1 Lord, how are they increased that trouble me? many are they that rise up
2 Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God.
3 But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine
4 I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill.
5 I laid me down and slept; I awaked: for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that have set themselves
against me round about.
7 Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God!
For thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek-bone;
Thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.
8 Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people.
A PRECIOUS morning song of faith this, after a dark night of trial and affliction. He knows in whom he hath believed. Having understood the principles of the Divine government in the covenant of grace (Ps. i.), and its mode of administration through Jesus Christ (Ps. ii.), he straightway applieth it to his own case and wants. He taketh God by His word, pleads the promise in prayer (vers. 3, 4), and then calmly looks up for an answer (vers. 5, 6, 7), giving glory to God (ver. 8). And this is the nature of faith, to make personal application and appropriation of what God has declared in His Word. All that God hath spoken, I receive as spoken to me: I turn it into prayer (for faith is not knowledge, but implies grace to the needy and lost), and then in answer expect the promised blessing—all praise being due to Him; praise not only for this one instance of His faithfulness, but for the spring and source of all grace—His covenant-love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let us, then, ever keep before our minds these three elements of faith— -personal application, on the ground of God's offers and promises; prayer, on the ground of that personal application; trustfulness, peace, and expectancy, on the ground of such prayer. I credit God's word, and therefore I take it home to myself: I take it as applying to me; and therefore, as a needy sinner, I plead with God for its realization by grace. Having so prayed believingly, it were nothing short of infidelity to doubt the answer. Therefore, having cast my burden upon the Lord, I am unburdened. 'This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.' Yet from first to last is all the glory due to Him who 'worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure,' ' and the work of faith with power.'
The first requirement of a soul weighed down with care or sorrow is to have it rolled away, to be freed from its crushing pressure. For this there is only one way—to bring it straight to God (ver. 1). This applies not only in strictly spiritual, but, as in the present case, in outward troubles. Oh the delightful relief of having poured all our complaints
into His ear, of having spread all our wants before His eye, of having committed all our anxieties to His power! He is our God in Christ; He has the will and the power to deliver 'from so great a death'—so far as it is for His glory, and therefore for our good. At all events, our Saviour sympathizes, and therefore comforts (Heb. iv. 15). But the severest of all trials is that which threatens our spiritual wellbeing (ver. 2), especially after seasons of desertion or of backsliding. Not that the judgment of the world—which infers what shall be from what is, and only proceeds on the ground of tangible results—is here of much consequence. A believer never feels so independent of the opinion or favour of men, as when to onlookers he seems to stand most in need of it. The logic of the world is as perverse as its tender mercies are cruel. It suggests that, when there is no help to us in man, there is no help for us in God. Nay, even when its voice is that of Jacob, its hands are those of Esau. My soul, be thou still in God. Turn thou upwards, not outwards. Their hosts can be numbered; thine cannot: their resources can be calculated; thine pass all understanding. The word impossible has no place in the vocabulary of grace; it only applies to me, not to Thee. Then bursts forth the language of Abraham's faith (ver. 3, com p. with Gen. xv. 1)—it were difficult to say, whether more in the accents of prayer or of praise. For intense prayer ever merges into praise, as faith into sight. This divine 'buf is the transition from earth to heaven, from man to God, from opinions to assurance—the Peter's rock on which the Church is reared: 'But Thou, O Jehovah, art a shield round about me'—on every side, between me and them; and not only protection, but inward 'glory;' and not only inward glory, but also outward triumph—' the lifter up of mine head.'
In the language of Luther: 'Here he opposes three considerations to his former difficulties. He had spoken of many enemies; now he answers that the Lord is his shield. Again, as they set themselves against him to put him to shame before the world, he sets over-against it that the Lord raises him to glory. Lastly, in reply to their reproaches and derisions, he boasts that the Lord lifteth up his head. Thus he may be lonely and forsaken not only before men but in his own feelings; but before God and in Spirit, he is surrounded by a great multitude, and not lonely nor forsaken. However powerless and oppressed he may seem to the eyes of men, he is most strong and powerful before God and in Spirit, so that with great confidence he glories in the power of God with St. Paul, who saith, " When I am weak then am I strong." He that understandeth and hath experienced such temptation, will also understand how foolishly and wickedly many teach, that man is able naturally to love God above all things. Therefore the experience of this verse is not that of nature but of grace; not of free will but of the Spirit; of a very strong faith, which beholdeth God even through the darkness of death and of hell, as if seeming to forsake us, and yet recognises Him as our Shield; sees God as if persecuting, and yet recognises Him as our Help; sees God as if about to condemn, and yet recognises him as our Saviour. For he regards not that which is seen and felt, but clings to the word which speaks of things that are not seen.'
Most instructive is the record of spiritual experience in ver. 4. The loud agonizing cry (indicated by the expressions used in the original) is, as always, followed, if not by an immediate answer, by immediate hearing, and that 'out of His holy hill,' from between the cherubim. The answer may be delayed—for reasons connected with His Providence or our sanctification; but the 'hearing' is immediate, and the assurance of this is like the Master's ' Peace, be still!' on the storm-tossed sea of Galilee. Anon we shall be ' on the other side.' Most precious also is the feeling that these are covenant-answers, even though they may imply the taking vengeance on our inventions.
The full value of a life of faith appears most touchingly vn the calmness with which, under the most trying circumstances, we can lie down and sleep in the sweet sense of His love, with this experience as our lullaby, ' He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep ;' and awake with this song on our lips, like dew sparkling in the morning sun, 'Jehovah sustained me' (ver. 5). There is no anxious, nervous seeking for deliverance when faith has made its confessions to God. All that is left is to anticipate victory (vers. 6, 7). Nor can this urgency of personal want and personal application render us indifferent to the state of the Church at large. I never can pray so well for others as when I have to pray most for myself. My Sun of Righteousness shines not only into mine own heart; 'Thy blessing is upon Thy people'—upon all 'the Israel of God.' I delight to feel myself one of that family in heaven and on earth on which His name is named. I can realize how many He sustains by His grace, delivers by His power, or calls in His loving compassion. Thy tender mercies are over all; but Thy blessing, O Father, is upon Thy chosen people. Selah.
1. How unutterably precious to be one of God's people! O my soul, inquire fully as to thy standing in Christ. Let not temporary pressure, driving thee to prayer, satisfy thee on this point. All men pray at some time; God's people alike pray at all times. Prayer and faith are not necessarily connected. All prayer is not of faith, though all faith be with prayer. Seekest thou the Lord himself more than the objects asked for? Art thou cleaving to Him as thy Saviour —resting on Him and in Him? Knowest thou what it is to be still in God in the darkest and stormiest night—yet trusting when thou seest not, and content to go to sleep, like Jacob of old, on the plains of Bethel? Oh, let me not be undecided! Let me now again take the Lord as my portion, as my sole portion, and as my portion for ever.
2. Many and varied are the adversaries which beset me round about this day. 'The heart knoweth its own bitterness.' What may seem trifling and small to those who know not all the circumstances and difficulties, may be heavy and most afflictive to me. That is a real trial to me which tries my faith, patience, and hope—whether it seem so to others or not. 'In all our afflictions He was afflicted, and the Angel of His presence saved us.' What a sweet thought that this Psalm may have passed through the mind of Christ, or dropt from His lips, some morning in Bethany, or on the Mount of Olives, or ' by the hill Mizar!' Though it be ' afar off,' I can follow the Master on the way marked by His footprints. This certainly will I seek to do—to cast all my burdens upon Him, to make known all my requests to Him. And then will I believingly look up for an answer, and calmly wait for the Lord. 'Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.'
3. Now let me look forward, in assured confidence, towards that morning which is so soon to dawn upon our earth. Oh, what a precious consolation this ver. 5 with which to close our lives, to murmur to ourselves with faltering lips as we pillow our head for death ; what a word to shut our eyes with; what a night-song with which to go to sleep and to wake up in eternity! What a way-song this, when we resign ourselves to angels' charge, to carry us across Jordan I And it is true—most true: true, not because we feel it, but because it is a blessed fact; because Christ died and rose again, and sitteth at the right hand of God. He that commenced the work will, by grace, also accomplish and finish it, for the Lord sustaineth us.
Who trusts in God a strong abode
In heaven and earth possesses;
Who looks in love to Christ above,
No fear his heart oppresses.
In only Thee, dear Lord, I see
Sweet hope and consolation,
My shield from foes, my balm for woes,
My great and sure salvation.