Verse 3. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. The bravest spirit is sometimes sorely put to it. A heavy fog settles down upon the mind, and the man seems drowned and smothered in it; covered with a cloud, crushed with a load, confused with difficulties, conquered by impossibilities. David was a hero, and yet his spirit sank: he could smite a giant down, but he could not keep himself up. He did not know his own path, nor feel able to bear his own burden. Observe his comfort: he looked away from his own condition to the ever observant, all knowing God: and solaced himself with the fact that all was known to his heavenly Friend. Truly it is well for us to know that God knows what we do not know. We lose our heads, but God never closes his eyes: our judgments lose their balance, but the eternal mind is always clear.
In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me. This the Lord knew at the time, and gave his servant warning of it. Looking back, the sweet singer is rejoiced that he had so gracious a Guardian, who kept him from unseen dangers. Nothing is hidden from God; no secret snare can hurt the man who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, for he shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. The use of concealed traps is disgraceful to our enemies, but they care little to what tricks they resort for their evil purposes. Wicked men must find some exercise for their malice, and therefore when they dare not openly assail they will privately ensnare. They watch the gracious man to see where his haunt is, and there they set their trap; but they do it with great caution, avoiding all observation, lest their victim being forewarned should escape their toils. This is a great trial, but the Lord is greater still, and makes us to walk safely in the midst of danger, for he knows us and our enemies, our way and the snare which is laid in it. Blessed be his name.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me. "When even my spirit (the higher faculty) is wrapped in darkness upon me" that is, when even my spirit (ruach), which ought to elevate my soul (nephesh) falls heavily upon me, as in a swoon.
"When heavy, like a veil of woe,
My spirit on me lay."
What is here said of the spirit, is oftener predicted of the soul, the seat of the passions. See Psalms 42:6 43:5 131:2. The dejection of the spirit represents a still more sorrowful and downcast condition, than the fainting of the soul. See Ps 143:3-4, and compare our Lord's words, "My soul is troubled" ( John 12:27 ) with the Evangelist's statement, "Jesus was troubled in spirit" ( John 13:21 11:33). -- Christopher Wordsworth.
Verse 3. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me. Literally, in the muffling upon me of my spirit. When my spirit was so wrapped in trouble and gloom, so "muffled round with woe", that I could not see the path before me, was distracted and unable to choose a line of conduct, Thou (emphatic) knewest my path. --A.S. Aglen, in "An Old Testament Commentary for English" Readers, 1884.
Verse 3. I wish you much comfort from David's thought: When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. The Lord is not withdrawn to a great distance, but his eye is upon you. He sees you not with the indifference of a mere spectator; but he observes with attention, he knows, he consider's your path: yea, he appoints it, and every circumstance about it is under his direction. Your trouble began at the hour he saw best, it could not come before; and he has marked the degree of it to a hair's breadth, and its duration to a minute. He knows likewise how your spirit is affected; and such supplies of grace and strength, and in such seasons as he sees needful, he will afford in due season. So that when things appear darkest, you shall still be able to say, Though chastened, not killed. Therefore hope in God, for you shall yet praise him. -- John Newton (1725-1807), in "Cardiphonia."
Verse 3. Thou knewest.
From human eyes 'tis better to conceal
Much that I suffer, much I hourly feel;
But, oh, this thought can tranquillize and heal,
All, all is known to thee.
Nay, all by thee is ordered, chosen, planned,
Each drop that fills my daily cup, thy hand
Prescribes for ills, none else can understand,
All, all is known to thee. --Charlotte Elliott.
Verse 3. Although we as Christians possess the full solution of the problem of suffering, yet we frequently find ourselves in the position of Job, in regard to this or that particular affliction. There are sorrows so far reaching, so universal; there are losses so absolute, and blows so terrible and inexplicable, that it seems for a time as if we were wrapped in thickest gloom, and as if the secret of the Lord had not been revealed. Why was this man stricken, and that man spared? Why was such and such a being, in whom so many hopes centred, or who had already realised so many pleasant expectations, why was he withdrawn? Why was that other person left, a useless encumbrance to earth? Why was that voice, which found echo in so many hearts, suddenly silenced? Why have I been smitten? Why have I lost that which rendered my moral life beautiful and useful? Oftentimes the soul seems lost for awhile in thoughts which overwhelm it, it loses its foothold, it tumbles about helplessly amid the deep waters of affliction. It seems as if all were over. Do not believe it. Remember Job; you cannot go to greater lengths of despair than he, and yet God had pity on him. There is much comfort for you in this example of indescribable suffering, exasperated to the highest degree, and yet pardoned and consoled. Cling to the memory of this blessed fact as to a cable of deliverance, a board or a plank amidst the shipwreck. And then remember that affliction forms part of God's plan, and that he also asks you to manifest ready and absolute confidence in him. --E. De Pressense, D.D., in "The Mystery of Suffering", 1869.
Verse 3. They have privily laid a snare for me. Snares on the right hand, and snares on the left: snares on the right hand, worldly prosperity; snares on the left hand, worldly adversity; snares on the right hand, flattery; snares on the left hand, alarm. Do thou walk in the midst of the snares: depart not from the way: let neither flattery ensnare thee, nor alarm drive thee off it. --Augustine.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 3. (first clause).
Verse 3. (latter clause). Temptations.
- What form they take? -- "snares."
- Who lay them? -- "they."
- How do they lay them? Secretly, craftily "in the way", frequently.
- What becomes of the tempted believer? He lives to tell the tale, to warn others, to glorify God.