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Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Worship is at once the duty of all duties, the service of all services, the joy of all joys.
I. It is founded on knowledge (verse 3).
1. A knowledge of what God is in Himself--the absolutely good.
2. A knowledge of what God is in His relations.
(1) Our Maker.
(2) Our Owner.
(3) Our Preserver.
II. It is developed in service. This should be--
1. Gladsome (verse 2).
2. Thankful (verse 4).
“With praise.” True worship does not skulk into solitude, shun the gaze of society, ashamed to show itself. It craves for an opportunity of public manifestation. The spirit of true worship breaks through obscurity as the living seed breaks through the soil to unfold itself in foliage, branches, and blossoms to the eye of all. It is a life, and all life seeks to come out into the sun. (Homilist.)
The Old Hundredth
I. The elements of true worship.
1. Service (verse 2). Everything connected with it--
2. Praiseful (verse 1).
3. Intelligent (verse 3).
4. Grateful (verse 4).
II. Motives (verse 5).
1. Essential goodness.
2. Eternal mercy.
3. Immutable faithfulness. Such a trinity of qualities in unlimited perfection sets before us a Being infinitely beautiful, infinitely lovable, infinitely worthy of our service and trust. (J. O. Keen, D.D.)
Gratitude, in the view of Dr. James Martineau, is a variety of generosity. It recognizes more than a mere fulfilment of duty. It is one of those warm human impulses that are not reduced to a science, without which we might be saved from a few mistakes, but at the expense of much that enriches life. Getting behind the psalm to the condition of mind which could produce it, we find that it could only come from one familiar with good things--from one who so thought upon God’s character that his theology became translated into the poetry of song. Many do not admit the grounds of the psalmist’s theology; hence the two common objections--
1. God did not make us to be happy. This objection is met by showing that the greatest fact of life is its possibilities of happiness. Especially is this true in an age of such marvellous scientific progress as the present, every step in which progress opens the way to a vast increase in the possibilities of happiness for the masses of mankind.
2. God ought to be able to keep us good. This objection is met by showing that in making moral, human beings good, God can only act within His character. The goodness of a man is not the goodness of a tree or of a sheep; were it forced upon him and made compulsory, it would not be moral. (W. H. Harwood.)
Serve the Lord with gladness.
I. There are essentials which God and our own nature require in order to render spiritual service with gladness.
1. There must be reconciliation with God through faith in Christ.
2. There must be love to God as the motive (Galatians 5:6).
3. We must take God’s will as our rule in the service.
4. We must serve Him in hope of success and reward.
II. The reasons there are why we should serve the Lord with gladness.
1. Because of our indebtedness to Him (Psalms 103:1-5; Ephesians 1:3).
2. Because the service itself is holy, ennobling, and in its very nature joy-inspiring. To be in harmony with God, to be engaged in His service, seeking to raise men out of the ignorance, guilt, and misery of sin--how blessed is such service.
3. Because such service only can be acceptable to God. God loveth “a cheerful giver.” We cannot endure to serve grudgingly. How welcome is love-inspired glad service! (G. W. Humphreys, B.A.)
The joyfulness of the service of God
I. The obligation, duty and privilege of thanksgiving. There is not only “the showing forth the praises of God with our lips, but in our hearts and lives”; this latter the real practical offering and sacrifice, of which the former should be the inspired utterance and expression. Our outward worship must be verified and substantiated by inward truth; and this can only be done as we serve God in spirit, principle, life, action, and thus with the whole man show forth His praise.
II. The reasons.
1. Because He is our Maker, Supporter, God.
2. Because He is the Author of reconciliation and redemption, and His rule is the rule of righteousness and love.
3. Because of the largeness, freeness, universality and unchangeableness of His love.
4. Because the very spirit and principles of His service are “a wellspring of life” and gladness.
5. Because His will, His commandments, are right and good, His service a “reasonable service.”
6. Because we thus most truly represent and heartily commend His Gospel and service unto men. (W. Smith.)
Serving the Lord with gladness
“Serve!” saith the man, “why should I be a servant? I hate the yoke, and I will not bow my neck.” The lawless spirit, fond of what it calls “free thought” and “free action,” hates the sound of the word “serve.” “I will be my own master,” says the wayward soul of the man who knows not what is meant by obedience, and has never drunk into the deep joy of submission to the Lord. “Serve!” saith he, “let those do so who are calves enough to bow their necks, but as for me, I know no government but my own ungovernable will.” But to the soul that is humble, teachable, weaned from the world, and changed into a little child, the thought of service has heaven in it; for such a heart remembers that in the New Jerusalem they serve God day and night, and it looks forward to perfect service as being its perfect rest. Renewed minds accept “Ich dien”--“I serve”--as their motto, and feel ennobled thereby.
I. The gladsome service of God has its secret springs.
1. One main cause why the believer serves God with gladness is, that he is free from the bondage of the law. When the believer serves the Lord, it is with no idea whatever of obtaining eternal life thereby. The child of God works not for life, but from life: he does not work to be saved, he works because he is saved.
2. Another reason why the Christian serves God with gladness, is because he has a lively sense of the contrast between his present service and his former slavery. What a hard, cruel, Egyptian bondage, was that out of which Jesus brought us! Jesus is the Master and Lord, whom to obey is perfect peace; but Satan, the foul tyrant, is one from whom we rejoice to have been delivered.
3. Moreover, the believer’s joy in the Lord’s service springs from the fact that he serves God from the instincts of his new nature. The genuine Christian, full of the love of God, cannot be an idler.
4. Another reason why the Christian is conscious of great gladness in serving God is, that he has a sense of honour with it. Did you ever reflect how wondrous a condescension it is in God to allow a creature to serve Him? He sits on His own throne, and establisheth it by His own power. He has no dependence upon His creatures. The greatest of spirits He has ever made are as nothing before Him, and yet, see! He condescends to be served by us!
5. Furthermore, the believer, when he serves God, knows that his service is not the highest place which he occupies. “I am a servant,” saith he, “I am not ashamed of it--to serve God is royal dignity, but then I am not altogether and alone a servant.” Here is the Christian’s joy--he hears his Master say (John 15:15).
6. Again, there comes over the Christian’s mind a gentle thought which in his darkest moments yields him joy; namely, that grace has promised a reward. We are not to be rewarded for the merit of our works, but still the free grace of God has promised that we shall not toil for nought. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” etc.
II. Trace some of the manifest streams of Christian service in their gladness. In the first place, we should always serve the Lord with gladness in the public assemblies of His people. The more hypocritical a people are, the more solemnly miserable their outward aspect when at worship. O ye chosen seed, be glad; and of all the days in the week, look at the first as the prime glory of all the feast-days of the soul. Do not pull the blinds down, let the sun shine into the room more cheerily than on week days. Be cheerful and happy at family worship. In your private devotions you should also “Serve the Lord with gladness.” “Serve the Lord with gladness.” But then the Christian’s service for God lasts all the day long! The genuine Christian knows that he can serve God as much in the shop as he can in the meeting-house; that the service of God can be carried on in the farmyard and market, while he is buying and selling, quite as well as in singing and praying. Should not we do our business much better if we looked upon it in that light? Would not it be a happy thing, if, regarding all our work as serving God, we went about it with gladness?
III. It is not always easy to serve God with gladness; if it were, we should not need to be told to do it, but on account of the difficulty of it, we are therefore the oftener bidden to be happy. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again,” says the apostle, “I say, Rejoice.” If he had felt it would be easy, it was sufficient to tell us once, but the repetition shows the difficulty. Our inbred sin--is not that enough, when we serve God, to make us do it with the bitter cry, “O wretched man that I am l who shall deliver me?” Yes, but we shall be delivered, I thank God, through Christ our Lord, we shall be delivered from the bondage of our corruption. Let us serve God in infirmities with the glad thought that we shall not always be imperfect, but by and by shall be in the glory of our Master, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Outward trials, again--how hard it is to serve God with gladness when one is losing an estate, or when the cupboard is bare, and there is scarcely money to provide the children with clothes! Yet the Christian does not live upon what he sees alone; he knows there is a secret strength, a secret helper, and he knows how to go to God in times of outward trouble, and cast his care upon Him who careth for him.
IV. There is much excellence in cheerful service. Is it possible that when we serve God with gladness, we thereby escape many fatherly chastisements which otherwise might come upon us? (Deuteronomy 28:47). Do you not think, too, that when Christians serve God with gladness, they derive many benefits themselves? Does not the Lord water those who water others? Besides, does not our God deserve to be served with gladness? Oh, when we get to heaven, if we could have regrets, would not this be one, that we had not served Him better? Our Master deserves to have the best love, the warmest confidence, the sternest perseverance, the utmost self-denial--let us seek to give Him these, and to give them with a cheerful heart. Besides, if we would do good to our fellow-men, we must serve God with gladness. I believe thousands of young people are kept from considering the Gospel by the gloom of some professors. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The religion of being happy
Are you happy? I look upon the faces of the men and women I see as I pass along the crowded street as I meet them on the railway, or in the tram, in their business, or at their leisure, and how few faces comparatively look really happy! The most people one looks on seem to exist rather than to live. Why are people not happy? Is it right to be happy? Is it consistent for a Christian to be happy? Is religion designed to make us happy or unhappy, to depress life or to stimulate and fulfil it? I may take it that there is no being who exists who does not wish to be happy. Yet many a man and woman who in the abstract wishes to be happy rather takes a delight in being or feeling unhappy, in assuming that it is rather a proper thing not to realize happiness; and many men, while sincerely wishing to be happy, never take the smallest steps scientifically to discover the way of happiness, and to realize it in their own person. Then, again, ideas rule the world, and I have no doubt that the deficiency of happiness in our age is due to a religious idea. While science has advanced, religious conceptions have advanced very little beyond those of the savage. Our own age, so far from having escaped from its meshes, has deliberately reverted to mediaeval theology. The conviction prevails that religious people in particular ought to suffer and be more or less unhappy. Pain itself is thought to be pleasing to God. Because suffering is in the world we have no right to say that it is God’s will it should remain there. We have grown out of many things, and we are to grow out of this. God is happy, and therefore we are destined to be happy. We shall grow happier as we grow nearer Christ. But how to be happy? I will tell you the secret. “The Kingdom of God is within you.” Once realize that happiness is not going to be given you by anybody, that you have the power in yourselves, and you have learnt the mighty secret, you are on the first step of the path. You may be happy, you ought to be happy. Were you to range through the universe, and live through eternity, happiness can come no nearer to you while you ask it of any as a favour, or expect it as a gift. Begin the work within. You are your own self-creator, by the power which the Eternal has entrusted to you. Are you unhappy, what you lack is life. Illness, disease, moral, physical, mental, is want of life. We ought to be happy in all our activity. “Blessed is the man who has found his work, and can do it,” says Carlyle. Our work is the manifestation and expression of our life. No work is well done which is not done joyfully, therefore joyousness is a very element of religious service. (C. E. Beeby, B.D.)
Joy in service
Wellington once took passage to Portugal in one of His Majesty’s frigates, the captain of which asked him if he did not admire the order, and discipline the ship was in. “Certainly,” answered Wellington; “I could not have supposed it possible, everything goes on like clockwork; but, sir, I would not command an army on the same terms you do your ship for thee crown of England. I have not seen a smile on the face of any individual since I have been on board her.”
All service of God should be set to praise
The story is told of an ancient king that he caused a temple to be built to the accompaniment of music. From the laying of the corner-stone until the last tower was finished, the workmen performed their task under the influence of the sweetest, most melodious sounds. When the temple was finished it was found that the work had been done not only more expeditiously, but more soundly and beautifully than any of its kind in the kingdom.
Know ye that the Lord He is God.
The claims of God
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” There is a vast amount both of theology and philosophy in that simple answer, which our old divines have put into the mouth of a child. Were we to-day what we should be, it would be our element to love, to serve, to adore our God, and we should not need ministers to stir us to our pleasurable duty or remind us of Jehovah’s claims.
I. Thy claims of God, on what are they grounded?
1. They are grounded, first of all upon His Godhead. “Know ye that Jehovah He is God.” As Matthew Henry has very properly said, ignorance is not the mother of devotion, though it be the mother of superstition. True knowledge is the mother and the nurse of piety. Really to know the deity of God, to get some idea of what is meant by saying that He is God, is to have the very strongest argument forced upon one’s soul for obedience and worship.
2. The second ground of the Lord’s claim is His creation of us. “It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.” You never saw a child startled when it was told for the first time that God made it, for within that little mind there dwells an instinct which accepts the statement.
3. A third reason for living unto the Lord lies in His shepherding of us. “We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.” God has not left us and gone away. He has not left us as the ostrich leaves her eggs, to be broken by the passer’s foot. He is watching over us at every hour; even as a shepherd guards his flock. Over us all He exercises an unceasing care, a watchful providence, and therefore we should return to Him daily praise. Men, because ye are men, adore the God who keeps you living men; but saintly men, men renewed and fed out of the storehouse of Divine grace, serve your God, I pray you, with all your heart, and soul, and strength, because you especially are the sheep of His pasture and the people of His hand.
4. A fourth reason for adoration and service is the Divine character (verse 5). Here are three master motives for serving the Lord our God. Oh that all would feel their weight. First, He is good. Now, if I were to lift up a standard in this assembly and say, “This banner represents the cause of everything that is just, right, true, kind, and benevolent,” I should expect many a young heart to enlist beneath it; for when pretenders in all lands have talked of liberty and virtue choice spirits have been enchanted and rushed to death for the grand old cause. Now, God is good, just, right, true, kind, benevolent; in a word, God is love, and therefore who would not serve Him? Then it is added, “His mercy is everlasting.” Who would not serve one whose mercy endureth for ever? Cruel is that heart which infinite gentleness does not persuade. If God be merciful, man should no more be rebellious. It is added, “His truth endureth to all generations,” that is to say, you will not find in God one thing to-day and another thing to-morrow. What He promises He will perform. Every word of His stands fast for ever, like Himself, immutable. Thus I have set before you the grounds of God’s claims; are they solid? Do you consent to them? Oh, that sovereign grace would constrain each of us to live alone for the glory of God. It is His most righteous due.
II. The claims of God--how have we regarded them? Answer for yourselves. Alas, some have paid no respect to these claims--in fact they have denied them, and have said in effect, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” Sorrowfully must we all confess also that where we have tried to honour the Lord, and have done so in a measure by His grace, yet we have failed of perfection; we have to confess that oftentimes the pressure of the body which is near, and of the things that are seen and tangible, has been greater upon us than the force of the things which cannot be seen, but are eternal. We have yielded to self too often, and have robbed the Lord. What shall we do in this case? Why, we have to bless our everlasting God and Father, that He has provided an atoning sacrifice for all our shortcomings, and that there is One, partaker of our nature who stands in the gap on our behalf, in whom we can be accepted, notwithstanding all our shortcomings and offences. Let us go to God in Christ Jesus.
III. The claims of God, when they are regarded, how do they influence men? Let me show you how healthy it is to serve God. The man who serves God, led by the Spirit of God so to do, is humble. Were he proud it were proof at once that he was not serving God; but the remembrance that God is his sovereign, and has made him, that in His hand is his breath, makes the good man feel that he is nothing but dust and ashes at his very best. How horrible it is when man lives for lust, and puts forth all his strength to indulge his passions! Brutes! beasts! Alas! I slander the beasts when I compare them to such men. The man who lives for God is a far nobler being. Why, in the very act of self-renunciation and of dedication to God the man has been lifted up from earth, and from all that holds him down to its dust and mire, and he has risen so much nearer to the cherubim, so much nearer, in fact, to the Divine. This makes a man a man, for a man who serves is courageous, and too manly to be a slave. The love of God makes heroes. Give a man a resolve to serve God, and he is endowed with wondrous perseverance. Look at the apostles, and martyrs, and missionaries of the faith, how they have pressed on, despite a world in arms; when a nation has been apparently inaccessible they have found an entrance; when the first missionary has died another has been ready to follow in his footsteps. The first Church, in her weakness, and poverty, and ignorance, struggled with philosophy and wealth, and all the power of heathen Rome, till at last the weak overcame the strong, and the foolish overthrew the wise. O Lord, Thy service makes us akin to Thee. Blessed are they that wear Thy yokel How strong they grow, how patient to endure, how firm to stand fast, how swift to run. They mount with wings as eagles when they learn to serve Thee. The man who is led by the Holy Ghost to serve God is incited thereby to a zeal, a fervour, and a self-sacrifice to which nothing else could bring him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.--
God-made or man-made?
There is a superficial way of reading these words which makes them a mere truism. That noble paraphrase of the psalm, “All people that on earth do dwell,” seems rather to fall flat and stale. “Without our aid He did us make.” The psalmist is not giving utterance to a commonplace of that sort. That is not the point at all. The psalmist is, as you will see, calling upon all lands, the heathen lands, to believe in God, to believe that He is the Lord, and there is no other, because His workmanship is manifest in the people whom He has chosen; His guiding and shaping Spirit has been within them and upon them to make them what they are. All that they have of moral and religious training and continuance is the gift of His grace, and the result of His training. They are the witness to the world of God’s constancy, faithfulness, truth, and mercy. Consider the application of these words--
I. Is the individual Christian life. No man with any religious conviction, or any religious emotion, can look back on the story of his life up to this point, through all these changes, wrestlings, temptations, and moral victories, without feeling that God’s shaping hand has been with him there all through. That man sees nothing clearly, and feels nothing deeply, who does not both see and feel that all the best things in him are not self-wrought, but are the result of forces not his own, and higher than his own. Alas, there is much of the self-made left in all of us, and it is the part of which we are the least proud. There are in us bits of the world, the flesh, and the devil, that have not been crucified with Christ; and there are hard lumps in the tenderest heart which have not felt the melting of His love. Would God they were replaced by Diviner stuff! But all the good you have and know, the noble faith, the uplifting, cheering hope, the recoil from sin, and the patience, and the courage, and the self-sacrifice, and the wells of pity, and the fountains of love, the joy in God, and the sweet singing in your heart at Jesu’s Name--all these have been woven in you by God, and the Spirit of God, and the indwelling Christ.
II. In the nation to which we belong. How a reader of the Bible can find God in every page of Jewish history and not see His overshadowing and guiding presence in the wonderful story of Britain’s growth and greatness is to me an indication of incomprehensible dulness. We are not a self-made people, no, indeed. “Our builder and maker has been God.” For no human thought would ever have imagined, and no prophet’s vision would ever have foreseen, the unexampled and extraordinary growth and expansion of this little island and its people. Looked at on the map, it is a mere dot on the surface of the globe; yet its name, and flag, and ruling power, and shaping ideas have girdled and well-nigh embraced the globe. Men say we owe it to our insular position, our sea-protected shores, or perhaps to our climatic influences, or to the singular mixture of races in our composition, or to the blunders and failures of other nations, or to the grit and determination in our character; or we owe it to the wisdom of our statesmen, the enterprise of our merchants, the daring of our sailors, the valour of our soldiers, and to the sturdy, self-reliant independence which has been at the base of all the rest. And they do not see that most of these are moral and religious causes; that behind them, in the shadow, God has been standing watching and working, and that underneath them all have been the everlasting arms. They forget how heavenly light dawned and shone down on the people in their superstitious and benighted days to give them religion in its purest form and to make them righteous, truth-loving, and strong in the fear of God. They do not remember that our fathers were delivered almost in spite of themselves from the blight of superstition, how the truth set them free and gave them room to expand. They do not take into account how large a part has been played by our open Bible and our praying heroes. They do not see that reverence and faith, and faith-rooted justice and Christian virtues have been the very soul and backbone of our people’s strength, and that nearly all our greatest thinkers, writers, statesmen, sailors, soldiers have grown up in nurseries of prayer. They are blind to the fact, moreover, that once and again in days of stress and trial, in the dark and cloudy days when the fortunes of the nation have been well-nigh overwhelmed, the outstretched arm of God brought our fathers through Red Seas of trouble to a safe and wealthy place. Nay, we may say that hundreds of times the very blunders, follies and crimes of our statesmen have been overruled and our people led along paths which their own wisdom and foresight would never have chosen; and it may be all summed up in this, that through all the guilts and sins which have had their part in the upbuilding, the Almighty Architect has been the chief worker in carrying our name and commerce to the uttermost parts of the earth and in bringing hundreds of millions of souls under our rule. (J. G. Greenhough, M.A.)
God the Maker
It is not in God’s work in creation that the text is laid, but in His redemptive work in history. It is an exultant historical consciousness that teaches the lips of the psalmist to sing, “It is He that fashioned us; and His are we.”
I. God’s fashionings of human life constitute the chief witness of His power and glory to men. The hand of God was unmistakably the power that fashioned the striking course of Israel’s history. The great difference between the history of Israel and that of contemporary nations corresponded precisely to the difference in their relation to Jehovah. While other nations had wandered after the gods which were no gods, Israel had been the servant of Jehovah. The authority of Jehovah, and the influence of their worship of Him, had been beyond all question the shaping force of their distinctive and remarkable history. Other nations waxed great in external splendour; Israel’s own consciousness of national greatness lay in inward truth. Other nations produced statesmen and conquerors; Israel’s preeminent sons were its seers and prophets. Other nations fell when the foot of the conqueror trampled them into bondage; Israel waxed greater in the dark years of captivity.
II. God’s method in fashioning human lives is selective. The conspicuous instance of the nation of Israel I have already mentioned. This little nation was, by a marvellous process of selection which can be conceived only in reference to a Divine plan, singled out of the general mass of humanity for special blessings, spiritual potencies, and religious responsibilities. In spite of its per-versifies and infirmities, the elective call of God was so effective that it answered to the call, became conscious that it was chosen of God, and was made the radiant centre of truth for the whole world. In varying degrees and for different ends, one can see the elective operations of God’s shaping hand in reference to other nations, and not least in the startling history of our own England. The history of nations is full of acts which irresistibly point to a Divine elective and discriminative power. This principle is still more evident, if possible, in the life of individual men. In the circle of the nation, of the city, of the village, or of the family, we constantly see this process of election, sometimes in very startling forms. By the operation of some unseen and mysterious force, “the one is taken and the other left.” God’s strongest men have always lived and acted in the holy consciousness that they were singled out by God.
III. God’s selective method is one of concentration with a view to the most effectual universalization. The inward essence of “particular election” is the yearning of God’s love for the salvation of the world. God’s “vessels of mercy” are chartered to bear the freight of His grace to every shore. The “few are chosen” in order that the many may be more effectually reached. Exclusion is but a fleeting phase of God’s elections; the abiding soul of them is a graciously determined and comprehensive inclusion. The mountain of the house of the Lord is exalted above the hills, in order that all nations may flow into it. This gracious development of God’s elective purpose multiplies the honour and glory of the elect spirit. For in this glowing light, every “election” is twofold. It is an election of a human soul into the grace and Kingdom of God, and it is also an election into the special ministry of salvation to others. (J. Thomas, M.A.)
There is inspiration in the thought that God made us
Our powers are finite, and sometimes we are troubled about that fact, wishing we could do more for our Lord: but we need not fear when we remember that He hath made us, and therefore fixed the measure of our capacity. In Roger de Wendover’s “Flowers of History,” an ancient Saxon chronicle, we read of a Saxon king, who, riding through a forest, came upon a little church in which a priest was saying prayers, and this priest was lame and hump-backed; and therefore the rough Saxon king was ready to despise him, till he heard him chant these words, “It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.” The king blushed, and owned his fault. If, then, we are of small beauty or slender talent, let us not complain, but serve Him who has made us what we are. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.--
The pasture or provision for God’s sheep
I. God provides good pasture (Ezekiel 34:14). Although spoken of Israel, yet surely God’s spiritual Israel may lay the hand of faith and appropriation upon the promises of this chapter. One chief idea of good pasture in the mind of a shepherd would be pasture from which nutriment could be derived without fear of deleterious herbs. The psalmist says, “Thy Word is very pure” (Psalms 119:140), and again (Psalms 12:6). The writings of men may be good and very helpful, but God’s Word is essence. No other book will fully satisfy the soul that has found a living Christ in the written Word, and that knows experimentally how pregnant with life and meaning the Holy Ghost can make the simplest verses of God’s Book.
II. God provides large pastures (Isaiah 30:23). This seems to refer to literal cattle, but 2 Timothy 3:16-17, embodies the same thought. In God’s Word may be found everything necessary for the soul’s real good, but not anything for curious speculation. Yes, large--wide as the needs of the human heart--extensive as the infinite fulness of God. Every promise from cover to cover belongs to the believer, and there is no need of man which has not its corresponding supply in the promises of God. But the mere letter of the Word will profit little; it is only as Christ the living Word, in whom all fulness dwells, is seen and appropriated through the written Word, that the need of the human heart and the infinite fulness of God are brought together.
III. God provides green pastures (Psalms 23:2). “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;” or, as the margin, “pastures of tender grass”--some one has rendered it “springing grass.” Evidently the idea is that of freshness--not stale food. There is a great tendency in our day to feed upon stale spiritual food. One says, “I had a great blessing last year through Mr. So-and-So’s preaching.” Another says, “My Bible seemed to be lit up one morning last week, and I have been living upon the blessing I got then ever since.” If God’s pasture is ever green and springing, why have you had no fresh food to-day? In the country you will see the sheep turn from the rank grass of long growth to seek the delicate fresh-springing grass. Your body cannot be strong upon yesterday’s food, neither can your soul be strong upon past experiences of blessing in the Word. The fresh pasture is still there, and the Holy Spirit waits to nourish the soul by means of it. Get fresh food daily.
IV. God provides fat pasture (Ezekiel 34:14). Those who have the charge of sheep sometimes say a piece of pasture land has “no heart in it”; and Christians sometimes say they find their Bibles lifeless--they read them regularly, but get no good from them. It is possible to read chapter after chapter without blessing, for the letter of the Word alone may be compared to the husk which covers the grain--to the casket which contains the precious gem. But use it as revealing Christ; see Him in and through it; take home its warnings; claim the fulfilment of its promises; touch Christ in the Word; feed on Him; seek to extract the kernel from its covering, the gem from its casket, ever seeking and depending upon the Holy Spirit’s teaching and power, and there will be no more complaint over a dull Bible; but it will be found to be fat, rich pasture that will abundantly satisfy (Psalms 36:8), and upon which the soul will gain new life, strength, joy, and power for useful service.
V. God provides pasture in high places (Isaiah 49:9). And in Ezekiel 34:13-14, the Lord promises to feed His flock upon the “mountains” and “upon the high mountains.” May not a New Testament parallel to these “high places” be found in the “heavenly places,” or heavenlies, of the Epistle to the Ephesians? Five times in that epistle the words occur, and in no other epistle. A careful study of the context would seem to show that it is a position attained through union with Christ in death and resurrection--a death unto sin (Romans 6:1-23), in His death, that, raised with Him, His resurrection life may be ours; not judicially only, but in actual fact and realization, through faith in God’s mighty power (Ephesians 1:19-23) and promise. A daily death unto self and sin, “that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:10-11), that we may be able to say with the apostle (Galatians 2:19-20). (The Christian.)
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving.
Thankfulness denotes a composite emotion, whose elements are joy for a gift, and love for the giver. It differs from gratitude, not essentially, but only in form; the one being necessarily a feeling only, the other that feeling both existent and expressed.
I. The hindrances which practically interfere with this great moral and Christian duty.
1. The habit of looking too much at other people, and too little at ourselves. If the poor man would go into his own heart, and fling overboard all but his own peculiar cares and troubles, and sit down to feast on the rich viands God has gathered as his sea-stores, then his lightened and relieved bark would float buoyantly on the waters, and answer readily her helm, and with glad songs and bright skies, go on her way rejoicing.
2. Letting the mind dwell too much on the dark side of our experience. The ten thousand daily blessings wherewith God has been surrounding our lives are lost sight of in the occasional clouds of difficulty that may have chequered our pathway. We think more of the one thousand dollars lost, than of the twenty thousand left us. More of the one month of sickness, than the eleven months of health. More of the one beloved friend dead, than of the many beloved yet living.
3. Regarding the first gift of a good thing as alone demanding gratitude, and its subsequent preservation as a natural sequence.
II. The helps to thankfulness.
1. We must entertain just and philosophic views of life’s nature and mission. A man, crossing an ocean on shipboard, is not discontented because he cannot carry with him his sumptuous furniture and equipage; and grumbles not that his state-room hath not the breadth and brilliancy of his palatial pavilions. His very gladness is, that he is in a structure so modelled that it can have speed upon the waters. And just so it is with a man in progress to immortality. What we want is rather a tent that can be pitched and struck at pleasure; and provisions of a kind that can be carried in journeys; than a splendid palace, and ponderous luxuries, incapable of transportation. And so a true appreciation of the real uses of things will go far to render us thankful for the peculiar size and shape of the blessings God gives us.
2. We must dwell much in thought upon these Divine mercies, present and actual. We are too much given to day-dreams amid things possible and future. We lift the glass of imagination to the far hills, that, mellowed by distance and haloed with the purple and gold of the setting sun, look like fairy lands, and grow dissatisfied with the present and possessed. And yet, there is no one in whose present experience there is not enough at least for thankfulness--of comfort and blessing.
3. We must make the best of our misfortunes. What the Germans tell us as a parable, we have all of us--who have gone afield with nature in observant moods--witnessed not unfrequently. Standing by some autumnal and over-matured flower, we have seen the laborious bee come hurrying and humming, and plunging into the flower’s cup, where there was not a particle of honey. But what does the bee do? Why, after sucking, and finding no nectar, does it come up from the flower’s heart with a disappointed air, as if departing to some other field of labour? Ah no! If there be no sweets at the flower’s red core, yet its stamens are full of golden farina, and out of the farina the bee builds its cells; and so it rolls its little legs against these stamens, till they look large and loaded as golden hose, and, thanking the flower as sweetly as if it had been full of honey, gladly humming, it flies home with its wax. Yes, and herein lies God’s moral--If our flowers have no honey, let us be glad of the wax!
4. We must, meanwhile, learn to look upon these very evils as God’s disguised blessings. To every true Christian, they are so, positively, and beyond controversy. As part of the special providence of a wise and loving Father, they cannot be otherwise. It is God that determines the bounds of our habitation; the stations we are to fill; the comforts we are to enjoy; and the trials we are to suffer. And if we have not much of the present world, it is not because our heavenly Father is not able to give us more. It is all to be resolved into the wisdom and kindness of the Divine administration--God’s wisdom discerning how much is best for us--and His love determining to allow us no more.
5. To become truly thankful, we must become Christians--and Christians growing in grace and advancing in knowledge.
(1) Religion makes a man humble; and humility, as a grace, lies at the foundation of contentment.
(2) Religion gives him just views of present things, and of the true relation he sustains to them, in this earthly economy. They never seem to him ends, but only means unto ends. He understands how his present life is a sojourn--an exodus. And, as a true-hearted traveller, he expects not home comforts on a journey, but is content with rude fare and humble hostelries, and can thank God even for rough roads and foul weather, if they hinder not his progress.
(3) Religion, as it is essentially a principle of self-denial, moderates a man’s wishes, and so creates happiness. Diogenes was happier in his tub, than Alexander on the throne of his empire. And for a good reason--because the tub held the wishes of the philosopher; but the world was too small for those of the conqueror.
(4) Religion produces trustfulness, and so brings contentment.
III. The reasons of thankfulness.
1. Our circumstances demand it. Just contrast your own condition this day, with that of the exulting pilgrims, when they kept their first thanksgiving festival. See them, amid the solitudes of that great wilderness--the cry of the wild beast, and the roar of the strong wind rising around them--the loved homes of their childhood, and the precious temples of their fathers, far away over the waters--a barren soil beneath their feet; and above, the cold and cheerless azure of a stranger-heaven! And yet singing triumphantly unto God their thanksgiving anthem!
2. For the sake of your own souls, you ought to be thankful. The habit of mournful sadness blinds the eye, and dwarfs the pinions of the soul; renders the heart a nervous and neuralgic thing; eats out a man’s piety; weakens every Christian grace; and makes the creature a torture to himself, and a curse to his neighbourhood.
3. As Christians, we ought, for the sake of others, to manifest this abiding spirit of icy and thanksgiving.
4. For your heavenly Father’s sake, you ought to cherish and display this spirit of thanksgiving. A monarch, whose subjects are always complaining of their lot, is set down by the world as a hard and selfish tyrant. A father, whose children walk abroad ever in sadness and tears, is anathematized by all people as a heartless and cruel parent. Shame on us, if, surrounded by such blessings, and hastening onward to such revelations of glory, we go ever with the bowed head, and the mournful footsteps, saying to the world by our pitiful complainings--“See how the eternal God is maltreating His loyal subjects! . . . See how our heavenly Father is torturing His children!” (C. Wadesworth.)
And into His courts with praise.
God’s praises must be sung--
I. With the attention of the mind. The words must be considered, as well as heard or read. A person can never be rationally or piously affected with what he sings, except he understands it. Without this, there is no more devotion in him, than there is in an organ or other musical instrument which utters the like sounds. Or if there be anything like devotion excited by mere sounds, it is probably enthusiasm, or something purely animal; a sort of pleasing mechanical sensation, which perhaps some brutes may as strongly feel by sounds suited to the state of their frame.
II. With the melody of the voice. Poetry enlivens praise; and music heightens the powers of poetry, and gives it more force to engage and affect the mind. It puts spirit into every word, and their united influences elevate, compose, and melt the soul. From hence it will follow that the better the poetry is, provided it be intelligible, and the greater harmony there is in uttering it, the greater effect it will have upon the mind, and make the impression of what we sing more deep and lasting. As God hath formed us with voices capable of uttering harmonious sounds, He expects that they be employed in His service.
III. With the devotion of the heart. It is not sufficient to understand what is sung, to attend to it, and join our voices with those of our fellow-worshippers; but our intentions should be upright and good. And they should be these; to glorify God, and to edify ourselves and others.
1. Our intention should be to glorify God; that is, not to make Him more glorious, for neither the praises of men nor angels can do that; but to do Him apparent and public honour; to acknowledge His glory; to proclaim our high veneration and affection for Him, and celebrate and recommend Him as an object worthy the esteem and praises of the whole world (Psalms 62:2; Psa 1:23; Psalms 69:30).
2. It should be our desire also to edify ourselves and one another (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). (Job Orton, D.D.)
The Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.
The Divine goodness exemplified
I. An important statement. “The Lord is good.” All we see around us confirms this glorious truth. Nothing has left His hand without partaking, directly or more remotely, of His perfection; and the more deeply we contemplate the produce of His creative skill, the more accurately we track the wheels of His providence, and the more carefully we ponder the economy of His grace, the more enlarged will be our hearts, the louder our song, as we adopt the statement of the text.
II. An encouraging doctrine. “His mercy is everlasting.” Such is the uniform tenor of the announcements and declarations of the Divine Word.
1. His mercy is “from everlasting” in its source. If we look backward that we may be able to tell the period, in the past, when mercy took its rise in the heart of the Almighty, we shall find that before duration began to be measured by revolving seasons, the “Father of mercies” hath “delighted in mercy.”
2. It is “to everlasting,” in its efficacy; so that, casting the eye forward, in order to discern the length of its duration for time to come, we are lost as we contemplate it, flowing on in its effects through the amazing circle of eternity, even after the apocalyptic angel shall have proclaimed, that “time shall be no longer.”
III. A strong attestation of His faithfulness, in connection both with His goodness and His mercy. “His truth endureth to all generations.” If we regard this portion of the text as an appeal to the display of the perfections already mentioned, in times gone by, then it will carry us back, in our contemplations, to His dealings with His people of old. And here time would fail us to speak of the various examples of the Divine goodness and mercy on record, from the moment when the voice of mercy was heard in the garden of Eden, to the present hour. From these considerations may we gather confidence, that this “goodness and mercy” shall not fail us, neither the generations yet to come. Conclusion:--
1. Admire the condescension of God, in thus displaying His goodness and mercy around us, and in our behalf.
2. Examine yourselves, whether you have a personal interest in the truths that have now been stated.
3. Be grateful to the Divine Being, for the character in which He has thus revealed Himself. (John Gaskin, M. A.)
His truth endureth to all generations.
The eternal truth of God
I. God is true.
1. He is true in His very nature. Falsehood is the wickedness--I dare not call it the infirmity--the wickedness of little natures; but as for the Great Supreme, you cannot conceive Him acting in any manner that is otherwise than straightforward, upright, and truthful. A God of truth and righteousness is He essentially. He must be so.
2. The Lord our God is not only true in His nature, but He is true to His nature. You never find Him doing anything that is not godlike. Select the acts of His creation. If He makes an aphis to creep upon a rosebud, you will find traces of infinite wisdom in it: you shall submit the insect to the microscope end discern a wisdom in it as glorious as that which shines in yonder rolling stars. If in providence some minor event comes under your notice, in that event you shall find no deviation from the constant rule of right and love by which the Most High characterizes all His doings. There are no emergencies with God in which He could be driven to an act of untruth; no pressures, no difficulties, no infirmities which could produce falsehood in Him. “I am Jehovah: I change not,” saith He.
3. He is true in action. The covenant of grace has many promises in it, but not one of them has failed. As on Christ’s side the covenant was kept by His death, so on the Father’s side the covenant has been kept by the salvation of those whom Jesus redeemed from among inert when He gave Himself a ransom for many.
4. He is true to His promises.
5. He is true in every relation that He sustains.
II. God is true in all generations.
1. He has been true in the past. All history, sacred and profane, goes to prove that.
2. God is true still. All things are moving according to the decree of goodness and wisdom, and you must not doubt it. Like Jacob, you sometimes say, “All these things are against me”; but they are not, they are all for you. God is ordering all for the best.
3. God will be true. I do not know how far we have to go before we shall reach to our journey’s end; but this I know, the whole of the road that we have to travel is paved with love and faithfulness, and we need not be afraid. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 100". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany