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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Psalms 77

 

 

Verses 1-20

INTRODUCTION

Superscription.—"To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, a Psalm of Asaph." Jeduthun was one of the leaders of sacred music in David's time (1Ch ; 2Ch 5:12). One of the twenty-four musical choirs left by David bore the honorary title Jeduthun or Jedithun, perhaps from him, as its founder (1 Chronicles 25)

A Psalm of Asaph. See Introduction to Psalms 74.

Occasion.—It is not known, nor have we any means of determining upon what occasion the Psalm was written. But, Perowne has well said concerning it, "Whenever, and by whomsoever, the Psalm may have been written, it clearly is individual, not national. It utterly destroys all the beauty, all the tenderness and depth of feeling in the opening portion, if we suppose that the people are introduced speaking in the first person. The allusions to the national history may indeed show that the season was a season of national distress, and that the sweet singer was himself bowed down by the burden of the time, and oppressed by woes which he had no power to alleviate; but it is his own sorrow, not the sorrow of others, under which he sighs, and of which he has left the pathetic record." The Psalm is eminently fitted to teach us how we may obtain comfort and peace even in the severest distresses.

Homiletically the Psalm sets before us, First: The good man's trouble and Deliverer, Psa . Second: The thoughts and inquiries of a godly soul in distress, Psa 77:4-9. Third: The godly soul rising superior to trouble by the devout contemplation of the works and ways of God, Psa 77:10-20.

THE GOOD MAN'S TROUBLE AND DELIVERER

(Psa .)

I. The Good man's trouble. All men have some measure of acquaintance with trouble. It is not given to us to travel through life under unclouded skies, favoured by refreshing breezes, amid enchanting scenery, with delightful companionships, and upon a pleasant and easy road. There are times when we have to walk in loneliness and sorrow, with weary limbs, and bleeding feet, and aching heart, beneath darkened skies, and amid pelting storms. The good man has no exemption from life's sorrows and trials. He is exposed to physical trials. Bodily pains and diseases visit and try "the true-born child of God" as well as the wicked. He suffers from social trials also. He has disappointments and losses in business, he is pained by the inconstancy and duplicity of those whom he regarded as true, he suffers by reason of the afflictions and sorrows of those who are dear to him, and he is sometimes stricken with anguish by the invasions of death into the home or social circle. He also experiences religious trials. His own imperfections and sins are a source of grief to him. The contrast between the ideal and the actual in his own life is great and painful. He has seasons of dark doubt, and sad misgiving, and distressful hiding of the face of God from him. Of such experiences the poet sings in this Psalm. The compassions and favours, the mercies and faithfulnesses of God seemed to be all cut off from him. God himself seemed to have forsaken him, cast him off. The intensity of his trouble is seen in that—

1. It was continuous. In the day he sought the Lord by reason of it, and at night his hand was unweariedly outstretched in prayers for deliverance. His grief knew no intermission. His soul obtained no rest either by night or by day.

2. His soul accepted no consolation,—"refused to be comforted." Some consolations seemed inadequate to his need. Others seemed too precious for one who was so unworthy in his own sight. And so the wounded heart refused the balm which would have healed it.

3. The remembrance of God was painful. We do not wonder that the remembrance of God is painful to the wicked. But that the godly man should find it painful to direct his thoughts to God is indeed strange. Meditation on God should fill the soul of the good man with holiest music. Very sore must have been the trial of the Psalmist when he was troubled at the recollection of God.

4. Meditation increased grief. "I meditated and my spirit was overwhelmed." Reflection brought no relief to his soul, but seemed to sink him deeper in the abyss of trouble. A very sad state he was in. He is in deep waters, the waves and billows go over him, and he is unable to obtain relief or rest.

"All things have rest: why should we toil alone?

We only toil, who are the first of things,

And make perpetual moan;

Still from one sorrow to another thrown:

Nor ever fold our wings,

And cease from wanderings,

Nor steep our brows in slumber's holy balm."

—Tennyson.

These sore trials of godly men by the grace of God are often the means of richest blessings to the soul. As the darkness of night brings out the glory of the starry heavens, so in affliction and trouble some most precious truths shine forth with the greatest brilliance.

"Thou canst not tell

How rich a dowry sorrow gives the soul,

How firm a faith and eagle-sight of God."

—Alford.

II. The Good man's Deliverer. In his trouble the Psalmist betook himself to the throne of grace, he had recourse to God. When trouble drives us nearer to God it is already a blessing to us.

1. His application to God involved faith.

(1) In the accessibility of God. The Psalmist felt that he could approach unto God, and speak to Him in prayer. Trouble cannot drive us into any region where He is not. From the deepest abyss of distress the moan of suffering, the cry of penitence, or the prayer for help, will reach the ear and touch the heart of God.

(2) In the sufficiency of God to help those who seek unto Him. The Psalmist would not have cried to God had he not believed in His power to help him. Our God is all-sufficient. There are no sorrows that defy His consolations. There are no wounds which the balm of Gilead cannot heal.

(3) In the goodness of God. Notwithstanding his declaration that he "remembered God and was troubled," the Psalmist must have believed in God's kindness and willingness to help him, or he would not have carried his burden to His throne. Though He seems to hide His face from us, yet He is ever gracious and kind. His name and nature are love. When trouble thus leads us to draw closer to God, and to cast out burden upon Him, it has not visited us in vain.

2. His application to God was persevering and earnest. "I cried unto God with my voice, unto God with my voice; and He gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my hand is stretched out at night unwearied." The repetition of the first verse is emphatic, presenting the idea of earnest and fervent supplication. The "hand stretched out at night unwearied" in prayer, indicates how importunate and persevering were his supplications. Hearty, fervent, importunate prayers are acceptable to God. Cold, heartless, formal prayers He does not regard. Let the Psalmist's example be imitated by troubled hearts.

3. His application to God did not lead to immediate relief. He says that God "gave ear unto" him; but he seems to have obtained no immediate respite from his troubles. The Divine answer to our supplications is sometimes the continuance of those very trials or afflictions from which we have prayed to be delivered. The answer to the apostle Paul's prayer was not the removal of the thorn from the flesh quivering with agony, but, "My grace is sufficient for thee." The withholding or delaying of that for which we have so importunately pleaded may be the true and gracious answer to our prayers. The blessing may be delayed that our faith and patience may thereby be increased, and that when it comes to us it may come richer and fuller. Or that for which we have asked may be withheld, because Infinite Wisdom sees that to us it would not be a blessing. Thus it is that the earnest, importunate prayers of good men are not always answered at once, and sometimes are not answered at all by granting the thing desired. Yet they are always helpful to the soul, and bring down blessings into the soul from God.

CONCLUSION.—

1. Learn the sacred uses of trouble. "These light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work," &c. "Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience," &c.

"The tears we shed are not in vain;

Nor worthless is the heavy strife;

If, like the buried seed of grain,

They rise to renovated life.

It is through tears our spirits grow;

'Tis in the tempest souls expand,

If it but teaches us to go

To Him who holds it in His hand.

Oh, welcome, then, the stormy blast!

Oh, welcome, then, the ocean's roar!

Ye only drive more sure and fast

Our trembling bark to Heaven's bright shore."—T.C. Upham.

2. Learn the grand resource in trouble. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." α. He is all-sufficient. β. He is ever available. γ. He is ever gracious. "From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

PRAYER IN TROUBLE

(Psa .)

We have here—

I. Something common to all men. "The day of trouble." "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." With so much of sin in the world sorrow and trouble are inevitable.

II. A commendable example for all men. "I cried unto God, … I sought the Lord."

1. Earnestly. "I cried with my voice, unto God with my voice."

2. Perseveringly. "My hand is stretched out at night unwearied." "In the day" and "in the night" he sought the Lord. "Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee," &c.

III. A Divine auditor of all men. "He gave ear unto me." Into the ear of God the cries of humanity are ever entering. Graciously He attends to the feeblest whisper of His people.

IV. A great mistake of some men. "My soul refused to be comforted." Surely the Psalmist erred in this. God has graciously arranged our life and circumstances so that healing may come to the wounded spirit in many ways. Through the aspects and voices of nature, through the contemplation of His Providence, through His holy Word. To refuse His consolation is,

1. Ungrateful to Him.

2. Injurious to ourselves.

V. An experience which may happen to all men. To pray earnestly and importunately without any immediate reply was the lot of the poet, and may be the lot of all men. Let us learn the lessons of such an experience.

1. Calmly trust Him.

2. Perseveringly pray to Him.

3. Patiently wait for Him.

RECOLLECTIONS OF GOD PAINFUL TO THE WICKED

(Psa .)

"I remembered God and was troubled."

Why is the remembrance of God pleasant to some of us and painful to others? Why is it sometimes pleasant, and at other times painful, to the same individual?

I. Briefly state what we mean by remembering God. We certainly mean something more than a transient recollection of the word God, or of any other name by which He is known. By remembering God, the Psalmist meant recollecting those ideas which the term God is used by the inspired writers to signify. An eternal, self-existent, infinitely wise, just, and good Being, &c.

II. Inquire why the recollection of such a being should ever be painful; or, why any of God's creatures should be troubled at the remembrance of Him. There is nothing in the Divine character and government which necessarily renders the remembrance of God productive of painful emotions. The remembrance of God is always delightful to holy angels, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. The constant presence of God constitutes their heaven. The recollection, also, of His existence, character, and government, is usually, though not always, highly pleasing to all good men. If any are troubled by the remembrance of God, the cause must exist solely in themselves. Nothing but sin can ever render the remembrance of God painful to any of His creatures. If our hearts or consciences condemn us, it is impossible to remember Him without being troubled. It will then be painful to remember that He is our Creator and Benefactor; for the remembrance will be attended with a consciousness of base ingratitude. Painful to think of Him as Lawgiver; for such thoughts will remind us that we have broken His law. So also as to His holiness, omniscience, omnipresence, power, &c.

Nor is this all. Every sinner loves sin. The only happiness with which he is acquainted, consists in gratifying either the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eye, or the pride of life. But all these are contrary to the will of God. He forbids the sinner to pursue them; He commands him to deny himself, &c. He threatens all who do not comply with everlasting punishment.

The more clearly the wicked perceive God's character and their own, the more light is thrown into their consciences, the more mercies, privileges, and opportunities they have enjoyed and abused, so much the more they will be troubled by a remembrance of God.

APPLICATION.—

1. This subject affords a rule by which we may try ourselves, and which will assist us much in discovering our real characters; for the moral character of every intelligent creature corresponds with his habitual views and feelings respecting God.

2. How wretched is the situation of impenitent sinners; of those, who cannot remember God without being troubled. They cannot enjoy real happiness in this life, for the world cannot afford it, and they dare not look up for it to heaven. How much more wretched must their situation be at death and in eternity!

3. How great are our obligations to God for the gospel of Christ! Were it not for this, the remembrance, and still more the presence of God, would have occasioned nothing but pure, unmingled wretchedness to any human being.

4. Is sin alone the cause which renders the remembrance of God painful? Then let all who have embraced the terms of reconciliation offered by the gospel, all who desire to remember God without being troubled, beware of sin. Swear an eternal war with sin; not only swear, but maintain it.—Edward Payson, D.D., abridged.

THE THOUGHTS AND INQUIRIES OF A GODLY SOUL IN TROUBLE

(Psa )

In our previous section we had to do with the Psalmist's trouble and his application to God by reason thereof. We have now to do with his mental condition as affected by his troubles.

I. The thoughts of a godly soul in trouble. In the mental exercises of the Psalmist we notice—

1. Reflection on the past doings of God. "I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient tisme." In his distress the Psalmist considered the former dealings of God with mankind, with a view of obtaining relief from his present troubles and light in his present perplexities. To us it seems that a study of the Divine working in human history is calculated to inspire the student with confidence in God, in the wisdom, righteousness, and goodness of His rule. Yet the Psalmist seems to have obtained no help from his consideration of the ancient doings of God. The state of his own soul spread a black pall over everything.

2. Recollection of times of trouble in his own life, which were also times of song. "I call to remembrance my song in the night." In the Bible "night" is frequently used figuratively, to represent ignorance, sin, suffering, distress, death. Here it is used as the emblem of distress and trouble. "Where is God, my Maker, who giveth songs in the night?" The poet calls to mind former seasons of affliction and sorrow, in which he realised Divine comforts, and was enabled to sing in the darkness. Yet he seems to find no comfort for his present sorrow. He can discover no star to relieve his present darkness. From the recollection of experiences so precious and helpful as God's mercies to him in former troubles he is unable to draw any consolation. A godly man's condition is deplorable indeed when such experiences afford no help and hope.

3. Communion with his own heart. "I communed with mine own heart, and my spirit made diligent search." He had recalled past experiences of his own, he had reflected and reasoned upon the work of God in human history, now he will consult his own heart. He has tried to get help by the exercise of his intellect, and has failed to do so, now he will seek help by the exercise of his better feelings. "The secret, silent teachings of the heart are often our best and safest guide." The heart is "the centre of the spiritual, thinking, and conceptional life" (Fuerst's Lex.); and man can commune with his heart, can contemplate his own spiritual nature and faculties, can examine his own spiritual condition, can speak to his soul and be spoken to by his soul. Thus the poet communes with his own heart. But no help does he receive. The trouble seems to have obtained the complete mastery of his entire nature. Intellect and heart are alike subdued by it. Human history and his own experience are alike darkened by it. The soul which is swayed by grief sees all things shrouded in gloom and sadness. To each of us nature wears the colour of our spirit. This truth is finely expressed in Hamlet. "I have of late lost all my mirth, foregone all custom of exercise: and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'er-hanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action, how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me, nor woman neither." In a somewhat similar plight was the Psalmist. Trouble had so completely mastered him that he could find neither comfort, help, nor hope anywhere.

II. The inquiries of a godly soul in trouble.

The Psalmist makes several inquiries, which may be classified thus. He inquires—

1. As to God's mindfulness of His people. "Will the Lord cast off for ever?" &c. "Hath God forgotten to be gracious?" &c. God seemed to have "forgotten to be gracious" in His dealings with His servant, and to have so far overlooked him as to lead to the inquiry, "Will the Lord cast off for ever?" It is a sore aggravation of a believer's trials when the Lord seems to be unmindful of him in his time of need. How severe was the smart of the sisters of Bethany, when several days passed, and their Friend and Lord came not near to them, although they had sent to tell Him of their trouble!

2. As to God's unchangeableness. In past times He had been to His people a God of mercy and grace, supporting and defending them. Has He changed in this respect? Is it possible that God can change? The thought is "too painful for" us. What misery and desolation would supervene if God, the supremely Good, could change! were to change, and be other than He is! The Psalmist seems to have tasted of this misery as he urged his pain-inspired inquiries.

3. As to God's faithfulness. "Doth His promise fail for evermore?" Shall the promise which was made to, and good for, one generation, fail to the next generation? Is not the word of Jehovah reliable? The troubled soul seems to find repose nowhere. To him nothing appears firm and true, but sin, labour, and suffering. The shadows presented themselves as the only realities.

These inquiries of the troubled Psalmist reveal the depth and intensity of his sufferings. It is extremely painful to doubt one's own salvation; but who shall depict the anguish of doubt as to the truth and faithfulness, the righteousness and goodness of God? These inquiries present a hopeful symptom of the spiritual condition of the Psalmist. "It is a wise thing thus to put unbelief through the catechism. Each one of the questions is a dart aimed at the very heart of despair."

III. Let us offer a few Suggestions to a godly soul in trouble. In his thoughts and inquiries the troubled poet seems much amazed and bewildered. Certain facts were painfully real to him which sorely tried his faith in God, and in His relation to His people. Good men are often tried in like manner. But let us remember—

1. That there is something radically abnormal in the present state of human society. It is not natural that under the government of an almighty, wise, and good Being, there should be so much of suffering, and that sometimes the best of men should be the greatest of sufferers. Suffering is here because sin is here. Find suffering and you find sin, either literally or consequentially. Sin is the unnatural, the abnormal thing. "God made man upright" He is not responsible for sin. He is rather the great Antagonist of all evil.

