Psalm 38:4

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 4. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head. Like waves of the deep sea; like black mire in which a man utterly sinks. Above my hopes, my strength, my life itself, my sin rises in its terror. Unawakened sinners think their sins to be mere shallows, but when conscience is aroused they find out the depth of iniquity. As an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. It is well when sin is an intolerable load, and when the remembrance of our sins burdens us beyond endurance. This verse is the genuine cry of one who feels himself undone by his transgressions and as yet sees not the great sacrifice.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 4. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. David proceeds to a reason why his prayer must be vehement, why these miseries of his are so violent, and why God's anger is permanent, and he finds this all to be, because in his sins, all these venomous qualities, vehemence, violence, and continuance, were complicated, and unwrapped; for he had sinned vehemently, in the rage of lust, and violently, in the effusion of blood, and permanently, in a long and senseless security. They are all contracted in this text into two kinds, which will be our two parts in handling these words: first, the Supergressae super, "Mine iniquities are gone over my head," there is the multiplicity, the number, the succession, and so the continuation of his sin; and then, the Gravatae super, "My sins are as a heavy burden, too heavy for me," there is the greatness, the weight, the insupportableness of his sin. St. Augustine calls these two distinctions or considerations of sin, ignorantiam, et difficultatem; first that David was ignorant, that he saw not the tide, as it swelled up upon him, abyssus abyssum, depth called upon depth; and all thy waters, and all thy billows are gone over me (says he in another place); he perceived them not coming till they were over him, he discerned not his particular sins then when he committed them, till they came to the supergressae super, to that height that he was overflowed, surrounded, his iniquities were gone over his head; and in that St. Augustine notes ignorantiam, his inobservance, his inconsiderations of his own case; and then he notes difficultatem, the hardness of recovering, because he that is under water hath no air to see by, no air to hear by, he hath nothing to reach to, he touches not ground, to push him up, he feels no bough to pull him up, and therein that further notes difficultatem, the hardness of recovering. Now Moses expresses these two miseries together, in the destruction of the Egyptians, in his song, after Israel's deliverance, and the Egyptians' submersion, "The depths have covered them" (there is the supergressae super, their iniquities, in that punishment of their iniquities, were gone over their heads), and then they sank into the bottom like a stone (says Moses), there is the gravatae super, they depressed them, suppressed them, oppressed them, they were under them, and there they must lie. The Egyptians had, David had, we have, too many sins to swim above water, and too great sins to get above water again when we are sunk. John Donne.

Verse 4. As an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. No strength is so great but it may be overburdened; though Samson went light away with the gates of Gaza, yet when a whole house fell upon him it crushed him to death. And such, alas! am I; I have had sin as a burden upon me ever since I was born, but bore it a long time as light as Samson did the gates of Gaza; but now that I have pulled a whole house of sin upon me, how can I choose but be crushed to death with so great a weight? And crushed, O my soul, thou shouldest be indeed, if God for all his anger did not take some pity on thee, and for all his displeasure did not stay his hand from further chastening thee. Sir Richard Baker.

Verse 4. It is of singular use to us, that the backslidings of the holy men of God are recorded in Holy Writ. Spots appear nowhere more disagreeable than when seen in a most beautiful face, or on the cleanest garment. And it is expedient to have a perfect knowledge of the filthiness of sin. We also learn from them to think humbly of ourselves, to depend on the grace of God, to keep a stricter eye upon ourselves, lest perhaps we fall into the same or more grievous sins. Galatians 6:1 . Herman Witsius, D.D., 1636-1708.

Verse 4-5. It is only when we can enter into all that is implied here that we begin to see our exceeding sinfulness. There is a certain feeling of sin which does not interfere with our pride, and self respect. We can have that sort of feeling, and say pretty earnestly, Mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. But it is otherwise with us when we get to know ourselves better, and to feel ourselves loathsome in our wickedness, when our folly and meanness and ingratitude oppress us, and we begin to loathe ourselves, and can enter into verse five. Our wounds, once an object of self pity, and something in which we could claim sympathy and healing from our friends, have become corrupt, because of the meanness and folly we feel to be in us. We hide them now, for if they were seen, would not "lovers and friends stand aloof from our sore"? Then we are silent except to God, "For in thee, O Lord, do I hope; thou wilt hear, O Lord my God," Psalms 38:15 . O love of God that turns not away! O blessed Jesus, that turneth not away from the leprous man that fell upon his face and said, "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean, but put forth thine hand and touched him, saying, `I will: be thou clean,' to whom can we go but unto thee!" Mary B. M. Duncan.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 4. (first clause). Sin in its relations to us. To the eye pleasing. To the heart disappointing. In the bones vexing. Over the head overwhelming.

Verse 4. The confession of an awakened sinner.

Verse 4. (last clause). Sin.

  1. Heavy -- a burden.
  2. Very heavy -- A heavy burden.
  3. Superlatively heavy -- too heavy for me.
  4. Not immoveable, for though too heavy for me, yet Jesus bore it.