A. G. Clarke fittingly calls this psalm “A Cry in a Crisis”. At the time of writing, David’s spirit was overwhelmed within him; his heart within him was desolate, v. 4. His spirit was failing, v. 7. His enemy had persecuted his soul, smitten his life down to the ground, and made him dwell in darkness, v. 3. He felt urgently the need of guidance as to his movements and his conduct, “cause me to know the way wherein I should walk … Teach me to do thy will … lead me into the land of uprightness … bring my soul out of trouble”, vv. 8, 10, 11.
His present distress caused him to recall earlier and happier days, and to learn from them, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands”, v. 5. There was wisdom in this, for David was pondering the past without becoming immersed in it. His musings rekindled his desires after God, “I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land”, v. 6.
We too can learn from the past provided we do not dwell in it. And we must avoid like the plague any tendency to regret past sacrifices, concentrating instead on future glory, as Paul did in his inspiring words, “forgetting those things which are behind (i.e. the things which he had counted loss for Christ, v. 7, and all things of which he had suffered the loss, v. 8), and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”, Phil. 3. 13, 14.
The value of David’s backward look lay in reviewing God’s dealings with him in the past, “I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands”. It is always profitable to recall God’s past dealings with us, both in salvation and in providence. In particular, we are meant to learn from our trials, as Paul taught in Romans 5. 3, 4, “we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience, and experience, hope”. Such a cycle of events can only be discerned by musing on God’s dealings with us.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”, Rom. 8. 28.
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