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At the commencement of the psalm, David speaks of having many enemies, and in the second verse he specifies some one in the singular number. And certainly, since the minds of all men were inflamed against him, he had very good reason for praying to be delivered from all his persecutors. But as the wicked cruelty of the king, like a firebrand, had kindled against him, though an innocent person, the hatred of the whole people, he had good reason also for turning his pen particularly against him. Thus, in the first verse, he describes the true character of his own circumstances—he was a persecuted man; and, in the second verse, the fountain or cause of the calamity he was enduring. There is great emphasis in these words which he uses in the beginning of the Psalms O Jehovah my Godly in thee do I trust. The verb, it is true, is in the past tense in the Hebrew; and, therefore, if literally translated, the reading would be, In thee have I trusted; but as the Hebrews often take one tense for another, (98) I prefer to translate it in the present, In thee I do trust, especially since it is abundantly evident that a continued act, as it is termed, is denoted. David does not boast of a confidence in God, from which he had now fallen, but of a confidence which he constantly entertained in his afflictions. And this is a genuine and an undoubted proof of our faith, when, being visited with adversity, we, notwithstanding, persevere in cherishing and exercising hope in God. From this passage, we also learn that the gate of mercy is shut against our prayers if the key of faith do not open it for us. Nor does he use superfluous language when he calls Jehovah his own God; for by setting up this as a bulwark before him, he beats back the waves of temptations, that they may not overwhelm his faith. In the second verses by the figure of a lion, he represents in a stronger light the cruelty of Saul, as an argument to induce God to grant him assistance, even as he ascribes it to Him as his peculiar province to rescue his poor sheep from the jaws of wolves.
3O Jehovah my God Here David, to induce God to show him favour, protests that he is molested unjustly, and without being guilty of any crime. To give his protestation the greater weight, he uses an imprecation. If he has done any wrong, he declares his readiness to bear the blame; yea, he offers to endure the severest punishment, if he is not altogether innocent of the crime of which all men thought him almost convicted. And by entreating God to succour him upon no other condition than this, that his integrity should upon trial be found to be untarnished, he teaches us, by his example, that as often as we have recourse to God, we must make it our first care to be well assured in our own consciences with respect to the righteousness of our cause; for we do him great wrong if we wish to engage him as the advocate and defender of a bad cause. The pronoun this shows that he speaks of a thing which was generally known; whence we may conclude, that the slander which had been raised by Cush was spread far and wide. And as David was condemned, by the false reports and unrighteous judgments which men advanced against him, and saw no remedy on earth, he betakes himself to the judgment-seat of God, and contents himself with maintaining his innocence before the heavenly Judge; an example which all the godly should imitate, in order that, in opposition to the slanderous reports which are spread against them, they may rest satisfied with the judgment of God alone. He next declares more distinctly, that he had committed no crime. And in the fourth verse, he mentions two particulars in self-vindication; first, That he had done no wrong to any one; and, secondly, That he had rather endeavoured to do good to his enemies, by whom notwithstanding he had been injured without any just cause. I, therefore, explain the fourth verse thus: If I have wronged any man that was at peace with me, and have not rather succoured the unworthy, who persecuted me without a cause, etc. Since David was hated of almost all men, as if ambition to reign had impelled him perfidiously to rise up in rebellion against Saul, and to lay snares for the monarch to whom he was bound by the oath of allegiances (101) in the first part of the verse, he clears himself of such a foul slander. The reason, perhaps, why he calls Saul him that was at peace with him is, that on account of his royal dignity his person ought to be sacred, and secure from danger, (102) so that it should be unlawful to make any hostile attempt against him. This phrase, however, may be understood generally, as if he had said, No one who has meekly restrained himself from injuring me, and has conducted himself kindly towards me, can with truth complain that I have ever injured him in a single instance. And yet it was the general persuasion, that David, in the midst of peace, had stirred up great confusion, and caused war. From this it is just so much the more manifest, that David, provided he enjoyed the approbation of God, was contented with the consolation arising from this, though he should have comfort from no other source.
