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The sins of a people may for a time "separate between them and their God, and hide his face from them that he will not hear;" Isai. lix. 2. he may cover himself with a cloud, that "their prayers should not pass through;" Lam. iii. 44. and seem to reject even the devotions of his distressed servants, while he is proving the strength of their faith, and the sincerity of their repentance. But if the former be strong, and the latter sincere, they will continue to ask till they have obtained; nor cease to knock till the door be opened.
5. Thou feedest them with the bread of tears, or, of weeping ; and givest them tears to drink in great measure.
There cannot be a more striking picture of Sion in captivity! Her bread is dipped in tears, and her cup is filled to the brim with them: no time is free from grief and lamentation. They who sin, must submit to penance; which if a man doth not impose on himself, God will impose it on him: whereas, if we judged ourselves, we should not be thus judged of the Lord. The church hath appointed seasons, and given directions for this purpose; but who observes either the one or the other?
6. Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves.
Israel when forsaken by her God, was a prey, for which all the neighbouring nations contended, exulting over her, and scoffing at that condition, to which, not their counsels, or armies, but her own iniquities, had reduced her. Hence let us learn how to form a just estimate of the real state both of communities and individuals. Righteousness alone exalteth man; sin is his reproach, and will be his destruction.
7. Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved. See above, ver. 3. 8. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.
God is reminded of the favour once shown by him to the church of Israel, and of that prosperity which she once enjoyed. She is compared to a "vine," removed from the unkindly soil of Egypt, to the happier regions of Canaan, and there planted by Jehovah, in the place of nations extirpated from their unfruitfulThe vine is a plant weak, and lowly, and needing support; when supported, wild and luxuriant, unless restrained by the pruning knife; capable of producing the most valuable fruit; but, if barren, the most unprofitable among trees, and fit only for the flames. In all these respects it is a lively emblem of the church, and used as such by Isaiah, v. 7. by Ezekiel, xv. xvii. xix. and
by our Lord himself, Matt. xxi. 33. The Christian church, after her redemption by the death and resurrection of Jesus, was planted in the heathen world, as Israel had been in Canaan; and the description suits one as well as the other.
9. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. 10. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars ; or, and the goodly cedars were covered with the boughs thereof.
As the vine striketh its roots deep into the soil prepared for it, and then diffuseth its numerous branches all around, covering the fertile bills, by the sides of which it is planted, or running up the lofty cedars to the bodies of which it is joined; such was the growth and fruitfulness of the Israelitish church; but much greater was that of the church Christian. Her roots were fast fixed in the hearts and affections of the faithful, and her boughs shot forth abundantly; they often felt the knife, but increased under it, both in number and vigour; till, at length, she overshadowed the Roman empire with her branches, and replenished the earth with her fruit, grateful to God and man.
11. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.
This relates to the extent of Palestine, which was occupied by the tribes of Israel, even from the Mediterranean Sea, westward, to the river Euphrates, eastward. This was promised, Deut. xi. 24. "From the river Euphrates to the uttermost sea shall your coast be;" and fulfilled in the days of Solomon. See 1 Kings iv. 21. Ps. lxxii. 8. To the Christian church the whole earth was the land of promise, and the gospel was preached to all nations. "I will give thee," saith Jehovah to Christ, "the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession," Ps. ii. 8.
12. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her?
The Psalmist, having described the exaltation of Israel, under the figure of a vine, proceeds under the same figure to lament her depression. She is now represented as deprived of the protection of God, the counsels of the wise, and the arms of the valiant ; of all her bulwarks and fortifications, and whatever else could contribute to her defence and security; so that, like a vineyard without a fence, she lay open on every side to the incursions and ravages of her neighbouring adversaries; who soon stripped her of all that was valuable; and trod her under foot.
13. The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it.
Fierce and unrelenting her heathen persecutor issued, at different times, from his abode, like a "wild boar" out of the forest, resolved not only to spoil and plunder, but to eradicate and extirpate her for ever. Nor let the church Christian imagine that these things relate to her elder sister. Greater mercies and more excellent gifts, should excite in her greater thankfulness, and call forth more excellent virtues; otherwise, they will serve only to enhance her account, and multiply her sorrows. If she sin, and fall after the same example of unbelief, she must not think to be distinguished in her punishment, unless by the severity of it. She may expect to see the favour of heaven withdrawn, and the secular arm, instead of supporting, employed to crush her; her discipline may be annihilated, her unity broken, her doctrines perverted, her worship deformed, her practice corrupted, her possessions alienated, and her revenues seized; till at length the word be given from above, and some antichristian power be unchained, to execute upon her the full vengeance due to her cries. Unclean desires, and furious passions, are the enemies of the soul, which deface her beauty, and devour all the productions of grace, in that lesser vineyard of God.
14. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; 15. And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest so strong for thine own self.
