Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
TITLE. A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah. This sad
complaint reads very little like a Song, nor can we conceive how it could be
called by a name which denotes a song of praise or triumph; yet perhaps it was
intentionally so called to show how faith "glories in tribulations also."
Assuredly, if ever there was a song of sorrow and a Psalm of sadness, this is
one. The sons of Korah, who had often united in chanting jubilant odes, are now
bidden to take charge of this mournful dirge like hymn. Servants and singers
must not be choosers. To the chief Musician. He must superintend the singers and
see that they do their duty well, for holy sorrow ought to be expressed with
quite as much care as the most joyful praise; nothing should be slovenly in the
Lord's house. It is more difficult to express sorrow fitly than it is to pour
forth notes of gladness. Upon Mahalath Leannoth. This is translated by
Alexander, "concerning afflictive sickness", and if this be correct, it
indicates the mental malady which occasioned this plaintive song. Maschil. This
term has occurred many times before, and the reader will remember that it
indicates an instructive or didactic Psalm: --the sorrows of one saint are
lessons to others; experimental teaching is exceedingly valuable. Of Heman the
Ezrahite. This, probably, informs us as to its authorship; it was written by
Heman, but which Heman it would not be easy to determine, though it will not be
a very serious mistake if we suppose it to be the man alluded to in 1Ki 4:31, as
the brother of Ethan, and one of the five sons of Zerah (1Ch 2:6), the son of
Judah, and hence called "the Ezrahite": if this be the man, he was famous for
his wisdom, and his being in Egypt during the time of Pharaoh's oppression may
help to account for the deep bass of his song, and for the antique form of many
of the expressions, which are more after the manner of Job than David. There
was, however, a Heman in David's day who was one of the grand trio of chief
musicians, "Heman, Asaph, and Ethan" (1Ch 15:19), and no one can prove that this
was not the composer. The point is of no consequence; whoever wrote the Psalm
most have been a man of deep experience, who had done business on the great
waters of soul trouble.
SUBJECT AND DIVISION. This Psalm is fragmentary, and the
only division of any service to us would be that suggested by Albert Barnes,
viz. --A description of the sick man's sufferings (Ps 88:1-9), and a prayer for
mercy and deliverance (Ps 88:10-18). We shall, however, consider each verse
separately, and so exhibit the better the incoherence of the author's grief. The
reader had better first peruse the Psalm as a whole.
Verse 1. O Lord God of my salvation. This is a hopeful title
by which to address the Lord, and it has about it the only ray of comfortable
light which shines throughout the Psalm. The writer has salvation, he is sure of
that, and God is the sole author of it. While a man can see God as his Saviour,
it is not altogether midnight with him. While the living God can be spoken of as
the life of our salvation, our hope will not quite expire. It is one of the
characteristics of true faith that she turns to Jehovah, the saving God, when
all other confidences have proved liars unto her. I have cried day and night before thee. His distress had
not blown out the sparks of his prayer, but thickened them into a greater
ardency, till they burned perpetually like a furnace at full blast. His prayer
was personal--whoever had not prayed, he had done so; it was intensely earnest,
so that it was correctly described as a cry, such as children utter to move the
pity of their parents; and it was unceasing, neither the business of the day nor
the weariness of the night had silenced it: surely such entreaties could not be
in vain. Perhaps, if Heman's pain had not been incessant his supplications might
have been intermittent; it is a good thing that sickness will not let us rest if
we spend our restlessness in prayer. Day and night are both suitable to prayer;
it is no work of darkness, therefore let us go with Daniel and pray when men can
see us, yet, since supplication needs no light, let us accompany Jacob and
wrestle at Jabbok till the day breaketh. Evil is transformed to good when it
drives us to prayer. One expression of the text is worthy of special note;
"before thee" is a remarkable intimation that the Psalmist's cries had an aim
and a direction towards the Lord, and were not the mere clamours of nature, but
the groanings of a gracious heart towards Jehovah, the God of salvation. Of what
use are arrows shot into the air? The archer's business is to look well at the
mark he drives at. Prayers must be directed to heaven with earnest care. So
thought Heman --his cries were all meant for the heart of his God. He had no eye
to onlookers as Pharisees have, but all his prayers were before his God.
Verse 2. Let my prayer come before thee. Admit it to an
audience; let it speak with thee. Though it be my prayer, and therefore very
imperfect, yet deny it not thy gracious consideration. Incline thine ear unto my cry. It is not music save to the
ear of mercy, yet be not vexed with its discord, though it be but a cry, for it
is the most natural expression of my soul's anguish. When my heart speaks, let
thine ear hear. There may be obstacles which impede the upward flight of our
prayers--let us entreat the Lord to remove them; and as there may also be
offences which prevent the Lord from giving favourable regard to our
requests--let us implore him to put these out of the way. He who has prayed day
and night cannot bear to lose all his labour. Only those who are indifferent in
prayer will be indifferent about the issue of prayer.
Verse 3. For my soul is full of troubles. I am satiated and
nauseated with them. Like a vessel full to the brim with vinegar, my heart is
filled up with adversity till it can hold no more. He had his house full and his
hands full of sorrow; but, worse than that, he had his heart full of it. Trouble
in the soul is the soul of trouble. A little soul trouble is pitiful; what must
it be to be sated with it? And how much worse still to have your prayers return
empty when your soul remains full of grief. And my life draweth nigh unto the grave. He felt as if he
must die, indeed he thought himself half dead already. All his life was going,
his spiritual life declined, his mental life decayed, his bodily life flickered;
he was nearer dead than alive. Some of us can enter into this experience, for
many a time have we traversed this valley of death shade, aye and dwelt in it by
the month together. Really to die and be with Christ will be a gala day's
enjoyment compared with our misery when a worse than physical death has cast its
dreadful shadow over us. Death would be welcomed as a relief by those whose
depressed spirits make their existence a living death. Are good men ever
permitted to suffer thus? Indeed they are; and some of them are even all their
life time subject to bondage. O Lord, Be pleased to set free thy prisoners of
hope! Let, none of thy mourners imagine that a strange thing has happened unto
him, but rather rejoice as he sees the footprints of brethren who have trodden
this desert before.
Verse 4. I am counted with them that go down into the pit.
My weakness is so great that both by myself and others I am considered as good
as dead. If those about me have not ordered my coffin they have at least
conversed about my sepulchre, discussed my estate, and reckoned their share of
it. Many a man has been buried before he was dead, and the only mourning over
him has been because he refused to fulfil the greedy expectations of his
hypocritical relatives by going down to the pit at once. It has come to this
with some afflicted believers, that their hungry heirs think they have lived too
long. I am as a mat, that hath no strength. I have but the name
to live; my constitution is broken up; I can scarce crawl about my sick room, my
mind is even weaker than my body, and my faith weakest of all. The sons and
daughters of sorrow will need but little explanation of these sentences, they
are to such tried ones as household words.
Verse 5. Free among the dead. Unbound from all that links a
man with life, familiar with death's door, a freeman of the city of the
sepulchre, I seem no more one of earth's drudges, but begin to anticipate the
rest of the tomb. It is a sad case when our only hope lies in the direction of
death, our only liberty of spirit amid the congenial horrors of corruption. Like the slain that lie in the grave, whom you remember no
more. He felt as if he were as utterly forgotten as those whose carcasses
are left to rot on the battle field. As when a soldier, mortally wounded, bleeds
unheeded amid the heaps of slain, and remains to his last expiring groan
unpitied and unsuccoured, so did Heman sigh out his soul in loneliest sorrow,
feeling as if even God himself had quite forgotten him. How low the spirits of
good and brave men will sometimes sink. Under the influence of certain disorders
everything will wear a sombre aspect, and the heart will dive into the
profoundest deeps of misery. It is all very well for those who are in robust
health and full of spirits to blame those whose lives are sicklied over with the
pale cast of melancholy, but the evil is as real as a gaping wound, and all the
more hard to bear because it lies so much in the region of the soul that to the
inexperienced it appears to be a mere matter of fancy and diseased imagination.
Reader, never ridicule the nervous and hypochondriacal, their pain is real;
though much of the evil lies in the imagination, it is not imaginary. And they are cut off from thy hand. Poor Heman felt as if
God himself had put him away, smitten him and laid him among the corpses of
those executed by divine justice. He mourned that the hand of the Lord had gone
out against him, and that lie was divided from the great author of his life.
This is the essence of wormwood. Man's blows are trifles, but God's smitings are
terrible to a gracious heart. To feel utterly forsaken of the Lord and cast away
as though hopelessly corrupt is the very climax of heart desolation.
Verse 6. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in
the deeps. What a collection of forcible metaphors, each one
expressive of the utmost grief. Heman compared his forlorn condition to an
imprisonment in a subterranean dungeon, to confinement in the realms of the
dead, and to a plunge into the abyss. None of the similes are strained. The mind
can descend far lower than the body, for it there are bottomless pits. The flesh
can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in
ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour. It is grievous to the
good man to see the Lord whom he loves laying him in the sepulchre of
despondency; piling nightshade upon him, putting out all his candles, and
heaping over him solid masses of sorrow; evil from so good a hand seems evil
indeed, and yet if faith could but be allowed to speak she would remind the
depressed spirit that it is better to fall into the hand of the Lord than into
the hands of man, and moreover she would tell the despondent heart that God
never placed a Joseph in a pit without drawing him up again to fill a throne;
that he never caused a horror of great darkness to fall upon an Abraham without
revealing his covenant to him; and never cast even a Jonah into the deeps
without preparing the means to land him safely on dry land. Alas, when under
deep depression the mind forgets all this, and is only conscious of its
unutterable misery; the man sees the lion but not the honey in its carcass, he
feels the thorns but he cannot smell the roses which adorn them. He who now
feebly expounds these words knows within himself more than he would care or dare
to tell of the abysses of inward anguish. He has sailed round the Cape of
Storms, and has drifted along by the dreary headlands of despair. He has groaned
out with one of old--"My bones are pierced in me in the night season; and my
sinews take no rest. I go morning without the sun. Terrors are turned upon me,
they pursue my soul as the wind." Those who know this bitterness by experience
will sympathise, but from others it would be idle to expect pity, nor would
their pity be worth the having if it could be obtained. It is an unspeakable
consolation that our Lord Jesus knows this experience, right well, having, with
the exception of the sin of it, felt it all and more than all in Gethsemane when
he was exceeding sorrowful even unto death.
Verse 7. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me. Dreadful plight this,
the worst in which a man can be found. Wrath is heavy in itself; God's wrath is
crushing beyond conception, and when that presses hard the soul is oppressed
indeed. The wrath of God is the very hell of hell, and when it weighs upon the
conscience a man feels a torment such as only that of damned spirits can exceed.
Joy or peace, or even numbness of indifference, there can be none to one who is
loaded with this most tremendous of burdens. And thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves, or all
thy breakers. He pictures God's wrath as breaking over him like those
waves of the sea which swell, and rage, and dash with fury upon the shore. How
could his frail barque hope to survive those cruel breakers, white like the
hungry teeth of death. Seas of affliction seemed to rush in upon him with all
the force of omnipotence; he felt himself to be oppressed and afflicted like
Israel in Egypt, when they cried by reason of their afflictions. It appeared
impossible for him to suffer more, he had exhausted the methods of adversity and
endured all its waves. So have we imagined, and yet it is not really
quite so bad. The worst case might be worse, there are alleviations to every
woe; God has other and more terrible waves which, if he chose to let them forth,
would sweep us into the infernal abyss, whence hope has long since been
banished. Selah. There was need to rest. Above the breakers the
swimmer lifts his head and looks around him, breathing for a moment, until the
next wave comes. Even lamentation must have its pauses. Nights are broken up
into watches, and even so mourning has its intervals. Such sorrowful music is a
great strain both on voices and instruments, and it is well to give the singers
the relief of silence for a while.
Verse 8. Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me.
If ever we need friends it is in the dreary hour of despondency and the weary
time of bodily sickness; therefore does the sufferer complain because divine
providence had removed his friends. Perhaps his disease was infectious or
defiling, so that he was legally separated from his fellow men, perhaps their
fears kept them away from his plague stricken house, or else his good name had
become so injured that they naturally avoided him. Lost friends require but
small excuse for turning their backs on the afflicted. The swallows offer no
apology for leaving us to winter by ourselves. Yet it is a piercing pain which
arises from the desertion of dear associates; it is a wound which festers and
refuses to be healed. Thou hast made me an abomination unto them. They turned
from him as though he had become loathsome and contaminating, and this because
of something which the Lord had done to him; therefore, he brings his complaint
to the prime mover in his trouble. He who is still flattered by the companions
of his pleasure can little guess the wretchedness which will be his portion
should he become poor, or slanderously accused, for then one by one the
parasites of his prosperity will go their way and leave him to his fate, not
without cutting remarks on their part to increase his misery. Men have not so
much power to bless by friendship as to curse by treachery. Earth's poisons are
more deadly than her medicines are healing. The mass of men who gather around a
man and flatter him are like tame leopards; when they lick his hand it is well
for him to remember that with equal gusto they would drink his blood. "Cursed is
he that trusteth in man." I am shut up, and I cannot come forth. He was a prisoner in
his room, and felt like a leper in the lazaretto, or a condemned criminal in his
cell. His mind, too, was bound as with fetters of iron; he felt no liberty of
hope, he could take no flights of joy. When God shuts friends out, and shuts us
in to pine away alone, it is no wonder if we water our couch with tears.
Verse 9. Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction. He wept
his eyes out. He exhausted the lachrymal glands, he wore away the sight itself.
Tears in showers are a blessing, and work our good; but in floods they become
destructive and injurious. Lord, I have called daily upon thee. His tears wetted his
prayers, but did not damp then fervour. He prayed still, though no answer came
to dry his eyes. Nothing can make a true believer cease praying; it is a part of
his nature, and pray he must. I have stretched out my hands unto thee. He used the
appropriate posture of a supplicant, of his own accord; men need no posture
maker, or master of the ceremonies, when they are eagerly pleading for mercy,
nature suggests to them attitudes both natural and correct. As a little child
stretches out its hands to its mother while it cries, so did this afflicted
child of God. He prayed all over, his eyes wept, his voice cried, his hands were
outstretched, and his heart broke. This was prayer indeed.
Verse 10. Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? Wherefore then
suffer me to die? While I live thou canst in me display the glories of thy
grace, but when I have passed into the unknown land, how canst thou illustrate
in me thy love? If I perish thou wilt lose a worshipper who both reverenced, and
in his own experience illustrated, the wonders of thy character and acts. This
is good pleading, and therefore he repeats it. Shall the dead arise and praise thee? He is thinking only
of the present, and not of the last great day, and he urges that the Lord would
have one the less to praise him among the sons of men. Shades take no part in
the quires of the Sabbath, ghosts sing no joyous Psalms, sepulchres and vaults
send forth no notes of thanksgiving. True the souls of departed saints render
glory to God, but the dejected Psalmist's thoughts do not mount to heaven but
survey the gloomy grave: he stays on this side of eternity, where in the grave
he sees no wonders and hears no songs. Selah. At the mouth of the tomb he sits down to meditate,
and then returns to his theme.
Verse 11. Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave?
Thy tender goodness--who shall testify concerning it in that cold abode where the
worm and corruption hold their riot? The living may indite "meditations among
the Tombs", but the dead know nothing, and therefore can declare nothing. Or thy faithfulness in destruction? If the Lord suffered
his servant to die before the divine promise was fulfilled, it would be quite
impossible for his faithfulness to be proclaimed. The poet is dealing with this
life only, and looking at the matter from the point of view afforded by time and
the present race of men; if a believer were deserted and permitted to die in
despair, there could come no voice from his grave to inform mankind that the
Lord had rectified his wrongs and relieved him of his trials, no songs would
leap up from the cold sod to hymn the truth and goodness of the Lord; but as far
as men are concerned, a voice which loved to magnify the grace of God would be
silenced, and a loving witness for the Lord removed from the sphere of
Verse 12. Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? If not
here permitted to prove their goodness of Jehovah, how could the singer do so in
the land of darkness and death shade? Could his tongue, when turned into a clod,
alarm the dull cold ear of death? Is not a living dog better than a dead lion,
and a living believer of more value to the cause of God on earth than all the
departed put together? And thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? What
shall be told concerning thee in the regions of oblivion? Where memory and love
are lost, and men are alike unknowing and unknown, forgetful and forgotten, what
witness to the divine holiness can be borne? The whole argument amounts to
this--if the believer dies unblessed, how will God's honour be preserved? Who
will bear witness to his truth and righteousness?
Verse 13. But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; I have
continued to pray for help to thee, O Jehovah, the living God, even though thou
hast so long delayed to answer. A true born child of God may be known by his
continuing to cry; a hypocrite is great at a spurt, but the genuine believer
holds on till he wins his suit. And in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee. He meant
to plead on yet, and to increase his earnestness. He intended to be up betimes,
to anticipate the day light, and begin to pray before the sun was up. If the
Lord is pleased to delay, he has a right to do as he wills, but we must not
therefore become tardy in supplication. If we count the Lord slack concerning
his promise we must only be the more eager to outrun him, lest sinful sloth on
our part should hinder the blessing.
"Let prayer and holy hymn
Perfume the morning air;Before the world with smoke is dim
Bestir thy soul to prayer."
"While flowers are wet with dew
Lament thy sins with tears,
And ere the sun shines forth anew
Tell to thy Lord thy fears."
Verse 14. LORD, why castest thou oft my soul? Hast thou not
aforetime chosen me, wilt thou now reject me? Shall thine elect ones become thy
reprobates? Dost thou, like changeable men, give a writing of divorcement to
those whom thy love has espoused? Can thy beloveds become thy cast offs? Why hidest thou thy face from me? Wilt thou not so much as
look upon me? Canst thou not afford me a solitary smile? Why this severity to
one who has in brighter days basked in the light of thy favour? We may put these
questions to the Lord, nay, we ought to do so. It is not undue familiarity, but
holy boldness. It may help us to remove the evil which provokes the Lord to
jealousy, if we seriously beg him to shew us wherefore he contends with us. He
cannot act towards us in other than a right and gracious manner, therefore for
every stroke of his rod there is a sufficient reason in the judgment of his
loving heart; let us try to learn that reason and profit by it.
Verse 15. I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up.
His affliction had now lasted so long that he could hardly remember when it
commenced; it seemed to him as if he had been at death's door ever since he was
a child. This was no doubt an exaggeration of a depressed spirit, and yet
perhaps Heman may have been born under the cypress, and have been all his days
afflicted with some chronic disease or bodily infirmity; there are holy men and
women whose lives are a long apprenticeship to patience, and these deserve both
our sympathy and our reverence, --our reverence we have ventured to say, for
since the Saviour became the acquaintance of grief, sorrow has become honourable
in believers' eyes. A life long sickness may by divine grace prove to be a life
long blessing. Better suffer from childhood to old age than to be let alone to
find pleasure in sin. While I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. Long use had
not blunted the edge of sorrow, God's terrors had not lost their terror; rather
had they become more overwhelming and had driven the man to despair. He was
unable to collect his thoughts, he was so tossed about that he could not judge
and weigh his own condition in a calm and rational manner. Sickness alone will
thus distract the mind; and when a sense of divine anger is added thereto, it is
not to be wondered at if reason finds it hard to hold the reins. How near akin
to madness soul depression sometimes may be, it is not our province to decide;
but we speak what we do know when we say that a feather weight might be
sufficient to turn the scale at times. Thank God O ye tempted ones who yet
retain your reason! Thank him that the devil himself cannot add that feather
while the Lord stands by to adjust all things. Even though we have grazed upon
the rock of utter distraction, we bless the infinitely gracious Steersman that
the vessel is seaworthy yet, and answers to her helm: tempest tossed from the
hour of her launch even to this hour, yet she mounts the waves and defies the
Verse 16. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me. What an
expression, "fierce wrath", and it is a man of God who feels it! Do we seek an
explanation? It seemed so to him, but "tidings are not what they seem." No
punitive anger ever falls upon the saved one, for Jesus shields him from it all;
but a father's anger may fall upon his dearest child, none the less but all the
more, because he loves it. Since Jesus bore my guilt as my substitute, my Judge
cannot punish me, but my Father can and will correct me. In this sense the
Father may even manifest "fierce wrath" to his erring child, and under a sense
of it that dear broken down one may be laid in the dust and covered with
wretchedness, and yet for all that he may be accepted and beloved of the Lord
all the while. Heman represents God's wrath as breaking over him as waves over a
wreck. Thy terrors have cut me off. They have made me a marked
man, they have made me feel like a leper separated from the congregation of thy
people, and they have caused others to look upon me as no better than dead.
Blessed be God this is the sufferer's idea and not the very truth, for the Lord
will neither cast off nor cut off his people, but will visit his mourners with
Verse 17. They came round about me daily like water. My
troubles, and thy chastisement poured in upon me, penetrating everywhere, and
drowning all. Such is the permeating and pervading power of spiritual distress,
there is no shutting it out; it soaks into the soul like the dew into Gideon's
fleece; it sucks the spirit down as the quicksand swallows the ship; it
overwhelms it as the deluge submerged the green earth. They compassed me about together. Griefs hemmed him in. He
was like the deer in the hunt, when the dogs are all around and at his throat.
Poor soul! and yet he was a man greatly beloved of heaven!
Verse 18. Lover and friend: hast thou put far from me. Even
when they are near me bodily, they are so unable to swim with me in such deep
waters, that they stand like men far away on the shore while I am buffeted with
the billows; but, alas, they shun me, the dearest lover of all is afraid of such
a distracted one, and those who took counsel with me avoid me now! The Lord
Jesus knew the meaning of this in all its wormwood and gall when in his passion.
In dreadful loneliness he trod the wine press, and all his garments were
distained with the red blood of those sour grapes. Lonely sorrow falls to the
lot of not a few; let them not repine, but enter herein into close communion
with that dearest lover and friend who is never far from his tried ones. And mine acquaintance into darkness, or better still,
my acquaintance is darkness. I am familiar only with sadness, all
else has vanished. I am a child crying alone in the dark. Will the heavenly
Father leave his child there? Here he breaks off, and anything more from us
would only spoil the abruptness of the unexpected FINIS.
(We have not attempted to interpret this Psalm concerning our
Lord, but we fully believe that where the members are, the Head is to be seen
preeminently. To have given a double exposition under each verse would have been
difficult and confusing; we have therefore left the Messianic references to be
pointed out in the Notes, where, if God the Holy Ghost be pleased to illustrate
the page, we have gathered up more than enough to lead each devout reader to
behold Jesus, the man of sorrows and the acquaintance of grief.)
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. Mahalath Leannoth I lean to the idea, that
the words Mahalath Leannoth, are intended to denote some musical
instrument of the plaintive order, and in this opinion Kimchi and other
Jewish writers perfectly agree. They assert that it was a wind instrument,
answering very much to the flute, and employed mainly in giving utterance to
sentiments of grief, upon occasions of great sorrow and lamentation. With this
view of the title, I should look for no new translation, but should just read it
substantially as our translators here: "A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah",
to the giver of victory, upon Mahalath Leannoth, an instruction for Heman, the
Ezrahite. --John Morison.
Title. Leannoth is variously rendered, according as
it is derived from hne, anah, to suffer, be afflicted, or from
anah, to chant, sing. Gesenius, De Wette, Dr. Davies, and others take the
latter view; while Mudge, Hengtenberg, Alexander, and others take the former.
Mudge translates, to create dejection; Alexander renders, mahalath
leannoth, concerning afflictive sickness; Hengstenberg reads, upon
the distress of oppression. The Septuagint (apokriyhnai) and the Vulgate
(respondendum) indicate a responsive song, and Houbigant
translates the words in question, for the choirs, that they may answer.
Many etymologists consider the primary idea of hne, anah, to sing, that of
answering. The tone of the Psalm in question, however, being decidedly
that of sadness and dejection, it appears more probable that
leannoth denotes the strictly elegiac character of the performance, and
the whole title may read therefore, "A Song or Psalm, for the sons of Korah, to
the chief musician, upon the flutes (or the hollow instruments,)to afflict (or
cause dejection,)a didactic Psalm of Heman, the Ezrahite." --F.G. Hibbard, in
"The Psalms chronologically arranged, with Historical Introductions." New
Title. The explanation: --to be performed mournfully with
subdued voice, agrees with the mournful contents, whose tone is even more gloomy
than that of Ps 77:1-20. --From "The Psalms, by C.B. Moll." (Lange's Series
1. David was not the only man acquainted with sad exercise and
affliction of spirit, for here is another, to wit, Heman the Ezrahite,
as deep in trouble of spirit as he or any other beside.
2. They are not all men of weak minds and shallow wit who are
acquainted with trouble of spirit, and borne down with the sense of God's wrath;
for here is Heman, one amongst the wisest of all Israel, (and inferior to
none for wisdom, except to Solomon alone), under the heaviest exercise we can
imagine possible for a saint.
3. When it pleaseth God to exercise a man of parts, of great
gifts and graces, he can make his burden proportionable to his strength, and
give him as much to do with the difficulties he puts him to, as a weaker man
shall find in his exercise, as appeareth in the experience of Heman.
4. Wise men in their trouble must take the same course with the
simpler sort of men; that is, they must run to God as others do, and seek relief
only in his grace, who as he distributeth the measures of trouble, can also give
comfort, ease, and deliverance from them, as the practice of Heman doth
5. What trouble of wounded spirit some of God's children have
felt in former times, others dear to God may find the like in after ages, and
all men ought to prepare for the like, and should not think the exercise strange
when it cometh, but must comfort themselves in this, that other saints whose
refines are recorded in Scripture, have been under like affliction; for the
Psalm is appointed "to give instruction"; it is Maschil of Heman.
6. What is at one time matter of mourning to one of God's
children, may become matter of joy and singing afterward, both to himself and to
others, as this sad anguish of spirit in Heman is made a song of joy unto
God's glory, and the comfort of all afflicted souls, labouring under the sense
of sin and felt wrath of God, unto the world's end; it is A Song, a Psalm for
the sons of Korah.
7. Such as are most heartily afflicted in spirit, and do flee
to God for reconciliation and consolation through Christ, have no reason to
suspect themselves, that they are not esteemed of and loved as dear children,
because they feel so much of God's wrath: for here is a saint who hath drunken
of that cup (as deep as any who shall read this Psalm,)here is one so much loved
and honoured of God, as to be a penman of Holy Scripture, and a pattern of faith
and patience unto others; even Heman the Ezrahite. --David Dickson.
Whole Psalm. "We have in this Psalm the voice of our
suffering Redeemer", says Horne; and the contents may be thus briefly stated--
1. The plaintive wailing of the suffering one, Ps
88:1-2. It strongly resembles Ps 22:1-2.
2. His soul exceeding sorrowful even unto death, Ps
88:3-5. The word "free" in our version, is vpx, properly denoting separation
from others, and here rendered by Junius and Tremellius, "set aside from
intercourse and communication with men, having nothing in common with them, like
those who are afflicted with leprosy, and are sent away to separate dwellings."
They quote 2Ch 26:21.
3. His feelings of hell, Ps 88:6-7. For he feels God's
prison, and the gloom of God's darkest wrath. And Selah gives time to
4. His feelings of shame and helplessness, Ps 88:8. "His
own receive him not."
5. The effects of soul agony upon his body, Ps 88:9.
6. His submission to the Lord, Ps 88:9. It is the very
tone of Gethsemane, "Nevertheless, not my will!"
7. The sustaining hope of resurrection, Ps 88:10 (with a
solemn pause, "Selah"), Ps 88:11-12. The "land of
forgetfulness", and "the dark", express the unseen world, which,
to those on this side of the vail, is so unknown, and where those who enter it
are to us as if they had forever been forgotten by those they left behind. God's
wonders shall be made known there. There shall be victory gained over death and
the grave: God's "lovingkindness" to man, and his "faithfulness",
pledge him to do this new thing in the universe. Messiah must return from the
abodes of the invisible state; and in due time, Heman, as well as all other
members of the Messiah's body, must return also. Yes, God's wonders shall
be known at the grave's mouth. God's righteousness, in giving what
satisfied justice in behalf of Messiah's members, has been manifested
gloriously, so that resurrection must follow, and the land of forgetfulness must
give up its dead. O morning of surpassing bliss, hasten on! Messiah has risen;
when shall all that are his arise? Till that day dawn, they must take up their
Head's plaintive expostulations, and remind their God in Heman's strains of what
he has yet to accomplish. "Wilt thou show wonders to the dead",
8. His perseverance in vehement prayer, Ps 88:13-14.
9. His long continued and manifold woes, Ps 88:15-17.
10. His loneliness of soul, Ps 88:18.
Hengstenberg renders the last clause of this verse more
literally-- "The dark kingdom of the dead is instead of all my companions." What
unutterable gloom! completed by this last dark shade--all sympathy from every
quarter totally withdrawn! Forlorn, indeed! Sinking from gloom to gloom, from
one deep to another, and every billow sweeping over him, and wrath, like a
tremendous mountain, "leaning" or resting its weight on the crushed worm.
Not even Ps 22:1-31 is more awfully solemnising, there being in this deeply
melancholy Psalm only one cheering glimpse through the intense gloom, namely,
that of resurrection hoped for, but still at a distance. At such a price was
salvation purchased by him who is the resurrection and the life. He himself
wrestled for life and resurrection in our name--and that price so paid is the
reason why to us salvation is free. And so we hear in solemn joy the harp of
Judah struck by Heman, to overawe our souls not with his own sorrows, but with
what Horsley calls "The lamentation of Messiah", or yet more fully, The
sorrowful days and nights of the Man of Sorrows. --Andrew A.
Whole Psalm. This Psalm stands alone in all the Psalter
for the unrelieved gloom, the hopeless sorrow of its tone. Even the very saddest
of the others, and the Lamentations themselves, admit some variations of key,
some strains of hopefulness; here only all is darkness to the close. --Neale
Whole Psalm. The prophecy in the foregoing Psalm of the
conversion of all nations is followed by this Passion Psalm, in order that it
may never be forgotten that God has purchased to himself an universal church, by
the precious blood of his dear Son. --Christopher Wordsworth.
Whole Psalm. All the misery and sorrow which are described
in this Psalm, says Brentius, have been the lot of Christ's people. We may
therefore take the Psalm, he adds, to be common to Christ and his church. --W.
Verse 1. My That little word "my" opens for a moment
a space between the clouds through which the Sun of righteousness casts one
solitary beam. Generally speaking, you will find that when the Psalm begins with
lamentation, it ends with praise; like the sun, which, rising in clouds and
mist, sets brightly, and darts forth its parting rays just before it goes down.
But here the first gleam shoots across the sky just as the sun rises, and no
sooner has the ray appeared, than thick clouds and darkness gather over it; the
sun continues its course throughout the whole day enveloped in clouds; and sets
at last in a thicker bank of them than it ever had around it during the day.
"Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into
darkness." In what a dark cloud does the sun of Heman set! --J.C. Philpot.
Verse 1. Before thee. He had not recklessly poured forth his
complaints, or cast them to the winds, as many are wont to do, who have no hope
in their calamities; but he had always mingled with his complaining prayers for
obtaining deliverance, and had directed them to God, where faith assured him his
prayers would be seen again. This must be attentively noted, since herein is
seen of what kind the complaints of the saints are. --Mollerus.
Verse 1. Before thee. Other men seek some hiding place where
they may murmur against God, but the Psalmist comes into the Lord's presence and
states his grievances. When a man dares to pour out his complaint before the
Lord's own face, his woes are real, and not the result of petulence or a
rebellious spirit. --C.H.S.
Verses 1-2. Before thee. Not seeking to be seen by human eye,
but by God alone, therefore, let my prayer come before thee, that is, let
it be acceptable before thee, after the similitude of ambassadors who are
admitted to audience; and when my prayer has entered incline thine tar
unto my cry, because thou hearest the desire of the afflicted. --Richardus
Verse 2. Incline thine ear, etc. It is necessary that God
should incline his ear unto our prayer, else it would be in vain to come before
Him. The prodigal did not venture to present his prayer before the father ran
and fell upon his neck and kissed him. For then he said, Lu 15:21, "Father, I
have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight", etc...and so he obtained mercy.
Esther did not present her prayer to Ahasuerus before he descended from his
throne and inclined himself to her. Es 5:2, etc. --Le Blanc.
Verse 3. My soul is full of troubles. The Lord Jesus emptied
himself of glory, that he might be full of trouble. His soul, which was free
from human sin, was full of human troubles, that we who are full of sin might be
free from trouble; his life drew nigh to the terrors of the unseen world, that
we might not be its spoil and prey. --"Plain Commentary."
Verse 3. My soul is full of troubles. Hear into what a depth
of spiritual distress three worthy servants of God in these later times were
plunged and pressed down under the sense of God's anger for sin. Blessed
Mistress Brettergh upon her last bed was horribly hemmed in with the
sorrows of death; the very grief of hell laid hold upon her soul; a roaring
wilderness of woe was within her, as she confessed of herself. She said, her sin
had made her a prey to Satan; and wished that she had never been born, or that
she had been made any other creature rather than a woman. She cried out many
times, woe, woe, woe, etc.; a weak, a woeful, a wretched, a forsaken woman; with
tears continually trickling from her eyes. Master Peacock, that man of
God, in that his dreadful visitation and desertion, recounting some smaller
sins, burst out in these words: "And for these", saith he, "I feel now a hell in
my conscience." Upon other occasions he cried out, groaning most pitifully, "Oh
me, wretch! Oh mine heart is miserable! Oh, oh, miserable and woeful! The burden
of my sin lieth so heavy upon me, I doubt it will break my heart. Oh how woeful
and miserable is my state that I am hunted by hell hounds!" When bystanders
asked if he would pray, he answered, "I cannot". Suffer us, say they, to pray
for you. "Take not", replied he, "the name of God in vain, by praying for a
What grievous pangs, what sorrowful torments, what boiling
heats of the fire of hell that blessed saint of God, John Glover, felt
inwardly in his spirit, saith Foxe, no speech outwardly is able to express.
Being young, saith he, I remember I was once or twice with him, whom partly by
his talk I perceived, and partly by mine own eyes saw to be so worn and consumed
by the space of five years, that neither almost any brooking of meat, quietness
of sleep, pleasure of life, yea, and almost no kind of senses was left in him.
Upon apprehension of some backsliding, he was so perplexed, that if he had been
in the deepest pit of hell, he could almost have despaired no more of his
salvation; in which intolerable griefs of mind, saith he, although he neither
had, nor could have any joy of his meat, yet was he compelled to eat against his
appetite, to the end to defer the time of his damnation so long as he might;
thinking with himself, but that he must needs be thrown into hell, the breath
being once out of his body. I dare not pass out of this point, lest some child
of God should be here discouraged, before I tell you that every one of these
three was at length blessedly recovered, and did rise most gloriously out of
their several depths of most extreme spiritual misery, before their end.
Hear, therefore, Mistress Brettergh's triumphant songs
and ravishments of spirit, after the return of her well beloved: "O Lord Jesus,
dost thou pray for me? O blessed and sweet Saviour, how wonderful! How wonderful
are thy mercies! Oh thy love is unspeakable, thou hast dealt so graciously with
me! O my Lord and my God, blessed be thy name for evermore, which hast showed me
the path of life. Thou didst, O Lord, hide thy face from me for a little season,
but with everlasting mercy thou hast had compassion on me. And now, blessed
Lord, thy comfortable presence is come; yea, Lord, thou hast had respect unto
thine handmaid, and art come with fulness of joy, and abundance of consolation.
O blessed be thy name, my Lord and my God. O the joys that I feel in my soul!
They be wonderful. O Father, how merciful and marvellously gracious art thou
unto me! yea, Lord, I feel thy mercy and I am assured of thy love; and so
certain am I thereof, as Thou art the God of truth, even so sure do I know
myself to be thine, O Lord my God, and this my soul knoweth right well. Blessed
be the Lord that hath thus comforted me, and hath brought me now to a place more
sweet unto me than the garden of Eden. Oh the joy, the delightsome joy that I
feel! O praise the Lord for his mercies, and for this joy which my soul feels
full well; praise his name forever more."
Hear with what heavenly calmness and sweet comforts Master
Peacock's heart was refreshed and ravished when the storm was over: "Truly, my
heart and soul", saith he, (when the tempest was something allayed) "have been
far led and deeply troubled with temptations, and stings of conscience, but I
thank God they are eased in good measure. Wherefore I desire that I be not
branded with the note of a castaway or reprobate. Such questions, oppositions,
and all tending thereto, I renounce. Concerning mine inconsiderate speeches in
my temptation, I humbly and heartily ask mercy of God for them all." Afterward
by little, and little, more light did arise in his heart, and he brake out into
such speeches as these: "I do, God be praised, feel such comfort from that, what
shall I call it?" "Agony", said one that stood by. "Nay", quoth he, "that is too
little; that had I five hundred worlds, I could not make satisfaction for such
an issue. Oh, the sea is not more full of water, nor the sun of light, than the
Lord of mercy; yea, his mercies are ten thousand times more. What great cause
have I to magnify the great goodness of God, that hath humbled such a wretched
miscreant, and of so base condition, to an estate so glorious and stately. The
Lord hath honoured me with his goodness! I am sure he hath provided a glorious
kingdom for me. The joy that I feel in mine heart is incredible." For the third,
(namely, John Glover) hear Mr. Foxe: "Though this good servant of God
suffered many years so sharp temptations, and strong buffeting of Satan; yet the
Lord, who graciously preserved him all the while, not only at last did rid him
out of all discomfort, but also framed him thereby to such mortification of
life, as the like lightly hath not been seen; in such sort, as he being like one
placed in heaven already, and dead in this world both in word and meditation,
led a life altogether celestial, abhorring in his mind all profane doings."
--Robert Bolton (1572-1631), in, "Instructions for a right Comforting
Verse 3. My life. The Hebrew word rendered life is in
the plural number, as in Ge 2:7 3:14,17 6:17 7:15 et al. Why the plural
was used as applicable to life cannot now be known with certainty. It may
have been to accord with the fact, that man has two kinds of life; --the
animal life, --or life in common with the inferior creation; and intellectual, or
higher life, --the life of the soul. The meaning here is, that he was
about to die; or that his life or lives approached that state when
the grave closes over us; the extinction of the mere animal life; and the
separation of the soul--the immortal part--from the body. --Albert Barnes.
Verse 3. The grave. The word which is rendered "hell" in the
Prayer Book translation, and "the grave" in the Bible version, and which
is usually translated either as hell or the grave, is in the
Hebrew lav and in the Greek "Hades." "Hades" signifies "the unseen world."
The word "Sheol" is literally "the Devouring, or the Insatiable."
(Compare Hab 2:5) "who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot
be satisfied"; and also (Pr 3:15-16.) "Sheol" seems to have presented
itself to the thoughts of the ancient Hebrews as a gloomy, silent, inevitable,
and mysterious abode, situated within the earth, whither the souls of the
departed were compelled to repair and to dwell, upon their being separated from
the body. (Isa 14:9-20). They believed that the spirits of all human kind were
contained there in a state of waiting, and there especially dwelt the souls of
the giants before the flood (1Pe 3:19-20), and of the great ones of old, the
Rephaim, whom they pictured to themselves as fearful and gigantic
spectres (Compare Pr 2:18). These ideas became modified and developed with the
increasing clearness of divine teaching; and they divided the abode of the dead
into different states of hope and comfort, which they called Abraham's bosom and
paradise (Lu 16:22-23 23:43); and of misery and suffering, (Pr 3:1). Life and
immortality were brought to light by the Saviour, and also judgment and Hell--the
Gehenna of everlasting punishment, as distinguished from the Unseen
World. (Compare Re 20:13-14). From these speculations of Jewish Rabbis
respecting Sheol the church of Rome appears to have developed the
doctrine of Purgatory. It should be added that it was a received opinion among
the followers of Rabbinical teaching, that all of the seed of Abraham, though
they would be dwellers in Sheol before the general resurrection, would
finally escape the Gehenna of everlasting fire. The rich man (Lu 16:23)
is in Hades in torments when he calls to Abraham his father. --"Plain
Verse 4. I am counted with them that go down into the pit.
Not only myself, says he, but others also now despair of my life, and number me
with those whose corpses are borne forth to burial. For now all my powers have
failed and my vital spirits become quenched. He uses the word rbg which indicates
fortitude rather than Mda or wya in order to show how great the severity of these
evils was, and the vehemence of his griefs, which had broken even a most robust
Verse 4. I am counted with them that go down into the pit.
Next to the troubles of Christ's soul, are mentioned the disgrace and ignominy
to which he submitted: He who was the fountain of immortality, from whom no one
could take his life, who could in a moment have commanded twelve legions of
angels to his aid, or have caused heaven and earth, at a word speaking, to fly
away before him, he was counted among them that go down into the pit;
he died, to all appearance, like the rest of mankind, nay, he was forcibly
put to death, as a malefactor; and seemed, in the hands of his executioners,
as a man that had no strength, no power, or might, to help and
save himself. His strength went from him; he became weak, and like another man.
The people shook their heads at him, saying, "He saved others, himself he cannot
save." --Samuel Burder.
Verse 4. There is in the original an antithesis, which
cannot be conveyed by mere translation, arising from the fact that the first
word for man is one implying strength. --J.A. Alexander.
Verse 5. Free among the dead. In the former verse he had
said that he had approached very near to death, now he is plainly dead: there he
was about to be buried, here he is laid in the sepulchre: thus had his
sufferings increased. Free is to be understood of the affairs of this
life, as when it is said, Job 3:19, "And the servant is free from his master."
--Martin Bucer, 1491-1551.
Verse 5. Free among the dead. yvpx Mytmg bammethim
chophshi, I rather think, means stripped among the dead. Both the
fourth and fifth verses seem to allude to a field of
battle: the slain and the wounded are found scattered over
the plain; the spoilers come among them, and strip, not only the dead,
but those also who appear to be mortally wounded and cannot recover, and are so
feeble as not to be able to resist. Hence the Psalmist says, "I am as a man
that hath no strength", Ps 88:4. --Adam Clarke.
Verse 5. Free. There is no immunity so long as we are in the
flesh, there is no truce, but constant unrest distracts us. Liberty, therefore,
is given to us after death, because we rest from our labourers. --Franciscus
Verse 5. Cut off from the hand. Beware how you ever look
upon yourself as cut off from life and from enjoyment; you are not cut
off, only taken apart, laid aside, it may be but for a season, or it may be for
life; but still you are part of the body of which Christ is the Head. Some must
suffer and some must serve, but each one is necessary to the other, "the whole
body is fitly framed together by that which every joint supplieth", "the eye
cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet,
I have no need of you:" Eph 4:16 1Co 12:21. Your feet may be set fast; they may
have run with great activity, and you sorrow now, because they can run no more.
But do not sorrow thus, do not envy those who are running; you have a work to
do; it may be the work of the head, or of the eye, it surely is whatever work
God gives to you. It may be the work of lying still, of not stirring hand or
foot, of scarcely speaking, scarcely showing life. Fear not: if He your heavenly
Master has given it to you to do, it is His work, and He will bless it.
Do not repine. Do not say, This is work, and, this is not; how do
you know? What work, think you, was Daniel doing in the lion's den? Or Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace? Their work was glorious, "laudable,
and honourable", they were glorifying God in suffering. --From "Sickness, its
Trials and Blessings." (Anon.) 1868.
Verse 6. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, etc. He
expands his meaning by another similitude. For he compares himself to a captive
who has been cast into a deep, foul, dark, and slimy pit, where he is shut up
and plunged in filth and darkness, having not a remnant of hope and life; after
the manner of Jeremiah's sufferings. Jer 37:1-21. By this simile he means that
he was in the greatest anxieties and sorrows of mind, destitute of every hope
and sense of consolation, and that the terrors of death continually increased
and augmented. --Mollerus.
Verse 6. When a saint is under terrible impressions of
Jehovah's infinite wrath, he cannot but be under great horror of conscience, and
in perplexing depths of mental trouble. The sense which he hath of avenging
wrath, occasions a conflict in his spirit, inexpressibly agonizing and terrible.
When his troubled conscience is inflamed, by a sense of the fiery indignation of
God Almighty, the more be thinks of him as his infinite enemy, the more he is
dismayed: every thought of Him, brings doleful tidings, and pours oil
upon the raging flame. Trouble of conscience for sin, is indeed very
disquieting; but, a sense of the vindictive wrath of God, kindled in the
conscience, is still more dreadful. No words can express the direful anguish,
which the disconsolate soul then feels. The Christian cannot at that time think
so much as one quiting, one cheering thought. What he first thinks of is
tormenting to his wounded spirit: he changes that thought for another, and that
is still more tormenting. He finds himself entangled, as in the midst of a
thicket of thorns so that, which way soever he turns himself, he is pierced and
grieved afresh. This dismal thought often arises in his troubled mind, --That if
death were, in his present condition, to surprise and cut him off, he should
sink forever and ever, under the intolerable wrath of the infinite Jehovah. The
most exquisite torment of body is almost nothing, in comparison of the anguish
of his spirit at such times. Oh! how inconceivable is the anguish, the agony,
especially of a holy soul, when it is conflicting with the tremendous wrath of
the eternal God! The bodily torture even of crucifixion, could not extort from
the holy Jesus the smallest sigh or complaint; but the sense of his Father's
wrath in his soul, wrung from him that doleful outcry, "My God, my God, why hast
thou forsaken me!" --John Colquhoun, in "A Treatise on Spiritual Comfort."
Verse 7. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me. Others read,
sustains itself, or bears up itself upon me, which is as if
a giant should with his whole weight stay himself upon a child. --Thomas
Verse 7. There are some that feel the wrath of God on their
souls and consciences, and yet are not under wrath, but are true saints of God.
Examples ye have in Paul, that chosen vessel of God to bear the name of Jesus
among the Gentiles, he had fightings without and terrors within. Heman the
Ezrahite said, `The waves of the Lord's indignation are gone over my head, so
that they are like to drown me; I suffer terrors and doubtings from my very
youth, so that I can never be quit of them.' And both these were the dear
children of God. Now, if you feel nothing but wrath, and thou dost ask how thou
shalt judge of thy state when thou art bearing such a wrath, that put all the
sand of the sea in balance with it, it would overweigh it; and when thou hast
such a fire in thy conscience, that, put iron and brass in that fire, it would
melt them, for they were not able to abide it: how then shalt thou know, in this
case, that thou art loved of God, and that he hath chosen thee to eternal life?
I tell thee, if thou art the chosen child of God, and a vessel of mercy, under a
sense of wrath, in this estate this will be thy disposition. First, Thou wilt
hate and detest thy sin, which is the cause of thy misery, and hath brought thee
to this pain. Secondly, Thou wilt have some dolour and sorrow for thy sin, and
thou wilt lament because thou hast provoked God to anger against thee. Thirdly,
Thou wilt have a desire to be reconciled to God; and thou wouldst gladly be at
peace with him, that thy sins may be taken away out of his sight. Fourthly,
There will be hunger and thirst for the blood of Christ to quench that wrath,
and for his righteousness to cover thy soul. Fifthly, There will be a patient
waiting upon the Lord's deliverance, and when thou canst not get to this
persuasion, then there will be a hope above hope, and thou wilt say with Job,
(Job 13:15), `Lord, I will trust in thee, though thou shouldest slay me.'
Verse 8. There are times when an unspeakable sadness steals
upon me, an immense loneliness takes possession of my soul, a longing perchance
for some vanished hand and voice to comfort me as of old, a desolation without
form and void, that wraps me in its folds, and darkens my inmost being. It was
not thus in the first days of my illness. Then all was so new and strange, that
a strange spiritual strength filled my soul, and seemed to bear me up as with
angel hands. The love and kindness that my sickness called forth, came to me
with a sweet surprise; tender solicitude made my very pain into an occasion of
joy to me; and hope was strong and recovery was near, only a few brief weeks
between me and returning health, with nothing of sickness remaining, but the
memory of all that love and sympathy, like a line of light my Saviour's feet had
left, as he walked with me on the troubled sea. But now that hope is deferred, and returning health seems to
loiter by the way, and recovery is delayed, and the trial lengthens out like an
ever lengthening chain, my soul begins to faint and tire, and the burden to grow
heavier. Even to those who love me most, my pain and helplessness is now an
accustomed thing, while to me it keeps its keen edge of suffering, but little
dulled by use. My ills to them are a tedious oft told tale which comes with
something of a dull reiterance. It has become almost a matter of course that in
the pleasant plan I should be left out, that in the pleasant walk I should be
left behind; a matter of course that the pleasures of life should pass me by
with folded hand and averted face; and sickness, and monotonous days, and grey
shadows should be my portion...
And O my God, my spirit sometimes faints beneath a nameless
dread that this loneliness will grow deeper and deeper, if it be thy will that
my sickness should continue, or recovery be long delayed. I can no longer be the
companion of those I love; shall I be as dear to them as if I could have kept by
their side, and been bound up with all their active interests and pleasures? I
have to see others take my place, and do my work for them; shall I not suffer
loss in their eyes, and others enter into the heritage of love which might have
been mine? Will they not grow weary of me, weary of the same old ills, oft
repeated, but ever new, and turn with an unconscious feeling of relief, to
brighter hearts, and more joyous lives? My God, my God, to whom can I turn for comfort but unto thee,
thou who didst drink the bitter cup of human loneliness to the dregs that thou
mightest make thyself a brother to the lonely, a merciful and faithful High
Priest to the desolate soul; thou who alone canst pass within, the doors being
shut to all human aid, into that secret place of thunder, where the
tempest tossed soul suffers and struggles alone; thou who alone canst command
the winds and tempests, and say unto the sea "Be still!" and unto the wind,
"Blow not!" and there shall be a great calm. As a child alone in the dark, my heart cries out for thee,
cries for thine embracing arms, for thy voice of comfort, for thy pierced heart
on which to rest my aching head, and feel that Love is near. --From "Christ
the Consoler. A Book of Comfort for the Sick." Anon. 1872.
