Psalm 65:1-3

1. Praise waiteth1 for thee, O Lord! in Zion; and unto thee shall the vow be performed. 2. O thou that hearest prayer! unto thee shall all flesh come. 3. Words of iniquity have prevailed against me: our transgressions thou shalt purge them away.2


1. Praise waiteth for thee, O God! in Zion. Literally it runs, Praise is silent to thee, but the verb hymd, dumiyah, has been metaphorically rendered first, to be at rest, then to wait. The meaning of the expression is, that God's goodness to his people is such as to afford constantly new matter of praise. It is diffused over the whole world, but specially shown to the Church. Besides, others who do not belong to the Church of God, however abundantly benefits may be showered upon them, see not whence they come, and riot in the blessings which they have received without any acknowledgement of them. But the main thing meant to be conveyed by the Psalmist is, that thanksgiving is due to the Lord for his goodness shown to his Church and people. The second clause of the verse is to the same effect, where he says, unto thee shall the vow be performed; for while he engages on the part of the people to render due acknowledgement, his language implies that there would be ever remaining and new grounds of praise.

With the verse which we have been now considering, that which follows stands closely connected, asserting that God hears the prayers of his people. This forms a reason why the vow should be paid to him, since God never disappoints his worshippers, but crowns their prayers with a favorable answer. Thus, what is stated last, is first in the natural order of consideration. The title here given to God carries with it a truth of great importance, That the answer of our prayers is secured by the fact, that in rejecting them he would in a certain sense deny his own nature. The Psalmist does not say, that God has heard prayer in this or that instance, but gives him the name of the hearer of prayer, as what constitutes an abiding part of his glory, so that he might as soon deny himself as shut his ear to our petitions. Could we only impress this upon our minds, that it is something peculiar to God, and inseparable from him, to hear prayer, it would inspire us with unfailing confidence. The power of helping us he can never want, so that nothing can stand in the way of a successful issue of our supplications. What follows in the verse is also well worthy of our attention, that all flesh shall come unto God. None could venture into his presence without a persuasion of his being open to entreaty; but when he anticipates our fears, and comes forward declaring that prayer is never offered to him in vain, the door is thrown wide for the admission of all. The hypocrite and the ungodly, who pray under the constraint of present necessity, are not heard; for they cannot be said to come to God, when they have no faith founded upon his word, but a mere vague expectation of a chance issue. Before we can approach God acceptably in prayer, it is necessary that his promises should be made known to us, without which we can have no access to him, as is evident from the words of the apostle Paul, (Ephesians 3:12,) where he tells us, that all who would come to God must first be endued with such a faith in Christ as may animate them wig confidence. From this we may infer, that no right rule of prayer is observed in the Papacy, when they pray to God in a state of suspense and doubt. Invaluable is the privilege which we enjoy by the Gospel, of free access unto God. When the Psalmist uses the expression, all flesh, he intimates by these few words that the privilege which was now peculiar to the Jews, would be extended to all nations. It is a prediction of Christ's future kingdom.

3. Words of iniquity have prevailed against me.3 He does not complain of the people being assailed with calumny, but is to be understood as confessing that their sins were the cause of any interruption which had taken place in the communication of the divine favor to the Jews. The passage is parallel with that,

"The ear of the Lord is not heavy that it cannot hear, but our iniquities have separated betwixt us and him." -- Isaiah 59:1

David imputes it to his own sins and those of the people, that God, who was wont to be liberal in his help, and so gracious and kind in inviting their dependence upon him, had withdrawn for a time his divine countenance. First, he acknowledges his own personal guilt; afterwards, like Daniel 9:5, he joins the whole nation with himself. And this truth is introduced by the Psalmist with no design to damp confidence in prayer, but rather to remove an obstacle standing in the way of it, as none could draw near to God unless convinced that he would hear the unworthy. It is probable that the Lord's people were at theft time suffering under some token of the divine displeasure, since David seems here to struggle with some temptation of this kind. He evidently felt that there was a sure remedy at hand, for no sooner has he referred to the subject of guilt, than he recognises the prerogative of God to pardon and expiate it. The verse before us must be viewed in connection with the preceding, and as meaning, that though their iniquities merited their being cast out of God's sight, yet they would continue to pray, encouraged by his readiness to be reconciled to them. We learn from the passage that God will not be entreated of us, unless we humbly supplicate the pardon of our sins. On the other hand, we are to believe firmly in reconciliation with God being procured through gratuitous remission. Should he at any time withdraw his favor, and frown upon us, we must learn by David's example to rise to the hope of the expiation of our sins. The reason of his using the singular number, in the confession which he makes of sin, may be, that as king he represented the whole people, or that he intended, like Daniel, to exhort them each to an individual and particular examination and confession of his own guilt. We know how apt hypocrites are to hide their personal sin, under a formal acknowledgement of their share in the general transgression. But David, from no affectation of humility, but from deep inward conviction, begins with himself, and afterwards includes others in the same charge.

