12. Who is the man that feareth Yehovah, he will teach him, in the way that he should choose.13. His soul shalt dwell in good, and his seed shall inherit the earth.14. The counsel of Jehovah is towards them that fear him, that he may make known his covenant to them.15. Mine eyes are continually towards Jehovah, for he will bring my feet out of the net.
12. Who is the man. By again recalling to his mind the character in which God manifests himself towards his servants, he derives new strength and courage. For we have said, that nothing more readily occurs than a relaxation in earnest and attentive prayer, unless it be sustained by the recollection of God's promises. There can, however, be no doubt, that David both accuses himself, and by entertaining a better hope, takes encouragement to continue in the fear of God. In the first place, by intimating that men are destitute of right understanding and sound judgment, because they yield not themselves to be governed by God with reverence and fear, he imputes it to his own indolence, that by reason of the darkness of his mind, he had wandered so far astray after his own lusts; and yet, on the other hand, he promises himself the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, if he only yield himself wholly to God, and show that he is willing to learn. Moreover, the interrogatory style of speaking, which he here employs, seems designed to show how few there are who fear God: for, although all men in general pray, and manifest some appearance of piety, yet where is there one among so many who is really in earnest? Instead of this, almost all men indulge themselves in their own drowsiness. The fear of God, therefore, is very rare; and on this account it is that the world, for the most part, continues destitute of the Spirit of counsel and wisdom.
Some interpreters render the word choose in the present tense, instead of the future, shall choose; as if it had been said, that God shows the way which he approves, and in which he wishes men to walk. With this interpretation I cannot agree; for, in my judgment, the word choose rather refers to every individual; as if it had been said, Provided we are disposed to fear God, he will not be wanting on his part, but will always direct us by the Spirit of wisdom to choose the right way. When we are called upon to adopt some particular course in life, we find ourselves as it were placed between two ways, and know not which of them to follow; nay, in almost all our affairs we are held in suspense and doubt, unless God appear to show us the way. David therefore says, that although men know not what is right, and what they ought to choose, yet provided they submit to God with pious docility of mind, and are willing to follow him, he will always manifest himself towards them as a sure and faithful guide. As, however, the fear of God is not naturally in us, it were foolish for any man to argue from this place, that God does not begin to take care of men until, by their own previous efforts, they insinuate themselves into his favor, that he may aid them in their pious endeavors. David has just declared, that this grace comes directly from God, when he says that God teaches the transgressors: and now he adds, in the second place, that after men have once been subdued and moulded to meekness of spirit, God still takes them under his charge, guiding and directing them till they are able, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, to know what is their duty.
13. His soul shall dwell in good. If the supreme felicity of man consists in undertaking or attempting nothing except by the warrant of God, it follows that it is also a high and incomparable benefit to have him for our conductor and guide through life, that we may never go astray. But, in addition to this, an earthly blessing is here promised, in which the fruit of the preceding grace is distinctly shown, as Paul also teaches,
|Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.| (1 Timothy 4:8,)
The sum is, that those who truly serve God are not only blessed as to spiritual things, but are also blessed by him as to their condition in the present life. It is indeed true, that God does not always deal with them according to their desires, and that the blessings which they would wish do not always flow in a certain and uniform manner. On the contrary, it often happens that they are tossed with sickness and trouble, whilst the wicked enjoy prosperity. But we must know, that as often as God withdraws his blessing from his own people, it is for the purpose of awakening them to a sense of their condition, and discovering to them how far removed they still are from the perfect fear of God. And yet, in so far as it is expedient for them, they now enjoy the blessings of God, so that, in comparison of worldly men, and the despisers of God, they are truly happy and blessed, because, even in their greatest poverty, they never lose the assurance that God is present with them; and being sustained by this consolation, they enjoy peace and tranquillity of mind. It is indeed true, that all our miseries proceed from this one source -- that by our sins we prevent the divine blessing from flowing down in a uniform course upon us; and yet, amidst such a state of confusion, his grace never ceases to shine forth, so that the condition of the godly is always better than that of others: for although they are not satiated with good things, yet they are continually made to experience a sense of the fatherly favor of God. And to this I am willing to refer the word soul, namely, that, in the reception of the gifts of God, they do not devour them without feeling a sense of their sweetness, but really relish them, so that the smallest competency is of more avail to satisfy them than the greatest abundance is to satisfy the ungodly. Thus, according as every man is contented with his condition, and cheerfully cherishes a spirit of patience and tranquillity, his soul is said to dwell in good. Some interpreters apply this word to dwell or abide to the time of death; but this interpretation is more subtle than solid. The inspired penman rather speaks, as we have already said, of the condition of the present life. He adds, in the second place, by way of illustration, that the posterity of the faithful shall inherit the land, and from this it follows, that God continues to extend his favor towards them. Hence we may again infer, that the death of God's servants does not imply their utter destruction, and that they do not cease to exist when they pass out of this world, but continue to live for ever. It would be absurd to suppose that God would totally deprive of life those for whose sake he does good even to others. As to what is here said, that the children of the saints shall inherit the land, it has been touched upon elsewhere, and it will be shown still more fully on the thirty-seventh Psalm, in what respects, and how this is accomplished.
14. The counsel of Jehovah. The Psalmist here confirms what he had just said in a preceding verse, namely, that God will faithfully discharge the office of a teacher and master to all the godly; and, after his usual manner, he repeats the same sentiment twice in the same verse for the covenant of God is nothing else than his secret or counsel. By the use of the term secret, he means to magnify and extol the excellency of the doctrine which is revealed to us in the law of God. However much worldly men, through the pride and haughtiness of their hearts, despise Moses and the prophets, the faithful nevertheless acknowledge, that in the doctrine which they contain, the secrets of heaven, which far surpass the comprehension of man, are revealed and unfolded. Whoever, therefore, desires to derive instruction from the law, let him regard with reverence and esteem the doctrine which it contains. We are, farther, by this place admonished to cultivate the graces of meekness and humility, lest, in reliance upon our own wisdom, or trusting to our own understanding, we should attempt, by our own efforts, to comprehend those mysteries and secrets, the knowledge of which David here declares to be the prerogative of God alone. Again, since the fear of the Lord is said to be the beginning, and as it were the way that leads to a right understanding of his will, (Psalm 111:10,) according as any one desires to increase in faith, so also let him endeavor to advance in the fear of the Lord. Moreover, when piety reigns in the heart, we need have no fear of losing our labor in seeking God. It is indeed true, that the covenant of God is a secret which far exceeds human comprehension; but as we know that he does not in vain enjoin us to seek him, we may rest assured that all those who endeavor to serve him with an upright desire will be brought, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to the knowledge of that heavenly wisdom which is appointed for their salvation. But, in the meantime, David indirectly rebukes those who falsely and groundlessly boast that they are interested in the covenant of God, while they rest merely in the letter of the law, and have no saving impressions of the fear of God. God, it is true, addresses his word indiscriminately to the righteous and the wicked; but men do not comprehend it, unless they have sincere piety; just as Isaiah 29:11, says, that as regards the ungodly, the law is like |a book that is sealed.| And, therefore, it is no wonder that there is here made a distinction between those who truly serve God, and to whom he makes known his secret, and the wicked or hypocrites. But when we see David in this confidence coming boldly to the school of God, and leading others along with him, let us know, as he clearly shows, that it is a wicked and hateful invention to attempt to deprive the common people of the Holy Scriptures, under the pretense of their being a hidden mystery; as if all who fear him from the heart, whatever their state or condition in other respects may be, were not expressly called to the knowledge of God's covenant.
15. Mine eyes are continually towards Jehovah. David here speaks of his own faith, and of its perseverance, not in the way of boasting, but to encourage himself in the hope of obtaining his requests, so that he might give himself the more readily and cheerfully to prayer. As the promise is made to all who trust in God, that they shall not be disappointed of their hope, and that they shall never be put to shame, the saints often make this their shield of defense. Meanwhile, David shows to others, by his own example, the right manner of prayer, telling them that they should endeavor to keep their thoughts fixed upon God. As the sense of sight is very quick, and exercises an entire influence over the whole frame, it is no uncommon thing to find all the affections denoted by the term eyes. The reason which immediately follows shows still more plainly, that in the mind of David hope was associated with desire; as if he had said, That in resting his confidence in the help of God, he did so, not in doubt or uncertainty, but because he was persuaded that he would be his deliverer. The pronoun He, it ought to be observed, is also emphatic. It shows that David did not gaze around him in every direction, after the manner of those who, being in uncertainty, devise for themselves various methods of deliverance and salvation, but that he was contented with God alone.