Verse 8. Thou hast put away mine acquaintance. This tempest
of afflictions is all the heavier, because, First, all my acquaintance departed
far from me, like swallows in winter time: Pr 14:20. The poor is hated even
of his own neighbour, but, but the rich hath many friends. Seneca
wisely admonishes: Flies follow honey, wolves corpses, ants food, the
mob follows the pay, not the man. Job said, (Job 19:13), He hath put
my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My
kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. Secondly, not
only do they often depart from the afflicted, but they themselves add to his
trouble, and precipitate his falling fortune. A rich man beginning to fall is
held up by his friends; but a poor man being down, is thrust away by those who
once pretended to love him. --Le Blanc.
Verse 8. Thou hast made me an abomination unto them:
lit, "abominations", as if I were one great mass of abominations. (Ge
46:34 43:32). As Israel was an abomination to the Egyptians, so Messiah, the
antitypical Israel, was to the world. --A.R. Fausset.
Verse 8. An abomination. As one who is unclean, --excluded
from social intercourse; Ge 46:34. Compare Job 9:31 19:19 30:10. "I cannot
come forth." The man suspected of leprosy was "shut up seven days"; Le 13:4.
Verse 9. Mine eye mourneth, ...I have called. Weeping
must not hinder praying; we must sow in tears: "Mine eye mourns", but "I cry
unto thee daily." Let prayers and tears go together, and they shall be accepted
together: "I have heard thy prayers, I have seen thy tears." --Matthew
Verse 9. The first clause seems literally to mean the
soreness and dimness of sight caused by excessive weeping, and is so taken by
many of the commentators, and Lorinus aptly quotes a Latin poet, Catullus,
in illustration: --
Moesta neque assiduo tabescere lumina fletu Cessarent.
Nor my sad eyes to pine with constant tears Could cease.
Verse 10. He assures himself God would not fail to comfort
him before he died; and again, that the Lord would rather miraculously raise him
from the dead, than not glorify himself in his deliverance: and in this also he
taketh a safe course, for he seeks for what he might expect, rather in an
ordinary way, than by looking for miracles. --David Dickson.
Verse 10. Shall the dead arise and praise thee? So far from
this being an argument against the resurrection, it is Messiah's own most
powerful plea for it--that otherwise man would be deprived of salvation, and God
of the praise which the redeemed shall give for it to all eternity. Thou canst
not show wonders to the dead as such; for "God is not the God of the dead, but
of the living." (Mt 22:32.) Or even if thou wert to show thy wonders, it is only
by their rising to life again that they can duly praise thee for them. --A.R.
Verse 10. The dead. The word comes from a root which
expresses what is weak and languid, and at the same time stretched out and long
extended, and which can accordingly be employed to describe the shadowy forms of
the under world as well as the giants and heroes of the olden time. --Carl
Bernhard Moll, in Lange's Commentary.
Verse 10. The dead. An attentive consideration seems to
leave little room for doubt that the dead were called Rephaim (as Gesenius also
hints) from some notion of Scheol being the residence of the fallen spirits or
buried giants. --F.W. Farrar, in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible.
Verses 10-11. Can my soul ever come to think I shall live in
thy favour, in thy free grace and lovingkindness, to be justified by it, to
apprehend myself a living man, and all my sins forgiven? To do this, saith he,
is as great a wonder as to raise a man up from death to life; therefore he useth
that expression, Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? He calleth it
a wonder; for of all works else, you shall find in Scripture the resurrection
from the dead counted the greatest wonder. The phrase in Ps 88:10, as the Septuagint translates it, is
exceeding emphatic. Saith he, "Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? Shall the
physicians arise and praise thee?" So they read it, and so some good Hebrecians
read it also; that is, Go send for all the college of physicians, all the angels
out of heaven, all the skilful ministers and prophets that were then upon the
earth, Gad and David, for he lived in David's time; send for them all. All these
physicians may come with their cordials and balms; they will never cure me,
never heal my soul, never raise me up to life again, except thou raise me; for I
am "free among the dead", saith he. Now then, to work faith in such a one; for
this poor soul, being thus dead, to go out of himself, and by naked and sheer
faith to go to Jesus Christ alone, whom God raised from the dead, and to believe
on him alone; this is now as great a power as indeed to raise a man up from
death to life. --Thomas Goodwin.
Verses 10-12. In these verses we find mention made of four
things on the part of God: "wonders", "lovingkindness", "faithfulness", and
"righteousness". These were four attributes of the blessed Jehovah which the
eyes of Heman had been opened to see, and which the heart of Heman had been
wrought upon to feel. But he comes, by divine teaching, into a spot where these
attributes seem to be completely lost to him; and yet, (so mysterious are the
ways of God!) that spot was made the very place where those attributes were more
powerfully displayed, and made more deeply and experimentally known to his soul.
The Lord led the blind by a way that he knew not into these
spots of experience, that in them he might more fully open up to him those
attributes of which he had already gained a glimpse; but the Lord brought him in
such a mysterious way, that all his former knowledge was baffled. He therefore
puts up this inquiry to the Lord, how it was possible that in those spots where
he now was, these attributes could be displayed or made known? He begins--Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? He is
speaking here of his own experience; he is that "dead" person to whom
those "wonders" are to be shown. And being in that state of experience, he
considered that every act of mercy shown to him where he then was, must be a
"wonder". Shall the dead arise and praise thee? What! the dark,
stupid, cold, barren, helpless soul, that cannot lift up one little finger, that
cannot utter one spiritual word, that cannot put forth one gracious desire, that
cannot lift up itself a hair's breadth out of the mass that presses it
down--"Shall it arise?" and more than that, "praise thee?" What!
can lamentation ever be turned into praise. Can complaint ever be changed into
thanksgiving? Can the mourner ever shout and sing? Oh, it is a wonder of
wonders, if "the dead" are to "arise", if "the dead" are to "praise thee"; if
the dead are to stand upon their feet, and shout victory through thy blood!
Verse 11. In the grave. Here is a striking figure of what a
living soul feels under the manifestations of the deep corruptions of his heart.
All his good words, once so esteemed; and all his good works, once so prized;
and all his prayers, and all his faith, and hope, and love, and all the
imaginations of his heart, are not merely paralysed and dead, not merely reduced
to a state of utter helplessness, but also in soul feeling turned into
rottenness and corruption. When we feel this we are spiritually brought where
Heman was, when he said, "Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the
grave?" What! wilt thou manifest thy love to a stinking corpse? What! is thy
love to be shed abroad in a heart full of pollution and putrefaction? Is thy
lovingkindness to come forth from thy glorious sanctuary, where thou sittest
enthroned in majesty, and holiness, and purity, --is it to leave that eternal
abode of ineffable light and glory, and enter into the dark, polluted, and
loathsome "grave"? What! is thy lovingkindness to come out of the sanctuary into
the charnel house? Shall it be "declared" there --revealed there--spoken
there--manifested there--made known there? For nothing else but the
declaration of it there will do. He does not say, "Shall thy
lovingkindness be declared in the Scriptures?" "Shall thy lovingkindness be
declared in Christ?" ..."Shall thy lovingkindness be declared by the mouth of
ministers?" "Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in holy and pure hearts?" --but
he says, "Shall thy lovingkindness be declared", uttered, spoken,
revealed, manifested, "in the grave?" where everything is contrary to it,
where everything is unworthy of it, -- the last of all places fit for the
lovingkindness of an all pure God to enter. --J.C. Philpot.
Verse 11. Thy faithfulness in destruction. You will see
God's faithfulness to have been manifested most, --in destruction. You will see
God's faithfulness to his covenant most clearly evidenced in destroying your
false religion, in order to set up his own kingdom in your soul; in destroying
everything which alienated and drew away your affections from him, that he alone
might be enshrined in your hearts; and you will say, when the Lord leads you to
look at the path he has led you, in after years, "Of all God's mercies his
greatest have been those that seemed at the time to be the greatest miseries;
the richest blessings which he has given us, are those which came wrapped up in
the outside covering of curses; and his faithfulness has been as much or more
manifested in destruction, than in restoration." --J.C. Philpot.
Verse 11. --It is not by leaving man in the "destruction"
which sin and death produce, that God will declare his "faithfulness" to his
promises which have flowed out of his "lovingkindness"; for instance, his
promise that the woman's seed should bruise the serpent's head (Ge 13:15 and Ho
13:14). --A.R. Faussett.
Verse 12. Wilt thou show thy righteousness in the land of
forgetfulness? where I have forgotten thee, where I turned aside from
thee, where I have let slip out of my memory all thy previous dealings with
me--and shall thy righteousness be manifested even there? Wilt thou prove thine
equity in showing forth mercy, because for me a sacrifice has been offered, thy
righteousness running parallel with the atoning stream of Christ's blood? When I
have forgotten thee and forsaken thee, and turned my back upon thee, can thy
righteousness be there manifested? What! righteousness running side by side with
mercy! and righteousness still preserving all its unbending strictness, because
this very backsliding of heart, this very forgetfulness of soul, this very
alienation of affection, this very turning my back upon thee, have all been
atoned for; and righteousness can be still shown "in the land of forgetfulness",
because all my sins committed in the land of forgetfulness have been atoned for
by redeeming blood! --J.C. Philpot.
Verse 13. But, etc. That "but" seems to come in as an
expression of his resolution hitherto, that though these were his apprehensions
of his condition, yet he had sought the Lord, and would go on to do the same.
Suppose thou findest no relish in the ordinances, yet use them; thou art
desperately sick, yet eat still take all that is brought thee, some strength
will come of it. Say, Be I damned or saved, hypocrite or no hypocrite, I resolve
to go on. --Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 13. In the morning shall my prayer prevent thee. The
morning prayer is the best...In the morning God gave various gifts. First, the
manna, Ex 16:13, And in the morning the dew lay round about the
host: He who is in the camp of God, and bravely fights, receives from God
dew and consolation, if in the morning, that is, in the beginning of temptation,
he prays. In the evening flesh was given, whence death overtook them, but in
another case in the morning the manna was given, whereby life was sustained,
until they came into the land of promise. Secondly, the law was given in the
morning, Ex 19:16, And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that
there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the
voice of the trumpet exceeding loud. In morning devotion the thunders of God,
that is, his judgments, are more distinctly heard; his lightnings, that is, his
divine enlightenments, are best seen; the thick cloud upon the mount, that is,
the divine overshadowing of the soul, is perceived; and the voice of the trumpet
is best heard, that is, inspiration then with greater force moves the mind.
Thirdly, in the morning, very early, the children of Israel went forth from
Egypt; for in the middle of the night God smote all the first born in the land
of Egypt, Ex 12:29 ...In the morning pray, and you shall conquer your daily and
nightly foes; and the Red Sea itself, that is the place of temptation, shall be
to thee a field of glory, of victory and exultation and all things shall go well
with thee. --Le Blanc.
Verse 13. Unto thee have I cried, O Lord. There is something
comitant with the Christian's present darkness of spirit that distinguishes it
from the hypocrite's horror; and that is the lively working of grace, which then
commonly is very visible, when his peace and former comfort are most questioned
by him; the less joy he hath from any present sense of the love of God, the more
abounding you shall find him in sorrow for his sin that clouded his joy; the
further Christ is gone out of his sight, the more he clings in his love to
Christ, and vehemently cries after him in prayer, as we see in Heman here. O the
fervent prayers that then are shot from his troubled spirit to heaven, the pangs
of affection which are springing after God, and his face and favour! Never did a
banished child more desire admittance into his angry father's presence, than he
to have the light of God's countenance shine on him, which is now veiled from
him. --William Gurnall.
Verse 14. Why hidest thou thy face from me? Numerous are the
complaints of good men under this dark cloud; and to a child of light it is
indeed a darkness that may be felt; it beclouds and bewilders the mind; the
brightest evidences are in a great measure hid; the Bible itself is sealed, and
fast closed; we see not our signs, nor our tokens for good; every good thing is
at a distance from us, behind the cloud, and we cannot get at it; there is a
dismal gloom upon our path; we know not where we are, where to step, nor which
way to steer; which way God is gone we know not, but he knoweth the way that we
take; and such a prayer as this suits us well, --Seek thy servants, for we are
lost. Christ is hid, and there is a frowning cloud upon the sweet countenance of
God, in which he hides his blessed face; or, as he did to the disciples, holds
our eyes, that we should not see him. But, though this is often the case with
believers, and they cannot see one beam of light before them; though all
evidences are hid, and the light of the Lord's countenance is withdrawn; though
no signs nor love tokens appear; and though the life giving commandment is hid
from them, and he shows them no wonders out of his law; yet, these Israelites
have light in their dwellings--they have light to see the corruptions of their
own hearts; to see the Workings of unbelief, legal pride, enmity, rebellion, the
double diligence of Satan, and the wretched advantages he takes of them in these
dark seasons. --William Huntington.
Verse 15. I am afflicted. (Vulg. Pauper sum ego.) God
more readily hears the poor, and gives himself wholly to them. First, his eyes,
to behold them, Ps 11:5, "His eyes behold the poor." Secondly, his ears,
to hear them, Ps 10:17, "Thou wilt prepare their hearts, thou wilt
cause thine ears to hear." Thirdly, his hand, to help, Ps 107:41, "Yet
setteth he the poor on high from his affliction." Fourthly, his
breast and his arms, to receive the fugitives and those in peril, Ps 60:9,
"The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed." Fifthly, memory to
recollect for them, Ps 9:18, "The needy shall not alway be
forgotten." Sixthly, intellect, to care for them, and watch over their
comfort, Ps 40:17, "But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh
upon me." Seventhly, goodwill, to love their prayers, Ps 22:24, "For he
hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, neither
hath he hid his face from him." Eighthly and lastly, he gives himself
wholly to them, to preserve them, Ps 72:13, "He shall save the souls of
the needy." --Le Blanc.
Verse 15. I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up.
How much some suffer! I have seen a child, who at the age of twenty months had
probably suffered more bodily pain than the whole congregation of a thousand
souls, where its parents worshipped. Asaph seems to have been of a sad heart.
Jeremiah lived and died lamenting. Heman seems to have been of the same lot and
of the same turn of mind. --William S. Plumer.
Verse 15. (First clause). We found the heat more
oppressive this day than we had yet experienced it. The hillocks of sand between
which we were slowly moving at the usual camel's pace, reflected the sun's rays
upon us, till our faces were glowing as if we had been by the side of a
furnace... Perhaps it was through this part of the desert of Shur that Hagar
wandered, intending to go back to her native country; and it may have been by
this way that Joseph carried the young child Jesus when they fled into the land
of Egypt. Even in tender infancy the sufferings of the Redeemer began, and he
complains, "I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up." Perhaps
these scorching beams beat upon his infant brow, and this sand laden breeze
dried up his infant lips, while the heat of the curse of God began to melt his
heart within. Even in the desert we see the suretyship of Jesus. --R.M.
Macheyne's "Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews."
Verse 15. From my youth up. That is, for a long time; --so
long, that the remembrance of it seems to go back to my very childhood. My whole
life has been a life of trouble and sorrow, and I have not strength to bear it
longer. It may have been literally true that the author of the Psalm had been a
man always afflicted; or, this may be the language of strong emotion, meaning
that his sufferings had been of so long continuance that they seemed to him to
have begun in his very boyhood. --Albert Barnes.
Verse 15. While I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. The
word doth not signify properly the distraction of a man that is mad, but the
distraction of a man that is in doubt. It is the distraction of a man who knows
not what to do, not of a man who knows not what he doth, and yet that
distraction doth often lead to a degree of this; for a man who is much troubled
to know what to do, and cannot know it, grows at last to do he knows not what.
Verse 15. While I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. The
Psalm hath this striking peculiarity in it, namely, that it not only hath
reference to the Lord Jesus Christ, and him alone; but that he himself is the
sole speaker from the beginning to the end. And although the whole of the Psalms
are of him, and concerning him, more or less, and he is the great object and
subject of all; yet, secondarily and subordinately we meet with many parts in
the Psalms where his church is also noticed, and becomes concerned, from union
with him, in what is said. But in this Psalm there is allusion to no other. (We
differ from Dr. Hawker in his exclusion of the saints from this Psalm. Where the
Head is the members are never far away. --ED.) All is of him and his
incommunicable work. All is of the Son of God in our nature. It contains an
account of the cries of the Lord Jesus "when in the days of his flesh he offered
up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears." The soul agonies of Christ even from the moment of his
incarnation to his death, may be contemplated, or read, from the sacred records
of Scripture, but cannot come within the province of any created power to
conceive, much less unfold. It is remarkable that whatever the Lord meant to
convey by the phrase, "I am distracted", this is the only place in the
whole Bible where the word "distracted" is used. Indeed the inspired
writers have varied their terms of expression; when speaking of Christ's
sufferings, as if unable to convey any full idea. Matthew renders it that the
Lord Jesus said: "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto
death!" (Mt 26:38.) Mark describes him as "being sore amazed, and very
heavy!" (Mr 14:33.) And Luke: his "being in an agony!" (Lu 22:44.) But here we
must rest, in point of apprehension, for we can proceed no further. --Robert
Verse 15. O Lord, the monotony of my changeless days
oppresses me, the constant weariness of my body weighs me down. I am weary of
gazing on the same dull objects: I am tired of going through the same dull round
day after day; the very inanimate things about my room, and the patterns on the
walls, seem quickened with the waste of my life, and, through the power of
association, my own thoughts and my own pain come back upon me from them with a
dull reverberation. My heart is too tired to hope; I dare not look forward to
the future; I expect nothing from the days to come, and yet my heart sinks at
the thought of the grey waste of years before me; and I wonder how I shall
endure, whether I shall faint by the way, before I reach my far off home.
--From "Christ the Consoler."
Verse 16. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me. Like a sea of
liquid fire; (Ps 42:7) --Heb. "Thy hot wraths." LXX (Septuagint)
ai orgai sou --William Kay
Verse 16. Thy terrors have cut me off. In the Hebrew verb
the last syllable is repeated for the purpose of putting vehemence into the
expression. The word tme signifies, to shut up and press into some narrow
place, in order that; one may not breathe or escape...In this sense Gregory
Nazianzen in his first oration concerning peace, calls grief (the prison of the
Verse 17. Like water; not merely because it drowns, but
because it searches every crevice, goes to the very bottom, and makes its way on
all sides when once it obtains an entrance, thus fitly denoting the penetrating
force of temptation and trouble. --Hugo Cardinalis.
Verse 18. Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, etc.
Next to the joys of religion, those of friendship are most rational, sublime,
and satisfactory. But they, like all other earthly joys, have their mixtures and
alloys, and are very precarious. We are often called to weep with our friends,
and sometimes to weep over them. Grief and tears for their death are the sad
tribute we pay for loving and being beloved, and living long in this world. This
seems to have been the case with the author of this melancholy Psalm, where our
text is. He was exercised with great afflictions of body, and deep distress of
mind. "His soul was full of troubles, and his life drew nigh to the grave. He
was shut up and confined by weakness and pain, and could not go forth", to his
business or pleasure, to the social or solemn assembly, Ps 88:3-8. He adds, that
"he had been afflicted and read to die from his youth" in Ps 88:15; which seems
to intimate that he was now an old man. Some of his acquaintance and friends had
deserted him, and he was "become an abomination to them", Ps 88:8. They would
not assist him, nor afford him the comfort of a friendly visit, and the cheap
kindness of a soft, compassionate word. Others of them, who would have been
faithful and kind to him in his distress, were taken out of the world; and this
at a time when, through age and infirmities, he peculiarly needed their company
and assistance. To this he refers in the text; and with this he concludes the
Psalm, as the heaviest stroke of all, "Lover and friend hast thou put
far from me, and mine acquaintance late darkness." This is a common case;
and frequently the case of the aged. It is no unusual thing for old people to
outlive their nearest relations; the companions of their lives; their children,
and sometimes their grandchildren too; and they are, as the Psalmist expresses
it, "like a sparrow alone upon the house top." . . .
What chiefly afflicted the Psalmist, and will afflict every
generous heart, was, that his friends and lovers were removed into
"darkness"; that is, to the grave, which is called in Scripture, "the
land of darkness and the shadow of death, without any order or succession; and
where the light is as darkness." Job 10:21-22. They were put so far from him,
that he could see them no more; were dead and buried out of his sight; neither
would one of their friends on earth any more behold them. Thus are our friends
put into darkness. The eyes that used to sparkle with pleasure, when we met
after a long absence, are closed in death. The voice that used to delight and
edify us is sealed up in everlasting silence. There is no conversing with them
personally nor by letters. Not lands and seas divide us from them, but regions
of vast, unknown space, which we cannot yet pass over; and which they cannot and
indeed would not tread back, as much as they loved us. We have no way of
conveying intelligence to them or receiving it from them. Perhaps they were put
far away from us in their youth, or in the midst of their days and usefulness;
when we promised ourselves many years of pleasure in their friendship and
converse, and expected many years of service from them, for their families, for
the church, and the world. Alas! one awful, fatal stroke hath broken down all
the pleasing fabric of love and happiness.
But these are reflections which must not be dwelt upon. When
they begin to grow very painful, as they soon will, it is time to turn our
thoughts to that which is the second thing observable in the text; namely, the
Psalmist's devout acknowledgment of the hand of God in this affliction. "Thou
hast put them far from me." This good man, through the whole Psalm, ascribes
all his afflictions, and particularly the death of his friends, to the hand of
God. He takes no notice of their diseases; he neither blames them for imprudence
and delay, nor those who attended them for neglect or misapplication; but looks
beyond all second causes to the great Lord of all; owns him as the supreme
sovereign of every life, and disposer of every event. And we shall do well to
make this idea of the blessed God familiar to our minds, as it is at once most
instructive and most comfortable. The holy Scriptures confirm the dictates of reason upon this
subject; assuring us that God "maketh peace and createth evil"; that "out of the
mouth of the Lord proceedeth evil and good"; that the most casual events are
under his direction, so that "not a sparrow falleth to", nor lighteth on, "the
ground without him; "much less do his rational creatures and children die
without his notice and appointment. By whatever disease or casualties they die,
it is God who "taketh away their breath, changeth their countenance, and sendeth
them into darkness." With awful majesty God claims this as his prerogative; "I
wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand." (De
32:39.) He removeth our friends who hath a right to do it. They were our
friends, but they are his creatures; and may he not do what he will with his
own? He gave them life of his free goodness, and he hath a right to demand it
when he pleaseth. Dear as they were to us, we must acknowledge they were
sinners; and, as such, had forfeited their lives to the justice of God: and
shall not he determine when to take them away? They were our friends; but do we
not hope and believe that, by repentance, faith in Christ, and sanctifying
grace, they were become his friends too; dear to him by many indissoluble ties?
Hath he not then a superior claim to them, and a greater interest in them? Is it
not fit that he should be served first? May he not call home his friends when he
pleaseth? Shall he wait for, or ask, our consent first? He doth it, whom we
cannot, dare not, gainsay. "Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will
say unto him, what doest thou?" (Job 9:12.) He doth it, who is infinitely good
and wise; and doth everything in the best time and manner. His knowledge is
perfect and unerring; his goodness boundless and never failing. Though his
judgments are a great deep, and his schemes utterly unsearchable by us; yet we
may reasonably believe that he consulteth the happiness of his servants in what
is most mysterious and most grievous; and his word giveth us the strongest
assurance of it. So that whether we exercise the faith of Christians, or the
reason of men, we must acknowledge the hand of God, yea, his wisdom and
goodness, in removing our acquaintance into darkness. --Job Orton,
Verse 18. Mine acquaintance late darkness. Rather, my
acquaintanceship is darkness, that is, darkness is all I have to converse
with; my circle of acquaintance is comprised in blank darkness. --Ernest
Verse 18. To be discountenanced or coldly treated by
Christian friends, is often a consequence of a believer's having forfeited his
spiritual comfort. When the Lord is angry with his rebellious child, and is
chastening him, he not only giveth Satan leave to trouble him, but permits some
of the saints who are acquainted with him, to discountenance him, and by their
cold treatment of him, to add to his grief. When the father of a family resolves
the more effectually to correct his obstinate child, he will say to the rest of
the household, "Do not be familiar with him; shew him no countenance; put him to
shame." In like manner, when the Lord is smiting, especially with spiritual
trouble, his disobedient child, he, as it were, saith to others of his children,
"Have for a season no familiarity with him; treat him with coldness and neglect;
in order that he may be ashamed, and humbled for his iniquity." Job, under his
grievous affliction, complained thus, "He hath put my brethren far from me, and
mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me", & c. (Job 19:13-19). And
likewise Heman, "Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness" When the
favour of God to the soul is clouded, the comfort of Christian society is also
obscured. When He frowns on one, his children commonly appear to frown likewise;
and when he makes himself strange to one, so for the most part do they. If a
holy man, then, under trouble of spirit, begins to be treated with disregard,
and even with contempt, by some of his Christian brethren, he ought not to be
surprised; neither should he take occasion to be angry, or to quarrel with them;
but he should look above them, and take the afflictive dispensation, only out of
the hand of the Lord, as a necessary part of the chastisement intended for him.
He ought to say with respect to them, as David concerning Shimei, "The Lord hath
bidden them; "or, as Heman did, "THOU hast put away my acquaintance far from
me." --John Colquhoun.
Verse 18. The very rhythm of the last line shows that the
piece is not complete. The ear remains in suspense; until the majestic Ps
89:1-52 shall burst upon it like a bright Resurrection morning. --William
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
1. Confidence in prayer, --"God of my salvation."
2. Earnestness in prayer, --"I have cried."
3. Perseverance in prayer, --"Day and night." --G.R.
Verse 2. --Prayer as an ambassador.
1. An audience sought, or the benefit of access.
2. Attention entreated, or the blessing of success.
3. The Process explained, or prayer comes and God inclines.
1. A good man is exposed to inward troubles.
(a) To soul troubles.
(b) To the soul full of troubles.
2. To outward troubles. "My life", etc.
(a) From outward persecutions.
(b) From inward griefs.
3. To both inward and outward troubles at the same time. "Soul
full", etc., "and my life", etc. --G.R.
Verse 4. (last clause). --Conscious weakness,
painfully felt, at certain times, in various duties. Intended to keep us humble,
to drive us to our knees, and to bring greater glory to God.
1. The resemblance of the righteous man to the wicked.
(a) In natural death.
(b) In bodily infirmities.
2. His difference from them. He is "counted with them" but is
not of them.
(a) He experiences natural death only.
(b) His strength is perfected in weakness.
(c) For him to die is gain. --G.R.
1. What the afflictions of the people of God appear to be to
(a) Extreme, --"laid me in the lowest pit."
(b) Inexplicable, -- "in darkness."
(c) Humiliating, --"in the deeps."
(d) Severe, --"thy wrath lieth hard."
(e) Exhaustive, -- "afflicted with all thy waves."
2. What they are in reality.
(a) Not extreme but light.
(b) Not inexplicable, but according to the will of God.
(c) Not humiliating, but elevating. "Humble yourselves under", etc.
(d) Not severe but gentle. Not in anger but in love.
(e) Not exhaustive but partial. Not all thy waves, but a few ripples only. The slight motion in the harbour
when there is a boisterous ocean beyond. --G.R.
Verse 8. (last clause). --This may describe us when
despondency is chronic, when trouble is overwhelming, when sickness detains us
at home, when we feel restrained in Christian labour, or hampered in prayer.
1. Sorrow before God, --"Mine eye", etc.
2. Prayer to God, --"have called", etc.
3. Waiting for God, --"called daily".
4. Dependence on God, --"I have stretched", etc. These hands can
do nothing without thee. --G.R.
1. The supposition.
(a) That a child of God should be wholly dead.
(b) That he should remain forever in the grave.
(c) That he should be destroyed.
(d) That he should always remain in darkness.
(e) That he should be entirely forgotten, as though he had never existed.
2. The consequences involved in this supposition.
(a) God's wonders to them would cease.
(b) His praise from them would be lost.
(c) His lovingkindness to them would be unknown.
(d) His faithfulness destroyed.
(e) His wonders to them would be lost to others.
(f) His former righteousness to them would be forgotten.
3. The plea founded upon these consequences, --"Wilt thou", etc.
It cannot be that thy praise for grace shown to thy people can be lost, and none
can render it but themselves. "Then what wilt thou do unto thy great name?"
1. Blessings delayed to prayer, --"Unto thee", etc.
2. Blessings anticipated by prayer, --"in the morning", etc.
Daily mercies anticipated by morning prayers. --G.R.
Verse 13. (last clause). --The advantages of early
morning prayer meetings.
1. Afflictions are mysterious though just.
2. Just though mysterious. --G.R.
Verse 14. Solemn enquiries, to be followed by searching
examinations, by sorrowful confessions, stern self denials, and sweet
1. The afflictions of the righteous may be long continued
though severe. "I am afflicted, etc., from my youth up."
2. Severe though long continued.
(a) Painful, --"afflicted."
(b) Threatening, --"ready to die."
(c) Terrific, --"suffer thy terrors."
(d) Distracting, --"I am", etc. --G.R.
Verse 15. The personal sufferings of Christ for the
salvation of his people. --Sermon by Robert Hawker. Works, Vol. 4. pg 91.
1. Good men are often tried men.
2. Tried men frequently misjudge the Lord's dealings.
3. The Lord does not take them at their word, he is better than
their fears. --G.R.
Verse 18. The loss of friends intended to remind us of our
own mortality, to wean us from earth, to lead us to more complete trust in the
Lord, to chasten us for sin, and to draw us away to the great meeting place.
Verse 18. The words of our text will lead us to remark
1. The happiness of life greatly depends on intimate
2. The trial of parting with intimate friends is exceedingly
3. In this, as indeed in every affliction, the best consolation
is drawn from a belief in, and meditation upon, God's governing providence.
--Joseph Lathrop, 1845.