The prophecy with which God Himself condescended to open the history of the church, has ever since been in the course of accomplishment. "Enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman," has been the prevailing character and course of the world. "An unjust man is an abomination to the just; and he who is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked." David, however, prayed for the confusion of his enemies—not in a vindictive spirit, as if thirsting for their destruction; but as opening the way for his own more free service of God, and as a chastening, that might eventually turn to their salvation, "Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O Lord!" That his prayer was the expression of his tender compassion, rather than of resentful feeling, is sufficiently evident from his affectionate weeping concern for their immortal interests. Prayers of the same deprecating character dropped from the lips of the gentle and compassionate Savior: while the objects of His awful deprecations were interested in the most yearning sympathies of His heart. A regard also for the honor of God dictated this prayer. David knew that the malice of his enemies against him was only the working of their enmity against God; that it was not so much him that they hated and persecuted, as God in him. And therefore as a servant of God he could appeal, "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate You? and am not I grieved at those that rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies." The followers of a despised Savior must indeed expect to be severely distressed with the perverseness of the proud. But when, like their Master, they can testify that it is without a cause, how cheering are their Master's words! "Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven."
And have you, reader, been exercised with trials from an ungodly world? Has the derision of the proud, or the slight or ill-treatment of the ungodly, never excited revengeful feelings within? Have you always been enabled to set your Savior's example before you, and "in patience possessing your soul," to refer your cause to your Almighty Friend? "O Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me." Remember, He has engaged to take up your cause, "Shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them?—I tell you that He will avenge them speedily."
But learn in the hour of trial where to go, and what to do. Go to the word of God for direction and support. Meditate in His precepts. There is often a hurry of mind in times of difficulty, which unhinges the soul from the simple exercise of faith. But habit brings practice, and steadiness, and simplicity, enabling us most sweetly to fix our hearts upon the word of God, and to apply its directions and encouragements to the present exigency. Our enemies fight against us with an arm of flesh. We resist them with the armor of the word of God. And how inestimably precious is the armor, refuge, strength, and consolation, here provided for us against every effort to disturb our peace, "or separate our hearts from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!"
"Let the proud be ashamed." He begged that the judgments of God might no longer fall upon himself, but upon his cruel adversaries. God will not suffer those who hope in his word to be put to shame, for he reserves that reward for haughty spirits: they shall yet be overtaken with confusion, and become the subjects of contempt, while God's afflicted ones shall again lift up their heads. Shame is for the proud, for it is a shameful thing to be proud. Shame is not for the holy, for there is nothing in holiness to be ashamed of.
"For they dealt perversely with me without a cause." Their malice was wanton, he had not provoked them. Falsehood was employed to forge an accusation against him; they had to bend his actions out of their true shape before they could assail his character. Evidently the Psalmist keenly felt the malice of his foes. His consciousness of innocence with regard to them created a burning sense of injustice, and he appealed to the righteous Lord to take his part and clothe his false accusers with shame. Probably he mentioned them as "the proud," because he knew that the Lord always takes vengeance on proud men, and vindicates the cause of those whom they oppress. Sometimes he mentions the proud, and sometimes the wicked, but he always means the same persons; the words are interchangeable: he who is proud is sure to be wicked, and proud persecutors are the worst of wicked men.
"But I will meditate in your precepts." He would leave the proud in God's hands, and give himself up to holy studies and contemplations. To obey the divine precepts we have need to know them, and think much of them, hence this persecuted saint felt that meditation must be his chief employment. He would study the law of God, and not the law of retaliation. The proud are not worth a thought. The worst injury they can do us is to take us away from our devotions; let us baffle them by keeping all the closer to our God when they are most malicious in their onslaughts.
In a similar position to this we have met with the proud in other octaves, and shall meet them yet again. They are evidently a great plague to the Psalmist, but he rises above them.