Verse 6. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found. If the psalmist means that on account of God's mercy others would become hopeful, his witness is true. Remarkable answers to prayer very much quicken the prayerfulness of other godly persons. Where one man finds a golden nugget others feel inclined to dig. The benefit of our experience to others should reconcile us to it. No doubt the case of David has led thousands to seek the Lord with hopeful courage who, without such an instance to cheer them, might have died in despair. Perhaps the psalmist meant for this favour or the like all godly souls would seek, and here, again, we can confirm his testimony, for all will draw near to God in the same manner as he did when godliness rules their heart. The mercy seat is the way to heaven for all who shall ever come there. There is, however, a set time for prayer, beyond which it will be unavailing; between the time of sin and the day of punishment mercy rules the hour, and God may be found, but when once the sentence has gone forth pleading will be useless, for the Lord will not be found by the condemned soul. O dear reader, slight not the accepted time, waste not the day of salvation. The godly pray while the Lord has promised to answer, the ungodly postpone their petitions till the Master of the house has risen up and shut to the door, and then their knocking is too late. What a blessing to be led to seek the Lord before the great devouring floods leap forth from their lairs, for then when they do appear we shall be safe. Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. The floods shall come, and the waves shall rage, and toss themselves like Atlantic billows; whirlpools and waterspouts shall be on every hand, but the praying man shall be at a safe distance, most surely secured from every ill. David was probably most familiar with those great land floods which fill up, with rushing torrents, the beds of rivers which at other times are almost dry: these overflowing waters often did great damage, and, as in the case of the Kishon, were sufficient to sweep away whole armies. From sudden and overwhelming disasters thus set forth in metaphor the true suppliant will certainly be held secure. He who is saved from sin has no need to fear anything else.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 1-2,6-7. See Psalms on "Psalms 32:1" for further information.
Verse 6. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found, etc. Seeing he is such a God, who should refuse or delay his return! Surely every rational and pious mind will, without delay, invoke so gentle and mild a Lord; will pray to him while he is exorable, or, as the Hebrew expresses it, in a time of finding. For he who promises pardon, does not promise tomorrow. There are tempora fandi -- certain times in which he may be spoken with, and a certain appointed day of pardon and of grace, which if a man by stupid perverseness despise, or by sloth neglect, surely he is justly overwhelmed with eternal might and misery, and must necessarily perish by the deluge of divine wrath; since he has contemned and derided that Ark of salvation which was prepared, and in which whoever enters into it shall be safe, while the world is perishing. Robert Leighton.
Verse 6. For this shall every one that is godly pray to thee, saith David. For this! What? Because of his sins. And who? Not the most wicked, but the godly, in this respect, have cause to pray. And for what should he pray? Surely, for renewed pardon, for increase of grace, and for the perfection of glory. We cannot say we have no sin. Oh, then let us pray with David, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord!" Where there is a double emphasis observable, it is not ab hoste, but a servo. Though God's servant, yet he would not have God to enter into judgment with him. And again, ne intres, it is the very entrance into judgment that he dreads, and prayeth against; not only do not proceed, but do not so much as enter. Nathanael Hardy.
Verse 6. For this shall every one that is godly. We are here furnished with a fact which does not appear in the history of David. It is commonly supposed that after his grievous fall, till Nathan reproved him, he had been careless and stupefied; and this has often been adduced as a proof of the hardening nature of sin. But the thing was far otherwise. He was all the while tortured in his mind, yet unwilling to humble himself before God, and condemn himself before men, as he ought to have done. He kept silence and endeavoured to pass off the distress by time, palliation, and excuse. But the repression and concealment of his anguish preyed not only upon his peace, but his health, and endangered life itself. At length he was reduced to the deepest penitence, and threw himself, by an unqualified confession, on the compassion of God. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee. Here we see not only that all the godly pray, but every one of them prays for pardon. This is the very thing which our Saviour teaches his disciples: "When ye pray, say, Forgive us our trespasses." And this praying does not only regard the manifestation of forgiving mercy, as some would have it, but the exercise of it. William Jay.
Verse 6. Godly. A godly man is like God, he hath the same judgment with God! he thinks of things as God doth; he hath a God like disposition; he partakes of the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4 . A godly man doth bear God's name and image: godliness is God likeness. Thomas Watson.
Verse 6. A time. There be seasons, which, if taken, sweeten actions, and open the door for their better entertainment: Proverbs 25:11 , "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver;" the Hebrew is, A word spoken upon its wheels: fit times and seasons are wheels to carry words with great advantage. And so for actions; when things are done in due time they are beautiful, acceptable. When God gives rain to a land in season, how acceptable is it! when a tree bears fruit in its season, it is grateful: so when angels or men do things seasonably, it is pleasing to the Lord Christ: there are fit times, which, if we miss, actions are unlovely, and miss of their aims. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found. There are times, if we have the wisdom to discern them, when prayer will be seasonable, acceptable, effectual. William Greenhill.
