Psalm 103:15

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 15. As for man, his days are as grass. He lives on the grass, and lives like the grass. Corn is but educated grass, and man, who feeds on it, partakes of its nature. The grass lives, grows, flowers, falls beneath the scythe, dries up, and is removed from the field: read this sentence over again, and you will find it the history of man. If he lives out his little day, he is cut down at last, and it is far more likely that he will wither before he comes to maturity, or be plucked away on a sudden, long before he has fulfilled his time.

As a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. He has a beauty and a comeliness even as the meadows have when they are yellow with the king-cups, but, alas, how short-lived! No sooner come than gone, a flash of loveliness and no more! Man is not even like a flower in the conservatory or in the sheltered garden border, he grows best according to nature, as the field-flower does, and like the unprotected beautifier of the pasture, he runs a thousand risks of coming to a speedy end. A large congregation, in many-coloured attire, always reminds us of a meadow bright with many hues; and the comparison becomes sadly true when we reflect, that as the grass and its goodliness soon pass away, even so will those we gaze upon, and all their visible beauty. Thus, too, must it be with all that comes of the flesh, even its greatest excellencies and natural virtues, for "that which is born of the flesh is flesh," and therefore is but as grass which withers if but a breath of wind assails it. Happy are they who, born from above, have in them an incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for ever.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 15. As for man. The insignificance of man is especially brought out by the use of ENOSH here. Robert Baker Girdlestone.

Verse 15. Man comes forth, says Job, like a flower, and is cut down; he is sent into the world the fairest and noblest part of God's works, fashioned after the image of his Creator, with respect to reason and the great faculties of the mind; he cometh forth glorious as the flower of the field; as it surpasses the vegetable world in beauty, so does he the animal world in the glory and excellence of his nature. The one, if no untimely accident oppress it, soon arrives at the full period of its perfection, -- is suffered to triumph for a few moments, and is plucked up by the roots in the very pride and gayest stage of its being; -- or if it happens to escape the hands of violence, in a few days it necessarily sickens of itself and dies away. Man likewise, though his progress is slower, and his duration somewhat longer, yet the periods of his growth and declension are nearly the same, both in the nature and manner of them. If he escapes the dangers which threaten his tenderer years, he is soon got into the full maturity and strength of life; and if he is so fortunate as not to be hurried out of it then by accidents, by his own folly and intemperance -- if he escapes these, he naturally decays of himself, -- a period comes fast upon him, beyond which he was not made to last. Like flowers or fruits which may be plucked up by force before the time of their maturity, yet cannot be made to outgrow the period when they are to fade and drop of themselves; when that comes, the hand of nature then plucks them both off, and no art of the botanist can uphold the one, or skill of the physician preserve the other, beyond the periods to which their original frames and constitutions were made to extend. As God has appointed and determined the several growths and decays of the vegetable race, so he seems as evidently to have prescribed the same laws to man, as well as all living creatures, in the first rudiments of which there are contained the specific powers of their growth, duration and extinction; and when the evolutions of those animal powers are exhausted and run down, the creature expires and dies of itself, as ripe fruit falls from the tree, or a flower preserved beyond its bloom, drops and perishes upon the stalk. Lawrence Sterne, 1713-1768.

Verse 15. The Psalmist saith of man, as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. It is not a flower of the garden, but of the "field." This latter is more subject to decay than the former, because it lies more open to the nipping air and violent winds, and to the browsing mouth of the beast, and is more liable to be trampled upon: by all these ways it decayeth as well as by the scorching sun, and its own fading temper. John Edwards, in "Theologia Reformata."

Verse 15. As flower of the field.

What is life! like a flower, with the bane in its bosom,
Today full of promise -- tomorrow it dies! --
And health -- like the dew-drop that hangs in its blossom,
Survives but a night, and exhales to the skies!
How oft beneath the bud that is brightest and fairest,
The seeds of the canker in embryo lurk!
How oft at the root of the flower that is rarest --
Secure in its ambush the worm is at work? James Beattie, 1735-1803.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 15. Man's earthly career. His rise, progress, glory, fall, and oblivion.

Verse 15-18.

  1. What man is when left to himself. "As for man," etc.
    1. What here? His days are as grass, his glory as the flower of grass.
    2. What hereafter? swept away by a blighting wind, by a blast of divine anger -- known no more on the earth, known only in perdition.
  2. What the mercy of God does for him.
    1. Makes a covenant of grace on his behalf flora everlasting.
    2. Makes a covenant of peace with hint in this life.
    3. Makes a covenant of promise to him for an eternity to come.
  3. Who are the objects of this mercy?
    1. Those who fear God.
    2. Who walk in the footsteps of pious ancestors.
    3. Who rely upon covenant mercy.
    4. Who are faithful to their covenant engagements. G. R.