1 Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.
2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord: My goodness extendeth not to thee;
3 But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all
4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god:
Their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.
5 The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou main
tainest my lot.—Psalm xVI.
This is a precious Psalm of the Church and her King. It is true of the Church, because it became true in Christ, and it was true of Christ, because He was the Head of the Church. In all their fulness and literality the promises which it contains applied to Christ (Acts ii. 29-32; xiii. 35-37), and because they were ' Yea and Amen' in Him, did they apply to David, and to all who like him call Jesus Lord. It is this identification of the Church with Christ, and of Christ with the Church, which forms so large a part of the Messianic element in the Psalms. And, perhaps, from the very dimness of their knowledge, did Old Testament saints realize, even more than we,
this covenant unity of the Head with the members. There is a gradual rising in these aspirations until seemingly the two elements almost commingle, if we may so say, in a manner analogous to the union of the two natures in Christ. What is said to us, is true in Christ; what is promised to us is held out in Christ. And it is our joy to have all things bound up in Christ. This identification with Jesus is the very corner-stone of our hope.
At the outset we note, that the utterances of this Psalm are rather those of a representative man than of David or of any other 'sweet singer of Israel,' and that they were a prayer in dark and troublous times. It seems as if apprehensions of death and destruction had called forth this song in the night. And so it ever is trial which tries and proves our confidence. Times of sorrow are precious seed-times preparatory for harvests of glory. Because the God-man suffered, His sufferings and His triumph become ours. At the same time, we cannot fail to remark how the confident expectation that we shall not be allowed to be moved (Ps. xv. 4), shapes itself here into prayer (Ps. xvi. 1), and again expresses itself in the language of joyous faith (ver. 8). For what we expect from Divine grace, we ask; and what we ask, we ask in faith. How sweet to the believer thus to press forward, and while he recognises himself in the language of his representative, to look up to Jesus through the long vista of those who in the morning have anointed their Beth-el pillow with the oil of gladness. The Master Himself rested by this fountain and drank of its waters. And of Him, and through Him, those promises are true.
Blessed be God, earth in its present state is not our home. Not a footbreadth is ours, and yet all things are ours, both life and death, time and eternity. Our souls are sin-stained, yet washed clean; our steps faltering, yet we are immovable; our bodies also are decaying, yet their dust is precious. It is this hope which gives such calmness and joy. 'The forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus,'-—entered as the forerunner, and entered for us. Our Joshua has given us rest. Accordingly, in view of the sharpest conflicts and trials, this Psalm breathes not the language of fear nor despondency, but even more than others that of joyousness and triumph, so that, as one has said, 'the cry for help becomes scarcely audible for the abounding sense of blessedness and the peacefulness of hope.' And so it ever is. An abundant entrance is ministered unto us: 'O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?' Yet do we ever begin with prayer. 'Preserve me' (or keep me, watch over me), 'O God, for in Thee do I put my trust' (literally, 'in Thee have I sought refuge'). The Lord watches over and thus preserves His people. On the ground of having sought refuge in Him, may we plead for needed grace. We have 'a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us.' It is very sweet so to lean on the arm of the Beloved, and so to have in the past the pledge of the future. And now it seems as if his whole soul became absorbed in the contemplation of God. Prayer merges into praise: 'O my soul, thou hast said to Jehovah: my Lord art Thou; my good' (my weal) 'is not out of Thee' (nothing beyond or beside Thee). There is a spiritual exclusiveness here which counts 'all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.' It is the law spiritualized, or rather the perfect law of liberty written on the fleshly tables of the heart. For to the address: '/ am Jehovah thy God,' the soul responds, 'Thou art my Lord;' and to the command: 'Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,' it graciously answers, 'My good is not out of Thee.' 'To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.' Here, then, the Old Testament Thomas has put his fingers into the prints of the nails, and adoringly confesses, ' My Lord and my God!' What a blessed resting-place is this to reach—to be quiet in God, and to find all in Him! We now enjoy real calm, for we possess all that we want or desire. Such believing acknowledgment of God in Christ, and such implicit surrender to Him, always leads to peace and joy. The sphere beyond God is emptiness and vexation of spirit. 'To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.' Jesus is ' the pearl of great price.'
Since his treasure is in heaven, the delight of the believer is with those who 'bear the image of the Heavenly.' * To the saints that are in the earth' (perhaps in continuation of ver. 2, ' O my soul, thou hast said'): 'They are the excellent' (or rather, the glorious, the word being derived from the verb to shine), ' all my delight is in them.' The love of God and the love of the brethren; holiness and glory are here conjoined. This is indeed a believing view of men and matters, such as one might take ere crossing Jordan. All God's children are saints. 'Holiness for ever becometh Thine house.' And they are shining or glorious in the robe of His righteousness and in the garment of His salvation. 'Christ loved the Church,' and Christians love the Church. There is no sectarianism here; it is Jesus who is loved in His people. The meanest of God's saints is one of God's saints. And specially mark the warmth and freshness of affection, which recognises and owns His glory even under the guise of human poverty and weakness. Surely this Psalm could not be true out of Christ.
Yet earth is a place of dim vision and broken fellowship. We may not make tabernacles here, even though it were for Jesus, Moses, and Elias. It is good to be here, but not to remain here. We are strangers and pilgrims, as all our fathers were. The Church is a little as well as a despised flock. 'Their sorrows shall be multiplied who exchange another' (or, by exchange, purchase another)—the idea and terms corresponding to Jer. ii. 11: 'but My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit' Such folly leads to such sorrow. Yet, alas, how common is it! And still there is not another. 'I, even I, am Jehovah; and besides Me there is no Saviour.' In such circumstances, holy separation in religion and life is not only our duty, but, as it were, the necessity of our new nature. 'I will not pour forth their drink-offerings of blood, nor will I take up their names upon my lips.' Whether their offerings be the result of violence and blood, or be mingled with blood, all sacrifices which are not those of a broken heart are an abomination to the Lord. We must not be ' partakers with them' in their evil deeds. It is not hatred, but dread, which here expresses itself. Under the apprehension of the judgment which will certainly overtake all workers of iniquity, we must hasten forth beyond the boundaries of the doomed city. All is not religion which seems such. There are even drink-offerings which are 'of blood.' Where the heart is estranged from God, and exchanges Him for 'another,' whoever that other may be, their very 'table' becomes 'a snare' to them. In holy contrast to those 'which have their portion in this life,' the believer asserts his character and claim as one of the 'kingdom of priests'in whom the Levitical type was fulfilled: 'I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel' (Num. xviii. 20). 'Jehovah is the portion of mine inheritance' (that which is numbered to me, or falls to me of possession) 'and of my cup; Thou maintainest my lot.' The possession which he inherits by allotment in virtue of his new birth, is Jehovah Himself. Again, as one of the children, he becomes a member of 'the household of God;' he is admitted to the King's table, and there the Lord as a Father dispenses to him 'the portion of his cup,' which is none else than Himself. Jehovah our permanent inheritance; Jehovah our daily sustenance, the wine of our cup— for refreshment, strength, and joy. This is ' the new wine' of the kingdom. And in this does the soul make her boast, loudly proclaiming its sufficiency. Yet is this also of grace. We have not chosen Him, but He has chosen us ; it is not the labour of our hands, but 'the portion of our inheritance and of our cup.' And what grace has given grace preserves, preparing it for us, and us for it. 'Thou maintainest my lot.' Thus in daily dependence upon Him, in daily fellowship with Him, are we trained for ' the inheritance of the saints
in light.' From first to last we owe all to grace; from first to last we find all in Jehovah; from first to last are we directed out of ourselves to Him.
1. The connexion between faith and prayer is exceedingly close. Prayer is the language of faith, and faith is the result of prayer. Each ' In Thee do I put my trust,' has a 'Preserve me, O God,' for its therefore; and each cry for preservation results in the joyous assurance, ' Thou art my Lord.' Thus our faith is not a barren speculation, nor the knowledge of some truths, but the upward look of a soul which has found in Christ its Saviour. The air which it breathes is fellowship with God, even the Father. From its very nature, faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen, is cast upon prayer for its continuance. From its origin, faith, which is 'the gift of God,' is obliged to live upon prayer. When I cease to pray, I must cease to believe; and when I cease to believe will I cease to pray. Accordingly, the one forms an accurate test of the other. All that scripturally I believe, may and should I ask for; and all that scripturally I ask, may and should I believe. Prayer is the privilege of faith; the shaking off all hindrances, and claiming all that has been assigned in the covenant of grace; and faith is the pledge and earnest that what we have asked will be granted. Therefore let me make free application of it. If by grace I am now enabled to put my trust in Jesus as my Saviour, let me ask for preservation. The grace of endurance and the grace of perseverance are given in answer to believing prayer. How many are the dangers and the sins from which I require to be guarded; how precious is the preservation of my soul, which includes my separation unto Him; and how blessed the assurance that such faith and prayer will be followed by that peace which consists in intense satisfaction with Jesus as all-sufficient for me!
2. But am I really conscious of this exclusiveness of possession in God? When my soul is in a healthy state, I require not to be reminded that Jehovah is the portion of mine inheritance, nor to be admonished to make Him now the portion of my cup. The soul quickened by grace has such lively views of Divine things, and such blessed enjoyment of Him, that it rises to Him in virtue of a felt necessity of His presence. Is this the case with me? What are my anticipations of the future, and what my feelings with reference to the present? Nor is it needful to attain a very high elevation in order to cherish such feelings. They consist not in realizing what we have, but what He hath. It is joy not in ourselves, but in Christ. And this joy is consistent with, nay, itjmplies, the humblest views of our own attainments and ability. 'Thou maintainest my lot' Thus all the glory is His. Day by day do we feel how difficult it is to keep these feelings fresh upon our hearts; and day by day do we bless God, who, both by His providence and by His grace, by trials and by comforts, loosens the bands which bind us to earth, and more firmly draws those which connect us with heaven. We are 'strangers and pilgrims.' Surely, not the one without the other. To be a stranger without being a pilgrim were morbid misanthropy; to be a pilgrim without being a stranger were empty profession. The one marks our' relation to earth, the other our relation to heaven.
Strangers as being pilgrims, and pilgrims as being strangers— thus let us have grace to overcome, by being overcome by the constraining love of Christ.
3. Yet a third mark of our citizenship, besides believing prayer and delight in God, is our esteem and affection for God's people. Our regard for them appears in our estimate of 'the saints,'—' the excellent.' These are days in which believers are more especially exposed to the sneers of the world; and mockery is more difficult to bear than even persecution. We would range ourselves on the side of God's people, irrespective of any consequences. There are some who are always ready to bring railing accusations against God's people, or to join in them. Even though their failings were all that is said by some, I remember the solemn warning in the case of Ham. And, like Moses, would I prefer to suffer persecution with the people of God than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Let 'the saints' be my chosen companions. Fellowship with God's people is next only to fellowship with God Himself. And this day let me in heart and prayer seek to enjoy both, in anticipation of that eternal day with Christ and the saints!
Somet1mes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings:
It is the Lord who rises
With healing in His wings.
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining
To cheer it after rain.