Verse 4. But there is forgiveness with thee. Blessed but. Free, full, sovereign pardon is in the hand of the great King: it is his prerogative to forgive, and he delights to exercise it. Because his nature is mercy, and because he has provided a sacrifice for sin, therefore forgiveness is with him for all that come to him confessing their sins. The power of pardon is permanently resident with God: he has forgiveness ready to his hand at this instant. "That thou mayest be feared." This is the fruitful root of piety. None fear the Lord like those who have experienced his forgiving love. Gratitude for pardon produces far more fear and reverence of God than all the dread which is inspired by punishment. If the Lord were to execute justice upon all, there would be none left to fear him; if all were under apprehension of his deserved wrath, despair would harden them against fearing him: it is grace which leads the way to a holy regard of God, and a fear of grieving him.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4. But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. One would think that punishment should procure fear, and forgiveness love; but nemo majus diligit, quam qui maxime veretur offendere -- no man more truly loves God than he that is most fearful to offend him. "Thy mercy reacheth to the heavens, and thy faithfulness to the clouds" -- that is, above all sublimities. God is glorious in all his works, but most glorious in his works of mercy; and this may be one reason why St. Paul calls the gospel of Christ a "glorious gospel": 1 Timothy 1:11 . Solomon tells us, "It lathe glory of a man to pass by an offence." Herein is God most glorious, in that he passeth by all the offences of his children. Lord, who can know thee and not love thee, know thee and not fear thee? We fear thee for thy justice, and love thee for thy mercy; yea, fear thee for thy mercy, and love thee for thy justice; for thou art infinitely good in both. --Thomas Adams.
Verse 4. But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. But is this not a mistaking in David to say, There is mercy with God, that he may be feared; all as one to say, There is severity with him, that he may be loved for if we cannot love one for being severe, how should we fear him for being merciful I Should it not, therefore, have been rather said, There is justice with thee, that thou mayest be feared? seeing it is justice that strikes a terror and keeps in awe; mercy breeds a boldness, and boldness cannot stand with fear, and therefore not fear with mercy. But is there not, I may say, an active fear, not to offend God, as well as a passive fear for having offended him? and with God's mercy may well stand the active fear, though not so well, perhaps, the passive fear which is incident properly to his justice.
There is a common error in the world, to think we may be the bolder to sin because God is merciful; but, O my soul, take heed of this error, for God's mercy is to no such purpose; it is not to make us bold, but to make us fear: the greater his mercy is, the greater ought our fear to be, for there is mercy with him that he may be feared. Unless we fear, he may choose whether he will be merciful or no; or rather, we maybe sure he will not be merciful, seeing he hath mercy for none but for them that fear him; and there is great reason for this, for to whom should mercy show itself but to them that need it? and if we think we need it we will certainly fear. Oh, therefore, most gracious God, make me to fear thee; for as thou wilt not be merciful to me unless I fear thee, so I cannot fear thee unless thou first be merciful unto me. --Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 4. But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. Even Saul himself will lift up his voice and weep when he seeth a clear testimony of the love and undeserved kindness of David. Hast thou never beheld a condemned prisoner dissolved in tears upon the unexpected and unmerited receipt of a pardon, who all the time before was as hard as a flint? The hammer of the law may break the icy heart of man with terrors and horrors, and yet it may remain ice still, unchanged; but when the fire of love kindly thaws its ice, it is changed and dissolved into water -- it is no longer ice, but of another nature. --George Swinnock.
Verse 4. But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. The Evangelical doctrine of the gratuitous forgiveness of sins does not of itself beget carelessness, as the Papists falsely allege; but rather a true and genuine fear of God; like as the Psalmist here shows that this is the final cause and effect of the doctrine. --Solomon Gesner.
Verse 4. But there is forgiveness with thee, etc. His judgments and his wrath may make us astonished and stupefied; but, if there be no more they will never make us to come to God. Then if this be not sufficient, what more is requisite? Even a sight of the Lord's mercy, for that is most forcible to allure, as the prophet saith here, and as the church of God says ( Song of Solomon 1:3 ), "Because of the savour of thy good ointments, therefore the virgins love thee." This only is forcible to allure the sinner: for all the judgments of God, and curses of the law, will never allure him. What was the chief thing that moved the prodigal son to return home to his father? Was it chiefly the distress, the disgrace and poverty where with he was burdened, or the famine that almost caused him to starve? No, but the chief thing was this, he remembered that he had a loving father. That maketh him to resolve with an humble confession to go home Luke 15:1-32 Even so is it with the sinner; it is not terrors and threatenings that chiefly will move him to come to God, but the consideration of his manifold and great mercies. --Robert Rollock.
