If we turn to the seventh Psalm, we find from the superscription Note: The authority of the titles to the Psalms is a matter of some doubt but there is no reason to distrust the one which the present Psalm bears. that it was composed or sung by David unto the Lord, “concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite.” This person is not mentioned in the history, nor are his words recorded. But from the Psalm it may be collected that this man, having won the confidence and friendship of the unsuspecting David, used it only to entrap him into the power of Saul, whose then slumbering hostility he roused by misrepresenting his motives and intentions to the king. There is indeed so much similarity between the words which David addressed to Saul in the last interview with him, under the circumstances recorded yesterday, and those of this Psalm, as to show that this sacred song belongs to that occasion. This Cush, then, was the person to whom he alluded as having by his treacherous malignity incited the king to this renewed pursuit. It may also not be difficult to collect that the purport of his unjust accusation was that David sought the life of the king, in order to clear his own way to the throne. Hence the special value of the opportunity of practically refuting this calumny, which had been afforded to him. Seeing the frame of mind to which Saul had been thus brought, we shall not feel prepared for the step David next took—of going over again to the Philistines, in the apprehension that he should yet one day perish by the hand of Saul, unless we add the conduct of Cush the Benjamite to the influence which wrought his mind to this conclusion. Indeed, this was the primary influence; for, in his words to Saul, he indicates it as a conclusion already for that reason formed: “If the Lord hath stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering; but if they be the children of men, cursed be they before the Lord; for they have driven me this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord.” It was therefore not so much the blind fury of Saul, as the chilling effect upon a confiding spirit like David’s, of the feeling that his worst enemies contrived to worm their way into his confidence, and that he was betrayed and calumniated by those he trusted most. In the open violence of Saul there was something he could meet and understand; but throughout his career there was never anything that grieved his generous Spirit and crushed it down so much as the treachery and ingratitude of those he loved and trusted. His own open heartedness rendered this exquisitely painful to him. Here he was all nerve; and it was here that he was most often wounded.
The case being as stated, it becomes deeply interesting to contemplate that full development of his feelings which the seventh Psalm affords. His sense of the wrong done to him is very keen, and his repudiation of the accusations brought against him, becomingly warm and indignant. He did not feel it any part of his duty to rest under such imputations without an attempt to clear his character. It is necessary that the character of the servant of God should, for his Master’s honor, be free from even “the appearance of evil.” His faith does not require him to lie passive under injurious imputations. He will do all that becomes him to clear his character, but he will not be over-anxious respecting the result, knowing that his character is in God’s keeping, and that a great day of unclouding is coming, when his righteousness shall in these matters be made manifest to men and angels. Those clouds that hang darkly upon the horizon now, shall presently, when the sun arises, be lit up with unutterable glory; and that which seemed a spot in the face of heaven, becomes a radiance and a renown. It is under the influence of such feelings that David speaks—“O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there be iniquity in my hands; if I have rewarded evil to him that was at peace with me (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy); let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honor in the dust.”
In express reference to the adversary by whom he had been thus wronged and betrayed, he says—“Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the pit which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing upon his own pate.” A close observation of the course of God’s providence, as well as in conformity with the principles of Judaism which led to the expectation of the demonstrated results of retributive justice in this life, assured David that this must happen; and it would appear that in some measure it had already happened in this particular case. In saying that Cush had fallen into the pit which he had made, he seems to refer to some calamity which had befallen him, or to some disgrace which he had already incurred, in consequence of his treachery; but what that may have been we cannot, in the absence of all facts, conjecture. Although the Gospel of Christ carries our views for the final adjustment of all things to the great day of decision, it is still often true in our own time, as of old, that righteousness is, even in this life, vindicated from injurious aspersions, and treachery and wrong-doing brought to shame.
The present effects of such conduct on the part of others—the calumnious treacheries of some, and the violence of others—were, however, distressful and disheartening to David; and he could only find comfort in the assured conviction that the Lord could and would deliver him from the trials which made life a calamity to him, and vindicate his integrity by bringing his wicked persecutors to condign punishment. For this he with great earnestness supplicates—“O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me. My defence is of God, who saveth the upright in heart. The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to my integrity that is in me.” None knew better than David the fallen nature of man, none knew better than he—for alas, he knew it experimentally—man’s utter weakness when he ceases to lean upon the staff which God puts into his hand. But in this particular matter—in all his conduct towards Saul, he could assert his integrity, his entire freedom from all sinister and underhand designs; and it was his hope and belief that God would judge, though man did not, according to his righteousness.
Surrounded by enemies, slandered by the tongues of evil men, sickened by treachery, it was at times hard to wait the day of complete vindication. He was assured that the Lord could justify him before the people; he was confident that he would eventually do it. But the time was long—very long, to one to whom a good name is dear; and at times the thought could not be resisted, that perhaps God had forgotten to be gracious, or was at least too slow in assuming the robes of judgment. “Arise, O Lord, in thine anger. Lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies; and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded. So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about; for their sakes, therefore, return thou on high.”
He is convinced of the ultimate establishment of righteousness, he is grieved lest the present triumph of wrong-doing and oppression of truthfulness, should lead the people to distrust the great fact that “there is a God that ruleth in the earth.” This he will not allow himself for one moment to suppose. That were a greater treachery against his Lord, than any which man had committed against David. No. “God judgeth the righteous, and is angry with the wicked every day. O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just; for the righteous God trieth the reins and the heart.”
The view which we thus are enabled, from his own words, to obtain of the state of David’s mind at this trying period of his career, will enable us to contemplate with advantage the further steps of his progress.