THE GREAT INTERPOSITION.
5 There were they in great fear : for God is in the generation of the righteous.
6 Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge.
7 Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. — Psalm X1v.
To possess our souls in patience is one of the special graces of His Spirit. Perhaps no other contrast is so fully brought out in the Book of Psalms as that between the Church and the world; all the more perhaps because, owing to the peculiar character of the preliminary dispensation, the two might have been so readily confounded in the one outward theocracy. And again, no other grace is more frequently called into exercise, in that period of constant miracles, than that of ' patience of hope.' It is as if the Lord, by His dealings in providence, had intended to deliver His people from those outward supports to which they might have been more prone to have resorted. And so it ever is. Very generally in our experience help is not got in the direction in which it had been expected. These disappointments help us to understand the principle which, running through Scripture like a golden thread, is equally exhibited in the history and teaching of the Old Testament—'above nature! Taught by the Spirit of God we can feel its preciousness ; sheltered by Divine grace we experience it only for good. But to the world the sudden and unexpected character of these interpositions is like the destruction which overtook Egypt's host, when 'in the morning watch Jehovah looked' unto it 'through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily,' and at last swept away the fugitives with the returning flood. In view of this impending interposition also, may the Church ask with wonder and awe: 'Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge,' that, not remembering whose property they are attacking, they eat up His people 'as bread'?
For, when their folly has become fully and finally manifest, they shall proceed no further. God waiteth long, but not for ever. The ominous silence is broken by the thunders of judgment. Their foolish confidence is followed by sudden dismay. 'For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction' cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.' 'There— they have feared fear' (been greatly terrified), ' for Elohim is in the generation of the righteous.' They know not Jehovah and they fear Him not; but even Elohim, the God of might and of power, is in the midst of His people. This discovery is, alas, not made in grace but in judgment. The first thought of God to which the men of the world open their minds is that of His justice and judgment. Here we may know Jehovah—there they shall know Elohim. It is a pre
cious and sweet thought to follow the term 'generation,' which in this connexion is always applied to the small and persecuted Church through the other passages in which it is employed, as 'the generation of them that seek Him' (Ps. xxiv. 6) ; 'the generation of Thy children' (Ps. lxxiii. 15); 'the generation of the upright' (Ps. cxii. 2). In the parallel Psalm (liii. 5) we read, 'where no fear was,'—where in their carnal ease and security they anticipated no fear, but said, 'Peace, peace.' Nothing more terrible than the sudden destruction of God's enemies. If the Church should hourly be anticipant of her salvation in the return of her Lord, the world should be hourly afraid of His sudden coming. 'Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.' It almost seems as if the waters were now returning upon them, like those of the Red Sea upon the hosts of Egypt. 'The counsel of the poor ye are putting to shame, for Jehovah is his refuge.' Here is alike the contrast, the reason of their conduct, and the certainty of its failure. Faith is represented as fleeing to Jehovah for safety, and this is one aspect of it, as cleaving to Him is another, and trusting in Him a third.
Having reached this high and strong point, we are safe, and can look forward, not only with calmness, but with joy. Our 'redemption draweth nigh,' and we have again attained to 'jubilee,' this time in 'the salvation' of God's Israel, as formerly in our own 'salvation' (Ps. xiii. 5)—the terms being identical. As against my own oppression (Ps. xiii.), caused by the wickedness and perseverance of mine enemies, I give myself to prayer, and cleaving to His covenant grace, my heart shall jubilee in His salvation (Ps. xiii. 5). As against the universal and prevailing wickedness of men, the poor oppressed Church fleeth for refuge to Jehovah; and here also in answer to the cry of those who suffer, and the believing prayer of those who wait, there is jubilee and gladness, this time not merely in the hearts of the poor, but 'Jacob shall jubilee and Israel shall rejoice.' To individual suffering we oppose individual prayer, and cling to Christ. But the Church in the midst of her enemies is not forsaken. These bonds will be broken and the glorious liberty of the children of God become manifest. This then is the hope of the Church. Not that the world will improve, nor that the relative position of parties will change, but that He will' give the salvation of Israel out of Zion.' We look for 'a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.' We look not for improval but for removal. 'When Jehovah returneth to the bondage of His people, Jacob shall jubilee and Israel shall rejoice.' And, indeed, literally so. For the accomplishment of His promises and the deliverance of His people are associated with salvation to and on Mount Zion, and with the restoration of Israel. What a glorious consummation, and what joyous acclamations shall greet the day of the return of our King! With these promises did they of old comfort themselves in dark days (for example, Jer. xlvi. 27, 28; Zech. xii. 10; xiii. 2) ; and with them we stay our hearts, knowing that 'the end of all things is at hand,' and 'looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.' Finally, 'wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless!
i. Once more, let me turn inwards to see the misery of my natural state, and to be led to the sole and grand remedy. I cannot too much nor too often apply myself to this. And I shall best learn the corruption of human nature by studying it within myself. 'For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies,'—in short, the whole catalogue of breaches of both tables of the law. And no wonder if the heart is alienated from God, and we practically deny even His being and power. Therefore let me seek to begin the reformation at the heart. 'Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.' And how deeply must we feel in reading this Psalm the full truth of our Lord's warning, 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Our disease is too deep for human remedies. It needs His interposition, a new creation, for the old is wholly corrupted (' they have made corrupt,' ver. 1) ; it needs His sovereign grace. Let me learn the depths of my misery now; let me learn it in order to have it removed; let me learn it by learning to know Thee. Coming as I am, with my load of guilt, with my sense of inability for all good, let me be washed in the precious blood of Jesus, and by Thy Holy Spirit make me one of Thy people, of the generation of the just,—nay, let me jubilee in so great a salvation!
2. The reason of the enmity and opposition of the world towards the Church, is the general corruption of our nature. Thus am I in my natural state as guilty as others. In their ignorance they eat God's people as bread; in their false confidence they put to shame the counsel of the poor. I understand then the necessary enmity of the world; it is part of my share in following Christ; it is 'the cross.' 'The friendship of the world is enmity with God,' and these two have ever been paired in the history of God's covenant dealings. 'Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.' This then is the badge and the test of my discipleship. Am I willing to bear it; am I prepared to have it; am I ready to ' come out' and be separate? Here also does the corruption and the practical atheism of my heart trouble me. O for grace, for more grace, for more lively and loving views of Thyself, thou great Cross-bearer, thou 'Apostle and High Priest of our profession.'
3. But even this dark picture of human corruption has His grace put into the golden frame of His promises. Sin-laden earth crieth to the Lord, not only for vengeance but for deliverance. There is no other remedy for earth's curse, and weariness, and groaning ; no other safety nor establishment of His kingdom; no other hope nor jubilee of His Church, than in His coming. And, ' He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly; Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.' 'His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.' 'O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!' It will come, and that speedily. The gathering shadows, the deepening night, the rising cry, all bespeak the approach of dawn. 'The Lord shall come, and ten thousands of His saints with Him.' 'Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him.'
'That hallow'd morn shall chase away
The sorrows of the night.'
On this hope let our eye be steadily bent, by it let our arm be constantly nerved, on it let our heart intently rest, towards it let our labours and our prayers be ever directed, and with it let us comfort ourselves this day, and until the day ' when Jehovah returneth to the captivity of His people!'
The world is very evil;
The times are waxing late:
Be sober and keep vigil;
The Judge is at the gate:
The Judge that comes in mercy,
The Judge that comes with might,
To terminate the evil,
To diadem the right.
And when the Sole-Begotten
Shall render up once more
The kingdom to the Father,
Whose own it was before,—
Then glory yet unheard of
Shall shed abroad its ray,
Resolving all enigmas,
An endless Sabbath-day.
Rhythm Of S. Bernard.