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33. Psalm 33
Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.
2Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.
3Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.
4For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth.
5He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
6By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
7He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses.
8Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
9For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.
10The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.
11The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
12Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord: and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
13The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.
14From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.
15He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works.
16There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.
17An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.
18Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;
19To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.
20Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield.
21For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.
22Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.
1. Rejoice in Jehovah, ye righteous. Here the inspired writer addresses believers or the righteous by name, because they alone are capable of proclaiming the glory of God. Unbelievers, who have never tasted his goodness, cannot praise him from the heart, and God has no pleasure in his name being pronounced by their unholy tongues. But the context shows more distinctly why this exhortation is suitable for believers only. Many, accordingly, expound the latter clause, Praise is comely for the upright, as meaning, that if the ungodly or hypocrites attempt this exercise, it will turn to the reproach and dishonor of God rather than to his praise; nay, more, that they only profane his holy name. It is, no doubt, very true, as I have already remarked, that God creates for himself a church in the world by gracious adoption, for the express purpose, that his name may be duly praised by witnesses suitable for such a work. But the real meaning of the clause, Praise is comely for the upright, is, that there is no exercise in which they can be better employed. And, assuredly, since God by his daily benefits furnishes them with such matter for celebrating his glory, and since his boundless goodness, as we have elsewhere seen, is laid up as a peculiar treasure for them, it were disgraceful and utterly unreasonable for them to be silent in the praises of God. The amount of the matter is, that the principal exercise in which it becomes the righteous to be employed is to publish among men the righteousness, goodness, and power of God, the knowledge of which is implanted in their minds. Following other interpreters, I have translated the clause, Praise is comely, but the word rendered comely may also be properly rendered desirable, if we view it as derived from the Hebrew word אוה, avah, which signifies to wish or desire. And certainly, when God allures believers so sweetly, it is proper that they employ themselves in celebrating his praises with their whole hearts. It is also to be observed, that when the prophet, after having in the first clause used the appellation, the righteous, immediately adds the words, the upright, which comprehend the inward integrity of the heart, he defines what true righteousness is, or in what it consists.
2. Praise Jehovah upon the harp. It is evident that the Psalmist here expresses the vehement and ardent affection which the faithful ought to have in praising God, when he enjoins musical instruments to be employed for this purpose. He would have nothing omitted by believers which tends to animate the minds and feelings of men in singing God’s praises. The name of God, no doubt, can, properly speaking, be celebrated only by the articulate voice; but it is not without reason that David adds to this those aids by which believers were wont to stimulate themselves the more to this exercise; especially considering that he was speaking to God’s ancient people. There is a distinction, however, to be observed here, that we may not indiscriminately consider as applicable to ourselves, every thing which was formerly enjoined upon the Jews. I have no doubt that playing upon cymbals, touching the harp and the viol, and all that kind of music, which is so frequently mentioned in the Psalms, was a part of the education; that is to say, the puerile instruction of the law: I speak of the stated service of the temple. For even now, if believers choose to cheer themselves with musical instruments, they should, I think, make it their object not to dissever their cheerfulness from the praises of God. But when they frequent their sacred assemblies, musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostle is far more pleasing to him. Paul allows us to bless God in the public assembly of the saints only in a known tongue, (1 Corinthians 14:16.) The voice of man, although not understood by the generality, assuredly excels all inanimate instruments of music; and yet we see what St Paul determines concerning speaking in an unknown tongue. 672672 “Et neant moins nous voyons ce que Sainct Paul en determine.” — Fr. What shall we then say of chanting, which fills the ears with nothing but an empty sound? Does any one object, that music is very useful for awakening the minds of men and moving their hearts? I own it; but we should always take care that no corruption creep in, which might both defile the pure worship of God and involve men in superstition. Moreover, since the Holy Spirit expressly warns us of this danger by the mouth of Paul, to proceed beyond what we are there warranted by him is not only, I must say, unadvised zeal, but wicked and perverse obstinacy.
3. Sing unto him a new song. As the Psalmist afterwards treats of the mighty works of God, and particularly concerning the preservation of the Church, it is not wonderful that he exhorts the righteous to sing a new, that is, a rare and choice song. The more closely and diligently that believers consider the works of God, the more will they exert themselves in his praises. It is no common song, therefore, which he exhorts them to sing, but a song corresponding to the magnificence of the subject. This is also the meaning of the second clause, in which he urges them to sing loudly. In this sense, I understand the Hebrew word היתיב, heytib, although others refer it rather to the proper setting of the notes.
4. For the word of Jehovah is right. As I have just remarked, the Psalmist first sets forth God’s general providence by which he governs the whole world; and he tells us that he so exerts his power in the whole course of his operations, that the most perfect equity and faithfulness shine forth everywhere. Some will have the terms word and work to be synonymous; but I think there is a distinction, and that word means the same thing as counsel or ordinance, while work signifies the effect or execution of his counsel. I grant that here the same subject is repeated in different words, as is the case in other places; but a slight variation will be found in such repetitions, that the same thing may he expressed in various ways. The amount of what is stated is, that whatever God appoints and commands is right; and whatever he brings to pass in actual operation is faithful and true. Meanwhile, it ought to be observed, that the term word is not to be understood of doctrine, but of the method by which God governs the world.
5. He loveth righteousness and judgment. This is a confirmation of the preceding verse, and intimates to us that God of his own nature loves righteousness and equity. It therefore follows, that froward affections cannot hurry him, after the manner of men, to evil devices. At first sight, indeed, this appears but a common commendation of God, and of small importance, because all confess that he observes the most perfect rule of righteousness in all his works. Why then, may some one say, has a new song just been spoken of, as if it had been about some unusual matter? We answer, in the first place, because it is too obvious how wickedly a great part of the world shut their eyes to God’s righteousness, while they either carelessly overlook innumerable proofs of his providence, or imagine that they happen by chance. But there is often a worse fault than this; namely, that if our wishes are not gratified, we instantly murmur against God’s righteousness; and although the maxim, “God doeth all things righteously,” is in every man’s mouth, yet scarcely one in a hundred firmly believes it in his heart, otherwise, as soon as this truth is pronounced, “Thus it pleaseth God,” every man would obediently submit himself to God’s will. Now, as men in adversity are with the utmost difficulty brought to this point - to acknowledge that God is just, and as, in prosperity, they soon fall from the acknowledgement of it, it is not to be wondered at that the prophet, in order to persuade men that God is an upright governor, affirms that he loveth righteousness. Whoever, therefore, has thoroughly embraced this doctrine, let him know that he has profited much.
Others explain this to mean, that God loveth righteousness in men. This, indeed, is true; but it is far from the sense of the text, because the design of the Holy Spirit here is to maintain the glory of God in opposition to the poison of ungodliness, which is deeply seated in many hearts. In the second clause of the verse, the Psalmist commends another part of God’s excellence, namely, that the earth is full of his goodness The righteousness of God ought justly to incite us to praise him, but his goodness is a more powerful motive; because, the more experience which any man has of his beneficence and mercy, the more strongly is he influenced to worship him. Farther, the discourse is still concerning all the benefits of God which he scatters over the whole human race. These, the inspired writer declares, meet us wherever we turn our eyes.
