The title of this psalm acquaints us particularly with the occasion on which it was penned; it was when Saul sent a party of his guards to beset David’s house in the night, that they might seize him and kill him; we have the story 1 Sam. 19:11. It was when his hostilities against David were newly begun, and he had but just before narrowly escaped Saul’s javelin. These first eruptions of Saul’s malice could not but put David into disorder and be both grievous and terrifying, and yet he kept up his communion with God, and such a composure of mind as that he was never out of frame for prayer and praises; happy are those whose intercourse with heaven is not intercepted nor broken in upon by their cares, or griefs, or fears, or any of the hurries (whether outward or inward) of an afflicted state. In these verses,
I. David prays to be delivered out of the hands of his enemies, and that their cruel designs against him might be defeated (Ps. 59:1, 2): “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God! thou art God, and cast deliver me, my God, under whose protection I have put myself; and thou hast promised me to be a God all-sufficient, and therefore, in honour and faithfulness, thou wilt deliver me. Set me on high out of the reach of the power and malice of those that rise up against me, and above the fear of it. Let me be safe, and see myself so, safe and easy, safe and satisfied. O deliver me! and save me.” He cries out as one ready to perish, and that had his eye to God only for salvation and deliverance. He prays (Ps. 59:4), “Awake to help me, take cognizance of my case, behold that with an eye of pity, and exert thy power for my relief.” Thus the disciples, in the storm, awoke Christ, saying, Master, save us, we perish. And thus earnestly should we pray daily to be defended and delivered form our spiritual enemies, the temptations of Satan, and the corruptions of our own hearts, which war against our spiritual life.
II. He pleads for deliverance. Our God gives us leave not only to pray, but to plead with him, to order our cause before him and to fill our mouth with arguments, not to move him, but to move ourselves. David does so here.
1. He pleads the bad character of his enemies. They are workers of iniquity, and therefore not only his enemies, but God’s enemies; they are bloody men, and therefore not only his enemies, but enemies to all mankind. “Lord, let not the workers of iniquity prevail against one that is a worker of righteousness, nor bloody men against a merciful man.”
2. He pleads their malice against him, and the imminent danger he was in from them, Ps. 59:3. “Their spite is great; they aim at my soul, my life, my better part. They are subtle and very politic: They lie in wait, taking an opportunity to do me a mischief. They are all mighty, men of honour and estates, and interest in court and country. They are in a confederacy; they are united by league, and actually gathered together against me, combined both in consultation and action. They are very ingenious in their contrivances, and very industrious in the prosecution of them (Ps. 59:4): They run and prepare themselves, with the utmost speed and fury, to do me a mischief.” He takes particular notice of the brutish conduct of the messengers that Saul sent to take him (Ps. 59:6): “They return at evening from the posts assigned them in the day, to apply themselves to their works of darkness (their night-work, which may well be their day-shame), and then they make a noise like a hound in pursuit of the hare.” Thus did David’s enemies, when they came to take him, raise an out cry against him as a rebel, and traitor, a man not fit to live; with this clamour they went round about the city, to bring a bad reputation upon David, if possible to set the mob against him, at least to prevent their being incensed against them, which otherwise they had reason to fear they would be, so much was David their darling. Thus the persecutors of our Lord Jesus, who are compared to dogs (Ps. 22:16), ran him down with noise; for else they could not have taken him, at least no on the feast-day, for there would have been an uproar among the people. They belch out with their mouth the malice that boils in their hearts, Ps. 59:7. Swords are in their lips; that is, reproaches that would my heart with grief (Ps. 42:10), and slanders that stab and wound my reputation. They were continually suggesting that which drew and whetted Saul’s sword against him, and the fault is laid upon the false accusers. The sword perhaps would not have been in Saul’s hand if it had not been first in their lips.
3. He pleads his own innocency, not as to God (he was never backward to own himself guilty before him), but as to his persecutors; what they charged him with was utterly false, nor had he ever said or done any thing to deserve such treatment from them (Ps. 59:3): “Not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O Lord! thou knowest, who knowest all things.” And again (Ps. 59:4), without my fault. Note, (1.) The innocency of the godly will not secure them from the malignity of the wicked. Those that are harmless like doves, yet, for Christ’s sake, are hated of all men, as if they were noxious like serpents, and obnoxious accordingly. (2.) Though our innocency will not secure us from troubles, yet it will greatly support and comfort us under our troubles. The testimony of our conscience for us that we have behaved ourselves well towards those that behave themselves ill towards us will be very much our rejoicing in the day of evil. (3.) If we are conscious to ourselves of our innocency, we may with humble confidence appeal to God and beg of him to plead our injured cause, which he will do in due time.
4. He pleads that his enemies were profane and atheistical, and bolstered themselves up in their enmity to David, with the contempt of God: For who, say they, doth hear? Ps. 59:7. Not God himself, Ps. 10:11; 94:7. Note, It is not strange if those regard not what they say who have made themselves believe the God regards not what they say.
III. He refers himself and his cause to the just judgment of God, Ps. 59:5. “The Lord, the Judge, be Judge between me and my persecutors.” In this appeal to God he has an eye to him as the Lord of hosts, that has power to execute judgment, having all creatures, even hosts of angels, at his command; he views him also as the God of Israel, to whom he was, in a peculiar manner, King and Judge, not doubting that he would appear on the behalf of those that were upright, that were Israelites indeed. When Saul’s hosts persecuted him, he had recourse to God as the Lord of all hosts; when those maligned him who in spirit were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel he had recourse to God as the God of Israel. He desires (that is, he is very sure) that God will awake to visit all the nations, will make an early and exact enquiry into the controversies and quarrels that are among the children of men; there will be a day of visitation (Isa. 10:3), and to that day David refers himself, with this solemn appeal, Be not merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah—Mark that. 1. If David had been conscious to himself that he was a wicked transgressor, he would not have expected to find mercy; but, as to his enemies, he would say he was no transgressor at all (Ps. 59:3, 4): “Not for my transgression, and therefore thou wilt appear for me.” As to God, he could say he was no wicked transgressor; for, though he had transgressed, he was a penitent transgressor, and did not obstinately persist in what he had done amiss. 2. He knew his enemies were wicked transgressors, wilful, malicious, and hardened in their transgressions both against God and man, and therefore he sues for justice against them, judgment without mercy. Let not those expect to find mercy who never showed mercy, for such are wicked transgressors.