THE date and occasion of this psalm are greatly disputed. Most critics, from Calvin to Hitzig, refer it to the times of the Maccabees. Others suggest the fourth or fifth century b.c. One (Tholuck) dates it in the reign of Jehoiachin. Hengstenberg and Canon Cook argue for the reign of David. The time of Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:16, 2 Chronicles 21:17) and that of the defeat of Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:20-24) have also been proposed as possible. The Davidic date receives a certain amount of support from Psalms 60:1-12; which is in the same tone, and resembles the present psalm in several expressions (comp. Psalms 60:1 with Psalms 44:9; Psalms 60:10 with Psalms 44:9, Psalms 44:10; Psalms 60:11 with Psalms 44:26; etc.). It also harmonizes with the place of the psalm in the Psalter, and with its ascription to the "sons of Korah," who were certainly among David's musicians.
The occasion of the psalm is some serious reverse which the Israelites had sustained in a war with foreign enemies, but who were the enemies, and when exactly the reverse was sustained, are uncertain. No doubt there were many temporary reverses in the course of David's wars, after one of which the psalm may have been written.
The psalm divides itself into four parts.
In part 1. (Psalms 60:1-8) the writer recounts God's mercies in the past, and from them confidently concludes that effectual help will be granted in the present emergency.
In part 2. (Psalms 60:9 -16) he describes the emergency itself.
In part 3. (verses 17-22) he urges the fact that it had not been brought about by any infidelity or rebellion on the part of his countrymen.
And in part 4. (verses 23-26) he makes his prayer for deliverance.
The style is throughout simple, pure, and noble, possessing all the characteristics of the best period of Hebrew poetry.
We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. The Law required all Israelites to teach their children the past history of the nation, and especially the mercies which had been vouchsafed to it (see Exodus 10:2; Exodus 12:26, Exodus 12:27; Exodus 13:8, Exodus 13:10, etc.).
How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand; i.e. "by thy power." The conquest of Canaan is the historical fact referred to. And plantedst them (comp. Exodus 15:17, "Thou wilt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance;" and see also Psalms 80:8, "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it"). How thou didst afflict the people; rather, the peoples, i.e. the Canaanitish nations. And cast them out. So the LXX, the Vulgate, and even the Revised Version. But most moderns, understanding "them" of Israel, render, but didst spread them out (comp. Psalms 80:11).
For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them (comp. Joshua 24:11, Joshua 24:12): but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them (see Deuteronomy 4:37, Deuteronomy 4:38; Joshua 24:11, Joshua 24:18).
Thou art my King, O God; literally, thou art he that is my King, O God; i.e. I acknowledge no other king but thee, no other absolute lord and master. Command deliverances for Jacob. Being King, thou hast a right to command. We pray thee at this present time to command our deliverance.
Through thee will we push down our enemies. Do as we ask—command our deliverance—and then we shall assuredly "push down," i.e. overthrow and prostrate, our enemies. Thy help will be found as effectual in the future as in the past. Through thy Name will we tread them under that rise up against us. Having pushed our foes to the ground (comp. Deuteronomy 33:17), we shall then be able to "tread them under." The imagery is drawn from the practice of buffaloes and wild bulls.
For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me (comp. Psalms 44:3). My trust, i.e; shall not be in myself, but in thee. The sword and the bow were the ordinary weapons of Israel.
But thou hast saved us from our enemies; or, dost save us. It is the voice of confident hope that speaks, not that of gratitude. And hast put them to shame that hated us; rather, and puttest them to shame that hate us. The writer is sure that God will do in the future as he has done in the past, and will raise Israel up again from the low estate into which they have been brought by disaster.
In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy Name for ever. We boast of God as our God, who saves us, and puts to shame our enemies (see Psalms 44:7).
These verses form the second stanza, and are a loud and bitter complaint. God has recently dealt with Israel exceptionally—has seemed to "cast them off," has "put them to shame," allowed them to be defeated and despoiled, slain and carried into captivity, made a scorn and a derision, a reproach and a byword. He no longer "goes forth with their armies," to secure them victory over their foes, but holds aloof, and covers them with confusion. The description implies, not a single defeat, but a somewhat prolonged period of depression, during which several "armies" have been beaten, several battles lost, multitudes slain, and great numbers carried away captive (Psalms 44:11). Still, a general captivity, like the Babylonian, is certainly not spoken of. The nation is as yet unconquered. It needs but a return of God's favour to turn the vanquished into the victors, and to replace shame by boasting.
But thou hast cast off (comp. Psalms 43:2) and put us to shame (see also Psalms 44:16). It is the shame of defeat, rather than the physical pains or material losses, that grieve the writer. And goest not forth with our armies. Israel has still "armies" at her disposal. It is therefore certainly not the early Maccabean period, nor the time of the expiring monarchy. Her armies have free play, are sent forth, only God does not "go forth" with them (comp. Psalms 60:10).
Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy. Thou bringest it to pass that we turn our backs in shameful flight from the enemy, either making a feeble resistance or none at all. And they which hate us spoil for themselves. Spoil us of our arms and ornaments, which they seize and appropriate.
Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat. "As sheep for the shambles" (Kay)—a free translation, which well expresses the meaning. And hast scattered us among the heathen. Either "caused us to disperse ourselves among our heathen neighbours," or "to be sold for slaves among them by our captors." No general dispersion of the nation is intended.
Thou sellest thy people for nought; literally, for not-wealth (comp. Jeremiah 15:13). The whole people is regarded, not as sold for slaves, but as delivered over to the will of their enemies; and all "for nought," God gaining nothing in exchange. Thou dost not increase thy wealth by their price. A repetition for the sake of emphasis, but adding no new idea.
Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours (comp. Psalms 42:10; Psalms 79:4; Psalms 80:6). They would be reproached, not so much as cowards, or as weak and powerless themselves, but rather as having a weak and powerless God. A scorn and a derision to them that are round about us. (For instances of the "scorn and derision" whereto the Israelites were exposed at the hands of the heathen, see 2 Kings 18:23, 2 Kings 18:24; 2 Kings 19:23, 2 Kings 19:24; Nehemiah 2:19; Nehemiah 4:2, Nehemiah 4:3; Psalms 79:4; Psalms 137:7.)
Thou makest us a byword among the heathen (comp. Job 17:6; Jeremiah 24:9). A shaking of the head among the people; rather, among the peoples (comp. Psalms 22:7).
My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me (see the comment on Psalms 44:9).
For the voice of him that re-proacheth and blasphemeth. The reproaches of the heathen were most commonly "blasphemies,'' since they consisted very mainly of contemptuous expressions against the God of Israel (see the comment on Psalms 44:13; and comp. Isaiah 37:3, Isaiah 37:23). By reason of the enemy and avenger. The persons by whom the blasphemous reproaches were uttered—Israel's enemies bent on avenging former losses and defeats.
In this third stanza the psalmist strongly emphasizes his complaint by maintaining that the calamities from which they are suffering have not come upon the people through any fault of their own, or been in any way provoked or deserved He is, perhaps, over-confident; but we cannot doubt that he is sincere in the belief, which he expresses, that the people, both before and during their calamities, have been obedient and faithful to God, wholly free from idolatry, and exemplary in their conduct and life. There are not many periods of Israelite history at which such a description could have been given without manifest untruth, and the time of David is certainly more suitable for it than almost any other.
All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. Israel had neither put aside the thought of religion, and given herself up to wordliness, nor yet, while still professedly religious, transgressed habitually God's commandments. She maintained "thorough sincerity in religion, and consistent integrity of life." Yet "all this"—all that has been described in Psalms 44:9-16—had come upon her.
Our heart is not turned back; i.e. turned away from God, as it was when they passed through the wilderness (Psalms 78:41). Neither have our steps declined from thy way. Neither in respect of inward feeling nor of outward act have we strayed from the right path.
Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons; rather, in the place of jackals; i.e. in wild and desolate regions, where jackals abound (comp. Isaiah 13:22; Isaiah 34:13). The expression is probably used metaphorically. And covered us with the shadow of death. Brought us, i.e; into imminent peril of destruction (see Psalms 44:10, Psalms 44:11).
If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out (rather, spread out) our hands to a strange god. If Israel had either forgotten the true God (see above, Psalms 44:17) or fallen away to the worship of false or strange gods—then her ill success against her foreign enemies would have been fully accounted for, since it would only have been in accordance with the threatenings of the Law (Le 26:14-17; Deuteronomy 28:15-23); but as she had done neither of these things, her defeats and depressed condition seemed to the psalmist wholly unaccountable. We trace here the same current belief, which comes out so strongly in the Book of Job—the belief that calamities were, almost of necessity, punishments for sin; and that when they occurred, and there had been no known precedent misconduct, the case was abnormal and extraordinary.
Shall not God search this out! i.e. visit for it—punish it. Such a result was to be expected. But when there had been no precedent idolatry, no neglect of the worship of Jehovah, what then? For he knoweth the secrets of the heart. Secret idolatry would, of course, explain the state of things; but the writer evidently knows of no secret idolatry.
Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; or, continually, as the phrase is often translated. Not only are the Israelites not suffering on account of any previous desertion of God, or other misconduct, but they are suffering for their fidelity to God. The heathen hate them, and make war upon them, as worshippers of one exclusive God, Jehovah, and contemners of their many gods, whom they hold to be "no-gods." They are martyrs, like the Christians of the early Church (see Romans 8:36). We are counted as sheep for the slaughter (comp. Psalms 44:11).
The appeal to God is now made, after the case has been fully represented. God has always hitherto maintained the cause of his people, and given them victory over their enemies, unless they had fallen away from him (Psalms 44:1-8). Now he has acted otherwise—he has allowed their enemies to triumph (Psalms 44:9-16). And they have given him no reason for his desertion of them (Psalms 44:17-22). Surely, if they call upon him, and plead their cause before him, he will relent, and come to their aid. The appeal, therefore, is made briefly, but in the most moving terms.
Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? The psalmist does not really believe that Jehovah "sleeps." The heathen might so imagine of their gods (1 Kings 18:27), but not an Israelite. An Israelite would be sure that "he that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps" (Psalms 121:4). The writer consciously uses an anthropomorphism, really intending only to call on God to rouse himself from his inaction, and lay it aside, and come to Israel's aid. Arise (see Psalms 7:6; Psalms 9:19; Psalms 10:12, etc.). Cast us not off for ever (comp. Psalms 44:9). Under the existing peril, for God to cast off his people will be to cast them off for ever. They had no strength of their own that could save them.
Wherefore hidest thou thy face (comp. Psalms 13:1; Psalms 27:9; Psalms 69:17, etc.). And forgettest our affliction and our oppression? (see Psalms 13:1; Psalms 74:19).
For our soul is bowed down to the dust; i.e. brought very low, humbled, as it were, to the earth, so weakened that it has no strength in it. Our belly cleaveth unto the earth. The body participates in the soul's depression, and lies prostrate on the ground.
Arise for our help; literally, arise as a help unto us; i.e. arise, and come to our aid. Help against the enemy is the one object of the entire prayer. And redeem us; or, save us—"deliver us" (comp. Psalms 25:22). For thy mercies' sake (comp. Psalms 6:4; Psalms 31:16).
The blessing of memory: a commemoration sermon.
"We have heard," etc. Memory is the thread which binds life together. A failing memory is one of the saddest infirmities of old age. Yet there is often this compensation—that the long-distant past is well remembered. The old man forgets what weather it was yesterday, but the sunny birthdays and snowy Christmas Days of childhood live in his memory. The old house, the old frees and voices, the old joys and sorrows, the lessons that sank into his heart in childhood are with him still. Suppose the reverse possible—that one had a clear memory of even the least occurrences of the last few weeks or mouths, but no memory of things long ago; no associations clinging, binding him to old scenes, old friends; not so much as an old prejudice;—what a shallow, mechanical, uninteresting life his would be! There are common memories as well as individual; household words, family traditions, public and national history, sacred heritages of former generations. One of the most precious possessions of mankind is the knowledge and remembrance of the past.
I. THE DUTY AND BENEFIT OF REMEMBERING THE PAST iS taught in the most impressive way in the Bible. Its whole structure is historical. Alone among books, it professes to trace an unbroken line of family history from the first human being to the beginning of the Christian era; ending in him who is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." Its deepest and greatest lessons are bound up with the lives, the examples, the prayers, the spiritual experience of men who loved and feared God thousands of years ago. What could make up for the loss, if we could forget the faith of Abraham, the Laws of Moses, the Psalms of David? But the lives of these and other spiritual heroes are but links in the history of a great spiritual community—the Church of God. Christians, St. Paul tells us, are children of Abraham. The gospel itself is history. Our Saviour consecrated this principle when he said, "Do this in remembrance of me."
II. FORGETFULNESS OF THE PAST MEANS IGNORANCE OF GOD'S DEALINGS. His most wonderful works and glorious manifestations. The great law of God's creation, providence, and grace is that the present grows out of the past, and is the root and seed of the future. The watchword of modern philosophy, "evolution," has been used as a sort of conjuring word to get rid of God; to show how the universe may dispense with a Creator. But Scripture is full of evolution in the truest and highest sense, viz. the unfolding of God's purpose, the development of Divine thought and love. "Evolution" means "unfolding" or "out-folding." Nothing can be unfolded that has not been folded up. The plan, order, beauty, unity, life, happiness, of this wonderful universe could not be folded up in atoms of fiery gas, which after millions of years come out still as unchanged atoms of gas. They could be folded up nowhere but in a mind able to see the end from the beginning, and in the beginning to prepare for every following step and stage. What is true of God's works in creation is true of his providential government of men and of nations; and equally true of his grace (Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 3:9).
III. FORGETFULNESS OF THE PAST IS GREAT INGRATITUDE. True, we suffer for the faults and follies of our ancestors; but they conquered for us a rich inheritance. Who can reckon what we owe to the men who invented letters, figures, the plough, the loom, the anvil, the ship? Where should we be to-day without the mariner's compass, the printing-press, the steam-engine? So in spiritual things. What do we owe to the evangelists for the four Gospels; to St. Paul and the other apostles for their Epistles; to the translators of the Scriptures; to reformers, preachers, sacred poets, writers? Ungrateful forgetfulness and consequent undervaluing of the past is one of the dangers and faults of our age. We are in little peril of the Chinese superstition—worshipping our ancestors. Men's eyes turn feverishly to the future. What is old is set down as antiquated, obsolete, worn-out. In the wonderful movement, amazing discoveries, manifold progress of our day, we are apt to forget that our ancestors sowed, or at least ploughed, where we reap; and made the roads along which we travel, and the ladders by which we climb. If language, institutions, art, science, industry, had to make a fresh start with each generation, life would never rise above barbarism.
CONCLUSION. There is a sense in which it is well to forget the past—its failures, so far as they would discourage; its achievements, so far as they would content us (Philippians 3:13, Philippians 3:14). We are not to dwell among the tombs; not to resemble a man carrying a looking-glass before him, which reflects only what is behind, and hides his path; but we are to converse with the past, that we may learn thankfulness (Psalms 103:2), humility (Job 15:7), courage (James 5:17), wisdom (1 Corinthians 10:11), faith and hope (Psalms 77:10, Psalms 77:11; Psalms 48:14).
God's knowledge of men's hearts.
"Shall not God search," etc.? A world of perfect, mutual knowledge, in which the secrets of every heart lay open to every eye, must needs be either heaven or hell. Every one must be perfectly good or else perfectly miserable. In this world of mixed good and evil, God has mercifully built a wall of secrecy, or at least thrown a veil of privacy, around the consciousness of each one of us. Every heart has its own secrets. But the text reminds us that there is neither wall nor veil to God's eye, nor thinnest film of obscurity (Hebrews 4:13).
I. GOD KNOWS THE SECRETS OF THE HEART.
1. Our thoughts. How impenetrably these are veiled from our fellows! Our feelings often betray themselves. They escape our control. A look, a change of colour, a start, an exclamation, a tremor, may discover them against our will. But our thoughts lie deeper. Words may be used not to express, but to conceal them. A man's outward conduct and apparent character may be such that if the habitual current of his inmost thoughts could be laid open, his nearest friends would stand aghast. But God knows. Thought may flash so swiftly through the mind, that we ourselves are scarcely aware of it; but God sees. It may fade in a moment from the mirror of memory; but God remembers.
2. Our feelings lie as open to God as our thoughts. They are often a mystery to ourselves, not to him. They surprise us by their sudden and unexpected character and power. They do not surprise him. They perplex us by their mixture of good and evil. All is plain to him. Our inmost springs of character lie under his hand as well as eye. He knows how to work in us both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13).
3. Our hidden future; unconscious capabilities, good or evil; undeveloped possibilities. Examples: Jeremiah 1:5-9; 2 Kings 8:13; Luke 5:2-10. Our sins (known or unknown to ourselves), and all our spiritual needs. Perhaps you have not felt your sins. But God takes account (Psalms 90:8); knows your need of pardon (Isaiah 1:18); knows your weakness, and need of grace (John 13:37, John 13:38); knows your need of trial and discipline (Hebrews 13:6).
II. WE SEARCH IN ORDER TO KNOW; GOD SEARCHES BECAUSE HE KNOWS.
1. By his providence, proving men and revealing their character. As Abraham (Genesis 22:12), Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:31).
2. By. his Spirit (John 16:8).
3. By his Word (Hebrews 4:12, Hebrews 4:13).
CONCLUSION. The Lord Jesus claims this Divine prerogative (Revelation 2:23; 1 Corinthians 4:4, 1 Corinthians 4:5). But he loves to discover even the little that is good in us, and to reward it (Revelation 3:8). He that probes can heal. He that knows can save (Revelation 3:9). Let us open our hearts to him (Psalms 139:23, Psalms 139:24).
HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE
Psalms 44:22 and Roman 8:36
Martyr Churches, Hebrew and Christian: a contrast.
There is something marvellously touching about this psalm. It is the voice of a martyr Church, which has to witness for God amid persecution, flame, and sword. It divides itself into four parts. In the first there is a glowing retrospect (Psalms 44:1-8); £ in the second, a mournful plaint (Psalms 44:9-17 and Psalms 44:22); in the third, a solemn appeal to the Church's King and Lord (Psalms 44:18-21); in the fourth, an earnest prayer (Psalms 44:23-26). As an historical document, which (as it has come down to us) is without date, we cannot but ask—To what period of Hebrew history can it apply? Another question suggests itself, viz.—Is the whole of the psalm justifiable? We will deal with these two questions as briefly as possible consistently with clearness, that we may "open up" the theme which the answers thereto will set before us. In order to ascertain the period of Israel's history to which the psalm refers, we must note the data presented to us therein. According to the psalmist's statements;
(3) They were a reproach and a byword among the nations (Psalms 44:13, Psalms 44:14).
1. The time of David. (So Hengstenberg, Delitzsch, Moll, Fausset, et al.) But in David's time we cannot verify either the first, second, third, or seventh of the above data. As Calvin remarks, the Church and nation, as a whole, were prosperous and victorious in David's time. £
2. Other periods assigned have been—the time of the Exile (Geikie); the times of Jchoiachin and Zedekiah (Baur, De Wette, and Tholuck); the times of Josiah and Jehoiakim (Barnes); the last days of the Persian dynasty (Ewald); but of one and all of these it may be said that they fail to meet the conditions of data 6 and 7. For the Chronicler expressly declares that the troubles of those periods came upon Israel in consequence of the peoples' unfaithfulness to their covenant and their God. £ Consequently, until further light is thrown on the subject, we adhere to the Maccabean period as that which most nearly fulfils the conditions to which reference is made. Another question is this—Is the Church's strong assertion of national integrity to God justifiable? Some say, Yes (so Moll, Delitzsch). Some, No (so Perowne). But it is only fair to the writer to suppose him to refer simply to the occasion that drew forth the complaint; he cannot mean that all the nation had been always and uniformly faithful. His intention evidently is this—that there was at that time no defection from God on the part of the people to account for the specific persecution over which he mourns. And since this is the case, he feels he may appeal to God to fulfil his own promise, and to save them for his mercies' sake. £ We are not prepared to question the propriety of this. All depends on the spirit in which it was said. We well remember that, in the late American War, a noted and eloquent abolitionist went so far as to maintain that the North must win, because God was God! At the same time, there is no doubt that the complaint, the appeal, and the whole tone of the psalm bear traces of a partial revelation, and consequently of an imperfectly developed faith. We have but to pass over the line that divides the two dispensations, to plant ourselves in the middle of the first Christian century, and there we find that Christians were having, and were likely to have, a struggle as hard and fierce as that of the Hebrews of old. So much so that one of their number adopts as his own the most touching words in the whole psalm, "For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter." And yet there is neither moan nor sigh, no, not a tear; rather, a song of gladness, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us!" (Romans 8:36, Romans 8:37). Whence the contrast between the Hebrews' sigh and the Christians' song whilst in the midst of persecution and death!
I. IN THE HEBREW DISPENSATION GOD SPAKE THROUGH PROPHETS; IN THE CHRISTIAN GOD HAS SPOKEN IN HIS SON. (Hebrews 1:1.) The great Transfiguration scene sets this forth in marvellous clearness. Moses and Elias vanish from sight, and the favoured three are left with Jesus only; in him believers saw the incarnate Son of God, the Father's express Image, who brought with him, in peerless union, the tenderness and sympathy of the brother-man, with the majesty and might of the infinite and eternal God. Hence the figure in the background of Hebrew thought was vastly different from that in the background of Christian thought; the former commanded reverential heed, as a Messenger from heaven; the latter, unbounded love and entire consecration, as Saviour and Lord of all!
II. THE STORY OF THE REDEMPTION WITH WHICH ISRAEL'S NATIONAL LIFE OPENED IS FAR OUTDONE BY THE HISTORY OF THE REDEMPTION BROUGHT IN BY JESUS CHRIST. It was with a glow of pride and thankfulness that the Hebrew singer recounted the deliverance from Egypt, and the entrance to Canaan's land (see also Psalms 78:1-72; Psalms 105:1-45; Psalms 106:1-48; Psalms 107:1-43.). But how vastly is all this surpassed both in tenderness and in grandeur, by such words as these!—"He loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20); "Having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." £ The words fell with force and beauty on the ears of Old Testament saints, "I gave Egypt for thy ransom; Ethiopia and Seba for thee;" but how much greater the charm on Christian ears of the words, "He gave himself" (Isaiah 43:3, Isaiah 43:4; Galatians 2:20)!
God, in the Person of his Son,
Has all his mightiest works outdone."
III. THE HEBREW CHURCH, TERRITORIAL AND NATIONAL, HAS GIVEN PLACE TO THE CHURCH OF GOD, made up of men gathered from every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue. The Church's "land" now can never be invaded. We can never sigh, "The heathen are come into thine inheritance." That is impossible. The entrance into Christ's Church is not decided by rites nor by birth, save by the new birth of the Holy Ghost. Neither features nor racial marks form any sign of this new brotherhood. "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" (Galatians 6:15).
IV. THE HATRED OF THE JEW BY THE GENTILE IS SUCCEEDED BY THE WORLD'S HATRED OF THE CHURCH. Where religion is or has been regarded as a piece of statecraft, whether among pagans, Papists, or Protestants, divergence from the rites appointed by state or Church has been punished with fire and sword. And the Antiochian persecution in the time of the Maccabees had its parallel in the Diocletian persecution in the Christian era. And although in our own land such treatment is not permitted, yet there is, though largely unseen to the public eye, a fierce hatred by the ungodly of pure and undefiled religion; and many and many a faithful soldier of the cross has to endure petty insult, abuse, and scorn, to an extent known only to himself and his Lord.
V. THE HATRED OF THE WORLD, WHICH WAS THE HEBREWS' DREAD, IS NOW THE CHRISTIAN'S BADGE OF HONOUR. It was SO with the apostles (Acts 5:41; Galatians 6:17). It was so with private Christians in apostolic times (1 Peter 4:13-16). In enduring persecution in the early Christian centuries, believers so regarded it. And even now we have to remember the Master's words in John 15:18-21. The ancient Hebrews could not bear the scorn of their foes; Christians regard it as "the fellowship of Christ's sufferings," and delighted in the words, 2 Corinthians 4:10, 2 Corinthians 4:11.
VI. IN THE MIDST OF FIERCEST PERSECUTION, CHRISTIANS HAVE REALIZED THE CHANGELESSNESS OF DIVINE LOVE; even when they were "counted as sheep for the slaughter." £ Where we have from the Hebrews a groan, we have from the Christians a song (Romans 8:35, Romans 8:36; Stephen, Acts 6:15 and Acts 7:55-60; Matthew 5:12; Romans 5:3; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 1:29; Hebrews 10:3, Hebrews 10:4; James 1:2; 1 Peter 4:13, 1 Peter 4:16). Believers knew that nothing could ever separate them from Divine love; and that the stroke that closed the life below set them free for the higher life "with Christ, which was very far better." £
VII. HENCE CHRISTIANS SAW, WITH A CLEARNESS TO WHICH HEBREW SAINTS COULD NOT ATTAIN, THAT THE CHURCH EXISTS IN TWO WORLDS. So our Lord has taught in Matthew 16:18 (Revised Version); £, Revelation 1:18. And the disclosure of this became even clearer through the visions granted to the seer in Patmos, when (Revelation 7:1-17.) he saw one part of the Church, below, sealed in the great tribulation, and another part of the Church, above, caught up out of it. Knowing this, as the early Christians did, they knew also that the rage and hate of the enemy could in no wise really harm the Church, since their Lord was building it up in the realm above by the incoming of saints passing up from below. Hence even the slaughter of the people of God was but as a chariot of fire conducting them to the region where "they cannot die any more."
VIII. THU, INSTEAD OF AN AGONIZING CRY TO GOD TO INTERPOSE, THERE IS A PEAL OF TRIUMPH THAT NO INTERPOSITION IS NEEDED. "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." More than conquerors! What a grand and noble defiance of the enemy is there here! And how richly glorious is this proof of the development of the Divine intent to reveal his love more fully as the ages rolled on! Note: If an expositor unfolds Psalms 44:1-26. historically only, he must transfer himself to the ancient times; but if he will deal with that psalm from a Christian standpoint, he will have a glorious field for expansion in contrasting the piteous wail of Psalms 44:22 with the gladsomeness with which the very same words are quoted and applied in the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. Blessed be God that we live in the days of Christ's fulness of light and life! Amen.—C.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
In the days of old.
From this psalm we may learn three great lessons—
I. WE ARE TAUGHT TO SEE GOD'S HAND IN HISTORY. There is no such thing as chance. "The chapter of accidents," as some one has well said, "is the Bible of the fool." There are differences in the nations and the ages; but God is in all. We acknowledge how God was with the Jews; but we are not so ready to admit that he had to do just as really and truly with other peoples. The difference, in the case of the Jews is that as to them the veil has been lifted, that light has been thrown upon their history. The story of their nation was written as by the hand of God himself, and was committed as a sacred heritage to be transmitted pure and entire from generation to generation (Deuteronomy 6:7-20; el. Moses, Exodus 18:8; David, Psalms 58:8; Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:19). But, as St. Paul has taught us, "All these things happened to them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). God governs the nations on the same principles as he governed the Jews. "There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all" (1 Corinthians 12:6).
II. HOW GOD IS CARRYING OUT HIS OWN GREAT END THROUGH ALL THE AGES OF HISTORY. The wise man said, "One generation passeth away, and another cometh; but the earth abideth for ever" (Ecclesiastes 1:4). But if the earth abideth it is because God abideth. He has his plans as to men, and throughout the ages he is working them out. There is the manifestation of himself. More and more the knowledge of God has increased. The Jews knew more than the patriarchs. The Christians know more than the Jews. Besides, God is, in a sense, educating the world. We stand related to the past and the future. We have learned much from the past. God employs one age to benefit another. How great are our obligations, through books and otherwise, to the great men of the past—to Gentiles and Jews! We are the heirs of all the ages. And if we have benefited by those who came before us, so we are bound to benefit those who come after us. Privilege is the measure of responsibility. "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" (Luke 12:48). We see but a little, and, as oar knowledge is limited, our judgment must be imperfect. Yet we see and know enough to be satisfied that God is working in and by all events, and that he works ever towards a perfect end.
"Happy the man who sees a God employ'd
In all the good and ill that checker life,
Resolving all events, with their effects
And manifold results, into the will
And arbitration wise of the Supreme!"
III. THAT GOD HAS CARED FOR HIS PEOPLE THROUGH ALL THE AGES OF HISTORY. This is the burden of this psalm. This is the great truth that gives life to the faith professed (Psalms 44:1-8); that awakens the complaint of desertion in time of grievous trial (Psalms 44:9-16); that sustains the hope of help and ultimate deliverance (Psalms 44:17-26). As in the past, so still, there will be changes—not only mercies, but judgments. There will be trials of our faith; there will be the sharp discipline of chastisement; there will be, in some form or other, the "persecution" which tests our loyalty, and strengthens and purifies our love. But, come what will, God changes not; and God is our God. Our trust in men may fail, our hopes of earthly leaders may be disappointed and put to shame; but God is faithful who has promised, and he will never forsake those who trust in him. After Culloden, a soldier of Prince Chades's army was found lying dead on the field, with his Gaelic psalm-book open in his hand, and a bloody finger-mark at the ninth verse of this psalm, "But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame, and doest not forth with our armies." But Christ, the great Captain of our salvation, will not suffer the least of his soldiers thus to die, with blighted hopes and broken heart.—W.F.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
A prayer for help against foreign enemies.
The train of thought is this: "Thou hast helped us, thou must help us; but thou hast not helped us; yet have we not by any guilt on our part cut ourselves off from thy help; do thou therefore help us." The problem of suffering, as argued in this psalm, is similar to the problem in the Book of Job. That God should not help them—
I. WAS INCONSISTENT WITS GOD'S PAST TREATMENT OF THEM. (Verses 1-3.) Their fathers had told them what work God had done in their days—in the days of old. What a history of Divine work have we in the past of the Christian Church!
II. INCONSISTENT WITH THEIR FAITH IN HIM. (Verses 4-8.) God was their Almighty King, through whom they were able to achieve all conquests.
III. IT WOULD BRING NO PROFIT OR HONOUR TO GOD. (Verse 12.) To leave them to their enemies. How could God act thus, so as to seem to dishonour himself and to bring no profit to his people?
IV. IT COULD NOT BE A PUNISHMENT FOR UNFAITHFULNESS. (Verses 17-22.) They had not forgotten God; their heart was not turned back, neither had their steps declined from his way. They could not explain.
V. DID NOT SEEM CONSISTENT WITH GOD'S REGARD TO HIS OWN HONOUR. (Verses 15, 16, 24.) He seemed to be taking the side of the blasphemer, and forgetting their fidelity. And this was the mystery of their experience.
VI. YET IT DID NOT UPROOT THEIR FAITH IN DIVINE HELP AT LAST. For they continue to supplicate the redeeming interposition of God (verses 23-26). Faith always conquers its difficulties thus, by trusting where it cannot see or explain.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 44". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany