12. The wicked plotteth against the righteous, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. 13. But the Lord 1 shall laugh at him; for he seeth that his day is coming. 14. The wicked draw their sword, and bend their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay those that are of upright ways. 15. But their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bow shall be broken.
12. The wicked plotteth against the righteous. David here anticipates an objection which might have been taken to the preceding verse. Where, it might be said, can tranquillity and joy be found when the wicked are mad with rage, and plot every kind of mischief against the children of God? And how shall they cherish good hope for the future who see themselves surrounded with innumerable sources of death? David therefore replies, That although the life of the godly should be assailed by many dangers, yet they are secure in the aid and protection of God; and that however much the wicked should plot against them, they shall be continually preserved. Thus, the design of David is to obviate our fears, lest the malice of the ungodly should terrify us above measure, as if they had the power of doing with us according to their pleasure.2 He indeed confesses that they are not only full of fraud, and expert in deceiving, but also that they burn with anger, and a raging desire of doing mischief, when he says, that they plot mischief deceitfully against the righteous, and gnash upon them with their teeth. But after making this statement, he immediately adds, that their endeavors shall be vain. Yet he seems to provide very coldly for our consolation under sorrow, for he represents God as merely laughing. But if God values highly our salvation, why does he not set himself to resist the fury of our enemies, and vigorously oppose them? We know that this, as has been said in Psalm 2:4, is a proper trial of our patience, when God does not come forth at once, armed for the discomfiture of the ungodly, but connives for a time and withholds his hand. But as the eye of sense in such circumstances reckons that he delays his coming too long, and from that delay concludes that he indulges in ease, and feels no interest in the affairs of men, it is no small consolation to be able by the eye of faith to behold him laughing; for then we are assured that he is not seated idly in heaven, nor closes his eyes, resigning to chance the government of the world, but purposely delays and keeps silence because he despises their vanity and folly.
And lest the flesh should still murmur and complain, demanding why God should only laugh at the wicked, and not rather take vengeance upon them, the reason is added, that he sees the day of their destruction at hand: For he seeth that his day3 is coming. Whence is it that the injuries we sustain from the wickedness of man so trouble us, if it be not that, when not obtaining a speedy redress, we begin to despair of ever seeing a better state of things? But he who sees the executioner standing behind the aggressor with drawn sword no longer desires revenge, but rather exults in the prospect of speedy retribution. David, therefore, teaches us that it is not meet that God, who sees the destruction of the wicked to be at hand, should rage and fret after the manner of men. There is then a tacit distinction here made between God and men, who, amidst the troubles and confusions of the world, do not see the day of the wicked coming, and who, oppressed by cares and fears, cannot laugh, but because vengeance is delayed, rather become so impatient that they murmur and fret. It is not, however, enough for us to know that God acts in a manner altogether different from us, unless we learn to weep patiently whilst he laughs, so that our tears may be a sacrifice of obedience. In the meantime, let us pray that he would enlighten us by his light, for by this means alone will we, by beholding with the eye of faith his laughter, become partakers thereof, even in the midst of sorrow. Some, indeed, explain these two verses in another sense; as if David meant to say, that the faithful live so happily that the wicked envy them. But the reader will now perceive that this is far from the design of the prophet.
14. The wicked draw their sword, and bend their bow. David now goes on to say, that the ungodly, being armed with sword and bow, threaten with death the children of God; and this he does in order to meet the temptation which would otherwise overwhelm them. The promises of God do not have place in a time of quietness and peace, but in the midst of severe and terrible conflicts. And, therefore, David now teaches us that the righteous are not deprived of that peace of which he had spoken a little before, although the wicked should threaten them with instant death. The sentence ought to be explained in this way: Although the wicked draw their swords and bend their bows to destroy the righteous, yet all their efforts shall return upon their own heads, and shall tend to their own destruction. But it is necessary to notice the particular terms in which the miserable condition of the righteous is here described, until God at length vouchsafe to help them. First, they are called poor and needy; and, secondly, they are compared to sheep devoted to destruction,4 because they have no power to withstand the violence of their enemies, but rather lie oppressed under their feet. Whence it follows, that a uniform state of enjoyment here is not promised to them in this psalm, but there is only set before them the hope of a blessed issue to their miseries and afflictions, in order to console them under them. But as it often happens that the wicked are hated and treated with severity for their iniquity, the Psalmist adds, that those who thus suffered were those who were of upright ways; meaning by this, that they were afflicted without cause. Formerly he described them as the upright in heart, by which he commended the inward purity of the heart; but now he commends uprightness in the conduct, and in fulfilling every duty towards our neighbor; and thus he shows not only that they are unjustly persecuted, because they have done no evil to their enemies, and have given them no cause of offense, but also, that though provoked by injuries, they nevertheless do not turn aside from the path of duty.
In the 15th verse, David is not speaking of the laughter of God, but is denouncing vengeance against the ungodly, just as we have already seen in the second psalm, at the fourth verse, that although God, by conniving at the wicked, has often suffered them for a time to run to every excess in mirth and rioting, yet he at length speaks to them in his anger to overthrow them. The amount of what is stated is, that the ungodly should prevail so little, that the sword which they had drawn should return into their own bowels, and that their bow should be broken in pieces.