Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. 2 Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. 3 But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. 4 I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah. 5 I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. 7 Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. 8 Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.
Verse 1. The poor broken hearted father complains of the multitude of his enemies: and if you turn to 2 Samuel 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 host 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.
Verse 2. 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 most unkind 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 is 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 pourtrayed, 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.”
Verse 3. Here David avows his confidence in God.
Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me. The word in the original signifies more than a shield; it means a buckler round about, a protection which shall surround a man entirely, a shield above, beneath, around, without and within. Oh! what a shield is God for his people! He wards off the fiery darts of Satan from beneath, and the storms of trials from above, while, at the same instant, he speaks peace to the tempest within the breast. Thou art my glory. David knew that though he was driven from his capital in contempt and scorn, he should yet return in triumph, and by faith he looks upon God as honouring and glorifying him. O for grace to see our future glory amid present shame! Indeed, there is a present glory in our afflictions, if we could but discern it; for it is no mean thing to have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings. David was honoured when he made the ascent of Olivet, weeping, with his head covered; for he was in all this made like unto his Lord. May we learn, in this respect, to glory in tribulations also!
And the lifter up of mine head — thou shalt yet exalt me. Though I hang my head in sorrow, I shall very soon lift it up in joy and thanksgiving. What a divine trio of mercies is contained in this verse! — defence for the defenceless, glory for the despised, and joy for the comfortless. Verily we may well say, “there is none like the God of Jeshurun.”
Verse 4. I cried unto the Lord with my voice. Why doth he say, “with my voice?” Surely, silent prayers are heard. Yes, but good men often find that, even in secret, they pray better aloud than they do when they utter no vocal sound. Perhaps, moreover, David would think thus: — “My cruel enemies clamour against me; they lift up their voices, and, behold, I lift up mine, and my cry out soars them all”. They clamour, but the cry of my voice in great distress pierces the very skies, and is louder and stronger than all their tumult; for there is one in the sanctuary who harkens to me from the seventh heaven, and he hath, heard me out of his holy hill. Answers to prayers are sweet cordials for the soul. We need not fear a frowning world while we rejoice in a prayer hearing God.
Here stands another Selah. Rest awhile, O tried believer, and change the strain to a softer air.
Verse 5. David’s faith enabled him to lie down; anxiety would certainly have kept him on tiptoe, watching for an enemy. Yea, he was able to sleep, to sleep in the midst of trouble, surrounded by foes. “So he giveth his beloved sleep.” There is a sleep of presumption; God deliver us from it! There is a sleep of holy confidence; God help us so to close our eyes! But David says he awaked also. Some sleep the sleep of death; but he, though exposed to many enemies, reclined his head on the bosom of his God, slept happily beneath the wing of Providence in sweet security, and then awoke in safety.
For the Lord sustained me. The sweet influence of the Pleiades of promise shone upon the sleeper, and he awoke conscious that the Lord had preserved him. An excellent divine has well remarked — “This quietude of a man’s heart by faith in God, is a higher sort of work than the natural resolution of manly courage, for it is the gracious operation of God’s Holy Spirit upholding a man above nature, and therefore the Lord must have all the glory of it.”
Verse 6. Buckling on his harness for the day’s battle, our hero sings, I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Observe that he does not attempt to under estimate the number or wisdom of his enemies. He reckons them at tens of thousands, and he views them as cunning huntsmen chasing him with cruel skill. Yet he trembles not, but looking his enemy in the face he is ready for the battle. There may be no way of escape; they may hem me in as the deer are surrounded by a circle of hunters; they may surround me on every side, but in the name of God I will dash through them; or, if I remain in the midst of them, yet shall they not hurt me; I shall be free in my very prison.
But David is too wise to venture to the battle without prayer; he therefore betakes himself to his knees, and cries aloud to Jehovah.
Verse 7. His only hope is in his God, but that is so strong a confidence, that he feels the Lord hath but to arise and he is saved. It is enough for the Lord to stand up, and all is well. He compares his enemies to wild beasts, and he declares that God hath broken their jaws, so that they could not injure him;
Thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Or else he alludes to the peculiar temptations to which he was then exposed. They had spoken against him; God, therefore, has smitten them upon the cheek bone. They seemed as if they would devour him with their mouths; God hath broken their teeth, and let them say what they will, their toothless jaws shall not be able to devour him. Rejoice, O believer, thou hast to do with a dragon whose head is broken, and with enemies whose teeth are dashed from their jaws!
Verse 8. This verse contains the sum and substance of Calvinistic doctrine. Search Scripture through, and you must, if you read it with a candid mind, be persuaded that the doctrine of salvation by grace alone is the great doctrine of the word of God:
Salvation belongeth unto the Lord. This is a point concerning which we are daily fighting. Our opponents say, “Salvation belongeth to the free will of man; if not to man’s merit, yet at least to man’s will;” but we hold and teach that salvation from first to last, in every iota of it, belongs to the Most High God. It is God that chooses his people. He calls them by his grace; he quickens them by his Spirit, and keeps them by his power. It is not of man, neither by man; “not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” May we all learn this truth experimentally, for our proud flesh and blood will never permit us to learn it in any other way. In the last sentence the peculiarity and speciality of salvation are plainly stated:
Thy blessing is upon thy people. Neither upon Egypt, nor upon Tyre, nor upon Nineveh; thy blessing is upon thy chosen, thy blood bought, thine everlastingly beloved people.
Selah: lift up your hearts, and pause, and meditate upon this doctrine. “Thy blessing is upon thy people.” Divine, discriminating, distinguishing, eternal, infinite, immutable love, is a subject for constant adoration. Pause, my soul, at this Selah, and consider thine own interest in the salvation of God; and if by humble faith thou art enabled to see Jesus as thine by his own free gift of himself to thee, if this greatest of all blessings be upon thee, rise up and sing —
“Rise, my soul! adore and wonder!
Ask, `O why such love to me?’ Grace hath put me in the number Of the Saviour’s family: Hallelujah! Thanks, eternal thanks, to thee!”