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Psalm 103:6-8

6. Jehovah executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. 7. He made known his ways to Moses, his doings to the children of Israel. 8. Jehovah is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in goodness.

 

6. Jehovah executeth righteousness David having recounted the Divine benefits bestowed upon himself, now passes from this personal consideration to take a wider view of the subject. There is, however, no doubt that when he declares God to be the succorer of the oppressed, he includes himself among the number, for he had enjoyed the Divine help under many persecutions; and, from his own experience, he describes the character in which God is accustomed to manifest himself towards all who are unrighteously afflicted. As the faithful, while in this world, are always living among wolves, by using the plural number, he celebrates a variety of deliverances, to teach us that it is God’s ordinary work to succor his servants whenever he sees them injuriously treated. Hence we are taught to exercise patience when we find that God takes it upon him to avenge our wrongs, and that he covers us with the shield of his justice, or defends us with the sword of his judgment, as often as we are assaulted wrongfully.

7 He hath made known his ways to Moses David now speaks in the name of the chosen people; and this he does very suitably, being led to it by the consideration of the benefits which God had bestowed upon himself. Convinced that it was only as a member of the Church that he had been enriched with so many blessings, he immediately carries back his contemplations to the common covenant made with the people of Israel. He, however, continues the same train of thought as in the preceding verse; for these ways, which he says had been shown to Moses, were nothing else than the deliverance wrought for the people until they entered the promised land. He selected this as an instance of God’s righteousness and judgment, surpassing all others, to prove that God always shows himself righteous in succoring those who are oppressed. But since this instance depended upon the Divine promise, he doubtless has an eye principally to it; his language implying that God’s righteousness was clearly demonstrated and seen in the history of the chosen people, whom he had adopted, and with whom he had entered into covenant. God is said to have made known his ways first to Moses, who was his servant and messenger, and afterwards to all the people. Moses is here represented as invested with the office to which he was Divinely appointed; for it was God’s will to be made known to the people by the hand and working of that distinguished man. The ways, then, and the doings of God, are his rising up with wonderful power to deliver the people, his leading them through the Red Sea, and his manifesting his presence with them by many signs and miracles. But as all this flowed from the free covenant, David exhorts himself and others to give thanks to God for having chosen them to be his peculiar people, and for enlightening their minds by the truths of his law. Man, without the knowledge of God, being the most miserable object that can be imagined, the discovery which God has been pleased to make to us in his Word, of his fatherly love, is an incomparable treasure of perfect happiness.

8. Jehovah is merciful and gracious David seems to allude to the exclamation of Moses, recorded in Exodus 34:6, where the nature of God, revealed in a remarkable way, is more clearly described than in other places. When Moses was admitted to take a nearer view of the Divine glory than was usually obtained, he exclaimed upon beholding it, “O God! merciful and gracious, forgiving iniquity, slow to wrath, and abundant in goodness.” As, therefore, he has summarily comprehended in that passage all that is important for us to know concerning the Divine character, David happily applies these terms, by which God is there described, to his present purpose. His design is to ascribe entirely to the goodness of God the fact that the Israelites, who by their own wickedness forfeited from time to time their relation to him, as his adopted people, nevertheless continued in that relation. Farther, we must understand in general, that the true knowledge of God corresponds to what faith discovers in the written Word; for it is not his will that we should search into his secret essence, except in so far as he makes himself known to us, a point worthy of our special notice. We see that whenever God is mentioned, the minds of men are perversely carried away to cold speculations, and fix their attention on things which can profit them nothing; while, in the meantime, they neglect those manifestations of his perfections which meet our eyes, and which afford a vivid reflection of his character. To whatever subjects men apply their minds, there is none from which they will derive greater advantage than from continual meditation on his wisdom, goodness, righteousness, and mercy; and especially the knowledge of his goodness is fitted both to build up our faith, and to illustrate his praises. Accordingly, Paul, in Ephesians 3:18, declares that our height, length, breadth, and depth, consists in knowing the unspeakable riches of grace, which have been manifested to us in Christ. This also is the reason why David, copying from Moses, magnifies by a variety of terms the mercy of God. In the first place, as we have no worse fault than that devilish arrogance which robs God of his due praise, and which yet is so deeply rooted in us, that it cannot be easily eradicated; God rises up, and that he may bring to nought the heaven-daring presumption of the flesh, asserts in lofty terms his own mercy, by which alone we stand. Again, when we ought to rely upon the grace of God, our minds tremble or waver, and there is nothing in which we find greater difficulty than to acknowledge that He is merciful to us. David, to meet and overcome this doubting state of mind, after the example of Moses, employs these synonymous terms: first, that God is merciful; secondly, that he is gracious; thirdly, that he patiently and compassionately bears with the sins of men; and, lastly, that he is abundant in mercy and goodness.

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