To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim, A Psalm of David. Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.
We are familiar with the comments that are often made on inspired words like these. "What a spirit," men say, "is here! How unlike the mild, tender, charitable spirit of our Master, Christ! How unfit to be repeated by Christians who have been taught in the school of Christ!" This, and the like of this, is what is said, and it proceeds upon two leading mistakes. (1) The first is that the New Testament was meant somehow to abrogate the Old. (2) The second is that God's love is in some kind of way the antagonist of His justice; that He cannot be really just without ceasing to love; that He cannot love without trifling with His instinct of justice. Let us remember that, in the verse before us, we are listening, not to David, but to the perfectly righteous Being in whose person David sings. Here we have a sentence which has nothing to do with human passion, which is based on the most certain laws which govern the moral world. The sentence is a penal judgment uttered against those who have been sinners against the light vouchsafed to them.
I. God does under certain circumstances make the very blessings which He bestows instruments of punishment. A time comes when long unfaithfulness provokes this sentence on a nation, a Church, a soul. By the figure of "a table" is meant a supply of necessary nourishment, whether of soul or body. The table which God prepared before David in the presence of his enemies was the food which sustained his physical life, the grace which sustained the life of his spirit. The table which is spread out before associations of men—before nations, before Churches—is the sum total of material, moral, mental, and spiritual nourishment which God sets before them in the course of their history. The table becomes a snare when the blessings which God gives become sources of corruption and of demoralisation, when that which was intended to raise and to invigorate does really, through the faithlessness or perverseness of the man or the society, serve only to weaken or depress.
II. This is exactly what happened to the great majority of the Jewish people in the days of our Lord and Hi's Apostles. One by one the spiritual senses which should have led Israel to recognise the Christ were numbed or destroyed. A perverse insensibility to the voice of God made God's best gifts the instruments of Israel's ruin.
III. This verse applies to the religious life of the individual Christian. Every Christian has a certain endowment of blessings, what the Psalmist calls a "table." Every Christian has to fulfil a certain predestined course. He has a work to do—a work which God's gifts enable him to do—before he dies. Resistance to truth, to duty, may bring upon us this penal judgment. In the life of the soul, not to go forward is to go back. Unknown to ourselves, our religious life may be tainted with half-heartedness and insincerity. The dread sentence may have gone forth in heaven, "Let the things that should have been for his wealth be made to him an occasion of falling." It need not be so with any for whom Jesus Christ has died.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 894.
References: Psalm 69:23.—J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 3rd series, p. 88. Psalm 69:33.—J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 265. Psalm 69—J. Hammond, Expositor, 1st series, vol. iv., p. 225. Psalm 70:4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 1013. Psalm 70:5.—Ibid., No. 1018. Psalm 70:2-4.—G. G. Bradley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 241. Psalm 71:3.—Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 107; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1858. Psalm 71:9.—J. Baldwin Brown, Old Testament Outlines, p. 121, and Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 241; F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. ii., p. 45. Psalm 71:14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, No. 998. Psalm 71:15.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on Passages of the Psalms, p. 198.
I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.
I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.
They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.
O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.
Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel.
Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.
I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children.
For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.
When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.
I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them.
They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards.
But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.
Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.
Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.
Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.
And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.
Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies.
Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee.
Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.
Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.
Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.
Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents.
For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded.
Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness.
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.
But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.
I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.
The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God.
For the LORD heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners.
Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein.
For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession.
The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein.