THE composition of this psalm by David, asserted in the title, is generally allowed. Internal evidence seems to indicate for its date the earlier portion of David's public life—that during which he suffered persecution at the hands of Saul. There are two considerable difficulties connected with the title:
"Shiggaion" is connected by some with the "Shigioneth" of Habakkuk 3:1, which is commonly explained to be a particular kind of tune or tunes. But the identity of the two words is uncertain, and the identity of their meaning, at an interval of nearly six centuries, is still more open to question. The meaning of "Shiggaion" has really to be guessed from the context; and the most probable of the conjectures made would seem to be, either simply, "a poem of David," or "a lyrical composition of David "—a meaning which obtains a certain amount of support from the Arabic. With respect to "Cush the Benjamite," it has been argued
The psalm has but one marked division, that between Habakkuk 3:1-5 and Habakkuk 3:6-17, where the term selah occurs. The remainder runs on continuously, without any marked break.
O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust (compare the openings of Psalms 11:1-7; Psalms 31:1-24; Psalms 71:1-24.). When David is most sorely pressed by persecution and danger, then is his faith and trust in God mast plainly apparent. Save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me. The Revised Version has, "from all them that pursue me;" but "persecute" is better. Hengstenberg and Kay have, "from all my persecutors." So also French and Skinner. The persecutors are such men as the Ziphites and others, who encouraged Saul in his attempts to take David's life (1 Samuel 26:1, 1 Samuel 26:19).
Lest he tear my soul like a lion (comp. Psalms 5:6, where there is a similar abrupt transition from the plural to the singular number). On both occasions David fears one special enemy—then probably Ahithophel, now Saul. The simile of the lion is one frequent in the Psalms (see Psalms 10:9; Psalms 17:12; Psalms 22:13, Psalms 22:21; Psalms 35:17; Psalms 54:4, etc.). Rending it in pieces. As the lion does a sheep. While there is none to deliver. No human helper, at once willing and able to give deliverance.
O Lord my God, if I have done this; i.e. "this which is laid to my charge." The general charge against David in Saul's lifetime was that he "sought the king's hurt" (1 Samuel 24:9). Afterwards he was accused of being "a bloody man" (2 Samuel 16:8)—the death of Ishbosheth, and perhaps of others, being regarded as his work. If there be iniquity in my hands. If, i.e; I have committed any criminal act, if any definite offence can be charged against me. Human weakness and imperfection David does not mean to deny, but, like Job, he maintains in a certain qualified sense his righteousness.
If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me. This is probably the true meaning. David denies that he has wantonly attacked and injured any one with whom he was on friendly and peaceable terms. No doubt he was accused of having estranged Saul by plotting to take the crown from him. (Yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy.) This translation, which is retained by our Revisers, has the support also of Ewald, Hupfeld, Mr. Aglen, and the 'Speaker's Commentary.' If accepted, it must be considered as a reference to 1 Samuel 24:7, or else to 1 Samuel 26:9, or both, and as a sort of parenthetic protest, "Nay, not only have I not injured a friend, but I have gone so far as to let my enemy escape me." A different meaning is, however, given to the passage by many critics, as Rosenmuller, Hengstenberg, Bishop Horsley, Cheyne, etc; who regard the sense as running on without any parenthesis, and translate, "If I have oppressed him who without cause is mine enemy." David, according to this view, denies that he has either injured a friend or requited evil to a foe.
Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it. "If I have been guilty of any of these acts, then let my enemy not only persecute my soul, as he is doing (Psalms 7:1, Psalms 7:2), but take it—make it his prey—obtain full power over it." Yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth; i.e. "utterly destroy me and bring me to ruin." And not only so, but also lay mine honour in the dust; i.e. "bring me down to the grave with shame."
Compare the imprecations of Job upon himself (Job 31:8, Job 31:10, Job 31:22, Job 31:40).
Arise, O Lord, in thine anger. To call on God to "arise" is to ask him to take action, to lay aside the neutral attitude in which he most commonly shows himself to man, and to interfere openly in the concerns of earth. To call on him to "arise in his anger" is to entreat him to vindicate our cause against those opposed in us, and to visit them with some open manifestation of his displeasure (comp. Psalms 3:7; Psalms 9:19; Psalms 10:12; Psalms 17:13; Psalms 44:26; Psalms 68:1). Lift up thyself. This is even a stronger expression than "arise" (Isaiah 33:10). It is a call on God to appear in his full strength. Because of the rage of mine enemies; or, against the rage of mine enemies (Kay, Revised Version). Force must be met by force. David justifies his appeal for aid by alleging the violence and fury of those whose attacks he has to meet. And awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded. The two clauses are not connected in the original, which runs, "Awake for me: thou hast commanded judgment." The meaning seems to be, "Arouse thyself on my behalf—judgment is a thing which thou hast ordained—surely now is the time for it."
