Facing the Breaking Point

Kaf (k) Stanza (81-88)

Exhausted. Spent. Done. Languishing. Brittle and about to shatter. Sometimes this is what life feels like. We want to love the Lord and walk in obedience with vibrant faith, but we feel like we are at the breaking point. The Psalmist was there in this stanza.

The observant reader notices that the moods change between stanzas, there is no emotional symmetry. There is a pretty good possibility that the Psalmist composed these stanzas over time, and not all at once. This would account for the varying moods. This stanza uses a Hebrew word which begins with the letter Kaf, three times. The word means “to bring to an end, to languish, to pine, to be done, spent.” The Psalmist was at his breaking point. Maybe you are at yours. May the Lord bless this exposition to the reviving of your soul.

My Soul and My Eyes are at their Breaking Point (81-82)

81 My soul languishes for Your salvation;

I wait for Your word.

82 My eyes fail with longing for Your word,

While I say, “When will You comfort me?”

These first four lines express the believer’s weariness, not just in body, but in soul. Soul weary. He pictures his own soul as languishing for God’s saving intervention. This is not merely longing, as some translations have it, but it is the soul wearing thin while it waits for God. Then he says his eyes “fail,” that is, they grow weary, they are worn out, as they strain to see God’s promises come true. The Psalmist is waiting for God’s deliverance, His comfort, and yet as he waits, he is exhausted and near the breaking point. This is not patiently waiting, it is just waiting, knowing every minute God does not act, he gets closer to giving up.

Judge Soon before I Break (83-84)

83 Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,

I do not forget Your statutes.

84 How many are the days of Your servant?

When will You execute judgment on those who persecute me?

The image of the wineskin in the smoke is vivid. The wineskin, exposed to the smoke, has dried out, become brittle, cracked, and useless. The smoke of the trials is ruining this believer, sapping away his vitality, his usefulness, his very life. And yet, as we have seen so many times, he remains committed to the Word. This is not bravado, it is desperation. He knows he is coming to the end of his rope. He wants to know, “how long do I have to do this?” God please hurry, my grip is slipping! His persecutors are the smoke. He wants to know when God is going to do something before it is too late.

Calvin captures the sense of these lines, “As if he should have said, Alas, my good God, wilt thou help me after I am dead? For thou seest that I have already endured so much, as it is not possible to endure more: thou seest me even at the grave’s brink: It is now time, or else never to help. But yet I perceive no succor [help] come from thee.”[1]

Hunted and Pursued to the Breaking Point (85-86)

85 The arrogant have dug pits for me,

Men who are not in accord with Your law.

86 All Your commandments are faithful;

They have persecuted me with a lie; help me!

His enemies laid traps for him. These are unprincipled men, unethical men, men who are not in accord with God’s Word. They wanted to make him miserable and do him in. They lie about the Psalmist. They seek to destroy him. Thank God that there is something true in the midst of lying enemies and that is God’s Word, God’s commandments. The contrast is powerful: Lying enemies vs. the faithful reliability of God’s Word.

The cry is “help me!” Please act before it is too late. “We are best able to resist our enemy upon our knees; and even such a short prayer as this, ‘Help thou me,’ will bring down the strength of Omnipotence on our side.”[2] Short prayers are desperate prayers, but they are also often powerful prayers.

Almost Broken, but Not Destroyed (87-88)

87 They almost destroyed me on earth,

But as for me, I did not forsake Your precepts.

88 Revive me according to Your lovingkindness,

So that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth.

The Hebrew word, “brought to an end, languish, done” is used here for the last time. “They almost destroyed me on earth.” They almost succeeded in breaking me, they almost brought me past my breaking point. They came close, but they were not victorious. The pressure to compromise, to capitulate, to give up, was all around, and yet the Psalmist could say, “But as for me, I did not forsake Your precepts.” This note of humble triumph may be in retrospect or it may be a statement of confidence for the future. Regardless, this has taken a tremendous toll on him. Things appeared so dim, there was so little rope left, so little strength, he knows he needs God’s reviving, refreshing grace.

He won the skirmish, he walks off this battlefield, bloodied, yet sword still in hand. He knows there will be another battle, so he prays for God’s covenant love to come and revive his soul so that he may keep walking in obedience to the testimony of God’s mouth. Charles Bridges says of this expression, “The title here given to the directory of our duty—’the testimony of God’s mouth’—adds strength to our obligations. Thus let every word we read or hear be regarded, as coming directly from the ‘mouth of God.’ What reverence, what implicit submission does it demand! May it ever find us in the posture of attention, humility, and faith, each one of us ready to say—’Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth!’”[3]

Application

Sometimes we don’t feel like we can go on. Things appear dim. God is nowhere in sight. The breaking point is near. But where else shall we go? Jesus alone has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). So we cry. We tell God. We go to the Mighty Sufferer of Golgotha, who really was forsaken (Psa. 22:1). We fall on our knees in weakness. We cling to the Word. We refuse to let go. We realize that no matter how thin we might wear, underneath is the covenant love of God which will not let the bruised reed be broken.

[1] Calvin, 221-222.

[2] Charles Bridges, 141.

[3] Charles Bridges, 144.