Verse 4-9. Here we have a controversy between the pleader and his God. He has been a tender friend to the poor, and yet in the hour of his need the promised assistance was not forthcoming. In our Lord's case there was a dark and dreary night in which such arguments were well befitting himself and his condition.
Verse 4. I said -- said it in earnest prayer -- Lord, be merciful unto me. Prove now thy gracious dealings with my soul in adversity, since thou didst aforetime give me grace to act liberally in my prosperity. No appeal is made to justice; the petitioner but hints at the promised reward, but goes straightforward to lay his plea at the feet of mercy. How low was our Redeemer brought when such petitions could come from his reverend mouth, when his lips like lilies dropped such sweet smelling but bitter myrrh! Heal my soul. My time of languishing is come, now do as thou hast said, and strengthen me, especially in my soul. We ought to be far more earnest for the soul's healing than for the body's ease. We hear much of the cure of souls, but we often forget to care about it. For I have sinned against thee. Here was the root of sorrow. Sin and suffering are inevitable companions. Observe that by the psalmist sin was felt to be mainly evil because directed against God. This is of the essence of true repentance. The immaculate Saviour could never have used such language as this unless there be here a reference to the sin which he took upon himself by imputation; and for our part we tremble to apply words so manifestly indicating personal rather than imputed sin. Applying the petition to David and other sinful believers, how strangely evangelical is the argument: heal me, not for I am innocent, but I have sinned. How contrary is this to all self righteous pleading! How consonant with grace! How inconsistent with merit! Even the fact that the confessing penitent had remembered the poor, is but obliquely urged, but a direct appeal is made to mercy on the ground of great sin. O trembling reader, here is a divinely revealed precedent for thee, be not slow to follow it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3-4. See Psalms on "Psalms 41:3" for further information.
Verse 4. I said, Lord, be merciful. Mercy, not justice! The extreme of mercy for the extreme of misery. Righteousness as filthy rags; a flesh in which dwelleth no good thing, on the one side; on the other, it is "neither herb nor mollifying plaster that restored" to health; "but thy word, O Lord, which healeth all things." Wisdom 16:12. Thomas Aquinas, quoted by J. M. Neale.
Verse 4. God is the strength of a Christian's heart, by healing and restoring him when the infused habits of grace fail, and sin grows strong and vigorous. A Christian never fails in the exercise of grace, but sin gives him a wound; and therefore David prayed, Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned. And what David prayed for, God promises to his people: "I will heal their backsliding." Hosea 14:4 . The weakness and decay of grace, brings a Christian presently to the falling sickness; and so it did in David and Ephraim; aye, but God will be a physician to the soul in this case, and will heal their diseases; and so he did David's falling sickness, for which he returned the tribute of praise. Psalms 103:3 . Samuel Blackerby.
Verse 4. (last clause). Saul and Judas each said, "I have sinned;" but David says, "I have sinned against thee." William S. Plumer.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 4. (first clause). A saying worth repeating: I said. It expresses penitence, humility, earnestness, faith, importunity, fear of God, etc.
Verse 4. Heal my soul.
- The hereditary disease, breaking out in many disorders -- open sin, unbelief, decline of grace, etc.
- Spiritual health struggling with it; shown in spiritual pain, desire, prayer, effort.
- The well proved Physician. Has healed, and will, by his word, his blood, his Spirit, &c.
Verse 4. I have sinned against thee. This confession is personal, plain, without pretence of excuse, comprehensive and intelligent, for it reveals the very heart of sin -- "against thee."