16. Have respect unto me, and pity me, for I am alone and poor. 17. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring thou me out of my distresses. 18. Look upon mine affliction and my trouble,1 and take away all my sins. 19. Behold mine enemies, for they are increased; and they hate me with a violent2 hatred. 20. Preserve my soul, and deliver me, that I may not be ashamed; for I have put my trust in thee. 21. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I have waited upon thee. 22. Do thou, O God! redeem Israel from all his troubles.
16. Have respect unto me. As the flesh is ever ready to suggest to our minds that God has forgotten us, when he ceases to manifest his power in aiding us, David here follows the order which nature dictates, in asking God to have respect unto him, as if he had altogether neglected him before. Now, it appears to me that the words might be explained thus:Have respect unto me, in order to pity me. He accounts it at once the cause and the source of his salvation to be regarded of God; and then he adds the effect of it:for as soon as God, of his own good pleasure, shall vouchsafe to regard us, his hand also will be ready to help us. Again, in order to excite the compassion of God, he sets forth his own misery, expressly stating that he is alone, that is to say, solitary;3 and then he describes himself as poor. There can be no doubt that, in speaking thus, he alludes to the promises in which God declares that he will be always present with the afflicted and oppressed, to aid and help them.
17. The troubles of my heart are enlarged. In this verse he acknowledges not only that he had to contend outwardly with his enemies and the troubles which they occasioned him, but that he was also afflicted inwardly with sorrow and anguish of heart. It is also necessary to observe the manner of expression which he here employs, and by which he intimates that the weight and number of his trials had accumulated to such an extent that they filled his whole heart, even as a flood of waters bursting every barrier, and extending far and wide, covers a whole country. Now, when we see that the heart of David had sometimes been wholly filled with anguish, we need no longer wonder if at times the violence of temptation overwhelm us; but let us ask with David, that even whilst we are as it were at the point of despair, God would succor us.
18. Look upon mine affliction. By repeating these complaints so frequently, he plainly shows that the calamities with which he was assailed were not some slight and trivial evils. And this ought to be carefully marked by us, so that when trials and afflictions shall have been measured out to us after the same manner, we may be enabled to lift up our souls to God in prayer; for the Holy Spirit has set before our view this representation, that our minds may not fail us under the multitude or weight of afflictions. But in order to obtain an alleviation of these miseries, David again prays that his sins may be pardoned, recalling to his recollection what he had already stated, that he could not expect to enjoy the divine favor, unless he were first reconciled to God by receiving a free pardon. And, indeed, they are very insensible who, contented with deliverance from bodily affliction, do not search out the evils of their own hearts, that is to say, their sins, but as much as in them lies rather desire to have them buried in oblivion. To find a remedy, therefore, to his cares and sorrows, David begins by imploring the remission of his sins, because, so long as God is angry with us, it must necessarily follow, that all our affairs shall come to an unhappy termination; and he has always just ground of displeasure against us so long as our sins continue, that is to say, until he pardons them.4 And although the Lord has various ends in view in bringing his people under the cross, yet we ought to hold fast the principle, that as often as God afflicts us, we are called to examine our own hearts, and humbly to seek reconciliation with him.
19. Behold mine enemies. In this verse David complains of the number and cruelty of his enemies, because the more the people of God are oppressed, the more is he inclined to aid them; and in proportion to the magnitude of the danger by which they are surrounded, he assists them the more powerfully. The words, hatred of violence,5 are here to be understood of a cruel and sanguinary hatred. Now, as the rage of David's enemies was so great, that nothing short of his death would satisfy them, he calls upon God to become the guardian and protector of his life; and from this it may be inferred, as I have already said, that he was now placed in extreme danger. The clause which immediately follows, That I may not be ashamed, may be understood in two ways. Some retain the future tense, I shall not be ashamed, as if David felt assured that he was already heard by God, and as the reward of his hope promised himself a gracious answer to his prayers. I am rather inclined to the opposite opinion -- to consider these words as still forming a part of his prayer. The amount of what is stated therefore is, that as he trusts in God, he prays that the hope of salvation which he had formed might not be disappointed. There is nothing better fitted to impart a holy ardor to our prayers, than when we are able to testify with sincerity of heart that we confide in God. And, therefore, it behoves us to ask with so much the greater care, that he would increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak, and that he would even raise it up when it is overthrown.
21. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me. Some are of opinion, that in these words David simply prays that he may be preserved from all mischief, on the ground that he had conducted himself inoffensively towards others, and had abstained from all deceit and violence. Others make the words to contain a twofold subject of prayer, and understand them as including at the same time a desire that God would bestow upon him a sincere and upright purpose of heart; and all this lest he should break forth into revenge, and other unlawful means of preserving his life. Thus the meaning would be:Lord, although my flesh may urge me to seek relief from whatever quarter it may appear, and mine enemies also may constrain me to it by their importunity, yet do thou subdue within me every sinful passion, and every perverse desire, so that I may always exercise over my mind a pure and entire control; and let integrity and uprightness suffice as two powerful means of preserving me. We prefer the first interpretation, because he immediately subjoins a proof of his integrity. Whosoever waits upon God with a meek and quiet spirit, will rather suffer any thing which men can inflict, than allow himself to contend unrighteously with his enemies. In my opinion, therefore, David protests that such was the rectitude of his behavior amongst men, that the persecution of his enemies was wholly unmerited and unjust; and being conscious of having given no offense to any, he calls upon God as the protector of his innocence. But as he has already, in three different places, acknowledged that he was justly visited with affliction, it may seem strange that he should now glory in his integrity. This apparent inconsistency has already been explained in another place, where we have shown that the saints, in respect of themselves, always come into the presence of God with humility, imploring his forgiveness:and yet this does not prevent them from setting forth before him the goodness of their cause, and the justice of their claims. At the same time, in saying that he trusted in God, he only states what indeed is essentially necessary; for, in undertaking our defense, it is not enough that we have justice on our side, unless depending upon his promises, we rely with confidence upon his protection. It often happens, that men of firmness and prudence, even when their cause is good, do not always succeed in its defense, because they confide in their own understanding, or rely upon fortune. In order, therefore, that God may become the protector and defender of our innocence, let us first conduct ourselves uprightly and innocently towards our enemies, and then commit ourselves entirely to his protection.
22. Do thou, O God! redeem Israel. By this conclusion David shows of what character the enemies were of whom he complained. From this it would appear that they were domestic enemies, who, like some disease raging within the bowels, were now the cause of trouble and vexation to the people of God. By the word redeem, which he here employs, we may infer that the Church was at that time oppressed with hard bondage; and, therefore, I have no doubt that in this psalm he alludes to Saul and others who reigned with him in a tyrannical manner. At the same time, he shows that he has respect not merely to his own benefit, but that he comprehends in his prayer the state of the whole realm, just as the mutual communion and connection which subsist among the saints require that every individual, deeply affected by a sense of the public calamities which befall the Church at large, should unite with all the others in lamentation before God. This contributed in no small degree to confirm the faith of David, when, regarding himself as in all things connected with the whole body of the faithful, he considered that all the afflictions and wrongs which he endured were common to himself with them. And we ought to regard it as of the greatest importance, that in accordance with this rule, every one of us, in bewailing his private miseries and trials, should extend his desires and prayers to the whole Church.