It is obvious that this psalm was penned when the Church was deeply afflicted. Unworthy as they are to be heard by God, the faithful, nevertheless, offer up supplications to him for deliverance, lest his holy name might be exposed to scorn and reproach among the heathen. Then, mustering courage, they mock at the madness of all who are addicted to the worship of idols; and, with holy boasting, they magnify their own happiness, in that they have been adopted by God; and from this also they take occasion to stimulate one another to acknowledge the kindness which they have received from him.
1. Not unto us, O Jehovah! not unto us, but unto thy name give the glory, on account of thy mercy, on account of thy truth. 2. Why should the heathen say, Where is now their God? 3. Surely our God is in heaven: he hath done whatsoever pleased him.
That God can do whatsoever he pleaseth is a doctrine of great importance, provided it be truly and legitimately applied. This caution is necessary, because curious and forward persons, as is usual with them, take the liberty of abusing a sound doctrine by producing it in defense of their frantic reveries. And in this matter we daily witness too much of the wildness of human ingenuity. This mystery, which ought to command our admiration and awe, is by many shamelessly and irreverently made a topic of idle talk. If we would derive advantage from this doctrine, we must attend to the import of God's doing whatsoever he pleaseth in heaven and on the earth. And, first, God has all power for the preservation of his Church, and for providing for her welfare; and, secondly, all creatures are under his control, and therefore nothing can prevent him from accomplishing all his purposes. However much, then, the faithful may find themselves cut off from all means of subsistence and safety, they ought nevertheless to take courage from the fact, that God is not only superior to all impediments, but that he can render them subservient to the advancement of his own designs. This, too, must also be borne in mind, that all events are the result of God's appointment alone, and that nothing happens by chance. This much it was proper to premise respecting the use of this doctrine, that we may be prevented from forming unworthy conceptions of the glory of God, as men of wild imaginations are wont to do. Adopting this principle, we ought not to be ashamed frankly to acknowledge that God, by his eternal counsel, manages all things in such a manner, that nothing can be done but by his will and appointment.
From this passage Augustine very properly and ingeniously shows, that those events which appear to us unreasonable not only occur simply by the permission of God, but also by his will and decree. For if our God doeth whatsoever pleaseth him, why should he permit that to be done which he does not wish? Why does he not restrain the devil and all the wicked who set themselves in opposition to him? If he be regarded as occupying an intermediate position between doing and suffering, so as to tolerate what he does not wish, then, according to the fancy of the Epicureans, he will remain unconcerned in the heavens. But if we admit that God is invested with prescience, that he superintends and governs the world which he has made, and that he does not overlook any part of it, it must follow that every thing which takes place is done according to his will. Those who speak as if this would be to render God the author of evil are perverse disputants. Filthy dogs though they be, yet they will not, by their barking, be able to substantiate a charge of lying against the prophet, or to take the government of the world out of God's hand. If nothing occurs unless by the counsel and determination of God, he apparently does not disallow sin; he has, however, secret and to us unknown causes why he permits that which perverse men do, and yet this is not done because he approves of their wicked inclinations. It was the will of God that Jerusalem should be destroyed, the Chaldeans also wished the same thing, but after a different manner; and though he frequently calls the Babylonians his stipendiary soldiers, and says that they were stirred up by him, (Isaiah 5:26;) and farther, that they were the sword of his own hand, yet we would not therefore call them his allies, inasmuch as their object was very different. In the destruction of Jerusalem God's justice would be displayed, while the Chaldeans would be justly censured for their lust, covetousness, and cruelty. Hence, whatever takes place in the world is according to the will of God, and yet it is not his will that any evil should be done. For however incomprehensible his counsel may be to us, still it is always based upon the best of reasons. Satisfied with his will alone, so as to be fully persuaded, that, notwithstanding the great depth of his judgments, (Psalm 36:6) they are characterized by the most consummate rectitude; this ignorance will be far more learned than all the acumen of those who presume to make their own capacity the standard by which to measure his works. On the other hand, it is deserving of notice, that if God does whatsoever he pleases, then it is not his pleasure to do that which is not done. The knowledge of this truth is of great importance, because it frequently happens, when God winks and holds his peace at the afflictions of the Church, that we ask why he permits her to languish, since it is in his power to render her assistance. Avarice, fraud, perfidy, cruelty, ambition, pride, sensuality, drunkenness, and, in short, every species of corruption in these times is rampant in the world, all which would instantly cease did it seem good to God to apply the remedy. Wherefore, if he at any time appears to us to be asleep, or has not the means of succoring us, let this tend to make us wait patiently, and to teach us that it is not his pleasure to act so speedily the part of our deliverer, because he knows that delay and procrastination are profitable to us; it being his will to wink at and tolerate for a while what assuredly, were it his pleasure, he could instantly rectify.
1 "As the former psalm ended abruptly, and this is connected with it by the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic, Æthiopic, with nineteen MSS.; and as the following ejaculations so naturally arise from the consideration of the wonderful works of Jehovah just before recited, Lorinus's opinion, that it is only a continuation of the former, is not improbable. Patrick refers it to 2 Chronicles 20:2. Some suppose it to be written by Moses at the Red Sea. Others, by David in the beginning of his reign. Others, by Mordecai and Esther. Others, by the three children in the fiery furnace. Perhaps by Hezekiah, or some one in the Babylonish captivity. -- See Psalm 114:1." -- Dimoch. "There is nothing certain," observes Walford, "to be concluded respecting the author of this psalm, or the occasion on which it was written. It is conjectured, however, to belong to the time of Hezekiah, and to have been composed in celebration of the very extraordinary deliverance which was afforded to that pious prince, and to his people, from the blasphemies and arrogance of Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, 2 Chronicles 32; Isaiah 36:37. Whether this conjecture be agreeable to the truth, we are unable to say, though a considerable probability that it is so, arises from the language of the psalm itself."
2 "Our God, says he, is in heaven, as much as to say, that yours are not. The verse may be also regarded as a response to the question of the heathen, Where is now their God? Such a response was calculated to fortify the minds of the pious worshippers of Jehovah, against the ridicule which was heaped upon them by their idolatrous neighbors." -- Phillips.
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