Smitten

Psalms 102:4
My heart is smitten,
and withered like grass;
so that I forget to eat my bread.‭

Study

EXPOSITION

My heart is smitten

Like a plant parched by the fierce heat of a tropical sun,

And withered like grass

Which dries up when once the scythe has laid it low.
The psalmist’s heart was as a wilted, withered flower, a burned up mass of what once was verdure. His energy, beauty, freshness, and joy, were utterly gone, through the wasting influence of his anguish.

So that I forget to eat my bread

Or “because I forget to eat my bread.”
Grief often destroys the appetite, and the neglect of food tends further to injure the constitution and create a yet deeper sinking of spirit.
As the smitten flower no longer drinks in the dew, or draws up nutriment from the soil, so a heart parched with intense grief often refuses consolation for itself and nourishment for the bodily frame, and descends at a doubly rapid rate into weakness, despondency, and dismay.

The case here described is by no means rare, we have frequently met with individuals so disordered by sorrow that their memory has failed them even upon such pressing matters as their meals, and we must confess that we have passed through the same condition ourselves.
One sharp pang has filled the soul, monopolized the mind, and driven everything else into the background, so that such common matters as eating and drinking have been utterly despised, and the appointed hours of refreshment have gone by unheeded, leaving no manifest faintness of body, but an increased weariness of heart. 

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EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

My heart is smitten and withered like grass.
The metaphor here is taken from grass, cut down in the meadow. It is first “smitten” with the scythe, and then “withered” by the sun. Thus the Jews were smitten with the judgments of God; and they are now withered under the fire of the Chaldeans.
— Adam Clarke.

I forget to eat my bread.
I have heard of some that have forgotten their own names, but I never heard of any that forget to eat his meat; for there is a certain prompter called hunger that will make a man to remember his meat in spite of his teeth.
And yet it is true, when the heart is blasted and withered like grass, such a forgetfulness of necessity will follow.

▪︎ Is it that the withering of the heart is the prime cause of sorrow; at least cause of the prime sorrow; and immoderate sorrow is the mother of stupidity, stupifying and benumbing the animal faculties, that neither the understanding nor the memory can execute their functions?
▪︎ Or is it, that sorrow is so intentire to that it sorrows for, that it cannot intent to think anything else?
▪︎ Or is it, that nature makes account, that to feed in sorrow were to feed sorrow, and therefore thinks best to forbear all eating?
▪︎ Or is it, that as sorrow draws moisture from the brain and fills the eyes with water; so it draws a like juice from other parts, which fills the stomach instead of meat?
However it be, it shews a wonderful operation that is in sorrow; to make not only the stomach to refuse its meat, but to make the brain forget the stomach, between whom there is so natural a sympathy and so near a correspondence.

But as the vigour of the heart breeds plenty of spirits, which convey to all the parts, gives everyone a natural appetite; so when the heart is blasted and withered like grass, and that there is no more any rigour in it, the spirits are presently at a stand, and then no marvel if the stomach lose its appetite, and forget to eat bread.
— Sir R. Baker.

I forget to eat my bread.
When grief hath thus dejected the spirits, the man has no appetite for that food which is to recruit and elevate them. Ahab, smitten with one kind of grief, David with another, and Daniel with a third, all forgot, or refused, to eat their bread. 1 Kings 21:4; 2 Samuel 12:16; Daniel 10:3 .
Such natural companions are mourning and fasting.
— Samuel Burder.

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My heart is smitten, and withered like grass

Like grass in the summer solstice, which being smitten with the heat of the sun, or by some blast of thunder and lightning, is dried up, and withers away; so his heart was smitten with a sense of sin, and of God’s wrath and displeasure at him, and with the heat of affliction and trouble, that it failed him, and he could not look up with joy and comfort.

So that I forget to eat my bread

Sometimes, through grief and trouble, persons refuse to eat bread, as Jonathan and Ahab, which is a voluntary act, and purposely done; but here, in the psalmist, there was such a loss of appetite, through sorrow, that he forgot his stated meals, having no manner of inclination to food: some understand this of spiritual food, the bread of life, refusing to be comforted with it; so the Targum, “for I forgot the law of my doctrine.”

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HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Unbelieving sorrow makes us forget to use proper means for our support.
▪︎ We forget the promises.
▪︎ Forget the past and its experiences.
▪︎ Forget the Lord Jesus, our life.
▪︎ Forget the everlasting love of God. This leads to weakness, faintness, etc., and is to be avoided.

Twitter: @SchoemakerHarry
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