The title of this psalm gives a very uncertain sound concerning the occasion of penning it. It is upon Muth-labben, which some make to refer to the death of Goliath, others of Nabal, others of Absalom; but I incline to think it signifies only some tone, or some musical instrument, to which this psalm was intended to be sung; and that the enemies David is here triumphing in the defeat of are the Philistines, and the other neighbouring nations that opposed his settlement in the throne, whom he contested with and subdued in the beginning of his reign, 2 Sam. 5:8. In these verses,
I. David excites and engages himself to praise God for his mercies and the great things he had of late done for him and his government, Ps. 9:1, 2. Note, 1. God expects suitable returns of praise from those for whom he has done marvellous works. 2. If we would praise God acceptably, we must praise him in sincerity, with our hearts, and not only with our lips, and be lively and fervent in the duty, with our whole heart. 3. When we give thanks for some one particular mercy we should take occasion thence to remember former mercies and so to show forth all his marvellous works. 4. Holy joy is the life of thankful praise, as thankful praise is the language of holy joy: I will be glad and rejoice in thee. 5. Whatever occurs to make us glad, our joy must pass through it, and terminate in God only: I will be glad and rejoice in thee, not in the gift so much as in the giver. 6. Joy and praise are properly expressed by singing psalms. 7. When God has shown himself to be above the proud enemies of the church we must take occasion thence to give glory to him as the Most High. 8. The triumphs of the Redeemer ought to be the triumphs of the redeemed; see Rev. 12:10; 19:5; Rev. 15:3, 4.
II. He acknowledges the almighty power of God as that which the strongest and stoutest of his enemies were no way able to contest with or stand before, Ps. 9:3. But, 1. They are forced to turn back. Their policy and their courage fail them, so that they cannot, they dare not, push forward in their enterprises, but retire with precipitation. 2. When once they turn back, they fall and perish; even their retreat will be their ruin, and they will save themselves no more by flying than by fighting. If Haman begin to fall before Mordecai, he is a lost man, and shall prevail no more; see Est. 6:13. 3. The presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power, are sufficient for the destruction of his and his people’s enemies. That is easily done which a man does with his very presence; with that God confounds his enemies, such a presence has he. This was fulfilled when our Lord Jesus, with one word, I am he, made his enemies to fall back at his presence (John 18:6) and he could, at the same time, have made them perish. 4. When the enemies of God’s church are put to confusion we must ascribe their discomfiture to the power, not of instruments, but of his presence, and give him all the glory.
III. He gives to God the glory of his righteousness, in his appearing on his behalf (Ps. 9:4): “Thou hast maintained my right and my cause, that is, my righteous cause; when that came on, thou satest in the throne, judging right.” Observe, 1. God sits in the throne of judgment. To him it belongs to decide controversies, to determine appeals, to avenge the injured, and to punish the injurious; for he has said, Vengeance is mine. 2. We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth and that with him there is no unrighteousness. Far be it from God that he should pervert justice. If there seem to us to be some irregularity in the present decisions of Providence, yet these, instead of shaking our belief of God’s justice, may serve to strengthen our belief of the judgment to come, which will set all to-rights. 3. Whoever disown and desert a just and injured cause, we may be sure that the righteous God will maintain it and plead it with jealousy, and will never suffer it to be run down.
IV. He records, with joy, the triumphs of the God of heaven over all the powers of hell and attends those triumphs with his praises, Ps. 9:5. By three steps the power and justice of God had proceeded against the heathen, and wicked people, who were enemies to the king God had lately set up upon his holy hill of Zion. 1. He had checked them: “Thou hast rebuked the heathen, hast given them real proofs of thy displeasure against them.” This he did before he destroyed them, that they might take warning by the rebukes of Providence and so prevent their own destruction. 2. He had cut them off: Thou hast destroyed the wicked. The wicked are marked for destruction, and some are made monuments of God’s vindictive justice and destructive power in this world. 3. He had buried them in oblivion and perpetual infamy, had put out their name for ever, that they should never be remembered with any respect.
V. He exults over the enemy whom God thus appears against (Ps. 9:6): Thou hast destroyed cities. Either, “Thou, O enemy! hast destroyed our cities, at least in intention and imagination,” or “Thou, O God! hast destroyed their cities by the desolation brought upon their country.” It may be taken either way; for the psalmist will have the enemy to know, 1. That their destruction is just and that God was but reckoning with them for all the mischief which they had done and designed against his people. The malicious and vexatious neighbours of Israel, as the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Syrians, had made incursions upon them (when there was no king in Israel to fight their battles), had destroyed their cities and done what they could to make their memorial perish with them. But now the wheel was turned upon them; their destructions of Israel had come to a perpetual end; they shall now cease to spoil and must themselves be spoiled, Isa. 33:1, 2. 2. That it is total and final, such a destruction as should make a perpetual end of them, so that the very memorial of their cities should perish with them, So devouring a thing is time, and much more such desolations do the righteous judgments of God make upon sinners, that great and populous cities have been reduced to such ruins that their very memorial has perished, and those who have sought them could not find where they stood; but we look for a city that has stronger foundations.
VI. He comforts himself and others in God, and pleases himself with the thoughts of him. 1. With the thoughts of his eternity. On this earth we see nothing durable, even strong cities are buried in rubbish and forgotten; but the Lord shall endure for ever, Ps. 9:7. There is no change of his being; his felicity, power, and perfection, are out of the reach of all the combined forces of hell and earth; they may put an end to our liberties, our privileges, our lives, but our God is still the same, and sits even upon the floods, unshaken, undisturbed, Ps. 29:10; 93:2. 2. With the thoughts of his sovereignty both in government and judgment: He has prepared his throne, has fixed it by his infinite wisdom, has fixed it by his immutable counsel. It is the great support and comfort of good people, when the power of the church’s enemies is threatening and the posture of its affairs melancholy and perplexed, that God now rules the world and will shortly judge the world. 3. With the thoughts of his justice and righteousness in all the administrations of his government. He does all every day, he will do all at the last day, according to the eternal unalterable rules of equity (Ps. 9:8): He shall judge the world, all persons and all controversies, shall minister judgment to the people (shall determine their lot both in this and in the future state) in righteousness and in uprightness, so that there shall not be the least colour of exception against it. 4. With the thoughts of that peculiar favour which God bears to his own people and the special protection which he takes them under. The Lord, who endures for ever, is their everlasting strength and protection; he that judges the world will be sure to judge for them, when at any time they are injured or distressed (Ps. 9:9): He will be a refuge for the oppressed, a high place, a strong place, for the oppressed, in times of trouble. It is the lot of God’s people to be oppressed in this world and to have troublous times appointed to them. Perhaps God may not immediately appear for them as their deliverer and avenger; but, in the midst of their distresses, they may by faith flee to him as their refuge and may depend upon his power and promise for their safety, so that no real hurt shall be done them. 5. With the thoughts of that sweet satisfaction and repose of mind which those have that make God their refuge (Ps. 9:10): “Those that know thy name will put their trust in thee, as I have done” (for the grace of God is the same in all the saints), “and then they will find, as I have found, that thou dost not forsake those that seek thee;” for the favour of God is the same towards all the saints. Note, (1.) The better God is known the more he is trusted. Those who know him to be a God of infinite wisdom will trust him further than they can see him (Job 35:14); those who know him to be a God of almighty power will trust him when creature-confidences fail and they have nothing else to trust to (2 Chron. 20:12); and those who know him to be a God of infinite grace and goodness will trust him though he slay them, Job 13:15. Those who know him to be a God of inviolable truth and faithfulness will rejoice in his word of promise, and rest upon that, though the performance be deferred and intermediate providences seem to contradict it. Those who know him to be the Father of spirits, and an everlasting Father, will trust him with their souls as their main care and trust in him at all times, even to the end. (2.) The more God is trusted the more he is sought unto. If we trust God we shall seek him by faithful and fervent prayer, and by a constant care to approve ourselves to him in the whole course of our conversations. (3.) God never did, nor ever will, disown or desert any that duly seek to him and trust in him. Though he afflict them, he will not leave them comfortless; though he seem to forsake them for a while, yet he will gather them with everlasting mercies.