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A PSALM ascribed to David by the title, and with many characteristics of his early style—abrupt, impassioned, full of lively and graphic images, and full of transitions The picture which the writer draws of his own circumstances and position (Psalms 35:11-17, Psalms 35:19-21) accords well with what we know of David's life when he was a fugitive from Saul, and there is a special agreement between the first verse of the psalm and words historically ascribed to David at this period of his career (1 Samuel 24:15). The psalm naturally divides itself into three portions, nearly of equal length (Psalms 35:1-10; 11-18; and 19-28), in each of which may be traced the three elements of complaint, prayer, and promise of thanksgiving; the promise of thanksgiving being in each case reserved to the close. Prayer predominates in the first and third portions, complaint (Psalms 35:11-16) in the second.
Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me
was a smaller hand-weapon; the buckler (tsinnah)covered the whole body" (Kay). The "shield and buckler" are put forward first, because it is primarily defence and protection that David needs. His adversaries are the aggressors; he is on the defensive; Saul is hunting him upon the mountains. And stand up for mine help (comp. Psalms 7:6). Standing is the natural posture of one who interposes to help another.
Draw out also the spear; rather, bring out also the spear, since spears were not, so far as is known, kept in sheaths, like swords (Exodus 15:9), but only laid up in an armoury. And stop the way against them that persecute me. So Jarchi, Rosenmuller, Hitzig, Kay, Professor Alexander, Hengstenberg, and our Revisers; but a large number of critics regard סְגר—the word translated "stop the way"—as really the name of a weapon, the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek σάγαρις, which was probably the battle-axe. (So Vitringa, Michaelis, Bishop Horsley, Cheyne, Mr. Aglen, and the 'Speaker's Commentary.') The passage will then read, "Bring out also the spear and the battle-axe against them that persecute me," which is certainly a better parallel to "Take hold of shield and buckler," than "Bring out the spear, and stop the way." Say unto my soul, I am thy Salvation. Comfort my soul, i.e; with the assurance that thou art, and wilt ever be, ray Salvation (comp. Psalms 27:1; Psalms 62:2, Psalms 62:6; Psalms 118:14, Psalms 118:21, etc.). Deliverance from the immediate danger is not all that is meant; but rather support and saving help in all dangers and in all troubles.
Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul. It appears from this that David's life is being sought, which only happened at two periods in his career:
(1) when he was a fugitive from Saul; and
(2) during the rebellion of Absalom.
The psalm therefore belongs to one or other of those periods, most probably to the former (see the introductory paragraph, and note the resemblance between this passage and 1 Samuel 20:1; 1 Samuel 22:23). Let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt. Imprecations closely resembling these occur frequently in the Davidical psalms (see Psalms 35:26; Psalms 40:14; Psalms 70:2; Psalms 71:13), and amount to a sort of commonplace, to be used whenever the machinations of his enemies against him are the subject that occupies his thought.
Let them be as chaff before the wind (comp. Psalms 1:4; Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 29:5; Hosea 13:3). Chaff is the type of whatever is light, vain, futile, and worthless; chaff driven before the wind represents the confused rout of a beaten army flying without any resistance before an enemy. And let the angel of the Lord chase them; rather, smite them. The angel of the Lord, who protects the righteous (Psalms 34:7), is called on to complete the discomfiture of the wicked ones, who are David's enemies.
Let their way be dark and slippery; literally, darkness and slipperiness; i.e. let them fly along dark and slippery paths, where they cannot see their way, and will be sure to stumble and fall. And let the angel of the Lord persecute them; rather, pursue after them.
For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit; literally, the pit of their net. This is explained by some to mean "the destruction of their net;" by others, "the pit that is covered by a net." But neither explanation is altogether saris-factory. Some therefore suppose an accidental transposition of a word. Which without cause they have digged for my soul. "Without cause" means "without provocation on my part."
Let destruction come upon him at unawares; i.e. let the evil happen to him that he designed against others. As he sought to catch others in traps of which they knew nothing (Psalms 35:7), so let an unexpected destruction come upon him. And let his net that he hath hid catch himself (comp. Psalms 9:15, Psalms 9:16; Psalms 57:6; Psalms 141:10). It is the perfection of poetic justice when "the engineer" is "hoist by his own petard." Into that very destruction lot him fall; rather, for destruction let him fall therein; i.e. let him not only fall into his own trap, but let his fall prove his destruction. David's imprecations have always something about them from which the Christian shrinks; and this is particularly the case when he asks for his enemies' destruction.
