Vol. 27 New Series August, 1966 No. 4

Like Psalm ii., this is a psalm with a heading (apart from the simple' psalm of David '). This heading gives the occasion, or reason, for the writing and the words used. Like Psalm ii. also, it is one of the SELAH psalms. The subscription, as already explained in connection with Psalm iii, is taken over from the heading of Psalm viii, as being out of place there. The Title, SHIGGAION of David, has the following note in the Companion Bible:—

"A loud cry of danger or joy, from SHA'AG, always rendered 'roar.' Occurs 21 times. Both meanings are seen in this psalm, and Habakkuk 3:1 (plur. 'upon'—concerning), the only two occurrences. See Appendix 65, XX. Appendix 65. XX. reads as follows:—

"The words of Cush," the Hebrew for 'words' is DABAR, which can mean not only an utterance of speech, but a matter or an act. Cush, here, is an unknown character, who might have been a servant of Saul, being a Benjamite, or one of his fanatical supporters, like Shimei. The Talmud identifies him with Saul himself. The C.B. says that the fact that he is an unknown character is evidence if the genuineness of the heading. That this psalm might refer to Absalom or Ahithophel is ruled out by the word Benjamite.

This is the first of eight psalms associated by their titles with David's experiences as an exile from the court of Saul. The others are Psalms lii., lix., lvi., xxxiv., lvii., cxlii. and liv., which should be compared.

The psalm, like others is naturally divided by the word SELAH, which, it will be remembered, means pause and take special note of what has gone before and then read on bearing all that in mind as being particularly relevant to what follows. Verses 1-5 can be divided into a prayer in the first two verses and an introspective hypothetical plea for God, who alone knows every circumstance, to judge, accepting any failure of integrity that might justify such treatment as he was receiving, though unrecognized by him.

The pause and reconsideration of both prayer and plea of innocence have convinced David that his cause is just. David remembers that although Saul is God's anointed and is king of Israel, yet he too is one anointed of God for some purpose yet future, when he himself will be used of God. In 1. Samuel xvi., 1-13 the purpose of the anointing is known only to Samuel. David's trust in God, that God would keep him alive and bring him through all dangers, is paramount; and so he knows that God will give ear to his prayers and deal with the situation in His own way, providing he is innocent and the action of the enemy is not just retribution for evil he has perpetrated.

The second half of the psalm divides into three, verses 6-9 are a prayer for retaliation against David's persecutors, but throwing himself, at the same time upon God's mercy and righteous judgment, for his deliverance will bring benefit to the People of Israel, who were divided by the animosity of his oppressors. Verses 10-16 extol God's righteous rule, His upholding the righteous in their integrity, but sending punish ment to the guilty who commit the acts described in verses 14-16. In verse 17 David ascribes praise to Jehovah Elyon, his personal God, who is the God of the covenant, and who is also the possessor of heaven and earth and therefore the dispenser of all things and disposer, according to His will.

David addresses his prayer to Jehovah, the covenant God of Israel, as his personal God, who is also Elohim, the Creator, the Word of the New Testament. As anointed by Samuel he has a special privilege to do so. At the outset David asserts the ground on which he puts his trust. It can be put "To Thee do I flee for refuge" (CHASAH). Save (YASHA), give safety or ease to me from all them that pursue me and deliver (NATSAL), snatch me away. Saul was the one who was pursuing him, some times by his servants and sometimes leading the pursuit him self. The words of the heading might mean that on this occasion the hunt for David was being led by Cush himself acting on Saul's instructions, or alternatively, Cush might have been one .of Saul's courtiers who had the ear of Saul and was giving him council to eliminate David who appeared to have so much favour with God and man, even to the love of Jonathan, of which he was jealous on David's account. Thus it is quite possible that the pursuer on this occasion is Saul.

Lest he tear my soul (me) like a lion, rending it in pieces, as the carnivorous animal does its prey, whilst still alive; and there is no hope of rescue.

Then David begins to search his heart for some cause for this ill-treatment. He even pleads that he has done the opposite. This is shown in David's action in 1. Samuel 24 when Saul lay in his power and he spared the Lord's anointed.

O Lord my God, if I have done this (that follows): if there be iniquity (AVAL), unjust dealing, in my hands, perpetrated by me, if I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me, implying no, I have not been found guilty of such behaviour, in fact, I have gone out of my way to do the opposite and have withheld my hand when I might have taken action against him who had wronged me. This reminds us of two passages in the N.T., 1. Peter 2:23,

and 1. Corinthians 4:12, the apostle Paul in describing his own life says, We see in David the type of David's greater Son and of those who were his bond-slaves, such as Paul. If I have been guilty of such behaviour then he has cause and let him carry on with his pursuit of me, overtaking me and trampling me in the dust of the earth, bringing humiliation and contempt upon me, would be a fair paraphrase in modern idiom. SELAH. Pause and give thought to that again.

No. I have done nothing to merit this treatment. I have done nothing that would grieve the Lord, Who is my God, and therefore, I can call upon Him to deal with my persecutors, whoever they may be, even if it be God's anointed, Saul, the king of Israel, from whom I have been forced to flee.

These words seem to indicate David's realization of the importance of his anointing for God's service and the evil that is being done to him by this one called Cush, a Benjamite (the definite article does not appear in the text. C.B.). Therefore it is right for him to appeal to God to confound his enemies, with whom God would naturally be wrath for imperilling his life, as there was no cause. If you will do this the congregation of the peoples will gather together, to look to you and receive the judgment that goes forth from your throne when you return on high. From His throne on high God will rule (the meaning of 'judge ') and David looks to Him to do so with equity, measuring out blessing to the upright of heart and punishment to those doing evil, that their wicked ways will cease. The wicked will be cut off, but the just ones He will establish. Thus will He rule over the Peoples, though He will test them out to prove them by adversity. No true child of God will expect to have an easy time, for we read in 2. Timothy 3:12, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." If he does not so suffer there is something wrong with his manner of life.

One might almost expect another SELAH here, but it is not so recorded in the Scriptures; but the Psalmist here turns from the general to the particular.

My defence (MAGEN—shield) is of God (ELOHIM), which saveth the upright (plural) in heart. The shield here is different to that in Psalm 5:12, which is ZINNA, a shield of the largest size, used to protect the whole body. Such a one was used by Goliath and was carried by a special shield-bearer. The MAGDEN, however was a small portable shield that fitted on the arm and was used to ward off blows or the flight of an arrow. It was used by light infantry and made of wood or wicker, covered with leather. Although David says "MY shield is of God," yet by using the plural in the "upright of heart," he removes any idea of having the monopoly, but states that the deliverance is not limited, but is available to 'everyone who is upright in heart. He uses the name ELOHIM for God, the one who is his shield, not JEHOVAH as in verse one.

God judgeth the righteous (plural). Again it is Elohim. The word to judge and the noun judgment are widely misunderstood as being synonymous with condemn and punishment. The word used here is DIN, to discern and means to govern or rule (c.f. Psalm, ix., 8). Because, as Isaiah says in Is. 64:6, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags," of, necessity God is angry every day, or as Ronald Knox puts it, "God judges ever true, day by day His indignation mounts up." God looks for the recognition of failure and seeks the contrite heart, but,

The New Bible dictionary (LV.F.) says here, "The emphasis here is on the reality of God's continuous reaction to man's misdeeds (so correcting any inference of human impatience in 6-7). This reaction is depicted in the imagery of irresistible aggression-the sharpened sword, the taut bow, deadly weapons and fiery darts-encountered by the sinner who obstinately advances to his doom because he will not turn (12) to the central fact of God's grace and mercy." These lines remind us of what James wrote in his epistle, chapter one, verses 14, 15: Here we have, in verse 14 the figure of speech ANABASIS— ascending step by step, each with an increase of emphasis or sense-" travaileth . . . conceived. . . brought forth." This is the second such figure in this psalm. The first is in verse 5—"persecute. . . take. . . tread." Figures of speech are expressions of emphasis used frequently to give strength to language and bestow power to its use in description or narrative. In the Scriptures there are some 1,100 different forms of figures of speech and much has been lost from ignorance or neglect of these. Unrecognised, we frequently make use of them in day to day conversation and correspondence and without them conversation would be dull, in fact monotonous. But the recognition of them in the Word of God would help the student and even the reader to understand it better and grasp some of the things that God would have us understand. The Psalm begins with a prayer and ends with praise. The psalmist opens, pleading with JEHOVAH his ELOHIM and concludes by singing praise to JEHOVAH ELYON. David starts his plea by affirming his own integrity. He ends up in the recognition that praise is due to JEHOVAH his God on the grounds of God's righteousness and not his. Let us contemplate, in the light of this psalm, the words of the Apostle Paul, in 1. Corinthians 1:25, 29-31. The Subscription alone remains. To the chief musician-this has already been dealt with in Psalm iii. (Vol. 26, No.6, p. 271). Its meaning is 'with a view to the end,' the climax, not the culmination, or 'to the giver of victory,' which is the climax, but points to the victor rather than the victory. We must not forget that we are still in the series of psalms, of which this is the seventh, depicting Man and the Son of Man. We see in this psalm the sinner, the suppliant and the seeker in the man, David; and the Saviour, the shield and the spotless Son of Man, in Christ.

Upon Gittith.—This is the first of three Psalms that have this subscription (vii., lxxx. and lxxxiii.). GITTITH means winepresses (not the vat that receives the juice). It indicates the grape harvest and thus points to the Autumn Feast of Tabernacles. This feast is the type of the final victory, in so far as Israel is concerned. It foreshadows the rejoicing when they recognise the Victor, their Messiah as their Saviour God and King.

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