Psalm 28:1
To you, O LORD, I call; be not deaf to me, O my rock. For if You remain silent, I will be like those descending to the Pit.
Sermons
A Cry for HelpJ. E. Scott.Psalm 28:1-7
A Supplication Metaphorically ExpressedHomilistPsalm 28:1-7
The Instincts of the HeartW. Forsyth, M. A.Psalm 28:1-7
The Prayer of a Saint in DistressPsalm 28:1-7
The Seeming Silence of GodJ. Hunter, D. D.Psalm 28:1-7
The Silence of GodW. A. Gray.Psalm 28:1-7
The Silence of GodA. Warr, M. A.Psalm 28:1-7
The Silences of GodH. Allen, D. D.Psalm 28:1-7
Man's Cry and God's ResponseW. Forsyth Psalm 28:1-9
Providence and PrayerC. Clemance Psalm 28:1-9
The Oppressed Righteous KingC. Short Psalm 28:1-9


The contents of this psalm are in some respects similar to the contents of others already noticed. But there is one peculiarity about it to which we here propose to devote special attention. It is seen in the psalmist's prayer against his enemies. On account of such petitions, much reproach has been cast on the Bible itself - as if all the sixty-six books of which the Scriptures are composed were to be held responsible for the prayers and petitions of every Old Testament saint! No such absurdity could have root-hold if the actual state of the case were clearly understood. And we deem it to be of no small importance that where readers of the Bible find special difficulty, expounders thereof should put forth special strength, and by no means pass lightly over such passages, or leave them unaccounted for. This psalm is a reflection of varied scenes which may be witnessed in the world - of the known laws of God's providence, of earnest desires which go up from the hearts of God's people in prayer, and of grateful songs which go forth from their lips in praise. There is no reason for attributing the psalm to any one else than to David. Nor do we know of any times in the ancient history which the psalm more clearly reflects than those of the shepherd-king. Nor is there any Old Testament character who would be so likely to speak and write and pray in the style of the psalm before us. In dealing with it as a unity (which method alone falls in with the plan of this section of the Commentary), we have four lines of thought to unfold.

I. HERE IS A TWOFOLD OUTLOOK. The writer of this psalm was the anointed of the Lord (ver. 8). He was Israel's king; and was withal encompassed by foes. Not only were there those who were the people of God, his inheritance (ver. 9), but there were also those who regarded not God, and who cared not for man (vers. 3, 5). And the time has not come when such a double outlook has ceased. The righteous, the wicked - tares and wheat - both are still on "the field of the world," growing together until the harvest.

II. HERE IS A TWOFOLD YEARNING OF THE PSALMIST.

1. For the righteous. (Ver. 9.) "Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance." Put the emphasis on "thy,' "thine;" herein lies the force of the praying one's tender pleading with God "Feed them;" i.e. tend them, rule them; let them find thee all that thou art as their Shepherd. "Lift them up," equivalent to "bear them up," carry them in thine arms (Isaiah 63:9; Isaiah 40:11; Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 32:11; see Perowne hereon).

2. Against the wicked. (Ver. 4.) It is here that so many have found a difficulty. We acknowledge that there would be a difficulty if these were the words of God to man; but as they are the words of man to God, why should there be any difficulty at all? Is any one bound to defend every word that any saint ever offered in prayer? Surely not. It is, however, only fair to the writer to bear in mind:

(1) That he does not pray against the wicked with personal vindictiveness, but regards them as the enemies of God (ver. 5), and of society likewise (ver. 3).

(2) No saint's prayers ever could go beyond the limits of the inspiration and revelation which were granted to him. No one even now can pray beyond the limits of his own knowledge. In the Old Testament times the all-conquering love of God had not been revealed as it has been to us, and so could not yield fuel for prayer.

