Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 8: Psalms, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
David, having been delivered from some great danger, or rather from many dangers, first relates the prayers which he had offered up to God amidst the terrors of death. He then subjoins his thanksgiving, which is no ordinary one; for he celebrates his deliverance at great length, and exhorts all the saints to be of good hope, as they had in him a most excellent and memorable example of God’s goodness.
To the chief musician. A psalm of David.
1. In thee, O Jehovah! have I put my trust, let me not be ashamed for ever: deliver me in thy righteousness. 2. Incline thine ear unto me, deliver me speedily; be unto me a strong rock, a house of defense to save me. 3. For thou art my rock and my fortress: and for thy name’s sake thou wilt lead and guide me. 635 4. Pluck me out of the net which they have hidden for me; for thou art my strength.
1. In thee, O Jehovah! have I put my trust. Some are of opinion that this psalm was composed by David, after he had most unexpectedly escaped out of the wilderness of Maon; to which I do not object, although it is only a doubtful conjecture. Certainly he celebrates one or more of the greatest of his dangers. In the commencement he tells us what kind of prayer he offered in his agony and distress; and its language breathes affection of the most ardent nature. He takes it for a ground of hope that he trusted in the Lord, or continued to trust in him; for the verb in the past tense seems to denote a continued act. He held it as a principle, that the hope which depends upon God cannot possibly be disappointed. Meanwhile, we see how he brings forward nothing but faith alone; promising himself deliverance only because he is persuaded that he will be saved by the help and favor of God. But as this doctrine has been expounded already, and will yet occur oftener than once, it is sufficient at present to have glanced at it. Oh! that all of us would practice it in such a manner as that, whenever we approach to God, we may be able with David to declare that our prayers proceed from this source, namely, from a firm persuasion that our safety depends on the power of God. The particle signifying for ever may be explained in two ways. As God sometimes withdraws his favor, the meaning may not unsuitably be, Although I am now deprived of thy help, yet cast me not off utterly, or for evermore. Thus David, wishing to arm himself with patience against his temptations, would make a contrast between these two things, — being in distress for a time, and remaining in a state of confusion. 636 But if any one choose rather to understand his words in this way, “Whatever afflictions befall me, may God be ready to help me, and ever and anon stretch forth his hand to me, as the case requires,” I would not reject this meaning any more than the other. David desires to be delivered in the righteousness of God, because God displays his righteousness in performing his promise to his servants. It is too much refinement of reasoning to assert that David here betakes himself to the righteousness which God freely bestows on his people, because his own righteousness by works was of no avail. Still more out of place is the opinion of those who think that God preserves the saints according to his righteousness; that is to say, because having acted so meritoriously, justice requires that they should obtain their reward. It is easy to see from the frequent use of the term in The Psalms, that God’s righteousness means his faithfulness, in the exercise of which he defends all his people who commit themselves to his guardianship and protection. David, therefore, confirms his hope from the consideration of the nature of God, who cannot deny himself, and who always continues like himself.
2. incline thine ear unto me. These words express with how much ardor David’s soul was stimulated to pray. He affects no splendid or ornate language, as rhetoricians are wont to do; but only describes in suitable figures the vehemence of his desire. In praying that he may be delivered speedily there is shown the greatness of his danger, as if he had said, All will soon be over with my life, unless God make haste to help me. By the words, house of defense, fortress, and rock, he intimates, that, being unable to resist his enemies, his hope rests only on the protection of God.
3. For thou art my rock. This verse may be read as one sentence, thus: As thou art like a tower for my defense, for thy name’s sake direct and guide me during my whole life. And thus the conjunction, as in many similar cases, would be superfluous. But I rather prefer a different sense, namely, that David, by interjecting this reflection, encourages himself not only to earnestness in prayer, but also in the confident hope of obtaining his requests. We know, at all events, that it is usual with him to mingle such things in his prayers as may serve to remove his doubts, and to confirm his assurance. Having, therefore, expressed his need, he assures himself, in order to encourage and animate himself, that his prayer shall certainly have a happy answer. He had formerly said, Be thou my strong rock and fortress; and now he adds, Assuredly thou art my rock, and my fortress: intimating, that he did not throw out these words rashly, like unbelievers, who, although they are accustomed to ask much from God, are kept in suspense by the dread of uncertain events. From this he also draws another encouragement, that he shall have God for his guide and governor during the whole course of his life. He uses two words, lead and guide, to express the same thing, and this he does (at least so I explain it) on account of the various accidents and unequal vicissitudes by which the lives of men are tried: as if he had said, Whether I must climb the steep mountain, or struggle along through rough places, or walk among thorns, I trust that thou wilt be my continual guide. Moreover, as men will always find in themselves matter for doubt, if they look to their own merits, 637 David expressly asks that God may be induced to help him for his own name’s sake, or from regard to his own glory, as, properly speaking, there is no other thing which can induce him to aid us. It must therefore be remembered, that God’s name, as it is opposed to all merit whatever, is the only cause of our salvation. In the next verse, under the metaphor of a net, he appears to designate the snares and artifices with which his enemies encompassed him. We know that conspiracies were frequently formed against his life, which would have left him no room for escape; and as his enemies were deeply skilled in policy, and hating him with an inconceivable hatred, were eagerly bent on his destruction, it was impossible for him to be saved from them by any human power. On this account he calls God his strength; as if he had said, He alone is sufficient to rend asunder all the snares with which he sees his afflicted people entangled.
5. Into thy hand I commit my spirit, for thou hast redeemed me, O Jehovah! God of truth. 6. I hate all that give heed to lying vanities; but I have trusted in Jehovah. 7. I will be glad and rejoice in thy goodness, because thou hast regarded my affliction: thou hast known my soul in distresses. 8. And thou hast not shut me up in the hand of mine enemy: 638 thou hast set my feet in a large place.
5. Into thy hand I commit my spirit. David again declares his faith to God, and affirms that he had such high thoughts of his providence, as to cast all his cares upon it. Whoever commits himself into God’s hand and to his guardianship, not only constitutes him the arbiter of life and death to him, but also calmly depends on him for protection amidst all his dangers. The verb is in the future tense, “I will commit,” and it unquestionably denotes a continued act, and is therefore fitly translated into the present tense. It is also to be observed, that no man can possibly commit his life to God with sincerity, but he who considers himself exposed to a thousand deaths, and that his life hangs by a thread, or differs almost nothing from a breath which passes suddenly away. David being thus at the point of despair, leaves nothing to himself to do but this — to go on his way, trusting in God as the keeper and governor of his life. It is marvellous, that, although many things distress us all, scarcely one in a hundred is so wise as to commit his life into God’s hand. Multitudes live from day to day as merry and careless as if they were in a quiet nest, free from all disturbance; but as soon as they encounter any thing to terrify them, they are ready to die for anguish. It thus happens that they never betake themselves to God, either because they deceive themselves with vain delusions, flattering themselves that all will yet be well, 639 or because they are so stricken with dread and stupified with amazement, that they have no desire for his fatherly care. Farther, as various tempests of grief disturb us, and even sometimes throw us down headlong, or drag us from the direct path of duty, or at least remove us from our post, the only remedy which exists for setting these things at rest is to consider that God, who is the author of our life, is also its preserver. This, then, is the only means of lightening all our burdens, and preserving us from being swallowed up of over-much sorrow. Seeing, therefore, that God condescends to undertake the care of our lives, and to support them, although they are often exposed to various sorts of death, let us learn always to flee to this asylum; nay, the more that any one is exposed to dangers, let him exercise himself the more carefully in meditating on it. In short, let this be our shield against all dangerous attacks — our haven amidst all tossings and tempests — that, although our safety may be beyond all human hope, God is the faithful guardian of it; and let this again arouse us to prayer, that he would defend us, and make our deliverance sure. This confidence will likewise make every man forward to discharge his duty with alacrity, and constantly and fearlessly to struggle onward to the end of his course. How does it happen that so many are slothful and indifferent, and that others perfidiously forsake their duty, but because, overwhelmed with anxiety, they are terrified at dangers and inconveniences, and leave no room for the operation of the providence of God?
To conclude, whoever relies not on the providence of God, so as to commit his life to its faithful guardianship, has not yet learned aright what it is to live. On the other hand, he who shall entrust the keeping of his life to God’s care, will not doubt of its safety even in the midst of death. We must therefore put our life into God’s hand, not only that he may keep it safely in this world, but also that he may preserve it from destruction in death itself, as Christ’s own example has taught us. As David wished to have his life prolonged amidst the dangers of death, so Christ passed out of this transitory life that his soul might be saved in death. This is a general prayer, therefore, in which the faithful commit their lives to God, first, that he may protect them by his power, so long as they are exposed to the dangers of this world; and, secondly, that he may preserve them safe in the grave, where nothing is to be seen but destruction. We ought farther to assure ourselves, that we are not forsaken of God either in life or in death; for those whom God brings safely by his power to the end of their course, he at last receives to himself at their death. This is one of the principal places of Scripture which are most suitable for correcting distrust. It teaches us, first, that the faithful ought not to torment themselves above measure with unhappy cares and anxieties; and, secondly, that they should not be so distracted with fear as to cease from performing their duty, nor decline and faint in such a manner as to grasp at vain hopes and deceitful helps, nor give way to fears and alarms; and, in fine, that they should not be afraid of death, which, though it destroys the body, cannot extinguish the soul. This, indeed, ought to be our principal argument for overcoming all temptations, that Christ, when commending his soul to his Father, undertook the guardianship of the souls of all his people. Stephen, therefore, calls upon him to be his keeper, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” (Ac 7:59.) As the soul is the seat of life, it is on this account, as is well known, used to signify life.
Thou hast redeemed me. Some translate the past tense here into the future; but, in my opinion, without any reason. For it is evident to me, that David is here encouraging himself to continued confidence in God, by calling to remembrance the proofs of his favor which he had already experienced. 640 It is no small encouragement to us for the future, to be assuredly persuaded that God will watch over our life, because he hath been our deliverer already. Hence the epithet by which David recognises God. He calls him true or faithful, because he believes that he will continue the same to him for ever that he has already been. Accordingly, this is as it were a bond by which he joins to the former benefits which God had conferred upon him confidence in prayer, and the hope of aid for the time to come: as if he had said, Lord, thou who art ever the same, and changest not thy mind like men, hast already testified in very deed that thou art the defender of my life: now, therefore, I commit my life, of which thou hast been the preserver, into thy hands. What David here declares concerning his temporal life, Paul transfers to eternal salvation.
