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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Psalms 108

 

 

Verses 1-13

EXPOSITION

THIS is a composite psalm, made up of portions of two Davidical psalms, viz. Psalms 57:7-11, and Psalms 60:5-12, but not (probably) put into its present shape by David. It is difficult to imagine what was the occasion which was thought to call for the union of two such distinct and unconnected passages. The text, moreover, has suffered in the transfer.

Psalms 108:1

My heart is fixed. In the original form (Psalms 57:7) this emphatic phrase was reiterated, which much increased the force of the declaration. I will sing and give praise, even with my glory. It is difficult to assign any distinct meaning to the last clause, which has nothing parallel to it in Psalms 57:7.

Psalms 108:2

Awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early., Psalms 57:1-11. has, "Awake, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp," which is intelligible and forcible.

Psalms 108:3

I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: and I will sing praises unto thee among the nations. Identical with Psalms 57:9, except that "O Lord" is expressed by "Jehovah" instead of "Adonai."

Psalms 108:4

For thy mercy is great above the heavens: and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds. Identical with Psalms 57:10, with the exception of one preposition, which occurs only in some manuscripts.

Psalms 108:5

Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: and thy glory above all the earth. Absolutely identical with Psalms 57:11.

Psalms 108:6

That thy beloved (or, thy beloved ones) may be delivered: save with thy right hand, and answer me. Absolutely identical with Psalms 60:5; but with a change in the connection which give the words a somewhat different bearing.

Psalms 108:7, Psalms 108:8

God hath spoken, etc. Completely identical with Psalms 60:6, Psalms 60:7.

Psalms 108:9

Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I east out my shoe. Identical with the first two clauses of Psalms 60:8. Over Philistia will I triumph. In Psalms 60:8 the expression used is different. There we have, "Philistia, triumph thou over me," or, "because of me." Apparently the compiler has not understood David's irony, and has therefore changed the form of the verb.

Psalms 108:10

Who will bring me into the strong city? A slight change occurs here, מבצר taking the place of מצור, but there is no difference in the sense. Who will lead me into Edom? Identical with the last clause of Psalms 60:9.

Psalms 108:11

Wilt not thou, O God, who hast cast us off? and wilt not thou, O God, go forth with our hosts? Identical with Psalms 60:10, with the exception that there, in the first clause, "thou" is expressed by אתּה The meaning is probably that assigned in the Revised Version, "Hast not thou cast us off, O God? and thou goest not forth, O God, with our hosts" (see the comment on Psalms 60:10).

Psalms 108:12

Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Completely identical with Psalms 60:11.

Psalms 108:13

Through God we shall do valiantly, etc. Also completely identical with Psalms 60:12.

HOMILETICS

Psalms 108:1-13

Triumph in trouble.

The words of which this psalm is composed were written after a reverse, or in the midst of strife, but also after a Divine promise (Psalms 108:7) which was the assurance of success; they breathe a spirit not merely of serenity, but even of triumph; and they bear with them the lesson, that in the time of trouble we may be so sustained by the Word of God that we may even exult in the prospect before us.

I. THE PRESENCE OF ADVERSITY. Behind us is defeat (Psalms 108:11); before us is difficulty, apparent impossibility (Psalms 108:10); the ordinary, visible resources have failed us (Psalms 108:12): "vain is the help of man." This adversity may be either outward or inward, in circumstance or in the soul.

1. We may be beaten in the battle of life, or at any rate temporarily overcome. We may sustain a serious reverse; we may be reduced in our holding and our position; we may suffer in our reputation i we may be sadly disappointed in some venture; we may fail to secure some coveted post or honor.

2. We may fall far short of our endeavor and our expectation in the spiritual struggle. This may be either on the arena of our own spiritual nature, or on the broad field of conflict with error and evil. We may find ourselves much further from the goal than we expected by this time to be, or we may be surprised and grieved at the comparative fruitlessness of our Christian labor. It is the hour of defeat.

II. THE REFUGE OF THE HUMAN HEART. There always remains one thing that can he done when all others fail: we can go in prayer to God, we can "pour out our heart" unto him (Psalms 108:6). If we are God's children, we can urge this plea as the psalmist does here; we can call on our heavenly Father to hear and to save his own. We are warranted to look for Divine attention, sympathy, succor. And, apart from the desired intervention, the very act of filial approach and appeal to God brings with it refreshment and relief. But there is—

III. THE DIVINE PROMISE. "God hath spoken," etc. (Psalms 108:7). However God spoke to the psalmist, we know how he has spoken to us. He has spoken "in his holiness," in his faithfulness, the word upon which we can build. By holy men of old whom he inspired, and by that Holy One himself who was "the Truth," whose words cannot pass away without being fulfilled, God has given us strong assurances both for our present earthly life, and also for our own spiritual course, as well as for the coming of his kingdom. We know that to the upright there will arise light in the darkness; that all needful things will be added to those who seek and serve Christ; that the Spirit of God will be granted to those that ask earnestly for his presence; that our labor will not prove to be in vain in the Lord; that we shall dwell with our Lord in his glory. Our hope, our confident expectation, rests on the immovable rock of the faithfulness, the holiness, of the eternal and immutable One.

IV. OUR HOLY CONFIDENCE IS GOD. "I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem," etc. (Psalms 108:7-9); "Through God we shall do valiantly," etc. (Psalms 108:13). David, when he wrote these words, felt as strong an assurance that he would carry out his purpose and subdue his enemies, as if he had seen them flying from before his army; he realized the unseen. It is for us, by a strong and living faith, to foresee the issue of our efforts; to be thoroughly convinced that provision will be made for us; that our name will be cleared; that we shall gain the victory over our spiritual adversaries, and be conquerors through Christ; that our work shall be rewarded, and result in real spiritual success; that we shall reach home and heaven at last; that we shall one day understand that which sorely perplexes us now.

V. OUR SPIRIT OF THANKFULNESS. It is not only that the psalmist is calm and peaceful; he is more than that. His lips are full of praise, though the "strong city ' is not yet entered, and Edom is still unsubdued. His heart is fixed; he is unwaveringly confident of victory; his mouth shall be full of praise. He does not wait for the moment of success; he pours out his joy in God; he ascribes to him, at once, the attributes of truth and mercy; he exults in him, and "extols him with his tongue" (Psalms 108:1-5). It is the triumph of faith. Thus it may be true that God's "praise is continually in our mouth;" not only when the sun is shining, and the corn is ripening, but when the rain is falling, and the corn is rotting in the field; not only when the church is crowded, and the converts are passing into the fold, but when the message of truth is rejected, and there are but few results to chronicle. Let us praise God "with our glory;" with the glorious agent—this thinking, trusting, loving, rejoicing human soul; with the glorious instrument—this tongue, which sings the grace and speaks the truth of Jesus Christ.

HOMILIES BY R. TUCK

Psalms 108:1-13

"This psalm is a compilation formed by combining the last five verses of Psalms 57:1-11 with the last eight verses of Psalms 60:1-12; the latter being itself a compilation." It is ascribed to David because the original passages both occur in psalms ascribed to him. But Bishop Perowne thinks that some later poet probably adapted them to circumstances of his own time; possibly wishing thus to commemorate some victory over Edom or Philistia. For homiletic treatment, see the above-named psalms.—S.C.

Psalms 108:1

God honored by fixed resolves.

"My heart is fixed; My heart is ready" (Prayer-book Version); "My heart is steadfast" (Perowne). This psalm is clearly a compilation from two earlier psalms, and was probably arranged for liturgical worship. It represents the kind of experience which we properly associate with David. The references are such as suit his endeavor to extend and consolidate his kingdom; but the expression in Psalms 108:11 suggests that the psalm was rewritten by a returned exile, to whom the Captivity was a "casting off" of the nation by God. What we now see is, that the mood of mind in which David first composed it is one eminently characteristic of him; and it is a mood eminently suitable for a restored exile, who was under the persuasion of the restoring mercies of God. What is the most striking thing in David's career is his fixity for God, the steadfastness of his purpose to live for God. He may have stumbled, made mistakes, acted unworthily, and openly sinned. And who, of woman born, has yet lived such a perfect life that he can venture to throw a stone at David? But from the beginning to the ending of his life David never heart swerved from God. "His heart was fixed." Fixed to trust; fixed to serve; fixed to praise.

I. FIXITY IN PRINCIPLE IS THE SECRET OF FREEDOM. Illustrate by the tree, which is only free to spread and wave its branches, and put itself forth in flower and fruit, when the roots go well into the ground and hold firm. A man is not free who has no established principles, no fixed laws of conduct. He seems free, but really is a slave to his senses, and to all who have skill to offer sense-gratifications. True freedom is liberty to do right, and to do wrong, when a man is fixed that he will not do wrong. Sin enslaves those who are not fixed for God.

II. FIXITY IN PURPOSE IS THE SECRET OF STRENGTH. Illust.: Joshua. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." That resolve inspired a strong, unflagging life of service. Or take St. Paul. His resolve is, "To me to live is Christ;" so he exclaims, in conscious strength, "I can do all things through him that strengtheneth me." The man who knows what he means can gather up and unify his forces; hold them in restraint, and use them wisely.

III. FIXITY IN HABIT IS THE SECRET OF DEFENCE. Here reference is to the habit of praise. This is the Christian's guard against depression and against temptation. What can the tempter do with a man whom he finds rejoicing in God?—R.T.

Psalms 108:1

The best work of a man's best.

"I will sing and give praise with the best member that I have" (Prayer-book Version). A man's "glory" is his soul-the powers and faculties which belong to him as a rational and spiritual being. A man may join in singing praise, and only do it mechanically. A man may give praise him self as the mere performance of a duty. A man only praises God aright, or acceptably, when he praises with his glory; as a real and sincere expression of his feeling. True praise is the utterance of a man's individuality.

I. THE GLORY OF A MAN IS THAT WHICH DISTINGUISHES HIM FROM THE ANIMALS. The beasts of the field have no uplooking eyes or yearning hearts. No mere animal can sing. It is only in a figurative sense that birds are said to sing. They express nothing intelligent to men in the sounds they make. Man can think; can receive impressions; can discern qualities in things done for him and to him; can feel emotions of love and admiration and gratitude. So with his glory as a man, he can sing and give praise. Man can lead the choir of creation; but man's song differs from all other songs. The tone and meaning in it is put by man's glory.

II. THE GLORY OF A MAN IS THAT WHICH DISTINGUISHES HIM FROM OTHER MEN. It may be true that all men are alike. The bodily limbs, organs, faculties, etc; are the same. But it is even more true that men differ from one another. Each one is strictly an individual. A man may have much in common with his fellows; he has some thing which is peculiar to himself—some faculty, or taste, or preference, or influence, or experience, which is strictly personal. And that, whatever it may be, is his glory. And it is the placing of that on the altar of service to God which is the real "presenting of a man's self as a living sacrifice." The Prayer-book Version seals this in its rendering, "with the best member that I have."—R.T.

Psalms 108:2

Morning religion.

"I myself will awake right early" (Revised Version). The idea seems to be, that the anxiety to be praising God is so strong in the psalmist that it actually wakes. A man wakes early when he has a mind burdened with business or family cares; the psalmist wakes early because his mind is burdened with its sense of indebtedness to God. Perhaps but few of us can say that we shorten our self-indulgent sleep for the sake of praise and prayer. Our Lord lived a crowded, bustled life; but as he must have, for sold-refreshing, daily communion with his Father, he was wont to "rise a great while before day." According to the Eastern use of the figure, waking early to do a thing was the sign of being thoroughly in earnest in the doing. A man has his heart in the thing which he gets up early to accomplish.

I. MORNING RELIGION IS REFRESHING TO THE SOUL. Because then thought is free and emotion lively, and there is a bright and cheerful tone on all that is said and done. When wearied with the day and its toils and care, religious meditation easily becomes gloomy, the fatigued body flinging its shadows over all the expressions of the spirit. Give the freshness of morning thoughts to God, and that service will surely come back on you as refreshing.

II. MORNING RELIGION IS ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. Because it shows him that we are in earnest in his service, and hold our very best as the fitting gift to offer to him. "The flower that's offered in the bud is the best sacrifice." That is as true of the day as of the life. And God may be expected to estimate our gifts in the light of what they cost us to present to him. That is our way of appraising the gifts which we receive, and we may be sure that it is God's way. What, then, is God's estimate of our daily praise and thanksgiving? Does it really cost us much? It does if, for it, we awake early; preventing the day lest we should lose our holy opportunity, or be beneath our best and freshest in our communions.

III. MORNING RELIGION IS INFLUENTIAL ON OTHERS. It is one of the most effective and impressive examples; and it has a special influence on the young, helping them to form good life-habits. Many of us can gratefully remember the influence of the early morning devotions of our parents. Let us gain the power on others which they have gained on us.—R.T.

Psalms 108:6

Hope and prayer inspired by praise.

In this verse we trace the influence which the spirit and utterance of praise has upon the psalmist. It leads to prayer, and gives him confidence in prayer.

I. PRAISING GOD BRINGS HOME TO US GOD'S RELATIONS TO US, AND OUR RELATIONS TO GOD. Praising God for what he has done convinces us of his kindly feeling toward us and interest in us, so that we may even think and speak of ourselves as God's beloved. This may be regarded as David's way of thinking of himself; but a similar appropriation of the Divine love we may make. It is the realization of our Father's personal love to us that fills us with hope, and gives us confidence to pray. We never think of putting God under any constraint of prayer. We pray as children make their requests of parents who love them.

II. PRAISING GOD BECOMES AN INSPIRATION TO PRAYER FOR FURTHER BLESSINGS.

1. It gives us argument. For we only praise because we know that God has answered our prayers. It is really for those answers that we offer prayer. Once let it be established in our hearts that God is the prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God, and we have the all-sufficing ground on which to seek him in every form of new distress and need. Praise is only possible when we fully recognize reasons for praise.

