Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 11: Psalms, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
At the time when this psalm was penned, whenever that was, David having attained to the possession of royal power, and aware that he reigned for the common safety of the Church, calls upon all the children of Abraham to ponder attentively this grace. He also recounts his dangers, the magnitude and variety of which would have slain him a hundred times, had not God wonderfully succored him. From this it is obvious that he came to the throne of the kingdom, neither by his own policy, nor by the favor of men, nor by any human means. At the same time, he informs us that he did not rashly or by wicked intrigues rush forward and take forcible possession of the kingdom of Saul, but that he was appointed and established king by God himself. Let us remember that it was the design of the Spirit, under the figure of this temporal kingdom, to describe the eternal and spiritual kingdom of God’s Son, even as David represented his person. 387
1. Praise ye Jehovah; because he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever. 2. Let Israel now 388 say, that his mercy endureth for ever. 3. Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. 4. Let those who fear Jehovah now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
1 Praise ye Jehovah In this passage we see that David does not merely in a private capacity render thanks to God, but that he loudly summons the people to engage in the common exercises of piety. This he does, not simply from his having been divinely appointed to be the captain and teacher of others; but, God having invested him with royal power, had manifested his sympathy with his distressed Church. Hence he exhorts the Israelites to magnify the grace of God, under whose kind protection he appears to re-establish them in safety. In the beginning of the psalm he alludes generally to the goodness and mercy of God, but he shortly instances himself as an evidence of his goodness, as will be seen in its proper place. It becomes us at present to recall to mind what I mentioned in the preceding psalm, that a reason for praising God is given to us on account of his mercy, in preference to his power or justice; because, though his glory shine forth in them also, yet will we never promptly and heartily sound forth his praises, until he win us by the sweetness of his goodness. Accordingly, in Ps 51:17, we found that the lips of the faithful were opened to praise God, when they perceived that he was truly their deliverer. In restricting his address to Israel, and to the children of Aaron, he is guided by a regard to his own times, because, up to that period, the adoption did not extend beyond that one nation. He again resumes the order which he observed in Ps 116:1; for, after exhorting the children of Abraham, who had been separated from the Gentiles by the election of God, and also the sons of Aaron, who, by virtue of the priesthood, ought to take the precedence in conducting the psalmody, he directs his discourse to the other worshippers of God; because there were many hypocrites among the Israelites, who, occupying a place in the Church, were yet strangers to it. This is not inconsistent with David’s here speaking by the spirit of prophecy, respecting the future kingdom of Christ. That kingdom, no doubt, extended to the Gentiles, but its commencement and first-fruits were among God’s chosen people.
5. I called upon God in my distress, and God heard me, by setting me at large. 6. Jehovah is with me: I will not fear what man may do unto me. 7. Jehovah is with me among those who help me, and I shall see my desire upon mine enemies. 8. It is better to hope in Jehovah than to confide in man: 9. It is better to hope in Jehovah than to confide in princes.
5 I called upon God in my distress. We have here a particular application of the doctrine we formerly mentioned, to the person of David; with which also is conjoined the rejoicing of the whole Church, for whose public welfare God made provision by upholding him. By his own example he establishes the faithful, showing them that they ought not to faint in the day of adversity. He seems designedly to anticipate an objection, which is apt to arise in the minds of men the moment that the goodness of God is proclaimed, “Why does he permit his servants to be so sore oppressed and afflicted?” David therefore reminds them, notwithstanding, that God’s mercy never fails, for we have in prayer, consolation and an antidote for all our ills. The season, too, in which he says that he made supplication, by means of which he obtained deliverance, was that of distress, which touches us, that the time of sad adversity is most proper for abounding in prayer.
6 Jehovah is with me among those who help me Confiding solely in God’s help, he sets at defiance not a few enemies merely, but the whole world. “Defended by God’s hand, I may boldly and safely set at nought all the machinations of men.” When all the power of the universe is deemed as nothing, in comparison of God, then, indeed, is due honor attributed to him. Thus he tacitly reproves the unbelief of almost all men, who spontaneously alarm themselves with groundless fears. All, indeed, desire peace of mind; but, in consequence of robbing God of the praise due to his power, their own ingratitude does not permit them to realize this blessing. Were they, as is fitting, to submit in all things to the good pleasure and power of God, they would be always ready boldly to surmount all those difficulties, the dread of which from time to time annoys them. But paying more regard to the mischievous attempts of men, than to the help which God can give them, they deserve to tremble at the rustling of the falling leaf. It is the wish of David, by his own example, to correct such perversity; and, with this view, he affirms that, in the enjoyment of God’s favor, he would fear no man, being fully persuaded that he could rescue him from all the nefarious plots which were laid for him. Or if he composed this psalm after his deliverance, we see how much he had profited by the experience of the grace of God. Therefore, as frequently as God shall succor us, let our confidence in him for the future be increased, and let us not be unmindful of his goodness and power, which we experienced in our extremity. Possibly, he relates the meditations which occurred to him in the midst of his distresses; the former conjecture appears more probable, that, after he obtained deliverance, he gloried, for the future, in God’s continued assistance. Some refer the clause, those who are helpers with me, to the small troop which David had drawn to him; but this, in my opinion, is too refined; for it would tend little to the honor of God to class him among the six hundred whom David commanded, as if he were one of the troop. My interpretation is more simple, that he calls God his helper. “It is enough for me that God is on my side.” Were he deprived of all human aid, still he would have no hesitation in opposing God against all his enemies.
