You have given me Your shield of salvation, and Your gentleness exalts me.
I. ITS CONDITIONS, on the part of man.
1. Conscious weakness, the sense of utter helplessness in himself (1 Samuel 30:1-10; John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Hebrews 11:34).
2. Believing prayer (ver. 7). "By showing us our own nothingness, humility forces us to depend upon God; and the expression of that dependence is prayerfulness."
3. Ardent aspiration. "When sea water rises into the clouds it loses its saltness and becomes fresh; so the soul when lifted up to God" (Tamil proverb).
II. ITS BESTOWMENT; by "that practical hearkening on the part of God when called upon for help, which was manifested in the fact that God made his steps broad" (Keil).
1. In wonderful condescension (Psalm 138:6).
2. By manifold methods; preserving, instructing, strengthening, exalting those who trust in him.
3. With considerate adaptation to their nature and capacities. "The great God and Father, intent on making his children great, follows them and plies them with the gracious indirections of a faithful and patient love" (Bushnell, 'Christ and his Salvation'). "Like as father" etc. (Psalm 103:13).
III. ITS MANIFESTATION. As the effect of sunshine and rain, received and appropriated by a plant, appears in its abounding strength, beauty, and fruitfulness, so the effect of Divine grace appears in enlargement and elevation of mind, sincere and fervent love to God, a set purpose to do his will, eminence in "love, joy, peace, gentleness," etc. (Galatians 5:22), maturity of character (Hosea 14:5-7), holy and beneficent activity, growing conformity to the perfect Pattern of true greatness (Matthew 20:25-27). "Have the mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). - D.
Thy gentleness has made me great.
(J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
I. THE PEACEFUL REFLECTION REWARDING EVERY EARNEST LIFE. "Thy gentleness hath multiplied me." The words are not spoken in the midst of strife, yet with the vivid recollection of many toils and sorrows attending on the career of one who spared not himself in seeking to gain an object which he considered to be of God. He had been in earnest, not afraid to sacrifice considerations of momentary ease for future and wider good; not erecting the boundary wall of personal advantage so high as to darken the heaven-born interests of the people. In commending sacrifice he had known how to be a sacrifice. The man after God's own heart and given himself for the attainment of what he knew to be dear to God's heart, and the reward came to him, as all real and spiritual rewards do come to faithful man, in the form of his own reflections upon what he had been or had tried to be. Happy are they who, on looking down the avenue of an eventful life, can trace all strength to resist and to achieve, all wisdom to choose and to avoid, all victory and honour, all wealth and distinction and blessing, to their proper source, and say, "Thy gentleness hath made me great."
II. A CORRECT EXPLANATION OF LIFE'S BEST SUCCESS. When common battles are won, and ordinary mountain paths climbed, and men are seen standing high above their fellows who are still contending with difficulty and toiling hard to carry burdens, the question is asked, "What made them great?" And to such a question the world about us is generally ready with its answer. "Fortune made this man great. It was a mere accident, a stroke of chance over which he had no control." Or, "It was natural perseverance. He had no temporal advantage or native brilliance, but he was nature's tortoise, who kept right on and won the race." The secret of another's distinction is given as "Self-reliance. With almost unlimited belief in himself, he contrived by force of will to make others accept him at his own valuation. He made himself great." Another "was born to greatness. Inherited wealth and courtly favour caused his earliest footprints to be made on flowers, and all the world seems to have conspired to lift him upward into radiance and honour. He is great because he could not possibly be otherwise." Either one of these sayings may account for something which is seen in the lives of men, but the further question arises, "Is it greatness that is here explained? Do these by virtue of any position thus achieved or held, really possess greatness?" It is very possible for those who live in the eastern counties to think they reside amongst hills, until they go to Cumberland or Wales, and for these to boast of mountains until they have seen Switzerland or Northern India. Is there not an ennobling of the whole idea of greatness in human life which is possible to us after the manner of such experience? May not the popular conception be dwarfed by admitting a Divine thought just as sandhills become insignificant and poor to him who looks on Alps and Himalayahs? The Christian's hope for the world is in the adoption of a corrected estimate. He sees that fortune, perseverance, self-reliance, wealth, and favour, good and right, as each one in its place must be, give, when they are alone, only sandhills, and that towering far above them all there is a snow-capped mountain life; spiritually more noble, and eternally beautiful, in love to God, and reliance on his gentle favour.
III. THE LOFTIEST PRINCIPLE ON WHICH TO BUILD OUR LIFE. When David's throne was established in the hearts of a united and loyal people, he began to seek a worthy place for God's tabernacle. His heart was set on the noble height of Zion, and he obtained it. How much of life's sorrow and humiliation might remain untasted, if we were as careful in choosing a foundation on which to build our character and life! Of all the claims asserted in our hearts, one stands supreme. It is the need of our nature to lay the beginnings of its strength on the rock of Divine security. Human life needs that God should give it a resting-place.
IV. THE OLD GOSPEL OF THE CHURCH. It is old. It is older than Israel's march through the wilderness, or Abraham's declaration of faith, or Noah's gentle preaching of a righteous life; it dates from before the mission of the angel who guarded the tree of life. The "old, old story" is the compassion of Jebovah, the gentleness of the Eternal. It is the old Gospel. And yet how delightfully, sadly, strangely new! How vast the field of human life where "there is no speech or language" setting it forth convincingly! God apparently speaking an unknown tongue, and man untouched by the sweetest music that ever tried to charm and elevate his life!
(W. H. Jackson.)
I. THE GENTLENESS OF GOD! It is the secret spring of all the worth to which the great ones of God's kingdom have ever reached. It nourished the life of Abraham in all his wanderings, and was in his thoughts when he told how the God of heaven took him from his father's house, and promised the land in which he was a stranger, to his seed. It sustained Moses in his, mighty enterprise, and was in his teaching when be told the Israelites that "God was the Rock of their salvation," and when he recited in their hearing the beneficent wonders which had been wrought for their deliverance. And, long centuries after, it is to the same rich spring the peerless life of the Apostle Paul is traced: "I am what I am by the grace of God." Great Paul! Great David! Great lawgiver of Israel! Great father of the faithful! Great as men, great as ministers of God; great in thought and word and deed! But, lo! they cast their crowns at the feet of God. The summing up of the life of each is this: "Thy gentleness hath made me great." In our studies of saintly life we are apt to think that we have come on the secrets of spiritual greatness when we find faith, or prayer, or zeal for God, or deep acquaintance with His Word, or lips eloquent in His Gospel, or self-denial, or love. But these very qualities are results. Above them and underneath them all are the clews and fountain springs of the gentleness of God. Consider also the greatness of the men whose names are associated with the mighty developments of thought and life in the Church — men like , Bernard, Huss, and Luther; in our own country, like Anselm, Wicliffe, Knox, and Wesley — and the thousand thousands, whose names were never named on earth for greatness, who yet were as great in God's sight as these. What faith in God, what love for souls, what perseverance in tasks for which there was no praise on earth, what unquailing courage, what hoping against hope, as fellow-workers sank exhausted at their side; and, greater than all, what lowliness and meekness of heart! What was the secret of such manifold greatness? Not one would say: "My genius, or my learning, or my eloquence, or my creed." But one and all, with an irrepressible throb of gratitude, would exclaim, "Worthy is the Lamb!" And for souls truly great, whether as workers on earth, or worshippers in heaven, this is and must be the everlasting song. For it is this gentleness of God, this mercy He shows to men, this generosity, pity, forbearance, and love of the Divine heart, which is the source of all the excellence, worth calling great, to which human beings have ever reached. It is, indeed, the very beginning and possibility of spiritual life itself. Not one of all that multitude could have risen into the Divine presence, or attained the position of a worshipper, if God had marked iniquity against him. He had to bear with them, pardon them, again pardon them, thousands of times pardon each one of them. He had to fence them in by ordinances, laws, and spiritual helps. But do I require to appeal to the histories of the redeemed in heaven, or to the lives of saintly thinkers and workers in former centuries, to illustrate this fact?
II. I SHALL APPEAL TO THE EXPERIENCE AND TESTIMONY OF CHRIST'S PEOPLE. To be what you arc Christian men and women — is the greatest attainment of human life. Except Christ's own, there is no greatness to be named by its side. And in a sense it is Christ's greatness. Can you reveal the mystery of your possession of it? What force separated you from the world and the life of the world, and drew you to the side of Christ, and filled you with that life in Him in which you are rejoicing now? The very instincts of Christian life within you make you impatient to say: "Not unto us, O Lord: to Thee be all the glory: in Thee are the springs of our life: it is Thy gentleness which has made us great." Can you ever forget, that hour when the fact first flashed in upon your spirit that you were a lost soul? You recollect the horror of great darkness which fell upon you then. But you also remember the vision of gentleness in the cross, and how, little by little, it was borne in upon your spirit that there was forgiveness with God, forgiveness even for you. Speak next, you who have been smitten by great affliction. What is your testimony respecting the mystery of Christian life? No one knows better than you how near despair the human heart can be driven by sorrow; nor how unbelief, black and terrible, can come on the wings of a great despair. You have felt the cold touch of that despair. Who shall describe the black thoughts, or the rebellious impulses of despair like that? Shadows of spiritual death, ghastly fancies from the pit, rising, swelling, spreading over the whole life and darkening and eating it up, as clouds of locusts darken and eat up the joy of harvest! You felt all that: you gave way to all that. And vet — here is the gentleness of God to you — you are still on God's side; you are still believers in his love. The evil thoughts were not permitted to triumph over you: the black despair was not allowed to suck out your life. A healing hand was laid on your wounds. Your very sorrows have made you cleave more closely to his love. By the very things you have suffered you have climbed higher into his kingdom, and from the height to which his mercy has raised you, your daily song is, "O Thou Helper of the helpless: Thy gentleness hath made us great."
III. OF THIS GENTLENESS WHICH MAKETH GREAT, CHRIST IS THE MANIFESTATION TO US. He is that very gentleness itself. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." He is a God so gentle that He would not leave the sin-filled world to perish. Out of His gentleness He gave us Christ. What men first saw in Him was "the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sin of the world." The very symbol by which He was revealed is one which at once expresses His gentleness, and the depths into which that gentleness led Him for our sakes. The work Christ came to accomplish was the bestowal of gentleness on a world, which had lost the very elements of it. He came to put away a life of pride and unbelief and hatred from the human heart, and put his own life of humility, faith, and love in its place. Christ's coming into the world, therefore, was the advent of gentleness. It was heaven stooping to the earth to heal the wounds which sin had made. It was the great God taking up His home among the creatures who had rebelled against Him, that He might raise them and bring them back to His love. It is this quality of gentleness which makes Christ's earthly life so beautiful. The death of Christ is the most touching exhibition of gentleness the world has ever known. The light, which shines from the cross is the gentleness of God. One of the gentlest deeds recorded in the Old Testament is David's dirge over the dead Saul. He folded in beautiful words the memory of the man who sought his death, and taught the people to remember him as "the beauty of Israel." But the gentleness of Jesus sounded a profounder deep. In the yearning pity of His heart He wrapped His living enemies in His prayers, and carried them up and laid them on the breast of mercy: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." A poor prodigal once went out into the glooms of evil and made himself base with the base, and vile with the vile, and hateful, and irreverent, and cruel. And all the world turned from him, and put his name, away from their lips. All but one. She still clung to his name, she still interested herself in his life. She followed him into the darkness. She went in and down into the deepest, thickest, foulest darkness, and owned him there, and laid her hands on him, and her lips to his lips, and her heart to his heart, that she might lead him back. Oh, the gentleness of a mother! But the gentleness of Jesus transcends even that of a mother. The prodigal He came to save would have none of His love. His sins were an insult to Him: his merciless speeches stabbed Him: he filled the air with the cruel demand to "Crucify Him." It lay in the work Christ came to fulfil, that it could only be finished in the shadow of death. Into that shadow, therefore, He passed. Through the insults, through the hatred, through the shame and the agony, through the very jaws of hell, into the fires of a most painful death. He passed; — and there, with the gentleness of a Divine mother, laid His hand on the hand, His heart on the heart, of the very race which crucified Him, that He might overcome their enmity and bring them back to God.
IV. AND THIS IS STILL THE GREATNESS OF CHRIST AS A SAVIOUR, AND HIS POWER OVER THE HEARTS OF MEN. He is strong to save because he is long-suffering and merciful and generous. We are surprised when we read, "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us;" but it is the same wonder of mercy, the same manifestation of gentleness, that lie still lives to save His enemies. Christ is still the same in His gentleness. On the throne as on the cross, He is the gentleness of God towards men. His reign is the reign of gentleness. His intercession within the veil is the appeal of gentleness. It is because He is the gentle Jesus that He intercedes with God for man and with man for God. Exalted though Christ now is, His works as a Saviour are still the same in their gentleness as when He ministered on earth. Still, by the ministries of His Word and Spirit, and by the hands and lives of His people, He works those works of healing and mercy which made his life on earth sublime. I saw a picture once which went to my very heart. It was the interior of a humble cottage on a lonely wild. A poor old man, a travelling pedlar, worn with exhaustion, ghastly pale and cold, is seated in the centre. You can see that he has had the very narrowest escape from death. The father of the house, casting anxious glances towards the stranger, is pouring out some cordial to revive him; the mother is bringing warm wraps, and doing it with the prompt energy of one who knows that life may depend on the haste she makes. It is only a moment since the poor man entered. The door is not yet closed. The children are peering out awe-struck into the night. The snow-flakes, falling through the light, reveal and measure back the terrible gloom outside. A wild night is upon the earth; a night of blackness and blinding snow! And this old man had been caught in the storm, and had to fight, with death in the darkness, and, at the very eleventh hour of the conflict, exhausted and utterly worn, had sunk against the door of this hospitable home. "He was a stranger, and they took hint in." It was the picture of a gentle deed. But the gentleness of Jesus, in saving the souls of men, no human picture could portray. He goes out into the darkness, out into the snows and wastes and storms of sin, to seek the wanderers and the lost, to lift them, in his arms and bring them in. It is this gentleness which has been laid on the heart of the Church in the command. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." What are all the ministries of mercy in Christian life, but the outflow of this gentleness? The gentle Saviour still lives, and in His gentleness is the very life and mercy of God to men. He is near to each of us. O hearts of men and women, Christ is the Saviour for you! Open wide your doors, and let the King of Glory in. He is the gentlest, lovingest, helpfulest Friend we can have. He will not break the bruised reed; He will not quench the smoking flax!
(A. Macleod, D. D.)
(N. D. Hillis.)
(H. O. Mackay.)
TopicsBreastplate, Condescending, Condescension, Gentleness, Givest, Hast, Lowliness, Makes, Maketh, Mercy, Salvation, Shield, Stoop, Victory
Outline1. David's psalm of thanksgiving for God's deliverance and blessings
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Samuel 22:36
8609 prayer, as praise and thanksgiving
LibraryDavid's Hymn of victory
'For Thou hast girded me with strength to battle: them that, rose up against me hast Thou subdued under me. 41. Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them that hate me. 42. They looked, but there was none to save; even unto the Lord, but He answered them not. 43. Then did I beat them as small as the dust of the earth, I did stamp them as the mire of the street, and did spread them abroad. 44. Thou also hast delivered me from the strivings of my people, Thou hast …
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