Psalm 119:28

Psalm 119: An Exposition
Charles Bridges

"My soul melts from heaviness;
Strengthen me according to your word."

Is this David whose soul is melting? David, whose heart is like the heart of a lion? Ordinary courage may support under the trials of this life, but when the arrows of the Almighty are within us, our spirit drinks in their poison (Job 6:4). How, then, can the Christian's lot be so enviable when his soul thus melts from heaviness?

Let it be remembered that it is only "for a season." There is a "needs-be" for it while it remains. Hear what Peter says: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:6, 7).

Never, perhaps, is one's graces more lively or the ground of his assurance more clear than in these seasons of sorrow. He may complain, indeed, of the diversified power of indwelling sin, but his very complaints are the evidence of the mighty working of indwelling grace. Is it not his faith that makes unbelief such a burden? Is it not his hope that makes him struggle with his tears? Is it not his love for Christ that makes his coldness so grievous? What but humility can cause him to loathe his pride? What but the secret spring of thankfulness within that can shame him for ingratitude? Therefore, Christian reader, the very depth of that heaviness which now melts your soul is the displaying of the strength of God's work within, upholding you that you may persevere to the end.

Let the believer then say, when observing in his heaviest moments the most prosperous condition of the ungodly, "Do not let me eat of their delicacies." Far better, and far happier, is godly sorrow than worldly joy. In the midst of his misery the Christian would not exchange his hope in the gospel, though often obscured by unbelief and clouded by fear, for all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. "The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy." Yet the bitterness is keenly felt. Sin displeases a tender and gracious Father. It has pierced the heart of Christ who loves him and shed his blood for him. It grieves the indwelling Comforter of his soul. God expects to see him a mourner; and he feels he has reason enough to mourn--"My soul melts for heaviness."

Take heart, dear Christian, this cry of distress is sometimes that of the child under his Father's needful chastisement. The world is dethroned but not uprooted from the heart. Much dross is yet to be removed. The sources of the too-attractive earthly joy must be embittered. And now it is that the discipline of the cross forces the cry, "My soul melts for heaviness." Yet in the midst of heaviness the child of God cannot forget that he is loved, that he is saved; and the recollection of this sovereign mercy makes his tears of godly sorrow tears of joy.

Nevertheless, this melting heaviness has not finished its work until it has bowed us before the throne of grace with the pleading cry of faith--Strengthen me! Do we stand by the strength of our own resolutions or habits of grace? Unless the Lord renew his supply from moment to moment all is frail and withering. But what burden or difficulty is too great for Almighty strength? "Fear not, you worm Jacob . . . I will make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and beat them small."

And especially is our success assured when the plea is made, as it is repeatedly in this Psalm, "according to your word." Let those words encourage us. "Would he contend with me in his great power? No! But he would take note of me," says Job. Thus David found it so in his own case: "In the day when I cried out, you answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul." To the Apostle Paul also was the promise given and fulfilled: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." And is not the God of Israel still he who gives strength and power to his people? Is he not still the same faithful God who will not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able to bear, but will make a way to escape that they we may be able to bear it?

When we are most sensible of our utter helplessness and most simple in our reliance upon Divine strength, then it is that the soul melting for heaviness is most especially upheld and established. "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad." And how reviving is that good word of the Gospel, which proclaims the Savior anointed to give "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" and gifted with "the tongue of the learned, that he should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary!" And no less encouraging is it to view Christ himself "melting from heaviness"-- "sore amazed, and very heavy" under the accumulated weight of imputed guilt; and yet by this bitter discipline he is "able to aid those who are tempted." This faithful support granted to the Head is the seal and pledge of what every member in every trouble will most assuredly enjoy. "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ" (2 Cor. 1:5.) The blessed word will supply all their need--life for their quickening, light for their direction, comfort for their enjoyment, and strength for their support. "Strengthen me according to your word."

Lord, may I ever be kept from despondency, regarding it as sinful in itself, dishonoring to your name, and weakening to my soul. And though I must "needs be" sometimes in heaviness through numerous temptations, yet let the power of faith be in constant exercise that I may be able to reason with my soul, "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise him, the help of my countenance and my God."

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