“I know,” says he, “whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him,”
And surely, if David derived so much confidence from temporal deliverance, it is more than wicked and ungrateful on our part, if the redemption purchased by the blood of Christ does not furnish us with invincible courage against all the devices of Satan.
6. I hate all that give heed to lying vanities. In order the better to express that his faith was firmly fixed on God, he affirms that he was free from the vile affections which usually turn away our minds from God, and under which unbelievers for the most part labor. For we know that by contrasting things which are opposite, a subject is better illustrated. To restrict the Hebrew word הבל, hebel, which we have rendered vanities, to magical arts, as some interpreters do, is absurd. 641 I confess, indeed, that the Orientals were so much addicted to these impostures, that it was a common evil among them. But as the devices by which Satan ensnares the minds of men, and the allurements by which he draws them away from God, are innumerable, it is not at all probable that the prophet mentions one species only. Whatever vain hopes, therefore, we form to ourselves, which may draw us off from our confidence in God, David generally denominates vanities, yea, false or lying vanities, because, although they feed us for a time with magnificent promises, in the end they beguile and disappoint us. He affirms, therefore, that casting away the vanities which men usually invent to support their hopes, he relies solely on God. And as men not only intoxicate themselves personally with the deceitful allurements of the world, but in this respect also deceive one another, the prophet expressly declares, with a view that we may carefully avoid them, unless we wish to be wilfully entangled in their dangerous toils, that he hated all who involved themselves in such lies. The second clause, I have trusted in Jehovah, must be read in connection with the first, because it both assigns the cause of his hatred of lying vanities, and shows that it is impossible for men to have any true faith in God, unless they abhor whatever would draw them away from him.
7. I will be glad and rejoice in thy goodness. Here is inserted a thanksgiving, although many are rather of opinion that David’s prayer is suspended, and that he makes a vow, when he shall be delivered from present danger. But as no condition is annexed, I am rather inclined to think that stopping all at once in the middle of his prayer, he promises himself a deliverance, for which he will have abundant matter for giving thanks. Nor is it to be wondered at that different feelings are mingled in the psalms in which David has set forth his own temptations, as well as the resistance which his faith made to them, considering also that when he sung the praises of God, after having already obtained deliverance from him, he embraces different periods in his song, as he here says, that God had regarded his affliction, intimating by this the effect of the assistance which God had afforded him. And that he may the better confirm this, he adds, that he had not been delivered into the hands of his enemies: in which words there is an implied antithesis, namely, that when he was encompassed on every side by severe afflictions, he was marvellously delivered by God. This is also farther intimated by the following sentence, Thou hast set my feet in a large place, 642 which denotes a sudden and unexpected change.
9. Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah! for I am in trouble: mine eye, my soul, and my belly, are consumed by reason of anger. 10. For my life is wasted by reason of grief, and my years with groaning; my strength faileth in my sorrow, and my bones are consumed. 11. I was a reproach by reason of all mine enemies, yea, exceedingly to my neighbors, and a fear to my acquaintances; and they who saw me abroad fled from me. 12. I am forgotten as one dead, I am become like a broken vessel. 13. For I have heard the railing of many, 643 and fear encloseth me on every side, while they consult together against me, and plot to take away my life.
9. Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah! To move God to succor him, he magnifies the greatness of his misery and grief by the number of his complaints; not that God needs arguments to persuade him, but because he allows the faithful to deal familiarly with him, that they may disburden themselves of their cares. The greater the number of afflictions with which they are oppressed, the more do they encourage themselves, while bewailing them before God, in the hope of obtaining his assistance. These forms of expression may seem hyperbolical, but it is obvious that it was David’s purpose to declare and set forth what he had felt in his own person. First, he says that his eyes, his soul, and his belly, were consumed with grief. From this it appears that it was neither lightly nor for a short time that he was thus tormented and vexed by these calamities. Indeed, he was endued with so much meekness of spirit that he would not allow himself to be excited easily, and by a slight circumstance, nor vexed by immoderate sorrow. He had also been for a long time inured to the endurance of troubles. We must, therefore, admit that his afflictions were incredibly severe, when he gave way to such a degree of passion. By the word anger, too, he shows that he was not at all times of such iron-like firmness, or so free from sinful passion, as that his grief did not now and then break forth into an excess of impetuosity and keenness. Whence we infer that the saints have often a severe and arduous conflict with their own passions; and that although their patience has not always been free from peevishness, yet by carefully wrestling against it, they have at last attained this much, that no accumulation of troubles has overwhelmed them. By life some understand the vital senses, an interpretation which I do not altogether reject. But I prefer to explain it as simply meaning, that, being consumed with grief, he felt his life and his years sliding away and failing. And by these words again, David bewails not so much his pusillanimity of mind as the grievousness of his calamities; although he was by no means ashamed to confess his infirmity, for which he was anxiously seeking a remedy. When he says, that his strength failed under his sorrow, some interpreters prefer reading, under his iniquity; and I confess that the Hebrew word עון, on, bears both significations, 644 nay, more frequently it signifies an offense or a fault. But as it is sometimes used for punishment, I have chosen the sense which appears most agreeable to the context. And although it is true that David was accustomed to ascribe the afflictions which he at any time suffered to his own fault, yet, as he is only recounting his miseries here, without mentioning the cause of them, it is probable that, according to his usual manner, he expresses the same thing twice by different words.
