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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 1
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Psalm 34:7-10

7. The angel of Jehovah encampeth 693693     This description seems to have been suggested by Jacob’s vision of angels, recorded in Genesis 32:1, 2, “And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, This is God’s host; and he called the name of that place Mahanaim,” (i.e., encampments.) round about them that fear him, and will deliver them. 8. Taste and see that Jehovah is good: blessed is the man who trusteth in him. 9. Fear Jehovah, ye his saints, for there is no want to them that fear him. 10. The young lions are destitute and famished: but they who fear Jehovah shall not want any good thing.

 

7. The angel of Jehovah encampeth round about them that fear him. David here discourses in general of God’s fatherly favor towards all the godly; and as the life of man is exposed to innumerable dangers, he at the same time teaches us that God is able to deliver them. The faithful especially, who are as sheep in the midst of wolves, beset as it were with death in every form, are constantly harassed with the dread of some approaching danger. David therefore affirms, that the servants of God are protected and defended by angels. The design of the Psalmist is to show, that although the faithful are exposed to many dangers, yet they may rest assured that God will be the faithful guardian of their life. But in order to confirm them the more in this hope, he adds at the same time, and not without reason, that those whom God would preserve in safety he defends by the power and ministration of angels. The power of God alone would indeed be sufficient of itself to perform this; but in mercy to our infirmity he vouchsafes to employ angels as his ministers. It serves not a little for the confirmation of our faith to know that God has innumerable legions of angels who are always ready for his service as often as he is pleased to aid us; nay, more, that the angels too, who are called principalities and powers, are ever intent upon the preservation of our life, because they know that this duty is intrusted to them. God is indeed designated with propriety the wall of his Church, and every kind of fortress and place of defense 694694     “Toute sorte de forteresse et lieu de defense.” — Fr. to her; but in accommodation to the measure and extent of our present imperfect state, he manifests the presence of his power to aid us through the instrumentality of his angels. Moreover, what the Psalmist here says of one angel in the singular number, ought to be applied to all the other angels: for they are distinguished by the general appellation of

“ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who shall be the heirs of salvation,” (Hebrews 1:14;)

and the Scriptures in other places teach us, that whenever it pleases God, and whenever he knows it to be for their benefit, many angels are appointed to take care of each of his people, (2 Kings 6:15; Psalm 91:11; Luke 16:22.) The amount then of what has been said is, that however great the number of our enemies and the dangers by which we are surrounded may be, yet the angels of God, armed with invincible power, constantly watch over us, and array themselves on every side to aid and deliver us from all evil.

8. Taste and see that Jehovah is good. In this verse the Psalmist indirectly reproves men for their dulness in not perceiving the goodness of God, which ought to be to them more than matter of simple knowledge. By the word taste he at once shows that they are without taste; and at the same time he assigns the reason of this to be, that they devour the gifts of God without relishing them, or through a vitiated loathing ungratefully conceal them. He, therefore, calls upon them to stir up their senses, and to bring a palate endued with some capacity of tasting, that God’s goodness may become known to them, or rather, be made manifest to them. The words literally rendered are, Taste and see, for the Lord is good; but the particle כי, ki, for, is taken exegetically. David’s meaning, therefore, is, that there is nothing on the part of God to prevent the godly, to whom he particularly speaks in this place, from arriving at the knowledge of his goodness by actual experience. From this it follows, that they also are infected with the common malady of dulness. This doctrine is confirmed by the promise immediately added, Blessed is the man who trusteth in him; for God never disappoints the expectations of those who seek his favor. Our own unbelief is the only impediment which prevents him from satisfying us largely and bountifully with abundance of all good things.

9. Fear Jehovah, ye his saints. Here the people of God are exhorted to the pursuit of holiness and righteousness, that they may open up a channel for divine blessings. We know that men are accustomed to provide for their wants, by resorting to fraud, plunder, and even to wrongful violence. Nor is it possible but that the faithful must feel some stirrings of a desire to imitate the wicked, and envy them in some degree in their prosperity, so that they permit themselves sometimes to howl among the wolves. And although they voluntarily abstain from all wrongful violence, yet the common way of living among those around them carries them away like a tempest; and, in the meantime, they think that the plea of necessity is sufficient to excuse them. David represses, as with a bridle, these temptations, promising that all will be well with the people of God, provided they keep themselves in the fear of God, which he opposes to all wicked and deceitful counsels; because the greater part of men reckon those to be fools who aim at simplicity, since in so doing they do not consult their own interests and profit. While, therefore, ungodly men are afraid of poverty, and carnal reason urges them to attempt whatever their fancy may suggest for keeping themselves from it, David here testifies that God takes care of the godly, so that he never suffers them to be in want. Let no fear or distrust, says he, withdraw you from the pursuit of what is right, because God never forsakes those who walk righteously before him. The Psalmist, therefore, bids them yield to God the honor of expecting more from him alone than the wicked expect from their deceitful traffic and unlawful practices. Moreover, as iniquity rages with unbridled fury everywhere throughout the world, he calls expressly upon the saints to be on their guard, because he would be of no service to the promiscuous multitude. It is a sentiment contrary to the generally received opinion among men, that while the integrity of the good and simple is exposed to the will of the wicked, there should yet be greater security in integrity than in all the resources of fraud and injustice. There is, therefore, no inconsistency in his admonishing the saints who, of their own accord, are endeavoring to walk uprightly, not to depart from the fear of God; for we know how easily the light of piety may be obscured and extinguished, when there appears no hope of living happily and prosperously, except in the pursuit of the world and its enticing pleasures.

The Psalmist illustrates this doctrine by a very apposite comparison, namely, that God provides every thing necessary for his people, and relieves their wants, whilst the lions, which surpass in ferocity all the wild beasts of the earth, prowl about in a famishing condition for their prey. Some think, that under the name of lions, those men who are addicted to violence and plunder are metaphorically described; but this, in my opinion, is too refined. David simply asserts, that those who guard against all unrighteousness should profit more by so doing than by rapine and plunder; because the Lord feeds his people, while even the lions and other beasts of prey often suffer hunger. What he says, then, is, that sooner shall the lions perish with hunger and want, than God will disappoint of their necessary food the righteous and sincere, who, content with his blessing alone, seek their food only from his hand. Whoever, therefore, shall in this way cast his cares upon God, and confide implicitly in his paternal goodness and bounty, shall live quietly and peaceably among men, and suffer no injury. If it is objected, that the good and the virtuous are not always exempted from penury, I answer, that the hand of God is stretched out to succor them in due season, when they are reduced to the greatest straits, and know not to what side to turn, 695695     “Et ne s’avent plus de quel cost a se tourner.” — Fr. so that the issue always shows that we seek not in vain from him whatever is necessary to the sustenance of life.


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