Verses 1–18

It appears here, as often as elsewhere, that David had his heart full of the goodness of God. He loved to think of it, loved to speak of it, and was very solicitous that God might have the praise of it and others the comfort of it. The more our hearts are impressed with a sense of God’s goodness the more they will be enlarged in all manner of obedience. In these verses,

I. He celebrates God’s mercy in general, and calls upon others to acknowledge it, from their own experience of it (Ps. 118:1): O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is not only good in himself, but good to you, and his mercy endures for ever, not only in the everlasting fountain, God himself, but in the never-failing streams of that mercy, which shall run parallel with the longest line of eternity, and in the chosen vessels of mercy, who will be everlasting monuments of it. Israel, and the house of Aaron, and all that fear God, were called upon to trust in God (Ps. 115:9-11); here they are called upon to confess that his mercy endures for ever, and so to encourage themselves to trust in him, Ps. 118:2-4. Priests and people, Jews and proselytes, must all own God’s goodness, and all join in the same thankful song; if they can say no more, let them say this for him, that his mercy endures for ever, that they have had experience of it all their days, and confide in it for good things that shall last for ever. The praises and thanksgivings of all that truly fear the Lord shall be as pleasing to him as those of the house of Israel or the house of Aaron.

II. He preserves an account of God’s gracious dealings with him in particular, which he communicates to others, that they might thence fetch both songs of praise and supports of faith, and both ways God would have the glory. David had, in his time, waded through a great deal of difficulty, which gave him great experience of God’s goodness. Let us therefore observe here,

1. The great distress and danger that he had been in, which he reflects upon for the magnifying of God’s goodness to him in his present advancement. There are many who, when they are lifted up, care not for hearing or speaking of their former depressions; but David takes all occasions to remember his own low estate. He was in distress (Ps. 118:5), greatly straitened and at a loss; there were many that hated him (Ps. 118:7), and this could not but be a great grief to one of an ingenuous spirit, that strove to gain the good affections of all. All nations compassed me about, Ps. 118:10. All the nations adjacent to Israel set themselves to give disturbance to David, when he had newly come to the throne, Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Ammonites, etc. We read of his enemies round about; they were confederate against him, and thought to cut off all succours from him. This endeavour of his enemies to surround him is repeated (Ps. 118:11): They compassed me about, yea, they compassed me about, which intimates that they were virulent and violent, and, for a time, prevalent, in their attempts against him, and when put into disorder they rallied again and pushed on their design. They compassed me about like bees, so numerous were they, so noisy, so vexatious; they came flying upon him, came upon him in swarms, set upon him with their malignant stings; but it was to their own destruction, as the bee, they say, loses her life with her sting, Animamque in vulnere ponit—She lays down her life in the wound. Lord, how are those increased that trouble me! Two ways David was brought into trouble:—(1.) By the injuries that men did him (Ps. 118:13): Thou (O enemy!) hast thrust sore at me, with many a desperate push, that I might fall into sin and into ruin. Thrusting thou hast thrust at me (so the word is), so that I was ready to fall. Satan is the great enemy that thrusts sorely at us by his temptations, to cast us down from our excellency, that we may fall from our God and from our comfort in him; and, if Go had not upheld us by his grace, his thrusts would have been fatal to us. (2.) By the afflictions which God laid upon him (Ps. 118:18): The Lord has chastened me sore. Men thrust at him for his destruction; God chastened him for his instruction. They thrust at him with the malice of enemies; God chastened him with the love and tenderness of a Father. Perhaps he refers to the same trouble which God, the author of it, designed for his profit, that by it he might partake of his holiness (Heb. 12:10); howbeit, men, who were the instruments of it, meant not so, neither did their heart think so, but it was in their heart to cut off and destroy, Isa. 10:7. What men intend for the greatest mischief God intends for the greatest good, and it is easy to say whose counsel shall stand. God will sanctify the trouble to his people, as it is his chastening, and secure the good he designs; and he will guard them against the trouble, as it is the enemies’ thrusting, and secure them from the evil they design, and then we need not fear.

This account which David gives of his troubles is very applicable to our Lord Jesus. Many there were that hated him, hated him without a cause. They compassed him about; Jews and Romans surrounded him. They thrust sorely at him; the devil did so when he tempted him; his persecutors did so when they reviled him; nay, the Lord himself chastened him sorely, bruised him, and put him to grief, that by his stripes we might be healed.

2. The favour God vouchsafed to him in his distress. (1.) God heart his prayer (Ps. 118:5): “He answered me with enlargements; he did more for me than I was able to ask; he enlarged my heart in prayer and yet gave more largely than I desired.” He answered me, and set me in a large place (so we read it), where I had room to bestir myself, room to enjoy myself, and room to thrive; and the large place was the more comfortable because he was brought to it out of distress, Ps. 4:1. (2.) God baffled the designs of his enemies against him: They are quenched as the fire of thorns (Ps. 118:12), which burns furiously for a while, makes a great noise and a great blaze, but is presently out, and cannot do the mischief that it threatened. Such was the fury of David’s enemies; such is the laughter of the fool, like the crackling of thorns under a pot (Eccl. 7:6), and such is the anger of the fool, which therefore is not to be feared, any more than his laughter is to be envied, but both to be pitied. They thrust sorely at him, but the Lord helped him (Ps. 118:13), helped him to keep his feet and maintain his ground. Our spiritual enemies would, long before this, have been our ruin if God had not been our helper. (3.) God preserved his life when there was but a step between him and death (Ps. 118:18): “He has chastened me, but he has not given me over unto death, for he has not given me over to the will of my enemies.” To this St. Paul seems to refer in 2 Cor. 6:9. As dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and not killed. We ought not therefore, when we are chastened sorely, immediately to despair of life, for God sometimes, in appearance, turns men to destruction, and yet says, Return; says unto them, Live.

