David, having been delivered from some great danger, or rather from many dangers, first relates the prayers which he had offered up to God amidst the terrors of death. He then subjoins his thanksgiving, which is no ordinary one; for he celebrates his deliverance at great length, and exhorts all the saints to be of good hope, as they had in him a most excellent and memorable example of God's goodness.
To the chief musician. A psalm of David.
1. In thee, O Jehovah! have I put my trust, let me not be ashamed for ever: deliver me in thy righteousness. 2. Incline thine ear unto me, deliver me speedily; be unto me a strong rock, a house of defense to save me. 3. For thou art my rock and my fortress: and for thy name's sake thou wilt lead and guide me.1 4. Pluck me out of the net which they have hidden for me; for thou art my strength.
1. In thee, O Jehovah! have I put my trust. Some are of opinion that this psalm was composed by David, after he had most unexpectedly escaped out of the wilderness of Maon; to which I do not object, although it is only a doubtful conjecture. Certainly he celebrates one or more of the greatest of his dangers. In the commencement he tells us what kind of prayer he offered in his agony and distress; and its language breathes affection of the most ardent nature. He takes it for a ground of hope that he trusted in the Lord, or continued to trust in him; for the verb in the past tense seems to denote a continued act. He held it as a principle, that the hope which depends upon God cannot possibly be disappointed. Meanwhile, we see how he brings forward nothing but faith alone; promising himself deliverance only because he is persuaded that he will be saved by the help and favor of God. But as this doctrine has been expounded already, and will yet occur oftener than once, it is sufficient at present to have glanced at it. Oh! that all of us would practice it in such a manner as that, whenever we approach to God, we may be able with David to declare that our prayers proceed from this source, namely, from a firm persuasion that our safety depends on the power of God. The particle signifying for ever may be explained in two ways. As God sometimes withdraws his favor, the meaning may not unsuitably be, Although I am now deprived of thy help, yet cast me not off utterly, or for evermore. Thus David, wishing to arm himself with patience against his temptations, would make a contrast between these two things, -- being in distress for a time, and remaining in a state of confusion.2 But if any one choose rather to understand his words in this way, "Whatever afflictions befall me, may God be ready to help me, and ever and anon stretch forth his hand to me, as the case requires," I would not reject this meaning any more than the other. David desires to be delivered in the righteousness of God, because God displays his righteousness in performing his promise to his servants. It is too much refinement of reasoning to assert that David here betakes himself to the righteousness which God freely bestows on his people, because his own righteousness by works was of no avail. Still more out of place is the opinion of those who think that God preserves the saints according to his righteousness; that is to say, because having acted so meritoriously, justice requires that they should obtain their reward. It is easy to see from the frequent use of the term in The Psalms, that God's righteousness means his faithfulness, in the exercise of which he defends all his people who commit themselves to his guardianship and protection. David, therefore, confirms his hope from the consideration of the nature of God, who cannot deny himself, and who always continues like himself.
2. incline thine ear unto me. These words express with how much ardor David's soul was stimulated to pray. He affects no splendid or ornate language, as rhetoricians are wont to do; but only describes in suitable figures the vehemence of his desire. In praying that he may be delivered speedily there is shown the greatness of his danger, as if he had said, All will soon be over with my life, unless God make haste to help me. By the words, house of defense, fortress, and rock, he intimates, that, being unable to resist his enemies, his hope rests only on the protection of God.
3. For thou art my rock. This verse may be read as one sentence, thus:As thou art like a tower for my defense, for thy name's sake direct and guide me during my whole life. And thus the conjunction, as in many similar cases, would be superfluous. But I rather prefer a different sense, namely, that David, by interjecting this reflection, encourages himself not only to earnestness in prayer, but also in the confident hope of obtaining his requests. We know, at all events, that it is usual with him to mingle such things in his prayers as may serve to remove his doubts, and to confirm his assurance. Having, therefore, expressed his need, he assures himself, in order to encourage and animate himself, that his prayer shall certainly have a happy answer. He had formerly said, Be thou my strong rock and fortress; and now he adds, Assuredly thou art my rock, and my fortress: intimating, that he did not throw out these words rashly, like unbelievers, who, although they are accustomed to ask much from God, are kept in suspense by the dread of uncertain events. From this he also draws another encouragement, that he shall have God for his guide and governor during the whole course of his life. He uses two words, lead and guide, to express the same thing, and this he does (at least so I explain it) on account of the various accidents and unequal vicissitudes by which the lives of men are tried:as if he had said, Whether I must climb the steep mountain, or struggle along through rough places, or walk among thorns, I trust that thou wilt be my continual guide. Moreover, as men will always find in themselves matter for doubt, if they look to their own merits,3 David expressly asks that God may be induced to help him for his own name's sake, or from regard to his own glory, as, properly speaking, there is no other thing which can induce him to aid us. It must therefore be remembered, that God's name, as it is opposed to all merit whatever, is the only cause of our salvation. In the next verse, under the metaphor of a net, he appears to designate the snares and artifices with which his enemies encompassed him. We know that conspiracies were frequently formed against his life, which would have left him no room for escape; and as his enemies were deeply skilled in policy, and hating him with an inconceivable hatred, were eagerly bent on his destruction, it was impossible for him to be saved from them by any human power. On this account he calls God his strength; as if he had said, He alone is sufficient to rend asunder all the snares with which he sees his afflicted people entangled.