Why, O LORD, do You stand far off? Why do You hide in times of trouble?
I. TERRIFIC FACTS. (Vers. 2-11.) Let every phrase in this indictment be weighed; it presents as fearful a picture of human wickedness as any contained in the Word of God. It sets before us pride, persecution, device, boasting, ridicule, denial of Providence, hardness, scorn, evil-speaking, defying and denying of God, oppression and crushing of the poor, a glorying in deeds of shame, and expected impunity therein. And what is more trying still is, that God seems to let all this go on, and keeps silence, and stands afar off, and hides himself in times of trouble. Such trials were felt by the Protestants in their early struggles; by the Covenanters in times of persecution in Scotland; by faithful ones on the occasion of the St. Bartholomew Massacre; by the Waldenses and Albigenses; by Puritans and Independents under Charles I.; by Churchmen under Cromwell; and by the Malagasy in our own times; and it is only by the terror of such times that psalms like this can be understood.
II. HARD QUESTIONS. Of these there are two. One is in the first verse.
1. Why is God silent? As we look at matters, we might be apt to say that if God has indeed a people in the world, he will never let them fall into the hands of the destroyer; or that, if they are oppressed by evil men, God will quickly deliver them out of their hands, and will show his disapproval of their ways. But very often is it otherwise - to sight, and then faith is tried; and it is no wonder that Old Testament saints should ask" Why?" when even New Testament saints often do the same! But we know that to his own, God gives an inward peace and strength that are better marks of his love and better proofs of his timely aid than any outward distinction could possibly be. Take, e.g., the case of Blandina in the times of early persecution; and the cases of hundreds of others. And besides this, it is by the Christ-like bearing of believers under hardships such as these, that God reveals the reality and glory of his redeeming pace (see 1 Peter 4:12-14).
2. A second question is: Why doth the wicked contemn God? Ah! why does he? He does contemn God in many ways.
(1) His inward thought is, "There is no God" (ver. 4).
(2) He denies that God will call him to account (ver. 13).
(3) He denies that God watches his actions (ver. 11).
(4) He lulls himself in imagined perpetual security (ver. 6).
Thus the life of such a one is a perpetual denial or defiance of God. And all this is attributed
(a) to "pride" (ver. 4);
(b) to love of evil as evil (ver. 3).
And yet the psalmist, seeing through the vain boast of the ungodly, may well peal out again and again the question, "Why does he do this? "for the implied meaning of the writer is, "Why does he do this, when, in spite of all his proud glorying in ill, he knows that God will bring his wickedness to an end, and will call him to account for it? This is the thought which connects our present division with the next.
III. PERMANENT SOLACE. However hard it may be to interpret the ways of nod at any one crisis, yet the believer knows that he must not judge God by what he sees of his ways, but ought to estimate his ways by what he knows of God. And there are four great truths known about God by the revelation of himself to man.
1. Jehovah is the eternal King (ver. 14).
2. God is the Helper of the fatherless (ver. 14).
4. God hears his people's cry (ver. 17).
When believers know all this, they have a perpetual source of relief even under the heaviest cares. God's plan for the world, in his government thereof by Jesus Christ, is to redress every wrong of man, and to bring about peace, by righteousness (Psalm 72:2, 4).
IV. FERVID PRAYER. (Vers. 12, 15.) Times of severest pressure are those which force out the mightiest prayer (Acts 4:23-30). Luther, etc.; Daniel (Daniel 2:16-18; Daniel 9:1-19). The true method of prayer is thus indicated, viz. to ascertain from God's revelation of himself, what he is and what are his promises, and then to approach him in humble supplication, pleading with him to reveal the glory of his Name, by fulfilling the promises he has made; and when our prayers move in the direct line of God's promises, we are absolutely sure of an answer (but see Psalm 65:5; Revelation 8:4, 5; Deuteronomy 33:26-29). To-day is a day of God's concealing himself; but his day of self-revealing is drawing nigh. - C.
The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous.I. CONTRASTED PICTURES OF LIFE. —
1. That of the happy man illustrated by the law of attraction and repulsion. See the sentiments, habits, and disposition
(i) (ii) 2. By the law of vegetable life (ver. 3). The happy life of the good, like a fruit tree, is (i) (ii) (iii) 3. With all this the life of the ungodly is contrasted (vers. 4-6):(i) As shown in the reason of the contrast. The character of the ungodly is self-evolved from their own nature. That of the good, from God.(ii) In the result of the contrast. The ungodly having no solidity, nothing substantial in themselves, are compared to "chaff," which is light and empty and easily carried away. And having no foundation, they cannot "stand in the judgment." And having nothing to support them, must perish while the good shall prosper evermore. II. LESSONS FROM THESE CONTRASTED PICTURES. — 1. That true happiness is not the result of chance, but of law — fundamental, immutable, Divine. This law may be thus stated: Every effect must have an adequate cause. An uprooted tree cannot bear fruit; so a soul whose faith and love are torn away from God cannot be happy or prosperous. The specific law of spiritual good is this: Character determines destiny. 2. That God has so graciously arranged the conditions of happiness or misery that it is dependent upon each one's personal choice. (D. C. Hughes, A. M.)
(ii) 2. By the law of vegetable life (ver. 3). The happy life of the good, like a fruit tree, is (i) (ii) (iii) 3. With all this the life of the ungodly is contrasted (vers. 4-6):(i) As shown in the reason of the contrast. The character of the ungodly is self-evolved from their own nature. That of the good, from God.(ii) In the result of the contrast. The ungodly having no solidity, nothing substantial in themselves, are compared to "chaff," which is light and empty and easily carried away. And having no foundation, they cannot "stand in the judgment." And having nothing to support them, must perish while the good shall prosper evermore. II. LESSONS FROM THESE CONTRASTED PICTURES. — 1. That true happiness is not the result of chance, but of law — fundamental, immutable, Divine. This law may be thus stated: Every effect must have an adequate cause. An uprooted tree cannot bear fruit; so a soul whose faith and love are torn away from God cannot be happy or prosperous. The specific law of spiritual good is this: Character determines destiny. 2. That God has so graciously arranged the conditions of happiness or misery that it is dependent upon each one's personal choice. (D. C. Hughes, A. M.)
2. By the law of vegetable life (ver. 3). The happy life of the good, like a fruit tree, is
(i) (ii) (iii) 3. With all this the life of the ungodly is contrasted (vers. 4-6):(i) As shown in the reason of the contrast. The character of the ungodly is self-evolved from their own nature. That of the good, from God.(ii) In the result of the contrast. The ungodly having no solidity, nothing substantial in themselves, are compared to "chaff," which is light and empty and easily carried away. And having no foundation, they cannot "stand in the judgment." And having nothing to support them, must perish while the good shall prosper evermore. II. LESSONS FROM THESE CONTRASTED PICTURES. — 1. That true happiness is not the result of chance, but of law — fundamental, immutable, Divine. This law may be thus stated: Every effect must have an adequate cause. An uprooted tree cannot bear fruit; so a soul whose faith and love are torn away from God cannot be happy or prosperous. The specific law of spiritual good is this: Character determines destiny. 2. That God has so graciously arranged the conditions of happiness or misery that it is dependent upon each one's personal choice. (D. C. Hughes, A. M.)
II. LESSONS FROM THESE CONTRASTED PICTURES. — (D. C. Hughes, A. M.)
II. LESSONS FROM THESE CONTRASTED PICTURES. —
(D. C. Hughes, A. M.)
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
(Sir Richard Parker.)
(Sir Richard Parker.).
Why do the heathen rage?Acts 4:25-27). But this was not a literal one. It may be said to have an ever-repeated fulfilment in the history of the Church, which is a history of God's kingdom upon earth, a kingdom which in all ages has the powers of the world arrayed against it, and in all ages the same disastrous result to those who have risen "against the Lord and against His anointed." And so it shall be to the end, when, perhaps, that hostility will be manifested in some yet deadlier form, only to be overthrown forever, that the kingdoms of this world may become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.
(J. J. S. Perowne.)2 Samuel 7, which sets forth the dignity and dominion of the King of Israel as God's son and representative. This grand poem may be called an idealising of the monarch of Israel, but it is an idealising with expected realisation. The Psalm is prophecy as well as poetry; and whether it had contemporaneous persons and events as a starting point or not, its theme is a real person, fully possessing the prerogatives and wielding the dominion which Nathan had declared to be God's gift to the King of Israel. The Psalm falls into four strophes of three verses each, in the first three of which the reader is made spectator and auditor of vividly painted scenes, while, in the last, the Psalmist exhorts the rebels to return to allegiance. In the first strophe (vers. 1-3) the conspiracy of banded rebels is set before us with extraordinary force. All classes and orders are united in revolt, and hurry and eagerness mark their action, and throb in their words. Vers. 4-6 change the scene to heaven. The lower half of the picture is all eager motion and strained effort; the upper is full of Divine calm. God needs not to rise from His throned tranquillity, but regards, undisturbed, the disturbances of earth. What shall we say of that daring and awful image of the laughter of God? The attribution of such action to Him is so bold that no danger of misunderstanding it is possible. It sends us at once to look for its translation, which probably lies in the thought of the essential ludicrousness of opposition, which is discerned in heaven to be so utterly groundless and hopeless as to be absurd. Another speaker is now heard, the anointed king, who in the third strophe (vers. 7-9) bears witness to himself, and claims universal dominion as his by a Divine decree. In vers. 10-12 the poet speaks in solemn exhortation. The kings addressed are the rebel monarchs whose power seemed so puny when measured against that of "my King." But all possessors of power and influences are addressed.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. THE EXTENT OF THE REVOLT. Nations, People, Kings, Rulers. Christ has encountered this opposition —
1. In all nations.
2. In all ranks.
3. In all generations. Christ was rejected by His own age (Acts 4:27).
II. THE DETERMINATION BY WHICH THIS REVOLT WAS CHARACTERISED. It is —
III. THE SECRET CAUSE OF THIS REVOLT. They rebel against the laws of God in Christ.
IV. THE VANITY OF THIS OPPOSITION TO CHRIST.
1. The unreasonableness of it. "WHY do the heathen rage?" No satisfactory answer can be given.
2. The uselessness of it. It is "vain," because useless.
V. THE CONCLUSION. The Psalmist gives —
1. An admonition: "Be wise now."
2. A direction: "Serve the Lord." Do Him homage.
(W. L. Watkinson.)I. THE KING (vers. 6-7).
1. Divinely appointed. "I have set." The Father speaking.
2. Divinely anointed. The name Christ or Messiah signifies anointed.
3. Assured of universal rule (ver. 8). The world belongs to Him. He has created it. He has redeemed it. He shall ultimately possess it.
II. MESSIAH'S FOES (vers. 1, 2, 3). The citadel assailed because of its Sovereign; the Church the target of malice and mischief because of the kingly Christ. Crowned heads in general have been sworn enemies of the Lord's anointed. The hostility of these foes is —
1. Deliberate. They "imagine," rather "meditate."
2. Combined. "They take counsel together."
3. Determined. They "set themselves," as fully resolved to accomplish their object.
4. Violent. They "rage." Nothing has ever excited so much hostility as Christ and His Church.
III. MESSIAH'S VICTORY (vers. 4, 5). Fourth verse is strikingly metaphorical. The Victor is in the heavens — watching the plots, reading the thoughts, hearing the decisions of His enemies, and He "sitteth" there, serene as the march of stars and suns, calm as the glassy lake locked in the embrace of summer morning. Shall "have them in derision." Their efforts shall result in self-defeat and self-destruction, and help to the realisation of God's own purposes. The devil and his agents often outwit themselves; they mean extinction, but God overrules it for permanent extension. No decree of the Divine government can be frustrated. Truth must prevail. He shall "speak in wrath." His wrath is not vindictiveness, but the recoil of His love; not revenge, but retribution.
IV. MESSIAH'S MESSAGE (vers. 10-12). This is a call to —
1. Teachableness. "Be instructed." Learn your folly in opposing the Lord.
2. Service. "Serve the Lord." Do His bidding. Be governed by His laws.
3. Homage. "Kiss the Son." The Eastern mode of showing homage to a king.
4. A call backed by the most weighty reasons: "lest He be angry."
(J. O. Keen, D. D,)
Monday Club Sermons.Two contrasted topics, the King and the rebellion of His subjects.
I. THE KING.
1. The dignity of His person. Not a King, or the King, but my King. One able and worthy to represent me.
2. The extent of His dominion. The nations of men measure not the realm of Christ. All grades of intelligences throughout the universe owe Him allegiance.
3. The greatness of His power. Wide as is His kingdom, His power is adequate to hold and govern it. Spiritual supremacy involves supremacy of every name. To secure it, upheavals and overturnings are inevitable. Under the pressure of spiritual forces, all other forces must give way.
4. The blessedness of His sway. The prophetic representations of the Messiah's reign are glorious and happy. All blessings come down upon the people.
II. THE REBELLION OF HIS SUBJECTS.
1. Its universality.
2. Its wickedness. Men's treatment of Christ is more gratuitously wicked than anything else. He came, self-moved, to do them infinite good.
3. Its impotence.
4. Its folly. This rebellion is misery in its progress, and ruin in its result. It fills the soul with wretchedness and fear in time, and leaves it under the wrath of God in eternity.
(Monday Club Sermons.)I. THE DETERMINED HATE OF THE PEOPLE (vers. 1-3). The word "rage" suggests the idea of Oriental frenzy and excitement of a tumultuous concourse of crowds of people, all wildly angry. "Imagine" is the same word as is rendered "meditate" in Psalm 1:2. While the godly meditate on God's law, the ungodly meditate a project which is vain. Let us not be in league with the world, for its drift is against the Lord.
II. THE DIVINE TRANQUILLITY (vers. 4-6). The scene shifts to heaven; God is ever undismayed.
III. MESSIAH'S MANIFESTO (vers. 7-9). Standing forth, He produces and recites one of the eternal decrees. Before time was, He was the only-begotten of the Father. The world is His heritage, but the gift is conditional on prayer. For this He pleads, and let us plead with Him. The pastoral staff for the sheep; the "iron rod" for those who oppose.
IV. OVERTURES AND COUNSELS OF PEACE (vers. 10-12). "Kiss," the expression of homage (1 Samuel 10:1).
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
1. The opposition would be universal, and characterise all classes of men.
2. It is intense. The heathen "rage."
3. It is organised. They consult to find pretexts to justify their hostility. It is violent and aggressive. The restraints of the gospel are irksome and hateful. When argument and oratory failed, force was employed. It was foretold that all the crafty counsel and all the violent opposition should fail. Vain to imagine that human craft can contravene omniscience, or human power overcome omnipotence. It is the potsherd striving with his Maker. If God's expostulation be disregarded, then He speaketh in judgment. While adverse nations perish, the kingdom of Christ shall continue and become universal. When the Son says, "I will declare the decree," He has respect to future revelations as well as to the one then announced. He intimates that henceforth there shall be brighter and more ample discoveries of the Divine purpose. And the promise was verified by fact. The decree is not only declared, it is confirmed by the resurrection, the intercession and the enthronement of Messiah. The universality of the Redeemer's kingdom is certain, but do existing facts look towards its consummation? Wonderful preparations are indicative of this. The great programmes of discovery and of instrumentality nearly complete. The great programme of prophecy is nearly accomplished.
(W. Cooke, D. D.)
(Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
Imagine a vain thing.
(F. W. Macdonald, M. A.)
1. Some young king, entering upon the rule of God's Kingdom, has borne in upon his mind, from his very position, those strange and unprecedented words of Nathan — words of inexhaustible meaning, and yet quite fresh from their novelty — and entering into their spirit as, to a pure and thoughtful mind, they opened up regions of contemplation interminable in extent and full of wonders, and combining them perhaps with some show of opposition to his rule at home, or some threatened defection from his authority by tribes abroad, — the young king east his thoughts and aspirations into this hymn.
2. And what young monarch was in such a condition except Solomon? Every one of the conditions of the problem suits him. He was the seed of David, and therefore the Son of God. He was appointed king on Zion Hill. His rule tended to universality, and his aspirations, being those of a profound intellect and, at the same time, of an uncorrupted youth, must have aimed at conferring on all peoples the blessings of God's Kingdom.
3. If we could realise to ourselves the thoughts and emotions of those early Davidic kings — standing, as all of them did, to Jehovah as His anointed, bearing all of them the title of His Son, and pointing forward to such a heritage, even all peoples; and yet so surrounded with darkness, and having but such imperfect instruments in their hands wherewith to realise their ideal, and so circumscribed on every side — what aspirations must have filled their hearts as they stood thus before so high a destiny! And yet, as all things seemed to make it impossible for them to reach it, what perplexities must have tormented them till, wearied out by the riddles of their position, some of them turned wilfully aside from the true path!
4. But if we can ill fathom the thoughts of these great creative minds, how much less those of the true theocratic King, the true Messiah and Son of God, when entering upon His kingdom, and standing at its threshold with all the possibilities of it clear before Him, and the way needful to be trod to reach it also clear! We know that He was sometimes troubled in spirit, and sometimes rejoiced greatly, alternating between a gloom more dark than falls on any son of man and a rightness more luminous than created light. But with full view of His work He entered on it, and with full view of the glory He prosecuted it to the end.
5. The Psalm, if a typical Psalm in the mind of its human author, referred to the installation of the theocratic king on Zion, who took God's place over His kingdom, and stood to Him in all the endearing relations expressed by the name of Son. The writer to the Hebrews finds in it the statement of the manifestation of the true theocratic King and Son in power from His resurrection and ascension; and His principle is just. The one was a rehearsal of the other. All this Old Testament machinery, and this calling one who was king by the name Son, and the like, would never have been but for the other; it was only in order to suggest the other and prepare for it. It was a prophecy of the other. It contained the same ideas. And its having been imperfect, as it was, implied that the other — that which was perfect — should also be. Only, that which the Old Testament writer had not yet foreseen had now taken place; the material embodiment of the ideas of the kingdom had passed away, and all things had become spiritual in Christ.
(Professor A. B. Davidson.)
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