Verse 136. Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law. He wept in sympathy with God to see the holy law despised and broken. He wept in pity for men who were thus drawing down upon themselves the fiery wrath of God. His grief was such that he could scarcely give it vent; his tears were not mere drops of sorrow, but torrents of woe. In this he became like the Lord Jesus, who beheld the city, and wept over it; and like unto Jehovah himself, who hath no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but that be turn unto him and live. The experience of this verse indicates a great advance upon anything we have had before: the psalm and the Psalmist are both growing. That man is a ripe believer who sorrows because of the sins of others. In Psalms 119:120 his flesh trembled at the presence of God, and here it seems to melt and flow away in floods of tears. None are so affected by heavenly things as those who are much in the study of the word, and are thereby taught the truth and essence of things. Carnal men are afraid of brute force, and weep over losses and crosses; but spiritual men feel a holy fear of the Lord himself, and most of all lament when they see dishonour cast upon his holy name.
"Lord, let me weep for nought but sin,
And after none but thee,
And then I would, O that I might!
A constant weeper be."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 136. -- Rivers of waters run down my eyes. Most of the easterners shed tears much more copiously than the people of Europe. The psalmist said rivers of waters ran down his eyes; and though the language is beautifully figurative, I have no doubt it was also literally true. I have myself seen Arabs shed tears like streams. --John Gadsby.
Verse 136. -- Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, etc. Either because mine eyes keep not thy law, so some. The eye is the inlet and outlet of a great deal of sin, and therefore it ought to be a weeping eye. Or rather, they, i.e., those about me: Psalms 119:139 . Note, the sins of sinners are the sorrows of saints. We must mourn for that which we cannot mend. - -Matthew Henry.
Verse 136. -- Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, etc. David's afflictions drew not so many tears from him as the sins of others; not his banishment by his son, as the breach of God's law by the wicked. Nothing went so to his heart as the dishonour of God, whose glory shining in his word and ordinances, is dearer to the godly than their lives. Elijah desired to die when he saw God so dishonoured by Ahab and Jezebel. The eye is for two things, sight and tears: if we see God dishonoured, presently our eyes should be filled with tears. --William Greenhill, 1591-1677.
Verse 136. -- Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, etc. Godly men are affected with deep sorrow for the sins of the ungodly.
Let us consider the nature of this affection.
- It is not a stoical apathy, and affected carelessness; much less a delightful partaking with sinful practices.
- Not a proud setting off of their own goodness, with marking the sin of others as the Pharisee did in the gospel.
- Not the derision and mocking of the folly of men, with that "laughing philosopher": it comes nearer to the temper of the other who wept always for it.
- It is not a bitter, bilious anger, breaking forth into railings and reproaches, nor an upbraiding insultation.
- Nor is it a vindictive desire of punishment, venting itself in curses and imprecations, which is the rash temper of many, but especially of the vulgar sort. The disciples' motion to Christ was far different from that way, and yet he says to them, "We know not of what spirit ye are." They thought they had been of Elijah's spirit, but he told them they were mistaken, and did not know of what a spirit they were in that motion. Thus heady zeal often mistakes and flatters itself. We find not here a desire of fire to come down from heaven upon the breakers of the law, but such a grief as would rather bring water to quench it, if it were falling on them. "Rivers of waters run down mine eyes." --Robert Leighton.
Verse 136. -- Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, etc. The Lord requireth this mourning bitterly for other men's sins to keep our hearts the more tender and upright; it is an act God useth to make us more careful of our own souls, to be troubled at the sins of others, at sin in a third person. It keepeth us at a great distance from temptation. This is like quenching of fire in a neighbour's house: before it comes near thee, thou runnest with thy bucket. There is no way to keep us free from the infection, so much as mourning. The soul will never agree to do that which it grieved itself to see another do. And, as it keepeth us upright, so also humble, fearful of Divine judgment, tender lest we ourselves offend, and draw down the wrath of God. He that shrugs when he seeth a snake creeping upon another, will much more be afraid when it cometh near to himself. In our own sins we have the advantage of conscience scourging the soul with remorse and shame; in bewailing the sins of others, we have only the reasons of duty and obedience. They that fight abroad out of love to valour and exploits, will certainly fight at home out of love to their own safety. -- Thomas Manton.
Verse 136. -- Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, etc. Thus uniformly is the character of God's people represented -- not merely as those who are free from -- but as "those that sigh and cry for -- all the abominations that are done it, the midst of the land": Ezekiel 9:4 And who does not see what an enlarged sphere still presents itself on every side for the unrestrained exercise of Christian compassion? The appalling spectacle of a world apostatized from God, of multitudes sporting with everlasting destruction -- as if the God of heaven were "a man that he should lie" is surely to force "rivers of waters" from the hearts of those that are concerned his honour. What a mass of sin ascends as a cloud before the Lord, a single heart! Add the aggregate of a village -- a town -- a country -- a world! every day -- every hour -- every moment. Well might the "waters rise to an overflowing tide, ready to burst its barriers." --Charles Bridges.
Verse 136. -- Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not law. -- The vices of the religious are the shame of religion: the sight this hath made the stoutest champions of Christ melt into tears. David was one of those great worthies of the world, not matchable in his time yet he weeps. Did he tear in pieces a bear like a kid? Rescue a lamb will the death of a lion? Foil a mighty giant, that had dared the whole of God? Did he like a whirlwind, bear and beat down his enemies bel him; and now, does he, like a child or a woman, fall weeping? Yes, had heard the name of God blasphemed, seen his holy rites profaned, his statutes vilipended, and violence offered to the pure chastity of that virgin, religion; this resolved that valiant heart into tears: "Rivers of waters run down mine eyes." --Thomas Adams.
Verse 136. -- My soul frequently spent itself in such breathings after conformity to the law of God as the one hundred and nineteenth Psalm is with throughout: "O that my ways were directed to keep thy My heart breaketh through the longing it hath to thy commands at times; incline my heart that I may keep them alway unto the end," the like. This appeared further in a fixed dislike of the least inconformity: to the law, either in myself or others. Now; albeit I was always affected with my own or others' breaches, yet this was my burden; I always that rivers of tears might run down mine eyes, because I, or transgressors, kept not God's law. --Thomas Halyburton, 1674- 1712.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 136. -- Abundant sorrow for abounding sin. Other men's sins the saint's own sorrows. He thinks of the good God provoked, of the sinners themselves debased, of their death, and their perdition.
- Occasion of his grief: "they keep not thy law."
- Extent of his grief: "rivers," etc. See examples in Jeremiah, Ezra, Paul, Christ himself.
- Effect of his grief. To warn, teach, invite, and exhort them -- as in his psalms. -- G.R.
Verse 136. -- Sacred tears.
- The world sinning.
- The church weeping.
- It is time the world began to weep for itself. --C.A.D.
I weep, because,
- Of the dishonour done to the Law giver.
- Of the injury done to the law breaker.
- Of the wrong done to the law abiding.
"Benedetti, a Franciscan monk, author of the Stabat Mater, one day was found weeping, and when asked the reason of his tears, he exclaimed, I weep because Love goes about unloved." --W.H.J.P.