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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 2
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Psalm 66:17-20

17. I cried unto him with my mouth, and have extolled him under [or with] my tongue. 481481     In the original, the prefix ב, beth, for with is omitted, but it is evidently understood. The reading is simply פי, my mouth, for בפי, bephi, with my mouth It is not uncommon in Hebrew for some word or phrase to be omitted, which must be supplied by the reader, in order to complete the regular or full construction. Thus in Psalm 114: 8, to the words אגם-מים, agam-main, a pool of waters, the letter ל, lamed, is to be supplied, לאגם, laagam, into a pool of, etc.
    
18. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. 19. But truly God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. 20. Blessed be God! who hath not turned away my prayer, and his mercy from me.

 

17. I cried unto him with my mouth He proves that he owed his safety to Divine interposition, from the circumstance of his having prayed, and in consequence, having sensibly experienced his kindness. Answers to prayer serve in no small degree to illustrate the goodness of God; and confirm our faith in it. In saying that he cried to God with his mouth and tongue, these are terms denoting, as we have seen in a previous part of the psalm, the vehemency and earnestness with which he prayed. Had he not prayed from the heart, he would have been rejected, but he makes mention of the tongue also, in token of the ardor of his supplications. Some absurdly imagine, that because the expression under the tongue is used, the meaning is with the heart Words are said to come from under the tongue, because they are formed by the flexion of the tongue, as in that passage,

“The poison of asps is under their lips,” (Psalm 140:3)

The term extol intimates, that we cannot honor God more in our worship, than by looking upwards to him for deliverance. The Papists rob him of a chief part of his glory, when they direct their prayers to the dead or to images, and make such little account of calling upon the name of the Lord.

The Psalmist next lays down the rule, which must be attended to, if we would pray properly and acceptably; guarding against that presumptuous exercise which overlooks the necessity of faith and penitence. We see with what audacity hypocrites and ungodly men associate themselves with the Lord’s people, in compliance with the general calls of the word to engage in prayer. To check this solemn mockery, the Psalmist mentions integrity of heart as indispensable. I am aware that the words may be considered as an assertion of his own personal uprightness of conduct, as we find him frequently vindicating this, by an appeal to the visible and practical proofs which God had shown of his favor to him; but his main object is evidently to enforce by the example of his own exercise the common propriety of drawing near to God with a pure heart. We have a parallel scripture in John 9:31, “We know that God heareth not sinners.” In one sense, he hears none but sinners; for we must all conform to the great rule of applying to him for the remission of our sins. But while believers make an unreserved confession of guilt before God, by this very thing they cease to be sinners, for God pardons them in answer to their supplications. We are not to forget the words of Paul,

“Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity,” — (2 Timothy 2:19)

Besides, to regard iniquity in the heart does not mean to be conscious of sin — for all the Lord’s people must see their sins and be grieved for them, and this is rather praiseworthy than condemnable; — but to be bent upon the practice of iniquity. He particularly refers to the heart, intimating that not only were his hands clean, in the sense of his being innocent before men, but that he could appeal to God in proof of his inward integrity. When the heart does not correspond to the outward conduct, and harbours any secret evil intent, the fair exterior appearance may deceive men; but it is an abomination in the sight of God, The Psalmist affirms with emphasis, that his prayers had been answered, and we ought to draw the inference that we shall never be disappointed, if we seek God in sincerity.

20 Blessed be God! who hath not turned away my prayer He concludes the psalm, as he began it, with thanksgiving, and gives the reason of his not having met with a repulse; or, to take the figurative expression which he employs, of God’s not having turned away his prayer. This was, that he had not withdrawn his mercy. For it is entirely of his free grace that he is propitious, and that our prayers are not wholly ineffectual.


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