(3) That such a prayer as this is an historical representation of the petitions of saints in the psalmist's time, and is no absolute model for our time, with our larger and warmer light-beams from on high. At the same time, we are bound also to remember that we ought not to cherish the like feelings towards the wicked that we do towards the righteous. Yea, if we are righteous, we cannot. And while we plead with God to build up those who are pure and true, we ought to plead with him to frustrate the designs of unreasonable and wicked men, and to arise and vindicate the great cause of righteousness and truth. And this we may do, while leaving it absolutely with God to deal with wicked people as he sees fit. The Judge of all the earth will do right, and we surely can leave the matter there. "Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord." Job's words are better than any prayers for vengeance: " I know that my Vindicator liveth." There let us rest. For we have to recognize -

III. A TWOFOLD ACTION OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE. He builds up the righteous, but disconcerts the schemes of the wicked. So the experience of life shows us, and so this psalm indicates.

1. To the righteous. God is

(1) their Strength;

(2) their Shield;

(3) the Stronghold of salvation for them and for their anointed king.

This may be applied in the highest sense (cf. Romans 8:28; Hebrews 2:10).

2. To the wicked. (Ver. 5.) "He shall break them down, and not build them up" (cf. Psalm 18:25, 26; Psalm 37:35; Psalm 73:18-20). God will seem to men according to what they are. If they follow his commandments, peace will attend their steps. If they violate them, all nature will be full of detectives, whips, and stings.

IV. A TWOFOLD ACT TOWARDS GOD.

1. Prayer. "Hear... when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle;" i.e. towards the "mercy-seat" (ver. 2). Although he was not selfish enough to cramp his desires within the limits of his own personal need, yet he was not unnatural enough to leave himself out. In fact, God was so much to him that his very life seemed bound up in God and his loving-kindness; the lack of a message from God to his spirit would almost drive him to despair (vers. 1, 2). But, as is so often the case, the very psalms which begin with the deepest sighing end with the most joyous shouting. Hence, following on prayer, there is:

2. Praise. (Ver. 6.) The lower God takes us down in the valley of humiliation, the higher will he take us up on the mount of exultation (Isaiah 41:16). And those who spend most time with God in weeping and supplication will have the loudest and sweetest strains to raise over the wonders of delivering grace. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." This is as true of prayer as it is of work. Note: Making all allowance for the difference of tone in the two dispensations, the Hebrew and the Christian, yet throughout both the same laws hold good.

1. That prayer is one of the forces by means of which God sways the world.

2. That his people have for thousands of years been praying to him to bring in righteousness and to put down wrong of every kind.

3. That it is more certain these prayers will be answered than that the sun will rise to-morrow.

4. And, consequently, it is for men to decide whether to their life there shall attach the privilege of being borne upon the hearts of all God's saints in prayer, or the peril of being surrounded with petitions that they may ultimately be put to shame. - C.







Unto Thee will I cry, O Lord my Rock.
I. HE PRAYS THAT GOD WOULD GRACIOUSLY HEAR AND ANSWER HIM NOW THAT, IN HIS DISTRESS, HE CALLED UPON HIM (vers. 1, 2). Observe —

1. His faith in prayer. "O Lord, my rock."

2. His fervency in prayer. "Unto Thee will I cry" — as one in earnest, being ready to sink unless Thou come in with seasonable succour.

3. How solicitous he is to obtain an answer. "Be not silent to me."

4. His plea.(1) The sad despair he should be in if God slighted him. "If Thou be silent to me," etc. If God be not my friend, appear not to me, and appear not for me, my hope and my help is perished.(2) The good hopes he had that God would favour him. "I lift up my hands," etc. The most holy place, within the veil, is here called "the oracle." That was a type of Christ; and it is to Him that we must lift up our eyes and hands, for through Him all good comes from God to us. It was also a figure of heaven (Hebrews 9:24); and from God, as our Father in heaven, we are taught to expect answers to prayer.

II. HE DEPRECATES THE DOOM OF WICKED PEOPLE (ver. 3).

1. Save me from being entangled in the snares they have laid for me.

2. Save me from being infected with their sins, and from doing as they do.

3. Save me from being involved in their doom.

III. HE DEPRECATES THE JUST JUDGMENTS OF GOD UPON THE WORKERS OF INIQUITY (ver. 4). This is not the language of passion or revenge; nor is it inconsistent with the duty of praying for our enemies. But —

1. Thus he would show how far he was from complying with the workers of iniquity.

2. Thus he would express his zeal for the honour of God's justice in governing the world.

3. This prayer is a prophecy that God will, sooner or later, render to all impenitent sinners according to their deserts. Observe, he foretells that God will reward them, not only according to their deeds, but "according to the wickedness of their endeavours"; for sinners shall be reckoned with, not only for the mischief they have done, but for the mischief they would have done, which they designed, and did what they could to effect. And if God go by this rule in dealing with the wicked, sure He will do so in dealing with the righteous, and will reward them, not only for the good they have done, but for the good they endeavoured to do, though they could not compass it.

IV. HE FORETELLS THEIR DESTRUCTION FOR THEIR CONTEMPT OF GOD AND HIS HAND (ver. 5). Why do men question the Being or attributes of God but because they do not duly regard His handi-works which declare His glory, and in which the invisible things of Him are clearly seen? Why do men forget God, and live without Him — nay, affront God, and live in rebellion against Him, but because they consider not the instances of that wrath of His which is "revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and Unrighteousness of men"? Why do the enemies of God's people hats and persecute them, and devise mischief against them, but because they "regard not the works" God has wrought for His Church, by which He has made it appear how dear it is to Him? (Isaiah 5:12).

( M. Henry, D. D.)

1. To the right person.

2. At the right time.

3. With the right motives.

4. In the right way.

(J. E. Scott.)

I. THE SENSE OF DEPENDENCE UPON GOD. How sweet it is to say unto God, "My Rock." This gives confidence in life and in death. Said a dying saint (the Rev. John Rees)," Christ in His person, Christ in the love of His heart, and Christ in the power of His arm, is the rock on which I rest; and now" (reclining his head gently on the pillow), "Death, strike."

II. CRAVING FOR FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD.

1. God s silence deprecated as the greatest evil.

2. God's fellowship sought as the greatest good:

(1)Humbly.

(2)Earnestly.

(3)Importunately.

(4)Through faith in the mercy of God.

III. CONFIDENCE IN THE ETERNAL JUSTICE OF GOD.

1. Deliverance sought from the doom of the wicked.

2. Retribution craved.

IV. GRATITUDE FOE THE GOODNESS OF GOD.

1. For answered prayers.

2. For assistance in time of need.

3. For assurance of hope.

V. EXULTING JOY IN THE SAVING STRENGTH OF GOD.

VI. TRUST IN THE ULTIMATE TRIUMPH AND BLESSEDNESS OF GOD'S PEOPLE.

(W. Forsyth, M. A.)

Homilist.
I. The OBJECT of prayer is here given in metaphor.

1. His nature. "Rock." What so immutable, abiding?(1) Deep in the nature of every man is the desire for some object on which to settle its confidence and its love.(2) The human spirit, without a fixed centre, is like the sea — never at rest.(3) All outside the soul is unsettled and shifting as the clouds. "Riches take to themselves wings and flee away;" friends drop into the grave. The soul wants a Rock amidst this surging sea.

2. His attitude. "Silent." Even Christ on the cross exclaimed, "My God," etc. Does not this prove man's intuitive belief in the fact that fellowship with the Great Father is happiness? Whatever may be man's theoretical credenda concerning the Eternal, his primitive faith is, that happiness is attained only by close communion with Him.

3. His salvation. "Lest I be like them who go down into the pit." From what a pit does the great God deliver His people —

(1)The pit of uncorrectable depravity.

(2)The pit of unpardonable guilt.

(3)The pit of unrelievable despair.

II. The NATURE of the prayer is here given in metaphor.

1. Prayer has respect to a special manifestation of God. "Toward Thy holy oracle." What the "Mercy Seat" was to the Jew, Christ is to humanity in these last times — the Temple in which God is to be met, and where the Shekinah radiates — Emmanuel — God with us. Man in prayer requires that his Deity should appear as a local personality.

2. Prayer is the elevation of the soul to God. "I lift up my hands." The lifting up of the hands symbolizes the lifting up of the heart.

(Homilist.)

Be not silent to me, lest if Thou be silent to me I become like them that go down into the pit.
The instinct of religion is to cry to God. The personal providence of God is the reason of prayer. The psalmist is in trouble, and as he prays his imagination suggests what it would be if God were silent to him.

I. Is GOD SILENT TO OUR PRAYERS? We pray expecting His answer. Prayer is not the mere utterance of surcharged hearts, like Lear's raving to the winds. There is moral benefit in simple desire, and that desire grows by utterance. The Rock may not speak to us, but we can lean against it and find shelter under it. But the idea of God speaking to us is as essential for prayer as our speaking to Him. We ask for response, not merely that He would listen. In what sense may God be silent to a praying man? It is a possibility, and as such it is deprecated. Perhaps David was impatient because the answer did not at once come. Sometimes the answer may follow at once, as the thunder-clap the lightning. "I will, be thou clean," was the instant answer to the leper's cry. But the answer to the Syro-Phoenician, to the centurion, to the disciples in the storm, to the sisters of Lazarus, were purposely delayed. The long winter is not a capricious delay of spring; it prepares for a fuller, a more luxuriant life. Surely was not the Father, in this sense, silent to the well-beloved Son Himself when He prayed in His agony, thrice, "Father, if it be possible." His cup might not pass, but "He was heard in that He feared." Our hasty desires are often not wise. The thing demanded might send "leanness into our souls."

II. THERE ARE OTHER SILENCES THAT PERPLEX us. What is the meaning of many of God's laws — the economy of violence, of death, of death as the condition of life? Why are the secrets of Nature so hidden? Why did not God tell at the first what powerful generations have just discovered? Wherefore do the wicked prosper? Why is God silent when His people are wronged with impunity and success? No doubt, much that we call God's silence is speech that is unheard. It is not His silence, but only our deafness. Christianity has taught us how to regard suffering itself as a gospel.

III. CONCERNING HIS KINGDOM WE ARE PERPLEXED. "Lord, are there few that be saved'?" He is silent to our curiosity even when prompted by benevolence.

IV. IN SPIRITUAL THINGS, again, we often think, in our obtuseness, that God is silent. We do not always hear God's voice in our own souls. The Babel voices of passion drown it. He that will do the will of God shall know of the doctrine. Some men see and hear God everywhere; others never see or hear Him at all. To the spiritual soul God's world is a whispering gallery — dead stones speak.

V. TO SUCH A SOUL THE THOUGHT THAT GOD MAY BE SILENT TO HIM IS INTOLERABLE. He would be as those who perish. Every delay was painful. The Divine Fatherhood has such meaning to us that we cannot bear "the hiding .of God's face." This is the meaning of all the great yearnings after God with which the Psalms are full. To be thrown upon the mystery and sin and trouble of life, "all the burden and the mystery of this unintelligible world," without God is, to a religious soul, intolerable. How terrible to think of men to whom God is always silent, who are spiritually so deaf that they cannot hear, and to whom, if they could hear, God has no words that He could speak but of rebuke. There are men who all their lives have been saying prayers but have never prayed, and to whom God has never spoken. What if the silence should never be broken?

(H. Allen, D. D.)

I shall treat the subject mainly from the standpoint of those to whom the silence of God is a burden, more or less perplexing, mysterious.

I. WHILE COMPLAINING OF GOD'S SILENCE, ARE YOU REALLY SO CERTAIN THAT HE IS SILENT? What if God has been speaking distinctly and repeatedly, while from faults of your own you have not heard Him? There are two pre-requisites to the catching of God's voice! Listen for it in the proper quarter. Many miss the Divine message because they fail to realize how often it comes to us in the ordinary and the commonplace. "Where is the Christ?" do you ask? — "the Christ that I need to save me, to guide me?" Why, in the weekly sermons you hear, in the daily Scriptures you read, in the temporal experiences that befall you, in the spiritual aspirations that stir in you. Lay your ear to the things that are close to you: customary ordinances, customary providences, as well as your yearnings and anxieties for a better life. Christ is speaking in these.

