Verse 5. I cried unto thee, O Lord. As man would not regard him, David was driven to Jehovah, his God. Was not this a gain made out of a loss? Wealth gained by a failure? Anything which leads us to cry unto God is a blessing to us. This is the second time that in this short psalm we find the same record, "I cried unto thee, O LORD": the saintly man is evidently glad to remember his cry and its results. We hear often of the bitter cry of outcast London, here is another bitter cry, and it comes from an outcast, in wretched lodgings, forgotten by those who should have helped him.
I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living. There is a sort of progressive repetition all through this sacred song; he cried first, but he said afterwards: his cry was bitter, but his saying was sweet; his cry was sharp and short, but his saying was fresh and full. It gives a believer great pleasure to remember his own believing speeches: he may well desire to bury his unbelieving murmurings in oblivion, but the triumphs of grace in working in him a living faith, he will not dream of forgetting. What a grand confession of faith was this! David spoke to God, and of God "Thou art my refuge." Not thou hast provided me a refuge, but thou, thyself, art my refuge. He fled to God alone; he hid himself beneath the wings of the Eternal. He not only believed this, but said it, and practised it. Nor was this all; for David, when banished from his portion in the promised land, and cut off from the portion of goods which he by right inherited, found his portion in God, yea, God was his portion. This was so not only in reference to a future state, but here among living men. It is sometimes easier to believe in a portion in heaven than in a portion upon earth: we could die more easily than live, at least we think so. But there is no living in the land of the living like living upon the living God. For the man of God to say these precious things in the hour of his dire distress was a grand attainment. It is easy to prate bravely when we dwell at ease, but to speak confidently in affliction is quite another matter.
Even in this one sentence we have two parts, the second rising far above the first. It is something to have Jehovah for our refuge, but it is everything to have him for our portion. If David had not cried he would not have said; and if the Lord had not been his refuge he would never have been his portion. The lower step is as needful as the higher; but it is not necessary always to stop on the first round of the ladder.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 5. I have cried unto thee, Jehovah, I have said, etc. I have cried and still cry; I have said and still say. --Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 5. I said. This imports,
- A remembrance of the solemn transaction, Psalms 103:18 . This is a deed never to be forgotten, but always to be kept in remembrance. But, O ye who have said this, remember,
- What you said. You said that God in Christ should be your refuge, that under the shade of his wings you hid yourselves, and that, renouncing all other refuges, as refuges of lies, you did betake yourselves to the covert of Christ's righteousness, and that there ye would abide for your portion; which was a formal acceptance of and laying hold on the covenant.
- To whom you said it. To God in Christ speaking to you in the gospel offer, and inviting you into the refuge. What men say to their superiors, they think themselves specially concerned to mind. And surely what ye have said to God, ye ought in a peculiar manner to remember, and awe your hearts with the consideration of the majesty of the party to whom ye said it, Ps 16:2: "O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord"; for he is not one with whom we may deal falsely.
- How ye said it. Did ye not say it in your hearts, while God in Christ was held out as a refuge for you? And the language of the heart is plain language with a heart searching God. Did not some of you say it with your mouths? And did not all communicants say it solemnly before the world, angels, and men, by their receiving the elements of bread and wine?
- Upon what grounds you said it. Did you not see a necessity of a refuge for you, and a necessity of taking God in Christ for your refuge? Ye had rational grounds for it, and lasting grounds that can never fail; so that ye can never have ground to retract nor shift about for another refuge. Jeremiah 2:31 .
- Where ye said it. Remember the spot of ground where ye said it in prayer, where ye said it at the communion table. Psalms 42:6 . The stones of the place will be witnesses of your saying it. Joshua 24:27 .
- A standing to it, without regretting that we said it, remembering what is said, John 6:66-69 : "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God." Men often repent what they have said, and therefore will not own that they have said it. But gracious souls will not repent their saying this, but will abide by it. If they were to make their choice a thousand times, having chosen God in Christ for their refuge and portion, they would not alter; Jeremiah 3:19 : "I said, Thou shalt call me, My Father; and shalt not turn away from me." Many alterations may be in men's circumstances in the world, but there can never be one that will afford ground for retracting this saying.
- An owning of the obligation of it: I said, and am obliged thereby to stand to it, "For I have opened my mouth unto the Lord and I cannot go back", Judges 11:35 . God in Christ is yours, and ye are his by his own consent; ye are no more your own; ye have said the word, and must own that it is binding on you; and ye must beware that after vows ye make not enquiry. Whoever may pretend they have their choice yet to make of a refuge and portion to themselves, ye cannot: ye are engaged already, and ye are not at liberty to hearken to any other proposals, any more than a woman who has already signed her contract with one man.
- A professing of it confidently without being ashamed of it; as though you should say, "I own it before all men, and am not ashamed of my choice." Antichrist allows some of his vassals to carry his mark in their right hand. Revelation 13:16 . But all the followers of the Lamb have their mark on their foreheads, where it will not hide, Revelation 14:1 . The world would put the people of God to shame on the head of their refuge and portion, as if they had made a foolish bargain of it, Psalms 14:6 : "Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge." But sincerity will make men despise that shame, as David said, "And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight."
- A satisfaction of heart in it: as though you should say, I said it", and, Oh, but I am well pleased that ever I said it; it was the best saying I could ever say. Psalms 16:2 Psalms 16:5-7 . And this is in effect to say it over again. And good reason there is for them who have sincerely said it to be well satisfied in their refuge, and to rejoice in their portion. The reflecting upon it may afford solid delight and content of heart. Ye who have taken the Lord for your refuge may with much satisfaction reflect upon what you have done. --Thomas Boston.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 5. The soul choosing God.
- Deliberately: "I cried unto thee, I said."
- For all in all: "refuge", "portion."
- Before every other "in the land of the living."
Verse 5. "How we may bring our Hearts to bear Reproofs." See John Owen's Sermon in "The Morning Exercises", vol. 2, page 600, etc.; and in his "Works", vol. 16, p. 23, etc.