God Thinks Upon Me
Archibald Brown, September 13, 1908, Metropolitan Tabernacle,
"I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinks upon me!" Psalm 40:17
I am not going to dwell at all upon the grace of the text — but upon its mystery.
'I am poor and needy.' Well, we all know that, and I trust we feel it; but the sentence that riveted me, and I pray God it may rivet you, is this, 'Yet the Lord thinks upon me.' Then God thinks!! Have you ever allowed this, not only to simmer in your mind — but to go right down into your soul as a fact? God thinks!!! Then God is a thoughtful Being. Surely here is an argument for the personality of our God. To think is an attribute of personality. A mere influence, a subtle force, that which is only part and parcel of created matter, cannot think. It may be moved by laws it has no power whatever to resist; but to think — here we have Jehovah brought before us as a Being, as a person, and as One who thinks.
The most astonishing thing you ever do is to think, and when you think, you do that which you cannot explain, and which cannot be explained by anyone else.
What is thought? All scientists are agreed on this, that thought can never be the product of matter. It is not my brain that thinks — though I may think through my brain — but, as one scientist well says, it is a wrong statement altogether to say that thoughts lie in the brain: thoughts no more lie in the brain than Mendelssohn's oratorio lies in the organ or in the piano. By no cerebral convolution, no movement that is muscular, can any thought be generated.
Then what is thought? Echo answers — What? We know this, that God himself is the origin of all thought; and when you have said, 'God thinks', you have said one of the most wonderful things concerning God himself that the lip can utter, except when you have to add, as the Psalmist does, 'He thinks upon me.'
Now before we go right into our subject, I can imagine some here saying, 'Oh, I wish, Mr Brown, you would give us something more practical. We want "things", never mind about thoughts, let us have realities.'
And are things more real than thoughts? 'Things' are not the original entity: thoughts are. Thoughts do not come from things — but all things come from thoughts. There never yet was anything that you can see with your eye that was not first seen in some mind; all 'things' are only materialized thoughts. You point me, maybe, to a Cologne Cathedral, a masterpiece of architecture — the only building that has ever made tears come to our eyes — and you say, 'What a perfect conception! What a magnificent building!' True — but before ever Cologne Cathedral stood in that square it was in the mind of the architect. It is only a magnificent thought that has become materialized in stone and marble. It was a conception before it was a building. The picture you gaze on was in the artist's mind before any color was put upon the canvas; the picture is only the materialized thought of the artist. And music — which appeals to some of us even more than the painting — take such an oratorio as I have just mentioned, in our judgment unrivaled, that masterpiece of Mendelssohn — all those matchless airs, those melodies, those dramatic clashes and pauses, were in his mind before ever there was a minim or a quaver put upon paper.
And so, lying at the back of everything is a think. There is only the difference of one letter — substitute k for g and you come nearer the truth than perhaps you imagine. The thing is, after all, only the think; all things are the product of thought.
Now, here in our text we have Jehovah spoken of as thinking, and the text, as it gripped me, made me take this form of study:
What Does the Scripture Say about God's Thoughts?Perhaps some say, 'Is not this rather a dry subject?' I hope it will not prove to be so; but if you come to worship on a Sunday morning, I take it you do not come for a little anecdote, or something that may create a smile: we meet for the study of the word, and a profounder subject than this morning's could hardly be discovered. But I think you will see, the moment we turn to a few passages, that in the light of Scripture we have a most marvelous vision of a thinking God.
What does Scripture say concerning God's thoughts? Let us look at the fifth verse of this Fortieth Psalm, 'Many, O Lord my God, are your wonderful works which you have done and your thoughts which are to us.' God's works and God's thoughts march together. He has done wonderful works — Why? — because he has had wonderful thoughts; and the wonder of the thought is this, they are thoughts 'to us'. When we think of God upon the throne, the center of the universe, controlling and governing all, oh the profound mystery and wonder of it — that there are thoughts from that throne to us. I can understand them going out toward archangel or seraphim; but the psalmist says, 'You have done wonderful works' — Why? — 'because you have had wonderful thoughts and thoughts about us.' All God's works are God's thoughts carried out, and his thoughts have been and are to us.
God's thoughts imply a purpose, for in the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah, at the twenty-fourth verse, you read, 'The Lord Almighty has sworn saying, surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.' There is a divine purpose in all God does, and we are not living in a world where haphazard reigns, we are not living in a world where there is a thoughtless, careless Power above. All God's thoughts are his purposes, and before God does anything — I say it with reverence — he thinks it out. Oh the thought there was before there was creation: he weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in the balance, and he so balanced star against star, and world against world, that all the different pullings of gravitation act and react so that everything keeps its place. From the suns in the firmament to the daisies in the field — you can see God's thoughts.
