Psalm 88:8

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 8. Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me. If ever we need friends it is in the dreary hour of despondency and the weary time of bodily sickness; therefore does the sufferer complain because divine providence had removed his friends. Perhaps his disease was infectious or defiling, so that he was legally separated from his fellow men, perhaps their fears kept them away from his plague stricken house, or else his good name had become so injured that they naturally avoided him. Lost friends require but small excuse for turning their backs on the afflicted. The swallows offer no apology for leaving us to winter by ourselves. Yet it is a piercing pain which arises from the desertion of dear associates; it is a wound which festers and refuses to be healed.

Thou hast made me an abomination unto them. They turned from him as though he had become loathsome and contaminating, and this because of something which the Lord had done to him; therefore, he brings his complaint to the prime mover in his trouble. He who is still flattered by the companions of his pleasure can little guess the wretchedness which will be his portion should he become poor, or slanderously accused, for then one by one the parasites of his prosperity will go their way and leave him to his fate, not without cutting remarks on their part to increase his misery. Men have not so much power to bless by friendship as to curse by treachery. Earth's poisons are more deadly than her medicines are healing. The mass of men who gather around a man and flatter him are like tame leopards; when they lick his hand it is well for him to remember that with equal gusto they would drink his blood. "Cursed is he that trusteth in man."

I am shut up, and I cannot come forth. He was a prisoner in his room, and felt like a leper in the lazaretto, or a condemned criminal in his cell. His mind, too, was bound as with fetters of iron; he felt no liberty of hope, he could take no flights of joy. When God shuts friends out, and shuts us in to pine away alone, it is no wonder if we water our couch with tears.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 8. -- There are times when an unspeakable sadness steals upon me, an immense loneliness takes possession of my soul, a longing perchance for some vanished hand and voice to comfort me as of old, a desolation without form and void, that wraps me in its folds, and darkens my inmost being. It was not thus in the first days of my illness. Then all was so new and strange, that a strange spiritual strength filled my soul, and seemed to bear me up as with angel hands. The love and kindness that my sickness called forth, came to me with a sweet surprise; tender solicitude made my very pain into an occasion of joy to me; and hope was strong and recovery was near, only a few brief weeks between me and returning health, with nothing of sickness remaining, but the memory of all that love and sympathy, like a line of light my Saviour's feet had left, as he walked with me on the troubled sea.

But now that hope is deferred, and returning health seems to loiter by the way, and recovery is delayed, and the trial lengthens out like an ever lengthening chain, my soul begins to faint and tire, and the burden to grow heavier. Even to those who love me most, my pain and helplessness is now an accustomed thing, while to me it keeps its keen edge of suffering, but little dulled by use. My ills to them are a tedious oft told tale which comes with something of a dull reiterance. It has become almost a matter of course that in the pleasant plan I should be left out, that in the pleasant walk I should be left behind; a matter of course that the pleasures of life should pass me by with folded hand and averted face; and sickness, and monotonous days, and grey shadows should be my portion ...

And O my God, my spirit sometimes faints beneath a nameless dread that this loneliness will grow deeper and deeper, if it be thy will that my sickness should continue, or recovery be long delayed. I can no longer be the companion of those I love; shall I be as dear to them as if I could have kept by their side, and been bound up with all their active interests and pleasures? I have to see others take my place, and do my work for them; shall I not suffer loss in their eyes, and others enter into the heritage of love which might have been mine? Will they not grow weary of me, weary of the same old ills, oft repeated, but ever new, and turn with an unconscious feeling of relief, to brighter hearts, and more joyous lives?

My God, my God, to whom can I turn for comfort but unto thee, thou who didst drink the bitter cup of human loneliness to the dregs that thou mightest make thyself a brother to the lonely, a merciful and faithful High Priest to the desolate soul; thou who alone canst pass within, the doors being shut to all human aid, into that secret place of thunder, where the tempest tossed soul suffers and struggles alone; thou who alone canst command the winds and tempests, and say unto the sea "Be still!" and unto the wind, "Blow not!" and there shall be a great calm.

As a child alone in the dark, my heart cries out for thee, cries for thine embracing arms, for thy voice of comfort, for thy pierced heart on which to rest my aching head, and feel that Love is near. --From "Christ the Consoler. A Book of Comfort for the Sick." Anon. 1872.

Verse 8. Thou hast put away mine acquaintance. This tempest of afflictions is all the heavier, because, First, all my acquaintance departed far from me, like swallows in winter time: Proverbs 14:20 . The poor is hated even of his own neighbour, but, but the rich hath many friends. Seneca wisely admonishes: Flies follow honey, wolves corpses, ants food, the mob follows the pay, not the man. Job said, ( Job 19:13 ), He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. Secondly, not only do they often depart from the afflicted, but they themselves add to his trouble, and precipitate his falling fortune. A rich man beginning to fall is held up by his friends; but a poor man being down, is thrust away by those who once pretended to love him. --Le Blanc.

Verse 8. Thou hast made me an abomination unto them: lit, "abominations", as if I were one great mass of abominations. ( Genesis 46:34 43:32). As Israel was an abomination to the Egyptians, so Messiah, the antitypical Israel, was to the world. --A.R. Fausset.

Verse 8. An abomination. As one who is unclean, -- excluded from social intercourse; Ge 46:34. Compare Job 9:31 19:19 30:10. "I cannot come forth." The man suspected of leprosy was "shut up seven days"; Leviticus 13:4 . -- William Kay.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 8. (last clause). -- This may describe us when despondency is chronic, when trouble is overwhelming, when sickness detains us at home, when we feel restrained in Christian labour, or hampered in prayer.