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Psalm 143:4-7

4. And my spirit is perplexed within me, my heart within me is astonished. 5. I remembered the days of old, I meditated upon all thy works; I meditated upon the work of thy hands. 6. I spread out my hands to thee, my soul is to thee as the earth without water. 251251     In the Book of Common Prayer it is — “My soul gaspeth unto thee as a thirsty land.” Mant translates similarly. The word gaspeth is a supplement, but it may convey the precise meaning; and according to this view the allusion is to the cracking of the lands of the east, in consequence of the extreme drought of the summer months. These dry lands, as has been noticed by travelers, have often chinks too deep for a person to see to the bottom of. This may be observed in the Indies more than anywhere, a little before the autumnal rains fall, and, wherever the lands are rich and hard. See Jeremiah 14:4. Selah. 7. Hasten, answer me, O Jehovah! my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, because I shall be like to those descending into the pit.

 

4. And my spirit, etc. Hitherto he has spoken of the troubles that were without, now he acknowledges the feebleness of his spirits, from which it is evident that his strength, was not like that of the rock, imperturbable or without feeling, but that, while overwhelmed with grief as to the feeling of the flesh, he owed his support entirely to faith and the grace of the Spirit. We are taught by his example not to throw up the conflict in despair, however much we may be weakened, and even exanimated by afflictions, as God will enable us to surmount them, if we only rise to him with our hearts amidst all our anxieties.

In the next verse David mentions that he had diligently sought means whereby to mitigate his grief. It is not to be wondered at, that many who spontaneously give themselves up to inaction, should sink under their trials, not using means to invigorate themselves by calling to remembrance the grace of God. Sometimes, it is true, our trials are only more keenly felt when we recall the former kindness which God may have shown to us, the comparison tending to awaken our feelings, and render them more acute; but David proposed a different end than this to himself, and gathered confidence from the past mercies of God. The very best method in order to obtain relief in trouble, when we are about to faint under it, is to call to mind the former loving-kindness of the Lord. Nor does David mean such as he had experienced from childhood, as some have thought, adopting in my judgment too restricted a sense; for the word קדם, kedem, has a more extensive signification. I have no doubt, therefore, that he includes past history, as well as his own personal experience, it being easy to discover proofs there of God’s continued goodness to his people. We should ourselves learn by his example, in reflecting upon personal favors received from God, to remember also how often he has assisted those that served him, and improve the truth for our own benefit. Should this not immediately or at once abate the bitterness of our grief, yet the advantage of it will afterwards appear. In the passage before us, David complains that he did not get relief from his anxieties and cares from this consolatory source, but he prosecuted his meditations in expectation of finding the good result in due time. The verb שוה, suach, I have elsewhere observed, may mean either to declare with the tongue, or to revolve in the mind. Some accordingly read — “I have discoursed of thy works.” But as the verb הגה, hagah, means to meditate, I consider that the Psalmist repeats the same thing twice, and this in token of earnestness. We will often upon a slight exercise of the thoughts upon God’s works, start aside from them almost immediately; nor is it matter of surprise, that, in this case, there results no solid comfort. That our knowledge may be abiding we must call in the aid of constant attention.

6. I have stretched forth my hands to thee. Here appears the good effect of meditation, that it stirred David up to pray; for if we reflect seriously upon the acting’s of God towards his people, and towards ourselves in our own experience, this will necessarily lead out our minds to seek after him, under the alluring influence of his goodness. Prayer, indeed, springs from faith; but as practical proofs of the favor and mercy confirm this faith, they are means evidently fitted for dissipating languor. He makes use of a striking figure to set forth the ardor of his affection, comparing his soul to the parched earth. In great heats we see that the earth is cleft, and opens, as it were, its mouth to heaven for moisture. David therefore intimates, he drew near to God with vehement desire, as if the very sap of life failed him, as he shows more fully in the verse which follows. In this he gives another proof of his extraordinary faith. Feeling himself weak, and ready to sink into the very grave, he does not vacillate between this and the other hope of relief, but fixes his sole dependence upon God. And heavy as the struggle was that he underwent with his own felt weakness, the fainting of spirit he speaks of was a better stimulant to prayer than any stoical obstinacy he might have shown in suppressing fear, grief, or anxiety. We must not overlook the fact, how in order to induce himself to depend exclusively upon God, he dismisses all other hopes from his mind, and makes a chariot to himself of the extreme necessity of his case, in which he ascends upwards to God.


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