Psalm 143:2
And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
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(2) And enter not.—The Divine justice has just been invoked, and now the appellant suddenly seems to deprecate it. These verses really sum up the apparent paradox of the Book of Job, as also the expressions recall that Book. (See Job 4:17; Job 9:2; Job 9:32; Job 14:3, seq., Job 15:14; Job 22:4, &c) In one breath Job frequently pours forth pathetic protestations of his innocence, and dread lest God should take him at his word and arraign him for trial. Man, in his desire to have his character vindicated before man, appeals to the just Judge, but instantly falls back with a guilty sense that before that tribunal none can stand:

“For merit lives from man to man,

And not from man, O Lord, to Thee.

Shall . . . be justified.—This follows the LXX. Better, is just.

143:1-6 We have no righteousness of our own to plead, therefore must plead God's righteousness, and the word of promise which he has freely given us, and caused us to hope in. David, before he prays for the removal of his trouble, prays for the pardon of his sin, and depends upon mercy alone for it. He bemoans the weight upon his mind from outward troubles. But he looks back, and remembers God's former appearance for his afflicted people, and for him in particular. He looks round, and notices the works of God. The more we consider the power of God, the less we shall fear the face or force of man. He looks up with earnest desires towards God and his favour. This is the best course we can take, when our spirits are overwhelmed. The believer will not forget, that in his best actions he is a sinner. Meditation and prayer will recover us from distresses; and then the mourning soul strives to return to the Lord as the infant stretches out its hands to the indulgent mother, and thirsts for his consolations as the parched ground for refreshing rain.And enter not into judgment with thy servant - Do not deal with me on the ground of justice as toward "thee;" do not mark my own offences against thee, when I plead that justice may be done as between me and my fellow-men. While I plead that thou wouldst judge righteously between me and them, I am conscious that I could not claim thy needed interposition on the ground of any righteousness toward thee. There I must confess that I am a sinner; there I can rely only on mercy; there I could not hope to be justified.

For in thy sight - As before thee; in thy presence; by thee.

Shall no man living - No one of the race, no matter what his rank, his outward conduct, his gentleness, his amiableness, his kindness; no matter how just and upright he may be toward his fellow-men.

Be justified - Be regarded as righteous; be acquitted from blame; be held to be innocent. The meaning is, "I do not come before thee and plead for thy favor on the ground of any claim on thee, for I am conscious that I am a sinner, and that my only hope is in thy mercy." See the notes at Romans 3:20. Compare Job 4:17; Job 9:2, Job 9:20; Job 15:14-16; Job 25:4-6. This is a great and momentous truth in regard to man; it is the foundation of the necessity for a plan of salvation through an atonement - for some way in which man "may" properly be regarded and treated as righteous. Assuredly every man, conscious of what he is in himself, may and should fervently pray that God "would" not enter into judgment with him; that he would not mark his offences; that he would not judge him as strict justice would demand. Our hope is in the "mercy," not in the "justice" of God.

2. enter … judgment—deal not in strict justice.

shall no … justified—or, "is no man justified," or "innocent" (Job 14:3; Ro 3:20).

But when I appeal to thy righteousness, I do it only with respect to mine enemies, whose cause as well as their persons is worse than mine, but not in reference to thee, as if I could absolutely justify myself upon a severe trial at the tribunal of thy justice; for if thou shouldst rigorously examine all the passages of my heart and life, I dread the thoughts and consequences of it.

Be justified, to wit, upon terms of strict justice, without thy indulgence and infinite mercy.

And enter not into judgment with thy servant,.... The house of judgment, as the Targum, or court of judicature; God is a Judge, and there is and will be a judgment, universal, righteous, and eternal; and there is a day fixed for it, and a judgment seat before which all must stand, and a law according to which all must be judged; but the psalmist knew he was but a man, and could not contend with God; and a sinful creature, and could not answer him for one of a thousand faults committed by him; and though his servant, yet an unprofitable one; his nature, his heart, his thoughts, words, and actions, would not bear examining, nor stand the test of the holy law of God; nor was he able to answer the demands of divine justice in his own person; and therefore pleads for pardon and acceptance through Christ and his righteousness, and entreats that God would not proceed against him in a judicial way, now nor hereafter;

for in thy sight shall no man living be justified; in a legal sense, so as to be acquitted in open court, and not condemned; that is, by the deeds of the law, as the apostle explains it, Romans 3:20; by obedience to it, by a man's own works of righteousness; because these are imperfect, are opposed to the grace of God, and would disannul the death of Christ, and encourage boasting; and much less in the sight of God; for, however men may be justified hereby in their own sight, and before men, in their esteem and account, yet not before God, the omniscient God; who sees not as man sees, and judges not according to the outward appearance, and is perfectly holy and strictly just; and none but the righteousness of Christ can make men righteous, or justify them before him; and this can and does, and presents men unblamable and irreprovable in his sight.

And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy {c} sight shall no man living be justified.

(c) He know that his afflictions were God's messengers to call him to repentance for his sins, though toward his enemies he was innocent, and in God's sight all men are sinners.

2. enter not into judgment with thy servant] Do not put me on my trial and pass sentence on me according to my deserts. For the phrase cp. Job 9:32; Job 14:3; Isaiah 3:14.

Thy servant is not a mere formal expression of humility: it denotes ‘one who is devoted to Thy service,’ and this relation is the ground of his plea. Cp. Psalm 143:12.

be justified] Rather, be righteous. Cp. Psalm 130:3, and many passages in Job, where the truth of man’s unholiness in the sight of God is emphasised, e.g. Job 4:17; Job 9:2; Job 15:14; Job 25:4. St Paul quotes this passage freely in Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:16, substituting πᾶσα σὰρξ, ‘all flesh,’ for πᾶς ζῶν.

Verse 2. - And enter not into judgment with thy servant. The psalmist, having touched the point of abstract justice, shrinks from pressing it. He knows that he is not "righteous before God," and that his life and conduct "cannot endure the severity of God's judgment" (Art. XII.). He therefore "deprecates a strictly retributive treatment" (Cheyne). For in thy sight shall no man living be justified (comp. Psalm 130:3; and see also Job 4:17-19; Job 9:2; Job 15:14; Job 25:4). Psalm 143:2The poet pleads two motives for the answering of his prayer which are to be found in God Himself, viz., God's אמוּנה, truthfulness, with which He verifies the truth of His promises, that is to say, His faithfulness to His promises; and His צדקה, righteousness, not in a recompensative legal sense, but in an evangelical sense, in accordance with His counsel, i.e., the strictness and earnestness with which He maintains the order of salvation established by His holy love, both against the ungratefully disobedient and against those who insolently despise Him. Having entered into this order of salvation, and within the sphere of it serving Jahve as his God and Lord, the poet is the servant of Jahve. And because the conduct of the God of salvation, ruled by this order of salvation, or His "righteousness" according to its fundamental manifestation, consists in His justifying the sinful man who has no righteousness that he can show corresponding to the divine holiness, but penitently confesses this disorganized relationship, and, eager for salvation, longs for it to be set right again - because of all this, the poet prays that He would not also enter into judgment (בּוא בּמשׁפּט as in Job 9:32; Job 22:4; Job 14:3) with him, that He therefore would let mercy instead of justice have its course with him. For, apart from the fact that even the holiness of the good spirits does not coincide with God's absolute holiness, and that this defect must still be very far greater in the case of spirit-corporeal man, who has earthiness as the basis of his origin-yea, according to Psalm 51:7, man is conceived in sin, so that he is sinful from the point at which he begins to live onward - his life is indissolubly interwoven with sin, no living man possesses a righteousness that avails before God (Job 4:17; Job 9:2; Job 14:3., Job 15:14, and frequently).

(Note: Gerson observes on this point (vid., Thomasius, Dogmatik, iv. 251): I desire the righteousness of pity, which Thou bestowest in the present life, not the judgment of that righteousness which Thou wilt put into operation in the future life - the righteousness which justifies the repentant one.)

With כּי (Psalm 143:3) the poet introduces the ground of his petition for an answer, and more particularly for the forgiveness of his guilt. He is persecuted by deadly foes and is already nigh unto death, and that not without transgression of his own, so that consequently his deliverance depends upon the forgiveness of his sins, and will coincide with this. "The enemy persecuteth my soul" is a variation of language taken from Psalm 7:6 (חיּה for חיּים, as in Psalm 78:50, and frequently in the Book of Job, more particularly in the speeches of Elihu). Psalm 143:3 also recalls Psalm 7:6, but as to the words it sounds like Lamentations 3:6 (cf. Psalm 88:7). מתי עולם (lxx νεκροὺς αἰῶνος) are either those for ever dead (the Syriac), after שׁנת עולם in Jeremiah 51:39, cf. בּית עולמו in Ecclesiastes 12:5, or those dead time out of mind (Jerome), after עם עולם in Ezekiel 26:20. The genitive construction admits both senses; the former, however, is rendered more natural by the consideration that הושׁיבני glances back to the beginning that seems to have no end: the poet seems to himself like one who is buried alive for ever. In consequence of this hostility which aims at his destruction, the poet feels his spirit within him, and consequently his inmost life, veil itself (the expression is the same as Psalm 142:4; Psalm 77:4); and in his inward part his heart falls into a state of disturbance (ישׁתּומם, a Hithpo. peculiar to the later language), so that it almost ceases to beat. He calls to mind the former days, in which Jahve was manifestly with him; he reflects upon the great redemptive work of God, with all the deeds of might and mercy in which it has hitherto been unfolded; he meditates upon the doing (בּמעשׂה, Ben-Naphtali בּמעשׂה) of His hands, i.e., the hitherto so wondrously moulded history of himself and of his people. They are echoes out of Psalm 77:4-7, Psalm 77:12. The contrast which presents itself to the Psalmist in connection with this comparison of his present circumsntaces with the past opens his wounds still deeper, and makes his prayer for help all the more urgent. He stretches forth his hands to God that He may protect and assist him (vid., Hlemann, Bibelstudien, i. 150f.). Like parched land is his soul turned towards Him, - language in which we recognise a bending round of the primary passage Psalm 63:2. Instead of לך it would be לך, if סלה (Targum לעלמין) were not, as it always is, taken up and included in the sequence of the accents.

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