Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Hosea 2:14-23

Hosea 2:14-23

Commentary By
Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Hosea 2:14-23

(Please read this commentary through to the end)

The state of Israel ruined by their own sin did not look so black and dismal in the former part of the chapter, but that the state of Israel, restrained by the divine grace, looks as bright and pleasant here in the latter part of the chapter, and the more surprisingly so as the promises follow thus close upon the threatenings; nay, which is very strange, they are by a note of connexion joined to, and inferred from, that declaration of their sinfulness upon which the threatenings of their ruin are grounded: She went after her lovers, and forgot me, saith the Lord; therefore I will allure her. Fitly therefore is that therefore which is the note of connexion immediately followed with a note of admiration: Behold I will allure her! When it was said, She forgot me, one would think it should have followed, “Therefore I will abandon her, I will forget her, I will never look after her more.” No, Therefore I will allure her. Note, God’s thoughts and ways of mercy are infinitely above ours; his reasons are all fetched from within himself, and not from any thing in us; nay, his goodness takes occasion from man’s badness to appear so much the more illustrious, Isaiah 57:17, Isaiah 57:18. Therefore, because she will not be restrained by the denunciations of wrath, God will try whether she will be wrought upon by the offers of mercy. Some think it may be translated, Afterwards, or nevertheless, I will allure her. It comes all to one; the design is plainly to magnify free grace to those on whom God will have mercy purely for mercy’s sake. Now that which is here promised to Israel is,

I. That though now they were disconsolate, and ready to despair, they should again be revived with comforts and hopes, Hosea 2:14, Hosea 2:15. This is expressed here with an allusion to God’s dealings with that people when he brought them out of Egypt, through the wilderness to Canaan, as their forlorn and deplorable condition in their captivity was compared to their state in Egypt in the day that they were born, Hosea 2:3. They shall be new-formed by such miracles of love and mercy as they were first-formed by, and such a transport of joy shall they be in as they were in then. It is hard to say when this had its accomplishment in the kingdom of the ten tribes; but it principally aims, no doubt, at the bringing in both of Jews and Gentiles into the church by the gospel of Christ; and it is applicable, nay, we have reason to think it was designed that it should be applied, to the conversion of particular souls to God. Now observe,

1. The gracious methods God will take with them. (1.) He will bring them into the wilderness, as he did at first when he brought them out of Egypt, where he instructed them, and took them into covenant with himself. The land of their captivity shall be to them now, as that wilderness was then, the furnace of affliction, in which God will choose them. See Ezekiel 20:35, Ezekiel 20:36, I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you. God had said that he would make them as a wilderness (Hosea 2:3), which was a threatening; now, when it is here made part of a promise that he would bring them into the wilderness, the meaning may be that he would by his grace bring their minds to their condition: “They shall have humble hearts under humbling providences; being poor, they shall be poor in spirit, shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity, and then they are prepared to have comfort spoken to them.” When God delivered Israel out of Egypt he led them into the wilderness, to humble them and prove them, that he might do them good (Deuteronomy 8:2, Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 8:15, Deuteronomy 8:16), and so he will do again. Note, Those whom God has mercy in store for he first brings into a wilderness – into solitude and retirement, that they may the more freely converse with him out of the noise of this world, – into distress of mind, through sense of guilt and dread of wrath, which brings a soul to be quite at a loss in itself and bewildered, and by those convictions he prepares for consolations, – and sometimes into outward distress and trouble, thereby to open the ear to discipline. (2.) He will then allure them and speak comfortably to them, will persuade them and speak to their hearts, that is, he will by his word and Spirit incline their hearts to return to him, and encourage them to do so. He will allure them with the promises of his favour, as before he had terrified them with the threatenings of his wrath, will speak friendly to them, both by his prophets and by his providences, as before he had spoken roughly, Isaiah 40:1, Isaiah 40:2. By the hand of my servants the prophets I will speak comfort to her heart; so the Chaldee. This refers to the gospel of Christ, and the offers of divine grace in the gospel, by which we are allured to forsake our sins and to turn to God, and which speaks to the heart of a convinced sinner that which is every way suited to his case, speaks abundant consolation to those that sorrow for sin and lament after the Lord. And when by the Spirit it is indeed spoken to the heart effectually, and so as to reach the conscience (which it is God’s prerogative to do), O what a blessed change is wrought by it! Note, The best way of reducing wandering souls to God is by fair means. By the promise of rest in Christ we are invited to take his yoke upon us; and the work of conversion may be forwarded by comforts as well as by convictions. (3.) He will give her her vineyards thence. From that time and from that place where he has afflicted her, and brought her to see her folly and to humble herself, thenceforward he will do her good; not only speak comfortably to her, but do well for her, and undo what he had done against her. He had destroyed her vines (Hosea 2:12), but now he will give her whole vineyards, as if for every vine destroyed she should have a vineyard restored, and so be repaid with interest; she shall not only have corn for necessity, but vineyards for delight. These denote the privileges and comforts of the gospel, which are prepared for those that come up out of the wilderness leaning upon Christ as their beloved, Song of Solomon 8:5. Note, God has vineyards of consolation ready to bestow on those who repent and return to him; and he can give vineyards out of a wilderness, which are of all others the most welcome, as rest to the weary. (4.) He will give her the valley of Achor for a door of hope. The valley of Achor was that in which Achan was stoned; it signifies the valley of trouble, because he troubled Israel, and there God troubled him. This was the beginning of the wars of Canaan; and their putting away the accursed thing in that place gave them ground to hope that God would continue his presence with them and complete their victories. So when God returns to his people in mercy, and they to him in duty, it will be to them as happy an omen as any thing. If they put away the accursed thing from among them, if by mortifying sin they stone the Achan that has troubled their camp, their subduing that enemy within themselves is an earnest to them of victory over all the kings of Canaan. Or, if the allusion be to the name, it intimates that trouble for sin, if it be sincere, opens a door of hope; for that sin which truly troubles us shall not ruin us. The valley of Achor was a very fruitful pleasant valley, some think the same with the valley of Engedi, famous for vineyards, Song of Solomon 1:14. This God gave to Israel as a pattern and pledge of the whole land of Canaan; so “God will by his gospel give to all believers such gifts, graces, and comforts in this life, as shall be a taste of those more perfect good things of the kingdom of heaven, and shall give them as assured hope of a full possession of them in due time.” So the learned Dr. Pocock expounds it; and, to the same purport, this whole context.

2. The great rejoicing with which they shall receive God’s gracious returns towards them: She shall sing there as in the days of her youth. This plainly refers to that triumphant and prophetic song which Moses and the children of Israel sang at the Red Sea, Exodus 15:1. When they are delivered out of captivity they shall repeat that song, and to them it shall be a new song, because sung upon a new occasion, not inferior to the former. God had said (Hosea 2:11) that he would cause all her mirth to cease, but now he would cause it to revive: She shall sing as in the day that she came out of Egypt. Note, When God repeats former mercies we must repeat former praises; we find the song of Moses sung in the New Testament, Revelation 15:3. This promise of Israel’s singing has its accomplishment in the gospel of Christ, which furnishes us with abundant matter for joy and praise, and wherever it is received in its power enlarges the heart in joy and praise; and this is that land flowing with milk and honey which the valley of Achor opens a door of hope to. We rejoice in tribulation.

II. That, though they had been much addicted to the worship of Baal, they should now be perfectly weaned from it, should relinquish and abandon all appearances of idolatry and approaches towards it, and cleave to God only, and worship him as he appoints, Hosea _2:16, Hosea 2:17. Note, The surest pledge and token of God’s favour to any people is his effectual parting between them and their beloved sins. The worship of Baal was the sin that did most easily beset the people of Israel; it was their own iniquity, the sin that had dominion over them; but now that idolatry shall be quite abolished, and there shall not be the least remains of it among them. 1. The idols of Baal shall not be mentioned, not any of the Baals that in the days of Baalim had made so great a noise with, O Baal! hear us; O Baal! hear us. The very names of Baalim shall be taken out of their mouths; they shall be so disused that they shall be quite forgotten, as if their names had never been known in Israel; they shall be so detested that people will not bear to mention them themselves, nor to hear others mention them, so that posterity shall scarcely know that ever there were such things. They shall be so ashamed of their former love to Baal that they shall do all they can to blot out the remembrance of it. They shall tie themselves up to the strictest literal meaning of that law against idolatry (Exodus 23:13), Make no mention of the names of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth, as David, Psa_16:4. Thus the apostle expresses the abhorrence we ought to have of all fleshly lusts: Let them not be once named among you, Ephesians 5:3. But how can such a change of the Ethiopian’s skin be wrought? It is answered, The power of God can do it, and will. I will take away the names of Baalim; as Zechariah 13:2, I will cut off the names of the idols. Note, God’s grace in the heart will change the language by making that iniquity to be loathed which was beloved. Zephaniah 3:9, I will turn to the people a pure language. One of the rabbin says, This promise relates to the Gentiles, by the gospel of Christ, from the idolatries which they had been wedded to, 1Thessalonians 1:9. 2. The very word Baal shall be laid aside, even in its innocent signification. God says, Thou shalt call me Ishi, and call me no more Baali; both signify my husband, and both had been made use of concerning God. Isaiah 54:5, Thy Maker is thy husband, thy Baal (so the word is), thy owner, patron, and protector. It is probable that many good people had, accordingly, made use of the word Baali in worshipping the God of Israel; when their wicked neighbours bowed the knee to Baal they gloried in this, that God was their Baal. “But,” says God, “you shall call me so no more, because I will have the very names of Baalim taken away.” Note, That which is very innocent in itself should, when it has been abused to idolatry, be abolished, and the very use of it taken away, that nothing may be done to keep idols in remembrance, much less to keep them in reputation. When calling God Ishi will do as well, and signify as much, as Baali, let that word be chosen rather, lest, by calling him Baali, others should be put in mind of their quondam Baals. Some think that there is another reason intimated why God would be called Ishi and not Baali; they both signify my husband, but Ishi is a compellation of love, and sweetness, and familiarity, Baali of reverence and subjection. Ishi is vir meusmy man; Baali is dominus meusmy lord. In gospel-times God has so revealed himself to us as to encourage us to come boldly to the throne of his grace, and to use a holy humble freedom there; we ought to call God our Master, for so he is, but we are more taught to call him our Father. Ishi is a man the Lord (Genesis 4:1), and intimates that in gospel-times the church’s husband shall be the man Christ Jesus, made like unto his brethren, and therefore they shall call him Ishi, not Baali.

III. That though they had been in continual troubles, as if the whole creation had been at war with them, now they shall enjoy perfect peace and tranquillity, as if they were in a league of friendship with the whole creation (Hosea 2:18): In that day, when they have forsaken their idols, and put themselves under the divine protection, I will make a covenant for them. 1. They shall be protected from evil; nothing shall hurt them, nor do them any mischief. Tranquillus Deus tranquillat amniaWhen God is at peace with us he makes every creature to be so too. The inferior creatures shall do them no harm, as they had done when the beasts of the field ate up their vineyards (Hosea 2:12) and when noisome beasts were one of God’s sore judgments, Ezekiel 14:15. The fowl and the creeping things are taken into this covenant; for they also, when God makes use of them as the instruments of his justice, may be come very hurtful, but they shall be no more so; nay, by virtue of this covenant, they shall be made serviceable to them and brought into their interests. Note, God has the command of the inferior creatures, and brings them into what covenant he pleases; he can make the beasts of the field to honour him (so he has promised, Isaiah 43:20) and to contribute to his people’s comfort. And, if the inferior creatures are thus laid under an engagement to serve us, it is our part of the covenant not to abuse them, but to serve God with them. Some think that this had its accomplishment in the miraculous power Christ gave his disciples to take up serpents, Mark 16:17, Mark 16:18. It agrees with the promises made particularly to Israel, in their return out of captivity (Ezekiel 34:25, I will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land), and the more general ones to all the saints. Job 5:22, Job 5:23, The beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee; and Psalm 91:13, Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder. But this is not all; men are more in danger from one another than from the brute beast, and therefore it is further promised that God will make wars to cease, will disarm the enemy: I will break the bow, and sword, and battle. He can do it when he pleases (Psalm 44:9), and will do it for those whose ways please him, for he makes even their enemies to be at peace with them, Proverbs 16:7. This agrees with the promise that in gospel-times swords shall be beaten into plough-shares, Isaiah 2:4. 2. They shall be quiet from the fear of evil. God will not only keep them safe, but make them to lie down safely, as those that know themselves to be under the protection of Heaven, and therefore are not afraid of the powers of hell.

IV. That, though God had given them a bill of divorce for their whoredoms, yet, upon their repentance, he would again take them into covenant with himself, into a marriage-covenant, Hosea 2:19, Hosea 2:20. God’s making a covenant for them with the inferior creatures was a great favour; but it was nothing to this, that he took them into covenant with himself and engaged himself to do them good. Observe,

1. The nature of this covenant; it is a marriage-covenant, founded in choice and love, and founding the nearest relation: I will betroth thee unto me; and again, and a third time, I will betroth thee. Note, All that are sincerely devoted to God are betrothed to him; God gives them the most sacred and inviolable security imaginable that he will love them, protect them, and provide for them, that he will do the part of a husband to them, and that he will incline their hearts to join themselves to him and will graciously accept of them in so doing. Believing souls are espoused to Christ, 2Corinthians 11:2. The gospel-church is the bride, the Lamb’s wife; and they would never come into that relation to him if he did not by the power of his grace betroth them to himself. The separation begins on our side; we alienate ourselves from God. The coalition begins on his side; he betroths us to himself.

2. The duration of this covenant: “I will betroth thee for ever. The covenant itself shall be inviolable; God will not break it on his part, and you shall not on yours; and the blessings of it shall be everlasting.” One of the Jewish rabbin says, This is a promise that she shall attain to the life of the world to come, which is absolute eternity or perpetuity.

3. The manner in which this covenant shall be made. (1.) In righteousness and judgment, that is, God will deal sincerely and uprightly in covenant with them; they have broken covenant, and God is righteous. “But,” says God, “I will renew the covenant in righteousness.” The matter shall be so ordered that God may receive even these backsliding children into his family again, without any reflection upon his justice, nay, his justice being satisfied by the Mediator of this covenant very much to the honour of it. But what reason can there be why God should take a people into covenant with him that had so often dealt treacherously? Will it not reflect upon his wisdom? “No,” says God; “I will do it in judgment, not rashly, but upon due consideration; let me alone to give a reason for it and to justify my own conduct.” (2.) In lovingkindness and in mercies. God will deal tenderly and graciously in covenanting with them; and will be not only as good as his word, but better; and, as he will be just in keeping covenant with them, so he will be merciful in keeping them in the covenant. They are subject to many infirmities, and, if he be extreme to mark what they do amiss, they will soon lose the benefit of the covenant. He therefore promises that it shall be a covenant of grace, made in a compassionate consideration of their infirmities, so that every transgression in the covenant shall not throw them out of covenant; he will gather with everlasting lovingkindness. (3.) In faithfulness. Every article of the covenant shall be punctually performed. Faithful is he that has called them, who also will do it; he cannot deny himself.

4. The means by which they shall be kept tight and faithful to the covenant on their part: Thou shalt know the Lord. This is not only a promise that God will reveal himself to them more fully and clearly than ever, but that he will give them a heart to know him; they shall know more of him, and shall know him in another manner than ever yet. The ground of their apostasy was their not knowing God to be their benefactor (Hosea 2:8); therefore, to prevent the like, they shall all be taught of God to know him. Note, God keeps up his interest in men’s souls by giving them a good understanding and a right knowledge of things, Hebrews 8:11.

V. That, though the heavens had been to them as brass, and the earth as iron, now the heavens shall yield their dews, and by that means the earth its fruits, Hosea 2:21, Hosea 2:22. God having betrothed the gospel-church and in it all believers to himself, how shall he not with himself and with his Son freely give them all things, all things pertaining both to life and godliness, all things they need or can desire? All is theirs, for they are Christ’s, betrothed to him; and with the righteousness of the kingdom of God, which they seek first, all other things shall be added unto them. And yet this promise of corn and wine is to be taken also in a spiritual sense (so the learned Dr. Pocock thinks): it is an effusion of those blessings and graces which relate to the soul that is here promised under the metaphor of temporal blessings, the dew of heaven, as well as the fatness of the earth, and that put first, as in the blessing of Jacob, Genesis 27:28. God had threatened (Hosea 2:9) that he would take away the corn and the wine; but now he promises to restore them, and that in the common course and order of nature. While they lay under the judgment of famine they called to the earth for corn and wine for the support of themselves and their families. Very gladly would the earth have supplied them, but she cannot give unless she receive, cannot produce corn and wine unless she be enriched with the river of God (Psalm 65:9); and therefore she calls to the heavens for rain, the former and latter rain in their season, grapes for it, and by her melancholy aspect when rain is denied pleads for it. “But,” say the heavens, “we have no rain to give unless he who has the key of the clouds unlock them, and open these bottles; so that, if the Lord do not help you, we cannot.” But, when God takes them into covenant with himself, then the wheel of nature shall be set a-going again in favour of them, and the streams of mercy shall flow in the usual channel: Then I will hear, saith the Lord; I will receive your prayers (so the Chaldee interprets the first hearing); God will graciously take notice of their addresses to him. And then I will hear the heavens; I will answer them (so it may be read); and then they shall hear and answer the earth, and pour down seasonable rain upon it; and then the earth shall hear the corn and vines, and supply them with moisture, and they shall hear Jezreel, and be nourishment and refreshment for those that inhabit Jezreel. See here the coherence of second causes with one another, as links in a chain, and the necessary dependence they all have upon God, the first Cause. Note, We must expect all our comforts from God in the usual method and by the appointed means; and, when we are at any time disappointed in them, we must look up to God, above the hills and the mountains, Psalm 121:1, Psalm 121:2. See how ready the creatures are to serve the people of God, how desirous of the honour: the corn cries to the earth, the earth to the heavens, the heavens to God, and all that they may supply them. And see how ready God is to give relief: I will hear, saith the Lord, yea, I will hear. And, if God will hear the cry of the heavens for his people, much more will he hear the intercession of his Son for them, who is made higher than the heavens. See what a peculiar delight those that are in covenant with God may take in their creature-comforts, as seeing them all come to them from the hand of God; they can trace up all the streams to the fountain, and taste covenant-love in common mercies, which makes them doubly sweet.

VI. That whereas they were now dispersed, not only, as Simeon and Levi, divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel, but divided and scattered all the world over, God will turn this curse, as he did that, into a blessing: “I will not only water the earth for her, but will sow her unto me in the earth; her dispersion shall be not like that of the chaff in the floor, which the wind drives away, but like that of the seed in the field, in order to its greater increase; wherever they are scattered they shall take root downward and bear fruit upward. The good seed are the children of the kingdom. I will sow her unto me.” This alludes to the name of Jezreel, which signifies sown of God, or for God; as she was scattered of him (which is one signification of the words) so she shall be sown of him; and to what he sows he will give the increase. When in all parts of the world Christianity got footing, and every where there were professors of it, then this promise was fulfilled, I will sow her unto me in the earth. Note, The greatest blessing of this earth is that God has a church in it, and from that arises all the tribute of glory which he has out of it; it is what he has sown to himself, and what he will therefore secure to himself.

VII. That, whereas they had been Lo-amminot a people, and Lo-ruhamahnot finding mercy with God, now they shall be restored to his favour and taken again into covenant with him (Hosea 2:23): They had not obtained mercy, but seemed to be abandoned; they were not my people, not distinguished, not dealt with, as my people, but left to lie in common with the nations. This was the case with the rejected Jews; and the same, or more deplorable, was that of the Gentile world (to whom the apostle applies this, Romans 9:24, Romans 9:25), that had no hope, and was without God in the world; but when great multitudes both of Jews and Gentiles were, upon their believing in Christ, incorporated into a Christian church, then, 1. God had mercy on those who had not obtained mercy. Those found favour with God, and became the children of his love, who had been long out of favour and the children of his wrath, and, if infinite mercy had not interposed, would have been for ever so. Note, God’s mercy must not be despaired of any where on this side hell. 2. He took those into a covenant-relation to himself who had been strangers and foreigners. He says to them, “Thou art my people, whom I will own and bless, protect and provide for;” and they shall say, “Thou art my God, whom I will serve and worship, and to whose honour I will be entirely and for ever devoted.” Note, (1.) The sum total of the happiness of believers is the mutual relation that is between them and God, that he is theirs and they are his; this is the crown of all the promises. (2.) This relation is founded in free grace. We have not chosen him, but he has chosen us. He first says, They are my people, and makes them willing to be so in the day of his power, and then they avouch him to be theirs. (3.) As we need desire no more to make us happy than to be the people of God, so we need desire no more to make us easy and cheerful than to have him to assure us that we are so, to say unto us, by his Spirit witnessing with ours, Thou art my people. (4.) Those that have accepted the Lord for their God must avouch him to be so, must go to him in prayer and tell him so, Thou art my God, and must be ready to make profession before men. (5.) It adds to the comfort of our covenant with God that in it there is a communion of saints, who, though they are many, yet here are one. It is not, I will say to them, You are my people, but, Thou art; for he looks upon them as all one in Christ, and, as such in him, he speaks to them and covenants with them; and they also do not say, Thou art our God, for they look upon themselves as one body, and desire with one mind and one mouth to glorify him, and therefore say, Thou art my God. Or it intimates that such a covenant as God made of old with his people Israel, in general, now under the gospel he makes with particular believers, and says to each of them, even the meanest, with as much pleasure as he did of old to the thousands of Israel, Thou art my people, and invites and encourages each of them to say, Thou art my God, and to triumph therein, as Moses and all Israel did. Exodus 15:2, He is my God, and my father’s God.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Psalm 13

Psalm 13

Commentary By
Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
Copyright: Public Domain

External links are for reader convenience only, neither the linked web sites, its advertising content or its comments are endorsed by Late Night Watch.

Be Berean (Acts 17:11), but use the Internet with discernment.

LNW Note: To get the most out of Commentaries that incorporate the Hebrew and Greek spellings, use an interlinear Bible.

 

Psalms 13:1-6

 

David, in affliction, is here pouring out his soul before God; his address is short, but the method is very observable, and of use for direction and encouragement.

I. His troubles extort complaints (Psalm 13:1, Psalm 13:2); and the afflicted have liberty to pour out their complaint before the Lord, Ps. 102 title. It is some ease to a troubled spirit to give vent to its griefs, especially to give vent to them at the throne of grace, where we are sure to find one who is afflicted in the afflictions of his people and is troubled with the feeling of their infirmities; thither we have boldness of access by faith, and there we have parrēsiafreedom of speech. Observe here,

1. What David complains of. (1.) God’s unkindness; so he construed it, and it was his infirmity. He thought God had forgotten him, had forgotten his promises to him, his covenant with him, his former lovingkindness which he had shown him and which he took to be an earnest of further mercy, had forgotten that there was such a man in the world, who needed and expected relief and succour from him. Thus Zion said, My God has forgotten me (Isaiah 49:14), Israel said, My way is hidden from the Lord, Isaiah 40:27. Not that any good man can doubt the omniscience, goodness, and faithfulness of God; but it is a peevish expression of prevailing fear, which yet, when it arises from a high esteem and earnest desire of God’s favour, though it be indecent and culpable, shall be passed by and pardoned, for the second thought will retract it and repent of it. God hid his face from him, so that he wanted that inward comfort in God which he used to have, and herein was a type of Christ upon the cross, crying out, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? God sometimes hides his face from his own children, and leaves them in the dark concerning their interest in him; and this they lay to heart more than any outward trouble whatsoever. (2.) His own uneasiness. [1.] He was racked with care, which filled his head: I take counsel in my soul; “I am at a loss, and am inops consiliiwithout a friend to advise with that I can put any confidence in, and therefore am myself continually projecting what to do to help myself; but none of my projects are likely to take effect, so that I am at my wits’ end, and in a continual agitation.” Anxious cares are heavy burdens with which good people often load themselves more than they need. [2.] He was overwhelmed with sorrow, which filled his heart: I have sorrow in my heart daily. He had a constant disposition to sorrow and it preyed upon his spirits, not only in the night, when he was silent and solitary, but by day too, when lighter griefs are diverted and dissipated by conversation and business; nay, every day brought with it fresh occasions of grief; the clouds returned after the rain. The bread of sorrow is sometimes the saint’s daily bread. Our Master himself was a man of sorrows. (3.) His enemies’ insolence, which added to his grief. Saul his great enemy, and others under him, were exalted over him, triumphed in his distress, pleased themselves with his grief, and promised themselves a complete victory over him. This he complained of as reflecting dishonour upon God, and his power and promise.

2. How he expostulates with God hereupon: “How long shall it be thus?” And, “Shall it be thus for ever?” Long afflictions try our patience and often tire it. It is a common temptation, when trouble lasts long, to think it will last always; despondency then turns into despair, and those that have long been without joy begin, at last, to be without hope. “Lord, tell me how long thou wilt hide thy face, and assure me that it shall not be for ever, but that thou wilt return at length in mercy to me, and then I shall the more easily bear my present troubles.”

II. His complaints stir up his prayers, Psalm 13:3, Psalm 13:4. We should never allow ourselves to make any complaints but what are fit to be offered up to God and what drive us to our knees. Observe here,

1. What his petitions are: Consider my case, hear my complaints, and enlighten my eyes, that is, (1.) “Strengthen my faith;” for faith is the eye of the soul, with which it sees above, and sees through, the things of sense. “Lord, enable me to look beyond my present troubles and to foresee a happy issue of them.” (2.) “Guide my way; enable me to look about me, that I may avoid the snares which are laid for me.” (3.) “Refresh my soul with the joy of thy salvation.” That which revives the drooping spirits is said to enlighten the eyes, 1Samuel 14:27; Ezra 9:8. “Lord, scatter the cloud of melancholy which darkens my eyes, and let my countenance be made pleasant.”

2. What his pleas are. He mentions his relation to God and interest in him (O Lord my God!) and insists upon the greatness of the peril, which called for speedy relief and succour. If his eyes were not enlightened quickly, (1.) He concludes that he must perish: “I shall sleep the sleep of death; I cannot live under the weight of all this care and grief.” Nothing is more killing to a soul then the want of God’s favour, nothing more reviving than the return of it. (2.) That then his enemies would triumph: “Lest my enemy say, So would I have it; lest Saul, lest Satan, be gratified in my fall.” It would gratify the pride of his enemy: He will say, “I have prevailed, I have gotten the day, and been too hard for him and his God.” It would gratify the malice of his enemies: They will rejoice when I am moved. And will it be for God’s honour to suffer them thus to trample upon all that is sacred both in heaven and earth?

III. His prayers are soon turned into praises (Psalm 13:5, Psalm 13:6): But my heart shall rejoice and I will sing to the Lord. What a surprising change is here in a few lines! In the beginning of the psalm we have him drooping, trembling, and ready to sink into melancholy and despair; but, in the close of it, rejoicing in God, and elevated and enlarged in his praises. See the power of faith, the power of prayer, and how good it is to draw near to God. If we bring our cares and griefs to the throne of grace, and leave them there, we may go away like Hannah, and our countenance will be no more sad, 1Samuel 1:18. And here observe the method of his comfort. 1. God’s mercy is the support of his faith. “My case is bad enough, and I am ready to think it deplorable, till I consider the infinite goodness of God; but, finding I have that to trust to, I am comforted, though I have no merit of my own. In former distresses I have trusted in the mercy of God, and I never found that it failed me; his mercy has in due time relieved me and my confidence in it has in the mean time supported me. Even in the depth of this distress, when God hid his face from me, when without were fightings and within were fears, yet I trusted in the mercy of God and that was as an anchor in a storm, by the help of which, though I was tossed, I was not overset.” And still I do trust in thy mercy; so some read it. “I refer myself to that, with an assurance that it will do well for me at last.” This he pleads with God, knowing what pleasure he takes in those that hope in his mercy, Psalm 147:11. 2. His faith in God’s mercy filled his heart with joy in his salvation; for joy and peace come by believing, Romans 15:13. Believing, you rejoice, 1Peter 1:8. Having put his trust in the mercy of God, he is fully assured of salvation, and that his heart, which was now daily grieving, should rejoice in that salvation. Though weeping endure long, joy will return. 3. His joy in God’s salvation would fill his mouth with songs of praise (Psalm 13:6): “I will sing unto the Lord, sing in remembrance of what he has done formerly; though I should never recover the peace I have had, I will die blessing God that ever I had it. He has dealt bountifully with me formerly, and he shall have the glory of that, however he is pleased to deal with me now. I will sing in hope of what he will do for me at last, being confident that all will end well, will end everlastingly well.” But he speaks of it as a thing past (He has dealt bountifully with me), because by faith he had received the earnest of the salvation and he was as confident of it as if it had been done already.

In singing this psalm and praying it over, if we have not the same complaints to make that David had, we must thank God that we have not, dread and deprecate his withdrawings, sympathize with those that are troubled in mind, and encourage ourselves in our most holy faith and joy.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Psalm 138

Psalm 138

Commentary By
Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Psalms 138:1-5

 

I. How he would praise God, compare Psalm 111:1. 1. He will praise him with sincerity and zeal – “With my heart, with my whole heart, with that which is within me and with all that is within me, with uprightness of intention and fervency of affection, inward impressions agreeing with outward expressions.” 2. With freedom and boldness: Before the gods will I sing praise unto thee, before the princes, and judges, and great men, either those of other nations that visited him or those of his own nation that attended on him, even in their presence. He will not only praise God with his heart, which we may do by pious ejaculations in any company, but will sing praise if there be occasion. Note, Praising God is work which the greatest of men need not be ashamed of; it is the work of angels, the work of heaven. Before the angels (so some understand it), that is, in religious assemblies, where there is a special presence of angels, 1Cor 11:10. 3. In the way that God had appointed: I will worship towards thy holy temple. The priests alone went into the temple; the people, at the nearest, did but worship towards it, and that they might do at a distance. Christ is our temple, and towards him we must look with an eye of faith, as Mediator between us and God, in all our praises of him. Heaven is God’s holy temple, and thitherward we must lift up our eyes in all our addresses to God. Our Father in heaven.

II. What he would praise God for. 1. For the fountain of his comforts – for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth, for thy goodness and for thy promise, mercy hidden in thee and mercy revealed by thee, that God is a gracious God in himself and has engaged to be so to all those that trust in him. For thou hast magnified thy word (thy promise, which is truth) above all thy name. God has made himself known to us in many ways in creation and providence, but most clearly by his word. The judgments of his mouth are magnified even above those of his hand, and greater things are done by them. The wonders of grace exceed the wonders of nature; and what is discovered of God by revelation is much greater than what is discovered by reason. In what God had done for David his faithfulness to his work appeared more illustriously, and redounded more to his glory, than any other of his attributes. Some good interpreters understand it of Christ, the essential Word, and of his gospel, which are magnified above all the discoveries God had before made of himself to the fathers. He that magnified the law, and made that honourable, magnifies the gospel much more. 2. For the streams flowing from that fountain, in which he himself had tasted that the Lord is gracious, Psalm138:3. He had been in affliction, and he remembers, with thankfulness, (1.) The sweet communion he then had with God. He cried, he prayed, and prayed earnestly, and God answered him, gave him to understand that his prayer was accepted and should have a gracious return in due time. The intercourse between God and his saints is carried on by his promises and their prayers. (2.) The sweet communications he then had from God: Thou strengthenedst me with strength in my soul. This was the answer to his prayer, for God gives more than good words, Psalm 20:6. Observe, [1.] It was a speedy answer: In the day when I cried. Note, Those that trade with heaven by prayer grow rich by quick returns. While we are yet speaking God hears, Isaiah 65:24. [2.] It was a spiritual answer. God gave him strength in his soul, and that is a real and valuable answer to the prayer of faith in the day of affliction. If God give us strength in our souls to bear the burdens, resist the temptations, and do the duties of an afflicted state, if he strengthen us to keep hold of himself by faith, to maintain the peace of our own minds and to wait with patience for the issue, we must own that he has answered us, and we are bound to be thankful.

III. What influence he hoped that his praising God would have upon others, Psalm 138:4, Psalm 138:5. David was himself a king, and therefore he hoped that kings would be wrought upon by his experiences, and his example, to embrace religion; and, if kings became religious, their kingdoms would be every way better. Now, 1. This may have reference to the kings that were neighbours to David, as Hiram and others. “They shall all praise thee.” When they visited David, and, after his death, when they sought the presence of Solomon (as all the kings of the earth are expressly said to have done, 2Ch_9:23), they readily joined in the worship of the God of Israel. 2. It may look further, to the calling of the Gentiles and the discipling of all nations by the gospel of Christ, of whom it is said that all kings shall fall down before him, Psalm 72:11. Now it is here foretold, (1.) That the kings of the earth shall hear the words of God. All that came near David should hear them from him, Psalm 119:46. In the latter days the preachers of the gospel should be sent into all the world. (2.) That then they shall praise God, as all those have reason to do that hear his word, and receive it in the light and love of it, Acts 13:48. (3.) That they shall sing in the ways of the Lord, in the ways of his providence and grace towards them; they shall rejoice in God, and give glory to him, however he is pleased to deal with them in the ways of their duty and obedience to him. Note, Those that walk in the ways of the Lord have reason to sing in those ways, to go on in them with a great deal of cheerfulness, for they are ways of pleasantness, and it becomes us to be pleasant in them; and, if we are so, great is the glory of the Lord. It is very much for the honour of God that kings should walk in his ways, and that all those who walk in them should sing in them, and so proclaim to all the world that he is a good Master and his work its own wages.

Psalms 138:6-8

 

David here comforts himself with three things: –

I. The favour God bears to his humble people (Psalm 138:6): Though the Lord be high, and neither needs any of his creatures nor can be benefited by them, yet has he respect unto the lowly, smiles upon them as well pleased with them, overlooks heaven and earth to cast a gracious look upon them (Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:1), and, sooner or later, he will put honour upon them, while he knows the proud afar off, knows them, but disowns them and rejects them, how proudly soever they pretend to his favour. Dr. Hammond makes this to be the sum of that gospel which the kings of the earth shall hear and welcome – that penitent sinners shall be accepted of God, but the impenitent cast out; witness the instance of the Pharisee and the publican, Luke 18.

II. The care God takes of his afflicted oppressed people, Psalm 138:7. David, though a great and good man, expects to walk in the midst of trouble, but encourages himself with hope, 1. That God would comfort him: “When my spirit is ready to sink and fail, thou shalt revive me, and make me easy and cheerful under my troubles.” Divine consolations have enough in them to revive us even when we walk in the midst of troubles and are ready to die away for fear. 2. That he would protect him, and plead his cause: “Thou shalt stretch forth thy hand, though not against my enemies to destroy them, yet against the wrath of my enemies, to restrain that and set bounds to it.” 3. That he would in due time work deliverance for him: Thy right hand shall save me. As he has one hand to stretch out against his enemies, so he has another to save his own people. Christ is the right hand of the Lord, that shall save all those who serve him.

III. The assurance we have that whatever good work God has begun in and for his people he will perform it (Psalm 138:8): The Lord will perfect that which concerns me, 1. That which is most needful for me; and he knows best what is so. We are careful and cumbered about many things that do not concern us, but he knows what are the things that really are of consequence to us (Matt 6:32) and he will order them for the best. 2. That which we are most concerned about. Every good man is most concerned about his duty to God and his happiness in God, that the former may be faithfully done and the latter effectually secured; and if indeed these are the things that our hearts are most upon, and concerning which we are most solicitous, there is a good work begun in us, and he that has begun it will perfect it, we may be confident he will, Phil 1:6. Observe, (1.) What ground the psalmist builds this confidence upon: Thy mercy, O Lord! endures for ever. This he had made very much the matter of his praise (Psalm 13:6), and therefore he could here with the more assurance make it the matter of his hope. For, if we give God the glory of his mercy, we may take to ourselves the comfort of it. Our hopes that we shall persevere must be founded, not upon our own strength, for that will fail us, but upon the mercy of God, for that will not fail. It is well pleaded, “Lord, thy mercy endures for ever; let me be for ever a monument of it.” (2.) What use he makes of this confidence; it does not supersede, but quicken prayer; he turns his expectation into a petition: “Forsake not, do not let go, the work of thy own hands. Lord, I am the work of thy own hands, my soul is so, do not forsake me; my concerns are so, do not lay by thy care of them.” Whatever good there is in us it is the work of God’s own hands; he works in us both to will and to do; it will fail if he forsake it; but his glory, as Jehovah, a perfecting God, is so much concerned in the progress of it to the end that we may in faith pray, “Lord, do not forsake it.” Whom he loves he loves to the end; and, as for God, his work is perfect.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Psalm 139

Psalm 139

Commentary By
Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Psalms 139:1-6

 

David here lays down this great doctrine, That the God with whom we have to do has a perfect knowledge of us, and that all the motions and actions both of our inward and of our outward man are naked and open before him.

I. He lays down this doctrine in the way of an address to God; he says it to him, acknowledging it to him, and giving him the glory of it. Divine truths look fully as well when they are prayed over as when they are preached over, and much better than when they are disputed over. When we speak of God to him himself we shall find ourselves concerned to speak with the utmost degree both of sincerity and reverence, which will be likely to make the impressions the deeper.

II. He lays it down in a way of application to himself, not, “Thou hast known all,” but, “Thou hast known me; that is it which I am most concerned to believe and which it will be most profitable for me to consider.” Then we know these things for our good when we know them for ourselves, Job 5:27. When we acknowledge, “Lord, all souls are thine,” we must add, “My soul is thine; thou that hatest all sin hatest my sin; thou that art good to all, good to Israel, art good to me.” So here, “Thou hast searched me, and known me; known me as thoroughly as we know that which we have most diligently and exactly searched into.” David was a king, and the hearts of kings are unsearchable to their subjects (Proverbs 25:3), but they are not so to their Sovereign.

III. He descends to particulars: “Thou knowest me wherever I am and whatever I am doing, me and all that belongs to me.” 1. “Thou knowest me and all my motions, my down-sitting to rest, my up-rising to work, with what temper of mind I compose myself when I sit down and stir up myself when I rise up, what my soul reposes itself in as its stay and support, what it aims at and reaches towards as its felicity and end. Thou knowest me when I come home, how I walk before my house, and when I go abroad, on what errands I go.” 2. “Thou knowest all my imaginations. Nothing is more close and quick than thought; it is always unknown to others; it is often unobserved by ourselves, and yet thou understandest my thought afar off. Though my thoughts be ever so foreign and distant from one another, thou understandest the chain of them, and canst make out their connexion, when so many of them slip my notice that I myself cannot.” Or, “Thou understandest them afar off, even before I think them, and long after I have thought them and have myself forgotten them.” Or, “Thou understandest them from afar; from the height of heaven thou seest into the depths of the heart,” Psalm 33:14. 3. “Thou knowest me and all my designs and undertakings; thou compassest every particular path; thou siftest (or winnowest) my path” (so some), “so as thoroughly to distinguish between the good and evil of what I do,” as by sifting we separate between the corn and the chaff. All our actions are ventilated by the judgment of God, Psalm 17:3. God takes notice of every step we take, every right step and every by-step. He is acquainted with all our ways, intimately acquainted with them; he knows what rule we walk by, what end we walk towards, what company we walk with. 4. “Thou knowest me in all my retirements; thou knowest my lying down; when I am withdrawn from all company, and am reflecting upon what has passed all day and composing myself to rest, thou knowest what I have in my heart and with what thought I go to bed.” 5. “Thou knowest me, and all I say (Psalm 139:4): There is not a word in my tongue, not a vain word, nor a good word, but thou knowest it altogether, knowest what it meant, from what thought it came, and with what design it was uttered. There is not a word at my tongue’s end, ready to be spoken, yet checked and kept in, but thou knowest it.” When there is not a word in my tongue, O Lord! thou knowest all (so some read it); for thoughts are words to God. 6. “Thou knowest me in every part of me: Thou hast beset me behind and before, so that, go which way I will, I am under thy eye and cannot possibly escape it. Thou hast laid thy hand upon me, and I cannot run away from thee.” Wherever we are we are under the eye and hand of God. perhaps it is an allusion to the physician’s laying his hand upon his patient to feel how his pulse beats or what temper he is in. God knows us as we know not only what we see, but what we feel and have our hands upon. All his saints are in his hand.

IV. He speaks of it with admiration (Psalm 139:6): It is too wonderful for me; it is high. 1. “Thou hast such a knowledge of me as I have not of myself, nor can have. I cannot take notice of all my own thoughts, nor make such a judgment of myself as thou makest of me.”? 2. “It is such a knowledge as I cannot comprehend, much less describe. That thou knowest all things I am sure, but how I cannot tell.” We cannot by searching find out how God searches and finds out us; nor do we know how we are known.

Psalms 139:7-16

 

It is of great use to us to know the certainty of the things wherein we have been instructed, that we may not only believe them, but be able to tell why we believe them, and to give a reason of the hope that is in us. David is sure that God perfectly knows him and all his ways,

I. Because he is always under his eye. If God is omnipresent, he must needs be omniscient; but he is omnipresent; this supposes the infinite and immensity of his being, from which follows the ubiquity of his presence; heaven and earth include the whole creation, and the Creator fills both (Jeremiah 23:24); he not only knows both, and governs both, but he fills both. Every part of the creation is under God’s intuition and influence. David here acknowledges this also with application and sees himself thus open before God.

1. No flight can remove us out of God’s presence: “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit, from thy presence, that is, from thy spiritual presence, from thyself, who art a Spirit?” God is a Spirit, and therefore it is folly to think that because we cannot see him he cannot see us: Whither shall I flee from thy presence? Not that he desired to go away from God; no, he desired nothing more than to be near him; but he only puts the case, “Suppose I should be so foolish as to think of getting out of thy sight, that I might shake off the awe of thee, suppose I should think of revolting from my obedience to thee, or of disowning a dependence on thee and of shifting for myself, alas! whither can I go?” A heathen could say, Quocunque te flexeris, ibi Deum videbis occurrentem tibiWhithersoever thou turnest thyself, thou wilt see God meeting thee. Seneca. He specifies the most remote and distant places, and counts upon meeting God in them. (1.) In heaven: “If I ascend thither, as I hope to do shortly, thou art there, and it will be my eternal bliss to be with thee there.” Heaven is a vast large place, replenished with an innumerable company, and yet there is no escaping God’s eye there, in any corner, or in any crowd. The inhabitants of that world have as necessary a dependence upon God, and lie as open to his strict scrutiny, as the inhabitants of this. (2.) In hell – in Sheol, which may be understood of the depth of the earth, the very centre of it. Should we dig as deep as we can under ground, and think to hide ourselves there, we should be mistaken; God knows that path which the vulture’s eye never saw, and to him the earth is all surface. Or it may be understood of the state of the dead. When we are removed out of the sight of all living, yet not out of the sight of the living God; from his eye we cannot hide ourselves in the grave. Or it maybe understood of the place of the damned: If I make my bed in hell (an uncomfortable place to make a bed in, where there is no rest day or night, yet thousands will make their bed for ever in those flames), behold, thou art there, in thy power and justice. God’s wrath is the fire which will there burn everlastingly, Revelation 14:10. (3.) In the remotest corners of this world: “If I take the wings of the morning, the rays of the morning-light (called the wings of the sun, Malachi 4:2), than which nothing more swift, and flee upon them to the uttermost parts of the sea, or of the earth (Job 38:12, Job 38:13), should I flee to the most distant and obscure islands (the ultima Thule, the Terra incognita), I should find thee there; there shall thy hand lead me, as far as I go, and thy right hand hold me, that I can go no further, that I cannot go out of thy reach.” God soon arrested Jonah when he fled to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

2. No veil can hide us from God’s eye, no, not that of the thickest darkness, Psalm 139:11, Psalm 139:12. “If I say, Yet the darkness shall cover me, when nothing else will, alas! I find myself deceived; the curtains of the evening will stand me in no more stead than the wings of the morning; even the night shall be light about me. That which often favours the escape of a pursued criminal, and the retreat of a beaten army, will do me no kindness in fleeing from them.” When God divided between the light and darkness it was with a reservation of this prerogative, that to himself the darkness and the light should still be both alike. The darkness darkeneth not from thee, for there is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.” No hypocritical mask or disguise, how specious soever, can save any person or action from appearing in a true light before God. Secret haunts of sin are as open before God as the most open and barefaced villanies.

II. Because he is the work of his hands. He that framed the engine knows all the motions of it. God made us, and therefore no doubt he knows us; he saw us when we were in the forming, and can we be hidden from him now that we are formed? This argument he insists upon (Psalm 139:13-16): “Thou hast possessed my reins; thou art Master of my most secret thoughts and intentions, and the innermost recesses of my soul; thou not only knowest, but governest, them, as we do that which we have possession of; and the possession thou hast of my reins is a rightful possession, for thou coveredst me in my mother’s womb, that is, thou madest me (Job 10:11), thou madest me in secret. The soul is concealed form all about us. Who knows the things of a man, save the spirit of a man?1Corinthians 2:11. Hence we read of the hidden man of the heart. But it was God himself that thus covered us, and therefore he can, when he pleases, discover us; when he hid us from all the world he did not intend to hide us from himself. Concerning the formation of man, of each of us,

1. The glory of it is here given to God, entirely to him; for it is he that has made us and not we ourselves. I will praise thee, the author of my being; my parents were only the instruments of it.” It was done, (1.) Under the divine inspection: My substance, when hid in the womb, nay, when it was yet but in fieriin the forming, an unshapen embryo, was not hidden from thee; thy eyes did see my substance. (2.) By the divine operation. As the eye of God saw us then, so his hand wrought us; we were his work. (3.) According to the divine model: In thy book all my members were written. Eternal wisdom formed the plan, and by that almighty power raised the noble structure.

2. Glorious things are here said concerning it. The generation of man is to be considered with the same pious veneration as his creation at first. Consider it, (1.) As a great marvel, a great miracle we might call it, but that it is done in the ordinary course of nature. We are fearfully and wonderfully made; we may justly be astonished at the admirable contrivance of these living temples, the composition of every part, and the harmony of all together. (2.) As a great mystery, a mystery of nature: My soul knows right well that it is marvellous, but how to describe it for any one else I know not; for I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the womb as in the lowest parts of the earth, so privately, and so far out of sight. (3.) As a great mercy, that all our members in continuance were fashioned, according as they were written in the book of God’s wise counsel, when as yet there was none of them; or, as some read it, and none of them was left out. If any of our members had been wanting in God’s book, they would have been wanting in our bodies, but, through his goodness, we have all our limbs and sense, the want of any of which might have made us burdens to ourselves. See what reason we have then to praise God for our creation, and to conclude that he who saw our substance when it was unfashioned sees it now that it is fashioned.

Psalms 139:17-24

 

Here the psalmist makes application of the doctrine of God’s omniscience, divers ways.

I. He acknowledges, with wonder and thankfulness, the care God had taken of him all his days, Psalm 139:17, Psalm 139:18. God, who knew him, thought of him, and his thoughts towards him were thoughts of love, thought of good, and not of evil, Jeremiah 29:11. God’s omniscience, which might justly have watched over us to do us hurt, has been employed for us, and has watched over us to do us good, Jeremiah 31:28. God’s counsels concerning us and our welfare have been, 1. Precious to admiration: How precious are they! They are deep in themselves, such as cannot possibly be fathomed and comprehended. Providence has had a vast reach in its dispensations concerning us, and has brought things about for our good quite beyond our contrivance and foresight. They are dear to us; we must think of them with a great deal of reverence, and yet with pleasure and thankfulness. Our thoughts concerning God must be delightful to us, above any other thoughts. 2. Numerous to admiration: How great is the sum of them! We cannot conceive how many God’s kind counsels have been concerning us, how many good turns he has done us, and what variety of mercies we have received from him. If we would count them, the heads of them, much more the particulars of them, they are more in number than the sand, and yet every one great and very considerable, Psalm 40:5. We cannot conceive the multitude of God’s compassions, which are all new every morning. 3. Constant at all times: “When I awake, every morning, I am still with thee, under thy eye and care, safe and easy under thy protection.” This bespeaks also the continual devout sense David had of the eye of God upon him: When I awake I am with thee, in my thoughts; and it would help to keep us in the fear of the Lord all the day long if, when we awake in the morning, our first thoughts were of him and we did then set him before us.

II. He concludes from this doctrine that ruin will certainly be the end of sinners. God knows all the wickedness of the wicked, and therefore he will reckon for it: “Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God! for all their wickedness is open before thee, however it may be artfully disguised and coloured over, to hide it from the eye of the world. However thou suffer them to prosper for a while, surely thou wilt slay them at last.” Now observe, 1. The reason why God will punish them, because they daringly affront him and set him at defiance (Psalm 139:20): They speak against thee wickedly; they set their mouth against the heavens (Psalm 73:9), and shall be called to account for the hard speeches they have spoken against him, Judges 1:15. They are his enemies, and declare their enmity by taking his name in vain, as we show our contempt of a man if we make a by-word of his name, and never mention him but in a way of jest and banter. Those that profane the sacred forms of swearing or praying by using them in an impertinent irreverent manner take God’s name in vain, and thereby show themselves enemies to him. Some make it to be a description of hypocrites: “They speak of thee for mischief; they talk of God, pretending to piety, but it is with some ill design, for a cloak of maliciousness; and, being enemies to God, while they pretend friendship, they take his name in vain; they swear falsely.” 2. The use David makes of this prospect which he has of the ruin of the wicked. (1.) He defies them: “Depart from me, you bloody men; you shall not debauch me, for I will not admit your friendship nor have fellowship with you; and you cannot destroy me, for, being under God’s protection, he shall force you to depart from me.” (2.) He detests them (Psalm 139:21, Psalm 139:22): “Lord, thou knowest the heart, and canst witness for me; do not I hate those that hate thee, and for that reason, because they hate thee? I hate them because I love thee, and hate to see such affronts and indignities put upon thy blessed name. Am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee, grieved to see their rebellion and to foresee their ruin, which it will certainly end in?” Note, Sin is hated, and sinners are lamented, by all that fear God. “I hate them” (that is, “I hate the work of them that turn aside,” as he explains himself, Psalm 101:3) “with a sincere and perfect hatred; I count those that are enemies to God as enemies to me, and will not have any intimacy with them,” Psalm 69:8.

III. He appeals to God concerning his sincerity, Psalm 139:23, Psalm 139:24. 1. He desires that as far as he was in the wrong God would discover it to him. Those that are upright can take comfort in God’s omniscience as a witness of their uprightness, and can with a humble confidence beg of him to search and try them, to discover them to themselves (for a good man desires to know the worst of himself) and to discover them to others. He that means honestly could wish he had a window in his breast that any man may look into his heart: “Lord, I hope I am not in a wicked way, but see if there be any wicked way in me, any corrupt inclination remaining; let me see it; and root it out of me, for I do not allow it.” 2. He desires that, as far as he was in the right, he might be forwarded in it, which he that knows the heart knows how to do effectually: Lead me in the way everlasting. Note, (1.) The way of godliness is an everlasting way; it is everlastingly true and good, pleasing to God and profitable to us, and will end in everlasting life. It is the way of antiquity (so some), the good old way. (2.) All the saints desire to be kept and led in this way, that they may not miss it, turn out of it, nor tire in it.

C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892): Psalm 27

Psalm 27

(Treasury of David)

C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Public Domain

Psalms 27:1-3

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh they stumbled and fell.

3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation.” – Here is personal interest, “my light,” “my salvation; the soul is assured of it, and therefore, declaring it boldly. “My light” – into the soul at the new birth divine light is poured as the precursor of salvation; where there is not enough light to see our own darkness and to long for the Lord Jesus, there is no evidence of salvation. Salvation finds us in the dark, but it does not leave us there; it gives light to those who sit in the valley of the shadow of death. After conversion our God is our joy, comfort, guide, teacher, and in every sense our light; he is light within, light around, light reflected from us, and light to be revealed to us. Note, it is not said merely that the Lord gives light, but that he “is light; nor that he gives salvation, but that he is salvation; he, then, who by faith has laid hold upon God has all covenant blessings in his possession. Every light is not the sun, but the sun is the father of all lights. This being made sure as a fact, the argument drawn from it is put in the form of a question, “Whom shall I fear?” A question which is its own answer. The powers of darkness are not to be feared, for the Lord, our light, destroys them; and the damnation of hell is not to be dreaded by us, for the Lord is our salvation. This is a very different challenge from that of boastful Goliath, for it is based upon a very different foundation; it rests not upon the conceited rigour of an arm of flesh, but upon the real power of the omnipotent I am. “The Lord is the strength of my life. Here is a third glowing epithet, to show that the writer’s hope was fastened with a threefold cord which could not be broken. We may well accumulate terms of praise where the Lord lavishes deeds of grace. Our life derives all its strength from him who is the author of it; and if he deigns to make us strong we cannot be weakened by all the machinations of the adversary. “Of whom shall I be afraid?” The bold question looks into the future as well as the present. “If God be for us,” who can be against us, either now or in time to come?

Psalm 27:2

This verse records a past deliverance, and is an instance of the way in which experience should be employed to reassure our faith in times of trial. Each word is instructive. “When the wicked. It is a hopeful sign for us when the wicked hate us; if our foes were godly men it would be a sore sorrow, but as for the wicked their hatred is better than their love. “Even mine enemies and my foes.” There were many of them, they were of different sorts, but they were unanimous in mischief and hearty in hatred. “Came upon me” – advanced to the attack, leaping upon the victim like a lion upon its prey. “To eat up my flesh, like cannibals they would make a full end of the man, tear him limb from limb, and make a feast for their malice. The enemies of our souls are not deficient in ferocity, they yield no quarter, and ought to have none in return. See in what danger David was; in the grip and grasp of numerous, powerful, and cruel enemies, and yet observe his perfect safety and their utter discomfiture! “They stumbled and fell. God’s breath blew them off their legs. There were stones in the way which they never reckoned upon, and over these they made an ignominious tumble. This was literally true in the case of our Lord in Gethsemane, when those who came to take him went backward and fell to the ground; and herein he was a prophetic representative of all wrestling believers who, rising from their knees shall, by the power of faith, throw their foes upon their faces.

Psalm 27:3

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. Before the actual conflict, while as yet the battle is untried, the warrior’s heart, being held in suspense, is very liable to become fluttered. The encamping host often inspires greater dread than the same host in actual affray. Young tells us of some –

“Who feel a thousand deaths in fearing one.”

Doubtless the shadow of anticipated trouble is, to timorous minds, a more prolific source of sorrow than the trouble itself, but faith puts a strengthening plaister to the back of courage, and throws out of the window the dregs of the cup of trembling. “Though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. When it actually comes to push of pike, faith’s shield will ward off the blow; and if the first brush should be but the beginning of a war, yet faith’s banners will wave in spite of the foe. Though battle should succeed battle, and one campaign should be followed by another, the believer will not be dismayed at the length of the conflict. Reader, this third verse is the comfortable and logical inference from the second, confidence is the child of experience. Have you been delivered out of great perils? then set up your ensign, wait at your watch-fire, and let the enemy do his worst.

Psalms 27:4-6

 

4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me-therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.

