9. And Jehovah will be a refuge to the poor, and a protection in seasonable times in trouble. 10. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee:for thou forsakest not them that seek thee, O Jehovah. 11. Sing unto Jehovah, who dwelleth in Sion, and proclaim his doings among the nations. 12. For in requiring blood, he hath remembered it:he hath not forgotten the cry of the afflicted.
9. And Jehovah will be a refuge for the poor. David here furnishes a remedy for the temptation which greatly afflicts the weak, when they see themselves, and those who are like them, abandoned to the will of the ungodly, while God keeps silence.1 He puts us in mind that God delays his aid, and to outward appearance forsakes his faithful ones, in order at length to succor them at a more convenient season, according to the greatness of their necessity and affliction. From this it follows, that he by no means ceases from the exercise of his office, although he suffer the good and the innocent to be reduced to extreme poverty, and although he exercise them with weeping and lamentations; for by doing this he lights up a lamp to enable them to see his judgments the more clearly. Accordingly, David expressly declares, that God interposes his protection seasonably in the afflictions of his people. The Lord will be a protection to the poor in seasonable times in trouble. From this we are taught the duty of giving his providence time to make itself at length manifest in the season of need. And if protection by the power of God, and the experience of his fatherly favor, is the greatest blessing which we can receive, let us not feel so uneasy at being accounted poor and miserable before the world, but let this consolatory consideration assuage our grief, that God is not far from us, seeing our afflictions call upon him to come to our aid. Let us also observe, that God is said to be at hand in seasonable times when he succours the faithful during their affliction.2 The Hebrew word hrub, batsarah, which occurs in the end of the 9th verse, is understood by some as if it were the simple word which signifies defense; but here they render it metaphorically distress, denoting those trying circumstances in which a person is so closely shut up, and reduced to such extremity, that he can find no escape. I, however, think there is more probability in the opinion of those who take b, the first letter of hrub, batsarah, as a servile letter meaning in, which is its ordinary signification.3 What is here said, then, is, that God assists his own people in the time of need, namely, in affliction, or when they are weighed down with it, for then assistance is most necessary and most useful.
In the tenth verse, the Psalmist teaches us, that when the Lord delivers the righteous, the fruit which results from it is, that they themselves, and all the rest of the righteous, acquire increasing confidence in his grace; for, unless we are fully persuaded that God exercises a care about men and human affairs, we must necessarily be troubled with constant disquietude. But as most men shut their eyes that they may not see the judgments of God, David restricts this advantage to the faithful alone, and, certainly, where there is no godliness, there is no sense of the works of God. It is also to be observed, that he attributes to the faithful the knowledge of God; because from this religion proceeds, whereas it is extinguished through the ignorance and stupidity of men. Many take the name of God simply for God himself; but, as I have observed in my remarks on a preceding psalm, I think something more is expressed by this term. As God's essence is hidden and incomprehensible, his name just means his character, so far as he has been pleased to make it known to us. David next explains the ground of this trust in God to be, that he does not forsake those who seek him. God is sought in two ways, either by invocation and prayers, or by studying to live a holy and an upright life; and, indeed, the one is always inseparably joined with the other. But as the Psalmist is here treating of the protection of God, on which the safety of the godly depends, to seek God, as I understand it, is to betake ourselves to him for help and relief in danger and distress.
11. Sing unto Jehovah. David, not contented with giving thanks individually, and on his own account, exhorts the faithful to unite with him, praising God, and to do this not only because it is their duty to stir up one another to this religious exercise, but because the deliverances of which he treats were worthy of being publicly and solemnly celebrated; and this is expressed more clearly in the second clause, where he commands them to be published among the nations. The meaning is, that they are not published or celebrated as they deserve, unless the whole world is filled with the renown of them. To proclaim God's doings among the nations was indeed, as it were, to sing to the deaf; but by this manner of speaking, David intended to show that the territory of Judea was too narrow to contain the infinite greatness of Jehovah's praises. He gives God this title, He who dwelleth in Sion, to distinguish him from all the false gods of the Gentiles. There is in the phrase a tacit comparison between the God who made his covenant with Abraham and Israel, and all the gods who, in every other part of the world except Judea, were worshipped according to the blinded and depraved fancies of men. It is not enough for persons to honor and reverence some deity indiscriminately or at random; they must distinctly yield to the only living and true God the worship which belongs to him, and which he commands. Moreover, as God had particularly chosen Sion as the place where his name might be called upon, David very properly assigns it to him as his peculiar dwelling-place, not that it is lawful to attempt to shut up, in any particular place, Him whom "the heaven of heavens cannot contain," (1 Kings 8:1.) but because, as we shall afterwards see, (Psalm 132:12) he had promised to make it his rest for ever. David did not, according to his own fancy, assign God a dwelling-place there; but he understood, by a revelation from heaven, that such was the pleasure of God himself, as Moses had often predicted, (Deuteronomy 12:1.) This goes far to prove what I have said before, that this psalm was not composed upon the occasion of David's victory over Goliath; for it was only towards the close of David's reign that the ark of the covenant was removed to Sion according to the commandment of God. The conjecture of some that David spake by the Spirit of prophecy of the residence of the ark on Sion, as a future event, appears to me to be unnatural and forced. Farther, we see that the holy fathers, when they resorted to Sion to offer sacrifices to God, did not act merely according to the suggestion of their own minds; but what they did proceeded from faith in the word of God, and was done in obedience to his command; and they were, therefore, approved of by him for their religious service. Whence it follows, that there is no ground whatever to make use of their example as an argument or excuse for the religious observances which superstitious men have, by their own fancy, invented for themselves. Besides, it was not enough for the faithful, in those days, to depend upon the word of God, and to engage in those ceremonial services which he required, unless, aided by external symbols, they elevated their minds above these, and yielded to God spiritual worship. God, indeed, gave real tokens of his presence in that visible sanctuary, but not for the purpose of binding the senses and thoughts of his people to earthly elements; he wished rather that these external symbols should serve as ladders, by which the faithful might ascend even to heaven. The design of God from the commencement in the appointment of the sacraments, and all the outward exercises of religion, was to consult the infirmity and weak capacity of his people. Accordingly, even at the present day, the true and proper use of them is, to assist us in seeking God spiritually in his heavenly glory, and not to occupy our minds with the things of this world, or keep them fixed in the vanities of the flesh, a subject which we shall afterwards have a more suitable opportunity of discussing more fully. And as the Lord, in ancient times, when he called himself, He who dwelleth in Sion, intended to give his people full and solid ground of trust, tranquillity, and joy; so even now, after the law has come out of Sion, and the covenant of grace has flowed to us from that fountain, let us know and be fully persuaded, that wherever the faithful, who worship him purely and in due form, according to the appointment of his word, are assembled together to engage in the solemn acts of religious worship, he is graciously present, and presides in the midst of them.
12. For in requiring blood. In the original, it is bloods, in the plural number, and, therefore, the relative which follows immediately after, And remembereth THEM, may very properly be referred to that word in this way, He requireth bloods, and remembereth them. But as it is sufficiently common in Hebrew to invert the order of the antecedent and the relative, and to put them before the word to which it refers,4 some explain it of the poor, thus:In requiring blood, he hath remembered them, namely, the poor, of whom he speaks a little after. As to the sum and substance of the matter, it is of small importance in which of these ways we explain the relative; but the former is, in my view, the more natural explanation. There is here a repetition of what the Psalmist had said a little before, that we ought especially to consider God's power, as it is manifested in the mercy which he exercises towards his servants, who are unrighteously persecuted by wicked men. From the numerous works of God, he selects one which he commends as especially worthy of being remembered, namely, his work in delivering the poor from death. God sometimes leaves them in his holy providence to be persecuted by men; but at length he takes vengeance for the wrongs inflicted upon them. The words which David uses denote a continued act; but I have no doubt that he intends from those examples, which he has related in the preceding part of the psalm, to lead men to acknowledge that God requireth innocent blood, and remembers the cry of his people.
He again insists on what I adverted to before, that God does not always put a stop to injuries so speedily as we would wish, nor break the attempts of the wicked at the first, but rather withholds and delays his assistance, so that it may seem that we cry to him in vain, a truth which it is of importance for us to understand; for if we measure the help of God according to our senses, our courage will ever and anon fail us, and in the end our hope will be entirely extinguished, and will give place to despondency and despair. We would fondly wish him, as I have said, to stretch forth his hand to a distance, and drive back the troubles which he sees to be prepared for us; yet he seems to take no notice, and does not prevent the blood of the innocent from being shed. Let this consolatory consideration, however, sustain us, that he will at length actually show how precious our blood was in his sight. If it is objected, that God's assistance comes too late, after we have endured all calamities, I answer, God delays to interfere no longer than he knows it to be of advantage for us to be humbled under the cross, and if he chooses rather to take vengeance after we have suffered outrage, than to aid us previous to the infliction of evil, it is not because he is not always willing and ready to succor us; but because he knows it is not always a proper time for manifesting his grace. By the way, it is a striking evidence, not only of his fatherly love towards us, but of the blessed immortality which is the portion of all the children of God, that he has a care about them even after they are dead. Were he always by his grace to prevent affliction from befalling us, who is there amongst us who would not be wholly attached to the present life? When, however, he avenges our death, from this it appears that, though dead, we still remain alive in his presence. For he does not, after the manner of men, hold in estimation the memory of those whom he could not preserve alive,5 but he actually shows that he cherishes in his bosom, and gives protection to those who seem to be no more, viewing them according to the flesh. And this is the reason why David says that he remembereth blood when he requireth it; for although he may not presently deliver his servants from the swords of the wicked, yet he suffers not their murder to pass unpunished. To the same purpose is the last clause He forgetteth not the cry of the afflicted. God may not show, by granting instant deliverance or relief, that he lends an immediate ear to the complaints of his servants; but at length he proves unanswerably that he has regarded them. Express mention is made of crying, to encourage all who desire to experience God as their deliverer and protector, to direct their wishes, groanings, and prayers to him.