2. Listen for it with the necessary sympathy. Otherwise, though close to the sphere where God speaks, with His messages ringing all round about you, you may miss or mistake their meaning; they will be no real messages to you. Who are those that appreciate the poet's message? Only such as have a portion of the poet's soul. Who are those that appreciate the musician's message? Only such as have a portion of the musician's taste. And who are those that appreciate the Divine message? Only such as have an element of the Divine character, that raises you to the knowledge of the Divine, instals you into fellowship with the Divine.

II. IN COMPLAINING OF GOD'S SILENCE, ARE YOU SURE THAT HIS SILENCE WILL CONTINUE? Remember the Syro-Phoenician woman. If your prayer be a prayer for simple relief, cud if you are careful to ask for it in the right spirit, willing to wait for it till the right time, you need not lose heart, though Christ at the outset be silent. The speaking will surely follow. And meanwhile through the very silence Christ may work by blessing as well as by speech. He may keep you waiting for a time that faith may be strengthened, that hope may be fanned, that love may be refined, that patience may be perfected, that desire may be purified.

III. IN COMPLAINING OF GOD'S SILENCE, ARE YOU SURE IT WOULD BE GOOD FOR YOU IF HE SPOKE? (John 16:12). He meets many a question that goes up to Him about concealed things in life and doctrine with a shake of the head, the attitude of reticence and of reserve. And the reason is this — the knowledge of such matters is meanwhile unsafe. A modern religious writer has beautifully said that the key to God's silence on many points is to be found in the simple words, "We shall be changed," and the fact that God waits till the change takes place.

IV. IN COMPLAINING OF GOD'S SILENCE, ARE YOU SURE YOU ARE NOT PROVOKING HIM TO KEEP SILENCE? HOW? By sin that is wilfully indulged in, or sin that is insufficiently repented of-inadequately realized and confessed (Psalm 66:18). "But," you say, "I have grieved over my iniquity." Yes, but there is grieving and grieving. Have you renounced it? Have you renounced the fruits of it? Have you gone to God with such an absence of self-justification and self-excuse as to say, "I and not another have done this thing, and against Thee and not another has this thing been done"? For if not, grieve as you may, plead as you may, be prepared for God's silence.

V. IN COMPLAINING OF GOD'S SILENCE, ARE YOU SURE YOU ARE GIVING HIM THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK? "Truly," says the psalmist, "my soul waiteth upon God." It ought rather to read, "is silent to God." A friend told me some time ago that a Christian lady startled him with a question worth the repeating. She first asked, "Do you pray? Yes." "And how long do you remain on your knees, after you have prayed, waiting for an answer? Well," he said, "it is strange; I never thought of doing that at all." We forget the duty of stillness, of quietness. We forget the duty of now and again being silent to God in the attitude of expectancy and recipiency.

(W. A. Gray.)

