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David, seated upon the throne of Israel, notwithstanding the opposition made against him, and now about to carry his victorious arms amongst the neighbouring heathen nations, may be supposed to have penned this, as a kind of inauguration Psalm. But that a "greater than David is here," appears not only from the strength of the expressions, which are more properly applica ble to Messiah than to David himself; but also from the citations made in the New Testament: the appointment of the Psalm by the church to be read on Easter day; and the confessions of the Jewish Rabbies. It treats therefore, 1-3. of the opposition raised, both by Jew and Gentile, against the kingdom of Jesus Christ: 4-6. of his victory, and the confusion of his enemies; 7-9. after his resurrection, he preaches the gospel, and 10-12. calls the kings of the earth to accept it; denouncing vengeance against those who shall not do so, and pronouncing a blessing on those who shall.
"1. Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD, and against his Anointed, saying,"
The true David is introduced, like his ancestor of old, expostulating with the nations, for their vain attempts to frustrate the divine decree in his favour. These two verses are cited, Acts iv. 25. and thus expounded"Lord-of a truth against the holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." Persecution may be carried on by the people, I but it is raised and fomented by kings and rulers. After the ascension of Christ, and the effusion of the Spirit, the whole power of the Roman empire was employed in the same cause, by those who, from time to time, swayed the sceptre of the world. But still, they who intended to extirpate the faith, and destroy the church, how many and how mighty soever they might be, were found only to "imagine a vain thing." And equally vain will every imagination be, that exalteth itself against the counsels of God for the salvation of his people.
"3. Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from
These words, supposed to be spoken by the powers in arms against Messiah, discover to us the true ground of opposition, namely, the unwillingness of rebellious nature to submit to the obligations of divine laws, which cross the interests, and lay a restraint upon the desire of men. Corrupt affections are the most inveterate enemies of Christ; and their language is, "We will not have this man to reign over us.' 99 Doctrines would be readily believed, if they involved in them no precepts; and the church may be tolerated by the world, if she will only give up her discipline.
"4. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision."
By these and such like expressions, which frequently occur in the scripture, we are taught, in a language which we understand, because borrowed from ourselves, and our manner of showing contempt, how the schemes of worldly politicians appear to him, who, sitting upon his heavenly throne, surveys at a glance whatever men are doing, or contriving to do, upon the earth. This is the idea intended to be conveyed; and from it we are to separate all notions of levity, or whatever else may offend when applied to the Godhead, though adhering to the phrases, as in use among the sons of Adam. The same is to be said with regard to words which seem to attri
bute many other human passions and affections to the Deity: as for instance, these which follow :—
“5. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6. Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion."
The meaning is, that by pouring out his indignation upon the adversaries of Messiah, as formerly upon those of David, God would no less evidently convict and reprove their folly and impiety, than if he had actually thus spoken to them from his eternal throne above; "Yet, notwithstanding all your rage against him have I raised from the dead, and exalted, as the head of the church, my appointed King Messiah; in like manner as I once set his victorious representative David upon my holy hill Zion in the earthly Jerusalem, out of the reach of his numerous and implacable enemies." Let us reflect, for our comfort, that He who raised up his Son Jesus, has promised to raise up us also who believe in him; and that the world can no more prevent the exaltation of the members, than it could prevent that of the Head.
"7. I will declare the decree: The LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee."
Jesus, for the suffering of death, crowned with honour and immortality, upon the holy hill of Zion, in the new Jerusalem, now "declares the decree,' or preaches the gospel of the everlasting covenant. His part in the covenant was performed by keeping the law, and dying for the sins of men. Nothing therefore remained, but the accomplishment of the promise made to him by the Father, upon those conditions. One part of this promise was fulfilled, saith St. Paul, "in that he raised up Jesus again; as it is written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee," Acts xiii. 33. Another part was fulfilled at the ascension of Christ, and his inauguration to an eternal kingdom, and an unchangeable priesthood, as the true Melchizedek, King of Righteousness, King of Peace, and the Priest of the Most High God. The next article in the covenant on the Father's side, was the enlargement of Messiah's spiritual kingdom, by the accession of the nations to the church. And accordingly, this was the next thing which "Jehovah said unto him," after having proclaimed his Sonship and pre-eminence; as we find by the following verse.
8. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession."
Christ was to enter upon the exercise of the intercessorial branch of his priestly office, with a request to the Father, that the "heathen world might be given for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession," in return for the labours he had undergone, and the pains he had endured; as also to supply the place of the Jews, who were his original "inheritance and possession," but were cast off, because of unbelief. That such request was made by Christ, and granted by the Father, the person who writes this, and he who reads it, in a once pagan, but now Christian island, are both witnesses.
"9. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
The irresistible power and inflexible justice of Christ's kingdom are signified by his "ruling with a rod of iron;" the impotence of those who presume to oppose him, is compared to that of "a potter's vessel," which must fly in pieces at the first stroke of the iron rod. The power of Christ will be manifested in all, by the destruction either of sin or the sinner. The hearts which now yield to the impressions of his Spirit, are broken only in order to be formed anew, and to become vessels of honour, fitted for the Master's use. Those which continue stubborn and hardened, must be dashed in pieces by the stroke of eternal vengeance.
"10. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling."
The decree of the Father, concerning the kingdom of the Son, being thus promulgated by the latter, an exhortation is made to the kings of the earth, that they would learn true wisdom, and suffer themselves to be instructed unto salvation; that they would bow their sceptres to the cross of Jesus, and cast their crowns before his throne; esteeming it a far greater honour, as well as a more exalted pleasure, to serve Him, than to find themselves at the head of victorious armies, surrounded by applauding nations.
"12. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in
Christ beseeches kings, no less than their subjects, to be reconciled to him, and by him to the Father: since a day is at hand, when mighty men shall have no distinction, but that of being mightily tormented. And then will be seen the "blessedness" of those who "put their trust in" the Lord Jesus. For when the glory of man shall fade away as the short-lived flower of the field, and when all that is called great and honourable in princes shall be laid low in the dust, he shall give unto his faithful servants a crown without cares, and a kingdom which cannot be moved.
This Psalm is said to have been composed by David, when he fled from his son Absalom. Thus circumstanced, he expresses himself in terms well adapted to the parallel case of the Son of David, persecuted by rebellious Israel; as also to that of his church, suffering tribulation in the world. 1, 2. He complains, in much anguish, of the multitude of his enemies, and of the reproaches cast upon him, as one forsaken by God; but, 3. declares, notwithstanding, his sure trust in the Divine promises; 4, 5. he relates the success of his prayers, 6-8. derides the impotent malice of his enemies, and ascribes salvation to Jehovah.
"1. LORD, how are they increased that trouble me? Many are they that rise up against me."
David is astonished to find that "the hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom;" 2 Sam. xv. 13., that his counsellors are revolted, and his friends falling off continually; and that the king of Israel is forced to leave his capital mourning and weeping. Thus, led forth out of Jerusalem by his own children in arms against him, the holy Jesus went, forsaken and sorrowing, to the cross, in the day of trouble. Thus is the church oftentimes opposed and betrayed by her sons, and the Christian by his passions and affections. So true it is that "A man's foes are they of his own household." But he, who by prayer engages the assistance of Jehovah, will rise superior to them all.
2. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in
Affliction and desertion are two very different things, but often confounded by the world. Shimei reviled David, as reprobated by Heaven; and the language of the Shimeis afterward, concerning the Son of David, was, “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him." See 2 Sam. xvi. 8. Matt. xxvii. 43. The fearful imaginations of our own desponding hearts, and the suggestions of our crafty adversary, frequently join to help forward this most dangerous temptation, in the hour of sorrow. What therefore hath faith to offer? We shall hear
"3. But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of my head."
Such is the answer of David, and of all the saints, but above all, of the
King of saints, to the temptation before mentioned. Jehovah is a "shield" against this, and all other fiery darts, shot by Satan and his associates: he is the "glory" of Christ and the church, with which they will one day be seen invested, though for a season it appear not to the world, any more than did the royalty of David, when, weeping and barefoot, he went up mount Olivet: 2 Sam. xv. 30. the same Jehovah is "the lifter up of our heads," by the gift of holy confidence, and the hope of a resurrection through that of Jesus Christ, prefigured by the triumphant and happy return of David to Jerusalem.
“4. I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill."
David, driven from Jerusalem, still looked and prayed towards the "holy hill" of Zion. Christ, when a stranger on the earth, "made supplication, with strong crying," to his Father in heaven. Christ was heard for his own sake; David was heard, and we shall be heard, through him.
"5. I laid me down and slept; I awaked, for the LORD sustained me." Behold David, in the midst of danger, sleeping without fear; secure through the Divine protection, of awaking to engage and vanquish his enemies. Behold the Son of David composing himself to his rest upon the cross, that bed of sorrows; and commending his spirit into the Father's hands, in full confidence of a joyful resurrection, according to the promise at the time appointed. Behold this, O Christian, and let faith teach thee how to sleep, and how to die; while it assures thee, that as sleep is a short death, so death is a longer sleep: and that the same God watches over thee, in thy bed and in thy grave.
"6. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about."
Faith, revived and invigorated by prayer, and fixed on God alone, is a stranger to fear in the worst of times. The innumerable examples of saints rescued from tribulation, and above all, the resurrection of the Son of God from the dead, render the believer bold as a lion, although the name of his adversary be "legion."
"7. Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God; for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek-bone; thou has broken the teeth of the ungodly."
The church, through Christ, prayeth in these words of David, that Jehovah would arise, as of old time, in the power of his might; that he would finally break the power of Satan and his adherents; pluck the spoil out of the jaws of those beasts of prey; and work that glorious deliverance for the members, which is already wrought for the Head of the body mystical.
8. Salvation belongeth, or, be ascribed unto the LORD; thy blessing is, or, be upon the people."
The Psalm ends with an acknowledgment, which ought always to fill the heart, and upon every proper occasion, to flow from the mouth of a Christian; namely, that "salvation" is not to be had from man, from the kings of the earth, or the gods of the heathen, from saints or angels, but from Jehovah alone; to whom alone, therefore, the glory should be ascribed. If He will save, none can destroy; if He will destroy, none can save. Let Balak, then, curse Israel, or hire Balaam to curse them for him; be but "thy blessing," O Lord, upon thy people, and it sufficeth.
The person speaking in this Psalm, 1. prayeth to be heard by God; 2. convinceth the world of sin; 3. declareth the righteous to be under the Divine protection; 4, 5. prescribeth solitude and meditation, as the proper means to lead men to repentance and faith; 6. showeth, that in God alone peace and comfort are to be found, and 7. how superior the joys of the Spirit are to those of sense; 8. reposeth himself, in full assurance of faith, on the loving-kindness of the Lord.
"1. Hear me when I call, O GOD of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer."
The church, like David, "calls" aloud, as one in great affliction, for God's assistance; she addresses him as the "God of her righteousness," as the fountain of pardon and grace; she reminds him of that spiritual liberty, and "enlargement" from bondage, which he had purchased for her, and oftentimes wrought in her; and conscious of her demerits, makes her prayer for "mercy."
2. O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing, or falsehood?"
If the Israelitish monarch conceived he had just cause to expostulate with his enemies, for despising the royal majesty with which Jehovah had invested his Anointed; of how much severer reproof shall they be thought worthy, who blaspheme the essential "glory" of King Messiah, which shines forth by his Gospel in the church? Thou O Christ, art everlasting truth; all is "vanity and falsehood," transient and fallacious, but the love of thee!
"3. But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself the LORD will hear when I call unto him."
Be the opinions, or the practices of men what they will, the counsel of the Lord shall stand. Is David "set apart" for the kingdom of Israel? Saul shall not be able to detain, nor Absalom to wrest it from him. Is Messiah ordained to be King of the Israel of God? Death and hell shall not prevent it. Are his disciples appointed to reign with him? Infallibly they shall. Our Intercessor is already on high; and for his sake, "the Lord will hear us when we call upon him." What, then, can be said for us, if we neglect to call upon him?
4. Stand in awe, Heb. tremble and sin not; commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still."
The enemies of Christ, as well as those of David, are here called to repentance, and the process of conversion is described. The above mentioned consideration of the Divine counsel, and the certainty of its being carried into execution, by the salvation of the righteous, and the confusion of their enemies, makes the wicked "tremble." "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom :" it arrests the sinner in his course, and he "sins not;" he goes no farther in the way of sin, but stops, and reflects upon what he has been doing; he "communes with his own heart upon his bed, and is still;" his conscience suffers him not to rest in the night, but takes the advantage of solitude and silence, to set before him his transgressions, with all the terrors of death and judgment; stirring him up to confess the former, and deprecate the latter, with unfeigned compunction and sorrow of heart? to turn unto the Lord and do works meet for repentance: to learn to do good, as well as to cease from doing evil.
5. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the The Jews are no longer to offer the shadowy sacrifices of their law, since