1. I will praise Jehovah with my whole heart; I will tell of thy marvellous works. 2. I will rejoice and exult1 in thee; yea, I will celebrate in songs thy name, O thou Most High. 3. When my enemies are turned back, they fall down, and are put to flight2 at thy presence.
1. I will praise the Lord. David begins the psalm in this way, to induce God to succor him in the calamities with which he was now afflicted. As God continues his favor towards his own people without intermission, all the good he has hitherto done to us should serve to inspire us with confidence and hope, that he will be gracious and merciful to us in the time to come.3 There is, indeed, in these words a profession of gratitude for the favors which he has received from God;4 but, in remembering his past mercies, he encourages himself to expect succor and aid in future emergencies; and by this means he opens the gate of prayer. The whole heart is taken for an upright or sincere heart, which is opposed to a double heart. Thus he distinguishes himself not only from gross hypocrites, who praise God only with their lips outwardly, without having their hearts in any way affected, but also acknowledges that whatever he had hitherto done which was commendable, proceeded entirely from the pure grace of God. Even irreligious men, I admit, when they have obtained some memorable victory, are ashamed to defraud God of the praise which is due to him; but we see that as soon as they have uttered a single expression in acknowledgement of the assistance God has afforded them, they immediately begin to boast loudly, and to sing triumphs in honor of their own valor, as if they were under no obligations whatever to God. In short, it is a piece of pure mockery when they profess that their exploits have been done by the help of God; for, after having made oblation to Him, they sacrifice to their own counsels, skill, courage, and resources. Observe how the prophet Habakkuk, under the person of one presumptuous king, wisely reproves the ambition which is common to all, (Habakkuk 1:16.) Yea, we see that the famous generals of antiquity, who, upon returning victorious from some battle, desired public and solemn thanksgivings5 to be decreed in their name to the gods, thought of nothing less than of doing honor to their false deities; but only abused their names under a false pretense, in order thereby to obtain an opportunity of indulging in vain boasting, that their own superior prowess might be acknowledged.6 David, therefore, with good reason, affirms that he is unlike the children of this world, whose hypocrisy or fraud is discovered by the wicked and dishonest distribution which they make between God and themselves,7 arrogating to themselves the greater part of the praise which they pretended to ascribe to God. He praised God with his whole heart, which they did not; for certainly it is not praising God with the whole heart when a mortal man dares to appropriate the smallest portion of the glory which God claims for himself. God cannot bear with seeing his glory appropriated by the creature in even the smallest degree, so intolerable to him is the sacrilegious arrogance of those who by praising themselves, obscure his glory as far as they can.
I will tell of all thy marvellous works. Here David confirms what I have already said, that he does not treat in this psalm of one victory or one deliverance only; for he proposes to himself in general all the miracles which God had wrought in his behalf, as subjects of meditation. He applies the term marvellous not to all the benefits which he had received from God, but to those more signal and memorable deliverances in which was exhibited a bright and striking manifestation of the divine power. God would have us to acknowledge him as the author of all our blessings; but on some of his gifts he has engraven more evident marks in order the more effectually to awaken our senses, which are otherwise as if asleep or dead. David's language, therefore, is an acknowledgement that he was preserved of God, not by ordinary means, but by the special power of God, which was conspicuously displayed in this matter; inasmuch as he had stretched forth his hand in a miraculous manner, and above the common and usual way.
2. I will rejoice and exult in thee. Observe how the faithful praise God sincerely and without hypocrisy, when they do not rest on themselves for happiness, and are not intoxicated with foolish and carnal presumption, but rejoice in God alone; which is nothing else than to seek the matter of their joy from the favor of God, and from no other source, since in it perfect happiness consists. I will rejoice in thee. We ought to consider how great is the difference and opposition between the character of the joy which men endeavor to find in themselves, and the character of the joy which they seek in God. David, the more forcibly to express how he renounces every thing which may keep hold of or occupy him with vain delight, adds the word exult, by which he means that he finds in God a full and an overflowing abundance of joy, so that he is not under the necessity of seeking even the smallest drop in any other quarter. Moreover, it is of importance to remember what I have previously observed, that David sets before himself the testimonies of the divine goodness which he had formerly experienced, in order to encourage himself with the more alacrity to lay open his heart8 to God, and to present his prayers before him. He who begins his prayer by affirming that God is the great source and object of his joy, fortifies himself before-hand with the strongest confidence, in presenting his supplications to the hearer of prayer.
3. While my enemies are turned back. In these words he assigns the reason why he undertakes to sing the praises of God, namely, because he acknowledges that his frequent victories had been achieved, not by his own power, nor by the power of his soldiers, but by the free favor of God. In the first part of the verse he narrates historically how his enemies were discomfited or put to flight; and then he adds, what faith alone could enable him to say, that this did not take place by the power of man or by chance, but because God fought for him,9 and stood against them in the battle. He says, they fall,10 and are put to flight At Thy Presence. David therefore acted wisely, when, upon seeing his enemies turn their backs, he lifted up the eyes of his mind to God, in order to perceive that victory flowed to him from no other source than from the secret and incomprehensible aid of God. And, doubtless, it is He only who guides the simple by the spirit of wisdom, while he inflicts madness on the crafty, and strikes them with amazement, -- who inspires with courage the faint and timid, while he causes the boldest to tremble with fear, -- who restores to the feeble their strength, while he reduces the strong to weakness, -- who upholds the fainthearted by his power, while he makes the sword to fall from the hands of the valiant; - and, finally, who brings the battle to a prosperous or disastrous issue, just as he pleases. When, therefore, we see our enemies overthrown, we must beware of limiting our view to what is visible to the eye of sense, like ungodly men, who, while they see with their bodily eyes, are yet blind; but let us instantly call to our remembrance this truth, that when our enemies turn back, they are put to flight by the presence of the Lord.11 The verbs, fall and put to flight, in the Hebrew, are in the future tense, but I have translated them in the present, because David anew presents to his own view the goodness of God which had formerly been manifested towards him.