Verse 23. I was also upright before him. Sincerity is here claimed; sincerity, such as would be accounted genuine before the bar of God. Whatever evil men might think of him, David felt that he had the good opinion of his God. Moreover, freedom from his one great besetting sin he ventures also to plead,
I kept myself from mine iniquity. It is a very gracious sign when the most violent parts of our nature have been well guarded. If the weakest link in the chain is not broken, the stronger links will be safe enough. David's impetuous temper might have led him to slay Saul when he had him within his power, but grace enabled him to keep his hands clean of the blood of his enemy; but what a wonder it was, and how well worthy of such a grateful record as these verses afford! It will be a sweet cordial to us one of these days to remember our self denials, and to bless God that we were able to exhibit them.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 22-23. See Psalms on "Psalms 18:22" for further information.
Verse 23. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity. He who says, "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart;" and who by the apostle in the tenth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, is identified with Jesus Christ, says also ( Hebrews 10:12 ), "innumerable evils have compassed me about; mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up: they are more than the hairs of mine head; therefore mine heart faileth me;" and in Psalms 41:9 , "He whose familiar friend, to whom he had committed a trust, who ate of his bread, lifted up his heel against him," whom our Lord in the thirteenth chapter of the gospel of John identifies with himself, says ( John 13:4 ), "Lord, be merciful to me: heal my soul, for I have sinned;" I am guilty "before thee." The difficulty is removed by the undoubtedly true principle -- the principle which, above all others, gives Christianity its peculiar character -- "He who knew no sin, was made sin;" "On his righteous servant, Jehovah made to fall the iniquities of us all." In this sense, "innumerable iniquities compassed him," the iniquities made to fall on him -- made "his" as to their liabilities -- by divine appointment laid hold of him. In the sense of culpa -- blame worthiness -- he had no sin. In the sense of reatus -- liability to the penal effects of sin -- never had any one so much sin to bear as he -- "He bore the sins of many." John Brown.
Verse 23. I was upright before him. Hence observe: -- first, that a godly man may have his heart upright and perfect even in the imperfection of his ways. Secondly, a man that is sincere is in God's account a perfect man: sincerity is the truth of all grace, the highest pitch that is to be attained here. Thirdly, sincerity of heart gives a man boldness even in the presence of God, notwithstanding many failings. The Lord doth "charge his angels with folly," how much more man that "dwells in a house of clay"? Job 4:18-19 . David, whose faith failed, and who had said, "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul," and whose tongue had faltered also to Abimelech, the priest; three or four several lies he had told; yet David can say to God, that he was perfect with him for all that. It is a strange boldness that the saints have in the presence of God by virtue of the new covenant. All their sins shall be laid open at the last day as a cancelled bond, that they wonder how they shall look upon them and not blush; but the same spirit of sonship that shall give them perfect boldness then, doth give them boldness in a great measure even now in this life; that they shall be able to say, "Neither height not depth," etc., nothing "shall separate us from the love of Christ." William Strong.
Verse 23. I was upright. etc. An upright Christian will not allow himself in any known sin; he dares not touch the forbidden fruit. Genesis 39:9 . "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" Though it be a complexion sin, he disinherits it. There is no man but doth propend and incline more to one sin than another; as in the body there is one humour predominant, or as in the hive there is one master bee; so in the heart there is one master sin; there is one sin which is not only near to a man as the garment, but dear to him as the right eye. This sin is Satan's fort royal, all his strength lies here; and though we beat down his out works, gross sin, yet if we let him hold this fort of complexion sin, it is as much as he desires. The devil can hold a man as fast by this one link, as by a whole chain of vices. The fowler hath the bird fast enough by one wing. Now, an upright Christian will not indulge himself in this complexion sin: I was upright before him, and kept myself from mine iniquity. An upright Christian takes the sacrificing knife of mortification, and runs it through his dearest sin. Herod did many things, but there was one sin so dear to him, that he would sooner behead the prophet, than behead that sin. Herod would have a gap for his incest. An upright heart is not only angry with sin (which may admit of reconciliation), but hates sin; and if he sees this serpent creeping into his bosom, the nearer it is the more he hates it. Thomas Watson.
Verse 23. I kept myself. Keep himself! Who made man his own keeper! It's the Lord that is his keeper: he is the keeper of Israel, and the preserver of man. If a man cannot keep himself from sorrow, how is he able to keep himself from sin? God indeed in our first conversion works upon us as he did upon the earth, or Adam's body in paradise, before he breathed a soul into it, and made it a living creature; such a power as Christ put forth on Lazarus in his grave, for we are "dead in trespasses and sins;" but yet being living he must walk and act of himself, the Lord will have us to cooperate together with him, for we are built upon Christ, not as dead, but as "living stones." 1 Peter 2:5 . The grace whereby we are made alive is his, and the power is his; and yet by his grace we do it also; ille facit ut nos faciamus, quae praecepit (Augustine). William Strong.
