Verse 17. I shall not die, but live. His enemies hoped that he would die, and perhaps he himself feared he should perish at their hand: the news of his death may have been spread among his people, tor the tongue of rumour is ever ready with ill news, the false intelligence would naturally cause great sorrow and despondency, but he proclaims himself as yet alive and as confident that he shall not fall by the hand of the destroyer. He is cheerfully assured that no arrow could carry death between the joints of his harness, and no weapon of any sort could end his career. His time had not yet come, he felt immortality beating within his bosom. Perhaps he had been sick, and brought to death's door, but he had a presentiment that the sickness was not unto death, but to the glory of God. At any rate, he knew that he should not so die as to give victory to the enemies of God; for the honour of God and the good of his people were both wrapped up in his continued success. Feeling that he would live he devoted himself to the noblest of purposes: he resolved to bear witness to the divine faithfulness, and declare the works of the LORD. He determined to recount the works of Jah; and he does so in this Psalm, wherein he dwells with love and admiration upon the splendour of Jehovah's prowess in the midst of the fight. While there is a testimony for God to be borne by us to any one, it is certain that we shall not be hurried from the land of the living. The Lord's prophets shall live on in the midst of famine, and war, and plague, and persecution, till they have uttered all the words of their prophecy; his priests shall stand at the altar unharmed till their last sacrifice has been presented before him. No bullet will find its billet in our hearts till we have finished our allotted period of activity,
"Plagues and deaths around me fly,
Till he please I cannot die:
Not a single shaft can hit,
Till the God of love sees fit."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 17. I shall not die, but live. As Christ is risen, "we shall not die, but live"; we shall not die eternally, but we shall live in this world, the life of grace, and in the world to come, the life of glory; that we may in both declare the "works" and chant the praises of God our Saviour. We are "chastened" for our sins, but "not given over to death" and destruction everlasting; nay, our being "chastened" is now a proof that we are not so given over; "for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" Hebrews 12:7 . George Horne.
Verse 17. I shall not die, but live. To live, signifies, not barely to live, but to live comfortably, to have content with our life; to live is to prosper. Thus the word is often used in Scripture. "I shall not die, but live." David did not look upon himself as immortal, or that he should never die; he knew he was subject to the statute of death: but the meaning is, I shall not die now, I shall not die by the hands of these men, I shall not die the death which they have designed me to; or when he saith, "I shall not die, but live," his meaning is, I shall live comfortably and prosperously, I shall live as a king. That which we translate ( 1 Samuel 10:24 ) "God save the king," is, "Let the king live," that is, let him prosper, and have good days; let him have peace with all, or victory over his enemies. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 17. I shall not die, etc. The following incident is worth recording: "Wycliffe was now getting old, but the Reformer was worn out rather by the harassing attacks of his foes, and his incessant and ever growing labours, than with the weight of years, for he was not yet sixty. He fell sick. With unbounded joy the friars heard that their great enemy was dying. Of course he was overwhelmed with horror and remorse for the evil he had done them, and they would hasten to his bedside and receive the expression of his penitence and sorrow. In a trice a little crowd of shaven crowns assembled round the couch of the sick man -- delegates from the four orders of friars. `They began fair,' wishing him `health and restoration from his distemper'; but speedily changing their tone, they exhorted him, as one on the brink of the grave, to make full confession, and express his unfeigned grief for the injuries he had inflicted on their order. Wycliffe lay silent till they should have made an end, then, making his servant raise him a little on his pillow, and fixing his keen eyes upon them, he said with a loud voice, `I shall not die, but live, and declare the evil deeds of the friars.' The monks rushed in astonishment and confusion from the chamber." J. A. Wylie, in "The History of Protestantism."
Verse 17. I shall not die, not absolutely, for see Psalms 89:48 ; Hebrews 9:27 ; but not in the midst of my days, Psalms 103:24 ; nor according to the will of mine enemies, who "thrust at me that I might fall," Psalms 118:13 . But, on the contrary, I shall live, not simply as he had hitherto lived, in the greatest distress, which would be a wretched life, a living death: but lively, joyous, happy. Of this, he says he is secure; this the word asserts. On what foundation does he rest? Psalms 118:14-15 , "Because God had become his salvation," and "the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly." Jacob Alting.
Verse 17. And declare the works of the LORD. Matter of praise abounds in all the divine works, both of the general creation and preservation and of the redemption of our souls: chiefly, that God, besides the life of nature, has given to us the life of grace, without which we could not properly praise God and declare his works. Rivetus.
Verse 17. And declare the works of the LORD. In the second member of the verse, he points out the proper use of life. God does not prolong the lives of his people, that they may pamper themselves with meat and drink, sleep as much as they please, and enjoy every temporal blessing; but to magnify hint for his benefits which he is daily heaping upon them. John Calvin.
Verse 17. According to Matthesius, Luther had this verse written against his study wall.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- Good men are often in special danger: Joseph in the pit; Moses in the ark of bulrushes; Job on the dunghill; David's narrow escapes from the hand of Saul; Paul let down in a basket; what a fruit basket was that! How much was suspended upon that cord! The salvation of how many!
- Good men have often a presentiment of their recovery from special danger: "I shall not die, but live."
- Good men have a special desire for the preservation of their lives: "live and declare the works of the Lord." G. R.
Verse 17,. 19, 22. The victory of the risen Saviour and its far reaching consequences:
- Death is vanquished;
(2) the gates of righteousness are opened;
(3) the cornerstone of the church is laid. Deichert, in Lange's Commentary.