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Notes from Calvin’s Commentary upon The Book of Psalms 103-108

Psalm 103

“Man, without the knowledge of God, being the most miserable object that can be imagined, the discovery which God has been pleased to make to us in his Word, of his fatherly love, is an incomparable treasure of perfect happiness.” (v. 7)

Psalm 104

“Rivers run even through great and desolate wildernesses, where the wild beasts enjoy some blessing of God; and no country is so barren as not to have trees growing here and there, on which birds make the air to resound with the melody of their singing. Since even those regions where all lies waste and uncultivated, furnish manifest tokens of the Divine goodness and power, with what admiration ought we to regard that most abundant supply of all good things, which is to be seen in cultivated and favorable regions? Surely in countries where not only one river flows, or where not only grass grows for the feeding of wild beasts, or where the singing of birds is heard not only from a few trees, but where a manifold and varied abundance of good things everywhere presents itself to our view, our stupidity is more than brutish, if our minds, by such manifestations of the goodness of God, are not fixed in devout meditation on his glory.”  (vv. 10-12)

“How wretched would we be when the earth in winter shuts up her riches, were not our hearts cheered with the hope of a new increase? In this sense, the Psalmist appropriately affirms, that God opens his hand. If wheat should grow up daily, God’s providence would not be so manifest. But when the earth becomes barren, it is as if God shut his hand. Whence it follows, that when he makes it fruitful, he, so to speak, stretches out his hand from heaven to give us food. Now if he supply wild and brute beasts with sustenance in due season, by which they are fed to the full, his blessing will doubtless be to us as an inexhaustible source of plenty, provided we ourselves do not hinder it from flowing to us by our unbelief.” (v. 27)

Psalm 105

“When, therefore, the prophet proves by a visible symbol that God did not make a covenant with his servants in vain, and that he did not disappoint their hope, he does not take away or abolish the other blessings included in it. Nay, rather, when the Israelites heard that they possessed the land of Canaan by right of inheritance, because they were the chosen people of God, it became them to look beyond this, and to take comprehensive view of all the privileges by which He had vouchsafed to distinguish them. Hence it is to be noted, that when He in part fulfills his promises towards us, we are base and ungrateful if this experience does not conduce to the confirmation of our faith. Whenever he shows himself to be a father towards us, he undoubtedly really seals on our hearts the power and efficacy of his word.”  (v. 11)

Psalm 106

“Were good intentions meritorious, as idolaters suppose, then indeed the laying aside of all natural affection in sacrificing their own children was a deed deserving of the highest praise. But when men act under the impulse of their own capricious humor, the more they occupy themselves with acts of external worship, the more do they increase their guilt. For what difference was there between Abraham and those persons of whom the prophet makes mention, but that the former, under the influence of faith, was ready to offer up his son, while the latter, carried away by the impulse of intemperate zeal, cast off all natural affection, and imbrued their hands in the blood of their own offspring.” (v. 37)

Psalm 107

“The Spirit of God, therefore, in my opinion, here narrates what frequently takes place, namely, that persons destitute of piety and faith, and who have no desire to have any thing to do with God, if placed in perilous circumstances, are constrained by natural instinct, and without any proper conception of what they are doing, to call on the name of God. Since it is only in dubious and desperate cases that they betake themselves to God, this acknowledgement which they make of their helplessness is a palpable proof of their stupidity, that in the season of peace and tranquillity they neglect him, so much are they then under the intoxicating influence of their own prosperity; and notwithstanding that the germ of piety is planted in their hearts, they nevertheless never dream of learning wisdom, unless when driven by the dint of adversity; I mean, to learn the wisdom of acknowledging that there is a God in heaven who directs every event.” (v. 6)

“By the term, observe, he informs us, that the bare apprehension of the works of God is not enough, — they must be carefully considered in order that the knowledge of them may be deliberately and maturely digested. And, therefore, that it may be engraven upon our hearts, we must make these works the theme of our attentive and constant meditation. . . .And if any person be disposed to inquire how it comes to pass that the prophet, after treating of the judgments and severity of God, now makes mention of his loving-kindness, I answer, that his loving-kindness shines most conspicuously, and occupies a very prominent place in all that he does; for he is naturally prone to loving-kindness, by which also he draws us to himself.” (v. 43)

Psalm 108

Calvin notes that Psalm 108 is composed of parts from Psalms 57 and 50, and he explicates the material there.

Due to an overuse injury to my hands, I will discontinue posting excerpts from Calvin’s Commentaries. The complete Calvin’s Commentaries is available online; the link may be found under LINKS on my homepage.

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