In the second clause of the fourth verse, he proceeds farther, and states, that he had been a friend, not only to the good, but also to the bad, and had not only restrained himself from all revenge, but had even succoured his enemies, by whom he had been deeply and cruelly injured. It would certainly not be very illustrious virtue to love the good and peaceable, unless there were joined to this self-government and gentleness in patiently bearing with the bad. But when a man not only keeps himself from revenging the injuries which he has received, but endeavours to overcome evil by doing good, he manifests one of the graces of a renewed and sanctified nature, and in this way proves himself to be one of the children of God; for such meekness proceeds only from the Spirit of adoption. With respect to the words: as the Hebrew word
(103) In the clause, “And have NOT delivered him that persecuted me without cause,” the word not is a supplement, there being nothing for it in the Hebrew text.
5Let mine enemy pursue It is a striking proof of the great confidence which David had in his own integrity, when he is willing to endure any kind of punishment, however dreadful, provided he should be found guilty of any crime. If we could bring a good conscience like this before God, his hand would be more quickly stretched forth to afford us immediate assistance. But as it often happens that those who molest us have been provoked by us, or that we burn with the desire of revenge when offended, we are unworthy of receiving succour from God; yea, our own impatience shuts the gate against our prayers. In the first place, David is prepared to be given over to the will of his enemies, that they may seize his life, and throw it down to the ground; and then to be publicly exhibited as an object of their mockery, so that, even after he is dead, he may lie under eternal disgrace. Some think that the
6Arise, O Jehovah David here sets the anger of God in opposition to the rage of his enemies; and when we are in similar circumstances we should act in the same manner. When the ungodly are inflamed against us, and cast forth their rage and fury to destroy us, we ought humbly to beseech God to be inflamed also on his side; in other words, to show in truth that he has, no less zeal and power to preserve us, than they have inclination to destroy us. The word, Arise, is taken in a figurative sense, for to ascend into a judgment-seat, or rather to prepare one’s self to make resistance; and it is here applied to God, because, while he delays to succour us, we are very apt to think him asleep. Accordingly, David also, a little after, beseeches him to awake; for it seemed on the part of God something like the forgetfulness of sleep to give no assistance to an individual who was so much afflicted and oppressed on all hands.
In the end of the verse he shows that he asks nothing but what is according to the appointment of God. And this is the rule which ought to be observed by us in our prayers; we should in every thing conform our requests to the divine will, as John also instructs us, (1 John 5:14.) And, indeed, we can never pray in faith unless we attend, in the first place, to what God commands, that our minds may not rashly and at random start aside in desiring more than we are permitted to desire and pray for. David, therefore, in order to pray aright, reposes himself on the word and prose mise of God; and the import of his exercise is this: Lord, I am not led by ambition, or foolish headstrong passion, or depraved desire, inconsiderately to ask from thee whatever is pleasing to my flesh; but it is the clear light of thy word which directs me, and upon it I securely depend. Since God, of his own good pleasure, had called him to be one day king, it belonged to him to defend and maintain the rights of the man whom he had chosen for his servant. David’s language, therefore, is the same as if he had said, “When I was well contented with my humble condition in private life, it was thy pleasure to set me apart to the honourable station of being a king; now, therefore, it belongs to thee to maintain this cause against Saul and his associates who are using their efforts to defeat thy decree in making war upon me.” The Hebrew word
7And a congregation of peoples Some limit this sentence exclusively to the people of Israel, as if David promised that, as soon as he should ascend the throne, he would endeavour to reunite together, in the pure worship of God, the people who before had been as it were in a state of dispersion. Under the reign of Saul, religion had been neglected, or such an unrestrained license in wickedness had prevailed, that few paid any regard to God. The meaning, therefore, according to these expositors, is this: Lord, when thou shalt have constituted me king, the whole people, who have so basely gone astray from thee, (106) shall return from their wanderings and disorderly courses to thee and to thy service, so that all shall know that thou rulest in the midst of them, and shall worship thee as their only King. But I am rather inclined to view this as language which has a respect in common to many nations. David here speaks in high terms of the effects resulting from his deliverance, the report of which would be spread far and wide, and his words are, as if he had said, “Lord, when thou shalt have put me in peaceable possession of the kingdom, this will not only be a benefit conferred on me personally, but it will be a common lesson to many nations, teaching them to acknowledge thy just judgment, so that they shall turn their eyes to thy judgment-seat.” (107) David here alludes to the practice of a people who surround their king, as in a circle, when he holds a solemn assembly. In the same sense, he adds immediately after, that God, who, for a time, lay still and kept silence, would raise himself on high that not only one or two, but whole nations, might behold his glory: And on account of this return thou on high (108) There is in these words, a tacit comparison, that although it might not be necessary to have a regard to one man alone, it is requisite that God should keep the world in the fear and reverence of his judgment.
