Psalms 61

PSALM LXI

The psalmist's prayer for those who were banished from their

own land, and from the ordinances of God, 1, 2.

He praises God for his past mercies, 3;

purposes to devote himself entirely to his service, 4, 5.

He prays for the king, 6, 7;

and promises to perform his vow to the Lord daily, 8.

NOTES ON PSALM LXI

The title, To the chief Musician upon Neginath, . The verb

nagan signifies to strike or play on a musical instrument,

especially one of the stringed kind; but the neginoth, as

it is written in about thirty MSS., may signify either the players

on the instruments or the instruments themselves. The Psalm

appears to have been written about the close of the captivity, and

the most judicious interpreters refer it to that period. On this

supposition the notes are formed.

Verse 1. Hear my cry, O God] In the midst of a long and painful

captivity, oppressed with suffering, encompassed with cruel

enemies and insolent masters, I address my humble prayer to THEE, O

my God.

Verse 2. From the end of the earth] arets should be here

translated land, not earth, and so it should be in numerous places

besides. But here it seems to mean the country beyond the

Euphrates; as it is thought to do, Ps 65:5, 8, called there also

the ends of the earth or land. It may be remarked that the Jews

were always more pious and devoted to God in their afflictions and

captivities, than when in their own land, in ease and affluence.

But who can bear prosperity? How many hearts filled with heavenly

ardour in affliction and persecution have grown cold under the

beams of the sun of prosperity!

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.] Direct me to a place

of refuge and safety. It is a metaphorical expression; and Calmet

interprets it of the liberty granted to the Jews by Cyrus to

return to their own land. This was a privilege far higher than any

thing they could expect. The fathers think Jesus Christ is meant

by this high rock.

Verse 3. Thou hast been a shelter for me] During the whole

duration of the captivity God marvellously dealt with the poor

Jews; so that, although they were cast down, they were not utterly

forsaken.

Verse 4. I will abide in thy tabernacle] The greater portion of

those Psalms which were composed during and after the captivity,

says Calmet, had Levites and priests for their authors. Hence we

find the ardent desire so frequently expressed of seeing the

temple; of praising God there; of spending their lives in that

place, performing the functions of their sacred office. There I

shall sojourn;-there I shall dwell,-be at rest,-be in

safety,-be covered with thy wings, as a bird in its nest is

covered with the wings of its mother. These simple comparisons,

drawn from rural affairs and ordinary occurrences, are more

pleasing and consolatory in the circumstances in question, than

allegories derived from subjects the most noble and sublime.

Verse 5. Hast heard my vows] Often have I purposed to be wholly

thine,-to serve thee alone,-to give up my whole life to thy

service: and thou hast heard me, and taken me at my word; and

given me that heritage, the privilege of enjoying thee in thy

ordinances, which is the lot of them that fear thy name. The Psalm

seems to have been composed either after the captivity, or at the

time that Cyrus published his decree in their favour, as has been

remarked before.

Verse 6. Thou wilt prolong the king's life] The words are very

emphatic, and can refer to no ordinary person. Literally, "Days

upon days thou wilt add to the king; and his years shall be like

the generations of this world, and the generations of the world to

come." This is precisely the paraphrase I had given to this text

before I had looked into the Chaldee Version; and to which I need

add nothing, as I am persuaded no earthly king is intended: and it

is Christ, as Mediator, that "shall abide before God for ever,"

Ps 61:7. Neither to David, nor to any earthly sovereign, can

these words be applied.

Verse 7. He shall abide before God for ever] Literally, "He

shall sit for ever before the faces of God." He shall ever appear

in the presence of God for us. And he ever sits at the right hand

of the Majesty on high; for he undertook this office after having,

by his sacrificial offering, made atonement for our sins.

Prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him.] As Mediator,

his attendants will ever be mercy and truth. He will dispense the

mercy of God, and thus fulfil the truth of the various promises

and predictions which had preceded his incarnation. There is an

obscurity in this clause, chesed veemeth man

yintseruhu, owing to the particle man, which some translate

who or what; and others, number thou, from manah, to

count. Houbigant, and he is followed by Bishop Lowth, would read

miyehovah, Mercy and truth from Jehovah shall preserve him.

The Anglo-Saxon has, [A.S.] Mildheartedness, and soothfastness

his, who seeketh? which is nearly the rendering of the old

Psalter: Mercy and sothfastnes of him, wha sall seke? Dr.

Kennicott says, man is a Syriasm; and should be translated

quaesoutinam, I beseech thee,-I wish,-O that! On this very ground

Coverdale appears to have translated, O let thy lovynge mercy

and faithfulnes preserve him! The sense I have given above I

conceive to be the true one.

Verse 8. So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever] For the

benefits which I have received, and hope to receive endlessly from

thee, I will to all perpetuity praise thee.

That I may daily perform my vows.] While I live, I shall

yom, yom, "day by day," each day as it succeeds, render to thee my

vows-act according to what I have often purposed, and as often

promised. The Chaldee ends remarkably: "Thus I will praise thy

name for ever, when I shall perform my vows in the day of the

redemption of Israel; and in the day in which the King Messiah

shall be anointed, that he may reign."

The ancient Jews were full of the expectation of the Messiah;

the Jews of the present day have given up their hope.

ANALYSIS OF THE SIXTY-FIRST PSALM

The author of this Psalm prays and vows perpetual service to

God. It is composed of two parts:-

I. His prayer, Ps 61:1-3.

II. His vow, Ps 61:4-8.

He begins with a prayer, in which he begs,-

1. Audience: "Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer,"

Ps 61:1.

2. The reason to enforce it.

1. He was in banishment, in the farther part of the land of

Judah: "From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee."

2. He was in extremity: "When my heart is overwhelmed."

3. For defence: "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I;"

that is, To some safe and defenced place to which my enemies may

have no access, whither without thy help I cannot ascend.

And he adds a reason to this part of his prayer drawn from his

own experience: "For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong

tower from the enemy."

His faith now presents him as delivered; and, therefore, he

vows,-

1. "I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever." I will return, and

adore thee in thy temple.

2. "I will trust in the covert of thy wings." He alludes to the

cherubim, whose wings cover the ark.

And for this he assigns many reasons also:-

1. "For thou, O God, hast heard my vows," i.e., my prayers.

2. "Thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name;

" made me king over thy people, and more fully performed to me the

promise made to Abraham, in the land of Canaan.

3. "Thou wilt prolong the king's life."

4. "And his years," i.e., in his posterity, "as many

generations;" of which the beginning of the next verse is the

prediction. "He shall abide before God for ever."

And now David, assuring himself of the crown, and that his

posterity should inherit it, puts forth an earnest vote for that

which should establish it: "O prepare mercy and truth, which may

preserve him; i.e., me thy king;" for these two virtues, mercy,

i.e., clemency, and truth, do commend a king, and make him dear to

his subjects; for in the practice of these it is not possible that

his government should be harsh, unjust, or tyrannical.

Which if it please God to bestow upon him, then he makes a new

vow: "So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever."

Though here this appears to be a new vow, yet he had vowed it

before, and engaged to discharge; for in singing praise to God's

name, he should but pay what by vow he had often undertaken: "I

will sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform

my vows."

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