John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

1 (Psalms 57:1)

Verse 1

1.Be merciful unto me, O God! The repetition of the prayer proves that the grief, the anxiety, and the apprehension, with which David was filled at this time, must have been of no common description. It is noticeable, that his plea for mercy is, his having hoped in God. His soul trusted in him; and this is a form of expression the force of which is not to be overlooked: for it implies that the trust which he exercised proceeded from his very innermost affections, — that it was of no volatile character, but deeply and strongly rooted. He declares the same truth in figurative terms, when he adds his persuasion that God would cover him with the shadow of his wings. The Hebrew word חסה, chasah, which I have translated to hope, signifies occasionally to lodge, or obtain shelter, and in this sense it may be understood with great propriety in the passage before us, where allusion is made to the shadow of wings. David had committed himself, in short, entirely to the guardianship of God; and now experienced that blessed consciousness of dwelling in a place of safety, which he expresses in the beginning of the ninetieth psalm. The divine protection is compared to the shadow of wings, because God, as I have elsewhere observed, the more familiarly to invite us to himself, is represented as stretching out his wings like the hen, or other birds, for the shelter of their young. The greater our ingratitude and perversity, in being so slow to comply with such an endearing and gentle invitation! He does not merely say, in general, that he would hope in God, and rest under the shadow of his wings, but, particularly, that he would do so at the time when wickedness should pass over him, like a storm or whirlwind. The Hebrew word הוה, hovah, which I have rendered wickedness, some translate power. Be that as it may, it is evident he declares that God would prove his refuge, and the wings of God his shelter, under every tempest of affliction which blew over him. There are seasons when we are privileged to enjoy the calm sunshine of prosperity; but there is not a day of our lives in which we may not suddenly be overtaken by storms of affliction, and it is necessary we should be persuaded that God will cover us with his wings. To hope he adds prayer. Those, indeed, who have placed their trust in God, will always direct their prayers to him; and David gives here a practical proof of his hope, by showing that he applied to God in his emergencies. In addressing God, he applies to him an honorable title, commending him as the God who performed whatsoever he had promised, or (as we may understand the expression) who carries forward to perfection the work which he has begun. (339) The Hebrew word גמר , gomer, here employed, would seem to be used in the same sense as in Psalms 138:8, the scope of both passages being the same. It materially confirms and sustains our hope to reflect that God will never forsake the workmanship of his own hands, — that he will perfect the salvation of his people, and continue his divine guidance until he have brought them to the termination of their course. Some read, to God, who rewards me; but this fails to bring out the force of the expression. It would be more to the purpose, in my judgment, to read, God, who fails me; in which case the sentence would, of course, require to be understood adversatively: That though God failed him, and stretched not out his hand for his deliverance, he would still persist in crying to him. The other meaning, which some have suggested, I will cry to God, who performs, or exerts to the utmost, his severity against me, is evidently forced, and the context would lead us to understand the word as referring to the goodness of God, the constancy of which in perfecting his work when once begun, should ever be present to our remembrance,

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible