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Commentary On Psalms Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 40:12-15

12. For innumerable evils have compassed me on all sides; my iniquities have laid hold upon me, so that I cannot look up: they are more in number than the hairs of my head; and my heart has failed me.13. Be thou pleased, O Jehovah! to deliver me: O Jehovah! make haste to help me.14. Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my life to destroy it; let them be turned backward, and put to shame, that seek after my hurt.15. Let them be destroyed for a reward of their shame who have said to me, Aha, aha!

12. For innumerable evils have compassed me on all sides This phrase, in the original, denotes more than can be expressed in an English translation; for he says, ly alay, upon me, meaning by this, that he was not only beset on all sides, but that also an accumulation of evils pressed upon his head. He, however, does not now complain of being punished unjustly, or above his desert, but rather confesses plainly that it is the just recompense of his sins which is rendered to him. For although the word vn, avon, which we have rendered iniquity, signifies also the punishment of iniquity, (as we have elsewhere seen more than once;) yet we must take into consideration the derivation of the word. Accordingly, since David calls the afflictions which he endures the fruit or effect of his transgressions, there is implied in this a humble confession, from which we may ascertain with what reverence and meekness he submitted to the judgments of God, seeing that, when overwhelmed with an accumulation of miseries, he sets forth his sins in all their magnitude and aggravation, lest he should suspect God of undue severity. When we see David treated so severely, let us also learn, when we are oppressed with extreme afflictions, and are groaning under them, humbly to implore the grace and mercy of our Judge. Nor is it his design to show that he had been stupid or hardened, when he says that his heart failed or forsook him. His language means, that he was not only broken-hearted, but that he lay as if he had been dead. We must, however, understand this fainting or failing of the heart as referring to the sense of the flesh; for his perseverance in prayer is a certain proof that his faith was never altogether extinguished. But since he was, in so far as man was concerned, destitute of counsel, and was altogether without strength, it is not without cause that he says that his heart failed him.

13. Be thou pleased, O Jehovah! to deliver me. The verb which David here makes use of, signifies to desire a thing from pure kindness and good-will. He desires, therefore, to be delivered by the free mercy of God. As to his desire, that God would make haste, we have elsewhere spoken of it. Even when God delays to help us, it is our duty to contend against a feeling of weariness; but such is his goodness, that he permits us to use this form of prayer, That he would make haste according to our desires. Then, according to his usual practice, citing his enemies to the judgment-seat of God, he feels confident, that, on account of their cruelty, and unjust and wicked hatred, he shall obtain what he asks. We must maintain it as a fixed principle, that the more unjustly our enemies afflict us, and the more cruelly they wrong us, God is so much the more disposed to give us help. And it is no slight consolation that the mercy of God strives against their wickedness, so that the more fiercely our enemies pursue us to effect our hurt, the more ready is he to bring us help. We have already frequently spoken of the feelings with which David uttered these imprecations, and it is necessary here again to refresh our memories on the subject, lest any man, when giving loose reins to his passions, should allege the example of David in palliation or excuse. This wicked and counterfeit imitation on the part of those who follow the powerful impulse of the flesh, instead of being guided by the zeal of the Spirit, is always to be held up to condemnation.

When the Psalmist prays (verse 15) that his enemies may be destroyed for a reward of their shame, the meaning is this: As their sole desire has been to overwhelm me with shame, in order that, while thus dismayed and confounded, they might make me the object of their derision; so let a similar confusion fall upon their own heads. In the second clause of the verse he describes the nature of this confusion by relating the terms of their wicked triumphing, by which they poured contempt upon him while he was so oppressed with misery and affliction. We are here taught that, when our enemies shall have persecuted us to the uttermost, a recompense is also prepared for them; and that God will turn back, and cause to fall upon their own heads, all the evil which they had devised against us; and this doctrine ought to act as a restraint upon us, that we may behave ourselves compassionately and kindly towards our neighbors.

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