Psalm 27:13-14

13. Unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living:1 14. Wait thou on Jehovah; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait thou also on Jehovah.


13. Unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah. It is generally agreed among interpreters, that this sentence is incomplete. Some, however, are of opinion, that the Hebrew particle alwl lulë, is used for the purpose of affirmation, as if it were a species of oath; the Hebrews being accustomed to swear elliptically; for breaking off in the middle of the discourse and leaving it imperfect, they supplied an imprecation, namely, that God would punish them in case they perjured themselves. But the greater number give a different interpretation, namely, that David intimates that he was supported solely by faith, otherwise he had perished a hundred times. The meaning which they elicit, accordingly, is, Had I not relied on the promise of God, and been assuredly persuaded that he would safely preserve me, and had I not continued firm in this persuasion, I had utterly perished:There was no other remedy. Some understand by the land of the living, the heavenly inheritance; but this interpretation is forced, and disagrees with the usual style of Scripture. When Hezekiah laments in his song recorded in Isaiah 38:11, that he had no hope of seeing God "in the land of the living," he means, without all doubt, the present life, as he immediately adds, "I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world." A similar form of speech occurs also in another place, (Jeremiah 11:19.) David then believed that he would still enjoy the goodness of God in this world, although he was now deprived of all experience of his favor, and could see no spark of light. From the darkness of death, therefore, he promises himself a view of the divine favor, and by this persuasion his life is sustained, although, according to the judgment of carnal reason, it was past recovery and lost. It is to be observed, however, that David does not rashly go beyond the divine promise. It is true that "godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come," (1 Timothy 4:8;) but he would have never dared to entertain this persuasion had he not been informed by a special revelation, and assuredly promised a successor, who should always sit upon his throne, (Psalm 132:11, 12.) He was, therefore, justly persuaded that he would not die till this promise was fulfilled. Lest any man, therefore, by an unwarranted imitation of his example, should overleap the boundaries of faith, it is necessary to understand what was peculiar to him, and did not belong to us. In general, however, we ought all to hope that, although God may not openly work deliverance for us, or show us his favor in a visible manner, he will, nevertheless, be always merciful to us, even in the present life.

14. Wait thou on Jehovah. It may be doubted whether David, having in the preceding verses spoken of himself, here addresses his discourse to others, and exhorts them by his own example to fortitude and persevering patience, as he does in the conclusion of Psalm 31:19, where, after speaking concerning himself particularly, he makes a transition, and addresses himself to all the godly. But as he speaks here in the singular number, and uses no mark to show that he directs his discourse to others, it is in my opinion probable that he applies it to himself, the more to encourage his confidence in God, lest at any time his heart should faint.2 As he was conscious of his weakness, and knew that his faith was the great means of preserving him safe, he seasonably strengthens himself for the future. Under the word waiting, too, he puts himself in mind of new trials, and sets before his eyes the cross which he must bear. We are then said to wait on God, when, withdrawing his grace from us, he suffers us to languish under afflictions. David, therefore, having got through one conflict, prepares himself to encounter new ones. But as nothing is more difficult than to give God the honor of relying upon him, when he hides himself from us, or delays his assistance, David stirs himself up to collect strength; as if he had said, If fearfulness steal upon thee; if temptation shake thy faith; if the feelings of the flesh rise in tumult, do not faint; but rather endeavor to rise above them by an invincible resolution of mind. From this we may learn, that the children of God overcome, not by sullenness, but by patience, when they commit their souls quietly to God; as Isaiah says,

"In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength,"
(Isaiah 30:15.)

As David did not feel himself equal to great and difficult efforts, he borrows strength from God by prayer. Had he said no more than Act like a man,3 he would have appeared to allege the motions of his own free-will, but as he immediately adds, by way of correction, that God would be at hand to strengthen his heart, he plainly enough shows, that when the saints strive vigorously, they fight in the strength of another, and not in their own. David does not, like the Papists, put his own efforts into the van, and afterwards supplicate for divine aid, but having done his own duty, although he knew that he was destitute of strength in himself, he requests that his deficiency may be supplied by the grace of the Holy Spirit. And as he knew that the war must be continued during his whole life, and that new conflicts would daily arise, and that the troubles of the saints are often protracted for a long period, he again repeats what he had said about waiting on God:Wait thou alone on Jehovah.

1 In the Hebrew this verse is elliptical, as Calvin here translates it. In the French version he supplies the ellipsis, by adding to the end of the verse the words, "C'estoit fait de moy," "I had perished." In our English version, the words, "I had fainted," are introduced as a supplement, in the beginning of the verse. Both the supplement of Calvin, and that of our English version, which are substantially the same, doubtless explain the meaning of the passage; but they destroy the elegant abrupt form of the expression employed by the Psalmist, who breaks off in the middle of his discourse without completing the sentence, although what he meant to say is very evident. "Unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, What! what, alas! should have become of me!" - Dr Adam Clarke. As, however, alwl, lulë, which is rendered unless, is omitted by the ancient versions and several MSS., some consider it an interpolation, and translate the verse without an ellipsis. Thus Walford renders it, "I have believed that I shall behold the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living."

2 "A ce que sa foy ne soit jamais esbranier" -- Fr. "That his faith might never be shaken."

3 Calvin here seems to use the Septuagint version. What he renders in the text, "Be of good courage," is rendered by the Septuagint, ajndri>zou "Be manly, or act like a man." The Vulgate reads, "vinliter a,,e," following the Septuagint, as it generally does. Paul uses the same phraseology in 1 Corinthians 16:13. "These," says Ainsworth, "are the words of encouragement against remissness, fear, faintness of heart, or other infirmities."