As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
I. THE PERFECTION OF GOD'S WAY. "His way is perfect." This is true of all his proceedings, in every department of his operations. His ways in nature are to a large extent inscrutable; but we are sure they are infinitely wise and good. His method of redeeming and saving sinners is perfect. But here the reference is rather to the course of his providence - the way in which he leads, governs, protects, and delivers his servants.
1. The meaning of the assertion. That God's way is perfectly wise and good and holy, perfectly adapted to fulfil the purposes of his love towards his children, and leads to an end that is perfectly good. That, in comparison with the way we might have preferred, it is infinitely superior.
2. The grounds of the assertion. It expresses a conviction which springs from:
(1) Reason. Because God is perfect, his way must be. Perfect Wisdom and Goodness cannot err; unbounded power carries into effect the determinations of perfect Wisdom and Goodness.
(2) Revelation. Holy Writ is in most cases our first source of knowledge as to God and his ways; and it abounds in declarations adapted to assure us, in the midst of all our perplexities respecting the mysteries of Divine providence, that the ways of God are right and good, and will issue in good to those who love and obey him.
(3) Experience. Looking back on his own life, with its many difficulties, struggles, and perils, David could see enough of the way of God in it all to awaken in him a profound conviction that it was a perfect way. And no one who serves God can fail to recognize this truth in his own life, however much may remain at present dark and difficult,
(4) Observation. By which the experience of others becomes available for ourselves. In this we may include the recorded experience of others in biography and history, in the sacred or other books. The history of the Church and of individuals abounds in instances adapted to increase our confidence in the perfection of the Divine way, while leaving vast spaces of unsolved mystery.
3. The influence which this truth should have upon us.
(1) Thankfulness and praise.
(2) Unwavering confidence, however dark some of the Divine proceedings may be, whether towards ourselves or others.
(3) Cheerful submission to the guidance and government of God.
II. THE PURITY OF GOD'S WORD. It is "tried;" literally, "smelted," and so purified and refined, as metals by fire (comp. Psalm 12:6, "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times"). The meaning is that God's Word is thoroughly genuine, true, sincere, free from every particle of opposite qualities. The statement applies to every word of God - his declarations, revelations, precepts, promises, and threatenings. It is most probably made here as to his promises. These are all thoroughly true and reliable, free from error, free from deceit. For God:
(1) Cannot lie (Titus 1:2).
(2) Cannot mistake. Knows perfectly all the future, all possible hindrances to the accomplishment of his purposes, and his own power to conquer them.
(3) Cannot change. Not in purpose; not in power. Thus whatever tends to throw more or less of uncertainty upon human promises is absent from the Divine (see further on 2 Samuel 7:28). The Word of God is "tried" in another sense of the Hebrew word. It has been "tested," put to the proof, in ten thousands of instances, and has ever been found true. The experience of every believer testifies to its perfect truth; and the experience of the Church, and of the world in its connection with the Church, throughout all ages, gives the same assurance. Then:
1. Let us trust the Word of God with a confidence suited to its entire trustworthiness.
2. Let us be glad and thankful that, amidst so much that is unreliable, we have here a firm foundation on which to rest our life and hopes.
3. Let our Word correspond with that of God in its freedom from all insincerity and untruthfulness, if it cannot be free from the uncertainty which springs from ignorance, inability, or mutability.
III. THE PROTECTION WHICH GOD AFFORDS TO HIS PEOPLE.
1. The protection itself. "He is a Buckler [Shield] to all them that trust in him." Not only he secures protection, he is himself the Shield that protects. As a hen protects her chickens under her own wings (Psalm 91:4), so the Lord covers and defends his people with his own Being and perfections. Their enemies have to conquer him before they can injure them. They are under the guardianship of his knowledge, power, goodness, faithfulness; and these must fail before they can perish.
2. The persons who enjoy such protection. "All them that trust in him" - all, as the word is, who flee to him for refuge.
(1) It is one of the characteristics of the godly, that in their perils they flee for refuge to God. It is to God they flee; not to some merely imaginary being whom they call God - a God, for instance, who, however despised in the time of prosperity, is always at the call of men in trouble; too merciful to punish his foes severely; too tender hearted to disregard the cry of distress, although it come from impenitent hearts. Such confidence is vain. God's Word contains not a promise to the ungodly and unholy, however troubled they may be, unless the trouble subdue their hearts to a true repentance. But those who live by faith in God naturally turn to him in danger and distress.