2. That even godly men need discipline. An educational process is going forward in this life. This world is a great moral school, man is the learner, and suffering is one of the teachers. In the case of the good man suffering is not punitive, but disciplinary, educational. While there are defect and imperfection in us, we need the discipline of the Divine school.

3. That suffering is often the occasion of richest blessing. To a true-hearted man doubt as to any of the great spiritual verities is a painful thing. But such a man doubt almost (if not quite) always conducts to a calmer faith.

"Time tells his tale by shadows, and by clouds

The wind records its progress, by dark doubts

The spirit swiftening on its heavenward course."—Bailey.

Tennyson has described such a doubter.

"He fought his doubts and gathered strength.

He would not make his judgment blind;

He faced the spectres of the mind,

And laid them: thus he came at length

To find a stronger faith his own;

And Power was with him in the night,

Which makes the darkness and the light,

And dwells not in the light alone."

The Captain of our salvation was made "perfect through suffering." And those of His followers in this world who are most like Him are able to say, "We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience," &c.

"‘Glory to God,—to God,' he saith;

‘Knowledge by suff'ring entereth,

And life is perfected by death.'"

THE GODLY SOUL RISING SUPERIOR TO TROUBLE BY THE DEVOUT CONTEMPLATION OF THE WORKS AND WAYS OF GOD

(Psa .)

The mind and heart of the poet are growing calm. His agitation and distress are yielding to the exercise of reason and the power of faith. He is able to reflect to some purpose now.

I. The troubled soul's consideration of the works and ways of God. "I will remember the works of the Lord," &c.

1. Recollection of the works and ways of God. How wonderful is the faculty of memory! How great is its conservative power! Memory has been defined as "the treasure house of the mind, wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved." Cicero spoke of it as the "thesaurus omnium rerum. "By means of it nothing in life is lost.

"What wealth in memory's firm record,

Which, should it perish, could this world recall,

In colours fresh—originally bright—

From the dark shadows of o'erwhelming years."—Young.

Memory makes the fleeting present abiding and everlasting. How wonderful is its reproductive power! A very small circumstance will unlock and throw wide open its chamber doors; and words and deeds, scenes and circumstances, unthought of for many years, appear with startling vividness before us.

"Slight withal may be the things which bring

Back on the heart the weight which it would fling

Aside for ever; it may be a sound—

A tone of music—summer's eve—or spring—

A flower—the wind—the ocean—which shall wound,

Striking th' electric chain wherewith we're darkly bound;

And how and why we know not, nor can trace

Home to its cloud this lightning of the mind,

But feel the shock renew'd, nor can efface

The blight and blackening which it leaves behind."—Byron.

The Psalmist calls into exercise this wondrous power, for the relief of his troubled soul. He summons forth from the treasury of memory some of the ancient doings of God. The marvellous works which He had wrought on behalf of His people in former days he makes to live before him. Probably he also called to mind former deeds and ways of God in relation to his own individual life.

2. Reflection on the works and ways of God. "I will meditate also of all Thy work." Recollection would not have profited the Psalmist unless he had meditated upon the things which he recollected. Thought, meditation, enables us to realise the facts of history, science, philosophy, and theology, and to appropriate to ourselves their lessons. "If I should be asked," said Dr. Bates, "what I think are the best means and ways to advance the faculties, to make the ordinances fruitful, to increase grace, to enlarge our comfort, and produce holiness, I should answer, meditation, meditation, meditation." The Psalmist acted wisely in following up his recollection by meditation.

3. Speech concerning the works and ways of God. "Talk of Thy doings." With the Psalmist recollection and reflection preceded speech. Much of our talk is utterly worthless, because the talkers are not thinkers. It is especially important in relation to religious subjects that meditation should precede speech. The Psalmist did not reserve to himself the results of his meditation, but declared them to others. Others were benefited by reason of his recollection and reflection.

II. The troubled soul's conclusions on the works and ways of God. Placing them in the order in which we find them, the conclusions of the Psalmist on the works and ways of God are, that they are characterised by holiness (Psa ), strength (Psa 77:14), beneficence (Psa 77:15; Psa 77:20), majesty (Psa 77:16-18), and mystery (Psa 77:19). Let us consider them, slightly altering their order.

1. God's works and ways reveal His strength. "Thou art the God that doest wonders; Thou hast declared Thy strength among the people." God had made known His great power in crushing the enemies of His people, and delivering them from all their afflictions. No one can meditate upon the works of God in nature, or upon His ways in Providence, without being impressed with His Almightiness. "Thou hast a mighty arm; strong is Thy hand, and high is Thy right hand." The Almightiness of God should be a warning to evildoers. "Hast thou an arm like God?" The Almightiness of God should be an encouragement to His people. His strong arm is pledged to succour and defend you. He is "mighty to save."

2. God's works and ways reveal His majesty. In Psa the Psalmist mentions some of the mighty works of God in a very poetical manner. The imagery is both sublime and effective; and gives a deep impression, not only of the might of God in these transactions, but also of His majesty. If the majesty of God is so impressive that the earth and the sea are represented as greatly moved thereat, shall man remain unmoved at the contemplation thereof! Is there nothing in the wondrous works and ways of God to awaken the admiration and reverence of men?

3. God's works and ways reveal His holiness. "O God, in holiness is Thy way." His way is often mysterious; and can never be comprehended by us, yet is it ever right and pure. The troubled Psalmist when he calmly considered the dealings of God with men, not in the present, in which only a very small fragment is visible, but in ancient time, was convinced that they were all in holiness. Trembling and troubled heart, and sorely perplexed with insoluble enigmas, look away and look calmly to His glorious deeds of ancient date, and thou, too, shalt conclude, "Thy way, O God, is in holiness."

4. God's works and ways reveal His beneficence. The manifestation of power and majesty is not sufficient to awaken trust and hope in us, or to afford any encouragement to the despondent and sorrowing heart. Being conscious of sin and ill-desert it is calculated to awaken anxiety and even dread. We fear lest the glorious majesty should consume us, and the great might should smite and destroy us. The revelation of the Divine holiness tends to make manifest the awful contrast between us and God in this respect, by showing the exceeding sinfulness of our hearts and lives. The troubled heart needs to know more of God than this before it can obtain comfort or rest. The Psalmist saw the Divine power and majesty working beneficently. The "mighty arm" of God was displayed in smiting down the wicked oppressor, and delivering the oppressed people. "Thou hast with Thine arm redeemed Thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph." He saw Omnipotence gently and patiently leading His people through the wilderness. God is as great in mercy as He is in majesty. He is infinite in pity as well as in power. He is gracious as He is great. He is as tender as He is terrible. Here, then, may the troubled heart find peace.

5. God's works and ways are mysterious. The Psalmist had ascertained and declared certain characteristics of the works and ways of God. Might, majesty, holiness, and beneficence he had discovered therein. Yet there was much that remained obscure and mysterious. "Thy way is in the sea, and Thy path in the great waters, and Thy footsteps are not known." There are certain topics upon which the Most High maintains an inviolable reserve. There are certain regions into which the eye of the most earnest inquirer has never penetrated. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God." Moreover, God's way is so vast that we are able to perceive only a very small portion of it. His purposes and methods are so comprehensive and profound that we can understand them only very partially. But this mystery was by no means painful to the Psalmist. He speaks of it calmly and trustfully; and then speaks of God's gracious guidance of His people through the wilderness. So also to us mysteries should not be an occasion of unbelief or sorrow, but of patient trust and hope. They should also teach us lessons of humility and reverence. Our own ignorance and inability to comprehend the ways of God should humble us. "We are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow." While the reserve of a Being of such holiness and benevolence should be regarded by us with reverence. "Clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne." "Mysteries! what are they but worlds at night time speeding on with swift wing to the all-revealing brightness of morning!"

SPIRITUAL INFIRMITIES

(Psa .)

"I said, This is my infirmity."

When a good man is made sensible of any evil in his heart or life, he is ready to acknowledge it, and take shame to himself on account of it. "I said, This is my infirmity." No doubt but the Psalmist had often said it to himself: and such soliloquies are very becoming and may be very useful. He said it also to God, in a way of humble confession. "I acknowledge my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid," &c. Probably he might say it to his intimate friends, whose piety and sympathy he had often witnessed; for we are commanded to confess our faults one to another, and to pray one for another.

I. Inquire into the nature of that infirmity. By considering the context we may conclude that it consisted in something like the following—

1. A proneness to live too much on frames and feelings. This is common among Christians, and hinders their establishment and growth in grace. Those who live on spiritual frames will be like Reuben; unstable as water, they shall not excel. At one time they are raised to a full assurance of faith, saying, "My mountain stands strong, I shall never be moved;" and at another they are sinking into the depths of despondency, and saying, "Will the Lord cast off for ever, and will He be favourable no more?"

2. Forgetfulness of past mercies is another evil to which good men are subject, and the natural consequence of this is unthankfulness.

3. Distrust with respect to future appearances. When faith was in exercise David could say, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?" &c. (Psa ). But here the Psalmist speaks as one that was utterly forsaken. "Will the Lord cast off for ever?" &c. (Psa 77:7-9).

4. Refusing to be comforted in time of distress (Psa ). Moses told the children of Israel that the Lord would bring them out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and give them the land which He had promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; but they hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.

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

II. The reasons why God suffers such infirmities to attend His people in this life.

1. To promote humility and self-abasement. As creatures, our insignificance should make us humble; but as sinners we have reason to be still more so.

2. To excite watchfulness. Those who are liable to so many miscarriages ought certainly to be upon their guard. If nothing else will preserve the Christian from carnal security, yet the danger to which he is exposed should have that effect. "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."

3. To increase our sympathy and compassion towards others. We are made to know the heart of a stranger by being strangers ourselves. If others are overcome by temptation, we may be so too. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault," &c. (Gal ).

4. To show the necessity of a frequent application to Christ, our spiritual Physician. If we had no infirmities, we should not want healing. "They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick." The value of the remedy is known by them that feel the disease, and the need of a Saviour by those who see themselves to be lost. "And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

5. To render heaven the more desirable. The Psalmist is now free from all his infirmities, and so will every saint be when he gets to glory. The conflicts we now have with the enemy, and the evils of our own hearts, will give a delightful relish to our happiness hereafter, and heighten the triumphs of the final victory (Psa ; 2Co 5:1-4).

III. Conclude with a few observations.

1. The best of saints have their infirmities.

2. There is some particular infirmity which every man may call his own. "I kept myself," said David, "from mine iniquity;" that is, from the sin which most easily beset him.

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 … e.

RECOLLECTION, REFLECTION, AND DECLARATION

(Psa .)

The Psalmist in his trouble seeks relief by recollecting the wondrous works of God, and reflecting and speaking thereon.

I. Recollection. "I will remember," &c. The powers of memory are twofold. They are the power of retention, and the power of reproduction. By virtue of the former, memory is the storehouse of past scenes, circumstances, events, words, deeds. By virtue of the latter we are enabled to reproduce and relive the past. Memory may be regarded in several aspects.

1. As a source of pain. Tennyson has beautifully and truthfully said,—

"A sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things."

"Remembrance wakes with all her busy train,

Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain."—Goldsmith

"Will no remorse, will no decay,

O Memory! soothe thee into peace!

When life is ebbing fast away,

Will not thy hungry vultures cease!

Ah, no! as weeds from fading free,

Noxious and rank, yet verdantly

Twine round a ruin'd tower;

So to the heart, untamed, will cling

The memory of an evil thing,

In life's departing hour:

Green is the weed when grey the wall

And thistles rise while turrets fall."

—Heraud.

2. As a source of pleasure. "A memory without blot or contamination," said Charlotte Brontë, "must be an exquisite treasure,—an inexhaustible source of pure refreshment."

"The joys I have possess'd are ever mine;

Out of thy reach, behind eternity,

Hid in the sacred treasure of the past,

But bless'd remembrance brings them hourly back."—Dryden.

