Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cuts and splits wood on the earth.…
: — The text presents in a very vivid way an aspect of death most familiar, but most striking, and it also expresses the thoughts and the earnest prayer that rise in a soul at such a sight. You have walked in an old graveyard and seen the bones scattered at the grave's mouth. There are few whom this sight does not make to think. You remember Hamlet in the graveyard with the skull of Yorick, the king's jester. What a pathos and tenderness are there. With that text in his hand, how touchingly he discourses on our poor fleeting human life. "The flashes of merriment that set the table in a roar" — "the infinite jest" — all come to this. The bones that were so carefully nurtured, that cost so much, are knocked and tossed about and thrown into a heap. Every man who contemplates such a spectacle — bones strewn about as if they were but chips and sticks where men had been chopping wood, must either go away with a dangerous sense of the vanity and worthlessness of human life, or with a spirit made intense, and raised in prayer to the infinite God.
I. OUR UNION WITS PAST GENERATIONS AND THE INTENSE REALITY OF OUR PRESENT LIFE. Observe the use of the word "our." He looks at the bones and speaks as if they were partly his own, as if they belonged partly to living men. He identifies himself with those past generations. This human life that we are living now is not a new thing. It is old, very old. I understand all the struggles and wide experience of the past, for it is all in me. That history is mine. It seems as if I had lived then and been a part of all this. It is good for us go look back over the past and feel our identity with our race. It makes us humble. It makes us tender and kindly. It fills us with compassion for the human family. We are ashamed at times and vexed and grieved; but we are also elevated and enlarged as we look back over the generations that are gone. They are gone, and how fleeting they have all been. It is like a dream to think of all these past generations of men. Their existence seems a shadow. But let us not think our present life shadowy. No; that is not the lesson which the writer of the psalm learnt from the scattered bones. He learnt intensity. "But mine eyes are toward Thee, O God the Lord. In Thee is my trust. Leave not my soul destitute." Life is new and momentous to us. It is as momentous as if it had never been lived before and would never be lived again. When you think steadily of God, it seems as if there were none but God and you standing over against each other. The man who keeps his eyes directed toward God feels life new and fresh, although the bones of many generations are scattered around him.
II. IN THE TEXT WE SEE THE LITTLENESS AND THE GREATNESS OF MAN.
1. The scattered bones proclaim the littleness of man. These are the remains of thinkers, poets, kings, lovers of men, great inventors, famous disputers.
2. Yet, when I think of man in his weakness turning his eyes to the infinite God; when I reflect that man can think of a boundless and perfect One, that man looks to Him, that he has an eye that sees the invisible God: that he claims the society of the Maker of all worlds, and is restless till he finds it; when I reflect on man as putting his trust in the living God amidst all the mysteries of time; when I think of man standing over the grave where his dearest ones lie, where the ruins of his hopes are, and saying there, "I believe in God; I trust in God; He will not leave my soul destitute"; then I see the greatness of man.
III. A MELANCHOLY PROSPECT AND A RISING ABOVE IT.
1. The prospect before us all is this: by and by our bones will be scattered about the grave's mouth. By and by you are forgotten, and the white relics that are thrown up by the shovel of the grave-digger are quite unknown. They have no name. Does it not seem like a horrid dream that we should be all coming to this? Surely it cannot be true. We all know too well that it is true and no dream.
2. There is just one remedy, one antidote, one means of conquering all thoughts of this kind; and the text presents it. "Mine eyes are unto Thee, O God the Lord." I see a glorious Being, infinite, eternal, everywhere present, absolute love and truth and holiness. The fact that I can think of this Being of itself inspires hope and courage. It cannot be that the eyes that look to Him can moulder into dust. Eyes that cannot but look to Him are not doomed to grow dim. He Himself has invited me to look to Him, and the sight of His face gives me joy.
(J. Leckie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.