41. They shall cry, but there shall be no savior for them; even unto Jehovah, but he shall not answer them. 42. And I will beat [or grind] them small as the dust which is driven by the wind;1 as the mire of the streets I will tread them under foot. 43. Thou shalt deliver me from the contentions of the people; thou shalt make me the head of the nations; a people whom I have not known shall serve me. 44. At the hearing of the ear,2 they shall obey me; the children of strangers3 shall lie to me.4 45. The children of strangers shall lose their courage, and tremble out of their places of concealment.
41. They shall cry, etc. The change of the tense in the verb from the past to the future does not break the continuity of the narration; and, therefore, the words should be explained thus:Although they cried to God, yet their prayers were rejected by him. He pursues the same subject which it was his object to illustrate before, namely, that it was at length manifest from the issue that his enemies falsely boasted of having the support and countenance of God, who showed that he had turned away from them. It is true, that when their affairs continued to go on prosperously, they sometimes received such applause and commendation, that it was commonly believed that God was favorable to them, while, at the same time he seemed to be opposed to David, who although he cried night and day to him, found it of no avail. But after God had sufficiently tried the patience of his servant, he cast them down, and disappointed them of their vain hope; yea, rather he would not deign to hear their prayers. We now perceive the design of David in these words. As the ungodly had long wickedly abused the name of God, by pretending that he favored their unjust proceedings, the Psalmist derides their vain boasting, in which they were completely disappointed. It is to be observed, that he here speaks of hypocrites, who never call upon God in sincerity and truth. For this promise shall never fail,
"The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth," (Psalm 145:18.)
David does not, therefore, say that his enemies were repulsed when they had recourse to God with sincere affection of heart, but only when, with their accustomed effrontery, they thought that God was, so to speak, bound to conduct and advance their wicked enterprises. When the ungodly, in the extremity of their distress, pour forth prayers, and when, cast down with fear, and trembling with the dread of impending evils, they show an appearance of humility, they, notwithstanding, do not change their purpose so as truly to repent and amend the evil of their ways. Besides, instead of being influenced by faith, they are actuated by presumption and hardness of heart, or they pour forth their complaints in doubt, rather for the purpose of murmuring against God, than of familiarly and confidently placing their trust in him. from this passage we may gather a profitable warning, namely, that all who treat the afflicted poor with cruel mockery, and who proudly thrust back those who come to them as humble suppliants, will experience that God is deaf to their prayers. We are farther taught by the following verse, that after God has cast off the ungodly, he leaves them to be treated with every kind of indignity, and gives them up to be trampled under foot, as the mire of the streets. He not only declares, that when the proud and the cruel cry to him in their affliction, he will shut his ears against their cry; but he also threatens, that, in the course of his retributive providence, they shall be treated in the same manner in which they treat others.
43. Thou shalt deliver me from the contentions of the people. David states, in a few words, that he had experienced the assistance of God in all variety of ways. He was in great danger from the tumults which sometimes arose among his own subjects, if God had not wonderfully allayed them, and subdued the fierceness of the people. It also happened, contrary to the general expectation, that David, as is stated in the second clause of the verse, was victorious far and wide, and overthrew the neighboring nations who had a little before discomfited all Israel by their forces. It was an astonishing renovation of things, when he not only suddenly restored to their former estate the people of Israel, who had been greatly reduced by defeat and slaughter, but also made his tributaries the neighboring nations, with whom before, on account of their hostility to the nation of Israel, it was impossible to live in peace. It would have been much to see the kingdom, after having sustained so grievous a calamity, still surviving, and after having again collected strength recovering its former state; but God, contrary to all expectation, conferred upon the people of Israel more than this; he enabled them even to subdue those who before had been their conquerors. David makes mention of both these; he tells us, in the first place, that when the people rose up in tumult against him, it was none other but God who stilled these commotions which took place within the kingdom; and, in the second place, that it was under the authority, and by the conduct and power of God, that powerful nations were subjected to him, and that the limits of the kingdom, which, in the time of Saul, had been weak and half broken, were greatly enlarged. Hence it is evident that David was assisted by God, not less with respect to his domestic affairs, that is to say, within his own kingdom, than against foreign enemies. As the kingdom of David was a type under which the Holy Spirit intended to shadow forth to us the kingdom of Christ, let us remember that, both in erecting and preserving it, it is necessary for God not only to stretch forth his arm and fight against avowed enemies, who from without rise up against him, but also to repress the tumults and strifes which may take place within the Church. This was clearly shown in the person of Christ from the beginning. In the first place, he met with much opposition from the infatuated obstinacy of those of his own nation. In the next place, the experience of all ages shows that the dissensions and strifes with which hypocrites rend and mangle the Church, are not less hurtful in undermining the kingdom of Christ, (if God do not interpose his hand to prevent their injurious effects,) than the violent efforts of his enemies. Accordingly God, to advance and maintain the kingdom of his own Son, not only overthrows before him external enemies, but also delivers him from domestic contentions; that is to say, from those within his kingdom, which is the Church.5 In the song in 2nd Samuel, instead of these words, Thou hast made me the head of the nations, the word employed is ynrmst, tishmereni, which signifies to keep or guard, and is therefore to be understood in this sense, that David will be securely, and for a long time, maintained in possession of the kingdom. He knew how difficult it is to keep under discipline and subjection those who have not been accustomed to the yoke; and, accordingly, nothing is of more frequent occurrence than for kingdoms which have been lately acquired by conquest to be shaken with fresh commotions. But David, in the song in Samuel, declares that God, having elevated him to such a high degree of power as to make him the head of the nations, will also maintain him in the possession of the sovereignty he had been pleased to confer upon him.
A people whom I have not known shall serve me. The whole of this passage strongly confirms what I have just now touched upon, that the statements here made are not to be restricted to the person of David, but contain a prophecy respecting the kingdom of Christ which was to come. David, it is true, might have boasted that nations, with whose manners and dispositions he was only very imperfectly acquainted, were subject to him; but it is nevertheless certain, that none of the nations which he conquered were altogether unknown to him, nor removed at so great a distance as to render it difficult for him to acquire some knowledge of them. The conquests of David, therefore, and the submission of the people to him, were only an obscure figure in which God has exhibited to us some faint representation of the boundless dominion of his own Son, whose kingdom extends
"from the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same,"
and comprehends the whole world.
44. At the simple fame of my name they shall obey me. This is of the same import with the last clause of the preceding verse. Although David, by his victories, had acquired such reputation and renown, that many laid down their arms and came voluntarily to surrender themselves to him; yet, as they also had been subdued through the dread of the power of his arms, which they saw their neighbors had experienced to their smart, it cannot be said, properly speaking, that at the simple fame of the name of David they submitted themselves to him. This applies more truly to the person of Christ, who, by means of his word, subdues the world to himself, and, at the simple hearing of his name, makes those obedient to him who before had been rebels against him. As David was intended to be a type of Christ, God subjected to his authority distant nations, and such as before had been unknown to Israel in so far as familiar intercourse was concerned. But that was only a prelude, and, as it were, preparatory to the dominion promised to Christ, the boundaries of which must be extended to the uttermost ends of the earth. In like manner, David had acquired to himself so great a name by arms and warlike prowess, that many of his enemies, subdued by fear, submitted themselves to him. And in this God exhibited a type of the conquest which Christ would make of the Gentiles, who, by the preaching of the Gospel alone, were subdued, and brought voluntarily to submit to his dominion; for the obedience of faith in which the dominion of Christ is founded "cometh by hearing," (Romans 10:17.)
The children of strangers shall lie to me. Here there is described what commonly happens in new dominions acquired by conquest, namely, that those who have been vanquished pay homage with great reverence to their conqueror; but it is by a reigned and forced humility. They obey in a slavish manner, and not willingly or cheerfully. This is evidently the sense. Some interpreters, indeed, give a different explanation of the word lie, viewing David as meaning by it that his enemies had either been disappointed in their expectation, or that, in order to escape the punishment which they were afraid he might inflict upon them, they had lied in declaring that they had never devised any thing hostile against him; but it appears to me, that this does not sufficiently express what David intended. In my opinion, therefore, the words to lie are here to be understood generally as in other places, for to be humbled after a slavish manner. The Hebrew word shk, cachash, here used, which signifies to lie, is sometimes to be understood metaphorically for to be humbled, to submit to, to take upon one's self the yoke of subjection;6 but still in a feigned and servile manner. Those whom he terms the children of the stranger, or of strangers, are the nations who did not belong to the people of Israel, but who, previous to their being conquered by him, formed a distinct and an independent community by themselves. This also we see fulfilled in Christ, to whom many come with apparent humility; not, however, with true affection, but with a double and false heart, whom, on that account, the Holy Spirit fitly terms strangers. They are, indeed, mingled among the chosen people, but they are not united to the same body with them by a true faith, and, therefore, ought not to be accounted children of the Church. It is very true that all the Gentiles, when in the beginning they were called into the Church, were strangers; but when they began to entertain new feelings and new affections towards Christ, they who before were "strangers and foreigners" became
"fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God," (Ephesians 2:19.)
What is added immediately after, (verse 45,) the children of strangers shall fade away; they shall tremble7 from within their places of concealment, serves to place, in a still more striking light, the great fame and formidable name which we have said David had acquired. It is no ordinary sign of reverence when those who are protected in hiding-places, and shut up within steep fortifications, are so stricken with terror as to come forth of their own accord and surrender themselves. As fear made the enemies of David to come forth from their places of concealment, to meet him with submission, so the Gospel strikes the unbelieving with such fear, as compels them to yield obedience to Christ. Such is the power of prophecy, that is to say, the preaching of the word, as Paul testifies in 1 Corinthians 14:24, that, convincing the consciences of men, and making manifest the secrets of their hearts, it causes those who before were rebels to prostrate themselves with fear, and to give glory to God.
"The sons of the stranger lose their strength;
Through alarm they quit their strongholds.
"Foreign nations are confounded,
and they shudder within their fortresses."