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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Psalms 83

 

 

Verses 1-18

Psalms 83:1-18

Keep not Thou silence, O God: hold not Thy peace, and be not still, O God.

An appeal to Heaven

I. A lamentable social scene (Psalms 83:2-8). The scene is that of men in tumultuous hostility both to God and His people. They appear developing all the leading characteristics of sin.

1. Boisterous. They “make a tumult.” Sin is agitation. There is no serenity in it, no repose.

2. Haughty.. “Have lifted up the head.” They were bold, arrogant, defiant. The evil spirit is described by Milton as “defying the Omnipotent to arms.” Sin intoxicates the soul with vanity and daring.

3. Intriguing (Psalms 83:3). Sin works insidiously, and with all the subtilty of the serpent. It is never open, frank, and straightforward; it is artful and scheming.

4. Malignant (Psalms 83:4). It is always in mischief. “The poison of asps,” etc.

5. Antitheistic. “They have consulted together,” etc. It is all against God.

6. Widespread. “The tabernacles of Edom,” etc.

II. A reprehensible religious prayer. In this prayer there is--

1. A savage revenge (Psalms 83:13), etc.

2. Pious abomination. Their destruction is here invoked, what for? In order “that they may seek Thy name, O Lord.” On what principle, either in ethics, or conscience, or sound philosophy, can such a prayer be justified? To me, I confess, it appears to be malice, inhumanity, and ungodliness in its worst aspect. (Homilist.)

Mental tendencies in relation to God

These words reveal two tendencies in the human mind in relation to the Creator.

I. A necessary tendency. By this, I mean, the tendency to think of our Maker as like unto ourselves. The psalmist here imagines Him to be silent and inactive, two conditions Which belong to ourselves, but which are impossible to Him. Indeed, we cannot think of God in any other way. We invest Him with our own attributes, and thus we humanify Him. Hence, how infinitely more glorious is the God which Christ adored and revealed, to the God which even the best men ever had, even the prophet and the apostles. This fact--

1. Accounts for the conflicting theologies of men.

2. Argues the necessity for following Christ. If we would reach exalted ideas of the Great Father, we must study and imitate His Blessed Son.

II. A culpable tendency. The culpable tendency indicated here is twofold.

1. A practical ignorement of God’s unremitting communications and activity. “Keep not thou silence, O God.” Silent! He is never silent. He speaks in all the sounds of nature, in all the events of history, in all the monitions of reason.

2. A proneness to regard Him as indifferent to us because we are in trouble. The psalmist seemed to think that because he and his countrymen were in great trial, the Almighty was silent and indifferent. How often is this the case with us all! How often we are inclined to think in affliction that our Maker has forsaken us! (Homilist.)


Verses 1-18

Psalms 83:1-18

Keep not Thou silence, O God: hold not Thy peace, and be not still, O God.

An appeal to Heaven

I. A lamentable social scene (Psalms 83:2-8). The scene is that of men in tumultuous hostility both to God and His people. They appear developing all the leading characteristics of sin.

1. Boisterous. They “make a tumult.” Sin is agitation. There is no serenity in it, no repose.

2. Haughty.. “Have lifted up the head.” They were bold, arrogant, defiant. The evil spirit is described by Milton as “defying the Omnipotent to arms.” Sin intoxicates the soul with vanity and daring.

3. Intriguing (Psalms 83:3). Sin works insidiously, and with all the subtilty of the serpent. It is never open, frank, and straightforward; it is artful and scheming.

4. Malignant (Psalms 83:4). It is always in mischief. “The poison of asps,” etc.

5. Antitheistic. “They have consulted together,” etc. It is all against God.

6. Widespread. “The tabernacles of Edom,” etc.

II. A reprehensible religious prayer. In this prayer there is--

1. A savage revenge (Psalms 83:13), etc.

2. Pious abomination. Their destruction is here invoked, what for? In order “that they may seek Thy name, O Lord.” On what principle, either in ethics, or conscience, or sound philosophy, can such a prayer be justified? To me, I confess, it appears to be malice, inhumanity, and ungodliness in its worst aspect. (Homilist.)

