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O clap your hands, all ye people.
Messianic triumph predicted
The psalmist looked far ahead. His immediate experience was as “a little window through which he saw great matters.” The prophecy of the universal spread of God’s kingdom and the inclusion in it of the Gentiles is Messianic; and whether the singer knew that he spoke of a fair hope which should not be a fact for weary centuries, or anticipated wider and permanent results from that triumph which inspired his song, he spake of the Christ, and his strains are true prophecies of His dominion. There is no intentional reference in the psalm to the Ascension; but the thoughts underlying its picture of God’s going up with a shout are the same which that Ascension sets forth as facts--the merciful coming down into humanity of the Divine Helper; the completeness of His victory as attested by His return thither where He was before; His session in heaven, not as idle nor wearied, but as having done what He meant to do; His continuous working as King in the world; and the widening recognition of His authority by loving hearts. The psalmist summons us all to swell with our voices that great chorus of praise which, like a sea, rolls and breaks in music round His royal seat. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The praiseworthy and the faultworthy in worship
Man is a worshipper. The deepest craving of his soul is for worship, and in true worship alone he can find the healthy excitement and the full and felicitous development and exercise of all his powers.
I. The praise-Worthy in worship.
1. Exultancy. “O clap your hands,” etc.; “shout unto God.” “Sing praises to God,” etc. Among the reasons indicated in the psalm for this exultancy is His supremacy over all the earth.
(1) His government of the world is founded upon the reason of things.
(2) His government of the world is founded upon laws suited to the nature of His subjects.
(3) His government of the world is exercised for purely benevolent ends.
(4) His government of the world affords opportunities for rebels to be restored.
2. Enthusiasm. In worship all the faculties and susceptibilities of the soul are interested, and into it conscience pours its whole force.
3. Monotheism. There is one God, and one only, to be worshipped. The supremely good is to be loved supremely, the supremely great to be adored supremely, the supremely just to be obeyed supremely.
4. Intelligence. “Sing ye praises with understanding.” Worship is not an unmeaning act, not a burst of blind passion; it is founded in the profoundest philosophy, it implies the grandest truths.
II. The fault-Worthy in worship.
1. There is something like selfishness here. Worship may begin in gratitude, may spring from a sense of God’s personal kindness; but it only becomes virtuous and noble as it rises into self-oblivious adoration.
2. There is something like revenge here. “He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.” “God reigneth over the heathen.” “The shields of the earth belong unto God”; i.e. the rulers of the earth are in His hand. (Homilist.)
He shall choose our inheritance for us: the excellency of Jacob whom He loved.
He shall choose our inheritance for us
How fond our children are, and the younger they are the more so, of saying, “I mean to be.” And then each one tells what his or her choice is. A soldier, a farmer, a cottage girl, and so on. And we let them talk on.
“We know the world is hard and rough,
But time will teach that soon enough.”
Nevertheless, our path in life is chosen for us. We do not have our own way. There is sweet music in the words of our text. Livingstone, in his fever, far away from any tender hand or kindly care, in poison-haunted jungles of the African wilderness, borne in from day to day, his end seemingly very near, and left by his servants unconscious in his tent while they went to seek other aid; they found him when they came back on his knees by his bedside, but dead--so had he passed away and died in sight of his promised land. He had not received the promise, but he was satisfied, and crowned his life with a consecration of prayer. That was his way of saying, “He shall choose our inheritance for us.” It is, if a funeral, not the less a triumphant song. Every life must be a triumph that passes out in prayer. Life’s present discords will constitute its great harmony by and by. For--
I. The joy of life is to feel that it is not a scheme of fatalism, a mere reign of law. “He shall choose our inheritance for us.” This is a strange word to come from an Eastern psalmist, for such men were mainly fatalists, as they are to this day. But the Bible proclaims the freedom of man, and that the universe is governed, not by infinite chance, but by infinite choice.
II. The divine choice proves itself by divine love. “The excellency of Jacob whom He loved.” Huxley tells us that man is justified by verification. But it is not only true that man is justified by faith, but God is also. Choice is another word for love. Love runs along the line of our lives, so that in the end God is justified by verification after all. Jacob was the proof of that love of His. God chooses for us, and His choice is love. Once upon a time in a family I know of there were four children, sons; their names were Little Faith, Don’t-care, Honest Doubt, and Great-heart. One day their father called them to him and said, “Children, our family has a house called Beautiful, a great way off. I am going there now: you will attend to my estates down here, and you will follow me by and by; and to find your way take this map, study it--it shows you the way, follow its directions and follow me, and you shall safely arrive at the house Beautiful.” Now, when the father was gone, the brothers began to talk over and to dispute about the father’s will. Don’t care said he was comfortable where he was; should take and stock a farm and lead a merry life; let them go after the house Beautiful who chose, he should not. Little Faith said he did not know however he should find the way. He could not understand maps. Honest Doubt said that, like Little Faith, he too was a bad hand at maps, and, though he knew father loved them, and his will was just, like him, yet he had so much doubt about the whole matter that, until he had more certainty, he could not believe. But Great-heart said, “Brothers, I mean to go; and, Little Faith and Honest Doubt, if you will go with me, any little help I can give you shall have. As to you, Don’t-care, you always were a bad one. But, brothers, if the way seems doubtful, you know we can look on the map together, and you, Honest Doubt, will perhaps keep us from being deceived; and you, Little Faith, shall help to keep us prayerful and humble, so let us start and cheer each other.” And they did so, and the last I heard of them was that on their way they were singing, “He shall choose our inheritance for us.” And without fail those three brothers will reach the Beautiful Home. Then--
III. There is divine consolation in these words. They are personal. For each one of us, be we who we may. (E. Paxton Hood.)
Submission to Divine appointment
I. God has the right of supreme control. He is our Creator, Benefactor, Lawgiver, Preserver, Redeemer and Judge.
II. His choice is the result of eternal wisdom. We cannot descry the future, but God sees the end from the beginning. We are fallible, but God never errs. Things with us are often bounded by time; God always includes eternity.
III. He loves all his sincere followers.
IV. It preserves us from taking an improper course. Quietness and confidence in God is our best preservative in the path of integrity. When Israel lost their confidence, they swerved.
V. It is the happiest state of mind on earth. Take a few cases--Bereavement (Genesis 43:14); Affliction (Job 1:21); Uncertainty (Acts 21:13-14); Death (2 Peter 1:14).
VI. He works all things for his own glory. Improvements--
1. Let the sinful wanderer adopt the sentiment, and from that day he will be blessed.
2. Let the Lord’s own children learn to say, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” “Thou shalt choose our inheritance for us.” (Evangelical Preacher.)
The providence of God
I. What the text expresses.
1. A belief of the providence of God. This belief is supported by the strongest arguments: by what we daily see of the instincts and appetites of living creatures; by the gravitation of matter, or the tendency of all heavy bodies to the earth; by many wonderful events, that happen contrary to what might be expected from the appearances of things; the discovery of secret wickedness, etc.
2. Providence has a peculiar concern for good men, and is exercised towards them with special care, tenderness and love.
3. Hearty consent to God’s determinations. Not only a belief that He will choose for His people, but an entire, cheerful acquiescence in His choice. This temper includes the important virtues of humility, patience and contentment. It includes a frame of spirit suited to a persuasion of an over-ruling providence. This persuasion is expressed and strengthened by daily, fervent prayer; and there is to be nothing in the actions or words contrary to it or inconsistent with it: no impatience, fretfulness, or discontent allowed; no unlawful methods used to mend our circumstances, or extricate us out of any difficulty. And if the rebel heart is disposed to murmur, it must be checked and restrained by resolution, watchfulness and prayer.
II. A recommendation to cultivate this temper.
1. We are not able to choose for ourselves. Our knowledge is limited to a few objects, and we see those imperfectly. We cannot look into futurity, and have many false biases upon our judgment. We have often found ourselves mistaken, and been forced to acknowledge, that we have made a bad choice. “If God would study a close, quick and certain way of being revenged upon a man, He needs but open His stores and bid him choose for himself.”
2. God is most fit to choose for us. For His understanding is infinite, His wisdom perfect, His judgment unerring. No case can possibly arise which will puzzle Him; nor can He have any bias upon His mind to act wrong.
3. God hath chosen well for us already, and therefore we should trust Him. This appears from the many favours He hath bestowed upon us, and the goodness and mercy that have followed us all our days.
4. Our minds can never be easy till we leave it to God to choose for us. God will have His choice, whether we leave it to Him or no (Isaiah 46:10).
III. Concluding reflections.
1. Let us own God’s choice in every agreeable circumstance of life.
2. Let us humbly acquiesce in whatever is disagreeable.
3. Let us never allow ourselves to be anxious about future events. In order to support a patient, composed, cheerful spirit, let us live near to God by the daily exercise of fervent prayer; and especially pray that He would “fulfil in us the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power”; and help and cure the remainder of unbelief, which is the foundation of all our sorrows, fears and anxiety. (Job Orion, D. D.)
Nothing so destroys all the comfort of life as the spirit of discontent with the dispensations of Divine providence. It is as a curse at the root of every earthly good, and it is, at the same time, a barrier in the way of all improvement in religion. Therefore it is our duty to fortify our minds by these considerations, which will help to maintain within us the opposite disposition of a perpetual and unreserved submission to the will of God. We would speak, accordingly--
I. Of the nature of the grace of resignation.
1. Our text is a profession of it, but its words are not to be applied to our state in the world to come. That inheritance is left to our own choice. God will help us, but it is not necessary that He should choose for us.:For there are but two conditions in the future--not a multitude, which might distract: and they are of the most contrasted character. On the one side is all evil, and on the other all good, so that the decision is easy. The choice, therefore, is left to ourselves.
2. Nor can the text be applied to aught that essentially affects the decision of that state, but only to those things in which men may innocently differ from each other. It is only to these diversities which are strictly non-essential as to the decision of our everlasting destiny that any man is capable of being properly resigned. Such are the distinctions
(1) of rank and property.
(2) Of prosperity and adversity.
(3) Personal affliction and sorrow.
(4) Endowments of mind, means of improvement, opportunities of usefulness--with regard to all such things the Christian will say, The Lord “shall choose,” etc.
3. But great virtues are often found to border on dangerous extremes: therefore we need to guard the definition of such virtues very carefully.
(1) Therefore this grace of resignation is not to be confused with Stoicism. The effect of pure religion is not to convert flesh hire stone, but stone into flesh. Its object is not to stupefy or destroy, but rather to refine and exalt the feelings of our nature. Job felt deeply his sorrows, but it is expressly said, “In all this he sinned not.” And so with our Lord.
(2) Nor does resignation prohibit our praying against any evil that is feared, or for good that may be desired. See Paul and his thorn in the flesh.
(3) Nor does it necessitate that we are to sit still and do nothing to help ourselves. The text refers to Israel’s possession of Canaan, but still they had to do much ere it became theirs.
II. The propriety and advantages of this grace. (J. Crouther.)
God’s conduct of our affairs
Allusion seems to be here made to the division of the earth among Noah’s sons after the deluge (Deuteronomy 32:7-9). And like division by lot was observed in regard to the land of Canaan. Though the lot was cast into the lap, the whole disposing thereof was of the Lord. And still God graciously interferes in our affairs.
I. The manner of God’s control.
1. The constant interference on the part of God regards everything relative to our condition in this finite state of being. All form parts of the Divine choosing, however hard it may be to reconcile superior deter-ruination with the free and unrestrained choice which every individual makes for himself. This superintendence is as extensive as it is minute. He telleth the number of the stars, and He counteth the hairs of our head. In its operation it touches the springs of human determination, without at all infringing on individual liberty; and directs man to the choice, while man chooses for himself.
2. It includes the special regards which God pays to tits own people. “This people have I formed for Myself,” etc.
3. The Divine Spirit chooses our lot, by leading, directing, and regulating the choice we make for ourselves; not by a powerful and immediate control of the will, but by implanting those principles in the mind which, in their voluntary exercise, will form a choice agreeably to the Divine mind. “It is God that worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
II. The propriety and advantage of leaving the choice of our inheritance to God. This is indeed nothing more than cheerfully recognizing the just exercise of His own prerogative: He will eventually do it, whether we will or not. But it is best voluntarily to leave it with God, because--
1. It is infinitely wise and fit that He should choose our inheritance for us. To show the propriety of such a disposition, Jeremiah drew his followers to the potter’s field (Jeremiah 18:2-6).
2. This arrangement is infinitely best for ourselves. The task of first forming a human soul for glory, and then bringing that soul to its possession, is what none but God Himself could accomplish. (Robert Hall, A. M.)
A wise desire
I. The glorious fact. As for the worldling, God gives him anything, but for the Christian, God selects the best portion. He gives the worldling husks; but He stops to find out the sweet fruits for His people.
I. And, first, let ms ask, must we not all of us admit an over-ruling Providence, and the appointment of Jehovah’s hands, as to the means whereby we came into this world? What circumstances were those in our power which led us to elect a certain person to be our parent? Had we anything to do with it? Did not God of Himself appoint our parents, native place and friends? And that we were born with healthy body and sound mind. If you have full possession of all your faculties and limbs, you must acknowledge and confess that there was the decree of God in it. And, still further, how much of the finger of God must we discern in our temper and constitution? I suppose no one will be foolish enough to say that we are all born with the same natural temperament and constitution.
2. I will ask any sensible man--above all, any serious Christian--whether there have not been certain times in his life when he could most distinctly see that indeed God did “choose his inheritance for him.” Look back and see how the hand of God was in your affairs, and by varied and often strange means allotting you your place and work. I can see a thousand chances, as men call them, all working together, like wheels in a great piece of machinery, to fix ms just where I am. Verily, it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” Then look at the lives of the great saints told of in the Bible and see this truth plainly shown. Joseph; Moses; Daniel. And how many are the Bible declarations in the matter (Isaiah 45:6-7; Job 14:5; Proverbs 16:33; Jer 21:25).
II. A prayer. “He shall choose our inheritance for us.” Dry doctrine is of little use. It is not the doctrine which helps us; it is our assent to the doctrine. But there are some of you who, if it were not the truth, would say you wish to have it so, for you would say in your prayer, “Thou shalt choose my inheritance for me.”
1. First, “Thou shalt choose my mercies for me.” And others would choose their employments; but it is far best to leave the choosing to God. “If there were two angels in heaven,” said a good man, “supposing there were two works to be done, and one work was to rule a city, and the other to sweep a street crossing--the angels would not stop a moment to say which they would do. They would do whichever God told them to do. Gabriel would shoulder his broom and sweep the crossing cheerfully; and Michael would not be a bit prouder in taking the sceptre to govern the city.” So with a Christian. But there is nothing that we oftener want to choose than our crosses. None of us like crosses at all; but all of us think everybody else’s trials lighter than our own. Crosses we must have, but we often want to be choosing them. “Oh!” says one, “my trouble is in my family. It is the worst cross in the world--my business is successful; but if I might have a cross in my business, and get rid of this cross in my family, I should not mind.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God is gone up with a shout.
The solemnity of Christ’s Ascension to the throne of glory
I. Prove the truth of this doctrine--that Christ is gone up, or ascended.
1. This was typified under the Old Testament by the ark, which continued in a wandering, uncertain condition, as to the place of its abode, till it was taken up to Mount Zion and fixed in the holy of holies.
2. This was foretold by the prophet (Psalms 110:1).
3. This is evident from the testimony of famous witnesses (Acts 1:11; Acts 7:55-56).
4. This is confirmed from many texts of Scripture (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 12:2).
5. This appears from the glorious fruits and consequences of His actual accession to the throne of glory, which have appeared in the open view of all mankind.
II. Show what is imported in this expression of his going up.
1. His voluntary humiliation (John 3:13).
2. His incarnation, or assumption of man’s nature.
3. That He had ended or finished the work or service for which He came down into this lower world.
4. His resurrection from the dead, whereby He was justified as the Head and Surety of an elect world, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness.
5. That the gates of glory, which had been shut, were again opened by the death and satisfaction of Christ.
6. That God the Father is perfectly well pleased with the person and undertaking of our glorious Redeemer; for, if He had not been well pleased, how could He give Him such a solemn reception after His work was done?
7. That when Christ ascended, after finishing our redemption, He was received into heaven with the universal applause and admiration of the triumphant company.
III. Speak of the solemnity of Christ’s ascension.
1. The place from whence He went up. This world, where He had met with such bad entertainment.
2. Whither He is gone up. He is gone up into the third heavens, where no unclean thing can enter; and the heavens are to contain Him till the time of the restitution of all things.
3. To whom He is gone up (John 20:17). Oh! what an infinite satisfaction would it be to Him to return to His Father, to be possessed of that glory that He had with Him before the world was!
4. Through what region, and through whose territories he went up.
5. His levee or retinue that attended Him when He went up. This seems to be pointed at (Psalms 68:17).
6. The spoils and trophies He carried along with Him when He went up.
(1) The head of the old serpent.
(2) The keys of the grave (Revelation 1:18).
(3) The debt bond that we were owing to justice, retired and cancelled (Colossians 2:14).
(4) The broken law repaired, yea, magnified and made honourable by His obedience unto death.
(5) The keys of the house of David, i.e. an absolute dominion, sovereignty and headship over His Church, and over all creatures for the Church’s sake (Isaiah 22:22).
7. With respect to the solemnity of Christ’s ascension, we may consider that He went up with a shout. Who were they that gave the shout? We read of nothing but a deep and silent gazing after Him as He went up from this lower world (Acts 1:9-11); where, then, was the shouting? In the Church triumphant, among an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just man made perfect: these sons of God shouted for joy when they saw their glorious Head of redemption and confirmation coming in personally among them. What kind of shouts were among that triumphant company when the Lord Jesus went up to His throne and kingdom?
(1) A shout of approbation.
(2) A shout of joy and gladness (Revelation 19:7).
(3) A shout of praise and gratitude (Revelation 5:9).
(4) A shout of admiration and adoration among the triumphant company.
(5) A shout of victory and triumph among the heavenly crowd.
IV. Show what there is in the ascension of Christ that affords such ground of triumph.
1. God is gone up with a shout, as our forerunner, to open the way to glory, and to make a report of what was done in the days of His humiliation upon this earth (Hebrews 6:20).
2. He has gone up as a victorious general to receive a triumph after the battle.
3. He is gone up as a bridegroom to prepare a lodging for His bride, and to make suitable provision for her against the day of the consummation of the marriage (John 14:2-3).
4. God is gone up with a shout in our nature, as “the great high priest of our profession” (Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 10:21-22).
5. God is gone up in our nature as “our Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1).
6. God is gone up as our exalted King.
7. He is gone up to Mount Zion above, as the great Shepherd, to look after His sheep that are wandering in the wilderness.
8. He is gone up as our glorious Representative to take possession of the inheritance of eternal life, until his fellow-heirs, all believers whom He represents, follow Him.
1. Of information.
(1) See hence that the ignominy of the Cross of Christ is fully wiped away.
(2) See hence that none need to think themselves dishonoured by suffering the hardest things for His sake.
(3) See hence how little reason believers have to be disquieted because of the confusions of this lower world; even though heaven and earth were mingling, and seas roaring. Why, God is gone up with a shout: He governs the world for the Church’s sake, and therefore nothing can go wrong, “no weapon formed against Zion shall prosper.”
(4) See hence the parallel or similitude between Christ’s ascension and His coming to judgment.
2. Of trials.
(1) Have you received His Spirit? He is a holy Spirit, a praying Spirit, a Spirit of life and liberty, a public Spirit in a time of defection; when the house of Christ is turned into a den of thieves, the zeal of His house will eat you up.
(2) Your hearts will be frequently mounting up on high after Him, as upon eagle’s wings.
3. Of consolation.
(1) Thou shall follow Him ere long.
(2) Thou shall not want the gifts, graces and influences of the Spirit to bear you up, and to carry you through in the work and service that He has for you upon earth.
(3) Here is comfort under all the glooms and frowns of men in the world for owning Christ, His cause, His kingdom, His truths, His ways and people.
(4) Here is comfort against the fear of the “roaring lion, who goes about seeking whom he may devour.”
(5):Here is comfort; all the angels in heaven are upon thy side, believer, all the armies of heaven are ready to fight the quarrel of His Church.
(6) Here is comfort; death is disarmed of its sting, and can do no hurt. Why, Christ carried the sting of death, and the armour of this king of terrors with Him when He went up with a shout. “I have the keys of hell and of death.”
(7) Here is comfort; thy life is well secured, believer. Why, it is hid in Him who is gone up with a shout (Colossians 3:3).
(8) Here is comfort, that all providential dispensations in the world are working together for thy good.
4. Of exhortation.
(1) Behold Him with the eye of faith upon the throne.
(2) Lift up the everlasting doors of your hearts, that this King of glory may come in.
(3) Come with boldness unto the throne of grace.
(4) Let all the world, angels, men and devils, reverence Him and do Him homage.
(5) See that you have a due regard to the laws and liberties of His house, and the interests of His glory and kingdom.
(6) Is He gone up with a shout? Then let us never be ashamed of Him before men, for He is our credit and ornament; He is not ashamed to confess us before His Father, and before His angels.
(7) Let us join in the solemnity of His exaltation, for it is not yet ended. They that shouted when He went first up to heaven from Mount Olivet are shouting for joy to this day, and therefore let us join in the concert. (E. Erskine.)
God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.
Hymns help to nobler worship of God and clearer visions of His face.
I. Because they embody the holy thoughts and feelings of inspiring and seeing men and women. Many of the greatest hymns are the lyric expression of great experiences produced by some exceptional circumstances of the life. Cowper, by his coachman missing the way, was hindered from carrying out a plan of self-destruction which, in a season of great depression, he had formed. On his recovery he wrote the well-known hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way”; and many more such illustrations might be given.
II. They express great thoughts and feelings. The most deeply religious parts of the Old Testament are its poetic books. Hymns are more moving than devotional manuals, and their rhythm makes them cling to the memory.
III. They have new power through the music to which they are wedded, and--
IV. They are the noblest vehicle for united worship. (T. Garrett Horder.)
The shields of the earth belong unto God:
“The shields of the earth,” all veritable protectives, are the property of God, and are of His creation.
But why do I require a shield? What are my perils and foes? The fire of passion. The sharp gnawing tooth of care. The dull, heavy pressure of monotony. The burden of apparently unrequited toil. The slug of sloth. The moth of indifference. The rust of contempt. The awful weight of accumulating years. If I am to be protected against these perils I require varieties of shields, and “the shields of the earth belong unto God.” He has shields for every type of peril; there is no unprotected corner which has been overlooked by our Lord. Our perils change their guise with our changing seasons, and the gradient of our age. In youth we frequently find our antagonism in “the lust of the flesh.” Against this all-consuming passion we require a shield I In our prime “the lust of the flesh” changes into “the lust of the eyes,” and perhaps matures into “the pride of life.” Passion is converted into acquisitiveness, and acquisitiveness refines itself into vanity. If we are to resist these fatal fascinations we require a shield. In age we are imperilled by our disillusions. The unaccomplished purpose becomes a snare. The radiant ideal seems no nearer achievement, and our poor attainments look upon us with confounding mockery. Then are we prone to become sour and crabbed, and life may pass into an impoverishing loneliness. If we are to be guarded against these perils we need a shield! And right through our life, from early youth to extreme old age, our course lies through perils of over-changing variety. With these environments of continuous danger, what shall we do? We must seek for an adequate shield, and “the shields of the earth belong unto God.” Let us leek at two or three of them.
I. The shield of good spirits. We often say of a man, “His good spirits were his salvation.” There was a certain cheery radiancy of spirit about his life. He was possessed by unfailing cheer and geniality, lie saw everything through his own warmth. His warmth was his shield, and by it he was delivered from a thousand snares. Where did he get his warmth? “The shields of the earth belong unto God.” I have often known men who have been passing through a November season of life in which other people have found nothing but coldness and gloom, but their life has been so possessed by the spirit of geniality, that the bird-song had never seemed to be silent, and the atmosphere was always redolent of the spring. Charles Kingsley passed through many a November season; trials and persecutions were not absent from his day, and yet his good spirits were always abounding, and by his good spirits the gloom was always illumined. Where do these people get their good spirits? They get them from the Lord. Just outside Buda Pesth there is now a spring of continuous hot water, which is practically supplying the needs of an entire population. Boring has been continued to the depth of five thousand feet, and the genial spring has been unloosed. Is not this parabolic? If we want the genial springs, we must go to the requisite depths; we must not be surface characters, or our waters will be chilled in the first day of a cold November. We must bore deep. We must reach as far as God, and when we come into communion with Him, tits water shall be in us a “well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
II. The shield of holiness. The pure allures the pure and resists the impure. But the life must be scrupulously pure! It must be healthy. Our imperfect consecrations are our perils; they are like ridged and wrinkled surfaces in which uncleanness easily hides. Holiness will not take stains. Lay your unclean finger upon soft and unfinished porcelain, and it will take the impress of your defiling touch. But lay your finger upon the shining, finished, perfected ware, and the substance will not take the stain. The virus which is inoculated for the prevention of small-pox frequently “does not take”; the body is so healthy that it affords no foothold for the invader! And surely that is what we need in the spirit! We require a spirit so healthy that evil suggestions will not “take.” “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me.” That is the shield we require! How can we get it? We shall have to get away unto the Lord, and in deep humility of spirit pray that He will communicate unto us His own saving health.
III. The shield of faith. “The shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one.” What are the perils? “Darts”--sharp, sudden, fierce experiences; “fiery darts”--sharp experiences that come to us in heat; “fiery darts of the evil one”--sharp experiences in the nature of sinful temptations that come to us in the feverish moments of our life. They are provocatives to temper, impatience, rashness, and sinful pique. What do we need as our protective? “The shield of faith.” Faith gives quietness. “Let not your heart be troubled, believe!” Where belief is settled, the heart is delivered from distraction, and remains in fruitful peace. Faith gives collectedness. Our powers are no longer a turbulent mob, but a deliberative assembly. A man is not “all sixes and sevens,” he is a living unit, all his powers co-operating in gracious harmony. This is the shield we require. Where can we get it? We must go to the Lord our Saviour, and in simplicity of spirit we must urge upon Him the prayer of the disciples of old, “Lord, increase our faith.” (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
The law of protection
The text has a special appropriateness for troublous times, and in troublous times the Church has often remembered and verified it. When threatened and terrified, hunted and harried, made the victim of earthly tyranny, the object of earthly assaults, the Church has discovered that just where the earthly danger was, there also was the earthly shield--raised up, brought near, and made available by Him who is the Sovereign of the earth, for the assistance of His cause and the safe-keeping of His people.
I. The shield political is in the hand of God. We refer to the protecting influence of good government. What an unspeakable, yet often forgotten, blessing is the blessing of a civilized and enlightened constitution, considered simply as a shield! It is the principle and the pride of good government like our own that it aims at the throwing of its protecting screen over strong and weak, rich and poor alike, seeking to deal open and even-handed justice to all, without favour and without fear. Well, the shield political is in the hand of God. It is He who appoints it, maintains it, and directs it as need arises or danger demands. What is the practical lesson? For one thing, let there be recognition of God’s power and gratitude for God’s goodness in extending such a shield, so near, so ample, so strong; thus setting our lines in pleasant places, and appointing us a goodly heritage. Let there be prayer for God’s blessing, that those who compose that shield, the living minds that plan, the living hands that execute, may lend themselves more and more to the influence of a Christian spirit and the accomplishment of Christian ends.
II. The shield domestic is in the hand of God. We refer to the protective influence of a pious home. Home is home, indeed, only when it surrounds the growing boy or girl with a whole investiture of pure and affectionate influences--kind deeds, kind words, kind thoughts--and thus forms a quiet pavilion, where the young life can feel itself safe. Let parents grudge no pains, spare no expedients, that tend to the maintenance of this feeling, and the drawing and the keeping of their children together under the shadow of that safeguard which we call home. And let all, whether parents or children, remember that, like other shields, the shield of a happy Christian home is in the hand of God. It is God who erects it. It is God who keeps it together. Therefore, in all that pertains to our home, let God have the guidance, and let God have the glory.
III. Shields social are in the hands of God. Here we pass to another protective influence of life, and note the preserving power of helpful and beneficent institutions. We live in an age of organizations. They are with us upon every hand--organizations philanthropic, moral, religious. We have our societies for the promotion of health, the diffusion of literature, the increase of temperance, the preservation of purity. And all these are shields, or are meant to be shields, for the young, the innocent, the feeble, the tempted, and the penitent. The point we should always notice is this, that they are shields in the hand of God. The fact is suggestive of two things we do well to keep constantly in mind.
1. Such safeguards owe their origin to Divine revelation. Philanthropy springs from the plains of Galilee, where the Saviour fed the hungry and healed the ailments of the multitude.
2. They owe their efficiency to Divine grace. A white cross will not keep a man pure; again, it is only a symbol and expression: what will save and preserve him is the same grace of God.
IV. Shields physical are in the hands of God. Among the protecting influences of life there is the influence of the powers and processes of natural law. Think of these influences in their broadest and most general sense as a protection and a benefit to the race at large. How wonderfully force balances force, and principle supplements or cheeks principle!--the great and grand resultant being the safety and stability of the natural order we belong to, and the safety and stability of ourselves in the midst of it. Let us believe in a Providence that keeps the feet of the saints, and, if necessary for the keeping of them, can make nature itself a minister of grace. A friend writes thus in a letter: “Did I tell you of my escape from drowning last year in Derwentwater, after my return from Brittany? My canoe upset. But angels that remove some stones out of the way can place other stones in it when needful. So was I preserved!”
V. Shields spiritual are in the hands of God. Let us select, as our last illustration, the protection afforded by the prayers and the presence of the saints. It is a fruitful and inspiring thought! For as the supplications of the saints go up, from the public assembly, from the household hearth, from the solitude and secrecy of private chambers and private hearts, for a race beset by sorrow and defiled by sin, they interpose a real and a solid barrier between those interceded for and the dangers that surround. Tim world owes more to them than it knows. Why is anger restrained? Why is chastisement delayed? Often for the saints’ sake. May He in whose hand are the shields of the earth continue this shield, the shield of earnest and faithful intercession, till those that are sheltered beneath its shadow make their peace with Himself, and become intercessors in their turn! (W. A. Gray.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 47". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26