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O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you.

Be our arm every morning,

our salvation in the time of trouble.

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1. Wo to thee that spoilest. If these words shall be expounded as relating to the Babylonians, the strain will flow easily enough; for, after having promised freedom to the prisoners, (Isaiah 32:15,) he now appropriately taunts the conquerors. Besides, they needed to be peculiarly confirmed, that they might give credit to a prediction which appeared to be incredible; for they could not think it probable that such vast power would be destroyed and overthrown, and that, the wretched prisoners who were now in a state of despair would speedily be permitted to return to their native country. Amidst such distresses, therefore, they might have fainted and given up all hope of safety, if the Prophet had not met them with these exhortations. Accordingly, he anticipates those doubts which might have tormented their minds and tempted them to despair, after having been carried away by the Babylonians, and reduced to slavery; for they saw none of those things which are here promised, but everything entirely opposite.

Yet, as it is almost universally agreed that this is the beginning of a new discourse, and that it is addressed to Sennacherib and his army, I am not unwilling to believe that the Prophet pronounces against the Assyrians, who unjustly oppressed all their neighbors, a threatening which was intended to alleviate the distresses and anxieties of the people. He therefore means that there will be a wonderful revolution of affairs, which will overthrow the flourishing condition of Nineveh, though it appears to be invincible; for the Babylonians will come in a hostile manner to punish them for that cruelty which they exercised on other nations.

In order to impart greater energy to this discourse, he addresses the Assyrians themselves, “Wo to thee that plunderest; you may now ravage with impunity; no one has power to resist you; but there will one day be those who in their turn shall plunder you, as you have plundered others.” He speaks to them in the singular number, but in a collective sense, which is very customary. Others read it as a question, “Shalt thou not be spoiled? Dost thou think that thou wilt never be punished for that violence? There will one day be those who will render to thee the like.” But we may follow the ordinary exposition, according to which the Prophet exhibits in a striking light the injustice of enemies, who were so eager for plunder that they spared nobody, not even the innocent who had never injured them; for that is a demonstration of the utmost cruelty. I am therefore the more disposed to adopt this exposition, according to which he describes in this first clause what the Assyrians are, shews them to be base and cruel robbers, and gives a strong exhibition of their cruelty in harassing and pillaging harmless and inoffensive persons; so that, when the Jews beheld such unrestrained injustice, they might consider that God is just, and that such proceedings will not always pass unpunished.

When thou shalt have ceased to plunder. This is the second clause of the sentence, by which the Prophet declares that the Assyrians now plunder, because God has given loose reins to them, but that he will one day check them, so that they will have no power to do injury. If we were to understand him to mean, “when they would no longer wish to plunder,” that would be a feeble interpretation; but the Prophet advances higher, and declares that the time will come “when they shall make an end of plundering,” because the Lord will restrain and subdue them. The meaning is therefore the same as if he had said, “When thou shalt have reached the height;” for we see that tyrants have boundaries assigned to them which they cannot pass. Their career is rapid, so long as they keep their course; but as soon as the goal, their utmost limit, has been reached, they must stop.

Let us cheer our hearts with this consolation, when we see tyrants insolently and fiercely attack the Church of God; for the Lord will at length compel them to stop, and the more cruel they have been, the more severely will they be punished. The Lord will destroy them in a moment; for he will raise up against them enemies who will instantly ruin and punish them for their iniquities.

Here we ought also to acknowledge the providence of God in the overthrow of kingdoms; for wicked men imagine that everything moves at random and by the blind violence of fortune; but we ought to take quite another view, for the Lord will repay their deserts, so that they shall be made to know that the cruelty which they exercised against inoffensive persons does not remain unrevenged. And the event shewed the truth of this prediction; for not long afterwards Nineveh was conquered by the Babylonians, and lost the monarchy, and was even so completely destroyed that it lost its name. But as Babylon, who succeeded in her room, was not less a “spoiler,” the Prophet justly foretells that there will be other robbers to rob her, and that the Babylonians, when their monarchy shall be overthrown, will themselves be plundered of those things which they seized and pillaged from others.

2. O Jehovah, have pity upon us. This sentiment was added by the Prophet, in order to remind the godly where they ought to go amidst such distresses, even when they shall appear to be deprived of all hope of safety; that they ought to betake themselves to prayer, to supplicate from God the fulfillment of these promises, even when they shall be most wretched, and when the power of the enemy to oppress them cruelly shall be very formidable. And here we ought carefully to observe the order which the Prophet has followed, in first exhibiting the promise of God and immediately exhorting to prayer. Not only so, but he breaks off the stream of his discourse, and suddenly bursts out into prayer; for although the Lord hastens to perform what he has promised, yet he delays for a time, in order to exercise our patience. But when we ought to wait, there is found in us no steadfastness or perseverance; our hearts immediately faint and languish. We ought, therefore, to have recourse to prayer, which alone can support and gladden our hearts, while we look earnestly towards God, by whose guidance alone we shall be delivered from our distresses. Yet let us patiently, with unshaken hope and confidence, expect what he has promised to us; for at length he will shew that he is faithful, and will not disappoint us.

At the same time the Prophet bids us not only consider in general the judgment of God against the Assyrians, but God’s fatherly kindness towards his chosen people; as if he had said that the Assyrians will be destroyed, not only that they may receive the just reward of their avarice and cruelty, but because in this manner God will be pleased to provide for the safety of his Church. But while he exhorts us to pray for mercy, he likewise declares that we shall be miserable.

In thee have we hoped. In order to cherish the hope of obtaining favor, believers next declare that they “have hoped in God,” on whom they now call; and indeed our prayers must be idle and useless, if they are not founded on this principle.

“Let thy mercy be upon us,” saith David,
“according as we have hoped in thee.” (Psalm 33:22.)

For to go into the presence of God, if he did not open up the way by his word, would be excessively rash; and, therefore, as he kindly and gently invites us, so we ought to embrace his word, whenever we approach to him. Besides, patience must be added to faith; and, therefore, when faith is taken away, we do not deserve that the Lord should hear us, for it is by faith that we call upon him. Now faith alone is the mother of calling on God, as is frequently declared in many passages of Scripture; and if faith be wanting, there can be nothing left in us but hypocrisy, than which nothing is more abhorred by God. (Romans 10:14.)

And hence it is evident that there is no Christianity in the whole of Popery; for if the chief part of the worship of God consists of prayer, and if they know not what it is to pray, (for they bid us continually doubt, and even accuse of rashness the faith of the godly,) what kind of worshippers of God are they? Can that prayer be lawful which is perplexed by uncertainty, and which does not rely with firm confidence on the promises of God? Do not those Rabbins, who wish to be reckoned theologians, shew that they are mere babes? Certainly our children excel them in knowledge and in the true light of godliness. 11     “Certainement nos enfans sont plus savans et religieux qu’eux.”
“Certainly our children are more learned and religious than they are.”

Let us also learn from these words that our faith is proved by adversity; for the actual trial of faith is when, with unshaken patience in opposition to all dangers and assaults, we continue to rely on the word and the promises. Thus we shall give practical evidence that we have sincerely believed.

Be what thou hast been, their arm in the morning. Others render it as if it were a continued prayer, “Be our arm in the morning, and our salvation in tribulation.” As to believers speaking in the third person, they consider it to be a change which is frequently employed by the Hebrews. But I think that the Prophet’s meaning is different; for he intended to express that desire which is rendered more intense by benefits formerly received; and, therefore, in my opinion, that clause is appropriately inserted, “their arm in the morning,” in which I supply the words “who hast been,” in order to bring forward the ancient benefits bestowed by God on the fathers. “Thou, Lord, didst hearken to the prayers of our fathers; when they fled to thee, thou gavest them assistance i now also be thou our salvation, and relieve us from our afflictions.”

“Arm” and “salvation” differ in this respect, that “arm” denotes the power which the Lord exerted in defense of his Church, and that before she was afflicted; while “salvation” denotes the deliverance by which the Lord rescues the Church, even when she appears to be ruined. He therefore places on record ancient benefits which the Lord formerly bestowed on the fathers, that he may be moved to exercise the same compassion towards the children. As if he had said, “O Lord, thou didst formerly turn away the dangers which threatened thy Church; relying on thy favor she flourished and prospered. Thou didst also deliver her when oppressed. In like manner wilt thou act on our own account, especially since it belongs to thy character to render assistance when matters are desperate and at the worst.” 22     “Puis que ton naturel est d’assister aux tiens, quand tout est reduit au desespoir.” “Since thy disposition is to assist thy people when all is reduced to despair.”

The particle אף, (aph,) even, is very emphatic for confirming our faith, that we may not doubt that God, who always continues to be like himself, and never degenerates from his nature or swerves from his purpose, will also be our deliverer; for, such have believers found him to be. We ought, therefore, to place continually before our eyes the manner in which the Lord formerly assisted and delivered the fathers, that we may be fully convinced that we also shall not fail to obtain from him assistance and deliverance.