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Psalm 33:13-17

13. Jehovah looked down from heaven; he beheld the children of Adam. 14. From the dwelling-place of his throne he looked on all the inhabitants of the earth. 15. He who fashioned their hearts altogether, 680680     “C’est, sans en excepter un.” — Note, Fr. marg, “That is, without a single exception.” who understandeth all their works. 16. A king is not saved for the multitude of his host, nor a giant delivered for the greatness of his strength. 17. A horse is a deceitful thing for safety, 681681     “Hebrews est mensonge a salut.” — Fr. marg. “Hebrews is a lie for safety.” and will not deliver by the greatness of his strength.

 

13. Jehovah looked down from heaven. The Psalmist still proceeds with the same doctrine, namely, that human affairs are not tossed hither and thither fortuitously, but that God secretly guides and directs all that we see taking place. Now he here commends God’s inspection of all things, that we on our part may learn to behold, and to contemplate with the eye of faith, his invisible providence. There are, no doubt, evident proofs of it continually before our eyes; but the great majority of men, notwithstanding, see nothing of them, and, in their blindness, imagine that all things are under the conduct of a blind fortune. Nay, the more plenteously and abundantly that he sheds his goodness upon us, the less do we raise our thoughts to him, but preposterously settle them down immovably on the external circumstances which surround us. The prophet here rebukes this base conduct, because no greater affront can be offered to God than to shut him up in heaven in a state of idleness. This is the same as if he were to lie buried in a grave. What kind of life would God’s life be, if he neither saw nor took care of any thing? Under the term throne, too, the sacred writer shows, from what is implied in it, what an absurd infatuation it is to divest God of thought and understanding. He gives us to understand by this word, that heaven is not a palace in which God remains idle and indulges in pleasures, as the Epicureans dream, but a royal court, from which he exercises his government over all parts of the world. If he has erected his throne, therefore, in the sanctuary of heaven, in order to govern the universe, it follows that he in no wise neglects the affairs of earth, but governs them with the highest reason and wisdom.

15. He who fashioned their hearts altogether. It appears that this is added for the express purpose of assuredly persuading believers, that, however the wicked might craftily, deceitfully, and by secret stratagems, attempt to withdraw themselves from God’s sight, and hide themselves in caverns, yet his eyes would penetrate into their dark hiding-places. And the Psalmist argues from the very creation that God cannot but bring men’s devices and doings into reckoning and judgment; because, though each man has intricate recesses concealed in his bosom, so that there is a wonderful diversity of different minds in this respect, and this great variety creates a most confounding obscurity; yet the eyes of God cannot be dazzled and darkened, so that he may not be a competent judge and take cognisance of his own work. By the adverb together, therefore, he does not mean that the hearts of men were formed at the same moment of time; but that all of them were fashioned even to one, and without a single exception; so that those manifest great folly who attempt to hide, or to withdraw the knowledge of their hearts from him who framed them. The discourse may also be understood as meaning, that men cannot, by the erring devices of their own thoughts, diminish the authority of God over them, so that he may not govern by his secret providence the events which seem to them to happen by chance. We see, indeed, he in forming their vain hopes, they despoil God of his power, and transfer it to the creatures, at one time to this object, and at another time to that, conceiving that they have no need of his aid, so long as they are furnished with outward means and helps to protect themselves.

It therefore follows, A king is not saved for the multitude of his host, etc By this the inspired writer means to teach us, that the safety of men’s lives depends not upon their own strength, but upon the favor of God. He names particularly kings and giants rather than others; because, as they are not of the common class of men, but of a higher condition, they appear to themselves to be beyond the reach of all danger from darts, and if any adversity befall them, they promise themselves an easy deliverance from it. In short, intoxicated with a presumptuous confidence of their own strength, they scarcely think themselves mortal. They are still more hardened in this pride by the foolish admiration of the common people, who stand amazed at the greatness of their power. If, therefore, neither a king is saved by his troops, nor a giant by his strength, when they are exposed to danger, in vain do mankind neglect the providence of God, and look around them for human help. From this it follows, that the condition, both of the strong and the weak, is miserable, until they learn to rely on the protection of God.

17. A horse is a deceitful thing for safety. In this verse, the Psalmist, by the figure synecdoche under the name of horse, is to be understood as meaning any kind of help. The sense is, that in general those who conceive that their life is well protected by earthly means, are commonly disappointed at the very crisis of danger, and are miserably beguiled to their utter undoing, so that God therein clearly shows them their folly. It is true, that kings are not armed with the sword in vain, nor is the use of horses superfluous, nor are the treasures and resources which God furnishes to defend men’s lives unnecessary, provided a right method of employing them be observed. But as the greater part of men the more they are surrounded with human defences, withdraw themselves the farther from God, and by a false imagination persuade themselves that they are in a haven safe from all disturbance, God acts most justly in disappointing this madness. This is the reason why his gifts often pass away without effect, because the world, by separating them from the giver, is also justly deprived of his blessing.


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