Monday, June 5th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible Barnes' Notes
These files are public domain.
These files are public domain.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 102". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ bnb/ psalms-102.html. 1870.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 102". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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This psalm purports, in the title, to be a “Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” It is a prayer, made up of earnest supplications, as of one who was in great affliction, whether he refers to his own individual sorrows, or whether he speaks as one of the people. The word “afflicted,” means here a suffering one; one who is in trouble. The word is in the singular number, and is one which is often applied to a person who is in trouble - whatever may be the nature of that trouble. The word rendered “overwhelmed” means properly to cover as with a garment; to clothe; and then, to be covered with darkness, affliction, grief, Psalms 61:2. This is the meaning here. It denotes a state where the soul was enshrouded in gloom and sorrow. The word rendered “complaint,” means properly meditation; then, moaning; then, the expression of sorrow. It does not necessarily mean, as the word does with us, “finding fault,” or expressing dissatisfaction, but it rather denotes that deep sorrow which finds utterance in low and plaintive sounds; not in boisterous and loud outcry, but in subdued notes - in sounds uttered not because one wishes to complain, but because the sorrow is such that it will find vent. Compare 1 Samuel 1:16; 1 Kings 18:27; Job 7:13; Job 9:27; Job 10:1; Job 21:4; Psalms 55:2; Psalms 64:1 (Hebrew).
On what occasion, or by whom, this psalm was composed, it is not possible now to ascertain. Hengstenberg and Prof. Alexander suppose that it was by David. It seems more probable, however, from Psalms 102:13-21, that it was in the time of the captivity, and was in view of the troubles of that long and weary exile, and that the psalmist speaks not of individual and personal troubles, but speaks as one of the people - as one in exile with others who had been long held in captivity, and who sighed for deliverance, and for a restoration to their native land. In the midst of these troubles, which are so tenderly described in the first eleven verses, he saw encouraging evidences that the Lord was about to manifest his mercy, and to restore the people to their native land; and he pleads most earnestly with God, on the ground that he was faithful and unchanging, that he would thus interpose and accomplish the earnest desire of his afflicted people. The “language,” indeed, in the psalm, is that of an individual, and the author of the psalm speaks of his own personal sorrows, but it may be as one among many who were equally crushed and overwhelmed, so that the language used to represent his sorrow may describe the sorrows experienced by others in the same circumstances. Beyond all question, the language used in the psalm would express the feelings of many a pious Hebrew in the time of the exile, the sorrow - the sadness - the cherished hopes - the prayers - of many a one in that prolonged and painful captivity.
The psalm may be divided into three parts:
I. A description of the sorrows of the author of the psalm, as representative of the condition and feelings of the exiles, Psalms 102:1-11. In this, the language of lamentation and complaint predominates.
II. The grounds of hope - the indications of deliverance - the evidences that God was about to show favor to his people, and to restore them to their own country - that the time, the set time, to favor Zion was about to come, Psalms 102:12-22.
III. The confidence of the psalmist in God, on the ground of his unchangeableness: on the fact that God is always the same; that his promises must be sure; that his purposes must be accomplished; that the very heavens and the earth would change - that the skies would grow old like a garment and pass away - but that God did not, would not change. All that he had spoken must be true; all that he had purposed must be accomplished; all that he had promised must come to pass, Psalms 102:23-28.
Hear my prayer, O Lord - The prayer which I offer in view of my personal trials; the prayer which I offer as one of an afflicted people. Compare Psalms 4:1; Psalms 17:1; Psalms 18:6.
And let my cry come unto thee - My prayer, accompanied with an outward expression of my earnestness. It was not a silent, or a mental prayer; it was a loud and earnest cry. Psalms 5:2; Psalms 18:6, Psalms 18:41; Psalms 30:2; Psalms 72:12; Job 35:9; Job 36:13.
Hide not thy face from me - The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate render this, “Do not turn away thy face from me.” The sense is essentially the same. The prayer is, that God would not refuse to look graciously upon him; that he would turn his attention to him; that he would regard his supplications. See the notes at Psalms 10:1; compare Psalms 13:1; Psalms 27:9; Job 13:24; Job 34:29; Deuteronomy 31:17.
In the day when I am in trouble - When sorrows come upon me; when I need thy gracious help. Literally, “When there is distress to me.”
Incline thine ear unto me - See Psalms 5:1, note; Psalms 17:6, note; compare Psalms 17:1; Psalms 55:1; Psalms 86:6; Psalms 39:12.
In the day when I call, answer me speedily - Grant at once my requests; give me immediate evidence that my prayer is heard. The psalmist believed in an immediate answer to prayer. He often had evidence that his prayer was answered at once; his mind became calm; he had comfort and peace; he obtained the blessing which he earnestly sought. No one can doubt that prayer may be answered at once; no one who prays can fail to find such answers in his own case, in his peace, his calmness, his joy. In multitudes of cases blessings are granted in such a way that there can be no doubt that they have come in answer to prayer. Compare the notes at Daniel 9:20-23.
For my days are consumed like smoke - Margin, “into smoke.” Literally, “in smoke.” That is, They vanish as smoke; they pass away and become nothing; they are spent in affliction, and seem to accomplish nothing. The idea is, that in his affliction he seemed to accomplish none of the ends of life. His life seemed to be wasted. This is often the feeling in trial: and yet in trial a man may be more useful, he may do more to accomplish the real ends of life, he may do more to illustrate the power and excellence of religion, than he ever did in the days of prosperity.
And my bones are burned as an hearth - Or rather, as faggots or fuel. Literally, “They are burned as a burning.” The idea is, that in his troubles, his very bones, the most solid and substantial part of himself, seemed to be consumed and to waste away. See the notes at Psalms 31:10.
My heart is smitten - Broken; crushed with grief. We now speak of “a broken heart.” Even death is often caused by such excessive sorrow as to crush and break the heart.
And withered like grass - It is dried up as grass is by drought, or as when it is cut down. It loses its support; and having no strength of its own, it dies.
So that I forget to eat my bread - I am so absorbed in my trials; they so entirely engross my attention, that I think of nothing else, not even of those things which are necessary to the support of life. Grief has the effect of taking away the appetite, but this does not seem to be the idea here. It is that of such a complete absorption in trouble that everything else is forgotten.
By reason of the voice of my groaning - By suffering and trouble, so great as to produce groaning, my flesh is wasted away.
My bones cleave to my skin - Margin, “flesh.” The Hebrew word means “flesh.” The effect described is that of a wasting away or an emaciation of flesh from deep distress, so that the bones became prominent, and had nothing to hide them from view; so that they seemed to adhere fast to the flesh itself. See the notes at Job 19:20.
I am like a pelican of the wilderness - A bird in the midst of desolation becomes a striking image of loneliness and distress. The word rendered “pelican” - קאת qâ'ath - is supposed to have been a name given to the pelican from the idea of vomiting, as it “vomits the shells and other substances which it has too voraciously swallowed.” The word occurs in the following places, where it is rendered as here “pelican:” Leviticus 11:18; Deuteronomy 14:17; and in Isaiah 34:11; Zephaniah 2:14, where it is rendered “cormorant.” The following description, taken from the “Land and the Book,” vol. i. p. 403, by Dr. Thomson, will illustrate this passage. Speaking of the outlet of the Huleh, and the region of the exit of the Jordan from that lake in its course toward the sea of Tiberias, he says, “Here only have I seen the pelican of the wilderness, as David calls it. I once had one of them shot just below this place, and, as it was merely wounded in the wing, I had a good opportunity to study its character. It was certainly the most sombre, austere bird I ever saw. It gave one the blues merely to look at it. David could find no more expressive type of solitude and melancholy by which to illustrate his own sad state. It seemed as large as a half-grown donkey, and when fairly settled on its stout legs, it looked like one. The pelican is never seen but in these unfrequented solitudes, and to this agree all the references to it in the Bible.”
I am like an owl of the desert - The owl is a well-known bird which dwells in solitudes and old ruins, and which becomes, alike by its seeking such places of abode, by its appearance, and by its doleful cry, the very emblem of desolation.
I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house-top - That is, I am “sleepless;” trouble drives sleep from my eyes, and I am kept awake at night - a common effect of grief. The following remarks, copied from the “Land and the Book” (i. 54, 55), will furnish all the illustration needful of this verse. “They are a tame, troublesome, and impertinent generation, and nestle just where you don’t want them. They stop up your stove and waterpipes with their rubbish, build in the windows and under the beams of the roof, and would stuff your hat full of stubble in half a day if they found it hanging in a place to suit them ... . When one of them has lost its mate - a matter of everyday occurrence - he will sit on the house-top alone, and lament by the hour his sad bereavement.”
Mine enemies reproach me all the day - Continually. They reproach me as one of thy people; or, I bear reproaches in common with others, and it becomes to me a personal matter, so entirely are my feelings and interests identified with those of thy people. Perhaps there were also, mingled with this, personal reproaches and calumnies.
And they that are mad against me - Angry; excited even to madness.
Are sworn against me - literally, “swear by me,” or against me. The meaning is, that they have conspired together under the solemnity of an oath to do me harm. It is not the wrath of an individual that I am to meet, but the combined wrath of those who act under the solemnities of an oath. Compare Acts 23:12.
For I have eaten ashes like bread - I have seated myself in ashes in my grief (compare Job 2:8; Job 42:6; Isaiah 58:5; Isaiah 61:3; Jonah 3:6; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21); and ashes have become, as it were, my food. The ashes in which he sat had been mingled with his food.
And mingled my drink with weeping - Tears have fallen into the cup from which I drank, and have become a part of my drink. The idea is, that he had shed copious tears; and that even when he took his food, there was no respite to his grief.
Because of thine indignation and thy wrath - Hebrew, “From the face of thine indignation,” etc. That is - he regarded all his sufferings as proof of the indignation and wrath of God against him. See Psalms 90:7-9.
For thou hast lifted me up - In former times. Thou hadst given me prosperity; thou hadst given me an elevated and honorable place among men.
And cast me down - Thou hast brought me into a low condition, and I feel it all the more from the fact that I had enjoyed prosperity. Compare the notes at Psalms 30:7. The passage, however, is susceptible of another interpretation: “Thou hast lifted me up, and cast me away.” That is, Thou hast lifted me from the ground as a storm or tempest takes up a light thing, and hast whirled me away. This idea occurs in Isaiah 22:18. See the notes at that passage. The former, however, seems to me to be the more correct interpretation.
My days are like a shadow that declineth - The shadow made by the gnomon on a sun-dial, which marks the hours as they pass. See 2 Kings 20:10. The idea is that the shadow made by the descending sun was about to disappear altogether. It had become less distinct and clear, and it would soon vanish. It would seem from this, that the dial was so made that the shadow indicating the hour ascended when the sun ascended, and declined when the sun went down. See the notes at Isaiah 38:8.
And I am withered like grass - See the notes at Psalms 102:4.
But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever - Though my condition has been changed, though I have been cast down from an exalted position, though kingdoms rise and fall, yet thou art unchanged. Thy purposes will abide. Thy promises will be fulfilled. Thy character is the same. As thou hast been the hearer of prayer in past times, so thou art now. As thou hast interposed in behalf of thy people in other ages, so thou wilt now. As thy people in affliction have been permitted to come to thee, so they may come to thee now. The psalmist here brings to his own mind, as an encouragement in trouble, as we may at all times, the fact that God is an unchanging God; that he always lives; that he is ever the same. We could have no ground of hope if God changed; if he formed purposes only to abandon them; if he made promises only to disregard them; if today he were a Being of mercy and goodness, and tomorrow would be merely a Being of justice and wrath. This argument is enlarged upon in Psalms 102:25-28.
And thy remembrance unto all generations - Thy memory; or, the remembrance of thee. My days are like a shadow. I shall pass away, and be forgotten. No one will recollect me; no one will feel any interest in remembering that I have ever lived (see the notes at Psalms 31:12). But while one knows that this must be so in regard to himself and to all other people - that he and they are alike to be forgotten - he may also feel that there is One who will never be forgotten. God will never pass away. He will be always the same. All the hopes of the church - of the world - are based on this. It is not on man - on any one individual - on any number of people - for they will all alike pass away and be forgotten; but one generation of people after another, to the end of time, may call on God, and find him an ever-living, an unchanged and unchangeable protector and friend.
Thou shalt arise - Thou wilt come forth - as if God had been inattentive or inactive.
And have mercy upon Zion - That is, Upon Jerusalem - represented as in a state of desolation. God would at length pity her, and interpose in her behalf.
For the time to favor her - Implying that there was an appointed time to favor her, or to bring her troubles to an end.
Yea, the set time is come - The word used here - מועד mô‛êd - means properly an appointed season - a designated moment. It refers to some purpose or appointment in regard to anything that is to be done, as in 1 Samuel 13:8, 1 Samuel 13:11; 2 Samuel 20:5; Genesis 17:21; or to a fixed period, as when certain things are to be done, certain festivals to be held regularly at a certain season of the year, Lamentations 1:4; Lamentations 2:6; Hosea 9:5; Hosea 12:9; Leviticus 23:2, Leviticus 23:4,Leviticus 23:37, Leviticus 23:44. Here it means that there was some period fixed in the Divine Mind when this was to occur, or a definite time when it had been predicted or promised that it would occur. The language is such as would be applicable to the captivity in Babylon, concerning which there was a promise that it should continue but seventy years. If the psalm refers to that, then the meaning is that there were indications in the course of events that that period was about to arrive. Compare the notes at Daniel 9:2. What those indications were in this case, the psalmist immediately states, Psalms 102:14. It may be remarked here, that there are usually some previous intimations or indications of what God is about to do. “Coming events cast their shadows before.” Even the divine purposes are accomplished usually in connection with human agency, and in the regular course of events; and it is frequently possible to anticipate that God is about to appear for the fulfillment of his promises. So it was in the coming of the Saviour. So it was in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. So it is when God is about to revive religion in a church. So it is, and will be, in regard to the conversion of the world.
For thy servants take pleasure in her stones - Those who profess to be thy servants; thy friends. This was the “evidence” to the mind of the psalmist that God was about to visit his people, and to rebuild Jerusalem. It was an “awakened interest” among the professed people of God, leading them to manifest their love for Zion, and for all that pertained to her - a love for the very stones that lay in undistinguished heaps where the city once stood - the piles of rubbish where the walls and dwellings had once been. The people of God in their captivity began to look with strong interest on these very ruins, and with an earnest wish that from these ruins the city may again arise, and the walls be rebuilt.
And favor the dust thereof - literally, pity - or, show compassion for. They no longer look with indifference on these ruins of Zion. They look with a tender heart on the very dust of those ruins. They feel that a wrong has been done to Zion; they ardently desire its restoration to its former splendor and glory. They long for a return to it as to their home. They are weary with their captivity, and they are anxiously waiting for the time when they may revisit their native land. This would seem to refer to an awakened interest on the subject, caused perhaps in part by the fact that it could be ascertained (see Daniel 9:2) that the period of the captivity was about to end, and partly by an influence on their hearts from on high, awakening in them a deeper love for Zion - a revival of pure religion. The practical truth taught here is, that an indication of a coming revival of religion is often manifested by the increased attention to the subject among its professed friends; by the desire in their hearts that it may be so; by tenderness, pity, compassion among them in view of abounding desolations, the coldness of the church, and the prevalence of iniquity; by their looking with interest on that which had before been neglected, like shapeless ruins - the prayer-meeting, the communion, the sanctuary; by a conscious returning love in their hearts for all that pertains to religion, however unimportant it may be in the eyes of the world, or however it may be despised. A surrounding world would look with unconcern on the ruins of Jerusalem; a friend of God, in whose heart religion was revived, would look with the most tender concern even on that rubbish, and those ruins. So it is in a revival of religion, when God is about to visit his church in mercy. Everything in regard to the church becomes an object of deep interest.
So the heathen - The nations. That is, The surrounding people, who hear what thou hast done for thy people, will see the evidence that thou art God, and learn to love and worship thee.
Shall fear the name of the Lord - Shall reverence and honor thee.
And all the kings of the earth thy glory - The sovereigns of the earth will be especially affected and impressed with thy majesty. If this refers to the return from the captivity at Babylon, then it means that that event would be particularly suited to impress the minds of the rulers of the world, as showing that God had all nations under his control; that he could deliver a captive people from the grasp of the mighty; that he was the friend of those who worshipped him, and that he would frown on oppression and wrong.
When the Lord shall build up Zion - The Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, and Luther, vender this, “Because the Lord hath built up Zion.” This also is the most natural and correct translation of the Hebrew. The reference, however, may be to the future. The psalmist may throw himself into the future, and - standing there - he may describe things as they will appear then - as already done.
He shall appear in his glory - The idea is that the building up of Zion would be an occasion in which God would manifest his glory. In reference to the restoration of his people from bondage; in rebuilding Zion, then in ruins; in restoring the splendor of the place where he had been so long worshipped, he would display his true character as a God of glory, truth, power, and goodness. As applied to the church in general, this would mean that when God comes to revive religion, to visit his people, to recover them from their backslidings, to convert and save sinners, he appears in his appropriate character as the God of his people - as a glorious God. Then the perfections of his nature are most illustriously displayed; then he appears in his true character, as a God of mercy, grace, and salvation. There is no scene on earth where the character of God is more gloriously exhibited than in a revival of true religion.
He will regard the prayer - literally, “He looks upon,” or “he ‘turns himself’ to their prayer.” He does not any longer seem to turn away from them and disregard them. He shows by thus building up Zion that he does regard prayer; that he hears the supplications of his people. There is no higher proof that prayer is heard than that which is often furnished in a revival of pure religion. All such revivals, like that on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1 ff), are usually preceded, as that was Acts 1:13-14, by special prayer; in those revivals there are often most manifest and clear answers to prayer for the conversion of individuals; to prayer for a blessing on a preached gospel; to prayer for particular relatives and friends.
Of the destitute - literally, “of the poor.” The word - ערער ‛ar‛âr - occurs only here and in Jeremiah 17:6, where it is rendered “heath:” “He shall be like the ‘heath’ in the desert.” The word, according to its etymology, means “naked;” then, poor, stripped of everything, impoverished, wholly destitute. It would thus be eminently applicable to the poor exiles in Babylon; it is as applicable to sinners pleading with God, and to the people of God themselves, destitute of everything like self-righteousness, and feeling that they have nothing in themselves, but that they are wholly dependent on the mercy of God. Compare Revelation 3:17.
And not despise their prayer - Not treat it with contempt; not pass it by unheard. This is stated as one of the reasons why the nations would be struck with awe - that God, the infinite God, would hear the prayers of those who were so poor, so powerless, so friendless. There is, in fact, nothing more suited to excite wonder than that God does hear the prayer of poor, lost, sinful man.
This shall be written for the generation to come - It shall be recorded for the instruction and encouragement of future ages. The fact that God has heard the prayer of his people in a time of trial shall be so recorded and remembered that it may be referred to in similar circumstances in all time to come, for he is an unchanging God. What he has done now, he will always be willing to do hereafter.
And the people which shall be created - Future generations. Each successive generation is in fact a new “creation;” each individual is also; for the essential idea in creation is that of bringing something into existence where there was nothing before. There is a “beginning” of existence in every human being. Man is not in any proper sense a “development” from former being, nor is his life merely a “continuance” of something which existed before.
Shall praise the Lord - Shall praise the Lord for what he has now done; shall learn, from the great principles now illustrated in regard to his administration, to praise him.
For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary - From his high and holy dwelling-place, in heaven. The word here rendered “looked down,” means, in Kal, to lay upon or over; then, in Niphil, to lie out over anything, to project; and then, to bend forward. It then means to bend or incline forward with an intention to look at anything, as from a window, Genesis 26:8. Compare Psalms 14:2. See also Psalms 85:12, note; 1 Peter 1:12, note.
From heaven did the Lord behold the earth - Did he look abroad over all the world.
To hear the groaning of the prisoner - Meaning here, probably, the captives in Babylon; those who were held as prisoners there, and who were subjected to such hardships in their long captivity. See the notes at Psalms 79:11.
To loose those that are appointed to death - Margin, as in Hebrew, “the children of death.” Compare the notes at Matthew 1:1. This may mean either those who were sentenced to death; those who were sick and ready to die; or those who, in their captivity, were in such a state of privation and suffering that death appeared inevitable. The word rendered “loose” means, properly, to “open,” applied to the mouth, for eating, Ezekiel 3:2; or in song, Psalms 78:2; or for speaking, Job 3:1; - or the ear, Isaiah 50:5; or the hand, Deuteronomy 15:8; or the gates of a city, a door, etc., Deuteronomy 20:11. Them it means to set free, as by opening the doors of a prison, Isaiah 14:17; Job 12:14. Here it means to “set free,” to deliver. Compare Isaiah 61:1.
To declare the name of the Lord in Zion ... - That his name might be declared in Zion, or that his praise might be set up in Jerusalem again. That is, that his people might be returned there, and his praise be celebrated again in the holy city.
When the people are gathered together - When they shall be brought from their dispersion in distant lands; when they shall assemble again in the city of their fathers, and when public worship shall be celebrated there as in former ages.
And the kingdoms, to serve the Lord - The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate render this, “kings.” The reference must be to the time when those of other lands - kings and their people - would be converted to the true religion; when the Gentiles as well as the Jews, then one undistinguished people, would be brought to the knowledge of the true God, and would unite in his worship. See the notes at Isaiah 60:0. All of all lands, will yet praise the Lord “as if” they were one great congregation, assembled in one place. Thus, though separate, they will with united feeling recount the mercy and goodness of God to his people in past times.
He weakened my strength in the way - Margin, as in Hebrew, “afflicted.” The idea is, that God had taken his strength away; he had weakened him - humbled him - brought him low by sorrow. The word “way” refers to the course which he was pursuing. In his journey of life God had thus afflicted - humbled - prostrated him. The psalmist here turns from the exulting view which he had of the future Psalms 102:21-22, and resumes his complaint - the remembrance of his troubles and sorrows Psalms 102:3-11. He speaks, doubtless, in the name of his people, and describes troubles which were common to them all. Perhaps the allusion to his troubles here may be designed, as such a recollection should do, to heighten his sense of the goodness and mercy of God in the anticipated blessings of the future.
He shortened my days - Compare Job 21:21; Psalms 89:45. That is, He seemed to be about to cut me off from life, and to bring me to the grave. The psalmist felt so confident that he would die - that he could not endure these troubles, but must sink under them, that he spoke as if it were already done. Compare Psalms 6:4-5.
I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days - This was the burden of my prayer, for this I earnestly pleaded. See Psalms 30:9; Isaiah 38:1-3, Isaiah 38:9-18. The word used here means “to cause to ascend or go up” and the expression might have been translated, “Cause me not to ascend.” The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate render it, “Call me not away.” Dr. Horsley,” Carry me not off.” In the word there may be an allusion - an obscure one, it is to be admitted - to the idea that the soul ascends to God when the body dies. The common idea in the Old Testament is that it would descend to the regions of the departed spirits - to Sheol. It is plain, however, that there was another idea - that the soul would ascend at once to God when death occurred. Compare Ecclesiastes 3:21; Ecclesiastes 12:7. The word rendered “in the midst” means properly in the half; as if life were divided into two portions. Compare Psalms 55:23.
Thy years are throughout all generations - Thou dost not die; thou art ever the same, though the generations of people are cut off. This seems to have been said here for two reasons:
(1) As a ground of consolation, that God was ever the same; that whatever might happen to people, to the psalmist himself, or to any other man, God was unchanged, and that his great plans would be carried forward and accomplished;
(2) As a reason for the prayer. God was eternal. He had an immortal existence. He could not die. He knew, in its perfection, the blessedness of “life” - life as such; life continued; life unending. The psalmist appeals to what God himself enjoyed - as a reason why life - so great a blessing - should be granted to him a little longer. By all that there was of blessedness in the life of God, the psalmist prays that that which was in itself - even in the case of God - so valuable, might yet a little longer be continued to “him.”
Of old - See this passage fully explained in the notes at Hebrews 1:10-12. In the beginning; at the first. The phrase used here means literally “to the face;” then, “before” in the order of time. It means here, long ago; of olden time; at the beginning. The meaning is, that the years of God had stretched through all the generations of people, and all the changes which had occurred upon the earth; that at the very beginning he existed, and that he would continue to exist to the very close, unchangeably the same.
The children of thy servants shall continue - The descendants of those that serve and obey thee. This represents the confident expectation of the psalmist that, as God was unchangeable, all his promises toward his people would be fulfilled, even though the heavens and the earth should pass away. God was the same. His word would not fail. His promises were sure. Compare Matthew 5:18; Matthew 24:35. The word rendered “continue,” means to dwell, as in a habitation; then, to abide. It stands opposed to a wandering, nomadic life, and indicates permanency.
And their seed shall be established before thee - The word used here means properly to stand erect; then to set up, to erect, to place, to found, to make firm, as a city, Psalms 107:36; the earth, Psalms 24:2; the heavens, Proverbs 3:19. It means here that they would be firmly and permanently established: that is, the church of God would be permanent in the earth. It would not be like the generations of people that pass away. It would not be like the nomadic tribes of the desert that have no fixed habitation, and that wander from place to place. It would not be even like the heavens that might put on new forms, or wholly pass away: it would be as enduring and changeless as God himself; it would, in its proper form, endure forever. As God is eternal and unchangeable, so would the safety and welfare of his people be.