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Psalm 89:49-52

49. O Lord! where are thy former mercies? thou hast sworn to David in thy truth. 50. O Lord! Remember the reproach of thy servants: I have sustained in my bosom all the reproaches of mighty peoples; 51. With which thy enemies, O Jehovah! have reproached thee; with which they have reproached the footsteps of thy Messiah, [or thy Anointed.] 52. Blessed be Jehovah for ever! Amen, and Amen.

 

49. O Lord! where are thy former mercies? The prophet encourages himself, by calling to remembrance God’s former benefits, as if his reasoning were, That God can never be unlike himself, and that therefore the goodness which he manifested in old time to the fathers cannot come to an end. This comparison might indeed make the godly despond, when they find that they are not dealt with by him so gently as he dealt with the fathers, did not another consideration at the same time present itself to their minds — the consideration that he never changes, and never wearies in the course of his beneficence. As to the second clause of the verse, some interpreters connect it with the first, by interposing the relative, thus: — Where are thy former mercies which thou hast sworn? In this I readily acquiesce; for the sense is almost the same, although the relative be omitted. God had given evident and indubitable proofs of the truth of the oracle delivered to Samuel; 559559     “Sur les asnes et chevaux, et autres bestes brutes.” — Fr. “To asses and horses, and other brute beasts.” and, therefore, the faithful lay before him both his promise and the many happy fruits of it which had been experienced. They say, in truth, that they may with the greater confidence apply to themselves, whatever tokens of his liberality God had in old time bestowed upon the fathers; for they had the same ground to expect the exercise of the Divine goodness towards them as the fathers had, God, who is unchangeably the same, having sworn to be merciful to the posterity of David throughout all ages.

50. O Lord! remember the reproach of thy servants. They again allege, that they are held in derision by the ungodly, — a consideration which had no small influence in moving God to compassion: for the more grievous and troublesome a temptation it is, to have the wicked deriding our patience, that, after having made us believe that God is not true in what he has promised, they may precipitate us into despair; the more ready is he to aid us, that our feeble minds may not yield to the temptation. The prophet does not simply mean that the reproaches of his enemies are to him intolerable, but that God must repress their insolence in deriding the faith and patience of the godly, in order that those who trust in him may not be put to shame. He enhances still more the same sentiment in the second clause, telling us, that he was assailed with all kind of reproaches by many peoples, or by the great peoples, for the Hebrew word רבים, rabbim, signifies both great and many

Moreover, it is not without cause, that, after having spoken in general of the servants of God, he changes the plural into the singular number. He does this, that each of the faithful in particular may be the more earnestly stirred up to the duty of prayer. The expression, in my bosom, is very emphatic. It is as if he had said, The wicked do not throw from a distance their insulting words, but they vomit them, so to speak, upon the children of God, who are thus constrained to receive them into their bosom, and to bear patiently this base treatment. Such is the perversity of the time in which we live, that we have need to apply the same doctrine to ourselves; for the earth is full of profane and proud despisers of God, who cease not to make themselves merry at our expense. And as Satan is a master well qualified to teach them this kind of rhetoric, the calamities of the Church always furnish them with matter for exercising it. Some take bosom for the secret affection of the heart; but this exposition seems to be too refined.

51. With which thy enemies, O Jehovah! have reproached thee. What the Psalmist now affirms is, not that the wicked torment the saints with their contumelious language, but that they revile even God himself. And he makes this statement, because it is a much more powerful plea for obtaining favor in the sight of God, to beseech him to maintain his own cause, because all the reproaches by which the simplicity of our faith is held up to scorn recoil upon himself, than to beseech him to do this, because he is wounded in the person of his Church; according as he declares in Isaiah,

“Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed; and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 37:23)

That wicked robber Rabshakeh thought that he scoffed only at the wretched Jews whom he besieged, and whose surrender of themselves into his hands he believed he would soon witness; but God took it as if he himself had been the object whom that wicked man directly assailed. On this account also, the prophet calls these enemies of his people the enemies of God; namely, because in persecuting the Church with deadly hostility, they made an assault upon the majesty of God, under whose protection the Church was placed.

In the second clause, by the footsteps of Messiah or Christ is meant the coming of Christ, even as it is said in Isaiah 52:7,

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!” (Isaiah 52:7)

The Hebrew word עקב, akeb, sometimes signifies the heel; but here, as in many other passages, it signifies the sole of the foot. Others translate it the pace or step, but this gives exactly the same sense. There can be no doubt, that footsteps, by the figure synecdoche, is employed to denote the feet; and again, that by the feet, according to the figure metonomy, is meant the coming of Christ. The wicked, observing that the Jews clung to the hope of redemption, and patiently endured all adversities because a deliverer had been promised them, disdainfully derided their patience, as if all that the prophets had testified concerning the coming of Christ had been only a fable. 560560     “De la revelation faite a Samuel.” — Fr. And now also, although he has been once manifested to the world, yet as, in consequence of his having been received up into the glory of heaven, he seems to be far distant from us, and to have forsaken his Church, these filthy dogs scoff at our hope, as if it were a mere delusion.

52. Blessed be Jehovah for ever! I am surprised why some interpreters should imagine, that this verse was added by some transcriber in copying the book, affirming, that it does not correspond with the context: as if the language of praise and thanksgiving to God were not as suitable at the close of a psalm as at the opening of it. I have therefore no doubt, that the prophet, after having freely bewailed the calamities of the Church, now, with the view of allaying the bitterness of his grief, purposely breaks forth into the language of praise. As to the words Amen, and Amen, I readily grant, that they are here employed to distinguish the book. 561561     Or, as if our Redeemer were slow-paced, halt, or lame, and his Church should never behold his steps. With this agrees the Chaldee paraphrase: — “The slowness of the footsteps of the feet of thy Messiah or anointed.” Kimchi renders, “the delays of the Messiah;” “the discourse,” he observes, “being of those who say that he will never come.” A similar style of speech has been employed by the enemies of the gospel, as Calvin goes on to observe, who scoffingly asked in the days of the apostles, and who still ask, “Where is the promise of his coming?” 2 Peter 3:4. But whoever composed this psalm, there is no doubt, that by these words of rejoicing, the design of the writer was to assuage the greatness of his grief in the midst of his heavy afflictions, that he might entertain the livelier hope of deliverance.


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