You have granted his heart's desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
Te Deum, to be sung on returning from battle as victor. It would equally well suit other occasions on which the grateful hearts of king and people desired to render praises in the house of God for mercies received; e.g. ver. 4: would be equally adapted to the recovery of the king from sickness. Its precise historic reference it is, however, now impossible to ascertain; but this is of comparatively small importance. That the psalm is meant for a public thanksgiving is clear; and thus, with differences of detail in application thereof according to circumstances, it may furnish a basis for helpful teaching on days of national rejoicing over the mercies of God. We must, however, carefully avoid two errors in opening up the hid treasure of this psalm. We must not interpret it as if its references were only temporal, nor as if we lost sight of the supernatural revelation and of the Messianic prophecies which lie in the background thereof; nor yet, on the other hand, may we interpret its meaning as if the religious knowledge or conceptions of Israel''s king were as advanced as the thoughts of Paul or John. E.g. "His glory is great in thy salvation." If we were to interpret this word "salvation" as meaning, primarily, the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, we should be guilty of an anachronism. Its first meaning is, rescue from impending trouble or danger. This, however, may be regarded as prophetic of the triumph awaiting the Church''s King; but our exposition will be sure and clear only as we begin with the historic meaning, an& then move carefully forward. The prayers and thanksgivings of a people cannot rise above the level of inspiration and revelation which marked the age in which they lived. We, indeed, may now set our devotions into another form than that which is represented by vers. 8-12; and, indeed, we are bound so to do. For since revelation is progressive, devotion should be correspondingly progressive too. So that if the remarks we make on the psalm are in advance of the thinkings of believers in David''s time, let us remember that this is because we now look at all events and read all truth in the light of the cross, and not because we pretend to regard such fulness of meaning as belonging to the original intention of the psalm. There are here six lines of exposition before us.
I. HERE IS THE RECALL OF A TIME OF TROUBLE- OF TROUBLE WHICH GATHERED, ROUND THE PERSON OF THE KING. (Ver. 1.) We cannot decide (nor is it important that we should) what was the precise kind of anxiety which had been felt. The word "life" in the fourth verse may indicate that some sickness had threatened the life of the king. The word "deliverance" and the allusions to "enemies' rather point to peril from hostile forces. Either way, when a monarch''s life is threatened, either through sickness or war, the burden is very heavy on the people''s heart. The first cause of anxiety was felt in Hezekiah''s time; the second, often and notably in the days of Jehoshaphat.
II. THE TROUBLE LED TO PRAYER. We gather from the contents of the psalm that the specific prayer was for the king''s life, either by way of recovery from sickness or of victory in war. Note: Whatever is a burden on the hearts of God''s people may be laid before God in prayer. Prayer may and should be specific; and even though our thought, desires, and petitions in prayer may be very defective, still we may tell to God all we feel, knowing that we shall never be misunderstood, and that the answer will come according to the Father''s infinite wisdom, and not according to our defects; yea, our God will do abundantly for us above all that we can ask or think. Hence we have to note -
III. THE PRAYER BROUGHT AN ANSWER. The trust of the praying ones was not disappointed (cf. vers. 2-7). The jubilant tone of the words indicates that the prayer had not been barely, but overflowingly answered. God''s good things had gone far ahead of the petitions, and had even anticipated the king''s wishes and wants (ver. 3). "Life" had been asked; and God had granted "length of days for ever and ever." This cannot refer to the personal earthly life of any human king; the meaning is that in the deliverance vouchsafed there had been a new confirmation of that "everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure," wherein God had promised to establish David''s throne for ever (Psalm 61:6; Psalm 132:11-14). Dr. Moll says, "I find here the strongest expression of the assurance of faith in the personal continuance of the life of those who hold fast to the covenant of grace in living communion with Jehovah." Yea, the old Abrahamic covenant has been again confirmed. "Thou hast made him to be blessings for ever" (see Revised Version margin). So that this deliverance thus celebrated in Hebrew song is at once a development of God''s gracious plan, and the answer to a king''s and a people''s prayer! "Thou settest a crown of pure gold upon his head" (ver 3; cf 2 Samuel 12:30).
IV. NEW ANSWERS TO PRAYER INSPIRED NEW HOPE (Ver. 7.) "Through the loving-kindness of the Most High he shall not be moved" (cf. Psalm 23:6; Psalm 63:7). He who proves himself to be our Refuge to-day, thereby proves himself our Refuge for every day.
V. THE PROVIDENTIAL INTERPOSITIONS IN ANSWER TO PRAYER AFFORDED NEW ILLUSTRATIONS OF GOD' S WORKS AND WAYS. (Vers. 8-13.) God is what he is. He remains "the same, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." But he cannot seem the same to his enemies as to his friends; the same events which fulfil the hopes of his friends are the terror and dread of his foes. This general principle is always true: it must be (ver. 10); and side by side with the Divine provision for the continuance of good, there is the Divine provision for shortening the entail of evil (see Exodus 20:6, Revised Version margin; and Deuteronomy 7:9). But we are not bound in our devotions to single out others as the enemies in whose overthrow and destruction we could rejoice. At the same time, it is but just to the Hebrews to remember that they were the chosen people of God, and from their point of view, and with their measure of light, they regarded their enemies as God''s enemies (see Psalm 139:22). The way David sometimes treated his foes can by no means be justified. The views of truth which God''s people hold are often sadly discoloured by the conventionalisms of their time; and David was no exception thereto. We may pray for the time when Zion''s King "shall have put all enemies under his feet," and even praise him for telling us that it will be so. But we may surely leave all details absolutely with ]aim.
VI. THE EVER-UNFOLDING DISCLOSURES OF WHAT GOD IS MAY WELL CALL FORTH SHOUTS OF JOYOUS SONG. (Ver. 13.) When we have such repeated illustrations of God''s loving-kindness, mercy, and grace, we can feel unfeigned delight in singing of his power. What rapturous delight may we have in the thought that-
"The voice which rolls the stars along that the same Being who is most terrible to sin, is infinitely gracious to the sinner, and. that to all who trust him he is their "exceeding Joy"! - C.
that the same Being who is most terrible to sin, is infinitely gracious to the sinner, and. that to all who trust him he is their "exceeding Joy"! - C.
Thou hast given him his heart's desire.Psalm 20, celebrating the fulfilment of the petitions there offered.
1. We are reminded of the connection between desire and prayer. Desire is the mainspring of life. Could the infinite multitude of desires be annihilated, hope and effort would die, and the busy drama of life come to a standstill. Desire is therefore the test of character. Not what a man does or says, but what he desires, marks him for what he is, and makes him what he is. Desire, therefore, is the soul of prayer. We see here, perhaps, the deepest reason why God has ordained prayer, namely, that what is deepest, most dominant in man's nature, should be consecrated to God, and supremely refer to Him.
2. The whole invisible world of human desires (never the same two moments) lies open to God's eye. God can, if He sees fit, give us our "heart's desire." No lawful desire but He has created the means of its satisfaction; and if He disappoints it, this is but for the sake of some nobler end, some richer blessing. Unlawful desires are forbidden, not because He grudges our joy, but because their fulfilment would be our injury and ruin.
3. We have a practical test suggested both of our desires and of our prayers.(1) Of our desires. Are they such as we can put into prayer? Are they pure — such as God can approve; reasonable — such as we need not be ashamed to put into prayer; unselfish — such as consist with the great law of love; unpresumptuous — within the scope of God's promises?(2) Of our prayers. Do they indeed express the desires of our heart? Prayer without desire is a dead form; a featherless, pointless arrow that will reach no mark.
(E. R. Conder, M. A.)
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