1. Why standest thou afar off, O Jehovah? and winkest at seasonable times in trouble?1 2. The ungodly in his pride doth persecute the poor;2 let them be caught in the devices3 which they imagine.
1. Lord, why standest thou afar off? We here see how the prophet, seeking a remedy for his calamities, which were apparently past hope, directly addresses himself to God at the very commencement. And the rule which we should observe, when we are in trouble and sorrow, is this:We should seek comfort and solace in the providence of God; for amidst our agitations, vexations, and cares, we ought to be fully persuaded that it is his peculiar office to give relief to the wretched and afflicted. It is in an improper sense, and by anthropathy,4 that the Psalmist speaks of God as standing afar off. Nothing can be hid from his eyes; but as God permits us to speak to him as we do to one another, these forms of expression do not contain any thing absurd, provided we understand them as applied to God, not in a strict sense, but only figuratively, according to the judgment which mere sense forms from the present appearance of things. It is possible that a righteous man may not check an injury which is done to a poor man before his eyes, because he is destitute of the power; but this cannot be the case with respect to God, who is always armed with invincible power. If, therefore, he act as if he took no notice, it is the same as if he withdrew himself afar off. The word Mylet, taelim, which signifies to hide, is explained in two ways. According to some, David here complains of God for hiding himself, as if he accounted the care of human affairs beneath him. Others understand it as meaning to shut the eyes; and this appears to me to be the more simple view. It is to be observed, that although David here complains that God kept himself afar off, he was, notwithstanding, fully persuaded of his presence with him, otherwise it would have been in vain to have called upon him for aid. The interrogation which he employs is to this effect:Lord, since it is thy prerogative to govern the world, and also to regulate it by thy righteousness as thou sustainest it by thy power, why is it that thou dost not more quickly show thyself a defender of thine own people against the arrogance and incredible pride of the ungodly? David, however, speaks thus not so much in the way of complaining, as to encourage himself in the confidence of obtaining what he desired. Through the infirmity of sense, he says, that it is unbecoming of God to cease so long from executing his office; and yet, at the same time, he fails not to yield to him the honor which is his due, and by his prayers he deposits into his bosom the great burden of trouble with which he was laden. The expression which follows, at needful times, relates to the same subject. Although God may not stretch forth his hand to take vengeance5 at every moment, yet when he beholds the simple and innocent oppressed, it is not time for him to defer any longer. David briefly defines the fit time for putting the hand to the work to be when the faithful are in distress. Of this form of speech we have spoken in the preceding psalm, at the tenth verse.
2. The ungodly in his pride, etc. Before uttering his prayer against the ungodly, the Psalmist briefly sets forth their wickedness in cruelly vexing the afflicted, for no other reason but because they disdain and despise them, through the pride with which they are inflated. And their cruelty is not a little enhanced from this, that, forgetful of all humanity, they contemptuously triumph over the poor and afflicted, mocking them and inflicting injuries upon them.6 Cruelty is, indeed, always proud, yea, rather, pride is the mother of all wrongs; for if a man did not through pride magnify himself above his neighbors, and through an overweening conceit of himself despise them, even common humanity would teach us with what humility and justice we ought to conduct ourselves towards each other. But David here intended to state that the only cause why the ungodly, whom he accuses, exercise their cruelty against the wretched and the needy, from whom they receive no provocation, is the pride and arrogance of their own spirits. Let every one, therefore, who desires to live justly and unblameably with his brethren, beware of indulging or taking pleasure in treating others disdainfully; and let him endeavor, above all things, to have his mind freed from the disease of pride. The word qld, dalak, signifies to suffer persecution, as well as to persecute; and, therefore, some prefer translating the words, The poor is persecuted in the pride of the ungodly.7 They may also not improperly be rendered thus, The poor burns in the pride of the ungodly, because this is the more common signification of the word. The pride of the wicked, like fire, devours the poor and afflicted.