11. I was a reproach by reason of all mine enemies. Others translate thus - more than mine enemies, and as the Hebrew letter מ, mem, is often used as a sign of comparison, they interpret this clause to mean that David’s friends and acquaintances reproached him more than all his enemies. But, in my opinion, he intended to express a different idea, namely, that as he was everywhere hated, and his enemies had induced almost the whole realm to take part with them against him, he had an evil name even among his friends and neighbors; just as popular opinion, like a violent tempest, usually carries all before it. I suppose, therefore, that the Hebrew copula ו, vau, is used for the sake of amplification, to show that David was an object of detestation, not only to strangers to whom he was formerly unknown, but also to his principal friends. He adds, likewise, that when they saw him abroad they fled from him By the adverb, abroad, he means to say, that they did not think the miserable man worthy of a near approach to them; nay, that they fled from the very sight of him, at however great a distance, lest the contagion of his misery should reach them, and because they reckoned it would be injurious and disgraceful to them to show him any sign of friendship.
12. I am forgotten as one dead. The Psalmist still pursues the same idea, and complains that he was as completely blotted out of all men’s remembrance as if he had been dead. The memory of some men after their death flourishes for a time among survivors, but it more frequently vanishes; for there is no longer any intercourse between the quick and the dead, nor can the living be of any farther service to the dead. David illustrates this idea by the metaphor of a broken vessel, 645 which denotes utter contempt and meanness; as if he had said, that he was accounted no longer worthy of any place or respect. He adds, in fine, that he was railed upon by the multitude, and agitated with terrors. I would, however, prefer translating the Hebrew word רבים, rabbim, by the great, 646 rather than by many. When great men, who are often as powerful in judgment as in authority, slander and defame us as wicked persons, this adds to the indignity with which we are treated, because, whatever they say in condemnation of us has the effect of prejudicing the common people against us. It will therefore be very suitable to understand the words as meaning that David was ignominiously condemned by the whole order of the nobility; and thus the innocence of this afflicted man was thrown into the shade by their greatness. This interpretation is confirmed by what immediately follows:— Fear encloseth me on every side, 647 while they consult together against me. As he is still speaking of the same persons, it is certain that this language applies more appropriately to the nobles than to the common people. Moreover, we see that the primary object of the wicked in the deceitful counsels by which they conspired to destroy David, was to create among the whole people hatred against him as a wicked and reprobate man. We also see that while they mangled his reputation, they did it in such a manner as that they covered their wickedness under the appearance of grave and considerate procedure, in consulting among themselves to destroy him as a man who no longer ought to be tolerated on the earth. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that his mind was wounded, as we have just seen, by so many and so sharp temptations.
14. Yet have I trusted in thee, O Jehovah! I have said, Thou art my God. 15. My times are in thy hand; deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me. 16. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; preserve me in thy goodness. 17. O Jehovah! let me not be ashamed; for I have called on thee: let the wicked be ashamed, let them be silent in the grave. 18. Let lying lips be put to silence, which speak a hard [or grievous] thing against the just, in pride and scorn.
14. Yet have I trusted in thee, O Jehovah! The rendering properly is, And I have trusted in thee; but the Hebrew copulative particle ו, vau, and, is used here instead of the adversative particle yet, or nevertheless. David, setting the steadfastness of his faith in opposition to the assaults of the temptations of which he has made mention, denies that he had ever fainted, but rather maintains, on the contrary, that he stood firm in his hope of deliverance from God. Nor does this imply that he boasted of being so magnanimous and courageous that he could not be overthrown through the infirmity of the flesh. However contrary to one another they appear, yet these things are often joined together, as they ought to be, in the same person, namely, that while he pines away with grief, and is deprived of all strength, he is nevertheless supported by so strong a hope that he ceases not to call upon God. David, therefore, was not so overwhelmed in deep sorrow, and other direful sufferings, as that the hidden light of faith could not shine inwardly in his heart; nor did he groan so much under the weighty load of his temptations, as to be prevented from arousing himself to call upon God. He struggled through many obstacles to be able to make the confession which he here makes. He next defines the manner of his faith, namely, that he reflected with himself thus that God would never fail him nor forsake him. Let us mark his manner of speech: I have said, Thou art my God In these words he intimates that he was so entirely persuaded of this truth, that God was his God, that he would not admit even a suggestion to the contrary. And until this persuasion prevails so as to take possession of our minds, we shall always waver in uncertainty. It is, however, to be observed, that this declaration is not only inward and secret - made rather in the heart than with the tongue - but that it is directed to God himself, as to him who is the alone witness of it. Nothing is more difficult, when we see our faith derided by the whole world, than to direct our speech to God only, and to rest satisfied with this testimony which our conscience gives us, that he is our God. And certainly it is an undoubted proof of genuine faith, when, however fierce the waves are which beat against us, and however sore the assaults by which we are shaken, we hold fast this as a fixed principle, that we are constantly under the protection of God, and can say to him freely, Thou art our God.
