This psalm was penned when the church of God was under hatches,
oppressed and persecuted; and it is an appeal to God, as the judge of
heaven and earth, and an address to him, to appear for his people
against his and their enemies. Two things this psalm speaks:--
I. Conviction and terror to the persecutors
showing them their danger and folly, and arguing with them.
II. Comfort and peace to the persecuted
assuring them, both from God's promise and from the psalmist's own
experience, that their troubles would end well, and God would, in due
time, appear to their joy and the confusion of those who set themselves
against them. In singing this psalm we must look abroad upon the pride
of oppressors with a holy indignation, and the tears of the oppressed
with a holy compassion; but, at the same time, look upwards to the
righteous Judge with an entire satisfaction, and look forward, to the
end of all these things, with a pleasing hope.
|Appeal to God against Persecutors; The Folly of Atheists and Oppressors.
1 O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom
vengeance belongeth, show thyself.
2 Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward to
3 LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked
4 How long shall they utter and speak hard things? and
all the workers of iniquity boast themselves?
5 They break in pieces thy people, O LORD, and afflict thine
6 They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the
7 Yet they say, The LORD shall not see, neither shall the God
of Jacob regard it.
8 Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when
will ye be wise?
9 He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed
the eye, shall he not see?
10 He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? he
that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?
11 The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are
In these verses we have,
I. A solemn appeal to God against the cruel oppressors of his people,
This speaks terror enough to them, that they have the prayers of God's
people against them, who cry day and night to him to avenge them of
their adversaries; and shall he not avenge them speedily?
1. The titles they give to God for the encouraging of their faith in
this appeal: O God! to whom vengeance belongeth; and thou
Judge of the earth. We may with boldness appeal to him; for,
(1.) He is judge, supreme judge, judge alone, from whom every man's
judgment proceeds. He that gives law gives sentence upon every man
according to his works, by the rule of that law. He has prepared his
throne for judgment. He has indeed appointed magistrates to be avengers
but he is the avenger in chief, to whom even magistrates themselves are
accountable; his throne is the last refuge (the dernier ressort,
as the law speaks) of oppressed innocency. He is universal judge, not
of this city or country only, but judge of the earth, of the
whole earth: none are exempt from his jurisdiction; nor can it be
alleged against an appeal to him in any court that it is coram non
judice--before a person not judicially qualified.
(2.) He is just. As he has authority to avenge wrong, so it is his
nature, and property, and honour. This also is implied in the title
here given to him and repeated with such an emphasis, O God! to
whom vengeance belongs, who wilt not suffer might always to prevail
against right. This is a good reason why we must not avenge ourselves,
because God has said, Vengeance is mine; and it is daring
presumption to usurp his prerogative and step into his throne,
Let this alarm those who do wrong, whether with a close hand, so as not
to be discovered, or with a high hand, so as not to be controlled,
There is a God to whom vengeance belongs, who will certainly call them
to an account; and let it encourage those who suffer wrong to bear it
with silence, committing themselves to him who judges righteously.
2. What it is they ask of God.
(1.) That he would glorify himself, and get honour to his own
name. Wicked persecutors thought God had withdrawn and had forsaken the
earth. "Lord," say they, "show thyself; make them know that thou art
and that thou art ready to show thyself strong on the behalf of
those whose hearts are upright with thee." The enemies thought God
was conquered because his people were. "Lord," say they, "lift up
thyself, be thou exalted in thy own strength. Lift up thyself, to
be seen, to be feared; and suffer not thy name to be trampled upon and
(2.) That he would mortify the oppressors: Render a reward to the
proud; that is, "Reckon with them for all their insolence, and the
injuries they have done to thy people." These prayers are prophecies,
which speak terror to all the sons of violence. The righteous God will
deal with them according to their merits.
II. A humble complaint to God of the pride and cruelty of the
oppressors, and an expostulation with him concerning it,
1. The character of the enemies they complain against. They are wicked;
they are workers of iniquity; they are bad, very bad,
themselves, and therefore they hate and persecute those whose goodness
shames and condemns them. Those are wicked indeed, and workers of
the worst iniquity, lost to all honour and virtue, who are cruel to
the innocent and hate the righteous.
2. Their haughty barbarous carriage which they complain of.
(1.) They are insolent, and take a pleasure in magnifying themselves.
They talk high and talk big; they triumph; they speak loud things; they
boast themselves, as if their tongues were their own and their hands
too, and they were accountable to none for what they say or do, and as
if the day were their own, and they doubted not but to carry the cause
against God and religion. Those that speak highly of themselves, that
triumph and boast, are apt to speak hardly of others; but there will
come a day of reckoning for all their hard speeches which ungodly
sinners have spoken against God, his truths, and ways, and people,
(2.) They are impious, and take a pleasure in running down God's people
because they are his
"They break in pieces thy people, O Lord! break their
assemblies, their estates, their families, their persons, in pieces,
and do all they can to afflict thy heritage, to grieve them, to crush
them, to run them down, to root them out." God's people are his
heritage; there are those that, for his sake, hate them, and seek their
ruin. This is a very good plea with God, in our intercessions for the
church: "Lord, it is thine; thou hast a property in it. It is thy
heritage; thou hast a pleasure in it, and out of it the rent of thy
glory in this world issues. And wilt thou suffer these wicked men to
trample upon it thus?"
(3.) They are inhuman, and take a pleasure in wronging those that are
least able to help themselves
they not only oppress and impoverish, but they slay the widow and
the stranger; not only neglect the fatherless, and make a prey of
them, but murder them, because they are weak and exposed, and sometimes
lie at their mercy. Those whom they should protect from injury they
are most injurious to, perhaps because God has taken them into his
particular care. Who would think it possible that any of the children
of men should be thus barbarous?
3. A modest pleading with God concerning the continuance of the
persecution: "Lord, how long shall they do thus?" And again,
How long? When shall this wickedness of the wicked come to an
III. A charge of atheism exhibited against the persecutors, and an
expostulation with them upon that charge.
1. Their atheistical thoughts are here discovered
Yet they say, The Lord shall not see. Though the cry of their
wickedness is very great and loud, though they rebel against the light
of nature and the dictates of their own consciences, yet they have the
confidence to say, "The Lord shall not see; he will not only
wink at small faults, but shut his eyes at great ones too." Or they
think they have managed it so artfully, under colour of justice and
religion perhaps, that it will not be adjudged murder. "The God of
Jacob, though his people pretend to have such an interest in him, does
not regard it either as against justice or as against his own people;
he will never call us to an account for it." Thus they deny God's
government of the world, banter his covenant with his people, and set
the judgment to come at defiance.
2. They are here convicted of folly and absurdity. He that says either
that Jehovah the living God shall not see or that the God of Jacob
shall not regard the injuries done to his people, Nabal is his
name and folly is with him; and yet here he is fairly reasoned with,
for his conviction and conversion, to prevent his confusion
"Understand, you brutish among the people, and let reason guide
you." Note, The atheistical, though they set up for wits, and
philosophers, and politicians, yet are really the brutish among the
people; if they would but understand, they would believe. God, by
the prophet, speaks as if he thought the time long till men would be
men, and show themselves so by understanding and considering: "You
fools, when will you be wise, so wise as to know that God sees and
regards all you say and do, and to speak and act accordingly, as those
that must give account?" Note, None are so bad but means are to be used
for the reclaiming and reforming of them, none so brutish, so foolish,
but it should be tried whether they may not yet be made wise; while
there is life there is hope. To prove the folly of those that question
God's omniscience and justice the psalmist argues,
(1.) From the works of creation
the formation of human bodies, which as it proves that there is a God,
proves also that God has infinitely and transcendently in himself all
those perfections that are in any creature. He that planted the
ear (and it is planted in the head, as a tree in the ground)
shall he not hear? No doubt he shall, more and better than we
can. He that formed the eye (and how curiously it is formed
above any part of the body anatomists know and let us know by their
dissections) shall he not see? Could he give, would he give,
that perfection to a creature which he has not in himself? Note,
[1.] The powers of nature are all derived from the God of nature. See
[2.] By the knowledge of ourselves we may be led a great way towards
the knowledge of God--if by the knowledge of our own bodies, and the
organs of sense, so as to conclude that if we can see and hear much
more can God, then certainly by the knowledge of our own souls and
their noble faculties. The gods of the heathen had eyes and saw not,
ears and heard not; our God has no eyes nor ears, as we have, and yet
we must conclude he both sees and hears, because we have our sight and
hearing from him, and are accountable to him for our use of them.
(2.) From the works of providence
He that chastises the heathen for their polytheism and idolatry,
shall not he much more correct his own people for their
atheism and profaneness? He that chastises the children of men for
oppressing and wronging one another, shall not he correct those that
profess to be his own children, and call themselves so, and yet
persecute those that are really so? Shall not we be under his
correction, under whose government the whole world is? Does he regard
as King of nations, and shall he not much more regard as the God of
Jacob? Dr. Hammond gives another very probably sense of this: "He
that instructs the nations (that is, gives them his law), shall
not he correct, that is, shall not he judge them according to that
law, and call them to an account for their violations of it? In vain
was the law given if there will not be a judgment upon it." And it is
true that the same word signifies to chastise and to instruct, because
chastisement is intended for instruction and instruction should go
along with chastisement.
(3.) From the works of grace: He that teaches man knowledge, shall
he not know? He not only, as the God of nature, has given the light
of reason, but, as the God of grace, has given the light of revelation,
has shown man what is true wisdom and understanding; and he that does
this, shall he not know?
The flowing of the streams is a certain sign of the fulness of the
fountain. If all knowledge is from God, no doubt all knowledge is in
God. From this general doctrine of God's omniscience, the psalmist not
only confutes the atheists, who said, "The Lord shall not see
he will not take cognizance of what we do;" but awakens us all to
consider that God will take cognizance even of what we think
The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.
[1.] He knows those thoughts in particular, concerning God's conniving
at the wickedness of the wicked, and knows them to be vain, and laughs
at the folly of those who by such fond conceits buoy themselves up in
[2.] He knows all the thoughts of the children of men, and knows them
to be, for the most part, vain, that the imaginations of the thoughts
of men's hearts are evil, only evil, and that continually. Even in good
thoughts there is a fickleness and inconstancy which may well be called
vanity. It concerns us to keep a strict guard upon our thoughts,
because God takes particular notice of them. Thoughts are words to God,
and vain thoughts are provocations.
|Comfort to Suffering Saints; God the Defence of His People.
12 Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and
teachest him out of thy law;
13 That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity,
until the pit be digged for the wicked.
14 For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he
forsake his inheritance.
15 But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the
upright in heart shall follow it.
16 Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will
stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?
17 Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt
18 When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O LORD, held me
19 In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts
delight my soul.
20 Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee,
which frameth mischief by a law?
21 They gather themselves together against the soul of the
righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.
22 But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my
23 And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall
cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the LORD our God
shall cut them off.
The psalmist, having denounced tribulation to those that trouble God's
people, here assures those that are troubled of rest. See
2 Thessalonians 1:6,7.
He speaks comfort to suffering saints from God's promises and his own
I. From God's promises, which are such as not only save them from being
miserable, but secure a happiness to them
Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest. Here he looks above the
instruments of trouble, and eyes the hand of God, which gives it
another name and puts quite another color upon it. The enemies break in
pieces God's people
they aim at no less; but the truth of the matter is that God by them
chastens his people, as the father the son in whom he delights, and the
persecutors are only the rod he makes use of. Howbeit they mean not
so, neither doth their heart think so,
Now it is here promised,
1. That God's people shall get good by their sufferings. When he
chastens them he will teach them, and blessed is the man who is thus
taken under a divine discipline, for none teaches like God.
(1.) The afflictions of the saints are fatherly chastenings, designed
for their instruction, reformation, and improvement.
(2.) When the teachings of the word and Spirit go along with the
rebukes of Providence they then both manifest men to be blessed and
help to make them so; for then they are marks of adoption and means of
sanctification. When we are chastened we must pray to be taught, and
look into the law as the best expositor of Providence. It is not the
chastening itself that does good, but the teaching that goes along with
it and is the exposition of it.
2. That they shall see through their sufferings
That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity. Note,
(1.) There is a rest remaining for the people of God after the days of
their adversity, which, though they may be many and long, shall be
numbered and finished in due time, and shall not last always. He that
sends the trouble will send the rest, that he may comfort them
according to the time that he has afflicted them.
(2.) God therefore teaches his people by their troubles, that he
may prepare them for deliverance, and so give them rest from their
troubles, that, being reformed, they may be relieved, and that the
affliction, having done its work, may be removed.
3. That they shall see the ruin of those that are the instruments of
their sufferings, which is the matter of a promise, not as gratifying
any passion of theirs, but as redounding to the glory of God: Until
the pit is digged (or rather while the pit is digging) for the
wicked, God is ordering peace for them at the same time that he is
ordaining his arrows against the persecutors.
4. That, though they may be cast down, yet certainly they shall not be
Let God's suffering people assure themselves of this, that, whatever
their friends do, God will not cast them off, nor throw them out of his
covenant or out of his care; he will not forsake them, because they are
his inheritance, which he will not quit his title to nor suffer himself
to be disseised of. St. Paul comforted himself with this,
5. That, bad as things are, they shall mend, and, though they are now
out of course, yet they shall return to their due and ancient channel
Judgment shall return unto righteousness; the seeming disorders
of Providence (for real ones there never were) shall be rectified.
God's judgment, that is, his government, looks sometimes as if it were
at a distance from righteousness, while the wicked prosper, and the
best men meet with the worst usage; but it shall return to
righteousness again, either in this world or at the furthest in the
judgment of the great day, which will set all to-rights. Then all
the upright in heart shall be after it; they shall follow it with
their praises, and with entire satisfaction; they shall return to a
prosperous and flourishing condition, and shine forth out of obscurity;
they shall accommodate themselves to the dispensations of divine
Providence, and with suitable affections attend all its motions.
They shall walk after the Lord,
Dr. Hammond thinks this was most eminently fulfilled in the
destruction of Jerusalem first, and afterwards of heathen Rome, the
crucifiers of Christ and persecutors of Christians, and the rest which
the churches had thereby. Then judgment returned even to
righteousness, to mercy and goodness, and favour to God's people,
who then were as much countenanced as before they had been trampled
II. From his own experiences and observations.
1. He and his friends had been oppressed by cruel and imperious men,
that had power in their hands and abused it by abusing all good people
with it. They were themselves evil-doers and workers of
they abandoned themselves to all manner of impiety and immorality, and
then their throne was a throne of iniquity,
Their dignity served to put a reputation upon sin, and their authority
was employed to support it, and to bring about their wicked designs. It
is a pity that ever a throne, which should be a terror to evil-doers
and a protection and praise to those that do well, should be the seat
and shelter of iniquity. That is a throne of iniquity which by the
policy of its council frames mischief, and by its sovereignty
enacts it and turns it into a law. Iniquity is daring enough even when
human laws are against it, which often prove too weak to give an
effectual check to it; but how insolent, how mischievous, is it when it
is backed by a law! Iniquity is not the better, but much the worse, for
being enacted by law; nor will it excuse those that practise it to say
that they did but do as they were bidden. These workers of iniquity,
having framed mischief by a law, take care to see the law
executed; for they gather themselves together against the soul
of the righteous, who dare not keep the statutes of Omri nor
the law of the house of Ahab; and they condemn the innocent
blood for violating their decrees. See an instance in Daniel's
enemies; they framed mischief by a law when the obtained an
impious edict against prayer
and, when Daniel would not obey it, they assembled together
and condemned his innocent blood to the lions. The best
benefactors of mankind have often been thus treated, under colour of
law and justice, as the worst of malefactors.
2. The oppression they were under bore very hard upon them, and
oppressed their spirits too. Let not suffering saints despair, though,
when they are persecuted, they find themselves perplexed and cast down;
it was so with the psalmist here: His soul had almost dwelt in
he was at his wits' end, and knew not what to say or do; he was, in his
own apprehensions, at his life's end, ready to drop into the grave,
that land of silence. St. Paul, in a like case, received a sentence
of death within himself,
2 Corinthians 1:8,9.
He said, "My foot slippeth
I am going irretrievably; there is no remedy; I must fall. I
shall one day perish by the hand of Saul. My hope fails me; I do
not find such firm footing for my faith as I have sometimes found."
He had a multitude of perplexed entangled thoughts within him
concerning the case he was in and the construction to be made of it,
and concerning the course he should take and what was likely to be the
issue of it.
3. In this distress they sought for help, and succour, and some relief.
(1.) They looked about for it and were disappointed
"Who will rise up for me against the evil-doers? Have I any
friend who, in love to me, will appear for me? Has justice any friend
who, in a pious indignation at unrighteousness, will plead my injured
cause?" He looked, but there was none to save, there was none to
uphold. Note, When on the side of the oppressors there is power it is
no marvel if the oppressed have no comforter, none that dare own them,
or speak a good word for them,
When St. Paul was brought before Nero's throne of iniquity no man
stood by him,
2 Timothy 4:16.
(2.) They looked up for it,
They humbly expostulate with God: "Lord, shall the throne of
iniquity have fellowship with thee? Wilt thou countenance and
support these tyrants in their wickedness? We know thou wilt not." A
throne has fellowship with God when it is a throne of justice and
answers the end of the erecting of it; for by him kings reign, and when
they reign for him their judgments are his, and he owns them as his
ministers, and whoever resist them, or rise up against them, shall
receive to themselves damnation; but, when it becomes a throne of
iniquity, it has no longer fellowship with God. Far be it from the
just and holy God that he should be the patron of unrighteousness, even
in princes and those that sit in thrones, yea, though they be the
thrones of the house of David.
4. They found succour and relief in God, and in him only. When other
friends failed, in him they had a faithful and powerful friend; and it
is recommended to all God's suffering saints to trust in him.
(1.) God helps at a dead lift
"When I had almost dwelt in silence, then the Lord was my
help, kept me alive, kept me in heart; and unless I had made
him my help, by putting my trust in him and expecting relief
from him, I could never have kept possession of my own soul; but living
by faith in him has kept my head above water, has given me breath, and
something to say."
(2.) God's goodness is the great support of sinking spirits
"When I said, My foot slips into sin, into ruin, into despair,
then thy mercy, O Lord! held me up, kept me from falling, and
defeated the design of those who consulted to cast me down from my
We are beholden not only to God's power, but to his pity, for spiritual
supports: Thy mercy, the gifts of thy mercy and my hope in thy
mercy, held me up. God's right hand sustains his people when
they look on their right hand and on their left and there is none to
uphold; and we are then prepared for his gracious supports when we are
sensible of our own weakness and inability to stand by our own
strength, and come to God, to acknowledge it, and to tell him how
our foot slips.
(3.) Divine consolations are the effectual relief of troubled spirits
"In the multitude of my thoughts within me, which are noisy like
a multitude, crowding and jostling one another like a multitude, and
very unruly and ungovernable, in the multitude of my sorrowful,
solicitous, timorous thoughts, thy comforts delight my soul; and
they are never more delightful than when they come in so seasonably to
silence my unquiet thoughts and keep my mind easy." The world's
comforts give but little delight to the soul when it is hurried with
melancholy thoughts; they are songs to a heavy heart. But God's
comforts will reach the soul, and not the fancy only, and will bring
with them that peace and that pleasure which the smiles of the world
cannot give and which the frowns of the world cannot take away.
5. God is, and will be, as a righteous Judge, the patron and protector
of right and the punisher and avenger of wrong; this the psalmist had
both the assurance of and the experience of.
(1.) He will give redress to the injured
"When none else will, nor can, nor dare, shelter me, the Lord is my
defence, to preserve me from the evil of my troubles, from sinking
under them and being ruined by them; and he is the rock of my
refuge, in the clefts of which I may take shelter, and on the top
of which I may set my feet, to be out of the reach of danger." God is
his people's refuge, to whom they may flee, in whom they are safe and
may be secure; he is the rock of their refuge, so strong, so firm,
impregnable, immovable, as a rock: natural fastnesses sometimes exceed
(2.) He will reckon with the injurious
He shall render to them their own iniquity; he shall deal with
them according to their deserts, and that very mischief which they did
and designed against God's people shall be brought upon themselves: it
follows, He shall cut them off in their wickedness. A man cannot
be more miserable than his own wickedness will make him if God visit it
upon him: it will cut him in the remembrance of it; it will cut him off
in the recompence of it. This the psalm concludes with the triumphant
assurance of: Yea, the Lord our God, who takes our part and owns
us for his, shall cut them off from any fellowship with him, and
so shall make them completely miserable and their pomp and power shall
stand them in no stead.