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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 27

 

 

Verses 1-14

Psalms 27:1-14

The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Implicit trust

This psalm was written by a man who was at the moment far down in the depths of spiritual conflict, and yet was holding a steady front against his troubles, after all. He prays so passionately, that we should deem him weak even to cowardice, if it were not for the fact that he praises so jubilantly, and lifts his head with a most unsubdued ring in his voice. The psalm is like a summer cloud just before a storm, in that it reserves an overcharge of power to be driven on by a sort of induction into the very verge of the final verse, from which it explodes with a glorious flash of lightning, which clears the air instantly. What are the conditions of implicit trust in the Lord of our salvation, such trust as will ensure peace and comfort? It is likely that most of God’s children, sooner or later, are permitted to journey on wearily over what seemed a highway, only to find, at the last, the sign inscribed, “No thoroughfare here.” A grim kind of consolation enters one’s heart as he murmurs, “Some one has been here before to put up the guideboard, at any rate!”

1. The main condition of resting in the Lord is found in looking outside of one’s self. There is a habit of morbid self-examination which needs to be shunned. Some experiences there are which are too delicate to bear this rude analysis. A woman’s love for her husband, a child’s confidence in his father, could be disturbed fatally and for ever, if only half as much violence were brought to bear upon it as some Christians are accustomed to exert upon their religious feelings. One can tear himself all to pieces, to no sort of profit, and to every sort of harm. The Lord is the one to look at, not ourselves.

2. The next condition of spiritual repose is found in the avoiding of unwise counsellors. We must learn to trust our trust, and not keep rooting it up. No plant grows which is continually being rooted up.

3. Another condition of rest in God is found in drawing a clear distinction between historic faith and saving faith. What secures to us a perfect salvation is spiritual trust in the Saviour, and this is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is easy to receive facts, perhaps, but not so easy to understand experiences which lie deeper than any mere outward acts. Historic faith is not necessarily saving faith.

4. We are to cultivate confidence in the slowly reached answers to our prayers for Divine grace.

5. We must distinguish between emotions and religious states. The one may vary, the other is fixed. Faith is a very different thing from the result of faith; and confidence of faith is even a different thing from faith itself; and yet the safety of the soul depends on faith, and on nothing else. We are justified by faith; not by joy or peace or love or hope or zeal. These last are the results of faith, generally, and will depend largely upon temperament and education.

6. This unbroken courage is a condition of rest. David said that he came near to fainting, and should have done it, only be kept on believing to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. We must not think everything is lost when we happen to have become beclouded. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Confidence in God

This psalm is an instance of what an old divine has called “confidence in God the best succour in the worst seasons.”

I. the occasion of this confidence. In David’s case we find this confidence--

1. In times of peril. The true children of God are oft in peril, and at such times nothing can stand them in such stead as this assured confidence. Luther felt it at Worms. Armed with it, the Christian may ever look even death calmly in the face. Man without it is in time of peril like a ship without anchor in the fury of the storm.

2. In times of privation. Apparently David was (Psalms 27:4) in exile, and deprived of the privileges of worship in the house of God. But he found his great support in his confidence in God.

3. In times of desertion. When he needed friends most, the ranks were thinnest, his standard most deserted. But he had a Friend who would never forsake him. Happy the man who, amidst general unfaithfulness, has found the great treasure of a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

4. In times of calumny. A bitter element in David’s cup were false witnesses and slanderers.

II. some of the grounds on which this confidence rests.

1. The nature of God Himself in His personal relation to us: “My Light, my Salvation . . . the Strength of my life.” It is not what we are, but what God is, that affords a solid ground of confidence in time of trouble. There is an emphasis on that pronoun my which speaks of an eternal covenant, an appropriating faith, a mystical union.

2. Previous interpositions of God for our help. Verse 2 evidently refers to a period in the psalmist’s past history when he was delivered from great danger. As the child of God looks back on the way by which the Lord has led him, and sees how Divine strength has been made manifest in his weakness, confident is he that the grace which has brought him thus far will lead him safely home.

3. The religious experiences he has enjoyed (Psalms 27:8).

4. The promises of God received and rested on by faith.

III. the fruits of this confidence.

1. Complete deliverance from all fear (Psalms 27:1). Fear is unworthy one to whom Jehovah stands in such relations.

2. A positive sense of security from all harm. Jehovah, the Captain of our salvation, takes the timid soul into His own royal tent.

3. A well-spring of happiness. The Christian life has its hosannahs as well as its misereres--its notes of joyous triumph as well as its plaintive “songs in the night.” (T. H. Witherspoon, D. D.)

A psalm for life’s storms

I. courage in life’s storms.

1. This courage is founded on confidence in God. When the soul feels God with it, it becomes invincible.

2. It is heightened by memories of past deliverance. Recollection of past mercies strengthens our faith in future supplies.

3. It defies all future enemies, and faces the mysterious future with a jubilant soul.

II. shelter in life’s storms.

1. The scene where the shelter is sought. The house of the Lord: the place where He specially manifests Himself to His people.

2. The means by which the shelter is to be secured. Dwelling with God; delighting in God; inquiring after God.

3. The source from which it is to be derived. God Himself.

4. The spirit in which it is accepted. Confidence and praise.

III. prayer in life’s storms. The prayer is--

1. An earnest appeal to mercy for relief.

2. It expresses ready compliance with the Divine request. God requires us to seek His favour, not because we can induce Him to be more merciful; nor because our prayer can merit His favours; but because earnest prayer qualifies the suppliant to rightly receive, appreciate, and use the blessing sought.

3. It deprecates the disfavour of God as a terrible evil.

4. It recognizes the transcendent character of Divine friendship. Though all forsake, He remains faithful.

4. It indicates the true method of safety. Obedience to Divine law; interposition for Divine help.

IV. self-exhortation in life’s storms. “I had fainted unless,” etc. An admonishment to himself to be strong.

1. Faith in Divine goodness. The vision of Divine goodness is the only moral tonic for the soul.

2. Consecration to the Divine service. To wait upon the Lord is to serve Him lovingly, thoroughly, faithfully, practically; and such service is moral strength. (Homilist.)

Confidence in God

The Psalms are the outbreathings of the universal heart, a voice for man at all times. We are here reminded of--

I. A profound sense of need and danger This psalm is the cry of a soul in distress. David’s throne, honour, wealth, did not exempt him from suffering; rather they became occasions of distress. To all, the sky of life is often overcast, its path lies along a toilsome way, with burdens too heavy to be borne. Where find rest and safety?

II. the security of trusting in God. God was his Light, and in the consciousness of that light he could see that all things worked together for good to them that love God. The Lord was his Salvation: his safety was assured. Cast into a fiery furnace, One appears with the Christian whose form is like the Son of God. God was the Strength of his life, awakening holy impulses, irradiating his whole spiritual being.

III. the necessity of appointed means in communing with God. In the sanctuary, in the place and in the way of Divine appointment, the psalmist was filled with a sense of the Divine presence. There God’s light, salvation, strength, appeared in a reality and beauty nowhere else displayed. There God appeared not in nature, but in grace; not as a power, but as a Person; not as Creator, but as Redeemer. The psalmist therefore longed for the sanctuary.

IV. obedience to God is indispensable to confiding intercourse with him. At once he would seek, and actively seek, the Lord’s face. There is no real confidence in God without loyalty: obedience is the only atmosphere on which the wing of faith can rise. (Monday Club Sermons.)

The Christian’s boast

David was a boaster, but it was in God; hence it was lawful: “My soul shall make her boast in the Lord.” In any other source of confidence it is unlawful and dangerous.

I. the “one thing” of which David here speaks. The abiding sense of the Divine presence. The temple, or “house of the Lord,” was the place of God’s special manifestations. Abiding in this presence will give--

1. Light--the light of His countenance. It is one thing to abide in our own or in other light--as “the Pharisee” and Zaccheus; a different thing to be in the light of God’s face or presence. This light does two things: it reveals to us God, and shows us what sin is; it reveals God to us, and shows us what salvation is--making the Lord to be our salvation.

2. Satan may accuse, but, if God acquits, whom shall we fear? If the Law has been satisfied, the debt paid, we need fear neither penalties nor imprisonment. There is a second sense in which the Lord is light and salvation. No longer “afraid” of the condemning power of sin, we are warranted in standing in fear of its ruling power in our hearts. Therefore we are exhorted to “work out our salvation.” To do this we need the light to guide us into all truth, the salvation to deliver us from all evil.

3. Strength. “If God be for us” strength is on our side.

4. “The beauty of the Lord.” The beauty of His attributes, as they meet and harmonize for our blessing. The beauty, too, reflected in us; for in His light and salvation and strength we are “changed into the same image.”

5. Joy and singing. When our joy is dependent on the consciousness of what we are or ought to be to God, it is a very uncertain joy, and will rarely produce singing, but rather sighing. But when it is dependent on the sense of what God is to us, then we can say, “I will offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of joy.” To have this joy we must be taken out of self.

II. the condition of attaining this “one thing.” We must “seek after it.” We must “wait on the Lord.” To navigate the sea of life we must keep the eye fixed on this one thing, on the one magnet--Christ. Paul did this, which made his bark “press toward” the haven with such grace and nobility. (The Study.)

The Christian’s triumph

A beautiful affirmation; important possession; glorious triumph.

I. the affirmation.

1. The Lord is light in nature. “All things were made by Him.” All light in nature comes from God’s Son, who is emphatically the Light of the world.

2. In the sphere of reason. God made man with a mind to know, a will to obey, a heart to love--elevated far above the rest of creation. By sin the mind is darkened, the will perverse, the heart depraved. Hence--

3. God is light in the sphere of grace. Man, by the Fall, deprived himself and the race of “those divine gifts”; hence the need of a Redeemer. This we have: “the Lord is salvation.” Light shows us where and what we are--lost, ruined, dead. Christ, our salvation, brings us from the depths of the Fall, recreates us, imparts to us His Spirit, righteousness and life.

II. A most important possession. “My light,” “my salvation.” The beauty of the Psalms is in the pronouns. Light must be in us, or we walk in darkness; bread be eaten, or we starve; so an unapplied Saviour is no Saviour to man. This possession is ours only as we stand in living union with Christ Jesus our Lord.

III. the glorious triumph. “Whom shall I fear?” etc. In possession of Christ’s light and life, the Christian need fear neither sickness, death, grave, nor hell. Over all these lie has complete victory (Romans 8:34-39). (J. Hassler, D. D.)

David’s confidence in God

I. what God was to David.

1. The fountain of gladness to his heart.

2. The author of safety to his person.

3. The giver of strength and might, for the preservation of his life.

Uses--

1. For instruction.

2. For admonition.

3. For comfort.

II. what benefit David reaped thereby. Having the Lord for his God, he is armed against all fear of men or other creatures (Psalms 118:6; Psalms 23:1-4; Psalms 3:3-6). Uses--

1. For instruction.

2. For admonition.

The pathway of power

Light--salvation--strength: three great waves of the sea, telling that the tide can rise no higher. The tide is full. Even so it is with the heart that can say--

I. The Lord is my light.

1. In the natural world God gives us a night between every two days, and in the life beyond we hear of a bow of emerald that breaks the dazzle of the great white throne. Light means truth, and, as it advances in precision and purity, the steps of discovered truth become the songs of degrees with which the tribes go up to the great temple of God.

2. In the spiritual life, both as regards salvation and service, much depends on clearness of vision, and knowledge of how and where to look and what to look for.

II. the Lord is my salvation. The words “Christ for us” have now a clear and exact meaning, setting forth the condition and character of Salvation. And before Christ was crucified for sinners, the main feature of salvation was the same; it was from the Lord, a gift from His hand. “Blessed is the man whose sin is covered.” Sin was then also a transgression, a taint, and a tyranny, and from all the Lord delivered. It was His to deliver the soul from death, the eyes from tears, and the feet from falling. This fact at once humbled and upheld him; it was the Lord’s gift, and yet it was his own possession. And so he could say--“Whom shall I fear? The Lord is my salvation.”

III. the Lord is my strength. Light for the understanding and its judgment; salvation for the heart, its hardness and anxiety; and strength for action and usefulness. How often we come to the Lord, like James and John, and say “we are able”; but the Lord makes a thorough work of the first and second, the light and salvation, before lie entrusts us with the third, the strength on which He puts His own almighty name. We often bring misery upon ourselves, and darkness upon others, by trying to come into the Lord’s service before coming to the Lord Himself. Let us seek the power in the pathway of power:--light, salvation, strength. (G. M. Mackie, M. A.)

The Divine Light

I. David says this. He is in exile, engaged in some struggle on the frontiers of his kingdom: his foes have received a check: he is closely watched, but is, nevertheless, confident of victory. This is the only occasion in which David speaks of the Lord as his Light: the expression occurs only twice in the Old Testament. Micah says, “the Lord shall be a light unto me.” In other places light is spoken of as God’s gift--the light of revelation and of conscience. But here David says, “the Lord is my light.” David’s life was one of great vicissitude, and his temperament was very changeable. Hence he was liable to great depression, especially through the recollection of his awful sins--adulterer and murderer that he was. And yet he was a man after God’s own heart, because a man’s life is to be judged not by its exceptional acts, but by its governing principles. Nevertheless, David was damaged deeply and permanently by his sins. But they did not destroy, though they did deface his real character, his profound religious sense of God’s presence and claims. The leading acts of a man’s life may look one way, the governing principles of his life another. Philip II. of Spain encouraged and paid for the publication of the second great polyglot Bible that was ever printed. But how wrong it would be to infer from that one action what manner of man he was. And so with David: his exceptional acts do not reveal him in his real character and mind. Saul had no depth of character: moral levity and indifference to the claims of God are constantly chargeable against him. But David’s sins, though terrible, were but temporary, and never became the habit of his life, and they did not extinguish in him his deep love of God. Hence, still he could say, “The Lord is my light.”

II. Apply the words to our Lord jesus christ. In their deepest sense they can apply to none else. He whom Jesus said was greatest of woman-born--John the Baptist--was yet “not that light, but came to bear witness of that light.” Christ alone could say, “I am the light of the world.” Some of us may remember that great work of Christian genius, called the “Notre”: it is by Correggio, and is reckoned amongst the chief of the art treasures of the Dresden Gallery. In it the Divine infant is represented as with a body almost transparent with light, and from Him all around are illuminated, and in proportion to their nearness to Him. It is a representation on canvas of a great moral and spiritual truth. For Christ is the one light of men.

III. To the church. Was it not so in the days of persecution? Road the history of the martyrdom of Stephen.

IV. To Christian education. Our text is the motto of the University of Oxford, and expresses the truth that education apart from Him is vain.

V. To the individual conscience. Then refer to Him all teaching, all content. “Lead, kindly Light . . . lead Thou me on.” (Canon Liddon.)

Facts and arguments

I. The facts.

1. “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” The soul is assured of it, and therefore declares it boldly. Into the soul at the new birth Divine light is poured as the precursor of salvation. Where there is not enough light to reveal our own darkness, and to make us long for the Lord Jesus, there is no evidence of salvation. After conversion our God is our Joy, Comfort, Guide, Teacher, and, in every sense, our Light: He is light within, light around, light reflected from us, and light to be revealed to us. Not merely does He give light or salvation; He is light, He is salvation; he, then, who has laid hold upon God has all covenant blessings in his possession.

2. “The Lord is the strength of my life.” Here is a third epithet to show the writer’s hope was fastened with a threefold cord which could not be broken. We may well accumulate terms of praise where the Lord lavishes deeds of grace.

II. the arguments. 1 “Whom shall I fear?” A question which is its own answer. The powers of darkness are not to be feared; for the Lord, our light, destroys them. The damnation of hell is not to be dreaded; for the Lord is our salvation. This is a very different challenge from that of boastful Goliath: that rested on the conceited vigour of an arm of flesh; this on the real power of the omnipotent I am.

2. “Of whom shall I be afraid?” Our life derives all its strength from God: we cannot be weakened by all the machinations of the enemy. This bold question looks into the future as well as the present. “If God be for us, who can be against us,” either now or in time to come? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ the True Light

In the New Testament, the idea which is hinted at in the language of David is expressly revealed as a truth. God does not merely give us His light. He is light, just as He is love in His own uncreated nature. “God is light,” says St. John, “and in Him is no darkness at all.” When St. John would teach us our Lord’s Godhead as clearly and sharply as possible, he calls Him the “light,” moaning to teach us that as such He shares the essential nature of the Deity. He is “light,” because lie is what He is--absolute perfection in respect of intellectual truth, absolute perfection in respect of moral beauty. And hence those momentous words, “I am the light of the world”; and hence that confession of the Christian creed, “God of God, Light of Light.” Thus the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ was to the spiritual world what the rising of the sun is in the world of nature. It had effects even upon the orders of the heavenly intelligences, of which St. Paul hints in his Epistle to the Ephesians. But, for the human soul, it meant a passing from darkness to light, from warmth to sunshine. And thus a prophet had bidden Zion arise and shine since her Lord was come, and the glory of the Lord had risen upon her; for He was announced as the Sun of Righteousness who should arise with healing in His wings, so that although darkness had covered the earth, and gross darkness the people, yet the Lord should arise upon Zion, and His glory be seen upon her. And, in the Benedictus, Zechariah salutes Him as “the day-star from on high, who hath visited us to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” And Simeon, holding the Divine Saviour in his arms, says that He is “a Light to lighten the Gentiles”; and himself felt that the word of prophecy was fulfilled, when the people who walked in darkness had seen a great light; and they that were in the region and shadow of death, on them hath the Gospel light shined. Some of us may remember that great work of Christian genius, the picture of the Nativity--the “Notre,” as it is called, of Correggio, which is among the treasures of the Dresden Gallery. In it the Divine Infant is represented as with a body almost transparent with light; and from Him all around are illuminated. His mother, His foster-father, the angels who bend in adoration, they are illuminated in the ratio of their nearness to Him. And this is but a representation on canvas of spiritual and eternal truth. He is the one Light of the intellectual and moral world; and we are in the light just so far, and only so far, as we are near to Him. (Canon Liddon.)

Light and salvation

The combination of the two ideas, “light and salvation,” is very suggestive. Light is essential to life, health, and growth. What wonderful medicinal efficacy it possesses! There is no tonic like it. It imparts that green hue by means of which the plant changes inorganic into organic matter, creates and conserves what everything else consumes and destroys, and acts as the mediator between the world of death and the world of life. Take away the light from man, and immediately he becomes a prey to the dead, inert forces of nature. The tissues of his body degenerate, and the powers of his mind decay. It affects the stature, the blood, the hair, the liver, the whole body inwardly and outwardly. Under solar radiation, sickness is more speedily cured, wounds heal more rapidly, and the healthy acquire fresh vigour and elevated vitality. It is difficult even to express the full enjoyment of all the senses, except by metaphors drawn from light. Owing to this healing, life-giving power of natural light, we see how it becomes the salvation of the natural man. And in regard to our souls, the Lord is our salvation because He is our light. The plant instinctively and inevitably turns to the sunlight, wherever it is, because the sunlight is its salvation, its very life. Shut out from the light, it can neither live nor grow. A plant growing in a cellar, where but a feeble ray of light penetrates, is a dwarfed and forced growth, exhausting all there is in its seed or bulb mechanically, but adding no new material of growth, without any sign of inward vitality or promise of perennial production. It is a weak, blanched ghost of a plant, without any sap in its veins, or colour in its leaves, without any power to produce blossoms or fruit. But bring the miserable shadow of life out into the open sunshine, and it recovers itself; its white, brittle stem becomes green and full of sap; its leaves assume their natural vivid hue, and open out their blades in the golden air. The whole plant revives as if by magic, and speedily puts forth its beautiful blossom and fruit. What the sunlight is to the plant, God is to the soul. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)

Man’s True Light

When we were at New York, Professor Simpson and I went one night to the observatory. We found the astronomer by the light of a small candle, groping about for his instruments, and arranging the telescope. But when he had got the star full in view he blew out his little candle. He had now got the light of the world, and the candle served only to obscure his view. The dim light of your reason is of use only if it brings you to the Great Light. (Henry Drummond.)

Whom shall I fear?--

The believer’s freedom from fear

This is not the language of vain presumption, or the boastful utterance of affected boldness, but the confident, yet humble, utterance of Christian assurance.

I. shall we be afraid of God?

1. Is He not revealed as a sin-hating God? And are not all men sinners? How comes it, then, that the Christian man, though sensible of many infirmities, shortcomings, and aggravated sins--sins of thought, of word, and of deed--can say that he has no cause to be afraid of God? It is because of the new relation into which he is brought to God by virtue of his union to Christ, and of what Christ has done for him. The work of Christ was to satisfy Divine justice and reconcile us to God. Nor is this all. Every believer in Christ becomes a partaker of the Divine nature, sustaining a relation to him near and dear as that which His own Son sustained.

2. Is not the Christian exposed to temptation? May he not be stripped of the safeguard which Divine grace has thrown around him, and be exposed again to the dread vengeance of an insulted God? No; though he may fall, yet shall he rise again. So long as he is Christ’s he has nothing to fear from God, but everything to hope. The love of God dwelling in him, there is no place for fear, for “perfect love casteth out fear.”

II. shall we fear the law? “Cursed is every one that continueth not,” etc. “He that offendeth in one point,” etc. If a man’s life is to be brought to the test of the law, if he is to stand on the footing of his own merits in the eye of the law, then, indeed, is his condition hopeless, for “there is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified.” Now though all this be true, it is no less true that even of the law the Christian has no need to be afraid. To him it is invested with no terrors, on him it never flashes its lightning, against him it never peals its thunders, and why? Why, just because “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made him free from the law of sin and of death.” Why? Because “there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

III. shall we fear Satan? When we think of the life he has led us, the misery in which he has involved us, the grinding nature of that servitude be exacts from every one who is led captive by him at his will, we may well tremble at the thought of such an enemy, for unless we are ransomed from his hands by a mightier power than our own, well may we say that he is indeed a power to be feared. But it is only when under his power that this can truly be said of him. It cannot be so said of the believer, for his position is altered to Satan, and Satan’s is altered to him. Christ “has taken the prey from the mighty, and spoiled the captive of the terrible one.”

IV. shall we fear affliction? To fear it would be to mistrust the promises, and to doubt the faithfulness of Him by whom these promises are made. “Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God.” “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee,” etc.

V. shall we fear death? Death, which the world calls “the king of terrors,” and which wicked men feel to be such! Death, which for six thousand years has lorded it over the human race, and to whose sceptre countless myriads are yet destined to bowl Shall we not be afraid of death? No! To the Christian there is nothing in death to make him afraid. To the Christian all his power is over the material, not over the spiritual; over the body, not over the soul; and even ever the body not long. To the Christian he comes as an angel of mercy, as a messenger of peace. (H. Hyslop.)

The fearlessness of the good

I. springs from personal faith in God.

1. Intelligent.

2. Appropriating.

3. Soul-saving.

II. strengthened by the remembrance of past deliverances. Confidence comes of experience. The remedy we have proved we readily try again. The friend we have found faithful we trust to death. The commander under whom we have conquered we follow bravely to other fields. So should we act as to God.

III. sufficient for the greatest emergencies. What terror had Ahab for Micaiah, the man who had seen God? (1 Kings 22:19). What cared Elisha for “the horses and chariots” at Dothan, whose eyes beheld the angels of God ranged in his defence? (2 Kings 6:15). “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). (W. Forsyth, M. A.)

David’s preventive of fear

The heroic man shows us the secret of his heroism.

I. the Lord was the psalmist’s light. Few things man recoils more from than darkness, whether physical, or of ignorance or of sin. This fear was no longer possible to David. He even anticipates John’s grand utterance, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” What light was and ever had been to the world, the Lord was to David.

II. the lord was his salvation. As man dreads darkness, so he dreads captivity and oppression. David rejoices in God as his salvation. This conception of God first found expression in the song of Moses (Exodus 15:4), when God led the children of Israel through the Red Sea into the light and calm of day. The word “salvation” is Jeshua--Joshua--Jesus. So near does David come to the parallel Gospel phrase: “He shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” Thus the psalmist gripped in advance two of the central truths of the Gospel--God as light and as salvation. In face of these assurances he asks, “Whom shall I fear?” This is the question of every reformer, who, in the strength of a mighty conviction, in the inspiration of high aims, goes to the help of the Lord against the mighty.

III. the Lord was the strength--the stronghold--of his life. The word has a more subtle meaning still. David looks upon God as the Life of his life, the Father of his spirit. He thus falls back upon a third Gospel truth: “God is a Spirit.” David’s life was in possession of a power which needed not to fear any foe. By a mighty faith he drew upon God’s omnipotence: be had not only enough obedience to be active, he had enough to be restful; and that power is greater than all other. Many a man, like John the Baptist, has courage and enthusiasm enough for the rush and battle of life, but falters when withdrawn into the hush of it, to await the oncoming of the foe. The strength of the psalmist enabled him to pass from “Whom shall I fear?” to “Of whom, then, shall I be afraid?” Therefore the second verse followed naturally: “When the wicked . . . they stumbled and fell.” (D. Davies.)

