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Psalm 71:20-24

20. Thou hast made me to see great and sore troubles, but turning, thou wilt quicken me, and turning 116116     “Et to retournant, estant appaise.” — Fr. “And returning, being appeased.” thou wilt lift me up from the deep places of the earth. 117117     “The depths of the earth, expressive of the lowest state of misery and suffering.” — Hewlett. 21. Thou wilt multiply my greatness; and turning, thou wilt comfort me. 22. I will also, O my God: praise thee, for thy truth, with the psaltery; I will sing to thee with the harp, O Holy One of Israel! 23. My lips shall rejoice when I sing to thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed. 24. My tongue also shall daily declare thy righteousness: for they who seek my hurt are confounded and brought to shame.

 

20. Thou hast made me to see great and sore troubles. The verb to see among the Hebrews, as is well known, is applied to the other senses also. Accordingly, when David complains that calamities had been shown to him, he means that he had suffered them. And as he attributes to God the praise of the deliverances which he had obtained, so he, on the other hand, acknowledges that whatever adversities he had endured were inflicted on him according to the counsel and will of God. But we must first consider the object which David has in view, which is to render by comparison the grace of God the more illustrious, in the way of recounting how hardly he had been dealt with. Had he always enjoyed a uniform course of prosperity, he would no doubt have had good reason to rejoice; but in that case he would not have experienced what it is to be delivered from destruction by the stupendous power of God. We must be brought down even to the gates of death before God can be seen to be our deliverer. As we are born without thought and understanding, our minds, during the earlier part of our life, are not sufficiently impressed with a sense of the Author of our existence; but when God comes to our help, as we are lying in a state of despair, this resurrection is to us a bright mirror from which is seen reflected his grace. In this way David amplifies the goodness of God, declaring, that though plunged in a bottomless abyss, he was nevertheless drawn out by the divine hand, and restored to the light. And he boasts not only of having been preserved perfectly safe by the grace of God, but of having also been advanced to higher honor — a change which was, as it were, the crowning of his restoration, and was as if he had been lifted out of hell, even up to heaven. What he repeats the third time, with respect to God’s turning, goes to the commendation of Divine Providence; the idea which he intends to be conveyed being, that no adversity happened to him by chance, as was evident from the fact that his condition was reversed as soon as the favor of God shone upon him.

22. I will also, O my God! praise thee. He again breaks forth into thanksgiving; for he was aware that the design of God, in so liberally succouring his servants, is, that his goodness may be celebrated. In speaking of employing the psaltery and the harp in this exercise, he alludes to the generally prevailing custom of that time. To sing the praises of God upon the harp and psaltery unquestionably formed a part of the training of the law, and of the service of God under that dispensation of shadows and figures; but they are not now to be used in public thanksgiving. We are not, indeed, forbidden to use, in private, musical instruments, but they are banished out of the churches by the plain command of the Holy Spirit, when Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14:13, lays it down as an invariable rule, that we must praise God, and pray to him only in a known tongue. By the word truth, the Psalmist means that the hope which he reposed in God was rewarded, when God preserved him in the midst of dangers. The promises of God, and his truth in performing them, are inseparably joined together. Unless we depend upon the word of God, all the benefits which he confers upon us will be unsavoury or tasteless to us; nor will we ever be stirred up either to prayer or thanksgiving, if we are not previously illuminated by the Divine word. So much the more revolting, then, is the folly of that diabolical man, Servetus, who teaches that the rule of praying is perverted, if faith is fixed upon the promises; as if we could have any access into the presence of God, until he first invited us by his own voice to come to him.

23. My lips shall rejoice 118118     “The original word רנן expresses a brisk, vibratory motion, like that of the lips in singing a lively air, or of the feet in dancing. Hence, figuratively, it signifies to rejoice or exult In this passage, it may be understood literally of the lips, and figuratively of the soul. And the English language having no corresponding verb which may be taken literally in reference to one subject, and figuratively in reference to another, it might be better to express its sense in connection with each, by two different verbs, thus: —
   “My lips shall move briskly, when I sing unto thee,
And my soul shall rejoice, which thou, etc.”

    — Horsley.
when I sing to thee. In this verse David expresses more distinctly his resolution not to give thanks to God hypocritically, nor in a superficial manner, but to engage with unfeigned earnestness in this religious exercise. By the figures which he introduces, he briefly teaches us, that to praise God would be the source of his greatest pleasure; and thus he indirectly censures the profane mirth of those who, forgetting God, confine their congratulations to themselves in their prosperity. The scope of the last verse is to the same effect, implying that no joy would be sweet and desirable to him, but such as was connected with the praises of God, and that to celebrate his Redeemer’s praises would afford him the greatest satisfaction and delight.


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