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!"
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 2,4,8. Selah. (hlv) See Psalms on "Psalms 2:2" for further information.
Verse 8. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: parallel passage in Jonah 2:9 , "Salvation is of the Lord." The mariners might have written upon their ship, instead of Castor and Pollux, or the like device, Salvation is the Lord's; the Ninevites might have written upon their gates, Salvation is the Lord's; and whole mankind, whose cause is pitted and pleaded by God against the hardness of Jonah's heart, in the last, might have written on the palms of their hands, Salvation is the Lord's. It is the argument of both the Testaments, the staff and support of heaven and earth. They would both sink, and all their joints be severed, if the salvation of the Lord's were not. The birds in the air sing no other notes, the beasts in the field give no other voice, than Salus Jehovae, Salvation is the Lord's. The walls and fortresses to our country's gates, to our cities and towns, bars to our houses, a surer cover to our heads than a helmet of steel, a better receipt to our bodies than the confection of apothecaries, a better receipt to our souls than the pardons of Rome, is Salus Jehovae, the salvation of the Lord. The salvation of the Lord blesseth, preserveth, upholdeth all that we have; our basket and our store, the oil in our cruses, our presses, the sheep in our folds, our stalls, the children in the womb, at our tables, the corn in our fields, our stores, our garners; it is not the virtue of the stars, nor nature of all things themselves, that giveth being and continuance to any of these blessings. And, "What shall I more say?" as the apostle asked ( Hebrews 11:32 ) when he had spoken much, and there was much more behind, but time failed him. Rather, what should I not say? for the world is my theatre at this time, and I neither think nor can feign to myself anything that hath not dependence upon this acclamation, Salvation is the Lord's. Plutarch writeth, that the Amphictions in Greece, a famous council assembled of twelve sundry people, wrote upon the temple of Apollo Pythius, instead of the Iliads of Homer, or songs of Pindarus (large and tiring discourses), short sentences and memoratives, as, Know thyself, Use moderation, Beware of suretyship, and the like; and doubtless though every creature in the world, whereof we have use, be a treatise and narration unto us of the goodness of God, and we might weary our flesh, and spend our days in writing books of that inexplicable subject, yet this short apothegm of Jonah comprehends all the rest, and standeth at the end of the song, as the altars and stones that the patriarch set up at the parting of the ways, to give knowledge to the after world by what means he was delivered. I would it were daily preached in our temples, sung in our streets, written upon our door posts, painted upon our walls, or rather cut with an adamant claw upon the tables of our hearts, that we might never forget salvation to be the Lord's. We have need of such remembrances to keep us in practise of revolving the mercies of God. For nothing decayeth sooner than love; nihil facilius quam amar putrescit. And of all the powers of the soul, memory is most delicate, tender and brittle, and first waxeth old, memoria delicata, tenera, fragilis, in quam primum senectus incurrit; and of all the apprehensions of memory, first benefit, primum senescit beneficium. John King's Commentary on Jonah, 1594.
Verse 8. Thy blessing is upon thy people. The saints are not only blessed when they are comprehensors, but while they are viators. They are blessed before they are crowned. This seems a paradox to flesh and blood: what, reproached and maligned, yet blessed! A man that looks upon the children of God with a carnal eye, and sees how they are afflicted, and like the ship in the gospel, which was covered with waves ( Matthew 8:24 ), would think they were far from blessedness. Paul brings a catalogue of his sufferings (2Co 11:24-26), "Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck," etc. And those Christians of the first magnitude, of whom the world was not worthy, "Had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, they were sawn asunder, they were slain with the sword." Hebrews 11:36 Hebrews 11:37 . What! and were all these during the time of their sufferings blessed? A carnal man would think, if this be to be blessed, God deliver him from it. But, however sense would give their vote, our Saviour Christ pronounces the godly man blessed; though a mourner, though a martyr, yet blessed. Job on the dunghill was blessed Job. The saints are blessed when they are cursed. Shimei did curse David ( 2 Samuel 16:5 ), "He came forth and cursed him;" yet when he was cursed David he was blessed David. The saints though they are bruised, yet they are blessed. Not only they shall be blessed, but they are so. Psalms 119:1 . "Blessed are the undefiled." Psalms 3:8 . "Thy blessing is upon thy people." Thomas Watson.
As a curious instance of Luther's dogmatical interpretations we give very considerable extracts from his rendering of this Psalm without in any degree endorsing them. C.H.S.
Whole Psalm. That the meaning of this Psalm is not historical, is manifest from many particulars, which militate against its being so understood. And first of all, there is this which the blessed Augustine has remarked; that the words, "I laid me down to sleep and took my rest," seem to be the words of Christ rising from the dead. And then that there is at the end the blessing of God pronounced upon the people, which manifestly belongs to the whole church. Hence, the blessed Augustine interprets the Psalm in a threefold way; first, concerning Christ the head; secondly, concerning the whole of Christ, that is, Christ and his church, the head and the body; and thirdly, figuratively, concerning any private Christian. Let each have his own interpretation. I, in the meantime, will interpret it concerning Christ; being moved so to do by the same argument that moved Augustine -- that the fifth verse does not seem appropriately to apply to any other but Christ. First, because, "lying down" and "sleeping," signify in this place altogether a natural death, not a natural sleep. Which may be collected from this -- because it then follows, "and rose again." Whereas if David had spoken concerning the sleep of the body, he would have said, "and awoke;" though this does not make so forcibly for the interpretation of which we are speaking, if the Hebrew word would be closely examined. But again, what new thing would he advance by declaring that he laid him down and slept? Why did he not say also that he walked, ate, drank, laboured, or was in necessity, or mention particularly some other work of the body? And moreover, it seems an absurdity under so great a tribulation, to boast of nothing else but the sleep of the body; for that tribulation would rather force him to a privation from sleep, and to be in peril and distress; especially since those two expressions, "I laid me down," and "I slept," signify the quiet repose of one lying down in his place, which is not the state of one who falls asleep from exhaustion through sorrow. But this consideration makes the more forcibly for us -- that he therefore glories in his rising up again because it was the Lord that sustained him, who raised him up while sleeping, and did not leave him in sleep. How can such a glorying agree, and what new kind of religion can make it agree, with any particular sleep of the body? (for in that case, would it not apply to the daily sleep also?) and especially, when this sustaining of God indicates at the same time an utterly forsaken state in the person sleeping, which is not the case in corporal sleep; for there the person sleeping may be protected even by men being his guards; but this sustaining being altogether of God, implies, not a sleep, but a heavy conflict. And lastly, the word HEKIZOTHI itself favours such an interpretation; which, being here put absolutely and transitively, signifies, "I caused to arise or awake." As if he had said, "I caused myself to awake, I roused myself." Which certainly more aptly agrees with the resurrection of Christ than with the sleep of the body; both because those who are asleep are accustomed to be roused and awaked, and because it is no wonderful matter, nor a matter worthy of so important a declaration, for anyone to awake of himself, seeing that it is what takes place every day. But this matter being introduced by the Spirit as a something new and singular, is certainly different from all that which attends common sleeping and waking.
Verse 2. There is no help for him in his God. In the Hebrew the expression is simply, "in God," without the pronoun "his", which seems to me to give clearness and force to the expression. As if he had said, They say of me that I am not only deserted and oppressed by all creatures, but that even God, who is present with all things, and preserves all things, and protects all things, forsakes me as the only thing out of the whole universe that he does not preserve. Which kind of temptation Job seems also to have tasted where he says, "Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee?" Job 7:20 . For there is no temptation, no, not of the whole world together, nor of all hell combined in one, equal unto that wherein God stands contrary to man, which temptation Jeremiah prays against ( Jeremiah 17:17 ), "Be not a terror unto me; thou art my hope in the days of evil;" and concerning which also the sixth Psalm ( Psalms 6:1 ) following saith, "O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger;" and we find the same petitions throughout the psaltery. This temptation is wholly unsupportable, and is truly hell itself; as it is said in the same sixth Psalm ( Psalms 6:5 ), "for in death there is no remembrance of thee," etc. In a word, if you have never experienced it, you can never form any idea of it whatever.
Verse 3. For thou, O Lord, art my helper, my glory, and the lifter up of my head. David here contrasts three things with three; helper, with many troublings; glory, with many rising up; and the lifter up of the head, with the blaspheming and insulting. Therefore, the person here represented is indeed alone in the estimation of man, and even according to his own feelings also; but in the sight of God, and in a spiritual view, he is by no means alone; but protected with the greatest abundance of help; as Christ saith ( John 16:32 ), "Behold, the hour cometh when ye shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me." ... The words contained in this verse are not the words of nature, but of grace; not of free will, but of the spirit of strong faith; which, even though seeing God, as in the darkness of the storm of death and hell, a deserting God, acknowledges him a sustaining God; when seeing him as a condemner, acknowledges him a Saviour. Thus this faith does not judge of things according as they seem to be, or are felt, like a horse or mule which have no understanding; but it understands things which are not seen, for "hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" Ro 8:24.
Verse 4. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. In the Hebrew, the verb is in the future, and is, as Hieronymus translates it, "I will cry," and "he shall hear;" and this pleases me better than the perfect tense; for they are the words of one triumphing in, and praising and glorifying God, and giving thanks unto him who sustained, preserved, and lifted him up, according as he had hoped in the preceding verse. For it is usual with those that triumph and rejoice, to speak of those things which they have done and suffered, and to sing a song of praise unto their helper and deliverer; as in Psalms 66:16 , "Come, then, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue." And also Psalms 81:1 , "Sing aloud unto God our strength." And so again, Exodus 15:1 , "Let us sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously." And so here, being filled with an overflowing sense of gratitude and joy, he sings of his being dead, of his having slept and rose up again, of his enemies being smitten, and of the teeth of the ungodly being broken. This it is which causes the change; for he who hitherto had been addressing God in the second person, changes on a sudden his address to others concerning God, in the third person, saying, "and he heard me", not "and thou heardest me;" and also, "I cried unto the Lord", not, "I cried unto thee," for he wants to make all know what benefits God has heaped upon him; which is peculiar to a grateful mind.
Verse 5. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. Christ, by the words of this verse, signifies his death and burial ... For it is not to be supposed that he would have spoken so importantly concerning mere natural rest and sleep; especially since that which precedes, and that which follows, compel us to understand him as speaking of a deep conflict and a glorious victory over his enemies. By all which things he stirs us up and animates us to faith in God, and commends unto us the power and grace of God; that he is able to raise us up from the dead; an example of which he sets before us, and proclaims it unto us as wrought in himself ... And this is shown also farther in his using gentle words, and such as tend wonderfully to lessen the terror of death. "I laid me down (saith he), and slept." He does not say, I died, and was buried; for death and the tomb had lost both their name and their power. And now death is not death, but a sleep; and the tomb not a tomb, but a bed and resting place; which was the reason why the words of this prophecy were put somewhat obscurely and doubtfully, that it might by that means render death most lovely in our eyes (or rather most contemptible), as being that state from which, as from the sweet rest of sleep, an undoubted arising and awaking are promised. For who is not most sure of an awaking and arising, who lies down to rest in a sweet sleep (where death does not prevent)? This person, however, does not say that he died, but that he laid him down to sleep, and that therefore he awaked. And moreover, as sleep is useful and necessary for a better renewal of the powers of the body (as Ambrosius says in his hymn), and as sleep relieves the weary limbs, so is death also equally useful, and ordained for the arriving at a better life. And this is what David says in the following Psalm, "I will lay me down in peace, and take my rest, for thou, O Lord, in a singular manner hast formed me in hope." Therefore, in considering death, we are not so much to consider death itself, as that most certain life and resurrection which are sure to those who are in Christ; that those words ( John 8:51 ) might be fulfilled, "If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death." But how is it that he shall never see it? Shall he not feel it? Shall he not die? No! he shall only see sleep, for, having the eyes of his faith fixed upon the resurrection, he so glides through death, that he does not even see death; for death, as I have said, is to him no death at all. And hence, there is that also of John 11:25 , "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."
Verse 7. For thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheekbone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Hieronymus uses this metaphor of "cheek bones", and "teeth", to represent cutting words, detractions, calumnies, and other injuries of the same kind, by which the innocent are oppressed: according to that of Proverbs 30:14 , "There is a generation whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men." It was by these that Christ was devoured, when, before Pilate, he was condemned to the cross by the voices and accusations of his enemies. And hence it is that the apostle saith ( Galatians 5:15 ), "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another."
Verse 8. Salvation is of the Lord, and thy blessing is upon thy people. A most beautiful conclusion this, and, as it were, the sum of all the feelings spoken of. The sense is, it is the Lord alone that saves and blesses: and even though the whole mass of all evils should be gathered together in one against a man, still, it is the Lord who saves: salvation and blessing are in his hands. What then shall I fear? What shall I not promise myself? When I know that no one can be destroyed, no one reviled, without the permission of God, even though all should rise up to curse and to destroy; and that no one of them can be blessed and saved without the permission of God, how much soever they may bless and strive to save themselves. And as Gregory Nazianzen says, "Where God gives, envy can avail nothing; and where God does not give, labour can avail nothing." And in the same way also Paul saith ( Romans 8:31 ), "If God be for us, who can be against us?" And so, on the contrary, if God be against them, who can be for them? And why? Because "salvation is of the Lord", and not of them, nor of us, for "vain is the help of man." Martin Luther.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 8. (first clause). Salvation of God from first to last. (See the exposition.)
Verse 8. (last clause). They were blessed in Christ, through Christ, and shall be blessed with Christ. The blessing rests upon their persons, comforts, trials, labours, families, etc. It flows from grace, is enjoyed by faith, and is insured by oath, etc.
James Smith's Portions, 1802-1862.