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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Psalms 69



Verses 1-36


Superscription.—"To the chief musician upon Shoshannim, a Psalm of David."

"To the chief musician." See the introduction to Psalms 57. "Upon Shoshannim. See the introduction to Psalms 45. "A Psalm of David." The Davidic authorship of this Psalm is strongly supported by its close resemblance to other Psalms which are ascribed to David. Both in thought and language it is nearly related to Psalms 6, 22, 31, 35, 38, 40, 109. Ewald: "Our Psalm manifests such a strong similarity, not in the least proceeding from imitation, to Psalms 35, 38, , 40, that it must have been composed by the same author." And Hitzig: "The author of the 40th Psalm, whoever he was, must be identically the same with the author of the 69th." And again: "The similarity between Psa and Psa 22:26, can only be explained by the assumption, that they have been the product of the same mind."

We are unable to determine on what occasion in the life of David the Psalm was composed. Probably it belongs to the time of the rebellion of Absalom. With the exception of the 22d, there is no Psalm which is so frequently quoted and applied to Jesus Christ in the New Testament as this one. But the quotations are not of such a character as to require us to adopt a direct Messianic interpretation. They are, as Barnes points out, "of so general a character that they do not seem to have been designed to refer exclusively to the Messiah, or even to have had any original reference to Him. The language is such that it would accurately describe the events to which it is applied; and the fact that the language is quoted in this manner in the New Testament history does not prove that the Psalm had any original reference to the Messiah." A most formidable ojection against the direct Messianic exposition is found in the confession of folly and guilt in Psa . Hengstenberg interprets the Psalm as referring not to any individual sufferer, but to the ideal person of the suffering righteous man.

Homiletically we view the psalm as presenting to us, The cry of the righteous in extreme suffering, Psa ; The imperfection of the righteous in extreme suffering, Psa 69:22-28; and The hope of the righteous in extreme suffering, Psa 69:29-36.


(Psa .)

The burden of this cry is twofold. We have—

I. A cry of suffering. In this wail of the Psalmist we discover—

1. The nature of his sufferings. He represents them as arising from

(1) The persecution of his enemies. "They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away." We see here ( α) Their multitude. "They are more than the hairs of mine head." His foes were an innumerable host. Countless are the enemies of the good. ( β) Their malice. "They hate me; they would destroy me." They hated him so fiercely that they sought his utter destruction. "The devil was a murderer from the beginning." ( γ) Their might. "Mine enemies are mighty." The foes of David were great in authority and power. The righteous have to contend "against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." ( δ) Their injustice. They hated him "without a cause;" they were his "enemies wrongfully." The Psalmist had done nothing to provoke them to anger. They compelled him to give up his own possessions as though he had no right to them, or had gotten them by fraud or violence. Malice is always unjust. It is better to suffer the worst from unjust enemies than by wrong-doing to give to any one reason to be to us an enemy. Such were the enemies who persecuted the Psalmist. And the form of persecution of which he complains most is slander. "I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.… I became a proverb" (byword) "to them. They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards.… Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour.… Reproach hath broken my heart." David suffered much from the wicked aspersions and calumnies of his enemies. (See "The Hom. Com." on Psa ; Psa 42:2; Psa 42:10, &c) To an honourable man nothing is more bitter and painful than reproach and slander. At this time the Psalmist was smarting severely beneath it. It seemed to assail him in every form and from every quarter. The men of business and the magistrates, who assembled in the gates, spake evil of him. And the drunkard in his degrading revels sang in derision of him. Reproach, shame, dishonour covered and crushed him. And still the good are exposed to the assaults of the slanderer. "Virtue itself 'scapes not calumnious strokes."

"Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,

Thou shalt not escape calumny."


And still slander assumes many forms, and has many methods; and of these the most subtle are the most perilous.

"The hint malevolent, the look oblique,

The obvious satire, or implied dislike,

The sneer equivocal, the harsh reply,

And all the cruel language of the eye;

The artful injury, whose venomed dart

Scarce wounds the hearing, while it stabs the heart;

The guarded phrase whose meaning kills, yet told,

The list'ner wonders how you thought it cold."—Hannah More.

Such are some of the forms and methods of slander. But the sufferings of the Psalmist arose also from

(2) The desertion of his nearest relatives. "I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children." The expression, "my mother's children," denotes the most intimate relationship. Barnes: "In families where a man had many wives, as was common among the Hebrews, the nearest relationship would be denoted by being of the same mother rather than of the same father. The idea of the Psalmist here, therefore, is, that his nearest relatives treated him as if he were a stranger and a foreigner." (Com. Job .) It is probable that in the time of Saul David passed through this painful experience. (Comp. 1Sa 17:28; Psa 27:10; and Psa 38:11.) And still a man may be forsaken by the nearest relatives and friends because he follows truth and righteousness; or he may have to forsake them that he might cleave to Christ. (See Mat 10:34-39.) The Psalmist was suffering also because of

(3) The failure of human sympathy. "I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none." Hengstenberg: "I wait for sympathy, and there is none." "The word sympathy," says Perowne, "has nowhere been employed by our translators, but it exactly conveys the force of the Hebrew word, inasmuch as it is used of sympathy in joy as well as in sorrow." (See Job ; Jer 15:5; Jer 16:5; Jer 48:17.) No heart was moved with compassion for the suffering poet. He felt himself to be utterly forsaken by mankind. Terrible was his sense of desolation. Worse even than this did men treat him. When he was hungry and thirsty they mocked him by giving him for food a bitter and poisonous herb, and for drink vinegar. By this figure the Psalmist expresses the addition and intensification of his already severe sufferings. The inhumanity of men towards him aggravates his misery. The words of Psa 69:20-21 might have been used by "the Messiah upon the cross, who bore the shame of an ignominious death, the reproaches of violating the law, and the slanders of wicked enemies, who died broken-hearted, with no one to pity, alone in His shame and woe," and to whom upon the cross was given sour wine with an infusion of myrrh, and afterwards vinegar, when He had cried, "I thirst." Let no one place much dependence upon human sympathy or support, or bitter will be his disappointment. But "there is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother." "I will be with thee; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." Let us trust Him always and fully.

2. The severity of his sufferings. This is seen in at least four things—

(1) The various figures by which they are expressed. "The waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me." (For remarks on the figures here employed see "The Hom. Com." on Psa ; and Psa 42:7.) In this psalm the Poet represents the waters as "having come even to his soul," thereby placing his very life in imminent peril. Trouble was not only without him, but within him. His soul was suffering. "The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?" The Psalmist also speaks of himself as heart-broken. "Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness." Barnes: "Distress may become so great that life may sink under it, for many die of what is called ‘a broken heart.' Undeserved reproaches will be as likely to produce this result on a sensitive heart as any form of suffering; and there are thousands who are crushed to the earth by such reproaches."

(2) The extremity of his peril. The waters having come even to his soul, his rapid sinking in the mire of the depth, the floods which are overwhelming him, and his broken heart, all indicate the extremity of peril and need. If God do not speedily interpose for him, his sufferings will utterly crush him. If the Divine help come not quickly, it will come too late.

(3) The long-continued duration of his sufferings. "I am weary of my crying; my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God." He had called upon God so long and earnestly that his strength was exhausted and his throat was parched. He had waited and watched for God so long that his eyes were worn out and dim. Hengstenberg: "The eyes fail: lose their power of vision, when a person keeps them long on the stretch, fixed upon a distant object, in hope of its coming nearer, till the outlines become better defined." M. Henry: "His throat is dried, but his heart is not; his eyes fail, but his faith does not."

(4) The connection of his sufferings with his religion. "Because for Thy sake I have borne reproach," &c., Psa . He was reproached for his fidelity to truth and to God. His interest in the cause of God was deep and ardent. "The seal of Thine house hath eaten me up." The house of God is not the mere temple; but "the temple, as the centre of the whole Israelitish religion." "The true and godly zeal," says Bishop Jewell, "eateth and devoureth up the heart, even as the thing that is eaten is turned into the substance of him that eateth it; and as iron, while it is burning hot, is turned into the nature of the fire, so great and so just is the grief that they which have this zeal conceive when they see God's house spoiled, or His holy name dishonoured." Such was David's zeal for the cause and kingdom of God; and because of it he was ridiculed by the drunkards, reviled by his enemies, and forsaken by his nearest friends and relatives. When he penitently mourned with fasting and sackcloth on account of sin, he was assailed with more bitter reproaches and scorn and satire. All this greatly aggravated his sufferings. Moll: "It is better to suffer for God's cause than to be punished for sins, but it is not easier." Such were the sufferings that called forth this sharp and bitter cry from David. Let not the good man think it strange if he is called to experience severe suffering because of his attachment to Christ and His cause. In such sufferings we join the highest fellowship, and receive the most tender and strong support (See 1Pe 4:12-16.)

II. A cry of supplication. In the prayer of the Psalmist we have—

1. A confession. "O God, Thou knowest my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from Thee." Moll: "How is it consistent that one should be persecuted as innocent and yet punished as a sinner?" Hengstenberg: "The words are to be taken in their obvious sense, as an acknowledgment of guilt on the part of the Psalmist, which, according to the just judgment of God, had brought upon him the unjust persecution of his enemies." Barnes: "Though conscious of innocence in this case—though he felt that his enemies hated him without cause, yet he was not insensible to the fact that he was a sinner, and he was not unwilling to confess before God, that, however conscious of uprightness he might be in his dealings towards men, yet towards God he was a sinful man. From Him he deserved all that had come upon him.… Trial never comes to us from any quarter except as founded on the fact that we are sinners; and even where there is entire innocence towards our fellow-men, God may make use of their passions to rebuke and discipline us for our sins towards Himself."

2. Petitions. Of these there are several, but the great object of them all is expressed in the first line of the Psalm—"Save me, O God." He supplicates—

(1.) Complete deliverance. "Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink; let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the water-flood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me." Thus he seeks deliverance from all the perils and miseries of which he had previously complained.

(2.) Speedy deliverance. "Hear me speedily." Margin: "Make haste to hear me." Conant: "Make haste to answer me." The peril of his situation was extreme. His need of salvation was urgent. If the Divine interposition were delayed, he felt that he should perish. There are times when such urgency of entreaty is not only admissible, but natural and commendable.

(3.) Representative deliverance. "Let none that wait on Thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake; let not those that seek Thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel." Hengstenberg: "Comp. on Psa , ‘Those who wait on Thee shall not be ashamed, those shall be put to shame who act perfidiously without a cause.' This position would be annihilated were the sufferer to be destroyed. For in him as their representative, or in his case, through his fate, all who wait on God would at the same time be put to shame." Moll: "He may hope in God's favour and help the more confidently as many of the pious look upon him and his fate as typical and instructive.… All the pious are interested in what concerns one of them." If he were left to perish the faith of the godly would receive a terrible shock; but if he were delivered it would be confirmed and invigorated.

3. Encouragements. The Psalmist encourages himself in his prayer by several inspiring considerations.

(1.) The knowledge of God. "Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour; mine adversaries are all before Thee." (a.) He knew the Psalmist—his distress, helplessness, extremity, need. Blessed be His name, suffering and persecution can never drive us beyond the region of His perfect knowledge. (b.) He knew the adversaries of the Psalmist—their multitude, might, malice, machinations. In circumstances like those of the Psalmist reflection on the omniscience of God is most comforting and faith-inspiring to the godly.

(2.) The power of God. "Lord God of hosts." The title indicates His omnipotence. He is the sovereign of countless and invincible armies. "They that be with us are more than they that be with them." "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

(3.) The fidelity of God in His relation to His people. "O God of Israel." He has engaged in solemn covenant to succour and save His own people. So David pleads, "Hear me in the truth of Thy salvation." The promises of salvation which He has made to those who wait upon Him are charged with encouragement to His people in time of trial.

(4.) The mercy of God. His kindness is abundantly calculated to quicken and strengthen confidence in Him. The Psalmist makes mention of (a.) Its excellence. "Thy loving-kindness is good." Perowne: "‘Good,' i.e., either sweet, comforting, as in Psa , or gracious, χρηστός (comp. Psa 119:21)." His kindnesses are loving kindnesses; His mercies are tender mercies. "How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God!" (b.) Its abundance. Twice the poet pleads "the multitude of God's mercies. His mercy is rich and plenteous and free. M. Henry: "There is mercy in God, a multitude of mercies, all kinds of mercy, inexhaustible mercy, mercy enough for all, enough for each; and hence we must take our encouragement in praying." Moll: "He who relies in prayer upon the mercy and truth of God, has the surest foundation for his salvation, and the best pledges of the hearing of his prayer."


(Psa .)

The godly man is not turned aside from his prayers because of the reproaches and scoffs of men. Men reviled and ridiculed David because of his religious exercises; but be was not driven from them. "But as for me," he says, "my prayer is unto Thee, O Lord," &c. "Though we may be jeered for well-doing, we must never be jeered out of it." By reason of the scoffings of his enemies, the Psalmist is impelled to seek help in prayer the more persistently and earnestly. As persecution and trials increase, the frequency and fervour of our prayers should also increase. Our text brings before us,

I. The one true object of prayer. "My prayer is unto Thee, O Lord." It is essential that the true object of the prayers of men should be—

1. Infinite in intelligence. He must be able to hear the whispers and perceive the desires of all men everywhere. Such intelligence has the Lord God. (See Psa ; Eze 11:5, et al.) He hears prayer.

2. Approachable. Not far removed from His creatures; but accessible to every one of them. Not repulsive, but attractive. Such is God as revealed in Jesus Christ. (See Joh ; Eph 2:18; Eph 3:12.)

3. Entreatable. Man needs not only to be heard, but to be answered also. God can and does answer prayer. Prayer has a real place and function in the Divine economy. "I have a sphere in which," says Dr. Robert Vaughan, "I can use natural law so that good shall come out of it. By an act of my will, giving command to my muscular skill and force, I can wrest a dagger from the hand of an assassin, or can save a drowning man from his apparent doom. The things of this sort which I can do are numberless; and am I thus free to act in relation to these laws, and has the Almighty no freedom to act in His relation to them? Has He so constructed this great system that it has become His tomb, in which He sleeps the sleep of death, while man lays his living hand upon law everywhere, and makes it do his bidding? The instinct of man through all lands and all time is on the side of prayer, and that instinct cannot be a falsehood—it must embody a truth." Prayer and answers to prayer are great facts in the experience of godly men. (See Psa ; Pro 15:29; Isa 65:24; Mic 7:7; Mat 7:7-11; 1Jn 5:14-15.)

II. The season of prayer. "An acceptable time." Conant: "A time of acceptance." Moll: "A time of good pleasure." Hengstenberg: "A time of grace." He presented his prayer to God at a favourable season.

1. When we suffer wrongfully is such a season. The Psalmist felt this at this time. No time for prayer can be more acceptable to God, than when we are suffering persecution for righteousness' sake.

2. When our need is great and greatly felt. M. Henry: "God will not drive us from Him, though it is need that drives us to Him; nay, it is the more acceptable, because the misery and distress of God's people make them so much the more the objects of His pity: it is seasonable for Him to help them when all other helps fail, and they are undone, and feel that they are undone, if He do not help them."

3. When our desire for spiritual blessings is intense. At such seasons God is very near to us to enrich us with the treasures of His grace. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled."

4. While the overtures of Divine grace are made to us. The time of acceptance is that in which God makes His grace known in the offer of His salvation. "Thus saith the Lord in an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee." "To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord," &c. "Behold, now is the accepted time," &c. The time of acceptance may pass away, and be succeeded by the time of rejection. "Then they shall call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me early, but they shall not find Me." Therefore, "seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near."

III. The great encouragements in prayer. "O God, in the multitude of Thy mercy, hear me, in the truth of Thy salvation." The Psalmist here pleads—

1. The abounding mercy of God. Our hope is in God's mercy.

(1.) Because we have no merit which we can plead in prayer.

(2.) Because of the essential nature of mercy. Mercy is that in God which disposes Him to save the sinful and succour the suffering. "Mercy hath but its name from misery and is no other thing than to lay another's misery to heart." And

(3.) Because of the fulness of the mercy of God. It is inexhaustible, infinite. He "is rich in mercy."

2. The saving truth of God. "Hear me, in the truth of Thy salvation." He has promised salvation to all who trust in Him. He is unchangeable. He will fulfil His promises.

In our prayers to God let us hopefully plead His rich mercy and firm truth, and gracious answers shall be ours.


(Psa .)

Let us hear what others have to say concerning the terrible utterances of this section of the psalm. Professor Alexander says: "The imprecations in this verse

(22), and those following it, are revolting only when considered as the expression of malignant selfishness. If uttered by God they shock no reader's sensibilities, nor should they when considered as the language of an ideal person, representing the whole class of righteous sufferers, and particularly Him, who though He prayed for His murderers while dying (Luk ), had before applied the words of this very passage to the unbelieving Jews (Mat 23:38), as Paul did afterwards (Rom 11:9-10). The general doctrine of providential retribution, far from being confined to the Old Testament, is distinctly taught in many of our Saviour's parables. (See Mat 21:41; Mat 22:7; Mat 24:51)." And Professor Stuart; "Great difficulty is found in such passages by many minds, inasmuch as they seem to be so opposed to the tenor of those passages in the New Testament, which require us ‘to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who despitefully use and persecute us.' If indeed these passages in the Psalms are to be viewed as the mere utterance of private and personal wishes and feelings, it would be utterly impossible to reconcile them with the spirit of the gospel. But is this so? Is David, for example, when he utters such things, to be viewed as doing it merely in the way of giving utterance to his own private personal wishes? It seems to me not; but David, as king and magistrate, might wish the punishment of the seditious and rebellious; nay, it would be an imperious duty for him to punish them. Now, was it lawful for him to pray that the same thing might be done, which it was his duty to do? Could he not express desires of this nature without the spirit of revenge? Cannot we wish the robber and the assassin to be apprehended and punished, yea, with capital punishment, and this without being actuated by a spirit of vengeance and a thirst for blood? I trust such wishes are not only consistent with benevolence, but prompted by it. If so, then it may be true that David and other Psalmists had the like views and feelings. And if this may be so, is it not probable that it was so? is not the general character and spirit of their writings a pledge for this?"

We do not regard these statements as satisfactory. They certainly fail to remove the difficulties which many reverent and earnest students of the Sacred Scriptures find in these dread imprecations. Much more helpful, in our opinion, is the statement of Canon Perowne quoted on pp. 163 and 164 of this work.

Let us briefly consider—

I. The imprecations urged. We say imprecations, not predictions; because, as Perowne points out, "the Hebrew optative, which is distinct enough from the simple future, absolutely forbids" our regarding them as predictions.

1. That the pleasures of life may become a curse to them. "Let their table become a snare to them; and that which should have been for their welfare, a trap." Conant: "And to the secure for a trap." Hengstenberg: "And their peace, their fall." They had given to the Psalmist gall for his meat, and in his thirst vinegar for his drink; and he now prays that their season of refreshment, when they feel secure and look for pleasure, may be made a snare and a curse to them—" that the blessings of life may become fraught with death to" them.

2. That they may be deprived of understanding and strength. "Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake." Perowne: "The darkening of the eyes denotes weakness and perplexity, as the enlightening of the eyes (see Psa ) denotes renewed vigour and strength. Similarly the shaking of the loins is expressive of terror and dismay and feebleness (Nah 2:10; Dan 5:6). Or the first may mean the depriving of reason and understanding; the second, the taking away of all strength for action."

3. That they and theirs should be rooted out of the land. "Let their habitation be desolate; let none dwell in their tents." Let them and theirs perish from the earth.

4. That they may be confirmed in sin. "Add iniquity unto their iniquity; and let them not come into Thy righteousness." Perowne: "Let it all stand against them in Thy book, one sin after another, as committed, not being blotted out, but only swelling the fearful reckoning." (Comp. Jer .)

5. That they may be excluded from the kingdom and people of God. "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous." Moll: "The reference is to the book of God (Exo ), in which God Himself registers every one (Psa 87:4-6), who is appointed to life (Isa 4:3), and in this book (Dan 12:1), as the citizens of Israel in the genealogical tables" (Jer 22:30; Eze 13:9; comp. Luk 10:20; Php 4:3; Rev 3:5; Rev 13:8; Rev 17:8; Rev 21:27).

6. That God would pour upon them His severest wrath. "Pour out Thine indignation upon them, and let Thy wrathful anger take hold of them."

Such are the things that God is entreated to do to the wicked enemies of the Psalmist.

II. The reason assigned. "For they persecute him whom Thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom Thou hast wounded." Perowne: "The reason of the imprecation is given, because of the unpitying cruelty which delighted in adding to the pain and affliction of one whom God had already brought low—they tell as if they counted one by one every blow that fell upon him, every cry that he had uttered, only to turn it into mocking" (comp. Psa ; Psa 64:5). They persecuted when they should have pitied. Somewhat similar conduct greatly aggravated the sufferings of Job. "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me; O ye, my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me. Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh?"

This section of the Psalm impresses us with,

First—The imperfection of the best men. David was unquestionably one of the best of men; but his life has some foul stains upon it. And this Psalm shows that he was not a perfect man; for he here, as Moll says, "gets into such a carnal excitement, that while he does not contend with God or murmur against Him, but on the contrary, relies upon God, and calls upon Him, yet in hungry zeal he calls down the power of God to the judgment and ruin of those enemies who ignore it. This belongs to that folly and guilt, of which the Psalmist is conscious, and is neither to be extenuated nor recommended. For there is a very great difference between obligatory proclamation of the Divine judgment, morally justifiable assent to the unavoidable consequences of this judgment and holy joy in the victory of righteousness on the one side, and passionate imprecation, revengeful cursing, and an evilly disposed supplication for Divine judgment in order to the temporal ruin and everlasting destruction of certain persons, on the other side. In the latter case, man does not give over retribution to the all-wise and holy God, but of his own will and power interferes with the course of the just government of God, yes, really anticipates the final judgment. For this reason it is at least a zeal for God without knowledge, even when no revengeful motives come into play, and no personal interests are involved, but when the reference is to such men as put themselves in hostility to God and His word, sacraments, house, glory, and congregation. Even Jesus has not anticipated for individual cases the condemnatory decisions of the final judgment, but has merely proclaimed it as future, and indeed with the pain of love, and in connection with the purpose of His coming not to destroy the souls of men, but to save them. Accordingly, He censured His disciples for wishing to call down fire from heaven upon those who refused to receive Him (Luk ).… We have reason to examine ourselves earnestly, whether, in our zeal for God, there is more wrath against our enemies, than love to His person and care for the glory of His house." In estimating these imprecatory utterances of David, we are bound to remember the age in which they were penned. But when every allowance has been made it seems to us only too painfully clear, that the spirit which breathes in them is not good, but evil; not commendable, but reprehensible. In these terrible cursings of his enemies the Psalmist stands before us not as a pattern, but as a beacon; his example in this is not to be imitated, but shunned by us.

Second—The gradualness of the education of mankind. God has revealed His will and ways to men slowly, as they have been able to receive the revelation. It took long ages of teaching and experience before men were able to understand such precepts as, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you," &c. In the time of David men were by no means prepared to receive such teaching. In more than one way "the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." Legislation such as this—"life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, strife for strife," had an important place and work in educating humanity for higher things. The Mosaic legislation helped to prepare man for the Sermon on the Mount. The Jewish Temple was indispensable as a preparation for the Christian Church.

Third—The truth of the Sacred Scriptures. The fact that we find utterances like these imprecations in the Bible, so far from militating against its inspiration, is to our mind rather an evidence of such inspiration. Both in historic record and religious poem it faithfully sets forth the sayings and doings of men. When Abraham, "the friend of God," manifests a strange want of faith in Him, and is not strictly truthful, such failures are impartially recorded. When David, "the man after God's own heart," commits both adultery and murder, the perpetration of these crimes is set down against him, without any attempt to extenuate his guilt. And when the Hebrew religious poets manifest improper feelings and utter improper sentiments; when they give expression to unworthy doubts and fears, or to sinful anger and passionate revenge, such passages are not pruned off the poems, nor are the poems themselves excluded from the volume. This appears to us an evidence of the truth and trustworthiness of the Bible. And so in these ancient Psalms we have the real utterances of holy men, setting forth their joys and sorrows, their doubts and confidences, their triumphs and temporary defeats, their sinful passions and holy aspirations. Such a book meets a great need of the heart and life of the religious man. And as a fact, this Book of Psalms, giving utterance to these various feelings of the religious heart, has been for long ages and still is one of the choicest and most helpful treasures of all godly souls.


(Psa .)

The Psalmist passes from terrible imprecations to triumphant anticipations, from passionate revenge to pious hope. Notice—

I. The object of this hope, or what it was that he hoped for.

1. As regards himself. "But I am poor and sorrowful; let Thy salvation, O God, set me up on high." He looks in confidence to God for deliverance from his afflicted and mournful condition, and for exaltation to a condition of safety above the reach of his enemies, and the fury of the floods of trial. All righteous sufferers shall certainly in due time be delivered from all their sorrows, &c.

2. As regards the Church. "For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah, that they may dwell there, and have it in possession. The seed also of His servants shall inherit it; and they that love His name shall dwell therein." We regard Zion as an illustration of the Church of God. In his great and assured hope, the Psalmist announces

(1) Its preservation. "God will save Zion." The Church may be threatened and opposed, but it shall not be overcome; "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

(2) Its progress. "And will build the cities of Judah." David looked forward to the success and prosperity of the chosen people. The Church of God has a glorious future—a future of prosperity and increase in purity, possessions, power, &c. Its past history, its present position, and the Divine promises unite to assure the Church of increasing progress, and of complete triumph ultimately.

(3) Its perpetuity. "That they may dwell there, and have it in possession. The seed also," &c. God will protect His people from generation to generation. Empires once powerful have passed away; heathen religions which once inspired the reverence or awakened the dread of countless multitudes of souls, have perished from amongst men; scientific and philosophical systems which for a long time appeared to be indisputable and permanent, have departed for ever. But the Church of God shall never pass away; for its life of truth and righteousness and love is by its very nature imperishable and immortal.

II. The ground of this hope. The Psalmist rests his assured expectation of salvation on the fact that "the Lord heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners." "The poor" are those who are in circumstances of distress and want. The "prisoners" are either those whom He has visited with severe suffering, as in Psa , or those who are suffering for His sake, as in Psa 69:7. David doubtless includes himself as at this time amongst the needy and the prisoners. God regards such sufferers with pity, and sends them help when they cry unto Him. A hope of salvation which is based, as this is, on the gracious regard of God for His afflicted people shall surely be fulfilled in the case of every righteous sufferer.

III. The influence of this hope.

1. It enables him to anticipate his own salvation. In the midst of his suffering he looks forward to it with assured and joyous confidence; and resolves, as though it were already enjoyed, "I will praise the name of God with a song," &c. Very great and blessed is the power of such a hope. "We are saved by hope."

2. It impels him to summon the universe to praise God. "Let the heaven and earth praise Him, the seas, and everything that moveth therein." The Psalmist feels his own utter insufficiency worthily to set forth the praise of God, and, therefore, he calls upon all things everywhere, animate and inanimate, to unite in the celebration.

IV. The anticipated result of the fulfilment of this hope. This is twofold—

1. The Psalmist will worship God, Psa .

(1) With spiritual offerings. "I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving." Barnes: "As the result of my deliverance, I will compose a song or a psalm especially adapted to the occasion, and fitted to express and perpetuate my feelings. It was in such circumstances that a large part of the psalms were composed; and since others besides the Psalmist are often in such circumstances, the Book of Psalms becomes permanently useful in the Church." The worship resolved upon by the Psalmist is ( α) Joyful—"praise.… with a song." ( β) Grateful—"with thanksgiving."

(2) Such worship is more acceptable to God than the most costly material sacrifices. "This also shall please the Lord better than ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs." Perowne: "The epithets are not merely otiose. The first is mentioned in order to mark that the animal was not under three years old, and therefore of the proper age according to the law; the last as intimating that it belonged to the class of clean four-footed animals, parting the hoof (Leviticus 11); and the meaning is, that the most perfect and valuable of the sacrifices ordained by the law was not to be compared to the sacrifice of a grateful heart." (See "The Hom. Com." on Psa ; Psa 50:7-15; Psa 51:15-17.)

2. The pious will be encouraged. "The humble shall see this, and be glad; and your heart shall live that seek God." The exhibition of the power and faithfulness and goodness of God in delivering His suffering servant, would strengthen the faith, revive the courage, and promote the joy of all godly souls. The deliverance of one is an earnest of the full salvation of all.

Let the suffering righteous seek for and exercise a hope like this of the Psalmist.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 69:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 3rd, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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