Psalm 77:10
That the right hand of the Highest hath changed. It is as if the psalmist were saying, "All this that I have been asking myself, and saddening myself with asking, seems impossible, and yet it is this very possibility of change in God toward me which so sorely perplexes and distresses me." "This is my sorrow, the changing of the right hand of the Most High." Do we not all feel that, if God be changed, then indeed the "whole foundation rocks"? We build our hopes on this - "He abideth the same, and his years are throughout all generations." As the psalmist gradually comes to a better mind, he feels that his sorrow was really his infirmity, and in some sense his shame. No man can expect to be free from experience of mental distress; the question is - Shall we give way to it, or shall we resist it? Here, in this psalm, we may find two things.

I. A MAN - A GOOD MAN - DISPOSED TO TAKE DESPONDENT VIEWS. And there is always a self-strand in the spirit of the despondent. They keep too much in the self-sphere, looking within rather than "off unto Jesus." This man took despondent views:

1. Of life generally. We call those who put this tone on their reading of life pessimists - men who can always see the "dark sides," and make "dark sides" when there are none to see. It is partly a nervous, anxious disposition, and may often be wisely dealt with as disease, whose cure may be found in abundance of God's sweet sunshine, and the good cheer of pleasant human friendship.

2. Of their present circumstances. Some people always wear "smoked spectacles," and so nothing is bright to their view.

3. Of God's dealings with them. They think so much more of the things, than of the love and wisdom that devise, arrange, and adapt them. Things are always variable; the love and the wisdom are always the same. The sea down below is always heaving and tossing; the heavens up above are always steadfast. There is variety in God's working, but no variety in him.

II. A MAN - A GOOD MAN - WHO SETS HIMSELF TO FIND A REMEDY FOR HIS DESPONDENCY. He resists the disposition to doubt, and will not let it get the mastery over him. He sets himself upon thinking well over two things.

1. His own frailty. He suspects that what he seems to see may be in himself. It may be like the tiny insect in the astronomer's telescope, that seemed to show a huge creature eating up the moon. It is well always to suspect imperfection in our vision when doubts distress.

2. God's power and purpose. If he cannot see these in his own small sphere, he can see them in the large spheres of the history of God's Church. This is absolutely certain - God works for ends of blessing, and God is able to accomplish that which he purposes. - R.T.







I said, This is my infirmity.
I. THE SYMPTOMS OF RELIGIOUS DEPRESSION. A settled depression of mind, in a perplexing debility and agitation of spirit, an apprehension of God's indignation, a prevailing doubt of our pardon and acceptance before Him, a dark view of the events which occur in the course of God's providential dealings with us, a succession of gloomy forebodings as to our future circumstances and destination, and a sinking of the heart, especially when we turn to subjects connected with our personal interest in the blessings of redemption.

II. THE CAUSES OF IT.

1. Bodily distemper.

2. An overscrupulous conscience.

3. A misapprehension of the doctrine of the remission of sins.

4. Some wilful sin, secretly cherished in the heart, or practised in the life.

5. Long-continued affliction.

6. The temptations of Satan.

7. Desertion, or the hiding of God's countenance.

III. THE CURE. If the distressed Christian seems to labour under bodily maladies, or the effects of superstition, the minister will recommend in the first instance, A due attention to the health, and a more correct knowledge of the will of God. In cases of distress which seem to spring from a misapprehension of the plan of the Gospel, the minister will delight to expatiate on the love of God in Christ Jesus. This he will display to the fainting heart of the penitent. But, in the case of dejection of mind arising from some course of sin, which has been secretly or openly committed, the minister of God's Word must adopt another method. "Repent, and do your first works." Thus will the privileges and mercies of the Gospel be once more yours, and God will "restore to you the joys of His salvation." Should, however, long-continued afflictions be the principal cause of depression of mind, the Christian minister will, with the psalmist, endeavour to take off the sufferer's view from his own particular calamities, and direct it to God's general dealings with His servants. Lastly, in the case of desertion, and, indeed, in all the preceding cases, the important suggestion is to be made that resignation to God's holy will must be added to the humble use of all the means of grace.

(Daniel Wilson.)

Expository Outlines.
I. THE FACT THAT THE PEOPLE OF GOD, IN THE PRESENT WORLD, ARE THE SUBJECTS OF MANIFOLD INFIRMITIES.

II. THE REASONS FOR WHICH THESE INFIRMITIES ARE PERMITTED.

1. To promote a spirit of humility and self-abasement.

2. To excite in us a spirit of watchfulness.

3. To increase our sympathy and compassion for others.

4. To induce us to make frequent application to the Great Physician.

5. To render heaven more attractive and endearing.

(Expository Outlines.)

I. THE NATURE OF THE PSALMIST'S INFIRMITY.

1. A proneness to live too much on frames and feelings.

2. Forgetfulness of past mercies.

3. Distrust with respect to future appearances.

4. Refusing to be comforted in times of distress is another of the infirmities of good people.

5. Giving vent to distrustful thought in unbecoming language too frequently accompanies despondency.

II. THE REASONS WHY GOD SUFFERS SUCH INFIRMITIES TO ATTEND HIS PEOPLE IN THIS LIFE. III. CONCLUSION.

1. We see that the best of saints have their infirmities. The most fragrant rose has its thorns, and the most shining Christian his shades.

2. There is some particular infirmity which every good man may call his own.

3. It becomes us well to know our particular infirmity, that we may guard against it; for to be without defence is the way to be overcome without resistance.

4. Having discovered what is our easily-besetting sin, let us bewail it before God, and seek for help against it.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

Whilst through the changing years we discover in ourselves many failings, most of us are humbled and distressed by special faults which tenaciously cling to us. These characteristic defects arise from personal temperament, or they are occasioned by circumstances, or perhaps they are the consequences of both.

1. We can sometimes effectually restrain personal faults by wisely determining our circumstances. Sick people are careful to choose for themselves a special climate when they are at liberty to do so. Ought not spiritual men to study "climatology," escaping as far as possible the circumstances that would naturally develop their constitutional failing, surrounding themselves with the influences which heal and help? It is something more than folly, for the sake of taste, pride, or gain, to remain voluntarily in positions which are spiritually unfavourable.

2. We may observe this technical culture by abstaining from certain courses, legitimate in themselves, but which are dangerous to us. John Wesley relinquished the study of mathematics on this ground. Angelico would not paint a secular subject. Miss Havergal would not sing a secular song. Many Christians deny themselves in matters of appetite, being conscious that the indulgences which prove perfectly harmless to many are inexpedient to them.

3. We may discipline ourselves by persisting to do right things which are difficult and uncongenial to us, even when we do them with the least willingness and freedom. A German physician says: "Precipitate men should accustom themselves to write and walk slowly. The irresolute should endeavour to perform their acts with rapidity. The gloomy, romantic dreamer should be trained to walk with head erect, to look others straight in the face, to speak in a loud, distinct tone of voice. Such habits exercise a great influence on both mind and body." The reasoning of this physician is, that right action has a tendency to induce right feeling. And there is a real place for such training in the spiritual life. "Do good, even when your heart is not free to it." With a painful lack of sympathy, still do the right act, speak the proper thing, form the correct habit, follow the true course; and this method will exercise a most salutary influence, awakening and strengthening the soul, and. at last filling the just form and action with the reality and force of life.

4. We ought to take special precautions against our characteristic failing. The man who sins with the tongue ought to set an express watch over the door of his lips. He whose peril is temper must keep his mouth as with a bridle. The man given to appetite must put a knife to his throat. He who suspects a snare in the cup is bound to fortify himself with vows and pledges. The slothful must set themselves large tasks, and rest not until they are discharged.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

We usually think of the world about us as being the chief arena in which we fight the battle of life, but really our greatest difficulty is with ourselves. Our constitutional temper and bias are the chief matters, and they very largely determine what our trouble shall be both as to its nature and degree.

1. Feebleness of constitution is a limitation of which many are painfully conscious: a frailty of physique which prevents them doing much that they would desire to do, and which betrays itself in nearly all that they manage to do. When Henry Ward Beecher was exhorted to take care of his health and strength, he replied, "I have already more than I know what to do with." Many noble people are far from this enviable state. They take their place in the ranks and attempt their daily work, but with a lack of force that makes life much of a burden, and duty rarely a delight. They do not fulfil their promise, they start well and finish poorly, the outline they strike is beyond the picture, they are spasmodic, uncertain, ineffective. This is not exactly an intellectual defect. And it is just as little to the point to say that these people lack conscience or will; they want neither conscience nor will, they are simply destitute of that constitutional robustness and force of which Beecher had more than he knew what to do with. It is not a mental or moral defect, but purely a bodily infirmity which mars life and work that otherwise would give entire satisfaction. Resolute spirits surprise us with the wonders that can be wrought by frail mechanism, but many know by painful experience that a deficiency of native force has marred their whole life, spoiling thoughts, faculties, opportunities, and purposes which a flush of animal spirits would have converted into splendid achievement.

