Psalm 31:5-8

5. Into thy hand I commit my spirit, for thou hast redeemed me, O Jehovah! God of truth. 6. I hate all that give heed to lying vanities; but I have trusted in Jehovah. 7. I will be glad and rejoice in thy goodness, because thou hast regarded my affliction: thou hast known my soul in distresses. 8. And thou hast not shut me up in the hand of mine enemy:1 thou hast set my feet in a large place.


5. Into thy hand I commit my spirit. David again declares his faith to God, and affirms that he had such high thoughts of his providence, as to cast all his cares upon it. Whoever commits himself into God's hand and to his guardianship, not only constitutes him the arbiter of life and death to him, but also calmly depends on him for protection amidst all his dangers. The verb is in the future tense, "I will commit," and it unquestionably denotes a continued act, and is therefore fitly translated into the present tense. It is also to be observed, that no man can possibly commit his life to God with sincerity, but he who considers himself exposed to a thousand deaths, and that his life hangs by a thread, or differs almost nothing from a breath which passes suddenly away. David being thus at the point of despair, leaves nothing to himself to do but this -- to go on his way, trusting in God as the keeper and governor of his life. It is marvellous, that, although many things distress us all, scarcely one in a hundred is so wise as to commit his life into God's hand. Multitudes live from day to day as merry and careless as if they were in a quiet nest, free from all disturbance; but as soon as they encounter any thing to terrify them, they are ready to die for anguish. It thus happens that they never betake themselves to God, either because they deceive themselves with vain delusions, flattering themselves that all will yet be well,2 or because they are so stricken with dread and stupified with amazement, that they have no desire for his fatherly care. Farther, as various tempests of grief disturb us, and even sometimes throw us down headlong, or drag us from the direct path of duty, or at least remove us from our post, the only remedy which exists for setting these things at rest is to consider that God, who is the author of our life, is also its preserver. This, then, is the only means of lightening all our burdens, and preserving us from being swallowed up of over-much sorrow. Seeing, therefore, that God condescends to undertake the care of our lives, and to support them, although they are often exposed to various sorts of death, let us learn always to flee to this asylum; nay, the more that any one is exposed to dangers, let him exercise himself the more carefully in meditating on it. In short, let this be our shield against all dangerous attacks -- our haven amidst all tossings and tempests -- that, although our safety may be beyond all human hope, God is the faithful guardian of it; and let this again arouse us to prayer, that he would defend us, and make our deliverance sure. This confidence will likewise make every man forward to discharge his duty with alacrity, and constantly and fearlessly to struggle onward to the end of his course. How does it happen that so many are slothful and indifferent, and that others perfidiously forsake their duty, but because, overwhelmed with anxiety, they are terrified at dangers and inconveniences, and leave no room for the operation of the providence of God?

To conclude, whoever relies not on the providence of God, so as to commit his life to its faithful guardianship, has not yet learned aright what it is to live. On the other hand, he who shall entrust the keeping of his life to God's care, will not doubt of its safety even in the midst of death. We must therefore put our life into God's hand, not only that he may keep it safely in this world, but also that he may preserve it from destruction in death itself, as Christ's own example has taught us. As David wished to have his life prolonged amidst the dangers of death, so Christ passed out of this transitory life that his soul might be saved in death. This is a general prayer, therefore, in which the faithful commit their lives to God, first, that he may protect them by his power, so long as they are exposed to the dangers of this world; and, secondly, that he may preserve them safe in the grave, where nothing is to be seen but destruction. We ought farther to assure ourselves, that we are not forsaken of God either in life or in death; for those whom God brings safely by his power to the end of their course, he at last receives to himself at their death. This is one of the principal places of Scripture which are most suitable for correcting distrust. It teaches us, first, that the faithful ought not to torment themselves above measure with unhappy cares and anxieties; and, secondly, that they should not be so distracted with fear as to cease from performing their duty, nor decline and faint in such a manner as to grasp at vain hopes and deceitful helps, nor give way to fears and alarms; and, in fine, that they should not be afraid of death, which, though it destroys the body, cannot extinguish the soul. This, indeed, ought to be our principal argument for overcoming all temptations, that Christ, when commending his soul to his Father, undertook the guardianship of the souls of all his people. Stephen, therefore, calls upon him to be his keeper, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," (Acts 7:59.) As the soul is the seat of life, it is on this account, as is well known, used to signify life.

Thou hast redeemed me. Some translate the past tense here into the future; but, in my opinion, without any reason. For it is evident to me, that David is here encouraging himself to continued confidence in God, by calling to remembrance the proofs of his favor which he had already experienced.3 It is no small encouragement to us for the future, to be assuredly persuaded that God will watch over our life, because he hath been our deliverer already. Hence the epithet by which David recognises God. He calls him true or faithful, because he believes that he will continue the same to him for ever that he has already been. Accordingly, this is as it were a bond by which he joins to the former benefits which God had conferred upon him confidence in prayer, and the hope of aid for the time to come:as if he had said, Lord, thou who art ever the same, and changest not thy mind like men, hast already testified in very deed that thou art the defender of my life:now, therefore, I commit my life, of which thou hast been the preserver, into thy hands. What David here declares concerning his temporal life, Paul transfers to eternal salvation.

"I know," says he, "whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him,"
(2 Timothy 1:12.)

And surely, if David derived so much confidence from temporal deliverance, it is more than wicked and ungrateful on our part, if the redemption purchased by the blood of Christ does not furnish us with invincible courage against all the devices of Satan.

6. I hate all that give heed to lying vanities. In order the better to express that his faith was firmly fixed on God, he affirms that he was free from the vile affections which usually turn away our minds from God, and under which unbelievers for the most part labor. For we know that by contrasting things which are opposite, a subject is better illustrated. To restrict the Hebrew word lbh, hebel, which we have rendered vanities, to magical arts, as some interpreters do, is absurd.4 I confess, indeed, that the Orientals were so much addicted to these impostures, that it was a common evil among them. But as the devices by which Satan ensnares the minds of men, and the allurements by which he draws them away from God, are innumerable, it is not at all probable that the prophet mentions one species only. Whatever vain hopes, therefore, we form to ourselves, which may draw us off from our confidence in God, David generally denominates vanities, yea, false or lying vanities, because, although they feed us for a time with magnificent promises, in the end they beguile and disappoint us. He affirms, therefore, that casting away the vanities which men usually invent to support their hopes, he relies solely on God. And as men not only intoxicate themselves personally with the deceitful allurements of the world, but in this respect also deceive one another, the prophet expressly declares, with a view that we may carefully avoid them, unless we wish to be wilfully entangled in their dangerous toils, that he hated all who involved themselves in such lies. The second clause, I have trusted in Jehovah, must be read in connection with the first, because it both assigns the cause of his hatred of lying vanities, and shows that it is impossible for men to have any true faith in God, unless they abhor whatever would draw them away from him.

7. I will be glad and rejoice in thy goodness. Here is inserted a thanksgiving, although many are rather of opinion that David's prayer is suspended, and that he makes a vow, when he shall be delivered from present danger. But as no condition is annexed, I am rather inclined to think that stopping all at once in the middle of his prayer, he promises himself a deliverance, for which he will have abundant matter for giving thanks. Nor is it to be wondered at that different feelings are mingled in the psalms in which David has set forth his own temptations, as well as the resistance which his faith made to them, considering also that when he sung the praises of God, after having already obtained deliverance from him, he embraces different periods in his song, as he here says, that God had regarded his affliction, intimating by this the effect of the assistance which God had afforded him. And that he may the better confirm this, he adds, that he had not been delivered into the hands of his enemies: in which words there is an implied antithesis, namely, that when he was encompassed on every side by severe afflictions, he was marvellously delivered by God. This is also farther intimated by the following sentence, Thou hast set my feet in a large place,5 which denotes a sudden and unexpected change.

1 Dr Geddes observes, that this is the literal translation of the Hebrew words; "but," says he, "as negative propositions in Hebrew are often equivalent in sense to opposite positives, I deemed it better to use an equivalent as more agreeable to what precerdes and follows." His rendering is, "Rescued me from the hand of mine enemy."

2 "Se faisans a croire que de leur faict ce ne sera que triomphe." -- Fr.

3 Horsley, while his translation is similar to that of Calvin, "Thou hast delivered me," takes a somewhat different view of the meaning. "Thou hast, i.e., Thou most surely wilt. -- The thing is as certain as if it were done."

4 Hammond considers "vanities" as referring to the practice of superstitiously having recourse to auguries and divinations for advice and direction, a practice which prevailed among the heathen, when they met with any difficulty or danger. To the responses of augury, they showed the greatest regard; although they were deceived and disappointed in the confidence which they reposed in them. David declares that he detested all such practices, and trusted for aid to God alone. French and Skinner, by lying vanities, understand idols. "Idols," says Walford, "are often thus denominated; though the term is not to be confined to this sense, as all the pursuits of iniquity may be justly comprehended under it. - Vide Deuteronomy 32:21; Jonah 2:8."

5 "There is a contrast in the expression between the straits to which he had been confined, and the freedom which was now bestowed upon him." -- Walford.


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