|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
44:9-16 The believer must have times of temptation, affliction, and discouragement; the church must have seasons of persecution. At such times the people of God will be ready to fear that he has cast them off, and that his name and truth will be dishonoured. But they should look above the instruments of their trouble, to God, well knowing that their worst enemies have no power against them, but what is permitted from above.
Verses 9-16. - These verses form the second stanza, and are a loud and bitter complaint. God has recently dealt with Israel exceptionally - has seemed to "cast them off," has "put them to shame," allowed them to be defeated and despoiled, slain and carried into captivity, made a scorn and a derision, a reproach and a byword. He no longer "goes forth with their armies," to secure them victory over their foes, but holds aloof, and covers them with confusion. The description implies, not a single defeat, but a somewhat prolonged period of depression, during which several "armies" have been beaten, several battles lost, multitudes slain, and great numbers carried away captive (ver. 11). Still, a general captivity, like the Babylonian, is certainly not spoken cf. The nation is as yet unconquered. It needs but a return of God's favour to turn the vanquished into the victors, and to replace shame by boasting. Verse 9. - But thou hast cast off (comp. Psalm 43:2) and put us to shame (see also ver. 16). It is the shame of defeat, rather than the physical pains or material losses, that grieve the writer. And goest not forth with our armies. Israel has still "armies" at her disposal. It is therefore certainly not the early Maccabean period, nor the time of the expiring monarchy. Her armies have free play, are sent forth, only God does not "go forth" with them (comp. Psalm 60:10).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But thou hast cast off,.... This, with what follows to Psalm 44:17, describe the desolate and afflicted state of the church, under the Gospel dispensation, in some parts and ages of it; and in the light in which it was viewed by the church, previous to the encouragement she took from the consideration of favours and benefits formerly bestowed, and of her covenant interest in God, related in the preceding verses. She looked upon herself as cast off, because afflicted and persecuted, and the Lord did not arise to her immediate help and deliverance; this may regard the ten persecutions under Rome Pagan; See Gill on Psalm 43:2;
and put us to shame; before men, at the taking of the ark, as Arama; rather for their faith in God, and boasting of him, when he did not appear for them, but suffered them to continue in their afflictions and distresses; which occasioned their enemies to triumph over them, and say unto them, where is your God? and also before God, who being forsaken by him, could not come before him with that holy boldness and confidence they were wont to do; see Sol 2:14;
and goest not forth with our armies; as the Generalissimo of them; see 1 Samuel 8:20; not leading them forth, and going before them; not teaching their hands to war and their fingers to fight; nor inspiring them with courage and valour; nor giving success and victory to them as formerly; but seeing that Christians, at least in the first ages of Christianity, had no armies in a literal sense, this may rather be understood of the lack of success of the Gospel in some period of it, and of the power and prevalence of antichrist, the man of sin. The Gospel ministry is a warfare; the preachers of it are good soldiers of Christ under him; their weapons are not carnal, but spiritual; great success attended the word in the first times of the Gospel; Christ went forth with his armies conquering and to conquer; and multitudes were subdued by him, and became subjects of him; but in some ages there has been but little success, few have believed the report of the Gospel, and been converted by it; Christ's ministers have laboured in vain, Satan's kingdom, though attacked, yet not weakened, nor Christ's kingdom enlarged, but rather all the reverse; antichrist has been suffered, as to make war with the saints, so to prevail and overcome, and will do so, Revelation 13:4; but it will not be always the case, Christ will go forth with his armies, and make great conquests again, Revelation 11:15; this may refer to the wars of the Papists with the Waldenses and Albigenses, who were vanquished by the former.
The Treasury of David
9 But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies.
10 Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves.
11 Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and has scattered us among the heathen.
12 Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price.
13 Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us.
14 Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people.
15 My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me,
16 For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; by reason of the enemy and avenger.
"But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame." Here the patriot bard begins to contrast the past glories of the nation's history with its present sadness and distress; which he does not ascribe to the death of some human champion, or to the accidents of war, but solely and alone to the withdrawal of Israel's God. It seemed to the mourner that Jehovah had grown weary of his people and put them away in abhorrence, as men lay aside leprous garments, loathing the sight of them. To show his displeasures he had made his people to be ridiculed by the heathen, whose easy victories over their largest armies covered Israel with disgrace. Alas! for a church and people when the Lord in the active energy of his Spirit withdraws from them, they want no greater shame or sorrow. He will not cast away his people finally and totally, but many a church has been left to defeat and disgrace on account of sin, and therefore all churches should be exceedingly watchful lest the like should happen to themselves. Poverty and distress bring no shame on a people, but the Lord's absence takes from a church everything which can exalt and ennoble. "And goest not forth with our armies." If the Lord be not the leader, of what avail are strong battalions? Vain are the combined efforts of the most zealous workers if God's arm be not revealed. May none of us in our churches have to mourn over the ministry, the Sabbath school, the missionary work, the visiting, the street preaching, left to be carried out without the divine aid. If our great ally will not go with us our defeat is inevitable.
"Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy." The humiliating consciousness that the Lord has left them soon makes men cowards. Flight closes the fight of those who have not the Lord in the van. "And they which hate us spoil for themselves." After defeat and retreat, comes spoliation. The poor, vanquished nation paid a terrible penalty for being overcome; plunder and murder desolated the conquered land, and the invaders loaded themselves with every precious thing which they could carry away. In spiritual experience we know what it is to be despoiled by our enemies; doubts and fears rob us of our comforts, and terrible forebodings spoil us of our hopes; and all because the Lord, for wise purposes, sees fit to leave us to ourselves. Alas! for the deserted soul; no calamity can equal the sorrow of being left of God, though it be but for a small moment.
"Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat." As sheep are slaughtered for food, so were the people slain in flocks, with ease, and frequency. Not with the dignity of sacrifice, but with the cruelty of the shambles, were they put to death. God appeared to give them up like sheep allotted to the butcher, to abandon them as the hireling abandons the flock to wolves. The plaint is bitterly eloquent. "And hast scattered us among the heathen." Many were carried into captivity, far off from the public worship of the temple of God, to pine as exiles among idolaters. All this is ascribed to the Lord as being allowed by him, and even appointed by his decree. It is well to trace the hand of God in our sorrows, for it is surely there.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
9. But—contrasting, cast off as abhorrent (Ps 43:2).
goest not forth—literally, "will not go" (2Sa 5:23). In several consecutive verses the leading verb is future, and the following one past (in Hebrew), thus denoting the causes and effects. Thus (Ps 44:10-12), when defeated, spoiling follows; when delivered as sheep, dispersion follows, &c.
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