The Righteous One does not walk without opposition. We are led here to a field of conflict; or rather to the height, whence the Righteous One surveys the legions of foes that are embattled against him; and standing by his side, we hear his song of confidence, and cry of dependence, as he looks up to the Lord as his "light and salvation."
Is it Christ that we hear thus expressing what his soul felt? Or is it one of his own who encounters the same foes? It is both; for David was taught by the Spirit to write the blessed experience of the Church and its Head. The Church's experience here is obvious. Let us dwell a little on her Lord's.
Is this, then, "the light of the world" walking through darkness, and staying himself on his Father? What an illustration of his own words, in John 16:32,33, "the hour comes when you shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, for the father is with me. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
And then, soon after, his enemies "stumbled and fell," (v2). The band, with Judas at their head, "went backwards and fell to the ground" (John 18:6), as if in token of the future falling of all that come out against him; while Judas, their leader, stumbled over the cornerstone to his eternal ruin.
So sure is this, that in v3 he appropriates to his own use, and the use of all the righteous, the protecting hosts that Elisha saw round Dothan (2 Kings 6:15).
Our Lord's words, "Do you think I cannot pray to my Father, and He will presently give more than twelve legions of angels?" were at once a reference to the guard of Elisha, and a breathing forth of the strong confidence of this Psalm.
The words, "In this will I be confident" refer back to the faith of v1, "I will be confident, that Jehovah is my light, salvation, strength,."
We have our Lord's style, so to speak, in v4 - "one thing." He, who on earth pointed out the "one thing lacking," to the Rule: and "the one thing needful," to Martha declares what himself felt regarding that "one thing."
To see the Lord, in his temple where everything spoke of redemption - there to see the Father's beauty, what the essence of his soul's desire. This beauty is the Lord's pleased look; such a look as the Father gave when his voice proclaimed: this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. It also means, all that make God an object of affection and delight to the soul.
Luther understood it: the beautiful services of the Lord. In the Tabernacle, the spiritual truths reflected in the mirror of that symbolic worship.
Nothing could be more desirable to Christ, than this approving look of his Father, telling as it did, his love to the uttermost.
And nothing to us sinners, can equal this look of love; it is the essence of heaven now, and heaven forever. It is the one thing. For from this holy love proceed all the other blessings. To catch glimpses of this beauty in the temple was our Lord's aim. He engaged in no other pursuit on earth.
Neither did David, this true disciple, amid the glory of the kingdom. In the light of this Divine smile, the soul is sure of deliverance manifold, deliverance from every evil, and eternal gladness; and can sing (v7) even now, as if full deliverance were already come.
Real assurance of salvation depends on seeing the Father's beauty, his reconciled countenance, his heart of love, in seeing which, the soul feels certain beyond measure, that his future state will be well, for that love is too deep to change; and so it "sings and makes music to Jehovah."
But, verse 8 has a tinge of sadness again. It is, in our Lord's case, like John1 2:17, "Now is my soul troubled," after a season of peaceful rest. Never was there an experience so varied and full as our Lord's in his human nature; and never as experience which his saints so often turn to as their own.
The cry for help ascends; and perhaps the broken words of v9 are intentional, being the difficult utterance of one in trouble quoting words of hope -
"My heart says to you: see my face."
My soul repeats to you your own call and encouragement. How often have you invited us: seek my face? My heart reminds you of your own words; I will not let you go. To me, and to the sons of men, you have sent out an invitation: seek my face. Therefore, my heart in all its distress holds up to you this call of yours. I will seek your face and I will urge you - Hide not your face (v9).
In v10, the harp sings of a lonely, friendless, orphan stat. My father and mother have left me! But from here faith responds: The Lord will take me in (Josh 20:4, Judges 19:5). Our Lord, no doubt felt as man the desire for a father's and a mother's sympathy and help.
In lack of that sympathy and help, he turns to what he finds in Jehovah; for the Lord has a father's heart. Like a father pities his children so the Lord pities those who fear him. Psalm 103:13. And the mother's affections, too. "As one whom his mother comforts, so the Lord will comfort you." (Isaiah 66:13). Our Lord uses words equivalent to "take me in" in Matt 25:43,
A shrill note of the harp touches upon reproach and calumny in v13,14 "false witnesses have risen up." In Matt 26 these false witnesses come in against our Lord, before the high priest; and on that occasion, our Lord bursts out after long silence to declare: after this you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, coming on the clouds of heaven.
Is this the train of thought in this Psalm? For v15 sees out the hope of seeing what Zecharaiah 9:17 speaks of as to come in great measure: His Goodness. "The goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
Our Lord was content, as a real man, to sustain his soul by faith and hope; resting on what He knew of his Father, and animating it in suffering and trouble with the "hope set before him" (Heb 12:2).
Is this not his testimony, and the testimony of all his saints who have used this Psalm, to the advantages and blessedness of hope? The words in the Hebrew run like this: Unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord (v15). There is no "I had fainted." It is an imperfect sentence.
There is something to be supplied. It is like our Lord's own words in Luke 19:42. "If you had known" - a sentence never ended, and all the more emphatic and awfully significant for this very reason.
Here, also, there is the same significance. It is "who can tell, what heart of man can conceive, what might have come on me - unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord!" Faith, and the "hope set before Him" carried Him through his darkest hour.
Hence, in v16, He leaves for the Church in all ages the counsel of one who has tried it himself - "Wait on the Lord." Keep your eye ever on the Lord, expecting the light to break and help to come.
The Church, and the Church's head, can lay claim to every clause of this blessed Psalm. That pledge of its truth in v5 has already in ages been found faithfully performed.
The Lord has ever hid his own in evil days, finding an Obadiah to feed his prophets, or sending them to a Cherith, where his ravens shall carry provision. So that Augustine's confidence is that of all saints: his guarantee that he will not abandon his pilgrims. We may call it them - The Righteous One's confident assertion of safety when lonely amid surrounding foes.