This Psalm was written by David; but it is evident that he was directed by the Holy Spirit to say in it much concerning Christ. In the former part, he dwells upon the divine perfections in the foreknowledge, and fore-appointment concerning Christ. In the latter part, Christ expresseth his agreement with the Father in the perfect holiness and purity of the thoughts and intentions of his heart.
To the chief musician, a Psalm of David.
I beg the Reader, before he enters upon this blessed Psalm, to recollect what I humbly offered upon the title, in former Psalms, to the chief musician. For it, as I then remarked (and as I think is more than probable) it be addressed particularly to the Lord Jesus, it will serve much to illustrate the several parts of it. And I yet more particularly desire the Reader, before he enters upon the perusal of it, to ponder well in his mind, whether, like several other Psalms, which the Holy Ghost himself hath explained unto us (Ps 16; Ac 2; Psalms 22:18; Mark 15:24, etc.) it be not best thus to discover Christ, if, without violence to the original, the words may be applied to him? With these impressions on his mind, I beg the Reader to enter upon this most sublime portion of scripture. And while I venture to suggest (and I beg him, once for all, to remember I do but suggest, not affirm) in what sense the several passages contained in it strike me, I entreat him to look up with earnestness to God the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth, to guide him into all truth, that his faith may be found to stand, not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God, 1 Corinthians 2:5.
I would not make a chasm in the reading of these verses, because the latter of them, according to my view, throw a light upon the former. It may, no doubt, be truly said by David, and by every man like David, that the Lord that made us, knows whereof we are made, and that nothing can escape his all-pervading eye. He knoweth our down-sitting, and our uprising, and understandeth our thoughts afar off; everywhere, and in all places, he is present, and seeth an d knoweth all things. But though such thoughts might, and would be propel to be kept alive in our remembrance, if there were no other, nor higher reasons, than what such solemn considerations are calculated to inspire, to induce the corresponding effect upon the mind of man; yet, I venture to believe, a far more glorious subject is proposed to our consideration; and surely it is our wisdom, as well as our happiness, to make inquiry concerning it. If we suppose (as many other parts of scripture, and particularly the psalms, lead us to suppose) that a greater than David is here, shall not the true believer in Jesus find comfort and delight, if the least glimpse be seen in these expressions of Him, whom truly to know is life eternal? John 17:2. Supposing then that we contemplate the whole of this Psalm as spoken by David, typically considered, as David's Lord, let us consider how the several expressions are applicable to him, from the authority of scripture. The speaker, be he whom he may, here saith, that the Lord covered him in his mother's womb; and he adds, I am fearfully, and wonderfully made. All this, it may be said, is generally and universally true, considered only as referring to the formation of the human frame, and the same, it may be said, is equally true of all God's works in creation. But the terms fearfully and wonderfully made, certainly imply somewhat of a more than ordinary work in the act of creation. Now if we refer to the individual body of Christ, and take in the other passages of scripture in confirmation, we find a suited correspondence to such particular and striking expressions. The apostle Paul, commenting upon the prophecy of David concerning Christ, as set forth in Ps 40 saith, Wherefore, when he cometh into the world he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me, Hebrews 10:5. And how this body was prepared, the angel, who announced to Mary the miraculous conception, explained, when he said, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, Luke 1:35. Here was a body prepared, that might duly be said to be fearfully and wonderfully made. For this was not only a new thing (being contrary to the common mode of generation, and without the intervention of a human father) but is yet farther, fearful and wonderful, in that it was without the act of the mother also, she being altogether passive in it. For it is not said that Christ was begotten of a woman, but made of a woman; and as such Christ is elsewhere called the man from heaven, 1 Corinthians 15:47. The Holy Ghost then being the great agent in this formation of Christ's body, it may be truly and properly said, that Christ was fearfully and wonderfully made. Christ was indeed made secret, and curiously wrought in the dark place of the virgin's womb, called the lowest parts of the earth. And moreover, that expression is exactly corresponding to this, wherein it is said, Thine eyes did see my substance yet being imperfect, and in thy book all thy members were written. The members of Christ's mystical body are said to be . written in the Lamb's book of life, Philippians 4:3; Revelation 21:27; this cannot be said with strict propriety of the mere formation of any man, nor any set of men, who by the divine volition are called into existence in a moment, as when God said, Let there be light, and there was light, Genesis 1:3. Hence when God would make man, he said, Let us make man, Genesis 1:26. But we never read of a book, where the members of each were written before their creation. Put all these things together, and I conceive, that without violence to the words, we may infer that what is said in this Psalm, is said with peculiar reference to Christ.
Under the idea that we may consider what is said before in this Psalm as spoken in the person of Christ, how blessed are the expressions in these verses! When Jesus, as the Head of his church, contemplated the manner in which the body was given him, and the infinitely important purpose intended by it; he may well be supposed to break out in language like this: Precious to him are God's thoughts! the sum of them are incalculable as they relate, in love and mercy, to the church in him. To count them is impossible: but still he adds, When I awake I am where I was; that is, with thee. So infinite and eternal is God's love in and towards Christ and his church, that it can neither receive augmentation, nor admit of decrease. Reader! pause, and ask, what son of Adam can use language like this?
If we needed any farther evidence as to whom this Psalm can with any propriety be otherwise applied, what is here said in conclusion must direct our hearts to the blessed Jesus, and to him only. Who is there that enters into the interests of God with such oneness of soul as to say, I hate them that hate thee, with perfect hatred? Much less, who among a fallen race could step forward and challenge a scrutiny over his heart, even by the great Searcher of hearts, except Him who was holy, harmless, undefiled; separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens, Hebrews 7:26. Reader! pause over these considerations, and the Lord give both you and me a right understanding in all things!
READER! it may, and it will be highly profitable to your heart and mine, under the teaching of the Holy Ghost, to keep in view the consciousness of the divine presence, wherever we are, or however engaged. If this great article of the Christian faith were but properly kept alive in the mind, through grace, it would tend to check many an improper thought, which now, through the want of recollection, and the corruption within, breaks forth. But, Reader! if this Psalm leads your heart, as it doth mine, to the contemplation of Jesus, what blessings doth it open to our view in this prospect of the manhood of Christ. Think of his astonishing debasement! of his unequalled humility! Was Jesus indeed thus fearfully and wonderfully made? Was he thus formed in the lower parts of the earth; and were all his members written before the earth, or the habitable part of the dust of the world was formed? Were the counsels of his Father dear to him, and precious, in that these counsels appointed the redemption of his people by him, and all in him. Lamb of God! was this for me, even for me? Oh! what grace, what love which passeth knowledge, was in all this; and how precious ought the thoughts of thee, blessed Jesus, to be to me! and oh! how great the sum of them! Lord! give me grace henceforth to live to thee, to rejoice in thee, and unceasingly to view thee as the Lord my righteousness. I would humbly adopt thine own words: See, Lord, that there be nothing of allowed wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 139". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://pro.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29