Verse 3. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword. Behold how the Lord alone was exalted in bringing his people to the land which floweth with milk and honey! He, in his distinguishing grace, had put a difference between Canaan and Israel, and therefore, by his own effectual power, he wrought for his chosen and against their adversaries. The tribes fought for their allotments, but their success was wholly due to the Lord who wrought with them. The warriors of Israel were not inactive, but their valour was secondary to that mysterious, divine working by which Jericho's walls fell down, and the hearts of the heathen failed them for fear. The efforts of all the men at arms were employed, but as these would have been futile without divine succour, all the honour is ascribed unto the Lord. The passage may be viewed as a beautiful parable of the work of salvation; men are not saved without prayer, repentance, etc., but none of those save a man, salvation is altogether of the Lord. Canaan was not conquered without the armies of Israel, but equally true is it that is was not conquered by them; the Lord was the conqueror, and the people were but instruments in his hands. Neither did their own arm save them. They could not ascribe their memorable victories to themselves; he who made sun and moon stand still for them was worthy of all their praise. A negative is put both upon their weapons and themselves as if to show us how ready men are to ascribe success to second causes. But thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance. The divine hand actively fought for them, the divine arm powerfully sustained them with more than human energy, and the divine smile inspired them with dauntless courage. Who could not win with such triple help, though earth, death, and hell should rise in war against him? What mattered the tallness of the sons of Anak, or the terror of their chariots of iron, they were as nothing when Jehovah arose for the avenging of Israel. Because thou hadst a favour unto them. Here is the fountain from whence every stream of mercy flows. The Lord's delight in his people, his peculiar affection, his distinguishing regard -- this is the mainspring which moves every wheel of a gracious providence. Israel was a chosen nation, hence their victories and the scattering of their foes; believers are an elect people, hence their spiritual blessings and conquests. There was nothing in the people themselves to secure them success, the Lord's favour alone did it, and it is ever so in our case, our hope of final glory must not rest on anything in ourselves, but on the free and sovereign favour of the Lord of Hosts.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. They got not the land in possession by their own sword. The Lord's part in a work is best seen when man's part, and all that he as an instrument hath done, or could have done in it, is declared null; being considered as separate from God who moved the instruments, and did work by them what he pleased. David Dickson.
Verse 3. Because thou hadst a favour unto them. Free grace was the fundamental cause of all their felicity. God loved them because he loved them. Deuteronomy 7:7 . He chose them of his love, and then loved them for his choice. John Trapp.
Verse 3. God's love to Israel was free, unmerited, and amazing, and he gave them a land for which they did not labour, and cities which they built not, and vineyards and oliveyards which they planted not. Joshua 24:13 . In some cases neither sword nor bow were used, but hornets were the instruments of conquest. Joshua 24:12 . Since the fall of Adam all good things in the lot of any mere man are undeserved kindnesses. William S. Plumer.
Verse 3. (last clause). The prophet does not suppose any worthiness in the person of Abraham, nor imagine any desert in his posterity, on account of which God dealt so bountifully with them; but ascribes the whole through the good pleasure of God ... Nor does the psalmist here treat of the general benevolence of God, which extends to the whole human race: but he discourses of the difference which exists between the elect and the rest of the world, and the cause of this difference is here referred to the mere good pleasure of God. John Calvin.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 3. Free grace exalted.
- In putting a negative upon human power.
- In manifestations of divine energy.
- In its secret source, Because thou hadst a favour unto them.
- The creature laid low.
- The Lord exalted.
- Discriminating grace revealed.
Verse 3. (last clause). The eternal well spring of all mercy.