This portion of the gigantic psalm sees the Psalmist in extremis. His enemies have brought him to the lowest condition of anguish and depression; yet he is faithful to the law and trustful in his God. This octave is the midnight of the psalm, and very dark and black it is. Stars, however, shine out, and the last verse gives promise of the dawn. The strain will after this become more cheerful; but meanwhile it should minister comfort to us to see so eminent a servant of God so hardly used by the ungodly: evidently in our own persecutions, no strange thing has happened unto us.
Verse 81. My soul fainteth for thy salvation. He wished for no deliverance but that which came from God: his one desire was for "thy salvation." But for that divine deliverance he was eager to the last degree, -- up to the full measure of his strength, yea, and beyond it till he fainted. So strong was his desire that it produced prostration of spirit. He grew weary with waiting, faint with watching, sick with urgent need. Thus the sincerity and the eagerness of his desires were proved. Nothing else could satisfy him but deliverance wrought out by the hand of God, his inmost mature yearned and pined for salvation from the God of all grace, and he must have it or utterly fail.
But I hope in thy word. Therefore he felt that salvation would come, for God cannot break his promise, nor disappoint the hope which his own word has excited: yea, the fulfilment of his word is near at hand when our hope is firm and our desire fervent. Hope alone can keep the soul from fainting by using the smelling bottle of the promise. Yet hope does not quench desire for a speedy answer to prayer; it increases our importunity, for it both stimulates ardour and sustains the heart under delays. To faint for salvation, and to be kept from utterly failing by the hope of it, is the frequent experience of the Christian man. We are "faint yet pursuing" hope sustains when desire exhausts. While the grace of desire throws us down, the grace of hope lifts us up again.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
The whole eight verses, 81-89. -- The eleventh letter, Caph, signifies the hollowed hand. The expositors, however, looking only to the meaning curved, which is but half of its import, explain the section as signifying the act of bowing down in penitence, or as noting that the fathers of the Old Testament were like veteran soldiers, stooping with years and toil, and bowed down yet further by the heavy weight of the law, only removable by that coming of Christ for which they prayed. Others extend the notion to the saints of the church, weighed down by the sorrows and cares of this life, and therefore desiring to be dissolved and to be with Christ. The true meaning is to be sought in the full interpretation of the word; for the hand is hollowed either in order to retain something which actually lies in it, or to receive something about to be placed in it by another. Thus the hand may be God's, as the giver of bounty, or man's, as the receiver of it; and the whole scope of the section, as a prayer for speedy help, is that man holds out his hand as a beggar, supplicating the mercy of God. --Jerome, Ambrose, and others, in Neale and Littledale.
Verse 81. -- My soul fainteth for thy salvation. The word here rendered "fainteth" is the same that in Psalms 73:26 is translated "faileth": "My flesh and my heart faileth". The idea is, that his strength gave way; he had such an intense desire for salvation that he became weak and powerless. Any strong emotion may thus prostrate us; and the love of God, the desire of his favour, the longing for heaven, may be so intense as to produce this result. -- Albert Barnes.
Verse 81. -- My soul fainteth. Fainting is proper to the body, but here it is ascribed to the soul; as also in many other places. The Apostle saith, "Lest ye be wearied, and faint in your minds" ( Hebrews 7:3 ); where two words are used, weariness and fainting, both taken from the body. Weariness is a lesser, fainting is a higher degree of deficiency: in weariness, the body requireth some rest or refreshment, when the active power is weakened, and the vital spirits and principles of motion are dulled; but, in fainting, the vital power is contracted, and retires, and leaveth the outward parts lifeless and senseless. When a man is wearied, his strength is abated; when he fainteth, he is quite spent. These things, by a metaphor, are applied to the soul, or mind. A man is weary, when the fortitude of his mind, his moral or spiritual strength, is broken, or begins to abate, when his soul sits uneasy under sufferings; but when he sinks under the burden of grievous, tedious, or long affliction, then he is said to faint, when all the reasons and grounds of his comfort are quite spent, and he can hold out no longer. --Thomas Manton.
Verse 81. -- My soul fainteth. What is this fainting but the lofty state of raptured contemplation in which the strength of heavenly affections weakens those of earth. Just as the ascent into the highest mountains causes a new respiration, as when Daniel had a great vision from God, he tells us "he fainted and was sick certain days." --E. Paxton Hood, 1871.
Verse 81. -- My soul fainteth for thy salvation; but I hope. Believe under a cloud, and wait for him when there is no moonlight nor starlight. Let faith live and breathe, and lay hold of the sure salvation of God, when clouds and darkness are about you, and appearance of rotting in the prison before you. Take heed of unbelieving hearts, which can father lies upon Christ. Beware of "Doth his promise fail for evermore?" for it was a man, and not God said it. Who dreameth that a promise of God can fail, fall a swoon, or die? Who can make God sick, or his promises weak? When we are pleased to seek a plea with Christ, let us plead that we hope in him. O stout word of faith, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him!" O sweet epitaph, written upon the gravestone of a departed believer, namely,
"I died hoping, and my dust and ashes believe in life!" Faith's eyes, that can see through a millstone, can see through a gloom of God, and under it read God's thoughts of love and peace. Hold fast Christ in the dark; surely ye shall see the salvation of God. Your adversaries are ripe and dry for the fire. Yet a little while, and they shall go up in a flame; the breath of the Lord, like a river of brimstone, shall kindle about them. -- Samuel Rutherford, 1600-1601.
Verse 81. -- For thy salvation. Understood in a higher sense, the holy man longs for the coming of the Saviour in the flesh. --Cornelius Jansen.
Verse 81. -- Thy salvation. A believer in God, how afflicted so ever lie be, seeketh not to be delivered but in a way allowed by God; "My soul fainteth for thy salvation"; or, till thou deliver me in thy good way. --David Dickson.
Verse 81. -- I hope in thy word. David knew where he moored his ship. Hope without a promise is like an anchor without ground to helot by; but David's hope fixed itself upon the divine word. --William Gurnall.
Verse 81. -- I hope in thy word: ie. I hope beyond anything I understand, and beyond anything I can possibly do, and beyond anything I deserve, and beyond all carnal and spiritual consolations, for I desire and look for Thee only I seek Thee, not Thine: I long to hear "Thud word," that I may obey it in patience and meekness. --Le Blanc.
Verse 81,83. -- It is good in all times of persecution or affliction to have an eve both on the promises and on the precepts; for the looking to the promise doth encourage to hope, and the eyeing of tim precepts doth prove the hope to be sound. The Psalmist hoped in the word ( Psalms 119:81 ), and ( Psalms 119:88 ), he forgot not the statutes. --David Dickson.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, By Pastor C. A. Davis.
Verse 81-88. -- Hope in depression. In the depression arising from mortal frailness (Ps 119:81-81), and from unjust persecution ( Psalms 119:85-87 ), the word of God is the source of joy and comfort.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 81. -- Text suitable for a missionary sermon.
- The condition of the heathen world, enough to make the Christian faint for the salvation of God to visit it.
- The grossness of its darkness.
(b) Its wide area.
(c) Its long continuance.
(d) The limited character and effect of mission labour.
(e) The opposing influences.
- This condition, though exceedingly sad, is not hopeless. Because --
(a) Of the intention, adaptation, and universal call of the
(b) Of Christ's commission to his church.
(c) Of the compassionate character of the spiritually
enlightened, produced by their faith in the word.
(d) Of the prophecies and promises. Thus, there is hope in
- If Christians are fainting for the salvation, but hoping in the word, their interest in mission work will be intense, and will show itself,
- In earnest prayer for more labourers, and greater
- In earnest prayer for more labourers, and greater
(b) In devoting themselves, if possible, to the work.
(c) In free and generous giving, to help on the work. --J.F.
Verse 81. -- My soul fainteth, etc. Men faint for health, provision, rest, promotion, success, and in some instances for salvation. David fainted.
- For his own salvation.
(a) From guilt: "Deliver me from all my transgressions;"
"from blood guiltiness."
(b) From defilement: "Create in me a clean heart." "Wash
(c) From formality: "Let the words of my mouth," etc.
(d) From darkness: "Why hidest thou thyself?" "Lift up,"
etc. "Say unto my soul," etc.
- From unhappiness: "Out of the depths," etc.
- For the salvation of others.
(a) He talked about it: "Time for thee to work, Lord."
(b) He prayed for it: "Oh that the salvation," etc. "Let
thy work," etc. "God be merciful unto us:" "Save now, I
(c) He laboured for it: "I will make mention of thy
righteousness:" "I will teach transgressors thy ways." --W.J.
Verse 81. --
- Eagerness of expectation.
- Energy of hope.
- Establishment of promise: "In thy word."
Verse 81. -- Salvation, in Scripture, hath divers acceptations: it is put --
- For that temporal deliverance which God giveth, or hath promised to give to his people: so it is taken. Exodus 14:13 .
- For the exhibition of Christ in the flesh. Psalms 98:2-3 Luke 2:29-30 .
- For the benefits which we have by Christ on this side of heaven; as the pardon of sin, and the renovation of our natures. Matthew 1:21 ; Titus 3:5 Psalms 51:12 .
- For everlasting life: "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" ( 1 Peter 1:9 ); meaning thereby our final reward. --T. Manton.
Verse 81. --
- Pursuing. --W.D.