4. Tremble then, and sin not:commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. 5. Sacrifice the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.
4. Tremble then. Now he exhorts his enemies to repentance, if peradventure, their madness was not wholly incorrigible. In the first place, he bids them tremble, or be troubled; a word by which he rebukes their stupidity in running headlong in their wicked course, without any fear of God, or any sense of danger. And certainly the great presumption of all the ungodly in not hesitating to engage in war against God, proceeds from their being hardened through an infatuated security; and by their thoughtlessness, they render themselves stupid, and become more obdurate by forgetting both God and themselves, and following whithersoever lust leads them. He tells them that the best remedy to cure their rage, and prevent them from sinning any longer, would be to awaken from their lethargy and begin to be afraid and tremble; as if he had said, As soon as you shall have shaken off your drowsiness and insensibility, your desire of sinning will abate; for the reason why the ungodly are troublesome to the good and the simple, and cause so much confusion, is because they are too much at peace with themselves.
He afterwards admonishes them to commune with their own heart upon their bed, that is, to take an account of themselves at leisure, and as it were, in some place of deep retirement;1 an exercise which is opposed to their indulgence of their unruly passions. In the end of the verse he enjoins them to be still. Now, it is to be observed, that the cause of this stillness is the agitation and trembling, of which he before made mention. For if any have been hurried into sin by their infatuated recklessness, the first step of their return to a sound mind is to awaken themselves from their deep sleep to fearfulness and trembling. After this follows calm and deliberate reflection; then they consider and reconsider to what dangers they have been exposing themselves; and thus at length they, whose audacious spirits shrink at nothing, learn to be orderly and peaceable, or, at least, they restrain their frantic violence.
To commune upon one's bed, is a form of expression taken from the common practice and experience of men. We know that, during our intercourse with men in the day time, our thoughts are distracted, and we often judge rashly, being deceived by the external appearance; whereas in solitude, we can give to any subject a closer attention; and, farther, the sense of shame does not then hinder a man from thinking without disguise of his own faults. David, therefore, exhorts his enemies to withdraw from those who witnessed and judged of their actions on the public stage of life, and to be alone, that they may examine themselves more truthfully and honestly. And this exhortation has a respect to us all; for there is nothing to which men are more prone than to deceive one another with empty applause, until each man enter into himself, and commune alone with his own heart. Paul, when quoting this passage in Ephesians 4:26, or, at least when alluding to the sentiment of David, follows the Septuagint, "Be ye angry and sin not." And yet he has skilfully and beautifully applied it to his purpose. He there teaches us that men, instead of wickedly pouring forth their anger against their neighbors, have rather just cause to be angry with themselves, in order that, by this means, they may abstain from sin. And, therefore, he commands them rather to fret inwardly, and be angry with themselves; and then to be angry, not so much at the persons, as at the vices of others.
5. Sacrifice ye. Many are of opinion that David exhorts his enemies to give some evidence of their repentance; and I certainly admit, that sacrifices were partly enjoined for the purpose of inducing men to walk in newness of life. But when I consider the character of the men who opposed David, I am satisfied that he here censures their hypocrisy, and beats down their groundless boasting. David, when he wandered as a fugitive in deserts, or in caves, or on mountains, or in the regions beyond his own country, might seem to have been separated from the Church of God; and certainly he was commonly accounted as a corrupt member cut off from the body and the communion of the saints. Meanwhile the ark of the covenant was in the hands of his enemies, they kept possession of the temple, and they were the first in offering sacrifices. They, therefore, vaunted themselves against David with the same boldness and presumption with which we know hypocrites to have been always puffed up. Nor is it to be doubted, but they proudly abused the name of God as if they only had been his true worshippers.2 But as Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:4) rebukes the ungodly, because of the false confidence which they placed in the temple of the Lord; so David also denies that God is pacified by mere outward ceremonies, since he requires pure sacrifices. There is in the words an implied contrast between the sacrifices of righteousness, and all those vain and spurious rites3 with which the counterfeit worshippers of God satisfy themselves. The sum, therefore, is, "You boast of having God on your side, because you have free access to his altar to offer your sacrifices there with great pomp; and because I am banished from the Holy Land, and not suffered to come to the temple, you think that I am not an object of the divine care. But you must worship God in a far different manner, if you would expect any good at his hand; for your unclean sacrifices with which you pollute his altar, so far from rendering him favorable to you, will do nothing else but provoke his wrath." Let us learn from this passage, that, in contending with the corrupters of true religion, who may have the name of God continually in their mouth, and vaunt themselves on account of their observance of his outward worship, we may safely rebuke their boasting, because they do not offer the right sacrifices. But, at the same time, we must beware lest a vain pretense of godliness foster in us a perverse and ill founded confidence, in place of true hope.