Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher - Works Upon This Psalm
TITLE. "To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth
Shahar. A Psalm of David." This ode of singular excellence was committed
to the most excellent of the temple songsters; the chief among ten thousand is
worthy to be extolled by the chief Musician; no meaner singer must have charge
of such a strain; we must see to it that we call up our best abilities when
Jesus is the theme of praise. The words Aijeleth Shahar are enigmatical,
and their meaning is uncertain; some refer them to a musical instrument used
upon mournful occasions, but the majority adhere to the translation of our
margin, "Concerning the kind of the morning." This last interpretation
is the subject of much enquiry and conjecture. Calmet believed that the psalm
was addressed to the music master who presided over the band called the
"Morning Hind," and Adam Clarke thinks this to be the most likely of
all the conjectural interpretations, although he himself inclines to the belief
that no interpretation should be attempted, and believes that it is a merely
arbitrary and unmeaning title, such as Orientals have always been in the habit
of appending to their songs. Our Lord Jesus is so often compared to a hind, and
his cruel huntings are so pathetically described in this most affecting psalm,
that we cannot but believe that the title indicates the Lord Jesus under a
well-known poetical metaphor; at any rate, Jesus is the Hind of the morning
concerning whom David here sings.
SUBJECT. This is beyond all others THE PSALM OF THE CROSS. It may have been
actually repeated word by word by our Lord when hanging on the tree; it would be
too bold to say that it was so, but even a casual reader may see that it might
have been. It begins with, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken
me?" and ends, according to some, in the original with "It is
finished." For plaintive expressions uprising from unutterable depths of
woe we may say of this psalm, "there is none like it." It is the
photograph of our Lord's saddest hours, the record of his dying words, the
lachrymatory of his last tears, the memorial of his expiring joys. David and his
afflictions may be here in a very modified sense, but, as the star is concealed
by the light of the sun, he who sees Jesus will probably neither see nor care to
see David. Before us we have a description both of the darkness and of the glory
of the cross, the sufferings of Christ and the glory which shall follow. Oh for
grace to draw near and see this great sight! We should read reverently, putting
off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there
be holy ground anywhere in Scripture it is in this psalm.
From the commencement to the twenty-first verse is a most pitiful cry for
help, and from verse 21 to 31 is a most precious foretaste of deliverance. The
first division may be subdivided at the tenth verse, from verse 1 to 10 being an
appeal based upon covenant relationship; and from verse 10 to 21 being an
equally earnest plea derived from the imminence of his peril.
Verse 1. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This
was the startling cry of Golgotha: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani. The Jews mocked,
but the angels adored when Jesus cried this exceeding bitter cry. Nailed to the
tree we behold our great Redeemer in extremities, and what see we? Having ears
to hear let us hear, and having eyes to see let us see! Let us gaze with holy
wonder, and mark the flashes of light amid the awful darkness of that
midday-midnight. First, our Lord's faith beams forth and deserves our reverent
imitation; he keeps his hold upon his God with both hands and cries twice, "My
God, my God!" The spirit of adoption was strong within the suffering
Son of Man, and he felt no doubt about his interest in his God. Oh that we could
imitate this cleaving to an afflicting God! Nor does the sufferer distrust the
power of God to sustain him, for the title used --"El"--signifies
strength, and is the name of the Mighty God. He knows the Lord to be the
all-sufficient support and succour of his spirit, and therefore appeals to him
in the agony of grief, but not in the misery of doubt. He would fain know why he
is left, he raises that question and repeats it, but neither the power nor the
faithfulness of God does he mistrust. What an enquiry is this before us! "Why
hast thou forsaken me?" We must lay the emphasis on every word of this
saddest of all utterances. "Why?" what is the great cause of
such a strange fact as for God to leave his own Son at such a time and in such a
plight? There was no cause in him, why then was he deserted? "Hast:"
it is done, and the Saviour is feeling its dread effect as he asks the question;
it is surely true, but how mysterious! It was no threatening of forsaking which
made the great Surety cry aloud, he endured that forsaking in very deed. "Thou:"
I can understand why traitorous Judas and timid Peter should be gone, but thou,
my God, my faithful friend, how canst thou leave me? This is worst of all, yea,
worse than all put together. Hell itself has for its fiercest flame the
separation of the soul from God. "Forsaken:" if thou hadst
chastened I might bear it, for thy face would shine; but to forsake me utterly,
ah! why is this? "Me:" thine innocent, obedient, suffering Son,
why leavest thou me to perish? A sight of self seen by penitence, and of
Jesus on the cross seen by faith will best expound this question. Jesus is
forsaken because our sins had separated between us and our God.
art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?" The
Man of Sorrows had prayed until his speech failed him, and he could only utter
moanings and groanings as men do in severe sicknesses, like the roarings of a
wounded animal. To what extremity of grief was our Master driven? What strong
crying and tears were those which made him too hoarse for speech! What must have
been his anguish to find his own beloved and trusted Father standing afar off,
and neither granting help nor apparently hearing prayer! This was good cause to
make him "roar." Yet there was reason for all this which those who
rest in Jesus as their Substitute well know.
Verse 2. "O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not."
For our prayers to appear to be unheard is no new trial, Jesus felt it before
us, and it is observable that he still held fast his believing hold on God, and
cried still, "My God." On the other hand his faith did not
render him less importunate, for amid the hurry and horror of that dismal day he
ceased not his cry, even as in Gethsemane he had agonized all through the gloomy
night. Our Lord continued to pray even though no comfortable answer came, and in
this he set us an example of obedience to his own words, "men ought always
to pray, and not to faint." No daylight is too glaring, and no midnight too
dark to pray in; and no delay or apparent denial, however grievous, should tempt
us to forbear from importunate pleading.
Verse 3. "But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of
Israel." However ill things may look, there is no ill in thee, O God!
We are very apt to think and speak hardly of God when we are under his
afflicting hand, but not so the obedient Son. He knows too well his Father's
goodness to let outward circumstances libel his character. There in no
unrighteousness with the God of Jacob, he deserves no censure; let him do what
he will, he is to be praised, and to reign enthroned amid the songs of his
chosen people. If prayer be unanswered it is not because God is unfaithful, but
for some other good and weighty reason. If we cannot perceive any ground for the
delay, we must leave the riddle unsolved, but we must not fly in God's face in
order to invent an answer. While the holiness of God is in the highest degree
acknowledged and adored, the afflicted speaker in this verse seems to marvel how
the holy God could forsake him, and be silent to his cries. The argument is,
thou art holy, Oh! why is it that thou dost disregard thy holy One in his hour
of sharpest anguish? We may not question the holiness of God, but we may argue
from it, and use it as a plea in our petitions.
Verse 4. "Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst
deliver them." This is the rule of life with all the chosen family.
Three times over is it mentioned, they trusted, and trusted, and trusted,
and never left off trusting, for it was their very life; and they fared well
too, for thou didst deliver them. Out of all their straits, difficulties,
and miseries faith brought them by calling their God to the rescue; but in the
case of our Lord it appeared as if faith would bring no assistance from heaven,
he alone of all the trusting ones was to remain without deliverance. The
experience of other saints may be a great consolation to us when in deep waters
if faith can be sure that their deliverance will be ours; but when we feel
ourselves sinking, it is poor comfort to know that others are swimming. Our Lord
here pleads the past dealings of God with his people as a reason why he should
not be left alone; here again he is an example to us in the skilful use of the
weapon of all prayer. The use of the plural pronoun "our" shows
how one with his people Jesus was even on the cross. We say, "Our Father
which art in heaven," and he calls those "our fathers" through
whom we came into the world, although he was without father as to the flesh.
Verse 5. "They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in
thee, and were not confounded." As if he had said, "How is it that
I am now left without succour in my overwhelming griefs, while all others have
been helped? We may remind the Lord of his former lovingkindnesses to his
people, and beseech him to be still the same. This is true wrestling; let us
learn the art. Observe, that ancient saints cried and trusted, and
that in trouble we must do the same; and the invariable result was that they
were not ashamed of their hope, for deliverance came in due time; this same
happy portion shall be ours. The prayer of faith can do the deed when nothing
else can. Let us wonder when we see Jesus using the same pleas as ourselves, and
immersed in griefs far deeper than our own.
Verse 6. "But I am a worm, and no man." This verse is a
miracle in language. How could the Lord of glory be brought to such abasement as
to be not only lower than the angels, but even lower than men. What a contrast
between "I AM" and "I am a worm"! yet such a double
nature was found in the person of our Lord Jesus when bleeding upon the tree. He
felt himself to be comparable to a helpless, powerless, down-trodden worm,
passive while crushed, and unnoticed and despised by those who trod upon him. He
selects the weakest of creatures, which is all flesh; and becomes, when trodden
upon, writhing, quivering flesh, utterly devoid of any might except strength to
suffer. This was a true likeness of himself when his body and soul had become a
mass of misery--the very essence of agony--in the dying pangs of crucifixion.
Man by nature is but a worm; but our Lord puts himself even beneath man, on
account of the scorn that was heaped upon him and the weakness which he felt,
and therefore he adds, "and no man." The privileges and
blessings which belonged to the fathers he could not obtain while deserted by
God, and common acts of humanity were not allowed him, for he was rejected of
men; he was outlawed from the society of earth, and shut out from the smile of
heaven. How utterly did the Saviour empty himself of all glory, and become of no
reputation for our sakes! "A reproach of men" --their common
butt and jest; a byword and a proverb unto them: the sport of the rabble, and
the scorn of the rulers. Oh the caustic power of reproach, to those who endure
it with patience, yet smart under it most painfully! "And despised of
the people." The vox populi was against him. The very people who
would once have crowned him then contemned him, and they who were benefited by
his cures sneered at him in his woes. Sin is worthy of all reproach and
contempt, and for this reason Jesus, the Sinbearer, was given up to be thus
unworthily and shamefully entreated.
Verse 7. "All they that see me laugh me to scorn." Read the
evangelistic narrative of the ridicule endured by the Crucified One, and then
consider, in the light of this expression, how it grieved him. The iron entered
into his soul. Mockery has for its distinctive description "cruel
mockings;" those endured by our Lord were of the most cruel kind. The
scornful ridicule of our Lord was universal; all sorts of men were unanimous in
the derisive laughter, and vied with each other in insulting him. Priests and
people, Jews and Gentiles, soldiers and civilians, all united in the general
scoff, and that at the time when he was prostrate in weakness and ready to die.
Which shall we wonder at the most, the cruelty of man or the love of the
bleeding Saviour? How can we ever complain of ridicule after this? "They
shoot out the lip, they shake the head." These were gestures of
contempt. Pouting, grinning, shaking of the head, thrusting out of the tongue,
and other modes of derision were endured by our patient Lord; men made faces at
him before whom angels vail their faces and adore. The basest signs of disgrace
which disdain could devise were maliciously cast at him. They punned upon his
prayers, they made matter for laughter of his sufferings, and set him utterly at
nought. Herbert sings of our Lord as saying,--
"Shame tears my soul, my body many a wound;
Sharp nails pierce this, but sharper that confound;
Reproaches which are free, while I am bound.
Was ever grief like mine?"
Verse 8. "Saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him:
let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him." Here the taunt is
cruelly aimed at the sufferer's faith in God, which is the tenderest point in a
good man's soul, the very apple of his eye. They must have learned the
diabolical art from Satan himself, for they made rare proficiency in it.
According to Matthew 27:39-44, there were five forms of taunt hurled at the Lord
Jesus; this special piece of mockery is probably mentioned in this psalm because
it is the most bitter of the whole; it has a biting, sarcastic irony in it,
which gives it a peculiar venom; it must have stung the Man of Sorrows to the
quick. When we are tormented in the same manner, let us remember him who endured
such contradiction of sinners against himself, and we shall be comforted. On
reading these verses one is ready, with Trapp, to ask, Is this a prophecy or a
history? for the description is so accurate. We must not lose sight of the truth
which was unwittingly uttered by the Jewish scoffers. They themselves are
witnesses that Jesus of Nazareth trusted in God: why then was he permitted to
perish? Jehovah had aforetime delivered those who rolled their burdens upon him:
why was this man deserted? Oh that they had understood the answer! Note further,
that their ironical jest, "seeing he delighted in him," was
true. The Lord did delight in his dear Son, and when he was found in fashion as
a man, and became obedient unto death, he still was well pleased with him.
Strange mixture! Jehovah delights in him, and yet bruises him; is well pleased,
and yet slays him.
Verse 9. "But thou art he that took me out of the womb."
Kindly providence attends with the surgery of tenderness at every human birth;
but the Son of Man, who was marvelously begotten of the Holy Ghost, was in an
especial manner watched over by the Lord when brought forth by Mary. The
destitute state of Joseph and Mary, far away from friends and home, led them to
see the cherishing hand of God in the safe delivery of the mother, and the happy
birth of the child; that Child now fighting the great battle of his life, uses
the mercy of his nativity as an argument with God. Faith finds weapons
everywhere. He who wills to believe shall never lack reasons for believing. "Thou
didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts." Was our Lord
so early a believer? Was he one of those babes and sucklings out of whose mouths
strength is ordained? So it would seem; and if so, what a plea for help! Early
piety gives peculiar comfort in our after trials, for surely he who loved us
when we were children is too faithful to cast us off in our riper years. Some
give the text the sense of "gave me cause to trust, by keeping me
safely," and assuredly there was a special providence which preserved our
Lord's infant days from the fury of Herod, the dangers of travelling, and the
ills of poverty.
Verse 10. "I was cast upon thee from the womb." Into the
Almighty arms he was first received, as into those of a loving parent. This is a
sweet thought. God begins his care over us from the earliest hour. We are
dandled upon the knee of mercy, and cherished in the lap of goodness; our cradle
is canopied by divine love, and our first totterings are guided by his care. "Thou
art my God from my mother's belly." The psalm begins with "My
God, my God," and here, not only is the claim repeated, but its early
date is urged. Oh noble perseverance of faith, thus to continue pleading with
holy ingenuity of argument! Our birth was our weakest and most perilous period
of existence; if we were then secured by Omnipotent tenderness, surely we have
no cause to suspect that divine goodness will fail us now. He who was our God
when we left our mother, will be with us till we return to mother earth, and
will keep us from perishing in the belly of hell.
Verses 11-21. The crucified Son of David continues to pour out his complaint
and prayer. We need much grace that while reading we may have fellowship with
his sufferings. May the blessed Spirit conduct us into a most clear and
affecting sight of our Redeemer's woes.
Verse 11. "Be not far from me." This is the petition for
which he has been using such varied and powerful pleas. His great woe was that
God had forsaken him, his great prayer is that he would be near him. A lively
sense of the divine presence is a mighty stay to the heart in times of distress.
"For trouble is near; for there is none to help." There are two
"fors," as though faith gave a double knock at mercy's gate;
that is a powerful prayer which is full of holy reasons and thoughtful
arguments. The nearness of trouble is a weighty motive for divine help; this
moves our heavenly Father's heart, and brings down his helping hand. It is his
glory to be our very present help in trouble. Our Substitute had trouble in his
inmost heart, for he said, "the waters have come in, even unto my
soul;" well might he cry, "be not far from me." The
absence of all other helpers is another telling plea. In our Lord's case none
either could or would help him, it was needful that he should tread the
winepress alone; yet was it a sore aggravation to find that all his disciples
had forsaken him, and lover and friend were put far from him. There is an
awfulness about absolute friendlessness which is crushing to the human mind, for
man was not made to be alone, and is like a dismembered limb when he has to
Verse 12. "Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have
beset me round." The mighty ones in the crowd are here marked by the
tearful eye of their victim. The priests, elders, scribes, Pharisees, rulers,
and captains bellowed round the cross like wild cattle, fed in the fat and
solitary pastures of Bashan, full of strength and fury; they stamped and foamed
around the innocent One, and longed to gore him to death with their cruelties.
Conceive of the Lord Jesus as a helpless, unarmed, naked man, cast into the
midst of a herd of infuriated wild bulls. They were brutal as bulls, many, and
strong, and the Rejected One was all alone, and bound naked to the tree. His
position throws great force into the earnest entreaty, "Be not far from
Verse 13. "They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a
roaring lion." Like hungry cannibals they opened their blasphemous
mouths as if they were about to swallow the man whom they abhorred. They could
not vomit forth their anger fast enough through the ordinary aperture of their
mouths, and therefore set the doors of their lips wide open like those who gape.
Like roaring lions they howled out their fury, and longed to tear the Saviour in
pieces, as wild beasts raven over their prey. Our Lord's faith must have passed
through a most severe conflict while he found himself abandoned to the tender
mercies of the wicked, but he came off victorious by prayer; the very dangers to
which he was exposed being used to add prevalence to his entreaties.
Verse 14. Turning from his enemies, our Lord describes his own personal
condition in language which should bring the tears into every loving eye. "I
am poured out like water." He was utterly spent, like water poured upon
the earth; his heart failed him, and had no more firmness in it than running
water, and his whole being was made a sacrifice, like a libation poured out
before the Lord. He had long been a fountain of tears; in Gethsemane his heart
welled over in sweat, and on the cross he gushed forth with blood; he poured out
his strength and spirit, so that he was reduced to the most feeble and exhausted
state. "All my bones are out of joint," as if distended upon a
rack. Is it not most probable that the fastenings of the hands and feet, and the
jar occasioned by fixing the cross in the earth, may have dislocated the bones
of the Crucified One? If this is not intended, we must refer the expression to
that extreme weakness which would occasion relaxation of the muscles and a
general sense of parting asunder throughout the whole system. "My heart
is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels." Excessive
debility and intense pain made his inmost life to feel like wax melted in the
heat. The Greek liturgy uses the expression, "thine unknown
sufferings," and well it may. The fire of Almighty wrath would have
consumed our souls for ever in hell; it was no light work to bear as a
substitute the heat of an anger so justly terrible. Dr. Gill wisely observes,
"if the heart of Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, melted at it, what
heart can endure, or hands be strong, when God deals with them in his
Verse 15. "My strength is dried up like a potsherd." Most
complete debility is here portrayed; Jesus likens himself to a broken piece of
earthenware, or an earthen pot, baked in the fire till the last particle of
moisture is driven out of the clay. No doubt a high degree of feverish burning
afflicted the body of our Lord. All his strength was dried up in the tremendous
flames of avenging justice, even as the paschal lamb was roasted in the fire. "My
tongue cleaveth to my jaws;" thirst and fever fastened his tongue to
his jaws. Dryness and a horrible clamminess tormented his mouth, so that he
could scarcely speak. "Thou hast brought me into the dust of
death;" so tormented in every single part as to feel dissolved into
separate atoms, and each atom full of misery; the full price of our redemption
was paid, and no part of the Surety's body or soul escaped its share of agony.
The words may set forth Jesus as having wrestled with Death until he rolled into
the dust with his antagonist. Behold the humiliation of the Son of God! The Lord
of Glory stoops to the dust of death. Amid the mouldering relics of mortality
Jesus condescends to lodge!
Mant's version of the two preceding verses is forcible and accurate:--
"Pour'd forth like water is my frame;
My bones asunder start;
As wax that feels the searching flame,
Within me melts my heart.
My wither'd sinews shrink unstrung
Like potsherd dried and dead:
Cleaves to my jaws my burning tongue
The dust of death my bed."
Verse 16. We are to understand every item of this sad description as being
urged by the Lord Jesus as a plea for divine help; and this will give us a high
idea of his perseverance in prayer. "For dogs have compassed me."
Here he marks the more ignoble crowd, who, while less strong than their brutal
leaders, were not less ferocious, for there they were howling and barking like
unclean and hungry dogs. Hunters frequently surround their game with a circle,
and gradually encompass them with an ever-narrowing ring of dogs and men. Such a
picture is before us. In the centre stands, not a panting stag, but a bleeding,
fainting man, and around him are the enraged and unpitying wretches who have
hounded him to his doom. Here we have the "hind of the morning" of
whom the psalm so plaintively sings, hunted by bloodhounds, all thirsting to
devour him. The assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: thus the Jewish
people were unchurched, and that which called itself an assembly of the
righteous is justly for its sins marked upon the forehead as an assembly of the
wicked. This is not the only occasion when professed churches of God have become
synagogues of Satan, and have persecuted the Holy One and the Just. They
pierced my hands and my feet. This can by no means refer to David, or to any
one but Jesus of Nazareth, the once crucified but now exalted Son of God. Pause,
dear reader, and view the wounds of thy Redeemer.
Verse 17. So emaciated was Jesus by his fastings and sufferings that he says,
"I may tell all my bones." He could count and recount them. The
posture of the body on the cross, Bishop Horne thinks, would so distend the
flesh and skin as to make the bones visible, so that they might be numbered. The
zeal of his Father's house had eaten him up; like a good soldier he had endured
hardness. Oh that we cared less for the body's enjoyment and ease and more for
our Father's business! It were better to count the bones of an emaciated body
than to bring leanness into our souls.
look and stare upon me." Unholy eyes gazed insultingly upon the
Saviours's nakedness, and shocked the sacred delicacy of his holy soul. The
sight of the agonizing body ought to have ensured sympathy from the throng, but
it only increased their savage mirth, as they gloated their cruel eyes upon his
miseries. Let us blush for human nature, and mourn in sympathy with our
Redeemer's shame. The first Adam made us all naked, and therefore the second
Adam became naked that he might clothe our naked souls.
Verse 18. "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my
vesture." The garments of the executed were the perquisites of the
executioners in most cases, but it was not often that they cast lots at the
division of the spoil; this incident shows how clearly David in vision saw the
day of Christ, and how surely the Man of Nazareth is he of whom the prophets
spake: "these things, therefore, the soldiers did." He who gave
his blood to cleanse us gave his garments to clothe us. As Ness says, "this
precious Lamb of God gave up his golden fleece for us." How every incident
of Jesus' griefs is here stored up in the treasury of inspiration, and embalmed
in the amber of sacred song; we must learn hence to be very mindful of all that
concerns our Beloved, and to think much more of everything which has a
connection with him. It may be noted that the habit of gambling is of all others
the most hardening, for men could practise it even at the cross-foot while
besprinkled with the blood of the Crucified. No Christian will endure the rattle
of the dice when he thinks of this.
Verse 19. "But be thou not far from me, O Lord." Invincible
faith returns to the charge, and uses the same means, viz., importunate prayer.
He repeats the petition so piteously offered before. He wants nothing but his
God, even in his lowest state. He does not ask for the most comfortable or
nearest presence of God, he will be content if he is not far from him; humble
requests speed at the throne. "O my strength, haste thee to help
me." Hard cases need timely aid: when necessity justifies it we may be
urgent with God as to time, and cry, "make haste;" but we must not do
this out of willfulness. Mark how in the last degree of personal weakness he
calls the Lord "my strength;" after this fashion the believer
can sing, "when I am weak, then am I strong."
Verse 20. "Deliver my soul from the sword." By the sword is
probably meant entire destruction, which as a man he dreaded; or perhaps he
sought deliverance from the enemies around him, who were like a sharp and deadly
sword to him. The Lord had said, "Awake, O sword," and now from the
terror of that sword the Shepherd would fain be delivered as soon as justice
should see fit. "My darling from the power of the dog." Meaning
his soul, his life, which is most dear to every man. The original is, "my
only one," and therefore is our soul dear, because it is our only soul.
Would that all men made their souls their darlings, but many treat them as if
they were not worth so much as the mire of the streets. The dog may mean
Satan, that infernal Cerberus, that cursed and cursing cur; or else the whole
company of Christ's foes, who though many in number were as unanimous as if
there were but one, and with one consent sought to rend him in pieces. If Jesus
cried for help against the dog of hell, much more may we. Cave canem,
beware of the dog, for his power is great, and only God can deliver us from him.
When he fawns upon us, we must not put ourselves in his power; and when he howls
at us, we may remember that God holds him with a chain.
Verse 21. "Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from
the horns of the unicorns." Having experienced deliverance in the past
from great enemies, who were strong as the unicorns, the Redeemer utters his
last cry for rescue from death, which is fierce and mighty as the lion. This
prayer was heard, and the gloom of the cross departed. Thus faith, though sorely
beaten, and even cast beneath the feet of her enemy, ultimately wins the
victory. It was so in our Head, it shall be so in all the members. We have
overcome the unicorn, we shall conquer the lion, and from both lion and unicorn
we shall take the crown.
Verses 22-31. The transition is very marked; from a horrible tempest all is
changed into calm. The darkness of Calvary at length passed away from the face
of nature, and from the soul of the Redeemer, and beholding the light of his
triumph and its future results the Saviour smiled. We have followed him through
the gloom, let us attend him in the returning light. It will be well still to
regard the words as a part of our Lord's soliloquy upon the cross, uttered in
his mind during the last few moments before his death.
Verse 22. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren." The
delights of Jesus are always with his church, and hence his thoughts, after much
distraction, return at the first moment of relief to their usual channel; he
forms fresh designs for the benefit of his beloved ones. He is not ashamed to
call them brethren, "Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in
the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." Among his first
resurrection words were these, "Go to my brethren." In the verse
before us, Jesus anticipates happiness in having communication with his people;
he purposes to be their teacher and minister, and fixes his mind upon the
subject of his discourse. The name, i.e., the character and conduct of
God are by Jesus Christ's gospel proclaimed to all the holy brotherhood; they
behold the fulness of the Godhead dwelling bodily in him, and rejoice greatly to
see all the infinite perfections manifested in one who is bone of their bone and
flesh of their flesh. What a precious subject is the name of our God! It is the
only one worthy of the only Begotten, whose meat and drink it was to do the
Father's will. We may learn from this resolution of our Lord, that one of the
most excellent methods of showing our thankfulness for deliverances is to tell
to our brethren what the Lord has done for us. We mention our sorrows readily
enough; why are we so slow in declaring our deliverances? "In the midst
of the congregation will I praise thee." Not in a little household
gathering merely does our Lord resolve to proclaim his Father's love, but in the
great assemblies of his saints, and in the general assembly and church of the
first-born. This the Lord Jesus is always doing by his representatives, who are
the heralds of salvation, and labour to praise God. In the great universal
church Jesus is the One authoritative teacher, and all others, so far as they
are worthy to be called teachers, are nothing but echoes of his voice. Jesus, in
this second sentence, reveals his object in declaring the divine name, it is
that God may be praised; the church continually magnifies Jehovah for
manifesting himself in the person of Jesus, and Jesus himself leads the song,
and is both precentor and preacher in his church. Delightful are the seasons
when Jesus communes with our hearts concerning divine truth; joyful praise is
the sure result.
Verse 23. "Ye that fear the Lord praise him." The reader
must imagine the Saviour as addressing the congregation of the saints. He
exhorts the faithful to unite with him in thanksgiving. The description of
"fearing the Lord" is very frequent and very instructive; it is the
beginning of wisdom, and is an essential sign of grace. "I am a Hebrew and
I fear God" was Jonah's confession of faith. Humble awe of God is so
necessary a preparation for praising him that none are fit to sing to his honour
but such as reverence his word; but this fear is consistent with the highest
joy, and is not to be confounded with legal bondage, which is a fear which
perfect love casteth out. Holy fear should always keep the key of the singing
pew. Where Jesus leads the tune none but holy lips may dare to sing. "All
ye the seed of Jacob glorify him." The genius of the gospel is praise.
Jew and Gentile saved by sovereign grace should be eager in the blessed work of
magnifying the God of our salvation. All saints should unite in the song;
no tongue may be silent, no heart may be cold. Christ calls us to glorify God,
and can we refuse? "And fear him, all ye the seed of Israel."
The spiritual Israel all do this, and we hope the day will come when Israel
after the flesh will be brought to the same mind. The more we praise God the
more reverently shall we fear him, and the deeper our reverence the sweeter our
songs. So much does Jesus value praise that we have it here under his dying hand
and seal that all the saints must glorify the Lord.
Verse 24. "For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of
the afflicted." Here is good matter and motive for praise. The
experience of our covenant Head and Representative should encourage all of us to
bless the God of grace. Never was man so afflicted as our Saviour in body and
soul from friends and foes, by heaven and hell, in life and death; he was the
foremost in the ranks of the afflicted, but all those afflictions were sent in
love, and not because his Father despised and abhorred him. 'Tis true that
justice demanded that Christ should bear the burden which as a substitute he
undertook to carry, but Jehovah always loved him, and in love laid that load
upon him with a view to his ultimate glory and to the accomplishment of the
dearest wish of his heart. Under all his woes our Lord was honourable in the
Father's sight, the matchless jewel of Jehovah's heart. "Neither hath he
hid his face from him." That is to say, the hiding was but temporary,
and was soon removed; it was not final and eternal. "But when he cried
unto him, he heard." Jesus was heard in that he feared. He cried in
extremis and de profundis, and was speedily answered; he therefore
bids his people join him in singing a Gloria in excelsis.
child of God should seek refreshment for his faith in this testimony of the Man
of Sorrows. What Jesus here witnesses is as true to-day as when it was first
written. It shall never be said that any man's affliction or poverty prevented
his being an accepted suppliant at Jehovah's throne of grace. The meanest
applicant is welcome at mercy's door:
"None that approach his throne shall find
A God unfaithful or unkind."
Verse 25. "My praise shall be of thee in the great
congregation." The one subject of our Master's song is the Lord alone.
The Lord and the Lord only is the theme which the believer handleth when he
gives himself to imitate Jesus in praise. The word in the original is "from
thee,"--true praise is of celestial origin. The rarest harmonies of music
are nothing unless they are sincerely consecrated to God by hearts sanctified by
the Spirit. The clerk says, "Let us sing to the praise and glory of
God;" but the choir often sing to the praise and glory of themselves. Oh
when shall our service of song be a pure offering? Observe in this verse how
Jesus loves the public praises of the saints, and thinks with pleasure of the
great congregation. It would be wicked on our part to despise the twos and
threes; but, on the other hand, let not the little companies snarl at the
greater assemblies as though they were necessarily less pure and less approved,
for Jesus loves the praise of the great congregation. "I will pay my
vows before them that fear him." Jesus dedicates himself anew to the
carrying out of the divine purpose in fulfilment of his vows made in anguish.
Did our Lord when he ascended to the skies proclaim amid the redeemed in glory
the goodness of Jehovah? And was that the vow here meant? Undoubtedly the
publication of the gospel is the constant fulfilment of covenant engagements
made by our Surety in the councils of eternity. Messiah vowed to build up a
spiritual temple for the Lord, and he will surely keep his word.
Verse 26. "The meek shall eat and be satisfied." Mark how
the dying Lover of our souls solaces himself with the result of his death. The
spiritually poor find a feast in Jesus, they feed upon him to the satisfaction
of their hearts, they were famished until he gave himself for them, but now they
are filled with royal dainties. The thought of the joy of his people gave
comfort to our expiring Lord. Note the characters who partake of the benefit of
his passion; "the meek," the humble and lowly. Lord, make us
so. Note also the certainty that gospel provisions shall not be wasted, "they
shall eat;" and the sure result of such eating, "and be
satisfied." "They shall praise the Lord that seek him."
For a while they may keep a fast, but their thanksgiving days must and shall
come. "Your heart shall live for ever." Your spirits shall not
fail through trial, you shall not die of grief, immortal joys shall be your
portion. Thus Jesus speaks even from the cross to the troubled seeker. If his
dying words are so assuring, what consolation may we not find in the truth that
he ever liveth to make intercession for us! They who eat at Jesus' table receive
the fulfilment of the promise, "Whosoever eateth of this bread shall live
Verse 27. In reading this verse one is struck with the Messiah's missionary
spirit. It is evidently his grand consolation that Jehovah will be known
throughout all places of his dominion. "All the ends of the world shall
remember and turn unto the Lord." Out from the inner circle of the
present church the blessing is to spread in growing power until the remotest
parts of the earth shall be ashamed of their idols, mindful of the true God,
penitent for their offences, and unanimously earnest for reconciliation with
Jehovah. Then shall false worship cease, "and all the kindreds of the
nations shall worship before thee," O thou only living and true God.
This hope which was the reward of Jesus is a stimulus to those who fight his
well to mark the order of conversion as here set forth; they shall "remember"--this
is reflection, like the prodigal who came unto himself; "and turn unto
Jehovah"--this is repentance, like Manasseh who left his idols and "worship"--this
is holy service, as Paul adored the Christ whom once he abhorred.
Verse 28. "For the kingdom is the Lord's." As an obedient
Son the dying Redeemer rejoiced to know that his Father's interests would
prosper through his pains. "The Lord reigneth" was his song as
it is ours. He who by his own power reigns supreme in the domains of creation
and providence, has set up a kingdom of grace, and by the conquering power of
the cross that kingdom will grow until all people shall own its sway and
proclaim that "he is the governor among the nations." Amid the
tumults and disasters of the present the Lord reigneth; but in the halcyon days
of peace the rich fruit of his dominion will be apparent to every eye. Great
Shepherd, let thy glorious kingdom come.
Verse 29. "All they that be fat upon earth," the rich and
great are not shut out. Grace now finds the most of its jewels among the poor,
but in the latter days the mighty of the earth "shall eat,"
shall taste of redeeming grace and dying love, and shall "worship"
with all their hearts the God who deals so bountifully with us in Christ Jesus.
Those who are spiritually fat with inward prosperity shall be filled with the
marrow of communion, and shall worship the Lord with peculiar fervour. In the
covenant of grace Jesus has provided good cheer for our high estate, and he has
taken equal care to console us in our humiliation, for the next sentence is, "all
they that go down to the dust shall bow before him." There is relief
and comfort in bowing before God when our case is at its worst; even amid the
dust of death prayer kindles the lamp of hope.
all who come to God by Jesus Christ are thus blessed, whether they be rich or
poor, none of those who despise him may hope for a blessing. "None can
keep alive his own soul." This is the stern counterpart of the gospel
message of "look and live." There is no salvation out of Christ. We
must hold life, and have life as Christ's gift, or we shall die eternally. This
is very solid evangelical doctrine, and should be proclaimed in every corner of
the earth, that like a great hammer it may break in pieces all self-confidence.
Verse 30. "A seed shall serve him." Posterity shall
perpetuate the worship of the Most High. The kingdom of truth on earth shall
never fail. As one generation is called to its rest, another will arise in its
stead. We need have no fear for the true apostolic succession; that is safe
enough. "It shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation."
He will reckon the ages by the succession of the saints, and set his accounts
according to the families of the faithful. Generations of sinners come not into
the genealogy of the skies. God's family register is not for strangers, but for
the children only.
Verse 31. "They shall come." Sovereign grace shall bring out
from among men the bloodbought ones. Nothing shall thwart the divine purpose.
The chosen shall come to life, to faith, to pardon, to heaven. In this the dying
Saviour finds a sacred satisfaction. Toiling servant of God, be glad at the
thought that the eternal purpose of God shall suffer neither let nor hindrance. "And
shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born." None
of the people who shall be brought to God by the irresistible attractions of the
cross shall be dumb, they shall be able to tell forth the righteousness of the
Lord, so that future generations shall know the truth. Fathers shall teach their
sons, who shall hand it down to their children; the burden of the story always
being "that he hath done this," or, that "It is
finished." Salvation's glorious work is done, there is peace on earth, and
glory in the highest. "It is finished," these were the expiring words
of the Lord Jesus, as they are the last words of this Psalm. May we by living
faith be enabled to see our salvation finished by the death of Jesus!
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. --Aijeleth Shahar. The title of the twenty-second Psalm is
Aijeleth Shahar--the morning hart. The whole Psalm refers to Christ,
containing much that cannot be applied to another: parting his garments, casting
lots for his vesture, etc. He is described as a kindly, meek and beautiful hart,
started by the huntsman at the dawn of the day. Herod began hunting him down as
soon as he appeared. Poverty, the hatred of men, and the temptation of Satan,
joined in the pursuit. There always was some "dog," or
"bull," or "unicorn," ready to attack him. After his first
sermon the huntsmen gathered about him, but he was too fleet of foot, and
escaped. The church had long seen the Messiah "like a roe, or a young hart,
upon the mountains," had "heard the voice of her Beloved," and
had cried out, "Behold, he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping
upon the hills;" sometimes he was even seen, with the dawn of the day, in
the neighbourhood of the temple, and beside the enclosures of the vineyards. The
church requested to see him "on the mountains of Bether," and upon
"the mountains of spices." The former probably signifying the place of
his sufferings, and the latter the sublime acclivities of light, glory, and
honour, where the "hart" shall be hunted no more. But in the
afternoon, the huntsmen who had been following the "young roe" from
early day-break, had succeeded in driving him to the mountains of Bether. Christ
found Calvary a craggy, jagged, and fearful hill--"a mountain of
division." Here he was driven by the huntsmen to the edges of the awful
precipices yawning destruction from below, while he was surrounded and held at
bay by all the beasts of prey and monsters of the infernal forest. The
"unicorn," and the "bulls of Bashan," gored him with their
horns; the great "lion" roared at him; and the "dog"
fastened himself upon him. But he foiled them all. In his own time he bowed his
head and gave up the ghost. He was buried in a new grave; and his assailants
reckoned upon complete victory. They had not considered that he was a
"morning hart." Surely enough, at the appointed time, did he escape
from the hunter's net, and stand forth on the mountains of Israel ALIVE, and never,
NEVER to die again. Now he is with Mary in the garden, giving evidence of his
own resurrection; in a moment he is at Emmaus, encouraging the too timid and
bewildered disciples. Nor does it cost him any trouble to go thence to Galilee
to his friends, and again to the Mount of Olives, "on the mountains of
spices," carrying with him the day-dawn, robed in life and beauty
for ever more." Christmas Evans, 1766-1838.
Title. It will be very readily admitted that the hind is a very
appropriate emblem of the suffering and persecuted righteous man who meets us in
this Psalm. . . . That the hind may be a figurative expression
significant of suffering innocence, is put beyond a doubt by the fact, that the
wicked and the persecutors in this Psalm, whose peculiar physiognomy is
marked by emblems drawn from the brute creation, are designed by the terms dogs,
lions, bulls, etc. E. W. Hengstenberg.
"The hind." Much extraordinary symbolism has by old
authors been conjured up and clustered around the hind. According to their
curious natural history, there exists a deadly enmity between the deer and the
serpent, and the deer by its warm breath draws serpents out of their holes in
order to devour them. The old grammarians derived Elaphas, or hart, from elaunein
tous opheis, that is, of driving away serpents. Even the burning a portion
of the deer's horns was said to drive away all snakes. If a snake had escaped
the hart after being drawn out by the hart by its breath, it was said to be more
vehemently poisonous than before. The timidity of the deer was ascribed to the
great size of its heart, in which they thought was a bone shaped like a cross. Condensed
from Wood's "Bible Animals," by C. H. S.
Whole Psalm. This is a kind of gem among the Psalms, and is peculiarly
excellent and remarkable. It contains those deep, sublime, and heavy sufferings
of Christ, when agonising in the midst of the terrors and pangs of divine wrath
and death, which surpass all human thought and comprehension. I know not whether
any Psalm throughout the whole book contains matter more weighty, or from which
the hearts of the godly can so truly perceive those sighs and groans,
inexpressible by man, which their Lord and Head, Jesus Christ, uttered when
conflicting for us in the midst of death, and in the midst of the pains and
terrors of hell. Wherefore this Psalm ought to be most highly prized by all who
have any acquaintance with temptations of faith and spiritual conflicts. Martin
Whole Psalm. This Psalm, as it sets out the sufferings of Christ to
the full, so also his three great offices. His sufferings are copiously
described from the beginning of the Psalm to verse 22. The prophetical office of
Christ, from verse 22 to verse 25. That which is foretold about his vows (verse
25), hath respect to his priestly function. In the rest of the Psalm the kingly
office of Christ is set forth. William Gouge, D.D. (1575-1653), in
"A Commentary on the whole Epistle to the Hebrews." [Reprinted in
Nichol's Series of Commentaries.]
Whole Psalm. This Psalm seems to be less a prophecy than a history. Cassiodorus.
Whole Psalm. This Psalm must be expounded, word for word, entire and
in every respect, of Christ only; without any allegory, trope, or anagoge.
Bakius, quoted by F. Delitzsch, D.D., on Hebrews, ii. 12.
Whole Psalm. A prophecy of the passion of Christ, and of the vocation
of the Gentiles. Eusebius of Cæsarea.
Verse 1. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
We contrast this with John 16:32, "I am not alone, because the Father is
with me." That these words in David were notwithstanding the words of
Christ, there is no true believer ignorant; yet how cross our Lord's words in
John! Answer:-- It is one thing to speak out of present sense of misery,
another thing to be confident of a never-separated Deity. The condition of
Christ in respect of his human state (not the divine), is in all outward
appearances, like ours; we conceive the saints' condition very lamentable at
times, as if God were for ever gone. And Christ (to teach us to cry after God
the Father, like children after the mother, whose very stepping but at the door,
ofttimes makes the babe believe, and so saith that his father is gone for ever),
presents in his own sufferings how much he is sensible of ours in that case. As
for his divine nature, he and his Father can never sunder in that, and so at no
time is he alone, but the Father is always with him. William Streat, in
"The Dividing of the Hoof," 1654.
Verse 1. "My God, my God," etc. There is a tradition
that our Lord, hanging on the cross, began, as we know from the gospel, this
Psalm; and repeating it and those that follow, gave up his most blessed spirit
when he came to the sixth verse of the thirty-first Psalm. However that may be,
by taking these first words on his lips, he stamped the Psalm as belonging to
himself. Ludolph, the Carthusian (circa.1350), in J. M. Neale's Commentary.
Verse 1. "My God, my God," etc. It was so sharp, so
heavy an affliction to Christ's soul, that it caused him who was meek under all
other sufferings as a lamb, to roar under this like a lion. For so much those
words of Christ signify, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why
art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?" It
comes from a root that signifies to howl or roar as a lion, and rather signifies
the noise made by a wild beast than the voice of a man. And it is as much as if
Christ had said, O my God, no words can express my anguish, I will not speak,
but roar, howl out my complaints. Pour it out in volleys of groans. I roar as a
lion. It's no small matter will make that majestic creature to roar. And sure so
great a spirit as Christ's would not have roared under a slight burden.
God really forsake Jesus Christ upon the cross? then from the desertion of
Christ singular consolation springs up to the people of God; yea, manifold
consolation. Principally it's a support in these two respects, as it is preventive
of your final desertion, and a comfortable pattern to you in your present sad
desertions. 1. Christ's desertion is preventive of your final desertion.
Because he was forsaken for a time you shall not be forsaken for ever. For he
was forsaken for you. It is every way as much for the dear Son of God, the
darling delight of his soul, to be forsaken of God for a time, as if such a poor
inconsiderable thing as thou art shouldst be cast off to eternity. Now, this
being equivalent and borne in thy room, must needs give thee the highest
security in the world that God will never finally withdraw from thee. 2.
Moreover, this sad desertion of Christ becomes a comfortable pattern to
poor deserted souls in divers respects; and the proper business of such souls,
at such times, is to eye it believingly. Though God deserted Christ, yet at the
same time he powerfully supported him. His omnipotent arms were under him,
though his pleased face was hid from him. He had not indeed his smiles, but he
had his supportations. So, Christian, just so shall it be with thee. Thy God may
turn away his face, he will not pluck away his arm. When one asked of holy Mr.
Baines how the case stood with his soul, he answered, "Supports I have,
though suavities I want." Our Father in this deals with us as we ourselves
sometimes do with a child that is stubborn and rebellious. We turn him out of
doors and bid him begone out of our sight, and there he sighs and weeps; but
however for the humbling of him, we will not presently take him into house and
favour; yet we order, at least permit the servants to carry him meat and drink:
here is fatherly care and support, though no former smiles or manifested
delights. . . . Though God forsook Christ, yet at that time he could justify
God. So you read, "O my God (saith he), I cry in the day time; but thou
hearest not, and in the night season, and am not silent; but thou art
holy." Is not thy spirit according to thy measure, framed like Christ's in
this; canst thou not, say even when he writes bitter things against thee, he is
a holy, faithful and good God for all this! I an deserted but not wronged. There
is not one drop of injustice in all the sea of my sorrows. Though he condemned
me I must and will justify him: this also is Christ-like. John Flavel.
Verse 1. "My God, my God." The repetition is
expressive of fervent desire--"My God," in an especial sense,
as in his words after the resurrection to Mary Magdalene, "I ascend unto my
God, and your God;" "My God," not as the Son of God only, but in
that nature which he hath assumed, as the beloved Son in whom the Father is well
pleased; who is loved of the Father and who loveth the Father more than the
whole universe. It is observed that this expression, "My God," is
three times repeated. Dionysius, quoted by Isaac Williams.
Verse 1. "My God." It was possible for Christ by faith
to know that he was beloved of God, and he did know that he was beloved of God,
when yet as to sense and feeling he tasted of God's wrath.
Faith and the want of sense are not inconsistent; there may be no present sense
of God's love, nay, there may be a present sense of his wrath, and yet there may
be faith at the same time. John Row's "Emmanuel," 1680.
Verse 1. This word, "My God," takes in more than all
the philosophers in the world could draw out of it. Alexander Wedderburn,
Verse 1. That there is something of a singular force, meaning, and
feeling in these words is manifest from this--the evangelists have studiously
given us this verse in the very words of the Hebrew, in order to show their
emphatic force. And moreover I do not remember any one other place in the
Scriptures where we have this repetition, ELI, ELI. Martin Luther.
Verse 1. "Why?" Not the "why" of
impatience or despair, not the sinful questioning of one whose heart rebels
against his chastening, but rather the cry of a lost child who cannot understand
why his father has left him, and who longs to see his father's face again. J.
J. Stewart Perowne.
Verse 1. "My roaring." (Heb.), seems primarily to
denote the roaring of a lion; but, as applied to intelligent beings, it is
generally expressive of profound mental anguish poured forth in audible and even
vehement strains. Psalm 38:9; 33:3; Job 3:24. Thus did the suffering Messiah
pour forth strong crying and tears, to him that was able to save him from death.
Hebrews 5:7. John Morison.
Verse 1. When Christ complains of having been forsaken by God, we are
not to understand that he was forsaken by the First Person, or that there was a
dissolution of the hypostatic union, or that he lost the favour and friendship
of the Father; but he signifies to us that God permitted his human nature to
undergo those dreadful torments, and to suffer an ignominious death, from which
he could, if he chose, most easily deliver him. Nor did such complaints proceed
either from impatience or ignorance, as if Christ were ignorant of the cause of
his suffering, or was not most willing to bear such abandonment in his
suffering; such complaints were only a declaration of his most bitter
sufferings. And whereas, through the whole course of his passion, with such
patience did our Lord suffer, as not to let a single groan or sigh escape from
him, so now, lest the bystanders may readily believe that he was rendered
impassible by some superior power; therefore, when his last moments were nigh he
protests that he is true man, truly passible; forsaken by his Father in his
sufferings, the bitterness and acuteness of which he then intimately felt. Robert
Bellarmine (Cardinal), 1542-1621.
Verse 1. Divines are wont commonly to say, that Christ, from the
moment of his conception, had the sight of God, his human soul being immediately
united to the Deity, Christ from the very moment of his conception had the sight
of God. Now for our Saviour, who had known experimentally how sweet the comfort
of his Father's face had been, and had lived all his days under the warm beams
and influences of the Divinity, and had had his soul all along refreshed with
the sense of the Divine presence, for him to be left in that horror and
darkness, as to have no taste of comfort, no glimpse of the Divinity breaking in
upon his human soul, how great an affliction must that needs be unto him! John
Verse 1. Desertion is in itself no sin; for Christ endured its
bitterness, ay, he was so deep in it, that when he died, he said, "Why
hast thou forsaken me?" A total, a final desertion ours is not; partial
the best have had and have. God turns away his face, David himself is troubled: "The
just shall live by faith," and not by feeling. Richard Capel.
Verse 1. Oh! how will our very hearts melt with love, when we remember
that as we have been distressed for our sins against him; so he was in greater
agonies for us? We have had gall and wormwood, but he tasted a more bitter cup.
The anger of God has dried up our spirits, but he was scorched with a more
flaming wrath. He was under violent pain in the garden, and on the cross;
ineffable was the sorrow that he felt, being forsaken of his Father, deserted by
his disciples, affronted and reproached by his enemies, and under a curse for
us. This Sun was under a doleful eclipse, this living Lord was pleased to die,
and in his death was under the frowns of an angry God. That face was then hid
from him that had always smiled before; and his soul felt that horror and that
darkness which it had never felt before. So that there was no separation between
the divine and human nature, yet he suffered pains equal to those which we had
deserved to suffer in hell for ever. God so suspended the efficacies of his
grace that it displayed in that hour none of its force and virtue on him. He had
no comfort from heaven, none from his angels, none from his friends, even in
that sorrowful hour when he needed comfort most. Like a lion that is hurt in the
forest, so he roared and cried out, though there was no despair in him; and when
he was forsaken, yet there was trust and hope in these words, "My God,
my God." Timothy Rogers.
Verse 1. Here is comfort to deserted souls; Christ himself was
deserted; therefore, if thou be deserted, God dealeth no otherwise with thee
than he did with Christ. Thou mayest be beloved of God and not feel it; Christ
was so, he was beloved of the Father, and yet he had no present sense and
feeling of his love. This may be a great comfort to holy souls under the
suspension of those comforts and manifestations which sometimes they have felt;
Christ himself underwent such a suspension, therefore such a suspension of
divine comfort may consist with God's love. Thou mayest conclude possibly,
"I am a hypocrite, and therefore God hath forsaken me;" this is the
complaint of some doubting Christians, "I am a hypocrite, and therefore God
hath forsaken me;" but thou hast no reason so to conclude: there was no
failure in Christ's obedience, and yet Christ was forsaken in point of comfort;
therefore desertion, in point of comfort, may consist with truth of grace, yea,
with the highest measure of grace; so it did in our Saviour. John Row.
Verse 1. Lord, thou knowest what it is for a soul to be forsaken, it
was sometime thine own case when thou complainedst, "My God, why hast
thou forsaken me?" not, O my Lord! but that thou hadst a divine
supportment, but thou hadst not (it seemeth) that inward joy which at other
times did fill thee; now thou art in thy glory, pity a worm in misery,
that mourns and desires more after thee than all things: Lord, thou paidst dear
for my good, let good come unto me. Joseph Symonds, 1658.
Verse 1. The first verse expresses a species of suffering that never
at any other time was felt in this world, and never will be again--the
vengeance of the Almighty upon his child--"MY God, why hast thou forsaken
me? R. H. Ryland.
Verse 2. "O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest
not," etc. How like is this expostulation to that of a human child with
its earthly parent! It is based on the ground of relationship--"I am
thine; I cry day and night, yet I am not heard. Thou art my God, yet nothing is
done to silence me. In the daytime of my life I cried; in this night season of
my death I intreat. In the garden of Gethsemane I occupied the night with
prayers; with continual ejaculations have I passed through this eventful
morning. O my God, thou hast not yet heard me, therefore am I not yet silent; I
cannot cease till thou answerest." Here Christ urges his suit in a manner
which none but filial hearts adopt. The child knows that the parent yearns over
him. His importunity is strengthened by confidence in paternal love. He keeps
not silence, he gives him no rest because he confides in his power and
willingness to grant the desired relief. This is natural. It is the argument of
the heart, an appeal to the inward yearnings of our nature. It is also
scriptural, and is thus stated, "If ye then being evil, know how to give
good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the
Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Luke 11:13. John Stevenson, in
"Christ on the Cross," 1842.
Verse 2. The princely prophet says, "Lord, I cry unto thee in
the daytime, but thou hearest not, also in the night time, and yet this is not
to be thought folly to me." (Septuagint version.) Some perhaps would
think it a great point of folly for a man to cry and call unto him who stops his
ears, and seems not to hear. Nevertheless, this folly of the faithful is wiser
than all the wisdom of the world. For we know well enough, that howsoever God
seem at the first not to hear, yet the Lord is a sure refuge in due time--in
affliction. Psalm 9:9. Thomas Playfere.
Verses 2, 3. Well, what hears God from him, now he hears nothing from
God, as to the deliverance prayed for? No murmuring at God's proceedings; nay,
he hears quite the contrary, for he justifies and praises God: "But thou
art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel." Observe
whether thou canst not gather something from the manner of God's denying the
thing prayed for, which may sweeten it to thee! Haply thou shalt find he denies
thee, but it is with a smiling countenance, and ushers it in with some
expressions of grace and favour, that may assure thee his denial proceeds not
from displeasure. As you would do with a dear friend, who, may be, comes to
borrow a sum of money of you; lend it you dare not, because you see plainly it
is not for his good; but in giving him the denial, lest he should misinterpret
it, as proceeding from want of love and respect, you preface it with some kind
of language of your hearty affection to him, as that you love him, and therefore
deny him, and shall be ready to do for him more than that comes to. Thus God
sometimes wraps up his denials in such sweet intimations of love, as prevents
all jealousies arising in the hearts of his people. William Gurnall.
