Psalm 107:10-16

10. They who dwell in darkness, and in the shadow of death, being bound in trouble and iron; 11. Because they rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High: 12. When he humbled their heart with affliction; they were brought low, and there was none to help them. 13. In their affliction they cried to Jehovah, and he delivered them from their tribulations. 14. He rescued them from darkness and from the shadow of death, and broke off their chains. 15. Let them praise the mercy of Jehovah in his presence, and his marvelous works in the presence of the sons of men. 16. Because he hath broken the brazen gates, and dashed in pieces the iron bars. 1


10. They who dwell in darkness. The Spirit of God makes mention here of another species of danger in which God manifestly discovers his power and grace in the protecting and delivering of men. The world, as I said, calls these vicissitudes the sport of fortune; and hardly one among a hundred can be found who ascribes them to the superintending providence of God. It is a very different kind of practical wisdom which God expects at our hands; namely, that we ought to meditate on his judgments in the time of adversity, and on his goodness in delivering us from it. For surely it is not by mere chance that a person falls into the hands of enemies or robbers; neither is it by chance that he is rescued from them. But this is what we must constantly keep in view, that all afflictions are God's rod, and that therefore there is no remedy for them elsewhere than in his grace. If a person fall into the hands of robbers or pirates, and be not instantly murdered, but, giving up all hope of life, expects death every moment; surely the deliverance of such a one is a striking proof of the grace of God, which shines the more illustriously in proportion to the fewness of the number who make their escape. Thus, then, should a great number perish, this circumstance ought by no means to diminish the praises of God. On this account the prophet charges all those with ingratitude, who, after they have been wonderfully preserved, very soon lose sight of the deliverance thus vouchsafed to them. And, to strengthen the charge, he brings forward, as a testimony against them, their sighs and cries. For when they are in straits, they confess in good earnest that God is their deliverer; how happens it, then, that this confession disappears when they are enjoying peace and quietness?

11. Because they rebelled. In assigning the cause of their afflictions he corrects the false impressions of those persons who imagine that these happen by chance. Were they to reflect on the judgments of God, they would at once perceive that there was nothing like chance or fortune in the government of the world. Moreover, until men are persuaded that all their troubles come upon them by the appointment of God, it will never come into their minds to supplicate him for deliverance. Farther, when the prophet assigns the reason for their afflictions, he is not to be regarded as speaking of those persons as if they were notoriously wicked, but he is to be considered as calling upon the afflicted carefully to examine some particular parts of their life, and although no one accuse them, to look into their hearts, where they will always discover the true origin of all the miseries which overtake them. Nor does he only charge them with having merely sinned, but with having rebelled against the word of God, thus intimating that the best and only regulation for our lives consists in yielding a prompt obedience to his commandments. When, therefore, sheer necessity compels those who are in this manner convicted to cry unto God, they must be insensate indeed, if they do not acknowledge that the deliverance which, contrary to their expectation, they receive, comes immediately from God. For brazen gates and iron bars are spoken of for the purpose of enhancing the benefit; as if he said, the chains of perpetual slavery have been broken asunder.

1 To secure the gates of cities, it is customary in the East, at the present day, to cover them with thick plates of brass and iron. Maundrell speaks of the enormous gates of the principal mosque at Damascus, formerly the Church of St John the Baptist, being plated over with brass. Pitts informs us, that Algiers has five gates, and some of these have two, some three, other gates within them; and that some of them are plated all over with thick iron, being made strong and convenient for what it is -- a nest of pirates. -- Harmer's Observations, volume 1, page 329. To such a practice, which, in all probability, obtained in ancient times, there seems to be here a reference. From this verse some have been inclined to think that the psalm was written after the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity. This deliverance was predicted, in precisely the same terms, in that remarkable passage, where God promises to go before Cyrus his anointed, and "break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron," (Isaiah 45:2) This phraseology appropriately expresses the superior and almost impregnable strength of Babylon. "Abydenus, quoted by Eusebius in his Praeparatio Evangelica, says that the wall of Babylon had brazen gates. And Herodotus more particularly, -- 'In the wall all around there are a hundred gates all of brass; and so, in like manner, are the sides and the lintels.' The gates likewise within the city, opening to the river from the several streets, were of brass: as were those also of the Temple of Belus." -- (Lowth on Isaiah 45:2) But still these brazen gates could not secure the city and the empire from falling into the hands of the instrument chosen by God for the deliverance of his people.


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