2. Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah, for I am weak; heal me, O Jehovah, for my bones are afraid. 3. And my soul is exceedingly troubled;1 and thou, O Jehovah, how long?2
2. Have mercy upon me. As he earnestly calls upon God to be merciful to him, it is from this the more clearly manifest, that by the terms anger and indignation he did not mean cruelty or undue severity, but only such judgment as God executes upon the reprobate, whom he does not spare in mercy as he does his own children. If he had complained of being unjustly and too severely punished, he would now have only added something to this effect:Restrain thyself, that in punishing me thou mayest not exceed the measure of my offense. In betaking himself, therefore, to the mercy of God alone, he shows that he desires nothing else than not to be dealt with according to strict justice, or as he deserved. In order to induce God to exercise his forgiving mercy towards him, he declares that he is ready to fail:Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah, for I am weak. As I have said before, he calls himself weak, not because he was sick, but because he was cast down and broken by what had now befallen him. And as we know that the design of God in inflicting punishment upon us, is to humble us; so, whenever we are subdued under his rod, the gate is opened for his mercy to come to us. Besides, since it is his peculiar office to heal the diseased to raise up the fallen, to support the weak, and, finally, to give life to the dead; this, of itself, is a sufficient reason why we should seek his favor, that we are sinking under our afflictions.
After David has protested that he placed his hope of salvation in the mercy of God alone, and has sorrowfully set forth how much he is abased, he subjoins the effect which this had in impairing his bodily health, and prays for the restoration of this blessing:Heal me, O Jehovah. And this is the order which we must observe, that we may know that all the blessings which we ask from God flow from the fountain of his free goodness, and that we are then, and then only, delivered from calamities and chastisements,3 when he has had mercy upon us. -- For my bones are afraid. This confirms what I have just now observed, namely, that, from the very grievousness of his afflictions, he entertained the hope of some relief; for God, the more he sees the wretched oppressed and almost overwhelmed, is just so much the more ready to succor them. He attributes fear to his bones, not because they are endued with feeling, but because the vehemence of his grief was such that it affected his whole body. He does not speak of his flesh, which is the more tender and susceptible part of the corporeal system, but he mentions his bones, thereby intimating that the strongest parts of his frame were made to tremble for fear. He next assigns the cause of this by saying, And my soul is greatly afraid. The connective particle and, in my judgment, has here the meaning of the causal particle for, as if he had said, so severe and violent is the inward anguish of my heart, that it affects and impairs the strength of every part of my body. I do not approve of the opinion which here takes soul for life, nor does it suit the scope of the passage.
3. And thou, O Jehovah, how long? This elliptical form of expression serves to express more strongly the vehemence of grief, which not only holds the minds of men bound up, but likewise their tongues, breaking and cutting short their speech in the middle of the sentence. The meaning, however, in this abrupt expression is doubtful. Some, to complete the sentence, supply the words, Wilt thou afflict me, or continue to chasten me? Others read, How long wilt thou delay thy mercy? But what is stated in the next verse shows that this second sense is the more probable, for he there prays to the Lord to look upon him with an eye of favor and compassion. He, therefore, complains that God has now forsaken him, or has no regard to him, just as God seems to be far of from us whenever his assistance or grace does not actually manifest itself in our behalf. God, in his compassion towards us, permits us to pray to him to make haste to succor us; but when we have freely complained of his long delay, that our prayers or sorrow, on this account, may not pass beyond bounds we must submit our case entirely to his will, and not wish him to make greater haste than shall seem good to him.