REST AT EVEN.
1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: Thou hast enlarged me
when I was in distress ; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.
2 O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? How long
will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.
3 But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the
Lord will hear when I call unto Him.
4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed,
and be still. Selah.
5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.
A MOST sweet and blessed evening-song this, of mingled praise and prayer. With such words of faith, of hope, and of love will we ' comfort' ourselves when we lie down at even to rest. The morrow, whatever it be, must be bright if the light of His countenance—in the face of His Anointed—be lifted up upon us. None other righteousness than that of Jesus; none other deliverance than that through Jesus; none other confidence than that from' Jesus; none other peace than that in Jesus : such are the grand pillars of this temple of praise. Equally marked is the declaiming of every other help (vers. 2, 3,6, 7), and the claiminghy faith of, or rather the clinging in faith to, this all-sufficient and all-efficient Deliverer (vers. 1, 3, 7, 8). 'No confidence in the flesh,' all confidence in the Lord, and in the Lord alone; despondency and despair all around, boldness and assurance at a throne of grace: and that not merely with reference to the schemes of avowed enemies, but also to the doubtings of unbelieving believers (ver. 6). 'This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.' And here we have this faith; its roots, firmly struck in the righteousness of Christ, twining round the promises, which in Him are Yea and Amen, and lifting its head and opening its blossoms to the sunlight of His countenance.
This Psalm of praying praise, so well befitting saints while on earth, appropriately opens by bespeaking a favourable hearing on the ground of accepted righteousness and covenant relationship. For the assurance that we are always heard, makes us not only the more earnest in calling, but the more humble in beseeching, knowing why and how we are accepted. The expression, 'God of my righteousness,' brings up as its parallel and complement that (in Ps. lix. 10) of 'God of my mercy.' In Christ He is both the God of our righteousness and of our mercy, for 'mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.' And this is a most firm basis on which to rear our prayers. Nor is He an unknown God, a stranger, 'as a wayfaring man that tarrieth but for a night.' A believing retrospect reveals many and precious experiences of deliverance from sore straits. Yet this is one main characteristic of such deliverances, that they are rather an enlarging in, than a setting free from distress. It needs not the going round the Red Sea. He can take us through it by making its water stand up as an heap, and so forming of them a double wall of security. Thus alike appears His power, our unbelief is put to shame, and we are kept humbly dependent. A most striking illustration of this is recorded in 2 Kings vii. 1. How often and marvellously has God 'enlarged us,'and His whole Church, 'in distress'—in the great distress, and in every distress both of soul and of body! How often, when so enlarged, have we thought and vowed that surely never again would we distrust Him; and yet how sadly have we fainted and failed! Surely it needs, even in this respect, the prayer,' Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.'
There is unspeakable comfort and assurance in the mere fact of being thus allowed, with well-grounded confidence, to appeal to His covenant mercy. It seems to carry under its wings songs of victory. When we place ourselves on God's side, the malice of our enemies is alike folly and sin. In such circumstances alone is there safety, and we can confidently ask of men,' How long?' yet looking for the answer to it (so far as we are concerned) to God (ver. 3). And let us, as we pass by these precipices and pitfalls, mark, as sadly instructive, that in reality the 'sons of men' 'love vanity' (literally emptiness, that which contains nothing), and 'seek' (aim and follow)'after leasing' (or a lie). To all such attempts against us we can calmly oppose the 'But know '— the eternal decree of mercy, which involves all safety as well as all good.
The wording of ver. 3, with which we may allay not only the rebellious risings of enemies, but also those of our own hearts, is very peculiar. The first clause implies the eternal purpose in grace which is the objective ground of our safety : 'Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His.' The second clause expresses the subjective ground of our safety in a constant exercise of faith and prayer, caused by a constant experience of grace, and resulting in constantly new displays of grace: 'Jehovah will hear when I call unto Him.' And this is the only safe or true way of presenting the doctrine of the certain ultimate safety of the saints, by showing that Jehovah's choice of grace stands in indissoluble connexion with our constant experience of grace as manifested in a life of faith and prayer. Never let us separate or forget the connexion between these two: 'Jehovah hath set apart him that is godly for Himself;' and 'Jehovah will hear when I call unto Him.' The one is indeed the application of the other. Again, the terms are specially chosen. The word used for ' set apart' is very peculiar. It is closely related to another, which means to cleave, to cut down, or to cut out, and signifies to make a distinction or separation. Thus it is used very instructively in Ex. ix. 4, xi. 7, in reference to God's dealings with Israel. Its next meaning is that of miraculous distinction or separation (indeed, the word for miracle is derived from it), as in Ex. viii. 18, and notably in Ps. xvii. 7, ' Show thy marvellous loving-kindness' (' marvellously distinguish Thy grace')—literally, ' set apart Thy mercy.' In fact, these two expressions are the same as those used here, 'Jehovah hath set apart him that is godly! For the common Hebrew term for 'godly' is derived from the word 'grace' or 'mercy,' which in turn is closely related to, if not drawn from, one which conveys the ideas of secret counsel, intimate converse, and assemblage. But if such be the case,—if Jehovah has made a miraculous distinction and separation of those who have experienced mercy, and if they, in virtue of this constant experience, continue to call, and are heard,—most solemn and affecting does the warning of ver. 4 become. It has not the destruction but the conversion of these enemies in view, and seems to treat them as estranged from God rather in heart than in profession. The progress is noteworthy: from being arrested and unable to go on in sin (' stand in awe, and sin not') to self-examination, and then the answer dying on the lips (the word 'be still' conveying the arrestment of the sound by the closed mouth). Next follows application by that 'new and living way' (' offer the sacrifices of righteousness ;' comp. with ver. 1, 'God of my righteousness'); and, finally, 'trust in Jehovah '—the choice of the preposition intimating cleaving to the Lord.
