I am bent and brought low; all day long I go about mourning.
I. THE CASE STATED. Even before entering into detail, it is obvious that the case is one of intense suffering. The details, however, will show us but too clearly what the suffering was, and how it was accounted for.
1. There had been the commission of sin. Vers. 3-5 give us three terms - "sin," "foolishness," "iniquity. The sin was one which brought about a great deal of:
2. Bodily disorder. Note the following expressions:
(1) My flesh" (ver. 3).
(2) "My bones" (ver. 3).
(3) "My loins" (ver. 7).
(4) "No soundness" (ver. 3).
(5) "No health" (ver. 3).
(6) "Wounds" (ver. 5).
(7) "Ulcers" (ver. 5, Hebrew).
(8) "Offensive" (ver. 5).
(9) "Burning" (ver. 7).
(10) This alternating with deathly coldness (ver. 8).
(11) "Palpitation" (ver. 10).
(12) The frame bent and bowed with the suffering (ver. 6).
(13) "Failing strength" (ver. 10).
(14) "Dimness of sight" (ver. 10).
Surely this puts before us, in no obscure fashion, the terrible physical woe which the writer was enduring.
3. (treat mental anguish.
(1) God's arrows struck very deeply into his soul (ver. 2).
(2) God's hand pressed heavily upon him (ver. 2).
(3) He went abroad as a mourner ver. 6).
(4) He roared - groaned aloud - all the day long.
It may not be always possible to affirm that such and such suffering is the effect of this or that specific sin. But sometimes we can. And it is no wonder if sins of the flesh bring fleshly suffering. It is an ordained law of God that it should be so. Hence the sufferings are rightly regarded as "the arrows of God."
4. In his trouble, lovers and friends stand aloof from him. Even neighbours and kinsmen drew themselves afar off (ver. 11). Earthly friends are like swallows, who come near in fine weather, and fly away ere the weather turns foul.
5. He was laden with reproach, and even beset with snares. (Ver. 12.)
6. He did not and could not reply. To the charges laid at his door he had no justifications to offer, and therefore said nothing (cf. ver. 14, Hebrew). This was so far wise.
7. Though silent to man, he pours out his heart to God. He calls God his God; even though guilt lies heavily on the soul.
(1) He declares the whole case before the mercy-seat (ver. 9).
(2) He confesses the sin (ver. 18).
(3) He deprecates the Divine displeasure (ver. 1).
(4) He appeals for help (ver. 22).
Note: There is a great difference between men who "are overtaken in a fault," and those whose life is one perpetual sin of alienation from God. David lived in an age when lustfulness was scarcely recognized as wrong at all, save where the holy Law of God had gleamed on it with the searching light of Heaven. If David fell into this sin, it was because he was injured by the low conventional standard of his day. If he regarded it as sin, and mourned over it, it was because he was under the educating influence of that Word which was as "a lamp to his feet, and a light unto his path."
8. While David moans his sin as threatening him with destruction and ruin, he looks for salvation in God and God alone. (Ver. 22.) "O Lord my Salvation."
II. THE CASE UTILIZED. Here is evidently a psalm which is one of a number that contain a rehearsal of the writer's private experience. They profess to be that, and therefore, unless some good reason to the contrary is shown, we rightly assume that they are that. The expositor who desires to deal faithfully with all the psalms, and with the whole of each psalm, will often find himself between two opposite schools. On one side, there are those who would enclose every psalm within the limits of a naturalistic psychology; while there are others who seem to regard every psalm as referring directly or indirectly to Christ. But while the second and forty-fifth psalm. can by no means be accounted for by a rationalistic psychology, so this thirty-eighth psalm can by no means be applied to the Messiah directly or indirectly. Let us not select facts to fit a theory; but study all the facts, and frame the theory accordingly. In this personal moan and groan we have:
1. Suffering following on sin. Of what kind the sin was there can be little question. And if we wonder that David could fall into such sin, we may well ask - What can be expected of a man who had six wives (2 Samuel 3:2-5)? The Law of God might, indeed, be the rule of his life, but he was injured and corrupted by falling into the conventionalisms of his day; and hence in his private life he came far short of his own professed ideal. Is not the like incongruity between the ideal and the actual often seen even now?
2. If it was owing to "conformity to the world that David thus sinned, it was because he had before him God's revelation of the evil of sin that he was so bowed down under a sense of the guilt thereof. The revealed Law of God stood high above the level to which he had attained; hence a shame and self-loathing on account of sin, which would nowhere else have been known.
3. Smarting under the sense of guilt, David yet tells God all. He knew God to be one pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin;" and hence the burdens of sin and guilt, as well as of care, were laid before the mercy-seat (Psalm 32:5).
4. At times, however, words fail; then the desire and the groaning are perfectly understood. (Ver. 9.) Who does not understand something of this that knows anything of the "energies of prayer"? There are "groanings which cannot be uttered." As there are "songs without words," so are there "prayers without words." For the grief consequent upon sin may be, and often is, aggravated by the desertion of those friends who will smile on us when we are prosperous, and will turn their backs on us when adversity comes. But, even so, it is an infinite mercy to be shut up to God, and to let the heart lie "naked and opened" before One who will never misunderstand, and who will never forsake us.
5. For our God is "Jehovah our Salvation. That is his revealed name, and to it he will ever be true. See how gloriously the sure mercies of David" are set forth in Psalm 89:26-33. God is "a just God, and a Saviour" (Isaiah 45:21). Hence we should never let our consciousness of guilt drive us from him; rather should it always make us "flee unto" him "to hide us."
6. Hence only those who have the light of God's revelation can possibly have any gospel for men smarting under the guilt of sin. We do not know any one passage in Scripture in which the combination is more remarkable of a man whose sin has brought deepest shame and agony upon him, and who yet is laying hold of God under that beautiful, that matchless name, "my Salvation" (ver. 22). Very often, indeed, the word "salvation" in the Old Testament means mainly, if not exclusively, temporal deliverance. Here, at any rate, it cannot be so limited; for the salvation required to meet the case of woe thus laid before God must be one which includes cancelling guilt, purifying from corruption, and healing disease. And that revelation of God as our Salvation which was made in germ to the Hebrews, is disclosed more fully to us under Christ. He is "made wisdom from God unto us, even righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; that (according as it is written) he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:30, 31). In the very volume where sin is dealt with most seriously, it is also treated most hopefully; and the very revelation which cries with trumpet-power, "All have sinned," also cries, "Look unto me, and be ye saved." - C.
I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly: I go mourning all the day long.
I. To DESCRIBE THIS DESPONDENCY. They are under a delusion, they imagine all things are against them; they become restless, nervous, averse to all exertion; agitated in mind, neglect all duty; they sink into listless melancholy. And all this makes them worse. The worldly prescribe dissipation and amusement for them. They themselves attempt by austerities, or religious reading, to get relief. The Bible does not help them. They think themselves to be becoming more and more odious in the sight of God. Some try to turn them from all religious thought; others censure them severely. But all the while the soul only becomes confirmed in its distress,
II. CONSIDER HOW A CURE IS TO BE WROUGHT.
1. By seeing to it that repentance is real.
2. By assurance that God will have mercy upon him.
III. HINDRANCES TO THE RECEPTION OF THESE TRUTHS.
1. Some urge that they have sinned beyond all hope of mercy.
2. Others think that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. But the very fact of their repentance disproves that, for repentance is the gift of the Holy Ghost. He, therefore, cannot have forsaken them.
3. Others despair because they have led others into sin. But so did Aaron, Manasseh, Paul, and in short all great sinners; but yet they found forgiveness.
4. Others conclude that as they have been so long time without comfort and peace, though sincere in seeking it, therefore it cannot be designed for them.
5. Yet others are darkened still more by erroneous doctrine. They deem themselves predestined to wrath.
IV. PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS to the desponding. Read the Bible as a whole. Regard your sins as reasons for humility and watchfulness, not as preventing forgiveness. If despondency recur, regard it as your trial and temptation, and resist it (Psalm 57:7-10). Take care of your bodily health. Keep calm and quiet. Be actively and usefully employed.
(Thomas Gisborne, M. A.)
PeopleDavid, Jeduthun, Psalmist
TopicsBent, Beyond, Bowed, Depressed, Excess, Greatly, Low, Measure, Mourning, Pained, Prostrate, Troubled, Utterly, Weeping
Outline1. David moves God to take compassion on his pitiful case
Dictionary of Bible ThemesPsalm 38:6
Library"Come unto Me, all Ye that Labour, and are Wearied," &C.
Matth. xi. 28.--"Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are wearied," &c. It is the great misery of Christians in this life, that they have such poor, narrow, and limited spirits, that are not fit to receive the truth of the gospel in its full comprehension; from whence manifold misapprehensions in judgment, and stumbling in practice proceed. The beauty and life of things consist in their entire union with one another, and in the conjunction of all their parts. Therefore it would not be a fit way …
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning
Question Lxxxii of Devotion
Out of the Deep of Suffering and Sorrow.
Christ's Resurrection Song.
The Acceptable Sacrifice;
Question Lxxxiii of Prayer
His Past Work.
What Manner of Man Ought not to Come to Rule.
Third Sunday after Trinity Humility, Trust, Watchfulness, Suffering
Cæsarius of Arles.
Notes on the Third Century
How is Christ, as the Life, to be Applied by a Soul that Misseth God's Favour and Countenance.
I Will Pray with the Spirit and with the Understanding Also-
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