Verse 24. I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days. He betook himself to prayer. What better remedy is there for hcart-sickness and depression? We may lawfully ask for recovery from sickness and may hope to be heard. Good men should not dread death, but they are not forbidden to love life: for many reasons the man who has the best hope of heaven may nevertheless think it desirable to continue here a little longer, for the sake of his family, his work, the church of God, and even the glory of God itself. Some read the passage, "Take me not up," let me not ascend like disappearing smoke, do not whirl me away like Elijah in a chariot of fire, for as yet I have only seen half my days, and that a sorrowful half; give me to live till the blustering morning shall have softened into a bright afternoon of happier existence.
Thy years are throughout all generations. Thou livest, Lord; let me live also. A fulness of existence is with thee, let me partake therein. Note the contrast between himself pining and ready to expire, and his God living on in the fulness of strength for ever and ever; this contrast is full of consolatory power to the man whose heart is stayed upon the Lord. Blessed be his name, he faileth not, and, therefore, our hope shall not fail us, neither will we despair for ourselves or for his church.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 24. 0 my God. The leaving out one word in a will may mar the estate and disappoint all a man's hopes; the want of this one word, my (God) is the wicked man's loss of heaven, and the dagger which will pierce his heart in hell to all eternity.
The degree of satisfaction in any good is according to the degree of our union to it, (hence our delight is greater in food than in clothes, and the saint's joy is greater in God in the other world than in this, because the union is nearer;) but where there is no property there is no union, therefore no complacency. The pronoun my is as much worth to the soul as the boundless portion. All our comfort is locked up in that private cabinet. Wine in the glass doth not cheer the heart, but taken down Into the body. The property of the Psalmist's in God was the mouth whereby he fed on those dainties which did so exceedingly delight him. No love potion was ever so effectual as this pronoun. When God saith to the soul, as Ahab to Benhadad "Behold, I am thine, and all that I have," who can tell how the heart leaps for joy in, and expires almost in desires after him upon such news! Others, like strangers, may behold his honour and excellencies, but this saint only, like the wife, enjoyeth him. Luther saith, Much religion lieth in pronouns. All our consolation, indeed, consisteth in this pronoun. It is the cup which holdeth all our cordial waters. I will undertake as bad as the devil is, he shall give the whole world, were it in his power, more freely than ever he offered it to Christ for his worship, for leave from God to pronounce those two words. MY GOD. All the joys of the believer are hung upon this one string; break that asunder, and all is lost. I have sometimes thought how David rolls it as a lump of sugar under his tongue, as one loth to lose its sweetness too soon: "I will love thee, O LORD, my strength, my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower," Psalms 18:1-2 . This pronoun is the door at which the King of saints entereth into our hearts, with his whole train of delights and comforts. George Swinnock.
Verse 24. Take me not away, is more exactly, Take me not up, with possible reference to the case of Elijah, "taken up." Henry Cowles.
Verse 24. Take me not away in the midst of my days. The word is, "Let me not ascend in the midst of my days," that is, before I have measured the usual course of life. Thus, to ascend is the same as to be cut off; death cuts off the best from this world, and then they ascend to a better. The word ascend is conceived to have in it a double allusion; first, to corn which is taken up by the hand of the reaper, and then laid down on the stubble. Secondly, unto the light of a candle, which as the candle spends, or as that which is the food of the fire is spending, ascends, and at last goes out and vanisheth. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 24. Thy years are throughout all generations. The Psalmist says of Christ, "Thy years are throughout all generations," Psalms 102:24 ; which Psalm the apostle quoteth of him, Heb 1:10. Let us trace his existence punctually through all times. Let us go from point to point, and see how in particulars the Scriptures accord with it. The first joint of time we will begin that chronology of his existence withal is that instant afore he was to come into the world.
First, We find him to have existed just afore he came into the world, the instance of his conception, Hebrews 10:5 , in these words, "Wherefore when he comes into the world, says he, A body hast thou prepared me." Hebrews 10:7 , "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." Here is a person distinct from God the Father, a me, an I, distinct also from that human nature he was to assume, which he terms a "body prepared."... Therefore besides and afore that human nature there was a divine person that existed, that was not of this world, but that came into it, "when he cometh into the world, he says," etc., to become a part of it, and be manifested in it.
Secondly, We find him to have existed afore John the Baptist, though John was conceived and born some months afore him. I note these several joints of time because the Scripture notes them, and hath set a special mark upon them: John 1:15 . "John bare witness of him," and cried, saying, "This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me." This priority of existence is that which John doth specially give witness to. And it is priority in existence, for he allegeth it as a reason why he was preferred afore him; "for he was before me."
Thirdly, We find him existing when all the prophets wrote and spake, 1Pe 1:11. The Spirit of Christ is said to have been in all the prophets, even as Paul, who came after Christ, also speaks, "You seek a proof of Christ speaking in me," 2 Corinthians 13:3 . And therefore he himself, whose Spirit it was, or whom he sent, must needs exist as a person sending him.
Fourthly, We find him existing in Moses' time, both because it was he that was tempted in the wilderness, "Neither let us tempt Christ as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents," 1 Corinthians 10:9 ; and it was Christ that was the person said to be tempted by them, as well as now by us, as the word kai "as they also," evidently shows. And it points to that angel that was sent with them, Exodus 23:20-21 , in whom the name of God was, and who as God had the power of pardoning sins, Exodus 23:21 . See also Acts 7:35 , Hebrews 12:26 .
Fifthly, We find him existing in and afore Abraham's time: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am," John 8:58 .
Sixthly, We find him existing in the days of Noah, 1 Peter 3:19 . He says of Christ, that he was "put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the Spirit." He evidently distinguisheth of two natures, his divine and human, even as Romans 1:3-4 and elsewhere; and then declares how by that divine nature, which he terms "Spirit," in which he was existent in Noah's times, he went and preached to those of the old world, whose souls are now in prison in hell. These words, "in Spirit," are not put to signify the subject of vivification; for such neither his soul nor Godhead could be said to be, for that is not quickened which was not dead; but for the principal and cause of his vivification, which his soul was not, but his Godhead was. And besides by his Spirit is not meant his soul, for that then must be supposed to have preached to souls in hell (where these are affirmed to be). Now, there is no preaching where there is no capacity of faith. But his meaning is, that those persons that lived in Noah's time, and were preached unto, their souls and spirits were now, when this was written, spirits in prison, that is, in hell. And therefore he also adds this word "sometimes": who were sometimes disobedient in Noah's days. These words give us to understand that this preaching was performed by Noah ministerially, yet by Christ in Noah; who according to his divine person was extant, and went with him, as with Moses, and the church in the wilderness, and preached unto them.
Seventhly, He was extant at the beginning of the world, "In the beginning was the Word." In which words, there being no predicate or attribute affirmed of this word, the sentence or affirmation is terminated or ended merely with his existence: "he was," and he was then, "in the beginning." He says not that he was made in the beginning, but that "he was in the beginning." And it is in the beginning absolutely, without any limitation. And therefore Moses's beginning, Genesis 1:1 , is meant, as also the words after show, "All was made by him that was made;" and, Genesis 1:10 , the world he came into was made by him. And as from the beginning is usually taken from the first times or infancy of the world; so then, when God began to create, then was our Christ. And this here is set in opposition ( John 1:14 ) unto the time of his being made flesh, lest that should have been thought his beginning. And unto this accords that of Hebrews 1:10 , where, speaking of Christ, out of Psalms 102:24 , Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth; so as to be sure he existed then. But further, in Psalms 102:24 , it runs thus, Thy years are throughout all generations. We have run, you see, through all generations since the creation, and have found his years throughout them all. And yet lest that should be taken only of the generations of this world, he adds (as Rivet expounds it), Before thou laidst the foundation of the earth.
Eighthly, So then we come to this, that he hath been before the creation, yea, from everlasting.
But, Ninthly, If you would have his eternity yet more express, see Hebrews 7:3 , where mentioning Melchisedec, Christ's type, he renders him to have been his type in this -- "Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually." Where his meaning is to declare that, look what Melchisedec was typice, or umbraiter, in a shadow, that our Christ was really and substantially.
Lastly, Add to this that in Micah 5:2 , "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting;" where he evidently speaks of two births Christ had, under the metaphor of going forth: one as man at Bethlehem in the fulness of time, the other as Son of God from everlasting. As Son of God, his goings forth (that is, his birth) are from everlasting. And it is termed, "goings forth," in the plural; because it is actus continuus, and hath been every moment continued from everlasting. As the sun begets light and beams every moment, so God doth his Son. So then we have two everlastings attributed to Christ's person; one to come, Hebrews 1:10 , and another past, here in Micah 5:2 . And so as of God himself it is said, Psalms 90:2 , "From everlasting to everlasting thou art God," so also of Christ. Condensed from T. Goodwin's Treatise on "The Knowledge of God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ."
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- The prayer. "Take me not away," etc.
- Not in the midst of life, is the prayer of some.
- Not in the midst of worldly prosperity is the prayer of many, for the sake of those dependent upon them.
- Not in the midst of spiritual growth, is the prayer of not a few: "Oh spare me, that I may recover strength," etc.
- Not in the midst of Christian work and usefulness, is the prayer of others.
- The plea. "Thy years," etc.; years are plentiful with thee, therefore to give me longer days will be an easy gift -- and thine own are throughout all generations. G. R.