The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts.
The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.
The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts.

Precarious health, or familiarity with dangers, may give peculiar emphasis to the phrase—My soul is continually in my hand. David, in his early public life, was in constant apprehension from the open violence and the secret machinations of his bitter enemy. Hunted down "as a partridge in the mountains," and often scarcely escaping the snare which the wicked laid for him; at one time he could not but acknowledge, "there is but a step between me and death;" at another time he was tempted to say, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul." Subsequently the hand of his own son was aimed at his throne and his life. Yet could no peril shake his undaunted adherence to the law and precepts of God.

What was the life of Jesus upon earth? Through the enmity of foes—various, opposite, yet combined—his soul was continually in his hand. Yet how wonderful was his calmness and serenity of mind, when surrounded by them all, like "lions" in power, "dogs" in cruelty, wolves in malice! A measure of this spirit belongs to every faithful disciple—not natural courage, but "the spirit of power," as the gift of God, enabling him in the path of the precepts "to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

Let us again mark this confidence, illustrated in the open trials of the servants of God. Mark the Apostle, when "the Holy Spirit witnessed to him in every city, that bonds and imprisonment awaited him. None of these things"—said he, "move me. I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." He could look "tribulation, or persecution, or peril, or sword," in the face; and, while he carried his soul continually in his hand, in true Christian heroism, in the most exalted triumph of faith, he could say in the name of himself and his companions in tribulation, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors." Nothing could make him flinch. Nothing could turn him back. Nothing could wring the love of the service of his God out of his heart. His principle was found invincible in the hour of trial—not, however, as a native energy of his heart, but "through Him that loved him." Did he not speak and live in the spirit of this fearless confidence—Yet do I not forget Your law? Daniel's history again shows the utter impotency of secret devices to produce apostasy in the children of God. When the wicked, after many an ineffectual attempt to "find occasion or fault," were driven to lay a snare for him in "the law of his God," this noble confessor of the faith continued to "kneel upon his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he did afore-time." The den of lions was far less fearful in his eyes than one devious step from the straight and narrow path. Sin was dreaded as worse than a thousand deaths. He surely then could have said—Yet I erred not from Your precepts.

But how striking must it have been to David, in his imminent peril, to have seen the "counsel of Ahithophel"—regarded as oracular, when employed in the cause of God—now, when directed against the church, "turned to foolishness!"—an instance, only "one of a thousand," of the ever-watchful keeping of the Great Head and Guardian of His Church. Thus does He over-rule the devices of the enemy for the establishment of His people's dependence upon Himself. "The wrath of man praises Him," and He "takes the wise in his own craftiness."

But the day of difficulty is a "perilous time" in the church. "Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried." Have we been able to sustain the shock in a steady adherence to the law and precepts of God? This is indeed the time, when genuine faith will be found of inestimable value. In such a time, David experienced the present blessing of having chosen the Lord for his God. When clouds began to gather blackness, and surrounding circumstances to the eye of sense engendered despondency—faith realized All-sufficient support; and "David encouraged himself in the Lord his God." And is not David's God "our God, the health of our countenance," the guide of our path, the God of our salvation? Oh, let us not rest, until his confidence becomes ours, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in You."

But the cross, which proves and establishes the Christian, sifts the unsound professor as chaff. Nothing but this solid principle of faith can resist either the persecution or the snare. Many desire conformity to Christ and His people in everything but in their cross. They would attain their honor without the steps that led them to it. Dread this flinching spirit. Reject it—as did our Lord—with indignation. It "savors not of God." It is the voice of Satan, who would promise a pillow of carnal ease under our heads—a path of roses under our feet—but a path of slumber, of delusion, and of ruin.

The time of special need is at hand with us all, when we shall need substance and reality for our support—the true confidence of a living faith. Those who have never felt the nearness of eternity, can have but a faint idea of what we shall need in the hour when "flesh and heart fail," to fix a sure unshaken foot upon "the Rock of ages." "Watch, therefore," for you know not how soon you may be ready to say, My soul is in my hand, quivering on the eve of departure to the Judge. "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning! and you yourselves like men that wait for the Lord, when He will return from the wedding; that when He comes and knocks, they may open unto Him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when He comes, shall find watching; verily I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them."

"The wicked have laid a snare for me." Spiritual life is the scene of constant danger: the believer lives with his life in his hand, and meanwhile all seem plotting to take it from him, by cunning if they cannot by violence. We shall not find it an easy thing to live the life of the faithful. Wicked spirits and wicked men will leave no stone unturned for our destruction. When all other devices fail, and even hidden pits do not succeed, the wicked still persevere in their treacherous endeavors, and, becoming craftier still, they set snares for the victim of their hate. The smaller species of game are usually taken by this method, by gin, or trap, or net, or noose. Wicked men are quite indifferent as to the manner in which they can destroy the good man; they think no more of him than if he were a rabbit or a rat Cunning and treachery are always the allies of malice, and everything like a generous or chivalrous feeling is unknown among the graceless, who treat the godly as if they were vermin to be exterminated. When a man knows that he is thus assailed, he is too apt to become timorous, and rush upon some hasty device for deliverance, not without sin in the endeavor; but David calmly kept his way, and was able to write, "Yet I erred not from your precepts." He was not snared, for he kept his eyes open, and kept near his God. He was not entrapped and robbed, for he followed the King's highway of holiness, where God secures safety to every traveler. He did not err from the right, and he was not deterred from following it, because he referred to the Lord for guidance, and obtained it. If we err from the precepts, we part with the promises; if we get away from God's presence, we wander into the wilds where the fowlers freely spread their nets. From this verse let us learn to be on our guard, for we, too, have enemies both crafty and wicked. Hunters set their traps in the animals' usual runs, and our worst snares are laid in our own ways. By keeping to the ways of the Lord we shall escape the snares of our adversaries, for his ways are safe and free from treachery.