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In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust.
Man trusting in Jehovah
I. Here is man trusting in Jehovah Is great trials.
1. It seems strange that God should allow a man who trusts in Him to become involved in trials. Love is the reason. He knows that oven the best of His children are so fractious and wayward that they need the chastening rod.
2. It seems strange that a man should be able to trust God when in trial. Good men can, and have done so. Job: Paul.
II. Here is man trusting in Jehovah and earnestly praying--
1. For the vindication of his trust.
2. For deliverance from trial.
3. For an audience with the Almighty.
4. For protection from danger.
5. For guidance in perplexity.
6. For extrication from the snares of enemies.
III. Here is man trusting in Jehovah and surrendering himself.
1. The language of dedication.
2. The motive--gratitude.
IV. Here is man trusting in Jehovah and abhorring sinners. A God-loving soul must ever recoil with profound disgust from the false, the dishonest, the mean, the profane, whenever or wherever they appear. The soul cannot love moral opposites. To hate characters, however, does not necessarily imply the hating of man. Man’s bad character is of himself, he made it: but his nature is of God, He formed it.
V. Here is man trusting in Jehovah, and rejoicing in deliverance. 1, When deliverance comes to a good man, it comes from mercy.
2. The soul in deliverance rejoices in its freedom and security. (Homilist.)
Be Thou my strong rook,. . . for Thou art my rock,
“Be . . . for Thou art”
It sounds strange logic, “Be . . . for Thou art,” and yet it is the logic of prayer, and goes very deep, pointing out both its limits and its encouragements.
If we were to read thus: “Be Thou a strong Rock to me, for a house, a fortress, for Thou art my Rock and my Fortress,” we should get the whole force of the parallelism. Of course the main idea is that of the “Rock,” and “Fortress” is only an exposition of one phase of the meaning of that metaphor.
I. what God is. “A rock, a fortress-house.” What is the force of that metaphor?
1. Stable being is the first thought in it, for there is nothing that is more absolutely the type of unchangeableness and steadfast continuance. God the Unchangeable rises, like some majestic cliff, round the foot of which rolls for ever the tide of human life, and round which is littered the successive layers of the leaves of many summers.
2. Then besides this stable being, and the consequences of it, is the other thought which is attached to the emblem in Scripture, and that is defence. “His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks.” When the floods are out, and all the plain is being dissolved into mud, the dwellers on it fly to the cliffs. “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
3. But the Rock is a defence in another way. If a hard-pressed fugitive is brought to a stand and can set his back against a rock, he can front his assailants, secure that no unseen foe shall creep up behind and deal a stealthy stab and that he will not be surrounded unawares.
II. our plea with God, from what he is. “Be Thou to me a Rock . . . for Thou art a Rock.” Is that not illogical? No, for notice that little word “to me”--be Thou to me what Thou art in Thyself, and hast been to all generations.” That makes all the difference. It is not merely “Be what Thou art,” although that would be much, but it is “be it to me,” and let me have all which is meant in that great Name. But then, beyond that, let me point out to you how this prayer suggests to us that all true prayer will keep itself within God’s Revelation of what He is.
III. the plea with God drawn from what we have taken him to be to us. “Be Thou to me a strong Rock, for Thou art my Rock and my Fortress.” What does that mean? It means that the suppliant has, by his own act of faith, taken God for his; that he has appropriated the great Divine revelation, and made it his own. Now a man by faith encloses a bit of the common for his very own. When God says that He “so loved the world that He gave His . . . Son,” I should say, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” When the great revelation is made that HE is the Rock of Ages, my faith says: “My Rock and my Fortress.” Having said that, and claimed Him for mine, I can then turn round to Him and say, “Be to me what I have taken Thee to be.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
For Thy name’s sake lead me and guide me.--
Divine guidance and leading
What a helpless, hopeless thing would a ship be, launched forth upon the deep without a helm, and without a pilot; how it would be drifted about by every current, and tossed to and fro by every wind and wave; how speedily it must be driven amid the shoals, or dashed upon the rocks. No better is man, launched forth on the waves of this troublesome world. Without a Divine helmsman, how must he inevitably be drifted into danger, and betrayed into ruin, if he follows his own wit, and will, and wisdom! The very essence of all Christian life is to walk by faith and not by sight, and the very essence of Divine wisdom in heaven-taught man is to “trust in the Lord” with all his might, and not to trust in himself, not to trust in his own understanding. How appropriate, then, is this prayer for us all.
I. the petition. “Lead me and guide me.” It implies--
1. That a man feels that he cannot guide himself.
2. That he believes God does interpose in the affairs of men, and that He condescends to guide and lead all who trust in Him.
3. Expectation that God will direct us. Some pray but never wait for the answer.
4. And there must be leading as well as guiding.
II. the plea. Some plead that they do their best: but they do not. This is the true plea--“Thy name’s sake,” God’s gracious character. It is a believer’s prayer. God’s providence, word, and spirit will make plain to us our way. Let us each adopt this prayer. (Hugh Stowell.)
Into Thine hand I commit my spirit.
The last words of Christ on the Cross
(with Luke 23:46; Acts 7:59):--
I. I invite you first to consider our Saviour’s words just before his death: “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”
1. Observe how Christ lives and passes away in the atmosphere of the Word of God. Christ was a grand original thinker, and He might always have given us words of His own. He never lacked suitable language, for “never man spake like this Man.” Yet the great majority of His expressions may be traced to the Old Testament. Even where they are not exact quotations, His words drop into Scriptural shape and form. You can see that the Bible has been His one Book. It was food to Him, as it is to us; and if He thus lived upon the Word of God, should not you and I do the same?
2. Notice that our Lord, in the moment of His death, recognized a personal God. We have far too much fiction in religion, and a religion of fiction will bring only fictitious comfort in the dying hour. Come to solid facts. Is God as real to thee as thou art to thyself? Come now; dost thou speak with Him “as a man speaketh unto his friend”? Canst thou trust Him, and rely upon Him as thou dost trust and rely upon the partner of thy bosom? If thy God be unreal, thy religion is unreal.
3. Observe how Jesus Christ here brings out, the Fatherhood of God. The psalm from which He quoted did not say, “Father.” David did not get as far as that in words, though in spirit he often did; but Jesus had the right to alter the psalmist’s words. He can improve on Scripture, though you and I cannot. He did not say, “O God, into Thine hand I commit My spirit”; but He said, “Father.” Oh, how sweet, in life and in death, to feel in our soul the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father!”
4. From this passage we learn that our Lord cheerfully rendered up His soul to His Father when the time had come for Him to die. “No man taketh it from Me,” said He concerning His life; “I lay it down of Myself;” and there is here a cheerful willingness to yield up His spirit into His Father’s hands. It is rather remarkable that none of the evangelists describe our Lord as dying. He did die, but they all speak of Him as giving up the ghost,--surrendering to God His spirit. You and I passively die; but He actively yielded up His spirit to His Father. In His case, death was an act; and He performed that act from the glorious motive of redeeming us from death and hell; so, in this sense, Christ stands alone in His death. But, oh, if we cannot render up our spirit as He did, yet, let us be perfectly ready to give it up. When God calls us to die, it will be a sweet way of dying if we can, like our Lord, pass away with a text of Scripture upon our lips, with a personal God ready to receive us, with that God recognized distinctly as our Father, and so die joyously, resigning our will entirely to the sweet will of the ever-blessed One, and saying, “It is the Lord,” “My Father,” “let Him do as seemeth Him good.”
II. My second text (Psalms 31:5) is evidently the passage which our Saviour had in His mind just then: “Into Thine hand I commit My spirit: Thou hast redeemed Me, O Lord God of truth.” It seems to me that these are words to be used in life, for this psalm is not so much concerning the believer’s death as concerning his life.
1. Let us cheerfully entrust our souls to God, and feel that they are quite safe in His hands. Are you always doing this?
2. Notice that our second text has these words at the end of it: “Thou hast redeemed Me, O Lord God of truth.” Is not that a good reason for giving yourself up entirely to God? Christ has redeemed you, and therefore you belong to Him. So, every day, go to Him with this declaration, “Into Thine hand I commit my spirit.” Nay, not only every day, but all through the day. Have you to go into a house where there is fever; I mean, is it your duty to go there? Then go saying, “Father, into Thine hand I commit my spirit.” I would advise you to do this every time you walk down the street, or even while you sit in your own house.
III. My third text (Acts 7:59) is intended to explain to us the use of our Saviour’s dying words for ourselves.
1. If we can die as Stephen did, we shall die with a certainty of immortality. An infidel once said to a Christian man, “Some of you Christians have great fear in dying because you believe that there is another state to follow this one. I have not the slightest fear, for I believe that I shall be annihilated, and therefore all fear of death is gone from me.” “Yes,” said the Christian man, “and in that respect you seem to me to be on equal terms with that bullock grazing over there, which, like yourself, is free from any fear of death. Pray, sir, let me ask you a simple question, Have you any hope? . . . Hope, sir? No, I have no hope; of course, I have no hope, sir.” “Ah, then!” replied the other, “despite the fears that sometimes come over feeble believers, they have a hope which they would not and could not give up.” And that hope is, that our spirit--even that spirit which we commit into Jesus Christ’s hands,--shall be “for ever with the Lord.”
2. To a man who can die as Stephen did, there is a certainty that Christ is near,--so near that the man speaks to Him, and says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
3. There is a certainty that we are quite safe in His hands.
4. There is the other certainty, that He is quite willing to take us into His hands. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
“Into, Thy hands”
This psalm is the heart-cry of a man in great trouble, surrounded by all sorts of difficulties, with his very life threatened. He was down in the very depths of darkness, and ringed about by all sorts of enemies at that moment. “Into Thine hands I commit my spirit,” as a man standing in the midst of enemies, and bearing some precious treasure in his hand might, with one strong cast of his arm, fling it into the open hand of some mighty helper, and so baulk the enemies of their prey.
I. where to lodge a soul for safe keeping, “Into Thine hands”--a banker has a strong room, and a wise man sends his securities and his valuables to the bank and takes an acknowledgment, and goes to bed at night, quite sure that no harm will come to them, and that he will get them when he wants them. And that is exactly what the psalmist does here. He deposits his most precious treasure in the safe custody of One who will take care of it. The great hand is stretched out, and the little soul is put into it.
1. Trusting Him for the salvation of our souls. Take your stand on the fact, and with emancipated and buoyant hearts, and grateful ones, work from it, and because of it.
2. Trusting Him in reference to daily life, and all its difficulties and duties. The act of trust is to run through everything that we undertake and everything that we have to fight with. Self-will wrenches our souls out of God’s hands. A man that sends his securities to the banker can get them back when he likes. And if we undertake to manage our own affairs, or fling ourselves into our work without recognition of our dependence upon Him, or if we choose our work without seeking to know what His will is, that is recalling our deposit. Then you will get it back again.
3. This must be accompanied with corresponding work. Peter tells us that it is vain for us to talk about committing the keeping of our soul to God unless we back up the committing with consistent, Christlike lives.
4. This committing of our souls into God’s hands does not mean that we are absolved from taking care of them ourselves.
II. the blessedness of thus living in an atmosphere of continual dependence on, and reference to, God, about great things and little things. Whenever a man is living by trust, even when the trust is mistaken, or when it is resting upon some mere human, fallible creature like himself, in the measure of his confidence is the measure of his tranquillity.
III. the ground upon which this great venture of faith may be made. “Thou hast redeemed me, Lord God of Truth.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Committing ourselves to God
“Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” Hence--
I. he testifies, by his committing himself to god, to the power of the Lord’s redemption. He has felt it and acknowledges it.
II. To God’s faithfulness. God is the “Lord God of truth.” To which class do we belong? (R. W. Evans, B. D.)
The dying Christian come, rifting his soul to God
I. with whom does the dying Christian wish to entrust his soul? There are only two beings who can have charge of it when it quits the body--the Lord or Satan. Into the hands of one of these our souls must go when they die, and with one of these we must spend eternity. But men generally are quite indifferent on this matter. They feel no real concern. They have a vague hope of heaven and fear of hell. But neither influences their conduct in any important degree. Christians, however, must desire that which David so desired--that the Lord God should receive his spirit.
II. what is implied in committing his soul into his hands in a dying hour.
1. A firm persuasion that the soul will outlive the body. Not by reason but by the Gospel only does he first learn really and habitually to regard himself as the heir of eternity. And this conviction deepens as he grows in grace.
2. A high value for the soul. The body is as nothing compared to it. The body is the casket, but the soul is the jewel, and that he would, indeed, have saved.
3. A lively sense of the serious, and awful nature of death, a conviction of our need of help in a dying hour. The soul in such an hour will cling more closely to its God. No man will think lightly of death who has ever thought himself near death.
4. A belief that God is willing to receive the soul.
III. the warrant and encouragement thus to do.
1. God is the Christian’s Redeemer.
2. The faithfulness of God. He is the “God of truth,” and He has promised to save them that trust in Him.
IV. the lesson of this subject.
1. The great value of Christian faith.
2. Here is a source of comfort under the loss of friends.
3. How confidently we may commit into the same hand all other things.
4. How important that now we should become the redeemed of the Lord. (C. Bradley.)
A watchword /or life and death
I. The true watchword of life.
1. We approach the duties of life through a series of the most elevating considerations.
(1) We are not our own.
(2) We are parts of a great system.
(3) We are servants, not masters.
(4) The things that are round about us are beneath our serious notice, except for momentary convenience or instruction.
2. We accept the trials of life with the most hopeful patience. They are--
(2) Under control.
3. We recognize the mercies of life with the most joyful thankfulness. The name of God is upon the smallest of them.
II. the true watchword of death. This watchword, as spoken by Jesus and Stephen, shows--
1. Their belief in a state of being at present invisible. They must at least be credited with speaking their deepest personal convictions. It is something to us in our ignorance and weakness to know who have believed this doctrine of a future state.
2. Their assurance of the limitations of human malice. The spirit was free!
(1) Where the spirit is fit for the presence of God, there is no fear of death.
(2) All who have died in the faith are present with the Lord.
(3) Jesus Himself knows what it is to pass through the valley of the shadow of death.
