Verse 13. Faintness of heart is a common infirmity; even he who slew Goliath was subject to its attacks. Faith puts its bottle of cordial to the lip of the soul, and so prevents fainting. Hope is heaven's balm for present sorrow. In this land of the dying, it is our blessedness to be looking and longing for our fair portion in the land of the living, whence the goodness of God has banished the wickedness of man, and where holy spirits charm with their society those persecuted saints who were vilified and despised among men. We must believe to see, not see to believe; we must wait the appointed time, and stay our soul's hunger with foretastes of the Lord's eternal goodness which shall soon be our feast and our song.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 13. I had fainted, etc. Study much the all sufficiency, the power, the goodness, the unchangeableness of God.
Verse 13. I had fainted. The words in italics are supplied by our translators; but, far from being necessary, they injure the sense. Throw out the words, I had fainted, and leave a break after the verse, and the elegant figure of the psalmist will be preserved: "Unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" -- what! what, alas! should have become of me! Adam Clarke.
Verse 13. Unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. In the Hebrew this verse is elliptical, as Calvin here translates it. In the French version he supplies the ellipsis, by adding to the end of the verse the words, "C'estoit fait de moy," "I had perished." In our English version the words, "I had fainted," are introduced as a supplement in the beginning of the verse. Both the supplement of Calvin, and that of our English version, which are substantially the same, doubtless explain the meaning of the passage; but they destroy the elegant abrupt form of the expression employed by the psalmist, who breaks off in the middle of his discourse without completing the sentence, although what he meant to say is very evident. Editorial note to Calvin, in loc.
Verse 13. Under sore trouble and distress, labour to exercise a strong and lively faith. It was a noble and heroic resolution in that holy man Job, under his singular trials Job 13:15 : "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him;" as if he had said, Let my strokes be never so sore and heavy, yet I will not let go my grips of his word and promises, I will not raze these foundations of my hope. It was the way the psalmist kept himself from sinking under his heavy burdens: I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. ... Faith brings new strength and auxiliary supplies of grace from heaven, when the former supply is exhausted and spent; whereof David had the sweet experience here. As God doth plant and actuate grace in the soul, so he is pleased to come in with seasonable supplies and reinforcements to the weak and decayed graces of his people, answerable to their present exigencies and pressures; and thus he doth from time to time feed the believer's lamp with fresh oil, give in more faith, more love, more hope, and more desires; and hereby he gives power to the faint, and strengthens the things which remain when ready to die. John Willison.
Verse 13. Unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living: a cordial made up of three sovereign ingredients -- a hope to see; and to see the goodness of God; and the goodness of God in the land of the living. Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 13. The land of the living. Alas! what a land of the living is this, in which there are more dead than living, more under ground than above it; where the earth is fuller of graves than houses; where life lies trembling under the hand of death; and where death hath power to tyrannize over life! No, my soul, there only is the land of the living where there are none but the living; where there is a church, not militant, but triumphant; a church indeed, but no churchyard, because none dead, nor none that can die; where life is not passive, nor death active; where life sits crowned, and where death is swallowed up in victory. Sir Richard Baker.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 13. Faith, its precedence of sight, its objects, its sustaining power.
Verse 13. Believing to see. See Spurgeon's Sermons. No. 766.