Complaints and comforts here, as before, take their turn, like day and night in the course of nature.
I. He complains of the dejections of his spirit, but comforts himself with the thoughts of God, Ps. 42:6. 1. In his troubles. His soul was dejected, and he goes to God and tells him so: O my God! my soul is cast down within me. It is a great support to us, when upon any account we are distressed, that we have liberty of access to God, and liberty of speech before him, and may open to him the causes of our dejection. David had communed with his own heart about its own bitterness, and had not as yet found relief; and therefore he turns to God, and opens before him the trouble. Note, When we cannot get relief for our burdened spirits by pleading with ourselves, we should try what we can do by praying to God and leaving our case with him. We cannot still these winds and waves; but we know who can. 2. In his devotions. His soul was elevated, and, finding the disease very painful, he had recourse to that as a sovereign remedy. “My soul is plunged; therefore, to prevent its sinking, I will remember thee, meditate upon thee, and call upon thee, and try what that will do to keep up my spirit.” Note, The way to forget the sense of our miseries is to remember the God of our mercies. It was an uncommon case when the psalmist remembered God and was troubled, Ps. 77:3. He had often remembered God and was comforted, and therefore had recourse to that expedient now. He was now driven to the utmost borders of the land of Canaan, to shelter himself there from the rage of his persecutors—sometimes to the country about Jordan, and, when discovered there, to the land of the Hermonites, or to a hill called Mizar, or the little hill; but, (1.) Wherever he went he took his religion along with him. In all these places, he remembered God, and lifted up his heart to him, and kept his secret communion with him. This is the comfort of the banished, the wanderers, the travellers, of those that are strangers in a strange land, that undique ad caelos tantundem est viae—wherever they are there is a way open heavenward. (2.) Wherever he was he retained his affection for the courts of God’s house; from the land of Jordan, or from the top of the hills, he used to look a long look, a longing look, towards the place of the sanctuary, and wish himself there. Distance and time could not make him forget that which his heart was so much upon and which lay so near it.
II. He complains of the tokens of God’s displeasure against him, but comforts himself with the hopes of the return of his favour in due time.
1. He saw his troubles coming from God’s wrath, and that discouraged him (Ps. 42:7): “Deep calls unto deep, one affliction comes upon the neck of another, as if it were called to hasten after it; and thy water-spouts give the signal and sound the alarm of war.” It may be meant of the terror and disquietude of his mind under the apprehensions of God’s anger. One frightful thought summoned another, and made way for it, as is usual in melancholy people. He was overpowered and overwhelmed with a deluge of grief, like that of the old world, when the windows of heaven were opened and the fountains of the great deep were broken up. Or it is an allusion to a ship at sea in a great storm, tossed by the roaring waves, which go over it, Ps. 107:25. Whatever waves and billows of affliction go over us at any time we must call them God’s waves and his billows, that we may humble ourselves under his mighty hand, and may encourage ourselves to hope that though we be threatened we shall not be ruined; for the waves and billows are under a divine check. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of these many waters. Let not good men think it strange if they be exercised with many and various trials, and if they come thickly upon them; God knows what he does, and so shall they shortly. Jonah, in the whale’s belly, made use of these words of David, Jonah 2:3 (they are exactly the same in the original), and of him they were literally true, All thy waves and thy billows have gone over me; for the book of psalms is contrived so as to reach every one’s case.
2. He expected his deliverance to come from God’s favour (Ps. 42:8): Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness. Things are bad, but they shall not always be so. Non si male nunc et olim sic erit—Though affairs are now in an evil plight, they may not always be so. After the storm there will come a calm, and the prospect of this supported him when deep called unto deep. Observe (1.) What he promised himself from God: The Lord will command his lovingkindness. He eyes the favour of God as the fountain of all the good he looked for. That is life; that is better than life; and with that God will gather those from whom he has, in a little wrath, hid his face, Isa. 54:7, 8. God’s conferring his favour is called his commanding it. This intimates the freeness of it; we cannot pretend to merit it, but it is bestowed in a way of sovereignty, he gives like a king. It intimates also the efficacy of it; he speaks his lovingkindness, and makes us to hear it; speaks, and it is done. He commands deliverance (Ps. 44:4), commands the blessing (Ps. 133:3), as one having authority. By commanding his lovingkindness, he commands down the waves and the billows, and they shall obey him. This he will do in the daytime, for God’s lovingkindness will make day in the soul at any time. Though weeping has endured for a night, a long night, yet joy will come in the morning. (2.) What he promised for himself to God. If God command his lovingkindness for him, he will meet it, and bid it welcome, with his best affections and devotions. [1.] He will rejoice in God: In the night his song shall be with me. The mercies we receive in the day we ought to return thanks for at night; when others are sleeping we should be praising God. See Ps. 119:62; At midnight will I rise to give thanks. In silence and solitude, when we are retired from the hurries of the world, we must be pleasing ourselves with the thoughts of God’s goodness. Or in the night of affliction: “Before the day dawns, in which God commands his lovingkindness, I will sing songs of praise in the prospect of it.” Even in tribulation the saints can rejoice in hope of the glory of God, sing in hope, and praise in hope, Rom. 5:2, 3. It is God’s prerogative to give songs in the night, Job 35:10. [2.] He will seek to God in a constant dependence upon him: My prayer shall be to the God of my life. Our believing expectation of mercy must not supersede, but quicken, our prayers for it. God is the God of our life, in whom we live and move, the author and giver of all our comforts; and therefore to whom should we apply by prayer, but to him? And from him what good may not we expect? It would put life into our prayers in them to eye God as the God of our life; for then it is for our lives, and the lives of our souls, that we stand up to make request.
III. He complains of the insolence of his enemies, and yet comforts himself in God as his friend, Ps. 42:9-11
1. His complaint is that his enemies oppressed and reproached him, and this made a great impression upon him. (1.) They oppressed him to such a degree that he went mourning from day to day, from place to place, Ps. 42:9. He did not break out into indecent passions, though abused as never man was, but he silently wept out his grief, and went mourning; and for this we cannot blame him: it must needs grieve a man that truly loves his country, and seeks the good of it, to see himself persecuted and hardly used, as if he were an enemy to it. Yet David ought not hence to have concluded that God had forgotten him and cast him off, nor thus to have expostulated with him, as if he did him as much wrong in suffering him to be trampled upon as those did that trampled upon him: Why go I mourning? and why hast thou forgotten me? We may complain to God, but we are not allowed thus to complain of him. (2.) They reproached him so cuttingly that it was a sword in his bones, Ps. 42:10. He had mentioned before what the reproach was that touched him thus to the quick, and here he repeats it: They say daily unto me, Where is thy God?--a reproach which was very grievous to him, both because it reflected dishonour upon God and was intended to discourage his hope in God, which he had enough to do to keep up in any measure, and which was but too apt to fail of itself.
2. His comfort is that God is his rock (Ps. 42:9) --a rock to build upon, a rock to take shelter in. The rock of ages, in whom is everlasting strength, would be his rock, his strength in the inner man, both for doing and suffering. To him he had access with confidence. To God his rock he might say what he had to say, and be sure of a gracious audience. He therefore repeats what he had before said (Ps. 42:5), and concludes with it (Ps. 42:11): Why art thou cast down, O my soul? His griefs and fears were clamorous and troublesome; they were not silenced though they were again and again answered. But here, at length, his faith came off a conqueror and forced the enemies to quit the field. And he gains this victory, (1.) By repeating what he had before said, chiding himself, as before, for his dejections and disquietudes, and encouraging himself to trust in the name of the Lord and to stay himself upon his God. Note, It may be of great use to us to think our good thoughts over again, and, if we do not gain our point with them at first, perhaps we may the second time; however, where the heart goes along with the words, it is no vain repetition. We have need to press the same thing over and over again upon our hearts, and all little enough. (2.) By adding one word to it; there he hoped to praise God for the salvation that was in his countenance; here, “I will praise him,” says he, “as the salvation of my countenance from the present cloud that is upon it; if God smile upon me, that will make me look pleasant, look up, look forward, look round, with pleasure.” He adds, and my God, “related to me, in covenant with me; all that he is, all that he has, is mine, according to the true intent and meaning of the promise.” This thought enabled him to triumph over all his griefs and fears. God’s being with the saints in heaven, and being their God, is that which will wipe away all tears from their eyes, Rev. 21:3, 4.