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31. Psalm 31

In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.

2Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.

3For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.

4Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength.

5Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.

6I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the Lord.

7I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;

8And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room.

9Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly.

10For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.

11I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me.

12I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel.

13For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.

14But I trusted in thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God.

15My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.

16Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies’ sake.

17Let me not be ashamed, O Lord; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.

18Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.

19 Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!

20Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.

21Blessed be the Lord: for he hath shewed me his marvellous kindness in a strong city.

22For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.

23O love the Lord, all ye his saints: for the Lord preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.

24Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.

15. My times are in thy hand. That he might the more cheerfully commit the preservation of his person to God, he assures us, that, trusting to his divine guardianship, he did not trouble himself about those casual and unforeseen events which men commonly dread. The import of his language is, Lord, it is thy prerogative, and thou alone hast the power, to dispose of both my life and my death. Nor does he use the plural number, in my opinion, without reason; but rather to mark the variety of casualties by which the life of man is usually harassed. It is a cold exposition to restrict the phrase, my times, to the time which he had to live, as if David meant no more than that his time or his days on earth were in God’s hand. On the contrary, I am of opinion that, while he mused on the various revolutions and manifold dangers which continually hang over us, and the manifold unlooked-for events which from time to time happen, he nevertheless confidently reposed upon the providence of God, which he believed to be, according to the common saying, the arbiter both of good and of evil fortune. In the first clause we see that he not only denominates God the governor of the world in general, but also affirms that his life is in his hand; and not only so, but that to whatever agitations it might be subjected, and whatever trials and vicissitudes might befall him, he was safe under his protection. On this he founds his prayer, that God would preserve and deliver him from the hand of his enemies.

16. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant. We have said formerly, and we shall see in many instances hereafter, that this form of speech is taken from the common apprehension of men, who think that God regards them not, unless he really show his care of them by its effects. According to the judgment of sense, afflictions hide his countenance, just as clouds obscure the brightness of the sun. David therefore supplicates that God, by affording him immediate assistance, would make it evident to him that he enjoyed his grace and favor, which it is not very easy to discern amidst the darkness of afflictions. Now, God is said to lift the light of his countenance upon us in two ways; either when he opens his eyes to take care of our affairs, or when he shows to us his favor. These two things are indeed inseparable, or rather, the one depends upon the other. But by the first mode of speech, we, according to our carnal conceptions, attribute to God a mutability which, properly speaking, does not belong to him: whereas the second form of speech indicates, that our own eyes, rather than the eyes of God, are shut or heavy when he seems to have no regard to our afflictions. By the word preserve David explains what he meant by the former expression; but as there was at that time no way of safety apparent to him, he encourages himself to hope for it by setting before him the goodness of God.

17. O Jehovah! let me not be ashamed. In these words, the Psalmist continues his prayer, and to strengthen his hopes, he contrasts himself with his enemies; for it would have been more than absurd to permit those who by their wickedness so openly provoked the wrath of God to escape with impunity, and that one who was innocent and relied upon God should be disappointed and made a laughing-stock. Here, accordingly, we perceive what the Psalmist’s comparison implies. Moreover, instead of speaking of his hope or trust, he now speaks of his calling upon God, saying, I have called on thee; and he does this with good reason, for he who relies on the providence of God must flee to him with prayers and strong cries. To be silent in the grave, implies that death, when it befalls the ungodly, restrains and prevents them from doing farther injury. This silence is opposed both to their deceitful and treacherous devices, and to their outrageous insolence. In the very next verse, therefore, he adds, Let lying lips be put to silence, which, in my opinion, includes both their craftiness, and the false pretences and calumnies by which they endeavor to accomplish their designs, and also the vain boasting in which they indulge themselves. For he tells us that they speak with harshness and severity against the righteous, in pride and scorn; because it was their froward conceit, which almost always begets contempt, that made David’s enemies so bold in lying. Whoever proudly arrogates to himself more than is his due, will almost necessarily treat others with contempt.

