Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
praise for delivering grace.
I. HERE IS A CASE OF SORE DISTRESS. (Ver. 2.) "An horrible pit;" "the miry clay." Two very striking expressions, which may well represent, figuratively, the wretchedness and peril of a man who is deep down in the mire of sin and guilt, and on whose conscience the load of guilt presses so heavily, that he seems to be sinking - to have no standing; as if he must soon be swallowed up in misery and despair.
II. THE DISTRESS LEADS TO PRAYER. (Ver. 1.) There was a "cry" sent up to God for help. And this help seemed long delayed. There was a prolonged waiting in agony of prayer, that deliverance would come. The Hebrew is not exactly, "I waited patiently," but "waiting, I waited," signifying "I waited long." He who, broken down under conviction of sin, pleads with God for mercy, and will not let him go except he blesses him, - such a one shall never wait in vain.
III. PRAYER IS ANSWERED, AND DELIVERING GRACE IS VOUCHSAFED. (Ver. 2.) How great the change! From sinking in a pit, the psalmist is lifted up and set upon a rock] How apt and beautiful the figure to set forth the change in the penitent's position, when, after being weighed down by sin, he is lifted up and set firmly on the Rock of Ages!
IV. HENCE THERE IS A NEW SONG IN THE MOUTH. (Ver. 3.) How often do we read of a new song! The song of redeeming grace is new, superadded to the song of creation. It will be ever new; whether on earth or in heaven, it can never grow old, it can lose none of its freshness and glory!
V. AS THE RESULT, THERE IS A TWOFOLD EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE.
1. Surrender of will, heart, life, and all, to God. (Vers. 6-8.) "In the roll of the book" it was prescribed that Israel's king was to fulfil the will of God, and that such fulfilment of the will of God was more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. Note: The doctrine here expressed is no mark of a later date than David (see 1 Samuel 12; 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 1; Psalm 51:16; Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 7:21; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:1-8).
2. The proclamation of God's mercy before men. (Vers. 9, 10.) There is nothing like the experience of "grace abounding to the chief of sinners," to give power in speaking for God. He who having been first "in the pit," then "on his knees," then "on the Rock," is the man who will have power when he stands "in the pulpit." - C.
Isaiah 51:1), and it is good for us betimes to follow this counsel. It will not only teach us humility, but bind us more firmly in love and gratitude to God. It is the depth that proves the height. It is the misery that measures the mercy. It is by the utterness of the ruin that we realize the completeness of the restoration. It is by contemplating the gloom and horrors of the abyss into which we had sunk through sin, that we can best comprehend the wonders of the redemption wrought for us through Jesus Christ. The psalmist dwells upon two things.
I. WHAT GOD HAD DONE FOR HIS SERVANT. "Pit;" "clay." These images mark:
1. The greatness of the danger. The pit was "horrible," gloomy and terrible, the place of certain destruction if no help came (Genesis 37:24-27). The clay is called "retry," to indicate that there was no solidity - nothing but a foul, seething mass, where no rest could be found (Jeremiah 38:6).
2. The greatness of the deliverance. It was free - in God's time (ver. 1); complete (ver. 2); joy-inspiring (ver. 3); morally influential (ver. 4); prophetical, typifying and giving promise of many other "wonderful works" of God (ver. 5; cf. Paul, 1 Timothy 1:16). It should also be noticed that the deliverance was wrought out
(1) in harmony with eternal righteousness. King Darius was bent on saving Daniel from the den of lions, and "Laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him;" but in vain. The law was against him. The decree which he himself had established bound his hands. He could do nothing (Daniel 6:14-17). But the King of kings is a just God and a Saviour (Isaiah 42:21; Romans 3:25, 26). Also in harmony with man's freedom. there is a certain order in the method. Man can do nothing without God, but God will do nothing without man. We are made willing in the day of his power. First there is the cry; then the hearing; then the lifting up; then the setting upon the rock; then the new song and the new service, as the outflow and the expression of the new heart. "By grace are ye saved, through faith" (Ephesians 2:4-10; Romans 8:29, 30).
II. WHAT HIS SERVANT WOULD DO FOR GOD. "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?" is the question of the prophet; and he gives the answer, "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what cloth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:6-8). The same great truth had been taught long before by Samuel, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22).
1. The sacrifice of the will. Without this all else is vain. There is death, not life; the letter, but not the spirit; the form of godliness, but not the power.
2. The obedience of the life. Whatever way we interpret the obscure phrase, "Mine ears hast thou opened," the meaning seems to be the free and complete surrender of the soul to God. The right disposition leads to the life-devotion (Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).
3. The thanksgiving of the heart. Both privately and publicly, in our daffy life before God and before men, we are to serve in the spirit of love and joy. Amidst all the changes and chances of our mortal state, we should continue faithful to him who hath called us that we might show forth his praise. Thus we shall have part with these saints of God -
"Who carry music in their heart,
I. WHAT GOD HAD DONE.
1. For the psalmist.
(1) Delivered him from threatened destruction into great safety. The specific nature of the salvation is not mentioned, But it suggests and describes what Christ dyes in the deliverance of the man who trusts in him, the greatness of the salvation.
(2) The deliverance had filled him with grateful joy. "Put a new song into his mouth." Every new experience of the Divine love should rouse anew the spirit of thanksgiving; it is a new revelation of God's mercy. His experience is, "Blessed is the man that maketh the Lord his trust."
2. For the Hebrew people as a nation. (Ver. 5.) Turns from the goodness of God towards himself to his larger manifestations of himself in the national history. His wonderful thoughts or purposes, and his wonderful deeds on behalf of Israel, are too great and too manifold to be enumerated. But we turn to what God is doing for the world, and say, "God so loved the world," etc.; not only our country, but the whole world. How great a Worker and Thinker God is for the whole universe!
II. WHAT THE PSALMIST HAD DONE FOR GOD. (Vers. 6-10.) To manifest his gratitude.
1. By his deeds. (Vers. 6-8.)
(1) He gives obedience to his Law, instead of seeking to please him by sacrifice. God had opened his ears to hear and his eyes to read his will as prescribed to him in the roll of his book. Obedience better than any ceremonial observance.
(2) His obedience was thus not only intelligent, but came from the heart. The Law was in his heart; he loved obedience.
2. By his words. (Vers. 9, 10.) Unwearied in proclaiming to others what Jehovah had done for him.
(1) What he preached. The righteousness, faithfulness, and loving-kindness of God. He preached what he saw in his own history and the history of the nation.
(2) Gratitude gave him courage openly to declare God's goodness. If he had been ungrateful, or had wanted courage, he might have been tempted to hide God's dealings among the secrets of his private experience. Every man's duty to profess his convictions; and to declare that he is on the side of Christ and the Church. - S.
direct Messianic psalms, which apply only to the Lord Jesus Christ; such are the second and the hundred and tenth psalms. Critics - some of them, at least - demur to this as being contrary to psychological law. But it is not merely by the psychological law of the natural man that these Messianic psalms are declared to have been written. We are pointed, for their origin, to a fourfold divergence from naturalistic psychology.
1. It is not of psychology we have to think, but of pneumatology.
2. Of the pneumatology of the spiritual man.
3. Of the pneumatology of the spiritual man when "borne along" by the Divine Pneuma.
4. Of such action of the Divine Pneuma on the human for a specific Divine purpose. All this is indicated in 2 Peter 1:21; and therefore all such critics as those to which we refer are totally beside the mark (see our remarks on Psalm 32.). But there are also psalms which are indirectly Messianic. They are marked, speaking generally, by the pronoun "I." The writer speaks for himself, in the first instance; but whether he knew or intended it or not, the words had such a far-reachingness about them, that they could only be filled up in their perfect meaning by the Lord Jesus Christ. Such is the case with the verses now before us. They first of all apply to David, and it is quite possible that he intended nothing further; if so, unwittingly to himself, he was borne along to utter words whose fulness of meaning could only be disclosed by the Incarnation, by David's Son, who had eternally been David's Lord; and, as such, the doctrines they contain are truly sublime. There is a somewhat difficult matter, which may be indicated by the questions:
(1) How came the phrase, "Mine ears hast thou opened," to be rendered by the LXX., "A body hast thou prepared me"? and
(2) whether of the two readings is to be accepted? Dean Alford (see his Commentary, in loc.) prefers to leave the difficulties unsolved. Dr. J. Fye Smith ('Script. Test.,' vol. 1. p. 208), Dr. Boothroyd, and others, with little hesitation, express their conviction that the original and correct phrase is that adopted by the LXX. Calmet suggests, "On lit dans l'hebreu antes, peutetre pour corpus autem. Archdeacon Farrar says, in his notes on Hebrews 10:5-7, Finding the rendering in the LXX., believing it to represent the true sense of the original (as it does), and also seeing it to be eminently illustrative of his subject, the writer naturally adopts it." On the whole, then, the variation presents an interesting point in textual criticism, rather than any doctrinal difficulty. Since, in either case, the substantial meaning is, "My bodily frame has been marked out and sealed for the performance of thy will." By the very frequent quotation from the LXX. rather than from the Hebrew, even when they vary, the sacred writers show how much more important in their view was the main thought than the precise form of expression. Having, then, in two separate homilies, dealt with this psalm in its application to David, we will now luxuriate in these verses as finding their highest and noblest application in Christ, and in him alone. In so doing, eight lines of thought require to be laid down.
I. THERE IS A MOMENTOUS PRINCIPLE UNDERLYING BOTH THE HEBREW AND THE CHRISTIAN ECONOMIES. It is this - that sin has disturbed the relations between man and God, so that nothing is right with man till these relations are readjusted and harmony is restored. The whole of the Mosaic economy was an education in the evil of sin. "By Law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20); "The Law was our child-guide unto Christ" (Galatians 3:24).
II. UNDER THE LAW, THE PEOPLE WERE TAUGHT THAT SIN MUST BE PUT AWAY BY SACRIFICE. "Without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22). But there will ever remain this wide, this infinite, difference between Jewish and pagan sacrifices - the pagan sacrifices started from man, and expressed his desire to propitiate God; the Jewish sacrifices were appointed by God himself, as by One pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin, who would cancel guilt only as sin had been condemned.
III. THE VARIED SACRIFICES UNDER THE LAW WERE BUT A "FIGURE FOR THE TIME THEN PRESENT." The doctrine of the insufficiency of fleshly sacrifices is found not only in the Epistle to the Hebrews, but also in the Old Testament (see 1 Samuel 15:22,-23; Psalm 51:16; Psalm 40:6-8; Isaiah 1:11-17; Jeremiah 7:22, 23; Micah 6:6-8). The more discerning and spiritually minded of the Hebrew saints saw and felt how ineffective were all the varied offerings to ensure peace with God; and, because ineffective, they were necessarily typical Hence -
IV. THE OLD TESTAMENT DISPENSATION WAS IN ITS ENTIRETY BUT PROPHETIC OF ONE WHO SHOULD COME. (Cf. Luke 24:44; Acts 17:2, 3; Acts 28:23; Daniel 9:24-27.) The entire argument in Hebrews 9. and Hebrews 10. shows this. From the time when he who saw Messiah's day from afar said, "God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering," the outlook of the Church of God was towards One "who should come into the world."
V. THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, IN THE FACT OF HIS INCARNATION, DECLARED THAT BE HAD COME TO ACCOMPLISH THE UNFULFILLED MEANING OF OLD TESTAMENT SACRIFICES. We are not told here that he said this by his Spirit in the fortieth psalm, but that "when he came into the world" he said it. His entrance into our race was itself the great declaration. That act of "emptying himself" spake volumes then, and will do through all time; and thus he put upon the ancient words the sublimest possible significance.
VI. IN ACCOMPLISHING TYPE AND PROPHECY, JESUS FULFILLED THE WORD OF GOD. His advent to earth was an absolute self-surrender to the Father's will (cf. John 4:34; John 6:38). He fulfilled the Father's will
(1) by revealing the Father;
(2) by honouring the Law;
(3) by condemning sin;
(4) by thus laying a basis for the forgiveness of every penitent.
VII. ON THE GROUND OF THIS SURRENDER OF HIMSELF, SIN IS PUT AWAY. "He put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26). The absolute surrender of the will of the Eternal Son to the Eternal Father accomplished, in fact, that which all past sacrifices had accomplished only in figure. The surrender of that will ensured the fulfilment of all the purposes for which that will was surrendered. "He hath obtained the eternal redemption for us" (Hebrews 9:12; see John 6:38-40).
VIII. SIN HAVING BEEN PUT AWAY FOR EVER, THE ANCIENT SACRIFICES HAVE CEASED FOR EVER. "He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second" (Hebrews 10:9); "By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Any pretended repetition of the Saviour's sacrifice in the Mass is impiety. No repetition of it is possible. All Old Testament sacrifices have ceased; the Old Testament priesthood has ceased, and has never been renewed. Note: What now remains for us? Only
(1) to accept the one offering of the Son of God as all-sufficient; and
(2) to render now the only sacrifice which is possible for us, viz. the loving, the absolute surrender of our will to him who hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, that we may stand perfect add complete in all the will of God. - C.
Luke 24:44; Hebrews 10:5-7). Let us therefore ponder his words.
I. THE WILL OF GOD WAS THE CHIEF THOUGHT OF HIS HEART. We see this in his earthly life. See him at his first Passover. When Joseph and Mary found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, his answer was, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" He was but twelve, and yet, at that tender age, how intense his consciousness of the trust committed to him! So it was on his baptism at the Jordan (Matthew 3:15); in the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4); at the well of Jacob (John 4:34); and onward to the end. Daily, hourly, constantly, to the last moment, it was his chief thought to do the will of him that sent him, and to finish his work (John 3:34; John 5:19; John 6:37). Evermore, as the will of the Father was revealed to him, it was accepted and obeyed in the spirit of love. The will of the Father was equally and truly the will of the Son. This is true freedom.
II. THE WILL OF GOD WAS THE SECRET STRENGTH OF HIS HEART. It was said of Moses, "He endured as seeing him who is invisible." So it has been with God's servants in every age. The sense of the invisible, commerce and familiarity with the great unseen world, alliance with God, make men strong for duty. So it was in the highest sense with Christ. The will of God was the strength of his heart, because:
1. It harmonized with eternal righteousness. Our Lord knew he had the most absolute conviction, that in doing the will of God he was walking in the path of truth and righteousness. Hence he was' strong and brave (Isaiah 42:1-4).
2. It harmonized with the highest good of man. When men's hearts are not in their work, they soon weary. But when labour is congenial, it is no longer a task and a burden, but a delight. So it was with Newton in his love of truth; with Howard and Wilberforce and Livingstone, in their generous enthusiasm for humanity. And so it was in the most perfect way with our Lord. He came to save, and not to destroy.
"Good will to men and zeal for God III. THE WILL OF GOD WAS THE SUPREME JOY AND SATISFACTION OF HIS HEART. Thus: 1. He enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God (John 15:10). 2. He perfectly filled up the plan of God for the development of his human nature. His life was the only life that answered perfectly to the will of God - with no defect to be supplied, no error to be corrected, no blemish to be remedied. 3. He accomplished the redemption of his people. 4. He glorified the Father. - W.F.
III. THE WILL OF GOD WAS THE SUPREME JOY AND SATISFACTION OF HIS HEART. Thus:
1. He enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God (John 15:10).
2. He perfectly filled up the plan of God for the development of his human nature. His life was the only life that answered perfectly to the will of God - with no defect to be supplied, no error to be corrected, no blemish to be remedied.
3. He accomplished the redemption of his people.
4. He glorified the Father. - W.F.
Psalm 70. is the same as the close of Psalm 40. But, of course, at this distance of time, data which would fully explain that cannot be expected to be available. Still, it is a great comfort to be permitted to think of this paragraph as being penned at a different time and under different circumstances from those which called forth the preceding ten verses. It would be discouraging, indeed, if we found that in one and the same breath the psalmist was triumphantly set upon a rock, and then in a minute or two bowed down with a weight of woe! We are not called on to entertain such a doleful supposition; and are glad, therefore, to deal with this piteous prayer and plea as standing by itself. It is not difficult to seize the progress of the thought.
I. HERE IS A SOUL IN DEEP DISTRESS. (Ver. 12.) Whether the "evils" are the iniquities themselves, or the form in which those iniquities are brought home to him, is not absolutely clear. Probably the latter is the case. Very often surrounding circumstances may bring to us bitterly painful reminders of past sin. And this may be one of God's means of bringing a soul to repentance through the avenue of remorse and shame.
II. HERE IS AN UTTER ABSENCE OF SYMPATHY FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD. Yea, something more than a lack of sympathy; for there is ridicule (ver. 15), there is joy over his sorrow (ver. 14, latter part); there is even an effort to destroy his peace, and perchance to further a plot against his life. Note: In the moments of deepest distress, when we look for succour from man, we find that the greater part are so engrossed in their own affairs, that they have never a tear to shed over another's sorrows, nor a hand to help in another's needs. This is hard. But it is a part of the discipline of life; and it is made use of by God to drive us to himself.
III. THE PSALMIST IS SHUT UP TO GOD. (Vers. 11, 13, 17.) It is not for nought that we are sometimes shut off from the sympathies of man. However trying, it is an infinite mercy when we are left with God alone. There, however, we have a perpetual Refuge. There are no fewer than four comforting thoughts specified here.
(1) There is the name - Jehovah;
(2) there is the assurance of having a share in the thoughts of God (ver. 17); there is in God
(3) loving-kindness; and
(4) faithfulness. "Thy truth," i.e. thy fidelity to thy promises. Note: Whoever has such a Refuge to which to flee, is well prepared for the worst of times.
IV. TO GOD HE UTTERS A FERVENT, PLEADING PRAYER.
1. One part of his prayer, and a prominent part too, is against his enemies. (Ver. 15.) We need not imitate David here" (see our homily on Psalm 35.). Let us leave our enemies in the hands of God; or, rather, let us pray for them.
2. A second part of his prayer is on behalf of the godly. (Ver. 16.) Note: This indicates that the psalmist was not moved by private feeling only, but by a pious public spirit.
3. A third part of his prayer is for himself. (Vers. 13 and 17.) Note: It will be very selfish of us if we pray only for ourselves, and very unnatural if we do not include ourselves. - C.
I. THAT THE WORK OF OUR DISCIPLINE AND SALVATION IS A LIFELONG WORK. No one act of deliverance is sufficient; no one deliverance can cover the whole of our experience.
1. Fresh sin brings a renewed consciousness of suffering. (Ver. 12.) The psalmist suffered so in this respect that his eyes became dim from exhaustion; he felt his sins to be more than the hairs of his head, so that his heart failed in strength. Sense and soul both gave way.
2. Men in high station are in constant danger from enemies. (Vers. 14, 15.) However righteous in conduct and blameless in character. Bad men have selfish ends to attain, and they try to get good men out of their way by slander and persecution.
3. As life advances, the sense of our poverty and need deepens. (Ver. 17.) If we are growing wiser and better, we get a deeper insight into what we ought to be and might become, and so nourish a Divine discontent with our poverty and weakness.
II. LIFELONG NEED WILL BEGET LIFELONG PRAYER.
1. Gratitude for the past will inspire us to prayer. This was the case with the psalmist (vers. 1-10).
2. We are encouraged to pray by the thought of the goodness of God. (Ver. 11.) He appeals to "the tender mercies," "the loving-kindness," and "the truth," or the faithfulness, of God to those who trust in him.. He knows that "God thinketh upon him."
3. He appeals also to the retributive justice of God. (Vers. 14, 15.) He is sure that God will deal righteously with his enemies.
4. He is emboldened to seek for speedy deliverance. (Ver. 17.) In the first verse he says he waited patiently for the Lord; here he becomes impatient for the Divine interference. The patience means persevering prayer; the impatience means urgent prayer; and both are right and acceptable and necessary to the believer in earnest about salvation. - S
2 Corinthians 10:12; Romans 3:20). "I am poor and needy. What then? If comparing ourselves with all that is true and noble and good, with all that is highest and holiest, we are penetrated with a sense of Our own sins and unworthiness, what are we to do 9 Cast down, lying prone in the dust, there speaks within us the still small voice" of consolation," Yet the Lord thinketh upon me. Here is -
I. HOPE FOR THE WRETCHED. We may be poor," wanting in all that is good. We may be not only "poor," but "needy," with cravings and desires which earth cannot satisfy. Like the miserable outcast, we may be ready to say, "No man cared for my soul" (Psalm 142:4). Yet there is hope. God thinketh upon us. And we have the outcome of his thoughts. "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). It is when we realize our state that we are open to help. It is when we turn to God that we find that he has already turned to us, and that his thoughts towards us are thoughts of mercy and of love (Isaiah 55:6-9).
II. COMFORT AMIDST THE DESOLATIONS OF LIFE. Many are "poor and needy" because bereft of what they held dear. In time of trouble what should we do? Some say," Trial is common." Others tell us," You have had your turn of joy: why complain now that you are visited with sorrow?" Others exhort us to patience; they say," Time is the great healer." Others again exhort us to submission, to bow to the inevitable. To such and such-like we can but answer, as Job did, "Miserable comforters are ye all" (Job 16:2). But when we remember God, then we are truly comforted. Sympathy is sweet, but more is necessary for us. The Lord not only" thinketh upon us," but he has provided for us "strong consolation" (Hebrews 6:18). The Bible contains the thoughts of God, and it is rich in instruction and comfort. Christ Jesus has come to make known to us the thoughts of God, speaking to us as a Brother, in dear words of human speech, and remembering what he has said, we are comforted (Isaiah 41:14-17; John 14:1; 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3-6).
III. INSPIRATION FOR THE LABOUR OF LIFE. It is a great thing to know what our true work is; but we may know this and shrink with a sense of our unfitness. So it was with Moses, but God thought of him (Exodus 4:10-14). So it has been in a humbler way with many. We feel, when face to face with duty, that we are ill equipped and weak. We are ready to halt. But if we keep our minds open, if we watch for opportunities, if we are ready to do the work that lies nearest to us, what our "hand findeth to do," God will not fail to help us. Whatever is good in us is of God, and showeth that God thinketh upon us. Our best thoughts are his thoughts. All the greatest things done by men have been, first of all, God's thoughts, put into their minds to quicken, to inspire, to move them on to noble ends. So it was with Carey, and Wilberforce, and Raikes, and hosts of others. It is helpful to a servant to know that his master thinks of him; to a soldier that his captain thinks of him; to a young man, far from home, that his mother thinks of him; and so, and in a far higher way, it is inspiring and comforting to every true worker in the cause of truth, to know that Christ thinketh of him, and that whatever he does is done under the great Taskmaster's eye, and will not fail of due recognition and reward. - W.F.