1. Answer me when I cry, O God of my righteousness; thou hast enlarged me in distress; have pity upon me, and hear my prayer.
In these words there is shown the faith of David, who, although brought to the uttermost distress, and indeed almost consumed by a long series of calamities, did not sink under his sorrow; nor was he so broken in heart as to be prevented from betaking himself to God his deliverer. By his praying, he testified, that when utterly deprived of all earthly succor, there yet remained for him hope in God. Moreover, he calls him the God of his righteousness, which is the same thing as if he had called him the vindicator of his right;1 and he appeals to God, because all men everywhere condemned him, and his innocence was borne down by the slanderous reports of his enemies and the perverse judgments of the common people. And this cruel and unjust treatment which David met with, ought to be carefully marked. For while nothing is more painful to us than to be falsely condemned, and to endure, at one and the same time, wrongful violence and slander; yet to be ill spoken of for doing well, is an affliction which daily befalls the saints. And it becomes them to be so exercised under it as to turn away from all the enticements of the world, and to depend wholly upon God alone. Righteousness, therefore, is here to be understood of a good cause, of which David makes God the witness, while he complains of the malicious and wrongful conduct of men towards him; and, by his example, he teaches us, that if at any time our uprightness is not seen and acknowledged by the world, we ought not on that account to despond, inasmuch as we have one in heaven to vindicate our cause. Even the heathen have said there is no better stage for virtue than a man's own conscience. But it is a consolation far surpassing this, to know when men vaunt themselves over us wrongfully, that we are standing in the view of God and of the angels. Paul, we know, was endued with courage arising from this source, (1 Corinthians 4:5) for when many evil reports were spread abroad concerning him among the Corinthians, he appeals to the judgment-seat of God. Isaiah also, fortified by the same confidence, (Isaiah 50:6 and following verse) despises all the slanders by which his enemies calumniated him. If, therefore, we cannot find justice anywhere in the world the only support of our patience is to look to God, and to rest contented with the equity of his judgment. It may, however, be asked by way of objection, Since all the purity of men is mere pollution in the sight of God, how can the godly dare to bring forward their own righteousness before him? With respect to David, it is easy to answer this question. He did not boast of his own righteousness except in reference to his enemies, from whose calumnies he vindicated himself. He had the testimony of a good conscience that he had attempted nothing without the call and commandment of God, and therefore he does not speak rashly when he calls God the protector and defender of his right. Hence we learn that David honored God with this title of praise, in order the more readily to set him in contrast with the whole world. And as he asks twice to be heard, in this there is expressed to us both the vehemence of his grief and the earnestness of his prayers. In the last clause of the verse, he also shows whence he expected to obtain what he needed, namely, from the mercy of God. And certainly, as often as we ask anything from God, it becomes us to begin with this, and to beseech him, according to his free goodness, to relieve our miseries.
Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress. Some think that David here promises himself what he had not yet experienced; and in the exercise of hope anticipates the manifestations of God's grace with which he should afterwards be favored. But, in my opinion, he rather mentions the benefits which he formerly received from God, and by these strengthens himself against the time to come. Thus the faithful are accustomed to call to their remembrance those things which tend to strengthen their faith. We shall, hereafter meet with many passages similar to this, where David, in order to give energy to his faith against terrors and dangers,2 brings together the many experiences from which he had learned that God is always present with his own people and will never disappoint their desires. The mode of expression which he here employs is metaphorical, and by it he intimates that a way of escape was opened up to him even when he was besieged and enclosed on every side. The distress of which he speaks, in my opinion, refers not less to the state of his mind than to circumstances of outward affliction; for David's heart was not of such an iron mould as to prevent him from being cast into deeper mental anguish by adversity.