Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. IN THE DEPTHS. (Vers. 1-3.) Undoubtedly he knew what these were; and very deep depths they appear to have been.
1. His sad condition seems to have been brought about, not so much by any outward circumstances of his life, as by some inward spiritual distress. His soul was consciously separated from God; some great gulf, into which he had fallen, had opened between him and the God who had once been his delight and exceeding joy. It may have been that the sense of guilt and condemnation lay heavily on him, or that he was in dread of some approaching calamity, or that he was plunged in grief and shame by the might and mastery of some sin. Sin had undoubtedly to do with it, as it has to do with like distressing experiences in our own lives.
2. And it is a matter for deep thankfulness when sin does cast us into such depths. Too many people regard sin as a mere trifle; it never troubles them seriously at all. And the cause of the vapid, feeble, and ineffectual Christian life which so many professed Christians lead is that they have never had any real conviction of sin; they have never been in any "depths" about it. Would to God all had I; for there seems no hope of a real, earnest, and devoted Christian life without it. But the psalmist was in the depths, and this explains the heights to which he afterwards rose.
3. He cries unto the .Lord. It is an earnest, self-abasing, yet passionate, appeal. He implores the Lord to be attentive to his supplication. It is only people in such depths that thus cry unto the Lord. Others may say prayers; but these men "cry."
4. He is filled with fear, lest the Lord should mark his iniquities. If the Lord did that, there could be no hope for him; and, remembering this, he seems to sink down deeper than ever. It is a vivid instance of the Holy Spirit's conviction of sin.
II. RISING OUT OF THEM. (Vers. 4-6.)
1. The upward ascent begins by his laying hold of the truth that there is forgiveness with God. Faith has come; and as he believes, he sees that God's forgiveness can alone ensure that state of heart in him, that fear, which God desires to see in us all. He feels that he will never get right, save as he believes in God's forgiveness. And this is undoubtedly true.
2. Then he proceeds to put that faith in practice, and to wait on the Lord. And this he does in no half-hearted way. He says, "I wait;" then, "My soul waiteth;" then he stays himself on God's word of forgiveness, and hopes therein; then he likens his faith to the eager expectation of those who are anxiously, but believingly, watching for the morning - yea, with more than their desire and confidence does he wait! Of course, there can be but one response to faith like this - the man rises out of the depths, as such men ever will.
III. CLEAR ABOVE THEM. (Vers. 7, 8.)
1. He has got what he desires - the assurance of God's forgiveness.
2. In the joy of it he turns to others, and exhorts them to hope in the Lord, and testifies that "with the Lord there is," etc. (ver. 7).
3. And then, in the conviction that the love which has so blessed him cannot fail for Israel, he confidently predicts that the Lord "will redeem," etc. (ver. 8). All this earnest witnessing for God is the sure sign that he is now clear up above, and right out of those depths in which he at first was. In the depths we cannot thus witness, but out of them we must and shall. - S.C.
Lamentations 3:55; Jonah 2:2). When men are disheartened and depressed, overwhelmed with anxieties and troubles, we familiarly speak of them as "down in the depths." It is a natural and universal figure. "On the hills" represents excitement and joy; "in the depths" represents depression and anxiety. "This psalm is distinctly a song of ascent, in that it starts from the very lowest point of sell: abasement and consciousness of evil, and rises steadily, and, though it may be slowly, yet surely, up to the tranquil summit, led by a consciousness of the Divine presence and grace." "The psalmist thinks of himself as of a man at the bottom of a pit, sending up to the surface a faint call, which may easily be unheard. He does not merely mean to express his sense of human insignificance, nor even his sorrows, nor his despondency. There are deeper depths than these. They are the depths into which the spirit feels itself going down, sick and giddy, when there comes the thought, 'I am a sinful man, O Lord, in the presence of thy great purity.' Out of these depths does he cry to God."
I. THE DEPTHS ARE THE PLACE FOR US ALL. Every man amongst us has to go down there, if we take the place that belongs to us.
II. UNLESS YOU HAVE CRIED TO GOD OUT OF THOSE DEPTHS, YOU HAVE NEVER CRIED TO HIM AT ALL. Unless you come to him as a penitent, sinful man, with the consciousness of transgression awakened within you, your prayers are shallow. The beginning of all true personal religion lies in the sense of my own sin and my lost condition. Whenever you find men and women with a Christianity that sits very lightly upon them, that does not impel them to any acts of service and devotion, and never rises into the heights of communion with God, depend upon it the man has never been down into the abyss, and never sent his voice up from it. "Out of the depths" he has not cried unto God.
III. YOU WANT NOTHING MORE THAN A CRY TO DRAW YOU FROM THE PIT. It is not that your crying will lift you out; it is that your crying will bring you help. The "infant crying in the night" does nothing for itself by its crying; but the cry brings its mother. And the cry means that hope of self-help is altogether abandoned, the soul having to say, "Myself I cannot save," cries after Christ, saying, "Jesu, have mercy on me!" (part Maclaren). - R.T.
I. THE PROFOUND MISERY WHICH THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF SIN PRODUCES. (Vers. 1-3.) "Out of the depths. If thou shouldest mark," etc., iniquities, other "depths" than the depths of poverty or bodily affliction.
II. THE STRONGEST MOTIVE TO THE REVERENT FEAR OF GOD. (Ver. 4.) "God freely forgives sin - not that men may think lightly of sin, but that they may magnify his grace and mercy in its forgiveness. 'For thy Name's sake pardon mine iniquity.' This a more powerful motive than any other to call forth holy fear and love and self-sacrifice."
III. HIS FAITH WAITS IN THE EXPECTATION OF GOD'S FORGIVENESS. (Vers. 5, 6.)
1. His faith is full of hope - is expectant, opposed to unbelieving despondency. Hope supposes difficulties and uncertainties melting away or triumphed over.
2. But it is patient and anxious at the same time. More than those who watch for the morning in the sick-room - whether the sick or those who watch with them. The faith, therefore, is connected with anxious exercises of mind battling with the delay.
IV. HE WHO IS CONSCIOUS OF FORGIVENESS CAN INSPIRE OTHERS WITH HOPE AND TRUST. (Vers. 7, 8.) "Hope" - "plenteous redemption" - "will redeem Israel" - not this or that favored man, but Israel, the nation - "from all his iniquities." Not merely from the punishment, but from the iniquities themselves. - S.
Psalm 139, and in Hebrews 4:12, 13. Conscience freely admits that the Divine examination of the life cannot be endured. "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" There need be no difficulty in understanding what conscience is. Some, indeed, regard it as a separate and independent power, which acts in a man as a sort of sentinel, giving notice of the approach or presence of evil. But it is altogether simpler to regard it as the ordinary faculty of judgment exercised by a man concerning the quality of his own actions. That self-judgment inevitably brings a man into fears.
I. CONSCIENCE TESTIFIES BOTH THE GOOD AND THE BAD. This is often missed from view. Usually conscience is thought of as concerned only with the evil; and so its power and witness are only dreaded. Conscience ought to be the cheer of life. A man knows when he has done right. Appraising his life, he can sometimes approve. "Conscience makes cowards of us all;" but it is equally true that "Conscience can make brave men of us all."
II. CONSCIENCE TESTIFIES TO THE BAD IN THE GOOD. And that is the real ground of our fear. Self-esteem may see only good; conscience never does. It finds the sinister mark everywhere, and always has to qualify its approval and praise. "Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee." A "bar sinister" on every escutcheon.
III. CONSCIENCE TESTIFIES TO THE GOOD IN THE BAD. And this keeps fear from becoming hopeless and despairing. The irretrievably bad is a conception that can only be associated with devils, not with man. And it is not a genuine conscience that judges in a blind, sectarian way, and makes a man accuse himself as hopelessly bad.
IV. CONSCIENCE PUTS BOTH BAD AND GOOD OUT OF THE SELF-LIGHT INTO THE DIVINE LIGHT. According to the sense a man has of God will be his conscience-judgment of his own conduct. Right sense of God will make conscience-estimates induce fear. The conscience of good will bring a reverent and humble fear; the conscience of evil will bring an humiliating and anxious fear. The self-estimate of iniquities is painful enough, but what shall we say of the Divine estimate of those same iniquities? - R.T.
I. NOTE TO WHOM THIS BLESSED ASSURANCE IS GIVEN.
1. Not to every one. For many do not care for it - they think there is no need; they persuade themselves that God is easy, and will readily forgive. But this presumption is not God's assurance, for it gives them no settled rest; they have awful misgivings at times. It lasts only so long as their light notions of sin last. When they wake up to the reality of sin, then they are in despair. It awakes no love to God (cf. Luke 7:47); it produces no hatred of sin; if it did, it would lead to that which St. John says, "He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as he is pure." Others there are who will not believe. How hard it is to persuade distressed souls that God does forgive!
2. But this assurance is given to such as are described in this psalm.
(1) They have had a very deep sense of sin - have been in "the depths."
(2) They have cried earnestly unto the Lord.
(3) They confess that God's judgment on sin is righteous, and that their condemnation would be just.
(4) They have come to believe that the love of God is deeper than his displeasure with the sinner. And
(5) they have cast themselves in utter faith on that love. These are they to whom God's assurance comes.
II. THE EVIDENCE ON WHICH IT RESTS.
1. It needs evidence; for conscience is against it; God's love is against it; the testimony of nature and science is against it; earthly governments do not forgive; we ourselves do not thus forgive. Therefore evidence for it is needed.
2. Such evidence is furnished by many fasts.
(1) God has spared us thus far - that we are able and at times are willing to forgive those who have wronged us. But if we, then yet more God.
(2) Chiefly the plain declarations of God's Word; the sacrifice of Christ; the experience of those that are forgiven, - they feel it in their hearts; they enjoy the peace of God; its influence is all-sanctifying on their own soul, - it binds them over to God. Such is the evidence for, etc.
III. THE RESULTS THAT FOLLOW. God will be feared, that is, with the fear which love begets in a dear child. Such fear springs from no other source, but ever from this. - S.C.
I. GOD'S FORGIVENESS REVEALS OUR SIN. Here a distinction can be made. God's denunciations, punishments, and judgments, which we may hear about or observe, bring us what may be called, and what are primarily, intellectual apprehensions of the evil of sin. Very many, indeed, only know sin through the teaching of its consequences. But it is certain that sin cannot be really or worthily known in that way. Its root is not in the intelligence, but in the will; and the atmosphere in which it thrives is not knowledge, but feeling. It is a moral matter, and it is revealed in moral actions. God's forgiveness touches feeling, and feeling throws its own special light on that which is forgiven. The wrong of it comes to feeling; the peril of it comes to intelligence. No man knows the hatefulness of his sin until he realizes that it is divinely forgiven.
II. GOD'S FORGIVENESS PRODUCES A WORTHY FEAR. That kind of fear which makes us anxiously watchful lest we should prove unworthy of such forgiveness, and even need that forgiveness again. The sense of forgiveness binds us to God in such thankfulness and love that we fear to grieve him. And the forgiveness makes us so sensible of our own infirmities that we can but walk watchfully, as those who fear to fall. And we can never be quite sure that the sin forgiven was not rooted in a weakness which we still retain, and which is still to us a source of peril. So we fear for ourselves.
III. GOD'S FORGIVENESS REMOVES OUR FEAR. Because a forgiveness declares and guarantees an interest in us. God's forgiveness pledges continuous help and blessing. It reveals God to us so that we are able to cherish an absolute confidence in him. And while it puts us upon every endeavor not to sin, it keeps us from all despairing fear by assuring us that, even if we should be overcome by our frailties, "there is forgiveness with him." His forgivings do not exhaust his mercy, but pledge it for days to come. - R.T.
I. A WAITING THAT IS A WEARY COMPULSION. We do not want to wait. We are made to wait. And the watching for the end of the waiting-time is simply a prolonged agony. Man often deals with his fellow-man thus; and God sometimes finds it needful to put his people into this hard discipline. Whether we like it or not, we must wait. Active man who would do something - must do nothing. Illust.: waiting for openings in life.
II. A WAITING THAT IS A HOPELESS ENDURANCE. The kind of waiting that belongs to times of uncertainty. We watch vainly, at last almost hopelessly, for the daily post. Tennyson pictures this condition in his 'Mariana' -
"She only said, 'My life is dreary: III. A WAITING THAT IS A LOVING EXPECTANCY. And that our waiting may always be if we see it to be our Father-God's call to wait. There is his thought in it, his purpose in it. We may be sure of the "end of the Lord." It is well altogether to dismiss from our minds all such ideas of Divine sovereignty as even suggest that he ever "afflicts willingly." We seem to be waiting for some change in our earthly circumstances, but we are really waiting for God to change our circumstances; and we may wait with the calm, and even joyous, expectancy that he will. - R.T.
III. A WAITING THAT IS A LOVING EXPECTANCY. And that our waiting may always be if we see it to be our Father-God's call to wait. There is his thought in it, his purpose in it. We may be sure of the "end of the Lord." It is well altogether to dismiss from our minds all such ideas of Divine sovereignty as even suggest that he ever "afflicts willingly." We seem to be waiting for some change in our earthly circumstances, but we are really waiting for God to change our circumstances; and we may wait with the calm, and even joyous, expectancy that he will. - R.T.
I. IT IS UNDOUBTEDLY TRUE.
1. The Scriptures affirm it. It is not alone the declaration of this Scripture, but of many more besides.
2. And experience, that of myriads of believers in all ages, attests the same truth. They will tell us with one accord that they have found it so.
3. And it is plenteous because it is redemption from all evil.
(1) From the guilt and condemnation of sin. Utter and complete forgiveness is ours through the death of Christ our Lord.
(2) From the power and tyranny of sin. The blood of Christ keeps cleansing the soul of the man who walks in the light, and is ever trusting in Christ, from all sin (1 John 1:7).
(3) From sorrow's crushing power; for Christ is revealed to us as knowing all our sorrows, sympathizing with us, helping us in them, and for us turning their evil into good. "All things work together for good," etc. (Romans 8:28).
(4) From the fret and worry of life; the believer is taught-the lesson of continued trust, and so to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6, 7).
(5) From the power of death; for the believer does not die in the sense in which of old time death was understood, for he who believes enters no Hades, no intermediate state, but, as Jesus said, he never dies - his body may - but he himself departs, and is at once with Christ, which is far better. Thus is there plenteous redemption.
4. And it is accessible to all. (Isaiah 55:1.) It is the free gift of God.
II. BUT MANY DO NOT CARE FOR IT. They would like a redemption from pain and distress; but they do not care for a redemption from sin - they love and hold on to it too much; holiness excites no desire in their hearts; they love sin.
III. AND MANY OF THOSE WHO DO DARE CAN HARDLY BE GOT TO BELIEVE IN IT. They cannot realize that it is a free gift. For:
1. They keep thinking that they must do something in the way of righteousness and holiness if they are to be saved. They want to bring something of their own to God, in return for which they shall be saved.
2. And there is much to foster this unbelief.
(1) Free gifts out of pure good will are not the way of the world. You must bring your money and pay the price.
(2) And all other religions demand the due tale of good works and meritorious deeds.
(3) For all excellence -physical, artistic, intellectual, moral - we have to toil and do the needful work.
(4) And our pride protests against an eleemosynary salvation.
3. But such unbelief cannot be true.
(1) For think first of him with whom this redemption is. It is the Lord. But can we imagine him bargaining, haggling, coming to terms, over our salvation, as if he were a seller, and not a giver?
(2) And of ourselves. What have we got that could by any imagination be supposed adequate for the purchase? What is all our righteousness?
(3) Of the gift itself. It is so great that it can only be ours by gift; in no other way could we have it.
IV. BUT THIS GRACE OF GOD, IN BESTOWING ON US FREELY THIS PLENTEOUS REDEMPTION, IS JUSTIFIED BY ITS RESULTS.
1. It wakes up in the recipient an overwhelming gratitude. But this is a mighty incentive to all holy obedience.
2. It enables us to go to the vilest of men and proclaim God's mercy waiting for them. We could not do this were it not all of grace.
3. It forbids alike both boasting and despair.
4. It shows a dear path to the fullest salvation the world can know. I can be holy as he is holy, because of this free gift received through faith.
5. It redounds to the glory of God. - S.C.
Jehovah himself. The sense of personality in God is to be most jealously treasured. In India it is conceived that the personality of god is but a step towards the higher realization of him, or it, as an impersonal, uncaused, unrelated, absolute being. But this is an unreal dreamland. No fitting idea of God can fail to include an active, ever-working will, that is influenced by surrounding and swayed by feeling. But that is the characteristic of a person. The Word of God, while refusing to permit any representation of God as a Person, nevertheless insists that we shall always deal with him as a Person.
I. GOD HIMSELF IS THE OBJECT OF A SINNER'S HOPE. There is a distinction of the utmost importance, which is often missed, and often very imperfectly apprehended. A man can never have absolute confidence based on anything that God has ever done. His confidence must rest in God, who did those things, and has revealed himself as wholly trustworthy in doing them. For the nation to rely on what God did, in delivering it from Egyptian bondage, would be wholly unworthy. For it to rely on God, who then delivered, and so proved himself to be the Deliverer, was worthy and. ennobling. So still, the work of Divine redemption is not the proper object of a sinner's hope, but God, who in such a glorious and Divine way has redeemed. The hope is in no thing, though it may have the Divine stamp on it. The hope is in the Person who is revealed in and by the thing done. The apprehension of this involves the reformation of very much of the imperfect theology that now prevails.
II. CHRIST HIMSELF IS THE AGENCY FOR REALIZING HIM WHO IS THE OBJECT OF THE SINNER'S HOPE. St. Peter states this with admirable precision, "Who, by him, do believe in God." Our faith is demanded, not for Christ's work, but for Christ himself. And not for Christ other than as a mediary. Our hope as sinners is only rightly fixed on Christ when we apprehend that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." - R.T.
I. THE ORIGIN OF REDEMPTION. "With him" - with God. The gospel bears the stamp of its Divine origin:
1. In what it reveals.
2. In what it proposes.
It is not man's appeal to God, but God's proposal to man.
II. THE NATURE OF REDEMPTION.
1. The slavery from which we are redeemed.
2. The price of our redemption.
3. The liberty bestowed.
III. THE FULNESS OF THIS REDEMPTION.
1. It is full for each.
2. It is full for all. - S.
disasters. That might be important enough in its way; but no kind of material redemption can ever be of supreme interest to God. To deliver Israel from his iniquities is the Divine thought. To deliver Israel from all his iniquities is the supreme Divine thought. When is a man saved? The answer depends upon a right idea of what the salvation or redemption of a man is. To save a drowning man and to save a city waif are not the same thing. You have clone saving the drowned man when you have brought him ashore alive. You have not saved the waif when you have got him inside the doors of the Boys' Home. It needs to be set in the strongest and clearest light possible that the object of God's redemption is the man - not the man's circumstances, nor the man's perils. It is a fiction of man's theology that God's salvation is satisfied with removing penalty. When the penalty is gone, we hear the Divine voice saying, "And now what about the man?"
I. REDEMPTION GETS ALL HINDRANCES OUT OF THE WAY OF ITS WORK. Never confuse the preliminary with the real work. Getting hindrances out of the way may be quite necessary; and it may be vigorous and prolonged work, calling for much energy and self-denial; but it is God's pioneer work. It is God getting his sphere, clearing for himself the sphere in which he may do his true redemptive work. If this had been worthily apprehended, we should never have been worried by being called to believe in a work, in a plan of salvation, in a removing of our penalty. Our faith is demanded for a Redeemer who, having done such and such things, is able to do what he now wants to do in our minds and hearts and lives; i.e. redeem us from our iniquities.
II. REDEMPTION WORKS FREELY IN THE SPACE IT HAS CLEARED. And a plentiful and most glorious work it has in view - deliverance from the power, fascination, and snare of sin; redemption from all iniquities. Work like getting the threading weed-roots out of the soul, and making a lovely, clean lawn. Work like getting out every tiny fiber of the spreading cancer, and giving a clean and hopeful bill of health. No man is saved as God would save him until he is "clean every whit." - R.T.