Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume VIII/Expositions on the Book of Psalms/Psalm XXXI
To the end, a psalm of David himself, an ecstasy.
1. To the end a Psalm of David Himself, the Mediator strong of hand in persecutions. For the word ecstasy, which is added to the title, signifies a transport of the mind, which is produced either by a panic, or by some revelation. But in this Psalm the panic of the people of God troubled by the persecution of all the heathen, and by the failing of faith throughout the world, is principally seen. But first the Mediator Himself speaks: then the People redeemed by His Blood gives thanks: at last in trouble it speaks at length, which is what belongs to the ecstasy; but the Person of the Prophet himself is twice interposed, near the end, and at the end.
2. “In Thee, O Lord, have I trusted, let Me not be put to confusion for ever” (ver. 1). In Thee, O Lord, have I trusted, let Me never be confounded, whilst they shall insult Me as one like other men. “In Thy righteousness rescue Me, and deliver Me.” And in Thy righteousness rescue Me from the pit of death, and deliver Me out of their company.
3. “Bend down Thine ear unto Me” (ver. 2). Hear Me in My humiliation, nigh at hand unto Me. “Make haste to deliver Me.” Defer not to the end of the world, as with all who believe on Me, My separation from sinners. “Be unto Me a God who protecteth Me.” Be unto Me God, and Protector. “And a house of refuge, that Thou mayest save Me.” And as a house, wherein taking refuge I may be saved.
4. “For Thou art My strength, and My refuge” (ver. 3). For Thou art unto Me My strength to bear My persecutors, and My refuge to escape them. “And for Thy Name’s sake Thou shalt be My guide, and shalt nourish Me.” And that by Me Thou mayest be known to all the Gentiles. I will in all things follow Thy will; and, by assembling, by degrees, Saints unto Me, Thou shalt fulfil My body, and My perfect stature.
5. “Thou shalt bring Me out of this trap, which they have hidden for Me” (ver. 4). Thou shalt bring Me out of these snares, which they have hidden for Me. “For Thou art My Protector.”
6. “Into Thy hands I commend My Spirit” (ver. 5). To Thy power I commend My Spirit, soon to receive It back. “Thou hast redeemed Me, O Lord God of truth.” Let the people too, redeemed by the Passion of their Lord, and joyful in the glorifying of their Head, say, “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.”
7. “Thou hatest them that hold to vanity uselessly” (ver. 6). Thou hatest them that hold to the false happiness of the world. “But I have trusted in the Lord.”
8. “I will be glad, and rejoice in Thy mercy:” which doth not deceive me. “For Thou hast regarded My humiliation:” wherein Thou hast subjected me to vanity in hope. “Thou hast saved my soul from necessities” (ver. 7). Thou hast saved my soul from the necessities of fear, that with a free love it may serve Thee.
9. “And hast not shut me up into the hands of the enemy” (ver. 8). And hast not shut me up, that I should have no opening for recovering unto liberty, and be given over for ever into the power of the devil, ensnaring me with the desire of this life, and terrifying me with death. “Thou hast set my feet in a large room.” The resurrection of my Lord being known, and mine own being promised me, my love, having been brought out of the straits of fear, walks abroad in continuance, into the expanse of liberty.
10. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am troubled” (ver. 9). But what is this unlooked-for cruelty of the persecutors, striking such dread into me? “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” For I am now no more alarmed for death, but for torments and tortures. “Mine eye hath been disordered by anger.” I had mine eye upon Thee, that Thou shouldest not abandon me: Thou art angry, and hast disordered it. “My soul, and my belly.” By the same anger my soul hath been disturbed, and my memory, whereby I retained what my God hath suffered for me, and what He hath promised me.
11. “For my life hath failed in pain” (ver 10). For my life is to confess Thee, but it failed in pain, when the enemy had said, Let them be tortured until they deny Him. “And my years in groanings.” The time that I pass in this world is not taken away from me by death, but abides, and is spent in groanings. “My strength hath been weakened by want.” I want the health of this body, and racking pains come on me: I want the dissolution of the body, and death forbears to come: and in this want my confidence hath been weakened. “And my bones have been disturbed.” And my stedfastness hath been disturbed.
12. “I have been made a reproach above all mine enemies” (ver 11). All the wicked are my enemies; and nevertheless they for their wickednesses are tortured only till they confess: I then have overpassed their reproach, I, whose confession death doth not follow, but racking pains follow upon it. “And to my neighbours too much.” This hath seemed too much to them, who were already drawing near to know Thee, and to hold the faith that I hold. “And a fear to mine acquaintance.” And into my very acquaintance I struck fear by the example of my dreadful tribulation. “They that did see me, fled without from me.” Because they did not understand my inward and invisible hope, they fled from me into things outward and visible.
13. “I have been forgotten, as one dead from the heart” (ver. 12). And they have forgotten me, as if I were dead from their hearts. “I have become as a lost vessel.” I have seemed to myself to be lost to all the Lord’s service, living in this world, and gaining none, when all were afraid to join themselves unto me.
14. “For I have heard the rebuking of many dwelling by in a circuit” (ver. 13). For I have heard many rebuking me, in the pilgrimage of this world near me, following the circuit of time, and refusing to return with me to the eternal country. “Whilst they were assembling themselves together against me, they conspired that they might take my soul.” That my soul, which should by death easily escape from their power, might consent unto them, they imagined a device, whereby they would not suffer me even to die.
15. “But I have hoped in Thee, O Lord; I have said, Thou art my God” (ver. 14). For Thou hast not changed, that Thou shouldest not save, Who dost correct.
16. “In Thy hands” are “my lots” (ver. 15). In Thy power are my lots. For I see no desert for which out of the universal ungodliness of the human race Thou hast elected me particularly to salvation. And though there be with Thee some just and secret order in my election, yet I, from whom this is hid, have attained by lot unto my Lord’s vesture. “Deliver me from the hands of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.”
17. “Make Thy Face to shine upon Thy servant” (ver. 16). Make it known to men, who do not think that I belong unto Thee, that Thy Face is bent upon me, and that I serve Thee. “Save me in Thy mercy.”
18. “O Lord, let me not be confounded, for I have called upon Thee” (ver. 17). O Lord, let me not be put to shame by those who insult me, for that I have called upon Thee. “Let the ungodly be ashamed, and be brought down to hell.” Let them rather who call upon stones be ashamed, and made to dwell with darkness.
19. “Let the deceitful lips be made dumb” (ver. 18). In making known to the peoples Thy mysteries wrought in me, strike with dumb amazement the lips of them that invent falsehood of me. “Which speak iniquity against the Righteous, in pride and contempt.” Which speak iniquity against Christ, in their pride and contempt of Him as a crucified man.
20. “How great” is “the multitude of Thy sweetness, O Lord” (ver. 19). Here the Prophet exclaims, having sight of all this, and admiring how manifoldly plenteous is Thy sweetness, O Lord. “Which Thou hast hid for them that fear Thee.” Even those, whom Thou correctest, Thou lovest much: but lest they should go on negligently from relaxed security, Thou hidest from them the sweetness of Thy love, for whom it is profitable to fear Thee. “Thou hast perfected it for them that hope in Thee.” But Thou hast perfected this sweetness for them that hope in Thee. For Thou dost not withdraw from them what they look for perseveringly even unto the end. “In sight of the sons of men.” For it does not escape the notice of the sons of men, who now live no more after Adam, but after the Son of Man. “Thou wilt hide them in the hidden place of Thy Countenance:” which seat Thou shalt preserve for everlasting in the hidden place of the knowledge of Thee for them that hope in Thee. “From the troubling of men.” So that now they suffer no more trouble from men.
21. “Thou wilt protect them in Thy tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues” (ver. 20). But here meanwhile whilst evil tongues murmur against them, saying, Who hath come thence? Thou wilt protect them in the tabernacle, that of faith in those things, which the Lord wrought and endured for us in time.
22. “Blessed be the Lord; for He hath made His mercy marvellous, in the city of compassing” (ver. 21). Blessed be the Lord, for after the correction of the sharpest persecutions He hath made His mercy marvellous to all throughout the world, in the circuit of human society.
23. “I said in my ecstasy” (ver. 22). Whence that people again speaking saith, I said in my fear, when the heathen were raging horribly against me. “I have been cast forth from the sight of Thine eyes.” For if Thou hadst regard to me, Thou wouldest not suffer me to endure these things. “Therefore Thou heardest, O Lord, the voice of my prayer, when I cried unto Thee.” Therefore putting a limit to correction, and showing that I have part in Thy care, Thou heardest, O Lord, the voice of my prayer, when I raised it high out of tribulation.
24. “Love the Lord, all ye His saints” (ver. 23). The Prophet again exhorts, having sight of these things, and saith, “Love the Lord, all ye His saints; for the Lord will require truth.” Since “if the righteous shall scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and the ungodly appear?” “And He will repay them that do exceeding proudly.” And He will repay them who even when conquered are not converted, because they are very proud.
25. “Quit you like men, and let your heart be strengthened” (ver. 24): working good without fainting, that ye may reap in due season. “All ye who trust in the Lord:” that is, ye who duly fear and worship Him, trust ye in the Lord.
- Lat. XXX.
- [Borrowed from the Septuagint, where it is anticipated from ver. 22. See p. 70, infra.—C.]
- Rom. viii. 20.
- John xix. 24.
- Umbris socientur.
- [Compare Hippolytus, vol. v. p. 202, A.N.F.—C.]
- [Elsewhere St. Augustin explains the word “ecstasy” as sometimes=transport, sometimes=panic. See his sermon on this Psalm, usually following this exposition.—C.]
- 1 Pet. iv. 18.