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Commentary On Psalms Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 39:12-13

12. Hear my prayer, O Jehovah! and hearken to my cry; and hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger before thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.13. Let me alone, that I may recover strength, before I depart, and be no more.

12 Hear my prayer, O Jehovah! David gradually increases his vehemence in prayer. He speaks first of prayer; in the second place, of crying; and in the third place, of tears This gradation is not a mere figure of rhetoric, which serves only to adorn the style, or to express the same thing in different language. This shows that David bewailed his condition sincerely, and from the bottom of his heart; and in this he has given us, by his own example, a rule for prayer. When he calls himself a stranger and a sojourner, he again shows how miserable his condition was; and he adds expressly, before God, not only because men are absent from God so long as they dwell in this world, but in the same sense in which he formerly said, My days are before thee as nothing; that is to say, God, without standing in need of any one to inform him, knows well enough that men have only a short journey to perform in this world, the end of which is soon reached, or that they remain only a short time in it, as those who are lodged in a house for pay. The purport of the Psalmist's discourse is, that God sees from heaven how miserable our condition would be, if he did not sustain us by his mercy.

13 Let me alone, that I may recover strength. Literally, it is, cease from me, and therefore some explain it, Let there be a wall raised betwixt us, that thy hand may not reach me. Others read, as a supplement, the word eyes; but as to the sense, it matters little which of the expositions be adopted, for the meaning is the same, That David entreats God to grant him a little relaxation from his trouble, that he might recover strength, or, at least, enjoy a short respite, before he depart from this world. This concluding verse of the psalm relates to the disquietude and sinful emotions which he had experienced according to the flesh; for he seems in the way of complaining of God, to ask that at least time might be granted him to die, as men are wont to speak who are grievously harassed by their affliction. I admit, that he speaks in a becoming manner, in acknowledging that there is no hope of his being restored to health, until God cease to manifest his displeasure; but he errs in this, that he asks a respite, just that he may have time to die. We might, indeed, regard the prayer as allowable, by understanding it in this sense: Lord, as it will not be possible for me to endure thy stroke any longer, but I must, indeed, miserably perish, if thou continuest to afflict me severely, at least grant me relief for a little season, that in calmness and peace I may commit my soul into thy hands. But we may easily infer, from the language which he employs, that his mind was so affected with the bitterness of his grief that he could not present a prayer pure and well seasoned with the sweetness of faith; for he says, before I depart, and be no more: a form of speech which indicates the feeling almost of despair. Not that David could regard death as the entire annihilation of man, or that, renouncing all hope of his salvation, he resigned himself to destruction; but he employs this language, because he had previously been so much depressed by reason of grief, that he could not lift up his heart with so much cheerfulness as it behoved him. This is a mode of expression which is to be found more than once in the complaints of Job. It is obvious, therefore, that, although David endeavored carefully to restrain the desires of the flesh, yet these occasioned him so much disquietude and trouble, that they forced him to exceed the proper limits in his grief.

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