14. Return, I beseech thee, O God of Hosts! look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine, 15. And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and upon the branch which thou hast strengthened for thyself.16. It is burnt with fire; it is cut down; they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.17. Let thy hand be upon the Man of thy right hand, upon the Son of man whom thou hast strengthened for thyself.18. And we will not go back from thee: thou shalt quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.19. Turn us again, O Jehovah, God of Hosts! cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.
14. Return, I beseech thee, O God of Hosts! In these words it is intended to teach, that we ought not to yield to temptation although God should hide his face from us for a time, yea even although to the eye of sense and reason he should seem to be alienated from us. For, provided he is sought in the confident expectation of his showing mercy, he will become reconciled, and receive into his favor those whom he seemed to have cast off. It was a distinguished honor for the seed of Abraham to be accounted the vineyard of God; but while the faithful adduce this consideration as an argument for obtaining the favor of God, instead of bringing forward any claims of their own, they only beseech him not to cease to exercise his accustomed liberality towards them. The words, from heaven, have, no doubt, been introduced, that the faithful might find no difficulty in extending their faith to a distance, although God, from whom they had departed, was far from them; and, farther that if they saw no prospect of deliverance upon earth, they might lift up their eyes to heaven.
As to the word knh, cannah, in the beginning of the 15th verse, I readily acquiesce in the sense given of it by some who translate it, a place prepared; but as some think that there is a change in the Hebrew word of the letter g, gimel, into k, caph, so that the reading should be gnh, gannah, a garden or vineyard, we leave the reader to judge for himself. It is, however, certain that this is a metaphor akin to the former, by which is denoted the singular liberality of God in advancing this people, and causing them to prosper. The vine-branch which was planted by the hand of God is also called the Man of his right hand.
16 It is burnt with fire. The calamities of the people are now more clearly expressed. It had been said that the Lord's vine was abandoned to the wild beasts, that they might lay it waste. But it was a greater calamity for it to be consumed with fire, rooted up and utterly destroyed. The Israelites had perfidiously apostatised from the true religion; but, as has been previously observed, they were still a part of the Church. We are accordingly warned by this melancholy example, of the severity of the punishment due to our ingratitude, especially when it is joined with obstinacy, which prevents the threatenings and rebukes of God, however sharp and severe they may be, from being of any benefit to us. Let us also learn from the same example, when the Divine anger is blazing all around, and even when we are in the midst of its burning flames, to cast all our sorrows into the bosom of God, who, in a wonderful manner, raises up his Church from the gulf of destruction. He would assuredly be ready not only to exercise without interruption his favor towards us, but also to enrich us with his blessings more and more, did not our wickedness hinder him. As it is impossible for him not to be angry at the many offenses which we have committed, it is an evidence of unparalleled mercy for him to extinguish the fire which we ourselves have kindled, and which has spread far and wide, and to save some portion or remnant of the Church, or, to speak more properly, to raise up even from the very ashes a people to call upon his name. It is again repeated that the Church perished not by the strength and arms of her enemies, but at the rebuke of God's countenance. Never can we expect any alleviation of our punishment, unless we are fully persuaded that we are justly chastised by the hand of God. It was a good sign of the repentance of these Israelites that, as is observed in Isaiah 9:12, |they looked to the hand of him who smote them.|
17 Let that hand be upon the Man of thy right hand. Here the Psalmist repeats in plain words the prayer which he had expressed under the figure of a vineyard, pleading that God would defend, under his hand, the Man of his right hand, and the Son of man whom he hath strengthened for himself It is uncertain whether he speaks of the king alone, or whether the people also are included. Although Jeroboam was anointed to be king, yet he did not come to the possession of the royal dignity in a lawful way; and God never so approved of any of his successors, as to divest the posterity of David of the right and power of dominion. God, as we have seen in Psalm 78:67, did not choose the tribe of Ephraim. on the contrary, the scepter, by his immutable decree, was given to the house of Judah, as is plainly taught in the prophecy of Jacob, (Genesis 49:10.) It was therefore a base and wicked dismembering of the body, when the majority of the people revolted from the house of David, and submitted themselves to Jeroboam as their king. Such being the ease, why then, it may be said, is the king of Israel prayed for in this manner? For removing this difficulty, let it be observed, that although that kingdom had an untoward commencement, and God, as is stated in Hosea 13:11, gave them a king in his anger, yet he was afterwards pleased to tolerate its continuance; and the anointing of Jeroboam testified that he had ratified what had been unadvisedly and wickedly done by the tumult and rebellion of the people. The nation of Israel might therefore say that their king was created and established by God, who, with the view of remedying the rupture which had been made, added him as a sharer in the royal dignity to the children of David. By that rent the state of the people was greatly impaired; but, to prevent an entire overthrow, the erection of the ten tribes into a separate kingdom, under the sovereignty of Jeroboam, was, as it were, a pillar put under it by the secret counsel of God to uphold it.
I have, however, no hesitation in considering the whole body of the Church as comprehended under the expressions, the Man of God's right hand, and the Son of man The similar number is very properly made use of, it having been the Divine will that the chosen people should be as one man. For the same reason, the Apostle Paul also, in Galatians 3:16, lays great stress upon the words, one seed; for Ishmael, Esau, and others, were separated and scattered when God redeemed arm gathered together the seed of Abraham. Thus, by the Son of man is to be understood the people whom God had adopted to himself, that they might be as one man. But as this oneness depended upon the head, I readily admit that the phrase has a particular reference to the king, who preserved the greater part of the people from being involved in utter destruction. Here again the Prophet, in seeking to obtain the Divine favor, founds his argument and hope only upon the benefits which God had formerly conferred upon them. |Lord,| as if he had said, |since it belongs to thee to perfect that which thou hast begun, preserve the king whom thou hast given us!|
In the 18th verse, the faithful engage, upon God's hearing them, gratefully to acknowledge his goodness, not only by rendering to him the sacrifice of praise, but also by their whole life. Calling upon God's name, is here to be understood of |the calves of the lips,| (Hosea 45:3;) but when it is said, We will not go back from thee, this means the uniform and continued course of the whole life. The verse, however, may be interpreted thus: O Lord! we will continue in our obedience to thee, even when our circumstances, so far as we can perceive, are hopeless; never shall the sharpness of our calamities have the effect of driving us to apostasy from thee: and when we are restored by thy grace and power, we will magnify thy name. It would be superfluous to make any farther observations on the last verse, which is repeated for the third time.