Verses 2, 3. They that have conduit-water come into their houses, if
no water come they do not conclude the spring to be dry, but the pipes to be
stopped or broken. If prayer speed not, we must be sure that the fault is not in
God, but in ourselves; were we but ripe for mercy, he is ready to extend it to
us, and even waits for the purpose. John Trapp.
Verse 3. "But thou art holy." Here is the triumph of
faith--the Saviour stood like a rock in the wide ocean of temptation. High as
the billows rose, so did his faith, like the coral rock, wax greater and
stronger till it became an island of salvation to our shipwrecked souls. It is
as if he had said, "It matters not what I endure. Storms may howl upon me;
men despise; devils tempt; circumstances overpower; and God himself forsake me,
still God is holy; there is no unrighteousness in him." John Stevenson.
Verse 3. "But thou art holy." Does it seem strange
that the heart in its darkness and sorrow should find comfort in this attribute
of God? No, for God's holiness is but another aspect of his faithfulness and
mercy. And in that remarkable name, "the Holy One of Israel,"
we are taught that he who is the "holy" God is also the God who
has made a covenant with his chosen. It would be impossible for an Israelite to
think of God's holiness without thinking also of that covenant relationship.
"Be ye holy; for I, the Lord your God am holy," were the words in
which Israel was reminded of their relation to God. See especially Leviticus
19:1. We see something of this feeling in such passages as Psalm 89:16-19;
99:5-9; Hosea 11:8, 9; Isaiah 41:14; 47:4. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Verse 3. Were temptations never so black, faith will not hearken to an
ill word spoken against God, but will justify God always. David Dickson.
Verses 4, 5. Those who look upon this Psalm as having a primary
reference to the King of Israel, attribute great beauty to these words, from the
very pleasing conjecture that David was, at the time of composing them,
sojourning at Mahanaim, where Jacob, in his distress, wrestled with the angel,
and obtained such signal blessings. That, in a place so greatly hallowed by
associations of the past, he should make his appeal to the God of his fathers,
was alike the dictate of patriarchal feeling and religion. John Morison,
D.D., in "Morning Meditations."
Verse 5. "Thou didst deliver them," but thou wilt not
deliver me; nay, rather thou didst deliver them because thou wilt not deliver
Verse 6. "But I am a worm, and no man." A fisherman,
when he casts his angle into the river, doth not throw the hook in bare, naked
and uncovered, for then he knows the fish will never bite, and therefore he
hides the hook within a worm, or some other bait, and so, the fish, biting at
the worm, is catched by the hook. Thus Christ, speaking of himself, saith, "Ego
vermis et non homo." He, coming to perform the great work of our
redemption, did cover and hide his Godhead within the worm of his human nature.
The grand water-serpent, Leviathan, the devil, thinking to swallow the worm of
his humanity, was caught upon the hook of his divinity. This hook stuck in his
jaws, and tore him very sore. By thinking to destroy Christ, he destroyed his
own kingdom, and lost his own power for ever. Lancelot Andrewes.
Verse 6. "I am a worm." Christ calls himself "a
worm" . . . on account of the opinion that men of the world had of him
. . . the Jews esteemed Christ as a worm, and treated him as such; he was
loathsome to them and hated by them; every one trampled upon him, and trod him
under foot as men do worms . . . The Chaldee paraphrase renders it here a
weak worm; and though Christ is the mighty God, and is also the Son of man,
whom God made strong for himself; yet there was a weakness in his human nature,
and he was crucified through it, 2 Corinthians 13:4: and it has been observed by
some, that the word (Heb.) there used signifies the scarlet worm, or the worm
that is in the grain or berry with which scarlet is dyed: and like this scarlet
worm did our Lord look, when by way of mockery he was clothed with a scarlet
robe; and especially when he appeared in his dyed garments, and was red in his
apparel, as one that treadeth in the wine fat; when his body was covered with
blood when he hung upon the cross, which was shed to make crimson and scarlet
sins as white as snow. John Gill.
Verse 6. "I am a worm." An humble soul is emptied of
all swelling thoughts of himself. Bernard calls humility a self-annihilation.
Job 22:29. "Thou wilt save the humble;" in the Hebrew it is, "Him
that is of low eyes." An humble man has lower thoughts of himself than
others can have of him; David, though a king, yet looked upon himself as "a
worm:" "I am a worm, and no man." Bradford, a martyr,
yet subscribes himself "a sinner." Job 10:15. "If I be righteous,
yet will I not lift up my head:" like the violet a sweet flower, but hangs
down the head. Thomas Watson.
Verse 6. "A worm." So trodden under foot, trampled
on, maltreated, buffeted and spit upon, mocked and tormented, as to seem more
like a worm than a man. Behold what great contempt hath the Lord of Majesty
endured, that his confusion may be our glory; his punishment our heavenly bliss!
Without ceasing impress this spectacle, O Christian, on thy soul! Dionysius,
quoted by Isaac Williams.
Verse 6. "I am a worm." Among the Hindoos, when a man
complains and abhors himself, he asks; "What am I! a worm! a worm!"
"Ah, the proud man! he regarded me as a worm, well should I like to say to
him, 'We are all worms.'" "Worm, crawl out of my presence." Joseph
Verse 7. "All they that see me laugh me to scorn,"
etc. Imagine this dreadful scene. Behold this motley multitude of rich and poor,
of Jews and Gentiles! Some stand in groups and gaze. Some recline at ease and
stare. Others move about in restless gratification at the event. There is a look
of satisfaction on every countenance. None are silent. The velocity of speech
seems tardy. The theme is far too great for one member to utter. Every lip, and
head, and finger, is now a tongue. The rough soldiers, too, are busied in their
coarse way. The work of blood is over. Refreshment has become necessary. Their
usual beverage of vinegar and water is supplied to them. As they severally are
satisfied, they approach the cross, hold some forth to the Saviour, and bid him
drink as they withdraw it. Luke 23:36. They know he must be suffering an intense
thirst, they therefore aggravate it with the mockery of refreshment. Cruel
Romans! and ye, O regicidal Jews! Was not death enough? Must mockery and scorn
be added? On this sad day Christ made you one indeed! Dreadful
unity--which constituted you the joint mockers and murderers of the Lord of
glory! John Stevenson.
Verse 7. "All they that see me, laugh me to scorn,"
etc. There have been persons in our own days, whose crimes have excited such
detestation that the populace would probably have torn them in pieces, before,
and even after their trial, if they could have had them in their power. Yet when
these very obnoxious persons have been executed according to their sentence, if,
perhaps, there was not one spectator who wished them to escape, yet neither was
one found so lost to sensibility as to insult them in their dying moments. But
when Jesus suffers, all that see him laugh him to scorn; they shoot out the
lip, they shake the head; they insult his character and his hope. John
Verse 7. "They shoot out the lip." To protrude the
lower lip is, in the East, considered a very strong indication of contempt. Its
employment is chiefly confined to the lower orders. Illustrated Commentary.
Verses 7, 8. It was after his crucifixion, and during the hours that
he hung upon the cross, that his sufferings in this way--the torment of
beholding and hearing the scorn and mockery which was made of the truth of his
person and doctrine--exceedingly abounded, and in such and so many kinds of
mockery and insult that some consider this to have been the chiefest pain and
sorrow which he endured in his most sacred passion. For as, generally, those
things are considered the most painful to endure of which we are most sensible,
so it seems to these persons, that sufferings of this kind contain in them more
cause for feeling than any other sufferings. And, therefore, although all the
torments of the Lord were very great, so that each one appears the greatest, and
no comparison can be made between them; yet, nevertheless, this kind of
suffering appears to be the most painful. Because in other troubles, not only
the pain and suffering of them, but the troubles themselves, in themselves, may
be desired by us, and such as we suffer for love's sake, in order by them to
evince that love. Wherefore, the stripes, the crown of thorns, the buffetings,
the cross, the gall, the vinegar, and other bodily torments, besides that they
torment the body, are often a means for promoting the divine honour, which it
holds in esteem above all else. But to blaspheme God, to give the lie to eternal
truths, to deface the supreme demonstration of the divinity and majesty of the
Son of God (although God knoweth how to extract from these things the good which
he intends), nevertheless are, in their nature, things, which, from their so
greatly affecting the divine honour, although they may be, for just
considerations, endured, can never be desired by any one, but must be abhorrent
to all. Our Lord then, being, of all, the most zealous for the divine honour,
for which he also died, found in this kind of suffering, more than in all other,
much to abhor and nothing to desire. Therefore with good reason it may be held
to be the greatest of all, and that in which, more than in all other, he
exhibited the greatest suffering and patience. Fra Thom, de Jesu, in
"The Sufferings of Jesus," 1869.
Verses 7-9. All that see me made but a laughynge stocke on me, they
mocked me wyth their lyppes, and wagged theyr heades at me. Sayenge, thys
vyllayne referred all thynges to the Lord, let him now delyver hym yf he wyll,
for he loveth hym well. But yet thou arte he whyche leddest me oute of my
mother's wombe myne own refuge, even from my mother's teats. As sone as I came
into this worlde, I was layde in thy lappe, thou art my God even from my
mother's wombe. From "The Psalter of David in English, truly translated
out of Latyn," in "Devout Psalms," etc., by E. Whitchurche,
Verse 8. Here are recorded some of those very words, by which the
persecutors of our Lord expressed their mockery and scorn. How remarkable to
find them in a Psalm written so many hundred years before! John Stevenson.
Verses 9, 10. Faith is much strengthened by constant evidences of
God's favour. Herewith did he support his faith that said to God, "Thou
art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my
mother's breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my
mother's belly." "Thou art my trust from my youth. By thee have I
been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's
bowels." Psalm 71:5, 6. It was not only the disposition of Obadiah towards
God, but also the evidence that thereby he had of God's affection towards him,
that made him with confidence say to Elijah, "I fear the Lord from my
youth." 1 Kings 18:12. By long continuance of ancient favour, many
demonstrations are given of a fast, fixed, and unremovable affection. So as if,
by reason of temptations, one or more evidences should be questioned, yet others
would remain to uphold faith, and to keep it from an utter languishing, and a
total falling away. As when a house is supported by many pillars, though some be
taken away, yet by the support of them which remain, the house will stand. William
Verses 9, 10. David acknowledges ancient mercies, those mercies which
had been cast upon him long ago, these were still fresh and new in his memory,
and this is one affection and disposition of a thankful heart--to remember
those mercies which another would have quite forgotten, or never thought of.
Thus does David here; the mercies of his infancy, and his childhood,
and his younger years, which one would have imagined, that now in his age
had been quite out of his mind; yet these does he here stir up himself to
remember and bring to his thoughts. "Took me out of the womb:"
when was that? It may have been threescore years ago when David penned the
Psalms. He thinks of those mercies which God vouchsafed him when he was not
capable of thinking, nor considering what was bestowed upon him; and so are
we taught hence to do, in an imitation of this holy example which is here set
before us: those mercies which God hast bestowed in our minority, we are to call
to mind and acknowledge in our riper years. Thomas Horton.
Verses 9, 10. Here the tribulation begins to grow lighter, and hope
inclines towards victory; a support, though small, and sought out with deep
anxiety, is now found. For after he had felt that he had suffered without any
parallel or example, so that the wonderful works of God as displayed toward the
fathers afforded him no help, he comes to the wonderful works of God toward
himself, and in these he finds the goodwill of God towards him, and which was
displayed towards him alone in so singular a way. Martin Luther.
Verses 9, 10. The bitter severity of the several taunts with which his
enemies assailed our Lord, had no other effect than to lead the Saviour to make
a direct appeal to his Father. . . . That appeal is set before us in these two
verses. It is of an unusual and remarkable nature. The argument on which it is
founded is most forcible and conclusive. At the same time, it is the most
seasonable and appropriate that can be urged. We may thus paraphrase it, "I
am now brought as a man to my last extremity. It is said that God disowns me;
but it cannot be so. My first moment of existence he tenderly cared for. When I
could not even ask for, or think of his kindness, he bestowed it upon me. If, of
his mere good pleasure he brought me into life at first, he will surely not
forsake me when I am departing out of it. In opposition, therefore, to all their
taunts, I can and I will appeal to himself. Mine enemies declare, O God, that
thou hast cast me off --but thou art he that took me out of the womb.
They affirm that I do not, and need not trust in thee; but thou didst make me
hope (or, keptest me in safety, margin) when I was upon my
mother's breasts. They insinuate that thou wilt not acknowledge me as thy
Son; but I was cast upon thee from the womb; thou art my God from my mother's
belly." John Stevenson.
Verse 10. "I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God
from my mother's belly." There is a noble passage in Eusebius, in which
he shows the connection between our Lord's incarnation and his passion: that he
might well comfort himself while hanging on the cross by the remembrance that
the very same body then "marred more than any man, and his form more than
the sons of men" (Isaiah 52:14), was that which had been glorified by the
Father with such singular honour, when the Holy Ghost came upon Mary, and the
power of the Highest overshadowed her. That this body, therefore, though now so
torn and so mangled, as it had once been the wonder, so it would for ever be the
joy, of the angels; and having put on immortality, would be the support of his
faithful people to the end of time. J. M. Neale, in loc.
Verse 10. I was like one forsaken by his parent, and wholly cast upon
Providence. I had no father upon earth, and my mother was poor and helpless. Matthew
Verse 11. "Be not far from me; for trouble is near;"
and so it is high time for thee to put forth a helping hand. Hominibus
profanis mirabilis videtur h'cratio, to profane persons, this seemeth to
be a strange reason, saith an interpreter; but it is a very good one, as this
prophet knew, who therefore makes it his plea. John Trapp.
Verse 12. "Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round."
These animals are remarkable for the proud, fierce, and sullen manner in which
they exercise their great strength. Such were the persecutors who now beset our
Lord. These were first, human, and secondly, spiritual foes; and both were alike
distinguished by the proud, fierce, and sullen manner in which they assaulted
him. John Stevenson.
Verses 12, 13. "Bashan" was a fertile country (Numbers
32:4), and the cattle there fed were fat and "strong." Deuteronomy
32:14. Like them, the Jews, in that good land, "waxed fat and kicked,"
grew proud, and rebelled; forsook God "that made them, and lightly esteemed
the rock of their salvation." George Horne.
Verse 13. A helpless infant, or a harmless lamb, surrounded by furious
bulls, and hungry lions, aptly represented the Saviour encompassed by his
insulting and bloody persecutors. Thomas Scott, 1747-1821.
Verse 14. "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are
out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my
bowels." He was faint. Such a feeling of languor and faintness
supervened that language fails to express it, and the emblem of "water
poured out" is employed to represent it. As the water falls from the vessel
to the earth, see how its particles separate farther and farther from each
other. Its velocity increases as it falls. It has no power to stay itself
midway, much less to return to its place. It is the very picture of utter
weakness. So did our Lord feel himself to be when hanging on the cross. He was
faint with weakness. The sensations experienced when about to faint away are
very overpowering. We appear to our own consciousness to be nothing but
weakness, as water poured out. All our bones feel relaxed and out of joint; we
seem as though we had none. The strength of bone is gone, the knitting of the
joints is loosened, and the muscular vigour fled. A sickly giddiness overcomes
us. We have no power to bear up. All heart is lost. Our strength disappears like
that of wax, of melting wax, which drops upon surrounding objects, and is lost.
Daniel thus describes his sensations on beholding the great vision, "There
remained no strength in me: for my vigour was turned into corruption, and I
retained no strength." Daniel 10:8. In regard, however, to the faintness
which our Lord experienced, we ought to notice this additional and remarkable
circumstance, that he did not altogether faint away. The relief of insensibility
he refused to take. When consciousness ceases, all perception of pain is
necessarily and instantly terminated. But our Lord retained his full
consciousness throughout the awful scene; and patiently endured for a
considerable period, those, to us, insupportable sensations which precede the
actual swoon. John Stevenson.
Verse 14. "I am poured out like water:" that is, in
the thought of my enemies I am utterly destroyed. "For we must needs die,
and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again." 2
Samuel 14:14. "What marvel," asks St. Bernard, "that the name of
the Bridegroom should be as ointment poured forth, when he himself, for the
greatness of his love, was poured forth like water!" J. M. Neale.
Verse 14. "I am poured out like water," i.e., I am
almost past all recovery, as water spilt upon the ground. John Trapp.
Verse 14. "All my bones are out of joint." The rack
is devised as a most exquisite pain, even for terror. And the cross is a rack,
whereon he was stretched till, saith the Psalm, "all his bones were out
of joint." But even to stand, as he hung, three long
hours together, holding up but the arms at length, I have heard it avowed of
some that have felt it, to be a pain scarce credible. But the hands and the feet
being so cruelly nailed (part, of all other, most sensible, by reason of
the texture of sinews there in them most) it could not but make his pain out of
measure painful. It was not for nothing, that dolores acerrimi dicuntur
cruciatus (saith the heathen man), that the most sharp and bitter pains of
all other have their name from hence, and are called cruciatus--pains
like those of the cross. It had a meaning, that they gave him,
that he had (for his welcome to the cross) a cup mixed with gall or
myrrh; and (for his farewell) a sponge of vinegar; to show by the
one the bitterness, and by the other the sharpness of the pains of
this painful death. Lancelot Andrewes.
Verse 14. "All my bones are out of joint." We know
that the greatest and most intolerable pain that the body can endure, is that
arising from a bone out of its place, or dislocated joint. Now when the Lord was
raised up upon the cross, and his sacred body hung in the air from the nails,
all the joints began to give, so that the bones were parted the one from the
other so visibly that, in very truth (as David had prophesied) they might
tell all his bones, and thus, throughout the whole body, he endured acute
torture. Whilst our Lord suffered these torments, his enemies, who had so
earnestly desired to see him crucified, far from pitying him, were filled with
delight, as though celebrating a victory. Fra Thom, de Jesu.
Verse 15. "My strength is dried up," etc.
Inflammation must have commenced early and violently in the wounded parts--then
been quickly imparted to those that were strained, and have terminated in a high
degree of feverish burning over the whole body. The animal juices would be
thus dried up, and the watery particles of the blood absorbed. The skin parched
by the scorching sun till midday would be unable to supply or to imbibe any
moisture. The loss of blood at the hands and feet would hasten the desiccation.
Hence our Lord says, "My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my
tongue cleaveth to my jaws." The fever would devour his small remaining
strength. And THIRST, that most intolerable of all bodily privations, must have
been overpowering. His body appeared to his feeling like a potsherd that had
been charred in the potter's kiln. It seemed to have neither strength nor
substance left in it. So feeble had he become, so parched and dried up that
CLAMMINESS OF THE MOUTH, one of the forerunners of immediate dissolution, had
already seized him; "My tongue cleaveth to my jaws, and thou hast brought
me into the dust of death." John Stevenson.
Verse 15. "My strength is dried up;" not as in the
trial of gold and silver, but "like a potsherd," as the earthen
vessel dried up by the heat, spoken in humiliation. Isaac Williams, in loc.
Verse 15. "A potsherd." (Heb.) rendered potsherd,
is a word which denotes a piece of earthenware, frequently in a broken state. As
employed in the verse under consideration, it seems to derive considerable
illustration from the corresponding word in ARABIC, which expresses roughness of
skin, and might well convey to the mind the idea of the bodily appearance of one
in whom the moisture of the fluids had been dried up by the excess of grief. John
Verse 15. That hour what his feelings were is dangerous to define: we
know them not; we may be too bold to determine of them. To very good purpose it
was that the ancient Fathers of the Greek church in their liturgy, after they
had recounted all the particular pains, as they are set down in his passion, and
by all and by everyone of them called for mercy, do, after all, shut up with
this Di agnwstwn kopwn basanwn elehson ki swson emas. By thine unknown
sorrows and sufferings, felt by thee, but not distinctly known by us, have mercy
upon us and save us. Lancelot Andrewes.
Verse 16. "Dogs have compassed me." So great and
varied was the malignity exhibited by the enemies of our Lord, that the combined
characteristics of two species of ferocious animals were not adequate to its
representation. Another emblematical figure is therefore introduced. The
assembly of the wicked is compared to that of "dogs" who haunt about
the cities, prowl in every corner, snarl over the carrion, and devour it all
with greediness--like "dogs," with their wild cry in full pursuit,
with unfailing scent tracking their victim, with vigilant eye on all its
movements, and with a determination which nothing can falter, they run it on to
death. The Oriental mode of hunting, both in ancient and modern times, is
murderous and merciless in the extreme. A circle of several miles in
circumference is beat round; and the men, driving all before them, and narrowing
as they advance, inclose the prey on every side. Having thus made them
prisoners, the cruel hunters proceed to slaughter at their own convenience. So
did the enemies of our Lord: long before his crucifixion it is recorded that
they used the most treacherous plans to get him into their power. John
Verse 16. "Dogs have compassed me." At the hunting of
the lion, a whole district is summoned to appear, who, forming themselves first
into a circle, enclose a space of four or five miles in compass, according to
the number of the people and the quality of the ground which is pitched upon for
the scene of action. The footmen advance first, running into the thickets with
their dogs and spears, to put up the game; while the horsemen, keeping a little
behind, are always ready to charge upon the first sally of the wild beast. In
this manner they proceed, still contracting their circle, till they all at last
close in together, or meet with some other game to divert them. Dr. Shaw's
Travels, quoted in Paxton's "Illustrations of Scripture."
Verse 16. "They pierced my hands and my feet;"
namely, when they nailed Christ to the cross. Matthew 27:35; John 20:25. Where
let me simulate, saith a learned man, the orator's gradation, Facinus vincire
civem Romanum, etc. It was much for the Son of God to be bound, more to be
beaten, most of all to be slain; Quid dicam in crucem tolle? but what
shall I say to this, that he was crucified? That was the most vile and
ignominious; it was also a cruel and cursed kind of death, which yet he refused
not; and here we have a clear testimony for his cross. John Trapp.
Verse 16. "They pierced my hands and my feet." Of all
sanguinary punishments, that of crucifixion is one of the most dreadful--no
vital part is immediately affected by it. The hands and the feet which are
furnished with the most numerous and sensitive organs, are perforated with
nails, which must necessarily be of some size to suit their intended purpose.
The tearing asunder of the tender fibres of the hands and feet, the lacerating
of so many nerves, and bursting so many blood-vessels, must be productive of
intense agony. The nerves of the hand and foot are intimately connected, through
the arm and leg, with the nerves of the whole body; their laceration therefore
must be felt over the entire frame. Witness the melancholy result of even a
needle's puncture in even one of the remotest nerves. A spasm is not
unfrequently produced by it in the muscles of the face, which locks the jaws
inseparably. When, therefore the hands and feet of our blessed Lord were
transfixed with nails, he must have felt the sharpest pangs shoot through every
part of his body. Supported only by his lacerated limbs, and suspended from his
pierced hands, our Lord had nearly six hours' torment to endure. John
Verse 16. "They pierced my hands and my feet." That
evangelical prophet testifies it, "Behold, I have graven thee upon the
palms of my hands." Isaiah 49:16. Were we not engraven there when his hands
were pierced for us? "They digged my hands and my feet." And they
digged them so deep, that the very prints remained after his resurrection, and
their fingers were thrust into them for evidence sake. Some have thought that
those scars remain still in his glorious body, to be showed at his second
appearing: "They shall see him whom they have pierced." That is
improbable, but this is certain; there remains still an impression upon Christ's
hands and his heart, the sealing and wearing of the elect there, as precious
jewels. Thomas Adams.
Verse 17. "I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon
me." The skin and flesh were distended by the posture of the body on
the cross, that the bones, as through a thin veil, became visible, and might be
counted. George Horne.
Verse 17. "I may tell all my bones." For, as the
first Adam by his fall, lost the robe of innocence, and thenceforth needed other
garments, so the second Adam vouchsafed to be stripped of his earthly vestments,
to the end it might hereafter be said to us, "Bring forth the first robe,
and put it on him." Luke 15:22. Gerhohus, quoted by J. M. Neale.
Verse 17. "They look and stare upon me." Sensitively
conscious of his condition upon the cross, the delicate feelings of the holy
Saviour were sorely pained by the gaze of the multitude. With impudent face they
looked upon him. To view him better they halted as they walked. With deliberate
insolence they collected in groups, and made their remarks to each other on his
conduct and appearance. Mocking his naked, emaciated, and quivering body, they
"looked and stared upon him." John Stevenson.
Verse 17. "They look and stare upon me." Oh, how
different is that look which the awakened sinner directs to Calvary, when faith
lifts up her eye to him who agonised, and bled, and died, for the guilty! And
what gratitude should perishing men feel, that from him that hangs upon the
accursed tree there is heard proceeding the inviting sound, "Look unto me,
and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth, for I am God, and besides me there is
none else. John Morison.
Verse 18. "They part my garments," etc. Perfectly
naked did the cruciarii hang upon the cross, and the executioners received their
clothes. There is nothing to show that there was a cloth even round the loins.
The clothes became the property of the soldiers, after Roman usage. The outer
garment was divided probably into four, by ripping up the seams. Four soldiers
were counted off as a guard, by the Roman code. The under garment could not be
divided being woven; and this led the soldiers to the dice-throwing. J. P.
Lange, D.D., on Matthew, 27:35.
Verse 18. "They part my garments," etc. Instruments
will not be wanting to crucify Christ, if it were but for his old clothes, and
those but little worth; for these soldiers crucify him, though they got but his
garments for their reward. Christ did submit to suffer naked, hereby to teach
us:--1. That all flesh are really naked before God by reason of sin (Exodus
32:25; 2 Chronicles 28:19), and therefore our Surety behoved to suffer naked. 2.
That he offered himself a real captive in his sufferings, that so he might fully
satisfy justice by being under the power of his enemies, till he redeemed
himself by the strong hand, having fully paid the price; for therefore did he
submit to be stripped naked, as conquerors use to do with prisoners. 3. That by
thus suffering naked he would expiate our abuse of apparel, and purchase to us a
liberty to make use of suitable raiment, and such as becometh us in our station.
4. That by this suffering naked he would purchase unto them who flee to him, to
be covered with righteousness and glory, and to walk with him in white for ever,
and would point out the nakedness of those, who, not being found clothed with
his righteousness, shall not be clothed upon with immortality and glory. 2
Corinthians 5:2, 3. 5. He would also by this, teach all his followers to resolve
on nakedness in their following of him, as a part of their conformity with their
Head (1 John 4:17; Romans 8:35; Hebrews 11:37), and that therefore they should
not dote much on their apparel when they have it. George Hutcheson, 1657.
Verse 18. "And cast lots upon my vesture." Trifling
as this act of casting the lot for our Lord's vesture may appear, it is most
significant. It contains a double lesson. It teaches us how greatly that
seamless shirt was valued; how little he to whom it had belonged. It seemed to
say, this garment is more valuable than its owner. As it was said of the thirty
pieces of silver, "A goodly price at which I was prized at of them;"
so may we say regarding the casting of the lot, "How cheaply Christ was
held!" John Stevenson.
Verse 20. "My darling" had better be rendered
"my lonely, or solitary one." For he wishes to say that his soul was
lonely and forsaken by all, and that there was no one who sought after him as a
friend, or cared for him, or comforted him: as we have it, Psalm 142:4,
"Refuge failed me; no one cared for my soul; I looked on my right hand, but
there was no one who would know me;" that is, solitude is of itself a
certain cross, and especially so in such great torments, in which it is most
grievous to be immersed without an example and without a companion. And yet, in
such a state, everyone of us must be, in some suffering or other, and especially
in that of death; and we must be brought to cry out with Psalm 25:16, "Turn
thee unto me, and have mercy upon me, for I am desolate and afflicted." Martin
Verse 20. "The dog." It is scarcely possible for a
European to form an idea of the intolerable nuisance occasioned in the villages
and cities of the East, by the multitudes of dogs that infest the streets. The
natives, accustomed from their earliest years to the annoyance, come to be
regardless of it; but to a stranger, these creatures are the greatest plague to
which he is subjected; for as they are never allowed to enter a house, and do
not constitute the property of any particular owner, they display none of those
habits of which the domesticated species among us are found susceptible, and are
destitute of all those social qualities which often render the dog the trusty
and attached friend of man. . . . The race seems wholly to degenerate in the
warm regions of the East, and to approximate to the character of beasts of prey,
as in disposition they are ferocious, cunning, bloodthirsty, and possessed of
the most insatiable voracity: and even in their very form there is something
repulsive; their sharp and savage features; their wolf-like eyes; their long
hanging ears; their straight and pointed tails; their lank and emaciated forms,
almost entirely without a belly, give them an appearance of wretchedness and
degradation, that stands in sad contrast with the general condition and
qualities of the breed in Europe. . . . These hideous creatures, dreaded by the
people for their ferocity, or avoided by them as useless and unclean, are
obliged to prowl about everywhere in search of a precarious existence. . . .
They generally run in bands, and their natural ferocity, inflamed by hunger, and
the consciousness of strength, makes them the most troublesome and dangerous
visitors to the stranger who unexpectedly finds himself in their neighbourhood,
as they will not scruple to seize whatever he may have about him, and even, in
the event of his falling, and being otherwise defenceless, to attack and devour
him. . . These animals, driven by hunger, greedily devour everything that comes
in their way; they glut themselves with the most putrid and loathsome substances
that are thrown about the cities, and of nothing are they so fond as of human
flesh, a repast, with which the barbarity of the despotic countries of Asia
frequently supplies them, as the bodies of criminals slain for murder, treason,
or violence, are seldom buried, and lie exposed till the mangled fragments are
carried off by the dogs. From "Illustrations of Scripture, by the late
Professor George Paxton, D.D., revised and enlarged by Robert Jamieson,"
Verse 21. "Save me from the lion's mouth." Satan is
called a lion, and that fitly; for he hath all the properties of the lion: as
bold as a lion, as strong as a lion, as furious as a lion, as terrible as the
roaring of a lion. Yea, worse: the lion wants subtlety and suspicion; herein the
devil is beyond the lion. The lion will spare the prostrate, the devil spares
none. The lion is full and forbears, the devil is full and devours. He seeks
all; let not the simple say, He will take no notice of me; nor the subtle, He
cannot overreach me; nor the noble say, He will not presume to meddle with me;
nor the rich, He dares not contest with me; for he seeks to devour all. He is
our common adversary, therefore let us cease all quarrels amongst ourselves, and
fight with him. Thomas Adams.
Verse 21. "Save me . . . from the horns of the unicorns."
Those who are in great trouble from the power or cruelty of others, often cry
out to their gods, "Ah! save me from the tusk of the elephant! from the
mouth of the tiger and the tusks of the boar, deliver me, deliver me!" Who
will save me from the horn of the KÃƒÂ¯Ã‚Â¿Ã‚Â½ndam?" This animal is now
extinct in these regions, and it is not easy to determine what it was; the word
in the Sathur --AgarÃƒÂ¯Ã‚Â¿Ã‚Â½the--is rendered "jungle cow." Joseph
Verse 21. "The horns of the unicorns." On turning to
the Jewish Bible we find that the word (Heb.) is translated as buffalo, and
there is no doubt that this rendering is nearly the correct one, and at the
present day naturalists are nearly agreed that the reÃƒÂ¯Ã‚Â¿Ã‚Â½m of the Old Testament
must have been now the extinct urus. . . . The presence of these horns affords a
remarkable confirmation to a well-known passage in Julias Caesar's familiar
"Commentaries." "The uri are little inferior to elephants in size
("magnitudine paulo infra elephantos;") "but are bulls in
their nature, color, and figure. Great is their strength, and great their
swiftness; nor do they spare man or beast when they have caught sight of
them." J. G. Wood, M.A., F.L.S., in "Bible Animals." 1869.
Verse 22. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren."
Having thus obtained relief from the oppressive darkness, and regained conscious
possession of the joy and light of his Father's countenance, the thoughts and
desires of the Redeemer flow into their accustomed channel. The glory of God in
the salvation of his church. John Stevenson.
Verse 22. "My brethren." This give evidence of the
low condescension of the Son of God, and also of the high exaltation of sons of
men; for the Son of God to be a brother to sons of men is a great degree of
humiliation, and for the sons of men to be made brethren with the Son of God is
a high degree of exaltation; for Christ's brethren are in that respect sons of
God, heirs of heaven, or kings, not earthly, but heavenly; not temporary, but
everlasting kings. . . . This respect of Christ to his brethren is a great
encouragement and comfort to such as are despised and scorned by men of this
world for Christ's professing of them. William Gouge.
Verse 24. "For he hath not despised nor abhorred the prayer of
the poor, neither hath he hid his face from me; but when I cried unto him, he
heard me." Let him, therefore, that desires to be of the seed of
Israel, and to rejoice in the grace of the gospel, become poor, for this is a
fixed truth, our God is one that has respect unto the poor! And observe the
fulness and diligence of the prophet. He was not content with having said
"will not despise," but adds, "and will not abhor;" and,
again, "will not turn away his face;" and again, "will
hear." And then he adds himself as an example, saying, "When I
cried," as our translation has it. As if he had said, "Behold ye, and
learn by my example, who have been made the most vile of all men, and numbered
among the wicked; when I was despised, cast out, rejected, behold! I was held in
the highest esteem, and taken up, and heard. Let not this state of things,
therefore, after this, my encouraging example, frighten you; the gospel requires
a man to be such a character before it will save him. These things, I say,
because our weakness requires so much exhortation, that it might not dread being
humbled, nor despair when humbled, and thus might, after the bearing of the
cross, receive the salvation. Martin Luther.
Verse 25. "My praise shall be of thee in the great
congregation," etc. The joy and gratitude of our adorable Lord rise to
such a height at this great deliverance, his heart so overflows with fresh and
blessed consciousness of his heavenly Father's nearness, that he again pours
forth the expression of his praise. By its repetition, he teaches us that this
is not a temporary burst of gratitude, but an abiding determination, a full and
settled resolution. John Stevenson.
Verse 25. "In the great congregation." Saints are
fittest witnesses of sacred duties. That which, in Psalm 116:14, is implied
under this particle of restraint, "his," in "the presence of all
his people," is in Psalm 22:25, more expressly noted by a more apparent
description, thus: "I will pay my vows before them that fear him."
None but true saints do truly fear God. 1. This property of God's people, that
they fear the Lord, showeth that they will make the best use of such sacred,
solemn duties performed in their presence. They will glorify God for this your
zeal; they will join their spirits with your spirit in this open performance of
duty; they will become followers of you, and learn of you to vow and pay unto
the Lord, and that openly, publicly. 2. As for others, they are no better than
such hogs and dogs as are not meet to have such precious pearls and holy things
cast before them, lest they trample them under their feet. William Gouge.
Verse 26. "The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall
praise the Lord that seek him; your heart shall live for ever." A
spiritual banquet is prepared in the church for the "meek" and
lowly in heart. The death of Christ was the sacrifice for sin; his flesh is meat
indeed, and his blood is drink indeed. The poor in spirit feed on this
provision, in their hearts by faith, and are satisfied; and thus, whilst
they "seek" the Lord, they "praise" him also,
and their "hearts" (or souls), are preserved unto eternal life.
Practical Illustrations of the Book of Psalms," 1826.
Verse 26. "The meek." Bonaventure engraved this sweet
saying of our Lord, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart,"
in his study. O that this saying was engraved upon all your foreheads, and upon
all your hearts! Charles Bradbury.
Verse 26. "They shall praise the Lord that seek him; your
heart shall live for ever." Now, I would fain know the man that ever
went about to form such laws as should bind the hearts of men, or prepare
such rewards as should reach the souls and consciences of men! Truly, if any
mortal man should make a law that his subjects should love him with all their
hearts and souls, and not dare, upon peril of his greatest indignation, to
entertain a traitorous thought against his royal person, but presently confess
it to him, or else he would be avenged on him, he would deserve to be more
laughed at for his pride and folly, than Xerxes for casting his fetters into the
Hellespont, to chain the waves into his obedience; or Caligula, that threatened
the air, if it durst rain when he was at his pastimes, who durst not himself so
much as look into the air when it thundered. Certainly a madhouse would be more
fit for such a person than a throne, who should so far forfeit his reason, as to
think that the thoughts and hearts of men were within his jurisdiction. William
Verse 26. "Your heart," that is, not your outward
man, but the hidden man of the heart (Ezekiel 36:26); the new man which is
created after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness, "shall
live for ever." The life which animates it is the life of the Spirit of
God. John Stevenson.
Verse 27. "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn
unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before
him." This passage is a prediction of the conversion of the Gentiles.
It furnishes us with two interesting ideas; the nature of true conversion--and
the extent of it under the reign of the Messiah. 1. The NATURE of true
conversion: --It is to "remember"--to "turn to the
Lord"--and to "worship before him." This is a plain
and simple process. Perhaps the first religious exercise of mind of which we are
conscious is reflection. A state of unregeneracy is a state of forgetfulness.
God is forgotten. Sinners have lost all just sense of his glory, authority,
mercy, and judgment; living as if there were no God, or as if they thought there
was none. But if ever we are brought to be the subjects of true conversion, we
shall be brought to remember these things. This divine change is fitly expressed
by the case of the prodigal, who is said to have come to himself, or to
his right mind. But further, true conversion consists not only in remembering,
but in "turning to the Lord." This part of the passage is
expressive of a cordial relinquishment of our idols, whatever they have been,
and an acquiescence in the gospel way of salvation by Christ alone. Once more,
true conversion to Christ will be accompanied with the "worship"
of him. Worship, as a religious exercise, is the homage of the heart, presented
to God according to his revealed will. . . . 2. The EXTENT of conversion under
the kingdom or reign of the Messiah: "All the ends of the world shall
remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall
worship before him." It was fit that the accession of the Gentiles
should be reserved for the gospel day, that it might grace the triumph of Christ
over his enemies, and appear to be what it is, "the travail of his
soul." This great and good work, begun in the apostles' day, must go
on, and "must increase," till "All the ends of the world shall
remember and turn," and "all the kindreds of the nations shall
worship before him." Conversion work has been individual; God
has gathered sinners one by one. Thus it is at present with us; but it will not
be thus always. People will flock to Zion as doves to their windows. Further,
conversion work has hitherto been circumscribed within certain parts of the
world. But the time will come when "all the kindreds of the earth"
shall worship. These hopes are not the flight of an ardent imagination; they are
founded on the true sayings of God. Finally, while we are concerned for the
world, let us not forget our own souls. So the whole world be saved and we lost,
what will it avail us? Condensed from Andrew Fuller.
Verse 27. "All the ends of the world shall
REMEMBER"--this is a remarkable expression. It implies that man has
forgotten God. It represents all the successive generations of the world as but one,
and then it exhibits that one generation, as if it had been once in paradise,
suddenly remembering the Lord whom it had known there, but had long forgotten. .
. . The converted nations, we learn by this verse, will not only obtain
remembrance of their past loss, but will also be filled with the knowledge of
present duty. John Stevenson.
Verse 27. "All the nations of the world" ((Heb.) jizkeru,
the same Hebrew root with (Heb.) azkir) "shall remember;"
why? what is that? or what shall they remember? Even this: they shall turn to
the Lord, and worship him, in his name, in his ordinances; as is explained in
the words following of this verse: "And all the families of the
nations" ((Heb.) jishtachavu, "shall bow" down
themselves, or) "worship before thee," etc. And so in Psalm
86:9, "All nations whom thou hast made shall come" ((Heb.) vejishtachavu)
"and they shall worship before thee;" and how shall they do so? Even
by recording, remembering, and making mention of the glory of thy name; as in
the words following ((Hebrew) vicabbedu lishmecha), "and shall
glorify thy name." William Strong's "Saints Communion with
Verses 27, 28. The one undeviating object of the Son all through was,
the glory of the Father: he came to do his will, and he fulfilled it with all
the unvarying intensity of the most heavenly affection. What, then, will not be
the exuberant joy of his heart, when in his glorious kingdom, he shall see the
Father beyond all measure glorified? . . . The praise and honour and blessing
which will be yielded to the Father in that day through him, so that God shall
be all in all, will make him feel he underwent not a sorrow too much for such a
precious consummation. . . . Every note of thanksgiving which ascends to the
Father, whether from the fowls of the air, or the beasts of the field, or the
fishes of the sea, or the hills, or the mountains, or the trees of the forest,
or the rivers of the valleys--all shall gladden his heart, as sweet in the ears
of God, for the sake of him who redeemed even them from the curse, and restored
to them a harmony more musical than burst from them on the birthday of their
creation. And man! renewed and regenerated man! for whose soul the blood was
spilt, and for the redemption of whose body death was overcome, how shall the
chorus of his thanksgiving, in its intelligent and articulate hallelujahs, be
the incense which that Saviour shall still love to present unto the Father, a
sweet-smelling savour through himself, who, that he might sanctify his people by
his own blood, suffered without the camp. How are the channels choked up or
impaired in this evil world, wherein the praise and glory of our God should flow
as a river! How will Christ then witness, to the delight of his soul, all
cleared and restored! No chill upon the heart, no stammering in the tongue, in
his Father's praises! No understanding dull, or eye feeble, in the apprehension
of his glory! No hand unready, or foot stumbling, in the fulfilling of his
commandments. God, the glory of his creatures: his glory their service and their
love; and all this the reward to Jesus of once suffering himself. C.
J. Goodhart, M.A., in "Bloomsbury Lent Lectures," 1848.
Verse 29. "And they shall bow that go down into the dust;
their soul liveth not:" that is, whose soul liveth not, by an
Hebraism; it being meant, that he who is of most desperate condition, being
without hope of life and salvation, his sins are so notorious, shall
"eat" also of this feast, and be turned to God to "worship"
and serve him; being thus plucked out of the jaws of death and everlasting
destruction, as it were, being before this very hour ready to seize upon him.
The new translation, "None can keep alive his own soul," as it
agreeth not with the Hebrew, so it makes the sense more perplexed. By "him
that goeth down to the dust, whose soul liveth not," some understand
the most miserably poor, who have nothing to feed upon, whereby their life may
be preserved, yet shall feed also of this feast as well as the rich, and praise
God. Ainsworth is for either spiritually poor and miserable, because most
wicked, or worldly poor; and there is an exposition of Basil's, understanding by
the rich, the rich in faith and grace, touching which, or the rich properly so
called, he is indifferent. But because it is said, "The fat of the
earth," I prefer the former, and that the close of the verse may best
answer to the first part; the latter by "those that are going to the
dust," understand the miserably poor. So that there is a commonplace of
comfort for all, both richest and poorest, if they be subjects of God's kingdom
of grace: their souls shall be alike fed by him and saved. John Mayer.
Verse 29. "All they that go down to the dust;" either
those who stand quivering on the brink of the grave, or those who occupy the
humble, sequestered walks of life. As the great and opulent of the earth are
intended in the first clause, it is not by any means unnatural to suppose that
the image of going "down to the dust," is designed to represent
the poor and mean of mankind, who are unable to support themselves, and to
provide for their multiplied necessities. If the grave be alluded to, as is
thought by many eminent divines, the beautiful sentiment of the verse will be,
that multitudes of dying sinners shall be brought to worship Jehovah, and that
those who cannot save or deliver themselves shall seek that shelter which none
can find but those who approach the mercy-seat. "Rich and poor," as
Bishop Horne observes, "are invited"--that is, to "worship
God;" "and the hour is coming when all the race of Adam, as many as
sleep in the 'dust' of the earth, unable to raise themselves from thence,
quickened and called forth by the voice of the Son of Man, must bow the knee to
King Messiah." John Morison.
Verse 29. To be brought to the dust, is, at first, a circumlocution or
description of death: "Shall the dust praise thee, shall it declare thy
truth?" Psalm 30:9. That is, shall I praise thee when I am among the
dead? "What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the
pit?" Not that profit, sure, I cannot bring thee in the tribute of
praise when my life's gone out. Secondly, to be brought to the dust is a
description of any low and poor condition. "All they that be fat upon
the earth" (that is, the great and mighty), "shall eat and
worship" "all they that go down to the dust" (that is,
the mean and base), "shall bow before him." As if he had said,
rich and poor, high and low, the king and the beggar, have alike need of
salvation by Jesus Christ, and must submit unto him, that they may be saved,
for, as it there follows, "none can keep alive his own soul."
The captivity of the Jews in Babylon is expressed under those notions of death,
and of dwelling in the dust (Isaiah 26:19); to show how low, that no
power but his who can raise the dead, could work their deliverance. Joseph
Verse 29. "None can keep alive his own soul." And yet
we look back to our conversion, and its agonies of earnestness, its feelings of
deep, helpless dependence--of Christ's being absolutely our daily, hourly need
--supplier--as a past something--a stage of spiritual life which is over.
And we are satisfied to have it so. The Spirit of God moved over our deadness,
and breathed into us the breath of life. My soul became a living soul.
But was this enough? God's word says, No. "None can keep alive his
own soul." My heart says, No. Truth must ever answer to truth. I cannot
(ah! have I not tried, and failed?) I cannot keep alive my own soul. We
cannot live upon ourselves. Our physical life is kept up by supply from
without--air, food, warmth. So must the spiritual life. Jesus gives, Jesus
feeds us day by day, else must the life fade out and die. "None can keep
alive his own soul." It is not enough to be made alive. I must be fed,
and guided, and taught, and kept in life. Mother, who hast brought a living babe
into the world, is your work done? Will you not nurse it, and feed it, and care
for it, that it may be kept alive? Lord, I am this babe. I live indeed,
for I can crave and cry. Leave me not, O my Saviour. Forsake not the work of
thine own hands. In thee I live. Hold me, carry me, feed me, let me abide in
thee. "For thy kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the
nations. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go
down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own
soul." In our work for God, we need to remember this. Is not the
conversion, the arousing of sinners, the great, and with many, the sole aim in
working for God? Should it be so? Let us think of this other work. Let us help
to keep alive. Perhaps it is less distinguished, as it may be less
distinguished to feed a starving child than to rescue a drowning man. But let us
walk less by sight, more by faith. Let us not indeed neglect to call to life
those who are spiritually dead. But Oh! let us watch for the more hidden needs
of the living--the fading, starving, fainting souls, which yet can walk and
speak, and cover their want and sorrow. Let us be fellow-workers with God in all
his work. And with a deep heart-feeling of the need of constant life
supplies from above, let us try how often, how freely, we may be made the
channels of those streams of the "water of life,"--for "none can
keep alive his own soul." Mary B. M. Duncan, in "Bible Hours."
Verse 29. Having considered the vastness and glory of the prospect,
our Lord next contemplates the reality and minuteness of its accomplishment. He
sets before his mind individual cases and particular facts. He appears to look
upon this picture of the future as we do upon a grand historical painting of the
past. It seems natural to gaze with silent admiration on the picture as a whole,
then to fix the attention on particular groups, and testify our sense of the
general excellence, by expatiating on the truth and beauty of the several parts.
Verse 30. "A seed shall serve him." This figurative
expression signifies Christ and his people, who yield true obedience to
God--they are called by this name in a spiritual and figurative, but most
appropriate sense. The idea is taken from the operations of the husbandman who
carefully reserves every year a portion of his grain for seed. Though it be
small, compared with all the produce of his harvest, yet he prizes it very
highly and estimates it by the value of that crop which it may yield in the
succeeding autumn. Nor does he look only to the quantity, he pays particular
regard to the quality of the seed. He reserves only the best, nay, he will put
away his own if spoiled, that he may procure better. The very smallest quantity
of really good seed, is, to him, an object of great desire, and if by grievous
failure of crops, he should not be able to procure more than a single grain, yet
would he accept it thankfully, preserve it carefully, and plant it in the most
favourable soil. Such is the source from which the metaphor is taken. John
Verse 31. "And shall declare his righteousness." The
occupation of the seed is to "declare," to testify from their
own experience, from their own knowledge and convictions, that grand subject,
theme, or lesson, which they have learned. . . . They will declare the
righteousness of God the Holy Ghost in his convictions of sin, in his reproofs
of conscience, in his forsaking of the impenitent, and in his abiding with the
believer. And in a special manner, they will declare the righteousness of God
the Son, during his human life, in his sufferings, and death, as man's surety,
by which he "magnified the law, and made it honourable" (Isaiah
42:21), and on account of which they are able to address him by this name,
"The Lord our Righteousness." (Jeremiah 23:6.) John Stevenson.
Verse 31. "A people that shall be born." What is
this? What people is there that is not born? According to my apprehensions I
think this is said for this reason--because the people of other kings are
formed by laws, by customs, and by manners; by which, however, you can never
move a man to true righteousness: it is only a fable of righteousness, and a
mere theatrical scene or representation. For even the law of Moses could form
the people of the Jews unto nothing but unto hypocrisy. But the people of this
King are not formed by laws to make up an external appearance, but they are
begotten by water and by the Spirit unto a new creature of truth. Martin
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Whole Psalm. The volume entitled "Christ on the Cross," by
Rev. J. Stevenson, has a sermon upon every verse. We give the headings, they are
suggestive. Verse 1. The Cry. 2. The Complaint. 3. The Acknowledgment.
4-6. The Contrast. 6. The Reproach. 7. The Mockery. 8. The Taunt. 9, 10. The
Appeal. 11. The Entreaty. 12, 13. The Assault. 14. The Faintness. 15. The
Exhaustion. 16. The Piercing. 17. The Emaciation. 17. The Insulting Gaze. 18.
The Partition of the Garments and Casting Lots. 19-21. The Importunity. 21. The
Deliverance. 22. The Gratitude. 23. The Invitation. 24. The Testimony. 25. The
Vow. 26. The Satisfaction of the Meek; the Seekers of the Lord Praising Him; the
Eternal Life. 27. The Conversion of the World. 28. The Enthronement. 29. The
Author of the Faith. 30. The Seed. 31. The Everlasting Theme and Occupation. The
Finish of the Faith.
Verse 1. The Saviour's dying cry.
Verse 2. Unanswered prayer. Enquire the reason for it;
encourage our hope concerning it; urge to continue in importunity.
Verse 3. Whatever God may do, we must settle it in our minds that he
is holy and to be praised.
Verse 4. God's faithfulness in past ages a plea for the present.
Verses 4, 5. Ancient saints.
1. Their life. "They trusted."
2. Their practice. "They cried."
3. Their experience. "Were not confounded."
4. Their voice to us.
Verses 6-18. Full of striking sentences upon our Lord's suffering.
Verse 11. A saint's troubles, his arguments in prayer.
Verse 20. "My darling." A man's soul to be very dear
Verse 21 (first clause). "Lion's mouth." Men
of cruelty. The devil. Sin. Death. Hell.
Verse 22. Christ as a brother, a preacher, and a precentor.
Verse 22. A sweet subject, a glorious preacher, a loving relationship,
a heavenly exercise.
Verse 23. A threefold duty, "praise him, "glorify
him;" "fear him;" towards one object, "the
Lord;" for three characters, "ye that fear him, seed of Jacob,
seed of Israel," which are but one person.
Verse 23. Glory to God the fruit of the tree on which Jesus died.
Verse 24. A consoling fact in history attested by universal
Verse 24. (first clause). A common fear dispelled.
Verse 25. Public praise.
personal participation--"My praise."
fitting object--"of thee."
special source--"from thee."
appropriate place--"in the great congregation."
Verse 25. (second clause). Vows. What vows to make, when
and how to make them, and the importance of paying them.
Verse 26. Spiritual feasting. The guests, the food, the host,
and the satisfaction.
Verse 26. (second clause). Seekers who shall be singers.
Who they are? What they shall do? When? and what is the reason for expecting
that they shall?
Verse 27. (last clause). Life everlasting. What lives?
Source of life. Manner of life. Why for ever? What occupation? What comfort to
be derived from it?
Verse 27. Nature of true conversion, and extent of it under the reign
of the Messiah. Andrew Fuller.
Verse 27. The universal triumph of Christianity certain.
Verse 27. The order of conversion. See the Exposition.
Verse 28. The empire of the King of kings as it is, and as it shall
Verse 29. Grace for the rich, grace for the poor, but all lost without
Verse 29 (last clause). A weighty text upon the vanity of
Verse 30. The perpetuity of the church.
Verse 30 (last clause). Church history, the marrow of all
Verse 31. Future prospects for the church.
1. Conversions certain.
2. Preachers promised.
3. Succeeding generations blest.
4. Gospel published.
5. Christ exalted.
WORK UPON THE TWENTY-SECOND PSALM
Christ on the Cross: An Exposition of the Twenty-second Psalm. By the
Rev. JOHN STEVENSON, Perpetual Curate of Curry and Gunwalloe, Cornwall. 1842.