For hundreds of years Christendom has been blessed with Bible commentaries written by great men of God highly respected for their godly walk and their insight into spiritual truth. The Crossway Classic Commentaries present the very best work on individual Bible books, carefully adapted for maximum understanding and usefulness for today's believers.
This book and its companion volume share the practical encouragement from a favorite Bible book. Charles H. Spurgeon spent twenty years compiling his seven-volume exposition of Psalms, which Crossway has carefully edited for the modern reader.
In the words of Spurgeon in his Preface: "None but the Holy Spirit can give a man the key to the Treasury of David; and even he gives it rather to experience than to study. Happy he who for himself knows the secret of the Psalms.... In these busy days, it would be greatly to the spiritual profit of Christians if they were more familiar with the Book of Psalms, in which they would find a complete armory for life's battles, and a perfect supply for life's needs."
About the Author
Alister McGrath (PhD, University of Oxford) is the Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, president of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, and senior research fellow at Harris Manchester College in Oxford. He is also a noted author and coeditor of Crossway's Classic Commentaries series.
J. I. Packer (DPhil, Oxford University) serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College. He is the author of numerous books, including the classic best-seller Knowing God. Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version Bible and as theological editor for the ESV Study Bible.
Read an Excerpt
1. Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me. When our prayers are lowly by reason of our humility, or feeble by reason of our sickness, or without wing by reason of our despondency, the Lord will bow down to them. Faith, when she has the loftiest name of God on her tongue, and calls him Jehovah, yet dares to ask from him the most tender and condescending acts of love. Great as he is he loves his children to be bold with him. For I am poor and needy. Our distress is a forcible reason for our being heard by the Lord God, merciful, and gracious, for misery is ever the master argument with mercy. Such reasoning as this would never be adopted by a proud man. Of all despicable sinners those are the worst who use the language of spiritual poverty while they think themselves to be rich and increased in goods.
2. Preserve my soul. Let my life be safe from my enemies, and my spiritual nature be secure from their temptations. For I am holy. I am set apart for holy uses; therefore do not let thine enemies commit a sacrilege by injuring or defiling me: I am clear of the crimes laid to my charge, and in that sense innocent; therefore, I beseech thee, do not allow me to suffer from unjust charges; and I am gentle towards others, therefore deal mercifully with me as I have dealt with my fellow-men. Any of these renderings may explain the text; perhaps all together will expound it best. It is not self-righteous in good people to plead their innocence as a reason for escaping from the results of sins wrongfully ascribed to them; penitents do not bedaub themselves with mire for the love of it, or make themselves out to be worse than they are. To plead guilty to offenses we have never committed is as great a lie as the denial of our real faults. O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee. Lest anyone should suppose that David trusted in his own holiness he immediately declared his trust in the Lord, and begged to be saved as one who was not holy in the sense of being perfect, but was even yet in need of the very elements of salvation. How sweet is the title my God when joined to the other, thy servant; and how sweet is the hope that on this ground we shall be saved. Note how David's poor I am (or rather the I repeated without the) appeals to the great I AM with sacred boldness engendered by necessity, aided by the faith which removes mountains.
3. Be merciful to me, O LORD. The best people need mercy, and appeal to mercy. For I cry unto thee daily. Is there not a promise that importunity will prevail? He who prays every day, and all the day, for so the word may mean, may rest assured that the Lord will hear him. If we cried sometimes to man, or other false confidences, we might expect to be referred to them in the hour of our calamity, but if in all former times we have looked to the Lord alone, we may be sure that he will not desert us now.
4. Rejoice the soul of thy servant. Make my heart glad, for I count it my honor to call myself thy servant, and I reckon thy favor to be all the wages I could desire. I look for all my happiness in thee only, and therefore unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. Thou art as the brazen serpent to my sick nature, and I lift up my soul's eye to thee that I may live. I know that the nearer I am to thee the greater is my joy; therefore be pleased to draw me nearer while I am laboring to draw near. It needs a strong shoulder at the wheel when a heart sticks in the miry clay of despondency; but the Lord will take the will for the deed, and come in with a hand of almighty grace to raise his poor servant out of the earth and up to heaven.
