Two things in general David here prays for—that he might not be confounded and that his enemies and persecutors might be confounded.
I. He prays that he might never be made ashamed of his dependence upon God nor disappointed in his believing expectations from him. With this petition every true believer may come boldly to the throne of grace; for God will never disappoint the hope that is of his own raising. Now observe here,
1. How David professes his confidence in God, and with what pleasure and grateful variety of expression he repeats his profession of that confidence, still presenting the profession of it to God and pleading it with him. We praise God, and so please him, by telling him (if it be indeed true) what an entire confidence we have in him (Ps. 71:1): “In thee, O Lord! and in thee only, do I put my trust. Whatever others do, I choose the God of Jacob for my help.” Those that are entirely satisfied with God’s all-sufficiency and the truth of his promise, and in dependence upon that, as sufficient to make them amends, are freely willing to do and suffer, to lose and venture, for him, may truly say, In thee, O Lord! do I put my trust. Those that will deal with God must deal upon trust; if we are shy of dealing with him, it is a sign we do not trust him. Thou art my rock and my fortress (Ps. 71:3); and again, “Thou art my refuge, my strong refuge” (Ps. 71:7); that is, “I fly to thee, and am sure to be safe in thee, and under thy protection. If thou secure me, none can hurt me. Thou art my hope and my trust” (Ps. 71:5); that is, “thou hast proposed thyself to me in thy word as the proper object of my hope and trust; I have hoped in thee, and never found it in vain to do so.”
2. How his confidence in God is supported and encouraged by his experiences (Ps. 71:5, 6): “Thou hast been my trust from my youth; ever since I was capable of discerning between my right hand and my left, I stayed myself upon thee, and saw a great deal of reason to do so; for by thee have I been holden up from the womb.” Ever since he had the use of his reason he had been a dependent upon God’s goodness, because ever since he had had a being he had been a monument of it. Note, The consideration of the gracious care which the divine Providence took of us in our birth and infancy should engage us to an early piety and constant devotedness to his honour. He that was our help from our birth ought to be our hope from our youth. If we received so much mercy from God before we were capable of doing him any service, we should lose no time when we are capable. This comes in here as a support to the psalmist in his present distress; not only that God had given him his life and being, bringing him out of his mother’s bowels into the world, and providing that he should not die from the womb, nor give up the ghost when he came out of the belly, but that he had betimes made him one of his family: “Thou art he that took me out of my mother’s bowels into the arms of thy grace, under the shadow of thy wings, into the bond of thy covenant; thou tookest me into thy church, as a son of thy handmaid, and born in thy house, Ps. 116:16. And therefore,” (1.) “I have reason to hope that thou wilt protect me; thou that hast held me up hitherto wilt not let me fall now; thou that madest me wilt not forsake the work of thy own hands; thou that helpedst me when I could not help myself wilt not abandon me now that I am as helpless as I was then.” (2.) “Therefore I have reason to resolve that I will devote myself unto thee: My praise shall therefore be continually of thee;” that is, “I will make it my business every day to praise thee and will take all occasions to do it.”
3. What his requests to God are, in this confidence.
(1.) That he might never be put to confusion (Ps. 71:1), that he might not be disappointed of the mercy he expected and so made ashamed of his expectation. Thus we may all pray in faith that our confidence in God may not be our confusion. Hope of the glory of God is hope that makes not ashamed.
(2.) That he might be delivered out of the hand of his enemies (Ps. 71:2): “Deliver me in thy righteousness. As thou art the righteous Judge of the world, pleading the cause of the injured and punishing the injurious, cause me in some way or other to escape” (God will, with the temptation, make a way to escape, 1 Cor. 10:13): “Incline thy ear unto my prayers, and, in answer to them, save me out of my troubles, Ps. 71:4. Deliver me, O my God! out of the hands of those that are ready to pull me in pieces.” Three things he pleads for deliverance:—[1.] The encouragement God had given him to expect it: Thou hast given commandment to save me (Ps. 71:3); that is, thou hast promised to do it, and such efficacy is there in God’s promises that they are often spoken of as commands, like that, Let there be light, and there was light. He speaks, and it is done. [2.] The character of his enemies; they are wicked, unrighteous, cruel men, and it will be for the honour of God to appear against them (Ps. 71:4), for he is a holy, just, and good God. [3.] The many eyes that were upon him (Ps. 71:7): “I am as a wonder unto many; every one waits to see what will be the issue of such extraordinary troubles as I have fallen into and such extraordinary confidence as I profess to have in God.” Or, “I am looked upon as a monster, am one whom every body shuns, and therefore am undone if the Lord be not my refuge. Men abandon me, but God will not.”
