HELP IN THE LORD.
1 Help, Lord ; for the godly man ceaseth ; for the faithful fail from among the
children of men.
2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips, and with
a double heart, do they speak.
3 The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh
4 Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail ; our lips are our own: who
is lord over us?
5 For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I
arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.
6 The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth,
purified seven times.
7 Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this genera
tion for ever.
8 The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.—Psalm xII.
This Psalm has been aptly compared to a ring, of which ver. 5 is the bright diamond. Most needful indeed is such a precious jewel in the dark setting all around. In this instance, as in Ps. ii., where similarly abounding wickedness threatens destruction to the kingdom of God, the inspired singer hears directly the voice of God (Ps. xii. 15 ; comp. Ps. ii. 6-9). The kingdom of God seems in as great danger as its King; but the safety of His people is bound up with that of their Lord.
They were evil days in which this cry of the Church was heard, though David occupied the throne of Israel and the Spirit of God tuned the lyre of his praise. Yet prevailing iniquity in the world is not a mark that God has forsaken His people. 'Help, Lord,' or rather 'Save, Jehovah '—make, or send safety or salvation,—Hosannah, is a cry both of distress and of joy, intermingling through the exercise of faith and prayer. Darkness cannot be complete so long as the Sun of Righteousness is in the heavens; sorrow cannot be allengrossing, so long as His promises are left us; nor can our faith fail amid apparently prevailing wickedness, while we can cry to a present and a living God, who ' at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,' and 'hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things.'
In fact, when we betake ourselves to this prayer we have already really conquered. For the issue itself could never be doubtful. The point to be aimed at was for us to rise above the things seen to ' quietness and assurance' in God. And as surely as the prayer ascends comes down the heard answer of ver. 5, with its future of immediateness: 'Now will I arise, saith Jehovah?' For, as Augustine most truly saith, 'Our heart is unresting till it rest in Thee;' and a little further on: 'I will seek Thee, Lord, invoking Thee, and invoke Thee, believing in Thee.' Then all becomes plain, and he who formerly 'mourned in his complaint, and made a noise' (Ps. lv. 2), becomes in ver. 6 what Luther, by a gloss on the word 'faithful' in ver. 1, calls one of' the Amen-people!
Perhaps the fundamental explanation and illustration of the sad state of matters described in this Psalm may be found in its last verse: 'All around the wicked walk proudly, when' (or since) 'vileness is exalted to the children of men.' When that which in itself is mean, low, vile, and worthless, comes to occupy the highest place in the esteem of the children of men (' comes up to exaltedness,' as the expression might be literally rendered), the wicked walk proudly all around. Thus placed at the end of the Psalm, this would form a standing protest against the great sin of the world, and a fit transition to the entreaty of Ps. xiii. And truly the description answers most correctly to the state of matters in times of trouble to the Church. Wealth, worldly distinctions, unsanctified intellect, and material force seem to come to the top. Men look up to these, and wickedness, if but allied with such fictitious advantages, no longer hides itself as ashamed. 'And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up/ is an apt portraiture of the ' last days' of the ancient Church, even as 'blessed is that man that maketh Jehovah his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies,' describes the godly believer. But this state of mind, perhaps more than any other, implies faith. It is extremely difficult to rise above the common views of men; indeed, only possible so far as we can realize the all-sufficiency, the omnipresence, and the omnipotence of our Father in Christ. But when I am able to understand that it is really vileness which is exalted—that it is not in any, nor in all these things, to satisfy or to make me safe—an intense calm fills my soul. I am truly happy when I am truly free, and I am truly free when I truly rest in God.
But such being the common opinion entertained among men (ver. 8), we can more fully sympathize with the prayer of ver. 1. Nothing short of His own interposition will remedy the matter. Looking around us, we feel deeply the need of His sending help. 'The godly man,' the pious (literally, the loving, gracious) 'ceaseth,' or has come to an end ; ' the faithful'—they who keep truth and continue true (according to Luther's apt rendering,' the A men-people')—'are clean gone from among the children of men.' 'And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.' Alas, where is the practical adherence to their profession, the faithfulness, even of believers, in seasons of spiritual decrepitude? What is their bearing in presence of the mammon-worship and the trust in material force characteristic of the latter days? We require to be strong in the Lord, and not merely to hold abstract principles but to experience the power of fellowship with God. Saith one, in effect: 'Money can buy and do anything; self-interest and self-seeking govern and move all' (ver. 2). 'Nay,' replies the believer, 'but Jehovah is higher and mightier by far, and all these appearances will be subverted and put to shame' (ver. 3). 'Power and violence will carry the day; hand joineth in hand; and who can resist what is the regular and organized state of things, the natural sequence of events ?' (ver. 4.) 'Nay, there is not such a natural sequence as you dream of. For the trial of our faith, and in carrying out the mystery of His providence, He allows us to be poor and oppressed. But we give ourselves to prayer, and already we hear the promise of spiritual and perfect deliverance which anon shall be fulfilled (ver. 5). Thus having by faith overcome in this hand-to-hand conflict, we are prepared to receive the precious comforts which flow from the covenant of grace (ver. 6), and from its administration (ver. 7), and to understand both the reason and the duration of the present state of matters (ver. 8).
Thus it almost seems as if we had here a dialogue, or rather a contest, between 'the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience' and 'the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father.' Right over-against every forthputting of the one is the answer in faith and the victory by faith. The old truth, 'not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith Jehovah,' is brought out, and tried 'as silver in a furnace of earth purified seven times.' Over-estimate of that which in itself is not only worthless, but vile (ver. 8), leads men to 'speak every one to his neighbour' (acquaintance or companion) 'vanity,' or rather that which is naught and untrue (absolutely viewed). That which is naught has become current coin among men, the principle of their social life, on which they act. 'Lips of smoothnesses, and with an heart and an heart they are speaking.' The verbs here indicate a continuity of action. Trying to please others, but in reality pleasing themselves and seeking their own; what a sadly true portraiture of the motives and conduct of the world! But here we take our stand; we are not to be 'carried away with their dissimulation;' we know other, we believe other, and we expect other. We do not call down, but we anticipate judgment both to 'the lips of smoothnesses, and to the tongue speaking great things' (ver. 3). Nor shall we be entangled in their intrigues, nor be led astray by their seeming wisdom, their astute plans and machinations, which promise rich success, viewing it from their stand-point, as stated in ver. 8: who have said, ' In reference to our tongues, we will put forth strength, or make proof of strength' (heroical valour and success) ; ' who is lord over us?' Our devices and plans are sure to prosper; what matters truth or righteousness? And here faith, so to speak, is no longer left to answer for itself. God Himself now speaketh, and His voice is heard, as His presence is felt by the believer. 'On account of the oppression' (or desolation) 'of the suffering meek' (for the term includes both),' for the groaning of the poor needy' (both being again included in the Hebrew word), 'now I will arise, is saying Jehovah' (the tense indicating a continuous act) ; 'I will put into salvation' (place in safety) 'him that longeth for it' Therefore let patience have her perfect work. We are very prone to be improperly affected by the state of the world. If we fall not into unbelief, we are apt to fall into impatience. We fret or are misled ; we judge and avenge, and seek to right matters, or at least ourselves. Oh, to carry all our concerns by faith to Him, and in faith to wait for Him,—content with what He saith and expectant of what He doeth!
Having reached this stage, we enjoy much blessed quiet in the Lord. We know that, unlike the words of men, 'the sayings of Jehovah are pure sayings' (without any admixture), 'silver molten in the furnace unto the earth' (silver molten in the furnace, and run out from it on the ground),' purified' (or passed through the furnace) 'seven times.' We can take each saying of Jehovah; we can take it to ourselves; we can take it literally. We can rely upon it; we can look for its full realization. Our hope is in His word, which has no admixture. It is silver, which in the furnace of affliction and trial of our faith has been molten and run out to us as precious metal, seven times, which is the number of the covenant. Here also Christ is before us, the true 'Angel of the Covenant.' 'Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.' I cannot be desponding, nor failing in faith and patience when I realize Gethsemane and Calvary. Nor need I be afraid. 'Thou, Jehovah, wilt preserve—guard—them' (Thou art guarding them); 'Thou wilt preserve him' (who longeth for Thy salvation, ver. 5) 'from this generation'—and far beyond it—' for ever.'
Thus can we once more return to ver. 8, but now in the spirit of Ps. Ixxiii. and with this conclusion: 'When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.' 'For the needy shall not alway be forgotten ; the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.'
1. Let me seek to obtain a believing, and therefore correct, view of men and matters. Let me not be led astray by appearances. I feel that I am in great danger of being influenced by the principles, the conduct, and the policy of the men around me. O my soul, what are they seeking, and what art thou seeking? What is their highest good, and what is thine t Believest thou this word, and what it saith concerning time and eternity, concerning unrest and rest, woe and joy? Then why all this haste and anxiety? Surely all these things profit not; they perish with the using. Yet let me not think it an easy matter to separate myself from the ways of the world. Almost before I am aware I am ensnared. What I hold to be true is the word of God ; what I hold to be influential and successful is the possession of Christ and power with God ; what I hold to be joyous is the indwelling of His Spirit. Right over-against the maxims of men let me place the sayings of Jehovah ; right over-against their plans and purposes, His salvation, grace, presence, and blessing. O Lord, I will seek Thee, and Thee alone; to Thee let me cleave; keep me by Thy mighty power; keep me close to Thyself; keep me pure and humble; keep me believing, calm, and expectant.
2. Ofttimes in the furnace of affliction has Thy word been tried, and like molten silver run out. Trial tries Thy word as well as my faith. And Thy word, how far better is it than my faith? Had it not been for Thy word, my faith would have failed. And then I have gathered up the molten silver of Thy word, and proved it to be truly current coin. It has met all my liabilities, it has provided for all my wants. O that I might never return to the dross of this world! Why should we ' spend money for that which is not bread,' and our 'labour for that which satisfieth not?' This day, let me 'come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.' All this freely, and all this from Thee. Grant me, then, I beseech thee, holy independence, because holy dependence upon Thee.
3. The Lord saith and the Lord doeth. He speaketh peace into our souls by His gracious promise of deliverance, and of the salvation for which we long (ver. 5). Of this we have the pledge in our being made meek, suffering, needy, and poor, and in our crying to Him—all which are of His grace. And the Lord giveth what He promiseth. He now guardeth us, and will preserve us, not only from this generation but for ever (ver. 7). I rest on the promise of grace, and on the grace of the promise, on His word and on His almighty arm. And I am safe. My prayer already wears the garb of praise. And what is now the principle of His dealings with His people will soon become the law of His administration and kingdom. Only let me remember that the experience of His grace is ever couched in the language of spiritual fellowship with Him. 'Thou shalt keep them, O Lord; Thou shalt preserve them.' Therefore must it ever be: with Thee, as well as from Thee and in Thee.
When, lo, Messiah, in His strength
Shall break upon them like the sun,
And shine away those clouds at length,
Which swiftly from His presence run,—
Thou Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Arise with healing in Thy wings;
And chase away Thine enemies,
And reign for ever, King of Kings!