VICTORY AND REST.
8 The Lord shall judge the people I Judge me, O Lord,
According to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.
9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just! For the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.
10 My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.
11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
12 If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it
13 He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; He ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.
14 Behold, he travaileth with iniquity,
And hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.
15 He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.
16 His mischief shall return upon his own head,
And his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.
17 I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness;
And will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high.—Psalm V11.
Most awful as the prospect of judgment is,—whether particular or general, the one being the anticipation of the other, —there are times when it almost seems to be the comfort of our hearts. Having given ourselves to the Lord, and washed away our sins in His precious blood, we also commit ourselves unto Him in welldoing. Surrounded by enemies, when evil spoken of, persecuted, or forsaken, we feel as if we were all the happier for having none other on our side than the ' Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.' His is not merely the friendship of choice and intimacy, nor the relationship established by His incarnation, but a friendship closer, more continuous, and efficacious far than any earthly ties. We know in whom we have believed, and are well assured that He will keep that which we have committed unto Him to the end. Therefore, while looking forward with intensity of hope to that judgment, which in reality is the public proclamation of Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, we can, though deeply conscious of our guilt, yet fully trusting in His grace and power, add, 'Judge me, O Jehovah ; according to my righteousness and mine integrity upon me' (not' in me,' as in our version), ver. 8. At the same time let us ever remember that it is not only 'according to my righteousness,' but also 'according to mine integrity' or uprightness,—' that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.' To be 'upright' in Christ implies entire and thorough heart-and-life dedication. Nothing tends more to break up our peace and to deprive us of our strength than any compromise with the world. Our spiritual man may suffer grievously by breathing a poisoned atmosphere, even though life itself be not extinguished. We may feel destitute of the sense of spiritual 'integrity,'—of oneness of aim and life,—and so go mourning many a day, in view of those very realities which at one time had been our hope and joy. In full accordance with these views are the prayer of ver. 9 and the assurance of ver. 10. The cessation of evil,—the conversion rather than the destruction of sinners,—and with it the establishment of the just, must be the object of our desire, even as it is the consequence of His holiness and righteousness who trieth hearts and reins. All falsehood and evil, even in His own people, are brought to the light of His countenance, and cannot stand before Him who is 'of purer eyes than to behold evil.' We are prone to hate the wicked, and to love, or at least to tolerate, wickedness; He compassionates and offers mercy to the wicked, but puts an end to all wickedness. And then, in full apprehension of His mercy and judgment, the soul rises to this joyous assurance, ' My shield is upon God, the Saviour of the upright in heart.' Ah, how difficult is it to be alike earnest and charitable, and charitable and holy! It needs both a sense of sin and experience of grace to be kept both humble and pure. Yet only thus can we cherish the confidence of ver. 10.
The ultimate destruction of sinners is not an act of vengeance; it is the necessary manifestation of the character of Jehovah (ver. 11). Believers know, and all men will have to acknowledge, the righteousness and long-suffering mercy of our God. 'God angrily threatens every day' (for so we would render ver. 10, the original meaning of the expression being 'to boil up'). By His word, and even in His Providence, He leaves no doubt what must be the ultimate consequence of sin. Yet even thus He opens a door of hope in the midst of the most awful denunciations of judgment to come. 'If he turn not,'—if he does not return or be converted,—' He will whet His sword.' The preciousness of the bare possibility of return on the part of a guilty, perishing sinner, cannot be realized by any who has not experienced it. All around me, frowning and threatening, are God's judgments. His Word condemns me, and my own conscience assents to the justice of this doom. Yet there is hope: He waiteth, and waiteth not merely to execute sentence, but 'to be gracious.' Therefore I may pray. There is an open way. This is perhaps realized long before the apparently similar and yet different truth—that this way is open to me. But the mere fact that there is an open way, is like the rending of the clouds. To discover it is to enter on the way of peace. How precious is this Jesus—this man once to us also without form, comeliness, or beauty—when the soul is convinced of its guilt and need! If any sinner has been saved, and that by grace alone, why may not / go to the throne of grace, and to Him who is full of grace? To save me only needs that fulness of grace which is treasured up in Christ. And then, 'Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.' Ever let us cherish these words, 'If he turn not.' In the midst of threatenings they seem all the more reassuring. For sometimes, under a sense of sin, a man may derive more help and comfort from such negative promises (as I would term them), than even from the richest assurances, which at the time the soul seems unable to receive as personally applicable.
And then, after having wide opened the door of mercy to one and all, the Psalm closes amid the lurid light of coming judgment, in which, though distantly yet distinctly, are still heard the praises of His redeemed people. There, and more than ever there, the covenant-faithfulness of our Saviour shall appear, when the Son shall have delivered up the kingdom to the Father, and it shall have become fully true, 'Those that Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost,' —to the glory of sovereign grace.
1. Even though savingly turned from sin unto God, let me, in the light of the judgment-day, view the nature and consequences of sin. Its folly and wickedness are alike apparent. For while it is 'iniquity' (ver. 14), the word also signifies 'nothingness,' a mere 'breath' that passes away. Again, the term 'mischief primarily means labour and trouble; and the fruit of all is ' falsehood.' The enemy of souls deceives while he destroys. Let me be more fully on my guard as to the deceptive character of sin. Alas! how often have I experienced it, and yet how prone am I to be still and daily led astray! Consider, my soul, from what awful destruction thou hast been delivered, and art daily delivered, by free and sovereign grace. And how earnestly does it become thee to watch and pray! The approach of sin is as slow as it is deceptive. Let me beware of mingling more than is needed in the way of duty, or for His service, with the world and the men of the world. A weakened frame is not likely to resist disease; a lowered spiritual tone exposes me to all the virulence of sin. O to keep close to God ; to walk in the Spirit, as we live in the Spirit!
2. Would that I could more fully live in view of that great day, when the Lord shall take unto Himself the kingdom! Surely I feel it that nothing less will suffice to set right the wrongs of this present state of things. What a bright and glorious prospect this, to keep the heart fresh, warm, and hopeful! Every token of evil then would become an outcry, a groan: 'Arise, O Lord.' All, all must hasten on Thy blessed kingdom. This assurance will support us when the vague and foolish dreams of mere worldly improvement fail. But if the coming of the Lord be indeed at hand, what manner of man ought I to be,—how to conduct myself towards them that are without, how to redeem the time, and how to trade with the talents committed to my stewardship! Through the vista of this day let me look forward to the day which has no night: my present hope will give place to sight; my present experience, how limited, compared with the reality! Meantime, let me in every sense, both so far as I and as others are concerned, occupy till He come.
3. Yet withal will I ' trust! This is to be the innermost and uppermost feeling of my heart. Come what may; arise who can; persecute who dare; fail whatever is of flesh and even of heart,—O Jehovah, Thou art my God, my Father, my Redeemer; 'in Thee do I put my trust' To Thee have I committed myself for time and for eternity, soul and body. I am Thine. Though faintly and weakly, yet in ' integrity' would I cleave to Thee and serve Thee. Lord, save me for Thine own name's sake; and in this confidence will I go forward. Amen.
Pra1se, honour, thanks, to Thee be brought,
For all things in and for me wrought
By Thy great mercy, Christ.
This one thing only still I pray,
Oh cast me ne'er from Thee away.