A Prayer in Times of National Distress.
To the chief. musician for the sons of Korah, another hymn composed by a member of this family, Maschil, a didactic poem evidently written at a time when the nation was in great peril, the period of David’s wars having been suggested when he was overthrowing the Ammonites and the Edomites took advantage of his absence to make a raid on Southern Canaan, 2 Sam. 10. The psalm finds its application in the life of all Christians, being particularly suitable for times of oppression by the enemies of the Church, when it seems that the heathen and tyrants will prevail. V. 1. We have heard with our ears, O God, in the form of instruction in vogue among the children of Israel, where every housefather informed his children regarding the great works of God, Ex. 10, 2 ; 12, 26; Deut. 6, 20; our fathers have told us what work Thou didst in their days, in the early history of Israel, in the times of old; v. 2. how Thou didst drive out the heathen with Thy hand, for it was not their own weapons and strength which gave them the victory, as the many specific instances recorded clearly show, but the almighty power of Jehovah, and plantedst them, giving to the fathers of Israel a permanent home in Canaan; how Thou didst afflict the people, the heathen inhabitants, and cast them out. V. 3. For they, the Israelites, got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but Thy right hand and Thine arm and the light of Thy countenance, turned upon Israel in mercy, because Thou hadst a favor unto them, being disposed toward them in love. This is the first point which the inspired singer wishes to make, the fact of God’s help in times past. This fact, moreover, inspires true confidence in Jehovah, the second point emphasized in the psalmist’s prayer. V. 4. Thou art my King, O God, emphatically, “Even Thou Thyself art my King”; command deliverances for Jacob, for the small flock of the faithful, of the believers of all times; V. 5. Through Thee will we push down our enemies, as an angry ox charges and overthrows everyone coming into his way; through Thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us. v. 6. For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me, all confidence in one’s own strength and ability is foolish. V. 7. But Thou hast saved us from our enemies and hast put them to shame that hated us, their opposition to Israel brought them nothing but disgrace, because God was the sole Help of His people. V. 8. In God we boast all the day long, making His almighty power the basis of their confident praise, and praise Thy name, His entire essence as revealed to men, forever. Selah. There follows a description of the desperate straits in which Israel found itself at that time, typical of the troubles which beset the Church of God, and a bitter complaint of neglect. V. 9. But Thou hast cast us off, that is, in spite of the trust which they reposed in Him it seemed that God was bent on their destruction, and put us to shame, a mockery before their enemies; and goest not forth with our armies, the various sections of Israel’s army engaged in war. V. 10. Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy, in defeat and flight; and they which hate us spoil for themselves, gaining rich booty in the deserted camp of Israel. V. 11. Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat, to be used for food without offering resistance, and hast scattered us among the heathen, many members of Israel having been led away as slaves in the recent raids. V. 12. Thou sellest Thy people for naught, for a song, as though they were worthless, insignificant, as if He no longer cared for them, and dost not increase Thy wealth by their price, He did not go high in the price which He demanded in selling them into slavery. V. 13. Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbors, so that the surrounding nations would regard them with derision, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us. V. 14. Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, their fate being bandied about in little verses of mockery, a shaking of the head among the people, in a gesture of sneering contempt. V. 15. My confusion is continually before me, the poet is always conscious of the disgrace resting upon him, and the shame of my face hath covered me, having taken hold of his entire being; v. 16. for the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth, the taunting mockery of whose words cut so deeply; by reason of the enemy and avenger, whose face was full of malignant hatred. The counterpart of all this is found in the treatment accorded the true believers by the children of the world, and the cry of the faithful rises to the Lord at all times in similar strains. Yet they do not continue in vain lamentations, but turn to the Lord in confident prayer. V. 17. All this is come upon us, apparently in punishment; yet have we not forgotten Thee, neither have we dealt falsely in Thy covenant, to deserve such a fate as a punishment. V. 18. Our heart is not turned back, away from the will of God, neither have our steps declined from Thy way, to follow the path of error and denial of God, v. 19. though Thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, where jackals lived, out in the wastes of the desert, where this misfortune had come upon Israel, and covered us with the shadow of death. It is an emphatic declaration that Israel had not become apostate, continued also in the next sentence. V. 20. If we have forgotten the name of our God or stretched out our hands to a strange god, in open idolatry, v. 21. shall not God search this out? For He knoweth the secrets of the heart, and nothing can be hidden before His omniscience. Then there would be reason for His being angry, then He would rightly reject His children. But this is not the case. V. 22. Yea, for Thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. That is the experience of the believers of all times on account of their adherence to God’s Word, to the confession of His holy name. Cp. Rom. 8, 36. Therefore the believers are filled with the courage of faith, with the confidence which appeals to God with the certainty of being heard. V. 23. Awake! Why sleepest Thou, O Lord? this being the conclusion reached because of His failure to bring speedy deliverance to His children. Arise, cast us not off forever! V. 24. Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face, as though He had forgotten all His mercy, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression, as though indifferent to all their suffering? V. 25. For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly cleaveth unto the earth, their condition being one of the greatest oppression and humility. V. 26. Arise for our help and redeem us for Thy mercies’ sake, the appeal, not to the justice, but to the mercy of God for the sake of the Redeemer, being the one argument which is bound to make an impression upon the Lord. Such is the daring quality of faith, which wins victories for every Christian and for the entire Christian Church.