In the Ps. 31:1-8 David had appealed to God’s righteousness, and pleaded his relation to him and dependence on him; here he appeals to his mercy, and pleads the greatness of his own misery, which made his case the proper object of that mercy. Observe,
I. The complaint he makes of his trouble and distress (Ps. 31:9): “Have mercy upon me, O Lord! for I am in trouble, and need thy mercy.” The remembrance he makes of his condition is not much unlike some even of Job’s complaints. 1. His troubles had fixed a very deep impression upon his mind and made him a man of sorrows. So great was his grief that his very soul was consumed with it, and his life spent with it, and he was continually sighing, Ps. 31:9, 10. Herein he was a type of Christ,—who was intimately acquainted with grief and often in tears. We may guess by David’s complexion, which was ruddy and sanguine, by his genius for music, and by his daring enterprises in his early days, that his natural disposition was both cheerful and firm, that he was apt to be cheerful, and not to lay trouble to his heart; yet here we see what he is brought to: he has almost wept out his eyes, and sighed away his breath. Let those that are airy and gay take heed of running into extremes, and never set sorrow at defiance; God can find out ways to make them melancholy if they will not otherwise learn to be serious. 2. His body was afflicted with the sorrows of his mind (Ps. 31:10): My strength fails, my bones are consumed, and all because of my iniquity. As to Saul, and the quarrel he had with him, he could confidently insist upon his righteousness; but, as it was an affliction God laid upon him, he owns he had deserved it, and freely confesses his iniquity to have been the procuring cause of all his trouble; and the sense of sin touched him to the quick and wasted him more than all his calamities. 3. His friends were unkind and became shy of him. He was a fear to his acquaintance, when they saw him they fled from him, Ps. 31:11. They durst not harbour him nor give him any assistance, durst not show him any countenance, nor so much as be seen in his company, for fear of being brought into trouble by it, now that Saul had proclaimed him a traitor and outlawed him. They saw how dearly Ahimelech the priest had paid for aiding and abetting him, though ignorantly; and therefore, though they could not but own he had a great deal of wrong done him, yet they had not the courage to appear for him. He was forgotten by them, as a dead man out of mind (Ps. 31:12), and looked upon with contempt as a broken vessel. Those that showed him all possible respect when he was in honour at court, now that he had fallen into disgrace, though unjustly, were strange to him. Such swallow-friends the world is full of, that are gone in winter. Let those that fall on the losing side not think it strange if they be thus deserted, but make sure a friend in heaven, that will not fail them, and make use of him. 4. His enemies were unjust in their censures of him. They would not have persecuted him as they did if they had not first represented him as a bad man; he was a reproach among all his enemies, but especially among his neighbours, Ps. 31:11. Those that had been the witnesses of his integrity, and could not but be convinced in their consciences that he was an honest man, were the most forward to represent him quite otherwise, that they might curry favour with Saul. Thus he heard the slander of many; every one had a stone to throw at him, because fear was in every side; that is, they durst not do otherwise, for he that would not join with his neighbours to accuse David was looked upon as disaffected to Saul. Thus the best of men have been represented under the worst characters by those that resolved to give them the worst treatment. 5. His life was aimed at and he went in continual peril of it. Fear was on every side, and he knew that, whatever counsel his enemies took against him, the design was not to take away his liberty, but to take away his life (Ps. 31:13), a life so valuable, so useful, to the good services of which all Israel owed so much, and which was never forfeited. Thus, in all the plots of the Pharisees and Herodians against Christ, still the design was to take away his life, such are the enmity and cruelty of the serpent’s seed.
II. His confidence in God in the midst of these troubles. Every thing looked black and dismal round about him, and threatened to drive him to despair: “But I trusted in thee, O Lord! (Ps. 31:14) and was thereby kept from sinking.” His enemies robbed him of his reputation among men, but they could not rob him of his comfort in God, because they could not drive him from his confidence in God. Two things he comforted himself with in his straits, and he went to God and pleaded them with him:—1. “Thou art my God; I have chosen thee for mine, and thou hast promised to be mine;” and, if he be ours and we can by faith call him so, it is enough, when we can call nothing else ours. “Thou art my God; and therefore to whom shall I go for relief but to thee?” Those need not be straitened in their prayers who can plead this; for, if God undertake to be our God, he will do that for us which will answer the compass and vast extent of the engagement. 2. My times are in thy hand. Join this with the former and it makes the comfort complete. If God have our times in his hand, he can help us; and, if he be our God, he will help us; and then what can discourage us? It is a great support to those who have God for their God that their times are in his hand and he will be sure to order and dispose of them for the best, to all those who commit their spirits also into his hand, to suit them to their times, as David here, Ps. 31:5. The time of life is in God’s hands, to lengthen or shorten, embitter or sweeten, as he pleases, according to the counsel of his will. Our times (all events that concern us, and the timing of them) are at God’s disposal; they are not in our own hands, for the way of man is not in himself, not in our friends’ hands, nor in our enemies’ hands, but in God’s; every man’s judgment proceedeth from him. David does not, in his prayers, prescribe to God, but subscribe to him. “Lord, my times are in thy hand, and I am well pleased that they are so; they could not be in a better hand. Thy will be done.”
III. His petitions to God, in this faith and confidence, 1. He prays that God would deliver him out of the hand of his enemies (Ps. 31:15), and save him (Ps. 31:16), and this for his mercies’ sake, and not for any merit of his own. Our opportunities are in God’s hand (so some read it), and therefore he knows how to choose the best and fittest time for our deliverance, and we must be willing to wait that time. When David had Saul at his mercy in the cave those about him said, “This is the time in which God will deliver thee,” 1 Sam. 24:4. “No,” says David, “the time has not come for my deliverance till it can be wrought without sin; and I will wait for that time; for it is God’s time, and that is the best time.” 2. That God would give him the comfort of his favour in the mean time (Ps. 31:16): “Make they face to shine upon thy servant; let me have the comfortable tokens and evidences of thy favour to me, and that shall put gladness in my heart in the midst of all my griefs.” 3. That his prayers to God might be answered and his hopes in God accomplished (Ps. 31:17): “Let me not be ashamed of my hopes and prayers, for I have called upon thee, who never saidst to thy people, Seek in vain, and hope in vain.” 4. That shame and silence might be the portion of wicked people, and particularly of his enemies. They were confident of their success against David, and that they should run him down and ruin him. “Lord,” says he, “let them be made ashamed of that confidence by the disappointment of their expectations,” as those that opposed the building of the wall about Jerusalem, when it was finished, were much cast down in their own eye, Neh. 6:16. Let them be silent in the grave. Note, Death will silence the rage and clamour of cruel persecutors, whom reason would not silence. In the grave the wicked cease from troubling. Particularly, he prays for (that is, he prophesies) the silencing of those that reproach and calumniate the people of God (Ps. 31:18): Let lying lips be put to silence, that speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous. This is a very good prayer which, (1.) We have often occasion to put up to God; for those that set their mouth against the heavens commonly revile the heirs of heaven. Religion, in the strict and serious professors of it, are every where spoken against, [1.] With a great deal of malice: They speak grievous things, on purpose to vex them, and hoping, with what they say, to do them a real mischief. They speak hard things (so the word is), which bear hard upon them, and by which they hope to fasten indelible characters of infamy upon them. [2.] With a great deal of falsehood: They are lying lips, taught by the father of lies and serving his interest. [3.] With a great deal of scorn and disdain: They speak proudly and contemptuously, as if the righteous, whom God has honoured, were the most despicable people in the world, and not worthy to be set with the dogs of their flock. One would think they thought it no sin to tell a deliberate lie if it might but serve to expose a good man either to hatred or contempt. Hear, O our God! for we are despised. (2.) We may pray in faith; for these lying lips shall be put to silence. God has many ways of doing it. Sometimes he convinces the consciences of those that reproach his people, and turns their hearts. Sometimes by his providence he visibly confutes their calumnies, and brings forth the righteousness of his people as the light. However, there is a day coming when God will convince ungodly sinners of the falsehood of all the hard speeches that have spoken against his people and will execute judgment upon them, Jude 1:14, 15. Then shall this prayer be fully answered, and to that day we should have an eye in the singing of it, engaging ourselves likewise by well-doing, if possible, to silence the ignorance of foolish men, 1 Pet. 2:15.