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Commentary On Psalms Volume 3 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 88:14-18

14. Wherefore, O Jehovah! wilt thou reject my soul? and hide thy face from me? 15. I am afflicted, and ready to die from my youth; I have suffered thy terrors by doubting.16. Thy wraths have passed over me: thy terrors have cut me off.17. They have daily encompassed me like waters: they have surrounded me together.18. Thou hast put far from me friend and companion: and my acquaintances are darkness.

14. Wherefore, O Jehovah! wilt thou reject my soul? These lamentations at first sight would seem to indicate a state of mind in which sorrow without any consolation prevailed; but they contain in them tacit prayers. The Psalmist does not proudly enter into debate with God, but mournfully desires some remedy to his calamities. This kind of complaint justly deserves to be reckoned among the unutterable groanings of which Paul makes mention in Romans 8:26. Had the prophet thought himself rejected and abhorred by God, he certainly would not have persevered in prayer. But here he sets forth the judgment of the flesh, against which he strenuously and magnanimously struggled, that it might at length be manifest from the result that he had not prayed in vain. Although, therefore, this psalm does not end with thanksgiving, but with a mournful complaint, as if there remained no place for mercy, yet it is so much the more useful as a means of keeping us in the duty of prayer. The prophet, in heaving these sighs, and discharging them, as it were, into the bosom of God, doubtless ceased not to hope for the salvation of which he could see no signs by the eye of sense. He did not call God, at the opening of the psalm, the God of his salvation, and then bid farewell to all hope of succor from him.

The reason why he says that he was ready to die from his youth, (verse 15,) is uncertain, unless it may be considered a probable conjecture that he was severely tried in a variety of ways, so that his life, as it were, hung by a thread amidst various tremblings and fears. Whence also we gather that God's wraths and terrors, of which he speaks in the 16th verse, were not of short continuance. He expresses them in the 17th verse as having encompassed him daily. Since nothing is more dreadful than to conceive of God as angry with us, he not improperly compares his distress to a flood. Hence also proceeded his doubting. for a sense of the divine anger must necessarily have agitated his mind with sore disquietude. But it may be asked, How can this wavering agree with faith? It is true, that when the heart is in perplexity and doubt, or rather is tossed hither and thither, faith seems to be swallowed up. But experience teaches us, that faith, while it fluctuates amidst these agitations, continues to rise again from time to time, so as not to be overwhelmed; and if at any time it is at the point of being stifled, it is nevertheless sheltered and cherished, for though the tempests may become never so violent, it shields itself from them by reflecting that God continues faithful, and never disappoints or forsakes his own children.

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