PSALM 140 OVERVIEW.
This Psalm is in its proper place, and so fitly follows 139 that you might almost read right on, and make no break between the two. Serious injury would follow to the whole Book of Psalms if the order should be interfered with as certain wiseacres propose. It is The Cry Of A Hunted Soul the supplication of a believer incessantly persecuted and beset by cunning enemies, who hungered for his destruction. David was hunted like a partridge upon the mountains, and seldom obtained a moment's rest. This is his pathetic appeal to Jehovah for protection, an appeal which gradually intensifies into a denunciation of his bitter foes. With this sacrifice of prayer he offers the salt of faith; for in a very marked and emphatic manner he expresses his personal confidence in the Lord as the Protector of the oppressed, and as his own God and Defender. Few short Psalms are so rich in the jewellery of precious faith.
To the Chief Musician. The writer wished this experimental hymn to be under the care of the chief master of song, that it might neither be left unsung, nor chanted in a slovenly manner. Such trials and such rescues deserved to be had in remembrance, and to be set up among the choicest memorials of the Lord's goodness. We, too, have our songs which are of no ordinary kind, and these must be sung with our best powers of heart and tongue. We will offer them to the Lord by no other hand than that of "the Chief Musician."
A Psalm of David. The life of David wherein he comes in contact with Saul and Doeg is the best explanation of this Psalm; and surely there can be no reasonable doubt that David wrote it, and wrote it in the time of his exile and peril. The tremendous outburst at the end has in it the warmth which was so natural to David, who was never lukewarm in anything; yet it is to be noticed that concerning his enemies he was often hot in language through indignation, and yet he was cool in action, for he was not revengeful. His was no petty malice, but a righteous anger: he foresaw, foretold, and even desired the just vengeance of God upon the proud and wicked, and yet he would not avail himself of opportunities to revenge himself upon those who had done him wrong. It may be that his appeals to the great King cooled his anger, and enabled him to leave his wrongs unredressed by any personal act of violence. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord"; and David when most wounded by undeserved persecution and wicked falsehood was glad to leave his matters at the foot of the throne, where they would be safe with the King of kings.
Verse 1. Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man. It reads like a clause of the Lord's prayer, "Deliver us from evil." David does not so much plead against an individual as against the species represented by him, namely, the being whose best description is -- "the evil man." There are many such abroad; indeed we shall not find an unregenerate man who is not in some sense an evil man, and yet all are not alike evil. It is well for us that our enemies are evil: it would be a horrible thing to have the good against us. When "the evil man" bestirs himself against the godly he is as terrible a being as a wolf, or a serpent, or even a devil. Fierce, implacable, unpitying, unrelenting, unscrupulous, he cares for nothing but the indulgence of his malice. The persecuted man turns to God in prayer; he could not do a wiser thing. Who can meet the evil man and defeat him save Jehovah himself, whose infinite goodness is more than a match for all the evil in the universe? We cannot of ourselves baffle the craft of the enemy, but the Lord knoweth how to deliver his saints. He can keep us out of the enemy's reach, he can sustain us when under his power, he can rescue us when our doom seems fixed, he can give us the victory when defeat seems certain; and in any and every case, if he do not save us from the man he can keep us from the evil. Should we be at this moment oppressed in any measure by ungodly men, it will be better to leave our defence with God than to attempt it ourselves.
Preserve me from the violent man. Evil in the heart simmers in malice, and at last boils in passion. Evil is a ragtag thing when it getteth liberty to manifest itself; and so "the evil man" soon develops into "the violent man" What watchfulness, strength, or valour can preserve the child of God from deceit and violence? There is but one sure Preserver, and it is our wisdom to hide under the shadow of his wings. It is a common thing for good men to be assailed by enemies: David was attacked by Saul, Doeg, Ahithophel, Shimei, and others; even Mordecai sitting humbly in the gate had his Haman; and our Lord, the Perfect One, was surrounded by those who thirsted for his blood. We may not, therefore, hope to pass through the world without enemies, but we may hope to be delivered out of their hands, and preserved from their rage, so that no real harm shall come of their malignity. This blessing is to be sought by prayer, and expected by faith.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Another Psalm "of David", to be sung by all saints, even as it was used by their Head, David's Son. In it we have ( Psalms 140:1-3 ) the picture of the wicked, with a "Selah", that bids us pause over its dark colours. Then we have ( Psalms 140:4-5 ) a view of the snares spread by the wicked, with another "Selah" -- pause. Thereafter, we see a soul in the attitude of faith ( Psalms 140:6-8 ). They are laying the snares, but calm as Elisha beholding the Syrian host assembling (2Ki 6:15), the stayed soul sings
"I have said to the Lord, My God art thou";
and then he prays, putting a "Selah" at the close, that we may again pause and survey the scene. --Andrew A. Bonar.
Whole Psalm. There is no doubt that this Psalm expresses the feelings of David on the first intelligence of Saul's setting out anew in pursuit of him (comp. Ps 140:2). And then, in Psalm 141, we have his supplication at the time when this danger was ever approaching nearer. Various things are said in this Psalm (according to the Hebrew) primarily of a single person (Saul:) thus e.g. Psalms 140:1 Psalms 140:4 ; and the numerous tongues of which David complains ( Psalms 140:3 ) are just the tongues of traitors who again informed Saul of this new place of David's residence in the wilderness of Engedi, where he might have imagined himself so secure. The laying of snares ( Psalms 140:5 ) agrees perfectly in part with this treachery, and in part with the search after David by Saul and his numerous army, mentioned in 1 Samuel 24:2 . In the same way might the burning coals, spoken of in Psalms 140:10 , and likewise the deep pits (German, floods) mentioned there, have suggested themselves most naturally to David upon the rocks of Engedi, where he had the Dead Sea just before him. Psalms 140:10 seems also to allude to the events which happened on the night before the destruction of Sodom. --T. C. Barth, in "The Bible Manual."
Whole Psalm. As in Psalm 138. David set before his seed God's promise as the anchor of hope ( 2 Samuel 7:1-17 ); and in Psalm 139, God's omniscience as our consolation in danger and motive for shunning evil; so in this Psalm he sets forth the danger from calumnious enemies, and our only safety in Jehovah, our strength. --Andrew Robert Fausset.
Verse 1,4,6,8. Good men live by prayer. He who gets to the throne of grace is covered by the cloud of glory, through which no sun can smite by day, nor moon by night. -- William Swan Plumer.
Verse 1, 7-11. On the first reading of this Psalm one is inclined to think that there is somewhat of fierceness and bitterness in it, which is hardly consistent with the character of a child of God, and therefore unbecoming in David ... And yet I really think that a little more examination of the language of this Psalm will lead us to believe that we are doing David wrong in affixing anything like a meaning or desire of vindictiveness to his words.
Assuredly we can find no fault with one who takes his wrongs in prayer to God; who, like Hezekiah, takes the roll of his cares, and sorrows, and trials, and spreads it before the Lord. And this is what David does in the very first verse: "Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man; preserve me from the violent man." I do not think a person who does this, who, when smarting under a sense of injury and wrong, goes at once to God and lays open his heart to him, is likely to go very far wrong; for even though he may have begun in somewhat of an unkindly spirit, yet prayer opens before us such a sight and sense of our own guiltiness and wrongs towards God, and thereby exercises such an abasing, as well as healing and soothing, influence over our feelings towards others, that we might almost be assured that he whose prayer might begin even with a vehement enumeration of his own wrongs, would end with something very like a determination to bless them that cursed, and to do good to them that hated him.
You will observe, too, how, from first to last, David leaves his cause in God's hands; it is not "my sword and my bow that shall help me"; he counted them vain things to help a man; and therefore, as he had so often said in other Psalms; "The Lord was his shield and his defence", and as God had already shielded his head in the day of battle, so he prays for the same protection against his enemies now. --Barton Bouchier.
Verse 1, 11. Three special forms of Satanic energy are individualized. The evil or wicked man, the violent man, and the man of tongue are severally appealed from by the suppliant speaker of the prayer of faith. --Arthur Pridham.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- The particular source of David's affliction: it was from men. In this he was a type of Christ.
- Their wickedness: "the evil man."
- Their violence: "the violent man."
- Their malicious designs: "which imagine mischiefs in their heart."
- Their confederacy: "continually are they gathered together for war."
- Their false accusations: "They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent", etc. ( Psalms 140:3 ).
- Their avowed design: "they have purposed to overthrow my goings" (Ps 140:4).
- Their intrigues ( Psalms 140:5 ).
- His universal remedy: "Deliver me, O Lord"; "preserve" and help me. His defence is,
- In God.
- In prayer to God. --G. R.
Verse 1-5. In our position, age, and country, we are not in danger of violence from men, as was David; still, no man is absolutely safe front the danger.
- Mention some eases not yet impossible.
- A Christian workman, because he cannot comply with unrighteous customs, excites the animosity of his fellow workers. They will do him mischief, spoil his work, steal his tools, speak evil of him, until his employer discharges him to restore peace in the factory.
b) A Christian clerk or shop assistant, because his presence is a check upon his sinful companions, may have snares laid for him, etc.
- Suggest advice, useful, should such a case arise.
- Resort to God with a "Deliver me", and a "Preserve me."
b) Maintain integrity and uprightness.
c) Should the mischievous ones succeed, still trust in God, who can make their mischief lead to your profit, and make his goodness outwit their devices. --J. F.