FAITH AND PATIENCE.
1 Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? why hidest thou thyself in times of
2 The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor:
Let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.
3 For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire,
And blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.
4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
5 His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above out of his sight: As for all his enemies, he puffeth at them. —Psalm X.
This is one of the nine alphabetical Psalms (though not without some irregularities—the other eight being Ps. ix., xxv., xxxiv., xxxvii., cxi., cxii., cxix., and cxlv.), and one of the two in the first book of the Psalter (Ps. i.-xli.) which have no inscription (the other being Ps. xxxiii.) Still, as the difference of subject shows, Ps. x. must be looked upon as rather a sequel than a continuation of Ps. ix. It is an earnest cry of the Church for deliverance; as it were, the Old Testament cry of the souls under the altar. Such, alas! frequently recur. For at all times, even when David was King of Israel, was the Church a small, despised, and persecuted people. Her strength lay in spreading her case before God, and expectantly looking up. Thus alone she solved by faith the great mystery of Providence, and conquered, by converting what was matter of complaint into matter of praise—having first converted it into matter of prayer. For Christ 'is our peace.' The shadow of Christ falling upon us is peace. That such peace is indissolubly joined with constant prayer, appears from Phil. iv. 7, in connexion with ver. 6.
The spiritual frankness with which the Psalm opens (ver. 1), is one of the many signs of the sonship of its writer. For nothing more clearly marks our absolute confidence than to bring our questions to Him, instead of attempting to answer or to suppress them. Very certainly there is but one solution for all such difficulties—to be lifted above them, and to have a clear and bright view of the glorious prospect set before us in His Word. Yet the same objection still often recurs in our experience. The 'why' of Jehovah standing at a distance—hiding, concealing, covering himself in times of pressure and anguish (for that is the idea conveyed)—forms the subject of anxious inquiry, which indeed is answered by that inquiry itself. For all these things will He be inquired of by the house of Israel. Then follows the outpouring of the anguished heart, and too faithful a description of the conduct, motives, and views of the enemy (vers. 2-11). 'In the pride' (or upliftedness) 'of the wicked, the poor' (or suffering) 'becomes burning.' Let us here bear in mind the commentary in 1 Pet. iv. 12, and again, in i. 7, 8. Nay, it even seems that the poor 'are caught in the devices which they have imagined' (for so the expression should be rendered). Daring pursuit of sin, blasphemy, and practical atheism are always conjoined (vers. 3, 4). 'For the wicked boasteth of (or rather, loudly praiseth) 'the desire' (or lust) 'of his soul; and the covetous blesseth' (perhaps 'blasphemeth'?); 'he despiseth or scoffeth at Jehovah' (the original idea being 'to prick ;' hence perhaps ' he provoketh Jehovah'). Self-indulgence and covetousness are practical atheism. Yet how prone are we to forget this! Omy soul, think of what Jesus has done for thee, when He made Himself of no reputation; think of the cross; think of thine own high and holy calling; 'flee lusts;' and beware of covetousness. Remember its presence in the professing Church is one of the signs of the last days (2 Tim. iii. 2 ; 2 Pet. ii. 3). It is a sin against which the Lord specially warns us (Luke xii. 15) ; and of which the ministry of Christ is in peculiar danger (1 Tim. iii. 3). And how awfully true is the summary which Scripture gives of the plans of such sinners !' The wicked, through the pride of his countenance' (literally, ' in the exaltedness of his nose'), 'saith, He will not seek it out! There is no God ; this all his imagining' (the sum and substance of his plans and actings). What a picture of the men of the world, who are 'without God in the world!' 'And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.' In view of our proneness to all this, let us bear in mind the admonition: 'All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.'
1. To how many of our doubting and foolish questions does the rebuke of the Lord to Peter apply, 'What is that to thee? Follow thou me!' When we examine many of the difficulties from without which seem to beset or threaten our Christian course, it will be found that the secret of their influence lies in reality within us. Of many of them it may be said, They concern us not. They concern the Master. Of others, it is true, that they affect us not, either as to our safety or as to our duty, while in their nature, certainly, they hinder us not. We take many burdens upon ourselves, which in the heat of the day we feel sore and grievous; and which in our weariness at last we learn to lay down, wondering why we had ever taken them up. Among them, perhaps, the most common are needless questions. A needless question is a needless difficulty. Where our own path is plain, what matters to us that of another? Where our own call is clear, why stop to ask about that of our neighbour? Yet is there only one effectual remedy to all this: to be so absorbed in following the Lord ourselves as to have neither leisure nor inclination left to think of aught else. Painfully do we know how often an event in Providence, or the course of our fellow-Christians, their inconsistencies, or their seeming presumption, distract and divert our minds, and paralyse our energies. At such seasons, Lord, let me in Thy grace hear Thy voice: 'What is that to thee?' Whenever any supposed or real hindrance occurs, or whenever any 'why' concerning the ways of God presses upon my heart—let me ask myself: How does it affect my case? Does it alter my duty, make it easier or more difficult? Can it prevent my salvation or hinder my work for
s Christ? And this one thing help me to do, ever to follow Thee implicitly and exclusively!
2. 'All things' must 'work together for good to them that love Him,' and among these 'all things' notably trials of our faith and patience. It is not the pride of the wicked nor the suffering of the poor; it is not even the seeming triumphs of sinners, nor their boasting and blasphemy; but the standing afar of Jehovah which tries our faith. We have given up the visible, and we account as nothing appearances which, we have long been taught, are deceptive. But now the invisible also seems to fail us, and we have to realize the unutterable wretchedness implied in that hypothetical case: 'If Christ be not risen, then are we of all men most miserable.' In His infinite compassion to our weakness, He who knoweth our frame ofttimes allows not our faith to be so tested. Yet are there such seasons, when it almost seems as if we must go up alone to offer up that in which all our hopes were bound up. Yet, with reverence be it said, God cannot forsake His believing people. Much more stable than any of those natural laws by which the worlds are kept circling in their spheres are the principles of the covenant of grace. 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.' But He will not allow thee to be slain; He will only teach thee to trust Him more absolutely and more implicitly, and thus will He only give thee more comfort because more faith. And in our weakness let us go to Him to tell Him of our doubts. To lay our case before Him is to be already relieved. The burden which I have rolled upon Him can no longer bear me down; it has ceased to be my burden.
3. Yet ever let me remember my liability to all sin, and my proneness to besetting sin. And with reference to some sins, the usages of society and the common opinion of men have rendered us so familiar with them as to remove their edge. Whenever and wherever a sin is very widely indulged in, even believers seem to lose their intense sensibility concerning it. The atmosphere which they breathe has become so poisoned as to influence their system. And of all sins, covetousness perhaps is the most generally prevalent in our days. It holds not only the world in bondage, but it has affected the Church. Let me examine my views, feelings, wishes, and hopes in this respect. 'Lord, I know it : he is rich who has treasure laid up in heaven; he is influential who has Thee on his side. But I want to feel it more. Help me by Thy grace. Infuse into my heart such a sense of Thy sufficiency as will lift me far above the world. Gladden me with such a sense of Thy presence as will satisfy me. Reveal Thyself, blessed Jesus, in Thy love and in Thy glory, that knowing Thee I may not know any man after the flesh. Fill us with Thyself and there will not be room for the world. Thyself, and only Thyself, art the balm of Gilead and the Physician there. I ask for more of Thyself—and in Thee I have all!
He is in God, and God in him,
Who still abides in love;
'Tis love that makes the Cherubim
Obey and praise above;
For God is love: the loveless heart
Hath in His life and joy no part.