The Christians used to sing this Psalm at the celebration of the Lord's Supper - most suitably. An able writer on this Psalm has allowed himself to say rather rashly: the title given by the Jewish editors evidently has no connection with the subject.
Now we are not aware of a single case in which there is no connection to be traced between the title and the contents of Psalms; and the face that occasionally this is not very obvious at first seem sto speak rather in favour of its genuineness than against it. A mere inventor would have taken pains to pin on to the composition something that would suggest itself easily to the reader as a probable occasion. In any case there is a title that in a combination of obscurity and probability inclines us to asset at once to its genuineness - even apart from the fact that we have no authority to reject it.
It has frequently been observed as a most beautiful and appropriate circumstance in the life and experience of David, the man of God, that the first notes of his harp should give out praises at the very time when he "changed his behaviour" (i.e. concealed his intellect, or disguised his reason) before Abimelech who sent him away and he departed. (Abimelech is a generic name for Philistine kings).
Cast out again, homeless, friendless, helpless, David trudges along the highway of Philistia, with the world all before him, in search of rest. Though he does not know where to lay his head, he journey's on singing: I wil bless the Lord! I will bless Him at all times! His praise shall continue to come from my mouth.
Is he not recalling past experience as a source of encouragement, when he says: I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears? (v4)
The word for "they looked" in v5 is used in Numbers 21:9 when Israel looked up to the brass serpent, and Zech 12:11 when they looked on him whom they pierced.
In v6, "this poor man cried" is no other than himself; I who am using my harp to celebrate Him, I who am outcast, this poor man who is before you.
In the same happy strain of faith the whole psalm flows on, til v20 rises to the height of confidence - "he keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken" while the ruin of all his foes is forseen as sure, "evil shall slay the wicked."
Could any circumstance give a more suitable occasion for such a psalm to be given to the Church? Taking advantgae of David's peculiar state and feelings, the Holy Spirit gives the Church a song that might suit her Head, the true David when He came, and might equally suit every member.
Augustine writes "says the Christ, and says the Christians" because the Head and members agree so truly in feeling and experience.
It is one of the alphabetic psalms, carefully arranged for the memory to grasp easily. Yet it is not so invariably regular as to cause us to think there is any mystery in the form. The name Jeohvah occurs in each of the verses, except three.
Our Lord might use it all. He could as truly say, "this poor man cried" as David, for He could point to Gethsemane, and to many a night of strong crying and tears (Heb 5:7). Who more than he could tell of the ministering angel (v7) since after the Temptation and in the agony of the Garden, He obtained such help? It was He who could say "do you think I cannot pray to my Father? Will he not give me twelve legions of angels?"
Even in v11 the expression "you children" comes from his lips more naturally than from any other. For it is He who has spoken of all God's family as "my little children."
The speaker would fain draw us to the Lord by telling us his own experience. We ought to connect v10,11 together. "O fear the Lord; for with him is all that can satisfy your soul. Come to me and I will teach you teh fear of the Lord." Christ is he who utters to us the words of eternal life by revealing the Father; and his disciples follow in his steps.
Having taught us this fear of Jehovah, to cry "Abba Father" and yet also to realise him as Jehovah - taught us, also therefore what real life. He next points out the results.
He shows us in v12,13,14, the holy issues or effects of the fear of the Lord - the lips, the life, the pursuit of the heart, all tending in a holy direction. After this all safety to them (v15-21), while "the Lord's face is with evil doers," as the Pillar Cloud was with Pharaoh to destroy them.
The prophetic reference of this Psalm is in the ending. There the anointed eye of David, and the Son of David, and all the seed of David, beholds the final end of these trials.
The righteous arrive in the kingdom, not one bone broken, even as Christ came down from the cross. His foes were really unable to injure him. They see the wicked slain, and hates of the Righteous One "pronounced guilty" and made desolate. This leads us up to the throne where the sentence goes out: bring my enemies here to slaughter them before me. Depart you cursed!
The harp of David thus celebrates The Righteous One's experience of the Lord's love under the cross.