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The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


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So You, Too, Must Keep Watch


"So you, too, must keep watch!  For you do not know the day or hour of My return."  (Matthew 25:13)  

 

No one can predict when Jesus’ will return. People have attempted to but the word of God clearly states we don’t know. There are many signs leading up to His coming. 

 

When Jesus’ returns what do you think he will find you doing? He is a loving savior but likes all mankind to want to follow him. 

 

Are you keeping watch? Are you daily reading scripture and looking up? You need to be ‘watchful’ and thankful until he comes again. And he WILL be back. 

 

PRAYER: Each day I get up and am thankful that I am alive. I realize I have a distinct purpose and thank you for that. Use me to help point others to Jesus’. In Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Becky Juett Miller

God's Lemonade Stand

https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/

https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com

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Let Him Take Heed Lest He Fall

Let Him Take Heed Lest He Fall

Jeremiah 8:4–7

Thus saith the Lord: Shall they fall and not arise? shall he turn away and not turn again?

Wherefore is this people of Jerusalem turned back by a perpetual rebellion? they gave themselves to deceit, and would not return.

I hearkened and heard, but none spake aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? Every one turned to their race, as the horse rusheth into the battle.

Even the stork in the air knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming; but My people knoweth not the judgment of the Lord.

The Apostle’s counsel is, qui stat videat ne cadat, “he that standeth let him take heed lest he fall.”* And there is, saith Esay, a voice behind us that crieth, Hæc est via, “This is the right way, keep it, turn not from it.”* Good counsels both to those quorum vita via vitæ, ‘whose life is a journey, and a journey to another, a better life,’ to look to their feet, they fall not; to look to their way, they err not. Good counsels indeed, but of which we must say with Christ,* qui potest capere capiat, “follow them that may.”

For true it is that not to fall nor err nor do amiss at all, is an higher perfection than our nature in state it is can attain to. ‘Being men,’ saith St. Chrysostom, ἄνθρωποι ὄντες, and ταύτην τὴν σάρκα φεροῦντες, ‘bearing about us this body of flesh,’ the steps whereof are so unstaid; καὶ τοῦτον κόσμον οἰκοῦντες, ‘and walking in this world,’ the ways whereof are so slippery. It is an Apostle that saith it, in multis omnes, &c. “in many things we offend all;” and it is another that saith,* “that whosoever sayeth otherwise”—not,* he is proud and there is no humbleness, but “he is a liar, and there is no truth in him.”

Our estate then as it is needeth some Scripture that “offereth more grace;” and such there be, saith St. James,* and this is such. That they which have not heard the Apostle and his counsel, qui stat, &c. may yet hear the Prophet here and his qui cecidit, let him up again. That they which have not heard Esay’s voice, ambulate, “you are in the way, turn not from it,” may yet hear Jeremy’s voice, qui aversus est, &c. “he that is out let him get into it again.”

So that this is the sum of that I have read. If we have not been so happy as to stand and keep our way, let us not be so unhappy as not to rise and turn to it again. Best it were before we sin to say to ourselves Quid facio, ‘What am I now about to do?’ If we have not that, yet it will not be amiss after to say, “What have I done?” God will not be displeased to hear us so say. We should not follow those fowls, we should have no wings to fly from God; but if in flying away we have followed them, then that we follow them too in the retrieve or second flight. In a word, yesterday if we have not heard His voice, “to-day if we will hear His voice,* not to harden our hearts,” when He calleth us to repentance.

This is the sum. The manner of the delivery is not common, but somewhat unusual and full of passion. For seeing plain pœnitentiam agite doth but coldly affect us, it pleaseth God, hâc vice, to take unto Him the terms, the style, the accents of passion; thereby to give it an edge, that so it may make the speedier and deeper impression.

And the passion He chooseth is that of sorrow; for all these verses are to be pronounced with a sorrowful key. Sorrow many times worketh us to that, by a melting compassion, which the more rough and violent passions cannot get at our hands.

This sorrow He expresseth by way of complaint; for all the speech is so. Which kind of speech maketh the better nature to relent, as moved that by His means any should have cause to complain and not find redress for it.

That He complains of is not that we fall and err, but that we rise not and return not; that is, still delay,* still put off our repentance. And that, 1. contrary to our own course and custom in other things; we do it every where else, yet here we do it not. 2. Contrary to God’s express pleasure.* For glad and fain He would hear we do it, yet we do it not. 3. Contrary to the very light of nature. For the fowls here fly before us, and shew us the way to do it, yet we do it not for all that.

Which three He uttereth by three sundry ways of treaty; 1. The first by a gentle yet forcible expostulation,* Will you not? Why will ye not? 2. The second by an earnest protestation, how greatly He doth hearken after it. 3. The third by a passionate apostrophe, by turning Him away to the fowls of the air, that do that naturally every year which we cannot be got to all our life long.

Of which passions to say a word; it is certain, the immutable constancy of the Divine nature is not subject to them, howsoever here or elsewhere He presenteth Himself in them. I add, that as it is not proper, so neither it is not fitting for God thus to express Himself. But that He, not respecting what best may become Him, but what may best seem to move us and do us most good, chooseth of purpose that dialect, that character, those terms, which are most meet and most likely to affect us.

And because good moral counsel plainly delivered enters but faintly, and of passionate speeches we have a more quick apprehension, He attireth His speech in the habit, uttereth it in the phrase, figure, and accent of anger, or sorrow, or such like, as may seem most fit and forcible to prevail with us.

1. Tertullian saith the reason this course is used is ad exaggerandum malitiæ vim, ‘to make the heinousness of our contempt appear the more.’* God indeed cannot complain, it falleth not into His nature to do it. But if He could, if it were possible by any means in the world He might, such are our contempts, so many and so mighty, that we would force Him to it.

2. But St. Augustine’s reason is more praised;* Exprimit in Sed ut exprimat de te, ‘In Himself He expresseth them, that from us He may bring them;’ sheweth Himself in passion that He may move us, and even in that passion whereto He would move us. As here now; as in grief He complaineth of us, that we might be grieved and complain of ourselves that ever we gave Him such cause, and so consequently that we might bethink ourselves to give redress to it, that so His complaining might cease.

And from the complaint, it is no hard matter to extract the redress. 1. To yield to but even as much for Him—for Him? nay for ourselves—as every where else we use to do. 2. To speak that which God so gladly would hear. 3. To learn that which the poor fowls know, the season of our return, and to take it as they do. Three ways to give redress to the three former grievances, these three; and the same the three parts of this text orderly to be treated of.

To make His motion the more reasonable and His complaint the more just, He makes them chancellors in their own cause; and from their own practice otherwhere God frameth and putteth a case, and putteth it in question-wise; and therefore question-wise that they may answer it, and answering it condemn themselves by a verdict from their own mouth. “Will they (this people) themselves fall,” &c.? Is there any that if he turn,” &c.? In effect, as if He should say; Go whither you will, far or near, was it ever heard or seen that any man if his foot slipped and he took a fall, that he would lie still like a beast and not up again straight? Or if he lost his way, that he would wittingly go on and not with all speed get into it again?

I proceed then. Men rise, if they fall; and sin is a fall. We have taken up the term ourselves, calling Adam’s sin Adam’s fall. A fall indeed, for it fouls as a fall, for it bruises as a fall, for it bringeth down as a fall; down from the state of Paradise, down to the dust of death, down to the bar of judgment, down to the pit of hell.

Again; men turn when they err, and sin is an error. Nonne errant omnes, &c., saith Solomon;* make you any doubt of it? I do not: No sure, an error it is. What can be greater than to go in the ways of wickedness they should not, and come to the end of misery they would not. It is then a fall and an error.

Upon which He joineth issue and inferreth the fifth verse, Quare ergo? “and why then?” If there be no people so sottish that when they fall will lie still, or when they err go on still, why do this people that which no people else will do? Nay, seeing they themselves, if they be down get up, and if astray turn back; how cometh it to pass it holds not here too? That here they fall and rise not? stray and return not? Fall and stray peccando, and not rise and return pœnitendo? Will every people and not they? Nay, will they every where else, and not here? Every where else will they rise if they fall, and turn again if they turn away, and here, only here, will they fall and not rise, turn away and not turn again? In every fall, in every error of the feet to do it, and to do it of ourselves, and in that fall and that error which toucheth God and our souls, by no means, by no entreaty to be got to do it? What dealing call you this? Yet this is their strange dealing, saith the Lord. Both theirs and ours, which God wonders at and complaineth of; and who can complain of His wondering, or wonder at His complaining?

But what speak we of a fall or an error? There is a word in the fifth verse, the word of “rebellion,” maketh it more grievous. For it is as if He should say, I would it were nothing but a fall or turning away; I would it were not a fall or turning away into “a rebellion.” Nay I would it were but that, but “rebellion,” and not “a perpetual rebellion;” but it is both, and that is it which I complain of.

There is sin, a fall: men fall against their wills, that is sin of infirmity. There is sin, an error: men err from the way of ignorance, that is sin of ignorance. The one for want of power, the other for lack of skill. But rebellion, the third kind, that hateful sin of rebellion, can neither pretend ignorance nor plead infirmity; for wittingly they revolt from their known allegiance, and wilfully set themselves against their lawful Sovereign;—that is the sin of malice.

Take all together. Sin, a fall, an error, a rebellion: we see, “sin aboundeth;” will you see, how “grace over-aboundeth?”* Yet not such a fall but we may be raised, not such a departure but there is place left to return; no, nor such a rebellion, but if it sue for may hope for a pardon. For behold; He, even He, that God from Whom we thus fall, depart, revolt, reacheth His hand to them that fall, turneth not away from them that turn to Him, is ready to receive to grace them, even them that rebelled against Him. It is so: for He speaketh to them, treateth with them, asketh of them, why they will not rise, return, submit themselves.

Which is more yet. If ye mark, He doth not complain and challenge them for any of all those three, for falling, straying, or for rebelling; the point He presseth is not our falling, but our lying still; not our departing, but our not returning; nor our breaking off, but our holding out. It is not; Why fall, or stray, or revolt? But, Why rise ye not? Return ye not? Submit ye not yourselves? Thus might He have framed His interrogatories. Shall they fall and not stand? He doth not, but thus. Shall they fall and not rise? Shall they turn from the right and not keep it? No: But shall they turn from it, and not turn to it? As much to say as, Be it you have fallen, yet lie not still; erred, yet go not on; sinned, yet continue not in sin; and neither your fall, error, nor sin, erunt vobis in scandalum, ‘shall be your destruction or do you hurt.’

Nay, which is farther and that beyond all. It is not these neither; though this be wrong enough, yet upon the point this is not the very matter. Neither our lying still, nor our going on, nor standing out, so they have an end, they all and every of them may have hope. “Perpetual” is the word, and perpetual is the thing. Not why these, any of these, or all of these; but why these perpetual? To do thus, to do it and never leave doing it; to make no end of sin, but our own end; to make a perpetuity of sin; never to rise, return, repent—for repentance is opposite not to sin, but to the continuance of it—that is the point.

In sin are these; 1. The fall, 2. The relapse, 3. The wallow. It is none of these; it is not falling, not though it be recidiva peccati, often ‘relapsing.’ It is not lying still, not though it be volutabrum peccati, ‘the wallow.’ It is none of all these; it is τὸ ἀκατάπαυστον, ‘the never ceasing,’ the perpetuity, the impenitency of sin.* To speak of sin, that is the sin out of measure sinful; that is the offence that not only maketh culpable, but leaveth inexcusable. That fall is not Adam’s but Lucifer’s fall; not to err, but to perish from the right way, not Shimei’s rebellion,* but the very apostasy and “gain-saying of Core.”

This then to add sin to sin, to multiply sin by sin, to make it infinite, to eternize it as much as in us lieth, that is it to which God crieth, O quare? “Why do you so?” Why perpetual?

Why perpetual? Indeed why? For it would pose the best of us to find out the quare? a true cause or reason for so doing?

Before, shew but an example; now here, shew but a reason and carry it. But they can shew no reason why they will not. It were to be wished we would repent, or shew good cause to the contrary.

But as before we violate our own custom, so here we abandon reason, we throw them both to the ground, order and reason, and stamp upon them both when we make perpetuities. Verily, true cause or good reason there is none. Being called to shew cause why? they tell not, we see; they stand mute, they cannot tell why; God Himself is fain to tell them. Why all the cause that is is in the latter part of the verse, apprehenderunt, &c. that is, some non causa pro causâ, some lie or other they lay hold of, or else they would return and not thus continue in it. To flatter itself that it may not repent, Mentita est iniquitas sibi, saith the Psalmist,* Sin doth even cozen itself, telling a fair tale to itself, which is in the eleventh verse, Pax, Pax, “Peace” well enough; and that is a lie, for there is no peace for all that. It is, saith the Apostle, “the deceitfulness of sin that hardeneth” men in it;* that is, if there were not some gross error, strong illusion, notable fascinatio mentis, it could not be that sin should prove to a perpetuity. There is some error sure.

But why is not that error removed? God answereth that too. But the error hath not taken hold of them, for then it might be cured, but they have taken hold of it, fast hold, and will not let it go. That is, it is not in the weakness of their wits, but in the stubbornness of their will. For so is His conclusion. Not non potuerunt, ‘they could not;’ but noluerunt, they “would not return.” So saith David;* “it is a people that do err in their hearts.” Their error is not in their heads but in their hearts, and if it be there, “forty years” teaching will do them no good. If they had a heart to understand, they might soon, but they assot themselves, they will not conceive aright of their estates. If they did, they could not choose but return, but now return they will not, that is resolved; therefore they get them some lewd, irreligious, lying positions, and with them close up their own eyes, even hood-wink themselves. Is it not thus? Yes sure: rather than return, to apprehend a lie. This is a woeful case; but let it be examined, and thus it is. It is a lie they apprehend, that maketh they lie still. Peradventure that error, inter alios,* may be such an illusion as this, that if they should make means it would be to no purpose, God would stop His ears, He would not hear of it. May it not be thus? Despair of pardon hath made many a man desperate. Yes sure. And if that were it, if they would and God would not, they had some shew of reason to abandon themselves to all looseness of life. But it is contrary; they would not return. For I for My part fain would, saith God; it is their “not,” and not Mine. My nolo is nolo ut moriatur; my volo is volo ut convertatur, “I will not their death, I will their conversions:” this is my volo. Nay,* quoties volui? “How often would I?” et noluistis,* “and ye would not.”*

My outward calling by My word, inward movings by My Spirit, My often exhortations in your ears, My no less often inspirations in your hearts, tactus Mei et tractus, ‘My touches and My twitches,’ My benefits not to be dissembled, My gentle chastisements, My deliverances more than ordinary, My patience while I held My peace, such periods as this when I speak,* My putting you to it by quid debui facere? to set down what I should have done and have not, these shew quoties volui, “that many times I would when you would not.” The two verses past, His compassionate complaint in them. And is there no hope? Will you not? O, why will you not? Otherwhere you will and not here, why not here? You have no reason why you will not. Why will you not? If not why fall, or err, or revolt, yet only why “perpetual?” These are evidences enough, He is willing enough therewithal. But, to put it out of all doubt, we see. He breaketh out into a protestation, that if this be the lie we lay hold of, we may let it go when we will. And sure, how earnestly God affecteth the sinner’s conversion, we might be thought to misinform, and to blow abroad our own conceits, if this and such places were not our warrant. I not hear? Why, I stand wishing and waiting, and longing and listening to hear of it. Wishing, “O that My people!” Waiting,* expectat Dominus ut misereatur; “longing,”* even as a woman that is great, “after green fruit;” listening, that I might but hear two good words from them, that might shew that they were but thus forward as to think of this point. It is not all one, it is not neither here nor there with me whether you do it, it is a special thing I hearken after; no merchant for his commodity, no Athenian for his news, more oft or more earnest.*

Then lay not hold on that lie, that I would not hear. Be your error what it will be, let it not be that, let not the charge be mine but yours, if you will needs cast away that I would have saved.

Should not this move us? Now truly, if all other regards failed, and men for them should not return, yet for this and this only we ought to yield to it, that God should be listening so long for it and in the end be deluded.

God hearkeneth and listeneth, and after there is a kind of pause to see what will come of it. And lo, this cometh of it, this unkind unnatural effect; after all this, not so much as locuti sunt recte, a good honest confession. Nay, not so little as this, Quid feci? “What have I done?” He expecteth no great matter, no long process, but two words, but three syllables; and those with no loud voice, to spend their spirit or breath, but even softly said, for He layeth His ear and listeneth for it.

“Thus saith the Lord.” But what say they? None of them, either audibly for I hearkened, or softly for I listened, said no long solemn confession, but not this, Quid feci? God wot this is not repentance: err not, this is far from it.

From whence yet this we gain; what God would hear from us, and what we saying may give Him some kind of contentment. This is but Micah’s fruit we spake of,* which yet He so much desired that He will take it green and unripe as it is. This is but a step unto a proffer, but yet begin with this. Say it, dic, dic, saith St. Augustine, sed intus dic; ‘say it, and say it from within,’ say it as it should be said—not for form or with affectation, but in truth and with affection. Do but this onward and more will follow. Indeed as before we said of the quare, so here we may say of the quid; if either of them, if but this latter were well weighed, rightly thought on, or rightly spoken, there is much more in it than one would think. “What have I done?” 1. What, in respect of itself! what a foul, deformed, base, ignominious act! which we shame to have known, which we chill upon, alone and nobody but ourselves. 2. What, in regard of God, so fearful in power, so glorious in Majesty! 3. What, in regard of the object! for what a trifling profit, for what a transitory pleasure! 4. What, in respect of the consequent! to what prejudice of the state of our souls and bodies, both here and for ever! O what have we done? How did we it? Sure, when we thus sinned, we did we knew not what.

Sure, to say it with the right touch, with the right accent, is worth the while. Say it then; say this at least. Lest, if you will not say quid feci? “What have I done?” when He hearkens, you may come into the case you know not what to do, and say to Him, What shall I do? And if you hear not when He complains, one day when you complain He refuse to bow down His ear and hearken to you at all.

Yet one step farther. Nothing they said: is that all? have we done? Nay; He hears and sees both a worse matter. For instead of this, He sees and hears that forth they run to their careless course of life, tanquam equus ad prœlium. We saw before their slowness in that; now see we their vigour in this. Wherein observe; here they go not, it is no soft pace they run, not as men but as horses, and not every kind of them neither, but as the barbed horse for service, and he not every way considered; but when he is enraged by noise and other accidents of war, שומף rather rusheth, like a violent breach of waters from whence it is taken, than runneth; ὡς ἵππος κάθιδρος, saith the Seventy, “as a horse all of a white foam” into the battle, where a thousand to one he never cometh out again. That is, with as great fury and as little consideration as a war-horse runneth upon his own destruction. And all this, when God hearkeneth and listeneth to hear and receive them, even then and at no other time, then so fling they from Him. All return to sin is brutish; recidiva peccati; that is tanquam canis ad vomitum; volutabrum peccati,* that is tanquam sus ad lutum;* but this fury and fierceness of sin is tanquam equus ad prœlium.* Should there be no more regard in the rider than in the beast he rides on? Shuld such a mind as this be in men?

No verily, we be now gone from men; we be come among beasts. And thither doth God follow us. And even among them, if we will but look to the less brutish sort, He hopes to do it, even among them; to point us to those, that if we will learn, it will teach us as much as this cometh to. This is His apostrophe of the last verse. Where breaking off, occasioned by their abrupt breaking off, he even sets down Himself upon the light of nature, “Well yet, the stork, &c.”

Two kinds of forcible reasons or apostrophes, there are to move us. 1. One, to send the people of God to heathen men, that would shame to deal with their idols, as we do daily with the God of Heaven;* “get you to Chittim and to the isles,” saith Jeremy. See if the like measure be offered by them to their gods. Then the conclusion is, quis audivit talia? God’s people worse than the heathen? This is such a thing as the like was never heard. This was done in the first verse, “if any fall,” &c.

2. Yet more effectual is it when He goeth yet farther, thus far. That not finding among men with whom to sort them, because they keep no rules of men, He is forced to a second apostrophe, to seek among beasts with whom to suit them.

3. But then if it come to this, that the beasts be not only compared with us as in the last, tanquam equus, but preferred before as better advised or disposed than we, as in this—The swallow doth know, My people doth not; that we in the comparison go not even with them, but are cast behind them; that is πρὸς ἐντροπὴν, indeed a foul check to our nature. And to that the Prophet crieth, Audite Cœli, “Hear ye Heavens,* and be astonished at it!” O the damp and mist of our sin! so great that it darkeneth not only the light of religion which God teacheth, but even the light of nature which her instinct teacheth, even the reasonless creature itself. With a very pathetical conclusion doth the Psalmist break off the forty-ninth Psalm;* “Man being in honour,” &c. but “becometh meet to be compared to the beasts that perish.” Which is no small disgrace to our nature so to be matched. Profecto, saith Chrysostom, pejus est comparari jumento, quam nasci jumentum, ‘Now sure it is far worse to be matched with a beast than to be born a beast.’ To be born is no fault, we nor they make ourselves. But to be born a man and to become matchable with beasts, that is our fault, our great fault, and therefore, the worse certainly.

Well, this interrogate jumenta in the Old,* this respicite volatilia in the New,* this apostrophe thus sending us to beasts and fowls to school, setting them before us as patterns, setting them over us as tutors, to learn of them how to carry ourselves, is certainly a bitter apostrophe, a great upbraiding to us, a great aggrieving our sin or our folly, or both.

Especially in them who, as in the next verse he saith,* would hold it great scorn to be reputed of otherwise than as “deep wise men;”—that they should pass their lives with as little consideration, not as heathen men for they be men, but with as little, yea less, than the beasts in the field or the fowls in the air. Thus speaketh God often, and with divers. The slothful body He setteth to school to the ant,* the unthankful person to the ox,* the distrustful man to the young ravens,* the covetous wretch to that beast which reproved the madness of the Prophet who for “the wages of unrighteousness” was ready to make sale of his soul,* that is Balaam’s beast, the ass. And here now in this place the wilful impenitent sinner, one so far gone as He appointeth him not one as to all the former, but no less than four at once. Belike either the number is great that so many ushers need, and so it is; or their capacity very dull and hard to take, that no fewer will serve them, and so it is too; or He sorteth them thus, that every country may be provided for of one to teach in it. For though in some places all are not, yet in all places some of them are to be found.

The lesson with these four, all of them from the stork in the top of the fir tree to the swallow that buildeth under every pent-house, would take us forth, is that which they themselves are so perfect in that they may be professors of it. And it is of four sorts; 1. They have a time to return in. 2. That time is certain and certainly known. 3. They know it. 4. They observe it.

“They have a time.” The place, the climate, which the cold of the weather maketh them to leave, they fail not but find a time to turn back thither again. This they teach us first who in this respect less careful and more senseless than they, find a time and times many, oft and long, to take our flight from God; occasioned by no cold or evil weather, for commonly we do it when times are best and fairest; but we can find no time, not so much as half a time, to make our return in. This must be learned. Sure we must, saith St. Paul, σχολάζειν τῇ νηστείᾳ, “take some time of vacancy and leisure;”* we must, saith St. Peter, χωρῆσαι εἰς μετάνοιαν,* “take some several retiring place,” where and when to do it to purpose, and intend it not as a slight matter, but as one of the chiefest and most important affairs of our life. Sure this ado that God keeps about it, these passions, complaints, protestations, apostrophes, give it for no less.

They have a time certain, when if you wait for them you shall be sure to see them come, and come at their appointed season; they will not miss. It will not be long, but you shall see the swallow here again. This they teach us second; us who have sometime some little persuasions in modico, like Agrippa’s, to do as Christian men should do, but as Felix,* we can never ἐυκαιρῆσαι “find a convenient set time for it.”* Return we will, that we will, but are still to seek for our season; and ever we will do, and never we do it. Verily though no time be amiss,* but “at what time soever we repent,” that is “the acceptable time,” that “the day of salvation;”* yet Esau’s tears when the time was past,* and the five virgins that came too short, and but a little too short;* and that very word of God to Saul, “Now was the time,” “now,”* if thou hadst taken it; these plainly shew, that as for “all things under the sun,” so for this great and weighty business,* there is not only עת but מועד; not only χρόνος but καιρὸς; not only a time, but a set season. Which season is in time, as the joint in a member; if you hit on the joint, you may easily divide; if on this side or beyond, you shall not do it, or not do it so well; therefore to do it when it is.

They have their certain time, and they know it. What time of the year the time of their return is, is commonly known; who knows not when swallows’ time is? And our ignorance in not discerning this point doth God justly upbraid us withal; and bids us, if we know not what time to take, to get us to these fowls, and to take their time, the time they return at; that is, now, even this time, this season of the year; to return with the swallows, and to take our flight back when they do theirs. Rather do thus than waste our lives as we do, and take none at all; neither fair nor foul, neither hot nor cold, neither fall nor spring, to do it in. This is the third they teach us.

The last lesson is, to observe it. Opportunity itself is a great favor, even to have it; but a second grace it is, to discern it when we have it; and a third better than both, when we discern it to observe and take it. And many are the errors of our life, but all the errors of our repentance come from one of these; either our ignorance that,* while we have it, discern it not; or our negligence that, when we discern it, observe it not. The one, our ignorance, Christ with bitter tears lamenteth; the other, our negligence, doth God here complain of. This is the last lesson.

There want not that stretch it farther; that by these four fowls, there is not taught the time, but even the manner also how to perform our repentance.

1. That vox turturis, which is gemebam, a mournful note; 2. that the very name and nature of the stork, הסידה of חסד full of mercy and compassion; 3. that the swallow’s nest,* so near the altar of God; 4. that the painful watching and abstinence of the crane, specially when they take their flight, so credibly recorded in the natural histories; that these, emblem-wise, teach us the 1. mournful bewailing of our life past; 2. “the breaking off our former sins by works of mercy;”* 3. the keeping near this place, the house and altar of God; 4. the abstinence and watching to be performed during this time of our return; that is, that all these are allied to the exercise of our repentance and are meet virtues to accompany and attend the practice of it.

This the turtle-dove mourneth, the swallow chattereth; this all of them sound as well as they can; this, if they serve not, as masters to teach us, they shall serve as a quest1 to condemn us whom neither our own custom, reason, religion, before, nor now the light of nature, can bring to know so much as they: either to learn it ourselves, or to be taught it by others. This we should learn, but this we do not, therefore He taketh up His last complaint, “But My people,” &c.

The word judgment receiveth two constructions; for either by judicium Domini is meant that within us which is answerable to that secret instinct whereby the fowls are inclined to do this, which is the prick and dictamen of our conscience, τὸ ἐνδὸν δικαστήριον, the impression whereof is apparent in the most miscreant on earth; in whom nature itself shrinketh and sigheth when it hath done amiss, and joyeth and lifteth up itself when it hath well done; and by which we are moved inwardly, as they by their instinct, to return, but that the motion with us passeth, and with them not. And then the complaint is, that their parva naturalia carry them farther than our great judicials do us in this point.

Or else by judicium Domini is meant His visitation hanging over our heads, called therefore judgment, because it cometh not casually, but judicially proceedeth from God; that is, when God calleth to judgment by invasion, by scarcity, by gentle, general diseases, and such like; and then the complaint is, that where we should imitate these fowls and return against the sweet spring and fair time of the year, that is, while the days of peace and prosperity last, we are so far behind them, as not against fair, nay not against foul, against neither we can be brought to it; not in the days of adversity—no, not against the winter of our life.

That they regard nature’s inclination, so as every spring sure to come; we have lost our regard so even of judgment and all, as neither vernal nor hibernal repentance we bring forth. Nay, not the everlasting judgment of the Lord do we regard; to which sooner or later we must all come, and there receive the sentence under execution whereof we shall lie eternally.

Πάντα δέχομαι, saith St. Chrysostom, ‘I embrace both senses;’ both be good and profitable to men. Take whether you will, or both if you will, you shall not take amiss; and if both, you shall be sure to take right. Regard judgment, when either it awaketh from within, or when it threateneth from without. And when any of these summons us before the great Judge, know for a certainty that the time of returning is come: the Angel is descended,* the water is moved—let us have grace to go in, even then ad aquæ motum; we know not how long it will be, or whether ever it will be stirred again.

And thus we be come to an anchor at this last word judgment. A word, which if with judgment we would but pause on, and roll it awhile up and down in our thoughts, duly weighing it and the force of it, it would bring us about, and cause this whole Scripture to be fulfilled; make us fly as fast back as any fowl of them all.

For indeed the not judicial apprehending of this one word, the shallow conceiving and slight regard of it is the cause we foreslow 1 the time. The foreslowing the time, the cause we come not to quid feci; the not coming to that, the cause why we run on still tanquam equus, why we rise not, return not, yield not, but stand out in perpetual rebellion. Did we hear this word, hear it and regard it aright, and scire terrorem hunc, ‘know the terror of it,’ that God hath fearful judgments in store; even here to meet with us; or howsoever here we scape He hath there a perpetual judgment behind, and that so straight as “the righteous shall scarce escape it,”* so heavy as the mightiest shall not endure it;—did we regard this one point we should find a withdrawing time for this so serious a work; we would say, and say that God should hear it, “What have I done?” We would rise, return, repent; and so His whole complaint should cease. O Judgment! of the very mention of this word judgment, if a perfect view were taken of it, that only were enough. But without judgment or regard we hear it, and therefore the complaint continueth still.

To conclude: we said at the beginning, God therefore sheweth Himself in passion that He might move us, and in that passion whereto He would move us; thus complaineth God that we might thus infer and say, And doth God thus complain? Why it toucheth not God, it toucheth me; “He needeth not our repentance, and our unrighteousness hurteth Him not.”* It is I that shall win or lose by it, even the best thing I have to lose, my soul; He is in no danger, it is I, the hazard of whose eternal weal or woe lieth upon it. And yet doth God shew Himself sorry for me, and shall not I be sorry for myself? Doth God thus complain of my sin, and shall not I be moved to do as much for mine own sin? From this meditation to proceed to propound the same questions which God here doth, and to ask them of ourselves. What then, shall I continually “fall” and never “rise?” “turn away” and not once “turn again?” Shall my rebellions be “perpetual?” Do I this any where else? can I shew any reason why not to do it here? Shall these swallows fly over me and put me in mind of my “return,” and shall not I heed them? Shall God still in vain hearken for quid feci? and shall I never speak that He so fain would hear? Shall I never once seriously set before me the judgments of the Lord? Ask these: ask them and answer them, and upon them come to a resolution, saying, I will rise and return and submit myself, and from my heart say quid feci. I will consider volatilia Cœli; I will not see them fly but I will think of the season of my returning; but above all I will not be without regard of God’s judgment, than which nothing in this world is more to be regarded.

Because the time, the time is the main matter, and ever more ado about it than the thing itself, to have special care of that; knowing that it was not but upon great cause that our Savior complaining of this point cried, “O if thou hadst but known that this day had been the day of thy visitation!”* and so was fain to break off, the tears coming so fast that He was not able to speak out, but forced to weep out the rest of His sentence. O those tears shew what time is, shew that opportunity itself is a grace, even to have it; that it is a second grace to know it, and a third better than them both to lay hold of it and use it. That the greatest errors in this matter of repentance come from our ignorance in not discerning of the time when we may have it, or our negligence in not using it when we discern it. Therefore rather than fail, or rather that we may not fail, to take the time of the text. And that time is at this time now; now do these fowls return. Who knoweth whether he shall live to see them return any more? It may be the last spring, the last swallow-time, the last Wednesday of this name or nature we shall ever live to hear this point preached. Why do we not covenant then with ourselves not to let this time slip? Surely lest no time should be taken the Prophet pointeth us at this, and ensuing the Prophet’s mind the Church hath fixed her season at it. And nature itself seemeth to favor it, that at the rising of the year we should rise, and return when the zodiac returneth to the first sign.

Let the Prophet, let the Church, let nature, let something prevail with us. Et Dominus Qui sic instat præcepto, præcurrat auxilio, ‘and Almighty God, the upholder of them that stand, the lifter up of those that be down, that God Who is thus instant upon this point by His complaint, prevent us with His gracious help that we may redress it;’ following with His Spirit where His word hath gone before, and making it effectual to our speedy conversion![1]

 

 

* Mic. 7:1.

1 i.e. inquest.

1 i.e. delay, or neglect.

[1] Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 1, pp. 338–355). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

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Parables: The Tares of the Field

Parables:  The Tares of the Field

Matt. 13:3

“He spake many things unto them in parables.”

In considering and applying the sacred Doctrines relating to our blessed Lord’s Person and office, one of the chief sources of our knowledge must of necessity be found in His own discourses. He Himself said to the Jews, “I am, that which I speak unto you.” He is His own best expositor.

Now in studying His discourses, one peculiarity cannot fail to strike us, which they have even amongst the sayings of inspiration itself. All these sayings are equally true, but they are not all equally deep and manifold in their meaning. Some sayings, for example, of the Apostles, are very simple and plain, and clearly have but one reference, which everybody can perceive. Then again, if the Apostles’ sayings are difficult to understand, it is very often a difficulty of this kind: do they mean this, or do they mean that? or, out of three or four possible meanings, which shall we take? And one man understands them in one way, another man in another way; or perhaps in the course of time some laborious student hits upon a meaning which all agree upon afterwards, and so the difficulty is solved. I do not mean to say that such is always the case with the sayings of the Apostles: but it is beyond doubt their general character. If we now turn to the sayings of our Lord, here again we meet with many which are very plain and simple, and with many also which seem difficult to understand: but, easy or difficult, they all have this about them, that they are inexhaustible in their depths of wisdom, and in their applications to man and to man’s world. In the one case, the divine treasure was in earthen vessels: in the other, in a heavenly. In the one case, the Holy Spirit spoke by those who were limited in their powers and knowledge, and He adapted His divine inspiration to their human characteristics, and styles, of thinking and writing: in the other He spoke by One to whom the Spirit was not given by measure: who knew all things from the beginning; and to whom, even in the emptying of His glory, to which He submitted Himself in his humiliation, all the realities of things lay open. And hence too it is that, while we speak, and truly, of the peculiar style of writing of St. Paul or of St. John or of St. Peter, no one ever thought of attributing a style of speaking to our Lord. Our very feelings shrink from such an expression; which is no mean test of its being an improper one. The reason is, that His sayings are the very expressions of endless and fathomless truth; in human form indeed,—spoken with the tongue and written with the pen,—but spoken as man never spoke before,—written, when written down, as faithful remembrances of what He said, and unmodified by the individual style and character of those who recorded them. And pursuing the same thought, it is interesting and instructive to note, how the holy Evangelists have been guided to follow their individual bent, not in composing, but in choosing among, the discourses of our Lord: St. Matthew, who loves to write of Him as the King, and of His Gospel as the Kingdom of the heavens, giving us more those discourses which set forth his glory and majesty;—St. Luke, who presents Him to us as the gracious and immortal Savior, giving us mostly discourses full of his rich mercy and loving-kindness;—while St. John, whose object it is to set Him before us as the fullness of light and sustenance and life to man, as coming to his own and rejected by them, but as loving and loved by his disciples, follows his great scheme regularly onwards, by recording for us those discourses in which all these points are one after another brought forward.

After what has been said, another matter regarding our Lord’s sayings naturally comes to our thoughts. He who knew all truth in its purest and holiest forms,—what was His method of teaching? Let us first ask, whom had He to teach? And the answer is, He had various classes of persons, very differently affected towards Him, and very differently endowed with power to understand Him. First, there would be his own disciples, willing indeed to listen to and appreciate what He said, but mistaken in their view of that which He came to do, and quite unable as yet to take in any explanation of it. Then there were the common people, variously disposed;—for the most part hearing Him gladly, but dull of comprehension, and ready to be influenced by his enemies. Then there were these last, the Scribes and Pharisees, learned in the outward science of the law, eager for his halting, ready to catch hold of and press to the utmost against Him anything falling from his lips which should at all violate their formal and superstitious maxims of interpretation and practice.

How should the Allwise one, in his humiliation, and condescending to be as man among men, proceed in one way of teaching for all these so widely differing hearers? Should He lay before them naked spiritual truth, such as in the unfathomable depths of his own divine Being He contemplated? Alas, to say nothing of what those hearers were,—what human ear could hear, what human soul could bear it? Should He anticipate the teaching of the Spirit who was to come upon the Church, and set forth the mighty doctrines of atonement for sin, of justification by faith in Him, of sanctification by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost? Again, should He declare himself the fulfiller of the types of the law—the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world? Who among them could receive these things? When we hear, late on in his course on earth, that His very disciples questioned among themselves what the resurrection from the dead should mean, we may well imagine how hopeless, in the ordinary human methods of teaching, it would have been to introduce topics of this kind among his audience, before He had been lifted up on the Cross,—had risen from the tomb, or had sent down His Spirit from the Father. Once more;—should He become the stern and lofty moralist, and lay down to them the eternal limits of purity and of vice? Doubtless this was his office in a sense; and this He has done as none other ever has; but if it chiefly molded the form of his discourse, how were they to be gained to this teaching? He came to teach all, as He came to bless all, and to die for all. How many, think you, among those He addressed would have gathered round him to listen to the purest and truest of moral disquisitions? He, remember, was not one set to teach by institution of man’s device: one sure of an audience, and privileged to be dull: He came with a mission higher than that from men, to seek and to save: He was to draw men with the words of interest and sympathy;—to attach them, so that they would rise up from their occupation, leave their fishing and their tax-gathering, and go after Him.

Again then, what method of teaching did He choose? How did He produce the wonderful effects of which we read? Before we fully answer, let us take into account one more circumstance very essential to be remembered. Never man spake like this man. Doubtless it was a spirit-penetrating and heart-stirring thing, to sit and hear that Teacher speak. O what it must have been to look but for once on that brow, calm as the evening sky; to hear but one saying uttered in that voice, whose every tone sunk with gentle persuasion into the very depths of the being! Well might the Lord Himself say to His disciples, “Blessed are the eyes that see the things that ye see, and the ears that hear the things that ye hear.” Still we know how variously even excellencies of speech and manner are interpreted, according to the feeling towards the speaker. What one enjoys and feels in his heart as simple earnestness, another turns away from and loathes as affectation: what one finds attractive, is repulsive to another. And doubtless so it was also in the case of our blessed Lord himself: His enemies, in order to remain his enemies, must have had their minds poisoned against him; and even his divine benignity, and his loving wisdom, can only have exasperated them more from time to time in their predetermined enmity to him. It was when this spirit of implacable hatred first began to manifest itself, when the Scribes and Pharisees began to ascribe to the influence of Satan our Lord’s gracious miracles, that He saw fit, in his wisdom, to adopt that peculiar method of teaching of which my text speaks. “He began to speak to them many things in parables.”

And what is a parable? I am not going to lay down all the distinctions which separate it from the fable, or the proverb, or the allegory: this has been excellently done by those who have written on the subject: but I will only say, bearing these distinctions in mind, that a parable is a fictitious story intended to convey spiritual truth, and is of a nature such that it is always taken from what might be actual life among men. Its form is grave, as its purpose is serious. It enters into the relations of life,—father and son, husband and wife, master and servant, king and people; into the operations of agriculture and commerce, the pursuits and ways of living among men, their differences, and their affections. In the highest sense of the word, but One Person could ever have worthily taught in parables, and that One was the Creator Himself. For it is required in such a story, that it should enter into the deep spiritual meanings which lie under all the relations and employments of life: and who knows these but God only? A mere man might make the parable fit the truth here and there: his applications of his tale might be doubted, might be criticized: he is commonly obliged to take a lower form for his instruction, and to put it into the mouths of unreasoning beings, as in the fable; thus leaving the region of reality, and missing all the deeper purposes of the other. But when our Lord spoke the parables in the Gospels, He himself tells us that He did it with the view of their carrying various shades of meaning, according as men’s hearts were or were not disposed to receive, or capable of apprehending them. They were in fact in this respect just what that world of beauty and truth is from which they were taken. The child rejoices in the flower that he has plucked: its gay colors delight him, its sweet scent is pleasing to him: the botanist makes the same flower a study, and classifies it, and examines its structure: the moralist, and the poet, and the painter, also claim it for the uses of instruction and of art. And so it may be with the parable. First there is the simple story, which may interest even the heart of an intelligent child. Which of us is there that does not remember his fresh interest when a father’s or a mother’s voice first told him of the sower going forth to sow, or of the lost sheep, or of the prodigal son, or of the wise and foolish virgins? Nor is this the case only with the young at one time of their lives: it is so with the simple and half-educated all their lives:—with often this exception, which will lead us on to the next step in those that hear,—that ever and anon some real event in their own lives, some joy or sorrow,—some overflowing of mercy, or some bitter drop of anguish in their cup,—seems to bring out new meaning from that which they fancied they knew before. As with the Æolian harp that has long sounded one chord only in the gentle breezes of ordinary life, at times like these the strong wind of God’s Spirit rushes over the strings and awakens new and higher harmonics, unheard before. And if this is so with them, what is it with those who love to think, and to weigh, and to delve into the deeper senses of those wonderful revelations of truth? Evermore by them are the Lord’s parables seen in many and shifting lights, evermore are they heard speaking to them new and rich counsel as their need requires. None have ever exhausted their depth, none have ever so discovered their reference and connection, that there are not new references and new connections left for others to discover. Not unfrequently, as for instance in the parables of the unforgiving servant who had himself been forgiven, and of the good Samaritan, great Christian doctrines lie beneath the surface of their tale: sometimes, as in those of the wicked husbandmen and of the barren fig-tree, they are pregnant with prophetic meaning which time shall bring out: sometimes again, as in those of the lost sheep, and of the rich man and Lazarus, they open to us glimpses into the unseen and unknown world: still more frequently, as in the great first parable of the sower, and in that of our gospel to-day, they describe to us the state of the Church of God, in the world, and at the end of the world. And as we study each of these, and place it in new lights and connections, more and richer meanings continually open to us, and will do so as long as we are in this realm of imperfect and still to be completed knowledge.

With these remarks before us, let us spend the remainder of our time in considering the parable which is contained in our gospel to-day; that of the Tares of the Field. It forms, as we well know, one of the most important of our Lord’s parables. Of itself it would take this rank, owing to the great and worldwide interest of its subject: and its importance is increased by its being one of those of which the great Teacher Himself has vouchsafed to give us a full and minute interpretation.

First let us notice what the parable is about. It is a likeness setting forth to us the kingdom of the heavens:—by which name the Christian dispensation, or the state of the Church of Christ on earth, is generally known in St. Matthew. It represents to us a field, which is explained to mean the world;—and a man who has sown good seed in it, who is said to be the Son of man, i.e. Jesus Christ, the incarnate Savior. This exactly agrees with what our Lord Himself tells us of His gospel;—that it should be preached before the end, in all nations. This preaching He himself began; and in His strength, and by His commission, His Apostles and those who have followed them have carried on, and still are carrying on. And that which is sown, the good seed, is the word of God;—the good news of the Holy Gospel. No one need be surprised, that this very seed should be said in the explanation to be the children of the kingdom, i.e. the true servants of Christ. For it is here, as in the parable of the sower: when the seed has fallen into the soil, and taken root, it becomes the plant, transforming the soil into itself: so that they into whose hearts the seed is dropped, when the seed grows, become themselves the plants which that seed produces. The main principle of life and action which we follow, is not part of us: we are part of it; and it is the root and center of our being. Thus then, and with this purpose, the good seed is everywhere dropped by the Great Sower and His servants.

But this is not the only sowing that takes place. The sower of the good seed has an enemy. His enemy came while men slept, and sowed the seed of noxious weeds over the field. This wicked act is an exercise of malice not without example even in our own times. I have myself known such a thing willfully done, and made the subject of legal damages.

Now notice the doctrine herein contained. This enemy, our Lord expressly tells us, is the devil. While men slept,—not, while the Son of man slept,—while, not the Great Head of the Church, who never slumbers, but they who were His infirm and imperfect ministers, slept,—came this enemy, this arch-enemy of God and man, and sowed his evil seed. I told you last Sunday that if you believed in Christ at all, you must also be prepared to believe in a spiritual world;—in good and evil spirits, both employed in us, and around us. And observe here His own distinct assertion of this:—of the good by and by;—of the evil here. These children of the wicked one,—these tares that spring up in the field of the Church, are the sowing of God’s enemy, the devil:—of him who is ever counterworking the blessed work of the Son of man and His agents. Nothing can be more plainly declared as a truth for us by our Lord, than this.

But we proceed. When the wheat came up, and put forth its fruit, then appeared the tares also. And now comes the difficulty felt by the servants of the owner of the field; “Didst thou not sow good seed? Whence then came the tares?” And so it ever is and will be in the Church. The Gospel is good; its preaching is good; the ordinances and sacraments are good; good seed is sown, and Christ sows it. And yet how is it, that evermore in the Church there are multitudes of bad men, unholy men, unbelieving men, growing among good men, looking like good men, partaking of all the rich privileges of membership of Christ? How, and whence, came they? Hear the Lord’s answer: “An enemy hath done this.” “They are the children of the wicked one:” none of Christ’s sowing: no growth out of the sacraments and means of grace: no result of men trying to be righteous overmuch: nothing of the kind: but distinctly, and as matter of fact, the result of the devil’s work counteracting Christ’s work. And yet silly shallow men, with all this taught and forewarned them, stand and look on upon the Church, and in the spirit of an unbelief they have not the courage to profess, whisper about, “What is the use of all this stir about the Church,—all this praying and preaching and sacraments and ordinances? We don’t see that men are made much better by it: we can point out as bad men among Churchmen, even among ministers, as any that are found in the world outside.” And suppose you can. Did He who founded the Church, and who saw all her course before Him, ever lead you to expect otherwise? Nay, has He not here expressly told us it would always be so? That this is no excuse for the sins of Churchmen, we see by the awful end of the parable; but it is an accounting for what will ever be found in the Church,—the mixture of good and bad men.

But we now come to another feature. The servants are not only surprised, but offended, by this state of things: scandalized, that their lord’s field should grow evil weeds with the wheat: “Wilt thou then that we leave our work and go and gather them up?” Now this question represents the mind of a very large party in Christ’s Church in all ages. Its acts are stamped on her history: and not only so, but they are among us in our own time also. Make the Church pure, say they: count those only the Church, who are converted to God, and live by faith in Christ: let us have a close communion; none at our Table, who answer not to our test. O how prevalent is this spirit; not among one party only, but among all parties: and how busy it ever is in men’s hearts and practices.

But let us hear the answer. He said unto them, “Nay: lest while ye gather together the tares ye root up with them the wheat also.” Memorable and blessed words! How do we know, how does any man on earth know, the good from the bad, so as to be able to say, as between two men of outwardly correct life, which is, and which is not, a servant of God? What folly it is, as well as sin, to make the use of certain religious words and phrases, or the use of certain devotional practices or postures of outward reverence, the test of inward spiritual good in a man! What hypocrite cannot put on either of these, as much as may be required of him? And is not every age full of sad examples of hypocrites who do, and end by bringing open disgrace on the party which adopts them?

But look on the other side. “Lest ye root up the wheat with them.” How many genuine servants of God have been discouraged, dejected, robbed of their hope, and perhaps of their faith too, by this narrow and unchristian zeal! “He is not one of us: his words and gestures and religious practices are not ours: therefore he does not belong to Christ.” This is what our religious leaders and writers on either side think and say every day. And what is the effect? Discouragement, coldness of hearts, deadness to Christ’s work, general distrust of one another. But what does our Lord command? “Leave both to grow together till the harvest.” Feed both, love both, anathematize none, exclude none: make tares into wheat if you will, but destroy not God’s wheat by making it into tares. For there is not the slightest fear that any tares will ever be gathered into God’s barn at His harvest. Vex not and fret not yourselves. He knows His own; He knows those who are not. At the season of the harvest, He will say to his reapers, “Collect first the tares and bind them in bundles in order to burn them.” “So,” our Lord tells us, “will the holy angels go forth at the end, and will collect out of His kingdom all the causes of offence, and will cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the great weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Let not us then anticipate that final separation, but rather take care above all things that at that time He find us bringing, or having brought forth, good fruit to His praise. Blessed are they who shall be thus found at His coming. For He who is all mercy and grace, and who spoke this parable, not to denounce judgment, but that place for repentance would be given to all, ends it with gracious and joyous words: “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”[1]

 

 

[1] Alford, H. (1862). Sermons on Christian Doctrine (pp. 120–133). London: Rivingtons. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 18

Psalm 18

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said, I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils. He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me. The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity. Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward. For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks. For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed. I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me. Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me. They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not. Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets. Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me. As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me. The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places. The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted. It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me. He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man. Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name. Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.” (Psalm 18, AV)

This psalm consists of five unequal parts. In the first, David announces his desire to praise God for his wonderful deliverances, ver. 2–4 (1–3). In the second, these are described, not in historical form, but by the use of the strongest poetical figures, ver. 5–20 (4–19). In the third, he declares them to have been acts of righteousness as well as mercy, and in strict accordance with the general laws of the divine administration, ver. 21–28 (20–27). In the fourth, he goes again into particulars, but less in the way of recollection than of anticipation, founded both on what he has experienced and on what God has promised, ver. 29–46 (28–45). In the fifth, this change of form is accounted for by summing up the promises referred to, and applying them not merely to David as an individual, but to his posterity forever, thus including Christ, and shewing the whole composition to be one of those Messianic psalms, in which he is the principal subject of the prophecy, though not the only one, nor even the one nearest to the eye of the observer, ver. 46–51 (45–60).

1. To the Chief Musician. By a Servant of Jehovah. By David, who spake unto Jehovah the words of this song, in the day Jehovah freed him from the hand of all his foes and from the hand of Saul. The first clause of the title shews, in this as in other cases, that the composition was designed from the beginning to be used in the public worship of the ancient church, and has reference therefore to the experience of the writer, not as a private person, but as an eminent servant of the Lord, i.e. one entrusted with the execution of his purposes, as an instrument or agent. The expressions, spake unto Jehovah, &c., are borrowed from Exod. 15:1, and Deut. 31:30. This is the more observable, because the psalm contains obvious allusions to the song of Moses in Deut. ch. 32. An analogous case is found in 2 Sam. 23:1, where the form of expression is evidently borrowed from Num. 24:3.—The repetition of hand is not found in the original, where the first word (כַּף) properly denotes the palm or inside of the hand, but is poetically used as an equivalent to יָד. The hand is a common figure for power and possession. This whole clause bears a strong analogy to Exod. 18:10, where “out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh” corresponds exactly to “out of the hand of all his foes and out of the hand of Saul,” i.e. and especially of Saul. Compare “Judah and Jerusalem,” Isa. 1:1; “the land and Jericho,” Josh. 2:1. This form of expression does not imply that Saul was the last of his enemies, but rather that he was the first, both in time and in importance, so that he might be considered equal to all the others put together. And accordingly we find their idea carried out in the structure of this psalm, one half of which seems to relate especially to Saul, and the remainder to his other enemies. The general expressions of this title shew that the psalm was not occasioned by any particular event, but by a retrospect of all the deliverances from persecution which the writer had experienced.

2 (1). And said, I will love thee, Jehovah, my strength! The sentence is continued from the foregoing verse, who sang unto the Lord … and said. The future form, I will love, represents it as a permanent affection, and expresses a fixed purpose. I not only love thee now, but am resolved to do so for ever. The verb itself occurs nowhere else in its primitive form, but often in one of its derived forms, to express the compassionate regard of a superior to an inferior. The simple form is here used to denote the reciprocal affection of the inferior party. From its etymology the verb seems to express the strongest and most intimate attachment, being properly expressive of στοζγὴ, or parental love. The noun translated strength is also peculiar to this passage, though its root and cognate forms are very common. Combined with one of the divine names, it constitutes the name Hezekiah, which may have been suggested by the verse before us. My strength, i.e. the giver of my strength or the supplier of its deficiencies, the substitute for my strength, my protector and deliverer.

3 (2). Jehovah (is) my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my o (is) my rock, I will trust in him; my shield and my horn of salvation, my height (or high place). By this accumulation of descriptive epithets, the Psalmist represents God as the object of his trust and his protector. The first two figures, my rock and my fortress, contain an allusion to the physical structure of the Holy Land, as well as to David’s personal experience. The caves and fissures of the rocks, with which the land abounded, had often afforded him shelter and concealment when pursued by Saul. See Judges 6:2, 1 Sam. 24:8, 2 Sam. 5:7. The literal expression, my deliverer, seems to be added as an explanation of the figures which precede. My God may also be explained as one of the descriptive terms; but it seems more natural to make it the subject of a new proposition, equivalent and parallel to that in the first clause. Here again we are obliged to use the same English word as a translation of two different words in Hebrew. As the rock (סָלַע) of the first clause suggests the idea of concealment and security, so the rock (צוּר) of the second clause suggests that of strength and immobility. The figure is borrowed from Deut. 32:4, and reappears in Ps. 92:16 (15). Compare Isaiah’s phrase, a rock of ages (Isa. 26:4), and Jacob’s phrase, the stone of Israel (Gen. 49:24), where stone, like rock in the clause before us, denotes not the place but the material, not a stone, but stone, as one of the hardest and least mutable substances with which we are acquainted, and therefore an appropriate figure for combined immutability and strength. For the figurative use of shield in such connections, see above on Ps. 3:4 (3). The next phrase has allusion to the defensive habits of horned animals. The figure seems to be borrowed from Deut. 33:17. (Compare 1 Sam. 2:10, Job. 16:15.) My horn of salvation may be understood to mean, my horn, to wit, my salvation, so that the second noun is explanatory of the first. More probably, however, the expression means the horn that saves me, by repelling or destroying all my enemies. In Luke 1:69, the same phrase is applied to Christ by Zacharias. The last term in the description belongs to the same class with the first, and was probably suggested by the Psalmist’s early wanderings among the rocks and caverns of Judea. The Hebrew word properly denotes a place so high as to be beyond the reach of danger. See above, on Ps. 9:10 (9), where the same word is twice used in the same sense and figurative application.

4 (3). To be praised I will call Jehovah, and from my enemies I shall be saved. “I will invoke God as a being worthy of all praise.” The first Hebrew word, which has the force of a future passive participle, is a standing epithet of Jehovah in the lyrical style of the Old Testament. See Ps. 48:2 (1), 96:4, 113:3, 145:3, 1 Chron. 16:25. The connection of the clauses is, that the believing invocation of Jehovah in his true character, and with a just appreciation of his excellence, must needs be followed by the experience of his favor. They who cry and are not heard, as we read in ver. 42 (41) below, cry indeed to Jehovah, but they do not invoke him as the one to be praised, they do not see him as he is, and cannot pray to him as they ought. They ask and receive not, because they ask amiss (James 4:3).

5 (4). The bands of death have enclosed me, and the streams of worthlessness (or Belial) will (still) affright me. From the general acknowledgment contained in ver. 1–4, he proceeds to a more particular description of his danger. By bands we are probably to understand the cordage of a net, such as fowlers spread for birds. This is a favorite metaphor with David to denote dangers, and particularly those of an insidious and complicated kind. See below, Ps. 116:3. The word Belial properly means worthless, good for nothing. The reference is here to wicked men, whose number and violence are indicated by the figure of torrents, overflowing streams. The use of the future in the last clause shews that the writer, as in many other cases, takes his position in the midst of the event, and views it as partly past and partly future. This bold assumption of an ideal situation greatly adds to the life and vividness of the description.

6 (5). The bands of hell surrounded me, the snares of death encountered me. This verse merely repeats and amplifies the first clause of the fifth. Hell, in the wide old English sense, is a poetical equivalent to death. See above, on Ps. 6:6 (5). The explicit mention of snares in the last clause confirms the explanation before given of bands. Encountered, met me, crossed my path. The sense prevented or anticipated does not suit the context, and that of surprised is not sufficiently justified by usage. See above, on Ps. 17:13.

7 (6). In my distress I will invoke Jehovah, and to my God will cry; he will hear from his palace my voice, and my prayer before him will come, into his ears. The verbs are in the future, because they express the feelings not of one looking back upon the danger as already past, but of one actually implicated in it. See above, on ver. 5 (4). The literal meaning of the words is, in distress to me. Compare the phrase, at times in distress, Ps. 9:10 (9), 10:1. My God implies a covenant relation and a hope of audience founded on it. The verb translated cry is specially appropriated to a cry for help. His palace here means heaven, as God’s royal residence. See above, on Ps. 11:4. Into his ears is a kind of after-thought, designed to strengthen the preceding expression. It shall not only reach his presence, but, as it were, shall penetrate his ears. The whole expresses an assured hope of being heard, and is really tantamount to an assertion that he was heard.

8 (7). Then did the earth shake and quake, and the foundations of the mountains trembled and were shaken because he was angry. The idea of succession expressed by the English then is conveyed in Hebrew by the form of the verb. The resemblance, in form and sound, of shake and quake, corresponds to that of the original verbs (וַתִּגְעַשׁ וַתִּרְעַשׁ). A reflexive or emphatic passive form of the first verb appears in the second clause. The closing words of this clause strictly mean because it was inflamed (or enkindled) to him with an ellipsis of the noun (אַף) anger. The full construction may be found in Deut. 6:15, and Ps. 124:3. The phrase foundations of the mountains is copied from Deut. 32:22.

9 (8). There went up smoke in his wrath, and fire from his mouth devours: coals are kindled from it. Smoke and fire are mentioned as natural concomitants and parallel figures, both denoting anger, and suggested by the phrase it was inflamed to him in the preceding verse. Compare Deut. 32:22, 29:19 (20), Ps. 24:1. The translation nostrils rests on a confusion of two collateral derivatives from the verb to breathe. (See my note on Isa. 48:9.) Nor is this sense required by the parallelism, unless mouth and nose must always go together. There seems to be some allusion to the fire and smoke at Sinai, Exod. 19:18. From it may have reference to fire; but the nearest antecedent is his mouth. Compare Job 41:11–13 (19–21). There is no need of supplying any object with devours; the idea is that of a devouring fire, i.e. one capable of consuming whatever combustible material it may meet with.

10 (9). So he bowed the heavens and came down, and gloom (was) under his feet. The scene seems here to be transferred from heaven to earth, where the psalmist sees not only the divine operation but the personal presence of Jehovah. The word so, familiarly employed in English to continue a narrative, here represents the vau conversive of the Hebrew. The word translated gloom is not the usual term for darkness, but a poetical expression specially applied to dense clouds and vapors. The expression seems to be derived from Deut. 5:22. Compare with this clause, Exod. 19:16, and with the first, Isa. 63:19 (64:1).

11 (10). And he rode on a cherub and flew, and soared on the wings of a wind. The cherubim of the Mosaic system were visible representations of the whole class of creatures superior to man. The singular form cherub seems to be used here to convey the indefinite idea of a superhuman but created being. The whole verse is a poetical description of God’s intervention, as a scene presented to the senses. As earthly kings are carried by inferior animals, so the heavenly king is here described as borne through the air in his descent by beings intermediate between himself and man. The word soared, in the second clause, is used to represent a poetical term in the original borrowed from Deut. 28:49. With the whole verse compare Ps. 68:18 (17), and 104:3.

12 (11). (And) set darkness (as) his covert about him, his shelter, darkness of waters, clouds of the skies, This concealment suggests the idea of a brightness insupportable by mortal sight. Compare Deut. 4:11, Job 36:29, Ps. 97:2. Darkness of waters does not mean dark waters, but watery darkness, a beautiful description of clouds charged with rain. The two nouns in the last clause both mean clouds, but the second is used only in the plural, and seems properly to designate the whole body of vapors constituting the visible heavens or sky. A somewhat similar combination occurs in Exod. 19:9.

13 (12). From the blaze before him his clouds passedhail and coals of fire. The dark clouds which enveloped him are now described as penetrated by the light within. Passed, i.e. passed away, were dispelled. The last clause may be construed as an exclamation such as an eye-witness might have uttered. The combination is borrowed from Exod. 9:24. (Compare Ps. 78:47, 48.) Hail, as an instrument of the divine vengeance, is also mentioned in Josh. 10:11.

14 (13). Then thundered in the heavens Jehovah, and the Highest gave his voicehail and coals of fire. The second clause is a poetical repetition of the first. “The Most High gave his voice,” means in this connection neither more nor less than that he “thundered in the heavens.” Though visibly present upon earth he is described as still in heaven. Compare Gen. 11:5, 7; 18:21; John 3:13. The last clause may be construed as in ver. 13, or made dependent on the verb gave, as in Exod. 9:23: “Jehovah gave thunder and hail.” This clause is repeated because the hail and lightning were not merely terrific circumstances, but appointed instruments of vengeance and weapons of destruction.

15 (14). Then sent he his arrows and scattered them, and shot forth lightnings and confounded them. The lightnings of the last clause may be understood as explaining the arrows of the first. Instead of shot forth lightnings some translate and lightnings much, i.e. many, in which sense the Hebrew word (רָב) occurs sometimes elsewhere (Exod. 19:21, 1 Sam. 14:6, Num. 26:54). In several other places it seems to mean enough or too much (Gen. 45:28, Exod. 9:28, Num. 16:3, 7, Deut. 1:6). If either of these constructions is adopted, the verb sent must be repeated from the other clause. The version first given, shot, is justified by the analogy of Gen. 49:23. The last verb in the sentence is a military term denoting the confusion of an army produced by a surprise or sudden panic; see Exod. 14:24, 23:27, Josh. 10:10, and with the whole verse compare Ps. 144:6.

16 (15). Then were seen the channels of water and uncovered the foundations of the world, at thy rebuke, Jehovah, at the blast of the breath of thy wrath. The idea meant to be conveyed by this poetical description is that of sudden and complete subversion, the turning of the whole earth upside down. The language is not designed to be exactly expressive of any real physical change whatever. From, or at thy rebuke, i.e. after it and in consequence of it. The breath of thy wrath, thy angry breath, might also be rendered, the wind of thy wrath, thy angry or tempestuous wind. That the Hebrew words do not mean thy nose or nostrils, see above, on ver. 9 (8). Some suppose an allusion, in the figures of this verse, to the floods of worthlessness in ver 5 (4), and the bands of hell in ver. 6 (5).

17 (16). He will send from above, he will take me, he will draw me out of many waters. Here again the writer seems to take his stand between the inception and the consummation of the great deliverance, and to speak just as he might have spoken while it was in progress. “All this he has done in preparation, and now he is about to send,” &c. This seems to be a more satisfactory explanation of the future forms than to make them simple presents, and still more than to make them preterites, which is wholly arbitrary and ungrammatical, although the acts described by these futures were in fact past at the time of composition. To send from above in our idiom means to send a messenger; but in Hebrew this verb is the one used with hand, where we say stretch out, e.g. in the parallel passage Ps. 144:7. (See also Gen. 8:9, 48:14). The noun, however, is sometimes omitted, and the verb used absolutely to express the sense of the whole phrase, as in 2 Sam. 6:6, Ps. 57:4 (3). From above, from on high, from the height or high place, i.e. heaven, the place of God’s manifested presence. There is peculiar beauty in the word translated draw, which is the root of the name Moses, and occurs, besides the place before us, only in the explanation of that name recorded by himself, Exod. 2:10. The choice of this unusual expression here involves an obvious allusion both to the historical fact and the typical meaning of the deliverance of Moses, and a kind of claim upon the part of David to be regarded as another Moses.

18 (17). He will free me from my enemy (because he is) strong, and from my haters, because they are mightier than I. The futures are to be explained as in the verse preceding. The enemy here mentioned is an ideal person, representing a whole class, of whom Saul was the chief representative. The idiomatic phrase, my enemy strong, may be understood as simply meaning my strong enemy; but the true construction seems to be indicated by the parallelism. His own weakness and the power of his enemies is given as a reason for the divine interposition.

19 (18). They will encounter me in the day of my calamity; and Jehovah has been for a stay to me. The first clause seems to express a belief that his trials from this quarter are not ended, while the other appeals to past deliverances as a ground of confidence that God will still sustain him. Most interpreters, however, make the future and preterite forms of this verse perfectly equivalent. “They encountered me in the day of my calamity, and the Lord was for a stay to me.” As to the meaning of the first verb, see above, on ver. 6 (5). It is not improbable that David here alludes to his sufferings in early life when fleeing before Saul; see above on ver. 3 (2).

20 (19). And brought me out into the wide place; he will save me because he delights in me. The construction is continued from the foregoing sentence. As confinement or pressure is a common figure for distress, so relief from it is often represented as enlargement, or as coming forth into an open space. See above, on Ps. 6:2 (1). Here, as in the preceding verse, most interpreters make no distinction between preterite and future. The meaning may, however, be that he expects the same deliverance hereafter which he has experienced already.

21 (20). Jehovah will treat me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands will he repay me. The future verbs have reference to the condition of the Psalmist under his afflictions, and the hopes which even then he was enabled to cherish. At the same time they make this the announcement of a general and perpetual truth, a law by which God’s dispensations are to be controlled for ever. The hands are mentioned as organs or instruments of action. Compare Isa. 1:15, Job 9:30, 22:30. The righteousness here claimed is not an absolute perfection or entire exemption from all sinful infirmity, but what Paul calls submission to the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3), including faith in his mercy and a sincere governing desire to do his will. This is a higher and more comprehensive sense than innocence of some particular charge, or innocence in reference to man, though not in reference to God.

22 (21). For I have kept the ways of Jehovah, and have not apostatized from my God. The Lord’s ways are the ways which he marks out for us to walk in, the ways of duty and of safety. To keep them is to keep one’s self in them, to observe them so as to adhere to them and follow them. The last clause strictly means, I have not been wicked (or guilty) from my God; a combination of the verb and proposition which shews clearly that the essential idea in the writer’s mind was that of apostasy or total abjuration of God’s service. Its is of this mortal sin, and not of all particular transgressions, that the Psalmist here professes himself innocent.

23 (22). For all his judgments (are) before me, and his statutes I will not put from me. Judicial decisions and permanent enactments are here used as equivalent expressions for all God’s requisitions. To have these before one is to observe them, and the opposite of putting them away or out of sight. The terms of this profession have been evidently chosen in allusion to such dicta of the law itself as Deut. 5:29, 17:11. From the past tense of the foregoing verse he here insensibly slides into the present and the future, so as to make his profession of sincerity include his former life, his actual dispositions, and his settled purpose for all time to come.

24 (23). And I have been perfect with him, and have kept myself from my iniquity. He not only will be faithful, but he has been so already, in the sense before explained. There is evident reference in the first clause to the requisition of the Law, “thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God,” Deut. 18:13. (Compare Gen. 17:1.) With means not merely in his presence, or his sight, as distinguished from men’s estimate of moral objects, but “in my intercourse and dealing with him.” Compare 1 Kings 11:4, and the description of David in 1 Kings 14:8, 15:5. In the last clause some see an allusion to David’s adventure in the cave, when his conscience smote him for meditating violence against Saul. See 1 Sam. 24:6, and compare 1 Sam. 26:23, 24. But whether this be so or not, the clause undoubtedly contains a confession of corruption. My iniquity can only mean that to which I am naturally prone and subject. We have here, then, a further proof that the perfection claimed in the first clause is not an absolute immunity from sin, but an upright purpose and desire to serve God.

25 (24). And Jehovah has requited me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands before his eyes. This verse shews clearly that the futures in ver. 21 (20) must be strictly understood. What he there represents himself as confidently hoping, he here professes to have really experienced. In the intervening verses he shews how he had done his part, and now acknowledges that God had faithfully performed his own.

26, 27 (25, 26). With the gracious thou wilt shew thyself gracious; with the perfect man thou wilt shew thyself perfect; with the purified thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the crooked thou wilt shew thyself perverse. What he had previously mentioned as the method of God’s dealings towards himself, he now describes as a general law of the divine administration. The essential idea is that God is, in a certain sense, to men precisely what they are to him. The particular qualities specified are only given as examples, and might have been exchanged for others without altering the general sense. The form of expression is extremely strong and bold, but scarcely liable to misapprehension, even in ver. 27 (26). No one is in danger of imagining that God can act perversely even to the most perverse. But the same course of proceeding which would be perverse in itself or towards a righteous person, when pursued towards a sinner becomes a mere act of vindicatory justice. In the first clause of ver. 26 (25), the ambiguous word gracious has been chosen to represent the similar term חָסִיד, for the comprehensive use of which we see above, on Ps. 4:4 (3), 12:2 (1). Perfect has the same sense as in ver. 23 (22), namely, that of freedom from hypocrisy and malice. The verbs are all of the reflexive form and might be rendered, thou wilt make thyself gracious, thou wilt act the gracious, or simply thou wilt be gracious, &c., but the common version approaches nearest to the force of the original expression. The first verb of ver. 27 (26) occurs once elsewhere (Dan. 12:10), the rest only here. The forms may have been coined for the occasion, to express the bold conception of the writer. The resemblance of the last clause of ver. 27 (26) to Lev. 26:23, 24, makes it highly probable that the whole form of this singular dictum was suggested by that passage, the rather as this Psalm abounds in allusions to the Pentateuch and imitations of it.

28 (27). For thou wilt save the afflicted people, and lofty eyes thou wilt bring down. Another general description of God’s dealings with mankind, repeated more than once in the New Testament. See Mat. 23:12, Luke 14:11, 18:14. High looks or lofty eyes is a common Old Testament expression for pride and haughtiness. See below, on Ps. 101:5, 131:1, and compare Prov. 21:4, 30:13, Isa. 10:12, 37:23. The afflicted people means the people of God when in affliction, or considered as sufferers. Thou is emphatic: “however men may despise and maltreat thy afflicted people, I know that thou wilt save them.”

29 (28). For thou wilt light my lamp; Jehovah, my God, will illuminate my darkness. Having ascended from particulars to generals, he now reverses the process. On his own experience, as described in ver. 4–25 (3–24), he had founded a general declaration of God’s mode of dealing with men, which statement he proceeds now to illustrate by recurring to his own experience. In this second part there is reason to believe that he has reference to the other cases of deliverance in his history, besides those from Saul’s persecutions which had furnished the theme of his thanksgiving in the first part of the psalm. In accordance with this difference of subject, it has been observed that in this second part he appears more active, and not merely as an object but an instrument of God’s delivering mercy. As to the form of expression in this part, it has been determined by the writer’s assuming his position at the close of the Sauline persecution, and describing his subsequent deliverances as still prospective. This was the more convenient, as he wished to express a confident assurance of God’s goodness, not only to himself individually but to his posterity. A lamp or candle in the house is a common Hebrew figure for prosperity, and its extinction for distress. See Job 18:5, 6, 21:17, Prov. 24:20. The first clause may also be translated, thou wilt make my light shine. The verb in the parallel clause is from another root, and there is consequently no such assonance as in the English version (light, enlighten). The pronoun in the first clause is again emphatic. “Whatever I may suffer at the hands of others, thou at least wilt light my candle.” The emphasis is sustained in the last clause by a sudden change of person and introduction of the divine name.

30 (29). For in thee I shall run (through or over) a troop, and in my God I shall leap a wall. From his ideal post of observation he foresees the military triumphs which awaited him, and which were actually past at the time of composition. The ‘for’, as in the two preceding verses, connects the illustration with the general proposition in ver. 27–29 (26–28). “This is certainly God’s mode of dealing, for I know that he will deal thus with me.” In thee, and in my God, i.e. in intimate union with him and possession of him, a much stronger sense than that of mere assistance (by thee), which however, is included. See below, on Ps. 44:6 (5).—The ellipsis of the preposition, with which the verbs are usually construed, belongs to the license of poetical style. Even in prose, however, we can say, to walk the streets, to leap a wall. To run a troop may either mean to run against or through it; the phrase may therefore be completed so as to have either an offensive or defensive sense. In like manner, leaping a wall may either mean escaping from an enemy or storming his defenses. Most interpreters prefer the stronger meaning of attack, which is certainly entitled to the preference, unless the writer be supposed to have selected his expressions with a view to the suggestion of both these ideas, which together comprehend all possible varieties of success in war. As if he had said, “Weak though I be in myself, I am sure that in conjunction with thee, neither armies nor fortifications shall be able to subdue or even to resist me.” With David’s tone of triumphant confidence in this verse, compare Paul’s in 2 Cor. 2:14, and Philip. 4:13.

31 (30). The Almightyperfect is his waythe word of Jehovah is trieda shield (is) he to all those trusting in him. The first clause seems to be an amplification of my God in the preceding verse. In my God, the Mighty (God), whose way is perfect, i.e. his mode of dealing, as before described, is free from all taint of injustice. This explanation suggests a further description of Jehovah as a sure protector. His word here means especially his promise, perhaps with specific allusion to the seventh chapter of 2 Samuel. Tried, as metals are tried by fire, and thus proved to be genuine; see above, on Ps. 12:7 (6). A shield; see above, on Ps. 3:4 (3). Trusting in him; see above, on Ps. 2:12.

32 (31). For who is God save Jehovah? And who is a rock besides our God? The ‘for’ shows that this verse gives the ground of the strong assurances contained in that before it. “I affirm all this because I recognize Jehovah as the only true God.” Rock has the same sense as in ver. 3 (2). The whole verse bears a strong resemblance to 2 Sam. 7:22.

33 (32). The Almighty girding me with strength, and (who) has given (or rendered) my way perfect. The connection of the verses is the same as that between ver. 31 (30) and 32 (31). The our God of the preceding verse is here described as the Almighty girding me, &c. For the true sense of the divine name here and in ver. 32 (31), see above, on Ps. 5:5 (4). 7:12, (11), 10:11, 12, 16:1, 17:6. The imparting of a quality or bestowing of a gift is in various languages described as clothing. Thus the English words endue and invest have almost lost their original meaning. The figure of girding is peculiarly significant, because in the oriental dress the girdle is essential to all free and active motion. Compare Ps. 65:13 (12), as translated in the margin of the English Bible, and Isa. 11:5. The last clause may either mean, “who is faultless in the way by which he leads me,” i.e. whose dispensations towards me are free from all injustice; or, “who gives my conduct the perfection which belongs to it.” The first construction gives the words the same sense as in ver. 31 (30), but the other is by far the simplest and most natural, and as such entitled to the preference.

34 (33). Making my feet like hinds, and on my heights he makes me stand. The first word properly means equaling, assimilating, the idea of resemblance being expressed in Hebrew both by the verb and by the particle of comparison. The female animal is supposed by some to be mentioned because it was regarded as more fleet, and accordingly we find it used in the Egyptian hieroglyphics as a symbol of swiftness. The name, however, may be used generally, as in English we apply either the masculine or feminine pronoun to some whole species. My heights, those which are to be mine by right of conquest and by divine gift. The heights may be either the natural highlands of the country or the artificial heights of its fortified places. It has been disputed whether the swiftness mentioned in the first clause has reference to attack or flight. Most probably both were meant to be included, as in ver. 30 (29) above. For both reasons swiftness of foot was prized in the heroic age, as appears from Homer’s standing description of Achilles. See 2 Sam. 2:18, 1 Chron. 12:8.

35 (34). Teaching my hands to war, and my arms have bent a bow of brass. The construction is continued from the preceding verse, all the participles having reference to the name of God in ver. 33 (32). The last clause is a strong expression for extraordinary strength, which is mentioned merely as a heroic quality. The translation broken rests on what is now regarded as a false etymology. Brass was used before iron in Egypt and other ancient countries as a material for arms.

36 (35). And hast given me a shield, thy salvation; and thy right hand is to hold me up, and thy condescension is to make me great. In the first clause we may also read the shield of thy salvation, or thy shield of salvation, i.e. thy saving shield, without material variation of the sense. The futures have reference to the point from which he is surveying things past as still future. The noun in the last clause means humility, as an attribute of human character (Prov. 15:33), but when applied to God, benignant self-abasement, condescending kindness to inferiors. Compare Ps. 8:5 (4), Isai. 66:1, 2.

37 (36). Thou wilt enlarge my steps under me, and my ankles shall not swerve. To enlarge the steps is to afford ample room for walking freely without hindrance. The opposite figure is that of confined steps. See Prov. 4:12, Job 18:7. The meaning of the whole verse is, thou wilt guide me safely.

38 (37). I am to pursue my enemies and overtake them, and not to turn back until I destroy them. This is not a threat of vengeance, but a confident anticipation of perpetual triumphs, either in his own person or in that of his descendants. The form of expression in the first clause is borrowed from the Song of Moses, Exod. 15:9. See above on Ps. 7:6 (5), where the same two verbs are combined. The reference of all these future forms to past time would be not only gratuitous but ungrammatical.

39 (38). I shall smite them and they cannot rise, they shall fall beneath my feet. This simply carries out the idea of successful pursuit in the preceding verse.

40 (39). And thou hast girded me with strength for the war (or battle), thou wilt bow down my assailants under me. He returns to God as the author of his triumphs and successes. The first clause blends the ideas expressed in the corresponding clauses of ver. 33, 36 (32, 35).—My assailants, literally, my insurgents, those rising up against me. See ver. 49 below, and compare Ps. 44:6 (5), 59:2 (1), Job 27:7. Here again the spirit of the Psalmist is not that of an ambitious conqueror, but of a willing instrument in God’s hand, to be used for the promotion of his sovereign purpose.

41 (40). And my enemiesthou hast given to me the backand my hatersI will destroy them. Each clause begins with an absolute nominative which might be rendered, as to my enemies, as to my haters. The remainder of the first clause is highly idiomatic in its form, and scarcely admits of an exact translation. The word translated back properly means the back of the neck, but is frequently used in such connections. The meaning of the whole phrase is, thou hast given me their back, i.e. made them to turn it towards me by putting them to flight. This is also a Mosaic form of speech. See Exod. 23:27, and compare Josh. 7:8, 2 Chron. 29:6. Ps. 21:13 (12).

42 (41), They shall call for help, and there is no delivererupon Jehovah, and he hears them not. Because they have no covenant relation to him, as the Psalmist had. Their calling on Jehovah does not exclude all reference to heathen foes, as appears from Jonah 1:14.—Hear, in the pregnant sense of hearing favorably, granting, answering a prayer. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4).

43 (42). And I shall beat them small as dust before the wind, as dirt in the streets I will pour them out. The comparisons in this verse are intended to express the Psalmist’s superiority to his enemies, his consequent contempt for them, and the facility with which he will destroy them. Similar images are not unfrequent in the Old Testament. See for example Isa. 10:6, Zeph. 1:17. Zech. 10:5.

44 (43). Thou wilt save me from the strifes of the people; thou wilt place me at the head (or for a chief) of nations; a people I have not known shall serve me. He was not only to be freed from the internal strifes of his own people, but by that deliverance enabled to subdue other nations. The closing words of the psalm, and its obvious connection with the promises in 2 Sam. 7, shew that this anticipation was not limited to David’s personal triumphs, either at home or abroad, but meant to comprehend the victories of his successors, and especially of him in whom the royal line was at once to end and be perpetuated. It may, therefore, be affirmed with truth that this prediction had its complete fulfilment only in Christ.

45, 46 (44, 45). At the hearing of the ear they will obey me, the sons of outland will lie to me; the sons of outland will decay, and tremble out of their enclosures. The meaning of the first words of this verse is clear from Job 42:5, where the hearing of the ear is put in opposition to the sight of the eye, report or hearsay to personal and ocular inspection. The verb translated will obey, whenever it occurs elsewhere, is a simple passive of the verb to hear, and accordingly some render it here, they who have only been heard of by the hearing of the ear, i.e. those whom I have only heard of, but have never seen, will feign obedience. But as the corresponding form of the verb to lie (יִכָּחֲשׁוּ) is used by Moses actively in Deut. 33:29, to which place there is an obvious allusion here, the first translation above given is entitled to the preference, and the sense is, that as soon as foreign nations hear of him they will lie to him, i.e. yield a feigned obedience through the influence of fear, in which sense another form of the same verb is used not only in the passage of the Pentateuch just cited, but in Ps. 66:3, 81:16 (15).—The old word outland, which may still be traced in its derivative adjective outlandish, has been here employed to represent a Hebrew word for which we have no equivalent in modern English, and which means foreign parts indefinitely or collectively. The marginal version in the English Bible (sons of the stranger) is only an inexact approximation to the form of the original. The verb decay, which properly denotes the withering of plants (see above, Ps. 1:3), is applied to the wasting of the human subject, and indeed of whole communities, in Exod. 18:18. To tremble from, or out of, is a pregnant phrase, involving the idea of a verb of motion, and meaning to come forth with fear. The same form of expression may be found in Micah 7:17, and analogous ones in 1 Sam. 16:4, Hosea 11:11.—Their enclosures, their retreats or refuges, perhaps with special reference to military enclosures, such as fortresses and camps.

47 (46). Jehovah lives, and blessed be my rock, and high shall be the God of my salvation. The first phrase, (חַי יְהֹוָה) which is elsewhere always used as a formula of swearing (as the Lord liveth, i.e. as certainly as God exists), is by some interpreters confounded with a kindred phrase (יְחִי הַמָּלָךְ) vive le roi, (long) live the king, and regarded as a kind of acclamation, similar to those which were uttered at the coronation of the Jewish kings (1 Sam. 10:24, 1 Kings 1:25, 39, 2 Kings 11:12). But besides, the difference of form in Hebrew, such a wish is inappropriate to any but a mortal. There may, however, be an intentional allusion to the custom in question, as well as to the practice of swearing by the life of Jehovah, both of which would naturally be suggested to a Hebrew reader. Jehovah is described as the living God, in contrast to dead idols, or imaginary deities, which, as Paul says (1 Cor. 8:4), are nothing in the world. Blessed be my rock, the foundation of my hope, my refuge and protector; see above, on ver. 3 (2). The word translated blessed does not mean happy, but praised, and may here have the peculiar sense of worthy to be praised, like מְהֻלָּל in ver. 4 (3) above. It may be rendered as an affirmation: My rock (is) worthy to be praised. Or it may be taken as a wish: Praised (be) my rock, to which there is the less objection, as the preceding proposition is, in fact though not in form, a doxology, i.e. a declaration of what God is in himself, and of that to which he is in consequence entitled. The third phrase, he shall be high, may be understood to mean, not only he shall still be glorious, but he shall be magnified as such, exalted by the praises of his creatures. The God of my salvation, or, my God of salvation, does not merely mean the God who saves me, but my God who is a Saviour, of whom this is one essential character. Compare Luke 1:47. This epithet is common in the Psalms, and occurs once or twice in the Prophets. Isa. 17:10, Mic. 7:7, Hab. 3:18.

48 (47). The Mighty (God) who gives revenges to me and has subdued nations under me. The construction is the same as in ver. 31, 33 (30, 32) above. This verse contains a further description of the God of his salvation, and at the same time justifies the affirmations of the preceding verse. What the Psalmist here rejoices in is not vengeance wreaked upon his personal enemies, but punishment inflicted on the enemies of God through himself as a mere instrument. Not to rejoice in this would have proved him unworthy of his high vocation. With the last clause compare Ps. 47:4 (3), 144:2.

49 (48). Saving me from my enemies; yea, from my assailants (or insurgents) thou wilt raise me high; from the man of violence thou wilt deliver me. Here again the construction changes from the participle to the finite verb, but with a further change to the second person, which adds greatly to the life and energy of the expression. The yea may be taken as a simple copulative, and assailants as a mere equivalent to enemies. Some prefer, however, to assume a climax, and to understand the verse as meaning that he had not only been delivered from external foes, but from the more dangerous assaults of domestic treason or rebellion. There would then seem to be an allusion to Absalom’s conspiracy. Thou wilt raise me, set me up on high, beyond the reach of all my enemies. For a similar expression see below, Ps. 59:2 (1), as translated in the margin of the English Bible. The man of violence has, no doubt, reference to Saul, but only as the type of a whole class. Compare Ps. 140:2, 5 (1, 4).

50 (49). Therefore I will thank thee among the nations, O Jehovah, and to thy name will sing. The first word has reference not merely to the fact of his deliverance and promotion, but to the character in which he had experienced these blessings, and the extent of the divine purpose in bestowing them. “Therefore—because it is God who has done and is to do all this for me, and because it is in execution of a purpose comprehending the whole race—I will not confine my praises and thanksgiving to my own people, but extend them to all nations.” The performance of this vow has been going on for ages, and is still in progress wherever this and other psalms of David are now sung or read. The verse before us is legitimately used by Paul, together with Deut. 32:43, Isa. 11:1, 10, and Ps. 117:1, to prove that, even under the restrictive institutions of the old economy, God was not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also. (Rom. 3:29, 15:9–12).—The verb in the first clause strictly means I will confess or acknowledge, but is specially applied to the acknowledgment of gifts received or benefits experienced, and then corresponds almost exactly to our thank. The corresponding verb in the last clause means to praise by music. See above, on Ps. 7:18 (17), 9:3, 12 (2, 11).

51 (50). Making great the salvations of his King, and doing kindness to his Anointed, to David, and to his seed unto eternity. We have here another instance of the favorite construction which connects a sentence with the foregoing context by means of a participle agreeing with the subject of a previous sentence; see above, ver. 31 (30), 32 (31), 33 (32), 34 (33), 49 (48). Making great salvations, saving often and signally. The plural form conveys the idea of fullness and completeness. As the phrase His Anointed might have seemed to designate David exclusively, he shews its comprehensive import by expressly adding David and his seed, from which it clearly follows that the Messiah or Anointed One here mentioned is a complex or ideal person, and that Jesus Christ, far from being excluded, is, in fact, the principal person comprehended, as the last and greatest of the royal line of David, to whom the promises were especially given, in whom alone they are completely verified, and of whom alone the last words of this psalm could be uttered, in their true and strongest sense, without a falsehood or without absurdity. In this conclusion, as in other portions of the psalm, there is a clear though tacit reference to the promise in 2 Sam. 7:12–16, 25, 26, where several of the very same expressions are employed. Compare also Ps. 28:8, 84:10 (9), and Ps. 89, passim.

Another copy of this psalm is found recorded near the close of David’s history (2 Sam. ch. 22), which confirms the intimation in the title, that it was not composed in reference to any particular occasion, but in a general retrospection of the miseries of his whole life. The two texts often differ, both in form and substance, which has led some to suppose, that one is an erroneous transcript of the other. But this conclusion is forbidden by the uniform consistency of each considered in itself, as well as by the obvious indications of design in the particular variations, which may be best explained by supposing, that David himself, for reasons not recorded, prepared a twofold form of this sublime composition, which is the less improbable, as there are other unambiguous traces of the same process in the Old Testament, and in the writings of David himself. See below, the exposition of Ps. 53, and compare that of Isaiah, ch. 36–39. If this be a correct hypothesis, the two forms of the eighteenth psalm may be treated as distinct and independent compositions; and it has therefore been thought most advisable, both for the purpose of saving room and of avoiding the confusion which a parallel interpretation might have caused, to confine the exposition in this volume to that form of the psalm, which was preserved in the Psalter for permanent use in public worship, and which exhibits strong internal proofs of being the original or first conception, although both are equally authentic and inspired.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 74–87). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 17

Psalm 17

“A Prayer of David. Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips. Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal. Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech. Shew thy marvelous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about. They are inclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly. They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth; Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places. Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” (Psalm 17, AV)

A sufferer, in imminent danger, professes his sincere conformity to God’s will, and invokes his favor and protection, ver. 1–5. This petition is enforced by an appeal to former mercies, ver. 6, 7, and a description of the wickedness of his enemies, ver. 8–12, whose character and spirit he contrasts with his own, ver. 13–15.

The position of this psalm in the collection seems to have been determined by the resemblance of its subject, tone, and diction, to those of the sixteenth, with which it may be said to form a pair or double psalm, like the first and second, third and fourth, ninth and tenth, &c.

1. A Prayer. By David. Hear, O Jehovah, the right, hearken to my cry, give ear to my prayer not with lips of deceit. This psalm is called a prayer because petition is its burden, its characteristic feature, its essential element. By David, literally, to David, i.e. belonging to him as its author.—The right, righteousness or justice in the abstract, here put for a just cause, or perhaps for one who is in the right, who has justice on his side. The prayer that God will hear the right implies that no appeal is made to partiality or privilege, but merely to the merits of the case. The righteousness claimed is not merely that of the cause but that of the person, not inherent but derived from the imputed righteousness of faith according to the doctrine of the Old as well as the New Testament. The quality alleged is not that of sinless perfection but that of sincere conformity to the divine will. The last clause, not with lips of deceit, applies to all that goes before, and represents sincerity as necessary to acceptance. The original expression is still stronger, and conveys much more than a negative. It does not merely say, not with deceitful lips, but more positively with lips not deceitful.

2. From before thee my judgment shall come forth; thine eyes shall behold equities. This sentence really involves a prayer, but in form it is the expression of a confident hope. From before thee, from thy presence, thy tribunal. My judgment, my acquittal, vindication; or my justice, i.e. my just cause, my cause considered as a just one. Shall come forth, to the view of others, shall be seen and recognized in its true character, as being what it is. The reason is, because God’s judgments are infallible. His eyes cannot fail to see innocence or righteousness where it exists. The plural, rectitudes or equities, is an emphatic abstract. See above, on the parallel passage, Ps. 11:7.

