Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit fails: hide not your face from me, lest I be like to them that go down into the pit.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Psalm 69:17, with the second, Psalm 102:2,
This dependence on former psalms does not detract from the reality of the feeling expressed by means of these ancient sobs and cries. The contrast of the present with former times (Psalm 143:5) with the recollection of God’s dealings then, joined to thoughtful contemplation of the reality of His power as displayed in His works, makes the psalmist’s anguish the more intense, his longing the more consuming, his supplication the more urgent.Psalm 143:7-9. Hear me speedily — Defer no longer; for my spirit faileth — I am just ready to faint. Hide not thy face — Be not angry with me; do not turn from me as one displeased with me, nor deprive me of the light of thy countenance: if I have thy favour let me know that I have it; lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit — That are dead and buried, of whom there is no hope; or, lest I be discouraged, dejected, and disconsolate. Cause me to hear thy loving-kindness in the morning — Early, seasonable, and speedily, as this phrase is taken Psalm 90:14. Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk — So as to please thee and to secure myself; I flee unto thee to hide me — Without whose care these caves, and rocks, and human helps can give me no protection.
My spirit faileth - My strength is declining. I can hold out no longer. I am ready to give up and die.
Hide not thy face from me - Do not refuse or delay to look favorably upon me; to lift up the light of thy countenance upon me.
Lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit - Margin, "For I am become like." The idea is, Unless thou shalt lift up the light of thy countenance - unless thou shalt interpose and help me, I shall die. The "pit" here refers to the grave. See the notes at Psalm 28:1.
8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I:trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.
9 Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies, I flee unto thee to hide me.
10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God - thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
11 Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name's sake: for thy righteousness' sake bring my soul out of trouble.
12 And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.
"Hear me speedily, o lord: my spirit faileth." If long delayed, the deliverance would come too late. The afflicted suppliant faints, and is ready to die. His life is ebbing out; each moment is of importance; it will soon be all over with him. No argument for speed can be more powerful than this. Who will not run to help a suppliant when his life is in jeopardy? Mercy has wings to its heels when misery is in extremity. God will not fail when our spirit fails, but the rather he will hasten his course and come to us on the wings of the wind. "Hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit." Communion with God is so dear to a true heart that the withdrawal of it makes the man feel as though he were ready to die and perish utterly. God's withdrawals reduce the heart to despair, and take away all strength from the mind. Moreover, his absence enables adversaries to work their will without restraint; and thus, in a second way, the persecuted one is like to perish. If we have God's countenance we live, but if he turns his back upon us we die. When the Lord looks with favour upon our efforts we prosper, but if he refuses to countenance them we labour in vain.
"Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust." Lord, my sorrow makes me deaf, - cause me to hear, there is but one voice that can cheer me - cause me to hear thy lovingkindness; that music I would fain enjoy at once - cause me to hear it in the morning, at the first dawning hour. A sense of divine love is to the soul both dawn and dew; the end of the night of weeping, the beginning of the morning of joy. Only God can take away from our weary ears the din of our care, and charm them with the sweet notes of his love. Our plea with the Lord is our faith; if we are relying upon him, he cannot disappoint us "in thee do I trust" is a sound and solid argument with God. He who made the ear will cause us to hear, he who is love itself will have the kindness to bring his lovingkindness before our minds. "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee." The Great First Cause must cause us to hear and to know. Spiritual senses are dependent upon God, and heavenly knowledge comes from him alone. To know the way we ought to take is exceedingly needful, for how can we be exact in obedience to a law with which we are not acquainted? or how can there be an ignorant holiness? If we know not the way, how shall we keep in it? If we know not wherein we should walk, how shall we be likely to follow the right path? The Psalmist lifts up his soul; faith is good at a dead lift, the soul that trusts will rise. We will not allow our hope to sink, but we will strive to get up and rise out of our daily griefs. This is wise. When David was in any difficulty as to his way he lifted his soul towards God himself, and then he knew that he could not go very far wrong. If the soul will not rise of itself we must lift it, lift it up unto God. This is good argument in prayer, surely the God to whom we endeavour to lift up our soul will condescend to show us what he would have us to do. Let us attend to David's example, and when our heart is low, let us heartily endeavour to lift it up, not so much to comfort as to the Lord himself.
"Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies." Many foes beset us, we cannot overcome them, we cannot even escape from them; but Jehovah can and will rescue us if we pray to him. The weapon of all-prayer will stand us in better stead than sword and shield. "I flee unto thee to hide me." This was a good result from his persecutions. That which makes us flee to our God may be an ill wind, but it blows us good. There is no cowardice in such flight, but much holy courage. God can hide us out of reach of harm, and even out of sight of it. He is our hiding-place; Jesus has made himself the refuge of his people, the sooner, and the more entirely we flee to him the better for us. Beneath the crimson canopy of our Lord's atonement believers are completely hidden; let us abide there and be at rest. In Psalm 143:7 our poet cried, "Hide not thy face," and here he prays, "Hide me." Note also how often he uses the words "unto thee"; he is after his God; he must travel in that direction by some means, even though he may seem to be beating a retreat; his whole being longs to be near the Lord. It is possible that such thirstings for God will be left unsupplied? Never, while the Lord is love.
"Teach me to do thy will." How childlike - "teach me"! How practical - "Teach me to do"! How undivided in obediences - "to do thy will"! To do all of it, let it be what it may. This is the best form of instruction, for its source is God, its object is holiness, its spirit is that of hearty loyalty. The man is hidden in the Lord, and spends his peaceful life in learning the will of his Preserver. A heart cannot long be desolate which is thus docile. "For thou art my God." Who else can teach me as thou canst? Who else will care to do it but my God? Thou hast given me thyself, thou wilt surely give me thy teaching. If I have thee, may I not ask to have thy perfect mind? When the heart can sincerely call Jehovah "my God," the understanding is ready to learn of him, the will is prepared to obey him, the whole man is eager to please him. "Thy spirit is good." God is all spirit and all good. His essence is goodness, kindness, holiness' it is his nature to do good, and what greater good can he do to us than to hear such a prayer as that which follows - "Lead me into the land of uprightness"? David would fain he among the godly, in a land of another sort from that which had east him out. He sighed for the upland meadows of grace, the table-lands of peace, the fertile plains of communion. He could not reach them of himself; he must be led there. God, who is good, can best conduct us to the goodly land. There is no inheritance like a portion in the land of promise, the land of precept, the land of perfectness. He who teaches us must put us into leading-strings, and guide and conduct us to his own dwelling-place in the country of holiness. The way is long, and steep, and he who goes without a divine leader will faint on the journey; but with Jehovah to lead, it is delightful to follow, and there is neither stumbling nor wandering.
"my spirit desireth thee;''
see Sol 5:6; and therefore entreats that God would hear and answer him quickly; or, "make haste to answer" him, and not delay, lest he should be quite gone. Wherefore it follows,
hide not thy face from me; nothing is more desirable to a good man than the "face" or presence of God, the light of his countenance, and sensible communion with him; which may be said to be "hid" when he withdraws his gracious presence, and withholds the discoveries of his love, and the manifestations of his free grace and favour; which he sometimes does on account of sin, and is the case at times of the best of saints; and is consistent with the love of God, though very grieving to them, and therefore here deprecated: the Targum is,
"cause not thy Shechinah to remove from me;''
lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit; either the house of the grave, as the Targum; look wan and pale, become lifeless and spiritless, or like a dead man; for as in the favour of God is life, his absence is as death: or the pit of hell, the pit of destruction; that is, be in such horror and despair, and under such apprehensions of divine wrath, as the damned feel.Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)7. From Psalm 69:17; Psalm 102:2; Psalm 27:9; Psalm 84:2; Psalm 28:1.
Hear me speedily] R.V. Make haste to answer me.
hide not &c.] For if God withdraws the light of His Presence, he will be like the dying or the dead.
7–12. Prayer for speedy hearing, for guidance and deliverance, for the destruction of his enemies. The language is borrowed almost entirely from older Psalms.Verse 7. - Hear me speedily, O Lord. Here the direct supplication of ver. 1 is taken up, and pressed. "Hear me, O Lord; and not only hear me, but that speedily. It is a time for haste" (comp. Psalm 141:1). My spirit faileth; or, "fainteth" (LXX., ἐξέλιπε). Hide not thy face from me (comp. Psalm 27:9; Psalm 69:17; Psalm 102:2). Lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit (see the comment on Psalm 28:1). Job 9:32; Job 22:4; Job 14:3) with him, that He therefore would let mercy instead of justice have its course with him. For, apart from the fact that even the holiness of the good spirits does not coincide with God's absolute holiness, and that this defect must still be very far greater in the case of spirit-corporeal man, who has earthiness as the basis of his origin-yea, according to Psalm 51:7, man is conceived in sin, so that he is sinful from the point at which he begins to live onward - his life is indissolubly interwoven with sin, no living man possesses a righteousness that avails before God (Job 4:17; Job 9:2; Job 14:3., Job 15:14, and frequently).
(Note: Gerson observes on this point (vid., Thomasius, Dogmatik, iv. 251): I desire the righteousness of pity, which Thou bestowest in the present life, not the judgment of that righteousness which Thou wilt put into operation in the future life - the righteousness which justifies the repentant one.)
With כּי (Psalm 143:3) the poet introduces the ground of his petition for an answer, and more particularly for the forgiveness of his guilt. He is persecuted by deadly foes and is already nigh unto death, and that not without transgression of his own, so that consequently his deliverance depends upon the forgiveness of his sins, and will coincide with this. "The enemy persecuteth my soul" is a variation of language taken from Psalm 7:6 (חיּה for חיּים, as in Psalm 78:50, and frequently in the Book of Job, more particularly in the speeches of Elihu). Psalm 143:3 also recalls Psalm 7:6, but as to the words it sounds like Lamentations 3:6 (cf. Psalm 88:7). מתי עולם (lxx νεκροὺς αἰῶνος) are either those for ever dead (the Syriac), after שׁנת עולם in Jeremiah 51:39, cf. בּית עולמו in Ecclesiastes 12:5, or those dead time out of mind (Jerome), after עם עולם in Ezekiel 26:20. The genitive construction admits both senses; the former, however, is rendered more natural by the consideration that הושׁיבני glances back to the beginning that seems to have no end: the poet seems to himself like one who is buried alive for ever. In consequence of this hostility which aims at his destruction, the poet feels his spirit within him, and consequently his inmost life, veil itself (the expression is the same as Psalm 142:4; Psalm 77:4); and in his inward part his heart falls into a state of disturbance (ישׁתּומם, a Hithpo. peculiar to the later language), so that it almost ceases to beat. He calls to mind the former days, in which Jahve was manifestly with him; he reflects upon the great redemptive work of God, with all the deeds of might and mercy in which it has hitherto been unfolded; he meditates upon the doing (בּמעשׂה, Ben-Naphtali בּמעשׂה) of His hands, i.e., the hitherto so wondrously moulded history of himself and of his people. They are echoes out of Psalm 77:4-7, Psalm 77:12. The contrast which presents itself to the Psalmist in connection with this comparison of his present circumsntaces with the past opens his wounds still deeper, and makes his prayer for help all the more urgent. He stretches forth his hands to God that He may protect and assist him (vid., Hlemann, Bibelstudien, i. 150f.). Like parched land is his soul turned towards Him, - language in which we recognise a bending round of the primary passage Psalm 63:2. Instead of לך it would be לך, if סלה (Targum לעלמין) were not, as it always is, taken up and included in the sequence of the accents.
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