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Psalm 84:8-11

8. O Jehovah, God of Hosts! hear my prayer: O God of Jacob! hearken. Selah. 9. O God! our shield, behold; and look upon the face of thy Anointed. 10. For better is one day in thy courts than a thousand elsewhere. 469469     And therefore the verb הסתופף, histopheph, derived from this noun, signifies to sit at the threshold I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11. For Jehovah God is our sun and shield: Jehovah will give grace and glory: he will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly. O Jehovah of Hosts! blessed is the man who trusteth in thee.

 

8 O Jehovah, God of Hosts! hear my prayer. David, instead of acting like worldly men, who foolishly and unprofitably distress and torment themselves by inwardly cherishing their desires, very wisely directs his wishes and prayers to God. From this it is also evident, that he was not accustomed to indulge in ostentatious boasting, as is the case with many hypocrites, who present to outward appearance a wonderful ardor of zeal, while yet the omniscient eye of God sees nothing but coldness in their hearts. In the first place, he supplicates in general, that God would vouchsafe to hear him. He next anticipates a temptation which might very readily arise from his being at present apparently cut off from the Church, and wards it off, by associating and ranking himself with all true believers, under the protection of God. Had he not been a member of the Church, he could not have said generally, and as it were in the person of all its members, Our shield. Having made this statement, he uses language still more expressive of high privilege, adducing the royal anointing with which God had honored him by the hand of Samuel, 1 Samuel 16:12. These words, Look upon the face of thy anointed, are very emphatic, and yet many interpreters pass over them very frigidly. He encourages himself in the hope of obtaining the favor of God, from the consideration that he had been anointed king in compliance with a divine command. Knowing, however, that his kingdom was merely a shadow and type of something more illustrious, there is no doubt, that in uttering these words, the object which he aspired after was, to obtain the divine favor through the intervention of the Mediator of whom he was a type. I am personally unworthy, as if he had said, that thou shouldest restore me, but the anointing by which thou hast made me a type of the only Redeemer will secure this blessing for me. We are thus taught, that the only way in which God becomes reconciled to us is through the mediation of Christ, whose presence scatters and dissipates all the dark clouds of our sins.

10. For better is one day in thy courts than a thousand elsewhere. Unlike the greater part of mankind, who desire to live without knowing why, wishing simply that their life may be prolonged, David here testifies, not only that the end which he proposed to himself in living was to serve God, but that in addition to this, he set a higher value on one day which he could spend in the divine service, than upon a long time passed among the men of the world, from whose society true religion is banished. It being lawful for none but the priests to enter into the inner and innermost courts of the temple, David expressly declares, that provided he were permitted to have a place at the porch, he would be contented with this humble station; for the Hebrew word ספ, saph, signifies a door-post, or the threshold of a house. 470470     This explanation is adopted by Walford, who reads, “Jehovah giveth favor and honor.” “The common gloss on these words,” he observes, “is, that God first bestows grace on earth, and then glory in heaven. But this is an interpretation of the ear rather than of the understanding. The writer is evidently speaking of the present happy consequences of walking uprightly as he immediately says. The judgment of Calvin agrees with this statement.” The value which he set upon the sanctuary is presented in a very striking light by the comparison, that he would prefer having a place at the very doors of the temple, to his having full possession of the tents of wickedness, the plain import of which is, that he would rather be cast into a common and unhonoured place, provided he were among the people of God, than exalted to the highest rank of honor among unbelievers. A rare example of godliness indeed! Many are to be found who desire to occupy a place in the Church, but such is the sway which ambition has over the minds of men, that very few are content to continue among the number of the common and undistinguished class. Almost all are carried away with the frantic desire of rising to distinction, and can never think of being at ease until they have attained to some station of eminence.

11. Jehovah God is our sun and shield. The idea conveyed by the comparison derived from the sun is, that as the sun by his light vivifies, nourishes, and rejoices the world, so the benign countenance of God fills with joy the hearts of his people, or rather, that they neither live nor breathe except in so far as he shines upon them. By the term shield is meant, that our salvation, which would otherwise be perilled by countless dangers, is in perfect safety under his protection. The favor of God in communicating life to us would be far from adequate to the exigencies of our condition, unless at the same time, in the midst of so many dangers, he interposed his power as a buckler to defend us. The sentence immediately succeeding, he will give grace and glory, might be viewed as meaning, that those whom God has distinguished by his grace in this world, will at length be crowned with everlasting glory in his heavenly kingdom. But this distinction between grace and glory being, I am afraid, too refined, it will be preferable to explain the sentence as implying, that after God has once taken the faithful into his favor, he will advance them to high honor, and never cease to enrich them with his blessings. 471471     “It is generally agreed, that the subject of this psalm is the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity; in celebrating which, the Psalmist is carried by a prophetic impulse to foretell a much greater deliverance by the coming of Christ.” — Dimock. This interpretation is confirmed by the following clause, He will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly, obviously teaching us, that God’s bounty can never be exhausted, but flows without intermission. We learn from these words, that whatever excellence may be in us proceeds solely from the grace of God. They contain, at the same time, this special mark, by which the genuine worshippers of God may be distinguished from others, That their life is framed and regulated according to the principles of strict integrity.

The exclamation with which David concludes the psalm, Blessed is the man who trusteth in thee, seems to refer to the season of his banishment. He had previously described the blessedness of those who dwell in the courts of the Lord, and now he avows, that although he was for a time deprived of that privilege, he was far from being altogether miserable, because he was supported by the best of all consolations, that which arose from beholding from a distance the grace of God. This is an example well worthy of special attention. So long as we are deprived of God’s benefits, we must necessarily groan and be sad in heart. But, that the sense of our distresses may not overwhelm us, we ought to impress it upon our minds, that even in the midst of our calamities we do not cease to be happy, when faith and patience are in exercise.


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