So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about. Titan, if thou wilt show thyself in judgment, the congregation of the peoples—not, apparently, Israel only—will crowd around thee, in acknowledgment of thy majesty, and recognize in thee the righteous Judge of all the earth. For their sakes therefore return thou on high; rather, and above it (or, above them; i.e. above the congregation of the peoples) return thou on high. After coming down to earth, and executing judgment, then go back to thy throne in heaven.
The Lord shall judge the people. Hitherto judgment has been prayed for, now it is announced, "The Lord shall judge "—shall decide between David and his enemies—shall judge them in his anger, and at the same time judge David, i.e. vindicate his cause. David has no desire to escape this judgment Judge me, he says, O Lord, according to my righteousness. Judge me, i.e; and, if thou findest me righteous, acquit me and vindicate me. And according to mine integrity that is in me; literally, which is on me (comp. Job 29:24, "I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my judgment was as a robe and a diadem").
Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end. It is not the removal of the wicked, but the removal of their wickedness, that David desires (comp. Psalms 10:15). But establish the just; i.e. protect strengthen, and sustain him. For the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins (comp. Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12). "The heart, as the seat of the understanding and the will, the reins of natural impulses and affections" ('Speaker's Commentary').
My defense is of God; literally, my shield is on God; i.e. "rests on him" (Kay)—is upheld by him. Which sayeth the upright in heart (comp. Psalms 125:4).
God judgeth the righteous; rather, God is a righteous Judge. So Rosenmuller, Bishop Horsley, Dr. Kay, the 'Speaker's Commentary,' and the Revised Version. And God is angry with the wicked every day. There is no need of inserting the words, "with the wicked," since, of course, it is with the wicked that God is angry. What the psalmist means to assert especially is that God's anger continues against the wicked as long as their wickedness continues.
If he turn not, he (i.e. God) will whet his sword (comp. Deuteronomy 32:41; Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 34:5). "Every new transgression," says Bishop Horne, "sets a fresh edge to God's sword" He hath bent his bow, and made it ready; rather, he hath bent his bow, and fixed it; i.e. held it in the position for taking aim.
He hath prepared for him the instruments of death. These are probably not the sword and the bow, but the "arrows" of the next clause. They are prepared "for him," i.e. for the wicked man. He ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors; rather, he maketh his arrows to be fiery ones. Hengstenberg notes that "in sieges it was customary to wrap inflammable matter round arrows, and to shoot them after it had been kindled" (compare the, fiery darts" of St. Paul, Ephesians 6:16).
Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood (comp. Job 15:35; Isaiah 59:4). The "falsehood" intended is probably the bringing of false charges against David (see Psalms 7:3-5).
He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made (comp. Psalms 9:15, Psalms 9:16; Psalms 35:8; Psalms 57:6; Proverbs 26:27; Proverbs 28:10, etc.). There are several illustrations of this law of God's providence in Scripture, the most striking being that of Haman. Its existence as a law was noticed by some of the classical writers, as Ovid, who says—
"Nec lex justior ulla est,
Quam necis artifices arte petite sua."
His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing upon his own pate. Some critics see in this a continuation of the metaphor, and suppose that, while the sinner is in the pit, the heap which his own hands have thrown out falls in upon him and crushes him. But it is perhaps better to understand the words in a more general way.
I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness. Another abrupt transition—a song of thankfulness to Jehovah for giving the deliverance which the psalmist foresees, and considers as good as accomplished. And will sing praise to the Name of the Lord most high (comp. Psalms 8:1, Psalms 8:9, "How excellent is thy Name in all the earth!"). God is identified with his Name very commonly in Scripture, or, perhaps we should say, the Name of God is used as a periphrasis for God himself. Where God puts his special presence, he is said to "put his Name" (Deuteronomy 12:5, Deuteronomy 12:21 : 1 Kings 14:21; 2 Chronicles 12:13). His Name is "holy and reverend" (Psalms 111:1-10 :19); "incense is offered unto it" (Malachi 1:11); it is "magnified for ever" (1 Chronicles 17:24); for it the temple is built (1 Kings 8:44); through it the godly "tread down their enemies" (Psalms 44:5); the "desire of men's souls is to it" (Isaiah 26:8). (See also Psalms 92:1; Psalms 96:8; Psalms 99:3; Psalms 103:1; Psalms 105:1; Psalms 113:1; Psalms 115:1; Psalms 119:55; Psalms 145:1, Psalms 145:2, Psalms 145:21; Psalms 148:13; Psalms 149:3.)
