Verse 4. When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me. When he harped upon his woes his heart melted into water and was poured out upon itself. God hidden, and foes raging, a pair of evils enough to bring down the stoutest heart! Yet why let reflections so gloomy engross us, since the result is of no value: merely to turn the soul on itself, to empty it from itself into itself is useless, how much better to pour out the heart before the Lord! The prisoner's tread wheel might sooner land him in the skies than mere inward questioning raise us nearer to consolation. For I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God. Painful reflections were awakened by the memory of past joys; he had mingled in the pious throng, their numbers had helped to give him exhilaration and to awaken holy delight, their company had been a charm to him as with them he ascended the hill of Zion. Gently proceeding with holy ease, in comely procession, with frequent strains of song, he and the people of Jehovah had marched in reverent ranks up to the shrine of sacrifice, the dear abode of peace and holiness. Far away from such goodly company the holy man pictures the sacred scene and dwells upon the details of the pious march. With the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday. The festive noise is in his ears, and the solemn dance before his eyes. Perhaps he alludes to the removal of the ark and to the glorious gatherings of the tribes on that grand national holy day and holiday. How changed his present place! For Zion, a wilderness; for the priests in white linen, soldiers in garments of war; for the song, the sneer of blasphemy; for the festivity, lamentation; for joy in the Lord, a mournful dirge over his absence.
"I sigh to think of happier days
When thou, O God, wast nigh,
When every heart was tuned to praise;
And none more blest than I."
When in a foreign land, amid the idolatries of Popery, we have felt just the same home sickness for the house of the Lord which is here described; we have said, "Ziona, Ziona, our holy and beautiful house, when shall I see thee again? Thou church of the living God, my mother, my home, when shall I hear thy psalms and holy prayers, and once again behold the Lord in the midst of his people" David appears to have had a peculiarly tender remembrance of the singing of the pilgrims, and assuredly it is the most delightful part of worship and that which comes nearest to the adoration of heaven. What a degradation to supplant the intelligent song of the whole congregation by the theatrical prettiness of a quartet, the refined niceties of a choir, or the blowing off of wind from inanimate bellows and pipes! We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4. When I remember these things, etc. To a person in misery it is a great increase of misery to have been once happy: it was to David an occasion of new tears when he remembered his former joys. Time was, says the poor soul, when I thought of God with comfort, and when I thought of him as my own God; and to lose a God that I once enjoyed is the loss of all my losses, and of all my terrors the most terrible. Time was when I could go and pray to him, and ease myself in prayer; but now I have no boldness, no hope, no success in prayer. I cannot call him my Father any more. Time was when I could read the Bible and treasure up the promises, and survey the land of Canaan as my own inheritance; but now I dare not look into the Word lest I read my own condemnation there. The Sabbath was formerly to me as one of the days of heaven, but now it is also, as well as the rest, a sad and mournful day. I formerly rejoiced in the name of Christ, "I sat under his shadow." Song of Solomon 2:3 . I was in his eyes as one that found favour; but now my soul is like the deserts of Arabia, I am scorched with burning heat. From how great a height have I fallen! How fair was I once for heaven and for salvation, and now am like to come short of it! I once was flourishing in the courts of the Lord, and now all my fruit is blasted and withered away: "his dew lay all night upon my branches," but now I am like the mountains of Gilboa, no rain falls upon me. Had I never heard of heaven I could not have been so miserable as I now am: had I never known God, the loss of him had not been so terrible as now it is like to be. Job 29:2-3 . Timothy Rogers.
Verse 4. (first clause). The blessedness of even the remembrance of divine worship is so great, that it can save the soul from despair. J. P. Lange's Commentary.
Verse 4. I pour out my soul. The very soul of prayer lies in the pouring out of the soul before God. Thomas Brooks.
Verse 4. I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday. The gracious God is pleased to esteem it his glory to have many beggars thronging at the beautiful gate of his temple, for spiritual and corporal alms. What an honour is it to our great Landlord that multitudes of tenants flock together to his house to pay their rent of thanks and worship for their all which they hold of him! How loud and lovely is the noise of many golden trumpets! Good Lord, what an echo do they make in heaven's ears! When many skilful musicians play in concert with well tuned and prepared instruments the music cannot but be ravishing to God himself. George Swinnock.
Verse 4. Do but consider David's tears and grief for want of, and his fervent prayers for the fruition of public ordinances even then, when he had opportunities for private performances; and surely thou wilt esteem the ministry of the Word no mean mercy. See his sorrow when he was driven from God's sanctuary. When I remember these things I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God." "My soul is poured out; that is, I am overwhelmed with grief, and ever ready to die when I compare my present condition with my former happiness in the fruition of religious assemblies. There is an elegancy in the phrase poured out; the word is applied to water, or any liquid thing, and in Scripture signifieth abundance. Joel 2:28 . My life is ready to be poured out as water upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again, when I remember my former mercies, and consider my present misery ... The loss of his father, mother, wives, children, lands, liberty -- nay, of his very life, would not have gone so near his heart as the loss of public ordinances. As his sorrow was great for the want, so was his suit most earnest for the enjoyment of them. How many a prayer doth he put up for the liberty of the tabernacle! Psalms 43:3-4 27:4,8. It is the one thing, the principal thing which he begs of God. Henry Smith.
Verse 4. The bias of the soul is remarkably shown by the objects of regretful recollection. Henry March.
Verse 4. With a multitude that kept holy day.
Though private prayer be a brave design
Yet public hath more promises, more love:
And love's a weight to hearts, to eyes a sign.
We all are but cold suitors; let us move
Where it is warmest. Leave thy six and seven;
Pray with the most: for where most pray, is heaven. George Herbert, in "The Temple."
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 4. I pour out my soul in me. The uselessness of mistrustful introspection.
Verse 4. I had gone with the multitude, etc. Company, if it be that which is good, is a very blessed and comfortable accommodation in sundry respects.
Verse 4. I had gone, etc. Sunny memories, their lessons of gratitude and hope.
Verse 4. (last clause). Not Chaucer's tales of the Canterbury pilgrims, but David's tales of the Jerusalem pilgrims.
Verse 4. With the voice, etc. Congregational singing defended, extolled, discriminated, and urged.