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Psalm 119:145-152

145. ק I have cried with my whole heart; answer me, O Jehovah! and I will keep thy statutes. 146. ק I have called upon thee; save me, and I will keep thy testimonies. 147. ק I have prevented the twilight, 1919     The word which Calvin uses for “the twilight” is “crepusculum.” and have cried: I have looked up to thy word. 148. ק My eyes have prevented the night-watches, to meditate upon thy word. 149. ק Hear my yoke, O Jehovah! According to thy mercy, quicken me according to thy judgment. 150. ק The pursuers of malice have drawn near; they have departed from thy law. 151. ק Thou, O Jehovah! art near; and all thy commandments are truth. 152. ק I have known from thy testimonies from the beginning that thou hast established them for ever.

 

145 I have cried with my whole heart. This verse may be so read and connected as that in the end of it the Psalmist may show what he desired in crying; 2020     According to this view, the last clause would read, “that I may keep thy statutes.” and thus the meaning would be, that as he was inflamed with an intense desire to keep the law, he continually made supplication to God on that subject. But the subsequent verse compels us to take a different view, for the same thing is, no doubt, there again repeated. The Prophet then requests that God would hear him; and in token of his gratitude he promises to keep God’s commandments. He simply uses the indefinite term cry; and thus he does not express what the prayers were which he offered up to God, but only shows, that while the children of this world are distracted by a multiplicity of objects, he directed all the affections of his heart exclusively to God, because he depended solely on him. As the world is compelled to acknowledge that God is the author of all good things, many formal prayers proceed from that principle. It was the consideration of this which led David to affirm that he prayed with his whole heart. When he shall have obtained his requests, he proposes to himself the glory of God as his end, resolving to devote himself with so much the more ardent affection to the work of serving him. Although God declares that he is served aright by the sacrifice of praise, yet David, to distinguish himself from hypocrites who profane the name of God by their cold and feigned praises, with good reason declares that he will give thanks by his life and works.

In the following verse he makes no new statement; but he speaks more expressly. In the first place, he says that he cried to God; and next he adds, that he commended his welfare to Him by prayer; thereby intimating that whether he was in safety, or whether imminent danger threatened him with death, he uniformly reposed upon God, being fully persuaded that the only way in which he could continue safe was by having him for the guardian and protector of his welfare.

147. I have prevented the twilight. The Hebrew noun נשף, nesheph, is in this place improperly translated by crepusculum, twilight; for it rather signifies the dawn of morning. But as the Latin’s derive the word crepusculum, from creperus, which signifies doubtful or uncertain, so that it may signify the doubtful and intermediate time between light and darkness, I have not been particularly nice in the selection of the term only let my readers understand that the evening twilight commencing with sunset is not here denoted, but the imperfect light which precedes the rising of the sun. David then expresses the most eager haste when he says, that he prevented the dawn of the morning by his prayers. The verb cry always conveys the idea of earnestness; referring, as it does, not so much to the loudness of the voice as to the vehemency and ardor of the mind. In mentioning his haste, his object is the better to set forth his perseverance; for he tells us, that although he betook himself to prayer with such promptitude, yet he did not immediately become weary of that exercise, like the unbelieving, who, if God does not suddenly grant them their requests, murmur and complain against him. Thus, in conjoining patience of hope with earnestness of desire, he shows what is the true manner of praying; even as Paul, in Philippians 4:6, when he exhorts us to

“let our requests be made known unto God with thanksgiving,” (Philippians 4:6)

admonishes us, while engaged in the exercise of prayer, to bridle our turbulent affections, because one of the ends of prayer is to nourish our hope. Nor is the mention made of the word in the close of the verse superfluous; for it is only by having the Word of God continually before our eyes, that we can bridle the wanton impetuosity of our corrupt nature.

148. My eyes have prevented the night watchers. 2121     The Hebrews divided the natural day into three portions--morning, noon, and evening — which are mentioned by David as seasons in which he engaged in prayer. (Psalm 55:17.) They also divided the night into three parts, called “watches,” consisting of four hours each, and commencing at our six o’clock in the evening. In Lamentations 2:19, we read of the first watch; or, as it is there designated, “the beginning of the watches;” in Judges 7:19, of “the middle watch;” and in Exodus 14:24, of “the morning watch.” A similar division of the night seems to have been made by other ancient nations, as appears from the references made to it by Homer and the early Greek writers. The Greeks and Romans, however, in improving their military discipline, afterwards divided the night into four watches, each consisting of three hours; and when the Jews fell under the dominion of the latter people, they adopted from them this division of the night. Hence we read of “the fourth watch of the night” in Matthew 14:25. And the four watches are mentioned together in Mark 13:35:
   “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at cock-crowing,
or in the morning.”

   The time at which each of these four watches began and ended is thus determined by Dr. Hales, who has written elaborately on the subject: “1. Οψε, the late, began at sunset, and ended with the third hour of the night, including the evening-dawn, or twilight. It was also called οψια ὡρα, eventide, Mark 11:11; or simply οψια, evening, John 20:19, etc. 2. Μεσονυκτιον, the midnight, lasted from the third hour till midnight. 3. Αλεκτοροφωνια, the cock-crowing, midnight till the third hour after, or the ninth hour of the night. It included the two cock-crowings, with the second or principal of which it ended. 4. Πρωι, the early, lasted from the ninth to the twelfth hor of the night, or sunrise, including the morning-dawn or twilight. It is also called πρωια, morning, or morningtide, (ὡρα being understood,) John 18:28, etc.

   “When the Psalmist here declares, that his eyes prevented the nightwatches, we are to understand him as chiefly referring to the middle and morning watches, which falling at that period of the night when men in general are devoted to rest, envinced the strength, fervour, and self-sacrificing character of his devotions.” — Dr. Morison.
The Psalmist here intimates, that he was more sedulously intent on meditating upon the law of God than watchmen of the night were to keep watch. Others are of opinion, that the verb שוח, suach, is put for to discourse. If this opinion is admitted, the sense will be, that the Prophet, not from ostentation, but for the welfare of his brethren, was so desirous of communicating instruction, that he gave himself no rest. The word meditate is, however, more appropriate in this place; for the night is an unseasonable time for discoursing upon the law of God; but at that season, when alone, he silently recalled to his memory what he had previously learned, so that he passed no part of the night without meditating upon the law.

149. Hear my voice, O Jehovah! according to thy mercy. In the first place he declares, that the goodness of God was the only ground of his hope of being heard by him. Whatever blessings the saints may plead for in prayer, their opening argument must be the free and unmerited grace of God. Nor is the term judgments 2222     By “judgments,” Calvin means “God’s Word,” as the reader will observe from what follows. in the second clause to be taken in a different sense. As God has revealed his goodness in his word, his word is the source from which we must derive our assurance of his goodness. The Prophet, then, sensible that he had need of the divine mercy, betook himself directly to the word, in which God, sweetly alluring men to himself, promises that his grace will be ready and open for all. That each, therefore, may be confidently persuaded that God will be merciful to him in particular, let him learn from the example of the Prophet to entreat God to show himself such as he has promised to be. Some expound the word judgments by manner or custom; 2323     Walford translates, “Revive me, e Jehovah! according to thy wonted manner.” because, God’s usual way is to deal graciously with all his people. I would not altogether reject this exposition; but I think it is harsh and foreign to the scope of the text, while the meaning which I have adduced comes out very naturally. Moreover, he desires to be quickened, to testify that even in the, midst of life he is dead, except in so far as he is sustained by the power of God. And assuredly, all who are duly acquainted with their own infirmity, esteeming their life as nothing, will crave to be quickened every moment. It is also to be added, that God often so exercised his servant, that with good reason he might send up his prayers, as it were, out of the sepulcher, to be restored from death to life.

150. The pursuers of malice have drawn near. As the Hebrew word רודפי rodphee, translated the pursuers of, is put in the construct state, that is to say, as it is so related to the word זמה, zimmah, rendered wickedness, that in Latin the latter would be put in the genitive ease, I expound the clause as denoting that they draw near to do mischief. I wonder what could move interpreters to translate — The pursuers have approached, or drawn near to wickedness; which the idiom of the language will not admit, to say nothing of the fact that זמה, zimmah, signifies rather perversity or malice, than wickedness. David therefore says, that those who are vehemently bent on malice are pursuing him close behind, and that they rush upon him with such violence in order to do him mischief, as plainly to indicate that they are far off from God’s law, since they east far from them all regard to uprightness and equity. It was a most wretched condition for him to be in, to behold his enemies, who had shaken off all fear of God and reverence for his law, ready with uplifted hand to smite him to death, had not God been near to defend him, as he adds in the subsequent verse —

151. Thou, O Jehovah! art near. He encourages himself from the consolatory consideration, that God, when he sees his own people sore pressed, comes forward, seasonably to afford them succor; even as Paul on this subject says,

“Be not over-careful, the Lord is at hand, let your moderation be known to all men ”
(Philippians 4:5)

The concluding sentence of the verse is to this effect, That God never forsakes nor disappoints his people in their necessity, because he is true to his promises; and in them he assures us, that the welfare of his people will always be the object of his care. That therefore we may be fully persuaded that the hand of God is always ready to repulse the assaults of our enemies, let us retain a settled belief of the truth, that he does not in vain promise in his word to be the guardian of our welfare.

152. I have known from thy testimonies 2424     “De testimoniis tuis.” — Lat. from the beginning. Others here translate, I have known long ago of thy testimonies. 2525     Walford’s rendering is, “I have known thy testimonies long since.” Phillips translates “of old;” and gives this explanation, “I have been acquainted with thy testimonies ever since I have possessed any knowledge, i.e. as soon as I came to years of reflection.
   ‘From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures.’
2 Timothy 3:15.”
This translation I would not directly reject; but I am more inclined to retain the sense which I have given, namely, That the Prophet not only knew the everlasting steadfastness which characterizes the testimonies of God; but that he had also derived this knowledge from the testimonies themselves. When the Hebrews would express the meaning conveyed by the Latin preposition de, they frequently use the particle מן, or the letter ב, beth. He therefore says, that he had learned from God’s testimonies, or had been taught by them, that they are established for ever 2626     Thou hast established them for ever. That is, thy revelations are unalterable and everlasting, as the attributes of their great Author, and can never fail those who rely upon them, in time, or in eternity.” — Warner on the Psalter. This indeed is the chief point of faith, That the word of God is not only distinguished for fidelity and steadfastness for a time, but that it continues unchangeable for ever. Were it otherwise, it could not include within it the hope of eternal salvation. That the assurance of this immutabiliy of God’s word may be rooted in our minds, the inward revelation of the Holy Spirit is indeed necessary; for until God seal within us the certainty of his word, our belief of its certainty will be continually wavering. Yet the Prophet, not without cause, affirms, that he learned this truth from the word; for when God shines into us by his Spirit, he at the same time causes that sacred truth which endures for ever to shine forth in the mirror of his word.


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