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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Psalms 69



Verses 1-4



Psalms 69:1-4. Save me, O God! for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying; my throat is dried: mine eyes fail, while I wait for my God. They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty. Then I restored that which I took not away.

SACRED is the retirement of a penitent, and hallowed is the sanctuary where he is pouring out his soul before God: nor could the most obdurate sinner overhear his confessions and supplications, his cries and tears, his importunate pleadings and heart-rending groans, without being filled with awe and reverence. Let us draw nigh then with holy awe to the recesses of that chamber, where, not a sinful creature like ourselves, but our incarnate God, the Saviour of the world, is pouring out his soul under a load of sins imputed to him, and of sorrows the punishment of sin [Note: Hebrews 5:7.]. He it is that in the psalm before us is saying, “Save me, O God! for the waters are come in unto my soul.” David, it is true, was the writer of the psalm; and in parts of it may be considered as speaking chiefly, if not entirely, of himself: but in other parts he speaks so entirely in the person of the Messiah whom he typified, that we can scarcely apply the words to any other. Nor whilst we assert this are we in any danger of erring; because our blessed Lord himself, and the Evangelists who wrote his life, and St. Paul also, all concur in putting this very construction upon the psalm, and in citing various parts of it as actually accomplished in Christ. “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up [Note: John 2:17.],” is applied to Christ on one occasion; and on another, “They hated me without a cause [Note: John 15:25.].” His general deportment is said to have been predicted in those words, “The reproaches of them that reproached thee, fell on me [Note: Romans 15:3.].” At his crucifixion was fulfilled that remarkable prophecy, “They gave me gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink [Note: John 19:29.].” Even to Judas who betrayed him is one portion of it applied, “Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein [Note: Acts 1:20.].” After such authorities as these, we do not hesitate to interpret our text as referring to the sufferings of Christ, and as describing,

I. Their overwhelming nature—

If David, as a type, had many things to suffer, much more had that Saviour whom he typified. We will not however speak of his sufferings during the whole period of his sojourning on earth; but of those only which he endured in the closing scenes of his life, and which seem more particularly referred to in the psalm before us. That we may have a more distinct new of them, we will notice,

1. Those which were previous to his apprehension—

[“He had indeed a fearful prospect before him,” a bloody “baptism to be baptized with; and how was he straitened till it should be accomplished [Note: Luke 12:50.]!” When the time for its accomplishment drew nigh, his “soul was so troubled, that he knew not what to say.” As a man, he felt disposed to deprecate his sufferings, and to be saved from that hour that was fast approaching: but, as our Mediator, he would not recede, because he had come into the world for the express purpose of suffering all that was due to our sins [Note: John 12:27. with John 12:23; John 12:32-33.]. In the garden of Gethsemane his sorrows came yet more heavily upon him, so that he cried, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death [Note: Matthew 26:37-38.].” On this occasion he cried repeatedly, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me [Note: Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:44.]!” And such was the agony of his soul, that “he sweat great drops of blood” from every pore of his body [Note: Luke 22:44.]. To this period in particular we may suppose the petitions in our text to refer: for then “he offered up his supplications with strong crying and tears [Note: Hebrews 5:7.]:” and such were the intenseness of his agony, and the ardour of his importunity, that “his throat was dried,” “his eyes failed,” his whole nature was exhausted [Note: ver. 3.], and he needed “an angel to be sent from heaven to strengthen him [Note: Luke 22:43.].” It must be remembered, that in all this time no man had approached to hurt him: and therefore we are sure that his sorrows proceeded from “the powers of darkness” who were now let loose upon him [Note: Luke 22:53.], and from the hand of God himself, who now concurred to inflict upon him [Note: Isaiah 53:10.] the curse due to our iniquities [Note: Galatians 3:13.], which by a covenant-engagement he had undertaken to sustain [Note: Psalms 40:6-8.].]

2. Those which he sustained during his trial—

[It was no slight aggravation of his troubles that he was betrayed into the hands of his murderers by a kiss from one of his own disciples, and that “one who had eaten bread with him lifted up his heel against him [Note: John 13:18.].” And when he was seized and bound, he was yet further wounded in his soul by the intemperate zeal of another of his disciples, who, instead of submitting with meekness to the will of God, sought to destroy the adversaries of his Lord [Note: Matthew 26:51-52.]. From the garden he was hurried to the palace of the high priest, and, subsequently, from one tribunal to another, only to be treated with all manner of indignities, and to be denied that justice which his judges pretended to administer. How inconceivably painful to his mind must it have been, to be arrayed in mock majesty, to be made an object of profane scoffing, to be smitten, and buffeted, and spit upon, and loaded with all manner of accusations, and all this time not to have so much as one of the many myriads whom he had healed to bear testimony in his favour [Note: ver. 20.]; yea, even his own disciples having forsaken him, one indeed excepted, whose presence only aggravated his sorrow, by his impious oaths, and pertinacious denial of his Lord. Even a measure that was adopted with a view to preserve his life, became a source of still more aggravated woe. Pilate hoped, that, by scourging him, he should pacify those who sought his life: and, the order being given, “the ploughers ploughed upon his back and made long their furrows [Note: Psalms 129:3.]:” but “the whole multitude with insatiate fury cried out, Crucify him, crucify him [Note: See ver. 4.]!” and demanded that Barabbas, who was a robber and a murderer, should be preferred before him. Thus was the immaculate Lamb of God condemned to suffer the most cruel and ignominious of all deaths, even the accursed death of the cross.]

3. Those which were consummated in his death—

[From Pilate’s bar he was dragged away to execution. Laden with the cross to which he was to be affixed, he sank under the load, which therefore another was compelled to bear to the place of execution. To this he was fastened with nails through his hands and feet; and then was he raised a naked bloody spectacle to all his enemies. Ah! with what taunts was he then assailed, assailed even by the thieves, who on either side of him were suffering the same punishment! One would have thought that in such a situation at least he might become an object of pity: but no pity was found in the hearts of his blood-thirsty enemies: and their professed readiness to assuage his anguish, was only an impious mockery, and a cruel insult: they gave him “gall and vinegar to drink [Note: ver. 21.].” But the heaviest load which he had to sustain was laid upon him by other hands than those of man, even by the hands of his heavenly Father. Man could only touch his body: the wounds inflicted on his soul proceeded immediately from God, who then “was pleased to bruise him,” and to punish in him the iniquities of a ruined world. All his other sufferings he endured with lamb-like silence: but this forced from him that heart-rending complaint, “My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” The darkness which at mid-day, for the space of three hours, veiled the whole land, was a sad emblem of his state, under the agonies of expiring nature, and the wrath of a sin-avenging God. At last, having drunk the very last dregs of that cup which had been put into his hands, he bows his head, and gives up the ghost. “Was ever sorrow like unto his sorrow [Note: Lamentations 1:12.]?”]

After this slight sketch of our Redeemer’s sufferings, let us proceed to consider,

II. Their vicarious use—

It might be said of David under many of his persecutions, that “he restored that which he took not away:” for certainly he exercised forbearance, and forgiveness, and a returning of good to a very extraordinary extent. But a greater than David is here. That glorious person whose sufferings we have been contemplating, suffered not for himself, but for us: “He was cut off, but not for himself [Note: Daniel 9:26.]:”

1. It was not for his own sins—

[He was pure and perfect. His very examinations proved that in this respect he was fit to be an offering for the sins of others, “a lamb without blemish, and without spot.” As he had before challenged his enemies, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” so the more they laboured to load him with guilt, the more clear and manifest his innocence appeared. His Judge, his fellow-sufferer, his executioner, all proclaimed him innocent. The reason of his death, and his fitness for it, are stated in few words by his beloved disciple, “He was manifested to take away our sins; and in him was no sin.”]

2. It was for the sins of others—

[In all that he endured, he was our substitute and surety. We had contracted the debt, which he paid: we had sold our inheritance, which he shed his blood to redeem. This is the account given us throughout the whole Scriptures. His sacrifice was prefigured by all the sacrifices under the Levitical law, which in expiating the sins of those who offered them, and in restoring sinners to the favour of their God, might be said to “restore that which they took not away.” But this use of his sufferings is not left to be gathered from types and shadows: it was declared by the prophets in the most express terms. “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows [Note: Isaiah 53:4.]:” yes; “He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his stripes we are healed. The Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all [Note: Isaiah 53:5-6.].” To the same effect speak his Apostles also. St. Paul says, that “He who knew no sin was made sin, that is, a sin-offering for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:21.].” And St. Peter tells us, that “He bore our sins in his own body on the tree,” and “suffered for sins, the just for (in the room of) the unjust [Note: 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18.].” This glorious mystery may be not unfitly illustrated by St. Paul’s conduct towards the penitent Onesimus. Onesimus had robbed his master Philemon. After his conversion by the ministry of Paul, the Apostle sought to restore him to the love and confidence of his master; and engaged for that end to replace from his own funds the money that Onesimus had stolen: “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account: I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it [Note: Philem. ver. 18, 19.].” Thus did the Lord Jesus Christ, while yet he was in the bosom of his Father, undertake for us; and thus in due time he “laid down his own life a ransom for us.”]

What an instructive mystery is this! We see in it,

1. The proper ground for faith—

[To what, or to whom, shall we look to reconcile us to God? Can we “restore what we have taken way?” or will any one else undertake to restore it for us? What compensation can we make for our violations of God’s law? What offering can we make, that shall satisfy the claims of divine justice? or what can we do to compensate for the glory of which we have robbed our God? Alas! to make the attempt, or entertain the thought, were vain in the extreme. But Jesus has by his own obedience unto death made full satisfaction for all our sins. Have we poured contempt upon the law? He “has magnified the law, and made it honourable [Note: Isaiah 42:21.].” Have we brought dishonour on our God? He has glorified every one of the divine perfections more, infinitely more, by his obedience unto death, than they ever could have been glorified either by the perfect obedience, or the eternal condemnation, of the whole human race [Note: John 13:31.]. He then is worthy to be confided in as a Saviour: he is a sure foundation whereon to build all our hopes for time and for eternity. Hence he says, (and may God give to every one of us grace to comply with the invitation!) “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else [Note: Isaiah 45:22.].”]

2. The strongest motive for love—

[What shall induce us to love the Saviour, if the contemplation of his vicarious sufferings will not? Can we think of “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:9.];” can we think of this, I say, and not have our souls inflamed with love and gratitude to him? Surely such love must constrain us to admire him, to adore him, to magnify him, to serve him with all our faculties and all our powers. The very stones would cry out against us, if we did not break forth, as it were, in continual hosannas to our adorable Benefactor.]

3. The safest rule for obedience—

[We must expect to be, in a greater or less degree, conformed to our Saviour in his sufferings, if ever we would be conformed to him in his glory. From men we must expect persecutions for his sake. From Satan we shall meet with the same violent assaults. From God himself too must we occasionally experience the hidings of his face, and the chastisements of his rod: for, “What son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?” But in our troubles we must imitate our blessed Lord, and spread them before our heavenly Father “with strong crying and tears.” The proper language for us is that which was used by him [Note: ver. 13–18.] — — — And, as far as our afflictions proceed from men, we must meet them with patience and resignation, or rather, I should say, with returns of kindness and love. We should be ready to “restore that which we took not away,” and to render good for evil, till we have “overcome evil with good [Note: Romans 12:20-21.].” Doubtless this is a difficult and arduous task: but it is one which will be richly recompensed in the performance of it, and will be highly approved of our God in the last day [Note: Matthew 6:14.]. We may indeed, notwithstanding such conduct, be constrained to “pass through deep waters;” but our God will be with us in the midst of them [Note: Isaiah 43:2.], and bring us through all our tribulations to a state of eternal blessedness and glory [Note: Revelation 7:14-15.].]

Verse 32-33



Psalms 69:32-33. Your heart shall live that seek God. For the Lord heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners.

SWEETLY encouraging are the records of God’s people, as contained in the Sacred Oracles. We see their complaints exactly agreeing with those which we ourselves are constrained to utter. We see with what confidence they betook themselves to prayer; and how wonderfully their efforts were crowned with success; and how pleased God himself was with magnifying his grace and mercy towards them: and from all this we derive encouragement, at once suited to our necessities, and sufficient for our wants. Behold the experience of David in the preceding context: “I am poor and sorrowful.” (This accords with what is felt by every contrite soul.) And to what has he recourse? To prayer; and with an enlargement of heart which we should scarcely have expected to see: “Let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high!” (It is thus that we also should pray; not being straitened in our petitions; but “opening our mouths wide, in order that they may be filled.”) And now mark the success of his prayer: behold, without the delay of a moment, he is enabled to add, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.” (Such is the success which we also may hope for, if we pray in humility and faith.) And was God displeased with this holy boldness? No: David adds, “This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs,” yea, better than the cattle upon a thousand hills. Now mark the improvement we are to make of this: “The humble shall see this, and be glad: and (whoever ye be) your heart shall live that seek God; for the Lord heareth the poor (wherever they may be found), and despiseth not his prisoners,” however low or abject their condition.

Now, to encourage you, my Brethren, from this example, I will proceed (in the simplest way imaginable, and not with any artificial arrangement), to address you on the subject before us.

I trust that many of you are “seeking after God”—

[It can scarcely be, that after having so long had the Gospel faithfully ministered unto you, there should be the same indifference amongst you as in the ignorant ungodly world. I hope and trust there is amongst you some desire after God, some hope in the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and some endeavour to flee from the wrath to come — — —]

And, if you are seeking him aright, God promises that “your heart shall live”—

[Doubtless it is necessary that you seek after God in earnest: for “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent must take it by force.” You may seek to enter in, and not be able:” you must therefore not only seek, but “strive.” Moreover, you must strive in God’s appointed way. To win a race, you must not only run, but run lawfully;” that is, agreeably to the laws prescribed for you: and the only way by which any of you can succeed, is, by renouncing all dependence on yourselves, and founding your hopes altogether on the Lord Jesus Christ, even on his meritorious death and passion, as an expiation for your sins — — —

Now, if you are indeed fleeing to him for refuge, you shall assuredly find mercy of the Lord, or, as my text expresses it, “your heart shall live.” This expression deserves peculiar notice. The heart of an unawakened man is dead, and senseless as the nether millstone. The Gospel, with all its alluring promises, may be proclaimed; but he feels it not: it has no allurements for him; nor do its denunciations of judgment excite alarm. But let a person begin to seek after God aright, and “a new heart will be given to him, and a new spirit be put within him.” “The heart of stone will be taken away, and a heart of flesh” be substituted in its place. Then will all his views, desires, and pursuits, become changed: being alive to God, he will be alive to all holy exercises, and find his happiness in the enjoyment of his God. This is the explanation which the Psalmist himself gives of the expression in another psalm: “They shall praise the Lord that seek him; your heart shall live for ever [Note: Psalms 22:26.].”]

Nor let any one be discouraged on account of his poverty—

[The poor of this world are not less regarded by Jehovah than the rich. And those who are spiritually poor, are objects of his peculiar care. Not one such person will he ever overlook. Though surrounded by myriads of holy angels, he will not suffer them to attract his attention in comparison of a poor and contrite soul. No: “Unto this man will I look,” says he, “even unto him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word.” There is not a sigh which such an one utters, but it is heard by him, and is as music in his ears: and every tear he sheds is treasured up by him in his vial. But, not to rest on mere assertions, let us look at an example. In the Prophet Jeremiah, we find a poor mourning penitent, just such an one as we are speaking of; and there we may see in what light he is viewed by God: “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely, after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.” Now hear what God says to all this: “Is Ephraim (that is, Is not Ephraim) my dear Son? Is he not a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: yea, my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord [Note: Jeremiah 31:18-20.].” This shews what favour the poor shall find in his sight; and gives the full explanation of those words, “The Lord heareth the poor.”]

Even though a person should feel himself like a prisoner under actual sentence of death, let him not despond—

[It is in hell only that men are prisoners of despair: whilst they are in this world, the worst amongst them is only a “prisoner of hope; and to such there is a special promise from God himself: “Turn you to the strong-hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to-day do I declare that I will render double unto you [Note: Zechariah 9:12.].” Whatever your deserts of judgment have been, God will award to you a “double” measure in a way of mercy. God even condescends to assume this as his own character, whereby he may be known, even as clearly as by his works of creation, or the dispensations of his providence. “The Lord God is he who made the heaven and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: who keepeth truth for ever: who executeth judgment for the oppressed; who giveth food to the hungry. The Lord looseth the prisoners: the Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth up them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous [Note: Psalms 146:5-8.].” To them in a peculiar manner he had respect in the gift of his Son; as our Lord himself has said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor: he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted; to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord [Note: Luke 4:18-19.].” Only conceive of a poor wretch that has wasted all his substance, and sold himself for a slave, returning in an instant, at the sound of the trumpet, to the enjoyment of liberty, and of all his possessions; and then you have a just view of God’s dealings with the most abject prisoners of hope, the very instant that they call upon him. Let every one, then, take courage, however desperate his state may appear: for this is the true character of Jehovah; and such he will approve himself to be to all who come to him in his Son’s name.]

And now let me entreat you all to seek him without delay—

[“Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.” O beloved Brethren, “seek ye the Lord, while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon [Note: Isaiah 55:6-7.].”]


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 69:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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Sunday, November 29th, 2020
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