Verse 9. Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Has El, the Mighty One, become great in everything but grace? Does he know how to afflict, but not how to uphold? Can he forget anything? Above all, can he forget to exercise that attribute which lies nearest to his essence, for he is love?
Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Are the pipes of goodness choked up so that love can no more flow through them? Do the bowels of Jehovah no longer yearn towards his own beloved children? Thus with cord after cord unbelief is smitten and driven out of the soul; it raises questions and we will meet it with questions: it makes us think and act ridiculously, and we will heap scorn upon it. The argument of this passage assumes very much the form of a reductio ad absurdam. Strip it naked, and mistrust is a monstrous piece of folly.
Selah. Here rest awhile, for the battle of questions needs a lull.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 9. Hath God forgotten to be gracious? In what pangs couldest thou be, O Asaph, that so woeful a word should fall from thee: Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Surely, the temptation went so high, that the next step had been blasphemy. Had not that good God, whom thy bold weakness questions for forgetfulness, in great mercies remembered thee, and brought thee speedily to remember thyself and him; that, which you confess to have been infirmity, had proved a sinful despair. I dare say for thee, that word washed thy cheeks with many a tear, and was worthy of more; for, O God, what can be so dear to thee, as the glory of thy mercy? There is none of thy blessed attributes, which thou desirest to set forth so much unto the sons of men, and so much abhorrest to be disparaged by our detraction, as thy mercy. Thou canst, O Lord, forget thy displeasure against thy people; thou canst forget our iniquities, and cast our sins out of thy remembrance, Mic 7:18-19; but thou canst no more forget to be gracious, than thou canst cease to be thyself. O my God, I sin against thy justice hourly, and thy mercy interposes for my remission: but, oh, keep me from sinning against thy mercy. What plea can I hope for, when I have made my advocate my enemy? Joseph Hall.
Verse 9. Hath God forgotten to be gracious? The poor child crieth after the mother. What shall I do for my mother! Oh, my mother, my mother, what shall I do for my mother! And it may be the mother stands behind the back of the child, only she hides herself, to try the affection of the child: so the poor soul cries after God, and complains, Oh my Father! my Father! Where is my heavenly Father? Hath he forgotten to be gracious? Hath he shut up his lovingkindness in displeasure? when, (all the while), God is nearer than they think for, shining upon them in "a spirit of grace and supplications," with sighs and "groans that cannot be uttered." Thus the gracious woman, weeps: My dear Saviour, my dear Lord and Master, he is "taken out of the sepulchre, and I know not where they have laid him!" Thus she complains to the disciples, and thus she complains to the angels, when Christ stood at her very back and overheard all: nay, when she turned her about and saw him, yet at first she did not know him; nay, when he spoke to her and she to him, yet she knew him not, but thought he had been the gardener, John 20:15 . Thus it is with many a gracious soul; though God speaks home to their hearts in his Word, and they speak to him by prayer, and they cannot say but the Spirit "helps their infirmities;" yet they complain for want of his presence, as if there were nothing of God in them. Matthew Lawrence.
Verse 9. Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? The metaphor here is taken from a spring, the mouth of which is closed, so that its waters can no longer run in the same channel; but, being confined, break out and take some other course. Wilt thou take thy mercy from the Israelites and give it to some other people? Adam Clarke.
Verse 9. Selah. Thus was he going on with his dark and dismal apprehensions, when on a sudden he first checked himself with that word, Selah; stop there; go no further; let us hear no more of these unbelieving surmises; and then he chid himself, Psalms 77:10 : This is mine infirmity. Matthew Henry.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS