Verse 51. The proud have had me greatly in derision. Proud men never love gracious men, and as they fear them they veil their fear under a pretended contempt. In this case their hatred revealed itself in ridicule, and that ridicule was loud and long. When they wanted sport they made sport of David because he was God's servant. Men must have strange eyes to be able to see a farce in faith, and a comedy in holiness; yet it is sadly the case that men who are short of wit can generally provoke a broad grin by jesting at a saint. Conceited sinners make footballs of godly men. They call it roaring fun to caricature a faithful member of "The Holy Club"; his methods of careful living are the material for their jokes about "the Methodist"; and his hatred of sin sets their tongues wagging at long faced Puritanism, and straitlaced hypocrisy. If David was greatly derided, we may not expect to escape the scorn of the ungodly. There are hosts of proud men still upon the lace of the earth, and if they find a believer in affliction they will be mean enough and cruel enough to make jests at his expense. It is the nature of the son of the bondwoman to mock the child of the promise.
Yet have I not declined from thy law. Thus the deriders missed their aim: they laughed, but they did not win. The godly man, so far from turning aside from the right way, did not even slacken his pace, or in any sense fall off from his holy habits. Many would have declined, many have declined, but David did not do so. It is paying too much honour to fools to yield half a point to them. Their unhallowed mirth will not harm us if dogs pay no attention to it, even as the moon suffers nothing from the dogs that bay at her. God's law is our highway of peace and safety, and those who would laugh us out of it wish us no good.
From Psalms 119:61 we note that David was not overcome by the spoiling of his goods any more than by these cruel mockings. See also Psalms 119:157 , where the multitude of persecutors and enemies were baffled in their attempts to make him decline from God's ways.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 51. -- The proud have had me greatly in derision. The saints of God have complained of this in all ages: David of his busy mockers; the abjects jeered him. Job was disdained of those children whose fathers he would have scorned to set with the dogs of his flock, Job 30:1 . Joseph was nicknamed a dreamer, Paul a babbler, Christ himself a Samaritan, and with intent of disgrace a carpenter...Michal was barren, yet she hath too many children, that scorn the habit and exercises of holiness. There cannot be a greater argument of a foul soul, than the deriding of religious services. Worldly hearts can see nothing in those actions, but folly and madness; piety hath no relish, but is distasteful to their palates. --Thomas Adams.
Verse 51. -- Greatly. The word notes "continually," the Septuagint translates it by afczra, the vulgar Latin by "usque valde", and "usque longe". They derided him with all possible bitterness; and day by day they had their scoffs for him, so that it was both a grievous and a perpetual temptation. --Thomas Manton.
Verse 51. -- Derision. David tells that he had been jeered for his religion, but yet he had not been jeered out of his religion. They laughed at him for his praying and called it cant, for his seriousness and called it mopishness, for his strictness and called it needless preciseness. --Matthew Henry.
Verse 51. -- It is a great thing in a soldier to behave well under fire; but it is a greater thing for a soldier of the cross to be unflinching in the day of his trial. It does not hurt the Christian to have the dogs bark at him. --William S. Plumer.
Verse 50-51. -- The life and rigour infused into me by the promise which "quickened me," caused me "not to decline from thy law," even though "the proud did iniquitously altogether"; doing all in their power, through their jeering at me, to deter me from its observance. --Robert Bellarmine.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 51. -- The proud man's contumely, and the gracious man's constancy.
Verse 51. -- Fidelity in the face of contempt.