Verse 5. Oppressors have it not all their own way, they have their fits of trembling and their appointed seasons of overthrow. There -- where they denied God and hectored against his people; there -- where they thought of peace and safety, they were made to quail.
There were they -- these very loud mouthed, iron handed, proud hearted Nimrods and Herods, those heady, high minded sinners -- there were they in great fear. A panic terror seized them: "they feared a fear," as the Hebrew puts it; an undefinable, horrible, mysterious dread crept over them. The most hardened of men have their periods when conscience casts them into a cold sweat of alarm. As cowards are cruel, so all cruel men are at heart cowards. The ghost of past sin is a terrible spectre to haunt any man, and though unbelievers may boast as loudly as they will, a sound is in their ears which makes them ill at ease.
For God is in the generation of the righteous. This makes the company of godly men so irksome to the wicked because they perceive that God is with them. Shut their eyes as they may, they cannot but perceive the image of God in the character of his truly gracious people, nor can they fail to see that he works for their deliverance. Like Haman, they instinctively feel a trembling when they see God's Mordecais. Even though the saint may be in a mean position, mourning at the gate where the persecutor rejoices in state, the sinner feels the influence of the believer's true nobility and quails before it, for God is there. Let scoffers beware, for they persecute the Lord Jesus when they molest his people; the union is very close between God and his people, it amounts to a mysterious indwelling, for God is in the generation of the righteous.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 5. There were they in great fear. That we may not mistake the meaning of the point, we must understand that this faintheartedness and cowardliness doth not always come upon presumptuous sinners when they behold imminent dangers, for though none of them have true courage and fortitude, yet many of them have a kind of desperate stoutness and resolution when they do, as it were, see death present before their faces; which proceedeth from a kind of deadness, that is upon their hearts, and a brawniness that hath overgrown their consciences to their greater condemnation. But when it pleaseth the Lord to waken them out of the dead slumber, and to set the worm of conscience work within them, then this doctrine holdeth true without any exception, that the boldest sinners prove at length the basest cowards: and they that have been most audacious in adventuring upon the most mischievous evils, do become of all others most timorous when God's revenging hand seizes upon them for the same. John Dod, 1547- 1645.
Verse 5. God is in the generation of the righteous; that is, he favours that generation or sort of men; God is in all generations, but such he delights in most: the wicked have cause enough to fear those in whom God delights. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 5. The King of Glory cannot come into the heart (as he is said to come into the hearts of his people as such; Psalms 24:9-10 ), but some glory of himself will appear; and as God doth accompany the word with majesty because it is his word, so he doth accompany his own children, and their ways, with majesty, yea, even in their greatest debasements. As when Stephen was brought before the council, as a prisoner at the bar for his life, then God manifested his presence to him, for it is said, "His face shone as the face of an angel of God" ( Acts 6:15 ); in a proportionable manner it is ordinarily true what Solomon says of all righteous men, "A man's wisdom makes his face to shine." Ecclesiastes 8:1 . Thus Peter also speaks ( 1 Peter 4:14 ): "If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you, for the Spirit," not only of God, or of grace, but "of glory, resteth upon you." And so in the martyrs; their innocency, and carriage, and godly behaviour, what majesty had it with it! What an amiableness in the sight of the people, which daunted, dashed, and confounded their most wretched oppressors; so that although the wicked persecutors did eat up God's people as bread ( Psalms 14:4 ), yet it is added that they were in great fear upon this very account, that God is in the generation of the just. God stands, as it were, astonished at their dealings: Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge, (so in the words afore) that they eat up my people as bread, and make no more ado of it that a man doth that heartily eats of his meat? They seem to do thus, they would carry it and bear it out; but for all that they are in great fear whilst they do thus, and God strikes their hearts with terror when they most insult. Why? For, God is in the generation of, or dwelleth in the just, and God gives often some glimmerings, hints, and warnings to the wicked (such as Pilate had concerning Christ), that his people are righteous. And this you may see in Philippians 1:28 : "And in nothing terrified by your adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God." In that latter passage, I observe that an assurance of salvation, and a spirit of terror, and that of God, is given either. In the Old Testament it is recorded of David (1Sa 18:12), that although Saul hated him ( 1 Samuel 18:9 ), and sought to destroy him ( 1 Samuel 18:10-11 ), "yet Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, and was departed from Saul;" which is the reason in hand. God manifested his presence in David, and struck Saul's conscience with his godly and wise carriage, and that made him afraid. Thomas Goodwin.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 5. The foolish fears of those who have no fear of God.
Verse 5. The Lord's nearness to the righteous, its consequences to the persecutor, and its encouragement to saints.