Psalm 73:17
Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.
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(17) Then understood I . . .—Rather, I considered their end. The Temple service, with its blessings on righteousness, and stern warnings against wickedness, as they were read from the Book of the Law or from one of the prophets, or were chanted from some ancient song, gave the needed turn to the psalmist’s speculations. He began to think not of the present, but the future; not of the advantages of sin, but its consequences—but still consequences in this world, the thought of a hereafter not having established itself sufficiently to have an ethical force.

Psalm 73:17. Until I went into the sanctuary of God — Till I consulted with the oracle, or word of God. He alludes to the practice of those times, which was in dark and difficult cases to resort to God’s sanctuary, and the oracle in it, for satisfaction. Then understood I their end — There I learned that their prosperity was short, and would quickly have an end, and that a most terrible one; that their fair morning would be followed with a black and dreadful evening, and an everlasting night. “This is the third argument, with which we may repress the spirit of murmuring and distrust, so apt to be excited by the prosperity of the wicked; and it is one communicated to us by the word of God, which alone can acquaint us with what shall be the end, the final portion of sinners. This is an arrow from the heavenly quiver, which brings down our enemy at once, and lays Dagon prostrate before the ark.”73:15-20 The psalmist having shown the progress of his temptation, shows how faith and grace prevailed. He kept up respect for God's people, and with that he restrained himself from speaking what he had thought amiss. It is a sign that we repent of the evil thoughts of the heart, if we suppress them. Nothing gives more offence to God's children, than to say it is vain to serve God; for there is nothing more contrary to their universal experience. He prayed to God to make this matter plain to him; and he understood the wretched end of wicked people; even in the height of their prosperity they were but ripening for ruin. The sanctuary must be the resort of a tempted soul. The righteous man's afflictions end in peace, therefore he is happy; the wicked man's enjoyments end in destruction, therefore he is miserable. The prosperity of the wicked is short and uncertain, slippery places. See what their prosperity is; it is but a vain show, it is only a corrupt imagination, not substance, but a mere shadow; it is as a dream, which may please us a little while we are slumbering, yet even then it disturbs our repose.Until I went into the sanctuary of God - The word "sanctuary" we now apply to a place of public worship; and, thus understood, the passage here would mean that he learned the truth on the subject only by the statements and disclosures made there in regard to the divine plans and dealings, and the results of human conduct. This interpretation makes good sense, and is in itself true, but it is not the idea in the original. The word "sanctuary" in the Old Testament, in the singular number, is applied to the tabernacle, or the temple, or, more especially to the most holy place in the tabernacle or the temple; the place of the unique dwelling of God. Thus understood the idea would be that he learned the solution of the mystery "there." But these were not places of instruction, and it cannot be supposed that the reference is to either of them. The word in the original is in the plural number - sanctuaries - things that God regarded as holy; and the meaning seems to be, that the only solution of the case was to be learned from those things which pertained to God's most holy and secret places; or in those places which were nearest to him, and where he most clearly manifested himself. The difficulty was not to be solved by any mere human reasoning - by the powers of man, away from God; it was to be learned in the presence of God himself, and in the disclosures which He made about his divine plans and purposes. The psalmist had tried his own powers of reason, and the subject was above his reach. The only solution of the difficulty was to be obtained by a near approach to God himself. There the mystery could be solved, and there it was solved. The "end" of all this, as disclosed by God, would determine why, it was permitted, and would remove the perplexity of the mind.

Then understood I their end - literally, their after things; that is, the things which will occur to them hereafter. That solves all the difficulty. There will be a judgment hereafter, and dark as things may now appear, it will be seen in the end, or in the result, that exact and equal justice will be done to all.

17. went into the sanctuary—to enquire (compare Ex 25:22; Ps 5:7; 27:4). Till I consulted with the oracle, or word of God. He alludes to the practice of those times, which was, in dark and difficult cases, to resort to God’s sanctuary, and the oracle in it, for satisfaction.

Then understood I their end; there I learned that their posterity was short, and would quickly have an end, and that a most dismal and terrible one; that their fair morn would be followed with a black and dreadful evening, and an everlasting night. Until I went into the sanctuary of God,.... The tabernacle or house of God, where the Word of God was read and explained, prayer was made, and sacrifices offered up, and where fellowship was had with the saints, and communion with God himself; which for one hour or moment is preferable to all the prosperity of the wicked, during their whole life. This shows that though the psalmist was beset with the temptation, yet not overcome; it did not so far prevail as to cause him to neglect public worship, and relinquish the house of God, and the ordinances of it; and it is right, under temptations, doubts, and difficulties, to attend the public ministrations, which is the way and means to have relief under temptations, to have doubts resolved, and difficulties removed: some by "the sanctuary of God" understand the Scriptures, which are holy and of God, and are profitable for instruction, and are to be consulted and entered into by a serious reading of and deep meditation on them; whereby may be known the happiness that is prepared for the saints in the other world, and the misery of the wicked, and hereby judgment may be made of the present case and condition of each: others interpret it of the world of spirits, which may be entered into by contemplation; when it may be observed that the spirits of just men upon their dissolution possess unspeakable joys and glories, and the souls of the wicked are in inconceivable torments:

then understood I their end; both of the godly and of the wicked; that the end of the righteous is peace, rest, salvation, and eternal life, and the end of the wicked is ruin, destruction, and death; see Psalm 37:35.

Until I went into the {h} sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

(h) Until I entered into your school and learned by your word and Holy Spirit that you order all things most wisely and justly.

Verse 17. - Until I went into the sanctuary of God; literally, the sanctuaries (comp. Psalm 68:35; Psalm 84:1; Psalm 132:7). The three subdivisions of beth the tabernacle and the first temple, viz. the court, the holy place, and the holy of holies, constituted three sanctuaries. The psalmist, in his perplexity, took his doubts into the sanctuary of God, and there, "in the calmness of the sacred court" (Kay), reconsidered the hard problem. Compare Hezekiah's action with the perplexing letter of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:14). Then understood I their end. There came to him in the sanctuary the thought that, to judge aright of the happiness or misery of any man, it is necessary to await the end (comp. Herod., 1:32; Soph., 'OEd. Tyr.,' ad fin.; Eurip., 'Andromach.,' 50:100; Aristot., ' Eth. Nic.,' 1:10). The persons speaking are now those apostates who, deluded by the good fortune and free-thinking of the ungodly, give themselves up to them as slaves. concerning the modal sense of ידע, quomodo sciverit, vid., Psalm 11:3, cf. Job 22:13. With וישׁ the doubting question is continued. Bצttcher renders thus: nevertheless knowledge is in the Most High (a circumstantial clause like Proverbs 3:28; Malachi 1:14; Judges 6:13); but first of all they deny God's actual knowledge, and then His attributive omniscience. It is not to be interpreted: behold, such are (according to their moral nature) the ungodly (אלּה, tales, like זה, Psalm 48:15, Deuteronomy 5:26, cf. המּה, Isaiah 56:11); nor, as is more in accordance with the parallel member Psalm 73:12 and the drift of the Psalm: behold, thus it befalleth the ungodly (such as they according to their lot, as in Job 18:21, cf. Isaiah 20:6); but, what forms a better connection as a statement of the ground of the scepticism in Psalm 73:11, either, in harmony with the accentuation: behold, the ungodly, etc., or, since it is not הרשׁעים: behold, these are ungodly, and, ever reckless (Jeremiah 12:1), they have acquired great power. With the bitter הנּה, as Stier correctly observes, they bring forward the obvious proof to the contrary. How can God be said to be the omniscient Ruler of the world? - the ungodly in their carnal security become very powerful and mighty, but piety, very far from being rewarded, is joined with nothing but misfortune. My striving after sanctity (cf. Proverbs 20:9), my abstinence from all moral pollution (cf. Proverbs 26:6), says he who has been led astray, has been absolutely (אך as in 1 Samuel 25:21) in vain; I was notwithstanding (Ew. 345, a) incessantly tormented (cf. Psalm 73:5), and with every morning's dawn (לבּקרים, as in Psalm 101:8, cf. לבקרים in Job 7:18) my chastitive suffering was renewed. We may now supply the conclusion in thought in accordance with Psalm 73:10 : Therefore have I joined myself to those who never concern themselves about God and at the same time get on better.
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