Psalm 27:4

One thing. Divided aims tend to distraction, weakness, disappointment. The man of one book is eminent, the man of one pursuit is successful. Let all our affection be bound up in one affection, and that affection set upon heavenly things. “Have I desired” – what we cannot at once attain, it is well to desire. God judges us very much by the desire of our hearts. He who rides a lame horse is not blamed by his master for want of speed, if he makes all the haste he can, and would make more if he could; God takes the will for the deed with his children. “Of the Lord. This is the right target for desires, this is the well into which to dip our buckets, this is the door to knock at, the bank to draw upon; desire of men, and lie on the dunghill with Lazarus: desire of the Lord, and be carried of angels into Abraham’s bosom. Our desires of the Lord should be sanctified, humble, constant, submissive, fervent, and it is well if, as with the Psalmist, they are all molten into one mass. Under David’s painful circumstances we might have expected him to desire repose, safety, and a thousand other good things, but no, he has set his heart on the pearl, and leaves the rest. “That will I seek after. Holy desires must lead to resolute action. The old proverb says, “Wishers and woulders are never good housekeepers,” and “wishing never fills a sack.” Desires are seeds which must be sown in the good soil of activity for they will yield no harvest. We shall find our desires to be like clouds without rain, unless followed up by practical endeavours. “That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. For the sake of communion with the King, David longed to dwell always in the palace; so far from being wearied with the services of the Tabernacle, he longed to be constantly engaged in them, as his lifelong pleasure. He desired above all things to be one of the household of God, a home-born child, living at home with his Father. This is our dearest wish, only we extend it to those days of our immortal life which have not yet dawned. We pine for our Father’s house above, the home of our souls; if we may but dwell there for ever, we care but little for the goods or ills of this poor life. “Jerusalem the golden” is the one and only goal of our heart’s longings. “To behold the beauty of the Lord. An exercise both for earthly and heavenly worshippers. We must not enter the assemblies of the saints in order to see and be seen, or merely to hear the minister; we must repair to the gatherings of the righteous, intent upon the gracious object of learning more of the loving Father, more of the glorified Jesus, more of the mysterious Spirit, in order that we may the more lovingly admire, and the more reverently adore our glorious God. What a word is that, “the beauty of the Lord! Think of it, dear reader! Better far – behold it by faith! What a sight will that be when every faithful follower of Jesus shall behold “the King in his beauty!” Oh, for that infinitely blessed vision! “And to enquire in his temple. We should make our visits to the Lord’s house enquirers’ meetings. Not seeking sinners alone, but assured saints should be enquirers. We must enquire as to the will of God and how we may do it; as to our interest in the heavenly city, and how we may be more assured of it. We shall not need to make enquiries in heaven, for there we shall know even as we are known; but meanwhile we should sit at Jesus’ feet, and awaken all our faculties to learn of him.

Psalm 27:5

This verse gives an excellent reason for the Psalmist’s desire after communion with God, namely, that he was thus secured in the hour of peril. “For in the time of trouble, that needy time, that time when others forsake me, “he shall hide me in his pavilion:” he shall give me the best of shelter in the worst of danger. The royal pavilion was erected in the centre of the army, and around it all the mighty men kept guard at all hours; thus in that divine sovereignty which almighty power is sworn to maintain, the believer peacefully is hidden, hidden not by himself furtively, but by the king, who hospitably entertains him. “In the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me. Sacrifice aids sovereignty in screening the elect from harm. No one of old dared to enter the most holy place on pain of death; and if the Lord has hidden his people there, what foe shall venture to molest them? “He shall set me up upon a rock. Immutability, eternity, and infinite power here come to the aid of sovereignty and sacrifice. How blessed is the standing of the man whom God himself sets on high above his foes, upon an impregnable rock which never can be stormed! Well may we desire to dwell with the Lord who so effectually protects his people.

Psalm 27:6

And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me.” – He is quite sure of it. Godly men of old prayed in faith, nothing wavering, and spoke of the answer to their prayers as a certainty. David was by faith so sure of a glorious victory over all those who beset him, that he arranged in his own heart what he would do when his foes lay all prostrate before him; that arrangement was such as gratitude suggested. “Therefore will I offer in his tabernacles sacrifices of joy. That place for which he longed in his conflict, should see his thankful joy in his triumphant return. He does not speak of jubilations to be offered in his palace, and feastings in his banqueting halls, but holy mirth he selects as most fitting for so divine a deliverance. “I will sing. This is the most natural mode of expressing thankfulness. “Yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord. The vow is confirmed by repetition, and explained by addition, which addition vows all the praise unto Jehovah. Let who will be silent, the believer when his prayer is heard, must and will make his praise to be heard also; and let who will sing unto the vanities of the world, the believer reserves his music for the Lord alone.

Psalms 27:7-12

7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

Psalm 27:7

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice.” – The pendulum of spirituality swings from prayer to praise. The voice which in the last verse was turned to music is here turned to crying. As a good soldier, David knew how to handle his weapons, and found himself much at home with the weapon of “all prayer.” Note his anxiety to be heard. Pharisees care not a fig for the Lord’s hearing them, so long as they are heard of men, or charm their own pride with their sounding devotions; but with a genuine man, the Lord’s ear is everything. The voice may be profitably used even in private prayer; for though it is unnecessary, it is often helpful, and aids in preventing distractions. “Have mercy also upon me.” Mercy is the hope of sinners and the refuge of saints. All acceptable petitioners dwell much upon this attribute. “And answer me. We may expect answers to prayer, and should not be easy without them any more than we should be if we had written a letter to a friend upon important business, and had received no reply.

Psalm 27:8

In this verse we are taught that if we would have the Lord hear our voice, we must be careful to respond to his voice. The true heart should echo the will of God as the rocks among the Alps repeat in sweetest music the notes of the peasant’s horn. Observe, that the command was in the plural, to all the saints, “Seek ye;” but the man of God turned it into the singular by a personal application, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek. The voice of the Lord is very effectual where all other voices fail, “When thou saidst, then my “heart, my inmost nature was moved to an obedient reply. Note the promptness of the response – no sooner said than done; as soon as God said “seek, the heart said, “I will seek. Oh, for more of this holy readiness! Would to God that we were more plastic to the divine hand, more sensitive of the touch of God’s Spirit.

Psalm 27:9

Hide not thy face far from me. The word “far is not in the original, and is a very superfluous addition of the translators, since even the least hiding of the Lord’s face is a great affliction to a believer. The command to seek the Lord’s face would be a painful one if the Lord, by withdrawing himself, rendered it impossible for the seeker to meet with him. A smile from the Lord is the greatest of comforts, his frown the worst of ills. “Put not thy servant away in anger. Other servants had been put away when they proved unfaithful, as for instance, his predecessor Saul; and this made David, while conscious of many faults, most anxious that divine long-suffering should continue him in favour. This is a most appropriate prayer for us under a similar sense of unworthiness. “Thou hast been my help. How truly can we join in this declaration; for many years, in circumstances of varied trial, we have been upheld by our God, and must and will confess our obligation. “Ingratitude,” it is said, “is natural to fallen man,” but to spiritual men it is unnatural and detestable. “Leave me not, neither forsake me. A prayer for the future, and an inference front the past. If the Lord had meant to leave us, why did he begin with us? Past help is but a waste of effort if the soul now be deserted. The first petition, “leave me not, may refer to temporary desertions, and the second word to the final withdrawal of grace, both are to be prayed against; and concerning the second, we have immutable promises to urge. “O God of my salvation. A sweet title worthy of much meditation.

Psalm 27:10

When my father and my mother forsake me.” These dear relations will be the last to desert me, but if the milk of human kindness should dry up even from their breasts, there is a Father who never forgets. Some of the greatest of the saints have been cast out by their families, and persecuted for righteousness’ sake. “Then the Lord will take me up. Will espouse my cause, will uplift me from my woes, will carry me in his arms, will elevate me above my enemies, will at last receive me to his eternal dwelling place.

Psalm 27:11

Teach me thy way, O Lord. He does not pray to be indulged with his own way, but to be informed as to the path in which the righteous Jehovah would have him walk. This prayer evinces an humble sense of personal ignorance, great teachableness of spirit, and cheerful obedience of heart. “Lead me in a plain path. Help is here sought as well as direction; we not only need a map of the way, but a guide to assist us in the journey. A path is here desired which shall be open, honest, straightforward, in opposition to the way of cunning, which is intricate, torturous, dangerous. Good men seldom succeed in fine speculations and doubtful courses; plain simplicity is the best spirit for an heir of heaven: let us leave shifty tricks and political expediencies to the citizens of the world – the New Jerusalem owns plain men for its citizens. Esau was a cunning hunter, Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. “Because of mine enemies. These will catch us if they can, but the way of manifest, simple honesty is safe from their rage. It is wonderful to observe how honest simplicity baffles and outwits the craftiness of wickedness. Truth is wisdom. “Honesty is the best policy.”

Psalm 27:12

Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies; or I should be like a victim cast to the lions, to be rent to pieces and utterly devoured. God be thanked that our foes cannot have their way with us, or Smithfield would soon be on a blaze again. “For false witnesses are risen up against me. Slander is an old-fashioned weapon out of the armoury of hell, and is still in plentiful use; and no matter how holy a man may be, there will be some who will defame him. “Give a dog an ill name, and hang him;” but glory be to God, the Lord’s people are not dogs, and their ill names do not injure them. “And such as breathe out cruelty. It is their vital breath to hate the good; they cannot speak without cursing them; such was Paul before conversion. They who breathe out cruelty may well expect to be sent to breathe their native air in hell; let persecutors beware!

Psalm 27:13

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Faintness of heart is a common infirmity; even he who slew Goliath was subject to its attacks. Faith puts its bottle of cordial to the lip of the soul, and so prevents fainting. Hope is heaven’s balm for present sorrow. In this land of the dying, it is our blessedness to be looking and longing for our fair portion in the land of the living, whence the goodness of God has banished the wickedness of man, and where holy spirits charm with their society those persecuted saints who were vilified and despised among men. We must believe to see, not see to believe; we must wait the appointed time, and stay our soul’s hunger with foretastes of the Lord’s eternal goodness which shall soon be our feast and our song.

Psalm 27:14

 

14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

Wait on the Lord. Wait at his door with prayer; wait at his foot with humility; wait at his table with service; wait at his window with expectancy. Suitors often win nothing but the cold shoulder from earthly patrons after long and obsequious waiting; he speeds best whose patron is in the skies. “Be of good courage. A soldier’s motto. Be it mine. Courage we shall need, and for the exercise of it we have as much reason as necessity, if we are soldiers of King Jesus. “And he shall strengthen thine heart. He can lay the plaister right upon the weak place. Let the heart be strengthened, and the whole machine of humanity is filled with power; a strong heart makes a strong arm. What strength is this which God himself gives to the heart? Read the “Book of Martyrs,” and see its glorious deeds of prowess; go to God rather, and get such power thyself. “Wait, I say, on the Lord. David, in the words “I say, sets his own private seal to the word which, as an inspired man, he had been moved to write. It is his testimony as well as the command of God, and indeed he who writes these scanty notes has himself found it so sweet, so reviving, so profitable to draw near to God, that on his own account he also feels bound to write, “Wait, I say, on the Lord.

C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892): Psalm 28

Psalm 28

(Treasury of David)

C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Public Domain

Psalm 28:1-2

1 Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my rock; be not silent to me, lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.

2 Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle.

Psalm 28:1

Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my rock.” – A cry is the natural expression of sorrow, and is a suitable utterance when all other modes of appeal fail us; but the cry must be alone directed to the Lord, for to cry to man is to waste our entreaties upon the air. When we consider the readiness of the Lord to hear, and his ability to aid, we shall see good reason for directing all our appeals at once to the God of our salvation, and shall use language of firm resolve like that in the text, “I will cry.” The immutable Jehovah is our rock, the immovable foundation of all our hopes and our refuge in time of trouble: we are fixed in our determination to flee to him as our stronghold in every hour of danger. It will be in vain to call to the rocks in the day of judgment, but our rock attends to our cries. “Be not silent to me. Mere formalists may be content without answers to their prayers, but genuine suppliants cannot; they are not satisfied with the results of prayer itself in calming the mind and subduing the will – they must go further and obtain actual replies from heaven, or they cannot rest; and those replies they long to receive at once, if possible; they dread even a little of God’s silence. God’s voice is often so terrible that it shakes the wilderness; but his silence is equally full of awe to an eager suppliant. When God seems to close his ear, we must not therefore close our mouths, but rather cry with more earnestness; for when our note grows shrill with eagerness and grief, he will not long deny us a hearing. What a dreadful case should we be in if the Lord should become for ever silent to our prayers! This thought suggested itself to David, and he turned it into a plea, thus teaching us to argue and reason with God in our prayers. “Lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. Deprived of the God who answers prayer, we should be in a more pitiable plight than the dead in the grave, and should soon sink to the same level as the lost in hell. We must have answers to prayer: ours is an urgent case of dire necessity; surely the Lord will speak peace to our agitated minds, for he never can find it in his heart to permit his own elect to perish.

Psalm 28:2

This is much to the same effect as the first verse, only that it refers to future as well as present pleadings. Hear me! Hear me! “Hear the voice of my supplications! This is the burden of both verses. We cannot be put off with a refusal when we are in the spirit of prayer; we labour, use importunity, and agonise in supplications until a hearing is granted us. The word “supplications,” in the plural, shows the number, continuance, and variety of a good man’s prayers, while the expression, “hear the voice, seems to hint that there is an inner meaning, or heart-voice, about which spiritual men are far more concerned than for their outward and audible utterances. A silent prayer may have a louder voice than the cries of those priests who sought to awaken Baal with their shouts. “When I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle: which holy place was the type of our Lord Jesus; and if we would gain acceptance, we must turn ourselves evermore to the blood-besprinkled mercy seat of his atonement. Uplifted hands have ever been a form of devout posture, and are intended to signify a reaching upward towards God, a readiness, an eagerness to receive the blessing sought after. We stretch out empty hands, for we are beggars; we lift them up, for we seek heavenly supplies; we lift them towards the mercy seat of Jesus, for there our expectation dwells. O that whenever we use devout gestures, we may possess contrite hearts, and so speed well with God.

Psalm 28:3-5

3 Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts.

4 Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavours: give them after the work of their hands; render to them their desert.

5 Because they regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands, he shall destroy them, and not build them up.

