Verse 5. As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. Two kinds of men are always to be found, the upright and the men of crooked ways. Alas, there are some who pass from one class to another, not by a happy conversion, turning from the twisting lanes of deceit into the highway of truth, but by an unhappy declension leaving the main road of honesty and holiness for the bypaths of wickedness. Such apostates have been seen in all ages, and David knew enough of them; he could never forget Saul, and Ahithophel, and others. How sad that men who once walked in the right way should turn aside from it! Observe the course of the false hearted: first, they look out for crooked ways; next, they choose them and make them "their crooked ways"; and then they turn aside into them. They never intend to go back unto perdition, but only to make a curve and drop into the right road again. The straight way becomes a little difficult, and so they make a circumbendibus, which all along aims at coming out right, though it may a little deviate from precision. These people are neither upright in heart, nor good, nor trusters in Jehovah, and therefore the Lord will deal otherwise with them than with his own people: when execution day comes these hypocrites and time servers shall be led out to the same gallows as the openly wicked. All sin will one day be expelled the universe, even as criminals condemned to die are led out of the city; then shall secret traitors find themselves ejected with open rebels. Divine truth will unveil their hidden pursuits, and lead them forth, and to the surprise of many they shall be set in the same rank with those who avowedly wrought iniquity.
But peace shall be upon Israel. In fact the execution of the deceivers shall tend to give the true Israel peace. When God is smiting the unfaithful not a blow shall fall upon the faithful. The chosen of the Lord shall not only be like Salem, but they shall have salem, or peace. Like a prince, Israel has prevailed with God, and therefore he need not fear the face of man; his wrestlings are over, the blessing of peace has been pronounced upon him. He who has peace with God may enjoy peace concerning all things. Bind the first and last verses together: Israel trusts in the Lord Psalms 125:1 , and Israel has peace Psalms 125:5 .
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 5. Such as turn aside unto their crooked ways. This is the anxiety of the pastor in this pilgrim song. The shepherd would keep his sheep from straggling. His distress is that all in Israel are not true Israelites. Two sorts of people, described by the poet, have ever been in the church. The second class, instead of being at the trouble to "withstand in the evil day", will "put forth their hands unto iniquity". Rather than feel, they will follow the rod of the wicked. They will "turn aside unto their crooked ways", sooner than risk temporal and material interests. --Edward Jewitt Robinson, in "The Caravan and the Temple", 1878.
Verse 5. Such as turn aside unto their crooked ways. All the ways of sin are called "crooked ways", and they are our own ways. The Psalmist calls them "their crooked ways"; that is, the ways of their own devising; whereas the way of holiness is the Lord's way. To exceed or do more; to be deficient or do less, than God requires, both these are "crooked ways". The way of the Lord lies straight forward, right before us. "Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved; but he that is perverse (or crooked) in his ways shall fall at once": Proverbs 28:18 . The motion of a godly man is like that of the kine that carried the ark: "Who took the straight way to the way of Bethshemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left": 1 Samuel 6:12 . --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 5. Crooked ways. The ways of sinners are "crooked"; they shift from one pursuit to another, and turn hither and thither to deceive; they wind about a thousand ways to conceal their base intentions, to accomplish their iniquitous projects, or to escape the punishment of their crimes; yet disappointment, detection, confusion, and misery, are their inevitable portion. --Thomas Scott, 1747-1821.
Verse 5. The LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. They walked according to the prince of the air, and they shall go where the prince of the air is. God will bring forth men from their hiding places. Though they walk among the drove of his children, in procession now, yet if they also walk in by lanes of sin, God will rank them at the latter day, yea, often in this world, with the workers of iniquity. They walk after workers of iniquity here before God, and God will make manifest that it is so before he hath done with them. The reason, my brethren, why they are to be reckoned among workers of iniquity, and as walkers among them, though they sever themselves from them in respect of external conversation, is, because they agree in the same internal principle of sin. They walk in their lusts: every unregenerate man doth so. Refine him how you will, it is certain he doth in heart pursue "crooked ways." -- Thomas Goodwin, 1600-1679.
Verse 5. Sometimes God takes away a barren professor by permitting him to fall into open profaneness. There is one that hath taken up a profession of the worthy name of the Lord Jesus Christ, but this profession is only a cloak; he secretly practises wickedness; he is a glutton, or a drunkard, or covetous, or unclean. Well, saith God, I will loose the reins of this professor, I will give him up to his vile affections. I will loose the reins of his sins before him, he shall be entangled with his filthy lusts, he shall be overcome of ungodly company. Thus they that turn aside to their own crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. --John Bunyan, 1628-1688.
Verse 5. But peace shall be upon Israel. Do you ask, What is the peace upon Israel? I answer: -- First, the peace of Israel, that is, of a believing and holy soul, is from above, and is higher than all the disturbances of the world; it rests upon him, and makes him calm and peaceful, and lifts him above the world: for upon him rests the Holy Spirit, who is the Comforter; who is essential love and uncreated peace. Secondly, the peace of a believing and holy soul is internal for it is sent down from heaven upon his head, flows into his heart, and dwells there, and stills all agitations of mind. Thirdly, the peace of a believing and holy soul, is also external. It is a fountain of Paradise watering all the face of the earth: Genesis 2:6 : you see it in the man's face and life. Fourthly, the peace of a believing and holy soul is divine: for chiefly, it maintains peace with God. Fifthly, the peace of a believing and holy soul is universal: to wit, with neighbours, with God, with himself: in the body, in the eyes, in the cars, in tasting, smelling, feeling, in all the members, and in all the appetites. This peace is not disturbed by devils, the world, and the flesh, setting forth their honours, riches, pleasures. Sixthly, the peace of a believing and holy soul is peace eternal and never interrupted; for it flows from an eternal and exhaustless fountain, even from God himself. -- Condensed from Le Blanc, 1599-1669.
Verse 5. Israel. The Israelites derived their joint names from the two chief parts of religion: Israelites, from Israel, whose prayer was his "strength" ( Hosea 12:3 ), and Jews, from Judah, whose name means "praise." --George Seaton Bowes, in "Illustrative Gatherings", 1869.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 5. Temporary Professors.
- The crucial test: "They turn aside."
- The crooked policy: they make crooked ways their own.
- The crushing doom: "led forth with workers of iniquity."
Verse 5. Hypocrites.
- Their ways: "crooked."
- Like the way of a winding stream, seeking out the fair level, or the easy descent.
- Like the course of a tacking ship, which skilfully makes every wind to drive her forward.
- Ways constructed upon no principle but that of pure selfishness.
- Their conduct under trial. They "turn aside."
- From their religious profession.
- From their former companions.
- To become the worst scorners of spiritual things, and the most violent calumniators of spiritually minded men.
- Their doom: "The Lord shall", etc.
- In the judgment they shall be classed with the most flagrant of sinners; "with the workers of iniquity."
- They shall be exposed by an irresistible power: "The Lord shall lead them forth."
- They shall meet with terrible execution with the wicked in hell. --J. Field.
Verse 5. (last clause). To whom peace belongs. To "Israel"; the chosen, the once wrestler, the now prevailing prince. Consider Jacob's life after he obtained the name of Israel; note his trials, and his security under them as illustrating this text. Then take the text as a sure promise.
Verse 5. (last clause). Enquire,
- Who are the Israel?
- Converted ones.
- Circumcised in heart.
- True worshippers.
- What is the peace?
- Peace of conscience.
- Of friendship with God.
- Of a settled and satisfied heart.
- Of eternal glory, in reversion.
- Why the certainty ("shall be")?
- Christ has made peace for them.
- The Holy Spirit brings peace to them.
- They walk in the way of peace.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE 125 PSALM. IN SPURGEON'S DAY
For lists of Works upon the Psalms of Degrees, see note for Psalm 120.