Verse 10. Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? Wherefore then suffer me to die? While I live thou canst in me display the glories of thy grace, but when I have passed into the unknown land, how canst thou illustrate in me thy love? If I perish thou wilt lose a worshipper who both reverenced, and in his own experience illustrated, the wonders of thy character and acts. This is good pleading, and therefore he repeats it.
Shall the dead arise and praise thee? He is thinking only of the present, and not of the last great day, and he urges that the Lord would have one the less to praise him among the sons of men. Shades take no part in the quires of the Sabbath, ghosts sing no joyous Psalms, sepulchres and vaults send forth no notes of thanksgiving. True the souls of departed saints render glory to God, but the dejected Psalmist's thoughts do not mount to heaven but survey the gloomy grave: he stays on this side of eternity, where in the grave he sees no wonders and hears no songs.
Selah. At the mouth of the tomb he sits down to meditate, and then returns to his theme.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 10. -- He assures himself God would not fail to comfort him before he died; and again, that the Lord would rather miraculously raise him from the dead, than not glorify himself in his deliverance: and in this also he taketh a safe course, for he seeks for what he might expect, rather in an ordinary way, than by looking for miracles. --David Dickson.
Verse 10. Shall the dead arise and praise thee? So far from this being an argument against the resurrection, it is Messiah's own most powerful plea for it -- that otherwise man would be deprived of salvation, and God of the praise which the redeemed shall give for it to all eternity. Thou canst not show wonders to the dead as such; for "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." ( Matthew 22:32 .) Or even if thou wert to show thy wonders, it is only by their rising to life again that they can duly praise thee for them. --A.R. Fausset.
Verse 10. The dead. The word comes from a root which expresses what is weak and languid, and at the same time stretched out and long extended, and which can accordingly be employed to describe the shadowy forms of the under world as well as the giants and heroes of the olden time. --Carl Bernhard Moll, in Lange's Commentary.
Verse 10. The dead. An attentive consideration seems to leave little room for doubt that the dead were called Rephaim (as Gesenius also hints) from some notion of Scheol being the residence of the fallen spirits or buried giants. --F.W. Farrar, in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible.
Verse 10-11. -- Can my soul ever come to think I shall live in thy favour, in thy free grace and lovingkindness, to be justified by it, to apprehend myself a living man, and all my sins forgiven? To do this, saith he, is as great a wonder as to raise a man up from death to life; therefore he useth that expression, Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? He calleth it a wonder; for of all works else, you shall find in Scripture the resurrection from the dead counted the greatest wonder.
The phrase in Psalms 88:10 , as the Septuagint translates it, is exceeding emphatic. Saith he, "Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? Shall the physicians arise and praise thee?" So they read it, and so some good Hebrecians read it also; that is, Go send for all the college of physicians, all the angels out of heaven, all the skilful ministers and prophets that were then upon the earth, Gad and David, for he lived in David's time; send for them all. All these physicians may come with their cordials and balms; they will never cure me, never heal my soul, never raise me up to life again, except thou raise me; for I am "free among the dead", saith he. Now then, to work faith in such a one; for this poor soul, being thus dead, to go out of himself, and by naked and sheer faith to go to Jesus Christ alone, whom God raised from the dead, and to believe on him alone; this is now as great a power as indeed to raise a man up from death to life. --Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 10-12. In these verses we find mention made of four things on the part of God: "wonders", "lovingkindness", "faithfulness", and "righteousness". These were four attributes of the blessed Jehovah which the eyes of Heman had been opened to see, and which the heart of Heman had been wrought upon to feel. But he comes, by divine teaching, into a spot where these attributes seem to be completely lost to him; and yet, (so mysterious are the ways of God!) that spot was made the very place where those attributes were more powerfully displayed, and made more deeply and experimentally known to his soul.
The Lord led the blind by a way that he knew not into these spots of experience, that in them he might more fully open up to him those attributes of which he had already gained a glimpse; but the Lord brought him in such a mysterious way, that all his former knowledge was baffled. He therefore puts up this inquiry to the Lord, how it was possible that in those spots where he now was, these attributes could be displayed or made known?
- He begins -- Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? He is speaking here of his own experience; he is that "dead" person to whom those "wonders" are to be shown. And being in that state of experience, he considered that every act of mercy shown to him where he then was, must be a "wonder". Shall the dead arise and praise thee? What! the dark, stupid, cold, barren, helpless soul, that cannot lift up one little finger, that cannot utter one spiritual word, that cannot put forth one gracious desire, that cannot lift up itself a hair's breadth out of the mass that presses it down -- "Shall it arise?" and more than that, "praise thee?" What! can lamentation ever be turned into praise. Can complaint ever be changed into thanksgiving? Can the mourner ever shout and sing? Oh, it is a wonder of wonders, if "the dead" are to "arise", if "the dead" are to "praise thee"; if the dead are to stand upon their feet, and shout victory through thy blood! --J.C. Philpot.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- The supposition.
- That a child of God should be wholly dead.
- That he should remain forever in the grave.
- That he should be destroyed.
- That he should always remain in darkness.
- That he should be entirely forgotten, as though he had never existed.
- The consequences involved in this supposition.
- God's wonders to them would cease.
- His praise from them would be lost.
- His lovingkindness to them would be unknown.
- His faithfulness destroyed.
- His wonders to them would be lost to others.
- His former righteousness to them would be forgotten.
- The plea founded upon these consequences, -- "Wilt thou", etc. It cannot be that thy praise for grace shown to thy people can be lost, and none can render it but themselves. "Then what wilt thou do unto thy great name?" --G.R.