19. O how great is thy goodness which thou hast hidden for them that fear thee! In this verse the Psalmist exclaims that God is incomprehensibly good and beneficent towards his servants. Goodness here means those divine blessings which are the effects of it. The interrogatory form of the sentence has a peculiar emphasis; for David not only asserts that God is good, but he is ravished with admiration of the goodness which he had experienced. It was this experience, undoubtedly, which caused him break out into the rapturous language of this verse; for he had been marvellously and unexpectedly delivered from his calamities. By his example, therefore, he enjoins believers to rise above the apprehension of their own understanding, in order that they may promise themselves, and expect far more from the grace of God than human reason is able to conceive. He says that the goodness of God is hidden for his servants, because it is a treasure which is peculiar to them. It, no doubt, extends itself in various ways to the irreligious and unworthy, and is set before them indiscriminately; but it displays itself much more plenteously and clearly towards the faithful, because it is they alone who enjoy all God’s benefits for their salvation. God

“maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,”
(Matthew 5:45,)

and shows himself bountiful even to the irrational creation; but he declares himself a Father, in the true and full sense of the term, to those only who are his servants. It is not without reason, therefore, that the goodness of God is said to be hidden for the faithful, whom alone he accounts worthy of enjoying his favor most intimately and tenderly. Some give a more subtle interpretation of the phrase, the goodness of God is hidden, explaining it as meaning that God, by often exercising his children with crosses and afflictions, hides his favor from them, although, at the same time, he does not forget them. It is more probable, however, that it should be understood of a treasure which God has set apart and laid up in store for them, unless perhaps we choose to refer it to the experience of the saints, because they alone, as I have said, experience in their souls the fruit of divine goodness; whereas brutish stupidity hinders the wicked from acknowledging God as a beneficent Father, even while they are devouring greedily his good things. And thus it comes to pass, that while the goodness of God fills and overspreads all parts of the world, it is notwithstanding generally unknown. But the mind of the sacred writer will be more clearly perceived from the contrast which exists between the faithful and those who are strangers to God’s love. As a provident man will regulate his liberality towards all men in such a manner as not to defraud his children or family, nor impoverish his own house, by spending his substance prodigally on others; so God, in like manner, in exercising his beneficence to aliens from his family, knows well how to reserve for his own children that which belongs to them as it were by hereditary right; that is to say, because of their adoption. 649649     “C’est a dire, a cause de leur adoption.” — Fr. The attempt of Augustine to prove from these words that those who unbelievingly dread God’s judgment have no experience of his goodness, is most inappropriate. To perceive his mistaken view of the passage, it is only necessary to look to the following clause, in which David says that God makes the world to perceive that he exercises inestimable goodness towards those who serve him, both in protecting them and in providing for their welfare. Whence we learn, that it is not of the everlasting blessedness which is reserved for the godly in heaven that the Psalmist here speaks, but of the protection and other blessings which belong to the preservation of the present life; which he declares to be so manifest that even the ungodly themselves are forced to become eye-witnesses of them. The world, I admit, passes over all the works of God with its eyes shut, and is especially ignorant of his fatherly care of the saints; still it is certain that there shine forth such daily proofs of it, that even the reprobate cannot but see them, except in so far as they willingly shut their eyes against the light. David, therefore, speaks according to truth, when he declares that God gives evidences of his goodness to his people before the sons of men, that it may be clearly seen that they do not serve him unadvisedly or in vain. 650650     “Before the sons of men, i.e. openly, so that the world must acknowledge ‘there is a reward for the righteous man.’ Compare Psalm 58:11.” — French and Skinner.

20. Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy countenance. In this verse the Psalmist specially commends the grace of God, because it preserves and protects the faithful against all harm. As Satan assiduously and by innumerable means opposes their welfare, and as the greater part of the world is at deadly war with them, they must be exposed to many dangers. Unless God, therefore, protected them by his power, and came from time to time to their aid, their condition would be most miserable. The Psalmist makes an allusion to the hiding which he had just mentioned, and although the metaphor may, at first sight, appear somewhat harsh, it very aptly expresses, that provided the Lord take care of them, the faithful are perfectly safe under his protection alone. By this eulogium, therefore, he sublimely extols the power of divine Providence, because it alone suffices to ward off every species of evil, and while it shines upon the godly, it blinds the eyes of all the wicked, and weakens their hands. 651651     “Et que quand elle luit sur les fideles, ses rayons sont pour esblouir les yeux de tous les iniques, et affoiblir leur mains.." — Fr. In the opinion of some, the Psalmist, when he speaks of the secret of God’s countenance, refers to the sanctuary, an interpretation which I do not altogether reject, although it does not appear to me sufficiently solid. Again, he says that God hides the faithful from the pride of man and the strife of tongues, because, if God restrain not the wicked, we know that they have the audacity to break forth with outrageous violence against the truly godly; but however unbridled their lust and insolence may be, God preserves his people from harm, by wondrously covering them with the brightness of his countenance. Some translate the Hebrew word ריכסים, rikasim, conspiracies, 652652     This is the reading adopted by Walford. “רכס ,מרכסי, colligavit: hence ‘bands,’ ‘conspiracies.’” others perversities, but without any reason; nor, indeed, does the etymology of the word admit of it, for it comes from a root which signifies to lift up, or to elevate. To pride is added the strife of tongues, because God’s children have cause to fear not only the inhuman deeds of their enemies, but also their still more wicked and violent calumnies, as David himself more than enough experienced. And as our innocence ought to be justly dearer to us than our life, let us learn to cultivate uprightness in such a manner as that, trusting to God’s protection, we may disregard every false calumny. And let us always remember that it is God’s peculiar prerogative to vindicate his people from all unjust reproaches.

21. Blessed be Jehovah! These general truths the Psalmist here proceeds to apply to his own circumstances, and he declares that the goodness of God in preserving his life was wondrously displayed. As he speaks of aid which had been suddenly and unexpectedly afforded him in very desperate circumstances, those interpreters judge aright who here supply as, the mark of similitude, 653653     “The particle of similitude is wanting in Hebrew, as is not uncommon. The intention of the Psalmist is evidently to describe by a metaphor his signal deliverance, as if he had been guarded by invincible fortifications.” — Walford. in this way, as in a fortified city David lay open to every blow, and had been exposed to every sort of injury, and he boasts that in his nakedness and destitution the assistance of God had been of greater service to him than a city well fortified, or an impregnable fortress would have been.

22. And I said in my fear. David here confesses that for his distrust he deserved to be deserted by God and left to perish. It is true that to confess this before men he felt to be a shameful thing; but that he may the more fully illustrate the grace of God to him, he hesitates not to publish the shame of his fault. He repeats almost the same acknowledgement in Psalm 116:11, “I said in my haste, All men are liars.” I am aware that the Hebrew word חפז, chaphaz, is explained by some as meaning flight; as if David, in fleeing from death, because he was unable to make resistance, was stricken with this fear. But I refer it rather to his trouble of mind. Whether, therefore, we translate it haste or fear, it means that he had been, as it were, carried headlong to entertain the thought that he was neglected by God. And this haste is opposed to calm and deliberate consideration; for although David was stricken with fear, he did not faint under the trial, and this persuasion did not continue fixed in his mind. For we know that the faithful are often disquieted by fears and the heat of impatience, or driven headlong as it were by their too hasty or precipitate wishes, but afterwards they come to themselves. That David’s faith had never been overthrown by this temptation appears from the context, for he immediately adds, that God had heard the voice of his supplications; but if his faith had been extinguished, he could not have brought his mind earnestly to engage in prayer, and therefore this complaint was only a lapse of the tongue uttered in haste. Now if peevish hastiness of thought could drive this holy prophet of God, a man who was adorned with so many excellencies, to despair, how much reason have we to fear, lest our minds should fail and fatally ruin us? This confession of David, as we have already observed, serves to magnify the grace of God; but at the same time he sufficiently shows, in the second clause of the verse, that his faith, although severely shaken, had not been altogether eradicated, because he ceased not meanwhile to pray. The saints often wrestle in this manner with their distrust, that partly they may not despond, and that partly they may gather courage and stimulate themselves to prayer. Nor does the weakness of the flesh, even when they are almost overthrown, hinder them from showing that they are unwearied and invincible champions before God. But although David stoutly resisted temptation, he nevertheless acknowledges himself unworthy of God’s grace, of which he in some measure deprived himself by his doubt. For the Hebrew particle אכן, aken, is here to be understood adversatively and rendered yet, intimating that David had been preserved without any desert of his own, inasmuch as God’s immeasurable goodness strove with his unbelief. But as it is a sign of affirmation in Hebrew, I have thought proper to translate it, Yet truly. I have no doubt that he opposes his language to the various temptations with which, it is probable, his mind had been driven hither and thither.

23. O love Jehovah, all ye his meek ones! In my opinion, the Psalmist does not here exhort the saints to fear and reverence God, as many think, but encourages them to confide in him; or, in other words, to devote themselves wholly to him, to put all their hope in him, and to rely entirely upon him, without seeking to any other. Whence is it that our own fond devices delight us, but because we do not delight in God so much as we ought, and because our affections do not cleave to him? This love of God, therefore, comprehends in it all the desires of the heart. By nature, all men greatly desire to be in a prosperous or happy state; but while the greater number are fascinated by the allurements of the world, and prefer its lies and impostures, scarcely one in a hundred sets his heart on God. The reason which immediately follows confirms this interpretation; for the inspired Psalmist exhorts the meek to love God, because he preserves the faithful, which is as if he had desired them to rest satisfied with his guardianship, and to acknowledge that in it they had sufficient succor. 656656     “Et recognoistre qu’en icelle ils ont assez de secours.” — Fr. In the meantime, he admonishes them to keep a good conscience, and to cultivate uprightness, since God promises to preserve only such as are upright and faithful. On the other hand, he declares that he plentifully recompenses the proud, in order that when we observe them succeeding prosperously for a time, an unworthy emulation may not entice us to imitate them, and that their haughtiness, and the outrage they commit, while they think they are at liberty to do what they please, may not crush and break our spirits. The amount of the whole is this, Although the ungodly flatter themselves, while they proceed in their wickedness with impunity, and believers are harassed with many fears and dangers, yet devote yourselves to God, and rely upon his grace, for he will always defend the faithful, and reward the proud as they deserve. Concerning the meaning of the Hebrew word על-יתר, al-yether, which we have rendered plentifully, 657657     Literally, “with plenty.” interpreters are not agreed. Some translate it pride, meaning that to those who behave themselves proudly, God will render according to their pride; others translate it to overflowing, or beyond measure, because יתר, yether, signifies in Hebrew residue or remnant; instead of which I have translated it plentifully. Some understand it as extending to their children and children’s children, who shall remain the residue of their seed. Besides, as the same word is frequently used for excellence, 658658     The word גאה, gaäh, from which גאוה, gaävah, which we have rendered proudly, is derived, signifies elatus est, eminuit; and גאוה, gaävah, “is sometimes taken in a bad sense for pride or arrogance, as in Psalm 10:2; and sometimes in a good sense for splendor, magnificence, strength, excellence. In the latter sense it is used of God, Psalm 68:34, His height, or excellence and strength, are in the clouds.” Hammond. I have no doubt that the prophet elegantly rebukes the proud, who imagine that their fancied excellence is not only a shield to them, but, an invincible fortress against God. As their groundless authority and power blind, or rather bewitch them, so that they vaunt themselves intemperately and without measure against those who are lowly and feeble, the prophet elegantly says that there is a reward in store for them proportioned to the haughtiness with which they are puffed up.

24. Be of good courage. This exhortation is to be understood in the same way as the preceding; for the steadfastness which the Psalmist here enjoins is founded on the love of God of which he had spoken, when renouncing all the enticements of the world, we embrace with our whole hearts the defense and protection which he promises to us. Nor is his exhortation to courage and firmness unnecessary; because, when any one begins to rely on God, he must lay his account with and arm himself for sustaining many assaults from Satan. We are first, then, calmly to commit ourselves to the protection and guardianship of God, and to endeavor to have the experience of his goodness pervading our whole minds. Secondly, thus furnished with steady firmness and unfailing strength, we are to stand prepared to sustain every day new conflicts. As no man, however, is able of himself to sustain these conflicts, David urges us to hope for and ask the spirit of fortitude from God, a matter particularly worthy of our notice. For hence we are taught, that when the Spirit of God puts us in mind of our duty, he examines not what each man’s ability is, nor does he measure men’s services by their own strength, but stimulates us rather to pray and beseech God to correct our defects, as it is he alone who can do this.


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