Still I am certain to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord; be strong, and let thine heart take courage; yea, wait on the Lord." The psalmist is speaking to himself, to encourage himself in firmer confidence in God, the believing half of his soul addressing the despondent or weaker half. "I had fainted," or "had perished," is necessary to complete the sense of ver. 13. The passage teaches us how to become strong to meet the dangers, difficulties, temptations, and afflictions of life.
I. FAITH IN THE GOODNESS OF GOD. (Ver. 13.) The psalmist has a firm assurance that God will make his goodness manifest to us in our personal history. "He is good to all, and his tender mercy is over all his works." That he will be good to us rests on the assurance that he will be good to all, and not because we have any superior or peculiar claim. For goodness is kindness or benevolence to those who have not merited or deserved it by their character or conduct. If we cannot see the manifest proofs that God has been as good to all as he has been to us, we must believe that the evidence will come some time; or, if we cannot see the proofs that he will be good to us - delivering and redeeming us according to our need - we must believe that he is doing all that can be done for us, in seen and unseen ways beyond our power of interpretation.
II. WAITING UPON GOD. This may mean one or both of two things.
1. Service to God. There is nothing so strengthening to our whole nature - nothing that so nerves us to meet danger and difficulties - as the doing all that we know to be the will of God - doing all known duty. An educating, developing power, in obedience to duty, which nothing can take the place of.
2. Waiting for God; or, hope in him. God has his own time and method of doing things. "If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it;" "We are saved by hope."
III. BY CULTIVATING COURAGE. Moral courage. As a habit of the mind, and not only upon occasions; gathering up those considerations that foster and nourish a courageous heart.
1. Our past successes should help us to this, and even some of our failures, when we see how they might have been avoided.
2. God is on our side, and will help with the direct aid of his Spirit all who are aiming at the right.
3. Things are possible to courageous minds which are impossible to weak, cowardly hearts. "Let thine heart be strong." "To him that believeth all things are possible" - believeth in God and believeth in himself. - S.
I. FAITH EXPECTS TO SEE ENRAPTURING VISIONS.
I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
I. GOD'S GOODNESS IS OFTEN A MATTER OF FAITH RATHER THAN OF SIGHT. A good purpose of His often takes time to ripen. Sometimes it is long before it even appears above ground. Meanwhile there is the bleak, dreary field. In Nature we know what to expect, so that the harvest is hardly a matter of faith. Still, our Lord teaches that the attitude of the farmer, while he waits for the harvest, should be that of His disciples in regard to the Kingdom of God. Faith in God implies faith in good. The word "God" is "good." God is not God except He be good. But it is easier to believe this as an abstract fact than in its practical applications; for there are times when we cannot see the goodness of the Lord.
II. WE FAINT BECAUSE WE DO NOT SEE IT. This brought out more strongly by the added words, "in the land of the living." It is here where we want to see it, here in this scene of strife, rebellion, cruelty, extortion, and all manner of evil. We are not troubled about God's goodness in the next world. The believer takes it for granted, indeed, that there every cloud will be dispelled and every hard question settled. It is God's goodness in the land of the living which sometimes puzzles him. It might be comparatively easy, as I have said, to frame an abstract conception of a perfect being, and to write under it "Supremely Good," but. goodness is not an abstract thing. Goodness takes shape and consistency only by contact with objects. As a mere abstract quality it has no practical significance. You may as well affirm it of a statue. It has meaning only as it is exercised. But if God be infinitely good, how can sin and evil be? This is the knotty point. Neither the Epicurean, by getting rid of God in human life; nor the Deist, nor the Pantheist, give any real help. Given the existence of a personal God, and the existence and work of evil is not an easy matter to resolve. The question is summed up in a passage of that favourite book of our childhood, Robinson Crusoe, where the poor heathen Friday asks in all simplicity why God, being all-powerful, did not kill the devil. Many of us have asked the same question. And yet the fact of such goodness visible in the world and in human life is assumed by the psalmist. He has faith in it. He believed to see it in the land of the living. Can we see as much?
1. God does not throw us entirely upon testimony as to this, for His goodness can be seen, both here and now. However hard we may find it to reconcile this fact with other facts, it is true that the world and human life furnish multiplied evidences of God's goodness which appeal to the ordinary sense. The provisions of Nature are illustrations of this. It was something more than mere ingenious artifice which made the bread-fruit grow in the tropics and not in the northern latitudes. Similarly this goodness is seen in a thousand things in the social and domestic life of men. There is the setting of the solitary in families, and the blessed ties which unite husband and wife and parent and child. There are these things and many more like them. And each one of us if we had our sorrows, we have had our joys. Life has brought blows, but it has also brought balsams: calamities, but also mitigations. Labour has been offset with rest; tears with smiles. No life has been utterly bleak and barren. And for many of the worst of our calamities we have had only ourselves to blame. They have come through our refusing the goodness of God. Now all these appeal to our senses, and God would have us reason from the seen to the unseen, from that we can comprehend to that which we cannot. If we look at the state of society alone and affirm the evidence of a beneficent will, we must often confess what seems as if the contrary were true.
2. But we must hold to what we know of God's goodness and trust where we cannot know. The popular proverb says, "Seeing is believing"; but the Scripture reverses that proverb; "believing is seeing." We shall faint if we do not believe. Because there is an earthquake shall I cease to believe in gravitation? I remember a land-locked bay, which, from some peculiarity or other, the tide used to leave two-thirds bare when it ebbed. It was one of the loveliest spots I ever saw at high water, but one of the most ghastly when the tide was out. I might stand by the shore and look out over the dismal expanse of mud, and say, "The place is ruined: it never will be beautiful any more." I look down into the stagnant pools, and they are glassy and motionless under the hot sun, and I say, "The tide is gone, the joy and life of the ocean come hither no more." Fool that I am. Out yonder in the ocean depths, even while I mourn, the sea is rallying, and gathering itself up to move upon the land. By and by the stagnant pools will begin to stir, and the little eddies to whirl, and pool to reach over to pool and to run into one, until soon the bay will be brimming again, and the mud-banks hidden and the fresh, living tide enfolding the rocks. There are periods of slack-water in the history of individuals, of churches, and of nations; periods of mud and stagnation; days and years without a ripple. And when the ripple begins to come, and the stagnation begins to be stirred, that which is the presage of better things often makes the prospect look uglier than before. It takes-strong souls to go through such periods; believing souls, which have settled faith in the laws of God's tides, and which believe in the force when they do not see the ripple or the wave. Breaking-up is a not uncommon fact in the lives of good men and women. Occasionally they are thrown out of their tight, comfortable ships, and see the strips go to pieces, and have to cling to fragments or make rafts. It is hard to see goodness in such wreck as that; and yet when a ship goes down at sea, the man who has a life-preserver or a timber thinks himself happy. The question is whether we can bring ourselves to think that God is good when He transfers us from the ship to the timber: whether we can stretch the word goodness to cover timbers and rafts, and life-preservers as well as ships. If we have taken it for granted that God's goodness means only a sound ship and a voyage compassed the whole way with its protections and comforts, then the wreck and the raft will come to us as terrible surprises. If, on the other hand, we believe in the fact of the goodness of the Lord, any way, ship or raft, storm or sunshine, sailing into port or washed ashore, we shall be strong-hearted and hopeful on the raft no less than on the ship. Only it is well that we take care how we build our ship to begin with. If it is to go to pieces, it is well that the pieces be strong; well that we provide something that will float when the wreck breaks up. If a man's life is put together with selfishness, greed, pride, vanity, he stands a poor chance when the structure is broken up. If he puts out to sea with only his money or his cunning or his social repute or his political or professional or business-standing under him, he will find that such timbers will not float him. They will break with the breaking of the ship. But faith, hope and love are buoyant. If a man has in his ship this triple plank of faith, nothing can send him to the bottom. Life's currents will bear him to land alive.
(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)
1. What? "The goodness of the Lord." The forces of God are adequate to overcome the forces of evil. The eternal right must prosper. God will do more than hold His own. No good reason is there to be hopeless about a world that has God in it and over Psalms 2:2. Where? "In the land of the living." That the goodness of the Lord will be seen in the land of the dead no one doubts; what we sometimes forget is that we are to look for increasing revelations of His goodness in the present. "Godliness hath the promise of the life that now is." "The meek shall inherit the earth." "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."
II. FAITH AWAKENS FORTITUDE. It gives strength of heart and hope; inspires courage; lights the eye; nerves the impotent arm; plucks victory from defeat.
III. FAITH LEADS TO FIDELITY. Those who are full of faith are characterized by faithfulness; they can be depended upon to do their duty, for they have an abiding principle of obedience within their hearts. So long as we are in the world we must needs battle against adverse circumstances, but let us see to it that over against every evil we put the Heaven-provided antidote; that over against worldly trouble we put Divine comfort; that over against painful discipline we put the Divine purpose; that over against the world's sin we put the world's Saviour.
(J. M. Campbell.)
I. GREAT AS IS THE MISERY OF THE WORLD, IT IS NOT SO GREAT AS IT SOMETIMES SEEMS. Anguish, suffering, sorrow, are not the prevailing notes in the music of earth. Calamities are the exception, not the rule.
II. Much OF THE MISERY WE DEPLORE IS NOT SO GREAT TO THOSE WHO BEAR IT AS IT APPEARS TO US. Use is second nature, and what we are used to does not make us unhappy as it otherwise would.
III. THE CAPACITY FOR SORROW IS ESSENTIAL TO THE CAPACITY FOR JOY. A sorrowless world would be a joyless one.
IV. WITH MUCH OF MAN'S MISERY GOD IS NOT CHARGEABLE AT ALL. It is the result of man's sin.
(W. Garrett Herder.)
I. A DOCTRINE STATED. Salvation is by faith. That is the great act by which man is saved. If he believes he is saved.
II. DIFFICULTIES OF THE AWAKENED SOUL.
1. Want of feeling.
2. Sense of ill-desert.
3. Cannot see evidences in ourselves. But these will come if you believe first. They are the product, and not the cause, of faith.
4. Repentance not deep enough.
5. No great joy.
6. Sanctification and likeness to Christ so slight.
III. DIRECTIONS TO MORE ADVANCED BELIEVERS. The whole course of the Christian life must be believing to see. In our enterprises for God. in our inward conflicts. In doctrinal perplexities. In times of prosperity our only safeguard is to believe beforehand. In our journey to heaven.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE CONDITION OF SAINTS IN THIS PRESENT WORLD, as to the trials they are subjected to. We are born sinners into a world that lies in wickedness; and hence are brought forth to sorrow, as the sparks fly upward. We are cast on a climate where Satan rules. And those who are new-born, are the peculiar objects of his hatred and rage: whom he will, by policy or power, seek to deceive and destroy. It were hence easy to show, that the trials of saints in the present life are neither light nor few.
II. THE SOUL'S FAITH IN THE GOODNESS OF GOD in the land of the living. That is, the felicity of the better world. Now, this faith is
1. Of a very earnest kind.
2. It causes the soul to prefer this goodness of the Lord above all things else.
3. It is accompanied with a well-grounded hope of the happiness to be enjoyed above.
4. It works the heart to a patient waiting for it.
5. It excites to most serious diligence that they do not come short.
III. IN WHAT MANNER THIS FAITH KEEPS THE SOUL FROM FAINTING,
1. Because of the transcendent excellency the believing soul discerns in what God has promised.
2. Because such souls see in their sufferings that which will prepare them for the heavenly felicity (1 Corinthians 4:17).
3. Because they anticipate what awaits them there.
4. Because it arms them against all present temptation and murmuring of the flesh, and endues them with courage to hold on their way.
1. It is vain to expect peace on earth.
2. Hence be assured there is an after-state where God will distinguish between the good and the evil.
3. Consider how great our privilege in the Gospel.
4. Make sure that you be born again for a better world.
I. It teaches that SUBMISSION TO THE WILL OF GOD FLOWS FROM THE WORD OF GOD AS THE MEANS. In the Word there are many clearly established principles, designed and calculated to quiet the mind under trials.
1. God admonishes us to this effect. The Word of God is the inspired commentary on the book of Providence. Compare the events of your life. Providence illustrates the Scriptures, and they explain Providence. If you look only at Providence, you cannot see the love of God to His people in those dispensations which are dark and afflictive. You would think that your heavenly Father trod forgotten you. But the Word of God answers us that it is not so.
2. For they show us that all events are appointed or permitted by God. Nothing is by chance.
4. That death does not terminate our existence. Look to the future state in the light of Divine revelation: that unravels the whole mystery. All that was dark in the ways of Providence is there illuminated; all that appeared disorderly is there arranged; all that seemed evil is there felt and acknowledged to be good.
II. SUBMISSION FLOWS FROM FAITH AS FROM THE INSTRUMENT. Many have read the discoveries of Divine revelation, and have been strangers to unfeigned submission, because they do not fully and firmly believe these discoveries. That the exercise of faith is necessary in order to maintain this state of mind, appears from the following considerations: —
1. Those truths contained in the Scriptures, designed and calculated to produce submission, relate to things unseen and eternal (2 Corinthians 4.).
2. Faith prevents hasty and unwarranted conclusions respecting the doings of God. It is a common error, when a trial befalls us, to conclude at once that it is against us; and this error results from unbelief of the faithfulness of God to His promises. This was the conclusion of David, who "said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul." But "Blessed are all they that wait for Him." "It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord" (Hebrews 2:3, 4).
3. Faith has respect to the time past, as well as the time to come: to what is recorded of the doings of the Lord, as well as to what is promised.
4. All the treasures of grace are communicated through Christ, and by Him to His people; and of His fulness they all receive.
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