O my God, I trust in you: let me not be ashamed, let not my enemies triumph over me.
Trust that was not vindicated by deliverance would cover the face with confusion. "Hopes that breed not shame" are the treasure of him whose hope is in Jehovah. Foes unnamed threaten; but the stress of the petitions in the first section of the Psalm is less on enemies than on sins. One cry for protection from the former is all that the Psalmist utters, and then his prayer swiftly turns to deeper needs. In the last section the petitions are more exclusively for deliverance from enemies. Needful as such escape is, it is less needful than the knowledge of God's ways, and the man in extremest peril orders his desires rightly if he asks holiness first and safety second. The cry in ver. 2 rests upon the confidence nobly expressed in ver. 3, in which the verbs are not optatives, but futures, declaring a truth certain to be realised in the Psalmist's experience, because it is true for all who, like him, wait on Jehovah. True prayer is the individual's sheltering himself under the broad folds of the mantle that covers all who pray. The double confidence as to the waiters on Jehovah and the "treacherous without cause" is the summary of human experience as read by faith. Sense has much to adduce in contradiction, but the dictum is nevertheless true; only, its truth does not always appear in the small are of the circle which lies between cradle and grave. The prayer for deliverance glides into that for guidance, since the latter is the deeper need, and the former will scarcely be answered unless the suppliant's will docilely offers the latter. The soul lifted to Jehovah will long to know His will, and submit itself to His manifold teachings. "Thy ways" and "Thy paths" necessarily here mean the ways in which Jehovah desires that the Psalmist should go. "In Thy truth" is ambiguous, both as to the preposition and as to the noun. The clause may either mean God's truth (i.e. faithfulness) as His motive for answering the prayer, or His truth (i.e. the objective revelation) as the path for men. Predominant usage inclines to the former signification of the noun, but the possibility still remains of regarding God's faithfulness as the path in which the Psalmist desires to be led, i.e. to experience it. The cry for forgiveness strikes a deeper note of pathos, and, as asking a more wondrous blessing, grasps still more firmly the thought of what Jehovah is and always has been. The appeal is made to "Thy compassions and loving kindnesses," as belonging to His nature, and to their past exercise as having been "from of old." Emboldened thus, the Psalmist can look back on his own past, both on his outbursts of youthful passion and levity, which he calls "failures," as missing the mark; and on the darker evils of later manhood, which he calls "rebellions," and can trust that Jehovah will think upon him "according to His mercy," and "for the sake of His goodness or love." The vivid realisation of that Eternal Mercy, as the very mainspring of God's actions, and as setting forth in many an ancient deed the eternal pattern of His dealings, enables a man to bear the thought of his own sins.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.