Verse 6. Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. The effects of prayer heretofore have been wonderful. Prayer hath sent down hailstones from heaven to overcome five kings with their armies. Prayer hath shut up the windows of heaven that it should not rain, and again hath opened them that the earth might give her increase. Prayer hath stayed the swift course of the sun and caused it to go backward fifteen degrees. Prayer hath held God's hands that he could not strike when he was ready to plague his people. Prayer without any other help or means hath thrown down the strong walls of Jericho. Prayer hath divided the sea that the floods thereof could not come near the Israelites. In this place it delivereth the faithful man from all the dangers of this world. Surely in the floods of many waters they shall not come nigh unto him. The sum is this, That no calamity of this world, no troubles of this life, no terrors of death, no guiltiness of sin, can be so great, but that a godly man by means of his faith and felicity in Christ shall wade out of them well enough. For howsoever other things go, still he shall have such a solace in his soul, such a comfort in his conscience, such a heaven in his heart, knowing himself reconciled to God and justified by faith, that, Surely in the floods of many waters they shall not come nigh unto him. Which, that it may better appear, I shall desire you to observe two things, the danger, the deliverance. The danger is in these words, In the floods of many waters; where the tribulations that the godly man is subject to in this life are likened, first, to waters; then to many waters; thirdly, to a flood of many waters. The deliverance is in these words, Surely they shall not come near him; where the deliverance of the godly man hath three degrees also. First, "they shall not come near;" secondly, him, "they shall not come near him;" then, surely -- "surely they shall not come near him." Thomas Playfere.
Verse 6. The floods of great waters. The afflictions of the faithful are likened to waters. Fire and water have no mercy, we say. But of the two water is the worst. For any fire may be quenched with water; but the force of water, if it begins to be violent, cannot by any power of man, be resisted. But these our tribulations which are waters are "many waters." Our common proverb is, "Seldom comes sorrow alone:" but as waters come rolling and waving many together, so the miseries of this life. Thomas Playfere.
Verse 6. Floods of great waters. Unfamiliar with the sudden flooding of thirsty water courses, we seldom comprehend the full force of the most striking images in the Old and New Testaments. W.J. Conybeare, and J.S. Howson, in "Life and Epistles of St. Paul."
Verse 6. In the floods, etc. Washed he may be, as Paul was in the shipwreck, but not drowned with those floods of great waters: be they never so great they are bounded. Joseph Trapp.
Verse 6. Him. This word must in no case be omitted; it helpeth us to answer a very strong objection. For it may be said, Many holy men have lost their goods, have suffered great torments in their body, have been troubled also in mind; how then did not the "floods of many waters" come near them? The word him helps us to answer. The very philosophers themselves reckoned their goods pertained no more to them, than, be it spoken with reverence and regard, the parings of their nails. Zenon hearing news he had lost all he had by sea, said only thus, Thou hast done very well, Fortune, to leave me nothing but my cloak. Another, called Anaxarchus, when as Nicocreon the tyrant commanded he should be beaten to death in a mortar, spake thus to the executioner, Beat and bray as long as thou wilt Anaxarchus his bag or satchel (so he called his own body), but Anaxarchus thou canst not touch. Yet these, making so small reckoning of their goods and body, set their minds notwithstanding at a high rate. The mind of a man is himself, say they. Hence it is that Julius Caesar, when Amyclas the pilot was greatly afraid of the tempest, spake to him thus: What meanest thou to fear, base fellow? dost thou not know thou carriest Caesar with thee? As if he should say, Caesar's body may well be drowned, as any other man's may; but his mind, his magnanimity, his valour, his fortitude, can never be drowned. Thus far went philosophy; but divinity goeth a degree further. For philosophy defines him, that is, a man, by his reason, and the moral virtues of the mind; but divinity defines a Christian man by his faith, and his conjunction thereby with Christ. Excellently saith Saint Austin: Whence comes it that the soul dieth? Because faith is not in it. Whence that the body dieth? Because a soul is not in it. Therefore the soul of thy soul is faith. So that if we would know what is a faithful man, we must define him, not by his natural soul, as he is reasonable, but by the soul of his soul, which is his faith. And then we easily answer the objection, that a flood may come near a faithful man's goods, near his body, near his reasonable soul; but to his faith, that is, to HIM, it can never come near. Thomas Playfere.
Verse 6. Few verses in the Psalms are harder to be understood than this: and none has given rise to more varied expositions among the commentators. For this. Some will have it: encouraged by this example, that after so foul a fall God so readily forgave. Others again: for this, namely, warned by this example, they who are holy shall make their prayers that they may not be permitted to fall as David did. Whichever be the sense, they well argue from this passage, that the state of absolute and enduring perfection is impossible to a Christian in this life. Lorinus, and Cajetan (1469-1534), quoted by Neale.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 6. The godly man's picture, drawn with a Scripture pencil. Thomas Watson.
Verse 6. The experience of one, the encouragement of all.
Verse 6. (first clause). -- The day of grace, how to improve it.
Verse 6. (whole verse). -- Pardon of sin the guarantee that other mercies shall be given.
Verse 6. (last clause). -- Imminent troubles, eminent deliverances.
Verse 6. (last clause). -- The felicity of the faithful. Thomas Playfere.