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ISRAEL CRIES OUT FOR GOD TO JUDGE THE WORLD
We are unable to assign either a date or an occasion for this psalm; the author is also unknown. Apparently, the sufferings of Israel in view here were not the result of oppression by a foreign power, but due to the gross wickedness of Israel's own government. If so, then the times either of Zedekiah or Manasseh would have been suitable for such a complaint as this.
As proposed by Delitzsch, there are six paragraphs in the psalm.
Amos had specifically warned Israel against their oft-repeated cry for the coming of the Judgment Day.
"Woe unto you that desire the day of Jehovah! Wherefore would ye have the day of Jehovah? It is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; and he went into the house and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Shall not the day of Jehovah be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it" (Amos 5:18-20)?
In spite of such a warning, it seems that Israel continued to cherish their illusions about the Judgment Day.
A PRAYER FOR GOD TO JUDGE RAMPANT WICKEDNESS
"O Jehovah, thou God to whom vengeance belongeth,
Thou God to whom vengeance belongeth, shine forth.
Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth:
Render to the proud their desert.
Jehovah, how long shall the wicked,
How long shall the wicked triumph?"
"Shine forth" (Psalms 94:1). It is clear enough here that the psalmist is thinking of the day of Jehovah, as indicated by this expression.
"Lift up thyself" (Psalms 94:2). This is a plea for, "God to rouse himself from inaction, and to come and visit the earth as Judge."
"How long shall the wicked triumph?" (Psalms 94:3). Although there is an element of faith in such a cry, "It is a cry of weakness and impatience." It also fails to heed Amos' warning.
"This appeal has no sense of malice about it. It is a simple cry for recompense and a plea that ungodly deeds should recoil upon the perpetrators."
WHAT THE WICKED WERE DOING
"They prate; they speak arrogantly:
All the workers of iniquity boast themselves.
They break in pieces thy people, O Jehovah,
And afflict thy heritage.
They slay the widow and the sojourner,
And murder the fatherless.
And they say, Jehovah will not see,
Neither will the God of Jacob consider."
During the long reign of Manasseh, the Scriptures tell us that, "Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another" (2 Kings 21:16).
"Throughout the Near East, the protection of widows, orphans and strangers was held to be the most sacred duty of leaders."
"They prate" (Psalms 94:4). To prate is to speak idly, to chatter. The wicked were indulging in almost endless arrogant and idle speech against the righteous.
"Jehovah will not see ... the God of Jacob will not consider" (Psalms 94:7). Delitzsch thought that oppressors here were foreign powers, but as Maclaren pointed out, "There is nothing here to indicate that these oppressors were foreigners." Furthermore, the appearance here of the expression "the God of Jacob" strongly indicates Israelites as the practical atheists in view here. As a matter of fact, Psalms 94:8, below, speaks of these evil-doers as being "among the people," that is, among God's people.
Adam Clarke remarked on Psalms 94:7 here that, "This is their impiety; this is their blasphemy; this is their practical atheism, and the cause of all their injustice, cruelty, tyranny and oppression."
THE PRACTICAL ATHEISTS REFUTED
"Consider, ye brutish among the people;
And ye fools, when will ye be wise?
He that planted the ear, shall he not hear?
He that formed the eye, shall he not see?
He that chastiseth the nations, shall not he correct,
Even he that teacheth men knowledge?
Jehovah knoweth the thoughts of men,
That they are vanity."
"Consider, ye brutish ... and ye fools" (Psalms 94:8). The persons addressed here are unmistakably the persons of Psalms 94:7 who thought that God could neither hear nor see their crimes.
"Among the people" (Psalms 94:8). This identifies the practical atheists of this passage as Israelites. The wrong-doers were not among the nations (Gentiles), but among the people, that is, God's people.
The refutation here is thoroughly conclusive. The argument is that God who made both eyes and ears is most certainly not devoid of the ability both to see and to hear what evil men say and do.
"Shall not he correct, even he that teacheth men knowledge?" (Psalms 94:10). This is a third argument, shall not the all-wise God who teaches men knowledge, shall he not correct stubborn, godless Israelites who disobey him?
"That they are vanity" (Psalms 94:11). These evil men do not appear to God as they appear to themselves. "They are vain and foolish. That is their character, and to know them truly is to know this of them."
PRAISE OF THE PIOUS SUFFERER
"Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Jehovah,
And teachest out of thy law;
That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity,
Until the pit be digged for the wicked.
For Jehovah will not cast off his people,
Neither will he forsake his inheritance.
For judgment shall return unto righteousness;
And all the upright in heart shall follow it."
"Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest" (Psalms 94:12). Some of the sufferers mentioned earlier, no doubt, were allowed to pass through such difficult experiences by the Lord. "The affliction was for their betterment. This is one of the most beneficial forms of experience that the Lord lets men live through." In the New Testament, Hebrews 12 stresses the benefit and the necessity of such chastening. (For a fuller discussion of this see Vol. 10 of our New Testament Series of Commentaries (Hebrews), pp. 293-296.)
"Rest from adversity ... until the pit be digged for the wicked" (Psalms 94:13). Two great blessings are mentioned here for the sufferers: (1) God will give them "peace" and "rest" spiritually, even during their afflictions; and (2) meanwhile, the pit is being digged for the wicked into which they shall surely fall. It is evident that God's punishment of evil-doers, while inevitable and certain, in many instances must wait (a) until their wickedness has run its course, or (b) until God's preparation for their punishment is complete.
"For Jehovah will not cast off his people ... nor forsake his inheritance" (Psalms 94:14). This was not an "unconditional promise," despite the fact of Racial Israel's treating it exactly that way. What is meant here is that "God will never cast off his faithful people." Romans 11:15 speaks of the "casting away" of many in Israel; yet Paul declares God has not "cast off his people," because he himself and others in the service of Jesus Christ are indeed the "True Israel" which was not cast off.
"Judgment shall return unto righteousness" (Psalms 94:15). The RSV seems to be clearer. "Justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it." Martin Luther translated it, "For right must remain right, and the upright in heart shall walk in it."
In addition to these options, we like the proposal of Addis, who rendered this difficult verse, "Authority shall return to the righteous man, and all the upright in heart shall follow him." The practical meaning was that whoever the wicked king on the throne of Israel might have been, he would be succeeded by one who would honor God's law.
PRAISE OF THE LORD AS MAN'S SOLE HELP
"Who will rise up for me against the evil-doers?
Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?
Unless Jehovah had been my help,
My soul had soon dwelt in silence.
When I said, My foot slippeth;
Thy lovingkindness, O Jehovah, held me up.
In the multitude of my thoughts within me
The comforts delight my soul."
"Who will rise up ... Who will stand up?" (Psalms 94:16). "These questions mean that, "No man would rise up and succor him in his conflict with evil-doers."
"My soul had soon dwelt in silence" (Psalms 94:17). "Silence" is one of many synonyms for Sheol, the Pit, Abbadon, or Destruction. The meaning is that his enemies would have killed him, if God had not aided him.
"I said, "My foot slippeth" ... Jehovah held me up" (Psalms 94:18). Every child of God can bear witness to similar providential help in the midst of assailing temptations.
"In the multitude of my thoughts within me" (Psalms 94:19). This is very difficult to understand, as it appears here; but Barnes gave the meaning.
"The idea seems to be that in the great number of thoughts that passed through his mind, many of them perplexing, vain, profitless, or having no aim or purpose, there was one class of thoughts that gave him comfort; and those were the ones which pertained to God."
REJOICING IN THE PROSPECT OF ANSWERED PRAYER
In this final division, "The poet expects the inevitable divine retribution for which he had earnestly prayed in the introduction."
"Shall the throne of wickedness have fellowship with thee,
Which frameth mischief by statute?
They gather themselves together against
the soul of the righteous,
And condemn the innocent blood.
But Jehovah hath been my high tower;
And my God the rock of my refuge.
And he hath brought upon them their own iniquity,
And will cut them of in their own wickedness;
Jehovah our God will cut them off."
"Which frameth mischief by statute" (Psalms 94:20). This most certainly speaks of one of Israel's wicked kings; of these, of course, there were many; but the condemnation of "the innocent" (Psalms 94:21) strongly suggests the wicked reign of Manasseh.
"Jehovah hath been my high tower" (Psalms 94:22). The psalmist here identifies himself as being among the "true seed" of Abraham. "An Israelite in whom there is no guile," as Jesus said of Nathaniel. Throughout the history of Israel, such persons were always a small minority, called by Isaiah, "The Righteous Remnant." It was because of them that God was able, eventually, to bring into mankind the Dayspring from on High via the Seed of Abraham, as he had promised.
"He hath brought upon them their own iniquity" (Psalms 94:23). This is prophetic tense, setting forth what God "will do," as indicated in the parallel verse adjacent to it. "Jehovah our God will cut them off."
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 94". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29