Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said, I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.Psalm 18:17-19
These words were sung upon the scaffold by four sons of the Huguenots:—
'He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
'They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay 'He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me because he delighted in me.'
They were sung by the last martyrs of the desert, Francis Rochette, and three brothers of the name of Grenier, who suffered as late as 1762, under the reign of Louis XV.
The Irony of God
'The pure thinks God is pure, the froward thinks God is froward.'
I. The froward think that God is froward. Sinners think that God is altogether One such as themselves. Even in the hour of death the most abandoned sinners go to meet God without a tremor. There are others who, while they know that God is angry with them and their sins, yet do not feel that it is with a terrible and alarming anger. Now there are many facts in life which the most honest minds find hard to reconcile with God's holiness. Look at some of those facts. (a) How many opportunities for sin there are in the world. (b) Again, how often, when men begin to sin, they begin to succeed. (c) On the other hand, how often the moment men cease from sinning they begin to fail. (d) Again, some of the highest forces in the world are on the side of evil.
II. With the pure God shows Himself to be pure. They see that the froward is the victim of illusions, and, in spite of all appearances, that God is perfect in holiness. They see that all these untoward facts only mean that temptation is an element in life. Tempted purity is the purest, and the fire is intended not to consume, but to purify the gold.
III. But what is the reason of God's creation of this strange law, that what a man is shall determine his thought of God, so that with the froward He shows Himself perverse? The answer is, God uses irony in His dealings with men. One or two instances will illustrate this Divine use of irony. (a) Is it not an irony that the kingdom of good often comes in this world by the victory and not the defeat of the kingdom of evil. (b) Is it not an irony that men often sin to gain an end, and miss the very end they sin to gain? (c) And is not this an irony that men who reject God and His wisdom often in their calculations miss out the only things which are certain to happen?
IV. The reason of God's use of irony in his dealings with men. If we are not open to the conviction that we are sinners, He will convince us that we are fools. And nothing shows the proud their folly so effectually as irony. Behind the Divine laughter there is love. Behind the sarcasm there is yearning; the irony is the hunger of a heart seeking to save.
—E. Aldom French, God's Message through Modern Doubt, p. 15.
References.—XVIII. 25, 26.—J. Service, Salvation Here and Hereafter, p. 156. XVIII.—International Critical Commentary, vol. i. p. 137.
Lead, Kindly Light
There is in man something to which the Divine taper can be applied. The image and superscription of God imprinted upon him have not been completely effaced. And yet man can shine, as does the man with a light that is borrowed.
I. Only He Who in the beginning said, 'Let there be light,' Who 'is light,' and in Whom 'is no darkness at all,' can light the human lamp: and when a man's lamp is thus lit, he not only finds his own path bright, but, reflecting the Divine rays, he becomes a lamp to others who are groping their way amid the gloom and terror of the night.
II. There is perhaps no single word which is so expressive of everything that is good, and consequently so satisfying to man on every side of his nature as the word 'light'. Darkness is chiefly associated with what is bad, hurtful, dangerous. There are times when, on account of the darkness, we cannot see our way. And then we cry, 'Lead, kindly light'.
—W. Taylor, Twelve Favourite Hymns, p. 63.
References.—XVIII. 28.—H. P. Liddon, Contemporary Pulpit, Extra No. 4, p. 92. XVIII. 30.—J. C. Miller, Penny Pulpit, No. 1035. XVIII. 35.—J. Vaughan, Sermons, 4th Series, p. 245. W. M. Taylor, Limitations of Life, and other Sermons, p. 344. R. C. Trench, Sermons in Westminster Abbey, p. 339. C. J. Vaughan, Voices of the Prophets, p. 18. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 683. H. Bushnell, Christ and His Salvation, p. 18. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 683. Leach, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv. p. 232. Bishop Woodford, Sermons on Subjects from the Old Testament, p. 105. XVIII. 50.—H. Bonar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv. p. 177. A. Maclaren, Life of David, p. 153.
Clovis, the founder of the French monarchy, whose name in the form of Louis has descended to so many kings, was marching southward from Paris, a.d. 507, to meet the formidable Visigoths in battle. Anxious to forecast the result, he sent messengers to consult the shrine of St. Martin of Tours, the oracle of Gaul. They were told to mark the words of the Psalm chanted, when they entered the church. These were verses 39, 40, and encouraged Clovis to the step which proved decisive in French history:—
'I have wounded them that they were not able to rise; they are fallen under my feet.
'For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle; thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.'
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.
He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.
I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.
For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.
Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.
I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.
I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.
They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.
As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.
The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.
He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.
Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.