8 It is better to trust in Jehovah He appears to state nothing but what is common-place, it being unanimously admitted, that when God and men come into comparison, he must be viewed as infinitely exalted above them, and therefore it is best to trust in him for the aid which he has promised to his own people. All make this acknowledgment, and yet there is scarcely one among a hundred who is fully persuaded that God alone can afford him sufficient help. That man has attained a high rank among the faithful, who, resting satisfied in God, never ceases to entertain a lively hope, even when he finds no help upon earth. The comparison, however, is improper, inasmuch as we are not allowed to transfer to men even the smallest portion of our confidence, which must be placed in God alone. The meaning is by no means ambiguous; the Psalmist is ridiculing the illusory hopes of men by which they are tossed hither and thither; and declares, that when the world smiles upon them they wax proud, and either forsake God or despise him. Some are of opinion that David bitterly reproaches his enemies with their being deceived in depending upon the favor of Saul. This appears to me to be too limited a view of the passage; and I question not that David here proposes himself as an example to all the faithful; in that he had reaped the full fruit of his hope, when, depending solely upon God, he had patiently borne the loss of all earthly succor. In the 9th verse, in which he substitutes princes for men, there is an extension of the idea. “Not only those who put their confidence in men of low degree act foolishly, but also, those who confide even in the greatest potentates; for the trust that is put in flesh shall at last be accursed, but the enjoyment of God’s favor will convert even death itself into life.”
10. All nations compassed me: but in the name of Jehovah I will surely cut them off. 11. They compassed me; yea, they compassed me: in Jehovah’s name I will surely cut them off. 12. They compassed me as bees: they are quenched 389 as a fire of thorns: in Jehovah’s name I will surely cut them off. 13. Thrusting, thou hast thrust at me, that I might fall: 390 but Jehovah helped me. 14. God is my strength and song, and he hath saved me.
10. All nations compassed me In these verses he relates the wonderful deliverance which he had received, that all might know that it was not of human but divine origin. Once and again he declares, that he was compassed not by a few persons, but by a vast multitude. The people, being all inflamed with anger and fury against him, compassed him so that there were no means for his escape, and he could procure help from no quarter but from heaven. Some consider his complaint, that all nations were adverse to him, as referring to the neighboring nations, by whom we know David was surrounded with danger. His meaning, in my opinion, is, that the whole world was adverse to him; because he places God’s help alone in opposition to the deadly and furious hatred both of his own countrymen and of the neighboring nations towards him, so that there was not a spot upon the earth where he could be safe. There was, it is true, no army, collected from several nations, besieging him; still he had no peaceable retreat except among the haunts of wild beasts, from which also he was driven by terror. And in proportion to the number of persons he encountered were the snares laid to entrap him. It is, therefore, not wonderful that he said he was compassed by all nations. Besides, this elliptical mode of speaking is more forcible than if he had merely said that he trusted in God, by reason of which he had become victorious. By publicly mentioning the name of God alone, he maintains that no other means of deliverance were within his reach, and that but for his interposition he must have perished. It appears to me preferable to translate the particle כי, ki, affirmatively. 391 “Besieged as I am on all sides by the world, yet if the power of God help me, that will be more than adequate for the extermination of all mine enemies.” Their obstinate and implacable hatred is pointed out by him in the repetition of the phrase compassed about, and their outrageous fury is set forth in comparing them to bees, which, though not possessed of much strength, are very fierce, and when in their insensate fury they attack a person, they occasion no little fear. He shortly adds, they are quenched as a fire of thorns, which at first makes a great crackling, and throws out a greater flame than a fire of wood, but soon passes away. The amount is, that David’s enemies had furiously assailed him, but that their fury soon subsided. Hence he again repeats, that sustained by the power of God, whatever opposition might rise against him would soon pass away.
13. Thou hast sorely thrust at me. He either now changes the person, or directs his discourse to Saul, his principal enemy. In the person of one, he sets at defiance all his enemies together. In saying that he had been thrust at, he admits that he did not withstand the onset by his own bravery, as those who are powerful enough to encounter opposition, sustain the assaults of their enemies without flinching. The power of God is more illustriously displayed in raising him up even from ruin itself.
In the subsequent verse he draws the conclusion that God is his strength and song. By the former adjunct he candidly acknowledges his weakness, and ascribes his safety exclusively to God. And having admitted that his strength was in God alone, because he was sustained by his power, immediately he adds, that God is his praise or his song, which must be understood passively. “In myself there was no ground for boasting, to God belongs entirely all the praise of my safety.” The last clause of the verse, in which he says that God was his salvation, refers to the same subject.
15. The voice of shouting and salvation is in the tabernacles of the just: the right hand of Jehovah hath done valiantly. 16. The right hand of Jehovah is exalted, the right hand of Jehovah hath done valiantly. 17. I shall not die, yea, I shall live, and speak of the works of God. 18. God chastising has chastised me; but he did not deliver me unto death. 19. Open to me the gates of righteousness; and having entered into them, I will praise God. 20. This is the gate of Jehovah, the just shall enter into it. 21. I will praise thee, because thou hast heard me, and hast been my salvation.
15. The voice of shouting and salvation is in the tabernacles of the just. He affirms that the kindness which God had conferred upon him was so extensive, that it would not do to render thanks to him privately. In the benefits which he had received, God’s power appeared both remarkable and memorable, and the fruit of it also was extended to the whole Church. Therefore, as David’s deliverance was wonderful and advantageous generally to all the godly, he promises that he would make a public thanksgiving; and invites them to join him in this holy exercise. By this circumstance, he chiefly aims at magnifying the grace of God, and also by its effects to demonstrate, that not merely his individual preservation, but that of the whole Church, in his person, was accomplished. Intercommunion among believers does, indeed, bind them alternately to render thanks to God for each other; in David’s case, there was the specific reason which I have mentioned, his wonderful preservation from many deaths, and his having assigned to him the sovereignty of God’s chosen people. It is worthy of notice, that he combines the voice of joy and gladness with the praise of God, by which he shows that believers ought to mingle with their mirth a sense of the grace of God. To do valiantly, is tantamount to a magnificent display of his power, so that there may be a bright manifestation of its effulgence. God ofttimes secretly, and when apparently feeble, grants deliverance to his faithful people, that they may be sensible that it comes from him; but this is not so well known to others. Here, however, David asserts that the operation of God was so plainly developed, no one could doubt whence his safety came. The other phrase, that the right hand of God was exalted, refers to the same subject, because, by working powerfully and unwontedly, God had exalted his hand.
17. I shall not die David speaks like one emerging from the sepulcher. The very same person who says, I shall not die, acknowledges that he was rescued from death, to which he was near as one condemned to it. For a series of years his life was in imminent danger, exposed every moment to a thousand deaths, and no sooner was he delivered from one than he entered into another. Thus he declares that he would not die, because he regained life, all hope of which he had entirely abandoned. We, whose life is hid with Christ in God, ought to mediate upon this song all our days, Col 3:3. If we occasionally enjoy some relaxation, we are bound to unite with David in saying, that we who were surrounded with death are risen to newness of life. In the meantime, we must constantly persevere through the midst of darkness: as our safety lies in hope, it is impossible that it can be very visible to us. In the second member of the verse, he points out the proper use of life. God does not prolong the lives of his people, that they may pamper themselves with meat and drink, sleep as much as they please, and enjoy every temporal blessing, but to magnify him for his benefits which he is daily heaping upon them. Of this subject we have spoken on Psalm 115
18. In chastising God has chastised me. In these words David owns that his enemies assailed him unjustly, that they were employed by God to correct him, that this was fatherly chastisement, God not inflicting a deadly wound, but correcting him in measure and in mercy. He seems to anticipate the perverse decisions of perverse men which grievously pressed upon him, as if all the ills which he had endured were so many evidences of his being cast off by God. These calumnies which the reprobate cast upon him he applies very differently, by declaring that his correction was mild and paternal. The main thing in adversity is to know that we are laid low by the hand of God, and that this is the way which he takes to prove our allegiance, to arouse us from our torpidity, to crucify our old man, to purge us from our filthiness, to bring us into submission and subjection to God, and to excite us to meditate on the heavenly life.
If these things were recollected by us, there is not one of us who would not shudder at the thought of fretting against God, but would much rather yield submission to him with a mild and meek spirit. Our champing the bit, and rushing forward impatiently, certainly proceeds from the majority of men not looking upon their afflictions as God’s rods, and from others not participating in his paternal care. The last clause of the verse, therefore, merits particular attention, That God always deals mercifully with his own people, so that his correction proves their cure. Not that his paternal regard is always visible, but that in the end it will be shown that his chastisements, so far from being deadly, serve the purpose of a medicine, which, though it produce a temporary debility, rids us of our malady, and renders us healthy and vigorous.
19 Open unto me the gates of righteousness 392 Under the influence of ardent zeal, David here sets himself to testify his gratitude, commanding the temple to be opened to him, as if the oblations were all already prepared. He now confirms what he said formerly, That he would render thanks to God publicly in the properly constituted assembly of the faithful. It was the practice of the priests to open the doors of the temple to the people; it appears, however, that David here alludes to his long exile, which supposition is corroborated by the following verse. Having been for a long period prevented from having access to the sanctuary, and even from coming within sight of it, he now rejoices and exults at being again admitted to offer sacrifice unto God. And he declares that he will not approach as the hypocrites were wont to do, whom God, by the prophet Isaiah, reproaches with treading his courts in vain, but that he will come with the sacrifice of praise, (Isa 1:12) Fully persuaded that he drew near in the spirit of genuine devotion, he says it is proper that the doors of the temple, which lately he durst not enter, should be opened to him and such as he. It is, says he, the gate of Jehovah, and, therefore, he will open it for the just. The meaning is, that banished as David had been from the temple and from his country, now that the kingdom is in a better condition, both he and all the true worshippers of God regained their right to approach his sanctuary. Thus he indirectly mourns over the profanation of the temple, in that, while under the tyranny of Saul, it was occupied by the profane contemners of God, as if it had been a kennel for dogs and other unclean animals. This abomination, the temple being for a long time a den of thieves, is here inveighed against; but now that it is patent to the righteous, he declares it to be God’s holy house. What occurred in the days of Saul is visible in these days, God’s bitter enemies most wickedly and shamefully occupying his sanctuary. The Pope would not be Antichrist if he did not sit in the temple of God, (2Th 2:4). Having, by his vile pollutions, converted all temples into brothels, let us endeavor as much as we can to purge them, and prepare them for the pure worship of God. And as it has pleased Him to choose his holy habitation among us, let us exert ourselves to remove all the defilements and abominations which disfigure the purity of the Church. David then relates briefly the reason of his offering the sacrifice of praise to God, namely, that he had been preserved by his grace.
22. The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner. 393 23. This was done by Jehovah; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24. This is the day which Jehovah made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25. I beseech thee, O Jehovah! save me; I beseech thee, I beseech thee, O Jehovah! give prosperity, I beseech thee. 26. Blessed is he who cometh in the name of Jehovah: we bless you out of the house of Jehovah.
22 The stone which the builders rejected In these words David boldly pours contempt on the calumnies with which he was unjustly and undeservedly assailed. As there was something ominous in his being condemned by the entire assemblage of the nobles, and all those who were invested with authority, and as the opinion was prevalent, that he was a wicked and rejected man; this error he deliberately refutes, and vindicates his innocence in the face of the principal men among them. “It is of little importance to me that I am abandoned by the chief men, seeing I have been visibly chosen by the judgment of God to be king over Israel.” The similitude which he employs is appropriate, comparing himself to a stone, and the principal rulers of the Church to master-builders It might, indeed, appear most irrational on his part to assert that the heads of the realm, to whom the government of the Church was intrusted, should be deprived of the Spirit of God, and divested of a sound judgment. Hence, in opposition to their perverse and erroneous judgment, he places the grace of God, declaring that he was placed by the purpose and power of God to sustain the whole building. In a word, he shows that splendid titles and high rank, in which his enemies glory, are no obstruction to him, because, relying upon the call of God, he possesses a glory superior to the verdict of the whole world. It being a difficult matter to persuade them of the truth of this, he magnifies and enlarges upon the grace of God, in order that its authority might suppress all evil speaking and clamorous surmises.
This, says he, is the doing of Jehovah “Go and quarrel with God, all ye that strenuously endeavor to eject me from my throne, to which I have not been elevated accidentally, or by human policy, but by the manifest power of God.” This he confirms by all being constrained to wonder at what had occurred as a thing incredible. Now, when God doeth marvellously, and in a manner that surpasses our comprehension, his power cannot fail to be so much the more apparent unto us. Should any prefer to interpret it thus:-Although this work may fill men with astonishment, yet that is no reason for rejecting it; he may do so. To me, however, it certainly appears more probable that David employs the term wonderful, that the haughtiness of man may submit to God, and that none may presume to breathe a whisper against him. The fitness of these things being applied to Christ will be more properly discussed when I come to consider the twenty-fifth verse.
24. This is the day which Jehovah made He now speaks of that as a happy and pleasant day, on which he was at last established king over Israel, and the anointing of him by Samuel ratified by this event. Doubtless, all days were created alike by God, nevertheless David, by way of eminence, calls that the day of God which, after a long period of darkness, had dawned for the weal of the Church, because it was signalized by a notable event, deserving of being remembered by succeeding generations; and because the Church had thus emerged from a state of deep obscurity, he exhorts the faithful to mirth and joy, and that, too, by reason of the ignorance which many still displayed of the grace of God, or of their treating it with contempt, and of others being so lettered by their perverse attachment to Saul, that they could scarcely be brought to yield allegiance to David.
25 I beseech thee, O Jehovah! save me As the term נא, na, in Hebrew is frequently used as an adverb of time, not a few render it, in this place, now: Save, I beseech thee, now. It is also often used in the form of asking, and this is the meaning I attach to it, and which accords very well with this passage; for I am persuaded that the Holy Spirit, in repeating the same phrase, designed, by the mouth of the prophet, to stir up and stimulate the faithful to great earnestness and ardor in prayer. If any prefer a different interpretation, it will not be difficult to prevail on me to agree to it. One thing is plain, that there is here a form of prayer prescribed to the chosen people, to seek for prosperity to the kingdom of David, upon which the common safety of all depended. In these words, too, he protested that he held his kingdom by Divine legation, and, therefore, they who would not agree to wish prosperity to his reign were unworthy of occupying a place in the Church.
In the verse following, a particular request is subjoined, which the faithful must entertain; namely, that as God had thus appointed David to be the minister of his grace, so he would also bless him Those are said to come in the name of the Lord, whom God employs for the welfare of his Church — such as prophets and teachers, whom he raises up to gather together his Church; and generals and governors, whom he instructs by his Spirit. But as David was a type of Christ, his case was peculiar; it being the will of God that his people should dwell under him and his successors till the advent of Christ. The clause, blessed is he that cometh, may be viewed as a form of congratulation; but seeing that the benediction of the priests is immediately annexed, I am disposed rather to believe that the people wished for David God’s grace and favor. To induce them to present this petition with more alacrity, and thus be encouraged to receive the king whom God appointed them, this promise is added in the person of the priests, We bless you out of the house of the Lord.
They speak in this manner agreeably with the nature of their office, which enjoined on them the duty of blessing the people, as appears from several passages in the books of Moses, and particularly from Nu 6:23. It is not without reason that they connect the welfare of the Church with the prosperity of the kingdom, it being their desire to throw out the suggestion, and to represent that the safety of the people would remain as long as that kingdom continued to flourish, and that they would all share in the blessings which would be conferred upon their king, because of the indissoluble connection which exists between the head and members. Knowing, as we now do, that when David was constituted king, the foundation of that everlasting kingdom, which was eventually manifested in the advent of Christ, was then laid, and that the temporal throne upon which the descendants of David were placed was a type of the eternal kingdom given to Christ by God his Father, in consequence of which he obtained all power, both in heaven and on earth, there can be no question that the prophet calls upon the faithful to pray fervently and constantly for the prosperity and progress of this spiritual kingdom; for it was incumbent on those who lived during the shadowy dispensation to pray for David and his successors; but after all the grandeur of that kingdom was overthrown, it behooved them to entreat the more ardently that God, in fulfillment of his promise, would re-establish it. In short, all that is here stated properly relates to the person of Christ; and that which was dimly adumbrated in David was brightly represented and fulfilled in Christ. The election of David was secret; and after he was anointed by Samuel to be king, he was rejected by Saul, and by all the heads of the people, and all abhorred him as if he had been a person deserving of a hundred deaths. Thus disfigured and dishonored, he did not appear to be a fit stone for occupying a place in the building. Similar to this was the beginning of the kingdom of Christ, who, being sent by his Father for the redemption of the Church, not only was despised by the world, but also hated and execrated, both by the common people and the dignitaries of the Church.
But it may be asked, how the prophet designates those master-builders who, so far from wishing the protection of the Church, aim at nothing so much as the demolition of the entire structure? We know, for instance, with what vehemence the scribes and priests, in Christ’s time, labored to subvert all true piety. The reply is not difficult. David refers solely to the office which they held, and not to the inclinations by which they were actuated. Saul and all his counsellors were subverters of the Church, and yet, in relation to their office, they were chief-builders. To the ungodly the Holy Ghost is wont to concede the honorable titles which belong to their office, until that God remove them from it. How abandoned, oftentimes, were the priests among the ancient people of God, and yet they retained the dignity and honor which belonged to their office, until they were denuded of it. Hence the words of Isaiah,
“Who is blind, but my servant; and who is foolish., but he whom I have sent?” Isa 42:19
Now, though their intention was to undermine the whole constitution of the Church, yet, as they were divinely called for a different object, he calls them the servants and the sent of God. In our day, also, the Pope and his filthy clergy, who usurp the title of the priesthood, nevertheless continue the professed enemies of Christ; from which it follows, that they are any thing rather than God’s legitimate servants, -and occupying the position of pastors — while they scatter the flock, their condemnation will be the greater. Between them and the Levitical priests there is assuredly a wide difference. As, however, they are invested with the usual authority, there can be no harm in conceding the title to them, provided they do not use it as a cloak to conceal their vile tyranny; for if the mere title was sufficient to procure for them personal reverence, then Christ must, of necessity, have been silenced, seeing that the priests rejected his doctrine. This passage rather informs us, that those who are intrusted with the office of ruling the Church, sometime, prove the worst workmen. David, speaking by the Spirit, denominates chief-builders those who attempted to destroy the Son of God and the salvation of mankind, and by whom the worship of God was adulterated, religion wholly corrupted, and the temple of God profaned. If, therefore, all who are clothed with the ordinary authority must be listened to without exception, as legally appointed pastors, then must Christ not speak, because it very frequently occurs, that his bitterest enemies are concealed under the garb of pastors.
Here we behold with how strong and impregnable a shield the Holy Ghost furnishes us against the empty vauntings of the Papal clergy. Be it so, that they possess the name, “chief-builders;” but if they disown Christ, does it necessarily follow that we must disown him also? Let us rather contemn and trample under our feet all their decrees, and let us reverence this precious stone upon which our salvation rests. By the expression, is become the head of the corner, we are to understand the real foundation of the Church, which sustains the whole weight of the edifice; it being requisite that the corners should form the main strength of buildings. I do not approve of the ingenious opinion of Augustine, who makes Christ the corner-stone, because he united both Jews and Gentiles, thus making the corner the middle stone between the two different walls.
David then proceeds to repeat, at some length, as I have observed, that it is erroneous to estimate the kingdom of Christ by the sentiments and opinions of men, because, in spite of the opposition of the world, it is erected in an astonishing manner by the invisible power of God. In the meantime, we ought to remember, that all that was accomplished in the person of Christ extends to the gradual development of his kingdom, even until the end of the world. When Christ dwelt on the earth, he was despised by the chief priests; and now, those who call themselves the successors of Peter and Paul, but who are truly Ananiases and Caiaphases, giant-like wage war against the Gospel and the Holy Ghost. Not that this furious rebellion ought to give us any uneasiness: let us rather humbly adore that wonderful power of God which reverses the perverse decisions of the world. If our limited understandings could comprehend the course which God follows for the protection and preservation of his Church, there would be no mention made of a miracle. From this we conclude, that his mode of working is incomprehensible, baffling the understandings of men.
Was it necessary, it may be asked, that Christ should be reproached by the master-builders? It would certainly indicate a sad state of the Church, if she never had any pastors except those who were deadly enemies to her welfare. When Paul styles himself “a master-builder,” he informs us that this office was common to all the apostles, (1Co 3:10). My answer therefore is, that all who bear rule in the Church are not charged with perpetual blindness; but that the Holy Spirit meets with this stumblingblock, which, in other respects, is wont to prove a hindrance to many when they witness the name of Christ enveloped with worldly splendor. When God, for the purpose of making his glory shine forth more brightly, looseth Satan’s rein, so that those who are invested with power and authority reject Christ, then it is that the Holy Spirit bids us be of good courage, and setting at nought all these perverse decisions, receive with all respect the King whom God has placed over us. From the first, we know that the master-builders have endeavored to subvert the kingdom of Christ. The same thing is taking place in our times, in those who are intrusted with the superintendence of the Church having made every attempt to overturn that kingdom, by directing against it all the machinery which they can devise. But if we call to mind this prophecy, our faith will not fail, but will be more and more confirmed; because, from these things it will the better appear that the kingdom of Christ does not depend upon the favor of men, and that it does not derive its strength from earthly supports, even as he has not attained it by the suffrages of men. If, however, the master-builders build well, the perverseness of those who will not permit themselves to be appropriated to the sacred edifice will be so much the less excusable. Moreover, as often as we shall, by this species of temptation, be put to the trial, let us not forget that it is unreasonable to expect that the Church must be governed according to our understanding of matters, but that we are ignorant of the government of it, inasmuch as that which is miraculous surpasses our comprehension.
The next clause, this is the day that God hath made, reminds us that there will be nothing but the reign of moral darkness, until Christ the Sun of Righteousness illumine us by his gospel. We are also reminded that this work is to be ascribed to God, and that mankind must not arrogate to themselves any merit on account of their own endeavors. The call to the exercise of gratitude, which immediately follows, is intended to warn us against yielding to the madness of our enemies, however furiously they rage against us, in order to deprive us of the joy which Christ has brought to us. From him all our happiness is derived, and, consequently, there is no cause for surprise that all the ungodly fume with vexation, and feel indignant, that we should be elevated to such a pitch of joy as to suppress all the sorrows and soothe all the asperity of the trials we have to endure. Prior to the advent of Christ, the prayer that follows was familiar to the people, and even to the children, for the Evangelists declare that Christ was received with this form of salutation. And certainly it was the will of God to ratify, at that time, the prediction which he had spoken by the mouth of David; or rather that exclamation clearly demonstrates that the interpretation, against which the Jews now raise a clamor, was unanimously admitted; and this renders their obstinacy and malice the more inexcusable. I blame them not for their stupidity, seeing that they purposely spread around them the mists of ignorance to blind themselves and others. And as the Jews never ceased to put up this prayer during that sad desolation, and those hideous devastations, their perseverance ought to inspire us with new vigor in these days. At that time they had not the honor of a kingdom, no royal throne, no name but with God; and yet amid this deplorable and ruinous state of things, they adhered to the form of prayer formerly prescribed to them by the Holy Spirit. Instructed by their example, let us not fail to pray ardently for the restoration of the Church, which, in our day, is involved in sad desolation. Besides, in these words, we are also informed that Christ’s kingdom is not upheld and advanced by the policy of men, but that this is the work of God alone, for in his blessing solely the faithful are taught to confide. Moreover, the very repetition of the words which, as we have observed, renders them more forcible, ought to arouse us from our lethargy, and render us more intensely ardent in breathing forth this prayer. God can, indeed, of himself, and independently of the prayer of any one, erect and protect the kingdom of his Son; but it is not without good cause that he has laid this obligation on us, as there is no duty more becoming the faithful than that of earnestly seeking for the advancement of his glory.
27. Jehovah is God, and has given light to us: bind ye the lamb with cords, even to the horns of the altar. 394 28. Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: my God, I will exalt thee. 29. Praise ye Jehovah; because he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.
27. Jehovah is God Here the prophet establishes what he said formerly, that God, out of compassion to his Church, dissipated the darkness, and introduced the light of his grace, when David mounted the throne, for that was the harbinger of the redemption which was anticipated to be effected in due time by Christ. He also asserts that God was the author of that deliverance, so wonderful and unlooked for, and he declares that, by the result, he plainly showed himself to be truly God. These words, Jehovah himself is a strong God, because he has restored the light of life to us, are tacitly emphatical. For as the faithful, in consequence of the confused state of the Church, were reduced almost to the brink of despair; the ungodly imagined that all this had happened regarding the children of Abraham, by reason of God himself having, as it were, forsaken them. Wherefore he returns to offer up anew his thankful acknowledgments for the divine grace. He commands the faithful to bind the victim to the horns of the altar, because, according to the legal institute, they could not render solemn thanks unto God without sacrifices. As David was a strict observer of the Law, he would not omit the ceremonial observances which God had enjoined. He would, however, always keep his attention steadily fixed on their grand design, and would have recourse to them only as helps to assist him in presenting a spiritual service unto God. Now that the shadowy dispensation has passed away, it remains that we offer unto God our thanksgivings through Christ, who sanctifies them by his own immaculate offering, lest we should be debarred from this exercise of godliness, by the corruptions of our flesh. And that David turned his attention to the praises of God, is abundantly manifest from the following verse, in which he promises that he would celebrate the name of God, because he was his God, and he knew it; that is, he felt from experience that from his hand he might calculate on receiving sure and immediate assistance.
Calvin ascribes this psalm to David; but, as it is without any title, it is uncertain who was its author. On this point, and the occasion of its composition, various opinions prevail among commentators. According to Hengstenberg, it celebrates the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and the laying the foundation of the second temple; in support of which he refers to Ezr 3:11. Phillips thinks it “probable that it was written for the occasion when David was to be anointed at Hebron king over the tribes of Israel, (2Sa 5;) for, previously to his inauguration, he was subjected to many dangers, both from avowed foes, as well as from Saul and his party. He was exposed to the hostility of the Philistines (1Sa 29,) and the Amalekites, (1Sa 30;) from the former he escaped in safety, and the latter he overcame in battle. Again, although he had been long chosen king of Israel by God, for a considerable period he was exposed to a severe persecution; he was obliged to flee for safety from his country, and it was not till after the death of Saul that his troubles ceased, and he ascended the throne, which had long been his by Divine appointment. To David, therefore, at Hebron, this psalm will apply; for he could then say, ‘All nations compassed me about. The Lord hath chastised me, but he hath not given me over unto death. The stone which the builders refused is become the head-stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.’” Some assign it to the time of Hezekiah; and others to that period of Israel’s history, which is adorned by the illustrious achievements of the Maccabees. “I shall not presume,” says Walford, “to decide which of these opinions is the most agreeable to truth. It will be more to our purpose to observe, that the psalm was read on occasion of a solemn procession that was formed by the king or chief magistrate, whoever he might be, the priests and the people at large, of all ranks, in order to perform public sacrifices of thanksgiving at the temple.”
Horsley very properly translates the Hebrew word נא, na, in this and the two following verses, by O, instead of now: — “O, Let Israel say — O, Let the house of Aaron say — O, Let them that fear Jehovah say.” “The word now,” he observes, “in our language is a particle of entreaty, and is therefore used by our translators to express the supplicatory particle of the Hebrew language, נא. But though now, in our language, is indeed a particle of entreaty, it is only when the verb is in the imperative mood, and in the second person; as, ‘Do, now, grant me this favor;’ or, at least, in speaking to the person of whom the thing is asked. When נא is joined to a verb in the third person, or when the person who is to grant the petition, or perform the thing advised, is not immediately addressed, it should be rendered by some other word or phrase. ‘By all means,’ or ‘of all things,’ are equivalent phrases, in respect of the sense, but not sufficiently dignified to suit the style of sacred poetry. O is perhaps the best particle, in these cases, that our language furnishes.”
The verb דעכו, doachu, here used has ordinarily the signification of to quench. But in this text it is rendered in all the old versions in the sense of to burn. “This makes it probable,” says Hammond, “that as many other words in the Hebrew language are used in contrary senses, so דעך, which signifies in other places passively to be consumed, or extinguished, may signify here as an ἐναντιόσημον to flame, or in an active sense, as in Arabic it is used, violently to break in or set upon, as in war or contention when men violently rush one on another.” And this seems most suitable to the connection in which it stands. At first sight one would think it strange to say that the adversaries of David were quenched (i.e., destroyed) as the fire of thorns; and for the Psalmist afterwards to state, In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off. If the verb is here interpreted in the sense of to burn, the main object of the metaphor must be to express, by a figure frequently employed in Scripture, the impotence and quick termination of the rage of those men, however fierce and apparently formidable. It would soon expend itself, and their power of doing injury be lost like a fire of thorns, which, although for a moment it makes a great crackling, and rages violently as if it would quickly consume every thing near, soon ceases, and nothing remains but the ashes. If the verb is understood in the sense of to quench, the language is very elliptical, and in the true genius of Hebrew poetry, which frequently couches in a few words such images as in the hands of Homer would be materials for an enlarged and dignified description, while it leaves unexpressed more than half of what is intended to be understood. The sudden quenching of the hostile army, like the extinction of a fire of thorns, implies the previous comparison of such array to a fire. “It is remarkable that, in a similar connection, Homer has such a comparison of an hostile army to fire, in which he expresses what David left to be understood, and omits (for he had no occasion to introduce) what David expresses, namely, the sudden quenching of the fire: —
‘As when devouring flames some forest seize
On the high mountains, splendid from afar
The blaze appears, so, moving in the plain,
The steel-clad host innum’rous flash’d to heav’n.’
Iliad 2, 516. Cowper.”
— Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible.
Hammond reads, “Thou hast thrust sore at me to ruin or filling.” “The full import of לנפל,” says he, “is best expressed gerundially, ad cadendum, to falling, not only to express their desire who thus pressed and thrust at him, that he might fall, for that is supposed in the violence of their impulsion, expressed by repetition of the verb דחיתני דחה, thou hast by thrusting thrust me, but to signify the event or success of it, that I was falling, or ready to fall. Του πεσεῖν, say the LXX. in the infinitive mood gerundially, and so the Chaldee and the Syriac; and so the Jewish Arab, ‘It is a long while that thou hast driven or thrust me to falling.’ And this expresses the greatness and seasonableness of the deliverance, that when he was falling, God helped him.”
“I take כי to be an affirmative adverb, surely, and not a conjunction.” — Lowth.
The gates of the temple, or doors of the tabernacle, are supposed to have been called the gates of righteousness, because they were intended for the reception of those only who were righteous.
The learned Michaelis understands this literally. “It appears,” says he, “that, probably at the building of Solomon’s temple, one of those stones, which David had taken care to get provided and made ready for use, was found faith with by the builders, and declared to be useless, and that God, for altogether different reasons, commanded by a prophet that this stone should be made the corner-stone. The Orientals regard the corner-stone as the one peculiarly holy stone in a temple, and that it confers sanctity upon the whole edifice. It is, therefore, the more probable that, either by the Urim and Thummim, (the sacred lot of the Jews,) or by a prophet, God was consulted which stone he would direct to be taken for the corner-stone. The answer was, that which they have perseveringly rejected, and declared to be quite unserviceable. Certainly it must have been for a very important reason, that God positively appointed this stone to be the corner-stone. But the New Testament declares it to us in Mt 21:42; Ac 4:11; and 1Pe 2:7. The Jewish nation would conduct themselves towards the Messiah precisely as the builders did towards this stone, and would reject him; but God would select him to be the corner-stone, which should support and sanctify the whole Church.” — Quoted in Dr Pye Smith on the Priesthood of Christ, page 150. Michaelis’ opinion, that the words literally relate to a stone which the builders at first rejected, but which they were subsequently induced to place in the most important part of the building, is, however, mere conjecture. The prophetic sense in which this verse is applicable to the Messiah, who was rejected by the chief priests, elders, and Pharisees of his time, and who is now the foundation of an ample and constantly increasing Church, rests on more solid grounds; being sanctioned both by Christ himself and his apostles.
The head stone of the corner does not mean the top stone, but the chief stone of the foundation, answering to what we call the first stone. — See Eph. 2:20, 21; 1 Pet. 2:4, 5.
“Yea even unto the horns of the altar — before these words must be understood lead it: for the victims were bound to rings fixed in the floor. The horns were architectural ornaments, a kind of capitals, made of iron or of brass, somewhat in the form of the carved horns of an animal, projecting from the four angles of the altar. The officiating priest, when he prayed, placed his hands on them, and sometimes sprinkled them with the blood of the sacrifice: comp. Ex 30:3; Lev. 4:7, 18. At the end of this verse, the word saying must be supplied.” — Cresswell.