<<A Psalm of David.>> The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Verse 1. - The Lord is my Light (comp. John 1:7-9; John 12:35, 36, 46; 1 John 1:5). The statement does not occur in any other place in the Old Testament, though the idea may be found in Isaiah 60:1, 20; Micah 7:8; and elsewhere. Light has been well called "this profoundly beautiful name of God" (Delitzsch). And my Salvation (comp. Psalm 18:2; Psalm 62:2, 6). Whom shall I fear? "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). Who can be to be feared? (see Psalm 118:6). Not man certainly; for" what can man do unto us?" Not other gods; for they are nonentities. Not devils; for they can do nothing but by God's permission. The Lord is the Strength of my life; literally, the stronghold (comp. Psalm 28:8; Psalm 31:4; Psalm 71:2; Psalm 144:2). Of whom shall I be afraid? The question is superfluous, but is repeated to complete the balance of the clauses.
When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
Verse 2. - When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. A special occasion seems to be intended, so that the LXX. have rightly, ἠσθένησαν καὶ ἔπεσαν. Some unrecorded event in the war with Absalom before the final struggle, is probably alluded to. There is an emphasis on "mine enemies," which implies that the adversaries were not the foes of the country, but David's personal foes.
Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
Verse 3. - Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. In the first burst of joy at his recent victory, the 'host" which remains unconquered seems of light account - let them advance - let them "encamp against him" - his heart will not be afraid; but when the joy has had full vent, there is a reaction; the enemies then appear more formidable, and God's aid is besought against them (see vers. 9-12). Though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. "In this" may be either "in the fact that the Lord is my Light and my Salvation" (ver. 1), or "in case of such an event as war and attack on the part of the enemy."
One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
Verse 4. - One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after. A most emphatic introduction of the new topic! Amid all my joy and jubilation, there is still one thing which I need, which I entreat Jehovah to grant - that thing I shall continue to seek after until I obtain it, viz. that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. The psalmist is evidently debarred access to the sanctuary; he feels his exclusion from it a terrible privation; he longs to be there - to "dwell" there (comp. Psalm 26:8); to offer there "sacrifices of joy" (ver. 6); to sing there psalms of thanksgiving. He would fain also behold the beauty of the Lord - τὴν τερηνότητα, LXX. - " all that is engaging and gracious in his revelation of himself" (Kay); "not the outward beauty of the sanctuary, but the gracious attributes which its ritual symbolized" ('Speaker's Commentary'). And to inquire in his temple. It has already appeared, from Psalm 5:7, that the word "temple" or "palace" (heykal) was applied in David's time to the tabernacle.
For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
Verse 5. - For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me. This is not to be understood literally. David means that his spirit will find a refuge with God in times of trouble, not (as some Jewish expositors argue) that he will actually hide from his enemies inside the tabernacle. From such a sacrilege he would have shrunk. He shall set me up upon a rock (comp. Psalm 18:2; Psalm 61:2). The "Rock" is God himself, who is always David's final Refuge.
And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.
Verse 6. - And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me. A further and final triumph is confidently anticipated. God will complete his work. He will repulse the "host" by which David is about to be attacked (ver. 3), give him victory over it, bring him back from exile, and grant him once more free access to the sanctuary. Therefore, says the psalmist, will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; or, "sacrifices of joyful sound," accompanied with singing and instrumental music (comp. Psalm 89:15). I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord (comp. Ephesians 5:19).
Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
Verses 7-14. - The strain now entirely changes. The rhythm alters from a jubilant double beat to a slow and mournful cadence. A cry is raised for mercy and pity - the wrath of God is deprecated - rejection and desertion are contemplated and prayed against (vers. 7-10). The danger from the enemy appears great and formidable (vers. 11, 12). With an effort of faith, the writer just saves himself from despair (ver. 14), and then, in brave words, braces himself up for further endurance. Verse 7. - Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. There is no "when" in the original. The clauses are short, and broken, "Hear, O Lord; with my voice I call; pity me, and answer me."
When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
Verse 8. - When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. The order of the words in the original is as follows: "To thee said my heart - Seek ye my face - thy face, Lord, will I seek." And the full meaning seems to he, "To thee said my heart - Hast thou said unto men, Seek ye my face? I for one will obey thee - Thy face, Lord, will I seek." The command, "Seek ye my face," had been given by David to the people on the day that he set up the ark upon Mount Zion (1 Chronicles 16:11). It was probably regarded as implied in Deuteronomy 4:29.
Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
Verse 9. - Hide not thy face far from me. It would he useless for David to "seek God's face," if God should determine to "hide his face" from him. David felt from time to time as if God's face was hidden from him, as we see in other psalms (Psalm 10:1; Psalm 13:1; Psalm 69:17, etc.); and so also did other saints (Psalm 44:24; Psalm 88:14). In most instances, probably, God sends the feeling as a chastisement, that the heart may turn with more sincerity to him. Put not thy servant away in anger; i.e. reject me not - cast me not off. The verb used is very strong and emphatic. Thou hast been my Help. Ever in the past I have had thee for Helper (comp. Psalm 3:3-7; Psalm 4:1; Psalm 6:8-10; Psalm 18:2, etc.). God's goodness to us in the past must ever be our chief ground of confidence in him for the future. Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation (comp. Psalm 94:14).
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.
Verse 10. - When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. We are not to gather from this that David's father and mother had forsaken him. They were probably dead at the time of his flight from Absalom. What David means is that, even if forsaken by his nearest and dearest, he would not be forsaken by God. The expression is proverbial.
Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.
Verse 11. - Teach me thy way, O Lord (comp. Psalm 25:3, and the comment ad loc.). And lead me in a plain path; literally, a level path - a path traversing a fiat and smooth country, not one where the ground is rugged and beset with rocks and precipices. Because of mine enemies. David's enemies are ever at hand, to swallow him up (Psalm 56:2). If his way be not plain and smooth, it will be to their advantage and to his detriment.
Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.
Verse 12. - Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies; literally, the soul of mine enimies; i.e. their desire (see Psalm 35:25; Psalm 41:2), which was no doubt to capture him, and. bring him a prisoner to Jerusalem. For false witnesses are risen up against me. The party which attached itself to Absalom accused David of cruelty to the house of Saul (2 Samuel 16:8), and probably of other crimes and misdemeanours. Absalom himself accused him of a failure in his kingly duties (2 Samuel 15:8). And such as breathe out cruelty; or, violence. To "breathe out" violence, threats, slaughter, malice, etc., is a common metaphor in many languages (Acts 9:1; Aristoph., 'Eq.,' 1. 437; Her, 'Od.,' 4. 13, 1. 19, etc.).
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Verse 13. - I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. In the original, by the figure aposiopesis,, the apodosis is omitted, "had I not believed that I should see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living [i.e. in this present world], then... " He shrinks from stating the consequences, He would have fainted, or despaired, or lost all faith in religion (compare, for similar uses of the figure aposiopesis, Genesis 3:22; Genesis 31:41; Genesis 1:15; Exodus 32:32; Daniel 3:15; Zechariah 6:15; Luke 13:9). By an effort of faith, the psalmist saved himself from the despair which threatened to seize upon him, and assured himself that he would yet experience "the goodness of the Lord" in some merciful interposition and deliverance, while he still remained on earth, before he "went whence he should not return - to the land of darkness and the shadow of death, a land of darkness as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness" (Job 10:21, 22).
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
Verse 14. - Wait on the Lord. This is an exhortation, not to others, but to himself (comp. Psalm 62:5; and see also Psalm 42:5, 11; Psalm 43:5). His stronger self exhorts his weaker self not to despair, but to wait upon God - to tarry, i.e., the Lord's leisure - and, meanwhile to be of good courage; or, be strong (comp. Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:6; 1 Chronicles 22:13), as the phrase is elsewhere generally translated. "Be strong," he says to himself, and he (i.e. God) shall strengthen thine heart. "Aide-tot, le ciel l'aidera." Make an effort to be strong, and the strength will be given thee, as thou makest it. Then in this strength, thus given, continue till waiting - Wait, I say, on the Lord.