Verse 6. I stretch forth my hands unto thee. He was eager for his God. His thoughts of God kindled in him burning desires, and these led to energetic expressions of his inward longings. As a prisoner whose feet are bound extends his hands in supplication when there is hope of liberty, so does David. My soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. As the soil cracks, and yawns, and thus opens its mouth in dumb pleadings, so did the Psalmist's soul break with longings. No heavenly shower had refreshed him from the sanctuary: banished from the means of grace, his soul felt parched and dry, and he cried out, "My soul to thee"; nothing would content him but the presence of his God. Not alone did he extend his hands, but his heart was stretched out towards the Lord. He was athirst for the Lord. If he could but feel the presence of his God he would no longer be overwhelmed or dwell in darkness; nay, everything would turn to peace and joy.
Selah. It was time to pause, for the supplication had risen to agony point. Both harp strings and heart strings were strained, and needed a little rest to get them right again for the second half of the song.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 6. I stretch forth my hands unto thee. As a poor beggar for an alms. Beggary here is not the easiest and poorest trade, but the hardest and richest of all other. --John Trapp.
Verse 6. I stretch forth my hands unto thee, as if I were in hope thou wouldst take me by the hand and draw me to thee. --Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 6. My soul thirsteth after thee, etc. Alas! this thirst is rare to be found. Worldly thirsts there are in many: the drunkard's thirst, Deuteronomy 29:19 ; the worldling's thirst, Habakkuk 2:5 ; the epicure's thirst, whose belly is his god, Philippians 3:19 ; the ambitious man's thirst -- Diotrephes, 3 John 1:9 ; and the malicious man's thirst, the blood thirsty, Psalms 5:6 . Thirst after these things doth keep away that thirst after grace without which we shall never escape Dives' thirst in hell, Luke 16:24 . If we have a godly thirst, it will appear by diligence in frequenting the place and means of grace, Proverbs 8:34 ; brute beasts for want of water will break through hedges, and grace thirsty souls will make their ways through all encumbrances to come where they may have satisfaction. --Thomas Pierson, 1570-1633.
Verse 6. My soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. He declareth his vehement affection to God by a very pretty similitude, taken from the ground which is thirsty by the long drought of summer, wherein the earth, rent in pieces, as it were, and with open mouth through long thirst, seeketh drink from heaven. By which he showeth that he came to God as destitute of natural substance, and therefore seeketh from above that which he lacked. So in all his extremities he looked ever upward; from above he seeketh help and comfort. Albeit we be in extremity, and as it were rent asunder, yet here is comfort, -- there are waters in heaven which will refresh us, if we gape after them. Here is a blessing -- those that thirst shall be satisfied. If we thirst for mercy, for deliverance, for spiritual or temporal comfort, we shall be satisfied therewith; for if God heard the prayers of Hagar and Ishmael being athirst in the wilderness, and opened unto them a fountain (Ge 21:17,19), will he forsake Isaac, the child of promise? If he heard Samson in the bitterness of his heart, when he said, "I die from thirst", and opened a spring out of the jawbone of an ass ( Judges 15:19 ), will he forsake us in time of our distress, if we thirst aright? -- Archibald Symson.
Verse 6. My soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Sir John Chardin, in his MSS. says: - - "The lands of the East, which the great dryness there causes to crack, are the ground of this figure, which is certainly extremely beautiful; for these dry lands have chinks too deep for a person to see the bottom of: this may be observed in the Indies more than anywhere, a little before the rains fall, and wherever the lands are rich and hard." -- Harmer's Observations.
Verse 6. I stretch forth my hands unto thee, etc. It is not a strange thing, then, for the soul to find its life in God. This is its native air: God as the Environment of the soul has been from the remotest age the doctrine of all the deepest thinkers in religion. How profoundly Hebrew poetry is saturated with this high thought will appear when we try to conceive of it with this left out. True poetry is only science in another form. And long before it was possible for religion to give scientific expression to its greatest truths, men of insight uttered themselves in psalms which could not have been truer to Nature had the most modern light controlled the inspiration. "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God." What fine sense of the natural analogy of the natural and spiritual does not underlie these words. As the hart after its environment, so man after his; as the water brooks are fitly designed to meet the natural wants, so fitly does God implement the spiritual need of man. It will be noticed that in the Hebrew poets the longing for God never strikes one as morbid, or unnatural to the men who uttered it. It is as natural for them to long for God as for the swallow to seek her nest. Throughout all their images no suspicion rises within us that they are exaggerating. We feel how truly they are reading themselves, their deepest selves. No false note occurs in all their aspiration. There is no weariness even in their ceaseless sighing, except the lover's weariness for the absent -- if they would fly away, it is only to be at rest. Men who have no soul can only wonder at this. Men who have a soul, but with little faith, can only envy it. How joyous a thing it was to the Hebrews to seek their God! How artlessly they call upon him to entertain them in his pavilion, to cover them with his feathers, to hide them in his secret place, to hold them in the hollow of his hand, or stretch around them the everlasting arms! These men were true children of nature. As the humming bird among its own palm trees, as the ephemera in the sunshine of a summer evening, so they lived their joyous lives. And even the full share of the sadder experiences of life which came to all of them but drove them the further into the secret place, and led them with more consecration to make, as they expressed it, "the Lord their portion." All that has been said since from Marcus Aurelius to Swedenborg, from Augustine to Schleiermacher, of a besetting God as the full complement of humanity is but a repetition of the Hebrew poets' faith. And even the New Testament has nothing higher to offer man than this. The Psalmist's" God is our refuge and strength" is only the earlier form, less defined, less practicable, but not less noble, of Christ's "Come unto me, and I will give you rest." -- Henry Drummond, in "Natural Law in the Spiritual World", 1884.
Verse 6-7. I stretch forth my hands ... Hear me, etc. So will the weary bands be raised yet again, through faith in him who stretched forth his hands upon the cross. So will the fainting soul wait and long for the outpouring of his grace, who upon the cross said, "I thirst." We shall thirst for our salvation, even as the parched up fields and dying herbs seem to gasp and pant like living things for the sweet and cheering showers in the fierce heat of summer. So will the soul cry to the heard, and that soon, lest its faith grow faint with delay; and the hiding of God's face, the denying of his smile of pardon, will press on the spirit like sickness, and weigh it down like the heaviness of death. --J. W. Burgon.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 6. God alone the desire of his people.
Verse 6. Deep calling to deep.
- The insatiable craving of the heart.
- The vast riches in glory.
- The rushing together of the seas: "My soul is to thee." --W. B. H.