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Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters

Heman

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HEMAN was 'David's seer in the matters of God.' Now a seer is just a man who sees. He is just a man who has eyes in his head. Other men also have eyes indeed, but, then, they do not see with their eyes as a seer sees. A seer stands out among all other men in this, that he sees with all his eyes. Heman, then, was a seer. And he was a seer in this. Heman saw constantly a sight that to most men even in Israel was absolutely invisible. Heman saw, and saw nothing else, but his own soul. From his youth up Heman had as good as seen nothing in the whole world but his own soul. And, after he was well on in life, Heman was moved of God to set down the sight of his own soul in the eighty-eighth Psalm. David, on occasion, was a wonderful seer himself. But David had not given himself up from his youth up to the things of his own soul as Heman had done. David was a man of affairs, and he had many other matters to see to besides the matters of God and of his own soul; but Heman saw nothing else. Separate me Heman and Heman's soul, the Holy Ghost had said. And it was so. And David, discovering that, made Heman the king's seer. Saul also in his day had sought out a seer. Only, the seer that Saul sought out was a seer who could see stolen sheep on the mountains a hundred miles away. Whereas David sought in Heman a seer who could see both David's soul and his own; and who could see sin in David's soul and in his own when no other eye in all Israel could see it. My sin is ever before me, said David, when his eyes were once opened. And it was to Heman, under God, even more than to Nathan or Gad, that David owed that ever-present sight. 'In the matters of God Heman was the King's seer,' says the sacred writer. God had many matters, first and last, with David; but God's first matter with David, as with all men, was David's sin and David's soul. And Heman from his youth up had been kept so close at God's school for seers in the matters of sin and the soul, that David sought out Heman and established him in Mount Zion as the King's most private, most trusted, and most highly-honoured seer. This, then, was Heman, the seer of David in the matters of God.

'My soul is full of troubles,' says this great seer, speaking about himself in the eighty-eighth Psalm. What led Heman to speak about himself in that way to a people who could not understand what he said, we do not know. What led Heman to speak and to publish abroad this most melancholy of all the Psalms we are not told. He speaks in this Psalm as he was moved to speak by the Holy Ghost; but more than that we do not know. It may have been to console David in some of his many inconsolable seasons. It may have been to rebuke David by letting him see that a saint of God who had never sinned as David had sinned, had, nevertheless, been cast of God into depths that even David had never known. Or it may have been that there might be a Psalm grievous enough for our Lord to recall it and to repeat it during His three hours darkness on the cross. Or it may have been because God, in His far foreknowledge, saw some one in this house this night that no other Psalm would suit but this saddest of all the Psalms, Who can tell? Now, Heman's soul so full of troubles, you must understand, was not on account of Heman's outward estate. It was not Heman's actual sin like David's. Neither was there any terrible trouble, like David's, among his large family of sons and daughters. Heman had brought up his sons and daughters far more successfully than David had done. For all Heman's sons and daughters assisted their father in sacred song in the house of the Lord. Some of the worst troubles we see and hear men's souls to be full of all around us come to them through their children. But that was not Heman's case. At the same time Heman cannot take a happy father's full joy out of his talented and dutiful children because of the overwhelming trouble of his own soul. He cannot sing and play with his gifted and gracious children with all his heart as other happy fathers sing and play. And that is another trouble to Heman's soul already so full of troubles. It is a terrible price to pay for his post as David's seer to have a soul like that. It is a terrible baptism into the matters of God to have a soul from his youth up so full of inconsolable troubles.

'My soul is full of troubles,' says Heman, 'till I am driven distracted.' Every day we hear of men and women being driven distracted through love, and through fear, and through poverty, and through pain, and sometimes through over-joy, and sometimes, it is said, through religion. It was thought by some that the Apostle Paul was quite distracted in his day through his too much thought and occupation about divine things. And our Lord Himself was again and again said to be beside Himself And no wonder. For if love, and fear, and pain of mind and heart, and sometimes over-joy have ever driven men distracted: who ever had all these things, and more, on his mind and on his heart like our Lord? To see what was in man, and what comes out of the heart of man: and to see all that with such holy eyes and with such a holy heart as His, and then to see and understand how all that so concerned Himself-had the very Godhead not held Him up, no mortal mind and heart could have endured under the sight. No wonder that Jesus of Nazareth was often, even to His mother and His brethren, like a man that should be kept close watch over at home. The Second Evangelist was a remarkable seer in all the matters of our Lord. He saw things in our Lord that no other Evangelist had the eyes to see: and he writes about our Lord in words that no other Evangelist can command. And one word he writes in goes so near describing absolute distraction that we shrink back from truly and fully translating it. We water it down till we say that our Lord was sore amazed and very heavy. To be made sin sore amazed our Lord. It almost drove Him beside Himself. A terror at sin, and a horror: a terror and a horror at Himself, took possession of our Lord's soul in the garden till He was full of a trouble beyond all experience and imagination of mortal men. It was not death. Death is nothing. Death is nothing to sin. Death and all its terrors did not much move our Lord. He went up to meet death with a serenity and with a stateliness of soul that confounded and almost converted those who saw it. No; it was not death. It was sin. It was that in which our mothers conceived us. It was that which we drink up like water. It was that which we are all full of from the sole of the foot even unto the head. It was sin. It was hell-fire in His soul. It was the coals, and the rosin, and the juniper, and the turpentine of the fire that is not quenched. The pains of hell gat hold upon Him, He found trouble and sorrow till He was well-nigh distracted. Now there was no Old Testament saint so like our Lord in all that as was Heman. And in the measure that we have our Lord's eyes and Heman's eyes wherewith to see sin, in that exact measure wilt we each one of us fill up what is behind of these tremendous distractions. As it is, our brain sometimes reels in its distracted globe. We know that we sometimes talk distractedly. We know that we terrify and torment other men. We terrify and are a torment to ourselves when no one knows it. We tremble sometimes at the thought of what this may yet grow to if it goes on, as it will go on, all our days. But be not too much cast down. Comfort my people. Say to them that for all their present shame they shall yet have double. Say to them that this is wisdom. Say to them that this is the only mind that hath the true wisdom. Say to them, and assure them, that this is the beginning in them of the wisdom, and the truth, and the love, and the salvation of their God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Now, with all that, this is not to be wondered at that Heman says next. Anything else but this is not to be expected from Heman. Heman makes it an additional complaint, but it is a simple and a necessary consequence of his own troubled and distracted soul. 'Thou hast put mine acquaintance far from me. Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.' Job, Heman's spiritual equal almost, has the very same complaint again and again, 'He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed me, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. All my inward friends have abhorred me; and they whom I loved are all turned against me.' And no wonder. Who that could help it would live in the same house with Heman? With such a morose and melancholy man? Friends and lovers, the oldest, and the warmest, and the best-they all have their several limits. Most men are made with little heart themselves, and they are not at home where there is much heart, and much exercise of heart. They flee in a fright from the heights and the depths of the high and deep heart. It needs a friend that sticketh closer than a brother to keep true to a man who has much heart, and who sees and feels with all his heart. Heman had wife and child: he had David, and Asaph, and Jeduthun also; and a whole choir-seat full of smiling acquaintances; but all that only made him feel the more alone. Asaph, also, in the same seat, felt the same loneliness. 'Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.' Much as Heman and Asaph had in common, they were all the time such strangers to one another when their distractions were upon them that they felt, as we say, as far as the poles asunder. When thou prayest, said our Lord, enter thy closet. That is to say, enter thine own distracted heart. And there is One, and only One, with thee in thy lockfast heart. David and Asaph and all,-there is nothing that sifts out lover and friend like prayer; the prayer that is, that takes up the troubles and the distractions of the soul. When our Lord took His distracted soul to His Father, the most that His best lovers and friends could do for Him was to fall asleep three times outside the door. Heman, besides being the king's seer, was also an eminent type of Christ, both in the distracting troubles of his soul, and in the fewness and in the infidelity of his friends.

Down to Gehenna, and up to the Throne,
He travels the fastest who travels alone.

Now all that, bad as it was, would have been easily borne had it been a sudden stroke and then for ever over. Had it been a great temptation, a great fall, a great repentance, a great forgiveness, and then the light of God's countenance brighter than ever all Heman's after-days. Had it been with Heman as it was with David: 'For His anger endureth but a moment; in His favour is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.' Or had it been with Heman as it was with Isaiah: 'For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy upon thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.' Josiah and Jeremiah bore their yoke also all their youth; but Heman bore his yoke all his days. Heman is now an old man; but like the woman in the gospel he is nothing better but rather worse. There are troubles and distractions in a man's youth sometimes that turn his hair grey before its proper time. But in most cases, by God's goodness, a life like that either comes to an early end altogether, or some great relief and great recovery comes in His grace from God. For the Lord will not cast off for ever. He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. But Heman's yoke from his youth up has been of that terrible kind that it has eaten into his soul deeper and deeper with every advancing year. Had Heman lived after Paul's day he would have described himself in Paul's way. He would have said that the two-edged sword had become every year more and more spiritual, till it entered more and more deep every year into his soul. And since souls like Heman's are absolutely bottomless and shoreless; and since the law of God is infinitely and increasingly holy and just and good; how could a man like Heman escape being every day of his life more and more sold under sin? He could not. All that Heman had hitherto come through was like child's-play at trouble and distraction compared with this. For his troubles have now taken on an inwardness and an incessancy such as an old saint of God once said would surely some day drive her into the pond.

God forbid, when God is a little displeased with any of His saints, that I should by a single hair-breadth help forward their affliction. God forbid that I should in anything make the heart of any righteous man more sad and should take away from him any of his true refuges. Before I do that may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. At the same time, I will risk it lest they be refuges of lies. I will risk it so that some one here present may perchance be discovered to himself and so saved. Heman's sad case has sometimes been set down to God's sovereignty. And so may all your sadness, possibly. But I would not have you believe that too easily. The chances with you lie all the other way. Are you quite sure that this deep darkness of yours is quite unaccountable to you short of God's sovereignty-short of His deep, hidden, divine will? I doubt it, and I would have you doubt it. I would have you make sure that there is no other possible explanation of this darkness of His face. All the chances are that it is not God's ways that are so distractingly dark, but your own. Look yet closer and yet deeper into yourself for the bottom of this dark mystery. If I were you I would let no man, not even an angel of light, cheat me out of my soul with any of his antinomianisms about the divine sovereignty. Is it not rather a divine controversy? Lean to that explanation. Look as you have never yet looked, and see if there is not some sinful way in you that is the cause of all this darkness on God's part, and all this distraction on your part. The only thing you can think of is such a little thing, that, if it is a sin, it is not worth God's pains to take so much notice of it, and to punish you so persistently for it. It is not a thing for God to stand upon; it is such a small affair. Well, if it is so small, all the more put it away. Put it away for a time at any rate, and, if light does not come, then return to it, if you cannot live without it. Only, there is a sermon of authority which says, Be ye therefore perfect; and it is through terrible distractions, and darknesses, and severities, and sanctifications that this perfect salvation comes to some men: and it looks to me as if you were one of them.

And to close with, there is a singular use in Heman for ministers. When God is to make a very sinful man into a very able, and skilful, and experimental minister, He sends that man to the same school to which He sent Heman. This was God's way, on the side of His sovereignty, with the Servant of the Lord also in the 50th of Isaiah. 'Who comforteth us in all our tribulations,' says Paul also, 'that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.' His own troubles and distractions give a minister 'a lady's hand,' as an old writer has it, in dealing with troubled and distracted souls. Now, who can tell what God has laid up for you to do for Him and for men's souls when you are out of your probationership of trouble and distraction, and are promoted to be a comforter of God's troubled and distracted saints? He may have a second David, and far more, to comfort and to sanctify in the generation to come; and you may be ordained to be the King's seer in the matters of God. Who can tell? Only, be you ready, for the stone that is fit for the wall is not left to lie in the ditch.


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Bibliography Information
Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'Heman'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wbc/h/heman.html. 1901.

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