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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Psalms 83



Verses 1-18


This is the last of the Psalms of Asaph. If the Psalm refers to the times of Jehoshaphat, the author was probably "Jahaziel, a Levite of the sons of Asaph," upon whom "came the Spirit of the Lord in the midst of the congregation" (2Ch ). In the 19th verse we read that "The Levites stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with a loud voice on high." Probably this was the Psalm which they sung.

Occasion.—Hengstenberg says, "There is no room for doubt as to the historical occasion of the Psalm. It refers to the war of Jehoshaphat against the allied Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, and other nations, and forms the earliest as to subject of a series of cognate Psalms. While it makes mention of the help of God in the midst of danger, the 47th Psalm was sung, after the discomfiture of the enemy, on the field of battle, and the 48th, at the thanksgiving service in the temple. This view has been taken by all commentators, except those who have been prevented from arriving at the truth by some prejudice, such as that all the Psalms of Asaph were composed in David's time, or that the narrative at 2 Chronicles 20 is not historically correct." Alexander, Perowne, and Spurgeon held the above view.


Amyraldus writes,—"The Psalm may be applied now to the enemies of the Christian Church, of which Israel was the type. The most important and formidable of these are assuredly sin and Satan, from whom we most especially long to be delivered." Regarding the Psalm thus, in the peril of Israel we have an illustration of the peril of the Church of Christ, and in the prayer of Israel an illustration (in some respects) of the prayer of the Church of Christ.

I. The peril of the Church. The peril of Israel at this time arose from her enemies, who had banded themselves together to make war against her and destroy her power. Several things in the disposition and conduct of the confederate forces are here mentioned which would make their hostility formidable.

1. Their hostility was violent. "For, Io, Thine enemies make a tumult." They were loud and clamorous in their opposition to Israel, and were rushing on tumultuously to accomplish the destruction of the people of God. There have been times in the history of the Church of Christ when violent opposition has been directed against her. In the apostolic age how tumultuous were her foes! And how they raged in the time of the Roman emperors! Such enemies as Voltaire and Tom Paine have been loud in their opposition to Christianity.

2. Their hostility was confident. "They that hate Thee have lifted up the head." In dismay or penitence the head is bowed down; in courage and confidence it is lifted up. The enemies of Israel proudly lifted up their heads, feeling assured of success. Their vast numbers, and compact unity, and great power, seemed to them to place their triumph far beyond question. And so men have felt confident that they could destroy the Church of Christ, and have published abroad their intention and power to do so, and to do so speedily—with what results the existence, position, and power of the Church to-day declare.

3. Their hostility was crafty. "They have taken crafty counsel against Thy people, and consulted against Thy hidden ones." They were not only strong in power, but subtle in strategy also. Their plans were matured with much care and cunning. And Satan and his emissaries, in seeking to destroy the Church of our Lord, put forth all their skill in the formation of their schemes of operation. The Church has to contend against Satanic cunning as well as against Satanic power. "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." "That old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world." "Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light."

4. Their hostility aimed at the utter ruin of Israel. "They said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance." They did not merely aim at arresting the progress or crippling the power of Israel. Nothing would satisfy them but the utter destruction of the chosen people. They seek to cut off both root and branch from the face of the earth, leaving of them not even a memorial. Such is the aim of Satan and his allies against the Christian Church. They would banish all true religion from the world. Every Christian temple they would pervert into a "synagogue of Satan;" every godly man they would cut off; all religious literature they would destroy. This has been attempted by means of persecution. But persecution purified and strengthened the Church. The foes of the Church are now seeking her overthrow by corruption and error working within. Ritualism and Rationalism are doing their part towards the destruction of the Church. The rash and hasty conclusions of scientists, and the conceited dogmatism of the professors of "the higher criticism," are arrayed against the Book. But the Book and the Church are unconquerable, indestructible. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against" the Church of Christ.

5. Their hostility was united. "They have consulted together with one consent; they are confederate against Thee." There was unanimity in their counsels. Their mutual hostilities they laid in abeyance, that they might unite in one irresistible and all-conquering army. They solemnly covenanted together to seek the destruction of the Hebrews. And there is unity amongst the enemies of the Church in the matter of opposing her and seeking her overthrow. The Jews and Romans, hostile in other respects, united against Christ. The Sanhedrim, Pilate, Herod, and the people all united in opposition to Him. "Of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together." This is an illustration of the opposition of the world and the devil to the Church in our own day. Opposed in other things, the unchristian world is united in this.

6. Their hostility was powerful. No less than ten nations were joined in this confederacy against Israel. "Edom, the Ishmaelites, Moab, the Hagarenes, Gebal, Amon, Amalek, the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre, Assur also." All the nations bordering on Palestine had joined the confederacy, so that the chosen people were quite surrounded by enemies. And some of these enemies were very powerful, so that they felt confident of complete triumph. And Israel turned to God in prayer for help as to their only resource. The enemies of the Christian Church are many and mighty. Satan is strong, subtle, and numerously supported. Sin is strong. Many forms of evil are united against the Church. The lusts of the flesh, drunkenness, gluttony, uncleanness, the greed of gold, the ruinous absorption of mind and heart in temporal and material things, the frivolities of fashionable life, the vices of fast life, the assaults of dishonest scepticism, the miserable negations of atheism, and the corruptions within the Church itself, all tend to its overthrow. Yet the Church, loyally trusting in God, is stronger than all her foes. They may assault her, but their assaults will be like those of the tumultuous waves which furiously dash against a rock-bound coast to be hurled back as if in calm contempt.

It is noteworthy that in this statement of their trouble and danger the poet represents the enemies of Israel as the enemies of God, the confederacy against Israel as a confederacy against God, and the people of Israel as the people of God. Thus they identify their cause and interest with God's. Their foes hated the laws and religion of God; and in striking at His people, they were striking at His kingdom in this world. The strength of the Church is in her oneness with God. When she is loyal to Him, He saith to her persecutors, "Why persecutest thou Me?" No weapon that is formed against her shall prosper.

II. The prayer of the Church. "Keep not Thou silence, O God: hold not Thy peace, and be not still, O God.… Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin," &c.

The people here pray—

1. For the interposition of God. "Keep not Thou silence, O God: hold not Thy peace, and be not still, O God." There are times when God seems as though He did not observe the circumstances and needs of His people, or as though He were not concerned for their prosperity or safety. He stands as it were aside, taking no part in their affairs. His people here pray that He would not thus treat them on this occasion, but that He would speak in mighty deeds, and arouse Himself for their help and defence. The prayer of this verse is clearly an urgent one. The brevity and rapidity and repetition of the request, all indicate the imminence of the need and the earnestness of the desire. It is well when the Church in her dangers betakes herself to the throne of grace to implore the help of God. Not in the wealth of her material resources, not in the wisdom and eloquence of her leaders, not in the patronage of parliaments and princes, but in the presence and power of God in her midst, is the Church's true and sure defence against her foes.

2. For the utter destruction of their foes. "Do unto them as unto the Midianites, as to Sisera, as to Jabin," &c. (Psa ). These petitions are evidently for their utter destruction. The confederate foes of Israel had agreed to seek her utter ruin, and now in her turn Israel pleads with God that He would terrify, trouble, and completely destroy them. (On the imprecations (Psa 83:9-17) see our remarks on Psa 69:22-28; and the quotation from Perowne on pp. 163, 164.) The Church of Christ should both pray and work for the destruction of her enemies. We would destroy the wicked by destroying their wickedness. We would that all sinners were exterminated by their being regenerated into saints. We would that all the enemies of the Lord were destroyed by becoming loyal to Him.

3. For the confusion of their foes. It seems strange to pray for the confusion of their foes after having prayed for their complete destruction. Yet this is done in the Psalm. "Fill their faces with shame: let them be confounded and troubled for ever." The prayer is that the schemes of the enemies may be thwarted, their purposes defeated, their designs baffled, their plans all overturned; and that with shame and trouble their confederacy may be broken up for ever. This is a very fitting prayer for the Christian Church. It is both wise and right, our duty and interest, to pray that the counsels of the wicked may be frustrated, the designs of hell baffled, and all the politics of the enemies of the Church confounded.

4. For the submission of their foes to God. "That they may seek Thy name, O Lord." The context will not allow us to interpret this as a seeking of the friendship and favour of God. It means simply, that they may seek Thee in forced submission, being able to hold out no longer. But we who have learned of Christ may urge this petition with a much higher and diviner meaning. It is ours to pray that the plans of the enemies of God and of His Church may be baffled, that so they might be led to know and trust Him. May their wicked plans be brought to confusion that they might be brought to conversion.

5. For the glory of the Divine name. "That men may know that Thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the Most High over all the earth." The context compels us to regard the knowledge and acknowledgment as not voluntary, but forced. The prayer is that God would so display His power against the foes of Israel that men would be compelled to acknowledge His supremacy in the earth. So, but with a fuller and higher meaning, let the Christian Church pray for the universal diffusion of the knowledge of the glory of God.

The subject preaches its own conclusion. We are surrounded by a host of foes; "we have no might against the great company that cometh against us." But the Lord of Hosts is with us. Through Him we shall do valiantly. Onward, Christian soldiers, in God's name; and ye shall be "more than conquerors through Him."


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

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 83:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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Saturday, January 18th, 2020
the First Week after Epiphany
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