PSALM 55 OVERVIEW
Title. To the Chief Musician on Neginoth. Another song to be accompanied by stringed instruments. The strain is at one time mournful, and at another softly sweet. It needed the chief musician's best care to see that the music was expressive of the sentiment. Maschil. It is not a mere personal hymn, there is teaching in it for us all, and where our Lord shines through David, his personal type, there is a great deep of meaning. Of David. The man of many conditions, much tried, and much favoured, persecuted but delivered and exalted, was from experience enabled to write such precious verses in which he sets forth not only the sorrows of common pilgrims, but of the Lord of the way himself.
Subject. It would be idle to fix a time, and find an occasion for this Psalm with any dogmatism. It reads like a song of the time of Absalom and Ahithophel. It was after David had enjoyed peaceful worship ( Psalms 55:14 ), when he was or had just been a dweller in a city ( Psalms 55:9-11 ), and when he remembered his former roamings in the wilderness. Altogether it seems to us to relate to that mournful era when the King was betrayed by his trusted counsellor. The spiritual eye ever and anon sees the Son of David and Judas, and the chief priests appearing and disappearing upon the glowing canvas of the Psalm.
Division. From Psalms 55:1-8 , the suppliant spreads his case in general before his God; in Ps 55:9-11, he portrays his enemies; in Psalms 55:12-14 , he mentions one special traitor, and cries for vengeance, or foretells it in Psalms 55:15 . From Psalms 55:16-19 he consoles himself by prayer and faith; in Psalms 55:20-21 he again mentions the deceitful covenant breaker, and closes with a cheering exhortation to the saints ( Psalms 55:22 ), and a denunciation of destruction upon the wicked and deceitful ( Psalms 55:22 ).
Verse 1. Give ear to my prayer, O God. The fact is so commonly before us, otherwise we should be surprised to observe how universally and constantly the saints resort to prayer in seasons of distress. From the Great Elder Brother down to the very least of the divine family, all of them delight in prayer. They run as naturally to the mercyseat in time of trouble as the little chickens to the hen in the hour of danger. But note well that it is never the bare act of prayer which satisfies the godly, they crave an audience with heaven, and an answer from the throne, and nothing less will content them.
Hide not thyself from my supplication. Do not stop thine ear, or restrain thy hand. When a man saw his neighbour in distress, and deliberately passed him by, he was said to hide himself from him; and the psalmist begs that the Lord would not so treat him. In that dread hour when Jesus bore our sins upon the tree, his Father did hide himself, and this was the most dreadful part of all the Son of David's agony. Well may each of us deprecate such a calamity as that God should refuse to hear our cries.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. Maschil. This is often prefixed to those Psalms in which David speaks of himself as being chastened by God, inasmuch as the end of chastisement is instruction. Simon de Muis, 1587-1644.
Whole Psalm. A prayer of the Man Christ in his humiliation, despised and rejected of men, when he was made sin for his people, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him, when he was about to suffer their punishment, pay their debt, and discharge their ransom. Utter depravity of the inhabitants of Jerusalem; betrayal of Messiah by one of the twelve whom he had ordained to the apostolical office, and who was Messiah's constant attendant in all his ministerial circuits. Premature and punitive death of the traitor Judas, and of others banded together to crucify the Lord of glory. John Noble Coleman, M.A., in "A Revision of the authorised English Version of the Book of Psalms," 1863.
Verse 1. In the first clause he uses the word ytlkt, that he might indicate that he merely sought justice from God as a Judge; but in the second he implores the favour of God, that if perchance the prayer for justice be less becoming to himself as a sinner, God may not deny his grace. Hermann Venema.
Verse 1. Hide not thyself from my supplication. A figure taken from the conduct of a king who debars an offender from seeing his face ( 2 Samuel 14:24 ), or from an enemy, who conceals himself from the ox, etc.; that is, pretends not to see it, and goes away, leaving it (see Deuteronomy 22:1 Deuteronomy 22:3 Deuteronomy 22:4 Isaiah 58:7 ); or, from a false friend, or an unkind person, who, foreseeing that he may be entreated by a miserable and needy man, will not let himself be seen, but seeks to make his escape. Martin Geier, 1614-1681.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. (second clause).
- An evil to be dreaded: Hide not thyself, etc.
- By long delay in an urgent case.
- In the sinner's case by refusing to hear altogether.
- Causes which may produce it.
- In the man.
- In the prayer itself.
- In the manner of the prayer.
- Evils which will follow a list which the preacher
can readily think of.
- Remedies for the evil. There is none of it should
continue; but heart searching, repentance,
importunity, pleading the name of Jesus, etc., will
lead to its removal.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE FIFTY-FIFTH PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
In CHANDLER'S "Life of David," Vol. 2., pp. 305-315, there is an Exposition of this Psalm.