What typical occurrence, or what event in Israel's history, may have given the groundwork of this Psalm? Luther calls it a "battle cry"; while others have imagined it appropriate to such an occasion as that of the high priest going in to the Holiest place on the Day of Atonement, and reappearing to the joy of all who waited outside in anxious prayer.
We think the truth may be reached by finding some scene that may combine the battle cry and the priestly function, such as was once presented in Numbers 31:1-6 when the zealous priest Phinehas was sent out at the head of the armies of Israel to battle. David may have been led to recall some such scene as he sang.
Full of zeal for his God, Phinehas in his priestly attire and with priestly solemnity - with "Holiness to the Lord" on his mitre - prepares for the conflict with Jehovah's and Israel's most subtle foes. We may suppose him at the altar before he goes, presenting his offerings (v3) and supplicating the Holy One of Israel (v4), amid a vast assembly of the camp, small and great, all sympathising in his enterprise.
This done, he takes the holy instruments and the silver trumpets in his hand and goes out. There is now and interval of suspense - but soon tidings of victory come and the priestly leader reappears, crowned with victory, leading captivity captive. The confidence expressed in v5 is not vain, for victory or salvation has been given.
Perhaps there were times when David was in such circumstances as these and there are still times when any member of the Church may be, in some sense, so situated; while "all weep" with the one member that weeps, and then "all rejoice" in the joy of the one.
But still the chief reference is to David's Son, our Lord. He is the Leader and the Priest, the true Phinehas, going out against Midian. It is "the Anointed" (v5) that is principally the theme.
This Psalm is the prayer which the Church might be supposed offering up, had all the redeemed stood by the cross or in Gethsemane, in full consciousness of what was happening there.
Messiah, in reading these words, would know that He had elsewhere the sympathy he longed for, when he said to the three disciples "Wait here and watch with me" (Matt 26:38). It is thus a pleasant song of the redeemed in their Head, whether in his sufferings or in the glory that was to follow.
In v1-4 they pray:
"Jehovah, hear in the day of trouble.
"The name of He who manifests himself by his deeds to be the God of Jacob defend you..
"Send help from the sanctuary" where his well-pleasedness is seen.
"And bless from Zion" not from Sinai but from the place of peaceful acceptance.
The solemn "Selah" pause comes in when sacrifice has been spoken of, and then in v5, they exult at the success which has crowned his undertaking; and observe, reader, they speak now of Him as one who makes petitions - "The Lord fulfil all your petitions."
Is not this recognising Him as now specially employed in interceding? Applying His finished work by pleading it for us? It may, at the same time, remind us of that other request which the Intercessor is yet to make, and to make which, speedily, the Church is often urging him, v15, "Ask of me and I will give you the peoples for your inheritance" (Psalm 2:8).
In v6-7, they exult again "knowing whom they have believed" (2 Tim 1:12) both as to what the Father has done for Him and what the Father will do.
They reject all grounds of hope not found in King Messiah; express their souls' desire for complete deliverance, when He shall appear at least, and answer by complete salvation (Heb 11:28) the continual cry of His Church "Come Lord Jesus!"
Verse 9 teaches us to expect both present and future victories, by the arm of our King; and in hope of these further exploits, we often look upward to the right hand of the Father and cry "Hosanna!" -
"Save, Lord" or give victory.
"Let the King who sits there hear us when we call."
It is a Psalm differing in its aspects from most others, for it presents to us - Messiah prayed for, and prayed to, by his waiting people