1. Judge me, O Jehovah! because I have walked in mine integrity, and trusted in Jehovah, I shall not stumble. 2. Prove me, O Jehovah! and try me; search my reins and my heart. 3. For thy goodness is before mine eyes: I have therefore walked in thy truth. 4. I have not sat with vain men, neither will I walk with deceitful men.
1. Judge me, O Jehovah! I have just said, that David betakes himself to the judgment of God, because he found neither equity nor humanity among men. The Hebrew word which is rendered to judge, signifies to undertake the cognisance of a cause. The meaning here, therefore, is as if David called upon God to be the defender of his right.1 When God leaves us for a time to the injuries and petulance of our enemies, he seems to neglect our cause; but when he restrains them from assailing us at their pleasure he clearly demonstrates that the defense of our cause is the object of his care. Let us, therefore, learn from the example of David, when we are destitute of man's aid, to have recourse to the judgment-seat of God, and to rely upon his protection. The clause which follows is variously explained by interpreters. Some read it in connection with the first clause, Judge me, O Jehovah! because I have walked in mine integrity; but others refer it to the last clause, Because I have walked in mine integrity, therefore I shall not stumble. In my opinion, it may be properly connected with both. As it is the proper work of God to maintain and defend righteous causes, the Psalmist, in constituting him his defender, summons him as the witness of his integrity and trust, and thus conceives the hope of obtaining his aid. If, on the other hand, any one thinks that the clauses should be separated, it seems most probable that this sentence, judge me, O Lord! should be read by itself; and then that the second prayer should follow, that God would not allow him to stumble, because he had behaved himself inoffensively and uprightly, etc. But there is a force in the possessive pronoun my, which interpreters have overlooked. For David does not simply aver that he had been upright, but that he had constantly proceeded in an upright course, without being driven from his purpose, however powerful the devices by which he had been assailed. When wicked men attack us with a view to overwhelm us, either by force or fraud, we know how difficult it is to preserve always the same fortitude. We place our hope of victory in endeavoring resolutely and vigorously to oppose force to force, and art to art. And this is a temptation which so much the more affects honest and steady men, who are otherwise zealous to do well, when the cruelty of their enemies compels them to turn aside from the right path. Let us, therefore, learn from the example of David, even when an opportunity of injuring our enemies is offered us, and when by various methods they force and provoke us, to remain firm in our course, and not suffer ourselves to be diverted in any manner from persevering in the path of our integrity.
2. Prove me,2 O Jehovah! The more that David observed himself basely and undeservedly pursued with calumnies, the more powerfully was he excited by the vehemence of his grief fearlessly to assert his rectitude. Nor does he merely clear himself of outward sins; he glories also in the uprightness of his heart, and the purity of its affections, tacitly comparing himself, at the same time, with his enemies. As they were gross hypocrites, proudly boasting of their reverence for God, he lays open before him their shameless effrontery and hardihood. This protestation, too, shows how intimately acquainted he was with himself, when he durst offer to submit the whole recesses of his heart to the examination of God. It is to be observed, however, that it was the wickedness of his enemies which forced him to commend himself so much. Had he not been unjustly condemned by men, he would have humbly deprecated such an examination, as he well knew, notwithstanding his zeal to act aright, that he was far from perfection. But when he felt himself to be falsely accused, the injustice and cruelty of men emboldened him to appeal to God's judgment-seat without hesitation. And as he knew that an external appearance of innocence was of no avail there, he brings forward the honest uprightness of his heart. The distinction which some make here, that the heart signifies the higher affections, and the reins those that are sensual (as they term them) and more gross, is more subtle than solid. We know that the Hebrews understood by the term reins that which is most secret in men. David, therefore, conscious of his innocence, offers the whole man to the examination of God; not like careless, or rather stupid men, who, flattering themselves, imagine that they will deceive God with their pretences. It is evident, on the contrary, that he had honestly and thoroughly searched himself, before he presented himself with such confidence in the divine presence. And this we must especially bear in mind, if we would desire to obtain the approbation of God, that when unjustly persecuted, we must not only abstain from retaliation, but also persevere in a right spirit.
3. For thy goodness is before mine eyes. This verse may be viewed as one sentence, or divided into two parts, but with almost the same sense. If the former reading is adopted, both the verbs will be emphatic, after this manner:"Because thy goodness, O Lord, has been ever before mine eyes, and I have trusted in thy faithfulness, I have restrained all wicked lusts in my heart, lest, provoked by the malice of mine enemies, I should be forced to retaliate." By this interpretation there would be the rendering of a cause. The other exposition, also, is not unsuitable, namely, "Because thy goodness has been before mine eyes, I have walked in the truth which thou commandest." In this case the conjunction, as is common among the Hebrews, is superfluous. But although this exposition is allied to the former, I would rather prefer one less remote from the words. As it is a rare and difficult virtue, not only to refrain one's self from wicked actions, when greatly tempted thereto, but also to preserve integrity of heart; the prophet declares in what manner he pursued his course in the midst of such powerful temptations, telling us that it was by setting the goodness of God, which so carefully preserves his servants, before his eyes, lest, declining to evil practices, he might deprive himself of his protection; and by confiding in his faithfulness, he possessed his soul in patience, firmly persuaded that God would never forsake his faithful people who trusted in him. And certainly, had he not relied upon the goodness of God, he could not have so constantly prosecuted the path of integrity amidst such numerous and such severe assaults. It is, indeed, a remarkable difference between the children of God and worldly men, that the former, in the hope of a favorable issue at the Lord's hand, rely upon his word, and are not driven by restlessness to mischievous practices; while the latter, although they maintain a good cause, yet because they are ignorant of the providence of God, are hurried hither and thither; follow unlawful counsels; betake themselves to craftiness; and, in short, have no other object than to overcome evil with evil. Whence, accordingly, their miserable and sorrowful, and often their tragical ends, but because, despising the favor of God, they give themselves up to cunning and deceit? In short, David was steady in preserving his uprightness, because he had resolved that God should be his guide. In the first place, therefore, he mentions his goodness, and afterwards he adds, his truth, because his goodness, which enables us to walk with unyielding courage in the midst of all temptations, is only known to us by his promises.
4. I have not sat with vain men. He again declares the very great dissimilarity which existed between him and his adversaries. For the contrast is always to be observed, that wicked men, by all the harm and mischief they wrought against him, could never drive him from the path of rectitude. This verse might likewise be joined with the former, as if completing the sentence, in this way, That David, by confiding in the favor of God, had withdrawn himself from deceivers. The words, sitting and walking, denote sharing in counsel and fellowship in working, according to what is said in the first psalm. David denies that he had any intercourse with vain and deceitful men. And certainly the best remedy to recall and save us from the assembly of the wicked is to fix our eyes upon God's goodness; for he who walks in the confidence of God's protection, committing all events to his providence, will never imitate their deceitfulness. Those whom he denominates in the first clause, men of vanity, he soon after terms Mymlen, naälamim, that is, close and wrapped up in craftiness.3 For in this consists the vanity of dissimulation, that deceitful men conceal in their hearts another thing than that which their tongues declare. It is, however, absurd to derive this word from Mle, alam, to play, for it is out of place here to compare their impostures to children's play. I confess, indeed, that those who give themselves to craftiness are mockers; but why have recourse to such a forced exposition, when it is plain that the word shows the source from which all lying and deceit proceed? Thus faith, which steadily looks to God's promises, is aptly opposed to all the crooked and iniquitous counsels in which unbelief involves us as often as we ascribe not proper honor to the guardianship of God. David teaches, by his own example, that we have not the slightest cause to fear that our integrity will make us a prey to the ungodly, when God promises us safety under his hand. The children of God, indeed, are prudent, but their prudence is altogether different from that of the flesh. Under the guidance and government of the Holy Spirit, they take every necessary precaution against snares, but in such a manner as not to practice any craftiness.