The Psalmist is feeling that his enemies taunt him and him down. If one stands for God, he is going to have enemies (cynics and critics) who make light of his faith and trust in God. They may mock our condition and say things like, “So, where is your God now that you are suffering?” The answer of course is that God is still there and still in charge. God works in Him time and His way. God has a divine plan to accomplish (see Romans 8:28).
One of my favorite biblical passages that addresses the question of God rescuing us comes from Daniel 3:18. In that story, Daniels’ three friends were about to be thrown in a very hot furnace. Their response to their accusers were in effect the words, “but if not”. Simply put, they were acknowledging that God may or may not choose to rescue them. It is up to God and not us. However, either way we will still serve God.
The point of verse 8 is that when we feel really low, we can expect those that oppose our trust in God to say or think bad things. The way to get through such times is to remember the God we serve.
In verse 9, the Psalmist declares that he ate ashes for food. How could anyone eat ashes as food? In this poetic phrase, the author is simply trying to get us to understand how much pain he was in at that moment. To understand verse 9, one has to picture being in so much pain, that one’s tears run down off one’s face and into a cup of liquid. One has to visualize being in so much pain that one sees one’s food as just being a bunch of ashes.
When we think of “ashes” we think of death. We think of things that have burnt up. The point is the author is in such pain, he sees his life as essentially over.
This leads us to the rest of these verses. The author feels like he is at a point of death as he wrote this section of the Psalm. I suspect that for us to really appreciate this Psalm, we too have to feel like there is no hope for our lives.
Remember that we are still in the fourth book of the Psalms. As I said in the introduction, this fourth book of the Psalms ties to the fourth book of the Old Testament “Numbers”.
The book of Numbers was in effect a "death march" as a whole generation was sentenced to die for a lack of trust in God. My point is the author realizes how futile his life is without any trust in God. The author realizes how much pain and suffering this life can be. He sees his time on earth as short lived as grass.
This Psalm teaches us is when life seems hopeless and futile, that is when we need to get back to the eternal perspective. The good news is the author does just that, which begins the next section of this Psalm.