Thus, if all human help is cut off, and all human hope is gone, do we learn still better to know and to love our covenant-God, when we feel ourselves alone with Him, and when we experience that He is sufficient for us.
But more sad and discouraging far than the direct opposition of the ungodly, is the unbelief and faintheartedness of God's own people. Of all graces, that of patience needs most the constant supply from on high to keep its lamp burning. For patience consists not in bearing, but in enduring to the end. It is continuance in welldoing when all looks ill. It is not merely bearing, but bearing in faith, in hope, and in love. It is the constant expectation of deliverance in the midst of perhaps protracted disappointments and increasing improbabilities. And it is prayerful expectancy, detached from all that is seen, and attached to all that is promised. And it is calm, cheerful, working, occupying expectancy, ' till the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts.' Hence the frequency of admonitions to patience (Rom. v. 3, 4, xv. 4; Col. i. 11; 2 Thess. iii. 5; Heb. vi. 12, x. 36, xii. 1 ; James i. 3, 4; Rev. iii. 10), and the important part which patience sustains in the work of our sanctification.
1. How marvellous is His grace! Not for anything that I am, or that I have, but because of His infinite mercy, has He called me. These three points let me bear in mind: nothing in myself, all from Him, and separation from others. The first I remember for humiliation, the second for thanksgiving, the third for watchfulness, and all three for prayer. Were it not for grace, like others I would have strayed, and at last been lost. Were it not for grace, when I began to feel my sins, I should have despaired, and should still despair. Were it not for grace, I could never hope to stand in the evil day. Grace means that Jehovah has set us apart. It is the personal dealing of Jehovah with us, both individually and efficaciously. But if Jehovah has set me apart, it was for Himself—for His glory and praise. We are God's property: blood-bought, love-sought, and Spiritbrought. It is of the greatest importance to keep ever before our minds and hearts—not for ourselves, but for Him. I must be conscious of the object of my second creation; I must aim to attain it; and if He has done so much for me, not only gratitude and love, but conscious devotion, become me. So help us, Lord, not as of outward necessity, but willingly, to give ourselves to Thee. Let it be inward necessity laid upon us, even a sense of Thy constraining love. Tasting the goodness of the Lord, let us be a willing people in the day of Thy power; and oh! let this be a day of power!
2. Most precious is this encouragement to prayer, derived from grace. We may ask all things when we address the throne of grace; we may come at all times and under all circumstances, and just as we are when we come to the God of all grace. And all grace is treasured up in Jesus. Truly, we have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. If we have not yet received, we may come to have our wants supplied ;. if we have already received, we may plead covenant promises and covenant mercies for more grace, and that in every time of our need. But grace and prayer are always conjoined. Perseverance to the end means perseverance in grace; and perseverance in grace means continuance in faith and prayer. No answers without requests; no glory without holiness; no holiness without life in God and with God. This, then, holds true, blessed be His name! Whatever my past history, or my present state and condition, my misery consists not so much in what I am, as in what I refuse to be. If I finally perish, or if I presently fail and sink, the reason lies not so much in the past as in the present. All doubts of His grace, or of His ability or willingness to save, are of the devil. Every one may become what the love of God, the blood of Jesus, and the efficacious working of His Holy Spirit, can effect. So make me what Thou wouldest have me to be!
3. Our deliverance may be much nearer and much greater than we expect. Alas! we are ever curtailing or living beneath our privileges. We are like misers, who know not how to use the treasures which belong to them. And God has various modes of deliverance. To be enlarged in distress is certainly to be delivered from it; for it no longer presses upon us. Yet does it not follow that in our prayers we ought only to seek inward, not outward relief. Ours it is to make all our wants known to Him, and that in perfect simplicity and faith. We are assured of an answer—nay, of more than an answer : 'of Himself with us. The how, or the manner of the answer, we gladly leave with him who knoweth both our case and our frame. Forward, then, and this day, and, in my present circumstances and wants, let me make trial of it. Surely, I have much anguish, many wants. Let my words flow apace. Only let me be really in earnest. Let this God be my God in Christ, and, most assuredly, He will be my 'guide even unto death.' This I believe, and believing apply, and applying rejoice. Amen!
Ab1de among us with Thy grace,
Lord Jesus, evermore,
Nor let us e'er to sin give place,
Nor grieve Him we adore.
Abide with us in faithful love,
Our God and Saviour be,
Thy help at need, oh let us prove,
And keep us true to Thee!