And are not his thoughts seen in the realm of PROVIDENCE? I do not think there are many here who have been more troubled with skeptical thoughts than the preacher, especially in relation to God's providential dealings. It is so difficult when you see the deck swept of all you love, and it looks as if providence were playing havoc with all your plans — still to realize that everything is being calmly, thoughtfully and lovingly arranged with a view to ultimate good; but the thought that arranged the position of the mountains, the thought that located the worlds in space, that same thought is arranging all things in God's providential realm.
Stepping into the brighter and more blessed realm of REDEMPTION, I find it is all thought out there: as we read in the Epistle to the Ephesians, it is 'that, by the church might be known' — What? — 'the manifold wisdom of God'. Angels and archangels look down and intently study a redeemed church, because there they see the highest and deepest and brightest manifestation of God's thought.
So much for the first reference. Now if you will turn to the Ninety-second psalm, fifth verse, you will find another Scripture ray of light thrown upon a thinking God. 'O Lord, how great are your works! and your thoughts are very deep.' God's thoughts are very deep. Again, do you see how the Holy Spirit has linked the works with the thoughts. Your works are very great — Why? — because your thoughts are very deep; and there must be harmony between the work and the thought, because every true work is an incarnated thought.
But oh, Jehovah's thoughts are very deep! Try and conceive, if you can, of the difference which may be found in the mental powers of men on earth. I was thinking after this style: In yonder house, up in the nursery, is a little child playing. God bless him! I am so glad he has never had any big thoughts yet in that little head, and hope that many years will pass before that little forehead aches through big thoughts that surge. The toy occupies it now. But come into this outer room, that is built from the house, in order that there may be quiet, and here we find the father; he is an astronomer, and I will tell you what he is doing. He has noticed, as he has watched the heavens, that there is a deviation in the course of a planet, and he has argued that the deviation in the course of that planet proves there is another world, which he has never yet discovered, pulling at it, and he is working out a profound mathematical problem; he is going to prove the demonstration of a world he cannot see, by the deviation of a world he can see.
Is there any comparison between the thoughts of the father and those of the little one up there in the nursery? If that child were to speak it would say, 'Oh, father's thoughts are so deep!' Yes, too deep for your little head, darling. But remember that Jehovah is the origin of all mind, and the difference between the child's thoughts and the astronomer's is nothing compared with the difference that must ever lie between the profoundest thought of a created being, and the thought of him who created the mental power. God thinks; and when God thinks I expect him to think something that I cannot always understand. I could not believe that he were God if he did not! A God who never overwhelms my intellect, is a God that shall never have the reverence of my heart. I expect that when God thinks I shall have to stand amazed and say, 'I have no fathoming line for this.' Your thoughts are deep.
Now side by side with the passages I have just given you, remember a verse in the fifty-fifth chapter of Isaiah, and how beautifully does it come in: 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.' Oh, it would be almost laughable, were it not so unutterably sad, when you see men in the pride of their so-called reason criticizing Jehovah, trying to measure up Infinity. Jehovah's thoughts must be deep.
What is the third passage which throws another fresh and beautiful light upon our subject? Twenty-ninth chapter of Jeremiah and the eleventh verse: 'I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord.' One could very easily get out of one's depth here, because there is not only thinking — there is knowing that I am thinking; here is God not only having a thought — but he knows he has the thought. 'I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.' The latter clause should be rendered, 'to give you hope'. What is the previous verse? 'Thus says the Lord, after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.' 'I am going to bring you out of your captivity, says the Lord.' — Why? — 'for I know the thoughts that I think toward you — they are thoughts of peace to give you hope.'
I know not — but if there should be some dear child of God here unutterably depressed, almost in despair, Brother, let me throw this passage to you as a life-belt; put it round you, and rest on it. 'I know the thoughts that I think concerning you.' You were saying, 'but Lord, I cannot understand them.' 'No', says the Lord, 'very likely not — but I know the thoughts.' You are in your captivity, you are in your Babylon, and you see no deliverance, and you say, 'How can I ever be brought out of this trouble?' The Lord says, 'You shall, for I know the thoughts that I have concerning you — not thoughts of evil — but thoughts of peace to give you hope at the end.'
It may not be apparent — but God's thoughts do not stop half-way, like ours. My thoughts generally stop before they have gone a few yards into the future; but Jehovah's thoughts travel to the very end; and his thought to us-ward is this, at the end to give us hope. It is alright, Brother, it is alright; at the end you will praise God. Give God time. His thoughts will justify his love.
For a moment, on the fourth passage. It is in the one hundred and thirty-ninth psalm, the paraphrase of which we sang just now. The seventeenth verse: 'How precious also are your thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them.' Before you close your Bibles, read the second verse of this Psalm: 'You know my down sitting and my uprising, you understand my thought afar off.' In this Psalm you have my thought, and then you have his thought — but the psalmist does not say, 'How precious unto me are my thoughts': it is, 'How precious are your thoughts unto me.'
The reason why we are not happier Christians is this, we so brood over and contemplate our own thoughts, and we shall never get any good out of them. The true attitude is for my thought, like a bee, to find out the flower of God's thought, and then dive down into the flower and get the honey there.
Oh, poor self-introspective man, you who are always looking in your own heart, thinking about your own thoughts and analyzing them. Yet the object for meditation and contemplation, according to Scripture, is this, Jehovah's thoughts. 'How precious are your thoughts unto me. My thoughts nestle down in your thought. I will think about what you have thought of me. I will take your thoughts as expressed in the Scripture, and my thoughts shall cluster round them.'
The last passage is the one we have selected for our text, this last verse of the Fortieth Psalm. 'I am poor and needy — yet the Lord thinks upon me.' Thinks upon me — How? I believe that Jesus is in this Psalm, not only in the few verses we pointed out in the reading — but very constantly; and this utterance may fall, and I believe does fall, as much from the lip of the Lord Jesus as from David. Jesus could say, 'I am poor.' Yes, he was, 'The foxes have holes, and the birds their nests — but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.' 'I am poor and needy — yet my Father thinks upon me.' If you read the whole of our dear Lord's life, you will see that it was a life of absolute trust in the loving thought of his Father.
But let David be the speaker — and without a doubt his own feelings are intermingled — he is speaking of himself not simply by prophecy but by experience, and he finds there are a good many round about who give him trouble. There are some saying, 'Aha! Aha!' Have you ever had people say that to you? There is the scoffer laughing, maybe, at your simple confidence in God, and he boldly says, 'Aha! Aha!' Poor David says, 'Let such as love your salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified.' But listen how they deride and say, 'Aha, Aha.' And then this thought comes to him, 'I am poor and needy, and there are some who despise me — but the Lord thinks upon me; I have got a place in his thoughts, and he is thinking of my deliverance and my emancipation, so I will send up this prayer: "Make no tarrying, O my God." Do what you are thinking about; you have a thought for me, let it become the "thing"; you are thinking of my sorrow, deliver me from it.'
Perhaps some will say, 'But, preacher, have you dealt fairly with us? All the passages you have given are out of the Old Testament; are not we New Testament saints? Give us something from the New Testament about God thinking.' The beauty is that you do not find the expression there. I will tell you why.
In the New Testament we have God's thoughts incarnated in the person of the Lord Jesus. I am so glad that when I pass from the Old Testament, which tells me so much about God's thoughts, and come into the New Testament, I do not find this word 'thought'. I find another word — 'In the beginning was the Word.' What is a word? A word is the incarnation of a thought. I know the thoughts that I have. Yes — but how is anyone else to know them? The thoughts that course through my brain at this moment must be concealed from you until they are expressed in language; then the word becomes the thought manifested.
Jesus is the thought of God. I do not need a passage to tell me about God's thoughts. Here are God's thoughts, for listen: 'God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son', or, as it should be rendered, 'in his Son'. Look at Jesus, and there you have God's thoughts. I know God's thoughts about sin, I know his thoughts concerning the sinner, his thoughts of mercy, his thoughts of salvation: they are all gathered up in Christ Jesus; he is God's thought, and the thought which is to us. God's eternal thought came to us, and then the manifestation of that thought was Jesus Christ coming to us. 'Lo I come, because the Father's thought has come. I delight to do your will, O my God.' Is there some poor lonely one here who says, 'I do not think anybody in London thinks of me. I should be so glad if I could only be sure there is some friend thinking about me.'
Perhaps you feel as Alexander Selkirk makes that one in the desert island, the true Robinson Crusoe, to feel. Do you remember the passage? —
My friends, do they now and then send
A wish or a thought after me?
Oh, tell me I yet have a friend,
Though a friend I am never to see.
Does your heart sigh, 'Is there anyone who sends a wish or a thought after me?' You need not say it any more; alter Alexander Selkirk's little verse, and write it thus:
My friends, do they now and then send
A wish or a thought after me?
Oh tell me I yet have the Friend,
And the Friend I am ever to see!
"The Lord thinks on me!"