A Lament in the Midst of Suffering and Tribulation.
A song or psalm for the sons of Korah, written by a member of this illustrious family of musicians, to the chief musician upon Mahalath Leannoth, for use in public worship, but in a sorrowful manner, with muffled voices, Maschil, a didactic poem, of Heman, the Ezrahite, one of the four wise men at the time of Solomon, 1 Kings 4, 31, whose unusual musical gifts had caused him to be made a member of the Korahites, who were really more a guild than a family. V. 1. O Lord God of my salvation, in whom alone there is salvation for all men, a fact which makes it necessary for every individual to cling to Him in faith, I have cried day and night, without ceasing, before Thee. V. 2. Let my prayer come before Thee, placing no obstruction in its way, granting it a ready audience; incline Thine ear unto my cry, in the attitude of willing attention; v. 3. for my soul is full of troubles, filled up, surfeited, with evil, with suffering, and my life, in consequence of these evils, draweth nigh unto the grave, on the boundary of the realm of death. V. 4. I am counted with them that go down into the pit, those whose death is considered imminent. I am as a man that hath no strength, his utter loss of vitality contrasting with his former strength and energy; v. 5. free among the dead, that is, set free, or released, from the bonds of the living, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom Thou rememberest no more, they are no longer active in the history of men, apparently gone and forgotten for the time being; and they are cut off from Thy hand, no longer enjoying its guidance and help. V. 6. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in the most remote parts of the realm of death, in darkness, in the deeps, for the kingdom of death was supposed to be in the depths below the ocean, in impenetrable darkness. All this is description of the almost indescribable affliction which had come upon the psalmist. V. 7. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, pressing down upon him as with the force of mighty billows, and Thou hast afflicted me with all Thy waves, bowing down His wrath upon him, like the breakers of the seashore, Selah. V. 8. Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me, his closest friends drawing back from him with suspicion, knowing no other explanation for his condition than that of the righteous punishment of God, as in the case of Job; Thou hast made me an abomination unto them, so that they loathe the very sight of him; I am shut up, and I cannot come forth, his distress being so great that no way of escape opens before his eyes. V. 9. Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction, failing and decaying in utter exhaustion. Lord, I have called daily upon Thee, day after day, without ceasing; I have stretched out my hands unto Thee, in a gesture of urgent pleading, imploring His compassion. V. 10. Wilt Thou show wonders to the dead? That is, Did God intend to wait till He had succumbed to death! Shall the dead arise and praise Thee? That is, God surely did not expect praise from ghosts. Selah. The thought is this, that the psalmist, while he was still alive, wanted to praise the Lord for his deliverance from all the misery afflicting him; therefore the Lord should not let his afflictions reach such a climax as to bring him to the realm of death; for then all opportunity for worshiping Him would be past. V. 11. Shall Thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave or Thy faithfulness in destruction, in the place of ruin? V. 12. Shall Thy wonders be known in the dark? in the darkness of the realm of death, and Thy righteousness, as He revealed and imparted it to the believers, in the land of forgetfulness? where the body, even of the believers, for the time being, loses the faculty of thinking, feeling, and acting. The question of a final resurrection is not broached here, the psalmist having before his eyes only the deliverance from the present troubles. V. 13. But unto Thee have I cried, O Lord, deliberately shaking off the thoughts of despair which threatened to overwhelm his trust in Jehovah; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent Thee, going forth to meet, to intercept, the Lord, before He could think of doing anything else. V. 14. Lord, why castest Thou off my soul? by apparently despising it with loathing. Why hidest Thou thy face from me? as though unwilling to help. Cp. Ps. 27, 9; 77, 7. V. 15. I am afflicted and ready to die, on the point of death on account of the many troubles laid upon him, from my youth up; while I suffer Thy terrors, I am distracted, in such extremes of anguish and despair that he could not regain his powers. V. 16. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me, the billows of God’s wrath submerging him; Thy terrors have cut me off, thereby crushing him. V. 17. They, the terrors of God, which inspired such fears in his heart, came round about me daily like water, like an ocean flood; they compassed me about together, so that he saw no way of escape. V. l8. Lover and friend, all those who formerly were nearest and dearest to him. hast Thou put far from me and mine acquaintance, those whose confidence he had enjoyed, into darkness, so that they were no longer visible to him. “With this cry the harp drops from the poet’s hand; he is silent and waits until God shall solve the enigma of his suffering.” (Delitzsch.) As one commentator has it, this psalm may well be taken as typical of the immeasurable sufferings of Christ, the Messiah, when He became our Substitute in taking upon Himself the misery of humanity.