(3.) That he might always find rest and safety in God (Ps. 71:3): Be thou my strong habitation; by thou to me a rock of repose, whereto I may continually resort. Those that are at home in God, that live a life of communion with him and confidence in him, that continually resort unto him by faith and prayer, having their eyes ever towards him, may promise themselves a strong habitation in him, such as will never fall of itself nor can ever be broken through by any invading power; and they shall be welcome to resort to him continually upon all occasions, and not be upbraided as coming too often.
(4.) That he might have continual matter for thanksgiving to God, and might be continually employed in that pleasant work (Ps. 71:8): “Let my mouth be filled with thy praise, as now it is with my complaints, and then I shall not be ashamed of my hope, but my enemies will be ashamed of their insolence.” Those that love God love to be praising him, and desire to be doing it all the day, not only in their morning and evening devotions, not only seven times a day (Ps. 119:164), but all the day, to intermix with all they say something or other that may redound to the honour and praise of God. They resolve to do it while they live; they hope to be doing it eternally in a better world.
(5.) That he might not be neglected now in his declining years (Ps. 71:9): Cast me not off now in the time of my old gage; forsake me not when my strength fails. Observe here, [1.] The natural sense he had of the infirmities of age: My strength fails. Where there was strength of body and vigour of mind, strong sight, a strong voice, strong limbs, alas! in old age they fail; the life is continued, but the strength is gone, or that which is his labour and sorrow, Ps. 90:10. [2.] The gracious desire he had of the continuance of God’s presence with him under these infirmities: Lord, cast me not off; do not then forsake me. This intimates that he should look upon himself as undone if God should abandon him. To be cast off and forsaken of God is a thing to be dreaded at any time, especially in the time of old age and when our strength fails us; for it is God that is the strength of our heart. But it intimates that he had reason to hope God would not desert him; the faithful servants of God may be comfortably assured that he will not cast them off in old age, nor forsake them when their strength fails them. He is a Master that is not wont to cast off old servants. In this confidence David here prays again (Ps. 71:12): “O God! be not far from me; let me not be under the apprehension of thy withdrawings, for then I am miserable. I my God! a God in covenant with me, make haste for my help, lest I perish before help come.”
II. He prays that his enemies might be made ashamed of their designs against him. Observe, 1. What it was which they unjustly said against him, Ps. 71:10, 11. Their plot was deep and desperate; it was against his life: They lay wait for my soul (Ps. 71:10), and are adversaries to that, Ps. 71:13. Their powers and policies were combined: They take counsel together. And very insolent they were in their deportment: They say, God has forsaken him; persecute and take him. Here their premises are utterly false, that because a good man was in great trouble and had continued long in it, and was not so soon delivered as perhaps he expected, therefore God had forsaken him and would have no more to do with him. All are not forsaken of God who think themselves so or whom others think to be so. And, as their premises were false, so their inference was barbarous. If God has forsaken him, then persecute and take him, and doubt not but to make a prey of him. This is talking to the grief of one whom God has smitten, Ps. 69:26. But thus they endeavour to discourage David, as Sennacherib endeavoured to intimidate Hezekiah by suggesting that God was his enemy and fought against him. Have I now come up without the Lord against this city, to destroy it? Isa. 36:10. It is true, if God has forsaken a man, there is none to deliver him; but therefore to insult over him ill becomes those who are conscious to themselves that they deserve to be for ever forsaken of God. But rejoice not against me, O my enemy! though I fall, I shall rise. He that seems to forsake for a small moment will gather with everlasting kindness. 2. What it was which he justly prayed for, from a spirit of prophecy, not a spirit of passion (Ps. 71:13): “Let them be confounded and consumed that are adversaries to my soul. If they will not be confounded by repentance, and so saved, let them be confounded with everlasting dishonour, and so ruined.” God will turn into shame the glory of those who turn into shame the glory of God and his people.