(108) Fry reads, “And over it resume thy high tribunal.” He supposes that the word
8Jehovah shall judge the nations This sentence is closely connected with the preceding verse. David had prayed God to show himself as judge to the nations; and now he takes it for a certain and admitted truth, that it is the peculiar office of God to judge the nations: for the word put in the future tense, and rendered shall judge, denotes here a continued act; and this is the signification of the future tense in general sentences. Besides, he does not here speak of one nation only, but comprehends all nations. As he acknowledges God to be the judge of the whole world, he concludes a little after from this, that he will maintain his cause and right. And as often as we seem to be forsaken and oppressed, we should recall this truth to our remembrance, that as God is the governor of the world, it is as utterly impossible for him to abdicate his office as to deny himself. From this source there will flow a continual stream of comfort, although a long succession of calamities may press upon us: for from this truth we may assuredly conclude, that he will take care to defend our innocence. It would be contrary to every principle of just reasoning to supposes that he who governs many nations neglects even one man. What happens with respect to the judges of this world can never take place with respect to him; he cannot, as may be the case with them, be so occupied about great and public affairs as to neglect, because unable to attend to them, the concerns of individuals. He again brings into new his integrity that he may not seem, after the example of hypocrites to make the name of God a mere pretext for the better furthering of his own purposes. Since God is no respecter of persons, we cannot expect him to be on our side, and to favour us, if our cause is not good. But it is asked, how can David here boast of his own integrity before God, when in other places he deprecates God entering into judgment with him? The answer is easy, and it is this: The subject here treated of is not how he could answer if God should demand from him an account of his whole life; but, comparing himself with his enemies, he maintains and not without cause, that, in respect of them, he was righteous. But when each saint passes under the review of God’s judgment, and his own character is tried upon its own merits, the matter is very different, for then the only sanctuary to which he can betake himself for safety, is the mercy of God.
9Let the malice of the wicked come to an endow I beseech thee. David, in the first place, prays that God would restrain the malice of his enemies, and bring it to an end; from which it follows, that his affliction had been of long duration. Others suppose that this is rather a dreadful imprecation, and they explain the Hebrew word
10.My shield It is not wonderful that David often mingles meditations with his prayers, thereby to inspire himself with true confidence. We may go to God in prayer with great alacrity; but our fervour, if it does not gather new strength, either immediately fails or begins to languish. David, therefore, in order to continue in prayer with the same ardour of devotion and affection with which he commenced, brings to his recollection some of the most common truths of religion, and by this means fosters and invigorates his faith. He declares, that as God saves the upright in heart, he is perfectly safe under his protection. Whence it follows, that he had the testimony of an approving conscience. And, as he does not simply say the righteous, but the upright in heart, he appears to have an eye to that inward searching of the heart and reins mentioned in the preceding verse.
11God judgeth the righteous etc. Others read, God is a righteous Judge, and God is angry every day. The words will certainly admit of this sense; but as the doctrine is fuller according to the first reading, I have preferred following it, as I see it is more approved of by the most learned divines, and, besides, it is more suitable to the subject which David is now considering. As Saul and his accomplices had, by their calumnious reports, so far succeeded in their wicked design as to have produced a general prejudice against David, so that he was condemned by almost the whole people, the holy man supports himself from this one consideration, that whatever may be the confusion of things in the world, God, notwithstanding, can easily discern between the righteous and the wicked. He, therefore, appeals from the false judgments of men to Him who can never be deceived. It may, however, be asked, How does the Psalmist represent God as judging every day, when we see him delaying punishment frequently for a long time? The sacred writings certainly most justly celebrate his long-suffering; but, although he exercises patience long, and does not immediately execute his judgments, yet, as no time passes, yea, not even a day, in which he does not furnish the clearest evidence that he discerns between the righteous and the wicked, notwithstanding the confusion of things in the world, it is certain that he never ceases to execute the office of a judge. All who will be at the trouble to open their eyes to behold the government of the world, will distinctly see that the patience of God is very different from approbation or connivance. Surely, then, his own people will confidently betake themselves to him every day.
12If he turn not These verses are usually explained in two ways. The meaning is, that if David’s enemies should persevere in their malicious designs against him, there is denounced against them the vengeance which their obstinate wickedness deserves. Accordingly, in the second clause, they supply the name of God, —If he turn not, GOD will whet his sword; (115) as if it had been said, If my enemy do not repent, (116) he shall, at length, feel that God is completely armed for the purpose of maintaining and defending the righteous. If it is understood in this sense, the third verse is to be considered as a statement of the cause why God will thus equip himself with armour, namely, because the ungodly, in conceiving all kinds of mischief, in travailing to bring forth wickedness, and in at length bringing forth deceit and falsehood, directly assail God, and openly make war upon him. But, in my judgment, those who read these two verses in one continued sentence, give a more accurate interpretation. I am not, however, satisfied that even they fully bring out the meaning of the Psalmist. David, I have no doubt, by relating the dreadful attempts of his enemies against him, intended thereby to illustrate more highly the grace of God; for when these malicious men, strengthened by powerful military forces, and abundantly provided with armour, furiously rushed upon him in the full expectation of destroying him, who would not have said that it was all over with him? Moreover, there is implied in the words a kind of irony, when he pretends to be afraid of their putting him to death. They mean the same thing as if he had said, “If my enemy do not alter his purpose, or turn his fury and his strength in another direction, who can preserve me from perishing by his hands? He has an abundant supply of arms, and he is endeavouring, by all methods, to accomplish my death.” But Saul is the person of whom he particularly speaks, and therefore he says, he hath made fit his arrows for the persecutors This implies that Saul had many agents in readiness who would willingly put forth their utmost efforts in seeking to destroy David. The design of the prophet, therefore, was to magnify the greatness of the grace of God, by showing the greatness of the danger from which he had been delivered by him. (117) Moreover, when it is here said, if he do not return, returning does not signify repentance and amendment in David’s enemy, but only a change of will and purpose, as if he had said, “It is in the power of my enemy to do whatever his fancy may suggest.” (118) Whence it appears the more clearly, how wonderful the change was which suddenly followed contrary all expectation. When he says that Saul had prepared the instruments of death for his bow, he intimates that he was driving after no ordinary thing, but was fully determined to wound to death the man whom he shot at. Some, referring the Hebrew word
(115) This is the view adopted by Hengstenberg in his excellent Commentary on The Psalms. “The apparently coarse manner of expression in our text,” says he, “representing God as a warrior equipped with sword and bow, has besides for its foundation the coarseness of sinners, and the weakness of faith on the part of believers, which does not direct itself against the visible danger with pure thoughts of God’s controllable agency, but seeks to clothe those thoughts with flesh and blood, and regards the judge as standing over against the sinner, man against man, sword against sword.”
(119) Those who adopt this rendering, support it from the reading of the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Syriac versions, although the Chaldee version reads persecuting; and they generally view the 12th and 13th verses as a representation of God under the image of a warrior ready to shoot his flaming, burning, fiery arrows, against the object to which he is opposed.” I read
14Behold, he shall travail David has hitherto shown how great and formidable the danger was which was near him. In this verse, laughing to scorn the presumptuous and foolish attempts of Saul, and his magnificent preparations, he declares that they had failed of accomplishing their object. (121) By the demonstrative adverb Behold, he enhances the wonder, inasmuch as such a result fell out, on his part altogether unlooked for. Behold, says he, after he has travailed to bring forth wickedness, like as he had conceived mischief, at length there comes forth only empty wind and vanity, because God frustrated his expectations, and destroyed all these wicked attempts. (122) Iniquity and mischief are here put for every kind of violence and outrage (123) which Saul intended to inflict upon David. Some interpreters think that the order of the words is inverted, because travailing to bring forth is put before conceiving; but I think that the words have their proper place if you explain them thus: Behold, he shall travail to bring forth wickedness, for he hath conceived mischief; that is to say, as he long ago devised with himself my destruction, so he will do his utmost to put his design into execution. David afterwards adds, he hath brought forth falsehood This implies that Saul had been disappointed in his expectation; as Isaiah, (Isaiah 26:18,) in like manner, speaks of unbelievers “bringing forth wind,” when their success does not correspond to their wicked and presumptuous attempts. As often, therefore, as we see the ungodly secretly plotting our ruin, let us remember that they speak falsehood to themselves; in other words deceive themselves, and shall fail in accomplishing what they devise in their hearts. (124) If, however, we do not perceive that they are disappointed in their designs until they are about to be brought forth, let us not be cast down, but bear it with a spirit of patient submission to the will and providence of God.
Here David says not only that their wicked devices were without success, but that, by the wonderful providence of God, the result was the very opposite of what had been contemplated. He sets this forth in the first place metaphorically, by employing the figure of a pit and a ditch; and then he expresses the same thing in simple terms without figure, declaring, that the mischief intended for others returned upon the head of him who had devised it There is no doubt that it was a common proverb among the Jews, He who hath digged a pit falleth into it; which they quoted when they meant to say, that wicked and crafty men are caught in the snares and traps which they have set for others, or that the contrivers of the ruin of others perish by their own devices. (126) There is a twofold use of this doctrine: the first place, however skilled in craft our enemies may be, and whatever means of doing mischief they may have, we must nevertheless look for the issue which God here promises, that they shall fall by their own sword. And this is not a thing which happens by chance; but God, by the secret direction of his own hand, causes the evil which they intend to bring upon the innocent to return upon their own heads. In the second place, If at any time we are instigated by passion to inflict any injury upon our neighbours, or to commit any wickedness, let us remember this principle of retributive justice, which is often acted upon by the divine government, that those who prepare a pit for others are cast into it themselves; and the effect will be, that every one, in proportion as he would consult his own happiness and welfare, will be careful to restrain himself from doing any injury, even the smallest, to another.
17I will praise Jehovah according to his righteousness; and I will sing to the name of Jehovah, Most High As the design of God in the deliverances which he vouchsafes to his servants is, that they may render to him in return the sacrifices of praise, David here promises that he will gratefully acknowledge the deliverance which he had received, and at the same time affirms that his preservation from death was the undoubted and manifest work of God. He could not, with truth, and from the heart, have ascribed to God the praise of his deliverance, if he had not been fully persuaded that he had been preserved otherwise than by the power of man. He, therefore, not only promises to exercise the gratitude which was due to his deliverer, but he confirms in one word what he has rehearsed throughout the psalm, that he is indebted for his life to the grace of God, who had not suffered Saul to take it from him. The righteousness of God is here to be understood of his faithfulness which he makes good to his servants in defending and preserving their lives. God does not shut up or conceal his righteousness from our view in the secret recesses of his own mind, but manifests it for our advantage when he defends us against all wrongful violence, delivers us from oppression, and preserves us in safety although wicked men make war upon us and persecute us.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 7". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany