PSALM 16 OVERVIEW
Title. MICHTAM OF DAVID. This is usually understood to mean THE GOLDEN PSALM, and such a title is most appropriate, for the matter is as the most fine gold. Ainsworth calls it "David's jewel, or notable song." Dr. Hawker, who is always alive to passages full of savour, devoutly cries, "Some have rendered it precious, others golden, and others, precious jewel; and as the Holy Ghost, by the apostles Peter and Paul, hath shown us that it is all about the Lord Jesus Christ, what is here said of him is precious, is golden, is a jewel indeed!" We have not met with the term Michtam before, but if spared to write upon Psalms 56:1-60:12 , we shall see it again, and shall observe that like the present these psalms, although they begin with prayer, and imply trouble, abound in holy confidence and close with songs of assurance as to ultimate safety and joy. Dr. Alexander, whose notes are peculiarly valuable, thinks that the word is most probably a simple derivative of a word signifying to hide, and signifies a secret or mystery, and indicates the depth of doctrinal and spiritual import in these sacred compositions. If this be the true interpretation it well accords with the other, and when the two are put together, they make up a name which every reader will remember, and which will bring the precious subject at once to mind. THE PSALM OF THE PRECIOUS SECRET.
Subject. We are not left to human interpreters for the key to this golden mystery, for, speaking by the Holy Ghost, Peter tells us, "David speaketh concerning HIM." ( Acts 2:25 ) Further on in his memorable sermon he said, "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption." ( Acts 2:29-31 ) Nor is this our only guide, for the apostle Paul, led by the same infallible inspiration, quotes from this psalm, and testifies that David wrote of the man through whom is preached unto us the forgiveness of sins. ( Acts 13:35-38 ) It has been the usual plan of commentators to apply the psalm both to David, to the saints, and to the Lord Jesus, but we will venture to believe that in it "Christ is all;" since in the ninth and tenth verses, like the apostles on the mount, we can see "no man but Jesus only."
Division. The whole is so compact that it is difficult to draw sharp lines of division. It may suffice to note our Lord's prayer of faith, Psalms 16:1 , avowal of faith in Jehovah alone, Psalms 16:2-5 , the contentment of his faith in the present, Psalms 16:6-7 , and the joyous confidence of his faith for the future ( Psalms 16:8 Psalms 16:11 ).
Verse 1. Preserve me, keep, or save me, or as Horsley thinks, "guard me," even as bodyguards surround their monarch, or as shepherds protect their flocks. Tempted in all points like as we are, the manhood of Jesus needed to be preserved from the power of evil; and though in itself pure, the Lord Jesus did not confide in that purity of nature, but as an example to his followers, looked to the Lord, his God, for preservation. One of the great names of God is "the Preserver of men," ( Job 7:20 ,) and this gracious office the Father exercised towards our Mediator and Representative. It had been promised to the Lord Jesus in express words, that he should be preserved, Isaiah 49:7-8 . "Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people." This promise was to the letter fulfilled, both by providential deliverance and sustaining power, in the case of our Lord. Being preserved himself, he is able to restore the preserved of Israel, for we are "preserved in Christ Jesus and called." As one with him, the elect were preserved in his preservation, and we may view this mediatorial supplication as the petition of the Great High Priest for all those who are in him. The intercession recorded in John 17:1-26 is but an amplification of this cry, "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are." When he says, "preserve me," he means his members, his mystical body, himself, and all in him. But while we rejoice in the fact that the Lord Jesus used this prayer for his members, we must not forget that he employed it most surely for himself; he had so emptied himself, and so truly taken upon him the form of a servant, that as man he needed divine keeping even as we do, and often cried unto the strong for strength. Frequently on the mountaintop he breathed forth this desire, and on one occasion in almost the same words, he publicly prayed, "Father, save me from this hour." ( John 12:27 .) If Jesus looked out of himself for protection, how much more must we, his erring followers, do so!
O God. The word for God here used is EL (la), by which name the Lord Jesus, when under a sense of great weakness, as for instance when upon the cross, was wont to address the Mighty God, the Omnipotent Helper of his people. We, too, may turn to El, the Omnipotent One, in all hours of peril, with the confidence that he who heard the strong crying and tears of our faithful High Priest, is both able and willing to bless us in him. It is well to study the name and character of God, so that in our straits we may know how and by what title to address our Father who is in heaven.
For in thee do I put my trust, or, I have taken shelter in thee. As chickens run beneath the hen, so do I betake myself to thee. Thou art my great overshadowing Protector, and I have taken refuge beneath thy strength. This is a potent argument in pleading, and our Lord knew not only how to use it with God, but how to yield to its power when wielded by others upon himself. "According to thy faith be it done unto thee," is a great rule of heaven in dispensing favour, and when we can sincerely declare that we exercise faith in the Mighty God with regard to the mercy which we seek, we may rest assured that our plea will prevail. Faith, like the sword of Saul, never returns empty; it overcomes heaven when held in the hand of prayer. As the Saviour prayed, so let us pray, and as he became more than a conqueror, so shall we also through him; let us when buffeted by storms right bravely cry to the Lord as he did, "in thee do I put my trust."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. There is a diversity of opinion as to the meaning of the title of this Psalm. It is called "Michtam of David," but Michtam is the Hebrew word untranslated -- the Hebrew word in English letters -- and its signification is involved in obscurity. According to some, it is derived from a verb which means to hide, and denotes a mystery or secret. Those who adopt this view, regard the title as indicating a depth of doctrinal and spiritual import in the Psalm, which neither the writer nor any of his contemporaries had fathomed. According to others, it is derived from a verb which means to cut, to grave, to write, and denotes simply a writing of David. With this view agree the Chaldee and Septuagint versions, the former translating it, "a straight sculpture of David:" and the latter, "an inscription upon a pillar to David." Others again, look upon "Michtam," as being derived from a noun which means gold, and they understand it as denoting a golden Psalm -- a Psalm of surpassing excellence, and worthy of being written in letters of gold. This was the opinion of our translators, and hence they have rendered it on the margin -- A golden Psalm of David. The works of the most excellent Arabian poets were called golden, because they were written in letters of gold; and this golden song may have been written and hung up in some conspicuous part of the Temple. Many other interpretations have been given of this term, but at this distance of time, we can only regard it as representing some unassignable peculiarity of the composition. James Frame, 1858.
Title. Such are the riches of this Psalm, that some have been led to think the obscure title, "Michtam," has been prefixed to it on account of its golden stores. For (~tk) is used of the "gold of Ophir" (e.g., Psalms 45:9 ), and (~tkm) might be a derivative from that root. But as there is a group of five other Psalms (namely, Psalms 56:1-60:12 ), that bear this title, whose subject matter is various, but which all end in a tone of triumph, it has been suggested that the Septuagint may be nearly right in their Sphlografia as if "A Psalm to be hung up or inscribed on a pillar to commemorate victory." It is, however, more likely still that the term "Michtam" (like "Maschil"), is a musical term, whose real meaning and use we have lost, and may recover only when the ransomed house of Israel return home with songs. Meanwhile, the subject matter of this Psalm itself is very clearly this -- the righteous one's satisfaction with his lot. Andrew A. Bonar.
Whole Psalm. Allow that in verse ten it is clear that our Lord is in this Psalm, yet the application of every verse to Jesus in Gethsemane appears to be farfetched, and inaccurate. How verse nine could suit the agony and bloody sweat, it is hard to conceive, and equally so it is with regard to verse six. The "cup" of verse five is so direct a contrast to that cup concerning which Jesus prayed in anguish of spirit, that it cannot be a reference to it. Yet we think it right to add, that Mr. James Frame has written a very valuable work on this Psalm, entitled "Christ in Gethsemane," and he has supported his theory by the opinion of many of the ancients. He says, "All the distinguished interpreters of ancient days, such as Eusebius, Jerome, and Augustine, explain the Psalm as referring to the Messiah, in his passion and his victory over death and the grave, including his subsequent exaltation to the right hand of God;" and, in a foot note he gives the following quotations: Jerome. -- "The Psalm pertains to Christ, who speaks in it... It is the voice of our King, which he utters in the human nature that he had assumed, but without detracting from his divine nature... The Psalm pertains to his passion." Augustine. -- "Our King speaks in this Psalm in the person of the human nature that he assumed, at the time of his passion, the royal title inscribed will show itself conspicuous." C. H. S.
Whole Psalm. The present Psalm is connected in thought and language with the foregoing, and linked on to the following Psalm by catchwords. It is entitled in the Syriac and Arabic versions, a Psalm on the Election of the Church, and on the "Resurrection of Christ." Christopher Wordsworth, D.D., 1868.
Verse 1. Preserve me, O God. Here David desireth not deliverance from any special trouble, but generally prayeth to be fenced and defended continually by the providence of God, wishing that the Lord would continue his mercy towards him unto the end; whereby he foresaw it was as needful for him to be safeguarded by God, his protection in the end, as at the time present; as also how he made no less account of it in his prosperity than in adversity. So that the man of God still feared his infirmity, and therefore acknowledgeth himself ever to stand in need of God his help. And here is a sure and undoubted mark of the child of God, when a man shall have as great a care to continue and grow in well doing, as to begin; and this praying for the gift of final perseverance is a special note of the child of God. This holy jealousy of the man of God made him so desire to be preserved at all times, in all estates, both in soul and body. Richard Greenham, 1531-1591.
Verse 1. For in thee do I put my trust. Here the prophet setteth down the cause why he prayeth to God; whereby he declareth, that none can truly call upon God unless they believe. Romans 10:14 . "How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?" In regard whereof as he prayeth to God to be his Saviour, so he is fully assured that God will be his Saviour. If, then, without faith we cannot truly call upon God, the men of this world rather prate like parrots than pray like Christians, at what time they utter these words; for that they trust not in God they declare both by neglecting the lawful means, and also in using unlawful means. Some we see trust in friends; some shoulder out, as they think, the cross with their goods; some fence themselves with authority; others bathe and baste themselves in pleasure to put the evil day far from them; others make flesh their arm; and others make the wedge of gold their confidence; and these men when they seek for help at the Lord, mean in their hearts to find it in their friends, good authority and pleasure, howsoever for fear, they dare not say this outwardly. Again, here we are to observe under what shelter we may harbour ourselves in the showers of adversity, even under the protection of the Almighty. And why? "Whoso dwelleth in the secret of the Most High, shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty." And here in effect is showed, that whosoever putteth his trust in God shall be preserved; otherwise the prophet's reason here had not been good. Besides, we see he pleads not by merit, but sues by faith, teaching us that if we come with like faith, we may obtain the like deliverance. Richard Greenham.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Michtam of David. Under the title of "The Golden Psalm," Mr. Canon Dale has published a small volume, which is valuable as a series of good simple discourses, but ought hardly to have been styled "an exposition." We have thought it right to give the headings of the chapters into which his volume is divided, for there is much showiness, and may be some solidity in the suggestions.
Verse 1. The seeking of the gold. The believer conscious of danger, trusting in God only for deliverance.
Verse 2-3. The possessing of the gold. The believer looking for justification to the righteousness of God alone, while maintaining personal holiness by companionship with the saints.
Verse 4-5. The testing of the gold. The believer finding his present portion, and expecting his eternal inheritance in the Lord.
Verse 6. The prizing or valuing of the gold. The believer congratulating himself on the pleasantness of his dwelling and the goodness of his heritage.
Verse 7-8. The occupying of the gold. The believer seeking instruction from the counsels of the Lord by night, and realising his promise by day.
Verse 9-10. The summing or reckoning of the gold. The believer rejoicing and praising God for the promise of a rest in hope and resurrection into glory.
Verse 1. The perfecting of the gold. The believer realising at God's right hand the fulness of joy and the pleasures for evermore.
Upon this suggestive Psalm we offer the following few hints out of many --
Verse 1. The prayer and the plea. The preserver and the truster. The dangers of the saints and the place of their confidence.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE SIXTEENTH PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
An Exposition upon some select Psalms of David... By ROBERT ROLLOCK. 1600. 16mo.
A Godly Exposition of the Sixteenth Psalm: in R. Greenham's "Works:" pp. 316-331. Folio: 1612.
In the "Works" of John Boys, 1626, folio, pp. 898-908, there is an Exposition of Psalm Sixteen,
"Devotions Augustinianae Flamma; or, Certayne Devout, Godly, and Learned Meditations. Written by the excellently accomplished gentleman, WILLIAM AUSTIN, of Lincolnes Inne, Esquire... 1637," contains "Notes on the Sixteenth Psalme; more particularly on the last verse." Small folio.
The Golden Psalm. Being an Exposition practical, experimental, and prophetical of Psalm Sixteenth. By the Rev. THOMAS DALE, M.A. Canon Residentiary of St. Paul's, London, and Vicar of St. Pancras, Middlesex. London: 1847.
Christ in Gethsemane. An Exposition of Psalm Sixteen. By JAMES FRAME, Minister of Queen Street Chapel, Ratcliff, London: 1858.