Save me, O God, for the waters are up to my neck.
I. AS A MAN TO BE PITIED. The sufferings described are many and great. They threatened to be overwhelming. Without, there was no escape; within, there was no peace. Crying for help brought no rescue, and waiting upon God brought no deliverance. Hope deferred made the heart sick. Disappointment only called forth more bitter scorn from enemies, and made the ills that multiplied more and more hard to bear. Besides, there was the distressful feeling that the evils that had come were in large part unmerited, and that the hate of enemies was as unjust as it was unprovoked. When we find a man in such a case, we cannot but sympathize with him. He may be too magnanimous to crave our pity, but all the more our heart goes out to him in compassion, and our prayers are joined with his for deliverance (Job 6:14; Job 19:21; 1 Peter 3:8). It is one of the advantages of suffering that, while it may be a salutary discipline to the sufferer, it becomes a means of calling forth brotherly kindness and manly help from beholders.
II. AS A SINNER TO BE CONDEMNED. There are some who resent any condemnation of the psalmist. They say he was inspired, that he was one of the "holy men who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." This is true, but all the same, he speaks of himself as a sinner, and we are more likely to deal truly with him by taking him on his own judgment than by setting him up as if he were perfect, and as if his confessions of sin and folly were made in some non-natural sense. Besides, there are evident proofs here of the working of sin, of the flesh lusting against the spirit, of the struggle which all good men have to make against the rise of unholy passions in time of temptation. If we are to take the language (in vers. 22-28) just as we find it, and if we are to understand it as used by a man of undoubted but of imperfect piety, we cannot but regard it as highly culpable. There is more here than just indignation. The life of the psalmist had been made bitter by the rancour and hate of his enemies, and he seems to give way to wrath, and to hurl back upon his foes the curses which they had so cruelly heaped upon himself. But be this as it may, it is plain that we should guard against indulgence in such language. It is not for us to judge others; it is not for us to return evil for evil. Christ has taught us that they greatly erred who said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour, but hate thine enemy" (Matthew 5:43 45). Rather we are to love our enemies. And what our Lord taught us by word he illustrated in his life. Even of those whose hands were red with his blood, he said, "Father, forgive them;" and his return for all the hate and malice and cruelty of the wicked Jews was to send them first of all the gospel of peace (Luke 23:24; Luke 24:47). If we indulge in resentment, we not only hurt ourselves, but we wrong our brother, for, however badly a man may use us, he is still our brother, and we should not put a greater barrier between him and us by wrath, but rather try to bring him to a better mind by love and mercy (Romans 12:19-21).
III. AS A SAINT TO BE IMITATED. The very fact that we cannot and dare not follow the psalmist in all that we find here, is evidence of his imperfection. We are bound to use our reason - to examine things by the standard of God's Law and the Spirit of Christ. We should only imitate what is good, and what commends itself to our consciences and hearts as good (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1, 2). But if we consider, we shall find much here to admire, and therefore to imitate. It would be well for us, like the psalmist, to call upon God in the day of trouble. We may be in straits, but he can help. We may be repulsed on all sides, and lonely, but he will not cast us off. We should also learn from the psalmist not to plead our own merits, but to cast ourselves on God's mercy. God knows what is best. Above all, we should do what the psalmist could only do imperfectly, in the dim light of the days before the gospel - we should look to Christ, and learn of him how to behave ourselves in times of suffering. - W.F.
I. THE GOOD MAN HAS FOES.
Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.
Homilist.I. Man's sufferings are SOMETIMES OVERWHELMINGLY GREAT. This shows —
1. The abnormal state of man. Was man made to suffer thus? No; man suffers because he has transgressed.
2. The blessedness of Christ's mission. He came to "heal the broken-hearted," and to "wipe away all tears from off all faces."
II. Man's sufferings are OFTEN INFLICTED BY HIS FELLOW-CREATURES. The sufferer here ascribes his sufferings, not to God, or accident, or fate, but to men.
1. To the malice, the multitude, and the might of his enemies. These enemies, he says —(1) Compelled him to restore what he "took not away." They extorted from him by violence that which was his, not theirs. He does not say what it was, whether it was his time, his labour, or his property. Men are often doing this, taking from others that to which they have no right.(2) Persecuted him on account of his religion. "For Thy sake I have borne reproach," etc. How often in the history of the world do we find men inflicting sufferings upon their fellows in consequence of their religious convictions!
2. To the alienation of his most intimate relations and friends.
3. To the contempt he received from all on account of his religious zeal.
III. Man's sufferings often REVEAL THE MORAL WEAKNESS OF HIS CHARACTER. If, as here, you find a man parading his sufferings, moaning and groaning about his afflictions, he is not a man of strong moral character. Christ, instead of parading His sufferings, seldom even mentioned them.
IV. Man's sufferings OCCASIONALLY LEAD HIM TO GOD. They did so now in the case of David.
1. The devil.
2. Wicked men readily learn the craft of their master.
II. THE GOOD MAN'S FOES ARE PERTINACIOUS.
1. They act in concert — take counsel how they may best succeed in their designs; encourage one another, to make their plans most effective.
2. They are never satisfied. Satan, not content to rob Job of his property, must needs seek to destroy his children. The trouble of the Christian, so far from moving his enemies to compassion, do but instigate to fresh deeds of iniquity.
III. THE GOOD MAN'S ENEMIES ARE COWARDLY.
1. Slander is one of the commonest weapons by which they seek to destroy. It is referred to several times by David. It is the sharp "sword," the poisoned "arrow," the "bitter words."
2. Misrepresentation is another very common mode of attacking the godly. "They Search out iniquities." This seems to suggest that when faults cannot readily be found, they are sought diligently, until some trivial defect is discovered that may be magnified into a deadly sin. Instead of setting a watch upon themselves, they watch others, and looking for faults they will invent them rather than be disappointed.
IV. THE GOOD MAN'S ENEMIES ARE LABORIOUS. They are "workers of iniquity." Men who are too idle to do any good thing will toil at an evil one. Many men work far harder to go to hell than would suffice, humanly speaking, to carry them to heaven. If half the diligence devoted to works of evil were but given to the service of God, how greatly would the aspect of the world be changed.
(Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
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