Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim, A Psalm of David. Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.Looking and Not Finding
Read the whole verse; it is like the falling of a great thunder-shower of tears. '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.' Say you that man wrote three thousand years ago? He wrote this morning, he is with us now, he is in our hearts. A man takes his sorrow with him more surely than he takes his shadow.
I. 'I looked for some to take pity.' What a chance they lost! Why, we have all lost our brightest chances. They often occur, on the streets, in hidden places, in habitations shut against the spirit of charity. When we cannot really effect deliverance we might say a kind word. Do you know the effect of a really sincerely kindly word upon a soul that is orphaned, desolate, broken-hearted, that does not think it worth while to live? People do not always want mere money; money is sometimes the very least of the gifts that we can confer. Sometimes all that is wanted is a tone, a little anthem in one little sigh. Life in its most tragic and sensitive moods receives all the ministries, and is glad to be renewed and freshened and cheered by some gentle, fraternal, Divine tone.
II. Then the deliverance is carried beyond the point of pity and comes up to that kind of ministry which is denoted by this word 'comforters,' the whole text reading, 'and for comforters, but I found none'. What is it to comfort? We have explained this a hundred times, and a hundred times have forgotten it To comfort is to give strength, to increase the power of endurance. Paul said, 'I besought the Lord thrice to take away this thorn in the flesh,' and He said, 'My grace is sufficient for thee' and for any number of thorns—let the thorns alone. Did He comfort Paul? Certainly: 'My grace is sufficient for thee'. It is exactly what thou dost most require. The Lord does not always remove the burden. He strengthens the back. That is comfort—with, strength. You can comfort a man so that you will give him courage; he may say, 'I will try again, this man has put things in a new light; I like his way of looking at things; he is a downright sensible man; other men have confounded me by many polysyllables, but this man has told me that if I just get beyond that corner I will see the green fields and hear birds singing in the blue air; I feel as if I could do it.' That is comforting, to tell a man that there is more in him than he suspects. That is comforting, to awaken the latent ability and say, 'Come, arise, the sun is shining broadly in the heavens now, and you are losing your chance; come, stand up; take up thy bed and walk'. That is how Christ comforted people. He said, 'What are you lying there for? rise, and go'. You say, 'Well, if that is possible, I will try'—and to try is to succeed. Faith is the great miracle-worker.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. v. p. 232.
The Building God
It is like Him, from all that we can gather concerning Him from His holy Word. God will put things together, God will give them shape and meaning; God will turn prose into poetry, and earth into heaven. He who built all things is God. But man builds? Yes, in a secondary and remote and very temporary manner. Against all man's building there lies this great testimony, Except the Lord build the house their labour is lost that build it. Distinguish between the outside and the inside of these edifications. Do not be content with the outside, the mechanical and architectural; these ought to be only signs and symbols of great temples and unmeasured heavens. What a lesson is this for the little human builder and the little human architect! He builds his cathedral, and at the top there is just room enough for the birds to halt upon it. It is a poor roof. Yet how many mistake a roof for the sky—the true roof, the firmament blue, starful, abiding. How many people are there who really know the difference between a ceiling and the sky? Even in brick-building and stone-building it is perfectly true, religiously and metaphysically true, that except the Lord build the wall it will fall and crumble back into the dust that was handled atheistically. Nature is on the side of her God. God is architect, and God is builder, and He is building all things on a plan. That is the difference between the building of ignorance and the building of omniscience; between the last and abiding building, and that which is but momentary in its uses. Recall the ideal.
I. Let us hear this colloquy. 'Thou shalt build an altar unto the Lord' (Deuteronomy 27:5). That is the human side. 'The Lord doth build up Jerusalem' (Psalm 147:2). Thus saith man, thus God; and when the man speaks only as the agent of God it is as if God Himself were speaking, then the building is sure to be good, secure, and immovable. Many have taken to altar-building who were not called from God.
'The Lord doth build up Jerusalem,' and that is what He is doing all the time; it is Jerusalem He is building, the city of peace, the city of loveliness, the earthly metropolis that symbolizes a heavenly city. He is a long time about it; even God cannot be fast, rapid; He must work according to something that is in Himself, and would if it were possible be before Himself.
II. 'My son,' said one in the old days, 'build the house of the Lord thy God' (1 Chron. XXII.11)
God takes notice of our building. Sometimes He may, speaking after the manner of men, smile at some of our brick-pile, bricks we have bought, wooden bricks that we shape into little things on the parlour table; and sometimes He burns to see them. He says, 'They shall build, but I will throw down' (Malachi 1:4). There are some winds too high for building in; the very winds seem to come and throw down our scaffolding and the shell of our temple. I wonder what such winds are. Where do all the winds come from? How quiet nature can be!—how tempestuous! It is the same nature; what if it be the same God, and that be the reason of it!
III. Building that has no meaning must be a great disappointment to the builder. 'Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together' (Psalm 122:3)—built as a city that has meaning, built as a city that represents an ideal, built as a cooperative city, one part co-operating with another, answering another, supplementing another. No harum-scarum Jerusalem can God build. He made man, and He made him in His own image. He is still making man. Do not think that man-making work is done. Man advances a little century by century, so little we have no compasses fine enough to measure the progress.
IV. Only those who are right can build. Remember, that this is the Christian position. You can alter it if you please, and take all the consequences. 'Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid.' Think of man excelling God, finding a better foundation, quarrying the earth until he has found a nobler stone for holding the edifice of humanity. 'Built up in our most holy faith.' The Christian education is a process of building; the process is called by the significant name 'edification'.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. v. p. 271.
References.—LXIX. 35.—J. Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. v. p. 271. LXIX.—International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 113. LXX. 5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii. No. 1018. LXX.—International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 124. LXXI. 9.—J. Baldwin Brown, Old Testament Outlines, p. 121. LXXI. 15.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on Passages of the Psalms, p. 198.
Going in the Strength of the Lord
I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.
I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.
They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.
O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.
Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel.
Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.
I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children.
For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.
When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.
I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them.
They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards.
But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.
Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.
Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.
Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.
And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.
Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies.
Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee.
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.
They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.
Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.
Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.
Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents.
For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded.
Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness.
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.
But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.
I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.
The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God.
For the LORD heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners.
Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein.
For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession.
The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein.