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Psalm 116:5-9

5. Jehovah is gracious and just; our God is merciful. 6. Jehovah guards the simple; I was brought low, and he saved me. 7. Return, O my soul! into thy rest; for Jehovah hath recompensed unto thee. 8. Because thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. 9. I will walk in the presence of Jehovah in the land of the living.

 

5 Jehovah is gracious. He comes now to point out the fruits of that love of which he spoke, setting before him God’s titles, in order that they might serve to preserve his faith in him. First, he denominates him gracious, because he is so ready graciously to render assistance. From this source springs that justice which he displays for the protection of his own people. To this is subjoined mercy, without which we would not deserve God’s aid. And as the afflictions which overtake us frequently appear to preclude the exercise of his justice, hence it follows that there is nothing better than to repose upon him alone; so that his fatherly kindness may engross our thoughts, and that no voluptuous pleasure may steal them away to any thing else. He then accommodates the experience of God’s benignity and equity to the preserving of the simple, that is, of such as, being undesigning, do not possess the requisite prudence for managing their own affairs. The term, rendered simple, is often understood in a bad sense, denoting persons inconsiderate and foolish, who will not follow wholesome advice. But, in this place, it is applied to those who are exposed to the abuse of the wicked, who are not sufficiently subtle and circumspect to elude the snares which are laid for them, — in short, to those who are easily overreached; while, on the contrary, the children of this world are full of ingenuity, and have every means at their command for maintaining and protecting themselves. David, therefore, acknowledges himself to be as a child, unable to consult his own safety, and totally unfit to ward off the dangers to which he was exposed. Hence the LXX. have not improperly translated the Hebrew term by the Greek, τὰ νήπια, little children. 378378     This rendering of the LXX. also suggests the idea of weakness, which Fry has adopted, who reads, “Jehovah preserveth the weak.” “The usual meaning of פתאים,” says he, “is simplices, fatui, persuasu faciles; but I believe the Septuagint has preserved the true meaning of the passage, Φυλάσσων τὰ νήπια ὁ κυριος. The leading idea of פתה is laxity or yielding, and may as well apply to the weakness of the body, or of the faculties of the mind, under the pressure of grief and pain, as to the relaxing of the powers of the understanding, in yielding to the seductions of folly or vice.” The amount is, that when those who are liable to suffering have neither the prudence nor the means of effecting their deliverance, God manifests his wisdom towards them, and interposes the secret protection of his providence between them and all the dangers by which their safety may be assailed. In fine, David holds forth himself as a personal example of this fact, in that, after being reduced to the greatest straits, he had, by the grace of God, been restored to his former state.

7 Return, O my soul! unto thy rest. He now exhorts himself to be of good courage; or rather, addressing his soul, tells it to be tranquil, because God was propitious towards him. By the term rest, some commentators understand God himself, but this is an unnatural interpretation. It is rather to be regarded as expressive of a calm and composed state of mind. For it is to be noticed, that David confesses himself to have been sorely agitated and perplexed amid an accumulation of ills, in the same way as each of us is conscious of his own inquietude, when the terrors of death encompass us. Although, therefore, David possessed unusual fortitude, he was yet distressed by reason of the conflict of grief, and an inward tremor so distracted his mind, that he justly complains of being deprived of his peace. He declares, however, that the grace of God was adequate to quiet all these troubles.

It may be asked, whether the experience of the grace of God alone can allay the fear and trepidation of our minds; since David declares, that, having experienced relief from Divine aid, he would, for the future, be at rest? If the faithful regain their peace of mind only when God manifests himself as their deliverer, what room is there for the exercise of faith, and what power will the promises possess? For, assuredly, to wait calmly and silently for those indications of God’s favor, which he conceals from us, is the undoubted evidence of faith. And strong faith quiets the conscience, and composes the spirit; so that, according to Paul, “the peace of God, which passeth all understandings” reigns supremely there, Philippians 4:7. And hence the godly remain unmoved, though the whole world were about to go to ruin. What is the import of this returning unto rest? I answer, that however much the children of God may be driven hither and thither, yet they constantly derive support from the word of God, so that they cannot totally and finally fall away. Confiding in his promises, they throw themselves upon his providence; and still they are sorely distressed by disquieting fears, and sadly buffeted by the storms of temptation. No sooner does God come to their assistance, than not only inward peace takes possession of their minds, but, from the manifestation of his grace, they are supplied with grounds for joy and gladness. Of this latter kind of quietness David here treats — declaring that, notwithstanding of all the prevalence of agitation of mind, it was now time for him to delight himself calmly in God. The term גמל, gamal, is improperly rendered to reward; because, in Hebrew, it usually signifies to confer a favor, as well as to give a recompense; which is confirmed by him in the following verse, in which he says that his soul was delivered from death. This, then, properly speaking, is the recompense; namely, that God, in delivering him from death, had wiped away the tears from his eyes. The arrangement of the words is transposed; for, according to our idiom, we would rather have said, he hath delivered my feet from falling; and mine eyes from tears, and then he hath delivered my soul from death; for we are wont to follow that arrangement, by which the most important circumstance comes to be mentioned last. Among the Hebrews such a collocation of the words, as in this passage, is by no means improper. This is their import: God has not only rescued me from present death, but also treated me with farther kindness, in chasing away sorrow, and stretching out his hand to prevent me from stumbling. The grace of God is enhanced, in that he restored to life one who had been almost dead.

9 I will walk in the presence of Jehovah. To walk in the presence of God is, in my opinion, equivalent to living under his charge. And thus David expects to enjoy his safety continually. For nothing is more desirable than that God should be upon the watch for us, that our life may be surrounded by his protecting care. The wicked, indeed, regard themselves as secure, the farther they are from God; but the godly consider themselves happy in this one thing, that he directs the whole tenor of their life. God adding, in the land of the living, he means to point out to us the course that we are expected to pursue; and that, almost every moment of time, fresh destructions press upon us, if he overlook us.


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