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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 1
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Psalm 27:7-9

7. Hear, O Jehovah! my voice, with which I cry unto thee; have mercy upon me, and answer me. 8. My heart said to thee, 584584     “Ou dit de toy.” — Fr. marg. “Or said of or concerning thee.” Seek ye my face; therefore, 585585     “Pourtant.” Fr. thy face, O Jehovah! will I seek. 9. Hide not thy face from me; east not away thy servant in thy wrath: thou hast been my strength; leave me not, neither forsake me utterly, O God of my salvation!

 

7. Hear, O Jehovah! my voice. The Psalmist returns again to prayer, and in doing so, he declares with what armor he was furnished to break through his temptations. By the word cry, he expresses his vehemence, as I have elsewhere said, that he may thereby move God the sooner to help him. For the same purpose, also, he a little after mentions his misery, because the more the faithful are oppressed, the more does their very need induce God to extend his favor towards them.

8. My heart said to thee. The change of person in the verbs has occasioned a variety of interpretations of this verse. But whoever closely examines David’s design will perceive that the text runs perfectly well. As it becomes us not rashly to rush into the presence of God, until he first calls us, David first tells us, that he carefully considered how gently and sweetly God prevents his people, by spontaneously inviting them to seek his face; and then, recovering his cheerfulness, he declares he would come wheresoever God may call him. The sense of the Hebrew word לך, leka, is somewhat ambiguous. It may mean the same thing as tibi, to thee, in Latin. But as the Hebrew letter ל, lamed, is often used for the preposition of, or concerning, it may properly enough be translated, my heart hath said of thee; an exposition to which the majority of interpreters incline. More probably, however, in my opinion, it denotes a mutual conversation between God and the prophet. I have just said, that no one can believingly rise to seek God until the way is first opened by God’s invitation, as I have elsewhere shown from the prophet’s declaration,

“I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God,” (Zechariah 13:9.)

David accordingly says, that in this way the door was opened for him to seek God: he brings forward this promise, and thus responds, as it were, to God. 586586     Calvin’s meaning appears to be this:- God has given us in his word that gracious command or invitation, “Seek ye my face,” inviting us to seek him by prayer and the other exercises of religion. Now, when David says, “My heart said to thee, Seek ye my face,” he means that his heart reminded God of his command or invitation; and by this he encouraged himself to seek God’s face, which he expresses his resolution to do in the following clause, “Thy face, O Jehovah! will I seek.” And, certainly, if this symphony does not precede, no man will conduct aright the chorus of the invitation. As soon, therefore, as we hear God presenting himself to us, let us cordially reply, Amen; and let us think with ourselves of his promises, as if they were familiarly addressed to us. Thus true believers have no need to seek any subtle artifice or tedious circuits to introduce themselves into God’s favor, since this preface prepares so easy a way for them, “However unworthy we are to be received by thee, O Lord, yet thy commandment, by which thou enjoinest upon us to come to thee, is sufficient encouragement to us.” The voice of God, therefore, ought to resound in our hearts, like an echo in hollow places, that from this mutual concord there may spring confidence to call upon him.

The term, face, is commonly explained to mean help or succor; as if it had been said, Seek me. But I am persuaded that the allusion here is also to the sanctuary, and that David refers to the mode of manifestation in which God was wont to render himself in some degree visible. No doubt, it is unlawful to form any gross or carnal idea of him, but as he appointed the ark of the covenant to be a token of his presence, it is, without any impropriety, every where denominated his face. It is indeed true, that we are far from God so long as we abide in this world, because faith is far removed from sight; but it is equally true, that we now see God as in a mirror, and darkly, (1 Corinthians 13:12,) until he shall openly show himself to us at the last day. Under this word, therefore, I am persuaded, are represented to us those helps by which God raises us to his presence, descending from his inconceivable glory to us, and furnishing us on earth with a vision of his heavenly glory. But as it is according to his own sovereign pleasure that God vouchsafes us to look upon him, (as he does in Word and sacraments,) it becomes us steadily to fix our eyes on this view, that it may not be with us as with the Papists, who, by means of the wildest inventions, wickedly transform God into whatever shapes please their fancy, or their brains have conceived.

9. Hide not thy face from me. The Psalmist elegantly continues the same form of speech, but with a different meaning. The face of God is now employed to describe the sensible effects of his grace and favor: as if it had been said, Lord, make me truly to experience that thou hast been near to me, and let me clearly behold thy power in saving me. We must observe the distinction between the theoretical knowledge derived from the Word of God and what is called the experimental knowledge of his grace. For as God shows himself present in operation, (as they usually speak,) he must first be sought in his Word. The sentence which follows, Cast not away thy servant in thine anger, some Jewish interpreters expound in too forced a manner to mean, Suffer not thy servant to be immersed in the wicked cares of this world, which are nothing but anger and madness. I, however, prefer to translate the Hebrew word נטה, natah, as many translate it, to turn away from, or to remove. Their meaning is more probable who interpret it, Make not thy servant to decline to anger. When a person is utterly forsaken by God, he cannot but be agitated within by murmuring thoughts, and break forth into the manifestations of vexation and anger. If any one think that David now anticipates this temptation, I shall not object, for he was not without reason afraid of impatience, which weakens us and makes us go beyond the bounds of reason. But I keep to the first exposition, as it is confirmed by the two words which follow; and thus the term anger imports a tacit confession of sin; because, although David acknowledges that God might justly cast him off, he deprecates his anger. Moreover, by recalling to mind God’s former favors, he encourages himself to hope for more, and by this argument he moves God to continue his help, and not to leave his work imperfect.


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