Psalm 17 - 20
In the Shadow of Your Wings
A Prayer Of David. See Psalm 17 article below
Psalm 17:1 Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!
Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
2 From your presence let my vindication come!
Let your eyes behold the right!
3 You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night,
you have tested me, and you will find nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
4 With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips
I have avoided the ways of the violent.
5 My steps have held fast to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.
6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my words.
7 Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O Savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.
8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,
9 from the wicked who do me violence,
my deadly enemies who surround me.
10 They close their hearts to pity;
with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
He who adores himself, will have no heart to adore the Lord. Full of selfish pleasure within his heart, the wicked man fills his mouth with boastful and arrogant expressions. Prosperity and vanity often lodge together. The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)
11 They have now surrounded our steps;
they set their eyes to cast us to the ground.
12 He is like a lion eager to tear,
as a young lion lurking in ambush.
13 Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!
Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,
14 from men by your hand, O Lord,
from men of the world whose portion is in this life.
You fill their womb with treasure;
they are satisfied with children,
and they leave their abundance to their infants.
15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
The LORD Is My Rock and My Fortress
TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID, THE SERVANT OF THE LORD, WHO ADDRESSED THE WORDS OF THIS SONG TO THE LORD ON THE DAY WHEN THE LORD DELIVERED HIM FROM THE HAND OF ALL HIS ENEMIES, AND FROM THE HAND OF SAUL. HE SAID:
Psalm 18:1 I love you, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
6 In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O LORD,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
16 He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the LORD was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
20 The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his rules were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
23 I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
24 So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
28 For it is you who light my lamp;
the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
41 They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.
42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
43 You delivered me from strife with the people;
you made me the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
44 As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
foreigners came cringing to me.
45 Foreigners lost heart
and came trembling out of their fortresses.
46 The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation—
47 the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
48 who rescued me from my enemies;
yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you delivered me from the man of violence.
49 For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations,
and sing to your name.
50 Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.
The Law of the LORD Is Perfect
TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID.
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the LORD is clean,
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Trust in the Name of the LORD Our God
TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID.
Psalm 20:1 May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!
3 May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah
4 May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
5 May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!
6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
8 They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.
9 O LORD, save the king!
May he answer us when we call.
What I'm Reading
Psalm 17 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE and SUBJECT. A prayer of David. David would not have been a man after God's own heart, if he had not been a man of prayer. He was a master in the sacred art of supplication. He flies to prayer in all times of need, as a pilot speeds to the harbour in the stress of tempest. So frequent were David's prayers that they could not be all dated and entitled; and hence this simply bears the author's name, and nothing more. The smell of the furnace is upon the present Psalm, but there is evidence in the last verse that he who wrote it came unharmed out of the flame. We have in the present plaintive song, AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN from the persecutions of earth. A spiritual eye may see Jesus here.
DIVISIONS. There are no very clear lines of demarcation between the parts; but we prefer the division adopted by that precious old commentator, David Dickson. In verses 1-4, David craves justice in the controversy between him and his oppressors. In verses 5 and 6, he requests of the Lord grace to act rightly while under the trial. From verse 7-12, he seeks protection from his foes, whom he graphically describes; and in verses 13 and 14, pleads that they may be disappointed; closing the whole in the most comfortable confidence that all would certainly be well with himself at the last.
Verse 1. "Hear the right, O Lord." He that has the worst cause makes the most noise; hence the oppressed soul is apprehensive that its voice may be drowned, and therefore pleads in this one verse for a hearing no less than three times. The troubled heart craves for the ear of the great Judge, persuaded that with him to hear is to redress. If our God could not or would not hear us, our state would be deplorable indeed; and yet some professors set such small store by the mercy-seat, that God does not hear them for the simple reason that they neglect to plead. As well have no house if we persist like gipsies in living in the lanes and commons; as well have no mercy-seat as be always defending our own cause and never going to God. There is more fear that we will not hear the Lord than that the Lord will not hear us. "Hear the right;" it is well if our case is good in itself and can be urged as a right one, for right shall never be wronged by our righteous Judge; but if our suit be marred by our infirmities, it is a great privilege that we may make mention of the righteousness of our Lord Jesus, which is ever prevalent on high. Right has a voice which Jehovah always hears; and if my wrongs clamour against me with great force and fury, I will pray the Lord to hear that still louder and mightier voice of the right, and the rights of his dear Son. "Hear, O God, the Just One;" i.e., "hear the Messiah," is a rendering adopted by Jerome, and admired by Bishop Horsley, whether correct or not as a translation, it is proper enough as a plea. Let the reader plead it at the throne of the righteous God, even when all other arguments are unavailing. "Bold shall I stand in that great day;
"Attend unto my cry." This shows the vehemence and earnestness of the petitioner; he is no mere talker, he weeps and laments. Who can resist a cry? A real hearty, bitter, piteous cry, might almost melt a rock, there can be no fear of its prevalence with our heavenly Father. A cry is our earliest utterance, and in many ways the most natural of human sounds; if our prayer should like the infant's cry be more natural than intelligent, and more earnest than elegant, it will be none the less eloquent with God. There is a mighty power in a child's cry to prevail with a parent's heart. "Give ear unto my prayer." Some repetitions are not vain. The reduplication here used is neither superstition nor tautology, but is like the repeated blow of a hammer hitting the same nail on the head to fix it the more effectually, or the continued knocking of a beggar at the gate who cannot be denied an alms. "That goeth not out of feigned lips." Sincerity is a sine quà non in prayer. Lips of deceit are detestable to man and much more to God. In intercourse so hallowed as that of prayer, hypocrisy even in the remotest degree is as fatal as it is foolish. Hypocritical piety is double iniquity. He who would feign and flatter had better try his craft with a fool like himself, for to deceive the all-seeing One is as impossible as to take the moon in a net, or to lead the sun into a snare. He who would deceive God is himself already most grossly deceived. Our sincerity in prayer has no merit in it, any more than the earnestness of a mendicant in the street; but at the same time the Lord has regard to it, through Jesus, and will not long refuse his ear to an honest and fervent petitioner.
Verse 2. "Let my sentence come forth from thy presence." The psalmist has now grown bold by the strengthening influence of prayer, and he now entreats the Judge of all the earth to give sentence upon his case. He has been libelled, basely and maliciously libelled; and having brought his action before the highest court, he, like an innocent man, has no desire to escape the enquiry, but even invites and sues for judgment. He does not ask for secrecy, but would have the result come forth to the world. He would have sentence pronounced and executed forthwith. In some matters we may venture to be as bold as this; but except we can plead something better than our own supposed innocence, it were terrible presumption thus to challenge the judgment of a sin-hating God. With Jesus as our complete and all-glorious righteousness we need not fear, though the day of judgment should commence at once, and hell open her mouth at our feet, but might joyfully prove the truth of our hymn writer's holy boast—
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
While, through thy blood, absolved I am,
From sin's tremendous curse and shame."
Verse 3, "Thou hast proved mine heart." Like Peter, David uses the argument, "Thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee." It is a most assuring thing to be able to appeal at once to the Lord, and call upon our Judge to be a witness for our defence. "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God." "Thou hast visited me in the night." As if he had said, "Lord, thou hast entered my house at all hours; and thou hast seen me when no one else was nigh; thou hast come upon me unawares and marked my unrestrained actions, and thou knowest whether or no I am guilty of the crimes laid at my door." Happy man who can thus remember the omniscient eye, and the omnipresent visitor, and find comfort in the remembrance. We hope we have had our midnight visits from our Lord, and truly they are sweet; so sweet that the recollection of them sets us longing for more of such condescending communings. Lord, if indeed, we had been hypocrites, should we have had such fellowship, or feel such hungerings after a renewal of it? "Thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing." Surely the Psalmist means nothing hypocritical or wicked in the sense in which his slanderers accused him; for if the Lord should put the best of his people into the crucible, the dross would be a fearful sight, and would make penitence open her sluices wide. Assayers very soon detect the presence of alloy, and when the chief of all assayers shall, at the last, say of us he has found nothing, it will be a glorious hour indeed—"They are without fault before the throne of God." Even here, as viewed in our covenant Head, the Lord sees no sin in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel; even the all-detecting glance of Omniscience can see no flaw where the great Substitute covers all with beauty and perfection. "I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress." Oh those sad lips of ours! we had need purpose to purpose if we would keep them from exceeding their bounds. The number of diseases of the tongue is as many as the diseases of all the rest of the man put together, and they are more inveterate. Hands and feet one may bind, but who can fetter the lips? iron bands may hold a madman, but what chains can restrain the tongue? It needs more than a purpose to keep this nimble offender within its proper range. Lion-taming and serpent-charming are not to be mentioned in the same day as tongue-taming, for the tongue can no man tame. Those who have to smart from the falsehoods of others should be the more jealous over themselves; perhaps this led the Psalmist to register this holy resolution; and, moreover, he intended thereby to aver that if he had said too much in his own defence, it was not intentional, for he desired in all-respects to tune his lips to the sweet and simple music of truth. Notwithstanding all this David was slandered, as if to show us that the purest innocence will be bemired by malice. There is no sunshine without a shadow, no ripe fruit unpecked by the birds.
Verse 4. "Concerning the works of men." While we are in the midst of men we shall have their works thrust under our notice, and we shall be compelled to keep a corner of our diary headed "concerning the works of men." To be quite clear from the dead works of carnal humanity is the devout desire of souls who are quickened by the Holy Spirit. "By the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer." He had kept the highway of Scripture, and not chosen the bye-paths of malice. We should soon imitate the example of the worst of men if the grace of God did not use the Word of God as the great preservative from evil. The paths of the destroyer have often tempted us; we have been prompted to become destroyers too, when we have been sorely provoked, and resentment has grown warm; but we have remembered the example of our Lord, who would not call fire from heaven upon his enemies, but meekly prayed, "Father, forgive them." All the ways of sin are the paths of Satan,—the Apollyon or Abaddon, both of which words signify the destroyer. Foolish indeed are those who give their hearts to the old murderer, because for the time he panders to their evil desires. That heavenly Book which lies neglected on many a shelf is the only guide for those who would avoid the enticing and entangling mazes of sin; and it is the best means of preserving the youthful pilgrim from ever treading those dangerous ways. We must follow the one or the other; the Book of Life, or the way of death; the word of the Holy Spirit, or the suggestion of the Evil Spirit. David could urge as the proof of his sincerity that he had no part or lot with the ungodly in their ruinous ways. How can we venture to plead our cause with God, unless we also can wash our hands clean of all connection with the enemies of the Great King?
Verse 5. Under trial it is not easy to behave ourselves aright; a candle is not easily kept alight when many envious mouths are puffing at it. In evil times prayer is peculiarly needful, and wise men resort to it at once. Plato said to one of his disciples, "When men speak ill of thee, live so that no one will believe them;" good enough advice, but he did not tell us how to carry it out. We have a precept here incorporated in an example; if we would be preserved, we must cry to the Preserver, and enlist divine support upon our side. "Hold up my goings"—as a careful driver holds up his horse when going down hill. We have all sorts of paces, both fast and slow, and the road is never long of one sort, but with God to hold up our goings, nothing in the pace or in the road can cast down. He who has been down once and cut his knees sadly, even to the bone, had need redouble his zeal when using this prayer; and all of us, since we are so weak on our legs through Adam's fall, had need use it every hour of the day. If a perfect father fell, how shall an imperfect son dare to boast? "In thy paths." Forsaking Satan's paths, he prayed to be upheld in God's paths. We cannot keep from evil without keeping to good. If the bushel be not full of wheat, it may soon be once more full of chaff. In all the appointed ordinances and duties of our most holy faith, may the Lord enable us to run through his upholding grace! "That my footsteps slip not." What! slip in God's ways? Yes, the road is good, but our feet are evil, and therefore slip, even on the King's highway. Who wonders if carnal men slide and fall in ways of their own choosing, which like the vale of Siddim, are full of deadly slime-pits? One may trip over an ordinance as well as over a temptation. Jesus Christ himself is a stumbling-block to some, and the doctrines of grace have been the occasion of offence to many. Grace alone can hold up our goings in the paths of truth.
Verse 6. "I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God." Thou hast always heard me, O my Lord, and therefore I have the utmost confidence in again approaching thine altar. Experience is a blessed teacher. He who has tried the faithfulness of God in hours of need, has great boldness in laying his case before the throne. The well of Bethlehem, from which we drew such cooling draughts in years gone by, our souls long for still; nor will we leave it for the broken cisterns of earth. "Incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech." Stoop out of heaven and put thine ear to my mouth; give me thine ear all to myself, as men do when they lean over to catch every word from their friend. The Psalmist here comes back to his first prayer, and thus sets us an example of pressing our suit again and again, until we have a full assurance that we have succeeded.
Verse 7. "Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness." Marvellous in its antiquity, its distinguishing character, its faithfulness, its immutability, and above all, marvellous in the wonders which it works. That marvellous grace which has redeemed us with the precious blood of God's only begotten, is here invoked to come to the rescue. That grace is sometimes hidden; the text says, "Shew it." Present enjoyments of divine love are matchless cordials to support fainting hearts. Believer, what a prayer is this! Consider it well. O Lord, shew thy marvellous lovingkindness; shew it to my intellect, and remove my ignorance; shew it to my heart, and revive my gratitude; shew it to my faith, and renew my confidence; shew it to my experience, and deliver me from all my fears. The original word here used is the same which in Psalm 4:3 is rendered set apart, and it has the force of, Distinguish thy mercies, set them out, and set apart the choicest to be bestowed upon me in this hour of my severest affliction. "O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them." The title here given to our gracious God is eminently consolatory. He is the God of salvation; it is his present and perpetual habit to save believers; he puts forth his best and most glorious strength, using his right hand of wisdom and might, to save all those, of whatsoever rank or class, who trust themselves with him. Happy faith thus to secure the omnipotent protection of heaven! Blessed God, to be thus gracious to unworthy mortals, when they have but grace to rely upon thee! The right hand of God is interposed between the saints and all harm; God is never at a loss for means; his own bare hand is enough. He works without tools as well as with them.
Verse 8. "Keep me as the apple of the eye." No part of the body more precious, more tender, and more carefully guarded than the eye; and of the eye, no portion more peculiarly to be protected than the central apple, the pupil, or as the Hebrew calls it, "the daughter of the eye." The all-wise Creator has placed the eye in a well-protected position; it stands surrounded by projecting bones like Jerusalem encircled by mountains. Moreover, its great Author has surrounded it with many tunics of inward covering, besides the hedge of the eyebrows, the curtain of the eyelids, and the fence of the eyelashes; and, in addition to this, he has given to every man so high a value for his eyes, and so quick an apprehension of danger, that no member of the body is more faithfully cared for than the organ of sight. Thus, Lord, keep thou me, for I trust I am one with Jesus, and so a member of his mystical body. "Hide me under the shadow of thy wings." Even as the parent bird completely shields her brood from evil, and meanwhile cherishes them with the warmth of her own heart, by covering them with her wings, so do thou with me, most condescending God, for I am thine offspring, and thou hast a parent's love in perfection. This last clause is in the Hebrew in the future tense, as if to show that what the writer had asked for but a moment before he was now sure would be granted to him. Confident expectations should keep pace with earnest supplication.
Verse 9. "From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about." The foes from whom David sought to be rescued were wicked men. It is hopeful for us when our enemies are God's enemies. They were deadly enemies, whom nothing but his death would satisfy. The foes of a believer's soul are mortal foes most emphatically, for they who war against our faith aim at the very life of our life. Deadly sins are deadly enemies, and what sin is there which hath not death in its bowels? These foes oppressed David, they laid his spirit waste, as invading armies ravage a country, or as wild beasts desolate a land. He likens himself to a besieged city, and complains that his foes compass him about. It may well quicken our business upward, when all around us, every road, is blockaded by deadly foes. This is our daily position, for all around us dangers and sins are lurking. O God, do thou protect us from them all.
Verse 10. "They are inclosed in their own fat." Luxury and gluttony beget vainglorious fatness of heart, which shuts up its gates against all compassionate emotions and reasonable judgments. The old proverb says that full bellies make empty skulls, and it is yet more true that they frequently make empty hearts. The rankest weeds grow out of the fattest soil. Riches and self-indulgence are the fuel upon which some sins feed their flames. Pride and fulness of bread were Sodom's twin sins. (Ezekiel 16:49.) Fed hawks forget their masters; and the moon at its fullest is furthest from the sun. Eglon was a notable instance that a well-fed corporation is no security to life, when a sharp message comes from God, addressed to the inward vitals of the body. "With their mouth they speak proudly." He who adores himself, will have no heart to adore the Lord. Full of selfish pleasure within his heart, the wicked man fills his mouth with boastful and arrogant expressions. Prosperity and vanity often lodge together. Woe to the fed ox when it bellows at its owner, the poleax is not far off.
Verse 11. "They have now compassed us in our steps." The fury of the ungodly is aimed not at one believer alone, but at all the band; they have compassed us. All the race of the Jews were but a morsel for Haman's hungry revenge, and all because of one Mordecai. The prince of darkness hates all the saints for their Master's sake. The Lord Jesus is one of the us, and herein is our hope. He is the Breaker, and will clear a way for us through the hosts which environ us. The hatred of the powers of evil is continuous and energetic, for they watch every step, hoping that the time may come when they shall catch us by surprise. If our spiritual adversaries thus compass every step, how anxiously should we guard all our movements, lest by any means we should be betrayed into evil! "They have set their eyes bowing down to the earth." Trapp witily explains this metaphor by an allusion to a bull when about to run at his victim; he lowers his head, looks downward, and then concentrates all his force in the dash which he makes. It most probably denotes the malicious jealousy with which the enemy watches the steps of the righteous; as if they studied the ground on which they trod, and searched after some wrong foot-mark to accuse them for the past, or some stumbling-stone to cast in their future path to trip them in days to come.
Verse 12. Lions are not more greedy, nor their ways more cunning than are Satan and his helpers when engaged against the children of God. The blood of souls the adversary thirsts after, and all his strength and craft are exerted to the utmost to satisfy his detestable appetite. We are weak and foolish like sheep; but we have a shepherd wise and strong, who knows the old lion's wiles, and is more than a match for his force; therefore will we not fear, but rest in safety in the fold. Let us beware, however, of our lurking foe; and in those parts of the road where we feel most secure, let us look about us lest, peradventure, our foe should leap upon us.
Verse 13. "Arise, O Lord." The more furious the attack, the more fervent the Psalmist's prayer. His eye rests singly upon the Almighty, and he feels that God has but to rise from the seat of his patience, and the work will be performed at once. Let the lion spring upon us, if Jehovah steps between we need no better defence. When God meets our foe face to face in battle, the conflict will soon be over. "Disappoint him." Be beforehand with him, outwit and outrun him. Appoint it otherwise than he has appointed, and so disappoint him. "Cast him down." Prostrate him. Make him sink upon his knees. Make him bow as the conquered bows before the conqueror. What a glorious sight will it be to behold Satan prostrate beneath the foot of our glorious Lord! Haste, glorious day! "Deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword." He recognizes the most profane and oppressive as being under the providential rule of the King of kings, and used as a sword in the divine hand. What can a sword do unless it be wielded by a hand? No more could the wicked annoy us, unless the Lord permitted them so to do. Most translators are, however, agreed that this is not the correct reading, but that it should be as Calvin puts it, "Deliver my soul from the ungodly man by thy sword." Thus David contrasts the sword of the Lord with human aids and reliefs, and rests assured that he is safe enough under the patronage of heaven.
Verse 14. Almost every word of this verse has furnished matter for discussion to scholars, for it is very obscure. We will, therefore, rest content with the common version, rather than distract the reader with divers translations. "From men which are thy hand." Having styled the ungodly a sword in his Father's hand, he now likens them to that hand itself, to set forth his conviction that God could as easily remove their violence as a man moves his own hand. He will never slay his child with his own hand. "From men of the world," mere earthworms; not men of the world to come, but mere dwellers in this narrow sphere of mortality; having no hopes or wishes beyond the ground on which they tread. "Which have their portion in this life." Like the prodigal, they have their portion, and are not content to wait their Father's time. Like Passion in the "Pilgrim's Progress," they have their best things first, and revel during their little hour. Luther was always afraid lest he should have his portion here, and therefore frequently gave away sums of money which had been presented to him. We cannot have earth and heaven too for our choice and portion; wise men choose that which will last the longest. "Whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure." Their sensual appetite gets the gain which it craved for. God gives to these swine the husks which they hunger for. A generous man does not deny dogs their bones; and our generous God gives even his enemies enough to fill them, if they were not so unreasonable as never to be content. Gold and silver which are locked up in the dark treasuries of the earth are given to the wicked liberally, and they therefore roll in all manner of carnal delights. Every dog has his day, and they have theirs, and a bright summer's day it seems; but ah! how soon it ends in night! "They are full of children." This was their fondest hope, that a race from their loins would prolong their names far down the page of history, and God has granted them this also; so that they have all that heart can wish. What enviable creatures they seem, but it is only seeming! "They are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes." They were fat housekeepers, and yet leave no lean wills. Living and dying they lacked for nothing but grace and alas! that lack spoils everything. They had a fair portion within the little circle of time, but eternity entered not into their calculations. They were penny wise, but pound foolish; they remembered the present, and forgot the future; they fought for the shell, and lost the kernel. How fine a description have we here of many a successful merchant, or popular statesman; and it is, at first sight, very showy and tempting, but in contrast with the glories of the world to come, what are these paltry molehill joys. Self, self, self, all these joys begin and end in basest selfishness; but oh, our God, how rich are those who begin and end in thee! From all the contamination and injury which association with worldly men is sure to bring us, deliver thou us, O God!
Verse 15. "As for me." "I neither envy nor covet these men's happiness, but partly have and partly hope for a far better." To behold God's face and to be changed by that vision into his image, so as to partake in his righteousness, this is my noble ambition; and in the prospect of this I cheerfully waive all my present enjoyments. My satisfaction is to come; I do not look for it as yet. I shall sleep awhile, but I shall wake at the sound of the trumpet; wake to everlasting joy, because I arise in thy likeness, O my God and King! Glimpses of glory good men have here below to stay their sacred hunger, but the full feast awaits them in the upper skies. Compared with this deep, ineffable, eternal fulness of delight, the joys of the worldlings are as a glowworm to the sun, or the drop of a bucket to the ocean.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement.
"Bold shall I stand in that great day;
Psalm 18 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. 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." We have another form of this Psalm, with significant variations (2 Samuel 22), and this suggests the idea that it was sung by David at different times when he reviewed his own remarkable history, and observed the gracious hand of God in it all. Like Addison's hymn beginning, "When all thy mercies, O my God," this Psalm is the song of a grateful heart overwhelmed with a retrospect of the manifold and marvellous mercies of God. We will call it THE GRATEFUL RETROSPECT. The title deserves attention. David, although at this time a king, calls himself, "the servant of Jehovah," but makes no mention of his royalty; hence we gather that he counted it a higher honour to be the Lord's servant than to be Judah's king. Right wisely did he judge. Being possessed of poetic genius, he served the Lord by composing this Psalm for the use of the Lord's house; and it is no mean work to conduct or to improve that delightful part of divine worship, the singing of the Lord's praises. Would that more musical and poetical ability were consecrated, and that our chief musicians were fit to be trusted with devout and spiritual psalmody. It should be observed that the words of this song were not composed with the view of gratifying the taste of men, but were spoken unto Jehovah. It were well if we had a more single eye to the honour of the Lord in our singing, and in all other hallowed exercises. That praise is little worth which is not directed solely and heartily to the Lord. David might well be thus direct in his gratitude, for he owed all to his God, and in the day of his deliverance he had none to thank but the Lord, whose right hand had preserved him. We too should feel that to God and God alone we owe the greatest debt of honour and thanksgiving.
If it be remembered that the second and the forty-ninth verses are both quoted in the New Testament (Hebrews 2:13; Romans 15:9) as the words of the Lord Jesus, it will be clear that a greater than David is here. Reader, you will not need our aid in this respect; if you know Jesus you will readily find him in his sorrows, deliverance, and triumphs all through this wonderful Psalm.
DIVISION. The first three verses are the proem or preface in which the resolve to bless God is declared. Delivering mercy is most poetically extolled from verse 4 to verse 19; and then the happy songster from verse 20 to 28, protests that God had acted righteously in thus favouring him. Filled with grateful joy he again pictures his deliverance, and anticipates future victories from verse 29-45; and in closing speaks with evident prophetic foresight of the glorious triumphs of the Messiah, David's seed and the Lord's anointed.
Verse 1. "I will love thee, O Lord." With strong, hearty affection will I cling to thee; as a child to its parent, or a spouse to her husband. The word is intensely forcible, the love is of the deepest kind. "I will love heartily, with my inmost bowels." Here is a fixed resolution to abide in the nearest and most intimate union with the Most High. Our triune God deserves the warmest love of all our hearts. Father, Son and Spirit have each a claim upon our love. The solemn purpose never to cease loving naturally springs from present fervour of affection. It is wrong to make rash resolutions, but this when made in the strength of God is most wise and fitting. "My strength." Our God is the strength of our life, our graces, our works, our hopes, our conflicts, our victories. This verse is not found in 2 Samuel 22, and is a most precious addition, placed above all and after all to form the pinnacle of the temple, the apex of the pyramid. Love is still the crowning grace.
Verse 2. "The Lord is my rock and my fortress." Dwelling among the crags and mountain fastnesses of Judea David had escaped the malice of Saul, and here he compares his God to such a place of concealment and security. Believers are often hidden in their God from the strife of tongues and the fury of the storm of trouble. The clefts of the Rock of Ages are safe abodes. "My deliverer," interposing in my hour of peril. When almost captured the Lord's people are rescued from the hand of the mighty by him who is mightier still. This title of "deliverer" has many sermons in it, and is well worthy of the study of all experienced saints. "My God;" this is all good things in one. There is a boundless wealth in this expression; it means, my perpetual, unchanging, infinite, eternal good. He who can say truly "my God," may well add, "my heaven, my all." "My strength;" this word is really "my rock," in the sense of strength and immobility. My sure, unchanging, eternal confidence and support. Thus the word rock occurs twice, but it is no tautology, for the first time it is a rock for concealment, but here a rock for firmness and immutability. "In whom I will trust." Faith must be exercised, or the preciousness of God is not truly known; and God must be the object of faith, or faith is mere presumption. "My buckler," warding off the blows of my enemy, shielding me from arrow or sword. The Lord furnishes his warriors with weapons both offensive and defensive. Our armoury is completely stored so that none need go to battle unarmed. "The horn of my salvation," enabling me to push down my foes, and to triumph over them with holy exultation. "My high tower," a citadel high planted on a rocky eminence beyond the reach of my enemies, from the heights of which I look down upon their fury without alarm, and survey a wide landscape of mercy reaching even unto the goodly land beyond Jordan. Here are many words, but none too many; we might profitably examine each one of them had we leisure, but summing up the whole, we may conclude with Calvin, that David here equips the faithful from head to foot.
Verse 3. In this verse the happy poet resolves to invoke the Lord in joyful song, believing that in all future conflicts his God would deal as well with him as in the past. It is well to pray to God as to one who deserves to be praised, for then we plead in a happy and confident manner. If I feel that I can and do bless the Lord for all his past goodness, I am bold to ask great things of him. That word So has much in it. To be saved singing is to be saved indeed. Many are saved mourning and doubting; but David had such faith that he could fight singing, and win the battle with a song still upon his lips. How happy a thing to receive fresh mercy with a heart already sensible of mercy enjoyed, and to anticipate new trials with a confidence based upon past experiences of divine love!
"No fearing or doubting with Christ on our side,
We hope to die shouting, 'The Lord will provide.'"
Verse 4. "The sorrows of death compassed me." Death like a cruel conqueror seemed to twist round about him the cords of pain. He was environed and hemmed in with threatening deaths of the most appalling sort. He was like a mariner broken by the storm and driven upon the rocks by dreadful breakers, white as the teeth of death. Sad plight for the man after God's own heart, but thus it is that Jehovah dealeth with his sons. "The floods of ungodly men made me afraid." Torrents of ungodliness threatened to swamp all religion, and to hurry away the godly man's hope as a thing to be scorned and despised; so far was this threat fulfilled, that even the hero who slew Goliath began to be afraid. The most seaworthy bark is sometimes hard put to it when the storm fiend is abroad. The most courageous man, who as a rule hopes for the best, may sometimes fear the worst. Beloved reader, he who pens these lines has known better than most men what this verse means, and feels inclined to weep, and yet to sing, while he writes upon a text so descriptive of his own experience. On the night of the lamentable accident at the Surrey Music Hall, the floods of Belial were let loose, and the subsequent remarks of a large portion of the press were exceedingly malicious and wicked; our soul was afraid as we stood encompassed with the sorrows of death and the blasphemies of the cruel. But oh, what mercy was there in it all, and what honey of goodness was extracted by our Lord out of this lion of affliction! Surely God hath heard me! Art thou in an ill plight? Dear friend, learn thou from our experience to trust in the Lord Jehovah, who forsaketh not his chosen.
Verse 5. "The sorrows of hell compassed me about." From all sides the hell-hounds barked furiously. A cordon of devils hemmed in the hunted man of God; every way of escape was closed up. Satan knows how to blockade our coasts with the iron war-ships of sorrow, but, blessed be God, the port of all prayer is still open, and grace can run the blockade bearing messages from earth to heaven, and blessings in return from heaven to earth. "The snares of death prevented me." The old enemy hunts for his prey, not only with the dogs of the infernal kennel, but also with the snares of deadly craft. The nets were drawn closer and closer until the contracted circle completely prevented the escape of the captive:
"About me the cords of hell were wound,
And snares of death my footsteps bound."
Verse 6. "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God." Prayer is that postern gate which is left open even when the city is straitly besieged by the enemy; it is that way upward from the pit of despair to which the spiritual miner flies at once when the floods from beneath break forth upon him. Observe that he calls, and then cries; prayer grows in vehemence as it proceeds. Note also that he first invokes his God under the name of Jehovah, and then advances to a more familiar name, "my God;" thus faith increases by exercise, and he whom we at first viewed as Lord is soon seen to be our God in covenant. It is never an ill time to pray; no distress should prevent us from using the divine remedy of supplication. Above the noise of the raging billows of death, or the barking dogs of hell, the feeblest cry of a true believer will be heard in heaven. "He heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears." Far up within the bejewelled walls, and through the gates of pearl, the cry of the suffering suppliant was heard. Music of angels and harmony of seraphs availed not to drown or even to impair the voice of that humble call. The king heard it in his palace of light unsufferable, and lent a willing ear to the cry of his own beloved child. O honoured prayer, to be able thus through Jesus' blood to penetrate the very ears and heart of Deity. The voice and the cry are themselves heard directly by the Lord, and not made to pass through the medium of saints and intercessors; "My cry came before Him;" the operation of prayer with God is immediate and personal. We may cry with confident and familiar importunity, while our Father himself listens.
Verse 7. There was no great space between the cry and its answer. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, but is swift to rescue his afflicted. David has in his mind's eye the glorious manifestations of God in Egypt, at Sinai, and on different occasions to Joshua and the judges; and he considers that his own case exhibits the same glory of power and goodness, and that, therefore, he may accommodate the descriptions of former displays of the divine majesty into his hymn of praise. "Then the earth shook and trembled." Observe how the most solid and immovable things feel the force of supplication. Prayer has shaken houses, opened prison doors, and made stout hearts to quail. Prayer rings the alarm bell, and the Master of the house arises to the rescue, shaking all things beneath his tread. "The foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because of his wrath." He who fixed the world's pillars can make them rock in their sockets, and can upheave the corner-stones of creation. The huge roots of the towering mountains are torn up when the Lord bestirs himself in anger to smite the enemies of his people. How shall puny man be able to face it out with God when the very mountains quake with fear? Let not the boaster dream that his present false confidence will support him in the dread day of wrath.
Verse 8. "There went up a smoke out of his nostrils." A violent oriental method of expressing fierce wrath. Since the breath from the nostrils is heated by strong emotion, the figure portrays the Almighty Deliverer as pouring forth smoke in the heat of his wrath and the impetuousness of his zeal. Nothing makes God so angry as an injury done to his children. He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of mine eye. God is not subject to the passions which govern his creatures, but acting as he does with all the energy and speed of one who is angry, he is here aptly set forth in poetic imagery suitable to human understandings. The opening of his lips is sufficient to destroy his enemies; "and fire out of his mouth devoured." This fire was no temporary one but steady and lasting; "Coals were kindled by it." The whole passage is intended to depict God's descent to the help of his child, attended by earthquake and tempest: at the majesty of his appearing the earth rocks, the clouds gather like smoke, and the lightning as flaming fire devours, setting the world on a blaze. What grandeur of description is here! Bishop Mant very admirably rhymes the verse thus:—
"Smoke from his heated nostrils came,
And from his mouth devouring flame;
Hot burning coals announced his ire,
And flashes of careering fire."
Verse 10. There is inimitable grandeur in this verse. Under the Mosaic system the cherubim are frequently represented as the chariot of God; hence Milton, in "Paradise Lost," writes of the Great Father,—
"He on the wings of cherubim
Uplifted, in paternal glory rode
Far into chaos."
Verse 11. The storm thickened, and the clouds pouring forth torrents of rain combined to form the secret chamber of the invisible but wonder-working God. "Pavilioned in impervious shade" faith saw him, but no other eye could gaze through the "thick clouds of the skies." Blessed is the darkness which encurtains my God; if I may not see him, it is sweet to know that he is working in secret for my eternal good. Even fools can believe that God is abroad in the sunshine and the calm, but faith is wise, and discerns him in the terrible darkness and threatening storm.
Verse 12. Suddenly the terrible artillery of heaven was discharged; the brightness of lightning lit up the clouds as with a glory proceeding from him who was concealed within the cloudy pavilion; and volleys of hailstones and coals of fire were hurled forth upon the enemy. The lightnings seemed to cleave the clouds and kindle them into a blaze, and then hailstones and flakes of fire with flashes of terrific grandeur terrified the sons of men.
Verse 13. Over all this splendour of tempest pealed the dread thunder. "The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice." Fit accompaniment for the flames of vengeance. How will men bear to hear it at the last when addressed to them in proclamation of their doom, for even now their hearts are in their mouths if they do but hear it muttering from afar? In all this terror David found a theme for song, and thus every believer finds even in the terrors of God a subject for holy praise. "Hailstones and coals of fire" are twice mentioned to show how certainly they are in the divine hand, and are the weapons of Heaven's vengeance. Horne remarks that "every thunderstorm should remind us of that exhibition of power and vengeance, which is hereafter to accompany the general resurrection;" may it not also assure us of the real power of him who is our Father and our friend, and tend to assure us of our safety while he fights our battles for us. The prince of the power of the air is soon dislodged when the cherubic chariot is driven through his dominions; therefore let not the legions of hell cause us dismay. He who is with us is greater than all they that be against us.
Verse 14. The lightnings were darted forth as forked arrows upon the hosts of the foe, and speedily "scattered them." Boastful sinners prove to be great cowards when Jehovah enters the lists with them. They despise his words, and are very tongue-valiant, but when it comes to blows they fly apace. The glittering flames, and the fierce bolts of fire "discomfited them." God is never at a loss for weapons. Woe be unto him that contendeth with his Maker! God's arrows never miss their aim; they are feathered with lightning, and barbed with everlasting death. Fly, O sinner, to the rock of refuge before these arrows stick fast in thy soul.
Verse 15. So tremendous was the shock of God's assault in arms that the order of nature was changed, and the bottoms of rivers and seas were laid bare. "The channels of waters was seen;" and the deep cavernous bowels of the earth were upheaved till "the foundations of the world were discovered." What will not Jehovah's "rebuke" do? If "the blast of the breath of thy nostrils," O Lord, be so terrible, what must thine arm be? Vain are the attempts of men to conceal anything from him whose word unbars the deep, and lifts the doors of earth from their hinges! Vain are all hopes of resistance, for a whisper of his voice makes the whole earth quail in abject terror.
Verse 16. Now comes the rescue. The Author is divine, "He sent;" the work is heavenly, "from above;" the deliverance is marvellous, "He drew me out of many waters." Here David was like another Moses, drawn from the water; and thus are all believers like their Lord, whose baptism in many waters of agony and in his own blood has redeemed us from the wrath to come. Torrents of evil shall not drown the man whose God sitteth upon the floods to restrain their fury.
Verse 17. When we have been rescued, we must take care to ascribe all the glory to God by confessing our own weakness, and remembering the power of the conquered enemy. God's power derives honour from all the incidents of the conflict. Our great spiritual adversary is a "strong enemy" indeed, much too strong for poor, weak creatures like ourselves, but we have been delivered hitherto and shall be even to the end. Our weakness is a reason for divine help; mark the force of the "for" in the text.
Verse 18. It was an ill day, a day of calamity, of which evil foes took cruel advantage, while they used crafty means uterly to ruin him, yet David could say, "but the Lord is my stay." What a blessed but which cuts the Gordian knot, and slays the hundred-headed hydra! There is no fear of deliverance when our stay is in Jehovah.
Verse 19. "He brought me forth also into a large place." After pining awhile in the prison-house Joseph reached the palace, and from the cave of Adullam David mounted to the throne. Sweet is pleasure after pain. Enlargement is the more delightful after a season of pinching poverty and sorrowful confinement. Besieged souls delight in the broad fields of the promise when God drives off the enemy and sets open the gates of the environed city. The Lord does not leave his work half done, for having routed the foe he leads out the captive into liberty. Large indeed is the possession and place of the believer in Jesus, there need be no limit to his peace, for there is no bound to his privilege. "He delivered me, because he delighted in me." Free grace lies at the foundation. Rest assured, if we go deep enough, sovereign grace is the truth which lies at the bottom of every well of mercy. Deep sea fisheries in the ocean of divine bounty always bring the pearls of electing, discriminating love to light. Why Jehovah should delight in us is an answerless question, and a mystery which angels cannot solve; but that he does delight in his beloved is certain, and is the fruitful root of favours as numerous as they are precious. Believer, sit down, and inwardly digest the instructive sentence now before us, and learn to view the uncaused love of God as the cause of all the lovingkindness of which we are the partakers.
Verse 20. "The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness." Viewing this Psalm as prophetical of the Messiah, these strongly-expressed claims to righteousness are readily understood, for his garments were as white as snow; but considered as the language of David they have perplexed many. Yet the case is clear, and if the words be not strained beyond their original intention, no difficulty need occur. Albeit that the dispensations of divine grace are to the fullest degree sovereign and irrespective of human merit, yet in the dealings of Providence there is often discernible a rule of justice by which the injured are at length avenged, and the righteous ultimately delivered. David's early troubles arose from the wicked malice of envious Saul, who no doubt prosecuted his persecutions under cover of charges brought against the character of "the man after God's own heart." These charges David declares to have been utterly false, and asserts that he possessed a grace-given righteousness which the Lord had graciously rewarded in defiance of all his calumniators. Before God the man after God's own heart was a humble sinner, but before his slanderers he could with unblushing face speak of the "cleanness of his hands" and the righteousness of his life. He knows little of the sanctifying power of divine grace who is not at the bar of human equity able to plead innocence. There is no self-righteousness in an honest man knowing that he is honest, nor even in his believing that God rewards him in providence because of his honesty, for such is often a most evident matter of fact; but it would be self-righteousness indeed if we transferred such thoughts from the region of providential government into the spiritual kingdom, for there grace reigns not only supreme but sole in the distribution of divine favours. It is not at all an opposition to the doctrine of salvation by grace, and no sort of evidence of a Pharisaic spirit, when a gracious man, having been slandered, stoutly maintains his integrity, and vigorously defends his character. A godly man has a clear conscience, and knows himself to be upright; is he to deny his own consciousness, and to despise the work of the Holy Ghost, by hypocritically making himself out to be worse than he is? A godly man prizes his integrity very highly, or else he would not be a godly man at all; is he to be called proud because he will not readily lose the jewel of a reputable character? A godly man can see that in divine providence uprightness and truth are in the long run sure to bring their own reward; may he not, when he sees that reward bestowed in his own case, praise the Lord for it? Yea rather, must he not show forth the faithfulness and goodness of his God? Read the cluster of expressions in this and the following verses as the song of a good conscience, after having safely outridden a storm of obloquy, persecution, and abuse, and there will be no fear of our upbraiding the writer as one who sets too high a price upon his own moral character.
Verse 21. Here the assertion of purity is repeated, both in a positive and a negative form. There is "I have" and "I have not," both of which must be blended in a truly sanctified life; constraining and restraining grace must each take its share. The words of this verse refer to the saint as a traveler carefully keeping to "the ways of the Lord," and "not wickedly," that is, designedly, wilfully, persistently, defiantly forsaking the ordained pathway in which God favours the pilgrim with his presence. Observe how it is implied in the expression, "and have not wickedly departed from my God," that David lived habitually in communion with God, and knew him to be his own God, whom he might speak of as "my God." God never departs from his people, let them take heed of departing from him.
Verse 22. "For all his judgments were before me." The word, the character, and the actions of God should be evermore before our eyes; we should learn, consider, and reverence them. Men forget what they do not wish to remember, but the excellent attributes of the Most High are objects of the believer's affectionate and delighted admiration. We should keep the image of God so constantly before us that we become in our measure conformed unto it. This inner love to the right must be the main spring of Christian integrity in our public walk. The fountain must be filled with love to holiness, and then the streams which issue from it will be pure and gracious. "I did not put away his statutes from me." To put away the Scriptures from the mind's study is the certain way to prevent their influencing the outward conversation. Backsliders begin with dusty Bibles, and go on to filthy garments.
Verse 23. "I was also upright before him." Sincerity is here claimed; sincerity, such as would be accounted genuine before the bar of God. Whatever evil men might think of him, David felt that he had the good opinion of his God. Moreover, freedom from his one great besetting sin he ventures also to plead, "I kept myself from mine iniquity." It is a very gracious sign when the most violent parts of our nature have been well guarded. If the weakest link in the chain is not broken, the stronger links will be safe enough. David's impetuous temper might have led him to slay Saul when he had him within his power, but grace enabled him to keep his hands clean of the blood of his enemy; but what a wonder it was, and how well worthy of such a grateful record as these verses afford! It will be a sweet cordial to us one of these days to remember our self-denials, and to bless God that we were able to exhibit them.
Verse 24. God first gives us holiness, and then rewards us for it. We are his workmanship; vessels made unto honour; and when made, the honour is not withheld from the vessel; though, in fact, it all belongs to the Potter upon whose wheel the vessel was fashioned. The prize is awarded to the flower at the show, but the gardener reared it; the child wins the prize from the schoolmaster, but the real honour of his schooling lies with the master, although instead of receiving he gives the reward.
