Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
A Psalm of Asaph
1 Truly God is good to Israel,
Even to such as are of a clean heart.
2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone;
My steps had well nigh slipped.
3 For I was envious at the foolish,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For there are no bands in their death:
But their strength is firm.
5 They are not in trouble as other men;
Neither are they plagued like other men.
6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain;
Violence covereth them as a garment.
7 Their eyes stand out with fatness:
They have more than heart could wish.
8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression:
They speak loftily.
9 They set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue walketh through the earth.
10 Therefore his people return hither:
And waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.
11 And they say, How doth God know?
And is there knowledge in the Most High?
12 Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.
13 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocency.
14 For all the day long have I been plagued,
And chastened every morning.
15 If I say, I will speak thus;
Behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.
16 When I thought to know this,
It was too painful for me;
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then understood I their end.
18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places:
Thou castedst them down into destruction.
19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
20 As a dream when one awaketh;
So, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.
21 Thus my heart was grieved,
And I was pricked in my reins.
22 So foolish was I, and ignorant:
I was as a beast before thee.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee:
Thou hast holden me by my right hand.
24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel.
And afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but thee?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.
26 My flesh and my heart faileth:
But God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish:
Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God:
I have put my trust in the Lord GOD,
That I may declare all thy works.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
CONTENTS AND COMPOSITION.—The firm acknowledgment that God is nothing but good to those who are truly His people (Psalm 73:1), was to the Psalmist the fruit of a victory gained by his faith over personal temptations (Psalm 73:2). These temptations had arisen from vexation at the temporal prosperity of the ungodly (Psalm 73:3–5), and at their presumptuous conduct (Psalm 73:6–9). Many were hereby influenced to attach themselves to that class of men, because they could not reconcile the prosperity of the wicked and the sufferings of the righteous with the doctrine of God’s providence (Psalm 73:10–14). The Psalmist escaped the danger of becoming recreant himself, and a seducer of others, which might have resulted from such doubts, not by means of his own reflections upon the difficult problem of the course of human affairs, but by the observance of the duties of religion, by which he was led to the contemplation of the final lot of the ungodly (Psalm 73:15–17). This afforded him a view of their sudden and complete destruction by the judgments of God (Psalm 73:18–20), and of the utter absurdity of his former indignation (Psalm 73:21, 22). Now he becomes strengthened by communion with God, who leads him in safety and to glory (Psalm 73:23, 24), who is his only true and lasting good (Psalm 73:25, 26), and shall remain his saving refuge and the object of his endless praise.
The same problems are discussed here which are presented in Pss. 37 and 49, and in the Book of Job; but the solution given here is the most profound. (Comp. Hupfeld in the Deutsche Zeitschrift für christl. Wissen und Leben, 1850, No. 235). [The relative position assigned to the Book of Job by Dr. Moll and most of the commentators upon this Psalm is hardly just. It must be remembered that that record of trial and doubt and victory constitutes the Book of Old Testament revelation which was to deal particularly with this special department of the mysteries of Providence. And it therefore presents the question in its inexhaustible variety of aspects, sounding the depths, not of transient doubts and perplexities, but of a crushing personal realization of the utmost consequences of a conflict waged by a righteous man against the unrestrained power and devices of Satan. Now the view of the Book which finds a relative inferiority in its solution, proceeds from considering the discourses, which occupy much the largest space, as being intended to express all its teachings. The chief place is necessarily given to the record of the struggle, and when the solution is given there results what Ps. 37 pictures, a fulness of outward prosperity. But it was not this for which Job chiefly longed. And when he received the vindication of his righteousness, even though accompanied by the rebuke for his presuming attempt to sit in judgment upon the ways of God, he could feel that in the favor of God was his life, as its withdrawal had seemed to him worse than death. The real distinction would seem to be not that the solution in this Psalm is the more profound, but that while in the Book of Job the expression of the feeling of confidence and triumph is kept out of view, it is here joyously given forth. This is the distinguishing excellence of this Psalm, for which it must ever retain its place in the heart of the doubting and comforted believer.—J. F. M.]
From these facts we cannot infer with certainty a composition at a late period, especially as the mode in which the subject is presented is throughout peculiar. It is also just as unsafe to infer from the recurrence in Ps. 74:3 of the rare word, meaning ruins, employed in Psalm 73:18, that these two Psalms were of contemporaneous origin. The same remark applies to the inference of a later origin drawn from the occurrence of Archaic and Aramaic word-forms. It bears much more heavily against such a conclusion that the ancient translators failed to understand many expressions throughout the Psalm, and in some instances gave such absurd interpretations that the correct exposition only begins with Kimchi. This would be inexplicable, if the Psalm were not composed before the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, 175 B. C. (Hitzig). There was, it is true, at that time a relapse of whole bodies of the Jewish nation to heathenism (1 Macc. 1:11 f.), on one occasion under the cooperation of a high-priest (2 Macc. 4:9 ff.). But leaving out of consideration all such apostasies as that which the prophet Hosea, among others, denounces and characterizes as whoredom [see Psalm 73:27], it is evident that Psalm 73:1 introduces a contrast, not between Israel and heathen nations, but between two classes in Israel itself. [Alexander: “There is not the slightest ground for doubting the correctness of the title, which ascribes the composition of the Psalm to Asaph, the cotemporary of David and his chief musician, and himself, moreover, an inspired Psalmist. This last fact, which is a matter of recorded history, together with the fact that when only one name is mentioned in the title of a Psalm, it is uniformly that of the writer, may suffice to set aside the supposition that Asaph is only named as the performer.”—J. F. M.]. On Asaph see the Introd. § 2. Paul Gerhard’s hymn: Sei Wohlgemuth, O Christenseel, is an imitation of this Psalm.
Psalm 73:1. Only good is God [E. V.: Truly God is good, etc.].—The rendering: kind (De W.) is too restricted for טוֹב, even if modified into a substantive: kindness (Hitzig), although this is more suitable than the notion expressed by the simple adjective (Sept., Calvin). The explanation: the true happiness and good (Stier), is in so far correct as it raises the conception above its usual restriction to the sphere of the purely ethical, which is also admirably accomplished in Luther’s freer translation: nevertheless Israel has God as his consolation. It introduces, however, into the neuter a definiteness which is too concrete. The essential thought is not affected if אַךְ is taken adversatively=yet, nevertheless (most of the ancient translators and Tholuck); or affirmatively=yea, surely (Köster, De Wette, Hupfeld, Delitzsch); or restrictively=only, nothing but (most of the modern expositors). But the application of the “only” to Israel (Aben Ezra) is wrong. [An allegation has been based by many upon such passages as Ps. 73:1 and Hab. 1:13 (where see Delitzsch) that the Old Testament writers were in the habit of describing Israel, as a nation, as righteous, and the heathen as sinners. For the disproof of this charge see in the Appendix to Hengstenberg’s Coram, on the Psalms, the treatise on the Doctrine of Sin, as appearing in the Psalms.—J.F.M.]
Psalm 73:4. We read, with Ewald and all the recent expositors except Stier, Hengstenberg and Hupfeld, לָמוּ תָּם, and therefore attach the former word to the first part of the verse, and the latter to the second. For this slight change of לְמוֹתָם affords a sense which is suitable throughout; while the received reading would mean: they have no torments in dying (Sept., Kimchi), which does not agree with Psalm 73:18 f. Again, difficulties that can scarcely be set aside are involved in any of the following translations: they have no torments with regard to death, that is, no fear of death (Targum, Symmachus, the older Rabbins); or: they have no sufferings causing death, diseases, and the like infirmities (Kimchi, Calvin, Hengstenberg); or: they have no torments until their death (Isaaki, Stier, Hupfeld).—The explanation “paunch” for the word אוּל, has come through the medium of the Arabic. The word is also taken by some (Kimchi, Calvin, Hengst., Hupfeld) in its usual signification, “power, strength.” By the older translators (Symmachus, Isaaki) it is confounded with אוּלָם, to which is to be traced the erroneous translation: strong as a palace (Luther). [The author’s translation would be: For they have no torments: their paunch (body) is vigorous and well-fed (stout).—J. F. M.]
