Psalm 119:78

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 78. Let the proud be ashamed. He begged that the judgments of God might no longer fall upon himself, but upon his cruel adversaries. God will not suffer those who hope in his word to be put to shame, for he reserves that reward for haughty spirits: they shall yet be overtaken with confusion, and become the subjects of contempt, while God's afflicted ones shall again lift up their heads. Shame is for the proud, for it is a shameful thing to be proud. Shame is not for the holy, for there is nothing in holiness to be ashamed of.

For they dealt perversely with me without a cause. Their malice was wanton, he had not provoked them. Falsehood was employed to forge an accusation against him; they had to bend his actions out of their true shape before they could assail his character. Evidently the Psalmist keenly felt the malice of his foes. His consciousness of innocence with regard to them created a burning sense of injustice, and he appealed to the righteous Lord to take his part and clothe his false accusers with shame. Probably he mentioned them as "the proud," because he knew that the Lord always takes vengeance on proud men, and vindicates the cause of those whom they oppress. Sometimes he mentions the proud, and sometimes the wicked, but he always means the same persons; the words are interchangeable: he who is proud is sure to be wicked, and proud persecutors are the worst of wicked men.

But I will meditate in thy precepts. He would leave the proud in God's hands, and give himself up to holy studies and contemplations. To obey the divine precepts we have need to know them, and think much of them. Hence this persecuted saint felt that meditation must be his chief employment. He would study the law of God and not the law of retaliation. The proud are not worth a thought. The worst injury they can do us is to take us away from our devotions; let us baffle them by keeping all the closer to our God when they are most malicious in their onslaughts.

In a similar position to this we have met with the proud in other octaves, and shall meet them yet again. They are evidently a great plague to the Psalmist, but he rises above them.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 78. -- Let the proud be ashamed, etc. Here is the just recompense of his pride. He would fain have honour and preeminence, but God will not give them unto him: he flies shame and contempt, but God shall pour them upon him. "For they dealt perversely with me without a cause." David complains of the wicked and false dealing of his enemies against him; and his prayer is written to uphold us in the like temptation. For Satan is alway like himself, hating them whom the Lord loveth. He can scarce be worse, lie can never be better; and therefore with restless malice stirs he up all his cursed instruments in whom he reigns, to persecute those who are loved and protected of the Lord. "But I will meditate in thy precepts." David's enemies fought against him with the weapons of the flesh, wickedness and falsehood: lie withstands them by the armour of the Spirit; not meeting wickedness with wickedness, and falsehood with falsehood. For if we fight against Satan with Satan's weapons he will soon overcome us; but if we put upon us the complete armour of God to resist him, he shall flee from us. --William Cowper.

Verse 78. -- Let the proud be ashamed. That is, that they may not prosper or succeed in their attempts; for men are ashamed when they are disappointed. All their endeavours for the extirpation of God's people are vain and fruitless, and those things which they have subtilly devised, have not that effect which they propounded unto themselves. "For they dealt perversely with me without a cause." The Septuagint have it asikwf unjustly. Ainsworth readeth, "With falsehood they have depraved me." It implies two things: first, that they pretended a cause; but, secondly, David avouches his innocency to God; and so, without any guilt of his, they accused, defamed, condemned his actions, as is usual in such cases. When the proud are troublesome and injurious to God's people the saints may boldly commend their cause to God...The Lord may be appealed unto upon a double account; partly, as he is an enemy to the proud, and as a friend to the humble ( James 4:6 Ps 138:6); partly, as he is the portion of the afflicted and oppressed ( Psalms 140:12 ). When Satan stirreth up his instruments to hate those whom the Lord loveth, the Lord will stir up his power to help and defend them. Is not this a revengeful prayer? Answer, No. First. Because those who pray it are seeking their own deliverance, that they may more freely serve God by consequence. Indeed, by God's showing mercy to his people, the pride of wicked ones is suppressed ( Psalms 119:134 ); but mercy is the main object of the prayer.

Secondly. As it concerneth his enemies, he expresses it in mild terms -- that they may "be ashamed"; that is, disappointed, in their counsels, hopes, machinations, and endeavours. And therefore it is not against the persons of his enemies, but their plots and enterprises. In such cases shame and disappointment may even do them good, They think to bring in the total suppression of God's people, but that would harden them in their sins; therefore God's people desire that he would not let their innocency be trampled upon, but disappoint their adversaries, that the proud may be ashamed in the failing of their attempts.

Thirdly. The prayers of the righteous for the overthrow of the wicked, are a kind of prophecies; so that, in praying, David doth in effect foretell, that such as dealt perversely should soon be ashamed, since a good cause will not always be oppressed: "But he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed" ( Isaiah 66:5 ).

Fourthly. Saints have a liberty to imprecate vengeance, but such as must be used sparingly and with great caution: "Let them be confounded and consumed that are adversaries to my soul" ( Psalms 71:13 ). Malicious enemies may be expressly prayed against. -- Thomas Manton.

Verse 78. -- Let the proud be ashamed. This suggests a word to the wicked. Take heed that by your implacable hatred to the truth and church of God you do not engage her prayers against you. These imprecatory prayers of the saints, when shot at the right mark, and duly put up, are murdering pieces, and strike dead where they light. "Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily." Luke 18:7-8 . They are not empty words -- as the imprecations of the wicked poured into the air, and there vanishing with their breath -- but are received into heaven, and shalt be sent back with thunder and lightning upon the pates of the wicked. David's prayer unravelled Ahithopel's fine spun policy, and twisted his halter for him. The prayers of the saints are more to be feared -- as once a great person said and felt -- than an army of twenty thousand men in the field. Esther's fast hastened Haman's ruin, and Hezekiah's against Sennacherib brought his huge host to the slaughter, and fetched an angel from heaven to do the execution in one night upon them. -- William Gumall.

Verse 78. -- The proud. The wicked, especially the persecutors of God's people, are usually characterized by this term in this psalm, "the proud" ( Psalms 119:51 Psalms 119:69 Psalms 119:122 ). Pride puts wicked men upon being troublesome and injurious to the people of God. But why are the persecutors and the injurious called "the proud"?

  1. Because wicked men shake off the yoke of God, and will not be subject to their Maker, and therefore desist not from troubling his people: "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go"? (Ex 5:2). What was in his tongue, is in all men's hearts; they contemn God and his laws. Every sin hath a degree of pride, and a deprecation of God included in it, ( 2 Samuel 12:9 ).
  2. Because they are drunk with worldly felicity, and never think of changes. "Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud" ( Psalms 123:4 ). When men go on prosperously, they are apt wrongfully to trouble others, and then to flout at them in their misery, and to despise the person and cause of God's people, which is a sure effect of great arrogancy and pride. They think they may do what they please: "They have no changes; therefore they fear not God," and put forth their hands against such as be at peace with them ( Psalms 60:19-20 ): whilst they go on prosperously and undisturbed, they cannot abstain from violence and oppression.
  3. Because they affect a life of pomp, and ease, and carnal greatness, and so despise the affliction, and meanness, and simplicity of God's people. The false church hath usually the advantage of worldly power and external glory; and the true church is known by the Divine power, gifts and graces, and the lustre of holiness.
  4. They are called "proud," because of their insolent carriage towards the Lord's people; partly in their laws and injunctions, requiring them to give them more honour, respect, and obedience, than in conscience can be afforded them; as Haman would have Mordecai to devote himself to him after the manner of the Persians ( Esther 3:5 ). --Condensed from Manton.

Verse 78. -- When any of you, says Caesarius, "is singing the verse of the Psalm where it is said, Let the proud be put to shame, let him be earnest to avoid pride, that he may escape everlasting shame." --William Kay.

Verse 78. -- But I will meditate in thy precepts. He repeateth the same thing often, and surely if the world could not contain the books that might be written of Christ, and yet for our infirmity the Lord hath comprised them in such a few books, and yet one thing in them is often repeated, it showeth that the matter is weighty, and of us duly and often to be considered. And again we are taught that this is a thing that none do so carefully look unto as they ought. And he showeth that as his enemies sought by evil means to hurt him; so he sought to keep a good conscience, that so they might not hurt him. Then we must not set policy against policy nor cretizare rum Cretensibus; but let us always tend to the word, and keep within the bounds of that, and fight with the weapons that it lendeth us...If we would give over ourselves to God and his word, and admit nothing but that which agreeth to the word, then should we be made wiser than our enemies. --Richard Greenham.

Verse 78. -- I will meditate in thy precepts. The verb tyfa, asiach, in the second clause of the verse, may be rendered, "I will speak of," as well as, "I will reiterate upon"; implying, that, when he had obtained the victory, he would proclaim the goodness of God, which he had experienced. To speak of God's statutes, is equivalent to declaring out of the law how faithfully he guards his saints, how securely he delivers them, and how righteously he avenges their wrongs. --John Calvin.

Verse 78. -- Meditate. Truths lie hid in the heart without efficacy or power, till improved by deep, serious, and pressing thoughts...A sudden carrying a candle through a room, giveth us not so full a survey of the object, as when you stand a while beholding it. A steady contemplation is a great advantage. --Thomas Manton.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 78. --

  1. A hard thing -- to make the proud ashamed.
  2. A cruel thing -- "they dealt perversely with me," etc.
  3. A wise thing -- "but I will meditate," etc.