3. As an aid to faith. So the Psalmist uses it in this case. Observe,

(1) God's works are wonders. What marvellous things He is ever accomplishing in the material world! What wonders He wrought on behalf of His ancient people! How wonderful are His doings now in the experience of His people,—in their conversion, spiritual education, sanctification, and glorification! Truly, "the bright glories of His grace, beyond His other wonders shine."

(2) God's wondrous works should be remembered. Not to remember them would indicate great insensateness of mind. He who does not remember them overlooks the most glorious of records; and cannot be held guiltless of ingratitude.

(3) God's wondrous works remembered are calculated to inspire confidence. They reveal a Being who is supremely trustworthy.

II. Reflection. "I will meditate," &c. By means of reflection we are enabled to realise the facts recalled by memory, to perceive their significance and applications; and the emotions which naturally spring from the facts remembered are excited by reflection. Recollection is of little worth comparatively, unless accompanied and followed by meditation. It was by the exercise of both these faculties that the troubled heart of the poet grew calm and victorious.

III. Declaration. "I will talk of Thy doings." A good man, having passed through experiences similar to those of the Psalmist, should talk of God's doings. After his trouble, recollection, and meditation, his talk would be—

1. Intelligent. He would not utter crude or rash statements concerning God.

2. Trust-inspiring. His own faith would grow stronger as he recounted to others, &c. The faith of those who heard him would also grow as they thought of his conflict, and how he won the victory.

CONCLUSION.—Here is an example well worthy our imitation. Recollect, meditate, and then speak.

THE WAYS OF GOD

(Psa .)

I. God's ways are vast in their extent. "In the sea." His ways are related—

1. To all ages—past, present, future.

2. To all worlds.

3. To all events.

II. God's ways are profound in their meaning. "In the great waters." Not in streams or rivers, but in the immeasurable, unfathomable ocean. His ways are "too deep to sound with mortal lines."

III. God's ways are mysterious in their aspect. "Thy footsteps are not known," cannot be always traced. "They are not always known; or they are not known in all things; yea, they are not altogether known in anything."

"The acknowledgment of mystery," says Dr. Huntington, "the frank confession that our being is folded all about with the unknowable, our light fringed on every side with darkness, our little globe swimming in an ocean of unfathomable designs, but God guiding it on and caring for every passenger soul—this is an end of the trying of our faith."

GOD LEADING HIS PEOPLE

(Psa .)

I. The Leader of the good. "Thou." The Leader possesses—

1. Unlimited power, for the protection and support of His people.

2. Perfect intelligence. He knows His people individually and thoroughly. He is perfectly acquainted with the way along which they travel to their destination.

3. Solicitous regard for each member of the flock. He tenderly cares for every one, and for all.

II. The instruments by which they are led. "By the hand of Moses and Aaron." He still guides instrumentally. How?

1. By His Providence, pointing out our way by the indications of circumstances and current events.

2. By His Word, with its "Thou shalt," and "Thou shalt not."

3. By His Spirit influencing our spirits.

4. By the counsel of His servants. The wise and good are here to direct us.

III. The manner in which they are led. "Like a flock. "We have here three ideas.

1. Particularity. The Eastern shepherds have a particular knowledge of each sheep, of its peculiarities, &c. And a name for each sheep. (See illus. in "The Land and the Book," by Dr. Thomson.) "He calleth his own sheep by name." "I am the good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine."

2. Unity. Though the distinctness and individuality of each one is preserved, yet they are not separated. They constitute a "flock." "One flock" under "one Shepherd."

3. Leading as contradistinguished from driving. The Eastern shepherd goes before his flock, and so leads them. "And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him; for they know His voice." Dr. Bushnell briefly, yet clearly and suggestively, states the idea—"He does not drive them on before as a herd of unwilling disciples, but goes before Himself, leading them into paths that He has trod, and dangers He has met, and sacrifices He has borne Himself, calling them after Him, and to be only followers."

"Jesus still lead on

Till our rest be won;

And although the way be cheerless.

We will follow, calm and fearless:

Guide us by Thy hand

To our Fatherland."

—Zinsendorf.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 77:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/psalms-77.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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