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Mercy to the Merciful —Ps xli

XXXIX.

MERCY TO THE MERCIFUL.

1 Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in the

time of trouble.

2 The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed

upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.

3 The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make

all his bed in his sickness.

4 I said, Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul, for I have sinned against

thee.

5 Mine enemies speak evil of me ; when shall he die, and his name perish?

6 And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity; his heart gathereth iniquity

to itself; when he goeth abroad he telleth it.

7 All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my

hurt.

8 An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him; and now that he lieth he

shall rise up no more.

9 Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread,

hath lifted up his heel against me.

10 But thou, O Lord, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite

them.

11 But this I know, that thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not

triumph over me.

12 And as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before

thy face for ever.

13 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting.

Amen, and Amen.—Psalm Xl1.

Dark and sorrowful as the experience of this Psalm is, it has its blessed comfort, specially in its point of application to Christ. For every sorrow and suffering has its counterpart in the 'Man of Sorrows.' Never was desertion or ingratitude like that with which Jesus met, not only from His own to whom He came, and who received Him not, but especially from His 'familiar friend' 'which did eat' of His bread (ver. 9; comp. with John xiii. 18). All the more comforting is this reference to Jesus as connected with a case in which the believer suffers, apparently in great part, if not because, yet in connexion with Him, that we remark that the special complaint which he utters is not about any suffering consequent upon his guilt, but that his malicious enemies make use of his affliction for their own wicked purposes. Instead of sympathy and prayer, they mete out to him malice and condemnation, and that on the most selfish and hateful grounds. And this is ever the way of the world. They cannot understand judgment except in the sense of destruction, even as they know not God save as the Avenger. Hence, as all their thoughts of God are only those of dread, so all their thoughts of God's people are only those of bitterness. They maliciously magnify their sins, and delight in them. And too often the judgments of believers are almost equally harsh. Speak tenderly of a sinner; deal tenderly with a sinner, especially with a fallen brother, for God is able to lift him up, and He will lift him up. Deal not tenderly with sin, but deal tenderly with the sinner; for Christ hath dealt tenderly with thee, and He will deal tenderly with him also. His case may not be such as thou imaginest. Remember the parable of the forgiven debtor; remember the lesson of the Good Shepherd, who follows the straying sheep into the wilderness. Mourn and pray more than thou condemnest, and in this matter also seek the blessedness of him 'that considered the poor.'

So far, indeed, as sorrow is the result of sin, we are not only willing to take it, but thankful to be 'chastened' of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. And this is the result of our evangelical repentance. Nor is our painful recollection of the past restricted to the immediate occasion of our suffering. Like Jacob of old, we go halting all our days. Accordingly, after having described in vers. 1-3 the general principles of the merciful administration of His kingdom, and before applying them to his own case, he maketh humble confession of his sin: 'I said, Jehovah, be merciful unto me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee.' It may be so that His gracious promises apply to us; yet while labouring under any sin, we dare not refer them to ourselves. The first point is to obtain pardon—the healing of our spiritual diseases. If this has been found, we may calmly await the issue of His dealings in Providence (vers. 10, 11). Our enemies, and especially our great enemy, ever misunderstand our case and our relation towards God. 'A thing of Belial' (a grievous sin) 'cleaveth to him' (is poured upon him like metal), 'and now that he lieth, he shall rise up no more.' Sin, or what we feel to be such, receives its worst interpretation, and it is supposed, or rather hoped, that all return to God is cut off, and that He has 'clean forgotten to be gracious.' Nothing is more characteristic of their malice than such thoughts.' The enemy of our souls ever seeks to rob us of our hope by representing our case as hopeless. And here, perhaps more than in any other trouble, the example and encouragement of David's prayer comes home to our hearts. The more bitter their taunts and suggestions, the louder do we cry unto the Lord, acknowledging what in their charge is true, but entreating, as they that are ready to perish, restoration to His favour. 'But Thou, O Jehovah, be merciful unto me, and raise me up.' Our sin is aggravated; we feel its burden, in a manner far more heavy, though far different, than they conceive. But their inferences we reject. The tempter always first allures, and then accuses. But we believe in the living God. Prayer has never yet returned unheard; confession has never yet been set aside. However desperate our case, there is help for us in Christ; nay, He will not' deliver' us ' unto the will' of our enemies. There is this peculiarity about faith, that it cannot and will not despond, either in reference to special guilt or to our case in general. Thus the history which opened so sadly with a picture of misery caused by sin, endeth with full assurance of pardon, spiritual preservation, and final beatification (ver. 12). All this to the glory and praise of sovereign grace (ver. 13).

The one great source of trouble and anguish removed, we can once more realize our relation to God as our Father in Christ. Nor can any rob us of our 'integrity.' Though we have forgotten and forsaken Him—and bitterly we mourn and lament our fall—yet is it not so, as they suggest. Conscious that, through grace, we have in our inmost hearts had delight in mercy, having first experienced it ourselves, we anticipate still further displays of mercy. We have not fallen to rise up no more, as the wicked fall. Satan has sought to sift us as wheat is sifted, but He has prayed for us that our faith fail not. Therefore, like Peter, have we gone out to weep bitterly. The inmost tendency of our hearts, since grace reached us, has been different from that of the men of the world. We have joined ourselves, in heart and soul, to God's people. We have learned to 'consider the poor' —Christ's poor and suffering people. We have learned to make dedication of ourselves to Him, and of all we possess, to His service. More especially have we been turned from self-seeking, and delivered from the great sin of the men of this age, the love of the world, by having the love of the Father substituted in its stead. And here let us pause, as this matter deserveth and requireth, for our instruction, some special consideration.

Let us specially mark this. The self1sh appropriation of what the Lord intends and intrusts to us for high purposes, enslaves the heart, engrosses the mind, captivates the imagination, and prevents holy thinking and holy acting. We must not be conformed to the 'proud' men who say,' Our lips' (or our means) 'are our own ; who is lord over us?' If we regard anything as our own, then surely all is still our own, and we are not His who bought us with His precious blood. Nor can we forget that there is a question more solemn and important than our offering—even His accepting. This by no means follows as a matter of course. What we give, must be offered in humble and contrite prayer, and is only accepted in the covenant of grace through Jesus Christ (Isa. i. 11, 12 ; Amos v. 21, 22). The acceptance of our gifts (as we call them), or rather, of our offerings, like that of our prayers and of our persons, is an act of grace on the part of our reconciled Father. Hence the prayer, ' The Lord remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt-sacrifice! Let us make to ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; above all, let us not be engrossed with the thought of accumulating riches. How different, how much more blessed, is a life of faith! I would rather have the priest's portion than aught Egypt can supply; I would rather feed upon the bread of consecration, which has first been laid before the Lord, than be supported by the richest institution of earth. But, blessed be His name, I can connect all my 'getting' with Him by receiving it from Him, by offering it to Him, and enjoying it in Him and for Him. In this case He is surety to us for good, who will take care not only of our outward estate, but of our body itself, and of our fair fame (vers. 2, 3). The body is more than meat, and a good name is better than riches. The Lord is surety not only for our provender, but for our life, health, and peace. Prayer is an excellent medicine in sickness, and a strong shield against slander (ver. 4). But mark how in this also all is connected with a continuous exercise of faith. The Canaanites are still left in the land; only, they are not allowed to triumph over us (vers. 11, 12). I know that, of all outward troubles, evil-speaking is most difficult to bear. There is the hypocritical friend, who speaketh vanity and falsehood, his heart all the while gathering iniquity to itself, that he may pour it forth like a poisoned stream. Such

X

evils are most apt to befall us when we are otherwise in a low condition, either in body or outward estate. They talk to the confusion of those whom God has smitten. And what with the desertion of friends, the bitterness of enemies, and the depression of our own condition—not to speak of our inward sense of sin and ill desert-—it almost seems as if we could rise no more (vers. 5-9). But now is the time for strong crying and tears. However deep the waters may seem to me, what are they compared with those that rolled over His soul? (ver. 9.) 'And we indeed justly; but this man hath done nothing amiss.' Therefore, let me now unburden my soul by confession—full and unreserved, and willingly submit both to blame and to the punishment of my sins. Then comes the time for pleading with God, for entreating Him, for seeking His undeserved mercy (vers. 10, 11); and for finally resting peacefully upon Him, with the Amen and Amen of the believing, satisfied heart (vers. 12, 13).

1. O this burdening of ourselves with needless, foolish, and sinful cares for the morrow! Lord, let me live upon Thee: for body and soul, for time and eternity, be Thou my Provider. Let me also meditate upon this subject of 'being accepted' in the light of the Word ; let me study the Scriptures in connexion with it. Lastly, let me consider the poor, Thy poor. Their poverty Thou reckonest as if it were Thine, and Thou richly providest for them. Let me also ever be one of Thy poor ones.1

2. In all my afflictions Thou wast afflicted. I cast them all upon Thee. The less I see, the more I will wait upon Thee. And, O Lord, what relief to be able and allowed to lay before Thee all the details of my suffering! It is not as to an earthly friend, from whom I would fain hide what I feel of sin, as causing the affliction, and therefore as specially poignant in the taunts and slanders of my foes. But I come unto Thee, O Lord, to whom I may confess all my sins, and in whom I may still trust, because I can entreat Thee through Jesus Christ, my Saviour.

1 God sent Elijah to the widow of Sarepta, 'not to beg of her, but to board with her, and He would pay well for his table.'—Matthew Henry.

3. Still trust in God, my soul. He will not, in His grace He cannot, leave thee. The storm has swept away what was untenable; it has driven me closer to Jesus, the Friend of sinners. And here I will rest, and rest for ever. Amen and Amen.

Oh, how past all utterance happy,

Sweet, and joyful it will be
When they who, unseen, have loved Htm,

Jesus face to face shall see!

In that day how good and pleasant

This poor world to have despised!
And how mournful and how bitter,

Dear that lost world to have prized!

Blessed, then, earth's patient mourners
Who for Christ have toil'd and died,—

Driven by the world's rough pressure
In those mansions to abide!

To those realms, just Judge, oh call me,

Deign to open that blest gate,
Thou whom seeking, looking, longing,

I with eager hope await!

Hymn Of The Twelfth Century.

( The Voice of Christian Life in Song.)