Verse 58. I intreated thy favour with my whole heart. A fully assured possession of God does not set aside prayer, but rather urges us to it; he who knows God to be his God will seek his face, longing for his presence. Seeking God's presence is the idea conveyed by the marginal reading, "thy face," and this is true to the Hebrew. The presence of God is the highest form of his favour, and therefore it is the most urgent desire of gracious souls: the light of his countenance gives us an antepast of heaven. O that we always enjoyed it! The good man entreated God's smile as one who begged for his life, and the entire strength of his desire went with the entreaty. Such eager pleadings are sure of success; that which comes from our heart will certainly go to God's heart. The whole of God's favours are ready for those who seek them with their whole hearts.
Be merciful unto me according to thy word. He has entreated favour, and the form in which he most needs it is that of mercy, for he is more a sinner than anything else. He asks nothing beyond the promise, he only begs for such mercy as the word reveals. And what more could he want or wish for? God has revealed such an infinity of mercy in his word that it would be impossible to conceive of more. See how the Psalmist dwells upon favour and mercy, he never dreams of merit. He does not demand, but entreat; for he feels his own unworthiness. Note how he remains a suppliant, though he knows that he has all things in his God. God is his portion, and yet he begs for a look at his face. The idea of any other standing before God than that of an undeserving but favoured one never entered his head. Here we have his "Be merciful unto me" rising with as much intensity of humble pleading as if he still remained among the most trembling of penitents. The confidence of faith makes us bold in prayer, but it never teaches us to live without prayer, or justifies us in being other than humble beggars at mercy's gate.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 58. -- I entreated thy favour, or; I seek thy face. To seek the face is to come into the presence. Thus the Hebrews speak when desirous of expressing that familiar intercourse to which God admits his people when he bids them make known their requests. It is truly the same as speaking face to face with God. --Franciscus Vatablus, 1545.
Verse 58. -- I entreated thy favour with my whole heart I have often remarked how graciously and lovingly the Lord delights to return an answer to prayer in the very words that have gone up before him, as if to assure us that they have reached his ear, and been speeded back again from him laden with increase. "I entreated thy favour with my whole heart." Hear the Lord's answer to his praying people: "I will rejoice over them to do them good assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul." --Barton Bouchier.
Verse 58. -- With my whole heart. The Hebrew expresses great earnestness and humility in supplication. --A. R. Fausset.
Verse 58. -- With my whole heart. Prayer is chiefly a heart work. God heareth the heart without the mouth, but never heareth the mouth acceptably without the heart. -- Walter Marshall.
Verse 58. -- Be merciful unto me, etc. He protested before that he sought the Lord with his whole heart, and now he prayeth that he may find mercy. So indeed it shall be; boldly may that man look for mercy at God's hand who seeks him truly. Mercy and truth are wont to meet together, and embrace one another: where truth is in the soul to seek, there cannot but be mercy in God to embrace. If truth be in us to confess our sins and forsake them, we shall find mercy in God to pardon and forgive them. --William Cowper.
Verse 58. -- According to thy word. He prayeth not for what he lusteth after, but for that which the Lord promised; for St. James saith, "You pray and have not," etc., and this is the cause, that we have not the thing we pray for, because we pray not according to the word. His word must be the rule of our prayers, and then we shall receive; as Solomon prayed and obtained. God hath promised forgiveness of sins, the knowledge of his word, and many other blessings. If we have these, let not our hearts be set on other things. -- Richard Greenham.
Verse 58. -- According to thy word. The Word of God may be divided into three parts; into commandments, threatenings, and promises; and though a Christian must not neglect the commanding and threatening word, yet if ever he would make the Word a channel for Divine comfort, he must study the promising word; for the promises are a Christian's magna charta for heaven. All comfort must be built upon a Scripture promise, else it is presumption, not true comfort. The promises are pabulum fidei, et anima fidei, the food of faith, and the soul of faith. As faith is the life of a Christian, so the promises are the life of faith: faith is a dead faith if it hath no promise to quicken it. As the promises are of no use without faith to apply them, so faith is of no use without a promise to lay hold on. --Edmund Calamy.
Verse 58. -- The rule and ground of confidence is, "according to thy word." God's word is the rule of our confidence; for therein is God's stated course. If we would have favour and mercy from God, it must be upon his own terms. God will accept of us in Christ, if we repent, believe, and obey, and seek his favour diligently: he will not deny those who seek, ask, knock. Many would have mercy, but will not observe God's direction. We must ask according to God's will, not without a promise, nor against a command. God is made a voluntary debtor by his promise. These are notable props of faith, when we are encouraged to seek by the offer, and urged to apply by the promise. We thrive no more in a comfortable sense of God's love, because we take not this course. --Thomas Manton.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 58. -- The soul's sunshine.
- God's favour the one thing needful.
- Wholeheartedness the one mode of entreating it.
- Covenant mercy the one plea for obtaining it. --C.A.D.
Verse 58. -- We may learn how a seeker may come to enjoy saving favour, by a careful study of --
- The Profession: "I intreated thy favour with my whole heart."
(a) What he did: "I intreated." Heb. "I painfully sought
thy face." Earnest desire. Importunate supplication.
Painful sorrow for sin.
(b) How he did it: "With my whole heart." The intellect,
affections, will, all engaged and concentrating effort.
Otherwise, seeking is solemn trifling. This only worthy of
our purpose, pleasing to God, and successful.
(c) The evidence that we are doing it. Frequent prayer,
searching the word, often enquiring. The first and main
business -- Giving up for Christ.
- The Petition: "Be merciful unto me."
(a) God's favour to be expected on the terms of mercy only.
(b) Happily, this is a prayer every sinner can and should
(c) Blessedly true it is, that it never fails.
- The Plea: "According to thy word."
(a) A plea that cannot be gainsaid is a great thing in an
(b) The promise of God is just such a plea.
(c) Seek it out, lay hold of it, and urge it. --J.F.