Psalm 13:1

This is one of those numerous psalms which come under the first division specified in our introductory homily. It belongs to those which give us an insight into the religious experiences of an Old Testament saint - probably David - but it matters not whose they were. For they are a precise reflection of the alternations of spiritual mood through which many a sorrowful believer since then has passed; yea, through the like of which many of our readers may be passing now. We can never be too thankful for such psalms as these, showing us, as they do, not so much the objectivities of Divine revelation, as the subjectivities of inward experience. Not that we are bound, in our experience, to find that which corresponds to every phase. By no means. Experienced nurses say that no two babes ever cried exactly alike; and certainly no two children of God ever went through precisely the same experience. Still, the course pursued by the early believers is a fine lesson-book for modern ones. We shall find our study of this psalm suggestive of much in the experience of believers and in the dealings of God with them.

I. HERE ARE REMARKABLE ALTERNATIONS OF MOOD AND EMOTION. There are seven notes in music; there are seven colours in light. If there are seven stages in religious emotion, surely this psalm notes them all. We have a believer:

1. Thinking himself shut off from God. "How long wilt thou forget me... hide thy face from me?" It does not follow that God had hidden his face; and assuredly he had not forgotten the troubled one. Had it been so, the afflicted one had not survived to offer this prayer. Note: It is not in the midst of sore anguish that we can rightly gauge the mind of God towards us. We may be the objects of tenderest compassion even when our sun seems to be eclipsed.

2. Fearing his adversaries. (See ver. 4.) He was evidently surrounded by those who lay in wait for him. He could have faced them boldly had it not been for the hiding of God's face. But that made him tremble, and no wonder.

3. Sorrowfully musing. (Ver. 2.) What a tumult of agitation was he now passing through! And what a bewildered and bewildering host of troublous thoughts and queries seize the mind at such times as these!

4. Sinking under the pressure. (Ver. 3.) The phrase indicates that the psalmist was at the very verge of despair. "Courage almost gone." So that his spirit is failing or his bodily frame is giving way. The writer may mean either or both.

5. Trusting. (Ver. 5.) "The darkest hour is just before the dawn." The woe reaches its deepest and bitterest; and then - trust prevents absolute despair. The renewed heart clings to God, even in the dark. And he to whom our spirit thus clings will appear for us at the right time, and in his own wonder-working way.

6. Trust leads to prayer. The whole psalm is a prayer. One of the greatest blessings in life is to have a friend who will never misunderstand us; and by whom all our unintelligible and contradictory words will be pitied, and not blamed; who will bury our follies in his own love. But there is only One in whom all this exists to perfection - even our God. He never misinterprets the language of broken hearts and bewildered souls - never! We may always tell him exactly what we feel, as we feel it; or, if words will not come, then "our groaning" is not hid from him. He will answer us, not according to our imperfection, but will do exceeding abundantly for us "above all that we can ask or think." The fourth verse may not and does not give us the highest style of pleading. But it indicates the burden on the heart. And whatsoever is a burden on a child's heart is to the Father an object of loving concern, and maybe rolled over on to God (Psalm 55:22; Psalm 142:1-7).

7. Deliverance comes in answer to prayer. And thus it ever will be. So that he who moans at the beginning of prayer may sing at the end of it. "I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me." Thus does this psalm run through the various shades or stages of emotion. Having gone down to the depths of the valley of anguish, the writer comes at length to stand on the heights of the mount of praise!

II. SUCH A REHEARSAL OF EXPERIENCE THROWS MUCH LIGHT ON THE SECRET DEALINGS OF GOD WITH HIS PEOPLE. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him," says the psalmist elsewhere (Psalm 25:14). And this thirteenth psalm lets us into it. It teaches us:

1. That the child of God is the object of the Father's tenderest pity and love, even at the moment of tumultuous anguish and deep darkness of soul. The sun shines just as brightly on us, even when a film over the eyes obscures our sight of it. Saints are never nearer or dearer to the heart of God than when they are in trouble.

