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Psalm 90:14-17

14. Satiate us early 574574     The great mortality constantly taking place among them could not but remind them of this oath. Dimock calculates that the number of persons who died in the wilderness, from twenty years old and upwards, was one year with another near 15,000. with thy goodness, and we will be glad and rejoice all our days. 15. Make us joyful according to the days of our affliction; according to the years in which we have seen evil. 16. Let thy work appear towards thy servants, and thy glory upon their children. 17. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and direct the work of our hands upon us; yea, direct thou the work of our hands.

 

16 Let thy work appear towards thy servants. As God, when he forsakes his Church, puts on as it were a character different from his own, Moses, with much propriety, calls the blessing of protection which had been divinely promised to the children of Abraham God’s proper work. Although, therefore, God’s work was manifest in all the instances in which he had punished the perfidiousness, ingratitude, obstinacy, unruly lusts, and unhallowed desires of his people, yet Moses, by way of eminence, prefers before all other proofs of God’s power, that care which he exercised in maintaining the welfare of the people, by which it was his will that he should be principally known. This is the reason why Paul, in Romans 9:23, especially applies to the Divine goodness the honorable title of “glory.” God indeed maintains his glory by judging the world; but as nothing is more natural to him than to show himself gracious, his glory on that account is said to shine forth chiefly in his benefits. With respect to the present passage, God had then only begun to deliver his people; for they had still to be put in possession of the land of Canaan. Accordingly, had they gone no farther than the wilderness, the lustre of their deliverance would have been obscured. Besides, Moses estimates the work of God according to the Divine promise; and doing this he affirms that it will be imperfect and incomplete, unless he continue his grace even to the end. This is expressed still more plainly in the second clause of the verse, in which he prays not only for the welfare of his own age, but also for the welfare of the generation yet unborn. His exercise thus corresponds with the form of the covenant,

“And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenants to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee,”
(Genesis 17:7.)

By this example we are taught, that in our prayers we ought to extend our care to those who are to come after us. As God has promised that the Church will be perpetuated even to the end of the world, — a subject which was brought under our notice in the preceding psalm, — this ought, in a special manner, to lead us in all the prayers by which we commend the welfare of the Church to him, to include, at the same time, our posterity who are yet unborn. Farther, the words glory and beauty are to be particularly noticed: from which we learn that the love which God bears towards us is unparalleled. Although, in enriching us with his gifts he gains nothing for himself; yet he would have the splendor and beauty of his character manifested in dealing bountifully with us, as if his beauty were obscured when he ceases to do us good. In the clause immediately succeeding, Direct the work of our hands upon us, Moses intimates that we cannot undertake or attempt anything with the prospect of success, unless God become our guide and counsellor, and govern us by his Spirit. Whence it follows, that the reason why the enterprises and efforts of worldly men have a disastrous issue is, because, in not following God, they pervert all order and throw everything into confusion. Nor is the word עלינו, alenu, upon us, superfluous; for although God converts to good in the end whatever Satan and the reprobate plot and practice against him or his people; yet the Church, in which God rules with undisturbed sway, has in this respect a special privilege. By his providence, which to us is incomprehensible, he directs his work in regard to the reprobate externally; but he governs his believing people internally by his Holy Spirit; and therefore he is properly said to order or direct the work of their hands. The repetition shows that a continual course of perseverance in the grace of God is required. It would not be enough for us to be brought to the midst of our journey. He must enable us to complete the whole course. Some translate, confirm or establish; and this sense may be admitted. I have, however, followed that translation which was more agreeable to the context, conceiving the prayer to be that God would direct to a prosperous issue all the actions and undertakings of his people.


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