TITLE.–“A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his Son.” You will remember the sad story of David’s flight from his own palace, when, in the dead of the night, he forded the brook Kedron, and went with a few faithful followers to hide himself for awhile from the fury of his rebellious son. Remember that David in this was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, too, fled; he, too, passed over the brook Kedron when his own people were in rebellion against him, and with a feeble band of followers he went to the garden of Gethsemane. He, too, drank of the brook by the way, and therefore doth he lift up the head. By very many expositors this is entitled _THE MORNING HYMN_. May we ever wake with holy confidence in our hearts, and a song upon our lips!
DIVISION.–This Psalm may be divided into four parts of two verses each. Indeed, many of the Psalms cannot be well understood unless we attentively regard the parts into which they are to be divided. They are not continuous descriptions of one scene, but a set of pictures of many kindred subjects. As in our modern sermons, we divide our discourse into different heads, so it is in these Psalms. There is always unity, but it is the unity of a bundle of arrows, and not of a single solitary shaft. Let us now look at the Psalm before us. In the first two verses you have David making a complaint to God concerning his enemies; he then declares his confidence in the Lord (#3,4|), sings of his safety in sleep (#5,6|), and strengthens himself for future conflict (#7,8|).
The poor broken-hearted father complains of the multitude of his enemies, and if you turn to #2Sa 15:12|, you will find it written that “the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom,” while the troops of David constantly diminished! “_Lord how are they increased that trouble me!” Here is a note of exclamation to express the wonder of woe which amazed and perplexed the fugitive father. Alas! I see no limit to my misery, for my troubles are enlarged! There was enough at first to sink me very low; but lo! my enemies multiply. When Absalom, my darling, is in rebellion against me, it is enough to break my heart; but lo! Ahithophel hath forsaken me, my faithful counsellors have turned their backs on me; lo! my generals and soldiers have deserted my standard. “How are they increased that trouble me!” Troubles always come in flocks. Sorrow hath a numerous family.
“_Many are they that rise up against me_.” Their hosts are far superior to mine! Their numbers are too great for my reckoning!
Let us here recall to our memory the innumerable hosts which beset our Divine Redeemer. The legions of our sins, the armies of fiends, the crowd of bodily pains, the host of spiritual sorrows, and all the allies of death and hell, set themselves in battle against the Son of Man. O how precious to know and believe that he has routed their hosts, and trodden them down in his anger! They who would have troubled us he has removed into captivity, and those who would have risen up against us he has laid low. The dragon lost his sting when he dashed it into the soul of Jesus.
David complains before his loving God of the worst weapon of his enemies’ attacks, and the bitterest drop of his distresses. “Oh!” saith David, “_many there be that say of my soul, There is no help for him in God_.” Some of his distrustful friends said this sorrowfully, but his enemies exultingly boasted of it, and longed to see their words proved by his total destruction. This was the unkindest cut of all, when they declared that his God had forsaken him. Yet David knew in his own conscience that he had given them some ground for this exclamation, for he had committed sin against God in the very light of day. Then they flung his crime with Bathsheba into his face, and they said, “Go up, thou bloody man; God hath forsaken thee and left thee.” Shimei cursed him and swore at him to his very face, for he was bold because of his backers, since multitudes of the men of Belial thought of David in like fashion. Doubtless, David felt this infernal suggestion to be staggering to his faith. If all the trials which come from heaven, all the temptations which ascend from hell, and all the crosses which arise from earth, could be mixed and pressed together, they would not make a trial so terrible as that which is contained in this verse. It is the most bitter of all afflictions to be led to fear that there is no help for us in God. And yet remember our most blessed Saviour had to endure this in the deepest degree when he cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He knew full well what it was to walk in darkness and to see no light. This was the curse of the curse. This was the wormwood mingled with the gall. To be deserted of his Father was worse than to be the despised of men. Surely we should love him who suffered this bitterest of temptations and trials for our sake. It will be a delightful and instructive exercise for the loving heart to mark the Lord in his agonies as here portrayed, for there is here, and in very many other Psalms, far more of David’s Lord than of David himself.
“_Selah_.” This is a musical pause; the precise meaning of which is not known. Some think it simply a rest, a pause in the music; others say it means, “Lift up the strain–sing more loudly–pitch the tune upon a higher key–there is nobler matter to come, therefore retune your harps.” Harp-strings soon get out of order and need to be screwed up again to their proper tightness, and certainly our heart-strings are evermore getting out of tune. Let “Selah” teach us to pray “O may my heart in tune be found Like David’s harp of solemn sound.”
At least, we may learn that wherever we see “Selah,” we should look upon it as a note of observation. Let us read the passage which precedes and succeeds it with greater earnestness, for surely there is always something excellent where we are required to rest and pause and meditate, or when we are required to lift up our hearts in grateful song. “SELAH.”
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Title.– With regard to the authority of the TITLES, it becomes us to speak with diffidence, considering the very opposite opinions which have been offered upon this subject by scholars of equal excellence. In the present day, it is too much the custom to slight or omit them altogether, as though added, nobody knows when or by whom, and as, in many instances, inconsistent with the subject-matter of the Psalm itself: while Augustine, Theodoret, and various other early writers of the Christian church, regard them as a part of the inspired text; and the Jews still continue to make them a part of their chant, and their rabbins to comment upon them.
It is certainly unknown who invented or placed them where they are: but it is unquestionable that they have been so placed from time immemorial; they occur in the Septuagint, which contains also in a few instances titles to Psalms that are without any in the Hebrew; and they have been copied after the Septuagint by Jerome. So far as the present writer has been able to penetrate the obscurity that occasionally hangs over them, they are a direct and most valuable key to the general history or subject of the Psalms to which they are prefixed; and, excepting where they have been evidently misunderstood or misinterpreted, he has never met with a single instance in which the drift of the title and its respective Psalm do not exactly coincide. Many of them were, doubtless, composed by Ezra at the time of editing his own collection, at which period some critics suppose the whole to have been written; but the rest appear rather to be coeval, or nearly so, with the respective Psalms themselves, and to have been written about the period of their production. –^John Mason Good, M.D., F.R.S., 1854.
_See title_. Here we have the first use of the word _Psalm_. In Hebrew, _Mizmor_, which hath the signification of pruning, or cutting off superfluous twigs, and is applied to songs made of short sentences, where many superfluous words are put away.–^Henry Ainsworth.
Upon this note an old writer remarks, “Let us learn from this, that in times of sore trouble men will not fetch a compass and use fine words in prayer, but will offer prayer which is pruned of all luxuriance of wordy speeches.”
Whole Psalm.–Thus you may plainly see how God hath wrought in his church in old time, and therefore should not discourage yourselves for any sudden change; but with David, acknowledge your sins to God, declare unto him how many there be that vex you and rise up against you, naming you Huguenots, Lutherans, Heretics, Puritans, and the children of Belial, as they named David. Let the wicked idolators brag that they will prevail against you and overcome you, and that God hath given you over, and will be no more your God. Let them put their trust in Absalom, with his large golden locks; and in the wisdom of Ahithophel, the wise counsellor; yet say you, with David, “_Thou, O Lord, art my defender, and the lifter up of my head_.” Persuade yourselves, with David, that the Lord is your defender, who hath compassed you round about, and is, as it were, a “_shield_” that doth cover you on every side. It is he only that may and will compass you about with glory and honour. It is he that will thrust down those proud hypocrites from their seat, and exalt the lowly and meek. It is he which will “_smite_” your “enemies on _the cheek bone_,” and burst all their teeth in sunder. He will hang up Absalom by his own long hairs; and Ahithophel through desperation shall hang himself. The bands shall be broken and you delivered; for this belongeth unto the Lord, to save his from their enemies, and to bless his people, that they may safely proceed in their pilgrimage to heaven without fear.–^Thomas Tymme’s “Silver Watch Bell,” 1634.
Verse 1.–Absalom’s faction, like a snowball, strangely gathered in its motion. David speaks of it as one amazed; and well he might, that a people he had so many ways obliged, should almost generally revolt from him, and rebel against him, and choose for their head such a silly, giddy young fellow as Absalom was. How slippery and deceitful are the many! And how little fidelity and constancy is to be found among men! David had had the hearts of his subjects as much as ever any king had, and yet now of a sudden he had lost them! As people must not trust too much to princes (#Ps 146:3|), so princes must not build too much upon their interest in the people. Christ the Son of David had many enemies, when a great multitude came to seize him, when the crowd cried, “Crucify him, crucify him,” how were they then increased that troubled him! Even good people must not think it strange if the stream be against them, and the powers that threaten them grow more and more formidable.–^Matthew Henry.
Verse 2.–When the believer questions the power of God, or his interest in it, his joy gusheth out as blood out of a broken vein. This verse is a sore stab indeed.–^William Gurnall.
Verse 2.–A child of God startles at the very thought of despairing of help in God; you cannot vex him with anything so much as if you offer to persuade him, “_There is no help for him in God_.” David comes to God, and tells him what his enemies said of him, as Hezekiah spread Rabshakeh’s blasphemous letter before the Lord; they say, “_There is no help for me in thee;_” but, Lord, if it be so, I am undone. They say to my soul, “_There is no salvation_” (for so the word is) “_for him in God_;” but, Lord, do thou say unto my soul, “_I am thy salvation_” (#Ps 35:3|), and that shall satisfy me, and in due time silence them.–^Matthew Henry.
Verses 2,4,8.–“_Selah_” (cel