Psalm 28:3

Draw me not away with the wicked.” – They shall be dragged off to hell like felons of old drawn on a hurdle to Tyburn, like logs drawn to the fire, like fagots to the oven. David fears lest he should be bound up in their bundle, drawn to their doom; and the fear is an appropriate one for every godly man. The best of the wicked are dangerous company in time, and would make terrible companions for eternity; we must avoid them in their pleasures, if we would not be confounded with them in their miseries. “And with the workers of iniquity. These are overtly sinful, and their judgment will be sure; Lord, do not make us to drink of their cup. Activity is found with the wicked even if it be lacking to the righteous. Oh! to be “workers” for the Lord. “Which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts. They have learned the manners of the place to which they are going: the doom of liars is their portion for ever, and lying is their conversation on the road. Soft words, oily with pretended love, are the deceitful meshes of the infernal net in which Satan catches the precious life; many of his children are learned in his abominable craft, and fish with their father’s nets, almost as cunningly as he himself could do it. It is a sure sign of baseness when the tongue and the heart do not ring to the same note. Deceitful men are more to be dreaded than wild beasts: it were better to be shut up in a pit with serpents than to be compelled to live with liars. He who cries “peace too loudly, means to sell it if he can get his price. “Good wine needs no bush:” if he were so very peaceful he would not need to say so; he means mischief, make sure of that.

Psalm 28:4

When we view the wicked simply as such, and not as our fellow-men, our indignation against sin leads us entirely to coincide with the acts of divine justice which punish evil, and to wish that justice might use her power to restrain by her terrors the cruel and unjust; but still the desires of the present verse, as our version renders it, are not readily made consistent with the spirit of the Christian dispensation, which seeks rather the reformation than the punishment of sinners. If we view the words before us as prophetic, or as in the future tense, declaring a fact, we are probably nearer to the true meaning than that given in our version. Ungodly reader, what will be your lot when the Lord deals with you according to your desert, and weighs out to you his wrath, not only in proportion to what you have actually done, but according to what you would have done if you could? Our “endeavours are taken as facts; God takes the will for the deed, and punishes or rewards accordingly. Not in this life, but certainly in the next, God will repay his enemies to their faces, and give them the wages of their sins. Not according to their fawning words, but after the measure of their mischievous deeds, will the Lord mete out vengeance to them that know him not.

Psalm 28:5

Because they regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands. God works in creation – nature teems with proofs of his wisdom and goodness, yet purblind atheists refuse to see him: he works in providence, ruling and overruling and his hand is very manifest in human history, yet the infidel will not discern him: he works in grace – remarkable conversions are still met with on all hands, yet the ungodly refuse to see the operations of the Lord. Where angels wonder, carnal men despise. God condescends to teach, and man refuses to learn. “He shall destroy them. he will make them “behold, and wonder, and perish.” If they would not see the hand of judgment upon others, they shall feel it upon themselves. Both soul and body shall be overwhelmed with utter destruction for ever and ever. “And not build them up. God’s curse is positive and negative; his sword has two edges, and cuts right and left. Their heritage of evil shall prevent the ungodly receiving any good; the ephah shall be too full of wrath to contain a grain of hope. They have become like old, rotten, decayed houses of timber, useless to the owner, and harbouring all manner of evil, and, therefore, the Great Builder will demolish them utterly. Incorrigible offenders may expect speedy destruction: they who will not mend, shall be thrown away as worthless. Let us be very attentive to all the lessons of God’s word and work, lest being found disobedient to the divine will, we be made to suffer the divine wrath.

Psalm 28:6-8

6 Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications.

7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

8 The Lord is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.

Psalm 28:6

Blessed be the Lord. Saints are full of benedictions; they are a blessed people, and a blessing people; but they give their best blessings, the fat of their sacrifices, to their glorious Lord. Our Psalm was prayer up to this point, and now it turns to praise. They who pray well, will soon praise well: prayer and praise are the two lips of the soul; two bells to ring out sweet and acceptable music in the ears of God; two angels to climb Jacob’s ladder; two altars smoking with incense; two of Solomon’s lilies dropping sweet-smelling myrrh; they are two young roes that are twins, feeding upon the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense. “Because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. Real praise is established upon sufficient and constraining reasons; it is not irrational emotion, but rises, like a pure spring, from the deeps of experience. Answered prayers should be acknowledged. Do we not often fail in this duty? Would it not greatly encourage others, and strengthen ourselves, if we faithfully recorded divine goodness, and made a point of extolling it with our tongue? God’s mercy is not such an inconsiderable thing that we may safely venture to receive it without so much as thanks. We should shun ingratitude, and live daily in the heavenly atmosphere of thankful love.

Psalm 28:7

Here is David’s declaration and confession of faith, coupled with a testimony from his experience. “The Lord is my strength. The Lord employs his power on our behalf, and moreover, infuses strength into us in our hour of weakness. The Psalmist, by an act of appropriating faith, takes the omnipotence of Jehovah to be his own. Dependence upon the invisible God gives great independence of spirit, inspiring us with confidence more than human. “And my shield. Thus David found both sword and shield in his God. The Lord preserves his people from unnumbered ills; and the Christian warrior, sheltered behind his God is far more safe than the hero when covered with his shield of brass or triple steel. “My heart trusted in him, and I am helped. Heart work is sure work; heart trust is never disappointed. Faith must come before help, but help will never be long behind. Every day the believer may say, “I am helped,” for the divine assistance is vouchsafed us every moment, or we should go back unto perdition; when more manifest help is needed, we have but to put faith into exercise, and it will be given us. “Therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. The heart is mentioned twice to show the truth of his faith and his joy. Observe the adverb “greatly, we need not be afraid of being too full of rejoicing at the remembrance of grace received. We serve a great God, let us greatly rejoice in him. A song is the soul’s fittest method of giving vent to its happiness, it were well if we were more like the singing lark, and less like the croaking raven. When the heart is glowing, the lips should not be silent. When God blesses us we should bless him with all our heart.

Psalm 28:8

The Lord is their strength.” – The heavenly experience of one believer is a pattern of the life of all. To all the militant church, without exception, Jehovah is the same as he was to his servant David, “the least of them shall be as David.” They need the same aid and they shall have it, for they are loved with the same love, written in the same book of life, and one with the same anointed Head. “And he is the saving strength of his anointed. Here behold king David as the type of our Lord Jesus, our covenant Head, our anointed Prince, through whom all blessings come to us. He has achieved full salvation for us, and we desire saving strength from him, and as we share in the unction which is so largely shed upon him, we expect to partake in his salvation. Glory be unto the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has magnified the power of his grace in his only begotten Son, whom he has anointed to be a Prince and a Saviour unto his people.

Psalm 28:9

9 Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance’ feed them also, and lift them up for ever.

This is a prayer for the church militant, written in short words, but full of weighty meaning. We must pray for the whole church, and not for ourselves alone. “Save thy people. Deliver them from their enemies, preserve them from their sins, succour them under their troubles, rescue them from their temptations, and ward off from them every ill. There is a plea hidden in the expression, “thy people; for it may be safely concluded that God’s interest in the church, as his own portion, will lead him to guard it from destruction. “Bless thine inheritance. Grant positive blessings, peace, plenty, prosperity, happiness; make all thy dearly-purchased and precious heritage to be comforted by thy Spirit. Revive, refresh, enlarge and sanctify thy church. “Feed them also. Be a shepherd to thy flock, let their bodily and spiritual wants be plentifully supplied. By thy word, and ordinances, direct, rule, sustain, and satisfy those who are the sheep of thy hand. “And lift them up for ever.” Carry them in thine arms on earth, and then lift them into thy bosom in heaven. Elevate their minds and thoughts, spiritualise their affections, make them heavenly, Christ-like, and full of God. O Lord, answer this our petition, for Jesus’ sake.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Jeremiah 23 (False Shepherds / Prophets)

Jeremiah 23

(False Shepherds or False Prophets)
By
Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Jeremiah 23

In this chapter the prophet, in God’s name, is dealing his reproofs and threatenings,

I. Among the careless princes, or pastors of the people (Jer 23:1, Jer 23:2), yet promising to take care of the flock, which they had been wanting in their duty to (Jer 23:3-8).

II. Among the wicked prophets and priests, whose bad character is here given at large in divers instances, especially their imposing upon the people with their pretended inspirations, at which the prophet is astonished, and for which they must expect to be punished (v. 9-32).

III. Among the profane people, who ridiculed God’s prophets and bantered them (Jer 23:33-40). When all have thus corrupted their way they must all expect to be told faithfully of it.

Jeremiah 23:1-8

I. Here is a word of terror to the negligent shepherds. The day is at hand when God will reckon with them concerning the trust and charge committed to them: Woe be to the pastors (to the rulers, both in church and state) who should be to those they are set over as pastors to lead them, feed them, protect them, and take care of them. They are not owners of the sheep. God here calls them the sheep of my pasture, whom I am interested in, and have provided good pasture for. Woe be to those therefore who are commanded to feed God’s people, and pretend to do it, but who, instead of that, scatter the flock, and drive them away by their violence and oppression, and have not visited them, nor taken any care for their welfare, nor concerned themselves at all to do them good. In not visiting them, and doing their duty to them, they did in effect scatter them and drive them away. The beasts of prey scattered them, and the shepherds are in the fault, who should have kept them together. Woe be to them when God will visit upon them the evil of their doings and deal with them as they deserve. They would not visit the flock in a way of duty, and therefore God will visit them in a way of vengeance.

II. Here is a word of comfort to the neglected sheep. Though the under-shepherds take no care of them, no pains with them, but betray them, the chief Shepherd will look after them. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord taketh me up. Though the interests of God’s church in the world are neglected by those who should take care of them, and postponed to their own private secular interests, yet they shall not therefore sink. God will perform his promise, though those he employs do not perform their duty.

1. The dispersed Jews shall at length return to their own land, and be happily settled there under a good government, Jer 23:3, Jer 23:4. Though there be but a remnant of God’s flock left, a little remnant, that has narrowly escaped destruction, he will gather that remnant, will find them out wherever they are and find out ways and means to bring them back out of all countries whither he had driven them. It was the justice of God, for the sin of their shepherds, that dispersed them; but the mercy of God shall gather in the sheep, when the shepherds that betrayed them are cut off. They shall be brought to their former habitations, as sheep to their folds, and there they shall be fruitful, and increase in numbers. And, though their former shepherds took no care of them, it does not therefore follow that they shall have no more. If some have abused a sacred office, that is no good reason why it should be abolished. “They destroyed the sheep, but I will set shepherds over them who shall make it their business to feed them.” Formerly they were continually exposed and disturbed with some alarm or other; but now they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed; they shall be in no danger from without, in no fright from within. Formerly some or other of them were ever and anon picked up by the beasts of prey; but now none of them shall be lacking, none of them missing. Though the times may have been long bad with the church, it does not follow that they will be ever so. Such pastors as Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, though they lived not in the pomp that Jehoiakim and Jeconiah did, nor made such a figure, were as great blessings to the people as the others were plagues to them. The church’s peace is not bound up in the pomp of her rulers.

2. Messiah the Prince, that great and good Shepherd of the sheep, shall in the latter days be raised up to bless his church, and to be the glory of his people Israel, Jer 23:5, Jer 23:6. The house of David seemed to be quite sunk and ruined by that threatening against Jeconiah (Jer 22:30), that none of his seed should ever sit upon the throne of David. But here is a promise which effectually secures the honour of the covenant made with David notwithstanding; for by it the house will be raised out of its ruins to a greater lustre than ever, and shine brighter far than it did in Solomon himself. We have not so many prophecies of Christ in this book as we had in that of the prophet Isaiah; but here we have one, and a very illustrious one; of him doubtless the prophet here speaks, of him, and of no other man. The first words intimate that it would be long ere this promise should have its accomplishment: The days come, but they are not yet. I shall see him, but not now. But all the rest intimate that the accomplishment of it will be glorious. (1.) Christ is here spoken of as a branch from David, the man the branch (Zec 3:8), his appearance mean, his beginnings small, like those of a bud or sprout, and his rise seemingly out of the earth, but growing to be green, to be great, to be loaded with fruits. A branch from David’s family, when it seemed to be a root in a dry ground, buried, and not likely to revive. Christ is the root and offspring of David, Rev 22:16. In him doth the horn of David bud, Psa 132:17, Psa 132:18. He is a branch of God’s raising up; he sanctified him, and sent him into the world, gave him his commission and qualifications. He is a righteous branch, for he is righteous himself, and through him many, even all that are his, are made righteous. As an advocate, he is Jesus Christ the righteous. (2.) He is here spoken of as his church’s King. This branch shall be raised as high as the throne of his father David, and there he shall reign and prosper, not as the kings that now were of the house of David, who went backward in all their affairs. No; he shall set up a kingdom in the world that shall be victorious over all opposition. In the chariot of the everlasting gospel he shall go forth, he shall go on conquering and to conquer. If God raise him up, he will prosper him, for he will own the work of his own hands; what is the good pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in the hands of those to whom it is committed. He shall prosper; for he shall execute judgment and justice in the earth, all the world over, Psa 96:13. The present kings of the house of David were unjust and oppressive, and therefore it is no wonder that they did not prosper. But Christ shall, by his gospel, break the usurped power of Satan, institute a perfect rule of holy living, and, as far as it prevails, make all the world righteous. The effect of this shall be a holy security and serenity of mind in all his faithful loyal subjects. In his days, under his dominion, Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely; that is, all the spiritual seed of believing Abraham and praying Jacob shall be protected from the curse of heaven and the malice of hell, shall be privileged from the arrests of God’s law and delivered from the attempts of Satan’s power, shall be saved from sin, the guilt and dominion of it, and then shall dwell safely, and be quiet from the fear of all evil. See Luk 1:74, Luk 1:75. Those that shall be saved hereafter from the wrath to come may dwell safely now; for, if God be for us, who can be against us? In the days of Christ’s government in the soul, when he is uppermost there, the soul dwells at ease. (3.) He is here spoken of as The Lord our righteousness. Observe, [1.] Who and what he is. As God, he is Jehovah, the incommunicable name of God, denoting his eternity and self-existence. As Mediator, he is our righteousness. By making satisfaction to the justice of God for the sin of man, he has brought in an everlasting righteousness, and so made it over to us in the covenant of grace that, upon our believing consent to that covenant, it becomes ours. His being Jehovah our righteousness implies that he is so our righteousness as no creature could be. He is a sovereign, all-sufficient, eternal righteousness. All our righteousness has its being from him, and by him it subsists, and we are made the righteousness of God in him. [2.] The profession and declaration of this: This is the name whereby he shall be called, not only he shall be so, but he shall be known to be so. God shall call him by this name, for he shall appoint him to be our righteousness. By this name Israel shall call him, every true believer shall call him, and call upon him. That is our righteousness by which, as an allowed plea, we are justified before God, acquitted from guilt, and accepted into favour; and nothing else have we to plead but this, “Christ has died, yea, rather has risen again;” and we have taken him for our Lord.

3. This great salvation, which will come to the Jews in the latter days of their state, after their return out of Babylon, shall be so illustrious as far to outshine the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt (Jer 23:7, Jer 23:8): They shall no more say, The Lord liveth that brought up Israel out of Egypt; but, The Lord liveth that brought them up out of the north. This we had before, Jer 16:14, Jer 16:15. But here it seems to point more plainly than it did there to the days of the Messiah, and to compare not so much the two deliverances themselves (giving the preference to the latter) as the two states to which the church by degrees grew after those deliverances. Observe the proportion: Just 480 years after they had come out of Egypt Solomon’s temple was built (1Ki 6:1); and at that time that nation, which was so wonderfully brought up out of Egypt, had gradually arrived to its height, to its zenith. Just 490 years (70 weeks) after they came out of Babylon Messiah the Prince set up the gospel temple, which was the greatest glory of that nation that was so wonderfully brought out of Babylon; see Dan 9:24, Dan 9:25. Now the spiritual glory of the second part of that nation, especially as transferred to the gospel church, is much more admirable and illustrious than all the temporal glory of the first part of it in the days of Solomon; for that was no glory compared with the glory which excelleth.

 

Jeremiah 23:9-32

 

Here is a long lesson for the false prophets. As none were more bitter and spiteful against God’s true prophets than they, so there were none on whom the true prophets were more severe, and justly. The prophet had complained to God of those false prophets (Jer 14:13), and had often foretold that they should be involved in the common ruin; but here they have woes of their own.

I. He expresses the deep concern that he was under upon this account, and what a trouble it was to him to see men who pretended to a divine commission and inspiration ruining themselves, and the people among whom they dwelt, by their falsehood and treachery (Jer 23:9): My heart within me is broken; I am like a drunken man. His head was in confusion with wonder and astonishment; his heart was under oppression with grief and vexation. Jeremiah was a man that laid things much to heart, and what was any way threatening to his country made a deep impression upon his spirits. He is here in trouble, 1. Because of the prophets and their sin, the false doctrine they preached, the wicked lives they lived; especially it filled him with horror to hear them making use of God’s name and pretending to have their instruction from him. Never was the Lord so abused, and the words of his holiness, as by these men. Note, The dishonour done to God’s name, and the profanation of his holy word, are the greatest grief imaginable to a gracious soul. 2. “Because of the Lord, and his judgments, which by this means are brought in upon us like a deluge.” He trembled to think of the ruin and desolation which were coming from the face of the Lord (so the word is) and from the face of the word of his holiness, which will be inflicted by the power of God’s wrath, according to the threatenings of his word, confirmed by his holiness. Note, Even those that have God for them cannot but tremble to think of the misery of those that have God against them.

II. He laments the abounding abominable wickedness of the land and the present tokens of God’s displeasure they were under for it (Jer 23:10): The land is full of adulterers; it is full both of spiritual and corporal whoredom. They go a whoring from God, and, having cast off the fear of him, no marvel that they abandon themselves to all manner of lewdness; and, having dishonoured themselves and their own bodies, they dishonour God and his name by rash and false swearing, because of which the land mourns. Both perjury and common swearing are sins for which a land must mourn in true repentance or it will be made to mourn under the judgments of God. Their land mourned now under the judgment of famine; the pleasant places, or rather the pastures, or (as some read it) the habitations of the wilderness, are dried up for want of rain, and yet we see no signs of repentance. They answer not the end of the correction. The tenour and tendency of men’s conversations are sinful, their course continues evil, as bad as ever, and they will not be diverted from it. They have a great deal of resolution, but it is turned the wrong way; they are zealously affected, but not in a good thing: Their force is not right; their heart is fully set in them to do evil, and they are not valiant for the truth, have not courage enough to break off their evil courses, though they see God thus contending with them.

III. He charges it all upon the prophets and priests, especially the prophets. They are both profane (Jer 23:11); the priests profane the ordinances of God they pretend to administer; the prophets profane the word of God they pretend to deliver; their converse and all their conversation are profane, and then it is not strange that the people are so debauched. They both play the hypocrite (so some read it); under sacred pretensions they carry on the vilest designs; yea, not only in their own houses, and the bad houses they frequent, but in my house have I found their wickedness; in the temple, where the priests ministered, where the prophets prophesied, there were they guilty both of idolatry and immorality. See a woeful instance in Hophni and Phinehas, 1Sa 2:22. God searches his house, and what wickedness is there he will find it out; and the nearer it is to him the more offensive it is. Two things are charged upon them: – 1. That they taught people to sin by their examples. He compares them with the prophets of Samaria, the head city of the kingdom of the ten tribes, which had been long since laid waste. It was the folly of the prophets of Samaria that they prophesied in Baal, in Baal’s name; so Ahab’s prophets did, and so they caused my people Israel to err, to forsake the service of the true God and to worship Baal, Jer 23:13. Now the prophets of Jerusalem did not do so; they prophesied in the name of the true God, and valued themselves upon that, that they were not like the prophets of Samaria, who prophesied in Baal; but what the better, when they debauched the nation as much by their immoralities as the other had done by their idolatries? It is a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem that they make use of the name of the holy God, and yet wallow in all manner of impurity; they make nothing of committing adultery. They make use of the name of the God of truth, and yet walk in lies; they not only prophesy lies, but in their common conversation one cannot believe a word they say. It is all either jest and banter or fraud and design. Thus they encourage sinners to go on in their wicked ways; for every one will say, “Surely we may do as the prophets do; who can expect that we should be better than our teachers?” By this means it is that none returns from his wickedness; but they all say that they shall have peace, though they go on, for their prophets tell them so. By this means Judah and Jerusalem have become as Sodom and Gomorrah, that were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly; and God looked upon them accordingly as fit for nothing but to be destroyed, as they were, with fire and brimstone. 2. That they encouraged people in sin by their false prophecies. They made themselves believe that there was no harm, no danger in sin, and practiced accordingly; and then no marvel that they made others believe so too (Jer 23:16): They speak a vision of their own heart; it is the product of their own invention, and agrees with their own inclination, but it is not out of the mouth of the Lord; he never dictated it to them, nor did it agree either with the law of Moses or with what God has spoken by other prophets. They tell sinners that it shall be well with them though they persist in their sins, Jer 23:17. See here who those are that they encourage – those that despise God, that slight his authority, and have low and mean thoughts of his institutions, and those that walk after the imagination of their own heart, that are worshippers of idols and slaves to their own lusts; those that are devoted to their pleasures put contempt upon their God. Yet see how these prophets caressed and flattered them: they should have been still saying, There is no peace to those that go on in their evil ways – Those that despise God shall be lightly esteemed – Woe, and a thousand woes, to them; but they still said, You shall have peace; no evil shall come upon you. And, which was worst of all, they told them, God has said so, so making him to patronize sin, and to contradict himself. Note, Those that are resolved to go on in their evil ways will justly be given up to believe the strong delusions of those who tell them that they shall have peace though they go on.

IV. God disowns all that these false prophets said to sooth people up in their sins (Jer 23:21): I have not sent these prophets; they never had any mission from God. They were not only not sent by him on this errand, but they were never sent by him on any errand; he never had employed them in any service or business for him; and, as to this matter, whereas they pretended to have instructions from him to assure this people of peace, he declares that he never gave them any such instructions. Yet they were very forward – they ran; they were very bold – they prophesied without any of that difficulty with which the true prophets sometimes struggled. They said to sinners, You shall have peace. But (Jer 23:18): “Who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord? Who of you has, that are so confident of this? You deliver this message with a great deal of assurance; but have you consulted God about it? No; you never considered whether it be agreeable to the discoveries God has made of himself, whether it will consist with the honour of his holiness and justice, to let sinners go unpunished. You have not perceived and heard his word, nor marked that; you have not compared this with the scripture; if you had taken notice of that, and of the constant tenour of it, you would never have delivered such a message.” The prophets themselves must try the spirits by the touchstone of the law and of the testimony, as well as those to whom they prophesy; but which of those did so that prophesied of peace? That they did not stand in God’s counsel nor hear his word is proved afterwards, Jer 23:22. If they had stood in my counsel, as they pretend, 1. They would have made the scriptures their standard: They would have caused my people to hear my words, and would have conscientiously kept closely to them. But, not speaking according to that rule, it is a plain evidence that there is no light in them. 2. They would have made the conversion of souls their business, and would have aimed at that in all their preaching. They would have done all they could to turn people from their evil way in general and from all the particular evil of their doings. They would have encouraged and assisted the reformation of manners, would have made this their scope in all their preaching, to part between men and their sins; but it appeared that this was a thing they never aimed at, but, on the contrary, to encourage sinners in their sins. 3. They would have had some seals of their ministry. This sense our translation gives it: If they had stood in my counsel, and the words they had preached had been my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way; a divine power should have gone along with the word for the conviction of sinners. God will bless his own institutions. Yet this is no certain rule; Jeremiah himself, though God sent him, prevailed with but few to turn from their evil way.

V. God threatens to punish these prophets for their wickedness. They promised the people peace; and to show them the folly of that God tells them that they should have no peace themselves. They were very unfit to warrant the people, and pass their word to them that no evil shall come upon them, when all evil is coming upon themselves and they are not aware of it, Jer 23:12. Because the prophets and priests are profane, therefore their ways shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness. Those that undertake to lead others, because they mislead them, and know they do so, shall themselves have no comfort in their way. 1. They pretend to show others the way, but they shall themselves be in the dark, or in a mist; their light or sight shall fail, so that they shall not be able to look before them, shall have no forecast for themselves. 2. They pretend to give assurances to others, but they themselves shall find no firm footing: Their ways shall be to them as slippery ways, in which they shall not go with any steadiness, safety, or satisfaction. 3. They pretend to make the people easy with their flatteries, but they shall themselves be uneasy: They shall be driven, forced forward as captives, or making their escape as those that are pursued, and they shall fall in the way by which they hoped to escape, and so fall into the enemies’ hands. 4. They pretend to prevent the evil that threatens others, but God will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, the time fixed for calling them to an account; such a time is fixed concerning all that do not judge themselves, and it will be an evil time. The year of visitation is the year of recompenses. It is further threatened (Jer 23:15), I will feed them with wormwood, or poison, with that which is not only nauseous, but noxious, and make them drink waters of gall, or (as some read it) juice of hemlock; see Jer 9:15. Justly is the cup of trembling put into their hand first, for from the prophets of Jerusalem, who should have been patterns of piety and every thing that is praiseworthy, even from them has profaneness gone forth into all the lands. Nothing more effectually debauches a nation than the debauchery of ministers.

VI. The people are here warned not to give any credit to these false prophets; for, though they flattered them with hopes of impunity, the judgments of God would certainly break out against them, unless they repented (Jer 23:16): “Take notice of what God says, and hearken not to the words of these prophets; for you will find, in the issue, that God’s word shall stand, and not theirs. God’s word will make you serious, but they make you vain, feed you with vain hopes, which will fail you at last. They tell you, No evil shall come upon you; but hear what God says (Jer 23:19), Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord has gone forth in fury. They tell you, All shall be calm and serene; but God tells you, There is a storm coming, a whirlwind of the Lord, of his sending, and therefore there is no standing before it. It is a whirlwind raised by divine wrath; it has gone forth in fury, a wind that is brought forth out of the treasuries of divine vengeance; and therefore it is a grievous whirlwind, and shall light heavily, with rain and hail, upon the head of the wicked, which they cannot avoid nor find any shelter from.” It shall fall upon the wicked prophets themselves who deceived the people, and the wicked people who suffered themselves to be deceived. A horrible tempest shall be the portion of their cup, Psa 11:6. This sentence is bound on as irreversible (Jer 23:20): The anger of the Lord shall not return, for the decree has gone forth. God will not alter his mind, nor suffer his anger to be turned away, till he have executed the sentence and performed the thoughts of his heart. God’s whirlwind, when it comes down from heaven, returns not thither, but accomplishes that for which he sent it, Isa 55:11. This they will not consider now; but in the latter days you shall consider it perfectly, consider it with understanding (so the word is) or with consideration. Note, Those that will not fear the threatenings shall feel the execution of them, and will then perfectly understand what they will not now admit the evidence of, what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of a just and jealous God. Those that will not consider in time will be made to consider when it is too late. Son, remember.

VII. Several things are here offered to the consideration of these false prophets for their conviction, that, if possible, they might be brought to recant their error and acknowledge the cheat they had put upon God’s people.

1. Let them consider that though they may impose upon men God is too wise to be imposed upon. Men cannot see through their fallacies, but God can and does. Here,

(1.) God asserts his own omnipresence and omniscience in general, Jer 23:23, Jer 23:24. When they told the people that no evil should befall them though they went on in their evil ways they went upon atheistical principles, that the Lord doth not see their sin, that he cannot judge through the dark cloud, that he will not require it; and therefore they must be taught the first principles of their religion, and confronted with the most incontestable self-evident truths. [1.] That though God’s throne is prepared in the heavens, and this earth seems to be at a distance from him, yet he is a God here in this lower world, which seems to be afar off, as well as in the upper world, which seems to be at hand, Jer 23:23. The eye of God is the same on earth that it is in heaven. Here it runs to and fro as well as there (2Ch 16:9); and what is in the minds of men, whose spirits are veiled in flesh, is as clearly seen by him as what is in the mind of angels, those unveiled spirits above that surround his throne. The power of God is the same on earth among its inhabitants that it is in heaven among its armies. With us nearness and distance make a great difference both in our observations and in our operations, but it is not so with God; to him darkness and light, at hand and afar off, are both alike. [2.] That, how ingenious and industrious soever men are to disguise themselves and their own characters and counsels, they cannot possibly be concealed from God’s all-seeing eye (Jer 23:24): “Can any hide himself in the secret places of the earth, that I shall not see him? Can any hide his projects and intentions in the secret places of the heart, that I shall not see them?” No arts of concealment can hide men from the eye of God, nor deceive his judgment of them. [3.] That he is every where present; he does not only rule heaven and earth, and uphold both by his universal providence, but he fills heaven and earth by his essential presence, Psa 139:7, Psa 139:8, etc. No place can either include him or exclude him.

(2.) He applies this to these prophets, who had a notable art of disguising themselves (Jer 23:25, Jer 23:26): I have heard what the prophets said that prophesy lies in my name. They thought that he was so wholly taken up with the other world that he had no leisure to take cognizance of what passed in this. But God will make them know that he knows all their impostures, all the shams they have put upon the world, under colour of divine revelation. What they intended to humour the people with they pretended to have had from God in a dream, when there was no such thing. This they could not discover. If a man tell me that he dreamed so and so, I cannot contradict him; he knows I cannot. But God discovered the fraud. Perhaps the false prophets whispered what they had to say in the ears of such as were their confidants, saying, So and so I have dreamed; but God overheard them. The heart-searching eye of God traced them in all the methods they took to deceive the people, and he cries out, How long? Shall I always bear with them? Is it in the hearts of those prophets (so some read it) to be ever prophesying lies and prophesying the deceits of their own hearts? Will they never see what an affront they put upon God, what an abuse they put upon the people, and what judgments they are preparing for themselves?

2. Let them consider that their palming upon people counterfeit revelations, and fathering their own fancies upon divine inspiration, was the ready way to bring all religion into contempt and make men turn atheists and infidels; and this was the thing they really intended, though they frequently made mention of the name of God, and prefaced all they said with, Thus saith the Lord. Yet, says God, They think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams. They designed to draw people off from the worship of God, from all regard to God’s laws and ordinances and the true prophets, as their fathers forgot God’s name for Baal. Note, The great thing Satan aims at is to make people forget God, and all that whereby he has made himself known; and he has many subtle methods to bring them to this. Sometimes he does it by setting up false gods (bring men in love with Baal, and they soon forget the name of God), sometimes by misrepresenting the true God, as if he were altogether such a one as ourselves. Pretenses to new revelation may prove as dangerous to religion as the denying of all revelation; and false prophets in God’s name may perhaps do more mischief to the power of godliness than false prophets in Baal’s name, as being less guarded against.

3. Let them consider what a vast difference there was between their prophecies and those that were delivered by the true prophets of the Lord (Jer 23:28): The prophet that has a dream, which was the way of inspiration that the false prophets most pretended to, if he has a dream, let him tell it as a dream; so Mr. Gataker reads it. “Let him lay no more stress upon it than men do upon their dreams, nor expect any more regard to be had to it. Let them not say that it is from God, nor call their foolish dreams divine oracles. But let the true prophet, that has my word, speak my word faithfully, speak it as a truth” (so some read it): “let him keep closely to his instructions, and you will soon perceive a vast difference between the dreams that the false prophets tell and the divine dictates which the true prophets deliver. He that pretends to have a message from God, whether by dream or voice, let him declare it, and it will easily appear which is of God and which is not. Those that have spiritual senses exercised will be able to distinguish; for what is the chaff to the wheat? The promises of peace which these prophets make to you are no more to be compared to God’s promises than chaff to wheat.” Men’s fancies are light, and vain, and worthless, as the chaff which the wind drives away. But the word of God has substance in it; it is of value, is food for the soul, the bread of life. Wheat was the staple commodity of Canaan, that valley of vision, Deu 8:8; Eze 27:17. There is as much difference between the vain fancies of men and the pure word of God as between the chaff and the wheat. It follows (Jer 23:29), Is not my word like a fire, saith the Lord? Is their word so? Has it the power and efficacy that the word of God has? No; nothing like it; there is no more comparison than between painted fire and real fire. Theirs is like an ignis fatuusa deceiving meteor, leading men into by-paths and dangerous precipices. Note, The word of God is like fire. The law was a fiery law (Deu 33:2), and of the gospel Christ says, I have come to send fire on the earth, Luk 12:49. Fire has different effects, according as the matter is on which it works; it hardens clay, but softens wax; it consumes the dross, but purifies the gold. So the word of God is to some a savour of life unto life, to others of death unto death. God appeals here to the consciences of those to whom the word was sent: “Is not my word like fire? Has it not been so to you? Zec 1:6. Speak as you have found.” It is compared likewise to a hammer breaking the rock in pieces. The unhumbled heart of man is like a rock; if it will not be melted by the word of God as the fire, it will be broken to pieces by it as the hammer. Whatever opposition is given to the word, it will be borne down and broken to pieces.

4. Let them consider that while they went on in this course God was against them. Three times they are told this, Jer 23:30, Jer 23:31, Jer 23:32. Behold, I am against the prophets. They pretended to be for God, and made use of his name, but were really against him; he looks upon them as they were really, and is against them. How can they be long safe, or at all easy, that have a God of almighty power against them? While these prophets were promising peace to the people God was proclaiming war against them. They stand indicted here, (1.) For robbery: They steal my word every one from his neighbour. Some understand it of that word of God which the good prophets preached; they stole their sermons, their expressions, and mingled them with their own, as hucksters mingle bad wares with some that are good, to make them vendible. Those that were strangers to the spirit of the true prophets mimicked their language, picked up some good sayings of theirs, and delivered them to the people as if they had been their own, but with an ill grace; they were not of a piece with the rest of their discourses. The legs of the lame are not equal, so is a parable in the mouth of fools, Pro 26:7. Others understand it of the word of God as it was received and entertained by some of the people; they stole it out of their hearts, as the wicked one in the parable is said to steal the good seed of the word, Mat 13:19. By their insinuations they diminished the authority, and so weakened the efficacy, of the word of God upon the minds of those that seemed to be under convictions by it. (2.) They stand indicted for counterfeiting the broad seal. Therefore God is against them (Jer 23:31), because they use their tongues at their pleasure in their discourses to the people; they say what they themselves think fit, and then father it upon God, pretend they had it from him, and say, He saith it. Some read it, They smooth their tongues; they are very complaisant to the people, and say nothing but what is pleasing and plausible; they never reprove them nor threaten them, but their words are smoother than butter. Thus they ingratiate themselves with them, and get money by them; and they have the impudence and impiety to make God the patron of their lies; they say, “He saith so.” What greater indignity can be done to the God of truth than to lay the brats of the father of lies at his door? (3.) They stand indicted as common cheats (Jer 23:32): I am against them, for they prophesy false dreams, pretending that to be a divine inspiration which is but an invention of their own. This is a horrid fraud; nor will it excuse them to say, Caveat emptorLet the buyer take care of himself, and Si populus vult decipi, decipiaturIf people will be deceived, let them. No; it is the people’s fault that they err, that they take things upon trust, and do not try the spirits; but it is much more the prophets’ fault that they cause God’s people to err by their lies and by their lightness, by the flatteries of their preaching soothing them up in their sins, and by the looseness and lewdness of their conversation encouraging them to persist in them. [1.] God disowns their having any commission from him: I sent them not, nor commanded them; they are not God’s messengers, nor is what they say his message. [2.] He therefore justly denies his blessing with them: Therefore they shall not profit this people at all. All the profit they aim at is to make them easy; but they shall not so much as do that, for God’s providences will at the same time be making them uneasy. They do not profit this people (so some read it); and more is implied than is expressed; they not only do them no good, but do them a great deal of hurt. Note, Those that corrupt the word of God, while they pretend to preach it, are so far from edifying the church that they do it the greatest mischief imaginable.

 

Jeremiah 23:33-40

 

The profaneness of the people, with that of the priests and prophets, is here reproved in a particular instance, which may seem of small moment in comparison of their greater crimes; but profaneness in common discourse, and the debauching of the language of a nation, being a notorious evidence of the prevalency of wickedness in it, we are not to think it strange that this matter was so largely and warmly insisted upon here. Observe,

I. The sin here charged upon them is bantering God’s prophets and dialect they used, and jesting with sacred things. They asked, What is the burden of the Lord? Jer 23:33 and Jer 23:34. They say, The burden of the Lord, Jer 23:38. This was the word that gave great offence to God, that, whenever they spoke of the word of the Lord, they called it, in scorn and derision, the burden of the Lord. Now, 1. This was a word that the prophets much used, and used it seriously, to show what a weight the word of God was upon their spirits, of what importance it was, and how pressingly it should come upon those that heard it. The words of the false prophets had nothing ponderous in them, but God’s words had; those were as chaff, these as wheat. Now the profane scoffers took this word, and made a jest and a byword of it; they made people merry with it, that so, when the prophets used it, they might not make people serious with it. Note, It has been the artifice of Satan, in all ages, to obstruct the efficacy of sacred things by turning them into matter of sport and ridicule; the mocking of God’s messengers was the baffling of his messages. 2. Perhaps this word was caught at and reproached by the scoffers as an improper word, newly-coined by the prophets, and not used in that sense by any classic author. It was only in this and the last age that the word of the Lord was called the burden of the Lord, and it could not be found in their lexicons to have that signification. But if men take a liberty, as we see they do, to form new phrases which they think more expressive and significant in other parts of learning, why not in divinity? But especially we must observe it as a rule that the Spirit of God is not tied to our rules of speaking. 3. Some think that because when the word of the Lord is called a burden it signifies some word of reproof and threatening, which would lay a load upon the hearers (yet I know not whether that observation will always hold), therefore in using this word the burden of the Lord in a canting way they reflected upon God as always bearing hard upon them, always teasing them, always frightening them, and so making the word of God a perpetual uneasiness to them. They make the word of God a burden to themselves, and then quarrel with the ministers for making it a burden to them. Thus the scoffers of the latter days, while they slight heaven and salvation, reproach faithful ministers for preaching hell and damnation. Upon the whole we may observe that, how light soever men may make of it, the great God takes notice of, and is much displeased with, those who burlesque sacred things, and who, that they may make a jest of scripture truths and laws, put jests upon scripture language. In such wit as this I am sure there is no wisdom, and so it will appear at last. Be you not mockers, lest your bands be made strong. Those that were here guilty of this sin were some of the false prophets, who perhaps came to steal the word of God from the true prophets, some of the priests, who perhaps came to seek occasions against them on which to ground an information, and some of the people, who had learned of the profane priests and prophets to play with the things of God. The people would not have affronted the prophet and his God thus if the priests and the prophets, those ringleaders of mischief, had not shown them the way.

II. When they are reproved for this profane way of speaking they are directed how to express themselves more decently. We do not find that the prophets are directed to make no more use of this word; we find it used long after this (Zec 9:1; Mal 1:1; Nah 1:1; Hab 1:1); and we do not find it once used in this sense by Jeremiah either before or after. It is true indeed that in many cases it is advisable to make no use of such words and things as some have made a bad use of, and it may be prudent to avoid such phrases as, though innocent enough, are in danger of being perverted and made stumbling-blocks. But here God will have the prophet keep to his rule (Jer 15:19), Let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them. Do not thou leave off using this word, but let them leave off abusing it. You shall not mention the burden of the Lord any more in this profane careless manner (Jer 23:36), for it is perverting the words of the living God and making a bad use of them, which is an impious dangerous thing; for, consider, he is the Lord of hosts our God. Note, If we will but look upon God as we ought to do in his greatness and goodness, and be but duly sensible of our relation and obligation to him, it may be hoped that we shall not dare to affront him by making a jest of his words. It is an impudent thing to abuse him that is the living God, the Lord of hosts, and our God. How then must they express themselves? He tells them (Jer 23:37): Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, when thou art enquiring of him, What hath the Lord answered thee? And what hath the Lord spoken? And they must say thus when they enquire of their neighbours, Jer 23:35. Note, We must always speak of the things of God reverently and seriously, and as becomes the oracles of God. It is a commendable practice to enquire after the mind of God, to enquire of our brethren what they have heard, to enquire of our prophets what they have to say from God; but then, to show that we enquire for a right end, we must do it after a right manner. Ministers may learn here, when they reprove people for what they say and do amiss, to teach them how to say and do better.

III. Because they would not leave off this bad way of speaking, though they were admonished of it, God threatens them here with utter ruin. They would still say, The burden of the Lord, though God had sent to them to forbid them, Jer 23:38. What little regard have those to the divine authority that will not be persuaded by it to leave an idle word! But see what will come of it. 1. Those shall be severely reckoned with that thus pervert the words of God, that put a wrong construction on them and make a bad use of them; and it shall be made to appear that it is a great provocation to God to mock his messengers: I will even punish that man and his house; whether he be prophet or priest, or one of the common people, it shall be visited upon him, Jer 23:34. Perverting God’s word, and ridiculing the preachers of it, are sins that bring ruining judgments upon families and entail a curse upon a house. Another threatening we have Jer 23:36. Every man’s word shall be his own burden; that is, the guilt of this sin shall be so heavy upon him as to sink him into the pit of destruction. God shall make their own tongue to fall upon them, Psa 64:8. God will give them enough of their jest, so that the burden of the Lord they shall have no heart to mention any more; it will be too heavy to make a jest of. They are as the madman that casts firebrands, arrows, and death, while they pretend to be in sport. 2. The words of God, though thus perverted, shall be accomplished. Do they ask, What is the burden of the Lord? Let the prophet ask them, What burden do you mean? Is it this: I will even forsake you? Jer 23:33. This is the burden that shall be laid and bound upon them (Jer 23:39, Jer 23:40): “Behold I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you. I will leave you, and have no thoughts of returning to you.” Those are miserable indeed that are forsaken and forgotten of God; and men’s bantering God’s judgments will not baffle them. Jerusalem was the city God had taken to himself as a holy city, and then given to them and their fathers; but that shall now be forsaken and forgotten. God had taken them to be a people near to him; but they shall now be cast out of his presence. They had been great and honourable among the nations; but now God will bring upon them an everlasting reproach and a perpetual shame. Both their sin and their punishment shall be their lasting disgrace. It is here upon record, to their infamy, and will remain so to the world’s end. Note, God’s word will be magnified and made honourable when those that mock at it shall be vilified and made contemptible. Those that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.