Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
THE HAPPY MAN. Psalm 1
This First Psalm is a fitting introduction to the sacred Psalter. It constitutes almost a perfect epitome of the whole book. Like the sermon on the mount, it begins with the word "Blessed." The word is in the plural, and has been rendered, "O the happinesses of the man," etc. He is not only blessed, but blessed with all spiritual blessings. This happy man comes before us in a twofold aspect:-
I. His Negative Character. There are some things that he will not do; not because law and judgment dares him to do them, but because he has got something better to enjoy, and a positive hatred in his heart for ways and things that are at enmity with the mind and will of God.
1. HE DOES NOT WALK IN THE COUNSEL OF THE UNGODLY. He knows that "the way of the ungodly shall perish," and he keeps out of it. The counsel of the ungodly is to walk in the broad way that leads to destruction. His manner of life is not directed by the wisdom of this world, but by that wisdom which comes from above.
2. HE DOES NOT STAND IN THE WAY OF SINNERS. The ungodly may mean those who live in ignorance of God, but sinners are those who deliberately transgress against the light. To abide in their way of doing things is to show an attitude that is more at home with the way of sinners than merely walking in the counsel of the ungodly.
3. HE DOES NOT SIT IN THE SEAT OF THE SCORNFUL. Those who begin to walk in the counsel of the ungodly are in danger of ending in the seat of the scornful. This seat is the chief seat in the kingdom of Satan. There is no promotion beyond this. In a few hours, the Apostle Peter ran through all this experience, from walking in the counsel of the ungodly to the seat of the scornful. He sat by the fire and denied the Lord with oaths and curses, but when he was converted he strengthened his brethren. Those who scorn at the things of God and His Christ walk after their own lusts (2 Peter 3:3).
II. His Positive Character. He is—
1. JOYFUL. He has many blessings, but "his delight is in the law of the Lord" (v. 2). The Christian life is not one merely of giving up this or that, but it is entering into a new and happy inheritance in the Word of God. True, the prodigal had to give up some things before he could possess the best robe and enter into the joys of a happy home. But what were they? The swine troughs and his rags. The Word of the Lord is a land flowing with milk and honey. "Here everlasting streams abide, and never withering flowers." It is indeed a "delightsome land." All who love the Lord will find delight in His Word.
2. THOUGHTFUL. "In His law does he meditate day and night." In the day of prosperity, and in the night of adversity, he makes the Word of God the man of his counsel. Meditation on the word of truth is as needful to our spiritual health and strength as mastication is for the physical.
Like Elijah's servant, we may need to look again and again before we see the cloud like a man's hand. "What think you of Christ?" The Lord expects us to think deeply into these things which He has caused to be written for our learning. There is no book in all the world that yields such a harvest of blessing to the humble student as the Bible. The testimony of Thomas a Kempis was, "I have no rest, but in a nook, with the Book."
3. HOPEFUL. "He shall be like a tree planted by the streams of water" (v.3, R.V.); He is full of expectation, because his circumstances are so very favorable. He is "like a tree that spreads out her roots by the river." While other trees are being starved and stunted by drought, his roots are being fully satisfied; buried in the streams of God's truth, and mercy, and grace. He has a meat to eat that others know not of. All whose delight is in the law of the Lord are as trees planted by streams of living waters. The roots of faith and love feed in these life-giving streams.
4. FRUITFUL. "That brings forth its fruit in its season." The fruit is according to the character of the tree, and is always in season. Men do not gather grapes of thorns. His roots being in the rivers of God, he has abundance of life, so that fruit-bearing is the natural and simple result. Being filled with the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit is manifested (Galatians 5:22, 23). The man who is ready, as opportunity offers, to bear testimony for Christ, will bring forth fruit in his season. Being filled out of the river of life, he will be filled with the fruits of righteousness (Philippians 1:11).
5. BEAUTIFUL. "Whose leaf also does not wither." There is a vital connection between the root and the leaf. Dry roots soon bring the dry rot into the leaf. Men cannot see the roots of the Christian character, but they can see the leaf, and the hidden condition of the roots may be judged by the outward appearance of the leaf. The outward life will be fresh and green when the inward life is pure and full. Withered leaves are signs of a withered life. When our testimony for Christ and His truth loses its freshness and power, we may be sure that there is something wrong with the roots, for the streams never run dry. It is the Spirit's purpose to put the beauty of the Lord our God upon us.
6. SUCCESSFUL. "Whatever he does shall prosper:" or, whatever the tree produces shall come to maturity. The bud, and the blossom, produced by the Spirit of life, will come to perfect fruition. "All cry and no wool," does not belong to the sheep of His pasture. The purposes of God begotten in the heart of Joseph, ripened into perfection, for the Lord was with him and made it to prosper (Genesis 39:23). Our Lord could say, "I have finished the work You gave me to do." And He has left us an example that we should follow His steps. If it be God who works in us both to will and to do, then what soever we do shall prosper, for He who has begun the good work will carry it on, until the day in which it is perfected.
III. The Contrast. "The ungodly are not so" (v. 4). No, they are far from it. The ungodly are the lawless ones who have no delight, or reverence for the law of the Lord; They are a law unto themselves, and the fruits of their own character and deeds shall be reaped by them. They are not likened to a tree planted, but to chaff driven. They have neither root, nor life in themselves. Chaff had once a close connection with the wheat, and may, in its outward aspect resemble it, but it is a dead worthless thing, to be burned with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:12). "The way of the ungodly shall perish" (v. 6). The chaff has no power to resist either the wind or the fire. The lawless, like chaff, are driven about with every wind of doctrine, popular opinion, or worldly success; they have no connection with, or capacity for receiving of those streams of life, that flow so copiously in the hidden Kingdom of God. They shall not stand accepted in the judgment nor be numbered with the congregation of the righteous (v. 5). Only "he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:17). How helpless the empty chaff is before the driving force of the wind. There is no refuge for it. "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness; but the righteous has hope in his death." "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up" (Matthew 15:13). The way of the ungodly must perish, because it is the way of pride, pleasure, unbelief, and Christ rejection. It is the way that seems right unto a man, but the end is death. "He who believes not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
THE TRIUNE TESTIMONY. Psalm 2
In the book of the Acts, Peter and Paul both quote this Psalm as having reference to David, and also to the Lord Jesus Christ as the exalted Son of God. Paul refers to it as the Second Psalm (Acts 4:25; 13:33). Undoubtedly a greater than David is here. This Psalm is separated into three divisions, and these different sections contain the testimony of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the declaration of God the Ruler, God the Mediator, and God the Comforter. Let us hear them—
I. The Voice of God the Sovereign. In verses 1 to 6 it is God who speaks. His words reveal the attitude of the nations toward Himself, and His attitude toward them as rebels against His law and His Son. These words of the Lord contain an exhibition of—
1. HUMAN ENMITY AND FOLLY. Why do the nations rage, and their representatives—kings and rulers—take counsel together against the Lord and His Anointed? There can be no denial of this, for the charge is made by Jehovah Himself, who judges not by the outward appearance, but who looks upon the heart. Man, in all his madness and folly, never imagined a more "vain thing" than when he thought by breaking the bands of His law and casting away the cords of His love, he could enjoy liberty and prosperity. To cast off His yoke which is easy, and His burden which is light, is to put on the iron shackles of diabolical rule and eternal despair. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, that He might deliver us from all our enemies. Why rage against the Lord and His Anointed? Because the carnal mind is enmity against God. They will not have this Anointed One to reign over them. These words also reveal—
2. DIVINE DERISION AND DEFIANCE. "He who sits in the Heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision." Jehovah, as the Ruler of the world, is at rest in the highest Heaven. The rage of a tumultuous people can no more hinder Him in the fulfillment of His purpose than the howling of dogs can arrest the progress of the moon. "Yet," despite all their wrath and rebellion, He has set His King upon His holy hill of Zion. With wicked hands men crucified the Lord's Anointed, but God raised Him from the dead and enthroned Him at His own right hand in the Heavens. The resurrection of Christ is God's derisive answer to the rage and hatred of men against His Son: As the waves of the sea put to defiance the silly mandate of King Canute, so shall the irresistible purposes of God roll over the proud purposes of men, and "vex them in His sore displeasure" (v. 5). It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, as Pharaoh's host fell into the Red Sea. In derision He shall laugh at them; in wrath He shall speak to them; and in His sore displeasure He shall vex them. Who shall comfort those whom God has purposely vexed? The policy of Mr. Blatchford was "to fight and defeat the churches," but He who sits in the Heavens shall laugh, and have all such in derision; for until He is defeated the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His Church.
II. The Voice of God the Son (vv. 7-9). Hear now the language of the Anointed One who shall reign until all His enemies are put under His feet. In David, these words were not fulfilled in their literal and complete sense, but in David's Lord they shall be perfectly accomplished. This statement from the lips of Him who is the Mediator between God and man is full of deep significance. The meaning may be summed up under these four words.
1. REVELATION. "I will declare the decree." The decree may here stand for the covenant, or the purpose of God in His Son, with relation to the ungodly nations. In Christ the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us; the Only Begotten of the Father has declared His mind and will, for the law of God was written in His heart.
2. SONSHIP. "The Lord has said unto Me, You are My Son." Sonship, in a very unique sense, is emphatically taught, but there is no attempt to explain the mystery. Jehovah never said to any of the angels, "You are My Son, this day have I begotten You" (Hebrews 1:5). What "this day" may mean is difficult to understand. But it surely points to the fact that this relationship of Fatherhood and Sonship was entered into for the definite purpose of redemption. These words are referred to by Paul, as being fulfilled when God raised up Jesus from the dead (Acts 13:33). Spoken as they are in this Psalm by the Son, they may be prophetic of that notable day when He would be begotten from the dead, declaring Him to be the Son of God with power (Romans 1:3, 4).
3. TRIUMPH. "I shall give You the heathen for Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Your possession." The Son of God did not come into this world on a matter of speculation. He had the promise of God the Father that a people would be given Him, and finally, as King of the nations, He would have dominion from sea to sea, and "from the river unto the ends of the earth" (Psalm 72:8). The prophet Daniel saw the Ancient of Days giving Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. "The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand." Surely our interests also are safe enough in His hands.
4. JUDGMENT. "You shall break them—lawless nations—with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" (v. 9). When He comes, whose right it is to reign, He shall put down all ungodly rule and authority. In judgment will He establish righteousness in the earth. The kings and rulers of the earth take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed. But the Lord shall have them in derision, for "the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ" (Rev. 11:15). Christ is the Man Child brought forth to rule all nations with a rod of iron (not in grace, but in unyielding righteousness), and has now been caught up unto God, and to His throne (Rev. 12:5). This same Jesus shall come again
III. The Voice of God the Spirit. In verses 10 to 12 we have a different tone. It is more like the voice of wounded love and entreaty. It is the Holy Spirit's work to convince of sin, and to guide into all truth. "Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts." He says—
1. BE WISE. "Be wise now therefore, O you kings" (v. 10). Seeing that the Son of God will bring you into judgment, be wise now, while the day of your trial lasts. "Behold, now is the accepted time." Submission to God and His Son is the highest wisdom. They are wise who build on this rock.
2. BE INSTRUCTED. "Be instructed, you judges of the earth." The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. Don't be so puffed up with pride as to refuse Him who speaks from Heaven. Be willing as a child to sit at the feet of the Son of God and learn of Him. Receive the word at His lips. "Search the Scriptures." Gregory the Great said, "The Bible is God's heart in God's words."
3. BE RECONCILED. "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry." To kiss the Son is to lay hold of Him in an act of love and devotion. He who so kisses the Son kisses the Father also (John 5:23). The Holy. Spirit does not speak of Himself, but pleads with foolish, ignorant men to be reconciled to God lest they "perish in the way" (R.V.). Be reconciled to God, for God has made Him (Christ) to be sin for us... that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
4. BE HUMBLE. "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling" (v. 11). Having given the Son the kiss of confession, and received from Him the kiss of forgiveness, we should serve the Lord with holy fear all the days of our life (Hebrews 12:28). Rejoice in His forgiving grace, but tremble at the thought of falling back into the lawlessness of the self-life. Serve the Lord with that holy reverence which fears lest it should offend Him in any way. Be obedient to His word, ready to do whatever your Lord may appoint. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 4:30).
A SONG OF SALVATION. Psalm 3
The historical ground-work of this Psalm is found in the fifteenth chapter of Second Samuel. David's beloved son, Absalom, steals the hearts of the men of Israel, and then rebels against his father. It is a most humbling and distressing experience to discover that your own flesh, whom you had nourished and cherished, has become your most deadly enemy. What Absalom became to David, self, or the carnal mind, will sooner or later become to us, if, like him, we fall into temptation and sin. The flesh wars against the Spirit. This Psalm may profitably be read with the Seventh of Romans. The Psalmist here suffers the agonies and joys of a soul passing from death into life; or from the power of the enemy into the liberty and gladness of God's salvation. Several things may be noted:—
I. His Enemy. They were numerous. "Many are they that rise up against me" (v. 1). They were exultant. They said, "There is no help for him in God" (v. 2). That soul is in a sad plight indeed, that is shut out from the "help of God." But sin-blinded men are incapable of forming a right judgment of such a case as this. They threw the same taunt in the teeth of our Lord while He hung helpless upon the Cross. "He trusted in God: let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him." What looks like failure and defeat, in the eyes of our enemies, may be but God's method of leading us into a larger experience of the riches of His grace.
II. His Faith. "But You O Lord are a shield about me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head" (v. 3, R.V.). While the unbelievers are saying, "There is no help for him in God," the believer is rejoicing in the consciousness that God is round about him as a shield of defense, and that he is even now in God. Being in God, God becomes his glory, and the Lifter up of his head. My Shield, my Glory, my Lifter. He endures, like Moses, by seeing Him who is invisible. The heart that trusts in Him will be helped (Psalm 28:7).
III. His Testimony. "I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me; I laid me down and slept; the Lord sustained me" (vv. 4, 5). Selah. This is a comforting word. He prayed, the Lord heard him, and so delivered him from all his fears and anxieties, that he was able to lie down and sleep peacefully, because the Lord sustained him. The prayer of faith shall save the fearful as well as the sick. The apostle James says, "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray" (5:13). He shall be kept in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on the Lord (Isaiah 26:3). This "Selah" at the end of verse 4 is most significant, when contrasted with the one at the end of verse 2. The word is supposed to be a musical sign, a pause, and used here to arrest attention. The word occurs in the Psalms 73 times. The language of verse 4 contradicts and belies the statement in verse 2. So these "Selahs" should be solemnly emphasized. Christian experience gives the lie to infidelity.
IV. His Courage. "I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that have set themselves against me round about" (v. 6). Why should he fear the forces of evil which surrounded him, while he knew that Jehovah was about him as a shield. The man of holy vision is a man of courage. The servant of Elisha was full of fear when he saw the Syrian host encamped round about them, so he cried, "Alas my master, how shall we do?" But confidence and courage came into his heart after his eyes were opened (2 Kings 6). Joshua "feared not" after the "Captain of the Host" revealed Himself to him. As an old writer has said: "It makes no matter what our enemies may be, though for number, legions; for power, principalities; for subtlety, serpents; for cruelty, dragons; for vantage of place, a prince of the air; for maliciousness, spiritual wickedness. In Christ Jesus our Lord, we shall be more than conquerors." "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). .
V. His Victory. "You have smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly" (v. 7). The Lord never smites a man behind his back. The cheek that was burning with pride and arrogance, will be made to burn with shame and dishonor. The teeth of the ungodly are often sharp and merciless, seeking to tear the character of the godly man to pieces: but the Lord can break their teeth, so that they become perfectly harmless. The salvation of God's people belongs unto the Lord (v. 8). We are ready to forget this, and to cease to work out in our daily life, that which God the Spirit has wrought in us. It is ours to trust, it is His to smite. Vengeance belongs unto Him. The enemy may count us, as they counted Christ, sheep for their slaughter; and though for His sake we are killed all the day long, yet are we "more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:37). Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
WHOLESOME WORDS. Psalm 4
This psalm is dedicated to the leader of those who use stringed instruments. It is indeed a psalm of life. There are in it notes that speak of sadness, gladness, and madness. The various conditions, or seasons, of the life year are here, in a way, represented. We shall try and gather up the truth taught as having reference to three classes of individuals.
I. Words of Encouragement to the Believing.
This testimony of the psalmist should be an inspiration to every child of God. What God did for him He can still do for those who put their trust in Him. What was that?
1. HE MADE HIM FREE. "You have set me at large when I was in distress" (v. 1, R.V.). Through fear and distress, he had been like one in a prison, but the Lord set him at liberty. It is when men are at their wit's end, that they are made to see the salvation of God. We are shut up to faith that we might be brought out into a large place. To be set at large by the saving grace of. God is a great deliverance.
2. HE MADE HIM GLAD. "You have put gladness in my Heart" (v. 7). The gladness of a harvest time is not to be compared with the gladness of a great spiritual deliverance. "Corn and wine," the richest of earth's blessings, come far short of the "joy of the Lord." God put gladness in the heart, by the manifestation of His grace and power on our behalf. Although we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice, with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
3. HE MADE HIM SAFE. "You Lord make me dwell in safety" (v. 8). He could lie down, and sleep the sleep of peace; for the Lord gave him that sweet assurance of His protecting care, that all fear fled. "The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him" (Deuteronomy 33:12). Free, Glad, and Safe, is the condition of all, who by faith have received the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are set apart by the Lord as His own peculiar, personal treasure (v. 3).
II. Words of Rebuke to the Unbelieving. There are three things those "Sons of men" were guilty of, and for which the psalmist rebukes them. Three sins which many of the unbelieving "sons of men" in our own day are guilty of.
1. PRACTICING RIDICULE. "How long will you turn my glory into dishonor?" (v. 2, R.V.). The glory of David was in that he trusted and hoped in the Lord (Psalm 3:3). Any fool may mock at faith, as he may mock at sin. The man must be morally mad who would attempt to make confidence in God appear to be. a dishonorable thing. Yet some do it.
2. LOVING VANITY. "How long will you love vanity?" They love vanity who love that which is worthless to satisfy, that which is uncertain, that which has the appearance of being what it is not—the world. The experience of Solomon stands as a warning and a rebuke to all who set their hearts on earthly things. Anything and everything that occupies the place Christ should have, is vanity (1 John 2:15).
3. SEEKING FALSEHOOD. "How long will ye..seek after falsehood" (v. 2, R.V.). One does not need to go far in search of falsehood. He will find it in his own heart. To seek falsehood, for its own sake instead of the truth, is a positive proof of a mind at enmity with God. The false and deceitful heart seeks food convenient for it. Christ is the truth; true and honest hearts will seek Him. "Without are dogs...and every one that loves a lie" (Rev. 22:15, R.V.).
III. Words of Entreaty to the Anxious. Let us now hear as with trumpet tone, a call to—
1. STAND. "Stand in awe, and sin not" (v. 4). Stop, before you go any further in sinful unbelief, and consider where, and what you are. Stand in awe at the thought of disobeying God's Word (Psalm 119:161). Stand in awe at the thought of the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). Stand in awe at the thought of opportunities lost, the uncertainty of life, and the certainty of judgment. Stand in awe as you think of the infinite love and mercy of God towards sinners, in the sufferings and death of His Son. Stand in awe, lest you should resist the gracious stirrings of His Holy Spirit and die in your sin.
2. COMMUNE. "Commune with your heart upon your bed, and be still." Have a quiet time with your own heart. Examine yourself. "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (1 Corinthians 11:31). The heart is deceitful. Commune with it, find out its motives, search into its desires, and cross-question its purposes. In the solitude of the bed-chamber, and in the stillness of the night, there is a favorable opportunity of finding out the true character of our own hearts. "Prove your own selves" (2 Corinthians 13:5). The bed and the heart are fields in which many startling discoveries have been made, many great battles fought, and many victories lost and won—bloodless battles, whose issues reach away into the depths of eternity.
3. SACRIFICE. "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness" (v. 5). As the result of standing and communing, there are sure to be revelations. Things to be given up, or offered unto God as sacrifices. Then let the sacrifice be righteous. Let there be a willing and wholehearted surrender to the will of God. There are sacrifices, like Absalom's which are not righteous, but only a hypocritical performance, to blind the eyes of the God-fearing, and secure some personal advantage (2 Samuel 15:12). Your reasonable service is to present yourselves unto God, "for you are not your own, you are bought with a price." Let us not forget Him, who did offer unto God the sacrifice of righteousness, when He offered Himself without spot. He has left us "an example that we should follow His steps."
4. TRUST. "Trust in the Lord." Trust and obey, there is no other way. The standing in awe, and the communing with the heart should lead to faith or it will end in failure. Trust is a very simple and sweet word, associated as it is with the greatest of all names, Jehovah, and the most precious of all privileges and blessings. Any child can understand it, but does any man, or angel in Heaven, understand to the full all the possibilities that lie within it, as the link that binds the soul to the Eternal God?
PRAYERFUL PURPOSES. Psalm 5:1-8.
Those who believe in set forms of prayer can find no justification for such a practice in the Book of Psalms. There is throughout the whole book a blessed disregard for all such mechanical and stultifying conventionalities, because the prayers of the psalmists are the utterances of burning, agonizing hearts. Every variety of form is adopted, according to the varied needs of the soul. We shall note—
I. His Requests. There are four definite petitions. He prays—
1. That his WORDS may be attended to. "Give ear to my words, O Lord." We don't always wish the Lord to mark our words, they are at times such poor vehicles of our soul's desires. But the psalmist meant every word that he uttered in the Divine ear. Beware of vain words. We are not heard for our much speaking.
2. That his MEDITATION may be considered. "O Lord, consider my meditation." There may be abundance of eloquent words where there is no real exercise of soul, no true spirit of prayer. The Lord has said, "Come, let us reason together." Surely to reason out a matter implies serious and deliberate thinking. Our prayer-words should be the outcome of solemn meditation on the whole inner condition and circumstances of the soul. God not only hears the words, but He looks upon the heart. It has been said that "Prayer without fervency is like hunting with a dead dog."
3. That his CRY may be heard. "Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King and my God" (v. 2). These are three expressive "Mys." "My Cry, My King, My God." The meditation is the source, the words are the channel, but the cry is the force with which the stream of prayer rushes on. It is possible to have correct words, and deep thinking, and yet no real intensity of heart, no agony of soul. It was when God heard the "Cry of the Israelites" that He sent deliverance (Exod. 3:7). The cry is unto Jehovah, as his King and God, as his Ruler and Creator. As He who fashioned his being, and governs his life. This consciousness of subjection and ownership gives intensity and hopefulness to the cry of need. It was with kindred, but deeper feelings, that Christ cried on the Cross, "My God, My God."
4. That in RIGHTEOUSNESS he might be led. "Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness, because of mine enemies" (v. 8). Newberry reads it, "because of mine observers." We need leading into the righteousness of God because of those who are watching our words and our ways, that they, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father in Heaven. This He is willing to do for His Name's sake (Psalm 23:3). "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:6).
II. His Resolutions. Earnest praying will lead to earnest acting. Our Lord said, "He who hears and does these sayings of Mine, I will liken him unto a wise man" (Matthew 7:24).
The psalmist resolves that—
1. IN THE MORNING HE WOULD PRAY. "My voice shall You hear in the morning" (v. 3). Let each opening day be met with an open heart. God hears the voice of the bird in the morning, why not your? Morning by morning let the keys of your life be put into the hands of your Lord and Master. The morning voice must be specially sweet to Him, who, "in the morning, rising up a great while before day, went into a solitary place, and there prayed."
2. IN EXPECTATION HE WOULD LOOK. "In the morning will I order my prayer unto You, and will keep watch" (v. 3, R.V.). Like Daniel, he would open his window and look toward the Holy City. He would order his prayer, as Elijah ordered the sacrifice upon the altar on Carmel, and kept watch for the coming fire; or as when he prayed for the rain, and told his servant to go again and watch for the cloud like a "man's hand." We direct our letters to our friends at a distance, and "keep watch" for the postman. In the well doing of praying and watching be not weary, "for in due season you shall reap if you faint not."
3. IN GRACE HE WOULD COME. "But as for me, in the multitude of Your loving-kindness I will come into Your house" (v. 7, R.V.). The praying spirit longs for closer fellowship with God. He believes, that through the great loving-kindness of God, he would yet have the joy of fellowship and service in His house. He does not look upon this privilege as being the result of any merit of his own, but all according to the goodness of God. The house of God not made with hands, can only be entered through the mercy and grace of Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:1-6).
4. IN FEAR HE WOULD WORSHIP. "In Your fear will I worship toward Your holy temple." The earthly temple had not yet been built, but David would worship toward the throne of His Holiness. Worship is the highest possible form of service. Praying, serving, worshiping. We first pray in the outer court, at the altar of sacrifice. We serve in the holy place, but in the holiest of all we worship. The voice of testimony should frequently give place for the silence of adoration. In His strength we serve, in His fear we worship. What Satan asked of Christ, Christ expects from us. "Worship Him" (Matthew 4:9) and the Kingdom shall be your.
POWERFUL PLEAS. Psalm 6.
The chief reason why the Psalms are so full of praise is because they are so full of prayers. In this Psalm we have a troubled soul using some powerful arguments with God, giving us an example of prevailing importunity. He mentions—
I. The Anger of the Lord. "O Lord, rebuke me not in Your anger." His sensitive soul is deeply alarmed at the thought of the awfulness of God's anger, and the hotness of His displeasure (v. 1). He is terrified at the possibility of deserving his chastening in wrath. Serve the Lord with fear.
II. His Own Weakness. "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak" (v. 2). A real consciousness of our own impotency will give urgency and point to our pleadings.
III. His Own Sorrowfulness. "My soul is sore vexed, but You, O Lord, how long?" (v. 3). His was no mere lip-praying; the depths of his soul were stirred up; there was agony in his cry.
IV. The Mercies of God. "Oh save me for Your mercies' sake" (v. 4). This is a mighty plea in the eyes of Him whose Name is the Lord God "Merciful." He who "delights in mercy" will not be deaf to this cry.
V. The Profitlessness of Death. "In death there is no remembrance of You," etc. (v. 5). This is true of those spiritually dead. Plead for quickening that you might be saved from a God-forgetting state of soul.
VI. The Significance of Tears. "I water my couch with my tears" (v. 6). Jesus also wept, and God can never forget tie value of such pure heart-drops of grief and silent witnesses of love.
VII. His Own Hatred of Iniquity. "Depart from me all you workers of iniquity" (v. 8). He further pleads his separateness in spirit from the ways and methods of the ungodly.
VIII. His Own Faith in God. "The Lord has heard... the Lord will receive my prayer" (vv. 8-10). The answer had come into his heart; he believed the message, and rested on the faithfulness of God. "Go you and do likewise."
IN THE FACE OF THE FOE. Psalm 7.
Learn from this Psalm how to behave when face to face with wicked men, and the principles and forces of unrighteousness.
I. Trust. "O Lord my God, in You do I put my trust" (v. 1). Keep the shield of faith ever bright with constant use. "Happy is He who has the God of (wayward) Jacob for his help" (Psalm 146:5).
II. Pray. "Save me from all them that persecute me" (v. 1). Call upon God to arise, and to lift Himself up for your defense (v. 6). It is His prerogative to execute righteousness and judgment for the oppressed (Psalm 103:6).
III. Search. Search yourself and your ways, lest this trial may have come upon you because of iniquity (vv. 3, 4) Let God also search your heart and your hands, lest there may be some hidden hindrance to His help (Psalm 66:18).
IV. Testify. "The Lord shall judge the people" (v. 8). Don't be afraid to speak out and declare His righteousness, even when His providence seems most against you, for the Lord does reward us according to the cleanness of our hands (Psalm 18:20).
V. Confess. "My defense is of God, which saves the upright in heart" (v. 10). Although the enemy may say, "There is no help for Him in God," make full confession of Him as your present and all-sufficient Savior.
VI. Warn. "God is angry with the wicked every day, if he turn not He will whet His sword" (vv. 11, 12). Don't be intimidated by their threatenings or scorn. Warn them that the axe is laid at the root of all fruitless trees (Matthew 3:10). The sword of the Lord is never sharpened in vain.
VII. Praise. "I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the Name of the Lord Most High" (v. 17). Fearless trust is sure to end in fullness of praise. "Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him."
THE EXCELLENT NAME. Psalm 8
"How excellent is Your Name in all the earth." These, are the first and last words of this Psalm, and may be taken as the keynote. His Name stands for all the riches and glory of His character. The glory of it is "above the Heavens," although the Heavens are a reflection of it (Psalm 19:1). This wondrous glory, the glory of infinite grace, can also manifest itself through such weak things as "babes and sucklings" (v. 2; Matthew 11:25). God has been pleased so to choose weak things that the might of the worldling might be confounded (1 Corinthians 1:27). But the glory of this Name, which is seen in the "moon and the stars"—the work of His fingers (v. 3)—finds its chief manifestation in "man," insignificant as he is, when contrasted with the greatness of the material heavens. "What is man that You are mindful of him?" (v; 4). See how the excellency of His Name is revealed in His dealings with man. It is seen—
I. In the Character of Man. "You have made him a little lower than God" (v. 5, R.V.). Made after His image, but a "little lower." How near God has come to man in imprinting His own likeness in Him. What ravages sin has wrought that this holy temple should become the workshop of the Devil. Grace restores to sonship.
II. In His Mindfulness of Him. "What is man that You are mindful of Him?" The mindfulness of God is another manifestation of the excellency of His character. He is mindful of man in all the arrangements of His material creation and providence. This gracious mindfulness began before the foundation of the world, when in His purpose the Lamb was slain. What is man that his highest interests are forever in the mind of God?
III. In the Honor given Him. "You have crowned him with glory and honor; You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands" (vv. 5, 6). All things were put under him, until sin entered, then the crown fell from his head, and had to be given to another, even Jesus, who was made for a little while lower than the angels; who, after the sufferings of a substitutionary death, was crowned with glory and honor (Hebrews 2:8, 9). How excellent is the Name of Him who sought to put such glory on the head of man!
"How poor, how rich, how abject, how august, How complicate, how wonderful is man."
IV. In His Sacrifice for Man "What is man...that You visit him? In a very deep and real sense, God has visited man in the Person of His only beloved Son. Man, in his sin and shame, could not visit God in peace, but in the excellency of His Name, and at an awful cost, He has visited man. Visited him in his hopeless distress, bringing with Him and offering to him a perfect remedy for all his sins and sorrows. "Lord, what is man that You should set Your heart upon Him?" (Job 7:17).
"WHAT IS MAN?" (vv. 4, 5).
1. "That You are mindful of him?" Merciful CONSIDERATION.
2. "That You visit him?" INCARNATION.
3. "That You have made him a little lower than God?" REGENERATION.
4. "That You have crowned him with glory?" GLORIFICATION.
I WILL, FOR YOU HAVE. Psalm 9:1-10
It is good when our "I wills" find their motive power in the "You haves" of God. In this Psalm there is—
I. A Joyful Purpose, This purpose was—
1. TO PRAISE GOD. "I will praise You, O Lord" (v. 1). Praise is surely the expression of a full and satisfied heart. The salvation accomplished for us by Jesus Christ is such as demands continual praise (Hebrews 13:15).
2. TO TESTIFY FOR GOD. "I will show forth all Your marvelous works." His wonderful works of grace are well worthy of being shown forth by the lips and lives of all who have experienced the power and riches of them.
3. TO REJOICE IN GOD. "I will be glad and rejoice in You" (v. 2). This gladness is something deeper than that produced by the mere increase of corn and wine (Psalm 4:7). It is the joy of the Lord, because it is joy in God (Phil 4:4).
II. A Powerful Reason This reason, like the purpose, is threefold,
1. Because of His FAITHFULNESS. "You have maintained my cause" (v. 4). It is His to maintain the cause of the afflicted and the poor in spirit (Psalm 140:12). When our cause is the cause of God, it will be stoutly maintained by Him.
2. Because of His POWER. "You have rebuked the heathen" (v. 5). All the pride and possessions of the ungodly "shall flow away in the day of His wrath " (Job. 20:28). Heathenish thoughts and practices are rebuked in the presence of the Lord.
3. Because of His MERCY. "You Lord have not forsaken them that seek You" (v. 10). God, in all the riches of His grace and power is ever within the reach of the wholehearted seeker (Jeremiah 29:13). The great Deliverer of the past, is the same Deliverer for the present and the future.
III. An Inspiring Hope This is—
1. The Hope of ENDURANCE. "The Lord shall endure forever" (v. 7). The blessings of God's grace are as lasting as God Himself. As long as He endures, His redeemed ones will be enriched with the Divine life and fullness. "You are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
2. The Hope of RIGHTEOUSNESS. "He shall judge the world in righteousness" (v. 8). Unrighteousness, the fruit of the mystery of sin, is ever with us, but "He has appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness, by that Man whom He has ordained" for this purpose (Acts 17:31). "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
3. The Hope of SALVATION. "The Lord shall be a refuge for the oppressed " (v. 9). For those oppressed with inward sin or outward trouble. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble." They are safely kept whose life is hid with Christ in God.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE WICKED. Psalm 10
When God, as the light of His people, hides Himself (v. 1), the ungodly owls of darkness are sure to manifest themselves. They are—
I. Boastful. "The wicked boasts of his heart's desire" (v. 3); although that desire is for things forbidden of God and destructive to his own soul. Even the man that boasted in his lawful riches was branded by God as a fool (Luke 12:20), "The desire of the wicked shall perish" (Psalm 112:10).
II. Perverse. "He blesses the covetous, whom the Lord abhors" (v. 3). They honor men according to the amount of their possessions, instead of the pureness of their lives. They call light darkness, and darkness light. Like Balaam, they love the wages of unrighteousness.
III. Proud. "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God"—will not require it (R.V. v. 4). In his pride and self-confidence, he has no sense of his need of God. The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God.
IV. Godless. "God is not in all his thoughts" (v. 4). Every day he plays the fool, by practically saying, "There is no God." No matter how much God in His providence may be doing for him, in his own soul and character he is utterly godless, guilty, and hopeless.
V. Blind. "Your judgments are far above out of his sight" (v. 5). He is so short sighted, that he cannot see the marvelous workings of God in nature or in grace. Like the man with the muck rake, the crown of glory is out of his sight, because he is blinded by the love of this world.
VI. Self-confident. "He says in his heart, I shall not be moved" (v. 6). Because sentence against unbelief and evil workers is not executed speedily, they imagine themselves secure. But while they say, Peace and safety, sudden destruction comes upon them. In wrath God shall move them—move them out of their very graves, into a hopeless eternity (Rev. 20:12, 13).
VII. Deceitful. "Under his tongue is mischief....he lies in wait as a lion to catch the poor...he humbles himself that the helpless may fall" (vv. 7-10, R.V.). The principle of righteousness is not in him. His smooth words have under them the poison of sinful lust. If he crouches in lowliness, it is that he might devour as a lion. His heart is deceitful, and his life can be nothing else.
VIII. Deceived. "He has said in his heart, God has forgotten; He will never see it" (v. 11). But "God has seen it, for He beholds mischief and spite, to requite it with His hand" (v. 14). In deceiving others, he deceives himself. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked, whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
A BLESSED AND SORROWFUL CONDITION. Psalm 11.
The state of the righteous and the wicked are set before us here in striking contrast.
I. The Condition of the Righteous. They are—
1. TRUSTFUL. "In the Lord put I my trust" (v. 1). Their confidence is not in themselves, but in the Lord, and, though He slay them, yet will they trust in Him. They knew the Name of the Lord as a strong tower, they ran into it, and are safe (Proverbs 18:10).
2. DESPISED. The ungodly deride them, saying, "Flee as a bird to your mountain" (v. 1, Psalm 9:9). Yes, thank God, they have a mountain to flee to; but where will they flee to when the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness? They may bend their bow now and "shoot at the upright in heart" (v. 2), but where shall they flee when God whets His sword and bends His bow? (Psalm 7:12).
3. TRIED. "The Lord tries the righteous" (v. 5). It is because that He is righteous that He tries the hearts of men (Psalm 7:9). He tried Abraham, and the blessedness of the man that endures temptation came upon him (James 1:12). Wood, hay, and stubble are never put into the fiery furnace of trial (Daniel 6:23).
4. LOVED. "The righteous Lord loves the righteous" (v. 7). The compassionate eyes of the Lord are ever over the righteous, and His ears open unto their prayers (1 Peter 3:12). Loved with an everlasting love, a love that is stronger than death, and that the many waters of this world's sins and sorrows cannot quench.
II. The Condition of the Wicked.
1. THEY SECRETLY OPPOSE THE RIGHTEOUS. "They make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart" (v. 2). "They shoot their arrows, even bitter words, that they may shoot in secret at the perfect" (Psalm 64:3, 4). Their carnal minds are at enmity against God, and all that is God-like in His people. But every hidden thing shall be revealed.
2. THEIR ACTS ARE SEEN BY THE LORD. "His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children of men" (v. 4). Their secret purposes are naked before Him with whom they have to do. Even now they suffer for their evil-doing, for "the face of the Lord is against them" (Psalm 34:16). All that the "face of the Lord" stands for is set against their principles of life.
3. THEIR MANNER OF LIFE IS HATED BY THE LORD. "The wicked and him that loves violence, His soul hates" (v. 5). God loved a world of sinners, but the Cross of Christ is the expression of His infinite hatred of sin. To love wickedness and hate righteousness is to be in league with the Devil, and become a fit subject for the wrath of God. God is angry with the wicked every day.
4. THEIR FINAL PORTION IS FEARFUL. "Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup" (v. 6). The wider the cup of iniquity, the greater the portion of curse. This rain of snares will entrap every guilty foot, and this fire and tempest will search out every hidden thing (Psalm 75:8).
HELP, LORD. Psalm 12
In this psalm we have a loud cry to the Lord for help in backsliding times. To whom can we go, when the tongues of pride and vanity are clamoring so loudly that the testimony of God's people can scarcely be heard. Our help comes from the Lord, He gives power to the faint. The psalmist gives us many reasons for thus calling upon the help of the Lord. "Help, Lord—
I. For the Godly Man Ceases" (v. 1). Godliness has never been popular among men. In proportion to the fewness of their number, and the weakness of their character, will wicked men and the powers of darkness prosper. "You are the salt of the earth; if the salt lose His savor, with which shall it be salted?"
II. "For the Faithful Fail." In such times of testing and general backsliding, the faithful are in great danger of letting go their grip of God and drifting down with the polluting stream. To fail in our faithfulness to God and men, in such adverse circumstances, is always a great temptation. Then is the time to cry "Help, Lord.
III. For Vanity, Flattery, and Deceit are Prevalent (v. 2). This is a threefold cord that can only be broken by the help of God. In the absence of godliness, vanity, flattery, and deceit, are the natural outcome of the unrenewed heart (Romans 5:9).
IV. For Men's Confidence is in Themselves. They say, "With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?" (v. 4). Confidence, was never put to a baser use than this. The tongue is a mighty weapon, but when ungodly men hope to prevail by it, it is but an "unruly evil, full of deadly poison!" "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool." Such self-confidence is sure to lead to the denial of the Lordship of Christ.
V. For You have Promised. "For the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, says the Lord" (v. 5). The promises of God are always a powerful plea for help. The ungodly are "strangers to the covenant of promise," but let us see that we don't act as if we were strangers to them. His promises are given that they might be claimed.
VI. For Your Words are Pure (v.6). There is no possibility of corruption and deceit in them. His words are "as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, purified seven times" (R.V.). The words of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes (Psalm 19:8). The eye-sparkling power of the Word of God is being constantly proven. Every answered prayer, every promise received, has an eye-enlightening effect. "He is faithful that has promised."
VII. For without Your Help, Wickedness shall Prevail. "The wicked walk on every side, when vileness is exalted among the sons of men" (v. 8, R.V.). The world loves its own. The power of the presence of God, in His people, and with them, is a standing rebuke to all vileness. All our efforts, apart from this, will be utterly useless. "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord." "Help, Lord!"
HOW LONG, LORD? Psalm 13.
The preceding psalm is a cry for help: to the psalmist this help seems long in coming. One has to learn to wait as well as pray. Such varied experiences are needed for the discipline of the soul. The language of this psalm is—
I. The Language of Anxiety. He is concerned about—
1. THE DIVINE FORGETFULNESS. "How long will You forget me, O Lord?" (v. 1). God is mindful of His people, but sometimes His dealings with us may seem as if He had forgotten. Prayers are long in being answered, and the supernatural may for a time have disappeared from our lives.
2. THE FELT WANT OF HIS PRESENCE. "How long will You hide Your face from me?" Those who never miss the absence of the face of God are more to be pitied. It may be our own iniquities and sins that hide him from us (Isaiah 59:2); but, if not, though He hide His face for a moment, we are still assured of His everlasting kindness (Isaiah 54:7, 8).
3. HIS OWN IMPOTENCY. "How long shall I take counsel in my soul?" (v. 2). Cast upon his own resources, he finds them altogether unavailing. Even the best and wisest of men, when left to themselves, are poor indeed. He longs to get out of himself into the wisdom and strength of God. To be fruitful, we must abide in Him.
4. THE POWER OF HIS ENEMY. "How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?" The absence of the power of God, implies the presence of the power of the enemy. How long shall mine enemy triumph? Just so long as the face of God is unseen. Your face Lord will we seek; that face revealed to us, in the face of Jesus Christ.
II. The Language of Intercession. He now pleads for—
1. THE CONSIDERATION OF HIS CASE. "Consider and hear me, O Lord my God" (v. 3). There is a holy familiarity about this request. He who said, "Come, let us reason together," condescends to deal with us as a man. The case that is stated fully will by Him be considered carefully.
2. ENLIGHTENED EYES. "Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death" (v. 3). The influence of Divine light is to awaken from death (Ephesians 5:14). The absence of spiritual light, like the natural, means barrenness and death. The eyes of our understanding need to be enlightened before we can know what is the hope of His calling, the riches of His inheritance, or the exceeding greatness of His power (Ephesians 1:18, 19).
III. The Language of Confession. He makes confession of his—
1. FAITH. "I have trusted in Your mercy" (v. 5). What else can any needy soul trust. Having trusted His mercy in the past, we will trust it still. It is a mercy that His mercy is available.
2. HOPE. "My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation." "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." He rejoices in hope, at the remembrance of His past mercies, saying, "I will sing unto the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me" (v. 6). The God who has delivered will yet deliver, so faith may sing, even while it seems, in the providence of God, as if He had forgotten. Yet, how long, Lord?
GENERAL CORRUPTION. Psalm 14
Although this Psalm is by no means the most popular, it has the unique honor of appearing twice in this book (Compare Psalm 53). The utter failure of man, in the sight of God, needs to be emphasized. See here—
I. Human Folly. "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." Humanity as a whole is that fool; it is practically atheistic: The word "fool," it is said, comes from a term which means the act of withering. The sin-withered deceitful heart of unbelief departs from a living God, and would seek to justify self by saying, "No God."
II. Divine Scrutiny. "The Lord looked down from Heaven," etc. What for? To see if there were any seeking the advancement of science, are, or philosophy? No, to see if there were any that did understand their true condition, and seek God (v. 2). The chief concern of God about man is, that he seeks not Himself. "Seek you the Lord while He may be found."
III. Universal Failure. "They are all gone aside (all grown sour), all together become filthy: none that does good, no, not one" (v. 3). Sour and filthy; like savorless salt, good for nothing. This is a terribly sweeping indictment, but it is a Divine one. God here speaks of what He saw; we may pretend to see something different, but His judgment will stand (Romans 3:10-12).
IV. Practical Ungodliness. "Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat of My people, and call not upon the Lord" (v. 4). Even in the midst of general, moral corruption, God has never been without a witness. The characteristics of the workers of iniquity are the same today as of old: ignorance of God; hatred of His people; unbelief—"they call not upon the Lord." To reject the knowledge of God is to be rejected by Him (Hosea 4:6).
V. Salvation Needed. "O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion," etc. (v. 7). Backsliding Israel, like the sinners of today, needed to be "redeemed out of all his troubles" (Psalm 25:22). The Deliverer, who is able to turn away ungodliness, must come out of Zion (Romans 11:26)—out from the presence of God, and the place where His eternal honor dwells. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
THE HEAVENLY CITIZEN. Psalm 15
This Psalm might be called "The Song of the Sojourner." A question is asked, "Lord, who shall sojourn in Your tent? Who shall dwell in the hill of Your holiness?" In the answer given we have the characteristics mentioned which must belong to the spiritual pilgrim, who would abide in the fellowship of God (Rev. 7:14, 15). He must be—
I. Upright in his Walk. "He who walks uprightly." "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked" (1 John 2:6). They must walk by faith who would walk uprightly in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation. God can have no fellowship with unrighteousness.
II. Truthful in his Heart. "Speaks the truth in his heart" (v. 2). Their hearts must be clean who would abide in the tabernacle of Him who "looks upon the heart." "The pure in heart shall see God." When the truth is not in the heart, the lips are prone to be deceitful.
III. Charitable to his Neighbor. "He backbites not with his tongue....nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor" (v. 3). A truth-loving heart never uses a backbiting tongue. He cannot help hearing reproaches against his neighbor, but he does refrain from "taking them up." If evil reproaches were but let alone by God's people they would soon rot.
IV. Careful of his Company. "In his eyes a vile person is contemned, but he honors them that fear the Lord" (v. 4). Like Mordecai, he can offer no respect to the vile and haughty Haman. He is a companion of all them that fear the Lord. He who walks with God, as Noah and Enoch did, will be separate from sinners.
V. Faithful to his Promise. If he swears or gives his solemn promise to do a thing, he will do it, even to his own hurt, and change not (Judges 11:35). This faithfulness is but a faint imitation of the faithfulness of Him, "who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross" (Hebrews 12:2). "Having loved His own, He loved them unto the end."
VI. Merciful in his Dealings. "He takes no reward against the innocent" (v. 5). He will not seek to take advantage of the ignorant or the poor; he will not be guilty, as some lawyers are, of taking a reward against the innocent. To him bribery is robbery. He will not wear Christ's livery and deny Him honest service (Numbers 22:18).
VII. Established in his Character. "He who does these things shall never be moved." The storms and floods of earth cannot move him out of his place, because his life is rooted in the will of God. He is like a tree planted by rivers of water; you shall not know when drought comes. This is the man who abides in the tabernacle of God's service, and who dwells in the holy hill of His presence.
A GOODLY HERITAGE. Psalm 16:5-11.
"The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup...yes, I have a goodly heritage."
I. The Nature of It. It is—
1. LARGE. "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance." The infinite wealth of the character of God Himself is the portion of the believer's cup. No wonder that he has to say, "My cup runs over." "The Lord is my portion, says my soul" (Lam. 3:24); "I know whom I have believed," says the apostle (2 Timothy 1:12).
2. PLEASANT. "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places" (v. 6). Experiences that would otherwise have been desert wastes, have, by the presence and goodness of God become "pleasant places." In this portion we are made partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. These are the ways of pleasantness and the paths of peace.
3. ETERNAL. "The Lord is the portion of my cup" (v. 5). It will take all eternity to dip up this river of pleasure with the little cup of our life. The portion is divinely suited to the needs of the eternal spirit of man. God's gift of eternal life is the gift of Himself.
II. The Effect of It. The conscious possession of such a goodly heritage must powerfully influence the life. There will be—
1. PRAISE. "I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel" (v. 7). All who have been counseled by His Holy Spirit, and constrained to believe in, and yield themselves to God, have very much to bless Him for. "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you" (John 15:16).
2. FELLOWSHIP. "I have set the Lord always before me...He is at my right hand." "Always before me." What an inspiration and comfort in the midst of all the trials and turmoils of life! What a source of restfulness of spirit, with regard to all that was before him! If the miser, or prosperous man of the world, loves to set his possessions before him, so does the man of God; but how different their nature and results.
3. Stability. "Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." The man who always sets the Lord before him is little likely to be moved away from the hope of the Gospel. All the popular winds of adverse doctrine cannot move him. His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.
4. Gladness. "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices" (v. 9). His heart is glad, because it is healed and satisfied. This is not an attempt at rejoicing, like many of the world's "get-ups"; it is the natural or inevitable consequence of a certain condition or attitude of soul. "We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:11).
5. GUIDANCE. "You will show me the path of life" (v. 11). Though this holy path of life may be narrow, the trusting soul is confident that He will reveal it moment by moment, and step by step. The path of the high Christian life is the path of continual faith and continual obedience. Day by day we need to be shown the path He would have us follow
6. HOPE. "In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand are pleasures for evermore" (R.V.). Although now the sons of God, "it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him." Although His presence is with us now, we have not yet passed into the fullness of the blessing of His presence in the glory-land. He holds in His right hand, reserved for us, "pleasures for evermore." "Blessed Hope!" (Titus 2:13).
PRAYER AND TESTIMONY. Psalm 17:1-8, 15.
There must always be a vital relationship between prayer and testimony. Those who are most powerful in prayer are most likely to give the most powerful testimony. The songs of David are just about equaled with his prayers, Influence for God springs out of influence with God. Observe here—
I. The Things Asked from God. David prays for—
1. DIVINE ATTENTION. "Hear the right, O Lord, attend unto my cry" (v. 1). It is for the glory of His Name that He attends to the righteous cry of His children. God has a quick ear to "hear the right." No mother or physician can give such close attention to our need as our heavenly Father.
2. DIVINE UPHOLDING. "Hold up my goings in Your paths" (v. 5). He knows that it is not in man to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:23). By the help of His gracious hand we are kept from stumbling. Our footsteps will slip when we cease to lean upon His strength. He is able to keep the feet of His holy ones (1 Samuel 2:9, R.V.).
3. DIVINE MANIFESTATION. "Show Your marvelous loving-kindness" (v. 7). He pleads for a further revelation of God's character in His kindness, loving-kindness, marvelous loving-kindness. It is so excellent that it constrains men to put their trust under the shadow of His wings (Psalm 36:7). This marvelous loving-kindness finds its perfect manifestation in and through Jesus Christ.
4. DIVINE PROTECTION. "Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings" (v. 8). They will surely be securely kept who are hidden beneath His wings, and guarded as the apple of the eye. His pinions are long and powerful, and one is more jealous of the eye than any other part of the body. The strength and the carefulness of God are more than enough to save from our "deadly enemies!"
II. The Testimony Given for God. We are assured by the Psalmist that God had—
1. PROVED HIM. "You has proved mine heart" (v. 3). The heart, that is so prone to be deceitful, must first be dealt with. The good seed is only fruitful in a "good and honest heart" (Luke 8:15).
2. VISITED HIM. "You have visited me in the night" (v. 3). The heart is proven that it might be visited in mercy and grace. He visits in the night of quiet restfulness, in the night of darkness and sorrow. He knows when to visit, and what to bring. "Behold, I stand at the door" (Rev. 3:20).
3. TRIED HIM. "You have tried me, and finds no evil purpose in me" (R.V., margin). The trial of your faith is precious; when perfectly sincere, it will be to His praise and glory (1 Peter 1:7). When our hearts or secret purposes condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.
4. SUSTAINED HIM. "By the word of Your lips, I have kept me from the ways of the violent" (v. 4, R.V.). By taking heed to His Word, any young man may cleanse his way (Psalm 119:9). We are kept by the power of God through faith—faith in His word. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. The prayer of our Great High Priest was, "Sanctify them through Your truth: Your word is truth" (John 17:17).
5. ANSWERED HIM. "I have called upon You, for You will answer me, O God" (v. 6, R.V.). He testifies that the reason why he prays is because God answers Him. "Let your requests be made known unto Him" (Philippians 4:6).
6. SATISFIED HIM. "I will behold Your face..I shall be satisfied when I awake with Your likeness" (v. 15). Such a glorious prospect is enough to make the heart sing for joy, even now, when we but see through a glass darkly. God's likeness is His best and greatest gift. The more like Him we become now, the deeper will our soul satisfaction be.
THE GOD OF SALVATION. Psalm 18:1-3.
From the heading of this Psalm we learn that it was written as a song of deliverance. The first three verses contain a manifold revelation and a manifold obligation.
I. The Revelation. This is a revelation of the character of Jehovah as a Savior. In verse 2 eight terms are used that are suggestive of so many aspects of His saving grace—
1. For REFUGE, He is My Rock. The unchangeable Rock of Ages.
2. For PROTECTION, He is My Fortress. "His Name is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe." "The Lord encamps round about them that fear Him" (Psalm 24:7).
3. For OPPRESSION, He is My Deliverer. "Deliver us from evil, for Your is the Kingdom, and the power" (Matthew 6:13).
4. For WORSHIP, He is My God. It is written, "Him only shall you worship."
5. For WEAKNESS, He is My Strength. They that wait upon the Lord shall exchange strength. "My strength is made perfect in weakness."
6. For DEFENSE, He is My Buckler. Put on the whole armor of God, and over all the buckler, or shield of faith.
7. For POWER, He is My Horn. "All power is given unto Me; go you therefore." Who shall resist Him?
8. For PROSPECT, He is My High Tower. Those seated in heavenly places have got a delightful view. From their high tower they can see the land that is "fairer than day."
II. The Obligations. Such marvelous privileges of grace have also gracious responsibilities. What are they? To—
1. LOVE HIM. "I will love You, O Lord" (v. 1). The first and great commandment was: "You shall love the Lord your God." Surely such manifestation of His love should constrain us. Let it be also a thing of the will (1 Corinthians 13:13).
2. TRUST HIM. "In Him I will trust" (v. 2). God has done everything for us, and is willing to be everything to us, but when there is no heart trust, the door of the soul is barred against Him.
3. PRAISE HIM. "Who is worthy to be praised" (v. 3). Those who "call upon the Lord" are most likely to praise Him. He is worthy. Think of all He has done, and of His longsuffering mercy. "Worthy is the Lamb, to receive glory and honor."
THE GREAT DELIVERANCE. Psalm 18:4-20.
This most majestic Psalm was sung by David, not as a king, but as "the servant of the Lord." The keynote is struck loudly at the beginning. "I will love the Lord...I will trust the Lord...I will call upon the Lord...so shall I be saved." Love, trust, prayer, assurance. If there are great heights here, there are also terrible depths. To lift from the deepest depth, up to the highest height, is the glory of the grace of this Deliverer. While this Psalm records the experiences of a soul passing from death unto life, it is also prophetic of the sufferings, the death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I. The Need. His need was great for He was compassed about with the --
1. "SORROWS OF DEATH" (v. 4). To a soul without hope these sorrows are most pungent. It is the sorrow of losing every earthly blessing, of entering into the darkness of despair. The Philippian jailer felt the pangs of them. (Acts 16:30).
2. SORROWS OF MEN. "Floods of ungodly men made me afraid." In times of soul conviction, the enemy is sure to come in like a flood. The world's mind and ways are against the purpose of his heart.
3. "SORROWS OF HELL" (V. 5). "THE CORDS OF SHEOL WERE ROUND ABOUT ME" (R.V.). Fearful cords that would drag the soul down to eternal death. The joys of Heaven are best known by those who have felt the "sorrows of Hell."
II. The Confession. "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God" (v. 6). He was in real distress, and so his prayer was sincere, and his confession wholehearted. When a man's distress is as keenly felt as this, he has no hope of saving himself by any work he can do, or by anything he can give. The sorrows of Hell make sin-convicted souls feel that only the power and grace of almighty God can meet their need.
III. The Deliverance. In answer to this cry of distress he says that—
1. "HE CAME DOWN" (v. 9). To do this, He had to bow the Heavens. The language here is prophetic of the coming and sufferings of Christ. There are always signs and wonders wrought when He comes down in answer to the agonizing cry of human need (vv. 7, 8).
2. "HE TOOK ME, HE DREW ME OUT OF MANY WATERS" (v. 16). If we are to be drawn out of the many waters of our sins and sorrows, He must take hold of us, and we must be perfectly submissive to His drawing power. Resist not the grace of God. When He does take hold, it is unto a perfect salvation.
3. "HE DELIVERED ME FROM MY STRONG ENEMY" (v. 17). Your adversary, the Devil, is a strong enemy, but a stronger than he has come to seek and to save (Hebrews 2:14, 15).
4. "HE BROUGHT ME FORTH ALSO INTO A LARGE PLACE" (v. 19). Whom the Lord sets free are free indeed. Out from the power of Satan, into the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is indeed "a large place," for it stretches into the ages of eternity. It takes a large place to meet all the aspirations of an immortal spirit. Resurrection ground.
5. "HE DELIGHTED IN ME" (v. 19). He delivers because He delights in saving the objects of His love. "He loved me and gave Himself for me." His is no mechanical, or perfunctory salvation. He "delights in mercy." Our trust in Him delights His soul.
6. "HE REWARDED ME" (v. 20). "He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." He never said to any, "Seek My face in vain." A clean heart, and clean hands, the Lord will recompense (v. 24). "O taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8).
THE GOD OF DELIVERANCES. Psalm 18:25-39.
I. His Manner of Working. He reveals His—
1. MERCIFULNESS TO THE MERCIFUL (V. 25). "With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful." The mercifulness of men can never rise to the mercifulness of God. Human mercy is to be measured by the Divine.
2. PERFECTION TO THE PERFECT. "With the perfect man, You will show Yourself perfect" (R.V. ). The perfection of men is to be seen in the light of the perfection of God. The man with the "upright heart" desires this, "Show me Your glory."
3. PURITY TO THE PURE. "With the pure You will show Yourself pure" (v. 26). The pure in heart shall see a God that is infinitely purer. The desire after holiness is thus encouraged by this promise.
4. FROWARDNESS TO THE FROWARD. "With the froward You will show Yourself froward." The frowardness (lit.) of man, turning away from God, will be met with the frowardness of God. If man chooses to be perverse toward God, then they have the perversity of God to deal with.
5. PURPOSE IN SO DEALING WITH MEN. "For You will save the afflicted, but the haughty You will bring down" (v, 27, R.V.). If there is in us a mercifulness, a perfection, or a purity that is unreal, then the manifestation of His character is to rebuke pride and lead to repentance. His purpose is to save honest seekers, and to bring down the proud boasters.
II. His Manifold Mercies. All God's gifts are deliverances.
1. He gives LIGHT. "You will light my lamp..My God will lighten my darkness" (v. 28). In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
2. He gives COURAGE. "By You I have ran through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall" (v. 29). Troops of troubles and walls of difficulties need not hinder the man of faith.
3. He gives STRENGTH. "It is God that girds me with strength" (v. 32). Loins girded with the Word of God will be strong to do exploits.
4. He gives STABILITY. "He makes my feet like hinds' feet" (v. 33). The hind is sure-footed, and can walk and leap with safety in slippery places.
5. He gives WISDOM. "He teaches my hands to war" (v. 34). We war not with flesh and blood, but with principalities... and wicked spirits. For this battle Divine wisdom is needed.
6. He gives PROTECTION. "You have given me the shield of Your salvation" (v. 35). The salvation of God is a shield as long as our life, and as broad as our need.
7. He gives HONOR. "Your gentleness has made me great." The gentleness of almighty grace brings wonderful promotion to the whole nature of the spiritual man.
8. He gives VICTORY. "You have girded me with strength; You have subdued under me those that rose up against me" (v. 39). "Thanks be unto God who gives us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." "Great deliverance gives He" (v. 50).
THE WORD OF GOD. Psalm 19
While the Heavens declare the glory of God, the Bible declares His will. The speech of the Heavens is silent, "their voice is not heard" (R.V.). But even His eternal power and Godhead can be understood by the things that are made (Romans 1:19, 20). We have to come to the written and Incarnate Word for the doctrine of God. In verses 7-9 six different terms are used to express the fullness and preciousness of His word.
I. It Converts the Soul, because it is perfect (v. 7). It takes a perfect instrument to accomplish such delicate and powerful work as this. The soul needs conversion; the sword of the Spirit can do it (James 1:18).
II. It Makes Wise the Simple, because it is sure (v. 7). It is sure because it is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:15). It makes wise unto salvation all who are simple enough to believe it.
III. It Rejoices the Heart, because it is right (v. 8). It is the right thing for all the needs of the heart, so the heart rejoices in the receiving of it. The poor, hungry soul that finds great spoil (Psalm 119:16). "Your Word was the joy of my heart" (Jeremiah 15:16).
IV. It Enlightens the Eyes, because it is pure (v. 8). As the weary Jonathan had his eyes enlightened by partaking of the honey, so does new light and vigor possess us when we taste the pure honey of His Word. The eyes are opened to see wondrous things. "Every word of God is pure." "Your Word is a lamp" (Psalm 119:105).
V. It Endures forever, because it is clean (v. 9). It is the very thing a young man needs to cleanse his way (Psalm 119:9). It is incorruptible, and so endures forever. It does, and can, offer everlasting life, because the word itself is everlasting.
VI. It is Altogether Righteous, because it is truth (v. 9, margin). It is altogether right—right in its every warning and demand, counsel and promise. It is not only true, it is the truth, and, therefore, cannot possibly be wrong on any point.
VII. It is Most Desirable, because it is better than gold, and sweeter than honey (v. 10). It is better than the best, and sweeter than the sweetest of all earthly things.
VIII. It is Most Needful, because it both warns and rewards (v. 11). It warns both servants and sinners of the danger and doom of unbelief. It assures the obedient of a glorious reward. It is both a law and a Gospel, a hammer and a fire, a beacon light, and bread from Heaven.
INTERCESSION AND CONFIDENCE. Psalm 20
While it is good to pray for ourselves, it is gracious to pray for others. A powerful incentive to intercessory prayer is a satisfied and thankful heart.
I. An Example of Intercession. Here are seven requests that the Psalmist would put into prayerful lips. A sevenfold blessing which God is able to bestow.
1. "The Lord HEAR you" (v. 1). It is a wonderful privilege to have the God of Heaven bending His ear like a fond mother to the confidential whisperings of a child.
2. The Lord DEFEND you (v. 1). To be defended by "the Name of the God of Jacob," is to have power with God, and to prevail (Genesis 32:28).
3. The Lord HELP you. "Send you help from the sanctuary" (v. 2). Help from the place of His holiness is sanctifying help. Provision was made for this (1 Kings 8:44, 45).
4. The Lord STRENGTHEN you. "Strengthen you out of Zion," by the supplications of the people of God. Perhaps the oneness of the body of Christ may be suggested here.
5. The Lord REMEMBER you (v. 3). "Remember all your offerings," all your gifts, and sacrifice for Him. May He have you in everlasting remembrance. "I know your works and labor of love."
6. The Lord SUPPLY you. "Grant you your heart's desire" (v. 4, R.V.). To obtain this, there must be a delighting in the Lord (Psalm 37:4). "The desire of the righteous is only good" (Proverbs 11:23).
7. The Lord FILL you. (v. 5). They are truly filled who have all their petitions fulfilled. "He fills the hungry with good."
II. An Example of Confidence. A confidence—
1. In the SALVATION of God. "We will rejoice in Your salvation" (v. 5). It is a salvation worth rejoicing in, because of its greatness, its costliness, and its fullness.
2. In the CAUSE of God. "In the Name of our God we will set up our banners." The banner of truth (Psalm 60:4), of victory, of progress. His Kingdom cannot be moved.
3. In the FAITHFULNESS of God. "Now know I that the Lord saves His anointed" (v. 6). Blessed are they that know this joyful sound. This is experimental knowledge of Divine faithfulness.
4. In the NAME of God. "Some trust in chariots, but we will remember the Name of the Lord" (v. 7). To remember His Name is to remember His revealed character, and this is all sufficient to faith (2 Chronicles 32:8).
5. In the POWER of God. "They are brought down... but we are risen" (v. 8). He casts down the proud, but the lowly in heart He lifts up. Hold fast the confidence which you had at the beginning. Pray and trust.
THE JOY OF SALVATION. Psalm 21
The prayers in the preceding Psalm seem to find their fulfillment in the first nine verses of this Psalm. The one appears to be the perfect complement of the other, when compared verse by verse. "In Your salvation," he says, "how greatly shall he rejoice" (v. 1). Note then—
I. The Joys of the Saved. In this state of blessedness there is the joy of—
1. HEART SATISFACTION. "You have given him his heart's desire" (v. 2). God's great salvation is for the heart. He only knows to the full its nature and its need.
2. ANSWERED PRAYER. "You have not withheld the request of his lips." What a privilege to ask and receive of Him who is the Creator of the universe, and the Father of our spirits.
3. PROVIDENTIAL GOODNESS. "You goes before him with the blessings of goodness" (v. 3). The God of goodness goes before him with his blessing, and goodness, and mercy follows after him (Psalm 23).
4. CROWNED WITH HONOR. "You set a crown of pure gold upon his head." All the glory of this world cannot be compared with the pure gold of Divine favor (Matthew 4:8).
5. ETERNAL LIFE. "He asked life of You; You gave him length of days forever and ever" (v. 4). "The gift of God is eternal life." His gift, like Himself, belongs to the eternal ages.
6. DIVINE FELLOWSHIP. "You have made him exceeding glad with Your countenance" (v. 6). This is the presence that brings fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). The reconciled countenance of God is the most soul-gladdening vision that man can ever have. Our fellowship is with the Father, etc.
7. PERFECT ASSURANCE. "Through the mercy of the Most High, he shall not be moved" (v. 7). He knows in whom he has believed, and is persuaded that He will keep.
8. SONGS OF PRAISES. "So will we sing and praise Your power" (v. 13). His saving and satisfying power is worthy of our loudest song, for it will be our longest, for as the God of salvation we shall praise Him forever.
II. How this Salvation is Received
1. BY ASKING. "He asked life of You, and You gave it" (v. 4). "If you knew the gift of God, you would ask of Him" (John 4:10). "Ask and you shall receive."
2. BY TRUSTING. "The king trusted in the Lord" (v. 7). Without faith it is impossible to please Him (John 3:36).
III. The Miseries of the Unsaved. They shall be—
1. FOUND OUT. "Your hand shall find out all Your enemies" (v. 8). Those who reject His Word of mercy will be apprehended by the hand of justice.
2. SORELY TROUBLED. "You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of Your anger" (v. 9). Despised and rejected love must be met with fury and indignation. The "wrath of the Lamb" awaits those who tread under foot the "blood of the Lamb."
3. MISERABLY DISAPPOINTED. "They intended evil... they imagined..which they are not able to perform" (v. 11). In different ways, men still command that the sepulcher of Christ be made sure, but all such devices result in wretched failure. No matter how often men, by their wicked works and ways, crucify and bury Christ God will raise Him from the dead. No wisdom or counsel can stand that is against the Lord (Proverbs 21:30). "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
HIS SUFFERINGS AND GLORY. Psalm 22
This is a prophetic declaration of "The sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow." It is not only "The Psalm of the Cross," but also of the Crown and the Kingdom. These sufferings cannot be David's. Who "pierced his hands and feet?" Who "parted His garments, and cast lots upon His vesture?" (v. 18). These words are the tender breathings of the Holy Spirit, through this holy man of old. Here the Spirit testifies beforehand the sufferings of Christ.
I. The Nature of His Sufferings. He was—
1. DESERTED. "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (vv. 1, 2). This is a mysterious and awful why. The question of sin and judgment is in it. He was forsaken of God because "He was made a curse for us."
2. REPROACHED. "A reproach of men, and despised of the people" (v. 6). Although God hid His face from Him, there was no reproach on His part. The reproach and the scorn came from wicked men, for whom He suffered.
3. DERIDED. "Commit yourself unto the Lord...let
Him deliver Him, seeing He delights in Him" (v. 8, R.V. ). They mocked at His faith in God as a vain thing. They laughed at His weakness, as an evidence of failure and presumption.
4. EMPTIED. "I am poured out like water" (v. 14) He emptied Himself and became of no reputation. He poured out His soul unto death. He gave all that He had.
5. HUMBLED. "You have brought Me into the dust of death" (v. 15). He was brought to the dust, through His own voluntary humility. "He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death."
6. PIERCED. "They pierced My hands and My feet" (v. 16). They nailed Him to a Cross. They crucified the Lord of Glory.
7. SHAMED. "I may tell all my bones...They part My garments among them." The death of the Cross was the most painful and shameful of all deaths (John 19:23, 24). They put Him to an open shame. "He suffered for us, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
II. The Glory that was to Follow.
1. THE DECLARATION OF HIS NAME. "I will declare Your Name" (v. 22; see Hebrews 2:12). "Wherefore," because of His sufferings and death, "God has highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name that is above every other name." The preaching of His Name is the preaching of His holy and wondrous saving characters.
2. THE ASSURANCE OF HIS GRACE. "He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted" (v. 24). "The meek shall eat and be satisfied" (v. 26). Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. "My grace is sufficient for you." "Hearken diligently unto me, and eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight in fatness" (Isaiah 55:1, 2).
3. THE TRIUMPH OF HIS CAUSE. "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord...for the Kingdom is the Lord's, and He is the Ruler over the nations" (vv. 27, 28, R.V.). The rejected King shall yet rule over the earth (Zechariah 14:9). "The kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ" (Rev. 11:15). He died for us, that He might be Lord both of the living and the dead. "Your is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever" (Matthew 6:13).
THE ALMIGHTY SHEPHERD. Psalm 23.
Among all the Psalms, the twenty-third is the "pet lamb" of the flock to many. Beecher called it the "Nightingale Psalm, small, and of a homely feather, singing shyly out of obscurity; but, oh! it has filled the air of the whole world with melodious joy." After the Psalm of the Cross comes the Psalm of Life, and fullness of blessing. The path of this pilgrim is like the shining light that shines more and more until the day of perfection. Let us follow him step by step. There was—
I. Decision. "The Lord is my Shepherd." His personal choice was made as to whom he would follow. He would not follow his own heart nor the blind reasonings of men; he would claim Jehovah as his Savior and Guide and not be ashamed to say so.
II. Assurance. "I shall not want." The godless, although strong as young lions, do lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good. "My God shall supply all your need." He has his Shepherd's promise, and he believes it.
III. Rest. "He makes me to lie down in green pastures, and beside the waters of rest" (margin). The rest of faith in the Lord is a rest that is calm and refreshing. He does not say "rest," without leading into the best place where it can be found—in His love—green pastures.
IV. Restoration. "He restores my soul." If through self-confidence, or discontent, we should stray from His paths of greenness, He is gracious enough to forgive and restore. He, only, can restore the backsliding soul (1 John 1:1).
V. Guidance. "He leads me in the paths of righteousness." The paths that are right may not always be the paths that seem easiest. Bunyan's pilgrims found it "easy going" over the stile which led to the castle of Giant Despair. His leading is for His own Name's sake.
VI. Courage. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." The shadow of death is a dreadful thing to the man whose portion is in this life. But there is no evil to fear when the Shepherd is near (Isaiah 43:2).
VII. Fellowship. "You are with me." The heavenly pilgrim is always in good company. The Lord stands by when all men forsakes (2 Timothy 4:16, 17). His presence is always sufficient at all times.
VIII. Comfort. "Your rod and Your staff they comfort me." The club and the crook of the shepherd were the instruments of defense and deliverance. What they were to the sheep, the Word of the Lord is to us. It is a club to beat off our enemies, and a crook to guide or lift those who have fallen into a pit or ditch. The sword of the Spirit does comfort me.
IX. Provision. "You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." He knows when and how to feed His flock. We have a meat to eat that they know not of.
X. Enduement. "You anoint my head." This anointing, or unction from the Holy One, is significant of authority and power. Kings and priests were anointed. You are a kingdom of priests unto God (Acts 1:8).
11. Satisfaction. "My cup runs over." The God of grace gives good measure, pressed down, shaken together, heaped up, running over. The holy anointing must go before the overflowing (see John 7:37, 38).
12. Prospect. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me...and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Goodness to supply, and mercy to forgive, all the days of this life; and a mansion is prepared beyond this life, where we shall be forever with the Lord (John 14:1-3).
Psalm 23 (again).
1. Beneath me, "green pastures."
2, Beside me, "still waters."
3, With me, "my Shepherd."
4. Before me, "a table."
5, Around me, "mine enemies."
6, Upon me, "anointing."
7, After me, "goodness and mercy." 8, Beyond me, "The house of the Lord."— Selected.
THE ASCENT OF MAN. Psalm 24:3-6.
In the twenty-second Psalm we have the Lord's sorrowful descent to man. Here is the way of man's ascent to the Lord.
I. The Goal. "The hill of the Lord...His holy place." The hill of the Lord is the holy place of His presence. Mount Zion stands for the tabernacle or habitation of God (Psalms 55:1). The highest ambition of the soul should be the fellowship of God—the fellowship of Him to whom the earth belongs, and the fullness thereof (v. 1).
II. The Way. "Who shall ascend?" The way of sin and impurity is downward, but the way of holiness is ever upward. The ascent of this mount is the ascent of every faculty in man. No one can climb this hill without having their own moral, spiritual, and intellectual being invigorated.
III. The Pilgrim. The characteristic features of this hill-climber are given:—
1. His HANDS must be clean. "He who has clean hands." Not hands washed in water, like Pilate's, but washed in innocency, like David's (Psalm 26:6). We cannot ascend to Him with the lie of a deceitful motive in our right hand. Let the wicked forsake his ways, and let him return to the Lord. The laver stood outside the door of the tabernacle, at which the approaching priest must wash his hands.
2. His HEART must be pure (v. 4). Holiness is something that has to do with the heart, and without holiness no man shall see the Lord. "The pure in heart shall see God." It is with the heart that man believes unto righteousness. It is when the seed of the Kingdom falls into an "honest heart" that it brings forth fruit.
3. His SOUL must be humble. "Who has not lifted up his soul unto vanity." When vanity, or spiritual pride, gets into the soul, then there is an end to growth in grace. If we would ascend into the holy hill of the Divine likeness, there must be no vain lifting up of ourselves.
IV. The Attainment. "He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation." The blessing of perfect rightness with God is a crown of life within the reach of every spiritual pilgrim. The blessing of the Lord embodies every needful and desirable thing.
V. The Application. "This is the generation of them that seek Him" (v.6). This is the character and attitude of the true seed of Abraham—the father of the faithful. This is the generation that belongs to the re-generation. These are the marks of the children of God, who climb the hill of holiness into the Father's house.
ELEMENTS OF SUCCESSFUL PRAYER. Psalm 25:1-11
The Psalms have been called by Dr. A. Murray "The prayer book of God's saints." In this book, the spirit of prayer, and the spirit of praise are twin spirits; they are indivisible. This psalm would teach us how to pray.
I. Elements of Prayer.
1. WHOLEHEARTEDNESS. "Unto You, O Lord, do I lift up my soul" (v. 1). What is the use of lifting up our voice, or our eyes, unto God, if the soul is not in them. God's ear is not to be charmed by such soulless music. We find Him when we seek Him with the whole heart.
2. FAITH. "O my God, I trust in You." We cannot taste the goodness of the Lord by mere talk; the tongue of the soul must touch Him. Faith is the hand that lays hold of His promise.
3. DESIRE FOR HIS WAYS. "Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths" (v. 4). This implies a forsaking of our own ways (Isaiah 58:6), and a readiness to follow His footsteps. "Yield yourselves unto God."
4. DESIRE FOR HIS TRUTH. "Lead me in Your truth, and teach me" (v. 5). This must be the longing of that heart in which the Holy Spirit is, for "when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide into all truth" (John 16:13). A craving after the mind and will of God, is a powerful factor in prevailing prayer.
5. DESIRE FOR HIS HONOR. "For Your goodness' sake, O Lord" (v. 7). "For Your Name's sake, O Lord" (v. 11). To plead His Name is to plead His nature. His goodness stands for His character (see Exod. 33:18, 19; 34:5, 6). When He "sanctifies His great Name among the heathen" (Ezekiel 36:23), He makes Himself known as the Lord God, merciful and gracious. "If you ask anything in My Name I will give it."
6. PATIENCE. "On You do I wait all the day" (v. 5). Let your requests be made known unto God, but let patience also have her perfect work. There is no virtue in waiting, unless we are waiting on Him. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew strength."
7. CONFESSION. "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions" (v. 7). There must be no hiding of sin; no glossing over the transgressions of earlier days. Those who would deal with a holy and righteous God must be perfectly honest in the purposes of their heart. "God is not mocked."
II. Encouragements to Prayer. "Let your requests be made known unto God."
1. Because He is GOOD AND UPRIGHT (v. 8). God is love, and God is light. The goodness of a Father is here associated with the uprightness of a righteous sovereign.
2. Because He TEACHES SINNERS (v. 8). What condescension: the Almighty God willing to become the sinner's teacher. His desire is to lead us in His way. He teaches savingly and to eternal profit.
3. Because He GUIDES THE MEEK (v. 9). He does not guide a man because he is rich, or learned, for all cannot attain to these, but any man may be meek, and learn heavenly wisdom.
4. Because "ALL THE PATHS OF THE LORD ARE MERCY AND TRUTH unto such as keep His Word" (v. 10). Mercy and truth, constitute the daily need of the heavenly pilgrim. Mercy, to forgive, and to cleanse; truth, to guide, to strengthen, and to satisfy. To get out of the Lord's paths, is to get out of the channel of supply.
FEATURES OF A WHOLE HEARTED CHRISTIAN. PSALM 26
I. He Desires to be Tested by God. "Judge me, O Lord...Examine me, O Lord" (vv. 1, 2). It is a small matter to him, to be judged of men, who seeks the judgment of God. He who can pray, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts," lives above the fear of man (Acts 23:1).
II. He has Faith in God. "I have trusted also in the Lord, therefore I shall not slide" (v. 1). God has become the greatest reality in the world to his soul, and in Him he has put his trust. His heart condemns him not, because he has confidence toward God (1 John 3:21).
III. He Adheres to the Word of God. "I have walked in Your truth" (v. 3). To walk in His truth is to walk in His way, and so walk in the light. He chooses the will of God as revealed in His Word, rather than the imaginations of his own heart.
IV. He Separates Himself from the Enemies of God. "I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers" (v. 4). The evil communications of the worldling corrupt the good manners of the child of God. "Wherefore come out from among them and be you separate."
V. He Offers Sacrifices unto God. "I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass Your altar, O Lord" (v. 6). The sons of Aaron washed their hands at the laver before they compassed the altar of incense (Exod. 30). The man that had to leave his gift at the altar and be reconciled to his brother was taught to first wash his hands (Matthew 5:23). "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit."
VI. He Testifies for God. "That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works" (v. 7). He is most thankful and willing to tell of that most wonderful work of God in his own heart and experience. "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord;" Your works of mercy and grace in the sinful souls of men; Your work of redemption by the Cross of Your beloved Son.
VII. He Loves the House of God. "I have loved the habitation of Your house, "and the place where Your glory dwells" (v. 8, R.V.). He loved the house because of Him who dwelt therein. When his soul thirsts for the "courts of the Lord" it is because he was thirsting for the "living God" (Psalm 84:1, 2). They are idolaters who love the habitation of God rather than God Himself.
VIII. He Praises God. "In the congregation will I bless the Lord" (v. 12). He is not ashamed to praise the Lord with his whole heart (Psalm 3:1). He has often asked the Lord to bless him, but he does not forget to "bless the Lord." "Whoever offers praise glorifies Me" (Psalm 50:23).
THREEFOLD CORDS. Psalm 27
A SEARCH FOR ONE THING.
The thoughts in this most precious Psalm seem to run in triplets.
I. A Threefold Need (v. 1).
1. LIGHT. "The Lord is my light." The world needs light. Christ is the light of the world. Satan has blinded the minds of men.
2. SALVATION. "The Lord is...my salvation." He took me from a fearful pit.
3. STRENGTH. "The Lord is the strength of my life." He established my goings. This threefold need is met only in the Lord (Philippians 4:19).
II. A Threefold Desire (v. 4).
1. To "DWELL in the house of the Lord." To dwell in His house is to "Abide in Him." It is an expression of holy affection for the Lord Himself.
2. To "BEHOLD the beauty of the Lord." This was the good part that Mary chose, when she sat at the feet of Jesus. To learn of Him is to behold His glory.
3. To "INQUIRE in His temple." If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God. The temple door of the Holy Scriptures is always open to inquirers. Counsel not with the ungodly (Psalm 1:1)
III. A Threefold Privilege (v. 5).
1. HIDDEN IN HIS PAVILION. In the time of trouble, sheltered in the great pavilion of His special providence (Romans 8:28).
2. SECRETED IN HIS TABERNACLE. In the secret of His presence, as well as His power, does He hide from the pride of man. The life that is hid in God can never be found out by His enemies.
3. SET UPON A ROCK. His feet, or ways, are established on a sure foundation. His life is not built up on the shifting sands of human theories.
IV. A Threefold Assurance (vv. 8-10).
1. OF HIS FACE. "When You said, Seek you My face; my heart said unto You, Your face, Lord, will I seek." The pure in heart shall see the face of God in His Son, in His Word, and in His Providence.
2. OF HIS FELLOWSHIP. "You have been my help; leave me not." He has said, "I will never leave you," so that we may boldly say, "The Lord is my Helper" (Hebrews 13:5, 6).
3. OF HIS FAVOR. "When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." The Good Shepherd carries the weary, or forsaken lambs in His arms. Those who forsake their father, the Devil, will find favor with the Lord (Hos. 14:3).
V. A Threefold Prayer (vv. 11, 12).
1. FOR TEACHING. "Teach me Your ways." His ways are ways of pleasantness. He teaches savingly.
2. FOR GUIDANCE. "Lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies." We are best able to use "plainness of speech" when our feet are walking in a plain path. We walk by faith, and not by sight.
3. FOR DELIVERANCE. From "The will of mine enemies." As David has his Doeg, and Christ His Judas, and Paul his Coppersmith, so every true servant of God may have those from whom he needs deliverance.
VI. A Threefold Encouragement (vv. 13, 14).
1. TO BELIEVE. "I had fainted unless I had believed." Troubled on every side, yet not distressed (2 Corinthians 4:8-10), because our faith is in God. Peter fainted while on the water because he doubted.
2. TO WAIT. "Wait on the Lord." Wait on Him because the expectation of faith is from Him (Psalm 62:1-5). All who truly wait on Him will yet be able to say, "Lo, this is our God" (Isaiah 25:9).
3. TO WORK. "He shall strengthen your heart, be of good courage." "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it" (Ecclesiastes 9:10), for His strength is made perfect in weakness.
A STRIKING CONTRAST. Psalm 28
This Psalm opens with a strange request, "Be not silent to me: lest" (vv. 1, 2). It is not every one who dreads the miseries of a silent God. They must have had deep experiences of God who get so alarmed at His silence. Alas, for those who interpret His silence as meaning peace. Note the contrast here— I. The Character of the Wicked. They are—
1. MISCHIEVOUS IN THEIR NATURE. "They speak peace to their neighbors, but mischief is in their hearts" (v. 3). They may have fair lips, but the poison of asps is under their tongues. Their hearts are deceitful. "Full of wounds... and putrefying sores."
2. FOOLISH IN THEIR ACTIONS. "They regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operation of His hands" (v. 5). They are indifferent to their highest and best interests. They heed not the voice of God in creation and in grace. The operation of His hand in providence, and in their own individual lives is systematically disregarded. "A brutish man knows not" (Psalm 92:5, 6).
II. The Character of the Godly. They are—
1. PRAYERFUL. "He has heard the voice of my supplications" (v. 6). God is not silent forever to the cry of His people. Although at times He may answer "never a word," yet the pleading saint knows that He hears every word. "Pray without ceasing."
2. BOASTFUL. "The Lord is my strength and my shield... and I am helped" (v. 7). He is full of boasting, but not in himself, his boast is in God. He will glory in the Lord, because He has done great things for him.
3. TRUSTFUL. "My heart trusted in Him." The heart of man finds its true refuge and source of supply in the heart of God. It is the sum of all blessedness when our hearts answer to the heart of our Heavenly Father. With the heart man believes unto righteousness.
4. JOYFUL. "My heart greatly rejoices." The trusting heart is sure to be a joyful heart. Faith in God produces joy in God. A happy heart is a continual feast.
5. PRAISEFUL. "With my song will I praise Him." The Christian's hero is Christ. His song shall be of Jesus. This is the "new song" put into the heart and lips of those redeemed by grace.
6. HUMBLE. "He is the saving strength of His anointed" (v. 8). He is. What have we that we have not received? It is because of what He is, not because of what we are, that we glory in the Lord. All is yours, for you are Christ's and Christ is God's.
7. HOPEFUL. "Save Your people, and bless Your inheritance, feed them, and lift them up" (v. 9). They confidently expect that all God's people will be saved, blessed, fed, and lifted. What an encouragement this is for others to trust in Him. There will be a great lifting up when the Redeemer and Bridegroom appears (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
THE POWERFUL VOICE. Psalm 29
In the preceding Psalm David speaks of the "operation of His hands;" here, amidst the terrors of a thunderstorm, he sings of the voice of the Lord. The Psalmist does not confound nature with the personality of God. He "gives unto the Lord the glory due unto His Name" (v. 2). The voice of the Lord is not a mere noise, it is a message. This voice we hear in all the riches of its majesty and glory in the person of His Son. "God has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son." This voice of the Lord, in its "breaking," "making," "dividing," "shaking," and "discovering" power may prefigure the influence and effects of the voice or Word of Jesus Christ. It is a—
I. Universal Power. "The voice of the Lord is upon the waters" (v. 3). Metaphorically, these waters may represent the nations of the earth. The voice of God's word is for every people, tribe, and tongue. "Go you into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature."
II. Majestic Power. "The voice of the Lord is full of majesty" (v. 4). There is a God-like dignity about the Bible which belongs to no other book, it is full of majesty. The Gospel of Christ is the power of God to every one that believes. The word of God asserts its own majestic character by being "quick and powerful." It has all the nobility of "Spirit and life."
III. Breaking Power. "The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars" (v. 5). The strongest of nature's growths are bowed and broken by its pressure. "Is not My Word a hammer?" Saul in Jerusalem, was like a cedar in Lebanon, but on the way to Damascus he was broken down.
IV. Separating Power. "He makes them (cedar branches) to skip like a calf" (v. 6, R.V.). His Word can not only break down, but can also break into pieces; separating branch from branch, tearing them away from their roots. A storm of Divine truth makes havoc with old associations and conservative habits and manners.
V. Dividing Power. "The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire" (v. 7). Every word of God is a flame of fire, and He can divide them as the lightning flashes are divided. He can make His tongue of flame to rest upon every holy head (Acts 2:3). God's Word makes great distinctions. It is a divider of soul and spirit, of sinners and saints. The voice of the Lord is a terror to some, it is heavenly music to others.
VI. Shaking Power. "The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness" (v. 8): Yes, the wilderness, in all its desolation, barrenness and hopelessness; whether that wilderness is your heart, your home, or your city, the power of the Word of God can shake it, and make it to tremble into a transformation (Isaiah 35:1-7).
VII. A Life-giving Power. "The voice of the Lord makes the hinds to calve" (v. 9). Because of the awfulness of God's thunderings, the hinds, through terror, were made to calve. It is when God's Word thunders and lightens most, that Zion's travail for the birth of souls becomes greatest. It is by His mighty Word of truth that souls are still being "born again."
VIII. Stripping Power. "The voice of the Lord... strips the forest bare" (v. 9, R.V.). The hidden depths of the heart of the forest are laid bare by His discovering voice. The Word of God is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The fig-leaves of man's covering cannot stand this storm.
IX. God-glorifying Power. "In His temple everything says glory" (v. 9, R.V.). Every iota in the great temple of nature says "glory." So does everything in the temple of His revealed Word—Jesus Christ. So ought everything in the temple of these bodies, which are His. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory." Not one thing of all that He has spoken shall fail, everything shall say "glory."
A SONG OF SALVATION, Psalm 30.
"You have lifted me up" (v. 1). This may be regarded as the key note of this Psalm, sung at the dedication of the house of David. The salvation of God is fitly expressed by a lifting up? He was lifted up—
I. From the Power of his Enemies. "You have raised me up, and have not made my foes to rejoice over me" (v. 1, r. V.). The grace of God that brings salvation to all men, lifts up the believing soul out of the kingdom of darkness and tyranny, into the Kingdom of light and liberty. More than conquerors, over self and sin through Him who loved us.
II. From all his Diseases. "You have healed me" (v. 2). Only He who forgives all our iniquities, can heal our diseases (Psalm 103:3). A nature that is morally unsound can only be cured by moral and regenerative influences. "The Blood of Christ cleanses from all sin."
III. From the Place of Death. "You have brought my "soul from the grave" (v. 3). Sheol was the abode of the dead. Speaking figuratively, he had by the grace of God been delivered from a state of spiritual death. There are many souls that are as dead to the things of God as if they were in their graves. It is the Spirit that quickens.
IV. From Going Down to the Pit. "You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit" (v. 3). Or, "You have separated me from among them that go down to the pit" (see R.V., margin). He was saved from the company and influence of them that were perishing in their sins. Deliver from going down to the pit, for I have found the ransom.
V. From Weakness and Failure. "Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain to stand strong" (v. 7). By God's grace the mountain of his faith had been made to stand strong. His strength had been made perfect in weakness. Unbelief says, "I shall die in my nest" (Job. 29:18), but faith says, "My mountain is strong."
VI. From Sorrow and Sadness. "You have turned my mourning into dancing. You have loosed my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness" (v. 11, R.V.). Our God transforms the inner life of Zion's mourners, by giving them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 63:1).
VII. From Praiseless Silence. "To the end that my glory may sing praise to You, and not be silent" (v. 12). There are those who profess to know God, but they glorify Him not as God, neither are they thankful (Romans 1:21). He has saved us with a great salvation that our praises may abound unto Him, and not be silent (Ephesians 5:19, 20).
THE BLESSED LIFE, Psalm 31.
There are bright rays of light, and dark gloomy shadows here. But the blessed life can be lived in the midst of "nets," "lying vanities," and "lying lips." It is in circumstances like these that we can best prove the saving grace of God. Let us try and catch some of the features of the life of faith as revealed in this song. There was—
I. Confidence. "In You, O Lord, do I put my trust" (v. 1). The blessed life must have its source in God, who is blessed for evermore. We do not begin to live until we trust in Him (John 3:36). To receive by faith the life-giving One is to receive the right of Sonship (John 1:12).
II. Committal. "Into Your hand I commit my spirit. You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth" (v. 5). The redeemed spirit must be entirely committed to the Redeemer. "You are not your own, for you are bought with a price." The life of faith is a life of continual and unreserved surrender to the will of God. Self-sacrifice in the will of God is a very different thing from self-sacrifice outside that will.
III. Confession. "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble,...my strength fails..I am forgotten as a dead man, I am like a broken vessel" (vv. 9-12). It is no new thing for a man to feel nothing but weakness, and worthlessness, after he has solemnly and heartily given himself to God. It may be very painful to discover that, instead of strength and fullness, there has come the consciousness that we are but as dead men, and broken vessels! But these are the first evidences that the consecration has been real and effectual. Crucified with Christ, having the broken and contrite heart.
IV. Petition. "My times are in Your hands, deliver me...make Your face shine upon Your servant" (vv. 15, 16). Having committed his spirit and his "times" into the hand of God, he now pleads for the shining of His face. God requires perfect honesty of heart, in confession and in prayer. The shining of His face is the perfect remedy for those who are "forgotten as a dead man." The longing of every holy heart is for the "light of His countenance" (Psalm 4:6).
V. Adoration. "Oh, how great is Your goodness" (v. 19). Those who are wholly yielded to God will find their soul's satisfaction in the goodness of God. The ripest fruit of faith is adoration. The goodness of God in His Son Jesus Christ is so great that we must admire and adore.
VI. Praise. "Blessed be the Lord: for He has showed me His marvelous kindness" (v. 21). Although the tongue can never express the overwhelming sense of God's goodness, that at times fill the soul, yet it cannot remain silent. Bless the Lord, O my soul, Praise Him, praise Him for His marvelous works of love and mercy. Join now in the new and everlasting song, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain."
VII. Exhortation. "O love the Lord, all you His saints. ...Be of good courage" (vv. 23, 24). The heart that is full of the goodness of God will eagerly long for others to love Him, trust Him, serve Him, and to hope in Him. O you separated ones, love the Lord, and let love lead to courage in His service, and He shall strengthen your heart. The blessed life is a life of faith in God for ourselves, and of faith in His Gospel for others.
SAVED AND KEPT, Psalm 32
This well-known Psalm might be studied in the light of the ninth chapter of the Acts. It describes the experiences of a soul passing from the sorrows of conviction into the joys of salvation. There is—
I. The Need of Salvation.
1. SIN IMPLIED. "Transgression...sin...iniquity" (vv. 1, 2). Three words that describe three different phases of guilt. Those who would reckon with God must face the question of sin. All have sinned. All have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6).
2. SIN DISCOVERED. "Day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my moisture was changed as with the drought of summer" (v. 4, R.V.). He tried to keep silence, but the heavy hand of God made him "roar all the day long." It is hard to kick against the pricks of God's goading truth. The moisture of the natural man quickly dries up when the convicting breath of God's Spirit comes.
3. SIN CONFESSED. "I acknowledged my sin unto You" (v. 5). As long as the prodigal son tried to cover his sin, he did not prosper, but when he cried, "Father, I have sinned," he found mercy. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us" (1 John 1:9.).
4. SIN FORGIVEN. "You forgave the iniquity of my sin" (v. 5). Now he has entered into the "blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." God's forgiving grace goes deep down, taking all deceit out of the spirit (v. 2). Not only forgiven, but renewed in the inner man.
II. The Blessedness of the Saved. They are—
1. HIDDEN. "You are my hiding place" (v 7). God Himself becomes their refuge and hiding place. Hidden from the strife of the foolish and poisonous tongues of men, and from the day of His wrath, against all ungodliness, your life is hid with Christ in God.
2. TAUGHT. "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go" (v. 8). The forgiven ones are to be all taught of God, who teaches saving, from the ways of error, and to profit, both for this life, and that which is to come. You have the anointing of the Holy One, and need not that any man teach you (1 John 2:27).
3. GUIDED. "I will guide you with Mine eye." Sweet promise, as it implies that His eye is to be always upon us for good, so that we may see His face and enjoy His fellowship. We are not to be guided like the ignorant horse, or stubborn mule, with bit and bridle, but like obedient children, who can read the mind of God, in the eye of His Word.
4. GUARDED. "He who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about" (v. 10). "You shall compass me about with songs of deliverance" (v. 7). Compassed about with mercy and songs of deliverance; what a blessed environment. The heart garrisoned with forgiving mercy and songs of triumph. What a contrast to the "tribulation and anguish" that surrounds the soul of the evil doer (Romans 2:9).
5. GLADDENED. "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice... and shout for joy" (v. 11). Not unto us, but unto Your Name, be all the glory. He begins by taking us up out of the fearful pit of sin, then puts the new song in our mouth. Praise to our God! "Rejoice in the Lord always, for He changes not."
REJOICE IN THE LORD. Psalm 33:1-12
There are abundant reasons here why God's people should "Shout for joy in the Lord" (Newberry). It is a blessed choice to leave the doubters and join such shouters. The source of the believer's joy is not in the world, nor in themselves, but in the Lord. They sing unto Him a "new song" (v. 3), because they have been made new creatures, who enjoy new delights. They rejoice in the Lord because of—
I. His Word. "The Word of the Lord is right" (v. 4). It is the right thing for the souls and lives of men, because of its converting and enlightening power (Psalm 19:7, 8). The Word of God is powerful, for by it the Heavens were made (v. 6). It is the incorruptible seed that endures forever.
II. His Works. "All His works are done in truth" (v. 4). Every stone built by Him is perfectly plumb. All His works are perfect. All His works in grace, as well as in creation, are done in truth. He is a just God, and a Savior. If Christ is the way and the life, He is also the truth. To be saved by grace is not to be saved at the expense of truth, for "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1).
III. His Loving-kindness. "The earth is full of the loving-kindness of the Lord" (v. 5, R.V.). Everywhere, to those who have eyes to see, the tokens of His goodness may be seen. But it is in Christ Jesus that His marvelous loving-kindness finds its fullest manifestation. Yet in the earth, the outer court of His temple, "He makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). "God loved the world" (John 3:16).
IV. His Power. "Let all the earth fear the Lord...for He spoke, and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast" (vv. 8, 9). Man may make void God's word, but He never speaks in vain. What He has promised, He is able also to perform. Power belongs unto God, and He gives power to the faint, therefore, rejoice in the Lord.
V. His Knowledge. "The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to naught. He makes the thoughts of the people to be of none effect" (v. 10, R.V.). It is a joy of God's children, that He knows all about the secret desires of the ungodly, and that He takes the wise in their own craftiness (1 Corinthians 3:19). "You thought evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20). He can sanctify adverse things to the furtherance of the Gospel (Philippians 1:12, 13).
VI. His Faithfulness. "The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations" (v. 11). The thoughts of His heart, revealed in His Word, shall stand forever. Man is famous for his "vain thoughts," but precious are Your thoughts, O Lord, because they are infinitely great, and good, and true, and faithful.
VII. His Grace. "Blessed is..the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance" (v. 12). Grace is not an after-thought with God, it belongs to His eternal character, it is an essential attribute of His nature, for we are chosen in Him, before the foundation of the world, and now blessed with all spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, 4). The grace that has chosen us is to be made sufficient for us, therefore rejoice in the Lord, and again I say, rejoice.
JUBILATION. Psalm 34:1-10
In the original, the verses of this Psalm begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, indicating, perhaps, that special care has been bestowed on its composition. The occasion of it—when David played the fool before Abimelech—was anything but creditable to the king. Nevertheless he would joyfully praise the Lord for His great deliverance. These words seem to be the expression of a soul in an ecstasy of delight. The more keenly we feel our own foolishness and guilt, the more loudly shall we praise the God of our salvation. About this exuberant joy, note—
I. The Nature of It. It is—
1. SPIRITUAL. "I will bless the Lord" (v. 1). God is a spirit, and the spirit that finds its highest and deepest delight in "blessing the Lord," has something infinitely better than natural riches.
2. CONTINUAL. "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth." At all times and in all circumstances He is ever the same, so that our praises should never cease. Even the earth yields its increase to a praising people (Psalm 67:5-7).
3. UNSELFISH. "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together" (v. 3). The praiseful heart longs for others to join in, and share the happy service.
II. The Causes of It. He had experienced Divine—
1. INTERPOSITION. "I sought the Lord and He heard me" (v. 4). Another testimony to the power of prayer. The God of law is also the God of grace.
2. SALVATION. "Delivered me from all my fears... saved out of all his troubles" (vv. 4-6). We must needs be saved from all our sins to be saved from all our fears. The salvation of God goes down to the "uttermost" of human need, and lifts to the "uttermost" of Divine grace.
3. PROTECTION. "The angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him" (v. 7). As the mountain was full of horses and chariots to the opened eyes of Elisha, so does the power of God encompass His people as with a tabernacle (Psalm 27:5).
III. The Influence of It. This holy joy constrains—
1. TO INVITE. "O taste and see that the Lord is good" (v. 8). The sweetness of the Gospel of God, like the sweetness of honey, is best explained by tasting it. Those who have proved its preciousness, long for others to share its blessedness.
2. TO AFFIRM. "Blessed is the man that trusts in Him...They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing" (vv. 8-10). They confidently testify to the goodness and faithfulness of God, because of their own experience.
3. TO EXHORT. "O fear the Lord, you His saints... Come you children hearken unto Me" (vv. 9-11). The note of warning must be sounded, as well as the notes of invitation and personal testimony. It is as needful for saints to fear the Lord as for children to hearken to the voice of those who know Him and can teach the way of life (v. 12).
AN EXPERIENCED TEACHER. Psalm 34:11-22
WHAT THE LORD DOES FOR US.
"Come, O children, hearken unto Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord" (v. 11). To teach the fear of the Lord is to teach how to know the Lord, and live in the enjoyment of His favor and presence. As children then, let us sit down at the feet of this great teacher and learn what he has to say about the way of life and blessedness. As a man of experience, he sets forth the truth in order. He speaks—
I. About Desire. "What man is he who desires life" (v. 12). The anxiety of the soul must be after the right and proper object to begin with. The heart that longs to "see good" has come to the gate of the narrow way.
II. About Evil. "Keep your tongue from evil...depart from evil" (vv. 13, 14). Those who would seek life must be ready to be separated from all their sins. To run this race every weight and sin must be laid aside (Hebrews 12:1). Let the wicked forsake his way, etc.
III. About Peace. "Seek peace" (v. 14). He does not teach us that we should make peace, but seek it. Christ has made peace by the Blood of His Cross. Seek the peace of God, and follow peace with all men (Hebrews 12:14).
IV. About Prayer. "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry,...the righteous cry and the Lord hears" (vv. 15-17). Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ no man is better able to instruct in the are of prayer than David. God and prayers were tremendous realities to him. "Ask and you shall receive."
V. About Nearness. "The Lord is near unto them that are of a broken heart" (v. 18). Let us give special heed to this teaching. Broken-heartedness is a condition of true fellowship with God. He knows the proud afar off. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit" (Psalm 51:17). The Holy One that inhabits eternity dwells with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit (Isaiah 57:15).
VI. About Affliction. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all" (v. 19). The Lord's people are not saved from afflictions, but saved in them, as Daniel was in the den of lions, and the Hebrews in the furnace of fire. "In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Troubled on every side, but not distressed (2 Corinthians 4:8).
VII. About Perseverance. "None of them that trust in Him shall be condemned" (v. 22, R.V.). None shall pluck them out of My hand, He is able to keep from stumbling all those that trust in Him. By faith we are saved from guilt and sin, by faith are we kept day by day from the condemning influences that are ever about us and within us. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6).
FALSE WITNESSES. Psalm 35.
If any man would live godly, he must suffer persecution,
I. His Cowardly Enemies. "False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge that I knew not; they rewarded me evil for good (vv. 11, 12). In mine adversity they rejoiced" (v. 15). In this he became a partaker of the sufferings of his Lord (Matthew 26:59-61). Even because of love, some will become our adversaries (Psalm 109:4). Those who are out of sympathy with Jesus Christ will be out of sympathy with His faithful followers.
II. His Attitude Towards Them. "But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth...and my prayer returned into mine own bosom" (v. 13). All those, so called, imprecations in this Psalm should be read in the light of this statement. He who fasted and prayed for his enemies, when they were in trouble, was not likely to pronounce curses upon them. As Newberry points out, these "texts" should be read in the future tense. "They shall." Well David knew what the future would be of those who raised false charges against God's people, and who rejoiced at their halting (v. 15, R.V.). Our Lord's command is, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you,...and pray for them that despitefully use you," even although your prayer should "return into your own bosom," as it sometimes does.
III. His Petitions to God. "Strive You, O Lord, with them that strive with me...and stand up for mine help" (vv. 1, 2, R.V.). He pleads for—
1. DIVINE ADVOCACY. "Strive you with 'them." The servant of Christ must not strive, seeing that he has an advocate with the Father who is Jesus Christ the Righteous. Vengeance belongs unto the Lord; commit your ways unto Him. God is our refuge.
2. DIVINE DELIVERANCE. "Lord, how long....rescue my soul from their destructions" (v. 17). He who is our Redeemer and Lord will not fail to rescue the souls of His trusting ones from all the destructive plans and purposes of His and our enemies. His Name was called Jesus because He shall save.
3. DIVINE JUSTICE. "Judge me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness" (v. 24). Those who have found refuge in His mercy will find strength in His righteousness. "It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you" (2 Thessalonians 1:6).
IV. His Joyful Resolution. "My soul shall be joyful in the Lord..All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto You" (vv. 9, 10). "My tongue shall speak of Your righteousness, and of Your praise all the day long" (v. 28). When we make our appeal to God, we must in confidence leave the matter in His hands, rejoicing that He is able, and praising because He will. Those who are joyful in the Lord are best able to speak of His righteousness.
UNDER HIS WINGS. Psalm 36:5-9.
The Psalmist begins here by laying bare the secret thoughts and intents of the wicked man's heart. "There is no fear of God before his eyes; he flatters himself in his own eyes" (vv. 1, 2). Does the denial of God not always spring from the desire for self-flattery? How different it is with those who are joyfully resting beneath the shadow of His wings. Note the—
I. Attitude Mentioned. "Under the shadow of Your wings" (v. 7). They are there because they have "put their trust" in the Lord their God. There is no other way of getting under the saving, protecting power of God but by faith. It was because Ruth believed that she found refuge under the wings of the Lord God of Israel (Ruth 2:12). The feathers of God's wings are the words of His Gospel. "His truth shall be your shield" (Psalm 91:4; Matthew 23:37).
II. Reasons Given. "Therefore" (v. 7). This word suggests the wherefore—
1. "Your MERCY is in the Heavens" (v. 5). Being in the Heavens, it is high enough to overtop all the altitudes of human guilt. "As far as the Heavens is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him" (Psalm 103:11).
2. "Your FAITHFULNESS reaches unto the skies" (v. 5, R.V.). The clouds may come and go, but the sky, in all its purity, remains eternally the same, so with the faithfulness of God. He is faithful that has promised, and that faithfulness will not fail until the objects of it reaches the skies (1 Corinthians 1:9).
3. "Your RIGHTEOUSNESS is like the mountains of God" (v. 6, R.V.). The righteousness of God! Who can rise up to it? It is like the great mountain top that pierces the clouds, where no human foot has ever trod. Who can by searching find out God? But He has made Christ to be unto us Righteousness, even the righteousness of God, which is unto all and upon all them that believe.
4. "Your JUDGMENTS are a great deep" (v. 6). If His righteousness is as high as Heaven, His judgments are as deep as Hell. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" There is no escape from His justice but under the wings of His mercy.
5. "Your LOVING-KINDNESS is precious" (v. 7, R.V.). Precious indeed is the loving-kindness of God, who in the Person of His Son has spread the wings of His offered grace over a perishing world. "Herein is love."
III. Blessings Enjoyed. All those who are under His wings are in the place of—
1. ABUNDANT SATISFACTION. "They shall be abundantly satisfied" (v. 8). The Hebrew word is "watered" (R.V., margin). The provision of His grace will be found amply sufficient for those who hide in Him. He shall make them to drink of the river of His own pleasure (v. 8). "At His right hand there are pleasures for evermore." Jesus cried, "If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink." To come to Him is to come to the "fountain of life" (v. 9; John 4:14).
2. CLEARNESS OF VISION. "In Your light shall we see light" (v. 9). In the light of His presence we see clearly the light of His truth. To trust in Him is to pass out of darkness into His marvelous light. In His marvelous light, we see light, on sin, on self, on death, on immortality, and eternal life (John 8:12).
COUNSELS FOR CHRISTIANS. Psalm 37:1-9.
In Newberry's "Englishman's Bible" there are seven words in these verses printed in heavy letters, indicating that they are emphasized in the Hebrew. Those words stand out as stepping stones into the blessed life of faith and fullness. Here they are—
I. Fret Not. "Fret not yourself because of evil-doers" (v. 1). Be not envious at the foolish, when you see the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:3). Be content with such things as you have. Knowing that "all things work together for good to them that love God." All things are yours, for you are Christ's.
II. Trust. "Trust in the Lord, and do good" (v. 3). To be content, without trusting in the Lord, is no virtue, it is imbecility or madness. God's amen is given to our faith, "Truly you shall be fed." Faith is an active grace, therefore be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12).
III. Delight. "Delight yourself also in the Lord: and He shall give you the desires of your heart" (v. 4). We may well question our trust, if it does not lead to "delight in the Lord." We cannot delight in Him, unless we believe that He is the chief and perfect good of the soul.
IV. Commit. "Commit your way unto the Lord...and He shall bring it to pass" (v. 5). Where there is perfect trust and delight in the Lord, there will surely be a perfect committal of ourselves, and all our ways and purposes unto Him. The life that is wholly committed will be free of all anxious thoughts (Matthew 6:25). We are encouraged to cast all our care upon Him, for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:8).
V. Rest. "Rest in the Lord" (v. 7). This rest is the result of a wholehearted committal. In this quietness and confidence you shall find your strength (Isaiah 13:15). Rest in the Lord, for the battle is not your's, but His.
VI. Cease. "Cease from anger and forsake wrath" (v. 8). If your trust is in the Lord, cease from self and from man. Wrath and strife are the works of the flesh (Galatians 3:19, 20). "He who has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls" (Proverbs 25:28).
VII. Wait. "Wait upon the Lord" (v. 9). "Wait patiently for Him" (v. 7). This word is most needful. After having committed all to Him, and ceased from our will and way, there is a danger of growing weary in well doing. Wait, "You have need of patience, that after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise" (Hebrews 10:36). They that wait upon the Lord shall have such manifestations of Himself as shall renew their strength.
SEVEN CHARACTERS, AND THEIR PORTION. Psalm 37:10-37
It is what men are, not so much what they think, say, or do that determines their character, relationship, and portion in the sight of God.
I. The Evildoer: he shall be cut off (v. 9). "Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days" (Psalm 55:23). Like chaff, the wind shall drive them away.
II. The Meek: he shall inherit the earth; and delight himself in the abundance of peace (v. 11). The meekest Man the world ever saw "had not where to lay His head," but He and His followers shall yet judge the world.
III. The Lawless: the Lord shall laugh at him (vv. 12, 13). Those who refuse to obey the call of God's grace, and cast away the cords of His commandments from them, shall be rewarded with the laugh of His derision (Psalm 2).
IV. The Righteous: the Lord shall uphold him (v. 17). Those who bear the image of the Heavenly Father shall be upheld with His everlasting arms.
V. The Good: the Lord shall order his steps, and delight in his way (v. 23). The walk that is ordered by the Lord will be a delight to His heart. The "good man" seeks to get the highest good, and to do the greatest good.
VI. The Saint: he shall not be forsaken; he shall be preserved forever (v. 28). God can never forsake His holy ones, since the Holiest One of all was forsaken on their behalf. They shall be preserved forever, for they are the heirs of eternal life (1 Peter 1:5).
VII. The Perfect: his end is peace (v. 37). His end shall be perfect peace, because the peace of God already rules in his heart". The peace of God which passes all understanding can never pass away. In these leading words we may easily trace a gradation of experience in the Godly life. The meekness of contrition, the righteousness of faith, the goodness of grace, the saintship of holiness, and the perfection of glory.
THE RIGHTEOUS MAN. Psalm 37:10-34
As compared with the "righteousness of God," by nature "there is none righteous." The truly righteous man is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, whose moral nature has been "made straight" and who now lives the upright life. The blessedness of such a man is here beautifully portrayed.
I. His Little is Blessed. "A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked" (v. 16). Although there is but little meal in his barrel, it never goes done. With his little, he has always the blessing of the Lord which makes rich, and adds no sorrow (Proverbs 10:22).
II. He is Upheld by the Lord. "The Lord upholds the righteous" (v. 17). His strength is not in himself, but in the faithful and strong hand of his God (Isaiah 41:10). He is upheld upon the sinking billows, like Peter, where no faithless feet can ever go. "I have prayed for you that your faith fail not" (Luke 22:32). He makes my feet like hinds' feet, to stand in slippery places.
III. His Inheritance is Everlasting. "The Lord knows...the upright; and their inheritance shall be forever" (v. 18). If he has little on the earth, he has "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in Heaven" (1 Peter 1:4.). Being an heir of God, he is an heir of the eternal joys and glories that belong to Him; pleasures that are at God's right hand for evermore.
IV. He is Merciful and Gracious. "The righteous shows mercy, and gives" (v. 21). He has learned by the example and Spirit of his Lord, that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." He has had mercy and grace showed him, and as he has freely received, he freely gives.
V. He is Never Forsaken. "I am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (v. 25). This old man's testimony is most precious and encouraging; he had never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed in destitution. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved and your house" (Acts 16:31).
VI. He is Endowed with Heavenly Wisdom. "The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom...the law of his God is in his heart" (vv. 30-32). When the Word of God is hid in the heart, then out of the good treasure of the heart he can bring forth good things (Matthew 12:35). "It is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which is in you."
VII. The End is Peace. "Behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace" (v. 37). He does not need to pray, like Balaam, "Let me die the death of the righteous," for he has already peace—the peace of God—and the blessedness of the peacemaker is now his; he is a child of God (Matthew 5:9). "My peace I give unto you" (John 14:27).
VIII. His Salvation is All of God. "The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord...because he trusts in Him" (vv. 39, 40). He is saved by grace, through faith. There is nothing in himself to boast of; his life-long salvation is the result of his life-long trust in the mercy and power of his God and Savior. As Daniel was "taken out of the den, with no manner of hurt found upon him, because he believed in his God" (Daniel 6:23) so will He save us from this present evil world, because we trust in Him.
SIN'S MISERIES, AND THE WAY OF ESCAPE. Psalm 38
This Psalm of "Remembrance" which reminds us of a boiling pot, in which there are many unsavory ingredients, is in marked contrast to the preceding Psalm. We may partly misunderstand David, if we forget that he acted not only as king of Israel, but also as Israel's national poet. This is the language of one who remembers the horrors of the pit out of which he has been dug. It fitly describes—
I. The Miseries of Sin. Sin, when it is finished brings forth death. See here how it operates in the awakened sinner. There is—
1. CONVICTION. "Your arrows stick fast in me" (v 2). It is not at the sinner God shoots at so much as at his sins His arrows are sharp and pierce to the core of the evil. The Word of God is a discerner of the heart.
2. DISORDER. "There is no soundness in my flesh" (v. 3). His whole moral nature was discovered to be diseased, and out of order. This is a most humbling revelation. The heart has been found out as a deceitful traitor, and all its actions discovered to be polluting and disorderly.
3. UNREST. "Neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin" (v. 3). The strongest features in his character were shaken and troubled at the thought of sin. The whole fabric of his moral nature was disturbed. Real conviction of sin is as an earthquake in the soul-universal disturbance.
4. OPPRESSION. "Mine iniquities are...as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me" (v. 4). Too heavy for me? yes, but not too heavy for Him, who bore our sins on His own body to the tree. What can a man do with a burden that is too heavy for him, and who cannot cast it off? O wretched man! who shall deliver?
5. CORRUPTION. "My wounds stink and corrupt because of my foolishness" (v. 5). This is no exaggerated figure of speech; it is the sober statement of one who has seen and felt sin in its true character and effects. There is no balm in Gilead, no physician on earth that can heal those deep-seated festering wounds.
6. HELPLESS. "I am feeble and sore broken" (v. 8). His whole nature was completely benumbed, and powerless to throw off the foul malady. "Without strength" is the condition of all under the torpid blight of sin.
7. DARKNESS. "As for the light of mine eyes, it has gone from me" (v. 10). All the light of hope he had before has died out. Darkness covers the face of his deep.
II. The Way of Escape
1. CONFESSION. "I will declare my iniquity" (v. 18). A full declaration is needed. He who covers his sin shall not prosper, but "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive."
2. CONTRITION. "I will be sorry for my sin" (v. 18). This is the godly sorrow that works repentance to salvation. The confession that does not spring from contrition of heart is mockery. It is he who confesses and forsakes his sin that finds mercy.
3. FAITH. "In You O Lord do I hope: You will hear, O Lord my God" (v. 15). "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved" (Romans 10:9, 10).
TAKE HEED. Psalm 39
This resolution of the psalmist to "take heed to his ways" is a note of reminder to us. Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. Mark those things which, like David, we should give special attention to. I will take heed to—
I. My Ways (v. 1). I will scrutinize my motives, my habits and manners. I will not think them right because they are my ways. I will search out whether they are in harmony with God's word and ways.
II. My Mouth. "I will keep my mouth with a bridle (muzzle) while the wicked is before me" (v. 1). God is often judged by the ways and mouths of His people, therefore there is need at times for the muzzle. The man that offends not in word is a perfect man (James 3:2). Walk in wisdom toward them that are without (Psalm 141:3).
III. My Heart. "My heart was hot within me" (v. 3). Blessed are the hot in heart where the holy fire burns while they muse on the things of God, for their tongues shall speak of His praise. Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, or a lukewarm heart of indifference.
IV. My End. "Lord make me to know mine end" (v. 4). What shall my end be? is a most important inquiry. Balaam desired that his last end may be like the righteous, but he did not take heed to his end, so he fell numbered with the enemies of God.
V. My Days. "Behold You have made my days (lifetime) as hand-breadths" (v. 5, R.V.). As our lifetime is made up of a few hand-breadths, we have need to take heed to each one of them; to "number them that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).
VI. My Hope. "My hope is in You" (v. 7). Take heed that your hope is in the Lord, and not in yourself or your circumstances. We are saved by hope, but hope that is seen is not hope (Romans 8:24). Those whose hope is in God will be filled with all joy and peace in believing, for He is the God of hope (Romans 15:13).
VII. My Transgressions. "Deliver me from all my transgressions" (v. 8). To transgress is to backslide; to fail to take heed to it is to fall from grace, and allow sin to have dominion over us (Romans 6:14). Although we may fall, we may rise again for the Lord is the Deliverer of His people.
VIII. My Prayer. "Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; hold not Your peace at my tears" (v. 12). Take heed to your prayers, see that they are the sincere expression of your inmost heart, and that they are offered in no cold and formal manner. They are all the better of being soaked with tears.
SAVED AND SATISFIED. Psalm 40:1-5
The first few Verses of this favorite Psalm give us the experiences of a soul passing from darkness into light— from the miseries of a lost condition into the joys of a full salvation. He was—
I. Distressed. In "an horrible pit" and "miry clay" (v. 2). Our sins are the cords by which we are let down into the dismal darkness to sink in the mire. It is an horrible awakening when one makes the discovery that this is their condition. The pains of Hell get hold of such.
II. Heard. "He inclined unto me, and heard my cry" (v. 1). What a mercy that this pit is not bottomless, and that the gracious ear of God is still within reach. Jonah cried out of the belly of Hell and was heard.
III. Saved. "He brought me up" (v. 2). His arm is not shortened that it cannot save, it is long enough and strong enough to lift the penitent sinner, "up out of" the pit of horrors and the treacherous mire. Others may divert and amuse the imprisoned soul, God only can bring him out.
IV. Established. "He set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings" (v. 2). It is a mighty deliverance, from the sinking miry clay of our own thoughts to the rock of God's eternal truth, and to have our ways so established that we are kept from falling back into our former condition. The Lord your keeper.
V. Gladdened. "He put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God" (v. 3). This new song belongs to the new life of faith. It is a song of praise unto the Lamb who is worthy, for He was slain and has redeemed us to God by His blood (Rev. 5:9). He puts this song only into the mouths of those whose feet He has set upon the rock.
VI. Used. "Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord" (v. 3). The change is so great that many can't help seeing it; it is so manifestly of God, that they will be led to fear and to trust in the Lord. The testimony of a sound, happy, consistent life, must be fruitful.
VII. Satisfied. "Blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord...Your wonderful works...Your thoughts to usward... if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered" (vv. 4, 5). He is satisfied that the man who trusts in the Lord has entered into the blessed life. He finds that the works, and thoughts of God, on his behalf, are so wonderful and numerous, that they are unspeakable. When the eyes of our understanding have been enlightened, then we may know what is the hope of His calling, and the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe (Ephesians 1:18-20).
MESSIANIC FEATURES. Psalm 40:6-10
There is much in this Psalm that might have been fitly spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of these statements can hardly be applied to David (vv. 6-8). Surely the Holy Spirit, the Revealer of Christ, rested upon the Psalmist when he uttered these prophetic words. There are here some—
I. Features of His Character. In him there was the—
1. OPENED EAR. "Mine ears have You opened" (v. 6). When the slave had his ear bored it was a token of entire submission to his master's will (Exod. 21:6). The Lord God bored the ear of His Son, and He was not rebellious, neither turned He back (Isaiah 50:4, 5). This figure is used to denote the entire devotion of the Son to the Father's will.
2. SURRENDERED LIFE. "Burnt offering and sin offering have You not required; then said I, Lo, I come" (vv. 6, 7). When there were no more sacrifices required at the hands of the Jewish priesthood, then Christ came. He came, not to offer sacrifices for sin, but to give Himself, an offering unto God. His life was yielded to God for the purpose of redemption. He is "the end of the law for righteousness" (Romans 10:4).
3. FULFILLED WORD. "In the volume of the book it is written of me" (v. 7). All that was written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets and in the Psalms concerning the Messiah, found their perfect fulfillment in Him (Luke 24:44). So ought His Word to be fulfilled in us.
4. EMBODIED LAW. "Your law is within my heart" (v. 8). He not only obeyed the law, but the law of His God was so deeply engraved in his heart as to constitute His very nature. His meat was to do the will of Him that sent Him (John 4:34). This is what the Holy Spirit seeks to do in us, by making us partakers of the Divine nature.
5. JOYFUL SERVANT. "I delight to do Your will, O my God" (v. 8). It is a delight to do His will, when His Word is hid in the surrendered heart (Romans 7:22). This is the secret and character of the "holy life," when the self-will is lost in the delightsomeness of the will of God.
6. FAITHFUL PREACHER. "I have preached righteousness: I have not refrained: I have not hid: I have declared: I have not concealed" (vv. 9, 10). As a faithful witness, He kept back nothing that was profitable. Having the Spirit of the Lord upon Him, He preached the Gospel to the poor (Luke 4:18, 19). He was manifestly declared to be an epistle of God.
II. Aspects of His Ministry. Christ's life and teaching was a revelation of the—
1. RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD. "I have published righteousness" (v. 9, R.V.). The law and the prophets witnessed to the righteousness of God, but Jesus Christ alone can impart it to all them that believe (Romans 3:21, 22).
2. FAITHFULNESS OF GOD. "I have declared Your faithfulness" (v. 10). Every miracle that Christ performed, every prayer that He uttered, was a declaration of the faithfulness of His Father to His Son, and to His Word. He walked by faith, and received from God all that He needed, thereby proving His faithfulness.
3. SALVATION OF GOD. "I have declared...Your salvation" (v. 10). Salvation through the grace of God was the central theme of our Lord's ministry. This salvation which began to be spoken by the Lord: how shall we escape if we neglect it? (Hebrews 2:3).
4. LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD. "I have not concealed Your loving-kindness" (v. 10). God is love, and His love and kindness had a new unveiling in the gift of His Son. Jesus Christ never concealed the fact that Himself was the expression of the loving-kindness of the Father to a perishing world. "Last of all He sent His Son." Herein is love.
5. TRUTH OF GOD. "I have not concealed...Your truth" (v. 10). The truth as it is in the character of the Father has been manifested to us in the character of the Son. No essential feature belonging to the nature of God was concealed by Him. He is the Truth; neither more nor less can be said of Him than what is said of God: "I and My Father are one." Let us thank God that He who is the Truth, is also the Way and the Life.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF CONSIDERING THE POOR. Psalm 41:1-3
The word "blessed" here is in the plural, "Oh, the blessednesses" of such.
I. He will be Delivered in time of trouble (v. 1).
II. He will be Preserved and kept in life (v. 2).
III. He will be Blessed upon the earth (v. 2).
IV. He will be Saved from his enemies (v. 2).
V. He will be Strengthened in time of weariness (v. 3).
VI. He will be Comforted in time of sickness (v. 3).
THE SUFFERINGS AND CONSOLATIONS OF THE SAINT. Psalm 41:4-13
According to the Hebrew divisions, this Psalm ends the first Book.
I. His Sufferings. He suffers from—
1. EVIL SPEAKING. "Mine enemies speak evil of me" (v. 5).
2. EVIL THINKING. "When shall he perish?"
3. EVIL WHISPERING. "They whisper together against me" (v. 7).
4. EVIL PLOTTING. "They devised my hurt."
5. EVIL WORKING. "Lifted up his heel against me" (v. 9).
II. His Consolations. He is comforted with the—
1. KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. "But You, O Lord" (v. 10).
2. FAVOR OF GOD. "I know that You favor me" (v. 11).
3. FAITHFULNESS OF GOD. "Mine enemy does not triumph over me."
4. POWER OF GOD. "You uphold me" (v. 12).
5. PRESENCE OF GOD. "You set me before Your face" (v. 12).
Old Testament Studies
DEEP CALLS UNTO DEEP. Psalm 42:1-7.
The key words to this pathetic Psalm are, "My Soul" and "My God." These are two great deeps, and the one calls unto the other. The natural phenomenon referred to in v. 7, "Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterspouts," may have awakened this line of thought and expression. The deep, dark cloud, calling unto the deep sea, by the voice of a whirlwind, creating a waterspout, that may have burst in the hills, flooding the river, and again making for the deep of the sea. Two deeps; one above, and one beneath; the God of Heaven, and the soul of man. "As the deer pants after the waterbrooks, so pants my soul after You, O God." Deep calls unto deep.
I.—MAN'S SOUL IS A GREAT DEEP. As a spiritual and immortal being, there is in him almost fathomless depths.
1. There is a great deep of NEED, "My soul thirsts." This deep says, satisfaction is not in me. No. Apart from God "darkness is upon the face of the deep." The Godless soul of man is but a yawning gulf of emptiness and thirst. This well is deeper than Jacob's.
2. There is a great deep of POSSIBILITY. In another place the Psalmist says, "The heart is deep" (Psalm 64:4). There is a great depth of capacity in it for pain or pleasure, weal or woe. The depth of its capacity is the depth of its possibility. Who can reckon up the full capabilities of a human soul?
3. Man's soul is also a great deep of RESPONSIBILITY. Being an immortal spirit, eternal consequences are involved in its thoughts and actions.
II. —GOD IS A GREAT DEEP. The Living, Almighty, Self-existent and Eternal God. Who can by searching find out the limits of the Almighty?
1. HIS THOUGHTS are deep (Psalm 92:4). His thoughts are perfectly consistent with His character. They come out of the great depths of His Infinite mind.
2. HIS WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE are deep. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable." (Romans 11:33-34). God is the "deep thinker," and in the great depth of His wisdom and knowledge there is for us an unsearchable depth of riches.
3. HIS LOVE is deep (Ephesians 3:18-19). We need to be rooted and grounded in it, to be able to comprehend, with all saints, what is its breadth, and length, and depth, and height. His love is as deep as His fathomless heart. The love that gave Jesus to die.
4. His RESOURCES are deep. He cleave the rock and gave them water to drink out of the great depths (Psalm 78:8-15). In Christ, our Spiritual Rock, there dwells all the fullness of God. He is able to do exceeding abundantly.
III. —THE ONE DEEP CALLS UNTO THE OTHER. The deep of man's need calls unto the deep of God's fullness; and the deep of God's fullness calls unto the deep of man's need. Between our emptiness and His all-sufficiency there is a great gulf, but, thank God, it is not yet fixed. Deep calls unto deep. The deep mercy of God needs our emptiness, into which it might pour itself. Man needs God, God needs man. Nothing can fully meet the depth of our need but the depth of His Almighty fullness. Out of His depths has He cried unto me: Out of my depths have I cried unto Him (Psalm 130:1). This is the mind and work of the Spirit, for the Spirit searches the deep things of God. Then, my soul, "Launch out into the deep," and "dwell deep."
THINGS TOUCHING THE KING. Psalm 45
The King referred to here, who is called "God," and whose throne is "forever and ever," can be none other than the Messiah. The heart of the writer is so filled with the riches of such a soul-warming vision that it overflows like a boiling pot (v. 1, R.V.). A full heart makes a ready or eloquent tongue. A clear soul-ravishing sight of the glories of Christ, and His Bride, the Church, is the best preparation for a powerful testimony (Acts 4:20). Note what these "things" are.
I.—HIS BEAUTY. "You are fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into Your lips" (v. 2). He is the chief among the thousands, in earth or in Heaven. His mouth is most sweet, because of the grace that has been poured into His lips. No man ever spoke like this Man. He is fairer than the children of men, because He is the express and unsullied image of the heavenly Father, full of grace and truth.
II. —HIS SWORD. "Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O most mighty" (v. 3). Beauty and might are gracefully wedded in the Person of Christ. On his lips, grace; on His thigh, a sword. The Word of God is either grace that saves, or a sword that severs. This sword is two-edged........dividing......and discerning (Hebrews 4:12). During these days of grace and salvation, the sword is upon the thigh of Him who is most mighty, but the time shall come when it shall be in His hand (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
III.—HIS CAUSE. "Because of truth and meekness and righteousness" (v. 4), Christ, in vindicating truth, meekness, and righteousness, is vindicating His own character and our need. He is the Truth. He is meek and lowly in heart. He is the Lord our righteousness. The untruthful (not true to God, and men), the proud, and the self-righteous, are opposed to the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. To love the truth, to possess a meek spirit, and to act righteously is to be in harmony with His will, in line with His purpose, and in the likeness of His character.
IV.—HIS ARROWS. "Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King's enemies" (v. 5). The King knows His enemies. His arrows are sharp, and they go straight to the heart, where the enmity and deceit lurks. They cut so deep that no earthly remedy can heal the wound (Acts 2:37). These arrows are as swift as light, as straight as truth, and as unerring as the wisdom of God. Sooner or later they shall reach every heart at enmity with the King.
V.—HIS THRONE AND SCEPTER. "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of equity is the scepter of Your kingdom" (v. 6, R.V.). The seat and method of His government are eternally the same. His throne is the symbol of eternal dignity, and His scepter of everlasting righteousness. Every attribute of His kingly character is in favor of righteousness, and opposed to wickedness (v. 7). This is He who was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Therefore God has anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied. His Divinity is undeniable.
VI.—HIS GARMENTS. "All Your garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces" (v. 8). All His vestments have an unmistakable heavenly fragrance about them, because they are His. He is in them. His presence gives a new perfume to every environment. All the doctrines of His Word are as His sweet-smelling garments, that speak of the fullness and freeness of the riches of His grace. Although our eyes see Him not, yet are we conscious of the nearness of His presence by the fragrance of His garments.
VII.—HIS QUEEN. "At Your right hand does stand the queen in gold of Ophir" (v. 9, R.V.). The queen of the Kingly Son of God is the Church, which is the Bride of the Lamb; her destined place is at His "right hand," and her adorning is with the purest golden glory. Through His grace He will present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Seeing that the marriage of the Lamb is coming, it becomes the Bride to make herself ready (Rev. 19:7-8).
VIII. —HIS DAUGHTER." The King's daughter in the inner part of the palace is all glorious" (v. 13, R.V., marg.). This Bride occupies the unique relationship of being both queen and daughter. He calls her "My sister, My spouse." She is a daughter because born of God; she is a queen, because, with Him (Christ) she is seated in heavenly places, crowned with honor and glory. In the inner palace of the King she is now all glorious, who once like Him, and for Him, was despised and rejected of men (Isaiah 61:10). She can now truly say, "The King has brought me into His chambers; we will be glad and rejoice in You" (Ca. 1:4). Have you accepted His loving invitation, and put on His offered wedding garment? (Matthew 22:11).
PRICELESS POSSESSIONS. Psalm 46.
This is the song of the Christian warrior. All who have put on the whole armor of God, to resist the principalities and powers of evil, will, like Luther, sing it often. Each note of this Psalm is an inspiration There are in it—
I.—AN INFALLIBLE REFUGE. "God is our Refuge and Strength." The life that is "hid in God" is surely as safe as God can make it. The eternal spirit of man needs the "Eternal God as a Refuge" (Deuteronomy 33:27). To hide in God, is to hide in His Love, and in His Mercy, and in His Power. This means not only perfect safety, but also perfect self-abandonment to God, to His will and work.
II. —AN IMMOVABLE CONFIDENCE. "Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed," etc. (vv. 3-4). What has the removing of the earth to do with a soul that is dwelling in God? His house is built on the eternal Rock, therefore the rain, floods, or winds cannot shake it (Matthew 7:25). The Lord, in whom we trust, is "Mightier than the noise of many waters." Let not the din of the world's tumult drown this sweet note of restfulness.
III.—AN INFINITE SUPPLY. "There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God" (v. 4). New rivers of delight flow out for the soul that has found its refuge in God; they drink now of "the river of Your pleasures" (Psalm 36:8). They are led by the still waters of God's great thoughts, and refreshed and strengthened by the living streams of eternal truth. The supplies for the new man are found in his new hiding place (Isaiah 32:2).
IV.—AN UNFAILING COMFORT. "God is in the midst......God shall help....He uttered His voice......The Lord of Hosts is with us" (vv. 5-7). His abiding presence is our continual protection, and the guarantee of rest in service (Exodus 33:14-15). When God, by His Spirit, is in the midst of you, and when He utters His voice, then the earth, and the things of the earth melt.
V.—AN ASSURING PROSPECT. "Come, behold..... what desolation He has made.....He makes wars to cease," etc. (vv. 8-9). There is here a backward look and a forward look. He has made desolations of men's works and ways in the past, and He will yet break, and cut to pieces, the instruments of destruction, and make wars to cease, unto the end of the earth (Isaiah 2:4). The angelic song at the Nativity, "Peace on earth and goodwill among men," will yet be perfectly fulfilled at the coming of the King.
VI.—A PEACEFUL ATTITUDE. "Be still, and know that I am God." Only those who have faith in God can possibly be still, when circumstances are apparently adverse. But it is in this stillness of soul that we learn to know God. "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength" (Isaiah 30:7-15). Stand still and see the salvation of God. Hush; and let God utter His voice.
VII.—A TRIUMPHANT RESULT. "I will be exalted...... I will" (v. 10). The Lord above shall be exalted in that day, when He becomes the Refuge and Strength of His people. It is so now, in our individual experience; it will be so then, in His coming kingdom, when He shall be all and in all to His own.
THE GREAT CHANGE. Psalm 51
David had grievously sinned, and Nathan, at the command of God, had done for him what the Holy Spirit does for us. "Convinces of sin." The penitential language of this Psalm is always appropriate on the lips of a soul passing out of the agonies of conscious guilt, into the joys of forgiving grace.
I.—CONFESSIONS. Here it was deep and real "I acknowledge my transgressions." There was no further attempt to cover it up. "Against You, You only, have I sinned." He is conscious that his secret sin was an open insult to the name and character of God, as every sin is. "You desire truth in the inward parts" (v. 6). He feels now more keenly than ever that God looks on the heart. Hypocrisy, like faith and truthfulness, is a thing of the heart (Luke 11:39). It is to such confessors that the Faithful and Just One gives forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9).
II.—PETITIONS. Where there are such confessions there will also be petitions. The vessel of the heart needs not only to be emptied of the evil, but filled with the good. His first petition is for the—
1. MERCY OF GOD. "Have mercy upon me, O God" (v. 1). Nothing but mercy can meet his case, and that mercy must be the mercy of God. No convicted sinner would dare to ask for justice or righteousness, only the self-righteous are presumptuous enough to think of this. Then he pleads for—
2. CLEANSING FROM SIN. "Wash me thoroughly... and cleanse me from my sin" (v. 2). The remedy must be as thorough as the disease. Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. God's infallible cure for the guilt and pollution of sin is "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son." (1 John 1:7).
3. EXPIATION FROM GUILT. "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean" (v. 7). "Expiate me by a sin offering" is another rendering. The hyssop had to do with the blood of the lamb (Exodus 12:22). God's forgiveness is always on the ground of expiation. If the conscience is to be purged from dead and sinful works, it must be by "the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God." (Hebrews 9:14).
4. REGENERATION OF HEART. "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (v. 10). The remedy would not be perfect that only dealt with past sins and present guilt; the heart which is "deceitful and wicked" must be changed. The clean heart is a new creation. It is a heart destitute of the love of sin, and filled with the love of God. It is a condition described in the New Testament as being "born again" (John 3:3).
5. RENEWAL OF SPIRIT. "Renew a right spirit within me." With the new heart comes the new spirit within us, and upon us (Ezekiel 36:25-27). There cannot be the right spirit where there is not the clean heart. The hearts that were purified by faith were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:8-9). The absence of the right spirit is the evidence of indwelling sin.
6. RESTORATION OF JOY. "Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation" (v. 12). As a backslider, this joy had faded out of his life, but with the new heart and right spirit it was sure to return. At least, the way was open now for the return of this bright bird of Paradise into his life. Sorrow may endure for the night of confession, but joy comes in the morning of forgiveness and renewal. There is a joy in His salvation, a joy that should never be lost.
7. PRESERVATION BY HIS POWER. "Uphold me with Your free Spirit" (v. 12). Now that he has been set free from the law of sin and death, he longs to be kept in this condition of spiritual freedom. "Hold You me up." As one who had been burned with the fire of sin, he now dreads it. Although we have had the cleansing power of His blood, we still need the upholding power of His Spirit. He is able to keep us from falling.
III.—RESULTS. Where there has been a decided work of grace, signs will follow. He had—
1. A DESIRE TO WIN SOULS. "Then will I teach transgressors Your ways; and sinners shall be converted (turned) unto You" (v. 13). When, by experience, we have learned "Your ways," we have something worth teaching; something that transgressors need to know. It is a great work to convert a sinner (Jas. 5:19-20). If God has blessed us, it is that we might be made a blessing. He that wins souls is wise.
2. A DESIRE TO PRAISE GOD. "O God of my salvation; my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness;" and again, "O Lord, open You my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise" (v. 15). Those saved by the Lord have a double debt to pay. They are debtors to the unsaved—to teach them His way — they are debtors to God, to praise Him. "Whoever offers praise glorifies Me" (Psalm 50:23).
A BLESSED EXPERIENCE. Psalm 57:1-2
In these two verses the way of salvation is set before us in a very expressive manner. Observe there is—
I.—DANGER. "Until these calamities be over and past." Saul was threatening the life of David, but his danger was nothing compared to the danger of those who are under the threatening judgments of God. His wrath against sin is a terrible calamity for the sinner (John 3:36).
II.—PRAYER. "Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me." This is the language of one who is very sensible of his danger and need. Mercy is the crying need of those who have been awakened to a sense of their real condition. "God be merciful unto me, the sinner."
III.—PROVISION. "The shadow of Your wings." How gracious is our God, that He should stand, as with outstretched wings, waiting and willing to receive and shelter all who take refuge beneath them." O Jerusalem.... how often would I have gathered..... as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings" (Matthew 23:37). The shadow of His wings means the shadow of God.
IV.—FAITH. "My soul trusts in You; yes, in the shadow of Your wings will I make my refuge." The outspread wings of divine grace can only save those who trust and accept. "You would not" was the only hindrance in the way of Jerusalem sinners being saved. If the Israelites could not enter into the joy of the Promised Land, it was "because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:19).
V.—DELIVERANCE. "I cried unto God..... that performs all things for me." God's salvation is perfect. He performs every needed thing. It is His way, that when He begins a good work in you, to perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). Salvation is of the Lord.
WAITING UPON GOD. Psalm 62:1-8
Twice in this Psalm does David speak of his soul "waiting" or being "silent unto God" (R.V., marg.). This silence is profoundly significant. It is about as ominous in us as when it was in Heaven for the "space of half an hour." It is so difficult for us, at times, to be perfectly still before God, as an instrument whose silent cords wait the divine touch. Let us think of—
I. —HIM, ON WHOM WE SHOULD WAIT. "My soul waits upon God." My soul, pause and think of Him at whose door you do wait. He who comes to God, must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Wait on Him as the Israelites waited on the moving of the Pillar of Cloud. To move without Him is to move without the promise and the presence. To wait God's guidance and incoming for power and progress, is as the seaman, waiting on the rising of the tide, and the deepening of the river channel, that he may go forth in safety with his precious cargo.
II.—WHY WE SHOULD WAIT ON GOD. Because of what He is. "He only is my Rock, my Salvation, my Defense" (v. 2). It may seem an awkward figure of speech to be waiting on a "Rock," but the sense is of tremendous importance. It is to wait on the coming of irresistible strength and stability. He alone is to be our Strength, our Savior, and Defender. I need Him as "my Rock" (Strength), to stand in the midst of all the evil forces of the world. I need Him as "my Salvation," to deliver me from the subtle temptations and lusts of the flesh. I need Him as "my Defense," to save me from the wiles and fiery darts of the devil. "My soul wait you only upon God" (v. 5).
III.—HOW WE SHOULD WAIT. We should wait as those who expect the fulfillment of His Word, and the manifestation of His character. "My expectation is from Him....I shall not be moved." (vv. 5-6). It is the believing and expectant heart that looks for the opened windows of Heaven, and the poured-out blessing (Malachi 3:10). "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it" (Psalm 81:10). It is only when every other door is closed, and every vain desire of self silenced, that we are in a position to prove Him, and to say truly, "My expectation is from Him." When we are thus shut up to faith in Him, we may also say, "I shall not be moved." They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.
IV.—THE RESULT OF WAITING UPON GOD. There will be a clear and encouraging testimony to His faithfulness. "Trust you in Him at all times, pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us" (v. 8). From experience he can say to the people: At all times, trust Him, for all things pour out your heart to Him; for He is a refuge, and a present help to those who wait upon Him. They that wait upon Him are blessed, and made a blessing to others.
THIRSTING FOR GOD. Psalm 63:1-8
This is the language of the Psalmist while wandering in the wilderness of Judah. It is an experience which is typical of those who have discovered their real need in the wilderness of this world's unsatisfactory pleasures and profits.
I.—THE NATURE OF THIS THIRST. "My soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You" (v. 1). It is the thirst of an aching spirit, and an impoverished life. Man is a soul; he is a spirit. There is a yawning gulf within his being, that all the material blessing of the world cannot fill. This soul thirst is an internal evidence of its kinship with God.
II. —THE OBJECT OF IT. "My soul thirsts for Thee....longs for You." Only those who know God will thirst after Him. The deer pants after the waterbrook, because it knows the refreshing efficacy of the flowing stream. There are souls that are smitten with intense thirst, but they know not what they really need, so they rush to the broken cisterns, that can hold no water. They will not acknowledge that it is God they need. O living, restless soul, it is the living, restful God you need (Psalm 42:2).
III.—THE CAUSE OF IT. "In a dry and thirsty land, where no water is." The land in which we dwell is in itself a dry, thirsty place—there is no water in it; absolutely nothing belonging to it that can meet this deep soul-need of man. Our best environments, apart from the enjoyment of the presence of God, is but a howling wilderness to the awakened. A clamoring emptiness, that only mocks the true hunger of the soul. This world offers the thirsty one everything but the one thing needful.
IV.—THE MOTIVE OF IT. "To see Your power and Your glory" (v. 2). This is a bold and large demand. What a satisfactory vision; to see the power and glory of God; to see the power of His saving grace and the glory of His matchless character. In the sanctuary of His Holy Word, this refreshing revelation is made. In the Person of His Son, His power and glory can be seen. If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink (John 7:37).
V.—THE CONFIDENCE OF IT. "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness" (v. 5). Where this thirst has been created, it is the forerunner of rich and lasting blessing. God Himself becomes the portion of whoever so seeks Him. He makes them to drink of the river of His pleasures (Psalm 36:8). The soul is not to be satisfied with theological bones, but with marrow, and fatness; the "finest of the wheat."
VI. —THE GUIDANCE OF IT. "My soul follows hard after You" (v. 8). When once the thirsty roots of a tree find the river, they follow after it. Those who have found soul-satisfaction in God will abide by the "Fountain of living waters." If we have found in Him full salvation, let us follow hard after Him in consecrated service. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
JOYFUL IN GOD. Psalm 66
The soul that has thirsted for God, and found satisfaction in Him, will surely make a joyful noise to Him. We may show forth our joyfulness in God—
I. —BY PRAISING HIS NAME. "Sing forth the honor of His name" (v. 2). His name is all that He Himself is (Isaiah 9:6). Sing out His glorious grace; His everlasting love and Almighty power. It will take all eternity to show forth all the honors of that wonderful name.
II. BY GLORYING IN HIS WORKS. "Come and see the works of God" (v. 5). The Lord has done great things for His people Israel (vv. 6-7). Has he not done great things for us? His work of salvation is both "honorable and glorious" (Psalm III, 3). Think of the pit out of which you have been dug, and let your joy in God abound.
III.—BY CONFESSING HIS FAITHFULNESS. "O bless our God..... which holds our life, and suffers not our feet to be moved. You have tried us... You brought us out into a wealthy place"
(vv. 8-12). There have been temptations; there has been the furnace of trial, that has tested us as silver. There have been the "net," the "fire and water," but, praise His name, the end has been "a wealthy place." He is faithful who has promised.
IV.—BY YIELDING TO HIS CLAIMS. "I will go... I will pay....I will offer" (vv. 13-15). "Go" into His House of worship; "pay" the vows of consecration; "offer" the sacrifice of service. The joy of worship ought to be accompanied with the joy of sacrifice and service. Arise, and go up to Bethel, the place of vision and consecration.
V.—BY PERSONAL TESTIMONY. "Come and hear...... and I will declare what He has done for my soul" (v. 16). Those who have no testimony for God, know nothing of the joy of God. It is those who have "received the Atonement," that joy in God, through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:11). The Psalmist's testimony is threefold. First.—To the fact of his own joyfulness. "He was extolled with my tongue" (v. 17). Second.—To the fact that God does answer prayer, "God has attended to the voice of my prayers" (v. 19). Third.—To the fact that an unclean heart hinders prayer. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (v. 18). "Make a joyful noise unto God."
A CRY OF DISTRESS. Psalm 69:1-5
This Psalm ought to be read, on our knees, as coming from the lips of the suffering Son of God. In the opening verses we may hear the cry of a soul in utter desperation for the salvation of God. The reasons for it are very apparent. There was a sense of—
I.—DANGER. "Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul" (v. 1). His soul is like a vessel in a stormy sea that had sprung a leak. The waters of sorrow and fear have come in upon him. He had been struggling hard to keep them out, but has failed. The waters have prevailed, and the danger is great. A ship in the sea is natural, but the sea in a ship is dreadful.
II.—HELPLESSNESS. "I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing" (v. 2). In the deep miry sea of sin a man can do nothing else but sink, for there is absolutely "no standing" there. A man must get out of this horrible pit before his feet can stand on the rock. The law of sin and death, like the law of gravitation, can do nothing for us while in the miry deep. "There is no standing."
III.—HOPELESSNESS. "I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me" (v. 2). The waters came into his soul, now he is come "into deep waters." And, like one sinking within the tide mark, the billows begin to dash over him. The figure used here is most expressive to describe the sinner's inability to deliver himself from the guilt of his own sin. He might as well attempt to turn the tide as the wrath of God against sin.
IV.— WEARINESS. "I am weary of my crying." He speaks now as a child that has grown utterly tired and exhausted by its own efforts. We are not heard merely because of our much crying. We have to get to an end of our praying self, as well as our working self.
V.—THIRSTINESS. "My throat is dried." This figure is that of a man ready to perish in a burning, sandy desert. His crying has brought only a deeper sense of need. Floods overflowing him, yet dying of thirst. These are the agonies of a soul struggling for deliverance from worldliness and sin (Isaiah 55:1-2).
VI. —BLINDNESS. "Mine eyes fail while I wait for my God." He is now like one on a watch-tower, whose eyes are weary and dim through eagerly straining after something that he has failed to see. No hopeful discovery can he make. In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing.
VII.—ENEMIES. "Mine enemies....are mighty" (v. 4). They are also numerous as "the hairs of mine head." The enemies of the human soul, in its quest after God and salvation, as mighty as "Principalities, Powers, and Wicked Spirits." And more in number than the hairs of the head. It is a great escape from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God. The whole condition, then, is one of intense impotency and hopelessness, apart from the grace and power of God.
VIII—CONFESSION. "O God, You know my foolishness, and my sins" (v. 5). Confession is needed. Our sins are there, there in our own hearts, like drowning waters; there around us like the deep mire. Our foolishness must also be confessed; in getting into the mire and hoping to save ourselves by an agonizing effort. God knows it, therefore hide it not. Make full and frank acknowledgment to Him.
IX.—PETITION. "Save me, O God" (v. 1). "My prayer is unto You, O Lord, in an acceptable time (v. 13) ....Deliver me out of the mire....and out of the deep waters (v. 14) ... Draw near unto my soul and redeem it" (v. 18).
1. It was offered to the right One. "Unto You, O Lord."
2. It was for the right purpose. "Salvation and deliverance out of the mire."
3. It was in the right season. "An acceptable time" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
A JOYFUL TESTIMONY. Psalm 71:15-24
There is in it—
I.—SALVATION. "My mouth shall show forth Your righteousness and Your salvation" (v. 15). How could he show forth His salvation if he had not experienced it?
II.—RESOLUTION.. "I will go... and I will make mention" (v. 16). The saved ought to go, and go in "His strength," making mention of His character (Romans I, 16).
III.—CONFESSION. "O God, You have taught me" (v. 17). This is a thankful acknowledgment of His grace and wisdom. It is the privilege of the saved to be "taught of God" (John 14:26).
IV. —PETITION. "Now also when I am old... forsake me not; until I have showed Your strength and Your power" (v. 18). This is a grand "Old Age Pension," to be able, when "grey-headed," to show forth the strength and power of God. Why should the aged lose their spiritual freshness? The Vine is still the same, if the branch abides it will be fruitful.
V.—ADORATION. "O God, who is like unto You?" (v. 19). Those who have witnessed, and experienced, the great things of God, cannot but be filled with adoring gratitude.
VI. —EXPECTATION. "Thou....shall quicken me again.....You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side" (vv. 20-21). He had seen "great and sore troubles," so he expects to receive great and precious blessings. This is the language of one who knows by experience God's searching, gracious methods with His own.
VII.—EXULTATION. "I will praise You.... will sing with the harp.....My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto Thee....My tongue shall also talk of Your righteousness all the day long" (vv. 22-24). Oh, how great, how satisfying, is the goodness of our God. Taste and see. He is the Fountain of Life. Bless the Lord, O my soul (Psalm 103:2-4).
THE MILLENNIAL REIGN. Psalm 72.
This wonderful Psalm is called "A Psalm of Solomon," but a greater than Solomon is here. The reign of Solomon, the king's son, was doubtless one of comparative peace and righteousness, but "All kings did not fall down before him," nor did "All nations serve him," nor shall "the whole earth be filled with his glory." But all will be literally fulfilled when the Son of God appears in power and great glory. What are the characteristics of this blessed age, as revealed in this Psalm? There will be—
I.—UNIVERSAL RIGHTEOUSNESS. "He shall judge Your people with righteousness" (v. 2). This righteousness is the righteousness of God (v. 1). The righteousness of men is as filthy rags compared with this. "Behold a king shall reign in righteousness" (Isaiah 32:1). The law shall come from His lips, and shall never be thwarted by the selfish cross-purposes of man. "He shall break in pieces the oppressor" (v. 4). The greed of the miser and the haughty pride of the tyrant shall be crushed by the power of His judgment. The poor in spirit shall be the blessed ones in His kingdom (Matthew 5:3). All presumptuous rule and authority shall be put down when he reigns.
II. —UNIVERSAL REVIVAL. "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth" (v. 6). He, like the rain, shall come down from Heaven. He shall come down in a time of great need upon the mown grass. Grass that has been mown is in great danger of being burned up at the roots. He shall come as showers that water the earth. Showers indicate distinct seasons of definite blessing. The effect of long-delayed rain is the renewal of the whole face of Nature; the result of His coming upon a mown humanity will be a mighty reviving and refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Everything shall live where this river comes (Ezekiel 47:9).
III. —UNIVERSAL PROSPERITY. "In His days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace" (v. 7). The burden of national armament will, then, be rolled away (Isaiah 2:4). Righteousness, not force, will be the popular governing principle in "His days." Wickedness, and deceit, in every form, like unclean bats, will not be able to show face in the bright day of His glory. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.
IV. —UNIVERSAL DOMINION. "He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and.... unto the ends of the earth" (v. 8). Every other kingdom shall be broken in pieces (Daniel 2:24). Then shall the heathen be given Him for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession (Psalm 2:8). He came that "the world, through Him, might be saved" (John 3:17). Every knee shall yet bow to Him, and every tongue confess Him as Lord.
V. —UNIVERSAL SUBJECTION. "The kings.... shall bring presents.....and other gifts. Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him. His enemies shall lick the dust" (vv. 9-11). The tongues of many scoffers are eloquent now, but they shall lick the dust when He comes (Micah. 7:17). The world needs a Ruler. As the queen of Sheba, hearing of the fame of Solomon, came to prove him, so shall the kings of the earth be constrained to come to Him who is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15). He shall reign forever and ever.
VI. —UNIVERSAL BLESSING. "There shall be an handful of corn.....the fruit shall shake like Lebanon....the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. His name shall endure forever...and men shall be blessed in Him. All nations shall call Him blessed" (vv. 16-17). When the city flourishes like the grass, there will be no place found for the slum. Men are blessed in Him now by faith, men shall be blessed in Him then by sight; and so blessed that all nations shall call Him blessed, because He is the universal Blesser (Ephesians 1:3). Then will be fulfilled the angelic saying in Luke 2:14.
VII. —UNIVERSAL GLORY. "Blessed be His glorious name forever; and let the whole earth be filled with His glory" (v. 19). The glory of this name which now transfigures the soul, will then transfigure the world. For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). This is the work of Him who is "glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders."
A GREAT PROBLEM SOLVED. Psalm 73
In judging things by their outward appearances, the Psalmist says, "My feet were almost gone; my steps had well-near slipped" (v. 2). These are "perilous times" for the trusting soul, when the Providence of God seems to contradict the Word of God. As in the vision of Ezekiel, so in God's dealing with men, there are "wheels within wheels."
I. —THE PROBLEM. It was great and complex. Here are some of the things that staggered his senses.
1. He saw the prosperity of the wicked (v. 3).
2. He saw that they had "no bands (pangs) in their death" (v. 24).
3. He saw that they are not "troubled..... and plagued like other men" (v. 5).
4. He saw that "pride was to them as a chain ornament about their neck" (v. 6, R.V.)
5. He saw that "they have more than heart could wish" (v. 7).
6. He saw that they "speak loftily and set their mouth against the heavens" (vv. 8-9).
7. He saw that they were willfully ignorant of God, saying, "How does God know?" (v. 11).
Then he adds, with something like irony in his tone, "Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world" (v. 12). Is it in vain, he asks, that I have "Cleansed my heart and washed my hands in innocency?" (v. 13). Does it matter nothing what a man is? Is there no principle of righteousness overruling the affairs of men? Does it pay best to be wicked and God-defiant?" For all day long have I been plagued" (v. 14). The problem of the sufferings of the righteous, and the prosperity of the wicked, is ever before us. Judged from a merely mundane standpoint, the mystery is insoluble. The man of the world, whose eyes stand out with fatness, can say, sneeringly, "How does God know?"
II. —THE SOLUTION. "When I thought how I might know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God, and considered their latter end" (vv. 16-17, R.V.). The whole situation is, indeed, "painful," apart from the revelation of "the sanctuary of God." But when considered in the light of that revelation from God, which bears directly upon "this latter end," things are seen, in their true perspective. In His light we see light clearly. Things take on a new and different character when seen in the light of Eternity. Temporal prosperity may only be the primary and deceptive symptoms of a fatal disease. In this holy and enlarged vision He saw—
1. That they were "set in slippery places" (v. 18).
2. That they would be "cast down into destruction. "
3. That they would "become a desolation in a moment" (v. 19, R. v. ).
4. That they would be "utterly consumed with terrors. "
5. That God would "despise their image" (v. 20). This new view withers up the roots of envy. Who would covet the position of a man who was to be famous for an hour, and a fool for a year? The wicked have their portion in this life, but are miserable bankrupts in the end (Luke 16:25).
III. —THE SOUL RESTED. Having now seen the puzzling problems, as it were, with new eyes, he makes full confession of his "foolishness" and "ignorance, " and declares himself as a beast before God. Beastly eyes can only see the earthly and the outward (v. 22). The ungodly live but the life of the "brutish man" (Psalm 92:6); but why should the godly judge such things, from a brutish man's standpoint? Having discovered his mistake, and acknowledged his foolishness, he proceeds to reckon up the blessings which belong to him as a man of God, in contrast to the portion of the man of the world. What are they?
1. He has the companionship of God. "Nevertheless, I am continually with You, You have held me by my right hand" (v. 23).
2. He says, "You shall guide me with Your counsel" (v. 24).
3. He is sure that God will "Afterwards receive Him to glory." This is a very different afterward than that referred to in verse 18.
4. He feels that there is "None upon the earth that he desires beside You" (v. 25). The brutish man knows nothing of this earthly blessing.
5. He is confident that although his "flesh and heart fails, God is the strength of his heart and his portion forever" (v. 26).
6. He knows by experience that it is "good for him to draw near to God" (v. 28). It is good for us that we can draw near to Him.
7. He testifies "I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works" (v. 28). Social problems seen in the light of God's sanctuary must lead to a fresh and fuller declaration of the mighty works of God.
CONDITIONS OF BLESSING AND FAILURE. Psalm 81:8-16
These words in this part of the Psalm are of tremendous significance, as they contain God's own testimony unto His people as to what He expected from them; as to what they should have expected from Him; and as to why they failed to receive His choicest blessings.
I.—A MERCIFUL ENTREATY. He pleads with them (1) to "Hearken unto Me" (v. 8). He must have the attentive ear, if divine wisdom and power are to be imparted. (2), "There shall no strange God be in you." He entreats that nothing should be allowed to take His place in the heart's affection, or as an object of confidence. It is surely easy to yield all for Him, when He offers to be all to us. (3), To "Open your mouth wide and I will fill it" (v. 10). A "wide mouth" means large expectations. The proof that He is able, and willing, to meet the largest demand that our faith can make, is in this: "I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt." He who can save to the uttermost, can satisfy to the deepest. Hearken, Believe, Expect.
II. —A GRACIOUS PURPOSE. The love that delivered our souls from the pit of sin longs to enrich us with the gifts of His grace. He says, "Oh that my people had hearkened unto Me, and walked in My ways" (v. 13), then He would have done three things for them. 1. He would have subdued their enemies (v. 14). Victory would have been theirs if they had followed Him. It is dishonoring to Him that His people should be in bondage to the powers of darkness. 2. He would have made the haters of the Lord submit unto Him. (v. 15). They would have been used in bringing their souls to God. His people's unbelief hindered Him from subduing and conquering His enemies. A solemn lesson for us. 3. He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat, and satisfied them with honey out of the rock (v. 16). His purpose is to subdue enemies, save sinners, satisfy saints.
III. —A SORROWFUL COMPLAINT. "But My people would not hearken to My voice; and Israel would none of Me" (v. 11). They rejected His word by not hearkening to His voice, and in rejecting His word they rejected Himself, "would none of Me." How gracious is our God, that He laments the lack of opportunity to bless His people. His word and Himself are so vitally connected, that to refuse the one is to reject the other.
IV.—A MISERABLE CONDITION. "So I gave them up into their own hearts' lusts; and they walked in their own counsels" (v. 12). To be "given up" by Him, because of stubbornness and unbelief, means utter defeat in the presence of the foe; the enemies are not subdued. Sinners are not converted unto God, and there is no feeding on the "finest of the wheat" no glad satisfaction, with "honey from the rock." A powerless, and a fruitless Church, is the painful evidence that God's voice is being unheard and unheeded, and that we are "walking in our own counsels," guided by the wisdom of men, to the neglect of the wisdom of God. Those who are more anxious for the words of men than the Word of God, are preferring chaff to the wheat. Men fed on chaff make poor soldiers. God's desire is to make His people "more than conquerors." "Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat you that which is good."
THE REASON WHY. Psalm 86:1-7
Here are seven reasons urged by this petitioner why God should answer him. There are many objective reasons arising from God's own character and promises, but those here are all subjective. There is—
I. —MY NEED. "O Lord, hear me; for I am poor and needy." Our poverty and helplessness is a powerful plea at the door of infinite mercy and grace.
II.—MY GODLINESS. "Preserve my soul, for I am godly" (v. 2). This is no empty boast; to be godly is to seek the glory of God. This godliness is profitable as an agreement in prayer. Many ask amiss for lack of it.
III. —MY FAITH. Save Your servant that trusts in You. Faith can honestly make an appeal to the faithfulness of God. His trusting servant shall doubtless triumph in His saving power (Isaiah 26:3).
IV.—MY IMPORTUNITY. "For unto You do I cry all the day long" (v. 3, R.V.). This is another powerful element in prayer. Has not our Lord declared that "because of his importunity he shall give him as many as he needs."
V.—MY WHOLEHEARTEDNESS. "Rejoice the soul of Your servant; for unto You, O Lord, do I lift up my soul." (v. 4). The soul of true prayer is the lifting up of the soul (1 Samuel 1:15). An undivided heart is a conquering heart.
VI.—MY EXPERIENCE. "For You, Lord, are... plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon You" (v. 5) His past experience and knowledge of the character of God is another reason for expecting present help.
VII.—MY ASSURANCE. "I will call upon You; for You will answer me" (v. 7). "I will, for You will." This is the confidence that is never put to shame. Believe, and you shall see.
A WORKER'S PRAYER. Psalm 90:12-17
This Psalm, which begins the fourth section of this book, is entitled "A Prayer of Moses, the man of God." The petitions offered in these closing verses are suggestive of the Christian worker's needs. He prays for—
I.—INSTRUCTION. "Teach us to number our days, that we may get us an heart of wisdom" (v. 12, R.V.). Wisdom is the principal thing (Proverbs 4, 7); those who are taught to number their days of service on earth will seek it, and they that are wise redeem the time. We need divine teaching on this point to save us from folly and frivolity.
II.—RESTORATION. "Return, O Lord, how long?" Fellowship with Him has been lost, and the loss is keenly felt, which is a hopeful sign. The Lord is ready to return to the help of His servants "when He sees that their power is gone," and there is none to help (Deuteronomy 32:36). The restoration of His presence is the restoration of the soul.
III.—SATISFACTION. "O satisfy us early with Your mercy." His mercy can satisfy, and it will come early when there is true repentance toward God. His compassions fail not. His purpose is to satisfy (Psalm 36:7-8).
IV.—COMPENSATION. "Make us glad according to the days wherein You have afflicted us." This is a bold request. But the height of our joy will be according to the depth of our mourning (Psalm 126:5-6). The depth of the valley is measured by the altitude of the hills. The arm that is strong to smite is equally strong to save. The long night of trial will surely have a long day of triumph.
V.—MANIFESTATION. "Let Your work appear.....and Your glory" (v. 16). He is but a poor servant of God who does not intensely long for the unmistakable appearance of His work and glory. This is the clamant need of the Church in these backsliding days. His servants ought to see His working, and to have His glory upon them (R.V.).
VI.—SANCTIFICATION. "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us" (v. 17). Your people shall be willing in the day of Your power, in the beauties of holiness (Ps.110, 3). The sum of God's character is "Holiness." The Holy One of Israel. As the flower is beautified by the sun, so must all be adorned with the glory of His presence. This is the will of God, your sanctification.
VII.—CONFIRMATION. "Establish You the work of our hands upon us." Our work needs to be established by God, as well as our feet (Psalm 40:2). What is the value of our work, if the Lord is not working with us, and confirming the work? (Mark 16:20). "My speech and my preaching," says the Apostle, "was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." This was the divine confirmation that "their faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." How are we to know that our work is of God, if He does not bear witness, as of old, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His will? (Hebrews 2:3-4).
THE FRUITS OF LOVE. Psalm 91:14-16
"Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore"
I.—I WILL DELIVER HIM. The first fruit of a surrendered heart is salvation. Freedom from the guilt and power of sin. The law is fulfilled in one word, "You shall love." David set his heart on God; see how God delivered him I (1 Samuel 17:50). So with Joseph, Daniel, and Paul.
II.—I WILL EXALT HIM. "Set him on high" (v. 14). After salvation comes exaltation; or rather, to be saved is to be exalted: taken out of the fearful pit. If we have been crucified with Christ we have also been raised together with Him.
III.—I WILL ANSWER HIM (v. 15). What an inspiring promise this is! Let your requests be made known unto God. Here is His own assurance that if you have set your love upon Him, He will answer you. If love to Him is our motive, then we shall not ask amiss (Jas. 4:3).
IV.—I WILL BE WITH HIM. This is the promise of His fellowship in the day of our trouble. If He is with us then we can fear no evil (Psalm 23). God knows that His abiding presence is a continual necessity for guidance, strength, and victory.
V.—I WILL HONOR HIM. We honor Him by setting our love upon Him. So "Them that know Me I will honor" (I Samuel 2:30). Seek the honor that comes from God only; and His special favor will be manifested in your life (John 12:26)
VI.—I WILL SATISFY HIM. He shall be satisfied with "length of days" (marg.), which, to us, implies the privilege of everlasting joy and service. Our days upon the earth, if lived in His love, will be as long as are needful for the honor of His name. He gives to His own eternal life, and they shall be satisfied when they awake in His likeness.
SING UNTO THE LORD. Psalm 95:1-8
There are many groans in the Psalm, but there are also those spontaneous outbursts of wholehearted praise to God, that could only come from souls full to overflowing with love and thankfulness. "O come, let us sing unto the Lord"—
I. —HOW SHALL WE SING UNTO THE LORD?
1. JOYFULLY. "Make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation" (v. 1). That Rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). He is worthy to be praised. Be joyful, not doleful, in the Lord.
2. THANKFULLY. "Let us come....with thankfulness" (v. 2). Have you not very much to be thankful for? Think of what He has done for you, in you, with you, and promised to you. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.
II. WHY SHOULD WE SING UNTO THE LORD? Because—
1. He is OUR SALVATION (v. 1). He Himself is our salvation, and this salvation is firm as a "Rock," He is ours because we have trusted Him, and are safe.
2. He is GREAT. "The Lord is a great God, and a great King" (v. 3). He is our loving God, and everlasting King (Jeremiah 10:10); the God of our salvation, and the King of our redeemed lives. "One is your Master, even Christ."
3. He is STRONG. "In His hand, deep places; the strength of the hills is His" (vv. 4-5). The strength of the hills is His, and He is yours, in whose hand the deep places are. All power is given unto Me. "Go you therefore" (Matthew 28:18-19).
4. He is HOLY. "O come, let us worship.... let us kneel before the Lord our Master" (v. 6). Ours is a holy privilege to kneel before Him, and worship. We are not only workers, but worshipers. The spirit of humble adoration is our best fitness for service. It is on bowed knees that the victory is gained (Ezra 9:5; Daniel 6:10; Ephesians 3:14).
5. He is GRACIOUS. "We are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand" (v. 7). How gracious is our God to call us the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. How green and refreshing His pastures are; how safe and happy are the sheep that's guided, fed and protected by His hand. See how God pastured His people even in "the wilderness," and led them into the green fields of Canaan "I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of mine."
NOTES IN THE NEW SONG. Psalm 98
In the last verse of Psalm 96 we read "He comes, for He comes to judge the earth." In the first verse of Psalm 97: "The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice." Now this Psalm begins with "O sing unto the Lord a new song.... for His holy arm has gotten Him the victory." (1), The Coming; (2), The Reigning; (3), The Rejoicing. In this new song there is the—
I.—Note of WONDER. "He has done marvelous things" (v. 1). "Who is like unto You, O Lord, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders" (Exodus 15:11; Rev. 15:3). The Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection are wonders of the highest order. Wonders of grace.
II.—Note of VICTORY. "His right hand, and His holy arm has gotten Him the victory." His holy arm may represent His Son (Isaiah 53:1). His right hand— the Holy Spirit. By His arm and hand is salvation accomplished (R.V.). It is Christ that redeems; it is the Spirit that quickens.
III.—Note of MERCY. "The Lord has made known His salvation (v. 2). He has not only provided salvation by grace, but has also published it abroad in mercy. Every invitation of His Gospel, every copy of the Bible, every Spirit-inspired messenger, is a proof of God's desire that men should know the joyful sound of His salvation (Isaiah 45:21-22; Mark 16:15).
IV.—Note of FAITHFULNESS. "He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness" (v. 3, R.V.). He who was faithful to the Israel of God, will be faithful to the Church of God. Faithful is He who called you. What His mercy has promised, His faithfulness will perform. Believe you that I am able to do this?
V. —Note of GRACE. "All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God" (v. 3). This, of course, is prophetic, and will be actualized when "The Lord reigns." See the abounding grace of our God in seeking the salvation of "all the ends of the earth." All flesh shall see the salvation of God (Luke 3:6). Meanwhile, whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
VI.—Note of PRAISE. "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord....rejoice and sing praise" (v. 4). This note of adoration is the keynote of the "New Song," (Rev. 5:9-12). Because the Salvation of God has been great and marvelous, let the praise be loud and long.
VII.—Note of HOPE. "For He comes to judge the earth: with righteousness.....and the people with equity" (v. 9). We, according to His promise, look for new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness (2 Peter 3:13-14). The whole creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, when the children of God enter into their glorious liberty (Romans 8:21). This is the self-purifying hope (1 John 3:3). O sing unto the Lord this new song.
THE "I AM'S" IN PSALM 119.
It has been said that this Psalm "Contains the anatomy of experimental religion, the interior lineaments of the family of God." Its twenty-two sections, are so many strings of pearls, linked together by the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, and representing every phase of Christian experience. It is a song of joy and rejoicing in the Word of God, which is referred to under ten different names. Luther set a high value on this Psalm, declaring that he "would not take the whole world in exchange for a leaf of it." Note some of the "I am's."
I. —"I AM A STRANGER IN THE EARTH" (v. 19). There is nothing in all the earth that can fully meet the needs of a "Man of God." He has not where to lay his heart, as Christ had not where to lay His head. Holy men of old "All died in faith declaring plainly that they seek a country" (Hebrews 11:13-14). The man of the world is no stranger in the earth, it is his home; but the Christian's citizenship is in Heaven.
II.—"I AM A COMPANION OF THEM THAT FEAR YOU" (v. 63). Strangers in a foreign land, who have come from the same country, naturally draw one to another (Malachi 3:16). These, in fellowship with God, should be found in fellowship with one another. Surely those who are to be our companions in eternity should be our choice companions now. Such a testimony is greatly needed.
III.—"I AM BECOME LIKE A BOTTLE IN THE SMOKE" (v. 83). Through adverse circumstances I am like a shriveled "Wine-skin" (Joshua 9:4). A bottle in the smoke is in the place of trial and testing; while in this evil world, the Christian must come into contact with its smoky influence, and must patiently endure as seeing Him who is invisible like the Hebrews in the fiery furnace: and like Job.
IV.—"I AM YOUR, SAVE ME" (v. 94). Though in the smoke of perplexity and helplessness, it is comforting to be able to say "I am Your." Your property, (Acts 20:28), Your workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), He can as easily save us in the smoke, as the youths in the furnace of fire, and also from it, without the smell of it on the garments.
V.—"I AM AFFLICTED; QUICKEN ME" (v. 107). "He suffered... that He might support them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18). Divine quickening is the remedy for a sorrowing, sinking soul. The affliction may be heavy, but with His "abundant life" there will be an easy victory. He quickens the languid heart by His word of promise and spirit of power.
VI.—"I AM AFRAID OF YOUR JUDGMENTS" (words) (v. 120). Every truly quickened soul will tremble at His Word, and into such, He will look, (Isaiah 66:5). It is a characteristic of the tender obedient child. All Heaven must be astonished at those who do not fear the Lord (Rev. 15:4). This is not the fear that has torment.
VII.—"I AM YOUR SERVANT" (v. 125). Your willing slave, since You have ransomed me from the slavery of sin (Romans 6:16-20), as Your servant, "give me understanding," teach me what You will have me to do—not my will, but Your be done.
VIII.—"I AM SMALL AND DESPISED" (v. 141). This is his own, and the world's estimation of the servant of God. Small, compared with the full stature of Jesus Christ, and despised as He was; but fear not you worm Jacob; I will help you says the Lord. He can use small things.
THE "I WILL'S" IN PSALM 119
I.— "I WILL PRAISE YOU" (v. 7); ("Give" thanks unto You" R.V.). To this great end are the people of God formed (Isaiah 43:21). The qualification for it is "Uprightness of heart." The means to this end is the saving grace of God.
II.— "I WILL OBSERVE YOUR STATUTES," (v. 8, R.V.). An heart that is right with God, will be attentive to His words. The observer of the times must be an observer of His truth—to be wise.
III.— "I WILL MEDITATE IN YOUR PRECEPTS" (v. 15). The ungodly are not so; they would cast these cords from them, but His Words are deep, and sweet to the obedient heart. "Your words were found and I did eat them." The result was joy and rejoicing (Jeremiah 15:16), see John 1:14.
IV.—"I WILL DELIGHT MYSELF IN YOUR STATUTES" (v. 16). The meditating heart will soon be a delighted one. Ainsworth reads it. "I will solace and recreate myself." His words both comfort and renew, in midst of life's worries and sorrows.
V.—"I WILL RUN THE WAY OF YOUR COMMANDMENTS" (v. 32). Those who "observe, meditate and delight" in His Word, will soon be found running in the way, with an heart greatly enlarged. "Following afar off," or "Faint yet pursuing," is the condition of many. They who run this race keep looking unto Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Ezra 7:9).
VI.—"I WILL WALK AT LIBERTY" (v. 45). Augustine said "I gave my will to mine enemy, and he made a chain, and bound me with it." Those who give their will to Christ are free indeed (John 8:31). Sin is slavery; Obedience to His Word is Liberty (John 8:34).
VII.—"I WILL SPEAK OF YOUR TESTIMONIES .... AND NOT BE ASHAMED" (v. 46). Those who walk at liberty through Him, will surely speak freely for Him (Daniel 3:16-18.) It was so with Paul (Romans 1:16). Preach the word, and be not ashamed, remember (Mark 8:38; Rev. 21:8).
VIII. —"I WILL GIVE THANKS AT MIDNIGHT" (v. 62). Blessed are all they who can rise up in the midnight of their sorrow and gloom, and give thanks unto the Lord. See Acts 16:24, 25; the darkness and the light are alike to Him.
IX.—" I WILL NEVER FORGET YOUR PRECEPTS" (v. 93). No, never! for Your words have brought light, and life, and sustenance to my soul. They shall guide me into eternity and abide with me there. " They are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). I shall never forget them, because I shall never forget You.
SOME "I HAVE'S" IN PSALM 119
I.—" I HAVE GONE ASTRAY LIKE A LOST SHEEP" (v. 176). A lost sheep can do nothing else but go astray (Isaiah 53:6). Think of what we wander from, in going astray—from God and His Word: think of where we wander to. The Shepherd's purpose is to seek and save the lost.
II.—"I HAVE SOUGHT YOU WITH MY WHOLE HEART" (v. 10). This is the right object, sought in a right manner (Psalm 27:4). For the sheep astray, there is only the "wormwood and the gall" (Samuel __Samuel__3:19) of weariness, danger, and disappointment. In Him is life. Seek the Lord.
III.—"I HAVE REJOICED IN THE WAY" (v. 14). In the way of His testimonies there is joyful deliverance, His ways are ways of righteousness. Faith leads into the promised land of the "unsearchable riches of Christ." Stand, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way (Jeremiah 6:16).
IV.—" I HAVE DECLARED MY WAYS" (v. 26). "My ways," no matter how crooked, foolish and fruitless they have been, it is good to declare them all in His ear. We must declare His ways to others, but our own wayward ways to Him.
V.—" I HAVE CHOSEN THE WAY OF FAITHFULNESS" (v. 30, R.V.). This is a courageous and needful choice. He has chosen to be faithful to us; why should we not choose to be faithful to Him? The choice is to be made, between faith, and faithlessness; between Barabbas and Christ. He stuck to His choice (v. 31).
VI.—" I HAVE REMEMBERED YOUR NAME" (v. 55) The Name of the Lord is a wonderful solace "in the night of trouble and perplexity;" for what God is, that is His name (Exodus 34:5-7). As ointment it has been poured forth in the person and work of His Son.
VII.—" I HAVE BELIEVED YOUR COMMANDMENTS" (v. 66). This is a noble confession. What mischief and failure are constantly being produced in Christian living for lack of faith in the Words of God. The Lord has promised, and "I have believed." Can we so say?
VIII.—" I HAVE REFRAINED MY FEET FROM EVERY EVIL WAY" (v. 101). There are many evil ways that may look pleasant and profitable, but are not in keeping with His Word. We walk by faith, not by sight. The easy way may be an evil way, like Bunyan's pilgrims in By-path meadow. It was "easy going," but it led to Doubting Castle. To "keep His Word," we must refrain our thoughts and actions from the ways of the ungodly.
IX.—"I HAVE LONGED FOR YOUR SALVATION" (v. 174). The daily Salvation of the Lord is an experience much to be longed for. We should long for it in all its fullness. Those who hunger and thirst after such righteousness, shall be filled. We also long for the salvation of the Lord, when we long for the salvation of the sinner. Surely the saved will long for this. Those who long for His coming again long for His final salvation.
MY SOUL, A WEANED CHILD. Psalm 131:2.
1. My Soul is as a Child—helpless. But confident in a Mother's love, having had experiences of her special care.
2. My Soul is as a weaned child—Suffering. The mystery of an unexpected refusal; a new method of treatment.
3. My Soul is as a weaned child—submissive. The gift denied, but the Mother embraced. The rest of faith and love.
REASONS FOR PRAISE. Psalm 138
"I will praise You with my whole heart" (v. 1).
1. Because You Answered me (v. 3).
2. Because You did Encourage me (R.V.),
3. Because You will Revive me (v. 7).
4. Because You shall Protect me (v. 7).
5. Because You will Perfect that which concerns me.... (v. 8).
SELF-EXPOSURE TO GOD. Psalm 139:23-24
1. Search me, for I seek Your Salvation.
2. Know me, for I seek Your Fellowship.
3. Try me, for I seek Your Service.
4. See me, for I seek Your Comfort (R.V. marg.).
5. Lead me, for I seek Your Guidance.
PRAYER AND ARGUMENT. Psalm 143:8-11
1. Cause me to Hear: for in You do I trust (v. 8).
2. Cause me to Know: for I lift up my Soul unto You.
3. Deliver me (for) I flee unto You to hide me (v. 9).
4. Teach me: for You are my God. . . (v. 10).
5. Quicken me: for Your Name's Sake. . . (v. 11).
A TESTIMONY. Psalm 144:1-2
Blessed be the Lord, for He is—
1. My Strength in my helplessness.
2. My Kind One (marg.) in my destitution.
3. My Fortress: my refuge of Safety.
4. My High Tower in my days of darkness
5. My Deliverer, when my enemy oppose.
6. My Shield: when fiery darts are about.
7. My Confidence: "In Whom I trust."
PRAISE THE LORD. Psalm 146:8-10
Here are seven reasons why He should be praised:
1. He loosens the Prisoners. The prison speaks of guilt and bondage. Christ came to preach deliverance to the Captives (Luke 4:18). Whom the Son makes free are free indeed. See Acts 12:7.
2. He opens the Eyes of the Blind. This implies moral and spiritual darkness. The "recovering of sight to the blind," was another feature of Christ's mission (Luke 4:18). Believe and you shall see.
3. He raises the Bowed-down. Those like the woman in the Gospel who "could in no wise lift up herself" (Luke 13:11), bowed with the burden of grief or guilt, the deformity of sin, He raises up—by His Word of cheer and Arm of Power (2 Corinthians 7:6).
4. He Loves the Righteous. Those who are right with Himself, and for Himself, will be loved by Him (John 14:23). He draws near to those that draw near to Him.
5. He Preserves the Stranger. He deals with the stranger, as with the fatherless and the widow (Deuteronomy 27:19; Jeremiah 7:6-7). Alike, helpless and destitute, "You are no more strangers" (Ephesians 2:19).
6. He Upholds the Fatherless and Widow (R.V.) His loving heart beams through His merciful eyes. Our helplessness is no hindrance to His power.
7. He turns the Way of the Wicked upside down. He disapproves the devices of the crafty (Job 5:12). The way of the ungodly, with all its pleasures and expectations shall perish (Psalm 1:6). Upside down is a very positive and complete change.