Mental tendencies in relation to God

These words reveal two tendencies in the human mind in relation to the Creator.

I. A necessary tendency. By this, I mean, the tendency to think of our Maker as like unto ourselves. The psalmist here imagines Him to be silent and inactive, two conditions Which belong to ourselves, but which are impossible to Him. Indeed, we cannot think of God in any other way. We invest Him with our own attributes, and thus we humanify Him. Hence, how infinitely more glorious is the God which Christ adored and revealed, to the God which even the best men ever had, even the prophet and the apostles. This fact--

1. Accounts for the conflicting theologies of men.

2. Argues the necessity for following Christ. If we would reach exalted ideas of the Great Father, we must study and imitate His Blessed Son.

II. A culpable tendency. The culpable tendency indicated here is twofold.

1. A practical ignorement of God’s unremitting communications and activity. “Keep not thou silence, O God.” Silent! He is never silent. He speaks in all the sounds of nature, in all the events of history, in all the monitions of reason.

2. A proneness to regard Him as indifferent to us because we are in trouble. The psalmist seemed to think that because he and his countrymen were in great trial, the Almighty was silent and indifferent. How often is this the case with us all! How often we are inclined to think in affliction that our Maker has forsaken us! (Homilist.)


Verse 3-4

Psalms 83:3-4

They have taken crafty counsel against Thy people, and consulted against Thy hidden ones.

The enmity of the wicked against the Church

I. The enmity which the wicked bear to the Church of God, and from whence it proceeds.

1. This proceeds from the craft and policy, the malice of the Devil, who, being a competitor with God for dominion in the world, and whose whole design it is to defeat Him in the good that He would do for mankind, doth perpetually labour to put a stop to whatever may be offered toward the delivering of the souls of men out of his snare.

2. It proceeds from the restless temper of wicked men, whose minds are set upon mischief, and that do catch at all opportunities for it.

3. It proceeds from the interest of wicked men (Psalms 83:3).

4. It may proceed from the excellency of a Church, when it doth outshine them in the best and truest perfections, and that true goodness and substantial piety is there taught and practised.

5. It may proceed from the disposal of Divine Providence, that for the punishing of the sins of a Church, doth not only suffer others to aft]let her, but turn their displeasure that way.

II. In what ways they show this enmity, and what course they take to afflict and destroy the Church.

1. Slandering their adversaries, and raising false reports of them.

2. Dividing the Church, and setting one part of it against the other.

3. Downright force.

III. The confidence they have of success. This may proceed from the review which they have of their own policy and strength, and from the observation which they make of the weakness of their adversaries; weak, perhaps, of themselves; weaker, perhaps, with their divisions; weak because they are secure, and not aware of an assault; and weak because they have made no provision against it. Confident again they may be of success because the design lies out of sight.

IV. The course by which the Church and people of God may and shall be secured. Which is fervent prayer to God, and entire dependence upon Him. (J. Williams, D. D.)

Thy hidden ones.

God’s hidden ones

1. We may find God’s hidden ones where possibly you would least think of looking for them, amongst those who are about us most--the children. I often think of Charles Lamb’s plaint over the wrongs and woes of children.

2. We may find God’s hidden ones amongst the struggling souls so plentifully to be met with in society. Society, as such, frequently seems as if it were impossible for it to believe in penitence or amendment, as if it were impossible for it to exercise forgiveness, or hope, or charity, What God thinks of these hard-pressed, sin-tormented souls; how He cares for those who fail in the crisis, who sink in the depths, who lose name and character, and heart and hope, do we not see in His revealer and interpreter to mankind, His best gift to the world, the Lord Jesus Christ?