2. God graciously sanctifies the anguish, and makes it the means of quickening to intenser devotion. It is not when all is calm that prayer is at its best. Ah, no! It is when we are stunned, startled, half-paralyzed by some dreadful and unexpected trial, that we pray the most earnestly. It is quite possible that at such times words may fail; but God reads deep meaning in the tear, and hears heavenly eloquence in the sighs of those that seek him.

3. The anguish will be removed in God's own time. When the trial sent us has secured its needed end in the quickening of devotion, the strengthening of faith, and the improvement of the whole life, then will the pressure be taken off. Nor ought we to desire it otherwise. It is far more important to have our afflictions sanctified than to have them removed.

4. By the very trials through which we have passed we shall have learnt to be comforters of others. If the psalmist had known that the written experience of his sorrows and his songs would have gone down to hundreds of generations, to comfort sorrowing souls in all time, he would have been thankful for his trouble, sharp as it was. Note:

(1) It is only those who have gone through trouble that can effectually be comforters of others (2 Corinthians 1:6; cf. Hebrews 2:18).

(2) It is not to be supposed that merely because we have sorrow at one moment we shall have joy in the future. Only God's mourners can expect God's comforts. Matthew 5:4 is for those named in Matthew 5:3. The vast difference pointed out in Isaiah 50:10, 11 should be reverently and anxiously pondered.

(3) It is only the renewed soul that can possibly thus trust, pray, and plead, when in the midst of anguish. The supreme concern of each is to accept peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ; to have sin forgiven, and the soul renewed. He who has first cast his burden of sin and guilt on an atoning Saviour, and who is being renewed by the Holy Ghost, may come every day and cast any care, and all his care, upon his Father, God.

(4) It is infinitely better to be in the depth of the valley of sorrow, as a good man, and to let our God lead us up to the height of joy, than, as a godless man, to be at the height of merriment and laughter for awhile, only to sink to the depths of despair. - C.

The blessing of the Lord he upon you.
Although mutuality is beautiful, we are not to be, as Christians, dependent on it. "Bless them that curse you." "Being reviled, we bless." Our responsibilities are the same, under all conditions of human life. Bug it is a pleasant and helpful thing when there is mutuality of blessing.

I. THE SPIRIT OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS THAT WE SHOULD LIVE IN OTHERS. This is not merely a doctrine of abstract truth; it is a revelation of the life of God in Christ. He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life, — His life of thought, His life of toil, His life of pity and compassion, His life of sorrow, His life of suffering, even unto death, for our sakes. So His whole history was a benediction, and He has left us as partakers of the Divine nature through Him the legacy of His joy and of His peace.

II. THERE ARE SPECIAL OCCASIONS FOR THE MINISTRATION OF BLESSING; seasons when we are more alive to our own mercies; seasons when our warm fire-light contrasts with the cold hearths of the poor; seasons of health and strength, when we are called to sympathize with hopeless and incurable disease.

III. THE SPIRIT OF BLESSING IS THE SPIRIT OF UNIVERSAL MINISTRY. We are not all called to do the same thing, we are not all called to be bishops, or deacons, or teachers. There are diversities of operation. God chooses His instruments, calls them to their work. You cannot find the man or woman, child or father, master or servant you cannot bless. You may be ineloquent, but you can bless with a look. You may find yourself so nervous that your words are inaudible before man, but for you the whisper at the Throne of Grace is possible.

IV. THE SPIRIT OF MUTUAL BLESSING ACTS AS A REMINDER OF MERCIES. We are too apt to forget them, too apt to take them for granted, too apt to have the blessing and not to trace it up to the great Giver. Perhaps I have taken God's mercies as though it was natural and proper for me to receive them, as though the consciousness of having done my duty ought to lead me to expect reward; as though my endeavour ought to have been so honoured; as though living a pure life I ought to have health; as though being friendly I ought to have friends. The text reminds us it is "the blessing of the Lord." We shall never know the meaning of the word "blessing" until we look back upon life from the great battlements of heaven, and see all the way that the Lord led us in, to humble us, to prove us, and to try what was in our heart.

