Verse 3. For the enemy hath persecuted my soul. He has followed me up with malicious perseverance, and has worried me as often as I have been within his reach. The attack was upon the soul or life of the Psalmist: our adversaries mean us the worst possible evil, their attacks are no child's play, they hunt for the precious life. He hath smitten my life down to the ground. The existence of David was made bitter by the cruelty of his enemy; he was as one who was hurled down and made to lie upon the ground, where he could be trampled on by his assailant. Slander has a very depressing effect upon the spirits; it is a blow which overthrows the mind as though it were knocked clown with the fist. He hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead. The enemy was not content with felling his life to the ground -- he would lay him lower still, even in the grave; and lower than that, if possible, for the enemy would shut up the saint in the darkness of hell if he could. David was driven by Saul's animosity to haunt caverns and holes, like an unquiet ghost; he wandered out by night, and lay hid by day like an uneasy spirit which had long been denied the repose of the grave. Good men began to forget him, as though he had been long dead; and bad men made ridicule of his rueful visage as though it belonged not to a living man, but was dark with the shadow of the sepulchre. Poor David! He was qualified to bless the house of the living, but he was driven to consort with the dead! Such may be our case, and yet we may be very dear to the Lord. One thing is certain, the Lord who permits us to dwell in darkness among the dead, will surely bring us into light, and cause us to dwell with those who enjoy life eternal.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. For the enemy, etc. If ever trouble be just cause for calling upon thee, how can mine be more just, when the enemy hath persecuted my soul, hath smitten my life down to the ground, and hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead? All this "the enemy" hath done unto me: but what enemy? Is it not the enemy of all mankind, who hath singled me out, as it were to a duel? And can I resist him myself alone, whom the whole army of mankind cannot? But is it not the enemy of thyself, O God, who is but my enemy because I am thy servant? And wilt thou see thy servants persecuted -- in thy cause persecuted -- and not protect them? Shall I suffer, grievously suffer, for thy sake, and wilt thou forsake me? Alas, O Lord; if they were but some light evils that are inflicted upon me I would bear them without complaining, and never make my moan to thee about them; but they are the three greatest miseries that can be thought of; the greatest persecution, the greatest overthrow, and the greatest captivity. For what persecution so grievous as to be persecuted in my soul? for he plays no less a game than for souls: he casts indeed at the body sometimes, and sometimes at goods, yet these are but the bye; the main of his aim is at the soul; for if he can otherwise win the soul he cares not much for either body or goods, but rather makes use of them to keep men in security; for whatsoever he doth, whatsoever he leaves undone, it is all done but in persecution of the soul; and he can persecute as well with prosperity as with adversity, and knows how to fit their several application. It seems as if he takes me for another Job; he sees he can do no good upon me with fawning and clawing, and therefore falls now to quarrelling and striking, and he strikes no light blows; for "he hath stricken my life down to the ground"; and lower would have struck it, if thou, God, hadst nut broken his blow. He strikes me downward, to keep me from heaven, as much as he can: and now that he sees me down, he lets not me rest so neither; but seizes upon me, and being himself the prince of darkness, hath kept me in darkness; not for a night or two, as men stay at their inn, but for a much longer time, as at their dwelling; and it is no ordinary darkness that he hath made me to dwell in, but even the darkness of dead men; and that in the highest degree, as those that have been long dead. They that have been dead but a while are yet remembered sometimes, and sometimes talked of; but they that have been long dead are as quite forgotten as if they had never been; and such, alas, am
- So long have I been made to dwell in darkness, as if I had been dead many years ago, that he that would seek to find me out must be fain to look for me amongst the tombs and monuments. Indeed, to dwell in darkness is no better than the house of death: for as long as we are in life, if we want sometimes the light of the sun, yet the light of a candle will serve to supply it; but I, alas, am kept in such darkness that neither the sunshine of thy gospel nor the lantern of thy law gives any light unto me. I cannot with confidence say, as once I did, "Thou, O Lord, shalt light my candle for me"; and as a body being dead grows cold and stiff, and is not to be bowed, so my soul with continuance in sinning is grown hardened, and, as it were, stiff in sin; that it is as hard a matter to make me flexible to any goodness as to bring a body long dead to life again. --Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 3. To dwell in darkness. To seek my safety in holes and obscure places in the wilderness. See 2 Samuel 17:16 . As those that have been long dead. That is, where I seem to be buried alive, and to have no more hopes of being restored to a happy condition in this world than those that have been long dead have of living again in it. --Thomas Fenton.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 3-6. Consider,
- The great lengths God may sometimes permit the enemy to go, Psalms 143:3 . The case of Job a good illustration.
- The deep depression of spirit he may even permit his saints to experience, Ps 143:4.
- The good things he has provided for their meditation when even at their worst, Psalms 143:5 .
- The two things his grace will never suffer to die, whose existence is a pledge of near approaching joy, --
- The thirsting after himself.
b) The practice of prayer. The whole is a good text for a lecture on the life and experience of Job. --J. F.