Psalm 73:6. It is not abundant fulness (Geier, J. H. Michaelis, Hengst.) that is described; still less is it the daily habit of life (Kimchi), but an ostentatious and vain-glorious exhibition. [The opinion of Hengstenberg has been here misstated. He agrees very nearly with Dr. Moll himself. He says: “The reason which led the Psalmist to speak of pride as a neck ornament of the wicked, for the purpose of expressing the thought that they are wholly beset with it, was in all probability the fact that it was their manner of carrying their neck that chiefly exhibited their pride.” He refers to Ps. 3:16; Job 15:26.—J. F. M.]
Psalm 73:7. Many since Schnurrer read עֲונֵמו instead of עֵינֵמוֹ, basing this upon the Septuagint, the Syriac Version, and Zech. 5:6; Hos. 10:10. The meaning then would be: their pride comes forth or proceeds from their fat. Their fat then represents either: their affluence (Schnurrer, Doederlein), or better, as in Ps. 17:10: their gross, insensible heart, their soul smeared, as it were, with grease (Hitzig, Böttcher, Olshausen, Hupfeld, Delitzsch). Comp. Matt. 15:18 f. The following half of the verse does not mean that they are transgressors, i.e. impious in their thoughts (Geier and others). Nor does it mean that their success surpasses all their expectations (Isaaki, Kimchi, Calvin), or exceeds all human precedent (Rabbins cited in Calvin). But the meaning is, that the imaginations of their hearts, the illusions of their unbounded self-esteem (Delitzsch), have revealed themselves. Yet it does not imply that this is done through the medium of the eyes (Clericus), or the mouth, in allusion to the succeeding verse (Delitzsch), but without any more precise indication and without any restriction, by passing from inward feeling to outward expression. [The explanation of the clause here given seems the mo9t natural. Alexander prefers this, as also do Perowne and Wordsworth. Fausset prefers the translation: they pass over (exceed) the imaginations of their hearts, thus agreeing with E. V.—J. F. M.]
[The first clause of Psalm 73:8 is rendered in the English Version: they are corrupt. This rendering of יָמִיקוּ occurs in all the ancient versions except those of Symmachus (καταμωκώμενοι) and Jerome (irriserunt), which are undoubtedly correct, and with which most of the modern translators agree.
The old rendering has assumed a verb, cognate with מָקַק, and taken intransitively: to melt, run down, be corrupt. Geier, however, gives it the causative sense, to cause to melt, i.e., others by their oppression. Fausset adduces in favor of this the occurrence of “oppression” in the next clause, and thinks that there may be a parallelism. But in the first place, if a parallelism is desired it is afforded in the “speaking,” which in fact is the subject of the whole verse. Then, as to the true meaning of the word, the cognate languages seem to settle the question, as the corresponding words in Arabic, Syriac, and Chaldee (in the two latter, with a causative form like the Hebrew) have the meaning: to deride, to mock. The true rendering then seems to be: they will scoff.—J. F. M.]
Psalm 73:9. The subject of this verse is probably not blasphemies against heaven, i.e., against God (Targum, Isaaki, Geier, Delitzsch, who refers to Jude 16) and evil speaking on earth and through the country (Aben Ezra, Geier, J. H. Michaelis). Rather the description of their speaking down from on high (Psalm 73:8), as though they had ascended into heaven (Is. 14:13), which is manifested in arrogant self-assumption, is here continued. The tongue thus appears as the unruly evil, meddling with everything, Jas. 3:8, (Luther, Calvin).
Psalm 73:10. “therefore” refers to these two causes, the prosperity and the conduct of the wicked, whose example draws over to their party those who may be called in more senses than one, “His people,” and causes them to apostatize from God. The received reading יָשִׁיב would give the rendering: he causes to turn, and יָשׁוּב (Jerome, the Rabbins, and almost all the expositors) would mean: he turns. So עַמּוֹ (all the Codices) would mean: His people, and עַמִּי (Sept., J. D. Michaelis, Dathe): My people. But these variations affect the sense but slightly, and are to be explained partly from the natural confounding of ו and י, and partly from the attempt to avoid, or to explain as intermediary, the unexpected introduction and immediate disappearance of a singular subject instead of the usual plural. To refer the suffix to God (Calvin, Rosenmueller, Stier, Maurer) is not justified by the context. Still this attempt at an explanation may suggest to us that the rendering: (his, or): their rabble (Luther and others) is too restricted and does not agree with Psalm 73:13, and that it is rather the faithless Israelites who are spoken of; that, therefore, both parties, the seducers and the seduced, the wicked and their hangers-on (Ps. 10:4; 14:1; 36:2, 49:14; Is. 46:12) had constituted one and the same people, before they had banded together to form this multitude.
The meaning of the second clause of the verse, however, does not mean that they run to them in large numbers, comparing them to the running of water (Luther) or that they are absorbed by them in large numbers (Sachs). Nor must we translate: full water (i.e., an overflow, as a figure of sensual prosperity) is found for them (the ancient translators, Geier, and others). For יִמָּצוּ does not come from מָצָא to find, but from מָצָה to drain, Ps. 75:9; Is. 51:19Ezek. 23:34. But it does not refer to a cup of tears or a cup of sorrow, Ps. 80:6 (Kimchi), which has made the pious unfaithful, but to the eagerness with which they either grasp at success and its enjoyments (Hengst., Hupfeld), or catch at the maxims of the ungodly, (Job 15:16) thoughts and words of discontent (Ewald, Delitzsch, Hltzig). [The translation of the author, therefore, is: Therefore his people turn hither, and water in abundance is drained by them. With this Perowne substantially agrees. Alexander prefers to retain the causative reading, and takes the cup to mean draughts of bitterness. He renders: Therefore he brings back his people hither, and waters of fulness are wrung out to (or drained by) them. This he explains thus: God still suffers or requires His people to survey the painful spectacle, and drain the bitter draught presented by the undisturbed prosperity of the wicked. But in all the explanations based on the causative reading the words must be strained in order to get a natural and appropriate sense.—J. F. M.]
Psalm 73:11–14. The question in Psalm 73:11 is ironical, and includes its own denial, Job 22:13. They first deny God’s actual knowledge, and then His attribute of omniscience (Delitzsch). In the bitter: behold! (Stier) they draw attention to the apparently manifest proofs of the truth of the denial. We are not, however, especially since the article is absent, to translate: behold! they are the ungodly (Luther) This would rather suit the supposition that in Psalm 73:12 the poet’s reflections begin. אֵלֶּה is then to be taken as equivalent to tales (Geier) as in Job 18:21. Comp. 8:19; Is. 56:11; and to be understood as describing either their moral character (Hupfeld) or their condition before presented (Hengstenberg). Many arguments may be adduced in support of this assumption, but none convincing. It is doubtful whether in Psalm 73:12b the security refers to the pleasant (Hupfeld) and undisturbed (Hitzig) situation of the man who apparently is always prosperous (the versions and the Rabbins), or to his sense of it as being free from care (Ewald, Delitzsch).—With Psalm 73:13 compare Prov. 20:9; 26:6; with Psalm 73:14, Job 7:18.
[The correct interpretation and mutual relations of Psalm 73:12, 13, 14, have been the subject of various conflicting opinions. There appears to be no necessity for assuming that they are utterances of some third party, a suffering righteous man. This view seems to have been suggested by the difficulties presented by the apparently forced connection of the section with the verses preceding and following. Either of the other and more common solutions would meet the difficulties better. The view which regards these verses as the former words of the Psalmist himself, is maintained by Hengstenberg, Hupfeld, and most of the English commentators. This opinion seems to have in its favor Psalm 73:15, “if I said: I should speak thus, etc.” and the exclamation in Psalm 73:12, which would naturally introduce such a discourse. But the best interpretation, in my view, is that to which Dr. Moll gives his sanction, as also do Ewald and Delitzsch, and to which Perowne inclines. It puts these words into the mouth of one who had apostatized, selected as a representative of those who speak in Psalm 73:11. The words employed in Psalm 73:15, where the Psalmist’s reflections accordingly begin, are thus best accounted for. He would naturally contrast his position not with that of the avowed and veteran sinners, but with those who had experienced temptations like his, and had succumbed to them. As he listens to their words in which they point to the growing prosperity of the “wicked,” and recall their own profitless innocence in former days, which gained for them nothing but wounds and stripes, he seas the results of the very temptation that had entered deeply into his own soul. But what if he were to speak thus!
