8. O Jehovah, lead me forth in thy righteousness, because of mine adversaries:make thy way straight before my face. 9. For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward parts are very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they deal deceitfully 10. Cause them to err, O God; let them fall from their counsels; destroy them in the multitude1 of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.
8. O Jehovah, lead me forth, etc. Some explain these words thus:Show me what is right, and make me wholly devoted to the practice of that righteousness which adorns thy character; and do this because of my adversaries; for the saints, impelled by the wicked practice and deceitful arts of the ungodly, are in danger of turning aside from the right way. This meaning is unquestionably a pious and a useful one. But the other interpretation is more suitable, which views the words as a prayer that God would lead his servant in safety through the midst of the snares of his enemies, and open up to him a way of escape, even when, to all appearance, he was caught and surrounded on every side. The righteousness of God, therefore, in this passage, as in many others, is to be understood of his faithfulness and mercy which he shows in defending and preserving his people. Consequently, in thy righteousness means the same thing as for or according to thy righteousness. David, desiring to have God as the guide of his path, encourages himself in the hope of obtaining his request, because God is righteous; as if he had said, Lord, as thou art righteous, defend me with thine aid, that I may escape from the wicked plots of my enemies. Of the same import is the last clause of the verse, where he prays that the way of God may be made straight before his face, in other words, that he might be delivered by the power of God from the distresses with which he was so completely surrounded, that, according to the judgment of the flesh, he never expected to find a way of escape. And thus he acknowledges how impossible it was for him to avoid being entangled in the snares of his enemies,2 unless God both gave him wisdom, and opened up for him a way where no way is. It becomes us, after his example, to do the same thing; so that distrusting ourselves when counsel fails us, and the malice and wickedness of our enemies prevail, we may betake ourselves speedily to God, in whose hands are the issues of death, as we shall see afterwards, (Psalm 69:1.)
9. For there is no faithfulness in their mouth. He still repeats the same complaints which he made before, in order thereby to render his enemies the more odious in the sight of God, and to call forth in his own behalf the mercy of God, who has promised to succor those who are unjustly oppressed. And this is to be particularly attended to, that the more our enemies manifest their cruelty against us, or the more wickedly they vex us, we ought, with so much the greater confidence, to send up our groanings to heaven, because God will not suffer their rage to proceed to the uttermost, but will bring forth their malice and wicked devices to the light. In the first place, he accuses them of treachery, because they speak nothing uprightly, or in sincerity; and the cause which he assigns for this is, that inwardly they are full of iniquity. He next compares them to sepulchres, their throat is an open sepulcher; as if he had said, they are devouring gulfs;3 meaning by this, their insatiable desire of shedding blood. In the close of the verse, he again speaks of their deceitfulness. From all this we conclude, that the wrongs with which he was tried were of no ordinary kind, but that he had to contend with enemies the most wickedly who had neither humanity nor moderation. Being so miserably oppressed, he not only perseveres in prayer, but finds ground of hope even from the confusion and apparent hopelessness of his outward condition.
When Paul, (Romans 3:13,) in quoting this passage, extends it to all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, he does not give to it a meaning of greater latitude than the Holy Spirit intended to give. Since he takes it as an undeniable point, that under the person of David, there is here described to us the church, both in the person of Christ, who is the head, and in his members, it follows that all those ought to be reckoned among the number of his enemies, who have not been regenerated by the Spirit of God, whether they are without the pale of the visible church, or within it. For David, in this passage, does not summons either the Assyrians or the Egyptians to the judgment-seat of God, but the degenerate Jews, who, being circumcised in the flesh, gloried in their descent from the holy lineage of Abraham. Paul, therefore, does not wrest these words from their genuine meaning when he applies them to all mankind, but asserts, with truth, that David showed in them what is the character of the whole human family by nature.
10. Cause them to err. As the Hebrew word Msa asam, signifies to cut up or to destroy, as well as to sin, and is taken metaphorically for to err, or be deceived, either of these senses is suitable in this passage; but, as David immediately after subjoins, Let them fall from their counsels, I have no doubt but this first prayer is allied and similar to the second. I therefore join these two clauses together, as the cause and the effect. In the first, he prays that God would deprive them of their understanding, and drive them into error; and in the second, he prays that, as the effect of this, their counsels might come to nought, in other words, that their undertakings might prove unsuccessful.4 For how is it that the ungodly take counsel in vain, and are carried hither and thither without consideration or judgment, and become so basely obstinate, if it is not because the Lord takes them unawares in their own craftiness, breaks their artful schemes, intoxicates them with the spirit of phrenzy and giddiness, so that they act foolishly even in the smallest matters? If, therefore, we are afraid of the snares and deceits of men, and if we find those who desire to do us mischief to be clear-headed and sharp-witted persons, let us remember, that it is the continual office of God to strike with stupidity and madness those who are wise to commit iniquity. Thus it will come to pass, that although we may be asleep the Lord will dissipate with the breath of his mouth their devices, be they never so subtle, and, in the end, expose them to the mockery of the whole world. In short, David wishes God to lay his hand upon his enemies, and to put a stop to their wicked deliberations. And in fact it is necessary that God bring to nothing the schemes which the wicked cunningly devise, since it is Satan, the contriver of all deceits, who suggests to them all their methods of doing mischief. By praying Let them fall from their counsels he means that they may not obtain or accomplish what they had determined. Again, he prays to God to punish them as they deserved, because, in wrongfully and wickedly making war against an innocent person, they rebelled against God. The proud, indeed, never think of this, that the poor, whom they afflict and despise, are of such estimation in the sight of God, that he feels himself insulted and injured in their persons:for they do not imagine that the blows aimed at them are struck against heaven, any more than if they trampled a little dust or clay under their feet. But God bestows upon his servants the inestimable reward of taking their cause into his own hand. Whoever, therefore, has an approving conscience, and does not turn aside from his uprightness, although troubled wrongfully, has no reason to doubt of his warrant to improve God as a buckler against his enemies.