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Our Safety —Ps xviii 1-18,

XXIV.
OUR SAFETY.

1 I WIll love thee, O Lord, ray strength.

2 The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;

My buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: So shall I be saved from mine enemies.

4 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made

me afraid.

5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me.

6 In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God:

He heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

7 Then the earth shook and trembled;

The foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.

8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils,

And fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.'

9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his

feet.

10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly; yea, he did fly upon the wings of

the wind.

11 He made darkness his secret place;

His pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed; hail-stones

and coals of fire.

13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,

And the Highest gave his voice; hail-stones and coals of fire.

14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; And he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.

15 Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world

were discovered
At thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

16 He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.

17 He delivered me from my strong enemy,

And from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.

18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.

19 He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he

delighted in me.

20 The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.

Psalm Xv111.

This Psalm, which in another version is recorded in 2 Sam. xxii., may be regarded as David's Pisgah view of his life. At the close of his earthly course he reviews all God's dealings with him in covenant-mercy, and then looks beyond them to the spiritual fulfilment in Christ Jesus of the gracious promise of establishing his throne. In its fullest sense this Psalm is true only of Christ and in Christ, and as such is twice expressly applied to our Lord (Heb. ii. 13 ; Rom. xv. 9). But it refers also to all 'who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.' For if we be like the Son of David, we also must be 'made perfect through suffering.' Yet how precious in each struggle to hear the voice of Jehovah, and in each trial to realize His hand— to feel that'goodness and mercy have followed us all our

days!' And when at even we lay down our armour, may we be able on looking back to praise, and in looking forward to rejoice I But in order thus to identify ourselves with the final triumph of the blessed gospel, we must in our lives and labours have identified ourselves with the life and the work of Christ. And thus to identify our history with, and to read it as in Christ, is indeed to have a history.

The main object of this Psalm is to illustrate our vital union with Christ, the Son of David. The first part expresses His identification with us, the second our identification with Him. Because He thoroughly identifies Himself with us, our deliverance is so certain, so special, so marked, and so striking. Because we so thoroughly identify ourselves with Him, our strength is so great, our victory so decided, our triumph so continuous, and our hope and anticipation so spiritual. These two divisions of the Psalm, which some have described as presenting David as passive in the hands of God, and as active with Him, but which we have viewed as the twofold aspect of our identification with Christ in the covenant of grace, are clearly marked in the text (vers. 1, 31, and ver. 32 to the end). Both sections are prefaced by an expression of feelings corresponding to the experience which is to find utterance.

A most noble beginning is made in a profession which, without further introduction, seems to burst from the fulness of a grateful heart. There is no coldness here, no doubt nor hesitation. Of what the heart is full the mouth floweth over. Yet can even the weakest believer deeply sympathize with it. 'I will love Thee, Jehovah, my strength.' The term used for love (which in this form occurs only in this passage) is expressive, not only of deep and tender, but of continuous, of close-clinging, and sustaining affection. Love such as that which joins the Church to her Lord has no parallel on earth, nor even in heaven. It is unique—deep, tender, continuous, close-clinging, and sustaining. And, as in the language of the bride (Song ii. 6), the profession of this love is joined with confession of our weakness and acknowledgment of His strength. It is remarkable that the word for 'strength' is also unique. Very characteristically, it is derived from a verb originally denoting to tie firmly together. Again, our confession is twofold—of His fulness and of our emptiness; of our love and of His grace. Our love towards Him, and His strength towards us, are inseparably joined. Our love to Him is unique; our strength in Him is also unique. There is no other Rock like that of Jacob; and thus, with the deepest sense of weakness in ourselves, yet by faith laying hold on Him who is our God in Christ, can we sing, and burst forth abruptly for very joy,' I will love Thee, Jehovah, my strength.'

It has been aptly noted by one that the titles here given to our God are the fruit of sufferings. For in seasons of trial we learn rightly to know and to name our God. We then become acquainted with Him, 'not by the hearing of the ear,' but our eyes see Him. The finest gold is that which has passed again and again through the fire. Hence David calls God by names connected with the chief deliverances in his life. We also love to name ourselves by His name, and to designate Him in a manner analogous to that of the 'God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.' Hence, we speak of Jehovah-Jireh, Jehovah-Nissi, and Jehovah-Shalom. 'Jehovah, my Rock, and my Fortress, and my Deliverer; my God, my Rock in whom I find refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my Salvation, my high Fort.' Yet it should be remembered that these names express not merely past, but present experience. He has proved Jehovah, found Him such, therefore now and for evermore he applies to Him. Very touching are the reminiscences of former scenes and dangers in the history of the persecutions by Saul. This mountain and that rock were his bulwark and high fortress. Yet not they, but Jehovah in them. For straight through these natural means did he look up to the supernatural First Cause. And when the special occasion no longer existed, did he still call Jehovah by these names. So we also, in our believing review of the past. Even a heathen poet speaks of the pleasure of looking back upon past trials. Yet we look rather upon a present Saviour than a past affliction. 'To you, therefore, which believe, He is precious.' The expression, 'my God, my Rock in whom I find refuge' (or hide myself for refuge; the tense indicating continuance for the future), is peculiarly emphatic, as indicating deep joy and confidence, and as connected both with the past and the future of God's Israel. It reminds us of' the stone of Israel' (Gen. xlix. 24); it occurs in the Song of Moses (Deut. xxxii. 4, 'The Rock'), from which, indeed, it seems to be taken; it recurs in Ps. xcii. 15, ' He is my Rock,' and again in 'the Song of the Lamb,' Isa. xxvi. 4: 'for in Jah Jehovah is the Rock of eternities,' corresponding to Eph. iii. 21: 'Unto

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Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.' In all these cases it seems specially to point to the faithfulness of our God, and to continuous grace (the word itself being derived from gathering together, or heaping up that which therefore shall endure).

Such hope will of necessity lead to prayer, as in ver. 3. There is a peculiar tone about it. 'Upon the Praised One' (the Hallelujah'd) 'will I call, even Jehovah ; and from mine enemies I shall be saved.' The prayer embodies assurance of answer; the very address to 'the Praised One' already conveys thanksgiving. Does not this review of David's life and faith seem almost the ripest of his Psalms, when, as one who knows God, he maketh request with the joy of assurance? (James i. 6, 7.) Our prayers are paralysed, if their utterance be trembling. Most assuredly we have not this world, and if our grasp of Him, or our trust in Him, be also uncertain, what is left us? Not with weapons carried in trembling hands shall we prevail in the contest. While discarding all fleshly help or deliverance, all the more we 'have hope toward God.' For, as Luther says, 'You cannot believe how powerful a remedy such praise of God is in times of danger. For as soon as you begin to praise God, the evil abates, the good courage increases, and calling upon God with confidence ensues. There are people who cry unto the Lord and are not heard (ver. 44). But why? Because when they called upon the Lord, they praised Him not, but resisted Him; they have not set the Lord before them, how sweet He is, but only looked at their own bitterness. . . . Let any one make trial of it, and commence to praise God, whenever his heart sinks within him ; he will immediately feel relief.' And this title of God as 'the Praised One' frequently recurs in the Psalms. Thus, Ps. xlviii. 1, 'Great is Jehovah and the much Praised One, in the city of our God, the mountain of His holiness.' Ps. xcvi. 4, ' For great is Jehovah and the much Praised One; to be feared is He above all gods.' Ps. cxiii. 3 and cxlv. 3 afford other parallel instances. In all these the praise of Jehovah is connected with His greatness, —His greatest greatness consisting in His condescension in grace as 'the Praised One' of His people. Thus the infinite greatness and the infinite love of Jehovah are ever combined in the covenant of grace. In view of all this, well might our Head Himself utter the words of ver. 2, as quoted in Heb. ii. 13. Such confidence, indeed, is needed in view of the surrounding dangers. It is not ordinary enmity which we have to encounter, but that of' the enemy of souls.' It is not ordinary deliverance for which we have to ask, but to be ' drawn out of many and great waters' (vers. 16, 17). 'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.' The fearful character of the conflict (vers. 4, 5) appears sufficiently from its origin—' death,' ' Belial,' and 'Sheol,'—and also from the threatening proximity of these 'sorrows,'' floods,' and 'snares.' The believing heart can best realize what issues hang upon the conflict of David and 'David's Son.' And in some measure we all can enter into it as part of our own experience. All the more sublime is that picture of the deliverance (vers. 7-20) which followed in answer to the cry to heaven (ver. 6). We mark in it the sympathy of nature as on Mount Sinai (ver. 7) ; the terribleness of His interposition (ver. 8); its personal character (ver. 9); its majesty (ver. 10); the darkness presented to His enemies (ver. 11); the fitful judgments (ver. 12-15) , the signal power wherewith deliverance was wrought, as in the Red Sea (ver. 15) ; the Mosescharacter of the preservation (ver. 16) ; the Joshua-character of the contest (ver. if); and the peculiarly Davidic or rather Christian aspect which it wears as gradually we emerge ' into a large place' (vers. 18, 19). The contrast appears now most strikingly between God and man. While in ver. 18 it is marked by 'but Jehovah was my stay,' in ver. 19 deliverance is ascribed solely to sovereign grace: 'because He delighteth in me.' Conceive this 'Song of Moses and the Lamb' sung by the Church in the Jerusalem above, or upon the renewed earth! Most accurately does it delineate the history of that Church, and, in a sense, of every member thereof. Surely such victory is worth contending for, praying, waiting, and suffering for. 'Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Nor let us in this connexion forget the prayer which immediately follows, 2 Thess. i. 11, 12.

But do we really believe in this final setting right of things, and hope for it, that is, do we 'patiently wait' for it? There is this twofold error ever about us. We lose from view 'the coming of the Lord,' and we join ourselves to the men of' this generation.' Why should we dread the influence, the means, or the strength of this world, or why should we court them, if we make Jehovah our stay? Herein lies the mastery of the poor and weak, that they turn their view straight upwards. Contempt of the world, in its true and healthy sense, has its root only in realizing faith. In measure as we live in the world to come has this world lost its power over us. We look back to Moses, and think that we also have been drawn out of great waters. We think of the passage through the Red Sea, and remember that in our deliverance also ' the channels of the waters were seen.' We recall the contests of Joshua, and know that our Jesus also has conquered and delivered us from our strong enemies, and from them which hated us, for they were too strong for us. We think of Sinai, and we look forward to when 'once more' He will 'shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.' Above all, we remember Jehovah, our God in Christ, and stay ourselves upon Him.

1. What past deliverances of a spiritual character have I to mark? And how do I mark them? Ever to look through second causes directly to God is the characteristic of those who are spiritually taught. Surely there are events, phases, and deliverances in our history with which we connect special names of Jehovah, because special manifestations of Him and special answers to our prayers. These are our ' holy places,' yet will we not worship at those shrines, for our God is the living God. They only prove as finger-posts to point to Him. Upwards, and ever upwards! A spiritual experience never belongs to the past; it is an eternal present. What He was, that He is, and will be, world without end. Above all, do we know Him as 'the Praised One,' the 'Much Praised?' Praise is the necessary result of grace. For what, then, have I to praise Him to-day? How do I praise Him? Why do I not praise Him better? How shall I learn to know Him more closely, and to praise Him more fully? And what a place will heaven be, the temple of eternal praise, and of the eternal 'Much Praised One!'

2. 'I will love thee, Jehovah, my strength.' Thou art Thyself the ground of my love; Thou art Thyself the capacity of my loving ; all is in Thee. This is a precious resolve, to be written over the portal of the renewed heart and life. My review of the past traces Thee everywhere; and everywhere traces Thee in grace; and in Thy grace everywhere traces my safety. Beyond thee I cannot go. Thou hast loved me, and given Thyself for me; Thou hast become weakness to be strength to me; descended to me that I might ascend to Thee. O Calvary, O Cross, O blessed Jesus !—what wondrous grace! By the well of Samaria let me sit and drink of its water evermore!

3. Let me fully settle in my mind and heart the connexion between praise and prayer. There are times when I can see no light and feel no joy. Then let me pray, and let me first ask light and liberty. Let me tell God of ' the darkness,' and ' the dark waters,' and ' the thick clouds.' Let me seek breath for prayer. Then let me realize the character of His grace, and the liberty of access which I enjoy, not for what I am or believe, but for what He is and for what He does. He prays really who prays assuredly. He pleads who pleads to purpose; he asks who expects an answer. Nor let the question of my worthiness, or rather unworthiness, enter into it. That is met by the worthiness of my High Priest. I must keep Him in the fore and myself in the background. I must plead the blood which speaketh better things than that of Abel. Certainly, if I regard sin in my heart, God will not hear me. But I regard it not; I look to Christ, not to sin nor to self. Him I seek, and Him 'I will love.' 'Let us draw near, with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.' Consider what such realizing prayer can obtain from God, and stay not thine hand. 'Thou shouldst have smitten five or six times, thou hadst then smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it.' And finally, let me now in praying remember that doubt is not self-examination, nor despondency godly sorrow. Doubt is of the father of lies, but faith is of the Holy Ghost.

I WIll love Thee, all my treasure!

I will love Thee, all my strength!
I will love Thee without measure,

And will love Thee right at length.
Oh, I will love Thee, Light Divine!
Till I die and find Thee mine!

Angelus S1les1us.

KHymnsfrom the Land of Luther.)