The following translation of Psalm 73:10–15 will thus form a consistent whole:
Therefore His people turn hither.
And waters of abundance are drunk deep by them.
And they say: How has God known it?
And is there knowledge in the Most High?
See! these are the “wicked !”
And, at their ease forever, they have increased their wealth.
(One of them speaks).
Only in vain did I purify my heart.
And wash my hands in innocence.
And I was being smitten every day.
And my chastisement (came) every morning
If I had said: I will utter such words,
Behold! I would have trangressed against the family of thy children—J. F. M.]
The transition to the first person is to be explained by the fact that individual feelings and personal experiences are now to be presented. To place these words in the mouth of the Psalmist would not agree with our explanation of Psalm 73:15. If we were, however, to consider them as his earlier utterances, and translate Psalm 73:15: If I said, “I will count up, how often, behold! I betrayed the family of thy children,” the Psalmist would then admit the commission of deeds which go far beyond what he had confessed in Psalm 73:2. He rather declares what would happen if he were to make the language of those who had been misled his own. כְּמוֹ elsewhere usually equivalent to “as,” is here taken most simply as our adverb “so,” (most of the versions and translators, comp. Gesenius, Thesaurus). And we are not obliged to change the reading into כֵן (Dathe); or in order to obtain the sense: sicut illi (Syriac version, Targum), to assume that הֶם (Böttcher) or אֵלֶּה (Olshausen) has possibly fallen out, and supply it (Aben Ezra, Isaaki); or to point כָּמוֹ (Geier, Rosenmueller); or disregarding the accents to annex the הנה which follows and read כְּמוֹ הֵנָּה, sicut illa, severba (Saadias, de Dieu, Döderlein, Ewald).
The generation of thy children (Psalm 73:15) is here the whole body of those in whom the relation of sonship, which God has constituted between Himself and Israel, had been spiritually realized,—the true family (Ps. 14:5) the Israel of God (Psalm 73:1) the name of a distinct class, as in Deut. 14:1; Hos. 2:1 (Delitzsch).
Psalm 73:17. The sacred things of God are not God’s righteous plans and leadings, nor the secrets of His government of the world (Gesenius, De Wette, Olshausen, Maurer, Ewald, Hitzig); nor God’s righteous deeds, Ps. 77:14, but the holy places, where He dwells and makes Himself known, Ps. 68:36. But these are not heaven, as the end and reward of earthly tribulation (Kimchi, Böttcher) but the Temple. It is not, however, viewed as the place of the oracle (Calvin), or as the place where illumination and instruction are received through the medium of God’s Word, (Luther), by means of the teaching of priests and prophets (Aben Ezra), or by means of its typical regulations and service, (Stier, following the older expositors), or as a place of devotion (Delitzsch) where the heart enters into the presence of God (Hengst.) It. is probably viewed as the seat of the Judge and Ruler of the world (Ps. 3:5; 11; 14:7; 20:3,7, etc.), consequently as the central point (penetralia) of God’s government (Hupfeld); from which that government can be best surveyed, and where the only authentic information concerning its problems is to be obtained. It has been supposed that by marking their “end,” the Poet expresses his intention to keep looking for the eventual temporal ruin of the ungodly, and that, this will in the meantime be his consolation until he shall penetrate into the Divine mysteries, while he will, for the present, continue his severe mental toil. So Köster, Olshausen, and Baur (on De Wette). But this does not agree with Psalm 73:4 and 12 f. He is speaking of a spiritual attentive contemplation of God’s judgment (Calvin) in connection with his entering into His holy place. Through this, light has already fallen upon the problem, which is insoluble by the unaided labor of human thought.
