30. The mouth of the righteous will speak wisdom, and his tongue will utter judgment. 31. The law of his God is in his heart: his steps shall not slide. 32. The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him. 33. Jehovah will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.
30. The mouth of the righteous will speak wisdom. As it is customary with hypocrites confidently to draw to their own advantage whatever the Spirit of God declares concerning the just and upright, David here gives a definition of the righteousness which God requires on the part of his children, and divides it into three principal parts -- that their speech should be in sincerity and truth; that the law of God should reign in their heart; and that they should order their conversation aright. Some give a different exposition of the first part from what we have given: they say that the righteous serve as teachers and guides, by instructing others to live well, and leading them in the way; and, therefore, to speak wisdom, and to utter judgment, is, in their view, of the same import as to instruct others in holy doctrine, and to train them to the fear of God. I do not altogether disapprove of this exposition, but I fear it is too restricted. Wisdom and uprightness are here opposed as much to the profane and filthy language by which the wicked endeavor to blot out the name of God, as to cunning and fraud, and every species of stratagem and deceit; and also to the threats and terrors by which they endeavor to frighten the simple.1 The meaning therefore is, first, that the righteous speak honourably and reverently of the righteousness of God, that they may cherish in themselves and others, to a large extent, the knowledge and the fear of God;2secondly, that both in their own affairs and those of others, they approve, without disguise or deceit, of what is just and reasonable, and are not given to justify what is wrong under the color and varnish of sophistry; and, finally, that they never depart from the truth.
To this there is added integrity of heart: The law of the Lord is in his heart. This, though it should precede in point of order, is not improperly put in the second place here. For the Scriptures are not particular in observing an exact arrangement in the enumeration of virtues and vices. Besides, the source whence this integrity of heart proceeds is, that the Law of God has its seat in the heart; and it is it alone which prescribes the best rule of life, restrains all the depraved affections and lusts, and imbues the minds of men with the love of righteousness. No man will constantly and steadily devote himself to a life of uprightness, exert himself in behalf of others in preference to his own personal interests, renounce covetousness, subdue pride, and maintain a constant warfare with his own nature, unless he is endued with the fear of God. There next follows the third division, which relates to the external conduct: His steps shall not slide. Some, indeed, think that this is a promise; but I have no doubt, that in this clause David still continues the definition of righteousness. The meaning therefore is, that although the children of God are tempted in a variety of ways to commit sin, and many things occur urging them to it, -- and although men, for the most part, too, endeavor, as far as in them lies, by their maliciousness to turn them aside from the fear of God, -- yet, because the Law of God rules and reigns in their hearts, they do not slide, but stand to their purpose with firm and determined resolution, or at least adhere to the right course.
32. and 33. The wicked watcheth the righteous, etc. David here illustrates more plainly the nature of the possession of the earth, of which he had spoken, namely, that God preserves his own people, though they are beset with enemies round about. And hence we are again taught, that the faithful are not promised in the preceding context a quiet state of life, and one free from all trouble and distress. If so, these two statements would be contradictory: first, that the faithful possessing an inheritance, enjoy repose and pleasure; and, secondly, that yet they are daily delivered as sheep out of the mouth of wolves. These two verses, however, contain this special ground of consolation, that the faithful, though surrounded by such a variety of dangers, shall notwithstanding escape, and be preserved in safety by the help of God. Accordingly, David here teaches them, that when they shall see their enemies lying in wait for them, and seeking by every means in their power to annoy them, they, on the contrary, ought to consider how deeply interested God is in the welfare of his own people, and how carefully he watches over them to preserve them in safety. David indeed confesses that the stratagems to which the wicked have recourse in seeking not only to deprive good men of their property, but even to take away their lives, are terrible in themselves, because they cruelly plot their destruction; but still he teaches us at the same time, that we ought to continue to preserve firm and undaunted courage, because God has promised that he will be our guardian and defender: Jehovah will not leave him in his hand. This circumstance, however, ought to be considered, that God does not always grant us deliverance at the first, but often delays it till we seem to be even at the point of death. In the last clause of the verse, we are also admonished, that however carefully good men may guard against giving offense to any, and endeavor to secure the good-will of all, and shun debate and strife, yet they shall not be exempted from false accusations: Jehovah will not condemn them when they are judged. David does not say that they shall receive the applause of the world, and that their virtues shall be celebrated in such praises as they deserve; but he exhorts them, when they shall be haled to judgment, and as it were overwhelmed with slander, so that they already resemble those who are condemned, to rest contented with the protection of God, who will at length manifest their innocence, and maintain it against the unrighteous judgments of men. If any one object, that, on the contrary, many of the children of God, after having been condemned, have suffered a cruel and bitter death, I answer, that their avenger nevertheless is in heaven. Christ was put to death in the most cruel form, and in circumstances of the deepest ignominy, but notwithstanding, as the prophet Isaiah says, Isaiah 53:8, "he was taken from that distress and condemnation;" and in the same manner God is still acting daily towards those who are his members. If it may still be objected, that David is here discoursing not of the life to come, but of the state of the godly in the present life, I must again repeat in answer to this, the explanation which I have given before, namely, that earthly blessings are at God's disposal, and are regulated entirely according to his will; and hence it is that he never bestows them in an equal measure upon all, but according to his wisdom, and as he sees meet, sometimes withdrawing them either in whole or in part, and at other times displaying them to the view of all. Accordingly, it may happen, that the holy martyrs, after they have been condemned, may also be put to death, as if God had forsaken them; but this is only because it is better for themselves, and because they desire nothing more than to glorify God by their death. Yet he who permits the ungodly to exercise their cruelty, ceases not to be the assertor of the righteousness of his servants: for he openly shows before his angels, and before his whole Church, that he approves it, and declares that he will make inquisition for it; nay, more, raising them from the darkness in which they have been hid, he makes their ashes yield a sweet and pleasant odour. Finally, after the Lord has suffered them to be overwhelmed by reproach and violence, he will pronounce the judgment by which he will vindicate their righteous cause from wicked calumnies and false accusations.