2. It gives us the feeling that makes us long to pray, and so gain yet more reason to praise. Praise and prayer are indissolubly linked together. No man will pray long who gives up praising, and no man will keep up his praise who neglects his praying. If we find ourselves hesitating about praying for what we newly need, the best thing to do is to set about praising for the blessings we have received. Just as it was with the psalmist, so it will be with us. Let praise do its work, and it will be sure to lead in prayer.—R.T.

Psalms 108:7

Conscious strength through God's pledge.

The construction of this and the three following verses is somewhat difficult to trace. It may be that the verses are the things that God "spoke in his holiness." But it is simpler to treat the verses as expressions of what the psalmist feels he can do, and means to endeavor to do, basing his confidence on the fact that "God has spoken in his holiness" has made promise and pledge to him; and God's pledges, he is sure, are holy, inviolate, certain of fulfillment. In relation to David, the promise to secure for him the full sovereignty of the nation is probably referred to (2 Samuel 7:1-29.) "In his holiness" means, "in the immutable integrity of his heart," which was an infallible guarantee for the fulfillment of his promise. The key-note of this portion of the psalm is the fact that the promises of God sent by Nathan to David ensured the establishment of the Davidic dynasty over the kingdom of Israel. But when the original of the psalm was composed, David had all the work before him. The northern portion of Canaan had to be won; neighboring nations had to be subdued, or put under tribute. But the promise gave him conscious strength, made him feel superior to his responsibilities; able even to speak lightly, almost scornfully, of those whose conquest would involve hard toil and fighting (see figures of Psalms 108:9).

I. FROM HOLD OF GOD'S PROMISE GIVES US CONSCIOUS SUPERIORITY TO LIFE'S DIFFICULTIES. This is true, whether our difficulties come from our circumstances or our sins. We have Divine promises that we shall finally master both our surroundings and ourselves, winning the whole kingdom of our being for righteousness. What keeps us full of good cheer? Not our evident successes, but our grip of the Divine promises. In God's word and pledge, we rise above our circumstances and above our sins. We feel no sort of fear; we shall "come off more than conquerors."

II. FIRM HOLD OF GOD'S PROMISE GIVES US CONSCIOUS STRENGTH TO CARRY OUT OUR RESOLVES. David meant to win Moab, Edom, Philistia, etc.; and he knew he could because God had spoken. There is no sense of strength to accomplish life-purposes ever comes to a man like that he knows when he feels God is at his back.—R.T.

Psalms 108:11

God with us assures confidence and victory.

What "casting off" is here referred to by the psalmist no one seems to have satisfactorily explained. The best suggestion, perhaps, is that the sentiments of a returned exile are here interwoven with the sentiments of David. The idea of God, as one who had cast off his people for awhile, is quite suitable to a returned exile, but quite unsuitable to David. The thought is, however, found in the original of this psalm (Psalms 60:1); and if we must connect it with David, it is necessary to assume that he suffered some temporary repulse in the beginning of his national wars, and that, in a gloomy, poetic way, he regarded this as "God casting off his people." A good writer on Psalms 9:1-20. says, "From the first five verses we should gather that the country had been crushed by some great national disaster." One is forcibly reminded of two scenes in the national history.

I. THE ANXIETY OF MOSES ABOUT GOD GOING WITH ISRAEL. Recall the expressions of Divine indignation in the matter of the golden calf. The purpose was, as it were half formed, to cast off a people who were showing themselves so unfaithful to the trust reposed in them. Moses interceded. The evident burden on his heart was the possibility that God might not himself go with them; and he passionately pleaded, "If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence." Well he knew that "God with us assures confidence and victory."

II. THE ANXIETY OF JOSHUA ABOUT GOD GOING WITH ISRAEL. When the covenant was broken, through the covetousness of Achan, God for a time withdrew his defense and help, cast off his people, with the result that the army was defeated, and the whole expedition placed in jeopardy. Joshua was terribly distressed. It seemed to him (not knowing the real cause of the disaster) that the very Name of God was being dishonored, and he passionately pleaded for that restoration of God's presence and power which alone could give confidence and victory. The history of God's people furnishes abundant illustrations of the same truth; and it was sealed for ever, as the truth of truths for helpless man, when the ascending Jesus gave his assurance, "Lo, I am with you all the days."—R.T.

HOMILIES BY C. SHORT

Psalms 108:1-13

This psalm consists of portions of two others, the first half of it being taken from the fifty-seventh psalm (Psalms 108:7-11), and the latter half from the sixtieth (Psalms 108:5-12). The notes on these two other psalms may be consulted.—S.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 108:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/psalms-108.html. 1897.

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Friday, December 13th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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