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C. H. Spurgeon :: Psalm 119 Verses 81-88

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Psalm 119 Verses 81-88


This portion of the gigantic psalm sees the Psalmist in extremis. His enemies have brought him to the lowest condition of anguish and depression; yet he is faithful to the law and trustful in his God. This octave is the midnight of the psalm, and very dark and black it is. Stars, however, shine out, and the last verse gives promise of the dawn. The strain will after this become more cheerful; but meanwhile it should minister comfort to us to see so eminent a servant of God so hardly used by the ungodly: evidently in our own persecutions, no strange thing has happened unto us.

Verse 81.—"My soul fainteth for thy salvation." He wished for no deliverance but that which came from God: his one desire was for "thy salvation." But for that divine deliverance he was eager to the last degree,—up to the full measure of his strength, yea, and beyond it till he fainted. So strong was his desire that it produced prostration of spirit. He grew weary with waiting, faint with watching, sick with urgent need. Thus the sincerity and the eagerness of his desires were proved. Nothing else could satisfy him but deliverance wrought out by the hand of God, his inmost mature yearned and pined for salvation from the God of all grace, and he must have it or utterly fail. "But I hope in thy word." Therefore he felt that salvation would come, for God cannot break his promise, nor disappoint the hope which his own word has excited: yea, the fulfilment of his word is near at hand when our hope is firm and our desire fervent. Hope alone can keep the soul from fainting by using the smelling bottle of the promise. Yet hope does not quench desire for a speedy answer to prayer; it increases our importunity, for it both stimulates ardour and sustains the heart under delays. To faint for salvation, and to be kept from utterly failing by the hope of it, is the frequent experience of the Christian man. We are "faint yet pursuing." Hope sustains when desire exhausts. While the grace of desire throws us down, the grace of hope lifts us up again.


The whole eight verses, 81-89.—The eleventh letter, Caph, signifies the hollowed hand. The expositors, however, looking only to the meaning curved, which is but half of its import, explain the section as signifying the act of bowing down in penitence, or as noting that the fathers of the Old Testament were like veteran soldiers, stooping with years and toil, and bowed down yet further by the heavy weight of the law, only removable by that coming of Christ for which they prayed. Others extend the notion to the saints of the church, weighed down by the sorrows and cares of this life, and therefore desiring to be dissolved and to be with Christ. The true meaning is to be sought in the full interpretation of the word; for the hand is hollowed either in order to retain something which actually lies in it, or to receive something about to be placed in it by another. Thus the hand may be God's, as the giver of bounty, or man's, as the receiver of it; and the whole scope of the section, as a prayer for speedy help, is that man holds out his hand as a beggar, supplicating the mercy of God.

Jerome, Ambrose, and others, in Neale and Littledale.

Verse 81.—"My soul fainteth for thy salvation." The word here rendered "fainteth" is the same that in Psa 73:26 is translated "faileth:" "My flesh and my heart faileth". The idea is, that his strength gave way; he had such an intense desire for salvation that he became weak and powerless. Any strong emotion may thus prostrate us; and the love of God, the desire of his favour, the longing for heaven, may be so intense as to produce this result.

Albert Barnes.

Verse 81.—"My soul fainteth." Fainting is proper to the body, but here it is ascribed to the soul; as also in many other places. The Apostle saith, "Lest ye be wearied, and faint in your minds" (Heb 7:3); where two words are used, weariness and fainting, both taken from the body. Weariness is a lesser, fainting is a higher degree of deficiency: in weariness, the body requireth some rest or refreshment, when the active power is weakened, and the vital spirits and principles of motion are dulled; but, in fainting, the vital power is contracted, and retires, and leaveth the outward parts lifeless and senseless. When a man is wearied, his strength is abated; when he fainteth, he is quite spent. These things, by a metaphor, are applied to the soul, or mind. A man is weary, when the fortitude of his mind, his moral or spiritual strength, is broken, or begins to abate, when his soul sits uneasy under sufferings; but when he sinks under the burden of grievous, tedious, or long affliction, then he is said to faint, when all the reasons and grounds of his comfort are quite spent, and he can hold out no longer.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 81.—"My soul fainteth." What is this fainting but the lofty state of raptured contemplation in which the strength of heavenly affections weakens those of earth. Just as the ascent into the highest mountains causes a new respiration, as when Daniel had a great vision from God, he tells us "he fainted and was sick certain days."

E. Paxton Hood, 1871.

Verse 81.—"My soul fainteth for thy salvation; but I hope." Believe under a cloud, and wait for him when there is no moonlight nor starlight. Let faith live and breathe, and lay hold of the sure salvation of God, when clouds and darkness are about you, and appearance of rotting in the prison before you. Take heed of unbelieving hearts, which can father lies upon Christ. Beware of "Doth his promise fail for evermore?" for it was a man, and not God said it. Who dreameth that a promise of God can fail, fall a swoon, or die? Who can make God sick, or his promises weak? When we are pleased to seek a plea with Christ, let us plead that we hope in him. O stout word of faith, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him!" O sweet epitaph, written upon the gravestone of a departed believer, namely, "I died hoping, and my dust and ashes believe in life!" Faith's eyes, that can see through a millstone, can see through a gloom of God, and under it read God's thoughts of love and peace. Hold fast Christ in the dark; surely ye shall see the salvation of God. Your adversaries are ripe and dry for the fire. Yet a little while, and they shall go up in a flame; the breath of the Lord, like a river of brimstone, shall kindle about them.

Samuel Rutherford, 1600-1601.

Verse 81.—"For thy salvation." Understood in a higher sense, the holy man longs for the coming of the Saviour in the flesh.

Cornelius Jansen.

Verse 81.—"Thy salvation." A believer in God, how afflicted so ever he be, seeketh not to be delivered but in a way allowed by God; "My soul fainteth for thy salvation;" or, till thou deliver me in thy good way.

David Dickson.

Verse 81.—"I hope in thy word." David knew where he moored his ship. Hope without a promise is like an anchor without ground to hold by; but David's hope fixed itself upon the divine word.

William Gurnall.

Verse 81.—"I hope in thy word:" i.e.. I hope beyond anything I understand, and beyond anything I can possibly do, and beyond anything I deserve, and beyond all carnal and spiritual consolations, for I desire and look for Thee only I seek Thee, not Thine: I long to hear "Thy word," that I may obey it in patience and meekness.

Le Blanc.

Verses 81, 83.—It is good in all times of persecution or affliction to have an eye both on the promises and on the precepts; for the looking to the promise doth encourage to hope, and the eyeing of the precepts doth prove the hope to be sound. The Psalmist hoped in the word (Psa 119:81), and (Psa 119:88), he forgot not the statutes.

David Dickson.


Verses 81-88.—Hope in depression. In the depression arising from mortal frailness (Psa 119:81-81), and from unjust persecution (Psa 119:85-87), the word of God is the source of joy and comfort.

Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, by Pastor C. A. Davis.

Verse 81.—Text suitable for a missionary sermon.

1. The condition of the heathen world, enough to make the Christian faint for the salvation of God to visit it.

(a) The grossness of its darkness.

(b) Its wide area.

(c) Its long continuance.

(d) The limited character and effect of mission labour.

(e) The opposing influences.

2. This condition, though exceedingly sad, is not hopeless. Because—

(a) Of the intention, adaptation, and universal call of the gospel.

(b) Of Christ's commission to his church.

(c) Of the compassionate character of the spiritually enlightened, produced by their faith in the word.

(d) Of the prophecies and promises. Thus, there is hope in the word.

3. If Christians are fainting for the salvation, but hoping in the word, their interest in mission work will be intense, and will show itself,

(a) In earnest prayer for more labourers, and greater results.

(b) In devoting themselves, if possible, to the work.

(c) In free and generous giving, to help on the work.

J. F.

Verse 81.—"My soul fainteth, etc. Men faint for health, provision, rest, promotion, success, and in some instances for salvation. David fainted.

1. For his own salvation.

(a) From guilt: "Deliver me from all my transgressions;" "from blood guiltiness."

(b) From defilement: "Create in me a clean heart." "Wash me."

(c) From formality: "Let the words of my mouth," etc.

(d) From darkness: "Why hidest thou thyself?" "Lift up," etc. "Say unto my soul," etc.

(e) From unhappiness: "Out of the depths," etc.

2. For the salvation of others.

(a) He talked about it: "Time for thee to work, Lord."

(b) He prayed for it: "Oh that the salvation," etc. "Let thy work," etc. "God be merciful unto us:" "Save now, I beseech thee."

(c) He laboured for it: "I will make mention of thy righteousness:" "I will teach transgressors thy ways."

W. J.

Verse 81.

1. Eagerness of expectation.

2. Energy of hope.

3. Establishment of promise: "In thy word."

Verse 81.—"Salvation," in Scripture, hath divers acceptations: it is put—

1. For that temporal deliverance which God giveth, or hath promised to give to his people: so it is taken. Exo 14:13.

2. For the exhibition of Christ in the flesh. Psa 98:2-3; Luk 2:29-30.

3. For the benefits which we have by Christ on this side of heaven; as the pardon of sin, and the renovation of our natures. Mat 1:21; Tit 3:5; Psa 51:12.

4. For everlasting life: "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" (1Pe 1:9); meaning thereby our final reward.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 81.

1. Faint.

2. Pursuing.



Verse 82.—"Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me?" His eyes gave out with eagerly gazing for the kind appearance of the Lord, while his heart in weariness cried out for speedy comfort. To read the word till the eyes can no longer see is but a small thing compared with watching for the fulfilment of the promise till the inner eyes of expectancy begin to grow dim with hope deferred. We may not set times to God, for this is to limit the Holy One of Israel; yet we may urge our suit with importunity, and make fervent enquiry as to why the promise tarries. David sought no comfort except that which comes from God; his question is, "When wilt thou comfort me?" If help does not come from heaven it will never come at all: all the good man's hopes look that way, he has not a glance to dart in any other direction. This experience of waiting and fainting is well known by full grown saints, arid it teaches them many precious lessons which they would never learn by any other means. Among the choice results is this one—that the body rises into sympathy with the soul, both heart and flesh cry out for the living God, and even the eyes find a tongue, "saying, When wilt thou comfort me?" It must be an intense longing which is not satisfied to express itself by the lips, but speaks with the eyes, by those eyes failing through intense watching. Eyes can speak right eloquently; they use both mutes and liquids, and can sometimes say more than tongues. David says in another place, "The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping" (Psa 6:8). Specially are our eyes eloquent when they begin to fail with weariness and woe. A humble eye lifted up to heaven in silent prayer may flash such flame as shall melt the bolts which bar the entrance of vocal prayer, and so heaven shall be taken by storm with the artillery of tears. Blessed are the eyes that are strained in looking after God. The eyes of the Lord will see to it that such eyes do not actually fail. How much better to watch for the Lord with aching eyes than to have them sparkling at the glitter of vanity.


Verse 82.—"Mine eyes fail for thy word." Has a mother promised to visit her son or daughter? should she not be able to go, the remark of the son or daughter will be: "Alas! my mother promised to come to me: how I have I been looking for her? But a speck has grown on my eye. I cannot see, my eyes have failed me;" that is, by looking so intensely for coming.

Joseph Roberts.

Verse 82.—"Mine eyes fail for thy word." He was continuously lifting eyes to heaven, looking for help from God. He was so perpetually this, that at length the eyes themselves became dim.

"When wilt thou comfort me?" He was saying this in his heart; he was saying this with his mouth; he was saying the same thing with his eyes perpetually looking up to heaven.

Wolfgang Musculus.

Verse 82.—"For thy word." The children of God make more of a promise than others do; and that upon a double account: partly, because they value the blessing promised; partly, because they are satisfied with assurance given by God's word; so that, whereas others pass by these things with a careless eye, their souls are lifted up to the constant and earnest petition of the blessing promised. It is said of the hireling, that he have his wages before the sun go down, because he is poor and hath set his heart upon it (Deu 24:15); or, as it is in the Hebrew, lifted up his to it, meaning thereby both his desire and hope. He esteemeth his wages for it is the solace of his labours, and the maintenance of his life; and he assuredly expecteth it, upon the promise and covenant of him who him who setteth him awork. So it is with the children of God; they esteem the blessings promised, and God's word giveth them good assurance that they do not wait upon him in vain.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 82.—"Saying, When." The same spirit of faith which teaches man to cry earnestly, teaches him to wait patiently; for as it assures that mercy is in the Lord's hand, so it assures him, it will come forth in Lord's time.

John Mason, 1688.

Verse 82.—"When wilt thou comfort me?" It is a customable manner of God's working with his children, to delay the answer to their prayers, and to suspend the performance of his promises: not because he is unwilling to give, but because he will have them better prepared to receive. Tardins dando qued pettimus instantia nobis orationis indicit: he is slow to give that which we seek, that we should not seek slowly, but may be awakened to instancy and fervency in prayer, which he knows to be the service most acceptable unto him, and most profitable unto ourselves.

William Cowper.

Verse 82.—"When wilt thou comfort me?" Let us complain not of God, but to God. Complaints of God give a vent to murmuring; but complaints to God, to faith, hope, and patience.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 82.—The prophet, to prevent it from being supposed that he was too effeminate and faint hearted, intimates that his fainting was not without cause. In asking God, "When wilt thou comfort me?" he shows, with sufficient plainness, that he was for a long time, as it were, cast off and forsaken.

John Calvin.

Verse 82.—"When wilt thou comfort me?" The people of God are sometimes very disconsolate, and need comforting, through the prevalence of sin, the power of Satan's temptations, the hiding of God's face, and a variety of afflictions, when they apply to God for comfort, who only can comfort them, and who has set times to do it; but they are apt to think it long, and inquire, as David here, when it will be.

John Gill.

Verse 82.—"When wilt thou comfort me?" A poor woman had been long time questioning herself, and doubting of her salvation; when at last the Lord made it good unto her soul that Christ was her own, then her minister said unto her, "The Lord will not always give his children a cordial, but he hath it ready for them when they are fainting."

Thomas Hooker.

Verse 82.—"When wilt thou comfort me?" Comfort is necessary because a great part of our temptations lies in troubles, as well as allurements. Sense of pain may discompose us as well as pleasure entice us. The world is a persecuting as well as a tempting world. The flesh troubleth as well as enticeth. The Devil is a disquieting as well as an ensnaring Devil. But yet comfort, though necessary, is not so necessary as holiness: therefore, though comfort is not to be despised, yet sincere love to God is to be preferred, and, though it be not dispensed so certainly, so constantly, and in so high a degree, in this world, we must be contented. The Spirit's comforting work is oftener interrupted than the work of holiness; yet so much as is necessary to enable us to serve God in this world, we shall assuredly receive.

Thomas Manton.


Verse 82.—Answer to the enquiry—"When wilt thou comfort me?"

1. When your grief has answered its purpose.

2. When you believe.

3. When you leave sin.

4. When you obey.

5. When you submit to my will.

6. When you seek my glory.

Verse 82.

1. How longingly the believer turns to God for comfort in his affliction: "When wilt thou comfort me?"

2. How intently he gazes upon the Divine promises: "My eyes fail for thy word."

3. How the weariness of waiting cannot wear out his patience, while hope increases his importunity: "When wilt thou?"

J. F.

Verse 82.—The pleading of the eyes.

1. How the eyes speak. By "expression" of the moods of the soul, as—

Longing, Isa 8:17;

Faith, Isa 45:22; Heb 12:2;

Expectation, Psa 5:3; Phl 3:20; Tit 2:13;

Love, 2Co 3:18; John 1:14.

2. What the eyes say. "When wilt thou comfort me?" "Brushing aside all other comforters, thou art my sun: my life: my love: my all."

3. How the pleading eyes shall meet the responsive Eye of the Lord: Heb 9:18.

In the look of the recognition of grief, Exo 2:25;

In the look of pardon, Luk 22:61;

Of strength giving, Jdg 6:14;

Of complacent love, Isa 66:2.

C. A. D.


Verse 83.—"For I am become like a bottle in the smoke." The skins used for containing wine, when emptied, were hung up in the tent, and when the place reeked with smoke the skins grew black and sooty, and in the heat they became wrinkled and worn. The Psalmist's face through sorrow had become dark and dismal, furrowed and lined; indeed, his whole body had so sympathized with his sorrowing mind as to have lost its natural moisture, and to have become like a skin dried and tanned. His character had been smoked with slander, and his mind parched with persecution; he was half afraid that he would become useless and incapable through so much mental suffering, and that men would look upon him as an old worn out skin bottle, which could hold nothing and answer no purpose. What a metaphor for a man to use who was certainly a poet, a divine, and a master in Israel, if not a king, and a man after God's own heart! It is little wonder if we, commoner folk, are made to think very little of ourselves, and are filled with distress of mind. Some of us know the inner meaning of this simile, for we, too, have felt dinghy, mean, and worthless, only fit to be cast away. Very black and hot has been the smoke which has enveloped us; it seemed to come not alone from the Egyptian furnace, but from the bottomless pit; and it had a clinging power which made the soot of it fasten upon us and blacken us with miserable thoughts.

"Yet do I not forget thy statutes." Here is the patience of the saints and the victory of faith. Blackened the man of God might be by falsehood, but the truth was in him, and he never gave it up. He was faithful to his King when he seemed deserted and left to the vilest uses. The promises came to his mind, and, what was a still better evidence of his loyalty, the statutes were there too: he stuck to his duties as well as to his comforts. The worst circumstances cannot destroy the true believer's hold upon his God. Grace is a living power which survives that which would suffocate all other forms of existence. Fire cannot consume it, and smoke cannot smother it. A man may be reduced to skin and bone, and all his comfort may be dried out of him, and yet he may hold fast his integrity and glorify his God. It is, however, no marvel that in such a case the eyes which are tormented with the smoke cry out for the Lord's delivering hand, and the heart heated and faint longs for the divine salvation.


Verse 83.—"A bottle in the smoke." Sleep was out of the question, for I was…almost smothered with the smoke from a wood fire, for there was no chimney. I was indeed "like a bottle in the smoke," turned black and dried almost to cracking; for this was something of what the Psalmist had in view. The bottles being of leather, and being hung up in rooms with large fires of wood, and without chimneys, they became smoke-dried, shrivelled, and unfit for use.

From "My Wanderings," by John Gadby, 1860.

Verse 83.—"Like a bottle in the smoke." The tent of a common Arab is so smoky a habitation, that I consider the expression of a bottle in the smoke, to be equivalent to that of a bottle in the tent of an Arab. There was a fire, we find, in that Arab tent to which Bishop Peteeke was conducted when he was going to Jerusalem. How smoky must such an habitation be, and how black all its utensils! Le Bruyn in going from Aleppo to Standcroon was made sufficiently sensible of this: for being obliged to pass a whole night in a hut of reeds, in the middle of which there was a fire, to boil a kettle of meat that hung over it, and to bake some bread among the ashes, he found the smoke intolerable, the door being the only place by which it could get out of the hut.

To the blackness of a goat skin bottle, in a tent, but to the meanness also of such a drinking vessel, the Psalmist seems to refer, and it was a most natural image for him to make use of, driven from among the vessels of silver and gold in the palace of Saul, to live as the Arabs do and did, and consequently often obliged to drink out of a smoked leather bottle.

Thomas Harmer, 1719-1788.

Verse 83.—"For I am become like a bottle in the smoke." A bottle in the smoke has very little inflation, fatness, moisture, beauty. Thus God wastes away, debases, and empties his people, while he exercises them with tribulations and the disquiet of hoping and waiting. The glory and eagerness of the flesh must be emptied, that the Divine gifts may find room, and the remembrance of the commandments of God may be restrained, which cannot be well kept in bottles which are swollen, inflated, and filled.

Wolfgang Musculus.

Verse 83.—"A bottle in the smoke." One object amongst the ancients of such exposure was to mellow the wine by the gradual ascent of the heat and smoke from the fire over which the skin was suspended; and thus the words teach us the uses of affliction in ripening and improving the soul.

Rosenmuller, quoted in Neale and Littledale.

Verse 83.—"For I am become like a bottle in the smoke," etc. Satan can afflict the body by the mind. For these two are so closely bound together that their good and bad estate is shared between them. If the heart be merry the countenance is cheerful, the strength is renewed, the bones do flourish like an herb. If the heart be troubled, the health is impaired, the strength is dried up, the marrow of the bones wasted, etc. Grief in the heart is like a moth in the garment, it insensibly consumeth the body and disorders it. This advantage of weakening the body falls into Satan's hands by necessary consequence, as the prophet's ripe figs, that fell into the mouth of the eater. And surely he is well pleased with it, as he is an enemy both to body and soul. But it is a greater satisfaction to him, in that as he can make the sorrows of the mind produce the weakness and sickness of the body; so can he make the distemper of the body (by a reciprocal requital) to augment the trouble of the mind. How little can a sickly body do? it disables a man for all services; he cannot, oft pray, nor read, nor hear. Sickness takes away the sweetness and comfort of religious exercises; this gives occasion for them to think the worst of themselves; they think the soul is weary of the ways of God when the body cannot hold out.

Richard Gilpin, in "A Treatise of Satan's Temptations," 1677.

Verse 83.—"Like a bottle in the smoke." In this did the afflicted Psalmist find a striking emblem of his own spiritual state. He waited for the Lord to come. In spirit he was dried up by pressure upon him; and he still waited for the Lord to come, declaring his shrivelled condition. Perhaps his outward man partook of the same sad qualities at this time... The outward appearance of the man of God, to which he may be alluding, was, however, but the semblance of his spiritual nature at this period, whatever may have been the visible effects. David was exposed to the calumnious reports of evil minded men, and to the hot persecution of relentless enemies, till the effect upon his mind was such that his whole spiritual nature resembled, in his own mind, a skin hung up in the smoke for a length of time. Not only was he shrivelled in public estimation, but also in his own mind; not indeed because at this time, and on the ground of the charges made against him, he felt that he deserved it; but because so incessant and multifarious was the bitter invasion of his spirit, that even with all his faith in God, he well nigh literally sunk under it. The term given in our translation to the original would imply, that he bore himself well notwithstanding—

"For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do not forget thy statutes." Whereas the words rendered more literally would convey the important all this happened to him even while he was in the very way of duty: "I am become like a bottle in the smoke—I do not forget thy statutes." He was directly in the way of the Lord's appointments for all salvation; yet trouble came. It is sad when our spiritual man becomes shrivelled and dried up because of our falling into sin, or because of guilty omissions; but here seems to be a falling off of the spiritual man, and of the physical man, while the believer is conscious that he is not forgetting the statutes of his gracious God.

John Stephen.

Verse 83.—Observe here the difference between the beauty and strength of the body and of the soul: the beauty of the soul groweth fairer by afflictions, whereas that of the body is blasted. David was a bottle shrivelled and shrunk up; yet the holy frame of his soul was not altered; his beauty was gone, but not his grace.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 83.—"I am become like a bottle in the frost" (so the Seventy translate it). When spiritual desires burn, carnal desires without doubt cool: on this account followeth, "Since I am become like a bottle in the frost I do not forget thy righteousnesses." Truly he desireth this mortal flesh to be understood by the bottle, the heavenly blessing by the frost, whereby the lusts of the flesh as it were by the binding of the frost become sluggish: and hence it ariseth that the righteousnesses of God do not slip from the memory, so long as we do not meditate apart from them; since what the apostle saith (Rom 13:14) is brought to pass: "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." Therefore when he had said, "For I have become like a bottle in the frost," he added, "and I do not forget thy righteousnesses," that is, I forget them not, because I have become such. For the fervour of lust had cooled, that the memory of love might glow.



Verse 83.

1. The outward man in ill case.

2. Character blackened.

3. Constantly exposed to discomfort.

4. Contents maturing.

Verse 83.—A bottle in the smoke.

1. God's people have their trials.

(a) From the poverty of their condition.

(b) Our trials frequently result from our comforts.

(c) The ministry hath much smoke with it.

(d) The poor bottle in the smoke keeps there for a long time, until it gets black.

2. Christian men feel their troubles; they are like "bottles" in the smoke.

(a) The trial that we do not feel is no trial at all.

(b) Trials which are not felt are unprofitable trials. A bottle in the smoke gets very black, becomes very useless, if an empty bottle.

3. Christians do not, in their troubles, forget God's statutes—the statutes of command, the statutes of promise. Why was it that David still held fast by God's statutes?

(a) He was not a bottle in the fire, or he would have forgotten them.

(b) Jesus Christ was in the smoke with him, and the statutes were in the smoke with him, too.

(c) The statutes were in the soul, where the smoke does not enter.

—From "Spurgeon's Sermons," No. 71; "A Bottle in the Smoke."


Verse 84.—"How many are the days of thy servant?" I cannot hope to live long in such a condition, thou must come speedily to my rescue, or I shall die. Shall all my short life be consumed in such destroying sorrows? The brevity of life is a good argument against the length of an affliction. Perhaps the Psalmist means that his days seemed too many when they were spent in such distress. He half wished that they were ended, and therefore he asked in trouble, "How many are the days of thy servant?" Like a hired servant, he had a certain term to serve, and he would not complain; but still the time seemed long because his griefs were so heavy. No one knows the appointed number of our days except the Lord, and therefore to him the appeal is made that he would not prolong them beyond his servant's strength. It cannot be the Lord's mind that his own servant should always be treated so unjustly; there must be an end to it; when would it be?

"When wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?" He had placed his case in the Lord's hands, and he prayed that sentence might be given and put into execution. He desired nothing but justice, that his character might be cleared and his persecutors silenced. He knew that God would certainly avenge Iris own elect, but the day of rescue tarried, the hours dragged heavily along, and the persecuted one cried day and night for deliverance.


Verse 84.—"How many are the days of thy servant?" etc. Some read the two clauses apart, as if the first were a general complaint of the brevity of human life, such as is to be met with in other Psalms, and more frequently in the book of Job; and next, in their opinion, there follows a special prayer of the Psalmist that God would take vengeance upon his enemies. But I rather prefer joining the two clauses together, and limit both to David's afflictions; as if it had been said, Lord, how long hast thou determined to abandon thy servant to the will of the ungodly? When wilt thou set thyself in opposition to their cruelty and outrage, in order to take vengeance upon them? The Scriptures often use the word "days" in this sense… By the use of the plural number is denoted a determinate portion of time, which, in other places, is compared to the "days of an hireling:" Job 14:6; Isa 16:14. The Psalmist does not, then, bewail in general the transitory life of man, but he complains that the time of his state of warfare in this world had been too long protracted; and, therefore, he naturally desires that it might be brought to a termination. In expostulating with God about his troubles, he does not do so obstinately, or with a murmuring spirit; but still, in asking how long it will be necessary for him to suffer, he humbly prays that God would not delay to succour him.

John Calvin.

Verse 84.—"When wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?" He declares that he does not doubt but that there will be at some period an end to his afflictions, and that there will be a time in which his haters and enemies will be judged and punished. He assumes the fact and therefore enquires the date. Thus in the saints their very impatience of delay does itself prove their confidence of future salvation and deliverance.

Wolfgang Musculus.

Verse 84.—"When wilt thou execute judgment," etc. This is an ordinary prayer, not against any certain persons, but rather generally against God's enemies and their evil courses. For the Lord executeth judgment upon his children for their conversion, as Paul (Acts 9), and upon the wicked for their confusion. He prayeth against them that belonged not to God, and yet not so much against their persons as their evil causes; and no otherwise against their persons than as they are joined with the evil causes. Thus we may pray for the confusion of God's enemies; otherwise we cannot.

R. Greenham.

Verse 84.—In this verse there is none of the ten words used in reference to God's law.—Adam Clarke. Is not judgment one of them?



Verse 84. A solemn question pointing to—

The shortness of life,

The severity of sorrow,

The necessity of industry,

The nearness of the reward.


Verse 85.—"The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law." As men who hunt wild beasts are wont to make pitfalls and snares, so did David's foes endeavour to entrap him. They went laboriously and cunningly to work to ruin him, "they digged pits;" not one, but many. If one would not take him, perhaps another would, and so they digged again and again. One would think that such haughty people would not have soiled their fingers with digging; but they swallowed their pride in hopes of swallowing their victim. Whereas they ought to have been ashamed of such meanness, they were conscious of no shame, but, on the contrary, were proud of their cleverness; proud of setting a trap for a godly man. "Which are not after thy law." Neither the men nor their pits were according to the divine law: they were cruel and crafty deceivers, and their pits were contrary to the Levitical law, and contrary to the command which bids us love our neighbour. If men would keep to the statutes of the Lord, they would lift the fallen out of the pit, or fill up the pit so that none might stumble into it; but they would never spend a moment in working injury to others. When, however, they become proud, they are sure to despise others; and for this reason they seek to circumvent them, that they may afterwards hold them up to ridicule. It was well for David that his enemies were God's enemies, and that their attacks upon him had no sanction from the Lord. It was also much to his gain that he was not ignorant of their devices, for he was thus put upon his guard, and led to watch his ways lest he should fall into their pits. While he kept to the law of the Lord he was safe, though even then it was an uncomfortable thing to have his path made dangerous by the craft of wanton malice.


Verse 85.—"Pits." Hajji said he would tell me a tale or two about crocodiles, and he would begin by telling me how they catch them sometimes. A deep pit, he said, is dug by the side of the river, and then covered with doura straw. The crocodiles fall into these pits, and cannot get out again... There can be no doubt that formerly pits were dug for the crocodiles, as Hajji described, as is the case still in some parts of the world or other animals. To this custom allusion is made in Psa 7:15; 9:15; 10:2; 35:8; 141:10; Pro 26:27; Ecc 10:8: etc. "He made a pit and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made." Psa 7:15; Probably also this was the kind of pit referred to in Exo 21:33: "If a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it;" i.e., not cover it effectually; "and an ass or an ox fall therein," etc.

Prisoners were sometimes shut up in pits, and left without water, literally to die of thirst. What a dreadful death! It is said that nothing can be more terrible. How dreadful must be their groans!

John Gadsby.

Verse 85.—"The proud have digged pits." It seems strange that a proud man should be a digger of pits; but so it is; for pride for a time can submit itself to gain a greater vantage over him whom it would tread under foot. "The wicked is so proud that he seeks not God, yet he croucheth and boweth, to cause heaps of the poor to fill by his might," Psa 10:4, 10. So proud Absalom abased himself to meanest subjects that so he might prepare a way to usurpation over his king and father. But mark, he saith not that he had fallen into the pits which his enemies had digged. No, no: in God's righteous judgments, the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands, while the good escape free. "He made a pit, and digged it," and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate. Psa 7:15-16. Thus Haman hanselled the gallows which he raised for Mordecai; and Saul, when he thought by subtlety to slay David with the Philistine's sword (when he sent him out to seek two hundred of their foreskins in a dowry) was disappointed of his purpose; but he himself at length was slain by the sword.

William Cowper.

Verse 85.—Let men beware how they dig pits for others. All God's word testifies against such wickedness. How many tests are invented simply for the purpose of entangling men's consciences and furnishing ground for persecution.

William S. Plumer.

Verse 85.—"Which are not after thy law." Hebrew, Not after thy law. It may refer to the men or to the practice. The men walk not according to thy law, and their fraudulent practices are not agreeable to thy law. The law of God condemned pits for tame beasts: Exo 21:33-34. Though it was lawful for hunters to take wild beasts, yet they were to take heed that a tame beast fell not therein, at their peril.

Thomas Manton.

Verse 85.—"Which are not after thy law." After God's law they could not be while they were doing such things. Perhaps he refers to the deed more than to the men: "The proud have digged pits for me, which is not after thy law"—which is against thy law; and they would seem to do it because it is against thy law—delighting in wickedness as they do. Such men would seem to imbibe the foul spirit which Milton ascribes to the fallen archangel: "Evil, be thou my good." Obviously, however, the words contain this sentiment,—The proud have sought to overthrow me, because they are not obedient to thy law. Hereupon he sets their conduct in the light of God's holy commandments, that the comparison may be made: "All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully." Whatever the Lord did was done in truth; these men acted against his servant without cause, and in so doing they also acted in defiance of his known will.

John Stephen.

Verse 85.—"The wicked have told me fables, but not as thy law" (So the Septuagint). The special reason why he desires to be freed from the company of the wicked is, because they always tempt the pious by relating the pleasures of the world, which are nothing but fables, filthy, fleeting pleasures, more fallacious than real—nothing like the grand and solid pleasure that always flows from a pious observance of the law of the Lord.

Robert Bellarmine.


Verse 85.—"Pits;" or, the secret schemes of wicked men against the godly.


Verse 86.—"All thy commandments are faithful." He had no fault to find with God's law, even though he had fallen into sad trouble through obedience to it. Whatever the command might cost him it was worth it; he felt that God's way might be rough, but it was right; it might make him enemies, but still it was his best friend. He believed that in the end God's command would turn out to his own profit, and that he should be no loser by obeying it.

"They persecute me wrongfully." The fault lay with his persecutors, and neither with his God nor with himself. He had done no injury to anyone, nor acted otherwise than according to truth and justice; therefore he confidently appeals to his God, and cries, "Help thou me." This is a golden prayer, as precious as it is short. The words are few, but the meaning is full. Help was needed that the persecuted one might avoid the snare, might bear up under reproach, and might act so prudently as to baffle his foes. God's help is our hope. Whoever may hurt us, it matters not so long as the Lord helps us; for if indeed the Lord help us, none can really hurt us. Many a time have these words been groaned out by troubled saints, for they are such as suit a thousand conditions of need, pain, distress, weakness, and sin. "Help, Lord," will be a fitting prayer for youth and age, for labour and suffering, for life and death. No other help is sufficient, but God's help is all sufficient, and we cast ourselves upon it without fear.


Verse 86.—"All thy commandments are faithful." David setteth down here three points. The one is that God is true; and after that he addeth a protestation of his good conduct and guidance, and of the malice of his adversaries: thirdly, he calleth upon God in his afflictions. Now as concerning the first, he showeth us that although Satan to shake us, and in the end utterly to carry us away, subtilely and cunningly goeth about to deceive us, we must, to the contrary, learn how to know his ambushes, and to keep us from out of them. So often then as we are grieved with adversity and affliction, where must we begin? See Satan how he pitches his nets and layeth his ambushes to induce and persuade us to come into them, what saith he? Dost thou not see thyself forsaken of thy God? Where are the promises whereunto thou didst trust? Now here thou seest thyself to be a wretched, forlorn creature. So then thou right well seest that God hath deceived thee, and that the promises whereunto thou trustedst appertain nothing at all unto thee. See here the subtlety of Satan. What is now to be done? We are to conclude with David and say, yet God is true and faithful. Let us, I say, keep in mind the truth of God as a shield to beat back whatsoever Satan is able to lay unto our charge. When he shall go about to cause us to deny our faith, when he shall lie about us to make us believe that God thinketh no more of us, or else that it is in vain for us to trust unto his promises; let us know the clean contrary and believe that it is very plain and sound truth which God saith unto us. Although Satan casteth at us never so many darts, although he have never so exceeding many devices against us, although now and then by violence, sometimes with subtlety and cunning, it seemeth in very deed to us that he should overcome us; nevertheless he shall never bring it to pass, for the truth of God shall be made sure and certain in our hearts.

John Calvin.

Verse 86.—"All thy commandments are faithful." The Hebrew is Faithfulness; that is to say, they are true, sure, equal, infallible. "They have persecuted me wrongfully:" no doubt for asserting God's truths and commands, and adhering thereto.

John Trapp.

Verse 86.—"They persecute me wrongfully." There is a stress on the word falsely (or wrongfully); for that is a true saying of a martyr saint, "The cause, not the pain, makes the martyr." Wherefore the apostle teaches us, "Let none of you suffer as a murderer or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." (1Pe 4:15)

Neale and Littledale.

Verse 86.—"Help thou me." God help me is an excellent, comprehensive prayer; it is a pity it should ever be used lightly and as a byword.

Matthew Henry.


Verse 86. (last clause).—A prayer for all occasions. See the many cases in which it is used in Scripture.


Verse 87.—"They had almost consumed me upon earth." His foes had almost destroyed him so as to make him altogether fail. If they could they would have eaten him, or burned him alive; anything so that they could have made a full end of the good man. Evidently he had fallen under their power to a large extent, and they had so used that power that he was well nigh consumed. He was almost gone from off the earth; but almost is not altogether, and so he escaped by the skin of his teeth. The lions are chained: they can rage no further than our God permits. The Psalmist perceives the limit of their power: they could only touch his earthly life and earthly goods. Upon earth they almost ate him up, but he had an eternal portion which they could not even nibble at. "But I forsook not thy precepts." Nothing could drive him from obeying the Lord. If we stick to the precepts we shall be rescued by the promises. If ill usage could have driven the oppressed saint from the way of right the purpose of the wicked would have been answered, and we should have heard no more of David. If we are resolved to die sooner than forsake the Lord, we may depend upon it that we shall not die, but shall live to see the overthrow of them that hate us.


Verse 87.—"Almost consumed." The lives of good men are full of narrow escapes. The righteous are scarcely saved. Many a time their feet do almost slip. Yet he, who has redeemed them, will not let them so fall that they can rise no more. One of their greatest perils is, a temptation to use unlawful means for terminating their trials.

William S. Plumer.

Verse 87.—It should be noticed that he says "upon the earth:" for it shows, that even if his enemies had taken away his life on earth, he nevertheless confidently looked for another life in heaven; and that already he had by faith entered into heaven, and was living a heavenly life; so that if the life of the body should be taken away, it was not to be regarded as an evil. They who live such a life speedily recover from despair.

D. H. Mollerus.


Verse 87.

1. What the good man loses by gaining.

2. What he gains by losing.

G. R.

Verse 87.

1. "Almost," but not altogether.

2. The saving clause: "I forsook not thy precepts."

Verse 87.—Passing through fires, and the asbestos covering.


Verse 88.—"Quicken me after thy loving kindness." Most wise, most blessed prayer! If we are revived in our own personal piety we shall be out of reach of our assailants. Our best protection from tempters and persecutors is more life. Lovingkindness itself cannot do us greater service than by making us to have life more abundantly. When we are quickened we are able to bear affliction, to baffle cunning, and to conquer sin. We look to the lovingkindness of God as the source of spiritual revival, and we entreat the Lord to quicken us, not according to our deserts, but after the boundless energy of his grace. What a blessed word is this "loving kindness." Take it to pieces, and admire its double force of love. "So shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth." If quickened by the Holy Ghost we shall be sure to exhibit a holy character. We shall be faithful to sound doctrine when the Spirit visits us and makes us faithful. None keep the word of the Lord's mouth unless the word of the Lord's mouth quickens them. We ought greatly to admire the spiritual prudence of the Psalmist, who does not so much pray for freedom from trial as for renewed life that he may be supported under it. When the inner life is vigorous all is well. David prayed for a sound heart in the closing verse of the last octave, and here he seeks a revived heart; this is going to the root of the matter, by seeking that which is the most needful of all things. Lord, let it be heart work with us, and let our hearts be right with thee.


Verse 88.—"Quicken me after thy lovingkindness." Finally, the man of God appears entreating to be quickened, that so he may be enabled to keep the divine testimony… Here is a last resort, but it is a sure one. Let the living principles of divine grace be imparted to the soul, and the believer will be raised above dismay at the face of men. How does the spiritual mind triumph over even the infirmities of the body! We may behold this from the deathbed of the believer, and we may recall this in the lives and deaths of many eminent ones. The man of pure mind goes right to the fountain of life. He goes, with understanding, for he takes in the character in which the Lord hath spoken of himself: "Quicken me after thy lovingkindness." All at once he lays aside thought of his enemies; he is present with his God. His desire is to rise into higher spiritual existence, that he may hold closer communion with the Father of lights with whom there is no variableness.

John Stephen.

Verse 88.—"Quicken me," etc. He had prayed before, "Quicken me in thy righteousness" (Psa 119:40); but here "Quicken me after thy lovingkindness." The surest token of God's goodwill towards us is his good work in us.

Matthew Henry.

Verse 88.—"Quicken me." Many a time in this psalm doth David make this petition; and it seems strange that so often he should acknowledge himself a dead man, and desire God to quicken him. But so it is unto the child of God: every desertion and decay of strength is a death. So desirous are they to live unto God, that when they fail in it and find any inability in their souls to serve God as they would, they account themselves but dead, and pray the Lord to quicken them.

William Cowper.

Verse 88.—"The testimony of thy mouth." The title here given to the directory of our duty—"The testimony of God's mouth," gives increasing strength to our obligations. Thus let every word we read or hear be regarded as coming directly from the "mouth of God" (John 6:63). What reverence what implicit submission does it demand! May it ever find us in the posture of attention, humility, and faith! each one of us ready to say, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." (1Sa 3:9)

Charles Bridges.


Verse 88.

1. New life is the cause of new obedience.

2. New obedience is the effect of new life.

G. R.

Verse 88.—Quickening.

1. Our greatest need.

2. God's most gracious boon.

3. The guarantee of our steadfastness; and so,

4. The promoter of God's glory.

Verse 88.

1. He closes with a frequent petition: "Quicken thou me—make me alive." All true religion consists in the LIFE of God in the SOUL of man.

2. The manner in which he wishes to be quickened: "After thy lovingkindness." He wishes not to be raised from the death of sin by God's thunder, but by the loving voice of a tender Father.

3. The effect it should have upon him: "So shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth." Whatever thou speakest I will hear, receive, love, and obey.

Adam Clarke.

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