Psalm 73:18. The construction of שִׁית with ל means really: Thou gavest them their position on slippery places, without needing to supply an accusative (J. H. Michaelis, Hengstenberg). [Hengstenberg hardly says that an accusative is to be supplied. He says “the object is to be taken from the verb.” As I understand him, he means precisely the same as Moll, that is, that שׁית means: to appoint a position, so that the object is included in the verb.—J. F. M.] To understand the slippery places of the blessings (Rabb.) which have ruined them, is certainly too restricted and special. Yet the mere allusion to the perils which God has placed in their path (Hupfeld) allows the reference to the special circumstances of those who have been ruined by prosperity and success in every pursuit, to fall unduly into the back-ground. This would be avoided if we could translate with Hitzig: Thou, by artifice, only settest snares for them. Instead of “to ruins,” we can translate according to another derivation: into illusions (Döderlein, Rosenmueller, Ewald), or: by surprise, (Hitzig).
Psalm 73:20. The parallelism shows that בָּעיר does not mean: in the city, that is, openly, on the scene where his deeds were committed (Hengst., with most of the ancient translators and expositors), but that it is equivalent to בְּהָעִיר (Kimchi, Calvin and the modern expositors), that is, in the waking, not that of the dead, whose shade is terrified away (Böttcher); but that of God when He arises to judgment, Ps. 78:65.
Verse 22. בְּהֵמוֹת is not to be taken as a plural of majesty, but as the name of the Nilehorse (Job 40:15), Egyptian p-ehe-mou equivalent to water-ox. [The Egyptian compound here cited was probably assimilated to an existing Hebrew word on its introduction into the latter language, as was the usual custom. Now, why was not the singular בְּהֵמַה used, which bears a closer resemblance to the Egyptian? Probably because there was a descriptive word already in use, “a beast of beasts,” Behemoth, and this just suited the hippopotamus, on account of its great size and strength. But these are not to us, nor were they to the Hebrews, the most prominent characteristic of the “beast” nature (witness בער), and a large development of other striking qualities, would entitle to the same distinction. It would surely be much more natural for the Psalmist, in view of his folly and degradation, to say that he was “a very beast” before God, than to say that he was a “Behemoth.” On the ideas which lie at the basis of the pluralis majestatis see Green, Heb. Gr., § 201, 2, and Hengstenberg’s Beiträge, II. 257 ff.—J. F. M.]
Psalm 73:24. Afterwards Into glory.—אחר is not here, as in Zech. 2:12, a preposition, but an adverb, as in Judges 19:5; Hos. 3:5. כָּבוֹד denotes here not the soul (Hasse), as in Ps. 16:9, according to poetical usage. And it is scarcely an adjective: glorious (see Hoffman). It would be better to take it in an adverbial and general sense: with honor (Luther, Delitzsch). But it is best to consider it as the accusative of the end striven after (Hupfeld), namely, the glory of God (Ps. 8:6), into which the Psalmist hopes to be taken up, Gen. 5:24; Ps. 49:16. This thought is weakened by the translation: Thou wilt lead me, or, bear me along, to the goal of honor (Ewald, Hitzig). It is quite misrepresented by the rendering: Thou bearest me after honor, that is, in its train (Hengst.). The rendering: at last Thou like glory wilt receive me (Klostermann), is artificial. It is, to be sure, only since Grotius, that we find in some expositors the limitation of these words to the earthly life. Yet the germ (Wurzel) of the belief in unending personal communion with God is here not so fully developed as most suppose it to be.
Psalm 73:26 is by Hitzig understood to express the ardent longing (Ps. 84:3; Job 19:27) after God (Ps. 42:2—The Vulgate, after the Septuagint, has at the end the addition: In the gates of the daughter of Zion.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The confession that God stands towards His covenant people, that is, towards its true members, in the relation of the One who is exclusively good, is, the fruit of a true and living faith in Him, ripened in the heat of temptation. For when the temporal prosperity of so many is seen to be disproportioned to their moral conduct, there is not only excited in the mind of the observer disquietude, vexation and anger, but a complete clashing of the feelings is also the result. On the one hand there is suggested a contradiction between such facts observed and the promises of God, Deut. 28.; and on the other hand, the opposition makes itself felt, between the requirements of God and the corresponding sinful inclinations arising from the consideration of such facts.
2. With the growing prosperity of the wicked not only do their carnal security and their presumption increase with it, but their impiety reaches such a height that they act as though they themselves were God. And the pious man, when he sees them as if exempted from the usual lot of mortals (Job 14:1 ff.), easily falls, through his anger at such a condition of things, into a false heat, in which envy as well as impatience is aroused. It becomes difficult for him to remain unshaken in his belief in the Divine government, and hold fast to the truth impressed upon him from his youth. He begins to doubt and thus begins to waver. Yet before he falls he is saved by resorting to God’s holy place. This separates him from the faithless herd who have lent their ear to seduction, and strengthens him while he holds communion with God, which raises his view above the world and all that it exhibits, and sets him at rest as to those problems of the course of its affairs, which his unaided reflection could not avail to solve.
3. Viewed in relation to the end, the prosperity of the ungodly is clearly shown to be only an appearance, and the fabric of a vision, vanishing before, the terrible reality, when God arises to judgment. It is made manifest also that it is absurd and unreasonable in the highest degree, for us to allow ourselves to be irritated and deceived by such a show of prosperity. We thus learn, too, that everything depends upon our recognizing God as our true and everlasting good, upon our seeking, holding fast to, and proclaiming Him as such. For he whose life is bound up in the Person of the Eternal can never perish, but must only rise from one height to another until he becomes a partaker of the glory of God.
[HENGSTENBERG: The recompense on this side the grave should, according to the design of God, remain as an object of faith. Here also God conceals Himself, in order that He may be found by those who seek Him. That this is so seldom done, even by the well-disposed, that even they are so much inclined to look upon the righteousness of God as inoperative in this life, is a melancholy proof of the degeneracy of the Church and of the lamentable prevalence of infidelity.—J.F. M.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The apparent prosperity of the ungodly and the real good of the pious.—The most difficult enigma which life presents: 1. Wherein it consists; 2. Why it is so difficult; 3. How it is solved.—True piety is not a matter of enjoyment of temporal prosperity, but of the acquisition of the eternal good.—That we may win our way victoriously through the trials of our faith, through the sorrows of life and through the allurements of the world, we have need to resort assiduously and devoutly to God’s holy place.—God’s dealings with us correspond to His promises, but we must know how to wait for them, and for this we have need of patience and faith.—If we would not fall into folly and sin in our contemplation of the course of human affairs, we must attach importance not to temporal prosperity but to eternal good, not to the progress of earthly life but to its end, not to the judgments of men but to the decision of God.—Even the pious man may totter and slide, but he is secure against falling as long as he holds fast to God’s house, to His hand and to His salvation.—Prosperity and adversity have opposite effects upon the pious and the ungodly.—Doubt of God’s Providence, in its folly and in its peril.—The power and the impotence of the ungodly.—The confessions of the pious over their temptations, doubts and trials.—The wicked as a people contrasted with the children of God as a family.—Earthly prosperity is no more an infallible sign of God’s favor than temporal suffering is a proof of the Divine wrath.—God’s nearness the hope, help and safety of the righteous.—The temporal and eternal reward.—We must not only trust in God’s government, we must yield ourselves also to His guidance; then we will ever have occasion to praise Him.
AUGUSTINE: The reward which God bestows is Himself. O blessedness! O unspeakable bliss! God is my portion. And how long? Forever.—STARKE: He who has God, has the highest wisdom, everlasting consolation, the true rest and the most blessed delight and joy of the heart.—Murmuring, which corrupts the heart, must be banished from it, else we can have no consolation in God.—In our contemplation of the wonderful ways of God, He calls out to us: blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.—Affliction often passes by the palaces of the rich, because they are not worthy of so great a blessing; instead of improving it, they would misuse it; whereas it visits the poor and becomes their salvation.—When a man allows himself to become haughty and insolent by his prosperity, then there results from so great a blessing a real misfortune.—The most sinful things are commonly the first to receive applause among men; what wonder is it then, if men seek to excuse them, yea, even to make them pass for virtues?—How rarely can men accommodate themselves to great blessings! How often they become a spring whence issues a whole flood of crimes against God, their neighbors and themselves!—The powerful, who are withal ungodly, often fancy that the world was made for them alone. So long as they themselves are in abundance therein, they care not though others starve and die.—Wealthy transgressors have applause and a great following in the world, and serve often to lead men astray.—He who denies the Omniscience and Providence of God has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.—The conclusion: God takes no care for him who has much affliction in the world! Entirely false; for all who would live godly must suffer persecution.—He who begins to talk like the world, will soon become accustomed to act like the world.—He who wishes to be better off than the upright and pious are, finds fault with the order of things instituted by God and loses the benefits of Christ’s kingdom of suffering.—Worldly prosperity is slippery ice, on which one easily falls.—If men do not learn from God’s word to consider the end of the ungodly, it is not to be wondered at that they themselves bring grievous torments into their own hearts.—A much smaller number of mankind would be brought to lament their folly, and ignorance of it, and their madness, along with their disbelief in it, if God were not able and willing to show compassion.—The child of God does not know the righteous though concealed design of God in all and each of His dispensations; yet he does know in the general His blessed counsel, and is fully assured of His Fatherly purpose to bring everything to a happy issue.—Everything must be injurious and offensive to us, unless we have God also.—To cling to God gives everlasting peace; to cleave to the world brings endless sorrow: therefore choose the former.
