Psalm 55:19

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 19. God shall hear, and afflict them. They make a noise as well as I, and God will hear them. The voice of slander, malice, and pride, is not alone heard by those whom it grieves, it reaches to heaven, it penetrates the divine ear, it demands vengeance, and shall have it. God hears and delivers his people, he hears and destroys the wicked. Their cruel jests, their base falsehoods, their cowardly insults, their daring blasphemies are heard, and shall be repaid to them by the eternal judge.

Even he that abideth of old. He sits in eternity, enthroned judge for evermore; all the prayers of saints and profanities of sinners are before his judgment seat, and he will see that justice is done.

Selah. The singer pauses, overwhelmed with awe in the presence of the everlasting God.

Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God. His own reverential feeling causes him to remember the daring godlessness of the wicked; he feels that his trials have driven him to his God, and he declares that their uninterrupted prosperity was the cause of their living in such neglect of the Most High. It is a very manifest fact that long continued ease and pleasure are sure to produce the worst influences upon graceless men: though troubles do not convert them, yet the absence of them makes their corrupt nature more readily develop itself. Stagnant water becomes putrid. Summer heat breeds noxious insects. He who is without trouble is often without God. It is a forcible proof of human depravity that man turns the mercy of God into nutriment for sin: the Lord save us from this.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 19. Even he that abideth of old. The deeds by which God had already showed himself from of old as the righteous King and Judge, the judgments, for example, upon the wicked in the land of Shinar ( Psalms 55:9 ), the company of Korah ( Psalms 55:9 Psalms 55:18 ), the cities of the plain ( Psalms 55:15 ), pledge his still ready interposition. He who had already so long held the throne, must now also show himself as King and Judge; he cannot now, at so late a period, be another. E. W. Hengstenberg, 1845.

Verse 19. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God. That is, there is no new thing among them, no extraordinary providential turns, no judiciary changes, their prosperity keeps a settled course, and because they find all things going on in the old course of providence, therefore they go on in their old course of sinfulness, they fear not God; intimating, that as such changes always should, so usually they do, awaken fear; and that, if the Lord would but change, and toss, and tumble them about, by various troublesome dispensations, surely they would fear him. Joseph Caryl.

Verse 19. Because they have no changes, etc. Or, with whom also there be no changes, yet they fear not God. If changes be referred to their temporal estates and welfare, as Job 10:17 (it is the same word there as here, twkylx), "changes and war are against me:" then, according to the first translation, because etc., a reason is given of their perseverance in wickedness, and contempt of God; to wit, their constant and uninterrupted worldly prosperity. Or, according to the second, With whom there are no changes, yet, etc.; it is a great aggravation of their impenitency, that notwithstanding so much goodness vouchsafed unto them, they should continue so unthankful as to requite so ill, or so stupid and insensible as not to acknowledge the author. But if changes be referred, as by many, to the soul, then the meaning is -- that through long use and continuance of sinning, they are, through God's just judgment, become altogether obdurate and inflexible; and therefore, no wonder if nothing work upon them to their conversion. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin?" etc. Jeremiah 13:23 . But this changes might also have another meaning. The Grecians used to say, streptai esylwn, that the minds or hearts of good men are changeable; their meaning is, that good men are merciful. Quos quisque est major, magis est placabilis ira: et faciles motus mens generosa capit, as the Latin proverb expresses it. He may therefore say, that they show by their cruel unmercifulness, that they have no fear or sense of God at all; else they would fear him, of whose mercy themselves stood in so much need, and consider that they whom they so fiercely persecute are his creatures as well as they. Westminster Assembly's Annotations.

Verse 19. They have no changes, etc. Who are they who have no changes? Apparently those whom God is said to humble or chastise. And what is the meaning of the word, changes as here used? Many understand it of a moral change; "who are without change of heart or reformation." But the word never occurs in this sense. It means, properly, "a change" in the sense of succession; as of garments, of troops relieving guard, servants leaving work, and the like. Hence it would rather mean in a moral sense: "They who have no cessation in their course (by being relieved guard, for instance), who always continue, and persevere in their evil life." Calvin and others understand it of change of fortune, i.e., "who are always prosperous;" but this again is not supported by usage. J. J. Stewart Perowne.

Verse 19. They fear not God. The fear required here, is to fear him as God, and as God presented in this name, Elohim; which though it be a name primarily rooted in power and strength (for El is Deus fortis, The powerful God; and as there is no love without fear, so there is no fear without power), yet properly it signifies his judgment, and order, and providence, and dispensations and government of his creatures. It is that name which goes through all God's whole work of the creation, and disposition of all creatures in the first of Genesis: in all that he is called by no other name than this, the name God; not by Jehovah, to present an infinite majesty; nor by Adonai, to present an absolute power; nor by Tzebaoth, to present a force, or conquest; but only the name of God, his name of government. All ends in this; to fear God is to adhere to him, in his way, as he hath dispensed and notified himself to us;, that is, as God is manifested in Christ, in the Scriptures, and applied to us out of those Scriptures, by the church: not to rest in nature without God, nor in God without Christ. John Donne, 1573-1631.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 19. The eternal government of God a threat to the ungodly.

Verse 19. (second part). Prosperity creating atheism. This involves --

  1. Ingratitude -- they ought to be the more devout.
  2. Impudence -- they think themselves as God.
  3. Forgetfulness -- they forget that changes will come.
  4. Ignorance -- they know not that unbroken prosperity is often for awhile the portion of the accursed.
  5. Insanity -- for there is no reason in their conduct.
  6. Rottenness -- preparing them to be cast away for ever.