Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him…
There is a kind of dialogue between the psalmist and his soul. He, as it were, cuts himself into two halves, and reasons and remonstrates with himself, and coerces himself, and encourages himself; and finally settles down in a peace which unites in one the two discordant elements.
I. THE PSALMIST'S QUESTION TO HIS SOUL, "Why art thou cast down? why art thou disquieted?" There are two things here, apparently, opposite to each other, and yet both of them present in the fluctuating and stormy emotions of the poet. On the one hand is deep dejection. The word employed describes the attitude of a man lying prone and prostrate, grovelling on the ground. "Why art thou cast down?" And yet, side by side with that torpid dejection, there is a noisy restlessness. "`why dost thou mourn and mutter" — as the words might be rendered — "within me?" And these two moods are, if not co-existent, at least so quickly alternating within his consciousness that he has to reason with himself about both. He has fits of deep depression, followed by, and sometimes even accompanied with, fits of restless complaining and murmuring. And he puts to himself the question, "What is it all about?" Now, if we translate this question into a general expression it just comes to this — A man is worth very little unless there is a tribunal in him to which he brings up his feelings and makes them justify their existence, and tell him what they mean by their noise and their complaining. "He that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down and without walls." The affections, the emotions, the feelings of sorrow or of gladness, of dissatisfaction with my lot, or of enjoyment and complacency in it, are excited by the mere presence of a set of external circumstances; but the fact that they are excited is no warrant for their existence. And the first thing to be done in regard to them is to see to it that the nobler man, the man within, the real self should cross-question that other self, and say, "Tell me, have you reason for your being? If not, take yourselves away." "Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me?"
II. THE PSALMIST'S CHARGE TO HIS SOUL. "Hope thou in God." Ah! it is no use to say to a soul, "What is all your agitation about?" unless you can go on to say, "Be quiet in God." Sweep away the things seen and temporal, and put the thing, or rather the Person, Unseen and Eternal, in the front of them. And then comes quiet; and then there comes aspiration. Then energy comes hack to the languid and relaxed limbs, and the man that was lying on his face in the dust starts to his feet, ready for strenuous effort and for noble service. The soul that is to be quickened from its torpor, and to be quieted from its restlessness, must be led to God, and, grasping Him, then it is able to coerce these other feelings, which, apart from Him, have, and ought to have, the field to themselves. Nor must we forget another thought, that this charge of the psalmist to his soul teaches us. The deep-seated and central faith in God which marks a religious man ought to permeate all his nature to the very outskirts and circumference of his being. Even amidst the perturbations of the sensitive nature of the poet-psalmist, his inmost self was resting upon God.
III. THE PSALMIST'S CONFIDENT ASSURANCE, which is his reason for exhorting his lower self to quiet faith and hope.":For I shall yet praise Him," etc. The "I" here is the whole united and harmonized self, in which the emotions, affections, passions and lower desires obey the reins and whip of the higher nature. When God governs the spirit, the spirit governs the "soul," and the man who has yielded himself to God, first of all in the surrender, possesses himself, and can truly say "I." Only when the heart is "united to fear God's name" is there true concord within. Oh to live more continually under the influence of that glorious light of the assured future, when our lips shall be loosed to give forth His praise, and when we shall have learned that every sorrow, disappointment, loss, painful effort, all that here seemed kindred with darkness, was really but a modification of light, and was a thing to be thankful for. If only we chose to walk in the light of the future, then the poor present would be small and powerless to harm us. "I shall yet praise Him" is the language that befits us all. And there is not only the assurance of a future that shall explain all, and make it all material for praise, when all the discords of the great conflicting piece of music are resolved into harmony, but there is here also the deep sense of present blessing. "I shall yet praise Him who is the health" (or salvation) "of my countenance and my God." "Who is," not who will be; "who is" in the moment of difficulty and sorrow; "who is," even whilst as the other part of the psalm tells us, the enemy are saying "Where is thy God? who is," even whilst the sense and flesh and the lower self have lost sight of Him. "And my God." Ah! there we touch the bottom and get our feet upon the rock. He that can say "He is my God" has a right to be sure that he will yet praise Him.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
WEB: Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise him: my Savior, my helper, and my God. For the Chief Musician. By the sons of Korah. A contemplative psalm.