Fear banished

Having God as his light and salvation, the psalmist might well say, “Whom shall I fear?” Having his heart at rest in God, and having his times in God’s hands, what cause for fear remained? With peace within, and light without, he was raised above all earthly fears. His eyes were opened; and while he was compassed about with foes innumerable and most formidable, he saw himself at the same time surrounded with horses and chariots of fire, and realized that greater was He that was with him than all that could be against him; that the hostile things and persons of life could have no power at all against him, were it not given them for wise and gracious purposes by his heavenly Father. And so, if we fear God, we need know no other fear. That divine fear, like the space which the American settler burns around him as a defence against the prairie fire, clears a circle, within which we are absolutely safe. The old necromancists believed that if a man was master of himself, he enjoyed complete immunity from all danger; if his will was firmly set, the powers of evil could not harm him; he could defy a host of devils raging around. Against the malice of human and infernal power, the citadel of a man’s heart that is set upon God is impregnable. It is sin alone that is adverse to us; it is sin that makes cowards of us all. The soul infected with this radical evil is weak, and open to all adversities. Everything is adverse to it. It is out of harmony with God’s universe. But let this primary adversity of sin be removed, and all secondary adversities vanish; all things work together for good to them that fear the Lord. All providence becomes to us special providence; all things are eager and tender ministers to us. More important interests are involved in our salvation than in the fate of the whole natural creation; and sooner than a hair of our head shall be injured, God would bury the whole physical world in ruin. “God is our refuge and strength.” Perfect trust in God is perfect peace. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)

The Lord is the strength of my life.--

David’s strength

The keynote of David’s character is not the assertion of his own strength, but the confession of his own weakness. Nevertheless, he had strength, and that of no common order: he was an eminently powerful, able, and successful man. But he says it was from God. Even his physical prowess he ascribes to God. It is by God’s help he slays the lion and the bear, and has nerve to kill Goliath. It is God who makes his feet like harts’ feet, and enables him to leap over the walls of the mountain fortresses. And no doubt this was so: it is not mere metaphor. David was not likely to have been a man of gigantic strength. So delicate a-brain was probably coupled to a delicate body. But it is as the fount of light and goodness in his own soul that he chiefly thinks of God. In a word, David is a man of faith and prayer. And it is this which sustains him in every trouble, and gives enthusiasm and fire, life and reality, to his triumphant psalms. He had the firm conviction that God was the deliverer of all who trust in Him. And the same faith it is which gives to his penitence its manly tone, free from all cowardly cries of terror. He sees no angry, but a forgiving God, though he knows he is to be punished for the rest of his life. But he utterly trusts God, and is sure that God will restore him to goodness that He may thereby restore him to usefulness. Hence it is God demands not torturing penance or sacrifice, but the heart, the broken and contrite heart. It is such utterances as these which have given their priceless value to the little book of the psalms of David. Every form of human sorrow, doubt, struggle, error, sin; the nun agonizing in the cloister; the settler struggling for life in Transatlantic forests; the pauper shivering over the embers in his hovel, and waiting for kind death; the man of business striving to keep his honour pure amid the temptations of commerce; the prodigal son starving in the far country, and recollecting the words which he learnt long ago at his mother’s knee; the peasant boy trudging a-field in the chill dawn, and remembering that the Lord is his Shepherd, therefore he will not want--all shapes of humanity have found, and will find to the end of time, a word said to their inmost hearts, and for them, to the living God of heaven by the vast humanity of David, the man after God’s own heart; the most thoroughly human figure which had appeared upon the earth before the coming of that perfect Son of man, who is over all, God blessed for ever. (C. Kingsley, M. A.)


Verses 1-14

Psalms 27:1-14

The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Implicit trust

This psalm was written by a man who was at the moment far down in the depths of spiritual conflict, and yet was holding a steady front against his troubles, after all. He prays so passionately, that we should deem him weak even to cowardice, if it were not for the fact that he praises so jubilantly, and lifts his head with a most unsubdued ring in his voice. The psalm is like a summer cloud just before a storm, in that it reserves an overcharge of power to be driven on by a sort of induction into the very verge of the final verse, from which it explodes with a glorious flash of lightning, which clears the air instantly. What are the conditions of implicit trust in the Lord of our salvation, such trust as will ensure peace and comfort? It is likely that most of God’s children, sooner or later, are permitted to journey on wearily over what seemed a highway, only to find, at the last, the sign inscribed, “No thoroughfare here.” A grim kind of consolation enters one’s heart as he murmurs, “Some one has been here before to put up the guideboard, at any rate!”

1. The main condition of resting in the Lord is found in looking outside of one’s self. There is a habit of morbid self-examination which needs to be shunned. Some experiences there are which are too delicate to bear this rude analysis. A woman’s love for her husband, a child’s confidence in his father, could be disturbed fatally and for ever, if only half as much violence were brought to bear upon it as some Christians are accustomed to exert upon their religious feelings. One can tear himself all to pieces, to no sort of profit, and to every sort of harm. The Lord is the one to look at, not ourselves.

2. The next condition of spiritual repose is found in the avoiding of unwise counsellors. We must learn to trust our trust, and not keep rooting it up. No plant grows which is continually being rooted up.

3. Another condition of rest in God is found in drawing a clear distinction between historic faith and saving faith. What secures to us a perfect salvation is spiritual trust in the Saviour, and this is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is easy to receive facts, perhaps, but not so easy to understand experiences which lie deeper than any mere outward acts. Historic faith is not necessarily saving faith.

4. We are to cultivate confidence in the slowly reached answers to our prayers for Divine grace.

5. We must distinguish between emotions and religious states. The one may vary, the other is fixed. Faith is a very different thing from the result of faith; and confidence of faith is even a different thing from faith itself; and yet the safety of the soul depends on faith, and on nothing else. We are justified by faith; not by joy or peace or love or hope or zeal. These last are the results of faith, generally, and will depend largely upon temperament and education.

6. This unbroken courage is a condition of rest. David said that he came near to fainting, and should have done it, only be kept on believing to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. We must not think everything is lost when we happen to have become beclouded. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Confidence in God

This psalm is an instance of what an old divine has called “confidence in God the best succour in the worst seasons.”

I. the occasion of this confidence. In David’s case we find this confidence--

1. In times of peril. The true children of God are oft in peril, and at such times nothing can stand them in such stead as this assured confidence. Luther felt it at Worms. Armed with it, the Christian may ever look even death calmly in the face. Man without it is in time of peril like a ship without anchor in the fury of the storm.

2. In times of privation. Apparently David was (Psalms 27:4) in exile, and deprived of the privileges of worship in the house of God. But he found his great support in his confidence in God.

3. In times of desertion. When he needed friends most, the ranks were thinnest, his standard most deserted. But he had a Friend who would never forsake him. Happy the man who, amidst general unfaithfulness, has found the great treasure of a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

4. In times of calumny. A bitter element in David’s cup were false witnesses and slanderers.

II. some of the grounds on which this confidence rests.

1. The nature of God Himself in His personal relation to us: “My Light, my Salvation . . . the Strength of my life.” It is not what we are, but what God is, that affords a solid ground of confidence in time of trouble. There is an emphasis on that pronoun my which speaks of an eternal covenant, an appropriating faith, a mystical union.

2. Previous interpositions of God for our help. Verse 2 evidently refers to a period in the psalmist’s past history when he was delivered from great danger. As the child of God looks back on the way by which the Lord has led him, and sees how Divine strength has been made manifest in his weakness, confident is he that the grace which has brought him thus far will lead him safely home.

3. The religious experiences he has enjoyed (Psalms 27:8).

4. The promises of God received and rested on by faith.

III. the fruits of this confidence.

1. Complete deliverance from all fear (Psalms 27:1). Fear is unworthy one to whom Jehovah stands in such relations.

2. A positive sense of security from all harm. Jehovah, the Captain of our salvation, takes the timid soul into His own royal tent.

3. A well-spring of happiness. The Christian life has its hosannahs as well as its misereres--its notes of joyous triumph as well as its plaintive “songs in the night.” (T. H. Witherspoon, D. D.)

A psalm for life’s storms

I. courage in life’s storms.

1. This courage is founded on confidence in God. When the soul feels God with it, it becomes invincible.

2. It is heightened by memories of past deliverance. Recollection of past mercies strengthens our faith in future supplies.

3. It defies all future enemies, and faces the mysterious future with a jubilant soul.

II. shelter in life’s storms.

1. The scene where the shelter is sought. The house of the Lord: the place where He specially manifests Himself to His people.

2. The means by which the shelter is to be secured. Dwelling with God; delighting in God; inquiring after God.

3. The source from which it is to be derived. God Himself.

4. The spirit in which it is accepted. Confidence and praise.

III. prayer in life’s storms. The prayer is--

1. An earnest appeal to mercy for relief.

2. It expresses ready compliance with the Divine request. God requires us to seek His favour, not because we can induce Him to be more merciful; nor because our prayer can merit His favours; but because earnest prayer qualifies the suppliant to rightly receive, appreciate, and use the blessing sought.

3. It deprecates the disfavour of God as a terrible evil.

4. It recognizes the transcendent character of Divine friendship. Though all forsake, He remains faithful.

4. It indicates the true method of safety. Obedience to Divine law; interposition for Divine help.

IV. self-exhortation in life’s storms. “I had fainted unless,” etc. An admonishment to himself to be strong.

1. Faith in Divine goodness. The vision of Divine goodness is the only moral tonic for the soul.

2. Consecration to the Divine service. To wait upon the Lord is to serve Him lovingly, thoroughly, faithfully, practically; and such service is moral strength. (Homilist.)

Confidence in God

The Psalms are the outbreathings of the universal heart, a voice for man at all times. We are here reminded of--

I. A profound sense of need and danger This psalm is the cry of a soul in distress. David’s throne, honour, wealth, did not exempt him from suffering; rather they became occasions of distress. To all, the sky of life is often overcast, its path lies along a toilsome way, with burdens too heavy to be borne. Where find rest and safety?

II. the security of trusting in God. God was his Light, and in the consciousness of that light he could see that all things worked together for good to them that love God. The Lord was his Salvation: his safety was assured. Cast into a fiery furnace, One appears with the Christian whose form is like the Son of God. God was the Strength of his life, awakening holy impulses, irradiating his whole spiritual being.

III. the necessity of appointed means in communing with God. In the sanctuary, in the place and in the way of Divine appointment, the psalmist was filled with a sense of the Divine presence. There God’s light, salvation, strength, appeared in a reality and beauty nowhere else displayed. There God appeared not in nature, but in grace; not as a power, but as a Person; not as Creator, but as Redeemer. The psalmist therefore longed for the sanctuary.

IV. obedience to God is indispensable to confiding intercourse with him. At once he would seek, and actively seek, the Lord’s face. There is no real confidence in God without loyalty: obedience is the only atmosphere on which the wing of faith can rise. (Monday Club Sermons.)

The Christian’s boast

David was a boaster, but it was in God; hence it was lawful: “My soul shall make her boast in the Lord.” In any other source of confidence it is unlawful and dangerous.

I. the “one thing” of which David here speaks. The abiding sense of the Divine presence. The temple, or “house of the Lord,” was the place of God’s special manifestations. Abiding in this presence will give--

1. Light--the light of His countenance. It is one thing to abide in our own or in other light--as “the Pharisee” and Zaccheus; a different thing to be in the light of God’s face or presence. This light does two things: it reveals to us God, and shows us what sin is; it reveals God to us, and shows us what salvation is--making the Lord to be our salvation.

2. Satan may accuse, but, if God acquits, whom shall we fear? If the Law has been satisfied, the debt paid, we need fear neither penalties nor imprisonment. There is a second sense in which the Lord is light and salvation. No longer “afraid” of the condemning power of sin, we are warranted in standing in fear of its ruling power in our hearts. Therefore we are exhorted to “work out our salvation.” To do this we need the light to guide us into all truth, the salvation to deliver us from all evil.

3. Strength. “If God be for us” strength is on our side.

4. “The beauty of the Lord.” The beauty of His attributes, as they meet and harmonize for our blessing. The beauty, too, reflected in us; for in His light and salvation and strength we are “changed into the same image.”

5. Joy and singing. When our joy is dependent on the consciousness of what we are or ought to be to God, it is a very uncertain joy, and will rarely produce singing, but rather sighing. But when it is dependent on the sense of what God is to us, then we can say, “I will offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of joy.” To have this joy we must be taken out of self.

II. the condition of attaining this “one thing.” We must “seek after it.” We must “wait on the Lord.” To navigate the sea of life we must keep the eye fixed on this one thing, on the one magnet--Christ. Paul did this, which made his bark “press toward” the haven with such grace and nobility. (The Study.)

The Christian’s triumph

A beautiful affirmation; important possession; glorious triumph.

I. the affirmation.

1. The Lord is light in nature. “All things were made by Him.” All light in nature comes from God’s Son, who is emphatically the Light of the world.

2. In the sphere of reason. God made man with a mind to know, a will to obey, a heart to love--elevated far above the rest of creation. By sin the mind is darkened, the will perverse, the heart depraved. Hence--

3. God is light in the sphere of grace. Man, by the Fall, deprived himself and the race of “those divine gifts”; hence the need of a Redeemer. This we have: “the Lord is salvation.” Light shows us where and what we are--lost, ruined, dead. Christ, our salvation, brings us from the depths of the Fall, recreates us, imparts to us His Spirit, righteousness and life.

II. A most important possession. “My light,” “my salvation.” The beauty of the Psalms is in the pronouns. Light must be in us, or we walk in darkness; bread be eaten, or we starve; so an unapplied Saviour is no Saviour to man. This possession is ours only as we stand in living union with Christ Jesus our Lord.

III. the glorious triumph. “Whom shall I fear?” etc. In possession of Christ’s light and life, the Christian need fear neither sickness, death, grave, nor hell. Over all these lie has complete victory (Romans 8:34-39). (J. Hassler, D. D.)

David’s confidence in God

I. what God was to David.

1. The fountain of gladness to his heart.

2. The author of safety to his person.

3. The giver of strength and might, for the preservation of his life.

Uses--

1. For instruction.

2. For admonition.

3. For comfort.

II. what benefit David reaped thereby. Having the Lord for his God, he is armed against all fear of men or other creatures (Psalms 118:6; Psalms 23:1-4; Psalms 3:3-6). Uses--

1. For instruction.

2. For admonition.

The pathway of power

Light--salvation--strength: three great waves of the sea, telling that the tide can rise no higher. The tide is full. Even so it is with the heart that can say--

I. The Lord is my light.

1. In the natural world God gives us a night between every two days, and in the life beyond we hear of a bow of emerald that breaks the dazzle of the great white throne. Light means truth, and, as it advances in precision and purity, the steps of discovered truth become the songs of degrees with which the tribes go up to the great temple of God.

2. In the spiritual life, both as regards salvation and service, much depends on clearness of vision, and knowledge of how and where to look and what to look for.

II. the Lord is my salvation. The words “Christ for us” have now a clear and exact meaning, setting forth the condition and character of Salvation. And before Christ was crucified for sinners, the main feature of salvation was the same; it was from the Lord, a gift from His hand. “Blessed is the man whose sin is covered.” Sin was then also a transgression, a taint, and a tyranny, and from all the Lord delivered. It was His to deliver the soul from death, the eyes from tears, and the feet from falling. This fact at once humbled and upheld him; it was the Lord’s gift, and yet it was his own possession. And so he could say--“Whom shall I fear? The Lord is my salvation.”

III. the Lord is my strength. Light for the understanding and its judgment; salvation for the heart, its hardness and anxiety; and strength for action and usefulness. How often we come to the Lord, like James and John, and say “we are able”; but the Lord makes a thorough work of the first and second, the light and salvation, before lie entrusts us with the third, the strength on which He puts His own almighty name. We often bring misery upon ourselves, and darkness upon others, by trying to come into the Lord’s service before coming to the Lord Himself. Let us seek the power in the pathway of power:--light, salvation, strength. (G. M. Mackie, M. A.)

The Divine Light

I. David says this. He is in exile, engaged in some struggle on the frontiers of his kingdom: his foes have received a check: he is closely watched, but is, nevertheless, confident of victory. This is the only occasion in which David speaks of the Lord as his Light: the expression occurs only twice in the Old Testament. Micah says, “the Lord shall be a light unto me.” In other places light is spoken of as God’s gift--the light of revelation and of conscience. But here David says, “the Lord is my light.” David’s life was one of great vicissitude, and his temperament was very changeable. Hence he was liable to great depression, especially through the recollection of his awful sins--adulterer and murderer that he was. And yet he was a man after God’s own heart, because a man’s life is to be judged not by its exceptional acts, but by its governing principles. Nevertheless, David was damaged deeply and permanently by his sins. But they did not destroy, though they did deface his real character, his profound religious sense of God’s presence and claims. The leading acts of a man’s life may look one way, the governing principles of his life another. Philip II. of Spain encouraged and paid for the publication of the second great polyglot Bible that was ever printed. But how wrong it would be to infer from that one action what manner of man he was. And so with David: his exceptional acts do not reveal him in his real character and mind. Saul had no depth of character: moral levity and indifference to the claims of God are constantly chargeable against him. But David’s sins, though terrible, were but temporary, and never became the habit of his life, and they did not extinguish in him his deep love of God. Hence, still he could say, “The Lord is my light.”

II. Apply the words to our Lord jesus christ. In their deepest sense they can apply to none else. He whom Jesus said was greatest of woman-born--John the Baptist--was yet “not that light, but came to bear witness of that light.” Christ alone could say, “I am the light of the world.” Some of us may remember that great work of Christian genius, called the “Notre”: it is by Correggio, and is reckoned amongst the chief of the art treasures of the Dresden Gallery. In it the Divine infant is represented as with a body almost transparent with light, and from Him all around are illuminated, and in proportion to their nearness to Him. It is a representation on canvas of a great moral and spiritual truth. For Christ is the one light of men.

III. To the church. Was it not so in the days of persecution? Road the history of the martyrdom of Stephen.

IV. To Christian education. Our text is the motto of the University of Oxford, and expresses the truth that education apart from Him is vain.

V. To the individual conscience. Then refer to Him all teaching, all content. “Lead, kindly Light . . . lead Thou me on.” (Canon Liddon.)

Facts and arguments

I. The facts.

1. “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” The soul is assured of it, and therefore declares it boldly. Into the soul at the new birth Divine light is poured as the precursor of salvation. Where there is not enough light to reveal our own darkness, and to make us long for the Lord Jesus, there is no evidence of salvation. After conversion our God is our Joy, Comfort, Guide, Teacher, and, in every sense, our Light: He is light within, light around, light reflected from us, and light to be revealed to us. Not merely does He give light or salvation; He is light, He is salvation; he, then, who has laid hold upon God has all covenant blessings in his possession.

2. “The Lord is the strength of my life.” Here is a third epithet to show the writer’s hope was fastened with a threefold cord which could not be broken. We may well accumulate terms of praise where the Lord lavishes deeds of grace.

II. the arguments. 1 “Whom shall I fear?” A question which is its own answer. The powers of darkness are not to be feared; for the Lord, our light, destroys them. The damnation of hell is not to be dreaded; for the Lord is our salvation. This is a very different challenge from that of boastful Goliath: that rested on the conceited vigour of an arm of flesh; this on the real power of the omnipotent I am.

2. “Of whom shall I be afraid?” Our life derives all its strength from God: we cannot be weakened by all the machinations of the enemy. This bold question looks into the future as well as the present. “If God be for us, who can be against us,” either now or in time to come? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ the True Light

In the New Testament, the idea which is hinted at in the language of David is expressly revealed as a truth. God does not merely give us His light. He is light, just as He is love in His own uncreated nature. “God is light,” says St. John, “and in Him is no darkness at all.” When St. John would teach us our Lord’s Godhead as clearly and sharply as possible, he calls Him the “light,” moaning to teach us that as such He shares the essential nature of the Deity. He is “light,” because lie is what He is--absolute perfection in respect of intellectual truth, absolute perfection in respect of moral beauty. And hence those momentous words, “I am the light of the world”; and hence that confession of the Christian creed, “God of God, Light of Light.” Thus the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ was to the spiritual world what the rising of the sun is in the world of nature. It had effects even upon the orders of the heavenly intelligences, of which St. Paul hints in his Epistle to the Ephesians. But, for the human soul, it meant a passing from darkness to light, from warmth to sunshine. And thus a prophet had bidden Zion arise and shine since her Lord was come, and the glory of the Lord had risen upon her; for He was announced as the Sun of Righteousness who should arise with healing in His wings, so that although darkness had covered the earth, and gross darkness the people, yet the Lord should arise upon Zion, and His glory be seen upon her. And, in the Benedictus, Zechariah salutes Him as “the day-star from on high, who hath visited us to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” And Simeon, holding the Divine Saviour in his arms, says that He is “a Light to lighten the Gentiles”; and himself felt that the word of prophecy was fulfilled, when the people who walked in darkness had seen a great light; and they that were in the region and shadow of death, on them hath the Gospel light shined. Some of us may remember that great work of Christian genius, the picture of the Nativity--the “Notre,” as it is called, of Correggio, which is among the treasures of the Dresden Gallery. In it the Divine Infant is represented as with a body almost transparent with light; and from Him all around are illuminated. His mother, His foster-father, the angels who bend in adoration, they are illuminated in the ratio of their nearness to Him. And this is but a representation on canvas of spiritual and eternal truth. He is the one Light of the intellectual and moral world; and we are in the light just so far, and only so far, as we are near to Him. (Canon Liddon.)

Light and salvation

The combination of the two ideas, “light and salvation,” is very suggestive. Light is essential to life, health, and growth. What wonderful medicinal efficacy it possesses! There is no tonic like it. It imparts that green hue by means of which the plant changes inorganic into organic matter, creates and conserves what everything else consumes and destroys, and acts as the mediator between the world of death and the world of life. Take away the light from man, and immediately he becomes a prey to the dead, inert forces of nature. The tissues of his body degenerate, and the powers of his mind decay. It affects the stature, the blood, the hair, the liver, the whole body inwardly and outwardly. Under solar radiation, sickness is more speedily cured, wounds heal more rapidly, and the healthy acquire fresh vigour and elevated vitality. It is difficult even to express the full enjoyment of all the senses, except by metaphors drawn from light. Owing to this healing, life-giving power of natural light, we see how it becomes the salvation of the natural man. And in regard to our souls, the Lord is our salvation because He is our light. The plant instinctively and inevitably turns to the sunlight, wherever it is, because the sunlight is its salvation, its very life. Shut out from the light, it can neither live nor grow. A plant growing in a cellar, where but a feeble ray of light penetrates, is a dwarfed and forced growth, exhausting all there is in its seed or bulb mechanically, but adding no new material of growth, without any sign of inward vitality or promise of perennial production. It is a weak, blanched ghost of a plant, without any sap in its veins, or colour in its leaves, without any power to produce blossoms or fruit. But bring the miserable shadow of life out into the open sunshine, and it recovers itself; its white, brittle stem becomes green and full of sap; its leaves assume their natural vivid hue, and open out their blades in the golden air. The whole plant revives as if by magic, and speedily puts forth its beautiful blossom and fruit. What the sunlight is to the plant, God is to the soul. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)

Man’s True Light

When we were at New York, Professor Simpson and I went one night to the observatory. We found the astronomer by the light of a small candle, groping about for his instruments, and arranging the telescope. But when he had got the star full in view he blew out his little candle. He had now got the light of the world, and the candle served only to obscure his view. The dim light of your reason is of use only if it brings you to the Great Light. (Henry Drummond.)

Whom shall I fear?--

The believer’s freedom from fear

This is not the language of vain presumption, or the boastful utterance of affected boldness, but the confident, yet humble, utterance of Christian assurance.

I. shall we be afraid of God?

1. Is He not revealed as a sin-hating God? And are not all men sinners? How comes it, then, that the Christian man, though sensible of many infirmities, shortcomings, and aggravated sins--sins of thought, of word, and of deed--can say that he has no cause to be afraid of God? It is because of the new relation into which he is brought to God by virtue of his union to Christ, and of what Christ has done for him. The work of Christ was to satisfy Divine justice and reconcile us to God. Nor is this all. Every believer in Christ becomes a partaker of the Divine nature, sustaining a relation to him near and dear as that which His own Son sustained.

2. Is not the Christian exposed to temptation? May he not be stripped of the safeguard which Divine grace has thrown around him, and be exposed again to the dread vengeance of an insulted God? No; though he may fall, yet shall he rise again. So long as he is Christ’s he has nothing to fear from God, but everything to hope. The love of God dwelling in him, there is no place for fear, for “perfect love casteth out fear.”

II. shall we fear the law? “Cursed is every one that continueth not,” etc. “He that offendeth in one point,” etc. If a man’s life is to be brought to the test of the law, if he is to stand on the footing of his own merits in the eye of the law, then, indeed, is his condition hopeless, for “there is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified.” Now though all this be true, it is no less true that even of the law the Christian has no need to be afraid. To him it is invested with no terrors, on him it never flashes its lightning, against him it never peals its thunders, and why? Why, just because “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made him free from the law of sin and of death.” Why? Because “there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

III. shall we fear Satan? When we think of the life he has led us, the misery in which he has involved us, the grinding nature of that servitude be exacts from every one who is led captive by him at his will, we may well tremble at the thought of such an enemy, for unless we are ransomed from his hands by a mightier power than our own, well may we say that he is indeed a power to be feared. But it is only when under his power that this can truly be said of him. It cannot be so said of the believer, for his position is altered to Satan, and Satan’s is altered to him. Christ “has taken the prey from the mighty, and spoiled the captive of the terrible one.”

