I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.
I. HERE IS A TOUCHING RECORD OF LIFE'S EXPERIENCE. In many respects it is such a one as thousands on thousands of God's people may have passed through, and may be passing through now. If we number the points of experience one by one, the preacher may expand such as may be most appropriate to any ease or cases with which he may be dealing. Here is:
1. A first line of experience - man wanting help from God.
(1) Trouble. (Ver. 6.) A general term, yet conveying often the idea of strait-ness, narrowness, and perplexity. This may arise from bodily weakness, domestic trouble, personal bereavement, or any other of those manifold causes of anxiety to which we are liable.
(2) Fear. (Ver. 4.) The dread of the future is often a heavier care than the distress of the present. How often would it be a great relief if we could see the forthcoming issue of things! But this cannot be. Hence fears arise, and we are tempted to say, "I shall one day perish."
(3) Looking up. (Ver. 5.) We may, we can, look up above our weakness and helplessness to One who is a "Stronghold in the day of trouble" (Psalm 61:2; Psalm 121:1). Note: It is a part of the high and holy education of the saints that trouble teaches them to look up; and thus their whole natures become elevated, as they feel and know that they belong to a higher world than this.
(4) Crying. (Ver. 6; see Psalm 18:6.) In our darkest hours we know to whom we speak (Psalm 62:1). However dark the night and lonely the path, the child cannot help crying, "Father!" even when he cannot see him.
(5) Seeking. (Ver. 4.) This is a prolongation of the cry. It indicates the attitude of the soul, continuously directed towards the great Friend and Helper.
(6) All this is in common with others. (Ver. 5.) "They looked," etc. Not one alone, but millions, are at each moment looking up trustingly and hopefully, away from life's cares and sorrows, to him who ruleth over all. Hence we need not wonder at:
2. A second line of experience - God granting the help that is implored. As there are six stages along the first, so are there six features of the second.
(1) The prayer is heard. (Vers. 4, 6.) Here is a grand field for exploration - the Divine answers to prayer. To enumerate these would require volumes. The saint may well store them up in his memory for the encouragement of troubled ones afterwards. If we did but "give others the sunshine," and "tell Jesus the rest," how rich would be the tokens of mercy with which we should rise from our knees!
(2) Angelic ministry is granted. (Ver. 7.) The existence and ministry of angels are clearly revealed in the Word of God. Abraham; Jacob; Elijah; Daniel (Hebrews 1:14; Psalm 68:17). The phrase, "delivereth them" is equivalent to "sets them free."
(3) Supplies are sent. (Vers. 9, 10.) It is one of the testimonies most frequently given to those who visit God's people in trouble, that supplies are sent to them exactly as they require them (Psalm 37:25).
(4) Deliverance is sent down. (Vers. 4, 7.) God, in trouble, makes and shows "a way of escape." The dart has been turned aside just as it has seemed to be on the point of striking.
(5) The face has been brightened. (Ver. 5.) The anxious look departs when help comes; a lightened heart makes a brightened face.
(6) Consequently, it is proved that those who wait on God will not be put to shame. (Ver. 5, Revised Version.) No! it cannot be. The covenant of God's promise is "ordered in all things, and sure." Not from one alone, but from a great multitude which no man can number, will the testimony come. "Not one thing hath failed of all that the Lord hath spoken." "Thus saith the Lord, They shall not be ashamed that wait for me."
II. THESE VARIED EXPERIENCES OF LIFE ARE HERE TURNED TO MANIFOLD USES.
1. Towards God. (Vers. 1, 2.) The psalmist vows that, having such manifold proof of what God is to him, and of his faithfulness to all his promises, his life shall be a perpetual song of praise; that he will make his boast in God's goodness and grace, so that those who have, like him, been in the depths of affliction, may also, like him, be brought forth into a wealthy place. Note: Deliverances brought about in answer to prayer should be followed by long-continued and grateful praise.
2. Towards the saints. The psalmist
(1) exhorts the saints to join him in thankful song (ver. 3).
(2) He bids them try for themselves how good the Lord is (ver. 8), and he would have them know the blessedness of those who trust in him (ver. 8).
(3) He bids them loyally obey their God: this is what is meant by the word "fear" in ver. 9: not a fear of dread or of servility, but of loyal and obedient reverence. Note: However severe the pressure or great the trouble, we never need depart from the strict line of obedience to God.
(4) He assures them that no loyal souls shall ever be deserted (vers. 9, 10). God will see to it that his faithful ones have all needful supplies.
3. Towards all who have life before them. (Vers. 11, 12.)
(1) He invites the young to come and listen to him, as out of the depths of his own experience he would show them the value of a godly life.
(2) He propounds a question, which may well evoke a response in many a young aspiring heart (ver. 12). See the use to which the Apostle Peter puts this passage (1 Peter 3:10-16).
(3) He gives a clear and definite answer, directing them how to govern the lips and the feet. The lips are to shun guile, and to speak peace and truth. The feet are to avoid evil, and to press after righteousness.
(4) He lays down for them a number of axiomata, which may well be their guide through life.
(a) That the Lord does hear and answer prayer (vers. 15,17-20). The experience of the faithful gives an overwhelming amount of proof of this.
(b) That in pressing on in life, they will find God's judgments abroad in the earth, making a distinction between those who serve him and those who serve him not; rewarding one and condemning the other (ver. 21, Revised Version).
(c) That Divine deliverances will compass the righteous around (ver. 22, Revised Version). Loyal souls will ever be receiving new proofs of the goodness of the Lord, and of the blessedness of such as put their trust in him! "The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion!" Note:
1. Amid all the changeful currents of human thought and sentiment, there are ever, ever, in all ages, climes, and lands, these two great lines of indisputable fact (vers. 15, 16), to which we do well to take heed - that the Lord is on the side of good, and that "the face of the Lord is against them that do evil." No perplexity in the mazes of metaphysical or theological controversy ought ever to conceal or obscure These plain facts from view.
2. It behoves the young to profit by the experience of the old; for, though no two experiences are precisely the same in all details, and though each one must bear his own burden, yet the lives of our fathers, as rehearsed to us by them, do set forth clearly and distinctly certain great principles according to which God governed and guided them - principles which are the same in every age, and which we cannot ignore, save at imminent peril both for the life that now is, and for that which is to come.
3. It behoves us to treasure up the experiences of life, to recount and to record them for the use and help of those who have yet to set out on life's journey. We know not how our young ones may be exposed in life. Gladly would we give them the constant screen of home. But that cannot be. Out into the world they must go. With God's Spirit in their hearts, they are safe anywhere. Without God, they are safe nowhere. We need not talk at them nor try to preach religion obnoxiously to them; but we may, we can, we must, tell them of our God and Saviour, telling them how he has helped us, and will help all who follow him; that they, too, may "taste and see how good the Lord is"! - C.
Let all the earth fear the Lord.I. WHAT IS THE PROPER AWE AND FEAR WHICH IS DUE FROM MAN TO GOD? Distinguish between a servile or superstitious, and a filial or religious fear. The former we are to avoid as a dishonour to God; the latter we are obliged to as an indispensable duty, the true spring and motive of our Christian obedience.
II. SOME CONSIDERATIONS WHICH OUGHT TO POSSESS OUR SOULS WITH THIS AFFECTION TOWARDS THE DEITY. Can we reflect on the infinite knowledge and omnipresence of God, and not stand in awe of that Being from whom even the most secret thoughts and intentions of the heart are not concealed? Or, can we remember that He is infinitely just, without a religious concern for the event of that day, when we must appear before His impartial tribunal? But the attribute which especially demands this affection from us is His power. None can resist or interrupt the execution of His will; He has power to save, and power to destroy; nor is He accountable to any for His dominion over us. But these arguments arising from the perfections of the Deity will yet more effectually possess us with this reverence, if at the same time we reflect with a just humility on ourselves. That we are indigent, defenceless beings; the dependants of His providence; so far as we know, the lowest of all intelligent beings, whose strength is weakness, and whose wisdom is folly. And, what is yet a more mortifying consideration, we have provoked this Almighty Power by our sins; have affronted His goodness, despised His counsel, and rebelled against His authority.
III. THE INFLUENCE THIS AFFECTION WILL HAVE ON THE CONDUCT OF OUR LIVES. In general, the effect of this fear will be a sincere, universal obedience to the commands of God. The awe of His majesty will keep us from presumption, and the promises of His mercy from despair: for, as is His majesty, so is His mercy. If this principle were thoroughly fixed in the minds of men, we should be ashamed of hypocrisy, and tremble at profaneness; neither hope our treachery could escape the notice, nor our blasphemies the vengeance of God. This affection will give warmth to our zeal, and spirit to our devotion; will animate our faith, enliven our hope, and extend our charity; will deter us from sin, and encourage us in our duty.
(J. Rogers, D. D.)
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