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35. Psalm 35

Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.

2Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.

3Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.

4Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.

5Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of the Lord chase them.

6Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the Lord persecute them.

7For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul.

8Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall.

9And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in his salvation.

10All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?

11False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.

12They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.

13But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.

14I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.

15But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not:

16With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth.

17Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.

18I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.

19Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.

20For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land.

21Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it.

22 This thou hast seen, O Lord: keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me.

23Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, my God and my Lord.

24Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me.

25Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it: let them not say, We have swallowed him up.

26Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.

27Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.

28And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.

12. They render me evil for good. David again shows that the malice of his enemies was of a very aggravated character, because they not only oppressed him wrongfully, seeing he was innocent, and had given them no occasion of offense, but also because even those who had received much enjoyment and many favors from him, recompensed him in a very strange and ungrateful manner. Such disgraceful conduct wounds the feelings of good men very severely, and seems quite intolerable. But it is an inexpressibly great consolation when we can testify before God, that we have attempted by every means in our power to soothe the minds of our enemies, and to bow them to gentleness, although, notwithstanding, they are hurried on by insatiable cruelty in desiring our hurt; for God will not suffer this barbarous and brutal ingratitude to pass unpunished. Their cruelty is farther expressed when it is said that they endeavored to bereave (for so it is properly in the Hebrew 710710     “Ont tasch, de rendre orpheline car il y a ainsi proprement en Hebrieu.” — Fr. ) the soul of a meek and peaceable man; that is to say, to deprive it of comfort, and render it so desolate as to overwhelm it with despair and destroy it. David afterwards recounts certain acts of kindness which he had done them, and which, if they had had any sense of equity and humanity, ought to have been as so many sacred bonds of mutual love. He does not say that he aided them with money or with goods, or that he had by some other means exercised liberality towards them, for it may sometimes happen that when the hand is open the heart may be shut; but he mentions certain tokens of true and genuine love — that he lamented their misfortunes before God, and was troubled for them, as if he had mourned for the death of his mother; and, finally, that he felt for and took an interest in them as if they had been his own brothers. Since then he had thus laid them under high obligations to him, of what baser ingratitude could they be guilty than to vomit against him in his adversity the poison of their hatred? With respect to the meaning of the words, I take the term sickness, in this place, to signify metaphorically any kind of trouble or sorrow. David’s meaning is, that as often as any calamity had befallen them he was a partaker of their grief. A good evidence of this was the prayer which he says he poured out into his own bosom. The proper meaning of the expression is, that he did not ostentatiously utter his prayers aloud before men, like many who pretend much more affection than they really feel, but that by praying in secret, and without making the world privy to it, he showed that he was sincerely and from the heart distressed by reason of their affliction. As we say that a man rejoices in his own bosom, who is satisfied with the secret and inward feeling of his heart, without declaring it to others, so also one may be said to weep or pray in his own bosom, who pours not forth his tears and prayers before men to secure their favor, but, contented with having God alone for his witness, conceals his emotions in his own heart. I do not, however, deny that in this manner of speaking there is expressed the attitude of one who prays, as if the Psalmist had said, that he bowed down his body, and prayed with his head hanging down, and his arms folded, as men in heaviness are accustomed to do. 711711     “When the Orientals,” says Boothroyd, “pray seriously in grief, they hide their face in their bosom: and to this custom the Psalmist here alludes. Rabbi Levi, Dathe, and others, explain it in like manner.” But this especially we ought to regard as his meaning, that there was no dissimulation in his prayer. Some think that there is an imprecation in his words, and they explain them in this sense. Lord, if it is true that I have not desired all prosperity to them, let all mischief fall upon me: but this is a forced explanation. There is still another exposition, which has as little plausibility in it; and it is this: Because I profited nothing by praying for them, the fruit of my prayer returned to myself. The sense, which is more in unison with the purpose and also the words of the prophet, is, I prayed for them just as I pray for myself. But what I have already advanced concerning the secret affection of the Psalmist will, I hope, prove satisfactory to the judicious reader. With respect to sackcloth and fasting, he used them as helps to prayer. The faithful pray even after their meals, and do not observe fasting every day as necessary for prayer, nor consider it needful to put on sackcloth whenever they come into the presence of God. But we know that those who lived in ancient times resorted to these exercises when any urgent necessity pressed upon them. In the time of public calamity or danger they all put on sackcloth, and gave themselves to fasting, that by humbling themselves before God, and acknowledging their guilt, they might appease his wrath. In like manner, when any one in particular was afflicted, in order to excite himself to greater earnestness in prayer, he put on sackcloth and engaged in fasting, as being the tokens of grief. When David then, as he here tells us, put on sackcloth, it was the same as if he had taken upon himself the sins of his enemies, in order to implore from God mercy for them, while they were exerting all their power to accomplish his destruction. Although we may reckon the wearing of sackcloth and sitting in ashes among the number of the legal ceremonies, yet the exercise of fasting remains in force amongst us at this day as well as in the time of David. When God, therefore, calls us to repentance, by showing us signs of his displeasure, let us bear in mind that we ought not only to pray to him after the ordinary manner, but also to employ such means as are fitted to promote our humility. In conclusion, the Psalmist says that he behaved and acted towards them as if each of them had been his brother.

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