Men are Men, a Real Downer: the first half of Psalm 146

“The best of men are men at best. They cannot save themselves, let alone others. ” -BBC

Psa 146:3  Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
Psa 146:4  When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.

Men are men, God is God–simple, right?   But we mess it up all the time.  We hope in the seen instead of the unseen.  We trust in the immediate at the expense of the eternal.

You can’t get more depressing than Barnes here:

It is “his” as it is the only property which he has in reversion. All that a man – a prince, a nobleman, a monarch, a millionaire – will soon have will be his grave, his few feet of earth. That will be his by right of possession, by the fact that for the time being he will occupy it, and not another man! But that, too, may soon become another man’s grave, so that even there he is a tenant only for a time; he has no permanent possession even of a grave. – Albert Barnes.

When I read the older commentaries, they strike me as morbid at times.  Or perhaps they were more in touch with the boundaries of life—disease, hard work, the elements of nature, and the ravages of time–were not held at arms length as they are nowdays.

“His thoughts perish.” The science, the philosophy, the statesmanship of one age is exploded in the next. The men who are the masters of the world’s intellect to-day are discrowned to-morrow. In this age of restless and rapid change they may survive their own thoughts; their thoughts do not survive them. – J. J. Stewart Perowne.

If this was true in the 1880’s when Stewart Perowne was at his zenith,  how much more is this true today with the great proliferation of real-time thinking, RSS feeds, and text messaging?  Without faith in God, in our spirit returning to The Creator, it’s easy to see how the existentialists waded in the black mire.  God’s hand in all this changes everything.

From H6245; thinking: – thought.

“His thoughts.” Rather, “his false, deceitful show”; literally, “his glitterings.” – Samuel Horsley, 1733-1806.

A primitive root; probably to be sleek, that is, glossy; hence (through the idea of polishing) to excogitate (as if forming in the mind): – shine, think.

I’m trying to trace Horsley’s footsteps here—imagine this “ashath” is where we got “glitterings.”  It’s sad to think that our most polished thoughts are mere glitterings.  How to reconcile this thought that man is of so little consequence and yet of such great consequence to God?   It requires more space and time than I have this morning, that’s for sure!

“His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth.” His breath goes from his body, and his body goes to the grave. His spirit goes one way, and his body another. High as he stood, the want of a little air brings him down to the ground, and lays him under it.”  Spurgeon

And if you haven’t had enough already, here are more depressing reflections from Spurgeon:

“In that very day his thoughts perish.” Whatever he may have proposed to do, the proposal ends in smoke. He cannot think, and what he had thought of cannot effect itself, and therefore it dies. Now that he has gone, men are ready enough to let his thoughts go with him into oblivion; another thinker comes, and turns the thoughts of his predecessor to ridicule. It is a pitiful thing to be waiting upon princes or upon any other men, in the hope that they will think of us. In an hour they are gone, and where are their schemes for our promotion? A day has ended their thoughts by ending them; and our trusts have perished, for their thoughts have perished. Men’s ambitions, expectations, declarations, and boastings all vanish into thin air when the breath of life vanishes from their bodies. This is the narrow estate of man, his breath, his earth, and his thoughts; and this is his threefold climax therein, – his breath goeth forth, to his earth he returns, and his thoughts perish. Is this a being to be relied upon? Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. To trust it would be a still greater vanity.”  Spurgeon

It does remind me of Ecclesiastes—no wonder the literature teachers love Ecclesiastes.   But notice, it’s trusting in man that caused this bleakness.