5. For thou. Lord, art good, and ready to forgive. Good at giving and forgiving; supplying us with his good, and removing our evil. Some men who would be considered good are so self-exaltingly indignant at the injuries done them by others that they cannot forgive; but the better a being is, the more willing he is to forgive, and the best and highest of all is ever ready to blot out the transgressions of his creatures. And plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. God does not dispense his mercy from a store so impoverished as to give out altogether, but his goodness flows abundandy. In two places in this psalm David almost quotes word for word the passage in Exodus 34:6.
6. Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer. Even the glory which his spirit had beheld did not withdraw him from his prayer, but rather urged him to be more fervent in it; hence he implores the Lord to hear his requests. Note the expression the voice of my supplications, as if they were not all voice but were partly inarticulate noise, yet amid much that was superfluous there really was an inner meaning which was the heart's intention. This he would have the Lord sift out from the chaff, and hear amid the mingled din. May our soul's intent always give our prayers a live core of meaning.
7. A pious resolve backed by a judicious reason. It is useless to cry to those who cannot or will not hear. Our experience confirms us in the belief that Jehovah the living God really does aid those who call upon him, and therefore we pray because we really find it to be a practical and effectual means of obtaining help from God in the hour of need. There can be no reason for praying if there be no expectation of the Lord's answering.
8. Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord. There are gods by delegated office, such as kings and magistrates, but they are as nothing in the presence of Jehovah; there are also gods by the nomination of superstition, but these are vanity itself, and cannot be compared with the living and true God. Neither are there any works like unto thy works. What have the false gods ever made or unmade? What miracles have they wrought?
9. All nations whom thou hast made, and these include all mankind, since they all come of the first Adam, thy creature, and their lives are all distinct creations of thine omnipotence. All these shall come with penitent hearts, in thine own way, to thine own self, and worship before thee, O Lord. Because thou art thus above all gods, people will at last discover thy greatness, and will render thee the worship which is thy due. This was David's reason for resorting to the Lord in trouble. It makes us content to be in the minority today, when we are sure that the majority will be with us tomorrow. David was not a believer in the theory that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensation will wind up with general darkness and idolatry. We look for a day when the dwellers in all lands worship thee alone, O God, and shall glorify thy name.
10. For thou art great. It is only in the Divine Being that either greatness or goodness exists absolutely, and essentially. To be great and not good might lead to tyranny in the King, and for him to be good and not great might involve countless calamities. And doest wondrous things. Being good, he is said to be ready to forgive; being great, he works wonders; we may blend the two, for there is no wonder so wonderful as the pardon of our transgressions. Even the commonest daisy is a marvel, and a pebble enshrines wisdom. Only to fools is anything which God has made uninteresting. Note that the verb doest is in the present: the Lord is doing wondrous things, they are transpiring before our eyes. Look upon the bursting buds of spring or the maturing fruits of autumn, gaze on the sky or skim the sea, mark the results of providence and the victories of grace. Thou art God alone. Our God is not to be worshiped as one among many good and true beings, but as God alone; his gospel is not to be preached as one of several saving systems, but as the sole way of salvation.
11. Teach me thy way, O LORD. Instruct me thus at all times, but teach me now especially since I am in trouble and perplexity. Show me the way which thy wisdom and mercy have prepared for my escape. Not my way give me, but thy way teach me; I would follow thee and not be willfull. I will walk in thy truth. When taught I will practice what I know; truth will not be a mere doctrine or sentiment to me, but a matter of daily life.
Unite my heart to fear thy name. Having taught me one way, give me one heart to walk therein, for too often I feel two natures contending. God who created the bands of our nature can draw them together, tighten, strengthen, and fasten them, and so we shall be powerful for good, but not otherwise.
