I am forsaken among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more, who are cut off from Your care.
I. THE BREVITY OF HUMAN LIFE. That does not impress us so much when the aged are taken away, because we have become familiar with seventy as man's allotted years; and the aged seem to have completed their time, and rounded off their lives. Nor does it impress us when young children die, because we have become familiar with the perils of infancy. We feel it most when men are taken away in the "midst of their days." Hezekiah, smitten in the prime of life, wails over the brevity of life, saying, "I said, in the cutting off of my day, I shall go to the gates of the grave; I am deprived of the residue of my years. Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent. I have cut off like a weaver my life." See the similar plaints of Job. The corrective of this trouble is to measure life by deeds, not by years. He lives long who does much.
II. LOSS OF BODILY AND MENTAL STRENGTH. "I am as a man that hath no strength." Perhaps there is nothing harder for active-minded, energetic men to endure than conscious weakness. To many persons mental depression, resulting simply from lowered vitality, is the supreme distress. Yet in these days the human trial often takes this form. It is a triumph of grace to hold fast integrity even when the very mind is clouded with weakness, and "like a mist our vigour flees away," until all that remains to us is "a fragile form, fast hasting to decay." The corrective is to see that even weakness is in the list of God's disciplinary agents.
III. SEPARATION FROM ORDINARY DUTIES AND RELATIONS. From ver. 8 we gather that this was complicated by the fact that disease had taken offensive forms; and this brings to view the very marked and distressing features of Job's disease. No one can fail. to feel it hard to retire from loved scenes and associations, and to loose out of hand loved duties. We think that no one can do them but ourselves, and no one can be to our friends what we were. The corrective is to remember that God may provide rest times for his servants; but he never bids them put their tools down, once for all, until he knows that their work is done; and then no true-hearted man could wish to stay. It may come to be the form of our final struggle with self, that we are called to give up life's duties and life's relations at God's bidding. There is possible triumph even over soul troubles. - R.T.
Job 3:19, which counts it as one blessing of the grave, that "there the servant is free from his master." But the psalmist thinks that that "freedom" is loathsome, not desirable, for it means removal from the stir of a life, the heaviest duties and cares of which are better than the torpid immunity from these, which makes the state of the dead a dreary monotony. In some strange fashion they are and yet are not. Their death has a simulacrum of life. Their shadowy life is death. The psalmist speaks in riddles; and the contradictions in his speech reflect his dim knowledge of that place of darkness, He looks into its gloomy depths, and he sees little but gloom. It needed the resurrection of Jesus to flood these depths with light, and to show that the life beyond may be fuller of bright activity than life here — a state in which vital strength is increased beyond all earthly experience, and wherein God's all-quickening hand grasps more closely, and communicates richer gifts than are attainable in that death which sense calls life.
Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave.
Homilist.I. A TRUE idea of the grave: "Free" —
1. From all physical sufferings.
2. From all secular anxieties.
3. From all social tumults.
4. From all human tyrannies.
II. A FALSE idea of the grave. That the dead are —
1. Forgotten by God.
2. Separated from God. They are not "cut off" from Him in any sense.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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