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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Psalms 57

 

 

Verses 1-11

INTRODUCTION

Superscription.—"To the Chief Musician." The chief musician was the director of the music in public worship. And the Psalms which were addressed to him were intended for use in the Temple services. "Al-taschith" = "destroy not." According to some expositors, the expression denotes the melody to which the Psalm was to be sung. The Psalm was to be sung to the same tune as the song known as, "Destroy not." According to others it is a musical expression, probably denoting the key in which the Psalm was to be sung. And, "according to others, it must be a maxim, which the Psalmist at that time continually revolved in his heart, and must indicate the quintessence of the Psalm." "Michtam of David." See Introduction to Psalms 56. "When he fled from Saul in the cave." Moll: "We cannot decide whether the cave is the one mentioned in 1 Samuel 21 as the cave of Adullam, or that situated by the sheepcotes upon the Alpine heights of Engedi (1 Samuel 24). These caves are numerous in the limestone and chalk mountains, and are often of great extent, and are still the hiding-places of fugitives."

A SAFE REFUGE IN SORE PERIL

(Psa .)

Let us consider—

I. The extreme perils in a good man's life. David mentions three things as causes of danger and trial to him at this time.

1. The bitter reproaches of his enemies. "The reproach of him that would swallow me up." The rendering of Hengstenberg and Moll presents what we regard as the true idea of this clause. "He reproaches that snuffs after me." "He reproacheth who snorts at me." It is not that God would reproach the enemies, but that the enemies reproached the Psalmist. Calumny and slander were freely plied by Saul and his party at this time against David.

2. The fierce cruelty of his enemies. "My soul is among lions," &c. "The enemies are lions, greedy of their prey, but the teeth of these men-lions are spears and arrows, and the tongues of these men-lions are a sharp sword. As the lion uses his teeth and tongue, these children of men use their spears, arrows, and swords to destroy their prey, having the same greedy, lickerish natures as the wild beasts."—(C. A. Briggs.) Their eagerness for the destruction of the Poet is brought into prominence. They snorted at him as enraged wild beasts, or as wild beasts greedy for their prey. We know how eagerly and ferociously Saul and his companions at this time sought to kill David.

3. The subtle schemes of his enemies. "They have prepared a net for my steps," &c. Not content with open and fierce pursuit, they concocted deep plans, hoping, by means of them, to ensnare the Poet. They used fraud as well as force against him. They left no means unemployed by which they thought they might effect his overthrow. Such were the trials from which the Psalmist was suffering, and the perils to which he was exposed. The enemies had so far succeeded that, in some measure, the spirit of the Psalmist drooped. "They have bowed down my soul." He was not insensible to trial. He felt the pressure of their persecutions. He was aware of the dangers with which they surrounded him.

II. The secure refuge from the perils of a good man's life. "In the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge." The figure is very beautiful and expressive. Perowne: "This exceedingly striking image may have been suggested by Deu . (See Psa 17:8.) Still more tender is the New Testament figure (Mat 23:37). Perhaps there is nothing more remarkable in the Psalms than this ever-recurring expression of a tender personal affection on the part of the sacred poets to God. There is no parallel to this in the whole range of heathen literature." Delitzsch: "The soft shading of God's wings is the protection of His soft, sweet love, and the shadow of His wings is the refreshing, trusting comfort connected with this protection. In this shadow the Poet takes his refuge until the ruinous danger which threatens him passes by." The image is suggestive of affection, rest, shade, safety. The Psalmist indicates—

1. The ground of his trust in God.

(1) His supremacy. "I will cry unto God Most High." However great the power and the multitude of our enemies, they cannot injure us if we have made the Most High our Refuge. "Now that he takes in view the Most High, the giants of the earth become changed into pitiful dwarfs." Franke: "When it is clearly manifested to the heart of man that God is the Most High, he fears nothing, not even the devil and his hosts of hell, but is confident and unterrified."

(2) His continuous activity on his behalf. "God that performeth all things for me." Or, "God who accomplisheth for me." "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." "He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Hengstenberg: "With God the beginning furnishes a pledge for the finishing, the word for the deed."

(3) His kindness toward him. "God shall send forth His mercy." David confided in the infinite and free favour of God.

(4) His fidelity. "And His truth." The Psalmist had an unshaken reliance on the faithfulness of God. He knew that He would fulfil His promises, and save those who trusted in Him. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away." Surely here we have most firm and ample ground for trusting in God. He in whom all these perfections inhere must be worthy of the fullest confidence as a secure Refuge in the trials of life.

2. The expression of his trust in God. "Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me.… I will cry unto God Most High." The trust expresses itself here in prayer. Calvin: "He makes the calling upon to follow the confiding, for it cannot fail, but that those who trust in God should direct their prayer to Him," In this brief prayer there are three points worthy of notice.

(1) It reveals a just estimate of the poet's own moral condition. He pleads no merit of his own; he does not urge his innocence, but asks for mercy.

(2) It honours God. By appealing to the Divine mercy, David manifests an exalted estimate of the kindness and faithfulness of God;—he honours Him by his faith, &c.

(3) It is fervent. The urgency of need and desire is indicated by the repetition of the cry.

3. The greatness of his trust in God. This is seen—

(1) In his sense of his own perfect security. "I lie among them that are set on fire," &c. In the midst of his enemies he lay down to rest calmly as on a soft couch in perfect safety. Moll: "It expresses not a complaint of his dangerous situation, but the resolution of trust in God, with which he will lie down to sleep in the midst of dangerous circumstances." Faith is triumphant over fear.

(2) In his supreme desire for the universal honour of God. "Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens, Thy glory above all the earth." The grand wish of the Psalmist, to which all other feelings were subordinated, was that God might be supremely and universally glorified. The Psalmist loses sight of his own peril, or rises quite superior to it, in his fervent desire for the exaltation of God.

(3) In his assurance that the wicked designs and doings of his enemies would issue in their own ruin. "They have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves." "In the cave, when Saul thought David should fall into his hands, he fell into the hands of David, and lay at his mercy." "God beats the enemies of His servants with their own weapons." (See "The Hom. Com." on Psa .)

CONCLUSION.—The application is obvious.

1. To all, life is more or less a scene of trial.

2. Trial involves danger.

3. In trial, every man needs a refuge.

4. Various are the refuges resorted to by men in trial.

5. Only one Refuge it adequate and trustworthy.

6. To that One all may have access.

7. "Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him; God is a Refuge for us."

A LIFE OF CONFIDENCE IN GOD

(Psa .)

Consider—

I. The grounds on which a life of confidence in God is encouraged. His holy Word affords the greatest encouragement unto His people to put their trust in Him. The whole life of a believer consists in trusting in God. The very first exercise of religion is an act of confidence in the mercy of God, &c. The believer may take encouragement to trust in God, from—

1. The relation which the Divine Being sustains to him. He is his Father. "Like as a father pitieth," &c. A child trusts, &c. He is his God. All His Divine perfections are engaged on behalf of His people.

2. The efficiency of the mediation of Jesus Christ. The atonement for sin which He has made, and the intercession which He offers on our behalf are perfect, and should encourage our trust (Heb ).

3. The promises of God. These are suited to all our circumstances, &c.

4. The deliverances which He has wrought for His people.

II. The nature of trust in God, and the circumstances in which we should trust Him.

1. The nature of trust in God. It consists in relying upon the declarations and promises of God, in believing the truth of God, and in acting accordingly.

(1.) Trust in God can be exercised only in connection with a proper regard to the precepts of His Word; without this, reliance upon His promises would be presumption, not the confidence of faith.

(2) To rely upon the Divine promises whilst regarding the Divine precepts is the proper exercise of confidence in God.

2. The circumstances in which we should trust in God. We should trust in Him at all times and in all circumstances, but especially—

(1) When oppressed with guilt.

(2) In seasons of temptation.

(3) In seasons of persecution (2Ti .)

(4) Under all the trials of life (Psa ).

III. The advantages of a life of confidence in God. Trust in God is a duty enjoined by many precepts, and enforced by many examples. It is also a privilege of the greatest value (Psa .) A life of confidence in God will be attended with—

1. Peace (Isa ).

2. Security. The arm of Omnipotence is engaged for the defence of those who trust in God.

3. Support under trial.

4. Deliverance from troubles.

5. The sanctification of trials to our good.

CONCLUSION.—

1. It is manifestly our wisdom to trust in God.

2. A life of confidence in God is one of the best evidences of true religion. If we would know whether we are the subjects of religion, let us inquire whither we go for refuge, &c.

3. The believer has the prospect of everlasting rest in God, &c. "There remaineth a rest for the people of God."—Abridged from an unpublished M.S.

THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD A MOTIVE TO PRAYER

(Psa .)

The Psalmist felt himself and all his affairs in the hands of Providence. He knew that God performed all things for him. From this view of providence he took encouragement to make Him his refuge. "I will cry unto God," &c. These words suggest the interesting and important truth that the providence of God presents us with a powerful motive to prayer.

I. Endeavour to illustrate this truth.

1. The providence of God is closely connected with His existence. If we believe in His existence we cannot consistently deny His providence.

2. The Sacred Volume teaches the doctrine—

(1) It represents all the affairs of the universe as under the government of God (Psa ; Psa 103:19; et al.)

(2) Its precepts which enforce the duty of putting our trust in Him imply that His providence is universal, and extends to all our concerns (Pro ; Mat 6:31-34; et al.)

(3) The history of the Church and of individual believers, which it records, testifies to the exercise of the Divine providence—Jewish Church, Jacob, Joseph, Job, David, Daniel.

3. The conduct of providence is governed by the infinite perfections of God. Wisdom, goodness, faithfulness, power.

4. We are at all times, and under all circumstances, under the care of the Divine providence. In infancy, youth, &c. In prosperity, adversity, &c.

5. It is important to realise the universality of the Divine providence. Such realisation will lead us to commit our ways unto Him, will afford peace, &c.

II. The circumstances in which it is important to realise this truth, and to make God a refuge by prayer. It is important to realise it continually; but especially—

1. In difficulties. These arise from various causes.

2. In troubles from enemies. David at this time.

3. In painful trials.

4. Prayer ought to be esteemed a privilege.

III. The advantages of a life of faith and prayer are many and great.

1. We realise that some wise end is to be answered by trials.

2. Our trials are accounted as for our good.

3. Support under trial and deliverance from it are granted in answer to prayer.

4. A review of the conduct of providence may be profitable under peculiar trials. David found it so. Every man may study Divine providence to his profit.

CONCLUSION.—

1. Bring all troubles to the throne of grace.

2. Every deliverance in answer to prayer should be acknowledged by praise.

3. Past providences afford encouragement to trust God for the future.

4. The mysteries of providence will be explained in a better state.—Abridged from an unpublished MS.

EXEMPLARY PRAISE

(Psa .)

The Psalmist's praise of God expressed in these verses is worthy of imitation in each and all of its main features.

I. In its Theme. "I will sing and give praise. For Thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and Thy truth unto the clouds." Mercy and truth are the Divine perfections which are most prominent in God's covenant relations with His people. His mercy is the source of all blessings to sinful men. And His truth is an assurance that He will fulfil His word, that He will perform His promises. The poet represents these perfections as infinite. Such is the meaning of the figures which he employs. "Great unto the heavens," &c. From the infinity of God's mercy and truth we infer—

1. That the blessings which flow from them reach unto all men.

2. That they are worthy of the unreserved confidence of all men.

II. In the spirit of its Offerer. The poet manifests—

1. Strong confidence in God. "My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed." Perowne: "My heart is steadfast." Moll: "My heart is confident." His confidence in God was firm and abiding. It enabled him to rise above all fear of danger.

2. Fervent gratitude and reverent admiration towards God. "I will sing and give praise." His confidence was religious. He was sensible of his obligations to God, and gratefully praised Him. He recognised the perfections of God, and reverently adored Him. This is the true spirit in which praise should be offered to the Most High.

III. In its enthusiasm. This is clearly seen in his resolution to praise God—

1. With the noblest powers of his being. "Awake up, my glory." His "glory" is his soul, with all its wondrous faculties and capacities, as created in the image of God. David summons his noblest powers to the worship of God. Soulless praise is worthless, and even offensive in the sight of God.

2. With choice instrumental accompaniment. "Awake, psaltery and harp." David would use the sweetest and most musical aids in this hallowed exercise. He seeks to give worthy expression to the feelings of his soul in praise of so glorious a Being.

3. With affectionate zeal. "I myself will awake early." More correctly: "I will awake the morning-dawn." He resolves to anticipate the morning-dawn with his songs of praise, so great were his zeal and love for the hallowed exercise. To him the praise of God was the purest pleasure. Surely this enthusiasm in the worship of God is worthy the imitation of all.

IV. In its sphere. "I will praise Thee, O Lord, among the people; I will sing unto Thee among the nations." He would celebrate the praise of God to the widest possible extent. Delitzsch: "His song of praise is not to sound in a narrow space where it can scarcely be heard; he will appear, as an evangelist of his deliverance and his Deliverer, among the nations of the world; his calling extends beyond Israel; the experiences of his person are for the benefit of humanity." The praise of God should be universal, as "His mercy and truth" are.

V. In the sense of its imperfection. The Psalmist was conscious that his song fell far below the merit and glory of his theme; and he, therefore, prays, "Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens, Thy glory above all the earth." Our most reverent and most enthusiastic praise is inadequate to so sublime and glorious a theme.

"Weak is the effort of my heart,

And cold my warmest thought;

But when I see Thee as Thou art,

I'll praise Thee as I ought."

—Newton.

CONCLUSION.—

1. Let us "not make that narrow which God's love has made wide—wide as the heavens" (Psa ).

2. Let us, like the Psalmist, anticipate the promised deliverances of God with our praises.

3. Let us strive to make our praise of God commensurate with His mercy and truth. In this we shall never succeed; yet the effort will be pleasing to Him and beneficial to us. "The glory of the Lord should be praised early and late, near and far, in heaven and on earth," and yet it would immeasurably surpass our praise.

DECIDED PIETY

(Psa .)

Consider—

I. The properties of a pious or godly life.

1. True piety has its seat in the heart. "My heart is fixed."

2. True piety springs from just views of truth. The heart will not be fixed until the great facts which lie at the foundation of religion are known, &c.

3. Decided piety may be traced to just views of redemption and the greatness of its blessings.

4. Relief from the burden of guilt, through the great sacrifice for sin, tends to fix the heart, &c.

5. Piety is strengthened by religious exercises.

6. Divine deliverances strengthen piety. Answers to prayer promote firmness of purpose to trust in God.

7. Progress in religion strengthens piety.

II. The advantages of a life of decided piety. Decided piety—

1. Is attended with security. Religious principles in the heart are a safeguard, &c.

2. Recommends religion (Mat ).

3. It attended with happiness. Deliverance from guilt, fear, &c. Experience of the joy of salvation, &c.

4. Inspires confidence in God.

5. Strengthens hope in God.

6. Inspires praise to God. "I will sing and give praise."

CONCLUSION.—Learn—

1. The importance of the heart being right with God.

2. The importance of a correct acquaintance with the principles of religion.

3. The importance of religious decision. Indecision is dangerous (Matt. 12, 30).—Abridged from an unpublished MS.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 57:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/psalms-57.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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