By Henry Mahan
This is a Psalm of David.
1. A man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22).
2. A man of activity and affliction. David was totally committed to God. He was totally involved in God's kingdom with its warfare, conflicts, and glory. You won't find David indifferent to the purpose and providence of God. He was a participant (1 Sam. 17:26-29; Psalm 119- 71).
3. A man of strong passions and feelings. He loved people, as evidenced by his love for Jonathan and Mephibosheth. He was a humble man, as evidenced by his dancing before the ark (2 Sam. 6:20-23). He praised God (Psalm 150).
4. A man of strong faith (Psalm 116:10; Psalm 27:13).
He never ceased to believe God, whatever the circumstances. God allowed David to write the Messianic Psalms, speaking the very words of Christ as though they were his own (Psalm 22).
This Psalm was written in a time of great conflict, sorrow, and trial, indicated by 'My sorrow was stirred' (v. 2), 'How frail I am' (v. 4), 'Deliver me from all my transgressions' (v. 8), 'Every man is vanity' (v. 11), 'Hold not thy peace at my tears' (v. 11) , and 'O spare me, that I may recover strength' (v. 13). Let us listen and learn from this man so strong in faith, so strong in his passions, and yet so tempted and tried.
v. 1. 'I said;' it was to himself that he spoke. Wise is the man who spends much time meditating and communing with his own heart (Psalm 4:4; Psalm 77:6-12; 2 Cor. 13:5). David was evidently under a strong burden and trial and was afflicted by God. Some of it he did not understand, and God had not seen fit to reveal his purpose in it. So David said to himself, 'I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue.' Like Job of old, he was careful not to charge God foolishly (Job 1:22). The tongue is a small member but capable of great evil, especially when speaking in reference to God and spiritual matters. He continued, 'I will especially put a bridle on my mouth while the unbeliever is before me.' How careful must our words be chosen at all times, but especially in the presence of those who misuse and misunderstand even the purist of speech. O Lord, for the grace and wisdom to learn this one verse and practice it--to muzzle my mouth and subdue my tongue.
v. 2. 'I held my silence even from speaking good.' He is saying, 'I determined, in my affliction, not to speak in complaint nor instruction, lest if I begin to talk, I should say things I should not say.' Our world is a world of talkers; no one hesitates to express an opinion, even about the mysteries of God. But David was concerned, not only about murmuring against God, but about speaking carelessly and uninspired of the good things of God (Eccles. 5:1-2; Job 40:4-5; Job 42:3); so he resolved to be silent.
v. 3. But while he meditated on these things and was resolved neither to speak evil nor good, his heart burned within him and would not let him keep silent. The believing, regenerated heart will not keep still before God but must cry to God, must praise God, must speak in prayer and communion. 'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.' It is with the heart that men believe God (Rom. 10:9-10). It is in the heart that the love of God is shed abroad (Rom. 5:5). Newton said, 'Sooner expect a man to live without breathing as to expect a believer to live without praying.' 'Christ is our life' and 'in everything give thanks.'
v. 4. There is a three-fold request made to God.
(1) 'Make me to know my end,' the end and perfection of all my desires (Psalm 27:4; Psalm 23:6). 'I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness' (Psalm 17:15).
All things should be judged by their end (Psalm 73:17). In Christ our end and goal is to be like him (1 John 3:2-3).
(2) 'Make me to know the measure of my days.' How short they are upon the earth!
(3) 'Make me to know how frail I am.' An understanding of my frailty and flesh will make me HUMBLE, will make me more diligent about my relationship with Christ Jesus, will make me more patient with others, and will wean me from this world of flesh and cause me to trust and rest in Christ.
v. 5. 'My days are a handbreadth.' This is one of the shortest measures. A man doesn't need a long line to measure a short life. We carry the measure of our days with us. Hold it out and look at it often. 'My age is as nothing before thee.' My age is short compared to Methuselah's 900 years, but my age before the eternal God is nothing (Psalm 90:12). 'Every man at his best state is altogether vanity.' The word is empty, unprofitable, and unsatisfactory. Men are good only at that which is bad; men are wise only in foolishness; men are consistent only in their inconsistency; at his best moment man is only emptiness. Selah means pause, say it again, this is the end of the matter, Amen!
v. 6. The vanity of man at his best state is illustrated in three things.
(1) The vanity of our joys and honors. 'Walketh in a vain show.' The allusion is to a parade where men dress up and act out a borrowed part. We die and someone else acts the part.
(2) The vanity of our griefs and sorrows. 'They are disquieted in vain.' Even our turmoil and distress is for nothing, for time will erase even that.
(3) The vanity of our possessions. 'He heapeth up riches.' He builds a house and a stranger lives in it. He saves money and his sons spend it. He accumulates the chaff of the world and God will burn it. The world consists of fruitless honor, needless cares, and useless riches.
v. 7. David thought on all these things of natural life and the world and said, 'What wait I for?' What is there to enchant me?
What is there to enthrall me? What is there to interest me? 'My hope is in thee.' My hope is in thy grace and mercy; my hope is in my Redeemer; my hope is in the atonement on the mercyseat.
In Christ I will live when all else dies, I will be full when all else is empty, and I will stand in him when all else falls!
vv. 8-10. 'Deliver me from my sins' (Psalm 51:1-5). 'Suffer me not to show impatience in affliction and give the wicked room to reproach.' 'I kept silent in suffering because you gave it to me.' 'Now deliver me.' Afflictions in the lives of his people are sent by God and removed by God.
vv. 11-13. God's dealings with us cause us to know our sins and weep over them and cause our beauty and righteousness to become filthy rags, that we may seek his righteousness in Christ (Rom. 10:1-4).