I said, O my God, take me not away in the middle of my days: your years are throughout all generations.
This is a prayer which springs from the bosom of the Old Testament, and it bears the impress of its time. Life and immortality had not yet been brought to light; and long life in the land which the Lord their God had given them was a special promise made to these ancient saints. The prayer looks to that promise. It is thus the request for a complete life.
I. WHEN IS IT THAT A LIFE MAY BE SAID TO BE COMPLETE? While length of life in this world is not the chief blessing of the New Testament, there is nothing wrong in desiring it, and that, when well used, it may have on it special marks of God's wisdom and kindness. It is necessary, then, in speaking of a complete life, to find those elements that will suit either him who has come to his grave in a full age, or the young who have been taken away in the beginning of their days. We thank God that in His Word we can find a goal where the old and the young may meet in a complete and perfect life.
1. The first thing needed to gain this is that a man should have lived long enough to secure God's favour. Until he has found this he has not attained the great end for which life has been given to an intelligent and responsible creature.
2. A complete life has this in it still further, that it has done God and His world some service. We are here not merely to find God's favour, but to do God's work (John 9:4). Stephen's Christian life was short, and yet what ends it gained! The dying thief's was still shorter, but how many sermons his words have preached to dying men!
3. The next thing we mention in a complete life is that it should close with submission to the call of God.
4. It should look forward to a continual life with God.
II. THE PLEA FOR A COMPLETE LIFE WHICH THIS PRAYER CONTAINS. The psalmist contrasts his days with God's years, his being cut off in the midst of his days with those years that are throughout all generations. There is deep pathos in it, a sense of his own utter frailty and evanescence. And yet in the heart of it there is faith and hope. It is an appeal to God as the possessor of a complete life in the most absolute sense, the inhabitant and owner of eternity.
1. The eternal life of God suggests the thought of His power to grant this request. He is the possessor of independent and everlasting existence, and can share it with His creatures as seems good to Him.
2. The eternal being of God suggests the thought of His immutability to secure the request. We may have the confidence of this if we realize the thought of an ever-living God, who not only gave being to our souls, but holds them in His hand, and puts into them desires after Himself. All the changes, whether of life or death, cannot affect our relation to Him, except in bringing us nearer. Without an eternal God, what refuge would there be for troubled souls?
3. The thought of God's eternal being suggests His Divine consistency as an encouragement to this request. He has done so much that we may infer He will, if we ask Him, do still more. When I contemplate Him, I see that His eternity is the enclosing zone, the compact and mighty girdle of all His attributes, without which they would be scattered, conflicting forces, aimless and chaotic and fruitless. And what eternity is to God, immortality is to man. It is the indispensable requisite to the unity and completeness of His being. If, then, God has made Himself my highest standard, His unalterable truth and righteousness and goodness the goal towards which I should press, may I not expect that the course will be opened which leads to the goal?
4. God's eternal being is a plea for this request, because it suggests His Divine compassion for us. Great natures are made not more limited by their greatness, but more comprehensive; and the eternity of God does not shut out the thoughts and trials of human lives, but brings them more within His merciful regard. When we feel a touch of tenderness to the feeble creatures around us, to the bird or butterfly that sings its song, and flutters its hour, and dies, let us not imagine that we are more compassionate than God. Every spark of mercy is from His hearth. And when He has put into our souls a sense of a higher life, and a cry for its fulness in Himself, let us not believe He will treat us worse than the beasts that perish, that He will meet their wants in His great liberality and leave ours in endless disappointment.
(John Ker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations.