Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,
says Yahweh of Hosts. Zechariah 4:6
Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of Glory may come in! Who is this King of Glory?
Yahweh of Hosts: He is the King of Glory. Psalm 24:9-10
The purpose of this paper is to present the introductions from John Calvin's commentary on the Psalms. These introductions from Psalms 60 through 99 give the reader a great handle toward understanding each individual Psalm. John Calvin was one of the great theologians of the Protestant Reformation. All excerpts are from the Baker edition in 22 volumes.
David, who was now settled upon the throne, and had gained several signal victories, tending to confirm him in the kingdom, in this psalm exalts the goodness of God that he might at once express his gratitude, and by conciliating the favor of such as still stood out against his interests, unite the community, which had been rent into factions. Having first adverted to the clear indications of the Divine favor, which proved that God had chosen him to be king, he more particularly calls the attention of the faithful to the oracle itself, in order to convince them that they could only comply with the mind of God by yielding their consent and approbation to the anointing which he had received from Samuel. Prayers also are offered up throughout the psalm, urging God to perfect what he had begun.
This psalm begins with prayer, or, at any rate, with the brief record of a prayer, which David had preferred to God in a season of deep distress. It is chiefly occupied, however, with the praises of God, expressing his thankfulness for a miraculous deliverance which he had experienced from some imminent danger, and for his establishment upon the throne.
The greater part of this psalm is occupied with meditations, in which David encourages himself and others to hope in God, and fortifies his mind against the assaults of temptation. And as we are ever prone to be drawn away from God by the influence which worldly objects exert over our senses, perishing and evanescent as these are, occasion is taken to show the folly of this, and bring us to a single and entire dependence upon God.
The following psalm cannot so properly be said to consist of prayers as of a variety of pious meditations, which comforted the mind of David under dangers, anxieties, and troubles of a severe description. It contains the vows too which he made to God in the distress occasioned by the alarming circumstances in which he was placed.
This psalm expresses the language of complaint and prayer. David, in order that he may incline God to compassionate his case, dwells upon the injustice and cruelty, the intrigues and deceitfulness of his enemies. At the close, his eyes are directed to God in the anticipation of a joyful deliverance from their hands.
This psalm is composed both of petition and thanksgiving. It contains a prediction of the Gentiles being called to the common faith, but is principally occupied with praising God for the fatherly care which he exercises over his Church, and the benefits which flow from it. The Psalmist prays particularly that God would continue his former kindness to the Jewish people. Two instances of the Divine goodness are specified,--the powerful defence extended to their land, and the enriching of it with so many blessings.
There may have been one deliverance in particular, which the Psalmist celebrates here in the name of the Church, but he includes the many and various mercies which God had all along conferred upon his chosen people. While he takes notice of the divine interposition in their behalf, in a crisis of great mercy and distress, he suggests it as matter of comfort under trial that their subjection to the tyranny of their enemies had been designed to prove them as silver in the furnace. At the close, he would appear to speak of himself individually, and adduces it as a proof of his integrity that God had heard him, for God does not grant acceptance to the wicked.
The following psalm contains a prayer for a blessing upon the Church, that besides being preserved in a state of safety in Judea, it might be enlarged to a new and unprecedented extent. It touches shortly upon the kingdom of God, which was to be erected in the world upon the coming of Christ.
In this psalm it was David's design to celebrate the victories which, through the blessing of God, he had gained over his enemies; but, in the opening verses, he commends the power and goodness of God generally, as seen in the government of the world at large. From this he passes to the consideration of what God had done in redeeming his chosen people, and of the continued proofs of fatherly care which he had manifested to the posterity of Abraham. He then proceeds to the subject which he had more particularly in view, prosecuting it at length and in terms of the most exalted description; praising the signal display of Divine power which he, and the whole nation with him, had experienced. Now that he had been made king, he infers that the Church was brought to a settled condition, and that God, who seemed to have departed, would now at length erect his throne, as it were, in the midst of it and reign. In this it would evidently appear that he designed, typically, to represent the glory of God afterwards to be manifested in Christ.
There is a close resemblance between this psalm and the twenty-second. In the opening verses, David complains of the barbarous cruelty of his enemies, and of the grievous wrongs which they had inflicted upon him. But his mind, he affirms, was not hereby reduced to such a state of distress as to prevent him from patiently relying on the protection of God, or to discourage him from continuing in the undeviating course of a holy and an upright life. He rather testifies that his piety, and the courage and activity which he had manifested in maintaining the interests of the divine glory, were the cause of the hostility borne to him by the generality of men. After having again complained of being not less shamefully than cruelly oppressed by his enemies, he invokes God to visit them with deserved punishment. In the close, exulting as if he had obtained his highest wishes, he engages to yield to God a solemn sacrifice of praise.
