The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.…
We never can be duly thankful to God if we forget the troubles which we have suffered, and the distress of our souls when they were pressing us down. "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid." When Paul speaks of a great deliverance bestowed upon him in Asia, he says that God had delivered him from so great a death. In another passage he protests that he died daily.
I. OF THE GREAT DISTRESSES AND DANGERS OF DAVID. David probably enjoyed such happiness and tranquillity as this evil world can afford before he was anointed by Samuel to be king over Israel; but almost from that time, whilst he was yet in early youth, his troubles commenced. His sore distresses were not at an end when he was advanced to the throne. But the greatest of all his dangers after his advancement to the kingdom was that to which he was exposed by his unnatural son Absalom, and his treacherous counsellor Ahithophel.
II. THE CONSIDERATION OF THE STATE OF HIS MIND UNDER HIS TROUBLES.
1. Great sorrow often obtained possession of his soul. "My soul is exceeding sorrowful," or encompassed with sorrow even unto death. And as David was an eminent type of that blessed person, his sorrows may be considered as an emblem of those unequalled sorrows which seized on our Redeemer when He was bearing our iniquities. Poverty, exile, reproach, and danger of life are evils which make a deep impression of grief upon the minds of most men, especially when they meet together; and David, though a wise and an holy man, was not exempt from the feelings of human nature. But David was often compelled to dwell amongst men who without cause were his enemies (Psalm 56). And his friends were afraid to perform the offices of friendship. But exile is more distressing to a lover of his country than poverty. It was peculiarly distressing to an Israelite indeed, who could not leave his country without leaving behind him the sanctuary of his God. "They have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go serve other gods. Woe is me that I dwell in Meshech, and sojourn in the tents of Kedar." His heart was broken with reproach whilst he heard the slanders of many. Continual dangers to himself and to his adherents could not fail to fill his mind with great uneasiness. He had indeed promises which assured him of a happy event to himself, but there is no wonder that his faith, of these promises was sometimes shaken. But to his grief for himself, and for his friends, let us add what he felt for his country, for the indignities done to his God, and even for the guilt and misery which his enemies were bringing upon themselves, and we shall see that he drunk deeper than most other men have done in any age of the cup of affliction. He hated and abhorred every false way, and therefore he was pierced with grief at the sight and hearing of that wickedness which everywhere abounded.
2. Great fear often seized upon him. The floods of ungodly men made him afraid. But of whom was he afraid? Did he think that the Lord had forgotten to be gracious, and had in anger shut up His tender mercies? Surely he was a firm believer in the mercy and faithfulness of God. And yet his faith had a great fight to endure. It was sore tried by many enemies and by ham dispensations of providence. In days of great temptation it is very difficult to restrain those corrupt reasonings by which faith is embarrassed. What if he had made God his enemy? He surely deserved to be rebuked in God's indignation, and chastised in His sore displeasure. God was true to His word, but His faithfulness was not bullied by destroying in the desert that generation which He brought out of Egypt, although they had the promise of entering into God's rest which would have been fulfilled to them if they had not come short of it through their own unbelief. Such might be the workings of David's mind at the times when a deep consciousness of guilt, and a terrifying sense of Divine displeasure discomposed his mind, although during the greater part even of the days of tribulation he could glorify God by an unshaken confidence. No man is always himself. David could often say, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" But at other times he cried out in the agony of his soul, "I am cut off from Thine eyes; I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me; I am gone like the shadow when it declineth; I am tossed up and down as the locust."
III. WHY GOD SUFFERED THE HOLY MAN TO BE BROUGHT INTO SUCH CALAMITOUS SITUATIONS. May we not reasonably hope, that those men whom God blesses with His special favour will be preserved from those sorrows and fears which are the just portion of the wicked? Can He not by His Divine power, by which He rules over the world, set them high above all their enemies, and fill their mouths at all times with songs of triumph? Undoubtedly he can, and undoubtedly He would do it if He saw that it would tend to their best advantage.
1. His faith was tried and approved. We are called to count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trying of our faith worketh patience. Some remains of unbelief were found in David when his faith was tried as it were by fire (Psalm 27:13, 14, 118).
2. His sore afflictions were means for quickening his devotions. Never was there a more fervent supplicant at the throne of grace.
3. He learned from his sore adversities the value of the Word of God. He learned the value of its promises, its precepts, its warning, its histories.
4. Those graces were improved in him by his afflictions, to the exercise of which he was to be called in the days of his prosperity — his humility, his meekness, his humanity and tenderness of heart to the poor and afflicted. David would not have been such an excellent model for kings as he was if he had obtained the throne like his successors, by hereditary right, without passing to it through a great fight of afflictions. The experience of misery taught him to pity and succour the miserable.
5. His great and sore afflictions prepared the way for those marvellous loving kindnesses which inspired him with joy and praise. He would not have spoken so rapturously on many occasions of the salvations wrought for him by the God of his salvation if he had not tasted the bitter dregs of the cup of affliction.
6. He was designed to be an eminent type of our Lord Jesus Christ in his sufferings and in his exaltation. Many of his Psalms speak of the sufferings and glory of Christ under the figure of his own sufferings and glory.
7. The Church in every age was to derive unspeakable benefit from David's sufferings,Improvement —
1. Think it not strange that you must endure many chastisements and trials in the world. Are your afflictions equal in number or greatness to David's?
2. Admire the providence of God. He knows how to execute His purposes by means which seem calculated to defeat them.
3. Be ready to meet with every occurrence in the course of your lives. You do not know what evil shall befall you; but you know that man is born to trouble. Whilst you enjoy peace and quietness, be thankful but not secure.
Parallel VersesKJV: The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.