The righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart: and merciful men are taken away…
Possibly the good king -Josiah is here prophetically referred to. His untimely death seems a strange dispensation of Providence even to us now. Josiah's case may be taken as illustrating the general truth which is thus stated by Bishop Wordsworth: "Good and merciful men, who are taken away in the midst of their efforts to do good in their generation, and whose endeavours appear to be disowned by God, and to be blighted and withered by him, may perhaps seem to men to be cut off by a violent stroke of Divine indignation, and may be mourned by some as having died an untimely death; but the truth is - which these Scriptures reveal - they are gently gathered by God in love, and are in peace. The terms used have precise significations. The righteous" means "those who walk straight, and stand upright." An honoured pastor lay upon his dying bed, and a member of his congregation stood beside it, whose business ways were known to be somewhat shifty. Beckoning him to bend down close to him, the pastor solemnly said these few, but searching, words, "William, go straight! Merciful men" are men of kindness; gracious men, who, having themselves felt the loving-kindness of God, deal kindly with their fellow-men.
I. MERCY IS SHOWN IN SPARING THE RIGHTEOUS FROM COMING CALAMITIES. We have often to notice how graciously the death of our friends is timed. At first we wonder why they were taken just then, but the lapse of a few months satisfies us that they were taken "from the evil to come." The widow is removed before her little estate is wrecked by some inefficient or unfaithful trustee. The honorable business man is gathered in before some wrong-doer brings disgrace on his firm which would have broken his heart. Methuselah died the year before the Flood; Augustine a little before the sacking of Hippo. Pareus just before the taking of Heidelberg; Luther a little before the wars broke out in Germany. We have known beloved ones who all their life long prayed that they might not be spared to become troublesome to anybody, and mercy called them away almost suddenly, ere bodily powers began to decay. Most graciously the time, the place, the manner, of our exit from earth are divinely arranged; and in this matter too we may perfectly trust.
II. WRATH IS SHOWN IN REMOVING THE BARRIERS TO ONCOMING JUDGMENTS. This is one point which the prophet would enforce. The death of good men should be regarded as a sign that calamity is at hand. Righteousness can held back judgment, as is seen in Abraham's pleading for Sodom. Prayers and intercessions can hold back judgment. Then the removal of the righteous men and the intercessors removes barriers and lets free the flood. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.