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Peace, Be Still!—Ps xlii ,

XL.
PEACE, BE STILL!

1 As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee.

O God.

2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God! When shall I come and

appear before God?

3 My tears have been my meat day and night,

While they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?

4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me:

For I had gone with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.

5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him

For the help of his countenance.

6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me:

Therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Her

monites, From the hill Mizar.

7 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.

8 Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night his song shall be with me,

And my prayer unto the God of my life.

9 I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

10 As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; While they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?

11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul ? and why art thou disquieted within me! Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him,

Who is the health of my countenance, and my God.—Psalm X1.11.

With this Psalm commences the second book of the Psalter, among whose various characteristics the prevalence of the name Elohim has been specially noted. For while in the first book the name Jehovah occurs 272 times, and that of Elohim only fifteen times, in the second book (Ps. xlii.-lxxii.), the name Elohim occurs 164 times, and that of Jehovah only thirty times. This book is also introduced by at least seven Psalms (Ps. xlii. and xliv.-xlix.), which seem to be the composition of the sons of Korah, though in the spirit if not under the direction of David. The history of that family as traced in Holy Writ is touchingly interesting, from the judgment of their ancestor down to the enthusiastic espousing of the cause of God by his descendants, who gathered around David at Ziklag (1 Chron. xii. 6), and their employment in the song and the service of the sanctuary. The characteristic feature of their hymns is deep attachment to the house of the Lord, to His service, and especially to Zion's heavenly King. One feature in their spiritual history, as contrasted with that of their ancestor, we can scarcely refrain from mentioning, as being expressed in that deep and humble contentment with their office as door-keepers, on the ground mentioned in their Ps. lxxxiv. (ver. 6, 7): 'I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness, for Jehovah God is a sun and shield.'

Without seeking in this meditation to enter upon the meaning of each separate verse in this precious Psalm, we note that it describes the feelings of one who, deprived of the privileges of God's house, under the scorn of enemies, and amidst the sorrows of his own heart, longs for fellowship with the Lord, and at last in answer to prayer obtains the full comfort of faith,—the light of God's countenance becoming the health of his own. The general scope of this Psalm may be given in a condensed abstract from Luther: 'There is a twofold view of God. At times He hideth and covereth Himself, as when the conscience, under temptation, feels sin or other evils, whether spiritual or temporal, and is unable to comfort itself with the grace and mercy of God. Those who judge according to this hidden image of God, fall, without help, into despair and condemnation. But there is another and an unveiled likeness of God, revealing and discovering Himself as the gracious, merciful, compassionate, and reconciled God. And although the conscience affright, all evil threaten, and we be almost cast down by doubt, yet we rise again by faith, cleave to hope, and comfort ourselves that God will help, and again restore us to His service in the place'which He has alone ordained upon the earth. And concerning the absolute need of such services under the old dispensation, Calvin remarks that as the Old Testament saints had not wings wherewith to fly upwards, they made use of ladders by which to mount up to God, while we to whom Christ and His benefits have been granted, no longer require such aids to our weakness.

Although, in general, we should be extremely careful in applying the Psalms to special situations, we can scarcely be mistaken in referring this to the time when David fled before the face of Absalom, when the curse of Shimei expressed the feelings of the ungodly, and when the king, having pitched his camp on the other side Jordan, the lyre of Israel sent its plaintive notes from the land of Hermon and the hill Mizar. The deep spiritual depression of the king, and his upward look of penitence, appeared sufficiently in his reply to Shimei. Yet never before had David so certainly marched to true victory as when, with his face covered, he passed over the mount of Olives. Most precious is it to realize our safety in extreme danger and desertion, and to mark here also the footprints of our blessed Saviour. The sense of desertion expressed in ver. 6, found its full meaning only in the agony of the garden (Matt. xxvi. 38; John xii. 27). And thus, as applying to Christ, it also applies to His people. The circumstances which called forth this complaint were only its temporary occasion. What gave its bitterness to the cup was the sense of God's desertion, which breathed life into the taunts of the enemies. That one who so much longed for nearness to God, and fellowship with Him, should be a helpless exile from His presence; that over his soul such a storm should burst; that as wave incessantly rolled upon wave, deep should call unto deep; that all those waves and billows should have been His, constituted the deep problem of his anguish. Yet in this very fact also lay his consolation. For thus did faith, which laid hold upon that everlasting Arm, and prayer which rose from a heart longing, 'as the hart panteth after the water-brooks,' find 'in the daytime' His grace, 'and in the night His song' And all this 'commanded' by' the God' of his' life.' O how true of Christ; O how true of Christians! And thus the distress is made the occasion of the plea (ver. 9), and the complaint which is felt like 'killing' in his 'bones,' or innermost being, gives

s place to calm confidence, to patience, to the rest of faith, and to the expectancy of hope (vers. 10, 11). And here do we see and learn how even, if our souls are oppressed under a sense of guilt—feeling His judgments, not those of men, to be righteous—we can attain to blessed peace. Thirsting after the living God, not a mere doctrinal abstraction, and scarce able to brook delay (ver. 2); feeding upon tears, as the query for the ' where' of our God finds its echo within (ver. 3); remembering the gladness of His presence all the more sadly under a sense of present desertion (ver. 4); our inward weakness and grief appearing in its twofold manifestation,—the soul being ' bent down,' or bending itself, as in agony, and 'disquieted' (the word indicating the noise of disquietude, as that of waves, in reference to which it is employed, for example in Ps. xlvi. 4), the soul nevertheless by faith rises, and, as it were, commands itself to believe, remembering the promise of grace implied in the Aaronic blessing, to which pointed allusion is made in ver. 5. Thus just because the soul is cast down, it remembers Him in the place of its desertion; in the plains beyond Jordan, in sight of the majestic Hermon range, and ' from the hill Mizar,' or rather 'the little hill,' and thus finally through 'hope in God'—the good hope through grace—is gladness restored; and the 'light of His countenance' becomes 'the health of my countenance,' because He is 'my God.'

There is such intense tenderness and pathos in this Psalm as to render it peculiarly suitable to souls exercised under deep and sore trials. It almost seems as if, having experienced the anguish of God's desertion, the soul had sounded the lowest depth of earthly affliction. Hence the prayers and the consolations of this Psalm apply to all seasons of affliction. And here let us remember that the direct object, and the tendency of all sanctified affliction, whether loss of earthly goods, desertion of friends, bitterness of foes, or any other burden, is to cut us off from all resources, to cast us for help upon God, and to lead us to find our joy in Him alone. Let us distrust the character of every sorrow which does not bring us to our knees and shut the door behind us. Then our parched and wearied hearts pant for God, not so much from the loss of other objects, nor even from a fuller insight into their real character, as from a view of the beauty of the Lord in the face of His Anointed. Nothing less than converse with the 'living God,' the manifestation of Jehovah as our prayer-answering Father in Christ, will satisfy the craving of the heart. If we had attempted to shut up the fire in our hearts, it would have consumed us (ver. 3). Yet the real element of bitterness in such trials is, if in any way they shake our confidence in Him as a present God. 'Where is thy God?' So long as our minds are tortured with this harassing doubt, we are paralysed. We cannot arise to call upon our God, if we know not where He is. To this question, most assuredly, there is no answer by sight—at least in such signs as are sought by an evil and adulterous generation. The only possible answer is that of faith (given Ps. cxv. 3), which sets at rest all such questions, whether in reference to the word or the work of God. 'But our God is in the heavens; He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased! Let me then remember these four facts: 'He hath done' it; 'He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased;' 'Our God . . . hath done whatsoever He hath pleased'—the covenant-God; 'But our God is in the heavens] almightily overruling and restraining for His glory and our good. Under such circumstances, it is also well to enter into spiritual reasoning with our soul (ver. 5). Why am I cast down, and why am I disquieted? Is there good reason for it? Were my joy and strength derived from the creature? Rise, then, my soul; rise directly to God! What matters it whence I call upon God—Jerusalem or the land of Jordan? Heaven and help are equally near. Yet there is unspeakable relief in making known the greatness of our distress, and, above all, in recognising His hand as overruling it all (ver. 7). Affliction would be overwhelming indeed, if these were not 'all Thy waves and Thy billows,' both in the sense of allowing them to rise, of graciously overruling and of mightily restraining them. This may not always appear with the same clearness, but is our ultimate comfort in every affliction, even in that occasioned by our own folly and sin. Moreover, it is of the utmost importance to have a definite object in view in our prayers and expectation (ver. 8). God is glorified in the joyous expectancy of our faith, which anticipates not only preservation and support, but special deliverance and decisive victory, and that from Him alone (ver. 9). Therefore, and at all times, let me come back, as to a place of safe anchorage, to the question, the direction, the confidence, and the rest of God's people, as expressed in ver. 11.

1. It is in seasons of trouble that the question comes home to my heart, Do I really pant after God? Yet, let me put this question on my knees, in the way of confession and of entreaty. Surely, it is far better even to be driven in by the storm, if need be, than to be tempted to pass beyond the gates of the City of Refuge. O Lord, this is a time for humbling myself, and for seeking Thee, and Thee only. Let me now return unto the Lord. Thou art my only joy, and my sole Deliverer.

2. There is peculiar sadness in the recollection of former enjoyments; and there is a sense of peculiar helplessness, and of the insufficiency of all human resources, when He lays His hand upon us. What can I now do? What is left to me? So long as I look at these trials as caused by the more immediate instrumentality through which they were sent, all seems dark and hopeless. Now, my soul, learn two things: that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; and again, that still—even when raised by the enemies of God and of my soul—there is a most important sense in which these are 'Thy water-spouts,' ' Thy waves and Thy billows.'

3. Thou hast now gotten the victory, my soul. These are the Divine facts. It only remaineth to make application of them in the exercise of faith, and to draw down by prayer the actual blessing. Faith brings confidence and comfort,— prayer, help and deliverance. Look up, look forward; expect it, draw it down. Most assuredly 'I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God.'

Many a blow and biting sculpture

Polish'd well those stones elect,
In their places now compacted

By the heavenly Architect,
Who therewith hath will'd for ever

That His palace should be deck'd.

Hymn Of The E1ghth Century.

{Nenle's Mediaeval Hymns and Sequences.)