Verse 3. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us. He hangs upon the word "mercy," and embodies it in a vehement prayer: the very word seems to hold him, and he harps upon it. It is well for us to pray about everything, and turn everything into prayer; and especially when we are reminded of a great necessity we should catch at it as a keynote, and pitch our tune to it. The reduplication of the prayer before us is meant to express the eagerness of the Psalmist's spirit and his urgent need: what he needed speedily he begs for importunately. Note that he has left the first person singular for the plural. All the saints need mercy; they all seek it; they shall all have it, therefore we pray - - "have mercy upon us". A slave when corrected looks to his master's hand that the punishment may cease, and even so we look to the Lord for mercy, and entreat for it with all our hearts. Our contemptuous opponents will have no mercy upon us; let us not ask it at their hands, but turn to the God of mercy, and seek his aid alone.
"For we are exceedingly filled with contempt," and this is an acid which eats into the soul. Observe the emphatic words. Contempt is bitterness, wormwood mingled with gall; he that feels it may well cry for mercy to his God. Filled with contempt, as if the bitter wine had been poured in till it was up to the brim. This had become the chief thought of their minds, the peculiar sorrow of their hearts. Excluding all other feelings, a sense of scorn monopolized the soul and made it unutterably wretched. Another word is added adverbially -- exceedingly filled. Filled even to running over, as if pressed down and then heaped up. A little contempt they could bear, but now they were satiated with it, and weary of it. Do we wonder at the threefold mention of mercy when this master evil was in the ascendant? Nothing is more wounding, embittering, festering than disdain. When our companions make little of us we are far too apt to make little of ourselves and of the consolations prepared for us. Oh to be filled with communion, and then contempt will run off from us, and never be able to fill us with its biting vinegar.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. -- Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us! Note how a godly man speaks. He does not say, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord have mercy upon me! because I am disgraced;" but, "Have mercy upon us, O Lord, for we are filled with contempt!" The godly man is not so grieved for his own and individual contempt as he is for the general contempt of the good and faithful. There is an accord of the godly, not only in the cross, but also in groanings, and in the invocation of divine grace. --Wolfgang Musculus.
Verse 3. For we are exceedingly filled. The Hebrew word here used means "to be saturated"; to have the appetite fully satisfied -- as applied to one who is hungry or thirsty. Then it comes to mean to be entirely full, and the idea here is, that as much contempt had been thrown upon them as could be: they could experience no more. --Albert Barnes.
Verse 3. -- We are exceedingly filled with contempt. Men of the world regard the Temple Pilgrims and their religion with the quiet smile of disdain, wondering that those who have so much to engage them in a present life should be weak enough to concern themselves about frames and feelings, about an unseen God, and unknown eternity; and this is a trial they find it hard to bear. Their soul, too, is filled exceedingly with the scorning of those that are at ease. The prosperous of their neighbours declare that they have found the world a generous and happy scene to all who deserve its gifts. Poverty and sorrow they attribute to unworthiness alone. "Let them exert themselves" is the unfeeling cry; "let them bestir themselves instead of praying, and with them as with us it will soon be well"; and these words of harsh and unfeeling ignorance aye like poison to the wounds of the bleeding heart. They have further "the contempt of the proud" to mourn; of those who give expression to their fierce disdain by assailing them with words of contumely, and who seek to draw them by reproaches both from peace and from piety. These are still the trials of Zion's worshippers: silent contempt, open misrepresentation, fierce opposition. Religion, their last comfort, is despised; peace, their first desire, is denied. Anxious to devote themselves in the spirit of humble and earnest piety to the duties of their appointed sphere, they find enemies in open outcry and array against them. But God is their refuge, and to him they go. --Robert Nisbet.
Verse 3,4. -- The second strophe takes up the "have mercy upon us," as it were in echo. It begins with a "Kyrie eleison", which is confirmed in a crescendo manner after the form of steps. --Franz Delitszch.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 3. (first portion). -- The Sinner's Litany. The Saint's Entreaty.
Verse 3. (second portion). -- The world's contempt, the abundance of it, the reason of it, the bitterness of it, the comfort under it.
Verse 3,4. --
- The occasion of the prayer: the contempt of men. This is often the most difficult to bear.
- Because it is most unreasonable. Why ridicule men for yielding to their own convictions of what is right?
(b) Most undeserved. True religion injures no man, but seeks the good of all.
(c) Most profane. To reproach the people of God because they are his people is to reproach God himself.
- The subject of the prayer.
- The prayer: is not for justice, which might be desired, but for mercy.
(b) The plea: "For we are," etc. The reproaches of men are an encouragement to look for special help from God. The harp hung upon the willows sends forth its sweetest tones. The less it is in human hands the more freely it is played upon by the Spirit of God.