V. THE SPIRIT OF MUTUAL BLESSING IS THE SPIRIT OF THE SANCTUARY. "We bless you in the name of the Lord," and in another part we read, "We bless you out of the house of the Lord." That is to be, as I take it, the spirit of the Church, and the Church has need to learn in all ages that lesson. The Church of Christ is to be the Church of restoration. If a man err, we are to restore such an one in the spirit of meekness. If men are cast down, we are to lift them up; we are to strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees, and to say to them that are of a fearful heart, "Thy God reigneth."

(W. M. Statham.)

This ancient salutation still lingers in the East. And a delightful thing it would be were there a greater manifestation of courteous and devotional feeling in the harvest fields at home. Beyond the sacred circle of the Church, there is no sight so cheering under the broad vault of heaven as a rich field of corn, and the reapers cutting it down. It fills the heart with gladness, and sends the thoughts upward to Him who sends His sunshine, and rains, and dews, and crowns the year with His goodness. An abundant harvest is an unmixed benefit. It sometimes happens that the prosperity of one man is purchased at the expense of others; and that, to make his lamp burn brightly, many a lamp is extinguished, or sends forth a faint and flickering light. But here all are gainers, and none are losers. And hence we can ask the Divine favour to descend upon those who are engaged in cutting it down; and we can say with an enlightened conscience, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord. The reapers, too, on the harvest field should recollect, more than is always done, that God whose bounty is seen in every handful of corn they lay hold of. Why should God be so distant from us, when engaged in the ordinary pursuits of life? Why not acknowledge Him in all our ways? Why should it be supposed that He has nothing to do with us, and that we have nothing to do with Him, except on Sabbaths and in sanctuaries? Why should not the law of kindness be on our tongue, and the spirit of courtesy sweeten our daily intercourse? Why should we not care for each other's welfare, and supplicate God, in the fine devotional feeling of the ancient world: "We bless you in the name of the Lord"?

(N. McMichael.).

Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee.
The psalm should probably be regarded as antiphonal; it is composed of several stanzas which were sung responsively by different voices.

1. In the first stanza (vers. 1, 2) the speaker is a devout Israelite, who is feeling keenly the misery of his circumstances. The metaphor appears to be taken from a shipwreck; and, on the lips of a Hebrew, the picture would be one of unutterable horror. We Britons love the sea. But to the Jews the sea was an object of terror, a cruel and devouring monster, greedy of its prey, and smiling only to deceive; the symbol of treachery, unrest, and desolation. What were those depths out of which the psalmist cried to God? Were they the calamities which beset him and his countrymen? Or were they his overwhelming sins? To a Hebrew mind these were indistinguishable. It was an inveterate belief among the Israelites that, just as prosperity was the reward of goodness, adversity was the punishment of sin; and, wherever adversity alighted, sin must have been there before. This theory added to the sufferings of the Exiles an element of distress which we can hardly appreciate. It appears very plainly in our psalm. Here is a devout Israelite plunged, like the rest of his countrymen, into the depths of disaster. As a Hebrew this could only have one meaning for him, namely, that God was visiting their sins upon him and them.

2. The second stanza (vers. 3, 4) is the response of a neighbour — probably an old man, who had lived into a calmer and stronger faith than the other had yet attained to. Though his words are addressed to God, they are a reply to his companion. First he glances at the vexing problem which, as we have seen, was at the bottom of his companion's trouble — why righteous men should suffer so terribly. His answer is the rough-and-ready one, that in God's sight no one is righteous, and beneath His pure and searching scrutiny the fairest lives show very foul. This is just the theological commonplace, so shallow and irreverent, that all men alike are sinful and deserve equal condemnation at God's hands. It is quite true indeed that we are all sinners; but we are not all sinners to the same extent, and God will not blindly treat us all alike. The man speaks more truly when he leaves off theorizing and testifies to his own experience of God. "Thou dost not watch for iniquities, but with Thee is the forgiveness." God, he means, is not a stern tyrant, never satisfied with our efforts to serve Him, ever watching for mistakes and searching them out. He is right willing to forgive us even at our worst. The closing line of this stanza is a surprise. We should have expected, "with Thee is forgiveness that Thou mayest be loved"; but we read instead, "that Thou mayest be feared." On the lips of a Hebrew "the fear of God" meant very nearly devout reverence. It is the Old Testament phrase for the true worship, and our psalmist means that, were there no forgiveness in the heart of God, there would be no worship in the heart of man. Religion would be impossible were God a relentless and merciless avenger.

3. In the third stanza (vers. 5, 6) the first speaker replies, "You tell me God forgives! Have I not besought His forgiveness till I am weary? But all to no purpose. For His word have I hoped — for some assurance of His forgiveness; but not a whisper has broken the pitiless silence." The figure in verse 6 would go home to the Exiles. How often, as they camped outside Babylon and sat sleepless and tearful through the watches of the night, had they seen the sentries pacing the ramparts of the city and hailing the flush of dawn in the eastern horizon which told them their weary vigil was near its close! No figure could more pathetically express the psalmist's eager expectation of the dawning of God's mercy on his long night of sorrow.

4. In the concluding stanza (vers. 7, 8) the bystanders chime in. "My soul hath hoped in Adonai," the despondent man had said; and the chorus echoes, "Hope, Israel, in Jehovah." The second speaker had declared his faith that "with Jehovah is the forgiveness"; but, ere it closes, the psalm reaches a still grander assurance. "Hope in Jehovah, for with Jehovah is the lovingkindness, and plentifully with Him is redemption." It is a great belief that God forgives, but an unspeakable greater that, in spite of all that seems to prove the contrary, He has in His heart towards us an infinite lovingkindness and a purpose of final and complete redemption. The psalm ends with a prophecy of great salvation and boundless peace in store for Israel. To the Hebrews "redemption from iniquities" would mean not merely a spiritual deliverance, but the removal of all the disasters and sufferings which sin entailed. And this triumphant assurance of a future unstained by sin and unvexed by sorrow is born of that twofold faith, so simple yet so grand, that there is in the hears of God a boundless lovingkindness, and that He is working out, by means of all our varied experiences, our ultimate and eternal redemption.

(D. Smith, M. A.)

I. IMPLORING HEAVEN (vers. 1, 2).

1. Heaven alone can deliver.

2. From the greatest depths Heaven can hear the cries. This appeal, therefore, is —





II. CONFESSING SIN (vers. 3, 4).

1. He identifies suffering with sin. All evils, physical, intellectual, social, religious, and political, spring from moral evil.

2. He identifies deliverance with God's mercy.(1) God is so merciful that He does not "mark iniquities," that is, He does not keep; regain them. Malign natures never forget injuries, benevolent natures cannot retain them.(2) God is so merciful that He forgives men their iniquities. The highest form of love is the forgiving love.(3) Because He is thus so merciful, men can trust Him. "That Thou mayest be feared." Not servilely, but trustfully, lovingly, loyally, cheerfully. Had He not forgiveness in His nature, what rational soul could reverence Him?

III. WAITING ON GOD (vers. 5-8).

1. This implies —(1) Trusting in God. Trusting in His wisdom, goodness, and rectitude.(2) Expecting from God. Expecting that He will interpose in mercy, and grant the necessary relief.(3) Vigilance of soul. It is not a passive state of mind, it is watchful and earnest.

2. He exhorts Israel to trust in the Lord —(1) Because there is mercy with Him. The mercy which the sufferer requires, mercy to succour and deliver.(2) Because there is plenteous redemption with Him. There is no limit to His redemptive willingness and ability. "Where sin abounded grace doth much more abound."(3) Because all Israel will one day be redeemed. The author, undoubtedly, had the belief that all evil will one day be swept from the face of the earth.



1. The depths are the place for us all.

2. Unless you have cried to God out of these depths, you have never cried to Him at all. The beginning of all true personal religion lies in the sense of my own sin and my lost condition. If a man does not think much about sin, he does not think much about a Divine Saviour.

3. You want nothing more than a cry to get you out of the depths. There is no way for you up out of the pit but to cry to God, and that will bring a rope down. Nay, rather, the rope is there. Your grasping the rope and your cry are one. "Ask, and ye shall receive!" God has let down the fulness of His forgiving love in Jesus Christ our Lord, and all that we need is the call, which is likewise faith, which accepts while it desires, and desires in its acceptance; and then we are lifted up "out of the horrible pit and the miry clay," and our feet are set upon a rock, and our goings established.

II. A DARK FEAR AND A BRIGHT ASSURANCE. The man's prayer is, as it were, blown back into his throat by the thought, "If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord t who shall stand?" And then — as if he would not be swept away from his confidence even by this great blast of cold air from out of the north, that comes like ice and threatens to chill his hope to death — "But," says he, "there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mightest be feared." So these two halves represent the struggle in the man's mind. They are like a sky, one half of which is piled with thunder-clouds, and the other serenely blue. It needs, first of all, that the heart should have tremblingly entertained the contrary hypothesis, in order that the heart should spring to the relief and the gladness of the counter truth. It must first have felt the shudder of the thought, "If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities" in order to come to the gladness of the thought, "But there is forgiveness with Thee!" And that forgiveness lies at the root of all true godliness. No man reverences, and loves, and draws near to God so rapturously, so humbly, as the man that has learned pardon through Jesus Christ.

III. THE PERMANENT, PEACEFUL ATTITUDE OF THE SPIRIT THAT HAS TASTED THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF FORGIVING LOVE — A CONTINUAL DEPENDENCE UPON GOD, Like a man that has just recovered from some illness, but still leans upon the care, and feels his need of seeing the face of that skilful physician that has helped him through, there will be still, and always, the necessity for the continual application of that pardoning love. But they that have tasted that the Lord is gracious can sit very quietly at His feet and trust themselves to His kindly dealings, resting their souls upon His strong word, and looking for the fuller communication of light from Himself. "More than they that watch for the morning." That is beautiful! The consciousness of sin was the dark night. The coming of His forgiving love flushed all the eastern heaven with diffused brightness that grew into perfect day. And so the man waits quietly for the dawn, and his whole soul is one absorbing desire that God may dwell with him, and brighten and gladden him.

IV. THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE BECOMES GENERAL, AND AN EVANGEL, A CALL UPON THE MAN'S LIPS TO ALL HIS BRETHREN. "Let Israel hope in the Lord." There was no room for anything in his heart when he began this psalm except his own self in his misery, and that Great One high above him there. There is nothing which isolates a man so awfully as a consciousness of sin and of his relation to God. But there is nothing that so knits him to all his fellows, and brings him into such wide-reaching bonds of amity and benevolence, as the sense of God's forgiving mercy for his own soul. So the call bursts from the lips of the pardoned man, inviting all to taste the experience and exercise the trust which have made him glad: "Let Israel hope in the Lord." And then look at the broad Gospel that he has attained to know and to preach. "For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is redemption." Not only forgiveness, but redemption — and that from every form of sin. It is "plenteous" — multiplied. Our Lord has taught us to what a sum that Divine multiplication amounts. Net once, nor twice, but "seventy times seven" is the prescribed measure of human forgiveness, and shall men be more placable than God!

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)


1. Darkness.

2. Doubt.

3. Sorrow.

4. Sin.

II. SOUL-CRYING. "As spices smell best," says Trapp, "when beaten, and as frankincense is most odoriferous when cast into the fire, so do men pray most and best out of the depths of trouble."

1. The cry of self-helplessness appealing to Omnipotence.

2. The cry of earnest entreaty.

III. SOUL-APPREHENSIONS (vers. 3, 4). Jehovah is strict to "mark," but slow to execute judgment. No sin escapes His eye: His entry against us is correct, but His mercy restrains hasty justice and holds back the due deserts of our iniquities.

IV. SOUL-WAITING (vers. 5, 6).

1. Patient hopefulness.

2. Eager expectation, begotten of strong faith.Waiting, hoping, expecting, never can be disappointed: through it the "cry" of distress becomes changed into the chorus of victory.

(J. O. Keen, D. D.)

I. DAVID'S DISTRESSING CONDITION (vers. 1, 2). Before God fills a soul, He empties it.


III. DAVID'S GROUND OF HOPE (ver. 4). We are told that when Darius heard that the Athenians had captured Sardis, he was indignant, and vowed vengeance on the city. He went out into the open air, and sending an arrow towards the heavens, he appealed to the god, Jove, and vowed that he would destroy the city, and at the same time commanded one of his servants to enter into his presence every noon, and cry, "Remember Sardis." Is it thus that God deals with us? No! He waits not to smite, but to heal; not to punish, but to pardon; not to ruin, but to regenerate. Consider —

1. The promise of God (Exodus 34:6, 7; Psalm 86:5; Romans 10:12; 2 Peter 1:4; James 5:2).

2. The death of Christ.

3. God's acts. Manasseh, David, Saul of Tarsus, Zaccheus, Bunyan, all obtained forgiveness, and so may you.

IV. DAVID'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS GOD (vers. 5, 6). Seasons of spiritual depression, though painful, are profitable. They excite earnest desires, and prepare the mind for the reception of richer blessings.

V. DAVID'S ENCOURAGING EXHORTATION (ver. 7). Some tell us that a man must tumble into the Slough of Despond before he can become a rejoicing believer. David thought it better policy to try to prevent them falling into that slough. Despair paralyzes. Hope invigorates.


1. Sinner, are you in the depths? Looking on your past life, do you see little else but sin? Looking beyond the grave you see no light. No ray of hope lights up your impenetrable gloom. The stars shine brightest at night, and the promise of pardon beams with the brightest lustre when we are on the borders of despair. Hear it, and rejoice. "He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities."

2. Believer, do you pray for grace to destroy sin, and fill your heart with love? The blessing you desire shall be granted. This is no doubtful speculation, no untried theory. Ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, have obtained pardon and purity through faith in Christ.

(H. Woodcock.)

I. THE CRY (vers. 1, 2). He needs an entire renovation; only the Creator can bestow that. He needs absolution; only the Being offended can grant this. To Him, therefore, to Jehovah he addresses himself. He prays earnestly and perseveringly.

II. THE INDIRECT CONFESSION (vers. 3, 4). If Jehovah should take the matter in hand, no escape would be possible. For He is the all-seeing God, from whom nothing can be hid. Other standards are deflected and partial; this is uniform and steadfast. Its Author cannot be deceived, and will not be mocked. Who, then, shall stand when He rises up? The question answers itself. None; no, not one.

III. EXPRESSIONS OF LONGING AND HOPE. (vers. 5, 6). President Edwards, during a long sickness, observed that those watching with him often looked out for the morning eagerly. It reminded him of this psalm; and when the dawn came it seemed to him to be an image of the sweet light of God's glory. For such longing is not unsatisfied. They who have it experience the Beatitude, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Longings for earthly goods are often disappointed, but never the conviction which leads a man to say, "My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."

IV. THE EXHORTATION (vers. 7, 8). Divine grace is not easily exhausted. There is enough and to spare. With Jehovah is the lovingkindness, shown in creation's fulness, the array of fruits and flowers, the song of birds, brilliant skies, all that pleases in air, earth, and sea, the countless blessings that come upon the just and the unjust. Nay, with Him is "abundant redemption," deliverance for the lost and undone. It is not a scant provision, but liberal. There is no end to its riches, no limit to its efficacy. It extends to all vices, crimes, and shortcomings of heart, speech, or behaviour — can make sins of scarlet as white as snow, such as are red like crimson to be as wool.

(T. W. Chambers, D. D.)

Expository Outlines.

1. The blessed Object to whom he repaired. He well knew that "vain is the help of man."

2. The earnest spirit which he manifested (vers. 1, 2). The repetition is very emphatic, and shows how extreme was his need, and how anxiously he implored the Divine Being to interpose on his behalf.


1. Solemn. "If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities," etc. On such a supposition we must all perish, and that for ever.

2. Joyful. "But there is forgiveness with Thee," etc. This is evident from —

(1)The titles He assumes (Exodus 34:6).

(2)The rites He has instituted (Leviticus 16:21, 22).

(3)The scheme of redemption He has provided. Gethsemane and Calvary.

(4)The commands He has given (Isaiah 55:7; Acts 17:30).

(5)The longsuffering He manifests.

(6)The many instances in which His pardoning mercy has been exercised,

III. THE COURSE PURSUED (vers. 5, 6). His waiting was —

1. Sincere. "My soul doth wait."

(1)Diligence in use of means.

(2)Expectation of blessing.

2. Intelligent. "In His Word do I hope."

3. Ardent (ver. 6).

(Expository Outlines.)

This psalm is the outpouring of a broken heart, crushed because of sin.

I. THE SIMILE — "Out of the depths." A fitting image of intensity of grief. We cast about ordinarily in the shallows and level plains. We rise to the mountains to sing. Are they not nearer heaven? We sink to the depths to weep. The depths and cavities of the rocky Palestine were inaccessible and filled with noisomeness and pestilence. Thank God, life is not all depths. Thank God that even in the depths He can hear — from the gloom, the bewilderment, the despair. The depths indicate a fall. It is natural to get lower. It is not a natural place of resort. The depths also indicate carelessness. The circumspect will take heed to his ways. All sin leads to despair.

II. THE ACTION — "I cried." No word could more fitly express the soul's action when in the depths. It indicates —

1. Consciousness of danger. Some are engulphed and unconscious.

2. Absence of formality. There is no time for a well-ordered prayer. The circumstances are too tragic to permit of the consideration of grammar or propriety. Deliverance is life.

3. Sense of helplessness. The strong man can do nothing. At the same time there is a sense of hope. There is one thing which the most convicted sinner can do — he can cry.

III. THE HELPER — "To Thee, O Lord."

1. Here is some one at hand. He is able to hear.

2. Here is some one of ability. The depths are God's kingdom as well as the heights. He is a strong deliverer.

3. Here is one of willingness. He is ready to save, waiting to be gracious. Oh, it is good for a sinner to be in the "depths." He would not cry unless he felt their mortal woe.


I. THE CHILDREN OF GOD DO FALL INTO DEPTHS. In this plight we find David often, though a man after God's own heart (Psalm 6:2, 3; Psalm 88:2, etc.; 40:12; and Jonah, a prophet, Jonah 2:2, etc.; and Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:13; and Job especially, Job 6:4). But why is this thus, seeing our Head, Christ Jesus, hath suffered for us?

1. That we may know what Christ suffered for us by our own experience, without which we should but lightly esteem of our redemption, not knowing how to value Christ's sufferings sufficiently, which is a horrible sin (Hebrews 2:3).

2. By our sufferings we know what a bitter thing sin is.

3. By our afflictions and depths we manifest God's power and glory the more in our deliverance: for the greater the trouble is, the greater is the deliverance; as the greater the cure is, the greater credit the physician gets.

4. Many times, by less evils, it is God's manner to cure greater; and thus He suffers us to feel wrath, to cure us of security, which is as a grave to the soul; as also to cure spiritual pride, that robs us of grace (2 Corinthians 12:7).

5. These depths are left to us to make us more desirous of heaven; else great men, that are compassed about with earthly comforts, alas, with what zeal could they pray, "Thy kingdom come," etc.? No; with Peter they would rather say, "Master, it is good for us to be here" (Mark 9:5).

6. God works by these afflictions in us a more gentleness of spirit, making us meek and pitiful towards those that are in depths, which was one cause of Christ's afflictions: He suffered that He might help and comfort others. He suffered Peter to stumble, that, when he was converted, he should "strengthen his brethren" (Luke 22:32).


1. For the Spirit of God is in them, and where it is it is stronger than hell, yea, though the grace be but as a grain of mustard seed.

2. As there are depths of misery in a Christian, so in God there are depths of love and of wisdom.

3. Faith, where it is, unites the soul to Christ, and to God through Him, and draws down Divine power — to lay hold on the almighty power of God by true and fervent prayer, — at whose rebuke the waters of affliction flee away (Psalm 77:16); and so the stronger the faith is, the stronger is the delivery, for it is of a mighty power, enabling us to wrestle with God, as Jacob did. Thus when we lay hold on God, and God on us, what can drown us?

4. It is the nature of God's working to be by contraries: in His works of creation, making all things of nothing; in His works of providence He saves by little means from greatest dangers.


1. Let us interpret God's dealings with a sanctified judgment. He is a wise physician, and knows when strong or gentle physic is most requisite. Sometimes God by great afflictions doth manifest great graces, but so as notwithstanding they may be mingled with a deal of corruption; and it is God's use that hereby His graces may be increased, and the corruption allayed, to bring down the greatest cedars, and to eclipse the greatest lights.

2. Let us oppose desperations by all means, by prayer, by crying; and if we cannot speak, by sighing; if not so, yet by gesture, especially at the time of death, for God knows the heart. For then it stands upon eternal comfort. And therefore let us do anything to show our faith fails not. We must know that every one shall meet with these enemies, that would cause us to despair if they could, for this life is a warring and striving life. We shall have enemies without and within us that will fight against us.

IV. OBSERVE BY THE EXAMPLE OF THIS HOLY MAN THAT PRAYERS ARE TO BE MADE ONLY TO GOD, who knows our wants, supports us and binds us up; and it is only Christ that doth this. None can love us more than He that gave Himself for us. He is our eye whereby we see, our mouth whereby we speak, our arms whereby we lay hold on God; and therefore it is an intolerable unthankfulness to leave this "fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness, and to dig to ourselves cisterns that will hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13).

( Sibbes, Richard.)

1. By the deep places is meant the deep places of afflictions, and the deep places of the heart troubled for sin. Afflictions are compared go deep waters (Psalm 18:17; Psalm 69:1). And surely God's children are often cast into very desperate cases, and plunged into deep miseries. To the end they may send out of a contrite and feeling heart such prayers as may mount aloft and pierce the heavens. Those that are furthest cast down are not furthest from God, but nearest unto Him. God is near to a contrite heart, and it is the proper seat where His Spirit dwelleth (Isaiah 66:2). And thus God dealeth with us, as men do with such houses that they are minded to build sumptuously and on high, for then they dig deep grounds for the foundation. Mark hereby the dulness of our nature, that is such, that God is forced to use sharp remedies to awaken us. When, therefore, we are troubled either by heavy sickness, or poverty, or oppressed by the tyranny of men, let us make profit and use thereof, considering that God hath cast His best children in such dangers for their profit; and that it is better to be in deep dangers praying, than on the high mountains of vanity playing.

2. By the deep places may be understood also a heart deeply wounded with the considerations of sin and God's justice, for God will not accept such superficial and scurvy prayers, which come only from the lips, and not from a contrite and broken heart. Let not men think to find mines of gold or silver in the streets; no, they must dig into the bowels of the earth for them. So, let us not deceive ourselves thinking God's favour may be gotten everywhere, for in the deep places it is to be found.

(A. Symson.)

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