Psalm 131:3

Let Israel hope in the Lord; let him, because he has such abundant reason for so doing, in the experience that he has had of the Lord's gracious working. This is the refrain of several of these "songs of degrees," which, we have seen, are essentially "songs of uplifting," or calls to put trust and hope in God.

I. MAN'S PERSONAL EXPERIENCE IS SELDOM, IF EVER, PRECISELY REPEATED. Froude suggests that experience is like the stern-lights of a ship, which show the way that has been taken. And he hints that experience is of practically little use for the guidance of the way that has to be taken. But this is a very partial view. It would not culture a man in the dependence and trust, which are the key-notes of his nobility, if his life were a mere succession of precise repetitions, so that he might know precisely how to act in each recurring case, and the lessons of experience were a mere routine; a fixed measure to be applied to every instance. Life with emergencies and surprises is alone a healthy life for a moral being in whom character is to be trained. It was a misanthrope who said, "The thing which hath been is, and there is nothing new under the sun." And every man will be prepared to say, on looking over his life, that nothing ever happened in his life which was a precisely imitative experience; nothing that proved to be exactly what he expected it to be. Then it may be hastily said that experience is a delusion, and cannot really help us. What we have to see is that it cannot, and never was intended to, help us as a yard-measure does. How, then, does it help?

II. MAN'S PERSONAL EXPERIENCE ESTABLISHES PRINCIPLES AND BRINGS KNOWLEDGE OF WHICH MAN CAN MAKE PRACTICAL USE. Israel restored from exile had a new set of experiences, but his knowledge of God's adaptations of grace to all previous experiences established confidence in him. It was easy to argue that God, having made adjustments to their need in forty-nine cases, was not likely to be baffled by the fiftieth. And we can always get that persuasion out of a life-experience. And we can plainly see the force of this principle - all human experiences, though apparently unlike each other, go into classes. We can always find something in past experience which belongs to the same class as our present experience; and then, if we can fully apprehend the Divine intervention in some case that belongs to the class, we can confidently say to our soul, "Soul, hope thou still in God." - R.T.

Let Israel hope in the Lord.
Humility is the root of hope. Hope is the blossom of meekness. As these graces of the true child develop themselves in the heart of a man, he cherishes the Divine, the sublime conviction that it is God the Spirit who is working within him, "both to will and to do."

I. A LARGE PORTION OF EXPERIMENTAL RELIGION, AND OF THE DIVINE LIFE WITHIN A MAN, MAY BE CONSIDERED UNDER THE FORM OF HOPE. Religious experience is a strong and well-grounded expectation that the promises which God has made to us will not be broken. Such expectation will triumph over the delusion of our senses, over the bitter accusations of our consciences, and the apparently stern decrees of God's providence. "We are saved by hope." A young Christian begins by hoping for salvation, and the earnest worker hopes for his reward. God's servant bears his precious seed and casts it into the furrows, but he could not do so without the hope. All the strongest intuitions of faith are of the nature of hope. We are "prisoners of hope" so long as we are pent up in this "durance vile" of flesh and death. The essence of faith is to "turn to the stronghold," and look for the changeless life beyond the reach of our present turmoil, temptations, and disappointment.


1. It is a Divine hope, "hope in the Lord"; "hope thou in God"; "truly my soul waiteth upon God." The confidence of Israel in their own destiny and deliverance sprang not from their strange history, not from their own mental power, not from their value in their own esteem, not from their deserts, but from the Lord Jehovah. The root of their being was the eternal, ever-living, holy, faithful, covenant-keeping God. He could not be untrue, and He had promised.

2. It is a diffusive hope. The hope of the psalmist was strong enough to quicken the hope of all around him: he sang, "Let Israel hope in the Lord." A Christian's hope should be so thorough and earnest, and rational and life-giving, that he should be able to say by his very look, "I hope in the Lord, why should not you?" and should thus move like incarnate sunshine through this dark world, the messenger of peace to ,broken spirits, the conqueror of death to the death-doomed, the minister of joy and gladness.

3. It is a practical hope. This characteristic is to be gathered out of the words "from henceforth." It takes its start from the actual circumstances in which we are placed. Some one exclaims, "May I not wait until I have received some clearer evidence of the love of God? May I not wait until this mystery of His providence shall be solved? May I not wait until I see whether the promises of God are more decidedly vindicated?" No! take the hint of my text, and in the hour of your deepest depression "hope in the Lord from henceforth."

4. It is an eternal hope. "From henceforth, even for ever," is the watchword of our psalm. Our hope should and must take the long "for ever" in. It has to do with unchanging realities, with an everlasting salvation; it looks forward to unseen things; it anticipates the ultimate fulfilment and accomplishment of all things that have been spoken by holy prophets since the world began.

(H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

1. His nature invites our confidence. Boundless in love, He longs intensely to do us good. Infinite in knowledge, He is acquainted with every aspiration of our heart. Unsearchable in wisdom, it is easy for Him to form the best plans for accomplishing His purposes. Omnipotent in power, all agencies are at His disposal, and none can stay His hand from working.

2. His deeds also invite our confidence. They furnish the most instructive commentary on His character. He has uniformly manifested Himself as a God who delights in mercy: He has never failed to succour those who hoped in Him.

(N. McMichael.)

Tennyson sings of "the mighty hopes which makes us men." Have you ever thought of the worst loss which can come to a man? Loss of property? That is a sad loss, but not the worst. Loss of friends? That is a sad loss, but not the worst. Loss of opportunity? Nor is that the worst of losses. Loss of hope, when the heart dies, and the courage fails, and the hands hang listlessly, and a man begins only and sadly to drudge — this, the loss of hope, is the blackest loss. "I've just got back from Washington, where I've been since the election, trying to get an appointment," said a politician. "Gave up hope, eh?" said a sympathizing friend. "Oh no," was the quick reply. "I came home to hope. It's cheaper to hope here." I like that: hope any way. Get, if you must, the cheapest place to hope, but hope!"

(W. Hoyt, D. D.).

Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions.
This psalm was probably composed on the occasion of the installation of the ark in the place provided for it in the temple. Solomon himself may possibly have been the author; but it is more likely that it came from the lips of one who had been a companion of David as well as of his son.

I. THE IDEA OF THE HOUSE OF GOD (vers. 1-6). David's was an agitated life; but he found time to think for the house of God. Many whose lives are very full do so still. Some of those who care most for Christ's cause and spend on it unceasing energy are the most occupied of business men. Where there is a will there is a way; let only the passion for doing good be present and the time and the means will not be wanting. David was not allowed to carry out his pious intention; but, at great trouble and expense, he collected the materials of which Solomon subsequently made use. Thus one soweth and another reapeth. The good cause descends from generation to generation; and the godly are linked to one another by the sacred task which fills the ages.

II. THE OCCUPATION OF THE HOUSE OF GOD (vers. 7-9). The temple is now supposed to be complete and ready for occupation. In verse 6 the worshippers express their desire to enter the sacred precincts, and expression is given to the sentiments of awe and humility with which this should be done. But something more than the presence of worshippers is needed to constitute God's house: the presence of God Himself is requisite; and, in the next verse, He is requested to take possession of the habitation prepared for Him. Who does not know how empty the Sabbath may be, and how secular the church, when God's presence is not felt? But, when He comes down and breathes His own influence through the soul, then worship is real, and the church truly a house of God.

III. THE SUPPORTS OF THE HOUSE OF GOD (vers. 10-18). In the remainder of the psalm the sacred poet recalls two oracles of the past in support of his prayer. The first is a promise, confirmed by an oath, which was given to David, that to the fruit of his body God would give the throne. And from this the inference is drawn that God will support the son of David in his great national undertaking, and the kings of the future, who will be the conservators of the sacred building. Here we perceive one of the secrets of the art of prayer: it lays hold of God's promise and pleads it. The other oracle refers to God's choice of Zion as His seat. Jehovah had announced that if a habitation for Him were built there, He would make it His rest for ever; and from this centre He would send out streams of blessing over the whole land. These glowing promises may by us be applied to the Church; and what is said about David may be applied to Christ. But these promises may also be applied to the temple of the individual soul. How blessed is the soul of which God has taken possession with the words, "This is My rest for ever," etc.

(J. Stalker, D. D.)

I. DAVID'S ANXIETY TO BUILD A TEMPLE (vers. 1-5; 1 Chronicles 22:14-16). We are to worship God with our best, and His house should always surpass the houses of His worshippers.

II. THE REMOVAL OF THE ARK TO ZION (vers. 6-10). The reference in verse 6 is to David's experience in the days of his youth, when he used to hear of the ark in his native town, although he had never seen it. On its return from the Philistines the ark was for twenty years in the forest-city, Kirjath-jearim (1 Samuel 7:2), where it was out of sight, and, in a large measure, out of mind. Here David found it (2 Samuel 6.), and brought it up to "the city of David," to Jerusalem. Having been installed in the capital, it was used for its appointed and appropriate purpose, and the psalm recites the feelings and words of the people in view of their privileges.

III. THE COVENANT MADE WITH DAVID (vers. 11-13; 2 Samuel 7; Psalm 89:28-37).

IV. THE PROMISE BASED ON THE COVENANT (vers. 14-18). This strophe, although it is not expressly so stated, rehearses the words of God Himself, resuming and enforcing the terms of the original engagement. Jehovah declares that Zion is His resting-place. Here Jehovah sat as upon a throne, and manifested His royal state by the blessings lie bestowed upon His people. These blessings are set forth with detail and emphasis. In the concluding verses the poet reverts to the main theme, the grace given to the house of David and the promise linked inseparably with that lineage. The horn is a common Biblical emblem for strength and prosperity (Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 75:10; Ezekiel 29:21; Revelation 5:6), and to say that a horn should sprout or shoot forth for David is to convey the idea of some signal descendant who should fulfil all that David suggested. The psalm closes with a contrast between the scion of David's house and his foes. They are to be clothed with shame and wear it as a garment, while on the contrary the crown upon his head sparkles with jewels, its lustre undimmed, its splendour unfading.

(T. W. Chambers, D. D.)

I. PREPARATORY WORK. The picture of my text may be a rebuke to the slothfulness of us all, to the feeble wavering purposes of Divine services which we languidly entertain and partially carry out, to the preference of our own comfort to God's work, which leads us all to give but the superfluity of our time, or of our means, or of our sympathy, to the service of our brethren, or, what is the same thing, to doing the work of God. But it should come with a special message to men, and emphatically to women, of comparative leisure and freedom from corroding frets and consuming toils. Brace yourselves for continuous service, give yourselves in resolved self-dedication to it, and fling behind you your leisure and regard for your own selfish repose, that you may lay some stone in the Temple of God.

II. THE PRAYER FOR GOD'S BLESSING ON THE WORK. The prayer rests upon the profound conviction of the incompleteness of all our organizations and works if taken by themselves. The Temple may be finished. But something more is needed. Not till the ark is in the Holiest of all, and the cloud of glory fills the house, could they say, "It is finished." And the lesson is of everlasting importance. It is true for all ages of the Church. None, perhaps, ever needed it more than our own. We need to guard ourselves most jealously lest we come to pug the instrument in the place of the power, to "burn incense to our own net, and to sacrifice to our own drag." If ever we do that, then we shall soon haw to say, "We have toiled all night and caught nothing."

III. THE DIVINE ANSWER, WHICH MORE THAN FULFILS THE PSALMIST'S DESIRES. The prayer had pointed to David's swearing to the Lord as a plea on which its petitions rested. The reply points to a mightier oath than David's, as the ground on which God's mercy is, sure. The king "sware to the Lord." Yes, but "the Lord hath sworn to David." That is grander and deeper. Another parallel of the same kind occurs between the former and the latter parts of the psalm. The one alleges David's finding out a habitation for the Lord," as a plea. The other replies, "The Lord hath chosen Zion," etc. A mightier will than David's had determined it long ago. State this in its widest form, and what does it come to but that great truth, that God's own love is the cause, and God's own promise, based upon His unchangeable nature, the guarantee for all His merciful dealings with us? He is His own all-sufficient reason. The day shall come when the weary work of the ages shall be accomplished, and the glory of the Lord shall fill that wondrous house. In that lofty and glorified state of His Church the prayers of earth shall be surpassed by the possessions of heaven. Here we ask that. God would dwell with us, and there "the tabernacle of God shall be with men," etc. Here we ask for righteousness as our garment, and there it shall be granted us to be arrayed in "fine linen, clean and white," etc. Here we ask for joy in the midst of sorrow, and there "they shall obtain joy and gladness," etc.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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