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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 1
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Psalm 22:3-8

3. Yet thou art holy, who inhabitest the praises of Israel. 4. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. 5. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. 6. But I am a worm, and not a man; the scorn of men, and the contempt of the people. 7. All those who see me mock at me: they thrust out the lip, and shake the head. 8. “He has committed,” say they, “his cause unto [or, devolved his cause upon] Jehovah: 502502     In the Hebrew it is, “He rolled [himself] upon God.” In the Latin version our author reads, “Devolvit ad Jehovam;” and in the French, “Il a remis disent-ils, au Seigneur son a l’aime.” let him deliver him, let him deliver him, 503503     “Let him deliver him, let him deliver him. This repetition is also the rendering adopted by Street, and it is approved by Poole. “The same thing,” says Poole, “is twice repeated, to show both the vehemence of their hatred and their confidence of success against him.” seeing he delights in him.”

 

3. Yet thou art holy. In the Hebrew, it is properly, And thou art holy: but the copula ו, vau, ought, without doubt, to be rendered by the adversative particle yet. Some think that the eternal and immutable state of God is here set in opposition to the afflictions which David experienced; 504504     As ישב, yashab, not only signifies to inhabit, but also to remain or continue, (see Psalm 102:13,) Hammond thinks this last is the meaning here, and renders the word, “But thou remainest or continuest to be holy, O thou, the praises of, or who art the praises of Israel, that is, the object of all their praises; or more simply, But thou remainest holy, the praises of Israel.” but I cannot subscribe to this opinion. It is more simple and natural to view the language as meaning, that God has always shown himself gracious to his chosen people. The subject here treated is not what God is in heaven, but what he has shown himself to be towards men. It may be asked, whether David, in these words, aggravates his complaint, by insinuating that he is the only person who obtains nothing from God? or whether, by holding up these words as a shield before him, he repels the temptation with which he was assailed, by exhibiting to his view this truth, that God is the continual deliverer of his people? I admit that this verse is an additional expression of the greatness of David’s grief; but I have no doubt, that in using this language he seeks from it a remedy against his distrust. It was a dangerous temptation to see himself forsaken by God; and, accordingly, lest by continually thinking upon it, he should nourish it, he turned his mind to the contemplation of the constant evidences afforded of the grace of God, from which he might encourage himself, in the hope of obtaining succor. He, therefore, not only meant to ask how it was that God, who had always dealt mercifully with his people, should now, forgetting as it were his own nature, thus leave a miserable man without any succor or solace; but he also takes a shield with which to defend himself against the fiery darts of Satan. He calls God holy, because he continues always like himself. He says that he inhabiteth the praises of Israel; because, in showing such liberality towards the chosen people, as to be continually bestowing blessings upon them, he furnished them with matter for continued praise and thanksgiving. Unless God cause us to taste of his goodness by doing us good, we must needs become mute in regard to the celebration of his praise. As David belonged to the number of this chosen people, he strives, in opposition to all the obstacles which distrust might suggest as standing in the way, to cherish the hope that he shall at length be united to this body to sing along with them the praises of God.

4. Our fathers trusted in thee. Here the Psalmist assigns the reason why God sitteth amidst the praises of the tribes of Israel. The reason is, because his hand had been always stretched forth to preserve his faithful people. David, as I have just now observed, gathers together the examples of all past ages, in order thereby to encourage, strengthen, and effectually persuade himself, that as God had never cast off any of his chosen people, he also would be one of the number of those for whom deliverance is securely laid up in the hand of God. He therefore expressly declares that he belongs to the offspring of those who had been heard, intimating by this, that he is an heir of the same grace which they had experienced. He has an eye to the covenant by which God had adopted the posterity of Abraham to be his peculiar people. It would be of little consequence to know the varied instances in which God has exercised his mercy towards his own people, unless each of us could reckon himself among their number, as David includes himself in the Church of God. In repeating three times that the fathers had obtained deliverance by trusting, there is no doubt that with all modesty he intends tacitly to intimate that he had the same hope with which they were inspired, a hope which draws after it, as its effect, the fulfillment of the promises in our behalf. In order that a man may derive encouragement from the blessings which God has bestowed upon his servants in former times, he should turn his attention to the free promises of God’s word, and to the faith which leans upon them. In short, to show that this confidence was neither cold nor dead, David tells us, at the same time, that they cried unto God. He who pretends that he trusts in God, and yet is so listless and indifferent under his calamities that he does not implore his aid, lies shamefully. By prayer, then, true faith is known, as the goodness of a tree is known by its fruit. It ought also to be observed, that God regards no other prayers as right but those which proceed from faith, and are accompanied with it. It is therefore not without good reason that David has put the word cried in the middle between these words, They trusted in thee, they trusted, in the fourth verse, and these words, They trusted in thee, in the fifth verse.

6. But I am a worm, and not a man. David does not murmur against God as if God had dealt hardly with him; but in bewailing his condition, he says, in order the more effectually to induce God to show him mercy, that he is not accounted so much as a man. This, it is true, seems at first sight to have a tendency to discourage the mind, or rather to destroy faith; but it will appear more clearly from the sequel, that so far from this being the case, David declares how miserable his condition is, that by this means he may encourage himself in the hope of obtaining relief. He therefore argues that it could not be but that God would at length stretch forth his hand to save him; to save him, I say, who was so severely afflicted, and on the brink of despair. If God has had compassion on all who have ever been afflicted, although afflicted only in a moderate degree, how could he forsake his servant when plunged in the lowest abyss of all calamities? Whenever, therefore, we are overwhelmed under a great weight of afflictions, we ought rather to take from this an argument to encourage us to hope for deliverance, than suffer ourselves to fall into despair. If God so severely exercised his most eminent servant David, and abased him so far that he had not a place even among the most despised of men, let us not take it ill, if, after his example, we are brought low. We ought, however, principally to call to our remembrance the Son of God, in whose person we know this also was fulfilled, as Isaiah had predicted,

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)

By these words of the prophet we are furnished with a sufficient refutation of the frivolous subtlety of those who have philosophised upon the word worm, as if David here pointed out some singular mystery in the generation of Christ; whereas his meaning simply is, that he had been abased beneath all men, and, as it were, cut off from the number of living beings. The fact that the Son of God suffered himself to be reduced to such ignominy, yea, descended even to hell, is so far from obscuring, in any respect, his celestial glory, that it is rather a bright mirror from which is reflected his unparalleled grace towards us.

7. All those who see me mock at me, etc., 505505     Bishop Horsley reads these words, “All who see me insult [me] with gestures of derision:” and says, “I can no otherwise render the verb לעג, than by this periphrasis. Bishop Mant translates the whole verse thus,
   “All who to slaughter see me led,
Deride my state distrest;
They curl the lip, they shake the head,
They point the taunting jest:”

   And observes, “The distinctness and colouring of the prophetic picture here are as striking to the imagination, as the subject is painful to the heart.”
This is an explanation of the preceding sentence. He had said that he was an object of scorn to the lowest of men, and, as it were, to the refuse of the people. He now informs us of the ignominy with which he had been treated, — that not content with opprobrious language, they also showed their insolence by their very gesture, both by shooting out their lips, 506506     “To protrude the lower lip is, in the East, considered a very strong indication of contempt. Its employment is chiefly confined to the lower orders.” — Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible. and by shaking their heads. As the words which we render they thrust out the lip, is, in the Hebrew, they open with the lip, 507507     בשפה, besaphah, with the lip. some explain them as meaning to rail. But this view does not appear to me to be appropriate; for the letter ב, beth, which signifies with, is here superfluous, as it often is in the Hebrew. I have therefore preferred rendering the original words, they thrust out the lip; which is the gesture of those who mock openly and injuriously. The reproachful language which follows was much more grievous when they alleged against him that God, who he openly avowed was his father, was turned away from him. We know that David, when he saw himself unjustly condemned of the world, was accustomed to support and console himself with the assurance, that since he had the approving testimony of a good conscience, he had God in heaven for his guardian, who was able to execute vengeance upon his revilers. 508508     “Qu’il avoit Dieu au ciel pour garent qui s’avoir bien faire la vengence de ses mesdisans.” — Fr. But now, all who saw him reproached him, that with vain arrogance he had groundlessly boasted of the succor he would receive from God. Where is that God, say they, on whom he leaned? Where is that love to which he trusted? Satan has not a more deadly dart for wounding the souls of men than when he endeavors to dislodge hope from our minds, by turning the promises of God into ridicule. David’s enemies, however, do not simply say that his prayers were in vain, and that the love of God of which he boasted was fallacious; but they indirectly charge him with being a hypocrite, in that he falsely pretended to be one of the children of God, from whom he was altogether estranged.

How severe a temptation this must have been to David every man may judge from his own experience. But by the remedy he used he afforded a proof of the sincerity of his confidence: for unless he had had God as the undoubted witness and approver of the sincerity of his heart, he would never have dared to come before him with this complaint. Whenever, therefore, men charge us with hypocrisy, let it be our endeavor that the inward sincerity of our hearts may answer for us before God. And whenever Satan attempts to dislodge faith from our minds, by biting detraction and cruel derision, let this be our sacred anchors — to call upon God to witness it, and that, beholding it, he may be pleased to show his righteousness in maintaining our right, since his holy name cannot be branded with viler blasphemy than to say that those who put their trust in him are puffed up with vain confidence, and that those who persuade themselves that God loves them deceive themselves with a groundless fancy. As the Son of God was assailed with the same weapon, it is certain that Satan will not be more sparing of true believers who are his members than of him. They ought, therefore, to defend themselves from this consideration - that although men may regard them as in a desperate condition, yet, if they commit to God both themselves and all their affairs, their prayers will not be in vain. By the verb, גל, gol, which is rendered to commit, the nature and efficacy of faith are very well expressed, which, reposing itself upon the providence of God, relieves our minds from the burdens of the cares and troubles with which they are agitated.


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