12. I will praise thee, O LORD my God, with all my heart. Praise should never be rendered with less than all our heart, and soul, and strength, or it will be both unreal and unacceptable. This is the second time in the psalm that David calls the Lord my God; the first time he was in an agony of prayer (verse 2), and now he is in an ecstasy of praise. If anything can make a man pray and praise, it is the knowledge that the Lord is his God. And I will glorify thy name for evermore. God has never done blessing us; let us never have done blessing him.
13. For great is thy mercy toward me. Personal experience is ever the master singer. Whatever thou art to others, to me thy mercy is most notable. And thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. David had been kept by God, for his enemies would have done more than send him to hell had they been able.
His sense of sin also made him feel as if the most overwhelming destruction would have been his portion had not grace prevented. There are some alive now who can use this language unfeignedly, and he who pens these lines most humbly confesses that he is one. Left to myself to indulge my passions, to rush onward with my natural vehemence, what a candidate for the lowest abyss should I have made myself by this time.
The psalmist here again touches a bold and joyful note, but soon he exchanges it for the mournful song.
14. O God, the proud are risen against me. His walk with God was as smoke to their eyes, and therefore they determined to destroy him. And the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul. They hunted in packs, with keen scent, and eager foot. And have not set thee before them. They would not have molested the servant if they had cared for the Master. Those who fear not God are not afraid to commit violent and cruel acts.
15. But thou, O Lord. What a contrast! We get away from the blusterings of proud but puny people to the glory and goodness of the Lord. Art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. A truly glorious doxology, mainly from Exodus 34:6. Here is compassion for the weak and sorrowing, grace for the undeserving, longsuffering for the provoking, mercy for the guilty, and truth for the tried. Are we sorrowful? We find the Lord full of compassion. Are we contending with temptation? His grace comes to our aid. Do we err? He is patient with us. Have we sinned? He is plenteous in mercy. Are we resting on his promise? He will fulfill it with abundant truth.
16. O turn unto me. One turn of God's face will turn all our darkness into day. And have mercy upon me. That is all he asks, for he is lowly in heart; that is all he wants, for mercy answers all a sinner's needs. Give thy strength unto thy servant. Gird me with it that I may serve thee; guard me with it that I may not be overcome. When the Lord gives us his own strength we are sufficient for all emergencies, and have no cause to fear any adversaries. And save the son of thine handmaid. As the sons of slaves were their master's property by their birth, so he gloried in being the son of a woman who herself belonged to the Lord. What others might think a degrading illustration he uses with delight, to show how intensely he loved the Lord's service.
17. Show me a token for good. Let me be assured of thy mercy by being delivered out of trouble. That they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed. What bodes good to me will make them quail and blush. Disappointed and defeated, the foes of the good man would feel ashamed of what they had designed. Because thou. Lord, hast helped me, and comforted me. God does nothing by halves; those whom he helps he also consoles, and so makes them not merely safe but joyful. Lord, deal thus with us evermore; so shall we glorify thee.
1. His foundation is in the holy mountains. The psalm begins abruptly: the poet's heart was full, and it gained a vent on a sudden. Sudden passion is evil, but bursts of holy joy are most precious. God has chosen to found his earthly temple upon the mountains. The church, which is the mystical Jerusalem, is founded not on the sand of carnal policy, nor in the morass of human kingdoms, but on Jehovah's Godhead. The church is the chief of all his works.
2. The gates are put for the city itself. The love of God is greatest to his own elect nation. God delights in the prayers and praises of Christian families and individuals, but he has a special eye to the assemblies of the faithful. The great festivals, when the crowds surrounded the temple gates, were fair in the Lord's eyes, and this should lead each separate believer to identify with the church of God; where the Lord reveals his love the most, there should each believer most delight to be found.
3. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. This is true of Jerusalem. It is yet more true of the church. We may glory in her without being braggarts; she has a luster which none can rival. Never let thy praises cease, O bride of Christ, in whom the Lord himself has placed his delight, calling you by that pearl of names, Hephzibah - "for my delight is in her." The years to come will unveil your beauties to the astonished eyes of all peoples. Selah. With the prospect of a world converted, and the most implacable foes transformed into friends, it was fitting that the psalmist should pause.
