Psalm 38:2

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 2. For thine arrows stick fast in me. By this he means both bodily and spiritual griefs, but we may suppose, especially the latter, for these are most piercing and stick the fastest. God's law applied by the Spirit to the conviction of the soul of sin, wounds deeply and rankles long; it is an arrow not lightly to be brushed out by careless mirthfulness, or to be extracted by the flattering hand of self righteousness. The Lord knows how to shoot so that his bolts not only strike but stick. He can make convictions sink into the innermost spirit like arrows driven in up to the head. It seems strange that the Lord should shoot at his own beloved ones, but in truth he shoots at their sins rather than them, and those who feel his sin killing shafts in this life, shall not be slain with his hot thunderbolts in the next world. And thy hand presseth me sore. The Lord had come to close dealings with him, and pressed him down with the weight of his hand, so that he had no rest or strength left. By these two expressions we are taught that conviction of sin is a piercing and a pressing thing, sharp and sore, smarting and crushing. Those who know by experience "the terrors of the Lord," will be best able to vouch for the accuracy of such descriptions; they are true to the life.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 2. For thine arrows stick fast in me. First, we shall see in what respect he calls them arrows: and therein, first, that they are alienae, they are shot from others, they are not in his own power; a man shoots not an arrow at himself; and then that they are veloces, swift in coming, he cannot give them their time; and again, they are vix visibiles, though they be not altogether invisible in their cunning, yet there is required a quick eye, and an express diligence and watchfulness to avoid them; so they are arrows in the hand of another, not his own; and swift as they come, and invisible before they come. And secondly, they are many arrows, the victory lies not in escaping one or two. And thirdly, they stick in him: they find not David so good proof as to rebound back again, and imprint no sense: and they stick Fast: though the blow be felt and the wound discerned, yet there is not a present cure, he cannot shake them off; infixae sunt, and then, with all this, they stick fast in him; that is, in all him; in his body and soul; in him, in his thoughts and actions; in him, in his sins and in his good works too; infixae mihi, there is no part of him, no faculty in him, in which they stick not; for (which may well be another consideration), that hand, which shot them, presses him: follows the blow, and presses him sore, that is, vehemently. But yet (which will be our conclusion), sagittae tuae, thy arrows, and manus tua, thy hand, these arrows that are shot, and this hand that presses him so sore, are the arrows, and the hand of God; and therefore, first, they must have their effect, they cannot be disappointed; but yet they bring their comfort with them, because they are his, because no arrows from him, no pressing with his hand, comes without that balsamum of mercy to heal as fast as he wounds. John Donne.

Verse 2. Thine arrows stick fast. Though importunity be to God most pleasing always, yet to us it is then most necessary when the cheerful face of God is turned into frowns, and when there is a justly conceived fear of the continuance of his anger: and have I not just cause to fear it, having the arrows of his anger sticking so fast in me? If he had meant to make me but a butt, at which to shoot his arrows, he would quickly, I suppose, have taken them up again; but now that he leaves them sticking in me, what can I think, but that he means to make me his quiver; and then I may look long enough before he come to pluck them out. They are arrows, indeed, that are feathered with swiftness, and headed with sharpness; and to give them a force in flying, they are shot, I may say, out of his crossbow, I am sure his bow of crosses; for no arrows can fly so fast, none pierce so deep, as the crosses and afflictions with which he hath surprised me: I may truly say surprised me, seeing when I thought myself most safe, and said, "I shall never be moved," even then, these arrows of his anger lighted upon me, and stick so fast in my flesh, that no arm but his that shot them, is ever able to draw them forth. Oh, then, as thou hast stretched forth thine arm of anger, O God, to shoot these arrows at me, so stretch forth thine arm of mercy to draw them forth, that I may rather sing hymns than dirges unto thee; and that thou mayest show thy power, as well in pardoning as thou hast done in condemning. Sir Richard Baker.

Verse

  1. Thine arrows. Arrows are
    1. swift,
    2. secret,
    3. sharp
    4. killing instruments. They are instruments drawing blood and drinking blood, even unto drunkenness De 32:42; afflictions are like arrows in all these properties.
    5. Afflictions often come very speedily, with a glance as an arrow, quick as a thought.
    6. Afflictions come suddenly, unexpectedly; an arrow is upon a man afore he is aware, so are afflictions. Though Job saith, the thing he feared came upon him, he looked for this arrow before it came; yet usually afflictions are unlooked for guests, they thrust in upon us when we dream not of them.
    7. They come with little noise; an arrow is felt before, or, as soon as it is heard; an arrow flies silently and secretly, stealing upon and wounding a man, unobserved and unseen. Lastly, all afflictions are sharp, and in their own nature killing and deadly. That any have good from them, is from the grace of God, not from their nature. Joseph Caryl.

Verse 2. Let no one think these expressions of penitence Psalms 38:1-4 overstrained or excessive. They are the words of the Holy Spirit of God, speaking by the mouth of the man after God's own heart. If we were as repentant as David, we should bring home to ourselves his language; as it is, our affections are chilled, and therefore we do not enter into his words ... And let us observe how all the miseries are referred to their proper end. The sin is not bewailed merely on account of its ill effect on the guilty one, but on account of the despite done to God. The psalmist's first thought is the "anger" of the Lord, and his hot displeasure. It is not the "arrows" that afflict him so much as that they are God's. "Thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me." The reason why there is no health in his flesh is because of God's displeasure. Such is true contrition, "not the sorrow of the world which worketh death, but the sorrow that worketh repentance not to be repented of." A Commentary on the Seven Penitential Psalms. Chiefly from Ancient Sources, (by A.P.F.) 1847.

Verse 2. Thy hand presseth me sore. Not the hand of Egypt or Ashur; then it were hand for hand, a duel of some equality: hand to hand; here forces and stratagems might achieve a victory: but Thy hand. The weight of a man's blow is but weak, according to the force and pulse of his arm; as the princes of Midian answered Gideon, when he bade his son try the dint of his sword upon them; "Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength." Judges 8:21 . But "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Heb 10:31. As Homer called the hands of Jupiter ceirez aeptoi, hands whose praise could not be sufficiently spoken; which some read ceires aaptoii, hands inaccessible, irresistible for strength: all the gods in heaven could not ward a blow of Jupiter's hand. This hand never strikes but for sin; and where sin is mighty his blow is heavy. Thomas Adams.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 2. God sharply chasteneth many of his children, and yet for all that he loves them never a whit the less, nor withholdeth in good time his mercy from them. Thomas Wilcocks.