35 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. 36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. 37 I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed. 38 I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. 39 For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me. 40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me. 41 They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not. 42 Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets. 43 Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me. 44 As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me. 45 The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places. 46 The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted. 47 It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me. 48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man. 49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name. 50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.
Verse 35. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation. Above all we must take the shield of faith, for nothing else can quench Satan’s fiery darts; this shield is of celestial workmanship, and is in all cases a direct gift from God himself; it is the channel, the sign, the guarantee, and the earnest of perfect salvation.
Thy right hand hath holden me up. Secret support is administered to us by the preserving grace of God, and at the same time Providence kindly yields us manifest aid. We are such babes that we cannot stand alone; but when the Lord’s right hand upholds us, we are like brazen pillars which cannot be moved.
Thy gentleness hath made me great. There are several readings of this sentence. The word is capable of being translated, “thy goodness hath made me great.” David saw much of benevolence in God’s action towards him, and he gratefully ascribed all his greatness not to his own goodness, but to the goodness of God. “Thy providence” is another reading, which is indeed nothing more than goodness in action. Goodness is the bud of which providence is the flower; or goodness is the seed of which providence is the harvest. Some render it, “thy help,” which is but another word for providence; providence being the firm ally of the saints, aiding them in the service of their Lord. Certain learned annotators tell us that the text means, “thy humility hath made me great.” “Thy condescension” may, perhaps, serve as a comprehensive reading, combining the ideas which we have already mentioned, as well as that of humility. It is God’s making himself little which is the cause of our being made great. We are so little that If God should manifest his greatness without condescension, we should be trampled under his feet; but God, who must stoop to view the skies and bow to see what angels do, looks to the lowly and contrite, and makes them great. While these are the translations which have been given to the adopted text of the original, we find that there are other readings altogether; as for instance, the Septuagint, which reads, “thy discipline” — thy fatherly correction — “hath made me great;” while the Chaldee paraphrase reads, “thy word hath increased me.” Still the idea is the same. David ascribes all his own greatness to the condescending goodness and graciousness of his Father in heaven. Let us all feel this sentiment in our own hearts, and confess that whatever of goodness or greatness God may have put upon us, we must cast our crowns at his feet and cry, “thy gentleness hath made me great.”
Verse 36. Thou hast enlarged my steps. A smooth pathway leading to spacious possessions and camping grounds had been opened up for him. Instead of threading the narrow mountain paths, and hiding in the cracks and corners of caverns, he was able to traverse the plains and dwell under his own vine and fig tree. It is no small mercy to be brought into full Christian liberty and enlargement, but it is a greater favour still to be enabled to walk worthily in such liberty, not being permitted to slip with our feet. To stand upon the rocks of affliction is the result of gracious upholding, but that aid is quite as much needed in the luxurious plains of prosperity.
Verse 37. The preservation of the saints bodes ill for their adversaries. The Amalekites thought themselves clear away with their booty, but when David’s God guided him in the pursuit, they were soon overtaken and cut in pieces. When God is with us sins and sorrows flee, and all forms of evil are consumed before the power of grace. What a noble picture this and the following verses present to us of the victories of our glorious Lord Jesus!
Verse 38. The destruction of our spiritual enemies is complete. We may exult over sin, death, and hell, as disarmed and disabled for us by our conquering Lord; may he graciously give them a like defeat within us.
Verse 39-40. It is impossible to be too frequent in the duty of ascribing all our victories to the God of our salvation. It is true that we have to wrestle with our spiritual antagonists, but the triumph is far more the Lord’s than ours. We must not boast like the ambitious votaries of vainglory, but we may exult as the willing and believing instruments in the Lord’s hands of accomplishing his great designs
Verse 41. They cried, but there was none to save them; even unto the Lord, but he answered them not. Prayer is so notable a weapon that even the wicked will take to it to in their fits of desperation. Bad men have appealed to God against God’s own servants, but all in vain; the kingdom of heaven is not divided, and God never succours his foes at the expense of his friends. There are prayers to God which are no better than blasphemy, which bring no comfortable reply, but rather provoke the Lord to greater wrath. Shall I ask a man to wound or slay his own child to gratify my malice? Would he not resent the insult against his humanity? How much less will Jehovah regard the cruel desires of the enemies of the church, who dare to offer their prayers for its destruction, calling its existence schism, and its doctrine heresy!
Verse 42. The defeat of the nations who fought with King David was so utter and complete that they were like powders pounded in a mortar; their power was broken into fragments and they became as weak as dust before the wind, and as mean as the mire of the roads. Thus powerless and base are the enemies of God now become through the victory of the Son of David upon the cross. Arise, O my soul, and meet thine enemies, for they have sustained a deadly blow, and will fall before thy bold advance.
“Hell and my sins resist my course, But hell and sin are vanquished foes My Jesus nailed them to his cross, And sung the triumph when he rose.”
Verse 43. Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people. Internal strife is very hard to deal with. A civil war is war in its most miserable form; it is a subject for warmest gratitude when concord rules within. Our poet praises Jehovah for the union and peace which smiled in his dominions, and if we have peace in the three kingdoms of our spirit, soul, and body, we are in duty bound to give Jehovah a song. Unity in a church should assuredly excite like gratitude.
Thou hast made me the head of the heathen; a people whom I have not known shall serve me. The neighbouring nations yielded to the sway of Judah’s prince. Oh, when shall all lands adore King Jesus, and serve him with holy joy? Surely there is far more of Jesus than of David here. Missionaries may derive rich encouragement from the positive declaration that heathen lands shall own the Headship of the Crucified.
Verse 44. As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me. Thus readily did the once struggling captain become a far renowned victor, and thus easy shall be our triumphs. We prefer, however, to speak of Jesus. In many cases the gospel is speedily received by hearts apparently unprepared for it. Those who have never heard the gospel before, have been charmed by its first message, and yielded obedience to it; while others, alas! who are accustomed to its joyful sound, are rather hardened than softened by its teachings. The grace of God sometimes runs like fire among the stubble, and a nation is born in a day. “Love at first sight” is no uncommon thing when Jesus is the wooer. He can write Caesar’s message without boasting, Veni, vidi, vici; his gospel is in some cases no sooner heard than believed. What inducements to spread abroad the doctrine of the cross!
Verse 45. The strangers shall fade away. Like sear leaves or blasted trees our foes and Christ’s foes shall find no sap and stamina remaining in them. Those who are strangers to Jesus are strangers to all lasting happiness; those must soon fade who refuse to be watered from the river of life.
And be afraid out of their close places. Out of their mountain fastnesses the heathen crept in fear to own allegiance to Israel’s king, and even so, from the castles of self confidence and the dens of carnal security, poor sinners come bending before the Saviour, Christ the Lord. Our sins which have entrenched themselves in our flesh and blood as in impregnable forts, shall yet be driven forth by the sanctifying energy of the Holy Spirit, and we shall serve the Lord in singleness of heart. Thus with remembrance of conquests in the past, and with glad anticipations of victories yet to come, the sweet singer closes the description, and returns to exercise of more direct adoration of his gracious God.
Verse 46. The Lord liveth. Possessing underived, essential, independent and eternal life. We serve no inanimate, imaginary, or dying God. He only hath immortality. Like loyal subjects let us cry, Live on, O God. Long live the King of kings. By thine immortality do we dedicate ourselves afresh to thee. As the Lord our God liveth so would we live to him.
And blessed be my rock. He is the ground of our hope, and let him be the subject of our praise. Our hearts bless the Lord, with holy love extolling him.
Jehovah lives, my rock be blessed! Praised be the God who gives me rest!
Let the God of my salvation be exalted. As our Saviour, the Lord should more than ever be glorified. We should publish abroad the story of the covenant and the cross, the Father’s election, the Son’s redemption, and the Spirit’s regeneration. He who rescues us from deserved ruin should be very dear to us. In heaven they sing “Unto him that loved us and washed us in his blood;” the like music should be common in the assemblies of the saints below.
Verse 47. It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me. To rejoice in personal revenge is unhallowed and evil, but David viewed himself as the instrument of vengeance upon the enemies of God and his people, and had he not rejoiced in the success accorded to him he would have been worthy of censure. That sinners perish is in itself a painful consideration, but that the Lord’s law is avenged upon those who break it is to the devout mind a theme for thankfulness. We must, however, always remember that vengeance is never ours, vengeance belongeth unto the Lord, and he is so just and withal so longsuffering in the exercise of it, that we may safely leave its administration in his hands.
Verse 48. From all enemies, and especially from one who was preeminent in violence, the Lord’s anointed was preserved, and at the last over the head of Saul and all other adversaries he reigned in honour. The like end awaits every saint, because Jesus who stooped to be lightly esteemed among men is now made to sit far above all principalities and powers.
Verse 49. Paul cites this verse ( Romans 15:9 ): “And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.” This is clear evidence that David’s Lord is here, but David is here too, and is to be viewed as an example of a holy soul making its boast in God even in the presence of ungodly men. Who are the despisers of God that we should stop our mouths for them? We will sing to our God whether they like it or no, and force upon them the knowledge of his goodness. Too much politeness to traitors may be treason to our King.
Verse 50. This is the winding up verse into which the writer throws a fulness of expression, indicating the most rapturous delight of gratitude.
Great deliverance. The word “deliverance” is plural, to show the variety and completeness of the salvation; the adjective “great” is well placed if we consider from what, to what, and how we are saved. All this mercy is given to us in our King, the Lord’s Anointed, and those are blessed indeed who as his seed may expect mercy to be built up for evermore. The Lord was faithful to the literal David, and he will not break his covenant with the spiritual David, for that would far more involve the honour of his crown and character. The Psalm concludes in the same loving spirit which shone upon its commencement; happy are they who can sing on from love to love, even as the pilgrims marched from strength to strength.