3. We may find God’s hidden ones amongst the poorer, the obscurer, the unheard-of members of our Christian communities. Many a poor soul consigned to the free seats or the galleries loves the worship and work of the Church far more than those known of most or seen of all. Many a cottager, in proportion to his time or his means, denies himself more, contributes more, than those who take the Chief seats, or are saluted as leaders.

4. We may find God’s hidden ones in regions or atmospheres that may to us seem least likely to produce them. I have heard of some worthy Christian men who, if you had told them that God’s good Spirit taught the Romans, or the Greeks, or the Assyrians, or the Egyptians in ancient days as well, as the Jews, would have been tempted to charge you with blasphemy; or, if you had expressed the conviction that God was as much in Asia or Africa at this moment as He is in Europe or America, would have thought you well-nigh an atheist.

5. We may find the hidden ones of God without, as well as within, the pale of the Church. Where there is no declaration of faith on the lips, there may still be true loyalty in the heart; that where there is no outward profession, there may still be the sincerest inward service. (J. T. Stannard.)

The obscurity and security of good men

They are “hidden “in two senses--

I. In the sense of obscurity. The Divine motives that actuate, the sublime aims that inspire, the supernal joys that fill the souls of the genuinely good, are hidden from the eyes of worldly men. The world “knoweth us not.”

1. The characters of good men are misjudged by the world. They have often been treated as fiends rather than as angels, hence martyrdom.

2. Their moral superiority is unappreciated by the world.

II. In the sense of security. “In the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion.” “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence.” Your “life is hid with Christ in God.” The “hidden “things are generally the most secure, the “hidden “roots, the “hidden “springs, the “hidden “substances, etc. “Hid with Christ in God.” What enemy’s hand can reach them there? (Homilist.)

God’s hidden ones

I know few studies that may be made more profitable to Christian people than the names and titles which are given to them in the Book of God. They are called the “flock of God,” to intimate His care and their sure supplies; “trees of God,” to intimate their hidden life, their growth and fruitfulness; His “jewels,” to denote their preciousness and rarity; the “family,” the “children,” the “household” of God, to denote His Fatherhood and their happiness and home; the “priesthood of God,” that they may be holy and separate, and present daily sacrifice to Him; “soldiers,” in order to inspire them with courage to fight the good fight of faith. In the text they are called His “hidden ones.” The name implies--

I. The safety of God’s people. Out of God and away from Him, man is exposed, without screen or shelter, to the storms of conscience, the tempests of sorrow, the blast of death, the winter of judgment and of doom. All round the world this shelterless condition is felt. Adam felt it, and tried to hide himself among the trees. The heathen fears the anger of the gods, and screens himself by cruel offerings to idols of wood and stone. Self-righteousness makes a fancied refuge for itself, but all in vain. BuS God Himself hath opened a hiding-place: His own infinite mercy, as manifest in the atoning death of Christ.

II. The concealment of the Christian.

1. The godly are for the most part hidden, unnoted, and unknown. They are not appreciated. The spirit of the world is at enmity with them--refuses to rank them amongst those whom it delights to honour. It altogether undervalues them, and has little but sneers, contumely, and contempt to give.

2. Besides this, the bulk of God’s people in this world are hidden in the obscurity of their condition. In the main, Christianity dwells among the brushwood. It is composed of the rank and file, and has its dwelling, as it had in Christ’s time, in the homes of the poor.

3. Some of God’s children are hidden by persecution. In the olden time, the faithful ones were hidden among rocks, and dens, and caves of the earth.

4. Many loyal and faithful disciples of Jesus are hidden by a constitutional diffidence. They shrink from any and all publicity. These hidden ones, quiet, silent, and reserved, may be doing a holy work in secret spheres.

5. Then, again, the Lord has His hidden ones, who are hidden by age, by sickness, and by the iron wall of duty, from which they cannot, ought not to break away. Depend upon it, this is a large and noble army.

6. Then I would not forget how many of the Lord’s loyal disciples are hidden from each other by the thick, man-spun veils of opposing creeds.

7. Many of ,God’s hidden ones are hid away in the shelter of the restful grave.

III. God’s appreciation of His people. Nobody troubles to hide what is counted worthless. It either has an intrinsic value, like gold, or a circumstantial value, like an old letter or a lock of hair. Believers in Jesus are dear to Him, precious to Him. He hides them, guards them, keeps watch over them. “Where do you keep your jewels?” some one asked of a Roman matron. “In my heart,” said she, and straight brought her children into view. They were her precious things, hid in her heart. “Thy hidden ones!”

IV. The ultimate manifestation of God’s people. Hidden, are they? Well, but “He that hides can find.” The jewels are hidden in the casket till they are wanted; then they are brought out to flash upon the breast and to beautify the brow. The royal regalia is hid away under lock and key until another coronation-day comes round. (J. J. Wray.)

God’s hidden one

I. Why are they called God’s hidden ones?

1. Because He has put them out of the reach of their adversaries, and concealed them in a place of safety.

2. Because He gives them quiet and peace, even in the midst of turmoil and sorrow. The more of trial you have to endure, the more of communion you shall have to enjoy. This is the happy, happy case of a tried child of God.

3. Because they are not understood. He who has been made to live unto God lives a life that is quite incomprehensible to ordinary men.

4. Because they are obscure.

5. Because all the saints are at present unrevealed.

II. What is their special honour?

1. He knows whom He chose and redeemed; He knows whom He has called; He knows whom He has justified. He has hot done any of those things in the dark. He has a familiar acquaintance with all that His grace has done for you.

2. Though you are hidden, you are not hidden from the Lord. You are hidden by Him, but you are not hidden from Him. He can read your thoughts; He knows the troubles that are yet to come as well as those that have come; He reads you as I read the pages of this Bible.

3. Some of God’s hidden ones are among the very choicest of His children. I think there are some who are so very dear to God that He keeps them to Himself.

4. Hidden as you are, He has engaged to keep you. His Very hiding of you shows that He means to keep you in safety. You shall never perish, for “He keepeth the feet of His saints.”

III. What then?

1. Let us rejoice that the Lord has more people than we knew.

2. Let us look for these hidden ones wherever we are.

3. Since God has hidden ones, let us take care never to act or speak so as to grieve them.

4. Although God has His hidden ones, let not one of us hide himself more than is needful. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 16

Psalms 83:16

Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek Thy name, O Lord.

Shame leading to salvation

I. Ungodly men have good cause to be ashamed--

1. Because of the wrong they are doing to their Maker. You pride yourself upon your uprightness and integrity; but must God alone, then, be made to Suffer through your injustice? Out of all beings, must He alone who made all other beings be the only one to be neglected?

2. There are many ungodly men who ought to be ashamed because they are acting in opposition to light and knowledge, contrary to their conscience, and against their better judgments.

3. Because of their postponements of what they know to be right.

4. Because of their violation of vows which they have made.

5. Because of their not loving the Lord Jesus Christ, and not trusting such a Saviour as He is.

6. A man ought to be ashamed who will not even think of these things.

II. Now, concerning these ungodly people, let me show you that shame is a very desirable thing if it drives them to God. Hence the prayer, “Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek thy name, O Lord.”

1. Sometimes shame attends the breaking up of self-righteousness.

2. I have known this shame to operate in some when they have done wrong, and have lost the repute they enjoyed among their fellow-creatures.

3. So have I seen failure driving a man to the strong for strength.

4. I have also known men brought to Christ with shame of another sort, shame of mental error leading to a humble faith.

III. The Lord is willing now to receive those who are ashamed of themselves.

1. You are the sort of man to come to Christ, because, first, you have the greatest need of Him. In the time of famine, we give the meal away first to the most hungry family.

2. If you are ashamed of yourself, you are the man to come to Christ, because you will make no bargains with Him. You will say, “Save me, Lord, at any price, and in any way!”

3. And you are the man who will give Him all the glory if you are saved. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 18

Psalms 83:18

That men may know that Thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth.

The inner proofs of God

The age in which we live is frequently characterized as an age of unbelief. Certainly it is an age in which much unbelief comes to the front, aggressively; and hence it is an age of conflict in regard to fundamental verities. The question raised, then, is whether the possible God is unknowable. Is the Absolute unthinkable? From one quarter the response is affirmative. An innumerable host out of all kindreds, tongues, and nations confess that the thought of God is the strongest force in life, the purest comfort in sorrow, the one rock-idea which no storm shakes, as true, as real, as natural, as fruitful as any thought, and more. To them history without that word is a riddle, being a mystery, life a torment, and death a horror. The concurrent testimony of millions affirms the central fact that God is, and the affirmation rests upon the experimental knowledge that He is. The fact is the reality; the knowledge is man’s recognition of the reality. Only the unreal is unknowable. It is not, however, a question of majorities. The real point involved is, why does the great mass of mankind think that they can and do cognize God as the focal reality, the spiritual sun in the firmament of being? The data of the theistic argument are all to be found in man. Mr. Morell, adverting to this fact in his “History of Philosophy,” asks, “Do we wish the argument from being? Man in his own conscious dependence has the deepest conviction of that Independent and Absolute One on Whom his own being reposes. Do we wish the argument from design? Man has the most wonderful and perfect of all known organizations. Do we wish the argument from reason and morals? The mind or soul of man is the only accessible repository of both, Man is a microcosm, a world in himself; and contains in himself all the essential proof which the world furnishes of Him who made it.” And to those who with Schleiermacher accept the doctrine of immediateness, that is, the consciousness of God as an original and primary act of the soul antecedent to reflection or reasoning, man stands forth as the mirror of God, for it is in the depths of his nature that the two meet face to face. Man looks at himself, into himself, and by studied processes of thought or by sudden leaps of unconscious induction, he arrives at a knowledge of himself. He is not looking to see God in any mystic sense, but he is looking to see proofs of God. We come to the knowledge of God in much the same way as we come to the knowledge of our fellow-men. You could never know me if you did not first know yourself. The proof that I exist is in your existence. The evidence that I think is in your thought. That is to say, from the ascertained premise that you think you draw the conclusion that I think. “The Father in heaven,” says Dr. Flint, “is known just as a father on earth is known.” The latter is as unseen as the former. No human being has really ever seen another. No sense has will, or wisdom, or goodness for its object. Man must infer the existence of his fellow-men, for he can have no immediate perception of it; he must become acquainted with their character through the use of his intelligence, because character cannot be heard with the ear, or looked upon with the eye, or touched with the finger. Yet a child is not long in knowing that a spirit is near it. As soon as it knows itself it easily detects a spirit like its own, yet other than itself, when the signs of a spirit’s activity are presented to it. The process of inference by which it ascends from the works of man to the spirit which origin-ares them is not more legitimate, more simple, and more natural than that by which it rises from nature to nature’s God. The argument for God is many-sided, but the one determining force in us is that which seems like an instinct, which is original, primary, universal. No formal demonstration of God by trains of syllogistic reasoning could maintain theism through the ages but for the help of this implanted aptitude of the soul to respond to the thought of God. Anselm’s a priori, beautiful as it is, belongs to trained thinkers, while the millions assert their knowledge of God with the same spontaneous confidence with which a child trusts the proof of parental love. Nature is clearer-headed than philosophy. And is so because Nature looks with all her faculties at the broad landscape of truth, and believes that she sees it, every cliff and scar, every bend of the river and flowery meadow, every forest and nestling cottage. Philosophy, meanwhile, is busy with the mechanism of the eye, and announces that the landscape is a miniature picture painted on the retina--a scientific truth, no doubt! But we are not fashioned to contemplate objects under the lead of a single faculty. We could not appreciate beauty if we should always keep the structure of the organ of vision in mind. We look--we see--we rejoice; we believe that we see what we see, we know that we see, and we know that all men excepting those who have lost the organ of vision see; and if at any time the thought comes to us that what we see is a picture on the retina, we accept the reflection as demonstrating the reality of the landscape, which, however, we did not doubt existed in all its beauty. It was not necessary to corroborate the fact. From the data before us we naturally inferred the reality of the scene by the same law of thought as that by which we rise from the phenomena of our consciousness to the reality of God. Now let us examine some of these phenomena.

1. The great mass of mankind think that they can and do know that there is a God, because they find themselves reaching out into the realm of spirit after a power that is above them in the oft-recurring exigencies of their life, temporal and spiritual, in which they realize their own limitations in respect of strength, wisdom and foresight. This is not a mere impulse of unintelligent despair; it is quite as often the calm instinct of deliberation as the last resort of one who has no other source of help left. It is the refuge alike of childhood and age.

2. Another fact in our self-consciousness presents itself. When we walk out into a public park, the eye falls upon a splendid green sward, smooth as velvet, swelling into graceful curves, with head lands of noble forests jutting out, and islands of rarest flowers dotting its surface. The picture charms us and we seat ourselves in some shady spot to enjoy the Elysian scene. But we resume our stroll, and enter a densely populated slum of the city where the atmosphere is laden with poison, and where crime and vice eat like gangrenes into the souls and bodies of the miserable host. We hasten away with horror from the spot. The impression made upon us by either is distinct and influential, because there is in us an inherent capacity of admiring the beautiful and disliking the hideous. The same capacity exists in regard to the moral quality of things. Some things we plainly perceive to be right and some to be wrong. Being wrong as an idea wears a storm-cloud on its brow, and when it passes into a concrete shape and becomes in us doing wrong, then the storm bursts upon the soul, and it trembles to think that it will be called to account. Deeply implanted in the solid rock of man’s nature, these two granite columns ought and ought not rise and form the gateway, through which we pass up to the cognition of an Infinite Judge.

3. How unlike is man to the brutes beneath him! They have their planes, fixed and uniform as a floor of rock, and thereon, through all the circuit of their tame existence, they fulfil their simple destiny. They do not hunger for that which is beyond their reach, but are content to live and die just as they live and die. No dream of happier climes or kindlier destinies ever disturbs them. The fledgling is satisfied with the bough where he was hatched. The lion seeks no other lair than that where he was born. But the soul of man soon gives token of a strange discontent, and when he thinks to settle down, a dream of other things stirs his blood and disturbs his repose. It is as true in the spiritual as in the secular life. Men aspire to higher planes of moral attainment, and even sainthood forgets its grace as it presses on to sublimer achievements in the imitation of God. Does it impair this majestic argument of God drawn from the depths of human consciousness that it does not formulate its postulates in the language of metaphysics? Heine tells us that it was while he was climbing the dizzy heights of dialectics, that “the divine homesickness” came over him, and led him down to the levels of his kind, where he found God. There is a meadow-land of common-sense realism from which God has chosen to be more distinctly seen, and it is to that familiar spot we have led you to-day. It is there that our analysis of consciousness has revealed the indubitable phenomena that enables us to know that there is a God. The sense of dependence has led us up to a Power above us; the sense of obligation has pointed to an Authority above us; the sense of imperfection has ushered us into the presence of the Perfect Ideal, and the sublime inference of the race--the inference which has controlled history, created civilization, brightened the world with every virtue and grace of true nobility, thrown itself like a rainbow upon the storm of human sorrow, spanned the gulf of eternity with the bridge of hope, that inference is Jehovah. (Bp. W. E. McLaren.)
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Psalms 84:1-12

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 83:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-83.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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