To the Chief Musician, a Psalm of David.
1. O God of my praise! be not silent; 2. Because the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of deceit are opened upon me: they have spoken against me with the tongue of guile. 3. And they have encompassed me with the words of hatred, and have contended with me without cause. 4. On account of my love they have been opposed to me; but I gave myself to prayer. 5. They rendered to me evil for good, and hatred for love.
1. O God of my praise! be not silent. In these words, which may be considered as an introduction to the psalm, David declares that he neither could find nor would desire any other than God to stand forward in vindication of the integrity of his heart. For in denominating him the God of his praise, he intrusts to him the vindication of his innocence, in the face of the calumnies by which he was all but universally assailed. Some are of opinion that this clause is to be understood as referring to David's having actually declared that he himself was the publisher of God's praises; but the scope of the passage is opposed to such an interpretation; for we find David appealing to the judgment of God against the unjust and cruel hatred to which he was subjected in the world. There is in the words an implied contrast, because, when calumny is rampant, innocence is duly and properly estimated by none but God only. The meaning of the passage is this: Lord, although I may be regarded as the vilest of the vile, and exposed to the reproach of the world, yet thou wilt maintain the uprightness of my character, and on this account thou wilt also set forth my praise. 1 This interpretation corresponds well with that which is immediately subjoined, be not silent. For when we are overwhelmed by the aspersions of the wicked, it would surely be improper on the part of God, who is the witness of our innocence, to remain silent. At the same time, what I formerly stated must not be forgotten, that while David mourns over the injuries which he in particular was suffering, yet, in his own person, he represented Christ, and the whole body of his Church. From this we are taught, when we are subjected to every species of indignity by men, to repose with perfect confidence under the protection of God alone. No man, however, can, with sincerity of heart, surrender himself entirely into the hand of God, except he has first formed the resolution of treating with contempt the reproaches of the world, and is also fully persuaded that he has God as the defender of his cause.
2. Because the mouth of the wicked. David here very plainly declares, that he was the more solicitous to obtain help from God, in consequence of justice not being found among men. And though it is probable that he was rashly and furiously assailed, nevertheless, he complains that the mouth of deceit and fraud had been opened against him, and that he was surrounded with false tongues. Whence, to those who were ignorant of his real situation, there would appear to be some plausible pretext for his being loaded with reproaches, so much so indeed, that he would not be able to evade the charge of criminality.
3. And they have encompassed me. He complains, that from all quarters he was assailed with the most hostile and abusive epithets, and that, too, most undeservedly. And, under a beautiful similitude, he shows that the tongues of his enemies were so full of deadly poison, that it was harder for him to endure their attacks than that of a great army, and the more so that he merited no such treatment at their hands. This species of warfare, to the exercise of which God very frequently summons his children, must be carefully considered by us. For though Satan may assault them with open violence, yet as he is the father of lies, he endeavors, by the amazing dexterity which he possesses in heaping calumny upon them, to tarnish their reputation, as if they were the most abandoned of mankind. Now, as that which was prefigured by David was fulfilled in Christ, so we must remember, that that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ is daily filling up in believers, Colossians 1:24; because, he having once suffered in himself, calls them to be sharers and associates with him in his sufferings.
4. On account of my love they have been opposed to me. 2 The Psalmist had already solemnly declared, that his adversaries, unprovoked by any injury inflicted upon them by him, and without any just cause, became, through mere diabolical rage, his most implacable foes. Here he confirms the truth of that declaration by saying, that he had been their friend. For there is far more merit in showing kindness to an enemy than simply abstaining from doing that which is evil. And from this we may perceive, that the influence of Satan must be awfully powerful when he takes the hearts of men captive at his will. For nothing can be more unnatural than to hate and cruelly persecute those who love us. To love he also adds deeds of kindness, meaning, that it was his aim to secure their good will by outward acts of beneficence.
5. But I gave myself to prayer.3 Some are of opinion, that these words refer to David's pouring out a prayer for his enemies at the very moment when they were furiously assaulting him, and with this opinion corresponds that which we have stated in Psalm 35:13. But the more plain, and, to me, the preferable interpretation, is, that when he was attacked in a cruel and hostile manner, he did not betake himself to such unlawful means as the rendering of evil for evil, but committed himself into the hand of God, fully satisfied that he alone could guard him from all ill. And it is assuredly a great and desirable attainment for a man so to restrain his passions as directly and immediately to make his appeal to God's tribunal, at the very time when he is abused without a cause, and when the very injuries which he sustains are calculated to excite him to avenge them. For there are some persons who, while it is their aim to live in terms of friendship with the good, coming in contact with ill men, imagine that they are at perfect liberty to return injury for injury; and to this temptation all the godly feel that they are liable. The Holy Spirit, however, restrains us, so that though oftimes provoked by the cruelty of our enemies to seek revenge, we yet abandon all fraudulent and violent means, and betake ourselves by prayer to God alone. By this example, which David here sets before us, we are instructed that we must have recourse to the same means if we would wish to overcome our enemies through the power and protection of God. In Psalm 69:13, we have a parallel passage: "They that sit in the gate spake against me; and I was the song of those who drink strong drink. But my prayer was made to thee, O Jehovah!" In that passage, as well as in the one under review, the mode of expression is elliptical. Besides, it is the design of David in these words to inform us, that although he was aware that the whole world was opposed to him, yet he could cast all his cares upon God, and this was enough to render his mind calm and composed. And as the Holy Spirit taught David and all the godly to offer up prayers like these, it must follow, that those who, in this respect, imitate them, will be promptly helped by God when he beholds them reproachfully and vilely persecuted.