(4) The prayer for entrance amongst the blest may come too late. We have no authority for the encouragement of death-bed repentance. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The saints’ dying prayer
I. These words are full of the fact of our human immortality. Man has and is a spirit, which he can commit.
II. A man must do somewhat with his spirit. Some commit their spirit to the dream of theosophy; spiritualism; a worldly carelessness about its destiny; an external morality; external rites; purging punishments.
III. to whom it is most right and reasonable to commit one’s spirit.
1. To a personal God.
2. To a redeeming God.
3. To a God of truth. (W. Hoyt, D. D.)
The redeemed soul in God’s hand
I. the believer has been redeemed by God. This Divine redemption--
1. Is a deliverance from the greatest of all evils, the service of Satan--ignorance, disease, remorse, death, hell.
2. Was effected at an infinite cost--the death of Him who is one with the Father.
3. Is an eternal redemption of the entire nature.
II. the believer is assured of his redemption.
1. This assurance comes of faith.
2. Feeling thus assured of our redemption, God should constantly be the object of our love, and our lives be dedicated to His service.
III. the believer, feeling assured of his redemption, trustfuly yields his spirit into the hand of his maker, when he departs this life. “Be ye also ready.” “Prepare to meet your God.” (Thos. Evans.)
Redemption a ground of encouragement to commit the soul to God
No question so important to us as this--how can we be just with God. Reason and philosophy cannot answer it, but the Bible does.
I. take a brief view of God’s plan of redemption. It includes--
1. The free and full pardon of sin.
2. Provision for our sanctification.
3. Adoption into God’s family.
II. All this furnishes ample ground for the committal of our souls into the hands of God. What is it to do this? It implies--
1. Conviction of guilt.
2. Persuasion of His readiness to receive and keep what is committed to Him.
3. Choosing to be ruled by Him.
III. the encouragement there is in redemption to do this. You are assured--
1. That all obstacles are put out of the way.
2. That all you need is provided for you and freely offered to you
3. No conditions are required but that you simply commit your soul to God.
4. It is the only way of being saved.
1. None may say, there is no hope for me.
2. The work of redemption illustrates the goodness of God.
3. Are we now trusting in Christ? if so, we have committed, etc.
4. How great our obligations to live to the Divine glory. (J. Hawes, D. D.)
The language of a dying saint
I. what is implied in his committing his spirit to God.
1. A deep conviction of the soul’s immortality.
2. A preferable concern for his soul.
3. A firm persuasion that his spirit would be safe with God. The soul is as a precious jewel, hence a great trust.
II. His encouragement herein. “Thou hast redeemed me,” etc. For in this redemption the believer finds--
1. Love, wonderful, matchless, divine (1 John 4:10; 1 Peter 1:18). Hence he is greatly encouraged.
2. Property (Ezekiel 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ezekiel 16:8; Isaiah 43:21). And then--
3. Power. God “is able to keep that,” etc.
1. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.
2. Acquaint now thyself with God and be at peace.
3. Rejoice in the prospect of the glorious resurrection day. (Samuel Lavington.)
From the text learn
I. dying in a saint’s account is a difficult work.
1. It is an untried work.
2. It is a final farewell to the present world.
3. It is to put off or lay down the body, no more to be re-assumed till the general resurrection at the end of the world.
4. Our probation is at an end.
5. To die is a great and difficult work, seeing thereupon the soul removes into a new state and world. To remove from one kingdom or country to another, is a great thing; but how much greater to remove into a new world! a world we have not seen, and are little acquainted with.
6. We have to meet God as our Judge, who will order our soul to its unchangeable state and place in the eternal world. For all these reasons to die is always difficult. And it is more so if death find us in the dark as to our title to the life to come. Conscience may be filled with terror under the sense of sin, and dread of deserved wrath. Sin, unpardoned sin, is the sting of death, as drawing after it an everlasting hell; and the very suspicion of this is enough to make the heart to tremble. God in our last moments may hide Himself, or withdraw the light of His countenance; and what distress follows upon this, none can tell but those that have felt it. It is no wonder that such circumstances make dying work peculiarly hard.
II. the children of God considering themselves as dying, are chiefly concerned about their immortal souls. The psalmist here was so; he had prayed for temporal salvation in the words of this psalm before my text, but did not insist mainly upon it. However it was as to his body, his great care was with reference to his soul; O Lord, into Thy hand I commit my spirit: let that be safe, and I shall be satisfied. (Anon.)
I have hated them that regard lying vanities, but I trust in the Lord.
Trust the antidote of superstitious vanities
Many think that superstition is but an exaggerated faith; that it will diminish with the growth of intelligence, and that it is necessary in appealing to ignorant and vulgar people. But some who have been alive to its mischiefs and horrors have been willing to risk the loss of faith in order to get rid of it; but when the reaction has come, and we have felt that the world could not go on safely without some faith, we have been ready to tolerate a considerable amount of superstition, lest faith, its companion, should perish with it. But the psalmist looks at it from quite a different point of view. He opposes “superstitious vanities” to “trust in the Lord.” One is the protest against, the deliverance from, the other. This is the very spirit of the Old Testament. Trust in God--invisible and righteous, is the principle which every lawgiver, prophet, priest, is to exhibit in his actions, to enforce upon his land. So far as his trust fails, he fails to do the work he is called to do. Losing trust, they are told that they will infallibly bow down to objects of Nature, to idols of wood and stone; they will listen to wizards who peep and mutter; they will fear where no fear is; they will make their cruel imaginations into gods and worship them. Such was the message of Elijah. The people to whom he was sent were busy with religious acts and exercises. But he goes to turn them from these acts that they may trust in the Lord. So Hezekiah. The general of Sennacherib accused him of taking away altars: what hope, therefore, could he have of deliverance? But those very acts proved that Hezekiah trusted in the Lord more than all the kings that were before him. And so it is in the New Testament. The apostles found men everywhere bowing down to visible gods, trembling at the future, seeking for diviners who could penetrate its secrets. Wherever they went, they found men fearing gods, trying to conciliate their favour or avert their wrath. To interfere with them was not ill their power: state force, and mob opinion, were leagued in support of them. All they could do was to proclaim a Being whom men might trust. They did proclaim such a Being, they did incite men to trust in Him. And by so doing they struck such a blow at superstitious vanities as no iconoclast ever struck. They testified a hatred of them which they could not have testified, if they had had power to lay low every heathen altar, to cast every idol into the fire. They earned the hatred of those who held to these superstitious vanities. Not a martyr fell under the axe, or was tied to the stake, or was fastened to a cross, but because he would not do sacrifice to the likeness of some emperor, or some god whom the emperor sanctioned with his divine fiat. Not one had courage to make that denial, but because he trusted in the Lord, who had given His Son to be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. And so Trust, because the object of it was more fully revealed, was a mightier destroyer of superstition than it had ever been. And our own experience confirms all this. Each one has some superstitious vanity or other to which he is prone: some dark shadow which haunts him; some visible or invisible terror, which is always ready to make a coward of him. And we cannot rid ourselves of it by reason or arguments of science, These often fail when they are wanted most. There is no help but in trust in God. It alone answers our dark fears. God has spoken to us sinners, and bid us confide in Him. And as we trust, so we conquer our sin; as we fail to trust, so are we overcome. What greater proof could there be that Superstition and Faith are not of the same kin, but are deadly and everlasting foes? And the history of Christendom leads to the same conclusion. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
I will be glad and rejoice in Thy mercy, for Thou hast considered my trouble.
I. That the souls of all God’s people must have their day of adversity, This, indeed, follows from the universal methods by which God governs and upholds the world. The present life is not a state of retribution, or a place where God professes to discriminate visibly between the good and the evil. If God make His sun to shine both on the just and the unjust, what shall forbid His judgments from alighting also on both?
II. whatever our troubles may be there is one to consider our calamities and to know how long we can bear them, “Thou hast considered and known my soul in adversities.” Affliction often appears to move both God and man; it moves God to consider man’s infirmities, and it moves man to consider his own soul. Behold, then, why we “count them happy which endure”--because endurance has a tendency to bring God and the sinner together. Prosperity, health, and comfort too often form a great gulf betwixt us and God--a gulf which must either be crossed by a bridge of sighs, or else filled up with the fragments of those earthly idols which our hearts had worshipped instead of God. And when the poor sinner is thus brought unto God, the first petition he prefers is, “Lord, consider my affliction; look upon my distress; let Thine eye fasten itself upon my misery and pain.” For his faith tells him all will be well, if God can be brought to take notice of his low estate. Our faith in the Divine promises warms and brightens by the very earnestness with which we plead them; we move God to pity, by moving ourselves to feel that we need pity, and are enabled to draw nigh to God, by the very act of asking God to “draw nigh to us.”
III. that our heavenly Father’s consideration of the troubles of his people should supply us with matter for joy and praise. “I will be glad and rejoice in Thy mercy.” We are all more forward to ask for blessings than we are to render God thanks when we have received them. Ten lepers would ask the Saviour for health, but one alone returned to thank Him for it. A day could be taken from our labours to humble ourselves under a scourge, but a day could not be afforded to return thanks for our deliverance. Brethren, this backwardness in thanksgiving ought not so to be. We are hastening to a world where praise is all we shall have to do, and it surely were but fitting that we should begin our rehearsal now. Here we can forbear, and hope, and believe, and pray; but what room will there be for such like works in heaven? (Daniel Moore, M. A.)
Thou hast set my feet in a large room.
The “large room”
I. the Christian creed places us in a very extended realm. Suppose the case of one puzzled by the mysteries of existence, learning the creed of the Christian Church. Such a man contrasts the narrow material ideas that had become familiar to his thoughts, the insoluble riddle that the great universe presented to his mind as he tried to reduce all its wonder and glory to modifications of blind matter; he contrasts all this with the rest he feels as he repeats to himself the articles of Christian belief. And as he thinks of the old unsatisfying guesses and the present blessed and well-attested creed, tie has to join in the inspired song--“Thou hast set my feet in a large room.”
II. Contrast the sphere of interest Of one who lives for mere natural objects, with the widened horizon of one who has received “the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father!” Gradually or suddenly you are made ashamed of your self-seeking life. The Spirit’s holy strivings with your spirit are felt, and prevail; you are drawn as a penitent to the Cross of Christ. The knowledge of His pardon gladdens your heart. Longings for goodness, for purity, for holiness, for usefulness, swell within you. Then what a grand extension takes place in your mental horizon. How dull, petty, and narrow that world-centred life now seems I What a number of new interests, new objects for endeavour, hope and aspiration, rise before you! Little pleasures and innocent amusements and pleasant laughter are still enjoyed--enjoyed with a much fresher kind of enjoyment than before. But they have taken their place now as little things. Life has become to you a much broader, more varied, more intensely interesting drama than it used to be; for you are taken out of self. You are longing to please the Divine Friend. You are a member of a great community, a great company of dear brethren and sisters. Every one with whom you have intercourse is one for whom Christ died, and whom you want to help upwards.
III. take one more mental step, and anticipate the time when there will be a still further enlargement. During its larva life the caterpillar seems to have all its powers busied in creeping from leaf to leaf, and gathering in its monotonous nourishment. But there are growing within it all the while organs foreign to its present environment--strange powers, prophecies of an entirely different sphere of existence for which they prepare. In due time the environment changes. The chrysalis shell is broken; the great coloured wings shake themselves free. The “image,” the ideal being, rises up into the air, glittering and palpitating, a beautiful butterfly, gleaming in the sunshine, and winging its way from flower to flower. This is an old illustration of a fact ere long to be new in the experience of each of us. Here, as we try to do our duty, to bear our cross, to run our race, “looking unto Jesus,” spiritual powers are developing within us; heavenly capacities are gradually growing. In God’s good time the bodily organization will be broken up. A new departure in life will be taken. Then, when we come to be with Christ, when we join in the great company whom no man can number, when we serve in the holy temple of which God Himself and the Lamb are the Light, when we follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, then in the freedom of that heavenly life, in the wide domains opened for our energies by that heavenly service, we shall know the full meaning of the song of thanksgiving, “Thou hast set my feet in a large room.” (Canon Wynne.)
The ample scope for human activities
They are not shut up within narrow limits, or indeed within any boundary line; their sphere is immeasurable.
I. Their sphere affords ample play for their intellectual faculties.
1. Look at Nature. There is an ever-growing universe to study. There are volumes of truth in the smallest plant and the tiniest animalcule.
2. Look at the Bible. The Bible indeed is a “large room,” its area of eternal principles transcends the limits of creation, and widens into the immensities.
II. Their sphere affords ample play for their social sympathies. The human heart was made, like the sun, to encompass the world with its genial and beneficient influences.
III. Their sphere affords ample play for their varied activities. Activity is essential to our well-being; inaction is death. In the “large room” in which Providence has placed us all, there is work enough to engage all our activities in such a way as to yield us perfect satisfaction.
1. This “room” contains work adapted to draw out all our faculties. Our happiness,--nay, our very existence,--would be incomplete were one of our faculties undeveloped.
(1) In this “room” there is work for our intellectual natures. There is a universe to study.
(2) In this “room” there is work for our social natures. We are all members of a social system numbering thousands,--some to draw out our compassions, some to excite our esteem, some to inspire our admiration, some to fill us with delight and joy.
(3) In this “room” there is work for our religious natures. We are made be worship; and in this “room” there is unfolded, in ten thousand aspects of loveliness, an infinitely perfect God to worship.
2. This “room” contains work in which there is a perpetual freshness. We are so formed that monotony is not only distasteful to us, but distressing and saddening. But in this “room” there is fresh work for every fresh day.
3. This “room” contains work to which there is a perpetual promise. Man is an anticipating being. Work that does not terminate at death, because its grand purpose, the glory of God, runs into eternity. (Homilist.)
Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble.
The complaints of a sufferer, and the entreaties of a suppliant
I. the complaints of a sufferer.
1. His sufferings were mental and severe.
2. His sufferings told most injuriously on his health.
3. His sufferings arose from a consciousness of his own guilt, and from the conduct of others.
4. Notwithstanding the severity of his sufferings, they utterly failed to destroy his confidence in God.
II. the entreaties of a suppliant.
1. Deliverance from enemies.
2. Divine approval.
3. Freedom from disappointment.
4. The ruin of his foes. This we are bound to condemn.
5. The subjugation of falsehood. (Homilist.)
The exhausting ministry of sin
There is nothing drains away the strength like sin. At the time when sin is committed we may be unconscious of its demands; indeed, we may sometimes feel as though our strength had been increased. It is part of the subtlety of the Evil One that he often adds a little exuberance to our rebellion, and fills our life with a sense of freedom and delight. But the drain is not the less real because it is concealed. I have seen a village slaughter-house covered with ivy and climbing roses. And the destruction wrought by sin proceeds behind our apparent gains. The real exhaustion is frequently discovered in the time of storm. We are flung into some exacting circle of circumstances, and we find we do not possess the necessary resource. Now all sin is attended by this destructive ministry. It is not only the sensual excess, but the sin of the daintier kind. It is not only the presumptuous uncleanness, emerging from the life like some foul eruption, but it is the secret fault nibbling away in the inward parts. And it is not only that all sin is destructive, but all sin works with a ministry of general destruction. It is not only that a single power is impaired; the taint infects the entire life. Sin is an evil contagion, and its evil is not confined to a power; it pervades a personality. In the destructive influence of sin the most delicate powers are the first impaired. The whole being immediately suffers deterioration, created by the presence of an enervating atmosphere, but the finest powers are those which soonest reveal the insidious consumption. The coronal powers first begin to sicken, and the sickness creeps down into the basement. When a man sins, the blight first strikes the spiritual apprehension. There is no clearer indication of this than when we turn to prayer after we have committed sin. We feel as though we had no delicate hand by which to apprehend the things divine; we have been coarsened, and these delicate presences are not revealed to our touch. But it is not only that our powers are benumbed, they are also emasculated; their secret strength is drained away. But with the impoverishment of the feeling for God there goes the dulling of the moral sense. We lose our powers of refinement, our capacity for discerning between the holy and the profane. We have no cute apprehension of moral values. The very criterion of social health is found in the accuracy of this moral standard, and it is the most pathetic commonplace to watch its deterioration. When a man tells a lie his moral sense is stunned as though he had received a blow in the forehead. And with the consumption of these highest powers our emotional endowment is impaired. I do not mean that we lose our readiness to tears. Weeping may be an art or an artifice, and there are many people whose emotions have been subsidized by the devil. But a fine emotional susceptibility gives weight and pressure to sacred purpose. We can do little or nothing without it. Logical convictions may abound, but they may be inactive and inert. They may be like tramcars waiting for electrical power. We can do little without emotion in political life, and perhaps the greatest need of our time is a baptism of profound and genuine emotion. But the strength of affection is drained away by sin, and what is left is polluted. A common sin diminishes the strength of the affections; they are no longer so refined and sympathetic; affection, through the ministry of sin, can become blind and deaf and dumb. “My strength faileth because of mine iniquity.” Now if this destructive ministry is at work, what can we do with it? Antagonistic ministries are suggested in the way of powerful antidotes. We are recommended to rearrange and refurnish men’s environments. But what sort of an environment shall we create? Do we not too frequently argue as if the iniquity were all found in the Seven Dials and not in Belgravia? And yet in one the environment appears to be propitious, while in the other it seems to be adverse. Men say, “Let us make our towns more like Bournville, and as far as we can, let us restore the original Paradise.” But the devil is in Bournville as the serpent was in Eden. Other men accentuate the ministry of education. Yes, and who would say otherwise? And yet many an educated man is a beast. A secret canker is the companion of many a well-stored mind. We can hear the educated men and women everywhere employing the words of the psalmist: “My strength faileth because of mine iniquity.” How does the man of the text face his need? He surrenders his unmade soul to its Maker. “Unto Thee, O God, I commit my spirit.” He commits his spirit to God as an invalid commits himself to a competent physician. And this with completeness of trust. “I trusted in Thee, O Lord. I said, Thou art my God!” I think there is a most tender pathos in these words. “Thou . . . My!” This sin-haunted, sin-persecuted man lifts his eyes to the Maker, and addresses himself to a personal God. He quietly but confidently claims that Maker for himself. “Thou art my God.” And then with a sense of his own complete helplessness, and of the utter confusion which his own handiwork has wrought, he places the corrupted life into other and better hands. “Take it off my hands, good Lord! I have spoiled Thy work, and the beauty and the strength of it are gone! I bring it back to Thee! Into Thy hands I commit my spirit!” But with this completeness of trust there goes an audacity of obedience. There is no real trust without it. There is no faith without faithfulness, and no trust without obedience. The man puts his life into the hands of the Maker, and then stands to do the Maker’s bidding. And what are the issues of the faithful committal? We find them described in Psalms 31:19. “O, how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee; which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men!” The immediate issue is a state of convalescence, the gradual recovery of lost health. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
My strength faileth because of mine iniquity.
Moral weakness and strength
These two passages tell of the source of both. The psalmist tells us that his iniquity was the cause of his strength failing. Nehemiah, that an excess even of penitential feeling will be injurious. One would have thought that there would have been no danger of such a feeling being in excess, yet, though their sorrow was the holy and healing sorrow of penitence, the prophet urges them to check it, and instead of looking at their transgressions, to look rather to the merciful and bountiful grace of God. It is morbid and conceited to magnify our sin against God’s mercy; to brood over it and refuse to be comforted; while it is a generous and pious thing to magnify God’s mercy against our sin; to say, “Although my sin be great, yet God’s forgiving grace is greater still.” We are all prone to think and say we have not repented enough. But we forget that sorrow for sin is not the end but only a means, leading us to forsake sin. As soon, therefore, as our sorrow produces this effect, it has accomplished its end, and should no longer be dwelt upon. There is manifestly a point beyond which sorrow, even for sin, is neither a practical nor a beneficial thing. That cannot be a godly sorrow which rises up as a thick black cloud before God’s pardoning mercy. That only is a godly sorrow which leads us to God. If a man So cherish sorrow for sin as to engender in his heart the feeling that his sin cannot be forgiven, then his very sorrow for sin itself becomes a sinful thing; for it misrepresents and mistrusts God. It might be a heathen man’s sorrow, who had never heard of Christ’s salvation, but it should never be the sorrow of the Christian hearer, before whom that salvation is set every day. And then, in a parenthesis, and with a glimpse of profound spiritual philosophy, the prophet adds as a reason for this urgency--“For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” There is no strength save in a joyous heart. Sorrow may lead to strength, just as dislocation may lead to order. A wrong state of things may have painfully to be set right. Old things may have to be swept away, before new and better things can come; but dislocation itself is not strength, but weakness. So sorrow for sin is in itself weakness; it is the heart emptying itself, and bemoaning itself, it is a looseness of the joints, a melting of the marrow. It is not a building up, but a pulling down. Only a joyous, confident, satisfied heart can be a strong one--a heart assured of itself, and assured of God’s favour and helping. This is the essential means and condition of spiritual strength. God gives us strength, but not by doing things for us which we can do for ourselves. He helps us as a physician helps a patient--not by proffering us an arm to lean upon, but by infusing new life and strength into our souls--by making His strength perfect in our weakness. Iniquity makes a man’s strength fail, he is strong just in proportion as he is holy. The strenuous urgencies of Scripture that we should rejoice in the Lord always; the solicitous provision for our rejoicing that God has made; nay, the very character of Christian salvation and privilege make it imperative upon every one of us to cultivate to the utmost that joy of the Lord which is our strength. Only sin and unspiritualness hinder joy, and so disparage religion, and keep the young and joyous from embracing it. The redemption of the world lingers, and the millennium is kept back because the church is too austere. Its energies are weak, because it has not a rejoicing impulse. Did we walk closely with God, and realize the blessedness of communion with Him, our joy would be full. (R. Allen.)
I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind.
This title would suggest to many, terrible ideas of an awful physical calamity, such as has taken place in mines, or in actual burials ere life was extinct. But there are other senses in which men are buried alive.
I. in an unfortunate sense.
1. For want of opportunities of mental development. The human mind is like seed in the vegetable kingdom. It contains life and unbounded possibilities of increase, but unless it finds suitable soil, shower and warmth, the vital principle is buried alive, buried in the shell. And so it is too often with thousands of men. There are multitudes possessing brilliant natural capacities--mute Miltons and Shakespeares--but buried for lack of opportunity. Hence, let us rejoice at the growing determination that our children shall be educated, however poor they may be, and thus shall possess the means of stimulating life and growth.
2. Through the infirmities of age. Their day is past. They once were prominent and well known, but now are “forgotten as dead men out of mind.”
3. Through the envy of their contemporaries. This, perhaps, is the meaning of the psalmist’s words. Malice bespreads a thick cloud over a name which once has shone brightly. Now many are thus kept in the background.
II. in a criminal sense. “To be carnally minded is death.”
III. in a virtuous sense. “We are buried with Him by baptism into death.” Not the baptism of water, of course, but the baptism of that holy fire that burns up all carnalities. What is buried here? Not the mind, but the old man with its lusts. “Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ,” etc. This is a virtuous burying alive. It means being dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto righteousness.
IV. conclusion. In which of these senses are you buried alive? Some of you may say that it is in the first sense. It may be so; ask God to guide you into a fit sphere. Or it may be by the infirmities of age. You cannot do what you once did and what you wish to do. But God accepts the will for the deed. He values service by its motive. But some of you are buried alive in the criminal sense. You are dead in the grave of depravity. “Arise from the dead and Christ,” etc. And others of you are so in the virtuous sense--dead to sin. You can say, God forbid that I should glory save . . . the world is crucified to me and I to the world. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Fear was on every side.
The length and the breadth are equal
(with Psalms 71:21):--Life is circumvented by peril; yet on every side we are promised assurance and safety.
I. the hinder side.
1. The world of the past clings to us, and in many ways alarms and embarrasses. We cannot rub out the blood stains. We can plead no “Statute of Limitations.”
2. But our God comforts us on this side, with pardoning and renewing grace.
II. The farther side.
1. How much of a deeply distressing order may happen to us in this new year. Changes, trials, disappointments, bereavements. We feel that we are like Nansen in the Arctic region--the ice is all around us holding us firmly in its threatening grip. We go up to the crow’s-nest and survey the scene, but there is no open sea, no inviting shore, only one iceberg jamming another until the last is lost in the dark horizon. We need not wonder that men look into the strange, uncertain, threatening future with deep seriousness.
2. Yet is there comfort on this side also. God goes before us, preparing us for the future, preparing the future for us. The trees on this winter’s day are being secretly prepared for the summer days of sunshine, so are the bulbs in the soil, so are the flies and butterflies, and the summer is on its way getting up its fires and showers; the two will meet at the right moment exactly ready for each other; in six months’ time again all these things will secretly undergo another great change, and although there is not a morsel of ice or flake of snow to be seen, they will be preparing for the winter, God is secretly equipping us for the trial that is to try us; He is quietly getting us ready for old age; He is establishing harmony between us and the circumstances He must introduce; He is already making it easy for us to die. Let us be of good heart. Many bright things and scenes are ahead for most of us; if our goodness is like the morning cloud and the early dew God’s goodness is not. And as to the evil things, God’s government shall soften them one by one and lead us out of them.
III. The outside.
1. Like the apostle (2 Corinthians 7:5), we all have our Macedonia, and sustain desperate fightings. It is vain to speak as some do of the smoothness and pleasantness of modern life as compared with life in the ancient days. The well-dressed congregation of to-day is fighting ‘a battle as difficult and bitter as those noble saints fought in sheep-skins and goat-skins. We, too, bear in our bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus.
2. Yet here also we are comforted. “Our flesh had no rest,” says the apostle, but their spirit had. God shelters and strengthens us amid dilemmas and tribulations, making them to work out our salvation and glory.
IV. the inside. The apostle continues in the passage just quoted: “Within were fears.” We have, perhaps, most to fear here. The garrison itself is unsatisfactory, weak. We know the force within to be ten thousand, the investing army to be thousands of thousands. It is a sceptical garrison. It has little faith in itself--little faith in victory--it is fainthearted to begin with. It is a treacherous garrison--so much that is within us perfidiously allies itself with the alien army. But here also we are comforted. He Himself enters into our life; He makes us heroic and conquering by virtue of His presence manifested in our heart. The peace of God keeps our heart--“garrisons” our heart. Here is the victory of Mansoul--the great white flag of the Prince waves over it, and, weak as we are in ourselves, we are invincible in the power of purity and faith. This is the “garrison” on which we rely, and which shall keep us in the hour and power of darkness. (W. L. Watkinson.)
My times are in Thy hand.
There is nothing which more distinguishes the Christian from the ungodly man than the temper with which the experiences and possibilities of life are regarded. The Christian sees in all the hand of God, and submits; the other feels the stroke hardly knowing whence it comes. The one looks up with intelligent hope, the other looks down as it falls with a blind despair. How terrible are the calamities which the psalm portrays; but how beautiful the trust which, in the midst of them all, the psalmist displays.
I. what lies at its basis--belief in the truth of a particular providence. Now, providence is the Divine reason of all things. Deny it, and you take away the ground of my trust and resignation. And why should any suppose that the control or agency of the Infinite should terminate with the first creating act? That He should create and then leave that which He has created to go on its way without further control or care? Yet many think this. They believe that God has formed a number of self-acting machines. He wound up the mighty herologe, and stood aside to see it go. They think it derogatory to His dignity to be constantly interfering with His works. But where is there less dignity in administering laws than in appointing them? And how do we know what is or is not worthy of His care? Apart from the plans and purposes of God, the entire universe is insignificant: in relation to them every atom is important, for upon any one atom the entire sequence may depend. It is told of Mahomet, how, when hard pressed by his pursuers, he took refuge in a cave, which they were about to enter, when they observed a spider’s web spun over the mouth of it, and, therefore, turned away convinced that it could not have been lately entered. That spider’s web changed the destiny of the world, inasmuch as it preserved the life of the man who exercised such immense influence over it. And how perpetually we are finding that vast results turn upon the most trivial and insignificant circumstances. Without providence, history would be an absurdity, the universe an enigma, and the Deity undeified. The Christian assigns to this doctrine a place among the primary truths of his religious faith. He devoutly and joyfully recognizes it. In the text the psalmist declares that his “times”--all the vicissitudes and changes of his life--are in God’s hand; all under God’s appointment, and under His control. It is so. Our times of prosperity, of adversity, and the time of our death.
II. the Christian man’s recognition of this truth. It is by faith. The proof of the doctrine is sufficient but not overpowering. Our admission of it depends largely upon our moral condition as, indeed, all faith does. There is no faith in believing the demonstration of a mathematical problem. A man, therefore, may recognize no providence, and to those who do, its difficulties are often very great. Nevertheless, the Christian believes. For he believes in the justice, the wisdom and the goodness, as well as the power of God. And because he is reconciled to God in Christ he believes that providence will bring good to him. He calls upon God as “Our Father, which art in Heaven.” Well, then, let us be content, be our lot what it may. Trust for all the future. Let me never dare to doubt. (Henry Allen.)
“My times are in Thy hand”
Whatever is to come out of our life, is in our heavenly Father’s hand. He guards the vine of life, and He also protects the clusters which shall be produced thereby. If life be as a field, the field is under the hand of the great Husbandman, and the harvest of that field is with Him also. The ultimate results of His work of grace upon us, and of His education of us in this life, are in the highest hand. The close of life is not decided by the sharp knife of the fates; but by the hand of love. We shall not die before our time, neither shall we be forgotten and left upon the stage too long. Not only are we ourselves in the hand of the Lord, but all that surrounds us. We are comforted to have it so.
I. A clear conviction that our times are in the hand of God will create within us a sense of the nearness of God. If the hand of God is laid upon all our surroundings, God Himself is near us. The tendency of this age is to get further and further from God.
1. “My times are in Thy hand.” Then there is nothing left to chance. Events happen not to men by a fortune which has no order or purpose in it. “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” We dare not leave out the least event. The creeping of an aphis upon a rosebud is as surely arranged by the decree of Providence as the march of a pestilence through a nation.
2. “My times are in Thy hand” is an assurance which also puts an end to the grim idea of an iron fate compelling all things. Have you the notion that fate grinds on like an enormous wheel, ruthlessly crushing everything that lies in its way, not pausing for pity, nor turning aside for mercy? Remember that, if you liken Providence to a wheel, it must be a wheel which is full of eyes. Its every revolution is in wisdom and goodness.
3. “My times are in Thy hand” reveals the condescension of the Lord. Wonder of wonders, that God should not only think of me, but should make my concerns His concerns, and take my matters into His hand!
4. What a bliss this is! How near it brings God to us, and us to God.
II. this truth is a complete answer to many a temptation. Satan says, “Now you have a large family, and your chief duty is to provide for them. Your position brings with it many wants. Here is a plan of making money; others follow it. It may not be quite straight, but you must not be particular in such a world as this, for nobody else is.” How will you meet this? Say to Satan, “It is not my business to provide for myself or for my family: my times are in God’s hand; and his name is Jehovah-Jireh, ‘the Lord will provide’; and I will not do a questionable thing, though it would fill my house with silver and gold. I shall not meddle with my Lord’s business. It is His to provide for me: it is mine to walk uprightly, and obey His Word.” But supposing he says, “Well, but you are already in difficulties, and you cannot extricate yourself if you are too precise. A poor man cannot afford to keep a conscience: it is an expensive luxury in these days. Give your conscience a holiday, and you can soon get out of your trouble.” Let your reply be, “O prince of darkness, it is no business of mine to extricate myself! My times are in God’s hand. I have taken my case to Him, and He will work for me in this matter better than I can do for myself! He does not wish me to do a wrong thing, that I may do for myself what He has promised to do for me.”
III. this conviction is a sufficient support against the fear of men. How often we meet with people who are staggered by slander. If my times are in God’s hand, no man can do me harm unless God permit. Though my soul is among lions, yet no lion can bite me while Jehovah’s angel is my guard.
IV. A full belief in the statement of our text is A cure for present worry. O Lord, if my times are in Thy hand, I have cast my care on Thee, and I trust and am not afraid! To leave our times with God is to live as free from care as the birds upon the bough. If we fret, we shall not glorify God; and we shall not constrain others to see what true religion can do for us in the hour of tribulation. Fret and worry put it out of our power to act wisely; but if we can leave everything with God because everything is really in His hand, we shall be peaceful, and our action will be deliberate; and for that very reason it will be more likely to be wise. He that rolls his burden upon the Lord will be strong to do or to suffer; and his days shall be as the days of heaven upon the earth.
V. A firm conviction as to this truth is a quietus as to future dread. The very word “times” supposes change for you; but as there are no changes with God, all is well. Things will happen which you cannot foresee; but your Lord has foreseen all, and provided for all.
VI. A full conviction that our times are in his hand will be a reason for consecrated service. If God has undertaken my business for me, then I may most fitly undertake such business for Him as He may appoint. Queen Elizabeth wished one of the leading merchants of London to go to Holland to watch her interests there. The honest man told her Majesty that he would obey her commands; but he begged her to remember that it would involve the ruin of his own trade for him to be absent. To this the Queen replied, “If you will see to my business, I will see to your business.” With such a royal promise he might willingly let his own business go; for a queen should have it in her power to do more for a subject than he can do for himself. The Lord, in effect, says to the believer, “I will take your affairs in hand, and see them through for you.” Will you not at once feel that now it is your joy, your delight, to live to glorify your gracious Lord?
VII. If our times are in God’s hand, here is a grand argument for future blessedness. He that takes care of our times, will take care of our eternity. He that has brought us so far, and wrought so graciously for us, will see us safely over the rest of the road. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
On our lives being in the hand of God
The sun that rolls over our heads, the food that we receive, the rest that we enjoy, daily admonish us of a superior power, on whom the inhabitants of the earth depend for light, life, and subsistence. But as long as all things proceed in their ordinary course; when day returns after day with perfect similarity; when our life seems stationary, and nothing occurs to warn us of any approaching change, the religious sentiments of dependence are apt to be forgotten.
I. That our times are not in our own hand.
1. Of this we may behold many a proof, when we look back on the transactions of the year which is finished. Recollection will readily present to us a busy period, filled up with a mixture of business and amusement, of anxieties and cares, of joys and sorrows. We have formed many a plan; in public or in private life, we have been engaged in a variety of pursuits. Let me now ask, how small a proportion of all that has happened could have been foreseen, or foretold by us? How many things have occurred, of which we had no expectation; some, perhaps, that have succeeded beyond our hopes; many, also, that have befallen us contrary to our wish?
2. That scene is now closed. We look forward to another year; and what do we behold there? all is a blank to our view. Life and death, prosperity and adversity, health and sickness, joy and trouble, lie in one undistinguishable mass, where our eye can descry nothing through the obscurity that wraps them up.
II. That our times are in the hand of God.
1. As a supreme, irresistible Ruler. He has foreknown and arranged everything. He sees from the beginning to the end; and brings forward everything that happens in its due time and place.
2. As a merciful Guardian and Father. To Him we may safely commit ourselves, and all our concerns, as to One who is best qualified, both to direct the incidents proper to happen to us in this world, and to judge of the time when it is fit for us to be removed from it. Even that ignorance of our future destiny in life, of which we sometimes complain, is a signal proof of His goodness. He hides from us the view of futurity, because the view would be dangerous and overpowering. It would either dispirit us with visions of terror, or intoxicate us by the disclosure of success.
1. Seeing our times are not in our own hand, seeing futurity is unknown to us, let us check the vain curiosity of penetrating into what is to come. Our wisdom is, to be prepared for whatever the year is to bring; prepared to receive comforts with thankfulness, troubles with fortitude; and to improve both for the great purposes of virtue and eternal life.
2. Another important instruction which naturally arises from our times not being in our own hands is, that we ought no longer to trifle with what it is not in our power to prolong: but; that we should make haste to live as wise men; not delaying till to-morrow what may be done to-day; doing now with all our might whatever our hand findeth to do, before that night cometh wherein no man can work.
3. When we consider that our times are in the hand of God as a sovereign Disposer, it is an obvious inference from this truth, that we should prepare ourselves to submit patiently to His pleasure, both as to the events which are to fill up our days, and as to the time of our continuing in this world.
4. To God as a wise Ruler, calm submission is due; but it is more than submission that belongs to Him as a merciful Father; it is the spirit of cordial and affectionate consent to His will. Unknown to us as the times to come are, it should be sufficient to our full repose that they are known to God. (H. Blair, D. D.)
I. The fact expressed in the text.
1. In a general sense, every man’s “times” are in God’s “hand.” It is a happy thing, and it certifies the stability of the wide realm of being, that the great Ruler will not suffer one thread of His government to pass for a moment out of His grasp.
2. In a special sense, which renders it worthy of grateful mention, the good man’s “times” are in God’s “hand.” You are helpless: will that slacken God’s care that all shall be best with you? You are dependent, and you try to be trustful: will that set to sleep the vigilance of Him who has all the ordering of your way? You are ignorant and erring: will that give occasion to infinite pity to mislead you or neglect you, and you right upon your march towards the opportunity of scanning all His dealings with you, and of scanning them in the light of a knowledge which it is His purpose shall eternally increase? Nay: your “times,” every one of every shade and shape, are at home in the centre of all safety.
II. The temper in which this fact is expressed in the text.
1. The psalmist gives to the fact his cordial personal consent. It is not a statement merely; it is a self-gratulation also, with something of a thanksgiving besides.
2. When the responsibility would be the heaviest if he did have his “times” in his own hand, he remembers they are in God’s, and breathes freely because the weight of them is not at all upon himself, but altogether upon Him who bears the burdens of eternity and doth not weary. Our part is patience, obedience, brave submission.
3. It allays all his anxiety about his “times.” Fears about ourselves, fears about friends whom we love better than ourselves, apprehensions about life, apprehensions about death--about death perhaps most of all, with its when and where and how,--every one of them would be gone from these hearts of ours, if only they held within them the plain fact of our text as firmly as they hold many a fact that has a thousand times less of deep personal interest for us. (J. A. Kerr Bain, M. A.)
Our times, living and dying, in God’s hand
I. our times are not naturally our own, to employ as we please, to be accountable to ourselves only for the use of them.
1. Certainly not the times which are gone by; for we cannot recall them: they are not in our power. As little control can we exercise over the hours that are present: we cannot command sickness or health, youth or age. The times will never come when we shall begin to be at our own disposal, and cease to depend on God’s sovereign will. It is not possible, neither is it desirable. Rejoice that your times are in God’s hand.
2. It is not less so in regard to His dispensations towards us, as we are His redeemed people, children of grace. In this respect, especially, “none of us liveth to himself,” etc.
II. This arrangement is for our advantage.
1. The happiness of feeling assured, when we come to die, that our time of dying is in the Lord’s hand, must be inconceivably great.
2. The way to have this happiness when we die is to make it our aim while we live, to seek God’s mercy in Christ, to submit to His disposal, and to follow His steps, led by His hand, in a holy, serious, humble, uncorrupt way; and, as all our times are in the Lord’s hand, to bless the Lord at all times. (W. Firth, B. D.)
Our times are in God’s hand
“My times are in Thy hand”--the seasons, the stages, and eras of my life, with all their casualties, and opportunities, incidents, and events, are all in Thy hand, under Thy control, and at Thy disposal.
I. My prosperous times are in thy hand.
1. My times of worldly prosperity. This is as clear as it is certain. For though every one may do much to preserve his health, that does not depend entirely on himself, any more than that of his family and friends; his good name is not in his own keeping; his credit is not in his own power; business does not come at his bidding.
2. Times of spiritual prosperity. Without this, the prosperous man is like a vessel in full sail before the wind without ballast, in danger of being dashed to pieces.
II. My trying times are in thy hand.
1. Times trying to my principles. Times of change of situation, condition, and calling in life; of removal from one place of residence to another; of losses, disappointments, and failures in business; of fraud, injustice, and oppression from men; of adversity, poverty and privations;--are especially trying to men’s principles.
2. Times trying to my patience, Times of personal and relative affliction and distress.
III. My working times are in thy hand.
1. Times when I am able to work. Every one should have a lawful calling in the world, should abide in his calling, mind the business of his calling, should “study to be quiet, and do his own business, and work with his own hands,” as he is commanded.
2. Times when I am specially called to work. Times of abounding iniquity, etc.
IV. My waiting times are in thy hand.
1. Times of waiting on the Lord. In the sanctuary, the family, the closet.
2. Times of waiting for the Lord--for His own time of giving what is good, and for His own way of doing us good.
V. my dying time is in thy hand. We must all die alone. And while we live, we are dying. Are not times of weakening my strength in the way, of exanimating sickness, of excruciating pain, of wasting lungs, of struggling breath, of loss of appetite, of bodily and mental prostration, so many dying times to every one that is subject to them? Lessons:
1. To acknowledge Thy hand at all times.
2. To commit my spirit into Thy hand.
3. To make my prayer unto the God of my life. (G. Robson.)
Some men practically regard only some of their times as in the hand of God.
1. We not infrequently regard as providential only that which we deem calamitous. A bridge falls, and scores of souls are hurried into eternity, and we cry--“Providence!” But a bridge stands for years, and hundreds pass across in safety, and so far as concerns that bridge, we “turn God out of court.”
2. Sometimes we recognize God only when what we call large takes place. One man is killed, and nobody says anything about Providence; but a dreadful catastrophe occurs, and two or three hundred lives are lost; and we say, Providence! Judgment! We should remember that “large” and “little” are words expressive of our finite knowledge.
3. Sometimes we regard as providential only that which comes unexpectedly. When we put our money to usury and get a good percentage, we take our income as a matter of course; we say nothing about Providence. But unexpectedly we have a “windfall”;--reaping where and what we have never sown--and we call the windfall “a providence.” What comes in the ordinary course of things is no providence; so we poor, morally illogical creatures say; but whatever takes place that we cannot account for, we call a providential dispensation. This is nothing short of saying that God begins to work only at the point where human intellectual vision ceases; that the sphere of providence touches only the horizon of our mental view. “My times are in Thy hand.” What then? This: expect comfort for all seasons. Be courageous at all times; and adore amidst all changes, an unchanging God. (J. S. Swan.)
The particularity of Divine Providence
I. the doctrine of the text. We shall be told, perhaps, that the doctrine of a particular Providence represents the Most High, as attentive to insignificant affairs,--gives to the Divine administration the aspect of overwhelming complexity,--and, is inconsistent with the majesty of the Supreme Being.
1. By no means do we deny, that the doctrine of a particular Providence does give to the Divine administration an aspect of overwhelming complexity. But then we are speaking, not of what the human mind can grasp, but of what the Supreme intelligence effects. Whoever admits the Being of a God, must connect with it the idea of infinity. No degree of attention, or variety of objects, can bewilder Him, whose understanding is infinite.
2. To oppose the consideration of Jehovah’s infinite majesty to the doctrine of His providential administration is unscriptural, and absurd. The universe is a great and glorious whole;--but this great and glorious whole cannot be rightly preserved and governed, without the right preservation and government of all its parts.
II. the way in which the beneficial influence of this doctrine is to be experienced. The doctrine of His providence as revealed in Scripture, gives us a glorious idea of His character. It leads us to conceive of His presence as filling immensity, and of His goodness as commanding universal confidence. It leads us to worship Him, and to confide in Him as the Lord of the universe, in whom all majesty is for ever centred, and from whom all blessings flow. But this doctrine appears to the greatest advantage, viewed in the “light of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ”;--and it is the knowledge of His glory, as a covenant Jehovah in the Son of His love, that gives to the faith of this doctrine its most beneficial effect. And well may the believer joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that all the perfections of the adorable I Am are engaged to promote his welfare and to effect his salvation. It shall only be added, that to derive benefit from the doctrine we have stated, it is necessary for us to avail ourselves of it by faith, especially when such benefit is most needed. When did David say in the prayer, and confidence of faith, “My times are in thy hand?”--it was when fear was on every side, and in so doing, he took an extended view of the providence of God, and honoured Him. The times of man are numerous and diversified;--he has times of sorrow, of trial, of affliction. As “there is a time to be born,--so there is a time to die.” David takes the range of the whole,--and instead of planning for God, or deeming himself at the mercy of his enemies, he said, “My times are in Thy hand.” Thus he met the storm which tried his faith, and the recollection of his so doing was grateful to his feelings, and subservient to communion with his everlasting friend when fresh trials occurred. (W. Hutchings.)
The measure of human life
There are three main causes which go to determine the length of time of every human life.
1. The first is physical. Every man has a constitution given him by God which has a certain amount of vital power and no more, which can bear a certain amount of strain and exertion and no more. When this stock is exhausted first one and then another organ gives up, and the end comes. How soon it will come is partly determined by circumstances. In one set of circumstances it is delayed; in another it is hastened; but no circumstances, no precautions, however incessant, can preserve it for ever. Not that strength of constitution is always allowed to be the measure of life. Its course is not seldom arrested by a violent death; it is cut short in battle, or by the executioner, or by lightning, or by railway accident, or by drowning, or by the murderer’s knife, or by poison taken unwitting!y, or by the bite of an animal, or by pestilence that walketh in darkness; and yet such events might suggest to those who believe in the providence of God that there are other and more influential, although less patent, causes that affect the length of human life, causes which we now proceed to consider.
2. Every man has a certain work assigned him to do, and when it is done, or ought to have been done, then he has to make room for others. What that work exactly is He knows who has placed us here. But most of us can only infer generally, and not always quite distinctly, why we were placed here, while none of us can dare to say certainly at the close of life that the work which our Maker meant us to do has been completed. Too many of us--alas!--never think of this solemn truth. The outward form of the work matters less than the presence or absence of the ennobling motive. The highest work may be even irretrievably degraded by the absence of that purpose. But, however this may be, with each of us a day comes when the work we had to do has been done or ought to have been done, and can be no longer done, and then the end comes.
3. Closely related to this cause, and yet distinct from it, there is a third. Every man is here on his probation or trial; he has a certain number of difficulties to encounter, a certain number of opportunities of which he may avail himself, measured unto him by a perfect justice which will deal with him accordingly. When these difficulties have been passed, in whatever manner, with whatever difficulty, the end comes. Who can say when the last difficulty has been surmounted, or when the last opportunity has been rejected or missed? We do not know. But our ignorance does not disprove the fact he knows who has made us, who has placed us here on our trial, who removes us when we have passed it or have failed. (Canon Liddon.)
The Divine superintendency of human affairs
. Second only to the interest of that view of God as the Author of salvation through Christ, is this which ascribes to Him the presidency over all human affairs.
I. in what sense this is true.
1. It is true of the times of men’s entrance into the world, and their departure out of it. Hence the regular succession and perpetuity of the generations of men; and the appearance of men in the world with capacities and powers, exactly united to the age in which they live. If subtle adversaries against the truth appear, among their contemporaries, its most acute and intelligent defenders are found. And so of men’s departure from this world: they not only come, but go at God’s bidding. Till He give the command, nothing can force open the door of eternity for us; and when He does, nothing can keep us from entering it. It is said that the devil hath “the power of death.” But this cannot mean natural death, for had he power over that, he would never suffer a bad man to live till he was converted, nor a good man afterwards. But it refers to the future death of torment which Satan as the executioner of Divine justice is commissioned to inflict.
2. It is true of the times of their worldly prosperity and adversity. We see this in the case of nations and empires, but it is true also of all the individuals comprising any nation. God fixes the bounds of every one’s habitation and determines his lot. He does not interfere with the natural liberty of men, nor fail to allow, in a general way, for diligence and prudence to work out their own reward, and vice and idleness to bring their own punishment. Yet, the final issues of things depend entirely on His will. It is good to recognize this for, so, by a conviction of the Divine wisdom and goodness, we are the more ready to acquiesce in all providential arrangements.
3. It is true of the times of men’s gracious visitation and instruction. These periods form our day of grace, Thus we read of the Church of Thyatira, that Christ gave her “space to repent,” and we read of “a time when Thou mayest be found,” and of the “time of visitation.” In addition to these there are sermons of refreshment for the Church at large. We read of “set times to favour Zion.” Such times are the cordials of life, catches of sunlight upon our spiritual prospect, the wells of water and the palms at which we arrive as we journey through the wilderness.
II. what are the uses of this doctrine.
1. Men should learn to value the times of gracious visitation and use them well, lest God take them away. This He may do, by taking away our lives, or our sensibility, or the means of grace themselves.
2. Good people should be comforted, since their times are in God’s hands. What have we to fear?
3. This truth should reconcile us to the stroke of death when it comes to ourselves or others. (J. Leifchild.)
The Christian’s lot in the Divine hand
The way of the Christian is often very difficult, and it would often be appalling, and life itself would be mournful were it not for the many consolations to which the pious mind may resort. To such consolations under difficulty the psalmist is clearly referring in our text.
I. Briefly illustrate the fact which the statement of the text comprehends. And--
1. Consider those seasons which are to be especially regarded as under the Divine management. No doubt, all the events of life are under God’s control. Some deny this, and men limit the interference of God to the great and momentous affairs of men. But reason and Scripture alike teach (see Psalms 104:1-35.) the universal superintendence of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ says, “Are not two sparrows sold?” thereby teaching this same truth. The time of prosperity is in God’s hand, though men sadly forget this. And the time of affliction, and the time of death. Next--
2. Observe the principles according to which this Divine arrangement is regulated. And
(1) Sovereignty. God conducts all His dealings towards men as a Sovereign (see Jeremiah 18:1-23.)--the potter and the clay. But--
(2) There is also Justice. God can do nothing that is not right. Sovereignty and justice in God are never to be opposed to each other: they are ever associated.
(3) Mercy. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.” But for this where would man be?
(4) Wisdom. All our events are under God’s hand, and these are the principles on which they are regulated and controlled.
II. the results which this recognition should produce.
1. Contentment. How could our affairs be better ordered? Let the poor and the afflicted remember this.
2. Trust, entire and unwavering confidence in God. How can we believe what has been said and not trust?
3. Gratitude. What abundant cause we have, when we look back on our lives, for this feeling towards God. Many an Ebenezer we can inscribe upon our pathway, and if so, should we not praise Him?
4. Anticipation. How calmly and confidently may we look on to the future. Foreboding and fear should be far from us. But to enter into all this we must be reconciled to God in the Lord Jesus Christ. (James Parsons.)
David’s confidence in God’s providence
If Caesar could say to the fearful ferryman in a terrible storm, “Be of good cheer, thou carriest Caesar, and therefore canst not miscarry,” how much more may he presume to be safe that hath God in his company. A child in the dark feels nothing while he has his father by the hand. (John Trapp.)
Let the lying lips be put to silence, which cruelly, disdainfully, and, maliciously, speak against the righteous.
To neglect those popular calumnies which are in circulation against any system either moral, religious, or political, is rather magnanimous than wise, and savours more of a generous contempt for danger than of prudent precaution against it. Bold assertions, and specious invectives often repeated, begin at last to be credited. There is too, besides, a fashion in thinking as in everything else, and the giddy part of mankind must ever appear in the newest philosophy. It is important, therefore, to mark the modes of thinking of the time, and especially those which are aimed against the Christian faith. It is a leading object with sceptics to bring this into disrepute. And they seek so to do by charging Christians with intolerance, bigotry, and narrowness of mind. The opposite virtues, candour, liberality, and freedom from prejudice, they claim for themselves. And the young are much attracted by such professions, as it is natural they should be. Their vanity, also,--desire of notoriety, and their impatience, help the evil; soon they parade their disbelief, and sink into a state of complete scepticism. All this is very sad. A young man standing on the threshold of life, and just going into all the business of the world, with a heart in which every principle of right and wrong is thoroughly shaken and impaired! If not destined for great offices in public life, yet he is a brother, a son, a friend; he is to be a husband, and a father of children; some must trust him, and some must love him. Call it bigotry, and cover these notions with mockery and derision; but I say it would be better for this young man that the work of death were going on within him, that the strength and the roses of his youth were fading away, and that he were wasting down to the tombs of his ancestors, wept by his friends, and pitied by the world. Therefore let us examine the foundations of such scepticism. I speak not of all who disbelieve in Christianity, but of those who presume to look down upon Christians with anger and contempt. The fact is, disbelief not only in Christianity but in Providence is becoming general, and men are giving up all the wholesome restraints of religion. These are the dangers which now threaten us. We need not fear that we shall be manacled again by superstition, but that the golden chain which reaches from heaven to earth should be broken asunder, and not one link of it again be found. The infidel clings as tenaciously to what he denies, as the religionist does to what he affirms;--arm him with power, will he be more tolerant?--will he suffer you to build temples? to pray openly to your God, and to insult his doubts with the profession of a faith, which, in the deep wickedness of his heart, lie judges to be the consummation of all absurdity?--Toleration is the creature of benevolence and of wisdom; what have the shallow sneers and scoffings of infidelity to do with this Heavenly forbearance? do not be mocked by such idle pretensions; if atheism ever rears its head among men, piety will mourn and bleed. Let us be thankful, therefore, for that small but invaluable class of men who, sincerely loving truth, and pursuing it with exquisite tact and skill, will even resist the wild unbelief of the day. Against ignorant and evil men they will steadily strive, and they will exert all their authority” to put to silence the lips which cruelly, disdainfully, and despitefully, speak against the righteous. (Sydney Smith, M. A.)
O how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee; which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men.
Of hearing God and trusting in Him
I. explain these duties.
1. The fear of God. This sometimes comprehends the whole duty of man, but is more properly taken for a religious reverence of the Divine being and government. It is not dread of God that destroys the foundation of religion, because it looks upon God as arbitrary and cruel. But the fear Of God ever consists in an habitual sense of His glory and perfections. None can be said to fear God who do not obey Him, and submit to His providential will. Such are the genuine effects of a godly fear.
2. Trusting in God. This implies dependence upon Him for all we need and a believing expectation that we shall not be disappointed.
II. recommend their practice.
1. SO we shall secure to ourselves the Divine presence in all conditions of life.
2. This will support and compose our spirits under affliction.
3. It is the way to have our afflictions sanctified.
4. The practice of these duties will support and comfort us in a dying hour.
5. We shall secure to ourselves an undoubted title to eternal life.
III. conclusion. Learn--
1. The excellency of the Christian institution which has so revealed God to us.
2. How miserable the state of those who fear not God.
3. Because of trusting too much to the creature.
4. Practice these duties. (Daniel Neal.)
Goodness wrought and goodness laid up
There are, as it were, two great masses of what the psalmist calls “goodness”; one of them which has been plainly manifested “before the sons of men,” the other which is “laid up” in store. There are a great many notes in circulation, but there is far more bullion in the strong-room. Much “goodness” has been exhibited; far more lies concealed. If we take that antithesis, then, I think we may turn it in two or three directions.
I. the goodness already disposed--“wrought before the sons of men”; and that “laid up,” yet to be manifested. That distinction just points to the old familiar thought of the inexhaustibleness of the Divine nature. God’s riches are not like the world’s wealth. You very soon get to the bottom of its purse. Its “goodness” is very soon run dry.
II. The contrast here suggests the goodness that is publicly given and that which is experienced in secret. God does not put His best gifts, so to speak, in the shop-windows; He keeps these in the inner chambers. He does not arrange His gifts as dishonest traders do their wares, putting the finest outside or on the top, and the less good beneath. It is they who inhabit “the secret place of the Most High,” and whose lives are filled with the communion of Him, who taste the selected dainties from God’s gracious hands.
III. the goodness wrought of death, and the goodness laid up in heaven. Here we see, sometimes, the messengers coming with the one cluster of grapes on the polo. There we shall live in the vineyard. Here we drink from the river as it flows; there we shall be at the fountain-head. Heaven’s least goodness is more than earth’s greatest blessedness. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
David’s holy wonder at the Lord’s great goodness
I. the subject of holy wonder. “Thy goodness.”
1. David is astonished at the great goodness of God which is laid up; the goodness of God which David had not as yet tasted, had not actually received, but which his faith realized, and looked upon as its fixed and settled heritage.
(1) Think of how much He laid up in His eternal purpose, when He chose His people, and laid up for them the grand intention (Malachi 3:17).
(2) How great is the goodness of God, which He laid up in the covenant of grace.
(3) Think of what He has laid up in the person of His Son--the same treasure, only now more clearly revealed to us, and brought forth in the person of the Well Beloved, so that we may the more readily partake of it. Pardon for all your sins; justification through faith in His sacrifice; life through His death; sanctifying power is in the blood of Jesus. All that you can want, for the whole journey from the place where you now are right up to the right hand of the Most High--all this is laid up for you. “Ye are complete in Him.”
(4) Think of what is laid up for you in the work, office, and mission of the Holy Spirit. Do not imagine that the standard of your attainment is the maximum of a Christian. Do not consider that you have obtained all that God is willing to bestow. The laid-up treasures in the Holy Spirit are probably vastly greater than any of us have ever been enabled to conceive.
(5) The greatest goodness of all, we sometimes think, but perhaps improperly, is that goodness which is to be revealed when this life is over, which God has laid up for them that fear Him. The night lasts not for ever: the morning cometh.
2. There are some treasures which we enjoy now.
(1) Think of that which Christ wrought out before the sons of men in Gethsemane’s sweat and blood, in Gabbatha’s scourging, in Golgotha’s death.
(2) Think of what God has wrought out for you in your own experience in the work of the Holy Spirit upon your soul. Blessed be God, with a thousand imperfections and faults, still I find in my soul some kindlings of love towards His name.
(3) We have also another instance of what God has wrought out for us in the shape of providential mercies. We have all some providences to remember which seem very special to us.
II. the favoured persons who enjoy the Lord’s great goodness. Why is it put so--“Laid up for them that fear Thee; wrought for them that trust in Thee;” unless it be true that he who trusts God fears God? The whole compass of the fear of God is gathered up into a centre in that point of trust. Why so?
1. Because trust is the root of true fear. To trust God is the root of all genuine religion. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Faith is the foundation of all the other graces.
2. Faith or trust is the test of the genuineness of religion.
3. Trust is the flower of the fear of God. The highest morality is to trust Christ.
III. some things that make us see that greatness.
1. Observe the multitude of these people. The goodness of God to any one of them is quite unsearchable, but what must be the great goodness which He has laid up for all His people!
2. Think of the undeservingness of each one of these. Many of them the chief of sinners.
3. Remember the need they were in.
4. Think of the great goodness of God to His saints in contrast to the great evil of man to them. Some of these saints have died cruel deaths. The most of them have had to pass through obloquy and scorn; but oh! bow great is Thy goodness which Thou hast wrought in them, sustaining them all, and making them more than conquerors through Him that loved them!
IV. what should this teach us?
1. Should it not make us grateful to God for such wondrous kindness? Can you not afford a song?
2. Let it inspire us with confidence. All that you can want is provided in Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The treasury of God’s goodness
Many years ago the ambassador of Spain, then the wealthiest country in Europe, once visited the court of Venice to arrange a treaty. One of the chief men of the palace led the Spanish ambassador to seethe sights, and amongst others took him to the treasury--huge coffers filled with heaps of gold and precious stones. The Spaniard asked for a staff; and thrust it down amongst the coins. The Venetian prince said, “Why are you doing that?” The ambassador replied, “I want to see if there be any bottom here! Ah, there is a bottom! But, O prince, there is no bottom to the treasures of my king!”--alluding to the gold and silver mines which then belonged to Spain. So, we say, there is an everlasting fulness in the treasury of God’s goodness. His promises are always sure; His words are ever reliable; His goodness reaches to all.
I. Notice the overflowing goodness of God in his favour towards men. Some will only show favour to their friends. But God has no line of exclusion. Standing before all men, He says, “I am the Friend of all.” I think it is Mr. Goldwin Smith that says, “Society is formed of many circles. In the outermost ring, a man hangs on to the coat tails of the other above him, while he holds on to somebody else’s coat tails higher still, until in the most exclusive circle sits the king.” But with God and angels and perfect men there is world-wide friendship. God communes with every soul; and though we are the poorest outcast, we are within the circle of the loved ones for whom Jesus died. With God, there is no special favouritism.
II. remember the greatness of his forgiveness. See the miracle on the sick of the palsy, and the words Christ spoke to him. If men knew the infinite compassion and love of God, they would starve to death or be burned alive rather than grieve Him by sin.
III. comfort yourselves with the goodness of his power. To the most enslaved of Satan’s captives, the fallen, the drunkard, He will give power to resist sin. There was said--not falsely--to be a reserve in the City of Glasgow bank. It only existed on paper. But there is a reserve, inexhaustible, in God’s goodness. When you were born lie gave to you the fortune of everlasting love; and that fortune is “laid up” for you. The prodigal thought he had spent all in the “far country,” but he found an ocean of love still flowing in his father’s heart. (W. Birch.)
God’s resettle of goodness
The Divine goodness is not emptied out in heaps at our feet, when we first start in faith’s pathway. Rather, it is kept in reserve for us until we need it, and then disbursed.
1. He laid up goodness in the creation and preparation of the earth. Think, for example, of the vast beds of coal laid up among earth’s strata, ages and ages since, in loving forethought, that our homes may be warmed and brightened in these late centuries. Think of the minerals that were piled away in the rocks and hills, before there was a human footprint on the sand. Think of the laws of nature, as we call them, all arranged to minister to man’s pleasure and benefit. Think of all the latent forces and properties that were lodged in matter, to be brought out from time to time, at the call of human need. Look at the medicinal and healing virtues, stored away in leaf, in root, in fruit, in bark, in mineral.
2. God laid up goodness for His people in His eternal covenant. It is a wonderful thought that before the world was made the plan of redemption was arranged, and blessings were laid up in the covenant of love for God’s children.
3. The goodness of God was laid up for us by Jesus Christ, in His incarnation, obedience, sufferings and death. There is not a hope or joy of our Christian faith that does not come to us out of the treasures laid up by the obedience and the sorrows of our blessed Lord.
4. God has “laid up” His goodness. The word means hidden or reserved. The treasuries were not all opened at the beginning. The world is many centuries old, but every new century has seen new storehouses unlocked; and still we have not received all that God has to give.
(1) This is true of the world of nature. Originally the wants of men were few and simple; but as the race multiplied and civilization advanced, new needs continually arose; and to meet these new needs, new supplies have been brought forth from God’s treasuries. To illustrate: when primitive materials for light were about to be exhausted, the great reservoirs of oil in the bowels of the earth were disclosed; they were not then new made--they had been gathering there for ages--but the hidden stores were now first unlocked. And, further back, when the forests were being fast cut down and there seemed danger of a scarcity of fuel, the vast coal beds were found. In like manner, in these recent days, men are just discovering the powers of electricity--not a new creation, but an energy which has flowed silent and unseen through all space from the beginning, only to become known in these late days.
(2) The same is true of the supply of the needs of individuals. No devout person can look back over the years of his own life and not see, how, always, just at the right moment, a treasure-house of goodness has been opened to meet his want.
(3) The same is true of spiritual goodness. Take the Bible for illustration. It is a great treasury of hidden and reserved blessing. There has not been a chapter, not a line, added to the Bible, since the pen of inspiration wrote the last words; yet we know that every generation finds new things in the blessed Book. A young Christian cannot understand the deeper truths of spiritual life until he advances further in personal experience. There are many things that can be learned only when the heart has been prepared to receive them.
5. It follows, then, that the storehouses of goodness are not opened until we come to where they are. They are placed, so to speak, at different points along our path; the right supply always at the right place. At every river there is a bridge. In every desert there are oases, with their springs of water and their palm trees. For those who fear God and walk in His ways there is not a real need of any kind along the entire path to heaven’s gate, without its goodness laid up in reserve. But we shall not get the goodness until we reach the point of need, where the supply is laid up.
6. God’s goodness is laid up in heaven. The Rabbins say that when Joseph had gathered much corn in Egypt, and the famine came on, he threw the chaff into the Nile, that when the people who lived in the cities below saw it on the water they would know there was corn laid up for them. So, what we have in this world of Divine goodness is little more than the husks of the heavenly fruits, which God sends down upon the river of Grace as intimations to us and assurances of glorious supplies laid up for us beyond the grave. Life is full of unfulfilled hopes. But if we are God’s children we shall find in heaven the blessed substance of every empty shadow we have chased in this world in vain, and the full fruition of every fair hope that on earth seemed to fade. The best is yet on before, and to the Christian, death, instead of being a loss, or a going away from goodness, is a glorious gain and a going to the richest, fullest, most soul-satisfying good. (J. R. Miller, D. D.)
The goodness of the Lord
I. As A spectacle of surpassing beauty. Creation, providence, redemption, call forth wonder, love, praise.
II. As A treasury of inexhaustible wealth. What is seen, may, as it were, be measured; but what is unseen, is boundless. What is a river to the ocean! What is the landscape, that the eye can reach, to the vast unseen realms of the earth! What are the thousand stars that crowd the winter sky, to the millions upon millions that are hid in the depths of space! So with the goodness of God.
III. As A work of infinite beneficence. (W. Forsyth, M. A.)
Goodness laid up
We can all understand what is meant by goodness bestowed, for it comes within the range of our own experience. And we could form an idea, though vague and indefinite, perhaps, of goodness promised. But goodness “laid up” is evidently that which we have not yet experienced and which is beyond all our expectations. Note, then, some of its marks and characteristics.
I. it cannot be known until experienced. We fret ourselves to know what the future shall bring, but we cannot know, only that there is goodness laid up for us. And this for special as well as ordinary wants.
II. it is inexhaustible; it is always laid up. It is there for us through all time and eternity. There is no experience through which we may be called to pass, whether in life or death, against which God has not provided.
III. see what this teaches us of God.
1. His graciousness. Even for the holiest of men it is all of grace.
2. His wisdom--how He knows and understands us and all our ways.
3. The fulness of His love.
IV. and as to our own duty. Seek for a full experience of the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” All our past experience confirms the truth of our text. Then seek to know the Lord yet more and more. (W. Cadman, M. A.)
How much there is in God to excite our admiration. His power, but yet more His goodness. Let us, then, contemplate it. In the past, the present, the future. And think to how many God is good. And how long He has been so. Goodness is one of His essential, eternal attributes. And how uninterrupted. He never tires. And its abundance. He filleth His creatures with good. Its condescension. “What is man,” etc. Its facility--He but opens His hand and the desire of every living thing is satisfied. To whom He shows this goodness--to those who were “dead in sin.” And this notwithstanding their habitual ingratitude. “The ox knoweth his owner,” etc. And then think of His reserved goodness--“laid up for them that fear Thee.” What is earth to heaven, grace to glory! But though offered to all, it will be enjoyed only by those who fear and trust Him, and who do this openly “before the sons of men.” Then how sinful is all sin, considering the goodness of Him against whom we sin. How evil our hearts must be that we do not repent. How reasonable that His laws should be obeyed. What an appeal the Bible makes to our hopes! Let US not only admire but imitate the goodness of God. (W. Nevins, D. D.)
If “our lives are hid with Christ in God” then we shall get our share of far better things than any outward prosperity or external deliverance or visible answers to petitions. The front rooms of the house which lie visible to the passers-by on the pavement may be richly enough furnished to indicate that well-to-do people dwell there. But away at the back, in rooms that no strange eye ever looks into, there are far rarer and more wonderful things. We must go deep into God, if we are to get all that God is able to give us. “I will give to him the treasures of darkness, and the hidden riches of secret places.” Hide in God, that you may find the treasure that He has laid up for them that fear Him. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence.
Hid in light
The word rendered “presence” is literally “face,” and the force of this very remarkable expression of confidence is considerably marred unless that rendering be retained.
I. the hiding-place. “The light of Thy face” is “secret.” What a paradox! Can light conceal? Look at the daily heavens--filled with blazing stars, all invisible till the night falls. The effulgence of the face is such that they that stand in it are lost and hid, like the lark in the blue sky. “A glorious privacy of, light is Thine.” Light conceals when the light is so bright as to dazzle. They who are surrounded by God are lost in the glory, and safe in that seclusion, “the secret of Thy face.” The old Greek mythologies tell us that the radiant arrows of Apollo, shot forth from his far-reaching bow, wounded to death the monsters of the slime and unclean creatures that crawled and revelled in darkness. And the myth has a great truth in it. The light of God’s face slays evil, of whatsoever kind it is. Thus “the secret of His countenance is the shelter of all that is good.” Nor need I remind you how, in another aspect of the phrase, the “light of His face” is the expression for His favour and loving regard, and how true it is that in that favour and loving regard is the impregnable fortress into which, entering, any man is safe. Only let us remember that for us “the face of God” is Jesus Christ. He is the “arm” of the Lord; He is the “name” of the Lord; He is the “face.” All that we know of God we know through and in Him; all that we see of God we see by the shining upon us of Him who is “the eradiation of His glory and the express image of His person.” So the open secret of the “face” of God is Jesus, the hiding-place of our souls.
II. God’s hidden ones. “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy face.” Whom? Those that flee for refuge to Thee. The act of simple faith is set forth there, by which a poor man, with all his imperfections, may yet venture to put his foot across the boundary line that separates the outer darkness from the beam of light that comes from God’s face. Remember that Jesus Christ is the hiding-place, and that to flee to Him for refuge is the condition of security, and all those who thus, from the snares of life, from its miseries, disappointments, and burdens; from the agitations of their own hearts, from the ebullition of their own passions; from the stings of their own conscience, or from other of the ills that flesh is heir to, make their hiding-place--by the simple act of faith in Jesus Christ--in the light of God’s face, are thereby safe for evermore. But the initial act of fleeing to the refuge must be continued by abiding in the refuge. But not only by communion, but, also by conduct, must we keep in the light. An eclipse of the sun is not caused by any change in the sun, but by an opaque body, the offspring and satellite of the earth, coming between the earth and sun. And so, when Christian men lose the light of God’s face, it is not because there is any variableness or shadow of turning in Him, but because between Him and them has come the blackness--their own offspring--of their own sin. You are not safe if you are outside the light of the countenance. These are the conditions of security.
III. what the hidden ones find in the light. This burst of confidence in my text comes from the psalmist immediately after plaintively pouring out his soul under the pressure of afflictions. His experience may teach us the interpretation of his glad assurance. God will keep all real evil from us if we keep near Him; but He will not keep the externals that men call evil from us. Though it may leave the external form of evil it takes all the poison out of it and turns it into harmless ministers for our good. Again, we shall find if we live in continual communion with the revealed face of God, that we are elevated high above all the strife of tongues and the noise of earth. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The soul’s refuge in God
These are great words surely. They are an expression of David’s confidence in God’s power and will to hide His people in Himself. He is to be hid from “the pride of men,” and from “the strife of tongues.” I suppose that by these phrases we may understand the whole of that cruel and disturbing interference of one man’s life with another’s, which may take such an endless variety of forms. The abuse and fault-finding and frivolousness, the foolish quarrellings, strifes of social ambition, of business rivalry, from these we need a refuge as strong as David needed from his enemies. It is good to see how God comes and offers Himself, just here, to the human soul. “In the secret of My presence I will hide you.”
1. Try first to understand how the soul finds refuge in communion with God. Of all the deep phrases in the Bible, where can we find one deeper than this of David, “Thou wilt keep him in the secret of Thy presence”? They mean that when a man is spiritually conscious of the presence of God it secludes and separates him from every other presence. Can we understand that? You go into a room full of people, and the tumult of tongues is all about you. You are bewildered and distracted, in the ordinary language of society, which sometimes hits the truth of its own condition rightly, you “feel lost.” You lose yourself in the presence of so many people. You are merely part of the tumult. But by and by you meet your best friend there; somebody whose life is your life; somebody whom you sincerely love and trust; somebody who thoroughly satisfies you, and, by the contact of his nature, makes your taste and brain and heart and conscience work at their very best. As you draw near to him it seems as if you drew away from all the other people. As he takes hold of you, he seems to claim you, and they let you go. The worry and vexation of the Crowd sink away as he begins to talk with you, and you understand one another. By and by you have forgotten that all those other men are talking around you. You have escaped from the strife of tongues. You are absorbed in him. He has hid you in the secret of his presence. And now it is possible, instead of your best friend, for God Himself to be with you, so that His presence is real, so that lie lets you understand His thoughts and lets you know that He understands yours, so that there is a true sympathy between you and Him, if mere vision and hearing are not necessary go the Divine company, and as close to you--nay, infinitely closer--than the men who crowd you round, and whose voices are in your ears, the unseen God is truly with you, what then? Can any tumult of those men distress you? They parade their foolish vanities before you, and you hardly see them. This gives the very simplest notion of the meaning. Now we suppose that this becomes habitual, the constant temper and condition of a life. We suppose this friendly meeting with one who interests you thoroughly to pass into a friendship, pure, continual, devoted. If not in bodily presence, still in thought and sympathy, our friend is always with us. We always judge ourselves by his standard. We think what he would like or what he would condemn; we appeal even in his absence to his approbation. Is not the protection which we saw given to a man by his friend’s company for an hour while they talked together extended now over all his life?
2. A true Christian faith starts with the truth of a personal redemption and leads the man up to personal duties. It takes this poor indistinguishable atom and says to him: “God knows you. To Him you are not only one of the race; He knows you separately; He made you separately, His Son died for you, and there is in you that which, in some way which belongs to you alone, can glorify Him. What are you doing in this feeble, unconscientious life? Have you never heard of such a thing as responsibility? Get up; repent. Come to God. Get the pattern of your life from Him, and then go about your work and be yourself.” If the man is really a Christian he hears that summons, and it is the birth of a true personality, of the real sense of himself in him. It is a revelation.
3. As we look over Christ’s career, how can we describe its serenity and composure except in these words: “God hid Him in the secret of His presence from the pride of man, and kept Him secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.” How the strife of tongues raged about Him all His life I From the time when Herod and the scribes debated where He was to be born, that they might murder Him, till the day when the people cried, “Crucify Him,” and mocked Him as He hung upon the Cross. But, close to His Father always, clear in His own duty always, and always trying to help men so earnestly that He was not capable of being provoked by them, He was completely apart from all the strife. He was hid in the secret of His Father’s presence. (Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
Our refuge in God
All temples in ancient times were asylums. Whosoever could flee to grasp the horns of the altar, or to sit, veiled and suppliant, before the image of the god, was secure from his foes, who could not pass within the limits of the temple grounds, in which strife and murder were not permissible. We too often flee to other gods and other temples for our refuges. Aye! and when we get there we find that the deity whom we have invoked is only a marble image that sits deaf, dumb, motionless whilst we cling to its unconscious skirts. As one of the saddest of our modern cynics once said, looking up at that lovely impersonation of Greek beauty, the Venus de Mile, “Ah! she is fair; but she has no arms.” So we may say of all false refuges to which men betake themselves. The goddess is powerless to help, however beautiful the presentiment of her may have seemed to our eyes. There is only one shrine where there is a sanctuary, and that is the shrine above which shines the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; into the brightness of which poor men may pass and therein may hide themselves. God hides us, and His hiding is effectual, in the secret of the light and splendour of His face. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The refuge from talk
The author of this psalm had evidently suffered much from the talk of society. The strife of tongues had raged, and its armies had wounded him. And his experience is that of not a few. A large share of good men’s troubles come out of the talk of others. Every man has his own little public, and that public talks, and their talk worries, so that the subject of it cries out for the wings of a dove that he may fly away and be at rest.
I. the strife of tongues. What an expressive phrase that is. How the element of contention asserts itself in the great mass of the world’s talk. I remember being once at a fair in a foreign city, and before each booth stood a crier, sometimes aided by musical instruments; each crier endeavouring to raise his voice above the others in advertising the attractions of his show. It was a good picture of the world at large, where so many people have something to say, something which they are determined the world shall hear, no matter who else goes unheard. Then, how much debate--often useless--there is. And how selfish, carried on not for others, but the man’s own advantage. And, then, there is the hiss of slanderous tongues striving against the innocent, and of gossiping tongues striving which can tell most news--bad or good, false or true, it matters not. Now, men get weary of this. We grow blinded and stunned by this excess of talk. We want leisure to think, and to weigh, and to adjust things. If perchance a great seed-thought has floated to us on these winds of oratory and debate, we would fain give it time to strike its roots deep down into our hearts and minds. And we grow ashamed of ourselves, because we are so often drawn into this current of talk about our neighbours. We hear the gossip, and we happen to know a fact or to have heard a piece of news, and almost ere we know it, in it goes into the common stock: and, if we are not very careful, we find ourselves falling into censorious talk, flinging out sharp arrows of sarcasm or pulling a neighbour’s defects a little farther out into the light; and when we come to sit down and think over what we have said, unless we are very much hardened, we feel ashamed.
II. the refuge.
1. Now, it will not do for us to defy public talk, and to do, wantonly, what shocks social sentiment and multiplies talk. For the talk of society is by no means an unmixed evil. It hurts a good many men, and that unjustly; but it also keeps not a few men steady. It begets a wholesome fear. It is good to have a manly respect for public opinion, and a manly desire for society’s esteem. Defiance of society, then, is not our refuge from the strife of tongues.
2. The world does not afford it. To get out of the reach of talk is to quit the world altogether, which is no man’s duty but his sin if he attempts it. God provides better for men than by withdrawing them from the world where their work lies.
3. Man is delivered from temptation, not by being taken out of it, but by being helped to conquer it. In putting a man in right relations with Himself, God puts him in right relation to the world’s talk.
III. Let us look at some illustrations of this, growing out of what has been already said.
1. There is the matter of slander and abuse. God does not always exempt good men from these. The man of science delights to show you how he can handle fire, and even go into the fire unhurt. That is a greater achievement than keeping away from the fire. A good man is given to thinking that, if his good name in the world is gone, if the world’s talk casts up nothing hut mire and dirt, it is all over with him. God shows him that he can live, and live quietly and cheerfully, on the simple fact of his conscious integrity before God.
2. Sometimes God saves one from the strife of tongues by putting him where he cannot talk and where others cannot talk to him. He sends a calamity so overwhelming that his friends do not know what to say to him, and the man himself cannot reason about it, cannot argue, cannot explain, is simply reduced to silence. All that he can say is, “I am dumb; I open not my mouth because Thou didst it.” He must find his only explanation in that simple fact, God did it. God seems to say to him, “Be still! There is only one thing you can know about this matter. Be still and know that I am God.”
3. Again, God shields good men from the world’s talk by hardening them against it. Exposure is often the best remedy for certain bodily ailments, and that is a kind of cure God often employs for the soul. Archbishop Whately, of Dublin, who died in 1863, was among the sturdiest men of his time, a man of undaunted courage, and withal of that genuine originality which awakens comment and opposition. Much of his official life was passed under a fire of censure, lie once said of himself, “My stumbling-block most to be guarded against was the dread of censure. Few would conjecture this from seeing how I have braved it all my life, and how I have perpetually been in hot water, when, in truth, I had a natural aversion to it. So I set myself resolutely to act as though I cared nothing for either the sweet or the bitter, and in time I got hardened. But no earthly object could ever pay me for the labour and the anguish of modelling my nature in these respects. I have succeeded so far that I have even found myself standing firm where some men of constitutional intrepidity have given way. And this will always be the case more or less, through God’s help, if we will but persevere from a right motive.”
4. Again, God hides His servant from the strife of tongues by filling his hands with work for others. Tim more one is interested in the welfare of men, the less he will care for their talk; for a good deal of sensitiveness is merely selfishness, after all. That, is a kind of sensitiveness which may be cured; and the best way of curing it is to get the life filled with Christ’s spirit of ministry. Then what the world is saying of you will go by you like the idle wind. I remember how I went with the Christian commission during the war to help in nursing the sick and wounded. I was peculiarly sensitive to the sight of physical suffering, and my friends laughed at me and said, “You will faint at the sight of blood.” And I quite feared I should. But it was not so. From the moment that I sat down beside the first man that met my eye, a poor fellow with a muskeg-bullet through his jaw, and tried, while I applied the cooling water, to drop a word or two about Christ and His rest for the weary--all my shrinking vanished. I thought only of those wounded men. I had little or no self-consciousness left. I saw only that colossal misery. That experience was worth a great deal to me, and that is the reason I tell it to you, for it illustrates a universal truth. Get yourself thoroughly interested in other people’s bodies and souls; get the question, “What can I do for them?” uppermost in your thought, and the world’s gossip about you will attract as little notice as the drifting sea-weed.
5. And I need scarcely add that this is the best way to keep ourselves from being sharers in the world’s gossip. He who dwells in the secret of God’s presence learns to take God’s attitude toward infirmity and error--the attitude of One who remembers that His children are dust, and pities them accordingly. The tongue of such an one will not be a weapon of strife. These are some of the methods in which God hides His people from the strife of tongues; and all these methods are embraced in this one comprehensive fact--that He hides them in the hiding-place of His presence. Then, “your life is hid with Christ in God.” If we are really Christ’s, then back into the very bosom of His Father where Christ is hid, there lie will carry us. We, too, shall look out and be as calm and as independent as He is. The needs of men shall touch us just as keenly as they touch Him, but the sneers and strifes of men shall pass us by as they pass by Him and leave no mark on His unruffled life. This, then, is the conclusion of the whole matter. In this world we must be exposed to the strife of tongues. Let God hide thee in the secret of His pavilion and thou needest not fear. (M. R. Vincent, D. D.)
For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before Thine eyes: nevertheless Thou heartiest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto Thee.
Consolation for the despairing
I am as a watcher on the sea beach, telescope in hand, keeping guard for an appointed time. The watcher looks through his glass again and again, but a glance contents him so far as most of yonder gallant vessels are concerned, which are now in the offing; but by and by, his glass remains steadily ate his eye; his gaze is fixed, and in a few moments he gives a signal to his fellows, and they launch their boat. The explanation is, that he has noted signals of distress in one of the craft and, therefore, he has bestirred himself for her help. And so, too, the preacher is on the look-out for distress signals, and would render help where souls bound for eternity are foundering in doubt, ready to despair.
I. deep inward sorrow. The man who wrote it was pained at his heart, and there are many in like ease now. How came they so? Some are constitutionally depressed and desponding. Others are so, through great trial. Some, through secret sin unconfessed, which has festered into misery. Hurtful teaching, unwise ministry, often adds sorrow to the heart. And when the spirit sinks, the depression of men takes its own form according to what they are. In religious men it will take a religious form. It did so in the author of this psalm. What more dreadful apprehension could there be than this--“I am cut off from before Thine eyes.” Many good men have felt like that. But God brings good out of it for the man himself and for others through him.
II. the rash expression of this sorrow. “I said in my haste.” David, more than once, spoke hastily. He had better have bitten his tongue. Better count a dozen before we speak when our minds are agitated. But such speech rests on altogether insufficient grounds.
1. Sad and distressful circumstances. But these do not prove that God has cast you away. If so, then God cast away His own Son. “The foxes had holes and,” etc.
2. Feelings. But what more fluctuating and unstable than they? The wind does not veer more fitfully than does the current of our emotions. And yet despairing people are obstinate in their convictions. You cannot persuade them. For the declaration that God has forsaken us, or any man who seeks Him, is diametrically opposed to Scripture. There is not one text which advises any man to despair of the mercy of God. It is dishonouring God to think so. Jesus says, “I can save.” The sinner says, “You cannot,” and thus makes Christ a liar.
III. A pleading cry. When David feared that he was cut off from God, he was wise enough to take to crying. It is a significant word. It tells of pain. Red eyes often relieve breaking hearts, and to cry unto God is a real relief. Prayer is the surest and most blessed vent for the soul. And then there came--
IV. A cheerful result. “Thou heartiest,” etc. This blessing went beyond the promise. The promise is to believing prayer. But even when He meets with unbelieving ones, He gives faith, and so saves them. We are like lost children and cry, and God will not leave us to die in the dark. God heard David, then He will hear you and me. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A hasty expression penitently retracted
“I said in my haste,” etc. That is a bit of genuine experience honestly told. How glad we ought to be that David never fell into the hand of an ordinary biographer, for then we had never been told what here we read. But it is comforting to find that even great men act at times as we often do. The experience of such a man as David cannot but be very instructive. Now in this text listen--
I. To an utterance of unbelief. “I said in my haste, I am cut off from before Thine eyes.” Note here--
1. That unbelief is generally talkative.
“I said.” He had better not even have thought it, but if he did think of it he had far best not say it. I have heard it said, “If it is in the mind it may as well come out,” but this is not true. If I had a rattlesnake in a box on this platform, I think you would none of you vote for the creature being let loose. Poison in a phial is deadly, but it will hurt no one until the cork is drawn, and then we cannot tell how far the mischief will go. If thou hast an ill thought, repent of it, but do not repeat it. Do as David did in another case, when he had a very ugly thought; he said, “If I should speak thus I shall offend against the generation of thy children.” So he would not put his thought into words lest he should do harm. Alas, unbelief does not understand holding its tongue. It will prattle.
2. Its utterances are generally hasty. There was no reason for saying such a thing at all, and certainly not for being in a hurry to say it; for he said unto God, “I am cut off from before Thine eyes.” But was it true? See if it be founded on fact; see whether after all you have not made a mistake. John Bunyan says of the pilgrim that he was much tumbled up and down in his thoughts. It means that he was in much confusion of mind. But why in such haste to write your blunders down. What a man says in his haste he generally has to repent at his leisure. Hasty deeds and hasty words make up the most horrible parts of human history.
3. They are often the result of quick temper. I fear we professing Christians are often out of temper with God. Too often such blasphemy enters into the human heart.
4. And are frequently exaggerated. See what David says here, “I am cut off,” etc. No, David, no. It is not so. You are cut off from much you love, but not from God. Some people always talk big about everything. There must be a very narrow line, fine as a razor’s edge, between a lie and the unguarded expressions of exaggeration. Some people talk about their trials on a scale of a mile to the inch. Their afflictions are awful, they are dreadful, they are without parallel. They are altogether quite equal to Job and Jeremiah rolled into one. If you try to comfort them they will tell you at once that you do not know anything about the great deeps whereon they are doing business; you are only knee deep in the waters of trouble. Such is the way of unbelief. Let us leave it off.
5. They dishonour God. David does, as it were, blame God. “Before Thy very eyes I have suffered this.” There never was a godly man cut off from God yet, and there never will be. If any of us have uttered words of unbelief let us call them back and drown them in our tears. But we have here also--
II. an effort of struggling faith.
1. He prayed to God. He says, “Thou heardest the voice of my supplications,” etc. Oh, child of God, cry to a smiting God. Cry to God even when He seems to cast thee off. Sink or swim, live or die, do not doubt thy God, but still pray.
2. He prayed in downright earnest. His was a crying prayer. That is the prayer which is neither said nor sung, but cried; it drops from the eyes in tears. The words of a child the mother may not listen to, but let it cry and see if she will act come. And--
3. God heard his prayer. God dealt with David not according to his unbelief, but his faith. His faith was small, but it was true. Thou who art in trouble, whoever thou mayest be, listen not to the voice of Satan who tempts thee to cease prayer. Do not say, “God will not hear me”; remember the words, “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.”
III. A testimony of gratitude. “Nevertheless Thou heardest the voice of my supplications.” God acted in the reverse way to David.
1. He spoke, but God did not speak. He was a listener. “Thou heartiest.” Not a word came from God: there had been too many words in the business already.
2. And there was no haste in God. God was quietly hearing while His petulant servant was fiercely complaining. It is a great thing for a minister who visits his people to be a good listener. The afflicted value this quality above gold. Such hearing has tender and precious sympathy in it. Hence the Scriptures say of God, “O Thou that hearest prayer.” David does not cease to wonder that in his unhappy condition he had yet been regarded of the Lord: “Thou heartiest the voice of my supplication.” How beautiful that is! Further--
3. There was no exaggeration with God. Unbelief exaggerates, but God does not. On the contrary, He diminishes the evil of His servants, till it comes to nothing.
4. And He did not dishonour His servant’s prayer. He might have done so, but did not. He might have said, “If he thinks I have forsaken him, let it be so.” But God did not do so. Look at the word “never-the-less,” what it tells of the graciousness of God.
1. Repent heartily of every hard thought we have had of God.
2. Earnestly pray that if we think so wrongly we may keep our mouth as with a bridle.
3. Pray without ceasing, always pray let come what will.
4. Let us always speak well of the Lord’s mercy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. The faith of the godly may be shaken, and the strongest faith may sometimes show its infirmity.
2. Though faith be shaken, yet it is fixed in the root, as a tree beaten by the wind, keeping strong grips of good ground; though faith seem to yield, yet it faileth not, and even when it is at the weakest, it is uttering itself in some act, as a wrestler; for here the expression of David’s infirmity in faith is directed to God, and his earnest prayer joined with it.
3. Praying faith, how weak soever, shall not be misregarded of God.
4. There may be in a soul at one time both grief oppressing, and hope upholding: both darkness of trouble, and the light of faith; both desperately doubting, and strong gripping of God’s truth and goodness; both a fainting and a fighting; a seeming yielding in the fight, and yet a striving of faith against all opposition; both a foolish haste, and a settled staidness of faith; as here, “I said in my haste,” etc. (D. Dickson.)
The eloquence of a cry
If you were walking the streets and heard or saw a poor child crying, you would be far more affected by it than by the oration of the pretended mechanic who is eloquently stating his wants to the dwellers on both sides of the way. A poor child crying in the dark, under your window, in mid-winter, in the snow, would move your pity and obtain your help. Even if it were a foreigner, and knew not a single word of English, you would fully feel its pleading. The eloquence of a cry is overwhelming, pity owns its power, and lends her aid. There is a chord in human nature which responds to a child’s cry, and there is something in the Divine nature which is equally touched by prayer. The Lord will not suffer a young raven to cry in vain, and much less will He suffer men who are made in His own image to cry to Him in the bitterness of their hearts, and find Him deaf to their entreaties. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
O love the Lord, all ye His saints.
Love Jehovah--so the text runs. God the Father demands your love and deserves it, yea, the warmest affection of your hearts. And so also does the Son who redeemed you; and the Holy Spirit, by whom we are born again unto eternal life. But we speak, now, only of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of Him we say, “O love the Lord, all,” etc.
I. This sentiment should animate every mind.
1. Love the Lord because His Father loves Him. It must always be right for us to love whom God loves.
2. The angels love Him. But shall they love Him who never redeemed them, and shall we, whom He hath redeemed with His precious blood, not love Him?
3. The saints in heaven love Him. We have many friends, very dear to us, there, and they all love Him. And with what intense love. We are cold creatures; like icebergs are our hearts, but theirs are like flames of fire. Shall we not love Him when we think how they love Him?
4. Everything that could possibly enamour our souls and constrain our love is found in Him. Does beauty attract? But what beauty can be compared to His? Wisdom--but whose like His? Perfect character--but where such as His? It were impossible to know Christ and yet not to have the heart affected by Him.
5. And chief of all, “because He first loved us.” Think of His Incarnation, His agony, His cross. Think how He loved you when you were going on in sin. How, after having received you, He has loved you ever since, and what ill return you have made.
II. The excellencies of loving Jesus.
1. It will make you bear suffering for Him with joyousness.
2. And your” service joyous also.
3. And obedience sweet.
4. And communion.
5. Love to Christ will make trust easy. Look at the child’s love for its mother, and because of it, even in the midst of danger, it has no fear. But you who have never loved Him, you must trust Him first, give up your soul into His hands. Believe and live. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.
The believer’s source of strength
Many are almost despairing because of their trials and their temptations. But be our circumstances what they may, here is an antidote to them all.
I. the promise--“He shall strengthen your heart.” We have duties, many, varied, arduous. Often they are very trying; but this promise is for us. And so in our temptations. These are continually occurring, and we know not how to overcome them. Again this promise is given. But you ask, “How am I to attain this strength? Must I always go on sinning?” No, for--
1. Faith is one grand means of victory over sin. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.”
2. Watchfulness is another help; taking care to keep away from the occasions and inducements to sin: occupation in what is good and right, storing the mind with God’s truth.
3. Prayer. This must by no means be neglected, the more we pray the stronger we are.
4. In mortifying sin be careful to leave no part remaining. Cut down the tree, but not this only, pull up the roots.
5. Guard your thoughts and desires.
6. If sin has gained power over you, at once--delay not a day--in seeking to subdue it. The longer it is left the greater will be the difficulty. “Today, if ye will hear His voice,” etc. But in our own strength no one is sufficient for these things; but the grace of God will help us.
II. To whom this promise is made.
“All ye that hope in the Lord.” Not the sinless, the perfect, but, etc. They are such as put all their trust and confidence in Christ. (J. Marshall, M. A.)
The word comes from the Latin words, “cor” and “ago,” meaning, the heart, and to put in motion. Courage, therefore, means the active heart, or the spirit of the heart. For it is that spirit which enables us to encounter danger without fear, and bear adversity with calmness.
I. WE admire physical courage; but, after all, it is chiefly a constitutional endowment. If a man be full of animal courage, no credit to him; for he has to thank his father and mother for his vigorous body which inspires him to be brave. Physical, or animal courage is not a rare quality. Moral courage is the great thing, that which will inspire you to do right at all costs. It was that which Jesus had and which He helps us to acquire.
II. true courage will never swerve from that which it knows is right. Margaret Wilson, in the days of Charles II., was tied to a post on the shore at the flow of the tide, but offered her life if she would obey the Church. Higher and higher the water rose, but she would not yield, and she died, crying out with her last breath, “Christ only is my Master.” And many such martyrs there have been. That is moral courage. Dare to follow that which your conscience declares to be the truth; and be a Christian all out, though it may run you into risks of limb and life. It is the coward who is afraid to follow his convictions. Do not be a religious or political “turn-coat” against the secret conviction of your mind. “Toe the mark “in every sense in matters of truth and morals, and be brave enough to die rather than do wrong.
III. have you courage to show yourself a Christian? And how many there are who cannot do this. But wily should you fear. Oh, be brave, not cowards. No doubt it does need moral courage to stand against ridicule, but be not jeered from the right.
IV. if you possess true courage, you will not be ashamed of your humble but honourable surroundings. Don’t have any false shame. Your hat may be battered, your shawl may be shabby, your coat may be an everyday one, but come up bravely to the house of God, and fear nobody. If the coat is the best God has given you, thank Him for it, and for all He has done for you.
V. let me urge you to have courage to decide for Jesus Christ. (W. Birch.)
Strength for the courageous who hope in the Lord
I. what is required in the exhortation--“good courage.” How this is founded on hope. (Romans 8:24; 1 Thessalonians 5:8). How needful is it--
1. When a man’s sins press heavily upon him, and the cares and sorrows of earth weigh him down, how miserable is he if he have not hope.
2. Courage so founded is enduring.
3. And we are made more than conquerors over our spiritual enemies.
II. the promise. “He shall strengthen your heart.”
1. We are ignorant of our own hearts, and--
2. We are unwilling to know.
3. Hence we cannot strengthen our hearts; the Gospel only can do this.
III. the persons to whom this promise is made,--those who “hope in the Lord.” Those also distrusting themselves hope for all in Christ. (G. C. Tomlinson.)
Consolation for the troubled
I. believers may have great need of strength from God.
1. David knew this, and from his own experience declares what God will do for His people.
2. There are many trials which the believer shares in common with the men of this world.
3. There are others peculiar to himself. He may be calumniated and despised; deprived of the fellowship of other Christians; cast down by reason of his departures from God, so that he walk in darkness and hath no light.
4. And there are sorrows which come to him through the sins of others. Those near and dear to him living in sin; the wickedness of the world; the divisions of the Church and her cold-heartedness.
II. the hope which the Christian has in God. It does not make him neglect means. It is founded on the Lord Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection and intercession. It implies that his life is free from presumption and that he prays for the Divine blessing.
1. Expect trials.
2. Maintain faith.
3. Remember the promises
4. Tell others of Christ. (B. W. Noel.)
The cure for a weak heart
I. an approved company. The text is addressed to--
1. Men of hope. They have not yet entered into possession of their full inheritance; they have a hope which is looking out for something better on before; they have a living hope which peers into the future beyond even the dark river of death, a hope with eyes so bright that it seeth things invisible to others, and gazes upon glories which the unaided human eye has never beheld. Have you this good hope?
2. They hope for good things, for this is implied when the psalmist speaks of those that hope in the Lord, for no man hopes for evil things whose hope is in the Lord.
3. If you are the persons spoken of in the text, this hope of yours is rooted, and grounded, and stablished in the Lord: “all ye that hope in the Lord.” You have not a hope apart from the ever-blessed Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
4. Some of them do not get much beyond hope, “All ye that hope in the Lord.” This passage picks up the hindermost, it seems to come, like the men with the ambulance, to look after the wounded, and carry them on at the same pace as those who march in the fulness of their strength.
II. There is An occasional weakness apparent in many of those that hope in the Lord.
1. It is a dangerous weakness, for it is a weakness of the heart. They lose their courage, their joy departs from them, and they become timorous and fearful.
2. This weakness occurs on many occasions.
(1) In the battle of life.
(2) In times of temptation.
(3) In the midst of great labour for the Lord.
The best of men are but men at the best; and, therefore, who wonders if their heart sometimes faileth them in the day of suffering, in the hour of battle, or under the broiling sun, when they are labouring for their Lord?
3. If this weakness of the heart should continue, it will be very injurious.
(1) At the present time, I believe that it restricts enterprise.
(2) It endangers the success of the best workers.
(3) It pleads many excuses.
III. A seasonable exhortation. I like the way this is put. It is not alone, “Be of good courage”; there is an “and” with it: “and he shall strengthen your heart.” At the same time, the exhortation is not omitted. It does not say, “He shall comfort your heart, therefore you need do nothing.” They err from the Scriptures who make the grace of God a reason for doing nothing; it is the reason for doing everything.
1. If you want to get out of diffidence, and timidity, and despondency, you must rouse yourselves up. Do not sit still, and rub your eyes, and say, “I cannot help it, I must always be dull like this.” You must not be so; in the name of God, you are commanded in the text to “be of good courage.”
2. Do you not think that your God deserves to be trusted? What has He ever done that you should doubt Him?
3. If thou art not of good courage, what will happen to thee? I would not have you deserve the coward’s doom, and speak of it as “retiring.” No, get not into that class; be thou rather like that soldier of Alexander, who was always to the front, and the reason was that he bore about with him what was thought to be an incurable disease, and he suffered so much pain that he did not care whether he lived or died. Alexander took great pains to have him healed, and when he was quite well, he never exposed his precious life to any risk again. Oh, I would rather that you should be stung into courage by excessive pain than that you should be healed into cowardice! Christ ought not to be served by feather-bed soldiers.
IV. A cheering promise. “He shall strengthen your heart.” God alone can do this.
1. Sometimes by gracious providences.
2. By the kindly fellowship of friends.
3. By a precious promise.
4. Beside all that, God the Holy Spirit has a secret way of strengthening the courage of God’s people, which none of us can explain. Have you never felt it? You may have gone to your bed, sick at heart, “weary, and worn, and sad,” and you wake in the morning ready for anything. Perhaps, in the middle of the night, you awake, and the visitations of God are manifested to you, and you feel as happy as if everything went the way you would like it to go. Nay, you shall be more happy that everything should cross you than that everything should please you, if it be God’s sweet will. You feel a sudden strengthening of your spirit, so that you are perfectly resigned, satisfied, prepared, and ready. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 31". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29