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117

Hold me up, that I may be safe

and have regard for your statutes continually.


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116. Sustain me by thy word, and I shall live. Many read, According to thy word, so that the letter ב, beth, which signifies in, is taken for the letter כ, caph, which signifies as; and thus the sense would be, Sustain me according to the promise which thou hast made to me, or, as thou hast promised to me. And, undoubtedly, whenever God stretches out his hand to us to raise us up when we are fallen, or supports us with his hand, he fulfills his promises. The prophet, however, seems to pray, that constancy of faith may be given him, to enable him to continue steadfast in the divine word. We are said to fall from God’s word when we fall from the faith of it; and in like manner, so long as we repose upon the truth and certainty of it, he is our sustainer. But, as the prophet well knew that there is not strength in man adequate to this, he asks from God ability to persevere as the singular gift of the Holy Spirit. It follows, then, that true stability is to be found no where else but in the word of God; and that no man can steadfastly lean upon it but he who is strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit. We must therefore always beseech God, who alone is the author and finisher of faith, to maintain in us this grace. Farther, when the Psalmist places life in faith, he teaches, that all that men promise themselves without the word is mere falsehood. It is therefore the Lord alone who quickens us by his word, even as it is said in Habakkuk, (Habakkuk 2:4,) “The just shall live by faith.” Both passages have the same meaning. After Habakkuk has derided the foolish confidence of the flesh, with which men are generally inflated, and as manifested in their raising themselves on high that they may fall with the greater violence, he shows, that the faithful alone, whom the word of God sustains, stand upon safe and sure ground.

If the first interpretation is adopted, the second clause, make me not ashamed of my expectation, will be added by way of exposition; for these two things — the prayer that the prophet maybe preserved by God’s grace according to his word, and the prayer that he may reap the fruit of his hope — would amount to nearly the same thing. Yet, after having beseeched God to grant him constancy to persevere, he seems now to proceed farther, praying that God would, in very deed, show the thing which he had promised. Every man’s own infirmity bears witness to the many doubts which intrude into our minds, when, after long endurance, the issue is not answerable to our expectation; for God, in that case:. seems to disappoint us.

To the same effect is the next verse, except that no express mention is made of the word; and safety is put for life. The prophet means to say, that whenever God withdrew his word, it would be all over with his safety; but that, if he were established by the Divine power, there was nothing of which he would have reason to be afraid. The verb שעה shaah, which we have translated I will consider, is rendered by many, I will delight, and this sense is not unsuitable; for although God may give a very desirable taste of his goodness in his bare word, yet the savor of it is not a little increased when to the word the effect is added, provided we do not perversely separate God’s benefits from his promises. It is the true wisdom of faith to consider all his benefits as the result or fruit of his promises, of which, if we make no account, the enjoyment of all his good things will be of little advantage to us, or rather will often prove hurtful and deadly. Yet it appears to me preferable to render the verb by consider; for the more experience any man has of God’s help, the more ought he to awaken himself to consider heavenly doctrine. The Psalmist adds, that he will continue to persevere in this meditation during the whole of his life.




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