IV. shall we fear affliction? To fear it would be to mistrust the promises, and to doubt the faithfulness of Him by whom these promises are made. “Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God.” “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee,” etc.

V. shall we fear death? Death, which the world calls “the king of terrors,” and which wicked men feel to be such! Death, which for six thousand years has lorded it over the human race, and to whose sceptre countless myriads are yet destined to bowl Shall we not be afraid of death? No! To the Christian there is nothing in death to make him afraid. To the Christian all his power is over the material, not over the spiritual; over the body, not over the soul; and even ever the body not long. To the Christian he comes as an angel of mercy, as a messenger of peace. (H. Hyslop.)

The fearlessness of the good

I. springs from personal faith in God.

1. Intelligent.

2. Appropriating.

3. Soul-saving.

II. strengthened by the remembrance of past deliverances. Confidence comes of experience. The remedy we have proved we readily try again. The friend we have found faithful we trust to death. The commander under whom we have conquered we follow bravely to other fields. So should we act as to God.

III. sufficient for the greatest emergencies. What terror had Ahab for Micaiah, the man who had seen God? (1 Kings 22:19). What cared Elisha for “the horses and chariots” at Dothan, whose eyes beheld the angels of God ranged in his defence? (2 Kings 6:15). “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). (W. Forsyth, M. A.)

David’s preventive of fear

The heroic man shows us the secret of his heroism.

I. the Lord was the psalmist’s light. Few things man recoils more from than darkness, whether physical, or of ignorance or of sin. This fear was no longer possible to David. He even anticipates John’s grand utterance, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” What light was and ever had been to the world, the Lord was to David.

II. the lord was his salvation. As man dreads darkness, so he dreads captivity and oppression. David rejoices in God as his salvation. This conception of God first found expression in the song of Moses (Exodus 15:4), when God led the children of Israel through the Red Sea into the light and calm of day. The word “salvation” is Jeshua--Joshua--Jesus. So near does David come to the parallel Gospel phrase: “He shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” Thus the psalmist gripped in advance two of the central truths of the Gospel--God as light and as salvation. In face of these assurances he asks, “Whom shall I fear?” This is the question of every reformer, who, in the strength of a mighty conviction, in the inspiration of high aims, goes to the help of the Lord against the mighty.

III. the Lord was the strength--the stronghold--of his life. The word has a more subtle meaning still. David looks upon God as the Life of his life, the Father of his spirit. He thus falls back upon a third Gospel truth: “God is a Spirit.” David’s life was in possession of a power which needed not to fear any foe. By a mighty faith he drew upon God’s omnipotence: be had not only enough obedience to be active, he had enough to be restful; and that power is greater than all other. Many a man, like John the Baptist, has courage and enthusiasm enough for the rush and battle of life, but falters when withdrawn into the hush of it, to await the oncoming of the foe. The strength of the psalmist enabled him to pass from “Whom shall I fear?” to “Of whom, then, shall I be afraid?” Therefore the second verse followed naturally: “When the wicked . . . they stumbled and fell.” (D. Davies.)

Fear banished

Having God as his light and salvation, the psalmist might well say, “Whom shall I fear?” Having his heart at rest in God, and having his times in God’s hands, what cause for fear remained? With peace within, and light without, he was raised above all earthly fears. His eyes were opened; and while he was compassed about with foes innumerable and most formidable, he saw himself at the same time surrounded with horses and chariots of fire, and realized that greater was He that was with him than all that could be against him; that the hostile things and persons of life could have no power at all against him, were it not given them for wise and gracious purposes by his heavenly Father. And so, if we fear God, we need know no other fear. That divine fear, like the space which the American settler burns around him as a defence against the prairie fire, clears a circle, within which we are absolutely safe. The old necromancists believed that if a man was master of himself, he enjoyed complete immunity from all danger; if his will was firmly set, the powers of evil could not harm him; he could defy a host of devils raging around. Against the malice of human and infernal power, the citadel of a man’s heart that is set upon God is impregnable. It is sin alone that is adverse to us; it is sin that makes cowards of us all. The soul infected with this radical evil is weak, and open to all adversities. Everything is adverse to it. It is out of harmony with God’s universe. But let this primary adversity of sin be removed, and all secondary adversities vanish; all things work together for good to them that fear the Lord. All providence becomes to us special providence; all things are eager and tender ministers to us. More important interests are involved in our salvation than in the fate of the whole natural creation; and sooner than a hair of our head shall be injured, God would bury the whole physical world in ruin. “God is our refuge and strength.” Perfect trust in God is perfect peace. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)

The Lord is the strength of my life.--

David’s strength

The keynote of David’s character is not the assertion of his own strength, but the confession of his own weakness. Nevertheless, he had strength, and that of no common order: he was an eminently powerful, able, and successful man. But he says it was from God. Even his physical prowess he ascribes to God. It is by God’s help he slays the lion and the bear, and has nerve to kill Goliath. It is God who makes his feet like harts’ feet, and enables him to leap over the walls of the mountain fortresses. And no doubt this was so: it is not mere metaphor. David was not likely to have been a man of gigantic strength. So delicate a-brain was probably coupled to a delicate body. But it is as the fount of light and goodness in his own soul that he chiefly thinks of God. In a word, David is a man of faith and prayer. And it is this which sustains him in every trouble, and gives enthusiasm and fire, life and reality, to his triumphant psalms. He had the firm conviction that God was the deliverer of all who trust in Him. And the same faith it is which gives to his penitence its manly tone, free from all cowardly cries of terror. He sees no angry, but a forgiving God, though he knows he is to be punished for the rest of his life. But he utterly trusts God, and is sure that God will restore him to goodness that He may thereby restore him to usefulness. Hence it is God demands not torturing penance or sacrifice, but the heart, the broken and contrite heart. It is such utterances as these which have given their priceless value to the little book of the psalms of David. Every form of human sorrow, doubt, struggle, error, sin; the nun agonizing in the cloister; the settler struggling for life in Transatlantic forests; the pauper shivering over the embers in his hovel, and waiting for kind death; the man of business striving to keep his honour pure amid the temptations of commerce; the prodigal son starving in the far country, and recollecting the words which he learnt long ago at his mother’s knee; the peasant boy trudging a-field in the chill dawn, and remembering that the Lord is his Shepherd, therefore he will not want--all shapes of humanity have found, and will find to the end of time, a word said to their inmost hearts, and for them, to the living God of heaven by the vast humanity of David, the man after God’s own heart; the most thoroughly human figure which had appeared upon the earth before the coming of that perfect Son of man, who is over all, God blessed for ever. (C. Kingsley, M. A.)


Verse 2

Psalms 27:2

They stumbled and fell.

God’s preservation of David in extreme danger

I. the state and condition of David’s enemies, They are wicked men. The reason whereof is the enmity put by God Himself between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), which David found (Psalms 38:19-20; John 15:15; John 16:33). Uses--

1. For instruction. The godly must expect bitter opposition and enmity from the wicked (Matthew 10:16).

2. For admonition.

3. For comfort to the godly, that their adversaries are wicked men, for they may hereon rest assured that God will not join with their enemies unless it be for trial of grace, as in Job, or for the sins of the godly, in forsaking Him.

II. the purpose and attempt of David’s enemies against him. They came upon him to eat up his flesh; that is, utterly to destroy him.

1. Because of his religion and piety, with which their corruption could admit no accord (Psalms 38:20; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 John 3:12).

2. Because of the honour and dignity whereto God had advanced him (Psalms 4:2; Psalms 62:4). Uses--

1. For instruction.

2. For admonition.

III. the issue and success of the cruel attempt of David’s enemies against him.

1. They did not only fail of their purpose against David, but even themselves stumbled and fell.

2. The reason or cause hereof was in God, who for just causes stood for David, and set Himself against David’s enemies.

Uses--

1. For instruction.

2. For admonition: to give all diligence to be truly in covenant with God, that so it may be with us as it was with David.

3. For comfort to the godly, fighting the Lord’s battles, and yet overmatched. (T. Pierson.)


Verse 3

Psalms 27:3

My heart shall not fear.

A stout heart

These are the words of a veteran, not of a raw recruit in the battle of life. A first disaster brings consternation; a ripened experience alone can take calamity calmly. God educates His servants by hard discipline, in conflict with the forces of evil; and He educates the world by calling it to watch the contest.

I. in the strife between good and evil, the good seems to be fearfully overmatched. The host of Midian were as grasshoppers for multitude, but the Israelitish army consisted of three hundred picked men. The Christians in workshops are but a feeble minority. Temples of vice are more crowded and longer open than Christian churches. The Devil’s recruits far outnumber those of the Prince of Peace.

II. evil ever appears to be hanging over the heads of the godly. To take a Christian stand is to expose oneself to ridicule and to danger. The struggle seems to be a hopeless one, both against the evil without and the evil within. Many an earnest Christian is fearful at times, lest the evil within should finally overmaster him. There seem to be times when the spirit of the lotos-eaters takes possession of us, and we feel that we must take a rest, and let sin sweep over us. Were it not better to make peace with powerful evils rather than contend longer against them?

III. but the threat of disaster is worse than the reality. The Devil’s bark is more frequent than his bite. Many a dark cloud passes without bursting with the threatening storm. The darkest hour is often that before the dawn. In any case, to treat a threatening evil as an actual one is to suffer needlessly. The coward dies a thousand deaths before he dies once. Courage! Do not yield to evil because the siege is a strait one.

IV. apparent odds are no test of ultimate victory. He who has not lost courage is master of the future. It is not true to say that “God is on the side of the biggest battalions.” What of Gideon’s three hundred, and the ten thousand Greeks at Marathon? What, too, of the immense hosts of the Spanish Armada? God’s greatest victories have been won by the smallest and apparently most feeble forces.

V. the suffering of apparent defeat in the cause of right is but sharing the burden of God. The hermit who stopped the gladiatorial contests at the cost of his own life, chose a nobler lot than they did who occupied seats of honour in the amphitheatre; and we all see it now, though few saw it then. We may do more for God’s cause by our suffering than we could by our prosperity. “How can man die better?”

VI. the calm endurance of calamity brings its own blessings. A regiment is of but little use in battle until it has been “shot over.” The tried man is the blessed man. By such endurance we bring a nobler ideal nearer to men. And we secure the sympathy of the noblest souls for truth and righteousness. (R. C. Ford, M. A.)

Fortitude

Fortitude is opposed to timidity, irresolution, a feeble and wavering spirit. It is placed, like other virtues, between two extremes: at an equal distance from rashness on the one hand, and pusillanimity on the other.

I. the high importance of fortitude.

1. Without some degree of fortitude, there can be no happiness; because, amidst the thousand uncertainties of life, there can be no enjoyment of tranquillity. The man of feeble and timorous spirit lives under perpetual alarms. On the first shock of adversity he desponds. On the other hand, firmness of mind is the parent of tranquillity. It enables one to enjoy the present without disturbance; and to look calmly on dangers that approach, or evils that threaten in future. It suggests good hopes. It supplies resources. It allows a man to retain the full possession of himself, in every situation of fortune.

2. If fortitude be thus essential to the enjoyment of life, it is equally so to the proper discharge of all its most important duties. He who is of a cowardly mind is, and must be, a slave to the world. He fashions his whole conduct according to its hopes and fears. He smiles, and fawns, and betrays, from abject considerations of personal safety. He can neither stand the clamour of the multitude, nor the frowns of the mighty. The wind of popular favour, or the threats of power, are sufficient to shake his most determined purpose.

3. Without this temper of mind, no man can be a thorough Christian. For his profession, as such, requires him to be superior to that fear of man which bringeth a snare; enjoins him, for the sake of a good conscience, to encounter every danger; and to be prepared, if called, even to lay down his life in the cause of religion and truth.

II. the proper foundations of fortitude.

1. A good conscience. There can be no true courage, no regular persevering constancy, but what is connected with principle, and founded on a consciousness of rectitude of intention. This, and this only, erects that brazen wall which we can oppose to every hostile attack. It clothes us with an armour, on which fortune will spend its shafts in vain. What has he to fear, who not only acts on a plan which his conscience approves, but who knows that every good man, nay, the whole unbiassed world, if they could trace his intentions, would justify and approve his conduct?

2. He knows, at the same time, that he is acting under the immediate eye and protection of the Almighty. The consciousness of such an illustrious spectator invigorates and animates him. He trusts that the eternal Lover of righteousness not only beholds and approves, but will strengthen and assist; will not suffer him to be unjustly oppressed, and will reward his constancy in the end, with glory, honor, and immortality.

III. considerations which may prove auxiliary to the exercise of virtuous fortitude in the midst of dangers.

1. It is of high importance to every one, who wishes to act his part with becoming resolution, to cultivate a religious principle, and to be inspired with trust in God. The more firmly this belief is rooted in the heart, its influence will be more powerful in surmounting the fears which arise from a sense of our own weakness or danger. The records of all nations afford a thousand remarkable instances of the effect of this principle, both on individuals and on bodies of men. Animated by the strong belief of a just cause, and a protecting God, the feeble have waxed strong, and despised dangers, sufferings, death.

2. Let him who would preserve fortitude in difficult situations, fill his mind with a sense of what constitutes the true honour of man. It consists not in the multitude of riches, or the elevation of rank; for experience shows that these may be possessed by the worthless, as well as by the deserving. It consists in being deterred by no danger when duty calls us forth; in fulfilling our allotted part, whatever it may be, with faithfulness, bravery, and constancy of mind. These qualities never fail to stamp distinction on the character.

3. But in order to acquire habits of fortitude, what is of the highest consequence is to have formed a just estimate of the goods and evils of life, and of the value of life itself. For here lies the chief source of our weakness and pusillanimity. We over-value the advantages of fortune; rank and riches, ease and safety. (H. Blair, D. D.)

Dauntless courage

A Dutch fleet once drew near to Chatham. Fearing it might effect a landing, the Duke of Albemarle determined to prevent it, and endeavoured to inspire his men with his own dauntless spirit. Calmly he took his position in the front, thus exposing himself to the hottest fire from the hostile ships. An affectionate but over-cautious friend, seeing him in such danger, darted forward, seized him by the arm, and exclaimed, “Retire, I beseech you, from this fierce shower of bullets, or you will be a dead man!” The Duke, releasing himself from his grasp, turned coldly on the man who would tempt him to cowardice in the hour of his country’s need, and replied, “Sir, if I had been afraid of bullets I should have given up the profession of a soldier long ago.” (Quiver.)


Verse 4

Psalms 27:4

One thing have I desired of the Lord.

Singleness of purpose in worship

Worship is a necessity to the spiritually awakened soul. Public worship was an urgent, pressing necessity in the psalmist’s case. When, on another occasion similar to that on which he penned this psalm, he found himself deprived of the refreshing and ennobling services of God’s house, he exclaimed (Psalms 84:2). Our text teaches us much about David as a worshipper.

I. his singleness of purpose in worship.

1. No moment in the history of his soul was so full of meaning as that moment when, as though he saw the Invisible, he poured the petitions of his overflowing soul into the ear of Him who listens to the cry of the raven, and also the cries and supplications of His needy people, and supplies their every want. In worship he learnt more, felt better, and understood the purposes of life more thoroughly than in any other act of his life. He placed everything else on a lower plane as of less importance, that he might pray to God, fully persuaded that he could obtain more for his soul and the souls of his fellow-creatures by that means than by any other method.

2. The vehemence of the psalmist’s desire would have consumed him had he not been able to embody the desire in the act. Like another servant of God’s, the passion to act was like a “burning fire shut up” in his “bones,” until he moved to seek after that which he so ardently desired. Religion was a business with him who penned this psalm, not a mere pastime. The more the soul possesses of the spirit of true piety, the more active will it become.

3. David having found the Lord to be to him all he tells us in the first verse, it is only natural that his most earnest spiritual desires should be towards Him.

II. the particular place where he desired to worship. “O that I might be able to perform all the duties of life in the house of God, beneath His eye, and in His immediate presence; that every act of my life might be an act of worship.” He did not, monk-like, desire to spend his life in self-imposed idleness; his active, kingly nature would not permit him to waste precious time in such a selfish luxury; but he desired, above all things, that his life should be supremely spiritual. If all who are engaged in the world’s work in the various walks of life were seeking to perform its many duties as though they were conscious that they were in the presence of God, who approves or disapproves of every act done by men, doubtless a much greater number would be actuated by the spirit that breathes in the text. Then every factory, warehouse, exchange, shop, market-place, school-room, and study would be a sacred place, made such by spiritual men and women. Every building may be a house of God if there be a child of God in it.

III. His determination to persevere in the worship of the true God. “All the days,” etc. This is really a spiritual necessity. If the soul is to live and grow in the virtues of religion, its needs must be attended to every day, and as long as life lasts. The bread of life that came down from heaven is the soul’s portion, and it is everything we can desire. Then there is the river of life, the streams of which never dry. Let us constantly seek these grand essentials in the worship of God. (D. Rhys Jenkins.)

The simplification of life

Here is a man whose life has reached its uttermost simplicity, his longings are reduced to one. The whole force of his being is concentrated upon a single aim. “One thing have I desired, that will I seek after.” I do not suppose he had been able to say this always; there was a time when, if he spoke his heart, he said, “Many things I desire.” All of us have gone through that, some of us are going through it still. The child is possessed by what Wordsworth called “chance desires.” Every shop window is crowded with objects of desire; he wants so many of the sweet and pretty things, that it is cruelty to ask him to say which. There is another stage. The same great poet sings, “He became the slave of low desires.” Many a man is set on things which cannot be called base, but they are low; they are natural and pleasant, but there is nothing exalted or exalting about them; if they do not degrade, they do not elevate. Many such things have we desired. We cannot help the fact that we start low, but we sin if we finish there. This man had passed through both these stages of experience. There came a moment when a new desire was borne into his life and leaped like fire upon the other longings there, and caught them up into itself. “One thing have I desired; that will I seek after.” And this experience is not so singular as may appear. Life is a process of simplification; the many things that we desire in youth dwindle, or rather coalesce into one dominant desire, just as the many streamlets of the hills all join the river in the vale. Every man down at the core of him desires one thing. The difference between them is in the thing which they desire. This man has told us what it was he had at heart when he exclaimed, “One thing have I desired.” It was to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, to observe His beauty, and to inquire in His temple. Translated into modern speech that means, “The one thing for which I long above all others is to be true and noble, and like God; I want to be the best that God can make me, I pant to attain the highest that is possible for me. That is the passion of my soul for which I live, and pray, and toil each day and all day long.” (James Mursell.)

A great desire

I. the great object of his ardent desire.

1. A permanent residence in the house of God. The psalmist desired to engage permanently in the service of the Lord. What a contrast is this to the conduct of those who attend only occasionally when opportunity appears to them to favour it, or when worldly engagements do not interfere. The psalmist had an ardent desire for this object. What a contrast does this present to those who come to the house of the Lord, but who come from improper motives, who are induced to come from submission to authority, from a compliance with custom, or from the accusation of conscience,

2. The object of the psalmist’s desire includes the enjoyment of the Divine presence in His ordinances, to behold the beauty of the Lord. The beauty of the Lord is that display of His presence and perfections which is made to the minds of His true and spiritual worshippers. The services of the ancient temple were beautiful. They were typical of Gospel times; yet the ancient saints rejoiced in the glory which was to be revealed. We possess the full revelation of that glory which they “beheld through a glass darkly.” In our temple, though no cedars cast around their fragrance, nor are the sunbeams reflected from burnished gold--though we have no priests arrayed in costly vestments, nor do clouds of incense wave around us; yet in the full revelation of the Gospel, and in the more abundant influence of the Spirit, we behold a beauty which far surpasses the beauty of the ancient church.

3. The object of the psalmist’s desire includes an obedient, and diligent, and successful study of the Divine will, and to inquire in His temple,

II. the ardent intensity with which the psalmist desired this object. “One thing have I desired,” etc.

1. This is the language of decision.

2. Of decided preference. Elsewhere he says, “I had rather be a doorkeeper,” etc. (Psalms 89:1-52.). I commend his choice to you. (T. Raffles, D. D.)

David’s desire

“One thing,” says the psalmist, “I desire; that will I seek after.” Now what do you suppose it was? If you yourselves were about to express, at this moment, the one desire of your hearts--I mean that which was really and sincerely so--what would it be? Many of you would point, I have no doubt, to various things in which happiness is generally regarded as consisting--such a situation, such an income, such family comforts, such temporal enjoyments, and so on. You would, you think, be well content with these. Some few, however, would say that the “one thing” they would desire is to be Christ’s. Well, now, read the text fully, and you will see that David is not of your mind who care only for the good things of this world. Consider, then--

I. the thing David desires, viz. “to dwell in the house of the Lord,” etc.

II. THE fervency and sincerity of his desire. “One thing have I desired of the Lord,” etc.

III. the cause of his desire, or the ends for the sake of which he entertains it; viz. “to behold the beauty of the Lord,” etc. (A. Roberts, M. A.)

A breathing after God

In this psalm we have shown us David’s comfort. It was altogether in the Lord, and in his faith that God would destroy his cruel enemies. Hence he had great courage (Psalms 27:3). And now in the text we come to his chief care and concern: “One thing have I desired,” etc.

I. consider this generally.

1. By “one thing” he means that this was the chief and principal thing. There are differences in things, but this includes all. And God requires this supreme regard from us, for so only will the soul be in earnest, and this which David desired is the chief thing for the soul’s good.

2. The affection itself, in its degrees. He desired this “one thing,” and he would still “seek after it.” Desires are the aims of the heart, and determine its character. This was a spiritual desire, stirred up by the Spirit of God. We may test our being really Christians by our desires. If we be such, then they will be spiritual, fervent, constant, springing from the love of God, tending to His honour, and leading us to diligent use of means, and greater than any earthly desire.

3. Its object. Of the Lord he desired this “one thing.” When we have holy desires, turn them into prayers.

4. Its earnestness. “That will I seek after.” Prayer must be with importunity.

II. particularly.

1. “That I may dwell in the house,” etc. By this David meant the sanctuary, the type of the Church, the true house of God on earth. For there God is present. Now here David would ever dwell, because so he would dwell in God’s love and care; and in love to and for Him; and all this continually. His present attainment in good things does not satisfy him; he yet is hindered by much inward corruption: there is yet far more to be realized, and where God is present all good must be.

2. “To behold the beauty of the Lord.” God is beautiful. This seen in His house, for there we see His grace and love in Jesus Christ our Lord. And the house of God is beautiful also because the angels are present there: and because of the order of the Church, and the means of salvation--prayer, the Word, the Sacraments--which are there. And the praises of God are delightful. How evil, then, the condition of those who care not for the house of God. Seek after spiritual senses, whereby you can apprehend this “beauty of the Lord.” If as yet you fail to behold it, writ still on the ordinances, come to them in believing prayer: meditate much upon them. To induce us to seek this love for the house of God, let us remember that so only can true glory rest upon us: that our souls were made to behold the glory of God, and that disregard of His ordinances will cause God to depart from us. If we do not prize heavenly things we shall not be allowed to keep them. (R. Sibbes.)

David’s paramount desire

I. the object of David’s desire was to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life.” God’s house was, to David, the tabernacle, to Solomon, the temple, to any one, whatever spot is consecrated by God’s special presence. A statelier pile was never reared for God to dwell in than that which crested the holy height of Moriah, and yet bow truly exclaimed the pious monarch in his dedication prayer, “Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold the heaven, and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this house that I have builded?” The lofty soul of Isaiah thus sympathetically responds to this grand organ swell, “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool: where is the house that ye build unto Me?” (Isaiah 66:1-2; Isaiah 57:15). Yet He inhabits also the contrite heart. He whom not even eternity can bound, who, on the contrary, calls eternity in every sense His own can make a house of the contrite heart as well as of the heaven of heavens. How marvellous the condescension! And yet not so marvellous after all; for the heart of the contrite sinner, even in its wreck and ruin, is a grander thing than the mere place called heaven. An ancient sage grandly observed, “On earth there is nothing great but man; and in man there is nothing great but mind.” David found God everywhere, but none the less did he love God’s holy hill of Zion. And let the like love for our own sanctuary characterize us. To dwell here is to be in sympathy with all that is here that is spiritual and good. To all this one thing is essential. If we would “dwell in God’s house,” we must first “dwell in God.” To be at home in His house, we must be at home with Himself. We must meet God in peace and love over the Great Sacrifice. The prodigal must return; the enemy must be reconciled. Then, like holy men of old, you will feel, “It is good for us to be here”--good to linger where Christ is, and where heaven and earth, Old Testament and New, conspire to give Him glory.

II. its character. This desire of David was intense: “One thing,” says he, “have I desired.” Oh how impressive these “one things” of the Bible I Martha was cumbered about many things, but “one thing was needful.” The rich young moralist had much, but “one thing he lacked.” Paul had scope and faculty for varied action, but, as if gathering himself up into a thunderbolt, he said, “One thing I do.” And such a desire could not stop short of being also a practical desire: what he desired as a “one thing,” and desired “of the Lord,” that, we are prepared to hear him add, “will I seek after.” For our particular sanctuary many a desire has gone forth, many a prayer, many an effort. Then, all the more continue to pray and strive, and strive and pray, “that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified” in it.

III. its end--“to behold the beauty,” etc.

to see, and to go on inquiring that he might yet further see, the beauty of the Lord--His moral glory, which rays forth in brightest splendour from the face of Jesus Christ. Whoever you are, whatever you need, behold the love of God, His beauty, in Christ, and come unto Him and live. (T. Guthrie, D. D,)

Concentration

An anonymous writer has left us a very discriminating comparison of two great British statesmen. He likens Canning’s mind to a convex speculum, which scattered its rays of light upon all objects; while he likens Brougham’s to a concave speculum, which concentrated the rays upon one central, burning, focal point. (A. T. Pierson, D. D.)

Unity of purpose

Clio will have no divided worship. Gibbon did nothing else than devote himself heart and soul to the Decline and Fall. When Grote undertook the History of Greece, he had to give up his business. Macaulay, when he began the History of England, hod to drop writing articles for the Edinburgh Review. (Peter Anton.)

Life’s limitations

In a garden at Mentone is a tree upon which may be seen at the same time oranges, lemons, citrons, and shaddocks. All the grafts were alive, but they were not all equally vigorous. If I remember well, there was but one fruit of each kind on any but the orange and the lemon, and the orange greatly preponderated in fruitfulness. The stronger wins the day. The more vigorous of the grafts took the sap to itself, and left the others to pine. One kind of fruit is enough for one tree, and one great object is enough for one man. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The good man’s desires after the house of God

I. what the desire of the psalmist, and so of every saint, is fixed upon. It is as if he should say, “As long as I live I would gladly live in the house of God, be always near to Him, have uninterrupted communion with Him, be employed in hearing from Him, praying to Him, praising of Him; and if there be a heaven upon earth, it is found in such works and enjoyments as these. I am nowhere so well as in the house of God: no company like His; no entertainment like His. Here I would be, not as a wayfaring man, that turneth aside to tarry for a night, but as one that belongs to the family, a stated inhabitant. I desire to dwell in the house of the Lord, and this not for a short and limited time, but all the days of my life: as long as I remain upon earth, the house of God will be my most delightful abode.”

II. the desire itself.

1. Take notice of its characters. It is a real desire, not feigned. Fixed. “One thing.” Supreme; he desired it before and above all else. With this he was content, without it nothing could satisfy him (Psalms 42:1-2; Psalms 84:2). Constant and abiding--he has desired it, and still he “will seek after” it. And it is influential upon his practice. It makes him pray and endeavour.

2. Whence it springs. It is from God’s Spirit. We did not bring it into the world ourselves, and we could not produce it ourselves.

III. the aim he professes to have. “To behold the beauty,” etc.--God in Christ--“and to inquire,” etc. Let us be thankful for “the house of the Lord.” (D. Wilcox.)

Dwelling in the house of the Lord

I. the desire of the psalmist, “To dwell in the house of the Lord.” His desire was--

1. Paramount. It was the “one thing” above all others.

2. Operative. “Seek after.” He strove to attain the permanent position, overriding all difficulties.

3. Uniform.

4. Permanent. “All the days of my life,”

II. the design of the psalmist. Why did he want to “dwell in the house of the Lord”?

1. To admire. “To behold the beauty of the Lord.” Admiration is one of the chief elements of human happiness. Hence The universe overflows with beauty.

2. To think. “To inquire in the temple.” He did not desiderate merely an empty gaze, or a luxuriating in admiration, but to think also. (The Homilist.)

The house of God

(I.):--The learned tell us that this psalm is made up of two independent poems, the second of which begins at the seventh verse. And certainly the great difference of thought and feeling between the two parts goes far to justify the suggestion. But is not the first half also the work of two writers? Can the speaker of the first three verses be the same as the speaker of the next three? At the fourth verse the sentiment and atmosphere undergo an entire change. Before that you have represented the active, after it the contemplative life. The temperament of the earlier speaker is practical, of the later aesthetic. In the former part you are stirred by “the trumpet’s loud clangour” and the defiant tones of the warrior; in the latter you are subdued to the awe and serenity of the mystic. The two types thus represented are, indeed, common. We know them both well. The strenuous, hustling man of affairs, who can’t bear to be inactive, and loves the bustle of modern life. And that other we also know, “his brow sicklied o’er with the pale east of thought”; of intellectual or aesthetic bent; who is never so happy as when alone “far from the madding crowd,” surrounded by his books and his pictures. And God made them both and appointed to each his part. And both find their strength and delight in Him, who is at once God of might and of wisdom, Lord of battles, and Prince of peace. What causes the surprise is that these contradictory, if complementary, temperaments are represented as being united in one and the same person. Here is the active man who loves contemplation! The warrior in the high places of the battlefield, who sighs for the solemn hush of the sanctuary! The public man who longs for the heritage of the recluse! How are we to regard such a phenomenon? Have we here a melancholy illustration of life’s misfits? Is this a case of a man who has missed his calling, who, as the proverb says, is “a square peg in a round hole”? There are such cases. Men intended by nature for a contemplative life who have been forced by circumstances into the active. But the true explanation is not, I think, in that direction. The speech of a mystic, turned warrior against his will, would bewray him in his utterance of the warrior’s defiance. But this challenge is beyond suspicion. It is quite evidently characteristic and sincere. This man is not seeking a way of escape from his present duties; he has no wish to obtain release from the strain upon him. On the contrary, he rather enjoys the fray. He is glad of the occasion that keeps all his powers at full stretch, and taxes his strength to the uttermost, and adds the excitement of risk and peril. He “rejoices as a strong man to run a race.” But he recognizes the obvious fact that the more constant and exacting the demand upon a man’s powers the greater need of time for recuperation; the more one draws on the reserves the greater the necessity of proper provision for their replenishing. On the other hand, one may use the surface water without stint, if one is sure that the deep springs are being fed. Now in the words of the text, this Samson is confessing where his great strength lies. The light by which he makes his midnight marches, the strength in which he wrestles, the confidence that nerves his arm, and braces him to engage in a fight against fearful odds and, with an exultation that has almost a boyish swagger about it, to “sing defiance to the gates of hell,” comes from his God. And it is in the vision of God, and the sense of communion with Him, which he realizes in the sanctuary that he receives the retrieving and replenishing grace which “soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, and drives away his fear.” This surely is the true connection of the two parts of the psalm. The active and the contemplative lives are not so much antagonistic as complementary. The high pitch of perfection which is now expected in front rank men makes specialization a necessity, and so tends to the separation of the two. But nature is wont to wreak vengeance on such as lose sight of her great law of balance. To keep up the pace, the active, pushing man of affairs must have his period of reflection. He needs an opportunity for self-refreshment, a vantage ground from which to view the direction of his energies, and what the psalmist here avers, uttering it with the deep feeling of strong conviction and happy experience, is this: that for real change and for all recuperative purposes of body, mind, and spirit, there is no place like the house of God. Wiser than many busy men of to-day, he sees that the strenuousness of life, so far from justifying indifference to worship and absence from the house of God, constitutes the strongest argument for regular and eager attendance. In order to meet the supposed demand of exhausted nature, modern society has instituted the custom of week-ending. London, they say, is empty on the Sunday! A similar exodus takes place from the great cities of the provinces. The bustle of the town has invaded the country! Where is the rest and quiet the travellers sought? A change of air and scene without a doubt has its value. But change of sky unaccompanied by change of thoughts is only partially restorative, “The mind is its own place!” Again, we need a period of relief from the busy round of daily duties in order to gain a better view of the trend of our life. One wants a vantage ground where one can see the whole. The general must not get entangled in his fighting line. The artist steps back from his easel in order that he may see if the effect he is producing is that which he really intends. The business man needs to stop buying and selling, and to take stock, so as to see what department is remunerative and what is being run at a loss. Now it is just these needs which the psalmist says the house of God supplies. It affords that detached point of view from which the whole of life may be surveyed. Inquiry in the Lord’s temple obtains the answer to many a riddle for the lack of which men live in the weakness of indecision, or receives a grace and assurance even better than the difficulty’s solution. Again, is there any place in which you are so quickly conscious of a change of atmosphere affecting the whole being as the house of God affords? Just as the Embassy of another nation is considered a portion of the territory of that nation, so the house of God is a little bit of the Eternal world let down into the world of time. Pass within its doors, You have, as it were, entered the territory of another State. Here reigns another Monarch, a different language is spoken, other laws obtain, different sanctions hold sway, than those recognized by the world outside. The house of God stands for and witnesses to other thoughts and other feelings than those of the market-place, the battlefield, the law court, and the university. It is tenanted by a different spirit. It introduces to a life loftier and deeper, richer and fuller, more strenuous and more peaceful, more joyful and more sympathetic, more self-denying and more self-abandoning, than any of which the world has dreamed. From its beauteous worship a man goes forth at once softened and exhilarated, subdued and strengthened. On another occasion we must consider hew this great purpose is accomplished. (F. L. Wiseman.)

The house of God

(II.):--The particular aspect of the subject I am striving to present is the peculiar utility and profit of the house of God to the men and women of a busy age like the present. The psalmist, engrossed in the pressing cares and duties of a strenuous life, realizes his need for a period of relaxation and a place in which his exhausted powers may be recuperated, and the deep wells of his nature replenished. In the house of the Lord, as he states, he finds just the answer to his need.

1. The very name of the place seems to indicate as much. It is “the house of the Lord.” The place where God is to be found and known. Not, of course, that that is the only place in which he is to be met with. The heaven of heavens cannot contain Him, how much less the house that is built with hands? As our Lord has taught us, wherever there is one who would worship in spirit and truth, God is near. None the less, however, the house built for His glory, and dedicated to His honour, is His peculiar habitation in this sense, that it is there that man recognizes Him. Attendance on the house of God is the acknowledgment of God, the living God, in His infinite and glorious perfections, and in the righteousness and beneficence of His rule. Here man recognizes in his own heart, and before his fellows, the being and the presence of the everlasting, ever-present, all-holy, all-wise, all-loving God. And the more the set of the stream with or against which his daily life flows has been away from God, the greater the need and the boon of just such a reflection. Further, in the house of God man sees God in a right light: sees Him as He wishes to be known. As the psalmist reminds us, God’s revelation of Himself to man is conditioned by the state of mind and heart of the person to whom the revelation is made. It may, therefore, assume an aspect in which He Himself has no pleasure. To the pure He shows Himself pure; but to the perverse He appears as froward. The view of the character of God which a sinful and rebellious age obtains needs therefore correcting and supplementing. But in the place where men come to seek His face, in His temple in which they inquire after Him, He can and does appear as He would be known, in His “beauty,” as the text says. Here, alongside His unimpeachable righteousness, He proclaims His name as gracious and merciful, slow to anger, plenteous in kindness.

2. The text further suggests another alluring and uplifting aspect of God’s house, to which both other Old Testament Scripture and the Lord Jesus Himself give utterance. His house is called a house of prayer. He who goes to the house of God goes to the place where prayer is wont to be made. In other words, he there learns the nature, not only of God, but of himself also. Prayer is an acknowledgment of God’s supremacy and of man’s dependence. Is there any climate so grateful, so restoring, so bracing as the atmosphere of prayer? On every side one hears complaints of the hardening influence of modern commercial life. Keen competition leads to self-assertion, callousness, and indifference to the interests of others. The successful man is apt to become self-sufficient, inconsiderate, arrogant; the unsuccessful, bitter, cold, sardonical; and all more or less reserved and unreal. To some, therefore, it is an excellent discipline surely to come to the place where one’s very presence acknowledges dependence and confesses how little our native power avails. To others it affords an exercise of trust to bow before the will of God. And to all it must be an unspeakable relief to come where one can be exactly oneself: where all the traditions and influence gathering around the place conspire to say, “Ye people, pour out your hearts before Him; God is a refuge for us.”

3. But there is yet another and still more intimate term by which the house is known. It needed a child to discover it, and that child the Holy Child. When the anxious mother chid her wondrous Son that He had caused her three days’ sorrowful search, He gently and brightly replied, “But how is it you went about looking for Me; did it not occur to you that I should certainly be in my Father’s house?” My Father’s house--that is Jesus’ name for the house of God. Verily He makes all things new, The house of God is the place to which the Child would naturally go! It is home! The Father’s house! Is there any place so beautiful, so restful, so welcome? Here one may enjoy the most delightful of all fellowship, the fellowship with the members of one’s own family; and fellowship with the Father and with the Son. The cleansing, soothing, refreshing, renewing, strengthening, enwisening, sanctifying influence of such a place and such a fellowship who can compute? No wonder that the psalmist, who had enjoyed it, longed to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, or bewailed that fate had made him a dweller in the tents of Kedar or in the high places of danger and strife. But note the great discovery he makes. He finds that, though now he has returned from the house of God, he has not left it! The house of God has followed him, and in some mysterious way is still his habitation and shelter. The time of worldly trouble and danger acquaints him with the fact. In the time of trouble he is hid in the secret of his Father’s pavilion, and on the battlefield screened in the covert of the tabernacle! It is the perpetual miracle of the Father’s providence. He who loves the house of God, and goes to it as he has opportunity, will dwell under its influence all the days of his life. (F. L. Wiseman.)

God seen and man taught in the temple

Note--

I. THE “one thing” of the psalmist’s desire--“that I may dwell,” etc.

II. the object for which he cherished this strong desire.

1. That he might behold the beauty of the Lord--the outward beauty animated with the service of the Lord: that which we should desire to see is the spiritual beauty, the various perfections of His character.

2. That he might inquire in His temple. David needed to inquire of God as a king; also as a man; as a transgressor. And how many are the subjects on which we shall do well to inquire of God in His temple? (John Corbin.)

Guests of God

I. the true meaning of the aspiration. What the psalmist desires is that he may be able to keep up unbroken consciousness of being in God’s presence, and may be always in touch with Him. He had learned what so many of us need to learn far more thoroughly, that if our religion does not drive the wheels of our daily business, it is of little use; and that if the field in which our religion has power to control and impel is not that of the trivialities and secularities of our ordinary life, there is no field for it at all.

II. the psalmist’s reason for this aspiration. “That I may dwell in the house of the Lord.” That is an allusion, not only, as I think, to the temple, but also to the oriental habit of giving a man who took refuge in the tent of the sheikh guest-rites of protection, and provision, and friendship. So the psalmist says, “I desire to have guest-rites in thy tent; to lift up its fold, and shelter there from the heat of the desert. And although I be dark and stained with many evils and transgressions against thee, yet I come to claim the hospitality, and provision, and protection, and friendship which the laws of the house do bestow upon a guest.” That is to say, the blessedness of keeping up such a continual consciousness of touch with God is, first and foremost, the certainty of infallible protection. Oh I how it minimizes all trouble and brightens all joys, and calms amidst all distractions, and steadies and sobers in all circumstances, to feel ever the hand of God upon us I There is another blessing that will come to the dweller in God’s house, and not a small one. It is that by the power of this one satisfied longing, driven like an iron rod through all the tortuosities of my life, there will come into it a unity which otherwise few lives are ever able to attain, and the want of which is no small cause of the misery that is great upon men. Most of us seem, to our own consciousness, to live amidst endless distractions all our days.

III. the method by which this desire is realized. “One thing have I desired,. . . that will I seek after.” There are two points to be kept in view to that end. A great many people say, “One thing have I desired,” and fail in persistent continuousness of the desire. No man gets rights of residence in God’s house for a longer time than he continues to seek for them. But the words of the text not only suggest by the two tenses of the verbs the continuity of the desire which is destined to be granted, but also by the two verbs themselves--desire and seek after--the necessity of uniting prayer and work. Many desires are unsatisfied because conduct does not correspond to desires. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

David’s delight in the house of God

I. David’s desire. To “dwell in the house of the Lord,” or to regularly attend the same, is very desirable--

1. Because of God Himself being there (Matthew 18:20). No wonder that any one who is “spiritually minded” should wish to be continually present with Christ.

2. Because of the blessings to be obtained there.

II. David’s design.

III. David’s determination. “That will I seek after.” This supposes obstacles or hindrances. Various and many are the hindrances to public worship. Some, I fear, absent themselves because they are niggardly; but, I believe, others stay away often because they are poor, and cannot give as they would like to. Some are kept away by domestic engagements, the opposition of relatives, sickness, or young children; or, on week-days, by business. Satan seeks to hinder, and some neglect because of indifference. Let no one watch for excuses, but all look out for opportunities, seize them promptly, and use them earnestly; and thus, in spite of all drawbacks, like David, “seek after” the worship of God. (S. Stubbings.)

Dwelling in the house of the Lord

This is the singular disclosure, the private feeling of a great man full of power: but Scripture teaches us in this way, not only by laws but by lives as well; and while its rules speak very clearly, its examples are more forcible still. The grace of the Holy Spirit offers us to-day to ascertain from David the inclination Christians ought to have for the services of the Church. Every one of us has a bias, an habitual motive, a master impulse, which, as other influences weaken, makes itself felt. To know what this is, is to know the key to the character, and the clue to the conduct. David’s impulse is a good one: he tells us his secret: it is an inclination to religion--the best bias in the world. He did not want, like some, to have the wings of a dove, and fly into the holy sanctuary, away from the duties of life which lay before him, and to choose some new set of duties for himself. His part was given him by the will of God: it was to serve his generation in active life. To have left this for the pleasures of uninterrupted religious worship would have been to abandon duty for inclination. The services of the Church are not the only duty of Christians in the world; but they are the one duty which prepares us to do our other duties well. David’s wish was, that he might feel so much interest in religion, and have such an assurance of God’s presence in the Church, as always to take pleasure in going there, always to profit while he was there, and always to bring so much good away with him that, though his body might be absent from the temple, his heart might still remain in it, and the memory of its services might be his spiritual food. We are convinced by experience that the necessary business of life tends to drive religion out of our heads, even if it does not drive it out of our hearts. We are quite annoyed when we find ourselves out, and can see how some little matters of only passing interest have made us quite forget for a time the presence of God. We do not wish to be ungrateful or worldly. This will not do, we think. We must try again to be more spiritual. This will grow by practice (1 Corinthians 15:46). There is comfort in this, that by trying we shall be improved, and that it is by gradual and imperceptible training we hope some day to be able to say with all our hearts, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after; that I may remember my Church constantly, and live in the presence of God.” It is a good beginning to have a clear object in view: “One thing have I desired.” And it is better still, after having clearly fixed on one’s object, to steadily pursue it: “that will I seek after.” If we walk uprightly, and speak uprightly; if we despise the gain of oppression, and shut our eyes from seeing evil; then thy heart shall crave for the rest of the blessed, thy mind shall company with the saints in glory, thy loving ear shall catch the echoes of their song, and (Isaiah 33:17). This was the final object of David’s desire: this the end of his search. This was why he would inquire and dwell in the temple, that there, in heaven’s rest, in all the days of heaven’s life, he might behold the beauty of the Lord. (T. F. Crosse, D. C. L.)

A soul longing for God

The character of this psalm is akin to that of the twenty-third in its language, ideas, and devotional spirit.

I. the soul’s resolve. What is life without aim, without purpose? It is a moral waste. The true soul will ever have its resolve, its mark, its aim.

1. It is single--“one thing.” In a multiplicity of aims men fail.

2. It is earnest. That will I “seek” after. The earnest man is the real man.

II. The soul’s desire. This prompted the resolve, and moved the soul to action. It was for--

1. The enjoyment of the sanctuary. “That I may dwell in the house of the Lord.” To souls depressed, what may not the house of God be to them--a Bethel, a “burning bush” where they may hear God’s voice.

2. That this enjoyment may be life long--“All the days of my life.” His soul found such delight in those services, and he would have this perpetuated.

III. the soul’s purpose.

1. To behold the Divine glory--“the beauty of the Lord.”

2. To drink at the Divine fountain--“to inquire in His temple.” God is the eternal Fountain of Truth and Goodness. (J. W. Kaye.)

The influence of religious institutions

I. The influence of religious institutions upon men, with respect to their religious capacity. True piety indeed is not confined to the sanctuary. High is the pleasure, and great the benefit, of private devotion. But sure I am, that they who have entered into the spirit, and tasted the pleasures, of devotion in secret, will not be thereby prevented from approaching to God in the ordinances of public worship. Society heightens every feeling, improves every delight. All that charms eye, ear, imagination, or heart, is attended with double pleasure, when we share it in the company of others. A holy emulation will rise in the bosoms of the faithful: the ardour will spread from breast to breast, and the passions of one inflame the passions of all.

II. The effect of religious institutions upon men, with regard to their moral character. Men in general have no principle of moral conduct but religion, and if that were taken away, they would work all impurity with greediness, whenever they could withdraw from the public eye. Human laws would often be of little avail, without a sense of Divine legislation; and the sanctions of men have little force, unless they were enforced by the authority of God. Mutual confidence between man and man would be destroyed; human life would be thrown into confusion, the safety of mankind would be endangered, and the moral world totter to its ruin, if such a pillar were to fall. And what is it that maintains and spreads religious principles in the world? What is it that keeps alive on the minds of the people, the fear of God and the belief of His providence? It is the public institutions of religion; the observance of the Lord’s day; our assembling together for divine worship.

III. The effect of religious institutions upon men, with regard to their political state. The political systems that take place in the world, the facility with which the many are governed by the few, is one of the most wonderful things in the history of man. What prevents bloodshed and devastation, and all the evils of war? Nothing! so much as the influence of religious principles upon the minds of men, Christianity gives honour to civil government, as being the ordinance of God, and enjoins subjection to the laws, under its own awful sanctions. And not only by particular precepts, but by its secret and less visible influence, it prepares the minds of men for submission to lawful authority. Obedience to spiritual authority paves the way for subjection to the civil power. Hence wise legislators have, even on this account, favoured the progress of religion.

IV. The influence of religious institutions upon men, with respect to domestic life. A new bond will be added to the conjugal union, when those whom it connects walk to the house of God in company, take sweet counsel with one another, and set out jointly in the way that leads to life. Watered by the dews of Heaven, which fall here, the olive-plants will flourish round your table. There is a beauty, also, when rich and poor, high and low, who seldom meet together on other occasions, assemble in one place, one great family, in the presence of their common Lord, when they are stripped of every adventitious circumstance, and where virtue makes the only distinction among them. It is the image of those golden times when society began; it is the image of the state which is to come, when God shall be all in all. (John Logan.)

The affection of David towards the place of God’s worship

I. David’s heart was set upon the house of God above all other things. He was moved thereto by the wonderful, rare, heavenly blessings which are enjoyed there, and nowhere else.

1. Here God gives direction in every good way (Psalms 32:8).

2. Here is plentiful provision both for soul and body (Psalms 34:10; Psalms 37:3-4).

3. Here is safe protection and preservation, by special providence (Psalms 91:1; Matthew 10:29-31).

4. Here is most admirable remuneration, even in this life, with the honour of grace, and favour to be His friends (John 15:14-15), and His children (1 John 3:1), and to have the attendance of the angels (Psalms 34:7; Psalms 91:11); but most abundantly in the life to come. Uses--

1. For instruction.

2. For admonition.

II. the means he used, and the course he took, to obtain this blessing. David did with prayer join other endeavour to get this blessing. The reason of this behaviour is twofold.

1. Obedience to God’s ordinance, who required of those who would dwell in His house three things.

2. Desire to enjoy the blessings of God’s house, wherein he knew that man’s true happiness did stand (Psalms 65:4; Psalms 84:4).

III. the length of time for which he desires to dwell therein. All the days of his life.

1. For the fruition of the good things of God’s house.

2. For his better opportunity to glorify God (Psalms 63:4; Psalms 146:2).

3. He knew that to be out of God’s house was to be out of God’s favour (Genesis 4:14; 2 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 17:20).

Uses--

1. For instruction. See plainly in David that the hearts of the godly do sincerely desire and faithfully strive for perseverance in the state of grace which at this day is dwelling in God’s house.

2. For admonition to those that are weary of God’s house, and the exercise of religion.

IV. the blessed ends for which David desires this.

1. To behold the beauty of the Lord. As in the works of creation He showed the eternal power and wisdom of the Godhead, so in the ordinances of His service He makes known His justice, goodness, love, and mercy in Jesus Christ.

2. That he may inquire in His temple; i.e. diligently seek direction of God in all cases of doubt or difficulty. Reasons hereof

1. For instruction. See plainly that the true members of God’s Church are advanced in privilege, dignity and honour above all other people.

2. For admonition. It serves effectually to move all who live in the Church to look unto their state and carriage, that it be such as may give them some good assurance that they have right to this privilege. Let us see--

Delight in the sanctuary

David in the midst of a turbulent life finds refuge from the storm in the harbour of God’s sanctuary.

I. the realized fact that he who inhabits eternity condescends to dwell in earthly sanctuaries dedicated to his worship. “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion.” His presence makes it morally beautiful. He is the light and glory of it. Without Him the most gorgeous temple becomes a tomb.

II. delight because of its august and inspiring services. The praise and prayer--the unfolding of the Word of God, and the illumination coming from the effluence of the Holy Spirit.

III. the delightful repose of the passions, and refreshing of the affections, and quickening of the life by the vision of those harmonies that meet in God--His nature, works and ways, and which constitute the “beauty of the Lord.” (Homiletic Review.)

David’s master-passion

The first word suggests an important thought--Singleness of aim. Men of one idea--specialists. One man weighs so little versus the community, the State, the race, that his whole force and influence are needed in one place to accomplish anything. The rifle-ball has greater penetrating power than shot, not simply because it is larger, but because the force of powder is concentrated on the one projectile. So the men who have penetrated society with their ideas and made a lasting impression. David illustrates this law. He had--

I. A master-passion. He was a shepherd boy, yet could say, “One thing,” etc. A soldier, renowned; a ruler, with great power; a poet, with great celebrity; a father, full of affection; amid all the changes of his varied fortune, “one thing” was the master-passion of his life.

II. its object.

1. “That I may dwell in the house of the Lord,” etc. Habitual church-going and fellowship with God: “Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest” (Psalms 65:4).

2. “To behold the beauty of the Lord.” Sanctuary, a place for the manifestation of God and for the education of the soul. David wished to appreciate the beauty of the divine character. This required a development of his capacity, a spiritualizing of all his faculties. “God is a Spirit”: spiritual things are spiritually discussed. David wished an intimate knowledge of God. Men travel thousands of miles to look upon the beauties of ancient art. These must fade. The “beauty of the Lord” is eternal.

3. “To inquire in His temple.” David came to God’s house as a learner, an inquirer, sincerely desiring to appropriate to his own heart and life the spirit and excellence, the beauty and worth of Him who condescended to dwell with men and be their God.

III. the result.

1. A literary immortality.

2. The divine approval. “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart.” Earth affords no such commendation, no such sweet and lasting reward. For this divine approval brought--

3. Present security (Psalms 27:5), and eternal well-being (Psalms 23:6). Make David’s master-passion your own. (J. C. Allen.)

Moral effects of communion with God

Prayer is conversing with God. We converse with men, and then we use familiar language, because they are our fellows. We converse with God, and then we use the lowliest, awfulest, calmest language we can, because He is God. Our intercourse with our fellow-men goes on not by sight, but by sound; not by eyes, but by ears. Hearing is the social sense, and language is the social bond. Prayers and praises are the mode of the Christian’s intercourse with the next world, and they have an especial influence upon our fitness for claiming it. He who does not use a gift loses it, and he who neglects to pray is but in a way to lose possession of his divine citizenship. He who has not accustomed himself to the language of heaven will be no fit inhabitant of it when, in the Last Day, it is perceptibly revealed. For prayer has a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul. And it gives fixedness of mind and of will; and clear perception of duty, and fellowship with the Lord. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

To behold the beauty of the Lord.--

The secret of beauty

In the New Testament the word “beauty” or “beautiful” is only used once in its literal sense. As in “the gate Beautiful.” But the Old Testament has it frequently, and applies it to things, qualities, actions, persons. This one of the differences between the Old Testament and the New, the one teaching the benefits of religion in regard to time, the other in regard to eternity. Hence the Old Testament seeks to bring men into harmony with natural laws; the New, with those which are spiritual. In the one we have truth represented through the senses, but in the other truth is taught in a more spiritual way. There are many scriptures in the Old Testament which speak of beauty, as in text. Reference may be designed to the beauty and splendour of the ritual service of Israel, but the more instructed people rose up from the lower forms of beauty to those higher ones which the house symbolized. Men’s first ideas of beauty are physical, and in such beauty there is real pleasure, for which those who possess it may well give God thanks. But the idea of beauty means much more when it is applied to moral qualities. Of these, the earliest which was thought beautiful was courage, the power to do and endure. Then men went on to admire self-sacrifice. The man who would die the most dreadful death rather than desert his post. Or the helmsman who would not quit the wheel-house of his steamboat though she was in flames. Then, a mother’s love has always been counted beautiful. Hence all artists have been fond of painting Madonnas. And the love of lovers, because it is the commingling of two hearts. Then the love of the philanthropist. What a halo surrounds the name of Florence Nightingale! And of such men as Kossuth! But to perceive spiritual beauty we must possess it. One of the evidences of Inspiration is its admiration of Moral Beauty, the high praise the Bible gives to goodness. But all such beauty must be real, not pretence, and, when so, it is like music. Melody is beautiful, but harmonies are yet more so. But musical taste is needed to appreciate them. Some prefer a simple ballad to all the glories of Handel or Mozart. No beauty is to be despised, and if the higher be present it will impart some of the lower. The good come to work good. All, therefore, may be beautiful through the possession of moral goodness, and the beauty of moral conduct. You often see this in old and faithful servants. An old negro servant of my father’s was a great saint as well as a most lovable man. To me he was always radiant as an angel. He was not black--to me he was as white as the clouds. And there are many such. On the other hand, a man may be in all his surroundings--house, furniture, etc.--adorned after the manner of a palace, but if he be mean, selfish, sensual, all external beauty will not avail. Let no one mourn that they have not such things. If we could be pictured as we are, what different portraitures there would be! Then love moral beauty everywhere, and despise that which is sensual. Let text be our prayer. (H. W. Beecher.)

The influence of prayer upon character

I. prayerful habits tend to cultivate a form of sustained thought. True prayer engages the understanding in its most vigorous efforts, and always in a definite direction--that of God. Prayer, if not a supreme intellectual effort, certainly exercises our highest faculties. As an educational discipline it is very apparent in godly men who have had no scholarly training. They have a power of fixing their attention and of thoughtfully considering a matter in all its bearings, which is of the utmost value to win conclusions.

II. they give decision of character. Prayer brings the soul into the holy calm of that presence where they are no longer carried to and fro by every passing wind of opinion. In His presence we are enabled to feel, and that with power, that to our own Master we stand or fall. A man can hardly be habitually prayerful and yet be changeable and unreliable. For in God’s presence we are lifted into a region where the passions and conflicts of this world cannot enter, and where all seem to say to the agitated soul, “Peace, be still.” There have been times when a tumultuous crowd, rushing into a venerable church, where a single priest was saying the sacred office, or where a little company of kneeling worshippers bore witness to other and higher interests than those which stirred the passions of the hour--has been awed, arrested, and turned back from its sacrilegious purpose. The sound of the bell summoning to the accustomed evening prayer has been found sufficient to calm passionate excitement, because of the obedience to the summons it secured, and the consequent soothing influence which was obtained through drawing near to God.

III. prayer has very blessed social effects. For it “gilds social intercourse and conduct with a tenderness, an unobtrusiveness, a sincerity, a frankness, an evenness of temper, a cheerfulness, a collectedness, a constant consideration for others, united to a simple loyalty to truth and duty, which leavens and strengthens society.”

IV. in all spiritual work our efficiency may be measured by our prayerfulness. A great deal of the religious teaching of the day is coldly intellectual, and therefore powerless, because it has not been nourished and quickened at the bosom of prayer. But we must not, we cannot, maintain the habit of prayer simply because of these subjective benefits upon our souls. If we do not believe that God answers prayer we shall soon cease to pray. (E. W: Shalders, B. A.)

Saints desire to see the beauty of the Lord

I. in what the beauty of the Lord consists. We call nothing beautiful but what is pleasing; and we call nothing pleasing in a moral agent, but what is morally excellent, or truly virtuous. The beauty of the Lord, therefore, must signify that, in His moral character, which is pleasing to a virtuous and benevolent heart. His beauty is the beauty of holiness. God is love; which constitutes His supreme beauty, and comprises all that is virtuous and morally excellent in His nature. Pure, disinterested, universal benevolence, forms the most beautiful and amiable character conceivable.

II. good men are capable of seeing this moral beauty of the divine character. Those who love God have the same kind of love that God has and exercises towards them and all holy creatures. They see God as He sees Himself, glorious in holiness, and of consequence, glorious in all His other attributes, which are under the influence of His perfectly benevolent heart. They see supreme beauty and excellence in His power and wisdom, in His justice and sovereignty, in His mercy and grace, as they are continually exercised for the highest good of the universe.

III. why good men desire to see the beauty of the Lord.

1. Because the goodness of God, which forms His supreme excellence, spreads a glory over all the other perfections of His nature. Saints as well as others can see no excellence in the greatness and majesty of God, separately from His perfect holiness and benevolence.

2. Because it spreads a beauty over His works, as well as character.

3. Because it spreads a beauty over all His conduct.

4. Because it spreads a light and beauty over His Word. It enables those who are holy as God is holy, just as God is just, and good as God is good, to see why He commands all men to love Him supremely. Conclusion--

1. If it be true that the supreme beauty or glory of God consists in His pure and universal goodness, then sinners hate God for that for which alone they ought to love Him supremely.

2. If saints sincerely and ardently desire to behold the beauty of the Lord, then they are essentially different from sinners.

3. If God be perfectly good, and His goodness spreads a moral beauty and excellence over all His perfections, then there is nothing to hinder sinners from loving Him but merely their own selfishness.

4. If the supreme glory of God consists in His goodness, then the more clearly His goodness is exhibited before the minds of sinners, the more difficult they always find it to be to love Him.

5. If saints desire to see the beauty of the Lord, then we see one good reason why they love to attend the public worship of God in His house constantly. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

The vision of the beauty of God:--As we confess our belief in God as Three in One and One in Three, the saying of the psalmist is fulfilled in us who, as we dwell in God’s temple, rejoice in the vision of God’s beauty.

1. Intense was the longing of the psalmist for that vision. It was the “one thing” he “desired and longed after,” and in some faint measure attained to. And here, as ever, he but gives voice to the universal cry of man’s spirit. Man cannot know what God is except as God reveals Himself to him, “He dwelleth in the light that no man can approach unto;” “He is One whom no man hath seen or can see.” The finite cannot know the Infinite One until He brings Himself within the reach of his knowledge. And yet for this knowledge he must of necessity yearn. In the Man Jesus Christ, God in Himself is revealed. We are not of those whose lot is in the night and whose language is but a cry. No, “we are of the day”: for us “the darkness is passed and the true light shineth.” For us the Trinity is rest in a measure attained: we rest in the vision of the beauty of God.

2. There are two things that especially arrest us in the beauty of God, as we are taught to contemplate it in the creeds of the Church.

3. But if we are to live in the vision of God’s beauty, there are two essential conditions personal to ourselves.

The beauty of the Lord

“The noblest study of mankind is man.” Such an oft-quoted, widely accepted dictum at least requires challenge. Is it? On thought, challenge gives place to denial. The noblest study of mankind is not man at all, but God. The knowledge of ourselves and our brethren is very valuable knowledge. Without it there can be no wisdom, But still more urgent and important is it for us to know and understand our common Father. Without this there can be no salvation. When Charles Kingsley lay dying, his daughter, coming quietly into the sick-room, overheard him softly repeating to himself the words, “How beautiful God is!” Kingsley was a true worshipper because he was a lover of God. He had felt and responded to the attractiveness, winsomeness, graciousness; in a word, to all the “gathered delightsomeness” of the Divine character. Have we so learnt God in Christ? Note the purpose that inspired the psalmist’s prayer. He longed for further visions of God’s beauty--“to see the beauty of the Lord.” Strictly speaking, beauty is that property, or, rather, assemblage of properties, in a person or object that delights the eye, and satisfies to the full the keen sense of vision. But as the mind and soul possess what corresponds to the organs of vision in the body, by common consent the same word “beauty” is used to describe all those qualities which charm man’s intelligence and make successful appeal to his heart. In our daily speech we not only talk about beautiful faces, and beautiful prospects, we speak of thoughts, dispositions, and deeds as beautiful, too. So that there is no incongruity in using this term to set forth the attractive character of God. Of the God of the Christian, the God of the Bible, it is true not only that “honour and majesty are before Him,” but also that strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. So that if we have not yet seen the beauty of the Lord the reason may be that we have not been looking at the right God. I am afraid that Amiel’s description of God as the “Great Misunderstood” is pathetically true.

1. Misunderstood doctrines account for much misconception. That most misunderstood doctrine of the Atonement accounts for most. There is a painting in a Continental church which illustrates this. God the Father, with angry face, is seen leaning over the battlements of heaven, aiming the arrows of His wrath at the hearts of men below. In the mid-distance His Son Jesus Christ is shown looking upward in the direction of the arrow-shower, running to meet them, catching them in His person, or breaking them with His hands as they fall. What a travesty of Christ’s atoning work! Our salvation took its rise in the Father’s heart, and we behold the beauty of the blessed God in the face of Christ on the cross as nowhere else.

2. Another reason why we have not yet beheld the Divine beauty may be the condition of our sight. Spiritual beauty appeals to the eye of the soul, and we know not that we are blind. Eyes we all have, but some of us see not. One of Goethe’s characters complains that his soul has only feelers. That might be true at that period of his history, but he started with eyes. The power of spiritual vision is a birthright. And yet how many there are who are groping after God, instead of meditating on His seen glory. They need the opening of the eyes of the heart, which is God’s gift of grace.

3. A further reason of our failure to see God’s beauty is our impatience and hurry. It takes time to behold. (A. O. Sauderson, M. A.)

The attractiveness of God’s character

But, it will be asked, is He not rather a dreadful God? Think of the deluge, the overthrow of Sodom, the plagues of Egypt, and so many other events which show that He “is a consuming fire,” and that “the Lord Most High is terrible.” How can such a God be of an attractive character? Must we not rather recoil from so awful a Being? No, for the terrible is not always repulsive. The sea-storm and the hurricane are terrible; but yet they are fascinating, and, in some sense, attractive, when we can behold them from a place of security. Thousands of spell-bound on-lookers line the shore when a naval battle is in view; and the mortal shock of hostile armies in the field never wants spectators who are drawn by the grandeur of the scene. In like manner, there is a grandeur, a glory, in the terrors of the Lord, when He punishes transgressors, and takes vengeance on His enemies. It is true that the “Lord Most High is terrible,” and that “clouds and darkness are round about Him.” But other things are true as well; and these are statements which describe only a part, and a single side, of that character in which His works and His Word exhibit Him. But yet mankind are not drawn to God. Why, if He be so attractive, why is it so common to forget and disregard Him? The answer is, not that the character of God is unattractive, but that mankind are stupid, blind, ungrateful. Human nature is morally diseased. And yet He is good to them notwithstanding. Is not this beautiful in Him? And all the loveliness of earth and sea and sky symbolize the beauty of the Lord, the attractiveness of His character. Let us then consider--

I. some of the elements of this beauty. God is a Spirit. Hence His beauty is spiritual. It cannot be that corporeal kind of beauty which affects the external senses of men. That beauty may be, and we believe is, a symbol and a reflection of it. But spiritual beauty must consist of, and arise from, spiritual qualities and attributes. One of these is--

1. Holiness. Sill is not beautiful, though many think it so. But holiness is, and “God is glorious in holiness.”

2. His mercy and grace. The attractiveness of them is more easily perceived, and their influence felt by such as we are. And through them, mainly, sinners are won over to God. Let us try, then, to bring them out. There is the great man--the man of high rank--who regards his inferiors with a haughty look. He walks among them, passes through the midst of them, with proud reserve. Is that man amiable? Can his inferiors love him? Not But there is the great man who is the reverse of all this. What do we say of him? He is amiable. He is attractive. He gains the hearts of his inferiors. Now consider how great God is. What are princes, nobles, kings, compared with Him? Well, and how does this great God bear Himself towards us? Is He cold and distant? Does He ignore us and treat us with disdain? Is not the reverse the truth? Yet again. There is the man who has much, and does not distribute to the poor--the rich man, who hoards up his wealth, and gives little or nothing away--who has the needy on every side of him, and is unmoved by their case, and deaf to their cry. Who can love a man so hard? But there is a man whom we love, and who makes his way into our he, arts. It is he who, having wealth, does not keep it to himself, but shares it with such as are less favoured by Providence. Yes, we love that man. There is an attractiveness in his character which we cannot resist. Well, the generous millionaire is, in some measure, like God. In some measure. That is to say, the amiable quality which distinguishes him, we find also in God, and in an infinitely greater degree. Which of us can say that he is not a pensioner on the bounty of God? What has He not given to us? And, above all, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” But how faint is the image of the mercy of God, that we can have from the magnanimity and compassion of the most merciful of men! Who knows the power of His anger? Yet how slow is He to put it forth I It cannot be said that it is easier for Him to pardon and cancel man’s sin than to avenge it. But yet He does so.

3. Another thing, which we may call an element of beauty in God, is the combination of His various attributes in one harmonious whole. The colours of the rainbow are beautiful, when taken one by one: but there is a beauty in the rainbow, which arises not from any single tint: a beauty which is the result of their assemblage and collocation, and consists in their blended radiance. In like manner do the several perfections, which co-exist and unite in the nature of God, produce a glorious beauty.

II. where the beauty of the Lord may be seen.

1. In nature.

2. In the moral law, for the law is full of love.

3. In the Gospel.

4. In Christ--in His mission; His nature; His character.

III. some traits of the beauty of the Lord.

1. It never deceives. Contrast--Absalom, Pharisees.

2. It never fades.

3. Never loses its power.

4. Nor disappoints. (Andrew Gray.)

The affection of moral esteem towards God

Ere we can conceive the love of gratitude towards another, we must see in him the love of kindness towards us; and thus, by those who have failed to distinguish between a love of the benefit, and a love of the benefactor, has the virtue of gratitude been resolved into the love of ourselves. And they have thought that there must surely be a purer affection than this, to mark the outset of the great transition from sin unto righteousness; and the one they have specified is the disinterested love of God. They have given to this last affection a place so early, as to distract the attention of an inquirer from that which is primary. The invitation of “Come and buy without money, and without price,” is not heard by the sinner along with the exaction of loving God for Himself--of loving Him on account of His excellencies--of loving Him because He is lovely. Let us, therefore, try to ascertain whether even this love of moral esteem is not subordinate to the faith of the Gospel; and whether it follows, that because this affection forms so indispensable a part of godliness, faith should, on that account, be deposed from the place of antecedency which belongs to it We readily and abundantly concede that we are not perfect in God’s will till the love of moral esteem be in us as well as the love of gratitude--till we love God for Himself. Heaven will be no home for us until we attain to this. How great, then, must be the change which must pass on men of the world ere they are meet for the other world of the spirits of just men made perfect. The natural man can no more admire the Deity through the obscurities in which He is shrouded, than he can admire a landscape which he never saw, and which, at the time of his approach to it, is wrapped in the gloom of midnight. It must be lighted up to him ere he can love it, or enjoy it; and tell us what the degree of his affection for the scenery would be, if, instead of being lighted up by the peaceful approach of a summer morn, it were to blaze into sudden visibility, by the fires of a bursting volcano. Tell us if all the glory and gracefulness of the landscape which had thus started into view, would charm the beholder for a moment from the terrors of his coming destruction! Tell us if it is possible for a sentient being to admit another thought in such circumstances as these, than the thought of his own preservation. Oh, would not the sentiment of fear about himself cast out every sentiment of love for all that he now saw, and, were he only safe, could look upon with ecstasy?-and let the beauty be as exquisite as it may, would not all the power and pleasure of its enchantments fly away from his bosom, were it only seen through the glowing fervency of elements that threatened to destroy him? And so would it be were God in all His holiness, in that character on which the angels gaze with delight, made visible to the natural man. All that is morally fair and magnificent would be before him, but let it all burst upon the eye of a sinner, you may say that he ought to admire and adore, but he cannot; he is in terror, and he can no more look with delight upon God than he can upon a beautiful landscape lit up with the glare of a volcano. Ere we love Him, we must be made to feel the security and the enlargement of one who knows himself to be safe. Let Him take His rod away from me, and let not His fear terrify me--and then may I love Him and not fear Him; hut it is not so with me. But let us see God reconciled to us, and then, delivered from all fear, we may now open our hearts to the influences of affection. Now we shall delight in God for Himself; the love of moral esteem is now free to take up its abode in us as before it could not do. We have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. And we love much when we know and believe that our sins are forgiven us. The first matter in hand, then, between God and sinners, in the work of making reconciliation, is, that they believe in Him; that they credit the sayings of the Gospel to be faithful sayings. The first thing is not the disinterested love of God--let none be troubled or embarrassed as if it were--but faith. This is the great starting-point of Christian discipleship. Afterwards there will come love, but not first. Let this consideration shut you up unto the faith. Let it exalt, in your estimation, the mighty importance of a principle, without which there can neither he any sanctification here, nor any salvation hereafter. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

The Divine beautifulness

One thing” may well be enough when it includes “the beauty of the Lord.” God sends all men choosing-times, and at such periods destinies are sealed. The wise will only ask for more of God.

I. the beauty of Jehovah. We feel it in contemplating--

1. The harmonious wholeness of the Divine character. All good is there in due proportion and range.

2. The holiness of God, and especially--

3. The love of God.

4. That he is the perfect armour to the human heart, tie meets all the wants of our nature. His beautifulness is essential, transcendent, inexhaustible.

II. its chief shrine and place of unveiling. This is the sanctuary. For--

1. Its services are replete with the Divine beauty.

2. God is the glory of the house.

3. Communion with God is the only essential.

III. its mastery of the heart.

1. It enthralled the psalmist’s soul.

2. It powerfully attracted him.

3. It awaited his coming.

4. Endowed him with good.

5. Crowned his being. (W. B. Haynes.)

The beauty of the Lord

Many have felt that the most gracious thing in human life is the sight of a fair woman, tenderly nurtured, threading the gloom of our cities, disdaining no corruption of men, seeking it out rather, the shame and ugliness of it, and bringing ease and hope. Many such we have about us. But there is in all lands one pure virgin--the grace of God--which we have seen searching patiently for His sons in the mire, following them through the haunts of sin, waiting through the rage of evil desire. To see that is to see the beauty of the Lord. When David looked for such discoveries in the Temple be was not thinking of the splendour of the buildings and the ritual. The beauty he thought of belonged to a world of things unseen, to which, at best, our religious art can only provide the symbol. And there is a danger for men of taste of looking for and dwelling in the beauty of accessories, and forgetting the beauty of substance. We all know something of the drowsy spirit which creeps over the Christian, when its one desire is to hear familiar and orthodox phrases sounding again and again. The languor of orthodoxy is not better or worse than the languor of aestheticism; both are connected with things without, with the porch of the pavilion. Within, to reward your seeking, is the King in His beauty. How greatly we all pervert our worship--making it an intellectual gymnastic, or a solemn office of respectability, or a pleasant substitute for piety! The few behold His beauty. (W. M. Macgregor, M. A.)


Verse 5-6

Psalms 27:5-6

For in the time of trouble He shall hide me.

Safety in time of trouble

I. David makes account that, while he lives here on earth, he is liable and subject to manifold evils. Reasons--

1. God’s Divine sovereignty, whereby He may do with His own what He will, and dispose of His dearest children to endure both sorrow and great affliction.

2. Because of iniquity.

Uses--

1. For instruction. See from David’s resolution what is the case and condition of all the godly, viz. to be subject to evils and troubles.

2. For admonition.

II. When God shall grant to David to dwell in His house, he doth assure himself of special safety, and protection in times of trouble (Psalms 61:3-4; Psalms 61:6-7).

1. He put his trust and hope in God (Psalms 21:7; Psalms 11:1; Psalms 16:1; Psalms 86:2).

2. He testified his trust in God by prayer (Psalms 7:1; Psalms 116:3-4).

3. He made conscience of a godly and upright life, and thereon grounds his assurance of special protection (Psalms 4:3; Psalms 18:17; Psalms 18:20)

Uses--

1. For instruction. See here with David the true and right way of safety in time of trouble. In the days of grace, and times of the New Testament, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He dwells with them (Revelation 21:3).

2. For admonition. As we desire safety and shelter in time of trouble, so we must with David strive to endeavour after a sure place in God’s house, become true members of God’s Church.

3. For comfort;. This makes greatly to all true believers, in times of trouble: for certainly they have right and title to this immunity of God’s house.

The influence of religion upon adversity

To a thoughtful mind, no study can appear more important than how to be suitably prepared for the misfortunes of life; so as to contemplate them in prospect without dismay, and, if they must befall, to bear them without dejection. Power has endeavoured to remove adversity to a distance; Philosophy has studied, when it drew nigh, to conquer it by patience; and Wealth has sought out every pleasure that can compensate or alleviate pain. While the wisdom of the world is thus occupied, religion has been no less attentive to the same important object.

I. religion prepares the mind for encountering, with fortitude, the most severe shocks of adversity; whereas vice, by its natural influence on the temper, tends to produce dejection under the slightest trials. In the course of living righteously, soberly, and godly, a good man acquires a steady and well-governed spirit. He has learned firmness and self-command. He is accustomed to look up to that Supreme Providence, which disposes of human affairs, not with reverence only, but with trust and hope. The time of prosperity was to him not merely a season of barren joy, but productive of much useful improvement. He had cultivated his mind. He had stored it with useful knowledge, with good principles, and virtuous dispositions. These resources remain entire, when the days of trouble come. His chief pleasures were always of the calm, innocent, and temperate kind; and over these the changes of the world have the least power. His mind is a kingdom to him; and he can still enjoy it. The world did not bestow upon him all his enjoyments; and therefore it is not in the power of the world, by its most cruel attacks, to carry them all away.

