The psalmist, having denounced tribulation to those that trouble God?s people, here assures those that are troubled of rest. See 2 Thess. 1:6, 7. He speaks comfort to suffering saints from God?s promises and his own experience.
I. From God?s promises, which are such as not only save them from being miserable, but secure a happiness to them (Ps. 94:12): Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest. Here he looks above the instruments of trouble, and eyes the hand of God, which gives it another name and puts quite another color upon it. The enemies break in pieces God?s people (Ps. 94:5); they aim at no less; but the truth of the matter is that God by them chastens his people, as the father the son in whom he delights, and the persecutors are only the rod he makes use of. Howbeit they mean not so, neither doth their heart think so, Isa. 10:5-7. Now it is here promised,
1. That God?s people shall get good by their sufferings. When he chastens them he will teach them, and blessed is the man who is thus taken under a divine discipline, for none teaches like God. Note, (1.) The afflictions of the saints are fatherly chastenings, designed for their instruction, reformation, and improvement. (2.) When the teachings of the word and Spirit go along with the rebukes of Providence they then both manifest men to be blessed and help to make them so; for then they are marks of adoption and means of sanctification. When we are chastened we must pray to be taught, and look into the law as the best expositor of Providence. It is not the chastening itself that does good, but the teaching that goes along with it and is the exposition of it.
2. That they shall see through their sufferings (Ps. 94:13): That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity. Note, (1.) There is a rest remaining for the people of God after the days of their adversity, which, though they may be many and long, shall be numbered and finished in due time, and shall not last always. He that sends the trouble will send the rest, that he may comfort them according to the time that he has afflicted them. (2.) God therefore teaches his people by their troubles, that he may prepare them for deliverance, and so give them rest from their troubles, that, being reformed, they may be relieved, and that the affliction, having done its work, may be removed.
3. That they shall see the ruin of those that are the instruments of their sufferings, which is the matter of a promise, not as gratifying any passion of theirs, but as redounding to the glory of God: Until the pit is digged (or rather while the pit is digging) for the wicked, God is ordering peace for them at the same time that he is ordaining his arrows against the persecutors.
4. That, though they may be cast down, yet certainly they shall not be cast off, Ps. 94:14. Let God?s suffering people assure themselves of this, that, whatever their friends do, God will not cast them off, nor throw them out of his covenant or out of his care; he will not forsake them, because they are his inheritance, which he will not quit his title to nor suffer himself to be disseised of. St. Paul comforted himself with this, Rom. 11:1.
5. That, bad as things are, they shall mend, and, though they are now out of course, yet they shall return to their due and ancient channel (Ps. 94:15): Judgment shall return unto righteousness; the seeming disorders of Providence (for real ones there never were) shall be rectified. God?s judgment, that is, his government, looks sometimes as if it were at a distance from righteousness, while the wicked prosper, and the best men meet with the worst usage; but it shall return to righteousness again, either in this world or at the furthest in the judgment of the great day, which will set all to-rights. Then all the upright in heart shall be after it; they shall follow it with their praises, and with entire satisfaction; they shall return to a prosperous and flourishing condition, and shine forth out of obscurity; they shall accommodate themselves to the dispensations of divine Providence, and with suitable affections attend all its motions. They shall walk after the Lord, Hos. 11:10. Dr. Hammond thinks this was most eminently fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem first, and afterwards of heathen Rome, the crucifiers of Christ and persecutors of Christians, and the rest which the churches had thereby. Then judgment returned even to righteousness, to mercy and goodness, and favour to God?s people, who then were as much countenanced as before they had been trampled on.
II. From his own experiences and observations.
1. He and his friends had been oppressed by cruel and imperious men, that had power in their hands and abused it by abusing all good people with it. They were themselves evil-doers and workers of iniquity (Ps. 94:16); they abandoned themselves to all manner of impiety and immorality, and then their throne was a throne of iniquity, Ps. 94:20. Their dignity served to put a reputation upon sin, and their authority was employed to support it, and to bring about their wicked designs. It is a pity that ever a throne, which should be a terror to evil-doers and a protection and praise to those that do well, should be the seat and shelter of iniquity. That is a throne of iniquity which by the policy of its council frames mischief, and by its sovereignty enacts it and turns it into a law. Iniquity is daring enough even when human laws are against it, which often prove too weak to give an effectual check to it; but how insolent, how mischievous, is it when it is backed by a law! Iniquity is not the better, but much the worse, for being enacted by law; nor will it excuse those that practise it to say that they did but do as they were bidden. These workers of iniquity, having framed mischief by a law, take care to see the law executed; for they gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, who dare not keep the statutes of Omri nor the law of the house of Ahab; and they condemn the innocent blood for violating their decrees. See an instance in Daniel?s enemies; they framed mischief by a law when the obtained an impious edict against prayer (Dan. 6:7), and, when Daniel would not obey it, they assembled together against him (Ps. 94:11) and condemned his innocent blood to the lions. The best benefactors of mankind have often been thus treated, under colour of law and justice, as the worst of malefactors.
2. The oppression they were under bore very hard upon them, and oppressed their spirits too. Let not suffering saints despair, though, when they are persecuted, they find themselves perplexed and cast down; it was so with the psalmist here: His soul had almost dwelt in silence (Ps. 94:17); he was at his wits? end, and knew not what to say or do; he was, in his own apprehensions, at his life?s end, ready to drop into the grave, that land of silence. St. Paul, in a like case, received a sentence of death within himself, 2 Cor. 1:8, 9. He said, ?My foot slippeth (Ps. 94:18); I am going irretrievably; there is no remedy; I must fall. I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul. My hope fails me; I do not find such firm footing for my faith as I have sometimes found.? Ps. 73:2. He had a multitude of perplexed entangled thoughts within him concerning the case he was in and the construction to be made of it, and concerning the course he should take and what was likely to be the issue of it.
3. In this distress they sought for help, and succour, and some relief. (1.) They looked about for it and were disappointed (Ps. 94:16): ?Who will rise up for me against the evil-doers? Have I any friend who, in love to me, will appear for me? Has justice any friend who, in a pious indignation at unrighteousness, will plead my injured cause?? He looked, but there was none to save, there was none to uphold. Note, When on the side of the oppressors there is power it is no marvel if the oppressed have no comforter, none that dare own them, or speak a good word for them, Eccl. 4:1. When St. Paul was brought before Nero?s throne of iniquity no man stood by him, 2 Tim. 4:16. (2.) They looked up for it, Ps. 94:20. They humbly expostulate with God: ?Lord, shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee? Wilt thou countenance and support these tyrants in their wickedness? We know thou wilt not.? A throne has fellowship with God when it is a throne of justice and answers the end of the erecting of it; for by him kings reign, and when they reign for him their judgments are his, and he owns them as his ministers, and whoever resist them, or rise up against them, shall receive to themselves damnation; but, when it becomes a throne of iniquity, it has no longer fellowship with God. Far be it from the just and holy God that he should be the patron of unrighteousness, even in princes and those that sit in thrones, yea, though they be the thrones of the house of David.
4. They found succour and relief in God, and in him only. When other friends failed, in him they had a faithful and powerful friend; and it is recommended to all God?s suffering saints to trust in him. (1.) God helps at a dead lift (Ps. 94:17): ?When I had almost dwelt in silence, then the Lord was my help, kept me alive, kept me in heart; and unless I had made him my help, by putting my trust in him and expecting relief from him, I could never have kept possession of my own soul; but living by faith in him has kept my head above water, has given me breath, and something to say.? (2.) God?s goodness is the great support of sinking spirits (Ps. 94:18): ?When I said, My foot slips into sin, into ruin, into des 10d8 pair, then thy mercy, O Lord! held me up, kept me from falling, and defeated the design of those who consulted to cast me down from my excellency,? Ps. 62:4. We are beholden not only to God?s power, but to his pity, for spiritual supports: Thy mercy, the gifts of thy mercy and my hope in thy mercy, held me up. God?s right hand sustains his people when they look on their right hand and on their left and there is none to uphold; and we are then prepared for his gracious supports when we are sensible of our own weakness and inability to stand by our own strength, and come to God, to acknowledge it, and to tell him how our foot slips. (3.) Divine consolations are the effectual relief of troubled spirits (Ps. 94:19): ?In the multitude of my thoughts within me, which are noisy like a multitude, crowding and jostling one another like a multitude, and very unruly and ungovernable, in the multitude of my sorrowful, solicitous, timorous thoughts, thy comforts delight my soul; and they are never more delightful than when they come in so seasonably to silence my unquiet thoughts and keep my mind easy.? The world?s comforts give but little delight to the soul when it is hurried with melancholy thoughts; they are songs to a heavy heart. But God?s comforts will reach the soul, and not the fancy only, and will bring with them that peace and that pleasure which the smiles of the world cannot give and which the frowns of the world cannot take away.
5. God is, and will be, as a righteous Judge, the patron and protector of right and the punisher and avenger of wrong; this the psalmist had both the assurance of and the experience of. (1.) He will give redress to the injured (Ps. 94:22): ?When none else will, nor can, nor dare, shelter me, the Lord is my defence, to preserve me from the evil of my troubles, from sinking under them and being ruined by them; and he is the rock of my refuge, in the clefts of which I may take shelter, and on the top of which I may set my feet, to be out of the reach of danger.? God is his people?s refuge, to whom they may flee, in whom they are safe and may be secure; he is the rock of their refuge, so strong, so firm, impregnable, immovable, as a rock: natural fastnesses sometimes exceed artificial fortifications. (2.) He will reckon with the injurious (Ps. 94:23): He shall render to them their own iniquity; he shall deal with them according to their deserts, and that very mischief which they did and designed against God?s people shall be brought upon themselves: it follows, He shall cut them off in their wickedness. A man cannot be more miserable than his own wickedness will make him if God visit it upon him: it will cut him in the remembrance of it; it will cut him off in the recompence of it. This the psalm concludes with the triumphant assurance of: Yea, the Lord our God, who takes our part and owns us for his, shall cut them off from any fellowship with him, and so shall make them completely miserable and their pomp and power shall stand them in no stead.