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Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications.
A penitential soul in prayer
I. The reasons urged.
1. A consciousness of moral unrighteousness (verse 2). No man will ever pray rightly until he is made deeply conscious that he has no claims whatever upon the favour of God, and that his necessities, if relieved at all, must be relieved by sovereign mercy alone.
2. A terrible sense of danger (verses 3, 4).
3. An encouraging reminiscence of God (verse 5).
4. An intense craving of the heart (verse 6). There are two figures here indicating the craving of the heart after God. The first is taken from human life. As the suffering child stretches forth its hand to its mother, as the dying patient to his physician, as the drowning man to the rope thrown out for his rescue, so the soul of the penitent stretches out Jim hands to God; he must have Him or die and be lost. God is the necessity of necessities, the Supreme need. Another figure indicating the craving of the heart after God is the longing of the parched earth for fertile showers.
II. The blessings invoked.
1. Soul deliverance (verse 7). This has been provided in Christ.
2. Soul guidance (verse 8). Let the morning dawn on me, and The night of darkness and sorrow depart, and show me the way in which I ought to walk,--the way of rectitude, of safety.
3. Soul loyalty (verse 10).
4. Soul quickening (verse 11). There must be life to struggle for deliverance, life to follow the Divine guidance, to reach the level land of rectitude, and to walk in it. (David Thomas, D. D.)
As an example and illustration of prayer this psalm teaches us--
1. That we should approach God in the full belief that He is the “Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”
2. We should appeal to Him not only as merciful, but also as faithful and righteous.
3. We should come as sinners imploring pardon.
4. Thus coming to God, we should seek comfort by uttering our grief in His presence and casting all our care on Him.
5. We should direct our thoughts from our sorrows to Him before whom we bow, and contemplate His character and former mercies.
6. Encouraged by such contemplation we should with renewed confidence present our petitions.
7. Expecting consolation in the path of obedience alone, we should pray to be enabled to do the will of God.
8. In our prayers we should renew the consecration of ourselves to God, and seek protection, deliverance and salvation as His “servants.” “I am Thine, save me.” (Newman Hall, LL. B.)
My heart within me is desolate.
Trouble of soul
He spake before of his external calamities; now he confesseth the infirmities of his mind, that he was wonderfully cast down in heart and troubled in his soul, so that his strength was almost gone (not like the strength of a whale fish, or of a rock), but being ready to drown with sorrow, he was sustained by faith and God’s Spirit, he swam under these evils. Our Saviour Himself confessed of Himself, “My soul is troubled to the death.” God knoweth our mould, we are not stocks without passions or perturbations; we are not like lepers, whose flesh is senseless; but we are sensible of evils, that we may run to God for help and comfort. Had not Job his own perturbations and griefs, which made him utter hard speeches, for which God rebuked him, and he afterwards repented? yet God affirmed that he spake better of him than all his friends did. Can a ship sail along with such a constant and direct course in stormy weather as it were calm and before the wind? it is enough that it directeth the course ever towards the port, albeit it be forced to cast board twenty times. So God careth not albeit we be troubled in our course to heaven. Let us ever aim at the port of eternal glory, howsoever we be disquieted with contrary winds and tempests, God will pass by all those our frailties and imperfections, and will at last deliver us from them all, if in the midst of those our extremities our heart set itself toward heaven. (A. Symson.)
I remember the days of old.
The ministry of memory
I. As a necessity of human nature.
1. By the laws of proximity, likeness, contrast, we are every day thrown back on the past, made in some measure to relive the hours that are gone.
2. This necessary action of memory shows--
(1) The conscious unity of human life. However long we have to live, though for ever, from the beginning our life is one.
(2) The wondrous frugality of life. Our spiritual life throws nothing away. Memory manages all with the most sparing economy. It gathers up every fragment, so that nothing is lost.
(3) The growing importance of life. What a world lies behind the old man--nay, within him.
(4) The inevitable retributiveness of life.
II. As a moral obligation of human nature. “I remember the days of old.” Every man should voluntarily and religiously do this with the past of his life. He should not allow the past to come up to him merely involuntarily, and thus become its victim. He should deal with it so as to make it serve the true interests of his spiritual being. He should make the past--
1. Promote evangelical sorrow within him. The memory of the past must sadden all souls.
2. Promote thanksgiving to God within him. What impressions will the past give man of God’s forbearance--God’s guidance--God’s guardianship--God’s ever-flowing goodness!
3. Promote an invincible purpose to improve. The memory of past disappointments should warn us against extravagant hopes. The memory of abused mercies should lead us to a greater appreciation of our present blessings. The memory of lost years should lead us to turn every hour of the present to a right spiritual account. (Homilist.)
Remembrance of the past
I. The past enables us to know ourselves.
1. We have embodied our character.
2. We have reacted on and moulded them.
3. Hence the past shows what we are.
II. The past is fitted to suggest rules for the guidance of the future conduct.
1. It has brought to light our tendencies.
2. It has shown what is dangerous in our circumstances.
3. It has revealed the temptations before which we are in danger of falling.
III. A consideration of the past will prepare us for the exercise of confession, and will shut us up to Christ.
1. Confession should be minute--history portrayed.
2. This requires a knowledge of the past.
3. A sight of our sin drives to Christ.
4. For this sight we must turn to the past.
IV. The consideration of the past will dispose us to thanksgiving, and will furnish us with materials for praise.
1. Thanksgiving is difficult, and is neglected.
2. It should be minute, ranging from, etc.
3. It should involve lively and strong feeling.
4. The knowledge and the deep feeling are dependent on, etc.
V. The consideration of the past will stimulate us to redeem the time.
1. The whole life of man is short.
2. How much shorter has it become to us!
3. Had it been spent aright, its increased shortness would not be a matter of regret.
4. But only look back!
VI. The consideration of the past will produce deep and solemn impressions of the frailty of man.
1. Look back to your childhood.
2. Where are the companions of your youth? Stages marked by grave-stones--mourner--stranger on earth.
VII. The consideration of the past will show the utter folly of depending on the things of the world for support and enjoyment.
1. Ungodliness is an attempt to dispense with God and still be happy.
2. Each man makes the experiment.
3. You have made it.
4. What is the result? A failure!
VIII. A consideration of the past will confirm the believer in the choice he has made.
1. The most important part of a believer’s life is that which follows his conversion.
2. In reviewing it--
(1) You see the temporal consequences of your act.
(2) You see the spiritual consequences.
IX. The past will show to the ungodly his eternity.
1. Alas! the sinner is not qualified to see his eternity in his time.
X. The past shows to the believer the comparative measure in which he shall reap hereafter. Between the believer’s present conduct and future glory--
1. There is no connection of merit.
2. But there is a connection of congruity or fitness. (Jas. Stewart.)
1. Reflection signifies to think again on what we have already thought, already conceived, to think on it more circumstantially, more steadily, more expressly, and to do this on set purpose and with consciousness in the design of dwelling longer on these thoughts, in order to dissect and analyze them, to obtain a clearer conception of the matter to which they relate, to study them in their several parts, in their principles and consequences, to compare them with others, to observe their analogies to us and to other objects, and thence to draw conclusions in regard to our conduct or to our happiness.
2. It also signifies, by the repeated representation and consideration of what we have already conceived and know, to endeavour to discover or to understand other things which we either do not yet know, or whereof we have only a dark and confused idea, or in regard to which we are still uncertain, whether they be true or false, thus or otherwise constituted.
3. Reflection has commonly in view the examination of some or all of the following questions: What is the object and the nature of it? What results from thence? Is it true and certain, and why is it so? What relations does it bear to me and my happiness? How should I act towards it? In other words, by reflection and consideration we endeavour to render our conceptions and ideas of objects more clear, more complete, more certain, more interesting and useful to us.
4. The reflecting man endeavours to render the objects, the doctrines whereon he reflects more profitable to him by applying them to his conduct, by deducing from them such principles and rules as may regulate him for the rest of his life. Thus he learns real, practical wisdom, and without that all human reflection is of no great value. (G. J. Zollikofer, D. D.)
I muse on the work of Thy hands.--
God’s works to be appreciated, for they declare Him
I heard of a good man who went down the Rhine, but took care to read a book all the way, for fear he should have his mind taken off from heavenly topics by the beauties of Nature. I confess I do not understand such a spirit--I do not want to do so. If I go into an artist’s house I do that artist a displeasure if I take no notice of his works under the pretext that I am quite absorbed in himself. Why not enjoy the objects in which our heavenly Father has set forth His wisdom and power? Delight yourself in all your heavenly Father’s handiwork, and make it to be a ladder by which you climb to Himself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Delight in God’s works
The same thing will appeal differently to different people according to capacity, sensibility, experience. One may look on a flower with the eye of a florist, another of a market gardener, another of a botanist, another of an artist. William Blake saw angels amid the swaying corn or nestling in a tree. A scene which is dull and uninteresting to the listless eye may be transformed by a touch of creative and interpretative imagination; as James Swetham says, “Gerhard Dew threw a glory over our very pickled cabbage.” Culture and restraint. (Hugh Black.)
Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning.
How to have a good day
There are days and days. There are days of darkness such as this psalm illustrates. Many think that David sung this psalm when he fled from Absalom.
I. It was a dark day for David.
1. It was a day of hard environment. “The enemy hath persecuted my soul.” Think of David fugitive, and climbing, in sackcloth, the slopes of the Mount of Olives. There are days when everything seems to go against us.
2. It was a day for David of clean discouragement. “He hath smitten my life down to the ground.” Have you not been in such a discouraged day?
3. It was a day of despair. When hope has gone out and despair has come in, your hands hang and your step stops.
4. This was a day for David when memory made contrast (verse 5). The only comfort for the soul in such plight is the memory of better days. That is a very bad, enervating mood when one, instead of looking forward, is perpetually looking backward. Oh, the brave apostles Though prisoner in Rome, “forgetting the things which are behind.”
II. How to get out of such a dark day and mood into a good day.
1. By prayer. “Cause me to hear.” The soul addresses God; turns resolutely Godward.
2. By beginning the day with a sense of God. “Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning.” Count your mercies and begin the day by doing it. There is a way of looking at disadvantage in the light of advantage. Mr. Edison, partially deaf since childhood, was told by a specialist an operation would help him. He answered, “Give up an advantage that enables me to think on undisturbed by noise or conversation? No, indeed.”
3. By constancy in trust. “For in Thee do I trust.” Trust, and keep on trusting anyway.
4. By determining to do, and at all hazards to do the right. “Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk.” Notice that--the praying and the walking; the search for the right and the resolve to do it. Darkness shall surely flee from such a soul. Such turning of dark days into good ones makes--character! (Homiletic Review.)
“In the morning”
I. The morning comes after the night.
1. The night of mourning. “Our light affliction,” etc. This is higher and sweeter than the motto on the sundial, “I count only the sunbeams.” The child of God will count, to his wealth and joy, the darkness also. The night is glorified in the morning “lovingkindness,” as night-formed dew is in the morning sun.
2. The night of conflict. The morning of victory will come.
3. The night of weary waiting. There is a morning of fruition and satisfaction.
4. The night of sin. Oh the morning of fresh and wondrous purity!
II. The morning comes before the day. God’s lovingkindness brings morning--the harbinger of a long day. Always, only morning; pointing on to a day whose “sun shall go no more down.” A day of joy. “Everlasting joy shall be upon their head.” A day of work. When men have a journey to make, or work to do, they start in the morning. So let us seek God’s morning lovingkindness.
