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Commentary On Psalms Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 59:1-5

1. Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God! lift me up from the reach of them that rise up against me.2. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men.3. For, lo! they lie in wait for my soul: the mighty are gathered against me; not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O Jehovah: 4. They run and prepare themselves without my fault: awake to hasten for my help, and behold.5. And thou, O Jehovah, God of Hosts! the God of Israel, awake to visit all the nations: be not merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah.

1 Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God! He insists upon the strength and violence of his enemies, with the view of exciting his mind to greater fervor in the duty of prayer. These he describes as rising up against him, in which expression he alludes not simply to the audacity or fierceness of their assaults, but to the eminent superiority of power which they possessed; and yet he asks that he may be lifted up on high, as it were, above the reach of this over-swelling inundation. His language teaches us that we should believe in the ability of God to deliver us even upon occasions of emergency, when our enemies have an overwhelming advantage. In the verse which follows, while he expresses the extremity to which he was reduced, he adverts at the same time to the injustice and cruelty of his persecutors. Immediately afterwards, he connects the two grounds of his complaint together: on the one hand, his complete helplessness under the danger, and, on the other, the undeserved nature of the assaults from which he suffered. I have already repeatedly observed, that our confidence in our applications to a throne of grace will be proportional to the degree in which we are conscious of integrity; for we cannot fail to feel greater liberty in pleading a cause which, in such a case, is the cause of God himself. He is the vindicator of justice, the patron of the righteous cause everywhere, and those who oppress the innocent must necessarily rank themselves amongst his enemies. David accordingly founds his first plea upon his complete destitution of all earthly means of help, exposed as he was to plots on every side, and attacked by a formidable conspiracy. His second he rests upon a declaration of innocency. It may be true that afflictions are sent by God to his people as a chastisement for their sins, but, so far as Saul was concerned, David could justly exonerate himself from all blame, and takes this occasion of appealing to God on behalf of his integrity, which lay under suspicion from the base calumnies of men. They might pretend it, but he declares that they could charge him with no crime nor fault. Yet, groundless as their hostility was, he tells us that they ran, were unremitting in their activity, with no other view than to accomplish the ruin of their victim.

4. Awake to hasten for my help, and behold. In using this language, he glances at the eagerness with which his enemies, as he had already said, were pressing upon him, and states his desire that God would show the same haste in extending help as they did in seeking his destruction. With the view of conciliating the divine favor, he once more calls upon God to be the witness and judge of his cause, adding, and behold The expression is one which savours at once of faith and of the infirmity of the flesh. In speaking of God, as if his eyes had been hitherto shut to the wrongs which he had suffered, and needed now for the first time to be opened for the discovery of them, he expresses himself according to the weakness of our human apprehension. On the other hand, in calling upon God to behold his cause, he shows his faith by virtually acknowledging that nothing was hid from his providential cognisance. Though David may use language of this description, suited to the infirmity of sense, we must not suppose him to have doubted before this time that his afflictions, his innocence, and his wrongs, were known to God. Now, however, he lays the whole before God for examination and decision.

He prosecutes the same prayer with still greater vehemency in the verse which succeeds. He addresses God under new titles, calling him Jehovah, God of Hosts, and the God of Israel, the first of which appellations denotes the immensity of his power, and the second the special care which he exerts over the Church, and over all his people. The manner in which the pronoun is introduced, and Thou, etc., is emphatical, denoting that it was as impossible for God to lay aside the office of a judge as to deny himself, or divest himself of his being. He calls upon him to visit all the nations: for although the cause which he now submitted was of no such universal concernment, the wider exercise of judgment would necessarily include the lesser; and on the supposition of heathens and foreigners being subjected to the judgment of God, it followed that a still more certain and heavy doom would be awarded to enemies within the pale of the Church, who persecuted the saints under the guise of brethren, and overthrew those laws which were of divine appointment. The opposition which David encountered might not embrace all nations; but if these were judicially visited by God, it was absurd to imagine that those within the Church would be the only enemies who should escape with impunity. In using these words, it is probable also that he may have been struggling with a temptation with which he was severely assailed, connected with the number of his enemies, for these did not consist merely of three or four abandoned individuals. They formed a great multitude; and he rises above them all by reflecting that God claims it as his prerogative, not only to reduce a few refractory persons to submission, but to punish the wickedness of the whole world. If the judgments of God extended to the uttermost parts of the earth, there was no reason why he should be afraid of his enemies, who, however numerous, formed but a small section of the human race. We shall shortly see, however, that the expression admits of being applied without impropriety to the Israelites, divided, as they were, into so many tribes or peoples. In the words which follow, when he deprecates the extension of God's mercy to wicked transgressors, we must understand him as referring to the reprobate, whose sin was of a desperate character. We must also remember, what has been already observed, that in such prayers he was not influenced by mere private feelings, and these of a rancorous, distempered, and inordinate description. Not only did he know well that those of whom he speaks with such severity were already doomed to destruction, but he is here pleading the common cause of the Church, and this under the influence of the pure and well-regulated zeal of the Spirit. He therefore affords no precedent to such as resent private injuries by vending curses on those who have inflicted them.

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