15. My times are in thy hand. That he might the more cheerfully commit the preservation of his person to God, he assures us, that, trusting to his divine guardianship, he did not trouble himself about those casual and unforeseen events which men commonly dread. The import of his language is, Lord, it is thy prerogative, and thou alone hast the power, to dispose of both my life and my death. Nor does he use the plural number, in my opinion, without reason; but rather to mark the variety of casualties by which the life of man is usually harassed. It is a cold exposition to restrict the phrase, my times, to the time which he had to live, as if David meant no more than that his time or his days on earth were in God’s hand. On the contrary, I am of opinion that, while he mused on the various revolutions and manifold dangers which continually hang over us, and the manifold unlooked-for events which from time to time happen, he nevertheless confidently reposed upon the providence of God, which he believed to be, according to the common saying, the arbiter both of good and of evil fortune. In the first clause we see that he not only denominates God the governor of the world in general, but also affirms that his life is in his hand; and not only so, but that to whatever agitations it might be subjected, and whatever trials and vicissitudes might befall him, he was safe under his protection. On this he founds his prayer, that God would preserve and deliver him from the hand of his enemies.
16. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant. We have said formerly, and we shall see in many instances hereafter, that this form of speech is taken from the common apprehension of men, who think that God regards them not, unless he really show his care of them by its effects. According to the judgment of sense, afflictions hide his countenance, just as clouds obscure the brightness of the sun. David therefore supplicates that God, by affording him immediate assistance, would make it evident to him that he enjoyed his grace and favor, which it is not very easy to discern amidst the darkness of afflictions. Now, God is said to lift the light of his countenance upon us in two ways; either when he opens his eyes to take care of our affairs, or when he shows to us his favor. These two things are indeed inseparable, or rather, the one depends upon the other. But by the first mode of speech, we, according to our carnal conceptions, attribute to God a mutability which, properly speaking, does not belong to him: whereas the second form of speech indicates, that our own eyes, rather than the eyes of God, are shut or heavy when he seems to have no regard to our afflictions. By the word preserve David explains what he meant by the former expression; but as there was at that time no way of safety apparent to him, he encourages himself to hope for it by setting before him the goodness of God.
17. O Jehovah! let me not be ashamed. In these words, the Psalmist continues his prayer, and to strengthen his hopes, he contrasts himself with his enemies; for it would have been more than absurd to permit those who by their wickedness so openly provoked the wrath of God to escape with impunity, and that one who was innocent and relied upon God should be disappointed and made a laughing-stock. Here, accordingly, we perceive what the Psalmist’s comparison implies. Moreover, instead of speaking of his hope or trust, he now speaks of his calling upon God, saying, I have called on thee; and he does this with good reason, for he who relies on the providence of God must flee to him with prayers and strong cries. To be silent in the grave, implies that death, when it befalls the ungodly, restrains and prevents them from doing farther injury. This silence is opposed both to their deceitful and treacherous devices, and to their outrageous insolence. In the very next verse, therefore, he adds, Let lying lips be put to silence, which, in my opinion, includes both their craftiness, and the false pretences and calumnies by which they endeavor to accomplish their designs, and also the vain boasting in which they indulge themselves. For he tells us that they speak with harshness and severity against the righteous, in pride and scorn; because it was their froward conceit, which almost always begets contempt, that made David’s enemies so bold in lying. Whoever proudly arrogates to himself more than is his due, will almost necessarily treat others with contempt.
19. O how great is thy goodness which thou hast hidden 648 for them that fear thee! which thou hast performed for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! 20. Thou shalt hide them in the secret [or, in the hiding-place] of thy countenance from the pride of man; thou shalt hide them as in a tent from the strife of tongues. 21. Blessed be Jehovah! for he hath made wonderful his goodness towards me, as in a fortified city.
