LORD, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong: you did hide your face, and I was troubled.
Of all the sources of sorrow to which a good man is exposed here, there is none whose waters are so bitter, nor whose grief is so poignant, as the withdrawal of the Divine presence. But there is one practical benefit to be derived from it; it affords additional evidence of our real state before God. If we can endure the absence of God's favourable presence from our souls without sorrow, our love to Him cannot be genuine.
I. THE EXTENT OF THIS WITHDRAWAL. We speak not of His withdrawal from the unconverted — but from the real child of God.
1. It does not include the withdrawal of His loving-kindness. Indeed, the very act of withdrawal is prompted by love.
2. It does not include the withdrawal of the real presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit may not reflect the shining of God's love upon the believer's soul, and yet He may, at the same time, so work in his heart, as to make his faith lively; his desires strong; his conscience tender; and his life fruitful.
3. This withdrawal may be experienced in. different degrees by different Christians, and by the same Christians at different times and under different circumstances. With some it is only a cloudy day; with others it is twilight, neither dark nor light; with some the Sun of Righteousness is overcast, with others He appears to be totally eclipsed.
II. WHEN GOD MAY BE SAID TO HIDE HIS FACE.
1. When He does not interpose on their behalf, and though He sees them in trouble does not step forward to their relief.
2. When He removes from His people the symbols of His presence — the ordinances and sacraments of religion.
3. When His people do not prize the means of grace, and when their profiting does not appear.
4. When He denies His people access to Himself, and breaks off communion with them.
III. THE REASONS OF THIS HIDING.
1. When Christians commit gross sins, and bring a disgrace upon religion, then God hides His face from them, to show to them His displeasure, and to show to the world that the falls and sins of professors are not to be attributed to, neither to be charged upon, his religion.
2. When Christians become earthly-minded, and begin to prefer possessions, delights, and engagements of the world to Jesus and His great salvation, then God hides His face from them.
3. When Christians grow formal, cold, and lifeless in their religious duties, then God frequently hides His face from them. It is the lively, active, zealous, spiritual worshipper, with whom God has engaged to dwell.
4. When Christians neglect the great medium of access to God, the Lord Jesus Christ, then Jehovah resents the insult offered to His Son by hiding His face.
IV. THE SPIRIT TO BE EXERCISED IN THESE SEASONS OF DESERTION. "I was troubled." This implies:
1. That we are truly sensible of our loss, of our sin, and of the fearful consequences that must inevitably follow a continuance of this state of things.
2. That we recognize the presence of God as the only permanent source of comfort and happiness.
3. That we exert all the powers and faculties of our souls to recover the presence and favour of God. For this purpose we should use all the appointed means of grace. In all duties and ordinances our souls should follow hard after Him, and pursue Him closely from one ordinance to another till we find Him.
V. WHY CHRISTIANS ARE THUS TROUBLED AT THE HIDING OF HIS FACE,
1. Because of the blessings they have lost.
2. Because of the positive evils that always attend this withdrawal of God's favourable presence from the soul.
(1) Spiritual darkness.
(2) Spiritual deadness and insensibility.
(3) Failure in all spiritual duties.
(4) Barrenness of soul.
(5) Exposure to dangers and temptations.
(6) A dread of God's displeasure.
(7) The fear of final rejection.
(8) Melancholy thought of death and judgment.
VI. PRACTICAL LESSONS AND CAUTIONS.
1. How few are true believers.
2. How awful is the condition of unconverted men.
3. How awful is the state of the backslider.
4. How happy are the people of God.
Parallel VersesKJV: LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.