Verse 25-32. Here, it seems to me, we have the Psalmist in trouble bewailing the bondage to earthly things in which he finds his mind to be held. His soul cleaves to the dust, melts for heaviness, and cries for enlargement from its spiritual prison. In these verses we shall see the influence of the divine word upon a heart which laments its downward tendencies, and is filled with mourning because of its deadening surroundings. The word of the Lord evidently arouses prayer ( Psalms 119:25-29 ), confirms choice ( Psalms 119:30 ), and inspires renewed resolve ( Psalms 119:32 ): it is in all tribulation whether of body: or mind the surest source of help.
This portion has 'D' for its alphabetical letter: it sings of Depression, in the spirit of Devotion, Determination, and Dependence.
Verse 25. My soul cleaveth unto the dust. He means in part that he was full of sorrow; for mourners in the east cast dust on their heads, and sat in ashes, and the Psalmist felt as if these ensigns of woe were glued to him, and his very soul was made to cleave to them because of his powerlessness to rise above his grief. Does he not also mean that he felt ready to die? Did he not feel his life absorbed and fast held by the grave's mould, half choked by the death dust? It may not be straining the language if we conceive that he also felt and bemoaned his earthly mindedness and spiritual deadness. There was a tendency in his soul to cling to earth which he greatly bewailed. Whatever was the cause of his complaint, it was no surface evil, but an affair of his inmost spirit; his soul cleaved to the dust; and it was not a casual and accidental falling into the dust, but a continuous and powerful tendency, or cleaving to the earth. But what a mercy that the good man could feel and deplore whatever there was of evil in the cleaving! The serpent's seed can find their meat in the dust, but never shall the seed of the woman be thus degraded. Many are of the earth earthy, and never lament it; only the heaven born and heaven soaring spirit pines at the thought of being fastened to this world, and bird limed by its sorrows or its pleasures.
Quicken thou me according to thy word. More life is the cure for all our ailments. Only the Lord can give it. He can bestow it, bestow it at once, and do it according to his word, without departing from the usual course of his grace, as we see it mapped out in the Scriptures. It is well to know what to pray for, -- David seeks quickening: one would have thought that he would have asked for comfort or upraising, but he knew that these would come out of increased life, and therefore he sought that blessing which is the root of the rest. When a person is depressed in spirit, weak, and bent towards the ground, the main thing is to increase his stamina and put more life into him; then his spirit revives, and his body becomes erect. In reviving the life, the whole man is renewed. Shaking off the dust is a little thing by itself, but when it follows upon quickening, it is a blessing of the greatest value; just as good spirits which flow from established health are among the choicest of our mercies. The phrase, "according to thy word," means -- according to thy revealed way of quickening thy saints. The word of God shows us that he who first made us must keep us alive, and it tells us of the Spirit of God who through the ordinances pours fresh life into our souls; we beg the Lord to act towards us in this his own regular method of grace. Perhaps David remembered the word of the Lord in Deuteronomy 32:39 , where Jehovah claims both to kill and to make alive, and he beseeches the Lord to exercise that life giving power upon his almost expiring servant. Certainly, the man of God had not so many rich promises to rest upon as we have, but even a single word was enough for him, and he right earnestly urges "according to thy word." It is a grand thing to see a believer in the dust and yet pleading the promise, a man at the grave's mouth crying, "quicken me," and hoping that it shall be done.
Note how this first verse of the 4th octonary tallies with the first of the "Quicken me." While in a happy third (17). -- "That I may live"... "Quicken me." While in a happy state he begs for bountiful dealing, and when in a forlorn condition he prays for quickening. Life is in both cases the object of pursuit: that he may have life, and have it more abundantly.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
The eight verses alphabetically arranged:
Verse 25. My soul cleaveth unto the dust. The Hebrew word for "cleaveth" signifies "is joined," "has adhered," "has overtaken," "has taken hold," "has joined itself." Our soul is a polypus: as the polypus readily adheres to the rocks, so does the soul cleave to the earth; and hardly can it be torn from the place to which it has once strongly attached itself. Though thy soul be now more perfect, and escaping from the waters of sin has become a bird of heaven, be not careless; earthly things are birdlime and glue; if you rub the wings against these thou wilt be held, and joined to the earth. Thomas Le Blanc.
Verse 25. My soul cleaveth unto the dust, etc. The word rendered "cleaveth" means to be glued to; to stick fast. It has the sense of adhering firmly to anything, so that it cannot easily be separated from it. The word "dust" here may mean either the earth, and earthly things, considered as low, base, unworthy, worldly; or it may mean the grave, as if he were near to that, and in danger of dying. De Wette understands it in the latter sense. Yet the word cleave would hardly suggest this idea; and the force of that word would be better represented by the idea that his soul, as it were, adhered to the things of earth, that it seemed to be so fastened to them -- so glued to them that it could not be detached from them; that his affections were low, earthly, grovelling, so as to give him deep distress, and lead him to cry to God for Life and strength that he might break away from them. Albert Barnes.
Verse 25. My soul cleaveth unto the dust, etc. The first clause seems intended to suggest two consistent but distinct ideas, that of deep degradation, as in Psalms 44:25 , and that of death, as in Psalms 22:29 . The first would be more obvious in itself, and in connection with the parallel referred to; but the other seems to be indicated as the prominent idea by the correlative petition for quickening in the last clause. "Quicken," i.e., save me alive, or restore me to life, the Hebrew word being a causative of the verb to live. Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 25. My soul cleaveth to the dust, etc. In this verse, David hath a complaint; "My soul cleaveth to the dust"; and a prayer; Quicken thou me according to thy word. The prayer, being well considered, shall teach us the meaning of the complaint; that it was not, as some think, any hard bodily estate which grieved him, but a very sore spiritual oppression (as I may call it), bearing down his soul; that where he should have mounted up toward heaven, he was pressed down to the earth, and was so clogged with earthly cogitations, or affections, or perturbations, that he could not mount up. His particular temptation he expresses not; for the children of God many times are in that estate that they cannot tell their own griefs, and sometimes so troubled, that it is not expedient, albeit they might, to express them to others.
And hereof we learn, how that which the worldling counts wisdom, to the Christian is folly; what is joy to the one, is grief to the other. The joy of a worldling is to cleave unto the earth; when he gripes it surest, he thinks himself happiest, for it is his portion: to take heed to his worldly affairs, and have his mind upon them (in his estimation) is only wisdom. For the serpent's curse is upon him, he creeps on the earth, and licks the dust all the days of his life. This is the miserable condition of the wicked, that even their heavenly soul is become earthly. Qui secundum corporis appetentiam vivit caro est, etiam anima eorum caro est; as the Lord spake of those who perished in the Deluge, that they were but flesh, no spirit in them; that is, no spiritual or heavenly motion.
But the Christian, considering that his soul is from above, sets his affection also on those things which are above: he delights to have his conversation in heaven; and it is a grief to him when he finds his motions and affections drawn down and entangled with the earth. His life is to cleave to the Lord; but it is death to him when the neck of his soul is bowed down to the yoke of the world. William Cowper.
Verse 25. My soul cleaveth to the dust. "Look up now to the heavens." So once spake the Lord to Abraham his friend, and he speaketh thus to us also. Alas! why must it be so always that, when we come to know ourselves even but a little, we are constantly answering with the mournful sigh, "My soul cleaveth to the dust"? Ah! that is indeed the deepest pain of a soul which has already tasted that the Lord is merciful, when, although desiring to soar on high, it sadly feels how impossible it is to rise. There is much hidden pain in every heart of man even in the spiritual life; but what can deeper grieve us than the perception that we are chained as with leaden weights to things concerning which we know that they may weary but cannot satisfy us? Nay, we could never have supposed, when we first, heard the Psalm of the Good Shepherd, that it could issue from a heart that panteth after God so often and so bitterly; we could never have imagined that it could become so cold, so dry, so dark within a heart which at an earlier period had tasted so much of the power of that which is to come. Have we not formerly, with this same Psalm, been able to vaunt, "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches"? But afterwards, but now perhaps... Oh sad hours, when the beams of the sun within seem quenched, and nothing but a blond red disc remains! The fervency of the first love is cooled; earthly cares and sins have, as it were, attached a leaden plummet to the wings of the soul which, God knows, would fain soar upwards. We would render thanks, and scarce can pray; we would pray, and scarce can sigh. Our treasure is in heaven, but our soul cleaves to the earth; at least earth cleaves on all sides so to it, and weighs it down, that the eye merely sees the clouds, the tongue can but breathe forth complaints. Ah, so completely can the earth fetter us, that the heavens appear to be only a problem, and our old man is like the Giant of Mythology, who, cast to the ground in the exhausting combat, receives by contact with his mother earth fresh strength. Oh, were it otherwise! Shall it not at last, at last be altered?
Dost thou really desire it, thou who out of the depths of thy soul so complainest, and canst scarcely find more tears to bewail the sorrow of thy heart? Well is it for thee if the pain thou sufferest teach thee to cry to God: "Quicken thou me, according to thy word." Yea, this is the best comfort for him who too well knows what it is to be bowed together with pain; this is the only hope for a heart which almost sinks in still despair. There is an atmosphere of life, high above this dust which streams to us from every side, and penetrates even the darkest dungeon. There is a spring of life by which the weary soul may be refreshed; and the entrance to this spring stands open, in spite of all the clouds of dust which obscure this valley of shadows here. There is a power of life which can even so completely make an end of our dead state, that we shall walk again before the face of the Lord in the land of the living, and, instead of uttering lamentation, we shall bear a song of praise upon our lips. Does not the Prince of life yet live in order also to repeat to us, "Awake and rejoice, thou that dwellest in the dust;" and the Spirit, that bloweth whither he listeth, can, will, shall he not in his own good time, with his living breath, blow from our wings the dust that cleaveth to them? But, indeed, even the gnawing pain of the soul over so much want of spirituality and dulness is ever an encouraging sign that the good work is begun in our hearts: that which is really dead shivers no more at its own cold. "My soul cleaveth to the dust," sayest thou, with tears? thus wouldest thou not speak except that already a higher hand between the soul and this dust had cleft a hollow which was unknown to it before. No one has less cause for despair than he who has lost hope in himself, and really learns to seek in God that, which he deeply feels, he least of all can give himself.
Yes, this is the way from the deepest pain to procure the best consolation; the humble, earnest, persevering player, that he who lives would also give life to our souls, and continue to increase it, till freed from all dryness and deadness of spirit, and uprooted from the earth, we ascend to the eternal mount of light, where at last we behold all earthly clouds beneath us. This the God of life alone can work; but he is willing -- nay, we have his own word as pledge, that he promises and bestows on us true life. Only, let us not forget that he who will quicken us "according" to his word, also performs this through his word. Let us then draw from out the eternally flowing fountain, and henceforth leave it unconditionally to him, how he will listen to our cry, even though he lead us through dark paths! Even through means of death God can quicken us and keep us alive. Lo, we are here; Lord, do with us as seemeth good to thee! Only let our souls live, that they may praise thee, here and eternally! J. J. Van Oosterzee (1817-1882), in "The Year of Salvation."
Verse 25. Cleaveth to the dust. Is weighed down by the flesh which itself is dust. James G. Murphy.
Verse 25. The dust, is the place of the afflicted, the wounded, and the dead. Quicken me, viz., to life, peace, and joy. A. R. Fausset.
Verse 25. Quicken thou me, etc. Seeing he was alive, how prays he that God would quicken him? I answer, -- The godly esteem of life, not according to that they have in their body, but in their soul. If the soul lacks the sense of mercy, and a heavenly disposition to spiritual things, they lament over it, as a dead soul: for sure it is, temporal desertions are more heavy to the godly than temporal death. According to thy word. This is a great faith, that where in respect of his present feeling he found himself dead, yet he hopes for life from God, according to his promise. Such was the faith of Abraham, who under hope, believed above hope. And truly, many times are God's children brought to this estate, that they have nothing to uphold them but the word of God; no sense of mercy, no spiritual disposition; but on the contrary, great darkness, horrible fears and terrors. Only they are sustained by looking to the promise of God, and kept in some hope that he will restore them to life again, because it is his praise to finish the work which he begins. William Cowper.
Verse 25. Quicken thou me. This phrase occurs nine times, and only in this Psalm. It is of great importance, as it expresses the spiritual change by which a child of Adam becomes a child of God. Its source is God; the instrument by which it is effected is the word, Ps 119:50. James G. Murphy.
Verse 25 Quicken thou me according to thy word. Where there is life there will be the endeavour to rise -- the believer will not lie prone in his aspirations after God. From the lowest depths the language of faith is heard ascending to God most high, who performeth all things for the believer. The true child cannot but look towards the loving Father, who is the Almighty, All sufficient One. Have you not found it so? But will you mark the intelligence that shines around the believer's prayer? He prays that the Lord may quicken him according to his word. The word may be regarded in the light of the standard after which he is to be fashioned; or the Psalmist may have in view the requirements contained in the word regarding the believer's progress; or he may be thinking of the promises found therein in behalf of the poor and needy when they apply. Indeed, all these significations may be wrapped up in the one expression -- "according to thy word" -- the standard of perfection, the requirements of the word, -- the promises concerning it. The great exemplar of the believer is Christ, -- of old it was the Christ of prophecy. Then the requirements of the Lord's will were scattered through the word. The Psalmist, however, may be dwelling upon the large promises which the Lord hath given towards the perfecting of his people. You see after what the spiritual nature aspires. It is quite enough to the natural man or the formalist that he be as the generally well behaved and esteemed among professors -- the spiritual man aspires beyond -- he aspires after being quickened according to God's word. Judge of yourselves. John Stephen.
Verse 25. Quicken thou me according to thy word. By thy providence put life into my affairs, by thy grace put life into my affections; cure me of my spiritual deadness, and make me lively in my devotion. Matthew Henry.
Verse 25. Quicken thou me according to thy word, Albeit the Lord suffer his own to lie so long low in their heavy condition of spirit, that they may seem dead; yet by faith in his word he keepeth in them so much life as doth furnish unto them prayer to God for comfort: "Quicken thou me according to thy word." David Dickson.
Verse 25 Quicken thou me. To whom shall the godly fly when life faileth but to that Wellspring of all life? Even as to remove cold the next way is to draw near the fire, so to dispel any death, the next way is to look to him who is our root, by whom we live this natural life. All preservatives and restoratives are nothing, all colleges of physicians are vanity, if compared with him. Other things which have not life, give life as the instruments of him who is life, as fire burneth being the instrument of heat. "When heart and flesh fail, God is the strength of my heart." As a man can let a fire almost go out which had been kindled, and then blow it up, and by application of new fuel make it blaze as much as ever: so can God deal with this flame of life which he hath kindled. Paul Bayne.
Verse 25. According to thy word. The word removes deadness of conscience and hardness. Is not this word a hammer to soften the heart, and is not this the immortal seed by which we are begotten again? Therefore David, finding his conscience in a dead frame, prayed, "My soul cleaveth to the dust; quicken thou me according to thy word." The word is the first thing by which conscience is purified and set right. John Sheffield, in "A Good Conscience the Strongest Hold," 1650.
Verse 25. According to thy word. What word doth David mean? Either the general promises in the books of Moses or Job; which intimate deliverance to the faithful observers of God's law, or help to the miserable and distressed; or some particular promise given to him by Nathan, or others. Chrysostom saith, "Quicken me according to thy word: but it is not a word of command, but a word of promise." Mark here, -- he doth not say secundum meritum meum, but, secundum verbum tuum; the hope, or that help which we expect from God, is founded upon his word; there is our security, in his promises, not in our deserving: Prommittendo se fecit debitorem, etc.
When there was so little Scripture written, yet David could find out a word for his support. Alas! in our troubles and afflictions, no promise comes to mind. As in outward things, many that have less live better than those that have abundance; so here, now Scripture is so large, we are less diligent, and therefore, though we have so many promises, we are apt to faint, we have not a word to bear us up. This word did not help David, till he had lain so long under this heavy condition, that he seemed dead. Many, when they have a promise, think presently to enjoy the comfort of it. No, waiting and striving are first necessary. We never relish the comfort of the promises till the creatures have spent their allowance, and we have been exercised. God will keep his word, and yet we must expect to be tried.
In this his dead condition, faith in God's word kept him alive. When we have least feeling, and there is nothing left us, the word will support us: "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief but was strong in faith, giving glory to God" ( Romans 4:19-20 ). One way to get comfort is to plead the promise of God in prayer, Chirographa tua injiciebat tibi Domine, show him his handwriting; God is tender of his word. These arguments in prayer, are not to work upon God, but ourselves. Thomas Manton
Verse 25. One does not wonder at the fluctuations which occur in the feelings and experience of a child of God -- at one time high on the mountain, near to God and communing with God, at another in the deep and dark valley. All, more or less, know these changes, and have their sorrowing as well as their rejoicing seasons. When we parted with David last, what was he telling us of his experience? that God's testimonies were his delight and his counsellors; but now what a different strain! all joy is darkened, and his soul cleaveth to the dust. And there must have been seasons of deep depression and despondency in the heart of David -- given as a fugitive and wanderer from his home, hunted as a partridge upon the mountains, and holding, as he himself says, his life continually in his hands. Yet I think in this portion of the Psalm there is evidence of a deeper abasement and sorrow of heart than any mere worldly suffering could produce. He had indeed said, "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul"; but, even in that moment of weak and murmuring faith, he knew that he was God's anointed one to sit on the throne of Israel. But, here there is indication of sin, of grievous sin which had laid his soul low in the dust; and I think the petition in Psalms 119:29 gives us some clue to what that sin had been: "Remove me from the way of lying." Had David -- you may well ask in wonder -- had David ever lied? had he ever deviated from the strait and honourable path of truth I am afraid we must own that he had at one time gone so near the confines of a falsehood, that he would be but a poor casuist and a worse moralist who should attempt to defend the Psalmist from the imputation. We cannot read the 27th chapter of the 1st of Samuel without owning into what a sad tissue of equivocation and deceit David was unhappily seduced. Well might his soul cleave to the dust as he reviewed that period of his career; and though grace did for him what it afterwards did for Peter, and he was plucked as a brand out of the burning, yet one can well imagine that like the Apostle afterwards, when he thought thereon he wept, and that bitterly. Barton Bouchier.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, By Pastor C. A. Davis.
Verse 25-32. -- Quickening. Prayed for with confession ( Psalms 119:25-26 ). When obtained shall be talked of ( Psalms 119:27 ). Desired for the sake of strength ( Psalms 119:28 ), of truthfulness ( Psalms 119:29-31 ), and of activity ( Psalms 119:32 ).
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 25. --
Verse 25. -- Quicken thou me, etc.
(b) The influence of vanity (see Psalms 119:37 ).
(c) Because we are surrounded by deceivers (see Psalms 119:87-88 ).
(d) Because of the effect of seasons of affliction upon us (see Psalms 119:7 ).
(d) In order to obedience (see Psalms 119:88 ).
(f) As the best security against the attacks of enemies ( Psalms 119:87-88 ).
(g) To invigorate our memories ( Psalms 119:93 ).
(b) By the turning of the eyes ( Psalms 119:37 ).
(c) By the word ( Psalms 119:50 ).
(d) By the precepts ( Psalms 119:93 ).
(e) By affliction ( Psalms 119:107 ).
(b) Our earnest desire ( Psalms 119:40 ).
(c) Appeal to God's righteousness ( Psalms 119:40 ).