THE EXCLUSIVENESS OF FAITH.
4 Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.
5 We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up
The Lord fulfil all thy petitions.
6 Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed:
He will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
8 They are brought down and fallen; but we are risen, and stand upright
9 Save, Lord: let the King hear us when we call.—Psalm Xx.
When our souls have been unburdened by rolling our burdens upon Him, a precious sense, not only of relief, but of calm expectancy, follows. Nothing is too great for Him to give, and we only await His manifestation. Meantime, we make known our requests, and look up to the Lord. The oil is not stayed, only 'there is not a vessel more' to receive it. And so we can not only pay our ' debt,' but' live off the rest.' It is a very bold petition which follows in ver. 4, and which, perhaps, we might feel inclined rather to urge for others than for ourselves, or if for ourselves, seek to keep in its general terms rather than descend to particulars. If our hearts have been offered as whole burnt-sacrifices, and our lives as meatofferings, but only so, may we both ask and anticipate: 'He will give thee according to thine heart, and fulfil all thy counsels.' It is wonderful how our hearts and minds are set at rest when we are sure that we are His, and primarily and mainly seek, even in outward things, to serve Him. Then also can we offer special petitions even for outward things, and look for a full answer (' all thy counsels') when we connect them with His glory. It were impious to ask for the means of selfish gratification; there is no limit to our asking and expecting means for serving God in the particular way in which He directs us. And so as to all outward things, and our prayers in connexion with them. But it is of the deepest importance to remember, step by step, that the burnt-sacrifice must ever precede such expectations. If I were to cease asking for all outward things needed and desirable for His service and glory, even though men think me an enthusiast in cherishing such expectations, I might as well cease praying altogether. If I asked for them without the preceding and accompanying burnt-sacrifice, I would turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. Again, let us here remember that God has imposed no other limits to our prayers than Himself i.e., His character, glory, and purposes. Within these bounds all may be asked, and the more the better. A poor asker is generally a poor giver. According to our faith is it unto us, in every sense. Not to open our mouth wide must be the consequence either of our ignorance, of our unbelief, or of our self-seeking. And he who does not open his mouth wide is not likely to sing well, nor to have much
to sing about. So far, then, from being straitened in Him, let us see to it that we be not straitened in ourselves. The Church would have much more power, and her achievements would be far other, had we learned to ask aright, and to ask enough. There would be neither want of means, nor of men, nor of success, if we only sought it in the right quarter, and, while so asking, had the whole of self consumed as a whole burnt-sacrifice. And after all what we so ask is not onlyasked in the name of the Lord Jesus, but for the Lord Jesus, for His kingdom and glory, just as we have seen that this Psalm in reality applies to Him and to His kingdom. Lastly, even though the answer to our petitions may not always seem literal—which within the above-mentioned limits will, however, surely be granted—He will give according to our hearts, if not according to our words, and fulfil our counsels, if not our undertakings.
There are, alas, far too few who will not only do, but dare, for Christ. A spirit of cowardice, the offspring of a want of realizing faith, has taken possession of us. Even the wise virgins slumber and sleep. We are smitten with the fear of failure and the fear of man, because we draw our inspirations and our succour from men. We certainly believe not in supernatural agency as the world believes in natural agency. The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. We believe as if we believed not. Yet how encouraging to the faith of God's people is the knowledge of such answers to prayer. 'We will jubilee in Thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will unfurl' (or raise) 'our banners; Jehovah fulfil' (or will fulfil) 'all thy petitions.' We can almost imagine that we hear the song of 'joy in heaven' over a returning sinner. Most deep and heartfelt is the sympathy and close the bond which connects the children of God. A soul saved calls for jubilee, not only as adding another to our Redeemer's many crowns, and bringing glory to God, but for the ineffable deliverance wrought. Again, so far as the Church on earth is concerned, prayer so heard will lead us to display our banners in the name of our God. You may say that this is warfare after victory; and so in a certain sense it is. Yet is our warfare never really ended, till at even we lay ourselves to rest. The Church is compared to an 'army with banners' (Song vi. 10), and their unfurling and display is in His name.
Such answers to prayer also greatly raise our confidence in Him through whom we offer them, and for whose sake they are granted. 'Now know I that Jehovah has heard His Anointed, He will answer Him from the heavens of His holiness; with the strength of the salvation of His right hand.' Faith becomes assurance when it looks to Christ as Him whom God hath exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour. Then there are no longer futures, but in Christ all has been accomplished. And such answers are from ' His holy heavens,' in covenant faithfulness to His promises. Most marked is now the intense exclusiveness of faith. It is not only with reference to our enemies, but looking around on the ordinary confidence of the men of the world, that we take up our position: 'These chariots and those horses, but we will call to remembrance (remember with praise and confidence) the name of Jehovah our God.' A noble contrast this. Here is the arm of flesh, the might and resources of this world. But of all the ways open to us we deliberately choose that of human weakness, yet Divine strength. The help which we seek is not derived from earthly weapons; ours is exclusively a spiritual confidence. We despise not means, but we trust not in means. 'All things are lawful unto me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.' It is not a calculation of forces; probabilities have no place here. There is One 'who is able to save or to destroy.' Moreover, the soul maketh deliberate and joyous choice of God. If we saw all the world arrayed against us, it would not lower, and if we saw all the world upon our side, it would not increase our confidence. Said Chrysostom: 'If the empress order me to be sawed asunder, let her so do; the same was done to Isaiah the prophet. If she have me cast into the sea, I think of Jonah. If she have me thrown into the fiery furnace, then I suffer with the three men of God. If she expose me to the wild beasts, I will remember Daniel in the lions' den. If she order me to be beheaded, I have John for my companion. If she will have me to be stoned, let her do so; such has been the end of Stephen.' But there is more than even this readiness of endurance. 'I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.' And it marks the intensest feeling of the heart thus to cling to the Lord, deliberately, of set purpose, and exclusively. 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.' And most assuredly such faith has the victory. 'We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.' What should we fear? With much earnest pleading and wrestling we bring before Him His gracious covenant promises and our need; yea, and though we should have to confess a thousand backslidings and sins, He is faithful, and cannot deny Himself. And with much calm joy we rest upon Him. We remember His Name, and trust in Him; and the result of such trust is just the reverse of the world's expectations. 'They are brought down and fallen, but we rise up and stand upright;' and oh, with what a different front!' I, even I, am He that comforteth you. Who art thou that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass, and forgettest Jehovah thy Saviour, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?'
Most appropriately closes the Psalm with a 'Hosanna to the Son of David,' and in the language of continuous prayer. 'Hear Thou us,' comments Luther,'who art truly our King. For David, who is Thy servant, is not our king, nor rules he his but Thy kingdom. With such affection does he strongly move God—i.e., teach us to move God—as He who is moved when we are moved. For how should He not hear, when His kingdom, His cause, and His honour are in danger? That is, then pray we most fervently when we have the confidence that we are God's kingdom and His portion. For then seek we not what is ours, and are sure that He will not forsake a cause which belongeth to Him, nor a kingdom which is His, especially when we look unto Him for it'
1. The most intense assurance and joy is that which springs from the exclusiveness of faith, which the world would consider as its element of weakness. Only 300 must march in Gideon's army, and even these shall conquer, not with sword, but with trumpet and torch. Real help is never wrought till we renounce all hope in self or man. This applies both to spiritual and to outward deliverance. Moses must go for forty years into the wilderness before he can lead forth Israel out of Egypt. A man must become small in order to become great; we must strike downwards before we can grow upwards. And this is one of the uses of the straits into which the Lord brings His people. Another is that the glory should be altogether His. But the process is exceedingly painful ; in fact, a crucifying of the flesh. Yet when we have reached this height, and can realize to any extent the full meaning of 'Jehovah reigneth,' what a Pisgah-view of the land of promise opens to us! Who can resist us, or what real obstacles are there, if God be with us? Let us seek to be assured of this, in the twofold sense of our cause being His cause, or rather His cause ours, and of having cast ourselves exclusively and most believingly upon Him. For even His cause may not prosper in our hands, and the very ark of Jehovah, so far from securing the victory, may be carried for a time, yet not a captive but a conqueror, into the land of the Philistines.
2. O for a heart right with God, for counsels drawn from His counsel! O for entire devotedness and constant devotion to Him—a whole burnt-sacrifice and a meat-offering! What hinders it? The deepest longing of our souls is after Thee, the living God. Our only help and our only confidence is in Thee. Nor seek we Thee merely for help; we seek Thee for joy. But we cannot have that joy in Thee without having first, and having all along, that help from Thee. Our souls must be washed from their guilt, and our hearts sanctified by Thy Holy Spirit. Then, day by day, Thine help cometh in the ordinary dispensation of the covenant of grace, whereby 'all things must work together for good to them that love Him, that are the called according to His purpose.' It needs not special miracles where there is a constant miracle. Thyself art to us surety for good; all good Thyself, and all pledge of good. Teach us then to know more of Thee, whom to know is life eternal. Draw us closer to Thyself, and ever by Thine all-conquering love keep us by Thyself. When we are conquered by Thee, all our enemies are conquered; when we rise up and stand upright, are they brought down and fall.
3. There is joy in heaven and in the presence of the holy angels over one sinner that repenteth. The victories of God's people are our victories. What affects one member affecteth all the members. And very sweet are our prayers for others. Sometimes, when we can scarcely pray for ourselves, we learn to do so by first praying for others. Nor is there aught more encouraging than the record of God's answers to prayers. The stone at Beth-el was anointed; it became both a memorial-stone and an altar. Every answered prayer is a seal of God's faithfulness. It is, in reality, our High Priest who pleadeth, and every answer is an answer to Him. O what enlargement in prayer does not this afford; and what quickening in work for the Lord, however impossible to man it may appear, does such enlargement in prayer give! Lord, so help us to pray that we shall work, and so help us to work that we shall pray, and so help us to see that we shall believe, and so to believe that we shall see; and all the glory shall be Thine, through Christ Jesus our exalted King!
The Royal Banners forward go,
The Cross shines forth in mystic glow;
Where He in flesh, our flesh Who made,
Our sentence bore, our ransom paid.
Fulfill'd is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old;
Amidst the nations God, saith he,
Hath reign'd and triumph'd from the Tree.
O Tree of Beauty! Tree of Light!
O Tree with royal purple dight!
Elect, on whose triumphal breast
Those holy limbs should find their rest!
On whose dear arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world's ransom hung;
The price of human-kind to pay,
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.
KMediarval Hymns and Sequences.)