Psalms, Book 2, Psalms 55-58

Psalm 55‑58  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 5
These psalms continue in various forms the feelings produced by Christ's spirit in circumstances which look on to the last crisis when the godly Jews suffer from Antichrist and his partisans, especially in Jerusalem and the land. David had these trials in the case of Absalom, and Ahithophel; our Lord far more deeply through the treachery of Judas. But the Spirit of prophecy links all that is past with the coming hour, when the outward oppression and inward apostasy bring the sense of evil at its worst on the true-hearted Jews; and God is more and more looked to as the result, not man or circumstances, not only to sustain the sufferers in patience, but to bring in deliverance and blessing in power.
Psalm 55
“To the chief musician, on Neginoth (stringed instruments): an instruction of David. Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not thyself from my supplications. Attend unto me and answer me. I am restless in my plaint and moan, because of the noise of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked; for they cast iniquity upon me, and in anger they persecute me. My heart is pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said, Who will give me a wing as the dove? I would fly away and be at rest. Behold, I would flee far off, I would lodge in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten my escape from stormy wind, from tempest. Swallow up, O Lord, divide their tongues; for I have seen violence and strife in the city. Day and night they surround it upon its walls; and iniquity and mischief are in its midst. Mischiefs [are] in its midst; and so oppression and deceit depart not from its streets. For [it was] not an enemy reproached me: then I had borne [it]; neither did he that hateth me magnify [himself] against me: then hidden myself from him; but thou, a man mine equal, mine intimate, my familiar! we who together sweetened counsel, in the house of God we walked in the throng. Let death seize on them, let them go down alive [to] Sheol. For evils [are] in their dwelling, in their midst. As for me, unto God will I call; and Jehovah will save me. Evening and morning and noon I will complain and moan; and he will hear my voice. He redeemed my soul in peace from the war against me, for many were [contending] with me. God will hear and answer [afflict] them—he that is seated of old, Selah—who have no changes and feat not God. He put forth his hands against those at peace with him; he profaned his covenant. Smooth was the butter [words] of his mouth, and war his heart; his words were softer than oil, and they [were] drawn swords. Cast upon Jehovah thy burden (what he giveth thee), and he will sustain thee; he will not suffer the righteous one to be moved. And thou, O God, wilt bring them down to the pit of corruption: men of blood and deceit shall not live out half their days. But for me, I will trust in thee” (ver. 1-24).
It was an awful time for a godly Jew to feel and to say that the wilderness was better than the city; but so it is here. The worst was within, in the nearest circle. How Christ was moved at this, John 13 testifies. But it looks onward to a day of more literal and wider accomplishment. In all their affliction He was afflicted. Divine judgment alone will solve and fulfill all.
Psalm 56
“To the chief musician, as the silent dove of the distant, Michtam1; when the Philistines took him in Gath. Be gracious unto me, O God; for man would swallow me. up; all the day fighting he oppresseth me. They that lie in wait for me would swallow [me] up all the day, for many fight proudly against me. The day I am afraid I will trust in thee. In God will I praise his word. In God have I trusted, I will not fear: what can flesh do unto me? All the day they wrest my words; all their devices [are] against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they mark my steps while they wait for my soul. Shall they escape iniquity? In anger cast down the peoples, O God. Thou, countest my wanderings: put my tears in thy bottle; [are] they not in thy book? Then shall mine enemies turn back in the day I shall call: this I know, for God [is] for me. In God will I praise [the] word; in Jehovah will I praise [the] word. In God have I trusted, I will not fear: what shall man do unto me? Upon me, O God, [are] thy vows: I will render thank-offerings unto thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death: [wilt thou] not [deliver] my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living” (ver. 1-14).
This is a distinct advance on the overwhelming anguish of the preceding psalm, where the cry to God comes late, and confidence is attained only at the close. Here the soul begins with an appeal to His mercy; and enemies are in view, without the aggravated bitterness of traitors in those who were once near friends. The haughty fighting of foes threw him in the day of his fear on God, and, what is more, on His word as especial ground of praise. All this our Lord knew more calmly and profoundly; and this is our portion, the, clearer to us as impressed with His name, as the Spirit is given us to make it good. But the godly Jews will also know what God's word is in their day of supreme trial when imposture and blasphemy succeed existing incredulity and superstition.
Psalm 57
“To the chief musician; Al-tascheth (destroy not), of David, Michtam,2 on his fleeing from Saul in the cave. Be gracious unto me, O God, be gracious unto me; for my soul [is] trusting in thee; and in the shadow of thy wings will I trust until mischiefs (or calamities) shall pass. I will call unto God most High, unto God that perfecteth for me. He will send from the heavens rand save me (he that would swallow up reviled! Selah). God will send His mercy and His truth. My soul [is] in the midst of lions; I will lie down with those on fire, the sons of men, their teeth spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. Be exalted above the heavens, O God, above all the earth thy glory! A net they prepared for my steps; my soul was bowed down; they digged a pit before me they fell into the midst of it. Selah. Fixed [is] my heart, O God, fixed my heart: I will sing, yea I will sing psalms (play). Awake, my glory! awake, lute and harp! I will wake the dawn (or with it). O Lord, among the peoples, I will give thee thanks. For thy mercy [is] great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds. Be exalted above the heavens, O God, thy glory above all the earth!” (ver. 1-12).
In this psalm, the evidently close companion of Psa. 56, the progress of soul in confidence is more complete. It is no longer the plea, “for man would swallow me up,” but the quiet assurance, “for my soul is trusting in thee.” And God's word was not praised in vain. Intervention from heaven is counted on, God's loving-kindness too and truth, with the grand result of His exaltation above the heavens, and His glory above all the earth. All things work together for good to those that love Him, as the godly remnant will; and as we do now by grace.
Psalm 58
“To the chief musician, Al-tascheth, of David, Michtam. Silence3 indeed! do ye speak righteousness? Do ye judge equitably, sons of men? Yea, in heart ye work iniquities; in the earth ye weigh the violence of your hands. The wicked are estranged from the womb; they err from the birth (belly), speaking lies. They have poison after the likeness of the poison of a serpent, as the deaf adder which stoppeth its ears, which will not hearken to the voice of enchanters, of one charming charms most wise. O God, destroy their teeth in their mouth; shatter the great teeth of the young lions, O Jehovah. Let them melt away as waters, let them go away. He will send his arrows as at those cut off. As a snail melteth, let them pass; as abortion of a woman, let them not see the sun. Before your pots feel a thorn, whether green or burning, he will whirl them away. The righteous one shall rejoice, for he hath seen vengeance; his steps he shall wash in the blood of the wicked one; and a man shall say, Surely the righteous one has fruit; surely there is a God judging in the earth” (ver. 1-12).
Here we have the solemn warning of the righteous, and the call of God to execute that judgment on the living wicked which will deliver the godly Jew of the future and clear the earth for the reign of Him Who is alike Son of David and Son of man, and with divine complacency as He is Son of God, yea the true God and Eternal Life. It is inconceivable that any unprejudiced mind could fail to see that the psalm, the due sequel of those before it, expresses not in the least the sentiments proper to those that now confess the Divine Savior and are therefore the sharers of His long-suffering grace toward the evil and injurious, but the desire for long-slumbering and righteous vengeance of God on the iniquity that will then rise to a prouder lawlessness than ever. The time for patience will then he past; and most holy will it be for those who then fear God and are in the secret of His ways to pray for His judgment on His and their enemies (they are in truth the same). And the time is at hand; and the Spirit gives them to anticipate it, whilst preserving them from carnal measures. Even a tear of the eye God puts into His bottle, as the figure is, and His vows are on them—they are consciously devoted to Him. They look for His exaltation above the heavens, for His glory above all the earth; but this, not as Christians do by being gathered together to Christ on high, but by His crushing destruction of the wicked here below, who would have swallowed them up. Lions they may be, and with the poison of serpents; yet they melt as snails when He appears in His glory, and the sword that proceeds from His mouth prepares the scene for the throne of His glory over the earth. Israel will be the vessel of God's earthly righteousness in that day; as we ought to express the grace and glory of Christ in heaven now. Hence the godly Jew rightly utters his satisfaction at the terrible things in righteousness with which the God of their salvation will answer their prayer.
1. See title of Psa. 16 Dr. J. A. Alexander prefers “a secret.”
2. Dathe and others punctuate differently, and for “silence,” or dumbness, read gods i.e.” judges.” The Sept. and Syriac omit the word which makes the difficulty.
3. Dathe and others punctuate differently, and for “silence,” or dumbness, read gods i.e.” judges.” The Sept. and Syriac omit the word which makes the difficulty.