Verse 23. I kept myself from mine iniquity. It is possible to keep ourselves from such sins as David did; who professes here of himself great sincerity, that he had kept himself from that iniquity to which he was strongly tempted, and which he was prone to fall into. The method which holy David made use of gives us the first and the best direction; and that is, by constant and fervent prayer to implore the divine aid and the continual assistance of his Holy Spirit, that God would not only keep us from falling into them, but even turn our hearts from inclining to them, and help us to see our folly and our danger. For alas! we are not able of ourselves to help ourselves, not so much as to think a good thought, much less to resist an evil inclination, or a strong temptation; but "our sufficiency is of God:" "It is God (says the psalmist here), that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect:" Psalms 18:32 ... Next, that we take care to avoid such things and decline such occasions as are most likely to snare us and gain upon us, lest one thing hook in another, and we be caught in the gin before we suspect the danger. Henry Dove, 1690.
Verse 23. Mine iniquity. A man's darling sin may change with the change of a man's condition, and some occasion that may present itself. What was Saul's and Jehu's sin before they came into the crown we know not; but surely it was wherein their lust did afterwards run out -- the establishing a kingdom upon their posterity. Wantonness may be the darling of a man's youth, and worldliness the darling of his age; and a man's being raised unto honour, and having the opportunities that he had not in times past, the lust may run in another channel, he having now such an opportunity as before he never expected. William Strong.
Verse 23. Mine iniquity. There is some particular sin to which one is more prone than to another, of which he may say by way of emphasis, it is "mine iniquity," at which he may point with his finger, and say, "That's it."...There are more temptations to some sins than others, from the different professions or courses of life men take upon themselves. If they follow the court I need not tell you what temptations and snares there are to divers sins, and what danger there is of falling into them, unless your vows for virtue, and a tender regard to the honour which cometh of God only, keep you upright. If they be listed in the camp, that tempts them to rapine and violence, neglect of God's worship, and profaneness. If they exercise trading and merchandise, they meet with greater enticements to lying and cozening, over reaching, and unjust dealing; and the mystery of some trades, as bad men manage them, is a downright "mystery of iniquity." If husbandry, to anxiety about the things of the world, a distrust of God's providence, or murmuring against it. Nay, I could wish in the most sacred profession of all there might be an exception made in this particular; but Paul tells us that even in his days "some preached Christ even of envy and strife," some for filthy lucre only, as well as "some of good will." Philippians 1:15 . Henry Dove.
Verse 23. Mine iniquity. The actual reign of sin is commonly of some particular master lust, which is as the viceroy over all the rest of the sins in the soul, and commands them all as lord paramount, and makes them all subservient and subordinate unto it; and this is according to custom, calling, constitution, abilities, relations, and according to the different administrations of the Spirit of God; for though God be not the author of sin, yet he is the orderer of sin. So that it is that way of sin and death that a man chooseth to himself, he having looked abroad upon all the contentments of the world, his own corrupt inclination doth choose unto himself to follow with greatest sweetness and contentment and delight, as that wherein the happiness of his life consists; that as in the body there is in every one some predominant humour, so there is in the body of sin also; that as the natural man, though there be all the faculties, yet some faculties are in some more lively and vigorous than in others, some are more witty, some are more strong, some quick of sight, some have a ready ear, and others a nimble tongue, etc. So it is in the old man also; there is all the power of sin in an unregenerate man, but in some more dexterous one way than another; as men in the choice of calling, some have a greater inclination to one thing than to another, so it is in the choice of contentments also: as in the appetite for food, so it is in lust, being nothing else but the appetite of the creature corrupted to some sinful object. William Strong.
Verse 23. Growth in mortification... Men may deceive themselves when they estimate their progress herein by having overcome such lusts as their natures are not so prone unto. The surest way is to take a judgment of it from the decay of a man's bosom sin, even as David did estimate his uprightness by his keeping himself from his iniquity; so a man of his growth in uprightness. When physicians would judge of a consumption of the whole, they do it not by the falling away of any part whatever, as of the flesh in the face alone, or any the like; such a particular abatement of flesh in some one part may come from some other cause; but they use to judge by the falling away of the brawn of the hands, or arms and thighs, etc., for these are the more solid parts. The like judgments do physicians make upon other diseases, and of the abatement of them from the decrease in such symptoms as are pathognomical, and proper, and peculiar to them. In like manner also the estimate of the progress of the victories of a conqueror in an enemy's kingdom is not taken from the taking or burning of a few villages or dorps, but by taking the forts and strongest holds, and by what ground he hath won upon the chief strength, and by what forces he hath cut off of the main army. Do the like in the decrease of, and victory over, your lusts. Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 23. We must remember always that though the grace of God prevents us, that we may have a good will, and works in us when we have it, that so we may find success; yet in vain do we expect the continuance of his help without diligent endeavours. Whilst he assists our weakness, he does not intend to encourage our laziness, and therefore we are also "to labour, and strive according to his working, which worketh in us mightily," as the apostle expresses it, Colossians 1:29 . Henry Dove.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 23. The upright heart and its darling sin. W. Strong's Sermons.
Verse 23. Peccata in deliciis; a discourse of bosom sins. P. Newcome.
Verse 23. The sure trial of uprightness. Dr. Bates.