Verse 17. He will regard the prayer of the destitute. Only the poorest of the people were left to sigh and cry among the ruins of the beloved city; as for the rest, they were strangers in a strange land, and far away from the holy place, yet the prayers of the captives and the forlorn offscourings of the land would be heard of the Lord, who does not hear men because of the amount of money they possess, or the breadth of the acres which they call their own, but in mercy listens most readily to the cry of the greatest need.
And not despise their prayer. When great kings are building their palaces it is not reasonable to expect them to turn aside and listen to every beggar who pleads with them, yet when the Lord builds up Zion, and appears in his robes of glory, he makes a point of listening to every petition of the poor and needy. He will not treat their pleas with contempt; he will incline his ear to hear, his heart to consider, and his hand to help. What comfort is here for those who account themselves to be utterly destitute; their abject want is here met with a most condescending promise. It is worth while to be destitute to be thus assured of the divine regard.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 17. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, etc. The persons are here called "the destitute." The Hebrew word which is here translated "destitute" doth properly signify myrica, a low shrub, humiles myrica, low shrubs that grow in wildernesses, some think they were juniper shrubs, some a kind of wild tamaris, but a base wild shrub that grew nowhere but in a desolate forlorn place; and sometimes the word in the text is used to signify the deserts of Arabia, the sandy desert place of Arabia, which was a miserable wilderness. Now when this word is applied to men, it always means such as were forsaken men, despised men; such men as are stripped of all that is comfortable to them: either they never had children, or else their children are taken away from them, and all comforts banished, and themselves left utterly forlorn, like the barren heath ih a desolate howling wilderness. These are the people of whom my text speaks, that the Lord will regard the prayer of "the destitute;" and this was now the state of the Church of God when they offered up this prayer, and yet by faith did foretell that God would grant such a glorious answer...
This is also a lesson of singular comfort to every afflicted soul, to assure them their prayers and supplications are tenderly regarded before God. I have often observed such poor forsaken ones, who in their own eyes are brought very low, that of all other people they are most desirous to beg and obtain the prayers of their friends, when they see any that hath gifts, and peace, and cheerfulness of spirit, and liberty, and abilities to perform duties, O how glad they are to get such a man's prayers I "I beseech you, will you pray for me, will you please to remember me at the throne of grace," whereas, in truth, if we could give a right judgment, all such woudd rather desire the poor, and the desolate, to be mediators for them; for, certainly, whomsoever God neglects, he will listen to the cry of those that are forsaken and destitute. And therefore, O thou afflicted and tossed with tempests, who thinkest thou art wholly rejected by the Lord, continue to pour out thy soul to him; thou hast a faithful promise from him to be rewarded: he will regard the prayer of the destitute. Stephen Marshall, in a Sermon entitled "The Strong Helper," 1645.
Verse 17. He will regard the prayer of the destitute. It is worthy of observation that he ascribes the redemption and restoration of the people to the prayers of the faithful. That is truly a free gift, and dependent wholly upon the divine mercy, and yet God himself often attributes it to our prayers, to stir us up and render us the more active in the pursuit of prayer. Mollerus.
Verse 17. The prayer of the destitute. A man that is destitute knows how to pray. He needs not any instructor. His miseries indoctrinate him wonderfully in the art of offering prayer. Let us know ourselves destitute, that we may know how to pray; destitute of strength, of wisdom, of due influence, of true happiness, of proper faith, of thorough consecration, of the knowledge of the Scriptures, of righteousness.
These words introduce and stand in immediate connection with a prophecy of glorious things to be witnessed in the latter times. We profess to be eager for the accomplishment of those marvellous things; but are we offering the prayer of the destitute? On the contrary, is not the Church at large too much like the church at Laodicea? Will not a just interpretation of many of its acts and ways bring forth the words, "I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing?" And do not its prayers meet with this reproachful answer, "Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, and knowest it not. Thy temporal affluence implies not spiritual affluence. Thy spiritual condition is inversely as the worldly prosperity that has turned thy head. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire. Give all thy trashy gold -- trashy while it is with thee -- give it to my poor; and I will give thee true gold, namely, a sense of thy misery and meanness; a longing for grace, pubity, usefulness; a love of thy fellow-men; and my love shed abroad in thy heart." George Bowen.
Verse 17. Not despise their prayer. How many in every place (who have served the Lord in this great work) hath prayer helped at a dead lift? Prayer hath hitherto saved the kingdom. I remember a proud boast of our enemies, when we had lost Bristol and the Vies, they then sent abroad even into other kingdoms a triumphant paper, wherein they concluded all was now subdued to them, and among many other confident expressions, there was one to this purpose, Nil restat superare Regem, etc., which might be construed two ways; either thus, -- There remains nothing for the King to conquer, but only the prayers of a few fanatic people; or thus, -- There is nothing left to conquer the King, but the prayers of a few fanatic people: everything else was lost, all was now their own. And indeed we were then in a very low condition. Our strongholds taken, our armies melted away, our hearts generally failing us for fear, multitudes flying out of the kingdom, and many deserting the cause as desperate, making their peace at Oxford; nothing almost left us but preces et lachrymae; but blessed be God, prayer was not conquered; they have found it the hardest wall to climb, the strongest brigade to overthrow; it hath hitherto preserved us, it hath raised up unexpected helps, and brought many unhoped for successes and deliverances. Let us therefore, under God, set the crown upon the head of prayer. Ye nobles and worthies, be ye all content to have it so; it will wrong none of you in your deserved praise; God and man will give you your due. Many of you have done worthily, but prayer surpasses you all: and this is no new thing, prayer hath always had the pre-eminence in the building of Zion. God hath reserved several works for several men and several ages; but in all ages and among all men, prayer hath been the chiefest instrument, especially in the building up of Zion. Stephen Marshall.
Verse 17. Not despise their prayer. He will, then, give ear to the suits of the poor, and not reject their supplications. But who will believe this? Is it likely that when God is in his glory, he will attend to such mean things as hearkening to the poor? Can it stand with the honour of his glory to stand reading petitions, and specially of men that come in forma pauperis? scarce credible indeed with men, who, raised in honour, keep a distance from the poor and count it a degree of falling to look downwards: but credible enough with God, who counts it his glory to regard the inglorious; and being the Most High, yet looks as low as to the lowest, and favours them most who are most despised. And this did Christ after his transfiguration, when he had appeared in his glory; he then shewed acts of greatest humility; he then washed the disciples' feet; and made Peter as much wonder to see his humbleness, as he had done before to see his glory. Sir R. Baker.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- The destitute pray.
- They pray most.
- They pray best.
- They pray most effectually. Or the surest way to succeed in prayer is to pray as the destitute; show the reason of this.