18. Jehovah is nigh to those who are broken of heart; he will save those who are bruised of spirit. 19. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but Jehovah will deliver him from them all. 20. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken1 21. But malice shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous shall be destroyed. 22. Jehovah redeemeth the soul of his servants, and those who trust in him shall not perish.
18. Jehovah is nigh to those who are broken of heart. David here exemplifies and extends still more the preceding doctrine, that God is the deliverer of his people, even when they are brought very low, and when they are, as it were, half-dead. It is a very severe trial, when the grace of God is delayed, and all experience of it so far withdrawn, as that our spirits begin to fail; nay more, to say that God is nigh to the faithful, even when their hearts faint and fall them, and they are ready to die, is altogether incredible to human sense and reason. But by this means his power shines forth more clearly, when he raises us up again from the grave. Moreover, it is meet that the faithful should be thus utterly cast down and afflicted, that they may breathe again in God alone. From this we also learn, that nothing is more opposed to true patience than the loftiness of heart of which the Stoics boast; for we are not accounted truly humbled until true affliction of heart has abased us before God, so that, having prostrated ourselves in the dust before him, he may raise us up. It is a doctrine full of the sweetest consolation, that God departs not from us, even when we are overwhelmed by a succession of miseries, and, as it were, almost deprived of life.
19. Many are the afflictions of the righteous. The Psalmist here anticipates the thought which often arises in the mind, "How can it be that God has a care about the righteous, who are continually harassed with so many calamities and trials? for what purpose does the protection of God serve, unless those who are peaceably inclined enjoy peace and repose? and what is more unreasonable, than that those who cause trouble to no one should themselves be tormented and afflicted in all variety of ways?" That, therefore, the temptations by which we are continually assailed may not shake our belief in the providence of God, we ought to remember this lesson of instruction, that although God governs the righteous, and provides for their safety, they are yet subject and exposed to many miseries, that, being tested by such trials, they may give evidence of their invincible constancy, and experience so much the more that God is their deliverer. If they were exempted from every kind of trial, their faith would languish, they would cease to call upon God, and their piety would remain hidden and unknown. It is, therefore, necessary that they should be exercised with various trials, and especially for this end, that they may acknowledge that they have been wonderfully preserved by God amidst numberless deaths. If this should seldom happen, it might appear to be fortuitous, or the result of chance; but when innumerable and interminable evils come upon them in succession, the grace of God cannot be unknown, when he always stretches forth his hand to them. David, therefore, admonishes the faithful never to lose their courage, whatever evils may threaten them; since God, who can as easily deliver them a thousand times as once from death, will never disappoint their expectation. What he adds concerning their bones, seems not a little to illustrate the truth of this doctrine, and to teach us that those who are protected by God shall be free from all danger. He therefore declares, that God will take care that not one of their bones shall be broken; in which sense Christ also says, that
"the very hairs of our head are all numbered," (Luke 12:7.)
21. But malice shall slay the wicked. The Hebrew word her, raäh, which I have translated malice, some would rather render misery, so that the meaning would be, that the ungodly shall perish miserably, because in the end they shall be overwhelmed with calamities. The other translation, however, is more expressive, namely, that their wickedness, with which they think themselves fortified, shall fall upon their own heads. As David therefore taught before, that there was no defense better than a just and blameless life, so now he declares, that all the wicked enterprises of the wicked, even though no one should in any thing oppose them, shall turn to their own destruction. In the second clause of the verse he states, that it is for the sake of the righteous that it is ordered, that the ungodly are themselves the cause and instruments of their own destruction. Those, says he, who hate the righteous shall be destroyed. Let this, therefore, be to us as a wall of brass and sure defense; that however numerous the enemies which beset us may be, we should not be afraid, because they are already devoted to destruction. The same thing David confirms in the last verse, in which he says, that Jehovah redeems the soul of his servants. How could they be preserved in safety, even for a moment, among so many dangers, unless God interposed his power for their defense? But by the word redeem there is expressed a kind of preservation which is repugnant to the flesh. For it is necessary that we should first be adjudged or doomed to death, before God should appear as our redeemer. From this it follows, that those who hurry forward too precipitately, and are unable to realize God's power unless he appear speedily, working deliverance for them, intercept the communication of his grace. Moreover, that none might form their judgment of the servants of God by moral or philosophic virtue only, as it is called, David specifies this as a principal mark by which they may be known, that they trust in God, on whom also their salvation depends.