6. And in my tranquillity1 I had said, I shall never be moved. 7. O Jehovah! in thy good pleasure thou hast established strength to my mountain: thou hast hidden thy face, I have been terrified. 8. O Jehovah! I cried to thee, and to my Lord2 I made my supplication. 9. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down into the pit?3 Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth ? 10. Hear, O Jehovah! and have mercy upon me: O Jehovah! Be thou my helper.
6. And in my tranquillity I had said. This is the confession which I formerly mentioned, in which David acknowledges that he had been justly and deservedly punished for his foolish and rash security, in forgetting his mortal and mutable condition as a man, and in setting his heart too much on prosperity. By the term tranquillity, he means the quiet and flourishing state of his kingdom. Some translate the Hebrew word hwls, shiluah, which we have rendered tranquillity, by abundance, in which sense it is often used in other places; but the word tranquillity agrees better with the context; as if David had said, When fortune smiled upon me on every side, and no danger appeared to occasion fear, my mind sunk as it were into a deep sleep, and I flattered myself that my happy condition would continue, and that things would always go on in the same course. This carnal confidence frequently creeps upon the saints when they indulge themselves in their prosperity, and so to speak, wallow upon their dunghill.4 Hence Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:18) compares himself to a wild bullock before the Lord tamed him and accustomed him to the yoke. This may at first sight appear to be but a small crime, yet we may gather from its punishment how much it is displeasing to God; nor will we wonder at this when we consider the root from which it springs and the fruits which it bears. As deaths innumerable continually hover before our eyes, and as there are so many examples of change to awaken us to fear and caution, those must be bewitched with devilish pride who persuade themselves that their life is privileged above the common lot of the world. They see the whole earth jumbled together in undistinguishing variety, and its individual parts in a manner tossed hither and thither; and yet, as if they did not belong to the human race, they imagine that they shall always continue stable and liable to no changes. Hence that wantonness of the flesh, with which they so licentiously indulge their lusts; hence their pride and cruelty, and neglect of prayer. How indeed should those flee to God, who have no sense of their need to instigate or move them to that? The children of God have also a pious security of their own, which preserves their minds in tranquillity amidst the troublesome storms of the world; like David, who, although he had seen the whole world made to shake, yet leaning upon the promise of God, was bound to hope well concerning the continuance of his kingdom. But although the faithful, when raised aloft on the wings of faith, despise adversity, yet, as they consider themselves liable to the common troubles of life, they lay their account with enduring them, -- are every hour prepared to receive wounds, -- shake off their sluggishness, and exercise themselves in the warfare to which they know that they were appointed, - and with humility and fear put themselves under God's protection; nor do they consider themselves safe anywhere else than under his hand. It was otherwise with David, who, when ensnared by the allurements of his prosperous state, promised himself unbroken tranquillity not from the word of God but from his own feelings. The same thing also occurred to the pious King Hezekiah, who, although lately afflicted with a sore disease, as soon as all was well and according to his wish, was hurried by the vanity of the flesh to pride and vain boasting, (2 Chronicles 32:24.) By this we are taught to be on our guard when in prosperity, that Satan may not bewitch us with his flatteries. The more bountifully God deals with any one, the more carefully ought he to watch against such snares. It is not, indeed, probable that David had become so hardened as to despise God and defy all misfortunes, like many of the great men of this world, who, when immersed among their luxuries and surfeitings, insolently scoff at all God's judgments; but an effeminate listlessness having come over his mind, he became more lukewarm in prayer, nor did he depend on the favor of God; in short, he put too much confidence in his uncertain and transitory prosperity.
7. O Jehovah! of thy good pleasure. This verse describes the difference which exists between the confidence which is founded upon the word of God and the carnal security which springs from presumption. True believers, when they rely upon God, are not on that account neglectful of prayer. On the contrary, looking carefully at the multitude of dangers by which they are beset, and the manifold instances of human frailty which pass before their eyes, they take warning from them, and pour out their hearts before God. The prophet now failed in duty as to this matter; because, by anchoring himself on his present wealth and tranquillity, or spreading his sails to the prosperous winds, he depended not on the free favor of God in such a manner as to be ready at any time to resign into his hands the blessings which he had bestowed upon him. The contrast should be observed between that confidence of stability which arises from the absence of trouble, and that which rests upon the gracious favor of God. When David says that strength was established to his mountain, some interpreters expound it of mount Zion. Others understand by it a stronghold or fortified tower, because in old time fortresses were usually built upon mountains and lofty places. I understand the word metaphorically to signify a solid support, and therefore readily admit that the prophet alludes to mount Zion. David thus blames his own folly, because he considered not, as he ought to have done, that there was no stability in the nest which he had formed for himself, but in God's good will alone.
Thou hast hidden thy face. Here he confesses, that, after he was deprived of God's gifts, this served to purge his mind as it were by medicine from the disease of perverse confidence. A marvellous and incredible method surely, that God, by hiding his face, and as it were bringing on darkness, should open the eyes of his servant, who saw nothing in the broad light of prosperity. But thus it is necessary that we be violently shaken, in order to drive away the delusions which both stifle our faith and hinder our prayers, and which absolutely stupify us with a soothing infatuation. And if David had need of such a remedy, let us not presume that we are endued with so good a state of heart as to render it unprofitable for us to be in want, in order to remove from us this carnal confidence, which is as it were diseased repletion which would otherwise suffocate us. We have, therefore, no reason to wonder, though God often hides his face from us, when the sight of it, even when it shines serenely upon us, makes us so wretchedly blind.
8. O Jehovah! I cried unto thee. Now follows the fruit of David's chastisement. He had been previously sleeping profoundly, and fostering his indolence by forgetfulness; but being now awakened all on a sudden with fear and terror, he begins to cry to God. As the iron which has contracted rust cannot be put to any use until it be heated again in the fire, and beaten with the hammer, so in like manner, when carnal security has once got the mastery, no one can give himself cheerfully to prayer, until he has been softened by the cross, and thoroughly subdued. And this is the chief advantage of afflictions, that while they make us sensible of our wretchedness, they stimulate us again to supplicate the favor of God.
9. What profit is there in my blood? Some explain the verse after this manner:What will it avail me to have lived, unless thou prolongest my life till I shall have finished the course of my vocation? But this exposition seems too strained, especially as the term blood here signifies death, not life:as if David had said, What profit wilt thou derive from my death? This interpretation is farther confirmed by the following clause, where he complains that his lifeless body will then be useless for celebrating the praises of God. And he seems expressly to mention the truth of God, to intimate that it would be unsuitable to the character of God to take him out of the world by an untimely death, before God had accomplished the promise which he had made to him concerning his future heir. As there is a mutual relation between God's promises and our faith, truth is, as it were, the medium by which God openly shows that he does not merely make liberal promises to us in words, to feed us with empty hopes, and afterwards to disappoint us. Moreover, to obtain a longer life, David draws an argument from the praises of God, to celebrate which we are born and nourished:as if he had said, For what purpose hast thou created me, O God! but that through the whole course of my life I may be a witness and a herald of thy grace to set forth the glory of thy name? But my death will cut short the continuance of this exercise, and reduce me to eternal silence. A question, however, arises here, Does not, it may be said, the death of true believers glorify God as well as their life? We answer, David speaks not simply of death, but adds a circumstance which I have already treated of in the sixth Psalm. As God had promised him a successor, the hope of living longer being taken from him, he had good reason to be afraid lest this promise should be frustrated by his death, and was therefore compelled to exclaim, What profit is there in my blood? It highly concerned the glory of God that he should be preserved alive, until by obtaining his desire, he should be able to bear witness to God's faithfulness in completely fulfilling his promise to him. By inquiring in the end of the verse, Shall the dust praise thee? he does not mean that the dead are altogether deprived of power to praise God, as I have already shown in the sixth Psalm. If the faithful, while encumbered with a burden of flesh, exercise themselves in this pious duty, how should they desist from it when they are disencumbered, and set free from the restraints of the body? It ought to be observed, therefore, that David does not professedly treat of what the dead do, or how they are occupied, but considers only the purpose for which we live in this world, which is this, that we may mutually show forth to one another the glory of God. Having been employed in this exercise to the end of our life, death at length comes upon us and shuts our mouth.
10. Hear, O Jehovah! In this clause the Psalmist softens and corrects his former complaint; for it would have been absurd to expostulate with God like one who despaired of safety, and to leave off in this fretful temper. Having asked, therefore, with tears, what profit God would derive from his death, he encourages himself to a more unconstrained manner of prayer, and, conceiving new hope, calls upon God for mercy and help. He puts God's favor, however, in the first place, from whom alone he could expect the help which he implored.