3. When I kept silence, my bones wasted away, and when I cried out all the day. 4. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; and my greenness was turned into the drought of summer.
3. When I kept silence, my bones wasted away. Here David confirms, by his own experience, the doctrine which he had laid down; namely, that when humbled under the hand of God, he felt that nothing was so miserable as to be deprived of his favor:by which he intimates, that this truth cannot be rightly understood until God has tried us with a feeling of his anger. Nor does he speak of a mere ordinary trial, but declares that he was entirely subdued with the extremest rigour. And certainly, the sluggishness of our flesh, in this matter, is no less wonderful than its hardihood. If we are not drawn by forcible means, we will never hasten to seek reconciliation to God so earnestly as we ought. In fine, the inspired writer teaches us by his own example, that we never perceive how great a happiness it is to enjoy the favor of God, until we have thoroughly felt from grievous conflicts with inward temptations, how terrible the anger of God is. He adds, that whether he was silent, or whether he attempted to heighten his grief by his crying and roaring,1 his bones waxed old; in other words, his whole strength withered away. From this it follows, that whithersoever the sinner may turn himself, or however he may be mentally affected, his malady is in no degree lightened, nor his welfare in any degree promoted, until he is restored to the favor of God. It often happens that those are tortured with the sharpest grief who gnaw the bit, and inwardly devour their sorrow, and keep it enclosed and shut up within, without discovering it, although afterwards they are seized as with sudden madness, and the force of their grief bursts forth with the greater impetus the longer it has been restrained. By the term silence, David means neither insensibility nor stupidity, but that feeling which lies between patience and obstinacy, and which is as much allied to the vice as to the virtue. For his bones were not consumed with age, but with the dreadful torments of his mind. His silence, however, was not the silence of hope or obedience, for it brought no alleviation of his misery.
4. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me. In this verse he explains more fully whence such heavy grief arose; namely, because he felt the hand of God to be sore against him. The greatest of all afflictions is to be so heavily pressed with the hand of God, that the sinner feels he has to do with a Judge whose indignation and severity involve in them many deaths, besides eternal death. David, accordingly, complains that his moisture was dried up, not merely from simply meditating on his sore afflictions, but because he had discovered their cause and spring. The whole strength of men fails when God appears as a Judge and humbles and lays them prostrate by exhibiting the signs of his displeasure. Then is fulfilled the saying of Isaiah,
"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it." (Isaiah 40:77)
The Psalmist, moreover, tells us, that it was no common chastisement by which he had been taught truly to fear the divine wrath; for the hand of the Lord ceased not to be heavy upon him both day and night. From a child, indeed, he had been inspired with the fear of God, by the secret influence of the Holy Spirit, and had been taught in true religion and godliness by sound doctrine and instruction. And yet so insufficient was this instruction for his attainment of this wisdom, that he had to be taught again like a new beginner in the very midst of his course. Yea, although he had now been long accustomed to mourn over his sins, he was every day anew reduced to this exercise, which teaches us, how long it is ere men recover themselves when once they have fallen; and also how slow they are to obey until God, from time to time, redouble their stripes, and increase them from day to day. Should any one ask concerning David, whether he had become callous under the stripes which he well knew were inflicted on him by the hand of God, the context furnishes the answer; namely, that he was kept down and fettered by perplexing griefs, and distracted with lingering torments, until he was well subdued and made meek, which is the first sign of seeking a remedy. And this again teaches us, that it is not without cause that the chastisements by which God seems to deal cruelly with us are repeated, and his hand made heavy against us, until our fierce pride, which we know to be un-tameable, unless subdued with the heaviest stripes, is humbled.