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Commentary On Psalms Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 107:1-9

1. Praise Jehovah, because he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.2. Let the redeemed of Jehovah say this, whom he hath redeemed out of the hand of the afflicted. 3. Whom he hath gathered out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south. 4. They wandered from the way in the solitary desert, they did not find a city of habitation.5. Both hungry and thirsty, so that their soul fainted within them.6. In their straits they called upon Jehovah, and he delivered them from all their afflictions.7. And he directed them by a right way, that they might come to a city of habitation.8. Let them praise the mercy of Jehovah in his prescience, and his marvelous works in the presence of the sons of men.9. Because he hath satisfied the longing soul, and hath filled the hungry soul with goodness.

1 Praise Jehovah. We have already explained this verse, for it formed the commencement of the preceding psalm. And it appears that it was not only frequently used among the Jews, but also so incorporated with other psalms, that when one part of the chorus on the one side was singing a portion of the psalm, the other part of the chorus on the opposite side in its turn, after each succeeding verse, responded, Praise Jehovah, because he is good, etc The penman of this psalm, whoever he was, has, instead of the ordinary preface, inserted this beautiful sentiment, in which praise and thanksgiving to God were so frequently expressed by the Israelitish Church. Immediately he proceeds to speak more particularly. And first, he exhorts those to offer up a tribute of gratitude to God; who, after having been delivered from slavery and imprisonment, and after a long and painful journey, arrived in safety at their place of abode. These he calls the redeemed of God; because, in wandering through the trackless desert, and howling wilderness, they many a time would have been prevented from returning home, had not God, as it were, with his outstretched hand, appeared as their guard and their guide. He does not here refer to travelers indiscriminately, but to such as either by hostile power, or by any other kind of violence, or by stern necessity, having been banished to distant regions, felt themselves to be in the midst of imminent dangers; or it may be, that he refers to those who had been made prisoners by enemies, pirates, or other robbers. He reminds them that it was by no casual occurrence that they had been driven about in that manner, and had been brought back to their native country, but that all their wanderings had been under the superintending providence of God.

But the second verse might be conjoined with the first, as if the prophet were commanding the persons whom he was addressing to sing this celebrated ode. It may with equal propriety be read by itself thus: Let the redeemed of Jehovah, who have returned from captivity to their own land, come forth now, and take part in the celebration of God's praises, and let them publish his loving-kindness which they have experienced in their deliverance. Among the Jews, who had occasion to undertake extensive journeys, such occurrences as these were very common; because they could hardly leave their own land, without from all quarters encountering ways rugged, and difficult, and perilous; and the same observation is equally applicable to mankind in general. He reminds them how often they wandered and turned aside from the right way, and found no place of shelter; a thing by no means rare in these lonely deserts. Were a person to enter a forest without any knowledge of the proper direction, he would, in the course of his wandering, be in danger of becoming the prey of lions and wolves. He has, however, particularly in his eye those who, finding themselves unexpectedly in desert places, are also in danger of perishing for hunger and thirst. For it is certain that such persons are hourly in hazard of death, unless the Lord come to their rescue.

6 In their straits they called upon Jehovah The verbs are here in the past tense, and according to grammarians, represent a continued action. The meaning therefore is, that those who are wandering in desert places are often pinched with hunger and thirst in consequence of finding no place in which to lodge; and who, when all hope of deliverance fails them, then cry unto God. Doubtless, God grants deliverance to many when in straits, even though they do not present their supplications to Him for aid; and hence it was not so much the design of the prophet in this passage to extol the faith of the pious, who call upon God with all their heart, as to describe the common feelings of humanity. There may be not a few whose hope does not center on God, who, nevertheless, are constrained, by some invisible disposition of mind, to come to Him, when under the pressure of dire necessity. And this is the plan which God sometimes pursues, in order to extort from such persons the acknowledgement that deliverance is to be sought for from no other quarter than from Himself alone; and even the ungodly, who, while living voluptuously, scoff at Him, he constrains, in spite of themselves, to invoke his name. It has been customary in all ages for heathens, who look upon religion as a fable, when compelled by stern necessity, to call upon God for help. Did they do so in jest? By no means; it was by a secret natural instinct that they were led to reverence God's name, which formerly they held in derision. The Spirit of God, therefore, in my opinion, here narrates what frequently takes place, namely, that persons destitute of piety and faith, and who have no desire to have any thing to do with God, if placed in perilous circumstances, are constrained by natural instinct, and without any proper conception of what they are doing, to call on the name of God. Since it is only in dubious and desperate cases that they betake themselves to God, this acknowledgement which they make of their helplessness is a palpable proof of their stupidity, that in the season of peace and tranquillity they neglect him, so much are they then under the intoxicating influence of their own prosperity; and notwithstanding that the germ of piety is planted in their hearts, they nevertheless never dream of learning wisdom, unless when driven by the dint of adversity; I mean, to learn the wisdom of acknowledging that there is a God in heaven who directs every event. It is unnecessary to allude here to the sarcastic retort of the ancient buffoon, who, on entering a temple, and beholding a number of tablets which several merchants had suspended there as memorials of their having escaped shipwreck, through the kind interposition of the gods, smartly and facetiously remarked, |But the deaths of those who have been drowned are not enumerated, the number of which is innumerable.| Perhaps he might have some just cause for scoffing in this manner at such idols. But even if a hundredfold more were drowned in the sea than safely reach the harbour, this does not in the least degree detract from the glory of the goodness of God, who, while he is merciful, is at the same time also just, so that the dispensing of the one does not interfere with the exercise of the other. The same observation applies to travelers that stray from the path, and wander up and down in the desert. If many of them perish for hunger and thirst, if many are devoured by wild animals, if many die from cold, these are nothing else than so many tokens of the judgments of God, which he designs for our consideration. From which we infer that the same thing would happen to all men, were it not the will of God to save a portion of them; and thus interposing as a judge between them, he preserves some for the sake of showing his mercy, and pours out his judgments upon others to declare his justice. The prophet, therefore, very properly adds, that by the hand of God they were led into the right way, where they may find a suitable place for lodging; and consequently he exhorts them to render thanks to God for this manifestation of his goodness. And with the view of enhancing the loving-kindness of God, he connects his wondrous works with his mercy; as if he should say, in this kind interposition, God's grace is too manifest, either to be unperceived or unacknowledged by all; and for those who have been the subjects of such a remarkable deliverance, to remain silent regarding it, would be nothing less than an impious attempt to suppress the wonderful doings of God, an attempt equally vain with that of endeavoring to trample under their feet the light of the sun. For what else can be said of us, seeing that our natural instinct drives us to God for help, when we are in perplexity and peril; and when, after being rescued, we forthwith forget him, who will deny that his glory is, as it were, obscured by our wickedness and ingratitude?

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