Verse 53. Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law. He was horrified at their action, at the pride which led them to it, and at the punishment which would be sure to fall upon them for it. When he thought upon the ancient judgments of God he was filled with terror at the fate of the godless; as well he might be. Their laughter had not distressed him, but he was distressed by a foresight of their overthrow. Truths which were amusement to them caused amazement to him. He saw them utterly turning away from the law of God, and leaving it as a path forsaken and over grown from want of traffic, and this forsaking of the law filled him with the most painful emotions: he was astonished at their wickedness, stunned by their presumption, alarmed by the expectation of their sudden overthrow, amazed by the terror of their certain doom.
See Psalms 119:106 Psalms 119:158 , and note the tenderness which combined with all this. Those who are the firmest believers in the eternal punishment of the wicked are the most grieved at their doom. It is no proof of tenderness to shut one's eyes to the awful doom of the ungodly. Compassion is far better shown in trying to save sinners than in trying to make things pleasant all round. Oh that we were all more distressed as we think of the portion of the ungodly in the lake of fire! The popular plan is to shut your eyes and forget all about it, or pretend to doubt it; but this is not the way of the faithful servant of God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 53. -- Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked. I have had clear views of eternity; have seen the blessedness of the godly, in some measure; and have longed to share their happy state; as well as been comfortably satisfied that through grace I shall do so; but, oh, what anguish is raised in my mind, to think of an eternity for those who are without Christ, for those who are mistaken, and who bring their false hopes to the grave with them! The sight was so dreadful I could by no means bear it: my thoughts recoiled, and I said, (under a more affecting sense than ever before,) "Who can dwell with everlasting burnings?" --David Brainerd, 1718-1747.
Verse 53. -- Horror hath taken hold upon me, etc. Oh who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable; for who knows the power of God's anger?
How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell! --Jonathan Edwards, in a Sermon entitled, "Sinners in the Hands of an angry God."
Verse 53. -- Horror. hp[lz, zilaphah, properly signifies the pestilential burning wind called by the Arabs simoon (see Psalms 11:6 ); and is here used in a figurative sense for the most horrid mental distress; and strongly marks the idea the Psalmist had of the corrupting, pestilential, and destructive nature of sin. --Note in Bagster's Comprehensive Bible.
Verse 53. -- Horror. The word for "horror" signifieth also a tempest or storm. Translations vary; some read it, as Junius, "a storm overtaking one"; Ainsworth, "a burning horror hath seized me," and expounds it a storm of terror and dismay. The Septuagint, aqnmia katece me, "faintness and dejection of mind hath possessed me"; our own translation, "I am horribly afraid"; all translations, as well as the original word, imply a great trouble of mind, and a vehement commotion; like a storm, it was matter of disquiet and trembling to David. --Thomas Manton.
Verse 53. -- Because of the wicked that forsake thy law. David grieved, not because he was himself attacked; but because the law of God was forsaken; and he bewailed the condemnation of those who so did, because they are lost to God. Just as a good father in the madness of his son, when he is ill used by him, mourns not his own but the misery of the diseased; and he grieves at the contumely, not because it is cast on himself, but because the diseased person knows not what he does in his madness: so a good man, when he sees a sinner neither reverence nor honour the grey hairs of a parent, that to his face he can insult him, that he does not know in the madness of sinning what unbecoming and shameful things he does, grieves for him as one on the point of death, laments him as one despaired of by the physicians. As a good physician in the first place advises, then, even if he receive hard words, though he be beaten, nevertheless as the man is ill he bears with him; and if he be cursed he does not leave; and any medicine that may be applied he does not refuse; nor does he go away as from a stubborn fellow, but strives with all diligence to heal him as one that has deserved well from him, exercising not only the skill of science but also benignity of disposition. Even so, a righteous man, when he is treated with contempt, does not turn away, but when he is calumniated he regards it as madness, not as depravity; and desires rather to apply his own remedy to the wound, and sympathises, and grieves not for himself but for him who labours under an incurable disease. --Ambrose.
Verse 53. -- The wicked that forsake thy law; not only transgress the law of the Lord, as every man does, more or less; but wilfully and obstinately despise it, and cast it behind their backs, and live in a continued course of disobedience to it; or who apostatize from the doctrine of the word of God; wilfully deny the truth, after they have had a speculation knowledge of it, whose punishment is very grievous ( Hebrews 10:26-29 ); and now partly because of the daring impiety of wicked men, who stretch out their hands against God, and strengthen themselves against the Almighty, and run upon him, even on the thick bosses of his bucklers: because of the shocking nature of their sin, the sad examples thereby set to others, the detriment they are to themselves, and the dishonour they bring to God I and partly because of the dreadful punishment that shall be inflicted on them here, and especially hereafter, when a horrible tempest of wrath will come upon them. Hence such trembling seized the Psalmist: and often so it is, that good men tremble more for the wicked than they do for themselves: see Psalms 119:120 . --John Gill.
Verse 54. -- Thy statutes have been my songs. The Psalmist rejoiced, doubtless, as the good do now,
- In law itself; law, as a rule of order; law, as a guide of conduct; law, as a security for safety.
- In such a law as that of God: -- so pure, so holy, so fitted to promote the happiness of man.
- In the stability of that law, as constituting his own personal security, the ground of his hope.
- In law in its influence on the universe, preserving order and securing harmony, -- Albert Barnes.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 53. -- The sensations of godly men at the sight of sinners: horror at their crime, their perseverance in it, their rejection of grace, and their end.
Verse 53. -- Horror stricken.
- The guilt and danger of impenitent sinners.
- The horror and concern of godly spectators.
- The prayer and labour which such concern should dictate, --G.A.D.