The Pulpit Commentary

Psalms 89:20 (Psalms 89:20)

I have found David my servant . With my holy oil have I anointed him (see 1 Samuel 16:13 )

- The Pulpit Commentary

Psalms 89:20 (Psalms 89:20)

David my servant.

The text reads on, "With my holy oil have I anointed him," and right down to Psalms 89:37 we have the repeated declarations of God's favour towards him. Now, this has seemed to many a choice most strange, and sorely needing vindication. The statement concerning David—that he was "a man after God's own heart" ( 1 Samuel 13:14 ; Acts 13:22 )—has perplexed not a few. And we unreservedly admit that—

I. GOD 'S CHOICE OF DAVID DOES APPEAR STRANGE . For what a category of crimes his career as recorded in the Scriptures declares! In cold blood he slays two hundred Philistines ( 1 Samuel 18:20-27 ). He leaves his wife Michal to face her father's rage, when she had risked her own life to save his ( 1 Samuel 19:11-17 ). He bids Jonathan lie to his father ( 1 Samuel 20:5 , 1 Samuel 20:6 ). He lies cruelly to Abimelech and the priests at Nob, and then left them to Saul's vengeance ( 1 Samuel 21:1 , 1 Samuel 21:2 ; 1 Samuel 22:9-19 ). He deceives Achish ( 1 Samuel 21:10-15 ). He would, in revenge, have slain Nabal and all his house ( 1 Samuel 25:2-38 ). He lies to King Achish, who had given him Ziklag, by pretending that he had fought against Judah; and, to conceal his lie, he cruelly slaughters the Geshurites and others ( 1 Samuel 27:1-12 .). He takes terrible revenge on Amalek ( 1 Samuel 30:1-17 ). Instead of punishing Joab, as he ought to have done, he utters terrible imprecations against him ( 2 Samuel 3:28 , 2 Samuel 3:29 ). He tortures the Ammonites ( 2 Samuel 12:27-31 ). He deals cruelly with Mephibosheth, stripping him of all his property, and giving it to Ziba ( 2 Samuel 16:1-4 ; 2 Samuel 19:24-30 ). He violates his oath to Saul, that he would not slay his children; nevertheless, he afterwards gave them up to the Gibeonites, who hanged them ( 1 Samuel 24:21 ; 2 Samuel 21:1-9 ). And then his great sin in the matter of Uriah—a sin in which no element of baseness, treachery, cruelty, and lust was wanting; and yet all the while he was a great psalm singer ( 2 Samuel 11:2-17 ). He piously exhorts Solomon to walk in the ways of the Lord; and yet he himself kept his harem crowded with ever more women ( 2 Samuel 5:13 ; 1 Kings 2:3 ). His terrible death bed charge to Solomon to slay Joab and Shimei. His imprecatory psalms (see Psalms 109:1-31 .). And we have no record of any great good deeds to set off against these other terrible ones. Yes; it must be admitted that the choice of David needs vindication. A loud professor of religion, and yet, etc.


1 . Because the expression so much complained of—David's being "a man offer God's own heart "— refers, not to his personal character, but to his official conduct. "He was called of God to restore the kingdom which Saul had destroyed, to subdue the Philistines, etc. These purposes he accomplished. So far he was a man after God's own heart. His moral delinquencies are recorded that we may know where the Divine approbation stops short" (F.D. Maurice). But we confess we do not lay much stress upon this. 1 Kings 15:1-5 does not bear it out. We prefer to vindicate the Divine choice of David in another manner.

2 . He was worthy when the words were spoken of him, and for a long while after. Had he been always what he afterwards became, such high commendation would not have been given. Then:

3 . He knew no better than to do as did all others. As to his life as an outlaw, a kind of Oriental Robin Hood, he was driven to it by the jealousy and hate of Saul; and as to his lies and stratagems, his ferocities and tortures, all such things were held lawful in his day; and, though they shock us as we read of them, they were held as altogether right by his contemporaries. We must distinguish between the vitia temporis and the vitia hominis (Farrar), and not condemn the man for not tieing altogether different from and beyond the public sentiment of his age.

4 . What he did know of right he mainly did. See his patriotism, his courage, his military ability, the salvation of his country from ruin. See his delight and his trust in God, and his deep penitence for his sin. And see the unbounded honour and love of his people which he won and kept. Is all this to go for nothing?

5 . And remember how he was punished for his sins. In his family. His sons had seen their father indulge himself: why shouldn't they? (Kingsley). And in his nature he was punished; Its bent and bias became horribly sensual. Indulgence increased the evil, and so came about the shameful tragedy of his adultery and Uriah's murder. It was not a sudden fall, he had long been tending that way. And in his character. He never really recovered. He shuffles shamefully to his grave; his courage, his self-control, his nobleness, well nigh all gone. One is reminded of King Lear—

Vex not his ghost; oh, let him pass;

He hates him,

That would upon the rack of this rough world

Stretch him out longer."

He dies a miserable and pitiful man, his last words being his charge to Solomon about Shimei: "His hoary head bring thou down to the grave with blood." Think of that as the last words of the David of the twenty-third psalm! What a melancholy failing away! There is no favouritism in God. If his children sin, they suffer, and that supremely. God loves them too much to let it be otherwise.


1 . Thankfulness that we are born in a more enlightened age; that there would be shame now where there was then no shame.

2 . Strong religious feeling and profession are no certain safeguards against sin, but only heighten its guilt.

3 . Repentance may be real, yet the results of sin not be recalled.

4 . We dare never remit even for one day the waiting of our soul upon God in watchfulness and prayer.

5 . The judgments of God against our sin are his mercy to our soul.

6 . He who forgave the contrite David forgives still.— S.C.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Psalms 89:1-52 (Psalms 89:1-52)

The general subject—

God's promise to David and his seed

but the present state of things is a bitter contrast to the promise, and a prayer that God would remove the contrast. Suggests—

I. THAT GOD HAS ENTERED INTO A GRAND COVENANT WITH MANKIND . Given us the greatest and most precious promises.

1 . Promises that relate to our highest nature. "I will be a Father to them, and ye shall be my sons and daughters."

2 . That relate to our greatest calamity. Redemption from sin and pardon to the penitent.

3 . That relate to our endless being. The completeness and glory of the Divine work begun in us here.


1 . Because the covenant was made out of his love, voluntarily.

2 . Because God is true and faithful, and cannot deceive.

3 . Because God has the power and ability to do all that he promises. Not like men.


1 . We transgress, and bring upon ourselves punishment. The consequences which God has attached to transgression.

2 . Our unrepented sins take from us the power to receive the Divine promises. "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God."


1 . He has sent Christ as the proof of this to a sinful world.

2 . He sends his Spirit into the heart to plead with us.

3 . He is infinitely patient, waiting for our penitent return.— S.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Psalms 89:1-52 (Psalms 89:1-52)

Psalms 89:52 is no part of the psalm, but the doxology which concludes the Book.

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Psalms 89:5-37 (Psalms 89:5-37)

The psalmist carries out the intention proclaimed in Psalms 89:1 , and proceeds to "sing of the mercies of the Lord" at great length. His song of praise divides into two portions. From Psalms 89:5 to Psalms 89:18 it is a general laudation of the Almighty for his greatness in heaven ( Psalms 89:5-7 ), in nature ( Psalms 89:9 , Psalms 89:11 , Psalms 89:12 ), and in the course of his rule on earth ( Psalms 89:10 , Psalms 89:13-18 ), after which it passes into a laudation of him in respect of what he had done, and what he had promised, to David ( Psalms 89:19-37 ).

- The Pulpit Commentary