1. Jehovah is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? Jehovah is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? 2. When the wicked came upon me to eat up my flesh, when my oppressors and mine enemies came upon me, they stumbled and fell. 3. Though armies should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
1. Jehovah is my light. This commencement may be understood as meaning that David, having already experienced God's mercy, publishes a testimony of his gratitude. But I rather incline to another meaning, namely, that, perceiving the conflict he had to wage with the sharpest temptations, he fortifies himself beforehand, and as it were brings together matter for confidence:for it is necessary that the saints earnestly wrestle with themselves to repel or subdue the doubts which the flesh is so prone to cherish, that they may cheerfully and speedily betake themselves to prayer. David, accordingly, having been tossed with various tempests, at length recovers himself, and shouts triumphantly over the troubles with which he had been harassed, rejoicing that whenever God displays his mercy and favor, there is nothing to be feared. This is farther intimated by the accumulation of terms which he employs, when he calls God not only his light, but his salvation, and the rock or strength of his life. His object was, to put a threefold shield, as it were, against his various fears, as sufficient to ward them off. The term light, as is well known, is used in Scripture to denote joy, or the perfection of happiness. Farther, to explain his meaning, he adds that God was his salvation and the strength of his life, as it was by his help that he felt himself safe, and free from the terrors of death. Certainly we find that all our fears arise from this source, that we are too anxious about our life, while we acknowledge not that God is its preserver. We can have no tranquillity, therefore, until we attain the persuasion that our life is sufficiently guarded, because it is protected by his omnipotent power. The interrogation, too, shows how highly David esteemed the Divine protection, as he thus boldly exults against all his enemies and dangers. Nor assuredly do we ascribe due homage to God, unless, trusting to his promised aid, we dare to boast of the certainty of our safety. Weighing, as it were, in scales the whole power of earth and hell, David accounts it all lighter than a feather, and considers God alone as far outweighing the whole.
Let us learn, therefore, to put such a value on God's power to protect us as to put to flight all our fears. Not that the minds of the faithful can, by reason of the infirmity of the flesh, be at all times entirely devoid of fear; but immediately recovering courage, let us, from the high tower of our confidence, look down upon all our dangers with contempt. Those who have never tasted the grace of God tremble because they refuse to rely on him, and imagine that he is often incensed against them, or at least far removed from them. But with the promises of God before our eyes, and the grace which they offer, our unbelief does him grievous wrong, if we do not with unshrinking courage boldly set him against all our enemies. When God, therefore, kindly allures us to himself, and assures us that he will take care of our safety, since we have embraced his promises, or because we believe him to be faithful, it is meet that we highly extol his power, that it may ravish our hearts with admiration of himself. We must mark well this comparison, What are all creatures to God? Moreover, we must extend this confidence still farther, in order to banish all fears from our consciences, like Paul, who, when speaking of his eternal salvation, boldly exclaims,
"If God be for us, who can be against us ?" (Romans 8:34.)
2. When the wicked, etc. There is no reason for translating this sentence, as some interpreters do, into the future tense.1 But while we retain the past tense which the prophet employs, the words may be explained in a twofold manner. The meaning but in the prophetic writings it is often used for the future. There does not, however, as Calvin remarks, appear to be any necessity for translating the verbs into the future tense in this passage, in which David may be considered as contemplating the past evidences of the goodness of God towards him, and from them taking encouragement with respect to the future. either is, that David celebrates the victory which he had obtained by the blessing of God; or there is a reference to the manner in which he had encouraged himself to hope the best, even in the midst of his temptations, namely, by thinking of God's former favors. The latter is the exposition which I prefer. They both, however, amount to the same thing, and imply that David had no reason henceforth to doubt of God's assistance when he considered his former experience; for nothing is of greater use to confirm our faith, than the remembrance of those instances in which God has clearly given us a proof not only of his grace, but of his truth and power. I connect this verse, accordingly, with the following one. In the former, David recalls to mind the triumphs which, by God's help, he had already obtained; and from this he concludes, that by what hosts soever he may be environed, or whatever mischief his enemies may devise against him, he would fearlessly stand up against them. The Hebrew word brq karab, signifies to approach; but here it refers to the irruption that David's enemies made upon him when they assaulted him. Some translate it to fight, but this translation is flat. To testify his innocence, he calls them wicked or froward, and by saying that they came upon him to eat up his flesh,2 he expresses their savage cruelty.
3. Though armies should encamp. He infers from his former experience, as I have already mentioned, that whatever adversity may befall him, he ought to hope well, and to have no misgivings about the divine protection, which had been so effectually vouchsafed to him in his former need. He had asserted this, indeed, in the first verse, but now, upon farther proof of it, he repeats it. Under the terms, camps and armies, he includes whatever is most formidable in the world:as if he had said, Although all men should conspire for my destruction, I will disregard their violence, because the power of God, which I know is on my side, is far above theirs. But when he declares, My heart shall not fear, this does not imply that he would be entirely devoid of fear, -- for that would have been more worthy of the name of insensibility than of virtue; but lest his heart should faint under the terrors which he had to encounter, he opposed to them the shield of faith. Some transfer the word translated in this to the following verse, meaning that he was confident that he would dwell in God's house; but I am of opinion that it belongs rather to the preceding doctrine. For then does faith bring forth its fruit in due season, when we remain firm and fearless in the midst of dangers. David, therefore, intimates, that when the trial comes, his faith will prove invincible, because it relies on the power of God.