2. An intensity of constitution is the real infirmity of others. They are alarmingly vehement in speech and action. They flash in ordinary talk, and discharge the common business of life with explosive energy. Science has recently discovered that our hive-bees exhaust themselves prematurely by abnormal industry; they are not native to this country, and not having yet adapted themselves completely to a new environment, expend an excessive amount of force which involves their destruction. It is much the same with human beings of impassioned temperament. They do not so much burn out, as blaze out. No doubt they ought to restrain themselves, to check their rage, and act with becoming moderation; but of what use is advice of this sort? The Pacific Ocean may counsel the tempestuous Atlantic to cultivate stillness, and the Atlantic retort on the stagnation of the Pacific; but each remains true to its character. We can no more change our special constitutional qualities than we can change the colour of our eyes. The ardent temper, of which we are speaking, is attended by sorrows of its own. It is impossible to live an impulsive life without serious mistakes and bitter regrets. That temper also involves painful reactions and dejections. And it has its own subtle temptations and perils.

3. The hyper-sensitive constitution is another organ of martyrdom. Like Cowper, many noble souls are morbidly sensitive and shy. They seem born with a skin short, and feel with grievous acuteness a thousand things of which the ordinary man is positively unconscious, or to which he is practically indifferent. God alone understands what these neurotic, nervous, shrinking souls suffer in a rude world like this.

4. Only One knows all the mysteries of our personality, and we cannot live with Him too much. Let us go to Him for sympathy. Let us seek in His grace the strength to deal with the special need and peril of our nature. He can impart to the will of the delicate a force independent of bodily conditions; He can chasten the self-confident; endow with a saving instinct the impulsive; and the easily-wounded, weeping in secret places, He can sweetly soothe. He can so discipline us that our very defects and excesses may be made to yield the riches and beauty of moral and immortal perfection.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. —
Here the eternity of God is contrasted with the hand-breadth measure of man. The Right Hand of the Most High; its work through the years that are past; what suggestions are here, to silence weak complaint, to lift the soul far up above the trouble of this world! Think of the right hand, and of what it can do; that most wonderful member of this body. Its offices are numberless; it is like the executive function in the political system. Whatever the mind think, whatever the will decree, whatever the heart desire: heart, will, mind, must wait till the hand can act. To tell the uses of the hand, and the purposes it serves, would be to give a catalogue of great part of the intelligent and conscious actions of men, wherein, to some extent or other, that member is employed. Even so wide is the scope of those acts of the Almighty, which are included in the symbolic speech about His Right Hand. It is, indeed, a glorious study, that of the years of the Right Hand of the Most High. They are long, very long; from them unroll, panorama-like, the events which make history; stamped on them everywhere is the impress of mind, design, force; knowing what may be, ordering what shall be, compelling every other power to yield at last, vanquished in its death. And against them appears what? The bubbles which men blow of the froth of their conceits; the vapour which our life is; the rise and fall of upstart opposers of God; the wiping out of kingdoms, philosophies, systems, as a man turneth a dish upside down. Fast do the adversaries fade away; they do but little harm; the cord is broken, the thread soon cut; the world forgets them, or remembers but to chide their folly. The eternal years of God drink up these little lives of ours, and all in them that is not made secure by faith and religion, even as the sun drinks up the mist, or the ocean takes in the drops from the passing clouds which break above it and vanish for ever. This is the way to confidence and rest. Retire within yourself, and meditate of the infinite power, the sure providence, the unchangeableness of the Most High. Consider the days of old, the years of His Right Hand.

(Morgan Dix, D. D.)

The psalmist really said, "This is my infirmity — the years of the right hand of the Most High!" He does not announce his intention to dwell upon them, but he announces the character of the years themselves. It is the suddenness of a quick appreciation of the true view of things. Do you not know what it is to suddenly adjust a picture, by the slightest touch of the hand, so that the whole thing is seen in its true focus? Yes, you have gained the real point of view. So it is here. From the midst of a God-questioning disposition, in which hope is lost, he suddenly says, "This is my infirmity — the years of the right hand of the Most High!" Now, what do you find? The second half of the psalm is the same picture in focus. The right hand is a symbol peculiar to Hebrew thought and literature, and is used perpetually to mark some great fact in the character and person of God. Law and righteousness, salvation and strength, action and love, and the deep, full satisfaction of every necessity of human life, in pleasures for evermore, — all these things, to the mind of the Hebrew, were wrapped up in that magnificent figure of the right hand of the Most High. "The years of my life," now says the psalmist, "are years conditioned in law and righteousness — years in which there is the perpetual outworking of salvation and the unceasing manifestation of strength; they are years in which God is active for me, years in which I am perpetually caressed by the love and tenderness of the Divine heart, years which, because they come from the hand of God, are years of the making of eternal and undying pleasure." It was a new light upon his own life, a new point of vision, a new outlook. The things which had issued in his dirge of wailing and sorrow were suddenly seen, from this new point of vision, to be working together for his good, thus giving a forecast of the New Testament statement. "The years of the right hand of the Most High." There is a point of vision from which we may look upon the selfsame things, and may catch on them already the light and gleam of morning; a point from which, even to-day, I can look upon great grief and overwhelming sorrow, saying, "Yes, that happened, not upon such a day of such a month, in such a year, but in one of the years of the right hand of the Most High. It was a part of the fiery law, a method of the Divine righteousness, a ministry of salvation, a manifestation of strength, a Divine action, a touch of the Divine love, it had within it the creation of joy for evermore." We can only say those things by faith to-day; not yet by sight, not yet by personal realization, but by faith. There is no agony of heart that we endure, if we know how to false it, that has not in it the element that shall make heaven. "The years of the right hand of the Most High." I do not see the hand, I have only the years; but I know the hand is there. I know that somewhere beyond this, when the mists have rolled aside, and the life I am conscious of to-day shall have passed into fuller realization, then out of the darkness will the light come, and out of the agony of the moment will heaven's pleasure have been evolved.

(G. Campbell Morgan, M. A.)

I. THE SIMPLE PROPOSITION. "This is mine infirmity."

1. The saints and servants of God themselves have their infirmities.

(1)The reliques and remainders of the old man still abiding in them.

(2)Grace is wrought imperfectly in them.

2. Commonly they have some one more especially which they are addicted and inclined unto.

3. From the context we see what to judge of staggering at God's promises and providences. It is a very great weakness and infirmity.

(1)There is ignorance and want of understanding.

(2)Infidelity.

(3)Impatience.

II. THE PERSONAL REFLECTION. "I said."

1. The quickness of his apprehension, in that he spies and discerns this weakness and infirmity in himself, while he says it, it is evident he spies it and finds it out.

2. The tenderness of his conscience, not only in that he discerned this distemper and infirmity in himself, but likewise that he checked himself for it, for so we must here take it.

3. The ingenuity of his spirit. I said it not only to myself, and in mine own heart, but as there was occasion for it, I said it to others also, and acknowledged it likewise to them.

4. The ground hereof in the servants of God is —(1) That wonderful exactness and curiousness and sincerity which is remarkable in them. Tender consciences lament even infirmities, whilst hardened hearts go away with greater sins.(2) It proceeds from that love and entireness of affection, which a good Christian bears to God. Love is shy of anything which may be offensive to the party beloved, not only of greater injuries, but of smaller unkindnesses. It is troubled when it is anything defective in the expressions of love, where it is due, and it concerns it to be so, and so it is also here. A godly man has his heart and his soul full of the love of Christ, and therefore is troubled for anything which is displeasing to Christ; not only for unsavoury speeches, but for unruly affections, not only for ungodly deeds, but for ungodly thoughts, which have a mark also of sinfulness upon them.(3) It arises also from Christian prudence, as considering whither infirmities tend, and what they will come to if they be not better prevented.

III. THE PITCHING OR FASTENING UPON THE REMEDY. "I will remember," etc.

1. Take it according to the former translation, as it does exhibit to us the power of God. "The right hand of the Lord can change all this." This was that whereby David did support himself in his present affliction, that the Lord was able to change and alter this his condition to him, and that for the better. Though God Himself be unchangeable considered in His own essence, yet His works and providences and dispensations have a variety in them, and all such as do perfect and accomplish His most unchangeable purpose and decree which He has set down with Himself. God does never less change His mind than when He does most change His carriage and practice and outward administrations, as being able from contrary means to bring about the same gracious ends and effects which He hath appointed to accomplish, so that this expression hath no repugnancy or inconsistency with it at all, but is freely admitted by us, and to be improved as it is here by the psalmist.

2. For this last here before us, that is this, "I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High," where the word remember is borrowed from the next-following verse to supply the sense of this, as otherwise being not in the text. Now, here David fetches a ground of comfort from God's practice, as before he did from His power; there, from what God could do; here, from what He had done already in former times, and ages, and generations; he was resolved to reflect upon this, as a relief to him in his present infirmity. Now, there were two things especially which David here did reflect upon to this purpose, for the quieting of his spirit. The one was God's dealings with His people formerly, as to point of seeming desertion and outward discouragement; and the other was God's dealings with His people formerly, as to seasonable recovery and final acknowledgment. To each of these purposes would he remember the years of the right hand of the Most High, and each of them were a relief unto them. And there is very good ground to do so, because God is still the same; yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. He has the same love to His people still as ever, the same wisdom to advise them, and the same power to be active for them, and He will, therefore, change their conditions, because He does not change Himself.

(T. Horton, D. D.)

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