Verse 25. The dealings of the Lord in his own case, cause the grateful singer to remember the usual rule of God's moral government; he is just in his dealings with the sons of men, and metes out to each man according to his measure. "With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright." Every man shall have his meat weighed in his own scales, his corn meted in his own bushel, and his land measured with his own rod. No rule can be more fair, to ungodly men more terrible, or to the generous man more honourable. How would men throw away their light weights, and break their short yards, if they could but believe that they themselves are sure to be in the end the losers by their knavish tricks! Note that even the merciful need mercy; no amount of generosity to the poor, or forgiveness to enemies, can set us beyond the need of mercy. Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
Verse 26. "With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward." The sinner's frowardness is sinful and rebellious, and the only sense in which the term can be applied to the Most Holy God is that of judicial opposition and sternness, in which the Judge of all the earth will act at cross-purposes with the offender, and let him see that all things are not to be made subservient to wicked whims and wilful fancies. Calvin very forcibly says, "This brutish and monstrous stupidity in men compels God to invent new modes of expression, and as it were to clothe himself with a different character." There is a similar sentence in Leviticus 26:21-24, where God says, "and if ye walk contrary unto (or perversely with) me, then I will also walk contrary unto (or perversely, or roughly, or at random with) you." As if he had said that their obstinacy and stubbornness would make him on his part forget his accustomed forbearance and gentleness, and cast himself recklessly or at random against them. We see then what the stubborn at length gain by their obduracy; it is this, that God hardens himself still more to break them in pieces, and if they are of stone, he causes them to feel that he has the hardness of iron." The Jewish tradition was that the manna tasted according to each man's mouth; certainly God shows himself to each individual according to his character.
(Le 26:21–24) 21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted. 23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. ESV
Verse 27. "For thou wilt save the afflicted people." This is a comforting assurance for the poor in spirit whose spiritual griefs admit of no sufficient solace from any other than a divine hand. They cannot save themselves nor can others do it, but God will save them. "But will bring down high looks." Those who look down on others with scorn shall be looked down upon with contempt ere long. The Lord abhors a proud look. What a reason for repentance and humiliation! How much better to be humble than to provoke God to humble us in his wrath! A considerable number of clauses occur in this passage in the future tense; how forcibly are we thus brought to remember that our present joy or sorrow is not to have so much weight with us as the great and eternal future!
Verse 28. "For thou wilt light my candle." Even the children of the day sometimes need candle-light. In the darkest hour light will arise; a candle shall be lit, it will be comfort such as we may fittingly use without dishonesty—it will be our own candle; yet God himself will find the holy fire with which the candle shall burn; our evidences are our own, but their comfortable light is from above. Candles which are lit by God the devil cannot blow out. All candles are not shining, and so there are some graces which yield no present comfort; but it is well to have candles which may by and by be lit, and it is well to possess graces which may yet afford us cheering evidences. The metaphor of the whole verse is founded upon the dolorous nature of darkness and the delightfulness of light; "truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun;" and even so the presence of the Lord removes all the gloom of sorrow, and enables the believer to rejoice with exceeding great joy. The lighting of the lamp is a cheerful moment in the winter's evening, but the lifting up of the light of God's countenance is happier far. It is said that the poor in Egypt will stint themselves of bread to buy oil for the lamp, so that they may not sit in darkness; we could well afford to part with all earthly comforts if the light of God's love could but constantly gladden our souls.
Verses 29-45. Some repetitions are not vain repetitions. Second thoughts upon God's mercy should be and often are the best. Like wines on the lees our gratitude grows stronger and sweeter as we meditate upon divine goodness. The verses which we have now to consider are the ripe fruit of a thankful spirit; they are apples of gold as to matter, and they are placed in baskets of silver as to their language. They describe the believer's victorious career and his enemies' confusion.
Verse 29. "For by thee have I run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall." Whether we meet the foe in the open field or leap upon them while they lurk behind the battlements of a city, we shall by God's grace defeat them in either case; if they hem us in with living legions, or environ us with stone walls, we shall with equal certainty obtain our liberty. Such feats we have already performed, hewing our way at a run through hosts of difficulties, and scaling impossibilities at a leap. God's warriors may expect to have a taste of every form of fighting, and must by the power of faith determine to quit themselves like men; but it behoves them to be very careful to lay all their laurels at Jehovah's feet, each one of them saying, "by my God" have I wrought this valiant deed. Our spolia optima, the trophies of our conflicts, we hereby dedicate to the God of Battles, and ascribe to him all glory and strength.
Verse 30. "As for God, his way is perfect." Far past all fault and error are God's dealings with his people; all his actions are resplendent with justice, truth, tenderness, mercy, and holiness. Every way of God is complete in itself, and all his ways put together are matchless in harmony and goodness. Is it not very consolatory to believe that he who has begun to bless us will perfect his work, for all his ways are "perfect." Nor must the divine "word" be without its song of praise. "The word of the Lord is tried," like silver refined in the furnace. The doctrines are glorious, the precepts are pure, the promises are faithful, and the whole revelation is superlatively full of grace and truth. David had tried it, thousands have tried it, we have tried it, and it has never failed. It was meet that when way and word had been extolled, the Lord himself should be magnified; hence it is added, "He is a buckler to all those that trust in him." No armour of proof or shield of brass so well secures the warrior as the covenant God of Israel protects his warring people. He himself is the buckler of trustful ones; what a thought is this! What peace may every trusting soul enjoy!
Verse 31. Having mentioned his God, the psalmist's heart burns, and his words sparkle; he challenges heaven and earth to find another being worthy of adoration or trust in comparison with Jehovah. His God, as Matthew Henry says, is a None-such. The idols of the heathen he scorns to mention, snuffing them all out as mere nothings when Deity is spoken of. "Who is God save the Lord?" Who else creates, sustains, foresees, and overrules? Who but he is perfect in every attribute, and glorious in every act? To whom but Jehovah should creatures bow? Who else can claim their service and their love? "Who is a rock save our God?" Where can lasting hopes be fixed? Where can the soul find rest? Where is stability to be found? Where is strength to be discovered? Surely in the Lord Jehovah alone can we find rest and refuge.
Verse 32. Surveying all the armour in which he fought and conquered, the joyful victor praises the Lord for every part of the panoply. The girdle of his loins earns the first stanza: "It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect." Girt about the loins with power from heaven, the warrior was filled with vigour, far above all created might; and, whereas, without this wondrous belt he would have been feeble and effeminate, with relaxed energies and scattered forces, he felt himself, when braced with the girdle of truth, to be compact in purpose, courageous in daring, and concentrated in power; so that his course was a complete success, so undisturbed by disastrous defeat as to be called "perfect." Have we been made more than conquerors over sin, and has our life hitherto been such as becometh the gospel? Then let us ascribe all the glory to him who girt us with his own inexhaustible strength, that we might be unconquered in battle and unwearied in pilgrimage.
Verse 33. The conqueror's feet had been shod by a divine hand, and the next note must, therefore, refer to them. "He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places." Pursuing his foes the warrior had been swift of foot as a young roe, but, instead of taking pleasure in the legs of a man, he ascribes the boon of swiftness to the Lord alone. When our thoughts are nimble, and our spirits rapid, like the chariots of Amminadib, let us not forget that our best Beloved's hand has given us the choice favour. Climbing into impregnable fortresses, David had been preserved from slipping, and made to stand where scarce the wild goat can find a footing; herein was preserving mercy manifested. We, too, have had our high places of honour, service, temptation, and danger, but hitherto we have been kept from falling. Bring hither the harp, and let us emulate the psalmist's joyful thanksgiving; had we fallen, our wailings must have been terrible; since we have stood, let our gratitude be fervent.
Verse 34. "He teacheth my hands to war." Martial prowess and skill in the use of weapons are gratefully acknowledged to be the result of divine teaching; no sacrifice is offered at the shrine of self in praise of natural dexterity, or acquired skilfulness; but, regarding all warlike prowess as a gift of heavenly favour, thankfulness is presented to the Giver. The Holy Spirit is the great Drillmaster of heavenly soldiers. "So that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms." A bow of brass is probably meant, and these bows could scarcely be bent by the arms alone, the archer had to gain the assistance of his foot; it was, therefore, a great feat of strength to bend the bow, so far as even to snap it in halves. This was meant of the enemies' bow, which he not only snatched from his grasp, but rendered useless by breaking it in pieces. Jesus not only destroyed the fiery suggestions of Satan, but he broke his arguments with which he shot them, by using Holy Scripture against him; by the same means we may win a like triumph, breaking the bow and cutting the spear in sunder by the sharp edge of revealed truth. Probably David had by nature a vigorous bodily frame; but it is even more likely that, like Samson, he was at times clothed with more than common strength; at any rate, he ascribes the honour of his feats entirely to his God. Let us never wickedly rob the Lord of his due, but faithfully give unto him the glory which is due unto his name.
Verse 35. "Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation." Above all we must take the shield of faith, for nothing else can quench Satan's fiery darts; this shield is of celestial workmanship, and is in all cases a direct gift from God himself; it is the channel, the sign, the guarantee, and the earnest of perfect salvation. "Thy right hand hath holden me up." Secret support is administered to us by the preserving grace of God, and at the same time Providence kindly yields us manifest aid. We are such babes that we cannot stand alone; but when the Lord's right hand upholds us, we are like brazen pillars which cannot be moved. "Thy gentleness hath made me great." There are several readings of this sentence. The word is capable of being translated, "thy goodness hath made me great." David saw much of benevolence in God's action towards him, and he gratefully ascribed all his greatness not to his own goodness, but to the goodness of God. "Thy providence" is another reading, which is indeed nothing more than goodness in action. Goodness is the bud of which providence is the flower; or goodness is the seed of which providence is the harvest. Some render it, "thy help," which is but another word for providence; providence being the firm ally of the saints, aiding them in the service of their Lord. Certain learned annotators tell us that the text means, "thy humility hath made me great." "Thy condescension" may, perhaps, serve as a comprehensive reading, combining the ideas which we have already mentioned, as well as that of humility. It is God's making himself little which is the cause of our being made great. We are so little that If God should manifest his greatness without condescension, we should be trampled under his feet; but God, who must stoop to view the skies and bow to see what angels do, looks to the lowly and contrite, and makes them great. While these are the translations which have been given to the adopted text of the original, we find that there are other readings altogether; as for instance, the Septuagint, which reads, "thy discipline"—thy fatherly correction— "hath made me great;" while the Chaldee paraphrase reads, "thy word hath increased me." Still the idea is the same. David ascribes all his own greatness to the condescending goodness and graciousness of his Father in heaven. Let us all feel this sentiment in our own hearts, and confess that whatever of goodness or greatness God may have put upon us, we must cast our crowns at his feet and cry, "thy gentleness hath made me great."
Verse 36. "Thou hast enlarged my steps." A smooth pathway leading to spacious possessions and camping-grounds had been opened up for him. Instead of threading the narrow mountain paths, and hiding in the cracks and corners of caverns, he was able to traverse the plains and dwell under his own vine and fig tree. It is no small mercy to be brought into full Christian liberty and enlargement, but it is a greater favour still to be enabled to walk worthily in such liberty, not being permitted to slip with our feet. To stand upon the rocks of affliction is the result of gracious upholding, but that aid is quite as much needed in the luxurious plains of prosperity.
Verse 37. The preservation of the saints bodes ill for their adversaries. The Amelekites thought themselves clear away with their booty, but when David's God guided him in the pursuit, they were soon overtaken and cut in pieces. When God is with us sins and sorrows flee, and all forms of evil are "consumed" before the power of grace. What a noble picture this and the following verses present to us of the victories of our glorious Lord Jesus!
Verse 38. The destruction of our spiritual enemies is complete. We may exult over sin, death, and hell, as disarmed and disabled for us by our conquering Lord; may he graciously give them a like defeat within us.
Verses 39 and 40. It is impossible to be too frequent in the duty of ascribing all our victories to the God of our salvation. It is true that we have to wrestle with our spiritual antagonists, but the triumph is far more the Lord's than ours. We must not boast like the ambitious votaries of vainglory, but we may exult as the willing and believing instruments in the Lord's hand of accomplishing his great designs.
Verse 41. "They cried, but there was none to save them; even unto the Lord, but he answered them not." Prayer is so notable a weapon that even the wicked will take to it to in their fits of desperation. Bad men have appealed to God against God's own servants, but all in vain; the kingdom of heaven is not divided, and God never succours his foes at the expense of his friends. There are prayers to God which are no better than blasphemy, which bring no comfortable reply, but rather provoke the Lord to greater wrath. Shall I ask a man to wound or slay his own child to gratify my malice? Would he not resent the insult against his humanity? How much less will Jehovah regard the cruel desires of the enemies of the church, who dare to offer their prayers for its destruction, calling its existence schism, and its doctrine heresy!
Verse 42. The defeat of the nations who fought with King David was so utter and complete that they were like powders pounded in a mortar; their power was broken into fragments and they became as weak as dust before the wind, and as mean as the mire of the roads. Thus powerless and base are the enemies of God now become through the victory of the Son of David upon the cross. Arise, O my soul, and meet thine enemies, for they have sustained a deadly blow, and will fall before thy bold advance.
"Hell and my sins resist my course,
But hell and sin are vanquish'd foes
My Jesus nail'd them to his cross,
And sung the triumph when he rose."
Verse 44. "As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me." Thus readily did the once struggling captain become a far-renowned victor, and thus easy shall be our triumphs. We prefer, however, to speak of Jesus. In many cases the gospel is speedily received by hearts apparently unprepared for it. Those who have never heard the gospel before, have been charmed by its first message, and yielded obedience to it; while others, alas! who are accustomed to its joyful sound, are rather hardened than softened by its teachings. The grace of God sometimes runs like fire among the stubble, and a nation is born in a day. Surely Spurgeon is thinking of Isaiah 66:8, but it has happened in my lifetime. Israel became a nation in one day, just as God said. "Love at first sight" is no uncommon thing when Jesus is the wooer. He can write Caesar's message without boasting, Veni, vidi, vici; ( I came, I saw, I conquered. ) his gospel is in some cases no sooner heard than believed. What inducements to spread abroad the doctrine of the cross!
Verse 45. "The strangers shall fade away." Like sear leaves or blasted trees our foes and Christ's foes shall find no sap and stamina remaining in them. Those who are strangers to Jesus are strangers to all lasting happiness; those must soon fade who refuse to be watered from the river of life. "And be afraid out of their close places." Out of their mountain fastnesses the heathen crept in fear to own allegiance to Israel's king, and even so, from the castles of self-confidence and the dens of carnal security, poor sinners come bending before the Saviour, Christ the Lord. Our sins which have entrenched themselves in our flesh and blood as in impregnable forts, shall yet be driven forth by the sanctifying energy of the Holy Spirit, and we shall serve the Lord in singleness of heart.
Thus with remembrance of conquests in the past, and with glad anticipations of victories yet to come, the sweet singer closes the description, and returns to exercise of more direct adoration of his gracious God.
Verse 46. "The Lord liveth." Possessing underived, essential, independent and eternal life. We serve no inanimate, imaginary, or dying God. He only hath immortality. Like loyal subjects let us cry, Live on, O God. Long live the King of kings. By thine immortality do we dedicate ourselves afresh to thee. As the Lord our God liveth so would we live to him. "And blessed be my rock." He is the ground of our hope, and let him be the subject of our praise. Our hearts bless the Lord, with holy love extolling him.
Jehovah lives, my rock be blessed!
Praised be the God who gives me rest!
Verse 47. "It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me." To rejoice in personal revenge is unhallowed and evil, but David viewed himself as the instrument of vengeance upon the enemies of God and his people, and had he not rejoiced in the success accorded to him he would have been worthy of censure. That sinners perish is in itself a painful consideration, but that the Lord's law is avenged upon those who break it is to the devout mind a theme for thankfulness. We must, however, always remember that vengeance is never ours, vengeance belongeth unto the Lord, and he is so just and withal so longsuffering in the exercise of it, that we may safely leave its administration in his hands.
Verse 48. From all enemies, and especially from one who was pre-eminent in violence, the Lord's anointed was preserved, and at the last over the head of Saul and all other adversaries he reigned in honour. The like end awaits every saint, because Jesus who stooped to be lightly esteemed among men is now made to sit far above all principalities and powers.
Verse 49. Paul cites this verse (Romans 15:9): "And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name." This is clear evidence that David's Lord is here, but David is here too, and is to be viewed as an example of a holy soul making its boast in God even in the presence of ungodly men. Who are the despisers of God that we should stop our mouths for them? We will sing to our God whether they like it or no, and force upon them the knowledge of his goodness. Too much politeness to traitors may be treason to our King.
Verse 50. This is the winding up verse into which the writer throws a fulness of expression, indicating the most rapturous delight of gratitude. "Great deliverance." The word "deliverance" is plural, to show the variety and completeness of the salvation; the adjective "great" is well placed if we consider from what, to what, and how we are saved. All this mercy is given to us in our King, the Lord's Anointed, and those are blessed indeed who as his seed may expect mercy to be built up for evermore. The Lord was faithful to the literal David, and he will not break his covenant with the spiritual David, for that would far more involve the honour of his crown and character.
The Psalm concludes in the same loving spirit which shone upon its commencement; happy are they who can sing on from love to love, even as the pilgrims marched from strength to strength.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement. C.H. Spurgeon Books | Go to Books Page
Psalm 19 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)SUBJECT. It would be idle to enquire into the particular period when this delightful poem was composed, for their is nothing in its title or subject to assist us in the enquiry. The heading, "To the Chief Musician, a Psalm of David," informs us that David wrote it, and that it was committed to the Master of the service of song in the sanctuary for the use of the assembled worshippers. In his earliest days the psalmist, while keeping his father's flock, had devoted himself to the study of God's two great books—nature and Scripture; and he had so thoroughly entered into the spirit of these two only volumes in his library that he was able with a devout criticism to compare and contrast them, magnifying the excellency of the Author as seen in both. How foolish and wicked are those who instead of accepting the two sacred tomes, and delighting to behold the same divine hand in each, spend all their wits in endeavouring to find discrepancies and contradictions. We may rest assured that the true "Vestiges of Creation" will never contradict Genesis, nor will a correct "Cosmos" be found at variance with the narrative of Moses. He is wisest who reads both the world-book, and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, "My Father wrote them both."
DIVISION. This song very distinctly divides itself into three parts, very well described by the translators in the ordinary heading of our version. The creatures show God's glory, 1-6. The word showeth his grace, 7-11. David prayeth for grace, 12-14. Thus praise and prayer are mingled, and he who here sings the work of God in the world without, pleads for a work of grace in himself within.
Verse 1. "The heavens declare the glory of God." The book of nature has three leaves, heaven, earth, and sea, of which heaven is the first and the most glorious, and by its aid we are able to see the beauties of the other two. Any book without its first page would be sadly imperfect, and especially the great Natural Bible, since its first pages, the sun, moon, and stars, supply light to the rest of the volume, and are thus the keys, without which the writing which follows would be dark and undiscerned. Man walking erect was evidently made to scan the skies, and he who begins to read creation by studying the stars begins the book at the right place.
The heavens are plural for their variety, comprising the watery heavens with their clouds of countless forms, the aerial heavens with their calms and tempests, the solar heavens with all the glories of the day, and the starry heavens with all the marvels of the night; what the Heaven of heavens must be hath not entered into the heart of man, but there in chief all things are telling the glory of God. Any part of creation has more instruction in it than human mind will ever exhaust, but the celestial realm is peculiarly rich in spiritual lore. The heavens declare, or are declaring, for the continuance of their testimony is intended by the participles employed; every moment God's existence, power, wisdom and goodness, are being sounded abroad by the heavenly heralds which shine upon us from above. He who would guess at divine sublimity should gaze upward into the starry vault; he who would imagine infinity must peer into the boundless expanse; he who desires to see divine wisdom should consider the balancing of the orbs; he who would know divine fidelity must mark the regularity of the planetary motions; and he who would attain some conceptions of divine power, greatness, and majesty, must estimate the forces of attraction, the magnitude of the fixed stars, and the brightness of the whole celestial train. It is not merely glory that the heavens declare, but the "glory of God," for they deliver to us such unanswerable arguments for a conscious, intelligent, planning, controlling, and presiding Creator, that no unpredjudiced person can remain unconvinced by them. The testimony given by the heavens is no mere hint, but a plain, unmistakable declaration; and it is a declaration of the most constant and abiding kind. Yet for all this, to what avail is the loudest declaration to a deaf man, or the clearest showing to one spiritually blind? God the Holy Ghost must illuminate us, or all the suns in the milky way never will.
"The firmament sheweth his handy-work;" not handy in the vulgar use of that term, but hand-work. The expanse is full of the works of the Lord's skilful, creating hands; hands being attributed to the great creating Spirit to set forth his care and workmanlike action, and to meet the poor comprehension of mortals. It is humbling to find that even when the most devout and elevated minds are desirous to express their loftiest thoughts of God, they must use words and metaphors drawn from the earth. We are children, and must each confess, "I think as a child, I speak as a child." In the expanse above us God flies, as it were, his starry flag to show that the King is at home, and hangs out his escutcheon that atheists may see how he despises their denunciations of him. He who looks up to the firmament and then writes himself down an atheist, brands himself at the same moment as an idiot or a liar. Strange is it that some who love God are yet afraid to study the God-declaring book of nature; the mock-spirituality of some believers, who are too heavenly to consider the heavens, has given colour to the vaunts of infidels that nature contradicts revelation. The wisest of men are those who with pious eagerness trace the goings forth of Jehovah as well in creation as in grace; only the foolish have any fears lest the honest study of the one should injure our faith in the other. Dr. M'Cosh has well said, "We have often mourned over the attempts made to set the works of God against the Word of God, and thereby excite, propagate, and perpetuate jealousies fitted to separate parties that ought to live in closest union. In particular, we have always regretted that endeavours should have been made to depreciate nature with a view of exalting revelation; it has always appeared to us to be nothing else than the degrading of one part of God's work in the hope thereby of exalting and recommending another. Let not science and religion be reckoned as opposing citadels, frowning defiance upon each other, and their troops brandishing their armour in hostile attitude. They have too many common foes, if they would but think of it, in ignorance and prejudice, in passion and vice, under all their forms, to admit of their lawfully wasting their strength in a useless warfare with each other. Science has a foundation, and so has religion; let them unite their foundations, and the basis will be broader, and they will be two compartments of one great fabric reared to the glory of God. Let one be the outer and the other the inner court. In the one, let all look, and admire and adore; and in the other, let those who have faith kneel, and pray, and praise. Let the one be the sanctuary where human learning may present its richest incense as an offering to God, and the other the holiest of all, separated from it by a veil now rent in twain, and in which, on a blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, we pour out the love of a reconciled heart, and hear the oracles of the living God."
Verse 2. "Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge." As if one day took up the story where the other left it, and each night passed over the wondrous tale to the next. The original has in it the thought of pouring out or welling over, with speech; as though days and nights were but as a fountain flowing evermore with Jehovah's praise. Oh to drink often at the celestial well, and learn to utter the glory of God! The witnesses above cannot be slain or silenced; from their elevated seats they constantly preach the knowledge of God, unawed and unbiased by the judgment of men. Even the changes of alternating night and day are mutely eloquent, and light and shade equally reveal the Invisible One; let the vicissitudes of our circumstances do the same, and while we bless the God of our days of joy, let us also extol him who giveth "songs in the night."
The lesson of day and night is one which it were well if all men learned. It should be among our day-thoughts and night-thoughts, to remember the flight of time, the changeful character of earthly things, the brevity both of joy and sorrow, the preciousness of life, our utter powerlessness to recall the hours once flown, and the irresistible approach of eternity. Day bids us labour, night reminds us to prepare for our last home; day bids us work for God,and night invites us to rest in him; day bids us look for endless day, and night warns us to escape from everlasting night.
Verse 3. "There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard." Every man may hear the voices of the stars. Many are the languages of terrestrials, to celestials there is but one, and that one may be understood by every willing mind. The lowest heathen are without excuse, if they do not discover the invisible things of God in the works which he has made. Sun, moon, and stars are God's traveling preachers; they are apostles upon their journey confirming those who regard the Lord, and judges on circuit condemning those who worship idols.
The margin gives us another rendering, which is more literal, and involves less repetition; "no speech, no words, their voice is not heard;" that is to say, their teaching is not addressed to the ear, and is not uttered in articulate sounds; it is pictorial, and directed to the eye and heart; it touches not the sense by which faith comes, for faith cometh by hearing. Jesus Christ is called the Word, for he is a far more distinct display of Godhead than all the heavens can afford; they are, after all, but dumb instructors; neither star nor sun can arrive at a word, but Jesus is the express image of Jehovah's person, and his name is the Word of God.
Verse 4. "Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." Although the heavenly bodies move in solemn silence, yet in reason's ear they utter precious teachings. They give forth no literal words, but yet their instruction is clear enough to be so described. Horne says that the phrase employed indicates a language of signs, and thus we are told that the heavens speak by their significant actions and operations. Nature's words are like those of the deaf and dumb, but grace tells us plainly of the Father. By their line is probably meant the measure of their domain which, together with their testimony, has gone out to the utmost end of the habitable earth. No man living beneath the copes of heaven dwells beyond the bounds of the diocese of God's Court- preachers; it is easy to escape from the light of ministers, who are as stars in the right hand of the Son of Man; but even then men, with a conscience yet unseared, will find a Nathan to accuse them, a Jonah to warn them, and an Elijah to threaten them in the silent stars of night. To gracious souls the voices of the heavens are more influential far, they feel the sweet influences of the Pleiades, and are drawn towards their Father God by the bright bands of Orion.
"In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun." In the heavens the sun encamps, and marches like a mighty monarch on his glorious way. He has no fixed abode, but as a traveler pitches and removes his tent, a tent which will soon be taken down and rolled together as a scroll. As the royal pavilion stood in the centre of the host, so the sun in his place appears like a king in the midst of attendant stars.
Verse 5. "Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber." A bridegroom comes forth sumptuously apparelled, his face beaming with a joy which he imparts to all around; such, but with a mighty emphasis, is the rising Sun. "And rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race." As a champion girt for running cheerfully addresses himself to the race, so does the sun speed onward with matchless regularity and unwearying swiftness in his appointed orbit. It is but mere play to him; there are no signs of effort, flagging, or exhaustion. No other creature yields such joy to the earth as her bridegroom the sun; and none, whether they be horse or eagle, can for an instant compare in swiftness with that heavenly champion. But all his glory is but the glory of God; even the sun shines in light borrowed from the Great Father of Lights.
"Thou sun, of this great world both eye and soul,
Acknowledge Him thy greater; sound his praise
Both when thou climb'st, and when high noon hast gained,
And when thou fall'st."
There is no doubt a parallel intended to be drawn between the heaven of grace and the heaven of nature. God's way of grace is sublime and broad, and full of his glory; in all its displays it is to be admired and studied with diligence; both its lights and its shades are instructive; it has been proclaimed, in a measure, to every people, and in due time shall be yet more completely published to the ends of the earth. Jesus, like a sun, dwells in the midst of revelation, tabernacling among men in all his brightness; rejoicing, as the Bridegroom of his church, to reveal himself to men; and, like a champion, to win unto himself renown. He makes a circuit of mercy, blessing the remotest corners of the earth; and there are no seeking souls, however degraded and depraved, who shall be denied the comfortable warmth and benediction of his love—even death shall feel the power of his presence, and resign the bodies of the saints, and this fallen earth shall be restored to its pristine glory.
In the three following verses (7, 8, 9) we have a brief but instructive hexapla containing six descriptive titles of the word, six characteristic qualities mentioned and six divine effects declared. Names, nature, and effect are well set forth.
Verse 7. "The law of the Lord is perfect;" by which he means not merely the law of Moses but the doctrine of God, the whole run and rule of sacred Writ. The doctrine revealed by God he declares to be perfect, and yet David had but a very small part of the Scriptures, and if a fragment, and that the darkest and most historical portion, be perfect, what must the entire volume be? How more than perfect is the book which contains the clearest possible display of divine love, and gives us an open vision of redeeming grace. The gospel is a complete scheme or law of gracious salvation, presenting to the needy sinner everything that his terrible necessities can possibly demand. There are no redundancies and no omissions in the Word of God, and in the plan of grace; why then do men try to paint this lily and gild this refined gold? The gospel is perfect in all its parts, and perfect as a whole: it is a crime to add to it, treason to alter it, and felony to take from it.
"Converting the soul." Making the man to be returned or restored to the place from which sin had cast him. The practical effect of the Word of God is to turn the man to himself, to his God, and to holiness; and the turn or conversion is not outward alone, "the soul" is moved and renewed. The great means of the conversion of sinners is the Word of God, and the more closely we keep to it in our ministry the more likely we are to be successful. It is God's Word rather than man's comment on God's Word which is made mighty with souls. When the law drives and the gospel draws, the action is different but the end is one, for by God's Spirit the soul is made to yield, and cries, "Turn me, and I shall be turned." Try men's depraved nature with philosophy and reasoning, and it laughs your efforts to scorn, but the Word of God soon works a transformation.
"The testimony of the Lord is sure." God bears his testimony against sin, and on behalf of righteousness; he testifies of our fall and of our restoration; this testimony is plain, decided, and infallible, and is to be accepted as sure. God's witness in his Word is so sure that we may draw solid comfort from it both for time and eternity, and so sure that no attacks made upon it however fierce or subtle can ever weaken its force. What a blessing that in a world of uncertainties we have something sure to rest upon! We hasten from the quicksands of human speculations to the terra firma of Divine Revelation.
"Making wise the simple." Humble, candid, teachable minds receive the word, and are made wise unto salvation. Things hidden from the wise and prudent are revealed unto babes. The persuadable grow wise, but the cavillers continue fools. As a law or plan the Word of God converts, and then as a testimony it instructs; it is not enough for us to be converts, we must continue to be disciples; and if we have felt the power of truth, we must go on to prove its certainty by experience. The perfection of the gospel converts, but its sureness edifies; if we would be edified it becomes us not to stagger at the promise through unbelief, for a doubted gospel cannot make us wise, but truth of which we are assured will be our establishment.
Verse 8. "The statutes of the Lord are right." His precepts and decrees are founded in righteousness, and are such as are right or fitted to the right reason of man. As a physician gives the right medicine, and a counsellor the right advice, so does the Book of God. "Rejoicing the heart." Mark the progress; he who was converted was next made wise and is now made happy; that truth which makes the heart right then gives joy to the right heart. Free-grace brings heart-joy. Earthborn mirth dwells on the lip, and flushes the bodily powers; but heavenly delights satisfy the inner nature, and fill the mental faculties to the brim. There is no cordial of comfort like that which is poured from the bottle of Scripture.
"Retire and read thy Bible to be gay."
"The commandment of the Lord is pure." No mixture of error defiles it, no stain of sin pollutes it; it is the unadulterated milk, the undiluted wine. "Enlightening the eyes," purging away by its own purity the earthly grossness which mars the intellectual discernment: whether the eye be dim with sorrow or with sin, the Scripture is a skilful occulist, and makes the eye clear and bright. Look at the sun and it puts out your eyes, look at the more than sunlight of Revelation and it enlightens them; the purity of snow causes snow-blindness to the Alpine traveller, but the purity of God's truth has the contrary effect, and cures the natural blindness of the soul. It is well again to observe the gradation; the convert becomes a disciple and next a rejoicing soul, he now obtains a discerning eye and as a spiritual man discerneth all things, though he himself is discerned of no man.
Verse 9. "The fear of the Lord is clean." The doctrine of truth is here described by its spiritual effect, viz., inward piety, or the fear of the Lord; this is clean in itself, and cleanses out the love of sin, sanctifying the heart in which it reigns. Mr. Godly-fear is never satisfied till every street, lane, and alley, yea, and every house and every corner of the town of Mansoul is clean rid of the Diablolonians who lurk therein. "Enduring for ever." Filth brings decay, but cleanness is the great foe of corruption. The grace of God in the heart being a pure principle, is also an abiding and incorruptible principle, which may be crushed for a time, but cannot be utterly destroyed. Both in the Word and in the heart, when the Lord writes, he says with Pilate, "What I have written, I have written;" he will make no erasures himself, much less suffer others to do so. The revealed will of God is never changed; even Jesus came not to destroy but to fulfil, and even the ceremonial law was only changed as to its shadow, the substance intended by it is eternal. When the governments of nations are shaken with revolution, and ancient constitutions are being repealed, it is comforting to know that the throne of God is unshaken, and his law unaltered.
"The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether;"—jointly and severally the words of the Lord are true; that which is good in detail is excellent in the mass; no exception may be taken to a single clause separately, or to the book as a whole. God's judgments, all of them together, or each of them apart, are manifestly just, and need no laborious excuses to justify them. The judicial decisions of Jehovah, as revealed in the law, or illustrated in the history of his providence, are truth itself, and commend themselves to every truthful mind; not only is their power invincible, but their justice is unimpeachable.
Verse 10. "More to be desired are they than fine gold, yea, than much fine gold." Bible truth is enriching to the soul in the highest degree; the metaphor is one which gathers force as it is brought out;—gold—fine gold—much fine gold; it is good, better, best, and therefore it is not only to be desired with a miser's avidity, but with more than that. As spiritual treasure is more noble than mere material wealth, so should it be desired and sought after with greater eagerness. Men speak of solid gold, but what is so solid as solid truth? For love of gold pleasure is forsworn, ease renounced, and life endangered; shall we not be ready to do as much for love of truth? "Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." Trapp says, "Old people are all for profit, the young for pleasure; here's gold for the one, yea, the finest gold in great quantity; here's honey for the other, yea, live honey dropping from the comb." The pleasures arising from a right understanding of the divine testimonies are of the most delightful order; earthly enjoyments are utterly contemptible, if compared with them. The sweetest joys, yea, the sweetest of the sweetest falls to his portion who has God's truth to be his heritage.
Verse 11. "Moreover by them is thy servant warned." We are warned by the Word both of our duty, our danger, and our remedy. On the sea of life there would be many more wrecks, if it were not for the divine storm-signals, which give to the watchful a timely warning. The Bible should be our Mentor, our Monitor, our Memento Mori, our Remembrancer, and the Keeper of our Conscience. Alas, that so few men will take the warning so graciously given; none but servants of God will do so, for they alone regard their Master's will. Servants of God not only find his service delightful in itself, but they receive good recompense; "In keeping of them there is great reward." There is a wage, and a great one; though we earn no wages of debt, we win great wages of grace. Saints may be losers for a time, but they shall be glorious gainers in the long run, and even now a quiet conscience is in itself no slender reward for obedience. He who wears the herb called heart's-ease in his bosom is truly blessed. However, the main reward is yet to come, and the word here used hints as much, for it signifies the heel, as if the reward would come to us at the end of life when the work was done;—not while the labour was in hand, but when it was gone and we could see the heel of it. Oh the glory yet to be revealed! It is enough to make a man faint for joy at the prospect of it. Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Then shall we know the value of the Scriptures when we swim in that sea of unutterable delight to which their streams will bear us, if we commit ourselves to them.
Verse 12. "Who can understand his errors?" A question which is its own answer. It rather requires a note of exclamation than of interrogation. By the law is the knowledge of sin, and in the presence of divine truth, the psalmist marvels at the number and heinousness of his sins. He best knows himself who best knows the Word, but even such an one will be in a maze of wonder as to what he does not know, rather than on the mount of congratulation as to what he does know. We have heard of a comedy of errors, but to a good man this is more like a tragedy. Many books have a few lines of errata at the end, but our errata might well be as large as the volume if we could but have sense enough to see them. Augustine wrote in his older days a series of Retractations; ours might make a library if we had enough grace to be convinced of our mistakes and to confess them. "Cleanse thou me from secret faults." Thou canst mark in me faults entirely hidden from myself. It were hopeless to expect to see all my spots; therefore, O Lord, wash away in the atoning blood even those sins which my conscience has been unable to detect. Secret sins, like private conspirators, must be hunted out, or they may do deadly mischief; it is well to be much in prayer concerning them. In the Lateran Council of the Church of Rome, a decree was passed that every true believer must confess his sins, all of them, once a year to the priest, and they affixed to it this declaration, that there is no hope of pardon but in complying with that decree. What can equal the absurdity of such a decree as that? Do they suppose that they can tell their sins as easily as they can count their fingers? Why, if we could receive pardon for all our sins by telling every sin we have committed in one hour, there is not one of us who would be able to enter heaven, since, besides the sins that are known to us and that we may be able to confess, there are a vast mass of sins, which are as truly sins as those which we lament, but which are secret, and come not beneath our eye. If we had eyes like those of God, we should think very differently of ourselves. The transgressions which we see and confess are but like the farmer's small samples which he brings to market, when he has left his granary full at home. We have but a very few sins which we can observe and detect, compared with those which are hidden from ourselves and unseen by our fellow-creatures.
Verse 13. "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me." This earnest and humble prayer teaches us that saints may fall into the worst of sins unless restrained by grace, and that therefore they must watch and pray lest they enter into temptation. There is a natural proneness to sin in the best of men, and they must be held back as a horse is held back by the bit or they will run into it. Presumptuous sins are peculiarly dangerous. All sins are great sins, but yet some sins are greater than others. Every sin has in it the very venom of rebellion, and is full of the essential marrow of traitorous rejection of God; but there be some sins which have in them a greater development of the essential mischief of rebellion, and which wear upon their faces more of the brazen pride which defies the Most High. It is wrong to suppose that because all sins will condemn us, that therefore one sin is not greater than another. The fact is, that while all transgression is a greatly grievous and sinful thing, yet there are some transgressions which have a deeper shade of blackness, and a more double scarlet-dyed hue of criminality than others. The presumptuous sins of our text are the chief and worst of all sins; they rank head and foremost in the list of iniquities. It is remarkable that though an atonement was provided under the Jewish law for every kind of sin, there was this one exception: "But the soul that sinneth presumptuously shall have no atonement; it shall be cut off from the midst of the people." And now under the Christian dispensation, although in the sacrifice of our blessed Lord there is a great and precious atonement for presumptuous sins, whereby sinners who have erred in this manner are made clean, yet without doubt, presumptuous sinners, dying without pardon, must expect to receive a double portion of the wrath of God, and a more terrible portion of eternal punishment in the pit that is digged for the wicked. For this reason is David so anxious that he may never come under the reigning power of these giant evils. "Then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression." He shudders at the thought of the unpardonable sin. Secret sin is a stepping-stone to presumptuous sin, and that is the vestibule of "the sin which is unto death." He who is not wilful in his sin, will be in a fair way to be innocent so far as poor sinful man can be; but he who tempts the devil to tempt him is in a path which will lead him from bad to worse, and from the worse to the worst.
Verse 14. "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer." A sweet prayer, and so spiritual that it is almost as commonly used in Christian worship as the apostolic benediction. Words of the mouth are mockery if the heart does not meditate; the shell is nothing without the kernel; but both together are useless unless accepted; and even if accepted by man, it is all vanity if not acceptable in the sight of God. We must in prayer view Jehovah as our strength enabling, and our Redeemer saving, or we shall not pray aright, and it is well to feel our personal interest so as to use the word my, or our prayers will be hindered. Our near Kinsman's name, our Goel or Redeemer, makes a blessed ending to the Psalm; it began with the heavens, but it ends with him whose glory fills heaven and earth. Blessed Kinsman, give us now to meditate acceptably upon thy most sweet love and tenderness.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement. C.H. Spurgeon Books | Go to Books Page
Psalm 20 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)SUBJECT. We have before us a National Anthem, fitted to be sung at the outbreak of war, when the monarch was girding on his sword for the fight. If David had not been vexed with wars, we might never have been favoured with such Psalms as this. There is a needs be for the trials of one saint, that he may yield consolation to others. A happy people here plead for a beloved sovereign, and with loving hearts cry to Jehovah, "God save the King." We gather that this song was intended to be sung in public, not only from the matter of the song, but also from its dedication "To the Chief Musician." We know its author to have been Israel's sweet singer, from the short title, "A Psalm of David." The particular occasion which suggested it, it would be mere folly to conjecture, for Israel was almost always at war in David's day. His sword may have been hacked, but it was never rusted. Kimchi reads the title, concerning David, or, for David, and it is clear that the king is the subject as well as the composer of the song. It needs but a moment's reflection to perceive that this hymn of prayer is prophetical of our Lord Jesus, and is the cry of the ancient church on behalf of her Lord, as she sees him in vision enduring a great fight of afflictions on her behalf. The militant people of God, with the great Captain of salvation at their head, may still in earnest plead that the pleasure of the Lord may prosper in his hand. We shall endeavour to keep to this view of the subject in our brief exposition, but we cannot entirely restrict out remarks to it.
DIVISION. The first four verses are a prayer for the success of the king. Verses 5, 6, and 7 express unwavering confidence in God and his Anointed; verse 8. declares the defeat of the foe, and verse 9 is a concluding appeal to Jehovah.
Verse 1. "The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble." All loyal subjects pray for their king, and most certainly citizens of Zion have good cause to pray for the Prince of Peace. In times of conflict loving subjects redouble their pleas, and surely in the sorrows of our Lord his church could not but be in earnest. All the Saviour's days were days of trouble, and he also made them days of prayer; the church joins her intercession with her Lord's, and pleads that he may be heard in his cries and tears. The agony in the garden was especially a gloomy hour, but he was heard in that he feared. He knew that his Father heard him always, yet in that troublous hour no reply came until thrice he had fallen on his face in the garden; then sufficient strength was given in answer to prayer, and he rose a victor from the conflict. On the cross also his prayer was not unheard, for in the twenty-second Psalm he tells us, "thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns." The church in this verse implies that her Lord would be himself much given to prayer; in this he is our example, teaching us that if we are to receive any advantage from the prayers of others, we must first pray for ourselves. What a mercy that we may pray in the day of trouble, and what a still more blessed privilege that no trouble can prevent the Lord from hearing us! Troubles roar like thunder, but the believer's voice will be heard above the storm. O Jesus, when thou pleadest for us in our hour of trouble, the Lord Jehovah will hear thee. This is a most refreshing confidence, and it may be indulged in without fear. "Jesu's tremendous name
"The name of the God of Jacob defend thee;" or, as some read it, "set thee in a high place." By "the name" is meant the revealed character and Word of God; we are not to worship "the unknown God," but we should seek to know the covenant God of Jacob, who has been pleased to reveal his name and attributes to his people. There may be much in a royal name, or a learned name, or a venerable name, but it will be a theme for heavenly scholarship to discover all that is contained in the divine name. The glorious power of God defended and preserved the Lord Jesus through the battle of his life and death, and exalted him above all his enemies. His warfare is now accomplished in his own proper person, but in his mystical body, the church, he is still beset with dangers, and only the eternal arm of our God in covenant can defend the soldiers of the cross, and set them on high out of the reach of their foes. The day of trouble is not over, the pleading Saviour is not silent, and the name of the God of Israel is still the defence of the faithful. The name, "God of Jacob," is suggestive; Jacob had his day of trouble, he wrestled, was heard, was defended, and in due time was set on high, and his God is our God still, the same God to all his wrestling Jacobs. The whole verse is a very fitting benediction to be pronounced by a gracious heart over a child, a friend, or a minister, in prospect of trial; it includes both temporal and spiritual protection, and directs the mind to the great source of all good. How delightful to believe that our heavenly Father has pronounced it upon our favoured heads!
Verse 2. "Send thee help from the sanctuary." Out of heaven's sanctuary came the angel to strengthen our Lord, and from the precious remembrance of God's doings in his sanctuary our Lord refreshed himself when on the tree. There is no help like that which is of God's sending, and no deliverance like that which comes out of his sanctuary. The sanctuary to us is the person of our blessed Lord, who was typified by the temple, and is the true sanctuary which God has pitched, and not man: let us fly to the cross for shelter in all times of need and help will be sent to us. Men of the world despise sanctuary help, but our hearts have learned to prize it beyond all material aid. They seek help out of the armoury, or the treasury, or the buttery, but we turn to the sanctuary. "And strengthen thee out of Zion." Out of the assemblies of the pleading saints who had for ages prayed for their Lord, help might well result to the despised sufferer, for praying breath is never spent in vain. To the Lord's mystical body the richest comes in answer to the pleadings of his saints assembled for holy worship as his Zion. Certain advertisers recommend a strengthening plaster, but nothing can give such strength to the loins of a saint as waiting upon God in the assemblies of his people. This verse is a benediction befitting a Sabbath morning, and may be the salutation either of a pastor to his people, or of a church to its minister. God in the sanctuary of his dear Son's person, and in the city of his chosen church is the proper object of his people's prayers, and under such a character may they confidently look to him for his promised aid.
Verse 3. "Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice. Selah." Before war kings offered sacrifice, upon the acceptance of which the depended for success; our blessed Lord presented himself as a victim, and was a sweet savour unto the Most High, and then he met and routed the embattled legions of hell. Still does his burnt sacrifice perfume the courts of heaven, and through him the offerings of his people are received as his sacrifices and oblations. We ought in our spiritual conflicts to have an eye to the sacrifice of Jesus, and never venture to war until first the Lord has given us a token for good at the altar of the cross, where faith beholds her bleeding Lord. "Selah." It is well to pause at the cross before we march onward to battle, and with the psalmist cry "Selah." We are too much in a hurry to make good haste. A little pausing might greatly help our speed. Stay, good man, there is a haste which hinders; rest awhile, meditate on the burnt sacrifice, and put thy heart right for the stern work which lieth before thee.
Verse 4. "Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel." Christ's desire and counsel were both set upon the salvation of his people; the church of old desired for him good speed in his design, and the church in these latter days, with all her heart desires the complete fulfilment of his purpose. In Christ Jesus sanctified souls may appropriate this verse as a promise; they shall have their desire, and their plans to glorify their Master shall succeed. We may have our own will, when our will is God's will. This was always the case with our Lord, and yet he said, "not as I will, but as thou wilt." What need for submission in our case; if it was necessary to him, how much more for us?
Verse 5. "We will rejoice in thy salvation." In Jesus there is salvation; it is his own, and hence it is called thy salvation; but it is ours to receive and ours to rejoice in. We should fixedly resolve that come what may, we will rejoice in the saving arm of the Lord Jesus. The people in this Psalm, before their king went to battle, felt sure of victory, and therefore began to rejoice beforehand; how much more ought we to do this who have seen the victory completely won! Unbelief begins weeping for the funeral before the man is dead; why should not faith commence piping before the dance of victory begins? Buds are beautiful, and promises not yet fulfilled are worthy to be admired. If joy were more general among the Lord's people, God would be more glorified among men; the happiness of the subjects is the honour of the sovereign. "And in the name of our God we will set up our banners." We lift the standard of defiance in the face of the foe, and wave the flag of victory over the fallen adversary. Some proclaim war in the name of one king, and some of another, but the faithful go to war in Jesu's name, the name of the incarnate God, Immanuel, God with us. The times are evil at present, but so long as Jesus lives and reigns in his church we need not furl our banners in fear, but advance them with sacred courage.
Puts all our foes to flight;
Jesus, the meek, the angry Lamb
A lion is in fight."
Verse 6. "Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed." We live and learn, and what we learn we are not ashamed to acknowledge. He who thinks he knows everything will miss the joy of finding out new truth; he will never be able to cry, "now know I," for he is so wise in his own conceit that he knows all that can be revealed and more. Souls conscious of ignorance shall be taught of the Lord, and rejoice as they learn. Earnest prayer frequently leads to assured confidence. The church pleaded that the Lord Jesus might win the victory in his great struggle, and now by faith she sees him saved by the omnipotent arm. She evidently finds a sweet relish in the fragrant title of "anointed;" she thinks of him as ordained before all worlds to his great work, and then endowed with the needful qualifications by being anointed of the Spirit of the Lord; and this is evermore the choicest solace of the believer, that Jehovah himself hath anointed Jesus to be a Prince and a Saviour, and that our shield is thus the Lord's own anointed. "He will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand." It is here asserted confidently that God's holiness and power would both come to the rescue of the Saviour in his conflict, and surely these two glorious attributes found congenial work in answering the sufferer's cries. Since Jesus was heard, we shall be; God is in heaven, but our prayers can scale those glorious heights; those heavens are holy, but Jesus purifies our prayers, and so they gain admittance; our need is great, but the divine arm is strong, and all its strength is "saving strength;" that strength, moreover, is in the hand which is most used and which is used most readily—the right hand. What encouragements are these for pleading saints!
Verse 6. Contrasts frequently bring out the truth vividly, and here the church sets forth the creature confidences of carnal men in contrast with her reliance upon the Prince Immanuel and the invisible Jehovah. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses." Chariots and horses make an imposing show, and with their rattling, and dust, and fine caparisons, make so great a figure that vain man is much taken with them; yet the discerning eye of faith sees more in an invisible God than in all these. The most dreaded war-engine of David's day was the war-chariot, armed with scythes, which mowed down men like grass: this was the boast and glory of the neighbouring nations; but the saints considered the name of Jehovah to be a far better defence. As the Israelites might not keep horses, it was natural for them to regard the enemy's calvary with more than usual dread. It is, therefore, all the greater evidence of faith that the bold songster can here disdain even the horse of Egypt in comparison with the Lord of hosts. Alas, how many in our day who profess to be the Lord's are as abjectly dependent upon their fellow-men or upon an arm of flesh in some shape or other, as if they had never known the name of Jehovah at all. Jesus, be thou alone our rock and refuge, and never may we mar the simplicity of our faith. "We will remember the name of the Lord our God." "Our God" in covenant, who has chosen us and whom we have chosen; this God is our God. The name of our God is JEHOVAH, and this should never be forgotten; the self-existent, independent, immutable, ever-present, all-filling I AM. Let us adore that matchless name, and never dishonour it by distrust or creature confidence. Reader, you must know it before you can remember it. May the blessed Spirit reveal it graciously to your soul!
Verse 8. How different the end of those whose trusts are different! The enemies of God are uppermost at first, but they ere long are brought down by force, or else fall of their own accord. Their foundation is rotten, and therefore when the time comes it gives way under them; their chariots are burned in the fire, and their horses die of pestilence, and where is their boasted strength? As for those who rest on Jehovah, they are often cast down at the first onset, but an Almighty arm uplifts them, and they joyfully stand upright. The victory of Jesus is the inheritance of his people. The world, death, Satan, and sin, shall all be trampled beneath the feet of the champions of faith; while those who rely upon an arm of flesh shall be ashamed and confounded for ever.
Verse 9. The Psalm is here recapitulated. That Jesus might himself be delivered, and might then, as our King, hear us, is the two-fold desire of the Psalm. The first request is granted, and the second is sure to all the seed; and therefore we may close the Psalm with the hearty shout, "God save the King." "God save King Jesus, and may he soon come to reign."
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement.
"Jesu's tremendous name
Thanks Be to God
By Knox Chamblin 3/1/2009
In December 2008, I turned seventy-three. Invited by Tabletalk to address younger generations “on matters pertinent to the faith,” I thought of Psalm 71, the prayer of an elderly man. Says verse 18: “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” I seek to do so now.
Wisdom: “O God, from my youth you have taught me” (Ps. 71:17a). “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (90:12). For an ancient Hebrew, heart had rational, emotional, and volitional dimensions. So one way to love God with all one’s heart was to love him with all one’s mind (Matt. 22:37). I urge you, whatever your calling, to commit yourself to the serious study of the Holy Scriptures. When I taught at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), reading an assigned exposition sometimes left me wondering: “If this student believes the Bible is God’s infallible Word, why has he expended so little effort to mine its treasures?” While writing a commentary on the gospel of Matthew in recent years, I was acutely aware of the need for both utter dependence on God and unrelenting discipline: these are like the two wings of an aircraft, both essential for flight (The Inspiration and Authority of Bible, chap. 8).
The crucial dimension of the heart is the will. Failure to do the truth shows that I have not grasped the truth (James 1:22; 1 John 3:18). Colossians 1:9–10 teaches that believers are given “spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord”; and that by “bearing fruit in every good work” they will be “increasing in the knowledge of God.” “All right knowledge of God is born of obedience” (The Institutes Of The Christian Religion, 1.6.2).
Warfare: “O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!” (Ps. 71:12). Galatians 5:16–26 describes conflict between “the flesh” and “the Spirit.” “Flesh” here is not a part of the person, but the whole person viewed in a certain way — in rebellion against God. “The Spirit” is not the human spirit (which itself produces “works of the flesh”) but the Holy Spirit of God.
By means of the fifteen “works of the flesh” (vv. 19–21), sin (the power behind the flesh) assaults God’s people. The eight traits at the heart of the list — “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy” — all spring from competitive pride, the foremost of the seven deadly sins (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 3, chap. 8). Pride and its offspring rob me of love, joy, and peace (Gal. 5:22). I can now see that pride assailed me throughout my teaching career. At Belhaven College and at RTS, I always taught with people who were better at doing what I did best! In face of their superior gifts and attainments there was always the threat of jealousy, rivalry, and envy.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (v. 16). Over the years I have come to see that the nine qualities of 5:22–23 are weapons from the Spirit to combat the flesh. Especially potent against pride is love (Greek agapē) — love that “does not envy or boast” (1 Cor. 13:4), that esteems others more highly than oneself (Phil. 2:1–3). In the face of pride, the Spirit also granted me joy — in praying with colleagues, in valuing all that they taught me, in knowing them to be skilled comrades-in-arms against a common foe (Eph. 6:10–20), in recalling how they discouraged me from taking myself too seriously.
Worship: “My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day” (Ps. 71:8). I give thanks to God the Father. He fashioned me in His own image, and surrounded me with the wonders of His creation. He has granted me seventy-three years of life. He disclosed the glory of His Son to me. He drew me out of darkness into light, out of death into life. When I willfully disobey, He disciplines me — as gently as possible, as sternly as necessary! I shudder to think what course my life would have taken had it not been for the heavenly Father’s patience, mercy, and love to His stubborn and wayward child.
I give thanks to God the Son. He loved me, and He went to the cross to save me from the sins that enslaved me, to crucify the record of guilt that the demonic powers used against me (Col. 2:13–15). He is my wisdom, my righteousness, my holiness and my redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). I now have a far more radical view of human wickedness and personal sin than before. For this very reason, I have a far more radical view of grace: what was long an important concept is now a preeminent reality.
I give thanks to God the Holy Spirit. He has enlightened me to understand the Bible and has enabled me to teach. He has armed me for battle against the flesh; and He has slowly been cultivating in my life such qualities as love, joy, peace, and patience. I well know my natural bent to selfishness, gloom, anxiety, and impatience; so when my heart is moved to love God or another person, I know the Holy Spirit has been at work.
For your own worship, I recommend a 30-day notebook. For each day, include (besides names of persons for whom to pray) a biblical Psalm and a hymn of praise. You have a Bible. You may need a hymnbook: buy one, don’t take it from the church pew!
“My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed” (Ps. 71:23).
Dr. Knox Chamblin was professor emeritus of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. In addition to teaching Sunday school, he participated in conferences and foreign missions.
Knox Chamblin Books:
Out of the Many, One
By Anthony Carter 12/1/2009
In the title “United States of America,” the emphasis is necessarily on the word united. When America was in its infancy and seeking to establish itself as a sovereign nation, it faced many challenges, not the least of which was that King George of England was not interested in letting his colonies in America go free. If these colonies were to establish themselves as a nation apart from British rule, they were going to have to do so by defeating the most powerful army on the earth, namely, the British Army. To do so, it would have to pull together a formidable army out of a scattered rag-tag group of colonial militia. Yet, perhaps the most daunting task in this mission was the pulling together thirteen separate colonies and convincing them of the need to rally around a single vision and mission. This would not be easy.
Each of these thirteen colonies had been established with its own sense of autonomy and the rhetoric for revolution had only fueled the autonomous spirit. Yet, the Fathers of the Revolution understood the necessity of the unity of these colonies. Therefore, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were commissioned to develop a seal around which unity in colonies could be fostered. The seal that they suggested contained the Latin phrase e pluribus unum — out of many, one.
The revolutionary call to freedom had the ability to unite in the midst of diversity, and the now ubiquitous e pluribus unum captured it. While the phrase identified the brilliance of our nation’s architects, the understanding of unity in the midst of diversity is something the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for and accomplished nearly two millennia prior.
In a real sense, e pluribus unum is the prayer Jesus prayed in John 17:20–23 where he asked the Father concerning His disciples that “they (the many) may all be one.” This is rather remarkable when you consider that Jesus knew the disunity among them and the disunity that would arise in the early church. Yet, Jesus prays because the unity for which He prayed is the unity that He would purchase.
Unity of the faith was created by Christ. It was indeed purchased by Him on the cross and validated in the resurrection. We don’t achieve it as much as we recognize it and seek to maintain it (Eph. 4:3). Yet what is the centralized focus of this unity? With so much diversity in expression within the universal church of Jesus Christ, how are we to understand the unity purchased by Christ, and how are we to be eager to maintain it? I believe we find the answer in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
As the apostle Paul took up pen to write to the church of Corinth, it would seem that he was writing to the church today. The divisive issues he endeavored to confront sound eerily familiar. It would appear that they were divided by the same things we tend to divide over today. They were divided over popular personalities (1:10–12); church discipline (5:1–6); personal liberties (8:1–13); the Lord’s Supper (11:17–22); spiritual gifts (12:1–31); and even worship (14:26–33). While Paul took time to deal pastorally with each of these issues and more, when it came time to sum up the issue for the Corinthians, he brought them right back to the core fundamental truth that must identify and unify all Christians, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maintaining unity in the above mentioned issues is important and should be pursued. Yet, for Paul they were not of first importance. The thing that Paul posited as the central unifying truth is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We see this in the way he concluded the letter.
In bringing the letter to a conclusion, he told the Corinthians that there is one central truth that unites all Christians. It is the fundamental, uncompromising, indispensable truth that Paul said he first taught them and continued to insist upon — “that Christ died for our sins…was buried…was raised on the third day” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). This we are told is that which is of first importance. It is the non-negotiable, the sine qua non of the faith.
There are many things over which Christians have disagreed, and continue to disagree, yet there cannot be and must not be disunity concerning the fact that the Son of God became man, died for our sins, and was raised from the dead. This, according to Paul, is the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1). Without this our faith, living, preaching, and death is in vain. This identifies and unites Christians all over the world and through time. This is the truth that if denied separates the false from the true believers.
Ever since the founding of America, there has been much over which Americans have disagreed and even found grounds for disunity. Yet, the United States of America remains the United States because there is one central unifying truth and virtue that always rises above all others — freedom. So also in the church there is one unifying truth. There is much over which Christians find to disagree and unfortunately sow discord. Yet, no matter where the church finds herself or the nature of her expression, if she is true there is the central unifying theme — the gospel. In the gospel Jesus provided the answer to His prayer, e pluribus unum. Out of the many, and through the gospel, we are one.
Per Amazon, A graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, and Point University of East Point, GA, Tony is lead pastor of East Point Church, East Point, GA. Pastor Tony live in East Point GA with his wife and five children.
Anthony Carter Books:
- 1 Black and Reformed: Seeing God's Sovereignty in the African-American Christian Experience
- 2 Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church
- 3 Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity
- 4 On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African-American Christian Experience
- 5 Blood Work
- 6 What is the Gospel?: Life's Most Important Question
- 7 The Holiness of God: An Attribute First Among Equals
- 8 Fighting Sexual Temptation: An Attack of the Heart
- 9 Wolves Among the Sheep: Be Aware of False Prophets
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 65O God of Our Salvation
65 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David. A Song.
1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall vows be performed.
2 O you who hear prayer,
to you shall all flesh come.
3 When iniquities prevail against me,
you atone for our transgressions.
4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple!
5 By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
6 the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
7 who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
8 so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.
By Gleason Archer Jr.
Authorship and Date, of Composition of Proverbs
1. The following sections of Proverbs seem to be attributed to Solomon the son of David: (a) 1:1–9:18, according to 1:1; (b) 10:1–22:16, according to 10:1; (c) 25:1–29:27, according to 25:1, although selected and published by a committee under the appointment of King Hezekiah (728–697 B.C.). It should be remembered that according to 1 Kings 4:32, Solomon’s original collection of Proverbs numbered no less than three thousand. Since canonical Proverbs contains only 800 verses, it is obvious that the original Solomonic writings (secs. I, II, III) contained ample material for later excerpters.
2. Two sections (chaps. 22–24, IV and V in outline) are attributed to the “wise men” (ḥaḵāmɩ̂m), who are not otherwise specified but who probably belonged to the same class referred to in 1 Kings 4:31. There is every reason to believe that they antedated Solomon himself and that he was responsible for assembling this anthology under his own editorship.
3. The sayings of Agur the son of Jakeh (chap. 30 ) are of uncertain origin, inasmuch as we have no information whatever as to Jakeh’s historical, geographical, or even ethnic background.
4. The sayings of King Lemuel are certainly of non-Israelite origin, but it is reasonable to suppose that he was a North Arabian prince, living possibly in an area not far from Uz, who still cherished a faith in the one true God. So far as Prov. 31:10–31 is concerned, it is ambiguous whether this beautiful description of the perfect wife is attributed to King Lemuel or to some other. The fact, however, that it is composed as an acrostic or alphabetic poem of twenty-two lines shows that it is a separate composition and its style bears little resemblance to the first nine verses of chapter 31.
Critical Theories of Authorship and Date of Proverbs
Using as their principal criterion an evolutionary theory of the development of Hebrew thought, the Liberal critics have tended to deny to the Solomonic period a large portion if not all of the material attributed by the text to King Solomon himself. Thus Driver, Nowack, and A. B. Davidson regard chapters 1–9 as composed shortly before the Exile, about three and a half centuries later than Solomon’s reign. These critics concede that Solomon may have written some portions of chapters 10–22, which they regard as the oldest nucleus of the book, but the whole collection reached its present form only in the seventh century B.C. The section 22:17–24:34 is thought to have originated in the post-exilic period (on the supposition of its being derived from the Wisdom of Amenemope, which will be discussed later). Possibly chapters 25–29 were composed at about the same time. Last of all, chapters 30 and 31 were added at a substantially later period. In this connection it should be noted that some moderate conservative critics, like Genung in the ISBE, put chapters 22–24 at an earlier period than chapters 1–9. But they see no reason for postponing the substantial completion of Proverbs beyond the reign of Hezekiah. Even chapters 30 and 31 may have been added at that same period, since their foreign origin would sufficiently account for differences in language and tone as compared with the rest of the book.
More radical critics such as C. H. Toy, the author of the ICC commentary on Proverbs (1899), come to the conclusion that nothing in Proverbs dates from a period earlier than 350 B.C., and that the later material was contributed some time in the second century. Toy advances the following six arguments to support this view:
1. Since Solomon was said by Jewish tradition to be the author of Proverbs, Song of Solomon (cf. 1 Kings 4:30–34), Ecclesiastes, and two of the Psalms, it is apparent that he had become the symbol of wisdom and the patron saint of all philosophical or nonliturgical poetry (just as Moses, e.g., had become the symbol of Hebrew law). In the course of time it became conventional to attribute such compositions to Solomon, even though they were of late manufacture, in order that they might gain wider acceptance with the credulous Jewish public. This certainly must have been the motivation for attributing the apocryphal book, the Wisdom of Solomon, which was quite obviously composed in Greek, to the ancient paragon of Hebrew philosophy.
It is of course perfectly apparent that in the intertestamental period it became fashionable to compose didactic or apocalyptic works which were attributed, ostensibly at least, to ancient patriarchs like Enoch or the twelve sons of Jacob. But there is no good evidence that such a procedure was ever followed in pre-Hellenistic Israel. The primary question to settle would seem to be, How did Solomon ever get this reputation for proverbial and wisdom literature if in fact he never composed any? It is far more logical to conclude that he gained the reputation because he was the first to compose this type of literature on a classical standard rather than assuming that the tradition was utterly without foundation. Thus in Greek literature the existence of the later epic poetry falsely attributed to Homer by no means demonstrates that Homer never composed any epic poetry of his own (i.e., the Iliad and the Odyssey). The same is true of the large body of lyric poetry attributed to Anacreon. The existence of such productions does not prove there never was such a person as Anacreon who composed the earlier poetry attributed to his name. It is therefore difficult to see how the tenth-century Solomon could have acquired such a high reputation as a classical model for ḥoḵmâ literature if he never composed any of his own.
2. Toy also deduces a post-exilic origin from the assumption of pure monotheism which seems to be applied throughout Proverbs. (Liberal higher critics have held in the past that by a process of religious evolution, true monotheism appeared late in Israel.) This approach necessarily involves a complete ignoring of the abundant textual evidence of the Old Testament records that the Israelite people were strictly monotheistic from the days of the patriarchs and always regarded idolatry as a heretical or apostate deviation from their covenant relationship to Jehovah.
3. There is a noteworthy lack of distinctive national traits observable in the text of Proverbs. From this, Toy deduces that the nation was already scattered to foreign regions, as was the case after the fall of Jerusalem. On the other hand, however, it is far more probable that this lack of distinctive national traits is to be explained (a) as part of the genius of the ḥoḵmâ genre itself, which is concerned with individuals as such, rather than with nations, and deals with the laws of human behavior as observable among almost all the ancient Near Eastern peoples: (b) as resulting from the central location of Israel between the cultures of Mesopotamia, Syria, Phoenicia, North Arabia, and Egypt. It was inevitable that there should be extensive cultural interplay from the earliest stages of Israel’s career as a nation.
4. Proverbs is said to reflect the social manners and vices which are known to have existed after the Exile, especially in the urban centers of Judah. This, however, must be regarded as a very dubious generalization. No proof has been adduced that a single custom or vice mentioned in Proverbs was unknown to the culture of Jerusalem or the other large cities of Israel during Solomon’s reign.
5. The constant assumption in Proverbs that virtue is to be identified with knowledge and wickedness is equivalent to ignorance is supposed by Liberal critics to reflect the Hellenic approach to moral philosophy as exemplified by Plato in his Dialogues (ca. 370 B.C.). It argued out that knowledge of this Greek approach to the problems of ethics would have come to the Near East only after the Alexandrian conquest (ca. 330 B.C.). However, this interpretation involves a basic misunderstanding of the fundamental distinction between Greek sophia and Hebrew ḥoḵmâ. Greek philosophy tended to be speculative and concerned with cosmogony and the underlying constituent principles of the universe. Hebrew philosophy, however, as formulated in the Old Testament, was concerned rather with understanding the implications of the revealed will of God for the problems and choices of daily life. Whereas Greek philosophy tended toward a dialectical deduction from first principles arrived at by purely intellectual induction, Hebrew philosophy was more intuitive and analogical, endeavoring to interpret the moral order in the light of a personal, omniscient, and omnipotent God, who had revealed His will for ethical living.
As for the relationship between ignorance and sin, the Platonic concept of moral ignorance was intellectual and mental, whereas the Solomonic concept in Proverbs recognized in man a certain darkness of the soul resulting from an immoral prior choice of heart. Moral philosophy among the Greeks did not really come to grips with the problem of radical evil in man or his capacity to acknowledge in theory the truth of righteousness, and yet to choose evil out of a perverse self-interest. One of the characteristic terms for “folly” in Proverbs is nebālâʾ which suggests the example of Nabal, whose story is related in 1 Sam. 25. Verse 25 of that chapter judges him a “fool” (nābāl), not because he was not intelligent enough to figure out that virtue is a more successful means to attain personal happiness than wickedness can possibly be, but rather because he made a wrong choice in the moral realm: to requite David’s friendliness with a miserly and vilifying ingratitude.
6. Toy dismisses the book of Proverbs as the product of a professional caste of wise men, who also were responsible for Ecclesiastes, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus. But as we have previously pointed out, the existence of a later caste presupposes a founder. Just as the prophets would be incomprehensible without a prior Moses, whose law they interpreted and applied to the problems of their own generation, so also there must have been a classical model for written proverbial literature before any caste of practitioners could have arisen. Compare Jer. 18:18, which speaks of the wise men as a class of experts on a par with priests and prophets in the pre-exilic generation. There can be no question that wisdom literature had a very early origin in the history of Egypt, going back at least to Ipuwer in the Sixth Dynasty (ca. 2500 B.C.) or the Second Intermediate Period (1780–1550 B.C.). It is also evident from 1 Kings 4:30 that there was a long tradition of pre-Solomonic sages in Israel, and it is quite unwarranted to hold that the tenth century was too early for this kind of literature to have arisen among the Hebrew people.
In this connection it is appropriate to quote the remarks of W. E Albright (Wisdom in Israel and in the Ancient Near East, 1955, p. 4):
In the course of the past century a curious myth has arisen that the Age of Wise Men, who are supposed to have flourished in the Achaemenian and early Hellenistic periods, dates to about the fifth to third centuries B.C. We may freely admit that the Book of Proverbs was not edited in approximately its present form until about the fifth century B.C. without assuming that any material of post-Exilic date is included in the book. But the content of Proverbs is considerably older, and it is entirely possible that aphorisms and even longer sections go back into the Bronze Age in substantially their present form. Cullen I. K. Story has shown in a Johns Hopkins study [cf. Journal of Biblical Literature, 64, 1945, pp. 319–337] that the metric style of Proverbs often agrees entirely with that of the Ugaritic epics as analyzed by C. H. Gordon. Story has given numerous examples of different categories; the number might easily be increased several times.
Albright goes on to cite a series of significant parallels, for instance, Proverbs 10:26 (“As vinegar to the teeth, /And as smoke to the eyes, /So is the sluggard to them that send him”) and the Baal Epic I Ab, Gordon No. 49 (“Like the feeling of a wild cow for her calf, /like the feeling of a wild ewe for her lamb, /So was the feeling of Anath for Baal”). Here we have in each case a tricolon whose third member differs from the two preceding in such a way as to produce a climactic effect. Another type is the bicolon, which omits a word parallel to an outstanding word in the first column, as for instance, Prov. 27:2 (“Let a stranger praise thee, and not thy mouth; /A foreigner and not thy lips”) and I Aqhat I, 1:13 (“From his mouth let the message go forth, /From his lips the word”).
It should be mentioned that in this same article Albright notes that these poetic forms common to Proverbs and the Ugaritic literature are totally absent from the Aramaic wisdom literature of the seventh century B.C. as represented by the Sayings of Aḥiqar. He states, “We must accordingly date the content of Proverbs as a whole well before Ahiqar and look to the earliest Canaanite sources for its metrical stylistic structure as well as for direct Canaanite prototypes of many individual proverbs and bodies of material.” He then goes on to mention that Umberto Cassuto isolated forty pairs of words in parallelism which appear both in Hebrew wisdom literature and in the Ugaritic texts. These were augmented by thirty more examples pointed out by Cassuto’s pupil, Moshe Held.
Albright asserts that Prov. 8–9 is full of Canaanite words and expressions, including the description of the origin of Wisdom in 8:22–31. Thus verse 22 begins with four words which apparently reflect a Canaanite influence: “El created me (at) the beginning of his dominion.” Here we have the verb qānâ with the unusual meaning of “create” (a meaning well known however, in Canaanite), and the noun derek used in a way suggesting the Canaanite drkt meaning “dominion.” Albright closes with this judgment: “In a nutshell, my opinion with regard to the provenience and date of Proverbs is that its entire contents is probably pre-Exilic, but that much of the book was handed down orally until the fifth century B.C., when we know from Elephantine that Jews were interested in literature of a different kind.”
The Continual Burnt Offering (Matthew 25:19)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
June 16Matthew 25:19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. ESV
It was when the master returned that he took account of his servants. And it will be at the return of our Lord Jesus that He will summon His servants to stand before His judgment seat, not to be condemned for their sins, for that judgment is past (John 5:24), but to render an account of their service. Both for Israel and the church, rewards are to be given out at His coming (see Isaiah 62:11 and Revelation 22:12).
The wicked and slothful servant does not represent a child of God, because he is cast into the outer darkness. He has nothing for which he can be rewarded. It is otherwise with those who are regenerated. Of them it is written that in that day, “then each one’s praise will come from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5). This refers, of course, not to every man as such, but to every one of those who appear at the judgment seat of Christ, where only believers will stand.
If we use whatever gifts we have in dependence on God, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem, we shall find our capacity for service increasing constantly. We are told to earnestly desire the best gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31), and to use them in love.
Hebrews 10:28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
John 16:8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: ESV
Go on, go on; there’s all eternity to rest in,
And far too few are on the active service list.
No labor for the Lord is risky to invest in;
But nothing will make up, should His “Well done” be missed.
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
11/1/2011 In Defense of Words
What is a pastor? I was asked this question not too long ago by a teenage girl who apparently didn’t know the meaning of the word pastor and was curious to learn. I must admit that I was somewhat shocked and quite saddened that she didn’t know what a pastor is, but I quickly sought to offer her an explanation of the word and how I serve as a pastor of God’s people by preaching, teaching, praying, evangelizing, discipling, counseling, and so on. And just as these words were coming out of my mouth, I realized that if she didn’t know the meaning of the word pastor, she likely didn’t know the meanings of any of these other words either—and she’s not alone. Over the years, I have found that people of every age, in the church and world, do not know the meanings of many of the most basic biblical and theological words. This isn’t primarily the fault of the people, it is the fault of us pastors. We have not been faithful in our calling to equip God’s people in the theology of His Word and in the theological terms of His Word.
Many of the current problems in the church are due to our lack of knowledge of Scripture itself, and this is not just a problem in the pew but in the pulpit as well. The problem is not that we don’t read the Bible, the problem is that we don’t study the Bible. In fact, the Bible itself does not call us merely to read it in order to get through it as quickly as possible in a perfunctory manner—on the contrary, the Bible tells us to devour it one jot and tittle at a time, to study it as unashamed workmen, to rightly divide it, to search it, to meditate on it, to delight in it, to let it dwell within our hearts richly, and to hide it in our hearts that we might not sin against the Lord. We rightly affirm the complete, word-for-word inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, yet we often fail to study it word for word, thought for thought, phrase for phrase, and thus fail to grasp the very basic meanings of the eternally weighty and glorious words that God Himself has graciously revealed to us. More to the point, while there are many important theological discussions and disputes within the church, some result from a simple lack of historical, ecclesial, and theological understanding of terms.
By the grace of God, if the rising generations are to hear the gospel and mature as disciples of Jesus Christ who make other disciples, they must have parents and preachers who know the meanings of the words of the gospel and the words of the Word of God. In our post-everything culture, we desperately need to recover a robust knowledge of the meanings of biblical and theological words so that we might rightly employ and apply them as we live coram deo, by the grace of God and for the glory of God, knowing as much as we can possibly know about the glorious meanings of grace and glory.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
The father of the American space program died this day, June 16, 1977. He developed the famed V-2 rocket for Germany before emigrating to the US, where in 1958, he launched America's first satellite. He became the director of NASA, the U.S. guided missile program and founded the National Space Institute. His name was Wernher von Braun, who stated: "The laws of nature that enable us to fly to the Moon also enable us to destroy our home planet… The guidelines of what we ought to do are furnished in the moral law of God."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
God, that dumping ground of our dreams.
--- Jean Rostand
Carnet d'un Biologiste
We don't forget that we are Christians. We forget that we are human, and that one oversight alone can debilitate the potential of our future.
--- Wayne Cordeiro
Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion
Reality is my god
evidence is my scripture
big history is my creation story
ecology is my theology
integrity is my salvation
insuring a just and healthy future is my mission
--- Michael Dowd
Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World
God’s people don’t live on explanations;
they live on promises.
--- Warren Wiersbe
Be Heroic (Minor Prophets): Demonstrating Bravery by Your Walk
... from here, there and everywhere
We must now pass by the details of the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, his trials before Annas and Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate, Peter’s denials, the cruel mockery by priests and soldiers, the spitting and the scourging, and the hysteria of the mob who demanded his death. We move on to the end of the story. Condemned to death by crucifixion, ‘he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth’ (Isa. 53:7). Carrying his own cross, until Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry it for him, he will have walked along the Via Dolorosa, out of the city, to Golgotha, ‘the place of the skull’. ‘Here they crucified him’, the evangelists write, declining to dwell on the stripping, the clumsy hammering home of the nails, or the wrenching of his limbs as the cross was hoisted and dropped into its place. Even the excruciating pain could not silence his repeated entreaties: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ The soldiers gambled for his clothes. Some women stood afar off. The crowd remained a while to watch. Jesus commended his mother to John’s care and John to hers. He spoke words of kingly assurance to the penitent criminal crucified at his side. Meanwhile, the rulers sneered at him, shouting: ‘He saved others, but he can’t save himself!’ Their words, spoken as an insult, were the literal truth. He could not save himself and others simultaneously. He chose to sacrifice himself in order to save the world.
Gradually the crowd thinned out, their curiosity glutted. At last silence fell and darkness came – darkness perhaps because no eye should see, and silence because no tongue could tell, the anguish of soul which the sinless Saviour now endured. ‘At the birth of the Son of God’, Douglas Webster has written, ‘there was brightness at midnight; at the death of the Son of God there was darkness at noon.’ (Douglas Webster, In Debt to Christ) What happened in the darkness is expressed by biblical writers in a variety of ways:
Isa. 53:5–6; John 1:29; Mark 10:45; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13
... it seems that the darkness of the sky was an outward symbol of the spiritual darkness which enveloped him. For what is darkness in biblical symbolism but separation from God who is light and in whom ‘there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5)? ‘Outer darkness’ was one of the expressions Jesus used for hell, since it is an absolute exclusion from the light of God’s presence. Into that outer darkness the Son of God plunged for us. Our sins blotted out the sunshine of his Father’s face. We may even dare to say that our sins sent Christ to hell – not to the ‘hell’ (hadēs, the abode of the dead) to which the Creed says he ‘descended’ after death, but to the ‘hell’ (gehenna, the place of punishment) to which our sins condemned him before his body died.
The darkness seems to have lasted for three hours. For it was at the third hour (9 a.m.) that he was crucified, at the sixth hour (12 noon) that the darkness came over the whole land, and at the ninth hour (3 p.m.) that, emerging out of the darkness, Jesus cried out in a loud voice in Aramaic: ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ meaning, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Mark 15:25, 33–34 The Greek speakers present misunderstood his words and thought he was calling for Elijah. What he said is still misunderstood by many today. Four main explanations of his terrible cry of ‘dereliction’ (desertion, abandonment) have been offered. All commentators agree that he was quoting Psalm 22:1. But they are not agreed as to why he did so. What was the significance of this quotation on his lips?
First, some suggest that it was a cry of anger, unbelief or despair. Perhaps he had clung to the hope that even at the last moment the Father would send angels to rescue him, or at least that in the midst of his utter obedience to the Father’s will he would continue to experience the comfort of the Father’s presence. But no, it was now clear to him that he had been abandoned, and he cried out with a heart-rending ‘why?’ of dismay or defiance. His faith failed him. But of course, these interpreters add, he was mistaken. He imagined he was forsaken, when he was not. Those who thus explain the cry of dereliction can scarcely realize what they are doing. They are denying the moral perfection of the character of Jesus. They are saying that he was guilty of unbelief on the cross, as of cowardice in the garden. They are accusing him of failure, and failure at the moment of his greatest and supremest self-sacrifice. Christian faith protests against this explanation.
A second interpretation, which is a modification of the first, is to understand the shout of dereliction as a cry of loneliness. Jesus, it is now maintained, knew God’s promises never to fail or forsake his people. E.g. Josh. 1:5, 9 and Isa. 41:10 He knew the steadfastness of God’s covenant love. So his ‘why?’ was not a complaint that God had actually forsaken him, but rather that he had allowed him to feel forsaken. ‘I have sometimes thought’, wrote T. R. Glover, ‘there never was an utterance that reveals more amazingly the distance between feeling and fact.’ (T. R. Glover, The Jesus of History) Instead of addressing God as ‘Father’, he could now call him only ‘my God’, which is indeed an affirmation of faith in his covenant faithfulness, but falls short of declaring his fatherly loving-kindness. In this case Jesus was neither mistaken, nor unbelieving, but experiencing what the saints have called ‘the dark night of the soul’, and indeed doing so deliberately out of solidarity with us. In this condition, as Thomas J. Crawford puts it, the people of God ‘derive no conscious satisfaction from the joys of his favour and the comforts of his fellowship’. They are granted ‘no approving smile, no commending voice, no inward manifestation of the divine favour’. (Thomas J. Crawford, The Doctrine Of Holy Scripture Respecting The Atonement (1871)) This explanation is possible. It does not cast a slur on the character of Jesus like the first. Yet there seems to be an insuperable difficulty in the way of adopting it, namely that the words of Psalm 22:1 express an experience of being, and not just feeling, God-forsaken.
A third quite popular interpretation is to say that Jesus was uttering a cry of victory, the exact opposite of the first explanation, the cry of despair. The argument now is that, although Jesus quoted only the first verse of Psalm 22, he did so to represent the whole Psalm which begins and continues with an account of appalling sufferings, but ends with great confidence, and even triumph: ‘I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him!...For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help’ (vv. 22). This is ingenious but (it seems to me) far-fetched. Why should Jesus have quoted from the Psalm’s beginning if in reality he was alluding to its end? It would seem rather perverse. Would anybody have understood his purpose?
The fourth explanation is simple and straightforward. It is to take the words at their face value and to understand them as a cry of real dereliction. I agree with Dale who wrote: ‘I decline to accept any explanation of these words which implies that they do not represent the actual truth of our Lord’s position.’ (R. W. Dale, The Atonement) Jesus had no need to repent of uttering a false cry. Up to this moment, though forsaken by men, he could add, ‘Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me’ (John 16:32).
In the darkness, however, he was absolutely alone, being now also God-forsaken. As Calvin put it, ‘If Christ had died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual...Unless his soul shared in the punishment, he would have been the Redeemer of bodies alone.’ In consequence, ‘he paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man’. (Calvin’s Institutes, II. Institutes of the Christian Religion (Set of 2 volumes)) So then an actual and dreadful separation took place between the Father and the Son; it was voluntarily accepted by both the Father and the Son; it was due to our sins and their just reward; and Jesus expressed this horror of great darkness, this God-forsakenness, by quoting the only verse of Scripture which accurately described it, and which he had perfectly fulfilled, namely, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ The theological objections and problems we shall come to later, although we already insist that the God-forsakenness of Jesus on the cross must be balanced with such an equally biblical assertion as ‘God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ’. C. E. B. Cranfield is right to emphasize both the truth that Jesus experienced ‘not merely a felt, but a real, abandonment by his Father’ and ‘the paradox that, while this God-forsakenness was utterly real, the unity of the Blessed Trinity was even then unbroken’. (C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel according to St Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Cambridge Greek Testament Commentaries)) At this point, however, it is enough to suggest that Jesus had been meditating on Psalm 22, which describes the cruel persecution of an innocent and godly man, as he was meditating on other Psalms which he quoted from the cross; (E.g. ‘I am thirsty’ (John 19:28) is an allusion to Ps. 69:21 (cf. Ps. 22:15), and ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit’ (Luke 23:46), a quotation of Ps. 31:5.) that he quoted verse 1 for the same reason that he quoted every other Scripture, namely that he believed he was fulfilling it; and that his cry was in the form of a question (‘Why...?’), not because he did not know its answer, but only because the Old Testament text itself (which he was quoting) was in that form.
Almost immediately after the cry of dereliction, Jesus uttered three more words or sentences in quick succession. First, ‘I am thirsty’, his great spiritual sufferings having taken their toll of him physically. Secondly, he called out, again (according to Matthew and Mark) in a loud voice, ‘It is finished.’ And thirdly the tranquil, voluntary, confident self-commendation, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,’ as he breathed his last breath. (John 19:28, 30; Luke 23:46) The middle cry, the loud shout of victory, is in the Gospel text the single word tetelestai. Being in the perfect tense, it means ‘it has been and will for ever remain finished’. We note the achievement Jesus claimed just before he died. It is not men who have finished their brutal deed; it is he who has accomplished what he came into the world to do. He has borne the sins of the world. Deliberately, freely and in perfect love he has endured the judgment in our place. He has procured salvation for us, established a new covenant between God and humankind, and made available the chief covenant blessing, the forgiveness of sins. At once the curtain of the Temple, which for centuries had symbolized the alienation of sinners from God, was torn in two from top to bottom, in order to demonstrate that the sin-barrier had been thrown down by God, and the way into his presence opened.
Thirty-six hours later God raised Jesus from the dead. He who had been condemned for us in his death, was publicly vindicated in his resurrection. It was God’s decisive demonstration that he had not died in vain.
All this presents a coherent and logical picture. It gives an explanation of the death of Jesus which takes into proper scientific account all the available data, without avoiding any. It explains the central importance which Jesus attached to his death, why he instituted his supper to commemorate it, and how by his death the new covenant has been ratified, with its promise of forgiveness. It explains his agony of anticipation in the garden, his anguish of dereliction on the cross, and his claim to have decisively accomplished our salvation. All these phenomena become intelligible if we accept the explanation given by Jesus and his apostles that ‘he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree’.
In conclusion, the cross enforces three truths – about ourselves, about God and about Jesus Christ.
First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, nor the envy of the priests, nor the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgment and so put them away. It is impossible for us to face Christ’s cross with integrity and not to feel ashamed of ourselves. Apathy, selfishness and complacency blossom everywhere in the world except at the cross. There these noxious weeds shrivel and die. They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are. For if there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed. It is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Saviour we urgently need.
Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension. God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and to perish in our sins. It is what we deserved. But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that. It is more than love. Its proper name is ‘grace’, which is love to the undeserving.
Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He ‘purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Nothing! Since he claimed that all was now ‘finished’, there is nothing for us to contribute. Not of course that we now have a licence to sin and can always count on God’s forgiveness. On the contrary, the same cross of Christ, which is the ground of a free salvation, is also the most powerful incentive to a holy life. But this new life follows. First, we have to humble ourselves at the foot of the cross, confess that we have sinned and deserve nothing at his hand but judgment, thank him that he loved us and died for us, and receive from him a full and free forgiveness. Against this self-humbling our ingrained pride rebels. We resent the idea that we cannot earn – or even contribute to – our own salvation. So we stumble, as Paul put it, over the stumbling-block of the cross.36
The Cross of Christ
PART II / The Second Verse
Maimonides on “You Shall Love” (1)
(1) Reprinted, with changes, from Maimonidean Studies, vol. 3 (1994).
The first word of this verse, ve’ahavta, “you shall love” (“the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might”), introduces us to one of the fundamental precepts of Judaism: ahavat Hashem, the love for God. This powerful theme, central to religion in general and especially to Judaism, (2) has engaged the attention and careful scrutiny of almost every major Jewish thinker. Because a comprehensive history of this concept in Jewish thought is beyond the scope of this volume, (3) I will focus on representative selections from the history of Jewish thought that pertain to our discussion of the Shema and to the interrelationship of spirituality and law in Judaism.
(2) “All the Torah is included in the commandment to love God, because he who loves the King devotes all his thoughts to doing that which is good and right in His eyes” (Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, Positive Commandment 3).
(3) The most comprehensive work on this subject is that of George Vajda, L’amour De Dieu Dans La Theologie Juive Du Moyen Age (Paris: Jo Vrin, 1957). When I published my article on which this chapter is based in Maimonidean Studies in 1993, I was unaware of the excellent article by Shubert Spero, “Maimonides and Our Love for God,” in Judaism (Summer 1983), 32:3.
However, before we proceed to more analytic interpretations of our key verse, bearing on the nature of our love for God, let us linger briefly on a midrash that gives an entirely different “spin” to the commandment: “love the Lord your God.”
The Sifre understands the verb ve’ahavta, “and you shall love,” as causative:
Another explanation of, “You shall love the Lord your God” (Deut. 6:4): Cause Him to be beloved by humans, even as your father Abraham did, as it is written, “[And Abram took Sarai his wife, and his brother’s son Lot and all the substance that they had gathered] and the souls that they had gotten in Haran” (Gen. 12:5). (Sifre to Deuteronomy, pesikta 32)
“The souls that they had gotten in Haran” is interpreted by the Sages as referring to the proselytes whom Abraham and Sarah had converted from paganism to monotheism. Hence, to love God means to act so as to make Him beloved of others.
In a parallel text in the Talmud, this same theme is recorded more elaborately:
Abaye cited a baraita: “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God’ (Deut. 6:4) means that because of you the Name of Heaven will become beloved.” [This means] that when a person studies Scripture and Mishnah and serves scholars of the Torah, and he speaks softly with other people, and his dealings in the market place are proper, and his business is conducted honestly—what do people say about him? [They say:] “Happy is so-and-so who studied Torah; happy is his father who taught him Torah; happy is his teacher who taught him Torah; woe to those who have not studied Torah. Have you seen so-and-so who studied Torah? How beautiful are his manners! How refined are his deeds! (Yoma 86a)
Thus, both the Sifre and the Talmud consider the love of God as a functional and social as well as a personal and emotional commandment: we are to live and act so that others (beriyot, literally all human “creatures,” whether Jews or non-Jews, believers or nonbelievers) turn to Him in love. This parallels the commandment of kiddush Hashem, the “sanctification of the Name,” which we discussed earlier (see chapter 5).
To Maimonides, the passages we have just discussed constituted far more than an engaging homily. In fact, he mentions them prominently in his work on the commandments, where they take up fully one-half of his description of the mitzvah of loving God. (4) Let us now turn our attention more directly to what Maimonides has to say about the precept itself: “And you shall love the Lord your God.”
(4) Sefer ha-Mitzvot, Positive Commandment 2.
Clearly, no serious consideration of Jewish thought or philosophy can omit the views of Maimonides. The locus classicus of his views on ahavat Hashem is this passage in his immortal legal code, the Mishneh Torah:
What is the way to attain the love and fear of God? When a man contemplates His great and wondrous deeds and creations, and sees in them His unequaled and infinite wisdom, he immediately loves and praises and exalts Him, and is overcome by a great desire to know the great Name; as David said, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God”
(Ps. 42:3). And when he considers these very matters, immediately he withdraws and is frightened and knows that he is but a small, lowly, dark creature who, with his inferior and puny mind, stands before Him who is perfect in His knowledge; as David said, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers … what is man that You are mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:4, 5). Thus do I explain many great principles concerning the actions of the Master of the Worlds, [namely,] that they provide an opportunity for a wise person to love God. As the Sages said concerning love, “as a result of this you will come to know Him by whose word the world came into being.” (Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah, 2:2)
According to Maimonides, the two religious emotions of love and fear share a common origin: the contemplation of the cosmos. Deep reflection on the creation leads to two apparently divergent religious effects: ahavat Hashem (love of God) and yirat Hashem (fear of God). Although different, these two emotions are fundamentally linked to each other. We cannot discuss, let alone understand, the one without the other.
Furthermore, love and fear serve as mirror images of each other. Love for God represents a centrifugal motion of the self: overwhelmed by the wisdom we see revealed in the marvels of creation, we seeks to reach outward and upward toward the Creator in order to know Him better. Fear of God is the precise opposite: overwhelmed by the greatness of the Creator, we realize our own triviality, our marginality, and our very nothingness. And so, in a centripetal counter-motion we pull ourselves inward and retreat into ourselves. (5)
(5) This analysis of love and fear of God should be compared with that of the nineteenth-century Protestant thinker Rudolf Otto, who, in his The Idea of the Holy, wrote of two reactions to Nature; the first is fascination with the divine wisdom implicit in Nature, and the second is terror as man retreats before the Mysterium Tremendum. I do not know if Maimonides influenced him directly, but he certainly preceded Otto in this almost identical formulation.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
Of The [Temple And] Cities That Were Built By Herod And Erected From The Very Foundations; As Also Of Those Other Edifices That Were Erected By Him; And What Magnificence He Showed To Foreigners; And How Fortune Was In All Things Favorable To Him.
1. Accordingly, in the fifteenth year of his reign, Herod rebuilt the temple, and encompassed a piece of land about it with a wall, which land was twice as large as that before enclosed. The expenses he laid out upon it were vastly large also, and the riches about it were unspeakable. A sign of which you have in the great cloisters that were erected about the temple, and the citadel which was on its north side. The cloisters he built from the foundation, but the citadel 32 he repaired at a vast expense; nor was it other than a royal palace, which he called Antonia, in honor of Antony. He also built himself a palace in the Upper city, containing two very large and most beautiful apartments; to which the holy house itself could not be compared [in largeness]. The one apartment he named Caesareum, and the other Agrippium, from his [two great] friends.
2. Yet did he not preserve their memory by particular buildings only, with their names given them, but his generosity went as far as entire cities; for when he had built a most beautiful wall round a country in Samaria, twenty furlongs long, and had brought six thousand inhabitants into it, and had allotted to it a most fruitful piece of land, and in the midst of this city, thus built, had erected a very large temple to Caesar, and had laid round about it a portion of sacred land of three furlongs and a half, he called the city Sebaste, from Sebastus, or Augustus, and settled the affairs of the city after a most regular manner.
3. And when Caesar had further bestowed upon him another additional country, he built there also a temple of white marble, hard by the fountains of Jordan: the place is called Panium, where is a top of a mountain that is raised to an immense height, and at its side, beneath, or at its bottom, a dark cave opens itself; within which there is a horrible precipice, that descends abruptly to a vast depth; it contains a mighty quantity of water, which is immovable; and when any body lets down any thing to measure the depth of the earth beneath the water, no length of cord is sufficient to reach it. Now the fountains of Jordan rise at the roots of this cavity outwardly; and, as some think, this is the utmost origin of Jordan: but we shall speak of that matter more accurately in our following history.
4. But the king erected other places at Jericho also, between the citadel Cypros and the former palace, such as were better and more useful than the former for travelers, and named them from the same friends of his. To say all at once, there was not any place of his kingdom fit for the purpose that was permitted to be without somewhat that was for Caesar's honor; and when he had filled his own country with temples, he poured out the like plentiful marks of his esteem into his province, and built many cities which he called Cesareas.
5. And when he observed that there was a city by the sea-side that was much decayed, [its name was Strato's Tower,] but that the place, by the happiness of its situation, was capable of great improvements from his liberality, he rebuilt it all with white stone, and adorned it with several most splendid palaces, wherein he especially demonstrated his magnanimity; for the case was this, that all the sea-shore between Dora and Joppa, in the middle, between which this city is situated, had no good haven, insomuch that every one that sailed from Phoenicia for Egypt was obliged to lie in the stormy sea, by reason of the south winds that threatened them; which wind, if it blew but a little fresh, such vast waves are raised, and dash upon the rocks, that upon their retreat the sea is in a great ferment for a long way. But the king, by the expenses he was at, and the liberal disposal of them, overcame nature, and built a haven larger than was the Pyrecum 33 [at Athens]; and in the inner retirements of the water he built other deep stations [for the ships also].
6. Now although the place where he built was greatly opposite to his purposes, yet did he so fully struggle with that difficulty, that the firmness of his building could not easily be conquered by the sea; and the beauty and ornament of the works were such, as though he had not had any difficulty in the operation; for when he had measured out as large a space as we have before mentioned, he let down stones into twenty fathom water, the greatest part of which were fifty feet in length, and nine in depth, and ten in breadth, and some still larger. But when the haven was filled up to that depth, he enlarged that wall which was thus already extant above the sea, till it was two hundred feet wide; one hundred of which had buildings before it, in order to break the force of the waves, whence it was called Procumatia, or the first breaker of the waves; but the rest of the space was under a stone wall that ran round it. On this wall were very large towers, the principal and most beautiful of which was called Drusium, from Drusus, who was son-in-law to Caesar.
7. There were also a great number of arches, where the mariners dwelt; and all the places before them round about was a large valley, or walk, for a quay [or landing-place] to those that came on shore; but the entrance was on the north, because the north wind was there the most gentle of all the winds. At the mouth of the haven were on each side three great Colossi, supported by pillars, where those Colossi that are on your left hand as you sail into the port are supported by a solid tower; but those on the right hand are supported by two upright stones joined together, which stones were larger than that tower which was on the other side of the entrance. Now there were continual edifices joined to the haven, which were also themselves of white stone; and to this haven did the narrow streets of the city lead, and were built at equal distances one from another. And over against the mouth of the haven, upon an elevation, there was a temple for Caesar, which was excellent both in beauty and largeness; and therein was a Colossus of Caesar, not less than that of Jupiter Olympius, which it was made to resemble. The other Colossus of Rome was equal to that of Juno at Argos. So he dedicated the city to the province, and the haven to the sailors there; but the honor of the building he ascribed to Caesar, 34 and named it Cesarea accordingly.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
and an idle person will go hungry.
16 He who keeps a mitzvah keeps himself safe,
but he who doesn’t care how he lives will die.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
What do you make of this
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend … I have called you friends.
--- John 15:13, 15.
Jesus does not ask me to die for Him, but to lay down my life for Him. Peter said—“I will lay down my life for Thy sake,” and he meant it; his sense of the heroic was magnificent. It would be a bad thing to be incapable of making such a declaration as Peter made; the sense of our duty is only realized by our sense of the heroic. Has the Lord ever asked you—“Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake?” It is far easier to die than to lay down the life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling. We are not made for brilliant moments, but we have to walk in the light of them in ordinary ways. There was only one brilliant moment in the life of Jesus, and that was on the Mount of Transfiguration; then He emptied Himself the second time of His glory, and came down into the demon-possessed valley. For thirty-three years Jesus laid out His life to do the will of His Father, and, John says, “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” It is contrary to human nature to do it.
If I am a friend of Jesus, I have deliberately and carefully to lay down my life for Him. It is difficult, and thank God it is difficult. Salvation is easy because it cost God so much, but the manifestation of it in my life is difficult. God saves a man and endues him with the Holy Spirit, and then says in effect—‘Now work it out, be loyal to Me, whilst the nature of things round about you would make you disloyal.’ “I have called you friends.” Stand loyal to your Friend, and remember that His honour is at stake in your bodily life.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Song in a Year of Catastrophe
And I went and put my hands
into the ground, and they took root
and grew into a season's harvest.
I looked behind the veil
of the leaves, and heard voices
that I knew had been dead
in my tongue years before my birth.
I learned the dark.
I let go all holds then, and sank
like a hopeless swimmer into the earth,
and at last came fully into the ease
and the joy of that place,
all my lost ones returning.
BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 4:23–25 / And Lamech said to his wives,
"Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
O wives of Lamech, give ear to my speech.
I have slain a man for wounding me,
And a lad for bruising me.
If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold."
Adam knew his wife again, and she bore him a son and named him Seth, meaning, "God has provided me with another offspring in place of Abel," for Cain had killed him.
Genesis Rabbah 23, 4
And Lamech said to his wives, "Adah and Zillah, hear my voice." Rabbi Yosé bar Ḥanina said, "He demanded of them 'use.' They [Lamech's wives] said to him [Lamech], 'Tomorrow a flood will come. If we listen to you, will we be fruitful and multiply for a curse?' He [Lamech] said to them [his wives], 'I have slain a man for wounding me, because of him I will be wounded. And a lad for bruising me, because of him I will be bruised. How strange! Cain slew and it was suspended for him for seven generations, and I who did not slay, isn't it right that it be suspended for me?' " Rabbi said, "This is a kol va-ḥomer of darkness [a logical argument which remains obscure]." If so, when can the Holy One, praised is He, collect His writ of debt? Rabbi Yaakov bar Idi asked Rabbi Yoḥanan, "If 'a man' why 'a lad'? And if 'a lad,' why 'a man'?" He said to him, "He was a man according to his size, but a lad year-wise." He [Lamech] said to them [his wives], "Let's go to Adam." They went to Adam. He [Adam] said to them [Adah and Zillah], "Do yours and the Holy One, praised is He, will do His." And they [Adah and Zillah] said to him [Adam], "Healer, heal your limp! You have been separated from Eve one hundred and thirty years just so that she won't have a child. How strange!" Because he heard this, he joined to produce future generations.
CONTEXT / The Rabbis were puzzled by these verses: Why does Lamech say "I have slain a man for wounding me," when there is no record in Genesis of Lamech slaying anyone? And what is Lamech referring to when he says "and a lad for bruising me"? This chapter describes early human history—Lamech's two wives, Adah and Zillah; Adah's son Jabal, who "was the ancestor of those who dwell in tents and amidst herds"; and her other son, Jubal, who was "the ancestor of all who play the lyre and pipe." These ancient traditions speak of events that are virtually beyond human memory. Of course, this did not stop the Rabbis from filling in the details of the lives of these people and the events to which this story refers.
According to Rabbi Yosé bar Ḥanina, He [Lamech] demanded of them [his wives, Adah and Zillah] "use," the rabbinic abbreviation for "use of the bed," a euphemism for sexual relations. They, his wives, Adah and Zillah, said to him, Lamech, "Tomorrow a flood will come in the time of Noah." The flood appears in Genesis 6, soon after the story of Lamech and his wives. "If we listen to you, will we be fruitful and multiply, give birth, for a curse," that is, will we have children who will die in the impending flood? Apparently, they knew of God's anger toward humanity and the flood that God would bring about in several generations. The curse is bringing children into the world just to have them killed in the flood.
He [Lamech] said to them [his wives], "I have slain a man for wounding me," because of him I will be wounded. There is another Midrash that asserts that the blind Lamech accidentally killed his grandfather Cain. Lamech asks, "If Cain slew Abel and it, the judgment against Cain, was suspended for him for seven generations because there is no death sentence carried out against Cain himself, and I who did not slay intentionally, but accidentally, isn't it right that it be suspended for me for my accidental killing of Cain?" Since the Rabbis place these words in Lamech's mouth, he speaks using a kol va-ḥomer, a logical argument from a minor principle (kol) to a major principle (ḥomer), sometimes called an argument a fortiori. If a certain rule applies in the lesser (less significant, less important, less inclusive) case (hence kol, light or minor), then it applies in another case that is more significant, important, or inclusive (ḥomer, heavy or major)! In other words, "Don't worry. We can have sexual relations and children because I won't be punished; neither will my children be punished." Of course, this is the way the Rabbis read the text. The P'shat or contextual reading seems to have Lamech admitting his guilt. The Rabbis read "avenged sevenfold … seventy-sevenfold" as "judgment suspended seven generations … seventy-seven generations."
Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi, head of the Jewish community in Israel, preeminent teacher of his time, and compiler of the Mishnah, known simply by his title of "Rabbi," said, "This is a kol va-ḥomer of darkness," an illogical argument. To Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi, this argument doesn't hold water: Just because Lamech wasn't punished is no proof of what will happen in the future. Perhaps his children will continue their father's evil ways, and they themselves will eventually be punished. That Lamech has not been punished (yet) is not proof that his future generations will not eventually be punished! If so, when can the Holy One, praised is He, collect His writ of debt, that is, the debt that is owed to God because of the evil that previous generations committed? Rabbi Yaakov bar Idi asked Rabbi Yoḥanan, "If 'a man' why 'a lad'? And if 'a lad,' why 'a man'?" Why does Lamech use both seemingly contradictory terms, man and lad? The Rabbis identify this man/lad as Abel, the brother slain by Cain. He [Rabbi Yoḥanan] said to him [Rabbi Yaakov bar Idi], "He, Abel, was a man according to his size, literally, "according to his limbs," but a lad year-wise, literally, "according to his years." (The translation attempts to retain the rhyme of the Hebrew phrase.) Abel, the slain brother, was a large person, looking like a man, but he was in actuality only a lad. He [Lamech] said to them [his wives], "Let's go to Adam." Lamech proposes having Adam, their ancestor, settle their argument about past sins and future punishments. If Cain was his grandfather, then Adam was his great-grandfather and he would be very, very old. This doesn't seem to bother the Rabbis. They went to Adam. He [Adam] said to them [Adah and Zillah], "Do yours and the Holy One, praised is He, will do His." Judgment is God's business; producing future generations of children is ours. If God will exact punishment, there is nothing we can do about it, even though we are afraid of what might happen in the future. And they [Adah and Zillah] said to him [Adam], "Healer, heal your limp!" (similar to "Physician, heal thyself!" of Luke 4:23). They accuse Adam of being a hypocrite: While telling Adah and Zillah to procreate, Adam himself has been separated from Eve one hundred and thirty years. This is based on a Midrash, cited in Genesis Rabbah 20:11 and 21:9, that Adam avoided sexual contact with Eve so that she [wouldn't] have a child. This was done out of fear: Adam was able to see into the future, and he knew that his descendants would be sinners, to be punished in Gehenna (hell). (This, of course, is not in the biblical text but is a Rabbinic legend, which doesn't prevent Adah and Zillah from knowing about it as well.) Adah and Zillah accuse Adam of hypocrisy in telling them to have children but in refusing to do so himself.
This Midrash may seem to come out of nowhere, but it's actually based on an odd proximity of verses. The Rabbis noticed not only the strange nature of Lamech's speech, which is not connected to any event in Genesis, but also what happens right after Lamech finishes his speech to his wives. The text continues that "Adam knew [in the biblical sense: had sex with] his wife again, and she bore a son." Why, they wondered, did the text move from Lamech's speech to Adam's relations with Eve and the birth of another son? The Rabbis reasoned that Adah and Zillah called Adam's bluff and said, in effect, "Put up or shut up! If you're telling us to have faith in the future, you'd better also!" Adam, though still mourning the death of Abel, had to face the future and confront reality and produce future generations.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Origins and Authority of NT
"Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The reason there is no religiously neutral approach to historical study is that there is no religiously neutral approach to anything. Roy Clouser demonstrates that the Bible’s own epistemological position is that “there is no knowledge or truth that is neutral with respect to God.” (50) He appeals to a number of scriptural passages that show that how individuals think about God affects their ability to have knowledge. In Luke 11:52 Jesus says that when you take away the law of God, you “have taken away the key to knowledge.” And there is no reason to think only religious knowledge is intended. Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 1:5 Paul reminds his readers that “in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.” Other texts such as Colossians 2:3 affirm the same principle: “[In Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” And Psalm 36:9 declares, “In [God’s] light do we see light,” showing that knowledge of God is the key to acquiring other kinds of knowledge. Clouser concludes, “The cumulative effect of these texts is to teach that no sort of knowledge is religiously neutral.” (51)
The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories, Revised Edition Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005), 94. Clouser demonstrates that there are clear religious presuppositions in every area of thought, including mathematics, psychology, physics, politics, and more. For further discussions of a Christian epistemology along the lines of Clouser, see J. M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (A Theology of Lordship) (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1987).
51 Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories, Revised Edition, 95.
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
W. W. Wiersbe
"Watching the Day of the Lord
If there had been newspapers in Joel's day, the headlines might have read:
LOCUSTS INVADE THE LAND!
NATION FACES SEVERE ECONOMIC CRISIS
No End to Drought in Sight
A wise preacher or teacher will get the people's attention by referring to something they're all concerned about. In this case, the people of Judah were talking about the economic crisis, so the Lord led Joel to use that event as a the background for his messages. The people didn't realize it, but they were watching the Day of the Lord unfold before their very eyes, and the Prophet Joel explained it to them.
The name "Joel" means "the Lord is God." Like all true prophets, Joel was commissioned to call the people back to the worship of the true God; and he did this by declaring "the word of the Lord" (1:1; see Jer. 1:2; Ezek. 1:3; and the first verses of Hosea, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi). It was the task of the priests to teach the people the Law, and it was the responsibility of the prophets to call the people back to the Lord whenever they strayed from His Law. The prophets also interpreted historical events in the light of the Word of God to help the people understand God's will for their lives. They were "forth-tellers" as well as "foretellers."
Joel wanted the people of Judah to understand what God was saying to them through the plague and the drought. In our own times, the nations of the world are experiencing severe droughts and famines, frightening epidemics, unexpected earthquakes, devastating floods, and other "natural disasters," all of which have greatly affected national and global economy; yet very few people have asked, "What is God saying to us?" Joel wrote his book so the people would know what God was saying through these critical events.
As you can see from the suggested outline of Joel's book, the prophet announced "the Day of the Lord" and applied it to three events: the plague of locusts, the future invasion of the Assyrians, and the distant judgment that the Lord would send on the whole world. In this chapter, we want to focus on the first two applications of "the Day of the Lord."
1. The Immediate Day of the Lord (Joel 1:1–20)
When you're in a crisis, you'll hear all kinds of voices interpreting what's going on and telling you what to do. The optimists will say, "This crisis isn't going to last. Be brave!" The pessimists will sob, "It's going to get worse and there's no escape! We're done for!" The alarmists will see the enemy behind every tree, and the scoffers will question the news reports and shrug their shoulders saying, "What difference does it make anyway?"
But Joel was a realist who looked at life from the standpoint of the Word of the Lord. He addressed himself to five groups of citizens and gave them four admonitions from the Lord.
The elders and citizens in general: "Hear this!"
(Joel 1:2–4) He addressed the old men (In the KJV, the Hebrew word is translated "old men" in 1:2 and 2:28, and "elders" in 1:14 and 2:16. The NIV uses "elders" everywhere except 2:28, where the contrast between "young men" and "old men" is quite obvious. It's possible that the "old men" were indeed the official elders of the land.) first for probably two reasons: they had long experience and could authenticate what he was saying, and they were respected citizens in the land. With their support, Joel wasn't just a voice crying in the wilderness. They agreed with the prophet that the nation faced a catastrophe of monumental proportion such as they had never seen before. It was something people would tell to their children and grandchildren for years to come.
Joel used four different words to describe the plague
(v. 4; see 2:25), and it's been suggested that they represent four stages in the life cycle of the locusts. However, the words probably convey the idea of successive swarms of locusts invading the land, each swarm destroying what the others had left behind. A swarm of locusts can devastate the vegetation of a countryside with amazing rapidity and thoroughness, and nothing can stop them (Ex. 10:1–20).
To the drunkards: "Wake up and weep!" (Joel 1:5–7) Except for pointing out the insincerity of some of the worshipers (2:12–13), drunkenness is the only sin that Joel actually names in his book. However, this was a serious sin that the prophets often condemned (Hosea 7:5; Amos 4:1). Perhaps the drunkards represented all the careless people in the land whose only interest was sinful pleasure.
These people had good reason to weep because there was no wine and wouldn't be any more until the next season, if there was a next season. Because of the locusts and the drought, "the new wine is dried up … the vine is dried up" (Joel 1:10, 12). Keep in mind that bread and wine were staples in the Jewish diet, so that even the people who didn't get drunk were affected by the loss.
Joel compared the locusts to an invading nation and to hungry lions with sharp teeth (v. 6; see 2:2, 11). They attacked the vines and the fig trees, two things essential to Jewish life. Having one's own vineyard and fig trees was a symbol of success and contentment in the East
(2:22; Isa. 36:16; Amos 4:9; Ps. 105:33). Note how Joel uses the personal pronoun my as he speaks of the land and its vegetation, for all of it belonged to the Lord, and He had a right to do with it whatever He pleased.
To the farmers: "Despair and wail!" (Joel 1:8–12) Joel named some of the crops that had been ruined: the grain (wheat and barley), the new wine, the oil, and the fruit from the pomegranate, palm, and apple trees. From season to season, the locusts ate whatever was produced, and the drought kept the soil from producing anything more. In verses 18–20, Joel includes the flocks and herds and their pastures. All that the farmers could do was express their grief and lament like an engaged girl whose fiancé had died. It seemed a hopeless situation.
To the priests: "Call a fast!" (Joel 1:13–20) Not only were the people in need, but so was the temple. Nobody could bring the proper sacrifices because no meal, wine, or animals were available. Joel called the priests to lament and pray, including those who worked "the night shift"
(Ps. 134:1). (The phrase "your God" is used eight times in this book to remind the people of their personal relationship to Jehovah and their accountability to Him
(1:13–14; 2:13–14, 23, 26–27; 3:17).)
The Jews were required to observe only one fast, and that was on the annual Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31). But the religious leaders could call a fast whenever the people faced an emergency and needed to humble themselves and seek God's face
(Jud. 20:26; 2 Chron. 20:3; Ezra 8:21; Neh. 9:1–3; Jer. 36:9). This was such an emergency. "Gird yourself" (Joel 1:13) means "Put on sackcloth!" (See Jer. 4:8 and 6:26). It was time for the people to humble themselves and pray
(2 Chron. 7:14).
In Joel 1:15–18, we have the lament of the nation, and in verses 19–20, the prayer of the prophet as he interceded for the nation. The lament is a vivid description of the sad condition of the land, the crops, the flocks, and the herds; for "the Day of the Lord" had come to the nation. The immediate reference is to the assault of the locusts and the devastating effects of the drought, but later, Joel uses the phrase to describe the terrible "Day of the Lord" when the nations will be judged. God is the Lord of creation, and without His blessing, nature cannot produce what we need for sustaining life (Pss. 65; 104:10–18, 21; 145:15). We should never pray lightly, "Give us this day our daily bread," for only God can sustain life (Acts 17:25, 28).
"How the cattle moan!" (Joel 1:18, NIV) This reminds us that all creation "groans and labors" because of the bondage of sin in the world (Rom. 8:18–22; Gen. 3:17–19). Creation longs for that day when the Creator will return to earth and set it free from sin's shackles, and then "the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad … and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom like the rose" (Isa. 35:1).
It wasn't enough for the people to humble themselves and lament; they also had to pray. This is what God required in His covenant with His people
(2 Chron. 6:26–27; 7:12–15; see Deut. 28:23–24). Joel didn't ask God for anything; he simply told the Lord of the suffering of the land, the beasts, and the people, knowing that God would do what was right. "The fire" (Joel 1:20) refers to the drought, which left the land looking like it had been burned.
Too often we drift along from day to day, taking our blessings for granted, until God permits a natural calamity to occur and remind us of our total dependence on Him. When water is rationed and food is scarce, and when prices for necessities escalate, then we discover the poverty of our artificial civilization and our throwaway society. Suddenly, necessities become luxuries, and luxuries become burdens.
God didn't have to send great battalions to Judah to bring the people to their knees. All He needed was a swarm of little insects, and they did the job. Sometimes He uses bacteria or viruses so tiny that you need a special microscope to see them. He is the "Lord of hosts," the Lord of the armies of heaven and earth. He is "the Almighty"
(v. 15) and none can stay His powerful hand. ("Almighty" is a translation of the Hebrew word Shaddai, which is related to the Hebrew word for "breast." He is the all-sufficient One, the bountiful One, the God who can do anything. The name is found forty-eight times in the Old Testament, thirty-one of them in the Book of Job, where the greatness of God is one of the major themes. "Almighty" is used eight times in the Book of Revelation.)
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
This newly available material was not immediately integrated into the study of ancient Judaism. Emil Schürer’s Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi (1886–1890) included surveys of Jewish literature (divided between “Palestinian Jewish” and “Hellenistic Jewish” literature), but his depiction of Jewish religion is drawn heavily from rabbinic writings. This is especially true of his treatment of “Life under the Law,” in which he drew primarily from the Mishnah, but even his account of messianic belief integrated data from the Pseudepigrapha with rabbinic beliefs. In the judgment of George Foote Moore, the chapter on the Law “was conceived, not as a chapter of the history of Judaism but as a topic of Christian apologetic; it was written to prove by the highest Jewish authority that the strictures on Judaism in the Gospels and the Pauline Epistles are fully justified” (Moore 1921: 240). Schürer’s work was a mine of information and historical detail. Its enduring value can be seen in the degree to which its structure, and much of its detail, are retained in the English edition revised by Geza Vermes and his collaborators. The revisers “endeavoured to clear the notorious chapter 28, Das Leben unter dem Gesetz—here re-styled as ‘Life and the Law’—and the section on the Pharisees … of the dogmatic prejudices of nineteenth-century theology” (Vermes et al. 1973–1987: 2:v; cf. 464 n. 1). Nonetheless, Schürer’s introductory claim is repeated: “The chief characteristic of this period was the growing importance of Pharisaism … the generalities of biblical law were resolved into an immense number of detailed precepts … this concern with the punctilious observance of the minutiae of religion became the hallmark of mainstream Judaism” (Vermes et al. 1973–1987: 1:1). Likewise, the section on messianism retained the systematic presentation, which synthesizes data from rabbinic sources and the Pseudepigrapha.
The first scholar to offer a reconstruction of Jewish religion based primarily on the Pseudepigrapha was Wilhelm Bousset, whose Religion des Judentums im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter first appeared in 1903. It was greeted by a storm of criticism from Jewish scholars (Wiese 2005: 159–215). Bousset’s view of Judaism was more differentiated than that of Schürer. In addition to the legalistic aspect of Pharisaism, he also detected a universalistic strand on which the teaching of Jesus could build. Some of his Jewish critics objected to “this dogmatic reduction of Judaism to a ‘praeparatio evangelica’ ” (Wiese 2005: 180). But there was also a fundamental disagreement on the question of appropriate sources. Felix Perles praised Bousset’s treatment of the piety of apocalyptic and Hellenistic Judaism but objected to the prominence accorded to this material and the lack of a systematic description of “normative Judaism,” as represented by rabbinic literature. Bousset, he claimed, had missed the “center of the Jewish religion” (Perles 1903: 22–23; Wiese 2005: 181). Bousset responded that one must differentiate between “the scholarship of the scribes,” which became normative after 70 C.E., and the more diverse “popular piety” of the earlier period, and he charged that Perles was “incapable of understanding the richer and more diverse life of Jewish popular religion before the destruction of the Jewish nation, because he is focused on the Mishnah and the Talmud and the entire later history of the scribes” (Bousset 1903b; Wiese 2005: 186). Few scholars would now accept Bousset’s characterization of the Pseudepigrapha as “popular religion” without qualification, but the issue of the relevance of rabbinic literature for the Second Temple period persists as a live issue down to the present.
R. H. Charles, the scholar who did most to advance the study of the Pseudepigrapha, did not attempt a comprehensive study of ancient Judaism. While his own work focused largely on the apocalypses, he held that “Apocalyptic Judaism and legalistic Judaism were not in pre-Christian times essentially antagonistic. Fundamentally their origin was the same. Both started with the unreserved recognition of the supremacy of the Law” (Charles 1913: vii). Charles viewed the apocalyptic material positively, as a bridge between the prophets and early Christianity. His view of Judaism in this period as comprising two main strands is one of the major paradigms that has been adapted with various nuances in later scholarship (see VanderKam in Boccaccini and Collins 2007).
Perles’s criticisms of Bousset were echoed almost two decades later by the American Christian scholar, George Foot Moore:
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. --- Romans 8:37.
What does the Cross tell about the fact of suffering? (Classic Sermons on Suffering (Kregel Classic Sermons Series)) It tells you that God is in it with you. When I grasp that the sufferer hanging there is God incarnate, then my heart answers those who speak of a remote, spectator God, “You are wrong! In every pang that rends the heart of man, woman, or little child, God has a share.”
What is the Christian answer to the mystery of suffering? Not an explanation but a reinforcing presence—Christ to stand beside you through the darkness, Christ’s companionship to make the dark experience sacred. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
How different suffering becomes to those who have seen that vision! It is not just that God knows and sympathizes with you in your troubles. He is in you. And therefore your sufferings are his suffering, your sorrow his sorrow. Now that is true of all God’s creatures. Just think what God’s burden of suffering must be when the pains of all the world are in his heart! No one who has once grasped this will ever again rail at providence for being unkind. All our accusations and complainings are silenced before the agony of God.
But remember this: if God shares your suffering, it is also true that you share his redemptive activity and his victory. “By his wounds we are healed.” Thus, suffering gives you a chance to cooperate with God. Every soul that takes its personal griefs and troubles and offers these up on the altar alongside the sacrifice of Jesus is sharing constructively in that eternal passion of God. It is as though God said, in the day of darkness, “Here, my child, is something you can do for me!”
The real healers of human wounds are those whose own peace has been bought at a price, behind whose understanding and compassion there lies some memory of a valley of shadow, a lonely way, a wrestling in the dark.
If from one soul’s hurt and conflict, the balm of healing and of peace can thus be distilled out for others, if pain can be transmuted into power, if, under Christ, our sacrifices can be made creative and redemptive—shall we still rail at life when it grows hard, and brood its cruelty and injustice? “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
--- James S. Stewart
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
William and Catherine June 16
Abraham believed that angels help us find our mates. “The LORD will send his angel ahead of you,” he told his servant, “to help you find a wife for my son” (Gen. 24:7b). Many years later, the heavenly matchmakers (assisted by a London businessman) also brought together William Booth and Catherine Mumford, who became one of the finest tag teams in church history, founding the Salvation Army and helping hundreds of thousands of England’s poorest. Of the two, Catherine was smarter—and the better preacher. “It was she,” wrote Constance Coltman, “who turned an energetic, rather vulgar dyspeptic into one of the great religious leaders in the world.”
William was born in 1829 in Nottingham. Catherine arrived the following year in a nearby county, growing up in a Puritan-like home. She had read the Bible through eight times before age 12, and she excelled in studies. But at 14 Catherine developed curvature of the spine, making her bedfast. She was also diagnosed with tuberculosis. But her sickbed became a study where she devoured theology and church history. She slowly grew strong enough to start thinking of marriage. “I could be most useful to God,” she said, “as a minister’s wife.” She wanted a man dark and tall, and she thought he should be a “William.”
Several years later, businessman Edward Rabbits, knowing both William and Catherine’s people, invited them to a meeting on Good Friday. Afterward he encouraged William to escort Catherine home. She later wrote, “That little journey will never be forgotten by either of us. Before we reached my home we both felt as though we had been made for each other.”
For a few weeks, the romance wavered. Despite a growing reputation as evangelist to the poor, William had no job, no income, and no home. Catherine’s mother viewed him unfavorably. Nevertheless they persevered and were married in London on June 16, 1855.
William preached a revival meeting on their honeymoon. The angels were smiling. The Salvation Army was about to be born.
Charm can be deceiving, and beauty fades away, But a woman who honors the LORD Deserves to be praised. Show her respect— Praise her in public for what she has done. --- Proverbs 31:30,31.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 16
“And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” --- John 10:28.
The Christian should never think or speak lightly of unbelief. For a child of God to mistrust his love, his truth, his faithfulness, must be greatly displeasing to him. How can we ever grieve him by doubting his upholding grace? Christian! it is contrary to every promise of God’s precious Word that thou shouldst ever be forgotten or left to perish. If it could be so, how could he be true who has said, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I never forget thee.” What were the value of that promise—“The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” Where were the truth of Christ’s words—“I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Where were the doctrines of grace? They would be all disproved if one child of God should perish. Where were the veracity of God, his honour, his power, his grace, his covenant, his oath, if any of those for whom Christ has died, and who have put their trust in him, should nevertheless be cast away? Banish those unbelieving fears which so dishonour God. Arise, shake thyself from the dust, and put on thy beautiful garments. Remember it is sinful to doubt his Word wherein he has promised thee that thou shalt never perish. Let the eternal life within thee express itself in confident rejoicing.
“The Gospel bears my spirit up:
A faithful and unchanging God
Lays the foundation for my hope,
In oaths, and promises, and blood.”
Evening - June 16
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” --- Psalm 27:1.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation.” Here is personal interest, “my light,” “my salvation;” the soul is assured of it, and therefore declares it boldly. Into the soul at the new birth divine light is poured as the precursor of salvation; where there is not enough light to reveal our own darkness and to make us long for the Lord Jesus, there is no evidence of salvation. After conversion our God is our joy, comfort, guide, teacher, and in every sense our light: he is light within, light around, light reflected from us, and light to be revealed to us. Note, it is not said merely that the Lord gives light, but that he is light; nor that he gives salvation, but that he is salvation; he, then, who by faith has laid hold upon God, has all covenant blessings in his possession. This being made sure as a fact, the argument drawn from it is put in the form of a question, “Whom shall I fear?” A question which is its own answer. The powers of darkness are not to be feared, for the Lord, our light, destroys them; and the damnation of hell is not to be dreaded by us, for the Lord is our salvation. This is a very different challenge from that of boastful Goliath, for it rests, not upon the conceited vigour of an arm of flesh, but upon the real power of the omnipotent I AM. “The Lord is the strength of my life.” Here is a third glowing epithet, to show that the writer’s hope was fastened with a threefold cord which could not be broken. We may well accumulate terms of praise where the Lord lavishes deeds of grace. Our life derives all its strength from God; and if he deigns to make us strong, we cannot be weakened by all the machinations of the adversary. “Of whom shall I be afraid?” The bold question looks into the future as well as the present. “If God be for us,” who can be against us, either now or in time to come?
Morning and Evening
JUST AS I AM
Charlotte Elliott, 1789–1871
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away.” (John 6:35, 37)
Often we feel that if only we were in different circumstances or had some special talent, we could be a better witness for God and serve Him more effectively. Today’s hymn was written by a bed-ridden invalid who felt useless to do anything except express her feelings of devotion to God. Yet Charlotte Elliott’s simply worded text has influenced more people for Christ than any hymn ever written or perhaps any sermon ever preached.
As a young person in Brighton, England, Miss Elliott was known as “carefree Charlotte.” She was a popular portrait artist and a writer of humorous verse. At the age of 30, however, a serious ailment made her an invalid for life. She became listless and depressed until a well-known Swiss evangelist, Dr. Caesar Malan, visited her. Sensing her spiritual distress, he exclaimed, “Charlotte, you must come just as you are—a sinner—to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Immediately placing her complete trust in Christ’s redemptive sacrifice for her, Charlotte experienced inner peace and joy in spite of her physical affliction until her death at the age of 82.
Charlotte Elliott wrote approximately 150 hymns throughout her lifetime; today she is considered to be one of the finest of all English hymnwriters. “God sees, God guards, God guides me,” she said. “His grace surrounds me and His voice continually bids me to be happy and holy in His service—just where I am!”
Just as I am, without one plea
but that Thy blood was shed for me,
and that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Just as I am, tho tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind—Sight,
riches, healing of the mind,
yea, all I need in Thee to find—
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
For Today: Psalm 51:1, 2; John 1:29; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:13.
Give God thanks for His acceptance of us just as we are. As we respond in simple faith to Him, we will find “all that we need,” not only for our personal salvation but also for the particular place of service that He has for us.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LVII. — IN the fourth place, you adduce from Deuteronomy xxx. many passages of the same kind which speak of choosing, of turning away from, of keeping; as, ‘If thou shalt keep,’ ‘if thou shalt turn away from,’ ‘if thou shalt choose.’ — “All these expressions (you say) are made use of preposterously if there be not a “Free-will” in man unto good” —
I answer: And you, friend Diatribe, preposterously enough also conclude from these expressions the freedom of the will. You set out to prove the endeavour and desire of “Free-will” only, and you have adduced no passage which proves such an endeavour. But now, you adduce those passages, which, if your conclusion hold good, will ascribe all to “Free-will.”
Let me here then again make a distinction, between the words of the Scripture adduced, and the conclusion of the Diatribe tacked to them. The words adduced are imperative, and they say nothing but what ought to be done. For, Moses does not say, ‘thou hast the power and strength to choose.’ The words ‘choose,’ ‘keep,’ ‘do,’ convey the precept ‘to keep,’ but they do not describe the ability of man. But the conclusion tacked to them by that wisdom-aping Diatribe, infers thus: — therefore, man can do those things, otherwise the precepts are given in vain. To whom this reply must be made: — Madam Diatribe, you make a bad inference, and do not prove your conclusion, but the conclusion and the proof merely seem to be right to your blind and inadvertent self. But know, that these precepts are not given preposterously nor in vain; but that proud and blind man might, by them, learn the disease of his own impotency, if he should attempt to do what is commanded. And hence your similitude amounts to nothing where you say.
— “Otherwise it would be precisely the same, as if any one should say to a man who was so bound that he could only stretch forth his left arm, — Behold! thou hast on thy right hand excellent wine, thou hast on thy left poison; on which thou wilt stretch forth thy hand” — .
These your similitudes I presume are particular favourites of yours. But you do not all the while see, that if the similitudes stand good, they prove much more than you ever purposed to prove, nay, that they prove what you deny and would have to be disproved: — that “Free-will” can do all things. For by the whole scope of your argument, forgetting what you said, ‘that “Free-will” can do nothing without grace,’ you actually prove that “Free-will” can do all things without grace. For your conclusions and similitudes go to prove this: — that either “Free-will” can of itself do those things which are said and commanded, or they are commanded in vain, ridiculously, and preposterously. But these are nothing more than the old songs of the Pelagians sung over again, which even the Sophists have exploded, and which you have yourself condemned. And by all this your forgetfulness and disorder of memory, you do nothing but evince how little you know of the subject, and how little you are affected by it. And what can be worse in a rhetorician, than to be continually bringing forward things wide of the nature of the subject, and not only so, but to be always declaiming against his subject and against himself?
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Psalm 19 Part 1
Psalm 19 Part 2
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