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A commentary on the book of Psalms (Volume 2) online

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[Ps. 89.

my church:" Matt, xxviii. 20. xvi. 18. Nor shall
the world be destroyed, until Christ come again, and
his glorious kingdom be ready to appear.

" 35. Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will
not lie unto David. 36. His seed shall endure for
ever, and his throne as the sun before me. 37. It
shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a
faithful witness in heaven."

The promise, covenant, and oath of God, which
he declareth shall never fail, are here repeated. They
relate to Christ, that " Seed," or " Son of Da-
vid," who " endureth for ever." His throne is re-
splendent as the " sun," and shall continue, after
that luminary is extinguished: his church is per-
manent as the " moon," though, like her, subject to
vicissitudes, and liable, for a time, to be obscured by
eclipses, during her present state upon earth. And
while the rainbow shall be seen in the clouds, man
has " a faithful witness in heaven" of the immu-
table truth of God's word, and the infallible accom-
plishment of what he promises. " Look upon the
rainbow," saith the wise son of Sirach, " and praise
him who made it : very beautiful it is in the bright-
ness thereof: it compasseth the heaven about with
a glorious circle, and the hands of the most High
have bended it :" Ecclus xliii. \\. But let us not
forget likewise, when we look upon the rainbow, to
praise him who made it to be a sign and sacred sym-
bol of mercy ; in which capacity we behold it, to our
great and endless comfort, compassing the throne of
Christ with a gracious, as well as glorious, circle.
" There was a rainbow round about the throne."
Rev. iv. 3. Ezek. i. 26.

Ps. 89.] 309

'^ 38. But thou hast cast ofF and abhorred, thou
hast been wroth with thine anointed. 39. Thou hast
made void the covenant of thy servant; thou hast
profaned his crown, hy casting it to the ground."

In the former part of our Psalm, we have seen
what the divine promises were, which hadbeenmade
to the house of David. By the latter part, upon
which we are entering, it appears, that the Psalm
was written at a time, when the church of Israel was
in such a manner oppressed and reduced by her ene-
mies, that her members began almost to despair of
those promises receiving their accomplishment. God
seemed to have " cast off" and " abhorred" his
" anointed" and " servant," that is, David, or ra-
ther the prince of his family, who was upon the
throne when this captivity and desolation happened;
the " covenant" seemed to be overturned and " made
void," when the " crown" of Israel was defiled in
the dust.

*' 40. Thou hast broken down all his hedges,
thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin. 41.
All that pass by the way spoil him: he is a reproach
to his neighbours. 42. Thou hast set up the right
hand of his adversaries: thou hast made all his ene-
mies to rejoice. 43. Thou hast also turned the edge
of his sword, and hast not made him to stand in the
battle. 44. Thou hast made his glory to cease, and
cast his throne down to the ground. 45. The days
of his youth hast thou shortened ; thou hast covered
him with shame."

The manifold calamities of Sion are in these verses

O 3


[Ps. 89.

enumerated: The demolition offences and fortifica-
tions; the cruel ravages consequent thereupon; the
shame of defeats ; the reproaches and insults of vic-
torious adversaries ; the dishonours of violent and
untimely death. In days like these here described,
when the church and the king are permitted to fall
into the hands of those who hate them, and to drink
thus deeply of the cup of affliction, distrust and des-
pondency are apt to seize upon the minds of men.
Nay, when the faithful few beheld the true " Son
of David," and " Anointed" of Jehovah, in the
day of his sufferings; when they saw him, without
help or defence, " spoiled and reproached by his
neighbours;" when they viewed " the. right hand
of his adversaries set up," and all his " enemies
rejoicing" over him ; his " glory made to cease,"
and his " crown profaned in the dust; the days of
his youth shortened," and himself delivered over to
a " shameful" as well as painful death; they then
began to think " the covenant made void," and the
promises at an end. " We trusted," said they,
" that it had been he who should have redeemed
Israel!" Luke xxiv. 21. And although Christ be
long since risen from the dead, and ascended into
heaven, yet the prevalence of iniquity, and the op-
pression of the church, have been, and in the last
days will be such, as to put the faith and hope of his
servants to a sore trial, while they wait for his second,
as the ancient Jews did for his first advent,

" 46. How long, Lord? Wilt thou hide thy-
self for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire? 47.
Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast

Ps. 89.]


thou made all men in vain? Or, as Ainsworth
translates the verse. Remember how transitory I am,
unto what vanity thou hast created all the sons of
Adam. 48. What man is he that liveth, and shall
not see death ? shall he deliver his soul, or, animal
frame, from the hand of the grave? 49. Lord,
where are thy former loving kindnesses, which thou
swarest unto David in thy truth ?"

This is the humble and dutiful expostulation of
the church with God in all her distresses upon the
earth. By asking, " How long, Lord ? wilt thou
be aDgry for ever?" she tacitly pleadeth his pro-
mise not to be so: she urgeth the shortness of man's
life here below, the universality of the fatal sentence,
the impossibility of avoiding death, and, if nothing
farther was to happen, the frustration of the divine
counsels concerning man. From thence she entreat-
eth God to remember the " loving kindnesses" once
promised by him with an oath to David, as related
in the former part of the Psalm. These " loving
kindnesses" are called, in Isaiah, Iv. 3. '' the sure
mercies of David ;" which " sure mercies of David"
are affirmed by St. Paul, Acts xiii. 34, to have been
then confirmed on Israel, when, in the person of
Jesus, God raised our nature from the grave. To
a resurrection, therefore, believers have ever aspir-
ed; thither have they directed their wishes, and on
that event have they fixed their hopes, as the end of
temporal sorrows, and the beginning of eternal joys.

** 50. Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy
servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of
all the mighty people; 51. Wherewith thine ene-

312 [Ps. 89.

mies have reproached, O Lord; wherewith they
have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed."

The last argument urged by the church, in her
expostulation with God for a speedy redemption, is,
the continual reproach to which she was subject, on
account of the promise being delayed. The " mighty
people," or Heathen nations, who held her in capti-
vity, and were witnesses of her wretched and forlorn
estate, ridiculed her pretensions to perpetuity of em-
pire in the house of David; they blasphemed the
God, who was said to have made such promises ; and
" reproached the footsteps," or mocked at the tardy
advent of his Messiah,* who was to establish in Is-
rael his everlasting throne. All these cruel taunts
and insults she was obliged to " bear in her bosom,"
and there to suppress them in silence, having nothing
to answer in the day of her calamity and seeming
destitution. St. Peter gives us a like account of
the state of the Christian church in the latter days;
he exhorts us to be " mindful of the words which
were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the
commandments of the apostles of the Lord and Sa-
viour, because there shall come in the last days
scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying,
Where is the promise of his coming?" 2 Pet.
iii. 4.

* " Exprobraverunt vestigia Christi tui ;" tarditatem vestigio-
nim Christi tui. Chald. Irridebant nos quod iion adveniret ex-
pectatus ille Liberator, sive Cyrus, sive potius Christus de semi-
ne Davidis, regno ejus instaurando, et in seternum firmando.

Ps. 90.] ^^^

« 52. Blessed be the Lord for evermore. Amen
and Amen."

But whatever be at any time our distress, either
as a community or as individuals, still arc we to be-
lieve, still to hope, still to bless and praise Jehovah,
whose word is true, whose works arc faithful, whose
chastisements are mercies, and all whose promises
are, in Christ Jesus, yea, and amen, for evermore.


Eighteenth Dai/.—Mornmg Prayer.

ARGUMENT.-^This Psalm is called, in its title, « A prayer of
Moses, the man of God." By him it is imagined to have
been composed when God shortened the days of the miu-mur-
inR Israelites in the wilderness. See Numb. xiv. It is, how-
ever a Psalm of general use, and is made, by the church, a
part'of her funeral service. It containeth, 1, 2. an address to
the eternal and unchangeable God, the Saviour and Preserver
of his people; 3—10. a most affecting description of man s
mortal and transitory state on earth since the fall ; H. a com.
plaint, that few meditate in such a manner upon death, as to
prepare tliemselves for it; 12. a prayer for grace so to do;
13^17. and for the mercies of redemption.

