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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–12
Verses 1–12

In these verses David complains of his troubles, intermixing with those complaints some requests for relief.

I. His complaints are very sad, and he pours them out before the Lord, as one that hoped thus to ease himself of a burden that lay very heaven upon him.

1. He complains of the deep impressions that his troubles made upon his spirit (Ps. 69:1, 2): “The waters of affliction, those bitter waters, have come unto my soul, not only threaten my life, but disquiet my mind; they fill my head with perplexing cares and my heart with oppressive grief, so that I cannot enjoy God and myself as I used to do.” We shall bear up under our troubles if we can but keep them from our hearts; but, when they put us out of the possession of our own souls, our case is bad. The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but what shall we do when the spirit is wounded? That was David’s case here. His thoughts sought for something to confide in, and with which to support his hope, but he found nothing: He sunk in keep mire, where there was no standing, no firm footing; the considerations that used to support and encourage him now failed him, or were out of the way, and he was ready to give himself up for gone. He sought for something to comfort himself with, but found himself in deep waters that overflowed him, overwhelmed him; he was like a sinking drowning man, in such confusion and consternation. This points at Christ’s sufferings in his soul, and the inward agony he was in when he said, Now is my soul troubled; and, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful; for it was his soul that he made an offering for sin. And it instructs us, when we are in affliction, to commit the keeping of our souls to God, that we may be neither soured with discontent nor sink into despair.

2. He complains of the long continuance of his troubles (Ps. 69:3): I am weary of my crying. Though he could not keep his head above water, yet he cried to his God, and the more death was in his view the more life was in his prayers; yet he had not immediately an answer of peace given in, no, nor so much of that support and comfort in praying which God’s people used to have; so that he was almost weary of crying, grew hoarse, and his throat so dried that he could cry no more. Nor had he his wonted satisfaction in believing, hoping, and expecting relief: My eyes fail while I wait for my God; he had almost looked his eyes out, in expectation of deliverance. Yet his pleading this with God is an indication that he is resolved not to give up believing and praying. His throat is dried, but his heart is not; his eyes fail, but his faith does not. Thus our Lord Jesus, on the cross, cried out, Why hast thou forsaken me? yet, at the same time, he kept hold of his relation to him: My God, my God.

3. He complains of the malice and multitude of his enemies, their injustice and cruelty, and the hardships they put upon him, Ps. 69:4. They hated him, they would destroy him, for hatred aims at the destruction of the person hated; but what was his iniquity, what was his sin, what provocation had he given them, that they were so spiteful towards him? None at all: “They hate me without a cause; I never did them the least injury, that they should bear me such ill-will.” Our Saviour applies this to himself (John 15:25): They hated me without a cause. We are apt to use this in justification of our passion against those that hate us, that we never gave them cause to hate us. But it is rather an argument why we should bear it patiently, because then we suffer as Christ did, and may then expect that God will give us redress. “They are my enemies wrongfully, for I have been no enemy to them.” In a world where unrighteousness reigns so much we must not wonder if we meet with those that are our enemies wrongfully. Let us take care that we never do wrong and then we may the better bear it if we receive wrong. These enemies were not to be despised, but were very formidable both for their number—They are more than the hairs of my head (Christ’s enemies were numerous; those that came to seize him were a great multitude; how were those increased that troubled him!) and for their strength—They are mighty in authority and power. We are weak, but our enemies are strong; for we wrestle against principalities and powers. Then I restored that which I took not away. Applying this to David, it was what his enemies compelled him to (they made him suffer for that offence which he had never been guilty of); and it was what he consented to, that, if possible, he might pacify them and make them to be at peace with him. He might have insisted upon the laws of justice and honour, the former not requiring and the latter commonly thought to forbid the restoring of that which we took not away, for that is to wrong ourselves both in our wealth and in our reputation. Yet the case may be such sometimes that it may become our duty. Blessed Paul, though free from all men, yet, for the honour of Christ and the edification of the church, made himself a servant to all. But, applying it to Christ, it is an observable description of the satisfaction which he made to God for our sin by his blood: Then he restored that which he took not away; he underwent the punishment that was due to us, paid our debt, suffered for our offence. God’s glory, in some instances of it, was taken away by the sin of man; man’s honour, and peace, and happiness, were taken away; it was not he that took them away, and yet by the merit of his death he restored them.

4. He complains of the unkindness of his friends and relations, and this is a grievance which with an ingenuous mind cuts as deeply as any (Ps. 69:8): “I have become a stranger to my brethren; they make themselves strange to me and use me as a stranger, are shy of conversing with me and ashamed to own me.” This was fulfilled in Christ, whose brethren did not believe on him (John 7:5), who came to his own and his own received him not (John 1:11), and who was forsaken by his disciples, whom he had been free with as his brethren.

5. He complains of the contempt that was put upon him and the reproach with which he was continually loaded. And in this especially his complaint points at Christ, who for our sakes submitted to the greatest disgrace and made himself of no reputation. We having by sin injured God in his honour, Christ made him satisfaction, not only by divesting himself of the honours due to an incarnate deity, but by submitting to the greatest dishonours that could be done to any man. Two things David here takes notice of as aggravations of the indignities done him:—(1.) The ground and matter of the reproach, Ps. 69:10, 11. They ridiculed him for that by which he both humbled himself and honoured God. When men lift up themselves in pride and vain glory they are justly laughed at for their folly; but David chastened his soul, and clothed himself with sackcloth, and from his abasing himself they took occasion to trample upon him. When men dishonour God it is just that their so doing should turn to their dishonour; but when David, purely in devotion to God and to testify his respect to him, wept, and chastened his soul with fasting, and made sackcloth his garment, as humble penitents used to do, instead of commending his devotion and recommending it as a great example of piety, they did all they could both to discourage him in it and to prevent others from following his good example; for that was to his reproach. They laughed at him as a fool for mortifying himself thus; and even for this he became a proverb to them; they made him the common subject of their banter. We must not think it strange if we be ill spoken of for that which is well done, and in which we have reason to hope that we are accepted of God. Our Lord Jesus was stoned for his good works (John 10:32), and when he cried, Eli, Eli—My God, my God, was bantered, as if he called for Elias. (2.) The persons that reproached him, Ps. 69:12. [1.] Even the gravest and the most honourable, from whom better was expected: Those that sit in the gate speak against me, and their reproaches pass for the dictates of senators and the decrees of judges, and are credited accordingly. [2.] The meanest, and the most despicable, the abjects (Ps. 35:15), and scum of the country, the children of fools, yea, the children of base men, Job 30:8. Such drunkards as these make themselves vile, and he was the song of the drunkards; they made themselves and their companions merry with him. See the bad consequences of the sin of drunkenness; it makes men despisers of those that are good, 2 Tim. 3:3. When the king was made sick with bottles of wine he stretched out his hand with scorners, Hos. 7:5. The bench of the drunkards is the seat of the scornful. See what is commonly the lot of the best of men: those that are the praise of the wise are the song of fools. But it is easy to those that rightly judge of things to despise being thus despised.

II. His confessions of sin are very serious (Ps. 69:5): “O God! thou knowest my foolishness, what is and what is not; my sins that I am guilty of are not hidden from thee, and therefore thou knowest how innocent I am of those crimes which they charge upon me.” Note, Even when, as to men’s unjust accusations, we plead Not guilty, yet, before God, we must acknowledge ourselves to have deserved all that is brought upon us, and much worse. This is the genuine confession of a penitent, who knows that he cannot prosper in covering his sin, and that therefore it is his wisdom to acknowledge it, because it is naked and open before God. 1. He knows the corruption of our nature: Thou knowest the foolishness that is bound up in my heart. All our sins take rise from our foolishness. 2. He knows the transgressions of our lives; they are not hidden from him, no, not our heart-sins, no, not those that are committed most secretly. They are all done in his sight, and are never cast behind his back till they are repented of and pardoned. This may aptly be applied to Christ, for he knew no sin, yet he was made sin for us; and God knew it, nor was it hidden from him, when it pleased the Lord to bruise him and put him to grief.

III. His supplications are very earnest. 1. For himself (Ps. 69:1): “Save me, O God! save me from sinking, from despairing.” Thus Christ was heard in that he feared, for he was saved from letting fall his undertaking, Heb. 5:7. 2. For his friends (Ps. 69:6): Let not those that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts! and that seek thee, O God of Israel! (under these two characters we ought to seek God, and in seeking him to wait on him, as the God of hosts, who has all power to help, and as the God of Israel in covenant with his people, whom therefore he is engaged in honour and truth to help) be ashamed and confounded for my sake. This intimates his fear that if God did not appear for him it would be a discouragement to all other good people and would give their enemies occasion to triumph over them, and his earnest desire that whatever became of him all that seek God, and wait upon him, might be kept in heart and kept in countenance, and might neither be discouraged in themselves nor exposed to contempt from others. If Jesus Christ had not been owned and accepted of his Father in his sufferings, all that seek God, and wait for him, would have been ashamed and confounded; but they have confidence towards God, and in his name come boldly to the throne of grace.

IV. His plea is very powerful, Ps. 69:7, 9. Reproach was one of the greatest of his burdens: “Lord, roll away the reproach, and plead my cause, for, 1. It is for thee that I am reproached, for serving thee and trusting in thee: For thy sake I have borne reproach.” Those that are evil spoken of for well-doing may with a humble confidence leave it to God to bring forth their righteousness as the light. 2. “It is with thee that I am reproached: The zeal of thy house has eaten me up, that is, has made me forget myself, and do that which they wickedly turn to my reproach. Those that hate thee and thy house for that reason hate me, because they know how zealously affected I am to it. It is this that has made them ready to eat me up and has eaten up all the love and respect I had among them.” Those that blasphemed God, and spoke ill of his word and ways, did therefore reproach David for believing in his word and walking in his ways. Or it may be construed as an instance of David’s zeal for God’s house, that he resented all the indignities done to God’s name as if they had been done to his own name. He laid to heart all the dishonour done to God and the contempt cast upon religion; these he laid nearer to his heart than any outward troubles of his own. And therefore he had reason to hope God would interest himself in the reproaches cast upon him, because he had always interested himself in the reproaches cast upon God. Both the parts of Ps. 69:9 are applied to Christ. (1.) It was an instance of his love to his Father that the zeal of his house did even eat him up when he whipped the buyers and sellers out of the temple, which reminded his disciples of this text, John 2:17. (2.) It was an instance of his self-denial, and that he pleased not himself, that the reproaches of those that reproached God fell upon him (Rom. 15:3), and therein he set us an example.