Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary

Verses 19-37 (Psalms 89:19-37)

The covenant God made with David and his seed was mentioned before (Ps. 89:3, 4); but in these verses it is enlarged upon, and pleaded with God, for favour to the royal family, now almost sunk and ruined; yet certainly it looks at Christ, and has its accomplishment in him much more than in David; nay, some passages here are scarcely applicable at all to David, but must be understood of Christ only (who is therefore called David our king, Hos. 3:5), and very great and precious promises they are which are here made to the Redeemer, which are strong foundations for the faith and hope of the redeemed to build upon. The comforts of our redemption flow from the covenant of redemption; all our springs are in that, Isa. 55:3. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David, Acts 13:34. Now here we have an account of those sure mercies. Observe,

I. What assurance we have of the truth of the promise, which may encourage us to build upon it. We are here told, 1. How it was spoken (Ps. 89:19): Thou didst speak in vision to thy Holy One. God?s promise to David, which is especially referred to here, was spoken in vision to Nathan the prophet, 2 Sam. 7:12-17. Then, when the Holy One of Israel was their king (Ps. 89:18), he appointed David to be his viceroy. But to all the prophets, those holy ones, he spoke in vision concerning Christ, and to him himself especially, who had lain in his bosom from eternity, and was made perfectly acquainted with the whole design of redemption, Matt. 11:27. 2. How it was sworn to and ratified (Ps. 89:35): Once have I sworn by my holiness, that darling attribute. In swearing by his holiness, he swore by himself; for he will as soon cease to be as be otherwise than holy. His swearing once is enough; he needs not swear again, as David did (1 Sam. 20:17); for his word and oath are two immutable things. As Christ was made a priest, so he was made a king, by an oath (Heb. 7:21); for his kingdom and priesthood are both unchangeable.

II. The choice made of the person to whom the promise is given, Ps. 89:19, 20. David was a king of God?s own choosing, so is Christ, and therefore both are called God?s kings, 2:6. David was mighty, a man of courage and fit for business; he was chosen out of the people, not out of the princes, but the shepherds. God found him out, exalted him, laid help upon him, and ordered Samuel to anoint him. But this is especially to be applied to Christ. 1. He is one that is mighty, every way qualified for the great work he was to undertake, able to save to the uttermost?mighty in strength, for he is the Son of God?mighty in love, for he is able experimentally to compassionate those that are tempted. He is the mighty God, Isa. 9:6. 2. He is chosen out of the people, one of us, bone of our bone, that takes part with us of flesh and blood. Being ordained for men, he is taken from among men, that his terror might not make us afraid. 3. God has found him. He is a Saviour of God?s own providing; for the salvation, from first to last, is purely the Lord?s doing. He has found the ransom, Job 33:24. We could never have found a person fit to undertake this great work, Rev. 5:3, 4. 4. God has laid help upon him, not only helped him, but treasured up help in him for us, laid it as a charge upon him to help fallen man up again, to help the chosen remnant to heaven. In me is thy help, Hos. 13:9. 5. He has exalted him, by constituting him the prophet, priest, and king of his church, clothing him with power, raising him from the dead, and setting him at his own right hand. Whom God chooses and uses he will exalt. 6. He has anointed him, has qualified him for his office, and so confirmed him in it, by giving him the Spirit, not by measure, but without measure, infinitely above his fellows. He is called Messiah, or Christ, the Anointed. 7. In all this he designed him to be his own servant, for the accomplishing of his eternal purpose and the advancement of the interests of his kingdom among men.

III. The promises made to this chosen one, to David in the type and the Son of David in the antitype, in which not only gracious, but glorious things are spoken of him.

1. With reference to himself, as king and God?s servant: and what makes for him makes for all his loving subjects. It is here promised, (1.) That God would stand by him and strengthen him in his undertaking (Ps. 89:21): With him my hand not only shall be, but shall be established, by promise, shall be so established that he shall by it be established and confirmed in all his offices, so that none of them shall be undermined and overthrown, though by the man of sin they shall all be usurped and fought against. Christ had a great deal of hard work to do and hard usage to go through; but he that gave him commission gave him forces sufficient for the execution of his commission: ?My arm also shall strengthen him to break through and bear up under all his difficulties.? No good work can miscarry in the hand of those whom God himself undertakes to strengthen. (2.) That he should be victorious over his enemies, that they should not encroach upon him (Ps. 89:22): The son of wickedness shall not exact upon him, nor afflict him. He that at first broke the peace would set himself against him that undertook to make peace, and do what he could to blast his design: but he could only reach to bruise his heel; further he could not exact upon him nor afflict him. Christ became a surety for our debt, and thereby Satan and death thought to gain advantage against him; but he satisfied the demands of God?s justice, and then they could not exact upon him. The prince of this world cometh, but he has nothing in me, John 14:30. Nay, they not only shall not prevail against him, but they shall fall before him (Ps. 89:23): I will bend down his foes before his face; the prince of this world shall be cast out, principalities and powers spoiled, and he shall be the death of death itself, and the destruction of the grave, Hos. 13:14. Some apply this to the ruin which God brought upon the Jewish nation, that persecuted Christ and put him to death. But all Christ?s enemies, who hate him and will not have him to reign over them, shall be brought forth and slain before him, Luke 19:27. (3.) That he should be the great trustee of the covenant between God and men, that God would be gracious and true to us (Ps. 89:24): My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him. They were with David; God continued merciful to him, and so approved himself faithful. They were with Christ; God made good all his promises to him. But that is not all; God?s mercy to us, and his faithfulness to us, are with Christ; he is not only pleased with him, but with us in him; and it is in him that all the promises of God are yea and amen. So that if any poor sinners hope for benefit by the faithfulness and mercy of God, let them know it is with Christ; it is lodged in his hand, and to him they must apply for it (Ps. 89:28): My mercy will I keep for him, to be disposed of by him, for evermore; in the channel of Christ?s mediation all the streams of divine goodness will for ever run. Therefore it is the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which we look for unto eternal life, Jude 1:21; John 17:2. And, as the mercy of God flows to us through him, so the promise of God is, through him, firm to us: My covenant shall stand fast with him, both the covenant of redemption made with him and the covenant of grace made with us in him. The new covenant is therefore always new, and firmly established, because it is lodged in the hands of a Mediator, Heb. 8:6. The covenant stands fast, because it stands upon this basis. And this redounds to the everlasting honour of the Lord Jesus, that to him the great cause between God and man is entirely referred and the Father has committed all judgment to him, that all men might honour him (John 5:22, 23); therefore it is here said, In my name shall his horn be exalted; this shall be his glory, that God?s name is in him (Exod. 23:21), and that he acts in God?s name. As the Father gave me commandment, so I do. (4.) That his kingdom should be greatly enlarged (Ps. 89:25): I will set his hand in the sea (he shall have the dominion of the seas, and the isles of the sea), and his right hand in the rivers, the inland countries that are watered with rivers. David?s kingdom extended itself to the Great Sea, and the Red Sea, to the river of Egypt and the river Euphrates. But it is in the kingdom of the Messiah that this has its full accomplishment, and shall have more and more, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ (Rev. 11:15), and the isles shall wait for his law. (5.) That he should own God as his Father, and God would own him as his Son, his firstborn, Ps. 89:26, 27. This is a comment upon these words in Nathan?s message concerning Solomon (for he also was a type of Christ as well as David), I will be his Father and he shall be my Son (2 Sam. 7:14), and the relation shall be owned on both sides. [1.] He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father. It is probable that Solomon did so; but we are sure Christ did so, in the days of his flesh, when he offered up strong cries to God, and called him holy Father, righteous Father, and taught us to address ourselves to him as our Father in heaven. Christ, in his agony, cried unto God, Thou art my Father (Matt. 26:39, 42, O my Father), and, upon the cross, Father, forgive them; Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. He looked upon him likewise as his God, and therefore he perfectly obeyed him, and submitted to his will in his whole undertaking (he ismy God and your God, John 20:17), and as the rock of his salvation, who would bear him up and bear him out in his undertaking, and make him more than a conqueror, even a complete Saviour; and therefore with an undaunted resolution he endured the cross, despising the shame, for he knew he should be both justified and glorified. [2.] I will make him my firstborn. I see not how this can be applied to David; it is Christ?s prerogative to be the firstborn of every creature, and, as such, the heir of all things, Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:2, 6. When all power was given to Christ both in heaven and in earth, and all things were delivered unto him by the Father, then god made him his firstborn, and far higher, more great and honourable, than the kings of the earth; for he is the King of kings, angels, authorities, and powers, being made subject to him, 1 Pet. 3:22.

2. With reference to his seed. God?s covenants always took in the seed of the covenanters; this does so (Ps. 89:29, 36): His seed shall endure for ever, and with it his throne. Now this will be differently understood according as we apply it to Christ or David.

(1.) If we apply it to David, by his seed we are to understand his successors, Solomon and the following kings of Judah, who descended from the loins of David. It is supposed that they might degenerate, and not walk in the spirit and steps of their father David; in such a case they must expect to come under divine rebukes, such as the house of David was at this time under, Ps. 89:38. But let this encourage them, that, though they were corrected, they should not be abandoned or disinherited. This refers to that part of Nathan?s message (2 Sam. 7:14, 15), If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him, but my mercy shall not depart from him. Thus far David?s seed and throne did endure for ever, that, notwithstanding the wickedness of many of his posterity, who were the scandals of his house, yet his family continued, and continued in the imperial dignity, a very long time,?that, as long as Judah continued a kingdom, David?s posterity were kings of it, and the royalty of that kingdom was never in any other family, as that of the ten tribes was, in Jeroboam?s first, then in Baasha?s, etc.,?and that the family of David continued a family of distinction till that Son of David came whose throne should endure for ever; see Luke 1:27, 32; 2:4, 11. If David?s posterity, in after-times, should forsake God and their duty and revolt to the ways of sin, God would bring desolating judgments upon them and ruin the family; and yet he would not take away his lovingkindness from David, nor break his covenant with him; for, in the Messiah, who should come out of his loins, all these promises shall have their accomplishment to the full. Thus, when the Jews were rejected, the apostle shows that God?s covenant with Abraham was not broken, because it was fulfilled in his spiritual seed, the heirs of the righteousness of faith, Rom. 11:7.

(2.) If we apply it to Christ, by his seed we are to understand his subjects, all believers, his spiritual seed, the children which God has given him, Heb. 2:13. This is that seed which shall be made to endure for ever, and his throne in the midst of them, in the church in the heart, as the days of heaven. To the end Christ shall have a people in the world to serve and honour him. He shall see his seed; he shall prolong his days. This holy seed shall endure for ever in a glorified state, when time and days shall be no more; and thus Christ?s throne and kingdom shall be perpetuated: the kingdom of his grace shall continue through all the ages of time and the kingdom of his glory to the endless ages of eternity.

[1.] The continuance of Christ?s kingdom is here made doubtful by the sins and afflictions of his subjects; their iniquities and calamities threaten the ruin of it. This case is here put, that we may not be offended when it comes to be a case in fact, but that we may reconcile it with the stability of the covenant and be assured of that notwithstanding. First, It is here supposed that there will be much amiss in the subjects of Christ?s kingdom. His children may forsake God?s law (Ps. 89:30) by omissions, and break his statutes (Ps. 89:31) by commissions. There are spots which are the spots of God?s children, Deut. 32:5. Many corruptions there are in the bowels of the church, as well as in the hearts of those who are the members of it, and these corruptions break out. Secondly, They are here told that they must smart for it (Ps. 89:32): I will visit their transgression with a rod, their transgression sooner than that of others. You only have I known, and therefore I will punish you, Amos 3:2. Their being related to Christ shall not excuse them from being called to an account. But observe what affliction is to God?s people. 1. It is but a rod, not an axe, not a sword; it is for correction, not for destruction. This denotes gentleness in the affliction; it is the rod of men, such a rod as men use in correcting their children; and it denotes a design of good in and by the affliction, such a rod as yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. 2. It is a rod on the hand of God (I will visit them), he who is wise, and knows what he does, gracious, and will do what is best. 3. It is a rod which they shall never feel the smart of but when there is great need: If they break my law, then I will visit their transgression with the rod, but not else. Then it is requisite that God?s honour be vindicated, and that they be humbled and reduced.

[2.] The continuance of Christ?s kingdom is made certain by the inviolable promise and oath of God, notwithstanding all this (Ps. 89:33): Nevertheless, my kindness will I not totally and finally take from him. First, ?Notwithstanding their provocations, yet my covenant shall not be broken.? Note, Afflictions are not only consistent with covenant-love, but to the people of God they flow from it. Though David?s seed be chastened, it does not follow that they are disinherited; they may be cast down, but they are not cast off. God?s favour is continued to his people, 1. For Christ?s sake; in him the mercy is laid up for us, and God says, I will not take it from him (Ps. 89:33), I will not lie unto David, 89:35. We are unworthy, but he is worthy. 2. For the covenant?s sake: My faithfulness shall not fail, my covenant will I not break. It was supposed that they had broken God?s statutes, profaned and polluted them (so the word signifies); ?But,? says God, ?I will not break, I will not profane and pollute, my covenant;? it is the same word. That which is said and sworn is that God will have a church in the world as long as sun and moon endure, Ps. 89:36, 37. The sun and moon are faithful witnesses in heaven of the wisdom, power, and goodness of the Creator, and shall continue while time lasts, which they are the measurers of; but the seed of Christ shall be established for ever, as lights of the world while the world stands, to shine in it, and, when it is at an end, they shall be established lights shining in the firmament of the Father.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary