The Septuagint translation joins this psalm with the ninth, and makes
them but one; but the Hebrew makes it a distinct psalm, and the scope
and style are certainly different. In this psalm,
I. David complains of the wickedness of the wicked, describes the
dreadful pitch of impiety at which they had arrived (to the great
dishonour of God and the prejudice of his church and people), and
notices the delay of God's appearing against them,
II. He prays to God to appear against them for the relief of his people
and comforts himself with hopes that he would do so in due time,
|The Character of the Wicked; The Character of Persecutors.
1 Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou
thyself in times of trouble?
2 The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them
be taken in the devices that they have imagined.
3 For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth
the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.
4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not
seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
5 His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above
out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them.
6 He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I
shall never be in adversity.
7 His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his
tongue is mischief and vanity.
8 He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the
secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily
set against the poor.
9 He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in
wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth
him into his net.
10 He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall
by his strong ones.
11 He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his
face; he will never see it.
David, in these verses, discovers,
I. A very great affection to God and his favour; for, in the time of
trouble, that which he complains of most feelingly is God's withdrawing
his gracious presence
"Why standest thou afar off, as one unconcerned in the
indignities done to thy name and the injuries done to the people?"
Note, God's withdrawings are very grievous to his people at any time,
but especially in times of trouble. Outward deliverance is afar off and
is hidden from us, and then we think God is afar off and we therefore
want inward comfort; but that is our own fault; it is because we judge
by outward appearance; we stand afar off from God by our unbelief, and
then we complain that God stands afar off from us.
II. A very great indignation against sin, the sins that made the times
2 Timothy 3:1.
he beholds the transgressors and is grieved, is amazed, and brings to
his heavenly Father their evil report, not in a way of vain-glory,
boasting before God that he was not as these publicans
much less venting any personal resentments, piques, or passions, of his
own; but as one that laid to he art that which is offensive to God and
all good men, and earnestly desired a reformation of manners.
passionate and satirical invectives against bad men do more hurt than
good; if we will speak of their badness, let it be to God in prayer,
for he alone can make them better. This long representation of the
wickedness of the wicked is here summed up in the first words of it
The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor, where two
things are laid to their charge, pride and persecution, the former the
cause of the latter. Proud men will have all about them to be of their
mind, of their religion, to say as they say, to submit to their
dominion, and acquiesce in their dictates; and those that either
eclipse them or will not yield to them they malign and hate with an
inveterate hatred. Tyranny, both in state and church, owes its origin
to pride. The psalmist, having begun this description, presently
inserts a short prayer, a prayer in a parenthesis, which is an
advantage and no prejudice to the sense: Let them be taken, as
proud people often are, in the devices that they have imagined,
Let their counsels be turned headlong, and let them fall headlong by
them. These two heads of the charge are here enlarged upon.
1. They are proud, very proud, and extremely conceited of themselves;
justly therefore did he wonder that God did not speedily appear against
them, for he hates pride, and resists the proud.
(1.) The sinner proudly glories in his power and success. He boasts
of his heart's desire, boasts that he can do what he pleases (as if
God himself could not control him) and that he has all he wished for
and has carried his point. Ephraim said, I have become rich, I have
found me out substance,
"Now, Lord, is it for thy glory to suffer a sinful man thus to pretend
to the sovereignty and felicity of a God?"
(2.) He proudly contradicts the judgment of God, which, we are sure, is
according to truth; for he blesses the covetous, whom the Lord
abhors. See how God and men differ in their sentiments of persons:
God abhors covetous worldlings, who make money their God and idolize
is; he looks upon them as his enemies, and will have no communion with
them. The friendship of the world is enmity to God. But proud
persecutors bless them, and approve their sayings,
They applaud those as wise whom God pronounces foolish
they justify those as innocent whom God condemns as deeply guilty
before him; and they admire those as happy, in having their portion in
this life, whom God declares, upon that account, truly miserable.
Thou, in thy lifetime, receivedst thy good things.
(3.) He proudly casts off the thoughts of God, and all dependence upon
him and devotion to him
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, that pride of
his heart which appears in his very countenance
will not seek after God, nor entertain the thoughts of him.
God is not in all his thoughts, not in any of them. All his
thoughts are that there is not God. See here,
[1.] The nature of impiety and irreligion; it is not seeking after
God and not having him in our thoughts. There is no enquiry
made after him
no desire towards him, no communion with him, but a secret wish to have
no dependence upon him and not to be beholden to him. Wicked people
will not seek after God (that is, will not call upon him); they live
without prayer, and that is living without God. They have many
thoughts, many projects and devices, but no eye to God in any of them,
no submission to his will nor aim at his glory.
[2.] The cause of this impiety and irreligion; and that is pride. Men
will not seek after God because they think they have no need of him,
their own hands are sufficient for them; they think it a thing below
them to be religious, because religious people are few, and mean, and
despised, and the restraints of religion will be a disparagement to
(4.) He proudly makes light of God's commandments and judgments
His wings are always grievous; he is very daring and resolute in
his sinful courses; he will have his way, though ever so tiresome to
himself and vexatious to others; he travails with pain in his wicked
courses, and yet his pride makes him wilful and obstinate in them.
God's judgments (what he commands and what he threatens for the breach
of his commands) are far above out of his sight; he is not
sensible of his duty by the law of God nor of his danger by the wrath
and curse of God. Tell him of God's authority over him, he turns it off
with this, that he never saw God and therefore does not know that there
is a God, he is in the height of heaven, and quæ supra
nos nihil ad nos--we have nothing to do with things above us. Tell
him of God's judgments which will be executed upon those that go on
still in their trespasses, and he will not be convinced that there is
any reality in them; they are far above out of his sight, and
therefore he thinks they are mere bugbears.
(5.) He proudly despises all his enemies, and looks upon them with the
utmost disdain; he puffs at those whom God is preparing to be a scourge
and ruin to him, as if he could baffle them all, and was able to make
his part good with them. But, as it is impolitic to despise an enemy,
so it is impious to despise any instrument of God's wrath.
(6.) He proudly sets trouble at defiance and is confident of the
continuance of his own prosperity
He hath said in his heart, and pleased himself with the thought,
I shall not be moved, my goods are laid up for many years, and
I shall never be in adversity; like Babylon, that said, I
shall be a lady for ever,
Those are nearest ruin who thus set it furthest from them.
2. They are persecutors, cruel persecutors. For the gratifying of their
pride and covetousness, and in opposition to God and religion, they are
very oppressive to all within their reach. Observe, concerning these
(1.) That they are very bitter and malicious
His mouth is full of cursing. Those he cannot do a real mischief
to, yet he will spit his venom at, and breathe out the slaughter which
he cannot execute. Thus have God's faithful worshippers been
anathematized and cursed, with bell, book, and candle. Where there is a
heart full of malice there is commonly a mouth full of curses.
(2.) They are very false and treacherous. There is mischief designed,
but it is hidden under the tongue, not to be discerned, for his
mouth is full of deceit and vanity. He has learned of the devil to
deceive, and so to destroy; with this his hatred is covered,
He cares not what lies he tells, not what oaths he breaks, nor what
arts of dissimulation he uses, to compass his ends.
(3.) That they are very cunning and crafty in carrying on their
designs. They have ways and means to concert what they intend, that
they may the more effectually accomplish it. Like Esau, that cunning
hunter, he sits in the lurking places, in the secret places, and
his eyes are privily set to do mischief
not because he is ashamed of what he does (if he blushed, there were
some hopes he would repent), not because he is afraid of the wrath of
God, for he imagines God will never call him to an account
but because he is afraid lest the discovery of his designs should be
the breaking of them. Perhaps it refers particularly to robbers and
highwaymen, who lie in wait for honest travellers, to make a prey of
them and what they have.
(4.) That they are very cruel and barbarous. Their malice is against
the innocent, who never provoked them--against the poor,
who cannot resist them and over whom it will be no glory to triumph.
Those are perfectly lost to all honesty and honour against whose
mischievous designs neither innocence nor poverty will be any man's
security. Those that have power ought to protect the innocent and
provide for the poor; yet these will be the destroyers of those whose
guardians they ought to be. And what do they aim at? It is to catch
the poor, and draw them into their net, that is, get them
into their power, not to strip them only, but to murder them.
They hunt for the precious life. It is God's poor people that they are
persecuting, against whom they bear a mortal hatred for his sake whose
they are and whose image they bear, and therefore they lie in wait to
murder them: He lies in wait as a lion that thirsts after blood,
and feeds with pleasure upon the prey. The devil, whose agent he is, is
compared to a roaring lion that seeks not what, but whom, he may
(5.) That they are base and hypocritical
He crouches and humbles himself, as beasts of prey do, that they
may get their prey within their reach. This intimates that the sordid
spirits of persecutors and oppressors will stoop to any thing, though
ever so mean, for the compassing of their wicked designs; witness the
scandalous practices of Saul when he hunted David. It intimates,
likewise, that they cover their malicious designs with the pretence of
meekness and humility, and kindness to those they design the greatest
mischief to; they seem to humble themselves to take cognizance of the
poor, and concern themselves in their concernments, when it is in order
to make them fall, to make a prey of them.
