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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 2
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Psalm 60:9-12

9. Who will bring me into the fortified city? who will lead me into Edom? 10. Wilt not thou, O God! who hadst cast us off, and thou, O God! who didst not go out with our armies? 11. Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. 398398     “C’est, la salut que l’homme peut apporter.” — Fr. marg. “That is, the help which man can bring.” 12. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.

 

9 Who will bring me into the fortified city? Anticipating an objection which might be alleged, he proceeds to state that he looked to God for the accomplishment of what remained to be done in the capture of the fortified places of his enemies, and the consolidation of his victories. It might be said, that as a considerable number continued to resist his claims, the confident terms which he had used were premature. God, however, had pledged his word that every nation which set itself in opposition to him would be brought under his power, and in the face of remaining difficulties and dangers he advances with certainty of success. By the fortified city, 399399     Literally, “the strong city,” or “the city of strength.” The Chaldee makes it Tyre, the capital of Phoenicia. Mudge and others think Petra, the capital of Idumea, is meant. Viewed as referring to that remarkable city, which was hewn out of the rock, and deemed impregnable, (Obadiah, 3d verse,) and with which Burckhardt, Laborde, Stephens, and other modern travelers, have made us so minutely acquainted; the language of the Psalmist is very appropriate, illustrating the strength of his faith, and magnifying the greatness of the divine aid. Who will bring me into the fortified city? it is impossible for me, by my own strength, or by mere human aid, to occupy this stronghold, unless God interpose in my behalf, assist, and prosper my attempts. some understand Rabbah, the capital of the Moabites. Others, with more probability, consider that the singular is used for the plural number, and that David alludes in general to the different cities under protection of which his enemies were determined to stand out. He declares, that the same God who had crowned his arms with victory in the open field would lead him on to the siege of these cities. With a view to prove his legitimate call to the government, he amplifies a second time the marks of the divine favor which it had received, by contrasting it with that which preceded. “The God,” he says, “who had formerly cast us off, and abandoned us to unsuccessful warfare, will now lay open before me the gates of hostile cities, and enable me to break through all their fortifications.”

11 Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Again he reverts to the exercise of prayer, or rather is led to it naturally by the very confidence of hope, which we have seen that he entertained. He expresses his conviction, that should God extend his help, it would be sufficient of itself, although no assistance should be received from any other quarter. Literally it reads, Give us help from trouble, and vain is the help of man “O God,” as if he had said, “when pleased to put forth thy might, thou needest none to help thee; and when, therefore, once assured of an interest in thy favor, there is no reason why we should desire the aid of man. All other resources of a worldly nature vanish before the brightness of thy power.” The copulative in the verse, however, has been generally resolved into the causal particle, and I have not scrupled to follow the common practice. It were well if the sentiment expressed were effectually engraven upon our hearts. Why is it almost universally the case with men that they are either staggered in their resolution, or buoy themselves up with confidences, vain, because not derived from God, but just because they have no apprehension of that salvation which he can extend, which is of itself sufficient, and without which, any earthly succor is entirely ineffectual? In contrasting the help of God with that of man, he employs language not strictly correct, for, in reality, there is no such thing as a power in man to deliver at all. But, in our ignorance, we conceive as if there were various kinds of help in the world, and he uses the word in accommodation to our false ideas. God, in accomplishing our preservation, may use the agency of man, but he reserves it to himself, as his peculiar prerogative, to deliver, and will not suffer them to rob him of his glory. The deliverance which comes to us in this manner through human agency must properly be ascribed to God. All that David meant to assert is, that such confidences as are not derived from God are worthless and vain. And to confirm this position, he declares in the last verse of the psalm, that as, on the one hand, we can do nothing without him, so, on the other, we can do all things by his help. Two things are implied in the expression, through God we shall do valiantly; 400400     Street supposes that this psalm was composed before the battle of Helam, which is recorded in 1 Chronicles 19:16, where David beat the Syrians of Mesopotamia and the Syrians of Zobah; and, farther, that this psalm might have been sung by the armies of Israel when they were marching out to that battle, triumphantly commemorating their former victories, and avowing their hopes of gaining another by the help of the Almighty. On this verse he observes: “it was a constant practice among the bravest nations of the Greeks, for the troops to advance to battle chanting some kind of song.” And, after quoting some lines which were sung by the Spartan soldiery, he adds, “The Grecian poet avails himself of the love of glory, and the ties of domestic affection, to animate his troops; but the Hebrew makes use of the more powerful stimulus of religious enthusiasm.” first, that if God withdraw his favor, any supposed strength which is in man will soon fail; and, on the other hand, that those whose sufficiency is derived from God only are armed with courage to overcome every difficulty. To show that it is no mere half credit which he gives God, he adds, in words which ascribe the whole work to him, that it is he who shall tread down our enemies Thus, even in our controversy with creatures like ourselves, we are not at liberty to share the honor of success with God; and must it not be accounted greater sacrilege still when men set free will in opposition to divine grace, and speak of their concurring equally with God in the matter of procuring eternal salvation? Those who arrogate the least fraction of strength to themselves apart from God, only ruin themselves through their own pride.


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