Psalm 44:17
All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Psalm 44:17-18. All this is come upon us — All the evils before mentioned, and certainly we have deserved them all; yet have we not forgotten thee — Although we cannot excuse ourselves from many other sins, for which thou hast justly punished us, yet, through thy grace, we have kept ourselves from apostacy and idolatry, notwithstanding all examples and provocations. Our heart is not turned back — Namely, from thee, or thy worship and service, unto idols, as it follows, Psalm 44:20. But we still adhere to thy religion, although both it and we be thus vilified and persecuted.

44:17-26 In afflictions, we must not seek relief by any sinful compliance; but should continually meditate on the truth, purity, and knowledge of our heart-searching God. Hearts sins and secret sins are known to God, and must be reckoned for. He knows the secret of the heart, therefore judges of the words and actions. While our troubles do not drive us from our duty to God, we should not suffer them to drive us from our comfort in God. Let us take care that prosperity and ease do not render us careless and lukewarm. The church of God cannot be prevailed on by persecution to forget God; the believer's heart does not turn back from God. The Spirit of prophecy had reference to those who suffered unto death, for the testimony of Christ. Observe the pleas used, ver. 25,26. Not their own merit and righteousness, but the poor sinner's pleas. None that belong to Christ shall be cast off, but every one of them shall be saved, and that for ever. The mercy of God, purchased, promised, and constantly flowing forth, and offered to believers, does away every doubt arising from our sins; while we pray in faith, Redeem us for thy mercies' sake.All this is come upon us - All these calamities. The connecting thought here is, that although all these things had come upon them, yet they could not be traced to their own infidelity or unfaithfulness to God. There was nothing in the national character, there were no circumstances at that time existing, there was no special unfaithfulness among the people, there was no such general forgetfulness of God, and no such general prevalence of idolatry as would account for what had occurred, or as would explain it. The nation was not then more deeply depraved than it had been at other times; but, on the contrary, there was among the people a prevalent regard for God and for his service. It was, therefore, a mystery to the author of the psalm, that these calamities had been suffered to come upon them at that time; it was an event the cause of which he desired to search out, Psalm 44:21.

Yet have we not forgotten thee - As a nation. That is, there was nothing special in the circumstances of the nation at that time which would call down the divine displeasure. We cannot suppose that the psalmist means to claim for the nation entire perfection, but only to affirm that the nation at that time was not characterized by any special forgetfulness of God, or prevalence of wickedness. All that is here said was true at the time when, as I have supposed, the psalm was written - the closing part of the reign of Josiah, or the period immeditely following.

Neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant - We have not been unfaithful to thy covenant; to the covenant which thou didst make with our fathers; to the commandments which thou hast given us. This can only mean that there was no such prevailing departure from the principles of that covenant as could account for this. The psalmist could not connect the existing state of things - the awful and unique discomfitures and calamities which had come upon the nation - with anything special in the character of the people, or in the religious condition of the nation.

17-19. They had not apostatized totally—were still God's people.17 All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant.

18 Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way;

19 Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.

20 If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god;

21 Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.

22 Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.

Psalm 44:17

"All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee." Here the Psalmist urges that Israel had not turned away from her allegiance to Jehovah. When in the midst of many griefs we can still cling to God in loving obedience, it must be well with us. True fidelity can endure rough usage. Those who follow God for what they get, will leave him when persecution is stirred up, but not so the sincere believer; he will not forget his God, even though the worst come to the worst. "Neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant." No idol was set up, the ordained worship was not relinquished, God was still nationally acknowledged, and therefore the Psalmist is more earnest that the Lord should interpose. This and the succeeding verses are suitable for the lips of martyrs, indeed the entire Psalm might be called the martyr's complaint. Not for sin but for righteousness did the saints suffer, not for falsehood but for truth, not for forsaking the Lord but for following hard after him. Sufferings of such a sort may be very terrible, but they are exceedingly honourable, and the comforts of the Lord shall sustain those who are accounted worthy to suffer for Christ's sake.

Psalm 44:18

"Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way." Heart and life were agreed, and both were true to the Lord's way. Neither within nor without had the godly sufferers offended; they were not absolutely perfect, but they were sincerely free from all wilful transgression. It was a healthy sign for the nation that her prophet-poet could testify to her uprightness before God, both in heart and act; far oftener the case would have worn quite another colour, for the tribes were all too apt to set up other gods and forsake the rock of their salvation.

Psalm 44:19

"Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons." Though utterly crushed and rendered desolate and driven as it were to associate with creatures such as jackals, owls, serpents, which haunt deserted ruins, yet Israel remained faithful. To be true to a smiting God, even when the blows lay our joys in ruinous heaps, is to be such as the Lord delighteth in. Better to be broken by God than from God. Better to be in the place of dragons than of deceivers. "And covered us with the shadow of death." The language is very strong. The nation is described as completely enveloped in the dense darkness of despair and death, covered up as though coffined in hopelessness. Yet the claim is made that they still remained mindful of their God, and a glorious plea it is. Better death than false of faith. Those who are true to God shall never find him false to them.

Psalm 44:20

An appeal is now made to the omniscience of God; he is himself called in to bear witness that Israel had not set up another god. "If we have forgotten the name of our God." This would be the first step in apostasy; men first forget the true, and then adore the false. "Or stretched out our hands to a strange god." Stretching out the hands was the symbol of adoration or of entreaty in prayer; this they had not offered to any of the idols of the heathen.

continued...

Although we cannot excuse ourselves from many other sins for which thou hast justly punished us, yet this we must say for ourselves, that through thy grace we have kept ourselves from apostacy and idolatry, notwithstanding all the examples and provocations, rewards proposed and promised, or punishments threatened to induce us thereunto; which we hope thou wilt graciously consider, and not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able to bear.

All this is come upon us,.... Not by chance, but according to the purpose and counsel of God; not for sin, and as a punishment of it, but for Christ's sake and his Gospel; for a profession of faith in him, and for the trial of it;

yet have we not forgotten thee; not the being and perfections of God, on which they often meditated, especially as displayed in the affair of salvation by Jesus Christ; nor the works of God, which were remembered to encourage faith and hope in their present circumstances, Psalm 44:1; nor the benefits and favours bestowed upon them by him; nor his word, worship, and ordinances; their reproach, afflictions, and persecutions, did not move them from the hope of the Gospel, and the service of God;

neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant; by disbelieving their interest in God as their covenant God; by disregarding or not coming to and making use of Christ the Mediator of it; and by calling in question their interest in the blessings and promises of the covenant; for nothing can be more called dealing falsely in or with respect to the covenant of grace than unbelief about it; which remains firm and sure notwithstanding all the afflictions that may come on such who are interested in it: moreover, as this may respect the formal exhibition of the covenant under the Gospel dispensation, by the ministry of the word, and the administration of ordinances, the sense may be, that though the church and her members met with so much reproach and persecution from men, yet did not drop nor deny any of the truths of the Gospel, nor corrupt the ordinances of Christ, nor neglect an attendance on them; but were virgins, pure and incorrupt in doctrine and practice, and followed the Lamb whithersoever he went.

All this is come upon us; yet have we not {o} forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant.

(o) They boast not of their virtues, but declare that they rest on God in the midst of their affliction: who did not punished their sins now, but by hard afflictions called them to the consideration of the heavenly joys.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. All this &c.] Cp. Jdg 6:13.

yet have we not &c.] Although we have not forgotten Thee, as our fathers did so often. Cp. Psalm 78:7; Psalm 78:11; Psalm 106:13; Psalm 106:21; Jdg 3:7; Hosea 2:13; Hosea 4:6; Hosea 8:14; Hosea 13:6; Jeremiah 2:32.

neither &c.] Neither have we been false to thy covenant. Cp. Psalm 89:33; “Neither will I be false to my faithfulness.” God’s covenant with Abraham to be a God to him and to his seed after him (Genesis 17:7) was confirmed to the nation at Sinai (Exodus 19:5; Exodus 24:7-8). Its sacrament was circumcision (Genesis 17:2 ff): its outward symbol was the Ark of the Covenant (Numbers 10:33): and its fundamental charter was the Ten Words inscribed on the Tables of the Covenant (Deuteronomy 9:9).

17–22. The calamity is unmerited. No unfaithfulness to God’s covenant has called for punishment. Nay it is for His sake that His people are suffering.

Verses 17-22. - In this third stanza the psalmist strongly emphasizes his complaint by maintaining that the calamities from which they are suffering have not come upon the people through any fault of their own, or been in any way provoked or deserved He is, perhaps, over-confident; but we cannot doubt that he is sincere in the belief, which he expresses, that the people, both before and during their calamities, have been obedient and faithful to God, wholly free from idolatry, and exemplary in their conduct and life. There are not many periods of Israelite history at which such a description could have been given without manifest untruth, and the time of David is certainly more suitable for it than almost any other. Verse 17. - All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. Israel had neither put aside the thought of religion, and given herself up to wordliness, nor yet, while still professedly religious, transgressed habitually God's commandments. She maintained "thorough sincerity in religion, and consistent integrity of life." Yet "all this" - all that has been described in vers. 9-16 - had come upon her. Psalm 44:17(Heb.: 44:18-22) If Israel compares its conduct towards God with this its lot, it cannot possibly regard it as a punishment that it has justly incurred. Construed with the accusative, בּוא signifies, as in Psalm 35:8; Psalm 36:12, to come upon one, and more especially of an evil lot and of powers that are hostile. שׁקּר, to lie or deceive, with בּ of the object on whom the deception or treachery is practised, as in Psalm 89:34. In Psalm 44:19 אשּׁוּר is construed as fem., exactly as in Job 31:8; the fut. consec. is also intended as such (as e.g., in Job 3:10; Numbers 16:14): that our step should have declined from, etc.; inward apostasy is followed by outward wandering and downfall. This is therefore not one of the many instances in which the לא of one clause also has influence over the clause that follows (Ges. 152, 3). כּי, Psalm 44:20, has the sense of quod: we have not revolted against Thee, that Thou shouldest on that account have done to us the thing which is now befallen us. Concerning תּנּיּם vid., Isaiah 13:22. A "place of jackals" is, like a habitation of dragons (Jeremiah 10:22), the most lonesome and terrible wilderness; the place chosen was, according to this, an inhospitable מדבר, far removed from the dwellings of men. כּסּה is construed with על of the person covered, and with בּ of that with which (1 Samuel 19:13) he is covered: Thou coveredst us over with deepest darkness (vid., Psalm 23:4). אם, Psalm 44:21, is not that of asseveration (verily we have not forgotten), but, as the interrogatory apodosis Psalm 44:22 shows, conditional: if we have ( equals should have) forgotten. This would not remain hidden from Him who knoweth the heart, for the secrets of men's hearts are known to Him. Both the form and matter here again strongly remind one of Job 31, more especially Job 31:4; cf. also on תּעלמות, Job 11:6; Job 28:11.
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