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Abba, Father —Ps v 1-6,

VI.

ABBA, FATHER.

1 Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my meditation.

2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto lliee

will I pray.

3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord: in the morning will 1

direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; neither shall evil

dwell with thee.

5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.

6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will abhor the bloody

and deceitful man.—Psalm V.

ANOTHER sweet and precious morning prayer this. Though specially suitable for seasons of distress, under calumny, and the wicked attempts of the enemies of God and of His Church, it is applicable to every morning of life. Nor let us overlook the fact that so large a proportion of the Psalms is given to God's sorrowing people, as indicating the promise alike of the cross and of the crown. Where God has promised much, He will perform much. Much poverty, many riches; and 'blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.'

The subject of this Psalm is prayer and its answer. Prayer is here presented under a variety of aspects, as 'words,' 'meditation,' 'the voice of cry,' and 'intercession' (vers. 1, 2). Its urgency appears in vers. 2, 3, and its special need in vers. 4, 5, 6. Then follows the anticipated answer to prayer in the experience of personal mercy (ver. 7), of personal fellowship with God (ver. 7), and of personal guidance (ver. 8); together with the vindication of God's government (vers. 9, 10), and the joyous safety of His people through grace (vers. 11, 12). Thus from the subjective does the 'sweet singer' rise to the objective, and ultimately finds a firm and sure resting-place in the sovereign mercy of Jehovah and in the dispensation of covenant grace (ver. 12).

Very noteworthy, in the experience of God's praying people, is the gradual intensifying of supplication: 'While I was musing, the fire burned.' Rare prayer is cold prayer. In His presence, and under His sunshine, our cold, hard hearts gradually warm, soften, and expand. He who prays rarely will ever be at a loss for subjects of prayer. But ' my heart was,' or became, 'hot within me; in my meditation' (authorized version, 'While I was musing') 'the fire burned' (or, perhaps, ' enkindled') (Ps. xxxix. 3). So here also, ' my words' are followed by 'my meditation,' and this by 'the voice of my cry.' The petitions seem to come from ever deeper sources, and more solemn and urgent becomes the prayer. The term 'meditation' conveys the idea of still, sweet, earnest, thoughtful speaking,—the word, which only occurs here and in Ps. xxxix. 3, being derived from that which signifies soft murmuring, and sounds like those of the harp, or of a dove, and also deep thinking and consideration. On the other hand, the ' cry' is a loud and earnest appeal for deliverance. In connexion with this, Jehovah is entreated (literally) 'to lend His ear' to our words, to 'understand' our meditation, or still, lisping prayer, and 'earnestly or interestedly to hear' the voice of our loud cry for help. How sweet to think that it matters not in what form our prayers rise! God has a mode of hearing for every mode of asking, and suited to it. With some, it is well-ordered words; with others, earnest inward pleading, like Hannah's; and with others, 'loud cries,' like those of the disciples, 'Lord, save us; we perish!' But He openeth His hand liberally, and giveth unto all 'food convenient' for them. The main point is believingly to look up for an answer. And why should I not'pray' (literally, 'intercede') with all confidence, since He is ' my King and my God'? David was but the meanest subject of 'my King,' and Paul 'the least of all saints' of 'my God.' Yet is He also my King, to rule and deliver; my God, to bless and to sanctify. All subjects have equal rights, and all worshippers equal privileges. And surely if one thing is more fully implied than another in these terms, it is my perfect safety. For the King would lose His kingdom if He lost me, or if I were lost. It is this which gives such mighty encouragement to prayer. We can understand how those who do not believe will not pray; but how those who pray will not believe, is indeed passing strange. Surely they cannot have felt the power of these words, ' My King and my God!' The King will do it; with all reverence be it said, the King must do it. God can do it—when, where, and how He pleases—and even in me. After the miracle of grace which brought me to pray, every other miracle seems almost intelligible.

With such convictions and feelings,—under the 'constraining' sense of'the love of Christ,'—the first movement of the soul is ever towards God. 'Jehovah,—morning shalt Thou hear my voice, morning will I prepare (the sacrifice of heart and lips) for Thee, and intently look up, or watch.' How blessed the day when our first look is a look upwards; when our first conscious thoughts rise in sweet fellowship to Him ; and when we prepare for work by preparing for Him, and intently looking and watching for His help! It seems as if God's voice had waked us from sleep, and, like Samuel of old, we answered, ' Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth.' It seems as if mind and heart, with Martha-like diligence and Marylike spirit, 'prepared' the wood, and the sacrifice, and the candlestick, and the shewbread (for with reference to all these 'preparations' is the expression, which is a sacrificial one, used), and then intently looked up for the fire to descend, and the Shechinah to rest upon it all. Truly these were spiritual sacrifices offered by believing worshippers under the Old Testament; and by us, for whom, under the New Testament, God has 'provided some better things.' Morning prayers are fresh and joyous prayers; and ofttimes the most precious meditation is that 'which prevents the dawning.'

Such help is most needful in view of the dangers which threaten us, both from wickedness within and the wicked without. But here we have perfect assurance. God hath not 'pleasure in wickedness,' therefore shall not 'evil dwell' (' abide,' or even 'tarry as a guest') 'with Him.' (Comp. the parallel expression and sentiment in Isa. xxxiii. 14.) 'The foolish' (or rather 'the mad,' the word being derived from loud, tumultuous, mad conduct) 'shall not stand' (or be able to 'set themselves' in hostile array—the expression being the same as in reference-to 'the kings of the earth' in Ps. ii. 2, and the contrast most marked) 'before Thine eyes.' 'Thou —the Holy One—hatest all workers of iniquity.' 'And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.' Let us mark the character of sin, and its necessary but most fearful end (ver. 6). Very instructive also is it to understand the real nature of folly and the meaning of iniquity. In truth, as the term in the original shows, it is 'a thing of nought, vain and false;' yet 'the heavy breathing of one who gathers up his strength' in daring opposition to God, though at the same time 'a mere breath,' and also 'the heavy breathing of one who is wearied,' 'labour and sorrow.'

Such is sin; but what is grace, and who has made me to differ? All I have and am I owe it to Thee; and doubly precious does all become since I owe it to Thee. I can never think lightly of Providence, in its bearing on the kingdom, so long as I pray, 'Lead us not into temptation;' nor can I be unmindful of the constant need of inward grace, so long as I add, 'But deliver us from evil.' Truly it is 'an evil thing and bitter' to forsake Jehovah our God. And how marvellous is that grace which has found a remedy, which has sought us in our low and lost state, and made us who were rebels, kings and priests unto God, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ!

1. Let me learn more fully the character of sin. We are too apt to think of it only according to its outwardly manifest consequences. It is that 'evil thing' which separated our souls from God, and enveloping us in its darkness still keeps from us the light of His countenance. It is that evil thing which crucified Christ and ruined our souls. It is that 'bitter' thing which poisoned all, introduced death, deceives, blinds, and destroys those multitudes who forsake Jehovah. Nor are we sufficiently alive to its insidious approaches. Commencing as folly, it often grows into iniquity. A 'foolish' look, gesture, or sentence, may lead to incalculable consequences. With the utmost jealousy should we guard the issues of our hearts. One moment off our guard may lead to sad results to ourselves and others. And to this some are naturally more liable than others. Nor is there effective safety against this, other than keeping close to Jesus, remembering our high and holy calling, and through grace seeking to walk worthy of it.

2. How sweet is it to cultivate a spirit of prayer! Thus have we this threefold security. We have assurance of answer; nay, we have already the answer even in the prayer. The Spirit whereby we cry is 'the Spirit of adoption ;' and His utterance within us is already 'Abba, Father.' We may be, and if believing are, more assured of answer to prayer than of any outward fact. Again, by cultivating prayer our hearts are sweetly disposed toward God, and a spirit of calm, of rest, and of stillness, settles upon them. For when the Lord hushes the storm on the lake of Galilee, in answer to the entreaty of His people, He not only commands the wind and it desists from its howling, but also the waves, and they lie still and silent at His feet. Lastly, does He in answer to our cry so dispose of His Providence as that all things assuredly work together for good, for our deliverance, and sanctification, for His glory and the manifestation of His grace. Therefore ought 'men always to pray and not to faint.'

3. Lord, what a remedy is this which Thou hast provided when Thou gavest Thyself to us, as a refuge in time of trouble! This day let me examine myself; let me hasten to the fountain opened in the house of David for all sin and uncleanness; let me make known my case and seek for grace. Lord, let not this be a day without the light of Thy countenance and the refreshment of Thy grace. Nearer, still nearer to Thee, O my God and my King. Deliver me; reign over me; keep me; keep me for Thyself. Let not my faith fail; yet if it falter, let Thy grace be sufficient. And make and keep us pure within, so shall we in heart and life praise Thy blessed Name, world without end. Amen.

The lamb is in the fold

In perfect safety penn'd:
The lion once had hold,

And thought to make an end:
But One came by with Wounded Side,
And for the sheep the Shepherd died.

S. Joseph Of The Stad1um.

{Hymns of the Eastern Church.)