The people of God here complain to him of the low and afflicted condition that they were now in, under the prevailing power of their enemies and oppressors, which was the more grievous to them because they were now trampled upon, who had always been used, in their struggles with their neighbours, to win the day and get the upper hand, and because those were now their oppressors whom they had many a time triumphed over and made tributaries, and especially because they had boasted in their God with great assurance that he would still protect and prosper them, which made the distress they were in, and the disgrace they were under, the more shameful. Let us see what the complaint is.
I. That they wanted the usual tokens of God’s favour to them and presence with them (Ps. 44:9): “Thou hast cast off; thou seemest to have cast us off and our cause, and to have cast off thy wonted care of us and concern for us, and so hast put us to shame, for we boasted of the constancy and perpetuity of thy favour. Our armies go forth as usual, but they are put to flight; we gain no ground, but lose what we have gained, for thou goest not forth with them, for, if thou didst, which way soever they turned they would prosper; but it is quite contrary.” Note, God’s people, when they are cast down, are tempted to think themselves cast off and forsaken of God; but it is a mistake. Hath God cast away his people? God forbid, Rom. 11:1.
II. That they were put to the worst before their enemies in the field of battle (Ps. 44:10): Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy, as Joshua complained when they met with a repulse at Ai (Josh. 7:8): “We are dispirited, and have lost the ancient valour of Israelites; we flee, we fall, before those that used to flee and fall before us; and then those that hate us have the plunder of our camp and of our country; they spoil for themselves, and reckon all their own that they can lay their hands on. Attempts to shake off the Babylonish yoke have been ineffectual, and we have rather lost ground by them.”
III. That they were doomed to the sword and to captivity (Ps. 44:11): “Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat. They make no more scruple of killing an Israelite than of killing a sheep; nay, like the butcher, they make a trade of it, they take a pleasure in it as a hungry man in his meat; and we are led with as much ease, and as little resistance, as a lamb to the slaughter; many are slain, and the rest scattered among the heathen, continually insulted by their malice or in danger of being infected by their iniquities.” They looked upon themselves as bought and sold, and charged it upon God, Thou sellest thy people, when they should have charged it upon their own sin. For your iniquities have you sold yourselves, Isa. 50:1. However, thus far was right that they looked above the instruments of their trouble and kept their eye upon God, as well knowing that their worst enemies had no power against them but what was given them from above; they own it was God that delivered them into the hand of the ungodly, as that which is sold is delivered to the buyer. Thou sellest them for nought, and dost not increase in their price (so it may be read); “thou dost not sell them by auction, to those that will bid most for them, but in haste, to those that will bid first for them; any one shall have them that will.” Or, as we read it, Thou dost not increase thy wealth by their price, intimating that they could have suffered this contentedly if they had been sure that it would redound to the glory of God and that his interest might be some way served by their sufferings; but it was quite contrary: Israel’s disgrace turned to God’s dishonour, so that he was so far from being a gainer in his glory by the sale of them that it should seem he was greatly a loser by it; see Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:20.
IV. That they were loaded with contempt, and all possible ignominy was put upon them. In this also they acknowledge God: “Thou makest us a reproach; thou bringest those calamities upon us which occasion the reproach, and thou permittest their virulent tongues to smite us.” They complain, 1. That they were ridiculed and bantered, and were looked upon as the most contemptible people under the sun; their troubles were turned to their reproach, and upon the account of them they were derided. 2. That their neighbours, those about them, from whom they could not withdraw, were most abusive to them, Ps. 44:13. 3. That the heathen, the people that were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel and aliens to the covenants of promise, made them a by-word, and shook the head at them, as triumphing in their fall, Ps. 44:14. 4. That the reproach was constant and incessant (Ps. 44:15): My confusion is continually before me. The church in general, the psalmist in particular, were continually teased and vexed with the insults of the enemy. Concerning those that are going down every one cries, “Down with them.” 5. That it was very grievous, and in a manner overwhelmed him: The shame of my face has covered me. He blushed for sin, or rather for the dishonour done to God, and then it was a holy blushing. 6. That it reflected upon God himself; the reproach which the enemy and the avenger cast upon them was downright blasphemy against God, Ps. 44:16; and 2 Kgs. 19:3. There was therefore strong reason to believe that God would appear for them. As there is no trouble more grievous to a generous and ingenuous mind than reproach and calumny, so there is none more grievous to a holy gracious soul than blasphemy and dishonour done to God.