OSIANDER: The old Adam murmurs sometimes against God’s work and plan; but we must still it by assiduous meditation upon God’s word.—MENZEL: Good fortune imparts confidence, but it also produces presumption.—RENSCHEL: The children of God have also flesh and blood, and the flesh and the spirit contend against each other; but he who clings fast to God has the victory in the Spirit.—FRISCH: It fares not with men according to human ideas, but according to the word of God.—ARNDT: God allows the ungodly to go free like the wild beast; but the hunter will pursue them some time.—GUENTHER: The worldly prosperity of the wicked is only dangerous ground with pits and falls.—THOLUCK: We all confess it to be the most indubitable article of our faith that God governs the world, but how different would our assurance of this be in time, of trouble if we believed it implicitly—When our faith becomes sight then all the dreams of the ungodly are found to be empty bubbles.—RICHTER (Hausbibel): By reflecting upon the glorious deeds, ways and purposes of God, the faithful find consolation and enlightenment in all trials and perplexities.—VAIHINGER: He who envies the prosperity of the ungodly, has not yet gained a clear view of God.—UMBREIT: Distance from God and nearness to Him determine the woe or the weal of men, their ruin or their final triumph.—SCHAUBACH (1 Sunday after Trinity): We know from God’s word, that the world passes away and the first thereof: therefore let not the lust of the world allure us. —DIEDRICH: We owe it to the teaching of God Himself if we can trust His providence. This faith is the fruit of all learning and conflict in God’s kingdom.—TAUBE: The victory of faith, which struggles through severe doubts with regard to God’s government of the world, to a blessed and simple trust in God.—NITZSCH: The deepest-laid foundation of Christian contentment: 1. Wherein it consists; 2. How it is laid deeper and deeper in us; 3. By what kind of behaviour we testify our possession of it.
[MATTH. HENRY: Job, when he was entering into temptation, fixed for his principle the omniscience of God, 24:1.—Jeremiah’s principle is the justice of God, 12:1.—HABAKKUK’S principle is the holiness of God, 1:15.—The Psalmist’s here is the goodness of God; these are truths which cannot be shaken, and which we must resolve to live and die by. Though we may not be able to reconcile all the disposals of Providence with them, we must believe that they are reconcilable. Good thoughts of God will justify us against many of Satan’s temptations.—Many a precious soul that will live forever had once a very narrow turn for its life, almost, and well-nigh ruined, but a step between it and fatal apostasy, and yet snatched as a brand from the burning, that shall forever magnify the riches of Divine grace, in the nations of those that are saved.—If we make God’s glory in us the end we aim at, He will make our glory with Him the end we shall be forever happy in.—BP. HORNE: Lord Jesus, who hast so graciously promised to be our portion in the next world, prevent us from choosing any other in this.—SCOTT: We do not gain a complete victory over the enemy unless his buffetings prove the occasion of our deeper humiliation before God.—BARNES: I am continually with thee. Well may we marvel when we reflect in our thoughts about God, that He has not risen against us in His anger, and banished us from His presence forever.—J. F. M.]
A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.