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Psalm 139:7-12

7. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? rind whither shall flee from thy face? 8. If I ascend up into heaters, thou art there; if I lie down in the sepulcher, lo! thou art there. 9. Shall I take the wings of the morning, that I may dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea? 10. Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. 11. If I shall say; at least the darkness shall cover me, and the night shall be light for me; 12. Even the darkness shall not hide from thee, and the night shall be lightened up as day, and darkness as the light.

 

7. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? I consider that David prosecutes the same idea of its being’ impossible that men by any subterfuge should elude the eye of God. By the Spirit of God we are not here, as in several other parts of Scripture, to conceive of his power merely, but his understanding and knowledge. 205205     Some commentators suppose the third person of the Trinity to be here referred to. In man the spirit is the seat of intelligence, and so it is here in reference to God, as is plain from the second part of the sentence, where by the face of God is meant his knowledge or inspection. David means in short that he could not change from one place to another without God seeing him, and following him with his eyes as he moved. They misapply the passage who adduce it as a proof of the immensity of God’s essence; for though it be an undoubted truth that the glory of the Lord fills heaven and earth, this was not at present in the view of the Psalmist, but the truth that God’s eye penetrates heaven and hell, so that, hide in what obscure corner of the world he might, he must be discovered by him. Accordingly he tells us that though he should fly to heaven, or lurk in the lowest abysses, from above or from below all was naked and manifest before God. The wings of the morning, 206206     Or “of the dawn of the morning.” שחר, shachar, the word employed, “is the light which is seen in the clouds before the rising of the sun, and it is like as if it; had wings to fly with haste; for in a moment the dawn of the morning is spread over the horizon, from the end of the east to that of the west.” — Mendlessohn’s Beor. or of Lucifer, is a beautiful metaphor, for when the sun rises on the earth, it transmits its radiance suddenly to all regions of the world, as with the swiftness of flight. The same figure is employed in Malachi 4:2. And the idea is, that though one should fly with the speed of light, he could find no recess where he would be beyond the reach of divine power. For by hand we are to understand power, and the assertion is to the effect that should man attempt to withdraw from the observation of God, it were easy for him to arrest and draw back the fugitive. 207207     Dathe understands thy hand of God’s gracious presence to defend the Psalmist; and such may be the meaning of the words. But whether we take them in this sense, or according to Calvin, as expressing man’s being under the power of God, in whatever part of the world he may be, they illustrate the divine omniscience, which Calvin regards as the chief design of the inspired writer.

11. If I shall say, etc. David represents himself as a man using every possible method to make his escape from a situation of embarrassment. So having acknowledged that it was vain to dream of flight, he bethinks himself of another remedy, and says, If no speed of mine can bear me out of the range of God’s vision, yet, on the supposition of light being removed, the darkness might cover me, that I might have a short breath of respite. But this also he declares to be hopeless, as God sees equally well in the deepest darkness as at noon-day. It is a mistake in my opinion to consider, as some have done, that the two clauses of the verse are to be taken separately, and read, If I shall say the darkness will cover me, even the night shall be as light before me — meaning that darkness would be converted into light, and so though he saw nothing himself, he would stand manifest before the eye of God. David is rather to be considered as in both clauses expressing what he might be supposed to feel desirous of, and intimates that, could he only find any covert or subterfuge, he would avail himself of the license; 208208     “C’est plustost que David prononcant ee propos selon son propre sentiment, entend que pourveu qu’il puisse estre par quelqne moyen couvert et cache, il aura quelque peu de bon temps,” etc. — Fr. “if I shall say, at least the darkness will cover me, and the night be as light for me,” that is, in the sense in which it is so to the robbers or wild beasts of the forest, who then range at greater liberty. That this is the proper construction of the words we may infer from the particle גם, gam. If any one should ‘think it a very unnecessary observation to say that as respects God there is no difference between light and darkness, it is enough to remind him that all observation proves with what reluctance and extreme difficulty men are brought to come forward openly and ‘unreservedly into God’s presence. In words we all grant that God is omniscient; meanwhile what none would ever think of controverting we secretly make no account of whatsoever, in so far as we make no scruple of mocking God, and lack even that reverence of him which we extend to one of our fellow-creatures. We are ashamed to let men know and witness our delinquencies; but we are as indifferent to what God may think of us, as if our sins were covered and veiled from his inspection. This infatuation if not sharply reproved will soon change light, so far as we are concerned, into darkness, and therefore David insists upon the subject at length in order to refute our false apprehensions. Be it our concern to apply the reproofs given, and stir ourselves up by them, when we feel disposed to become secure.


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