Psalm 77:4

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 4. Thou holdest mine eyes waking. The fears which thy strokes excite in me forbid my eyelids to fall, my eyes continue to watch as sentinels forbidden to rest. Sleep is a great comforter, but it forsakes the sorrowful, and then their sorrow deepens and eats into the soul. If God holds the eyes waking, what anodyne shall give us rest? How much we owe to him who giveth his beloved sleep!

I am so troubled that I cannot speak. Great griefs are dumb. Deep streams brawl not among the pebbles like the shallow brooklets which live on passing showers. Words fail the man whose heart fails him. He had cried to God but he could not speak to man, what a mercy it is that if we can do the first, we need not despair though the second should be quite out of our power. Sleepless and speechless Asaph was reduced to great extremities, and yet he rallied, and even so shall we.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Whole Psalm. Whenever, and by whomsoever, the Psalm may have been written, it clearly is individual, not national. It utterly destroys all the beauty, all the tenderness and depth of feeling in the opening portion, if we suppose that the people are introduced speaking in the first person. The allusions to the national history may indeed show that the season was a season of national distress, and that the sweet singer was himself bowed down by the burden of the time, and oppressed by woes which he had no power to alleviate; but it is his own sorrow, not the sorrow of others under which he sighs, and of which he has left the pathetic record. J. J. Stewart Perowne.

Verse 4. Thou holdest mine eyes waking. Thou art afflicted with want of sleep: -- A complaint incident to distempered bodies and thoughtful minds. Oh, how wearisome a thing it is to spend the long night in tossing up and down in a restless bed, in the chase of sleep; which the more eagerly it is followed, flies so much the farther from us! Couldest thou obtain of thyself to forbear the desire of it, perhaps it would come alone: now that thou suest for it, like to some froward piece, it is coy and overly, and punishes thee with thy longing. Lo, he that could command a hundred and seven and twenty provinces, yet could not command rest. `On that night his sleep departed from him,' Esther 6:1 , neither could be forced or entreated to his bed. And the great Babylonian monarch, though he had laid some hand on sleep, yet he could not hold it; for "his sleep brake from him," Da 2:1. And, for great and wise Solomon, it would not so much as come within his view. "Neither day nor night seeth he sleep with his eyes." Ecclesiastes 8:16 . Surely, as there is no earthly thing more comfortable to nature than bodily rest ( Jeremiah 31:26 ); so, there is nothing more grievous and disheartening... Instead of closing thy lids to wait for sleep, lift up thy stiff eyes to him that "giveth his beloved rest," Psalms 127:2 . Whatever be the means, he it is that holdeth mine eyes waking. He that made thine eyes, keeps off sleep from thy body, for the good of thy soul: let not thine eyes wake, without thy heart. The spouse of Christ can say, "I sleep, but my heart waketh," Song of Solomon 5:2 . How much more should she say, "Mine eyes wake, and my heart waketh also!" When thou canst not sleep with thine eyes, labour to see him that is invisible: one glimpse of that sight is more worth than all the sleep that thine eyes can be capable of. Give thyself up into his hands, to be disposed of at his will. What is this sweet acquiescence but the rest of the soul? which if thou canst find in thyself, thou shalt quietly digest the want of thy bodily sleep. Joseph Hall, in his "Balm of Gilead."

Verse 4. I am so troubled that I cannot speak. He adds that he was so cut down and lifeless that he could not speak. Little griefs, as it is often said, are uttered, great ones strike us dumb. In great troubles and fears the spirit fails the exterior members, and flows back to its fountain; the limbs stand motionless, the whole body trembles, the eyes remain fixed, and the tongue forgets its office. Hence it is that Niobe was represented by the poets as turned into a stone. The history of Psammentius also, in Herodotus, is well known, how over the misfortunes of his children he sat silent and overwhelmed, but when he saw his friend's calamities he bewailed them with bitter tears. Mollerus.

Verse 4. I am so troubled that I cannot speak. Sometimes our grief is so violent that it finds no vent, it strangles us, and we are overcome. It is with us in our desertions as with a man that gets a slight hurt; at first he walks up and down, but not looking betimes to prevent a growing mischief, the neglected wound begins to fester, or to gangrene, and brings him to greater pain and loss. So it is with us many times in our spiritual sadness; when we are first troubled, we pray and pour out our souls before the Lord; but afterwards the waters of our grief drown our cries and we are so overwhelmed, that if we might have all the world we cannot pray, or at least we can find no enlargement, no life, no pleasure in our prayers; and God himself seems to take no delight in them, and that makes us more sad, Psalms 22:1 . Timothy Rogers (1660- 1729), in "A Discourse on Trouble of Mind, and the Disease of Melancholy."

Verse 4. Troubled. Or, bruised: the Hebrew word probably signifieth an astonishment caused by some great blow received. John Diodati.

Verse 4. I cannot speak. Words are but the body, the garment, the outside of prayer; sighs are nearer the heart work. A dumb beggar getteth an alms at Christ's gates, even by making signs, when his tongue cannot plead for him; and the rather, because he is dumb. Objection. I have not so much as a voice to utter to God; and Christ saith, "Cause me to hear thy voice" ( 2:14 ). Answer. Yea, but some other thing hath a voice beside the tongue: "The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping" (Ps 6:8). Tears have a tongue, and grammar, and language, that our Father knoweth. Babes have no prayer for the breast, but weeping: the mother can read hunger in weeping. Samuel Rutherford.

Verse 4. If through all thy discouragements thy condition prove worse and worse, so that thou canst not pray, but are struck dumb when thou comest into his presence, as David, then fall making signs when thou canst not speak; groan, sigh, sob, "chatter," as Hezekiah did; bemoan thyself for thine unworthiness, and desire Christ to speak thy requests for thee, and God to hear him for thee. Thomas Goodwin.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 4.

  1. A good man cannot rest on his bed until his soul rests
    on God.
  2. He cannot speak freely to others until God speaks
    peace to his soul. G. R.

Verse 4. Occupation for the sleepless, and consolation for the speechless.