For I am afflicted all day long and punished every morning.
One of three of these doings seems to have been in the psalmist's mind, but we cannot certainly say which. The words warrant either interpretation. Let us take, first, that one suggested by them as they stand in the Authorized Version, and as commonly read.
I. THE PEOPLE OF GOD ARE LED ASTRAY. For by "his people" many understand the people of God to be meant, and that they, allured and ensnared by the glitter of earthly prosperity, turn from the ways of God to follow after these ungodly ones. "They are led away by the evil example, just as the psalmist confesses he himself was;" and they turn after them. (Cf. "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.") How often this happens' But what is meant by the "waters of a full cup," etc.? Either the cup of unholy pleasure, which they drain to the dregs; or else it is, as in Psalm 80:5, and as actual experience attests, that when God's people go astray, as here represented, it will be a full cup of sorrow and tears that they will have to drink, as indeed they do. The most miserable of men are backsliders from God. It cannot but be so. This is what our translators meant to imply by their rendering. But another meaning that the words warrant is -
II. A CROWD FOLLOW THEM, THAT IS, THE UNGODLY. The people spoken of are the crowd of hangers on to the prosperous - those who will try to find favour with the rich and great of this world. The Prayer book Version thus sets it forth: "Therefore the people fall unto them, and thereout suck they no small advantage." These hangers on are the people who attach themselves to the world's rich ones, and "who gather like sheep to the water trough," in hopes of what they may get. But whether they get anything or no, the ungodly whom they follow do; they "suck no small advantage." They are yet more worshipped and fawned upon, and have ready to hand innumerable and willing tools to serve their purpose and to bring more "grist to their mill." And the result is that they get more proud and arrogant than ever (see ver. 11). But, child of God, whoe'er thou art, say to thy soul, "My soul, come not thou into their secret."
III. THE PEOPLE OF GOD HAVE TO SUFFER BITTER PERSECUTION. So the Chaldee, the Septuagint, and the Vulgate seem to understand the words. The wicked turn upon God's people, who are, in consequence, "fed with the bread of tears, and have given to them tears to drink without measure" (Psalm 80:5). It is the predestined lot of the people of God; but our Saviour tells us that it is a blessed portion. The last and chiefest of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) declares, "Blessed are ye when men shall persecute you," etc. And it is so; for it shows, by your endurance of persecution, that you have found out the preciousness of the love of God, and know assuredly that, for the sake of it, you may be well content to die. That is knowledge which is, here and now, life eternal. May God keep us from exemplifying the first of these interpretations, and from forming part of that miserable crowd told of in the second! but if we are found amongst the third, then Christ will call us his blessed ones. - S.C.
Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.
The innocent suffer with the guilty, often suffer for them, that so the guilty, spared, may be led by God's goodness to repentance; to be helpful in such a ministry is an abundant recompense for all its pain. This the Gospel teaches us; it tells us that we have not "cleansed our hearts in vain, and washed our hands in innocency"; for that the fellowship of the righteous Saviour is the fellowship of the Man of Sorrows. But it brings us face to face with deeper mysteries than those which it solves. If we ask the reason of this — why God has so constituted the world as that all this is true; if we are not content with seeing how God acts, but want to know the reason, then there is no answer for us. We can do nothing but wait and trust. God is doing for us in the Gospel what He did for Asaph in the sanctuary; He is bringing us to trust in Him. He is confirming our faith, enlarging our conceptions of His righteousness, calling us to a broader view of His counsel, deepening our confidence that He is good. There is no mystery in life so dark but we can bear it, if only we are persuaded that God is pursuing His purpose in it. Let us consider, then —
I. HOW FORGETFULNESS OF GOD LEADS US TO CHAFE UNDER THE PAINFUL DISPENSATIONS OF HUMAN LIFE (ver. 8). No doubt Asaph was perfectly familiar with the pious sayings in which the experience of the godly is gathered up and afterwards repeated by others. Doubtless he could have talked as sagely as we about the prosperity of the wicked being transient, of the Lord's loving whom He chastens, and scourging every son whom He receives. But the feebleness of his hold upon these truths is seen in that he cannot bear their actual sight. When he "sees" the prosperity of the foolish; when he marks their pride and self-complacency, that seem to laugh his lowly trust in God to scorn; then he finds that his maxims do not serve him much, he gives way to envy of them. He needs more than maxims, however sage. It is the actual stress of life, contact with all its hard and trying realities, that tests our faith. We can talk well about God's favour being our chief joy. But can we bear to "see" the prosperity of the wicked while we ourselves are in adversity? That is the real test and strain. Notice, too, how envy grows into self-righteousness. "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain." Such words suggest that the man is pretty well satisfied with himself, because he is free front blame. And verses 10-14 show deep distrust in God, as well as flippant self-satisfaction. It suggests, "We good men ought not to be treated thus, we are not being dealt with righteously." They even venture to ask, "Is there knowledge in the Most High?" Does God Almighty know what He is doing? This is what is meant. Asaph is startled when he sees where the speculation he has begun is leading him. Hence he says, "If I say, I will speak thus, behold I should offend against," etc.
