This Week's Focus Passage

‘I am become a stranger unto my brethren.’

Focus Passage: Psalm 69:8

‘I am become a stranger unto my brethren.’

The context of the brief statement above, perhaps the proper periscope is to be found in verses 8-11:

I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children. For the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproach thee are fallen upon me. When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach. When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword unto them.

Joseph Addison Alexander speaking of Psalm 69, has had this to say, “The subject of the Psalm is an ideal person, representing the whole class of religious sufferers. The only individual in whom the various traits meet is Christ. This he is not, however, the exclusive, or even the immediate subject, is clear from the confession in verse 5. There is no Psalm, except the twenty-second, more distinctly applied to him in the New Testament.” Spurgeon adds, very properly, ‘If any enquire, “of whom speaketh the Psalmist this? of himself, or of some other man?” we would reply, “ of himself, and of some other man.” Who the other is, we need not be long in discovering; it is the Crucified alone who can say, “In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

The Psalmist surely refers much of this psalm to himself, and as Spurgeon maintains, much of it, if not all of it in typical form, refers to our Savior and Lord, Jesus the Christ. Nevertheless, all followers of Christ, that is to say, Jehovah, such as are imitators of David, and through David, imitators of Christ—even as Paul could say, ‘Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ,’ 1 Cor. 11:1—are also delineated in the life of this portion of God’s holy Word. We may iterate that this psalm refers to David, Christ, and His faithful and persecuted followers. The examples of these three distinctions are conspicuous of David in the Old Testament, of Christ in the New Testament, and of followers in the history of the church right down to this our day.

David was chosen by God, not only out of all Israel; not only from the very large and prominent tribe of Judah, but from among the number of the sons of Jesse to be the successor to Saul of the throne of Israel. Seven sons of Jesse passed before the scrutinizing eye of Samuel, one at a time, each receiving the rejection of Him who looketh on the heart. Samuel was puzzled, and inquired of Jesse, ‘Are here all thy children?’ Jesse answered that there was yet one elsewhere keeping the sheep whereupon Samuel told him to send and fetch him. This was that David who was chosen above his brethren, and it is not surprising that such elevation would not meet with his siblings favor. We see the first tokens of this when David is sent by Jesse to take victuals to his brothers in the army of Saul; that army that was presently being challenged to a man to man combat with the giant Philistine, Goliath of Gath. This seems to be all that it took for his brother’s jealousy to rear its ugly head. They accused him of ‘pride and naughtiness of heart.’ We may easily transpose that into ‘zeal for the house of the Lord.’

And then in the life of the greater Son of David, Jesus Christ, we see this very thing in the behavior of His brethren according to the flesh. In the narrative of John, we may read in chapter 7, verse 5, ‘For even his brethren did not believe on him.’ They did not recognize His zeal for the house of the Lord; but even like the brethren of David, they presumed some sort of personal aggrandizement to be the motive behind His unusual behaviors. His disciples at least recognized this behavior to be of the Lord, for we find in John 2:17, ‘His disciples remembered that it was written, Zeal for thy house shall eat me up’ when He drove out the money-changers and others from the temple. But He was a ‘stranger’ to His brethren, even as David was a stranger to his. Zeal for the Lord is so often mistaken by its beholders. There is such a predilection in human nature of prideful suspicion of others, that we are more likely to be uncharitable in our judgment of them. Our own, real or pretended, zeal for the Lord is challenged by a true zeal. Charles Spurgeon speaks accurately of this when he says, “Zeal for God is so little understood by men of the world, that it always draws down opposition upon those who are inspired with it; they are sure to be accused of sinister motives, or of hypocrisy, or of being out of their senses. When zeal eats us up, ungodly men seek to eat us up too.” Thomas Wilson adds his helpful comment to that of C.H.S. when he asks, ‘Why bears zeal the imputation of indiscretion, rashness, puritanism, or headiness? Festus called Paul mad, with a loud voice (Acts xxvi. 24), when he spake but words of truth and soberness (verse 25). Christ’s kinsmen thought that he was beside himself. Mark iii. 21.’

We may become strangers to our brothers in the flesh; our siblings by nature. Christ for a good time was counted ‘strange’ by His brethren according to the flesh. Sadly, it is not impossible to become a stranger to brethren even among professors of religion; even those professing Christ. ‘David danced before the Lord with all his might, and when he was reproached for degrading himself in the eyes of his people by indulging in such transports, he replied, “If this be vile, I will yet make myself more vile.”’—Robert Hall. David’s brethren; Christ’s brethren; our brethren according to the flesh, as well as our brethren in the church, have looked upon us as strangers. How it is that we have become strangers to our brethren? We may trust by the grace of God, and hope, that it is because the ‘zeal of thy house hath eaten me up.’ It is perfectly alright to become strangers to others, even unto our brethren, even unto our brethren in the church, if we have some assurance that it is not due to any pride, or self-seeking, in ourselves, but that it is done unto the Lord. We may be comforted, if that is the true case, in the happy expectation of finally on that great day, hearing those beautiful words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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