Verse 17. Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence. Without Jehovah's help, the psalmist declares that he should have died outright, and gone into the silent land, where no more testimonies can be borne for the living God. Or he may mean that he would not have had a word to speak against his enemies, but would have been wrapped in speechless shame. Blessed be God, we are not left to that condition yet, for the Almighty Lord is still the helper of all those who look to him. Our inmost soul is bowed down when we see the victories of the Lord's enemies -- we cannot brook it, we cover our mouths in confusion; but he will yet arise and avenge his own cause, therefore have we hope.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 17. Had been my help. The word signifieth not only help, but summum et plenum auxilium, an helpfulness, or full help: the Hebrew hath a letter more than ordinary, to increase the signification, as learned Mr. Leigh observeth: there is the sufficiency of help. Nathaniel Whiting, in "The Saints' Dangers, Deliverances, and Duties," 1659.
Verse 19. In the multitude of my thoughts, etc. That is, just when they were come to their height and extremity in me. The comforts of God are seasonable, and observe the proper time for their coming, neither too soon, nor too late but, "in," that is, just in the very point and nick of time. There is another thing here spoken of. In the "thoughts," and in the "multitude" of the "thoughts;" not in the indifference of thoughts, but in the perplexity; not in the paucity of thoughts, but in the plurality: our extremity is God's opportunity. "In the mount will the Lord be seen," when we have thought and thought and thought all we could, and know not what to think more, then does God delight to tender and exhibit his comforts to us...
In the words "within me" we have, next, the intimacy or closeness, of this grief. The Hebrew word is ykzrk, in medio mei. The Arabic be- kalbi, in corde meo. And so likewise the Septuagint, en th kardia mou, in my very heart. This is added by way of further intention and aggravation of the present evil and distress. First, To show the secrecy of this grief. Those evils which are external, and in the body, every one is ready to bemoan them, and to bewail them, and to take notice of them, and to shew a great deal of bowels towards those which are afflicted with them; but these griefs which are inward, and in the mind, they are such as are known but to God himself. "The heart knoweth his own bitterness," saith Solomon, Proverbs 14:10 .
Secondly, Here is hereby denoted the settledness and radication of this evil: it was within him and it was within his heart, that is, it was deeply rooted and fastened, and such as had a strong groundwork and foundation in him, such were these troublesome "thoughts," they were got into his very inwards and bowels, and so were not easily got out again. Thirdly, Here is hereby also signified the impression which they had upon him, and the sense which he himself had of them. They were such as did grievously afflict him, and pierce him, and went near unto him, they went to his very heart, and touched him, as it were, to the quick, through the grievousness of them, as he speaks in another place concerning the reproaches of his enemies, Psalms 42:10 : "As with a sword (or killing) in my bones mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?"
Now what are these "comforts" of God which the psalmist does more especially intend here in this place? In a word, they are the comforts which do flow from our communion with him. The comforts of his attributes, and the comforts of his promises, and the comforts of his gracious presence drawing near unto our souls, when it pleases him to shine upon us, and to express his