19. O how great is thy goodness which thou hast hidden for them that fear thee! In this verse the Psalmist exclaims that God is incomprehensibly good and beneficent towards his servants. Goodness here means those divine blessings which are the effects of it. The interrogatory form of the sentence has a peculiar emphasis; for David not only asserts that God is good, but he is ravished with admiration of the goodness which he had experienced. It was this experience, undoubtedly, which caused him break out into the rapturous language of this verse; for he had been marvellously and unexpectedly delivered from his calamities. By his example, therefore, he enjoins believers to rise above the apprehension of their own understanding, in order that they may promise themselves, and expect far more from the grace of God than human reason is able to conceive. He says that the goodness of God is hidden for his servants, because it is a treasure which is peculiar to them. It, no doubt, extends itself in various ways to the irreligious and unworthy, and is set before them indiscriminately; but it displays itself much more plenteously and clearly towards the faithful, because it is they alone who enjoy all God’s benefits for their salvation. God
“maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,”
and shows himself bountiful even to the irrational creation; but he declares himself a Father, in the true and full sense of the term, to those only who are his servants. It is not without reason, therefore, that the goodness of God is said to be hidden for the faithful, whom alone he accounts worthy of enjoying his favor most intimately and tenderly. Some give a more subtle interpretation of the phrase, the goodness of God is hidden, explaining it as meaning that God, by often exercising his children with crosses and afflictions, hides his favor from them, although, at the same time, he does not forget them. It is more probable, however, that it should be understood of a treasure which God has set apart and laid up in store for them, unless perhaps we choose to refer it to the experience of the saints, because they alone, as I have said, experience in their souls the fruit of divine goodness; whereas brutish stupidity hinders the wicked from acknowledging God as a beneficent Father, even while they are devouring greedily his good things. And thus it comes to pass, that while the goodness of God fills and overspreads all parts of the world, it is notwithstanding generally unknown. But the mind of the sacred writer will be more clearly perceived from the contrast which exists between the faithful and those who are strangers to God’s love. As a provident man will regulate his liberality towards all men in such a manner as not to defraud his children or family, nor impoverish his own house, by spending his substance prodigally on others; so God, in like manner, in exercising his beneficence to aliens from his family, knows well how to reserve for his own children that which belongs to them as it were by hereditary right; that is to say, because of their adoption. 649 The attempt of Augustine to prove from these words that those who unbelievingly dread God’s judgment have no experience of his goodness, is most inappropriate. To perceive his mistaken view of the passage, it is only necessary to look to the following clause, in which David says that God makes the world to perceive that he exercises inestimable goodness towards those who serve him, both in protecting them and in providing for their welfare. Whence we learn, that it is not of the everlasting blessedness which is reserved for the godly in heaven that the Psalmist here speaks, but of the protection and other blessings which belong to the preservation of the present life; which he declares to be so manifest that even the ungodly themselves are forced to become eye-witnesses of them. The world, I admit, passes over all the works of God with its eyes shut, and is especially ignorant of his fatherly care of the saints; still it is certain that there shine forth such daily proofs of it, that even the reprobate cannot but see them, except in so far as they willingly shut their eyes against the light. David, therefore, speaks according to truth, when he declares that God gives evidences of his goodness to his people before the sons of men, that it may be clearly seen that they do not serve him unadvisedly or in vain. 650
20. Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy countenance. In this verse the Psalmist specially commends the grace of God, because it preserves and protects the faithful against all harm. As Satan assiduously and by innumerable means opposes their welfare, and as the greater part of the world is at deadly war with them, they must be exposed to many dangers. Unless God, therefore, protected them by his power, and came from time to time to their aid, their condition would be most miserable. The Psalmist makes an allusion to the hiding which he had just mentioned, and although the metaphor may, at first sight, appear somewhat harsh, it very aptly expresses, that provided the Lord take care of them, the faithful are perfectly safe under his protection alone. By this eulogium, therefore, he sublimely extols the power of divine Providence, because it alone suffices to ward off every species of evil, and while it shines upon the godly, it blinds the eyes of all the wicked, and weakens their hands. 651 In the opinion of some, the Psalmist, when he speaks of the secret of God’s countenance, refers to the sanctuary, an interpretation which I do not altogether reject, although it does not appear to me sufficiently solid. Again, he says that God hides the faithful from the pride of man and the strife of tongues, because, if God restrain not the wicked, we know that they have the audacity to break forth with outrageous violence against the truly godly; but however unbridled their lust and insolence may be, God preserves his people from harm, by wondrously covering them with the brightness of his countenance. Some translate the Hebrew word ריכסים, rikasim, conspiracies, 652 others perversities, but without any reason; nor, indeed, does the etymology of the word admit of it, for it comes from a root which signifies to lift up, or to elevate. To pride is added the strife of tongues, because God’s children have cause to fear not only the inhuman deeds of their enemies, but also their still more wicked and violent calumnies, as David himself more than enough experienced. And as our innocence ought to be justly dearer to us than our life, let us learn to cultivate uprightness in such a manner as that, trusting to God’s protection, we may disregard every false calumny. And let us always remember that it is God’s peculiar prerogative to vindicate his people from all unjust reproaches.
21. Blessed be Jehovah! These general truths the Psalmist here proceeds to apply to his own circumstances, and he declares that the goodness of God in preserving his life was wondrously displayed. As he speaks of aid which had been suddenly and unexpectedly afforded him in very desperate circumstances, those interpreters judge aright who here supply as, the mark of similitude, 653 in this way, as in a fortified city David lay open to every blow, and had been exposed to every sort of injury, and he boasts that in his nakedness and destitution the assistance of God had been of greater service to him than a city well fortified, or an impregnable fortress would have been.
22. And I said in my fear 654 I am cast out of thy sight: yet truly thou hast heard the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. 23. O love Jehovah, all ye his meek ones! Jehovah preserveth the faithful, and plentifully 655 recompenseth him who behaveth himself proudly. 24. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye who hope in Jehovah.
22. And I said in my fear. David here confesses that for his distrust he deserved to be deserted by God and left to perish. It is true that to confess this before men he felt to be a shameful thing; but that he may the more fully illustrate the grace of God to him, he hesitates not to publish the shame of his fault. He repeats almost the same acknowledgement in Ps 116:11, “I said in my haste, All men are liars.” I am aware that the Hebrew word חפז, chaphaz, is explained by some as meaning flight; as if David, in fleeing from death, because he was unable to make resistance, was stricken with this fear. But I refer it rather to his trouble of mind. Whether, therefore, we translate it haste or fear, it means that he had been, as it were, carried headlong to entertain the thought that he was neglected by God. And this haste is opposed to calm and deliberate consideration; for although David was stricken with fear, he did not faint under the trial, and this persuasion did not continue fixed in his mind. For we know that the faithful are often disquieted by fears and the heat of impatience, or driven headlong as it were by their too hasty or precipitate wishes, but afterwards they come to themselves. That David’s faith had never been overthrown by this temptation appears from the context, for he immediately adds, that God had heard the voice of his supplications; but if his faith had been extinguished, he could not have brought his mind earnestly to engage in prayer, and therefore this complaint was only a lapse of the tongue uttered in haste. Now if peevish hastiness of thought could drive this holy prophet of God, a man who was adorned with so many excellencies, to despair, how much reason have we to fear, lest our minds should fail and fatally ruin us? This confession of David, as we have already observed, serves to magnify the grace of God; but at the same time he sufficiently shows, in the second clause of the verse, that his faith, although severely shaken, had not been altogether eradicated, because he ceased not meanwhile to pray. The saints often wrestle in this manner with their distrust, that partly they may not despond, and that partly they may gather courage and stimulate themselves to prayer. Nor does the weakness of the flesh, even when they are almost overthrown, hinder them from showing that they are unwearied and invincible champions before God. But although David stoutly resisted temptation, he nevertheless acknowledges himself unworthy of God’s grace, of which he in some measure deprived himself by his doubt. For the Hebrew particle אכן, aken, is here to be understood adversatively and rendered yet, intimating that David had been preserved without any desert of his own, inasmuch as God’s immeasurable goodness strove with his unbelief. But as it is a sign of affirmation in Hebrew, I have thought proper to translate it, Yet truly. I have no doubt that he opposes his language to the various temptations with which, it is probable, his mind had been driven hither and thither.
23. O love Jehovah, all ye his meek ones! In my opinion, the Psalmist does not here exhort the saints to fear and reverence God, as many think, but encourages them to confide in him; or, in other words, to devote themselves wholly to him, to put all their hope in him, and to rely entirely upon him, without seeking to any other. Whence is it that our own fond devices delight us, but because we do not delight in God so much as we ought, and because our affections do not cleave to him? This love of God, therefore, comprehends in it all the desires of the heart. By nature, all men greatly desire to be in a prosperous or happy state; but while the greater number are fascinated by the allurements of the world, and prefer its lies and impostures, scarcely one in a hundred sets his heart on God. The reason which immediately follows confirms this interpretation; for the inspired Psalmist exhorts the meek to love God, because he preserves the faithful, which is as if he had desired them to rest satisfied with his guardianship, and to acknowledge that in it they had sufficient succor. 656 In the meantime, he admonishes them to keep a good conscience, and to cultivate uprightness, since God promises to preserve only such as are upright and faithful. On the other hand, he declares that he plentifully recompenses the proud, in order that when we observe them succeeding prosperously for a time, an unworthy emulation may not entice us to imitate them, and that their haughtiness, and the outrage they commit, while they think they are at liberty to do what they please, may not crush and break our spirits. The amount of the whole is this, Although the ungodly flatter themselves, while they proceed in their wickedness with impunity, and believers are harassed with many fears and dangers, yet devote yourselves to God, and rely upon his grace, for he will always defend the faithful, and reward the proud as they deserve. Concerning the meaning of the Hebrew word על-יתר, al-yether, which we have rendered plentifully, 657 interpreters are not agreed. Some translate it pride, meaning that to those who behave themselves proudly, God will render according to their pride; others translate it to overflowing, or beyond measure, because יתר, yether, signifies in Hebrew residue or remnant; instead of which I have translated it plentifully. Some understand it as extending to their children and children’s children, who shall remain the residue of their seed. Besides, as the same word is frequently used for excellence, 658 I have no doubt that the prophet elegantly rebukes the proud, who imagine that their fancied excellence is not only a shield to them, but, an invincible fortress against God. As their groundless authority and power blind, or rather bewitch them, so that they vaunt themselves intemperately and without measure against those who are lowly and feeble, the prophet elegantly says that there is a reward in store for them proportioned to the haughtiness with which they are puffed up.
