O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.
Spare me! This prayer is common. From many a bed of sickness, and in the time of weakness and of fear, the mournful cry goes up to heaven. Often there is a gracious answer (Isaiah 38:2, 5). But the mercy of God is not always remembered, nor the vows made in trouble performed. The words suggest -
I. THAT DEATH IS AN EVENT OF DREAD SIGNIFICANCE.
1. It puts an end to our present mode of being. "Be no more." Yet a little while, and what a change! You will see no more with those eyes; your heart will cease to beat; and your spirit, disengaged from the flesh, will wing its flight to other worlds. What your experiences will be at the awful moment of dissolution, and afterwards, none can tell. All is mystery.
2. It separates us from all we hold dear on earth. "Go hence." This world is dear to us. Here we were born, and have lived; here our minds have been formed and powers developed; here we have tasted the delights of knowledge, of friendship, and of personal achievement; here, in a word, has been our home. To separate from all, to have no more anything to do with what goes on under the sun, is a distressing thing. No wonder if we recoil with pain.
3. It settles for ever our spiritual destiny. "Before I go hence." Life is associated with hope, death with doom. So long as a man lives, there is a possibility of amendment. Errors may be corrected, follies retrieved, evil courses abandoned; but let death come, and it will end all this. Any event that affects our future is important, but this is the most important of all.
"Great God, on what a slender thread
Hang everlasting things!
The eternal states of all the dead
Upon life's feeble strings!" No wonder, if in thought of these things, we should cry, "Spare me!"
II. THAT GOOD MEN SOMETIMES SHRINK FROM DEATH UNDER A SENSE OF WEAKNESS AND UNPREPAREDNESS. Some are prepared to die. But such a state of mind is rare and inconstant. The best of men have their times of misgiving, as well as their moments of exulting faith. Doubting Castle and the Valley of the Shadow of Death lie in the pilgrim's path, as well as the Delectable Mountains. Even the sweet Land of Beulah is bounded by the cold flood and the swellings of Jordan. The moods of the soul vary. He who says to-day, "I will fear no evil" (Psalm 23:4), may cry to-morrow from the dust, "Oh, spare me!" Paul had a large experience. He had been "in deaths oft" (2 Corinthians 11:23); his heart had been well-nigh broken by separations (Acts 20:37); his whole soul shuddered at the thought of being a "castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:27); but what chiefly moved him in the thought of death was sin. "The sting of death is sin." And this has been the feeling of many, and therefore the cry is not merely," Spare me!" but, "that I may recover strength."
1. Strength is needed to face death with fortitude.
2. Strength is lost through sin. There is the action of the body (ver. 11) and of the affections (ver. 12), but worst of all is sin. It clouds the mind, burdens the conscience, racks the heart, darkens the future (Psalm 31:10).
3. Strength may be recovered if sought in due time. "Before I go hence." To everything there is a season. Hence the urgency of the prayer. Life should be used for invigoration of the soul. To be ready we must have our lamps burning. We all receive warnings Perhaps we have been "spared" already. Therefore take heed. It is as we can say, "To me to live is Christ," that we can add, "To die is gain."
III. THAT IN THE SOUL'S DARKEST HOUR GOD IS A SUFFICIENT REFUGE. "Spare me!" Why? Is it that you are young, that you have bright hopes, that you are concerned about those near and dear to you, that you have the consciousness of powers unused, or that you desire to do more for God than you have yet done? The great thing is - Are you seeking this high boon for yourself or for God? If you put your hand in the fire, or cast yourself before the railway car, what boots it to cry, "Spare me"? We can only be spared, in the truest and best sense, by being brought nearer God. God is the Lord of life (1 Samuel 2:6; Revelation 1:18); God is very pitiful and of tender mercy (Exodus 33:11); God is mighty to save. Let us, therefore, trust in him. "Spare me!" - if not the body, the soul; if not to longer life on earth, to eternal life with thee in heaven. - W.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.
WEB: Oh spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go away, and exist no more." For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David.