Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 9: Psalms, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
This psalm is very similar to the preceding. 126 David, who probably was the author of it, being chased and driven out of his country by the unjust violence and tyranny of his enemies, calls upon God for vengeance, and encourages himself to hope for restoration.
1. Judge me, O God! and plead my cause: deliver me from the cruel [or unmerciful] nation, free me from the deceitful and wicked man. 2. For thou art the God of my strength; why art thou estranged from me? why go I sad because of the oppression of the enemy? 3. Send forth thy light and thy truth, let them direct me, let them conduct me to thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. 4. And I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, [literally the joy of my rejoicing:] and I will praise thee upon the harp, O God! my God. 5. O my soul! why art thou cast down? and why art thou disquieted within me? for I will yet praise him who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
1 Judge me, O God! David, in the first place, complains of the extreme cruelty of his enemies; but in the verses which immediately follow, he shows that there was nothing which he felt to be more grievous, than to be deprived of the opportunity of access to the sanctuary. We have an evidence of his enjoying the testimony of a good conscience in this, that he commends the defense of his cause to God. The term judge, which he first makes use of, is nothing else than to undertake the defense of one’s cause; and he expresses his meaning more clearly by adding, plead my cause The substance and object of his prayer, indeed, were, that he might be delivered from the wicked and malicious men by whom he was undeservedly persecuted. But as it is to the miserable and guiltless, who are wrongfully afflicted, that God promises his help, David, in the first place, submits himself to be examined by him, that, having discovered and thoroughly proved the rectitude of his cause, he may at length grant him aid. And as it is a most cheering source of consolation for us to find that God disdains not to take cognisance of our cause, so also, it is vain for us to expect that he will avenge the injuries and wrongs which are done to us, unless our own integrity be so manifest as to induce him to be favorable to us against our adversaries. By the unmerciful nation is to be understood the whole company of David’s enemies, who were cruel, and destitute of all the feelings of humanity. What follows, concerning the deceitful and wicked man, might indeed be applied to Saul; but it seems rather to be a form of speech in which, by enallage, the singular number is used for the plural.
2 For thou art the God of my strength This verse differs very little from the ninth verse of the preceding psalm, and the difference consists more in words than in matter. Setting as a shield against temptation the fact, that he had experienced the power of God to be present with him, he complains that his life is spent in mourning, because he sees himself as it were abandoned to the will of his enemies. He considered it absolutely certain that his enemies had no power to do him harm except in so far as the Lord permitted them; and therefore he asks, as if it were something altogether unaccountable, how it happened that his enemies prevailed against him whilst he was under the assured protection and guardianship of God. From this he gathers courage to pray, that God would be pleased again to manifest his favor, which he seemed to have hid from him for a time. The term light is to be understood as denoting favor; for as adversities not only obscure the face of God, but also overcast the heavens, as it were, with clouds and fogs, so also, when we enjoy the divine blessing which makes rich, it is like the cheerful light of a serene day shining around us; or rather the light of life, dispelling all that thick obscurity which overwhelmed us in sorrow. By this word the Psalmist intimates two things; first, that all our miseries arise from no other source than this, that God withdraws from us the tokens of his paternal love; and, secondly, that as soon as he is pleased to manifest towards us his serene and gracious countenance, deliverance and salvation also arise to us. He adds truth, because he expected this light only from the promises of God. The unbelieving desire the favor of God, but they do not raise their eyes to his light; for the natural disposition of man always tends towards the earth, unless his mind and all his feelings are raised up on high by the word of God. In order, then, to encourage himself in the hope of obtaining the grace of God, David rests with confidence in this, that God, who is true, and cannot deceive any, has promised to assist his servants. We must therefore explain the sentence thus: Send forth thy light, that it may be a token and testimony of thy truth, or that it may really and effectually prove that thou art faithful and free from all deceit in thy promises. The knowledge of the divine favor, it is true, must be sought for in the Word of God; nor has faith any other foundation on which it can rest with security except his word; but when God stretches out his hand to help us, the experience of this is no small confirmation both of the word and of faith. David declares what was the chief object of his desire, and what end he had in view in seeking deliverance from his calamities, when he says, Let them direct me, and lead me to thy holy hill. As the chief cause of his sorrow consisted in his being banished from the congregation of the godly, so he places the height of all his enjoyments in this, that he might be at liberty to take part in the exercises of religion, and to worship God in the sanctuary. Tacitly, indeed, David makes a vow of thanksgiving to God; but there can be no doubt, that by these words he intimates, that the end which he had in view in seeking deliverance from his afflictions was, that as formerly he might be at liberty to return to the sanctuary, from which he was driven by the tyranny of his enemies. And it deserves to be particularly noticed, that although he had been deprived of his wife, spoiled of his goods, his house, and all his other earthly comforts, yet he always felt such an ardent desire to come to the temple, that he forgot almost every thing else. But it is enough for me at present briefly to notice this, as in the preceding psalm I have treated at greater length of this holy desire of David, which ought to be imitated by all the faithful. 127 Still, however, it might be asked, How it is that mention is here made of Mount Sion, which was not appointed to the service of God till after the death of Saul? The only solution of this difficulty which I can give is, that David, composing this psalm at an after period of his life, employs, in accordance with the revelation which had subsequently been given to him, language which otherwise he would have used more generally in speaking only of the tabernacle, and without at all specifying the place. 128 In this I see no inconsistency.
4. And I will go to the altar of God. Here he promises to God a solemn sacrifice, in commemoration of the deliverance which he should obtain from him; for he speaks not only of the daily or ordinary service, but in making mention of the altar on which it was customary to offer the peace-offerings, he expresses the token of gratitude and thanksgiving of which I have spoken. For this reason, also, he calls God the God of his joy, because, being delivered from sorrow, and restored to a state of joy, he resolves to acknowledge openly so great a benefit. And he calls him the joy of his rejoicing, that he may the more illustriously set forth the grace of his deliverance. The second word in the genitive is added by way of an epithet, and by it he signifies that his heart had been filled with joy of no common kind, when God restored him, contrary to the expectation of all. As to the fifth verse, I have already treated of it sufficiently in the preceding psalm, and therefore deem it superfluous to speak of it here.
This and the preceding psalm have been considered by the greater number of critics as having originally formed only one psalm, and they make but one in forty-six MSS. The similarity of the style, sentiment, and metrical structure, and the occurrence of the intercalary verse at verses 5th and 10th of Psalm 42, and verse 5th of Psalm 43, confirm this opinion. “The fact, indeed,” says Williams, “is self evident, and easily accounted for. The Jewish choristers having, on some occasion, found the anthem too long, have divided it for their own conveniency, (no uncommon thing among choristers,) and, being once divided, it was ignorantly supposed it ought to be so divided.”
“Laquelle tous fideles doyvent ensuyvre.” — Fr.
“Sans specifier le lieu.” — Fr.