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Unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
I. David was at this time in a state of great trouble. This is the children’s path; it is the path most of God’s family walk in. It is not an uncommon path. The Master trod the path before them, and told His people to expect tribulation. In this Psalm we see affliction in every variety. David traces his afflictions up to his sins (Psalms 25:18). All sin is the cause of suffering. If no sin, no suffering. If no body there would be no shadow. There may have been some searching out of peculiar sins. Times of affliction are usually times of deep searching of heart.
II. David was at this time depressed. The very expression “lift up” implies a previous casting down. Verse 16, he says, “I am desolate and afflicted.” The believer, compared with the unbeliever, is a strong man; he must needs be strong. But the strongest is not always strong. All borrowed strength is of necessity strength that fluctuates. Creature strength is dependent strength, and therefore it is but comparative weakness. Faith’s wing does not always soar aloft; love does not always burn brightly. Unbelief always weakens. David looked to his troubles and was depressed. In our afflictions there are two especial dangers--that of despising them, as if they came fortuitously; and the danger of being encumbered and weighed down by them, looking at the circumstances, and not at the God of the circumstances.
III. David betakes himself to his remedy. The believer has but one remedy. The world talks of its many remedies, but all are ineffective. A general view of God, in the power of faith and by the power of the Holy Ghost, lifts up the soul. Nothing so lifts us up against soul trouble as when we are enabled to say, “O my God, I trust in Thee.” Is there anything above God’s promises? Yes, God Himself is above His promises, and the very substance of them. Our trust is in Him. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)
The nature of true prayer
This opening sentence is as if David had said, “Let others lift up their souls to vanity, I will dare to be singular, I will lift up my soul to Thee.” Holy resolution, blessed determination.
I. The realisation and recognition of the presence of God.
II. The abstraction from the influences of the world. “I will lift up my soul.”
III. The consecration and concentration of all the energies of the man. The consecration willing and loving. If the soul be lifted up all the powers are so.
IV. The results of such lifting up of the soul. We shall be--
1. Transported with the Divine nearness.
2. Transformed into the Divine likeness.
3. Translated into the Divine presence now and hereafter. (F. W. Brown.)
Uplifting the soul
It is not easy to do this. “My soul cleaveth unto the dust.” We may lift up hands and eyes and voices, but it is another thing to uplift the soul. Yet without this there is no real devotion. And the Christian will be no more satisfied than God. This marks the spiritual worshipper. He may have failed in words, but his soul has been lifted up to God. And the spirituality of religion is its enjoyment. It is good to draw near to God. Then we attend on the Lord without distraction. And when such a worshipper comes forth he will recommend Christ to others, and that not without effect. For his profiting will appear unto all men. His face shines. His heart speaks. His life speaks. His character speaks. He cannot but do good, even without design and without effort. (W. Jay.)
The uplift of the soul in prayer
Gotthold, in his Emblems, says, “Doves have been trained to fly from place to place, carrying letters in a basket fastened to their necks or feet. They are swift of flight; but our prayers and sighs are swifter, for they take but a moment to pass from earth to heaven, and bear the troubles of our heart to the heart of God. These messengers no hostile force can detain; they penetrate the clouds, never linger on the way, and never desist until the Most High attends. A tyrant may shut up a godly man in the deepest dungeon, immure him between massive walls, and forbid him all intercourse with his fellow men, but these messengers he cannot restrain; in defiance of all obstacles they report to the Omniscient the affliction of the victim, and bring back to him the Divine consolation.”
The lifting up of the soul to God
The names which he gives God are Jehovah and Elohim--the first taken from His nature, the other from His power; and he applieth them to himself, my strong Gods, including the persons of the Trinity. He leadeth us to God in our prayers, Whom have I in heaven but Thee? He that cometh to God must believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
1. First, He must love thee, and then He will defend thee. Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord. Those are foolish who seek His protection, not first having assurance of His love. If He be to thee Jehovah, then shall He also be to thee Elohim. His prayer is signified by his circumscription, “I lift up my soul to Thee”; and his faith, “I trust in Thee.” What is prayer but a lifting up of the heart to God, for the heart must first be affected, and then it will frame all the members of the body, and draw them up with it. Whereby it appeareth that there is no prayer or spiritual service acceptable to God but that which comes and is derived from the heart, “My son, give Me thy heart” Ye are praying, but your heart is as the eye of the fool everywhere. Sometimes ye are thinking of the earth, sometimes of your pleasure, sometimes sleeping, sometimes ye know not what ye are thinking. And sometimes your voice is repeating some idle and deaf sounds, your heart no whir being moved, but as a parrot, uttering uncertain sounds, or a bell, sounding it knows not what; so are ye with your mouth praising God, your heart being absented from Him.
2. Next, his faith is not carried about hither and thither, but only fixeth itself upon God.
3. Thirdly, the lifting up of the heart presupposeth a former dejection of his soul. (A. Symson.)
Phases of a pious soul
I. A pious soul rising to God. An indication of the true elevation of man; what is it?
1. The elevation of the soul, that is, the rational and spiritual nature, that which was the divinity within him.
2. It is the elevation of the soul to God. The soul going up in devout thought, in holy gratitude, in sublime adoration, in moral assimilation to the Infinite Jehovah.
3. It is the elevation of the soul to God by personal exertion. No man can lift up my soul for me.
II. A pious soul trusting in God. “O my God, I trust in Thee.” What does trust in the Lord imply?
1. A sense of dependency in the truster.
2. A belief in the sufficiency of the trusted.
III. A pious soul waiting upon God. “On Thee do I wait all the day.”
1. To wait means patience.
2. To wait means hope.
3. To wait means service.
IV. A pious soul praying to God. “Let none that wait on Thee be ashamed.” The prayer, from Psalms 25:3-7, falls into two divisions.
1. Prayer for self.
(1) Prayer respecting Divine deliverance.
(2) Prayer respecting Divine guidance.
(3) Prayer respecting Divine remembrance.
2. Prayer for others.
(1) For success to the good.
(2) For defeat to the wicked. (Homilist.)
Let me not be put to shame.
Deliverance and guidance
Trust that was not vindicated by deliverance would cover the face with confusion. “Hopes that breed not shame” are the treasure of him whose hope is in Jehovah. Foes unnamed threaten; but the stress of the petitions in the first section of the Psalm is less on enemies than on sins. One cry for protection from the former is all that the Psalmist utters, and then his prayer swiftly turns to deeper needs. In the last section the petitions are more exclusively for deliverance from enemies. Needful as such escape is, it is less needful than the knowledge of God’s ways, and the man in extremest peril orders his desires rightly if he asks holiness first and safety second. The cry in Psalms 25:2 rests upon the confidence nobly expressed in Psalms 25:3, in which the verbs are not optatives, but futures, declaring a truth certain to be realised in the Psalmist’s experience, because it is true for all who, like him, wait on Jehovah. True prayer is the individual’s sheltering himself under the broad folds of the mantle that covers all who pray. The double confidence as to the waiters on Jehovah and the “treacherous without cause” is the summary of human experience as read by faith. Sense has much to adduce in contradiction, but the dictum is nevertheless true; only, its truth does not always appear in the small are of the circle which lies between cradle and grave. The prayer for deliverance glides into that for guidance, since the latter is the deeper need, and the former will scarcely be answered unless the suppliant’s will docilely offers the latter. The soul lifted to Jehovah will long to know His will, and submit itself to His manifold teachings. “Thy ways” and “Thy paths” necessarily here mean the ways in which Jehovah desires that the Psalmist should go. “In Thy truth” is ambiguous, both as to the preposition and as to the noun. The clause may either mean God’s truth (i.e. faithfulness)
as His motive for answering the prayer, or His truth (i.e. the objective revelation)
as the path for men. Predominant usage inclines to the former signification of the noun, but the possibility still remains of regarding God’s faithfulness as the path in which the Psalmist desires to be led, i.e. to experience it. The cry for forgiveness strikes a deeper note of pathos, and, as asking a more wondrous blessing, grasps still more firmly the thought of what Jehovah is and always has been. The appeal is made to “Thy compassions and loving kindnesses,” as belonging to His nature, and to their past exercise as having been “from of old.” Emboldened thus, the Psalmist can look back on his own past, both on his outbursts of youthful passion and levity, which he calls “failures,” as missing the mark; and on the darker evils of later manhood, which he calls “rebellions,” and can trust that Jehovah will think upon him “according to His mercy,” and “for the sake of His goodness or love.” The vivid realisation of that Eternal Mercy, as the very mainspring of God’s actions, and as setting forth in many an ancient deed the eternal pattern of His dealings, enables a man to bear the thought of his own sins. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Shew me Thy ways, O Lord; and teach me Thy paths.
Divine authority upon earth
All right-minded men will agree with Matthew Arnold’s famous saying, that “Conduct is three-fourths of human life.” It will be also admitted that the professed aim of all Churches and religious societies is to regulate and improve conduct. Sometimes, alas! orthodoxy, or right opinion, has been put not merely first, but by itself alone as the one chief aim to be enforced by the clergy, and to be accepted by the laity. But it seems only fair to say that these were examples of departure from the original ideal of a Church and its purpose. The claim of Divine authority to control the minds, hearts, and lives of the people, and to interfere even forcibly with individual freedom of thought and action, was designed, in the first instance, for the welfare of society and the moral elevation of its various members, and in that light must not be ruthlessly condemned. But the principle was liable to abuse, and the mischiefs wrought by its abuse have been terrible. They have been the cause of conflict which will continue as long as the claim of Divine authority is made on the one hand, and the sense of a God-given right to individual freedom remains on the other. What is the mischief that we want to remedy? It is the belief in the “Divine” authority of that which is but “human”; and as a consequence, the separation of the human soul from personal and direct intercourse with God--the substitution, in short, of the human for the Divine. We have these objections to it which are fatal.
I. That it is false. It is sufficient to expose the fallacy of the argument by which the claim of Divine authority is defended. And nothing is easier than this. The Church of Rome asserts, without proof, that God Himself lived on earth in the Person of Jesus, who transmitted, or delegated, His Divine power and authority first to the apostles, and subsequently to the Church founded by them, and to every succeeding head or pope of that Church; and that this Divine authority extends to matters of faith, i.e. doctrines to be believed, to rites and ceremonies, and to discipline and morals. Over all these, at least, the authority of the Church is claimed to be identical with the authority of God. But when we reverently ask on what ground we must accept the alleged Divine authority of Jesus, in the first instance, we are distinctly told that we must take all that on the authority of the Church. This is arguing in a circle.
II. The claim is needless. That is to say, men would get on in all things good, in the attainment of truth, in the adoption of religious ceremonies, and in the practice of virtue, quite as well without a divinely instituted Church as with it. It is not hard to show that the absence of belief in the claim to Divine authority has not been generally followed by any detrimental results either to religion or virtue. What is true and good and useful is entirely discoverable without the aid of miraculous revelation. It may be argued, this claim is needful, because the mass of men will not, or cannot, think for themselves; and the vast majority crave for certainty in things Divine, which certainly they cannot attain without the intervention of a divinely appointed authority upon earth. Because men crave for an external authority in matters of faith and duty, does not involve that they really need the authority they desire. (Charles Voysey, B. A.)
A prayer for Divine enlightenment
The text expresses the sincere desire of every Christian. He feels that he needs a Divine Teacher to enable him to understand Divine truth and obey the Divine precepts. Hence he approaches the fountain of all wisdom with the prayer of the text.
I. A prayer for Divine enlightenment.
1. The importance of a knowledge of God’s ways.
2. A willingness to follow Divine teaching. Every Christian is a learner, conscious of his own ignorance, and anxious to be divinely taught, he is prepared to renounce everything in his creed and conduct not in harmony with the Word of God.
3. A willingness to obey Divine teachings.” “Lead me in Thy paths.” We must first know God’s will, then do it.
II. God is the Teacher of His people. How does He teach? Human spirit can speak with human spirit. Who shall dare to say that the human spirit cannot be communicated with by the Divine?
1. By His Word.
2. By His Spirit.
3. By His providence.
III. The Psalmist’s method of obtaining the Divine teaching. “On Thee do I wait all the day.”
1. Wait humbly.
2. Wait earnestly.
3. Wait believingly.
4. Wait perseveringly.
5. God’s response to prayer is certain.
Let us have confidence in God. If the greatest Being deserves the profoundest reverence; if the kindest Being deserves the heartiest thanks; and if the best of Beings deserves the warmest love, then our highest reverence, thanks, and love are due to God. (H. Woodcock.)
Taught in God’s ways
In this verse are contained--
1. The Person whom he implores, Jehovah; whom he describeth, leading him, teaching him, receiving him in favour, and nourishing him (Psalms 25:4-6; Psalms 7:1-17).
2. What he seeks. God’s ways.
3. By what means? Teach me, and lead me.
4. The reason. Because Thou art my God, and I trust in Thee. So should pastors do. Who would be a good master, let him be a good apprentice; and this same should all private Christians desire, that God would teach them that way which will please Him best, even His own ways. (A. Symson.)
The knowledge of God in His ways
Two ways in which we may understand this Psalm. The writer may mean it as a prayer for direction, that he may be taught what to do, how to walk so as to please God. Or that God would declare Himself to the petitioner, and manifest to him what he is doing; that God would show His own ways to David, and teach him the issue of the hidden paths in which he was walking towards Him; not the paths the writer ought to follow, but those which the Almighty was pursuing. Consider this latter view. Such petitions and such complaints are common in the Scriptures, and natural to the heart of man. They are found in the secret thoughts, and not seldom in the expressed prayers of experienced and advanced Christians. Job was no common adept in the use of grace, and yet he earnestly begs, Show me wherefore Thou contendest with me. Jeremiah was a deeply exercised man, yet he could plainly perceive the difference in his own mind between belief and faith, between principle and practice. He says to God, “Let me talk with Thee of Thy judgments.” In the text the Psalmist appears to have the natural feeling more subdued. He cannot tell what God is doing. It is all dark and mysterious, and probably he thought that on that account he could not learn any lesson of wisdom from it: a conclusion which does by no means follow. It is not, “Show me Thy way, O Lord,” but ways; plural, not singular, not as though it were one and definite. What is mysterious, but intricate and manifold, often crossing one another, and apparently inexplicable, on account of seeming contradictions; not merely such as we do not understand on account of our ignorance, but such as seem impossible to be explained, because of their contrariety in themselves. And in very deed this is often the appearance of the ways of God. They are not only so plural, but so infinite in their plurality; so intertwined with and intersecting each other that there is reason to believe that if they were fully laid open to our view we would not be able to understand them, so intricate is their network. There is not a circumstance that occurs to ourselves or to others that is not an organised part of God’s instrumentality for bringing His purposes to pass. Consider the ways in which God deals with a soul in mercy.
1. In awakening, warning, and opening the eyes.
2. God’s ways in securing to Himself the heart of His child on earth are oftentimes perplexing. Discipline may succeed when love fails.
3. The ways in which a soul is led to feel after and find the Lord. No one can tell beforehand of another or of himself what will be the effective way, or what will fail.
4. It is the same in the teaching and building up of a soul. (G. Jeans, M. A.)
David’s desire in the time of trouble
I. The petition. David may have meant, “Show me Thy ways, O Lord, in Thy providence.” He may have wished a clearer insight into the great ways of God in His grace. He may have desired to know more distinctly the path in which he should walk. See how earnestly he urges his plea: he has every sort of motive in it. There is the plea of blindness, of ignorance, of utter weakness.
II. The plea.
1. “Thou art the God of my salvation.”
2. It is the God of my salvation.
3. He says, “On Thee do I wait all the day,” that is, throughout the whole day. Points for consideration. See what the true mark of a spiritual man is. See that God’s ways are always deep. His providence--how often it is intricate. The administrations of His grace--how profound they are.
4. See the humbleness of sanctified affliction. Sanctified affliction, because it is quite a mistake to suppose that all affliction is blessed to a child of God. It may ultimately tend to good, but there are many afflictions that are not immediate blessings to him. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)
O Lord, teach me Thy loaths.--
The Lord’s path
The wicked say to God, Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways; the good man acknowledges God in everything, and he commits himself entirely to His guidance and guardian care.
I. The prayer. The subject of the prayer--“Lord’s paths.”
1. Paths of Divine providence. Often dark, mysterious--always wise and right and good.
2. Paths of grace. Way of holiness, happiness, etc. Way through the desert to Canaan. Sometimes obscure and clouded. Pillar of cloud necessary.
3. Paths of duty. “Lord, what wouldest Thou have me to do?” Duty and ease, duty and interest, duty and desires, often at variance.
The prayer itself is for Divine teaching--“Lord, teach me.” Here is an admission of ignorance, of insufficiency, of anxiety, and of application to the right source. “Lord, teach me”--
1. Clearly to understand Thy paths.
2. Heartily to approve of them.
3. Constantly to walk in them. Notice--
II. The importance of this prayer. It is important to our intellectual and spiritual improvement. To grow in knowledge, path shine more and more, etc. (2 Peter 1:5). (J. Burns, D. D.)
Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me.
Guiding and teaching
A short but expressive prayer. All need it. We need it when we are surrounded with gloom, when we are tempted, and when we find bur path very rough.
I. The petition for guidance. We need it because--
1. We are ignorant of the future.
2. The way is dark.
3. We need thus to pray, from a deep conviction that we dare not go alone.
4. Because we are so weak. The Psalmist asks that God will lead him according to His own revealed will. “In Thy truth.”
II. The petition for instruction. How much we need to learn. How little we know after all these years. We don’t know our bodies, still less our souls. We know not about time, how precious it is, but yet less of eternity. How little we know of life or of men, Therefore we need to pray, “Lord, teach me.” (William Scott.)
On Thee do I wait all the day.
How to spend the day with God
Who can truly say this? Who among us lives such a life of communion with God? This waiting is that of patient expectation and constant attendance. God was keeping David in suspense. He could not tell what was the mind and will of God. But he waits continually on Him. And so, in like circumstances, must we.
I. What is it to wait upon God?
1. It is to live a life of desire towards Him. Our desire should be, not only towards the good things God gives, but towards God Himself.
2. It is to live a life of delight in God. Desire is love in motion, as a bird upon the wing. Delight is love at rest, as a bird upon the nest.
3. It is a life of dependence on God, as the child waits on the father.
4. It is a life of devotedness to God, as the servant waits on his master.
5. And it is to make His will our rule; for our practice or for our patience, as the will of His providence may ordain.
II. This we must do every day, and all day long.
1. Every day. Servants in the courts of princes have their weeks or months of waiting appointed them, and are tied to attend only at certain times; but God’s servants must never be out of waiting. Sabbath days and weekdays, idle days and busy days, days of prosperity and of adversity.
2. Toto die,--or all the day through. By casting our daily care upon Him. By managing our daily business for Him. Receiving our daily comforts from Him. Resisting our daily temptations, and doing our daily duties, in the strength of His grace. Application: Consider this need of waiting on God at particular times. At family worship. When teaching your children. At shop or business. At meal times. On friendly visits. God waits to be gracious to those who wait on Him. (Matthew Henry.)
Waiting on God
I. Illustrate the spirit and meaning of this verse.
1. It does not mean that David was incessantly occupied with religious exercises.
2. The words are quite consistent with a knowledge of many transgressions.
3. The words involve a figurative meaning. This “waiting” is the spirit of trust, of loving obedience, of hope and confidence, of a most intimate friendship, of the deepest reverence.
II. In what way would a day be spent by one who sincerely uttered these words?
1. The day would be begun with God.
2. One who has begun the day with God will remember His presence, and seek His favour through the day. What is wanted of all of us is to carry the habit of religion into our ordinary pursuits. (W. G. Barrett.)
Prolonged waiting upon God
The thoughtless rush before God, in which we expect to get all we covet and away again, is worse than sacrilege. The unapproachable glories cannot be known in the twinkling of an eye. One of Ruskin’s pupils once said to him, “The instant I entered the gallery at Florence I knew what you meant by the supremacy of Boticelli.” “In an instant, did you?” was the somewhat withering reply. “It took me twenty years to find it out.” If we wait before God for a lifetime we shall only just begin to feel His enchantments. (Thomas G. Selby.)
Remember, O Lord, Thy tender mercies.
Things to remember and to forget
It is only by a figure of speech that we can speak of God as remembering and forgetting. It is an accommodation to our human weakness and ignorance. He who sees all things at a glance has no need to remember, and is incapable of forgetting. Yet God acts towards us as if He both remembered and forgot, and it is enough for us to think of Him in that way. Here the Psalmist’s mind seemed to sway backward and forward between these two words “remember” and “remember not.” And so--
I. We wish to be remembered by God. It is sweet to be had in remembrance by friends. No one of us likes to be forgotten. The religious man desires, above all things, to be remembered of God. It is the sign and proof of His sincerity. If there be no serious and solemn purpose in life; if all its aims and motives and actuating impulses are vulgar, sensual, selfish, there will be no wish to have God’s eye upon it; there will be a sort of relief in the thought that He takes no notice of it, that He passes it by in forgetfulness. But to one whose endeavours are after the higher life the thought of having no place in God’s mind is dreadful.
II. We are happy in the thought that God remembers. But we wish, like the Psalmist, that He could both remember and forget. Memory brought back to David the sins of bygone years. O God, he cried, forget all those crooked and dark things, as I would forget them, and call to mind only Thine own goodness and love. What a strangely mingled cup it is that memory gives us to drink--full to the brim, overflowing with sweetness. Yet we cannot take a deep draught of the cup without coming to bitter ingredients, nay, perhaps to fiery morsels that burn and blister the mouth. Memory is as the Ebal and Gerizim of our lives. The Psalmist wished to separate these two elements of memory. He was afraid lest God should eternalise those old sins by keeping them in mind. He did not like to remember them himself. He wished to think only of the brighter, lovelier things--the Divine, the promising, the hopeful. O God, forget the evil, that I may forget it too. Yes, forget as far as possible the dark scenes of the years that lie behind. Forget the very sorrows and trials and bereavements, unless, indeed, they are so recent and so acute that it would only mock you to ask you to forget them. Bring with you out of the passing years a large and generous legacy of sweet and pure and holy memories. Be sure that all the mercies which we have ever known, all the Divine love and pity and helpfulness which we have ever proved, all that compassion and sympathy of Jesus Christ which have been our stay, will be repeated in the coming days. He will not forget. (J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
The Divine remembrance
An aged Christian, lying on his deathbed in a state of such extreme weakness that he was often entirely unconscious of all around him, was asked the cause of his perfect peace. He replied, “When I am able to think, I think of Jesus; and when I am unable to think of Him, I know he is thinking of me.”
For they have been forever.--
The eternity of God’s mercies
A fair commendation of God’s mercies from the eternity thereof. His mercies had no beginning, as Himself had none, and shall have no end--From everlasting to everlasting Thou art our God. As the ocean and main sea can never be exhausted, but would furnish water to all the world, if everyone should bring vessels to draw water therefrom; so if we have faith and prayer to seek grace from God, He is all-sufficient in Himself to furnish us all. (A Symson.)
The antiquity of mercy
Let the ancientness of Divine love draw up our hearts to a very dear and honourable esteem of it. Pieces of antiquity, though of base metal, and otherwise of little use or value, how venerable are they with learned men! and ancient charters, how careful are men to preserve them; although they contain but temporary privileges, and sometimes but of trivial moment! How, then, should the great charter of heaven, so much older than the world, be had in everlasting remembrance, and the thoughts thereof be very precious to us; lying down, rising up, and all the day long accompanying us! (J. Cole.)
Remember not the sins of my youth.
The Psalm belongs to the later days of David. In youth we live in the present; in age we live in the past.
I. Youthful sins are remembered when the sinner attains to an advanced age. Generally speaking, the youthful sinner is a thoughtless sinner. He does not trouble about the sin or its consequences. There is a fallacy about, that the sins of youth are not actual sins. If youthful follies gradually developed themselves into manly virtues, then all hail, ‘youthful follies! But if sin always remains sin, and wild oats sown will only grow up wild oats, then this is a fallacy indeed. There comes a time when youthful sins rise up to remembrance, both with the sinner and with the saint. The saint may know that his sins are forgiven, but that does not alter the grief with which he remembers them. How much more sadly true this is of the sinner, who does not know of sin forgiven. There comes a time when old iniquities, long forgotten, shall rise again from the dead, and like spectres haunt the man. There will come a time when the sins of the past will march before you and demand judgment; and what then?
II. When in advanced age the sins of youth are remembered, the cry of the soul is, O God forget what I must remember. David does not ask that he might forget his sins, but that God would forget them. It would not be well for us to forget them, even when they are forgiven. Arc your sins in God’s memory as well as in your own? There are those who have their sins in the memory of God, but not in their own. Others have their sins in their own memory and in the memory of God too. And others have their sins in their own memory, but not in God’s. (Archibald G. Brown.)
The sins of youth
We have no ground for supposing that the youth of David was sinful in the ordinary sense of the term, that he lived otherwise than “soberly, righteously, and godly”; or that he did not serve God purely, willingly, and lovingly. So far as we know, his offences against God in his youth were but the inevitable faults of his age--shortcomings, indeed, negligences and ignorances, and so things to be deplored and avoided; but there is nothing like any intimation of a vicious youth recorded against him in the Word of God. Nevertheless, there are always undeveloped tendencies towards evil lurking in every youthful heart, and on their encouragement or discouragement the tenor of the future life depends. The presumption is, that David was no longer young when this Psalm was composed. So we have this lesson, that his penitence and sorrow for sin were not things which, being once expressed, were thought of no more, but that they were ever before him, for years and years after his sins were committed. So must it be with those whose early years are stained with the defilements of sin. Either they will go on as they have begun, adding sin to sin, or they must be content to pass the remainder of their days as mourning penitents. As we sow we shall reap. If we have engaged in a course of sin we must be content to have a course of sorrow afterwards. Is a course of indulgence in any sin whatever worth the miseries into which sin inevitably leads? David is said to be a man after God’s own heart; but only because, when he fell, he did not continue in sin. He was not a man after God’s own heart with his sins, but without them, because of his readiness to cast them from him, and of his life-long, loving, trustful penitence afterwards. (F. E. Paget.)
The registry gate
The true significance of the present is not revealed in the present. The present usually tells us only half truths, and sometimes falsehoods. Only the lapse of years makes us dispassionate judges of our earlier selves. Hence the past comes into our maturer life as an clement of pain and reproach. The text is the utterance of a rich and ripe experience--of a man about whom the shadows have begun to lengthen, and who is letting a sorrowful and faultful past come home to his matured judgment, to be tried by its higher standards and by its clearer discrimination. In view of what we know of David’s youth, why does he so earnestly plead that the sins of his youth be not remembered by God? The answer is found in the standpoint from which David contemplated his life; for while the cool retrospect of a life brings disappointment and disgust to every thoughtful man, the nature and degree of this disgust are regulated according to the standard of judgment which is applied. The majority of men come, sooner or later, to think of themselves as fools in their earlier years, but they do not likewise come to think of themselves as sinners. When one begins to review his life from the standpoint of his moral relation to God, he sees through a glass which greatly enlarges the range of his retrospect, thoughts as well as deeds, intention as well as performance, motive no less than act--enter into his review. Secret faults come under inspection, with presumptuous sins; what he is not as well as what he is. The truth assumed in these words is one which concerns the character of God, which gives tone to this whole prayer of David, and which it very much concerns us to see as plainly as he did--the truth, that God cannot be passive in any moral relation. Sin cannot come to the notice of God without setting something in motion against itself, any more than the poles of a battery can be brought together, without starting an electric current. God cannot let sin alone. As a Lawgiver, He must take cognisance of violated law. As a Father, He must strive to restore an erring son. As an Administrator, He must anticipate the far-reaching consequences of a violation of moral order. Here men make a vital mistake. They are deceived, and mock God by thinking that He can, by any possibility, be false to His own pure Being. They measure Him by their own standards, and think that their own good-natured tolerance of sin is measured in Him. If a man will once deliberately consider the out-branchings and consequences of a single sin, even in the light of the familiar laws of cause and effect, he will readily see what a stupendous problem is that of forgiveness, and will echo the scribes’ question,--“Who can forgive sins but God only?” We are not to expect God will literally shut our sins out of His remembrance: Nor that He will change His attitude towards sin. While God’s relation to sin remains fixed, His relation to the sinner may be changed. How, in answer to such a prayer as David’s, will man stand related to the follies and sins of his past life? He will not be entirely rid of their consequences, especially of their physical consequences. Nor will God cease to use the faultful past in the new man’s education. But He will never taunt him with the past. He wants to use the past only as a help, not as a sting. And into the heart there will come a tranquil rest, a deep peace, founded not upon hone of retrieving the past, for there may be little time left; but simply upon the conviction that God has taken the whole sadly confused and stained life into His own hands. And there will come a turning with fresh zest to redeem the time which remains. (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)
Youth should be given to God
The first born should be sacrificed to God, the first fruits should be offered to Him, yea, the firstlings of beasts if they had not been redeemed, their necks behoved to have been broken. Think ye not that God hath more respect of the first fruits of our life than He hath of the first fruits or firstlings of bullocks? Thou shouldst consecrate thy beginnings to God with Josiah, who in the morning of his life, even early, began to seek the Lord. (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore will He teach sinners in the way.
The guarantee in God for guidance from God
The Psalmist exchanges petition for contemplation; and gazes on the character of God, in order thereby to be helped to confidence in an answer to his prayer. Such alternations of petition and contemplation are the very heartbeats of devotion, now expanding in desire, and now closing on its treasure in fruition. Either attitude is incomplete without the other. Do our prayers pass into such still contemplation of the face of God?
I. The Psalmist’s thought of God. “Good and upright.” God equals here, kind, beneficent. He binds the two quantities together in the feeling of their profoundest harmony. Neither of these reaches its highest beauty and supremest power except it be associated with the other. In the spectrum analysis of that great light there are the two lines; the one purest white of righteousness, and the other tinged with a ruddier glow, the line of love. We are always tempted to wrench the two apart. Hence you get types of religion in which one or the other is emphasised to such a degree as almost to blot out the other. God is love. We cannot make too much of His love, unless by reason of it we make too little of His righteousness.
II. The calm confidence builded on this conception of the Divine character. What a wonderful “therefore” that is!--the logic of faith, not of sense. The co-existence of these two aspects in the perfect Divine character is for us a guarantee that He cannot leave men, however guilty they may be, to grope in the dark, or keep His lips locked in silence. The Psalmist does not mean guidance as to practical advantages and worldly prosperity. He means guidance as to the one important thing, the sovereign conception of duty, the eternal law of right and wrong. What is love, in its loftiest, purest, and therefore in its Divine aspect? What, except an infinite desire to impart, and that the object on which it falls shall be blessed. God is the “giving” God. Not our happiness, but our rectitude, is God’s end in all that He does for us. Since righteousness is blended with love, therefore He comes, and must desire to bring all wanderers back into the paths which are His own. God can find His way to my heart, and infuse there illumination, and pure affections, and make my eye clear to discern what is right.
III. The condition on which the fulfilment of this confidence depends. “The meek will He guide,” etc. The condition of our hearing and profiting, by the guidance is meekness; or what we might call docility, of which the prime element is the submission of our own wills to God’s. The reason why we go wrong about our duties is mainly that we do not supremely want to go right, but rather to gratify inclinations, tastes, or passions. Some of us do not wish to know what God wishes us to do. Some of us cannot bear suspense of judgment, or of decision, and are always in a hurry to be in action, and think the time lost that is spent in waiting to know what God the Lord will speak. If you do not clearly see what to do, then clearly you may see that you are to do nothing. Wait till God points the path, and wish Him to point it, and hush the noises that prevent your hearing His voice, and keep your wills in absolute submission; and, above all, he sure that you act out your convictions, and have no knowledge of duty which is not represented in your practice, and you will get all the light which you need: sometimes being taught by errors, no doubt, often being left to make mistakes as to what is expedient in regard to worldly prosperity, but being infallibly guided as to the path of duty and the path of peace and righteousness. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Our Divine Teacher
Men die for lack of knowledge, hence teaching has ever held a high place in God’s dealing with sinful man, and the Divine Teacher--the Holy Spirit--not only points out the way of life, but confers power to pursue that way. The first without the second would prove ineffective to accomplish the salvation of any man. “It would have been,” says T.G. Selby, “a cruel absurdity if someone had stepped up to Caliban or to Quasimodo, the dwarf in Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame, who impersonates all ugliness, and had said ‘Be Apollo, he is the one mould of physical perfection into which you may try and compass yourself.’ It would be insane stupidity if Tadema or Burne Jones were to go to some limbless monstrosity in a penny show and say, ‘Join our school, paint according to our methods, reproduce our best characteristics.’” The poor wretch lacks the natural endowments which fit him to take his first lessons in art.
The meditation of a devout soul upon God
God guides the soul in a certain way. What is it?
I. It is the way of moral excellence. It is described as--
1. “Judgment,” i.e. rectitude.
2. “His way,” the way which is in accordance with their nature.
3. “His covenant.” All these expressions mean holiness, for thereinto doth God guide the soul.
II. Of experimental blessedness. “All the paths of the Lord are mercy (Psalms 25:10).
1. They experience the mercy of God in their use. In healing their diseases, sustaining their existence, removing their perplexities, etc.,
2. The truth of God in their use. “Mercy and truth.”
III. Of forgiveness. “Pardon mine iniquity,” etc. (Psalms 25:11).
1. There is an urgent need for pardon; and--
2. A sovereign reason,--“Thy name’s sake.”
IV. Of moral wealth. Such wealth is--
1. Abundant. “His soul shall dwell at ease.” He shall lodge in goodness, as the margin has it.
2. Permanent, “dwell.”
3. Transmissible. “His seed shall inherit the earth.” A truly gooey man can transmit his goodness to his children, and bring them into the spiritual inheritance. And these--not the owners of broad acres--are the true inheritors of the earth.
4. Free. “What man is he that feareth the Lord? Him,” etc. It does not matter who he is, if he has true religion.
V. Of Divine friendship. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.” The man who walks in this way gets so intimate and grows so friendly with God that he becomes initiated into His secrets, acquainted with His counsels. There is no mystery in this. We see it every day where there is strong mutual sympathy between two minds.
VI. Of ultimate deliverance. “He shall pluck my feet out of the net.”
1. Men are entangled in dangers. The devil has laid his snares in all directions.
2. True men will be delivered. The “net” will be broken, the snarer confounded, and the soul set free.
3. For their eyes are ever towards the Lord. God fills up the horizon of a good man’s soul. (Homilist.)
The meek will He teach His way.
The heathen moralists give many admirable counsels, but always forget humility. They had not, indeed, the word for it. The term “humility” before Christianity meant what is base, despicable, vile. Humility can only come with the knowledge of one’s self, and man did not truly know himself until he had made a study of himself in the light of the holy God. Comparing himself only with his fellow men, he would never learn humility. There is something still more efficacious than the sight of the perfection of Jesus Christ to produce humility, it is the sight of His love. It is at the foot of the Cross humility is born. Christian humility should penetrate our entire being. Our intelligence must be humble. We are in danger of forgetting this in this age of criticism and discussion. Only that intelligence which humbles itself before God can readily teach. Our heart must be humble. We can submit our intelligence entirely to God, sacrifice our reason to Him, boast of a blind faith, and shelter in our hearts a whole world of pride. So far as humility has not yet reached and conquered our heart, it is but a theory. It happens, in the Church, that the men to whom God has dispensed the finest gifts advance in humility in the same measure as they advance in age and experience. Consider the promises which God makes to the humble. “The meek will He teach His way.” Unless man be taught he will never find God’s way. Today man’s intelligence has assumed an immense and superb confidence in itself. It has faith in its powers; it thinks that it has come to an end of all problems, that it will surmount every obstacle. It is not in the power of ignorance and mediocrity to produce humility; very often they nourish pride. Let intelligence grow, but let it never forget its dependence on God. People talk of the benefits of trial. Yes, when it is accepted in humbleness of heart: otherwise it will rather harden. It is a marvellous thing that God has never wanted to be served by the strong, but always by the humble. Pass in review all those who have served His designs, all those by whom He has taught and saved men, you will see that they all have been formed in the school of humility. Let, then, those who work for God lay hold on the thought that to humble souls alone has God taught the way of success. (E. Bersier, D. D.)
The humble taught the Lord’s way
The righteous Lord will teach sinners His way; but the sinners, in order to be thus divinely taught, must be humble. Men are comparatively little attracted by the more quiet and passive virtues of life, and among these the virtue of humility is one of the least popular. The truth is, that we are still under the influence of pagan notions about it. The philosophers of the past never understood it. Christianity has transformed and ennobled the despised word by giving us the thing itself. In Christ we see that humility makes no man contemptible. The words before us present this virtue of humility under one special aspect. Man has something to learn, and God has something to teach, and humility is teachableness. Humility is the result of self-knowledge, and this cannot be obtained until man has learned to know himself in the light of God’s wisdom and holiness. So long as he compares himself with his fellow creatures around him, it may seem to him that there is no necessity for such an element of character as this. God teaches us humility in another way. He shows us His love in Christ. How can we be proud when we know that God has loved us, and that Christ has died for us? The very faith which accepts the Gospel has its root in lowliness of mind. All our Christian life, in one aspect of it, is a growth in humility. This beautiful virtue affects our whole being, rescuing for God all that has been usurped by sin. Our reason must be humble. Our heart must be humble. Our conduct must be humble. God’s promise to “teach His way” applies to our knowledge of Divine truth; the everyday dispensations of life; our bearing towards others; and to our Christian work. (Clement Bailhache.)
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
The dealings of God with His people
This text is intended to represent a universal attribute of God, in all His ways in His government of the world. As such it sets before us an important element of strength to the Christian. To the saved, every event, of whatsoever kind or magnitude it may be, or seem to be, is under the ordering of one sole guiding hand, and is a token of mercy and truth.
I. The ascription of mercy and truth to all the paths of the Lord. Mercy in sparing and delivering His people when they do not deserve it. Truth, in that it is in accordance with promise. His Word will in the end be found faithful to the letter, and whoever takes his stand on that shall never be ashamed. There is a close connection between the Word of God and His paths. There is a great deal implied in the word “paths”: in all the events of the world we may see God moving, see by faith, that is; for His paths are in the deep waters, obliterated from view in the very act of making; His footsteps are not known, except as revealed to the spirit by the Spirit. Whatever comes to us is a path of God. For the illustration of this idea, see the evens of David’s history. You cannot unravel the web of Providence; but this is certain, “all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth.”
II. The persons in whom this attribute of God’s acts is verified. “Unto such as keep His covenant.” Hereby is intended such as have come out from their worldly conversation, and are endeavouring to run the race of God’s children as Christians in the world. The lowest may be said in some sense to “keep His covenant.” The highest do not keep it perfectly. What of the remainder? (G. Jeans, M. A.)
I. The spiritual covenanter. We have heard of the old Covenanters of Scotland. I have a picture of one. But we have to speak of those who at this day keep the covenant of the Lord. The first covenant with our first father Adam shuts up the soul in despair. But there is a new and better covenant. God has shown it to us, and written it on the tablets of our heart. The redeemed man has been the subject of a special call, and is now united to God in Christ Jesus. A true covenanter says, “Sooner death than false of faith.”
II. The covenanter’s notable experience. “All the paths of the Lord are mercy,” etc. So, then, the Lord makes many approaches to covenanting men. I like the word “paths,” for it seems to say that the Lord has walks of His own. He makes them for Himself, and comes along them quietly, taking us at unawares. And they are all of mercy and truth. That is to say, God has always shown the truth of His Word. To this rule there is no exception. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The interpretive value of obedience
The text seems, at first, to mean that the Lord is merciful and faithful to such as do His will. They shall have His blessing. As they deal with Him, so will He with them. There is a covenant, a spiritual contract, between them: on the one hand, so much obedience and loyalty; on the other, so much truth and mercy. This conception is drawn from the transactions of the market, and in its lowest terms puts religion on the level of mere sale and barter. There is, indeed, an element of truth in it; see Galatians 4:7-8. It is certain, however, that they who work just to be rewarded by God will miss it altogether. The true reward is the approval of God, and they alone will gain it who think more of God than of themselves. This is the distinction made in New Testament between faith and works. The difference is seen by comparing Jacob’s bargain with St. Francis Xavier’s “My God, I love Thee, not because I hope for heaven thereby,” etc. The Christian saint gives everything and asks nothing. I do not believe, however, that the text teaches that we are to obey God in order that He may be merciful and true to us, The meaning, I take it, is rather that those who obey Him are thereby enabled to understand His ways, and to see, even when the paths of the Lord are blind and steep, that they are, nevertheless, the paths of mercy and truth. They who keep the covenant and the testimonies of God have their eyes opened to know the purpose and motive of God’s acts. The secret of the Lord, the understanding of His strange dealings with us, is open and plain to those who are near to Him, who fear Him with the fear of devout reverence, and obey Him in the keeping of His covenant and testimonies.
I. This is plain enough in our relation to the world of nature. How shall we come into complete harmony of eye and ear and touch with our environment; how shall we see the “desirable, clear light of the new morning,” and listen fitly to the music of the brooks; how shall we so conduct ourselves that the sun and the rain, the clouds and trees and stars, the sights and sounds of nature, shall give us the satisfaction and benediction that God intends? The way is as evident as it is simple and homely: we must keep the covenant and the testimonies of God as they relate to our daily health of body; we must sleep and eat and work aright; we must answer the fitting, natural demands of our physical being, and keep ourselves alert and strong and well. Nothing else will avail. No amount of beautiful poetry read by lamplight, and no prayers said behind closed doors, can take the place of that imperative obedience to the primitive laws of bodily health by which alone we may hope to look through clear eyes upon this fair and wonderful world.
II. This everlasting fact of the interpretive value of obedience holds true in religion as in everything else. The Bible is never weary of teaching it. It is one of the eternal principles that lie at the heart of spiritual truth. The ten lepers who are cleansed as they obey are representatives of all of us: as we go along the way on which God sends us, strength and health of soul go with us. The pure in heart shall see God. They who are devoted to God, who hold all else subordinate to their service of Him, whose love of Him is the supreme fact in their lives, who live in His conscious presence, see Him and understand Him. It is as simple and natural as friendship. Their obedience opens their eyes. The chosen disciples of Jesus were able to understand Him better than the crowd, because they were keeping, as best they could, though with many blunders, the eternal laws which expressed His own will and way. He was interpreted to them by their obedience. We, too, if we would knew Him, must approach Him by this way. Not by the path of reason, perplexing ourselves among the arguments of theologians; and not by the path of authority, taking what the ecclesiastics tell us and thinking no more about it, like a blind man trying to understand a sunrise by a formula; but by the path of personal obedience is Christ best sought, so that, doing His will, we come into real sympathy with Him, and of our own selves recognise Him and believe in Him and love Him. So it is with certain hard duties to which He summons us, and which are tests of true discipleship. To love our enemies seems at first not only a difficult but an unnatural and unreasonable affection. It appears like an injustice to our friends. We say flatly, we cannot do it. And the other devout exercises which are of a piece with it, such as speaking as well as we honestly can of those who speak ill of us, and turning the other cheek, and going two miles for those who would compel us to go one, and doing good to those who despitefully use us, the more we simply talk or think about these requirements of Jesus, the more impossible they seem. But when we stop discussing and obey! when in this or that immediate instance we do the Master’s will, hard as it is, going out of our way to render a kind service to one who has injured us, forbearing to defend our rights, giving up our own strong case and letting our importunate neighbour have his way, actually permitting him to take advantage of us if he will; when we simply do what Jesus tells us to do, and what He Himself was forever doing, then the blessed light shines out upon us, and we understand how this Christian behaviour is not only the best thing in a vague and general way for society, but is the very best for us in particular, and there is a consciousness of the approbation of God, and a new and consequent joy in living, which is far better than any advantage we might have gained by pushing in ahead. We keep the covenant and the testimonies of God, and our obedience interprets them, and it is made plain and sure to us that His paths are truth and mercy. Or, to take another illustration, misfortune of some kind befalls us, grief attends us, the world goes wrong, the light of life is turned of a sudden into black darkness, and a sore burden, too heavy, we think, for us to bear, is set upon our shoulders, and it is desperately hard to see how the paths of the Lord are “mercy.” They may be “truth,” they may be right; we may be punished for our sins; but how they can mean “mercy,” how there can be any fatherly love in them, as the Gospel tells us, passes our understanding. Then, if we betake ourselves to philosophy, there is but cold and scanty comfort. A wise man wrote a book on the consolations of philosophy, and another wise man advises us to be revenged upon fate by becoming philosophers; excellent counsel for the minor perplexities and vexations that beset us. But under a black sky, when things are not only amiss, but dreadfully and tragically amiss, it is a weary and unsatisfying occupation. We cannot by our understanding find out the ways of God. What shall we do, then? Let us submit and obey. Let us take up the new burden and carry it, facing life anew under these strange and hard conditions, and seeking to do our daily duty in it, keeping the covenant and the testimonies of the Lord. That is the way that leads to light. So it is throughout, in every alternative; everything comes right if we obey God. This very world in which we live our daily lives is already heaven to those who do the will of God as it is done in heaven. Here and today, they who keep the commandments receive the blessing of which Jesus assured us; they enter into life. (George Hodges, D. D.)
For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.
A prayer for pardon and its plea
The context shows that this is the prayer of a man who had long loved and served God. Yet side by side with this consciousness of devotion and service there lie the profound sense of sin, and of the need of pardon. This consciousness of transgression and cry for pardon are inseparable and permanent accompaniments of a devout life all along its course, but they are the roots and beginnings of all godliness. As a rule, the first step which a man takes to knit himself consciously to God is through the gate of recognised and repeated and confessed sin, and imploring the Divine mercy.
I. The cry for pardon. There are two elements in forgiveness. There is the forgiveness known to law and practised by the lawgiver. And there is the forgiveness known to love, and practised by the friend, or parent, or lover. The one consists in the remission of external penalties. But there is a forgiveness deeper than legal pardon. We must carry both of these ideas into our thoughts of God’s pardon, in order to get the whole fulness of it. Scripture recognises as equally real and valid, in our relations to God, the judicial and the fatherly side of the relationship.
II. The plea for pardon. “For Thy name’s sake.”
1. The mercy of God flows from the infinite depths of His own character. He is His own motive. He forgives because He is God.
2. The past of God is a plea with God for present forgiveness. “Thy name” in Scripture means the whole revelation of the Divine character.
3. The Divine forgiveness is in order that men may know Him better. Nothing reveals the sweetness of the Divine name like the assurance of His pardon.
III. The reason for this earnest cry. “For it is great.” That may be a reason for the pardon; more probably it is a reason for the prayer. The fact is true in regard to us all. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
A prayer and a plea
Consider this prayer.
I. It is an unreserved confession of sin.
1. As his own.
2. As great. In both respects men fail in such confession. They acknowledge sin in general, but not as their own; or they extenuate and excuse it.
II. A humble application for mercy. The unregenerate man will not thus humble himself, but will trust to his good works and his fancied good deservings.
III. The plea urged. “For Thy name’s sake.” It is drawn from God, not from himself. It looks to the Saviour, who is the manifestation of God’s name. Let this be our only plea.
IV. The strong faith of this prayer. David believed that God would forgive though his sin were great. Most people see God as all mercy or all wrath. Not so David. Have we such holy faith? (T. Cooper.)
A plea for pardon
I. A confession of sin. We shall be induced to make such a confession, if we consider that--
1. Our sins are great in number. How often do we offend! How many have been the follies of our childhood, the crimes of our youth, and the backslidings of our riper age!
2. Our sins are great in their turpitude. This appears from the Being against whom sin is committed; from the dignity and circumstances of its subjects, from the degrading character which it sustains, and from the awful effects which it produces.
3. Our sins are great in their demerit. The punishment due to sin must be in proportion to the majesty and glory of God, whose dignity it daringly insults, and whose law it impiously violates.
II. An APPROPRIATE request for pardon.
1. The language of genuine repentance.
2. The language of devout solicitude.
3. The language of humble confidence.
III. AN argument urged to obtain success. It suggests--
1. The pardon of sin displays the glory of the Divine perfections. God’s name signifies His nature.
2. The pardon of sin demonstrates the efficacy of Christ’s atonement.
3. The pardon of sin exemplifies the truth of the sacred Scriptures. In conclusion, warn the careless, encourage the penitent, and congratulate the saints, who have received the “knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins.” (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
Confession and absolution
I. Confession is to be made distinctly and directly, and only to the Lord. There were priests and prophets in those days, but David unfolds the story of his sin to God Himself. He realises that all sin is directly aimed at God. Observe in David’s confession the utter absence of excuses. In this confession there is no mention of punishment. David does not ask to be let off. He asks for pardon solely and simply. And David had a true conception of the heinousness of sin.
II. A pleading prayer. Two pleas, The first he finds in God. “For Thy name’s sake.” He was God’s own child, and he pleads his sonship. The second he finds in his own sinfulness. Many mistake by asking pardon because the iniquity is small. The strongest plea is to say to God, “Have mercy upon me, for I am a great sinner. I have sinned in a thousand ways, and even ten thousand times.” True confession brings the true absolution. (Thomas Spurgeon.)
The prayer for pardon
I. The prayer for pardon. The Psalm is an appeal for Divine guidance amidst the perplexity of life. But the author is driven to think of his unworthiness to receive it because of past perverseness. Are we not all thus placed? The reason why many are lost in the mazes of doubt is because they have not humbled themselves to penitence.
II. The grounds of the prayer for pardon.
1. God’s faithfulness. The “name” God is used constantly as synonymous with His character. Forgiveness is a Divine disposition as well as an act. God is acting in accordance with His own nature in listening to this prayer. The words not only suggest God’s character, but His word. “For Thy name’s sake” means for Thy honour, who hast pledged Thy word.
2. The suppliant’s need. “For it is great.” This is an argument that needs no mastering. For who cannot expatiate on his needs! Rejoice in the knowledge that the very thing which dismays thee, O sinner,--the greatness of thy offence,--may be used as a reason why God should forgive thee. At the door of our good and bountiful Lord the plea of utter destitution will ensure relief. The wretchedness of thy crushed condition beneath a mountain load of guilt will stir the Divine compassion. (Walter Hawkins.)
A true mark of a penitent
A true mark of a penitent sinner, to aggravate his sin. Some use to extenuate their sins by comparing them with the sins of others, which they think far greater than theirs are; others excuse them, as Adam did when he said, The woman which Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat; she again excused herself, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. But let the children of God search and find out the greatness of their sins, and aggravate them, that God may extenuate and so forget them. Are ye laden with sin? remember it, and God will forget it, and ease you; if ye have it before your eyes He shall cast it behind His back; but if you think nothing of sin, God will bind it on your back, so that it shall press you down as a millstone. (A. Symson.)
A strange plea
We should not expect a criminal before an earthly judge to advance such a plea as this. Yet before the highest Judge of all this is the argument, the wise argument, of the awakened soul. We should not value God’s pardon when obtained if we thought lightly of our sin. When our eyes are opened to see the extent of our ruin we can turn this appalling discovery into the argument of the text. These words represent a real personal conviction of sin.. We are ready enough to accept such a statement about our sins, without the slightest degree of humility or penitential sorrow. Consider what it is that makes sin great.
I. It is great according to the position it occupies in the moral scale. There is a subjective as well as an objective measure of sin. Each sin may be judged in the abstract according to its heinousness; but when it is committed we have to consider the conditions under which it was committed. Its guilt must depend on a variety of considerations. Two offenders may commit precisely the same offence, and yet one may be morally much guiltier than the other.
II. Sin is great, in proportion to the advantages and privileges of the sinner. Many will not admit this. Respectable church-going people plume themselves on their privileges, as though the possession of these might be accepted as a proof that their own spiritual condition could not be otherwise than satisfactory.
III. Sin is great, in consideration of the character of those against whom it is committed. The exceeding sinfulness of sin lies in its being an offence against infinite love revealed.
IV. Sin is great, in proportion to its frequency. If a man is proved to be a confirmed criminal, then you may be sure that the heaviest sentence the law allows will be meted out to him. How often have we sinned against God!
V. Sin is great in proportion to the amount of deliberate intention with which it is committed. Some of our sins are the result of a momentary temptation, and may be attributed to a passing weakness. This may extenuate our guilt. But we cannot speak thus of the determined, deliberate, and resolute resistance that we have offered to the pleadings of the Holy Ghost in our souls. The text contains another plea, “For Thy name’s sake.” Our hope lies there. It is the glory of God to undertake our case when it is desperate, and He shows His almighty power most chiefly by showing mercy and pity. The moral glory of God shines out more, so far as we can judge, in pardoning a sinner than in making a world. And we honour His name most when we trust Him to do this. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
God’s principal aim is to bring us all to feel that our iniquity is great.
I. David declared that his was great. What is it that makes our sin great?
1. Against whom it has been committed.
2. That it is offence against most just and equitable law.
3. That we who owe so much to God should sin against Him.
Think of the number of your sins and the lack of all provocation. We have sinned for sinning’s sake. And we have gone on in sin after we have known and felt the evil of it.
II. There is a plea in the very greatness of our sins. The pith of the whole text lies in the words which we forget to quote--“For Thy name’s sake.” The confession is an argument now. There is a valid plea here. If salvation were by merit, then the least offender would get off best. But it is all by grace; and hence the greater the pardon, the greater the glory of that grace in bestowing it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The cry for pardon
I. The confession. “Mine iniquity, for it is great.” The confession of a regenerate man: the spirit teaches and prompts. The natural man excuses, palliates, minimises his sin; uses false weights and measures. Our view depends on distance, position, light, and medium. God views according to unerring standard, and in clearest light; so more and more does the spirit-taught soul. Sense of sin grows as we come nearer to God. This confession is not vague, unmeaning, mere form. Take one sin--anyone--and look at it in the light; weigh it in the scales; it is great. Consider the magnitude and multitude of your sins.
II. The prayer. “Pardon.” Appeal from law to grace; of these there can be no mixture. Great sins do not bar this appeal. Great sin means great need. No extenuating circumstances can be urged; none are needed. Pardon is free, immediate, complete, and continual.
III. The plea. For Thy names sake. All selfment is disowned. God delights to pardon. God has promised to pardon. God’s name, character, word, promise, covenant are all involved in hearing prayer--this prayer. Christ is the embodiment of the Divine name for sinners, and the sinner’s plea with God. (James Smith, M. A.)
What man is he that feareth the Lord?
The fear of God a restraining influence
This secret fear, if it be once planted in the heart, will direct thee in all good actions acceptable to God, and correct thy evil doings. The love of God hath a constraining power whereby it compelleth and forceth us to serve Him: the fear of God hath a restraining power, by which it restraineth and stayeth us, and keepeth us back from offending Him: this is like a bit, that like a spur. Abraham feared that the fear of God was not in the place whereto he went. Joseph being enticed by his mistress to commit wickedness with her, answered, How can I do this great wickedness, and so sin against God? The Lord plant this fear in our hearts. This is a filial fear which he craveth, coming from love, and not a servile fear, which cometh from fear of punishment. The preserver of this fear in thee is a continual nourishment in thy mind of the presence of God, to whom thou presentest all thy actions. Will He teach the way that he shall choose. He promiseth four benefits to the man that feareth God,--He heapeth upon him grace upon grace: before He pardoned him, and now He directeth the man whom He forgave: for no sooner receiveth He any man in His favour, but He immediately takes the protection and direction of him. But out of these words we see three things. First, that there are divers, yea contrary ways, as there are contrary ends, the broad and the narrow, the King’s way and by-roads, the way of life and of death. This is against such as dream to themselves that whatsoever religion they profess, or howsoever they live, they shall go to heaven; but they are deceived, for if thou be not in the way to the kingdom thou shalt never attain to the kingdom; many, yea the most part, are not going but riding, not running but posting, to hell; of whom, if it be demanded whither they go? they will answer, to heaven; yea, and they will brag that they are nearer God than the preacher himself, even as if one should dream of life at the point of death. Next, we see that a man cannot of himself choose the right way to heaven; for the natural man cannot apprehend those things which appertain to God’s kingdom, neither yet can he see them, for they are spiritually discerned. Whereupon followeth the third, that is, how man shall choose the good and refuse the evil way. It is not in him that runneth, nor in him that willeth, but in God that sheweth mercy. Moses chose rather to suffer with the Church than to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. (A. Symson.)
The fruits of godly fear
The “fear of God” is a familiar expression in the Scriptures. Let us lay hold of one element in the spacious word. When we profoundly fear a thing we are haunted by it. It affects everything. To fear God is to be God-haunted, God-possessed. But this figure is defective. In all fruitful fear of God there is no cringing, no slavishness, no paralysing terror. Perfect love “casteth out” this type of fear. Change the figure. We speak of being haunted by an air of music. In such a way the man who fears God is haunted by God’s presence; God is an abiding consciousness. Everything is seen in relationship to God. What would be the fruits of such a fear? The succeeding verses give some outline of the spacious ministry. “Him shall He teach in the way that he shall choose.” He shall be guided in his choices. He shall have the gift of enlightenment. His discernment shall be refined so as to perceive the right way when the ways are many. His moral judgment shall be instructed. The moral choice shall be firm and sure. The practical judgment shall be nurtured and refined in the Lord’s school. “His soul shall dwell at ease.” Restlessness and worry shall be abolished. The sense of the companionship of God will make every place the realm of promise, and in every place he will find the riches of grace. “His seed shall inherit the earth.” Children become heirs when parents become pious. The God-possessed transmits a legacy of blessing. It would be a profitable thing to calculate what one may inherit because another man was good. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.” They are taken into intimate fellowship. To be made the depository of a rare secret is to be sealed as a friend. How can we become God-haunted? Let us begin by deliberately consulting God in the individual movements of our busy life. Refer everything to His decision Begin by distinct acts of volition This may become at length an easy-fitting habit, and may even ripen into the spontaneity of an instinct. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.
The secret of the Lord
Then the Lord has a secret. Why does He not tell it to every man? Why do we not tell our secrets to every man? Every man does not understand us. We always best understand those who are like-minded with us. God gives His secret to them that fear Him. We individually give our secret--knowledge of our inner self--to those who see eye to eye with us, and by so much would not, cannot, offend us. That which must necessarily be a secret to some, even knowledge of ourselves, is, all else being equal, most obtainable by them that fear us; by them who put confidence in us. It is even so with society; its secret is with them that fear it. Outrage the moral sense of society, or even its sense of propriety, and refuse to be reconciled, and society will cast you adrift. He who acquiesces in the ways of society is received by society, and gets from it such secret as it has to reveal. He knows society through reconciliation, through a species of fear, in which there is an admixture of love.. The secret of business is with him who bends his will to it. The secret of all science, and all art, is with them that love it. No love, no secret, in personal intercourse, in industrial pursuits, in society. The more love, the more knowledge or secret. Admiration, devotion, love, each according to its nature and degree opens all locks and doors and souls. Have the spirit of any given man, and his secret is yours. Have his spirit entirely, and you have him. Harmony with God, sympathy, animation by His Spirit is necessary to knowing Him. (J. S. Swan.)
The secret of the Lord
I. The class of persons spoken of. Those that “fear the Lord.”
1. Fear sometimes signifies fear of God’s punishments. This fear is better than none at all, as it exercises a restraining power over men who would otherwise commit sin.
2. But there is a fear which merits the severest reprobation: when it fears God because it considers Him to be an angry, vindictive being.
3. There is a fear which deserves the highest commendation; it is filial fear, the fear which an affectionate child has of grieving its father, or causing him pain.
II. The privilege which such persons enjoy. “The secret of the Lord is with them.” God holds communion and fellowship with men whose hearts are rightly disposed towards them. Suppose a group of persons discussing the conduct and policy of some public man. All kinds of opinions might be expressed, favourable or otherwise. But of what worth would they be compared with the word of one who knows this public man personally, intimately, who is in his secret, and can speak with confidence regarding his public conduct? Or the “secret” may be illustrated ill another way--by the relation in which two friends stand to each other, who are in perfect sympathy with one another. How they would understand each other! A glance of the eye, a mere hint, suffices to reveal the mind of the one to the other. So the favour and fellowship of God are enjoyed by the man who fears Him. What do we know about this “secret”? The infidel Hume taunted his servant with believing in nonsense. He replied that in his History of England Hume told of Queen Mary, who said that when she died, Calais would be found written on her heart. So, the servant said, Christ was written on his heart. This is the secret of the Lord. (W. Logan, M. A.)
The teachings of God within and without
God reveals Himself in two ways to man. God wrote His word “on the pages of the elements.” But even on the heathen He wrote a more inward law, which answered to the outward and interpreted its voice--the law of conscience. Each of these voices is made more distinct as man is brought nearer to God. And when we forget both, He has given us the writings of the law, the voices of the prophets, the melody of the Psalms, the instruction of Proverbs, the experiences of histories, the words of Jesus and the Apostles. He speaks, too, by His Spirit. God ever speaks to the heart, as He speaks through the Word; for He cannot contradict Himself. What then? Because God must prepare the heart and open the ear and Himself speak to it, does nothing depend on us? It is with us to hearken or no. “The secret of the Lord” is a hushed voice, a gentle intercourse of heart to heart, a still small voice whispering to the inner ear. How should we hear it if we fill our ears and our hearts with the din of this world? There are two conditions, as there are degrees of inward hearing. You must fear God. You must be hushed yourselves. They who do not fear God cannot hear the secret. In grace, God forecomes man, and man follows grace given. In sin, on the contrary, man begins; he casts out grace, deadens his own car, until God’s voice sounds fainter and fainter. The question on which all hangs is this--is the flesh subdued to the Spirit, or the Spirit stifled by the flesh? This is the first condition of knowing the will of God, that we will to know it wholly. In vain is heaven opened to eyes fixed on earth. Love sees God The Psalmist speaks not of the “secret of the Lord” only, but of a “secret converse” with the soul, as of a friend with his friend. To have the love of the Great Friend, we must desire no love out of Him. St. Bernard says, “A secret counsel calleth for a secret hearing. He will assuredly make thee hear of joy and gladness if thou receivest Him with a sober car.” “They who would behold God,” says St. Gregory, “dwell in a loneliness of soul, and free from the tumults of worldly cares, thirst for God.” (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
The knowledge of God revealed to them that fear Him
The secret of the Lord means, that which cannot be known unless the Lord reveal it. And the phrase here implies an intimate knowledge of the Divine perfections, of the dealings and dispensations of God; a holy and vital communion with Him; an entire trust in His providential care and government, together with that peace which always dwells in the bosom of a true, penitent, pious believer. All this, including, as it does, a full acquaintance with the doctrines and duties, the privileges and comforts of the life of faith, is called the “secret of the Lord,” for man naturally knows nothing of them (Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 2:9; 1 Corinthians 2:9). Men think all this enthusiasm, and have no notion that there is anything in religion which they, by their own skill, are not competent to discover. But, for instance, how can any man who neglects the worship of God pretend to decide upon its importance or utility? It is a matter of experience, and he is unqualified to judge. Because the sinner, when overtaken by sickness or affliction, declares that he derives no comfort from religion, are we therefore to conclude that religion has no comforts to bestow? The promises of the Gospel belong to them that fear the Lord. These persons, when they read the Scriptures, are blessed through them; theirs, too, is the secret of peace in the midst of trouble and in the hour of death. (T. Slade, M. A.)
The reward of fear
Think what God’s secret told to a man must be.
I. It must be one of knowledge. You all know what the Bible is to the natural heart. It gives information, much and valuable, about most important things. But there it ends. It does not touch us, does not move us, does not make us feel. But see the true Christian over his Bible. How he drinks in his words, and how they refresh and comfort him. How he trusts them, and lives by them. He has got the secret of his Bible.
II. It must be a secret of safety. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” That is just what we cannot do; we have no such tower. Life’s troubles find us out of doors, and beat upon us. How insecure, defenceless, comfortless we are. A tale was once written of a man who had committed a murder, a base, treacherous, but well-concealed murder, after which he lived for many years in respect and honour, in the gratification of all tastes and wishes, in affluence, and comfort, and domestic love, till a day of late discovery and late retribution. People spoke of this as an “immoral story,” because it gave the man half a life of enjoyment. But that was a short-sighted judgment. How little could such observers know of the torture that man endured from the one fact of his consciousness of insecurity; that at any moment ruin might come. Without security, which is a sense of safety, no happiness is worth the name. The secret of the Lord is a secret of safety.
III. A secret of strength. How strong a weak person may become who has it. And we have known strong men become weak for the lack of it.
IV. A secret of peace. The wicked are like the “troubled sea.” There is such a thing as a false peace; but a man must have gone very far astray before he can know that, the peace of spiritual death. Between these two extremes, the peace of God and the peace of death, there lies a very wide and dreary morass, a state of disquiet and unrest.
V. Consider the communication of this secret. It is given to them who “fear Him.” There are two kinds of fear: that fear which is cast out by love, and that fear which is part of love. It is a very serious thing when the foundations of religion are not laid deep in the fear of God. Remember that the fear of God, like everything else, must come instrumentally by practice. Abstain from something tonight, each one of you, some thought, some word, some act, by a great effort if necessary, on this single ground, that it will displease God. Do so again tomorrow; in a little while it will become easier to you, at last it will become habitual. (C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
A palace of Divine secrets
I ask you to come with me through a spiritual palace, and I will describe the several apartments.
I. We turn aside into a wide and spacious hall. Before us is a throne, high and lifted up,--it is the throne of grace. Watch the comers as they enter; their penitential aspect, humility, solicitude; listen to their confessions and their requests. They have come with woe, care, perplexity, sin. But they all fear Him, and so are admitted to the secret of prayer.
II. Another chamber--the armoury of light. Nations boast their arsenals, but there is none like this. Watch those who are coining in and being armed.
III. The treasure room which contains the book of life. Old books are counted as treasures. Here is one of the oldest, and it is indestructible. Let Mosaic chronology be mistaken, it only makes this book a little more venerable; for it was made ere the foundations of the earth. Whose names are in it? This is one of the Lord’s secrets. But all those who have been born again of the Spirit of God are written there.
IV. The chamber of consolation. Numerous visitors come crowding in. Heavily laden, worn-out, exhausted, fainting ones. They have all come to the right place. Here are staffs, cordials, medicines, anchors, lights, garments of praise.
V. The room named “Cross of love.” This is the highest of all. Here is revealed the secret of secrets. A soft and heavenly light fills the whole chamber. St. Paul was often in this room; it had a special charm for him.
VI. The tower of the palace. It is the “Tower of Vision.” Winding up its alabaster stairs, well-worn but ever-renewed, we at last reach the lofty summit. Below us is the world, half hidden by the mist, its hum scarcely audible. Our eyes climb up to the regions of serene and perpetual light, to the holy splendours of the city of our God. (W. A. Essery.)
Hidden manna, or The mystery of saving grace
The saving grace that the children of God have is a secret that none in the world know besides. It is called a secret in three ways. Secret to the eye of nature; but this is not meant. Secret to the eye of taught nature; but this is not meant. Secret to the eye of enlightened nature; this is meant. It is a secret to all unsanctified professors. It is called a mystery. Grace is spiritual, and can only be received by the spiritually minded. A man must have another secret before he can know this secret. He must be a new creature.
1. Use for instruction. Is God’s secret with them that fear Him? Then the godly are the friends of God. Then the godly are all one with God.
2. For refutation. Away with all who say that God gives no secret thing to any one man more than another.
3. For consolation. They are so honoured with the Lord that God hides no good thing from them that is necessary to their salvation.
4. For terror to the wicked. Here is horror to all the ungodly; they are strangers from God, they are not admitted into God’s secrets. (W. Fermer.)
The Lord’s secret
1. The fear of the Lord--its origin is of God. Its effect is cleansing, purifying from the power and love of sin (Psalms 19:9). The fear of the Lord is clean, or cleansing; its evidence is in assembling with the Lord’s people (Malachi 3:16). “Then they that feared the Lord,” etc., but this fear is not the cause of the blessings spoken of, but the proof.
2. In every heart thus filled with the fear of God there is a communication of a secret. The Lord opens His mind and His heart to them, and, to begin with the lowest, there is the secret working of His grace, in conviction of sin, of righteousness, of pardon and peace--in the creation of a spirit of prayer and praise; all these being the work of grace in the soul. Then there is the secret witness of the Spirit, testifying to their adoption into His family, and the secret whispers of His love, whereby He continues to assure the soul by these tokens, that He has loved that soul with an everlasting love, and prepared it for a crown of glory.
3. The promise. Something more in prospect--He will show them His covenant. The “everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure;” this was Davids support in trouble and in the hour of death. He will show them, will teach them, more and more therein, the nature of it, the duration of it, its comprehensiveness, its security, its terms and conditions, its blessings and promises, all in Christ, and Christ in all. (A. Hewlett, M. A.)
God’s greatest secret
The secret of the Lord is His sending His Son into the world for the redemption of lost mankind.
I. The Gospel of Christ is a mystery. It is not attainable without supernatural revelation. It was undiscoverable by the most exalted powers of human understanding until God, out of infinite mercy, was pleased Himself to reveal it. But even after the clearest revelation that our present state is capable of there must be owned to be, in the Christian religion, mysteries far surpassing the highest pitch of human understanding. To “know in part” is too poor and mean a degree of knowledge for our modem Christian philosophers. To them there must be nothing in Christianity mysterious. Examine their pretensions, and we shall find that they neither speak of faith as becomes Christians, nor of reason as becomes men. How far are we glad to allow the use of reason in Divine matters?
1. Reason is of great use in asserting the principles of natural religion, such as the Being of a God; the obligation to worship Him; the immortality of the soul; and the eternal and essential difference between good and evil, partly discoverable by natural light.
2. Reason is useful, since it is from rational inducements that we first admit even revelation itself. It is by reason we distinguish what is truly Divine from enthusiasm and imposture.
3. Reason is of excellent use in expounding and interpreting the mind and meaning of Holy Writ, as long as it is sober and modest and keeps strictly to the analogy of faith.
4. Reason is usefully employed in stopping the mouths of gainsayers, in enlightening their blindness or subduing their contumacy, in confuting heretics by turning their own weapons upon them, and vindicating Divine truth from all those calumnies which are unjustly brought against it. But in the sublime mysteries of our religion reason has no more to do, when it is once satisfied and convinced of the revelation, but to receive from it those truths which by its own natural powers it never had been able to have found out.
II. The qualifications requisite in those that are to receive this great mystery. “Them that fear Him.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of that wisdom which alone makes wise unto salvation; and that--
1. By a natural efficiency. Whoever loves the precepts of God, and delights to do what He commands, will meet with little difficulty in believing what He reveals. There is a natural and easy passage from loving to believing. True saving faith requires a devout and humble submission of the mind and heart, a complacency and delight and joy in the truths that it receives.
2. Besides this natural tendency, there are through the whole Scripture many signal examples, as well as positive promises, of faith and heavenly knowledge to a due and sincere practice of what we already know. Inferences--
(1) Since pride and self-concept and a too confident relying upon our own reason have been shown to be so dangerous and destructive of our holy faith, let us strive to attain a deep and true humility of spirit, and a just sense of our own natural blindness and infirmity. Let us avoid all curious and nice inquiries into things that are too high for us.
(2) Let us heartily and industriously and zealously set upon this work, the fulfilling the whole will of our Lord. Then there would soon be no remains of infidelity left in us; we should soon, then, to our unspeakable joy and satisfaction, feel, by a sincere and strict observance of the Christian duties, that we should no longer have any doubts or scruples of the Christian faith. (R. Duke.)
All religions have their areana, or secrets known only to those who are within. The religion of the Bible does not disdain to acknowledge its own secrets, and to drive away from its archives those who come with irreverent curiosity to pry into the contents of revelation. By “secret” we are hero to understand familiar intercourse. The word here rendered “secret” is traced to a word which means couch; the idea is that of two friends seated upon the same couch, holding confidential intercourse. The talk is as between companions, and is conducted in eager whispers. God is represented thus as bringing to a loving heart His own peculiar messages and communications, which he will not publish to the general world. God has so made His universe that its various parts talk to one another. Men hold friendly and confiding intercourse. The sun is full of lessons, so are the flowers, so are all the winds that blow, so are the forests, and so are the oceans. All these may be said to be open secrets; that is to say, men may discover their meanings for themselves--by comparison, by the study of analogy, by the watching of the coming and going phenomena of nature. But beyond this open revelation there is a secret covenant. God calls His children into inner places, and there, in hushed and holy silence, He communicates His thought as His children are able to receive it. “he will show them His covenant”; He will read to them His own decrees; He will be His own interpreter, and make plain to the heart things that are mysterious to the intellect. We are to remember that in holding these secrets we do not hold them originally, or as if by right: we hold them simply as stewards or trustees, and we are not to make them common property. The heart should always know something that the tongue has never told. Deep in our souls there should be a peace created by communion with God which no outward riches can disturb. “The secret of the Lord” may not mean any curious knowledge of mere details, or of future events, or the action and interaction of history; but it may mean, and does mean, a complete and immutable confidence that God reigns over His whole creation, and is doing everything upon a basis and under a principle which must eventuate in final and imperturbable peace. The universe is not governed in any haphazard way. This word “covenant” has been, no doubt, abused, perverted, or misapplied; but its use indicates that the Divine plan is sovereign, settled, unchangeable. The universe is the Word of God, and it cannot fail of its purpose. Revelation is the heart of the Most High, and every jot and tittle of it will be fulfilled. The truly religious life is not a matter of mere intellectual intelligence, or information, or power of argument; it is a profound persuasion clothe heart, a real, simple, solid trust in the righteousness and goodness of God. How such a trust lifts us above the fret and the anxiety of ever-changing details! This passage is in perfect harmony with many assurances given by Jesus Christ Himself. He promised the Holy Spirit to abide with the Church, to show the Church things to come, and to take of the things of Christ and show them unto the Church. The secret of the Lord is thus an ever-enlarging mystery--an ever-enlarging benefaction. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
Revelations to those who obey
There are commentators who refer this verse, not to the external orderings of God’s providence, but to the mental assurance which God gives those that fear Him, of the truth of His Word, and the adequacy of the religion it reveals, to satisfy the wants of the soul. This mental assurance, wrought into the soul by God Himself, is thought by some to be the secret of the Lord here intended. The Saviour is believed to refer to this secret assurance in the words, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God” (John 7:17). The Jews had denied the Divine reality of His miracles, and also that the Messianic prophecies had been verified in Him. “Very well,” answers our Lord, “I propose to you another means of testing My claim to be your Messiah and Saviour. Practise the precepts of the religion I teach you, and you shall soon have revealed to you the secret whether it be of God. Do His will, and you shall know of the doctrine. In obeying the precept, all else shall become plain.” I knew a man who acted upon this saying of the Saviour. He admired, as perfect, the preceptive portions of the Bible, but stumbled at some of its peculiar doctrines. He determined, therefore, to ascertain what effect obeying the precepts would have toward dissipating his difficulties in regard to the doctrines of our religion. He therefore at once endeavoured to live in every respect as he would have lived had he been a Christian: reading, praying, attending public worship, and making the moral code of the Bible his only rule of action. So obeying the precept, in less than a twelvemonth’s time the secret of the Lord was revealed to him, the truth of all the doctrines of God’s covenant of redeeming mercy in Christ was made plain to his understanding and grateful to his heart. Here is a cure for scepticism within the reach of every man. (David Caldwell, M. A.)
Knowledge the reward of obedience
1. There are some parts of the Bible which none but a learned man can understand or explain. There are seeming difficulties and discrepancies in the Bible which may escape the notice of the casual reader, but of which all well-instructed theologians are aware, since they are standing objections in the mouth of the sceptic or the scorner.
2. There are some parts of the Bible which all can understand. No one who reads the New Testament, or who hears it read, can doubt what be ought to do, and what he ought not to do. The Bible is clear about many of its doctrines.
3. There is a middle class of truths that are easy of comprehension to some, and hard to others,--truths which human learning cannot impart, nor the want of learning, as such, exclude from the mind. These are the most solemn and most important teachings of Scripture, which tell us of the intimate relations which exist between man and his God: such as, the doctrines of the corruption of our nature; of the degrading and shameful conduct of sin; of our need of salvation and purification; of our own inability to purify and save ourselves; of the priceless blessings involved in the atonement of Jesus, and in the gift of the Holy Spirit. Of all these doctrines it may justly be said, they are easy or hard to be understood by different persons, and sometimes even by the same persons at different times. The practical knowledge of these great truths is an effort beyond the power of the intellect, apart from the convictions and aspirations of the soul. The natural man understandeth not the things of the Spirit of God. They are spiritually discerned, and mere learning cannot spiritually discern. “If any man will do God’s will he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. An obedience springing from true faith is the key by which we are to unlock the hidden and more precious mysteries of the heavenly kingdom. (G. W. Brameld.)
The knowledge of covenant securities
The Rev. F.B. Meyer, when speaking of God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises, used the striking illustration of the deed to a house. The deed may be very old. It may be hard to decipher. The parchment may be stained and cracked. The inmates of the home in their busy life may forget all about it. But the very existence of the home depends upon it, and if it were lost and could not be replaced, sorrow and poverty and wretchedness would be the portion of that household. So our peace of soul, our very spiritual life, depends on the covenant which God the Father made long ago on our behalf with Christ the Son, that for His sake our sins should be forgiven and we should have a right to the many mansions.
Turn Thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
A sufferer’s prayer
How tender is this language, and how instructive too. David was a sufferer as well as a king. But he is a petitioner also, He prays for--
II. A kind look from God is desirable at any time, but in affliction and pain it is like life from the dead. Therefore he says, “Look upon mine affliction and pain.”
III. Pardon. “Forgive all my sins.” This was his meaning; let it be ours. (W. Jay.)
The cry of the afflicted
Look at Loch Lomond. A hundred feet of water, deep and dark and deadly; the waves that slumber yonder at the foot of the Ben will drown you. Yes, but when God sent out His frost, when from the caves of the north there crept the congealing influence, lo! the waves slumbered and slept, and you walked and skimmed on your ringing steels across the congealed billows. The same lake, but so transformed that you could skim across its surface. Some of you know what it is to be almost overwhelmed with the billows of trouble. They roll over you again and again, and recede but to Come on with redoubled power, until at last you cry out, “Lord, save me, or I perish.” Then there comes a great calm, and you just skim across the billows of your daily toil, because Christ your Saviour has told the troubles and difficulties and monotony to sleep. Oh, what a glorious thing the grace of Christ is! (John Robertson.)
I wonder if they are able to say of us in the time of sorrow and bereavement and trouble, “Behold, he prayeth.” Those travellers, as they pass, are suddenly arrested by a sound that is strange to them, and they ask what it is. It is David at his prayers. Ah, he is all right! Pray on, David; do not be ashamed of your voice--let it sound out. It is nobler thus to pray, than with loud, uplifted voice to give the command to thine armies to fall in to the front: and David’s voice had done that for many a day. A ringing, clarion peal the warrior had given in his time: “Fall in to the front. They loved to ear it in Israel. When the king spake, it reminded them of the old days when the right arm of the young warrior did valiant things for Jehovah; and they liked to hear his voice rise above the din of battle: but it is nobler, kinglier, and far more grand to hear the old king with his quavering voice lifted up in prayer.
A godly man’s appeal
I. On behalf of self.
1. For deliverance from suffering (Psalms 25:16). “The road to heaven,” says an old writer, “is soaked with the tears and blood of the saints.”
2. For forgiveness (Psalms 25:18). He traced his sufferings to his sins. Sin is the gall in the cup of life; the root of the pestiferous tree of all natural evil. From suffering we infer sin. He believed that his sins had to do with God. Wrong in any form or department of life is sin against Him. “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned.” He knew that Gods forgiveness was necessary to his deliverance.
3. For preservation of life, of confidence, of character (Psalms 25:21).
II. On behalf of society (Psalms 25:22). There is nothing selfish in genuine piety. The man who prays and struggles only for his own salvation is utterly destitute of genuine religion. His creed may be correct, and all his religious observances, but he has not the root of the matter in him. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Look upon mine affliction and my pain.
A troubled prayer
I. It is well for us when our prayers about our sorrows are linked with prayers about our sins. Our sorrows profit us when they bring our sins to mind.
1. They give us time for thought. A sick bed has often been a place of repentance.
2. Our sorrows are often the direct result of our sins. Then we cannot but remember them. Not to have sorrow when we sin is a mark of the reprobate.
3. When our sorrows are so like our sins. Jacob was a crafty deceiver, and he in his turn was, once and again, craftily deceived. He was a great bargain maker, and he in his turn was once and again craftily deceived. He cheated his father, and so everybody cheated him, of course. How often we have to eat the fruit of our own ways!
4. They drive us out of an atmosphere of worldliness. There is our nest, and a very pretty, snug nest it is; and we have been very busy picking up all the softest feathers that we could find, and all the prettiest bits of moss that earth could yield, and we have been engaged night and day making that nest soft and warm. There we intended to remain. We meant for ourselves a long indulgence, sheltered from inclement winds, never to put our feet among the cold dewdrops, nor to weary our pinions by mounting up into the clouds. But suddenly a thorn pierced our breast; we tried to remove it, but the more we struggled the more deeply it fixed itself into us. Then we began to spread our wings, and as we mounted we began to sing the song which, in the nest, we never should have sung, the song of those who have communion with the skies.
5. Sometimes they remind us of our ingratitude. How sad a blemish upon the character of Hezekiah it was that he rendered not again unto the Lord according to the benefits done unto him.
6. Sometimes sorrows remind us of want of sympathy with those who have like sorrows.
7. Sorrow is also sent to admonish us of our neglect of Divine teaching. Why that rod? Why that whip and bridle? Because I have been like the horse and the mule which had no understanding. Let us humble ourselves before God, and ask with Job, “Show me wherefore Thou contendest with me.”
II. It is well when we are as earnest about our sins as we are about our sorrows. The chaplain of Newgate says many of the prisoners will pretend very great repentance when he is talking to them about spiritual things, but he can always tell whether their repentance is genuine or not, by their trying to bring him round to tell them something about their punishment. Before their tidal they frequently ask to know what term of imprisonment they are likely to get. Then, when they are undergoing punishment, they frequently try to get some trifling favour through his means. They think much more of the punishment than they do of the crime. If I go to God and only ask to have my sorrows taken off me, what is that? I am no true penitent. It is the pain and not the sin that troubles me.
III. It is well to take both sorrow and sin to the same place. David took both to God.
1. Take our sorrows to him, not to any neighbour or friend.
2. But let us take our sins also.
3. The most mournful and the most sinful are welcome to the Lord Jesus.
4. He can with equal ease remove both.
IV. Go to Him in the right spirit. David says, “Look upon,” that is all. But when he speaks of his sins he is much more definite as to what he would have done with them, “Forgive all my sins.” I must have them forgiven, I cannot bear them. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Comfort under affliction
We know not the nature of the sufferings under which David laboured, whether of body or of mind, or both; but this we know, that in all of them his first refuge and his principal relief was prayer. Suffering times are times both of searching and discovery. It is a fire that tries a man’s work, a man’s temper, and a man’s state whether he be really a child of God. If he be not, when suffering comes, his angry almost blasphemous speeches will reveal that. But the good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, will bring forth good things. God being pleased with him, he is pleased with every thing. Hence in affliction, knowing that it is laid on in love, and that he deserves much more, he prays, “Look upon mine affliction,” etc. Two things are taught us here--
I. That a kind look from God is very desirable in affliction; for it is--
1. A look of special observation. As to the kind, the degree, and the duration of our affliction.
2. Of tender compassion.
3. Of support and assistance (Exodus 3:7; 2 Chronicles 16:9). Now here we generally stop; if the Lord will but grant us this, it is all we ask, we will not trouble Him for more. We forget our sin.
II. That the sweetest cordial under affliction is the assurance of Divine forgiveness (Psalms 32:1; Romans 4:7).
1. Because trouble is very apt to bring our sins to remembrance (Jeremiah 22:21; Gen 42:21; 1 Kings 17:18; Psalms 40:12).
2. Because a sense of pardon will largely remove all distressing fears of death and judgment. When we feel our flesh wasting and this earthly house of our tabernacle ready to tumble about us, we cannot help inquiring, with a trembling anxiety, “When I am turned out of this house where shall I live next?” And if we have no evidence and no hope of an interest in the Saviour, how terrible the prospect. But if we are forgiven, how all is changed.
So then, let us--
1. Praise God that He should condescend so graciously as to look favourably upon us.
2. From former mercies of the Lord, if the Lord is looking upon us, let us hope for future ones.
3. If a kind look from God be so comfortable, what must heaven be? (Samuel Lavington.)
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on Thee.
Resolutions made and strength invoked for a year of duty
What should our memories do for us? If we are really humbled and grateful for the past, what should we resolve on now? We should strive to “grow in grace,” that “love may abound more and more.” How may we realise this desire, for we have many enemies?
1. The first disposition essentially requisite to our success is said to be “integrity and uprightness.” The petition implies that he would be sincere and upright towards God. If we are to be sincere we must correct our own faults. We must cherish those dispositions which God approves. We must try to fulfil our duty better. And we must do all the good we can. We have instances in Scripture of resolutions that were very fruitless. Israel said at Sinai, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” And yet in less than six weeks they were dancing before the Golden Calf. Surely the wreck of many a fair hope in past years may tell us it is not wise to depend on ourselves. The Psalmist says, “For I wait on Thee”--“I look to Thee to sustain that integrity, I look to Thee to bless it, without Thee I can neither continue upright nor secure a blessing from uprightness.” The grace of God alone can enable us to profit by any external advantages. It is God who must help us to conquer even the least fault. It is God alone can help us to walk with any measure of steadfastness in the path of obedience. (Baptist W. Noel, M. A.)
Justice, honesty, truth, and sincerity
Integrity and uprightness are terms of like import, and signify a virtue that is essential to all true religion and morality.
I. The nature of integrity or uprightness in our dealings with men.
1. With respect to our actions; and so it may be taken for justice and honesty, in opposition to injuring and cheating. It is very dishonest to borrow money or goods, or to trade upon credit, without upright designs and fair prospects of paying everyone his own.
2. With respect to our words. This may be taken as truth, in opposition to lying. But to understand a lie there are moral distinctions that must be attended to. The wrong of falsehood consists in knowing or thinking one thing and saying another with an intent to deceive. There are lies which men call ludicrous, but they had better be avoided. Others, called, officious, which are told to hide a fault, or to prevent some mischief. The worst of all is the injurious lie.
II. Recommend this integrity.
1. In its native beauty.
2. For the reality and honour of religion. All religion is mockery, and vain pretence without it.
3. The safety and happiness of all society depend upon it. There is no living with a man of a false heart and tongue.
4. Integrity is of high advantage to ourselves. It prevents abundance of guilt, and many a throbbing wound in the conscience which a contrary temper and behaviour would subject us to. It screens us from the reproach and vengeance of wicked men. This should excite a religious care, upon Christian principles, to exceed the brightest of the heathen in our moral conduct. Let us see that our hearts be made upright by the renewing of our minds. (J. Guise, D. D.)
Truthfulness, integrity, and goodness--qualities that hang not on any man’s breath--form the essence of manly character, or, as one of our old writers has it, “that inbred loyalty unto virtue which can serve her without a livery.” He who possesses these qualities, united with strength of purpose, carries with him a power which is irresistible. He is strong to do good, strong to resist evil, and strong to bear up under difficulty and misfortune. When Stephen of Colonna fell into the hands of his base assailants, and they asked him in derision, “Where is now your fortress?” “Here,” was his bold reply, placing his hand upon his heart. It is in misfortune that the character of the upright man shines forth with the greatest lustre; and when all else fails, he takes his stand upon his integrity and his courage. (Christian Weekly.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 25". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent