Verses 1–8

Here, I. David acknowledges his dependence upon God and his obligations to him, Ps. 144:1, 2. A prayer for further mercy is fitly begun with a thanksgiving for former mercy; and when we are waiting upon God to bless us we should stir up ourselves to bless him. He gives to God the glory of two things:—

1. What he was to him: Blessed be the Lord my rock (Ps. 144:1), my goodness, my fortress, Ps. 144:2. He has in the covenant engaged himself to be so, and encouraged us, accordingly, to depend upon him; all the saints, who by faith have made him theirs, have found him not only to answer but to out do their expectations. David speaks of it here as the matter of his trust, and that which made him easy, as the matter of his triumph, and that which made him glad, and in which he gloried. See how he multiplies words to express the satisfaction he had in God and his interest in him. (1.) “He is my strength, on whom I stay, and from whom I have power both for my work and for my warfare, my rock to build on, to take shelter in.” Even when we are weak we may be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. (2.) “My goodness, not only good to me, but my chief good, in whose favour I place my felicity, and who is the author of all the goodness that is in me, and from whom comes every good and perfect gift.” (3.) “My fortress, and my high tower, in whom I think myself as safe as ever any prince thought himself in a castle or strong-hold.” David had formerly sheltered himself in strong-holds at En-gedi (1 Sam. 23:29), which perhaps were natural fastnesses. He had lately made himself master of the strong-hold of Zion, which was fortified by art, and he dwelt in the fort (2 Sam. 5:7, 9), but he depends not on these. “Lord,” says he, “thou art my fortress and my high tower.” The divine attributes and promises are fortifications to a believer, far exceeding those either of nature or art. (4.) My deliverer, and, as it is in the original, very emphatically, my deliverer to me, “not only a deliverer I have interest in, but who is always nigh unto me and makes all my deliverances turn to my real benefit.” (5.) “My shield, to guard me against all the malignant darts that my enemies let fly at me, not only my fortress at home, but my shield abroad in the field of battle.” Wherever a believer goes he carries his protection along with him. Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield.

2. What he had done for him. He was bred a shepherd, and seems not to have been designed by his parents, or himself for any thing more. But, (1.) God had made him a soldier. His hands had been used to the crook and his fingers to the harp, but God taught his hands to war and his fingers to fight, because he designed him for Israel’s champion; and what God calls men to he either finds them or makes them fit for. Let the men of war give God the glory of all their military skill; the same that teaches the meanest husbandman his art teaches the greatest general his. It is a pity that any whose fingers God has taught to fight should fight against him or his kingdom among men. Those have special reason to acknowledge God with thankfulness who prove to be qualified for services which they themselves never thought of. (2.) God had made him a sovereign prince, had taught him to wield the sceptre as well as the sword, to rule as well as fight, the harder and nobler art of the two: He subdueth my people under me. The providence of God is to be acknowledged in making people subject to their prince, and so preserving the order and benefit of societies. There was a special hand of God inclining the people of Israel to be subject to David, pursuant to the promise God had made him; and it was typical of that great act of divine grace, the bringing of souls into subjection to the Lord Jesus and making them willing in the day of his power.

II. He admires God’s condescension to man and to himself in particular (Ps. 144:3, 4): “Lord, what is man, what a poor little thing is he, that thou takest knowledge of him, that thou makest account of him, that he falls so much under thy cognizance and care, and that thou hast such a tender regard to any of that mean and worthless race as thou hast had to me!” Considering the many disgraces which the human nature lies under, we have reason to admire the honours God has put upon mankind in general (the saints especially, some in a particular manner, as David) and upon the Messiah (to whom those words are applied, Heb. 2:6), who was highly exalted because he humbled himself to be found in fashion as a man, and has authority to execute judgment because he is the Son of man. A question to this purport David asked (Ps. 8:4), and he illustrated the wonder by the consideration of the great dignity God has placed man in (Ps. 8:5), Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour. Here he illustrates it by the consideration of the meanness and mortality of man, notwithstanding the dignity put upon him (Ps. 144:4): Man is like to vanity; so frail is he, so weak, so helpless, compassed about with so many infirmities, and his continuance here so very short and uncertain, that he is as like as may be to vanity itself. Nay, he is vanity, he is so at his best estate. His days have little substance in them, considering how many of the thoughts and cares of an immortal soul are employed about a poor dying body; they are as a shadow, dark and flitting, transitory and finishing with the sun, and, when that sets, resolving itself into all shadow. They are as a shadow that passeth away, and there is no loss of it. David puts himself into the number of those that are thus mean and despicable.

III. He begs of God to strengthen him and give him success against the enemies that invaded him, Ps. 144:5-8. He does not specify who they were that he was in fear of, but says, Scatter them, destroy them. God knew whom he meant, though he did not name them. But afterwards he describes them (Ps. 144:7, 8): “They are strange children, Philistines, aliens, bad neighbours to Israel, heathens, whom we are bound to be strange to and not to make any leagues with, and who therefore carry it strangely towards us.” Notwithstanding the advantages with which God had blessed David’s arms against them, they were still vexatious and treacherous, and men that one could put no confidence in: “One cannot take their word, for their mouth speaketh vanity; nay, if they give their hand upon it, or offer their hand to help you, there is no trusting them; for their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.” Against such as these we cannot defend ourselves, but we may depend on the God of truth and justice, who hates falsehood, to defend us from them. 1. David prays that God would appear, that he would do something extraordinary, for the conviction of those who preferred their dunghill-deities before the God of Israel (Ps. 144:5): “Bow thy heavens, O Lord! and make it evident that they are indeed thine, and that thou art the Lord of them, Isa. 66:1. Let thy providence threaten my enemies, and look black upon them, as the clouds do on the earth when they are thick, and hang very low, big with a storm. Fight against those that fight against us, so that it may visibly appear that thou art for us. Touch the mountains, our strong and stately enemies, and let them smoke. Show thyself by the ministry of thy angels, as thou didst upon Mount Sinai.” 2. That he would appear against his enemies, that he would fight from heaven against them, as sometimes he had done, by lightnings, which are his arrows (his fiery darts, against which the hardest steel is no armour of proof, so penetrating is the force of lightning), that he himself would shoot these arrows, who, we are sure, never misses his mark, but hits where he aims. 3. That he would appear for him, Ps. 144:7. He begs for their destruction, in order to his own deliverance and the repose of his people: “Send thy hand, thy power, from above, for that way we look for help; rid me and deliver me out of these great waters that are ready to overflow me.” God’s time to help his people is when they are sinking and all other helps fail.