Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryPsalms 89
on the Whole Bible
Many psalms that begin with complaint and prayer end with joy and
praise, but this begins with joy and praise and ends with sad
complaints and petitions; for the psalmist first recounts God's former
favours, and then with the consideration of them aggravates the present
grievances. It is uncertain when it was penned; only, in general, that
it was at a time when the house of David was woefully eclipsed; some
think it was at the time of the captivity of Babylon, when king
Zedekiah was insulted over, and abused, by Nebuchadnezzar, and then
they make the title to signify no more than that the psalm was set to
the tune of a song of Ethan the son of Zerah, called Maschil; others
suppose it to be penned by Ethan, who is mentioned in the story of
Solomon, who, outliving that glorious prince, thus lamented the great
disgrace done to the house of David in the next reign by the revolt of
the ten tribes.
I. The psalmist, in the joyful pleasant part of the psalm, gives glory
to God, and takes comfort to himself and his friends. This he does more
briefly, mentioning God's mercy and truth
and his covenant
but more largely in the following verses, wherein,
1. He adores the glory and perfection of God,
2. He pleases himself in the happiness of those that are admitted into
communion with him,
3. He builds all his hope upon God's covenant with David, as a type of
II. In the melancholy part of the psalm he laments the present
calamitous state of the prince and royal family
expostulates with God upon it
and then concludes with prayer for redress,
In singing this psalm we must have high thoughts of God, a lively faith
in his covenant with the Redeemer, and a sympathy with the afflicted
parts of the church.
|The Divine Mercy and Faithfulness.
Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite.
1 I will sing of the mercies
of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy
faithfulness to all generations.
2 For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy
faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.
3 I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto
David my servant,
4 Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne
to all generations. Selah.
The psalmist has a very sad complaint to make of the deplorable
condition of the family of David at this time, and yet he begins the
psalm with songs of praise; for we must, in every thing, in every
state, give thanks; thus we must glorify the Lord in the fire. We
think, when we are in trouble, that we get ease by complaining; but we
do more--we get joy, by praising. Let our complaints therefore be turned
into thanksgivings; and in these verses we find that which will be
matter of praise and thanksgiving for us in the worst of times, whether
upon a personal or a public account,
1. However it be, the everlasting God is good and true,
Though we may find it hard to reconcile present dark providences with
the goodness and truth of God, yet we must abide by this principle,
That God's mercies are inexhaustible and his truth is inviolable; and
these must be the matter of our joy and praise: "I will sing of the
mercies of the Lord for ever, sing a praising song to God's honour,
a pleasant song for my own solace, and Maschil, an instructive
song, for the edification of others." We may be for ever singing God's
mercies, and yet the subject will not be drawn dry. We must sing of
God's mercies as long as we live, train up others to sing of them when
we are gone, and hope to be singing them in heaven world without end;
and this is singing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. With my
mouth, and with my pen (for by that also do we speak), will I
make known thy faithfulness to all generations, assuring posterity,
from my own observation and experience, that God is true to every word
that he has spoken, that they may learn to put their trust in
2. However it be, the everlasting covenant is firm and sure,
Here we have,
(1.) The psalmist's faith and hope: "Things now look black, and
threaten the utter extirpation of the house of David; but I have
said, and I have warrant from the word of God to say it, that
mercy shall be built up for ever." As the goodness of God's
nature is to be the matter of our song
so much more the mercy that is built for us in the covenant; it is
still increasing, like a house in the building up, and shall still
continue our rest for ever, like a house built up. It shall be built
up for ever; for the everlasting habitations we hope for in the new
Jerusalem are of this building. If mercy shall be built for ever, then
the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, shall be
raised out of its ruins, and built up as in the days of old,
Therefore mercy shall be built up for ever, because thy
faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. Though our
expectations are in some particular instances disappointed, yet God's
promises are not disannulled; they are established in the very
heavens (that is, in his eternal counsels); they are above the
changes of this lower region and out of the reach of the opposition of
hell and earth. The stability of the material heavens is an emblem of
the truth of God's word; the heavens may be clouded by vapours arising
out of the earth, but they cannot be touched, they cannot be changed.
(2.) An abstract of the covenant upon which this faith and hope are
built: I have said it, says the psalmist, for God hath sworn
it, that the heirs of promise might be entirely satisfied of the
immutability of his counsel. He brings in God speaking
owning, to the comfort of his people, "I have made a covenant,
and therefore will make it good." The covenant is made with David; the
covenant of royalty is made with him, as the father of his family, and
with his seed through him and for his sake, representing the covenant
of grace made with Christ as head of the church and with all believers
as his spiritual seed. David is here called God's chosen and
his servant; and, as God is not changeable to recede from his
own choice, so he is not unrighteous to cast off one that served him.
Two things encourage the psalmist to build his faith on this
[1.] The ratification of it; it was confirmed with an oath: The Lord
has sworn, and he will not repent.
[2.] The perpetuity of it; the blessings of the covenant were not only
secured to David himself, but were entailed on his family; it was
promised that his family should continue--Thy seed will I establish
for ever, so that David shall not want a son to reign
and that it should continue a royal family--I will build up thy
throne to all generations, to all the generations of time. This
has its accomplishment only in Christ, of the seed of David, who lives
for ever, to whom God has given the throne of his father David, and of
the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end. Of
this covenant the psalmist will return to speak more largely,
|The Divine Power and Justice; The Glory of God Celebrated.
5 And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy
faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.
6 For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who
among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?
7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints,
and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.
8 O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee?
or to thy faithfulness round about thee?
9 Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof
arise, thou stillest them.
10 Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou
hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.
11 The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for
the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them.
12 The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor and
Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.
13 Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is
thy right hand.
14 Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne:
mercy and truth shall go before thy face.
These verses are full of the praises of God. Observe,
I. Where, and by whom, God is to be praised.
1. God is praised by the angels above: The heavens shall praise thy
wonders, O Lord!
that is, "the glorious inhabitants of the upper world continually
celebrate thy praises." Bless the Lord, you his angels,
The works of God are wonders even to those that are best acquainted and
most intimately conversant with them; the more God's works are known
the more they are admired and praised. This should make us love heaven,
and long to be there, that there we shall have nothing else to do but
to praise God and his wonders.
2. God is praised by the assemblies of his saints on earth (praise
waits for him in Zion); and, though their praises fall so far short
of the praises of angels, yet God is pleased to take notice of them,
and accept of them, and reckon himself honoured by them. "Thy
faithfulness and the truth of thy promise, that rock on which the
church is built, shall be praised in the congregation of the saints,
who owe their all to that faithfulness, and whose constant comfort it
is that there is a promise, and that he is faithful who has promised."
It is expected from God's saints on earth that they praise him; who
should, if they do not? Let every saint praise him, but especially the
congregation of saints; when they come together, let them join in
praising God. The more the better; it is the more like heaven. Of the
honour done to God by the assembly of the saints he speaks again
God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints.
Saints should assemble for religious worship, that they may publicly
own their relation to God and may stir up one another to give honour to
him, and, in keeping up communion with God, may likewise maintain the
communion of saints. In religious assemblies God has promised the
presence of his grace, but we must also, in them, have an eye to his
glorious presence, that the familiarity we are admitted to may not
breed the least contempt; for he is terrible in his holy places, and
therefore greatly to be feared. A holy awe of God must fall upon us,
and fill us, in all our approaches to God, even in secret, to which
something may very well be added by the solemnity of public assemblies.
God must be had in reverence of all that are about him, that
attend him continually as his servants or approach him upon any
particular errand. See
Those only serve God acceptably who serve him with reverence and
II. What it is to praise God; it is to acknowledge him to be a being of
unparalleled perfection, such a one that there is none like him, nor
any to be compared with him,
If there be any beings that can pretend to vie with God, surely they
must be found among the angels; but they are all infinitely short of
him: Who in the heaven can be compared with the Lord, so as to
challenge any share of the reverence and adoration which are due to him
only, or to set up in rivalship with him for the homage of the children
of men? They are sons of the mighty, but which of them can be likened
unto the Lord? Nobles are princes' peers; some parity there is between
them. But there is none between God and the angels; they are not his
peers. To whom will you liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the
This is insisted on again
Who is a strong Lord like unto thee? No angel, no earthly
potentate, whatsoever, is comparable to God, or has an arm like
him, or can thunder with a voice like him. Thy
faithfulness is round about thee; that is, "thy angels who are
round about thee, attending thee with their praises and ready to go on
thy errands, are all faithful." Or, rather, "In every thing thou doest,
on all sides, thou approvest thyself faithful to thy word, above
whatever prince or potentate was." Among men it is too often found that
those who are most able to break their word are least careful to keep
it; but God is both strong and faithful; he can do every thing, and yet
will never do an unjust thing.
III. What we ought, in our praises, to give God the glory of. Several
things are here mentioned.
1. The command God has of the most ungovernable creatures
Thou rulest the raging of the sea, than which nothing is more
frightful or threatening, nor more out of the power of man to give
check to; it can swell no higher, roll no further, beat no harder,
continue no longer, nor do any more hurt, than God suffers it. "When
the waves thereof arise thou canst immediately hush them asleep,
still them, and make them quiet, and turn the storm into a calm." This
coming in here as an act of omnipotence, what manner of man then was
the Lord Jesus, whom the winds and seas obeyed?
2. The victories God has obtained over the enemies of his church. His
ruling the raging of the sea and quelling its billows was an emblem of
Thou hast broken Rahab, many a proud enemy (so it
signifies), Egypt in particular, which is sometimes called
Rahab, broken it in pieces, as one that is slain and utterly
unable to make head again. "The head being broken, thou hast scattered
the remainder with the arm of thy strength." God has more ways than one
to deal with his and his church's enemies. We think he should slay them
immediately, but sometimes he scatters them, that he may send them
abroad to be monuments of his justice,
The remembrance of the breaking of Egypt in pieces is a comfort to the
church, in reference to the present power of Babylon; for God is still
3. The incontestable property he has in all the creatures of the upper
and lower world
"Men are honoured for their large possessions; but the heavens are
thine, O Lord! the earth also is thine; therefore we praise thee,
therefore we trust in thee, therefore we will not fear what man can do
against us. The world and the fulness thereof, all the riches
contained in it, all the inhabitants of it, both the tenements and the
tenants, are all thine; for thou hast founded them," and the
founder may justly claim to be the owner. He specifies,
(1.) The remotest parts of the world, the north and south, the
countries that lie under the two poles, which are uninhabited and
little known: "Thou hast created them, and therefore knowest
them, takest care of them, and hast tributes of praise from them." The
north is said to be hung over the empty place; yet what fulness
there is there God is the owner of it.
(2.) The highest parts of the world. He mentions the two highest hills
in Canaan--"Tabor and Hermon" (one lying to the west, the other
to the east); "these shall rejoice in thy name, for they are under the
care of thy providence, and they produce offerings for thy altar." The
little hills are said to rejoice in their own fruitfulness,
Tabor is commonly supposed to be that high mountain in Galilee on the
top of which Christ was transfigured; and then indeed it might be said
to rejoice in that voice which was there heard, This is my beloved
4. The power and justice, the mercy and truth, with which he governs
the world and rules in the affairs of the children of men,
(1.) God is able to do every thing; for his is the Lord God Almighty.
His arm, his hand, is mighty and strong, both to save his people and to
destroy his and their enemies; none can either resist the force or bear
the weight of his mighty hand. High is his right hand, to reach
the highest, even those that set their nests among the stars
his right hand is exalted in what he has done, for in thousands
of instances he has signalized his power,
(2.) He never did, nor ever will do, any thing that is either unjust or
unwise; for righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his
throne. None of all his dictates or decrees ever varied from the
rules of equity and wisdom, nor could ever any charge God with
unrighteousness or folly. Justice and judgment are the preparing
of his throne (so some), the establishment of it, so others. The
preparations for his government in his counsels from eternity, and the
establishment of it in its consequences to eternity, are all justice
(3.) He always does that which is kind to his people and consonant to
the word which he has spoken: "Mercy and truth shall go before thy
face, to prepare thy way, as harbingers to make room for
thee--mercy in promising, truth in performing--truth in being as good
as thy word, mercy in being better." How praiseworthy are these in
great men, much more in the great God, in whom they are in
|The Blessedness of Israel Declared.
15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they
shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.
16 In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy
righteousness shall they be exalted.
17 For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy
favour our horn shall be exalted.
18 For the LORD is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel
is our king.
The psalmist, having largely shown the blessedness of the God of
Israel, here shows the blessedness of the Israel of God. As there is
none like unto the God of Jeshurun, so, happy art thou, O Israel! there
is none like unto thee, O people! especially as a type of the
gospel-Israel, consisting of all true believers, whose happiness is
I. Glorious discoveries are made to them, and glad tidings of good
brought to them; they hear, they know, the joyful sound,
This may allude,
1. To the shout of a victorious army, the shout of a king,
Israel have the tokens of God's presence with them in their wars; the
sound of the going in the top of the mulberry-trees was indeed a
(2 Samuel 5:24);
and they often returned making the earth ring with their songs of
triumph; these were joyful sounds. Or,
2. To the sound that was made over the sacrifices and on the solemn
This was the happiness of Israel, that they had among them the free and
open profession of God's holy religion, and abundance of joy in their
3. To the sound of the jubilee-trumpet; a joyful sound it was to
servants and debtors, to whom it proclaimed release. The gospel is
indeed a joyful sound, a sound of victory, of liberty, of communion
with God, and the sound of abundance of rain; blessed are the
people that hear it, and know it, and bid it welcome.
II. Special tokens of God's favour are granted them: "They shall
walk, O Lord! in the light of thy countenance; they shall govern
themselves by thy directions, shall be guided by the eye; and they
shall delight themselves in thy consolations. They shall have the
favour of God; they shall know that they have it, and it shall be
continual matter of joy and rejoicing to them. They shall go through
all the exercises of a holy life under the powerful influences of God's
lovingkindness, which shall make their duty pleasant to them and make
them sincere in it, aiming at this, as their end, to be accepted of the
Lord." We then walk in the light of the Lord when we fetch all our
comforts from God's favour and are very careful to keep ourselves in
III. They never want matter for joy: Blessed are God's people, for in
his name, in all that whereby he has made himself known, if it be not
their own fault, they shall rejoice all the day. Those that
rejoice in Christ Jesus, and make God their exceeding joy, have enough
to counterbalance their grievances and silence their griefs; and
therefore their joy is full
(1 John 1:4)
and constant; it is their duty to rejoice evermore.
IV. Their relation to God is their honour and dignity. They are happy,
for they are high. Surely in the Lord, in the Lord Christ,
they have righteousness and strength, and so are recommended by
him to the divine acceptance; and therefore in him shall all the
seed of Israel glory,
So it is here,
1. "In thy righteousness shall they be exalted, and not in any
righteousness of their own." We are exalted out of danger, and into
honour, purely by the righteousness of Christ, which is a clothing both
for dignity and for defence.
2. "Thou art the glory of their strength," that is, "thou art
their strength, and it is their glory that thou art so, and what they
glory in." Thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph.
