Psalm 39:12

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 12. Hear my prayer, O Lord. Drown not my pleadings with the sound of thy strokes. Thou hast heard the clamour of my sins, Lord; hear the laments of my prayers. And give ear unto my cry. Here is an advance in intensity: a cry is more vehement, pathetic, and impassioned, than a prayer. The main thing was to have the Lord's ear and heart. Hold not thy peace at my tears. This is a yet higher degree of importunate pleading. Who can withstand tears, which are the irresistible weapons of weakness? How often women, children, beggars, and sinners, have betaken themselves to tears as their last resort, and therewith have won the desire of their hearts! -- "This shower, blown up by tempest of the soul," falls not in vain. Tears speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues; they act as keys upon the wards of tender hearts, and mercy denies them nothing, if through them the weeper looks to richer drops, even to the blood of Jesus. When our sorrows pull up the sluices of our eyes, God will ere long interpose and turn our mourning into joy. Long may he be quiet as though he regarded not, but the hour of deliverance will come, and come like the morning when the dewdrops are plentiful. For I am a stranger with thee. Not to thee, but with thee. Like thee, my Lord, a stranger among the sons of men, an alien from my mother's children. God made the world, sustains it, and owns it, and yet men treat him as though he were a foreign intruder; and as they treat the Master, so do they deal with the servants. "It is no surprising thing that we should be unknown." These words may also mean, "I share the hospitality of God," like a stranger entertained by a generous host. Israel was bidden to deal tenderly with the stranger, and the God of Israel has in much compassion treated us poor aliens with unbounded liberality. And a sojourner, as all my fathers were. They knew that this was not their rest; they passed through life in pilgrim guise, they used the world as travellers use an inn, and even so do

  1. Why should we dream of rest on earth when our fathers' sepulchres are before our eyes? If they had been immortal, their sons would have had an abiding city this side the tomb; but as the sires were mortal, so must their offspring pass away. All of our lineage, without exception, were passing pilgrims, and such are we. David uses the fleeting nature of our life as an argument for the Lord's mercy, and it is such a one as God will regard. We show pity to poor pilgrims, and so will the Lord.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 12. Hear my prayer, O Lord, etc. Now, in this prayer of David, we find three things, which are the chief qualifications of all acceptable prayers. The first is humility. He humbly confesses his sins, and his own weakness and worthlessness. We are not to put on a stoical, flinty kind of spirit under our affliction, that so we may seem to shun womanish repinings and complaints, lest we run into the other evil, of despising the hand of God, but we are to humble our proud hearts, and break our unruly passions ... The second qualification of this prayer is, fervency and importunity, which appears in the elegant gradation of the words, Hear my prayer, my words; if not that, yet, Give ear to my cry, which is louder; and if that prevail not, yet, Hold not thy peace at my tears, which is the loudest of all; so David, elsewhere, calls it the voice of weeping. ... The third qualification is faith. "He who comes to God must believe that he is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Hebrews 11:6 . And, certainly, as he that comes to God must believe this, so he that believes this, cannot but come to God; and if he be not presently answered, "he that believes makes no haste," he resolves patiently to wait for the Lord, and go to no other. Condensed from Robert Leighton.

Verse 12. Hold not thy peace at my tears. We may, in all humility, plead our heart breakings and weepings in sense of want of mercies which we crave, and our pantings and faintings after the same. Thomas Cobbett.

Verse 12. For I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. Both in thy judgment expressed Leviticus 25:23 , and in their own opinion Hebrews 11:13 . Upon which account thou didst take a special care of them, and therefore do so to me also. Matthew Poole.

Verse 12. I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner. How settled soever their condition be, yet this is the temper of the saints upon earth -- to count themselves but strangers. All men indeed are strangers and sojourners, but the saints do best discern it, and most freely acknowledge it. Wicked men have no firm dwelling upon earth, but that is against their intentions; their inward thought and desire is that they may abide for ever; they are strangers against their wills, their abode is uncertain in the world, and they cannot help it. And pray mark, there are two distinct words used in this case, strangers and sojourners. A stranger is one that hath his abode in a foreign country, that is not a native and a denizen of the place, though he liveth there, and in opposition to the natives he is called a stranger: as if a Frenchman should live in England, he is a stranger. But a sojourner is one that intends not to settle, but only passes through a place, and is in motion travelling homeward. So the children of God in relation to a country of their own in another place, namely, heaven, they are denizens there, but strangers in the world; and they are sojourners and pilgrims in regard of their motion and journey towards their country. Thomas Manton.

Verse 12. A Stranger.

  1. A stranger is one that is absent from his country, and from his father's house: so are we, heaven is our country, God is there, and Christ is there.
  2. A stranger in a foreign country is not known, nor valued according to his birth and breeding: so the saints walk up and down in the world like princes in disguise.
  3. Strangers are liable to inconveniences: so are godly men in the world. Religion, saith Tertullian, is like a strange plant brought from a foreign country, and doth not agree with the nature of the soil, it thrives not in the world.
  4. A stranger is patient, standeth not for ill usage, and is contented with pilgrim's fare and lodging. We are now abroad and must expect hardship.
  5. A stranger is wary, that he may not give offence, and incur the hatred and displeasure of the natives.
  6. A stranger is thankful for the least favour; so we must be thankfully contented with the things God hath bestowed upon us: anything in a strange country is much.
  7. A stranger, that hath a journey to go, would pass over it as soon as he can, and so we, who have a journey to heaven desire to be dissolved.
  8. A stranger buyeth not such things as he cannot carry with him; he doth not buy trees, house, household stuff, but jewels and pearls, and such things as are portable. Our greatest care should be to get the jewels of the covenant, the graces of God's Spirit, those things that will abide with us.
  9. A stranger's heart is in his country; so is a saint's.
  10. A stranger is inquisitive after the way, fearing lest he should go amiss, so is a Christian.
  11. A stranger provides for his return, as a merchant, that he may return richly laden. So we must appear before God in Sion. What manner of persons ought we to be? Let us return from our travel well provided. Condensed from Thomas Manton.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 12. David pleads the good impressions made upon him by his affliction.

  1. It had set him a weeping.
  2. It had set him a praying.
  3. It had helped to wean him from the world.

Matthew Henry.

Verse 12. (last clause). Am I a stranger and a sojourner with God? Let me realise, let me exemplify the condition.

  1. Let me look for the treatment such characters commonly meet with.
  2. And surely if any of my own nation be near me, I shall be intimate with them.
  3. Let me not be entangled in the affairs of this life.
  4. Let my affection be set on things that are above, and my conversation be always in heaven.
  5. Let me be not impatient for home; but prizing it.

W. Jay.