9. We see not our signs: there is no longer a prophet, nor any with us that knoweth how long. 10. How long, O God! shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? 11. How long wilt thou withdraw thy hand, and thy right hand? in the midst of thy bosom consume them.1 12. But God is my King from the beginning, working deliverances in the midst of the earth.
9. We see not our signs. Here the pious Jews show that their calamities were aggravated from the circumstance that they had no consolation by which to alleviate them. It is a powerful means of encouraging the children of God, when he enables them to cherish the hope of his being reconciled to them, by promising, that even in the midst of his wrath he will remember his mercy. Some limit the signs here spoken of to the miracles by which God had in the days of old testified, at the very time when he was afflicting his people, that he would, notwithstanding, still continue to be gracious to them. But the faithful rather complain that he had removed from them the tokens of his favor, and had in a manner hidden his face from them.2 We are overwhelmed with darkness, as if the prophet had said, because thou, O God! dost not make thy face to shine upon us as thou hast been accustomed to do. Thus it is common for us to speak of persons giving us signs either of their love or of their hatred. In short, God's people here complain not only that the time was cloudy and dark, but also that they were enveloped in darkness so thick, that there did not appear so much as a single ray of light. As to be assured by the prophets of future deliverance was one of the chief signs of God's favor, they lament that there is no longer a prophet to foresee the end of their calamities. From this we learn that the office of imparting consolation was committed to the prophets, that they might lift up the hearts which were cast down with sorrow, by inspiring them with the hope of Divine mercy. They were, it is true, heralds and witnesses of the wrath of God to drive the obstinate and rebellious to repentance by threatenings and terrors. But had they merely and without qualification denounced the vengeance of God, their doctrine, which was appointed and intended for the salvation of the people, would have only been the means of their destruction. Accordingly, the foretelling of the issue of calamities while yet hidden in the future, is ascribed to them as a part of their office; for temporary punishments are the fatherly chastisements of God, and the consideration that they are temporary alleviates sorrow; but his continual displeasure causes poor and wretched sinners to sink into utter despair. If, therefore, we also would find matter for patience and consolation, when we are under the chastening hand of God, let us learn to fix our eyes on this moderation on the part of God, by which he encourages us to entertain good hope; and from it let us rest assured, that although he is angry, yet he ceases not to be a father. The correction which brings deliverance does not inflict unmitigated grief: the sadness which it produces is mingled with joy. This end all the prophets endeavored to keep in view in the doctrine which they delivered. They, no doubt, often make use of very hard and severe language in their dealings with the people, in order, by inspiring them with terror, to break and subdue their rebellion; but whenever they see men humbled, they immediately address them in words of consolation, which, however, would be no consolation at all, were they not encouraged to hope for future deliverance.
The question may here be asked, whether God, with the view of assuaging the sadness arising from the chastisement, which he inflicted, always determined the number of years and days during which they would last? To this I answer, that although the prophets have not always marked out and defined a fixed time, yet they frequently gave the people assurance that deliverance was near at hand; and, moreover, all of them spoke of the future restoration of the Church. If it is again objected, that the people in their affliction did wrong in not applying to themselves the general promises, which it is certain were the common property of all ages, I answer, that as it was God's usual way to send in every affliction a messenger to announce the tidings of deliverance, the people, when at the present time no prophet appeared to be expressly sent for that purpose, not without cause complain that they were deprived of the signs of the Divine favor which they had been accustomed to enjoy. Until the coming of Christ it was highly necessary that the memory of the promised deliverance should be renewed in every age, to show the people of God that to whatever afflictions they might be subjected, he still continued to care for them, and would afford them succor.
10. How long, O God! shall the adversary reproach? Here it is intimated that nothing inflicted upon them greater anguish than when they saw the name of God blasphemed by the ungodly. By this manner of praying, the object of the inspired writer was to kindle in our hearts a zeal for maintaining the Divine glory. We are naturally too delicate and tender for bearing calamities; but it is a decided proof of genuine godliness, when the contumely which is cast upon God grieves and disquiets our minds more than all our own personal sufferings. The poor Jews, there can be no doubt, were assailed with more kinds of reproach than one under a most cruel tyrant, and amongst a barbarous nation. But the prophet, speaking in the person of the whole Church, makes almost no account of the reproaches cast upon the people in comparison of the execrable blasphemies directed against God; according to the statement contained in Psalm 69:9, "The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me." The phrase for ever is again added; for when the ungodly continue long unpunished, this has a hardening effect, and renders them more audacious, especially when the revilings which they pour forth against God seem to pass unnoticed by him. It is, therefore, added immediately after in the 11th verse,
11. How long wilt thou withdraw thy hand? It is easy to see what the prophet here intends, and yet interpreters are not agreed as to the words. Some by the word hand, in the first part of the verse, understand the left hand, to distinguish it from the right hand, mentioned in the last clause of the verse. But this is mere trifling; for when he uses the term right hand, he simply repeats the same thing according to his usual manner. Some translate the verb
12. But God is my King from the beginning. In this verse, as we have often seen to be the case in other places, the people of God intermingle meditations with their prayers, thereby to acquire renewed vigor to their faith, and to stir up themselves to greater earnestness in the duty of prayer. We know how difficult it is to rise above all doubts, and boldly to persevere in a free and unrestrained course of prayer. Here, then, the faithful call to remembrance the proofs of God's mercy and working, by which he certified, through a continued series of ages, that he was the King and Protector of the people whom he had chosen. By this example we are taught, that as it is not enough to pray with the lips unless we also pray in faith, we ought always to remember the benefits by which God has given a confirmation of his fatherly love towards us, and should regard them as so many testimonies of his electing love. It is quite clear that the title King, which is here applied to God, ought not to be restricted merely to his sovereignty. He is addressed by this appellation because he had taken upon him the government of the Jewish people, in order to preserve and maintain them in safety. We have already stated what is implied in the words, from the beginning. By the midst of the earth some think that Judea is intended, because it was situated as it were in the midst of the habitable globe. There is no doubt that it is to be understood of a place which stands prominently in view. We find the expression used in this sense in these words which God commanded Moses to speak to Pharaoh,
"And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth,"
The simple and natural meaning, therefore, is, that God had wrought in behalf of the chosen people many deliverances, which were as open and manifest as if they had been exhibited on a conspicuous theater.
1 "We see not any token of thy Divine presence with us." -- Tremellius.
2 The verb, which is ,
3 "The Jewish Arab reads, 'Turn not from them thy hand, even thy right hand, but consume them out of the midst of thy house,' giving a note, that the house of God is called