1 In our English version it is also waiteth, and in the margin is silent. "Waiteth as a servant, whose duty it is to do what thou commandest." -- Boothroyd. "The allusion in this verse is beautiful, when we remember that Eastern servants wait in silence, watching their lords, waiting for the signs of their will." -- Edwards.

2 The Hebrew word here rendered, "Thou shalt purge them away," is Mrpkt, techapperem; properly, "thou wilt make atonement for them." It is from the verb rpk, kaphar, which signifies to cover, to draw over; and which in the conjugation pihel, acquired the signification to forgive, (as it were to cover an offense,) and to do any act which shall be the cause or occasion of forgiveness; and thence, by a further process in the flow of ideas, to compensate, to expiate, to propitiate, and to accept an expiation." See Dr Pye Smith on The Sacrifice of Christ, pp. 339, 340. The covering of the ark was called trpk, kapporeth, Exodus 25:17; in Greek iJlasth>rion, that is, the propitiatory or mercy-seat; for upon it the blood of expiation, typical of the blood of Christ, was sprinkled on the great day of atonement; and from it God revealed his grace and will to his ancient people. The name iJlasth>rion, is in Romans 3:25, given by Paul to Christ, who was the true propitiation for our sins, 1 John 2:2. The words of the Psalmist then, without doubt, have a reference to the expiatory sacrifices under the law, and consequently to Him who, "in the end of the ages, hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."

3 In our English Bible it is, "Iniquities prevail against me;" and on the margin, "Words or matters of iniquity," etc. Calvin gives the same meaning which is naturally suggested by our English version, although from his translating the Hebrew text by words of iniquity, we would at first view be apt, to suppose that he would explain them as referring to the evil reports, the calumnies and slanders, which David's enemies propagated against him to ruin his reputation. Dr Adam Clarke understands the words in this sense, and gives a translation equivalent to Calvin's "Iniquitous words have prevailed against me," or, "The words of iniquity are strong against me." -- He thinks the reading of our English Bible "Is no just rendering of the original;" observing, that "this verse has been abused to favor Antinomian licentiousness;" and that "the true and correct translation of the former clause will prevent this." But we cannot see how the verse, as it stands in our English Bible, can with justice be viewed as tending to give encouragement to sin, it being no more than the confession of a repentant sinner, accompanied with hope in the mercy of God, founded on the glad tidings announced in the Gospel, that God is willing to pardon the most guilty who believe in his Son, and repent of their sins. The old Scottish, version of this verse --

"Iniquities, I must confess,
Prevail against me do:
And as for our transgressions.
Them purge away wilt thou,"

which this learned author terms "most execrable" and "abominable doggerel" -- and at hearing which he supposes David would feel chagrin, if such a feeling could affect the inhabitants of heaven -- is, it must be admitted, ill expressed, feeble, and easily susceptible of an Antinomian sense. But not so, we think, the revised version, now in very general use in Scotland, which, by the alteration of a single word in the beginning of the third line, has made the verse at the same time more correct and more nervous: --

"But as for our transgressions,
Them purge away shalt thou:"

thus implying at once a deep sense of the evil of sin, and a confident reliance on the forgiving mercy of God -- two subjects on which it is of the highest importance for us to entertain just views in drawing near to God in prayer.

Dr Morrison gives the following rendering: --

"Our iniquities prevail against us;
But thou art he who blotteth out our transgressions."

Horsley's version is: --

"The account of iniquities is too great for me:
Thou shalt expiate our crimes."