Verse 47. Remember how short my time is. If so brief, do not make it altogether bitter. If thine anger burn on it will outlast this mortal life, and then there will be no time for thy mercy to restore me. Some expositors ascribe these words, and all the preceding verses, to the state of the Lord Jesus in the days of his humiliation, and this gives an instructive meaning; but we prefer to continue our reference all through to the church, which is the seed of the Lord Jesus, even as the succeeding kings were the seed of David. We, having transgressed, are made to feel the rod, but we pray the Lord not to continue his stripes lest our whole life be passed in misery.
Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? If the Lord do not shine upon his work we live for nothing -- we count it no longer life if his cause does not prosper. We live if the King lives, but not else. Everything is vanity if religion be vanity. If the kingdom of heaven should fail, everything is a failure. Creation is a blot, providence an error, and our own existence a bell, if the faithfulness of God can fail and his covenant of grace can be dissolved. If the gospel system can be disproved, nothing remains for us or any other of the sons of men, which can render existence worth the having.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 47. Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? If I should demand of any, for what cause especially man came into the world; he would answer with the Psalmist, God did not create man in vain. Did He create man to heap up wealth together? no, for the apostle saith. "We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And, having food and raiment, let us be therewith content." 1 Timothy 6:6-8 . Did he create him to hawk after power and principality? no, for Nebuchadnezzar lusting after these, lost no less than a kingdom. Did He create him to eat, drink and play? no, for Seneca, though an heathen saith, major sum, etc., I am greater, and born to greater things, than that I should be a vile slave of my senses. What then is the proper end of man? That we should live to the praise of the glory of his grace wherewith he hath made us freely accepted in his Beloved. Ephesians 1:6 . --William Pulley.
Verse 47. Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? If we think that God hath made man "in vain", because so many have short lives, and long afflictions in this world, it is true that God "hath made" them so; but it is not true, that therefore they are "made in vain". For those whose days are few and full of trouble, yet may glorify God, and do some good, may keep their communion with God, and go to heaven, and then they are not made in vain. If we think that God has made men in vain, because the most of men neither serve him nor enjoy him, it is true, that as to themselves, they were made in vain, better for them they had not been born, than not be "born again"; but it was not owing to God, that they were made in vain, it was owing to themselves; nor are they made in vain as to him; for he has "made all things for himself, even the wicked for the day of evil", and those whom he is not glorified by he will be glorified upon. -- Matthew Henry.
Verse 47. Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? When I add to the consideration of my short time, that of dying mankind, and behold a dark and deadly shade universally overspreading the world, the whole species of human creatures vanishing, quitting the stage round about me, and disappearing almost as soon as they show themselves; have I not a fair and plausible ground for that (seemingly rude) challenge? Why is there so unaccountable a phenomenon? Such a creature made to no purpose; the noblest part of this inferior creation brought forth into being without any imaginable design? I know not how to untie the knot, upon this only view of the case, or avoid the absurdity. It is hard sure to design the supposal, (or what it may yet seem hard to suppose), "that all men were made in vain." --John Howe.
Verse 47. Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? Two thoughts crush us -- Man was made to mourn, and man was made in vain. Yes, this thought is painfully pressed upon us, -- man is "made in vain!" In how many particulars, especially when we survey that large range of characters to which we may give the denomination of wasted lives; there to behold peerless genius frittering itself away upon unworthy attainments, upon worthless performances; imagination that might adorn truth, if that were possible; wit, that might select and discriminate the true from the false; and eloquence that might enforce the true; -- where do we find these? Unsatisfactory and miserable world, may we well exclaim, where nothing is real, and nothing is realised: when I consider how our lives are passed in the struggle for existence; when I consider the worry of life, where it is not a woe -- the woe, where it is not a worry; when I consider how the millions pass their time in a mere toil for sensual objects, and that those to whom the sad contradiction of life never comes, are the most wretched of all, did they but know it; when I consider the millions of distorted existences; and the many millions! -- the greater number of the world by far -- who wander Christless, loveless, hopeless, over the broad highway of it; when I consider life in many of the awakened as a restless dream, as children beating the curtain and crying in the night; when I consider how many questions recur for ever to us; and will not be silenced, and cannot be answered; when I consider the vanity of the philosopher's inquisitiveness, and the end of Royalty in the tomb; when I look round on the region of my own joys, and know how short their lease is, and that their very ineffableness is a blight upon them; when I consider how little the best can do, and that none can do anything well; and, finally, when I consider the immeasurable immensity of thought within, unfulfilled, and the goading restlessness, I can almost exclaim with our unhappy poet Byron --
"Count all the joys thine hours have seen,
Count all thy days from anguish free,
And know, whatever thou last been,
It were something better not to be." --E. Paxton Hood, in "Dark Sayings on a Harp", 1865.
Verse 47-48. In these verses, the fundamental condition of Israel's blessedness is found to be an acknowledgment of the total unprofitableness of the flesh. Resurrection is the basis upon which the sure mercies of David rest availably for faith ( Acts 13:34 ). This is rather implied than directly stated in the present Psalm. --Arthur Pridham.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- An appeal to divine goodness. "Remember", etc. Let not my life be all trouble and sorrow.
- To divine wisdom. "Wherefore", etc. Was man made only to be miserable? Will not man have been made in vain if his life be but short, and that short life be nothing but sorrow?