24. Be of good courage. This exhortation is to be understood in the same way as the preceding; for the steadfastness which the Psalmist here enjoins is founded on the love of God of which he had spoken, when renouncing all the enticements of the world, we embrace with our whole hearts the defense and protection which he promises to us. Nor is his exhortation to courage and firmness unnecessary; because, when any one begins to rely on God, he must lay his account with and arm himself for sustaining many assaults from Satan. We are first, then, calmly to commit ourselves to the protection and guardianship of God, and to endeavor to have the experience of his goodness pervading our whole minds. Secondly, thus furnished with steady firmness and unfailing strength, we are to stand prepared to sustain every day new conflicts. As no man, however, is able of himself to sustain these conflicts, David urges us to hope for and ask the spirit of fortitude from God, a matter particularly worthy of our notice. For hence we are taught, that when the Spirit of God puts us in mind of our duty, he examines not what each man’s ability is, nor does he measure men’s services by their own strength, but stimulates us rather to pray and beseech God to correct our defects, as it is he alone who can do this.
“Ou, adresse moy et conduy.” — Fr. marg. “Or, do thou direct and guide me.”
“Feroit une antithese entre ces deux choses, Estre en destresse pour un temps, et demeurer confus.” — Fr.
“Si los hommes regardent a leur dignite.” — Fr.
Dr Geddes observes, that this is the literal translation of the Hebrew words; “but,” says he, “as negative propositions in Hebrew are often equivalent in sense to opposite positives, I deemed it better to use an equivalent as more agreeable to what precerdes and follows.” His rendering is, “Rescued me from the hand of mine enemy.”
“Se faisans a croire que de leur faict ce ne sera que triomphe.” — Fr.
Horsley, while his translation is similar to that of Calvin, “Thou hast delivered me,” takes a somewhat different view of the meaning. “Thou hast, i.e., Thou most surely wilt. — The thing is as certain as if it were done.”
Hammond considers “vanities” as referring to the practice of superstitiously having recourse to auguries and divinations for advice and direction, a practice which prevailed among the heathen, when they met with any difficulty or danger. To the responses of augury, they showed the greatest regard; although they were deceived and disappointed in the confidence which they reposed in them. David declares that he detested all such practices, and trusted for aid to God alone. French and Skinner, by lying vanities, understand idols. “Idols,” says Walford, “are often thus denominated; though the term is not to be confined to this sense, as all the pursuits of iniquity may be justly comprehended under it. - Vide De 32:21; Jon 2:8.”
“There is a contrast in the expression between the straits to which he had been confined, and the freedom which was now bestowed upon him.” — Walford.
“Ou, des grans.” — Fr. marg. “Or, of the great.”
“The word עוך,” says Hammond, “as it signifies sin, so it signifies also the punishment of sin, Isa. 53:6, 11;” and in this last sense this critic here understands it, that it may be connected with grief and sighing, which are mentioned in the preceding clause, and may express those miseries which David’s sins had brought upon him. “וזע” observes Rogers, “signifies here and in some other places, affliction, the punishment or consequence of sin; see Ge 4:13; 1Sa 28:10; 2Ki 7:9,” etc. - Book of Psalms in Hebrew, metrically arranged, vol. 2, p.188. The Septuagint reads, in poverty or affliction, in which it is followed by the Syriac and Vulgate.
“I am become like a broken vessel;” that is, utterly neglected as being worthless.
Horsley takes the same view. He reads, “the mighty.”
“Fearfulness on every side, or terror round about. In Heb., magor missabib, which name Jeremiah gave to Pashur the priest, signifying that he should be a terror to himself and to all his friends; Jer. 20:3, 4.” — Ainsworth. Horsley reads,
“Truly I heard the angry muttering of the mighty,
of them that are the general dread.”
On this he has the following note: ”מסביב מגור, I take this to be a phrase describing the mighty, whose malignant threats against him he overheard, as persons universally dreaded for their power and their cruelty.”
“C’est, reservee.” — Fr. marg. “That is, laid up.”
“C’est a dire, a cause de leur adoption.” — Fr.
“Before the sons of men, i.e. openly, so that the world must acknowledge ‘there is a reward for the righteous man.’ Compare Ps 58:11.” — French and Skinner.
“Et que quand elle luit sur les fideles, ses rayons sont pour esblouir les yeux de tous les iniques, et affoiblir leur mains.." — Fr.
This is the reading adopted by Walford. “רכס ,מרכסי, colligavit: hence ‘bands,’ ‘conspiracies.’”
“The particle of similitude is wanting in Hebrew, as is not uncommon. The intention of the Psalmist is evidently to describe by a metaphor his signal deliverance, as if he had been guarded by invincible fortifications.” — Walford.
“Ou, perturbation; ou, hastivete.” — Fr. marg. “Or, perturbation; or, haste.”
”Ou, par excellence.” — “Or, excellently.” — Fr. marg.
“Et recognoistre qu’en icelle ils ont assez de secours.” — Fr.
Literally, “with plenty.”
The word גאה, gaäh, from which גאוה, gaävah, which we have rendered proudly, is derived, signifies elatus est, eminuit; and גאוה, gaävah, “is sometimes taken in a bad sense for pride or arrogance, as in Ps 10:2; and sometimes in a good sense for splendor, magnificence, strength, excellence. In the latter sense it is used of God, Ps 68:34, His height, or excellence and strength, are in the clouds.” — Hammond.