PSALM 94 OVERVIEW.
SUBJECT. The writer sees evil doers in power, and smarts under their oppressions. His sense of the divine sovereignty, of which he had been singing in the previous Psalm, leads him to appeal to God as the great Judge of the earth; this he does with much vehemence and importunity, evidently tingling under the lash of the oppressor. Confident in God's existence, and assured of his personal observation of the doings of men, the psalmist rebukes his atheistic adversaries, and proclaims his triumph in his God: he also interprets the severe dispensation of Providence to be in very deed most instructive chastisements, and so he counts those happy who endure them. The Psalm is another pathetic form of the old enigma -- "Wherefore do the wicked prosper?" It is another instance of a good man perplexed by the prosperity of the ungodly, cheering his heart by remembering that there is, after all, a King in heaven, by whom all things are overruled for good.
DIVISIONS. In Psalms 94:1-7 the psalmist utters his complaint against wicked oppressors. From Psalms 94:8-11 he reasons against their sceptical notion that God did not notice the actions of men. He then shows that the Lord does bless his people and will deliver them, though for a while they may be chastened, Psalms 94:12-15 . He again pleads for help in Ps 94:16, and declares his entire dependence upon God for preservation, Psalms 94:17-19 ; yet a third time urges his complaint, Psalms 94:20-21 ; and then concludes with the confident assurance that his enemies, and all other wicked men, would certainly be made to reap the due reward of their deeds, -- "yea, the Lord our God shall cut them off."
Verse 1. O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongeth; 0 God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself: or, God of retribution, Jehovah, God of retribution, shine forth! A very natural prayer when innocence is trampled down, and wickedness exalted on high. If the execution of justice be a right thing, -- and who can deny the fact? -- then it must be a very proper thing to desire it; not out of private revenge, in which case a man would hardly dare to appeal to God, but out of sympathy with right, and pity for those who are made wrongfully to suffer, Who can see a nation enslaved, or even an individual downtrodden, without crying to the Lord to arise and vindicate the righteous cause? The toleration of injustice is here attributed to the Lord's being hidden, and it is implied that the bare sight of him will suffice to alarm the tyrants into ceasing their oppressions. God has but to show himself, and the good cause wins the day. He comes, he sees, he conquers! Truly in these evil days we need a manifest display of his power, for the ancient enemies of God and man are again struggling for the mastery, and if they gain it, woe unto the saints of God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 1. 0 LORD God, to whom vengeance belongeth. It may perhaps seem to accord too little with a lover of piety, so strenuously to urge upon God to show himself an avenger against the wicked, and to rouse Him as if He were lingering and procrastinating. But this supplication must be regarded in its proper bearing; for David does not pray, neither should we pray, that God would take vengeance on the wicked in the same way that men, inflamed with anger and hatred, are wont often to avenge themselves of their enemies, but that He would punish them after his own divine manner and measure. The vengeance of God is for the most part a medicine for the evil; but ours is at times destruction even to the good. Therefore truly the Lord is alone the God of revenges. For we, when we think we have inflicted a penalty upon our enemy, are often much mistaken. What injury to us was the body of our enemy? in depriving him of which we nevertheless express all our bitterness. What wounded thee and wrought thee harm and shame, was the spirit of thine enemy, and that thou art not able to seize and hold, but God is able; and He alone has such power that in no way can the spirit escape his strength and force. Leave vengeance with Him, and He will repay. He admonishes us, that if we ourselves wish to be avengers of our own pains and injuries we may hurt ourselves more deeply than our enemy: for when we take vengeance on him, we indeed wound and do violence to his body, which in itself is vile and of little regard; but in our own best and most precious part, that is, in our spirit; we ourselves, by losing patience, receive a deep stain, because when virtue and humanity have been expelled thence, we meanwhile incur faults to be atoned for therein. Wherefore God is entreated to become Himself the avenger of our injuries, for He alone knows aright and is able to avenge; and to become such an avenger that only the very thing which injured us may be punished. Some greedy man has cheated thee in money, may He punish avarice in him. A proud man has treated thee with scorn, may He destroy his pride, etc... This is vengeance most worthy to be inflicted of God, and by us to be sought. Jacopo Sadoleto. 1477-1547.
Verse 1. I do not think that we sufficiently attend to the distinction that exists between revenge and vengeance. "Revenge," says Dr. Johnson, "is an act of passion, vengeance of justice; injuries are revenged, crimes avenged." And it is from not attending to this essential distinction that the scorner has been led into such profane remarks, as if there were a vindictive spirit in the Almighty, and as if he found delight in wreaking vengeance on an adversary. The call which the psalmist here makes on God as a God to whom vengeance belongeth, is no other than if he had said, "O God, to whom justice belongeth!" Vengeance indeed is not for man, because with man's feelings and propensities it would ever degenerate into revenge. "I wilt be even with him," says nature; "I will be above him," says grace. Barton Bouchier.
Verse 1. The two divine names (El and Jehovah, -- God and Lord) recognize God as almighty, eternal, self existent, bound by covenant to his people, and alone entitled to take vengeance. J. A. Alexander.
"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones,
Forget not: in thy book record their groans
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piemontese that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
To heaven. Their martyred blood and ashes sow
Over all the Italian fields, where still doth sway
The triple Tyrant; that from these may grow
A hundredfold, who having learned the way,
Early may fly the Babylonian woe." John Milton.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- Retribution the prerogative of God alone.
- Under what aspects may we desire his rendering it.
- How, and when he will surely fulfil this righteous wish.
- Vengeance belongs to God and not to man.
- Vengeance is better in the hands of God than of man. Let us fall into the hands of God, etc. G. R.