(2) To them he is a Shield. Their faith itself, God-produced and God-sustained, is a shield (Ephesians 6:16); it inspires their prayers and struggles after safety; and in response to their confidence and their prayers the Almighty becomes their Defence, and they are safe.
(3) Their safety is according to their faith. Faith which is mixed with doubt is an occasion of peril. Intermittent faith brings intermittent safety. If for a time we flee from our Refuge, we are exposed defenceless to the assaults of our enemies, and shall be wounded and distressed. Then, "trust in him at all times" (Psalm 62:8); and let your prayer be, "Lord, increase our faith" (Luke 17:5), and, "Pray for us that our faith fail not" (see Luke 22:32). - G.W.
As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is tried; He is a Buckler to all them that trust in Him.
I. THE ESSENTIAL PERFECTION OF A "WAY" IS THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF ITS END; the contingent or relative perfection is the accomplishment of the end, with the utmost attainable extent of benefit, and with the least practicable amount of difficulty. Of the first, so far as both God and man are concerned, we are competent to judge; on the second, we can only form a judgment of beings endued and encumbered with like passions as ourselves. It is of the first that David speaks. He found himself, after the lapse of many years, after the endurance of many privations and persecutions, in full possession of all that the Lord had promised, delivered out of the hand of all His enemies, and exalted, from following the sheep, to be governor over God's people Israel. He remembers and records, indeed, that "the waves of death compassed him, the floods of ungodly men made him afraid." But this is a grateful commemoration, not an insinuated complaint. Hence, then, we infer, that we are in danger of falling into error, when we look upon the dispensations of God as an insulated or individual case. With the destinies of David, we cannot doubt, were interwoven those of many others, with whose instruction, deliverance, or confirmation in the faith, his trials and persecutions might be intimately and indissolubly connected. Whatever portion may be allotted to those who serve God, of that chastening, which "for the present seemeth not to be joyous, but grievous," they possess, if not a clue to all God's dealings, that which will be at least a balm, and a solace, and a support, under all trials, in the single emphatic assurance — "As for God, His way is perfect." He proportions the endurance to the issue, and adapts the way to the end — to many ends, for "we are members one of another."
II. THE PURITY OF GOD'S WORD. We do not here speak, however, of moral purity in its application to man's righteousness, but of the abiding excellence, the inviolable faithfulness of the Word, in reference to God Himself. None of God's people will, on reflection, ever find cause to question the purity of His Word, the integrity of His promise. And the principle on which I ground the assertion, is simply this — "The end of faith "is" "the salvation of the soul;" this is the one great object, which must be pursued through all difficulties and accomplished at all sacrifices; a true believer, therefore, can only then begin to doubt — on reflection, at least — when he is placed in circumstances, of which he can positively say, "These cannot minister either to my salvation, or to the salvation of any other living soul." Now, this cannot be affirmed even of entanglement in sin; for, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another," exhorted the apostle James, "that ye may be healed" — the inference from which is that the acknowledgment of a fault may instrumentally confer a great benefit upon another than the commission of it has inflicted injury upon the believer himself.
III. WHAT IS THE NECESSARY CONCLUSION FROM SUCH PREMISES — the privilege of God's people. "He is a buckler to all them that trust in Him." Nothing, it would appear, could be more simple, nothing could be more reasonable. than the essential condition, imposed on all such as would be saved, of an entire and implicit trust in God; nothing more simple, from the very nature of the case — nothing more reasonable, from the impossibility of the opposite. "Hath God said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?" Who can even conceive of a God all power, unable — or of a God all love, unwilling — to redeem His pledge, and to accomplish His purpose? We are called, however, on the present occasion to consider the gain, the incalculable gain of those who trust God. Trust is active. The proof of it lies in action. Action is the element which is essential to its existence. He who trusts God must try at least to serve Him; otherwise trust were nothing better than presumption. And there are some who do not trust because they do not try. Religion is with them no effort, no struggle, no conflict, no sacrifice. They recite articles of faith, they respond to the utterance of prayer, they listen to the preaching of the Gospel; and then they return into the world with undiminished relish of its vanities — not, as they ought, with a livelier perception of its emptiness, and an increased repugnance to its pollutions, and a more settled abhorrence of its sins. Such men do not trust God — men whose religion is but a Sabbath parade. They cannot trust Him. They have no right to trust Him; there are no portions of His Word on which to ground their trust; for the tenour of the Scripture promises supposes consistency of life. Let me, then, exhort you to settle at once the unspeakably momentous point whether you trust God; and not only so, but whether you are warranted in trusting Him — whether it is your endeavour to walk in His "perfect way," and your desire to repose full confidence in His pure and inviolable Word. It is no time to commence all this when we are involved in calamity. Then is the time to profit by what we have already learnt — not to enter upon that lesson for the acquirement of which a whole life might be far too brief. It rests with every individual hearer to "examine himself whether he be in the faith," to "prove his own self,"
(T. Dale, M. A.)
(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
Homilist.I. THE "WAY" HE PRESCRIBES IS "PERFECT." He prescribes a way, a course of action, for all the creatures He has made, animate and inanimate, rational and irrational. The stars, the oceans, insects, brutes, and souls of every kind, from the least to the greatest, have each their "way" marked out, and the highest science attests that the way is "perfect." But the course or the way which is prescribed for man is what the writer refers to.
1. The way which is prescribed for our moral conduct is "perfect."
2. The way that is prescribed for our spiritual restoration is "perfect." What is the way? Here it is: "What the law could not do," etc.; "God so loved the world," etc. Faith in Christ is the prescribed way. This way is "perfect" in its wisdom; it is in every way adapted ."Perfect" in its justice; it honours the righteousness of God. "Perfect" in its sufficiency; it is adequate to the needs of each man, and all.
II. THE WAY HE PURSUES IS "PERFECT." God has a method of action. He acts not by caprice or impulse, but by a settled eternal plan.
1. His method of procedure is "perfect" in conception. We have not the full draft of this plan — an infinitesimal section only comes under our eye. The architect of the great building presents you with a whole plan, and you may understand it and see the superstructure on the paper. Thus God has not acted; and if He had given us the whole plan we could not have scanned the millionth part. What we see, however, we feel to be "perfect."
2. His method of procedure is "perfect in execution." What His infinite benevolence promoted and His infinite wisdom conceived, His almightiness carries out with almost perfection. A conviction of the perfection of God's way(1) Is essential to our well-being. Without this we cannot supremely love and trust Him.(2) Is the most attainable of beliefs. Our reason,, conscience, Bible, observation, and experience all concur in urging on the soul this the grandest of all conclusions.(3) Must flash on every sinner's nature sooner or later. If not here in the day of grace, yonder in the period of retribution. This conviction flashing on the corrupt soul in eternity, is the hell of the lost. The soul burns with anguish as it rolls and rolls in the great thought, "As for God, His ways are perfect."
I. THE WORKS OF GOD REGARDED AS THE CREATOR. In this respect we hesitate not to affirm that the words of the Psalmist are fully applicable, and that "His way is perfect." Now, of course, in affirming that God's way as Creator is perfect, we must bear in mind that we are not in a position to see into the whole of this matter. Unquestionably, before we can utter this sentiment with our hearts we must have learned the lesson of faith. Our knowledge of creation is very limited. Our philosophers are still arguing as to the plurality or the non-plurality of worlds; they are still discussing such fundamental subjects as the antiquity of man and the origin of species; and with regard to our own world, it is a common proverb among us that nothing on earth is perfect. And yet the searches and the conclusions of modern science are only revealing, we hesitate not to affirm, greater wonders, and those wonders are increasingly exhibiting the perfection of God s laws. And thus, whether we take the eye or whether we take the hand, we have the meat striking evidences of design and of adaptation — evidences enough to lead us, if we are modest and candid and reverent, to this conclusion — that if we knew more, and if other organs of the body and if other elements of man's nature were as clearly opened up to us as have been the organ of the eye, and the member of the hand, we should be still more strikingly and irresistibly brought to the conclusion with regard even to the creation, "As for God, His way is perfect."
II. BUT THE DECLARATION OF OUR TEXT IS NOT LESS TRUE IN REFERENCE TO GOD AS THE GOD OF PROVIDENCE. In reference to His providential dealings, most unquestionably David's testimony was that God's way is perfect; and indeed this is the point in the psalm. Now consider this for a few moments in connection with the world. The aspect in which a man of faith and a man of this world regard all that is passing around them is as different as light can be from darkness. But "as for God, His way is perfect" in the Church. We do not see the bearing of the means upon the end. We do not, for instance, understand how it is that the tares and the wheat are permitted to grow together. We do not understand how it is that from the very beginning, from the very earliest years down to the days in which we live, whenever there has been the slightest activity or energy put forth on the part of God's people, when the Church has not been fast asleep, there have arisen grave and deadly heresies, and the Church of Christ is constantly witnessing it. In our own land, even in the lifetime of most of the persons to whom I am preaching, at the very time when everything seemed ready for the Church to advance on her great aggressive work against the heathenism that was around her, to rise to her position as the evangelist of distant nations, and to delve into the courts and alleys, and to go down into the cellars and to climb the garrets in our own heathen England; when the Church seemed ready to gird herself to this work, and faithful ministers were raised up, there has come some blight, of deadly heresy upon us, and we have been constrained to enter into controversy even with our own brethren, with men bearing the ministry of our own Church. All this is most mysterious; we do not understand it; we cannot justify the ways of God to man fully. All we can say is this, that the anticipation of faith which enables us to bear a testimony even now in the words of David, is, that when all is wound up we shall assuredly discern that in dealing with His Church, as the God of Providence, the way of God has been perfect.
III. LASTLY, HIS WAY IS PERFECT AS A WAY OF SALVATION. Here again faith must come in. We are surrounded by depths on every side. What is the mystery at the bottom of it all? Archbishop Whately has said, and said truly, that the entrance of moral evil into the world is very nearly the only difficulty in theology. If you and I could understand how it is that there can be moral evil, and, as its result, physical evil, in the world of a perfect God, and an Almighty God, we should be able to cut pretty nearly every knot; but we cannot understand it. We do not understand the ruin; we do not understand the entrance of sin. But let faith lay hold of this; nothing but faith can lay hold of it; reason cannot defend it, reason can only put her hand upon her mouth. God's salvation is provided, on the one hand, fully for the vindication of His own glory, while on the other hand He has adapted His salvation fully to the need of men. There is the fullest adaptation to the need of the sinner, and there is the most glorious illustration of the glory of God.
(Canon Miller, D.D.)Psalm 118:6.)
The Word of the Lord is tried.
I. That we have in these records the genuine Word of God is seen when we SUBJECT THEIR MAIN TEACHINGS TO THE TEST OF THE HIGHEST STANDARDS OF TRUTH AND DUTY AMONG MEN. Outside the Scriptures themselves these are found in the human conscience, judgment, and reason. The Apostle Paul declares that by the light within even the heathen are capable of seeing the grand distinction between right and wrong, and of feeling the charm of moral beauty and truth. Even a race so utterly degraded as the Terra del Fuegians have proved to be not wholly devoid of moral instinct and power; while among heathen philosophers not a few have reached sublime moral conceptions and truths. Following the light within them, men like Socrates, Plato, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Buddha, arid Confucius have attained to marvellous views of truth, and have given utterance to teaching the moral beauty and Divine character of which we cannot deny. Now, when we test the teachings of the Bible by these, and ask, "What is the result?" the answer is ready and complete. Among the choicest, the flower of heathen philosophy and religious teaching there is nothing that is equal in sustained loftiness of character, in quantity and beauty, to that of the New Testament.
2. But we may look at it in another light. Tested by our own modern conceptions and ideas of what is truly noble and Divine, what is the result? We, living to-day, are the heirs of all the knowledge, civilisation, and religion of the past. At no previous age of the world's history has knowledge of so universal a kind been possessed. Not only has science laid her treasures at our feet, but the stores of knowledge gathered and garnered of old by such nations of antiquity as the Babylonian, Egyptian, Chaldean, Hindu, Grecian, and Roman have been opened to us in wonderful ways. We know far more of the religious teaching and moral ideas of these great peoples than was possible before. Our civilisation and knowledge, based upon and including all that was best in these byegone ages, is richer than any previous. Moreover, we have come into possession of eighteen hundred years of Christian thought and influence, and all that means in raising the tone of moral feeling and judgment. Judging, then, of the character of Biblical teaching as a whole, what is the verdict? Simply this-, men all admit that the precepts of Christ embodied in daily life would regenerate the world; the golden age would no longer be a dream, but a sober reality; and Jesus Christ enthroned as King would make a worm of purity, moral glory, and blessedness.
3. There is another point of view from which we may look at and test this subject in the present connection. Not. only is the Bible proved to be Divine in view of our best judgment, but also according to the evidence of the greatest among sceptical writers. What is the testimony of many of these, men of sceptical, but deeply, reverent minds? While they reject the Bible as the supreme and all-commanding revelation of God and religious truth, they all agree that in the records of the life and character of Jesus Christ in the Gospels we have the grandest and most complete presentation of moral beauty the world has seen.
II. ONE OF THE SEVEREST TESTS OF THE VALUE OF A THING IS THE WAY IN WHICH IT WITHSTANDS THE EFFECTS OF TIME AND CHANGE. If it he spurious, time, sooner or later, will show it. If it be genuine, time will only make its true character the more manifest. The false jewel, the counterfeit coin, the imitation bric-a-brac, the insincere character, the false teaching or unsound reasoning, needs only time to discover the worthlessness that attaches to it. But that which is the "truth and of the truth" becomes more and more clearly revealed as genuine and precious. In nothing has this been more fully shown than in the history of the sacred Scriptures. See how long and severe the trial to which they have been subjected! Age after age has rolled away, many things have passed out of mind and existence since many parts of the Bible were first spoken or written, but its records and teachings remain. In the darkest days of the Middle Ages, when the Church became a great world-power, its greatest foes became those of its own household, and every effort was made to destroy the Book, and to consign to oblivion its glorious, life-giving, liberty-producing truth, and to substitute a system of ecclesiastical tyranny and tradition. In still more modern days its teachings and records have been assailed by the fierce fire of criticism, hostile and mighty. Battery after battery of the most powerful and perfected artillery has been placed in position, and threatened by its presence and force to destroy the fortress of truth. So certain has been the issue in the estimation of some that they have boldly avowed that the days of Christianity were numbered. Voltaire declared that ten years after his attack on the Christian system it would cease to be. But, instead of such an issue, Christianity has come forth as from a refining furnace, like gold purified seven times. The dross and alloy have been destroyed; the precious gold of truth shines the more brightly.
III. THE METHOD BY WHICH ALMOST EVERYTHING MAY BE SURELY TESTED IS THAT OF EXPERIENCE. It seldom fails. In ordinary life and with some of the most material things it is of highest value. The article we purchase, the word era neighbour, the work of the artisan, the professed friendship of an acquaintance, the soundness of a theory, the wisdom or folly of any step taken in business — all are proved and their true worth discovered by experience. The manner in which they stand the wear and tear of actual life is the infallible sign of their genuineness. It is perfectly scientific. It is the only safe method. Now, the Scriptures have been subject, during thousands of years, to this conclusive test. Their teachings are proved to be genuine and Divine because they bear infallibly the critical force of experience. The unbelief and sinful disregard of Christ and His Gospel, the rebellion against conscience and morality, against Christian light and leading, in their consequences and effects fulfil the utterances of Holy Writ. Men's experience of sin and its penalty is but a testimony to the reality and Divine character of that Book that declares: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." But equally true is the opposite experience: What is the testimony of those who have put its teachings to the test of practice — who have not merely tried them by reason and the moral judgment, but subjected them to the experiment of actual obedience? They have proved the truth of the Divine Master's statement: "If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God." It has verified itself to them by its power over their hearts, consciences, characters, and lives. It has brought peace, hope, comfort, strength, purity, and quickening of soul. The "Gospel has" proved "the power of God unto salvation." They have found: 'Great peace have they that love Thy law."
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