Psalm 42:4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.
Holy love mourning for God’s present withdrawings and the want of the benefit of solemn ordinances (v. 3):
“My tears have been my meat day and night during this forced absence from God’s house.”
His circumstances were sorrowful, and he accommodated himself to them, received the impressions and returned the signs of sorrow. Even the royal prophet was a weeping prophet when he wanted the comforts of God’s house. His tears were mingled with his meat; nay, they were his meat day and night; he fed, he feasted, upon his own tears, when there was such just cause for them;
and it was a satisfaction to him that he found his heart so much affected with a grievance of this nature.
Observe, He did not think it enough to shed a tear or two at parting from the sanctuary, to weep a farewell-prayer when he took his leave, but, as long as he continued under a forced absence from that place of his delight, he never looked up, but wept day and night.
Note, Those that are deprived of the benefit of public ordinances constantly miss them, and therefore should constantly mourn for the want of them, till they are restored to them again. Two things aggravated his grief:
1. The reproaches with which his enemies teased him: They continually say unto me, Where is thy God?
(1.) Because he was absent from the ark, the token of God’s presence. Judging of the God of Israel by the gods of the heathen, they concluded he had lost his God.
Note, Those are mistaken who think that when they have robbed us of our Bibles, and our ministers, and our solemn assemblies, they have robbed us of our God; for, though God has tied us to them when they are to be had, he has not tied himself to them. We know where our God is, and where to find him, when we know not where his ark is, nor where to find that. Wherever we are there is a way open heaven-ward.
(2.) Because God did not immediately appear for his deliverance they concluded that he had abandoned him; but herein also they were deceived:
it does not follow that the saints have lost their God because they have lost all their other friends.
However, by this base reflection on God and his people, they added affliction to the afflicted, and that was what they aimed at. Nothing is more grievous to a gracious soul than that which is intended to shake its hope and confidence in God.
2. The remembrance of his former liberties and enjoyments, v. 4. Son, remember thy good things, is a great aggravation of evil things, so much do our powers of reflection and anticipation add to the grievance of this present time.
David remembered the days of old, and then his soul was poured out in him; he melted away, and the thought almost broke his heart. he poured out his soul within him in sorrow, and then poured out his soul before God in prayer.
But what was it that occasioned this painful melting of spirit? It was not the remembrance of the pleasures at court, or the entertainments of his own house, from which he was now banished, that afflicted him, but the remembrance of the free access he had formerly had to God’s house and the pleasure he had in attending the sacred solemnities there.
(1.) He went to the house of God, though in his time it was but a tent; nay, if this psalm was penned, as many think it was, at the time of his being persecuted by Saul, the ark was then in a private house, 2 Sa. 6:3.
But the meanness, obscurity, and inconveniency of the place did not lessen his esteem of that sacred symbol of the divine presence.
David was a courtier, a prince, a man of honour, a man of business, and yet very diligent in attending God’s house and joining in public ordinances, even in the days of Saul, when he and his great men enquired not at it, 1 Chr. 13:3. Whatever others did, David and his house would serve the Lord.
(2.) He went with the multitude, and thought it no disparagement to his dignity to be at the head of a crowd in attending upon God. Nay, this added to the pleasure of it, that he was accompanied with a multitude, and therefore it is twice mentioned, as that which he greatly lamented the want of now. The more the better in the service of God; it is the more like heaven, and a sensible help to our comfort in the communion of saints.
(3.) He went with the voice of joy and praise, not only with joy and praise in his heart, but with the outward expressions of it, proclaiming his joy and speaking forth the high praises of his God.
Note, When we wait upon God in public ordinances we have reason to do it both with cheerfulness and thankfulness, to take to ourselves the comfort and give to God the glory of our liberty of access to him.
(4.) He went to keep holy-days, not to keep them in vain mirth and recreation, but in religious exercises. Solemn days are spent most comfortably in solemn assemblies.
Holy love hoping (v. 5):
Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
His sorrow was upon a very good account, and yet it must not exceed its due limits, nor prevail to depress his spirits; he therefore communes with his own heart, for his relief. “Come, my soul, I have something to say to thee in thy heaviness.” Let us consider,
1. The cause of it. “Thou art cast down, as one stooping and sinking under a burden, Prov. 12:25. Thou art disquieted, in confusion and disorder; now why are thou so?” This may be taken as an enquiring question: “Let the cause of this uneasiness be duly weighed, and see whether it be a just cause.” Our disquietudes would in many cases vanish before a strict scrutiny into the grounds and reasons of them. “Why am I cast down?
Is there a cause, a real cause? Have not others more cause, that do not make so much ado? Have not we, at the same time, cause to be encouraged?”
Or it may be taken as an expostulating question; those that commune much with their own hearts will often have occasion to chide them, as David here. “Why do I thus dishonour God by my melancholy dejections? Why do I discourage others and do so much injury to myself? Can I give a good account of this tumult?”
2. The cure of it:
Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him. A believing confidence in God is a sovereign antidote against prevailing despondency and disquietude of spirit. And therefore, when we chide ourselves to hope in God;
when the soul embraces itself it sinks; if it catch hold on the power and promise of God, it keeps the head above water. Hope in God,
(1.) That he shall have glory from us: “I shall yet praise him; I shall experience such a change in my state that I shall not want matter for praise, and such a change in my spirit that I shall not want a heart for praise.” It is the greatest honour and happiness of a man, and the greatest desire and hope of every good man, to be unto God for a name and a praise.
What is the crown of heaven’s bliss but this, that there we shall be for ever praising God?
And what is our support under our present woes but this, that we shall yet praise God, that they shall not prevent nor abate our endless hallelujahs?
(2.) That we shall have comfort in him. We shall praise him for the help of his countenance, for his favour, the support we have by it and the satisfaction we have in it.
Those that know how to value and improve the light of God’s countenance will find in that a suitable, seasonable, and sufficient help, in the worst of times, and that which will furnish them with constant matter for praise.
David’s believing expectation of this kept him from sinking, nay, it kept him from drooping; his harp was a palliative cure of Saul’s melancholy, but his hope was an effectual cure of his own.
Complaints and comforts here, as before, take their turn, like day and night in the course of nature.
I. He complains of the dejections of his spirit, but comforts himself with the thoughts of God, v. 6. 1. In his troubles. His soul was dejected, and he goes to God and tells him so: O my God! my soul is cast down within me.
It is a great support to us, when upon any account we are distressed, that we have liberty of access to God, and liberty of speech before him, and may open to him the causes of our dejection.
David had communed with his own heart about its own bitterness, and had not as yet found relief; and therefore he turns to God, and opens before him the trouble.
Note, When we cannot get relief for our burdened spirits by pleading with ourselves, we should try what we can do by praying to God and leaving our case with him. We cannot still these winds and waves; but we know who can.
2. In his devotions. His soul was elevated, and, finding the disease very painful, he had recourse to that as a sovereign remedy. “My soul is plunged; therefore, to prevent its sinking, I will remember thee, meditate upon thee, and call upon thee, and try what that will do to keep up my spirit.”
Note, The way to forget the sense of our miseries is to remember the God of our mercies.
It was an uncommon case when the psalmist remembered God and was troubled, Ps. 77:3.
He had often remembered God and was comforted, and therefore had recourse to that expedient now.
He was now driven to the utmost borders of the land of Canaan, to shelter himself there from the rage of his persecutors, sometimes to the country about Jordan, and, when discovered there, to the land of the Hermonites, or to a hill called Mizar, or the little hill; but,
(1.) Wherever he went he took his religion along with him.
In all these places, he remembered God, and lifted up his heart to him, and kept his secret communion with him.
This is the comfort of the banished, the wanderers, the travellers, of those that are strangers in a strange land, that wherever they are there is a way open heavenward.
(2.) Wherever he was he retained his affection for the courts of God’s house;
from the land of Jordan, or from the top of the hills, he used to look a long look, a longing look, towards the place of the sanctuary, and wish himself there.
Distance and time could not make him forget that which his heart was so much upon and which lay so near it.