This psalm is merely a part of the fortieth, and the inscription, To call to remembrance, is perhaps designed to indicate this; David having taken these five verses out of that other psalm, and accommodated them for being used on some particular occasion. I shall only here repeat the words of the text; and would refer the reader for the interpretation to the proper place.
David, having spoken at the outset of his confidence in God, partly calls upon him for deliverance, and partly complains of the pride of his enemies. At length, to confirm his faith, he prepares himself for yielding a grateful ascription of praise for the benefits which God had conferred upon him.
David in this psalm prays to God, in the name of the whole Church, for the continual prosperity of the kingdom which was promised him, and teaches us at the same time, that the true happiness of the godly consists in their being placed under the government of a king who was raised to the throne by the appointment of heaven.
David, or whoever may have been the author of this psalm, contending as it were against the judgment of carnal sense and reason, begins by extolling the righteousness and goodness of God. He next confesses that when he saw the wicked abounding in wealth and living in the indulgence of every kind of pleasure, yea, even scornfully mocking God and cruelly harassing the righteous, and that when he saw, on the other hand, how in proportion to the care with which any studied to practice uprightness was the degree in which they were weighed down by troubles and calamities, and that in general all the children of God were pining away and oppressed with cares and sorrows while God, as if sitting in heaven idle and unconcerned, did not interfere to remedy such a disordered state of matters; it gave him so severe a shock as almost to dispose him to cast off all concerns about religion and all fear of God. In the third place, he reproves his own folly in proceeding rashly and hastily to pronounce judgment, merely from a view of the present state of things, and shows the necessity of exercising patience, that our faith may not fail under these troubles and disquietudes. At last he concludes that, provided we leave the providence of God to take its own course in the way which he has determined in his secret purpose, in the end, matters will assume a very different aspect, and it will be seen that, on the one hand, the righteous are not defrauded of their reward, and that, on the other, the wicked do not escape the hand of the judge.
The people of God in this psalm bewail the desolate condition of the Church, which was such that the very name of Israel was almost annihilated. It appears from their humble supplications that they impute to their own sins all the calamities which they endured; but at the same time they lay before God his own covenant by which he adopted the race of Abraham as his peculiar people. Afterwards they call to remembrance how mightily and gloriously he had in the days of old displayed his power in delivering his Church. Encouraging themselves from this consideration, they beseech Him that he would at length come to their aid, and remedy a state of matters so deplorable and desperate.
It affords matter of rejoicing and thanksgiving to the whole Church, to reflect that the world is governed exclusively according to the will of God, and that she herself is sustained by his grace and power alone. Encouraged by this consideration, she triumphs over the proud despisers of God, who, by their infatuated presumption, are driven headlong into all manner of excess.
There is here celebrated the grace and truth of God in having, according to his promise that he would be the protector of the city of Jerusalem, defended it by his wonderful power against enemies, who were renowned for their warlike valor and well equipped with everything requisite for war.
Whoever was the penman of this psalm, the Holy Spirit seems, by his mouth, to have dictated a common form of prayer for the Church in her afflictions, that even under the most cruel persecutions the faithful might not fail to address their prayers to heaven. It is not the private grief of some particular individual which is here expressed, but the lamentations and groanings of the chosen people. The faithful celebrate the deliverance which had been once wrought for them, and which was a testimony of God's everlasting grace, to animate and strengthen themselves to engage in the exercise of prayer with the greater earnestness.
To comprehend many things within small compass, it is to be observed that in this psalm there are two leading topics. On the one hand, it is declared how God adopted for himself a Church from the posterity of Abraham, how tenderly and graciously he cherished it, how wonderfully he brought it out of Egypt, and how varied were the blessings which he bestowed upon it. On the other hand, the Jews, who were so much indebted to him for the great blessings which he had conferred upon them, are upbraided for having from time to time perversely and treacherously revolted from so liberal a father; so that his inestimable goodness was clearly manifested, not only in his free adoption of them at first, but also in continuing by the uninterrupted course of his goodness to strive against the rebellion of so perfidious and stiff-necked a people. Moreover, mention is made of the renewal of God's grace, and as it were of a second election which he made when he chose David out of the tribe of Judah to sway the scepter over the kingdom of Israel.
This is a complaint and lamentation of the Church when severely afflicted; in which, while the faithful bewail their miserable and, in one sense, undeserved calamities, and accuse their enemies of cruelty, they acknowledge that, in another sense, they have been justly chastised, and humbly betake themselves to the divine mercy. Their confidence of obtaining this they rest chiefly upon the fact that they saw God's dishonor conjoined with their calamities, inasmuch as the ungodly, in oppressing the Church, blasphemed his sacred name.
This is a sorrowful prayer, in which the faithful beseech God that he would be graciously pleased to succour his afflicted Church. To excite him the more readily to grant them relief in their distressing circumstances, they compare these circumstances with the condition of the Church in her beginnings, when the Divine favor was conspicuously manifested towards her.
The psalm consists of two parts. Whoever was its author, he exhorts the people to remember the unparalleled grace of God towards them in delivering them by his outstretched arm, and choosing them to be a kingdom of priests and a peculiar Church to himself; that thus they may be excited devoutly to honor their deliverer, both by celebrating his praises and by leading a holy life. God is next introduced as upbraiding them for their ingratitude in continuing obstinately to refuse to submit to the yoke of the law, notwithstanding the tender and gracious manner in which he allured them to himself.
As kings, and such as are invested with authority, through the blindness which is produced by pride, generally take to themselves a boundless liberty of action, the Psalmist warns them that they must render an account at the bar of the Supreme Judge, who is exalted above the highest of this world. After he has reminded them of their duty and condition, perceiving that he speaks to such as refuse to receive admonition, he calls upon God to vindicate his character as a righteous judge.
The prophet implores the divine aid against the enemies of the Church, and, as an argument for obtaining this the more easily, he enumerates the many nations which had conspired together for the express purpose of exterminating the people of Israel and thereby extinguishing the very name of the Church of God. To stir up himself and others to greater earnestness and confidence in prayer, he shows, by many examples, how mightily God had been wont to succour his servants.
The Psalmist complains that nothing proved to him a source of greater distress than his being prevented from coming to the tabernacle, and his being banished from the assembly of the saints, where God was called upon. And yet he shows that nothing can withstand the longing desires of the godly; and that, surmounting all obstacles, they will be constantly engaged in seeking God, and, so to speak, will make a way for themselves where there is none. At length he expresses his desire to be restored to the tabernacle of God, and again testifies that a day spent in the tabernacle was in his estimation more to be prized than to live for a long time in the society of unbelievers.
God having afflicted his people with new troubles and calamities, after their return from their captivity in Babylon, they, in the first place, make mention of their deliverance as an argument why he should not leave unfinished the work of his grace. Then they complain of the long continuance of their afflictions. And, in the third place, inspired with hope and confidence, they triumph in the blessedness promised them; for their restoration to their own country was connected with the kingdom of Christ, from which they anticipated an abundance of all good things.
In this psalm prayers and holy meditations, engaged in with the view of nourishing and confirming faith, together with praises and thanksgivings are intermingled. It having been difficult in the judgment of carnal reason for David to escape from the distresses with which he was environed, he sets in opposition to its conclusions the infinite goodness and power of God. Nor does he simply request deliverance from his enemies; but he also prays that the fear of God may be implanted and firmly established in his heart.
The miserable and distressing condition in which the Church was placed after the Babylonish captivity might be apt to sink the minds of the godly into despondency; and, accordingly, the Holy Spirit here promises her restoration in a wonderful and incredible manner, so that nothing would be more desirable than to be reckoned among the number of her members.
This psalm contains very grievous lamentations poured forth by its inspired penman when under very severe affliction, and almost at the point of despair. But he, at the same time, whilst struggling with sorrow, declares the invincible steadfastness of his faith; which he displayed in calling upon God to deliver him, even when he was in the deep darkness of death.
The prophet who wrote this psalm, whoever he was, in approaching the throne of grace to make supplication to God in behalf of the afflicted Church, lays down as an encouragement both to himself and the rest of the faithful [in order] to cherish good hope, the covenant which God had made with David. He then adverts in general to the Divine power which is discerned in the whole government of the world. And next, he calls to remembrance the redemption in which God had given an everlasting testimony of his fatherly love towards his chosen people. Thence, he again returns to the covenant made with David, in which God had promised to continue his favor towards that people forever, for the sake of their king. Finally, he subjoins a complaint that God, as if he had forgotten his covenant, abandoned his Church to the will of her enemies, and, in the midst of strange disaster and mournful desolation, withheld all succour and consolation.
