Remember, O LORD, what is come on us: consider, and behold our reproach.…
1. Probably there is nothing like this chapter in all the elegies of the world. For what is there here more than elegy? There is a death deeper than death. Here is a prayer that never got itself into heaven. Blessed be God, there are some prayers that never get higher than the clouds. Look at it. Behold how internally rotten it is. "Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us" (ver. 1). No man can pray who begins in that tone. There is not one particle of devotion in such an utterance. "What is come upon us." It is a falsehood. It is putting the suppliant into a wrong position at the very first. So long as men talk in that tone they are a long way from the only tone that prevails in heaven. — "God be merciful to me a sinner." "Consider, and behold our reproach" (ver. 1). How possible it is for penitence to have a lie in the heart of it; how possible it is for petitions addressed to heaven to be inspired by the meanest selfishness! Note well the inventory which is particularised by these persons, who are very careful to note all that they have lost. Read the bill; it is a bill of particulars: "Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens" (ver. 2). Here is material dispossession. If the inheritance had been retained, would the prayer have been offered? Probably not. "We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows" (ver. 8). Here is personal desolation. If the fathers had lived, would the prayers have been offered? "We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us" (ver. 4). Here is social humiliation. The emphasis is upon the pronoun, "Our" water, the water that we have in our own gardens, water taken out of the wells which our own fathers did dig. What an awful lot! what a sad doom! If it had been otherwise, where would the prayer have been? where would the confession, such as it is, have been? "Our necks are under persecution; we labour, and have no rest" (ver. 5). Here is a sense of grievous oppression. "Servants have ruled over us" (ver. 8). Here is an inversion of natural position. The greater the man, the greater the ruler, should be the law in social administration. Let me have a great man to direct me, superintend me, and revise my doings, and it shall be well with me at eventide. Some kings have been slaves; some noblemen have been servants. We are only speaking of the soul that is a slave, and whenever the slave mounts his horse he gallops to the devil.
2. Read this chapter and look upon it as a garden which sin has planted. All these black flowers, all these awful trees of poison, sin planted. God did not plant one of them. It is so with all our pains and penalties. It is so with that bad luck in business, with that misfortune in the open way of life. We are reaping what has been sown by ourselves or by our forerunners. It is quite right to remember our ancestors in this particular. It is quite true that our fathers have sinned, and that we in a sense bear their iniquities, and cannot help it, for manhood is one; but it is also true that we ourselves have adopted all they did. To adopt what Adam did is to have sinned in Adam and through Adam. We need not go behind our own signature; we have signed the catalogue, we have adopted it, and therefore we have to account for our own lapse in our own religion.
3. Wondrous it is how men turn to God in their distresses. The Lord said it would be so — "In their affliction they will seek Me early." So we have God in this great plaint, and what position does God occupy in it? He occupies the position of the only Helper of man. "Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us." Then comes the cry for old days: "Renew our days as of old." There is a sense in which the old days were better than these. What is that peculiar religious fascination which acts upon the mind and leads us back again into the nursery? We cry for the days of childhood, when we were unconscious of sin, when we played in the wood, when we gathered the primroses, when we came back from bird nesting and summer joys. Oh, that these days would come back again all their blueness, in all their simple joyousness! Sometimes the soul says, "Renew our days as of old" — when our bread was honest. Since then we have become tradesmen, merchants, adventurers, gamblers, speculators, and now there is not a loaf in the cupboard that has not poison in the very middle of it. We are richer at the bank, but we are poorer in heaven. God pity us! "Renew our days as of old" — when our prayers were unhindered, when we never doubted their going to heaven and coming back again with blessings; when we used to pray at our mother's knee we never thought that the prayer could fail of heaven. Oh, for the old child days, when God was in every flower and in every bird, and when all the sky was a great open Bible, written all over in capitals of love! The old days will not come. Still we can have a new youth; we can be born again. That is the great cry of Christ's Gospel "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again" — and thus get the true childhood.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach.