THE BETTER HOPE.
1 O Lord my God, in Thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that
persecute me, and deliver me:
2 Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to
3 O Lord my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands;
4 If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have
delivered him that without cause is mine enemy :)
5 Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my
life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah.
6 Arise, O Lord, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of
mine enemies; and awake for me to the judgment that Thou hast commanded.
7 So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakcs
therefore return Thou on high.—Psalm VII.
A VERY sweet opening this of prayer, which, as all believing supplication, is not only a request for, but an anticipation of, help. 'Jehovah, my God, in Thee make I my refuge.' Amen: thou hast thy prayer and thy petition. There is such truth, comfort, and certainty in this mode of directly betaking one's-self to God, and resting in the shadow of His wings, that the believer frequently opens his prayers with what we would almost rather expect at their close. 'This is true evidence of our faith,' as Calvin observes, 'when even in greatest trouble we continue to trust in God. Thence also we conclude that the door is shut against our prayers, if we open it not by the key of faith. Nor is it superfluous when he calls God his God, but he sets this as a dam against the waves of temptation, lest they should engulf his faith.' Or, as another notes, ' If we give God the glory, and seek no other support than Him on which to rest, He also causes us to experience that we require none other, but that He is more than sufficient.' And it is remarkable that all such prayers end with assurance and praise (comp. Ps. xi., xvi., xxxi., lxxi.) Surely, I expect not the absence of danger and trouble; but a 'refuge,' or the provision of safety and help, and that in Thee. So to make our refuge in Him is to believe. It is evident that such believing, or having not merely recourse to Him (which might imply the idea of an experiment), but making our shelter in Him, requireth no preparation, worthiness, nor fitness on our part. It only implies need, for which He has long ago made ample provision. And this is the sum and substance of the 'glorious gospel' of our blessed Lord.
The prayer, 'Make me safe from all my persecutors, and deliver me' (which in our terse Hebrew is expressed in just four words), is the proper application of believing assurance. To be certain of help in the day of battle, only makes me look for it all the more earnestly and steadily. Assurance leads to diligence and prayerfulness. Nor does it blind us to the sense of the greatness and nearness of our danger (ver. 2). There is nothing inconsistent with firm trust in thus looking forth from our hiding-place. But at such seasons there is, and very properly, much holy jealousy about our cause and case. For God 'will not give His glory to another.' Periods of trial are such, not only in reference to faith and patience, but also to truth and purity. Trying times are searching times and purifying times ; and this is one of their main objects (vers. 3, 4). Help cannot be anticipated in connexion with sin, any more than with unbelief; and it is in covenant mercy if we suffer here, that we may not be condemned hereafter. And here we also mark, what Luther calls 'the evangelical degree of righteousness,' and Calvin the evidence of 'the spirit of adoption,' in not requiting injuries, but overcoming evil with good (ver. 4).
But by far the most fearful anticipation of all is that of laying ' mine honour in the dust.' In its fullest acceptation this refers, if not to the loss, yet to the dishonour and desolation of the soul. For the expression 'glory' is frequently used for ' soul' (the soul being our real glory, and the reflection of the glory of God)—as in Ps. xvi. 9, xxx. 12, lvii. 8, cviii. 1 ; while the full meaning of laying 'in the dust' is illustrated in the prophecies and the history of Christ (Ps. xxii. 15).
Indeed, having struck, as it were, this keynote, it almost seems as if the Psalmist, in his undeserved persecution, were quite identifying himself with Him whose heart 'shame and reproach hath broken.' In the awful picture which is rapidly drawn, individual and general, present and future judgment seem almost to intermingle their terrors,—the thunders of the one being but the echo of those of the other. In (probably) four irregular stanzas (vers. 6-9, 9-11, 11-14, and 14 to end), judgment and hope, destruction and assurance, are alternately traced. There is a majestic awe about the judgment,—weary saints and groaning earth inviting Jehovah, in the exercise of His holy ' anger,' to 'rise up,' in language similar to that of Moses' prayer (Num. x. 35). In general there is a correspondence of thought and expression between the 'rise up, Jehovah,' and the ' return, Jehovah ' of that prayer, and vers. 6, 7 of our Psalm: 'Arise, Jehovah, in Thine anger;' and again after judgment: 'And over it' (viz., the assembly or congregation of the nations) 'return Thou on high.' It almost seems as if here the prayer of Moses were mingled with the prophetic vision of the latter days. As Calvin remarks: 'To the fury of his enemies he opposes the wrath of God. While the ungodly burn and throw out the flames of their rage, he entreats the Lord also to become hot.' A more majestic picture of Jehovah's sovereign power and glory could not be delineated than this: 'Lift thyself up' (or, show thyself in Thine upliftedness, greatness, and majesty—as in Ps. xciv. 2) 'in the exceeding, overflowing, forth-passing, and forth-pressing rage' (for all these ideas are implied in the term) 'of those who press upon me, or persecute me.' The wrath and persecutions of the enemies are like the rising tide, or like an overflowing flood, which slowly but surely breaking and passing its bounds, swells, and, approaching, threatens to engulf us. In this calamity (not against it) Jehovah merely shows himself: 'Hitherto, but no further.' This was true in reference to Christ: hitherto—to the cross, but not to the grave; and it is equally so in reference to all Christ's people. Passing from the particular to the general, he next sees, in prophetic vision, 'the gathering of the nations,' or the congregation of the nations (ver. 7), which are His saints, encompassing the Saviour-Judge, and 'over it' He returneth on high. As Venema paraphrases it: 'Universo coetn inspcctante, caelum, wide descendisti, repete!
And this is not only most glorious but most comforting to weary saints. For as the promise of His coming is the pledge of all present needful help and deliverance, so is each particular judgment an earnest and anticipation of the final setting right of all things, and of the joy which this implies to the 'Lamb's bride.'
1. To make my refuge in God is the sum and substance of my faith. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the declaration of God that there is 'a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.' 'The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.' This is enough; and faith betakes itself to Him and rests contented upon that assurance and provision. The simplicity of our faith consists in absolutely trusting ; the strength of our faith in implicitly resting. And what more could be required? He has satisfied all the demands which law and justice can make upon us. He has opened a way into the holiest of all. He has conciliated to us the righteous favour of God, so that Jehovah is now our God. All that is left to me is to avail myself of the offer of His Holy Spirit, who receiveth of the things that are His and showeth them unto us. To hesitate were to question either His ability or His willingness. Doubts, though seemingly concerning ourselves, are in reality concerning Him. Nothing so much glorifies God, because nothing so fully manifests the grace of God, as simply to give credence to the declaration of His love. Therefore let me come this day, and as I am; let me come for refuge; let me come as unto my God, who has become such by giving His own Son for me unto death.
2. How readily can He dissipate all our fears! It needeth only that He show Himself in His greatness and glory, and the rising tide is stemmed and the overflowing flood pressed back. Our confidence therefore springs not so much from the removal of obstacles as from the manifestation of God. When, like Peter, we look to the wind and the waves, we speedily mark their rising, and, filled with fear, would perish, were it not for His interposition of grace. Saints are so often fearful, because spiritually so short-sighted. By grace, never let us calculate chances, but ever remember the living God. The enemy has the will but not the power to swallow us up. Yet here is our faith tried. In that strain and stress it seems as if every timber in the frail craft were creaking, and any defective part will certainly spring a leak. Sin is our weakness as well as our misery. The waters will enter in where sin has made a way for them. Hence times of trial, or rather times of expected help, are times of selfexamination and sanctification. We never loathe sin more than when we feel shut up to God and alone with Him. Then most do we feel that inward separation from all sin, and that determined renouncing of it, which is always conjoined with simple cleaving to Christ. That alone is a spiritually sanctified trial which shuts us up to Christ, and empties us of self. It is not a real trial of our faith so long as we have, or hope for, any help out of Him. It is not really sanctified until it lead us mourning as well as rejoicing to the Lord our help. And then how calm are we while waiting, and how humble and joyous when delivered!
3. What a blessed and glorious prospect is this of 'the gathering of the nations,' of the congregation of His saints! On earth, and in the present dispensation, let us not look for the one and indivisible Church of Christ. Thoughts of it are like the chime of distant bells, borne upon the breeze to the ear of the weary pilgrim. We have Churches and He has a Church ; and when He cometh, will He not only manifest His own and His Father's glory, but also the beauty and the unity of His Church? Carnal men, who judge by sight, seek even in their carnal faith for an outward unity. Yet we remember that this is the time for believing, not for seeing; for inward experience, not for outward manifestation. And when the Lord cometh, the day shall break, and the shadows flee away. Amen. So teach us to love Thine appearing and to wait for it!
When the Lord recalls the banish'd,
Frees the captives all at last,
Every sorrow will have vanish'd
Like a dream when night is past;
Then shall all our hearts rejoice,
And with glad resounding voice
We shall praise the Lord who sought us,
For the freedom He hath wrought us.