Psalm 143:2

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 2. And enter not into judgment with thy servant. He had entreated for audience at the mercy seat, but he has no wish to appear before the judgment seat. Though clear before men, he could not claim innocence before God. Even though he knew himself to be the Lord's servant, yet he did not claim perfection, or plead merit; for even as a servant he was unprofitable. If such be the humble cry of a servant, what ought to be the pleading of a sinner? For in thy sight shall no man living be justified. None can stand before God upon the footing of the law. God's sight is piercing and discriminating; the slightest flaw is seen and judged; and therefore pretence and profession cannot avail where that glance reads all the secrets of the soul. In this verse David told out the doctrine of universal condemnation by the law long before Paul had taken his pen to write the same truth. To this day it stands true even to the same extent as in David's day: no man living even at this moment may dare to present himself for trial before the throne of the Great King on the footing of the law. This foolish age has produced specimens of n pride so rank that men have dared to claim perfection in the flesh; but these vain glorious boasters are no exception to the rule here laid down: they are but men, and poor specimens of men. When their lives are examined they are frequently found to be more faulty than the humble penitents before whom they vaunt their superiority.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 2. Enter not into judgment with thy servant. The Divine justice has just been invoked in the first verse; and now the appellant suddenly seems to deprecate it. These verses really sum up the apparent paradox of the Book of Job (see Job 4:17 9:2,32 14:3 Job 15:14 22:4, etc.). In one breath Job frequently pours forth pathetic protestations of his innocence, and a dread lest God should take him at his word, and arraign him for trial. The godly man, in his desire to have his character vindicated before man, appeals to the just Judge, but instantly falls back with a guilty sense that before his tribunal none can stand:

"For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee." --A. S. Aglen.

Verse 2. He doth not pray absolutely that God "would not enter into judgment with him", for this were to forego his government of the world; but that he would not do so on account of his own duties and obedience. But if so be these duties and obedience did answer, in any sense or way, what is required of us as a righteousness unto justification, there was no reason why he should deprecate a trial by them, or upon them. --John Owen.

Verse 2. He doth not say, "with an enemy, a rebel, a traitor, an impenitent sinner"; but "with thy servant", one that is devoted to thy fear, one that is consecrated to thy service, one that is really and indeed "wholly thine, as much and as fully as he can be." As if he had said, "Lord, if the holiest, purest, best of men should come and stand before thee in judgment, or plead with thee, they must needs be cast in their cause. `If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities,' alas! `O Lord, who shall stand?'" Ps 130:3. --Thomas Lye (1621-1684), in "The Morning Exercises."

Verse 2. Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for thou hast already entered into judgment with thy Son, and laid upon him the iniquity of us all. "Enter not into judgment with thy servant", for thy servant enters into judgment with himself; and "if we will judge ourselves we shall not be judged." --Matthew Henry.

Verse 2. Not the proudest philosopher among the Gentiles, nor the most precise Pharisee among the Jews; we may go yet further and say, not the holiest saint that ever lived, can stand righteous before that bar. God hath nailed that door up, that none can for ever enter by a law righteousness into life and happiness. This way to heaven is like the northern passage to the Indies, whoever attempts it is sure to be frozen up before he gets half way thither. --William Gurnall.

Verse 2. Enter not into judgment, etc. Some years ago I visited a poor young woman dying with consumption. She was a stranger in our town, and had been there a few weeks before, some time in her girlhood, and had attended my Sabbath school class. What did I find was her only stay, and hope, and comfort in the view of the dark valley of the shadow of death, which was drawing down upon her? One verse of a psalm she had learned at the class, and never forgot. She repeated it with clasped hands, piercing eyes, and thin voice trembling from her white lips.

"Thy servant also bring thou not
In judgment to be tried:
Because no living man can be
In thy sight justify'd."

No sinner can endure sight of thee, O God, if he tries to be self justified. --James Comper Gray, in "The Biblical Museum", 1879.

Verse 2. Enter not into judgment with thy servant. We read of a certain Dutch divine, who being to die, was full of fears and doubts. And when some said to him, "You have been so active and faithful, why should you fear?" Oh, said he, the judgment of man and the judgment of God are different. --John Trapp.

Verse 2. Enter not into judgment. A metaphor taken from the course pursued by those who seek to recover the very utmost to which they are entitled by strict legal process. Compare Job 22:4-5 . In a similar sense we are commanded to pray to God that he will forgive us our debts. --Daniel Cresswell.

Verse 2. There is probably here a tacit reference to the great transgression, the consequences of which followed David all his days. --William Walford.

Verse 2. Thy servant. A servant is one who obeys the will of another ... There were these four ways in which one might come to be a servant -- by birth, by purchase, by conquest, and by voluntary engagement. Some were servants in one of the ways, and some in another. There were servants who were born in the master's house, servants who were bought with the master's money, servants who were the captives of his sword and bow, and servants who had freely engaged themselves to do his work ... In the case of the believer there is something that is peculiar and remarkable. He is God's servant by birth. But he is more -- he is God's servant by purchase. And that is not all: he is God's servant by conquest. Yes, and by voluntary engagement too. He is the servant of God, not in some one of the four ways, but in all of them together. --Andrew Gray (1805-1861), in "Gospel Contrasts and Parallels."

Verse 2. Not only the worst of my sins, but the best of my duties speak me a child of Adam. --William Beveridge.

Verse 2. So far from being able to answer for my sins, I cannot answer even for my righteousness. --Bernard of Clairvaux, 1091-1153.

Verse 2. A young man once said to me: "I do not think I am a sinner." I asked him if he would be willing his mother or sister should know all he had done, or said, or thought, -- all his motions and all his desires. After a moment he said: "No, indeed, I should not like to have them know; no, not for the world." "Then can you dare to say, in the presence of a holy God, who knows every thought of your heart, `I do not commit sin'?" --John B. Gough, in "Sunlight and Shadow", 1881.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 2.

  1. Who he is. "Thy servant."
  2. What he knows. "In thy sight shall no man living be justified."
  3. What he asks. "Enter not into judgment."