Verse 4. But. How significant is that word "but" As if you heard justice clamouring, "Let the sinner die", and the fiends in hell howling, "Cast him down into the fires", and conscience shrieking,: "Let him perish", and nature itself groaning beneath his weight, the earth weary with carrying him, and the sun tired with shining upon the traitor, the very air sick with finding breath for one who only spends it in disobedience to God. The man is about to be destroyed, to be swallowed up quick, when suddenly there comes this thrice blessed "but", which stops the reckless course of ruin, puts forth its strong arm bearing a golden shield between the sinner and destruction, and pronounces these words, "But there is forgiveness with God, that he may be feared." --C. H. S.
Verse 4. There is a propitiation with thee, so some read it: Jesus Christ is the great propitiation, the ransom which God has found; he is ever with him, as advocate for us, and through him we hope to obtain forgiveness. --Matthew Henry.
Verse 4. That thou mayest be feared. This forgiveness, this smile of God, binds the soul to God with a beautiful fear. Fear to lose one glance of love. Fear to lose one work of kindness. Fear to be carried away from the heaven of his presence by an insidious current of worldliness. Fear of slumber. Fear of error. Fear of not enough pleasing him. Our duty, then, is to drink deep of God's forgiving love. To be filled with it is to be filled with purity, fervency, and faith. Our sins have to hide their diminished heads, and slink away through crevices, when forgiveness -- when Christ -- enters the soul. --George Bowen, in "Daily Meditations", 1873.
Verse 4-5,7-8. David puts his soul out of all fear of God's taking this course reckoning strictly with poor penitent souls, by laying down this comfortable conclusion, as an indubitable truth: "But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." That is, there is forgiveness in thy nature, thou carriest a pardoning heart in thy bosom; yea, there is forgiveness in thy promise; thy merciful heart doth not only incline thee to thoughts of forgiving; but thy faithful promise binds thee to draw forth the same unto all that humbly and seasonably lay claim thereunto. Now, this foundation laid, see what superstructure this holy man raiseth ( Psalms 130:5 ): "I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope." As if he had said, Lord, I take thee at thy word, and am resolved by thy grace to wait at the door of thy promise, never to stir thence till I have my promised dole (forgiveness of my sins) sent out unto me. And this is so sweet a morsel, that he is loath to eat it alone, and therefore he sends down the dish, even to the lower end of the table, that every godly person may taste with him of it ( Psalms 130:7-8 ): "Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities." As if he had said, That which is a ground of hope to me, notwithstanding the clamour of my sins, affords as solid and firm a bottom to any true Israelite or sincere soul in the world, did he but rightly understand himself, and the mind of God in his promise. Yea, I have as strong a faith for such as for my own soul, and I durst pawn the eternity of my happiness upon this principle, -- that God should redeem every sincere Israelite from all his iniquities. -- William Gurnall.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 4. Forgiveness with God.
- The proofs of it.
- Divine declarations.
b) Invitations and promises, Isaiah 1:18 .
- The reason of it.
- In God's nature there is the desire to forgive; the gift of Christ is sufficient evidence for it.
b) But, the text speaks not so much of a desire as it asserts the existence of a forgiveness being "with" God, therefore ready to be dispensed. The blood of Christ is the reason ( Colossians 1:14 ); by it the disposition to forgive righteously manifests itself in the forgiving act: Romans 3:25-26 .
- The result of its realization: "That thou mayest be feared": with a reverential fear, and spiritual worship.
- The possibility of forgiveness begets in an anxious soul true penitence, as opposed to terror and despair.
b) The hope of receiving it begets earnest seeking and prayerfulness.
c) A believing reception of it gives peace and rest, and, exciting grateful love, leads to spiritual worship and filial service. --J. F.
Verse 4. There is forgiveness.
- It is needed.
- God alone can give it.
- It may be had.
- We may know that we have it.
- A most cheering announcement: "There is forgiveness with thee."
- A fact certain.
- A fact in the present tense.
- A fact which arises out of God himself.
- A fact stated in general terms.
- A fact to be meditated upon with delight.
- A most admirable design: "That thou mayest be feared."
- Very contrary to the abuse made of it by rebels, triflers, and procrastinators.
b) Very different from the pretended fears of legalists.
c) No pardon, no fear of God -- devils, reprobates.
d) No pardon, none survive to fear him.
e) But the means of pardon encourage faith, repentance, prayer; and the receipt of pardon creates love, suggests obedience, inflames zeal.
Verse 4. See "Spurgeon's Sermons", No. 351: "Plenteous Redemption."
Verse 4. Tender Light.
- The Angel by the Throne: "Forgiveness with Thee."
- The shadow that enhances his sweet majesty: "If", "But."
- The homage resultant from his ministry; universal from highest to least. -- W.B. H.