And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord. A sudden transition from imprecatory prayer to thanksgiving, or rather, to the promise of it—"My soul shall be joyful;" i.e. it shall be so when my prayers have been granted. It shall rejoice in his salvation. "Salvation" here is, no doubt, especially, deliverance from the immediate danger, but, perhaps, even here, not only that (see the comment on Psalms 35:3).
All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee? The "bones" here represent, not the frame only, as in Psalms 34:20, but the entire nature. David promises that his whole nature shall bear witness to God's mercy and goodness, proclaiming that there is "none like unto him" in these respects, none other that can deliver from danger as he can and does. As Hengstenberg observes, "He seeks to make the Lord grant the desired help by promising that the help afforded would yield a rich harvest of praise and thanksgiving." Which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him? (comp. Psalms 86:1, where David again calls himself "poor and needy;" i.e. in want of help and peace and comfort; not absolutely without means, or he would not offer any temptation to the spoiler.
The second part of the psalm begins with a long complaint, David sets forth the woes under which he is suffering. There are:
1. Calumny (Psalms 35:11).
2. Ingratitude (Psalms 35:12-14).
3. Malevolence (Psalms 35:15).
4. Insult from the vile and base (Psalms 35:16).
He then passes to prayer: Will not God rescue him (Psalms 35:17)? In conclusion, he for the second time promises praise and thanks (Psalms 35:18).
False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I know not (comp. Psalms 27:12); literally, malicious, or unrighteous witnesses (see Exodus 23:1). It is not probable that witnesses in a court are intended. David's calumniators accused him privately to Saul of "seeking his hurt" (1 Samuel 24:9), and so stirred Saul up against him (1 Samuel 26:19). By what is here said, they appear to have accused him to his face, and to have endeavoured to extort from him a confession of guilt.
They rewarded me evil for good (comp. Psalms 35:13). Among those who slandered him were persons with whose troubles he had sympathized, and for whom he had prayed with fasting when they were sick. His worst persecutor, Saul, admitted the charge here made. "Thou art more righteous than I," he said; "for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil" (1 Samuel 24:17). To the spoiling of my soul; or, the desolating of my soul. The result of his enemies' machinations against him was to make him a fugitive and a wanderer, to separate him from the friend whom he tenderly loved, from his wife, his parents, and the greater part of his acquaintance.
But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth. It is suggested that David had acted thus, especially in the case of Saul, when he was first afflicted with his terrible malady (1 Samuel 16:14-23; 1 Samuel 18:10); but he appears to speak of his habitual practice, whenever any of his friends were sick. (On the putting on of sackcloth as a sign of grief, see Genesis 37:34; 2Sa 3:31; 2 Samuel 21:10; 1 Kings 21:27; 2Ki 6:30; 2 Kings 19:1; Esther 4:1; Job 16:15; Psalms 69:11; Psalms 69:11, etc.) I humbled my soul with fasting. Another customary indication of grief (see Psalms 69:10; Psalms 109:24; Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 31:13; 2Sa 1:12; 2 Samuel 22:16; 1 Kings 21:27; Nehemiah 1:4, etc.). And my prayer returned into mine own bosom (comp. Matthew 10:13). Prayers for others, if prevented by their unworthiness from benefiting them, are yet not altogether void and vain. They bring a blessing to the man that offers them.
I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother. In every such case I sympathized with the sufferer to such an extent, that my conduct was like that of an intimate friend or a brother. I bowed down heavily, as one that mournsth for his mother. Nay, I went further; I took on all those outward signs of grief which are usual when a man has lost his mother. I "bowed down heavily," as though I could scarcely stand. The Orientals are extreme and exaggerated in their manifestations both of joy and grief (see Herod; 8:99).
But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together; rather, in my fall, or in my halting; "when I halted" (Revised Version). "The word implies a sudden slip and overthrow," such as is represented in 1 Samuel 18:8-29. Yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me. Compare the case of Job (Job 30:1-14). It is a matter of common experience that when men fall from a high position into misfortune, the base vulgar crowd always turns against them with scoffs and jeers and every sort of contumely. And I knew it not; rather, and I knew them not; men, i.e; of so low a condition, that I had no acquaintance with them. They did tear me, and ceased not (comp. Job 16:9).
With hypocritical mockers in feasts; literally, profane jesters of cakes; i.e. ribald parasites at a great man's table, whose coarse buffoonery entitles them to a share of the dainties; they made me their butt, their jest, and their byword (cf. Job 30:9). They gnashed upon me with their teeth; i.e. spoke fiercely and angrily against me, like dogs that snarl and show their teeth (comp. Job 16:9; Psalms 37:12).
Lord, how long wilt thou look on? "How long?" is the common cry of sufferers (Job 19:2; Psalms 6:3; Psalms 13:1; Psalms 79:5; Psalms 89:46; Habakkuk 1:2; Revelation 6:10), who do not recognize the wholesome discipline of suffering, or realize the fact implied in the phrase, "No cross, no crown." Man desires immediate deliverance; God mostly delays his deliverance until Patience has "had her perfect work" (James 1:4). Rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling, from the lions (comp. Psalms 22:20).
I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I win praise thee among much people. The promise is repeated (see Psalms 35:9, Psalms 35:10); hut, as before, it is conditional on deliverance being granted, and intended to induce God to grant it, and to grant it speedily.
The main element of this, the third section of the psalm, is prayer. Complaint finds a voice in Psalms 35:20, Psalms 35:21, and thanksgiving in Psalms 35:28; but with these exceptions, the strophe is one long strain of prayer. The prayer is, first, negative: "Let not mine enemies rejoice" (Psalms 35:19); "Keep not silence" (Psalms 35:22); "Be not far from me" (Psalms 35:22). But after this it becomes mainly positive: "Stir up thyself, and awake to judgment" (Psalms 35:23); "Judge me, O Lord" (Psalms 35:24); "Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion that rejoice at my hurt" (Psalms 35:26); "Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause" (Psalms 35:27); "Let the Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in my prosperity" (Psalms 35:27).
Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me (comp. Psalms 38:19, where David says that those who "hated him wrongfully" were "multiplied"). David feels that no one had any reason to hate him, since he had always sought the good of all with whom he came into contact (see Psalms 35:12). Neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause; i.e. let them not have cause to wink to each other in self-congratulation on their having triumphed over me completely.
For they speak not peace. Once more the language of complaint. David's enemies, though they have driven him from the court, and made him a fugitive and a wanderer, were not yet satisfied. They did not speak him peace. They continued to scheme against him. But they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land. David, if let alone, was willing enough to have remained "quiet in the land." He was a fugitive and an outlaw; but, could he have obtained a safe refuge—the cave of Adullam, or any other—would gladly have remained peacefully within it. But his enemies would not allow him to remain quiet. They stirred up the jealousy and hatred of Saul by false tales, and caused him to be "hunted upon the mountains" (1 Samuel 26:20).
Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha, aha! our eye hath seen it. They "opened their mouth wide" in scornful derision; and shouted triumphantly, "Ha, ha! our eye hath seen his downfall!"
This thou hast seen, O Lord. Nothing of this has been hid from thee; thine eye, O Lord, has seen it. Therefore I call upon thee. Keep not silence. Refrain not thyself. "Up, and let not man have the upper hand" (PS. Psalms 9:19). O Lord, be not far from me. Draw near, hasten, vindicate my name (comp. Psalms 22:19; Psalms 38:21; Psa 70:1-5 :12).
Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment (camp. Psalms 80:2; Psalms 44:23; Psalms 78:65). The psalmists call on God to awake, not as though he were really asleep, but as a sort of stirring appeal to him to arise and manifest himself. Even unto my cause, my God and my Lord. "Awake," i.e; "to judge my cause—to acquit me, and condemn my enemies" (camp. Psalms 9:4; Psalms 35:1; Psalms 43:1, etc.).
Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness, Let thy law of righteousness be the rule by which I am judged, and my enemies also. Then the victory will remain with me; thou wilt not let them rejoice over me.
Let them not say in their hearts, Ah! so would we have it (camp. Psalms 35:21); literally, ah! our soul, i.e. "our heart's desire is accomplished; we have got our wish." Let them not say, We have swallowed him up; i.e. destroyed him, ruined him, brought him to an evil end.
Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me (camp. Psalms 35:4, of which this is an enlargement, with variations, the sentiment being exactly the same). Very similar maledictions will be found in Psalms 40:14; Psalms 70:2; Psalms 71:13; Psalms 109:29.
Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause. When David's enemies are "ashamed and put to confusion" (Psalms 35:26), his friends will naturally "shout for joy, and be glad." This they will do, partly, out of sympathy; partly because their own interests are bound up with those of their leader. Had Saul captured David when he "hunted him upon the mountains," the fate of David's followers would have been death or exile. Yea, let them say continually, Let the Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant; literally, in the peace of his servant. God desires that David's present troubles should cease, and that he should enjoy a time of rest and tranquillity. This was granted him, to some extent, at Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:4-7), but more fully when he came into his kingdom (2 Samuel 5:1-16).
And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long (camp. Psalms 35:9, Psalms 35:10, and Psalms 35:18). David means to premise perpetual gratitude and thankfulness. He will not merely return thanks publicly, once for all, in the great congregation (Psalms 35:18), but will continue to praise God always.
The assurance of salvation.
"Say unto my soul," etc. Can the heart frame, the lips utter, a more ambitious request? "Creator and Preserver of all being, Almighty, Eternal, Infinite God, speak to me, even me; tell me that thou art mine; that I am thine!" Yet this prayer is as reasonable as ambitious. For human nature has in it a capacity which can be satisfied with nothing less. What God says must needs be true. Therefore this is a double petition:
(1) that God will be my Salvation;
(2) that he will assure me of this.
I. GOD IS THE SOUL'S SALVATION. Salvation is often spoken of as God's gift (Psalms 37:39; Isaiah 45:7; Isaiah 46:13). But here (as Psalms 27:1; Isaiah 12:2) God himself is our Salvation. The word has two meanings—the experience of being saved; the power that saves. In the first sense, God bestows salvation—q.d, redemption from guilt and its reward; spiritual healing; deliverance from the habit and power of sin; in a word, life. In the second sense, it is the love which pities, the grace which pardons, the righteousness which atones; the spiritual power that quickens the dead soul; the light by which we see truth, the strength whereby we obey it; the Divine breath whereby our spirit lives. All this is in God. Salvation is ours as bodily life is ours—God's work and gift. But "the Father hath life in himself." How worse than vain is the notion that we can save ourselves! Salvation is not a reward to be earned or result to be toiled for; it is life. You can starve or poison yourself, but you cannot bestow on food its power to nourish, or on your body to receive nourishment. You can maim yourself, but not restore a limb. You can sin, but not forgive, atone, redeem. These are God's alone. Salvation is personal: "thy salvation." It must be so, since sin is personal, character is personal, holiness and happiness are personal. There may be community in sin and guilt, or in noble effort and benevolent action; but each one bears his own responsibility. If you are saved, God must say to your soul, "I am thy Salvation."
II. WE NEED GOD'S OWN ASSURANCE OF OUR SALVATION. "Say," etc. It is too great a thing to take on man's work. Sin so deadens the conscience, that to many forgiveness seems an easy thing. But let conscience wake, and it becomes difficult to believe that God can forgive. How can this prayer be answered, this assurance given? It needs no voice from heaven (as to Abraham, who had no Bible, no gospel; Genesis 15:1). The standing answer is in the gift of God's beloved Son, and in the promises of his Word (1 John 5:9-11; 1 Corinthians 1:30). The special answer is by the gift of his Spirit, promised to every one who asks (Luke 11:13; Romans 5:5; Romans 8:16). The dependence of salvation on faith is not (as some fancy) a condition, rendering salvation less free. It is the very means by which it is freely given. "Look unto me, and be ye saved I" Believe and live! Ask and have! Therefore there is no presumption in that personal joyful assurance of salvation which rests not on our own faith, but simply on God's Word (John 10:28, John 10:29; 2 Timothy 1:12).
HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE
A hard case-a very hard one-laid before God.
This is one of those psalms in which the writers often meet with much scolding and with scant sympathy. It has been said that this psalm is not worthy of David. We are not prepared to say so: but we are prepared to contend that many of the criticisms passed on it are utterly unworthy of those who thus criticize. £ If we will but study the whole psalm in all its bearings while we may not feel called on to justify every expression therein, we shall feel bound to regard fairly those circumstances of extreme hardship by which such expressions were called forth. We may have the case before us, if we "open up' the contents of the psalm in the following threefold order.
