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Commentary On Psalms Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 116:12-14

12. What shall I render unto Jehovah? all his benefits are upon me.13. I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of Jehovah.14. I will pay my vows to Jehovah now in the presence of all his people.

12. What shall I render unto Jehovah? He now exclaims with devout admiration, that the multitude of God's benefits was greater than he could find language to give expression to the grateful emotions of his heart. The question is emphatic, What shall I render? and imports, that it was not the desire, but the means, of which he was destitute, to enable him to render thanks to God. Acknowledging his inability, he adopts the only means in his power, by extolling the grace of God as highly as he could. |I am exceedingly wishful to discharge my duty, but when I look around me, I find nothing which will prove an adequate recompense.| Some understand the phrase, upon me, to intimate, that David had the recollection of all the benefits which God bestowed on him deeply engraven upon his mind. Others, along with the LXX., supply the particle for, What shall I render unto Jehovah for all his benefits towards me? But it is much better to make the first clause of the verse a complete sentence, by putting a period after Jehovah. Because, after confessing his incompetency, or rather his having nothing to offer to God as a sufficient compensation for his benefits, he at the same time adds in confirmation of it, that he was laid under such obligations, not by one series of benefits only, but by a variety of innumerable benefits. |There is no benefit on account of which God has not made me a debtor to him, how should I have means of repaying him for them?| All recompense failing him, he has recourse to an expression of thanksgiving as the only return which he knows will be acceptable to God. David's example in this instance teaches us not to treat God's benefits lightly or carelessly, for if we estimate them according to their value, the very thought of them ought to fill us with admiration. There is not one of us who has not God's benefits heaped upon us. But our pride, which carries us away into extravagant theories, causes us to forget this very doctrine, which ought nevertheless to engage our unremitting attention. And God's bounty towards us merits the more praise, that he expects no recompense from us, nor can receive any, for he stands in need of nothing, and we are poor and destitute of all things.

13. The cup of salvation He refers to a custom which was prevalent under the Law. For when they rendered solemn thanks to God, a feast was also appointed, at which, in token of their gladness, there was an holy libation. This being a symbol of their deliverance from Egyptian thraldom, is for that reason here called the cup of salvation The term to call upon, signifies to celebrate the name of God; and this he expresses more plainly, subsequently, by saying that he would pay his vows in the assembly of the faithful, the sanctuary alone being the place where sacrifices could be offered. The amount is, that the faithful need not be greatly perplexed about the way of performing their duties, God not demanding from them a return which he knows they are unable to give, but being satisfied with a bare and simple acknowledgment. The proper return is to own our obligation to him for every thing. If God deal so kindly and mercifully with us, and we fail in giving to him the tribute of praise for our deliverance which he claims, then our supineness becomes the more base. And certainly they are unworthy of the enjoyment, I say not of the riches of the world, but of the light of the sun and the air by which we breathe and live, who would rob the Author of them of the small return which so legitimately belongs to him. The Mosaic ritual has indeed been abrogated, and along with it the external libation referred to by David, yet the spiritual service, as we found in Psalm 50:23, |The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me,| is still in force. Let us, however, bear in mind, that God is lawfully praised by us, when we offer in sacrifice not only our tongues, but also ourselves, and all that we possess. And this not because God derives any profit from it, but because it is reasonable that our gratitude should manifest itself in this way.

14 I will pay my vows unto Jehovah The steadfastness of his piety shines forth in this, that, in the midst of his dangers, he had vowed unto God. And now he proves that he by no means forgot these engagements, as most men do, who, when the hand of God lies heavy upon them, implore his help for a short time, but soon bury in oblivion the deliverance which they have received. The Holy Spirit, speaking of the true worship of God, very properly connects, by an indissoluble bond, these two parts of worship, |Call upon me in the day of trouble;| and, |after thy deliverance glorify me,| Psalm 50:15. If any regard it as an absurdity for the faithful to enter into covenant with God by making vows to him, to procure his approbation, my reply is, that they do not promise the sacrifice of praise, to soothe him by their flatteries, as if he were a mortal like themselves, or to bind him to them by proposing some reward, for David had previously protested that he would not offer any recompense. The design, then, and the use of vows is, first, That the children of God may have their hearts strengthened with the confidence of obtaining whatever they ask; and, secondly, That they may be stimulated the more to offer up their tribute of gratitude to God for his mercies. To aid the children of God in their infirmity, the privilege of vowing may surely be conceded to them, for by this means their most merciful Father condescends to allow them to enter into familiar converse with him, provided they make their vows for the object I have stated. Happen what may, nothing must be attempted without his permission. And hence the Papists appear the more ridiculous, who, under pretext of what is advanced in this place, defend all sorts of vows, however foolish and absurd and rashly made; as if drunkenness were lawful, because God permits us to eat.

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