The Man of God under Reproach
Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. Psalm 3:2-3
Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him." But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. Psalm 3:2-3
So many are saying, "God will never rescue him!" But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts my head high. Psalm 3:2-3
Here was a man of God in circumstances of, perhaps, one of the keenest trials that could touch the heart. What was David's position when he breathed out his soul thus to God? He was a fugitive from his throne, a wanderer from his kindred- the son of his heart, his idolized Absalom, plotting treason against the kingdom, and thirsting to imbrue his hands in his parent's blood. Leagued in this plot were his confidential counselors and bosom friends; while the feeling of the populace seemed to favor this treachery of his son. But in the midst of it all his faith triumphed, as faith, if it be the faith of God's elect, though it be tried as with fire, always will triumph.
We are now about to contemplate, perhaps, one of the most instructive pages in the remarkable history of this man of God. The subject seems to present itself in two points of view: THE PAINFUL REPROACH with which the enemies of David sought to afflict his soil: "Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God;" and THE POSTURE OF HIS SOUL BENEATH THAT REPROACH: "But you, O Lord, are my shield, my glory, and the lifter up of mine head."
It was A PAINFUL AND MALICIOUS REPROACH with which his friends thus taunted the tried and troubled soul of this man of God. In their view his case was forlorn and desperate. They saw his son plotting the downfall of his kingdom, and seeking to walk over the murdered body of his own father to the throne. They saw the huge billows of trouble rolling over the soul of the king of Israel and, to their short-sighted view, he had no avenue for escape. But, what was to David's heart a sword piercing yet deeper than all, was the declaration that God was his enemy; that even the heart of infinite love was closed against him, and the arm of infinite power too short to reach his case.
To assail his throne, to touch his person, were as nothing to David compared with limiting the love and restraining the power of his own covenant God. This was the bitterest element in the cup which now touched his lips; this the keenest thrust with which they pierced his heart: "There is no help for you in God."
Now, is the case of David a solitary one? Does he stand alone, beloved, in this remarkable feature of Christian experience? Ah no! it is but a type, more or less vivid, of the experience of every man of God; of all who are partakers of the Divine life, and who share in the sure mercies of David. Where is the path trodden by a believer in Jesus that has never been trodden before? If, my reader, the footprint of no fellow traveler to glory is seen, there is yet a deeper and a broader footprint. It is not the footprint of the sheep, but of the Shepherd of the sheep. And it will be found recorded in Matt. 27:42, 43. Christ was now hanging upon the cross, suffering in your stead; and His enemies thus taunted Him, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save. He trusted in God, let Hint deliver Him."
Behold the footprint of Jesus! If we see not David, we can see David's Lord tracing the very path along which He leads His own chosen and beloved flock. There hung the Son of God in the weakness and desertion of His human nature- His enemies taunting Him- betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, forsaken by all. But far beyond this, the darkest cloud of all was the veiling of His Father's countenance, the hiding of His Father's smile; and now, in the depth of His soul's agony, they cast the taunt into His pale and quivering face. Oh, beloved, how deeply instructive to our soul is this part of our subject! Oh that, while we meditate, there may be the inward power of God the blessed Spirit, going with the truth, writing it upon our hearts! But turn we again to God's saints.
Under what circumstances are we sometimes exposed to this malicious taunt of our enemies? It is a common suggestion of Satan to poor sin burdened, Christ-seeking souls, that there is no salvation in Christ for them, though there may be for others. Doubtless, some who ponder this page can bear testimony to this truth, that such was just their case when they first set out in the Divine life. This was just their temptation and their stumbling block. "I know He saved others; I know He saved Saul of Tarsus; but will He save me? I know there is salvation in Christ for poor sinners; but will Jesus save me? My case seems so peculiar- is there salvation in Christ for such an one as I, who have stifled so many convictions, resisted so many warnings, and disregarded so many invitations?"
Where did these thoughts come from? Oh, they came from your greatest enemy, who seeks to retain you in his power, and to close up your path to the cross. Taking advantage, too, of the Divine chastisements, how often does Satan represent God as hostile to the believer! He corrects us, and we thank Him that He does, for there would be lacking one of the strongest evidences of your sonship were you exempt from the discipline of the family. Thus, next to the inward witness of the Spirit, we may place the parental discipline of our God. But Satan, taking advantage of the sorrow of the trial, suggests "See how He tries you! What! Is this like a God of infinite love and wisdom? Is this like a Father?" And how ready is unbelief to second these malicious reproaches and accusations of Satan! How prompt our unbelieving heart to suggest the inquiry, "Can God- will God help one now?" Ah, how often have we echoed Satan's cruel taunt, "There is no help for you, my soul, in God."
But we turn to the answer. And in doing so mark, in the outset, a most instructive fact in the experience of David under this smarting reproach. Oh, it is worthy of your profoundest study. What is the fact? He appeals to God. Where else could he flee? There was no help for him in man. The crystal cistern of created help was now flowing fast away, and was well-near dried. But he approaches God. With one breath he falsifies their accusation. They told him, "There was no help for him in God." His soul turns to that very God they denounce, and he exclaims, "You, O Lord, are my shield, my glory, and the lifter up of my head."
Saints of God! I have remarked that this part of his experience is worthy of your profoundest study. To see David at the very moment when his unbelief might have succumbed to the assertion of his enemies, moving towards, and appealing to that very Jehovah whom his friends were reviling- oh, it is a most instructive and consolatory spectacle!
Now, observe WHAT GOD REALLY IS TO HIS PEOPLE and oh may the Spirit lead us into this truth! Notwithstanding the malicious taunts of your enemies, what, my reader, is God really to His people? Just what He was to David: "You, O Lord; are my shield, my glory, and the lifter up of my head." Take that one piece of the Christian's armor- the shield: What a Divine protection is here! GOD is our shield. All the perfections of Jehovah encircle the child of God. The very heart of Jehovah encloses and encircles him. The arrow must first pierce the heart of God before it reaches the man of God.
And what a shield is the Lord Jesus! See how blessedly He revealed Himself to His trembling servant "Fear not, Abram, I am your shield." And who was this? It was Jesus- that same Jesus who appeared to the banished apostle in the Isle of Patmos, and said, "Fear not; I am He that lives and was dead, and ant alive forevermore." Oh, what a shield is Jesus! He has shielded us from the curse of the law- from the vengeance of justice- from the power of sin- and from the very pit of hell.
What more? "You are my glory." What is the true glory of the believer? Not rank, nor distinction, nor wealth, nor influence, nor gifts. Oh no! The glory of the believer is that he has God for his Father, Christ for his Elder Brother, and stands in the righteousness of the Savior, and all his boast and glory is in the Lord Jesus. But not only this, but His people desire to live for His glory. It is the highest ambition of the child of God to walk so as to fear, and to live so as to honor Him. Is the Lord our glory? Are we living for Him? Is it our glory to lay ourselves out for Him? Then, "My soul shall make her boast in the Lord."
What more do the saints need? Is it deliverance? They have it- "The lifter up of my head." See how God lifted up David's. It hung with shame for Absalom. The man of valor, who had slain Goliath was now fleeing from his child, but God lifted him up. Oh, how low the head of the believer is laid at times, who can tell? Self-shame casts it down; the taunts of our enemies cast it down; sorrow, feeding like a canker-worm at the heart, casts it down; and that head seems as though it would never rise again! But God lifts it up, and bathes it in the sunshine of joy and gladness.
Dear reader, thank God for all these assaults of your enemies. They come not by chance, but are permitted by Him who loves you. Why are they permitted? To impel you within your refuge. Oh, then, take your every temptation, your every false suggestion, your every trial, and let it be an argument and a plea why you should go to God; and do not forget to meet all the accusations of your enemy with God's Word.
Do your enemies say, "There is no help for you in God? " God says there is help. Listen to the declarations of this: "Happy are you, O Israel: who is like unto you, O people saved by the Lord, the SHIELD of your HELP, and the sword of your excellency! And your enemies shall be found liars unto you." David proved them to be liars; Satan is a liar- unbelief is a liar- all are liars who say, "There is no help for you in God." You will not forget the sheet anchor of Luther: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present HELP in trouble." But you shall have the words of God himself: "Fear not; for I am with you, do not be dismayed; for I am your God I will strengthen you; yes, I will HELP you; yes; I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness."
But suppose your enemy should say, "Yes, God is the help of His people when He brings them to trouble; but when they bring themselves into trouble by their own sin and folly, He leaves them" -meet them with God's own word: "O Israel, you have destroyed yourself; but in me is your HELP." Yes, there is help for you, poor believer, in Jesus. Come now to the Savior; take your burden to His Divine arm, your guilt to His precious blood, and see if there is not help in Christ for your poor, trembling, anxious soul. Oh, put your trust, saints of God, in your own covenant-God, for God will honor those who trust in Him, and will prove all your enemies to be liars; while He stands by and declares there is help for you in Himself, and so prove Himself to be a God of truth.