The church, thus distressed and desolated, offereth a prayer for the return of the divine favour, and for a gracious visitation from on high; she beseecheth God to look down, with an eye of pity, from heaven, on the vineyard, which his own hands had "planted," and on that royal branch, the family of David, in particular, which he had raised and established for himself, to accomplish his eternal purpose of saving mankind by Messiah, who was one day to spring from the root of Jesse. The Chaldee Paraphrast expounds "the branch," of Messiah himself, wh
"On King Messiah, whom thou hast established," &c. So do the Rabbies, Aben Ezra, and Obadiah, cited by Dr. Hammond. And the LXX, instead of supposing the word "a son," to refer to "vine,” and to signify a "branch," which, in the Hebrew style, is, a son of the vine," have rendered the passage, TTE VIOV avôρw"on the Son of man;" an expression, actually used by the Psalmist, two verses below. To the advent of this Son of man, Israel was ever accustomed to look forward in time of affliction; on his second and glorious advent the Christian church must fix her eye in the day of her calamities.
16. It is burnt with fire: it is cut down, or, dug up: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.
The sad estate of the vineyard is yet again set forth, to excite the compassion of heaven. As to the latter clause of this verse, if it be rendered, as our translators have rendered it, in the present time, it seems to relate to the Israelites, and the destruction made amongst them by the wrath of God. If it have a future rendering," they shall perish at the rebuke of thy countenance," it may be supposed to predict the fate of the adversaries, when God should deliver his people out of their hands.
17. Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man, whom thou madest strong for thyself.
These phrases, "the man of thy right hand," and "the son of man," if at all applicable in a lower and subordinate sense to a temporal king of Israel, considered as a representative of Messiah, are most certainly, in their full and prophetical acceptation, intended to denote King Messiah himself.* Assured of his coming, the church prayeth that the "hand," the protection, and the power of Jehovah, might be "upon" him, over him, and with him, in his great undertaking, finally to deliver her out of all her troubles, and to "lead her captivity captive."
18. So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.
The end of our redemption is, that we should serve him who hath redeemed us, and “ go back" no more to our old sins. That soul which hath been "quickened" and made alive by Christ, should live to his honour and glory; that mouth which hath been opened by him, can do no less than show forth his praise, and "call upon his❞ saving "name."
19. Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts: cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved. See ver. 3.
This Psalm, whensoever, or by whomsoever composed, was probably intended to be sung at the feast of trumpets, as also at any other feast time. It contains, 1—3. an exhortation duly to observe the festivals of the church, 4, 5. as God had appointed, who is introduced expostulating with his people on account, 6-10. of his mercies, and, 11, 12. their ingratitude, and, 13— 16. under the form of a most affectionate wish, renewing his promises, on condition of their obedience.
"Virum dexteræ tuæ 99 Davidem a te designatum et confirmatum Regem, et in ejus figurâ Christum. Bossuet.
1. Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. 2. Take a Psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.
If Israelites were thus exhorted to keep their feast-days with joy and gladness of heart; to exalt their voices, and join together all their sweetest instruments of music, in honour of him who had rescued them from Egyptian bondage, and given them a law from Sinai; in what exulting strains ought we to celebrate the festivals of the Christian church? With what triumph of soul, and harmony of affections, are we bound to "sing aloud to God our strength," who hath redeemed us from death, and published the gospel from Sion? Since, as the Apostle saith," holy-days, new moons, and sabbath-days,” of old, “were" only a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ," Col. ii. 16.
2. Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed on our solemn feast-dry.
In the Jewish church, notice was given of feasts, jubilees, &c. by sound of trumpet. All the new moons, or beginning of months, were observed in this manner; see Numb. x. 1. but on the September new moon, or first day of the seventh month, was kept a great festival, called "the feast of trumpets;" Levit. xxiii. 24. Numb. xxix. 1. which, probably, is here intended. This September new moon had a particular regard paid to it, because according to the old calculation before Israel came out of Egypt, it was the first new moon in the year, which began upon this day, the first of the (afterwards) seventh month. The tenth of the same month was the great day of atonement; and on the fifteenth was celebrated the feast of tabernacles. See Levit. xxiii. 27, and 34. Our Psalm therefore seems to have been designed for the purpose of awakening and stirring up the devotion of the people, upon the solemn entrance of a month in which they were to commemorate so many past blessings, prefigurative of much greater blessings to come. We have now our feast-days, our Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, &c. On these, and all other solemn occasions, let the evangelical trumpet give a sound of victory, of liberty, of joy, and rejoicing; of victory over death, of liberty from sin, of joy and rejoicing in Christ Jesus our Saviour.
4. For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob. 5. This he ordained in Joseph, for a testimony when he went out through, or, against the land of Egypt: where I heard a language that I understood not.
The meaning is, that the observation of feasts, with blowing