David in these verses expresses,
I. His desire towards God, in many petitions. If he cannot now go up to the house of the Lord, yet, wherever he is, he can find a way to the throne of grace by prayer.
1. He humbly bespeaks, because he firmly believes he shall have, a gracious audience: “Hear, O Lord, when I cry, not only with my heart, but, as one in earnest, with my voice too.” He bespeaks also an answer of peace, which he expects, not from his own merit, but God’s goodness: Have mercy upon me, and answer me, Ps. 27:7. If we pray and believe, God will graciously hear and answer.
2. He takes hold of the kind invitation God had given him to this duty, Ps. 27:8. It is presumption for us to come into the presence of the King of kings uncalled, nor can we draw near with any assurance unless he hold forth to us the golden sceptre. David therefore going to pray fastens, in his thoughts, upon the call God had given him to the throne of his grace, and reverently touches, as it were, the top of the golden sceptre which was thereby held out to him. My heart said unto thee (so it begins in the original) or of thee, Seek you my face; he first revolved that, and preached that over again to himself (and that is the best preaching: it is hearing twice what God speaks once)--Thou saidst (so it may be supplied), Seek you my face; and then he returns what he had so meditated upon, in this pious resolution, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. Observe here, (1.) The true nature of religious worship; it is seeking the face of God. This it is in God’s precept: Seek you my face; he would have us seek him for himself, and make his favour our chief good; and this it is in the saint’s purpose and desire: “Thy face, Lord, will I seek, and nothing less will I take up with.” The opening of his hand will satisfy the desire of other living things (Ps. 145:16), but it is only the shining of his face that will satisfy the desire of a living soul, Ps. 4:6, 7. (2.) The kind of invitation of a gracious God to this duty: Thou saidst, Seek you my face; it is not only permission, but a precept; and his commanding us to seek implies a promise of finding; for he is too kind to say, Seek you me in vain. God calls us to seek his face in our conversion to him and in our converse with him. He calls us, by the whispers of his Spirit to and with our spirits, to seek his face; he calls us by his word, by the stated returns of opportunities for his worship, and by special providences, merciful and afflictive. When we are foolishly making our court to lying vanities God is, in love to us, calling us in him to seek our own mercies. (3.) The ready compliance of a gracious soul with this invitation. The call is immediately returned: My heart answered, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. The call was general; “Seek you my face;” but, like David, we must apply it to ourselves, “I will seek it.” The word does us no good when we transfer it to others, and do not ourselves accept the exhortation. The call was, Seek you my face; the answer is express, Thy face, Lord, will I seek; like that (Jer. 3:22), Behold, we come unto thee. A gracious heart readily echoes to the call of a gracious God, being made willing in the day of his power.
3. He is very particular in his requests. (1.) For the favour of God, that he might not be shut out from that (Ps. 27:9): “Thy face, Lord, will I seek, in obedience to thy command; therefore hide not thy face from me; let me never want the reviving sense of the favour; love me, and let me know that thou lovest me; put not thy servant away in anger.” He owns he had deserved God’s displeasure, but begs that, however God might correct him, he would not cast him away from his presence; for what is hell but that? (2.) For the continuance of his presence with him: “Thou hast been my help formerly, and thou are the God of my salvation; and therefore whither shall I go but to thee? O leave me not, neither forsake me; withdraw not the operations of they power from me, for then I am helpless; withdraw not the tokens of thy good-will to me, for then I am comfortless.” (3.) For the benefit of divine guidance (Ps. 27:11): “Teach me thy way, O Lord! give me to understand the meaning of thy providences towards me and make them plain to me; and give me to know my duty in every doubtful case, that I may not mistake it, but may walk rightly, and that I may not do it with hesitation, but may walk surely.” It is not policy, but plainness (that is, downright honesty) that will direct us into and keep us in the way of our duty. He begs to be guided in a plain path, because of his enemies, or (as the margin reads it) his observers. His enemies watched for his halting, that they may find occasion against him. Saul eyed David, 1 Sam. 18:9. This quickened him to pray, “Lord, lead me in a plain path, that they may have nothing ill, or nothing that looks ill, to lay to my charge.” (4.) For the benefit of a divine protection (Ps. 27:12): “Deliver me not over to the will of my enemies. Lord, let them not gain their point, for it aims at my life, and no less, and in such a way as that I have no fence against them, but thy power over their consciences; for false witnesses have risen up against me, that aim further than to take away my reputation or estate, for they breathe out cruelty; it is the blood, the precious blood, they thirst after.” Herein David was a type of Christ; for false witnesses rose up against him, and such as breathed out cruelty; but though he was delivered into their wicked hands, he was not delivered over to their will, for they could not prevent his exaltation.
II. He expresses his dependence upon God,
1. That he would help and succour him when all other helps and succours failed him (Ps. 27:10): “When my father and my mother forsake me, the nearest and dearest friends I have in the world, from whom I may expect most relief and with most reason, when they die, or are at a distance from me, or are disabled to help me in time of need, or are unkind to me or unmindful of me, and will not help me, when I am as helpless as ever poor orphan was that was left fatherless and motherless, then I know the Lord will take me up, as a poor wandering sheep is taken up, and saved from perishing.” His time to help those that trust in him is when all other helpers fail, when it is most for his honour and their comfort. With him the fatherless find mercy. This promise has often been fulfilled in the letter of it. Forsaken orphans have been taken under the special care of the divine Providence, which has raised up relief and friends for them in a way that one would not have expected. God is a surer and better friend than our earthly parents are or can be.
2. That in due time he should see the displays of his goodness, Ps. 27:13. He believed he should see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living; and, if he had not done so, he would have fainted under his afflictions. Even the best saints are subject to faint when their troubles become grievous and tedious, their spirits are overwhelmed, and their flesh and heart fail. But then faith is a sovereign cordial; it keeps them from desponding under their burden and from despairing of relief, keeps them hoping, and praying, and waiting, and keeps up in them good thoughts of God, and the comfortable enjoyment of themselves. But what was it the belief of which kept David from fainting?--that he should see the goodness of the Lord, which now seemed at a distance. Those that walk by faith in the goodness of the Lord shall in due time walk in the sight of that goodness. This he hopes to see in the land of the living, that is, (1.) In this world, that he should outlive his troubles and not perish under them. It is his comfort, not so much that he shall see the land of the living as that he shall see the goodness of God in it; for that is the comfort of all creature-comforts to a gracious soul. (2.) In the land of Canaan, and in Jerusalem where the lively oracles were. In comparison with the heathen, that were dead in sin, the land of Israel might fitly be called the land of the living; there God was known, and there David hoped to see his goodness; see 2 Sam. 15:25, 26. Or, (3.), In heaven. It is that alone that may truly be called the land of the living, where there is no more death. This earth is the land of the dying. There is nothing like the believing hope of eternal life, the foresights of that glory, and foretastes of those pleasures, to keep us from fainting under all the calamities of this present time.
3. That in the mean time he should be strengthened to bear up under his burdens (Ps. 27:14); whether he says it to himself, or to his friends, it comes all to one; this is that which encourages him: He shall strengthen thy heart, shall sustain thy spirit, and then the spirit shall sustain the infirmity. In that strength, (1.) Keep close to God and to your duty. Wait on the Lord by faith, and prayer, and a humble resignation to his will; wait, I say, on the Lord; whatever you do, grow not remiss in your attendance upon God. (2.) Keep up your spirits in the midst of the greatest dangers and difficulties: Be of good courage; let your hearts be fixed, trusting in God, and your minds stayed upon him, and then let none of these things move you. Those that wait upon the Lord have reason to be of good courage.
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