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64. Praise and Prayer

Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, 2As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence! 3When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence. 4For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. 5Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved. 6But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. 7And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. 8But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

9Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people. 10Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. 11Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste. 12Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O Lord? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?

9. Be not angry, O Jehovah, beyond measure. 193193     “‘Be not angry, oh Jehovah, to extremity.’ The common version of עד מאד (gnad meod) (very sore) fails to reproduce the form of the original expression, as consisting of a preposition and a noun. This is faithfully conveyed in Lowth’s version, (to the uttermost,) and still more in Henderson’s, (to excess;) although the latter is objectionable as suggesting the idea of injustice or moral wrong, which is avoided in the version above given.” — Alexander. The people pray that the severity of punishment and the fierceness of the wrath of God may be abated; not that God goes beyond measure, but because they would be altogether overwhelmed, if he should choose to act toward them with the utmost strictness of justice. They therefore ask a mitigation of punishment; as Jeremiah also says, “Chasten me, O Lord, but in judgment,” (Jeremiah 10:24,) that is, moderately; for he draws a contrast between “judgment” and “wrath;” as it is elsewhere said that God chastises us “by the hand of man,” (2 Samuel 7:14,) because he does not put forth the power of his hand to punish us, lest we should be utterly destroyed.

Neither remember iniquity for ever. It deserves notice that they do not absolutely shrink from the judgment of God, or pray that they may wholly escape from it, but present themselves to be corrected, so as not to faint under the strokes. And this is the reason why they desire to have the remembrance of their iniquities blotted out; for, if God do not mercifully pardon them, there will be no end of the chastisements.

We all are thy people. The Prophet repeats what he said a little before, that God elected the family of Abraham; because the best ground for the confident expectation of obtaining pardon was, that God, who is true to his promises, cannot east away those whom he had once elected. By employing the word all, he does not speak of each individual, as I formerly remarked, but includes the whole body of the Church. Although the greater part had withdrawn through wicked revolt, yet still it was true that the Jews were God’s peculiar people; and this prayer was offered, not for every one of them without distinction, but only for the children of God who were still left. 194194     “Mais seulement pour la petite troupe des fideles.” “But only for the small company of believers.” The people do not plead their own merits before God, but betake themselves to the covenant of free grace, by which they had been adopted. This is the sure and only refuge of believers, this is the remedy for all evils; and that is the reason why Moses and the other prophets repeat it so frequently. (Exodus 32:13.)


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