by Thomas Watson
“And were brought low for their iniquity.”
If the Scripture is a spiritual garden, as Chrysostom said, the book of Psalms is a choice knoll in this garden, set with fragrant flowers.
Luther called the Psalms, “a little Bible”. The Psalms make sweeter music, than ever David’s harp did. They are calculated for every Christian’s condition—and may serve either for illumination or consolation.
In this Psalm [Psalm 146], David sets down the SINS of the people of God.
First, their sins in general.
Verse 6, “We have sinned with our fathers.” The examples of fathers are not always to be urged. Shall we not be wiser than our fathers? Fathers may err. Sometimes, it is better for a son to take his land from his father—than take his religion from his father, 2 Chronicles 29:6.
Second, David makes a particular enumeration of their sins.
1. Their forgetfulness of God. Verse 13, “They soon forgot His works.” Or, as it is in the original—they made haste to forget his works. The Lord wrought a famous miracle for them, verse 11. He drowned Israel’s enemies—and Israel drowned His mercies. Our sins and God’s kindnesses, are apt quickly to slip out of our memory. We deal with God’s mercies as with flowers. When they are fresh, we smell them and put them in our bosom. But within awhile, we throw them away and mind them no more. They made haste to forget His works.
2. Their inordinate lusting. Verse 14, “They lusted exceedingly in the wilderness.” They were weary of the provision which God sent them miraculously from heaven. They grew dainty. They wept for quails. They were not content that God should supply their needs—but they would have Him satisfy their lusts also. God let them have their requests. They had quails—but in anger. “He sent leanness to their souls.” In other words, He sent a plague whereby they pined and consumed away.
3. Their idolatry. Verse 19, “They made a calf in Horeb.” They framed for themselves a god of gold and worshiped it. The Scripture calls idols “a shame,” Hosea 9:10. For this, God disclaimed them from being His people. Exodus 32:2, “Your people have corrupted themselves.” Formerly God called them His people—but now He does not say to Moses “My people,” but “your people.
4. Their infidelity. Verse 24, “They did not believe His Word—but murmured.” They did not think that God would subdue their enemies and bring them into that pleasant land which flowed with milk and honey. And this unbelief broke forth into murmuring. They wished they had made their graves in Egypt, Exodus 16:3. When men begin to distrust God’s promise—then they quarrel at His Providence. When faith grows low—murmuring grow high. For these things, God stretched out His hand against them, as it is in the text, “And they were brought low for iniquity.”
The words branch themselves into two parts.
1. Israel’s misery. “They were brought low.” Some expositors translate it, “They waxed lean.” The Hebrew and Septuagint render it, “They were humbled.”
2. The procuring cause of it, “for their iniquity.”
The proposition resulting from the text—is that sin brings a person low. Psalm 147:6, “The wicked, He casts down to the ground.” Jeptha said to his daughter when she met them with timbrel and dancing, Judges 11:35, “Alas my daughter, you have brought me very low.” So a man may say to his sin, “Alas, my sin—you have brought me very low!”
Sin is the great leveler. It brings a family low. It cuts off the pillars of the family. 1 Samuel 2:29, “Why do you scorn my sacrifices and offerings?” Verse 31, “I will put an end to your family, so it will no longer serve as my priests. All the members of your family will die before their time. None will live to a ripe old age.” Which threatening God made good when He cut off Eli’s two sons and took the other sons from the priesthood.
Sin brings a kingdom low. 1 Samuel 15:19, “Why did not you obey the voice of the Lord—but did evil in His sight?” Verse 28, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day!”
Sin breaks the foundation of church and state. Hosea 13:1, “When Ephraim spoke, men trembled; he was exalted in Israel. But he became guilty of Baal worship and died.” The tribe of Ephraim carried a majesty with it and was superior to the ten tribes. When Ephraim spoke, he struck an awe and terror into others—but when he became guilty of Baal worship—he died. When once he fell from God by idolatry, he degraded himself of his honor. His strength and glory came to nothing. Now every puny adversary insulted him, as the timid rabbit will tread upon a dead lion.
Among the many threatenings against sin, is Deuteronomy 28:43, “You shall sink lower and lower.” And in the text this threatening is exemplified and made good, “They were brought low for their iniquity.”
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) was an English, Nonconformist, Puritan preacher and author.
He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen-year pastorate at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on 30 June 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for Nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686.