1. In the morning of every day. Let me hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning, that this whole day may be blessed and fruitful.
2. In the morning of life (Proverbs 8:17).
3. In the morning (at the beginning) of every new undertaking. Begin with prayer for God’s lovingkindness and blessing.
4. In the morning of this year. It is still pure and sweet. Let its future hours be devoted to God. (Homiletic Magazine.)
Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk.--
The way wherein we should go
The text may be said to comprise every other prayer. If God gives His servant “to know the way wherein he should walk,” and strength to walk in it, peace, and order, and liberty, and joy will soon come. Life is difficult. It is difficult every day; on some days, and at some times, unusually so. Are there not continual circumstances and trials and duties of ordinary life which, in one way or another, make life a continual difficulty? Think of the number of things that are to be believed, that are to be renounced, that are to be examined, that are to be distinguished in themselves and from other things, that are to be tentatively dealt with, that are to be done, that are to be left undone, that are to be waited for, that are to be suffered. All these are included in the “way wherein we should walk.” Take some of them in succession.
I. Opinions and beliefs. There can be no living way for a man that does not involve these. A man is more than a growing tree or a grazing animal. Even those who speak slightingly of opinions, and lay stress rather on what they call spirit, and instinct, and practical action, when they rigorously analyze their own thought in this matter, are obliged to confess that in one form or another, separated from other things, or solvent in them, opinion and belief must be comprehended in spirit, even in instinct, in a measure, and certainly in practical action. But how hard it is now to form opinions and settle beliefs! Harder perhaps than it has ever been before, not only because we have more than the common amount of scepticism in the world, but because (as I verily believe) men are in some ways more sincere and more earnest than they have ever been before. They cannot so easily subscribe creeds, composed of many, and some of them hard enough propositions. What, then, are we to do? From this hour any one of us, if we will, may be of “them that believe to the saving of the soul.” How? By bringing the whole case fully and earnestly before God. “Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, for I lift up my soul unto Thee.” There, and there only, you have the whole case; the meeting, and, in a measure, the settling of the difficulty. If we come really to Him, we have solved the difficulty, we have come into the new and living way, and God will make that way more and more plain before our face; whereas if we abide among the exterior things--examining, considering, comparing, putting this opinion against that, and working the whole matter simply as a high intellectual problem, without ever making the last and highest appeal--we have no certainty of a good and true issue.
II. Conduct. Even those who know the way they should go, so far as it consists of beliefs, convictions, principles, find it still in their practice to be a way of continual difficulty. It is easy to say, “Act on principle.” Of course we must act on principle, but on what principle? What is the right principle for the case? Or what is the proper combination of principles? And how are they to apply?
1. It will sometimes be that all is dark as to what is about to happen in the immediate future, and yet action must be taken at a certain time; and, in order to be well taken, preparation must be made for it now. And that darkness, perhaps, cannot be made any less by our intellectual activities, or by our moral impatience. We may knock at the doors of the future with all our importunity, but they will not open a moment before the time. What can we do? We can pray. We can use this text, and get the benefits it carries, “Cause me to know the way wherein I should go, for I lift my soul to Thee.”
2. Or the case is exceedingly perplexed and intricate. It lies all open before us. There is nothing more to reveal, and yet we cannot understand it. Our way, “the way wherein we should go,” lies right through the heart of those perplexed and ravelled things, and our “going” is sure to alter them somewhat, perhaps much. What shall be the ruling principle of our action? Shall we go quickly or slowly? And shall prudence or firmness have the reins? Who can tell us? And in this pause what can we do? We can ask Him who knows the way that is all unknown to us to “cause us to know it,” so that, as we tread it step by step, and make it thus our actual way, it may prove to be indeed the way of righteousness and peace.
3. Or the case, in its two sides, is perfectly balanced. There is nothing to choose between them. We may cast the weight of our action on this side or on that with equally good conscience. And yet, out of the choice we make, a very different class of results will spring; and other things will come in then, and issues never contemplated as possible will arise. So that there is a right side, a “way in which we should go,” even when no human wisdom could give any sufficient reason why the one side should be taken rather than the other: How shall we find it? How, but by coming to Him who knows all ways that human feet are to tread. He has His eye on that best way, that perfect way, that Christlike way, which my feet ought to mark, and if I come to Him to ask about it, it may be that, while I am yet speaking, the light of revelation will illumine it, the finger of Providence will point to it, and the voice that has directed so many pilgrims will say to me also, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
God’s pathway for the soul of man
The psalms of the rebellion differ from the psalms of the persecution under Saul, in that a strain of penitence mingles with the narrative of misfortune and suffering. That an ambitious young man should have so easily overthrown a strong government was itself suggestive. Absalom’s success could not be really accounted for by his good looks, or by his popular manners, or by his splendid retinue, or by the widespread discontent of the tribe of Judah with David’s domestic policy, The truth was that the old respect for him had been largely undermined by his conduct; and under a system of personal government, respect for the ruler is essential to social safety. David’s own conscience ratified the tacit verdict which his people had passed upon him; and when he fled across the Jordan, while Absalom took possession of his palace and his throne, he recognized the hand, not of his undutiful son, but of his Lord and Judge. And thus, in the last of those seven psalms, which have for so many ages nourished and expressed Christian repentance, David mingles with his pathetic review of his reverses a loyal prayer for mercy and guidance.
I. “the way that I shall walk in.” David was thinking, no doubt, of some path across the mountains of Gilead, by which he might hope to make good his escape in that hour of danger. But that was not all. David would be thinking also of other “ways.” For the soul of man is perpetually moving, in whatever direction, through the wilds of moral and intellectual space: and the various directions which its thought, feeling, and action take, are variously characterized in Scripture. On the one hand we read of “the way of understanding, the way of righteousness, the way of truth,” “the way of God’s testimonies,” “the way of wisdom,” “the way of life,” “the way of good men,” “the way everlasting,” “the right way,” “the way of the Lord,” “the way of peace”; and on the other we are told of “the way of the froward,” “the way of evil men, the way of man’s heart,” “the way that is not good,” “the way that seemeth right unto a man, while the end thereof are the ways of death.” And so particular types of human life, “the way of David,” “the way of Asa,” “the way of Jehoshaphat,” contrast with “the way of Cain,” “the way of Jeroboam,” “the way of the house of Ahab,” “the way of Manasseh.” And thus the expression comes to mean a certain moral and mental temper, or a body, or System of doctrines, or precepts, whether false or true, which claim to be, and are treated as forming the path to a higher or to a lower world. Above all, we must not forget that the spiritual sense of this expression has received a consecration which can never for long be absent from Christian thought. We know who has said, “I am the Way.”
II. This petition for guidance, like all serious prayer, implies a faith, a faith which at once dictates and shapes it. The lex credendi is also the lex supplicandi. Two truths, at least, prompt and govern the prayer.
1. The first is, that one path enables each man to correspond with the true ideal of his life. “The way that I should walk in.” One path only is perfectly loyal to the highest truth that has been placed within each man’s reach. Only one path, and not many, enables each man to make the most of his faculties and of his opportunities, to develop most harmoniously his intelligence, his affections, his will, his character; to satisfy most adequately the just claims that others may make on him; to satisfy the demands of Him to whom the gift of existence itself is due.
2. And the second implied and governing truth is this--that there is one Being, at any rate, who sees and can tell each one of us what this his path should be. A clear sight of the track along which each of His responsible creatures should walk with the view of making the best of the gift of life, is the least that can be ascribed to an Intelligence that knows no bounds, and to a Will by whose good pleasure we each and all exist. A willingness to show each one of us what He thus sees to be the best for each may be reverently taken for granted in Him who is not only and chiefly Power and Intelligence, but also, and especially Goodness.
III. How does God answer this prayer?
1. First of all, and generally by the language of events, by that importunity of circumstances which, in different degrees, accompanies every human life. It matters not that the environment of every life can be traced to antecedents, and these to other antecedents that have preceded them till the long evolutionary process is lost sight of in the distant haze. It matters not because, first, we know that a point must at last be reached where no material antecedent is discoverable, and where bare existence can only be accounted for by the fiat of a Creative Will; and secondly, because the relation of each antecedent to that which precedes and follows it, the direction and law of this long evolutionary sequence--if so we must provisionally term it--itself implies, no less than its first impact implies, a presiding and guiding Mind.
2. But independently of that which belongs to single lives, there are certain broad characteristics of the pathway which God has traced for the soul of man. Man’s will, as well as his understanding, needs the guidance of truth. Man’s character needs the discipline of sacrifice. And He who said, “He that followeth Me walketh not in darkness,” said also, “Let a man take up his cross and follow Me.” What then are the characteristics of this truth which can furnish true guidance to the soul of man, and which thus is the answer to the prayer of the psalmist?
(1) It will first of all be positive, and not merely negative truth. The psalmist prays God to show him, not the way in which he should not walk, but the way in which he should.
(2) Again, the truth which is to serve as the pathway to the human soul must be definite. The road that will bring us home at last must be plain to the eye, and firm beneath the feet. It must not lose itself in a forest; it must not sink away into a morass. The psalmist prays for guidance; and indefinite guidance is all but a contradiction in terms.
(3) Once more, the truth which will conduct the soul heavenward must be truth which the soul knows to be independent of itself. “Show Thou me the way I should walk in.” The truth that will support our steps is true, whatever we may think or feel about it. It has, in modern phrase, an objective existence.
(4) Yet, once again, the truth that is to form a pathway for the human soul will be in its import specially practical; “The way that I should walk in” suggests practice rather than speculation. Christian truth is nothing if it be not practical. God’s Word is a lantern unto the feet, and a light unto the path; Scripture is profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, as well as for doctrine; Jesus Christ came to purify to Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Surely a Christian should not read his Bible or repeat his creed without asking himself the question, What does this statement say to me, what does it suggest, what does it command, what does it reprove in me? How can it contribute to lighten my path through time towards eternity? What dangers does it unveil, what encouragements does it proclaim, what obstacles does it remove, what efforts does it warrant? This practical instinct is always energetic in a seriously believing Christian, it is an inseparable corollary of the prayer, “Show Thou me the way I should walk in; for I lift up my soul unto Thee.” (Canon Liddon.)
The guiding hand
There is no need more imperatively felt by the Christian than that of Divine guidance.
1. We must admit that God has an ideal or plan for each one of us in life. We also know how weak and unwise we are, and that light is needed outside of ourselves. Now we know that the Bible is a historic revelation. What was written aforetime was given for our learning. So by looking back over the history of the Church we are helped in the discovery of God’s will.
2. Three special methods were used in ancient times to reveal the will of God. Dreams, the Urim and Thummim, and prophetic teaching.
(1) The dream then, as now, was often incoherent, uncertain and misleading, but we have every reason to believe that God did, at times, send with a dream a firm conviction that it should be acted upon.
(2) Again, the mysterious oracle was a method of guidance. The Urim and Thummim was used by David, but after his day it ceased. It gave the yes or no to the inquirer.
(3) As the priestly office waned, the third method, the prophetic, came into prominence. The prophet did not necessarily predict, but “uttered forth” truth as to the past and present, as well as future.
3. The important thing is not the agency through which God reveals His will, but the fact that in some way He will lead them who trust in Him. Therefore the psalmist says, “Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, for I lift up my soul unto Thee.” The lesson is one of faith in God’s guiding hand. This mode of Divine direction is wholly unlike the method seen among heathen and superstitious people. It is spiritual, exalted and progressive. A moral discipline is needed, a heart in sympathy with God. The spirit of truth guides us into all truth. If we are willing to do the will of God we shall know the way.
4. The spirit of prayerfulness should be cultivated. It is on the knees that we learn the lesson of trust. It is there we are brought face to face with God. Let us, therefore, always lift our soul unto God, and, above all, seek the aid of His Holy Spirit. The example of Christ is a guide; the advice of His true disciples is helpful; our own common sense is to be used, but above all, the direction of the Holy Spirit is to be sought and followed. He will keep us from perverting the truth we hear to our own ruin.
5. Finally, if after honestly following what light you have, the issue is not what you supposed or wished, rest patiently in God till He clears the darkness. If you have erred, make it sure “that He has forgiven, and then cheerfully go forward, saying, “My times are in Thy hand,” knowing that all things are working together for good to them that love God and are sincerely doing His will. (A. Foster, D. D.)
Knowledge and love of spiritual guide
The relation resulting from the intercourse of an Alpine traveller with his guide, writes Dr. Parkhurst, is not exactly like anything else. The one whom you had employed in this service would henceforth stand to you quite apart from other men. The peculiar quality that is in your intimacy has not resulted merely from your walking so long together; nor has it come because of your fellowship with one another in peril, or perhaps even in suffering. You learn to know your guide by obeying him, and you learn to love him by committing yourself to him and trusting him. Something about our Divine Guide, Jesus Christ, you can learn from the Scriptures; something, too, you can gather from the testimony of other men. But if you want to know Him you have got to obey Him, and if you want to love Him you must first trust Him. (Christian Endeavour Times.)
I flee unto Thee to hide me.
I. How? On the pinions of thought our souls often fly more swiftly than lightnings to the remotest periods and places. This power of flight is the glory of our nature; it defies granite walls and massive chains and bolts.
II. Whither? To Him, the eternal Source of all life, and of all good, we should ever direct our flight. We should fly to Him in all our difficulties.
III. Why? There is danger. (David Thomas, D. D.)
Flight to God
I. A perception of danger. No man will flee if he is not afraid; there must be a knowledge and apprehension of danger, or there will be no flight.
1. Men perish in many instances because they have no cause of danger. The noxious air is not observed, the sunken reef is not seen, the train rushes to collision unwarned. Ignorance of danger makes the danger inevitable.
(1) Men will dare to die without fear of hell.
(2) Men will sin and have no dread of any ill consequences.
(3) Men will play with an evil habit and will not believe in its power to enslave them.
(4) Men will toy with a temptation and refuse to see how certain it is to lead them into actual wrong-doing.
2. Every man is really in danger. The sinner is asleep on the top of a mast. Young and old are both in jeopardy. Even the saints are in peril of temptation from many sources.
3. Some dangers are slowly perceived. Those connected with sweet sin, those which grow out of a boastful mind, those which are countenanced by the examples of others, etc. The more dangerous the serpent, the less likely to be seen.
4. The spiritual man is led to perceive dangers by inward monitions, by a spiritual sensitiveness which is the result of devotion, by experience, by perceptible declensions, or by observing the effect of certain things upon others.
II. A sense of weakness. No man will flee for hiding if he feel able to fight the matter through in his own strength.
1. We are all weak and unable to cope with sin.
2. Some think themselves mighty men of valour, but these are among the vary weakest of the weak.
3. Past failure should teach us not to trust our own strength.
4. In a deep sense of weakness we are made strong: in fancied strength lies the worst form of weakness.
III. A prudent foresight. “I flee unto Thee to hide me.”
1. He would not venture into the danger or wait till it overtook him; but he took time by the forelock and fled. Often this is the highest form of courage.
2. Escape through fear is admirable prudence. It is not a mean motive; for Noah, “moved by fear, prepared an ark.”
3. While we can flee we should; for time may come when we shall be unable. David says, “I flee”: he means--“I am fleeing, I always do flee unto Thee, my God.” A man should not live like a beast, who sees no further than the meadow in which he feeds. He should foresee evil and hide himself; for this is common prudence (Proverbs 22:3).
IV. A solid confidence. “To Thee to hide me.” He was sure--
1. That there was safety in God.
2. That he might flee to God.
3. That he might flee there and then.
V. An active faith. He did not lie passive, but aroused himself. This may be clearly seen--
1. In his fleeing to God. Directness, speed, eagerness.
2. In his after-prayers. “Teach me to do Thy will; lead me; quicken me.”
(1) Expect your share of enemies, and prepare for them.
(2) Secure your best friend. Be reconciled to Him in Christ Jesus.
(3) Make constant use of Him. Flee to Him at all times. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The flight of the soul
Never was there an eagle with reach of wing long enough, or with pinions of sufficient strength to mount so high or fly so far afield as the soul of man. God has made us so like Himself that it is impossible for the mere accidents of poverty or wealth, of physical bondage or freedom, of pleasant or unpleasant surroundings, to dictate the spiritual history of the soul. The soul dictates its own destiny. It has the power to fly from its environment and take up its abode in an entirely different atmosphere. A wicked king could shut John Bunyan up in prison at Bedford, but he could not chain his soul there. God gave him wonderful soul-flight from that little jail. Now, if we inquire into the secret of John Bunyan’s joy and peace, we shall find that it was but a realization of our text. Bunyan fled from his sins to God, and found refuge in the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ. He started low enough, for he was a poor, drunken Bedford tinker, of no account to anybody till his Christian wife prayed for him and pleaded with him, until he fled for refuge to the Cross, and lost there the burden of his sin. And that is my message; that God is a refuge for every poor sinner who will flee to Him. But the fleeing is our part. We are free men and women, and God will not drive us into the kingdom. He will give us visions of the beauty of it, He will show us His own sympathy and love, and fling wide open the doors to the city of refuge; but unless we rise up and seek the refuge, we shall perish outside. (L. A. Banks, D. D.)
Flight from danger unto the Lord
We must fly to the Lord for shelter, not to an arm of flesh. The bird flies away to the thicket, and the fox hastens to its hole; every creature uses its refuge in the hour of danger, and even so in all peril or fear of peril let us flee unto Jehovah, the Eternal Protector of His own. No moat, portcullis, drawbridge, wall, battlement or dungeon could make us so secure as we are when the Lord of Hosts environs around. Our ramparts defy the beleaguered hosts of hell. The Lord of Hosts stands between us and their fury, and all other evil forces are turned aside. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Teach me to do Thy will; for Thou art my God.
The delight of the godly
I. The godly man’s prayer. Humility, teachableness, sense of his own ignorance should characterize the Christian; as also the greatness and glory, the wisdom and power of Him who is his God.
II. The godly man’s delight.
1. What is the will of God?
(1) Our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
(2) He wills that we should render Him most hearty thanksgiving for all the mercies with which He so bountifully blesses us (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
(3) He wills that by our well-doing we should adorn the Gospel (1 Peter 2:15). “The Christian is the true evidence of Christianity” (Drummond). “Adorn the Gospel.” Let the jewels be set in gold.
2. Knowing His will, having learnt it, we must do it, and do it heartily.
3. The more we do what we have been taught, the more will the Lord our God reveal to us of His will. (H. B. Saxton.)
The supreme desire of the devout soul
I. The supreme aim of the devout soul. The tempest blows him to the throne of God; and when he is there, what does he ask? Deliverance? Scarcely. In one clause, and again at the end, as if by a kind of after-thought, he asks for the removal of the calamities. But the main burden of his prayer is for a closer knowledge of God, the sound of His lovingkindness in his inward ear, light to show him the way wherein he should walk, and the sweet sunshine of God’s face upon his heart. There is a better thing to ask than exemption from sorrows, even grace to bear them rightly. The river of the water of life that proceeds from the throne of God and the Lamb is not sent merely to refresh thirsty lips and to bring music into the silence of a waterless desert, but it is sent to drive the wheels of life. Action, not thought, is the end of God’s revelation and the perfecting of man.
II. The Divine teaching and touch which are required for this conformity. The psalmist betakes himself to prayer because he knows that of himself he cannot bring his will into this attitude of harmonious submission. And his prayer for “teaching” is deepened in the second clause of our text into a petition which sets the felt need and the coveted help in a still more striking light, in its cry for the touch of God’s good spirit to guide, as by a hand grasping the psalmist’s hand into the paths of obedience. You and I have Jesus Christ for our Teacher, the answer to the psalm. His teaching is inward, and deep, and real, and answers to all the necessities of the case. We have His example to stand as our perfect law. He comes into our hearts, He moulds our wills, His teaching is by inward impulses and communications of desire and power to do, as well as of light to know. A law has been given which can give life. As the modeller will take a piece of wax into his hand, and by warmth and manipulation make it soft and pliable, so Jesus Christ, if we let Him, will take our hard hearts into His hands, and by gentle, loving, subtle touches, will shape them into the pattern of His own perfect beauty, and will mould all their vagrant inclinations and aberrant distortions into “one immortal feature of loveliness and perfection.”
III. The Divine guarantee that this practical conformity shall be ours. The psalmist pleads with God a double motive--His relation to us and His own perfectness. “Thou art my God; therefore teach me.” “Thy Spirit is good; therefore lead me,” etc. Note, then, first, God’s personal relation to the devout soul as the guarantee that that soul shall be taught not merely to know, but also to do His will. If He be “my God,” there can be no deeper desire in His heart than that His will should be my will. And so desiring, He does it, not from any masterfulness or love of dominion, but only from love to us. And, on the other hand, if we have taken Him for ours, and have the bond knit from our side as well as from His, then the fact of our faith gives us a claim on Him which He is sure to honour. The soul that can say, “I have taken Thee for mine,” has a hold on God which God is only too glad to recognize and to vindicate. And whosoever, humbly trusting to that great Father in the heavens, feels that he belongs to God, and that God belongs to him, is warranted in saying, “Teach me, and make me to do Thy will,” and in being confident of an answer. And there is the other plea with Him and guarantee for us, drawn from God’s own moral character and perfectness. The last clause may either be read, “Thy Spirit is good; lead me,” or “Let Thy good Spirit lead me.” In either case the goodness of the Divine Spirit is the plea on which the prayer is grounded. The goodness here ,referred to is, as I take it, not merely beneficence and kindliness, but rather goodness in its broader and loftier sense of perfect moral purity. So that the thought just comes to this--we have the right to expect that we shall be made participant of the Divine nature. So sweet, to deep, so tender is the tie that knits a devout soul to God, that nothing short of conformity to the perfect purity of God can satisfy the aspirations of the creature or discharge the obligations of the Creator. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Active obedience to the will of God
I. Aspiration revealed. The great essential to a religious life is active obedience to God’s will. The knowledge is not in itself religion; but the Christian is “that faithful and wise servant whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing.” Hence perfection of character consists not in knowledge, but obedience, because--
1. Obedience is superior to knowledge. It is possible for a man to have a Scriptural creed and to have an ungodly heart. The question must ever be, “Is thine heart right?” For “if ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”
2. Knowledge alone is positively criminal. How vast the dishonour done to God, when, with a perfect knowledge of duty, the man is neglectful of his privilege, and refuses the obedience which of right he owes to God l The possession of the knowledge will be but an aggravation of the offence.
II. Deficiency acknowledged. It was a practical deficiency--
1. As the knowledge of God’s will in the particular circumstances of life.
2. As to the knowledge of the hindrances to the performance of God’s will.
3. As to the practical skill of doing the will of God.
III. Desire expressed. Like the psalmist, we must seek to be taught obedience to God’s will.
1. In the particular circumstances of life. It must be our prayer in the minute detail of life to fulfil the will of God. “He that is faithful in that which is least,” etc.
2. In dealing with the hindrances to its fulfilment. The best and holiest must feel that they have reason to prostrate themselves before the Lord. He knows the ills and difficulties of life, and He will help us to overcome them. The mysteries of life must quicken us to place ourselves under the guidance of our heavenly Father.
3. In its active fulfilment. “Teach me to do Thy will.” Self-reliance gives place to self-confidence, and hence the necessity to trust in God and not in self. (G. Bainton.)
Prayer for Divine teaching
I. The psalmist’s need.
1. He felt that he was ignorant, and needed Divine illumination. He desired that God’s will might be made clear to him (verse 8).
2. He felt that he was weak, and needed strength to do, as well as enlightening to know, God’s will.
II. The psalmist’s prayer. “Teach me to do Thy will.”
1. He felt it to be his duty to do so. He would observe that all nature, man only excepted, does the Divine will and never swerves from it.
2. He felt that God’s will was best. He knew that He had pleasure in the prosperity--spiritual and temporal--of His servants (Psalms 35:27). He would seek to acquiesce in the will of God, who sometimes takes away temporal blessings that man’s affections may be more completely fixed upon his Creator, and causes him to pass through the furnace of affliction that when he is tried he may come forth as gold (Job 23:10).
III. The psalmist’s plea. “For Thou art my God.”
1. He had realized to some extent God’s love towards him.
2. He rejoiced in His love and desired to have God for his portion for ever.
3. He loved God and sought to do the things that please Him. (H. P. Wright, B. A.)
At school: -
I. The prayer.
1. Its character.
2. Its compass. “Lord, teach me to do Thy will, whether it is the will of the great ones of the earth, or the will of my influential friends, or the will of my loudtalking neighbours or not. Help me to do Thy will, to take my stand, and say, ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’” It is a blessed prayer. The more we look at it the more we see in it.
3. How ought God’s will to be done?
II. The answer.
1. There is a reason for expecting it. “Thou art my God.”
2. It needs to be answered. No one but God can teach us His will.
3. It is answered.
(1) In Jesus Christ, as our Example.
(2) In sacred biographies.
(3) In every line of the Bible.
(4) By the teaching of the Holy Spirit. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
An argument to move God to teach him, because He is his God, and doth trust in none but in Him. As if David should say: Thou promised me help of Thy free favour, help me then in this my danger. Whereby he would teach us two principal lessons. First, by this that he desireth God to teach him to do His will, because He was his God, we learn that it is not in our own arbitrament or choice to do God’s will, but His special grace, who preventeth us by His favour, and becometh our God, and after frameth us to do His will and obey Him. Secondly, that if He be our God, and we will call upon Him in our troubles, it were requisite we should frame ourselves to obey Him. If He be our God, where is His love and obedience? If He be our Father, where is His honour? So he must of necessity be an atheist who saith in his heart, there is no God; who professeth God in his mouth, and in his works denieth Him; following his own pleasure in place of God’s will. (A. Symson.)
The doing of God’s will
“Thy will be done” is not a prayer of resignation only. Something is to be done. It calls for action, not passivity. The will is to be done by men. When we pray that men may do it, if we pray honestly, we mean that we are ready to do it. Are we? Are we doing it? Is what we have planned to do to-day just what we think is the will of God? (F. W. Faber.)
Thy Spirit is good.--
The good Spirit
I trust that we shall never fail to see that on God’s good Spirit we are dependent for all good things, and that that Church is doomed to waste away to absolute nothingness and uselessness which does not draw its fresh supplies of strength each day and hour from God the Holy Ghost.
I. First, we shall, I hope, be disposed to say “Thy Spirit is good” when we remember His relationships. Whence is the Spirit? from what quarter does He reach to us? With whom is He associated? from whom does He proceed? By whom has He been sent forth to dwell amidst the Church, and in God’s people’s hearts? The answer is of course familiar to you.
1. This Spirit is good because He is the Spirit of God, He is God Himself. He is good because God is good.
2. Moreover He is spoken of as the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God’s Son. Now, Christ is good. His very enemies declared that they could discover no sort of fault in Him.
3. He is spoken of as the Spirit of promise. The Spirit of promise is bound to be a good Spirit, for He is God’s promise and Christ’s promise. Our earthly fathers, so far as their judgment goes, give good gifts unto their children; our heavenly Father cannot fail even in His judgment.
II. We shall be still surer of this fact, I hope, when we consider His attributes. I have only time, of course, to glance at them.
1. He is mighty, how mighty it is not for human tongues to try to say. He is almighty; there is no limit to His power. “Thy Spirit is good” we may well exclaim, when we think both of His terrible acts, and of the might of those acts of mercy which have made Him renowned and revered to every believer. “Thy Spirit is good.” He is as mighty now as He was then. What God hath done, God can do. We are straitened in ourselves. The Spirit is omnipotent still. Let us both test and trust His power.
2. He is gracious and gentle.
3. He is wise.
4. He is true.
5. He is holy. All that is sweet, and lovely, and pure, and of good report pertains to Him.
III. Further, I want to call to your mind His several offices, for these are proofs that He is good. What He does, as well as what He is and whence He comes, substantiates this fact. He creates. By Jesus Christ the world was made, and “without Him was not anything made that was made,” but the Spirit co-operated with Him. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” In the creation of man, as in all else, God the Spirit was engaged, as well as God the Father and Christ the Son. Is He not a good Spirit, then? Now, the Holy Ghost is still engaged in this sacred service, creating, recreating, making hearts new, bringing chaos out of the void, brooding over the darkness and disorder and transforming them into brightness and beauty. Proceed, good Spirit, with this good work, till all things are made new. ’Tis He who quickens and illuminates, ’tis He who teaches and leads. It was the Holy Ghost who led the children of Israel in the wilderness. The fiery cloudy pillar was the outward sign of Divine guidance, hut it is written, “Thou gavest also Thy good Spirit to instruct them.” In special cases, where much wisdom and judgment were required, the Holy Ghost was the Author of these good things. Still He seals His saints, still He is the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” It is even now His blessed function to bear witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. He has not forsaken His task of comforting the sorrowful: He is to this day the Paraclete.
IV. The same truth is exhibited or rather illustrated by the various emblems by which the Holy Spirit is described in the Word of God. He is spoken of as a fire. In such guise He sat upon the heads of the disciples. He is the Spirit of burning. You know that fire is a good servants, if a bad master, but the Holy Ghost as fire is good both as master and servant. He is willing to serve us as well as to employ us, and as fire He lights, and cheers, and warms us. The Holy Spirit may be compared to dew-cheering, beautifying, fertilizing. The Holy Ghost is compared to a dove, that gentlest of feathered fowl. In this semblance He lighted upon Jesus. Listen to the voice of this celestial turtle dove as it is heard in our land, for it speaks of spring-time come and summer-time about to appear. He is compared to the wind, a mighty rushing wind. Get into the draught of that wind, I beseech you, it is a trade wind that wafts us to our desired haven. True, it destroys, but it destroys only what we are better rid of Dead wood, broken branches, withered leaves, these He sweeps away as with a bosom. They are better gone. “Thy Spirit is good.” In whatever form He works or acts upon us He is welcome. (Thomas Spurgeon.)
Quicken me, O Lord.
What is religion?
In the New Testament the word “quicken” sets forth an idea which is at the very core of religion. Dead in trespasses and sins originally, the man, as Christ makes him, is alive for evermore. Regeneration is a quickening; sanctification is the continuance and evolution of that quickening which began in the new birth. It is a remarkable thing that the same word “quicken” should occur in the Old Testament only in the Psalms, and there almost always as a prayer. The great advantage of the prayers for quickening, and the expressions about it in the Psalms is, that they show us the meaning of the idea and instruct us about it. What quickening is comes out in the result; and the result is variously expressed thus--quicken us and “we will call in Thy name,” and again quicken me, and “so I shall keep the testimony of Thy mouth”; or, again, as a cure for worldliness the prayer is offered, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; quicken Thou me in Thy way.” The idea in these prayers is, that the praying soul does not care as it ought for these good things, but knows and confesses that this is a great defect; and consequently asks that it may have the power to care for them. You may remember the case of Darwin, who tells that through devotion to study he lost his interest in music and poetry, going so far as to say that the power to appreciate these which he used to have had died out for want of use. He was sorry for this, and he might be supposed to wish for and even to pray for the restoration of that faculty so exquisitely delightful and so much to be desired. He might be supposed to take steps to re-awaken it. His feeling, if not his words, would be, “Quicken me in this; make me sensitive in this. Let my ear have the power to appreciate, and my heart the sensitiveness to feel the power of music and of genuine poetry. Quicken me.” That is just what the prayer means in higher matters still. Each one of us has lost many faculties and powers through sin. Our heart is hardened. We cannot see the good, the beauty of some things that are really good. Nothing is more common than to see this illustrated in different ways in different men. How many have a taste for what is intellectual, artistic, natural--for works of philanthropy and charity? How many have the ear that can hear the cry of the needy, or the heart to feel for the oppressed? Are not some so unpitiful and uncharitable, and cruel that they are not aware of their heartlessness? Surely then this is the time when with deep humility and penitence the prayer should be offered for quickening; that the things to which the soul is now sensitive and rejoices should cease to delight, and that the power should be given, or should be restored, of delighting in the true, the good, the beautiful as these are approved of God, and of all right men. Surely the heart’s cry should be--“Quicken me so that my soul will respond as the soul of Christ to the will of the Father, and to the deep necessities of those in sin and suffering. Quicken me that I may so prize the good that my soul shall, as the soul of Christ, pity the lost, the perishing, the sinful. Quicken me, so that my present insensitiveness, and callousness, and very blindness should disappear, and something of the gentleness, the penitence, the pitifulness, the self-sacrificingness of Christ may be awakened in my soul. Quicken me that I may be a man, not a monster--a man with a heart and a conscience; and not a mere human animal with a covetous eye, a grasping hand, and a selfish, unsympathetic nature. Quicken me that in me the image of God may be renewed, the lost likeness restored, and the family tie of sonship reconstituted. (T. M. B. Paterson.)
The Spirit’s quickening influence
In the winter and early spring there seems to be no life in the garden and field and forest. Everything looks dead--twice dead. But it is not so really. Under the surface roots are full of ferment, seeds are swelling, and within the bark of the trees is as much movement as m a city’s noisy streets. Every fibre is tingling with vital force, and the sap is coursing along the minute channels, and all that is wanted is the breath of the south wind, the warmth of the smiling sun, and the branches will burst into buds, and the earth break out with laughing flowers. So in souls that seem dead, twice dead, the Spirit of God is often at work, and one earnest heaven-sent message calls out the buds of penitence and faith, and it is seen as a very garden of the Lord. Spiritual winter may hold a springtide of blessing and resurrection glory in its chill grasp, but He who commands both can easily transform the one into the other.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 143". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent