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Psalm 143:8-12

8. Cause me to hear thy loving-kindness in the morning, for in thee have I hoped; show me the way in which I may walk, for I have lifted up my soul to thee. 9. Deliver me, O Jehovah! from my enemies; I have hidden with thee. 10. Teach me that I may do thy will, for thou art my God; let thy good Spirit lead me into the right land. 11. For thy name’s sake, O Lord! thou wilt quicken me: in thy righteousness bring my soul out of trouble. 12. And in thy mercy thou wilt scatter my enemies, and thou wilt destroy 252252     In our English Bible the verbs “quicken,” “scatter,” and “destroy,” are in the imperative mood; but Calvin renders them in the future tense. In this he is followed by Dr. Hammond and Bishop Horne; “and then,” as this last commentator remarks, “the Psalm will end as usual, with an act of faith and assurance that all those mercies which have been asked shall be obtained.” all them that afflict my soul, for I am thy servant.

 

8. Cause me to hear thy loving-kindness. In this verse he again prays that God would show him his favor visibly and effectually. The expression cause me to hear, may seem not very proper, as the goodness of God is rather felt than heard; but as the mere perception of God’s benefits, without a believing apprehension and improvement of them, would do us little good, David very properly begins with hearing. We see how wicked men riot in the abundance of them, while yet they have no sense of the Lord’s goodness, through want of attention to the word, and a believing apprehension of God as a father. The adverb in the morning some confine to a reference to sacrifices — which is a meager interpretation — in allusion to the well-known fact that sacrifices used to be offered twice, in the morning and in the evening. Others give a more strained sense, understanding that when God deals in a more favorable way with his people, he is said to form a new day. 253253     “Que Dieu quand il commence a traitter ses serviteurs plus doucement, fait (par maniere de dire) luire un jour nouveau.” — Fr. Others consider it to be a metaphor for a prosperous and happy condition, as an afflicted and calamitous time is often denoted by darkness. I wonder that there should be such a search after extraneous meanings for this word, by which he is simply to be considered as repeating his former prayer to God — make haste. In the morning means the same with speedily or seasonably. He founds a reason here, as elsewhere, upon his having hoped in God, this being something by which, in a sense, we lay God under obligation to us, for in making a liberal offer of himself to us, and promising to sustain the relationship of a father, he gives what men would call a pledge. This, accordingly, is a species of obligation. But so far is this from implying any worthiness or merit on our part, that the hope we entertain rather proves our nothingness and helplessness. His prayer that a way might be opened up for him to walk in, refers to the anxieties which perplexed him. He intimates that he was dismayed, and brought to a stand, unable to move a step, if God did not open a way, by his divine power; that all the desires of his soul terminated upon him; and that he looked for counsel from him to procure relief in his perplexity.

9. Deliver me, O Jehovah! from my enemies. This prayer is to the same effect, his enemies being so earnestly bent upon his destruction as to leave no outgate for him. The verb כסיתי, chisithi, some render to hope: the proper meaning is to cover, and I am unwilling to depart from it. The explanation some give is, that David upon perceiving the imminent danger to which he was exposed, betook himself to the covert of God’s shadow, and concealed himself under the protection of it. This seems a very natural rendering, at least I prefer it to another which has recommended itself to some as being ingenious — that David, instead of having recourse to various quarters for relief, was satisfied to have God cognizant of his case, and called upon him in a hidden manner and apart.

10. Teach me that I may do thy will. He now rises to something higher, praying not merely for deliverance from outward troubles, but, what is of still greater importance, for the guidance of God’s Spirit, that he might not decline to the right hand or to the left, but be kept in the path of rectitude. This is a request which should never be forgotten when temptations assail us with great severity, as it is peculiarly difficult to submit to God without resorting to unwarrantable methods of relief. As anxiety, fear, disease, languor, or pain, often tempt persons to particular steps, David’s example should bad us to pray for divine restraint, and that we may not be hurried, through impulses of feeling, into unjustifiable courses. We are to mark carefully his way of expressing himself, for what he asks is not simply to be taught what the will of God is, but to be taught and brought to the observance, and doing of it. The former kind of teaching is of less avail, as upon God’s showing us our duty we by no means necessarily follow it, and it is necessary that he should draw out our affections to himself. God therefore must be master and teacher to us not only in the dead letter, but by the inward motions of his Spirit; indeed there are three ways in which he acts the part of our teacher, instructing us by his word, enlightening our minds by the Spirit, and engraving instruction upon our hearts, so as to bring us observe it with a true and cordial consent. The mere hearing of the word would serve no purpose, nor is it enough that we understand it; there must be besides the willing’ obedience of the heart. Nor does he merely say, Teach me that I may be capable of doing, as the deluded Papists imagine that the grace of God does no more than make us flexible to what is good, but he seeks something to be actually and presently done.

He insists upon the same thing in the next clause, when he says, Let thy good Spirit lead me, etc., for he desires the guidance of the Spirit not merely as he enlightens our minds, but as he effectually influences the consent of our hearts, and as it were leads us by the hand. The passage in its connection warns us of the necessity of being sedulously on our guard against yielding to inordinate passions in any contests we may have with wicked persons, and as we have no sufficient wisdom or power of our own by which to check and restrain these passions, that we should always seek the guidance of God’s Spirit, to keep them in moderation. More generally, the passage teaches us what we are to think of free will; for David here denies the will to have the power of judging rightly, till our hearts be formed to a holy obedience by the Spirit of God. The term leading, which I have already adverted to, proves also that David did not hold that middle species of grace which Papists talk so much about, and which leaves man in a state of suspension or indecision, but asserts something much more effectual, agreeably to what Paul says, (Philippians 2:13,) that

“it is God who works in us both to will and to do
of his good pleasure.”

By the words right hand, I understand, figuratively, uprightness; David’s meaning being, that we are drawn into error whenever we decline from what is agreeable to the will of God. The term Spirit is tacitly opposed to that corruption which is natural to us; what he says being tantamount to this, that all men’s thoughts are polluted and perverted, till reduced to right rule by the grace of the Spirit. It follows that nothing which is dictated by the judgment of the flesh is good or sound. I grant that wicked men are led away by an evil spirit sent from God, for he executes his judgments by the agency of devils, 254254     “Je confesse bien que le mauvais esprit de Dieu agite et transporte les reprouvez, (car Dieu execute ses jugemens par les diables,)” etc. — Fr. (1 Samuel 16:14;) but when David in this place speaks of God’s good Spirit, I do not imagine that he has any such strained allusion, but rather that he takes here to himself the charge of corruption, and assigns the praise of whatever is good, upright, or true, to the Spirit of God. When he says, Because thou art my God, he shows that his confidence of obtaining his request was founded entirely upon the free favor and promises of God. It is not a matter lying within our own power to make him our God, but it rests with his free preventing grace.

11. For thy name’s sake, O Jehovah! etc. By this expression he makes it still more clear that it was entirely of God’s free mercy that he looked for deliverance; for, had he brought forward anything of his own, the cause would not have been in God, and only in God. He is said to help us for his own name’s sake, when, although he discovers nothing in us to conciliate his favor, he is induced to interpose of his mere goodness. To the same effect is the term righteousness; for God, as I have said elsewhere, has made the deliverance of his people a means of illustrating his righteousness. He at the same time repeats what he had said as to the extraordinary extent of his afflictions: in seeking to be quickened or made alive, he declares himself to be exanimated, and that he must remain under the power of death, if the God who has the issues of life did not recover him by a species of resurrection.

12. And in thy mercy, etc. In this verse he repeats for the fifth or sixth time that he looked for life only of God’s free mercy. Whatever severity may appear on the part of God when he destroys the wicked, David affirms that the vengeance taken upon them would be a proof of fatherly mercy to him. Indeed these two things often meet together — the severity and the goodness of God; for in stretching out his hand to deliver his own people, he directs the thunder of his indignation against their enemies. In short, he comes forth armed for the deliverance of his people, as he says in Isaiah,

“The day of vengeance is in mine heart,
and this is the year of my redemption.” (Isaiah 63:4.)

In calling himself The servant of God, he by no means boasts of his services, but rather commends the grace of God, to whom he owed this privilege. This is not an honor to be got by our own struggles or exertions — to be reckoned among God’s servants; it depends upon his free choice, by which he condescends before we are born to take us into the number and rank of his followers, as David elsewhere declares still more explicitly —

“I am thy servant, truly I am thy servant,
and the son of thine handmaid.” (Psalm 116:16.)

This is equivalent to making himself God’s client, and committing his life to his protection.


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