19. O how great is thy goodness which thou hast hidden for them that fear thee! which thou hast performed for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! 20. Thou shalt hide them in the secret [or, in the hiding-place] of thy countenance from the pride of man; thou shalt hide them as in a tent from the strife of tongues.21. Blessed be Jehovah! for he hath made wonderful his goodness towards me, as in a fortified city.
19. O how great is thy goodness which thou hast hidden for them that fear thee! In this verse the Psalmist exclaims that God is incomprehensibly good and beneficent towards his servants. Goodness here means those divine blessings which are the effects of it. The interrogatory form of the sentence has a peculiar emphasis; for David not only asserts that God is good, but he is ravished with admiration of the goodness which he had experienced. It was this experience, undoubtedly, which caused him break out into the rapturous language of this verse; for he had been marvellously and unexpectedly delivered from his calamities. By his example, therefore, he enjoins believers to rise above the apprehension of their own understanding, in order that they may promise themselves, and expect far more from the grace of God than human reason is able to conceive. He says that the goodness of God is hidden for his servants, because it is a treasure which is peculiar to them. It, no doubt, extends itself in various ways to the irreligious and unworthy, and is set before them indiscriminately; but it displays itself much more plenteously and clearly towards the faithful, because it is they alone who enjoy all God's benefits for their salvation. God
|maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,| (Matthew 5:45,)
and shows himself bountiful even to the irrational creation; but he declares himself a Father, in the true and full sense of the term, to those only who are his servants. It is not without reason, therefore, that the goodness of God is said to be hidden for the faithful, whom alone he accounts worthy of enjoying his favor most intimately and tenderly. Some give a more subtle interpretation of the phrase, the goodness of God is hidden, explaining it as meaning that God, by often exercising his children with crosses and afflictions, hides his favor from them, although, at the same time, he does not forget them. It is more probable, however, that it should be understood of a treasure which God has set apart and laid up in store for them, unless perhaps we choose to refer it to the experience of the saints, because they alone, as I have said, experience in their souls the fruit of divine goodness; whereas brutish stupidity hinders the wicked from acknowledging God as a beneficent Father, even while they are devouring greedily his good things. And thus it comes to pass, that while the goodness of God fills and overspreads all parts of the world, it is notwithstanding generally unknown. But the mind of the sacred writer will be more clearly perceived from the contrast which exists between the faithful and those who are strangers to God's love. As a provident man will regulate his liberality towards all men in such a manner as not to defraud his children or family, nor impoverish his own house, by spending his substance prodigally on others; so God, in like manner, in exercising his beneficence to aliens from his family, knows well how to reserve for his own children that which belongs to them as it were by hereditary right; that is to say, because of their adoption. The attempt of Augustine to prove from these words that those who unbelievingly dread God's judgment have no experience of his goodness, is most inappropriate. To perceive his mistaken view of the passage, it is only necessary to look to the following clause, in which David says that God makes the world to perceive that he exercises inestimable goodness towards those who serve him, both in protecting them and in providing for their welfare. Whence we learn, that it is not of the everlasting blessedness which is reserved for the godly in heaven that the Psalmist here speaks, but of the protection and other blessings which belong to the preservation of the present life; which he declares to be so manifest that even the ungodly themselves are forced to become eye-witnesses of them. The world, I admit, passes over all the works of God with its eyes shut, and is especially ignorant of his fatherly care of the saints; still it is certain that there shine forth such daily proofs of it, that even the reprobate cannot but see them, except in so far as they willingly shut their eyes against the light. David, therefore, speaks according to truth, when he declares that God gives evidences of his goodness to his people before the sons of men, that it may be clearly seen that they do not serve him unadvisedly or in vain.
20. Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy countenance. In this verse the Psalmist specially commends the grace of God, because it preserves and protects the faithful against all harm. As Satan assiduously and by innumerable means opposes their welfare, and as the greater part of the world is at deadly war with them, they must be exposed to many dangers. Unless God, therefore, protected them by his power, and came from time to time to their aid, their condition would be most miserable. The Psalmist makes an allusion to the hiding which he had just mentioned, and although the metaphor may, at first sight, appear somewhat harsh, it very aptly expresses, that provided the Lord take care of them, the faithful are perfectly safe under his protection alone. By this eulogium, therefore, he sublimely extols the power of divine Providence, because it alone suffices to ward off every species of evil, and while it shines upon the godly, it blinds the eyes of all the wicked, and weakens their hands. In the opinion of some, the Psalmist, when he speaks of the secret of God's countenance, refers to the sanctuary, an interpretation which I do not altogether reject, although it does not appear to me sufficiently solid. Again, he says that God hides the faithful from the pride of man and the strife of tongues, because, if God restrain not the wicked, we know that they have the audacity to break forth with outrageous violence against the truly godly; but however unbridled their lust and insolence may be, God preserves his people from harm, by wondrously covering them with the brightness of his countenance. Some translate the Hebrew word ryksym, rikasim, conspiracies, others perversities, but without any reason; nor, indeed, does the etymology of the word admit of it, for it comes from a root which signifies to lift up, or to elevate. To pride is added the strife of tongues, because God's children have cause to fear not only the inhuman deeds of their enemies, but also their still more wicked and violent calumnies, as David himself more than enough experienced. And as our innocence ought to be justly dearer to us than our life, let us learn to cultivate uprightness in such a manner as that, trusting to God's protection, we may disregard every false calumny. And let us always remember that it is God's peculiar prerogative to vindicate his people from all unjust reproaches.
21. Blessed be Jehovah! These general truths the Psalmist here proceeds to apply to his own circumstances, and he declares that the goodness of God in preserving his life was wondrously displayed. As he speaks of aid which had been suddenly and unexpectedly afforded him in very desperate circumstances, those interpreters judge aright who here supply as, the mark of similitude, in this way, as in a fortified city David lay open to every blow, and had been exposed to every sort of injury, and he boasts that in his nakedness and destitution the assistance of God had been of greater service to him than a city well fortified, or an impregnable fortress would have been.