"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose—
"He rules forever by His power." Psalm 66:7
The Psalm from which these words are taken is one of the
many that were inspired by memories of the Sinai wilderness—the great drama
of the Exodus. The words of our motto-verse are ushered in by the
proudest of these memories—"Come and see what God has done,…He turned the
sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot—come, let us
rejoice in Him.…He rules forever by His power." Varied are the figures
employed by the sacred psalmist in describing the illustrious event. Jehovah
had broken the meshes of the enclosing net (11). From the fire of Egypt's
brick-kilns He had rescued them (12). Through the furnace they had emerged
purified (10). He conducted them through the raging flood of the Red Sea
(6). They had only to "stand still and see the salvation of God" (5 and 12).
"For you, O God, tested us; You refined us like silver. You brought us into
prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we
went through fire and water, but You brought us to a place of abundance." (vers.
An emancipation effected from the territory of the
greatest and proudest of the old world dynasties—an enslaved people, in the
might of their God, rising in a night, breaking their chains, leaving every
memento of bondage and degradation behind them; and after a miraculous march
of forty years, at last entering triumphantly the promised land. All this
could not have been accomplished without the cognizance of the surrounding
nations. Hence the Psalmist, remembering these glorious 'works of the Lord
and His wonders of old,' breaks out into a lofty appeal to the kingdoms of
his own age to recognize the hand of Israel's Jehovah. (ver. 1) "Shout with
joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; make His praise
glorious. Say to God, 'How awesome are Your deeds! So great is Your power
that your enemies cringe before You.'…He rules forever by His power."
What a glorious palm-shade to camp under! What an
unspeakably comforting assurance, whether to nations or to individuals, that
the same mighty hand which shattered the chains of the Hebrew bondsmen and
smote the tongue of the Egyptian sea, may be recognized in every event which
happens to His people—every public calamity, every domestic heart-sorrow.
Whether it be the bondage and deliverance of a nation, or the preparing and
withering of a family gourd, we can write above all, "He rules forever by
His power." Whether He smites or heals, darkens or
gladdens, gives or takes away, it is ours to say, in the words of
this inspiring hymn (vers. 8, 9), "Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound
of His praise be heard; He has preserved our lives." Life is His. He
kindles the spark, and, when He sees fit, He quenches it.
Death is but the revocation of His own grant, the lapsing of the lease into
the hands of life's great Proprietor. "You turn men back to dust,
saying, 'Return to dust, O sons of men.'"
The psalm is thought by some to have been specially
composed by David on the occasion of that great festival at the end of his
reign, when, after having collected material for his projected Temple on
Mount Moriah, 'all Israel' assembled, at the summons of their aged king, and
in response to his appeal, "consecrated their service to the Lord." What
could be more natural than for the minstrel monarch, at such a time, to
return in the first instance to God's wondrous transactions with them as a
nation, ever since the hour of the Exodus; and then to pass to a personal
retrospect of God's dealings with himself throughout his varied history,
from the morning of his life in the valleys of Bethlehem until now, when the
sun was setting and the shadows were falling? He too had to tell of varied
sorrows. He too had been tried as silver is tried. He too had been brought
through fire and through water, and had affliction laid upon his loins,
(affliction which few bereaved parents are called to endure). But even on
the mingled retrospect, in which all these figures of speech met—the
furnace, the net, the fire, the flood, the sack-clothed loins—he could see
mercy—rich, undeserved mercy, mingling with, and tempering judgment.
The dark clouds of his stormy life were alternated
with glorious sunshine; the dreary spots of the wilderness were far
outnumbered by the green. Elim palms stood conspicuous amid stretches of
barren sand. And remembering how graciously God had heard his prayers in the
past, supported him in trouble, and made his earthly trials conspire for the
good of his soul, we can understand how appropriately he records his votive
resolve in ver. 13, "I will come to Your temple with burnt offerings and
fulfill my vows to You—vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was
in trouble. I will sacrifice fat animals to You and an offering of rams; I
will offer bulls and goats. Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me
tell you what He has done for me." He gives to God all the glory of his past
deliverances and triumphs. He takes none to himself. "Sing forth," he says,
"the honor of His name…which kept our feet from slipping."
The psalm and its many devout and instructive sentiments
was designed for the Church of God and believers in every age. Its lessons
are not local but universal. The safe and triumphant passage of Israel
through the Red Sea, and the Jordan of old, are pledges of covenant mercy to
His people in all times and in all seasons of affliction. Through every sea
of sorrow and trouble He makes a passage for them, gives songs in the night,
takes off their sackcloth, and girds them with gladness. It is a striking
assertion, "through the flood" (the place where we might have
expected nothing but trembling and terror, anguish and dismay)—"there," says
the Psalmist, "did we rejoice in Him!"
How many there are who can endorse this as their
experience: that "there," in their very seasons of distress and sadness,
they have been enabled, as they never did before, to triumph and rejoice.
How near their God in covenant is brought! how brightly shine His promises!
In the day of our prosperity we cannot see the brilliancy of these. Like the
sun at noon, hiding out the stars from sight, they are indiscernible;
but when night overtakes, the deep dark night of sorrow, out come
these clustering stars—blessed constellations of Bible hope and
promise and consolation. Like Jacob at Jabbok, it is when our
earthly sun goes down that the Divine Angel comes forth, and we wrestle with
Him and prevail.
It was at night, "in the evening," Aaron lit the
sanctuary lamps. It is in the night of trouble the brightest lamps of the
believer are often kindled. It was in his loneliness and exile John
had the glorious vision of his Redeemer. There is many a Patmos still in the
world, whose brightest remembrances are those of God's presence and
upholding grace and love in solitude and sadness. How many pilgrims, still
passing through these Red Seas and Jordans of earthly affliction, will be
enabled in the retrospect of eternity to say—full of the memories of God's
great goodness, "We went through the flood on foot, THERE"—there, in those
dark experiences, with the surging waves on every side, deep calling to
deep, Jordan, as when Israel crossed, it in 'the time of overflowing,'
(flood), yet "THERE did we rejoice in Him!" "Sing forth the honor of
His name, and make His praise glorious."
There are seasons, indeed, when we cannot tune the harp
of broken strings, when the summons of the 5th verse is more appropriately
ours, "Come, and see what God has done, how awesome His works in
man's behalf!" When we have to say unto Him, "How awesome are Your deeds!"
But while justice and judgment are the habitation of His throne, mercy and
truth go continually before His face. While "One thing God has spoken, two
things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and You, O Lord,
are loving." "I will sing of Your love and justice; to You, O Lord, I will
sing praise!" "We went through fire and water, but You brought us to a place
Occupying now the glorious place of security, which can
alone be found in Christ and His finished salvation, let us commit the
keeping of our souls, and of all near and dear to us, to Him for the future
in well doing; knowing that there will be no floods or fires sent but what
He appoints; and, if sent, let us seek to be able to say, "may Your will be
done!" That so we may come at last to stand without fault before the throne,
with every flood passed, every fire quenched, every tear dried. With room
found provided, for all whom death has severed from us, in that "place of
abundance" above; and confident then, at least, that the Divine
dispensations and dealings were for our good, we shall be able to utter the
invitation, "Come, and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He
has done for me."
"Source of my life's refreshing springs,
Whose presence in my heart sustains me,
Your love appoints me pleasant things,
Your mercy orders all that pains me.
"Well may Your own beloved, who see
In all their lot their Father's pleasure,
Bear loss of all they love, save Thee,
Their living, everlasting treasure."
"I will take refuge in the shelter of Your wings."