God's righteous displeasure against sin is an abiding reality.
"God is a righteous Judger," etc.(Revised Version). Confidence in Divine … justice is one of. the deepest roots of religion. On this faith Abraham based his daring but humble intercession for the cities (Genesis 18:25). To this justice the psalmist, deeply wronged and falsely accused, makes impassioned appeal. This (and many other passages of) Scripture is grievously misjudged if read as the outpouring of personal revenge. David is perfectly willing to suffer, if he deserves it (Psalms 7:4, Psalms 7:5). The enemies against whom (here and elsewhere) he appeals are not merely his private foes, but God's enemies public rebels against law and truth, "workers of iniquity." "God is angry … every day." Q.d.: God's righteous displeasure against sin is an abiding reality.
I. CONSCIENCE PROVES THIS. Conscience is the echo within the soul of God's voice, accusing or else excusing" (Romans 2:15), praising or blaming, saying always, "Thou shalt do right; thou shalt not do wrong." This voice may be dulled and silenced by the practice of sin ("conscience scared," 1 Timothy 4:2), or perverted by false philosophy or false religious belief. But it is God's witness, for all that. Note that praise and blame imply one another. If God had no holy wrath against wrong, he could have no delight in and approval of goodness.
II. GOD'S CHARACTER PROVES THIS. The more benevolent any one is, the more odious cruelty is to him; the more truthful, the more he hates and despises lying lips; the more generous, the more he scorns meanness; the more just, the more indignant he is at injustice. So, summing up every morally good quality under "holiness," every immoral quality under "sin," the more we think of God as perfectly holy, the more we must infer his hatred of sin. It is "that abominable thing" (Jeremiah 44:4).
III. GOD'S LOVE PROVES IT. (See on Psalms 5:4, Psalms 5:5.) Suppose a mother sees her child ill used, tortured, murdered; a son hears his parents foully slandered; a loyal soldier sees insult offered to his sovereign; a true patriot finds his country unjustly assailed;—just proportionate to the warmth of love is the flame of righteous indignation. We do but maim and caricature Divine love if we deny God's righteous anger against sin.
IV. GOD'S DEALINGS PROVE IT. In point of fact, every day brings new examples—new proof is needless—that it is a righteous thing with God (2 Thessalonians 1:6) to punish sin. In some cases the connection is obvious (e.g. disease from intemperance, gluttony, licentiousness), the road to ruin short and open; in others, it is slow and hidden (as the destruction of trust and respect by lying, of all that is noble and joyful in life by covetousness). We are all so bound up that the pure and innocent suffer through the vicious and unprincipled. But the main lessons of providence are plain. "Righteousness exalteth a nation;" "The wages of sin is death."
V. THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION FROM SIN PROVES IT. The transcendent sufferings of the Son of God admit no rational explanation but that given in Scripture "He hare our sins;" gave "his life a ransom" (1 Peter 2:24; Matthew 20:28; comp. Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Apart from this reason, the death of Jesus would he the darkest enigma in God's providence; the most inexplicable, discouraging, and melancholy event in human history. Never forget that in not sparing his Son (Born. 8:32) the Father was, in truth, taking the burden of our sin on himself.
CONCLUSION. To treat sin lightly is to set our judgment up against God's; to show ourselves out of sympathy with him and unlike him, and therefore incapable of communion with him here or of happiness in his presence hereafter.
HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE
The slandered saint appealing to his God.
There is nothing like the trials of life to constrain to prayer; and no prayers are so full of deep meaning as those forced out by such trials. There is no reason for doubting the Davidic authorship of this psalm. It well accords with some known episodes in his experience, and is just such an appeal to the great Judge of all the earth as he might be expected to make when unjustly accused; specially when accused of evil in the very direction in which he had most strikingly restrained himself therefrom. But what a mercy that the true believer has such a God to whom he can flee, and that he can feel assured that, however unjust man may be, there is ever one tribunal high above all the people, at which absolute justice will be done I life believer can possibly find out all that God is to him till he has thus to flee to his throne for refuge from the storm. Let wronged and slandered Christians study the method and words of an Old Testament psalmist under circumstances to which their own are somewhat analogous.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH THIS PSALM WAS WRITTEN ARE CLEARLY INDICATED. £ Four features mark them.
1. A fierce enemy is raging against the writer. One fierce as the wild beasts against which, as a shepherd, he had had to defend his flock (Psalms 7:2).
2. Charges of evil-doing are made against him. The tone of the third verse indicates this, although we have no means of knowing who the "Cush" might be that brought forward these charges. It is no uncommon thing for good men to find themselves the victims of false accusations. Such accusations, however false, will do injury, since
3. The psalmist knows these charges are false; and therefore, though appeal to man is vain, he can and does appeal to God (Psalms 7:3, Psalms 7:4).
4. Notwithstanding this, his enemy's rage is actually threatening his life. (See Psalms 7:2.) It is bad to plot against life; it is equally bad to poison a man's reputation; yea, worse. Let those who are slandered read such psalms as this over and over again, that they may see how the saints of old were tried in like manner, and what was the course they pursued.
II. UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, THE RELIEVER MAKES GOD HIS REFUGE. While the storm is raging without, the believer is hiding in his God. "Thou wilt hide me in thy presence from the pride of man; thou wilt keep me secretly in thy pavilion from the strife of tonsures." The attributes of God, which are a terror to the wicked, are the shelter of the righteous.
1. God's righteousness. (Psalms 7:11.)
2. His searching the reins and hearts. (Psalms 7:9.)
3. His commanding judgment, either in the way of precept, by laws which may not be slighted, or in the way of administration, by chastisements which cannot be evaded. Even so these features of the Divine character and administration are the joy of injured innocence (Psalms 7:10, "My shield is with God," Revised Version). And in a case like this, the saint can say, in faith, hope, and love, "O Lord my God?' To know this—that God is ours—and that sooner or later he will set us right, is of incalculable value in such sore distresses.
III. IT IS WELL IF IN SUCH CASES THE PLEADING ONE CAN ASSERT BEFORE GOD HIS OWN INTEGRITY. The third, fourth, and fifth verses ought not to be regarded either as assertion of perfect righteousness, nor yet as the utterances of conceit; £ nor should we be warranted in regarding even the eighth verse as an indication of self-righteousness. Not by any means. Let us take the psalm for what it manifestly is, and all is clear. It is the appeal of a slandered man to God; it is the appeal of one who knows that, so far as the charges of his enemy are concerned, he is innocent (cf. 1 Samuel 24:1-22; 1 Samuel 26:1-25.), and that therefore he may with confidence refer his case to the tribunal which is infinitely above those of earth (Psalms 18:18-24). Note: There is a very wide difference between the self-righteousness which regards itself as blameless before God, and the conscious integrity which can look any man in the face without flinching. Of the former the psalmist had none (cf. Psalms 25:7, Psalms 25:11; Psalms 143:2). It would be wicked to pretend innocence before God; but, in a case like the psalmist's, it would be unmanly not to assert it before men. Cromwell said, "I know that God is above all ill reports, and that he will in his own time vindicate me."
IV. UNDER SUCH PRESSURE FROM WITHOUT THE PRAYER IS DIRECT, POINTED, AND CLEAR. The psalmist does not deem it needful to cover the whole ground of possible prayer on each occasion. He lays the burden of the moment before God, and leaves it there. His petitions are fivefold.
1. Arise, O Lord! (Psalms 7:6.)
2. Save me! (Psalms 7:1.)
3. Vindicate me! (Psalms 7:8.)
4. Bring wickedness to an end! (Psalms 7:9.)
5. Establish the just! (Psalms 7:9.)
Note: When the heart is overweighted with sorrow and anxiety, let us always tell our God exactly the state of the case. We need not go over all points of religion or theology in every prayer; let us just tell God the matter of immediate pressure (cf. Psalms 142:2; Psalms 34:4, Psalms 34:6; Philippians 4:6, Philippians 4:7). Such petitions as are forced out by sorrow may be sent up in all loving confidence to our Father in heaven. He will excuse all their mistakes, and answer them in the fulness of love.
V. THERE IS INDICATED A FULL ASSURANCE OF GOD'S APPEARING FOR JUDGMENT. We do not now refer to "the last judgment," but to those judgments which are often manifest in the providence of God (cf. Isaiah 26:9, latter part). And he who studies history, and observes the times with a view to watching the movements of God in the world, will find abundant illustration of the two features of a perpetual judgment which has long been, still is, and yet will be, going forward in the world; and that in two directions.
1. As regards the wicked.
2. As regards the righteous. "Who sayeth them that are upright of heart" (Psalms 7:10). Even so. The whole of the thirty-seventh psalm is an exposition of this fact, and the seventy-third psalm is an illustration of it. Observation and experience will perpetually furnish new proofs of the same. "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.'—C.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
Purity of heart.
"If I have done this."
I. TRUE INNOCENCE IS MARKED BY HUMILITY. David is bold before men, but humble before God. Why? There is the sense that innocence is limited and imperfect. We may be free from particular sins, and yet be guilty in others. Besides, innocence is but comparative. Measured by the standard of men, we may be without offence, but tried by the holy, spiritual Law of God, we are convicted of innumerable sins, and behind all is a sinful heart.
II. ASSOCIATED WITH MERCY. "Yea, I have delivered him" (Psalms 7:4). So David dealt gently with Saul. His magnanimous sparing of him when he was in his power was no mere impulse, but the free outcome of his loving and generous heart. The merciful, whom our Lord has blessed, are placed between those who "hunger and thirst after righteousness" and "the pure in heart," who see God.
III. APPEALS WITH CONFIDENCE TO THE JUDGMENT OF GOD. The sense of right prophesies of the triumph of right. Having faith in the justice of God, we can leave all in his hands; and, loving him and assured of his love toward us, we can patiently await the end, knowing that all things shall work together for our good.—W.F.
God the true Refuge of the soul.
This psalm, like many others, refers to a time of trial. The key-note may, perhaps, be found in Psalms 7:1, "In thee." When trouble comes we naturally look out from ourselves for help. Some lean upon friends; others cry for a favourable change of circumstances; while others again preach patience to themselves, in the hope that somehow deliverance will come. But only by trusting in God can we find real help; he is the Adullam, the true Refuge of the soul. "In thee." Here is—
I. RESCUE FROM SIN. When the paralytic was let down in the midst of the people before our Lord, his first word to him was, "Thy sins are lop, yen thee." He needed healing, but he more sorely needed deliverance from sin. And so it is with us. Troubles may press heavily on the soul, but the first and chief thing is to be made right with God. Let this be done, and then we can bear the ills of life with patience, and face the future without fear (Psalms 143:9).
II. REFUGE FROM SOCIAL OPPRESSIONS. Foes may be many and fierce; their tongues may be as sharp swords, and their malice unrelenting. Much that they speak against us may be false and calumnious; much more may be cruel perversions of the truth; but so long as we are able to rest in God, we are safe. He is just; he is the true Vindicator; he will not only defend us, but deliver us. Like Job, we can say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth" (Job 19:25).
III. REST AMIDST THE CONFUSIONS AND MISERIES OF THE WORLD. Evil abounds.
We often feel constrained to cry, with the gentle Cowper ―
"My ear is pain'd,
My soul is sick with every day's report
Of wrong and outrage with which earth is fill'd."
What then? How little can we do in the way of remedy! We can feel grief; we can express sympathy; we can try, as we have opportunity, to lessen human woe; we can bear our part in the great business of confession, humbling ourselves before the Lord for the sins of others as well as our own. There may be no result. Things may even seem to grow worse; but in the darkest hour we can cry, "Our Father … deliver us from evil;" and take comfort from the thought that not only is God "our Father," but that his are "the kingdom and the power and the glory." "In thee:" here is hope for the sinner, and comfort for the saint. "In thee:" here is defence for the weak, and inspiration for the worker, and a bright future for all who long and labour for the advancement of truth and righteousness (Isaiah 26:20, Isaiah 26:21; Revelation 19:6).—W.F.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
Trust in God.
An earnest appeal to God to save him from the wickedness of men who would requite him with evil for the good he had done in sparing Saul's life. The charge against him probably was that he still sought the life of Saul; and they plotted against his life. In the midst of this wrong and danger, what was his resource?
I. TRUST IN GOD. Not in counter-plotting against his enemies, nor neglecting the use of means for his own safety; but faith in the all-controlling providence of God.
II. A LOFTY CONSCIOUSNESS OF INNOCENCE. (Psalms 7:3-5.) Nothing can give such confidence in a righteous God as the consciousness of righteousness in ourselves. We cannot pray for Divine help if we regard iniquity in our heart.
III. IN "IS BLAMELESSNESS HE APPEALS TO GOD FOR JUDGMENT BETWEEN HIM AND HIS ENEMIES. (Psalms 7:6-9.) He calls upon God to "arise," "to lift himself up," "to awake," to exert his mightiest power in doing justice to both sides.
IV. GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS GIVES HIM HOPE THAT THE OVERTHROW OF HIS ENEMIES IS NEAR. (Psalms 7:10-13.) God's justice is a manifest present fact, not deferred. "He judgeth the righteous, and is angry with the wicked every day." The overthrow may come at any moment.
V. THE OVERTHROW HAS ALREADY BEGUN, AND THIS GIVES HIM CONFIDENCE AND GRATITUDE. "Is fallen into the ditch which he made" Deliverance is come, therefore "I will sing praise to the Name of the Lord most high." But he did not see this so clearly before. Experience opens our eyes.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany