
Let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end.
The self-destroying power of wickedness
The accents require Psalms 7:9 to be rendered, “Let wickedness make an end of the wicked,” but that introduces an irrelevant thought of the suicidal nature of evil. It may be significant that the Psalmist’s prayer is not for the destruction of the wicked, but of their wickedness. Such annihilation of evil is the great end of God’s judgment, and its consequence will be the establishment of the righteous. Again, the prayer strengthens itself by the thought of God as righteous, and as trying the hearts and reins (the seat of feeling). In the presence of rampant, and all but triumphant evil, a man needs to feed hopes of its overthrow, that would else seem vainest dreams, by gazing on the righteousness and searching power of God The last section is a vision of the judgment prayed for, and may be supposed to be addressed to the enemy. If so, the hunted man towers above them, and becomes a rebuker. The character of God underlies the fact of judgment, as it had encouraged the prayer for it. What he had said to himself when his head drooped he now, as a prophet, peals out to men as making retribution sure: “God is a righteous judge, yea, a God that hath indignation every day.” The absence of an object specified for the indignation makes its inevitable flow wherever there is evil the more vividly certain. If He is such, then of course follows the destruction of everyone who turns not. Retribution is set forth with solemn vigour under four figures.
1. God is as an armed enemy sharpening His sword in preparation for action, a work of time which in the Hebrew is represented as in process, and bending His bow, which is represented as a completed act. Another second and the arrow will whiz. So the stern picture is drawn of God as in the moment before the outburst of His punitive energy--the sword sharpened, the bow bent, the arrows fitted, the burning stuff being smeared on their tips. What will happen when all this preparation blazes into action?
2. Verse 14: A figure of the automatic action of evil in bringing punishment. It is the Old Testament version of “Sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.” The evil-doer is boldly represented as “travailing with iniquity,” and that metaphor is broken up into two parts, “He hath conceived mischief,” and “He hath brought forth falsehood.” The “falsehood,” which is the thing actually produced, is so called, not because it deceives others, but because it mocks its producer with false hopes, and never fulfils his purposes. This is but the highly metaphorical way of saying that a sinner never does what he means to do, but that the end of all his plans is disappointment. The law of the universe condemns him to feed on ashes, and to make and trust in lies.
3. The idea in “falsehood,” namely, the failure of evil to accomplish its doer’s purpose. Crafty attempts to trap others have an ugly habit of snaring the contriver. The irony of fortune tumbles the hunter into the pitfall dug by him for his prey.
4. Verse 16: The incidence of his evil on the evil-doer as being certain as the fall of a stone thrown straight up, which will infallibly come back in the line of its ascent. Retribution is as sure as gravitation, especially if there is an Unseen Hand above, which adds impetus and direction to the falling weight. All these metaphors, dealing with the “natural” consequences of evil, are adduced as guarantees of God’s judgment, whence it is clear both that the Psalmist is thinking not of some final future judgment, but of the continuous one of daily providence, and that he made no sharp line of demarcation between the supernatural and the natural. The qualities of things and the play of natural events are God’s working. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
A prayer for the ending of wickedness
I. The wickedness of the wicked.
1. It is the genuine fruit of a depraved nature.
2. It displays itself in various forms.
3. It presses into its service the whole man.
4. It has abounded in all ages of the world.
II. When may this wickedness come to an end? The end of a thing is its termination.
1. It comes to an end partially in the individual conversion of sinners to God.
2. It will come to an end generally by the conversion of the world to God.
III. This is a most desirable object.
1. On God’s account.
2. On our own account.
3. On account of those who are the immediate subjects of this wickedness.
IV. What means can be adopted to put an end to it?
1. Give no countenance to wickedness.
2. Warn the wicked of their danger.
3. Pray that their wickedness may come to an end. Wrestle with God in their behalf. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
Prayer for the termination of sin
Our text is a prayer, and teaches us--
1. To pray against all sin; to pray it, if possible, out of the world.
2. To pray for all saints, for all good people. If we would be on the Lord’s side in the day of inquiry, we must by our prayers act in concert with the just.
I. What we are to desire and pray for.
1. That wickedness may come to an end. That wicked principles may be exploded and abandoned. That wicked practices may be prevented and restrained; that though Balsam be still the same, yet he may not be suffered to curse Israel; though Sennacherib has still an inveterate rage against God, yet he may be made to feel that God has a hook in his nose and a bridle in his jaws. Thus let wickedness be ashamed and hide itself, and that it may not be propagated and spread so as to infect others.
2. That God would establish the just in their integrity and retain them in it, is their comfort and hope. In their undertaking against wickedness: that they may not be shaken by any discouragements they meet with.
II. Why this is and ought to be the desire of all good people. Because--
1. Such have concern for the honour of God; and
2. They have tender love to the souls of men.
3. They have great value for the grace of God, for what it has done and is promised to do; and
4. They are hearty well-wishers to their native land.
III. For application of what has been said.
1. Let us address ourselves to God in prayer that He would further the reformation of manners in our land. Let ministers thus pray, and those who are engaged in the societies for reformation support their undertakings by their prayers.
2. And let us follow prayer with endeavour. You who are rich and of station in the world be favoured to appear in person to uphold this work. Your influence is a talent you must account for. Assure yourselves that the cause of religion and piety is the cause of God and must prevail. (Matthew Henry.)
For the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.
The searching Divine test
The one thought of God’s judgment seems to run through the Psalm. To understand the Psalm aright we must refer it altogether to the assurance that God will ultimately clear those who are falsely accused of anything in this world, which they feel and know that they have never committed. Often evil does seem to prevail over good. In the end God will justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. This assurance may uphold faithful men in all times of difficulty, trial, and persecution. Oftentimes God brings it to pass upon wicked men that they perish by the very way and means they designed for the destruction of the righteous. It is not merely that God knows every way of all men; it is not merely that His eye readeth, as it does, the very thoughts and intents of every heart amongst us: it is that He trieth each separate thought and intent of that heart, He weighs every word; He marks every little variation and complexion of man’s thoughts, and words, and works, and intents. He registers it all, because He will one day “judge the world in righteousness.” To say to ourselves, “The righteous God trieth the very heart and reins,” will make us think more of what we call “little” sins, and it will make us value more and more every greater or less opportunity of receiving grace or of doing good. It will make us also watch more carefully the springs and intents of our hearts. (W. J. Stracey, M. A.)
My defence is of God, which sayeth the upright in heart.
God, the shield bearer of the upright
Lit.: God is my shield bearer. Fig.: I hang my shield upon God. The idea is that of going to war, and having God as the carrier, the bearer, of our shield, so that before we can be struck down, God Himself must be wounded and overpowered. “My defence is of God.” There are times when we need great defences. There arise m life crises, points of agony, when we can only be silent, having first said to God, “Undertake for me.” There are times when it seems to us but a small thing, or a course quite natural, to claim all heaven as our defence. These are supreme moments. The bulk of life is commonplace, lived on an ordinary level, requiring the discharge of common duties. There are times when the whole heaven is no longer a defence, but an accusation. These are the terrible moments of life. Where, then, is man’s defence? Let man in such moments look within; let him trace the course of his own spirit and action; and if he can find in that action reasons for self-condemnation, then let him be penitent and broken-hearted; let him find God through his tears. The tears must not be selfish: no man must make an investment of his broken-heartedness. Repentance must be perfect, vital, sincere, all-inclusive. He does not repent who cries simply because the consequences are painful. Contrition has nothing to do with consequences. God may be both accuser and defender. He prefers the accusation with the reluctance of wounded love; through the accusation He causes to shine the light of the prepared defence: His mercy endureth forever. He is the defender of the sinner, when the offender falls down in contrition and self-examination. The Psalmist falls back upon the vital element of character. “Saveth the upright in heart.” Is God, then, only the defender of the righteous, who have never sinned? No such meaning is here. “The upright in heart” may not always be the upright in conduct. Men cannot go beyond conduct; God goes into motive, purpose, secret thought. May there, then, be broken conduct and yet a heart truly upright before God? There may be, and that is our hope. God does not look upon us as we are, but upon what we would be if we could. Where there is this integrity or uprightness of heart, all the rest will be well. When you have the upright heart all needful consistency will be guaranteed. A growing life is never a literally consistent one. Many a man is mechanically consistent who is spiritually self-contradictory. Do we want to be upright in heart? There is but one gospel way. The grace of God alone can make the heart true and new and beautiful. We cannot give ourselves uprightness of heart. It is not in man to make himself clean. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
The upright in heart
I. A character described. The upright in heart. Now it includes inward principle as the wheel which puts the whole machine in action; and outward conduct is the result of it. Take as example--
1. Nathaniel. He was a man whose outward character corresponded with the promptings of his heart.
2. Remember there may be uprightness of heart with many failings. God looks at the intents of the heart. Only they must be sincere.
II. The privilege of this character.
1. God’s defence. We see how God defends the tender plants from winter’s cold and summer’s heat. But yet more does He protect His children. For His love is deeper, stronger, and more lasting than that of a mother.
2. God’s salvation. “God raiseth the upright in heart.” But our salvation is in Christ, there is none out of Him. (W. D. Howard.)
God is angry with the wicked every day.
God’s anger against the wicked
I. Who are the “wicked” in the Scripture sense of the term? The Bible divides all the human race into two classes only--the righteous and the wicked. Those are righteous who have true faith in Christ, whose spirit is consecrated to God, who live a heavenly life on earth, and who have been renewed by the Holy Ghost. Their original selfishness is subdued and slain, and they live a new life through the ever-present grace of Christ Jesus. Right over against them in character are the wicked, who have not been renewed in heart; who live in selfishness, under the dominion of appetite in some of its forms,--and it matters not in which, out of all possible forms, it may be, but self is the great and only ultimate end of their life.
II. God is angry with the wicked. This is the testimony of God Himself This truth is also taught by reason. If God were not opposed to the wicked, He would be wicked Himself for not opposing them. Sinners know that God is angry with them, and ought to be. Else, why are they afraid to die?
III. The nature of this anger.
1. It is not a malicious anger. God never has a disposition to do any wrong in any way to any being.
2. His anger is not passion in the sense in which men are wont to exhibit passion in anger. Reason for the time is displaced, and passion reigns.
3. God’s anger cannot, be in any sense a selfish anger; for God is not selfish in the least degree. Positively, His anger against the wicked implies--
(1) An entire disapprobation of their conduct and character. He loathes the wicked with infinite loathing.
(2) He feels the strongest opposition of will to their character, as opposed to His own character.
(3) Strong opposition of feeling against sinners. In our attempts to conceive of the mental faculties of the Divine mind, we are under a sort of necessity of reasoning analogically from our own minds. As we have intellect, sensibility, and will, so has God. From our own minds we infer not only what the faculties of the Divine mind are, but also the laws under which they act.
(4) God is not angry merely against the sin abstracted from the sinner, but against the sinner himself The sin has no moral character apart from the sinner. It grieves and displeases God that a rational moral agent, under His government, should array himself against his own God and Father, against all that is right and just in the universe.
(5) The anger of God against the wicked implies all that properly belongs to anger when it exists with good reason.
IV. The reasons of God’s anger. Causeless anger is always sinful. God never Himself violates His own laws--founded as they are in infinite right and justice.
1. Wicked men are entirely unreasonable. God has given them intelligence and conscience; but they act in opposition to both. God has given them a pure and good law, yet this they recklessly violate. We know that, by a fixed law of our being, nothing can be a greater temptation to anger than to see persons act unreasonably. So when God looks at the unreasonable conduct of sinners, He feels the strongest indignation and displeasure.
2. The course of the wicked is utterly ruinous. No thanks to the sinner if his influence does not ruin the whole world. By the very laws of mind, the sin of any one man tends to influence other men to sin, and they spread far and wide the dreadful contagion of his example. What influence can be more potent than that of example?
3. God is so good and sinners are so wicked, He cannot help being angry at them. Since, in His wisdom and knowledge, He knows more fully than they do the great evil of sin, by so much the more is lie under obligation to be displeased with sin and angry at the sinner.
V. The degree of God’s anger against sin. It ought to be equal to the degree of their wickedness, and must be if God is what He should be. We judge of men’s guilt by their light, and by their capacity for governing themselves by light and reason. God’s anger against sin is in proportion to the sinner’s guilt, estimated in view of the light he enjoys and sins against.
VI. The duration of God’s anger. It must continue as long as the wickedness itself continues. If they turn not, there can be no abatement, no cessation of His anger.
VII. The terrible condition of the sinner against whom God is angry. Look at the attributes of God. Think of the case of the sinner’s exposing himself to the indignation of the great and dreadful God. Look at His natural attributes. Power. Omniscience. Look at His holiness, and His mercy. Such is His nature, and such His character, that you have nothing to hope, but everything to fear. His dreadful anger against you must be expressed. Remarks:
1. God is much more opposed to sinners than Satan is.
2. If God were not angry, with sinners, He would not be worthy of confidence.
3. God’s anger with sinners is not inconsistent with His happiness.
4. God’s opposition to sinners is His glory.
5. Saints love God for His opposition to sinners, not excepting even His opposition to their own sins. This text is to be understood as it reads. Some have supposed that God is not really angry with sinners, but uses this language in accommodation to our understandings. This is an unwarrantable latitude of interpretation. In God there is a fixed eternal displeasure and opposition against all sinners because of their great guilt.
7. God’s anger against the sinner does not exclude love--real compassionate love, the love of well-wishing and good-willing.
8. It is plain that sinners do not realise God’s anger, though they know it. If they do both know and realise it, they manifest a degree of hardihood in iniquity which is dreadful. But the fact is, they keep the thought of God’s anger from their minds. (C. G. Finney.)
God’s anger with the wicked
Many think that God, in order to be perfectly benevolent, ought not to be angry at anything But the idea of a Supreme Ruler, who would not be displeased whenever wrong is done, would be the most frightful idea that ever could pass through the minds of any creatures whatever. This is certain, the God of this Bible is a God that hateth iniquity. What is the anger of God that rests upon the head of a sinning man? It is not hatred. It is not revenge, which implies a sense of injury and a feeling of ill-will, It is not implacable offence. What is it? It is hatred of a bad action, with displeasure against him who does that action. You can separate the doer from the action, so far that while you hate the action you shall not hate him that does it. But you cannot separate the doer so far, that if the action is a hateful one, and you feel rightly, you can hate the action, and yet feel favour towards him that does it. God’s displeasure against sin is the simple and inevitable result of God’s purity and God’s goodness, and is in itself the strict expression of justice. But it is a forbearing anger, and always ready to, forgive. It is no dead sentiment that will be inactive always. What duty, then, does this truth devolve on you and me? Repent; and cease to do evil; and turn unto thy God, saying, “Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.” (W. Arthur.)
God angry with the wicked
Were any one of us to be completely in the power of some mysterious stranger and did we know that we had done that which would arouse his anger, how anxious we should be to know his purposes towards us. But men do not feel like this in regard to God, against whom they have sinned and in whose power they know they are. They are careless and confident as if all was well with them. But Scripture gives them no encouragement. Consider our text and think--
I. Of what the anger of God is. Anger is only right where there is that which can properly arouse it. Human anger is, generally, only selfish, and therefore sinful. But the anger of God is only that indignation which benevolence itself must feel toward the enemies of all good.
II. And this anger is on the wicked every day.
1. Scripture affirms this.
2. The holiness of God necessitates it. “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness”; He, therefore, must have anger towards its opposite: else He would be as destitute of affections as a statue. Holiness is repugnance to all moral impurity and deformity.
3. The justice of God and the tendency of sin. For the justice of God is His moral perfection directed to uphold His moral government. It is in this character that He is “a jealous God.”
1. How false and dangerous to deny the reality of the Divine anger. Many do.
2. The wicked cannot have God’s favour while they continue in sin.
3. How changed the condition of the righteous.
4. How awful the situation of the stupid sinner. (M. W. Taylor, D. D.)
If he turn not, He will whet His sword; He hath bent His bow, and made it ready.
Turn or burn
So, then, God has a sword, and He will punish man on account of iniquity. This evil generation hath sought to take away from God the sword of His justice. Perhaps the Puritans insisted too much on the wrath of God, but our age seeks to forget that wrath altogether.
I. What is the turning here meant?
1. It is actual, not fictitious; not one that stops with vows and promises.
2. It must be entire. Many will give up many sins, but not all: there are certain darling lusts which they will keep and hold. Remember that one lust, like one leak in a ship, will sink a soul.
3. And it must be immediate. There must be no procrastination. “Today if ye will hear His voice.”
4. And hearty--no pretended repentance.
5. And perpetual: it must not be transitory or superficial. In old times when rich and generous monarchs came to their cities they made the fountains run with wine. But tomorrow it ran with water as before. It is hard to distinguish between legal repentance and evangelical repentance. Legal repentance is a fear of damning; evangelical, of sinning. And this is far deeper than the other: the man feels that only by sovereign grace can his sin be put away, that no mere course of holy living can blot it out. Christ alone can dig its grave.
II. The necessity that God should whet His sword and punish men if they will not turn. Richard Baxter used to say, “Sinner! turn or burn: it is thine only alternative.” And it is so: for--
1. God cannot suffer sin to go unpunished. How could He govern men if He had no justice?
2. The Scriptures are full of declarations of this truth.
3. All which conscience confirms. You may say you have no such belief. I did not say you had, but I say that your conscience tells you so. As John Bunyan said, Mr. Conscience had a very loud voice, and though Mr. Understanding shut himself up in a dark room, where he could not see, yet he used to thunder out so mightily in the streets that Mr. Understanding used to shake in his house through what Mr. Conscience said. But I am tired of this terrible work of proving that God must punish sin. However, I should like to act as if there were a hell, even if there is no such place; for as a poor and pious man once said to an unbeliever, “Sir, I like to have two strings to my bow. If there should be no hell, I shall be as well off as you will; but if there should, it will go hard with you.” But why say “if”? You know there is.
III. Now what are the means of repentance? You cannot repent of yourself. But Christ is exalted “to give repentance and remission of sin.” Then if you feel that you are a sinner, ask Him to give you repentance. Many a man says he cannot repent while he is repenting. Keep on with that till you feel you have repented, then believe and be saved. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Divine anger an everlasting principle
Polarity, as it is called, exhibits both attraction and repulsion, and at the same pole attraction and repulsion, and by the same law, at the same pole, attraction and repulsion. At the same pole the magnet attracts and repels. And Divine benevolence has polarity. At the same pole it attracts and repels. By the same law it attracts and repels. By the same eternal, Divine necessity it attracts and repels. With the same Divine force it attracts and repels. Its attraction is love, its repulsion is wrath; but wrath is love turned round, and both wrath and love are the opposing poles of that one attribute. Hence it is the more to be regretted, and the more to be lamented, that so many ministers of Christ, not to say members of the Church of God, have wrong conceptions of the wrath of God. Watts was wrong when he made the Psalm to say of God--
“Whose anger is so slow to rise,
So ready to abate.”
The fact is, God’s anger never rises, and it never abates. It is always at flood tide, at the flood mark; and that is the mark of infinite perfection. It does not go up and down, like the impulsive, impetuous, and capricious passions of men. It is an everlasting principle, not a passion at all--an everlasting principle--eternal love of righteousness, eternal detestation of unrighteousness. (A. F. Pierson.)
He ordaineth His arrows against the persecutors.
Mercy and love often lurk in the meanings of these Psalms, which on their surface seem, like Saul on the road to Damascus, to breathe threatenings and slaughter. David thought only of the arrows of God’s judgments; the Christian loves to think of these arrows of conviction and of love which God hath often discharged against the persecutors of His Church, such as Saul was. See this in his conversion. The disciples awaited his coming to Damascus in fear and trembling. But God’s arrow was ready against him, had been “ordained” long ago. It was of God, of Christ. For of Him it is said: “Thine arrows are very sharp; and the people shall be subdued unto Thee, even in the midst among the King’s enemies.” Such were the Pharisees, of whom Saul was one. When Jesus appeared to Saul He spoke not of arrows, but of goads--the ox goads, which when the oxen lash out against them only wound themselves the more. Conscience had been such a goad to Saul. The influence of Stephen’s death; the calm patience of those whom he had cruelly persecuted--all this must have made him feel as every persecutor, down to the inquisitors of later days, must have felt, that he was doing the devil’s work. Yet he hardened himself and kicked out against the goads of conscience and went on madly persecuting Jesus. But this arrow was too much for him; it was altogether too sharp. The great lesson, then, of our text is that no persecutor will be allowed to proceed too far. If the arrows of conviction will not serve, then God “will whet His sword.” As with Antiochus Epiphanes. Such an one most strikingly was that Julian the Apostate, who was perhaps more dangerous to the Church than any Nero or Decius, because he knew her weak points, and because he mingled so much craft with his violence. It was in very sooth an arrow--a Parthian arrow, shot at random in some paltry skirmish--which ]aid that persecutor low, for God had ordained it against him of old. He himself would seem to have been aware whence that arrow came, and who it was whom he had been so bitterly persecuting, for it is said that when he perceived his wound to be mortal, he threw some of his blood up into the air (after the manner of dying gladiators) and exclaimed, “Thou hast conquered, O Nazarene!” (R. Winterbotham.)
God’s arrows not shot at random
It is said that God hath ordained His arrows against the persecutors; the word signifies such as burn in anger and malice against the godly; and the word translated “ordained,” signifies God hath wrought His arrows; He doth not shoot them at random, but He works them against the wicked. Illiricus hath a story which may well be a commentary upon this text in both the parts of it. One Felix, Earl of Wartenburg, one of the captains of the Emperor Charles V, swore in the presence of divers at supper, that before he died he would ride up to the spurs in the blood of the Lutherans. Here was one that burned in malice, but behold how God works His arrows against him: that very night the hand of God so struck him, that he was strangled and choked in his own blood; so he rode not, but bathed himself, not up to the spurs, but up to the throat, not in the blood of the Lutherans, but in his own blood before ha died. (Jeremiah Burroughs.)
Behold, he travaileth with iniquity.
The enemies of the Church
1. That all the labour of wicked men against the Church is but labour in vain in respect of their own intent and expectation.
2. That the labour of wicked men is turned clean contrary to their own intent and expectation. These things are set down in metaphor and in express speech. Doctrine: The wicked counsels and enterprises of the enemies of the Church are not only vain in respect of others, but mischievous against themselves. God scattereth the devices of the crafty, so as they cannot accomplish what they enterprise.
The misery of the enemies of the Church may be seen in four particulars.
1. All their pain and labour is for their own destruction.
2. That they live in perpetual peril of destruction.
3. That unexpected destruction comes when they expect the sweet fruit of all their labour.
4. That the mischief plotted against the greatest enemies recoils upon themselves, as a gun overcharged and recoiling. There is little cause why God’s people should envy the prosperity of their enemies, or study for revenge. They should rather pity them, and pray for them, so many as are curable, for their last dish will mar all the feast. Little do they know what they are doing. They are twisting a cord to hang themselves. They are digging a pit, but the earth falls on them, and smashes them to pieces. (T. Taylor, D. D.)
The saint’s sagety in evil times
These words express the conception, birth, carriage, and miscarriage of a plot against David. In which consider--
I. What his enemies did. This is likened to a bodily conception, for the mind hath such as well as the body. The seed of it was some wicked thought cast in by Satan, the understanding was the womb to conceive, the will to consent. From first to last, from the conception to the bringing forth, they intended the destruction of David, but brought forth their own ruin.
1. And how great was their sin? It was voluntary and with delight, and it was spiritual and artificial--there was much art and cunning in it: they were very diligent in it, for it was a curious web. Judas is awake when Peter is asleep. And, which is worst of all, they were so well pleased with the bent of their own brain that they travailed of it. The more the soul dwells on any sinful plot, the more estrangement there is from God. The more deliberate in sin, the more the soul is pleased with it. Many seek out the delight of sin before they act, as Esau pleased himself by thinking, “the day of mourning for his father would come, wherein he might be revenged of his brother.”
2. But by whom and against whom was this plotting? By children of the Church, not uncircumcised Philistines; and that opposition is the bitterest of all.
3. And it was against David, a man after God’s own heart. Envy hath an ill eye. It cannot look on goodness without grief. And this plot was cunningly carried. First, they kill his good name, that so slander may make way for violence. Satan is a liar first, and then a murderer. See what David did. Innocency was his best apology. He saw God in the wrongs he suffered. We need not be ashamed to learn some things of our very enemies. If they be so set on evil, why not we on good? I am sure we serve a better Master. True love is full of inventions; it will be devising of good things.
II. What God did. Now I come to their miscarriage. They brought forth a lie, God defeated them.
1. How this was done. By disappointing them. They fell into danger of their own contriving, and into the same danger that they plotted for another. Compare the history of Haman and Mordecai. Why does God do this? First, in regard to Himself. He will be known to be God only wise. Secondly, in regard of His tender care over His children, who are the apple of His eye. Another reason is, the virulence of the enemies whose fierceness turns to God’s praise (Psalms 9:16). And God’s children will give Him no rest. They prevail on Him by importunity.
3. But it will be objected that wicked men do prevail over the children of God. Tully could say, “The gods show how much they esteem the Jewish nation, by suffering so often to be conquered.” Where, then, is the bringing forth of a lie? I answer, when they do prevail it is but one part only, not the whole. Over men’s lives, but not their spirits. A true Christian conquers when he is conquered. Our enemies shall do no more nor less than God wills: their mischievous attempts fail in the end; for did ever any harden themselves against God and prosper long? The greatest torment of the damned spirit is that God turns all his plots for the good of those he hates most.
III. What we all should do. We are bidden “behold.”
1. The subtlety, malice, and restless endeavour of the enemies of goodness, and their bootless enterprise, they bring forth a lie.
2. But especially the mercy of God to His children, and how He confounds their enemies. (R. Sibbes.)
He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.
There is much among men of the particular sin rebuked in this text.
I. How this pit digging may be done. It may be done by attempting to lower a man’s reputation. We are often guilty of talking in such a way that we “lower” people. The society papers live on this sort of thing. Scandal is a most, prominent form of the pit-digging business. It may be done by sapping a man’s business. We have a general idea of what is fair and unfair within the world of trade. Now, some men steadily set themselves to ruin their neighbour’s business, thinking this essential to their own aggrandisement. You may do it by your capital, by your tongue, by your influence. Men sometimes seek to entice their neighbours into plausible and ruinous speculations. It may be done by endangering a man’s character. Men will knowingly and designingly ruin their brother; they “let them in” to some sin or other. They will do this for the sake of gain, for a companionship in guilt, and sometimes out of a mere delight in iniquity. Sometimes we dig a pit for others when we do not think of all that we are doing. We have no right to lay snares, nor to put an occasion of stumbling in our brother’s way. If our brother shows a tendency to slide we must not grease his path.
II. Characterise this work of pit digging.
1. It is dark work; it has to be done secretly, under cover of night: to be done softly, to be wrapped up. Let us decline all that kind of work in which we should be ashamed for society to see us. The great motto of Positivism is, “Live without concealment.” So live that you would not care if your house were glass. Let us decline all that work we should shrink from bringing under the eye of God.
2. It is dirty work, ignoble, base, disgraceful. Whatever aims to lower men is of this character. Such conduct involves only base qualities. Sometimes it is prompted by covetousness. Or it springs from envy or from revenge; or from mere levity. Pit diggers may be well dressed, but their work is of a far dirtier kind than that of the delver in the earth.
3. It is dismal work. All the true work of life has a joy in it, but there is no brightness or blessing in letting people down. It is a joyless thing to be a gravedigger among living men: to dig graves for men’s reputations. Lighthouse building is better than pit sinking. Let our life be devoted to the uplifting of men.
4. It is degrading work. As soon as you begin to dig you stoop, and whatever progress you make you sink with your work. All true work resembles the work of the builder. If in conversation we talk down others, if that is our habit and pleasure, we talk ourselves down at the same time, whether we know it or not. As George Sand says, “Insults, harsh words, detractive utterances, kill morally those who give expression to them.” You narrow and debase your own thought and feeling, you wrong your own soul. If the spirit of our life is sympathy, and if we find readily and praise readily whatever is good, beautiful, clever, successful in the work of our fellows, we are really nourishing and promoting our intellect in an eminent degree. And so in our business life. It was said to me concerning one of the richest men in Bradford, “He has made more gentlemen than any man in Bradford.” That is the way, so to rise that you lift others up with you. The whole idea of the New Testament is, that a noble life is devoted to raising one’s fellow men. This was the grand task of the Master. He was constantly raising what was fallen. (W. L. Watkinson.)
The self-avenging power of sin
The man that travaileth with iniquity, who is big with thoughts and purposes of evil, shall experience, as the issue of his birth throes, nothing but mischief and falsehood, misery and disappointment. Sin is a thing that recoils upon its perpetrator, and inflicts its heaviest blows upon the soul conceiving it, intending it, and giving it life and form. It was in accordance with this self-avenging power of sin that Saul was slain by the Philistines (1 Samuel 31:2-4), whom he had designed to be slayers of David (1 Samuel 18:21; 1 Samuel 18:25); that Haman was hanged upon the gallows he had erected for another (Esther 7:10); and that the Jews themselves were destroyed by the Romans, whose aid they had invoked and received to crucify their Messiah. This recoiling, self-avenging power of sin is conclusive proof that a holy, just, and living God is moving everywhere in nature, and in the affairs of men, to paralyse the arm of the evil-doer, and to make man feel in every blow that he inflicts upon truth and right, upon innocence and virtue, a counter blow of overwhelming force. It is the conviction of this great truth, as a principle permeating the government of God, that makes David speak of the discomfiture of his enemies as a thing already accomplished. He sees every blow aimed at him recoiling upon themselves; every machination concocted for his overthrow, rendering their own still more inevitable. A fearful thought this, to the wicked, that “his own evil shall slay him”; and yet, to others, a thought full of hope, that God has so ordered things in His universe that evil must destroy itself. (David Caldwell, A. M.)
The story of Phalaris’s bull, invented for the torment of others, and serving afterwards for himself, is notorious in heathen story It was a voluntary judgment which Archbishop Cranmer inflicted on himself when he thrust that very hand into the fire, and burnt it, with which he had signed to the popish articles, crying out, “Oh, my unworthy right hand!” but who will deny that the hand of the Almighty was also concerned in it? (William Turner.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 7". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter