James Smith, 1865
"Nevertheless, He regarded their affliction — when He heard their cry." Psalm 106:44
Sin is that horrible thing which God hates! Sin nowhere appears so hateful to God — as when seen in His own people! In them it has peculiar aggravations, for He has shown such love to them, suffered and done so much for them, and conferred so many and such great blessings upon them. Christian, your sins, and mine, have peculiar aggravations. They touch the loving heart of God. They grieve Him. They cause Him to chastise us — and to lay us low.
Nothing ought to affect us as much as sin. It should humble us. It should break our hearts, and fill us with sorrow. Sins before conversion are bad — but sins after conversion are a thousand times worse.
Israel's conduct, very correctly represents ours; and the conduct of God towards Israel, very correctly represents God's conduct towards us. The text refers to these points. Let us consider then,
Their CONDITION.They were afflicted, deeply afflicted. The enemy had possession of them, dealt harshly with them, and sorely oppressed them. Such is our case at times, as it is written, "Fools suffered affliction — because of their rebellious ways and their sins. They came near the gates of death!"
Our afflictions are sometimes in body.
Whatever their nature — God selects them!
Whatever part they attack — God directs them!
However long they continue — God commissions them!
There is no chance in the case — nor is there any mistake.
Sin, one sin — generally brings bitter sorrow!
But perhaps more are afflicted in mind than in body. Sometimes we are left in doubt and darkness; we can neither read over evidences, nor see our way. All our Ebenezers are obscured as it were in mist, and gloom and sadness rests upon the soul. The past appears delusion, the present dreary, and the future perilous. We do business in deep waters, while neither sun, moon, nor stars appear. The mind sinks, hope is ready to give way; and then comes temptations and terrors. Temptations to sin, to desperation, and to despair. Temptations accompanied with power, such power as causes alarm, affright, and distressing agitations. O the distress of soul, which some have to wade through, in consequence of Satanic influence, the Lord hiding His face, and the terrible rebukes of an honest conscience! Such are generally, at such times, very tender of sin, and walk softly before the Lord.
Many believers are afflicted in their circumstances. Providence frowns upon them. They have many claims and expenses which they cannot meet, or can only do so with the utmost difficulty. Their brook, like Elijah's, dries up. The resources seem to fail. Vexation and disappointments try and harass the mind, for they have many wants and woes. What they have — they cannot enjoy, on account of the claims for what they have not. And they have to learn out in this trial, that they are as much dependant upon God, for the power of enjoyment, as they are for power to obtain.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous. The Lord's
people are a poor and afflicted people. They have to eat the paschal lamb
with bitter herbs; and Oh! how bitter they sometimes are!
We will now consider the CAUSE of this — and look at their previous CONDUCT.The proceeding verses of the Psalm gives us a fearful, and affecting picture of it.
It was disobedience, for "they did not destroy the nations concerning whom the Lord commanded them." They were made executioners of God's just wrath — but they spared His daring foes. In like manner do we spare our bosom sins, and darling lusts!
It was disbelieving, for "they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His Word." He had set the land before them, and promised to bring them into it; but they would not believe Him, so that "they could not enter therein, because of their unbelief." Has not this been our case — have we not despised the pleasant land set before us, by preferring the wilderness, or the Egypt of this world, unto it? Have we not doubted sometimes God's veracity, sometimes his faithfulness, perhaps, and often, very often, His love? Alas, alas, we have!
It was idolatrous, for they "were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works, and they served their idols, which were a snare unto them." Just so we, instead of being separate from the world, and proving that we are not of the world, have mixed with it, and idolized fashion, wealth, and fame. We have placed Mammon on the throne of Jehovah! We have learned the ways of the world as to tricks in trade, carnal contrivances, and worldly practices. We have set up an idol in our hearts, in our houses, and even in our temples!
It was cruel, for "They shed innocent blood — the blood of their sons and daughters whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; so the land became polluted with blood!" Psalm 106:38. We may plead guiltless as to the shedding of the blood of the body — but there is the blood of souls. How many of us have sacrificed our children to the idols of the present Canaan — fashion, custom, dress, dancing, and worldly conformity in general.
Look at the poor example we give them!
Look at the worldly company we choose for them!
Look at the carnal practices we allow them to indulge in!
Can it be said, that we realize the value of the soul, and seek first and principally the salvation of our children and friends, with the glory of God? O how many of our children have been sacrificed to custom, fashion, and the various idols of the world!
It was ungrateful, for they not only "despised
the pleasant land," but "they provoked the spirit of Moses, so that he
spoke unadvisedly with his lips." Here too we are guilty, for by our conduct
we have provoked, perplexed, and grieved God's ministers, and have been a
great trouble to them. We now turn to,
Their CRY."They cried unto the Lord in their trouble." This cry arose from anguish of soul and distress of mind. They felt that they must have vent, for the sorrow that was shut up in the heart could not otherwise be borne.
It was a right hearty cry. It was to God — to God against whom they had sinned, who had brought them into distress, who alone could deliver them. It was with fervor — the energetic cry, which had feeling, energy, and power in it. The cry that God could not refuse.
Many of our cries are so formal, so heartless, that they make no impression upon God — but there are cries that enter into the ears, sink into the heart, and stir up all the sympathies of the Lord God Almighty.
It continued until they were delivered. Do we need
a blessing? Do we ask a favor? Do we seek Divine intervention? We must
persevere in our application. We must not only ask — but seek;
nor leave off at seeking — but knock. Like the importunate widow, we
must cry until we obtain what we need. Like the friend who wanted bread, we
must persevere until we obtain. As God's elect, we must cry day and night
unto God, until He have mercy upon us. We now glance at,
Their COMFORT."Nevertheless He regarded their affliction, when He heard their cry." Their cry was so piteous, so touching, that He could not resist. How much comfort is sometimes wrapped up in a word. This word, "nevertheless," is full of holy comfort, and the Bible is full of instances in which it is thus used. Hence Nehemiah confesses, when he had acknowledged Israel's sins, "Nevertheless, for Your great mercies sake — You did not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for You are a gracious and merciful God." So David, "I said in my haste I am cut off from before your eyes; nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplication when I cried unto You." So the Lord Himself, alluding to His backsliding people, "Nevertheless, I will never stop loving him nor fail to keep my promise to him. No, I will not break my covenant; I will not take back a single word I said." So before, in this very Psalm of which we are considering, "Nevertheless He saved them for His names sake, that He might make His mighty power to be known."
Thus the Lord comforts His poor, polluted, and unworthy people. Nevertheless! What grace — what free, sovereign, patient, all conquering, grace! He regarded their affliction — what pity! "Like a father pities his children — so the Lord pities those who fear Him, He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust."
He wrought for them with men, "He made them also to be pitied, by all those who carried them captives." He impressed His own feeling upon the hearts of their very enemies — and they pitied them. Who is a God like unto our God?
He effected their deliverance to the glory of His own name, and blessed be that holy name; it shall be glorified in our ultimate, complete, and everlasting deliverance, from all sin, all sorrow, all darkness, all fears, and all foes!
Then, let us never despair — as vile as we are — as sinful as our conduct may have been — as guilty as we feel ourselves to be — let us never despair! Nevertheless, gives us hope. Nevertheless, will shine in our pardon, peace, and perfect purity. We are poor, vile, polluted, unworthy, backsliding, ungrateful, wretched creatures; nevertheless, He will regard our affliction when He hears us cry.
Let us still cry. We may have to cry long and loud — but we shall not cry in vain. He who put the cry into our heart — will hear it, own it, honor it, and answer it. My poor, afflicted, dejected friend — CRY oh, and give the Lord no rest, until He arises and has mercy upon you. Though He seems now to close His ear, and turn His back — He will turn again, He will have compassion upon you, and will cast all your sins into the depths of the sea!
Let us yet expect. Our case is not, cannot be desperate. With the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption. He is plenteous in mercy unto all those who call upon Him. However tried, therefore, however tempted, however low we may have sunk — let us not despair, let us still cry mightily to God, and let us yet expect that He will arise and have mercy upon us! "Nevertheless He regarded their affliction — when He heard their cry." Psalm 106:44