Psalm 99:8

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 8. Thou answeredst them, 0 LORD our God. A sweet title and a cheering fact. Our covenant God in a very special manner heard his three servants when they pleaded for the people.

Thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions. He forgave the sinners, but he slew their sins. Some apply this verse to Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, and remind us that each of these fell into a fault and received chastisement. Of Samuel they assert that, for having set up his sons as his successors, he was compelled to submit to the anointing of Saul as king, which was a great grief to him: this is to our mind a very doubtful statement, and leads us to abandon the interpretation altogether. We believe that the passage refers to the nation which was spared through the intercession of these three holy men, but yet was severely chastened for its transgressions. In answer to the cry of Moses the tribes lived on, but the then existing generation could not enter Canaan: Aaron's golden calf was broken, though the fire of the Lord did not consume the people; and Israel smarted under the harsh government of Saul, though at Samuel's request its murmurings against the theocratic rule of their fathers' God was not visited with pestilence or famine. So to forgive sin as at the same time to express abhorrence of it, is the peculiar glory of God, and is best seen in the atonement of our Lord Jesus. Reader, are you a believer? Then your sin is forgiven you; but so surely as you are a child of God the rod of paternal discipline will be laid upon you if your walk be not close with God. "You only have I known of all the nations of the earth, therefore I will punish you for your iniquities."

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 8. The construction of the verse seems to be this: "O Lord our God, thou didst hear or answer them," that is, the aforementioned typical mediators, Moses, Aaron, and Samuel: "thou becamest a forbearing God for them," or, at their intercession; and that "even when punishing," or, when thou hadst begun to punish "the wicked deeds of them," that is, not of Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, but of the people, who had transgressed, and for whom they interceded. This was the case when Moses interceded for the idolaters, Ex 22:32, Aaron for the schismatics, Numbers 16:47 , and Samuel for the whole nation, 1 Samuel 7:9 . George Horne.

Verse 8. Thou answeredst them... forgavest them. Oh, the blessed assurance that nothing can disturb our standing in the covenant. Answer and forgiveness are certain, though vengeance is taken of our inventions. How every word and expression here seems to go right to our hearts! The very designation of our sins and punishments is so true. Yet, withal, we are not shut out from God. We are able to speak to, and to hear him; we receive what we need, and much more; and, above all, we have the sweet, abiding sense of forgiveness, notwithstanding "our inventions." When we smart under chastisements or disappointments, we know that it is the fire which burns up the hay, wood, and stubble -- a Father's dealings in compassion and mercy. We willingly, we gladly take these chastisements, which now are to us fresh pledges of our safety. For safe, eternally safe, remains the foundation, and unclosed the way of access. O surely with all our heart do we accord: "Exalt Jehovah our God, and worship at his holy hill; for Jehovah our God is holy." Alfred Ederaheim.

Verse 8. The words of this verse have in them three remarkable particulars.

  1. The behaviour of the men it speaks of, which is partly good, and partly evil. The former verse saith, "They kept God's testimonies, and the ordinance that he gave them;" this insinuates (what was also expressed, Psalms 99:6 ) that they used to call upon God; all this was very good. But withal they did sometimes some things amiss, they had some inventions, by-paths, and steps awry, which, as they needed pardon, so they occasionally incensed him so much against them that he would not let them escape altogether, without taking some vengeance for such untowardness.

  1. God's graciousness in a double respect: 1, in answering them, granting their suits and supplications ordinarily. 2. In forgiving them, pardoning their failings and faults evermore; never dealing with them altogether according to their sins, but in the midst of any offence of theirs, or judgment of his, remembering mercy.

  1. His holy justice, notwithstanding, taking vengeance on their inventions; chastening them for some faults sometimes, and not letting them always go unpunished, how faithful soever they were generally, or how gracious soever he was eternally. Herbert Palmer (1601-1647), in a Sermon entitled "The Glass of God's Providence." 1644.

Verse 8. Thou wast a God that forgavest them, literally "for them;" on account of their intercessions. God did not destroy those for whom his devoted servants pleaded, in the day of threatened vengeance. Their sins, indeed, he visited with the rod of divine chastisement; but thcir forfeited lives he spared in answer to prayer. John Morison.

Verse 8. Thou... forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions. Because he loves the person, and hates only the sin; therefore he preserves the one, destroys only the other. This is all the fruit, to take away his sin. The covenant that is made with us in Christ is not a covenant made with works, but with persons; and therefore, though the works be often hateful, yet he goes on to love the persons; and that he may continue to love them, destroys out of them what he hates, but cutteth not them off. A member that is leprous or ulcerous, a man loves it as it is "his own flesh," Ephesians 5:29 , though he loathes the corruption and putrefaction that is in it; and therefore he doth not presently cut it off, but purgeth it daily, lays plasters to it to eat the corruption out: whereas a wart or even a wen that grows to a man's body, a man gets it cut off, for he doth not reckon it as his flesh. Thomas Goodwin.

Verse 8. Thou tookest veageance of their inventions. It is not a light punishment, but a "vengeance," "he takes on their inventions;" to manifest that he hates sin as sin, and not because the worst persons commit it. Perhaps, had a profane man touched the ark, the hand of God had not so suddenly reached him. But when Uzzah, a man zealous for him, as may be supposed by his care for the support of the tottering ark, would step out of his place, he strikes him down for his disobedient action, by the side of the ark, which he would indirectly (as not being a Levite) sustain, 2 Samuel 6:7 . Nor did our Saviour so sharply reprove the Pharisees, and turn so short from them as he did from Peter, when he gave a carnal advice, and contrary to that wherein was to be the greatest manifestation of God's holiness, viz, the death of Christ, Matthew 16:23 . He calls him Satan, a name sharper than the title of the devil's children, wherewith he marked the Pharisees, and given (besides him) to none but Judas, who made a profession of love to him, and was outwardly ranked in the number of his disciples. A gardener hates a weed the more for being in the bed with the most precious flowers. Stephen Charnock.

Verse 8. Thou tookest vengeance. Sometimes the sins of a people may be such, that God will not pardon them as to temporal punishments; nay, not the godly themselves. Even they may have been partakers with others in their sins, or may have so provoked God themselves, and sinned in such a way as to cause his name to be blasphemed; so that he is concerned in honour to bring some exemplary punishment upon them. So it was with David ( 2 Samuel 12:10-14 .): though he pardoned him as to the guilt of eternal death, saved his soul, and spared his life, which was forfeited to divine justice for the murder of Uriah; yet the prophet announced that sharp afflictions must come on him, the sword must never "depart front his house," and the child begotten in adultery must die, and his wives must be given to his neighbours. So, in Psalms 99:8 , it seems to be spoken of Moses himself, and other godly among the Israelites who died in the wilderness, and were not permitted to come into the land of promise, that "God forgave them," yet "took vengeance of their inventions," John Collins (1687) in the Morning Exercises.

Verse 8. Vengeance of their inventions. It is remarkable, that in the preceding verses mention is made of Moses, and Aaron, and Samuel in a way which seems to imply that they were upon the psalmist's mind when he uttered the declaration of the text. These three persons, all eminent for their piety, were also conspicuous for having suffered the Divine displeasure on account of their failings. Moses angered the Lord at the waters of strife, and he is not suffered to enter the promised land; Aaron provoked the Divine anger by making the golden calf, and would have been destroyed, had not Moses by fervent intercession turned away the anger of the Lord lest he should destroy him; so Samuel placed his sons over Israel, who walked not in his ways, and therefore God gave Israel a king, whose crimes caused the prophet to go down with sorrow to the grave. Stephen Bridge, 1852.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 8. Mercy and judgment, or the sea of glass mingled with fire. C. D.

Verse 8. Observe,

  1. That God's vengeance for sin does not prevent his forgiveness of sin; and,
  2. That God's forgiveness of sin does not prevent his taking vengeance. Stephen Bridge