Verse 11. "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee." When thy people cannot sing, and dare not shout aloud, then let their silent sigh ascend into thine ear, and secure for them deliverance. These words are suitable for the afflicted in a great variety of conditions; men of experience will know how to adapt them to their own position and to use them in reference to others.
"According to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die." Faith grows while it prays; the appeal to the Lord's tender mercy is here supplemented by another addressed to the divine power, and the petitioner rises from a request for those who are brought low, to a prayer for those who are on the verge of death, set apart as victims for the slaughter. How consoling is it to desponding believers to reflect that God can preserve even those who bear the sentence of death in themselves. Men and devils may consign us to perdition, while sickness drags us to the grave, and sorrow sinks us in the dust; but, there is One who can keep our soul alive, aye, and bring it up again from the depths of despair. A lamb shall live between the lion's jaws if the Lord wills it. Even in the charnel, life shall vanquish death if God be near.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 11. "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee." The propriety of styling the sons of Adam "prisoners," can scarcely fail to be discerned when we remember the restraint which the immortal spirit endures whilst it inhabits its present earthly house, or recollects the hardships to which many of our race are subjected, or, once more, the degrading slavery to which they reduce themselves by serving their own lusts and refusing to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ would make them free. Now, in whichever of these senses men are prisoners, it is clear that they have occasion and that they are wont to sigh, and that it is the part of the pious and faithful believer in God to bear this in mind, and, inasmuch as he has put on bowels of compassion, to say, as well for others as for himself, "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee." Three things, then, are suggested by the first clause of the passage before us. The first is, that all who live in this world are prisoners...We would go on to remark, secondly, that these various prisoners have their respective sorrowful sighing. Thirdly, then, let it be observed, will the believer, conscious of these several sighing of the crowd of prisoners whom he sees all around him, pray to the Almighty that they may come before his everlasting presence. W. C. Le Breton. 1849.
Verse 11. "The sighing." The nature of a sigh will suggest to us some important particulars connected with the state of bondage spoken of in the text. A sigh is an unexpressed declaration. Although we do not speak, still we can tell a long tale of sorrow with a sigh. How often the mourner who will not tell a human being of his grief, will vent it when he is alone, with a long drawn, an uneven sigh! Now, I direct your attention to this, because it is a perfect picture of the spiritual condition in which some men are. They are not loud in their complaints; they are not standing in the corners of the streets proclaiming their exceeding sinfulness; they are not continually making their neighbours and their friends hear them preach about their vileness -- a vileness which, if any one else attributed to them, would stir up all their wrath. Theirs is not the character of men in strife; but of men bearing a heavy burden, which presses from them an evidence of what they endure. And if any of you, brethren, thus walk in sighs and sorrow before God, he takes these sighs as applications to him for relief. Your misery, if entirely pent in, would be obstinate impenitency, but if vented, even in a sigh, is a declaration of your need. Let me encourage you, brethren, not to spare these evidences of your state. There are times when you feel so dead that you cannot enter into long confessions; when the spirit is so weary that you feel that you cannot speak. Much might at such a season be spoken by a sigh, "Destroy it not," we say, "for a blessing is in it:" pour it forth, and it will reach the throne. And here it will prove to be not only an unexpressed declaration of your state, but also an unexpressed wish for deliverance therefrom. When the captive gazes through the bars of iron which night and day stand like mute sentinels before the narrow window of his cell, and when his eyes fall upon the green fields and groves beyond, he sighs, and turns away from the scene with a wish. He spake not a word, yet he wished. That sigh was a wish that he could be set free. And such sighs as these are heard by God. Your longings, your sorrows, when they are not fulfilled, your sad thoughts, -- "Oh! when shall I be delivered from the burden of my sin, and from the coldness of my heart!" -- all these wishes were your sighs, and they have been heard on high. Philip Bennett Power.
Verse 11. "The prisoner." An eastern prison is still a place of great misery, chiefly from the limited supply of water to the prisoners. Daniel Cresswell.
Verse 11. "Come before thee."
Though not a human voice he hears,
And not a human form appears
His solitude to share,
He is not all alone -- the eye
Of Him who hears the prisoner's sigh
Is even on him there. J. L. Chester.
Verse 11. "Preserve thou those that are appointed to die." Ought not the pious people more closely to imitate their heavenly Father in caring for those who have been condemned to die? An eminent Christian lady keeps a record of all who have been sentenced to death, so far as she hears of them, and prays for them every day till their end come. Is not such conduct in sympathy with the heart of God! William S. Plumer.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- The prisoner.
- Under forced bondage to sin.
- Under the bondage of conviction.
- In the dungeon of despair.
- The prisoner's application for relief.
- The source from which he looked for help. P. B. Power.
- The degree of protection solicited: "According to the
greatness of thy power."
- The protection itself: "Preserve thou."
- The objects of it: "Those that are appointed to die." W. C. Le Breton.
- Mournful condition. A prisoner, sighing, appointed to
- Hopeful facts: a God, a God hearing sighs, a God of
- Suitable prayers: "come before thee": "preserve."
Verse 11. "Appointed to die," used as a description of deep spiritual distress. Fears of the divine decree, of having apostatised, of having sinned away the day of grace, of the sin which is unto death, &c. How these cases can be effectually met.