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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 77:9

 

 

Has God forgotten to be gracious, Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Selah.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Hath God - in anger shut up his tender mercies? - The tender mercies of God are the source whence all his kindness to the children of men flows. 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? This he most certainly did. He took it from the Jews, and gave it to the Gentiles.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 77:9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/psalms-77.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Hath God forgotten to be gracious? - Has he passed over mercy in administering his government? Has he ceased to remember that man needs mercy? Has he forgotten that this is an attribute of his own nature?

Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? - The original word here rendered “tender mercies” refers to the “bowels,” as the seat of compassion or mercy, in accordance with a usage common in Hebrew. See Psalm 25:6, note; Isaiah 16:11, note; Isaiah 63:15, note. Compare Luke 1:78 (in Greek); Philemon 1:8; Philemon 2:1; 1 John 3:17. We speak of the “heart” as the seat of affection and kindness. The Hebrews included the heart, but they used a more general word. The word rendered “shut up” means “closed;” and the question is whether his mercy was closed, or had ceased forever. The psalmist concludes that if this were done, it must be as the result of anger - anger in view of the sins of people.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 77:9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/psalms-77.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 77:9

Hath God forgotten to be gracious?

A question for a questioner

The question before us is what the logician would call a reductio ad absurdum; it reduces doubt to an absurdity; it puts into plain words the thought of an unbelieving mind, and at once it is seen to be a horrible notion. “Hath God forgotten?” We stumble at the first word. How can God forget? “Hath God forgotten to be?” We snap the question at that point, and it is blasphemous. It is no better when we give it as a whole--“Hath God forgotten to be gracious?” The bare idea is bold, ridiculous and blasphemous.

I. To the man of God in distress this question is commended, “Hath God forgotten to be gracious?” What kind of distress is that which suggests such a question? Where had Asaph been? In what darkness had he wandered? I answer, first, this good man had been troubled by unanswered prayers. “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord”; and he seems to say that though he sought the Lord his griefs were not removed. He was in darkness, and he craved for light, but not a star shone forth. Nothing is more grievous to the sincere pleader than to feel that his petitions are not heeded by his God. Besides that, he was enduring continual suffering. “My sore ran in the night.” When Asaph had prayed for relief, and the relief did not come, the temptation came to him to ask, “Am I always to suffer? Will the Lord never relieve me? It is written, ‘He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds’; has He ceased from that sacred surgery? ‘Hath God forgotten to be gracious?’” In addition to this, the man of God was in a state of mind in which his depression had become inveterate. He says, “My soul refused to be comforted.” Many plasters were at hand, but he could not lay them upon the wound. More than that, there seemed to be a failure of the means of grace for him. “I remembered God, and was troubled.” Some of God’s people go up to the house of the Lord where they were accustomed to unite in worship with delight, but they have no delight now; they even go to the communion-table, and eat the bread and drink the wine, but they do not receive the body and blood of Christ to the joy of their faith. At the back of all this there was another trouble for Asaph, namely, that he could not sleep. He says, “Thou holdest mine eyes waking.” It seemed as if the Lord Himself held up his eyelids, and would not let them close in sleep. Moreover, there was one thing more: he lost the faculty of telling out his grief: “I am so troubled that I cannot speak.” To be compelled to silence is a terrible increase to anguish: the torrent is swollen when its free course is prevented. A dumb sorrow is sorrow indeed. Now, let us attend to the amendment of the question. Shall I tell thee what the true question is which thou oughtest to ask thyself? It is not, “Hath God forgotten to be gracious?” but “Hast thou forgotten to be grateful?” Why, thou enjoyest many mercies even now. Grace is all around thee, if thou wilt but open thine eyes, or thine ears. Thou hadst not been spared after so much sin if God had forgotten to be gracious.

II. The seeking sinner in despondency. He makes you nothing that He may be all in all to you. He grinds you to the dust that He may lift you out of it for ever. Meanwhile, I do not wonder that the question crosses your mind, “Hath God forgotten to be gracious?” Let me show how wrong the question is. “Hath God forgotten to be gracious?” If He has, He has forgotten what He used to know right well. “Hath God forgotten to be gracious?” Then, why are all the old arrangements for grace still standing? There is the mercy-seat; surely that would have been taken away if God had forgotten to be gracious. The Gospel is preached to you, and this is its assurance, “Whosoever believeth in Him is not condemned.”

III. The disappointed worker. You say, “I do not feel as if I could preach; the matter does not flow. I do not feel as if I could teach; I search for instruction, and the more I pull the more I cannot get it.” “Hath God forgotten to be gracious?” Can He not fill thine empty vessel again? Can He not give thee stores of thought, emotion, and language? Oh, perhaps you say, “I work in a back street, and everybody is moving out into the suburbs.” You have lost your friends, and they have forgotten you; but, “Hath God forgotten to be gracious?” You can succeed so long as the Lord is with you. Be of good courage; your best friend is left. He who made a speech in the Academy found that all his hearers had gone except Plato; but as Plato remained, the orator finished his address. They asked him how he could continue under the circumstances, and he replied that Plato was enough for an audience. So, if God be pleased with you, go on; the Divine pleasure is more than sufficient. “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Did not Wesley say when he was dying, “The best of all is, God is with us”? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Hath God forgotten to be gracious?

I. All complaints against providence proceed from weakness and the infirmity of human reason.

1. The first of this sort, which naturally presents itself to the mind, when we consider God and ourselves, is this, That God is too great and too excellent a Being to humble Himself to behold the things that are on earth Epicurus and his followers, who denied God’s government of the world, denied also that He made it. So far, at least, they were consistent; for, if they thought it too much trouble for God to govern the world, they could not consistently put Him to the trouble of making it. But if we turn the argument, and begin with considering the works of the creation and “call to remembrance those years of the right hand of the Most High,” we shall from these works of God be led to just conclusions with respect to the methods of Divine Providence, less obvious to our observation, in the government of the world.

2. Another reason which some have for suspecting that the affairs of the world are not under the conduct of Providence, is, that they cannot discern any certain marks of God.’s interposing. On the contrary, they think it evident that, all the inanimate and irrational parts of the world follow a certain course of nature invariably; and that men act with all the signs of being given up to follow their own devices, without being either directed or restrained by a superior power. But in this way of reasoning there are two great mistakes--

II. A settled peace of mind, with respect to God, must arise from a due contemplation of the great works of providence, which God has laid open to our view for our consideration and instruction. Happy are they who listen to this still voice! they will act not only the safest, but the most rational part; whilst others, full of themselves and their own wisdom, are daily condemning what they do not understand. And if ever they recover their right reason, the first, step must be to see their weakness, and to join wit.h the psalmist, in his humble confession, “It is my own infirmity.” (Bp. Sherlock.)

Adversity comes not always from Divine displeasure

Let us rest assured of this, that the roughest of God’s proceedings do not always issue from an angry intention: it is very possible, because very usual, that they may proceed from the clean contrary. The same clouds which God made use of heretofore to drown the earth, He employs now to refresh it. He may use the same means to correct and to better some that He does to plague and punish others. The same hand and hatchet that cuts some trees for the fire may cut others into growth, verdure, and fertility. (R. South, D. D.)


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 77:9". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-77.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Hath God forgotten to be gracious,.... He has not, is it possible that he should? as the Targum; it is not; he cannot forget the purposes of his grace and mercy, nor the covenant and promises of it, nor people the objects of it; and much less can he for his grace and mercy itself, so agreeable to his nature, what he delights in, and which he has proclaimed in Christ:

hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?; as an avaricious man shuts up his hand, and will not communicate liberally; or as the sea is shut up with doors, that its waters may not overflow; no, the mercies of God are not restrained, though unbelief says they are, at least queries if they are not, Isaiah 63:15, but Faith says they flow freely through Christ, and the people of God are crowned with lovingkindness and tender mercies; God gives liberally, and upbraideth not; and though he may hide his face in a little seeming wrath for a moment, yet with great mercies will he gather, and with everlasting kindness will he have mercy.

Selah. See Gill on Psalm 3:2.


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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 77:9". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-77.html. 1999.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

9.Hath God forgotten to be merciful? The prophet still continues debating with himself the same subject. His object, however, is not to overthrow his faith, but rather to raise it up. He does not put this question, as if the point to which it refers were a doubtful matter. It is as if he had said, Hath God forgotten himself? or, hath he changed his nature? for he cannot be God unless he is merciful. I indeed admit that he did not remain unshaken as if he had had a heart of steel. But the more violently he was assailed, the more firmly did he lean upon the truth, That the goodness of God is so inseparably connected with his essence as to render it impossible for him not to be merciful. Whenever, therefore, doubts enter into our minds upon our being harassed with cares, and oppressed with sorrows, let us learn always to endeavor to arrive at a satisfactory answer to this question, Has God changed his nature so as to be no longer merciful? The last clause, Hath he shut up or restrained his compassions in his anger? is to the same effect. It was a very common and notable observation among the holy patriarchs, That God is long — suffering, slow to wrath, ready to forgive, and easy to be entreated. It was from them that Habakkuk derived the statement which he makes in his song,

“Even in his anger he will be mindful of his mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)

The prophet, then, here comes to the conclusion, that the chastisement which he felt would not prevent God from being again reconciled to him, and returning to his wonted manner of bestowing blessings upon him, since his anger towards his own people endures only for a moment. Yea, although God manifests the tokens of his anger, he does not cease most tenderly to love those whom he chastises. His wrath, it its true, rests continually upon the reprobate; but the prophet, accounting himself among the number of God’s children, and speaking of other genuine believers, justly argues from the impossibility of the thing, that the temporary displeasure of God cannot break off the course of his goodness and mercy.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 77:9". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/psalms-77.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Psalms 77:9 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.

Ver. 9. Hath God forgotten to be gracious?] So it seemeth sometimes to those that are long afflicted and short-spirited; but what saith the prophet? Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, they may prove unnatural, and grow out of kind, as Medea, and those Suevian women (Heyl. Geog.), who threw their young children at the Romans, under the conduct of Drusus, son-in-law to Augustus, instead of darts, yet God will not forget his people, Isaiah 49:15. Indeed, he can as soon forget himself, and change his nature.

Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?] These things the psalmist speaketh not as utterly despairing, but as one courageously, wrestling against an old manslayer, and a misgiving heart of his own. Homines vero securi, et voluptatibus ebrii, nihil horum intelllgunt. This is little understood by profane sensualists, who, therefore, reap no great benefit by the reading of these psalms.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 77:9". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-77.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 77:9. Hath God forgotten to be gracious It is worth our while to observe the train of thoughts which this afflicted good man pursued, and what were the reflections in which he rested at last, as his best and only comfort and support. Whether the calamities which afflicted him were private to himself, or public to his people and country; yet, as long as his thoughts dwelt on them, and led him into expostulations with God on the severity of his judgments, he found no ease or relief. A weak man cannot rightly judge of the actions even of a man wiser than himself, of whose views and designs he is not master: much less can any man judge of the ways of God, to whose counsels he is not admitted, and to whose secrets he is a stranger. The Psalmist complained heavily, Psalms 77:9. But what did he get by his complaint? Was he not forced immediately to confess the impropriety and folly of it? I said, This is my infirmity. He said very rightly. In complaining, he followed the natural impressions of impatience: in acknowledging the folly of his complaint, he spoke the language not only of grace, but of sense and reason. But this good man, being well grounded in religion, was able so far to get the better of his doubts and fears, as to pass a right judgment in his own case, and to call to his assistance the proper reflections which the great works of Providence administered for the support and confirmation of his hope and confidence towards God. See Psalms 77:11-12. Here then was his comfort; here the cure of all his grief. The scene around him was dark and gloomy; but, dark as it was, it was under the guidance and direction of the hand which had never failed the faithful, to deliver him out of all his troubles. See Sherlock as above. We may read the next verse, And I said, this my affliction is a change of the right hand of the most High; [i.e.] from a change of his conduct towards me: his right hand; which had formerly wrought miracles for the deliverance of his people, though now it was turned against them.


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 77:9". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/psalms-77.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Hath God forgotten to be gracious, because he hath so long disused it?

Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies, so as they can never flow forth, no, not to his own people?


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 77:9". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/psalms-77.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

9. Forgotten to be gracious… shut up his tender mercies— “He asks whether it is, then, all at an end with God’s loving-kindness and promise, at the same time saying to himself that this, nevertheless, is at variance with the unchangeableness of his nature and the inviolability of his covenant.” Delitzsch. Here end the dark questionings of his agitated mind.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 77:9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/psalms-77.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Battle. Many of this tribe were cut off by the men of Geth, (1 Paralipomenon vii. 21.; Chaldean; Geier.) as they fought without God's command, Numbers xiv. (Worthington) --- They did not defend the ark against the Philistines, though they seemed more bound to do so than the rest, since it was brought from their city, Silo, and they also set the others a pattern of infidelity; (1 Kings iv.; Abenezra) whence they are singled out likewise by Osee. (Berthier) --- The famous victory of Abia against Jeroboam may be also designated, 2 Paralipomenon xiii. (Calmet) --- This had not yet taken place, no more than (Haydock) their captivity, under Salmanazar, which is enigmatically foretold. After this reproach, the whole body of the Israelites is condemned, ver. 10. (Berthier)


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Psalms 77:9". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/psalms-77.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

GOD. Hebrew El. App-4.

Selah. Connecting all this misery with the only sure remedy occupation with God: and passing from "I" and "my" to "Thou" and "Thy". (App-66.)


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Psalms 77:9". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/psalms-77.html. 1909-1922.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.
God
Isaiah 40:27; 49:14,15; 63:15
shut up
Luke 13:25-28; Romans 11:32; *marg:; 1 John 3:17

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Psalms 77:9". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/psalms-77.html.

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