Psalm 34:18
The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Psalm 34:18. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart — Ready to hear and succour them; though, by the course of his providence toward them, he may sometimes seem to themselves and others to stand afar off. “God is near to all men; for in him they live: but he is near to the broken in heart, in a peculiar sense, as he is ever ready and able to help them; as men are much more capable of assisting those they value, when present with them than when absent from them; from which this form of speech, as applied to God, is taken.” — Chandler. And saveth such as be of a contrite spirit — Those whose spirits are truly humbled under the hand of God, and the sense of their sins, whose hearts are subdued, and made obedient to God’s will, and submissive to his providence.

34:11-22 Let young persons set out in life with learning the fear of the Lord, if they desire true comfort here, and eternal happiness hereafter. Those will be most happy who begin the soonest to serve so good a Master. All aim to be happy. Surely this must look further than the present world; for man's life on earth consists but of few days, and those full of trouble. What man is he that would see the good of that where all bliss is perfect? Alas! few have this good in their thoughts. That religion promises best which creates watchfulness over the heart and over the tongue. It is not enough not to do hurt, we must study to be useful, and to live to some purpose; we must seek peace and pursue it; be willing to deny ourselves a great deal for peace' sake. It is the constant practice of real believers, when in distress, to cry unto God, and it is their constant comfort that he hears them. The righteous are humbled for sin, and are low in their own eyes. Nothing is more needful to true godliness than a contrite heart, broken off from every self-confidence. In this soil every grace will flourish, and nothing can encourage such a one but the free, rich grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The righteous are taken under the special protection of the Lord, yet they have their share of crosses in this world, and there are those that hate them. Both from the mercy of Heaven, and the malice of hell, the afflictions of the righteous must be many. But whatever troubles befal them, shall not hurt their souls, for God keeps them from sinning in troubles. No man is desolate, but he whom God has forsaken.The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart - Margin, as in Hebrew: "to the broken of heart." The phrase, "the Lord is nigh," means that he is ready to hear and to help. The language is, of course, figurative. As an Omnipresent Being, God is equally near to all persons at all times; but the language is adapted to our conceptions, as we feel that one who is near us can help us, or that one who is distant from us cannot give us aid. Compare the notes at Psalm 22:11. The phrase, "them that are of a broken heart," occurs often in the Bible. It refers to a condition when a burden "seems" to be on the heart, and when the heart "seems" to be crushed by sin or sorrow; and it is designed to describe a consciousness of deep guilt, or the heaviest kind of affliction and trouble. Compare Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 66:2.

And sayeth such as be of a contrite spirit - Margin, as in Hebrew: "contrite of spirit." The phrase here means the spirit as "crushed" or "broken down;" that is, as in the other phrase, a spirit that is oppressed by sin or trouble. The world abounds with instances of those who can fully understand this language.

17, 18. Humble penitents are objects of God's special tender regard (Ps 51:19; Isa 57:15). Nigh; ready to hear and succour them; though by the severe course of his providence towards them he seems to themselves and others to stand afar off, as David complains, Psalm 10:1.

Such as be of a contrite spirit; by which he understands either,

1. Those whose spirits are oppressed, and even broken, with the greatness of their calamities. But this may be, and frequently is, the lot of wicked men. And therefore in this sense, and to such persons, this proposition and promise is not true. Or rather,

2. Those whose hearts or spirits are truly and deeply humbled under the hand of God, and the sense of their sins, and God’s displeasure for them, which was David’s case, Psalm 6:1, &c.: Psalm 32:3,4, whose proud and self-willed hearts are subdued and made obedient to God’s will, and submissive to his providence; for to all such, and to such only, this promise is verified.

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart,.... Who are pressed and bore down with afflictions, by the sorrow of heart under which their spirits are broken, Proverbs 15:13; or with a sense of sin, and sorrow for it, for which their hearts smite them, and they are wounded by it, and broken with it: to these the Lord is "nigh"; not in a general way only, as he is to all men, being God omnipresent, but in a special manner; he comes and manifests himself to them in a gracious way, pours in the oil and wine of his love, and binds up their broken hearts; yea, comes and dwells with them: he does not pass by them and neglect them, much less make the breach worse; he does not break the bruised reeds, but he heals their breaches;

and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit; not in a legal, but in an evangelical way; who are humbled under a sense of sin, and melted down in true repentance, under a view of the love and grace of God; and are poor and mean in their own eyes: to these the Lord has respect; the sacrifices of a broken and contrite spirit are not despised by him, but accepted through faith in Christ; and such he saves with an everlasting salvation in him.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a {l} broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

(l) When they seem to be swallowed up with afflictions, then God is at hand to deliver them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. nigh &c.] Cp. Psalm 119:151; Isaiah 50:8; and the contrast, Psalm 10:1. The broken in heart and crushed in spirit are those who have been broken down and crushed by sorrow and suffering (Psalm 147:3; Isaiah 61:1; Jeremiah 23:9); in whom, it is implied, affliction has borne fruit, and all self-asserting pride has been subdued and replaced by true contrition and humility.

Verse 18. - The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and sayeth such as be of a contrite spirit. On the value in God's sight of a broken and contrite heart, see Psalm 2:17; and on his mercy towards the truly contrite, see Psalm 147:3; Isaiah 57:15; 69:2. He "is nigh" to such persons, he "dwells with" them, "looks to them, .... revives their heart, .... heals" them, "saves" them. Psalm 34:18(Heb.: 34:17-22) The poet now recommends the fear of God, to which he has given a brief direction, by setting forth its reward in contrast with the punishment of the ungodly. The prepositions אל and בּ, in Psalm 34:16 and Psalm 34:17, are a well considered interchange of expression: the former, of gracious inclination (Psalm 33:18), the latter, of hostile intention or determining, as in Job 7:8; Jeremiah 21:10; Jeremiah 44:11, after the phrase in Leviticus 17:10. The evil doers are overwhelmed by the power of destruction that proceeds from the countenance of Jahve, which is opposed to them, until there is not the slightest trace of their earthly existence left. The subjects to Psalm 34:18 are not, according to Psalm 107:17-19, the עשׁי רע (evil doers), since the indispensable characteristic of penitence is in this instance wanting, but the צדיקים (the righteous). Probably the פ strophe stood originally before the ע strophe, just as in Lamentations 2-4 the פ precedes the ע (Hitzig). In connection with the present sequence of the thoughts, the structure of Psalm 34:18 is just like Psalm 34:6 : Clamant et Dominus audit equals si qui (quicunque) clamant. What is meant is the cry out of the depth of a soul that despairs of itself. Such crying meets with a hearing with God, and in its realisation, an answer that bears its own credentials. "The broken in heart" are those in whom the egotistical, i.e., self-loving life, which encircles its own personality, is broken at the very root; "the crushed or contrite (דּכּאי, from דּכּא, with a changeable ā, after the form אילות from איּל) in spirit" are those whom grievous experiences, leading to penitence, of the false eminence to which their proud self-consciousness has raised them, have subdued and thoroughly humbled. To all such Jahve is nigh, He preserves them from despair, He is ready to raise up in them a new life upon the ruins of the old and to cover or conceal their infinitive deficiency; and, they, on their part, being capable of receiving, and desirous of, salvation, He makes them partakers of His salvation. It is true these afflictions come upon the righteous, but Jahve rescues him out of them all, מכּלּם equals מּכּלּן (the same enallage generis as in Ruth 1:19; Ruth 4:11). He is under the most special providence, "He keepeth all his bones, not one of them (ne unum quidem) is broken" - a pictorial exemplification of the thought that God does not suffer the righteous to come to the extremity, that He does not suffer him to be severed from His almighty protecting love, nor to become the sport of the oppressors. Nevertheless we call to mind the literal fulfilment which these words of the psalmist received in the Crucified One; for the Old Testament prophecy, which is quoted in John 19:33-37, may be just as well referred to our Psalm as to Exodus 12:46. Not only the Paschal lamb, but in a comparative sense even every affliction of the righteous, is a type. Not only is the essence of the symbolism of the worship of the sanctuary realised in Jesus Christ, not only is the history of Israel and of David repeated in Him, not only does human suffering attain in connection with Him its utmost intensity, but all the promises given to the righteous are fulfilled in Him κατ ̓ ἐξοχήν; because He is the righteous One in the most absolute sense, the Holy One of God in a sense altogether unique (Isaiah 53:11; Jeremiah 23:5, Zechariah 9:9; Acts 3:14; Acts 22:14). - The righteous is always preserved from extreme peril, whereas evil (רעה) slays (מותת stronger than המית) the ungodly: evil, which he loved and cherished, becomes the executioner's power, beneath which he falls. And they that hate the righteous must pay the penalty. Of the meanings to incur guilt, to feel one's self guilty, and to undergo punishment as being guilty, אשׁם (vid., on 1 Samuel 14:13) has the last in this instance.
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