I think it was Thomas Carlyle who used those pathetic words when speaking of the Deity: "He does nothing." The world moved ever onwards; men and Women struggled and loved and hated; vice lifted its head unblushingly in our streets, and dishonesty and cruelty worked havoc in the peace of the universe. And yet the God of purity and of justice never seemed to interfere. The world ran riot, and He put not forth His lined; men cried to Him for help and deliverance, and He remained for ever silent. Now, this Eternal silence has had a twofold effect upon men. In one class it has given rise to defiance; in another it has given rise to despair. The unbeliever challenges the Divine interference, and when silence is the answer to his demand he denies the power of the Eternal Spirit; the man of faith appeals to God for light and leading, and the silence nearly drives him to desperation. There is nothing more trying to the faith of men than this silence, or seeming silence, on the part of God. Does God speak to you, or is He silent? Is the silence of the universe for you ever broken by the mysterious voice of an Unseen Being? Can you with the eye of sense look at the heavens above you, and with the eye of faith pierce the eternal blue, and believe that the God who lives in the universe is a Being who has ears but heareth not, who has eyes but seeth not, who has a heart but knows nothing of the wants and needs of that broken heart of yours? If prayer does nothing else for a man, it at least bears him up on the wings of faith, far from the vexing trifles of the present into the unknown region where the Father dwells; and no one can live for a moment in that holy place without hearing the voice of God. "Prayer purifies," says Richter; and purity is the voice of God. Again, we may hear the Divine voice in Nature if we open our ears to its sound. That voice was for ever in the ears of the psalmist; he heard the voice of God in the hurricane and in the calm. And the reason why men to-day do not hear God speaking to them in Nature is simply that they allow the murmur of the world to stifle the whisper of heaven To hold silent communings with the silent God you must leave the bustle of the world behind you. It is not often that God speaks to a man through the noise of his hammer in the workshop, or the columns of his ledger in the office, or the pages of his bank-book. Leave these things behind and go away and seek God's face in the lonely valley or on the silent, hillside. There you will discover the truest part of your manhood, you will see that the life of thought is the nearest akin to that of God, and in every blade of grass you will see the mystery of the Divine workmanship, in every peeping flower you will see the Eternal smile, in the murmur of the mountain streamlet you will hear the music of the angels, in the breeze which kisses your cheek you will feel the breath of God. We hear the voice of God also in the voice of conscience within us. If you stifle that voice it will become fainter day by day till it altogether dies away; if you listen to its appeal it will ultimately lead you to where you may see God face to face. Once more, the voice of God may come to you in the memory of the past. Your life must have been a very uneventful one if you cannot look back upon it and see many stages plainly marked which give the lie to the assertion of the silence of God, if you cannot point to many struggles, many victories, and also many defeats in your life's history where you heard the voice of God breaking the silence around. But, above all, do we hear the voice of God in the memory of departed friends and comrades. There is a great deal more meaning than we think of in the words, "He being dead yet speaketh." The memory of the departed lifts us up to higher things, and we hear their voices calling us to walk nobly and endure manfully. The memory of a dead parent often keeps a young man's feet from walking in the paths of sin; the memory of a dead friend stimulates us to a higher ideal and a nobler end. What man who has a dear child in the eternal kingdom does not feel better and purer and more Christ-like when he thinks of that angel face smiling upon him in tender affection?

(A. Warr, M. A.)

The seeming silence of God means human incapacity and dulness. This is the obstacle to hearing. There is an eternal reality corresponding with the ancient phrase, "Communion with God." But this implies more than the existence of the Heavenly voice. It implies organs made sensitive to it. The material world is full of sounds which are constantly failing upon ears that are too dull or too deaf to hear them. We speak of the silence of the sea, of the silence of the night, of the silence of the mighty mountain. But to men with ears, to men not wanting in "the vision and the faculty divine," these things are unceasingly eloquent with speech. To some God does not seem to speak because there has been no preparation for hearing. Where the soul is filled with the noise of mundane voices, the Divine voices which are resounding through its chambers cannot be distinguished. The man who cries despairingly to God, "Be not silent to me," needs to remember that it is himself more than God that needs to be stirred. He must set himself to understand the language in which the Divine One is wont to communicate with the human spirit. Even among men the spoken and the written word are not the only methods of intercommunication. To the trained eye of friendship many an important message may be conveyed without the use of any audible or written word. We speak to God in a voice audible, but He may answer us in impressions, in impulses, and similar. And this language, the language of the spirit of the unseen God, cannot be understood without any instruction. The one who rushes into the Divine presence with petitions, his soul full of earth's voices, having never learned even the alphabet of the spiritual world, cannot expect to understand the answer he may receive, any more than a man ignorant of the telegraph code could interpret the dots and dashes which he is given to understand are the reply to a communication which he has flashed along the speaking wires. To the aspiring, sensitive soul, God is never silent.

(J. Hunter, D. D.)

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