II. NOTICE SOME CONSIDERATIONS WHICH MAY HELP US TO TRUST THAT GOD IS GOOD IN ORDAINING FOR US THE PAINFUL DISPENSATIONS OF HUMAN LIFE. Perhaps we could not have borne prosperity. When Asaph went into the sanctuary of God and saw the end of the wicked, he learned that they had been "set in slippery places," that the "pride" which "compassed them about as a chain," that their "having more than heart could wish," had but sealed them up against the day of "desolation," and the "terrors" that should "utterly consume" them. Because they were prosperous, they were self-confident, and their self-confidence was their destruction. And then there opens upon him an awful vision of what prosperity might have done for him. With the memory of his sinful murmuring upon him, he feared that he might have grown sinfully proud. The heart which tribulation had grieved would have been hardened by prosperity. So "foolish" was he, and "ignorant" in his adversity, "as a beast before God"; what would he have been if he had known no trouble? Then think, how hopeless would be the restoration of the wicked, which the Gospel bids us hope for, and not for their destruction, if all the sufferings of life were apportioned to them, and the righteous were never troubled. They would be consciously and irrevocably doomed, and they would sink into worse despair. It is to save them from this end that God does them good: He would "spare" them, that so "His goodness may lead them to repentance"; He would save them from the hopeless agony of seeing themselves already condemned. It is the grace of God that restores the ungodly, not His punishments. And then let us look on Christ — what a life was His! Trouble, anguish, and at the end the Cross. And yet He was God's well-beloved Son. Would we not be with Him? God has better things for His children than prosperity.
HERE IS A RIGHT ACT. Cleansing the heart and washing the hands mean the cultivation of personal holiness; and this is certainly a right work for man. It implies three things: —
1. The consciousness of personal defilement.
2. The possession of a cleansing element.
3. The effort of personal application. Moral evil is the defilements — Christianity is the cleansing element — and practical faith is the personal application.
II. HERE IS A WRONG OPINION. The writer thought that it was "in vain." Three facts show that this is a great mistake: —
1. That moral holiness involves its own reward.
2. That moral holiness is pro-meted by temporal adversity.
3. That moral holiness will meet with its perfect recompense hereafter.No; this cleansing the heart is no vain work. No engagement is so real and profitable. Every fresh practical idea of God is a rising in the scale of being and of bliss; every conquest over sense, appetite, and sin, is a widening and strengthening of our spiritual sovereignty; every devout sentiment, earnest resolve, and generous sacrifice attunes our natures to higher music.
TopicsAfflicted, Chastened, Chastisement, Morning, Plagued, Punished, Punishment, Reproof, Stricken, Troubled, Undergone
Outline1. The prophet, prevailing in a temptation
2. Shows the occasion thereof, the prosperity of the wicked
13. The wound given thereby, diffidence
15. The victory over it, knowledge of God's purpose.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesPsalm 73:14
8231 discipline, divine
5360 justice, God
1075 God, justice of
5499 reward, divine
8722 doubt, nature of
LibraryNearness to God the Key to Life's Puzzle
'It is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Thy works.'--PSALM lxxiii. 28. The old perplexity as to how it comes, if God is good and wise and strong, that bad men should prosper and good men should suffer, has been making the Psalmist's faith reel. He does not answer the question exactly as the New Testament would have done, but he does find a solution sufficient for himself in two thoughts, the transiency of that outward prosperity, and the …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
'Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee. 26. My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.' --PSALM lxxiii. 25, 26. We have in this psalm the record of the Psalmist's struggle with the great standing difficulty of how to reconcile the unequal distribution of worldly prosperity with the wisdom and providence of God. That difficulty pressed more acutely upon men of the Old Dispensation than even upon us, …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
"Let us Pray"
Nevertheless, prayer is the best used means of drawing near to God. You will excuse me, then, if in considering my text this morning, I confine myself entirely to the subject of prayer. It is in prayer mainly, that we draw near to God, and certainly it can be said emphatically of prayer, it is good for every man who knoweth how to practice that heavenly art, in it to draw near unto God. To assist your memories, that the sermon may abide with you in after days, I shall divide my discourse this morning …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 6: 1860
What is Meant by "Altogether Lovely"
Let us consider this excellent expression, and particularly reflect on what is contained in it, and you shall find this expression "altogether lovely." First, It excludes all unloveliness and disagreeableness from Jesus Christ. As a theologian long ago said, "There is nothing in him which is not loveable." The excellencies of Jesus Christ are perfectly exclusive of all their opposites; there is nothing of a contrary property or quality found in him to contaminate or devaluate his excellency. And …
John Flavel—Christ Altogether Lovely
How to Make Use of Christ, as Truth, for Comfort, when Truth is Oppressed and Born Down.
There is another difficulty, wherein believing souls will stand in need of Christ, as the truth, to help them; and that is, when his work is overturned, his cause borne down, truth condemned, and enemies, in their opposition to his work, prospering in all their wicked attempts. This is a very trying dispensation, as we see it was to the holy penman of Psalm lxxiii. for it made him to stagger, so that his feet were almost gone, and his steps had well nigh slipt; yea he was almost repenting of his …
John Brown (of Wamphray)—Christ The Way, The Truth, and The Life
Of a Low Estimation of Self in the Sight of God
I will speak unto my Lord who am but dust and ashes. If I count myself more, behold Thou standest against me, and my iniquities bear true testimony, and I cannot gainsay it. But if I abase myself, and bring myself to nought, and shrink from all self-esteem, and grind myself to dust, which I am, Thy grace will be favourable unto me, and Thy light will be near unto my heart; and all self-esteem, how little soever it be, shall be swallowed up in the depths of my nothingness, and shall perish for ever. …
Thomas A Kempis—Imitation of Christ
The Bride, the Lamb's Wife
"Whom have I in Heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee."--Ps. lxxiii. 25. Mechthild of Hellfde, 1277. tr., Emma Frances Bevan, 1899 Thus speaks the Bride whose feet have trod The chamber of eternal rest, The secret treasure-house of God, Where God is manifest: "Created things, arise and flee, Ye are but sorrow and care to me." This wide, wide world, so rich and fair, Thou sure canst find thy solace there? "Nay, 'neath the flowers the serpent glides, Amidst the bravery …
Frances Bevan—Hymns of Ter Steegen and Others (Second Series)
J. Tauler Ps. lxxiii. 25 As the bridegroom to his chosen, As the king unto his realm, As the keep unto the castle, As the pilot to the helm, So, Lord, art Thou to me. As the fountain in the garden, As the candle in the dark, As the treasure in the coffer, As the manna in the ark, So, Lord, art Thou to me. As the music at the banquet, As the stamp unto the seal, As the medicine to the fainting, As the wine-cup at the meal, So, Lord, art Thou to me. As the ruby in the setting, As the honey in the …
Frances Bevan—Hymns of Ter Steegen, Suso, and Others
The Two Awakings
'I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.' --PSALM xvii. 15. 'As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when Thou awakest, Thou shalt despise their image.'--PSALM lxxiii. 20. Both of these Psalms are occupied with that standing puzzle to Old Testament worthies--the good fortune of bad men, and the bad fortune of good ones. The former recounts the personal calamities of David, its author. The latter gives us the picture of the perplexity of Asaph its writer, when he 'saw the prosperity …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Joy of the Lord.
IT is written "the joy of the Lord is your strength." Every child of God knows in some measure what it is to rejoice in the Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ must ever be the sole object of the believer's joy, and as eyes and heart look upon Him, we, too, like "the strangers scattered abroad" to whom Peter wrote shall "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Pet. i:8). But it is upon our heart to meditate with our beloved readers on the joy of our adorable Lord, as his own personal joy. The …
Arno Gaebelein—The Lord of Glory
Of the Trinity and a Christian, and of the Law and a Christian.
EDITOR'S ADVERTISEMENT. These two short treatises were found among Mr. Bunyan's papers after his decease. They probably were intended for publication, like his 'Prison Meditations' and his 'Map of Salvation,' on a single page each, in the form of a broadside, or handbill. This was the popular mode in which tracts were distributed; and when posted against a wall, or framed and hung up in a room, they excited notice, and were extensively read. They might also have afforded some trifling profit to aid …
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3
The Great Gain of Godliness
'And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon. 26. And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen. 27. And those officers provided victual for king Solomon, and for all that came unto king Solomon's table, every man in his month: they lacked nothing. 28. Barley also and straw for the horses and dromedaries brought they unto the place where the officers were, …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Of Meditating on the Future Life.
1. The design of God in afflicting his people. 1. To accustom us to despise the present life. Our infatuated love of it. Afflictions employed as the cure. 2. To lead us to aspire to heaven. 2. Excessive love of the present life prevents us from duly aspiring to the other. Hence the disadvantages of prosperity. Blindness of the human judgment. Our philosophizing on the vanity of life only of momentary influence. The necessity of the cross. 3. The present life an evidence of the divine favour to his …
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Present Life as Related to the Future.
LUKE xvi. 25.--"And Abraham said, Son remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented." The parable of Dives and Lazarus is one of the most solemn passages in the whole Revelation of God. In it, our Lord gives very definite statements concerning the condition of those who have departed this life. It makes no practical difference, whether we assume that this was a real occurrence, or only an imaginary …
William G.T. Shedd—Sermons to the Natural Man
Covenanting a Privilege of Believers.
Whatever attainment is made by any as distinguished from the wicked, or whatever gracious benefit is enjoyed, is a spiritual privilege. Adoption into the family of God is of this character. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power (margin, or, the right; or, privilege) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." And every co-ordinate benefit is essentially so likewise. The evidence besides, that Covenanting …
John Cunningham—The Ordinance of Covenanting
Covenanting Adapted to the Moral Constitution of Man.
The law of God originates in his nature, but the attributes of his creatures are due to his sovereignty. The former is, accordingly, to be viewed as necessarily obligatory on the moral subjects of his government, and the latter--which are all consistent with the holiness of the Divine nature, are to be considered as called into exercise according to his appointment. Hence, also, the law of God is independent of his creatures, though made known on their account; but the operation of their attributes …
John Cunningham—The Ordinance of Covenanting
Cæsarius of Arles.
He was born in the district of Chalons-sur-Saone, A. D. 470. He seems to have been early awakened, by a pious education, to vital Christianity. When he was between seven and eight years old, it would often happen that he would give a portion of his clothes to the poor whom he met, and would say, when he came home, that he had been, constrained to do so. When yet a youth, he entered the celebrated convent on the island of Lerins, (Lerina,) in Provence, from which a spirit of deep and practical piety …
Augustus Neander—Light in the Dark Places
The Noble Results of this Species of Prayer
The Noble Results of this Species of Prayer Some persons, when they hear of the prayer of silence, falsely imagine, that the soul remains stupid, dead, and inactive. But, unquestionably, it acteth therein, more nobly and more extensively than it had ever done before; for God Himself is the mover, and the soul now acteth by the agency of His Spirit. When S. Paul speaks of our being led by the Spirit of God, it is not meant that we should cease from action; but that we should act through the internal …
Madame Guyon—A Short and Easy Method of Prayer
The Nature of Spiritual Hunger
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness Matthew 5:6 We are now come to the fourth step of blessedness: Blessed are they that hunger'. The words fall into two parts: a duty implied; a promise annexed. A duty implied: Blessed are they that hunger'. Spiritual hunger is a blessed hunger. What is meant by hunger? Hunger is put for desire (Isaiah 26:9). Spiritual hunger is the rational appetite whereby the soul pants after that which it apprehends most suitable and proportional …
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12
The Poetical Books (Including Also Ecclesiastes and Canticles).
1. The Hebrews reckon but three books as poetical, namely: Job, Psalms, and Proverbs, which are distinguished from the rest by a stricter rhythm--the rhythm not of feet, but of clauses (see below, No. 3)--and a peculiar system of accentuation. It is obvious to every reader that the poetry of the Old Testament, in the usual sense of the word, is not restricted to these three books. But they are called poetical in a special and technical sense. In any natural classification of the books of the …
E. P. Barrows—Companion to the Bible
The Unchangeableness of God
The next attribute is God's unchangeableness. I am Jehovah, I change not.' Mal 3:3. I. God is unchangeable in his nature. II. In his decree. I. Unchangeable in his nature. 1. There is no eclipse of his brightness. 2. No period put to his being.  No eclipse of his brightness. His essence shines with a fixed lustre. With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.' James 1:17. Thou art the same.' Psa 102:27. All created things are full of vicissitudes. Princes and emperors are subject to …
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity
This State of Prayer not one of Idleness, but of Noble Action, Wrought by the Spirit of God, and in Dependence Upon Him --The Communication Of
Some people, hearing of the prayer of silence, have wrongly imagined that the soul remains inactive, lifeless, and without movement. But the truth is, that its action is more noble and more extensive than it ever was before it entered this degree, since it is moved by God Himself, and acted upon by His Spirit. St Paul desires that we should be led by the Spirit of God (Rom. viii. 14). I do not say that there must be no action, but that we must act in dependence upon the divine movement. This …
Jeanne Marie Bouvières—A Short Method Of Prayer And Spiritual Torrents
Of Meditating on the Future Life.
The three divisions of this chapter,--I. The principal use of the cross is, that it in various ways accustoms us to despise the present, and excites us to aspire to the future life, sec. 1, 2. II. In withdrawing from the present life we must neither shun it nor feel hatred for it; but desiring the future life, gladly quit the present at the command of our sovereign Master, see. 3, 4. III. Our infirmity in dreading death described. The correction and safe remedy, sec. 6. 1. WHATEVER be the kind of …
Archpriest John Iliytch Sergieff—On the Christian Life
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