4. I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me. Zion's old foes are new-born and have become her friends, worshiping in the temple of her God. Some consider that these are the words of God himself, and should be rendered, "I will mention Rahab and Babylon as knowing me," but we feel content with our common version, and attribute the words to the psalmist himself, who anticipates the conversion of the two great rival nations and speaks of it with exultation. Behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia. These also are to bow before the Lord. This man was born there. That is, this nation has been born into Zion, regenerated into the church of God. The new births of nations it is at once a great blessing and a great wonder.
Many understand the sense of these verses to be that all people are proud of their native country, and so also is the citizen of Zion. The passage is not so clear that anyone should become dogmatic as to its meaning, but we prefer the interpretation given above.
5. And of Zion, it shall be said. This and that man was born in her. Not as nations only, but one by one, as individuals, the citizens of the New Jerusalem will be counted, and their names publicly declared. The individual will not be lost in the mass, but each one will be of high account. The original, by using the noblest word for man, intimates that many remarkable men will be born in the church, and indeed everyone who is renewed in the image of Christ is an eminent personage, while there are some who, even to the dim eyes of the world, shine with a luster of character which cannot but be admitted to be unusual and admirable. And the highest himself shall establish her. When the numbers of the faithful are increased by the new birth, the Lord proves himself to be higher than all those who are against us.
6. At the great census which the Lord himself takes, he will number the nations without exception. Jehovah's census of his chosen will differ much from ours; he will count many whom we should have disowned, and he will leave out many whom we should have reckoned. Let us pray for the adoption and regeneration which will secure us a place among the heaven-born.
7. In vision the psalmist sees the citizens of Zion rejoicing at some sacred festival, and marching in triumphant procession with vocal and instrumental music. As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there. Where God is there must be joy, and where the church is increased by numerous conversions the joy becomes exuberant and finds out ways of displaying itself. All my springs are in thee. Did the poet mean that henceforth he would find all his joys in Zion, or that to the Lord he would look for all inspiration? The last is the truest doctrine. The Lord who founded the church is the eternal source of all our supplies.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Psalms Volume II"
Copyright © 1993 Watermark.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
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Table of Contents
Series Preface, vii,
Psalm 86, 1,
Psalm 87, 5,
Psalm 88, 6,
Psalm 89, 10,
Psalm 90, 20,
Psalm 91, 25,
Psalm 92, 30,
Psalm 93, 34,
Psalm 94, 36,
Psalm 95, 41,
Psalm 96, 45,
Psalm 97, 49,
Psalm 98, 52,
Psalm 99, 55,
Psalm 100, 58,
Psalm 101, 60,
Psalm 102, 62,
Psalm 103, 70,
Psalm 104, 79,
Psalm 105, 87,
Psalm 106, 97,
Psalm 107, 107,
Psalm 108, 117,
Psalm 109, 122,
Psalm 110, 129,
Psalm 111, 132,
Psalm 112, 137,
Psalm 113, 141,
Psalm 114, 144,
Psalm 115, 147,
Psalm 116, 154,
Psalm 117, 160,
Psalm 118, 161,
Psalm 119, 174,
Psalm 120, 252,
Psalm 121, 254,
Psalm 122, 258,
Psalm 123, 262,
Psalm 124, 264,
Psalm 125, 267,
Psalm 126, 269,
Psalm 127, 272,
Psalm 128, 275,
Psalm 129, 277,
Psalm 130, 281,
Psalm 131, 285,
Psalm 132, 288,
Psalm 134, 300,
Psalm 135, 302,
Psalm 136, 311,
Psalm 137, 319,
Psalm 138, 323,
Psalm 139, 326,
Psalm 140, 332,
Psalm 141, 335,
Psalm 142, 338,
Psalm 143, 342,
Psalm 144, 348,
Psalm 145, 352,
Psalm 146, 357,
Psalm 147, 360,
Psalm 148, 365,
Psalm 149, 369,
Psalm 150, 373,