This also is applicable to Jesus Christ. God answered him, and set him in a large place. He quenched the fire of his enemies; rage, which did but consume themselves; for through death he destroyed him that had the power of death. He helped him through his undertaking; and thus far he did not give him over unto death that he did not leave him in the grave, nor suffer him to see corruption. Death had no dominion over him.

3. The improvement he made of this favour. (1.) It encouraged him to trust in God; from his own experience he can say, It is better, more wise, more comfortable, and more safe, there is more reason for it, and it will speed better, to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man, yea, though it be in princes, Ps. 118:8, 9. He that devotes himself to God’s guidance and government, with an entire dependence upon God’s wisdom, power, and goodness, has a better security to make him easy than if all the kings and potentates of the earth should undertake to protect him. (2.) It enabled him to triumph in that trust. [1.] He triumphs in God, and in his relation to him and interest in him (Ps. 118:6): “The Lord is on my side. He is a righteous God, and therefore espouses my righteous cause and will plead it.” If we are on God’s side, he is on ours; if we be for him and with him, he will be for us and with us (Ps. 118:7): “The Lord takes my part, and stands up for me, with those that help me. He is to me among my helpers, and so one of them that he is all in all both to them and me, and without him I could not help myself nor could any friend I have in the world help me.” Thus (Ps. 118:14), “The Lord is my strength and my song; that is, I make him so (without him I am weak and sad, but on him I stay myself as my strength, both for doing and suffering, and in him I solace myself as my song, by which I both express my joy and ease my grief), and, making him so, I find him so: he strengthens my heart with his graces and gladdens my heart with his comforts.” If God be our strength, he must be our song; if he work all our works in us, he must have all praise and glory from us. God is sometimes the strength of his people when he is not their song; they have spiritual supports when they want spiritual delights. But, if he be both to us, we have abundant reason to triumph in him; for, he be our strength and our song, he has become not only our Saviour, but our salvation; for his being our strength is our protection to the salvation, and his being our song is an earnest and foretaste of the salvation. [2.] He triumphs over his enemies. Now shall his head be lifted up above them; for, First, He is sure they cannot hurt him: “God is for me, and then I will not fear what man can do against me,” Ps. 118:6. He can set them all at defiance, and is not disturbed at any of their attempts. “They can do nothing to me but what God permits them to do; they can do no real damage, for they cannot separate between me and God; they cannot do any thing but what God can make to work for my good. The enemy is a man, a depending creature, whose power is limited, and subordinate to a higher power, and therefore I will not fear him.” Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die? Isa. 51:12. The apostle quotes this, with application to all Christians, Heb. 13:6. They may boldly say, as boldly as David himself, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me; let him do his worst. Secondly, He is sure that he shall be too hard for them at last: “I shall see my desire upon those that hate me (Ps. 118:7); I shall see them defeated in their designs against me; nay, In the name of the Lord I will destroy them (Ps. 118:10-12); I trust in the name of the Lord that I shall destroy them, and in his name I will go forth against them, depending on his strength, by warrant from him, and with an eye to his glory, not confiding in myself nor taking vengeance for myself.” Thus he went forth against Goliath, in the name of the God of Israel, 1 Sam. 17:45. David says this as a type of Christ, who triumphed over the powers of darkness, destroyed them, and made a show of them openly. [3.] He triumphs in an assurance of the continuance of his comfort, his victory, and his life. First, Of his comfort (Ps. 118:15): The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous, and in mine particularly, in my family. The dwellings of the righteous in this world are but tabernacles, mean and movable; here we have no city, no continuing city. But these tabernacles are more comfortable to them than the palaces of the wicked are to them; for in the house where religion rules, 1. There is salvation; safety from evil, earnests of eternal salvation, which has come to this house, Luke 19:9. 2. Where there is salvation there is cause for rejoicing, for continual joy in God. Holy joy is called the joy of salvation, for in that there is abundant matter for joy. 3. Where there is rejoicing there ought to be the voice of rejoicing, that is, praise and thanksgiving. Let God be served with joyfulness and gladness of heart, and let the voice of that rejoicing be heard daily in our families, to the glory of God and encouragement of others. Secondly, Of his victory: The right hand of the Lord does valiantly (Ps. 118:15) and is exalted; for (as some read it) it has exalted me. The right hand of God’s power is engaged for his people, and it acts vigorously for them and therefore victoriously. For what difficulty can stand before the divine valour? We are weak, and act but cowardly for ourselves; but God is mighty, and acts valiantly for us, with jealousy and resolution, Isa. 63:5, 6. There is spirit, as well as strength, in all God’s operations for his people. And, when God’s right hand does valiantly for our salvation, it ought to be exalted in our praises. Thirdly, Of his life (Ps. 118:17): “I shall not die by the hands of my enemies that seek my life, but live and declare the works of the Lord; I shall live a monument of God’s mercy and power; his works shall be declared in me, and I will make it the business of my life to praise and magnify God, looking upon that as the end of my preservation.” Note, It is not worth while to live for any other purpose than to declare the works of God, for his honour and the encouragement of others to serve him and trust in him. Such as these were the triumphs of the Son of David in the assurance he had of the success of his undertaking and that the good pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hand.