37. I will pursue my enemies, and will overtake them; nor will I return till I have consumed them. 38. I have afflicted [or smitten] them, so that they were not able to rise; they have fallen under my feet. 39. Thou hast girded me with strength1 for the war; thou hast bowed down my enemies under me. 40. And thou hast given me the neck of my enemies, and those who hated me I have destroyed.2
The point on which David insists so much is, that of showing from the effect or issue, that all his victories were to be traced to the favor of God; and from this it follows that his cause was good and just. God, no doubt, sometimes grants successes even to the ungodly and wicked; but he at length shows by the issue, that he was all the while opposed to them and their enemy. It is his servants alone who experience such tokens of his favor as he shewed towards David, and he intends by these to testify that they are approved and accepted by him. We are apt to think that David here speaks too much after the manner of a soldier, in declaring that he will not cease from the work of slaughter until he has destroyed all his enemies; or rather that he has forgotten the gentleness and meekness which ought to shine in all true believers, and in which they should resemble their heavenly Father; but as he attempted nothing without the command of God, and as his affections were governed and regulated by the Holy Spirit, we may be assured that these are not the words of a man who was cruel, and who took pleasure in shedding blood, but of a man who faithfully executed the judgment which God had committed to him. And, indeed, we know that he was so distinguished for gentleness of disposition as to abhor the shedding of even a single drop of blood, except in so far as duty and the necessity of his office required. We must, therefore, take into consideration David's vocation, and also his pure zeal, which was free from all perturbation of the flesh. Moreover, it should be particularly attended to that the Psalmist here calls those his enemies whose indomitable and infatuated obstinacy merited and called forth such vengeance from God. As he represented the person of Christ, he inflicted the punishment of death only on those who were so inflexible that they could not be reduced to order by the exercise of a mild and humane authority; and this of itself shows, that there was nothing in which he more delighted than to pardon those who repented and reformed themselves. He thus resembled Christ, who gently allures all men to repentance, but breaks in pieces, with his iron rod, those who obstinately resist him to the last. The sum of these verses is, that David, as he fought under the authority of God, being chosen king by him, and engaging in no undertaking without his warrant, was assisted by him, and rendered invincible against the assaults of all his enemies, and enabled even to discomfit vast and very powerful armies. Farther, let us remember, that under this type there is shadowed forth the invincible character and condition of the kingdom of Christ, who, trusting to, and sustained by, the power of God, overthrows and destroys his enemies, -- who, in every encounter, uniformly comes off victorious, -- and who continues king in spite of all the resistance which the world makes to his authority and power. And as the victories secured to him involve a security of similar victories to us, it follows that there is here promised us an impregnable defense against all the efforts of Satan, all the machinations of sin, and all the temptations of the flesh. Although, therefore, Christ can only obtain a tranquil kingdom by fighting, let us not on that account be troubled, but let it be enough to satisfy us, that the hand of God is always ready to be stretched forth for its preservation. David was, for a time, a fugitive, so that it was with difficulty he could save his life, by taking shelter in the dens of wild beasts; but God, at length, made his enemies turn their backs, and not only put them to flight, but also delivered them over to him, that he might pursue and utterly discomfit them. In like manner, our enemies for a time may be, as it were, just ready to put the knife to our throat3 to destroy us, but God, at length, will make them not only to flee before us, but also to perish in our presence, as they deserve. At the same time, let us remember what kind of warfare it is to which God is calling us, against what kind of persons he will have us to contend, and with what armor he furnishes us, that it may suffice us to have the devil, the flesh, and sin overthrown and placed under our feet by his spiritual power. With respect to those to whom he has given the power of the sword, he will also defend them, and not suffer them to be unrighteously opposed, provided they reign under Christ, and acknowledge him as their head. As to the words, interpreters almost unanimously render the beginning of the 40th verse,
1 "To be well girt was to be well armed in the Greek and Latin idioms, as well as in the Hebrew." -- Dr Geddes.
2 In the French version it is, "Tu les as desfruits;" -- "Thou hast destroyed them."
3 "Comme tous prests a nous mettre le cousteau sur la gorge." -- Fr.