II. the distresses of life are alleviated to good men, by reflections on their past conduct; while, by such reflections, they are highly aggravated to the bad. During the gay and active periods of life, sinners elude, in some measure, the force of conscience. Carried round in the world of affairs and pleasures; intent on contrivance, or eager in pursuit; amused by hope, or elated by enjoyment; they are sheltered, by that crowd of trifles which surrounds them, from serious thought. But conscience is too great a power to remain always suppressed. There is in every man’s life a period when he shall be made to stand forth as a real object to his own view: and when that period comes, woe to him who is galled by the sight! Whereas, tie who is blessed with a clear conscience, enjoys in the worst conjunctures of human life, a peace, a dignity, an elevation of mind peculiar to virtue. The testimony of a good conscience is indeed to be always distinguished from that presumptuous boast of innocence, which every good Christian totally disclaims. The better he is, he will be more humble, and sensible of his failings. But though tie acknowledge that he can claim nothing from God upon the footing of desert, yet lie can trust in His merciful acceptance through Jesus Christ, according to the terms of the Gospel. He can hope that his prayers and his alms have come up in memorial before God. Tim piety and virtue of his former life were as seeds sown in his prosperous state, of which he reaps the fruits in the season of adversity.

III. ill men, in the time of trouble, can look up to no protector, while good men commit themselves, with trust and hope, to the care of heaven. The human mind, naturally feeble, is made to feel all its weakness by the pressure of adversity. Now, whither should the ungodly, in this situation, turn for aid? After having contended with the storms of adverse fortune till their spirits are exhausted, gladly would they retreat at last to the sanctuary of religion. But that sanctuary is shut against them; nay, it is environed with terrors. They behold there, not a Protector to whom they can fly, but a Judge whom they dread; and in those moments when they need His friendship the most, they are reduced to deprecate His wrath. But of all the thoughts which can enter into the mind, in the season of distress, the belief of an interest in His favour who rules the world is the most soothing. Every form of religion has afforded to virtuous men some degree of this consolation. But it was reserved for the Christian revelation to carry it to its highest point. For it is the direct scope of that revelation, to accommodate itself to the circumstances of man, under two main views; as guilty in the sight of God, and as struggling with the evils of the world. Under the former, it discovered to him a Mediator and an atonement; under the latter, it promises him the Spirit of grace and consolation. The same hand which holds out forgiveness to the penitent, and assistance to the frail, dispenses comfort and hope to the afflicted.

IV. good men are comforted under their troubles by the hope of heaven; while bad men are not only deprived of this hope, rut distressed with fears arising from a future state. How miserable the man, who, under the distractions of calamity, hangs doubtful about an event which so nearly concerns him; who, in the midst of doubts and anxieties, approaching to that awful boundary which separates this world from the next, shudders at the dark prospect before him; wishing to exist after death, and yet afraid of that existence; catching at every feeble hope which superstition can afford him, and trembling, in the same moment, from reflection upon his crimes! But blessed be God who hath brought life and immortality to light; who hath not only brought them to light, but secured them to good men; and, by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, hath begotten them unto the lively hope of an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Justly is this hope styled in Scripture, the anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. For what an anchor is to a ship in a dark night, on an unknown coast, and amidst a boisterous ocean, that is this hope to the soul, when distracted by the confusions of the world. In danger, it gives security; amidst general fluctuation, it affords one fixed point of rest. (H. Blair, D. D.)

A sure promise

If a man should write upon his sign-board the words, “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee,” he would have plenty of callers. No man dare try the experiment; but God has had those words written above His door for thousands of years, and none have ever called upon Him in vain. (S. Sellars.)

In the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me.--

Safety in the secret of the tabernacle

Not only are non-Muhammadans forbidden to enter the sacred enclosure at Mecca, but the territory around Mecca--the Beled el-Harem, or district of the sanctuary--is regarded as a sacred asylum. Here, according to the sacred law, no war can be waged, no blood can be shed, no animal can be killed, no tree can be cut down. Not even a fly can be killed in the sacred district; but if any of the insect pests which are so common in the East annoy the pilgrim, it is permitted to him, “if they cannot well be endured any longer, to remove them from one part of the body to another.” The idea which underlies these whimsical rules is that the place of God’s sanctuary should be open only to true believers, to whom it should always be a safe retreat from peril of their enemies. Burton, in his El Medinah and Mecca, gives several specimens of Muhammadan belief regarding the miraculous safety to be found in Mecca. The Black Stone and the Place of Abraham have been miraculously preserved from their foes; at the time of the deluge, the great fish of the sea did not eat the little fish of the Meccan Sanctuary; ravenous beasts will not destroy their prey in the Beled el-Harem; no one is ever hurt in the Kaabah; ten thousand mercies descend upon it daily; and when men see the sacred building for the first time their hearts are filled with awe and their eyes with tears. The Quran expressly teaches that the Kaabah is a safe place of refuge: “Verily the first house appointed unto men was that which is in Becca (Mecca). . . therein are manifest signs, the place where Abraham stood; and whoso entereth therein, shall be safe.” This is but the relic of the old sanctuary idea which is seen in the case of the cities of refuge among the Jews, and in the (limited) right of sanctuary at the horns of the altar (1 Kings 2:28-31). In many of the ancient Greek temples criminals were given the right of sanctuary, and protected from their pursuers; and in some of the old English churches a stone seat beside the altar was provided for those fleeing to the safety of the church. In pre-Protestant Scotland, excommunication was the penalty of dragging a fugitive from the sanctuaries of the church. A trace of the sanctuary law still exists in Scotland (or existed until lately) in the sanctuary for debtors in the Abbey of Holyrood. (American Sunday School Times.)

Now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies.--

The head uplifted among enemies

As contrasted with Occidentals, the Orientals seem in many respects to be simply grown-up children. They do not attempt to veil extravagant or unseemly demonstrations of joy or grief, as a European would do, but display their feelings as openly as does a junior schoolboy. Especially is this seen in the conduct of enemies toward one another. Those who were in Egypt after the massacre in Alexandria, and before the bombardment, say that they will not soon forget the change which passed over the bearing of the natives toward the foreign Christians at the time of the massacre. Those who before showed an almost servile respect toward the European residents, now marched proudly through the streets, pushing the hated Franks insolently out of their way, and gibing and jeering at their comparative helplessness. All travellers in the East notice the different bearing of an Oriental when he is in an enemy’s country, and when he is in a place where his friends are in a majority. The man who skulks in Medeenah will swagger in Mekkeh. An Oriental seldom cares to conceal his consciousness of power, nor does the ruling party conceal its contempt for the ruled. Let a revolution of the political wheel reverse the position of two parties, and the former serf passes into the braggart, and the former braggart into the serf, without any shamefacedness on either side. The psalmist, therefore, compares the safety which he feels to be his in God, to the confident security of the man whose power is assured, and who can lift up his head without fear in the midst of his cringing enemies. (American Sunday School Times.)


Verses 7-14

Psalms 27:7-14

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice.

A prayer of desire and dependence

David here expresses--

I. his desire towards God. If he cannot now go up to the house of the Lord, yet, wherever he is, he can find a way to the throne of grace by prayer.

1. He humbly bespeaks, because he firmly believes he shall have, a gracious audience (verse7).

2. He takes hold of the kind invitation God had given him to this duty (Psalms 27:8).

3. He is very particular in his requests.

II. his dependence upon God.

1. That He would help and succour him, when all other helps and succours failed him (Psalms 27:10). God is a surer and better friend than our earthly parents are or can be.

2. That in due time he should see the displays of His goodness (verse 18). Even the best saints are subject to faint when their troubles become grievous and tedious. Their spirits are overwhelmed, and their flesh and heart fail; but their faith is a sovereign cordial. They that walk by faith in the goodness of the Lord, shall in due time walk in the sight of that goodness.

3. That in the meantime he should be strengthened to bear up under his burden (Psalms 27:14). Whether he said it to himself or to his friends, it comes all to one. “He shall strengthen thy heart,” shall sustain the spirit, and then the spirit shall sustain the infirmity. In that strength--

David’s prayer for audience and answer

I. what David prayed for. The audience which David prays for is not the bare act of hearing, in taking notice of what he said in prayer, for he knew well that would never be wanting in God towards man. But by hearing, he means God’s favourable act of audience, testified by gracious answers (Psalms 143:1).

1. He knew that God did often, for just causes, deny to give such gracious answers, even to the prayers of His servants.

II. the manner of David’s praying. He cried with his voice; which notes great fervency, zeal and earnestness.

1. Prayer is a good thing, and zealous affection in a good thing is always commendable (Galatians 4:18).

2. Zeal and fervency in prayer is very moving (James 5:16; Luke 11:8; Luke 18:1-5).

3. God’s mercies, testified by gracious promises and answerable performances, notably encouraged him to be zealous and earnest in prayer (Psalms 22:4-5; Psalms 107:6; Psalms 107:13; Psalms 107:19; Psalms 6:8-9).

4. His own necessities urged him (Psalms 18:4-6).

III. David’s esteem of this work of God, when he gives audience and answers to his prayers. The reason is, because he, as every other man, stood guilty of sin, which separates between God and us (Psalms 59:2). (T. Pierson.)

Prayer, a child’s cry to God

Telephones have been fixed near the cots of sleeping infants, that when they awake and begin to cry the mother may hear them at once and fly to comfort them. Prayer is a child’s cry, and God is always listening for it. (R. Brewin.)


Verse 8

Psalms 27:8

When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

A sweet echo

One of the sweetest marvels of nature is “the echo.” It is nature’s poetry that charms and captivates the mind. Standing, some years back, on a lone mountain side, with giant peaks towering up above on every side, I broke the intense silence with a shout. There was a moment’s pause, and then those silent mountains found tongue. From side to side a very artillery was maintained. Echo awoke echo, and a second only gave birth to a third. But there is another echo--that of the heart; the soul’s response to the call of God. We have such in the text. Let us consider--

I. the call.

1. It is one we often find it very difficult to hear. For the world is not as a silent glen, or lone mountain side, but a very Babel of confused noises.

2. Still it is not impossible to hear it. The ear rightly attuned will hear it, clear as a silver bell, ringing out its note above the surrounding din of business and common cares.

3. But some have never yet heard it, and those who do, hear it in different degrees. There are some persons naturally calm and contemplative, that “dwell with Mary at the Master’s feet,” and who seem ever to hear it; but there are others, anxious to hear it, but the very clatter of their preparations fill the ear to the exclusion of the Saviour’s Word.

4. It comes to us by different instrumentalities. By His Word. The means of grace--the Sabbath especially. The Mercy Seat. The manifold goodness of God in His providence. By trials. By the influence of the Spirit.

II. the echo.

1. It is one of the heart. “My heart said,” etc. You may read the Word, utter the prayer, keep the Sabbath, and yet there be no heart in it. Like a waxwork figure moved by machinery, you may nod, and smile, and lift up your hands, and yet not have one iota of life. Let us ask how has it been with us in the past?

2. Now let me give some closing counsels. Be ever listening to hear the voice. When you hear it give the echo at once. “When Thou saidst, Seek ye,” etc., “My heart said,” etc. When the voice says to you, “Pray,” pray at once. Rest assured you shall, if you seek the Lord’s face, never be disappointed. “I have never said to the seeking seed of Jacob, Seek ye My face in vain.” (A. G. Brown.)

The voice and the echo

I. the reference.

1. How brief it is. Though a text of but four syllables, it is in itself a Bible; so much is in it, and this much so good. Plainly faith does not require the complete revelation of the Bible to warrant and sustain its exercise. In general, it is not a long passage, but a short) sentence, like the point of an arrow striking the mark, or the edge of a sword cutting through and through by a single blow, that does it.

2. How precise it is. It admits no vagueness, no ambiguity, no uncertainty.

3. How affectionate it is. What condescension, benignity, loving-kindness.

II. the response.

1. How practical it is. It does what is required--readily, hopefully.

2. How simple it is. Voice answering to voice, heart echoing to heart.

3. How cordial it is.

III. the connection between them.

1. The reference elicits the response.

2. The response fulfils the reference. (E. A. Thomson.)

The Divine call and the human response

I. the divine call. It suggests to us--

1. The spiritual condition of unsaved men. They are estranged from God. They have built up between themselves and their Creator an icy cold barrier of heartless indifference, or else an almost impregnable wall of dearly loved sins. This separation is the fruitful cause of all possible misery and destitution, for there is no hell of woe that can give greater pain to human spirits than the consciousness of their apostacy from God.

2. The condescending grace of God in His dealings with unsaved men. He speaks to them, makes gracious overtures, and sends them a message, tender with sympathy, rich in mercy, and pregnant in the promise and potency of a pure and vigorous spiritual life. S. The nature of true religion. It is the heart of man coming back to God.

II. the human response.

1. Personal. In some things men move in masses without any realization of individual responsibility. It is not so with this momentous question. There is no rest for the sin-troubled heart until it personally turns to God. Personal submission is needed to put our hearts into a right condition for receiving Divine grace. Personal faith brings to our hearts the saving and sanctifying influence of the Spirit. And personal love to the Divine Father is the only guarantee that our peace is made with Him.

2. Prompt. Procrastination is full of danger, it is not only the thief of time, but also the rock of peril upon which many good-intentioned souls have struck and perished. The Ancients taught a solemn truth when they represented Time as an old man with wings on his shoulders, a scythe and hour-glass in his hands, and on his wrinkled forehead one lock of hair, all bald behind, and therefore offering no hope to us when it is past. Let us then seize time by the forelock.

3. Explicit. Men will do anything rather than make an uncompromising surrender. They will turn over a new leaf, sign the pledge, attend the sanctuary, and even take the sacrament. All these are good and right in their place, but they are no substitute for salvation, they cannot set the heart at peace. Any one who tries to make them a compound between God and his own conscience will fail.

4. Sincere. It came from the heart. It is related of a Greek musician that his touch was so delicate and his ear so quick that he would often play a tune on his harp that only his own ear could catch. Whether fact or fable, this incident illustrates God’s intercourse with men’s hearts. You hear the preacher, but he does not hear your response to his appeal. God always hears it. He is speaking to you now, and His ear is close to your heart, listening to what it will say. (W. Wheeler.)

A call and a response

We have here a report of a brief dialogue between God and a devout soul. The psalmist tails us of God’s invitation and of his acceptance, and on both he builds the prayer that the face which he had been bidden to seek, and had sought, may not be hid from him.

I. God’s merciful call to us all. “Seek ye My face.” Have we to search for that as if it were something hidden, far off, lost, and only to be recovered by our effort? No! a thousand times. For the seeking to which God mercifully admits us is but the turning of the direction of our desires to Him, the recognition of the fact that His face is more than all else to men, the recognition that whilst there are many that say, “Who will show us any good?” and ask the question impatiently, despairingly, vainly, they that turn the seeking into a prayer, and ask, “Lord I lift Thou the light of Thy countenance upon us,” will never ask in vain. By the very make of our own spirits He calls us to Himself. You remember the old story of the Saracen woman who came to England seeking her lover, and passed through these foreign cities with no word upon her tongue that could be understood of those that heard her except the name that she sought. Ah! That is how men wander through the earth, strangers in the midst of it. They cannot translate the cry of their own hearts, but it means, “God--my soul thirsteth for Thee”: and the thirst bids us seek His face. He summons us by all the providences and events of our changeful lives. Our sorrows, by their poignancy, our joys, by their incompleteness and their transiency alike, callus to Him in whom alone the sorrows can be soothed and the joys made full and remain. Our duties, by their heaviness, call us to turn ourselves to Him, in whom alone we can find the strength to fill the role that is laid upon us, and to discharge our daily tasks. But, most of all, He summons us to Himself by Him who is the angel of His face, “the effulgence of His glory, and the express image of His person.”

II. the devout soul’s response. The psalmist takes the general invitation and converts it into an individual one, to which he responds. God’s “ye” is met by his “I.” The psalmist makes no hesitation or delay--“When Thou saidst . . . my heart said to Thee.” The psalmist gathers himself together in a concentrated resolve of a fixed determination--“Thy face will I seek.” That is how we ought to respond. Make the general invitation thy very own. God summons all, because He summons each. Again, the psalmist “made haste, and delayed not, but made haste” to respond to the merciful summons. Ah! how many of us, in how many different ways, fall into the snare “by and by “I” not now”; and all these days that slip away whilst we hesitate gather themselves together to be our accusers hereafter. It is poor courtesy to show to a merciful invitation from a bountiful host to say, “After I have looked to the oxen I have bought, and tested them, and measured the field that I have acquired; after I have drunk the sweetness of wedded life with the wife that I have married, then I will come. But, for the present, I pray thee, have me excused.” And that is what we all are doing, more or less. The psalmist gathered himself together in a fixed resolve, and said, “I will!” That is what we have to do. A languid seeker will not find; an earnest one will not fail to find.

III. A prayer built upon both the invitation and the acceptance. “Hide not Thy face far from me.” That prayer implies that God will not contradict Himself. His promises are commandments. If He bids us seek He binds Himself to show. His veracity, His unchangeableness, are pledged to this, that no man who yields to His invitation will be baulked of his desire. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The accepted call

I. God’s call. “Seek ye My face.”

1. It teaches that peace with God is not a human device, but a Divine revelation. “Thou saidst.” True religion originates with God.

2. Indicates what religion is. “Seek ye My face,”--not My Church, or Book, or ministers, but Me.

3. It implies estrangement. “Seek.”

4. That estrangement may cease.

II. man’s reply. “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”

1. Personal. “I.”

2. Prompt. “When Thou saidst.”

3. Emphatic. “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”

4. Thorough. Reply, almost an echo of call. David practically said, “I mean just what God means.”

5. It came from right place. “My heart said.” Lips lie, heart never. (T. Kelly.)

The call and the response

I. the call that comes to you--“Seek ye My face.” Many reasons urge you to ‘listen to this call. Amongst the chief is--

1. The character and condescension of the Saviour from whom the call comes.

2. The Divine love that prompts 2:8. It is the assurance of blessing--Divine, precious, abundant, everlasting. How poor is the mirth of the prodigal, how soon it all fades I There is no blessing for such until they come back to God.

II. the response.

1. It is a true response. It is the very echo of the call, like the echo of a trumpet amid mountains.

2. It is personal.

3. Hearty.

4. Immediate.

5. Decided--“Thy face will I seek.”

Conclusion--

1. What if you do not seek God?

2. What if you do? (J. P. Chown.)

The echo

Ready response to God’s call is--

1. The natural duty of man.

2. But is nevertheless the work of the Holy Spirit.

3. And is an evidence of election unto salvation. Now concerning this spirit of response to God--

I. its too frequent absence. In so many and for so long, though at times it has been disturbed. For Christ stands at the door, and knocks. Beware of resisting God.

II. its cultivation. It should be our constant spirit, prompt to obey whenever God calls. See call of apostles (Luke 5:1-12). See, too, the personality of David’s reply, and hearty likewise. And there was full resolve in it. Such echo of God’s word is very sweet, like the echo of music amongst the hills.

III. its special outlet. The seeking of God’s face. God is over calling us to this. Let our days be more filled up with this blessed work.

IV. its reward, The margin reads--“My heart said unto Thee, Let my face seek Thy face.” It means that the reward of such seeking is blessed communion with God, the joy of Eden restored to us. Our first parents had communion with God, which they lost by sin; but it is now more than restored to us in grace. (C. H, Spurgeon.)

Seeking the face of God

There appears to be a good deal of autobiography in this psalm, David in his backward glance fixes on two objects. The past as illumined by God’s favour, and the past as his own wherein he strove to love and serve God. And from both he draws encouragement to hope that God will be the same, and he humbly resolves that He will be,

I. God’s voice to the heart--“Seek ye My face,” The expression is of course figurative. But the most spiritual conception of God is reached, not by a pedantic scrupulosity in avoiding material representations, but by an unhesitating use of these, and the remembrance that they are representations. The unsubstantial abstraction of the metaphysical God, described only in terms as far removed as may be from human analogies, for fear of being guilty of “anthropomorphism,” never helped or gladdened any human soul. It is but a bit of mist through which you can see the stars shining. But the God whom we need and can know and love, comes to us in descriptions Cast in the mould of humanity, and loses none of His purely Spiritual essence thereby. “The face of the Lord” means the same as “the name of the Lord,” and both mean the manifested character of God. If these things be true, then we may learn what it is to “seek His face.” We do not need long and painful search, as for something lost in dim darkness, in order to find the sun. We do not need to seek the sun with lanterns, nor to grope after God if haply we may find Him. A man need only come out of his dark hiding-place to find it. If he will but turn his face to the light, the glory will brighten his features and make glad his eyes. And, in like manner, to seek God’s face is no long, dubious search, nor is He hard to be found. Endeavour, then, to keep vivid the consciousness of that face as looking always in on you, like the solemn frescoes of the Christ which Angelico painted on the walls of his convent cells, “that each poor brother might feel his Master ever with him.” Make Him your companion, and then, though you may feel the awe of the thought, “Thou hast set our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance,” you will find a joy deeper than the awe, and learn the blessedness of those, sinful though they may be, who walk in the full brightness of that face.

II. the heart’s echo to the voice of God. “My heart said unto Thee, Thy face,” etc. Immediate, as the thunder to the lightning, the answer follows the invitation. And it needs to be so. If we delay the response it is apt never to be made at all. The first notes of the Divine voice have more persuasive power than after the heart has become familiar with them, even as the first song of the thrush in spring, that breaks the long wintry silence, has a sweetness all its own. The echo answers as soon as the mother-voice ceases. But too many of us hesitate and delay. The only safety, the only peace lies in prompt obedience and in an immediate answer. There is also brought out here very plainly the complete correspondence between the Divine command and the devout man’s resolve. Word for word the invitation is repeated in the answer. Like the sailor at the tiller, he answers his captain’s directions by repeating them. “Port,” says the officer. “Port it is,” says the steersman. “Seek ye My face.” “Thy face will I seek.” The correspondence in words means the correspondence in action and the thorough-going obedience. How unlike the half-and-half seeking, the languid search, as of people listlessly looking-for something which they do not much expect to find, and do not much care whether they find or no, which characterizes so many so-called Christians! They are seekers after God, are they? Yes, with less eagerness than they would seek for a sovereign if it had fallen from their fingers into the mud. Note, too, the firm and decisive resolution shining through the very brevity of the words. In the original the brevity--three words only--is yet more marked. Fixed resolves need short professions. A Spartan brevity, as of a man with his lips tightly linked together, is fitting for such purposes. Waverers and the feeble willed try to brace themselves up by talking, making a fence of words around them. But if we are quite resolved, we shall, for the most part, say little about it. What a contrast is this clear resolve to the indecisions and hesitations so common amongst us! The ship heads now one way and now another, and that not because we are wisely tacking--that is to say, seeking to reach one point by widely-varying courses--but because our hand is so weak on the helm that we drift, wherever the wash of the waves and the buffets of the wind carry us. Further, we have in this heart’s echo to the voice of God the conversion of a general invitation into a personal resolution. The call is, “Seek ye.” The answer is, “I will seek.” That is what we have all to do with God’s words. He sows His invitations broadcast; we have to make them our own. He sends out His mercy for a world; we have to claim each our portion. He issues His commands to all; I have to make them the law for my life. The stream flows deep and broad from the throne of God, and parts into four heads, the number expressive of universal diffusion throughout the world; but I have to bring it into my own garden by my own trench, and to carry it to my own lip in my own cup.

III. the heart’s cry to God founded on both the divine voice and the human echo.

“Hide not Thy face far from me” is clearly a prayer built upon both these elements in the past. Both give me the right to pray thus, and are pledges of the answer. As to the former, “Thou saidst, Seek ye My face.” You may have exactly as much of God as you want and desire. Then “seek His face evermore,” and your life will be bright because you will walk in the light of His countenance always. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Face to face with God

The law of creation and of salvation are one, one thing. Both are a process of generation--regeneration. The sun’s face and the earth’s face must be brought together, in full relationship, and then creation is inevitable. So God’s Spirit and man’s spirit being brought face to face, the new creation of the soul is inevitable. The sun says to the planets, “Children”--for they are all children of the sun--“seek ye my face.” The planets reply, “We will; thy face will we seek. We are cold, dreary, bloomless, barren, we will seek thy face.” And forthwith they climb, and climb, a six months’ climb from January to June, to the zenith, to the meeting face to face. What then? All that summer and harvest means follows. It is a parable of the soul’s salvation. But it is only a parable: infinitely greater and more glorious is the summer which results from the direct relationship of the spirit-face of God and the spirit-face of man; the all-giving face of an infinite Creator, Lord, Father, Saviour, and the receiving faces of His sons and daughters. The most god-like centre of all the glory of God is His own human face. It creates all faces, the angels; for the face of an angel is one that has been so long receiving God’s glory that it has become lovely. The face of God is “the express image” of His personality. Your face is not your person, but I see what sort of person you are by your face. Face to face relationship means the exchange of personal thought and feeling, friendship, closest intimacy. All the beauty in the universe comes from the light of God’s face. The face of God, the personal face of the personal God, is the meaning of the universe and man. The power that comes from that we call Christ. And He is in every heart. So that the dear mother in the interior of Africa when she was first told about Christ, said, “Oh, that is the name that I have seen in my dreams, one that loves me and comes to me; the beautiful man of the heavens.” And God says, “Seek ye My face” at the time that our heart is most disposed to hear it. In your sorrow; at death. (J. Pulsford.)

An invitation and reply

We are told here that God spoke to the psalmist and what was his reply, but we have no intimation as to the mode of intercourse: whether God spoke through providential dealings, or through the ordinances of the Church, or by His Spirit. And it does not matter. If there be various methods in and through which God is wont to make Himself audible to the human soul, we may take any or all of them as employed to syllable the words, “Seek ye My face.” As to the mode in which the psalmist replied, nothing need be said in explanation of that; the reply itself is the all important thing. It is a conversation between God and the soul, very brief and with no kind of variety, but full of instruction nevertheless. We will, therefore, endeavour to sift this conversation; not only examining the precise meaning of what God directs and man promises, but searching out, also what may be more incidentally but not less decisively taught. Now observe--

I. that in the reply man does little more than repeat the words of God. God says, “Seek ye My face”; man replies, “Thy face, Lord,” etc. Now the disposition thus distinctly marked is one the want of which is at the root of half the practical unbelief and miserable inconsistencies by which the visible Church is deformed. Men acknowledge the Divine authority of the Scriptures, but hesitate and cavil as to obeying them. What could be more inconsistent and unreasonable? If God speaks and men know and confess it, then what else is there for them but to obey? Nevertheless they do not obey. Even professedly religious men do not. They object, and deliberate, and find excuse; they do anything but obey. Now it is the very opposite of this which we find here. There falls upon the ear--no matter how--a message which David feels to be from God. It is not a message about which there can be no room for question as to its meaning and the manner in which it should be obeyed. But the observable and admirable thing is, that David did not wait to deliberate, but instantly made his resolution upon hearing God’s injunction.

II. observe that God addresses us in plural number, but man’s reply is in the singular. “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Now the individualizing God’s Word, the taking it individually to oneself, as though designed for oneself, and spoken to oneself--this is very closely connected with the whole practice and the whole comfort of religion. For example, the human race is addressed in Scripture as “fallen and depraved”--far gone from original righteousness, inclined only to iniquity and that too continually. Well, so long as you speak to a man as a man, merely as being one of a sinful kind, one whose sinfulness, like the colour of his skin, he has in common with millions around him, he will generally quite complacently meet the accusation. It will hardly touch him. He may confess to the fact, but give in his confession with a smile. When, however, you try to single him out from the mass; when you speak to him like Nathan to David--“Thou art the man!” then he is full of indignation and resentment, and with Hazael of old is ready to exclaim--“Is thy servant a dog that he should do this thing?” Yet, till a man thus separates himself, takes himself out of the mass--feels and confesses without any regard to his being one of a multitude, “I have gone astray, like a lost sheep,” till then he has nothing of that feeling of being a sinner that will lead to genuine repentance. Oh! it is so easy to join in a general confession; the hard thing is to make the confession individual. And so with the precepts of Scripture. When they are delivered in the plural they can be listened to with great composure. But make the precept individual and personal, then what shrinking there is, what aversion, what refusal! Reduce therefore piety to a personality. The call may be general--“Seek ye”; the answer must be individual--“I will!” No being content with the confession of masses and multitudes! Alone thou must stand in judgment; alone thou must take thy resolution. When Thou saidst, “Seek ye My face,” O Lord, it may have been to the millions that Thy voice was addressed; it may have been by millions that that mighty voice was” heard; but I paused not to know whether these millions would keep silence; whether they would join in one vast refusal, or in one vast consent; at once--on the instant--whatever the millions might determine to do, my heart said unto Thee, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”

III. what is it to seek God’s face? The more ordinary signification of the phrase, “the face of God,” is the love and favour of God--“Make Thy face to shine upon Thy servant.” “Cause Thy face to shine and we shall be saved.” How much, then, is implied in this simple bidding--“Seek ye My face”! God would have us come back to Himself. Manifold are the methods by which God thus addresses us. But how often His message is heard and refused, and how terrible if this refusal be persisted in! But if obeyed, then how blessed are we! (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The successful seeker

In the former verse David prays, “Hear, O Lord,” etc. Now this verse is a ground of that prayer, for God had said to him, “Seek My face,” and he had replied, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Note--

I. God’s command.

1. God shows Himself to His understanding creature. But why should God bid men seek Him? Because He would have men worship Him, and in order to this God must show him how He will be served. It may be objected that everything proclaims this, to seek God. Though God had not spoken, nor His Word, every creature hath a voice to say, “Seek God.” All His benefits have that voice to say, “Seek God.” Everything hath a voice. We know God’s nature somewhat in the creature, that He is a powerful, a wise, a just God. We see it by the works of creation and providence; but if we should know His nature, and not His will towards us--His commanding will, what He will have us do; and His promising will, what He will do for us--except we have a ground for this from God, the knowledge of His nature is but a confused knowledge; it serves but to make us inexcusable, as in Romans 1:19 it is proved at large. It is too confused to be the ground of obedience, unless the will of God be discovered before; therefore we must know the mind of God.

2. God is willing to be known. God delights not to hide Himself. God stands not upon state, as some emperors do that think their presence diminisheth respect. God is no such God, but He may be searched into. Man, if any weakness be discovered, we can soon search into the depth of his excellency; but with God it is clean otherwise. The more we know of Him, the more we shall admire Him. None admire Him more than the blessed angels, that see most of Him, and the blessed spirits that have communion with Him. Therefore He hides not Himself, nay, He desires to be known; and all those that have His Spirit desire to make Him known.

3. God’s goodness is a communicative, spreading goodness. Two things make us very like God, that much concern this point: to do things freely of ourselves, and to do them far. To communicate goodness, and to communicate it far to many. The greater the fire is, the further it burns; the greater the love is, the further it extends and communicates itself. There are none more like God than those that communicate what good they have to others, and communicate it as far and remote as they can to extend it to many.

4. The ground of all obedience, of all holy intercourse with God, is a spirit of application. Applying the truths of God, though generally spoken, to ourselves in particular, if we do not--as indeed it is the fault of the times to hear the Word of God loosely--we care not so much to hear the Word of God, as to hear the gifts of men. We desire to hear fine things, to increase notions. We delight in them, and to hear some empty creature, to fasten upon a story or some phrases by the bye. Alas I you come here to hear duties and comforts, if you be good, and sentences against you, if you be naught. We speak God’s threatenings to you that will wound you to hell, except you pull them out by repentance. It is another manner of matter to hear than it is took for. “Take heed how you hear,” saith Christ (Luke 8:18). So we had need, for the Word that we hear now shall judge us at the latter day. Thereupon we should labour for a spirit of application, to make a right use of it as we should. For if we do not, we dishonour God and His bounty and give joy to the devil, for the devil rejoiceth when he seeth what excellent things are laid open in the Church of God, in the ministry, what sweet promises and comforts, but here is nobody to take them and lay hold on them; like a table that is richly furnished, and there is nobody comes and takes it. It makes the devil sport, it rejoiceth the enemy of mankind when we lose so great advantage, that we will not apply those blessed truths and make them our own.

II. the obedience to the command. “Thy face, Lord,” etc. I will seek by Thy strength and grace. And this obedience was--

1. Present, at once.

2. Pliable, that of a ready, obedient heart.

3. Perfect and sincere.

4. Openly professed, as Joshua 24:15.

5. Continued, and--

6. Suitable, answerable to the command.

Faith will see light at a little crevice. When it sees an encouragement once, a command, it will soon answer: and when it sees a promise, half a promise, it will welcome it. It is an obedient thing, “the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26). It believes, and upon believing, it goes to God. As the servants of the king of Assyria, they catch the Word presently, “Thy servant Benhadad” (1 Kings 20:32); so faith, it catcheth the Word. (R. Sibbea.)

The answering heart

I. the Lord’s invitation. An invitation--

1. Supremely beneficent.

2. Graciously merciful.

3. Infinitely condescending.

II. the believer’s reply,

1. A wise resolve.

2. A blessed heritage.

3. An eternal privilege In heaven they see His face.

III. THE given opportunity--“When Thou saidst.” This opportunity is--

1. Universal. To all who hear the Gospel.

2. Continuous. From life till death.

3. Varied. Bible, conscience, providence.

4. Unsolicited. God makes the first approach. (Homilist.)

Kind words should awaken kind echoes

Walking one day in the Queen’s Park, Edinburgh, I heard the music of a military band. I could not see the musicians, but the great rocks above me echoed the music, note for note, and one could have thought that the players themselves were hidden there. Now if granite rocks render sweet echoes to sweet music, how much more should our souls respond to the sweet calls of our Saviour’s voice and say, “When Thou saidst unto me, ‘Seek ye My face,’ my heart said unto Thee, ‘Thy face, Lord, will I seek.’” (R. Brewin.)


Verse 9

Psalms 27:9

Hide not Thy face far from me.

Hide not Thy face from me

1. The surpassing worth and excellence of God’s special favour, whereof he would not be deprived (Psalms 30:5; Psalms 63:3).

2. He knew the displeasure of God was a most heavy and grievous thing, which no creature is able to bear (Psalms 76:7).

3. He knew his own guilt of sin, both original (Psalms 51:5) and actual (Psalms 51:3-4).

4. He was not ignorant of God’s sovereignty over all, whereby He may, even for trial of grace, hide His face, and seem angry with His dearest servants. Uses--

1. For instruction.

2. For admonition.

Thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me.--

A mighty plea

In times of distress it is not well always to have a choice of helpers. For while we are selecting, our danger may have overtaken us. While the fox was considering which way to run, the hounds had seized him; while the sick man was selecting the physician, his disease carried him off. It is well to be shut up to one help, if that help is all we need; as the old proverb hath it: “Hobson’s choice, that or none.” Now, this is the believer’s condition. And it is well in going to God to have a good plea, such as is provided for us here: “Thou hast been my help.” A soul in sore distress is in no fit condition to puzzle itself over deep, dark reasonings; it wants a child’s plea, just as Dr. Guthrie, when dying, wanted “bairns’ hymns.” It is told of a famous Hebrew scholar, Dr. John Duncan of Edinburgh, that he was easily imposed upon; but the imposition never moved him, and he was willing to submit to it for the chance of doing good. He said, “I find they know how to get round me; they say, ‘You helped me before ‘; and I never can resist that: it teaches me how to pray.” And do we not like to help our old pensioners? and they know we do. Now, in our text we have:

I. experience gratefully telling her tale. How many of us can and must say, “O God, Thou hast been my help”? Go over the history of David, and see how often he had cause to say this.

II. necessity pleading experience. She pleads, “It is consistent with Thy holiness; it is within Thy power; it is fitting to Thy wisdom; or else all that Thou hast done will be thrown away. Thou art the unchanging God, and to Thy love I appeal.” It is the plea of a child to a father, “Father, thou hast always fed me: wilt thou let me starve?”

III. experience instructing faith. To trust, because God has been your help for so long; and so constantly and so singularly; and with glory to Himself. (C. H Spurgeon.)


Verse 10

Psalms 27:10

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

Perishable good measured against the unchangeable portion

Change is earth’s perpetual motto. It is grown on her ever-varying seasons; it gives material for her daily history; and it marks with chequered and subtle lines the biographies of her happiest sons. It were an unprofitable question to inquire how far, apart from religious considerations, man is the better for this law of change. He loves it not. He would be content with a much smaller amount of earthly comforts could they but be made permanent and secure for him. But this security never can be given, and even where it is given to the largest extent possible to human circumstances, men are restless and discontented still, always desiring something other than it is. But as this desire of change tells us that we are not as our Creator made us, so the existence of change tells us that this world is not our home. In heaven we shall require no change, and it will furnish none. There will be progression, but not change. The soul may be nearing ira approaches to the blessedness and purity of its Author, without ever finding the terminus of its own perfection, or feeling that it can expand no more. But here the soul is subject to change. Now it soars aloft on hope’s joyous pinion; now falls, with its broken wing, into the pit of despair. And who of all men knew the vicissitudes of life more than the author of this psalm? But David had learned when earthly joys failed him to set his heart on heavenly ones. Let us, then, consider--

I. the precarious tenure in which we hold every earthly blessing. Health, life, possessions, intellect, home affections--what security have we that any of these things will last? Do we not know how easily they may, any or all of them, be broken in upon and lost?

II. the sufficiency of the Christian’s portion when all other blessings fail. God seems to say, “I must remind them that this is not their home: I must cause that cherished object to forsake them, in order that My infinite mercy may take them up.” But we may be certain that the Christian’s portion is sufficient because:

1. Of the comprehensiveness of the Divine assurances.

2. Of the perfections of the Divine character.

3. The intercession of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Daniel Moore, M. A.)

Forsaken by man, favoured by God

I. that David’s father and mother, and so his nearest and dearest friends, might leave and forsake HIM.

1. Through fear of Saul.

2. By Divine disposition, for the trial of David’s faith and patience. Uses--

1. For instruction.

2. For admonition.

II. that when David’s nearest and dearest friends forsook him, then the lord would gather him up.

1. David stood rightly and truly in covenant with God, and so was interested in God’s special providence.

2. David trusted in God (Psalms 7:1; Psalms 125:1; Psalms 91:1, etc.).

3. David was holy in life and conversation, which gave him good assurance of special preservation (Psalms 18:17; Psalms 18:23).

Uses--

1. For instruction.

2. For admonition. It serves effectually to move every one that desires this comfortable state both to get and preserve those graces in his soul, and also to testify that behaviour in life which entitled David to it.

3. For comfort. The godly, in times of distress, must call to mind this property in God, to be more firm and faithful to those that are His than natural parents are to their dearest children. (T. Pierson.)

God our succour when others fail

1. The love of our heavenly Father towards all men, but especially His children by adoption and grace, is infinitely beyond the love of earthly parents towards their children.

2. Fathers and mothers, through human ignorance, cannot perfectly understand the griefs of their children, nor infallibly know how to remedy them if they did. But God, who dwelleth in light, nay, who is light, knoweth the inmost recesses, the darkest thoughts and secrets of all men’s hearts, better than themselves do lie perfectly understandeth all their wants, and what supplies are fittest in their respective conditions. His blessings are our daily food, His corrections our physic.

3. Whereas our earthly parents have a limited and very narrow power, and cannot therefore do their children the good they would; our heavenly Father’s power is infinite: not hindered by any resistance, or retarded by any impediments; not disabled by any casualties, occurrences, or straitness of time.

4. Our fathers and mothers, where are they? And do prophets, or Princes, or any sort of men live for ever? They all pass like a shadow, wither as grass, and are driven away as the grasshopper. When they must go, they cannot help themselves: and when they are gone, they cannot help us. They are mortal men; lie the immortal God: they are dying men; He the living God. Life is one of His prerogatives royal. And therefore, when our fathers and mothers, and friends forsake us, because either their love faileth, or their skill faileth, or their power faileth, or their life faileth: our heavenly Father, who wanteth neither love, nor wisdom, nor power, nor life, but is infinite in all; we may rest assured in every way accomplished to succour us at all assays, and to take us up. And that He will engage all these for our relief, if we will but cast ourselves wholly upon Him; we have His gracious promise to fill up the measure of our assurance. (Bp. Sanderson.)

God’s care over the forsaken

On the topmost stone of the Royal Exchange in the centre of London is carved a large grasshopper. That figure is a sermon in stone upon this text. Some four hundred years ago a woman was passing along a country lane some miles from London, and placed a baby boy under a hedge, carefully wrapped up in a shawl. Soon after a boy passed by on his way home from school, and his attention was attracted to a grasshopper that crossed his path. Stooping down to find it, he saw the baby fast asleep. He joyfully took it home to his mother, who adopted the little stranger. The forsaken child thus providentially saved became one of London’s greatest merchants, and after years of prosperity he built the Royal Exchange.


Verse 11

Psalms 27:11

Lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

Our observers

Instead of “enemies,” the margin reads “observers.” And we have many such.

I. the world--with keen and malignant eye. If we act inconsistently with our profession, they will be sure to notice it and despise us, and our religion accordingly.

II. saints. They observe us from a sense of love and duty; they are commanded to “admonish,” “exhort,” and “consider one another.”

III. ministers are our observers. They are to take heed to the flock over which, etc.

IV. angel observers. We are a spectacle to angels as well as to men.

V. above all, God observes us. He bids us walk before Him and be perfect. We are men in secret, but observed at all times. Surely we need wisdom and strength far above our own. (W. Jay.)

Divine direction

I. the text is applicable to relievers in all ages, since all need the same direction and instruction. How many have attempted to reach the summit of Parnassus, from which they might view the flowers of rhetoric and the fruits of philosophy flourishing beneath their feet; but how few have ascended far above the base of the mount before they have been discouraged by its amazing height, when they have returned in despair of ever attaining to such an elevation. Although David prayed to be led in a plain path, yet he neither thought nor expected that this path was to be attended with no difficulties ,--free from all pain, and full of unfading pleasure. All that any one can reasonably desire, who prefers the prayer contained in the text, is that God would graciously vouchsafe such guidance, that we may not swerve from that true and living way, marked out in the councils of His love, and made manifest by Him who declares Himself to be the “way, the truth, and the life.” One reason why so many mistake the plain path, arises partly from the pride of the human mind, which would rather employ its faculties upon those subjects which relate to things temporal, as bearing upon man’s present enjoyment, than direct its energies to the pursuit of those objects which lie beyond the precincts of time, and are connected with unseen and spiritual realities. How often are the most elevated minds and soaring spirits engaged rather in those speculations which tend more to increase scepticism, than to diminish error! How unwilling is the loftiness of intellect to bow to the humiliating doctrine of the Cross! And how reluctant is the philosophic sage to stoop from the heights of scientific discovery, and condescend to the humble condition of a learner at the feet of the despised Nazarene!

II. the ordinary way in which God leads his people to their heavenly rest, Surely the rewards and punishments of another life, which the Almighty has established as the enforcements of His law, are of sufficient weight to determine the choice, against whatever pleasure or pain this life can show, when the eternal state is considered in reference merely to its bare possibility, of which possibility no one can have any doubt. If the good man be in the right, be is eternally happy; if he mistakes, he is not miserable, for he feels nothing. On the other hand, if the wicked be in the right, he is not happy; if he mistakes, he is infinitely miserable. But in that manifestation of mercy; vouchsafed by that better and brighter dispensation made known by Christ, we are not left to mere hypothesis in order to elucidate the vast extremes of infinite felicity and eternal misery. Since life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel, we can behold in the mirror of Revelation that light and joy, which we could not see inscribed in the fairest productions of Nature, nor ever attain, in the ample reign of philosophical research or metaphysical discussion, but in the path marked out by Him who hath left us an example that we should walk in His steps. (N. Meeres, B. D.)

Safe leading amid many dangers

As a great ocean steamer nears a coast., the captain and helmsman need a minuteness of knowledge which they do not possess. Unknown dangers, hidden rocks and shoals, are all around them. So a pilot comes off from shore, climbs on board, and takes his place at the wheel. Instantly the control of the ship is transferred from ignorance to knowledge and incompetency to ability. Just, such a transfer takes place in a life that is surrendered to the Infinite Pilot. He knows every sea, to the least shifting bar and the slightest wind that blows. He will bring us to the desired haven. (Christian Commonwealth.)


Verse 13

Psalms 27:13

I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

The goodness of God in the land of the living

The words “I had fainted” are not in the original. The sentence is a broken one, such as one utters under strong emotion, suggesting possibilities, but leaving the hearer or reader to supply them for himself. “O had I not believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living”--and then he breaks off, and we are left to imagine what dreadful thing would have happened.

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.)

A sure cure for pessimism

I. faith expects to see enrapturing visions.

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 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.)

Pessimism, an untenable theory of the Universe

Yet, though the creed of despair it throws its dark shadow over thousands both in Germany and England. It argues thus:--Seeing the evil and misery that exist and have existed from the beginning, how is it possible to believe in a Being who is omnipotent and omniscient? If He knew of all this, He could have prevented it; and if He did not do so, how can I believe in His goodness? Now, none of us can fully despair of the difficulty, but yet there are considerations which may help our faith; as,

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.)

Believing to see

I have taken the whole verse, but the words at which I catch are these: “Unless I had believed to see.” Most people see to believe; but here is the true Gospel order. Oh that some now may believe to see I Note--

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.)

The soul’s faith in the goodness of God

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.

IV. application.

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. (D. Wilcox.)

The fainting relieved by faith

What are the lessons which our text teaches?

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.

3. And that all temporal things are subservient to what is spiritual (Romans 8:28; Psalms 25:10; 2 Corinthians 4:17).

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 4:1-18.).

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. (Robert Cranston.)


Verse 14

Psalms 27:14

Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.

The Christian’s strength

The Church of God has often been in a low, languishing, and, to all human appearance, in a desperate condition; yet one thing, as Solomon says, is set against another, and it has been at such times that His people have realized most fully the comforts of His providence and gracious presence. These stars shine brightest in dark winter nights. How wonderful have been God’s deliverances of His people. The Bible is full of such records. And during their trials God does not leave His people comfortless. See this psalm. David here gives his own experience, and he bids us “wait on the Lord.” Note--

I. how we are to wait on God.

1. In His ordinances. Where did Simeon and Anna wait? Where did Joseph and Mary find Jesus when they had lost Him? He was surprised that they had not thought of the temple, where after three days they found Him. The first place they should have sought Him in was the last they thought of. Nowhere is the sinner more likely, or so likely, to find Him as where the crowd is met and the cross is raised--in His Father’s house. Besides the public ordinances of religion, such as the communion table and Sabbath services, in the use of which we are to wait upon the Lord, there are other means of grace at our service; and still more fully within our reach. The communion table is but occasionally spread, and the doors of the church may be thrown open only once a week; but the pages of the Bible are always open, and the gates of prayer, like those of heaven, are never shut. And we are to wait with faith and perseverance. The farmer sows in faith that the harvest season will come, he waits and works for it. Far away from the billows that are breaking out on the sandy shore, the vessel lies upon the beach, doomed as it would seem to rot; why then do men climb her shrouds, and man the yards, and shake out broad sheets of canvas, and loose her moorings, to catch the breeze and bear away across the deep? Theirs are acts of faith; they believe in the law of tides, and that, every billow breaking nearer and nearer, the waters at length shall wash her keel, and, rising on her sides, float her off the sands--they wait and work for that.

II. they that wait on the Lord shall receive strength. Thus God shall make good His promise, “As thy days are, so shall thy strength be.” Why, then, it may be asked, do men go from the house of God and from a communion table to be worsted “as at other times before,” by the devil, the world, and the flesh? Baptize a withering plant with water, and it lifts up its head, casts off the old leaves, and puts out a fresh crop of buds and blossoms. But why, then, are men not always the better for the ordinances of religion? The plant revives. Why not the soul? The answer is not far to seek. The ordinances of religion are compared to wells of water; but then, they are like Jacob’s well. The water lies far below the surface; and to the men of the world, the mere professor of religion who has the name but not the faith of a Christian, we may say, as the woman said to our Lord, “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.” Faith is, as it were, the rope, and our souls the vessel which we let down into this well to fill them with living water. But that they do no good to some, forms no reason why we should despise, or neglect ordinances. It is no fault in the bread, that, thrust between a dead man’s teeth, it does not nourish him. The truth is, that we must have spiritual life to get the benefit of religious ordinances. Water will revive a withering, but not a withered plant; wine will restore a dying, but not a dead man. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Waiting on the Lord

No one could be better qualified than David to offer this counsel. Now to you who are tried by the delay of God’s promises, as David was, we would explain from the text.

I. the remarkableness of waiting upon God. For--

1. He alone can supply our need. “Our expectation is from Him,” whether it “be spiritual or temporal deliverance that we desire.

2. He is faithful as well as all powerful.

3. And He knows what is best to be done. He has all wisdom. God sees, as we do not, all the consequences of granting our desires.

II. the necessity of it. There is no alternative for us as believers. God is under necessity to be good, He cannot be otherwise; therefore we are under necessity to wait for Him.

III. the benefit of so waiting. God “will strengthen thine heart.” And that there will be good to us arises from--

1. The fact of Christ’s intercession for us.

2. The Holy Spirit is ever ready to help us. See the experience of Paul when troubled by “the thorn in the flesh.” He waited upon the Lord and he was helped.” And so shall it be with us. (Thomas Dale, M. A.)

Waiting on the Lord

This waiting on the Lord must be--

I. an humble waiting. Humility is not so much to think meanly of oneself, as not to think of oneself at all. The high places of God are very low. The lowly in heart find Him.

II. A patient waiting. In the midst of trial and opposition we are to wait. Patience is born of storm and disaster. Tribulation worketh patience.

III. A persistent whiting. Patience shines in persistence more than in acquiescence. The Scotch girl’s definition of patience is a true one: “Wait a bit, and dinna weary.” Yet patience does not consist in taking things as they come. It is not non-resisting. God likes to be persistently inquired of. Heaven is taken by violence. Those who will not help themselves will not be helped of Heaven.

