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Psalm 86:12-17

12. I will praise thee, O Lord my God! With all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for ever. 13. For thy mercy has been great towards me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lower grave. 488488     Bishop Law would read, “Make my heart one, that it may fear thy name;” that is, says he, “Let the fear of thee be the one ruling disposition of my soul.” — Quoted in Warner’s Psalter, with Notes. 14. O God! the proud have risen up against me, and a company of mighty men have sought after my soul; and they have not set thee before them. 15. And thou, O Lord! art God, merciful, ready to forgive, long-suffering, and abundant in mercy and truth. 16. Look to me, and have pity upon me: give thy strength to thy servant, and save the son of thy handmaid. 17. Make with me a sign for good: and my adversaries will see it 489489     The original word here for grave is שאול, sheol; on which Mr Peters remarks, that if sheol here meant only a deliverance from death and the grave, the expression, lower, or lowest, would be quite unnecessary. “The lower grave” may, however, be a figurative expression for a state of the deepest distress. and be ashamed; for thou, O Jehovah! hast succoured and comforted me.

 

12. I will praise thee, O Lord my God! David engages, when he shall have experienced God to be in all respects a beneficent father, to yield to him the tribute of gratitude. He expressed in the preceding verse a desire to have his heart united to God, that he might fear him; and now he affirms it to be his resolution to publish or celebrate his praises, not only with the mouth or tongue, but also with sincere affection of heart; yea, even to continue with steadfast perseverance in that exercise.

In the 13th verse, he sets forth the reason of this, which is, because, in delivering him, God had given a singular and remarkable proof of his mercy. To place in a stronger light the greatness of this benefit, he describes the dangers from which he had been delivered, by the expression, the lower grave; as if he had said, I have not been held down by one death only, but have been thrust down into the lowest depths of the grave, so that my circumstances required the hand of God to be stretched out to me in a wonderful manner. By the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we are delivered from a still deeper abyss of death; and such being the case, our ingratitude will be inexcusable, unless each of us exercise himself to the utmost of his power in celebrating this deliverance. If David so highly magnified the name of God merely on account of the prolongation of his life for a short time, what praises are due for this unparalleled redemption by which we are drawn from the depths of hell and elevated to heaven? The Papists attempt to found an argument on this passage in support of their doctrine of Purgatory, as if that were an upper hell, while there was another lower; 490490     Street reads, “That those who hate me may fear. The word יראו,” he observes, “if considered without the points, may be the third person plural of ירא, to fear; but the authors of all the versions seem to have derived it from ראה, to see I read לטובך instead of לטובה.” but this argument is too rotten to stand in need of refutation.

14. O God! the proud are risen up against me. Instead of זדים, zedim, the proud, some read, זרים, zarim, strangers; and, undoubtedly, the Scriptures often employ this word to denote barbarous cruelty, so that it is the same as if it had been said, the cruel. I, however, prefer following the generally received reading. As between the Hebrew word זדים, zedim, the proud, and זרים, zarim, strangers, there is only the difference of a single letter, the one having the letter ד, daleth, where the other has the letter ר, resh, it is obvious that, from the similarity of these two letters, the former might easily have been changed into the latter. Besides, the word, proud, agrees better with the scope of the passage; for, in the same sense, the Psalmist immediately after applies the epithet, strong, to those who, with headlong impetuosity and fierceness, rushed upon him to destroy him; and we know that where pride reigns no moderation is observed. He expresses without figure what he had just now said respecting the grave. Being as a lamb in the midst of wolves, he would have been quickly swallowed up, had not God miraculously delivered him, as it were, from the jaws of death. In representing his enemies as having no regard to God, he means to set forth the extreme excess of their cruelty. The fury of our lusts, unless we are restrained by the fear of God and the sense of his judgment, will become so great as to dare any thing, however atrocious. For these calamities he seeks a remedy, in the Divine mercy, in the following verse.

15. And thou, O Lord! art God, merciful, ready to forgive. By immediately passing on to the celebration of these divine attributes, he would intimate, that we have adequate strength and protection against the audacity and rage of the wicked, in the divine goodness, mercy, and faithfulness. Perhaps, also, from his feeling that the wicked were scourges in the hand of God, he set before himself the divine goodness and mercy, to allay the excess of terror with which he might be seized; for this is the true and the only source of comfort, that although God chastise us he does not forget his mercy. This sentence, as is well known, is taken from Exodus 34:6, where we meet with a very remarkable description of the nature of God. First, he is called merciful; in the next place, ready to forgive, which he manifests by compassionating our distresses. In the third place, he is described as long-suffering; for he is not angry whenever an offense is committed against him, but pardons us according to the greatness of his loving-kindness. In short, he is said to be abundant in mercy and truth; by which I understand, that his beneficence is continually exercised, and that he is always true. He is indeed no less worthy to be praised on account of his rigour, than on account of his mercy; but as it is our wilful obstinacy alone which makes him severe, compelling him, as it were, to punish us, the Scriptures, in representing him as by nature merciful and ready to forgive, teach us, that if he is at any time rigorous and severe, this is, as it were, accidental to him. I am speaking, it is true, in popular language, and such as is not strictly correct; but still, these terms by which the divine character is described amount in effect to this, That God is by nature so gracious and ready to forgive, that he seems to connive at our sins, delays the infliction of punishment, and never proceeds to execute vengeance unless compelled by our obstinate wickedness. Why the truth of God is joined with his mercy has been considered in another place. As even those who are most generous sometimes desire to retract the promises which they have made, repenting of their too great facility, we who are accustomed unreasonably to judge of God by ourselves, distrust his promises. God therefore declares, that he is unlike men, because he is as firm to his purpose in abundantly performing whatever he has promised, as he is distinguished for promising liberally.

16. Look to me, and have pity upon me. Here the Psalmist makes a more distinct application to himself of what he had said concerning the divine mercy and goodness. As God is merciful, he assures himself that his welfare will be the object of the divine care. The second verb in the verse, חנן, chanan, which I have rendered have pity, signifies to gratify, to do one a pleasure; and is intended to convey the idea, that the succor which God affords to his people proceeds from his free goodness. 491491     “Comme si c’estoit un enfer plus haut, et qu’il y en eust un autre plus bas.” — Fr. Finally, the Psalmist concludes, that the only way in which he can be preserved is by the divine aid, which he seeks to obtain by prayer; and thus he confesses his utter destitution of any strength of his own. In applying to himself the appellation of God’s servant, and the son of his handmaid, he does not boast of his own services, but urges as a plea, for obtaining greater favor at the divine hand, the long line of his ancestors, and the continual course of God’s grace; setting forth, that he was from his mother’s womb a household-servant of God, and, as it were, born one of his servants in his house: 492492     “Et est pour monstrer que le secours que Dieu donne aux siens, procede de sa bonte gratuite.” — Fr. a point of which we have already spoken elsewhere.

The last verse contains an additional confirmation of the statement, that he was in a manner forsaken of God. He would not have desired to be favored with some token of the divine favor, had he not been on all sides driven to despair, and had not the divine favor been hidden from him to try his patience. It was a proof of no ordinary steadfastness to maintain the conflict with this temptation, and to do this so successfully, as not to cease to descry light in the midst of darkness. He desires that his enemies may be put to shame, because they assailed his simplicity with mockery and scoffing, as if he had acted a foolish part by trusting in God. The miserable and distressing condition in which the Church was placed after the Babylonish captivity, might be apt to sink the minds of the godly into despondency; and, accordingly, the Holy Spirit here promises her restoration in a wonderful and incredible manner, so that nothing would be more desirable than to be reckoned among the number of her members.


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