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Commentary On Psalms Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 41:10-13

10. Do thou, O Jehovah! have mercy upon me: raise me up, and I will recompense them.11. By this I know that I have been acceptable to thee, because my enemy doth not triumph over me.12. And as for me, thou wilt uphold me in my integrity, and establish me before thy face for ever.13. Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel, for ever and ever. Amen and Amen.

10 Do thou, O Jehovah I have mercy upon me. From a consideration of the wrongful cruelty of his enemies, he again takes encouragement to pray. And there is included in what he says a tacit contrast between God and men; as if he had said, Since there is to be found no aid or help in the world, but as, on the contrary, a strange degree of cruelty, or secret malice, every where prevails, be thou, at least, O Lord! pleased to succor me by thy mercy. This is the course which ought to be pursued by all the afflicted, whom the world unjustly persecutes; that is to say, they ought not only to occupy themselves in bewailing the wrongs which are done them, but they ought also to commend their cause to God: and the more Satan endeavors to overthrow their faith, and to distract their thoughts, the more should they fix their minds attentively on God alone. In using such language, the Psalmist again ascribes his restoration to the mercy of God as its cause. What he says in the concluding clause of the verse of taking vengeance seems harsh and unaccountable. If he confessed truly and from the heart, in the preceding part of the psalm, that God was just in thus afflicting him, why does he not extend forgiveness to others, as he desires that forgiveness should be granted to himself? Surely it were a shameful abuse of the grace of God, if, after having been restored and pardoned by him, we should refuse to follow his example in showing mercy. Besides, it would have been a feeling far removed from that of humility or kindness, for David, even while he was yet in the midst of death, to have desired revenge. But here two things are to be taken into account: First, David was not as one of the common people, but a king appointed by God, and invested with authority; and, secondly, It is not from an impulse of the flesh, but in virtue of the nature of his office, that he is led to denounce against his enemies the punishment which they had merited. If, then, each individual indiscriminately, in taking vengeance upon his enemies, should allege the example of David in his own defense, it is necessary, first, to take into account the difference which subsists between us and David, by reason of the circumstances and position in which he was placed by God; and, secondly, it is necessary to ascertain whether the same zeal which was in him reigns also in us, or rather, whether we are directed and governed by the same divine Spirit. David, being king, was entitled, in virtue of his royal authority, to execute the vengeance of God against the wicked; but as to us our hands are tied. In the second place, As he represented the person of Christ, so he cherished in his heart pure and holy affections: and hence it is, that, in speaking as he does in this verse, he indulged not his own angry spirit, but fulfilled faithfully the duties of the station to which he had been called of God. In short, in acting thus, he executed the righteous judgment of God, just in the same way as it is lawful for us to pray that the Lord himself would take vengeance upon the ungodly; for, as we are not armed with the power of the sword, it is our duty to have recourse to the heavenly Judge. At the same time, in beseeching him to show himself our guardian and defender, by taking vengeance on our enemies, we must do so in a calm and composed state of mind, and exercise a watchful care lest we should give too loose reins to our desires, by casting off the rule prescribed by the Spirit. As to David, the duties of his station required that he should employ means for subduing the rebellious, and that he should be truly the minister of God in inflicting punishment upon all the wicked.

11 By this I know that I have been acceptable to thee David now proceeds to the exercise of thanksgiving; unless, indeed, by altering the tense of the verb, we would rather with some read this verse in connection with the preceding, in this way: In this I shall know that thou favorest me, if thou suffer not my enemies to triumph over me; but it suits much better to understand it as an expression of joy on account of some deliverance which God had vouchsafed to him. After having offered up his prayers, he now ascribes his deliverance to God, and speaks of it as a manifest and singular benefit he had received from him. It might, however, be asked, whether it is a sufficiently sure method of our coming to the knowledge of God's love towards us, that he does not suffer our enemies to triumph over us? for it will often happen, that a man is delivered from danger, whom, nevertheless, God does not regard with pleasure; and, besides, the good-will of God towards us is known chiefly from his word, and not simply by experience. The answer to this is easy: David was not destitute of faith, but for the confirmation of it he took advantage of the helps which God had afterwards added to his word. In speaking thus, he seems to refer not only to the favor and good-will which God bears to all the faithful in common, but to the special favor which God had conferred upon him in choosing him to be king; as if he had said, Now, Lord, I am more and more confirmed in the belief that thou hast vouchsafed to adopt me to be the first-born among the kings of the earth. Thus he extends to the whole state of the realm the help of God, by means of which he had been delivered from some particular calamity.

12 And as for me, thou wilt uphold me in my integrity Some expound the clause thus: That, as David followed after uprightness, God had stretched out the hand to him. But this interpretation does not agree very well with a preceding sentence, in which he acknowledged that he had been justly punished by God. The calamity which had befallen him exposed him to the insult and derision of his enemies; but it is not likely that they were the authors of it: and hence, it would have been out of place to have adduced his integrity for this purpose, because the Lord is said to have respect to our integrity, when he defends us against our enemies, and delivers us from the outrage of men. We must therefore seek another meaning. The Hebrew word which we have rendered integrity might be referred to the body as well as the mind, thus: I shall continue sound, because thou wilt preserve and establish me. He seems, however, to extend the favor of God still farther; as if he had said, that he had been assisted not only once by his hand, but that, during the whole course of the period he had enjoyed prosperity, he had always been upheld in safety by the power of God. If any would rather understand by this term the piety and sincere disposition for which David was distinguished, -- and this meaning would be very suitable, -- it will not follow from this that David boasts of his past life, but only that he declares that, when brought to the test, or in the midst of the conflict, even although Satan and wicked men endeavored to shake his faith, he had not turned aside from the fear of God. By these words, then, he bears testimony to his patience, because, when sorely vexed and tormented, he had not forsaken the path of uprightness. If this meaning should be adopted, it must be observed, that this benefit, namely, that David continued invincible, and boldly sustained these assaults of temptation, is immediately after ascribed to God, and that for the future, David looked for preservation by no other means than by the sustaining power of God. If the language should be understood as referring to his external condition, this will be found to suit equally well the scope of the passage, and the meaning will be this, That God will never cease to manifest his favor, until he has preserved his servants in safety, even to the end. As to the form of expression, that God establishes them before his face, this is said of those whom he defends and preserves in such a manner, that he shows by evident tokens the paternal care which he exercises over them; as, on the other hand, when he seems to have forgotten his own people, he is said to hide his face from them.

13 Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel, for ever and ever Here the Psalmist confirms and repeats the expression of thanksgiving contained in a preceding verse. By calling God expressly the God of Israel, he testifies that he cherished in his heart a deep and thorough impression of the covenant which God had made with the Fathers; because it was the source from which his deliverance proceeded. The term amen is repeated twice, to express the greater vehemence, and that all the godly might be the more effectually stirred up to praise God.

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