There is something like excitement in the style of this Psalm. We do not find it in the calm, deep cries of one in anguish but rather, the earnest, almost indignant, appeals of one whose righteous soul is vexed by a world's opposition. "Jehovah, my God, in you I have put my trust! Save me from my persecutors! (v1)
It is the voice of one who takes himself to Jehovah as his only Adullam-cave, and who makes his cave of refuge ring with his vehement appeals. Horsley remarks there is in it complaint, supplication, prediction, crimination, commination, and thanksgiving.
"Shuggaion" though some have attempted to fix on it a reference to the moral aspect of the world as depicted in this Psalm, is in all probability to be taken as expressing the nature of the composition. It conveys the idea of something erratic, wandering, in the style; something not so calm as other psalms, and hence Ewald suggests that it might be rendered, as "confused ode", a Dithyramb. This characteristic of excitement in the style, and a kind of disorder in the sense suits Habakkuk 3:1, the only other place where the word occurs.
But who was "Cush, the Benjamite?" None can give a decided answer, though all turn their eye to Saul, and seem nearly agreed that his calumnies against David gave occasion for the writing of this Psalm. The Targum hesitates not to say it is "Saul, the son of Kish." Hengetenberg concludes that Cush, the Ethiopian, is a name for Saul because of his dark hatred of David; others refer the name to one of Saul's company who as dark as his master's heart.
In any case, the Holy Spirit made use of some special attack of a foe as his time to convey to his servant this song. He is a God who gives songs in the night and he has by this means given to his church a song which every succeeding generation has felt appropriate in a world lying in wickedness, and which was never more appropriate than in these latter days.
The true David, no doubt, took it up in the days of his flesh; and often may have used it as part of his wondrous Liturgy, when alone in the hills of Galiless. The cry in v9 followed up by v10 "my shield is upon God" (my salvation is upon God, the idea is taken from the armour-bearer, ever ready at hand to give the needed weapon to the warrior.) God saves, he gives victory to the upright in heart. This reminds us of Him who elsewhere longs for the day of God in the words "Till the day breaks and the shadows flee away, I will get to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense."
From v1 to v5, innocence is pleaded against those who are adversaries, "without a cause." This feature of enmity, "without a cause," seems to have wounded the tender heart of our David very deeply; for in John 15:25, we find him quoting another Psalm where the same words occur and where the emphasis lies on "without a cause."
The world has hated him, because it hated the holiness that furnished no cause of accusation; and so has it hated his members because of what resemblance they bear to their unblemished Head. The world's enmity is ever directed against the only thing in the saints which they are sure the Lord loves' and so they can appeal with their Head against "those who without cause are our adversaries."
After a Selah pause (See also Psalm 4) the tone changes. From v6 onwards, the future day of retribution comes into view. What an importunate cry is raised in v6: "Arise O Lord, in your anger" - put on that fierce wrath which consumes all before it. "While your foes are raging (as in Psalm 2:1) lift yourself up;" and all this because "you have appointed a day in which you will judge the world in righteousness."
Did Paul at Athens (Acts 18:31) have his eye on the verse "the judgement you have ordained?"
In v7 we see all the tribes gathered around the Lord's tribunal; and "over that congregation" or assembly, the Lord takes his seat - as if they were all met there, waiting for the arrival of the Judge, who does at last appear and walks up to his seat in the view of all. Is there not a reference to the long-expected arrival of one who had gone for a time to a far country in the word "return" (Luke 19:12)
And now, v8, "The Lord judges the nations," acting in all the plenitude of the Judge's office - the office as held by Othniel , and Ehud, and Gideon, and Samson. As to right and wrong, he is what an ancient Roman was called "Scopulus reorum" - every guilt man makes shipwreck on that rock; but He is ruler, too, putting earth in order.
And when the Son of David used this prayer, he was implicitly asking for the day of his own glory - when the Father will be the Judge by committing all judgment to the Son (John 5:22,27)
The remainder of this judgment-day Psalm presents us with views of the fearful overthrow of the ungodly - all of them doubly emphatic when understood as spoken by Him who had seen the armoury of heaven, "no man having ascended up to heaven, but He who came down from heaven," and who spoke what he did know, and testifyied what he had seen.
Whether we apply these verses to each individual sinner, or use them of the great Antichrist - that special lawless one - the description is so constructed as to apply in terrible grandeur. We see Jehovah's daily anger (v11), which is, in other words, his daily hatred of sin. "Judging righteously while every day finding cause of anger."
We hear him tell, that if the sinner does not return (v12, if a man does not turn) then there is prepared for him the sword, as well as the bow. There is the arrow from the bow aimed at his heart to lay him low, like Goliath laid low by the pebble in his forehead, and then the sword to complete the work of death. Let none think of recovering from the wound; for his instruments are "instruments of death" and he "makes his arrows burning" and he shoots his flaming shafts, burning with the fire of Almighty wrath, into their hearts!
All this the sinner has wrought for himself - all this Antichist has wrought for himself - it is the cup he has filled and filled double.
He is precipitated into the pit from the height of his prosperity. How brief, yet how comprehensive, is this sketch of his doom! It is James 1:15 exhibited in each sinner's history, and in the final end of "that wicked" whom the Lord shall destroy by the brightness of his coming.
Verse 17 is the "Hallelujah, amen!" of Rev 19:1-4. And is not the whole Psalm one which which we may well believe the Head of the Church often used, and which each member uses still when in sympathy with the martyr-band (Rev 6:10)? In either view it is - the Righteous One's cry for righteous retribution.