C.H. Spurgeons's The Treasury of David
Verse 3. If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand. If JAH, the all seeing, should in strict justice call every man to account for every want of conformity to righteousness, where would any one of us be? Truly, he does record all our transgressions; but as yet he does not act upon the record, but lays it aside till another day. If men were to be judged upon no system but that of works, who among us could answer for himself at the Lord's bar, and hope to stand clear and accepted? This verse shows that the Psalmist was Under a sense of sin, and felt it imperative upon him not only to cry as a suppliant but to confess as a sinner. Here he owns that he cannot stand before the great King in his own righteousness, and he is so struck with a sense of the holiness of God, and the rectitude of the law that he is convinced that no man of mortal race can answer for himself before a Judge so perfect, concerning a law so divine. Well does he cry, "O Lord, who shall stand?" None can do so: there is none that doeth good; no, not one. Iniquities are matters which are not according to equity: what a multitude we have of these! Jehovah, who sees all, and is also our Adonai, or Lord, will assuredly bring us into judgment concerning those thoughts, and words, and works which are not in exact conformity to his law. Were it not for the Lord Jesus, could we hope to stand? Dare we meet him in the dread day of account on the footing of law and equity? What a mercy it is that we need not do so, for the next verse sets forth another way of acceptance to which we flee.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, etc. But doth not the Lord mark iniquity? Doth not he take notice of every sin acted by any of the children of men, especially by his own children? Why, then, doth the Psalmist put it upon an if? "If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquity." 'Tis true, the Lord marks all iniquity to know it, but he doth not mark any iniquity in his children to condemn them for it: so the meaning of the Psalm is, that if the Lord should mark sin with a strict and severe eye, as a judge, to charge it upon the person sinning, no man could bear it.
The word rendered to mark notes, first, to watch, or to observe with strictest diligence, and is therefore in the noun rendered a watch tower, upon which a man is placed to take observation of all things that are done, and of all persons that pass by, or approach and come near. A watchman placed upon a high tower is bound industriously and critically to observe all passengers and passages, all that his eye can reach. So saith the text, -- If thou shouldest mark as a watchman, and eye with rigour everything that passeth from us, "who shall stand?" that is, make good his cause in the day of his judgment and trial before thee.
Secondly, the word signifieth to keep in mind, to lay up, to have, as it were, a store and stock, a memorial or record, of such and such things by us. In that sense it is said (Ge 37:11), "Joseph's brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying": he marked what Joseph spake about his dreams, he laid it up, and did not let it pass away as a dream, or as a vision of the night. Thus, by "If the Lord should mark iniquity", we understand -- if he should treasure up our sins in his memory, and keep them by him, "who were able to stand when accounted with?" The Lord, in a way of grace, seeth as if he saw, not, and winks at us oftentimes when we do amiss. -- Joseph Caryl.
Verse 3. Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication, but let not thine eyes be intentive to the stains of my sin; for If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? or who shall be able to abide it? Did not the angels fall when thou markest their follies? Can flesh, which is but dust, be clean before thee, when the stars, which are of a far purer substance, are not? Can anything be clean in thy sight which is not as clean as thy sight? and can any cleanness be equal to thine! Alas! O Lord, we are neither angels nor stars, and how then can we stand when those fell? how can we be clean when these be impure? If thou shouldest mark what is done amiss, there would be marking work enough for thee as long as the world lasts; for what action of man is free from stain of sin, or from defect of righteousness? Therefore, mark not anything in me, O God, that I have done, but mark that only in me which thou hast done thyself. Mark in me thine own image; and then thou mayest look upon me, and yet say still, as once thou saidst, Et erant omnia valde bona "And all things were very good". --Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 3 (whole verse). We are introduced at once into all the solemnities of a criminal court. The judge is seated on the bench: the culprit is standing at the bar, charged with a capital offence, the witnesses are giving their evidence against him. The judge is listening attentively to everything which is said; and in order to assist his memory, he takes notes of the more important parts. If the Lord were to try us after this fashion, what would be the result? Suppose him seated on his throne of inflexible righteousness, taking notes, with a pen in his hand, of the transgressions which are proven against us. Nothing is omitted. Every sin is marked down with its peculiar aggravations. There is no possibility of escape from the deserved condemnation. The evidence against us is clear, and copious, and overwhelming. A thousandth part of it is sufficient to determine our doom. The Judge has no alternative but to pronounce the awful sentence. We must die a felon's death. If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? --M. M'Michael.
Verse 3. If thou, LORD, shouldest mark. If thou shouldest inquire and scrutinize, and then shouldest retain and impute: (for the Hebrew word imports both:) if thou shouldest inquire, thou wouldst find something of iniquity in the most righteous of mankind; and when thou hast found it, if thou shouldest retain it, and call him to an account for it, he could by no means free himself of the charge, or expiate the crime. Inquiring, thou wouldst easily find iniquity; but the sinner by the most diligent inquiry will not be able to discover a ransom, and therefore will be unable to stand, will have no place on which to rest his foot, but will fall by the irresistible judgments of thy law, and the sentence of thy justice. --Robert Leighton.
Verse 3. If thou, LORD. He here fixes on another name of God, which is Jah: a name, though from the same root as the former, yet seldom used but to intimate and express the terrible majesty of God. "He rideth on the heavens, and is extolled by his name Jail": Ps 68:4. He is to deal now with God about the guilt of sin: and God is represented to the soul as great and terrible, that he may know what to expect and look for, if the matter must be tried out according to the demerit of sin. --John Owen.
Verse 3. If thou, LORD ... O Lord. Mark here that in this third verse he two times nameth God by the Lord (as he doth also in the ninth verse), showing to us hereby his earnest desire to take hold of God with both his hands. He nameth him not only Adonai, but also Jah (which two signify his nature and power); all the qualities of God must be conjoined and concur together for us: although he be Adonai, yet if he be not also Jah we are undone. --Archibald Symson.
Verse 3. LORD ... Lord. If God should show himself as JAH, no creature would be able to stand before him, who is Adonai, and can therefore carry out his judicial will or purpose. --Franz Delitzsch.
Verse 3. Iniquities. The literal meaning of the word "iniquity" is "a thing which is not equal", or "not fair." Whatever breaks a command of God is "not equal." It does not match with what man is, nor with what God is. It does not keep the high level of the law. It is altogether out of proportion to all that God has done. It destroys the harmony of creation. It does not rise even to the height of conscience. Still more, it mars and makes a flaw in the divine government. Therefore sin is an unequal thing, fitting nothing, disarranging everything. And it is not fair. It is not fair to that God upon whose empire it is a trespass. It is not fair to your fellow creatures, to whom it may be a very great injury. It is not fair to yourself, for your happiness lies in obedience. Therefore we call sin "iniquity." Or, as the Prayer Book Version expresses the same idea, "a thing amiss", missing its proper mark. "If thou shouldest be extreme to mark what is done amiss." --James Vaughan.
Verse 3. O Lord, who shall stand? As soon as God manifests signs of anger, even those who appear to bc the most holy adopt this language. If God should determine to deal with them according to justice, and call them to his tribunal, not one would be able to stand; but would be compelled to fly for refuge to the mercy of God. See the confessions of Moses, Job, David, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Daniel, Paul, and others of the apostles. Hear Christ teaching his disciples to cry to the Father who is in heaven, "Forgive us our trespasses!" If before God the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles, although possessing unusual holiness, nevertheless fell down, and as suppliants prayed for forgiveness, what shall be done with those who add sin to sin? --D. H. Mollerus.
Verse 3-4. These two verses contain the sum of all the Scriptures. In the third is the form of repentance, and in the fourth the mercies of the Lord. These are the two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal, mentioned in Deuteronomy 27:12-13. These are the pillars in Solomon's temple (1 Kings 7:21), called Jachin and Boaz. We must, with Paul, persuade ourselves that we are come from Mount Sinai to Mount Zion, where mercy is, although some sour grapes must be eaten by the way. Jeremy tasted in his vision first a bitter fig out of one basket, then a sweet fig out of the other. In the days of Moses the waters were first bitter, then sweetened by the sweet wood. And Elisha cast in salt into the pottage of the sons of the prophets, then it became wholesome. --Archibald Symson.
Verse 3-4. As I was thus in musing and in my studies, considering how to love the LORD, and to express my love to him, that saying came in upon me: If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. These were good words to me, especially the latter part thereof; to wit, that there is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared; that is, as then I understood it, that he might be loved and had in reverence; for it was thus made out to me, that the great God did set so high an esteem upon the love of his poor creatures, that rather than he would go without their love he would pardon their transgressions. --John Bunyan.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- The supposition: "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities"
- It is scriptural.
b) It is reasonable. If God is not indifferent towards men, he must observe their sins. If he is holy, he must manifest indignation against sin. If he is the Creator of conscience, he must certainly uphold its verdict against sin. If he is not wholly on the side of sin, how can he fail to avenge the mischiefs and miseries sin has caused?
- The question it suggests: "Who shall stand?" A question,
- Not difficult to answer.
b) Of solemn import to all.
c) Which ought to be seriously pondered without delay.
- The possibility it hints at. "If thou, Lord." The "if" hints at the possibility that God may not mark sin. The possibility,
- Is reasonable, providing it can be without damage to God's righteousness; for the Creator and Preserver of men cannot delight in condemning and punishing.
b) Is a God honouring reality, through the blood of Christ, Romans 3:21-26.
c) Becomes a glorious certainty in the experience of penitent and believing souls. --J. F.
- The Confession. He could not stand.
- The Confidence. "There is forgiveness."
- The Consequence. "That thou mayest be feared."
- The fearful supposition.
- The solemn interrogation.
- The Divine consolation. --W. J.