We all know through what difficulties and almost insurmountable obstacles David came to the kingdom. Even to the time of Saul's death he was a fugitive, and, as it were, an outlaw, and wearily passed his life in fear, amidst many threatenings and dangers of death. After God had, with his own hand, placed him on the royal throne, he was immediately harassed with the tumults and insurrections of his own subjects, and the hostile faction being superior to him in power, he was often at the point of being completely overthrown. Foreign enemies, on the other hand, severely tried him even to his old age. These calamities he would never have surmounted had he not been aided by the power of God. Having therefore obtained many and signal victories, he does not, as irreligious men are accustomed to do, sing a song of triumph in honor of himself, but exalts and magnifies God the author of these victories, by a train of striking and appropriate epithets, and in a style of surpassing grandeur and sublimity. This psalm, therefore, is the first of those psalms in which David celebrates, in lofty strains, the wonderful grace which God had shown towards him, both in putting him in possession of the kingdom, and in afterwards maintaining him in it. He also shows that his reign was an image and type of the kingdom of Christ, to teach and assure the faithful that Christ, in spite of the whole world, and of all the resistance which it can make, will, by the stupendous and incomprehensible power of the Father, be always victorious.
To the chief musician of David, the servant of Jehovah, who sung to Jehovah the words of this song in the day that Jehovah delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.
We ought carefully to mark the particular time when this psalm was composed, as it shows us that David, when his affairs were brought to a state of peace and prosperity, was not intoxicated with extravagant joy like irreligious men, who, when they have obtained deliverance from their calamities, shake off from their minds the remembrance of God's benefits, and plunge themselves into gross and degrading pleasures, or erect their crests, and obscure the glory of God by their proud and vain boasting. David, as the sacred history relates, (2 Samuel 22:1,) sung this song to the Lord, when he was now almost spent with age, and when, being delivered from all his troubles, he enjoyed tranquillity. The inscription here agrees with that account, and, from What is there stated, we conclude, that it has not been improperly or incorrectly prefixed to this psalm. David points out the time when it was sung, namely, after God had delivered him from all his enemies, to show us that he was then in perfectly quiet possession of his kingdom, and that God had assisted him not once, nor against one kind of enemies only; seeing his conflicts were from time to time renewed, and the end of one war was the commencement of another; yea, many armies often rose up against him at the same time. Since the creation of the world, we will scarcely find another individual in it whom God has tried by so many and so varied afflictions. As Saul had persecuted him with more cruelty, and with greater fury and determination than all others, his name on that account is here expressly mentioned, although, in the preceding clause, the Psalmist had spoken in general terms of all his enemies. Saul is not put last, as if he had been one of his later enemies,1 for his death had taken place about thirty years previous to this time; and since that event David had discomfited many foreign enemies, and had also suppressed the rebellion of his own son Absalom. But, persuaded that it was a singular manifestation of the grace of God towards him, and eminently worthy of being remembered, that he had for so many years escaped from innumerable deaths, or rather that as many days as he had lived under the reign of Saul, God had wrought, as it were, so many miracles for his deliverance, he firstly mentions and celebrates in particular his deliverance from the hands of this relentless enemy. By calling himself the servant of God, he doubtless intended to bear testimony to his call to be king, as if he had said, I have not rashly, and by my own authority, usurped the kingdom, but have only acted in obedience to the oracle of heaven. And, indeed, amidst the many storms which he had to encounter, it was a support highly necessary to be well assured in his own mind of having undertaken nothing but by the appointment of God; or rather, this was to him a peaceful haven, and a secure retreat in the midst of so many broils and strange calamities.2 There is not a more wretched object than mail in adversity, when he has brought himself into distress by acting according to the mere impulse of his own mind, and not by acting in obedience to the call of God. David, therefore, had a good reason for wishing it to be known that it was not ambition which impelled him to enter into those contests which were so painful and difficult for him to bear, and that he had not attempted any thing unlawful or by wicked means, but had always kept steadily in view the will of God, which served as a light to guide him in his path. This is a point which it is highly useful for us to know, in order that we may not expect to be exempted from all trouble, when we follow the call of God, but may rather prepare ourselves for a condition of warfare painful and disagreeable to our flesh. The name servant, therefore, in this passage, as in many others, relates to his public office; just as when the prophets and apostles call themselves the servants of God, they have a reference to their official character. It is as if he had said, I am not a king of my own creation, but have been chosen by God to fill that high station. At the same time, we ought particularly to notice the humility of David, who, although distinguished by so many victories, and the conqueror of so many nations, and possessed of so great dignity and wealth, honors himself with no other title than this, The servant of God; as if he meant to show that he accounted it more honorable to have faithfully performed the duties of the office with which God had invested him, than to possess all the honors and excellence of the world.