In this, as in other things, David was a type of Christ, that he suffered before he reigned, was humbled before he was exalted, and that as there were many who loved and valued him, and sought to do him honour, so there were many who hated and envied him, and sought to do him mischief, as appears by these verses, where,
I. He gives a character of his enemies, and paints them out in their own colours, as dangerous men, whom he had reason to be afraid of, but wicked men, whom he had no reason to think the righteous God would countenance. There was one that seems to have been the ring-leader of them, whom he calls the evil man and the man of violences (Ps. 140:1, 4), probably he means Saul. The Chaldee paraphrast (Ps. 140:9) names both Doeg and Ahithophel; but between them there was a great distance of time. Violent men are evil men. But there were many besides this one who were confederate against David, who are here represented as the genuine offspring and seed of the serpent. For, 1. They are very subtle, crafty to do mischief; they have imagined it (Ps. 140:2), have laid the scheme with all the art and cunning imaginable. They have purposed and plotted to overthrow the goings of a good man (Ps. 140:4), to draw him into sin and trouble, to ruin him by blasting his reputation, crushing his interest, and taking away his life. For this purpose they have, like mighty hunters, hidden a snare, and spread a net, and set gins (Ps. 140:5), that their designs against him, being kept undiscovered, might be the more likely to take effect, and he might fall into their hands ere he was aware. Great persecutors have often been great politicians, which has indeed made them the more formidable; but the Lord preserves the simple without all those arts. 2. They are very spiteful, as full of malice as Satan himself: They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent, that infuses his venom with his tongue; and there is so much malignity in all they say that one would think there was nothing under their lips but adders’ poison, Ps. 140:3. With their calumnies, and with their counsels, they aimed to destroy David, but secretly, as a man is stung with a serpent, or a snake in the grass. And they endeavoured likewise to infuse their malice into others, and to make them seven times more the children of hell than themselves. A malignant tongue makes men like the old serpent; and poison in the lips is a certain sign of poison in the heart. 3. They are confederate; they are many of them; but they are all gathered together against me for war, Ps. 140:2. Those who can agree in nothing else can agree to persecute a good man. Herod and Pilate will unite in this, and in this they resemble Satan, who is not divided against himself, all the devils agreeing in Beelzebub. 4. They are proud (Ps. 140:5), conceited of themselves and confident of their success; and herein also they resemble Satan, whose reigning ruining sin was pride. The pride of persecutors, though at present it be the terror, yet may be the encouragement, of the persecuted, for the more haughty they are the faster are they ripening for ruin. Pride goes before destruction.
II. He prays to God to keep him from them and from being swallowed up by them: “Lord, deliver me, preserve me, keep me (Ps. 140:1, 4); let them not prevail to take away my life, my reputation, my interest, my comfort, and to prevent my coming to the throne. Keep me from doing as they do, or as they would have me do, or as they promise themselves I shall do.” Note, The more malice appears in our enemies against us the more earnest we should be in prayer to God to take us under his protection. In him believers may count upon a security, and may enjoy it and themselves with a holy serenity. Those are safe whom God preserves. If he be for us, who can be against us?
III. He triumphs in God, and thereby, in effect, he triumphs over his persecutors, Ps. 140:6, 7. When his enemies sharpened their tongues against him, did he sharpen his against them? No; adders’ poison was under their lips, but grace was poured into his lips, witness what he here said unto the Lord, for to him he looked, to him he directed himself, when he saw himself in so much danger, through the malice of his enemies: and it is well for us that we have a God to go to. He comforted himself, 1. In his interest in God: “I said, Thou art my God; and, if my God, then my shield and mighty protector.” In troublous dangerous times it is good to claim relation to God, and by faith to keep hold of him. 2. In his access to God. This comforted him, that he was not only taken into covenant with God, but into communion with him, that he had leave to speak to him, and might expect an answer of peace from him, and could say, with a humble confidence, Hear the voice of my supplications, O Lord! 3. In the assurance he had of help from God and happiness in him: “O God the Lord—Jehovah Adonai! as Jehovah thou art self-existent and self-sufficient, an infinitely perfect being; as Adonai thou art my stay and support, my ruler and governor, and therefore the strength of my salvation, my strong Saviour; nay, not only my Saviour, but my salvation itself, from whom, in whom, my salvation is; not only a strong Saviour, but the very strength of my salvation, on whom the stress of my hope is laid; all in all, to make me happy, and to preserve me to my happiness.” 4. In the experience he had had formerly of God’s care of him: Thou hast covered my head in the day of battle. As he pleaded with Saul, that, for the service of his country, he many a time jeoparded his life in the high places of the field, so he pleads with God that, in those services, he had wonderfully protected him, and provided him a better helmet for the securing of his head than Goliath’s was: “Lord, thou hast kept me in the day of battle with the Philistines, suffer me not to fall by the treacherous intrigues of false-hearted Israelites.” God is as able to preserve his people from secret fraud as from open force; and the experience we have had of his power and care, in dangers of one kind, may encourage us to trust in him and depend upon him in dangers of another nature; for nothing can shorten the Lord’s right hand.
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