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74. Psalm 74

O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?

2Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.

3Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.

4Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.

5 A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.

6But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.

7They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.

8They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.

9We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.

10O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?

11Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom.

12For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.

13Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.

14Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.

15Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers.

16The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun.

17Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.

18Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O Lord, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name.

19O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever.

20Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.

21O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name.

22Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.

23Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.

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. 227227     The verb, which is, כלה, kalleh, in Pihel conjugation, is from כלה, kalah, consumptus est In Psalm 59:13, it is twice used, כלה בחמה כלה, kalleh bechemah kalleh, “consume them in wrath, consume them.” Consume, therefore, appears to be a preferable translation to pluck, which is that of our English version. 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.


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