We are not told who penned this psalm or upon what occasion it was penned. It is a melancholy psalm which can be attributed to David and his afflictions and yet to the church of God in general. The Spirit of prophecy here had in view the captivity of Babylon or the sufferings of the Jewish church under Antiochus. However, it can also be applied to the afflicted state of the Christian church in its early days. Come to our help is the prayer of the psalmist.
We have gospel-psalms pointing at the privileges and comforts of Christians, this one points at their trials. This Psalm teaches us that we ought to give God the praise for what He has formerly done for His people. He sympathises with those who are in distress and engages us to cleave to Him and our duty, and cheerfully wait it out.
You are my King
On My arm shall they trust In seasons of severe trial, the Christian has nothing On earth that he can trust to. Compelled to cast himself on his God alone What else ought he to do? When his vessel is on its beam-ends, And no human deliverance can avail He must simply and entirely put himself in God’s care Trusting in His providence, the hands that will never fail. Happy storm that wrecks a man On such a rock as this! O Blessed assurance that drives a soul to God and Him alone. Eternal bliss. There is no getting to our God sometimes Because of the multitude of our friends But when a man is so poor, so friendless, so helpless When everything offends When he has nowhere else to turn Into his Father’s arms he flies And is blessedly clasped therein Where all strength lies. When he is burdened with troubles So pressing and so peculiar that he Cannot tell to any but his God Thankful for them he may be For he will learn more of his Lord Than at any other time. Oh, tempest-tossed believer, it is a happy trouble That drives you to the Father’s love sublime. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Psalm 44:1-12 – O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds You performed in their days, in the days of old. You with Your own hand drove out the nations, but them You planted. You afflicted the peoples, but them You set free. Not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but Your right hand and Your arm, and the light of Your face, for You delighted in them. You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob! Through You we push down our foes; through Your name we tread down those who rise up against us. For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But You have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us.
In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to Your name forever. Selah But You have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies. You have made us turn back from the foe, and those who hate us have gotten spoil. You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations and sold Your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them.
Henry says – Most of the psalms are entitled psalms of instruction or sorrowful psalms. For afflictions give instructions, and sorrow of spirit opens the ear to wisdom. Blessed is the man whom You chasten and teach.
God will be merciful to them
In these verses the church, though now trampled upon, calls to remembrance the days of her triumph in God and over her enemies. This is very grievous in its present distress. The yoke of servitude lies very heavily on the necks of those who used to wear the crown of victory. Also the tokens of God’s displeasure are most grievous to those who have been long accustomed to the tokens of His favour. Yet it is also an encouragement in the hope that God will be merciful to them. The Psalmist mixes prayers and comforting expectations with his record of former mercies.
He commemorates the great things God had formerly done for them. (Ps. 44:1): Our fathers have told us what work You did in their days. The many operations of providence are here spoken of as one work—“They have told us the work which You did”. There is a wonderful harmony and uniformity in all that God does, and the many wheels make but one wheel (Ezek. 10:13), many works make but one work.
It is a debt which we owe to keep an account of God’s works of wonder, and to tell of them to the next generation. Those who went before us told us what God did in their days, we are bound to tell those who come after us what He has done in our days. Thus shall one generation praise His works to another (Ps. 145:4), the fathers to the children shall make known His truth, Isa. 38:19.
All our successes come from Him
We must not only make mention of the work God has done in our own days, but must also acquaint ourselves and our children with what He did in times of old. Former experiences of God’s power and goodness are strong supports to faith and powerful pleas in prayer under present calamities. See how Gideon insists upon it (Jdg. 6:13): Where are all His miracles which our fathers told us of?
Their fathers had told them how wonderfully God had planted Israel in Canaan at the beginning, Ps. 44:2,3. He drove out the natives, to make room for Israel. The many complete victories which Israel obtained over the Canaanites were only owing to God’s favour and free grace. It was through the light of Your countenance, because You had favour toward them. Not according to their righteousness but because God would perform the oath which He swore to their fathers, Deut. 7:8. The less praise we attribute to ourselves the more comfort it affords us, that we may see all our successes come to us from the favour of God and the light of His countenance.
It was purely from God’s power engaged for them. It was not by their own sword that they got possession of the land, but it was God’s right hand and His arm. He fought for Israel, else they would have fought in vain. It was through Him that they did valiantly and victoriously. It was God who planted Israel in that good land, as the careful husbandman plants a tree, from which he promises himself fruit. See Ps. 80:8.
Little by Little
This is applicable to the planting of the Christian church in the world, by the preaching of the gospel. Paganism was wonderfully driven out, as the Canaanites, not all at once, but by little and little, not by any human policy or power, but by the wisdom and power of God. (for God chose to do it by the weak and foolish things of the world).
Christ by His Spirit went forth conquering and to conquer and the remembrance of that is a great support and comfort to those who groan under the yoke of antichristian tyranny. He who by His power and goodness planted a church for Himself in the world will certainly support it by the same power and goodness. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
How frequently God had given them success against their enemies who attempted to disturb them in the possession of that good land (Ps. 44:7): You have, many a time, saved us from our enemies. He has put to shame, those who hated us. Many a time have the persecutors of the Christian church, and those who hate it, been put to shame by the power of truth, Acts 6:10.
They had taken God for their sovereign Lord, had sworn allegiance to Him, and put themselves under His protection (Ps. 44:4): You are my King, O God! He speaks in the name of the church, as (Ps. 74:12), You are my King of old. God, as a King, has made laws for His church, provided for the peace and good order of it, judged for it, pleaded its cause, fought its battles, and protected it. It is His kingdom in the world, and ought to be subject to Him, and to pay Him tribute.
Speak the Word only
The psalmist speaks for himself here: “Lord, You are my King; where shall I go with my petitions, but to You? The favour I ask is not for myself, but for Your church.” It is everyone’s duty to improve his personal interest at the throne of grace for the welfare of everyone and the prosperity of the people of God. Just as Moses said, “If I have found grace in Your sight, guide Your people,” Exod. 33:13.
God’s people had always applied to Him for deliverance when at any time they were in distress: Command deliverances for Jacob. They pray for as many deliverances as they need. They do not say, Work deliverances, but Command them, which denotes God’s ability to do it easily and instantly—Speak and it is done (such was the faith of the centurion, Matt. 8:8; Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed). Where the word of a king is there is power and so much more the Word of the King of kings.
God’s people had trusted and triumphed in Him. They declared that it was not their own sword and bow that had saved them (Ps. 44:3), and so they did not trust in their own sword or bow to save them in the future (Ps. 44:6): “I will not trust in my bow, nor in any of my military preparations, as if those would stand me in good stead without God. No through You will we push down our enemies (Ps. 44:5).
Your wisdom directs us
We will attempt it in Your strength, relying only upon that, and not upon the number or valour of our forces. Having You on our side, we will not be in doubt of success. Through Your name (by virtue of Your wisdom directing us, Your power strengthening us and working for us, and Your promise securing success to us) we shall, we will, tread them under who rise up against us.”
They had made Him their joy and praise (Ps. 44:8): “In God we have boasted; in Him we do and will boast, everyday, and all day long.” When their enemies boasted of their strength and successes they owned they had nothing to boast of except in their relation to God and their interest in Him. If He were for them, they could set all the world at defiance. Let him who glories, glory in the Lord, and let all other boastings be forever excluded. Those who trust in Him make their boast in Him, for they know whom they have trusted. Let them boast in Him all the day long, for it is a subject that can never be exhausted. But let them praise His name forever. If they have the comfort of His name, let them give unto Him the glory due to it.
The people of God here complain of the afflicted condition that they were now in. They were now trampled under from the prevailing power of their enemies. They had been used to winning the day and gaining the upper hand. Their distress felt all the more shameful as they had boasted in their God with great assurance that He would still protect and prosper them.
They kept their eye on God
They wanted the usual tokens of God’s favour to them and presence with them (Ps. 44:9): “You have cast off, You have seemed to have cast us off and so has put us to shame. Our armies go forth as usual, but we gain no ground. When God’s people are cast down, they are tempted to think that they have been forsaken by God, but it is a mistake. Has God cast away His people? God forbid, Rom. 11:1.
(Ps. 44:10): You make us turn back from the enemy, as Joshua complained at Ai (Josh. 7:8): Those who hate us have the plunder of our camp and of our country. They take the spoil for themselves, and reckon that all belongs to them that they can lay their hands on.” They were doomed to the sword and to captivity (Ps. 44:11): “You have given us like sheep appointed for meat. They looked upon themselves as bought and sold, and charged it to God, You sell Your people, when they should have charged it upon their own sin. For your iniquities have you sold yourselves, Isa. 50:1.
However, they looked above their troubles and kept their eye upon God. They knew that their worst enemies had no power against them but only what was given them from above. God who delivered them into the hand of the ungodly, as that which is sold is delivered to the buyer.
This could’ve been endured if they had been sure that it would redound to the glory of God and that His interest might be some way served by their sufferings. But it was to the contrary. Israel’s disgrace turned to God’s dishonour, so that it seemed as though He was greatly a loser by it; see Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:20. To be continued…
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Prayer for the Day
Father, I come to You. Blessed is the man whom You chasten and teach. Thank You Father for every time You have disciplined me. May that discipline never end this side of heaven. Thank You that I have reason to hope in Your mercies. For they have never failed me.
You have done great things for me. May I keep an account of Your wonders and tell them to the next generation. Former experiences of Your power and goodness support my faith and provide me with powerful pleas in prayer under all my present calamities. Yet any victories there have been are only owing to Your favour and free grace. It has not been according to any righteousness of my own. May I never attribute praise to myself but only see that all my successes come to me from Your favour and the light of Your countenance.
For You have chosen the weak and foolish things of the world to shame to wise. Christ has gone forth conquering and to conquer and the remembrance of that is a great support and comfort to us who groan under the yoke of antichristian tyranny. You planted a church for Yourself by Your power and goodness, and so You will certainly support it by that same power and goodness. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
I declare that I have taken You for my sovereign Lord, and have sworn allegiance to You, and put myself under Your protection. You, as a King, have made laws for Your church, provided for the peace of it, judged for it, pleaded its cause, fought its battles, and protected it. It is Your Kingdom in the world, and we subject ourselves to You to pay You tribute.
May I always apply myself to You
Where can I go with my petitions, but to You? The favour I ask is not for myself, but for Your church. Cause me to strengthen my personal interest in Your throne of grace for the welfare of everyone and the prosperity of Your people.
May I always apply myself to You for deliverance when at any time I am in distress. For I know You only need to speak the word and it is done. For where the word of a king is there is power and so much more the Word of the King of kings.
Through You I will push down my enemies, only in Your strength, relying only upon You and nothing of myself. Having You on my side, I can not be in doubt of success. Through Your name, Your wisdom directing me, Your power strengthening me and Your promise securing success to me I shall tread them under.
I have nothing to boast of except in my relation to You. Let all other boastings be forever excluded. I shall boast in You in whom I have trusted. I will praise Your name forever. For I have the comfort of Your name and so will give unto You the glory due to it. Whenever I feel cast down may I never be tempted to think that I have been forsaken by You for I truly know that You can never forsake Your own. May I always look above my troubles and kept my eyes on You. My worst enemies have no power but only what is given them from above. It is You who delivers me from the hand of the ungodly, In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.