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Psalm 54:4-7

4. Behold! God is my helper; the Lord is with them that uphold my soul. 5. He shall reward evil unto mine enemies: cut them off in thy truth. 6. I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O God! for it is good. 7. For he hath delivered me out of all trouble; and mine eye hath seen upon my adversaries. 290290     The translators of our English Bible have supposed an ellipsis here; and hence they supply “only desire.” Calvin, in his translation of the verse, makes no supplement, but understands it in a similar sense, “My eye hath seen punishment upon my adversaries;” just as it is said in Psalm 91:8, “With thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.” But if we read the words literally, without any supplement, and as they are rendered by the LXX. and the Syriac, “My eyes beheld, or looked upon mine enemies,” they will be susceptible of a very good and natural meaning. David’s enemies were not at this time destroyed; but Saul, when he had reached the farther side of the mountain where David lay concealed, and was about to seize his victim, having heard that the Philistines invaded the land, hastened in confusion to repel the invaders. The meaning of David’s language, therefore, may be, that he was so near Saul and his army as to behold them marching away, which may be easily conceived, when it is considered that “Saul went on this side of the mountain Maon, and David and his men on that side of the mountains” (1 Samuel. 23:26.)

 

4. Behold! God is my helper Such language as this may show us that David did not direct his prayers at random into the air, but offered them in the exercise of a lively faith. There is much force in the demonstrative adverb. He points, as it were, with the finger, to that God who stood at his side to defend him; and was not this an amazing illustration of the power with which faith can surmount all obstacles, and glance, in a moment, from the depths of despair to the very throne of God? He was a fugitive amongst the dens of the earth, and even there in hazard of his life — how, then, could he speak of God as being near to him? He was pressed down to the very mouth of the grave; and how could he recognize the gracious presence of God? He was trembling in the momentary expectation of being destroyed; and how is it possible that he can triumph in the certain hope that Divine help will presently be extended to him? In numbering God amongst his defenders, we must not suppose that he assigns him a mere common rank amongst the men who supported his cause, which would have been highly derogatory to his glory. He means that God took part with those, such as Jonathan and others, who were interested in his welfare. These might be few in number, possessed of little power, and cast down with fears; but he believed that, under the guidance and protection of the Almighty, they would prove superior to his enemies: or, perhaps, we may view him as referring, in the words, to his complete destitution of all human defenders, and asserting that the help of God would abundantly compensate for all. 291291     The phrase, אדני בסמכי, Adonai besomkey, which Calvin renders, “The Lord is with them that uphold,” is translated by Hammond, “The Lord among the sustainers;” and he remarks, that this form of expression, which is not unusual among the Hebrews, signifies no more than “God is my upholder; not one of many upholders, but my only upholder.” Thus, when Jephtha (Judges 11:35) tells his daughter, “Thou art among the troublers of me,” or “one of them that trouble me,” the meaning simply is, that she very much grieved and troubled him. So Psalm 55:18, “There were many with me;” i e., “God was with me,” which is as good as the greatest multitude. This is the sense in which the learned Castellio understands the passage, rendering it, “Dominus is est qui mihi vitam sustentat;” “The Lord is he who sustains my life;” and he defends it by the above and like arguments. With this the Septuagint agrees: “Κυριος ἀντιλήπτωρ τὢς ψνχὢς μου,” “The Lord is the defender of my soul;” and also the Syriac, Arabic, and Aethiopic.

5. He shall reward evil unto mine enemies As the verb ישיב, yashib, may be rendered he shall cause to return, 292292     French and Skinner read, “May their mischief return upon those who watch me;” and observe, “that their mischief in Hebrew is the evil, and that the meaning is, the very evil which they devised against me. Compare Psalm 7:16.” it seems to point not only at the punishment, but the kind of punishment, which would be awarded to his enemies, in the recoiling of their wicked machinations upon their own heads. Some give an optative signification to the verb, understanding the words to express a wish or prayer; but I see no reason why it should not be taken strictly in the future tense, and imagine that David intimates his certain expectation that this favor, which he had already prayed for, would be granted. It is by no means uncommon to find the prayers of the Psalmist intersected with sentences of this kind, inserted for the purpose of stimulating his faith, as here, where he announces the general truth, that God is the righteous judge who will recompense the wicked. With the view of confirming his hopes, he adverts particularly to the truth of God; for nothing can support us in the hour of temptation, when the Divine deliverance may be long delayed, but a firm persuasion that God is true, and that he cannot deceive us by his divine promises. His confidence of obtaining his request was grounded upon the circumstance that God could no more deny his word than deny himself.

6. I will freely sacrifice unto thee. According to his usual custom, he engages, provided deliverance should be granted, to feel a grateful sense of it; and there can be no doubt that he here promises also to return thanks to God, in a formal manner, when he should enjoy an opportunity of doing so. Though God principally looks to the inward sentiment of the heart, that would not excuse the neglect of such rites as the Law had prescribed. He would testify his sense of the favor which he received, in the manner common to all the people of God, by sacrifices, and be thus the means of exciting others to their duty by his example. And he would sacrifice freely: by which he does not allude to the circumstance, that sacrifices of thanksgiving were at the option of worshippers, but to the alacrity and cheerfulness with which he would pay his vow when he had escaped his present dangers. The generality of men promise largely to God so long as they are under the present pressure of affliction, but are no sooner relieved than they relapse into that carelessness which is natural to them, and forget the goodness of the Lord. But David engages to sacrifice freely, and in another manner than the hypocrite, whose religion is the offspring of servility and constraint. We are taught by the passage that, in coming into the presence of God, we cannot look for acceptance unless we bring to his service a willing mind. The last clause of this verse, and the verse which follows, evidently refer to the time when the Psalmist had obtained the deliverance which he sought. The whole psalm, it is true, must have been written after his deliverance; but up to this point, it is to be considered as recording the form of prayer which he used when yet exposed to the danger. We are now to suppose him relieved from his anxieties, and subjoining a fresh expression of his gratitude: nor is it improbable that, he refers to mercies which he had experienced at other periods of his history, and which were recalled to his memory by the one more immediately brought under our notice in the preceding verses; so that he is to be understood as declaring, in a more general sense, that the name of God was good, and that he had been delivered out of all trouble I have already adverted, in a former psalm, (Psalm 52:6,) to the sense in which the righteous are said to see the destruction of their enemies. It is such a sight of the event as is accompanied with joy and comfort; and should any inquire, whether it is allowable for the children of God to feel pleasure in witnessing the execution of Divine judgments upon the wicked, the answer is obvious, that all must depend upon the motive by which they are influenced. If their satisfaction proceed in any measure from the gratification of a depraved feeling, it must be condemned; but there is certainly a pure and unblameable delight which we may feel in looking upon such illustrations of the divine justice.


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