PSALM 44 OVERVIEW
Title. To the Chief Musician for the sons of Korah, Maschil. The title is similar to the forty-second, and although this is no proof that it is by the same author it makes it highly probable. No other writer should be sought for to father any of the Psalms when David will suffice, and therefore we are loathe to ascribe this sacred song to any but the great psalmist, yet as we hardly know any period of his life which it would fairly describe, we feel compelled to look elsewhere. Some Israelitish patriot fallen on evil times, sings in mingled faith and sorrow, his country's ancient glory and her present griefs, her traditions of former favour and her experience of pressing ills. By Christians it can best be understood if put into the mouth of the church when persecution is peculiarly severe. The last verses remind us of Milton's famous lines on the massacre of the Protestants among the mountains of Piedmont.
The song before us is fitted for the voices of the saved by grace, the sons of Korah, and is to them and to all others full of teaching, hence the title Maschil.
Division. From Psalms 44:1-3 , the Lord's mighty works for Israel are rehearsed, and in remembrance of them faith in the Lord is expressed Psalms 44:4-8 . Then the notes of complaint are heard Psalms 44:9-16 , the fidelity of the people to their God is aroused, Ps 44:17-22, and the Lord is entreated to interpose, Psalms 44:23-26 .
Verse 1. We have heard with our ears, O God. Thy mighty acts have been the subjects of common conversation; not alone in books have we read thy famous deeds, but in the ordinary talk of the people we have heard of them. Among the godly Israelites the biography of their nation was preserved by oral tradition, with great diligence and accuracy. This mode of preserving and transmitting history has its disadvantages, but it certainly produces a more vivid impression on the mind than any other; to hear with the ears affects us more sensitively than to read with the eyes; we ought to note this, and seize every possible opportunity of telling abroad the gospel of our Lord Jesus viva voce, since this is the most telling mode of communication. The expression, "heard with our ears," may denote the pleasure with which they listened, the intensity of their interest, the personality of their hearing, and the lively remembrance they had of the romantic and soul stirring narrative. Too many have ears but hear not; happy are they who, having ears, have learned to hear. Our fathers have told us. They could not have had better informants. Schoolmasters are well enough, but godly fathers are, both by the order of nature and grace, the best instructors of their sons, nor can they delegate the sacred duty. It is to be feared that many children of professors could plead very little before God of what their fathers have told them. When fathers are tongue tied religiously with their offspring, need they wonder if their children's hearts remain sin tied? Just as in all free nations men delight to gather around the hearth, and tell the deeds of valour of their sires "in the brave days of old," so the people of God under the old dispensation made their families cheerful around the table, be rehearsing the wondrous doings of the Lord their God. Religious conversation need not be dull, and indeed it could not be if, as in this case, it dealt more with facts and less with opinions. What work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. They began with what their own eyes had witnessed, and then passed on to what were the traditions of their youth. Note that the main point of the history transmitted from father to son was the work of God; this is the core of history, and therefore no man can write history aright who is a stranger to the Lord's work. It is delightful to see the footprints of the Lord on the sea of changing events, to behold him riding on the whirlwind of war, pestilence, and famine, and above all to see his unchanging care for his chosen people. Those who are taught to see God in history have learned a good lesson from their fathers, and no son of believing parents should be left in ignorance of so holy an art. A nation tutored as Israel was in a history so marvellous as their own, always had an available argument in pleading with God for aid in trouble, since he who never changes gives in every deed of grace a pledge of mercy yet to come. The traditions of our past experience are powerful pleas for present help.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. On a survey of this Psalm, it would seem not to admit of a doubt that the speakers are of the race of Israel; and yet expositors for the most part have found much difficulty in so understanding it, in this -- the natural sense -- so as even to be compelled to abandon it, owing to the impossibility of fixing on any period in the history of that people which would furnish an occasion for it, and verify its language. Thus, it cannot be referred to the times of the Babylonish captivity; for to this it is objected, and with reason; first, that Psalms 44:11 4:14 represent the speakers as "scattered among the nations," and "a byword among the peoples," whereas their exile was then confined to one country; and, secondly, that in Psalms 44:17-21 there is an assertion of faithful adherence to the worship of the true God, which he is called to witness as acquitting the sufferers of having brought the evil on themselves, while that captivity was a punishment of the nation for their apostasy, and especially for the grievous sin of idolatry. And the same objections lie to interpreting it with reference to the times of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabees; beside that, the history of the canon of Scripture is decisive against assigning so late a date to any of the Psalms. Still less can the times of David be looked to for the occasion, since, though religion was then pure, there was, on the other hand, no dispersion of the nation nor any calamity such as to warrant the lamentation, "Thou hast cast us off, and put us to shame. ... Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat," etc. Whence it appeared that there was no alternative but to consider the Psalm as exclusively the language of the Christian church, and, in her primitive days, as the period at once of her greatest purity and suffering. William de Burgh.
Whole Psalm. S. Ambrose observes, that in former Psalms we have seen a prophecy of Christ's passion, resurrection, and ascension and of the coming of the Holy Ghost, and that here we are taught that we ourselves must be ready to struggle and suffer, in order that these things may profit us. Human will must work together with divine grace. Christopher Wordsworth.
Verse 1. We have heard with our ears, i.e., we have both heard and heeded it with utmost attention and affection. It is not a pleonasmus, but an emphasis that is here used. John Trapp.
Verse 1. Our fathers have told us. Hear this, saith Basil, ye fathers that neglect to teach your children such things as may work his fear and love in them, and faith to rely upon and seek to him in all times of danger. They made their mouths, as it were, books, wherein the mighty deeds of the Lord might be read to his praise, and to the drawing of their children's hearts unto him. John Mayer.
Verse 1. What work thou didst. Why only work in the singular, when such innumerable deliverances had been wrought by him, from the passage of the Red Sea to the destruction of the hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians? Because all these were but types of that one great work, that one stretching forth of the Lord's hand, when Satan was vanquished, death destroyed, and the kingdom of heaven opened to all believers. Ambrose.
Verse 1. What work thou didst. While the songs of other nations sing of the heroism of their ancestors, the songs of Israel celebrate the works of God. Augustus F. Tholuck.
Verse 1. Three necessary requirements for learning well: 1. Intention and attention in him who hears, we have heard with our ears. 2. Authority in him that teaches, our fathers have told us. 3. Love between the teacher and the taught, "our fathers." Hugo (Cardinal), quoted in Neale's Commentary.
Verse 1-2,4-8. Children are their parent's heirs; it were unnatural for a father before he dies to bury up his treasure in the earth, where his children should not find or enjoy it; now the mercies of God are not the least part of his treasure, nor the least of his children's inheritance, being both helps to their faith, matter for their praise, and spurs to their obedience. Our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, how thou didst drive out the heathen, etc. Psalms 44:1-2 ; from this they ground their confidence; Psalms 44:4 : Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob; and excite their thankfulness, Psalms 44:8 In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Indeed, as children are their parent's heirs, so they become in justice liable to pay their parents' debts; now the great debt which the saint at death stands charged with, is that which he owes to God for his mercies, and, therefore it is but reason he should tie his posterity to the patent thereof. Thus mayest thou be praising God in heaven and earth at the same time. William Gurnall.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. The encouraging traditions of church history. The days of yore.
Verse 1. The parent's duty, and the children's privilege.
Verse 1. Family conversation, the most profitable subject for it.
Verse 1. The true glory of the good old times.