I. THE CASE SHOULD BE ADEQUATELY STUDIED. Beyond all question, it is a hard one, almost more than flesh and blood could bear. We will look at it:
1. As between David and his enemies. A bare enumeration of its main features (of which there are seven) will suffice. He was waylaid without cause (Psalms 35:7). False witnesses spake maliciously against him (Psalms 35:11). They actually rewarded evil for good (Psalms 35:12). In their trouble David had behaved himself as their friend or brother (Psalms 35:13, Psalms 35:14). In his trouble the enemies manifested a malicious joy (Psalms 35:15, Psalms 35:16). £ Their malice was not against him only, but against others also (Psalms 35:20). And not only so, but against the entire cause of righteousness of which David was the representative, their rage and hatred were directed (Psalms 35:22). Now let us look at the case:
2. As between David and his God. How does he plead with Jehovah? He prays that God himself would interpose, and come into conflict with those who thus afflicted him (Psalms 35:1, Psalms 35:2, Psalms 35:3, Psalms 35:17, Psalms 35:22, Psalms 35:23); that God would manifest himself as David's Deliverer (Psalms 35:3); that the wicked might be thoroughly put to shame; that their way might be dark and slippery, etc. (Psalms 35:4, Psalms 35:5, Psalms 35:6, Psalms 35:8, Psalms 35:26); that God would reveal his delivering grace (Psalms 35:10); that David and those who favoured his righteous cause might rejoice in God's salvation (Psalms 35:9); that God would execute righteousness and judgment (Psalms 35:24); that he would not permit the malicious joy of the enemy to continue (Psalms 35:19, Psalms 35:25); that the righteous might yet shout for joy at the triumph of their cause (Psalms 35:27); and that with their joy David himself might blend his own (Psalms 35:28). Now, when we thus set the whole psalm before us, and note how grievous is the case which was thus laid before God, and how varied are the forms of petition in which that is done, we cannot but feel amazed at the harsh estimate of David in which some of his critics have indulged. If David was too harsh in speaking of the wicked, his critics are afortiori far too harsh in their treatment of him. Let us therefore note
II. THE CASE SHOULD BE FAIRLY ESTIMATED. Let us look at it:
(1) The words of this psalm are not the words of God to man, but words of man to God: this is an all-important distinction to make in dealing with the Psalms. £
(2) No man can, no man ever could, pray beyond the level of his own spiritual attainment.
(3) Hence it is not necessary that we should attempt to justify every word in the ending of an Old Testament saint, any more than we should attempt to do so in the prayers of God's people now. But it may be said, "David was a prophet." True, and when he professed to give out God's word to him, we accept such word implicitly. But that is not the case here. He is not praying as a prophet, but as a troubled saint.
(4) This prayer, with the imprecations it contains, is by no means illustrative of the spirit of the Mosaic dispensation, but only of the degree to which a man who could pray like this, actually fell below the spirit of the dispensation under which he lived. Here we are compelled to differ sharply from Bishop Perowne and others who regard this psalm as indicative of the contrast between the morality of the Old Testament and New Testament dispensations. Though in the Scriptures, revelation is progressive, yet the morality enjoined in the Old Testament is precisely the same as that enjoined in the New. So our Lord teaches (Matthew 22:36-40; Matthew 5:17, Matthew 5:18). In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord tears off the wrappings with which "they of old time" had concealed the teachings of the Mosaic Law, and restores that Law to its pristine integrity and glory, on his own authority. But in the psalm before us we have not Old Testament morality as given by God, but Old Testament morality as far as attained by the writer. Many a modem representative of religion would sanction the cutting down of Zulus by the thousand in war. What should we say if any one declared that to be New Testament morality, when it was only that individual presenting his own view of it? So with this and other imprecatory psalms; they give us, not God's precept, but man's defective prayers. At the same time, while we do not justify these maledictions of David, we are bound in all fairness also to put the matter:
(1) Here is a case of extreme provocation.
(2) David was a king.
(3) As such, he was not a merely private individual, but the representative of God's cause.
(4) Hence his petitions are not those of personal vindictiveness; they are the passionate cries of one who yearns for God's vindication of the right. For we see at once the reason why, and the limit within which, he prays for vengeance on his enemies.
(5) Whoever, owing to an inadequate study of the psalm, cherishes sympathy with David's enemies rather than with him, is grievously unjust. But we can not only free the case from being any stumbling-block to faith, we may even turn it to good account. Form
III. THE CASE MAY BE HELPFULLY UTILIZED. We gather from it:
1. How great is the mercy that wronged saints can look up to God as the Avenger of their cause (Luke 18:1-8)!
2. There is a very great difference between a private feeling of vindictiveness, and the indignation felt at a great public wrong. It would be wicked of us to cherish the first; it would be wicked of us not to cherish the second.
3. Whatever the case of wrong we have to lay before God, we may tell it to him just as we feel it. He is a loving Friend to whom we may unburden everything without any danger of being misunderstood.
4. If in our putting of the case before God, we say anything wrong or wrongly, God will forgive what is wrong in our prayers, and will answer them in his own way, often doing "exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think."
5. Hence we may leave the method of vindicating the right and of shaming the wrong, entirely in the hands of God. Such expressions as those in Verses 4, 5, 6, 8 would ill become us (cf. Romans 12:19, Romans 12:20).
6. Nevertheless, it is perfectly true that severity to evil-doers is sometimes the greatest mercy to the Church of God (Acts 5:1-11).
7. God, even now, very often answers the agonizing prayers of saints by "terrible things in righteousness" (Psalms 65:5; Revelation 8:3-5).
8. If we do not so far sympathize with the spirit of this and other imprecatory psalms as to yearn to see righteousness triumphant and wickedness put to shame, we are fearfully guilty before God, and are sinking immeasurably below the morality and public spirit of those very psalms which are so unfairly criticized and so thoughtlessly condemned. To plead for the victory of righteousness and for the crushing and shaming of iniquity is a necessity of a good man's nature. He cannot help it. Yea, one petition in the Lord's Prayer involves the whole, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." And more than this, no one understands the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, who looks at it as providing only for the present forgiveness of individual souls: it is a grand and glorious plan for the inbringing of universal and everlasting righteousness; and when the Saviour's blood moistened earth's soil, it guaranteed that earth should be rescued from the destroyer, that the hosts of ill should be exposed and put to shame, and that Christ should wear the everlasting crown.—C.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
The flesh and the Spirit.
This psalm has been variously interpreted. Some say David speaks here representatively, not for himself, but for the community of Israel Others say that he speaks prophetically, and with special reference to the days of Messiah. Others again hold that he speaks as a holy man, moved by the Holy Spirit to record the feelings that had passed through his own heart in time of trial. This last seems the more reasonable interpretation.
I. First it agrees best with THE METHOD OF INSPIRATION. The object of inspiration is truth. It is not necessary that what is perfect should alone be recorded, but it is that the record itself should be perfect. Besides, there is undoubtedly an advance in the New Testament from the Old, both as respects the spirit of the prophets, and the greatness of the truths revealed.
II. Further, this view agrees best with THE ANALOGY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE. In Job and Ecclesiastes and elsewhere there are different speakers, and they do not all speak the same thing. There is diversity of opinion, and high debate. We have to walk circumspectly. We have to discriminate, lest we should take the devil's lie or the counsel of fallible men for the eternal truth of God (Job 2:4; Job 42:7). So of the Psalms. The record is true, but all that is recorded is not truth. There ate various phases of thought and feeling, of character and life. Even the same speaker does not ways keep the same level; at one time he may cry, "I was as a beast before thee." and almost with the same breath, "Whom have I in heaven but thee?" (Psalms 73:22, Psalms 73:25).
III. Again, this view accords best with THE FACTS OF DAVID'S LIFE. He was not a perfect man; and who so ready to confess this as himself? Look at the historical parts of Scripture, and you find him saying and doing things far from righteousness. Why should he be judged differently when he speaks in poetry than when he speaks in prose? Is it not reasonable to take what he says, in the one case as in the other, as the honest expression of his heart, and to judge it by the same standard? No doubt the Psalms are to be regarded as spoken in moments of highest religious consecration; but if David is to be held as always speaking in the Psalms as a perfect man, it will be hard to bring the facts into harmony with the other facts of his life, and, moreover, the effect would be to remove the psalms from the sphere of ordinary experience, and to empty them of much of their sweetness and virtue. Delitzsch has said that "this whole psalm is as it were the lyrical amplification of that which David says when face to face with Saul in 1 Samuel 24:16." Looking at it in this light, it seems the story of a soul's conflict—the struggle of the spirit against the flesh—painful and severe, with risings and failings, till at last peace is attained. It begins with a passionate cry to God for justice, and the language, full of fire and impetuosity, is such as would naturally rise to the lips of a man of war. His imagination works in the line of his desires, and pictures an overthrow of his enemies, quick and terrible. Their destruction would be his "salvation," and for this he would rejoice and give God thanks 1 Samuel 24:9, 1 Samuel 24:10). In the second part of the psalm he reverts W the cruel treatment he had received, but speaks of it with more calmness—more in sorrow than in anger. He remembers how he had tried to be patient, how he had restrained himself, and returned good for evil. But it had been in vain. Brooding upon this, his heart again rises in wrath (1 Samuel 24:17). But as he comes nearer to God, and feels more intensely the sweetness of God's love, he recovers more quietness. Once more the surges of passion rise, and he is in danger of being overwhelmed; but again he turns to God, his only Refuge, and casting himself upon his care, and committing things wholly to his hand, he enters into the rest of faith and hope and love. The portrait may be said to be true to life. We have not only the good, but the bad; not only love to man, but the struggle to keep that love; not only faith in God, but the difficulty of gaining the height of that faith, and of holding it when it had been won. Thus we have a record which harmonizes with the experience of God's saints of all ages from Abraham to Paul, and that is rich in instruction and comfort. Who is there who tries to follow Christ, but knows how hard it is to be patient under injustice, to forgive our enemies, and to pray for them who despitefully use us and persecute us? It is some comfort for us, as with Christian when sorely tried in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, to hear the voice of a brother, and to be able to say, each one to his soul, "that some who feared God were in this valley as well as himself."—W.F.
"There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:7). So it is with man, and with reverence it may be said, so it is with God. There is a sense in which God is never silent. In manifold ways his voice is ever sounding in our ears. But there are times when God may be said to be silent, even with regard to his own people. There is speech on the one side, but no answer on the other. This silence may be prolonged till it becomes distressingly painful. There is the sense of loss; there is the feeling of desertion; there is the dread of worse things to come-of the going down to the pit of darkness and despair (Psalms 23:4). Luther said, in his strong way, "O my God, punish me rather with pestilence, with all the terrible sicknesses on earth, with war, with anything, rather than thou be silent to me!" But though this silence is to be deprecated, yet it is ordained of God for good. It may come as—
I. JUST RETRIBUTION. The wicked do not seek after God. It is no wonder, therefore, if God should deal with them after their own ways (Proverbs 1:24-28; John 13:9). But even good men may become negligent—they may fall into sin and forget God. Therefore it may be necessary to let them see and learn the evil of departing from the living God (Psalms 94:10; Psalms 125:5; Jeremiah 2:19).
II. MERCIFUL WARNING. We must not judge of God by ourselves. We must not think that he is arbitrary or cold. If he is silent, it is for just cause. Remember how it was with Saul (1 Samuel 28:6). Well would it have been for him, if he had regarded the doings of God, and turned to him in repentance. But he hardened his heart. God warns us also. His silence should bring our sins to our remembrance. "Your sins," saith the prophet, "have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2; cf Hosea 5:15).
III. GRACIOUS DISCIPLINE. The end of the Lord is merciful. If he is silent, it may be:
1. To try our faith, Remember the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28).
2. To quicken our sense of dependence. God is Sovereign. He is under no obligation to us. If he hears, it is in mercy. We are too ready to think we have a claim upon him, and to resent his silence. We need to learn humility. "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:8).
3. To enhance the value if the blessings we lack. The worth is known by the want. Memory of past joys makes us the more eager in seeking renewed tokens of love and good will. The light is sweet to the eyes, but it is sweeter if for a while withdrawn. Friendship is dear, but absence makes the heart grow fender. The love of God is the joy of the heart; but if clouds and darkness gather between us and God, the more earnestly do we cry for the restoration of his favour (Jeremiah 29:11-14).
4. To prepare us for higher manifestations God's love. We need to be brought low in order to be raised up. We need to be emptied of pride and self-righteousness to be filled with the fulness of God. If we ask and receive not, it is because we ask amiss. This we have to learn. We are led, therefore, to self-examination, to penitence, to confession. God has something better than we thought of in store for us. It may he something to do or to suffer for him. There is a "needs be" we should be made ready. Let us therefore trust, and not be afraid (Isaiah 54:7, Isaiah 54:8).—W.F.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
Battle and victory.
The psalmist complains of unbelievers, ungodly enemies, prays for deliverance, giving promise of thanksgiving if his prayer is granted. The psalm falls into three divisions, in each of which the three elements of complaint, prayer, and thanksgiving are contained. The divisions are Psalms 35:1-10; Psalms 35:11-18; Psalms 35:19-28. Take first division and its suggestions (Psalms 35:1-10).
I. EVERY MAN HAS A SPIRITUAL BATTLE TO FIGHT, We have to contend against:
1. Enemies that threaten the destruction of the soul. (Psalms 35:4.) Our temptations, from within and from without, are our dangerous foes, who will conquer and destroy us if we do not conquer and destroy them. We know what unresisted sin leads to.
