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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 12–17
Verses 12–17

The lamenting church fastens upon something here which she calls to mind, and therefore hath she hope (as Lam. 3:21), with which she encourages herself and silences her own complaints. Two things quiet the minds of those that are here sorrowing for the solemn assembly:—

I. That God is the God of Israel, a God in covenant with his people (Ps. 74:12): God is my King of old. This comes in both as a plea in prayer to God (Ps. 44:4; thou art my King, O God!) and as a prop to their own faith and hope, to encourage themselves to expect deliverance, considering the days of old, Ps. 77:5. The church speaks as a complex body, the same in every age, and therefore calls God, “My King, my King of old,” or, “from antiquity;” he of old put himself into that relation to them and appeared and acted for them in that relation. As Israel’s King, he wrought salvation in the midst of the nations of the earth; for what he did, in the government of the world, tended towards the salvation of his church. Several things are here mentioned which God had done for his people as their King of old, which encouraged them to commit themselves to him and depend upon him.

1. He had divided the sea before them when they came out of Egypt, not by the strength of Moses or his rod, but by his own strength; and he that could do that could do any thing.

2. He had destroyed Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Pharaoh was the leviathan; the Egyptians were the dragons, fierce and cruel. Observe, (1.) The victory obtained over these enemies. God broke their heads, baffled their politics, as when Israel, the more they were afflicted by them, multiplied the more. God crushed their powers, though complicated, ruined their country by ten plagues, and at last drowned them all in the Red Sea. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, Ezek. 31:18. It was the Lord’s doing; none besides could do it, and he did it with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. This was typical of Christ’s victory over Satan and his kingdom, pursuant to the first promise, that the seed of the woman should break the serpent’s head. (2.) The improvement of this victory for the encouragement of the church: Thou gavest him to be meat to the people of Israel, now going to inhabit the wilderness. The spoil of the Egyptians enriched them; they stripped their slain, and so got the Egyptians’ arms and weapons, as before they had got their jewels. Or, rather, this providence was meat to their faith and hope, to support and encourage them in reference to the other difficulties they were likely to meet with in the wilderness. It was part of the spiritual meat which they were all made to eat of. Note, The breaking of the heads of the church’s enemies is the joy and strength of the hearts of the church’s friends. Thus the companions make a banquet even of leviathan, Job 41:6.

3. God had both ways altered the course of nature, both in fetching streams out of the rock and turning streams into rock, Ps. 74:15. (1.) He had dissolved the rock into waters: Thou didst bring out the fountain and the flood (so some read it); and every one knows whence it was brought, out of the rock, out of the flinty rock. Let this never be forgotten, but let it especially be remembered that the rock was Christ, and the waters out of it were spiritual drink. (2.) He had congealed the waters into rock: Thou driedst up mighty rapid rivers, Jordan particularly at the time when it overflowed all its banks. He that did these things could now deliver his oppressed people, and break the yoke of the oppressors, as he had done formerly; nay, he would do it, for his justice and goodness, his wisdom and truth, are still the same, as well as his power.

II. That the God of Israel is the God of nature, Ps. 74:16, 17. It is he that orders the regular successions and revolutions, 1. Of day and night. He is the Lord of all time. The evening and the morning are of his ordaining. It is he that opens the eyelids of the morning light, and draws the curtains of the evening shadow. He has prepared the moon and the sun (so some read it), the two great lights, to rule by day and by night alternately. The preparing of them denotes their constant readiness and exact observance of their time, which they never miss a moment. 2. Of summer and winter: “Thou hast appointed all the bounds of the earth, and the different climates of its several regions, for thou hast made summer and winter, the frigid and the torrid zones; or, rather, the constant revolutions of the year and its several seasons.” Herein we are to acknowledge God, from whom all the laws and powers of nature are derived; but how does this come in here? (1.) He that had power at first to settle, and still to preserve, this course of nature by the diurnal and annual motions of the heavenly bodies, has certainly all power both to save and to destroy, and with him nothing is impossible, nor are any difficulties or oppositions insuperable. (2.) He that is faithful to his covenant with the day and with the night, and preserves the ordinances of heaven inviolable will certainly make good his promise to his people and never cast off those whom he has chosen, Jer. 31:36; 33:20, 21. His covenant with Abraham and his seed is as firm as that with Noah and his sons, Gen. 8:21. (3.) Day and night, summer and winter, being counterchanged in the course of nature, throughout all the borders of the earth, we can expect no other than that trouble and peace, prosperity and adversity, should be, in like manner, counterchanged in all the borders of the church. We have as much reason to expect affliction as to expect night and winter. But we have then no more reason to despair of the return of comfort than we have to despair of day and summer.