Psalm 73:15


One of three of these doings seems to have been in the psalmist's mind, but we cannot certainly say which. The words warrant either interpretation. Let us take, first, that one suggested by them as they stand in the Authorized Version, and as commonly read.

I. THE PEOPLE OF GOD ARE LED ASTRAY. For by "his people" many understand the people of God to be meant, and that they, allured and ensnared by the glitter of earthly prosperity, turn from the ways of God to follow after these ungodly ones. "They are led away by the evil example, just as the psalmist confesses he himself was;" and they turn after them. (Cf. "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.") How often this happens' But what is meant by the "waters of a full cup," etc.? Either the cup of unholy pleasure, which they drain to the dregs; or else it is, as in Psalm 80:5, and as actual experience attests, that when God's people go astray, as here represented, it will be a full cup of sorrow and tears that they will have to drink, as indeed they do. The most miserable of men are backsliders from God. It cannot but be so. This is what our translators meant to imply by their rendering. But another meaning that the words warrant is -

II. A CROWD FOLLOW THEM, THAT IS, THE UNGODLY. The people spoken of are the crowd of hangers on to the prosperous - those who will try to find favour with the rich and great of this world. The Prayer book Version thus sets it forth: "Therefore the people fall unto them, and thereout suck they no small advantage." These hangers on are the people who attach themselves to the world's rich ones, and "who gather like sheep to the water trough," in hopes of what they may get. But whether they get anything or no, the ungodly whom they follow do; they "suck no small advantage." They are yet more worshipped and fawned upon, and have ready to hand innumerable and willing tools to serve their purpose and to bring more "grist to their mill." And the result is that they get more proud and arrogant than ever (see ver. 11). But, child of God, whoe'er thou art, say to thy soul, "My soul, come not thou into their secret."

III. THE PEOPLE OF GOD HAVE TO SUFFER BITTER PERSECUTION. So the Chaldee, the Septuagint, and the Vulgate seem to understand the words. The wicked turn upon God's people, who are, in consequence, "fed with the bread of tears, and have given to them tears to drink without measure" (Psalm 80:5). It is the predestined lot of the people of God; but our Saviour tells us that it is a blessed portion. The last and chiefest of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) declares, "Blessed are ye when men shall persecute you," etc. And it is so; for it shows, by your endurance of persecution, that you have found out the preciousness of the love of God, and know assuredly that, for the sake of it, you may be well content to die. That is knowledge which is, here and now, life eternal. May God keep us from exemplifying the first of these interpretations, and from forming part of that miserable crowd told of in the second! but if we are found amongst the third, then Christ will call us his blessed ones. - S.C.









If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of Thy children.
Homilist.
Searching for relief in the right direction (vers. 16, 17) He went where the mind of God was to be met with, where he obtained such ideas from the great Fountain of wisdom as calmed his agitation and solved his difficulties. Whenever God speaks to us, whether in providential events, or in the works of nature, or in sacred writings, or in the dictates of our own consciences, it must be in some place, and that place is a sanctuary. To go into this sanctuary, is simply to put our minds in a reverent, praying, waiting attitude.

II. FINDING relief in the right direction.

1. New light came (ver. 17). The condition of the wicked.(1) Their position is dangerous. "Thou didst set them in slippery places."(2) Their danger is awful. "Thou castedst them down into destruction." Into destruction of what? Of all their property, worldly grandeur, health, friends, all that renders existence tolerable. This comes and breaks the sleep of sin. "As a dream when one awaketh."(3) His own temper in relation to their prosperity (ver. 21).

2. New inspiration came. New confidence in God.(1) New confidence in His upholding power (ver. 23).(2) New confidence in His future guidance (ver, 24). Man wants a guide through this life. God is the only safe Guide. Following His guidance, we shall be led on to glory.(3) A supreme delight in God (ver. 25). He felt that without God the universe to him was nothing; that with God, whatever else was absent, he had all his delight. "God is the strength of my heart."(4) Here is a fact in the history of all men. The fact is decay. The law of decay is universal and inexorable.(5) Here is a privilege in the experience of some men. God is the soul's power and portion, all-satisfying, inexhaustible, ever-enduring "portion."(6) A higher consciousness of nearness to God (vers. 27, 28).

(Homilist.)

A great preacher has reminded us of a truism that we are all in danger of forgetting, namely, how very old our difficulties are, that there is really very little of novelty about them. We are apt to think that they are new, that no one has ever faced the problems with which we are confronted; that human life at no period of its history has been crowded with problems and perplexities as it is crowded for us to-day. But all the time there is really very little of novelty about them. When the cry goes up, "It is too hard for me," what can religion say? "Until I went into the sanctuary of God" — that is what religion says.

1. To believe in God is to believe in His purpose; it is to be absolutely certain that there is a golden cord somewhere running through the history of the world, running through the story of my own personal life, often hidden, sometimes emerging, but continually there, the eternal purpose of God. If I am sure there is a purpose, though I have not found it yet, I can afford to wait if there is anything to be waited for. I can understand how the very waiting, the very imperfection of my knowledge, the very impossibility of explaining things to me as yet, may be invaluable to me, develop powers m me that will best enable me to see the light when it comes.

2. The man who prays, apart altogether from the answer to his prayer, prays humbly, feelingly, perhaps with moral consciousness, in the very act of prayer is calming his spirit, accumulating strength, exercising his highest powers in the highest way. "As He prayed He was transfigured." And the man who worships, without much thought of edification perhaps, in the very act of worship is realizing his dependence on his God, educating his whole nature.

3. The sense of immortality was borne in on him in the sanctuary of God. "Man doth not live by bread alone." The whole place rang with echoes of that cry. Those lives that were in his thought, those inequalities that troubled him, that suffering that was so undeserved, that prosperity that was so basely won — how small they all look beside that endless life of which the sanctuary spoke to him. God has a larger scheme than he has ever dreamt of, a vaster vision of prosperity a loftier standard of happiness — "then understood! the end of these men." The idea of consecration. The sanctuary of God! It speaks of a separate place, a hallowed house of men and things consecrated to the service of God. Do you remember that splendid picture, the vision of St. John, the crowned ones of the earth bringing their crowns and flinging them down before the throne? What were those crowns? Surely the completions, the highest developments of the power and the talent with Which God had endowed them. That is the picture of the future. But, tell me, may it not be the picture of to-day? Surely, it makes the grandeur of one's work when you dedicate your work. Those crowned ones were never so crowned as when they cast their crowns before the throne. It makes the value of their work. Everything is valuable, but for what, for whom is that work done? It lights up the whole career, it makes failure more bearable, success more sweet. It is all for God, it is brought into His sanctuary; we cast our crowns before Him.

(Bp. F. E. Ridgeway.)

The most intelligent among believers themselves have, as a rule, known painfully what doubt is, and have even built up their newer and better faith upon the ruins of the old. If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for faith. Doubt is simply the power to see the negative side of things of which faith is the power to see the positive side. No believer who knows what he is talking about claims that every. thing is clear. What believers do claim, in all the great questions between faith and unbelief, is that the reasons for unbelief are outweighed by the reasons for faith, and that if faith has its difficulties, unbelief has more. And they claim this also, that while allowing to the full the force of the agnostic question, "Who hath known the mind of the Lord?" all that we practically need to know of God for the imperious necessities of life and duty and redemption has been adequately revealed in Jesus Christ. And as we admit that there is room for doubt, let us further admit that the ministry of doubt has often played a beneficent part in the progress of men's knowledge of truth and their advance from a lower to a higher faith. God as often speaks to us through the chill silences of doubt as when the whole air around us is musical with the voices of faith. Hence the saying that the doubters of "one generation are the believers of the next." The great movements of thought in science, in philosophy, in religion, have invariably begun in scepticism as to the finality of the movements which went before them. True, as Carlyle says, scepticism is not an end, but a beginning. But you must have the beginning before you can have the end. Let us distinctly understand, however, that the doubt which deserves sympathy, and which God often uses as a stepping-stone by which a man may pass to a nobler faith, is doubt that rests on intellectual grounds, not on moral, or, rather, immoral grounds. That was the kind of doubt which the psalmist had. He assures us he had cleansed his heart, and washed his hands in innocency. His doubts were those of a good man, who was earnestly trying to live a pure and upright life. Now, supposing that a man is really and truly striving to be a good man, pure in thought, devout in heart, upright in life, spiritual in his views of things, and yet is troubled with grave and bewildering doubts, what is he to do? Several things; but the one thing which I have both time and desire to emphasize now, is this — he should keep his doubts to himself. That was what the psalmist did. He felt that, if he had not done so, if he had gone about instilling them into other minds, and suggesting to them difficulties they probably did not feel, he would have been acting treacherously towards God's children and his own brethren. Treacherously! No, more than that — devilishly! It is the serpent in Genesis who insinuates doubt. It is the Mephistopheles in Faust who is the spirit that denies. "Don't tell me your doubts," said Goethe wisely, "tell me your certainties; I've doubts enough of my own." Be sure of this — that the most serious moral injury you can do to your brother-man is in any way to undermine his religious faith, unless you have a higher one to offer him in place of it, or to weaken his sense of the sacred imperiousness of the moral law. It involves, first of all, the man's loss of what even sceptics themselves admit to be, and what believers know from experience to be, the noblest and fullest source of the moral strength we all need for successful resistance of the assaults of temptation and of sin. What is the meaning of human brotherhood, if there be no Divine Father, if there be no Christ in whom humanity is summed up and perfected, crowned and glorified? Then, secondly, loss of faith involves, as a rule, loss of courage to do and bear in this human life of ours. It is a common saying, but it is very true, that ages of faith are strong and heroic ages, and ages of scepticism ages of weakness and decay. And what is true of ages is true also of individuals. Look abroad upon the world to-day, and everywhere you will find that it is believers who are foremost in the ranks of those who are toiling self-denyingly for the real progress of our race. And the reason of this is clear. You know how the companies that supply us here in London with water build lofty towers at their pumping-stations. Why? Because it is a law of nature that water will not rise above its own level. And so, if the cisterns at the top of our houses are to be supplied with water, a column of the fluid must be forced at the pumping-stations to a height higher than that of the highest houses where the water is to come. In the same way, if we are to be inspired to holy and loving activity for the good of others, we must draw our inspiration from a source higher than ourselves. Life for man must flow from life in God. We can give to others only as we receive from Him. And though I don't by any means deny that there are to-day many men and women who are doing noble service in the field of philanthropy without any profession of religious faith, this is rather in spite of their lack of faith than because of it. What they would gain in joy, in inspiration, in a sense of support in their work, if they had this faith, may be proved from the experience of those who, with labour for man, join belief in Christ and God. So much for the influence of faith as regards doing. And as for its influence as regards bearing — bearing pain and loss, grief and trial — can you find anywhere such a source of resignation and comfort and hope as in the conviction of God's changeless love and unerring wisdom, in the feeling of the tender and sustaining sympathy of the Divine Man of Sorrows? Our very tears glisten in the sunlight of God's smile. The Cross of Jesus has turned the bitter waters of suffering into a fountain of health and life.

(Henry Varley.)

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