18. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord.
18. Et dixi, Periit fortitudo mea, et spes mea a Jehova.
This verse shews what I have before reminded you of, that the Prophet does not here speak as though he was divested of every sin, and prescribed a perfect rule for prayer. But, on the contrary, in order to animate the faithful to seek God, he sets before them here an instance of infirmity which every one finds true as to himself. It was yet a most grievous trial, because the Prophet almost despaired; for since faith is the mother of hope, it follows, that when any one is overwhelmed with despair, faith is extinct. Nevertheless the Prophet. makes this declaration,
He does not speak through some inconsiderate impulse, as though he was suddenly carried away, as many things happen to us which we have had no thought of; but he speaks what was, as it were, fixed in his mind. As he said, "Perished has my hope and strength from Jehovah," it is evident that his faith was not slightly shaken, but had wholly failed' but the expression, I said, renders the thing still stronger; for it means, as it is well known, a settled conviction. The Prophet was then fully persuaded that he was forsaken by God; but what does this mean? We ought indeed to maintain this, that faith sometimes is so stifled, that even the children of God think that they are lost, and that it is all over with their salvation. Even David confesses the same thing; for it was an evidence of despair, when he declared,
"I said in my haste, Vanity is every man." (Psalm 116:11.)
He had almost failed, and he was not master of himself when he was thus agitated. There is no doubt but that the Prophet also expressly reminded the faithful that they ought not to despair, though despair laid hold on their minds, or though the devil tempted them to despair, but that they ought then especially to struggle against it. This is indeed, I allow, a hard and perilous contest, but the faithful ought not to faint, even when such a thing happens to them, that is, when it seems to be all over with them and no hope remains; but, on the contrary, they ought nevertheless to go on hoping, and that, indeed, as the Scripture says elsewhere, against hope, or above hope. (Romans 4:18.)
Let us then learn from this passage, that the faithful are not free from despair, for it enters into their souls; but that there is yet no reason why they should indulge despair; on the contrary, they ought courageously and firmly to resist it; for when the Prophet said this, he did not mean that. he succumbed to this trial, as though he had embraced what had come to his mind; but lie meant, that lie was as it were overwhelmed for a short time. Were any one to ask, How can it be that hope and despair should reside in the same man? the answer is, that when faith is weak, that part of the soul is empty, which admits despair. Now, faith is sometimes not only enfeebled, but is also nearly stifled. This, indeed, does not happen daily, but there is no one whom God deeply exercises with temptations, who does not feel that his faith is almost extinguished. It is often no wonder, that despair then prevails; but it is for a moment. In the meantime, the remedy is, immediately to flee to God and to complain of this misery, so that he may succor and raise up those who are thus fallen. He then adds, --
1 The word "strength" is rendered "victory" by the Sept., "end" by the Vulg, "splendor by the Syr., and valor by the Targ.
means superiority, excellency, rather than strength, --
And I said, Perished hath my excellency,
And my expectation from Jehovah.
Whatever he had that was excellent had perished; and perished also had every good he expected from Jehovah. The meaning is not, that these things perished from Jehovah, but that his excellency and his expectation from Jehovah had perished. -- Ed.
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