Verse 4. Here the strain takes a turn. The Lord has called back to himself his servants, and commissioned them for his service, presenting them with a standard to be used in his wars.
Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee. Their afflictions had led them to exhibit holy fear, and then being fitted for the Lord's favour, he gave them an ensign, which would be both a rallying point for their hosts, a proof that he had sent them to fight, and a guarantee of victory. The bravest men are usually intrusted with the banner, and it is certain that those who fear God must have less fear of man than any others. The Lord has given us the standard of the gospel, let us live to uphold it, and if needful die to defend it. Our right to contend for God, and our reason for expecting success, are found in the fact that the faith has been once committed to the saints, and that by the Lord himself.
That it may be displayed because of the truth. Banners are for the breeze, the sun, the battle. Israel might well come forth boldly, for a sacred standard was borne aloft before them. To publish the gospel is a sacred duty, to be ashamed of it a deadly sin. The truth of God was involved in the triumph of David's armies, he had promised them victory; and so in the proclamation of the gospel we need feel no hesitancy, for as surely as God is true he will give success to his own word. For the truth's sake, and because the true God is on our side, let us in these modern days of warfare emulate the warriors of Israel, and unfurl our banners to the breeze with confident joy. Dark signs of present or coming ill must not dishearten us; if the Lord had meant to destroy us he would not have given us the gospel; the very fact that he has revealed himself in Christ Jesus involves the certainty of victory. Magna est veritas et praevalebit.
Hard things thou hast upon us laid,
And made us drink most bitter wine;
But still thy banner we have displayed,
And borne aloft thy truth divine.
Our courage fails not, though the night
No earthly lamp avails to break,
For thou wilt soon arise in might,
And of our captors captives make.
Selah. There is so much in the fact of a banner being given to the hosts of Israel, so much of hope, of duty, of comfort, that a pause is fitly introduced. The sense justifies it, and the more joyful strain of the music necessitates it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4. Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee. Perhaps the delivery of a banner was anciently esteemed an obligation to protect, and that the psalmist might consider it in this light, when, upon a victory over the Syrians and Edomites, after the public affairs of Israel had been in a bad state, he says, Thou hast shewed thy people hard things, etc. Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee. Though thou didst for a time give up thine Israel into the hands of their enemies, thou hast now given them an assurance of thy having received them under thy protection. Thomas Harmer (1715-1788), in "Observations on Divers Passages of Scripture."
Verse 4. Thou hast given a banner, etc. Thou hast given us by the recent victory, after our prostrate condition, a banner of triumph to lift up (so the Hebrew), because of thy faithfulness to thy promise. Truth here answers to God's holiness ( Psalms 60:6 ). So long as soldiers see their banner uplifted, they flock round it with confidence. But when it is prostrate their spirits and hopes fall. The banner is a pledge of safety, and a rallying point to those who fight under it. A. R. Faussett.
Verse 4. Thou hast given a banner, etc. The psalmist compares the salvation which the Lord bestows upon his people to a highly excellent banner, which serves as a signal, to one lying prostrate in his misery, to rise up, with an allusion perhaps to Numbers 21:8 . "And the Lord said to Moses, Make thee a serpent, and set it upon a standard pole; and it happened that every one who was bitten, and looked at it, lived." At any rate, that passage in which the serpent is a symbol of the healing power of God, may serve to illustrate the passage before us. Compare heal its breaches. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 4. A banner, which is a sign or instrument: --
- Of union. This people, who were lately divided and under several banners, thou hast now gathered together and united under one banner; to wit, under my government.
- Of battle. Thou hast given us an army and power to oppose our enemies. We had our banner to set against theirs.
- Of triumph. We have not lost our banner but gained theirs, and brought it away in triumph. Compare Psalms 20:5 . Matthew Poole.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 4. The banner of the gospel.
- Why a banner? A rallying point, meant to fight
- By whom given. Thou.
- To whom. To them that fear thee.
- What is to be done with it. To be displayed.
- For what cause. Because of the truth. Truth