2. They are crafty and insidious foes. (Psalms 35:7, Psalms 35:8.) They use smiles and sophistries to conceal their real nature and designs. Evil men lay plots to ensnare the young and unwary. Hence the need of watchfulness and circumspection.
3. They are cruel, unrelenting foes. (Psalms 35:4.) They devise our hurt and follow us continually. There can be no compromise with them.
II. WE MUST SEEK THE HELP OF GOD TO GIVE US THE VICTORY IN THIS BATTLE.
1. We must fight with Divine weapons. The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and the helmet of salvation, etc.
2. Under the Divine inspiration. Filled with the trust, and love, and courage, and hope of those who catch their inspiration from Christ. Christ is the Captain of our salvation. The true soldier will follow the great General everywhere.
3. God helping us, we are stronger than all our foes, and are sure of victory at last.
III. WHEN THE BATTLE HAS BEEN FINALLY WON WE SHALL BE FILLED WITH GRATITUDE TO GOD. (Psalms 35:9, Psalms 35:10.) For all the grace and help we have received in every stage of the conflict. And for the eternal value of the victory we have gained. This cannot be fully known here.—S.
The wicked and the good.
The general subject in this section of the psalm is a contrast between the wicked and the good, setting forth the baseness of the wicked nature, and the generous sympathies of the good.
I. THE BASENESS OF THE WICKED. Their general characteristics are:
1. They often bring false malicious charges against good men. (Psalms 35:11.) "They demand satisfaction at my hands for injuries of which I have never even heard."
2. They return evil for good. (Psalms 35:12.) They had been former friends: this was the sting of their ingratitude and injustice. Former favours sour the minds of the ungrateful, and intensify their hatred.
3. They exult over the calamities of the good, and insult and injure them. (Psalms 35:15.) "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel," and cruelty always embrutes the bad mind.
4. They incite the senseless rabble to persecute good men. (Psalms 35:16.) The multitude ever ready without reason to join in a hue and cry, and, without thinking, are ready to become the instruments of bad men.
II. THE NOBILITY OF THE GOOD.
1. Broken friendships fill them with a sense of bereavement. (Psalms 35:12.) The good hunger for love, as well as give it; and, when denied it, are afflicted with a sense of loneliness.
2. They are deeply sympathetic with the afflictions of others. (Psalms 35:13, Psalms 35:14.) They fast and pray in token of the sincerity and depth of their sympathy.
3. In the calamities and sorrows of life the good turn to God for help and deliverance. (Psalms 35:17.) Especially the more they feel deserted by former friends.
4. They are constrained to give thanks to God for his mercies. (Psalms 35:18.) They are not ungrateful, like the wicked. Gratitude is a joy to the generous and religious mind.—S.
Pleas for triumph.
The substance of this third division is a continuous prayer that God would give him to triumph over his enemies; and the plans on which the prayer is grounded.
I. HE PRAYS THAT THE CAUSE OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS MAY NOT TRIUMPH.
1. The enmity of his enemies was without just cause. (Psalms 35:19.) To be unjustly accused wounds a good man very deeply.
2. He was the champion of public order and peace: and therefore they opposed him. (Psalms 35:20.) Employed deceitful words and schemes to disturb and overthrow the public peace. Bad men therefore.
3. God himself was the witness of their injustice and wickedness. (Psalms 35:21.) And cannot but interpose of his own righteous will.
4. He appeals to God on the ground of his personal righteousness. (Psalms 35:23, Psalms 35:24.) Not on the ground of his perfection; but he appeals to his upright aim and just purpose and general rectitude. The righteous God must therefore overthrow his enemies. God's righteousness, and his own could not both be defeated. Their just retribution was to be clothed with confusion and dishonour. The psalmist is so sure that his prayer will be answered and his enemies punished, that we have next.—
II. A GRATEFUL ANTICIPATION OF THE VICTORY.
1. He calls upon all who love righteousness to magnify the work of God. (Psalms 35:27, "who have pleasure in my justification, or righteousness.") The victory of the psalmist over his wicked enemies.
2. He himself will sing of the righteousness of God for ever. (Psalms 35:28, "all the day long.") We should praise God for ever as the Author of all our moral and spiritual victories. "Not unto us, but unto thy Name, O Lord," etc.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 35". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany