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Whether the penman of this Psalm, under the spirit of prophecy, is describing the Person and sorrows of the ever-blessed Jesus; or whether they be the afflictions of his church and people; yet, from beginning to end, the subject is one continuation of the sorrows of the soul.
A Song, or Psalm, for the sons of Korah. To the chief musician upon Mahalath, Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite.
It is not of so much importance to enquire, by what hand the Holy Ghost sent this Psalm to the church, especially as the Lord the Spirit hath not thought proper to inform us. But it should seem to be that Heman which is spoken of, 1 Chronicles 25:4 . If, however, the Lord the Holy Ghost referred to the person and afflictions of Jesus, in what is here recorded, it may serve to teach us how very important a part it was intended to form in the temple service, when such a Psalm, or Song, was composed for the daily use of the sons of Korah; these miserable sons of fallen nature, who, but for the redemption through the sufferings and soul-travail of Jesus, must have thus groaned forever! Reader, are we not prompted to perceive Christ in this pouring out of the soul? Was there ever sorrow like unto his sorrow, wherewith the Lord afflicted him, in the day of his fierce anger? Lamentations 1:12 . Observe how the blessed Jesus, in these soul cries, as the Surety and Representative of his people, calls God, the God of his salvation; intimating, that from Him he looked for an assured deliverance; and reminding the Father, both for himself and people, that the end must be blessed. Hebrews 5:7-9 .
It is impossible for a child of God, one should think, to have any doubts as to whom these expressions peculiarly and principally belong. To whom can they so properly belong, as to the blessed Jesus? Who that reads of his soul-agony in the garden, and his cries on the cross, can fail to behold the striking application? Who that recollects Christ bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, can need to be told, that then the divine wrath lay hard upon him for our sins, and all the billows and waves of God's displeasure at sin were poured out upon him? And who that recollects the removal of Christ's disciples from him in Gethsemane, their desertion of him in the hour of danger, and the offense his cross was unto them all, before the Holy Ghost had descended upon them after Christ's resurrection, can require any farther evidence as to when the whole points, but to Jesus? Yes, thou Lamb of God, it is thou of whom the prophet speaks, and not of any other man. Oh, may my soul delight to put away all acquaintance far from me, that I may often follow thee, in silent and sacred meditation, through the hallowed walks of Gethsemane!
If I mistake not, the force and beauty of these expressions are intended to confirm the certainty of the things they seem to inquire after. We meet with many such passages in Scripture, where the certainty of the truth intended to be established is more effectually done by the inquiry, than if it had been said in so many words. Thus our Lord demands, What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? By this question, it is plain, Christ not only meant to say that it should profit him nothing, but, by this method of stating the subject, he intended the most decided conviction of the stupidity and folly of neglecting the care of the soul, upon any and every consideration whatever. So in the present instance: Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee? Yes, thy dead men shall live (is the promise of the Father to his Son), together with my dead body, shall they arise. Isaiah 26:19 . Jesus by his death hath overcome death: for it was appointed that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man. And as he was delivered for our offences, so was he raised again for our justification. Hebrews 2:9 ; Romans 4:25 . Hence, therefore, God's wonders shall be shown among the dead; for the dead in Christ shall arise. For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so them also, which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him. 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:16 . Oh! how blessed the thought: God's faithfulness is engaged, pledged, made over, in covenant engagements, to this assured purpose. The loving-kindness of God is as sure to the dead in Christ, as, to the living in him. Hence that blessed declaration, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For God is not the God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him; Luke 20:37-38 . Reader, think what blessed privileges Jesus hath procured by his redemption, and what wonders, even in the regions of darkness and of the grave, have been wrought by his one vast salvation!
There is a great degree of earnestness in the sorrows, again repeated, through these verses. Jesus, from the moment of his birth to the cross, sanctified and set apart as he was, a Nazarite from the womb, in the eye of the law, stood forth the Surety and the burden-bearer both of the sins and sorrows of his people: and it is a blessed thought for the believer, in the heart-felt knowledge and conviction of it, that though such rich, free, sovereign grace is shown to a poor sinner, in the providing of such a substitute as Jesus to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself, yet, in the accomplishment of this great undertaking, there was no favor nor forbearance shown to Christ. If he will be a Surety, he shall smart for it: never will the law relax a single claim, nor justice forgive an iota of what is due. Thou shalt not come out thence, from the prison of the sinner's dreadful bondage, until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing; Matthew 5:26 . Reader, do not hastily pass over this sweet view of Jesus. In the thorough conviction that the Lord Christ, in all his sufferings, personated his people, bore their sins, expiated their transgressions, and died, the just for the unjust, to bring them unto God; here lieth the whole assurance of salvation. It is this which alone gives confidence in every true believer's soul, against sin and Satan, the terrors of God's law and justice. Here alone are founded the triumphs of faith, in believing the record, which God hath given of his Son.
SHALL I not ponder over the contents of this plaintive Psalm, and reflect on the sad cause of human misery? Day and night may tears run down, when the soul reviews the melancholy source of this world's afflictions. But, my soul, when in Jesus thou beholdest such sorrow, to what a height of increased lamentation doth the subject arise? That man, who is a child of sin, should be the child of sorrow, is what might well be supposed, and is to be expected in a state like the present. But when we hear his holy soul, who knew no sin, and in whose mouth was found no guile, thus crying out under the water-spouts of Divine wrath, sore amazed and distracted; what a horrible idea doth this awaken of the baleful malignity of sin and man's fallen estate? To have been present at the destruction of the old world by the flood; to have seen Sodom destroyed by fire, or Korah and his company swallowed up by the earthquake; these would all have given lively ideas of God's irreconcilable hatred of sin. But to view sin in all its horrors, no representation can come up to the cries of the Son of God. If, my soul, thou wouldest see sin exceedingly sinful, go to Gethsemane, or to Golgotha; there hear the holy Jesus uttering strong cries, and learning obedience by the things which he suffered. And shall I not, precious Lamb of God, shall not my soul be drawn, out in love to thee, in delight in thee, in affection towards thee, and dependence upon thee, when I behold thee, in these unequalled sufferings, and when I am constrained to say, Lo, all this, and more, did Jesus suffer and endure when he knew no sin, that his people might be made the righteousness of God in him? Oh Lord, in the contemplation of thee and thy sufferings, enable me to go on and find confidence in all the trifling difficulties and sorrows with which thou wast fit to exercise me here below. Thou art still the God of my salvation and thou will bear me up, and carry me through, and lighten all my pressure, until thou shalt bring me home to behold thy glory and to dwell with thee forever.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 88". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany