<<A Psalm of David.>> Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.
Verse 1. - Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift; up my soul (comp. Psalm 86:4; Psalm 143:8). The Hebrew phrase does not mean a temporary raising of the heart to God, but a permanent setting of the affections on him (see Deuteronomy 24:15; and comp. Psalm 24:4).
O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
Verse 3. - Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed. The prayer passes from the particular to the universal. What David desires for himself he desires also for all the true servants of God - all who wait on him, look to him, seek for indications of his will (comp. Psalm 123:2). Let them he ashamed which transgress without cause. Let shame be the portion, not of thy servants, but of thy adversaries - of those who transgress (or rebel) without reasonable cause. Such persons deserve to be brought to shame.
Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.
Verse 4. - Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. An echo of the prayer of Moses when his people were rebellious at Sinai (Exodus 33:13), reiterated by David in Psalm 27:11, and perhaps again in Psalm 86:11 (see also Psalm 119:33). Man is so wanting in spiritual understanding, so morally blind and ignorant, that, unless enlightened from on high, he cannot discern aright the "way of godliness;" he does not know at any given moment what God would have him to do. Hence it is the constant prayer of every religious man that God will "lighten his darkness;" "make his way plain before his face;" "show him the path that he should walk in;" enable him to see, if no more, at any rate the next step which it is his duty to take. The idea has been beautifully expressed by a modern poet -
"Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead thou me on.
The night is dark, and I am far from homo;
Lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me."
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
Verse 5. - Lead me in thy truth, and teach me. "Thy truth" would seem to mean here "the true, right path" - the "way of godliness." The prayer is that God will both teach this to the psalmist and "lead him in it" - cause him, i.e., to walk in it, and never stray from it, so long as he lives. For thou art the God of my salvation. Thou art the God from whom alone I obtain salvation, and to whom alone, therefore, I am bound to pray for everything on which salvation depends - as, for instance, light and guidance. On thee do I wait all the day. In prayer for these blessings, I wait on thee all the day long.
Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
Verse 6. - Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies, and thy loving-kindnesses. Past mercies form a ground for the expectation of future blessings. God's character cannot change; his action as one time will always be consistent and harmonious with his action at another. If he has been kind and merciful to David in the past, David may count on his continuing the same in the future. For they have been ever of old. Not lately only, or to David only, have his mercies been shown, but through all past time, to all his servants, from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O LORD.
Verse 7. - Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions. Job thought that God counted against him the "iniquities of his youth" (Job 13:26); David, with greater faith and a deeper insight into the true character of God, can ask with confidence that his may not be reckoned against him. An earthly father does not remember them against his son. How much less will our heavenly Father! According to thy mercy remember thou me, for thy goodness' sake, O Lord! Still, put me not from thy mind. "Remember thou me" always - but in the light of thy tender mercy, with the rays of thy love streaming over me and hiding the deformities of my transgressions. Do this "for thy goodness' sake," i.e. because thou art essential Goodness, perfect Tenderness, perfect Love.
Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
Verse 8. - Good and upright is the Lord. A transition. From prayer the psalmist turns to reflection, and meditates awhile (vers. 8-10) on the character and ways of God. God is, indeed, "good," as he has implied in the preceding verse - i.e., kind, tender, gentle, merciful; but he is also "upright" (יָשָׁר) - just, straight, strict, undeviating from the path of right. As Bishop Butler observes, "Divine goodness, with which, if I mistake not, we make very free in our speculations, may not be a bare single disposition to produce happiness, but a disposition to make the good, the faithful, the honest man happy" ('Anal.,' 1:2, p. 41) - s disposition, i.e., to be just as well as merciful to distribute happiness by the canon of right. Therefore will he teach sinners in the way. He will not abandon sinners - this is his "goodness;" but will reclaim them, chasten them, make them to walk in his way - this is his uprightness.
The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
Verse 9. - The meek will he guide in judgment. It is only such sinners as are "meek" - i.e.. humble, submissive, contrite, teachable - that God will take in hand and teach. The proud and perverse he will leave to their own devices, but the meek he will guide in the paths of righteousness, and the meek will he teach his way.
All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Verse 10. - All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. Mercy and truth will meet together (Psalm 85:10) in the case of those who, however they may have sinned, meekly submit themselves to God's guidance, and thenceforth keep his covenant and his testimonies.
For thy name's sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.
Verse 11. - For thy Name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity. The psalmist here resumes the attitude of prayer, which he had laid aside in ver. 8. The" sins of his youth," and his other "transgressions," which he had asked God to forget (ver. 7), rankle in his own memory, and force him to cry out again and again for pardon (see ver. 18; Psalm 32:5; Psalm 38:18; Psalm 39:8; Psalm 41:4, etc.). Here he beseeches God to pardon him "for his Name's sake," i.e. for the honour of his Name, that his mercy may Be known far and wide, and his goodness cause all the world to praise him. He enforces his plea by the confession, For it (i.e. his iniquity) is great; so great, that his need of forgiveness is excessive: so great, that to forgive it will be truly Godlike; so great, that, unless forgiven, he must be lost. (For his "great sin," see 2 Samuel 11:4-17.)
What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
Verse 12. - What man is he that feareth the Lord? Once more we have a series of reflections (vers. 12-15) - first, with respect to the God-fearing man. Every such man shall have favour shown him by God - him shall he (i.e. God) teach in the way that he shall choose. This is, of course, the right way - the way of God's commandments (Psalm 119:30, 173). God shall make his way plain to the God-fearing man.
His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.
Verse 13. - His soul shall dwell at case; rather, his soul shall dwell in bliss; i.e. he shall enjoy, while on earth, blessings of every kind. And his seed shall inherit the earth. His posterity after him shall be continued upon the earth, and shall prosper (comp. Psalm 37:11, 22, 29). There is a tendency in righteousness to "inherit the earth," only held in check by accidental and (it may be) temporary circumstances (see Butler's' Analogy,' pt. 1. ch. 3, pp. 78, 79).
The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.
Verse 14. - The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him. God favours those who fear him with secret and confidential communion (comp. Proverbs 3:32). He "comes unto them, and makes his abode with them" (John 14:23), and "teaches them" (John 14:26), and enlightens them, and leads them in his way, and learns them (ver. 5), and "seals their instruction" (Job 33:16). And he will show them his covenant; i.e. make them see the full force of it, since his "commandment is exceeding broad" (Psalm 119:96).
Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
Verse 15. - Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord. David is always looking to God (Psalm 141:8), waiting for him (Psalm 40:1; Psalm 62:1, 5; Psalm 69:3, etc.), expecting his providences, anticipating his deliverances (Psalm 3:7; Psalm 5:11; Psalm 7:1; Psalm 9:3, etc.). He is now, apparently, in some danger or difficulty, and in need of the Divine succour (comp. ver. 2). For he shall pluck my feet out of the net (comp. Psalm 9:15; Psalm 10:10; Psalm 31:5; Psalm 35:7, etc.).
Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
Verse 16. - Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me. The approach of peril is regarded as a sign that God has "turned away his face." He is besought, therefore, to turn towards one who needs his aid. For I am desolate and afflicted (comp. vers. 17, 18). The affliction evidently comes from enemies, either foreign or domestic (vers. 2, 19); but its nature is not further indicated.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.
Verses 17, 18. - The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses. Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins. The affliction, of whatever kind it may have been, was regarded by David as a punishment sent on him for his sins. Of his sins he was at this time deeply conscious (vers. 7, 11) and deeply repentant. Probably they included his great sin (see the comment on ver. 11).
Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
Verse 19. - Consider nine enemies; for they are many (comp. Psalm 3:7; Psalm 5:8; Psalm 6:7, 10; Psalm 7:1, 6; Psalm 17:9; Psalm 18:2, 17); and they hate me with cruel hatred. This would appear to point to domestic rather than foreign foes (see 2 Samuel 16:6-8).
O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.
Verse 20. - O keep my soul, and deliver me (comp. Psalm 6:4; Psalm 17:3; Psalm 22:20, etc.): let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee (see comment on ver. 2).
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.
Verse 21. - Let integrity and uprightness preserve me. Scarcely his own inherent integrity and uprightness, the want of which he has deplored when confessing that his iniquity is great (ver. 11). Rather an integrity and uprightness whereto he hopes to attain, by the grace of God, in days to come - an integrity and uprightness for which he "waits" For I wait on thee.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.
Verse 22. - Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. It is supposed by some that this verse was added during the "trouble" of the Captivity; and certainly its stand-lug outside the alphabetical arrangement favours this view; but the similar irregularity at the close of Psalm 34, rather makes against it. David evidently was not a slave to a mechanical arrangement; and any pious Israelite, at any age (therefore certainly David) might naturally append a prayer for his people to an outpouring of prayer for himself. Moreover, redemption is an idea familiar to David (Psalm 19:14; Psalm 26:11; Psalm 31:5; Psalm 34:22).