Psalm 7:1

There is nothing like the trials of life to constrain to prayer; and no prayers are so full of deep meaning as those forced out by such trials. There is no reason for doubting the Davidic authorship of this psalm. It well accords with some known episodes in his experience, and is just such an appeal to the great Judge of all the earth as he might be expected to make when unjustly accused; specially when accused of evil in the very direction in which he had most strikingly restrained himself therefrom. But what a mercy that the true believer has such a God to whom he can flee, and that he can feel assured that, however unjust man may be, there is ever one tribunal high above all the people, at which absolute justice will be done I life believer can possibly find out all that God is to him till he has thus to flee to his throne for refuge from the storm. Let wronged and slandered Christians study the method and words of an Old Testament psalmist under circumstances to which their own are somewhat analogous.


1. A fierce enemy is raging against the writer. One fierce as the wild beasts against which, as a shepherd, he had had to defend his flock (ver. 2).

2. Charges of evil-doing are made against him. The tone of the third verse indicates this, although we have no means of knowing who the "Cush" might be that brought forward these charges. It is no uncommon thing for good men to find themselves the victims of false accusations. Such accusations, however false, will do injury, since

(1) some one or other will be sure to believe them, even in the absence of proof; and

(2) no man can prove a negative, i.e. he cannot show what he has not done. This rule, that no one is expected to prove a negative, holds good in logic, and it ought to be regarded in other departments also; but, unfortunately, people are not as careful as they should be about screening another's reputation. Unspeakable distress may thereby be occasioned to innocent men.

3. The psalmist knows these charges are false; and therefore, though appeal to man is vain, he can and does appeal to God (vers. 3, 4).

4. Notwithstanding this, his enemy's rage is actually threatening his life. (See ver. 2.) It is bad to plot against life; it is equally bad to poison a man's reputation; yea, worse. Let those who are slandered read such psalms as this over and over again, that they may see how the saints of old were tried in like manner, and what was the course they pursued.

II. UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, THE RELIEVER MAKES GOD HIS REFUGE. (See ver. 1, Revised Version margin, "In thee do I take refuge.") While the storm is raging without, the believer is hiding in his God. "Thou wilt hide me in thy presence from the pride of man; thou wilt keep me secretly in thy pavilion from the strife of tonsures." The attributes of God, which are a terror to the wicked, are the shelter of the righteous.

1. God's righteousness. (Ver. 11.)

2. His searching the reins and hearts. (Ver. 9.)

3. His commanding judgment, either in the way of precept, by laws which may not be slighted, or in the way of administration, by chastisements which cannot be evaded. Even so these features of the Divine character and administration are the joy of injured innocence (ver. 10, "My shield is with God," Revised Version). And in a case like this, the saint can say, in faith, hope, and love, "O Lord my God?' To know this - that God is ours - and that sooner or later he will set us right, is of incalculable value in such sore distresses.

III. IT IS WELL IF IN SUCH CASES THE PLEADING ONE CAN ASSERT BEFORE GOD HIS OWN INTEGRITY. The third, fourth, and fifth verses ought not to be regarded either as assertion of perfect righteousness, nor yet as the utterances of conceit; nor should we be warranted in regarding even the eighth verse as an indication of self-righteousness. Not by any means. Let us take the psalm for what it manifestly is, and all is clear. It is the appeal of a slandered man to God; it is the appeal of one who knows that, so far as the charges of his enemy are concerned, he is innocent (cf. 1 Samuel 24., 26.), and that therefore he may with confidence refer his case to the tribunal which is infinitely above those of earth (Psalm 18:18-24). Note: There is a very wide difference between the self-righteousness which regards itself as blameless before God, and the conscious integrity which can look any man in the face without flinching. Of the former the psalmist had none (cf. Psalm 25:7, 11; Psalm 143:2). It would be wicked to pretend innocence before God; but, in a case like the psalmist's, it would be unmanly not to assert it before men. Cromwell said, "I know that God is above all ill reports, and that he will in his own time vindicate me."

IV. UNDER SUCH PRESSURE FROM WITHOUT THE PRAYER IS DIRECT, POINTED, AND CLEAR. The psalmist does not deem it needful to cover the whole ground of possible prayer on each occasion. He lays the burden of the moment before God, and leaves it there. His petitions are fivefold.

1. Arise, O Lord! (Ver. 6.)

2. Save me! (Ver. 1.)

3. Vindicate me! (Ver. 8.)

4. Bring wickedness to an end! (Ver. 9.)

5. Establish the just! (Ver. 9.)

Note: When the heart is overweighted with sorrow and anxiety, let us always tell our God exactly the state of the case. We need not go over all points of religion or theology in every prayer; let us just tell God the matter of immediate pressure (cf. Psalm 142:2; Psalm 34:4, 6; Philippians 4:6, 7). Such petitions as are forced out by sorrow may be sent up in all loving confidence to our Father in heaven. He will excuse all their mistakes, and answer them in the fulness of love.

V. THERE IS INDICATED A FULL ASSURANCE OF GOD'S APPEARING FOR JUDGMENT. We do not now refer to "the last judgment," but to those judgments which are often manifest in the providence of God (cf. Isaiah 26:9, latter part). And he who studies history, and observes the times with a view to watching the movements of God in the world, will find abundant illustration of the two features of a perpetual judgment which has long been, still is, and yet will be, going forward in the world; and that in two directions.

1. As regards the wicked.

(1) God is angry every day; his holy indignation ever goes forth against sin. There is no feature of human life more striking than the sorrow and misery which follow on sin.

(2) God sends forth his arrows, yea, fiery arrows (ver. 13).

(3) The evil which bad men devise against others often comes back on their own head (vers. 15, 16). Many a Haman hangs on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.

2. As regards the righteous. "Who sayeth them that are upright of heart" (ver. 10). Even so. The whole of the thirty-seventh psalm is an exposition of this fact, and the seventy-third psalm is an illustration of it. Observation and experience will perpetually furnish new proofs of the same. "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.' - C.

For the zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up, and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me.
Nearly all the prophecies of Scripture admit of and require a threefold interpretation.

1. They tell of some event or experience in the life Of the writer.

2. Then of like experience in the people of God.

3. And chiefly of what in yet higher degree our Lord Himself should suffer or accomplish. And these remarks apply to this prophecy. Twice in the New Testament it is applied to our Lord, and we may take the words as those of the Lord Himself. Now, it is good for us oftentimes to stand by our Saviour's cross and to contemplate His sufferings. And this is what the text leads us to do. For it shows us —

I. THE MOTIVE BY WHICH HE WAS SUSTAINED. "The zeal of Thine house," etc. We must not limit these words to His expulsion of the traders from the temple at Jerusalem, but they tell of the spirit which ever animated Him. And God's "house" does not mean merely a building such as the temple, but the world at large, the race of mankind whom Christ came to save. His "zeal," therefore, means that consuming desire to preserve and save them. For this He became incarnate, and lived, suffered and died. His zeal devoured Him, wore away His vigour so that "His visage was marred more," etc. Hence, also, He became "a stranger to His brethren and an alien," etc.

II. THE SUFFERINGS THEMSELVES. "The reproaches of them that," etc. We must not limit our idea of these sufferings to that which was outward, such as is represented in the well-known picture, "Ecce Homo." But it was the soul of our Lord that suffered, Could not but suffer. For He was that "holy one," and to such the ever present sight of sin, the infinite dishonour done to God, and the ruin wrought upon men, could not but have been far more terrible than any outward pain. Hence He was consumed with desire to vindicate the honour of God and to save men.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

(with Revelation 7:15): — These passages of God's Word, significant in the several truths they contain when standing apart, but still more significant in their contrast when placed side by side, express and interpret the two most prominent phases of the highest form of Christian life and activity. It is not every servant of God who could use them with propriety, but only that man who has not only lived but died for the Master, whose spirits have been burdened, and whose life has been cut off prematurely by unwonted zeal and unvarying labours for the Saviour. The service which has been in the midst of much imperfection and weariness, death may and must end; but the service which shall be without imperfection and without change, it may not and cannot touch. The words, used in such a light, are eloquent with the simplicity of truth, and full of the hope of immortality.

I. First, look at THE DEEP UNDERLYING AGREEMENT amid the differences these words suggest. Both speak of service, yes, and of zealous service, and both speak of service for God.

1. There is a consecration unto God amid the sin and the impurity of earth, even as there is a consecration amid the holiness and beatific blessedness of heaven. It may seem to the angels of God, looking down in wonder, a toil amid darkness, as in some murky mine, in which men grope while there is daylight above; none the less does it yield precious jewels and gold and silver to the crown of the Messiah and to the kingdom of God. And He, the Lord of all, counts it as His work. He has put especial honour upon it. He has taken upon Himself this service of toil, when He became a Man of Sorrows, knowing what weariness was in the midst of labour. And it was when the disciples saw His zeal for God, they remembered it was written, "The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up."

2. But again, our text carries us on to glance at the occupation of heaven. That also is a service, and a ceaseless service. Not rest, as some would interpret that word, but work — the work which is rest, the balanced activity which brings its own enjoyment and blessedness. To live, "more life and fuller," that is what we want. Heaven would be no heaven unless it gave room to develop, to expand like flowers in the sunshine, in one word, to live. We have had enough of lethargy, enough of sloth, of unused powers in this world; we long to do something in the next. And that conception of heaven is highest which sees it a sphere of loyal service unto God, a realm of ceaseless activities, where they labour amid their rest, and rest in their labours, and find His presence to be, in all, an infinite and everlasting joy.

II. Consider THE CONTRAST suggested in the text. The second phrase found here is taken from that gathering around the throne of the Lamb which included the sealed of the twelve tribes of Israel, and a great multitude out of every nation and kindred, and peoples, and tongues. David's tribe was there, for twelve thousand were sealed of the tribe of Judah, and doubtless David was there. The man who had said, "The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up," who had borne reproach for God until it had eaten, like a canker, into his very soul, stands with that multitude before the throne, serving day and night. Wondrous change! It is the same service, yet how different in all its results. The idea is that it is not merely the persecutions and dangers of Christian life which tire out these faithful ones; the very enthusiasm and zeal for Christ's service may do this. We have the treasure, says Paul, in earthen vessels, and the heavenly often wears out the earthly. There are not only martyrs for Christ, whose bones bleach upon a foreign shore, unsuccessful and unknown, but yonder in the great city you may find those whose ministry, it may be, has been crowned abundantly, and yet who can say with equal truthfulness, "The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up." But to all these comes the same consolation of the future. Heaven stands out to give meaning to earth. The Christian who has realized this twofold aspect of Christian service has climbed to some Pisgah height from which he can see both past and future. It is said that when Cortez led his sailors across the vast continent of South America, after months of toil and sickness, they climbed one of the peaks of the Andes, and saw out there in the distance, far away, the glimmering of the sea. And the men wept for joy at the sight. It was their own native element, the love of their life, their home. Toil there was a pleasure in comparison with this journeying through endless forests and wildernesses, and they wept for joy. So it is with God's children when they catch sight of that sea of glass mingled with fire, which is before the throne. There is the desire of their hearts, the hope of their life, their treasure and their home. There is the shout of triumph and the song of victory, the rest that shall never end and the service which cannot weary. But, again, we have a further contrast here. In the former text you have the idea of conflict, the evidence of that struggle which is ever going on in the heart of man; the spirit against the flesh, the flesh against the spirit, the soul cramped and hindered in its progress, as in some prison-house struggling to be free, the body worn out and enfeebled by the restless energy of that which is within. It is a state of intense unrest in which that which is best in the man, his zeal for God, is the disturbing element. And against this, in strong contrast, the text places the calm and composure, the serenity of heaven and heavenly service. On the one hand, it is a sea torn and tossed by every wind and wave, boiling and seething as from some internal convulsion; on the other, it is an ocean quiet and peaceful, in whose every movement there is majesty and grandeur. Or, to change the imagery, here it is a morbid spasmodic activity, a life producing death by its very violence, like some untimely plant which springs up too soon and fast, and is withered ere strength and beauty can be developed; yonder it is a maturity which knows neither change nor decay, but is ever green and fair as the seasons roll round, return, and come again. Here the day of labour needs the night of rest, and even then there is left perchance a weariness which slumber may not remove. In heaven they serve Him day and night in His temple without rest. Lastly, I but emphasize one thought, and that by way of making a practical use of all this. It is the important thought which stands connected with the continuity of the Divine life. For the service here, we must never forget, is the beginning of the service which is yonder. They are essentially one and indivisible, and this is necessary to that. Life is the apprenticeship, the school for heaven, necessary not so much, indeed, in this aspect for the work which is done, and the service which is rendered, as that we may learn how to work and how to serve.

(W. Baxendale.)

When Stanley found Livingstone in the heart of Africa, he begged the old hero to go home. There seemed to be every reason why he should go back to England. His wife was dead, his children lived in England, the weight of years was pressing upon him, the shortest march wearied him, he was often compelled to halt many days to recover strength after his frequent attacks of prostrating illness. Moreover, he was destitute of men and means to enable him to make practical progress. But, like Paul, none of these things moved him; nor counted he his life dear to himself. "No, no," he said to Stanley; "to be knighted, as you say, by the Queen, welcomed by thousands of admirers, yes — but impossible. It must not, cannot, will not be. I must finish my task."

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