As Moses is about to treat of the brevity and miseries of human life as well as of the punishments inflicted upon the people of Israel, in order to minister some consolation for assuaging the grief and fear which the faithful might have entertained upon observing the operation of the common law to which all mankind are subject, and especially upon considering their own afflictions, he opens the psalm by speaking of the peculiar grace which God had vouchsafed to his chosen tribes. He next briefly recites how wretched the condition of men is if they allow their hearts to rest in this world, especially when God summons them as guilty sinners to his judgment-seat. And after he has bewailed that even the children of Abraham had experienced for a time such severity that they were almost consumed with sorrow, [then,] confiding in God's free favor by which He had adopted them to himself he prays that He would deal towards them in a merciful and gracious manner, as he had done in times past, and that he would continue even to the end the ordinary course of his grace.
In this psalm we are taught that God watches over the safety of his people and never fails them in the hour of danger. They are exhorted to advance through all perils, secure in the confidence of his protection. The truth inculcated is one of great use, for though many talk much of God's providence and profess to believe that he exercises a special guardianship over his own children, few are found actually willing to entrust their safety to him.
This psalm contains an exhortation to praise God, and shows how much ground we have for this exercise from the works of God, insisting especially upon his justice displayed in the protection of his people and the destruction of the wicked. By such truth it encourages to the practice of righteousness, and preserves us from fainting under the cross of Christ by proposing to our view a happy issue out of all our afflictions. To deter us, on the other hand, from the commission of iniquity, it declares that sinners, however they may prosper for a time, will speedily be destroyed.
The psalm commences with the celebration of the infinite glory of God. It is then declared that such is his faithfulness that he never deceives his own people, who, embracing his promises, wait with tranquil minds for their salvation amidst all the tempests and agitations of the world.
The Psalmist implores Divine assistance against wicked and violent men, who persecuted the upright in a cruel and tyrannical manner. It is evident that he refers to domestic foes, whose unrighteous domination was as vexatious and oppressive to the Lord's people, as all the injuries received from the Gentile nations without.
The inspired penman of this psalm, whoever he was, in exhorting the Jews to praise God in solemn assembly, states two grounds why God should be praised; the one, that he sustains by his power the world which he created, the other, that he had of his free grace adopted the Church into a gracious relationship with himself. As many take God's praises into their lips in a hypocritical manner, he exhorts the people at the same time to be sincere, serious, and devoted in the service, and to show by the tenor of their life that they had not been chosen in vain. The more effectually to guard them against hypocrisy, he mentions that their fathers from the beginning had been of a stubborn spirit, and chargeable with ingratitude to God; and he takes notice of the dreadful punishment which fell upon them, and which might well deter their children from following in the footsteps of their rebelliousness.
This psalm contains an exhortation to praise God, an exhortation which is directed not only to the Jews, but to all nations. We must infer from this, that it has reference to the kingdom of Christ. God's name could not be called upon in any other part of the world than Judea, until it had been revealed; and the heathen nations were at that time necessarily altogether incapacitated for any such exercise. Yet it is evident that the Holy Spirit stirred up the saints who were under the Law to celebrate the Divine praises, till the period should arrive when Christ, by the spread of the Gospel, should fill the whole earth with his glory.
The description which we have of the kingdom of God in this psalm does not apply to the state of it under the Law. We may infer, accordingly, that it contains a prediction of that kingdom of Christ, which was erected upon the introduction of the Gospel. The Psalmist, while he commends it to us by insisting upon its greatness and glory, so well calculated to compel the reverential fear of men, gives an amiable representation of it, by informing us that it has been erected for the salvation of mankind sinners.
This psalm has a great resemblance to the ninety-sixth, not only in matter, but language. The great scope of it is to show that the glory of God would be illustriously displayed in the spread of the knowledge of his name throughout the world, both from the more ample fulfilment which would be given upon the manifestation of the Saviour, to the promises made to the posterity of Abraham, and from the sudden extension of salvation to all parts of the earth. He calls upon men to magnify the name of God on this account.
This psalm differs from those which precede it in one respect, that it speaks of the kingdom of God, and the blessings consequent upon it, as confined within Judea; and rather calls upon the posterity of Abraham, in distinction from the surrounding nations, to praise God for the privilege of their adoption.
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