The Character and Privileges of the Righteous
William Nicholson, 1862
"But let all those that put their trust in you rejoice; let them ever shout for joy, because you defend them; let them also who love your name, be joyful in you." Psalm 5:11.
"But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you!" Psalm 5:11
In this Psalm we may see the nature of true religion. It evidently implies the acknowledgment of God as the object of spiritual devotion, and constant access to him, by prayer for help in every time of need, verses 1-3. It is this which distinguishes the righteous from the wicked both in character and privilege, verses 5-10. While righteousness will exalt its possessor, leading to glory, honor, and immortality — wickedness will debase and ruin its perpetrator, leading to tribulation and anguish of soul forever, verse 10 contrasted with 11, 12. According to the Hebrew, the expression, "Destroy them," verse 10, should have been translated in the future tense, "You shall destroy them, O God; they shall fall," etc.
I. The Character of The Righteous.They "trust in God, and love his name."
1. They trust in God.This implies:
(1.) That God has engaged to be the object of their trust. The numerous promises he has made prove this. "Fear not, for I am with you," etc. "Call upon me in the day of trouble," etc. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower," etc., with numerous other promises.
It is proved also by the experience of his people, who have ever found him to be their helper and refuge. See Psalm 46 and Psalm 91. "My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus." etc.
(2.) It implies a deep conviction of their need and helplessness. "Without me you can do nothing." "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." Romans 7:18. They cannot conquer their spiritual foes — nor perform spiritual duties aright, without Divine aid. "Who is sufficient for these things?"
(3.) It implies the renunciation of all other objects of trust. They trust no longer in man — nor worldly possessions; they do not make gold their hope, and say to the fine gold, you are my confidence. They trust not in their own strength, wisdom, and self-righteousness. All these are renounced as refuges of lies, as physicians of no value.
(4.) Trusting in God has a reference to Christ. He is the mediator between God and man — the way to the Father. "No man comes unto the Father except by me." "He ever lives to make intercession for them." Feeling their need and helplessness, they, when looking to God for help, appeal in Christ's name, and for his glory. The great intercessor takes them by the hand, and presents them and their needs to his Father, and for them pleads his blood.
To trust in God is firmly to expect what he has promised to do for us in time and eternity. Psalm 62:8. It is to believe — to have faith — to confide, as the Jailor, Acts 16:31, 34, as all true Christians have done, Ephesians 1:22, 13.
Hence they trust in God . . .
for the saving of their souls,
for the enjoyment of all the blessings of the Gospel,
for conquest over all their enemies,
for support in and deliverance from all their troubles,
for the sanction of all their trials,
for the guidance and interpositions of his gracious providence,
and for eternal life.
This trusting is intimately connected with prayer — a direct believing application to God for blessings required.
(5.) Their trust in God is constant, Galatians 2:20. They are encouraged to trust in him, from . . .
his liberality, Romans 8:32; Psalm 84:11;
his ability, James 1:17;
his relationship, Psalm 103:13;
his promise, Isaiah 33:16;
the experience of his people in all ages, Psalm 22:4, 5, etc. etc.
2. They love his Name."Let them also who love your name." The term "your name," denotes God himself, his nature as revealed to us in all his glorious perfections, especially his power and goodness to protect and save them that trust in him. In this sense, the name of God, or Jehovah, is frequently used in the Scriptures. Psalm 20:1, 5, 7.
In the law and the prophets, it denotes the Divine nature and perfections, as revealed in creation, providence, and redemption. Psalm 8:1, 9; 9:10; Exodus 33:19; 34:5, 7.
In the New Testament, the term is much the same; John 17:6; Acts 8:12; 5:41; 26:9; 9:15. See also Matthew 28:19; Revelation 2:13; 3:8.
To love God is . . .
to delight in him,
to highly esteem him,
to earnestly desire to enjoy his favor,
to be like him, and
to serve him acceptably.
(1.) They love him because he first loved them. 1 John 4:19. They love him as . . .
their great Deliverer,
and their King.
"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy!" 1 Peter 1:8
(2.) They love him sincerely. Without dissimulation. Not merely in profession, but really, from the heart. The love of God is shed abroad in the heart. Romans 5:5. The love of Christ constrains them. 2 Corinthians 5:14.
(3.) They love him supremely. "He who loves father and mother, etc., more than me, is not worthy of me." They forsake all to follow him. They deny themselves, and make sacrifices for his sake. "Whom have I in Heaven but you?" "Whom have I in Heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:25-26
(4.) They love him practically. Faith works by love. James 2:14-18. They love the brethren. 1 John 4:20, 21. They love his house; his ordinances; his word; his commandments. "If you love me, keep my commandments." "And this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous."
II. The Privileges of the Righteous."They shall rejoice, shout aloud for joy, and be joyful."
1. The joy itself.
This joy springs from the hope of mercy through the atonement. It is the effect of the truth believed with the heart, through the enlightening influences of the Spirit, and therefore termed joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17. Hence the Eunuch, Acts 8:39. The first disciples were filled with joy, immediately on their believing, Acts 13:52; and this joy kept pace with the increase of their faith and hope, however poor their worldly circumstances, until they were brought to "rejoice with joy unspeakable." Romans 5:1. "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy!" 1 Peter 1:8
Hence then, observe —
(1.) They have great cause for joy. Christ has died for them; they are pardoned — justified from all condemnation; they are adopted into God's family; have access to him. They have a saving interest in all the promises. They are heirs of eternal life. "All things are yours." 1 Corinthians 3:21, 23.
(2.) Their joy is pure. Its source is holy; it rejoices in holy things; it arises from holy privileges and duties, and from holy prospects. It is not like the joy of the wicked, which is empty, and connected with sin. Proverbs 15:21.
(3.) It is satisfying. Worldly joys leave a sting behind. Ecclesiastes 2:10, 11; 11:9. When earthly enjoyments are taken from the ungodly, they have nothing left; their mirth is ceased, for their ALL is gone; and they say with Micah, "You have taken away my gods, and what have I more?"
But in loss of all, Christians can rejoice in their God. Why? Because when they are full — they can enjoy God in all; when empty and impoverished — they enjoy all in God.
(4.) This joy is triumphant. They "shout for joy." They frequently triumph over the flesh, the world, and Satan, and they shout for joy. They have often clear evidences of their acceptance with God, and know in whom they have believed, etc., then they shout for joy. They have often bright views of their heavenly home, and feel their salvation nearer than when they believed. By faith they see the heavenly Jerusalem — its golden streets, its waving palms, the conquering throng, its deathless harps, etc. It is then they shout for joy.
(5.) Their joy is constant. "Ever shout;" "joyful;" implying an habitual frame. "Your joy no man takes from you."
2. The particular cause of this joy is specified."Because you defend them."
(1.) He defends them by his providence. Everything contrived against them, God sees. Psalm 121:4. A sparrow cannot fall to the ground apart from our heavenly Father. Providence defends them, but not the wicked. See Proverbs 10:3; Isaiah 3:10. Noah was preserved. Genesis 6:8. 9; Lot also. Genesis 19:22. Sodom would have been spared for ten, etc. Genesis 18:32. He preserved the three Hebrew children. Daniel 3; Moses, Exodus 2; Daniel, Joseph in the pit, Paul in many perils, 2 Corinthians 11, and Peter in prison, Acts 12.
(2.) He defends by his power. Daniel 3:17; John 10:28, 29; 2 Samuel 22:2, 3. His hand is omnipotent, he spans the heavens, etc. Isaiah 40:12. On this Almighty Arm, believers trust. "The LORD is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
(3.) He defends them by his angels. They guarded Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17. Lot, Peter, etc. They encamp, Psalm 34:7, and are ministering spirits, Hebrews 1:14.
God can strike terror into their enemies, so that they dare not molest them. Genesis 35:5. Jacob prayed to be delivered from Esau. Genesis 32:11, and he was, Genesis 33:1. God can curse the very weapons of the wicked, and frustrate all their designs. See Isaiah 54:16, 17.