3. For the scepter1 of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the just, lest the just should put faith their hands to iniquity. 4. Do good, O Jehovah to the good, and to those who are upright in their hearts. 5. But those who turn aside into their crooked paths,2 Jehovah will make them walk with the workers of iniquity. But there shall be peace upon Israel.
3. For the scepter of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the just. This is, as it were, a correction of the preceding sentence. The Psalmist had said that the hand of God was extended on all sides to defend his Church. But as we are disposed to draw the divine promises to our own advantage, in the way of interpreting them as securing our exemption from all trouble, we are here warned that the guardianship of God does not secure us from being sometimes exercised with the cross and afflictions, and that therefore the faithful ought not to promise themselves a delicate and easy life in this world, it being enough for them not to. be abandoned of God when they stand in need of his help. Their heavenly Father, it is true, loves them most tenderly, but he will have them awakened by the cross, lest they should give themselves too much to the pleasures of the flesh. If, therefore, we embrace this doctrine, although we may happen to be oppressed by the tyranny of the wicked, we will wait patiently till God either break their scepter, or shake it out of their hands. It is a sore temptation, I admit, to see the wicked exercising cruelty in the heritage of the Lord, and the faithful lying extended beneath their feet; but as God does not without just reason thus humble his people, they should comfort themselves from the consideration suggested in the text.
The reason is added why God will not suffer the wicked always to triumph over the righteous -- namely, lest the just, overcome by temptation, abandon themselves wholly to sinning, a reason which ought to be carefully marked. Hence we gather that God, from his willingness to bear with our weakness, moderates our adversities. Although, then, we may not possess in ourselves a sufficient amount of fortitude and constancy to enable us to persevere in our duty for a single moment, yet let this sentiment be present to our minds, That God will take care that, broken as we may be by afflictions, we shall not forsake his service. Were he even to afflict us without intermission during the whole course of our life, the cross is doubtless always profitable to us; for we see how indomitable is the rebellion of our flesh, and with what vehement impetuosity it is continually boiling up; yea, rather how it ceases not to kick amidst the very afflictions by which it ought to be reduced to obedience. So much the more necessary then is this lesson of instruction -- that the Lord seasonably sets limits to our temptations, because he knows that we are too feeble to withstand them. Nor does the Prophet merely say, that the weak are in danger of failing, but that even the just, who serve God in truth and from the heart, and who are devoted to the cultivation of a holy life, are in danger of sinking under the load. However vigorous, then, the fear of God may be in our hearts, let us remember that we are not endowed with adequate strength for enduring to the end, unless the Lord have a regard to our infirmity. If the Holy Spirit makes this declaration concerning the best champions, what will be the case as to tyroes, who are as yet but imperfectly trained for the combat? It is also proper to mark the form of speech employed -- lest they stretch forth their hands; by which it is intimated that the assaults of temptations. are so violent, that the hands of the just, which were before, as we may say, bound, and whose motions were also framed and regulated according to the will of God, being now, as it were, let loose, apply themselves to the commission of sin without restraint.
4. Do good, O Jehovah to the good. The Prophet has already promised to all the faithful the seasonable help of God; but still he has recourse to prayer, and that not without cause; for although faith may sustain us, yet, as our carnal sense and reason are wavering, we ought to mingle prayers for our confirmation. Let us then follow this rule of the Prophet, who, having exhorted all the faithful to cherish confidence, teaches them at the same time, that instead of sitting in listless inactivity, they should betake themselves to God, earnestly beseeching him by prayer, for what he has bidden them hope for by his word. And assuredly the importance of using this remedy is apparent from the consideration, that amidst the darkness of afflictions, the aid of God is not discerned, but that he rather seems to make no difference between the righteous and the wicked. Nor does the Psalmist simply pray that God would deal graciously with the good, he also defines the goodness by which they are characterized, as what proceeds from sincere affection of heart. It would not be enough for the children of God to abstain from all wrong-doing, were they not distinguished by corresponding integrity of heart, or rather did it not govern their whole life.
5. But those who turn aside into their crooked paths, etc. As the participle Myjmh, hammattim, is in the conjugation Hiphil, it should, according to the rules of grammar, be rather translated in an active sense -- those who cause to turn aside; but it being no uncommon thing for verbs in that conjugation to be taken in a neuter sense, the, version which I have followed is probably the correct one. Still, as the active signification is not less appropriate, I would leave the reader freely to exercise his own judgment. The meaning is, that God does not always connive at the wickedness of those who, while boasting of a hollow and counterfeit profession, wander hither and thither according to their own lust, or even corrupt the simple, and draw them into the same excess of sinning with themselves. I have no doubt that the Psalmist here speaks of hypocrites, who are so hardened by temporary impunity, as to claim to. themselves a place among the holiest of men, because God exercises forbearance towards them. Not only do we see the good mingled with the bad in the world, but we also behold on the barn-floor of the Lord the wheat lying hidden under the chaff and refuse. In this dubious and confused state of matters, the bad are elated with pride, as if they were among the best of God's servants. We ought therefore to pray that God would drag them into the light, and, with the workers of iniquity, thrust them down into the punishment which they have deserved. The consequence is that peace, which the Prophet desires may be the privilege of Israel. He does not speak generally of all the race of Abraham, according to the. flesh; he rather wishes that the Church of God may be purged of hypocrites, who occupy a place in her, until God lift up his hand to judgment. On this account I have said, that the peace of the Church springs from this -- that; God, while executing his just vengeance upon reigned and counterfeit Israelites, who rend and tear in pieces her bowels, gathers together the upright in heart, and openly shows by his blessing the fatherly love which he bears towards them.