3. "In thy favour, which through Christ we hope for, our horn shall
be exalted." The horn denotes beauty, plenty, and power; these
those have who are made accepted in the beloved. What greater
preferment are men capable of in this world than to be God's
V. Their relation to God is their protection and safety
"For our shield is of the Lord" (so the margin) "and our king
is from the Holy One of Israel. If God be our ruler, he will be our
defender; and who is he than that can harm us?" It was the happiness of
Israel that God himself had the erecting of their bulwarks and the
nominating of their king (so some take it); or, rather, that he was
himself a wall of fire round about them, and, as a Holy One, the
author and centre of their holy religion; he was their King, and so
their glory in the midst of them. Christ is the Holy One of Israel,
that holy thing; and in nothing was that peculiar people more blessed
than in this, that he was born King of the Jews. Now this
account of the blessedness of God's Israel comes in here as that to
which it was hard to reconcile their present calamitous state.
|God's Covenant with David.
19 Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I
have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one
chosen out of the people.
20 I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I
21 With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall
22 The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of
wickedness afflict him.
23 And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague
them that hate him.
24 But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: and in
my name shall his horn be exalted.
25 I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in
26 He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the
rock of my salvation.
27 Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings
of the earth.
28 My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant
shall stand fast with him.
29 His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his
throne as the days of heaven.
30 If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my
31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments;
32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and
their iniquity with stripes.
33 Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from
him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.
34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is
gone out of my lips.
35 Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto
36 His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun
37 It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a
faithful witness in heaven. Selah.
The covenant God made with David and his seed was mentioned before
but in these verses it is enlarged upon, and pleaded with God, for
favour to the royal family, now almost sunk and ruined; yet certainly
it looks at Christ, and has its accomplishment in him much more than in
David; nay, some passages here are scarcely applicable at all to David,
but must be understood of Christ only (who is therefore called David
and very great and precious promises they are which are here made to
the Redeemer, which are strong foundations for the faith and hope of
the redeemed to build upon. The comforts of our redemption flow from
the covenant of redemption; all our springs are in that,
I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies
Now here we have an account of those sure mercies. Observe,
I. What assurance we have of the truth of the promise, which may
encourage us to build upon it. We are here told,
1. How it was spoken
Thou didst speak in vision to thy Holy One. God's promise to
David, which is especially referred to here, was spoken in vision to
Nathan the prophet,
2 Samuel 7:12-17.
Then, when the Holy One of Israel was their king
he appointed David to be his viceroy. But to all the prophets, those
holy ones, he spoke in vision concerning Christ, and to him
himself especially, who had lain in his bosom from eternity, and was
made perfectly acquainted with the whole design of redemption,
2. How it was sworn to and ratified
Once have I sworn by my holiness, that darling attribute. In
swearing by his holiness, he swore by himself; for he will as soon
cease to be as be otherwise than holy. His swearing once is enough; he
needs not swear again, as David did
(1 Samuel 20:17);
for his word and oath are two immutable things. As Christ was made a
priest, so he was made a king, by an oath
for his kingdom and priesthood are both unchangeable.
II. The choice made of the person to whom the promise is given,
David was a king of God's own choosing, so is Christ, and therefore
both are called God's kings,
David was mighty, a man of courage and fit for business; he was chosen
out of the people, not out of the princes, but the shepherds. God found
him out, exalted him, laid help upon him, and ordered Samuel to anoint
him. But this is especially to be applied to Christ.
1. He is one that is mighty, every way qualified for the great work he
was to undertake, able to save to the uttermost--mighty in
strength, for he is the Son of God--mighty in love, for he is able
experimentally to compassionate those that are tempted. He is the
2. He is chosen out of the people, one of us, bone of our bone,
that takes part with us of flesh and blood. Being ordained for men, he
is taken from among men, that his terror might not make us afraid.
3. God has found him. He is a Saviour of God's own providing; for the
salvation, from first to last, is purely the Lord's doing. He has
found the ransom,
We could never have found a person fit to undertake this great work,
4. God has laid help upon him, not only helped him, but
treasured up help in him for us, laid it as a charge upon him to help
fallen man up again, to help the chosen remnant to heaven. In me is
5. He has exalted him, by constituting him the prophet, priest, and
king of his church, clothing him with power, raising him from the dead,
and setting him at his own right hand. Whom God chooses and uses he
6. He has anointed him, has qualified him for his office, and so
confirmed him in it, by giving him the Spirit, not by measure, but
without measure, infinitely above his fellows. He is called
Messiah, or Christ, the Anointed.
7. In all this he designed him to be his own servant, for the
accomplishing of his eternal purpose and the advancement of the
interests of his kingdom among men.
III. The promises made to this chosen one, to David in the type and the
Son of David in the antitype, in which not only gracious, but glorious
things are spoken of him.
1. With reference to himself, as king and God's servant: and what makes
for him makes for all his loving subjects. It is here promised,
(1.) That God would stand by him and strengthen him in his undertaking
With him my hand not only shall be, but shall be
established, by promise, shall be so established that he shall by
it be established and confirmed in all his offices, so that none of
them shall be undermined and overthrown, though by the man of sin they
shall all be usurped and fought against. Christ had a great deal of
hard work to do and hard usage to go through; but he that gave him
commission gave him forces sufficient for the execution of his
commission: "My arm also shall strengthen him to break through
and bear up under all his difficulties." No good work can miscarry in
the hand of those whom God himself undertakes to strengthen.
(2.) That he should be victorious over his enemies, that they should
not encroach upon him
The son of wickedness shall not exact upon him, nor afflict him.
He that at first broke the peace would set himself against him that
undertook to make peace, and do what he could to blast his design: but
he could only reach to bruise his heel; further he could not exact upon
him nor afflict him. Christ became a surety for our debt, and thereby
Satan and death thought to gain advantage against him; but he satisfied
the demands of God's justice, and then they could not exact upon him.
The prince of this world cometh, but he has nothing in me,
Nay, they not only shall not prevail against him, but they shall fall
I will bend down his foes before his face; the prince of this
world shall be cast out, principalities and powers spoiled, and he
shall be the death of death itself, and the destruction of the grave,
Some apply this to the ruin which God brought upon the Jewish nation,
that persecuted Christ and put him to death. But all Christ's enemies,
who hate him and will not have him to reign over them, shall be brought
forth and slain before him,
(3.) That he should be the great trustee of the covenant between God
and men, that God would be gracious and true to us
My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him. They were with
David; God continued merciful to him, and so approved himself faithful.
They were with Christ; God made good all his promises to him. But that
is not all; God's mercy to us, and his faithfulness to us, are with
Christ; he is not only pleased with him, but with us in him; and it is
in him that all the promises of God are yea and amen. So that if any
poor sinners hope for benefit by the faithfulness and mercy of God, let
them know it is with Christ; it is lodged in his hand, and to him they
must apply for it
My mercy will I keep for him, to be disposed of by him, for
evermore; in the channel of Christ's mediation all the streams of
divine goodness will for ever run. Therefore it is the mercy of our
Lord Jesus Christ which we look for unto eternal life,
And, as the mercy of God flows to us through him, so the promise of God
is, through him, firm to us: My covenant shall stand fast with
him, both the covenant of redemption made with him and the covenant
of grace made with us in him. The new covenant is therefore
always new, and firmly established, because it is lodged in the hands
of a Mediator,
The covenant stands fast, because it stands upon this basis. And this
redounds to the everlasting honour of the Lord Jesus, that to him the
great cause between God and man is entirely referred and the Father has
committed all judgment to him, that all men might honour him
therefore it is here said, In my name shall his horn be exalted;
this shall be his glory, that God's name is in him
and that he acts in God's name. As the Father gave me commandment,
so I do.
(4.) That his kingdom should be greatly enlarged
I will set his hand in the sea (he shall have the dominion of
the seas, and the isles of the sea), and his right hand in the
rivers, the inland countries that are watered with rivers. David's
kingdom extended itself to the Great Sea, and the Red Sea, to the river
of Egypt and the river Euphrates. But it is in the kingdom of the
Messiah that this has its full accomplishment, and shall have more and
more, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of
the Lord and of his Christ
and the isles shall wait for his law.
(5.) That he should own God as his Father, and God would own him as his
Son, his firstborn,
This is a comment upon these words in Nathan's message concerning
Solomon (for he also was a type of Christ as well as David), I will
be his Father and he shall be my Son
(2 Samuel 7:14),
and the relation shall be owned on both sides.
[1.] He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father. It is probable
that Solomon did so; but we are sure Christ did so, in the days of his
flesh, when he offered up strong cries to God, and called him holy
Father, righteous Father, and taught us to address ourselves to him
as our Father in heaven. Christ, in his agony, cried unto God,
Thou art my Father
O my Father), and, upon the cross, Father, forgive them;
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. He looked upon him
likewise as his God, and therefore he perfectly obeyed him, and
submitted to his will in his whole undertaking (he ismy God and your
and as the rock of his salvation, who would bear him up and bear him
out in his undertaking, and make him more than a conqueror, even a
complete Saviour; and therefore with an undaunted resolution he
endured the cross, despising the shame, for he knew he should be
both justified and glorified.
[2.] I will make him my firstborn. I see not how this can be
applied to David; it is Christ's prerogative to be the firstborn of
every creature, and, as such, the heir of all things,
When all power was given to Christ both in heaven and in earth, and
all things were delivered unto him by the Father, then god made him
his firstborn, and far higher, more great and honourable, than the
kings of the earth; for he is the King of kings, angels,
authorities, and powers, being made subject to him,
1 Peter 3:22.
2. With reference to his seed. God's covenants always took in the seed
of the covenanters; this does so
His seed shall endure for ever, and with it his throne. Now this
will be differently understood according as we apply it to Christ or
(1.) If we apply it to David, by his seed we are to understand his
successors, Solomon and the following kings of Judah, who descended
from the loins of David. It is supposed that they might degenerate, and
not walk in the spirit and steps of their father David; in such a case
they must expect to come under divine rebukes, such as the house of
David was at this time under,
But let this encourage them, that, though they were corrected, they
should not be abandoned or disinherited. This refers to that part of
(2 Samuel 7:14,15),
If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him, but my mercy shall
not depart from him. Thus far David's seed and throne did endure
for ever, that, notwithstanding the wickedness of many of his
posterity, who were the scandals of his house, yet his family
continued, and continued in the imperial dignity, a very long
time,--that, as long as Judah continued a kingdom, David's posterity
were kings of it, and the royalty of that kingdom was never in any
other family, as that of the ten tribes was, in Jeroboam's first, then
in Baasha's, &c.,--and that the family of David continued a family of
distinction till that Son of David came whose throne should endure for
If David's posterity, in after-times, should forsake God and their duty
and revolt to the ways of sin, God would bring desolating judgments
upon them and ruin the family; and yet he would not take away his
lovingkindness from David, nor break his covenant with him; for, in the
Messiah, who should come out of his loins, all these promises shall
have their accomplishment to the full. Thus, when the Jews were
rejected, the apostle shows that God's covenant with Abraham was not
broken, because it was fulfilled in his spiritual seed, the heirs of
the righteousness of faith,
(2.) If we apply it to Christ, by his seed we are to understand his
subjects, all believers, his spiritual seed, the children which God has
This is that seed which shall be made to endure for ever, and his
throne in the midst of them, in the church in the heart, as the days
of heaven. To the end Christ shall have a people in the world to
serve and honour him. He shall see his seed; he shall prolong his
days. This holy seed shall endure for ever in a glorified state,
when time and days shall be no more; and thus Christ's throne and
kingdom shall be perpetuated: the kingdom of his grace shall continue
through all the ages of time and the kingdom of his glory to the
endless ages of eternity.
[1.] The continuance of Christ's kingdom is here made doubtful by the
sins and afflictions of his subjects; their iniquities and calamities
threaten the ruin of it. This case is here put, that we may not be
offended when it comes to be a case in fact, but that we may reconcile
it with the stability of the covenant and be assured of that
notwithstanding. First, It is here supposed that there will be
much amiss in the subjects of Christ's kingdom. His children may
forsake God's law
by omissions, and break his statutes
by commissions. There are spots which are the spots of God's children,
Many corruptions there are in the bowels of the church, as well as in
the hearts of those who are the members of it, and these corruptions
break out. Secondly, They are here told that they must smart for
I will visit their transgression with a rod, their transgression
sooner than that of others. You only have I known, and therefore I
will punish you,
Their being related to Christ shall not excuse them from being called
to an account. But observe what affliction is to God's people.
1. It is but a rod, not an axe, not a sword; it is for correction, not
for destruction. This denotes gentleness in the affliction; it is the
rod of men, such a rod as men use in correcting their children; and it
denotes a design of good in and by the affliction, such a rod as yields
the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
2. It is a rod on the hand of God (I will visit them), he who is
wise, and knows what he does, gracious, and will do what is best.
3. It is a rod which they shall never feel the smart of but when there
is great need: If they break my law, then I will visit their
transgression with the rod, but not else. Then it is requisite that
God's honour be vindicated, and that they be humbled and reduced.
[2.] The continuance of Christ's kingdom is made certain by the
inviolable promise and oath of God, notwithstanding all this
Nevertheless, my kindness will I not totally and finally take
from him. First, "Notwithstanding their provocations, yet my
covenant shall not be broken." Note, Afflictions are not only
consistent with covenant-love, but to the people of God they flow from
it. Though David's seed be chastened, it does not follow that they are
disinherited; they may be cast down, but they are not cast off. God's
favour is continued to his people,
1. For Christ's sake; in him the mercy is laid up for us, and God says,
I will not take it from him
I will not lie unto David,
We are unworthy, but he is worthy.
2. For the covenant's sake: My faithfulness shall not fail,
my covenant will I not break. It was supposed that they had broken
God's statutes, profaned and polluted them (so the word
signifies); "But," says God, "I will not break, I will not profane and
pollute, my covenant;" it is the same word. That which is said and
sworn is that God will have a church in the world as long as sun and
The sun and moon are faithful witnesses in heaven of the wisdom, power,
and goodness of the Creator, and shall continue while time lasts, which
they are the measurers of; but the seed of Christ shall be
established for ever, as lights of the world while the world
stands, to shine in it, and, when it is at an end, they shall be
established lights shining in the firmament of the Father.
|Complaints and Expostulations; David's Expostulation with God.
38 But thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth
with thine anointed.
39 Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant: thou hast
profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.
40 Thou hast broken down all his hedges; thou hast brought his
strong holds to ruin.
41 All that pass by the way spoil him: he is a reproach to his
42 Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries; thou
hast made all his enemies to rejoice.
43 Thou hast also turned the edge of his sword, and hast not
made him to stand in the battle.
44 Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down
to the ground.
45 The days of his youth hast thou shortened: thou hast covered
him with shame. Selah.
46 How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy
wrath burn like fire?
47 Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all
men in vain?
48 What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall
he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.
49 Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou
swarest unto David in thy truth?
50 Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do
bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people;
51 Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O LORD; wherewith
they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.
52 Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen.
In these verses we have,
I. A very melancholy complaint of the present deplorable state of
David's family, which the psalmist thinks hard to be reconciled to the
covenant God made with David. "Thou saidst thou wouldst not take
away thy lovingkindness, but thou hast cast off." Sometimes, it is
no easy thing to reconcile God's providences with his promises, and yet
we are sure they are reconcilable; for God's works fulfil his word and
never contradict it.
1. David's house seemed to have lost its interest in God, which was the
greatest strength and beauty of it. God had been pleased with his
anointed, but now he was wroth with him
had entered into covenant with the family, but now, for aught he could
perceive, he had made void the covenant, not broken some of the
articles of it, but cancelled it,
We misconstrue the rebukes of Providence if we think they make void the
covenant. When the great anointed one, Christ himself, was upon the
cross, God seemed to have cast him off, and was wroth with him, and yet
did not make void his covenant with him, for that was established for
2. The honour of the house of David was lost and laid in the dust:
Thou hast profaned his crown (which was always looked upon as
sacred) by casting it to the ground, to be trampled on,
Thou hast made his glory to cease (so uncertain is all earthly
glory, and so soon does it wither) and thou hast cast his throne
down to the ground, not only dethroned the king, but put a period
to the kingdom,
If it was penned in Rehoboam's time, it was true as to the greatest
part of the kingdom, five parts of six; if in Zedekiah's time, it was
more remarkably true of the poor remainder. Note, Thrones and crowns
are tottering things, and are often laid in the dust; but there is a
crown of glory reserved for Christ's spiritual seed which fadeth not
3. It was exposed and made a prey to all the neighbours, who insulted
over that ancient and honourable family
Thou hast broken down all his hedges (all those things that were
a defence to them, and particularly that hedge of protection which they
thought God's covenant and promise had made about them) and thou
hast made even his strong-holds a ruin, so that they were rather
a reproach to them than any shelter; and then, All that pass by the
way spoil him
and make an easy prey of him; see
The enemies talk insolently: He is a reproach to his neighbours,
who triumph in his fall from so great a degree of honour. Nay, every
one helps forward the calamity
"Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries, not only
given them power, but inclined them to turn their power this way." If
the enemies of the church lift up their hand against it, we must see
God setting up their hand; for they could have no power unless it
were given them from above. But, when God does permit them to do
mischief to his church, it pleases them: "Thou hast made all his
enemies to rejoice; and this is for thy glory, that those who hate
thee should have the pleasure to see the tears and troubles of those
that love thee."
4. It was disabled to help itself
"Thou hast turned the edge of his sword, and made it blunt, that
it cannot do execution as it has done; and (which is worse) thou hast
turned the edge of his spirit, and taken off his courage, and hast
not made him to stand as he used to do in the battle." The
spirit of men is what the Father and former of spirits makes them; nor
can we stand with any strength or resolution further than God is
pleased to uphold us. If men's hearts fail them, it is God that
dispirits them; but it is sad with the church when those cannot stand
who should stand up for it.
5. It was upon the brink of an inglorious exit
The days of his youth hast thou shortened; it is ready to be cut
off, like a young man in the flower of his age. This seems to intimate
that the psalm was penned in Rehoboam's time, when the house of David
was but in the days of its youth, and yet waxed old and began to decay
already. Thus it was covered with shame, and it was turned very much to
its reproach that a family which, in the first and second reign, looked
so great, and made such a figure, should, in the third, dwindle and
look so little as the house of David did in Rehoboam's time. But it may
be applied to the captivity in Babylon, which, in comparison with what
was expected, was but the day of the youth of that kingdom. However,
the kings then had remarkably the days of their youth shortened,
for it was in the days of their youth, when they were about thirty
years old, that Jehoiachin and Zedekiah were carried captives to
From all this complaint let us learn,
1. What work sin makes with families, noble royal families, with
families in which religion has been uppermost; when posterity
degenerates, it falls into disgrace, and iniquity stains their glory.
2. How apt we are to place the promised honour and happiness of the
church in something external, and to think the promise fails, and the
covenant is made void, if we be disappointed of that, a mistake which
we now are inexcusable if we fall into, since our Master has so
expressly told us that his kingdom is not of this world.
II. A very pathetic expostulation with God upon this. Four things they
plead with God for mercy:--
1. The long continuance of the trouble
How long, O Lord! wilt thou hide thyself? For ever? That which
grieved them most was that God himself, as one displeased, did not
appear to them by his prophets to comfort them, did not appear for them
by his providences to deliver them, and that he had kept them long in
the dark; it seemed an eternal night, when God had withdrawn: Thou
hidest thyself for ever. Nay, God not only hid himself from them,
but seemed to set himself against them: "Shall thy wrath burn like
fire? How long shall it burn? Shall it never be put out? What is
hell, but the wrath of God, burning for ever? And is that the lot of
2. The shortness of life, and the certainty of death: "Lord, let thy
anger cease, and return thou, in mercy to us, remembering how short my
time is and how sure the period of my time. Lord, since my life is so
transitory, and will, ere long, be at an end, let it not be always so
miserable that I should rather choose no being at all than such a
being." Job pleads thus,
And probably the psalmist here urges it in the name of the house of
David, and the present prince of that house, the days of whose
youth were shortened,
(1.) He pleads the shortness and vanity of life
Remember how short my time is, how transitory I am (say some),
therefore unable to bear the power of thy wrath, and therefore a proper
object of thy pity. Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?
or, Unto what vanity hast thou created all the sons of Adam!
Now, this may be understood either,
[1.] As declaring a great truth. If the ancient lovingkindnesses spoken
be forgotten (those relating to another life), man is indeed made in
vain. Considering man as mortal, if there were not a future state on
the other side of death, we might be ready to think that man was made
in vain, and was in vain endued with the noble powers and faculties of
reason and filled with such vast designs and desires; but God would not
make man in vain; therefore, Lord, remember those
[2.] As implying a strong temptation that the psalmist was in. It is
certain God has not made all men, nor any man, in vain,
For, First, If we think that God has made men in vain because so
many have short lives, and long afflictions, in this world, it is true
that God has made them so, but it is not true that therefore
they are made in vain. For those whose days are few and full of
trouble may yet glorify God and do some good, may keep their communion
with God and get to heaven, and then they are not made in vain.
Secondly, If we think that God has made men in vain because the
most of men neither serve him nor enjoy him, it is true that, as to
themselves, they were made in vain, better for them had they not been
born than not to be born again; but it was not owing to God that they
were made in vain; it was owing to themselves; nor are they made in
vain as to him, for he has made all things for himself, even the
wicked for the day of evil, and those whom he is not glorified by
he will be glorified upon.
(2.) He pleads the universality and unavoidableness of death
"What man" (what strong man, so the word is) "is he
that liveth and shall not see death? The king himself, of the house
of David, is not exempted from the sentence, from the stroke. Lord,
since he is under a fatal necessity of dying, let not his whole life be
made thus miserable. Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the
grave? No, he shall not when his time has come. Let him not
therefore be delivered into the hand of the grave by the miseries of a
dying life, till his time shall come." We must learn here that death is
the end of all men; our eyes must shortly be closed to see death; there
is no discharge from that war, nor will any bail be taken to save us
from the prison of the grave. It concerns us therefore to make sure a
happiness on the other side of death and the grave, that, when we
fail, we may be received into everlasting habitations.
3. The next plea is taken from the kindness God had for and the
covenant he made with his servant David
"Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou
showedst, nay, which thou swaredst, to David in thy truth? Wilt
thou fail of doing what thou hast promised? Wilt thou undo what thou
hast done? Art not thou still the same? Why then may not we have the
benefit of the former sure mercies of David?" God's unchangeableness
and faithfulness assure us that God will not cast off those whom he has
chosen and covenanted with.
4. The last plea is taken from the insolence of the enemies and the
indignity done to God's anointed
"Remember, Lord, the reproach, and let it be rolled away from us
and returned upon our enemies."
(1.) They were God's servants that were reproached, and the abuses done
to them reflected upon their master, especially since it was for
serving him that they were reproached.
(2.) The reproach cast upon God's servants was a very grievous burden
to all that were concerned for the honour of God: "I bear in my
bosom the reproach of all the mighty people, and am even
overwhelmed with it; it is what I lay much to heart and can scarcely
keep up my spirits under the weight of."
(3.) "They are thy enemies who do thus reproach us; and wilt thou not
appear against them as such?"
(4.) They have reproached the footsteps of thy anointed. They
reflected upon all the steps which the king had taken in the course of
his administration, tracked him in all his motions, that they might
make invidious remarks upon every thing he had said and done. Or, if we
may apply it to Christ, the Lord's Messiah, they reproached the Jews
with his footsteps, the slowness of his coming. They have reproached
the delays of the Messiah; so Dr. Hammond. They called him, He that
should come; but, because he had not yet come, because he did not
now come to deliver them out of the hands of their enemies, when they
had none to deliver them, they told them he would never come, they must
give over looking for him. The scoffers of the latter days do, in like
manner, reproach the footsteps of the Messiah when they ask, Where
is the promise of his coming?
2 Peter 3:3,4.
The reproaching of the footsteps of the anointed some refer to the
serpent's bruising the heel of the seed of the woman, or to the
sufferings of Christ's followers, who tread in his footsteps, and are
reproached for his name's sake.
III. The psalm concludes with praise, even after this sad complaint
Blessed be the Lord for evermore, Amen, and amen. Thus he
confronts the reproaches of his enemies. The more others blaspheme God
the more we should bless him. Thus he corrects his own complaints,
chiding himself for quarrelling with God's providences and questioning
his promises; let both these sinful passions be silenced with the
praises of God. However it be, yet God is good, and we will never think
hardly of him; God is true, and we will never distrust him. Though the
glory of David's house be stained and sullied, this shall be our
comfort, that God is blessed for ever, and his glory cannot be
eclipsed. If we would have the comfort of the stability of God's
promise, we must give him the praise of it; in blessing God, we
encourage ourselves. Here is a double Amen, according to the
double signification. Amen--so it is, God is blessed for ever.
Amen--be it so, let God be blessed for ever. He began the psalm
with thanksgiving, before he made his complaint
and now he concludes it with a doxology. Those who give God thanks for
what he has done may give him thanks also for what he will do; God will
follow those with his mercies who, in a right manner, follow him with