Verse 3. What time I am afraid. David was no braggart, he does not claim never to be afraid, and he was no brutish Stoic free from fear because of the lack of tenderness. David's intelligence deprived him of the stupid heedlessness of ignorance, he saw the imminence of his peril, and was afraid. We are men, and therefore liable to overthrow; we are feeble, and therefore unable to prevent it; we are sinful men, and therefore deserving it, and for all these reasons we are afraid. But the condition of the psalmist's mind was complex -- he feared, but that fear did not fill the whole area of his mind, for he adds,
I will trust in thee. It is possible, then, for fear and faith to occupy the mind at the same moment. We are strange beings, and our experience in the divine life is stranger still. We are often in a twilight, where light and darkness are both present, and it is hard to tell which predominates. It is a blessed fear which drives us to trust. Unregenerate fear drives from God, gracious fear drives to him. If I fear man I have only to trust God, and I have the best antidote. To trust when there is no cause for fear, is but the name of faith, but to be reliant upon God when occasions for alarm are abundant and pressing, is the conquering faith of God's elect. Though the verse is in the form of a resolve, it became a fact in David's life, let us make it so in ours. Whether the fear arise from without or within, from past, present, or future, from temporals, or spirituals, from men or devils, let us maintain faith, and we shall soon recover courage.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. There is nothing like faith to help at a pinch; faith dissolves doubts as the sun drives away the mists. And that you may not be put out, know that your time for believing is always. There are times when some graces may be out of use, but there is no time wherein faith can be said to be so. Wherefore faith must be always in exercise. Faith is the eye, is the mouth, is the hand, and one of these is of use all the day long. Faith is to see, to receive, to work, or to eat; and a Christian should be seeing or receiving, or working, or feeding all day long. Let it rain, let it blow, let it thunder, let it lighten, a Christian must still believe. "At what time," said the good man, "I am afraid, I will trust in thee." John Bunyan.
Verse 3. What time I am afraid, etc. A divine spark may live in a smoke of doubts without a speedy rising into flame. When grace is at the bottom of doubting, there will be reliance on Christ and lively petitions to him. Peter's faith staggers when he began to sink, but he casts a look and sends forth a cry to his Saviour, acknowledging his sufficiency; Matthew 14:30 , "Lord, save me." Sometimes those doubtings strengthen our trust and make us take hold faster on God. Psalms 56:3 . What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. This was a fear of himself or others, rather than a jealousy of God. Had he had unworthy suspicions of him, he would not have trusted him; he would not have run for remedy to the object of his fear. The waverings where faith is, are like the tossings of a ship fast at anchor (still there is a relying upon God), not like a boat carried by the waves of the sea to be dashed against a rock. If the heart stay on Christ in the midst of those doubtings, it is not an evil heart of unbelief. Such doubtings consist with the indwelling of the Spirit, who is in the heart, to perform the office of a Comforter against such fears and to expel those thick fumes of nature. Stephen Charnock.
Verse 3. What time I am afraid, etc. I know not what to do, but I will try my old way, it is good for me to draw near still; I will do so still, as I used to do; I will cast myself down upon the free grace of Christ in the promises; I will lay the weight of my sinking spirit there, I will renew my hold, life, expectation there; this is my old path, I will never be turned or beaten out here. This Christian in his strength may challenge all the gates of hell. This was David's course ( Psalms 71:5 ), "Thou art my trust from my youth," etc. Thence was it that he could say, What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee: his shield and sword was always in his hand, therefore he could make use of it when fear and inward trouble offered themselves. Afraid! alas, who is not? but what course will you take then? Even what course you used to take, i.e., believe; use faith always; and have it now. Elias Pledger (-1676), in "Morning Exercises."
Verse 3. What time, etc. Literally, What day. As "Man daily oppresseth me" (Ps 56:1), so "Every day, when I am afraid, I trust in thee." A. R. Fausset.
Verse 3. It is a good maxim with which to go into a world of danger; a good maxim to go to sea with; a good maxim in a storm; a good maxim when in danger on the land; a good maxim when we are sick; a good maxim when we think of death and the judgment -- What time I am afraid, I WILL TRUST IN THEE. Albert Barnes.
Verse 3. I will trust in thee. Faith and fear stand together; and so fear and love. John Richardson, -1654.
Verse 3-4. Sometimes faith comes from prayer in triumph, and cries, Victoria. It gives such a being and existence to the mercy prayed for in the Christian's soul, before any likelihood of it appears to sense and reason, that the Christian can silence all his troubled thoughts with the expectation of its coming. So Hannah prayed, "and was no more sad." 1 Samuel 1:18 . Yea, it will make the Christian disburse his praises for the mercy long before it is received. Thus high faith wrought in David. At what time I am afraid, I will trust in thee, and in the next words, In God I will praise his word; that is, he would praise God for his promise before there was any performance of it in him, when it had no existence but in God's faithfulness and David's faith. This holy man had such a piercing eye of faith, that he could see the promise when he was at the lowest ebb of misery, so certain and unquestionable in the power and truth of God, that he could then praise God as if the promised mercy had been actually fulfilled to him. William Gurnall.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Robert Morrison (1782-1834), in "A Parting Memorial."
Verse 3. What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. Whensoever we are afraid of any evil, we are still to put our trust in God.