Psalm 51:18

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 18. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion. Let blessings according to thy wont be poured upon thy holy hill and chosen city. Zion was David's favourite spot, whereon he had hoped to erect a temple. The ruling passion is so strong on him, that when he has discharged his conscience he must have a word for Zion. He felt he had hindered the project of honouring the Lord there as he desired, but he prayed God still to let the place of his ark be glorious, and to establish his worship and his worshipping people. Build thou the walls of Jerusalem. This had been one of David's schemes, to wall in the holy city, and he desires to see it completed; but we believe he had a more spiritual meaning, and prayed for the prosperity of the Lord's cause and people. He had done mischief by his sin, and had, as it were, pulled down her walls; he, therefore, implores the Lord to undo the evil, and establish his church. God can make his cause to prosper, and in answer to prayer he will do so. Without his building we labour in vain; therefore are we the more instant and constant in prayer. There is surely no grace in us if we do not feel for the church of God, and take a lasting interest in its welfare.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 18. In thy good pleasure. Whatever we seek must ever be sought under this restriction, Thy good pleasure. Build thou, but do it in thine own wise time, in thine own good way. Build thou the walls of separation that divide the church from the world; let them be in it, not of it; keep them from its evil. Build thou the walls that bind, that unite thy people into one city, under one polity, that they all may be one. Build thou, and raze thou; raze all the inner walls that divide thy people from thy people; hasten that day when, as there is but one Shepherd, so shall there be but one sheepfold. Thomas Alexander.

Verse 18-19. Some few learned Jewish interpreters, while they assign the Psalm to the occasion mentioned in the title, conjecture that the 18th and 19th verses were added by some Jewish bard, in the time of the Babylonish captivity. This opinion is also held by Venema, Green, Street, French and Skinner. There does not, however, seem to be any sufficient ground for referring the poem, either in whole or part, to that period. Neither the walls of Jerusalem, nor the buildings of Zion, as the royal palace and the magnificent structure of the temple, which we know David had already contemplated for the worship of God ( 2 Samuel 7:1 , etc.), were completed during his reign. This was only effected under the reign of his son Solomon. 1 Kings 3:1 .

The prayer, then, in the 18th verse might have a particular reference to the completion of these buildings, and especially to the rearing of the temple, in which sacrifices of unprecedented magnitude were to be offered. David's fears might easily suggest to him that his crimes might prevent the building of the temple, which God had promised should be erected. 2 Samuel 7:13 . "The king forgets not," observes Bishop Horne, "to ask mercy for his people as well as for himself; that so neither his own nor their sins might prevent either the building and flourishing of the earthly Jerusalem, or, what was of infinitely greater importance, the promised blessing of Messiah, who was to descend from him, and to rear the walls of the New Jerusalem." James Anderson's Note to Calvin, in loc.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 18.

  1. For whom is the prayer offered -- for the church or Zion?
  2. Next to our own welfare we should seek the welfare of Zion.
  3. All should seek it by prayer.
  4. For what is the prayer offered?
    1. The kind of good, not worldly or ecclesiastical, but spiritual.
    2. The measure of good. "In thy good pleasure." Thine own love to it, and what thou hast already done for it.
    3. The continuance of good. "Build," etc. Its doctrines, graces, zeal.
Read Psalm 51:18