Psalm 17:15

15. But as for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness:I shall be satisfied, when I shall awake, with thy image, [or likeness.]


Having with anguish of heart declared before God the troubles which afflicted and tormented him, that he might not be overwhelmed with the load of temptations which pressed upon him, he now takes, as it were, the wings of faith and rises up to a region of undisturbed tranquillity, where he may behold all things arranged and directed in due order. In the first place, there is here a tacit comparison between the well regulated state of things which will be seen when God by his judgment shall restore to order those things which are now embroiled and confused, and the deep and distressing darkness which is in the world, when God keeps silence, and hides his face. In the midst of those afflictions which he has recounted, the Psalmist might seem to be plunged in darkness from which he would never obtain deliverance.1 When we see the ungodly enjoying prosperity, crowned with honors, and loaded with riches, they seem to be in great favor with God. But David triumphs over their proud and presumptuous boasting; and although, to the eye of sense and reason, God has cast him off, and removed him far from him, yet he assures himself that one day he will enjoy the privilege of familiarly beholding him. The pronoun I is emphatic, as if he had said, The calamities and reproaches which I now endure will not prevent me from again experiencing fullness of joy from the fatherly love of God manifested towards me. We ought carefully to observe, that David, in order to enjoy supreme happiness, desires nothing more than to have always the taste and experience of this great blessing that God is reconciled to him. The wicked may imagine themselves to be happy, but so long as God is opposed to them, they deceive themselves in indulging this imagination. To behold God's face, is nothing else than to have a sense of his fatherly favor, with which he not only causes us to rejoice by removing our sorrows, but also transports us even to heaven. By the word righteousness, David means that he will not be disappointed of the reward of a good conscience. As long as God humbles his people under manifold afflictions, the world insolently mocks at their simplicity, as if they deceived themselves, and lost their pains in devoting themselves to the cultivation and practice of purity and innocence. 2 Against such kind of mockery and derision David is here struggling, and in opposition to it he assures himself that there is a recompense laid up for his godliness and uprightness, provided he continue to persevere in his obedience to the holy law of God; as Isaiah, in like manner, (Isaiah 3:10,) exhorts the faithful to support themselves from this consideration, that "it shall be well with the righteous:for they shall eat the fruit of their doings." We ought not, however, from this to think that he represents works as the cause of his salvation. It is not his purpose to treat of what constitutes the meritorious ground upon which he is to be received into the favor of God. He only lays it down as a principle, that they who serve God do not lose their labor, for although he may hide his face from them for a time, he causes them again in due season to behold his bright countenance3 and compassionate eye beaming upon them.

I shall be satisfied. Some interpreters, with more subtility than propriety, restrict this to the resurrection at the last day, as if David did not expect to experience in his heart a blessed joy4 until the life to come, and suspended every longing desire after it until he should attain to that life. I readily admit that this satisfaction of which he speaks will not in all respects be perfect before the last coming of Christ; but as the saints, when God causes some rays of the knowledge of his love to enter into their hearts, find great enjoyment in the light thus communicated, David justly calls this peace or joy of the Holy Spirit satisfaction. The ungodly may be at their ease, and have abundance of good things, even to bursting, but as their desire is insatiable, or as they feed upon wind, in other words, upon earthly things, without tasting spiritual things, in which there is substance,5 or being so stupified through the pungent remorse of conscience with which they are tormented, as not to enjoy the good things which they possess, they never have composed and tranquil minds, but are kept unhappy by the inward passions with which they are perplexed and agitated. It is therefore the grace of God alone which can give us contentment,6 and prevent us from being distracted by irregular desires. David, then, I have no doubt, has here an allusion to the empty joys of the world, which only famish the soul, while they sharpen and increase the appetite the more,7 in order to show that those only are partakers of true and substantial happiness who seek their felicity in the enjoyment of God alone. As the literal rendering of the Hebrew words is, I shall be satisfied in the awaking of thy face, or, in awaking by thy face; some, preferring the first exposition, understand by the awaking of God's face the breaking forth, or manifestation of the light of his grace, which before was, as it were, covered with clouds. But to me it seems more suitable to refer the word awake to David,8 and to view it as meaning the same thing as to obtain respite from his sorrow. David had never indeed been overwhelmed with stupor; but after a lengthened period of fatigue, through the persecution of his enemies, he must needs have been brought into such a state as to appear sunk into a profound sleep. The saints do not sustain and repel all the assaults which are made upon them so courageously as not, by reason of the weakness of their flesh, to feel languid and feeble for a time, or to be terrified, as if they were enveloped in darkness. David compares this perturbation of mind to a sleep. But when the favor of God shall again have arisen and shone brightly upon him, he declares that then he will recover spiritual strength and enjoy tranquillity of mind. It is true, indeed, as Paul declares, that so long as we continue in this state of earthly pilgrimage, "we walk by faith, not by sight;" but as we nevertheless behold the image of God not only in the glass of the gospel, but also in the numerous evidences of his grace which he daily exhibits to us, let each of us awaken himself from his lethargy, that we may now be satisfied with spiritual felicity, until God, in due time, bring us to his own immediate presence, and cause us to enjoy him face to face.

1 "Desquelles il n'y oust issue aucune." -- Fr.

2 "Comme s'ils s'abusoyent et perdoyent leurs peines en s'adonnant a purete et innocence." -- Fr.

3 "Il lui fait tousjours derechet contempler finalment son clair visage et son oeil debonnaire." -- Fr.

4 "Comme si David remettoit a la vie a venir l'esperance de sentir en son coeur une joye heureuse." -- Fr.

5 "C'est a dire de choses terriennes, sans gouster les choses spirituelles esquelles il y a fermete." -- Fr.

6 "Qui nous puisse donner contentement." -- Fr.

7 "Lesquelles ne font qu'affamer et augmenter tousjours tout plus l'appetit." -- Fr.

8 The Chaldee version applies it to David, and reads, "When I shall awake, I shall be satisfied with the glory of thy countenance." But the Septuagint, the Vulgate, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions apply the verb, awake to thy glory. "En tw| ojfqhnai thn doxan sou," "At the appearing of thy glory," says the Septuagint. "Cum apparuerit gloria tua," "When thy glory shall appear," says the Vulgate.