(6.) That they are very impious and atheistical,
They could not thus break through all the laws of justice and goodness
towards man if they had not first shaken off all sense of religion, and
risen up in rebellion against the light of its most sacred and
self-evident principles: He hath said in his heart, God has
forgotten. When his own conscience rebuked him with the
consequences of it, and asked how he would answer it to the righteous
Judge of heaven and earth, he turned it off with this, God has
forsaken the earth,
This is a blasphemous reproach,
[1.] Upon God's omniscience and providence, as if he could not, or did
not, see what men do in this lower world.
[2.] Upon his holiness and the rectitude of his nature, as if, though
he did see, yet he did not dislike, but was willing to connive at, the
most unnatural and inhuman villanies.
[3.] Upon his justice and the equity of his government, as if, though
he did see and dislike the wickedness of the wicked, yet he would never
reckon with them, nor punish them for it, either because he could not
or durst not, or because he was not inclined to do so. Let those that
suffer by proud oppressors hope that God will, in due time, appear for
them; for those that are abusive to them are abusive to God Almighty
In singing this psalm and praying it over, we should have our hearts
much affected with a holy indignation at the wickedness of the
oppressors, a tender compassion of the miseries of the oppressed, and a
pious zeal for the glory and honour of God, with a firm belief that he
will, in due time, give redress to the injured and reckon with the
|Prayer against Persecutors.
12 Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the
13 Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? he hath said in his
heart, Thou wilt not require it.
14 Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite,
to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto
thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek
out his wickedness till thou find none.
16 The LORD is King for ever and ever: the heathen are
perished out of his land.
17 LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt
prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:
18 To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of
the earth may no more oppress.
David here, upon the foregoing representation of the inhumanity and
impiety of the oppressors, grounds an address to God, wherein
I. What he prays for.
1. That God would himself appear
"Arise, O Lord! O God! lift up thy hand, manifest thy presence
and providence in the affairs of this lower world. Arise, O
Lord! to the confusion of those who say that thou hidest thy face.
Manifest thy power, exert it for the maintaining of thy own cause, lift
up thy hand to give a fatal blow to these oppressors; let thy
everlasting arm be made bare."
2. That he would appear for his people: "Forget not the humble, the
afflicted, that are poor, that are made poorer, and are poor in
spirit. Their oppressors, in their presumption, say that thou hast
forgotten them; and they, in their despair, are ready to say the same.
Lord, make it to appear that they are both mistaken."
3. That he would appear against their persecutors,
(1.) That he would disable them from doing any mischief: Break thou
the arm of the wicked, take away his power, that the hypocrite
reign not, lest the people be ensnared,
We read of oppressors whose dominion was taken away, but their lives
that they might have time to repent.
(2.) That he would deal with them for the mischief they had done:
"Seek out his wickedness; let that be all brought to light which
he thought should for ever lie undiscovered; let that be all brought to
account which he thought should for ever go unpunished; bring it out
till thou find none, that is, till none of his evil deeds remain
unreckoned for, none of his evil designs undefeated, and none of his
II. What he pleads for the encouraging of his own faith in these
1. He pleads the great affronts which these proud oppressors put upon
God himself: "Lord, it is thy own cause that we beg thou wouldst appear
in; the enemies have made it so, and therefore it is not for thy glory
to let them go unpunished"
Wherefore do the wicked contemn God? He does so; for he says,
"Thou wilt not require it; thou wilt never call us to an account
for what we do," than which they could not put a greater indignity upon
the righteous God. The psalmist here speaks with astonishment,
(1.) At the wickedness of the wicked: "Why do they speak so impiously,
why so absurdly?" It is a great trouble to good men to think what
contempt is cast upon the holy God by the sin of sinners, upon his
precepts, his promises, his threatenings, his favours, his judgments;
all are despised and made light of. Wherefore do the wicked thus
contemn God? It is because they do not know him.
(2.) At the patience and forbearance of God towards them: "Why are they
suffered thus to contemn God? Why does he not immediately vindicate
himself and take vengeance on them?" It is because the day of reckoning
is yet to come, when the measure of their iniquity is full.
2. He pleads the notice God took of the impiety and iniquity of these
"Do the persecutors encourage themselves with a groundless fancy that
thou wilt never see it? Let the persecuted encourage themselves with a
well-grounded faith, not only that thou hast seen it, but that thou
doest behold it, even all the mischief that is done by the hands, and
all the spite and malice that lurk in the hearts, of these oppressors;
it is all known to thee, and observed by thee; nay, not only thou hast
seen it and dost behold it, but thou wilt requite it, wilt recompense
it into their bosoms, by thy just and avenging hand."
3. He pleads the dependence which the oppressed had upon him: "The
poor commits himself unto thee, each of them does so, I among the
rest. They rely on thee as their patron and protector, they refer
themselves to thee as their Judge, in whose determination they
acquiesce and at whose disposal they are willing to be. They leave
themselves with thee" (so some read it), "not prescribing, but
subscribing, to thy wisdom and will. They thus give thee honour as much
as their oppressors dishonour thee. They are thy willing subjects, and
put themselves under thy protection; therefore protect them."
4. He pleads the relation in which God is pleased to stand to us,
(1.) As a great God. He is King for ever and ever,
And it is the office of a king to administer justice for the restraint
and terror of evil-doers and the protection and praise of those that do
well. To whom should the injured subjects appeal but to the sovereign?
Help, my Lord, O King! Avenge me of my adversary. "Lord, let all
that pay homage and tribute to thee as their King have the benefit of
thy government and find thee their refuge. Thou art an everlasting
King, which no earthly prince is, and therefore canst and wilt, by an
eternal judgment, dispense rewards and punishments in an everlasting
state, when time shall be no more; and to that judgment the poor refer
(2.) As a good God. He is the helper of the fatherless
of those who have no one else to help them and have many to injure
them. He has appointed kings to defend the poor and fatherless
and therefore much more will he do so himself; for he has taken it
among the titles of his honour to be a Father to the fatherless
a helper of the helpless.
5. He pleads the experience which God's church and people had had of
God's readiness to appear for them.
(1.) He had dispersed and extirpated their enemies
"The heathen have perished out of his land; the remainders of
the Canaanites, the seven devoted nations, which have long been as
thorns in the eyes and goads in the sides of Israel, are now, at
length, utterly rooted out; and this is an encouragement to us to hope
that God will, in like manner, break the arm of the oppressive
Israelites, who were, in some respects, worse than heathens."
(2.) He had heard and answered their prayers
"Lord, thou hast many a time heard the desire of the
humble, and never saidst to a distressed suppliant, Seek in
vain. Why may not we hope for the continuance and repetition of the
wonders, the favours, which our father told us of?"
6. He pleads their expectations from God pursuant to their experience
of him: "Thou hast heard, therefore thou will cause thy ear
to hear, as,
Thou art the same, and thy power, and promise, and relation to thy
people are the same, and the work and workings of grace are the same in
them; why therefore may we not hope that he who has been will still be,
will ever be, a God hearing prayers?" But observe,
(1.) In what method God hears prayer. He first prepares the heart of
his people and then gives them an answer of peace; nor may we expect
his gracious answer, but in this way; so that God's working upon us is
the best earnest of his working for us. He prepares the heart for
prayer by kindling holy desires, and strengthening our most holy faith,
fixing the thoughts and raising the affections, and then he graciously
accepts the prayer; he prepares the heart for the mercy itself that is
wanting and prayed for, makes us fit to receive it and use it well, and
then gives it in to us. The preparation of the heart is from the Lord,
and we must seek unto him for it
and take that as a leading favour.
(2.) What he will do in answer to prayer,
[1.] He will plead the cause of the persecuted, will judge the
fatherless and oppressed, will judge for them, clear up their
innocency, restore their comforts, and recompense them for all the loss
and damage they have sustained.
[2.] He will put an end to the fury of the persecutors. Hitherto they
shall come, but no further; here shall the proud waves of their malice
be stayed; an effectual course shall be taken that the man of the
earth may no more oppress. See how light the psalmist now makes of
the power of that proud persecutor whom he had been describing in this
psalm, and how slightly he speaks of him now that he had been
considering God's sovereignty. First, He is but a man of the
earth, a man out of the earth (so the word is), sprung out
of the earth, and therefore mean, and weak, and hastening to the earth
again. Why then should we be afraid of the fury of the oppressor when
he is but man that shall die, a son of man that shall be as
He that protects us is the Lord of heaven; he that persecutes us is but
a man of the earth. Secondly, God has him in a chain, and can
easily restrain the remainder of his wrath, so that he cannot do what
he would. When God speaks the word Satan shall by his instruments no
no more oppress.
we must commit religion's just but injured cause to God, as those that
are heartily concerned for its honour and interests, believing that he
will, in due time, plead it with jealousy.