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Commentary On Psalms Volume 3 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 71:9-13

9. Cast me not off in the time of my old age: forsake me not in the declining of my strength.10. For my enemies have said of me, and those who watch for my life have taken counsel together, 11. Saying, God hath forsaken him; follow after him, and ye shall take him: for there is none to deliver him.12. O God! be not far from me: my God: hasten to my aid.13. Let those who are enemies to my life be confounded and fail: let those who seek my hurt be covered with reproach and shame.

9. Cast me not off in the time of my old age. David having just now declared that God had been the protector of his life at his birth, and afterwards his foster-father in his childhood, and the guardian of his welfare during the whole course of his past existence; being now worn out with age, casts himself anew into the fatherly bosom of God. In proportion as our strength fails us -- and then necessity itself impels us to seek God -- in the same proportion should our hope in the willingness and readiness of God to succor us become strong. David's prayer, in short, amounts to this: |Do thou, O Lord, who hast sustained me vigorous and strong in the flower of my youth, not forsake me now, when I am decayed and almost withered, but the more I stand in need of thy help, let the decrepitude and infirmities of age move thee to compassionate me the more.| From this verse expositors, not without good reason, conclude that the conspiracy of Absalom is the subject treated of in this psalm. And certainly it was a horrible and tragical spectacle, which tended to lead, not only the common people, but also those who excelled in authority, to turn away their eyes from him, as they would from a detestable monster, when the son, having driven his father from the kingdom, pursued him even through the very deserts to put him to death.

10. For my enemies have said of me, etc. He pleads, as an argument with God to show him mercy, the additional circumstance, that the wicked took greater license in cruelly persecuting him, from the belief which they entertained that he was rejected and abandoned of God. The basest of men, as we all know, become more bold and audacious, when, in tormenting the innocent, they imagine that this is a matter in which they have not to deal with God at all. Not only are they encouraged by the hope of escaping unpunished; but they also boast that all comes to pass according to their wishes, when no obstacle presents itself to restrain their wicked desires. What happened to David at that time is almost the ordinary experience of the children of God; namely, that the wicked, when once they come to believe that it is by the will of God that his people are exposed to them for a prey, give themselves uncontrolled license in doing them mischief. Measuring the favor of God only by what is the present condition of men, they conceive that all whom he suffers to be afflicted are despised, forsaken, and cast off by him. Such being their persuasion, they encourage and stimulate one another to practice every thing harassing and injurious against them, as persons who have none to undertake and avenge their cause. But this wanton and insulting procedure on their part ought to encourage our hearts, since the glory of God requires that the promises which he has so frequently made of succouring the poor and afflicted should be actually performed. The ungodly may flatter themselves with the hope of obtaining pardon from him; but this foolish imagination does not by any means lessen the criminality of their conduct. On the contrary, they do a double injury to God, by taking away from him that which especially belongs to him.

12. O God! be not far from me. It is scarcely possible to express how severe and hard a temptation it was to David, when he knew that the wicked entertained the persuasion that he was rejected of God. They did not without consideration circulate this report; but after having seemed wisely to weigh all circumstances, they gave their judgment on the point as of a thing which was placed beyond all dispute. It was therefore an evidence of heroic fortitude on the part of David, thus to rise superior to their perverse judgments, and, in the face of them all, to assure himself that God would be gracious to him, and to betake himself familiarly to him. Nor is it to be doubted that, in calling God his God, he makes use of this as a means of defending himself from this hard and grievous assault.

While invoking the aid of God, he at the same time prays (verse 13) that his enemies may be filled with shame until they be consumed. These words, however, may not improperly be read in the future tense; for it is frequently the practice of David, after having ended his prayer, to rise up against his enemies, and, as it were, to triumph over them. But I have followed that which seems more agreeable to the scope of the passage. Having had occasion elsewhere to explain this imprecation, it is unnecessary for me to repeat, in this place, what I have previously said.

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