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This is a mournful Psalm, on the sorrows and uncertainty of life, full of pious breathings on death, and the solemn consequences of it. The Psalm closes in prayer.
To the chief Musician, even to Jeduthan. A Psalm of David.
What a beautiful and lovely example doth Jesus hold forth of silence, not only in the sight, but under the reproaches of the ungodly! Oh! for grace to be always keeping in view him who endured such a contradiction of sinners against himself, lest we be weary and faint in our mind. Hebrews 12:3 .
We see here the profitableness of silence towards man, for it tended to receive the descendings of grace in leading the mind out in devout meditation towards God. How lovely are the kindlings of the Holy Spirit, and what blessed effects do they induce! Isaiah 41:1 .
What a devout prayer this is, and what blessedness is intended in the discovery. Observe what the object of the petition is; not to know the hour of death, or the place of departure, or the means God in wisdom might appoint to produce the termination of life; these were not the subjects the Psalmist had in view; but that grace might so impress his mind with a sense of the frailty of life's tenure, that an habitual preparation, like a pilgrim on his journey, might make him always ready for the call. How sweetly and affectionately Jesus enforceth this, when he saith, Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Matthew 24:44 .
I have made no break or interruption in these verses, because the subject through the whole is one and the same. Under several very striking and elegant similitudes, the Psalmist in his prayer shows the shortness of life, and the vanity of all earthly things to satisfy the desires of the soul; and from hence takes occasion to seek an interest in the favour and love of God, to guide him, as a stranger and a sojourner, safely home through the whole of the wilderness state. And no doubt, if this prayer be read with an eye to Christ, who alone can give us to inherit substance, and fill our souls with durable riches and righteousness, this will be to convert the vanity of our present state into the means, under God, of procuring substantial good, and over-ruling the shortness of our existence, into the greater opportunity of obtaining in Christ an everlasting duration, in an inheritance that fadeth not away.
READER! let our improvements on this solemn meditation of the Psalmist, (for we are all, as men, equally interested in it,) lead out our thoughts upon the same necessary subject. Have we ever lifted the earnest supplication like him unto God for grace, so to number our days as to apply our hearts unto wisdom? Have we so counted ourselves for strangers and sojourners upon earth, as like sojourners only to make Christ our home, our resting place, our one only pursuit, our one only desire? My brother! I would say, are you a stranger upon earth? Then surely your plan of life, your pursuit, your conversation, your daily walk, will be as the pilgrim, foreign to all the customs, manners, habits, pleasures, and delights of those around. If a sojourner only, then this is not your home, nor are these objects worth your regard. Are you then asking for the good old way the holy fathers trod? Are you seeking the way to Zion with your face thitherward? Is Jesus the pearl of great price, God your Father, the Holy Spirit your guide, the church of Christ your inn, the ordinances of the gospel like waggons on the road to refresh you, and the holy sabbaths like so many wells of salivation to draw from? Oh! how blessed is it to sit loose and detached from all things here below, that we may have our conversation in heaven, that while going home to our Father's house we may use the world as not abusing it, knowing that the fashion of it passeth away; and, like the patriarchs, may be always on the look-out for that city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 39". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent