Ash and tears
Psalms 102:9 AV
For I have eaten ashes like bread,
and mingled my drink with weeping,
For I have eaten ashes like bread.
He had so frequently cast ashes upon his head in token of mourning, that they had mixed with his ordinary food, and grated between his teeth when he ate his daily bread.
One while he forgot to eat, and then the fit changed, and he ate with such a hunger that even ashes were devoured. Grief has strange moods and tenses.
And mingled my drink with weeping.
His drink became as nauseous as his meat, for copious showers of tears had made it brackish. This is a telling description of all-saturating, all-embittering sadness, — and this was the portion of one of the best of men, and that for no fault of his own, but because of his love to the Lord’s people.
If we, too, are called to mourn, let us not be amazed by the fiery trial as though some strange thing had happened unto us. Both in meat and drink we have sinned; it is not therefore wonderful if in both we are made to mourn.
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Explanatory notes and quaint sayings
I have eaten ashes like bread.
Though the bread indeed be strange, yet not so strange as this, — that having complained before of forgetting to eat his bread, he should now on a sudden fall to eating of ashes like bread.
For had he not been better to have forgotten it still, unless it had been more worth remembering? For there is not in nature so unfit a thing to eat as ashes; it is worse than Nebuchadnezzar’s grass.
— Sir R. Baker.
I have mingled my drink with weeping.
If you think his bread to be bad, you will find his drink to be worse; for he mingles his drink with tears: and what are tears, but brinish and salt humours? And is brine a fit liquor to quench one’s thirst?
May we not say here, the remedy is worse than the disease?
For were it not better to endure any thirst, than to seek to quench it with such drink?
Is it not a pitiful thing to have no drink to put in the stomach, but that which is drawn out of the eyes? And yet whose case is any better?
No man certainly commits sin, but with a design of pleasure; but sin will not be so committed; for whosoever commit sin, let them be sure at some time or other to find a thousand times more trouble about it than ever they found pleasure in it.
For all sin is a kind of surfeit, and there is no way to keep it from being mortal but by this strict diet of eating ashes like bread and mingling his drink with tears.
O my soul, if these be works of repentance in David, where shall we find a penitent in the world besides himself?
To talk of repentance is obvious in everyone’s mouth; but where is any that eats ashes like bread, and mingles his drink with tears?
— Sir R. Baker.
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For I have eaten ashes like bread
He sitting in ashes, as Job did, and rolling himself in them in the manner of mourners; and, having no other table than the ground to eat his food upon, he might eat ashes along with it; and by an hypallage of the words, the sense may be, that he ate bread like ashes, no more savoured and relished it, or was nourished by it, than if he had eaten ashes;
The meaning is, that he was fed with the bread of adversity, and water of affliction:
And mingled my drink with weeping;
That is, with tears; as he drank, the tears ran down his cheeks, and mixed with the liquor in his cup; he was fed with the bread of tears, and had them to drink in great measure; these were his meat and his drink, day and night, while enemies reproached him, swore at him, against him, and by him; (see Psalms 80:5; 42:3 ).
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Hints for pastors and laypersons
The sorrows of the saints
Their number, bitterness, sources, correctives, influences, and consolations.
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