« 1 Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in
all generations. 2. Before the mountains were
brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth
and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting
thou art God."

The Psalmist, about to describe man's fleeting
and transitory state, first directed us to contemplate

^1* [PS. 90.

the unchangeable nature and attributes of God, who
hath always been a « dwelling-place," or place of
defence and refuge, affording protection and comfort
to his people in the world, as he promised to be be-
iore the world began, and will, in a more glorious
manner, continue to be after its dissolution. See
for a paraUel, Ps. eii. 25. &c. with St. Paul's appU-
cation, Heb. i. 10.

«3. Thou turnest man to destruction; andsayest,
iwturn, ye children of men."

Death was the penalty inflicted on man for sin.
Ihe latter part of the verse alludes to the fatal sen-
tence, Gen. iii. 19. « Dust thou art, and unto dust
Shalt thou return." How apt are we to forget both
our original and our end !

" 4. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as
yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the

The connection between the verse preceding and
the verse now before us, seems to be this : God sen-
tenced man to death. It is true, the execution of
the sentence was at first deferred, and the term of
human life suffered to extend to near a thousand
years. But what was even that, what is any period
of time, or time itself, if compared with the duration
of the Eternal ? All time is equal, when it is past ;
a thousand years, when gone, are forgotten as yes-
terday; and the longest life of man, to a person who
iooks back upon it, may appear only as three hours,
or one quarter of the night. ■

Ps. 90.]


" 5. Thou earnest them away as with a flood;
they are as a sleep : in the morning they are like
grass Xiohich groweth up ; or^ as grass that changeth.
6. In the morning it flourisheth and groweth up; in
the evening it is cut down, and withereth/'

The shortness of life, and the suddenness of our
departure hence, are illustrated by three similitudes.
The first is that of a " flood," or torrent pouring
unexpectedly and impetuously from the mountains,
and sweeping all before it in an instant. The se-
cond is that of " sleep," from which, when a man
awaketh, he thinketh the time passed in it to have
been nothing. In the third similitude, man is com-
pared to the " grass" of the field. In the morning
of youth fair and beautiful, he groweth up and flour-
isheth; in the evening of old age, (and how often
before that evening!) he is cut down by the stroke
of death; all his juices, to the circulation of which
he stood indebted for life, health, and strength, are
dried up; he withereth, and turneth again to his
earth. " Surely all flesh is grass, and all the good-
liness thereof is as the flower of the field!" Isa. xl.
6. Of this truth, the word of God, the voice of na-
ture, and daily experience, join to assure us : yet who
ordereth his life and conversation as if he believed

" 7. For we are consumed by thine anger, and
by thy wrath are we troubled. 8. Thou hast set
our iniquities before thee; our secret sins in the
light of thy countenance."

The generations of men are troubled and con-


[Ps. 90.

sumed by divers diseases, and sundry kinds of death,
through the displeasure of God; his displeasure is
occasioned by their sins, all of which he seeth and
punisheth. If Moses wrote this Psalm, the provo-
cations and chastisements of Israel are here alluded
to. But the case of the Israelites in the wilderness,
is the case of Christians in the world; and the same
thing is true both in them and in us.

'^ 9. For all our days are passed away in thy
wrath ; we spend our years as a tale that is told.''''

Life is compared to a " tale" that is told and for-
gotten, to a " word" which is but air, or breath,
and vanisheth into nothing, as soon as spoken; or
perhaps, as the original generally signifies, to a
'' meditation, a thought," which is of a nature still
more fleeting and transient.

" 10. The days of our years are threescore years
and ten, and if by reason of strength, they be four-
score years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow :
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."

This again might be primarily spoken by Moses,
concerning Israel. The generation of those who
came out of Egypt, from twenty years old and up-
wards, fell within the space of forty years, in the
wilderness; Numb. xiv. 29. and they who lived
longest experienced only labour and sorrow, until
they were cut off, like grass, and, by the breath of
God's displeasure, blown away from the face of the
earth. Like the Israelites, we have been brought
out of Egypt, and sojourn in the wilderness; like them
we murraer, and offend God our Saviour; like them

Ps. 90.] 317

we fall and perish. To the age of seventy years, few
of us can hope to attain ; labour and sorrow are our
portion in the world ; we are mowed down, as this
year's grass of the field ; we fly away, and are no
more seen in the land of the living.

" 11. Who knoweth the power of thine anger?
Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath."

Houbigant renders the verse thus: " Quis novit
vim irse tu£e; et, prout terribilis es, furorem tuum ?"
" Who knoweth," or considereth, " the power of
thine anger ; and thy wrath, in proportion as thou
art terrible?" that is, in other words, Notwithstand-
ing all the manifestations of God's indio-nationajrainst
sin, which introduced death and every other calamity
among men, who is there that knoweth, who that
duly considereth and layeth to heart the almighty
power of that indignation; who that is induced, by
beholding the mortality of his neighbours, to prepare
himself for his own departure hence ? Such holy
consideration is the gift of God, from whom the
Psalmist, in the next verse, directeth us to request

'' 12. So teach us to number our days, that we
may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

He who "numbereth his days," ortaketh a right
account of the shortness of this present life, com-
pared with the unnumbered ages of that eternity
which is future, will soon become a proficient in the
school of true wisdom. He will learn to give the
preference where it is due; to do good, and suffer
evil, upon earth, expecting the reward of both in

^^^ [Ps. 90.

I'eaven Make us wise, blessed Lord, but wise
unto salvation.

" 13. Return, O Lord, how long? and let it
repent thee concerning, or, be propitiated, towards,
thy servants."

During the reign of death over poor mankind,

Cxod IS represented as absent; he is therefore by

the faithful entreated to " return," and to satisfy

their longing desires after salvation ; to hasten the

day when Messiah should make a "propitiation"

for sin, when he should redeem his servants from

death and ransom them from the power of the grave.

Ihe Christian, who knoweth that his- Lord is risen

indeed, looks forward to the resurrection of the iust,

when death shall be finally swallowed up in victory.

" 14. O satisfy us early, or, in the morning, with
thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our
days. 15. Make us glad according to the days
tt'W;^ thou hast afflicted us, and the years uMi
we have seen the evil."

The church prayeth for the dawning of that glo-
rious morning, when every cloud shall vanish at the
rising of the Sun of righteousness, and night and
darkness shall be no more. Then only shaU we be
" satisfied, or saturated, with the mercy" of Je-
hovah ; then only shall we « rejoice and be glad all
our days." The time of our pUgrimage upon earth
IS a time of sorrow; we grieve for our departed
friends; and our surviving friends must soon grieve
for us ; these are " the days wherein God afflicteth
us, these the years wherein we see evil :" but he

Ps. 90.] 319

will hereafter " make us glad according to them;"
in proportion to our sufFerings, if rightly we bear
those sufFerings, will be our reward; nay, "these
light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work
for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of
glory." Then shall our joy be increased, and re-
ceive an additional relish from the remembrance of
our former sorrow ; then shall we bless the days and
the years which exercised our faith, and perfected
our patience; and then shall we bless God, who
chastised us for a season, that he might save us for


" 16. Let thy work appear unto thy servants,
and thy glory unto their children. 17. And let the
beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and es-
tablish thou the work of our hands upon us, yea, the
work of our hands estabUsh thou it."

The redemption of man is that " work" of God
whereby his " glory" is manifested to all genera-
tions, and which all generations do therefore long to
behold accompUshed. For this purpose the faith-
ful beseech God to let his " beauty," his splendour,
the hght of his countenance, his grace and favour,
be upon them : to " estabhsh the work of their
hands," to bless, prosper, and perfect them in their
Christian course and warfare; until, through him,
they shall be enabled to subdue sin, and triumph
over death.

320 f p, «,


ARGUMENT.-Tl.e prophet, 1_I0. deOareth the security of
tte nghteous man under the care and protection of Heaver

faToJid." it-ir?::" "^ ^"^"'^^ "^ »'' -•-'-

oreioid, and, 14—16. God himself is introduced, promisin

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Online LibraryGeorge HorneA commentary on the book of Psalms (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 24)