Verse 8. "O remember not against us former iniquities." Sins accumulate against nations. Generations lay up stores of transgressions to be visited upon their successors; hence this urgent prayer. In Josiah's days the most earnest repentance was not able to avert the doom which former long years of idolatry had sealed against Judah. Every man has reason to ask for an act of oblivion for his past sins, and every nation should make this a continual prayer.
"Let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us: for we are brought very low." Hasten to our rescue, for our nation is hurrying down to destruction; our numbers are diminished and our condition is deplorable. Observe how penitent sorrow seizes upon the sweeter attributes, and draws her pleas from the "tender mercies" of God; see, too, how she pleads her own distress, and not her goodness, as a motive for the display of mercy. Let souls who are brought very low find an argument in their abject condition. What can so powerfully appeal to pity as dire affliction? The quaint prayer book version is touchingly expressive: "O remember not our old sins, but have mercy upon us, and that soon; for we are come to great misery." This supplication befits a sinner's life. We have known seasons when this would have been as good a prayer for our burdened heart as any that human mind could compose.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 8. "O remember not against us former iniquities." The prophet numbers himself with the people not only in their afflictions, but also in their distress, and liability to the anger of God because of the crimes committed. He was not a partner in those enormous sins by which they had provoked the jealousy of God, and yet he exempts not himself from the people at large. Thus in the following verse, he says, "And purge away our sins." He says not, Remember not the iniquity of this people; nor, And purge away their sins: But, Remember not our iniquities, and, Purge away our sins. In this way the prophets, though holy men, were wont to make themselves sharers of the people's sins, not by sinning, but by weeping and praying and imploring the mercy of God. See Isaiah 59:12 . "Our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us 1:1 9:5 . "We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled," etc.
- Let us also follow this example, that so far we may have fellowship with the whole Church, that we may be partners of those who truly love and worship God.
- Then, that abstaining from false worship, we may not sin wickedly with the wicked.
- That whenever we ought to weep or pray, we may mourn and confess not only our own, but also the shortcomings of the whole church corporate, as if they were common to ourselves, even if we have no part in them, and may implore for them the mercy of God. Musculus.
Verse 8. "O remember not against us former iniquities." The Jews have a saying, that there is no punishment happens to Israel, but there is an ounce in it for the sin of the calf; their meaning is, that this is always remembered and visited, according to Exodus 32:34 ; the phrase may take in all the sins of former persons, their ancestors, and of former times, from age to age, they had continued in, which had brought ruin upon them; and all their own sins of nature and of youth, all past ones to the present time. John Gill.
Verse 8. "O remember not against us former iniquities." Old debts vex most; the delay of payment increases them by interest upon interest; and the return of them being unexpected, a person is least provided for them. We count old sores, breaking forth, incurable. Augustus wondered at a person sleeping quietly that was very much in debt, and sent for his pillow, saying, "surely there is some strange virtue in it, that makes him rest so secure." My brethren, if one debt unto God's law be more than the whole creation can satisfy, what do any of us mean to rest secure with so vast a burden upon our consciences and accounts? Ah! take heed you are not surprised and arrested with old debts. O God, thou rememberest former iniquities against us. God will call over, and charge thy sins upon thee, when all the sweet is gone. Elias Pledger (-- 1676), in "Morning Exercises."
Verse 8. "O remember not against us former iniquities." The only right way to remedy a miserable condition, is to sue for the remission of sins, and for the renewed evidence of reconciliation: for before the church here do ask anything for their outward delivery, they pray, "O remember not against us former inequities." David Dickson.
Verse 8. "Speedily." Lest they come too late, for we are at our last gasp. John Trapp.
Verse 8. "Prevent." God's mercy must anticipate, "come to meet," man's necessity. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Verse 8. "We are brought very low." Literally, "We are greatly thinned." Few of us remain. Adam Clarke.
Verse 8. "We are brought very low." We are very greatly exhausted (emptied out); that is, we are utterly destitute of all things, both fortune, and strength of mind and body, just like a well or a vessel completely emptied. Martin Geier.
Verse 8. "Very low." Past the hopes of all human help, and therefore the glory of our deliverance will be wholly thine. Matthew Poole.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 8. A sinner's confession, petition, and plea.