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Psalm 77

God’s Mighty Deeds Recalled

To the leader: according to Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A Psalm.

1

I cry aloud to God,

aloud to God, that he may hear me.

2

In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;

in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;

my soul refuses to be comforted.

3

I think of God, and I moan;

I meditate, and my spirit faints.Selah

 

4

You keep my eyelids from closing;

I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

5

I consider the days of old,

and remember the years of long ago.

6

I commune with my heart in the night;

I meditate and search my spirit:


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1. My voice came to God, and I cried. This is not a mere complaint, as some interpreters explain it, denoting the surprise which the people of God felt in finding that he who hitherto had been accustomed to grant their requests shut his ears to them, and was called upon in vain. It appears more probable that the prophet either speaks of the present feeling of his mind, or else calls to remembrance how he had experienced that God was inclined and ready to hear his prayers. There can be no doubt that he describes the greatness of the sorrow with which he was afflicted; and, in nay opinion, he denotes a continued act both by the past and the future tenses of the verbs. In the first place, he declares that he did not foolishly rend the air with his cries, like many who pour forth bitter cries without measure and at random under their sorrows; but that he addressed his speech to God when necessity constrained him to cry. The copula and, which is joined to the verb cried, should be resolved into the adverb of time when, in this way, When I cried my voice came to God At the same time, he also shows, that although he had been constrained often to reiterate his cries, he had not given over persevering in prayer. What is added immediately after is intended for the confirmation of his faith: And he heard me. The copula and, as in many other places, is here put instead of the causal adverb for. The meaning is, that he encouraged himself to cry to God, from the consideration that it was God’s usual manner to show his favor and mercy towards him.

2. I sought the Lord in the day of my trouble. In this verse he expresses more distinctly the grievous and hard oppression to which the Church was at that time subjected. There is, however, some ambiguity in the words. The Hebrew word יד, yad, which I have translated hand, is sometimes taken metaphorically for a wound; and, therefore, many interpreters elicit this sense, My wound ran in the night, and ceased not, 286286     This is the rendering in our English Bible, which Dr Adam Clarke pronounces to be “a most unaccountable translation.” The reading of the margin, however, “my hand,” favours the sense given by our Author. that is to say, My wound was not so purified from ulcerous matter as that the running from it was made to stop. But; I rather take the word in its ordinary signification, which is hand, because the verb נגרה, niggera, which he uses, signifies not only to run as a sore does, but also to be stretched forth or extended. 287287     This is the translation adopted by many critics, and it appears to be the true signification of the passage. Thus Symmachus’ version is, ἡ χειρ μου νυκτοςἐκτετατο διηνεκως, “my hand was stretched out by night continually;” and, in like manner, Jerome, “Manus mea nocte extenditur, et non quiescit.” Parkhurst renders the verse thus: “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out by night and ceased not,” or, “without interruption.” With this agree the versions of Horsley, Mant, Fry, Adam Clarke, Walford, and others. The stretching out of the hand was an usual gesture in prayer. Instead of ידי, the Chaldee reads עיני, “mine eye trickled down,” which Archbishop Secker and Green think likely to be the true reading. Now, when he affirms that he sought the Lord in the day of his trouble, and that his hands were stretched out to him in the night season, this denotes that prayer was his continual exercise, — that his heart was so earnestly and unweariedly engaged in that exercise, that he could not desist from it. In the concluding sentence of the verse the adversative particle although is to be supplied; and thus the meaning will be, that although the prophet found no solace and no alleviation of the bitterness of his grief, he still continued to stretch forth his hands to God. In this manner it becomes us to wrestle against despair, in order that our sorrow, although it may seem to be incurable, may not shut our mouths, and keep us from pouring out our prayers before God.

3. I will remember God, and will be troubled. The Psalmist here employs a variety of expressions to set forth the vehemence of his grief, and, at the same time, the greatness of his affliction. He complains that what constituted the only remedy for allaying his sorrow became to him a source of disquietude. It may, indeed, seem strange that the minds of true believers should be troubled by remembering God. But the meaning of the inspired writer simply is, that although he thought upon God his distress of mind was not removed. It no doubt often happens that the remembrance of God in the time of adversity aggravates the anguish and trouble of the godly, as, for example, when they entertain the thought that he is angry with them. The prophet, however, does not mean that his heart was thrown into new distress and disquietude whenever God was brought to his recollection: he only laments that no consolation proceeded from God to afford him relief; and this is a trial which it is very hard to bear. It is not surprising to see the wicked racked with dreadful mental agony; for, since their great object and endeavor is to depart from God, they must suffer the punishment which they deserve, on account of their rebellion against him. But when the remembrance of God, from which we seek to draw consolation for mitigating our calamities, does not afford repose or tranquillity to our minds, we are ready to think that he is sporting with us. We are nevertheless taught from this passage, that however much we may experience of fretting, sorrow, and disquietude, we must persevere in calling upon God even in the midst of all these impediments.

4. Thou hast held the watches of my eyes. 288288     Some of the Jewish commentators interpret this clause thus: “Thou holdest the brows of my eyes.” The eyebrows which protect the eyes were held, so that he could not shut them and obtain sleep. Sleep to a person in trouble has the effect of interrupting his sorrow for a time, and of weakening it by refreshing the body. It is, therefore, in such circumstances, a great blessing, and is earnestly desired. But to have this denied, and for the sufferer to have sleepless and wearisome nights appointed to him, is a great aggravation of his distress. This verse is to the same effect with the preceding. The Psalmist affirms that he spent whole nights in watching, because God granted him no relief. The night in ancient times was usually divided into many watches; and, accordingly, he describes his continued grief, which pre. vented him from sleeping, by the metaphorical term watches. When he stated a little before that he prayed to God with a loud voice, and when he now affirms that he will remain silent, there seems to be some appearance of discrepancy. This difficulty has already been solved in our exposition of Psalm 32:3, where we have shown that true believers, when overwhelmed with sorrow, do not continue in a state of unvarying uniformity, but sometimes give vent to sighs and complaints, while, at other times, they are silent as if their mouths were stopped. It is, therefore, not wonderful to find the prophet frankly confessing that he was so overwhelmed, and, as it were, choked, with calamities, as to be unable to open his mouth to utter even a single word.

5. I have recounted the days of old. There is no doubt that he endeavored to assuage his grief by the remembrance of his former joy; but he informs us that relief was not so easily nor so speedily obtained. By the days of old, and the years of ancient times, he seems not only to refer to the brief course of his own life, but to comprehend many ages. The people of God, in their afflictions, ought, undoubtedly, to set before their eyes, and to call to their remembrance, not only the Divine blessings which they have individually experienced, but also all the blessings which God in every age has bestowed upon his Church It may, however, be easily gathered from the text, that when the prophet reckoned up in his own mind the mercies which God had bestowed in time past, he began with his own experience.

6. I will call to remembrance my song in the night. By his song he denotes the exercise of thanksgiving in which he had engaged during the time of his prosperity. 289289     “The times were indeed greatly altered; formerly his sleep had been prevented by the joyfulness of his feelings, which prompted the voice of thanksgiving during even the shades of night; now his sleep is taken away by the severity of his disease, and the anguish of his soul, which was augmented by the contrast with his past happiness.” — Walford. There is no remedy better adapted for healing our sorrows, as I have just now observed, than this; but Satan often craftily suggests to our thoughts the benefits of God, that the very feeling of the want of them may inflict upon our minds a deeper wound. It is, therefore, highly probable, that the prophet was pierced with bitter pangs when he compared the joy experienced by him in time past with the calamities which he was presently suffering. He expressly mentions the night; because, when we are then alone by ourselves, and withdrawn from the society and presence of men, it engenders in the mind more cares and thoughts than are experienced during the day. What is added immediately after with respect to communing with his own heart, is to the same effect. Solitude has an influence in leading men to retire within their own minds, to examine themselves thoroughly, and to speak to themselves freely and in good earnest, when no created being is with them to impose a restraint by his presence.

The last clause of the verse, And my spirit will search diligently, admits of a twofold exposition. The word חפש, chaphas, for search diligently, 290290     “The verb חפש, chaphas, signifies such an investigation as a man makes who is obliged to strip himself in order to do it. Or, to lift up coverings, to search fold by fold; or, in our phrase, to leave no stone unturned The Vulgate translates, et scopebam spiritum meum As scopebam is no pure Latin word, it may probably be taken from the Greek, σκοπεω, scopeo, ‘to look about, to consider attentively.’ It is, however, used by no author but St Jerome, and by him only here, and in Isaiah 14:23, ‘And I will sweep it with the besom of destruction;’ ‘scopabo eam in scopa terens.’ Hence we see that he has formed a verb from the noun scopae; a sweeping brush or besom.” — Dr Adam Clarke being in the masculine gender, and the word רוה, ruach, for spirit, being sometimes feminine, some commentators suppose that the name of God is to be understood, and explain the sentence as if the Psalmist had said, There is nothing, O Lord! so hidden in my heart into which thou hast not penetrated. And God is with the highest propriety said to search the spirit of the man whom he awakens from his indolence or torpor, and whom he examines by acute afflictions. Then all hiding — places and retreats, however obscure, are explored, and affections before unknown are brought into the light. As, however, the gender of the noun in the Hebrew language is ambiguous, others more freely translate, MY spirit hath searched diligently. This being the sense which is most generally embraced, and being, at the same time, the most natural, I readily adopt it. In that debate, of which the inspired writer makes mention, he searched for the causes on account of which he was so severely afflicted, and also into what. his calamities would ultimately issue. It is surely highly profitable to meditate on these subjects, and it is the design of God to stir us up to do this when any adversity presses upon us. There is nothing more perverse than the stupidity 291291     “La stupidite brutale.” — Fr. “The brutish stupidity.” of those who harden themselves under the scourges of God. Only we must keep within due bounds, in order that we may not be swallowed up of over much sorrow, and that the unfathomable depth of the Divine judgments may not overwhelm us by our attempting to search them out thoroughly. The prophet’s meaning is, that when he sought for comfort in all directions, he could find none to assuage the bitterness of his grief.




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