Verse 13. For great is thy mercy toward me. Personal experience is ever the master singer. Whatever thou art to others, to me thy mercy is most notable. The psalmist claims to sing among the loudest, because his debt to divine mercy is among the greatest.
And thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. From the direst death and the deepest dishonour David had been kept by God, for his enemies would have done more than send him to hell had they been able. His sense of sin also made him feel as if the most overwhelming destruction would have been his portion had not grace prevented, therefore does he speak of deliverance from the nethermost abode of lost spirits. There are some alive now who can use this language unfeignedly, and he who pens these lines most humbly confesses that he is one. Left to myself to indulge my passions, to rush onward with my natural vehemence, and defy the Lord with recklessness of levity, what a candidate for the lowest abyss should I have made myself by this time. For me, there was but one alternative, great mercy, or the lowest hell. With my whole heart do I sing, "Great is thy mercy towards me, and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell."
The psalmist here again touches a bold and joyful note, but soon he exchanges it for the mournful string.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 13. Hell is put metaphorically for great and extreme dangers, or miseries which seem irrecoverable and remediless; these are figuratively called hell, because hell, properly taken, is a place from whence there is no recovery. There's no release from the chains of darkness: all changes are on earth; heaven and hell know none. When David praises the Lord for delivering his soul from the lowest hell, he meaneth an estate on earth of the lowest and deepest danger imaginable: mercy helped him at the worst. To be as low as hell, is to be at the lowest. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 13. The lowest hell. According to Jewish traditions, there are seven different regions, in the abode of departed souls. --Daniel Creswell.
Verse 13. Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. Someone having a troublesome cause was to be sent to prison: another comes and defends him; what does he say when he thanks him? Thou hast delivered my soul out of prison. A debtor was to be tortured: his debt is paid; he is said to be delivered from being tortured. They were not in all these evils; but because they were in such due course towards them, that unless aid had been brought, they would have been in them, they rightly say that they are delivered from thence, whither they were not suffered by their deliverers to be taken. -- Augustine.
Verse 13,16. There is no stronger argument of God's infallible readiness to grant our requests, than the experience of his former concessions. So David reasons, "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine", 1 Samuel 17:37 . This is the argument a priori, the voice of a strong faith, that persuades the conscience God will be gracious to him, because he hath been gracious. The prophet thus often comforted his soul: "Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress"; therefore, "have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer", Psalms 4:1 . So, Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell; therefore, O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me. Let the justiciaries deduce arguments from their own present merits, my soul from God's former mercies. Thou, O Lord, madest me good, restoredst me when I was evil; therefore have mercy upon me, miserable sinner, and give me thy salvation. Thus Paul grounded his assurance: because the Lord had stood with him, and delivered him out of the lion's mouth; therefore the Lord shall deliver me still, from every evil work, and preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom. 2 Timothy 4:17-18 . -- Thomas Adams.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 13. --
- Where I might have been -- "the lowest hell".
- What thou hast done for me -- "hast delivered".
- What thou art doing -- "great is thy mercy."
Verse 13. (first clause). -- God's mercy great in election, redemption, calling, pardon, upholding, etc. It is so, at this very moment, in supplying my needs, preserving from danger, consoling in sorrow, etc. Great is thy mercy towards me -- so great a sinner, with such needs, so provoking, so full of doubts, etc.
Verse 13-15. -- The three verses describe salvation, consequent persecution, and all sufficient consolation.