(The following texts highlighted in this color of blue is taken from
The Treasury of David by Charles Haddon Spurgeon) "Excerpted text
Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved. Materials are reproduced
TITLE. To the Chief Musician, to Jeduthun. It was meet that another
leader of the psalmody should take his turn. No harp should be silent in the
courts of the Lord's house. A Psalm of Asaph. Asaph was a man of
exercised mind, and often touched the minor key; he was thoughtful,
contemplative, believing, but withal there was a dash of sadness about him,
and this imparted a tonic flavor to his songs. To follow him with
understanding, it is needful to have done business on the great waters, and
weathered many an Atlantic gale.
DIVISIONS. If we follow the poetical arrangement, and divide at the
Selahs, we shall find the troubled man of God pleading in vs.1-3,
and then we shall hear him lamenting and arguing within himself, Psalm
vs. 4-9. From vs.10-15 his meditations run toward God, and in the
close he seems as in a vision to behold the wonders of the Red Sea and the
wilderness. At this point, as if lost in an ecstasy, he hurriedly closes the
Psalm with an abruptness, the effect of which is quite startling. The Spirit
of God knows when to cease speaking, which is more than those do who,
for the sake of making a methodical conclusion, prolong their words even
to weariness. Perhaps this Psalm was meant to be a prelude to the next,
and, if so, its sudden close is accounted for. The hymn now before us is for
experienced saints only, but to them it will be of rare value as a transcript
of their own inner conflicts.
1 “I cried unto God with my voice,” - This Psalm has much sadness in it,
but we may be sure it will end well, for it begins with prayer, and prayer
never has an ill issue. Asaph did not run to man but to the Lord, and to Him
he went, not with studied, stately, stilted words, but with a cry, the natural,
unaffected, unfeigned expression of pain. He used his voice also, for
though vocal utterance is not necessary to the life of prayer, it often seems
forced upon us by the energy of our desires. Sometimes the soul feels
compelled to use the voice, for thus it finds a freer vent for its agony. It is a
comfort to hear the alarm bell ringing when the house is invaded by thieves -
“even unto God with my voice:” - He returned to his pleading. If once
sufficed not, he cried again. He needed an answer, he expected one, he was
eager to have it soon, therefore he cried again and again, and with his voice
too, for the sound helped his earnestness - “and He gave ear unto me.
Importunity prevailed. The gate opened to the steady knock. It shall be so
with us in our hour of trial, the God of grace will hear us in due season.
2 “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord:” - All day long his distress
drove him to his God, so that when night came he continued still in the
same search. God had hidden His face from His servant, therefore the first
care of the troubled saint was to seek his Lord again. This was going to the
root of the matter and removing the main impediment first. Diseases and
tribulations are easily enough endured when God is found of us, but
without Him they crush us to the earth - “my sore ran in the night, and
ceased not:” - As by day so by night his trouble was on him and his prayer
continued. Some of us know what it is, both physically and spiritually, to be
compelled to use these words: no respite has been afforded us by the silence
of the night, our bed has been a rack to us, our body has been in torment, and
our spirit in anguish. It appears that this sentence is wrongly translated, and
should be, "my hand was stretched out all night," this shows that his prayer
ceased not, but with uplifted hand he continued to seek succor of his God.
“my soul refused to be comforted.” He refused some comforts as too weak
for his case, others as untrue, others as unhallowed; but chiefly because of
distraction, he declined even those grounds of consolation which ought to
have been effectual with him. As a sick man turns away even from the most
nourishing food, so did he. It is impossible to comfort those who refuse to
be comforted. You may bring them to the waters of the promise, but who
shall make them drink if they will not do so? Many a daughter of
despondency has pushed aside the cup of gladness, and many a son of
sorrow has hugged his chains. There are times when we are suspicious of
good news, and are not to be persuaded into peace, though the happy truth
should be as plain before us as the King's highway.
3 “I remembered God, and was troubled:” - He who is the wellspring of
delight to faith becomes an object of dread to the psalmist's distracted
heart. The justice, holiness, power, and truth of God have all a dark side,
and indeed all the attributes may be made to look black upon us if our eye
be evil; even the brightness of divine love blinds us, and fills us with a
horrible suspicion that we have neither part nor lot in it. He is wretched
indeed whose memories of the Ever Blessed prove distressing to him; yet
the best of men know the depth of this abyss - “I complained, and my spirit
was overwhelmed.” He mused and mused but only sank the deeper. His
inward disquietudes did not fall asleep as soon as they were expressed, but
rather they returned upon him, and leaped over him like raging billows of
an angry sea. It was not his body alone which smarted, but his noblest
nature writhed in pain, his life itself seemed crushed into the earth. It is
in such a case that death is coveted as a relief, for life becomes an intolerable
burden. With no spirit left in us to sustain our infirmity, our case becomes
forlorn; like man in a tangle of briars who is stripped of his clothes, every hook
of the thorns becomes a lancet, and we bleed with ten thousand wounds. Alas,
my God, the writer of this exposition well knows what thy servant Asaph
meant, for his soul is familiar with the way of grief. Deep glens and lonely
caves of soul depressions, my spirit knows full well your awful glooms! (Mr.
Spurgeon suffered from depression, gout, and other infirmities – CY- 2011)
“Selah.” Let the song go softly; this is no merry dance for the swift feet of
the daughters of music, pause ye awhile, and let sorrow take breath
between her sighs.
4 “Thou holdest mine eyes waking:” - The fears which thy strokes excite
in me forbid my eyelids to fall, my eyes continue to watch as sentinels
forbidden to rest. Sleep is a great comforter, but it forsakes the sorrowful,
and then their sorrow deepens and eats into the soul. If God holds the eyes
waking, what anodyne shall give us rest? How much we owe to Him who
giveth his beloved sleep! (ch. 127:2) - “I am so troubled that I cannot
speak.” Great griefs are dumb. Deep streams brawl not among the pebbles
like the shallow brooklets which live on passing showers. Words fail the
man whose heart fails him. He had cried to God but he could not speak to
man, what a mercy it is that if we can do the first, we need not despair
though the second should be quite out of our power. Sleepless and
speechless Asaph was reduced to great extremities, and yet he rallied,
and even so shall we.
5 “I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.” If no
good was in the present, memory ransacked the past to find consolation.
She fain would borrow a light from the altars of yesterday to light the
gloom of today. It is our duty to search for comfort, and not in sullen
indolence yield to despair; in quiet contemplation topics may occur to us
which will prove the means of raising our spirits, and there is scarcely any
theme more likely to prove consolatory than that which deals with the days
of yore, the years of the olden time, when the Lord's faithfulness was tried
and proven by hosts of His people. Yet it seems that even this consideration
created depression rather than delight in the good man's soul, for he
contrasted his own mournful condition with all that was bright in the
venerable experiences of ancient saints, and so complained the more. Ah,
sad calamity of a jaundiced mind, to see nothing as it should be seen, but
everything as through a veil of mist.
6 “I call to remembrance my song in the night:” - At other times his
spirit had a song for the darkest hour, but now he could only recall the
strain as a departed memory. Where is the harp which once thrilled
sympathetically to the touch of those joyful fingers? My tongue, hast thou
forgotten to praise? Hast thou no skill except in mournful ditties? Ah me,
how sadly fallen am I! How lamentable that I, who like the nightingale
could charm the night, am now fit comrade for the hooting owl - “I commune
with mine own heart:” - He did not cease from introspection, for
he was resolved to find the bottom of his sorrow, and trace it to its
fountain head. He made sure work of it by talking not with his mind only,
but with his inmost heart; it was heart work with him. He was no idler, no
melancholy trifler; he was up and at it, resolutely resolved that he would
not tamely die of despair, but would fight for his hope to the last moment
of life (Hebrews 6:19) – “and my spirit made diligent search.” He
ransacked his experience, his memory, his intellect, his whole nature, his
entire self, either to find comfort or to discover the reason why it was denied
him. That man will not die by the hand of the enemy who has enough force
of soul remaining to struggle in this fashion.
7 “Wilt the Lord cast off forever?” - This was one of the matters he
enquired into. He painfully knew that the Lord might leave His people for a
season, but his fear was that the time might be prolonged and have no
close; eagerly, therefore, he asked, will the Lord utterly and finally reject
those who are His own, and suffer them to be the objects of His
contemptuous reprobation, His everlasting cast offs? This he was persuaded
could not be. No instance in the years of ancient times led him to fear that
such could be the case - “and will He be favorable no more?” Favorable
He had been; would that goodwill never again show itself? Was the sun set
never to rise again? Would spring never follow the long and dreary winter?
The questions are suggested by fear, but they are also the cure for fear. It is
a blessed thing to have grace enough to look such questions in the face, for
their answer is self evident and eminently fitted to cheer the heart.
8 “Is His mercy clean gone for ever?” If He has no love for His elect,
has He not still His mercy left? Has that dried up? Has He no pity for the
sorrowful? “Doth His promise fail for evermore?” His word is pledged to
those who plead with Him; is that become of none effect? Shall it be said that
from one generation to another the Lord's word has fallen to the ground;
whereas aforetime He kept His covenant to all generations of them that fear
Him? It is a wise thing thus to put unbelief through the catechism. Each one
of the questions is a dart aimed at the very heart of despair. Thus have we also
in our days of darkness done battle for life itself.
9 “Hath God forgotten to be gracious?” Has El, the Mighty One,
become great in everything but grace? Does He know how to afflict, but
not how to uphold? Can He forget anything? Above all, can He forget to
exercise that attribute which lies nearest to His essence, for He is love?
“hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies?” Are the pipes of goodness
choked up so that love can no more flow through them? Do the bowels of
Jehovah no longer yearn towards His own beloved children? Thus with
cord after cord unbelief is smitten and driven out of the soul; it raises
questions and we will meet it with questions: it makes us think and act
ridiculously, and we will heap scorn upon it. The argument of this passage
assumes very much the form of a reductio ad absurdam (reduction to the
absurd). Strip it naked, and mistrust is a monstrous piece of folly.
“Selah.” Here rest awhile, for the battle of questions needs a lull.
10 “And I said, This is my infirmity:” - He has won the day, he talks
reasonably now, and surveys the field with a cooler mind. He confesses
that unbelief is an infirmity, a weakness, a folly, a sin. He may also be
understood to mean, "this is my appointed sorrow," I will bear it without
complaint. When we perceive that our affliction is meted out by the Lord,
and is the ordained portion of our cup, we become reconciled to it, and no
longer rebel against the inevitable. Why should we not be content if it be
the Lord's will? What He arranges it is not for us to cavil at - “but I will
remember the years of the right hand of the most High.” Here a
good deal is supplied by our translators, and they make the sense to be that
the psalmist would console himself by remembering the goodness of God
to himself and others of His people in times gone by: but the original seems
to consist only of the words, "the years of the right hand of the most High,”
and to express the idea that his long continued affliction, reaching through
several years, was allotted to him by the Sovereign Lord of all. It is well
when a consideration of the divine goodness and greatness silences all
complaining, and creates a childlike acquiescence.
11 “I will remember the works of the Lord:” - Fly back my soul, away
from present turmoil, to the grandeurs of history, the sublime deeds of
Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts; for He is the same and is ready even now to
defend His servants as in days of yore - “surely I will remember thy
wonders of old. Whatever else may glide into oblivion, the marvelous works
of the Lord in the ancient days must not be suffered to be forgotten. Memory
is a fit handmaid for faith. When faith has its seven years of famine, memory
like Joseph in Egypt opens her granaries.
12 “I will meditate also of all thy work,” - Sweet work to enter into
Jehovah's work of grace, and there to lie down and ruminate, every
thought being absorbed in the one precious subject - “and talk of thy doings.”
It is well that the overflow of the mouth should indicate the good matter which
fills the heart. Meditation makes rich talking; it is to be lamented that so much
of the conversation of professors is utterly barren, because they take no time for contemplation. A meditative man should be a talker, otherwise he is a mental
miser, a mill which grinds corn only for the miller. The subject of our meditation
should be choice, and then our task will be edifying; if we meditate on folly and
affect to speak wisdom, our double mindedness will soon be known unto all
men. Holy talk following upon meditation has a consoling power in it for
ourselves as well as for those who listen, hence its value in the connection
in which we find it in this passage.
13 “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary:” - or in holiness. In the holy
place we understand our God, and rest assured that all His ways are just
and right. When we cannot trace His way, because it is "in the sea, "it is a
rich consolation that we can trust it, for it is in holiness. We must have
fellowship with holiness if we would understand "the ways of God to man."
He who would be wise must worship. The pure in heart shall see God, and
pure worship is the way to the philosophy of providence. “Who is so great a
God as our God?” In Him the good and the great are blended. He surpasses
in both. None can for a moment be compared with the mighty One of Israel.
14 “Thou art the God that doest wonders:” - Thou alone art Almighty.
The false gods are surrounded with the pretence of wonders, but you really
work them. It is thy peculiar prerogative to work marvels; it is no new or
strange thing with thee, it is according to thy wont and use. Herein is
renewed reason for holy confidence. It would be a great wonder if we did
not trust the wonder working God - “thou hast declared thy strength among
the people.” Not only Israel, but Egypt, Bashan, Edom, Philistia, and all the
nations have seen Jehovah's power. It was no secret in the olden time and to
this day it is published abroad. God's providence and grace are both full of
displays of His power; He is in the latter peculiarly conspicuous as "mighty to
save." Who will not be strong in faith when there is so strong an arm to lean
upon? Shall our trust be doubtful when His power is beyond all question?
My soul see to it that these considerations banish thy mistrusts.
15 “Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob
and Joseph.” All Israel, the two tribes of Joseph as well as those which
sprang from the other sons of Jacob, were brought out of Egypt by a
display of divine power, which is here ascribed not to the hand but to the
arm of the Lord, because it was the fullness of His might. Ancient believers
were in the constant habit of referring to the wonders of the Red Sea, and
we also can unite with them, taking care to add the song of the Lamb to
that of Moses, the servant of God (Revelation 15:3-4). The comfort derivable
from such a meditation is obvious and abundant, for He who brought up His
people from the house of bondage will continue to redeem and deliver till
we come into the promised rest. “Selah.” Here we have another pause
preparatory to a final burst of song.
16 “The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were
afraid.” As if conscious of its Maker's presence, the sea was ready to flee
from before His face. The conception is highly poetical, the psalmist has the
scene before his mind's eye, and describes it gloriously. The water saw its
God, but man refuses to discern Him; it was afraid, but proud sinners are
rebellious and fear not the Lord - “the depths also were troubled.” To their
heart the floods were made afraid. Quiet caves of the sea, far down in the abyss,
were moved with fear; and the lowest channels were left bare, as the water
rushed away from its place, in terror of the God of Israel.
17 “The clouds poured out water:” - Obedient to the Lord, the lower
region of the atmosphere yielded its aid to overthrow the Egyptian host.
The cloudy chariots of heaven hurried forward to discharge their floods -
“the skies sent out a sound:” - From the loftier aerial regions thundered the
dread artillery of the Lord of Hosts. Peal on peal the skies sounded over
the heads of the routed enemies, confusing their minds and adding to their
horror - “thine arrows also went abroad.” Lightnings flew like bolts from
the bow of God. Swiftly, hither and thither, went the red tongues of flame, on
helm and shield they gleamed; anon with blue bale fires revealing the
innermost caverns of the hungry sea which waited to swallow up the pride of
Mizraim. Behold, how all the creatures wait upon their God, and show
themselves strong to overthrow His enemies.
18 “The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven,” - or in the whirlwind.
Rushing on with terrific swiftness and bearing all before it, the storm was
as a chariot driven furiously, and a voice was heard (even thy voice, O
Lord!) out of the fiery car, even as when a mighty man in battle urges
forward his charger, and shouts to it aloud. All heaven resounded with the
voice of the Lord - “the lightnings lightened the world:” - The entire
globe shone in the blaze of Jehovah's lightnings. No need for other light
amid the battle of that terrible night, every wave gleamed in the fire flashes,
and the shore was lit up with the blaze. How pale were men's faces in that
hour, when all around the fire leaped from sea to shore, from crag to hill,
from mountain to star, till the whole universe was illuminated in honor of
Jehovah's triumph – “the earth trembled and shook.” - It quaked and
quaked again. Sympathetic with the sea, the solid shore forgot its quiescence
and heaved in dread. How dreadful art thou, O God, when thou comest
forth in thy majesty to humble thine arrogant adversaries.
19 “Thy way is in the sea,” - Far down in secret channels of the deep is
thy roadway; when thou wilt thou canst make a sea a highway for thy
glorious march - “and thy path in the great waters,” - There, where the
billows surge and swell, thou still dost walk; Lord of each crested wave -
“and thy footsteps are not known.” None can follow thy tracks by foot or
eye. Thou art alone in thy glory, and thy ways are hidden from mortal ken.
Thy purposes thou wilt accomplish, but the means are often concealed,
yea, they need no concealing, they are in themselves too vast and
mysterious for human understanding. Glory be to thee, O Jehovah.
20 “Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and
Aaron.” What a transition from tempest to peace, from wrath to love.
Quietly as a flock Israel was guided on, by human agency which veiled the
excessive glory of the divine presence. The smiter of Egypt was the
shepherd of Israel. He drove His foes before Him, but went before His
people. Heaven and earth fought on His side against the sons of Ham, but
they were equally subservient to the interests of the sons of Jacob.
Therefore, with devout joy and full of consolation, we close this Psalm; the
song of one who forgot how to speak and yet learned to sing far more
sweetly than his fellows.
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