12. And thou, O Jehovah! shalt dwell for ever; and the memorial of thee from generation to generation. 13. Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion; for the time to pity her, for the appointed time, is come. 14. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and will have compassion upon her dust.
12. And thou, O Jehovah! shalt dwell for ever. When the prophet, for his own encouragement, sets before himself the eternity of God, it seems, at first sight, to be a far-fetched consolation; for what benefit will accrue to us from the fact that God sits immutable on his heavenly throne, when, at the same time, our frail and perishing condition does not permit us to continue unmoved for a single moment? And, what is more, this knowledge of the blessed repose enjoyed by God enables us the better to perceive that our life is a mere illusion. But the inspired writer, calling to remembrance the promises by which God had declared that he would make the Church the object of his special care, and particularly that remarkable article of the covenant, "I will dwell in the midst of you," (Exodus 25:8) and, trusting to that sacred and indissoluble bond, has no hesitation in representing all the godly languishing, though they were in a state of suffering and wretchedness, as partakers of this celestial glory in which God dwells. The word memorial is also to be viewed in the same light. What advantage would we derive from this eternity and immutability of God's being, unless we had in our hearts the knowledge of him, which, produced by his gracious covenant, begets in us the confidence arising from a mutual relationship between him and us? The meaning then is, "We are like withered grass, we are decaying every moment, we are not far from death, yea rather, we are, as it were, already dwelling in the grave; but since thou, O God! hast made a covenant with us, by which thou hast promised to protect and defend thine own people, and hast brought thyself into a gracious relation to us, giving us the fullest assurance that thou wilt always dwell in the midst of us, instead of desponding, we must be of good courage; and although we may see only ground for despair if we depend upon ourselves, we ought nevertheless to lift up our minds to the heavenly throne, from which thou wilt at length stretch forth thy hand to help us." Whoever is in a moderate degree acquainted with the sacred writings, will readily acknowledge that whenever we are besieged with death, in a variety of forms, we should reason thus: As God continues unchangeably the same -- "without variableness or shadow of turning" -- nothing can hinder him from aiding us; and this he will do, because we have his word, by which he has laid himself under obligation to us, and because he has deposited with us his own memorial, which contains in it a sacred and indissoluble bond of fellowship.
13. Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion. We have here the conclusion drawn from the truth stated in the preceding verse -- God is eternal, and therefore he will have compassion upon Zion. God's eternity is to be considered as impressed upon the memorial, or word, by which he has brought himself under obligation to maintain our welfare. Besides, as he is not destitute of the power, and as it is impossible for him to deny himself, we ought not to entertain any apprehension of his failing to accomplish, in his own time, what he has promised. We have observed, in another place, that, the verb to arise refers to what is made apparent to the eye of sense; for although he continues always immutable, yet, in putting forth his power, he manifests his majesty by the external act, as it is termed.
When the prophet treats of the restoration of the Church, he sets forth the divine mercy as its cause. He represents this mercy under a twofold aspect, and therefore employs different words. In the first place, as in the matter under consideration, the good deserts of men are entirely out of the question, and as God cannot be led from any cause external to himself to build up his Church, the prophet traces the cause of it solely to the free goodness of God. In the second place, he contemplates this mercy as connected with the Divine promises. Thou shalt have mercy upon Zion, for the time appointed, according to thy good pleasure, is come. Meanwhile, it is to be observed that, in magnifying the Divine mercy, his design was to teach true believers that their safety depended on it alone. But we must now attend to what time is alluded to. The word dewm, moed, signifies all kind of fixed or appointed days. There is, then, beyond all doubt, a reference to the prophecy of Jeremiah, recorded in Jeremiah 29:10, and repeated in the last chapter of the Second Book of Chronicles, at the 21st verse. That the faithful might not sink into despondency, through the long continuance of their calamities, they needed to be supported by the hope that an end to their captivity had been appointed by God, and that it would not extend beyond seventy years. Daniel was employed in meditating on this very topic, when "he set his face unto the Lord God, to seek, by prayer and supplications," the re-establishment of the Church, (Daniel 9:2) In like manner, the object now aimed at by the prophet was to encourage both himself and others to confidence in prayer, putting God in mind of this remarkable prophecy, as an argument to induce him to bring to a termination their melancholy captivity. And surely if, in our prayers, we do not continually remember the Divine promises, we only cast forth our desires into the air like smoke. It is, however, to be observed, that although the time of the promised deliverance was approaching, or had already arrived, yet the prophet does not cease from the exercise of prayer, to which God stirs us up by means of his word. And although the time was fixed, yet he calls upon God, for the performance of his covenant, in such a manner, as that he is still betaking himself to his free goodness alone; for the promises by which God brings himself under obligation to us do not, in any degree, obscure his grace.
14. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones. To restrict this to Cyrus and Darius is altogether unsuitable. It is not at all wonderful to find the Jewish doctors hunting, with excessive eagerness, after foolish subtilties; but I am surprised that some of our modern commentators subscribe to such a poor and cold interpretation. I am aware that, in some places, the unbelieving and the wicked are called the servants of God, as in Jeremiah 25:9, because God makes use of them as instruments for executing his judgments. Nay, I admit that Cyrus is called by name God's chosen servant, (Isaiah 44:28) but the Holy Spirit would not have bestowed so honorable a title, either on him or Darius, without some qualification. Besides, it is probable that this psalm was composed before the edict was published, which granted the people liberty to return to their native country. It therefore follows, that God's people alone are included in the catalogue of his servants, because it is their purpose, during the whole of their life, to obey his will in all things. The prophet, I have no doubt, speaks in general of the whole Church, intimating that this was not the wish entertained merely by one man, but was shared by the whole body of the Church. The more effectually to induce God to listen to his prayer, he calls upon all the godly, who were then in the world, to join with him in the same request. It, unquestionably, very much contributes to increase the confidence of success, when supplications are made by all the people of God together, as if in the person of one man, according to what the Apostle Paul declares,
"Ye also, helping together by prayer for us, that, for the gift bestowed upon us, by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf." (2 Corinthians 1:11)
Farther, when the deformed materials which remained of the ruins of the temple and city are emphatically termed the stones of Zion, this is designed to intimate, not only that the faithful in time past were affected with the outward splendor of the temple, when, besides attracting the eyes of men, it had power to ravish with admiration all their senses, but also, that although the temple was destroyed, and nothing was to be seen where it stood but hideous desolation, yet their attachment to it continued unalterable, and they acknowledged the glory of God, in its crumbling stones and decayed rubbish. As the temple was built by the appointment of God, and as he had promised its restoration, it was, doubtless, proper and becoming that the godly should not withdraw their affections from its ruins. Meanwhile, as an antidote against the discouraging influence of the taunting mockery of the heathen, they required to look into the Divine word for something else than what presented itself to their bodily eyes. Knowing that the very site of the temple was consecrated to God, and that that sacred edifice was to be rebuilt on the same spot, they did not cease to regard it with reverence, although its stones lay in disorder, mutilated and broken, and heaps of useless rubbish were to be seen scattered here and there. The sadder the desolation is to which the Church has been brought, the less ought our affections to be alienated from her. Yea, rather, this compassion which the faithful then exercised, 1 ought to draw from us sighs and groans; and would to God that the melancholy description in this passage were not so applicable to our own time as it is! He, no doubt, has his churches erected in some places, where he is purely worshipped; but, if we cast our eyes upon the whole world, we behold his word every where trampled under foot, and his worship defiled by countless abominations. Such being the case, his holy temple is assuredly every where demolished, and in a state of wretched desolation; yea, even those small churches in which he dwells are torn and scattered. What are these humble erections, when compared with that splendid edifice described by Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah? But no desolation ought to prevent us from loving the very stones and dust of the Church. Let us leave the Papists to be proud of their altars, their huge buildings, and their other exhibitions of pomp and splendor; for all that heathenish magnificence is nothing else but an abomination in the sight of God and his angels, whereas the ruins of the true temple are sacred.