Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This psalm is entitled "A Psalm of David;" and there is no reason for doubting the correctness of the inscription. But, as in some of the previous psalms, neither the title nor the contents contain any intimation as to the time or the circumstances of its composition.
It has, in some respects, a strong resemblance to Psa 26:1-12. The leading idea in this, as in that, is the strong affection of the author for those who revered and loved God; his strong desire to be associated with them in character and destiny; his earnest wish that he might not be drawn away from them, and that his lot might not be with the wicked. It would seem from the psalm itself, especially from Psa 28:3, that it was composed when its author was under some powerful temptation from the wicked, or when there were strong allurements offered by them which tended to lead him into the society of those who were strangers to God; and, under this temptation, he urges this earnest prayer, and seeks to bring before his own mind considerations why he should not yield to these influences.
The contents of the psalm, therefore, may be presented in the following analysis:
I. The consciousness of danger so pressing upon him as to lead him to break out in an earnest cry to God, Psa 28:1-2.
II. The source of his anxiety or his danger; and his earnest prayer that he might not be left to the powerful temptation, and be drawn into the society of the wicked, Psa 28:3.
III. Considerations which occurred to the mind of the psalmist himself why he should not yield to the temptation, or why he should not be associated with the wicked. These considerations are stated in Psa 28:3-5. They are drawn from the character and the certain destiny of the wicked.
IV. A sense of relief, or a feeling that God had answered his prayer, and that he was safe from the danger, Psa 28:6-7.
The psalm is especially appropriate to those who are in danger of being led away by the acts of the ungodly - or who are under strong temptations to be associated with the frivolous, the sensual, and the worldly - or to whom strong inducements are offered to mingle in their pleasures, their vices, and their follies. They who before their conversion were the companions of the ungodly; they who were devoted to guilty pleasures but have been rescued from them; they who have contracted habits of intemperance or sensuality in the society of the dissolute, and who feel the power of the habit returning upon them, and are invited by their former associates to join them again - are in the condition contemplated in the psalm, and will find its sentiments appropriate to their experience.
Unto thee will I cry - That is, under the consciousness of the danger to which I am exposed - the danger of being drawn away into the society of the wicked. In such circumstances his reliance was not on his own strength; or on his own resolutions; on his own heart; or on his fellowmen. He felt that he was safe only in God, and he appeals to Him, therefore, in this earnest manner, to save him.
O Lord my rock - See the notes at Psa 18:2.
Be not silent to me - Margin, "from me." So the Hebrew. The idea is that of one who will not speak to us, or who will not attend to us. We pray, and we look for an "answer" to our prayers, or, as it were, we expect God to "speak" to us; to utter words of kindness; to assure us of His favor; to declare our sins forgiven.
Lest, if thou be silent to me - If thou dost not answer my supplications.
I become like unto them that go down into the pit - Like those who die; or, lest I be crushed by anxiety and distress, and die. The word "pit" here refers to the grave. So it is used in Psa 30:3; Psa 88:4; Isa 38:18; Isa 14:15, Isa 14:19. The meaning is, that if he did not obtain help from God he despaired of life. His troubles would overwhelm and crush him. He could not bear up under them.
Hear the voice of my supplications - It was not mental prayer which he offered; it was a petition uttered audibly.
When I lift up my hands - To lift up the hands denotes supplication, as this was a common attitude in prayer. See the notes at Ti1 2:8.
Toward thy holy oracle - Margin, as in Hebrew, "toward the oracle of thy holiness." The word "oracle" as used here denotes the place where the answer to prayer is given. The Hebrew word - דביר debı̂yr - means properly the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle or the temple, the place where God was supposed to reside, and where He gave responses to the prayers of His people: the same place which is elsewhere called the holy of holies. See the notes at Heb 9:3-14. The Hebrew word is found only here and in Kg1 6:5, Kg1 6:16, Kg1 6:19-23, Kg1 6:31; Kg1 7:49; Kg1 8:6, Kg1 8:8; Ch2 3:16; Ch2 4:20; Ch2 5:7, Ch2 5:9. The idea here is that he who prayed stretched out his hands toward that sacred place where God was supposed to dwell. So we stretch out our hands toward heaven - the sacred dwelling-place of God. Compare the notes at Psa 5:7. The Hebrew word is probably derived from the verb to "speak;" and, according to this derivation, the idea is that God spoke to His people; that he "communed" with them; that He answered their prayers from that sacred recess - His special dwelling-place. See Exo 25:22; Num 7:89.
Draw me not away with the wicked - See the notes at Psa 26:9. The prayer here, as well as the prayer in Psa 26:9, expresses a strong desire not to be united with wicked people in feeling or in destiny - in life or in death - on earth or in the future world. The reason of the prayer seems to have been that the psalmist, being at this time under a strong temptation to associate with wicked persons, and feeling the force of the temptation, was apprehensive that he should be left to "yield" to it, and to become associated with them. Deeply conscious of this danger, he earnestly prays that he may not be left to yield to the power of the temptation, and fall into sin. So the Saviour Mat 6:13 has taught us to pray, "And lead us not into temptation." None who desire to serve God can be insensible to the propriety of this prayer. The temptations of the world are so strong; the amusements in which the world indulges are so brilliant and fascinating; they who invite us to partake of their pleasures are often so elevated in their social position, so refined in their manners, and so cultivated by education; the propensities of our hearts for such indulgences are so strong by nature; habits formed before our conversion are still so powerful; and the prospect of worldly advantages from compliance with the customs of those around us are often so great - that we cannot but feel that it is proper for us to go to the throne of grace, and to plead earnestly with God that he will keep us and not suffer us to fall into the snare.
Especially is this true of those who before they were converted had indulged in habits of intemperance, or in sensual pleasures of any kind, and who are invited by their old companions in sin again to unite with them in their pursuits. Here all the power of the former habit returns; here often there is a most fierce struggle between conscience and the old habit for victory; here especially those who are thus tempted need the grace of God to keep them; here there is special appropriateness in the prayer, "Draw me not away with the wicked."
And with the workers of iniquity - In any form. With those who do evil.
Which speak peace to their neighbours - Who speak words of friendliness. Who "seem" to be persuading you to do that which is for your good. Who put on plausible pretexts. They appear to be your friends; they profess to be so. They use flattering words while they tempt you to go astray.
But mischief is in their hearts - They are secretly plotting your ruin. They wish to lead you into such courses of life in order that you may fall into sin; that you may dishonor religion; that you may disgrace your profession; or that they may in some way profit by your compliance with their counsels. So the wicked, under plausible pretences, would allure the good; so the corrupt would seduce the innocent; so the enemies of God would entice his friends, that they may bring shame and reproach upon the cause of religion.
Give them according to their deeds - Deal righteously with them. Recompense them as they deserve.
And according to the wickedness of their endeavours - Their designs; their works; their plans.
Give them after the work of their hands - Reward them according to what they do.
Render to them their desert - A just recompense. This whole verse is a prayer that God would deal "justly" with them. There is no evidence that there is anything of vindictiveness or malice in the prayer. In itself considered, there is no impropriety in praying that "justice" may be done to the violators of law. See the general introduction, section 6.
Because they regard not the works of the Lord - What the Lord does in creation; in his providence; through His commands and laws; and by His Spirit. They do not find pleasure in His works; they do not give heed to the intimations of His will in His providential dealings; they do not listen to His commands; they do not yield to the influences of His Spirit. "Nor the operation of his hands." What He is now doing. The sense is essentially the same as in the former member of the sentence.
He shall destroy them - He will pull them down, instead of building them up. They expose themselves to His displeasure, and He will bring deserved punishment upon them.
And not build them up - He will not favor them; He will not give them prosperity. Health, happiness, salvation are to be found only in conformity with the laws which God has ordained. Neither can be found in violating those laws, or in any other method than that which He has ordained. Sooner or later the violation of law, in regard to these things, and in regard to everything, must lead to calamity and ruin.
Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications - This is one of those passages which frequently occur in the Psalms, when there has been an earnest and anxious prayer offered to God, and when the answer to the prayer seems to be immediate. The mind of the anxious and troubled pleader becomes calm; the promises of God are brought directly to the soul; the peace which was sought is obtained; and he who began the psalm with deep anxiety and trouble of mind, rejoices at the close of it in the evidences of the divine favor and love. What thus happened to the psalmist frequently occurs now. The answer to prayer, so far as giving calmness and assurance to the mind is concerned, is often immediate. The troubled spirit becomes calm; and whatever may be the result in other respects, the heart is made peaceful and confiding, and feels the assurance that all will be well. It is sufficient for us to feel that God hears us, for if this is so, we have the assurance that all is right. In this sense, certainly, it is right to look for an immediate answer to our prayers. See Isa 65:24, note; Dan 9:21, note.
The Lord is my strength - See the notes at Psa 18:1.
And my shield - See the notes at Psa 3:3. Compare Psa 33:20; Psa 59:11; Psa 84:9; Psa 89:18; Gen 15:1.
My heart trusted in him - I trusted or confided in him. See Psa 13:5.
And I am helped - I have found the assistance which I desired.
Therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth - I greatly rejoice. I am happy. He had found the assurance of the divine favor which he desired, and his heart was glad.
And with my song will I praise him - I will sing praises to Him. Compare Psa 22:25.
The Lord is their strength - Margin, "his strength." The Hebrew is, "their strength," or "strength to them." The allusion is to the people of God. The course of thought seems to be, that the psalmist, having derived in his own case assistance from God, or having found God a strength to him, his mind turns from this fact to the general idea that God was the strength of "all" who were in similar circumstancaes; or that all His people might confide in Him as he had done.
And he is the saving strength - Margin, as in Hebrew, "strength of salvations." That is, In Him is found the strength which produces salvation. See the notes at Psa 27:1.
Of his anointed - See Psa 2:2, note; Psa 20:6, note. The primary reference here is doubtless to the psalmist himself, as one who had been annointed or set apaart to the kingly office; but the connection shows that he intended to include all the people of God, as those whom He had consecrated or set apart to His service. See Pe1 2:5, Pe1 2:9.
Save thy people - All thy people. The psalm appropriately closes with a prayer for all the people of God. The prayer is offered in view of the deliverance which the psalmist had himself experienced, and he prays that all the people of God might experience similar deliverance and mercy.
And bless thine inheritance - Thy heritage; Thy people. The Hebrew word properly means "taking possession of anything; occupation." Then it comes to mean "possession; domain; estate:" Num, Psa 18:21. Thus it is used as applied to the territory assigned to each tribe in the promised land: Jos 13:23. Thus also it is applied to the people of Israel - the Jewish nation - as the "possession" or "property" of Yahweh; as a people whom he regarded as His own, and whom, as such, He protected: Deu 4:20; Deu 9:26, Deu 9:29. In this place the people of God are thus spoken of as His special possession or property on earth; as that which He regards as of most value to Him; as that which belongs to Him, or to which He has a claim; as that which cannot without injustice to Him be alienated from Him.
Feed them also - Margin, "rule." The Hebrew word refers to the care which a shepherd extends over his flock. See Psa 23:1, where the same word, under another form - "shepherd" - is used. The prayer is, that God would take the same care of His people that a shepherd takes of his flock.
And lift them up for ever - The word used here may mean "sustain" them, or "support" them; but it more properly means "bear," and would be best expressed by a reference to the fact that the shepherd carries the feeble, the young, and the sickly of his flock in his arms, or that he lifts them up when unable themselves to rise. See Isa 40:11, note; Isa 63:9, note. The word "forever" here means simply "always" - in all circumstances; at all times. In other words, the psalmist prays that God would "always" manifest Himself as the Friend and Helper of His people, as He had done to him. It may be added here, that what the psalmist thus prays for God's "will" to be done. God "will" save His people; He will bless His heritage; He will be to them a kind and faithful shepherd; He will sustain, comfort, uphold, and cherish them always - in affliction; in temptation; in death, forever. They have only to trust in Him, and they will find Him to be more kind and faithful than the most tender shepherd ever was to his flock.