By Henry Law
Here godly sorrow changes into godly joy. May we so mourn that we too may be comforted!
1. "O Lord, rebuke me not in Your anger, neither chasten me in Your hot displeasure."
Seasons recur when sense of sin and bodily distress cast into lowest depths. God's anger threatens to descend in fury. The furnace of displeasure seems to burn terribly. If faith shall fail, despair must overwhelm the soul. But amid terrors faith survives; it knows its refuge and looks above. It doubts not that God still loves. When frowns most darken on His brow it pleads, 'Let not this chastening destroy; let not the flames devour.'
2. "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are vexed."
The fainting flesh shows sympathy. The anguish preys upon the total frame. Sickness of soul reduces every power. Prayer is redoubled. Incessant cries besiege the throne of grace. Misery calls mercy to arise. Disease implores the heavenly healer's aid. Blessed is the anguish which flees thus to God.
3. "My soul is also sorely vexed; but O Lord, how long?"
Sorrow of soul is sorrow's fullest cup. All other bitterness is light beside it. The mourning days drag heavily; no dawn appears to chase away night's shade. The moan is heard, "How long, O Lord! how long?" He who would read the deepest lessons of these words must go with Jesus to the garden and the cross. By imputation He is made the sin of sin. Mountains on mountains of iniquity meet on Him. Unspeakably tremendous is the load; unspeakably tremendous is the wrath incurred. His own consent received the vicarious guilt. Just anger thickens round Him. He feels the horrors of His place. Prostrate in misery, He cries, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." Anguish cries, "My God, my God! why have You forsaken Me?" The curse may not spare Him. Great is the mystery, but it is our salvation.
4. "Return, O Lord, deliver my soul; Oh save me for Your mercies' sake."
The sweetest joy is holy fellowship with God. It is heaven's foretaste to see His smile and hear the whispers of His love. To realize this oneness is faith's privilege. But when this presence is withdrawn, when mists obscure this sun, the soul can find no other comfort. There cannot be a substitute for God. There is no rest while sad desertion lasts. It is perdition's wretchedness. The sinking soul craves mercy. It agonizes; "Return, deliver, save!"
5. "For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who shall give You thanks?"
There is fear lest sorrow's weight should snap the thread of life. Then means to tell of God's love, to speak of Christ, to sound His praise, to call poor sinners to His cross, to spread abroad His power to save, forever cease. Let us prize and sedulously use continued health and length of days. They are a precious talent. In bringing others to salvation's road, we rise in heaven ourselves.
6, 7. "I am worn out from sobbing. Every night tears drench my bed; my pillow is wet from weeping. My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies."
The picture of the sin-frightened soul becomes more dark. Outward expressions of deep woe abound; sighs rack the heart; tears flow in copious streams; luster no longer sparkles in the eye; this bitter grief writes old age on the brow. We see how terrible an enemy is sin. When viewed apart from Christ, it is intolerable woe. What must it be in hell! Let us bless Christ with every breath. He is the Lamb of God, who takes it all away.
8, 9. "Depart from, me, all you workers of iniquity; for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer."
The scene is changed. Light brightly shines; the shades of night have vanished. Mercy descends with healing on its wings. The groans are exchanged for songs of joy. We see the all-prevailing power of prayer. In darkest days let it take heaven by storm. It grasps Jehovah's arm. It clings until all blessings are given. Renewed favors strengthen the confidence that foes shall not prevail. Away! depart! you cannot lay me low. No business will I have with you. Answers to prayer stir up resolves to persevere. The suppliants who prosper are encouraged to pray more. Success begets continuance.
10. "Let all my enemies be ashamed and sore vexed; let them return and be ashamed suddenly."
The Spirit here gives comfort to all harassed saints. The language is prophetic. It runs through time; it shadows out the final scene. Shame and vexation are treasured up for the ungodly. They sowed the seeds of evil; they must reap the harvest of confusion. It is hard to kick against the goads. The concluding words delightfully reveal our Lord. We see manifestations of His power and triumphs. Before His eye His enemies quail and fall backwards. In His extremest anguish an angel flies to raise and strengthen. Soon will the universe be witness to the mandate, "Depart, you cursed ones, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." May we so suffer with Him, that we may reign together.