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65. Psalm 65

Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed.

2O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.

3Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.

4Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.

5By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea:

6Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power:

7Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.

8They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens: thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.

9Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it.

10Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof.

11Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.

12They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side.

13The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.

1 Praise waiteth for thee, O God! in Zion Literally it runs, Praise is silent to thee, but the verb דמיה, 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 447447     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.”
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.

4. Blessed is the man whom thou hast chosen Having already acknowledged that the people had separated themselves from God by their sins, and forfeited all right to be heard, he now takes refuge in the free grace of God, which secures the remission of sin amongst other blessings. He thus casts an additional light upon what he had said on the point of guilt being purged away, by pointing to the cause of God, as being favorable to poor sinners, which can only be found in his fatherly love leading him to welcome them into his presence, however undeserving. That pardon which we daily receive flows from our adoption, and on it also are all our prayers founded. How could the sinner venture into the sight of God, to obtain reconciliation with him, were he not persuaded of his being a Father? In the words before us, David does not speak of the grace of God as reaching to the Gentiles, (which he had done in a preceding part of the psalm,) but in terms which apply only to the times in which he wrote. The Church of God was confined to the Jews, and they only were admitted into the sanctuary; whereas now, when the distinction has been abolished, and other nations called to the same privilege, we are all at liberty to approach him with familiarity. Christ is our peace, (Ephesians 2:14,) who has united in one those who were far off, and those who were nigh.

What has been now said may show at once the scope of the Psalmist. The Church and chosen people of God being in possession of the promise of the remission of sin, he calls those blessed whom God has included within that number, and introduced into the enjoyment of such a distinguished privilege. His language intimates, that the election did not at that time terminate upon all; for he insists upon it as the special prerogative of the Jews, that they had been chosen by God in preference to the other nations. Were it supposed that man could do anything to anticipate the grace of God, the election would cease to be with God himself, although the right and power of it are expressly ascribed to him. 450450     “Nam si anteverterent homines Dei gratiam, non resideret penes ipsum electio, eujus potestas et jus ei tribuitur.” — Lat. But the Jews had no excellency above others, except in the one point of having enjoyed the distinguishing favor of God. The middle wall of partition is now broken down, that the Gentiles might be called in. It is evident, however, that all are not alike called; and observation proves the ignorance of those who will assert that the grace of God is extended to all in common, without any choice exerted on his part. Can any reason be imagined why God should not call all alike, except it be that his sovereign election distinguishes some from others? Faith and prayer may be means for procuring us an interest in the grace of God; but the source whence it flows is not within but without us. 451451     “Fides quidem et invocatio media sunt, quae nobis concilient Dei gratiam, sed fons extra nos quaerendus est.” — Lat. “Sont los moyens pour nous faire trouver grace envers Dieu.” etc. — Fr. There is a blessedness in exercising trust upon God, and embracing his promises — a blessedness experienced when, through faith in Christ the Mediator, we apprehend him as our Father, and direct our prayers to him in that character; — but ere this faith and prayer can have any existence, it must be supposed that we who are estranged from God by nature have been brought near by an exercise of his favor. We are near him, not as having anticipated his grace, and come to him of ourselves, but because, in his condescension, he has stretched out his hand as far as hell itself to reach us. To speak more properly, he first elects us, and then testifies his love by calling us. It is noticeable, also, that though God separated the seed of Abraham to be a peculiar people, entitled as the circumcision to a place in his temple, there can be no question that David recognised a distinction even amongst those who were Jews, all not having been the subjects of God’s effectual calling, nor yet properly entitled to a place in his temple. The Psalmist alludes, indeed, to the outward sanctuary, when he speaks of the Jews as chosen to approach God; but we must remember (what was brought under our attention, Psalm 15:1 and Psalm 24:3) that all were not real members of the Church who trod the court of the temple, but that the great qualifications necessary were the pure heart and the clean hands. Accordingly, we must understand by those brought near to God, such as present themselves before him in the exercise of genuine faith, and not such as merely occupy a place in his temple as to outward appearance. But, again, the being chosen, and the being called to approach God, are two things mentioned here together, to correct any such vain idea as that the sheep of God’s flock are allowed to wander at will for any length of time, and not brought into the fold. 452452     “Jam hic vocatio adjungitur electioni, ne quis somniet oves perpetuo vagari, neque unquam colligi in ovile. Nam hoc effectu se ostendit,” etc. — Lat. “Or la vocation exterieure est yci adjointe a l’election, afin que nul n’imagine que les brebis soyent tousjours errantes sans estre recueillies en la bergerie: car l’adoption gratuite de Dieu se declare,” etc. — Fr. This is one way by which our gratuitous adoption is evidenced, that we come to the sanctuary under the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The Psalmist insists upon the fruit springing out of the blessed privilege of which he had spoken, when he adds, that believers would be satisfied with the fullness of his temple. Hypocrites may go there, but they return empty and unsatisfied as to any spiritual blessing enjoyed. It is noticeable, that the person is changed in this part of the verse, and that David associates himself with other believers, preferring to speak upon this subject from personal experience. We are not to understand that believers are fully replenished with the goodness of God at any one moment; it is conveyed to them gradually; but while the influences of the Spirit are thus imparted in successive measures, each of them is enriched with a present sufficiency, till all be in due time advanced to perfection. I might remark here, that while it is true, as stated, (Psalm 103:5,) that “God satisfieth our mouth with good things,” at the same time it is necessary to remember what is said elsewhere, “Open thy mouth, and I will fill it.” Our contracted desires is the reason why we do not receive a more copious supply of blessings from God; he sees that we are straitened in ourselves, and accommodates the communications of his goodness to the measure of our expectations. By specifying particularly the goodness of the sanctuary, the Psalmist passes an implied commendation upon the outward helps which God has appointed for leading us into the enjoyment of heavenly blessings. In these former times God could have directly stretched out his hand from heaven to supply the wants of his worshippers, but saw fit to satisfy their souls by means of the doctrine of the law, sacrifices, and other rites and external aids to piety. Similar are the means which he employs in the Church still; and though we are not to rest in these, neither must we neglect them.


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