6. By the word of Jehovah. That he may stir us up to think more closely of God’s works, he brings before us the creation of the world itself; for until God be acknowledged as the Creator and Framer of the world, who will believe that he attends to the affairs of men, and that the state of the world is controlled by his wisdom and power? But the creation of the world leads us by direct consequence to the providence of God. Not that all men reason so justly, or are endued with so sound a judgment, as to conclude that the world is at this day maintained by the same divine power which was once put forth in creating it: on the contrary, the great majority imagine that he is an idle spectator in heaven of whatever is transacted on earth. But no man truly believes that the world was created by God unless he is also firmly persuaded that it is maintained and preserved by him. Wisely and properly, therefore, does the prophet carry us back to the very origin of the world, in order to fix in our minds the certainty of God’s providence in the continual order of nature. By the figure synecdoche, he uses the term heavens for the whole fabric of the world, because, as I have elsewhere remarked, the sight of the heavens more than all the other parts of creation transports us with admiration. He therefore immediately adds, And all the host of them, by which phraseology, according to the usual method of Scripture, he means the stars and planets; for if the heavens were destitute of this ornament, they would in a manner be empty. In saying that the heavens were created by the word of God, he greatly magnifies his power, because by his nod alone, 674674 “Par son simple vouloir et commandement.” — Fr. “Simply by his will and commandment.” without any other aid or means, and without much time or labor, 675675 “Sans aussi y employer beaucoup de temps ou travail.” — Fr. he created so noble and magnificent a work. But although the Psalmist sets the word of God and the breath of his mouth in opposition both to all external means, and to every idea of painful labor on God’s part, yet we may truly and certainly infer from this passage, that the world was framed by God’s Eternal Word, his only begotten Son. Ancient interpreters have, with considerable ingenuity, employed this passage as a proof of the eternal Deity of the Holy Spirit against the Sabellians. But it appears from other places, particularly from Isaiah 11:4, that by the breath of the mouth is meant nothing else but speech. For it is there said concerning Christ, “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” As powerful and effective speech is there allegorically denominated the rod of his mouth; so in like manner, for another purpose it is denominated in the immediately succeeding clause the breath of his mouth, to mark the difference that exists between God’s speech and the empty sounds which proceed from the mouths of men. In proving the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, therefore, I durst not press this text against Sabellius. Let us account it sufficient that God has formed the heavens by his Word in such a manner as to prove the eternal Deity of Christ. Should any object that these divine persons would not appear distinct if the terms Word and Breath are synonymous; I answer, that the term breath is not employed here simply as in other places, in which there is evidently a distinction made between the Word and the Spirit; but the breath of his mouth is used figuratively for the very utterance of speech; as if it had been said, As soon as God uttered the breath of his mouth, or proclaimed in word what he wished to be done, the heavens were instantly brought into existence, and were furnished, too, with an inconceivable number and variety of stars. It is indeed true that this similitude is borrowed from men; but the Scriptures often teach in other places, that the world was created by that Eternal Word, who, being the only begotten Son of God, appeared afterwards in flesh.
7. He gathered together the waters of the sea as into a heap. 676676 In Genesis 1:9 we read, “God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.” The Psalmist here probably has a reference to that passage, as in the 9th verse there is evidently an imitation of the style in which God is described in the first chapter of Genesis as performing the work of creation. Here the Psalmist does not speak of all that might have been said of every part of the world, but under one department he comprehends all the rest. He celebrates, however, a signal and remarkable miracle which we see in looking on the surface of the earth; namely, that God gathers together the element of water, fluid and unstable as it is, into a solid heap, and holds it so at his pleasure. Natural philosophers confess, and experience openly proclaims, that the waters occupy a higher place than the earth. How is it then that, as they are fluid and naturally disposed to flow, they do not spread abroad and cover the earth, and how is it that the earth, which is lower in position, remains dry? In this we certainly perceive that God, who is ever attentive to the welfare of the human race, has inclosed the waters within certain invisible barriers, and keeps them shut up to this day; and the prophet elegantly declares that they stand still at God’s commandment, as if they were a heap of firm and solid matter. Nor is it without design that the Holy Spirit, in various passages, adduces this proof of divine power, as in Jeremiah 5:22, and Job 38:8
In the second part of the verse, he seems to repeat the same idea, but with amplification. God not only confines the immense mass of waters in the seas, but also hides them, by a mysterious and incomprehensible power, in the very bowels of the earth. Whoever will compare the elements among themselves, will reckon it contrary to nature that the bottomless depths, or the immeasurable gulfs of waters, whose native tendency is rather to overwhelm the earth, should lie hid under it. That so many hollow channels and gulfs, accordingly, should not swallow up the earth every moment, affords another magnificent display of divine power; for although now and then some cities and fields are engulfed, yet the body of the earth is preserved in its place.
8. Let all the earth fear Jehovah. The Psalmist concludes that there is just reason why the whole world should reverently submit itself to the government of God, who gave it being, and who also preserves it. To fear Jehovah, and to stand in awe of him, just means to do honor to, and to reverence his mighty power. It is a mark of great insensibility not to bow at God’s presence, from whom we have our being, and upon whom our condition depends. The prophet alludes to both these things, affirming that the world appeared as soon as God spake, and that it is upheld in being by his commandment; for it would not have been enough for the world to have been created in a moment, if it had not been supported in existence by the power of God. He did not employ a great array of means in creating the world, but to prove the inconceivable power of his word, he ordered that so soon as he should as it were pronounce the word, the thing should be done. 677677 “Il a commande que si tost qu’il auroit comme prononce le mot, la chose aussi se trouvast faire.” — Fr. The word command, therefore, confirms what I formerly said, that his speech was nothing else than a nod, or wish, and that to speak implies the same thing as to command. It is proper, however, to understand that in this nod, or command, the eternal wisdom of God displayed itself.
10. Jehovah scattereth the counsel of the nations. After briefly touching upon the creation of the world, the Psalmist returns to his former subject, namely, to show that the events which daily come to pass are undoubted proofs of the providence of God. And lest any man should be surprised, that he should exhibit God as an adversary to men, scattering their counsels rather than establishing and bringing them to a happy issue, he selects an instance which had the greatest power to comfort the saints. We know how many things men continually venture upon and contrive against all law and justice, and how they endeavor by their devices to turn the world upside down, that they may tyrannically acquire power to trample upon the good and simple. What creatures then would be more miserable than we, if men, possessed of such a variety of wicked affections, were permitted to act with unlicensed wantonness towards us? But when God declares from heaven to us, that it is his work to dash in pieces their devices, and to bring their determinations to nought, there is no reason why we should not keep ourselves quiet, even when they bestir themselves most tumultuously. God is, therefore, said to overthrow the counsels of men, not because he professedly delights in frustrating them, but to check their wantonness; for they would immediately throw all things into confusion were they to succeed according to their wishes: yea, as in outraging equity, and vexing the upright and innocent, they fail not to fight against God himself, it is very necessary to consider that God’s power and protection is set in opposition to their fury. And as the great majority of men, despising all modesty, rush headlong into indiscriminate licentiousness, the prophet speaks not only of individual men, but of whole nations; in other words, he affirms, that however men may conspire among themselves, and determine to attempt this or that with great hosts, yet shall their purposes be brought to nought, because it is as easy for God to scatter multitudes as to restrain a few. But although it is God’s design in this place to fortify us with good hope against the boldness of the wicked, he warns us, at the same time, to undertake nothing without his command and guidance.
11. The counsel of Jehovah. The prophet extols the infinite power of God in such a manner as that he may build up our faith in its greatness; for he does not here commend a counsel of God which is hidden in heaven, and which he would have us to honor and revere at a distance. But as the Lord everywhere in Scripture testifies that he loveth righteousness and truth; that he cares for the righteous and good; and that he is ever inclined to succor his servants when they are wrongfully oppressed; — the prophet means, that all this shall remain sure and steadfast. Thus he declares for what end God bringeth to nought the counsels of the nations, namely, because without discrimination they run headlong into the violation of all order.
In the first place, then, let us learn to look at God’s counsel in the glass of his word; and when we have satisfied ourselves that he has promised nothing but what he has determined to perform, let us immediately call to mind the steadfastness of which the prophet here speaks. And as many, or rather whole, nations sometimes endeavor to impede its course by innumerable hinderances, let us also remember the preceding declaration, that when men have imagined many devices, it is in God’s power, and often his pleasure, to bring them to nought. The Holy Spirit unquestionably intended to have our faith exercised in this practical knowledge; otherwise what he here says of the counsel of God would be but cold and fruitless. But when we shall have once persuaded ourselves of this, that God will defend his servants who call upon his name, and rid them of all dangers; whatever mischief the wicked may practice against them, their endeavors and attempts shall in nowise terrify us, because, so soon as God sets himself in opposition to their machinations, no craft on their part will be able to defeat his counsel.
12. Blessed are the people whose God is Jehovah. This verse excellently agrees with the preceding, because it would profit us little to observe what is said of the stability of God’s counsel if that counsel referred not to us. The prophet, therefore, in proclaiming that they are blessed whom God receives into his protection, reminds us that the counsel which he had just mentioned is not a secret which remains always hidden in God, but is displayed in the existence and protection of the Church, and may there be beheld. Thus we see, that it is not those who coldly speculate about the power of God, but those alone who apply it to their own present benefit, who rightly acknowledge God as the Governor of the world. Moreover, when the Psalmist places all our blessedness in this, that Jehovah is our God, in touching upon the fountain of divine love towards us, he comprehends, in one word, whatever is wont to be desired to make life happy. For when God condescends to undertake the care of our salvation, to cherish us under his wings, to provide for our necessities, to aid us in all our dangers, all this depends on our adoption by him. But lest it should be thought that men obtain so great a good by their own efforts and industry, David teaches us expressly that it proceeds from the fountain of God’s gracious electing love that we are accounted the people of God. It is indeed true, that, in the person of Adam, men were created at first for the very purpose that they should be the sons of God; but the estrangement which followed upon sin deprived us of that great blessing. Until God, therefore, freely adopt us, we are all by nature wretched, and we have no other entrance to or means of attaining happiness but this, that God, of his own good pleasure, should choose us who are altogether unworthy. It appears, accordingly, how foolishly they corrupt this passage, who transfer to men what the prophet here ascribes to God, as if men would choose God for their inheritance. I own, indeed, that it is by faith that we distinguish the true God from idols; but this principle is always to be held fast, that we have no interest in him at all unless he prevent us by his grace.
13. Jehovah looked down from heaven. The Psalmist still proceeds with the same doctrine, namely, that human affairs are not tossed hither and thither fortuitously, but that God secretly guides and directs all that we see taking place. Now he here commends God’s inspection of all things, that we on our part may learn to behold, and to contemplate with the eye of faith, his invisible providence. There are, no doubt, evident proofs of it continually before our eyes; but the great majority of men, notwithstanding, see nothing of them, and, in their blindness, imagine that all things are under the conduct of a blind fortune. Nay, the more plenteously and abundantly that he sheds his goodness upon us, the less do we raise our thoughts to him, but preposterously settle them down immovably on the external circumstances which surround us. The prophet here rebukes this base conduct, because no greater affront can be offered to God than to shut him up in heaven in a state of idleness. This is the same as if he were to lie buried in a grave. What kind of life would God’s life be, if he neither saw nor took care of any thing? Under the term throne, too, the sacred writer shows, from what is implied in it, what an absurd infatuation it is to divest God of thought and understanding. He gives us to understand by this word, that heaven is not a palace in which God remains idle and indulges in pleasures, as the Epicureans dream, but a royal court, from which he exercises his government over all parts of the world. If he has erected his throne, therefore, in the sanctuary of heaven, in order to govern the universe, it follows that he in no wise neglects the affairs of earth, but governs them with the highest reason and wisdom.
15. He who fashioned their hearts altogether. It appears that this is added for the express purpose of assuredly persuading believers, that, however the wicked might craftily, deceitfully, and by secret stratagems, attempt to withdraw themselves from God’s sight, and hide themselves in caverns, yet his eyes would penetrate into their dark hiding-places. And the Psalmist argues from the very creation that God cannot but bring men’s devices and doings into reckoning and judgment; because, though each man has intricate recesses concealed in his bosom, so that there is a wonderful diversity of different minds in this respect, and this great variety creates a most confounding obscurity; yet the eyes of God cannot be dazzled and darkened, so that he may not be a competent judge and take cognisance of his own work. By the adverb together, therefore, he does not mean that the hearts of men were formed at the same moment of time; but that all of them were fashioned even to one, and without a single exception; so that those manifest great folly who attempt to hide, or to withdraw the knowledge of their hearts from him who framed them. The discourse may also be understood as meaning, that men cannot, by the erring devices of their own thoughts, diminish the authority of God over them, so that he may not govern by his secret providence the events which seem to them to happen by chance. We see, indeed, he in forming their vain hopes, they despoil God of his power, and transfer it to the creatures, at one time to this object, and at another time to that, conceiving that they have no need of his aid, so long as they are furnished with outward means and helps to protect themselves.
It therefore follows, A king is not saved for the multitude of his host, etc By this the inspired writer means to teach us, that the safety of men’s lives depends not upon their own strength, but upon the favor of God. He names particularly kings and giants rather than others; because, as they are not of the common class of men, but of a higher condition, they appear to themselves to be beyond the reach of all danger from darts, and if any adversity befall them, they promise themselves an easy deliverance from it. In short, intoxicated with a presumptuous confidence of their own strength, they scarcely think themselves mortal. They are still more hardened in this pride by the foolish admiration of the common people, who stand amazed at the greatness of their power. If, therefore, neither a king is saved by his troops, nor a giant by his strength, when they are exposed to danger, in vain do mankind neglect the providence of God, and look around them for human help. From this it follows, that the condition, both of the strong and the weak, is miserable, until they learn to rely on the protection of God.
17. A horse is a deceitful thing for safety. In this verse, the Psalmist, by the figure synecdoche under the name of horse, is to be understood as meaning any kind of help. The sense is, that in general those who conceive that their life is well protected by earthly means, are commonly disappointed at the very crisis of danger, and are miserably beguiled to their utter undoing, so that God therein clearly shows them their folly. It is true, that kings are not armed with the sword in vain, nor is the use of horses superfluous, nor are the treasures and resources which God furnishes to defend men’s lives unnecessary, provided a right method of employing them be observed. But as the greater part of men the more they are surrounded with human defences, withdraw themselves the farther from God, and by a false imagination persuade themselves that they are in a haven safe from all disturbance, God acts most justly in disappointing this madness. This is the reason why his gifts often pass away without effect, because the world, by separating them from the giver, is also justly deprived of his blessing.
18. Behold, the eye of Jehovah is upon them that fear him. Having shown that what men account their best defences often profit them nothing, or rather are utterly worthless, when men depend upon them; the Psalmist now shows, on the other hand, that believers, although they are neither men of great power nor of great wealth, are nevertheless sufficiently protected by God’s favor alone, and shall be safe for ever. His meaning is not a little illustrated by this comparison, that kings and giants derive no aid from their invincible strength, while God supports the life of the saints in famine and dearth, as really as if he were to restore life to them when dead. We consequently understand better why the prophet lays low all the strength of the world; not, surely, that men should lie prostrate, or be so heart-broken as to pine away in despair; but that, laying aside their pride, they should fix their thoughts on God alone, and persuade themselves that their life depends on his protection. Moreover, in saying that the eye of God is bent upon them that fear him to save them, he expresses more than if he had said that his hand and power were sufficient to preserve them. A doubt might creep into the minds of the weak, whether God would extend this protection to every individual; but when the Psalmist introduces him as keeping watch and ward, as it were, over the safety of the faithful, there is no reason why any one of them should tremble, or hesitate with himself a moment longer, since it is certain that God is present with him to assist him, provided he remain quietly under his providence. From this, also, it appears still more clearly how truly he had said a little before, that the people are blessed whose God is Jehovah, because, without him, all the strength and riches which we may possess will be vain, deceitful, and perishing; whereas, with a single look he can defend his people, supply their wants, feed them in a time of famine, and preserve them alive when they are appointed to death. The whole human race, no doubt, are maintained by the providence of God; but we know that his fatherly care is specially vouchsafed to none but his own children, that they may feel that their necessities are truly regarded by him.
Again, when it is affirmed, that God, in times of famine and dearth, has remedies in readiness to preserve the lives of the godly, we are taught that the faithful only pay due honor to his providence when they allow not their hearts to despond in the extremest indigence; but, on the contrary, raise their hopes even from the grave. God often suffers his servants to be hungry for a time that he may afterwards satiate them, and he overspreads them with the darkness of death that he may afterwards restore them to the light of life. Yea, we only begin to place our trust firmly in him when death comes to present itself before our eyes; for, until we have known by experience the vanity of the aids of the world, our affections continue entangled in them, and wedded to them. The Psalmist characterises believers by two marks, which comprehend the whole perfection of our life. The first is, that we reverently serve the Lord; and the second, that we depend upon his grace. Hypocrites may loudly boast of their faith, but they have never tasted even a little of the divine goodness, so as to be induced to look to him for what they need. On the contrary, when the faithful give themselves with their whole heart to the service and fear of God, this affection springs from faith; or rather the principal part of right worship, which the faithful render to God, consists in this, that they depend upon his mercy.
20. Our soul waiteth upon Jehovah. What the Psalmist has hitherto spoken concerning God’s providence, and particularly concerning that faithful guardianship by which he protects his people, he has spoken not so much from himself as from the mouth of the Holy Spirit. He now, therefore, in the name of the whole Church, raises his song to declare that there is nothing better than to commit our welfare to God. Thus we see that the fruit of the preceding doctrine is set forth to all true believers, that they may unhesitatingly cast themselves with confidence, and with a cheerful heart, upon the paternal care of God. In this matter, the Psalmist declares nothing concerning himself in particular, but unites the whole of the godly with him in the acknowledgement of the same faith. There is an emphasis in the word soul which should be attended to; for, although this is a common mode of speech among the Hebrews, yet it expresses earnest affection; as if believers should say, We sincerely rely upon God with our whole heart, accounting him our shield and help.
21. Surely our heart shall rejoice in him. As the particle כי, ki, which is twice employed in this verse, has various meanings in Hebrew, it may be understood in a twofold sense here. If we expound it affirmatively in both clauses, the sense will be, that believers glory both in their joy and in their hope. Nor do I think it improper that these two should be referred to distinctly in the same context thus: Surely God shall always be our joy; surely his holy name shall be like an impregnable fortress for our refuge. Whence is it that believers continue perseveringly to call upon God, but because, satisfied with his favor, they have always, amidst their sorrows and griefs, this comfort, which is sufficient to maintain their cheerfulness? Justly, therefore, do believers affirm, in the first place, that their heart rejoices in the Lord; because, freed from wandering after the fascinations of the world, they neither waver nor hesitate at every change of fortune, but place the whole felicity of their life in enjoying the free and paternal favor of God. They afterwards add, in the second place, that they trust in his holy name. If any one, however, choose to understand the particle כי, ki, as meaning because, assigning a cause or reason, the sense will be no less properly and elegantly expressed in this way: Because our hope is fixed on God, he will be equally ready on his part to minister to us continual matter of joy. And experience undoubtedly proves, that when men are overwhelmed with sorrow, and pine away with care, grief, and anxiety, it is that they may receive the recompense of their folly; seeing that there is nothing to which they are led with more difficulty, than to set their hopes on God alone, and not to exult in their own deceitful imaginations, with which they please themselves.
22. Let thy mercy be on us, O Jehovah! At length the psalm concludes with a prayer, which the sacred writer offers in the name of all the godly, that God would make them feel from the effect that they have not relied on the divine goodness in vain. In the meantime, the Spirit, by dictating to us this rule of prayer by the mouth of the prophet, teaches us, that the gate of divine grace is opened for us when salvation is neither sought nor hoped for from any other quarter. This passage gives us another very sweet consolation, namely, that if our hope faint not in the midst of our course, we have no reason to fear that God will fail to continue his mercy towards us, without intermission, to the end of it.