IV. an active waiting. Faith without works is dead. Prayer without works is just as dead. The sick man must use the remedy if he would get well. The business man must be fervent in business, the soldier must keep his powder dry. This applies to the work of saving souls. We must use the means within our reach, as well as trust in God. “Wait “is a large word. Take it in its full meaning, and it leaves nothing else for us to do. (Herrick Johnson, D. D.)

The duty of waiting

The Christian soldier is long in learning to wait. Marching and countermarching are much easier to God’s warriors than standing still. There are hours of perplexity when the willing spirit anxiously desires to serve, but knows not how. Shall it vex itself by despair? fly back in cowardice? turn aside in fear? rush forward in presumption? No; simply wait; but--

I. wait in prayer. Call upon God; spread the case before Him; tell Him the difficulty; plead His promises.

II. wait in simplicity of soul. In dilemmas it is sweet to be humble as a child. It is sure to be well with us when we feel and know our folly, and are willing to be guided by God’s will.

III. wait in faith. Express unwavering confidence; for unfaithful, untrusting confidence is an insult to the Lord. Believe that though He keeps us tarrying He will come at the right time and will not tarry.

IV. wait in quiet patience. Not rebelling under the affliction, but blessing God for it; nor murmuring against second causes, as the children of Israel against Moses; nor wishing to go back to the world again; but accepting the case as it stands, and putting it simply and whole-heartedly into the hands of our covenant God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Brave waiting

There are two perils to which Christians are exposed; the one is that under heavy pressure they should start away from the path which they ought to pursue,--the other is lest they should grow fearful of failure, and so become faint-hearted in their holy course. Both these dangers had evidently occurred to David, and in the text he is led by the Holy Spirit to speak about them. “Do not,” he seems to say, “do not think that you are mistaken in keeping to the way of faith; do not turn aside to crooked policy, do not begin to trust in an arm of flesh, but wait upon the Lord;” and, as if this were a duly in which we are doubly apt to fail, he repeats the exhortation, and makes it more emphatic the second time, “Wait, I say, on the Lord.”

I. God is to be waited on.

1. As a beggar waits for alms at the rich man’s door. Beggars must not be choosers. Believingly to wait upon the Lord, pleading the all-prevailing name of Jesus, is the suppliant’s best posture.

2. As learners for instruction. The pupils of the old philosophers were wont to walk in the groves of Academia till the wise men were ready to come and speak with them; and when any one of the wise men began to speak, the young disciples quietly followed his steps, eagerly catching up every precious sentence which he might utter. Much more should it be so with us towards our Lord Jesus; let us follow Him in every page of inspiration, study every line of creation, and learn of Him in all the teachings of His providence.

3. As a servant waits upon his lord.

4. As a traveller waiting the directions of his guide, or a mariner waiting upon the pilot who takes charge of his ship. We are to wait upon God for direction in the entire voyage of life; He is at the helm, and His hand is to steer our course.

5. As a child waits upon its parent. “My father knows what I have need of, and I am sure he will give it me.”

6. As a courtier waits upon his prince. Sir Walter Raleigh was wise in his generation when he took off his richly embroidered cloak to spread it over a miry place, that Queen Elizabeth’s feet might not be damped; the courtier knew how to smooth his own road by caring for his queen; and thus, with unselfish motives, out of pure reverence for our Lord, let us be willing to be made as the street to be walked over if Jesus can thereby be honoured. Let us lay out for our Lord the best that we have, even to the character which is dear to us as life itself, if by so doing we may bring glory to the holy and blessed name of our Redeemer.

II. courage is to be maintained. “Be of good courage.” Our good Lord and Master ought not to be followed by cowards.

1. Be of good courage concerning the faith which you are exercising upon Christ. He is very good to those who seek Him.

2. Be of good courage, you who have newly found Him, to avow your faith. Wear your colours before the face of all men.

3. Be of good courage in endeavouring to spread the faith which you have received. Undertake great things for Christ.

4. Be of good courage, when you pray for others. Intercession has great influence with God.

5. Be of good courage, in making self-sacrifices for the cause of Christ.

6. If you are called to endure great affliction, sharp pain, frequent sickness; if business goes amiss, if riches take to themselves wings and fly away, if friends forsake you and foes surround you, be of good courage, for the God upon whom you wait will not forsake you. Never let it be said that a soldier of the Cross flinched in the day of battle.

III. waiting upon God sustains courage. You have heard of the famous giant whom Hercules could not kill, because the earth was his mother, and every time Hercules dashed him down he obtained fresh strength by touching his parent, and rose again to the fight. We are of like nature, and every time we are driven to our God, though we be dashed upon Him by defeat, we grow strong again, and our adversary’s attempt is foiled. Our heart is strengthened by waiting upon God, because we thus receive a mysterious strength through the incoming of the Eternal Spirit into our souls. No man can explain this, but many of us know what it is.

2. Waiting upon the Lord has an effect upon the mind, which in the natural course of things tends to strengthen our courage; for waiting upon God makes men grow small, and dwarfs the world and all its affairs, till we see their real littleness.

3. And then it inflames the heart with love. Nothing can give us greater courage than a sincere affection for our Lord and His work. A raven was hatching her young in a tree. The woodman began to fell it, but there she sat; the blows of the axe shook the tree, but she never moved, and when it fell she was still upon her nest. Love will make the most timid creature strong; and, oh, beloved, if you love Christ you will defy all fear, and count all hazards undergone for Him to be your joy.

4. Waiting upon the Lord breeds peace within the soul, and when a man is perfectly at rest within he cares little for trials or foes. A heart unsettled towards God is sure to be afraid of men, but when the soul waits on the Lord in glad serenity it stoops not to fear.

5. This waiting upon the Lord produces the effect of increasing our courage, because it gives us often a sight of the eternal reward, and if a man getteth a glimpse of the crown of glory, the crown of thorns will no more prick his temples.

IV. experience proves this. The text is a summary of the entire psalm. All the rest of the verse may be compared to the figures of an account, and this closing verse is the casting up of the whole--waiting on the Lord is the path of wisdom. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

“Tarry thou the Lord’s leisure”

That is the rendering of the Prayer-book version, and it brings out the exact meaning of the word “wait,” which we have interlarded and lost sight of by making it mean such things--and legitimately enough--as prayer. It just means “wait.” Wait for Him as you would wait for a friend at the trysting-place who does not come. Wait for Him, and wait, and wait until He does come. We know it to be a Christian duty to be patient with our fellow-men; have we ever thought of the necessity and the duty of being patient with God? “O tarry thou the Lord’s leisure.” It is hard, I admit it is hard, to have this patience. Indeed, the more earnest you are, the more alive you are to the needs of the world, the more eager you are to see the Kingdom of Heaven brought in among men; and the more you do on behalf of the Kingdom, the more is the temptation to lose grip of this patience with God. “Why tarry the wheels of His chariot?” are we not saying every day, and as we go out into the world and see the evil and sin of the world we say it with a more plaintive note in our voice than ever. We strain, some of us, and hurt ourselves straining to help the Kingdom of the King to prepare the way of the Lord. Some faithful Christian work may be said almost to be the fruit of faithlessness. Some make up in zeal what they lack in faith. Some rail at God for His leisure with the world and with the Church, and act as if their efforts in His cause are almost a rebuke to God.

O that His steps among the stars would quicken!

O that His ears would hear when we are dumb!

Many the hearts from which the hope shall sicken,

Many shall faint, before His Kingdom come.

Patience is the Divine method in the world. Everything in the world is wrought patiently, smoothly, softly, naturally, sweetly. The seasons come and go. The world has been brought thus: far not by cataclysm but by change, by growth, not by creation, and it is so morally. The world has boon brought thus far by God with groanings and travailings that cannot be uttered until now, by His own Divine method of patience. The moral education of the race has gone on, step by step and stage by stage, as men were able to bear it, and able to understand it. Think of the patience of Christ. He came for the sake of the whole world to redeem the world, and He limited Himself of His own accord to twelve humble men, and He limited Himself still further, and He went on, over and over again, teaching these twelve men, preparing that morsel of soil for the precious seed. O man that art impatient, and speakest about the smallness of thy sphere, the small ministry you have in which to serve; think how limited Christ’s sphere was, and the patience with which He began the redemption of the world. That is the Divine method for the world, and for the Church, and for ourselves. (H. Black, M. A.)

Beggars should be willing to wait

One morning I noticed a tramp knocking at a house door. A kind-hearted woman lived there, and when she had opened the door and seen the beggar, she ran back into the kitchen to get him something to eat. After standing a moment, he turned and went on his way. Then she came to the door with the food in her hand and called after him. He almost missed that meal because he did not wait, Perhaps we have quite missed some great spiritual gift for which we have asked because we had not learned to “wait on the Lord.” (R. Brewin.)

Wait for an answer to prayer

When I lived in Exeter an eccentric clergyman who occupied a house in the Mint passage had had placed, under the knocker of his door, the polite request, “Please don’t knock unless you wait for an answer.” There was a school near, and I think the boys used to give him trouble. We often give God trouble, too, when we knock at His door but do not wait for an answer. (R. Brewin.)

Christian valour

Courage is the calm, determined pursuit of the right, notwithstanding the nature of the road, ignoring the world’s flattery, despising the world’s menace, disparaging the transient garland and the transient crown. Courage is simply the disposition to go right on, irrespective of the world’s swords or of the world’s crowns. “Be of good courage.” Where shall it be exercised? Sometimes in silence. I think if we could make comparisons between one aspect of the Master’s life and another, if everything in the Master’s life was not superlative; if we could put some things in the positive and some in the comparative and make comparisons; and if I were to be asked to put my finger on the one place in the Master’s life where the courage of the Lord shone out the most resplendently, I should put my finger on the word where it says, “And He answered him nothing.” It is superlative valour. The valour of silence, when to speak might mean gain. The courage to keep a close lip, the courage to restrain a laugh when somebody has made a filthy jest. The courage to present a perfectly passive face when conversation is becoming unfair; the courage to withhold applause when applause would simply add fury to an unclean fire. That is the courage that our Master seeks--the courage sometimes to withhold the laugh. There is many a young fellow would restrain for ever from an unclean, filthy jest if he were left in the shivering experience of a quiet and passive reception. Courage in silence; courage sometimes by speech. I think nothing shows out more radiantly and more conspicuously the valour of the Apostle Paul than that experience which he describes for us in the Epistle to the Galatians, where he tells us that when he encountered Simon Peter who was destined to be a pillar of the Church, a living light in the metropolitan church, and who had gone down to Antioch, and who had played and trifled with the truth, who had worn one coat one day and another on another day, “I withstood him to the face.” A thing like that is not to be received in silence. “I withstood him to the face,” warned him, rebuked him, to his face. Now, suppose you could get a radiant, confident, optimistic courage, a disposition that would keep its lips still and closed when it might appear as though to open them would be immediate gain, and that would speak though speech should wreck a possible career, that would go right on disregarding on the one hand a menace, or, on the other hand, a smile--suppose you could get a disposition like that implanted into the personality of men, suppose it had become part of my constitution, part of my make up--pure, clean, clear courage, what would be the influence of it? First of all, the influence of it on myself. Would it have made any influence upon my body? I want to say that it would; I want to proclaim--and I think it is a note that is not sufficiently proclaimed, and emphatically proclaimed--that Virtue makes for physical health. I would say to any athlete here, “You would become a finer athlete if you were a finer man. Virtue ministers to health rather than vice, and courage will send your blood in a glow around your body rather than cowardice, when you are beset by the hostility of the world.” It will influence the body, it will still more influence the mind. Would it influence the soul? I use the word “soul” there to describe the highest part of man’s personality, the power which lays hold of and apprehends and appreciates and appropriates God. Would it affect that? There is a fine suggestive sentence in one of Emerson’s essays which will serve my purpose to quote it now, “God never gives visions to cowards.” Why does not God give visions to cowards? Because, my brethren, He cannot. Cowards close the doors, shut out the Divine. The light cannot enter the spirit, cannot find access when a man is timid and cowardly; all the entrances in his life are blocked. But if a man is valorous and courageous, having his eyes set on the truth and the pursuit of it, a man is porous, porous to everything that is Divine. The Divine can simply soak into him. If a man of a valorous spirit takes up a book to read, as he reads through the book all that is lovely in the book steeps into him; he is porous towards the lovely and the true. If he goes into a picture gallery, all that is wonderful and beautiful and spiritually suggestive about the pictures soaks into him; he is porous towards the lovely. God cannot give these things to cowards, because they are closed, they are nonporous. It was when Peter had become bold we are told that he had visions; it was after he had become great that he began to have visions of the ineffable glory, and when a man has set his eye upon the truth in the resolute, determined pursuit of it, then I say he is open in every door of his spirit to the entrance of the ministry of the Spirit of God, he becomes the tabernacle of the Almighty. That is how it would influence myself; how would it influence my neighbour? I am afraid we talk a good deal about the contagion of vice--I do not think too much--but I do not think we talk half enough about the contagion of virtue. We talk a great deal about the leaven of hypocrisy, but I do not think we speak half enough about the leaven of sincerity and truth. Everybody knows that one man can impart a vice to another by simply living with him. There is a most subtle contagion which can pass almost through the mystic influence of thought, and still more by the transmission of speech, but there is a wonderful contagion of virtue, and a man in whom the valorous temperament is enthroned, might give spirit and inspiration to a crowd. Napoleon says: “There is a moment in every great war when the bravest troops feel inclined to run; it is the want of confidence in their own courage,” and then Napoleon says: “The supreme art of generalship is to know just when that moment will come and to provide for it. At Arcola”--I am quoting the words exactly--“I won the battle with twenty-five horsemen. I anticipated the moment of fright and flight, and I had twenty-five men ready of cool nerve and decision, and just at the appropriate moment I turned the twenty-five into the host, and the battle was won.” Twenty-five men who had not lost their nerve brought back confidence to a host who were inclined for fright and flight. The man who was cool for fight brought back the hordes that were ready for flight. Has that no analogy in the realm of the spirit? One brave member of a family may save the whole household from moral perdition; one young fellow in a warehouse may save all his mates from the timidity which means hell; one fine, brave lad in a school who will despise all meanness and set his eyes upon the true and follow it, may gain a whole form for the army of the Lord. How, then, can we get this fine, valorous disposition? “Wait on the Lord”--“Wait, I say, on the Lord.” How painfully inadequate. Inadequate! There are some things in the spiritual which any man can prove in a day. There are some things which inevitably and almost immediately result from the life of the spirit which any man can put into momentary and daily proof. Here is one. Suppose that you find you are becoming possessed by the spirit of anger, and that passion is rising within you like an angry flood, and you feel as though you were about to be overcome, and the flood is going to merge in indiscreet and bitter and violent speech. Just then wait on the Lord, and in the name of God Almighty I promise you, with the most consummate assurance, that you will find your anger will there and then begin to subside, until it becomes as calm as a peaceful sea. If you find that you are becoming the victim of lust, “Wait on the Lord,” and even while you kneel you shall find that the unholy fire is being put out. If you are possessed by the feeling of envy or of jealousy, and if you are being consumed by the hateful thing, “Wait on the Lord,” and I promise you--and I dare you to put it to proof--that while you kneel the envy and the jealousy will pass away from your vision just as the steam passes away from our windows in the cooler light of the dawn. If I come with my spirit of timidity and cowardice into the presence of the Almighty, and say, “Lord, I have a will like a reed, I would like s will like adamant,” will nothing result? Will the Lord, who says to the passion, Be still; and who says to the lust, Die out; and who says to the envy, Evaporate, have nothing to say to a timid and cowardly will? “He shall strengthen thine heart.” When? Not just then, perhaps. I would like to make that clear if I may. It will be when you need, because perhaps just then, when you kneel, you may not need. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The temptation to discouragement

Among the whole legion of evil spirits that harass the Christian, there is none more mischievous than that dark-visaged demon called Discouragement. He tries to hamstring us just at the critical time when we need all our faculties and all our graces. If he can persuade us to give up, we are gone. History is never were of telling us of those resolute spirits who would not give up--of Disraeli’s reply to the jeers of the British Parliament, “The time will come when you will be glad to hear me;” and of George Stephenson and Robert Fulton persisting with their experiments in the face of ridicule. But “the children of light” are not always as wise as “the children of this world” in carrying their point. All the more shame to us, because the man of the world has no special promise of the Divine help, and the child of God has. The one has to encourage himself in his own brain-power or his “pluck,” but the other may encourage himself in the Lord his God. One thing we who enlist in the service of Christ must be assured of, and that is that our campaign is for life. Regeneration does not end the fight; it is only its beginning. Our arduous work will not be done until we have gained our crown. God sees that it is trot best that we should get to heaven before ourtime, and so he ordains that this life shall be one of perpetual conflict, temptation, trial, discipline. One of the most frequent temptations to discouragement arises from the want of apparent success in the best undertakings. Brave Dr. Judson preached in Burmah six years without a visible convert. After these six years of subsoiling and seeding came a steady crop of conversions, (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

He shall strengthen thine heart.--

The strengthening of the heart

What do we mean by the Heart? Now, just as the Will is the seat of basal, executive force, and just as the Conscience is the seat of moral instinct, so the Heart is the seat of feeling, the home of emotion, the empire of the sentiments. I wish to discuss what I may call the aristocracy of the feelings. I call them the aristocracy because they possess a certain subtlety of refinement which distinguishes them from others which are more closely and intimately related to the flesh. Like other aristocracies the members are both good and bad. Envy is a purely spiritual feeling, and may exist in all its intensity even when the vesture of the flesh has been finally dropped. Gratitude is a purely spiritual feeling, and may exist in undiminished power when the flesh has turned to dust. There are other feelings which are largely contingent upon the flesh, and which seek their gratification exclusively in the ways of the flesh. These will only indirectly concern us in the present discussion. Let us confine the attention to the more ethereal feelings--to feelings more subtle and more refined, more refined in evil and more refined in good. Now it is very evident that these feelings appear in different kinds and in varied intensity among different people. That is a very obtrusive fact in human life. If with the Divine vision we could enter into some hearts it would be like passing into a cathedral: everything is so sweet and chaste and reverent and beautiful. But if we entered into other hearts it would be like passing into a cellar: dark, damp, and forbidding, abounding in vermin and uncleanness. In some hearts the feelings lurk like carrion vultures; in others they sing and soar like the lark. Have we any responsibility as to the character of the feelings which possess the Heart? Has Conscience, the moral palate, any judgment to give concerning the things of the Heart? Is its dominion confined to the regions of thought and speech and deed, or does it, s jurisdiction reach to the inhabitants of the Heart? Yes, Conscience indicates some feelings, and definitely condemns them. Conscience indicates other feelings, and definitely approves them. What Conscience condemns I am commanded to remove. What Conscience approves I am commanded to entertain. But in the judgments of Conscience there is a larger implication even than this. That which Conscience commands me to remove I have power at hand to remove. Let us mark that well. Moral commandments are indications of possible moral attainments. Conscience searches my heart and commands me to turn out this feeling, and to give more room to that feeling, and to let in another that for long has been standing at the gate. And all this is a solemn indication to me that, according to the teaching of Conscience, I have power over my own Heart, and that for the exercise of this power I shall be called to account when I stand before the judgment-seat of God. Conscience, then, proclaims that we are responsible for our feelings. Do we recognize the obligation? Let us seek for evidence in our common judgments. Our common judgments recognize that men have power over their own hearts. We condemn a man for ingratitude. If we can exercise no dominion over our feelings the ungrateful man should be regarded with tenderest pity as the poor victim of a hard and petrifying rage. We praise and commend a man because of his warm and bounteous love, because of the bright and sunny influence with which he transforms our dull November seasons into merry days of June. Why should we commend him if men have no power over their own hearts? He is rather to be regarded as a very lucky man, who, by a most fortunate chance, has entered into a golden heritage, which less lucky men have been denied. But no such element of chance is allowed to enter in and shape and colour our judgments. If it were needful to give further elaboration to this it would be easy to detach fragments from our common speech which clearly indicate that in cur practical life we acknowledge that men can exercise sovereignty over the empire of the Heart. For instance, we blame one man for “allowing his feelings to run away with him,” we commend another for having his feelings “well under control.” I do not think this truth receives sufficient emphasis when we are considering the culture of the spiritual life. We have command over the Heart. We have authority over the feelings. Whatever feeling we want we can get. Whatever feeling we do not want we can reject. If we desire the feeling of love we have means to obtain it. If we desire the feeling of malice it will come at our bidding. How, then, are feelings created? Upon what are they dependent? They are largely, if not exclusively, dependent upon thought. Out of thought there comes feeling, just as fragrance is born of a rose, and a noisome stench of a cesspool. Our sentiments are the exhalations of our thoughts. Every thought tends to create a feeling. There are no thoughts devoid of influence. From every thought there proceeds an influence which goes to the making of a disposition. A single thought in the mind may exhale an almost imperceptible influence. But the influence is there, and steals like an intensely subtle odour into the Heart. Let the thoughts be multiplied, and the delicate odours unite to form an intensely powerful influence which we call a feeling, a sentiment, a disposition. But suppose the thought is not like a sweet rose, but like a poisonous nightshade. Here again the influence of a single thought may be too subtle for our detection, but let the thoughts be multiplied, and the poisonous exhalations will unite to form a sentiment of most destructive strength. Let us lay hold of this as a most practical principle in the culture of the spiritual life. We cannot have a good thought and not enrich the Heart. There is no chance or caprice about the matter. It is governed by immutable law. We cannot have one kind of thought to-day exhaling one kind of feeling, and the same kind of thought to-morrow exhaling another kind of feeling. No; each thought creates its own feeling, and always of one kind. There are certain thoughts which, if we will take them into our minds, will inevitably create the feeling of envy. Take other thoughts into the mind, and from them will be born the sentiment of jealousy. Take other thoughts into the mind and the Heart will speedily swell with pride. Fill the mind with another kind of thought and in the Heart will gather the sweet and tender sentiment of pity. Each thought creates its own sentiment, and we cannot help it. Some sentiments gather rapidly. They appear to attain to mature fulness in a moment. Other sentiments accumulate slowly. It often happens that the sentiment of jealousy comes to her throne only after the lapse of many years. On the other hand, anger can mount the throne and govern the life in a day. Tim mode of its operation is quite familiar to us. Anger is the distinct and immediate creation of thought. We bring certain thoughts into the mind, and from these thoughts there proceed certain sentiments. We think, and think, and think, and the feeling accumulates and increases with our thought, until at last the Heart is full with feeling, and explodes in violent passion. And so we counsel a man not to think about the injury which he has presumedly suffered, “not to nurse it,” and by our counsel we imply that with the rejection of the creative thought the created passion will subside. Let us advance one step further. Our thought creates our feelings. Our deeds react upon and strengthen the feelings which by thought were created. My thought plans a kindly deed. Well, the thought itself will most inevitably tend to create a kindly feeling, but the doing of the deed will also assuredly tend to reinforce the feeling. Our deeds react on the feelings which prompted them, and confirm and augment them. That is one way by which our God rewards His children. He rewards our mercifulness by increasing our resources of mercy. He rewards our deeds by enlarging our hearts. That is the law of our God, and the law finds application on the bad side as well as on the good. Every act of greed strengthens the feeling of avarice. Every act of impurity intensifies the feeling of lust. What, then, is the secret of the culture of the Heart? It is this--we must get back to the origin of feeling. We must get back to imaginations, to ideas, to ideals. As is the mind so will be the Heart. A stony Heart finds its explanation in the mind. A pure Heart may be interpreted in the mind. “Set your mind on things above,” exhorts the Apostle Paul; “Set your mind on things above,” and your feelings will soar heavenward, like white-winged angels making their way home. It is on those serene and lofty heights that a sound and healthy Heart is to be gained. It may be only a depressing revelation to a man to tell him that health can be found on the wind-swept summit. You bring him a gospel when you tell him how to get there, how means may be found even for him, however impoverished he may be. “Set your mind on things above.” There is no gospel in that. I so easily move amid things that are below. Is there any gospel which offers to me a heavenly gravitation to counteract the earthly gravitation, some triumphant power which will tug me towards the things that are above, as this mighty world-power drags me down to things which are below? In this word of the Master I find the gospel I seek: “I, if I be lifted up, will draw . . . ” That is the gospel we need. The power to resist the gravitation of worldliness--to “ascend into the hill of the Lord,” to “set the mind on things above,” to think and live on the pure and heavenly heights--is to be found in a crucified and exalted Christ. Committing ourselves to Christ we shall rise with Him, and the mind will share in the resurrection. Drawn by Him we shall rise into “newness of life.” With the “renewing of the mind” we shall be “transformed”: high-born feelings will come to be our guests, and the pervading influence of these fragrant sentiments will sweeten all tam common ways in which we live and move and have our being. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

Divine strength

They that waft on the Lord, and encourage themselves to do, in the times of affliction, shall have the Lord in mercy to put strength into them, for their better enabling to wait on Him (Psalms 31:24; Psalms 40:1-2; Isaiah 40:30).

1. Reasons--

2. Uses--

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Psalms 28:1-9

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 27:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-27.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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