3. Thou hast tried my heart, hast visited (me) by night, hast assayed me; thou wilt not find; my mouth shall not exceed my thought. He still appeals to God as the judge and witness of his own sincerity. The preterites represent the process as no new one, although still continued in the present. Visited for the purpose of examination or inspection, in which specific sense the English verb is often used. By night, as the time when men’s thoughts are least under restraint, and when the evil, if there be any, is most certain of detection. Purged me, as the purity of metals is tested by fire, to which process the Hebrew word is specially applied. Thou shalt not find anything at variance with the sincerity of this profession.—The future form implies that the investigation is to be continued, but without any change in the result.—The last clause is doubtful and obscure. The common version, I am purposed (that) my mouth shall not transgress, agrees well enough with the form of the words, but is forbidden by the accents. The reversed construction, my thoughts shall not exceed my mouth (or speech), is ungrammatical; nor does either of these constructions suit the context so well as the first, which makes the clause a renewed profession of sincerity.

4. (As) to the works of man, by the word of thy lips I have kept the paths of the violent (transgressor.) The works of man are the sinful courses to which man is naturally prone. The generic term man (אָדָם) is often used in reference to the sinful infirmities of human nature. See 1 Sam. 24:10 (9), Hos. 6:7, Job 31:33. The word of God’s lips is the word uttered by him, with particular reference to his precepts or commands, but including his entire revelation. By this word, by means of it as an instrument, and in reliance on it as an authority.—The verb (שָׁמַר) translated kept properly means watched, and is elsewhere applied to the observance of a rule, but in this place seems to mean watched for the purpose of avoiding, as we say in English to keep away from or keep out of danger.—From the verb (פָּרַץ) to break forth, elsewhere applied to gross iniquities (Hos. 4:2.) comes the adjective (פָּרִיץ) violent, outrageous, here used as an epithet of the flagrant sinner.

5. My steps have laid hold of thy paths, my feet have not swerved. His profession of integrity is still continued. The first verb is in the infinitive form, but determined by the preterites before and after. The English language does not furnish equivalents to the parallel terms in Hebrew, both which denote footsteps. The common version violates the context by converting the first clause into a prayer, which would here be out of place.

6. I have invoked thee because thou wilt answer me, O God! Incline thine ear to me, hear my speech. The alternation of the tenses is significant. ‘I have invoked thee heretofore, and do so still, because I know that thou wilt hear me.” It is needless to observe how much the sentence is enfeebled by the change of either to the present.—Thou wilt hear me, in the pregnant sense of hearing graciously or answering a prayer. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4).—O (mighty) God! The divine name here used is the one denoting God’s omnipotence. See above, Ps. 5:5 (4), 7:12 (11), 10:11, 12. 16:1.—My speech, what I say, אִמְרָה from אָמַר to say.

7. Distinguish thy mercies, (O thou) saving those trusting, from those rising up, with thy right hand. The first verb is the same that occurs in Ps. 4:4 (3.) Here, as there, it means to set apart, or single out, but with particular reference to extraordinary favors, implying an unusual necessity. Such mercy is described as perfectly in keeping with the divine mode of action in such cases.—Trusting, seeking refuge, i.e. in God. See above, on Ps. 16:1. The same ellipsis may be assumed after rising up, or we may supply against them.—With thy right hand, as the instrument of deliverance. Compare Ps. 16:11. These words must be connected in construction with saving.

8. Keep me as the apple of the eye, in the shadow of thy wings thou wilt hide me. The first verb means to watch over, guard, preserve with care. See above, on ver. 4, where it occurs in a figurative application. The pupil or apple of the eye is a proverbial type of that which is most precious and most easily injured, and which therefore has a double claim to sedulous protection. The original phrase is strongly idiomatic, exhibiting what seems to be a singular confusion of the genders. Its literal meaning is, supplying the articles omitted by poetic license, the man (or the little man, or the man-like part) the daughter of the eye. The first word has reference to the image reflected in the pupil, which is then described as belonging to the eye, by an oriental idiom which uses personal relations, son, daughter, &c., to denote the mutual relations even of inanimate objects. The comparison is borrowed from Deut. 32:10, where it is followed by another with the eagle’s treatment of her young, to which there seems to be allusion in the last clause of the verse before us. The imperative form of the first verb is no reason for departing from the future form of the other, which is much more expressive. What he asks in one clause he expresses his assured hope of obtaining in the other.

9. From the face of the wicked who have wasted me; mine enemies to the soul will surround me. The preceding sentence is continued, with a more particular description of the objects of his dread. “Thou wilt hide me from the face, sight, or presence of the wicked.” Wasted, desolated, destroyed, with allusion perhaps to the siege of a town or the invasion of a country. The same term is applied to a dead man in Judges 5:27. The enemies of the last clause are identical with the wicked of the first. Enemies in soul may mean cordial haters, or enemies who seek the soul or life, called deadly enemies in the English version. Or בְּנֶפֶשׁ may be construed with the verb: surround me eagerly (with craving appetite); or surround me against my soul or life, i.e. with a view to take it.—The future form suggests that the danger which the first clause had described as past, was still present, and likely to continue. As if he had said, “from my wicked foes who have already wasted me, and will no doubt still continue to surround me.” In this description present danger is included, whereas if we substitute the present form, we lose the obvious allusion to the future and the past.

10. Their fat they have closed; (with) their mouth they have spoken in pride. The first clause, though not exactly rendered, is correctly paraphrased in the English Bible; they are enclosed in their own fat. This is no uncommon metaphor in Scripture for moral and spiritual insensibility; see Deut. 32:15, Job 15:27, Ps. 73:7, 119:70. The literal sense of the expressions derives some illustration from Judg. 3:22. Some give to fat the specific sense of heart, which is said to have in Arabic, “their heart they have closed.” But the other explanation yields the same sense in a more emphatic form, and with closer conformity to Hebrew usage.

11. In our footsteps now have they surrounded us; their eyes they will set, to go astray in the land. The meaning of the first words, in our footsteps, seems to be, wherever we go. Compare Ps. 139:3, 5. For the masoretic reading us, the text has me, which, although harsher, amounts to the same thing, as the sufferer is an ideal person respecting many real ones. The parallel clauses exhibit the usual combination of the preterite and future forms, implying that what had been done was likely to be still continued. They fix their eyes, upon this as the end at which they aim. To go astray or turn aside, i.e. from the way of God’s commandments, to which the Psalmist, in ver. 5, had declared his own adherence. The translations bowing down and casting down are less in accordance with the context and with the usage of the Hebrew verb, which is constantly employed to express departure from God and aberration from the path of duty; see 1 Kings 11:9, Job 31:7, Ps. 44:19 (18), 119:51, 157. To the earth, or in the earth, although grammatical, affords a less appropriate sense than in the land, i.e. the holy land or land of promise, the local habitation of God’s people under the old economy; see above on Ps. 16:3, and compare Isaiah 26:10.

12. His likeness (is) as a lion; he is craving to tear; and as a young lion sitting in secret places. The singular suffix refers to the enemy as an ideal person. The future (יִכְסוֹף) means that he is just about to feel or gratify the appetite for blood. To tear in pieces, as a wild beast does his prey before devouring it.—Sitting, lurking, lying in wait, with special reference to the patient promptness of the wild beast in such cases.—The comparison is the same as in Ps. 10:8–10.

13. Arise, Jehovah, go before his face, make him bow, save my soul from the wicked (with) thy sword. On the meaning of the prayer that God would arise, see above on Ps. 3:8 (7).—Go before his face: the same Hebrew phrase occurs below (Ps. 95:2), in the sense of coming into one’s presence. Here the context gives it the more emphatic sense of meeting, encountering, withstanding. Make him bend or bow, as the conquered bows beneath the conqueror.—The construction of thy sword seems to be the same with that of their mouth in ver. 10. The Septuagint puts thy sword in apposition with my soul, the Vulgate with the word immediately preceding, men (who are) thy sword, as the Assyrian is said to be the rod in God’s hand (Isa. 10:5). But such a representation of the enemy as God’s chosen instruments, instead of enforcing, would enfeeble the petition. The verb translated save is a causative strictly meaning make to escape.

14. From men (with) thy hand, from the world; their portion is in (this) life, and with thy hoard thou wilt fill their belly; they shall have enough of sons, and leave their residue to their babes. All the parts of this obscure verse have been variously explained. As in the preceding verse, some here read men (which are) thy hand, i.e. the instrument of thy wrath. The difficult expression מֵחֶלֶד is by some understood as a description of their character and spirit—men of the world—men who belong to it, and whose hearts are set upon it. Others give חֶלֶד its primary meaning of duration, and make the phrase descriptive of prosperity—men of duration or perpetuity—who not only prosper now, but have long done so, and seem likely to continue. The simplest construction is that given in the prayer-book version, which takes the proposition in the same sense before both nouns—“from the men, I say, and from the evil world.” “World is then simply a collective equivalent to the plural men. This translation of the former word is justified by the analogy of Ps. 49:2 (1).—Life is by some understood to mean a life of ease or pleasure; but this is far less natural than the obvious sense of this life, this present state as distinguished from futurity. The rest of the verse shews that their desires have not been disappointed. To the eye of sense God sometimes seems to have reserved his choicest gifts for the ungodly. Thy hidden (treasure), i.e. hoarded, carefully secreted. Fill their belly, satisfy their appetite. The future form implies that the state of things described is likely to continue.—The next clause may be also rendered: (their) sons shall be satisfied, and leave their residue to their babes. This would be a strong description of prosperity continued from generation to generation. According to the version before given, the men of the world are represented as having their largest wishes gratified, not only in the number but the prosperous condition of their children; see Ps. 127:3, 128:3, 4, Job 21:11. The whole is only a description of things as they seem to man, before God’s judgments interpose to change them.

15. I in righteousness shall see thy face; I shall be satisfied in awaking with thy appearance. The pronoun expressed at the beginning of the sentence is emphatic. I, in opposition to the men described in the preceding verse. “They may rejoice in richer providential gifts, and be satisfied with what they thus possess. But I enjoy what they do not, the sense of acceptance in thy sight, righteousness, justification, recognition as a righteous person.” The ambiguity of construction in the last clause is the same both in Hebrew and in English. The preposition with may connect what follows either with awaking or with satisfied. Thus the prayer-book version reads, “And when I awake up after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it;” but the authorized version: “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” The latter construction is the one required by the accents, and preferred by most interpreters, the rather as the last word does not mean resemblance in the abstract, but form, shape, or visible appearance, Exod. 20:4, Num. 12:8, Deut. 4:16, 23, 25, Job 4:16. The idea here suggested is the sight of thee, exactly corresponding to behold thy face, in the parallel clause.—In awaking, or when I shall awake, is understood by some to mean, when I awake to-morrow, and from this expression they infer that the psalm was originally composed, and intended to be used, as an evening-song or prayer. See above on Ps. 3:6 (5), 4:9 (8), 5:4 (3). Others give the phrase the same sense but a wider application; in awaking, i.e. whenever I awake. As if he had said, while the men of the world think day and night of their possessions and their pleasures, I rejoice, whenever I awake, in the sight of God’s reconciled countenance and the consciousness of friendship with him. A third interpretation puts a still higher sense upon the phrase as referring to the act of awaking from the sleep of death. But this excludes too much from view the enjoyment of God’s favor and protection even here, which is the burden of the whole prayer. If the hope of future blessedness had been enough, the previous petitions would have been superfluous. The utmost that can be conceded to this view of the passage is that, by a natural association, what is here said of awaking out of sleep in this life may be extended to that great awaking which awaits us all hereafter. The same state of mind and heart which enables a man now to be contented with the partial views which he enjoys of God will prepare him to be satisfied hereafter with the beatific vision through eternity.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 70–74). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Of AntiChrist and His Ruin John Bunyan.jpg

Of AntiChrist and His Ruin

Of AntiChrist and His Ruin

And Of

The Slaying the Witnesses

Prefatory remarks by the Editor

This important treatise was prepared for the press, and left by the author, at his decease, to the care of his surviving friend for publication. It first appeared in a collection of his works in folio, 1692; and although a subject of universal interest; most admirably elucidated; no edition has been published in a separate form.

Antichrist has agitated the Christian world from the earliest ages; and his craft has been to mislead the thoughtless, by fixing upon the humble followers of the Lamb his own opprobrious proper name. The mass of professed Christians, whose creed and mode of worship have been provided by human laws, has ever been opposed to the sincere disciples of Christ. To imbibe every principle from investigation and conviction of the holy oracles—to refuse submission to any authority in the spiritual kingdom of God, except it is to Christ, the supreme head and only lawgiver in his church—to refuse obedience to human laws in the great concern of salvation and of worship; whether those laws or decrees emanate from a Darius, a Nebuchadnezzar, a Bourbon, a Tudor, or a Stuart—to be influenced by the spirit which animated Daniel, the three Hebrew youths, and the martyrs, brought down denunciations upon them, and they were called antichristian: but alas! the sincere disciples of Jesus have ever known and FELT who and what is Antichrist. They have been robbed—incarcerated in dungeons—racked and tormented—transported—drowned—hung or burned. The most frightful atrocities have been committed upon the most peaceful and valuable members of society; because they valued their soul’s peace in preference to temporal advantages. These cruelties are THY cursed deeds, O Antichrist! The hand writing against thee is exhibited in blood-stained and indelible characters. The Great God has decreed thy downfall and ruin—”That wicked—whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth,” (2 Thess 2:8). All who are found partakers in his community, must be consumed with an everlasting destruction. No “paper-winkers1 can hide this truth from the enlightened regenerated mind. “O my soul, come not thou into their secret, unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel!”

In Bunyan’s time great cruelties were practiced to compel uniformity. To that absurd shrine many thousand invaluable lives were sacrificed. Blessed be God, that happier days have dawned upon us. Antichrist can no longer put the Christian to a cruel death. It very rarely sends one to prison for refusing obedience to human laws that interfere with religious worship. “My kingdom is not of this world,” said the Redeemer: and his followers dare not render unto Caesar, or temporal governments, that which belongs exclusively to God. Human coercion, in anything connected with religion, whether it imposes creeds, liturgies, or modes of worship, is Antichrist: whom to obey, is spiritual desolation, and if knowingly persevered in, leads to death.

On the contrary, the kingdom of Christ is love, meekness, forbearance, persuasion, conviction, and holy faith. The Christian who dares not obey Antichrist may still, in some countries, suffer personal violence; but the olden cruelties have given way to the spread of the gospel. Should the wicked spirit of persecution still light its unhallowed fire in any sect; may heaven forgive and convert such misguided men, before the divine wrath shall consume all that pertains to Antichrist. “Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord.”

Bunyan conceives that previous to the universal triumphs of the Savior, Antichrist will spread his influence over the whole earth; and the church be hidden from outward observation, in the hearts of believers. This idea, which was also cherished by Dr. Gill, and others, deserves careful consideration; while we keep in mind, that leaven which must spread, however invisible in its operation, until the whole earth shall be leavened.

The dread enemy may yet appear in a different shape to any that he has hitherto assumed. When mankind, by the spread of knowledge, shall throw off the absurdities and disgraceful trammels of hypocrisy, fanaticism, and tyranny, which has so long oppressed them; there may be experienced a vast overflowing of infidelity, and perverted reason assume the place of Antichrist. Through this and all other opposing systems, Christianity must make its irresistible progress: all that opposes is doomed to ruin by the Great God. Every heart will be subdued by that blessed knowledge, which has the promise of the life that now is as well as of that which is to come. Bloodless victory! The ark being exhibited, every Dagon must fall before it, then shall be realized the heavenly anthem, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.”

GEORGE OFFOR.

 

 

1Paper-winkers,’ in every edition, except the first, which was from the author’s manuscript, has been altered to ‘paper-windows.’ Bunyan’s allusion is to the winkers, called by many ‘blinkers,’ put by the side of a horse’s eyes, to keep him under the complete control of his driver—and by ‘paper-winkers’ the flimsy attempt of Antichrist to hoodwink mankind by printed legends, miracles, and absurd assumptions—it is one of the almost innumerable sparks of wit, which render all the writings of Bunyan so entertaining and strikingly instructive.—Ed.

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Just Pray...Okay?

Just Pray...Okay?

“Now Jesus was telling the disciples a parable to make the point that at all times they ought to pray and not give up and lose heart,” Luke 18:1 AMP Bible Gateway

Today is the start of 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting in many churches across the United States which is intentional intense focused prayer which every believer should participate in just once if not every time it rolls around. But don’t wait for an organized prayer event to pray but pray always!

Don’t wait until a crisis and cry out to God but go to Him daily several times a day and talk to Him. He can use you to reach others for the kingdom as well.

I can testify to the power of not quitting and seeing miracles and I am sure some others can as well. Your words and cries and groans don’t fall on silent ears. Your enemy the devil tries all he can to keep you from seeking God. Don’t listen to his lies and keep pressing in trusting God.

PRAYER: Lord I pray for those I know who don’t pray for whatever reason some even being raised in Christian homes. I pray for others who may have grown weary not to give up. Help me trust you each day that you work all things for your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Note: below is a link to 21 Days of Prayer

https://21days.churchofthehighlands.com/

Becky Juett Miller

God's Lemonade Stand

https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/

https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com

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Deuteronomy 23:9

When Thou Goest

Deuteronomy 23:9

When thou goest out with the host against thine enemies, keep thee then from all wickedness.

To entitle this time to this text, or to shew it pertinent to the present occasion, will ask no long preface. “When thou goest forth,” &c. This “when” is now. There be enemies, and we have an host; it is going forth. Christ’s own application which is the best may be well applied here, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”* This our host so going forth, our heart’s desire and prayer unto God is, that they may happily go, and thrice happily come again, with joy and triumph to her sacred Majesty, honor to themselves, and general contentment to the whole land. So shall they go, and so come, if we can procure the Lord of Hosts to go forth with, and to take charge of our hosts. “It is He That giveth victory to kings,”* saith David;* it is He That is Triumphator Israel, saith Samuel. Victory and triumph never fail if He fail not.

Now then that God may not fail them, but go in and out before them and bring them back with victory and triumph, and that we all desire and pray for may so come to pass, Moses doth here out of his own experience bestow an advice upon us. And Moses could skill what belonged to war, as one that forty years together was never out of camp. Which advice is, that among our military points we would reckon the abatement of sin for one; that now this time of our going forth we would go forth against sin too, and keep us from it as we would keep us from our enemy. If we could be but persuaded to reform our former custom of sin, it would certainly do the journey good. That therefore with other courses, some remembrance, some regard be had of this; that at this time sin do not so overflow among us, be not so very fruitful as before time it hath.

And this is an use of Divinity in war. And as this an use of Divinity in war, so have we withal an use of war in Divinity. For Moses telling us, that “when our forces go forth against the enemy,”—that we then, at that time, are in any wise “to keep us from wickedness;” by sorting these thus together doth plainly intimate that when the time of war is, then is a fit time, a very good opportunity, to draw from sin and to return to God. These former years, this time of the fast, and this day, the first day of it, both ministered an occasion to call for an abstinence from sin; this day, and this time, being set out by the Church’s appointment to that end. Now besides that ordinary of other years, God this year hath sent us another, the time of war; and that a very seasonable time too, wherein to repent and retire from sin. As if He should say, If you would forsake sin now you may do it; for “behold, now is an acceptable time,”* and a fit season. This time to concur with that time, and both to cooperate to the amendment of our lives.

And what shall I say? O that one of them, the former or the latter, or both might prevail so much with us, that as the forepart this day is fulfilled in our ears, so the latter part might be fulfilled in our lives; that it might not be singly regarded that is thus doubly commended; that the fast at hand might keep us, or the war at hand might keep us, or both might keep us, that we might be kept from sin. That either Joel’s trump proclaiming a fast, or Amos’ trump proclaiming war, might serve to sound this retreat, might serve to awake us from that now more than sleep, even almost that lethargy of sin which the security of our so long peace hath cast us in.

This is the sum. These the double use, 1. of war in divinity; that our going forth might procure the giving over sin. 2 Of Divinity in war; that our giving over sin might procure good speed to our going forth, even an honorable and happy return.

The parts are two; for the verse parteth itself by “when” and “then.” These two; 1. the going forth of the host; 2. the keeping from sin. To express them in the terms of the present business; 1. the former, the commission authorizing to go. 2. The latter, the instruction directing so to go that we may prosper and prevail. In which latter will come to be considered these three points; 1. The conjunction and coherence of these two. 2. The consequence. 3. The contents of the latter, how to keep us from sin.

“When thou goest forth,” &c. In the first is the commission, which is ever the corner-stone of all proceedings. If we take the verse entire, both parts together, it riseth thus; If they which go to war must keep themselves from sin, then is war no sin but lawful, and without sin to be undertaken. Or, if we take the first part by itself, in saying “when thou goest” he implieth a time will come when they may go forth. For vain were the supposal, and far unworthy the wisdom of God’s Spirit to say “when,” if never any such time would come; if there were no time for war of God’s allowance. We cannot better pattern it than by the Gospel of this day, “when ye fast, be not like hypocrites”*—by all Divines resolved thus. Fast ye may sometimes; and then fasting, look you fall not into hypocrisy. And as in that, so in this: go ye may sometimes; only when ye go see ye “refrain from sin,” and then go and spare not. Out of which match of these two, fast and war, we may rise higher.

It is no less usual with the Prophets to say sanctificate prælium, as Joel 3. than to say, sanctificate jejunium, “sanctify a war,”* as well as “a fast.”* And in another, consecrate manus vestras hodie Domino, “consecrate your hands this day unto the Lord.”* Which sheweth war is not so secular a matter, but that it hath both his lawfulness and his holiness; and that the very hands may be sacred or hallowed by fighting some battles. And therefore,* in the Calendar of Saints we have nominated, not Abel, Enoch, and Noah alone, men of peace and devotion, who spent their time in prayer and service of God; but Gideon, Jephtha, Samson, worthies and men of war “who,”* saith the Apostle, “through faith were valiant in battle, and through faith put to flight the armies of aliens.” War therefore hath his time and commission from God.

Secondly, I add that this kind of war, not only defensive war, but offensive too, hath his “when.” And that, out of this very text; which is, if we mark well, not when they come forth against thee, but “when thou goest forth against them,” παρεμβάλλειν, say the Seventy, “to invade or annoy them.” Both these have their time; the former to maintain our right, the latter to avenge our wrong. By both these ways doth God send His people forth; both have warrant. Before Moses,* Abraham’s war to rescue Lot his ally was defensive and lawful; Jacob’s war, to win from the Amorite “by his sword and bow,”* offensive and lawful too. Under Moses, the war against Amalek who came out against them,* and the war against Midian, against whom they “went forth to wreak themselves for the sin of Peor,”* both lawful. After Moses, King David, in the battle of Ephes-dammim,* keeping the enemy from their gates; in the battle of Gath,* seeking the enemy at his own gates, and giving him battle in his own territory. And this as good law, so Egredere, et compelle eos intrare, “Go forth, and compel them to come in,”* is good Gospel too. So that war, and this kind of war, hath his commission.

Thirdly, and to strengthen the hands of our men of war yet farther. As war, and to go forth to war, against our enemies, any enemies, whether foreign foes or rebellious subjects; so of all enemies against the latter, against them to go forth, hath ever been counted most just and lawful. Many commissions are upon record in the law, of journeys in this kind. Against the tribe of Reuben,* for erecting them an altar beside that of Moses; and that have these of ours done too. Against the tribe of Benjamin, for a barbarous, and brutish outrage committed at Gibeah, and that have these too, and not one,* but many. Against Sheba, for blowing a trumpet and crying, “No part have we in David, no inheritance in the son of Jesse;”* and so far hath their madness proceeded. And the Gospel is not behind neither. Against them that send word, nolumus hunc regnare super nos, producite et occidite,* saith our Saviour Christ Himself. In effect these say as much as nolumus, and as much may be said and done to them. Nay, if once he say “no part in David;”* if he were Absalom, or Adonijah, of the blood royal, he “hath spoken that word against his own life:”* much more if but such a one as Sheba the son of Bichri. And yet even he was nothing so deep as this. For neither had King David vouchsafed him any favor any time before, neither offered him peace, or to receive him to grace after he had lift up his heel against him. But here, here have been divers princely favors vouchsafed, and most unkindly rejected; means of clemency many times most graciously offered, and most ungraciously refused; yea, faith falsified and expectation deluded; contempt upon contempt heaped up, that the measure is full. These then are the enemies “against,” and this the time “when.” When not only we may but must, and that not with God’s leave only, but with His liking and full commission, “go forth” in this cause. So that war is lawful; and this kind, “to go forth;” and against these enemies most just and most lawful. At this time against these enemies it is a war sanctified; they shall “consecrate their hands,” they shall præliari prælia Domini, that fight against them. So much for the commission.

The commission being had, we are not to depart but stay and take our instructions also with us; which is the latter part, of “keeping from wickedness.” Joshua had his commission from God to go up against Ai;* yet for leaving out this latter, and not looking to Achan better, had not so good speed. This therefore must accompany and keep time with the former, as a “then” to that “when.”

1. Wherein first, of the joining these two, 1. that they must go together, 2. and of the reason why they must go together.

2. And after of the manner, how we may and must “keep ourselves from this wickedness.”

The meeting of these two within the compass of one verse, 1. “Going forth with an army,” and 2. “forbearing of sin,” is worth the staying on.

Leading an army pertaineth to military policy, forbearing of sin is flat divinity.

For what hath the leading an army to do with forbearing of sin? Yet God hath thus sorted them as we see. Therefore policy of war whereto the former, and Divinity whereto the latter belongeth, are not such strangers one to the other, as that the one must avoid while the other is in place. But that, as loving neighbors and good friends here they meet together, they stand together, they keep time, consequence, and correspondence, the one with the other. God Himself, in Whose imperial style so oft proclaimed in the Prophets they both meet, “the Lord of Hosts,” “the Holy One of Israel;”*—God, I say, Himself in the great chapter of war, the twentieth of this book, assigneth an employment to the Priests as well as the officers of the camp, even to do that which ere-while was assayed, to animate the companies in the Lord, and the power of His might; letting them see the right of their cause, and how ready God is to receive the right under the banner and power of His protection. And from God Himself no doubt was that happy and blessed combination which in most wars of happy success we find, of a captain and a Prophet sorted together:* Joshua, with Moses a Prophet; Baruk,* with Deborah a Prophetess; Ezekias, with Esay;* Jehoshaphat, with Jahaziel; Joash, with Elisha;* and one of these doing the other no manner of hurt but good.* Joshua lifting up his hand against Amalek, Moses lifting up his hand for Joshua.* The one leading against the enemy and annoying him, the other leading against sin and annoying it; against sin, what some reckon of it it skills not, but certainly the most dangerous enemy both of private persons and of public states.

These two then, 1. “going forth with the host,” and 2. “departing from sin,” being thus linked by God, our suit is, Break not this link; God hath joined them that we should join them. And this is a needful suit. For it is one of the diseases under the sun: in war all our thoughts run upon the host, looking to the host only and nothing but the host, and letting sin run whither it will without any keeper. I know well, I both know and acknowledge that the army’s going forth is mainly to be regarded, it hath the first place in the verse, and it hath it not for nought. Joshua must choose out men first; victuals must be supplied.* And nemo militat stipendiis suis, pay must be thought of.* We must go forth with our host; they be the words of the text;* go—not sit still; and with an host, not a heap of naked or starved men. We must help, and not tempt God. To help God is a strange speech, yet said it may be seeing an Angel hath said it; “Curse ye Meroz,” saith the Angel of the Lord, “curse the inhabitants thereof.” Why? “Because they came not to help the Lord, to help the Lord against the mighty.”* This must first be done. But when this is done all is not done, we are not at a full point, we are but in the midst of the sentence yet. As that part of the host is to be regarded, so this of sin’s restraint is not to be neglected. As that hath the first place, so must this have the second, and second the former, or we shall have but a broken sentence without it. There is not, there cannot be a more prejudicial conceit than to say in our hearts, If the first be well all is well, then sin on and spare not, it skills not greatly for the latter. Si putas in robore exercitus bella consistere, faciet te Dominus cadere coram inimicis tuis, saith the Prophet to Amaziah.* If this be our conceit, so the host be well all is well, God will teach you another lesson, saith he, which I list not english. A proof whereof we have before Gibeah. Where the whole power of Israel, 400,000 strong,* trusting in their going out so strong, fell before a few Benjamites, a small handful in comparison, and shewed plainly to all ages to come that it is but a part, it is not all, to “go forth with an host” though never so well appointed.

Let us then, as advice leadeth us, make up our period with taking a course for restraint of sin. For what sin unrestrained can work the valley of Achor may teach us,* where the inhabitants of the poor town of Ai put to flight Joshua with all his forces, and all because this second point was not well looked to.

Now this second point being within the compass of our profession, and yet having so necessary an use in war as the sentence is not perfect without it, may serve to answer the question, more usually than advisedly oft cast out, What good do these Churchmen? What use is there of them now at such times as this? Yes, there is an use of them, and that in war we see. The camp hath use of this place, and they that serve there of them that serve here. Which God shewed plainly in the first field that ever His people fought; and when He had shewed it, caused it to be recorded ad perpetuam rei memoriam—they be God’s own words—that the same course might be ever after holden in all.* Where it is thus written, and “if we believe not we shall not be established,”* that Joshua’s having the better or going to the worse depended not a little on the steadiness of Moses’ hands, and that Moses staying behind and striking never a stroke did his part toward the attaining of the victory not much less than Joshua that went forth and fought manfully. Prayer then is of use; and though we be, saith St. Paul, armed at all points from hand to foot, yet must we super omnia, “over all,” draw this, and arm even our very armor with “prayer and supplications.”*

But what availeth prayer without keeping from sin? Therefore to that armor of St. Paul’s we must add St. Peter’s too, “to arm ourselves with this mind of ceasing from sin,”* that our prayers may be effectual. Therefore Moses himself joineth not to our going forth his exercise of keeping up our hands at prayer, but this rather “of keeping our feet from sin.”* The King of Moab, Balak, when he observed what prayer had wrought in the battle of Amalek, thought to take the very like course, and sent for Balaam into his camp, to match Prophet with Prophet, and to oppose prayer unto prayer. But when all his altars and rams would do no good, Balaam knowing well there is in sin a power to defeat any prayer, he cometh to the dangerous counsel of “causing Israel to sin with the daughters of Moab,” which was found too true. For it turned to their ruin, and all their prayers would then do no good. Here then is another use. For “the chariots and horses of Elisha,”* the “weapons of our warfare,”* as the Apostle termeth them, though not carnal, if God enable them to cast down such sinful thoughts and wicked desires as exalt themselves daily, and to captivate them to the obedience of Christ, have certainly their use to second the former; and we in our turns serviceable, as by crying unto God by prayer, and drawing Him to the host Who is our chiefest and best friend, so by crying also against sin and chasing it away, which is our chiefest and worst enemy. Since then these two have this mutual use either of other, let this be our petition and withal the conclusion of this part, that we single them not or lean to either alone, but suffer them as they stand together in the verse, so in our care and regard jointly to keep time and go together. So much for them.

And now to enquire into the reason of this coupling. Why now? Why at this time in war, a giving over sin? For that indeed they be not barely joined, but so joined as one is made the antecedent, the other the consequent. One the time, and as it were the reason to infer the other. Truly Moses’ word כי will bear both, either quando or quia; “When thou goest then keep;” or “Because thou goest, therefore keep thyself from sin.” With the same word speaketh the virtuous lady to King David, quia præliaris prælia Domini, ideo non inveniatur in te iniquitas, “because thou fightest the Lord’s battles, therefore let there not any iniquity be found in thee all thy days.”*

Sin certainly at all times is to be forborne. When it is war, and not only when it is war, but when it is peace too. “Take ye heed, lest at any time,” saith Christ, “your hearts be overlaid with surfeiting, with drink,”* &c. Not allowing us any time to be wicked in. But though at all times we be to refrain sin, yet not at all times alike, saith Moses here. For it is as if he should say, Be it at other times, sin may better be borne with, it is less perilous; but “when thou goest forth with an host, then”—then, with an high accent, with an emphasis, that is then especially; then above all other times, then, if ever, it importeth you to have least to do with it. Good Lord, how cross and opposite is man’s conceit to God’s, and how contrary our thoughts unto His! For even ad oppositum to this position of His, we see for the most part that even they that are the goers forth seem to persuade themselves that then they may do what they list; that at that time any sin is lawful, that war is rather a placard than an inhibition to sin. A thing so common that it made the heathen man hold that between militia and malitia there was as little difference in sense as in sound; and the Prophet David to call Saul’s companies in his days, torrentes Belial,* “the land-floods of wickedness.” Which being well considered, we may cease to murmur or to marvel, if our going forth have not been ever with such success as we wished. God Who should give the success commanding then a restraint, and man that should need it then taking most liberty. Verily if we will learn of God, if He shall teach us, sin is never so untimely as in the time of war, never so out of season as then; for that is the time of all times we should have least to do with it. To insist then a little upon this point, because it is the main point, and to shew the vigor of this consequent.

1. From the very nature of war first, which is an act of justice, and of justice corrective, whose office is to punish sin. Now then consider and judge even in reason, what a thing this is, how great, gross, and foul an incongruity it is to pour out ourselves into sin at the very time when we go forth to correct sin; to set forth to punish rebels, when we ourselves are in rebellion against God, His Word, and Spirit. Which, what is it but “to cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub?”* Sure our hearts must needs strike us in the midst of our sin, and tell us we are in a great and grievous prevarication, allowing that in ourselves that we go to condemn and to stone to death in others. Therefore, since to go to war is to go to punish sin, certainly the time of punishing sin is not a time to sin in.

2. Secondly, from war in respect of God I know not what we reckon of war; peace is His blessing we are sure, and a special favor it is from Him as the Prophets account it, for a land to spend more iron in scythes and plough-shares than in sword-blades or spear-heads.* And if peace be a blessing and a chief of His blessings, we may reduce from thence what war is. To make no otherwise of it than it is, “the rod of God’s wrath,” as Esay termeth it; His “iron flail,”* as Amos; “the hammer of the earth,”* as Jeremy, whereby He dasheth two nations together—one of them must in pieces,* both the worse for it. War is no matter of sport. Indeed I see Abner esteem of it as of a sport: “let the young men rise,” saith he to Joab, “and shew us some sport.”* But I see the same Abner before the end of the same chapter weary of his sport, and treating with Joab for an end of it; “How long shall the sword devour,”* saith he, “shall it not be bitterness in the end?” So it may be “sport” in the beginning; it will be “bitterness in the end,” if it hold long. War then being God’s rod, His fearful rod, and that so fearful that King David though a warrior too, when both were in his choice, preferred the plague before it and desired it of the twain; when God’s hand with this rod, this His fearful rod, is over us, to be so far from fear and all due regard as then not to shun sin any whit the more, but to fall to it as fast as ever; it cannot be but a high contempt, yea a kind of defiance and despite then to do it: “Do we provoke the Lord to anger, are we stronger than He?”* Then since war is God’s rod, choose some other time; under the rod sin not, then forbear it. Certainly that time is no time to sin.

3. The rather, for that sin it is and the not keeping from sin, but our keeping to it and with it, that hath made this rod and put it into His hand. For sure it is, that for the transgression of a people, God suffereth these “divisions of Reuben”* within; God stirreth up the spirit of Princes abroad to take peace from the earth, thereby to chasten men by paring the growth of their wealth with this His “hired razor;”* by wasting their strong men, the hand of the enemies eating them up; by making widows and fatherless children, by other like consequents of war. If then our sins common unto us with other nations, and that our unthankfulness peculiar to us alone have brought all this upon us; if this enemy have stirred up these enemies, if war be the sickness and sin the surfeit, should we not at least-wise now while the shivering fit of our sins is upon us, diet ourselves a little and keep some order? But1 “drink iniquity as water,” and distemper ourselves as though we were in perfect state of health?* Shall we make our disease desperate, and hasten our ruin by not containing from sin that hath cast us in it? Know we what time this is? Is this a time of sin? Certainly, we cannot devise a worse. In the time of war it is high time to “keep us from sin.”

4. But above all, which will touch us nearest, and therefore again and again must be told us over, that the safe and speedy coming again of them that now go forth, whose prosperity we are to seek with all our possible endeavors—that their good speed dependeth upon God’s going forth with them; and God’s going or staying dependeth very much upon this point. Most certain it is the event of war is most uncertain. When Benhadad went forth with an army that “the dust of Samaria was not enough to give every one in his camp a handful,” it was told him and he found it true, Ne glorietur accinctus, &c. “He that buckleth on his armor must not boast as he that puts it off.”* They that fight can hardly set down what name the place shall have that they fight in; it may be the valley of Achor, that is “sorrow,”* by reason of a foil, as that of Joshua; it may be the valley of Berachah, that is “blessing,” by means of a victory, as that of Jehoshaphat.* All is as God is, and as He will have it. Once, twice, and thrice, by David, by Solomon, by Jehoshaphat, we are told it that “it is neither sword nor bow,”* “it is neither chariot nor horse,”* “it is neither multitude nor valor of an host will serve;”* “but that the battle is God’s,” and He giveth the upper hand.* We need not be persuaded of this, we all are persuaded I hope, and we say with Moses, “If Thy Presence go not with us, carry us not hence.”* Then if we shall need God’s favor and help in prospering our journey, and to make that sure which is so uncertain, it will stand us in hand to make sure of Him in this, this needful time, and to keep Him sure if it may be. For if He keep with the host, and take their parts, Rebelles tui erunt quasi nihil, saith Esay; and “these smoking tails of firebrands”* shall quickly be quenched.* But if God either go not with them, or retire from them, if there were among them but naked or wounded men—what speak I of men? if but frogs or flies—they shall be sufficient to trouble them.

Now then we are at the point. For if we will have hold of God, make Him sure, be certain of Him, we must break with sin needs. Sin and Satan are His enemies, and no fellowship nor communion, no concord, no agreement, no part,* no portion between them. If we will draw Him into league, we must profess ourselves enemies unto His enemies, that He may do the like to ours. At one and the same time enter as an outward war with wicked rebels, so an inward hostility with our wicked rebellious lusts. For that if we keep ourselves from the one, He will keep us from the other, and these being suppressed those shall not be able to stand. Thus doing, “the sword of the Lord shall be with the sword of Gideon:”* God shall be with us, Ithiel; and we shall prevail, Ucal.* For where Ithiel is, Ucal will not be away. But if we will needs hold on our league with hell, and continue our wonted intercourse with wickedness still, and go forth unto it when it beckons or calls, and be so far from keeping from it that we keep it as the apple of our eye, and cherish it between our breasts; if we retain the mark of it in our very foreheads, and the price of it in the skirts of our garment; for not keeping from it He will keep from us, and withdraw His help from us, and put us clean out of His protection.

Therefore, without keeping from sin there is no keeping God, out of Whose keeping there is no safety.

This advice being so full of behoof, so agreeable to reason and religion both, so every way for their and for our good, it remaineth we set ourselves to think of it and keep it. “Every one returning to his own heart, to know there,” as Solomon saith, “his own plague,”* even the sins wherewith he hath grieved God, and to make a covenant with himself, from henceforth more carefully to stand upon his guard, and not to go forth to sin or entertain it as a friend, but to repute it as an enemy and to keep him from it.

First, for the term of keeping. “When thou goest forth against thy enemy,” go forth against sin. We should indeed go forth against sin, and practice those military impressions that are done in camp against the enemy; give it the assault, annoy it, pursue it, never leave it till we have driven it away. These we should do against it. But the Scripture “offereth more grace;”* and bids us, if we list not go forth against it, only not to go forth to it, but keep ourselves, that is, stand upon our defence, to keep good watch, that it surprise us not, that it “get not dominion over us:” do but this against sin,* and it shall suffice.

But this must extend to all wickedness. Wherein yet we do humanum dicere propter infirmitatem nostram, “speak after the manner of men because of our infirmity;”* retching this all no further than human infirmity, than the frailty of our nature will bear, than this corruptible flesh wherewith we are compassed, and this corrupt world in the midst whereof we live, will suffer and give us leave. In the body, we put a difference between the soil which by insensible evacuations goeth from our bodies, keep we ourselves never so carefully, and that which is drawn forth by chafing or sweat, or otherwise gotten by touching such things wherewith we may be defiled. That cannot be refrained, this falleth within restraint. And even so, there is a soil of sin that of itself vapoureth from our nature, let the best do his best. I say not, we should keep ourselves from this, but from provoking it by suffering our minds to wander in it; by not keeping our ears from such company, and our eyes from such occasions, as will procure it, as the Prophet speaketh, “by putting the stumbling-block of iniquity before our faces.” From that by the help of God we may keep ourselves well enough.* From sins lighting upon our thoughts it is impossible, it cannot be; but from making there a nest or hatching ought, that we are willed to look to, and that by God’s grace we may. And the word that Moses useth here דבר רע is not without a dixit at least in corde; not without a saying within us, This or that I will do. It must be dictum, or condictum, ‘said to,’ and ‘said yea to,’ or else it is not דבר רע. The heart not resolving or saying content, but keeping itself from going forth to any act; though wickedness be not kept from us because of the temptation, yet we are kept from it because of the repulse; and with that will Moses be content at our hands as our estate now is.

But with these provisos. We say generally, They that go forth keep from all; from all such both deeds and words as justly may be censured to be wickedly, either spoken or done. Words, I say, as well as deeds. For the word דבר bears both. And indeed, if in good words as in prayers there be force to help, I make no question but in wicked words, as blasphemies, irreligious sayings, jocis fulmine dignis, there is force also to do mischief. Therefore keep from all; all those especially, as very reason will lead us, which have been the ruin of armies in former times; a view whereof we may take when we will out of Liber bellorum Domini, “the Book of God’s battles.”*

Wicked words first. Presumptuous terms of trust in our own strength; “I will go, I will pursue and overtake, I will divide the spoil”—Pharaoh’s words,* the cause of his perishing and all his host. To keep them from that. Rabshakeh’s blackmouthed blasphemy; “Let not Hezekiah cause you to trust in God over much”*—the eminent cause of the overthrow of the host of Ashur. To keep them from that.

And if from words, from wicked works much rather. Achan’s sin, that is sacrilege; Anathema in medio tui, non poteris stare coram hostibus tuis, God’s own words to Joshua,*—the cause of the army’s miscarrying before Ai. To keep them from that wickedness. Such shameful abuses as was that at Gibeah;*—the expressed cause of the destruction of a whole tribe. To keep them from that. Profaning holy vessels or holy places with unholy usage;*—the ruin of Belshazzar, and with him of the whole Chaldean monarchy. To keep themselves from that. Corrupting our compassion, and “casting off pity quite,” and spilling blood like water;*—the sin of Edom, and the cause he took such a foil as he was never a people since. To keep them from that wickedness. From these and from the rest, you shall have a time to read them, I have not to speak them. Arming themselves with a mind to cease from sin, keeping their vessels holy; having pay wherewith they may be content, and being content with their pay; et neminem concutientes, saith St. John Baptist;* not being torrentes Belial, “land-floods of wickedness.”* Or if this will not be that private conformity will not keep them, at least that public authority do it; that kept they may be one way or other from it. If Achan will so far forget himself as “to sin in the execrable thing;” or Zimri to play the wretch,* and abuse himself in the camp; let Joshua find out Achan, and see him have his due; and Phinehas follow Zimri, and reward him for his desert. That the ravine of the one, and the villany of the other be removed as it is committed, and so kept from polluting and pulling down God’s wrath upon the whole host. For sure it is, “Phinehas’* standing up and executing judgment” hath the force of a prayer no less than Moses’ “standing in the gap” to make intercession,* and both alike forcible to turn away God’s anger and to remove evil from the midst of Israel.

This advice is to take place as in them that go, as before hath been touched, so in us likewise that stay at home; that what the one build the other destroy not. Not by Moses’ exercise of prayer and incessant prayer,* or Jehoshaphat’s exercise of fasting and abstinence; both are out of the compass of the text; but that which is in it, by turning from sin to God, and that with a serious not shallow, and an inward not hollow repentance. Not confessing our sins to-day and committing them to-morrow; but every one saying, Dixi custodiam, “I have said, I will henceforth more narrowly look to my ways,”* at least while the sound of war is in our ears. Thinking with ourselves it is now war, it is now no time to offend God, and separate between Him and us in this needful time of His help and protection, by entering into that good and virtuous consideration of Uriah’s; “The Ark of the Lord and all Israel and Judah dwell in tents,* Joab and the servants of our sovereign abide in the open fields,” and shall we permit ourselves as much as we would in the time of peace, and not conform ourselves in abridging some part of our wonted liberty, and forbearing to enjoy the “pleasures of sin for a season?”* To conclude, if we shall, or when we shall be tempted to any of our former sins, to think upon God’s own counsel, even God’s own counsel from God’s own mouth, memento belli et ne feceris,* ‘to remember the camp and not to do it;’ to think upon them in the fields and their danger, and for their sakes and for their safeties to forbear it.

Thus, if we shall endeavor ourselves and eschew our own wickedness, our hosts shall go forth in the strength of the Lord, and the Lord shall go with them and order their attempts to an happy issue.

He that made our foreign enemies “like a wheel”* to go round about us, and not to come near us, shall make these “as stubble before the wind;” causing fear and faintness of heart to fall upon them as upon Midian; sending “an evil spirit”* of dissension among them,* as upon Abimelech and the men of Shechem; causing their own woods to devour them, as rebellious Absalom;* and their own waters to sweep them away, as it did Sisera; yea, “the stars of Heaven, in their course to fight against them,”* as under Deborah’s conduct He did. Many such things are with Him, many such He hath done and can do again, if to our going forth we join a going from sin.

Even so Lord, so let it be. Those whom thou now carriest forth by Thy mercy, bring them back by Thy might in this place, the place of Thy holy habitation. That Deborah may praise Thee for the avenging of Israel,* and for the people that offer themselves so willingly;” for letting her ear hear,* and her eye see the fall of the wicked that rise up against her; that she may praise Thee, and say, “The Lord liveth,* and blessed be my strong help, and praised be the God of my salvation.”

“Even the God that seeth I be avenged, and subdueth the people unto me. It is He that delivereth me from my cruel enemies, and setteth me up above all my adversaries.”*

Great prosperity giveth He unto His hand-maid, “and sheweth still and continually His loving-kindness to His anointed.”* Praised be the Lord for evermore!

To this God, “glorious in holiness, fearful in power, doing wonders,”* the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, &c.[1]

 

 

1 shall we

* Ps. 106:30.

[1] Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 1, pp. 321–337). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

 

Miracles of Power Alford Mat 8.7 Hosea Title.jpg

Mirales of Power

Miracles of Power

Matt. 8:27

“What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

This is our third sermon on our Lord’s miracles as illustrating the doctrines of His sacred Person and office. And we have to notice in it another class of those wonderful works, not indeed wholly distinct from those which have already come before us, but distinct in their leading features and character. The two miracles in our Gospel to-day are emphatically instances of His Power. Not that the power shewn in turning water into wine, in cleansing the leper, in healing the centurion’s servant, was one whit less than that exerted in the stilling of the storm, and in the casting out the legion of devils at Gergesa: but that in the former miracles, Love and Mercy seem to stand out as the prominent features, whereas here, above all other things, the sense of almighty Power is carried irresistibly into our minds as we read. And such seems to have been the impression made on the beholders in each case. The men in the ship exclaimed, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” The Grergesenes besought Him to depart out of their coasts;—fearing the presence of one so mighty, and whose might had been shewn in a manner working them worldly loss.

We will then treat these miracles to-day mainly in this light—as proofs of His power: but not only so—we will also take up and turn to account such other incidental lessons from them as occur by the way while we proceed.

Our Lord had been all day speaking that great series of parables, opening with the parable of the Sower, which we find in Matt. 13, five chapters after this in which our narrative occurs. It would appear, that St. Matthew does not relate these events in their order. For we are positively told by St. Mark that this miracle took place on the evening of the day when all those parables were spoken. Our Lord was wearied out with the long day’s teaching, probably in the heat and glare of the beach of the lake. We see from the minute and beautiful touches in St. Mark’s narrative, how the multitudes had been for some days pursuing Him about, eager for His teaching and healing, till that frame which, though it bore the Divinity, was itself limited and liable to exhaustion, was well nigh crushed with toil: till his near relations, seeing His unsparing exertions, came out to lay hold on Him, thinking that He was beside himself, carried away by self-sacrificing enthusiasm. “Let us cross,” He said to his disciples, “to the other side of the lake.” They embarked in the boat, probably Simon Peter’s, which He commonly used, other small boats also accompanying them. St. Mark adds, “they took Him with them in the boat as He was,” without any preparation, perhaps even too weary to take refreshment. They spread for Him in the stern the cushions commonly used on the rowers’ benches, and, exhausted as He was, He laid him down, and slept the sleep of the weary. I have enlarged on this scene, that we may have the whole blessed truth of the matter vividly before us. Behold him in his humanity;—handle him in your thoughts, and see that it is He himself. This is indeed no pretended man; no god in disguise, as the heathens sometimes fabled of in their legends. Nay this is a veritable human frame, worn out with toil: not a form assumed for an apparition of thirty years on earth, but the form, as indissolubly united to the Person of him who bore it, as this of mine, and these of yours, are united to each of us. And observe, that in its union, it is very man: not, except at special times when He pleased, lifted up to superhuman capacity by the indwelling Godhead, not ordinarily able to endure without fatigue, to subsist without food, to renovate itself without sleep: but as was necessary for the Bearer of man’s infirmities, for the Sympathizer with man’s troubles, for the great Consoler of all who need consolation, like his brethren in all things, with one only most necessary and most teaching exception.

And so He sleeps on: and the oars plash regularly in the falling twilight, till at length one quarter of the sky gathers darker than is wont, and suddenly there bursts down on the inland sea from its bordering valleys one of those squalls of wind, well known as the chief perils of all lake navigation. The tempest quickly, in those confined spaces, lashes the water into fury: the little vessel labors among the breakers, which begin dashing over her sides, and she is soon rapidly filling. Still, the weary passenger sleeps. So, and yet not so, did Jonah sleep in the sides of the ship, when he was fleeing from the face of God: for there may be deep sleep of different kinds. One may be calm in danger from apathy or unbelief, and another from blessed faith and reliance. Shall we not say of this Sleeper, that his slumber was deep and undisturbed, because it never had been broken by the start of guilt, or the working thoughts of terror? Shall we not feel that the beautiful words of our Poet are true of Him only,—

“He feared no danger, for He knew no sin?”

Such was the manhood of the Lord in its infirmity and in its perfection: in its weakness, and in its strength.

But meanwhile the disciples are filled with terror. Their boat is beginning to sink: and He, who they knew could save them, is all unconscious of their common danger. They awake him with something of reproach: “Master, Master, carest thou not that we perish?” It is not as it was to Jonah, “Awake, thou sleeper, and call upon thy God:” they know thus much, that He has power to save them: but they wonder that that power should not have been exerted before it came to this. Their call to Him is variously given by the Evangelists; as above,—or as in the gospel for this Sunday, “Lord, save us: we perish;” or as by St. Luke, “Master, master, we perish.” “The sense is the same in all,” says St. Augustine; “in all, they wake the Lord, and beseech Him to save them; nor is it worth our while to enquire, which of these contains the actual words said to Christ rather than the others. For whether they used any one of these three expressions, or some other words which none of the Evangelists has related, but amounting to the same verity of meaning, what has it to do with the matter in hand?” It had been well, if these remarks had always been borne in mind by those who compare the gospels one with another; they would have ensured its being done more in the freedom of the spirit, and not so much in the bondage of the letter.

The Lord is not slow to answer to their cry, though He reproaches them as being of little faith. They who had seen so many of His wonderful works, and who knew the love which He had for them, should have known also that He was not one whose power could be in this manner taken at a disadvantage, or whose care for His own could be thus defeated. But none of us, my brethren, can say that their conduct was not natural. I fear we all are of little faith: for I am sure we should all have done likewise. In the account in St. Matthew’s gospel, this rebuke of His comes before the act of power: in St. Mark and St. Luke, it follows it. Whether it went before or followed, the certainty that it was given, and the lesson in it for us, are the same.

But now let us fix our attention on that which was done: for surely we are reading a narrative which stands alone in the history of our world. This man who, but a moment since, was fast asleep from weariness, rose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still.” We all know the effect of a sudden lull in the raving of the storm: the perfect peace which seems to take the place of the war of the elements: the sense of thankfulness and surprise with which we look abroad into the stillness. What then must this have been, when it was the instantaneous effect of the command of a human voice? “There was a great calm.” No ordinary calm: not as usual after the cessation of a tempest, the waves still tossing with their disquiet, but half-appeased; but the lake became as in the calm of the breathless noon,—it instantaneously put on the glassy surface of the misty morn, or the long level lines of the solemn twilight. As before, in the Lord’s first miracle, nature was silently endowed with powers not her own,—her slow processes anticipated,—her ordinary requirements superseded: so now, at His spoken word, her own powers are suspended, and their exercise forbidden. And as in that case imagination fails to trace the procedure of the creative act, so here of the repressive. We hear the wind, and cannot tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: but He knows: the necessity that there is for the air to rush hither and thither, filling up its void places,—where this exists, and why, He has it all in his thoughts: and what He commands, He works also. It was not in sober reality, as the wondering shipmen expressed it: the winds and the sea were not animated beings, who heard and obeyed, so that He should have no part in that which was done, but to command it;—far otherwise: it was all His doing. He who spoke was present in the far-off mountain passes whence the winds issued forth: He made the gathering eddies stand still, and stanched the pouring mist. The result was seen, the workmanship was hidden. He worked as God ever works: His ways were in the vast deep, and His path in the trackless air; the great calm, the accomplishment of that which was done, was the least thing that was wrought;—was but the token, that God had passed by, and nature was silent.

And so, my brethren, we have our blessed Lord in His weakness and in His strength: in His weariness as man, and His unwearyingness as God: in His tired sleep, and in His unslumbering watchfulness. “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

Turn we now to another aspect of His glorious Person and office. “They came to the other side, into the land of the Gergesenes.” It was a land of limestone cliffs, pierced, as not uncommonly, into hollow caves, which were used in that country for the burying-places of the dead. Dwelling in those tombs, disputing possession with the wild beasts of the wilderness, were two creatures scarcely human, though bearing the forms of men. On one of these wretched ones is our attention specially concentrated. Terrible indeed is the description of him by the Evangelists: “When He was come out of the ship, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs, and no man could tame him, no not with chains; because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And he wore no clothes; but always night and day he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.” Was ever description more wild and fearful?

And as it is the most dreadful of its whole class, so let us take it as a type of the whole class, and ask ourselves, what was this which is here spoken of—this possession by evil spirits? And observe, that I am not now going into the general enquiry, which is a very wide one; but am asking the question with a view to our Lord Himself—His truth, His mercy, and His power. I may simply then and in a word say that whoever believes in Him at all, must also believe in the existence and agency of both good and evil spirits. For it is again and again certified to us both by His words and by His actions. There is no getting over this, or explaining it away. If such men as these, and the rest on whom his miracles wore wrought, were not possessed by devils at all, but were only madmen,—and if He, in what He said and did, was only countenancing a popular delusion, why then I say, all trust in Him and in His words, is gone: He was no true Teacher, no pure and sinless Savior: for He must have acted and spoken dangerous and blasphemous falsehoods. I speak thus strongly, to shew you how vain is the attempt to separate these cases from Himself and his teaching. Reject them, if you like: but you reject Him with them. Doubt and disbelieve, if you will, the existence of an unseen spiritual world about us and in us; but in doing so you doubt and disbelieve Him by whose holy Name you are called, and to whom you owe all you have both here and hereafter.

Well then, with this caution, we will speak as we believe, and simply assume the fact as certain, that these men were, or rather this man,—seeing that the second bears no prominent part,—was the wretched victim of possession by devils, the peculiar disease and burden of that age of the world. Evil spirits had entered into and taken possession of him. They used his voice, his thoughts, his limbs, for their unholy purposes. He was not his own master, but their slave. And this miserable state gave rise to a sort of double personality, not altogether unknown, be it observed, to those even now who study the more desperate forms of insanity. In this condition, while the man sometimes besought for deliverance, the demon broke in with his superhuman confessions that Jesus was the Son of God. We have this latter feature in the history before us. The evil spirits know the Son of God: and through the voice of their victim they pray Him not to torment them before the time. They know His lordship over them—they know that a day is coming, when He will adjudge their everlasting doom. Among the doctrines regarding His Person, notice this well. He is Lord of heaven and earth and hell:—of the evil spirits, as well as of His holy angels:—and He is their judge, and will pronounce their sentence in the end.

And now, for I deny it not, we come to matters of detail, strange, and passing our comprehension. The request on the part of the devils that they might not be sent out of the country,—or not into the deep,—but into the swine,—the permission given,—the destruction of the herd,—all this has time out of mind furnished ground of cavil to the unbeliever, and of reverent question to the enquiring Christian. But what wonder if we find ourselves out of our depth, when introduced but for a moment into the spirit world, of which we know absolutely nothing by any research or experience of our own? Rather should we receive such notices as these as each lifting some portion of the veil which hides that world from us, and teaching us by analogy how to think and judge of it. For instance, we are at least informed by this narrative, that certain evil spirits were then suffered to abide, tempting men, in certain portions of the earth; we see that the grosser animal nature, as well as that of men, is able to receive their attacks and incursions:—and we gather that it pleased our Lord, for reasons no doubt understood and sufficient at the time, to permit this to take place, and to destroy the swine in the waters. Among such reasons at once occurs to us this;—that the fact may have furnished more perfect assurance to the restored man himself, and to the neighborhood around, of his complete deliverance: and as it has well been said, what wonder that He who ordains that myriads of animals should daily be slaughtered for the sustenance of men’s bodies, should on this occasion have permitted the destruction of a few, for the better health of their souls?

But let us now turn to another and a very different spectacle, to him that had had the legion, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. O blessed result! blessed, in the fact itself; blessed, in the lesson which it echoes onwards through the ages of Time. Yes, my brethren, even thus it is that every one of us must fare at His hands, if we would be healed and live. We, thank God, have fallen in other times than those. His blessed Gospel, next to His holy Presence, has won its way on earth. He subdued the enemy for us—He saw him as lightning fall from heaven; and the softening and humanizing influences of his descended Spirit have followed. But there is a Satanic possession of which the world is not rid, and never will be, till He comes to judge it. We were all born in sin, and children of wrath; and though in Christ’s church we have become the children of grace, yet is the old Adam not thoroughly driven out; yet is the law of sin still found active in our members, and furnishing material for our spiritual enemy to work on:—yet are we in that divided state, that the good which we would do, that we cannot: and the evil which we would not, that we do: even yet is the best of us in that condition which forced from the great Apostle that exceeding bitter cry, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Who, but He that rebuked the winds and the waves, and there was a great calm,—who but He that changed the fierce demoniac into a humble disciple,—He of whom the Apostle spoke, when he replied to his “who shall deliver,” with “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord?”

O Thou Stiller of the tempest, Thou Conqueror of the enemy for us, hear us, and save! In all time of our tribulation: in all time of our wealth: in the hour of death and in the day of judgment, good Lord, deliver us.[1]

 

 

[1] Alford, H. (1862). Sermons on Christian Doctrine (pp. 108–119). London: Rivingtons. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 16

Psalm 16

“Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust. O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight. Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips. The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16, AV)

A sufferer in imminent danger of death, expresses his strong confidence in God, ver. 1, as the sole source and author of his happiness, ver. 2, and at the same time his attachment to God’s people, ver. 3, his abhorrence of all other gods, ver. 4, his acquiescence in God’s dealings with him, ver. 5, 6, and his assured hope of future safety and blessedness, ver. 7–11.

The psalm is appropriate to the whole class of pious sufferers, of which Christ is the most illustrious representative. It is only in him, therefore, that some parts of it can be said to have received their highest and complete fulfilment. This will be shewn more fully in the exposition of the ninth and tenth verses.

1. Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for I have trusted in thee. Some explain Michtam as a compound term; but it is most probably a simple derivative of a verb meaning to hide, and signifies a mystery or secret. The similar word Michtab in the title of Hezekiah’s psalm (Isa. 38:9) is probably an imitation of the form here used, or at least involves an allusion to it. It seems to be substituted for the usual terms song, psalm, &c., not only here but in the titles of Ps. 55–60. It probably indicates the depth of doctrinal and spiritual import in these sacred compositions. The derivation from a noun meaning gold is much less probable. This verse may be said to contain the sum and substance of the whole psalm, and is merely amplified in what follows. The prayer, Keep, save, or preserve me, implies actual suffering or imminent danger, while the last clause, I have trusted in thee, states the ground of his assured hope and confident petition. The verb used is one that seems especially appropriate to the act of seeking shelter under some overshadowing object. See Judges 9:15, Isa. 30:2, Ps. 57:2 (1), 61:5 (4). The preterite form implies that this is no new or sudden act, but one performed already. He not only trusts in God at present, but has trusted him before. Compare Ps. 7:2 (1), 11:1.

2. Thou hast said to Jehovah, The Lord (art) thou; my good (is) not besides thee (or beyond thee). The verb in the first clause has the form of a second person feminine, which some regard as an abbreviation of the first person, אָמַרְתִּ for אָמַרְתִּי and translate accordingly, I have said. But this neither agrees so well with usage, nor affords so good a sense as the old construction, which supplies as the object of address the same that is expressed in Ps. 42:6 (5), 12 (11), 43:5, Jer. 4:19, Lam. 3:24, 25. A similar ellipsis is assumed by some in 1 Sam. 24:11, and 2 Sam. 13:39. By this peculiar form of speech the Psalmist calls upon himself to remember his own solemn acknowledgment of Jehovah as the Lord or Supreme God.—The obscure clause which follows has been very variously explained. Some understand by good moral goodness, merit, and explain the whole to mean, “My goodness is not such as to entitle me to thy regard.” Most interpreters, however, give to good its usual sense of good fortune, happiness (see Ps. 106:5, Job 9:25), and make the whole clause mean, “My happiness is not obligatory or incumbent on thee, thou art not bound to provide for it;” or “My happiness is not above thee; I have no higher happiness than thee.” The true sense is probably afforded by a modification of this last: “My happiness is not beside thee, independent of, or separable from thee,” with allusion to the form of expression in the Hebrew of the first commandment (Exod. 20:3). The verse, then, contains a twofold acknowledgment of God, as the universal sovereign, and as the only source of individual enjoyment. Compare Ps. 73:25. That this recognition was not a mere momentary act, but a habitual affection of the mind, seems to be indicated by the Psalmist’s appeal to his own soul as having made the acknowledgment already, hitherto or heretofore.

3. To (or with) the saints who (are) in the land, and the nobles in whom (is) all my delight. The construction of the first clause, and its connection with the preceding verse, are very obscure. Some make to synonymous with as to. “As to the saints who are in the land, and the nobles, in them is all my delight.” Or, “as to the saints who are in the land, they are the nobles in whom is all my delight.” Others understand to the saints and to Jehovah as correlative expressions. “To Jehovah I have said thus; to the saints thus.” Or, as the English Bible has it, “My goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints,” &c. The least violent construction seems to be that which takes the preposition in its usual sense, that of belonging to, as in the phrases, to David, to the chief Musician, and in 1 Kings 15:27. The meaning then is that the Psalmist’s recognition of Jehovah as The Lord, and as the only source of happiness, is not peculiar to himself, but common to the whole body of the saints or holy ones. This epithet denotes personal character, not as its primary meaning, but as the effect of a peculiar relation to God, as the objects of his choice, set apart from the rest of men for this very purpose; see Exod. 19:6, Deut. 7:6, Ps. 34:10 (9), Dan. 7:21, 8:24, 1 Pet. 2:9. The pre-eminence of these over others, as the fruit of the divine election, is expressed by the word nobles, which, like saints, denotes moral character only in an indirect and secondary manner. The construction in this part of the verse is strongly idiomatic; the literal translation is, the nobles of all my delight in them. Under the old dispensation, the nobles or elect of God had their local habitation in the land of promise. Hence they are here described as the “saints or consecrated ones who are in the land,” not in the earth, which would be too indefinite and not so well suited to the context. As thus explained, the whole verse may be paraphrased as follows: “This profession of my trust in God I make, not merely as an individual believer, but as one belonging to the great body of the saints or consecrated ones, the nobles of the human race, not such by any original or natural pre-eminence, but by the sovereign and distinguishing favor of Jehovah, whom they trust as I do, and are therefore the rightful objects of my warmest love.”

4. Many (or multiplied) shall be their sorrowsanother they have purchasedI will not pour their drink-offering of blood, and will not take their names upon my lips. With the happiness of those who like himself trust the Lord, he contrasts the wretchedness of those who have chosen any other object of supreme affection. The relative construction in the English version, “their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten,” &c., gives the sense correctly, but with more variation from the Hebrew idiom, which conveys the same idea by means of short independent propositions. In the word translated their sorrows, (עַצּֽבוֹתָם), there seems to be an allusion to a very similar form, which would mean their idols (עְצַבֵּיהֶם), as if to suggest that false gods are mere troubles and vexations. Another means another god, in opposition to the one true God, Jehovah, as in Isa. 42:8, 48:11. The contrast which is there expressed is here to be supplied from ver. 2 and 5, and from the general antithesis, running through the context, between God and gods, not idols merely, but any created object of supreme affection. The verb מָהַר in its derived form means to hasten, and is so translated here by the English and some other versions. But in the only other place where the primitive verb occurs (Exod. 22:15), it means to endow a wife, or secure her by the payment of a dowry, according to the ancient oriental custom. The same usage of the verb exists in several of the cognate dialects. It seems here to have the general sense of purchasing, by costly sacrifice or self-denial, but with particular allusion to the conjugal relation which is constantly described in Scripture as existing between worshippers and their gods; see Hos. 3:2, and 8:9, Ezek. 16:33, 34. In the last clause he abjures all communion with such idolaters. He will not join in their impious services, nor even name the names of their divinities. Drink-offerings of blood, libations no less loathsome than if composed of human blood, perhaps with an allusion to the frequent poetical description of wine as the blood of the grape; see Gen. 49:11, Deut. 32:14, Isa. 63:3. To take the name upon the lips is to stain or pollute them by pronouncing it. Both here and in Hos. 2:19, there is an obvious allusion to the solemn prohibition of the law (Exod. 23:13): “Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” The pronoun their, in this whole clause, refers not to the worshippers but to their divinities, as comprehended under the collective term another.

5. Jehovah (is) my allotted portion and my cup; thou wilt enlarge my lot. The other side of the contrast is again exhibited. The idea is, that in the Lord the Psalmist has all that he can wish or hope for. The figures are borrowed from the regular supply of food and drink. Compare Ps. 11:6, 23:5. There may also be allusions to the language of the Pentateuch in reference to the tribe of Levi, Deut. 10:9, 18:1, 2. The common version of the last clause, thou upholdest my lot, is neither so grammatical nor yields so good a sense as that above given, where enlarge implies both honor and abundance, and the future form expresses confident assurance that the favor now experienced will be continued.

6. The lines are fallen to me in pleasant things (or pleasant places); yea, my heritage is goodly. The lines here spoken of are those used in measuring and dividing land. Fallen, i.e. assigned, with or without allusion to the lot, as the means of distribution. Compare Num. 34:2, Judges 18:1. The idea of places is suggested by the context, or the plural adjective may have the abstract sense of pleasure, pleasures, like the cognate form in Job 36:11. The particle (אַף) which introduces the last clause is more emphatic than the simple copulative and. It properly means also, and implies that this clause contains something more than that before it. The original construction of the last clause is, a heritage is goodly to me or upon me, with allusion to the natural and common image of gifts or favors as descending from above. The heritage or portion thus described is God himself, but considered as including all desirable possessions.

7. I will bless Jehovah, who hath counselled me; also by night have my reins prompted me. He praises God for having counselled or persuaded him to choose this goodly heritage in preference to every other portion. The second clause begins with yea or also, as in the preceding verse. It here implies that, under the divine control just mentioned, his own habitual dispositions tended to the same point. By night, literally nights, an idiom not unknown in vulgar English. The plural may in this case be emphatic, meaning whole nights, all night long. The night is mentioned, both as a time naturally favorable to reflection, and as shewing that the same subject occupied his thoughts by night as well as by day; see above on Ps. 1:2. The reins are figuratively put like the heart, bowels, &c., for the affections; see above on Ps. 7:10 (9). My reins have taught me, warned me, prompted me, to utter the praise mentioned in the first clause, or to make the choice described in ver. 1, 2, 5.

8. I have set Jehovah before me always: because (he is) at my right hand, I shall not be moved. I have set him before me, i.e. I recognize his presence and confide in his protection. The actual expression of this confidence is given in the other clause. The right hand is here mentioned, not as a post of honor, but as that of a guard or defender. See below, on Ps. 109:31, 110:5, 121:5.—I shall not be moved from my secure position. See above, on Ps. 10:6, 15:5. The whole verse is a varied repetition and amplification of the last clause of ver. 1, I have trusted (or sheltered myself) in thee.—The Septuagint version of this sentence is quoted in Acts 2:25, with an express recognition of David as the author of the psalm.

9. Therefore has rejoiced my heart and exulted my glory; yea, my flesh shall dwell in security (or confidence).—Therefore, because God is my ever present helper. Glory seems here to mean his nobler part, his soul, but not as wholly separate from the body, as appears from what follows. See above, on Ps. 7:6 (5).—Flesh may either mean the body, as distinguished from the soul, or the whole person as including both. Compare Ps. 63:2 (1), 84:3 (2).—The idea of dwelling in security or confidence of safety is borrowed from the Pentateuch. See Deut. 33:12, 28, and compare Judges 18:7, Jer. 23:6, 33:16. A similar allusion has been found already in Ps. 4:9 (8). The Septuagint version of the sentence, although it substitutes tongue for glory, is substantially correct, and therefore retained in Acts 2:26.—The second clause is not simply parallel and equivalent to the first, but is rather an actual performance of the duty there described. Having there said that his heart did triumph in the certainty of God’s protection, he here proves the truth of his assertion, by professing his assured hope that his whole person, not excepting his material part, shall dwell in safety under that protection. This is applicable both to preservation from death and preservation in death, and may therefore without violence be understood, in a lower sense, of David, who did die and see corruption, but whose body is to rise again, as well as in a higher sense of Christ, whose body, though it died, was raised again before it saw corruption.

10. For thou wilt not leave my soul to Hell; thou wilt not give thy Holy One to see corruption. He now assigns the ground or reason of the confidence expressed in the preceding verse. “I am sure my soul and body will be safe, because thou canst not, without ceasing to be God and my God, give me up to the destroyer.” He does not say leave in but to, i.e. abandon to, give up to the dominion or possession of another. The same Hebrew phrase occurs, with the same sense, in Lev. 19:10, Job 39:14, and in Ps. 49:11 (10) below.—Hell is here to be taken in its wide old English sense, as corresponding to the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades, the invisible world or state of the dead. See above on Ps. 6:6 (5), and 9:18 (17).—Give, i.e. permit, or more emphatically, give up, abandon, which makes the parallelism of the clauses more exact. Thy Holy One, or more exactly, thy favorite, the object of thy special favor. See above, on Ps. 4:4 (3). The textual reading is a plural form (חסידיך), the singular (חסידך) being a marginal correction or keri. The Jews contend for the former, and most Christians for the latter, which is favored by the oldest versions and retained in the New Testament. The essential difference between the two is less than it may seem at first sight, since even the singular is really collective, and includes the whole class of God’s chosen and favored ones, of whom Christ is the head and representative.—To see, i.e. to experience or undergo corruption. Compare the phrase to see death, Luke 2:26.—It has been disputed whether שַׁחַת is derived from שׁוּחַ, and means a pit, or from שָׁחַת, and means corruption. Both allegations are probably true, the antecedent improbability of such a double sense and derivation being counterbalanced by the clear analogy of נחַת, which is of a different sense and gender, as derived from נָחַת and נוּחַ. The use of this equivocal expression may have been intentional, in order to make it applicable both to David and to Christ. (See above, on the preceding verse.) To both, the words contain a promise of deliverance from death, but in the case of Christ with a specific reference to his actual escape from the corruption which is otherwise inseparable from dissolution. Believers in general are saved from the perpetual dominion of death, but Christ was saved even from the first approach of putrefaction. In this peculiar and most pregnant sense the words are applied to Christ exclusively by two apostles, and in that sense declared to be inapplicable to David. (Acts 2:29–31, 13:35–37.) Their reasoning would utterly forbid the application to any lower subject, were it not for the ambiguity or twofold meaning of the Hebrew word, which cannot therefore be explained away without embarrassing the interpretation of this signal prophecy.

11. Thou wilt teach me the way of life, fullness of joy with thy face (or presence), pleasures in thy right hand for ever. He trusts God not only for deliverance from death, but for guidance in the way to life, or blessed immortality. (Compare Prov. 2:19.) The Hebrew verb is causative, and means thou wilt make me know, point out, or shew to me. Fullness, satiety, or rather satisfaction, in its strongest sense, including the ideas of contentment and abundance. The plural, joys, denotes not only richness but variety. The next phrase may simply mean before thy face or in thy presence. But it will also bear a stronger sense, and represent God’s presence or the right of him, not merely as the place, but the source of enjoyment. See above, on Ps. 4:7 (6), and compare Ps. 17:15, 80:4 (3). So in the last clause, the idea is not merely at thy right hand as a place of honor and of safety, but in thy right hand as the depository of eternal joys, or with thy right hand, as the instrument by which they are dispensed. See below, on Ps. 17:7.—This last clause is omitted in Peter’s citation of the passage, Acts 2:27, no doubt because it is a mere poetical reiteration of the one before it, which is itself only added to complete the period, and not because it was essential to the apostle’s purpose. That purpose was accomplished by applying the two preceding verses to our Savior, not exclusively indeed, but by way of eminence and in a peculiar sense, which we learn, however, from Acts 2:30, 31, was actually present to the mind of the inspired Psalmist. The same argumentative interpretation of the prophecy is given by Paul in Acts 13:35–37.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 65–69). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust. O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight. Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips. The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16, AV)

A sufferer in imminent danger of death, expresses his strong confidence in God, ver. 1, as the sole source and author of his happiness, ver. 2, and at the same time his attachment to God’s people, ver. 3, his abhorrence of all other gods, ver. 4, his acquiescence in God’s dealings with him, ver. 5, 6, and his assured hope of future safety and blessedness, ver. 7–11.

The psalm is appropriate to the whole class of pious sufferers, of which Christ is the most illustrious representative. It is only in him, therefore, that some parts of it can be said to have received their highest and complete fulfilment. This will be shewn more fully in the exposition of the ninth and tenth verses.

1. Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for I have trusted in thee. Some explain Michtam as a compound term; but it is most probably a simple derivative of a verb meaning to hide, and signifies a mystery or secret. The similar word Michtab in the title of Hezekiah’s psalm (Isa. 38:9) is probably an imitation of the form here used, or at least involves an allusion to it. It seems to be substituted for the usual terms song, psalm, &c., not only here but in the titles of Ps. 55–60. It probably indicates the depth of doctrinal and spiritual import in these sacred compositions. The derivation from a noun meaning gold is much less probable. This verse may be said to contain the sum and substance of the whole psalm, and is merely amplified in what follows. The prayer, Keep, save, or preserve me, implies actual suffering or imminent danger, while the last clause, I have trusted in thee, states the ground of his assured hope and confident petition. The verb used is one that seems especially appropriate to the act of seeking shelter under some overshadowing object. See Judges 9:15, Isa. 30:2, Ps. 57:2 (1), 61:5 (4). The preterite form implies that this is no new or sudden act, but one performed already. He not only trusts in God at present, but has trusted him before. Compare Ps. 7:2 (1), 11:1.

2. Thou hast said to Jehovah, The Lord (art) thou; my good (is) not besides thee (or beyond thee). The verb in the first clause has the form of a second person feminine, which some regard as an abbreviation of the first person, אָמַרְתִּ for אָמַרְתִּי and translate accordingly, I have said. But this neither agrees so well with usage, nor affords so good a sense as the old construction, which supplies as the object of address the same that is expressed in Ps. 42:6 (5), 12 (11), 43:5, Jer. 4:19, Lam. 3:24, 25. A similar ellipsis is assumed by some in 1 Sam. 24:11, and 2 Sam. 13:39. By this peculiar form of speech the Psalmist calls upon himself to remember his own solemn acknowledgment of Jehovah as the Lord or Supreme God.—The obscure clause which follows has been very variously explained. Some understand by good moral goodness, merit, and explain the whole to mean, “My goodness is not such as to entitle me to thy regard.” Most interpreters, however, give to good its usual sense of good fortune, happiness (see Ps. 106:5, Job 9:25), and make the whole clause mean, “My happiness is not obligatory or incumbent on thee, thou art not bound to provide for it;” or “My happiness is not above thee; I have no higher happiness than thee.” The true sense is probably afforded by a modification of this last: “My happiness is not beside thee, independent of, or separable from thee,” with allusion to the form of expression in the Hebrew of the first commandment (Exod. 20:3). The verse, then, contains a twofold acknowledgment of God, as the universal sovereign, and as the only source of individual enjoyment. Compare Ps. 73:25. That this recognition was not a mere momentary act, but a habitual affection of the mind, seems to be indicated by the Psalmist’s appeal to his own soul as having made the acknowledgment already, hitherto or heretofore.

3. To (or with) the saints who (are) in the land, and the nobles in whom (is) all my delight. The construction of the first clause, and its connection with the preceding verse, are very obscure. Some make to synonymous with as to. “As to the saints who are in the land, and the nobles, in them is all my delight.” Or, “as to the saints who are in the land, they are the nobles in whom is all my delight.” Others understand to the saints and to Jehovah as correlative expressions. “To Jehovah I have said thus; to the saints thus.” Or, as the English Bible has it, “My goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints,” &c. The least violent construction seems to be that which takes the preposition in its usual sense, that of belonging to, as in the phrases, to David, to the chief Musician, and in 1 Kings 15:27. The meaning then is that the Psalmist’s recognition of Jehovah as The Lord, and as the only source of happiness, is not peculiar to himself, but common to the whole body of the saints or holy ones. This epithet denotes personal character, not as its primary meaning, but as the effect of a peculiar relation to God, as the objects of his choice, set apart from the rest of men for this very purpose; see Exod. 19:6, Deut. 7:6, Ps. 34:10 (9), Dan. 7:21, 8:24, 1 Pet. 2:9. The pre-eminence of these over others, as the fruit of the divine election, is expressed by the word nobles, which, like saints, denotes moral character only in an indirect and secondary manner. The construction in this part of the verse is strongly idiomatic; the literal translation is, the nobles of all my delight in them. Under the old dispensation, the nobles or elect of God had their local habitation in the land of promise. Hence they are here described as the “saints or consecrated ones who are in the land,” not in the earth, which would be too indefinite and not so well suited to the context. As thus explained, the whole verse may be paraphrased as follows: “This profession of my trust in God I make, not merely as an individual believer, but as one belonging to the great body of the saints or consecrated ones, the nobles of the human race, not such by any original or natural pre-eminence, but by the sovereign and distinguishing favor of Jehovah, whom they trust as I do, and are therefore the rightful objects of my warmest love.”

4. Many (or multiplied) shall be their sorrowsanother they have purchasedI will not pour their drink-offering of blood, and will not take their names upon my lips. With the happiness of those who like himself trust the Lord, he contrasts the wretchedness of those who have chosen any other object of supreme affection. The relative construction in the English version, “their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten,” &c., gives the sense correctly, but with more variation from the Hebrew idiom, which conveys the same idea by means of short independent propositions. In the word translated their sorrows, (עַצּֽבוֹתָם), there seems to be an allusion to a very similar form, which would mean their idols (עְצַבֵּיהֶם), as if to suggest that false gods are mere troubles and vexations. Another means another god, in opposition to the one true God, Jehovah, as in Isa. 42:8, 48:11. The contrast which is there expressed is here to be supplied from ver. 2 and 5, and from the general antithesis, running through the context, between God and gods, not idols merely, but any created object of supreme affection. The verb מָהַר in its derived form means to hasten, and is so translated here by the English and some other versions. But in the only other place where the primitive verb occurs (Exod. 22:15), it means to endow a wife, or secure her by the payment of a dowry, according to the ancient oriental custom. The same usage of the verb exists in several of the cognate dialects. It seems here to have the general sense of purchasing, by costly sacrifice or self-denial, but with particular allusion to the conjugal relation which is constantly described in Scripture as existing between worshippers and their gods; see Hos. 3:2, and 8:9, Ezek. 16:33, 34. In the last clause he abjures all communion with such idolaters. He will not join in their impious services, nor even name the names of their divinities. Drink-offerings of blood, libations no less loathsome than if composed of human blood, perhaps with an allusion to the frequent poetical description of wine as the blood of the grape; see Gen. 49:11, Deut. 32:14, Isa. 63:3. To take the name upon the lips is to stain or pollute them by pronouncing it. Both here and in Hos. 2:19, there is an obvious allusion to the solemn prohibition of the law (Exod. 23:13): “Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” The pronoun their, in this whole clause, refers not to the worshippers but to their divinities, as comprehended under the collective term another.

5. Jehovah (is) my allotted portion and my cup; thou wilt enlarge my lot. The other side of the contrast is again exhibited. The idea is, that in the Lord the Psalmist has all that he can wish or hope for. The figures are borrowed from the regular supply of food and drink. Compare Ps. 11:6, 23:5. There may also be allusions to the language of the Pentateuch in reference to the tribe of Levi, Deut. 10:9, 18:1, 2. The common version of the last clause, thou upholdest my lot, is neither so grammatical nor yields so good a sense as that above given, where enlarge implies both honor and abundance, and the future form expresses confident assurance that the favor now experienced will be continued.

6. The lines are fallen to me in pleasant things (or pleasant places); yea, my heritage is goodly. The lines here spoken of are those used in measuring and dividing land. Fallen, i.e. assigned, with or without allusion to the lot, as the means of distribution. Compare Num. 34:2, Judges 18:1. The idea of places is suggested by the context, or the plural adjective may have the abstract sense of pleasure, pleasures, like the cognate form in Job 36:11. The particle (אַף) which introduces the last clause is more emphatic than the simple copulative and. It properly means also, and implies that this clause contains something more than that before it. The original construction of the last clause is, a heritage is goodly to me or upon me, with allusion to the natural and common image of gifts or favors as descending from above. The heritage or portion thus described is God himself, but considered as including all desirable possessions.

7. I will bless Jehovah, who hath counselled me; also by night have my reins prompted me. He praises God for having counselled or persuaded him to choose this goodly heritage in preference to every other portion. The second clause begins with yea or also, as in the preceding verse. It here implies that, under the divine control just mentioned, his own habitual dispositions tended to the same point. By night, literally nights, an idiom not unknown in vulgar English. The plural may in this case be emphatic, meaning whole nights, all night long. The night is mentioned, both as a time naturally favorable to reflection, and as shewing that the same subject occupied his thoughts by night as well as by day; see above on Ps. 1:2. The reins are figuratively put like the heart, bowels, &c., for the affections; see above on Ps. 7:10 (9). My reins have taught me, warned me, prompted me, to utter the praise mentioned in the first clause, or to make the choice described in ver. 1, 2, 5.

8. I have set Jehovah before me always: because (he is) at my right hand, I shall not be moved. I have set him before me, i.e. I recognize his presence and confide in his protection. The actual expression of this confidence is given in the other clause. The right hand is here mentioned, not as a post of honor, but as that of a guard or defender. See below, on Ps. 109:31, 110:5, 121:5.—I shall not be moved from my secure position. See above, on Ps. 10:6, 15:5. The whole verse is a varied repetition and amplification of the last clause of ver. 1, I have trusted (or sheltered myself) in thee.—The Septuagint version of this sentence is quoted in Acts 2:25, with an express recognition of David as the author of the psalm.

9. Therefore has rejoiced my heart and exulted my glory; yea, my flesh shall dwell in security (or confidence).—Therefore, because God is my ever present helper. Glory seems here to mean his nobler part, his soul, but not as wholly separate from the body, as appears from what follows. See above, on Ps. 7:6 (5).—Flesh may either mean the body, as distinguished from the soul, or the whole person as including both. Compare Ps. 63:2 (1), 84:3 (2).—The idea of dwelling in security or confidence of safety is borrowed from the Pentateuch. See Deut. 33:12, 28, and compare Judges 18:7, Jer. 23:6, 33:16. A similar allusion has been found already in Ps. 4:9 (8). The Septuagint version of the sentence, although it substitutes tongue for glory, is substantially correct, and therefore retained in Acts 2:26.—The second clause is not simply parallel and equivalent to the first, but is rather an actual performance of the duty there described. Having there said that his heart did triumph in the certainty of God’s protection, he here proves the truth of his assertion, by professing his assured hope that his whole person, not excepting his material part, shall dwell in safety under that protection. This is applicable both to preservation from death and preservation in death, and may therefore without violence be understood, in a lower sense, of David, who did die and see corruption, but whose body is to rise again, as well as in a higher sense of Christ, whose body, though it died, was raised again before it saw corruption.

10. For thou wilt not leave my soul to Hell; thou wilt not give thy Holy One to see corruption. He now assigns the ground or reason of the confidence expressed in the preceding verse. “I am sure my soul and body will be safe, because thou canst not, without ceasing to be God and my God, give me up to the destroyer.” He does not say leave in but to, i.e. abandon to, give up to the dominion or possession of another. The same Hebrew phrase occurs, with the same sense, in Lev. 19:10, Job 39:14, and in Ps. 49:11 (10) below.—Hell is here to be taken in its wide old English sense, as corresponding to the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades, the invisible world or state of the dead. See above on Ps. 6:6 (5), and 9:18 (17).—Give, i.e. permit, or more emphatically, give up, abandon, which makes the parallelism of the clauses more exact. Thy Holy One, or more exactly, thy favorite, the object of thy special favor. See above, on Ps. 4:4 (3). The textual reading is a plural form (חסידיך), the singular (חסידך) being a marginal correction or keri. The Jews contend for the former, and most Christians for the latter, which is favored by the oldest versions and retained in the New Testament. The essential difference between the two is less than it may seem at first sight, since even the singular is really collective, and includes the whole class of God’s chosen and favored ones, of whom Christ is the head and representative.—To see, i.e. to experience or undergo corruption. Compare the phrase to see death, Luke 2:26.—It has been disputed whether שַׁחַת is derived from שׁוּחַ, and means a pit, or from שָׁחַת, and means corruption. Both allegations are probably true, the antecedent improbability of such a double sense and derivation being counterbalanced by the clear analogy of נחַת, which is of a different sense and gender, as derived from נָחַת and נוּחַ. The use of this equivocal expression may have been intentional, in order to make it applicable both to David and to Christ. (See above, on the preceding verse.) To both, the words contain a promise of deliverance from death, but in the case of Christ with a specific reference to his actual escape from the corruption which is otherwise inseparable from dissolution. Believers in general are saved from the perpetual dominion of death, but Christ was saved even from the first approach of putrefaction. In this peculiar and most pregnant sense the words are applied to Christ exclusively by two apostles, and in that sense declared to be inapplicable to David. (Acts 2:29–31, 13:35–37.) Their reasoning would utterly forbid the application to any lower subject, were it not for the ambiguity or twofold meaning of the Hebrew word, which cannot therefore be explained away without embarrassing the interpretation of this signal prophecy.

11. Thou wilt teach me the way of life, fullness of joy with thy face (or presence), pleasures in thy right hand for ever. He trusts God not only for deliverance from death, but for guidance in the way to life, or blessed immortality. (Compare Prov. 2:19.) The Hebrew verb is causative, and means thou wilt make me know, point out, or shew to me. Fullness, satiety, or rather satisfaction, in its strongest sense, including the ideas of contentment and abundance. The plural, joys, denotes not only richness but variety. The next phrase may simply mean before thy face or in thy presence. But it will also bear a stronger sense, and represent God’s presence or the right of him, not merely as the place, but the source of enjoyment. See above, on Ps. 4:7 (6), and compare Ps. 17:15, 80:4 (3). So in the last clause, the idea is not merely at thy right hand as a place of honor and of safety, but in thy right hand as the depository of eternal joys, or with thy right hand, as the instrument by which they are dispensed. See below, on Ps. 17:7.—This last clause is omitted in Peter’s citation of the passage, Acts 2:27, no doubt because it is a mere poetical reiteration of the one before it, which is itself only added to complete the period, and not because it was essential to the apostle’s purpose. That purpose was accomplished by applying the two preceding verses to our Savior, not exclusively indeed, but by way of eminence and in a peculiar sense, which we learn, however, from Acts 2:30, 31, was actually present to the mind of the inspired Psalmist. The same argumentative interpretation of the prophecy is given by Paul in Acts 13:35–37.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 65–69). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)


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