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Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.
I. Man’s sufferings are sometimes overwhelmingly great. This shows--
1. The abnormal state of man. Was man made to suffer thus? No; man suffers because he has transgressed.
2. The blessedness of Christ’s mission. He came to “heal the broken-hearted,” and to “wipe away all tears from off all faces.”
II. Man’s sufferings are often inflicted by his fellow-creatures. The sufferer here ascribes his sufferings, not to God, or accident, or fate, but to men.
1. To the malice, the multitude, and the might of his enemies. These enemies, he says--
(1) Compelled him to restore what he “took not away.” They extorted from him by violence that which was his, not theirs. He does not say what it was, whether it was his time, his labour, or his property. Men are often doing this, taking from others that to which they have no right.
(2) Persecuted him on account of his religion. “For Thy sake I have borne reproach,” etc. How often in the history of the world do we find men inflicting sufferings upon their fellows in consequence of their religious convictions!
2. To the alienation of his most intimate relations and friends.
3. To the contempt he received from all on account of his religious zeal.
III. Man’s sufferings often reveal the moral weakness of his character. If, as here, you find a man parading his sufferings, moaning and groaning about his afflictions, he is not a man of strong moral character. Christ, instead of parading His sufferings, seldom even mentioned them.
IV. Man’s sufferings occasionally lead him to God. They did so now in the case of David. (Homilist.)
The good man’s foes
I. The good man has foes.
1. The devil.
2. Wicked men readily learn the craft of their master.
II. The good man’s foes are pertinacious.
1. They act in concert--take counsel how they may best succeed in their designs; encourage one another, to make their plans most effective.
2. They are never satisfied. Satan, not content to rob Job of his property, must needs seek to destroy his children. The trouble of the Christian, so far from moving his enemies to compassion, do but instigate to fresh deeds of iniquity.
III. The good man’s enemies are cowardly.
1. Slander is one of the commonest weapons by which they seek to destroy. It is referred to several times by David. It is the sharp “sword,” the poisoned “arrow,” the “bitter words.”
2. Misrepresentation is another very common mode of attacking the godly. “They Search out iniquities.” This seems to suggest that when faults cannot readily be found, they are sought diligently, until some trivial defect is discovered that may be magnified into a deadly sin. Instead of setting a watch upon themselves, they watch others, and looking for faults they will invent them rather than be disappointed.
IV. The good man’s enemies are laborious. They are “workers of iniquity.” Men who are too idle to do any good thing will toil at an evil one. Many men work far harder to go to hell than would suffice, humanly speaking, to carry them to heaven. If half the diligence devoted to works of evil were but given to the service of God, how greatly would the aspect of the world be changed. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
I restored that which I took not away.
Christ restoring what He took not away
I. What it is which was taken away, and from whom.
1. Glory was taken from God.
(1) The glory of God shining forth in the holy government of His reasonable creatures, was taken away by sin.
(2) That glory which we are tied to give to God, was withheld by sin.
2. There was righteousness, holiness, and happiness taken from man.
II. Wherein it appears that Christ did not take these things from either.
1. It is plain, as to God, that He never took any glory from Him; for He never did anything dishonourable or offensive to God (John 8:29).
2. It is also clear, as to man, that He took not away any righteousness, holiness, or happiness from him (Isaiah 53:9; Acts 10:33; Luke 9:56).
3. The Scripture therefore speaks of Christ’s being cut off, but not for Himself (Daniel 9:26). Though He suffered in His own Person, He did not suffer on His own account (1 Peter 3:18).
4. The innocency of Christ was conspicuous in His very sufferings (Acts 13:28).
III. How did Christ restore those things which He took not away? In general, by His active and passive obedience; for both are concerned in this matter, and contribute their joint influence towards the great and blessed work of which I am now speaking.
IV. Why did Christ make it His work to restore what He took not away?
1. It was a necessary work, a work which must be done, in order to His being a Saviour.
2. It was a work impossible for any mere creature to do; so that if Christ did not, it could not have been done by any person besides Him.
3. Christ was ordained of God to this work, and in that respect there was a necessity of His accomplishing it (John 9:4).
4. The infinite love of Christ to sinners did sweetly incline Him to this work. (T. Cruse.)
A robbery committed, and restitution made, both to God and man
I. Premise two or three things for clearing of the way.
1. When God made man, He bestowed all manner of goods upon him, that were necessary to make him live comfortably here, and to make him eternally happy hereafter.
2. Satan, by this time, having fallen, like a star, from heaven to earth, filled with envy, enters into a resolution, if it were possible, to commit a robbery upon man, and to strike at God’s sovereignty through man’s side; and accordingly--
3. Satan prevailed upon our first parents, and beguiled them; and thereby the covenant of works was broken.
4. The covenant of works being broken, and man having entered into a rebellion against God with the devil, he justly forfeited all the spiritual and temporal goods that God bestowed upon him, and likewise lost his title to a happy eternity, and became the enemy’s vassal; and thus the enemy robbed him of all the goods that God bestowed upon him.
5. The eternal Son of God having a delight in the sons of men, and beholding them in this miserable plight, enters upon a resolution that He will take on man’s nature, and that He will in man’s nature be avenged upon that serpent that hath beguiled our first parents, and spoiled them of their patrimony. And accordingly, in the fulness of time, He comes, and is manifested to destroy the works of the devil, and to recover all the stolen goods.
II. Inquire into the robbery that was committed by sin and Satan, both upon God and upon man.
1. To begin with the robbery that was committed upon God. It was the devil’s great drift, by tempting man to sin against God, to rob God of His glory.
2. Inquire into the goods that wore stolen from man by sin and Satan. Hero we may see a melancholy scene. The glory of the human nature was quite marred by sin. Sin hath robbed us of heaven, and made us heirs of hell and wrath. In short, sin hath disordered and disjointed the whole creation.
III. Make it appear that our glorious Immanuel makes a restitution of what was taken away both from God and from man. He restores unto God His due, and restores unto man his loss.
IV. Inquire into the time when Christ did all this: when did He restore that which He took not away? (Galatians 4:4-5).
V. Inquire into the reasons of the doctrine. Why was it that our Lord restored what He took not away? Why did He restore these goods that sin and Satan took away both from God and man?
1. Because it was His Father’s pleasure.
2. Because it contributed very much to enhance His mediatorial glory.
3. Because of His regard to the holy law of God.
4. Because His delights were with the sons of men.
5. That He might “still the enemy and the avenger,” that is, the devil.
1. Is it so that Christ restores what He took not away? Then, hence see, what a generous Kinsman we have of Him; He never took away anything from us, and yet He restores all to the spoiling of His own soul, and pouring it out unto death.
2. This doctrine serves to let us see into the meaning of (Romans 8:3). “He condemned sin.” Why, or how did He it? Why, sin is a robber, and is it not just that a robber should be condemned to die? Well, Christ condemns sin, and yet He saves the sinner.
3. Hence see what a criminal correspondence it is that the generality of the children of men have with sin. It is dangerous to haunt and harbour robbers; and yet will you keep a robber in your bosom.
4. If sin be such a robber of God and man, then see how reasonable the command is, to crucify sin, and to mortify the deeds of the body.
5. From this doctrine see what way Christ takes in order to carry on His mediatory work of making peace betwixt God and man.
6. From the doctrine we may likewise see, that the believer in Christ is the wisest man in the world, however the world may look upon him as a fool. Why? because he comes to Christ, and gets restitution of all the losses he suffered either by the sin of the first Adam or his own.
7. See the folly and madness of the sin of unbelief (John 5:40).
8. See the folly of the legalist, that goes about to make restitution to God, and to himself, of what was taken away by sin. But consider, that “by the works of the law no flesh living can be justified”; you will never repair your own losses, nor the dishonour you have done to God, but only by coming to Christ, who is “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (E. Erskine.)
O God, Thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from Thee.
God’s knowledge of sin
I. God must have knowledge of man’s sin. Because--
1. He is infinite in knowledge.
2. He is everywhere present.
3. He is everywhere perceiving.
4. He is ever reading the heart.
5. He knows what is yet to be.
You are all books, and every page is open to the eye of the great Reader, who reads you from the first letter to the last. There is nothing which any man here can possibly conceal from God. It is so, it must be so; if God be God, He knows my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from Him.
II. Now, let us just turn the current of our thought while I ask, concerning God’s knowledge of man’s sin, after what fashion is it? If God knows, in what particular way does He know?
1. It is complete knowledge; the Lord knows us altogether. I must confess that I cower down beneath that thought. That the Lord should know my public service is sufficiently awe-striking; but that He should know my private thoughts, ah! this sinks me into the very dust!
2. It is the knowledge of a holy being.
3. It is an abiding knowledge.
4. It is an eternal knowledge.
III. What then?
1. How frivolous must those be who never think about it t
2. What care this ought to work in us!
3. What holy trembling this ought to put in us! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Let not them that wait on Thee, O Lord, be ashamed for my sake.
Esprit de corps
This poet is afraid that if he misbehaves himself people will exalt themselves against God, and say with mocking laughter, These are Thy saints! Even whilst he is sinking he would wish to do it with some grace. Extinction itself may be crowned with a species of honour. Death need not be humiliation. There are men who have so died as to have lived a thousand lives in their last combat. Have we lost esprit de corps? Do you not remember that we are involved in the way in which you bear your troubles? If you do not play the man now the enemy will laugh at the whole Church; he will gladly take you up as a specimen of God’s sustaining grace, and say, This is the man who prayed: how chopfallen now I see how that once proud chin hangs on the collapsing breast: this is prayer! If I do not bear myself heroically in the storm, the enemy will have a right to laugh at this pulpit, and to put his foot of contempt upon this whole ministry. If I play the atheist in the darkness, then may men justly meek what I endeavour to say in the light. The mockery will be directed against God, not against men. Moses felt this; he said, If they go back, they will say Thou thyself wert not able to take us forward; and if saints do not play the hero in the time of real combat and desperate difficulty, when everything is going down, when business is dull, when enemies are strong, when health is quaking, people will blame not them only but God, and say, This is the doing of the Lord; why, what advantage is it that we pray to Him? or what profit have we in waiting upon God? the saint and the dog die in the same agony. Thus we recover ourselves, under the blessing of God, by thinking of others. (J. Parker, D. D.)
For Thy sake I have borne reproach.
Suffering torture for Christ’s sake
An echo of the Boxer risings in China was heard in the address of Dr. Whitfield Guinness. In July, 1900, the little party with which he was connected was shut up in Honan, and as the speaker detailed those days of anxiety until deliverance came, many were deeply impressed. After leaving the city, thirteen days were spent hiding in the cabin of a boat. Time after time the boat was examined by the customs officials, who, in the order of God’s providence, failed to detect the presence of Englishmen. To indicate the genuineness of the Honanese converts, the speaker told a pathetic story. In a few weeks after one of the converts had been baptized, the Boxers pillaged his home, and securing the man’s hands behind him, drew him up by a rope to the roof. While thus suspended the man was asked to recant. On refusing, the poor fellow was subjected to horrible tortures and suffering. Some time afterwards Dr. Guinness put to him the question, “Was it worth while to suffer like that for Jesus’ sake?” The man replied, “Worth while! I would go through it all again to-morrow for His sake.”
For the zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up, and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me.
A suffering Saviour
Nearly all the prophecies of Scripture admit of and require a threefold interpretation.
1. They tell of some event or experience in the life Of the writer.
2. Then of like experience in the people of God.
3. And chiefly of what in yet higher degree our Lord Himself should suffer or accomplish. And these remarks apply to this prophecy. Twice in the New Testament it is applied to our Lord, and we may take the words as those of the Lord Himself. Now, it is good for us oftentimes to stand by our Saviour’s cross and to contemplate His sufferings. And this is what the text leads us to do. For it shows us--
I. The motive by which He was sustained. “The zeal of Thine house,” etc. We must not limit these words to His expulsion of the traders from the temple at Jerusalem, but they tell of the spirit which ever animated Him. And God’s “house” does not mean merely a building such as the temple, but the world at large, the race of mankind whom Christ came to save. His “zeal,” therefore, means that consuming desire to preserve and save them. For this He became incarnate, and lived, suffered and died. His zeal devoured Him, wore away His vigour so that “His visage was marred more,” etc. Hence, also, He became “a stranger to His brethren and an alien,” etc.
II. The sufferings themselves. “The reproaches of them that,” etc. We must not limit our idea of these sufferings to that which was outward, such as is represented in the well-known picture, “Ecce Homo.” But it was the soul of our Lord that suffered, Could not but suffer. For He was that “holy one,” and to such the ever present sight of sin, the infinite dishonour done to God, and the ruin wrought upon men, could not but have been far more terrible than any outward pain. Hence He was consumed with desire to vindicate the honour of God and to save men. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Service here and hereafter
(with Revelation 7:15):--These passages of God’s Word, significant in the several truths they contain when standing apart, but still more significant in their contrast when placed side by side, express and interpret the two most prominent phases of the highest form of Christian life and activity. It is not every servant of God who could use them with propriety, but only that man who has not only lived but died for the Master, whose spirits have been burdened, and whose life has been cut off prematurely by unwonted zeal and unvarying labours for the Saviour. The service which has been in the midst of much imperfection and weariness, death may and must end; but the service which shall be without imperfection and without change, it may not and cannot touch. The words, used in such a light, are eloquent with the simplicity of truth, and full of the hope of immortality.
I. First, look at the deep underlying agreement amid the differences these words suggest. Both speak of service, yes, and of zealous service, and both speak of service for God.
1. There is a consecration unto God amid the sin and the impurity of earth, even as there is a consecration amid the holiness and beatific blessedness of heaven. It may seem to the angels of God, looking down in wonder, a toil amid darkness, as in some murky mine, in which men grope while there is daylight above; none the less does it yield precious jewels and gold and silver to the crown of the Messiah and to the kingdom of God. And He, the Lord of all, counts it as His work. He has put especial honour upon it. He has taken upon Himself this service of toil, when He became a Man of Sorrows, knowing what weariness was in the midst of labour. And it was when the disciples saw His zeal for God, they remembered it was written, “The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.”
2. But again, our text carries us on to glance at the occupation of heaven. That also is a service, and a ceaseless service. Not rest, as some would interpret that word, but work--the work which is rest, the balanced activity which brings its own enjoyment and blessedness. To live, “more life and fuller,” that is what we want. Heaven would be no heaven unless it gave room to develop, to expand like flowers in the sunshine, in one word, to live. We have had enough of lethargy, enough of sloth, of unused powers in this world; we long to do something in the next. And that conception of heaven is highest which sees it a sphere of loyal service unto God, a realm of ceaseless activities, where they labour amid their rest, and rest in their labours, and find His presence to be, in all, an infinite and everlasting joy.
II. Consider the contrast suggested in the text. The second phrase found here is taken from that gathering around the throne of the Lamb which included the sealed of the twelve tribes of Israel, and a great multitude out of every nation and kindred, and peoples, and tongues. David’s tribe was there, for twelve thousand were sealed of the tribe of Judah, and doubtless David was there. The man who had said, “The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up,” who had borne reproach for God until it had eaten, like a canker, into his very soul, stands with that multitude before the throne, serving day and night. Wondrous change! It is the same service, yet how different in all its results. The idea is that it is not merely the persecutions and dangers of Christian life which tire out these faithful ones; the very enthusiasm and zeal for Christ’s service may do this. We have the treasure, says Paul, in earthen vessels, and the heavenly often wears out the earthly. There are not only martyrs for Christ, whose bones bleach upon a foreign shore, unsuccessful and unknown, but yonder in the great city you may find those whose ministry, it may be, has been crowned abundantly, and yet who can say with equal truthfulness, “The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.” But to all these comes the same consolation of the future. Heaven stands out to give meaning to earth. The Christian who has realized this twofold aspect of Christian service has climbed to some Pisgah height from which he can see both past and future. It is said that when Cortez led his sailors across the vast continent of South America, after months of toil and sickness, they climbed one of the peaks of the Andes, and saw out there in the distance, far away, the glimmering of the sea. And the men wept for joy at the sight. It was their own native element, the love of their life, their home. Toil there was a pleasure in comparison with this journeying through endless forests and wildernesses, and they wept for joy. So it is with God’s children when they catch sight of that sea of glass mingled with fire, which is before the throne. There is the desire of their hearts, the hope of their life, their treasure and their home. There is the shout of triumph and the song of victory, the rest that shall never end and the service which cannot weary. But, again, we have a further contrast here. In the former text you have the idea of conflict, the evidence of that struggle which is ever going on in the heart of man; the spirit against the flesh, the flesh against the spirit, the soul cramped and hindered in its progress, as in some prison-house struggling to be free, the body worn out and enfeebled by the restless energy of that which is within. It is a state of intense unrest in which that which is best in the man, his zeal for God, is the disturbing element. And against this, in strong contrast, the text places the calm and composure, the serenity of heaven and heavenly service. On the one hand, it is a sea torn and tossed by every wind and wave, boiling and seething as from some internal convulsion; on the other, it is an ocean quiet and peaceful, in whose every movement there is majesty and grandeur. Or, to change the imagery, here it is a morbid spasmodic activity, a life producing death by its very violence, like some untimely plant which springs up too soon and fast, and is withered ere strength and beauty can be developed; yonder it is a maturity which knows neither change nor decay, but is ever green and fair as the seasons roll round, return, and come again. Here the day of labour needs the night of rest, and even then there is left perchance a weariness which slumber may not remove. In heaven they serve Him day and night in His temple without rest. Lastly, I but emphasize one thought, and that by way of making a practical use of all this. It is the important thought which stands connected with the continuity of the Divine life. For the service here, we must never forget, is the beginning of the service which is yonder. They are essentially one and indivisible, and this is necessary to that. Life is the apprenticeship, the school for heaven, necessary not so much, indeed, in this aspect for the work which is done, and the service which is rendered, as that we may learn how to work and how to serve. (W. Baxendale.)
Unquenchable zeal for Christian work
When Stanley found Livingstone in the heart of Africa, he begged the old hero to go home. There seemed to be every reason why he should go back to England. His wife was dead, his children lived in England, the weight of years was pressing upon him, the shortest march wearied him, he was often compelled to halt many days to recover strength after his frequent attacks of prostrating illness. Moreover, he was destitute of men and means to enable him to make practical progress. But, like Paul, none of these things moved him; nor counted he his life dear to himself. “No, no,” he said to Stanley; “to be knighted, as you say, by the Queen, welcomed by thousands of admirers, yes--but impossible. It must not, cannot, will not be. I must finish my task.”
But as for me, my prayer is unto Thee, O Lord, in an acceptable time.
The compassionable, commendable, and censurable
I. The compassionable. The representation which the author here gives of his sufferings, appeals strongly to our pity. Those sufferings are--
1. Great. “Deep waters,” “mine,” “pit.”
2. Varied. Involving reproach, torture, depression.
II. The commendable. What does this suffering man do in his suffering?
1. He goes to God in his distress (Psalms 69:18). Who can deliver us but He? What hand but His can lift us from the “mire” into which we are sinking, can arrest the floods that are rushing on us? Science may mitigate some of our sufferings for a brief period; but it cannot remove any of them, and some it cannot touch. Saintly counsel and sympathy may yield us some succour and support, but God alone can deliver us out of all our sufferings.
2. He pleads His goodness for relief (Psalms 69:16).
III. The censurable. His imprecations (Psalms 69:22-28). “Be bravely revenged,” says old Quarles; “he is below himself who is not above an injury.” (Homilist.)
O God, in the multitude of Thy mercy hear me, in the truth of Thy salvation.
The truth of God’s salvation
I. God’s salvation is a great reality. “The truth of Thy salvation.” There is a substance in it; it is not a shadow, it is not a myth, it is not a mere type or figure of speech, it is a substantial thing, there is a truth in it: “The truth of Thy salvation.”
1. View it in reference to the Lord himself. To God, His salvation is in the highest sense full of grace and truth. If I may venture to speak concerning Him of whom we can know nothing except as He reveals Himself, I may say that the truest and deepest thought of God is for the salvation of His people. This lies in the very centre of His heart; and the drift of His other thoughts and acts is all towards this point.
2. God’s salvation is a great reality to ourselves, as well as to Him. That day when I saw Christ as my soul’s salvation, the great sacrifice for sin was to my soul the most real thing I had ever seen.
II. We have proved it to be so--
1. By our experience of a new life.
2. By our sense of sonship.
3. By our ecstatic joy.
4. We have had Divine support in trouble.
5. God has wrought great deliverances for us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink.
The believer sinking in the mire
Many rivers, and especially the Nile, have on their banks deep deposits of black mud, and it is most perilous for any who have the misfortune to fall into it. The more they struggle to get out the deeper they sink. Travellers tell of such incidents. Had David really witnessed such a scene, that speaking of his spiritual sorrows, he said, “I sink in deep mire where there is no standing”? Now, the prayer of our text suggests--
I. That the true believer may be. In the mire and very near sinking.
1. In the mire of unbelief. Even the firmest in faith lose their foothold at times. All manner of doubts crowd into the mind. They are compelled to pray this prayer.
2. Through lack of full assurance of his own interest in Christ.
3. The mire of temporal trouble.
4. Of inward corruption.
5. Of Satanic temptations.
6. Various are the causes of this sad condition. Sometimes it is through our own sin. It is a chastisement upon us. Sometimes to try our faith; or that we may the better glorify God, or to show the natural weakness of the creature, that no flesh may glory in man; or to make heaven sweeter when we enter its pearly gates. But all the while, these sinking ones are really God’s people, for if they were not, they would have no such trouble. The sinner whose element is sin laughs at the weight by which the believer is borne down. The best of God’s saints have known such trouble. Luther did, and John Knox, and many more.
II. But when in such a state they know that their only help is in God. The Bible cannot help, for unbelief bars you off from all its precious promises. Other believers cannot aid you. God alone can.
III. Prayer is the Christian’s never-failing resort. When you cannot use your sword, you may take the weapon of “all-prayer.” That is never forbidden. And it is never futile, it ever has true power. Oh, never let us cease to pray. In asthma you say, “I cannot breathe”; but you must breathe if you would live. And so in the condition told of here you must, though you think you cannot, pray. But let us walk carefully, lest we fall into the mire. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
My broken-hearted Lord
Did it ever occur to you that there is a vivid contrast between Jesus in His death and that of the noble army of martyrs who died for Him? Jesus shrank from death, was perturbed, agitated and dismayed, as the martyrs were not. Their fortitude was such that they extorted from the lips of dark pagans the exclamation, “See how these Christians die.” And their bodily agonies were quite as excruciating as were those of our Lord. Rome sharpened all her devices for cruelty in the tortures she inflicted on the Christian confessors. Now, wherefore this difference between the attitude of Jesus and the martyrs, He so distressed, they so dauntless? Compare Paul’s exultant word when in near prospect of the bloody axe which was soon to smite his life down to the ground, “I am ready, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown”; compare that with the agonized cry of Jesus in Gethsemane, “Oh, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” The grass was bedewed with His tears; and flecked with His bloody sweat. The history of man had not witnessed such a dismay. But all this shows that there was some deep mental struggle, some mysterious foreboding, unusual with suffering man. Evidently His sufferings held their seat in, the mysterious pavilion of His nature. His death was to be the equivalent for the sins of guilty millions, so that the real tragedy of Calvary was impervious to human scrutiny, and was chiefly enacted in the internal agitations of the incarnated God. Hence this startling passage, “Reproach hath broken my heart.” It opens a field of wonders in explanation of the physical cause of our Redeemer’s death. He died on the cross but not by the cross. He died of a broken heart. In proof see--
I. Our Lord’s own testimony respecting His death. He said that it was purely voluntary. How could that have been if He had died as the result of His crucifixion?
II. There was not time for death by crucifixion. No vital organ of the body was touched by the tortures of the cross. Hence death came with terrible slowness. But our Lord suffered on the cross for fewer hours than others have for days.
III. The soldier’s spear proves that Jesus did not die the ordinary death of the crucified. The highest medical authorities tell us that no other mode of death but rupture of the heart can account for the separation into its primitive parts of the blood which flowed from our Lord’s pierced side, while that blood yet continues in the body. Nor could He have died from mental fainting and exhaustion. Our Lord was, evidently, physically strong, and He was in perfect health.
IV. What was it broke His heart? The text says it was “reproach.” No praise is more poignant than that of reproach. To a mind such as that of Jesus it becomes the sorrow of sorrows. But when God inflicts it, in vindication of justice and law, as He did upon Jesus, then what sorrow could be like that? Hence the bitter cry, “My God, My God,” etc. Oh, how should we hate the sin which thus broke the heart of our Lord. (Thomas Armitage, D. D.)
1. If we are not on our guard, seasons of leisure may easily degenerate into seasons of unwholesome brooding and unprofitable unhappiness. The wakeful hours of the night are specially liable to this peril; the soul then almost involuntarily becomes the prey of introspection and self-scorn. Every foolish thing that we ever did, every foolish word that we ever spoke, comes to light again to mock and threaten us. It is all deeply distressing. It is the hour and the power of darkness; the sins and follies of years flash upon us in a judgment night.
2. Much may be done to check the morbid element of our reflective and introspective hours. It is a wise thing to keep the soul interested in large thoughts and causes, to preserve a general intellectual and spiritual sanity by entering heartily into the facts and interests of practical life. But when these dark moods threaten to prevail, is not the grand specific a profound faith in the reality of the Divine grace and forgiveness? “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” Surely the doleful hours of self-reproach are signs of our defective trust in the Divine promise and faithfulness! If our sins are cast into the depths of the sea, to be remembered against us no more for ever, why are we dredging in the depths, bringing up mire, and dirt, and obscure, slimy things far better left in the land of darkness and forgetfulness? (W. L. Watkinson.)
Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into Thy righteousness.
Imprecations in the Psalms
There are tones in the Psalter which seem to jar upon our feelings, which do not naturally or readily adapt themselves to our Christian sentiment. There is an outburst of vindictive joy and exultation in the punishment of the wicked; there is an almost savage delight in the destruction of oppressors, as in Psalms 137:9. There are withering imprecations, so fierce and so elaborately wrought, that it makes one’s blood run cold to see them. How are we to account for these, and to take them on our lips and read them in our services? There are some who would persuade us that they are capable of an application to our spiritual struggles, that the enemies which we have to face are not persecutors and tyrants such as the oppressors of Israel of old, that “we wrestle net with flesh and blood,” etc. Accordingly, the language of the Psalms may be turned, they say, from its original sense into a spiritual channel. But how is it possible to carry out such a principle of interpretation consistently? How in our spiritual warfare may we adopt with definite meaning such words as these: “Set Thou an ungodly man to be ruler over him, and let Satan stand at his right hand”: “Let him be blotted out of the book of the living”? The unnatural strain which must be put upon the words to make them fit into such a system of interpretation ought to have compelled expositors long ago to abandon it. But let us try to look more carefully at the exact position of the psalmists of old, and then, I think, we may arrive at a more natural and truer explanation. The truth is, these words are a striking proof of that intense reality of which I have been speaking. The Jewish psalmists, remember, are the mouthpiece of injured innocence. These are the natural accents of the martyr Church; the afflicted people of God are, almost in every psalm, crushed, borne down because of the oppression of the enemy. Whether the enemies be foreign oppressors or ungodly men who have risen to high office, in any case they have power, and exercise it unscrupulously against those who love God, and it is this which rouses the indignation of the psalmist, and it is an intolerable thing to see high-handed wickedness triumph. It does seem like an arraignment of the very justice of the Most High when the ungodly ravish the poor, and say, as in defiance of the Eternal Majesty, “There is no God,” or “He hideth His face.” The true heart rises up against this: the true heart on the side of God longs to see His righteousness vindicated, and so, even in the calmest moments of their lives, when their hearts are full of God’s goodness, or” when they are lost in the contemplation of nature, they still recur to the same theme, and the 104th psalm, which has won the admiration of so many high intellects for its matchless description of the beauty and splendour of creation, ends with the devout and ardent conviction that sinners will be “consumed out of the earth, and the ungodly shall come to an end.” Still, we must ask ourselves, Are we justified in taking these burning anathemas on our lips? Is such language in harmony with our Christian consciousness? Is there no difference in this respect between the Old Testament and the New? I believe there is. Our Lord Himself tells us there is, and warns us against the excess of a fiery zeal. The spirit of Elijah is not the spirit of Christ. Even the spirits of David and of St. Paul are not the same. And this must be so, because the revelations of God in the Old Testament and in the New are not the same. The law given on Sinai was stern and inexorable in its punishment, and the soldiers of God were sent to execute His judgments with a two-edged sword in their hands, and the prayers and praises of God in their mouths. It was their mission to exterminate all ungodliness and idolatry; but Jesus Christ, the incarnate revelation of God, came in lowliness and meekness, teaching and practising forbearance and forgiveness, enduring contradiction of sinners against Himself, giving His back to the smiter, and His cheek to them that plucked off the hair, not hiding His face from shame and spitting, and as He dies on the cross, interceding for His murderers--“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Unquestionably there is a progress in Divine revelation, and we ought to bear it in mind. What is it that we really learn in the New Testament from passages like those of which I have been speaking? Is it indifference? Is it calm acquiescence in injustice? Is it tolerance of iniquity? Is it coldness towards God and His truth? Most certainly not. It is stern repression, not of our natural sense of justice, but of hatred of individuals; it is to forego personal revenge; it is to bear with personal injuries and wrongs. That is the temper which the Gospel cultivates. I am sure we cannot love God with all our heart unless we hate sin with all our heart; but it is sin we are to hate, not the sinner. Hero we are to draw the distinction which the psalmists of old did not draw and could not draw. But it is wickedness that is to arouse our indignation, not differences of religious opinion. It is the grossest perversion of the psalms when these burning words are turned into a justification of theological hatred and strife. Oh, how sad it is to think that Christian men, knowing that there is all this awful wickedness seething in their midst and around them, can turn aside from the real battle, can so far misunderstand and mistake who their real foes are, that they can give their time and thoughts to angry quarrellings about matters of the most trivial and insignificant importance, about petty questions of ritual and ceremonial and forms of worship, instead of girding up all their energies to go forth into that great battle which is going on in this world between God Himself and all the powers of evil that are arrayed against Him, God give us more of the charity of Jesus Christ our Lord, more of His love in our hearts, a more yearning desire to go forth into the world in order that we may win the world to its true Lord and Master. That is the true charity; that is the true love; that is the true hatred of evil. (Bp. Perowne.)
A renowned professor who, as Germany thinks, has done more for New England theology than any man since Jonathan Edwards, was once walking with a clergyman of a radical faith, who objected to the doctrine that the Bible is inspired, and did so on the ground of the imprecatory psalms. The replies of the usual kind were made, and it was presumed that David expressed the Divine purpose in praying that his enemies might be destroyed, and that he gave utterance only to the natural righteous indignation of conscience against unspeakable iniquity. But the doubter would not be satisfied. The two came at last to a newspaper bulletin, on which the words were written: “Baltimore to be shelled at twelve o’clock.” “I am glad of it,” said the Radical preacher. “I am glad of it.” “And so am I,” said his companion; “but I hardly dare say so, for fear you should say that I am uttering an imprecatory psalm.” (Joseph Cook.)
I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.
Moral states of mind worthy of cultivation
I. A noble resolution (Psalms 69:30). There are many ways of praising God: in our writings, conversations, actions.
II. A sound doctrine (Psalms 69:31). “To obey is better than sacrifice;” so is praise, which is the essence of obedience. Better--
1. Because it is good in itself. Sacrifice is not a virtue, praise is; it is essentially valuable, valuable in all worlds; sacrifice is not. Better--
2. Because it is more universal. Praise is everywhere. It is the music of the universe; sacrifice is not. There are no sacrifices amongst the angels; but praise throbs in every pulse of thought and emotion. Better--
3. Because it is more enduring. Praise will chime through the ages.
III. An encouraging assurance (Psalms 69:32). The man who lives a joyous life of gratitude towards God cannot fail to exert a morally beneficent influence over those with whom he is brought into connection. The accents and actions of a devout life fall on the heart of society as sunbeams and showers. No man can be good without doing good. No man can be happy in the highest sense without brightening the lives of others. The spiritually joyous man wakes his social circle into music.
IV. An exultant devotion (Psalms 69:34). He would have all join him in the great song of praise. True devotion destroys the isolation of the soul.
V. A patriotic hope (Psalms 69:35). (Homilist.)
For the Lord heareth the poor, and despiseth not His prisoners.
“The Lord heareth the poor,” spiritually poor. Let us notice first what this does not mean, in order to get clearly at what it does mean. I make no hesitation in saying that this consciousness of spiritual poverty is one of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, and none can understand it but those who, are experimentally led into the secret. First, it does not mean literal, mental nor moral poverty, but it consists in our sense of our natural, internal, spiritual worthlessness of character. You may be as moral as an angel, and still be destitute of spiritual life in the soul. Therefore the soul not united to Christ is not united to that that can give it access to God; it is not united to that that can bring upon it the approbation of God; it is not united to that that can save it. “He died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.” Therefore, while we prize good works, yet none of these things are of any use in the salvation of the soul; salvation is altogether a secret and another thing. Now, we go on to the literal prisoner. Some good people have been cast into prison through what other people have said about them;--they have been slandered and reproached, and it has been believed, and they have been cast into prison; but the Lord “despiseth not His prisoners.” Joseph was slandered--he was reproached, cast into prison; but the Lord did not despise him; the Lord was with him. And so the Lord turned, in one sense, the dungeon into a paradise; and by and by, when Joseph interpreted the dreams, he was exalted, and realized all that his visions predicted. But there is another class of prisoners, and that is those that get into prison by their own fault. Why, you are never going to say a word in favour of them, are you? Well, if not in favour of them, I can say a word in favour of the Lord; and if He is pleased to say a word in favour of them, I shall not differ from Him. Well, Jonah, you are got into prison, do you think you will ever get out again? You have got there by your own fault. But the Lord watched over him and took care of him, and the sea could not kill him, and the weeds could not kill him. He cried unto the Lord, and the Lord heard him, answered and delivered him, and make him accomplish his mission. So the Lord despiseth not His prisoners, even when they get into prison through their own fault. This is a God worth loving, worth worshipping, worth cleaving to. Samson got into prision by his own fault. You are not going to say a word in favour of him, are you? I would rather die Samson’s death than I would die the death of the most sleek, the most polished Pharisee under the heavens, because they die, in enmity against God; but Samson died in sweet reconciliation to God, and obtained the victory God intended he should. He got into prison by his own fault: did the Lord leave him and despise him? No. When they were making sport of Samson he cried to God, for He heareth the poor; He despised not His prisoner. “Let me be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” He bowed with all his might; the victory was wrought, his soul saved, God glorified; and if we are ashamed of these testimonies of God’s mercy, then I believe God will be ashamed of us. They are His prisoners because they are His people. Let us, then, not boast one over the other, but rather bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (James Wells.)
Joy for prisoners
With what gratitude and joy should these intimations of hope be received by those who are naturally in so miserable a condition! It is a celebrated story that, when Titus Flaminius, at the public games, proclaimed the liberty of Greece, after it had been conquered by the Romans, the auditors were at first lost in a silent amazement, and then burst out into one continued shout for two hours together, “Liberty! Liberty I” Me-thinks such joy, and greater than this, should appear amongst miserable sinners when these proclamations for liberty are made. (T. Doddridge.)
Let the heaven and earth praise Him, the seas, and everything that moveth therein.
The creation praising God
I. On account of what He is in Himself. God is good; intrinsically excellent. His nature is composed of all possible perfections. “God is love,” wisdom, intelligence, goodness, truth, righteousness, mercy.
II. On account of what He is in His relations.
1. To all, He stands in the relation of Creator, Sustainer, and Benefactor.
2. To us, whom He has redeemed, by the sacrificial “death of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ,” He stands in the relation of a Father and Saviour.
III. On account of what He has accomplished. The works of God excel the works of all others. They are, Creation--“He made all things”; Providence--He cares for and governs all things; Redemption--it was God that raised apostate humanity from the ruins of the fall. No works can compete with these. And on their account God will be praised throughout eternity, by an intelligent and redeemed universe.
IV. On account of His wonderful gifts. Life, reason, mind, subjects for thought, Jesus Christ, the Holy Bible, the ministry of reconciliation, the Holy Spirit, the comforts and consolations of religion, and a hope--resting firmly and securely upon the atonement of Calvary--of heaven, when this temporary introductory life shall have passed away.
V. On account of His grand discoveries. Man builds a rightful claim to the admiration, praise, and gratitude of mankind, by the discoveries he makes, and the facts he brings to light. What has God made known? That there is an eternal world; that men are immortal; that noble and abundant provisions have been made for our happiness during the ever-revolving cycles of an eternity to come; the way in which we, and all mankind, may be prepared for the full and unending fruition of the bliss He has prepared for us. (Isaac Evans.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 69". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent